Tuesday, September 14, 2010

So Long, Mac: Red Bulls Acquire Ballouchy from Colorado

On what has turned out to be anything but a quiet news day for MLS, the Red Bulls announced this morning that they had traded Macoumba Kandji to the Colorado Rapids for attacking midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy (above, R).  Ballouchy, a native of Morocco, played his college ball at Santa Clara before being drafted as a Generation Adidas player by Real Salt Lake in 2006, then was traded to the Rapids in the transaction that brought Kyle Beckerman to Salt Lake City.  The addition of the 27 year-old Ballouchy should provide RBNY with an injection of creativity in the center of midfield.  It also gives Hans Backe an expanded range of attacking options and formations.

Erik Solér and the Red Bulls braintrust had spent most of the summer transfer window unsuccessfully trying to land an attacking midfielder so that they could move Joel Lindpere back out to the left side of midfield.  More recently, rookie Tony Tchani has been paired with Rafa Marquez in midfield while Lindpere shifted left.  Whether Ballouchy's arrival means a return to the bench for Tchani remains to be seen.  In addition to his attacking prowess from midfield, one thing that Ballouchy offers that Mac did not is durability.  He has appeared in 77 league games for Colorado since the end of the 2007 season, scoring seven goals while dishing out 18 assists.

Kandji, meanwhile, will get a new start with a team that already boasts a pretty formidable strike partnership in Conor Casey and Omar Cummings.  With the addition of Thierry Henry, there was no room for Mac up front.  More recently he failed to impress in several appearances deputizing for Dane Richards on the wing and had become a man without a position.  It's easier to see how this deal makes sense for the Red Bulls than it does for the Rapids.  In addition to getting a more experienced and durable player who fills a need for the playoff run, the Red Bulls also save about $25,000 in guaranteed compensation for the current season.  The Rapids get a young player with a lot of promise, but also a history of injuries and some issues with finishing.  Of course, there's still a possibility that the Red Bulls will end up facing Colorado in the playoffs, so we could see Mac back at Red Bull Arena sooner rather than later.  In any case, best of luck to Mac with his new team and welcome to New York, Mehdi!

In other interesting MLS news today, Toronto FC has fired both General Manager Mo Johnston and hothead Manager Preki, after a disappointing string of results that has seen them tumble out of the playoff picture.  The last straw was this past weekend's 0-1 home loss to lowly DC United.  When you lose a game at home to a team as epically bad as DC you deserve to lose your job. So who is the sucker willing to give Trader Mo his next gig?  Stay tuned.

In other league news, MLS confirmed today what had been rumored for several weeks - namely that, with the addition of Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps, the league schedule next season will increase to 34 games and remain balanced, with each team playing each other once at home and once away.  Games will begin on March 19 and conclude on October 22, with no break for the Gold Cup.  Once Montreal joins the league in 2012, the scheduling headaches could be even more acute, and the league may very well have to reconsider competitions such as Superliga and the US Open Cup.  But for next season, expect to spend more time at the Cathedral of Football and expect to pay substantially more for your season tickets.
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