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Cleveland City Stars Fold

We have received information from multiple sources that the Cleveland City Stars have ceased operations and will not return to play professional soccer. This comes as quite a shock as positive news was heard yesterday.  There are lot of unanswered questions at this point, but it is safe to say that this is disappointing news for players, staff, and obviously supporters.

An official announcement from the City Stars organization is expected early next week.  We did not want to publish this information early, but thought it should be handled by a “soccer friendly” media outlet.

Cleveland City Stars Update

Multiple sources suggest that the sale of the City Stars will be official sometime next week.  We were told that it is “now in the hands of the lawyers” and should be wrapped up soon.

Officials with the United Soccer Leagues declined to make specific comments on the matter, but did say an important update on the City Stars would be made available next week.  Past comments from the club suggest the franchise will remain in the USL in some capacity.  The City Stars have some difficult decisions to make regarding the choice of leagues, especially with the recent defection of the Rochester Rhinos. 

The USL/TOA/NASL saga needs to be resolved quickly and without further incident.  Many people are concerned about the long-term effects of the situation and what it could mean for the future of the game here in North America.  Here are two scenarios that are being discussed:

1.  MLS (1st Division), NASL (2nd Division), USL-2 (3rd Division), followed by PDL and Super Y-League     

2.  MLS (1st Division), NASL (2nd Division), USL-Pro (2nd Division), followed by PDL and Super Y-League

Note: USL-Pro would be a combination of current USL-1 and USL-2 clubs. 

Obviously the USSF wields the final authority on the matter.  Would they (or could they) allow two 2nd Division leagues to coexist simultaneously? Can the USL gather enough expansion teams to fill USL-1 with “8-12 teams” as they mentioned earlier? Would the USL be willing to refocus their energy on PDL and Super Y-League clubs?

A Conversation with Mandjou Keita

We spoke with Portland Timbers striker Mandjou Keita before he left for his loan assignment at Salgaocar Sport Club in India’s first division.  Keita literally has a world of experience with time spent with Guinea’s U-23 National Team, Malaysia’s Perak FC, and Brunei’s DPMM FC.  He also had stints in Vietnam, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.  His experience in India should only add to his development. 

The striker is poised to play a key role in Portland’s final season in USL-1.  Our sources believe Keita will likely make the move with the club into MLS.  His dream of playing top-flight football in Europe is not far away if this success continues. 

Keita struggled to make the transition to the American game early this season, but eventually caught fire under the expertise of Coach Gavin Wilkinson.  He earned USL First Division All-league first team honors and the 2009 Supporters Player of the Year award.  Keita was quick to share praise for his coaches, teammates, agent, advisors, and family. 

Mandjou is proud of his time with the Guinea National Team saying “it is a dream of all players to play for their home country.”  He described it as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity that he will cherish forever.  His dream of playing professionally abroad motivated him to leave his home and look for other opportunities ouside of Africa.  It is clear that Keita loves playing football everyday and takes nothing for granted.  He lives up to the statement: “Football is my life.”

Mandjou learned a great deal in his first season of American soccer.  He found the style of play to be challenging, fast, physical, and of a high quality.  He said it was a very different game when compared to Africa or Europe.  Africans play a very technical game despite often playing for fun, while Europeans attack in space.

He was able to score goals and even became one of the best strikers in North America by the end of the season.  Eventually Keita would like to give back to the younger generations by earning his coaching badges and serving in a different capacity.

USL Statement

United Soccer Leagues issued the following elaboration regarding Wednesday morning’s CKAC Sports radio interview with USL CEO Alec Papadakis concerning the status of USL-1 teams.

“While the statements made in the earlier interview are accurate in that we have ceased negotiations with the Team Owner’s Association (TOA) as a group, we remain in dialogue with certain individual TOA teams about their possible participation in USL-1 for 2010.  We are open to the return of the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps to USL-1 for 2010; however we continue to move forward with our preparations for next season, which includes a meeting of team owners and league officials next week in Beaverton, Oregon.”