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Friday, May 21, 2004
Anderton eyes move to MLS

Marc Connolly

Darren Anderton wants to play in Major League Soccer.

After getting released from Tottenham Hotspur earlier this month, the former English international is looking for a new club to play for, and has his sights on coming to the United States.

"It's something that has always appealed to me," said the 32-year-old midfielder on Thursday evening in an exclusive interview with ESPN.com. "I've talked with my friends -- in England and the ones in the U.S. - about how I'd like to do it at some stage in my career. And now I'm at the point of my career where I'm looking for something different since I'm not at Tottenham any more."

Anderton has been a fixture for the North London club since joining the side from Portsmouth in June of 1992. As Tottenham's longest serving player, he made 384 appearances over 12 seasons, including a total of 24 this past season. Injuries have played a major part in his career the past several years, limiting his play for both club and country.

Even after having surgery in 1999 for an ailing Achilles, Anderton has still been hampered by the injury at times, which has sidelined him for brief periods of time over the past five years. Currently, he is receiving treatment for what he terms as "degenerated" Achilles that just requires rest and strengthening, and believes he'd be ready to go in July, which is when he'd like to start playing in a league that he's been keeping a close eye on as of late.

"MLS has improved a great deal," said Anderton, who has 30 caps with England and has played in Euro 1996 and the 1998 World Cup. "I can tell from watching, and also from talking to people about it."

American goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who has been Anderton's teammate since 2001, has been one of the people keeping him informed about the current level of MLS.

"We've talked a few times about it, and he's been helpful," he said. "Especially with the National Team doing so well, he's said how the league has really become a lot stronger. He said that it just keeps improving. Plus, the facilities are excellent. The United States, to me, is a great place to live, which would be an attraction in itself."

Anderton has a few ties in MLS, including Jurgen Klinsmann, who he played with at Tottenham and is currently part of the Los Angeles Galaxy coaching staff. He also has remained friends with Colorado Rapids midfielder Darryl Powell, who he was teammates with in Portsmouth in the early '90s.

That doesn't mean necessarily that those are the two clubs he'd wish to play for of the 10 MLS teams. When asked his preference, Anderton mentioned playing in New York for the MetroStars, as well as for Peter Nowak in D.C.

"The place I probably know best is D.C.," said Anderton, noting how Tottenham has traveled across the Pond to take on United in friendlies a few times in recent years. "I would presume that that would be the best thing for me. New York, of course, would be a nice place to play. It all varies, club to club."

The April-November calendar is something that he mentioned as being appealing, as well, considering that so much of the English season is played amid cold temperatures, which hasn't exactly helped him in recovering from injuries.

"The hard grounds in England can sometimes be a problem for me and my Achilles," said Anderton. "It's much easier for me playing in the softer grounds during the summer months. The fact that MLS is a bit of a shorter season helps as far as that goes, as well. Our season over here is the most rigorous in the world. We finished last Saturday, and preseason training starts the first week of July. That's six weeks, which is not a lot of time off.

"It does take its toll, without a doubt."

That's not to say that Anderton is a broken-down player looking to spend one last season playing in a warmer climate. He's still fit and quick, and would solve many teams' needs as a right-sided midfielder or in an attacking role behind the forwards. Just having turned 32 in March, the Southampton, England, native believes he can play for four or five more years, which is why he was shocked by Tottenham's decision to release him.

"If you're playing within a team week-in and week-out when available, which I had been, even at times in big games when they knew I wasn't close to 100 percent and hadn't even been training, shows what they think of me as a player," said Anderton, who made 20 total starts and scored three goals, including two in Carling Cup action, during the 2003-2004 campaign. "So I'm not sure why it happened. It's baffling. I believe it's a mistake, but it's also now allowed me to try something new, which I'm very positive and excited about.

As of the moment, Anderton has been contacted by a few teams in England, with West Ham and Portsmouth being two clubs said to have had interest since his release.

One club in MLS that has a senior international slot available on its roster - Chicago, Columbus, D.C., New England and San Jose -- has at least talked within the organization about his inclusion. That, of course, may heat up now that he's come out publicly stating that he'd like to play in MLS.

"I'm looking over all of my options at the moment," said Anderton. "It's an important decision, and I need to pick the right team for me. The American option is something that the more I think about it, the more I like it. I'm looking into it, and would be very interested if an opportunity would arise."

Marc Connolly covers American soccer for ESPN Soccernet.com. He can be reached at: shaketiller10@yahoo.com.


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