Christmas Hangover

Catching up with various happenings, non-happenings and could-be happenings:

Some people are saying I've been surly and grinch-like about some of the - OK, MOST of the - MLS expansion candidates. Miami fans in particular seem outraged that someone came right out and mentioned some actual facts and stuff. Apparently, that's not permitted.

Well, tough titties, guys. This is the big leagues. Unlike your high school teachers, it's not my job to make you feel good about yourself. Whine, cry, hold your breath until you turn blue, nobody cares. Your bid seems to involve long-term residence at FIU, with artifical turf and few amenities, and very few people consider that optimal.

Even Seattle fans seem to get all riled up when someone mentions that they have a 70,000 seat football stadium with artificial turf. Sorry guys, but it's a fact. Scream all you want at how rude it is of people to mention it, but at the end of the day, when you get done namecalling and foot-stomping, your team still plans on playing in a 70,000 seat football stadium with articifical turf.

(And living, as I do, about an hour from Browns Stadium, a grass-surfaced 70,000 seater built with soccer in mind, I'm still waiting for someone to explain why Seahawk owner Paul Allen's artifically surfaced building was welcomed with open arms but Browns owner Randy Lerner, who met with Don Garber and offered to write a check on the spot, was told he'd have to build a soccer stadium. Of course, Lerner salved the wounds by purchasing Aston Villa instead. Not a bad consolation prize)

Likewise, despite my reputation as a Toronto-baiter, I have to applaud their seeming determination to rip up that crap at BEEMO and put down some good old northern fescue. God bless 'em.

But in the interests of fairness, I'd like to say a few words about Houston.

Specifically the ungrateful, frontrunning, lying backstabbing politicians of said fair city (unlike Miami, Toronto or Seattle, I've never been to Houston, but it certainly seems like a fair city).

Having had the best team in MLS - and one of the two best outfits in league history - dropped under their tree a few years ago by Jolly Old Saint Phil, they've responded by a) posing for pictures with the team after Cup wins b) passing "Proclamations" applauding the victorious boys in orange and c) sweeping the stadium issue under the rug over and over and over.

They DON'T EVER ACTUALLY SAY NO but they don't ever quite get around to saying yes, either.

This outfit has played in Robertson Stadium for three years now, a venue whice we were all assured would be a "temporary" home while Houston - big, bold, aggressive, "the-sky's-the-limit Houston - built them a suitable soccer stadium.

Yet, even with Uncle Phil apparently prepared to sink 50 or 60 million bucks of his own money into the thing, a deal seems no closer than it did when the team was still Houston 1846.

Portland and Voncouver may both come a cropper due to lack of a solid guarantee from local government on stadium issues. Philadelphia sure as hell wouldn't be getting ready to kick off in 15 months without that lovely looking project in Chester.

Houston has so far gotten a pass, and it's past time for them to put up or shut up.

Or maybe they can learn the sad side of the team relocation business: what Phil Anschutz giveth, Phil Anschutz can taketh away.

While confirmations seem to be a little slow in coming - things usually don't heat up until after the holidays - THE 2009 GEN A CLASS COULD BE A VERY VERY GOOD ONE.

I was sure we'd see Opara come out - what the heck does he have left to prove at the NCAA level? - but even if he doesn't there are some solid names up there.

The thing we tend to lose track of is that this essentially boils down to a negotiation, and sometimes a game of chicken. If a player - and his agent/father/attorney - can drag thier feet long enough and make noises about Europe and/or their abiding love for another year chasing tail and drinking beer at Dear Old Enormous State, maybe they can wrangle a better offer.

But if you push your luck and it turns out that nobody in Europe wants you as anything other than a practice player, or you stick around for your senior year and thus have no other options, everybody knows that MLS will have no pity. You'll end up with a contract that includes doing the coach's laundry and walking his dog.

And lurking in the not-so-distant background is the O'Brian White model. Last year's Herrmann Award winner, the UConn forward, who led the nation in scoring, decided to return to college where he promptly ripped up his ACL, had surgery and won't be available for even a light workout until maybe next May.

He turned dwon a big GenA offer and is now looking like a second or third round selection (at best) and has very little hope of much beyond the standard developmental contract. I'm a big fan of education, but here's a kid who's basically screwed.

A lesson which, surely, hasn't been lost on the current crop of GenA prospects.

As an unapologetically biased observer, I find it hard not to be delighted that MLS Defender of the Year Chad Marshall has been re-signed in Columbus.

Apparently the offer he got from Mainz was pretty much in the ballpark of what Crew GM Mark McCullers was willing to pay him, and so he'll be back in yellow for another year, at least.

What I find incredible is that his agent couldn't find any other interest. He's a big, strong, young, athletic kid with obvious talent and tremendous upside who was out of contract and thus available on the cheap. All someone had to do was be willing to out bid Major League Soccer.

But the only tryout, and only offer, was from a second division team in Germany.

Like I said, I'm sure not complaining, but I am surprised.