DS, 10.31: Coaching Theory, Playoff Theory + Playoff Strategery

First of all, Happy Halloween. From what my wife tells me, I’m taking the kids trick-or-treating as a nun, so, yeah, I kinda have to get drunk. Dang it.

Oh, and I think I’ve got to get over shoving every subject under discussion into the title; that’s what tags are for, right? This frees me up to reuse the title “Daily Sweeper,” which, I believe anyway, implies a grab-bag of topics. Are we in agreement? Disagreement? Are you hungry too? I’m craving grease like a hungover pregnant lady…perhaps even a nun. Crap…where am I? Oh yeah.

– Apart from revealing himself to be a nice fella (through his reluctance to ask hunted coaches about their job security), USSoccerplayas.com Ian Plenderleith closed his column on La Vida Coacha with an interesting theory as to why a guy like, say, Sigi Schmid still has a job:

“The Crew is probably not sticking with Schmid because they’re in love with his coaching methods, but because there’s no one else around that could take his place. That’s not the best reason to retain a coach, but if you’re a club executive and the list of alternatives begins with, say, Bob Gansler at the top, you’ve probably no choice but to either keep the man you have, or submit to a prolonged bout of weeping.”

It’s an interesting thought. And it could explain why Frank Yallop feels more optimistic about continuing his mortgage payments in Southern California (wade past all the Chivas’ stuff; it’s in there), or why, in spite of multiple columns criticizing his competence and enthusiasm for his job, Bruce Arena still wears that, um…Tomcat Smirk (trying to come up with a phrase analogous to Chesire Smile, but one that actually matches The Bruce’s permanent expression).

On the other hand, I don’t see the limits to the coaching pool Plenderleith sees in the paragraph that follows the one above. A pool exists between former players and even coaches “tainted” by the college game. None of these will be sure-shots by any means, but the conceptual knowledge will be there. When it comes to managing players’ egos, training them well (enough), and fielding the right players in the right places, a fella will either have it or he won’t; a number of these guys will tank, naturally, but how’s that so different from the “name” guy already pulling the team down into the bowl with them? What the hell, right? Roll the dice. It’s a gamble, but you can’t win if you don’t play.

UPDATE: Longshoe makes this same point only better over on Who Ate All the Cupcakes.  It’s worth checking out.

– The idea with which Frank Dell’Appa led his latest Boston Globe piece has made the rounds lately:

“Three goals were scored in the first round of the MLS playoffs. Three home teams won by 1-0 scores, and the New York Red Bulls were held to a 0-0 tie by the Revolution at Giants Stadium. These results indicate the league should consider modifying the playoff format.”

The more I think about this line of logic, the less I’m sure I buy it. I’m not saying he’s wrong either; I’m merely suspending judgment. Isn’t it possible, just possible, that we ate a bunch of 1-0’s this weekend because it’s not easy playing on the road, the home teams’ pressure and game plans threw off the higher seeds, and, when you get right down to it, the lower-seeded teams just aren’t all that good? I dunno, there’s something too tidy about blaming the format.

– That said, I’m with the post-season revisions Luis Bueno proposed in his latest Press-Enterprise column (e.g. fewer teams and one-off conference semifinals hosted by the top seed; fix it, Mr. Garber).

– I’ll round this out with the latest word I’ve read on the playoff contests we have (as opposed to those we’d like to have):

DC United v. Chicago Fire

Dang me, I wish I could take back/modify my call on this one. DC will have both Jaime Moreno and Luciano Emilio available and Moreno, in particular, sounds fired up. Even Ives Galarcep is getting cool-ish feet. How’s Chicago feeling? It depends on who you ask, C. J. Brown or Diego Gutierrez. Get on the same page, guys. There’s sickly-sweet fortified abuse riding on this one.

New England Revolution v. Red Bull New York

Claudio Reyna sees the second leg of this one as a “chess match” and implies this could favor the Red Bulls. Assuming he’s right, that calls for a player capable of breaking open the game for the Bulls – and I like Clint Mathis for that; yeah, Arena has his opinion, but everyone thinks he’s an idiot these days. So, yeah, roll the dice man. Clint pulled one out of his ass nearly one year ago today; who’s to say he can’t do it again? (Well, factually, that would be Arena, who could see that Mathis doesn’t pull it off by not playing him…or by playing him for the final few seconds.) By the way, I love making predictions of this kind – y’know, play Mathis and you’ll win – due to the low likelihood of a real-world test.

Chivas USA v. Kansas City Wizards

Given the likely absence of both Maykel Galindo and Ante Razov, things looked pretty tough for Chivas. If they play a 4-5-1 as Luis Bueno guesses they might, that tough suddenly looks all Hell’s Angels. Two forwards, guys. Two forwards! As someone only vaguely interested in this result, I’m begging you…if only rhetorically and from a full upright position. This will not produce my goal-fest.

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8 Responses

  1. In regards to FDA’s quote, soccer’s filled with 1-0 results. You can’t base your argument on one or two years. The playoffs, if you look back, have been as high scoring as the regular season. Changing the format would look silly and wouldn’t change the game.

  2. I love when people refer to Dell’Appa as “FDA.” Makes him sound like the Fourth Beastie.

  3. Im all for changing the first round to a single game. That would limit the bunkering. Going down to 4 teams is hardly necessary though. So what if 8 out of 13 make it in this year, it will be 8 out of 14 next year and 8 out of 16 the year after that. At that point, your at the NBA level of playoffs, which in my opinion are far more exciting and relevant that either NFL or MLB.

  4. Duly noted. It’s a democracy, after all.

  5. To me, the 1-0 results in the first game is like procrastinating on writing a major essay until the week before it is due (like what I’m doing now). You don’t work very much for the first two-thirds of the time you are given, but when it’s time to get down to business, you start pushing to get the job done.

    Long story short, it’s a 180 minute game. The first 90 are going to be very cautious. Why take yourself out of the tie before it really begins? Besides, this isn’t the first year we’ve had this format. Why is there so much controversy all of a sudden? Was there this much controversy about the playoff format last season that I missed?

    To me, the playoff format is very good as it is right now. The only change that would possibly make sense is making the Conference finals home and away also. If it’s changed to that, I’m cool with it; if not, I’m cool with the way it is now also. Tim has the right idea about keeping the number of teams to eight. If the number of teams were limited to four, the entire final two weeks of the season would be completely pointless instead of the final game thriller we saw between Chicago and Los Angeles.

  6. I think we have a really weird playoff format and it goes beyond the number of teams making the postseason. It’s like we tread the line between the knock-out stages of the UEFA Champions’ League and the knock-out stages of the Copa Libertadores. We start off with a home-and-home series (albeit without the away-goals rule), but then we switch to a one-off knock-out game format for the last two matches. I just find it disjointed and, like so much in MLS and US Soccer, symptomatic of a soccer organization run by men who didn’t get into the sport until later in life.

  7. I think you nailed it with the word “disjointed” matth. Only the first round being home-and-home? OMG WTF?

    And, again, duly noted on the differences in preference between eight and four teams making it. We don’t get a vote or anything, but joy and disappointment with the format (I fall under the latter; I hate the thought of rewarding mediocrity…or Kansas City for that matter) probably trickles up in some way. MLS probably has interns who scan BigSoccer and soccer blogs all day.

  8. […] teams’ limited options when it comes to replacing – how do you say? – sub-standard coaches.  My reaction at the time (which I’d rate at 50% knee-jerk) amounted to faith that some diamonds lurk in […]

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