When MLS said last week that there would be a "major announcement" on Tuesday, many were hoping that it would be news of a new TV deal, the 2011 schedule, or details of the new playoff format. Instead, the "big news" was that Red Bull Arena will host the 2011 All-Star Game on July 29th.
I don't know if any of you will agree with me, but I believe the All-Star Game is a stupid waste of time; it makes international friendlies look relevant. I never want any of our players to be picked for the All-Star Game because it's another opportunity for them to get injured -- it's a meaningless game for a team that's not the Red Bulls.
It's also a disgrace that MLS hasn't released any of the actually important information that we thought they might have. The season starts in just over a month, and there's still no playoff format. That, as many others have said, is pretty small-time league stuff. The TV deal is a bit more difficult to figure out than scheduling matters, but teams and fans should know what they have to do to win MLS Cup. The league schedule (which will be announced on Thursday) is surely more important than an All-Star Game for which the league hasn't even found an opponent yet.
In transfer news, the club announced that Sacir Hot and Marcos Paullo have both been signed to contracts. However, Hans Backe and Eric Solér aren't finished looking for players, including a right back and centerback or central midfielder. There have been some suggestions that Rafael Márquez could be moved back to central defense, but I prefer him in the defensive midfield slot. He can use his long passing ability better from there and a midfield anchor provides extra defensive cover, allowing the fullbacks to get up the pitch and support our wide midfielders.
At the close of the European transfer window last Monday there were (and still are) some rumors linking the Red Bulls to Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka. I've come to loathe him because he's played almost exclusively for clubs that I hate since leaving Arsenal, but he would certainly be a good addition in talent terms. However, such a signing makes absolutely no sense after even the most cursory look at our roster -- we don't need another striker, particularly not another aging one coming for a final run-out.
Bouna Coundoul and Roy Miller have been called up by the Senegalese and Costa Rican national teams, respectively. Miller played for his national side in the recent Central American Cup as the Ticos lost in the final to Panama, and he'll probably start for them against Venezuela. Coundoul has been frustrated by a lack of playing time for Senegal, but hopefully he'll be out on the pitch for at least a half against Guinea.
The rest of the team headed down to Mexico on Friday for the start of pre-season, and had their first training sessions yesterday (Saturday). Matt Conroy of The Viper's Nest has a nice piece on the Red Bulls' roster and competition for places in pre-season.
The club has added another game to the pre-season schedule, as the Red Bulls will take on Mexican club Atlas in a friendly to be called the "Red Bull Reto del Sol" at the University of Phoenix Stadium on March 8th. Atlas is the club where Rafa Márquez began his football career.
Finally, congratulations to the Houston Dynamo for breaking ground on their new Soccer-Specific Stadium, which will open in 2012. SBNation's Houston blog, Dynamo Theory, has some artist renderings of the new stadium -- while nothing compares to our beautiful Red Bull Arena, it looks like a very nice ground and is a mark of the league's progress.