MLS Results and Moves: A Soft-Lens Impressions

Having been “underground” when Major League Soccer (MLS) Roster Compliance Day came and went (and, to celebrate, I threw out tons of crap, just like the teams I like!), motivation to soberly analyze all those rosters isn’t coming; besides, fans and fan sites have probably did all this to near-death earlier in the week. Moreover, not knowing much about the players coming in, I’m not really equipped to do a hard-data write-up. As such, a looser approach feels more appropriate – or, as I put it in the title, a soft-lens impression, which I’ll form based on what I recall of each team’s results (I’ll provide links when I have ’em) and the moves each team has made so far. I’ll be using Soccer America’s round-up of off-season moves for this last bit.

And away we go…

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Pan-Pacific: Post-Mortem or Obituary (+ Some Silliness)

A number of people have flagged a Los Angeles Times article that contained some surprisingly harsh comments about the recently-concluded Pan-Pacific Challenge (PPC) from Major League Soccer (MLS) Commissioner Don “The Don” Garber. Now, we all know the field sucked (seriously, I looked like the blue crap I once played on in Moscow, Idaho’s Kibbie ASUI Dome, pictured left; at least the turf used to be blue).

But more than the turf provoked The Don’s wrath: gates unworthy of David Beckham also rankled as, no doubt, did seeing goals getting piled on against MLS’s actual crown jewel, the Houston Dynamo.  The language remains diplomatic – at least where everything but the field is concerned (“We are very disappointed with the field surface,” Garber said. “Our players said it was perhaps the worst surface they had played on.”  oh….that’s what happened…) – but it’s fairly clear that Soccer Marketing United (SUM) wouldn’t have minded had ESPN Classic taken on pass on televising the event.

There’s talk in the article about rotating between sites in Japan, Australia, and the U.S. – and that isn’t a terrible one – but I liked Hawaii because it felt a little closer to neutral ground.  That said, there’s no denying the facility is (cavernously) problematic.  Surely, there’s a field with grass somewhere in Hawaii, one either big enough, or one that could be expanded without too much money and effort? If not, yeah, move the PPC.  Or just kill the thing and televise, I dunno, the Carolina Challenge Cup instead.  Just don’t think about it too hard.  Sure, I liked the thing, but it’s hard to justify agonizing over it.  And there’s no way in Hell to justify a soccer-specific stadium in Hawaii… Continue reading

The Penultimate Off-Season Progress Report: Best…Off-Season…Ever…

The latest report on all off-season player moves among Major League Soccer’s (MLS) clubs appears below…well, at least the ones that interest me. I’ll work with the same categories as last week’s edition, though, with the March 3rd roster reckoning coming down the pike, I’m going to have to start tracking the players who get axed…if only half-heartedly. By that I mean, I’m going to ignore waivers of say, Chris Loftus for New England. But any move that strikes me as “big enough” will get record in this and, to a greater extent, future editions.

All that said, I want to throw one bold thought out there: for my money, this has been the BEST OFF-SEASON in MLS history. More exciting/intriguing player moves, more movement in general, teams coming into the season with enough question marks over their heads that you almost have to watch the games to form a serious opinion of what it all means – or maybe it’s just that we finally have sufficient coverage. There’s a potential downside getting some airing, especially where all “them furriners” are concerned: e.g. with so many exports coming in, what will happen to the development of the American player? Marcelo Balboa treated the subject a couple times through a Q & A with USSoccerplayers.com – and it’s an interesting subject, even if a wait-and-see approach strikes me as the right one.

All I know is I’m in drunken piggy heaven herding all these cats. Wonnerful, wonnerful.

Enough about my joy. All the movement I saw (or cared about) appears after the jump. Contrary to past practice, I’m ditching links to the current rosters; all y’all know where to find ’em if you want ’em. As always, if I missed anything big, feel free to correct the record, by flagging omissions in the comments field or emailing me (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com). I will make the change and give due credit. Here goes… Continue reading

Pre-Season Match Reports: Too Many for One Clever Title

I just drank some African liquor…that came in a cellophane bag…so don’t expect much…

Truth to tell, I feel like I’m posting early – e.g. before the weight of the commentary and direct observations provides something for us to think about besides what team beat another and by how many. So…I’ll update what comes below as I see them over the course of tomorrow….which is today…assuming you live on the East Coast.

Here’s how this is going to work. MLSnet.com had their unpaid interns turn in the usual one-stop round-up, which caught the majority of this weekend’s games. So, if you see an item below that bears only a headline, that’s all I’ve got on it…and that means you should stop by the “one-stop” link earlier in this paragraph for all the information available at time of typing. Well, at least where all the sites I visit are concerned. As for the rest, if I have links and commentary therefrom to pass on, I will do so. And, as noted above, I’ll add to those stripped-down score-lines where future postings/commentary allows for it.

Here goes, in the order MLSnet.com’s piece listed the games. The ones they didn’t list will follow. Continue reading

Off-Season Progress Report: Mime’s A-Wastin’

For good or ill, here’s the plan for this and future editions of the Off-Season Progress Report. Every Friday, I’ll list all the player moves, trials, and rumors (with a snowball’s chance in Hell of coming together…and some that don’t) that appeared on my screen over the previous week. This feature will continue until – I believe – March 3, when Major League Soccer’s (MLS) teams must have their rosters down to 28 players, as required by league rules.

One category, the trialists, is a little more complicated than the others. To begin, I’m assuming that anyone drafted between the SuperDraft and supplemental draft – all identified here – is, effectively, on trial. I imagine some draftees have gone home already, but ignore them until the final cut comes along…and I may not acknowledge it then (too much to know, frankly). As for all other trialists, I can only name those whose names I’ve seen and I’m confident I’ll miss a couple players per team….all while blaming your team for failing to get out the good word. Given the gap, however, I welcome any and all additions to the record; drop ‘em in the comments field or send to me an email (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com).

OK, that’s that. All the movement I saw (or cared about) appears after the jump. Current rosters for all teams are embedded under each team’s name. Continue reading

MLS Off-Season Progress Report…Well, Most of One…

Thought I’d take some time today to update the latest off-season player movement around Major League Soccer (MLS). I’ll cover every MLS team down below, talking about which players the club has signed – as recorded on their respective rosters – but will only cover changes that have happened since my first off-season progress report. That said, 1) I’m away from my usual post and the notes I keep there, which means 2) I’m missing some details on some rumors, players trials, that sort of thing.

Getting back to that first off-season report, when I typed up each team’s list of incoming players, I divided them into players coming in by transfer and those “acquired” via the Super- and Supplemental Drafts. The approach for this update will look a little different. Judging from what I’m seeing on the rosters and a player movement round-up run on Soccer America on February 5, teams have signed some, though nothing like all, of their draftees. To account for that, drafted players whose names appear in their team’s official site roster PLUS any player a given team brought in via transfer will be listed as Signed. I’m assuming players in this category to be part of the team at this point.

The other two categories I’ll use are Trialist/Wish-List and Out. The first category includes players named in various sources as being associated with a given team, whether through an invite to camp or by rumor; in the cases where the names are either obscure or low-profile (no offense), I might just provide a link to the source. And the “Out” category is what it is: players who have left the team since the first off-season progress report.

As implied above, there will be holes in this. I’m operating from memory on a few calls. Further, some teams simply enjoy better coverage – among them, teams like the Kansas City Wizards (thanks to Hillcrest Road) and FC Dallas (thanks to FC Dallas Updates); those blogs cover everything down to their players’ stool samples. Other teams (think Colorado) are just hard to find because the front office in question just seems to hate their teams’ fans. But I’m mentioning my blindspots mainly by way of welcoming corrections in the comments. If I missed something, let me know and I’ll get the new information in the main post as soon as I can. If you don’t want to use the comments, don’t be shy about emailing information to me (jeffbull71[at]yahoo.com).

Good god, that’s a lot of preamble. A final thing or two and I’ll get to the goods. One, each team’s current roster is embedded in their name. Two, of course I’ll comment on where I think each team is…that’s just a given. No grades, though. Not this time.

Here goes (fixed it!): Continue reading

MLS: The Flat-Footed (Ugly?) East

(UPDATE: This thing kind of rambles…sorry.  The point I had intended to make when I sat down to write the thing is pretty simple: it’s not so much the lack of activity among Eastern Conference teams that worries me; it’s the sneaking suspicion I have that they’re going to come out dull and end 2008 dull and tired.  OK, you can read it now.)

On Monday of this week, I was fairly far along with assigning major significance to an idea contained in a paragraph that Ives Galarcep would insert in today’s piece for ESPN on the new-model DC United (I can see the future sometimes). Here’s that:

“D.C. United heads into its 13th season brimming with confidence over a busy and productive offseason that has the rest of the Eastern Conference looking comatose by comparison. It will be up to Soehn to make all the pieces fit, and to the newcomers to prove that they are better than the long list of former D.C. standouts that departed to make room for them.”

As much as that second sentence bears marking and remembering, it was the first sentence that really struck me. No Eastern Conference club – hell, no Western Conference club when you get down to it – has matched DC United this off-season in terms of ambition or, no less significantly, in actually landing the players they’re chasing. Sure, some clubs have tried (Columbus Crewmaybe) and others are making some noises (Red Bull New York, Chicago Fire), but, unlike them, DC is going into preseason with all the pieces in camp, playing together, and learning one another.

As for behind as New York, Columbus, and Chicago may seem, they’re lapping the remaining three Eastern Conference teams. Toronto FC hasn’t changed much more than Mo Johnston’s job description, the Kansas City Wizards are talking new formation instead of new personnel. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution’s brain-trust appears seized up in a kind of overwhelmed paralysis. (Honduras? Ugh…that’s so 2004.)

All that tallies, but as I tried to take Galarcep’s basic statement – e.g. the idea that DC has been the busiest club – to the next-step idea that struck me on Monday – e.g. that they’re the most prepared club – I couldn’t carry it over the hump, at least not automatically. As much as I believe DC has improved – even to the point that they’re again looking like the club to beat in the East – the measure of the rest of the East’s readiness isn’t how they spazzed in the off-season, so much as what they have left over from 2007. And that took some reading. Continue reading