The CBA: Can MLS Wait Until…um…Till…um…Then?

…is it 2009 that Major League Soccer (MLS) keeps saying they’ll re-work the collective bargaining agreement with the MLS Players’ Union? 2010? Does it matter? It’s like Jon from the DC United Offside said in his post about DC-draftee Andrew Jacobson bypassing MLS to sign with France’s Lorient:

“Eddie Pope, take notice. Raise the salary floor or this league will get older, and worse.”

It’s not all on Eddie, of course. The idea that the league needs to stop shopping for answers up its own ass is becoming apparent to plenty of people. One almost has to wonder if Frank Dell’Appa got wind of Jacobson’s hop to France ahead of writing his piece for ESPN on MLS accidentally becoming an export league. Dell’Appa’s article mainly explores how MLS’s comparatively low salary cap inherently disadvantages it against the rest of the world – with an apt emphasis on the Taylor Twellman situation – but he ends with the list of solid, young-ish MLS pros who punched tickets to Europe during the current offseason:

“If Chris Gbandi is transfered from FC Dallas to Haugesund in Norway, as expected, this week, he will be the 10th MLS player to move to Europe this month, following Bryan Arguez (Hertha Berlin), Andy Dorman (St. Mirren), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Nate Jaqua (SC Rheindorf Altach), Clint Mathis (Ergotelis FC), Joseph Ngwenya (SK Austria Karnten), Pat Noonan (Aalesund FK), Troy Perkins (Valerenga) and Johnson. Of those players, only Johnson produced a significant transfer fee, and Dorman, Goodson, Jaqua, Mathis, Ngwenya and Noonan departed on free transfers.” Continue reading

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MLS: Team-by-Team Off-Season Progress Report

After chasing the day-to-day trade clocking for a couple weeks, and with the Super- and supplemental drafts all wrapped up, today seems as good a day as any to pull it all together. Plenty of changes have already happened and plenty more look likely to happen before Major League Soccer’s (MLS) 2008 season kicks off. The point here is seeing which teams appear most ready and complete with training camps starting in fairly short order.

Below is the most current and, hopefully, thorough record of the player traffic surrounding each of MLS’s 14 clubs. By way of mixing the old with the new, links to each team’s roster will be embedded in their name, while you can find the players each MLS team took in the respective “drafts” here: SuperDraft and supplemental. Completing the picture is SoccerAmerica.com’s list of off-season player moves.

Clocking the incoming traffic is, of course, a little complicated: a number of the players taken via draft won’t make the full roster and, regarding transfer-market horse-swapping, a number of deals remain in progress. So, here’s what will happen in this space: on trades, only “done-deals” – or those that seem “done enough” – will appear. Going the other way, I’m going to treat the players picked up through either draft as part of the team. That said, distinction between players coming in by transfer (e.g. the one’s the club actively sought out, so we’re pretty sure they’ll play) versus the draftees (e.g. who may be waived by the end of February) will be made.  And, of course, corrections of oversights and omissions are entirely welcome.

Finally, a “grade” of sorts, followed by an assessment of how each team looks (as judged by me…obviously), comes after the naming of names. After toying with a, frankly, unworkable grading system (shh…that’s my secret) I’m going to roll with something pretty simple: letter grades. Just like in real life, a grade of a C equal passing – or, in this case, post-season competitive…if only just in some cases. One big thing to clarify on these: this isn’t simply awarded for the quality of the team; consideration for the improvement they have made since the end of 2007 also plays a role, a big one even. As for the assessments, I’ll try to keep them brief and based solely on current, as opposed to possible, circumstances; I can always catch up in future posts.

So, them’s the rules. Time to dig in: Continue reading

Is Televising the SuperDraft Smart?

Here’s a question: how many articles/posts/message board items have you read since last Friday that questioned the value Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs get through the SuperDraft.  Jamie Trecker posted a mildly frustrated kick-around on the subject just this morning over on Fox Sports and it covers familiar ground – e.g. not-ready-for-primetime players; the soft perversity built into the balance between value versus talent, the growing importance of the transfer market, etc.

Those points not only matter, they raise a pretty obvious question: does having this event on television actually help MLS?  If the majority of players who enter the league through the SuperDraft aren’t tomorrow’s stars, does the event create hype or fizzle?

I don’t know.  Maybe a single event is all the league can squeeze out of ESPN.  If that’s the case, though, perhaps MLS would be better served by going to, say, Fox Soccer Channel and pushing for a weekly half-hour program that starts in, oh, mid-January or even February and goes where the news really seems to be in the off-season: the transfer market and trades within MLS.

After that, the league can do with the SuperDraft what they’re doing with today’s supplemental draft.  And that would be burying it….very, very quietly.

Ives “F-Bomb” for Rapids’ Draft Day

And “F-Bomb” refers to the “F” Ives Galarcep awarded the Colorado Rapids for their SuperDraft decisions. Let’s go to the text:

“Fernando Clavijo has always been regarded as a good judge of talent, but that didn’t stop many from scratching their heads at the Rapids’ two picks Friday. Clavijo passed on a top forward (Nyarko) and can’t-miss defender (James) to draft a young and undersized defensive midfielder (O’Brien) who doesn’t really fill a need…Colorado’s second pick, Chevannes, is forgettable. O’Brien has talent, but the Rapids earn the worst possible grade for passing on so many players who could have made more of an impact.”

For those who didn’t see it, this contrasts rather sharply from my assessment of Colorado’s draft, which I’ll edit in this space to read, ” So, where Colorado is concerned, it’s arguable they worked with what they had.”

Whom should you believe? Well, Ives attended the Combine, probably watched a few college games last year, um, he gets paid to write about soccer, while I do it in my spare time…I dunno. It’s close. You be the judge.

Then again, maybe Clavijo is stupid…like a fox. Maybe he slept-walked through the SuperDraft by necessity, what with all the other fish he’s got in the fire (whoops, rumored “fish,” let’s be clear on that). There’s talk of Pat Noonan joining from New England, perhaps Christian Gomez coming from DC United on a Kee-Razy swap deal (more on this one later), and some defender named Chase Hilgenbrinkenschwarzwilderstein (sorry to dick around, but I love names that just seem to go on forever; they sound like the accountant alter-ego for a superhero).

The point is, maybe Clavijo knows something Galarcep doesn’t…which is not to suggest I knew what Clavijo knew when I wrote my more generous assessment of the Rapids’ SuperDraft. That’s also not to say you should trust Clavijo over Galarcep. I mean, we’ve established that Ives is, at the very least, paying attention. With Clavijo…I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, count this as part of the record Rapids’ fans.

Rating the SuperDraft for Colorado & Columbus

(UPDATED: I missed a couple maneuvers on SuperDraft day…stupid Draft Tracker.  The Crew picked up a couple picks in the 20’s and, with them, forward Ricardo Pierre-Louis and midfielder/defender Ryan Miller.  See here for details.)

Well, the 2008 Major League Soccer (MLS) SuperDraft is over. Or close enough to for me to type out this little post, which, in the grand scheme, is a blank slate with a couple words stenciled on it. I may not always be informative, but at least I’m honest. As promised, I’m going to look at the day’s work put in by my two 2008 adoptees, the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids. Here’s what each team picked up today (drawn from MLSnet.com’s SuperDraft Tracker, which is doing much better now, thank you, since it stopped updating every minute or so):

Colorado Rapids
#5. Ciaran O’Brien, M
#36. Adrian Chevannes, D
#47. Brian Grazier, M
#49. Scott Campbell, M

Columbus Crew
#6. Andy Iro, D
#20. George Josten, F
#48. Steven Lenhart, M

I just checked my pre-SuperDraft posts (Crew and Rapids) to confirm that neither team traded away their spots; looks like they both stood pat. Given where their respective picks sat in the queue, Columbus had the better hand to play, but, perhaps no less significantly, they also chose players more people had in their heads going into the draft.

Given how (very, very) little I know about these players, I’m just going to pass on the few things I’ve read and make every effort – Scout’s honor – to pay close attention to all the players involved…assuming they don’t all wind up playing in the reserve league in ’08…I’m looking at you on this one, Colorado. Somewhat predictably, I haven’t branched out a hell of a lot from the two pundits I leaned on in the run-up to the SuperDraft – Buzz Carrick for his Top 20 prospects article and Ives Galarcep for his mock draft – so I’ll be leaning on them again (if by some chance I meet either man in person, I definitely owe them several pints). So, on with the show. This is, literally, it: Continue reading

(First) Thoughts on 2008 MLS SuperDraft (Focus on C’bus and Rapids)

Part of me wants to say the highlight of the whole thing was the ESPN commercial with the dude on the fishing boat. Mind, that was a fantastic commercial, but I now accept that I haven’t missed much by not seeing past SuperDrafts. That’s not to say there weren’t real, draft-related highlights, a quick rundown of which will appear below. And I’ll wrap up with some thoughts on the first-round picks made by my two adopted teams, the Columbus Crew and Colorado Rapids.

I’ll start, however, with the first 14 picks…assuming I can remember the final three; MLSnet.com’s Draft Tracker is dragging ass for some reason. Right, the top 14:

1. Chance Myers, M (Kansas City Wizards)
2. Brek Shea, M/D (FC Dallas)
3. Anthony Beltran, M/D (Real Salt Lake)
4. Sean Franklin, M/D (Los Angeles Galaxy)
5. Ciaran O’Brien, M (Colorado Rapids)*
6. Andy Iro, D (Columbus Crew)*
7. Patrick Nyarko, F (Chicago Fire)
8. Josh Lambo, GK (FC Dallas)
9. Julius James, D (Toronto FC)
10. Pat Phelan, M/D (Toronto FC)
11. Roger Espinosa, M (Kansas City Wizards)
12. Dominic Cervi, GK (Chicago Fire)
13. Rob Valentino, D (New England Revolution)
14. David Horst, D (Real Salt Lake)

Now, some thoughts on the picks, the broadcast, and, for me, one hell of a surprise. Continue reading

SuperDraft Scouting: The Columbus Crew’s Many Moving Parts

This is the second of today’s pre-SuperDraft posts on the two Major League Soccer (MLS) teams I adopted for the 2008 season: I’ll cover the Crew’s drafty-day prospects in this post; the Colorado Rapid’s appears below. Consider this a stab at figuring what each team can or should do ahead of and/or during Friday’s SuperDraft.

MLSnet.com hasn’t yet updated the order on the SuperDraft to reflect the latest (at least not that I know of), but the press release/article they sent out Monday showed Columbus with picks #6, 20, and 48. Something posted on the Crew’s official site confirms I’m not crazy. They could get great value from that #6 pick and could come up with something for #20 as well. #48…well, it ain’t nothing. So, let the record show the Crew have options. On top of that, they have a fair amount of other activity in the hopper, a detail that complicates figuring out what they want out of the draft.

For all that, I think Steve Davis is on to something with his casual mention that the Crew are thinking defenders first (it’s a needle-in-a-haystack, but it’s in there). Based on reports from other, non-SuperDraft-related sources, they’re looking abroad for attacking talent. This makes sense to a fair degree: not to knock defenders or their art (and it is an art, something you’d know if you’ve seen me defend), but you can take a college-quality midfielder and teach him to defend; happens all the time in MLS – and you get a defender who can pass out of the deal. Add to that Buzz Carrick’s high opinion of the pool of defenders and it appears the Crew have a great shot at filling this specific need. They might even do it twice over.

But Davis’ quick comment is just one view on what the Crew need. Again, I’ll turn to Jeff Carlisle’s ESPN piece on each MLS teams’ needs and my review of Columbus’ 2007. And, again, let’s start with Carlisle: Continue reading