Are some big dominoes falling in Major League Soccer? This much we know: Joe Cannon is headed back to San Jose. A source close to the Earthquakes tells me the team dealt allocation money (something that makes less and less sense to me the more I learn about it) to the Los Angeles Galaxy for the All-Star keeper, who was a huge fan favorite in the Bay Area.
Cannon is a San Jose-area native and spent four years with the Quakes from 1999 to 2002, leading them to their first MLS Cup in '01. He won the first of his two MLS Goalkeeper of the Year awards the following season before leaving San Jose for a short stint in Europe with Lens of France's Ligue 1.
Most recently, Cannon manned the nets for the Galaxy last season and was one of the few bright spots during the David Beckham circus. You may remember that he turned in one of the goalkeeping performances of the year during the SuperLiga final against Mexico's Pachuca, which the Galaxy went on to lose on penalty kicks.
The word around MLS is that Cannon grew increasingly unhappy in L.A., so a return to the Bay is a great move for him.
But even more interesting is what this means for the Galaxy. This frees up the starting keeper spot for Steve Cronin, a 24-year-old who is ready for prime time. Cannon is 33 and far more expensive -- he earns $192,000 a year.
That's relative peanuts for Galaxy owners AEG, who are paying Beckham $32.5 million in base salary -- and millions more in incentives -- over five years. But it made a huge dent in L.A.'s salary cap, already clogged up by Beckham's $400,000 take (the only portion of his annual salary that counts against the cap) and Landon Donovan's $900,000 a year.
It definitely looks like the Galaxy are clearing up cap room. In addition to shipping off Cannon and adding San Jose's allocation money, it appears L.A. is free of Clint Mathis, too. Greek club Ergotelis claims on its Web site that it has agreed to terms with the journeyman attacker, whom the Galaxy had traded for in November. Mathis was out of a contract, but made $270,000 last year with the New York Red Bulls. All this may help L.A. make another major move. Like signing Luís Figo (pictured above right).
Rumors have been flying that AEG has agreed to terms with the Portuguese megastar, who is in the final year of his contract with Italy's Inter Milan. Figo has denied those rumors, but he has made no secret of the fact that he'd eventually like to play in MLS (he even told SI.com as much in fall of '06).
Since it seems highly unlikely he'd head to Houston, AEG's other team, this may be the first domino to fall for a Beckham-Figo reunion. The two played together at Real Madrid for three seasons. Figo would be one of the biggest names in the 12-year history of MLS, probably second only to Beckham. And even though he's 35, he still has the skills to be an impact player -- and, of course, another huge draw for the Galaxy.
Of course, for that to happen, the Galaxy would probably have to trade for a second designated-player slot, which would allow them to pay Figo more than the $400,000 league maximum annual salary. Each MLS team has one such DP slot, which are tradeable (the Red Bulls are currently the only team with two DPs). Galaxy GM Alexi Lalas also stopped short of saying the team is looking at Figo, but did tell me it is looking at putting that extra money to work immediately.
Whether it's Figo or not, it's clear the Galaxy are up to something. Stay tuned.