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Free agency lite: A small step forward in new Major League Soccer CBA

mls-primary_colorThe players went into the Collective Bargaining Agreement process looking for some form of free agency. Major League Soccer and its owners said that free agency would never happen in their single entity system.

The compromise that was reached on Wednesday will ensure that no labour stoppage will delay the 2015 MLS season. But it’s hard to judge just what this new agreement in principle will do to the North American player market. According to reports, free agency will be granted to players who have eight years of service in the league, and are 28 years of age or older. But, the salary increases these “free agents” can earn for themselves will be capped.

So, in terms of owners opening the door on free agency, it’s barely open a crack. The lock is off, though — and it will be up to the players to kick it down when this CBA expires five years from now.

1) If you go into free agency, and the raise you can potentially earn for yourself is capped — well, that’s not really free agency, is it? It’s a reasonable facsimile of free agency. The league already has a salary cap — which would prevent GMs from overspending on the free agent market; capping the potential increases only adds another barrier for the player.
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Atlanta, Georgia, Canada: Porter joins the Silverbacks

Kyle Porter

Kyle Porter

Kyle Porter has returned to the NASL.

The Atlanta Silverbacks announced Wednesday that they have signed the Canadian international. Porter will be reunited with fellow Canadian former FC Edmonton teammate Dominic Oppong, who signed with the Silverbacks last month.

Porter spent the previous two seasons with the DC United organization, but spent much of 2014 with the MLS team’s USL affiliate in Richmond. He was released at the end of the season.

Before that, he spent two seasons with FC Edmonton, scoring a total of 12 goals; the Eddies offered him a new contract, but he chose to pursue a what turned into a successful trial with DC United and the Eddies pulled the offer off the table.
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On a big night for soccer, we should celebrate Sadiki’s goal more vociferously than Porter’s

Kosovar Sadiki

Kosovar Sadiki

So, on a Tuesday night packed with action for the Canadian soccer supporter — what was the most important moment?

Was it a last-gasp goal from Cameron Porter, or a second-half marker from Kosovar Sadiki?

Porter’s injury time equalizer was what the Montreal Impact needed to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League at the expense of Mexican side, Pachuca. When it looked like the Impact would once again be foiled by a Mexican side at the quarter-final stage, the rookie-turned-super-sub notched the marker that turned the Big O into a big party.

Meanwhile, in front of about 37,995 fewer spectators in the stands in Honduras, Sadiki scored the goal to give his Canadian U-17 side a precious 3-2 win over Costa Rica. The win moved Canada to two wins in two matches at the CONCACAF U-17 Championships; to have any shot at the qualifying for the U-17 World Cup, the Canadians have to finish in the top three in their group. And that means the Canadians will need to finish ahead of either Mexico, Panama or Costa Rica. If the Canadians finish atop their group, then they get a direct route to the World Cup, with no worry of a crossover playoff.

Let’s face it; after the U-20 team flamed out at their age group’s CONCACAF playdowns — and with the overall malaise that has gripped Canadian men’s soccer for, well, at least five World Cup qualifying cycles, we’ve grown accustomed to not expecting much from our national teams. Sadiki’s goal might end up being fool’s gold; but, for one hopeful night, it’s a light at the end of dark, dreary tunnel.

Now, let’s get back to Porter’s goal. A wonderful moment in Montreal sports, but definitely not a milestone in Canadian sports. In 2009, when more than 55,000 jammed into the Big O to watch the then-second-division Impact play Santos Laguna in the CCL quarterfinals, there was a lot to admire about that group. On that day, four Canadians started. Sure, there were Americans and other foreigners on the team, but with John Limniatis coaching, and local players on the pitch, there was no shaking the Canadian — no, the Quebecois — heart of this team. You might have loved that team, you might have hated that team, but with the passion of Canadian players like Sandro Grande and Nevio Pizzolitto, you had to admit that the team had a soul.
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Herdman on CNWT: “There’s not too many cards left up our sleeves”

John Herdman

John Herdman

We’re now at the stage of the poker game where it’s time to call. We’ve gone through the bets, the bluffs and the folds.

As Canada’s national women’s team prepares for the Cyprus Cup — its final tournament before the Women’s World Cup, coach John Herdman knows he has very few secrets left to keep. He knows he has to have his team playing to its strengths — and that means there’s very little left to hold back and to keep those scouting for their World Cup opponents guessing.

“You can’t hide everything,” Herdman said in a conference call on Tuesday. “You’ve got to do what you do better than the other teams.

“There’s not too many cards left up our sleeves.”

Canada begins group-stage play on Wednesday. Scotland, not a World Cup side, will provide the opposition. Then it’s South Korea, a World Cup qualifier that won’t be in Canada’s WWC first-round group, and then another non-World Cup side, Italy.
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Canada avoids Haiti slip-up in tournament opener

Kadin Chung

Kadin Chung

Maybe it’s the new format — which makes it much more difficult for Canada to qualify for the U-17 World Cup than in he past. Maybe it’s the fact that the national U-20 team flamed out so spectacularly in its recent attempt to qualify for its age group’s World Cup. But there’s no denying that the Canadian sentiment towards this crop of U-17s is more muted than past years. There’s no chatter of who’s going to be the next Great Canadian Hope.

But, on Saturday night in Honduras, this group survived its first challenge of the CONCACAF U-17 Championships, with a 3-1 win over Haiti. Duwayne Ewart, Matthew Baldisimo and Kadin Chung got the goals.

For Canada, with the new format, there is no margin for error in matches against the so-called minnows. In years past, the round-robin would often see one ranked CONCACAF nation paired up with two lesser lights. Win the group, and you were well on your way to a U-17 World Cup berth or at least a playoff for a U-17 World Cup spot.

But, wisely, CONCACAF changed the format. For the smaller nations, sending a team to play just two games made little financial or developmental sense. You arrived and were eliminated in the blink of an eye. So, the new format sees the field split into two groups of six. Each team is guaranteed five matches in a compressed amount of time; so coaches are forced to utilize most of their squads — and, so, more players will get minutes of international action.
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Sanna’s advice helped steer Sainey Nyassi towards FC Edmonton

Sainey Nyassi

Sainey Nyassi

Last year, Sanna Nyassi was a member of the Montreal Impact, and started both legs of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal against FC Edmonton. A last-gasp Patrice Bernier penalty kick allowed Montreal to snatch that series from the Eddies.

But the Eddies’ play over those 180 minutes made a lasting impression on the Gambian player, who has since moved on to the San Jose Earthquakes. So, when his twin brother, Sainey, was looking for a club, Sanna gave the Eddies a glowing review.

Sainey decided to take up the Eddies’ offer and joined the NASL side after spending the 2014 season with RoPS of the Finnish League. Before that, Sainey had played 118 MLS matches with New England and D.C. United.

“My brother played here in Edmonton with Montreal,” Sainey said after the Eddies’ training camp session on Wednesday. “He said he was impressed by their quality, that they were a good team. He said that they were very lucky to win the last time they played.”
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