Fulham joins Everton in chase for Donovan loan | Soccer By Ives

Just when you thought Everton was Landon Donovans most likely destination for an English Premier League move, in steps a club all too familiar to American soccer fans.

Fulham is reportedly trying to make a bid for Donovan, a development that comes amid fresh reports that Everton is interested in bringing Donovan back for another loan stint.

If true, a Fulham move would partner Donovan with U.S. national team teammate Clint Dempsey, giving the Cottagers the two best American field players in the world.

Both Fulham and Everton are struggling this season (The Cottagers are outside the relegation zone by goal difference while Everton is two points clear of the drop zone) and both could use Donovans attacking spark. The question at this point is whether Donovan will choose one over the other or choose to take the winter off after what was easily the busiest and most tiring year of his career.

So where would you like to see him go? Cast your vote (and here my take) after the jump:

poll by twiigs.com

What do I think Donovan should do? As I stated in a Fox Soccer column last week, an extended loan until the summer might actually be beneficial to him and the Galaxy because it would mean he could count on some rest this summer and the Galaxy could create some salary budget space by only having him for a half season.

A short two-month loan like Donovan had last season would set him up for another taxing year that could see him play straight from January until late November, with Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying being added to a loaded Galaxy schedule and two months in England.

Which Premier League club makes more sense for Donovan? He has already played for Everton and is beloved there so that seems like the more logical destination. Fulham can certainly use Donovan though, and the allure of helping Fulham avoid relegation could drive Donovan to join the London club.

Who did you vote for? Where would you like to see Donovan go?

Share your thoughts below.

D.C. United signs Maryland’s White | Soccer By Ives

D.C. Uniteds rebuilding project took another step forward on Tuesday with word that the club has signed Maryland defender Ethan White as a Homegrown Player.

A centerback/right back prospect, White had been regarded as one of the best defenders in the nation and a top MLS Draft prospect before signing with D.C. United as a product of the teams Academy system. Rated as the No. 14 draft prospect on SBIs most recent Draft Big Board, White will expected to compete for playing time right away.

White joins Andy Najar, Bill Hamid and Conor Shanosky as one of D.C. Uniteds four Homegrown Players. D.C. United has already added midfielder Dax McCarty this off-season and also holds the No. 3 pick in the 2011 MLS Draft.

White may not be the only Maryland player heading to an MLS team as a Homegrown Player. The New York Red Bulls are seriously considering signing midfielder Matt Kassel as its own Homegrown Player.

Maryland is also set to lose goalkeeper Zac MacMath, who is prepared to leave school to begin his professional career. Terrapins forward Casey Townsend is another possible defection as he is on the MLS Generation adidas radar.

What do you think of D.C. signing White? Starting to think United can turn things around in 2011 after posting the worst record in MLS in 2010?

Share your thoughts below.

Mid-Day Ticker: Blatter condemned, TP Mazembe reaches final and more | Soccer By Ives

By AVI CREDITOR

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has come under fire recently, most notably for the decisions to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively. The latest incident involving Blatter wont help his image either.

Blatter had some off-color remarks about homosexuality and Qatar, and an international gay rights group has condemned his comments and demanded an apology.

At an event in South Africa, Blatter was asked about any potential cultural issues during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal. According to the Associated Press, Blatter smiled and responded, Id say (gay fans) should refrain from any sexual activities.

The communications director of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association responded by saying, Its disappointing to see that an organization that is promoting the game, which in its statutes condemns discrimination of any kind, is coming out with comments like this.

Here are a few more stories from around the soccer world:

MAZEMBE CONTINUES CLUB WORLD CUP RUN

African champion TP Mazembe Englebert continued its surprising run at the FIFA Club World Cup, defeating Brazilian side Internacional, 2-0, in a semifinal on Tuesday.

Mulota Kabangu and Dioko Kaluyituka scored for Mazembe, which awaits the winner of Wednesdays semifinal matchup between Inter Milan and Seongnam Ilhwa.

With the victory, Mazembe became the first African team (and first non-European or South American team) to reach the final of the Club World Cup.

BUNBURY SCORES FOR STOKE RESERVES

Though he is not technically on trial with Stoke City, Sporting Kansas City striker Teal Bunbury is making the most of his training stint with the Premier League side, scoring in a reserve match against Wigan Athletic on Tuesday.

According to the teams Web site, Bunbury linked up with Eidur Gudjohnsen and put Stoke ahead but also had two shots saved and one go wide in the 3-1 loss.

U.S. SOCCER ANNOUNCES BEST OF WINNERS

The United States Soccer Federation revealed the first four of its Best Of 2010 winners, and the initial wave is entirely tied to the national teams victory over Algeria in the World Cup.

Best South Africa Moment and Best Photo both were awarded to the dog pile on Landon Donovan after his game-winning goal in stoppage time. That goal received Best Goal and the victory that cemented the teams place atop Group C received Best Performance: Team honors.

More winners will be announced Wednesday and Thursday, and the Athlete of the Year winners will be revealed on Monday.

FOX EXTENDS CHAMPIONS LEAGUE RIGHTS

Fox Sports Media Group has renewed its contract to hold the exclusive rights for the UEFA Champions League, extending its current deal by three years.

The new deal will run through the 2014-2015 season.

What do you think of Blatters remarks? Rooting for Mazembe to capture the Club World Cup? What do you make of Bunburys stint with Stoke? Happy that Fox will continue to broadcast the Champions League?

Share your thoughts below.

Big names poised to go in second MLS Re-Entry Draft | Soccer By Ives

The first MLS Re-Entry Draft was relatively uneventful last week, with just two players being taken. The second Re-Entry is scheduled for Wednesday and is promising to have at least a few big names taken.

So who might go? Established stars like Juan Pablo Angel and Guillermo Barros Schelotto stand a good chance of being selected by teams hoping to find the missing piece to their championship puzzles. Theyre just a few of the well-known players available.

So why will players be taken this time around? Teams wont be obligated to sign players to their old contract figures, meaning they can work out more reasonable salaries with draft players assuming those players are willing to take paycuts.

Here aresome of the playerswho could be picked up on Monday:

Juan Pablo Angel, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Frankie Hejduk, Jeff Cunningham, Jaime Moreno, Cory Gibbs, Jimmy Conrad,Josh Wolff, Fred, Chris Seitz,

D.C. United has the first pick in Wednesdays draft, followed by Chivas USA, Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution, Houston Dynamo and Toronto FC.

Where do I see some top players going? Juan Pablo Angel and Jimmy Conrad are good bets for D.C. United, Chivas UA could definitely use a player like Schelotto,while Philadelphia might find it difficult to pass on grabbing either Angel or Jaime Moreno.

Who would you like to see your team grab in the Re-Entry Draft?

Wednesday Kickoff: USA finishes 18th, Chicago’s tough decision and more | Soccer By Ives

The U.S. mens national team finished the year ranked 18th in the world, according the latest FIFA World Rankings.

The United States moved up six spots to finish in a tie for 18th with France, one spot behind World Cup opponent Slovenia. Mexico finished the year ranked 27th.

World Cup winner Spain finished the year ranked No. 1, while Netherlands, Germany, Brazil and Argentina rounded out the Top Five.

The FIFA rankings are just one item on the docket this morning. In other developments:

FIRE FACE LJUNGBERG DECISION

The Chicago Fire currently hold the No. 9 pick in the 2011 MLS Draft, but could lose that pick if it re-signs Swedish midfielder Freddie Ljungberg.

The Seattle Times is reporting that the Fire will have to send its first-round pick to the Seattle Sounders as part of the trade for Ljungberg if Chicago re-signs Ljungberg before the MLS Draft (If Chicago doesnt re-sign Ljungberg, Seattle will get the 27th overall pick from Chicago). If Chicago re-signs Ljungberg after the MLS Draft then the Fire will send Seattle its 2012 first-round pick for Seattles 2012 second round pick.

What will the Fire do? At this point Chicago seems unlikely to contend for a title in 2011, making the surrendering of a first-round pick in a deep draft a questionable move. At the very least, Chicago should hold off on any move to sign Ljungberg until after the 2011 MLS Draft, assuming the club wants to bring back the aging midfieldre at all.

HAMILTON LEAVES CHIVAS USA

Stephen Hamilton has stepped down as Chivas USA Vice President of Soccer Operations, becoming the third high-ranking member of Chivas USA to leave the club in recent weeks.

Chivas USA has already seen head coach Martin Vasquez resign and president Shawn Hunter step down. Team advisor Jose Domene has taken over as the teams general manager and will spearhead the clubs search for a new head coach.

What do you think of these developments? Happy with the U.S. teams No. 18 ranking? Think Chicago should re-sign Ljungberg? See Chivas USA recovering from such a dramatic overhaul?

Share your thoughts below.

Agbossoumonde confident about his future | Soccer By Ives

photo by Max Becherer/ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

SUNRISE, Fla.-Gale Agbossoumonde is in a unique situation.

Fresh off of making his senior national team debut and going through a second U-20 cycle with the U.S. youth national team, Agbossoumounde is being looked at by U-20 head coach Thomas Rongen to provide leadership to the group despite having an unsettled and somewhat troubling club situation.

Agbossoumonde feels prepared to tackle that challenge head on, however, as his club woes look to end in the form of a loan to Swedish club Djurgardens IF, which finished in 10th place in the Allsvenskan this season.

Im supposed to be going to Sweden on the 15th, said Agbossoumonde. Its supposed to be a loan until the rest of the season.

Its not a finalized deal. Im not 100 percent sure if Im going, but its like a 90 percent.

Leading the Stockholm-based club will be new manager Magnus Pehrsson, who is no stranger to Agbossoumondes skillset.

Pehrsson was originally intrigued by Agbossoumonde following the centerbacks performances at the 2009 U-20 World Cup in Egypt. Then the manager of Aalborg BK, Pehrsson tried to acquire Agbossoumonde following the tournament, but lost out to Sporting Braga.

He was trying to get me to go over there before I went to Braga from (my performances in) the U-20 World Cup, said Agbossoumonde. He just went to the Swedish team and then hes getting me over there.

Should things go according to plan, Agbossoumonde would leave the U.S. U-20 national teams January camp a day or two before it ends to travel to Sweden, where he believes hell be able to establish himself and get games every week.

The 19-year-olds confidence shouldnt come as a surprise. In November, despite not having played at the club level since 2009, Agbossoumonde received a call-up from U.S. mens national team head coach Bob Bradley. The timing was a bit unfortunate for Agbossoumonde, but he accepted the call nonetheless.

I was supposed to go on a trial, and the day I was leaving was the day I got the call so I didnt go on the trial, said Agbossoumonde. I was going to go to SK Sigma Olomouc in Czech Republic.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound player made a late cameo in the U.S. national teams friendly against South Africa on Nov. 17 (his 19th birthday), helping preserve a 1-0 lead in his first cap.

I was really, really nervous before the game and during the warmups, but once I was going in, it was like another game, said Agbossoumonde.

That he felt that way might be seen as refreshing, especially since the 19-year-old centerback has had anything but a stellar start to his professional career. Having signed a three-and-a-half-year contract with Traffic Sport in August 2009, Agbossoumonde has made just six professional appearances, all for USSF D2 Pro League club Miami FC. None of those came in 2010.

Thats not to say that Agbossoumondes lack of minutes and uncertainty in regards to his future had no negative impact on him.

It takes a toll on you, knowing that you have to be with a different team pretty soon and sort of like tryout, said Agbossoumonde. But it is all a learning experience because once I find the team where Im going to stay, I should be okay from all the past experiences.

Agbossoumonde has turned that negative past experiences into newfound confidence. Openly frustrated at Traffic a few months ago, the Togolese-born defender now feels differently about the company that owns his rights.

I dont really feel that angry towards Traffic, said Agbossoumonde. At the time when I did, I was just frustrated. It was just like a heat of the moment kind of thing.

Traffic owns me, but Im the player. If Im doing all the right things if I was Ronaldo or something I wouldnt be in that situation. Ive got to look at it that way too because its not their fault.

Agbossoumonde believes Traffic will likely sell him to a club within the next year, but for now he is focusing on the U-20 national team and its quest to reach the 2011 U-20 World Cup.

We have to qualify, but I dont think we should have any problem with that because this team is better than the last one, said Agbossoumonde. Theres a lot more talent in this group, so I think well do better than we did last time.

An in-form and confident Agbossoumonde anchoring the U.S. backline would be a major asset to the U-20 teams hopes of qualifying for and getting passed the group stages in the U-20 World Cup in 2011. Whether hell be in form remains to be seen, but the confidence is already there, and only as a result of the struggles hes already endured.

The last cycle helped me out a lot, said Agbossoumonde. Thats how I got to Braga in the first place, and even though things didnt work out, I come into this cycle a little more confident.

MLS clears way for Cascadia clubs to allocate 500 tickets to supporters for away matches | Soccer By Ives

By JOSE M. ROMERO

The supporters groups from the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps have spoken, and Major League Soccer apparently listened.

The league approved a plan for hardcore fans of the three Cascadia MLS clubs to purchase up to 500 tickets for away matches against each other in 2011, the three teams announced Wednesday.

This is good news for three of the strongest and largest fan bases for soccer in North America. While some details need to be ironed out, the bottom line is that 500 tickets will be sold by each home team to the visiting team, and in turn the visiting club will distribute those tickets to their supporters groups.

There had previously been concern that only 150 tickets would be allotted for sale to visiting supporters groups for games involving the three clubs, who will face each other at home and away in 2011. That didnt sit well at all with the supporters, and they let their respective ownerships hear their dismay. They also sent a letter of protest to MLS commissioner Don Garber.

The approved plan to allocate 500 tickets for visiting supporters will help grow a rivalry that is unique to this region, said Joe Roth, Sounders FC owner, in a statement from the club. The three clubs, along with Major League Soccer, are committed to fostering local rivalries as well as providing visiting supporters an opportunity to support their clubs on the road.

Ironically, it was Roth who reportedly brought up the 150-ticket limit in the first place. That spurred leaders of the primary supporters groups for each of the three Cascadia clubs into unified action.

The Sounders have the largest stadium, Qwest Field, out of the three clubs, but the stadium routinely sells out no matter the opponent, at least for MLS matches.

Theres a long history of the rivalry between the three clubs that goes back to the North American Soccer League days. The Sounders and Whitecaps joined that league in 1974 and the Timbers followed in 1975, and fans of all three teams traveled en masse to away matches in the region.

The tradition carried over into the USL days, though overall crowds were smaller in number in Seattle and Vancouver. In 2009 and 2010, U.S. Open Cup matches between the Sounders and Timbers at Portlands PGE Park were the hottest tickets in town, and busloads of Sounders fans traveled the three hours south on Interstate 5 for the matches.

Away support, especially for derbies, is a critical part of soccers DNA, Merritt Paulson,owner and president of the Timbers, said in a statement from the team. The Timbers – along with Seattle, Vancouver and Major League Soccer – are committed to cultivating these significant regional rivalries by embracing the positive dynamic that away supporters bring and encouraging visiting fan support. The clubs look forward to hosting visiting supporters in a professional manner.