In “Investment Mode”: A Primer Made Possible by Way of New England

“Profitability is a function of what you spend, not necessarily of what you make. Our revenues are growing, but we are investing massive amounts of money in building the league. We are in an investment mode; it’s the best way to describe it.”

That came out of Q & A the Houston Chronicle ran with Major League Soccer (MLS) Commissioner, Don Garber, in this morning’s paper. Count it among the several items out today that (I’m enormously flattering myself, but…) follow-up on my shrill rant about MLS players being treated like rented mules. In a curious coincidence, a slew of articles out of New England describe the pitfalls facing MLS as it moves into what Garber calls, in the same interview, “the sort of second year of the relaunching of the league.”

Let me pause to chuckle. I’m just getting to a spot in Simon Schama’s excellent history of the French Revolution, Citizens, where the regular calendar gave way to the revolutionary. Ahem…tee hee hee….”year two.”

Getting back to the task at hand, that same piece saw Garber provide a kind of explanation of the logic behind MLS’s investment strategy: Continue reading

U.S. v. Mexico: Parting Shot

UNDERRATED: Tequila shots for every goal.”

That came from a clever over/under feature from Goal.com and my only response to that is, “Sir, yes sir! What brand, sir?!”

The same piece included the following, which I appreciate:

OVERRATED: Refusing to call this game a ‘friendly.'”

Tee, hee, hee…

Now, I know I’ve spent the past week doing my level, if unconscious, best to deflate the hype on tonight’s U.S. Mexico game (see: LINK, LINK, and LINK). Happily, the hype machine carried on over all that. In my defense, however, I’m not totally obtuse. I mean, I understand why U.S. soccer fans – simple partisanship/nationalism aside – get up for games against Mexico. And this was framed very nicely by that cat, Landon Donovan (at the bottom of the WaPo’s preview: Continue reading

Bob: Commence the Experiment

A couple people are posting the U.S. roster that was called in to play Mexico this Wednesday – and at least one person is playing “the roster game” (and having a couple bites at as he does it). On the other side of the affair, Sideline Views’ Luis Bueno listed Mexico’s traveling party and added some analysis for good measure. Much like Luis, I think the Mexican roster looks pretty solid – as in, a whole lot like an A-Team…or maybe that’s just what I think when I recognize many of the names on a Mexican roster.

So, to kill some time on a slow Sunday (the Super what now?), I thought I’d take some time on the question of who should we play against this bunch. Given my present state of, um, underwhelmedness regarding the significance of the result itself, I’m still advocating on-field experimentation. And, in the event we do lose, we can adopt the Mexican tactic of blaming the loss on such externals.

So, below, I’ll trot out the starting XI I’d like to Bradley trot out on Wednesday…and I do so knowing this is not the line-up we’ll see. Before naming names, I should confess I tend to favor 4-4-2’s for perhaps the dumbest reason: I’ve played as a defender in my share of 3-5-2’s and I just hate how exposed I feel back there…absolutely prejudiced me against that formation. What can I say? I view myself as a midfielder…in spite of the few seconds I’ve received on that opinion from the various coaches I’ve had.

Enough preliminaries…here it is: Continue reading

Arrivals/Departures: DC Lands (some of) Their Fish

Welcome to today’s now-typical wrap up of trading/rumor action. For all the trades wrapped up, just as many seem up in the air. What the hell? Let’s start with the latter. No, wait. Can’t do that. Look at the title…another trap! And I set it for myself.

– Steve Goff posted something a bit ago about DC United wrapping the deal for Colombian defender Gonzalo Martinez; it also sounds like the deal to bring in Peruvian ‘ keeper Jose Carvallo should also wrap in time for him to start training with the rest of the guys. No word yet on Marcelo Gallardo…though MLS Rumors jumped ahead of the non-risking part of the soccer media world, declaring Gallardo to DC a “done deal.” We shall see…we shall see… (Against that and for the record, WVHooligan reads something in Goff’s copy that suggests to him that DC is out of the running…or, after re-reading his space, it’s more accurate to say he wrote “they may not be in the running”; subtle difference…my bad.)

What I do know is I’m a bit conflicted on this Gallardo-to-DC thing, assuming if pans out. Given how DC collects Supporters’ Shields, this one stinks of the rich getting richer (and dumbass clubs like New England approaching the season with their heads – I dunno – in the sand? Up their butts? Too intently craned toward their wallets? I think Jimmy Chowda of Blue Blooded Journo nicely sums up the emotions this provokes). At the same time, thanks to those Supporters’ Shields, DC rather often flies Major League Soccer’s (MLS) “freak-flag” in the international club tourneys, so, on the theory that MLS clubs doing well makes more players want to join MLS clubs, which allows MLS clubs to do well, which makes more players want to join MLS, um, etc., I can live with it.

Sometime around mid, mid-early March you’ll be reading posts from me about how we’re all DC United and Houston Dynamo fans today…Is it time for outgoing? Yeah. Why not? Continue reading

A Trade that MUST Happen…plus a round-up of some others…

MLSRumors, god bless ’em – and do note the title, people – posted the coolest damn rumor today about a delicious mega-deal in the works between DC United and the Colorado Rapids. Here are the details and, so far as I’ve seen, they’re posted only on MLSRumors:

“The buzz now is that there may be a trade involving Christian Gomez and the Rapids’s Terry Cooke, Pablo Maestroeni or another player.”

Please, god, let this happen. With Cooke, DC fans would finally have the width they (or at least The DCenters) believe they need and, with Mastroeni, they should get valuable leadership and grit (and, yeah, the occasional unhinged, ejectable attack on an opposition player). For the Rapids, bringing Gomez to Colorado provides hope, if only of the slimmest kind, that fans at The Dick will witness something remotely resembling attractive soccer; add Pat Noonan from New England, perhaps even Ecuador’s Agustin Delgado (for the record, Black Panther seems cool to this one), and things get a little less remote….until they all pick up injuries and take Fernando Clavijo’s job with them to rot on the physio’s table (along with what’s left of his self-respect and his hair).

Most important of all, god, this trade needs to happen because we’ll have no way of knowing what all this would look like if it doesn’t. And I really want to know. Just passing on a wish, sir. The seemingly imminent influx of South American players is nice and all (according to Goff, who cites “sources and reports”: Jose Carvallo, Gonzalo Martinez, Franco Niell, and, possibly, Gonzalo Peralta), but the “Gomez Deal” just seems that little bit more special.

Now, the rest of the trading business for the day…including some I’ve neglected to mention in the past: Continue reading

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.

Rumor: Rapids Making Play for Pat Noonan…and my affection

On his Red Card blog, Luis Arroyave tucked in a – what? rumor? report? not sure what to call it – about the New England Revolution’s Pat Noonan joining the Colorado Rapids…which, as we all know, isn’t Europe.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Anyway, that comes at the bottom of a post about Matt Pickens spurning the Chicago Fire’s advances (or, y’know, money; po-tay-to, po-tah-to).

In all honesty, getting Noonan on the Rapids would up my affection for a team I basically like.  I like the “quirk” in Noonan’s game and figure he’d bring one thing to the Rapids that team has really lacked – e.g. creativity.  Who knows?  Rapids fans could spend 2008 watching him ping those weird glancing headers off Terry Cooke crosses.  Not a bad way to spend a summer, assuming this pans out.

I know I’m pulling for it…along with Noonan’s continued health, of course.  Kinda sucks for New England, though…and Taylor Twellman.

Revs Shopp Noonan; Irk Twellman?

So, The Boston Globe reports this morning that the New England Revolution declined to pick up the option on forward Pat Noonan’s contract, a move I have a couple reactions to. Chief among them, are you trying to push me away, Mr. Kraft? I know I’m headed toward the door, but this, getting rid of my favorite Rev…well, that’s just cold, even gratuitously so. Look at me when I’m talking to you, dammit!

But my reaction isn’t all that important to either the Krafts, or, obvioulsy, New England’s chances. You know whose reaction does count? Taylor Twellman’s. And, from what I hear, he’s a grumpy boy these days, what with Major League Soccer (MLS) and/or the Revolution front office standing in the way of a move abroad. And there are two troublesome factors at work in the Revs’ decision to let Noonan go. First, from what I gather, he and Twellman are close – possibly even very close.  Between the contract issue and some other stuff I don’t believe in mentioning (oh, but I’ll allude to it, won’t I?), let’s just say Twellman is going through some shit and probably likes having a close friend around. Second, and this is more speculative, the Revs are giving Noonan his shot at going abroad – aka, pouring salt and rubbing alcohol into Twellman’s semi-forced confinement in Boston. Continue reading

New Forward Tandem for the Yanquis?

Beat to the punch on this one…the only reason to read this post is the subtly different take.

A bit of U.S. Men’s National Team (Yanquis) news comes out of The Boston Globe’s report on Preston North End’s pursuit of New England Revolution striker Taylor Twellman (and I’ll get back to this*).  Here’s that:

“In yesterday’s training session, Twellman was paired with New York’s Jozy Altidore at striker during a full-field scrimmage.”

OK, that’s it.  Discuss.  Sounds good?  Bad?  Are the players too similar (ha!)?  My take: I’ve heard worse ideas by far.  Given our current options at forward, I say let ‘er rip – and give it a few games,  yeah?

Another interesting tidbit from the same article, one that gets to “my kind of players”:

“[Pat] Noonan looked sharp during the training session, pairing with Jeremiah White (AGF Aarhus) at forward.  ‘Pat is a unique player, there is a cleverness in his game,’ Bradley said. ‘It’s a matter of him staying healthy.'”

Here’s a not-so-dirty secret: I have always preferred Noonan to Twellman, even as I can’t argue with a straight face that he does more for New England.  But there’s a kind of weird savvy to Noonan’s game that, as Bradley points out, separates him from the herd.  Who knows?  Maybe that’s what makes his groin/other body parts go all funny.  Still, best of luck to him with his health.  Further, assuming his health holds together, I wouldn’t mind giving Noonan a long look with the Yanquis.  Bring the weird, Pat, lead us to glory.

* OK, the Twellman thing.  First of all, New England would be nuts to let him go; there’s nothing else to make of 101 goals in 177 games.  Coming at it from the other direction, assuming he really wants to go, I wouldn’t hold a Dempsey-esque tantrum against Twellman; one gets the impression that’s what it will take sometimes.  The bigger picture is that the man is in a deadly rut with this team; Twellman has done his part in the last two MLS Cups only to see things fall apart behind him.  As such, I’d recommend a change of  scenery, acknowledging all the while that this is not the thinking of a Revolution fan.

New England Revolution 2007 Review: Taylor and Steve and Me

New England Revolution
Record (W-L-T): 14-8-8; 51 GF, 43 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports; roster

Overview
I’m going to play this one a little loosey-goosey – e.g. relying less on specific match reports, player bios, etc. – and touch on things I don’t normally do. Why? First of all, because I can; I follow the New England Revolution more closely than any other Major League Soccer (MLS) team. Second, this represents my first conscious attempt to say goodbye to a team I’ve supported..well, followed, since the late 1990s. As such, an element of the personal enters into the thing. And, to mention the most loosey-goosey aspect, the end of my era with the Revs feels to me like an end of an era for the club. To put it bluntly, I don’t think they’ll be back for a fourth straight crack at MLS Cup.

With New England, it seems useful to consider the team through my odd relationship with one of their talismanic players: Taylor Twellman. I view Twellman through the sharpest of love/hate lenses. The love part is easy: the man scores goals, something one llikes to have on one’s team generally. But the hate part looms large – arguably larger. And here it is: I find Twellman dead boring. For all his take-a-touch-and-shoot efficiency, Twellman dribbles with the grace of a horse running on pavement; his passes too often recall kicking a playground ball at a brick wall. Bottom line, he has mastered two facets of the game – eluding defenders and finishing – and, to some weird aesthetic part of my brain, such talents are too transferable to “sports” in a generic sense. In other words, the sense that Twellman is a jock first and soccer player second stands as my dominant impression of him as a player.

What I think about Twellman mirrors my impression of the team as a whole: the Revolution team in my head is efficient, athletic, and, when you get down to it, dull. I can think of few less inspiring things than a generic New England goal: ball goes down the flank, wide player crosses to Twellman, Twellman scores. The occasional switch-up aside – say a long-bomb from Jeff Larentowicz on a dead-ball or one of Pat Noonan’s weird headers – the template seems fixed. Continue reading