To the Superdraft! …and better days ahead…

Like Laurie over on the LA Galaxy Offside, I really, really want to dig into whole upcoming Superdraft explosion, but….well, here I am some considerable yet unknown number of days after Buzz Carrick posted the first of his Superdraft scouting series for ESPN (goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders; forwards are pending) and I’ve still got nuthin’. With all the little links poised on my little on-screen post-it I figure it’s time to just bang out something or those things will wait till my computer goes obsolete several times over.

Now, in real terms, if you want to get smart, read Buzz’s stuff. I have only one thing to add to that data-dump: a half-baked stew of loosey-goosey research with a dash of, possibly, dodgy memory. Here goes:

If I’m not mistaken, most people viewed the 2007 Superdraft class as a little underwhelming, at least up until and immediately after the selections; that’s the memory piece. The research component came with looking over the 2007 draft – still helpfully hanging around MLSnet.com – and here’s what strikes me: some steady starters came out of the top 10, guys like Maurice Edu, Wells Thompson, and Michael Harrington. Keep traveling down the list and the names – Robbie Findley, Ty Harden, Corrie Ashe – keep coming. Hell, you can go all the way to #48 and you’ll still see a player who hung something on the right side of tough in the Rookie of the Year polling: Adam Cristman. Dane Richards, one of the hottest players of 2007, came out of this bunch.

Assuming I’m remembering the pre- and post-Superdraft chatter correctly, all those players came out of Superdraft that was widely regarded as weak. Still, 20 of the 52 players listed picked up some minutes and, at a minimum, 14 played major minutes for their new clubs. And, if I’m correctly recalling the chatter heading into the 2008 Superdraft, the smart set views this as a stronger class; Carrick certainly speaks well of the draft pool for defenders, even if he’s less jazzed about the options at midfield and at ‘keeper; maybe the forwards will be super-hot…I don’t know these things.

So, what am I saying? Get excited, people! The fresh blood smells sweet! Woo-hoo! Woo! Woo. Woo…um…

The problem is, that isn’t working for me. I just think I’m more visual, that I have to see a player before I know what to think about them. In other words, I need games – real ones, ideally, but it takes a stupid beggar to spite a penny. I expect the off-season funk will continue till March. Yeah, March. Things will look better in the lamb/lion season, when those pre-season friendlies and tournaments get started. Then I’ll know what to make of some of the new kids who come through the draft. Ah, who knows…maybe I’ll find some solace in February.

Real Salt Lake 2007 Review: The Riddle of RSL

(Clever sub-titles seem in order here…perhaps even too-clever ones; I mean, is RSL really a riddle?)

Real Salt Lake
Record (W-L-T): 6-15-9, 31 GF; 45 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports

Overview
Real Salt Lake’s (RSL) past two seasons have followed the Riddle of the Sphinx made famous by the story of Oedipus: “What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?” The relationship is, naturally, more conceptual than actual: RSL starts slow – albeit fatally so, unlike the baby of the riddle – then rallies strongly enough in mid-season for the word “playoffs” to get bandied about, but that’s only the tease that comes before they feebly squander their post-season hopes to a series of draws and ill-timed losses.

Oh well. At least they won the Rocky Mountain Cup this year.

Then again, 2007 seemed a crueler year, one in which a playoff race all at once exciting and pathetic combined with some modestly hopeful omens to suggest RSL could stick around the “man” phase long enough to make the post-season. The season even started with a glimmer of hope with a fresh-start Freddy Adu coming to town. Sadly, that arrangement that went South fast enough to lose head coach John Ellinger his job by early May. If it ever feels like only yesterday since Jason Kreis took over, consider that.

But the illusion of rounding the corner to a sunlit street teased RSL all season long. Kreis’ his first game in charge featured a fighting 3-3 draw against a seemingly potent Red Bull New York; then three straight losses to weak teams followed from there. In mid-to-late June, Nate Sturgis’ and Robbie Findley’s arrived from the LA Galaxy bringing with them the team’s first win of 2007 and, in Findley, the hope that they had finally landed a goal-scorer. The Kyle Beckerman/Mehdi Ballouchy trade came in July and, after that, the arrival of the “Three Argies” – Fabian Espindola, Matias Mantilla, and Javier Morales; these last two coincided with RSL’s best spell of 2007, a 4-4-3 run through August and September. That may not sound like much, but this is MLS, where a sub-.500 can still spell playoffs.

Each little dawn faded quickly, though none so painfully as that long, lingering slide away from a post-season berth. Of the four “life-line” wins compiled over August and September, only two were consecutive and the fateful losses and draws picked up all around them killed what little hope RSL fans could briefly cherish. In fact, the fourth win in that “glory run” came too late to do anything but help bring home the Rocky Mountain Cup and ruin Colorado’s season. Maybe those “little dawns” were just anomalies in the season of a genuinely bad team? Continue reading