Chelsea legend Ashley Cole believes Major League Soccer is heading in the right direction. The former Blue talked up the league but is looking ahead to a Chelsea return, as a coach or scout.
Cole told FourFourTwo that MLS has a promising future and he’s enjoying his stateside career. Although he admits that life is tougher as an older player.
Ashley Cole – ‘It will be a very big league’
“The league is definitely growing,” he said. “MLS is demanding. You have to travel a lot, which is the main problem for older guys.
“You’re on the plane for five to seven hours and it’s not easy. But the younger guys are learning from the marquee players. In five or six years it will be a very big league.”
The 36 year old has his heart set on a Chelsea return but insists he is not finished yet: “I would like to go back to England and work for Chelsea in some capacity if I could, so that would be my first choice.
“Coaching or being a scout is something I’ve always considered and enjoyed while watching games. I try to nurture young players coming through, so it’s something I have in the back of my mind for after I finish playing. But I want to play for as long as I possibly can, because once you finish playing, you are done for life.”
Cole isn’t the only ex-Chelsea player who has talked about returning to the club. Recently departed John Terry has highlighted his ambition to one day manage the Blues. The two former England internationals could find themselves spearheading the future of the club.
If Cole is true to his word on playing for as long as he can, he could potentially lineup for Galaxy for two or more seasons. With the likes of 38 year old Andrea Pirlo – who is two years his senior – still playing in MLS.
Will Ashley Cole return to Chelsea as a coach? How much longer will he play for Galaxy?
Sporting Kansas City open their 21st season in MLS at Seattle Sounders on Sunday night in what is a tough opener. But SKC veteran Graham Zusi believes a solid preseason camp has put the team in a strong position to challenge for trophies in 2016.
The 29-year-old playmaker is entering his eighth Major League Soccer campaign with Kansas City and will be looking to continue to shine as one of the team’s brightest stars in 2016.
He is one of the club’s two Designated Players, along with long-time friend and fellow 2009 draft pick, Matt Besler. But Zusi doesn’t think that having a DP tag necessarily brings more pressure, and isn’t interested in personal achievements. He is purely focused on helping his team and his work rate on the field is testament to that.
“I think I put myself under enough pressure,” he tells MLSGB. “I don’t think the motivation comes from anywhere else. I think there’s plenty of motivation, internally and throughout the team.
“All my goals are team-orientated. For me, it’s all about winning trophies together as a team and I’m looking to do more of that this year.”
Sporting Kansas City endured a tough campaign on their return to the Western Conference last term, but did manage to qualify for the playoffs for the fifth-straight season, before being eliminated on penalties in the knockout round to eventual winners Portland Timbers.
SKC, who lifted the MLS Cup in 2013, need to try and climb above several sides if they are to challenge at the very top of the Western Conference in 2016, following their sixth-placed finish last year.
The West is viewed by most as the more competitive of the two conferences, but Zusi doesn’t think there is one team who stands above the rest and believes it’s anyone’s to win this term.
“I think the West is a very challenging conference. As you saw [last year], it was very tight throughout the whole year and even up until the last week, there’s a whole lot of shifting throughout. There’s really not a standout team or two. It could really be anyone in any given year.”
Audio – Graham Zusi explains how the Western Conference is wide open for anyone to win this year:
SKC fans will certainly hope it is wide open to increase their own chances of success. They looked on track to challenge for the Supporters’ Shield at the midpoint of last season, before an inconsistent end to the campaign saw that challenge fade.
Zusi scored two goals and picked up five assists in 25 regular season appearances last term, taking his total number of goals contributed to 68 in 173 regular season matches.
SKC’s preseason campaign was a good one as the team went unbeaten through six games in preparation for the new season, and the midfielder thinks the team improved steadily over the past few weeks.
“I thought it went well,” he said. “I thought as a team we got better at every opportunity we could. Each game was an improvement from the one before and training sessions were very good as well. Everyone was focused and determined in each session.
All focus will now be on getting a result at Seattle on Sunday night. Sporting KC didn’t lose to the Sounders in three meetings last term, drawing 0-0 in the only game at CenturyLink Field, and so they will be confident of avoiding defeat in their season opener.
How important is Graham Zusi for Sporting Kansas City? What will SKC achieve this season?
Philadelphia Union midfielder Maurice Edu has settled back in MLS after completing a permanent move from Premier League club Stoke City in January and he is one of many who are desperate to see Major League Soccer thrive.
The 29-year-old Union captain speaks glowingly of the development of MLS and is enjoying his time in Philadelphia.
After joining on loan for the 2014 campaign, Edu returned home to America on a permanent basis in January this year, eight years after being picked first overall in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft by Toronto FC.
After earning the MLS Rookie of the Year award in his first season, Edu then moved to Scotland with Rangers in 2008 and also spent time with Stoke City and Turkish club Bursaspor before returning to MLS, something he is happy about.
“I enjoyed my time thoroughly while I was in Europe and for me, when this opportunity presented itself, it was the best choice,” Edu exclusively told MLSGB this week.
“I always had plans to come back here at some point. It probably happened a bit sooner than maybe expected but it was still a welcome opportunity and one I’m glad I chose.
“This is a league that gave me a start in my career and it’s my home country as well so I’ve always wanted to come back here to help continually push this game forward and make it a big deal.”
He is one of many US Men’s National Team stars to make the move stateside in order to help the league develop in recent years, and Edu knows that the right steps are being taken to ensure the growth of US Soccer continues.
“I think the league is heading in the right direction,” he added. “It’s vastly improved compared to where it was when I first started off playing here and I’m enjoying being back.
“The national team has had success over the past couple of World Cups and that’s drawn more attention to the league from a domestic standpoint, but from a quality standpoint, we’ve been able to attract some quality players from abroad as well as getting some players coming in here at their prime ages.
“There are a lot more soccer-specific stadiums being developed across the country. Every club has an academy system, which is good as it’s developing our youth from a young age and getting them involved in a professional atmosphere, which is obviously going to bode well for soccer as a product of this country.”
Edu is fully committed to the game and all aspects surrounding it. He speaks with confidence about the growth of MLS and is willing to do whatever he can to help those around him succeed.
He is vastly experienced despite being just 29, and is always looking to help the young players develop where he can as the leader of the side.
Asked whether he felt more responsibility being a Designated Player and being the team captain, he replied: “I do. Not necessarily just because I have that role but because of my experiences. I’ve been a part of the national team, I’ve played in Europe in competitions like the Champions League.
“I know a lot of young guys here aspire to do the same thing so I try to help them out in any way possible, and try to create a professional and competitive atmosphere here, and that only bodes well for them as individuals and also for this team going forward.”
Edu has made 46 appearances for the US Men’s National Team to date and despite only playing once in 2014 and missing out on the World Cup squad, he is hoping to get more opportunities now he is playing regularly.
Jurgen Klinsmann last called Edu up to a friendly against Mexico last April but with the Gold Cup just around the corner, he may look at recalling the Union captain.
“I just focus on playing,” Edu said after being asked about a possible USMNT recall. “I think if you’re playing well you’ll get opportunities. Obviously if you’re team’s doing well, that’s a direct reflection of how you’re playing also.
“For me right now, I’m just focused on this team. We had a little bit of a rough start at the beginning of the season but we’ve had a couple wins now and we want to continue and push up the table. I think if we do that, and I continue to play well, then there will be opportunities to get back into the national team.”
Edu has been known as a midfielder for most of his career but Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin has been using him at centre-back – a role Edu admits he is still learning.
“I’ve been playing at the back at lot more this season so it’s something that I’m getting used to. For me personally, I just want the opportunity to be successful so if I’m asked to play in the back, in midfield, as a striker or even in goal, I just want the team to do well and to help get us into the playoffs.
“It’s a role that I’m getting more and more comfortable with. I’m still learning bits and pieces here and there and trying to improve but I feel good playing at the back. I think some of my qualities from playing in midfield have helped me and it’s a role that forces you to be more vocal and to continue to be a leader.”
After missing last week’s 2-0 win at the New York Red Bulls through suspension, Edu is looking forward to getting back into the team for the trip to DC United on Saturday night. He knows how important a game that is, saying: “It’s a big one for us but I’m pretty confident.”
The Union’s chances of making the playoffs may be unclear, but there is no hiding the fact that Edu is fully committed to his team and the league. His return to his homeland has made Major League Soccer a better place and his presence will continue to help the development of MLS.
LA Galaxy defender Robbie Rogers has reflected on his first MLS game for the club back in May 2013 and how it has changed his life after he had previously left Championship side Leeds United and retired from the game, believing he couldn’t continue because of his sexuality.
Rogers returned to action with a substitute appearance for the Galaxy during a 4-0 win over the Seattle Sounders on May 26, 2013 and is delighted he’s playing again and sees that first game as a defining moment.
“It was amazing, it was one of those games where you realise (being gay) is put into perspective. There’s millions of kids that struggle in the world with who they are, regardless if they’re gay or straight, or different religions, or ethnicities,” Rogers told LA Galaxy’s official YouTube channel.
“To be a spokesperson for just being different I guess, I realised that game was a symbol in that way. I wasn’t ready to play, I wasn’t really fit or hadn’t trained for a long time but I was really excited and I felt grateful to be able to get onto the field and start my career and have my family there. And obviously my teammates were really supportive,” he added.
The 28-year-old has since gone on to make 29 appearances for the Galaxy and enjoyed another pivotal moment in his career when LA secured the MLS Cup title in 2014.
“Winning the championship last year, I think that’s why I was overly emotional after we won because I remembered all those experiences; the ups and downs, hard road trips, tough training sessions, bad games and good games.”
The LA Galaxy defender can’t believe how quickly time has flown since his arrival and admits that his life has changed for the better.
“It’s crazy that it’s been two years, it feels like it’s been a lot longer than that. I think some of the biggest changes would be more just enjoying every day coming in here and being at peace with who I am and how I am different from guys on the team.
“But also how I’ve been able to fit in and to transition into being just another member on our team and to be a soccer player, or Robbie, rather than being a gay soccer player.
“When I first came in, it was tough, media every day had different events where there was just so much focus on me being a gay athlete. And now I don’t really even think about it so I think that’s the biggest difference.”
Are you impressed with how good Robbie Rogers has been for LA Galaxy?
Knighton couldn’t help his side avoid defeat as the Revs lost 4-2, which put an end to their nine-game unbeaten run in which they’d won five and drawn four. The 30-year-old ‘keeper feels New England paid the price for missed chances and points to the penalty decision as the turning point.
“I think the penalty kind of changed the game. We’re in it still at 2-1 and we had chances at the other end that we just didn’t capitalise on. The penalty call changed the game and makes it 3-1.”
PICTURE: Knighton in action. (Photo via http://www.revolutionsoccer.net/)
Despite the result, Knighton wasn’t critical of his teammates and has immediately turned his attentions to the next game.
“I thought the guys had a lot of effort tonight and we worked hard to get it back but obviously we came up a bit short.”
“Every game’s massive in the Eastern Conference and playing against DC, your rival, we’re going to have our full force of fans at Gillette Stadium and we’re looking to get three points and stay top of the table.”
Can New England Revolution bounce back when they face DC United on Saturday evening?
“As you look ahead, it doesn’t get any easier with having to go to New York, a rival game, and then also DC at their place, so there will be a little bit of a revenge factor in that one,” he said in yesterday’s press conference.
“So two games coming up on the road against rivals in the Eastern Conference. Obviously every game is a big one in our league because anybody can beat anybody but New York will certainly be a tough task.”
“A team that if I’m being honest gave us a lot of issues in the preseason even though the scoreline was very much in our favour.
“They created a ton and were very good against us, so a team we respect, we know that are going to be good, a coach I’m very familiar with in Jesse Marsch and any time you go on the road in this league, it’s difficult to get a win but that’s going to have to be our task.”
Can Philadelphia Union get a positive result against the in-form New York Red Bulls at the weekend?
Dwyer believes it was “about time” SKC put in that type of performance against a strong side to secure an impressive and convincing victory in the club’s 100th game at Sporting Park.
“We needed something like this and we needed our luck to change a little bit. We were fighting against it tonight and I think we put in a very solid performance,” the Englishman added.
Sporting Kansas City travel to face the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night in the second match of their double gameweek.
The win over the Revs will give them a huge confidence boost heading into that clash and allows them to play with a sense of freedom on the night as they would’ve probably been happy with three points from the two games this week.
How impressed were you with Dom Dwyer’s goal and Sporting Kansas City’s performance?
“I think they’re one of those team that you can’t sleep on. They’re good, so their record right now and even their record the last couple of years really doesn’t speak to the kind of talent they have there,” Hollingshead said while speaking to the FC Dallas official YouTube channel.
The 24-year-old has made 11 appearances so far this season, contributing two goals and one assist to a Dallas side that are currently top of both the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.
Despite their good current form, Hollingshead is urging his side to ensure they maintain the same high levels of intensity they’ve displayed in the opening stages of the 2015 season.
“We can’t come in soft or slow, we’re expecting a lot and it’s not by accident they made it to the final of the CONCACAF (Champions League) because that doesn’t just happen. They’ve obviously got the parts there and the pieces there to make those things happen so we need to come out ready to go for sure.”
Although Montreal Impact are at the foot of the league table, they have only played six games and also picked up their first win of the season with an impressive 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake last time out.
Should FC Dallas be wary of the threat that Montreal Impact pose?
Seattle Sounders striker Chad Barrett has hailed the build-up play by his fellow teammates for his second goal in their 2-0 MLS away win at Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.
“People are like ‘there was 21 passes down there in the defensive half and all those passes don’t mean anything’. Barcelona does it and when they do it, it means something,” Barrett told the Seattle Sounders official YouTube channel.
“It was a beautiful play up to the goal to create that space. All those passes gave (Marco) Pappa that space and gave him the time to look up and find me.”
Barrett was brought into the side in the absence of Obafemi Martins and finished off a lovely move with a wonderful left-footed strike into the bottom corner for his second goal of the game.
The 30-year-old feels that the style of play that led to that goal is one of the hardest things for other teams to defend against.
“I’ve been on the other side of that, everyone’s been on the other side of that. When they have the ball all the time, it’s like playing Real Madrid or Barcelona because they just don’t give up the ball.
“And when they do, you feel like you have to really protect the ball that much more because you don’t want to give it right back to them.”
Barrett believes Seattle’s possession play was one of the things that they did “really well” and that it’s a good way of grinding down the opponents.
“Our video today was pretty much all our possession and we had spells there when a couple of them were a minute long, a minute and thirty seconds long and that’s really deflating for another team.”
How good was Chad Barrett and his Seattle Sounders teammates against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday?
The Colombian international joined the Blues from Italian side Fiorentina on transfer deadline day in February for £23.3m and has admitted that English football is different.
“Of course I need to adapt to the style, and the pace of the game is quick. There is a quick transition from defending to attacking but I am hoping to adapt as fast as possible. I just need to train hard every day,” he told Chelsea’s official website.
The 26-year-old has yet to score his first goal for Chelsea but has only been used sparingly with just 175 minutes of game time under his belt and is still trying to settle in.
“I am still adapting to life here. I need to learn the language and life is different. Every country has its own culture and the weather is quite cold here, especially compared to Colombia. The people here are nice, life is good and I like the city.
“I always do my best on the pitch. Obviously there is pressure but the important thing is to go on the pitch and play with happiness,” Cuadrado added.
Chelsea are currently six points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a game in hand over the chasing pack.
It remains to be seen how much action Cuadrado can expect in the last nine games but he could become a Premier League winner within his first three months of being at the club – add that to his League Cup winners medal and it isn’t a bad start to life in London.
Will Juan Cuadrado be an important player for Chelsea next season?