The Crew’s Moving Pieces + Schelotto

Full credit to Ives Galarcep on both of these…oh, god, I’m such a parasite…right, back to it. Contrary to what I did with the title, let’s go “significant” then “interesting.”

Schelotto appears set to stay put; or, rather, paperwork in transit (the P-1 Visa) points to Schelotto sticking with the Crew through 2008. Then again, that could be called a non-confirmation confirmation: Ives’ source, Crew coach Sigi Schmid, only says Schelotto has “enjoyed his time” in Columbus and that he “hasn’t hasn’t expressed to us that it is what he wants to do” – e.g. he hasn’t said he wants to return to Argentina. I’m just saying marriages have ended in similar circumstances (e.g. “she never told me she wanted to leave.”) So, stay tuned on that, I suppose.

UPDATE: Confirmations that Schelotto will stay in Columbus continue to roll in.  The latest from Ives – via Crew Pres. Mark McCullers – reads a bit more firm and direct than what the reporter got out of Schmid.

The second piece seems more solid and, in some ways, more interesting. Ives (again) also got Schmid to talk about Danny O’Rourke’s future with the Crew, a future that should see him shift to the defensive line to make room for DCU-transfer Brian Carroll in midfield. In related news, it looks like both Chad Marshall and Marcos Gonzalez will return for the Crew. While the latter seems all good, the former – Marshall – strikes me as a complicated case. Ives cites the concussions – a big deal for a defender, obviously – but I get why the Crew is willing to let Marshall chance it: if I’m not mistaken – and I could very well be – Marshall’s brief return in 2007 coincided with the Crew’s best stretch of the season. That said, don’t you go bruisin’ yer brain for the fans, son. They’ll do fine without you.

UPDATE: Crap. I totally forgot to discuss the meat of this move: O’Rourke in defense. Along with Schmid, I see O’Rourke’s essentially combativeness as his greatest asset; that the man looks like an ultimate fighter hardly hurts his cause. And he’s definitely an upgrade to Ezra Hendrickson, who is getting on in years, and, assuming he’s still with the team (yep), Rusty Pierce, who doesn’t seem the player he was in New England. The Crew has a lot of midfield – they had even more before Ned Grabavoy left for San Jose – so moving a guy who plays like a defender to make room for someone with a little more offensive upside makes quite a bit of sense.

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Donovan’s Year…or, Possibly, His Last World Cup Cycle?

Andrew Dixon – aka One Grown Man – has a good piece up on USSoccerplayas.com. It’s not just that he starts with a second to yesterday’s somewhat over-alarmed post about United States’ World Cup qualifying campaign (OK, it’s subtle; just squint) and ends with an entirely reasonable plea that someone televise the African Nations Cup. It’s the middle number of Dixon’s three wishes for 2008 that hits on an issue I’ve been mulling for about a week, namely, Landon Donovan’s game. Because I’ve been thinking about this on a different track than Dixon, perhaps it’s not surprising I end up in a different place…say, six years down the road.

Long story short, Dixon’s wish is for Donovan to “dominate American soccer” ran headlong into some thinking I’ve been doing about Donovan’s game – and its potential limitations.

Love him or hate him, Donovan is the most lethal attacking player this country has ever produced and he’s got the numbers – assists, goals, and caps – to back it up. And the damnedest thing is Donovan has all those caps, has tied Wynalda’s goal-scoring record and, if I’m not mistaken, he holds the records on assists at twenty-frickin’-five (as shown at the bottom of this; OK, except the assists, but I’m pretty sure he has that one). But the deeper question involves what makes Donovan’s game work? If I had to pick a controlling factor, something that separates him from the pack, I’d go with speed – e.g. he can take players on because he’s a quick little shit, especially on the first several steps. After that, he passes well, but not brilliantly, and I’ve never seen anything over-remarkable in his touch/dribbling. Bottom line: Donovan possesses the basic skills, he has good vision, and a good brain. Take away that speed, however, and one has to wonder what he’d be.

And that’s kind of the point: age will take away that speed one day. A look at his player bio tells me Donovan will be 32 in June of 2014. True, he might hold onto his pace, but will it still be international class? A lot can happen to a body over 6 years – especially among professional players and especially among players for the ever-barnstorming, Beckham-hawking LA Galaxy…I think their seasons work like “dog season’s” or something, y’know, one of theirs is two for everyone else. Will Donovan learn more tricks by then? More to the point, will he have the motivation to learn more tricks by then? Maybe the downside to Donovan sticking States-side comes over the long haul. Barring injury, he’s virtually automatic on any MLS roster and I doubt that will change by the time World Cup 2014 rolls around. It’s also unlikely he’ll need to do much with his game by then, especially if all the fears about expansion diluting the MLS talent pool come true; his current game works well enough in an undiluted league.

I’m not ripping him for this – it’s his life, after all – but the decision to stick with a comfortable set-up has consequences. Maybe the current World Cup cycle really is his time. Any thoughts?

MLS: Comings, Goings, Stickings(?), and Some Thoughts

As a believer in honest competition, I’ll start by pointing to a couple other blogs who have turned out similar posts on trades; besides, I like both sites:

WVHooligan
Who Ate All the Cupcakes
MLS Rumors

And, now, another take…and in the order in which the trade itself, or the surrounding situation, interests me:

– I like the potential signing of Mexican defender Duilio Davino for FC Dallas, though it’s less because of the player than the good vibes surrounding the “discussions about the future”:

Davino, 31, said money is secondary to him at this point. After spending 12 years in Mexico’s first division, he said his desire is to play in a foreign league.”

To think, when he thought “foreign” he chose our modest league.

Getting back to the player, I only know I’ve heard Davino’s name. But 3rd Degree’s Buzz Carrick did a little scouting (not a lot better than mine; he also mentioned another possible new arrival from Mexico; more later), as did Brucio from Du Nord; the latter’s thoughts (contained in the usual news-flood):

“[Davino] is a world class cheap shot artist. But very experienced. I am not sure why he is not signed with any team in Mexico. America released him last month and no one else picked him up. Odd. He is not that old at 31.”

My bottom line: this sounds like a good move for FC Dallas. Davino has a solid resume (a World Cup run with the Tri-Colores will do that) and, more significant for Dallas’ defensive needs, he has ample experience. Provided he’s not a total, locker-room melting a-hole, he should help. Continue reading

Whither MLSlive.tv?

Not to alarm anybody – least of all me – but the existence of Fox Soccer Channel (FSC) Broadband gets me wondering whether Major League Soccer (MLS) will um…produce? use? keep available? MLSlive.tv. I became quite (OK, entirely) dependent on that service last season and had a pretty positive experience with it (though it must be acknowledged that not everyone did…cough…cough…Laurie!…cough).

In any case, I’m looking at what FSC Broadband costs for their All-Access package – $49.95 – which isn’t bad. And I’m assuming they could just kick MLS’s content into the same package, thereby either sparing MLS the expense of running the service on their own or, God forbid, Fox would pay MLS for the content. Another thing to consider: MLSlive.tv cost only $19.99 (or was it $19.95) for the entire season, making that one of the best dollar-to-hours $20 I ever spent. $50 isn’t so bad either, but who wouldn’t rather pay $20 for something instead of $50.

A second possibility: these two video products could remain totally unrelated. Then again, if MLS could get FSC to pay for the rights they’d be kinda stupid to not take the money. Just something to think about…

Hat tip for pointing this out to me goes to The Offside Rules (LINK).

EPL Daily 1.8.08: A Carling Cup of Rumors – Anelka, Cisse and Rafa’s found a back

DERBY TRIO: The Derby Rams are going for a complete makeover. After having already captured UAG Tecos striker Emmanuel Villa for $4 million and Manchester City wantaway Danny Mills, Paul Jewell will not be stopping there. Laurent Robert – the wing midfielder who cost Newcastle around $20 million back in 2001 with decent returns – is expected to sign today barring international clearance. At 32-years old, it looks like Jewell is going for the veteran leadership aspect, confirmed through the apparent courting of Blackburn’s out-of-favour midfielder Robbie Savage (33yo). This certainly doesn’t bode well for Benny Feilhaber who sits uncomfortably far down in the pecking order right now. Not done there though as reports have linked Tottenham misfit midfielder Hossam Ghaly with Derby as well. It isn’t likely all three would sign, but Ghaly looks to be a viable option as a loanee.

FRED CHAVES: The still-young 24 year old Brazilian striker has seen better days at Lyon. Once put on the transfer list, plenty of interest has already been shown – predominantly from Brazil, but some English clubs have thrown their wallets into the mix. Tottenham and West Ham are the latest to have shown some interest, but the likely destination seems to be Ligue One rivals Paris St-Germain. The asking price is a cool $20 million. Fred’s descent at Stade Gerland has been countered by the rise of starlets Hatem Ben Arfa and Karim Benzema as well as the formation which puts the young Benzema at the lone striker positon. Worst of it is, it’s been working…(Benzema has 12 goals, Lyon is in 1st). Regardless, over three years and 55 appearances, Fred still managed 25 goals. It’d be a hell of capture for either West Ham and Tottenham, if they’re willing to part with the cash (which has never been a problem).

LIVERPOOL: Ready to go Eastern European in the back. Hard not to after watching the success of Serbian Nemanja Vidic in the center of defense for champions Manchester United. The cat is out of the bag on Eastern European defenders in general as there will be no more lenient price tags. Rafa’s target is Martin Skrtel – a 23-year old Slovakian centreback, capable of playing on the left as well. As he has passed his medical, all that’s left is formalities and Skrtel will become Liverpool’s most expensive defender at $13 million. Defense has become somewhat of urgency at Liverpool as Sami Hyppia has been hit with injury to add to the already injured Daniel Agger. Skrtel, playing for Zenit St. Petersburg now and used to European competition, will fit the bill. Read up on Skrtel here.

FRENCH STRIKERS: Nicolas Anelka wants to be at Stamford Bridge. Bolton says no, but Chelsea is still hopeful they can get a deal done. The bid was apparently laughable to Bolton at $24 million and with Manchester United also actively searching for a striker, should Chelsea be biding their time with a bid like that? Djibril Cisse, the former Liverpool strikeman, is ready for a Premiership return but his stock has taken a hit following two major injuries over the past several years. Marseille’s President Pape Diouf has already followed an apparent bid for Cisse from Manchester City with a resounding no.

OTHER RUMORS: Lassana Diarra to Newcastle; Jermain Defoe open for the bidding even after scoring 5 in his last 7 appearances – destination: Manchester United?;  

CARLING CUP: 1st Leg of the Semifinals today and tomorrow – Chelsea vs. Everton (Tues.) and Arsenal vs. Tottenham (Wed.). Here’s a quick preview of this week’s games from the Carling Cup site. Predictions – Everton comes out of Stamford Bridge even, while Arsenal outclasses Tottenham at home. Especially if the in-form Eduardo is on the field.