First ever group of MLS free agents available to be signed from today

Major League Soccer will see free agents available to be signed for the first time ever from today.

A total of 26 players are part of the first MLS free agency group after seeing their contracts expire at the end of the 2015 season and will be able to negotiate with potential suitors from 1pm ET (6pm GMT) today.

Free agency has been introduced to the league as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was agreed back in March, before the start of the 2015 campaign, and it will now be seen in use for the first time in MLS history.

Out-of-contract players who are at least 28 years old and have a minimum of eight years of service in MLS are eligible for free agency, including the likes of Corey Ashe, Ned Grabavoy, Jeff Larentowicz, Mike Magee and Alan Gordon.

Full list of the 26 MLS players available for free agency from today:

GK Jon Busch (Chicago Fire)
GK Troy Perkins (Seattle Sounders)
GK Kyle Reynish (New York Red Bulls)
GK Andrew Weber (Portland Timbers)

DF Corey Ashe (Orlando City SC)
DF Bobby Burling (Colorado Rapids)
DF Ty Harden (Chicago Fire)
DF Michael Harrington (Colorado Rapids)
DF Stephen Keel (FC Dallas)
DF Drew Moor (Colorado Rapids)
DF James Riley (Colorado Rapids)

MF Eric Avila (Orlando City SC)
MF Brian Carroll (Philadelphia Union)
MF Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo)
MF Ned Grabavoy (New York City FC)
MF Nick LaBrocca (Colorado Rapids)
MF Jeff Larentowicz (Chicago Fire)
MF Justin Mapp (Montreal Impact)
MF Paulo Nagamura (Sporting Kansas City)
MF Nathan Sturgis (Houston Dynamo)

FW Chad Barrett (Seattle Sounders)
FW Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy)
FW Conor Casey (Philadelphia Union)
FW Kenny Cooper (Montreal Impact)
FW Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy)
FW Mike Magee (Chicago Fire)

Which of the free agents above do you think will be the most sought after in MLS?

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Jason Kreis focusing on NYCFC ahead of Real Salt Lake return

By Keave Tollington: Twitter – @KeaveT

New York City FC will travel to Utah this weekend to play head coach Jason Kreis’ former side, Real Salt Lake. The travelling NYCFC squad include former RSL veterans Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert with Sebastian Velasquez, Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Josh Saunders all playing under Kreis at Real Salt Lake.

Grabavoy played 159 matches for RSL, scoring 10 goals, while defender Chris Wingert recorded 204 appearances. The pair helped RSL win the 2009 MLS Cup and reach the finals in the 2013 season, as well as enjoying time in the 2012 CONCACAF Champions League and 2013 U.S. Open Cup.

Chris Wingert paid tribute to his eight seasons at RSL this week in an interview with RSL’s weekly radio show: “I felt appreciated by the club and really thankful that they kept me around for that long. It will always be a really special place for me. In a perfect world I will always keep a home there.”

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Despite spending nine successful years in Utah as both a player and head coach Kreis told the Salt Lake Tribune that he will not be focusing on his RSL history this weekend: “I don’t think that there is a whole lot of pride in it yet, because I’m still very busy trying to take the next step [at NYCFC].”

Both sides will be wanting to put history aside during the game as NYCFC desperately try to find their second MLS win and put an end to a poor run of form, while RSL will look to bounce back from their humiliating 4-1 defeat to Montreal last Saturday.

With both teams eager for three points it is hard to see this tie ending in a goalless draw.

Real Salt Lake vs. NYCFC kicks off at 03:00AM (UK Time) on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Will Jason Kreis’ history at RSL help NYCFC get their second win in MLS?

David Villa admits NYCFC “have hit rock bottom” after Red Bulls defeat

New York City FC‘s troubles continued last night as they lost 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls in the first-ever New York Derby in Major League Soccer.

The MLS Expansion Side’s winless streak was extended to eight games with the defeat and they will be desperately disappointed with the result, especially considering they played with a man advantage for an hour.

Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga was sent off for a second yellow on 36 minutes but NYCFC couldn’t capitalise as Bradley Wright-Phillips scored goals early in each half to seal an important win in the derby.

Patrick Mullins scored for New York City in the 76th minute to make things interesting but the Red Bulls held on to win more comfortably than the scoreline suggests.

David Villa started the game on Sunday night before being taken off for Mullins as Jason Kreis was worried about the Spaniard’s fitness. The World Cup winner has struggled to lift NYCFC to great heights so far and admitted they’ve “hit rock bottom” after the game.

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“We have to continue to work hard. We’ve hit rock bottom and we need to work harder and look forward to the next game.”

New York City have now lost six of their last seven and are playing without any form of confidence. Their solitary win came in their home opener in the second weekend of the season but it seems as though the wait for the second win will go on and on.

They’ve scored just seven times in 10 games and while midfielder Ned Grabavoy admits that it’s tough at the moment, he believes they will turn things around at some point.

“It just feels like this momentum against us right now is such a headwind,” Grabavoy said. “We’re trying anything and everything we can to break out of this and start finding results.

“Obviously it’s frustrating, but you have to also remind yourself that at some point if you keep doing the right things, it’s going to turn your way. That’s what we’ll keep preaching.”

NYCFC take on Chicago Fire at home on Friday night before a trip to Kreis’ former club Real Salt Lake the following weekend.

What is going wrong for New York City FC? Will they manage to make the playoffs this season?

Podcast: David Villa, NYCFC, San Jose Earthquakes & Sunderland

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast Zack Walford talks to Louis East and Jamie Ives about the latest weekend of MLS action as we chat David Villa and New York City as well as the San Jose Earthquakes and their hopes for the season. We also discuss Sunderland after Gus Poyet was replaced by Dick Advocaat at the Stadium of light this week and the Black Cats’ chances of Premier League survival.

MLS 2015 Season Preview: New York City FC

As the 2015 season draws closer, we’ll have a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what New York City FC will be hoping to achieve in their first-ever season…

We’re extremely excited for the arrival of New York City FC into Major League Soccer, and fans across the league will be looking forward to seeing how they get on in their first-ever campaign. With players like David Villa and Frank Lampard as part of their inaugural roster, they boast some fine talent. But this is their first season and so there is always going to be doubt over the potential of this side. Only time will tell if they are ready to take MLS by storm.

Last season’s finish: N/A (Inaugural Season)

David Villa in action for New York City FC against Brondby (via NYCFC.com)

David Villa in action for New York City FC against Brondby (via NYCFC.com)

What to expect this year:

As this is their first season there is no bar set. However, with the money invested in the squad, New York City will need to at least make the playoffs for 2015 to be deemed a success. Much depends on the arrival of Frank Lampard in July and the extent of his impact will play a major part in their accomplishments this season. They also have David Villa up front however, so they should still be fine until Lampard arrives and will hope to make a good start to life in MLS.

Key changes to the squad:

With this being the first-ever NYCFC squad there have been endless arrivals. The following players are the key additions.

Ins: David Villa – Striker (Designated Player), Frank Lampard – Midfielder (Designated Player), Mix Diskerud – Midfielder, Patrick Mullins – Forward, Ned Grabavoy – Midfielder, Adam Nemec – Forward

Outs: N/A

Key player: David Villa – Forward

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World Cup winner, David Villa is expected to spearhead the New York City attack and what a man to do it. NYCFC has spared no expense in bringing in the decorated striker who boasts his previous clubs as Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia. The Spaniard is a great addition to the franchise and he will be the marquee man to lead this club forward for their first campaign and beyond. Expect goals and lots of them.

One to watch: Khiry Shelton

First round MLS SuperDraft pick, Khiry Shelton has a running style that looks effortless and so he will glide past defenders. Should he get his chance this year, we’re expecting him to make a huge impact. He could form a lethal partnership with David Villa in attack if given the opportunity and the pair demonstrated their chemistry in NYCFC’s preseason draw with Orlando City in the Carolina Challenge Cup.

Predicted finish: Eastern Conference – 5th

Reaching the playoffs in their first-ever season will be the aim for New York City. Failure to do so would be seen as unacceptable given the amount that has been invested in this squad. Jason Kreis has the players at his disposal and must find a way to get the team ticking as quickly as possible. The Eastern Conference will be fiercely competitive but with stars like David Villa and Frank Lampard on their team, NYCFC must make sure they reach the postseason.

How will New York City fare in their first-ever MLS campaign?

Will Real Salt Lake struggle in a fiercely competitive Western Conference?

With Major League Soccer as competitive as ever, Keave Tollington asks whether Real Salt Lake will struggle to maintain their consistency in a tough looking Western Conference in 2015.

The Western Conference has arguably never looked tougher as we head into the 2015 MLS season. Sporting Kansas City and Houston Dynamo have been moved in from the Eastern Conference to make room for expansion clubs Orlando City and New York City and that is bound to have an effect on teams who already struggle in the fiercely competitive Western Conference.

Real Salt Lake, who received a thrashing from eventual MLS Cup Champions LA Galaxy to end their season in the MLS Playoffs last year, are one of the teams that will face the brunt of the blood bath that will be the 2015 Western Conference. Whilst RSL are still widely considered one of the best teams in Major League Soccer, it has now been six years since they won MLS Cup.

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Real Salt Lake have seen several changes to their squad this offseason, with perhaps the biggest losses conceded when midfielder Ned Grabavoy and defender Chris Wingert were picked by New York City in the 2014 MLS Expansion Draft. They were both left unprotected and for Wingert the move sees him return to his home state. Both have been key assets to RSL since they joined in 2007 (Wingert) and 2009 (Grabavoy) and will surely be missed by everyone in Salt Lake.

Perhaps the most exciting signing for RSL fans so far this offseason is Jamison Olave, who is returning to Real Salt Lake after having left in 2012 to play with the New York Red Bulls.

Olave is somewhat a club legend, making 120 appearances for RSL from 2008-2012. In the 2010 season he anchored a backline that let in just 20 goals in 30 matches. He is widely regarded as one of the best centre-backs in MLS and is known for his combination of speed, strength and size.

Salt Lake fans will be hoping that the return of Olave will vastly improve their chances of winning the 2015 MLS Cup as he was a very prominent figure in the 2009 season when RSL took home the championship. As well as winning the MLS Cup, Olave was part of the squad that advanced to the 2010/11 CONCACAF Champions League Final.

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In 2008 the Colombian scored the first goal in Rio Tinto Stadium history and also scored the critical away goal against Saprissa in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League that allowed them to progress.

With Chris Schuler, Tony Beltran and Olave making up a heavy backline, Real Salt Lake’s defence is going to be intimidating to even the strongest MLS teams this season. However, the changing face of the Western Conference will definitely make it difficult to continue the club’s string of five consecutive seasons with at least 15 wins and 50 points and seven straight playoffs appearances.

Real Salt Lake meet Portland Timbers at Providence Park in their season opener on March 7th. Their first home game is against Philadelphia Union on March 13.

Predicted New York City FC starting XI if the league began today

New York City finally have a proper squad ahead of their debut season in Major League Soccer after bulking out the numbers through yesterdays MLS Expansion Draft.

Jason Kreis now has 18 players to choose from as his side is starting to take full shape. More names will be added before the start of play in 2015, but if the league were to begin today, this is what the starting lineup would probably look like.

The current team’s players means that a 4-1-2-1-2 formation is the best option due to the lack of wide midfielders, and high number of central playing midfield men.

Goalkeeper: Ryan Meara

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Ryan Meara has joined the club from the New York Red Bulls in a loan deal that saw Expansion Draft pick Sal Zizzo move the other way on a permanent basis. Meara is a young ‘keeper at 24, but Jason Kreis may have him down as his starter between the sticks after moving to secure his services so quickly.

Right-back: Josh Williams

Josh Williams joined the club in a trade from Columbus Crew on Monday and is the only recognised right-back in the squad at the moment. He made 71 appearances for the Crew over the past five seasons and adds some much needed MLS experience to the side.

Centre-back: Jason Hernandez

New York City picked Jason Hernandez with the third pick in the Expansion Draft and he the veteran will likely slot straight in at centre-back due to his vital experience of the league. He has been in MLS for ten years and has played at least 20 times in eight of those campaigns.

Centre-back: George John

George John missed the 2014 campaign with FC Dallas but should be ready to go by the start of the new season. The 27-year-old has made 119 appearances in the league since 2009 and is another who adds much needed experience to the backline.

Left-back: Chris Wingert

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A pattern is forming across the defence here. Chris Wingert is another veteran defender with vast amounts of experience. He played under Jason Kreis at Real Salt Lake and will be a regular with NYCFC next year.

Defensive-midfield: Andrew Jacobson

Andrew Jacobson is a solid defensive midfielder who will be able to sit deep and stop opposition attacks before they develop. He has played six seasons in MLS and will need to step in and produce some solid displays with New York City next year.

Centre-midfield: Ned Grabavoy

Jason Kreis selected Ned Grabavoy with the first pick in the Expansion Draft, having worked with him at Real Salt Lake. He will be a mainstay in midfield and offers even more valuable experience to the side, having been in the league since 2004.

Centre-midfield: Frank Lampard

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The key man in midfield will be England star Frank Lampard, when he eventually joins up with the squad. Manchester City are trying to extend his loan but expect Lampard back in New York for the new season. Will need to be at his best throughout the year.

Attacking-midfield: Thomas McNamara

The eighth pick in the Expansion Draft, Thomas McNamara joins the club from DC United. He only moved to DC a few weeks ago after the Dispersal Draft but could be set for a chance to prove his worth with New York City. He score one goal in six appearances for Chivas USA last term but a more experienced playmaker could be brought in before the start of the 2015 campaign.

Forward: Patrick Mullins

Patrick Mullins was arguably the most exciting pick from the Expansion Draft. The rookie enjoyed an impressive season with New England Revolution and made a real impact in the MLS Cup Final last weekend. The 22-year-old netted four goals in 14 appearances and should be star with NYCFC.

Forward: David Villa

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Mullins will be playing alongside Spanish star David Villa next year in what should be a great partnership. Villa will be expected to light up MLS with goals, goals, and more goals. And he should deliver.

Who do you think will be in the starting lineup for New York City on the first day of the 2015 season?