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MLS All-Star hot talk: Schelotto, De Rosario, Le Toux and much more

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Philadelphia Union attacker Sebastien Le Toux: all that All-Star talent ... and a swell guy, too.
Philadelphia Union attacker Sebastien Le Toux: all that All-Star talent ... and a swell guy, too.

HOUSTON – I’m about to give away a big trade secret here. Hell, if Michael Westen can dish the spy dirt every week on USA Network, I suppose the world isn’t going to spin any slower if I divulge a journo secret:

You want to find MLS players, coaches and officials? Find the base hotel at a designated biggie (Draft, All-Star game, MLS Cup) and hang out near the Starbucks. Between early flights, super stuffer lunches and all-day meetings, everybody is jonesing for an afternoon pick-me-up at some point.

Here then, are important and / or interesting things I’m gathering a day before the All-Stars butt heads with the merry men of Man U:

Guillermo Barros Schelotto needs his own personal Starbucks endorsement deal. He’s a major stockholder in the company, apparently, judging by his frequency of visits here.

– I’ll be shocked if next year’s All-Star contest doesn’t move back to weekends, as it once was. ESPN asked four years ago that it be moved to mid-week, where the network could give it a better pop (and where they were squeezed for quality programming). MLS was happy to comply, especially since it assisted with further fixture congestion. Losing a weekend to the All-Star contest made scheduling that much tougher. Now, though, they are bumping up against CONCACAF Champions League matches, which is why all four Galaxy players won’t arrive until the wee smalls of Wednesday morning. Same for Toronto’s Dwayne De Rosario, who will get here even later. That’s not the way anyone wants to see an All-Star game go.

– Word is that quality player-turned quality broadcaster Kyle Martino’s deal to host a new show on Fox Soccer Channel isn’t quite done. Martino is still considering the offer, and probably leaning that way … but it’s not what they call “done deal” time.

– If you need to know more about tomorrow's All-Star game itself, find it here on my preview at SI.com. G'head. All the cool kids are doing it.

–  Best I can determine, Manchester United’s appearance fee for the All-Star contest is in the $1.5 million neighborhood. It may not be broken down just so, as it’s all tied in with other stops on the North American tour, all orchestrated by MLS marketing arm Soccer United Marketing. So, again, that’s just a guess. But I’d bet a big plate of Texas BBQ that I’m fairly close.

– Speaking of Texas BBQ, I went to lunch with a few good fellas from the MLS office. They chose BBQ.  So I said, “You guys are just a big ol’ cliché. Come to Texas! Eat BBQ! What are you doing later tonight, drinking Shiner Bock and getting into a big ol' Texas bar fight?”

Sebastien Le Toux is on top of the world. And he’s a very nice fellow. He seems very appreciative of his good fortune and his place in life – and I really respect that. Someone asked him about practicing in the oppressive humidity here (and, man, it was a shirt soaker out there today) and he basically smiled and said, “Well, we sure can’t complain.” Later, when he passed Grand Central Starbuck Station at the hotel, he smiled and shook hands like he’d just found the $2 million Power Ball.

– Later, Peter Nowak talked to me about Le Toux. Nowak called the Frenchman a sponge and said he’s been very receptive as the coaches attempted to add little elements to his game. Nowak also talked about less playing time lately for Roger Torres. It was nothing punitive, the Union manager assured me. He’s just a little concerned about Torres’ age and a body that’s still developing. He wants Torres fresh when they need him later this year – possibly even for a playoff push, eh?

– FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman passed by, said hi, then made a bee-line for the registration desk. He was delayed by weather out of Dallas and running quite late for the coaches meetings going on here.

Shalrie Joseph has had a tough year, and not just due to the league suspension last spring. He’s said he’s much more settled now, but there was a time just a few months ago when he was pretty unhappy about upper management’s unwillingness to spend and improve the side. More on this one later.

– Turns out that Steve Ralston’s hiring as an assistant coach at Houston was every bit as predictable as margaritas at a Houston happy hour. Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear said he told Ralston long ago that if he ever retired, he’d be getting a call. Ralston told me today that he always had coaching in the back of his mind, at some level, pro or otherwise. It sounds like he hasn’t had much time to digest it all, but he seemed happy as a clam to be around. (Ralston was especially happy, after recent injuries, to be out kicking the ball with All-Stars on Tuesday.).

John Spencer’s name came up at the MLS morning practice. He’s the former Houston Dynamo assistant who will soon be named coach at Portland … which is one of the worst kept secrets in pro soccer.  I want Portland to do well and I believe that market is going to absolutely rock. But here’s a warning to you guys in Stumptown: you need to elevate your game, boys and girls. Because you damn sure didn’t handle this Spencer thing correctly. Spencer is a class guy, and you never want to put a class guy in a position where he looks like anything less.

But Portland asked Spencer to come aboard and then wanted him to keep it on the down low, I suppose so they can make what they consider a properly splashy announcement. The problem is this: when a coach leaves but can’t say why, everyone wonders if there was a problem. Did he get sideways with Kinnear? Did he do something the organization frowned upon? Hell, people who didn’t know any better even speculated that it had something to do with Luis Landin’s departure. I can assure you that Spencer didn’t get sideways with Kinnear, and that none of that other stuff happened, either. He left to be the coach at Portland, which joins MLS next year.

– Oh, Kinnear may be the only person in MLS who still wears Copas, the classic Adidas soccer shoe. (But he cuts the tongue. He hates the floppy tongue.)

– JP Dellacamera and Allen Hopkins of the ESPN talent pool were at the MLS practice today. There may be two nicer, classier guys in the broadcast world – but someone will have to point ‘em out to me.

 – One table over, dudes in suits are talking about “circling back,” and “new concepts in the market” and “paradigm shifts.”  I’m so freakin’ happy I can make most of my living writing about soccer, and so thrilled that I’m not part of that Office Space world that I might just buy everyone the building their Grande of choice.