Friday, July 30, 2010

Waiving Michael Videira

There was alot of excitement around here when the Revolution drafted Michael Videira in the second round of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. It wasn't just that the Hermann Trophy finalist also happened to hail from the neighborhood.* Nor was it the fact that he was a Portuguese-American playing in a region rich with people of Portuguese descent.

(*If my memory hasn't completely betrayed me, I believe Buzz Carrick had Videira rated as the best available midfielder in that year's draft. He fell to the 18th pick, where the Revs took him. It was a classic study in signability, only instead of money, as it is in the MLB Amateur Draft, it's international offers that scare clubs away. Well, that and money, of course. I suspect alot of debt-ridden collegians would take more or comparible money here than go abroad to earn less.)

It was more than all of that. It was the fact that he was being compared to another high-round Revolution draft pick. I mean, Buzz Carrick, the SuperDraft guru himself, was gushing with praise when he published this pre-draft assessment of the All-American midfielder:

"Videira is about as sure a thing as you'll find in this year's midfield pool. The Blue Devil is a big, active player with good feet and range. He battled an injury much of this year but was still third-team All-American. A three-time Hermann Trophy semifinalist and three-time All-ACC selection, Videira has a remarkable college resume. His career tally of 15 goals and 32 assists shows his game-changing ability."

"Game-changing ability." Wow. Sounds alot like another high-round midfielder taken by the Revs a few years previous. And the Revs were quick to boast of their selection, who happened to be "a three-time semifinalist for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy (2005, 2006, 2007) and a National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) third-team All-American in both 2006 and 2007. In 80 career games with the Blue Devils, Videira scored 17 goals and added 15 assists. As a senior in 2007, he played in 16 games, scoring three goals and two assists while battling a leg injury. He is also a former member of the U.S. Under-18 and Under-20 National Teams."

Needless to say, alot of people, myself included, were pretty excited about this homegrown hero, this player that would surely replace the large void left by Clint Dempsey's departure a year previous. All he had to do was sign on the dotted line.

In a storybook world, Videira would have done just that and signed with MLS shortly after the draft. He would have trained with the Revs weeks later, played with Taylor, Rally, Shalrie, Parky, Jaybird, and the rest of the remaining Revolution players from their impressive 2002-2007 run. He was going to be the guy to whom the torch as passed to. He was supposed to make us forget about Deuce.

It didn't happen that way, of course. He opted to test the international waters, hoping to secure a spot on a European side, specifically, in Portugal, of which he already had a passport for. It didn't go quite as well as he may have expected. He never found a Portuguese club to sign with. Instead, bounced around until he landed in Scotland. When he got there, he got hurt, and never really got his shot to prove his abilities abroad.

A year later, he returned to Revolutionland, this time ready to prove himself before his home crowd. And he did. Kind of. He had a few good showings in Open Cup and SuperLiga. He played a really good game in his first MLS start on May 3rd against Houston, which is saying alot considering that was probably one of the most boring games I've ever endured. But aside from that, his career here was pretty undistinguished.

Not that he ever really got a great chance to show himself. For all the talent and skills the press releases, scouting reports, and coaches' quotes brimmed with, one thing always seemed to trip up the former Blue Devil. Injuries. And boy, did he battle them often.

First, it was the string of games he missed during his senior season at Duke. When he tried to latch on at Hamilton Academical in Scotland the following year, he suffered another series of setbacks before he was released that winter.

He stayed relatively healthy last season, but was slotted as a withdrawn forward, an obvious attempt to get him minutes, albeit in an unfamiliar role. Needless to say, there weren't many wows. Then, the injury bug bit again when he suffered a leg injury earlier this season. And from there, it just became a lost season for the former can't miss prospect.

Look, I understand it's hard to gauge a player's skill at the MLS level if he's always hurt. I'm not going to debate that. It's absolutely true. What I will rail against, however, is the lack of minutes that players like Videira, who are obviously gifted, afforded to them when they're healthy.

You know what would have helped? You know where I'm going with this. Yep. The Reserve League, which probably would have molded the midfielder into, at very least, a quality starter. And even in absence of it, a short term loan couldn't have hurt. There is precedent for it. In 2008, the Revs sent Brad Knighton to the Portland Timbers back for some seasoning, and it certainly seemed to help his development. Conversely, when there aren't venues for younger players to ply their trade, talent wastes away, which is what happened to Videira.

On his Revolution bio, Videira was proclaimed as "one of the top-rated prospects to come out of Massachusetts in many years." That may have been true. Unfortunately, what every prospect needs is minutes - minutes which were never offered to the Milford, MA midfielder who arrived as the Hope of the Revolution not too long ago.

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