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Another step (or two or three) forward

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In a season that’s been short on good news so far, Quakes fans got a double dip of happy reading this week with the Kirovski/Gray trade, and another big step forward on the stadium deal.

First, Kirovski and Gray. When I read on CLS that a deal was in the wind, my first thought was, “who do the Quakes have to trade?” When a team’s earned four points in seven games, there’s not many attractive items to put up on the block. But I had forgotten Preston Burpo, who hasn’t played an MLS minute this season. Burpo was ticketed to be the starter in San Jose until Joe Cannon showed up, and from what I saw during his days with Chivas USA, he’s not a bad bet. He now gets the chance he deserves to be a starting MLS goalkeeper, at least when Bouna Coundoul goes off to play World Cup qualifiers for Senegal.

In exchange, the starved-for-offense Quakes get two guys are good with the ball. Jovan Kirovski, the only American-born player to win a Champions League medal (in ’97, with Borussia Dortmund) has scored eight, five, five, and six goals in his four MLS seasons, playing as both an attacking midfielder and/or a withdrawn forward. I’d like to see him in midfield myself – “attacking midfielder" is something rare for the Quakes this year.

Kelly Gray is another re-Quake, having played 20 games for the 2005 version, and is a San Jose hometown boy to boot. He’s simply a good soccer player, listed as a defender but can play midfield if needed.

Both players fit the Yallop mold: solid MLS vets who should be getting some minutes (or pressing the current starters to a higher level). Not bad in exchange for someone who’d only get off the bench in case of emergency. The Quakes still have to make a move or two during the July transfer window to become truly competitive, but it’s good to see Doyle and Yallop are on the job as the build-a-team-from-scratch project continues.

The other bit of good news is actually great news for Quakes fans: a unanimous vote by the San Jose City Council approved the deal to sell the Quakes owners the land needed for the stadium (along with a rather large hotel/retail/office/and whatever-else-they-can-think-of) project. Unanimous. I like the sound of that.

People outside the Bay Area might not pay much attention to this, thinking that everything was all good stadium-wise the minute Lew Wolff and John Fisher wrote their first big check to MLS. But people who live around here know how hard it is for projects this big to be approved and built. Yes, the vote went as expected, but Quakes fans will breathe a little easier speaking of this element of the stadium project approval process in the past tense.

While I’m on a soccer and progress kick, let me also cheer the announcement last week of the CONCACAF Champions League schedule. This tournament will involve 24 clubs (four from the U.S.) and will replace the Champions Cup that had only 16 teams participate. The CCL begins right after SuperLiga this summer, with matches on August 26.

Some of the most attractive games I’ve seen involving MLS teams have been in these international tournaments, and it’s great that four MLS clubs (Houston, DC, New England, and Chivas USA) will be taking part in both the CCL and SuperLiga. This means at least five and as many as 14 more games between now and the end of October for each of those teams (if you include both tournaments). Yes, this might stretch some already thin rosters, but it will also reward viewers with some quality games, and successful clubs with some quality cash.