CCC08: One More Observation from DC’s Win

Marcelo Gallardo versus Devon McTavish: seems a forced comparison, but I found doing so revealing last night.  Here’s how:

I count McTavish one of those good-for-Major-League-Soccer (MLS) players.  By that I mean he generally makes good decisions, he knows the game, and works plenty hard.  Possessed of just enough swagger – or perhaps feeling a little randy after scoring his second goal in as many games – McTavish also attempted a couple clever passes, but with a higher degree of difficulty.  A lack of precision and/or difficulty with applying just the right weight made his several attempts came up short.

Gallardo, on the other hand, overcame the higher degree of difficulty time and again, squeezing passes into places where you’d think it couldn’t go and finding a run that seemed irrelevant only second ago.

Whenever I question the wisdom of signing designated players, I’ll have to remind myself to make this seemingly forced comparison.  Gallardo, along with guys like David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, do possess that little extra something.  They’re not a cure-all – not least because they’re playing on a team full of people without that “little something extra” – and talent doesn’t always equate with effectiveness.  Still, having the talent explains their allure because, even when American players can pull off the same moves, the can’t with the same consistency.

We’ll get there – at least I think we will – but only when our players work on this, or are taught it, from a young enough age.

GREAT OUTDOORS
– A list of real-life inventions seen on Star Trek…I’m most excited about hyperdrive…which, it seems, some people believe can actually come together.

– Ever wonder what happens when a fire breaks out at a gas station?  Now you know.

Distraction: My Latest Assault on the DP Rule (posted elsewhere)

As promised down below, here’s a link to the post I wrote for the swap with Starting Eleven.  My basic point is that the rule, by encouraging Major League Soccer teams to go “sexy” first, distorts the normal business of building a team.  I pick on DC United to do this; not out of hostility, but because the issue came to me as I weighed what I view as their problems against their latest, likely signing (see the first bulleted item).

I like the post well enough, but don’t think much about my ending…I panicked on deadline.

FC Dallas 2007 Review: Succeed…Choke…Repeat

FC Dallas
Record (W-L-T): 13-12-5; 37 GF, 44 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

Overview
Some recent constants held for FC Dallas in 2007: lead the Western Conference in the early-mid part of the season – check; head into the post-season like a pack of whipped dogs – check; consequently, lose in the first round – check; have at least one offensive player enjoy a stellar season, Arturo Alvarez’s 2007 to Kenny Cooper’s 2006 – check; have the work of the offense compromised by a shaky defense – check…well, sort of. A lot of similarities tied the campaign just past to the one that came before and upgrades in personnel, changes to the coaching staff, none of it seems to matter.

It’s got to be the grand narrative – the whole pattern of “succeed…choke…repeat,” familiar since 2005 – that most pains Dallas fans and players. It’s like the definition of insanity – e.g. doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results – except Dallas should have a choice. You’d think the coaching staff would order the players to take it easy during the first half of the season, have them rest through August – something – to switch it up. But the pattern persists and has over the past couple seasons.

For all the similarities, some changes did occur on the detail level. Combining an exciting offense with a dodgy defense has been part of Dallas’ reputation since Carlos Ruiz joined the club. That was definitely part of what I expected to discuss when I sat down to type this review. Even knowing Ruiz had an off-year and that Cooper went down after June 9, seeing a meager 37 goals still came as a shock. What about Juan Toja’s arrival? Alvarez’ breakout season? It’s not until you get down to individual stats (all available here) that it adds up, beginning with the fact that Ruiz’ seven goals led the team. This team, possessed of so many well-known weapons, finished fourth from last overall in scoring. Continue reading

DS, 10.11: More FCD v. Chivas, DP v. Salary Cap, Pennies From Heaven for LA, and Bachelors

I’ve really got to work on  tightening up my titles, making them more thematic.  Till then, though, expect sprawling lists…

– Naturally, people are following up today on last night’s draw between FC Dallas and Chivas USA, though no one took quite so much offense to Brian Hall as I did…probably on the logic than bad calls from American refs are the norm.  Then again, Ian Plenderleith seized a bit of dudgeon at a blown offside call that nullified a legitimate goal by Francisco Mendoza.  Now, Plenderleith has this right on three critical levels: 1) it was a blown call, 2) that no righteous anger followed, and 3) refs really don’t read the rule correctly.  And he’s correct in pointing out that these calls both cheapen the game and that they somewhat mysteriously roll right off our backs; I mean, I didn’t remember the blown call till this morning.  What did I remember?  That Mendoza later missed a close-range header…that and Arturo Alvarez’s hair’s-breadth miss in injury time.

In other news from last night, Chivas’ Ante Razov left the field wounded, a tough break for Chivas, especially with Galindo operating at less than full strength.  Also, as MLSnet.com’s write-up on the game pointed out, Adrian Serioux doesn’t look so bad in Dallas’ midfield.  You know who doesn’t look so good?  Denilson, as  alluded to in the Fullback Files post-game wrap under the section titled “Send in the clowns.”  More to the point, think of where Dallas looked more effective last night: Arturo Alvarez’s right side or Denilson’s left…or, less euphemistically, the place where promising attacks go to die?  The Brazilian stoops low as the worst DP signing so far.

– Speaking of which, a couple reports suggest that the league is considering adding a second DP slot for each of MLS’s teams (credit (or fault) Luis Bueno for finally getting this issue in my head).  The conversation so far consists of a Jeff Carlisle piece that dubs the rule “a clear success” and a Pat Walsh article that’s is less satisfied and leans against the league doubling down on the rule.  I line up behind Pat Walsh and question the use of “clear success” – at least on the field.  The only designated player I would accept as a clear improvement over the general MLS mob would be Cuauhtemoc Blanco – all the others come with a variety of qualifiers (e.g. Luciano Emilio, a non-DP, stacks up just fine against Juan Pablo Angel; both Claudio Reyna and David Beckham have suffered on-off availability, though Beckham definitely delivered the dinero; Denilson does a poor imitation of Arturo at – what? – five times the cost?).  Basically, most of MLS’s best haven’t been DPs; if I had a vote, I’d say just raise the cap (as Steve Goff says seems likely about 4/5th the way down the page) and hold off on adding another DP slot.

– Looks like LA’s deal with the devil is still working: Toronto FC comes into this weekend’s game with a mix of youngsters, absentees, and gimpy players.  Hmmm…on second thought, change “pennies from heaven” into “Nickels Kissed by Satan.”

– Looks like we have a stupid-good weekend ahede

– I’ll end with a bit of fun.  Hearing about (the now-unemployed) RSL defender Jack Stewart’s inclusion among Cosmo’s 50 Hottest Bachelors, the Chicago Tribune’s Luis Arroyave responded by posting a bachelor profile of his own…one that suggests eerie similarities between his personality and mine (especially the pick-him-up pointer).  Still, differences exist so, in hopes of moving this concept to the amateur soccer ranks, here’s my Cosmo profile (sorry, ladies; profile aside, I’m a taken man):

Name: Jeff “Balding Adonis” Bull

Hometown: Portland, OR

Occupation: Office Pinky at undisclosed location, though not an employee of Dick Cheney.

Personality Profile: Mildly paranoiac, often silent due to the parade of unmentionable thoughts rattling through brain, and I make me laugh, though no one seems to join in.

Girlfriend Must-Have: General and profound stores of patience because the many, many pointless thoughts in my head distract me from the business of daily life; a willingness to endure aforementioned parade of unmentionable thoughts – I recommend a steady diet of drugs and booze to facilitate the latter.

Pick-Him-Up-Pointer: A total absence of ambiguity in communication and courtship.

Favorite Female Body Part: The body, by which I mean the whole woman; I find disembodied parts off-putting.

Turn-Him-On-Tactics: Anything this side of active or passive shunning.

Why Do Women?: I know exactly zero women who do anything that Cosmo purports their readers do.  That’s in spite of having three sisters (and no brothers), one wife, and two daughters.  All of them continually amaze me with their superior talents for functioning on a day-to-day basis.

Daily Sweeper, 10.3: Copa Losses, Cup Finals, LA Rising

Yes, it’s back.  Yes, I’m weak.  What can I say?  My feature ideas are like zombies.

– In the wake of DC United’s loss last night in the Copa Sudamericana, The DCenters compiled a list of off-the-shelf coping mechanisms to help with yet another loss to a Mexican club…the same damn one, in fact.  Other commentaries – and they’re pretty sharp – look at the state of U.S.-Mexico relations at the club level (Sideline Views and FanNation).

– Writing for ESPN, Steve Davis tries to make official the idea that Denilson stands proudly as the first Total DP* Bust.  (* for the untutored, “DP” = Designated Player.)  It has been said before, but this is ESPN, people.

– Damn it all, but the Stars [May Yet] Align; Nick Green explains.  Let’s just say if LA makes the playoffs, I’ll be surly for a month.  If LA wins MLS Cup, I’ll attend the next MLS Competition Committee in person and conduct a sit-down/no-bathing strike till MLS brings sanity to the playoff format.

Beckham, YoYo Team, and Coining New Verbs

“And certainly no franchise in recent sports history compares as an outright bust.
The big bang of a breakout disappeared into a black hole of a season – and a club returned to obscurity in the L.A. market.”
– Paul Oberjuerge, LA Daily News, 9.25.07 (LINK)

That’s about as close as one can get to saying the David Beckham experiment has failed without actually saying it. Since I’m feeling ornery today, I’m going to take that final step and say, yes, the David Beckham Experiment failed.

Once you go beyond the LA Galaxy, whose on-field “exploits” speak for themselves, proving failure is by no means easy. After all, the man brought buttloads of money to LA’s coffers along with the tsunami of exposure. There’s also the possibility that Beckham’s signing may soothe the squeamishness other foreign players feel about playing in Major League Soccer (MLS); call this last item the “Beckham Prism,” a device that somehow shines pretty rainbow colors on American soil and soccer-specific stadiums.

Trouble is, rebuttals to each of these upsides come pretty easily: the exposure flopped in that it only confirmed the bias, especially among European observers, that MLS sucks, a factor that plays into both the revenue side and the “Beckham Prism.” On the money side, a one-shot burst of revenue, no matter how large, means little if it can’t be sustained and, as Oberjuerge suggests, the Galaxy lost a lot of momentum by sucking total, collective ass when the iron was hot. As for the “Beckham Prism” it can’t do much so long as there are more jobs paying better money in Europe; the best will stay across the pond. Beckham might have made it easier for a geezer or two to swallow his pride, but, if Denilson is the kind of player doing the swallowing, we’re better off without.
Continue reading

Daily Sweeper, 09.05: Ivan Gazidis’ Shame; More USOC; Bradley; WUSA

– I’m a little shocked at how few people picked up on the wholesome whack-job on Major League Soccer’s Developmental Contracts that Kristian Dyer wrote for ESPN. Then again this is kinda old news, so maybe that’s it. At any rate…

A good place to begin is looking at some details I didn’t know about regarding how those contracts are structured:

“The contract, in part, holds that the player will be paid at the ‘rate of $1,075 per month gross of taxes’ from March 1 to Dec. 31. In addition, the contract spells out incentives that can be earned as follows:

“1. MLS team 75 percent start: $5,000 if you start in 75 percent or more of the MLS league season games (including MLS regular-season and playoff games but not including the U.S. Open Cup or other tournaments) of the MLS team to which you are assigned.”

“2. MLS All-Star: $5,000 if you are named to the official MLS All-Star team.”

“3. MLS Rookie of the Year: $5,000 if you are selected as the official MLS Rookie of the Year.” Continue reading