Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Confessions, missing players, and a ROY debate

I'll be honest: I'm not a huge fan of my last post. Don't get me wrong. I still believe in the ideas set forth, and how younger players could miss their chance in MLS without a Reserve League to hone their skills. It's just that...well...I was passionate about the League. I loved it. I thought that when it was handled correctly - Sunday morning matches on practice pitches - it was a stroke of genius. But I don't think I articulated my arguments well enough yesterday.

I thought the League had tremendous potential. Free admission for professional soccer was just the tip of the iceberg. Post-match clinics for the many younger children on hand could have been instituted. First-team players could have signed autographs during halftime. Free tees for all kids. Heck, you could have even played a doubleheader, with the U-19s playing a mini-scrimmage afterward.

In essence, it was a great opportunity to attract fans on a grassroots level. The chance to advance the game for little in these tough economic times. Seriously - what's more family-friendly than a sporting event with free admission and space to steer the strollers?

The Reserve League was a no-brainer. The decision to banish it was brainless.


Thanksgiving must be near because the turkeys are definitely gobbling about Wednesday's MLS Expansion Draft.

I always get kick out of reading the Unprotected List press release. It contains, as you may imagine, the names of all players left unprotected by their clubs, ready for the taking. In essence, each of these players has been told, "Listen, it's not that you're a bad player. It's just that we really don't mind seeing you leave without reimbursement. That's all."

This year, it's Seattle that gets to bgein its Christmas shopping early (or late, depending upon your point of view/financial situation). Boy, I bet they can wait to pick up Gordon Kljestan.* Or Andy Gruenebaum.**

(*Wait, you mean we drafted Gordon Kljestan??? I thought it was Sacha Kljestan? Great googly-moogly! Fire that intern immediately!)

(**Because who doesn't want a keeper who gives up 80-yard bombs from the opposing keeper?)

Of course, if I were an MLS general manager, the unprotected player list is a HUGE trump card. Think about it. These are all the guys that your opponent is willing to give up FOR NOTHING. Yes, I meant to put that in all-caps. FOR NOTHING. That cannot be overstated. If a team needed speed on the right prior to the 2008 season, any GM could have likely picked up postseason wunderkid Dane Richards for peanuts. Yep, he was on last year's unprotected list. I understand that not everyone needed a right-sided mid. But the idea of using this list to one's advantage seems lost in the minds of a few MLS GMs, in my humble opinion.

Another great thing about the unprotected list: figuring out who the heck some of these players are. I'll stick to the Revolution's list since this blog is located in New England.

Who is Mauricio Matamoros, and where did they keep him? Seriously? In a storage unit deep inside the underbelly of Gillette Stadium? Because I've covered the Revolution all season, and not once did I meet or see Mr. Matamoros.

Now, I can confirm the existence of Jose Angulo. I met him during the preseason, but shortly thereafter, disappeared almost as fast as Kyle Helton.* But lo and behold, Angulo still appears to be property of the Local XI.

(*I saw him during the preseason as well, but apparently vanished before the regular season. I never received an correspondance from the Revolution advising of his departure. In fact, the whereabouts of Helton, one of the nicer guys in the locker room, became a running joke between Sean Donahue and I whenever a regular was left completely off the starting XI and substitution list without explanation. "Hey, where's [insert applicable name here]?" "I don't know...maybe he's playing alongside Helton tonight.")

Granted, I don't know the particulars of roster spots and its unspoken loopholes, but how is it that these two players were kept "hidden" from the roster list throughout the season? Seriously. That's not a rhetorical question. I would honestly like to know. Drop a comment below. Enlighten me.

Before I get off this soapbox, I have to say that I was startled to see Argenis Fernandez on this list. I would have thought the Revolution surely would not have given up on him after paying him a reported six-figure sum this season. Apparently, my thoughts are all ludicrous this morning.

In the meantime...God Bless the MLS Unprotected List!


I'm terribly late in posting this thought, so I'll skip right to the point: there is no way in the depths of Hell, or the idea thereof, that Sean Franklin should have won this year's Rookie of the Year.

Let's start with the obvious: he was a regular on the worst defensive club in the league. Wait, I don't think I made myself clear: he was a regular on the worst defensive club in the league. In fact, thanks to the wonder of MLS Primetime Thursday, which might as well have been renamed "LA Galaxy Primetime Thursday", I saw alot of Franklin. He wasn't terrible. But Rookie of the Year material? Really? Maybe he saved his best games for the local broadcasts.

No one can argue that this year's rookie class was shallower than an episode of My Sweet Sixteen. I mean, the fact there was no true frontrunner speaks volumes about the situation. No particular rookie established himself enough to create a buzz throughout the year. Kheli Dube (New England) and Geoff Cameron (Houston) played well in the first half, but later faded. Roger Espinoza (Kansas City) and Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake) made some noise late, but again, it wasn't for the entire season.

In hindsight, a more fitting idea would have been to split the Award in in halves: Rookie of the First Half, with an accompanying Rookie of the Second Half. If you think I am taking this idea seriously: Welcome to blog! Hope you enjoyed this post!

But in all seriousness, Franklin was not the best rookie in the league. So who was? I'd say, from start to finish, a better argument could have been made for Dube. Four goals and four assists in 21 matches isn't fantastic. But in terms of production, he was pretty good among this year's freshmen. In fact, his numbers were about the same as last year's uncontroversial winner, Maurice Edu.*

(*I understand that Edu was central mid, and Dube a striker, which of course, accounts for more goal-scoring opportunities for the latter. So by no means am I insinuating that Dube is as good or better as Edu, who was talented enough for Rangers to pay $5 million for his services this past summer. I'm just comparing seasons, not abilities.)

I won't get into hypotheticals, which would bolster the argument for Dube, who played hurt for much of the second half. Nor will I get into which players had the tougher schedules, with the Revolution committed to U.S. Open Cup, SuperLiga, and CONCACAF Champions League. Hypotheticals are useless. If Khano Smith had 75% more coordination and a right foot, he'd be Tony Sanneh. But that isn't the case. All we can go on is the body of work. And based upon that, Dube is more deserving of the Rookie of the Year.

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