MLS’s (Just Plain Daffy) Salaries, The Joys of Central Planning

“The more I stare at the list, the more I think the majority of players can fit in either category. Can’t say I understand how Major League Soccer comes up with salary figures, but only that it doesn’t tally.”

With the number of those who have read and commented being roughly equal, I’m confident everyone now knows that the Major League Soccer (MLS) Players Union (MLSPU) has again released player salaries. I wrote the above – and don’t worry if it doesn’t make perfect sense – to wrap a post about the salaries of Colorado Rapids players that don’t add up for me for the Colorado Offside. Embarking on the same project for the Columbus Crew over here, it struck me that I don’t have anything more grand or important to say on the subject that I didn’t put into that quote. I only wish it had been more clever.

That said, there’s so many mysteries to the logic of how MLS pays their players. For instance, why does rookie defender Andy Iro pull down $53.5K guaranteed while a second-year pros like Ryan Junge and Brad Evans earn only $12.9K and $33K, respectively? And that’s without getting into something more mysterious: Adam Moffat, the star of the Crew’s victorious season opener, and a player with one more start under his belt than Iro earns only $17.7K. To spell out a familiar acronym, what the fuck? The fact that the Rapids salary structure makes even less sense only deepens the mystery.

I get the designated-player business all right and believe the salaries of veteran players hinge on free(-ish) market factors ranging from a front office’s idiocy, a player’s attentiveness to his finances, and his agent’s audacity. But things get really messy when a player just comes into the league. I have read, in the past, about why one rookie earns $12.9K; while another earns $17.7K; while still another earns $33K; and, finally, why someone like Iro makes more still: I don’t recall the particulars (help? anyone?). I tried to refresh my memory, but found more mechanics and less figures in MLSnet.com’s rules and regulations web-page. Just when I think it might be the difference between developmental and senior roster players, the Crew’s roster tells me that both Robbie Rogers ($57.5K) George Josten (sharpened stick up the ass…er, $12.9K) are listed as developmental players. Back to that drawing board…but, wait, here’s another: speaking of Rogers, how does that an up-and-comer earn a guaranteed salary a couple thousand dollars smaller than that of the distinctly less-promising Jason Garey? Continue reading

The Crew Attack: Columbus’ Hopes and Options

With the Columbus Crew’s defense preview out of the way, it’s time to turn to the Crew’s offense. Before going any farther, let me just acknowledge one thing: offense and defense don’t separate perfectly in soccer; anyone who has seen Frankie Hejduk blaze down the right side to fire in crosses (of whatever quality) knows this. That said, the discussion below focuses on players for whom offense is the primary responsibility.

Before looking forward, however, let me take a second (or a paragraph) to look back – though, given 2007, I don’t expect Crew fans to feel enthusiasm for joining me. Until the arrival of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Crew struggled with scoring – and things didn’t so much turn around as improve thereafter. The 2007 Crew would never be mistaken for an offensive power. Most observers point to the absence of a quality forward and, for what it’s worth, I agree with most people. The Crew tried to address this problem in the off-season, but they have so far failed to find their man (thanks for the freakin’ memories, Maciej Zurawski).

Even if they missed out on a high(er)-profile acquisition, the Crew has done some restocking with players on trial like Nigeria’s Emanuel Ekpo and Brazilian Guilherme So; neither player has formally signed with the club, but both were in the works last I read with Ekpo being the closer. There’s also Nicolas Hernandez’s arrival to consider with the question of whether this is “Nico Mark’06” or Nico Mark’07” preceding him. Talk of a couple forwards shipping to Columbus from the Honduran league (Brazilian Jocimar Nascimento and…some other dude) means more reinforcements may yet show.

However all those pan out, what we can all count on is the return of some players, plus signs of promising development for them. The Crew appears as ready as they’re going to get for the 2008 season. The question is whether it’s enough. Continue reading

TSII: Crew Roster Talk – When Do You Stop?

Back from the little hiatus, time to get right back to it: Covering the Crew posted the latest full roster for the 2008-vintage Columbus Crew. You can check the post for names, details, plus more. I’ll steal his roster layout to frame the discussion, but I won’t borrow the commentary…that’ll come after the stuff I stole. Here goes:

Senior roster (17 of 18 slots filled)
Goalkeepers: Will Hesmer, Andy Gruenebaum.
Defenders: Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Danny O’Rourke, Ezra Hendrickson, Leonard Griffin, Andy Iro.
Midfielders: Brian Carroll, Duncan Oughton, Stefani Miglioranzi, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Eddie Gaven.
Forwards: Alejandro Moreno, Nicolas Hernandez, Jason Garey, Brad Evans.

Developmental roster (10 of 10)
Goalkeeper: Kenny Schoeni.
Defenders: Andrew Peterson, Jed Zayner, Ryan Junge, Ryan Miller.
Midfielders: Robbie Rogers, Adam Moffat, Kevin Burns.
Forwards: Steven Lenhart, George Josten.

OK, so who’s new here? And I don’t promise a complete list, necessarily, but a useful approximation. Continue reading

Crew TSII: Crew Coming Into Focus; Nifty Friendly (that sounds less nifty when you think about it)

(Just a quick FYI: I think I’ve got a good set-up in mind for the Rapids/Crew updates. Those will come early in the morning, the rest will follow. At least that’s the plan today. And, oh yes, I will miss breaking stories…that is all.)

It takes covering the Colorado Rapids to truly appreciate the true meaning of crap coverage. The comparative radio silence of Rapids-Land gives the several reports and updates from outlets official and private on the Columbus Crew a sense of things afoot. Good lord, it might even be a buzz.

Tucked in the middle of a weekly update focused on Eddie Gaven’s and Robbie Rogers’ call-up(s) to the U-23s, you’ll find the first and second half line-ups for the Crew’s embarra…I mean, loss to the Ventura County Fusion. You’ll see some familiar names from this pre-season in there – Emanuel Ekpo, Guilherme So, Sandro Jose, even Mamadu Bah – but it takes Covering the Crew’s latest post to get a bead on where these guys stand. To sum up – for those not interested in the expanded version: So and Ekpo look like they’ll sign – the latter, it seems, has really impressed; the team wants more time to evaluate Bah and talks with Sandro Jose remain stuck. It’s also worth pointing out that there’s talk of an imminent waiver in there as well: so long, Ricardo Virtuoso(?). Continue reading

Crew TSII: Break-Even Weekend, Good-Look Rook, Other Junk

If you smush together the Columbus Crew’s 1-2 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes (et tu, Kei?) and their 2-1 win over Chivas USA, they wind up breaking even on the weekend. And that’s good stuff: ending at .500 in MLS gets a team into the playoffs about half the time, right?

In all seriousness, the real good stuff – or at least the stuff that means much – comes with the details, namely, who scored goals and who’s trying out with the team. If there’s a big bright-spot, in my mind at least, about the Crew’s pre-season, it’s seeing Eddie Gaven’s and Robbie Rogers’ names continuing to show up in the box scores. The Crew’s present, um, difficulties with bringing in impact players turns up the pressure on the guys they’ve got. If you review the Crew’s pre-season results – which one can easily do on a numbers and goal-scorers level, courtesy of the team’s official web-site – you’ll see both players’ names twice. Better still, you’ll see rookie “Meet” George Josten’s name three times – and that’s just what it takes to get flattering copy in in-house perspective pieces.

Fortunately, a couple trialists have joined the Crew on their way to compiling an impressive (and largely irrelevant) 4-2-0 preseason record (that’s W-L-T; and use the “numbers and goal-scorers” link for verification; and, seeing as they play the Ventura County Fusion next, I’d expect that record will go to 5-2-0). I’ll admit I can’t pick ’em all – even after reviewing the current roster – but these are the unfamiliar names I’m seeing: Emmanuel Ekpo, who I believe is a “midfielder,” type unknown…to me, anyway; Ryan Miller (?); Sandro da Silva, who, according to a report by Covering the Crew, may not stick around; and, Mamadu Bah, who, according the the report linked to in the previous sentence, is a Sierra Leonian striker. Damn shame about not seeing his name on the score-sheet, ’cause that’s where the Crew need the most help. Continue reading

Giving In: Crew v. Rapids, Early Impressions

For those unfamiliar with it, I have dedicated myself to follow and, to some degree, conflate the relatively separate fates of the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids for the 2008 Major League Soccer (MLS) season. The idea is to see which of these long-struggling MLS original clubs make progress this season…and which falls still further behind as the league expands.

This post just came to me out of the blue (OK, I was on the can; does that make it “out of the brown?”), but I think there’s something to it. Back when I embraced this assignment, nearly two months ago, I liked Columbus’ chances better. The reasoning was pretty straightforward: Columbus, playing in the tougher East, had the look of a team that could be competitive with the addition of only a player or two (both forwards, preferably) and more time to gel. Against that, the Rapids had the look of a team in not only in need of a total overhaul on offense, but one with the impression of a toxic locker room (suffering, perhaps from sour relations between players and coach?). Continue reading

Pre-Season Results: Old Beats New + Polish Trialist Fells Crew (TSII)

Two preseason games played yesterday….even if MLSnet.com sneaked Chivas’ win over Red Bull, which I swear prior to yesterday, into their round-up of February 13 games. But here’s what I found on the two games that were legitimately recorded as being played on February 13….and may God have mercy on the soul of the intern who mucked up the dates…

San Jose Earthquakes 0-1 Houston Dynamo
If there’s a special thing about this game, it’s with typing “San Jose Earthquakes” and seeing the fans happy about again having a team in the Bay Area; that’s a major part of the angle in Soccer Silicon Valley Blog’s write-up on the game, nay, the moment that was The Return. They also talk about who looked good (Shea Salinas, Kei Kamara, Nick Garcia), much like the San Jose Mercury, who liked what they saw from Salinas as well…though they also did their share of dwelling on “the mood.” It’s possible, in fact, the whole “Return theme” may recur for a while, at least judging by MLSnet.com’s fairly grand, all-its-own write-up. But one thing all the articles makes clear: prettier games have been played, yes, but the appreciation and enthusiasm made a day of it.

Chicago Fire 3-2 Columbus Crew
Covering the Crew picked up this game early yesterday afternoon and recorded good nuts ‘n’ bolts, like line-ups and who scored for the Crew – Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers, in case you’re curious. For what it’s worth, I count Gaven and Rogers on the score sheet as good news; the Crew giving up three, on the other hand, doesn’t look so hot. Against that, at least where the Crew are concerned, one trialist for the Fire – Polish forward Tomasz Frankowski – scored two, thereby canceling Gaven’s and Roger’s effort; that made Chris Rolfe’s earlier goal good for the win (see February 13 round-up). The box score leaves me wondering how hard the Fire will try to land Frankowski…I’m thinking they could use a forward or two.

In a semi-related bit of news, Crew fans may notice Lars Ricken’s name on the Crew’s roster; the Crew’s other trialist, Roman Friedli, played as well. In one of today’s posts, Covering the Crew provided a little background on the player and his experience with MLS so far….and hats off to Shawn Mitchell for a damned clever title.

BONUS CREW NEWS
MLS Rumors posted something linking the Crew to a Nigerian player named Emanuel Ekpo…I’ve never heard of him, either, but don’t know if he’s good, don’t know if it matters. Till he’s signed or on trial, this is just a rumor…just like the editor’s note says, people.  UPDATE: Or not.  Credit to the comment below (from someone watching this more closely than me) Ekpo has been working with the Crew for a while…and, had I paid enough attention, I would have seen his name on the second half line-up.

BONUS
– I have enough trouble taking showers (sleep takes priority fairly often). But this would put an end to the practice altogether.

– I admire dedication, especially when it comes to pranks.