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Soccer notes

Twellman: MLS deal is a win-win

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / March 23, 2010

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Taylor Twellman drew on history lessons as a Revolution player representative in collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Twellman knew from the experience of his predecessors an MLS players’ strike should be avoided, but he also realized the importance of being united.

And though the MLS Players’ Union only gained modest concessions from management as a five-year CBA was approved Saturday, Twellman believes great progress was made.

“Let’s be honest, when the strike vote came out in public and they saw the players were unified, they thought we needed to be taken seriously,’’ Twellman said after the announcement in Washington. “And [commissioner] Don Garber and the league took us seriously. Without the numbers and the strike vote, I don’t know if we would be sitting here today. Give both sides credit, both sides are winners and the sport continues to grow. But we won’t know how big this day is until we look back on it a few years from now and the league is cranking.’’

Garber took a hands-on approach to negotiations and noted the players “have some pretty darned good ideas.’’ The players apparently appreciated Garber’s presence and, for one of the few times since the league was founded, got the feeling their views were taken into account. The result is the league’s 15th season will begin on time when the expansion Philadelphia Union visits Seattle Thursday.

Twellman recently turned 30 and, in many ways, is wise beyond his years after having absorbed lessons from a family of professional athletes. Tim Twellman, Taylor’s father, and two brothers played in the North American Soccer League, which was devastated by labor strife in the late ‘70s. His grandfather, Jim Delsing, played for the New York Yankees in the ’50s when “there was no free agency, and baseball players were working two jobs in the offseason.

“And I talked to my uncles and my dad,’’ Twellman said. “No matter what, no one wins with a strike or lockout.’’

The minimum salary, set at $24,000 when the league started, has remained absurdly low. That number changes to about $40,000, which, allowing for inflation, is analagous to baseball’s $7,500 minimum wage of the late ’60s. According to Garber, “most players’ contracts will be guaranteed.’’ And, there will be limited free agency, though the league will not use that terminology, in the form of a “re-entry’’ draft of players not under contract.

“Like Don Garber said, this is an evolution of the system and not a revolution of the system,’’ Twellman said. “In five more years there will be more room for movement and guaranteed contracts. This is all part of the process.

“Are we a league that needs and sustains free agency? I don’t think so. But the re-entry draft and player movement are positive things. In ’02 when I came into the league, we had just lost Tampa Bay and Miami and if you said 10 years down the road we would have more players’ rights — this starts the process of every five years, everything evolves.’’

Area star shows his stuff
When Brazilian power Flamengo lined up against Botafogo in Rio de Janeiro Sunday, it presented heavyweight strikers Adriano and Wagner Love, both having returned from successful careers in Europe and hoping to make the World Cup Selecao. Botafogo countered up front with German Gustavo Herrera, a promising 26-year-old Argentinian, and Caio Canedo Corrêa, a 19-year-old who was playing for Nantucket High School three years ago.

Flamengo tied the game, 2-2, on a late goal by Adriano. Caio was in the starting lineup only because Uruguayan Sebastian Abreu was unavailable, but he has shown an ability to hang with the big boys, though he is listed at 155 pounds, not much more than he weighed after leaving Nantucket after his sophomore season.

“He has definitely made a quick ascent through the ranks,’’ Nantucket coach Rich Brannigan said of Caio. “From Division 4 Eastern Massachusetts to a professional career. He has the belief in himself and the skills and knowledge to back it up.’’

Caio has definitely taken a different route than most pro players. His father, Luis “Lulu’’ Canedo, had moved to Nantucket after having played for Volta Redonda in Brazil, bringing along a 10-year-old Caio. He soon impressed his fourth-grade teacher, who happened to be Janet Brannigan, Rich’s mother, with his ball skills.

“She called to tell me about this kid who was juggling the ball,’’ Brannigan said. “In fact, he juggled it for the whole recess.’’

Brannigan realized something special was happening.

“You hear about good little kids all the time,’’ said Brannigan, who played at St. Michael’s College in Vermont. “But it’s amazing what he was able to absorb in Brazil in the short amount of time he was there. From the ages of 4 to 9, he was able to take in an amazing amount of Brazilian-style soccer, then move to a totally different culture in the US, where you’re not immersed in soccer every day. He was able to go back to Brazil after being away from that intense soccer culture for most of his most important development years and jump right back into it.’’

Brannigan said NCAA Division 1 schools were becoming interested in Caio before he departed.

“He was confident and believed in himself,’’ Brannigan said of Caio. “On his birth certificate it lists his father’s profession as professional soccer player. It was definitely in his blood, it was his passion.’’

Nantucket reached the finals of the South bracket, losing to Old Rochester in Caio’s final high school game. Nantucket has a new star, Salvadorean Emerson Guzman, who helped the team advance to the first round last season.

“We can only dream about what we would have done if he stayed,’’ Brannigan said of Caio. “But the energy he brought, the effervescence, is contagious and people see it and want to be a part of it.’’

Caio, nicknamed “The Talisman’’ by fans, will be going to another of his former homes this weekend as Botafogo visits Volta Redonda.

Nkufo keys title hopes
Blaise Nkufo’s goal for Twente Enschede in a 1-1 tie against PSV in Eindhoven could go far in assuring the team’s title hopes. Now that Nkufo will be leaving for the Seattle Sounders, Twente manager Steve McClaren (former England national team coach) is going for Hull City’s Jan Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink. Twente is also likely to lose Costa Rican striker Brian Ruiz, sought by Everton and Sevilla. Revolution followers will recall Ruiz performing for Alajuelense in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the Ticos twice eliminating the Revolution. Ruiz has scored 19 goals in 28 games for Twente, the Dutch Eredivisie leader with a 5-point advantage over Ajax . . . SuperSport United took a 3-0 win over Ferroviario on two goals by Tebogo Langerman and an own goal in Johannesburg in the second round of the African Champions Cup Sunday. SuperSport, funded by a major South African broadcast company, was missing three members of the South Africa national team, which is training in Brazil. Ferroviario won the Mozambique triple (league, cup, super cup) under the guidance of former Revolution forward Chiquinho Conde. The return leg will be in two weeks in Maputo . . . America striker Salvador Cabañas, who was shot in the head in a Mexico City club Jan. 25, has moved to a clinic in Argentina. Cabañas was recently filmed playing ping pong, but no timetable has been set on his return to soccer . . . Lazio players rejected a proposal by president Claudio Lotito to bring in a psychiatrist . . . Comcast Sports New England is making a commitment to soccer broadcasting, according to marketing and communications manager Skip Perham. Comcast will air Revolution games, starting with Saturday’s season-opener at Los Angeles, on a one-year deal which is on the verge of being extended. “We want to become the official home for soccer and the Revs,’’ Perham said. “This is a two-pronged effort, broader than just the Revolution games. Soccer is so much bigger than the MLS, and we feel the soccer fan is underserved. We are dedicating a lot of programming hours to soccer with Premier League games and the women’s league. We want to give some care to soccer fans.’’ . . . The program will get a kickoff on the broadcast of the Celtics-Denver game tomorrow night. The Celtics’ Ray Allen and Twellman (both No. 20) will exchange jerseys and Twellman will be a halftime guest.

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