30 November 2005

Butch and Sundance. Batman and Robin. Bruce and Freddy.

That's either a continuation of a series, or a game of "one of these things is not like the other." It all depends on how you feel about Freddy, and the news (which is all over) that he's been called up for the national camp in January. While I don't know that Freddy is ready for a national team appearence even in a friendly, the same could have been said (and was) about Tino and Brian. Plus, if Freddy has some time to get a few words from Bruce, that's probably a good thing. Bruce isn't going to undercut Piotr, but he may make things clearer.
Speaking of strange word games, let's have fun with cryptics...

We Call It Soccer's plea messing up a cad. (3,3)
Yeah, not too hard. I was bored.

29 November 2005

Cause for Concern? Maybe. Cause for Panic? No.

You know, I'd much rather be posting more of the poetry of Santino Quaranta, but oh well...

USSoccerPlayers is now hosting a column by Kevin McGeehan on the stadium deal. This post will summarize his argument, and then articulate why we think he's got it wrong, and also the reason why he's so cynical about this.
As anyone who has followed the DCenters knows, developments recently have been mildly promising, although there have been caveats listed along the way. Well, Kevin does a close reading of the situation and comes to another conclusion:

After reading the accounts in the Washington Post of a town hall meeting last week, those who can read between the lines should be afraid? very afraid.

His main objection seems to be that the involvement of Barry and the construction of affordable housing as part of the stadium package could taint the entire situation, especially if Barry has control of the distribution of the housing units:

It is unclear how a stadium only makes sense if 3,000 houses are attached to its construction. It is also unclear at this point who will build this housing, how it will be planned, and how it will be distributed. What is clear is that with this reversal, Barry will make sure that he and his cronies will be intimately involved in the process. Kevin Payne and DC United are walking down a very dangerous path.

Fair enough. McGeehan also notes some of the other roadblocks (congress, studies, etc...) and then continues his wondering about the housing:
United's owners can only foresee two probable outcomes here. One, the stadium is built along with the housing, private developers retain control of the housing and parcel it out carefully, the area's real estate booms, and the team and city are happy. Two, the housing is dropped from the plan for some reason and it's no longer an issue. Any other outcome and this plan isn't worth the trouble for United. Both likely outcomes guarantee that the lives of Anacostia's residents are not improved. That's where Marion Barry comes in. He can't ensure that the stadium is built, but he can ensure that it isn't. If all of this money is being spent in his ward, he will want to do something to benefit his constituents. What does that mean? Who knows, but it will only add onto the cost and the trouble of building this stadium for United.

This sounds like the beginning of long, painful process, where the stadium dies of a thousand paper cuts courtesy of DC politics as usual. Ask for more and more from a team that has less and less to work with. This could get ugly.
Okay... I think everyone gets the sense of McGeehan's column. Now, a rebuttal:
First, when McGeehan says that Barry can't stop the stadium, he's wrong in that Barry can certainly stop a stadium in Ward 8. And I think DCU fans are fairly strong in their belief that a stadium should be inside the DC city limits, and that Poplar Point is the most logical location for that stadium. The DC Council has a decidedly more populist air to it than it has had in years. Which means taking a stand against "Big business" and "for the little guy" by opposing a stadium plan that has any city support is an easier stand to make than, say, two years ago. Fenty, Orange, Cropp... I could imagine they might all side with Barry if he were to oppose the stadium. So from that point of view, Barry's public support does much more to help the stadium deal get through than it does to hurt it.
As for distributing housing, McGeehan has a quite legitimate point. If the housing distribution process is not seen as a fair process to Ward 8, then community relations could well be poisoned between DCU and Anacostia. Yet we have every indication that DCU is proceeding carefully in dealing with the community, and has been for some time. And let's not forget that Kevin Payne does not own the team by himself. His partners: Lauterbach, Kissler, and Lore are all experiences real-estate developers or attorneys. Which means that handling this sort of deal is something they are prepared by their job training to handle. So while the concern is valid, there's no obvious reason to think that DCU is doing something wrong in this area.
McGeehan's real problem seems to be with Barry. He views Barry as a corrupting influence, who will eventually do more harm than good. If Barry is involved, then the deal must also be corrupt, or corrupt soon. This may be a problem of perception of politics. I'm not sure that Kevin McGeehan is the same Kevin McGeehan who wrote The Far Post blog in 2002, but given the soccer sounding title of the blog and occasional soccer content it seems more than possible. Based on the content of that blog, McGeehan's politics lean distinctly to the right. Marion Barry has long been a favorite joke/bogeyman of conservatives, so this might explain much of the antipathy McGeehan feels to any process involving Barry. So McGeehan's view of things is, well, skewed based on his political preconceptions. Which is why I am also worried when politics and soccer intersect. If it makes McGeehan view the situation through what I believe is a distorted viewpoint, then it could also do the same to me. (Note: the fact that USSoccerPlayers is publishing a conservative shows that J. Hutcherson was absolutely right to knock me for calling USSP a "Labor mouthpiece". They certainly do have diversity of opinion.)
Hat tip to Big Soccer where I first saw that this article was up.

28 November 2005

The 90 Minute Q

90:00 is teasing their cover-story interview with Santino Quaranta. Now, while the substance of what they have up is interesting, let's get to the real issue: Is Tino now officially a hottie? As I may have mentioned, my spouse has professed her love and desire for a certain DK, but Tino's glamor shots are, well, inspired. They wouldn't look out of place in the liner notes of whatever indie music artist Pitchfork is swooning over. They say "Hey, I'm a loner, but I can work with a team. Wrap your mind around that contradiction." He's sensitive, but he's tough. If the article would to include a passage like the following, it would not surprise me...

Quaranta has turned to poetry to help him get through the difficulties of his multiple injuries. "I read some Bukowski, Stephen Dobbyns, Whitman, and the Beats" he says, flipping open a red and black sketchbook that contains some of his own attempts. "I call this one 'Touchline'. I think it expresses what I feel." A whirlwind of accusation, hurt, agression, and introspection is unleashed in the impromptu reading he gives. There's a steely resolve when he reaches the final stanza: "Dema could only get one of yours. I'm getting two."

Seriously Tino, the DCenters will be proud to publish whatever excerpts you'd like us to have.

Big Questions, but Often Heard

MLSNet has writeups on off/next-season type questions for each team. DC United: The Big Questions is a pretty good capsule summary, but doesn't contain much that regular readers here won't have heard already. Except Chris [Correction - Charles, see comments] Boehm accurately remembers that Shawn Kuykendall is another DC prospect, one that I forgot. That being said, I think Chris [Charles again] is a little overly nice to Shawn, who's a decent player but I'm not sure he would have made the regular roster even with less depth in front of him.

Also, just so you know, Jessica Cutler is not leaving comments on sports blogs. Or if she was, she wouldn't be using the name "Washingtonienne." Similarly, if you see comments in The DCenters from "The Commish DG", "Landycakes", or "Jacques Derrida", I'm going to guess it is not really them. Hat tip to Distinguished Senators.

25 November 2005

Quick Breath

The DCenters returns Monday, hopefully, after a nice Thanksgiving. Unless we hear of a major story. In which case we'll be here.

And yes, every day I'm thankful I don't root for the Metros. Seriously. I wake up each morning going "isn't this a beautiful day not to root for the SuperClub?" Then I see whether or not I'm alive.

23 November 2005

On Politics, and What I'm Writing Here

As I've been following the stadium situation, I see that we're coming into the realm where sports and politics collide. I've realized that this is a situation where I could begin to annoy readers of this blog, and I don't particularly want to do that. At least, not over politics. I do have some strongly held political views, but I imagine that you don't come here to listen to me blather about all of that, so I will try to keep it out of this blog. The stadium situation is okay with me, as it avoids many of the hot-button issues (since DCU isn't asking for the DC Government to pick up the tab for construction). It doesn't have a certain national disgrace trying to hold local governments hostage.
Since the stadium thing is intersting to me, as you can see I've started actually trying to dig into stuff and do some research. Which means I should probably explain how I view things working in terms of the journalistic side of this blog, which I am hoping to slowly develop. For those that care about boring administrative details, the Editorial, Commenting, Sourcing, Corrections and Citations policies have been developed just so you know what you are getting. Yes, that's awfully pretentious. Still, I feel better for being at least semi-transparent in how all of this works.
Got a grievance? Email it or leave it in the comments. Got a problem with the direction in which I'm writing? Ditto.

Soft Power

A televised report on WUSA, TV-9, had a quick mention that shows how DC United is working to improve community relations to Ward 8. Unfortunately, no transcript of the report is available, but in a segment discussing a developing feud between Marion Barry and the Reverend Willie Wilson, it was mentioned that $10,000 used to support a Barry-hosted Thanksgiving meal for senior citizens was donated from DC United. Nice move. I get the feeling that there's a lot of stuff we don't hear about that DCU is doing, but when I manage to catch a story like this, you feel better. Here's my hope. I hope that even after the stadium gets built, DCU continues to do these sorts of things. From what I know of the people involved, I would imagine that's pretty likely.

...And Who is this Freddy Adu you Speak Of? Does he Play in MLS?

Okay, as much as I've written on the Freddy saga, and while I've supported at times both Freddy and Piotr and the league, and while I have no problem with Freddy coming off the bench most games, let me say that this statement from Don Garber is, well, ridiculous:
"I didn't think it would change at all," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said this week. "Freddy is not a marketing tool."
It was nearly two years ago that a proud Garber announced at a Madison Square Garden news conference the signing of the 14-year-old Adu. But in two seasons of MLS play, Adu, one of the league's highest-paid athletes, has spent almost as much time on the bench as on the field.
"It doesn't frustrate me at all," Garber said on Monday. "It probably frustrates Freddy a little bit. We have to remind ourselves at times and remind him that he's 16 years old."
Please. He's one of the most visible players in MLS, showing up in commercials for things other than Sierra Mist, video games, and the occasionaly tabloid. He still helps spike attendance at DCU road games. If there's one things Freddy has been very good at, it's having been a marketing tool. Give the kid some credit for that at least.
That being said, nice to see that the league is [publicly] not putting pressure on DCU to deal Adu to somewhere else.

22 November 2005


Kali is kicking up her Real Salt Lake blog by augmenting her blog with T-Shirt offerings. Sadly, I do not see the "RSL: We Cheat to Win" T-Shirt that I've longed to buy.

Supposedly This All Has Something to do With Sausage

Updated... See last paragraph...
For those following the stadium situation, you know that there are two fronts on which DC United has to win in order to get the Poplar Point stadium. The DC City Council has to be on board, as well as its associated regulatory agencies. But a DC Council win counts for nothing if the Federal Government doesn't swap the land at Poplar Point which is currently under their ownership. While there are good indications that this will occur thanks to federal representatives like Tom Davis (R-VA), there have been the occasional worries that the government would just sell the land outright, as suggested by Representative Richard Pombo (R-CA), which would make things considerable more difficult.
While the effort to win over the DC Government has been in the press recently, there are signs that DC United is playing the federal game as well. From The Hill, a quick note on some of the lobbyists that DCU is bringing in to work this situation (fourth bullet point in article):
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. DC United, a professional soccer team based in Washington, has hired Arent Fox to lobby on the federal and local government on matters that include the construction of a new stadium. The lobbyists working for the United include Craig Engle, a former general counsel to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Jon Boucher, the former chief counsel and legislative director to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and minority counsel for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
What do we know of these people?
Arent Fox is probably a known quality to DCU and MLS, as the Center for Public Integrity profile indicates that they were the primary lobbyist for Anschutz Corp. in 2004.
Craig Engle's profile looks fairly good for a lobbyist, though he seems to be primarily concerned with Campaign Finance issues as opposed to either Federal/Municipal relations or real estate valuations/development. That being said, he looks to be a good person to talk with the red seats in the house based on his work with the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He may raise a few eyebrows from blue lobbyists who have associated his name with various "Republican fundraising hijinks" but I personally feel better knowing that he's been associated with certain organizations that make me believe he's not a ideologue.
Jon Boucher, by contrast, seems to have kept a lower (at least web) profile. I can find absolutely nothing on him, other than the quick capsule profile summary seen above. But, based on that, he seems to be working the Blue seats. This is DC, and you got to work both sides.
DCU seems to have a team in place to navigate the complexities of the Federal part of this stadium deal, so we'll see how it all pans out. If you have information on this, feel free to leave it in the comments or send an email to the contact address we've listed, since I'm very curious as to how this all works.
UPDATE!!! [12noon] The Hill got his name wrong, as it is Jon Bouker, not Boucher. His Arent Fox profile indicates that he has worked not just on DC United's stadium deal, but also on the Washington Nationals stadium deal and the Arena Stage reconstruction. (Nice, since I have a ticket plan to Arena...). Bouker clearly has the sort of real estate development experience and DC Government experience that Engle lacks, while Engle seems to offer more federal legislative know-how and connections to the ruling GOP.

21 November 2005

Cap Problems

Once you graduate your university, there are something you leave behind. For me, one of those was reading The Onion. So naturally I was surprised to find out they have a Sports Section. One that even covers MLS.

Not Funny Ha-Ha, but Funny Oooof-Ick

I suppose I should blog about the hernia situation. I think that may be the most depressing sentence I have ever written. But still, the major news out of DCU is that Christian Gomez has undergone successful hernia surgery, which will take two or three weeks of recovery (but may decrease the distance he's able to get the next time he tries to give CJ Brown a windshield wash). If there's anything funny about this, it's the picture that DCU has decided to put up accompanying the story, which just screams for a Freudian analysis. In terms of actual soccer analysis, one wonders only if this is why Christian seemed to flag at around the 60' mark.

By the way, if you've always wondered, but were afraid to ask, here's what it means.

Oh, and DCU-alum Bobby Convey is apparently a beast out in Reading. Say what you will, but it's nice to hear something about an MLS alum going overseas, then sent to the bench, other than "He then decided he was homesick" or "after feuding with his coach..."

18 November 2005

Trade Freddy (Or Trade Someone): Part 2

(Part 1 here)
So what's the goal of all of this personnel analysis? To state what may seem to be the obvious, DC United is trying to be the dominant team in MLS, and win championships. I know that seems simplistic, but many sports teams rather wish to have the illusion of competitiveness (to support ticket sales) while keeping payroll low. Others want to have only an outside shot at a championship and keep their payrolls even lower (See: Capitals, Washington; Phillies, Philadelphia; Cardinals, Arizona; Wizards, No Fixed Address). Sometimes this pays off for a team, but usually the team teases before disappointning. To be dominant, a team must have not merely good talent and a superstar, but very-good to excellent talent in multiple positions.

But before we enter into the wheeling and dealing of the trade market, let's consider an idea: That it might just be a good idea to stand pat and take chances on players improving and a few smart selections in the next draft. Here's a run down of some of the non-starting DCU players that could make an impact in various areas next year:

Goal Keeper

  1. Troy Perkins (G): A decent keeper, who has seen starting time, with decent distribution skills but has shown signs of acquiring Nick Rimando's problems of adventurous ball handling. At age 24, he's got the potential to develop a little more as a keeper. He was acquired as a Developmental Discovery, and that story warms the hearts of everyone who has had a crap job. Supporters of Perkins like the fact that he has at least 4 inches on Rimando (whose generously listed at 5'10") . Haydon in The Times indicated that Perkins may see more time in the upcoming season.
  2. Andrew Weber (G?): Drafted as a keeper by DCU with an impressive resume, Weber hasn't made a start as a keeper in either reserve or friendly competition. The question mark next to his position is because he has played 3 games for 58 minutes in the reserves, most of them as a forward. Converting a keeper to a forward seems like an unlikely move, so this may have just been done as a general fitness move. Clearly, the impression of the staff is that he's not ready for competition yet. His best hope is some reserve minutes in 2006, but if he does well expect his name to be come up with some more frequency.
  3. Andrew Terris (G): Currently part of MLS's league goal-keeper pool, Terris made two appearences for DC United in reserve matches, and has been called on by Columbus and the Metros at various times. In appearences with United it seems he did not impress, and is not currently listed on DCU's roster. (Back in the pool, and unlikely to see any more time)


  1. John Wilson (D/M): Wilson had one of the best 2005s of any non-starting player, establishing some strong presence as a wing player in both defense and midfield. While it seemed he had some problems with marking and the timing of his tackles in his earlier performance, both of those improved as the year went on. His ball handling skills are far better than DCU's last defensive spot starter (Ezra Hendrickson). More starting time as well as minutes off the bench are definately a possibility, especially in any deal that packages Prideaux, Namoff, or Kovalenko
  2. Stephen DeRoux (D): If the reserve division benefited anyone, it was Stephen DeRoux. Stephen clearly improved his skill level to the point of becoming an all-around general pest by the time the final reserve game came around. His decision making and distribution can be called into question enough that it drops him to third on the list of defensive players that might make a move.


  1. Clyde Simms (M): First, it is amusing that Mr. Simms has more caps for the USMNT than Mr. Adu. But that being said, they are rather different players. Simms is a defensive midfield player who could probably start for a number of MLS teams. He seems to have considerable upside as he figures out how to deal with crafty attacking. He's behind Caroll and Olsen on the depth charts, but has managed to grab to occasionaly match minute here and there. As Olsen ages, or potentially as Carroll departs, Simms seems to be a fairly good option to spell him for a game now and again, and then at some point to take the job on.
  2. Nick Van Sicklen (M): I don't know what to do with Nicky. Really, I don't. But the waiving of Nana Kuffour and Tim Merritt are at least a slight endoresement that Sicklen is the bet DC is making in terms of developing a capable wing player. What makes things difficult is that it is hard to see anything that Nicky does particularly well. He's faster than Dema (but not Josh), has some height but not exceptional aerial ability, handles the ball competently but not exceptionally. He shows every sign of developing into a particulary average MLS player. That's nothing to sneeze at, considering how many teams have to worry about holes, but it's nothing to point at as a strength either. He just plays the game at a rate where exceptional things seem unlikely.


  1. Matt Nickell (F): I like Matt Nickell. I really do. He's not a sure thing to emerge as a true out-and-out striker, as he needs a little more sense in the box, and perhaps a touch more creativity, but that could happen. The question for him is two fold: Does Alecko Eskandarian come back and push him down the depth chart, and how much does Filomeno represent a case of DC hedging its bets with Matt. I don't know the answer to either of those things.


Standing pat and waiting for talent to develop will not address DC United's most critical needs, but does provide insurance as DCU's established strengths grow older. The pipe-line is providing depth, but not bredth, with the possible exception of Nick Van Sicklen at wing, and even there it's not a situation where a hole is being filled. There's value in the reserves, but value that is more likely to be leveraged though trades, where these players may provide a more immediate upgrade for another team. To improve DC United to a dominant position, you're going to have to make some deals. In short, it is time to Trade Freddy. Or, someone. Part 3 will adress trading ideas.

17 November 2005

The Poplar Points

DCUnited.com has an extensive run down of the presentation Kevin Payne gave at the Ward 8 community meeting. Included in it is a forty-page PDF that, for the more cynical among us, is probably a bit saccharine in its "For the Children" approach, but is really a great piece of marketing. A few highlights:
  • Page 15: Proposed capacity - 27,000
  • Page 18: Note the fairly diverse fanbase depicted. This is the reality that I am happy DCU is not even bothering to mention, just envisioning as a foregone conclusion.
  • Page 19: Community fields.
  • Page 21: A hotel.
  • Page 31: Diagram of the proposed site.
So what are the hurdles? They are not insignificant. As I see it, here's what remains to be done.
  1. The land-swap. Poplar Point is owned by the Feds at the moment, and while the proposal is to swap land within DC to make it available for DC use, it has not been accomplished yet.
  2. The sale for DC development. This looks okay so far, but is not a sure thing.
  3. Environmental concerns. Even is the sale is approved, development can be a problem if the wetlands becomes a concern. Anti-development activists have been known to shamlessly exploit environmental concerns as a way of striking down or delaying development they don't like. It's been known to happen. They tried it when building the new Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. The environmental study, which will come, may have a huge impact over the course of the debate. (What annoys me about this is that it trivializes the moments when there are legitimate environmental concerns, thus doing more harm to the environment than good.)

So, read the PDF, and hopefully you can see why I feel confident that DCU is handling this thing in exactly the proper way to move forward. Perhaps slowly, but surely.

MVN Soccer Is Alive... I Think.

Those of you who have read The DCenters for many months may remember a spirited debate over an offer to move The DCenters to the Most Valuable Network, an offer we eventually declined. I now see that they do have a Soccer Blog (under their "Extended Sports" section) called Foreigners in Funny Shorts. At this point, it has two posts, so I'm not sure it has fully launched yet (and I'm certainly not going to take someone to task for occasionally dropping out for a week). Good luck to them, and I hope to see many sponsors starting to pop up on that site. And while the title is kind of funny, remember that DMB and Kasey Keller ain't no foreigners, and they look stylin' in their kit. As in, "Three Times One Minus One" styling... Damn...

One Chicken. Two Chickens. Three Chickens...

...but those are just eggs. Ooops.

The Georgetown Voice continues on the stadium story, featuring two very, very interesting tidbits. First, from Tony Robinson of DCSEC regarding the comparisons between the soccer stadium and the stadium for the Nationals:

“It’s an entirely different process,” he said, referring to last fall’s debate over the Nationals stadium. “This stadium will be up before the baseball stadium, there’s no question about it.”

Okay, good, but let's not forget that a week is a long time in soccer. Or in politics. A little buried note at the end of the article should remind everyone to stay vigilant and make sure that this is seen through to conclusion (emphasis added):
Greene emphasized that while Barry is receptive to the stadium plans, he has not ruled out other options for how the development will proceed.

According to Greene, Barry will host a second public meeting exploring alternate possibilities for the site on Nov. 29 at Anacostia High School.

So it isn't a sure thing, as Marion Barry will be prepared to potentially move another direction if the situation arises. Before anyone screams "backstabber!", from Barry's perspective this is smart politics. He should do this, since his job is to get the best deal for his constituents, not to give DC United a home. We just need to close the deal, and all signs are that DCU is handling the situation intelligently. Watch the skies!

Also, DCU alum (and frequent humor target) Bobby Convey is profiled as a World Cup Unknown by the BBC. However, the fun is in the traditional dismissal the English press reserves for US Soccer support: "The United States are gradually becoming a force to be reckoned in world football - although that fact is probably still lost among its own citizens. " I'd like to be snarky and respond to this, but Bruce is saying we'll be lucky to get out of the group stage, so I'll wait. That being said, I expect that ratings for the World Cup could be big over here. I honestly expect the most interest in this cup since 1994.

16 November 2005

The Road to Damascus. Or Poplar Point. Or Blackburn. Or Somewhere.

Washington Post catches up with the Times on reporting former Mayor Marion Barry's conversion to a soccer specific stadium supporter (ssss?) at Poplar Point. Great details on why Barry changed his mind in the story. Also, a warning for anyone who thinks that this is out of the woods yet. The idea that soccer is the sole provence of the surburban soccer mom worries some:

For Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner T'Chaka Sapp, the question was whether nearby residents would have a real shot at contracts to supply popcorn, sell beer or water or even to wash the clothes and linens.

"We want some wealthy folks to come out of this thing," said Sapp, who also asked why there weren't more black people involved in the team's leadership. "I need to see someone in leadership who looks like me."

This is not merely racial grandstanding. I think there's a legitimate issue here that DCU has partially addressed. The DCU fans are fairly well integrated (probably more integrated than any sport other than football.) But there's an initial knee-jerk reaction that soccer is a white person's preppy sport among some residents of our fair city. It is a perception which, if ignored, will only grow stronger, despite what the truth of the situation is. DCU must be perceived as a racially inclusive force. To the credit of the front office, I think they know that (and not just within the black/white polarity, but across all ethnicities) and are handling this well. Still, it is a difficult thing to prove the absence of racism. Not for nothing does the joke start "Some of my best friends..."

Also, Brian Carroll is getting a tryout with Rovers. Good luck, have fun, I want you back here in the Spring of '06.

15 November 2005

How the LA Galaxy Helped the Playoffs

Congratulations to the LA Galaxy on their second MLS Cup title, and for justifying MLS's current playoff format. Yup, that's right, the playoff format has been strengthened by this win. Critics are chagrined that a #4 seed has won the cup, thus nullifying the purpose of most of the regular season. But the fact is that the regular season has pretty much already been knocked around before this, just based on the few number of Supporter Shield winners that eventually won the cup. The regular season will continue to be dimished in importance until at least half the teams don't make the playoffs. But the playoffs themselves?

The odd thing was that a #3 or #4 seed had never won the cup until this year. In short, a three or four seed could make the playoffs, but until someone actually won the cup, it seemed it was only a formality until they were defeated. Now there's proof that once you make it in, you have a shot, even if it has been statistically unlikely. This means that the playoffs are more than just a ratification process for getting one of the top two seeds into the finals. I like that.

I also like the LA Galaxy as champions. There's a WWE wrestling concept here of "the weak champion" that I think comes into play. See, theoretically, the prestige of the belt is enhanced when wrestlers perceived as strong players take and hold the belt for extended periods of time. Thus proving that only the best win the belt. But occasionally some nobody gets the title (remember Kurt Angle's first reign?) and while it seems like the prestige of the belt has taken a hit, the resulting combat to "restore it to glory" is more than entertaining (as is the fact that the guy who everyone thought was weak is now elevated in stature some.) The LA Galaxy are a weak champion, in that people think they're unworthy. Next season every team will have a chance to prove exactly that whenever they play LA, and LA will have every chance to restate their credentials with each win. If nothing else, the regular season will be a question of "How much is that MLS Title worth?" Should be entertaining.

10 November 2005

Putting on a Clinic

So, let's see, Twellman is the MVP over Moreno. Fine. Keep jobbing Moreno, it only makes him angrier...

Your DC United and MLS quick links start with the Washington Post, which shows has DCU has taken its youth and outreach programs and made them a tool for stadium development. A cute story that's worth reading. Favorite quote:

"I don't know about this game. You don't stop! Ever! How about stopping?" complained Takia Thomas, 10, after heading for the sidelines, gasping for breath. "How come they keep running?"

Santino Quaranta is a nice young man. If you know him, your resturaunt will do well. I think.

Finally, I imagine people are going to want to lay into this guy. Have at him. He's Tony Kornheiser without the sense of humor, Jim Rome without the passion. It's not even that what he says is necessarily wrong, but that he manages to say it in the most insulting, yet unclever, way possible. At least Rome tries to be cute about things.

08 November 2005

Equal Time

J. Hutcherson of The Soccer Daily and US Soccer Players (and Round Not Oval, and ECG, and a ton of other legit writing credits) popped in over at the comments to a post I wrote in September. In "Laborious Reading" I voiced my displeasure at what I felt was an attempt to take the Copa Sudamericana loss and turn it into a symbol for all that is wrong with MLS management. In the process, I ended up calling US Soccer Players a "propoganda tool." Despite my hystrionics, Hutcherson's comment is a reasonable rebuttal to what I wrote, and he defends the honor of his site well. He says:
There's bias everywhere. Newspapers own teams they cover. While I'm not about to pretend that USSoccerPlayers is totally objective, it's also not a propaganda machine.
Personally, I'm more concerned when I'm involved enough in a story to know all sides and then I read what makes it onto websites and into papers... When reading anything, look for the bias. It's almost always there.
And, you know something? He's right. At the time, I was still heartbroken from the Sudamericana loss, and probably not thinking as rationally as I should have been. Which is fine from a blogging perspective, but it was unfair to US Soccer Players, which is really a top quality site. I stand by my feelings about the articles that I felt were trying to take advantage of one game as a symbol for all that is wrong with MLS. That was tacky. And I still stand by my opinion (which is close to tautology) that I recommend reading anything written out here with a critical eye. But I regret tarring US Soccer Players with an overbroad generalization and implying that it was pretty much the Pravda of the USNSTPA.
Strangely, I had forgotten all about this article until now. Thanks for showing up to the party when you did J, I have a clearer head about it now, and a chance to set something right.

Fine, fine, everywhere a fine.

Yes, I still have some work to do, as I have three posts in draft. In the mean-time, MLS has announced discipline for both Messrs. Gomez and Adu. Gomez gets docked an additional $750, but is not suspended, for his spitting incident with CJ. Freddy gets hit with a $500 fine for his studs up tackle. The surprise, if you will, is no additional suspension for Christian Gomez. My thought is that the league knows Christian's history, that Christain was honestly remoreseful, and is willing to give him one strike on reputation. That seems fair. If something happens again, the hammer will come down.
[Update: 930AM] On another note, Max Nova of the University of Maryland's Diamondback says of DC United games that " outside of college sports, there’s no better atmosphere than a DC United game" Yup.

06 November 2005

Are we not men?

John Hayden has stepped his game up in covering DC United for the Washington Times. His most recent article articulates many of the concerns of DC fans. A few interesting points:
  • He actually says that if Freddy stays, Piotr needs to be a bit more flexible.
  • He brings up the failure of DC in key games (a fact that concerns other more than it concerns me, but that's another story.
  • He discusses the need for a vocal leader on the field.

This is all stuff that is familiar to DC fans, but it is rare to see it so nicely wrapped in a concise package. Go read the thing. Also, as an aside to the Times, it might be easier if you had a separate section of the sports are to bookmark. That's what makes the Post so convenient when it comes to finding interesting stories.

04 November 2005

Life During Exile

Not to do Kali's job for her, but DCU-alum and RSL icon Eddie Pope will have a chat with folks on Monday over at ESPN. And DCU-alum and still in the playoffs defender Mike Petke, who once graced the subtitle of this particular site on the internet, checks in with an entry at CNN/SI. I miss him, but he doesn't miss us much:

Over the past two years, I've found myself thinking more and more about retiring. Maybe it was the monotony of the season or the way it becomes more of a business than a sport. This is strange because I'm only 29.

Coming to Colorado, however, has rejuvenated me in a way that I would never have imagined. For all the things that have drove me crazy since I arrived here, there are
twice as many things that have energized me.

Huh. Two years, eh? Wonder what that could refer to?

The Real [Estate] World

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel carries details of how DC United ownership figure William Lauterbach is involved in the details of a proposed stadium/real-estate deal for an expansion Milwaukee MLS team. Apparently, while things are looking (cautiously) up for Poplar Point, they are looking a little less rosy in Wisconsin.

And, courtesy of East Central Indiana's Star Press, a story of another DC United Triumph (look under "Local Notes"). I'm not sure what this means, but I like the idea that local U12 are taking the names of MLS teams. That's very cool. I remember when I played baseball with the "Dynamic Ceramic Corp. Orioles" I'd much rather have played for DC United. If there had been a DC United when I was nine.

03 November 2005

Barry on Board

Lots of news in the DCenters these days, so please scroll down for several interesting posts. That being said, perhaps the Washington Times has the most interesting news of all:

Also yesterday, commission members said they received the support of D.C. Councilman Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, for the construction of a new soccer stadium at Poplar Point in Southeast.
Barry, who has long opposed the construction of a facility for D.C. United east of the Anacostia River, changed his position after reviewing plans that included the construction of affordable housing and neighborhood-serving retail, commission members said.
"He's looking at this now in a much larger context," sports commission chairman Mark Tuohey. "He's very supportive."
Well done to the new ownership for navigating a potentially difficult situation and actually making an effort to not just dismiss Barry as a has-been junkie politico, but instead to reasonably work with him to find a solution. Good showing all.

02 November 2005

Trade Freddy (Or Trade Someone): Part 1

Now that we've all self-medicated our pain from the Chicago game away, the natural fancy turns to the off season. And in the time I noticed that A Little Less Conversation was active (see post below), they've already started beating me to the punch on this topic. I think they're pretty much right on in their diagnosis, but before delving into the details, let's establish the guidelines.

Every fan has their own particular trade they'd like to make if they were the GM. Despite the brilliant nature of the trade scenarios invented by a fan, few fantasy trades ever take place. There are a number of reasons:
  1. The Fallacy of Aggregation: Putting together ten of your worst players plus draft picks to get the other team's star never works. This fallacy is most often heard on sports radio. Since there isn't much in the way of Sports Radio for MLS (The Excellent Soccer Show on JFK a wonderful exception) most soccer fans avoid this fallacy, which lead us to...
  2. The Fallacy of Complete Information: By reading the media reports, following the blogs, and watching the games, we think we know what teams need. What we don't typically see are the practices, the coach's biases, the salary concerns, the random friendships in the front office, and all of the other things that weigh on a GM's mind when making a trade. Even when we think we've identified the hypothetical good deal for all parties involved, the deal might not happen, because of...
  3. The Fallacy of "Earn Your Keep": Fans think the GM's job is to go out and get players for a coach. For a fan, frequently the burden of proof is "Why not do a deal?" For a GM (the current local baseball GM being the exception that proves the rule) the burden of proof is "Prove to me that this is a good idea." It is almost always easier for a GM not to make deal, since its difficult to criticisize the absence of a decision, but is much easier to harp on a deal gone bad. This tends to make most GMs cautious, and reasonably so. Note that many of DCU's best deals (bringing Moreno back for instance) go against this fallacy, but almost always it proves the point: The deal is good because it seems like not making it would have been so much easier at the time.
All of this leads to something I call "The DCenters Fundamental Rule of Player Transactions" Quite simply put:
The more a fan thinks about how they would manage player transactions, the less likely they are to be correct about the specifics of any transaction.
Proof? Look at all the people who said that DCU would have to find a replacement for Ryan Nelsen last season. And yet it never happened. Picking out a player that is to be replaced is probably not going to work. If a fan figures out how a trade is going down, its because the GMs are already in serious talks about it.

So why even think about the off-season then? Because while we may not be able to predict the forthcoming Adu for Guevara trade (because Guevara would certainly want to stay in MLS and play for DC United, everyone knows we get all the calls) we can still think rationally about what possibilities exist in terms of who might be shopped, who might not be, and what to look for. We can figure out the areas where deals might, or should, take place. When a deal does take place, we'll have decent tools for evaluating it.

The basic rule is one that was articulated succinctly over at Capitol Punishment: Deal Strength for Weakness. This is such a fundamental concept I think it's easy to lose sight over. We constantly think merely in terms of "would a deal be an upgrade at the position" rather than "does this deal make sense in terms of the entire roster." In short, I'm willing to give away a good offensive player if I'm deep offensively in return for a good defensive player if I'm relative shallow there. Very simple. I like it.

So, in order to evaluate any deals that might, or might not, be made, let's identify strengths and weaknesses.

  • Possession Midfield
  • Defensive Midfield
  • Withdrawn Attackers
  • Wing Attacking Play
  • Overall team consistency
  • Defense, especially on wings.
  • Finishing in final third
  • Set Piece conversion
Could Use Improvement:
  • Goal-keeping
  • Aerial Play
  • Set Piece Defending
If you agree with that, then we have established a basic framework for examining future moves. What does this mean? Players that address your weaknesses are unlikely to be dealt for other areas that aren't as weak. You don't trade Brandon Prideaux for Chris Rolfe unless you have a damn good plan as to what you're going to do for an even more depleted back line. In short, we have a good basis for figuring out who's safe. And who is most likely not going to be in an offseason deal? Here's my list:
  1. Jamie Moreno: Take away the PKs and you still have a guy who can finish. Also, while he may not yet be at Etch status in terms of being a DCU icon, he's pretty damn close, and trading him (again) would play poorly.
  2. Bobby Boswell: He may develop into a player that helps a great deal with the defensive equation, and his height is one of the few pluses for DCU in terms of set pieces and aerial challenges. If you lose him, your weaknesses seem a lot worse.
  3. Brain Carroll: Seems to have more upside, and while his distribution seems to be from the dollar store, his defense in terms of marking people off the ball is one of the best things DC has right now.
  4. Christian Gomez: Yes, he's a strength. But he's also pretty much the franchise player. If you deal him, you've got an awful lot to make up.
  5. Alecko Eskandarian: When he's on, as he was in 2004, he finishes better than anyone else in the roster. Trading him now looks classless, but perhaps more importantly, few teams would be willing to take a chance (See the third fallacy above).
That all. And yes, that means I think we should consider trading Freddy for the right package. I think pretty much everyone else could be part of a deal once GMs started talking. Still, it's worth looking at who could be moving up, over, or out.

Part 2 of this series will deal with developing players from the reserves.
Part 3 will examine who on our team might be attractive to other teams.

There will be no identifying of targets, other than saying what type of player you might want to get. After all, once we start dealing in specifics, we'll almost certainly be wrong.

A little more bite and a little less bark

There was a time when I had this entire DC United soccer beat to myself in the blog world. That time is over. Please welcome A Little Less Conversation to the DCU Blogging ranks (which number exactly two at this moment, considering that the "DCUnited" blogspot site hasn't updated since 2003.)

A Little Less Conversation looks to be a fascinating read. The opening post establishes some impressive bona-fides in terms of DCU fandom. The most recent poses an interesting question on how DC fans should react to Mr. CJ Brown. I'm all for more MLS-Team specific blogs, and certainly DCU should be at the top of that list. So, to SCCRPLAYA (who, considering he's 21 and I'm 27, and considering also that I suck at things like ball control, passing, dribbling, and running, is probably a much better Soccer player than I am), I say "welcome aboard, and Vamos United!"

And I will add you to the blogroll, I'm just sometimes lazy about my updates to the template. Ask the kind folks over at Pseudo Corner Kick that had to wait for over a month. I should be better this time.


A few quick notes:

  • Even in Atlanta they know, Tony Kornheiser is an assclown.
  • Christian Gomez to explain the purpose of the sneeze guard to high schoolers? Piotr Nowak to discuss that one doesn't need carrots, as long as one has sticks? We kid because we love. (See midway through the article on how DC United players might be asked to talk-up the benefits of the Salad bar...)


Yes, for many ballots now, I've kept my natural (and righteous) DC United bias in check as I voted for the BASAs being given out at Climbing the Ladder. Could it continue?

Ballot for Midfielder of the Year: 1 - C. Gomez / 2 - DDR / 3 - Dempsey
Of course not! Yes, I was one of the three people that handed Christain a first place ballot, a ballot I do not regret even after the unfortunate spitting incident for which he has now apologized in full. If I made any mistake, it was in not giving Joseph perhaps his full due. I'm not losing much sleep over it.
Ballot for Old Player of the Year: 1 - Djorkaeff / 2 - Onstad / 3 - Chung
Can we rename this award? Something like "Vetran" or "Experienced" player of the year? It sounds like these are people with Centrum Silver endorsements whose speed is limited by the oxygen tanks trailing behind them. Anyways, this was one of those strange situations where my ballot reflected the exact order of finish. You can read that as either "man with finger on the pulse of US professional soccer" or "Prisoner of Conventional Wisdom"

Ballot for Forward of the Year: 1 - Twellman / 2 - Moreno / 3 - Donovan
I agree with Ice's comments that, as good as Herculez was, he didn't deserve to be placed over Landon. But I wouldn't have put either over my top two. Additionally, order of finish here does not reflect my MVP balloting... but more on that later.