25 December 2006

The Gift of the Magi, by T. Henry

Five-hundred and fifty thousand dollars. That was all. And thirty grand of it was in unmarked hundreds. Money saved game after game, play after play. Freddy had Richard Motzkin count it at least three times. Soon it would be Christmas.

There was nothing for it but to scream, which Freddy did. He stood at his window and watched as the rain soaked the streets of DC. A battered BMW rested in the driveway. Soon it would be Christmas, but all the money in the world wouldn't be enough to find the right present. Many-an-hour he had spent visualizing the perfect gift for Peter in his head. Goals of staggering beauy when he would take the ball on one touch, maneuver around Jay Heaps and slide the ball neatly by Matt Reis beyond the far post. A goal worthy of his coach. But the season had not rewarded him -- the cool, imperious woodwork had denied him too often.

He called his agent Richard. "Will Salt Lake buy my contract?"

Motzkin's tone expressed the neat calculations he could perform in his head. "I can make Ellinger buy anything."

"Do it quick." The next hours dragged on like Clint Mathis trying to take someone on the dribble. He made his way to RFK, the faxed contract in his hand. Peter might laugh at him. "Why do you want to go to that hospital?" he might say. But Freddy felt it was the only way, and he sat in the conference room outside Kevin Payne's office.

Peter stepped inside the door, as immovable as Tony Meola at the near post. His eyes were fixed upon the faxed contract, and there was an expression in them that Freddy could not read, and it terrified him. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that he had been prepared for. He simply stared at him fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

"Peter," Freddy said, "Don't look at me that way. I arranged a trade to Salt Lake for you for Christmas. I know I've been a pain, and a source of frustration. It was the only thing I could think of for you. Now you don't have to worry about me being a distraction anymore."

Peter stared at the contract, his stupor slowing lifting. He pulled out a cigarette, struck a match off his chin, and took a deep drag. "Freddy," he sighed, "it has been a long three years. But I felt that somehow I was to blame. Perhaps I was too hard on you, or standing in your way, or something. I just told Kevin that I'm resigning from DC, and I'll be going to work for Bob Bradley with the US Men's Team." He smiled. "Put your contract away, it will be long after Christmas before we know how either of us did with our presents."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi. But even such as they are clueless about what to do with that franchise in New Jersey.

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22 December 2006

Goodbye Esky

Now I'm starting to worry. Eskandarian to Toronto FC for a partial allocation. Finding out definitively what we're going to do with all this cap space, other than roll around in the coinage like Scrooge McDuck, would go a long way to soothing those worries.

Esky, we loved you man. You are already missed.

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21 December 2006

Shorter Press Conference on the Coaching Change

KEVIN PAYNE: Peter was good to us. Good luck to him and Bob. Tom Soehn is our new head coach. It's nice when a plan comes together, since we missed Bradley and Yallop years ago.

DAVE CASPER: You got that right Kevin. Welcome Tom!

TOM SOEHN: Good to be here. Things will change, only you won't notice them. I love DC. Mark Simpson is my assistant coach, maybe there'll be more.

REPORTERS: Would you have done anything different about the Freddy thing if you knew Nowak was leaving?

TOM: No.



KEVIN: You know, we did offer Peter a deal. Just wanted to get that out there.

REPORTERS: How will things change? What kind of coaches are you looking for? How is your philisophy different? What kind of players do you want to acquire?

TOM: Not much. I'm looking for coaches I know. A little, but not much. We're looking at players.

KEVIN: Thanks for coming!

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Meet the New Boss, Tom Soehn, And Let's Get The Jokes Out Quickly

The Times and The Post both have updates on the Piotr Nowak / Tom Soehn transition at the head coaching spot. John Haydon's Times article describes nicely some of the history between Nowak and Bradley that could have led to the USMNT opening. The Post notes that Bradley is, no matter what, getting the 2008 Olympic Team and taking Nowak with him. As for Nowak's choice to leave (and we'll talk maybe more about Nowak later), I agree with BDR's comment yesterday: "Nowak's decision is both good business for him and honorable to DCU. "

So, let's talk about Mr. Soehn before his press conference at 11am. What is he like? Well, if you caught a reserve game in the last few years, we have a few hints. He's not afraid of the four man backline, so that could be an option (once we staff up). He'll talk to players during the game, and even chew them out on occasion. Mr. Soehn, as a defender in MLS with Chicago and Dallas, saw limited action. Typically he was good for about 1,000 minutes a season. The interesting thing to look at are the disciplinary stats: It tells the story of a defender who knew when to foul but not get a card. In his five years, he only had 14 shots, of which 6 were on goal, and two of those found the back of the net. Can we infer anything from that? Probably not, but it does suggest someone who is aware of their defensive responsibilities, and would use the defenders in an attacking mode in a fairly conservative way -- more to put pressure on the offense than to take their own shot. Of course, Mr. Soehn may not have had the accuracy of Facundo Erpen, so keep that in mind.

As a special service, the DCenters offers the following headlines for the 2007 season, and we hope that if these are the headlines, that they appear in this order:

May 2007
United plagued by poor communication in season start.

June 2007
DC United has not rebounded from losing Nowak.

July 2007
United showing signs of life, but is it too late?

August 2007
New attack plans ignite DC's strikers

September 2007
Five players score in 6-1 win over Galaxy

October 2007
Unbeaten streak extended to nine game

November 2007
One season as coach, one MLS Cup... But what now?

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20 December 2006


Tommy can you hear me?

Stunning. The Washington Post is reporting that tomorrow's press conference will be to announce Piotr Nowak is leaving DC United to become a USMNT assistant coach for Bob Bradley, and Tom Soehn will be getting the keys to the car. This jives with what we were getting little bits of information on earlier.

Expect everyone to weigh in on this one. But in the meantime: Good luck Piotr, The DCenters respects your tenure here. Perhaps the finest thing we can say when someone leaves is "He was a good coach." You certainly were.

And welcome Mr. Soehn. Good luck to you as well. You've had the training and experience, and I'm interested to see what you can do with the team. It's nice to keep it in-house. Given a choice of pretty much anyone out there as a candidate for a head coaching vacancy, you are the one I feel the most comfortable with. Be your own man, and I'm sure things will work out. If it had to happen, I'm glad it is you that we're looking at.

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Press Conference: Expect Coaching News

No, we don't know the specifics. But we have reason to believe that DC United's press conference will affect the coaching situation with DC United. Nothing's broken in the major media yet, and we're just an irresponsible blog, but that's the word. From people we trust.

Update: Tried to get clarification from DC United. They were nice, but said they couldn't clarify it. Still working it. I have a feeling someone else will break it before we do. Also, the word "Change" was previously bandied about on this site. Jumped the gun on that one. We think it's coaching related, but it could be anything.

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Fair Warning

The next day or so I'll probably not be able to add as much as I would like to the DC United coverage. Sorry. If this were part of my job, things would be different, though even then I wonder if I could cover the team as wonderfully as some. Anyways, things are busy here, but I do hope that by Friday (or even perhaps tomorrow, but unlikely) I'll be free to speak up again.

UPDATE!!! Well, that plan apparently is out the window. The Dawg pointed out in the comments that there is a DC Press Conference tomorrow. DCU's website is also trumpeting it. What is it on? Here are my totally uninformed odds:

  1. DC United Sold to Investors - 4:1... You'd think they'd pull out Don Garber for that one.
  2. Nowak or Soehn leaving the team? - 7:2 Unlikely that Soehn leaving, as important as it is, would play as a major press conference. Nowak would be a surpsie, but the tea leaves are so confusing on that matter.
  3. Major Stadium announcement? - 8:1 Almost anything to do with the stadium would be a major announcement, and keep everyone hopeful. Still, you'd think ownership would have to get settled first, unless AEG's rights the stadium trump the ownership card.
  4. Player Acquisition? - 2:1 I can imagine that a significant signing would warrant big play, although I'd imagine they'd want to make Nowak available for comments.
Okay everyone... feel free to speculate and go crazy.

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19 December 2006

Represent: DC United to Send More Players than Any Other MLS Team to USMNT Camp

National team coach Bob Bradley issued his first call-ins to US National Team camp. This list is a domestic one, with only one Yank Abroad on the list. The DCenters is somewhat pleased to see that DC United is sending more players than any other MLS Team: Six of 'em. Keeper Troy Perkins, Defenders Boswell and Namoff, Midfielders B. Carroll and Gros, and Forward Alecko Eskandarian are all getting the look over. The only other MLS teams to be sending more than three are the LA Galaxy (4) and the New England Revolution (5).

Now, just because they're in camp doesn't mean they'll get capped in the upcoming friendlies. If I were to put an order of liklihood on these players seeing game time, it would be Boswell, Carroll, Eskandarian, Gros, Perkins, and Namoff in that order. Still, congratulations are in order. Have fun in California kids.

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Examining the MLS Draft: Part 3(b) - A Few Responses

DIY Options / Revisiting the Nowak Question / What I really believe

OPEN SOURCES: We'll potentially revisit the draft data a few more times between now and January's 2007 SuperDraft, but I wanted to respond to some comments and notes that have been left here, and reemphasize the single most important finding I think we can make. First, over at Black Panther, they're looking at the success of the MLS Combine in getting players selected. They also expressed some interest in the DCenters making our data public. Well, I'm happy to do so. The easiest way seems to be to put the main data set I was manipulating up on Google Spreadsheets, which I've done. Now, I've had to strip out the forumulas I was using and put in the raw values, but it should service. If you want to run your own draft analysis, or check our work for errors, or do something else, go ahead and get the spreadsheet here. I also recommend that you head over to Climbing the Ladder and grab the MLS Lineup database, which was invaluable in making this a project for an evening rather than a weeks worth of time.

REVISITING THE NOWAK ERA: Commenter Bootsy Collins found a nice little methodology flaw in our evaluation of the Nowak era which caused us to reexamine the data.

He wrote:
To illustrate what I'm getting at, imagine that Nowak/Kaspar's nine picks had all been fourth round picks. I know they weren't, but imagine that they had been. In that case, I'd bet that comparing to the league average, 22% would have been pretty good. In contrast, if they were all first round picks, 22% would doubtless have been awful. The question is, how does the pick distribution we had (2004: 1/3/4, 2005: 2/4, 2006: 1/3/4/4) compare to the league as a whole?

That's a damn fine question, and one I should have thought of before undertaking the Nowak Era analysis. Since he brought it up, it was worth investigating in more detail. Given the time frame and distribution among rounds of Nowak/Kasper's picks, how well did they do compared to the MLS average? Well, by looking at MLS as a whole from 2004 onward, we can determine the percentage liklihood, by round and year, that a player made at least 10 GPs. We can then apply any draft pick distribution and determine the expected yield of players making at least 10GPs. That's what the chart below does. The top section shows the MLS success rates by round and year. The middle section shows DC United's draft pick distribution. The last section shows the expected yield by round and year, and an overall expected yield:

We know that DC United's 2 successful picks (Gros and Adu) is a bit short of the 3 to 4 that the MLS Distribution would say we should have, even given that United's distribution of picks skewed to later rounds. But, in comparison, how does it look? The chart below shows the expected yields, actual yields, and differences for all teams from 2004 onward:

So based on this, am I ready to reaffirm that Nowak/Kasper have drafted poorly? Not really. First, I think if you look at these numbers, you see what small values we're really talking about. Rod Dyachenko, if he makes on appearence for Toronto under Mo, will click over into the success column. When one player can cause so much variation in the data, it makes it difficult to draw concrete conclusions. So while the numbers aren't encouraging, I can't say with any confidence that Nowak and Kasper have done worse than the rest of the league. I can say it doesn't look good, especially with the 2005 class, but I can't say it looks unreasonably bad. The second thing to note is that better teams (other than LA, make you own conclusions) seem to be clustered toward the bottom, perhaps reflecting the difficulty of draft picks breaking into more talented line-ups. Now, all that being said, it is ridiculous that Real Salt Lake is so low on this list. As an expansion team, and not a terribly good team after their first year, it seems like they should be getting more mileage out of every draft pick than they are.

THE BIG POINT: If I can urge you to take away one thing, it is the analysis of draft round distribution information. I think we have enough data to say, with confidence, that Round 1 draft picks are worth at least twice as much as Round 2 draft picks, which are twice as much as Round 3 draft picks. Round 3 and 4 draft picks are fairly equal in their value, and neither represents a decent shot at landing a consistently appearing player. That's the take-away. Round 1 means something, Round 2 might mean something, and Rounds 3-4 mean you'll need to get lucky.

As always, I welcome your responses and critiques. I would love someday to learn whether MLS teams have done similar analyses (I'm sure they have) and what their findings were compared to ours.

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18 December 2006

Examining the MLS Draft: Part 3 - How Good is DC United At Using the Draft?


In Part 1 of this series, we described our methodology of evaluating draft picks. In Part 2, we took a look at MLS and attempted to establish some benchmarks for draft pick success. Now in Part 3 we'll look at how well (or not) DC United has used its draft picks since 1999.

The DC United Draft Story

Since 1999, DC United has selected 33 players in the MLS College/SuperDrafts. The chart below shows a summary of those picks, and how many games of production they've seen in MLS:

To put this in the graphical comparisons similar to the ones we used in Part 2, I've redone the same graphic but just for DC United (click to enlarge):

Does this tell us anything? To me, the story is that DC is a bit more willing to give its draft picks a chance, and its success rate is slightly higher than the MLS average in the first two rounds in terms of getting multiple seasons from players. DC's overall success rate in later rounds is about par, but if we find a player that makes it at least 10 games, we're more likely to get more than just one season out of them. It looks pretty good. The only down side is that DCU sees a slightly higher than average flame-out rate, especially in the later rounds, for its draft picks. As we found out in Part 2, the average flame out rate (overall) for draft picks is about 45%. DC has a 52% number. Quick summary: DC is less likely to find a player to stick in later rounds, but the ones we find tend to stay around longer. So, three cheers for the DC United draft strategy, right? Well, not so fast.

The Nowak Years (2004 onward)

Using the same benchmarks for the last three drafts find some disturbing trends. Now, I should issue a statistical caution here: We're using a pretty small sample size. Since 2004, United has a total of nine draft picks, so extrapolating from this data is somewhat risky. That being said, preliminary results are not encouraging. Using the "Played at least 10 games" threshold we used in the year-by-year analysis in Part 2, we find that of DC's 9 draft picks, only two have been successful. That's a 22% success rate, using a pretty low standard for success. In case you're wondering, those picks are Freddy Adu (2004 Round 1 Pick, 87 GP), Kevin Ara (2004 Round 3 Pick, 6GP), Josh Gros (2004 Round 4 Pick, 88GP), Nick Van Sicklen (2005 Round 2 Pick, 0 GP), Tim Merritt (2005 Round 4 Pick, 0 GP), Justin Moose (2006 Round 1 Pick, 1 GP), Rod Dyachenko (2006 Round 3 Pick, 9 GP), Jeff Carroll (2006 Round 4 Pick, 2 GP), and Kenny Bertz (2006 Round 4 Pick, 0 GP). Only Adu and Gros have paid off as draft picks to any degree. It may be too early to judge the class of 2006, but the class of 2005 is a complete bust (none of them are currently on the active roster.)

During the same time period, MLS as a league saw an average 10GP success rate of about 49%. Now, statistically it may not yet be correct to say that DCU has faired significantly worse than the league, but the data isn't good, and in a year or two I imagine we will be able to say such a thing. Given that Freddy Adu was, to some degree, a forced draft pick, the data is probably not as good as even we present here. Sure, to some degree the price is being paid (and happily so) for re-acquiring Jamie Moreno in 2004, but regardless, DCU seems to be worse than MLS even with some higher round picks. In fact, DCU's 22% success rate is the second worst in the league since 2004. Another counter argument would be that DCU has been fielding some competitive teams in these years, meaning it is harder to break into the line-up. This case is bolstered a bit by the fact that the San Jose / Houston franchise has the worst success rate at 20%. However, other teams like Dallas (40%) and New England (55%) have also been competitive in these same years, and seen their draft picks get more activity.

A Cautionary Note...

Do you know the man on the right? That's Eric Denton. He was recently acquired by Red Bull New York. He is also DC United's most successful (in terms of Games Played) draft pick since '99. Really. I know, he only played about twenty games in the black and red, and not a one since 2000. That being said, he has survived as a journeyman in Columbus and Colorado racking up 160GP to date. Your initial reaction may be to say "Well, that just shows how useless GP is in evaluating worth." I disagree. DC United picked a guy in the second round who has managed to hang around the league for a long time, contributing to many games. In short, DC picked a guy who's made a number of contributions. Similarly, Jason Moore is #5 on the DC United longevity list, despite playing little for DC. Does that mean he wasn't a real value pick? I doubt it, since we traded him, I think, for the draft pick that led to Ryan Nelsen. Not too bad. While GP may not indicate how much or intense of an impact a player made, it can certainly identify whether an impact was made at all, and if so, for how long.

Immediate Findings

DC United's draft strategy has been decent compared to the MLS Standard, but not brilliant. There are some worrying signs about the more recent drafts, but we'll probably have to wait until a few more years pass to be more definitive. However, most importantly, let's apply these findings to recent events. By trading Brandon Prideaux for two third-round draft picks, all we've really won is more salary cap space. I don't expect that we'll see an every day player come from those draft picks. Sure, DC has occasionally found value, but I'd still say it is about 70% likely that of the two players we get, neither will make a full season's worth of contributions to DC United's first team, either as a starter or off the bench. Now, that concedes there's a shot we might get someone, but I doubt it. Even DC, who can find value in later picks (or even in undrafted players) isn't likely to get much in return other than more cash on hand from the Prideaux deal.

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Examining the MLS Draft: Part 2 - MLS Draft Success Rates

Notes: Part 1 of this analysis (boring descriptive methodology stuff) can be found here. Part 3, in which DC United is examined closely, will be posted later.

MLS Draft Picks: Summary Data

Below is a quick summary showing the various games played statistics, by draft round, for all MLS college/Superdrafts since 1999. There's some interesting analysis to be had in here, but below are some raw numbers as a basis

The 1999 college draft only had three rounds, that's why you see a drop in the overall number of picks for that round. Additionally, in that year, the LA Galaxy chose to pass on their third round pick.

What I find useful about the chart above is that it gives you some quick eyeball measures for how successful a draft pick is overall, and the relative values between rounds. First, note the high rate of failure overall: one-third of the picks will never play a game, and nearly half will play less then ten games. Still, that shouldn't be surprising, as I imagine most drafts in US professional sports show a similar or higher attrition rate. However, the value of a pick does appear to be somewhat dependent on the round in which it occurs. The chart below shows the relative success rates, by percentage, of draft picks based on each round:

Note that 56% of first round picks see at least around 2 seasons of work, and 76% get at least one season. The second round also sees some contribution, with about 42% of the picks getting at least one season, and 65% seeing at least a portion of a season. Rounds 3 and 4 are pretty much identical: A small portion of players (less than 20%) making contributions over multiple seasons, while the vast majority of players (about 80%) never quite get a full season's worth of work.

A phrase that is thrown around a great deal is a "bust". Based on this data, I think it is fair to say that any draft pick that doesn't see at least 10 games can not be considered a decent draft pick. I like this number since it allows us to look at drafts across time (Since it can be accomplished in a single season), and determine how well the different draft classes. The graphic below, based on this fairly low definition of success, shows the success rate over time in all rounds.

2006's data may be artificially low since draft picks haven't really had time to get acclimated to the game yet, but I'd say that it's fair to say that 55% of a team's draft picks should see at least 10 games. Note that at least 45% will see less than that, but that number seems a fair baseline across time.


The key finding here is that draft picks will see an incredibly high attrition rate. Just over a third will see at least a season's worth of work. That being said, you should be able to better in the first and second rounds. The third and fourth rounds are pretty much a crap shoot and interchangeable. Still, I think we have enough to set expectations, by round, for your picks. First round picks should last you a few years. Second round picks around one year. If you can get anything out of third and fourth round picks, you're ahead of the game. In my mind, a first round pick is about three times as valuable as a second round pick, and a second round pick about twice as valuable as a third or fourth round pick (this makes a first round pick about six times as valuable as a third or fourth round pick). Third and fourth round picks are pretty much interchangeable. That being said, even among first round picks, about one-quarter won't pay off into a full season's worth of work.

Given that each team will have about four draft picks a year, it seems clear to me that rebuilding through the draft is a difficult proposition. I also want to stress that our baseline for success is fairly low: Just making it into games. If you're looking for star players around which to build a team, you probably won't find it easy going in the draft.

Next Post

In our next installment, we'll look at how well DC uses its draft picks in comparison to the rest of the league. Are the success rates comparable? Can DC find value in lower rounds of the draft, just as they find value in unsigned players like Boswell and Perkins? Or does DC not fare as well as other teams? Plus: The shocking truth behind DC's longest tenured draft pick since 1999. Hint - He's been in the MLS News a recently.

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Examining the MLS Draft: Part 1 - Define Test and Success

Executive Summary

Exactly what is a draft pick worth? Given that DC United just traded Brandon Prideaux for two third round picks, it seems that this is the kind of question that we would want to have answered, yet there seems little good analysis on the subject out there. Anyone can tell you that Taylor Twellman was a good pick for the New England Revolution, or that Andrew Mittendorf (Colorado's 1999 first round pick, #8 overall) probably didn't help Colorado too much. In an attempt to answer this question, the DCenters has examined the results from the first four rounds of every college/SuperDraft since 1999 in order to attempt to determine how successful, or unsuccessful, a draft pick tends to be. In this multi-part series, we will describe how we assembled and looked at the data (Part 1), how well the Draft works as a whole (Part 2), and compare DC United's success rates to other teams, especially in the Nowak era from 2004 onward (Part 3). The answer, in short, is that the MLS Draft ain't the place to reliably find talent, or even regular production. DC United has some success, but perhaps not in the most inherently obvious way.


In attempting to answer this question, it became clear that determining an objective test for a "successful" pick might be difficult. How much production should you expect from a forward, or a defender? How do you measure it? For our purposes, we sidestepped this issue, and attempted to incorporate the judgment of others: We looked only at MLS games played as a proxy for success. This offers us two benefits: This data is quantifiable, and to some degree it allows us to side-step whether or not someone is productive by letting a coach decide for us. After all, if someone isn't the best option, a coach would be foolish to let them keep playing (yes... we know the flaw there...). In short, The DCenters assumes that the more games played by a player, the more productive they are for a given team. This may seem to penalize players that transfer early in their careers to Europe (e.g. Bobby Convey) but Bobby Convey only helped DC United while he played for DC United. In short, the test seems to be a good one, and Bobby Convey would certainly be productive enough for the seasons he spent in DC.

Data Sources

Data from the MLS Draft results from MLSNet.Com's history section. Data on games played from Climbing the Ladder's "Lineup Database" I should point out that this was a very valuable resource.

Pre-1999 data was removed in order to attempt to filter out any distortion of the data that might result from the youth of the league as a whole. Data limited to four rounds since that's the current length of the Superdraft. Note that we would occasionally have to modify the name of a player in the Superdraft to get it to match the data from Climbing the Ladder. The difference between "Jon Conway" and "John Conway" was always changes to match our line-up data from CtL. I think we've caught most of these, but I'm not 100% certain. Note that the MLS All-time player register was also referenced to clarify confusing data points.


After assembling the list of the 354 draft picks, including the overall pick number, team making the pick, and the round number the pick took place in, these names were matched against the CtL MLS Line-up database to determine the number of games each player has started or appeared as a sub in in MLS games only. Cup and Continental games were not considered for this analysis, since the real question is how much production do you get from a player as for the MLS title, not the other events. The number of games started (GS) and sub appearances (Sub) were totaled for each player to determine games played (GP). Based on this information, the number of GP was used to classify a player in one or more categories:

  1. Player did not appear in any games.
  2. Player appeared in at least one game.
  3. Player appeared in at least 10 games.
  4. Player appeared in at least 25, 50, 75, or 100 games.

The increments of 25 were used in order to approximate a season's worth of production, given injury time, national team duty, or general rotation. An "Average number of games per season since draft date" was also calculated, but this should be viewed somewhat suspicously given transfer activity.

Next Post

Hopefully we've explained all the boring stuff about our methodology. While it may not be perfect, I think it's a reasonable way to look at the data. Knowing this, I hope you'll be interested in Part 2, where we'll look at overall MLS data.

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15 December 2006


So I've been running some numbers on the SuperDraft/College Draft since 1999, and I've got some really interesting data that says that DC may not be so bad at drafting people after all. More on this next week.

Of course, just to give you a taste, it's a relative thing. Of the 354 picks made in the first four rounds, 112 (32%) never played an official MLS game. Ouch.

It is some interesting data...

Update: Part 1 (Methodology) is up. Part 2 (MLS Overall) is also up. Part 3 (DC United) and potentially Part 4 (some interesting notes) still pending.

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Prideaux Traded to Colorado for Draft Picks.

DC United trades Brandon Prideaux for a third round pick in 2007 and a third round pick in 2008. Prideaux has been on the trading block for a time, so moving him isn't a complete surprise. I also wouldn't be shocked if Josh Gros is being converted to an outside back more and more.

If one wants, one could try and read the tea leaves regarding the intentions of the new ownership. I may take a shot at it later.

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Pre-Holiday Rush

Things to think about before Christmas Day:

THE BIGGEST SOCCER SPECIFIC STADIUM IN THE COUNTRY: At least, that's what you might call RFK after the Nats leave it for their own place. With MLS Cup returning to the Stadium/Armory station, I'm going to make sure I get my tickets. The Post and Times have stories. A few practical implications? Expect a somewhat prolonged (3-4 weeks) road trip at the end of the season once the Nats' season ends, allowing time to resod the field and remove the diamond. Naturally, that could have an interesting effect on the end of the season.

IS NOWAK BACK?: From the Post article above: "'Peter knows that we want him back,' Payne said. "We've had some conversations, we'll probably have another one this week, and hopefully we'll come to a resolution quickly."

WHO'S THE NEW STRIKER? From the Times: "Payne said D.C. United could announce a major player acquisition as early as next week. When asked if the new player was from Argentina, Payne said 'You can assume they are not coming from Europe.'"

DISCOVERY UNITED? One last tidbit from the Post: "Garber said the sale of United's operating rights by Anschutz Entertainment Group 'is nearly complete. [The potential buyers are] a very solid group of committed investors who believe in this sport.'" If the deal happens, here are a few things to consider other than the final price and getting Kevin Payne retained: Does the deal include language on Poplar Point? Does the deal include advertising rights for DC United's kits? When will the deal be effective? What are the new owner's stated intentions regarding Designated Player acquisitions?

YOU'RE SUCH A NOLLY BHOY: DC's one offseason acquisition is in Scotland on trial with Celtic. While the article doesn't mention timeframes, you can go ahead and assume it ends the week before Christmas. Key quote:

Nolly, who played for Real Salt Lake before being traded to DC United as part of the deal for Freddy Adu - hopes he can persuade Celtic to offer him a contract.

Nolly said: "I've been here for a few days now. DC United own my rights if I return to the US, but I'm actually a free agent.

"They've traded Freddy Adu to Salt Lake for me. But the option is not signed yet. So there is a contractual window here for me to try to make it in Europe."

Interesting. We wish Nolly the best, but he seems like a good fit as a #2 at United, so part of me hopes it doesn't pan out for him.

Who says the off-season is slow?

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14 December 2006

Lamar Hunt, 1932-2006

Even when titanic figures in MLS or US Soccer pass-on, the DCenters usually remains silent unless there is a direct DC United connection. Lamar Hunt is no exception, except for the fact that his influence was so big, so important, that we must note and pay our respects to the man. If nothing else (and there was so much more), Hunt's attachment with MLS conferred more respect on this league and its legitimacy as an aspiring sports organization than any other individual I can think of. Investors knew that Hunt is one of the few people who had already successfully taken on the established sports hierarchy in the USA and won. Since the AFL/NFL merger, we have seen countless organizations bid for America's attention and fail to achieve much notice. The WLAF, XFL, Arena Football League, and USFL all took shots at trying to carve a niche out, and all have faded back if not out of the picture entirely. The AFC is still around. So is MLS, and if there's no MLS, there's no DC United. He may not have given a second thought to this market, but it didn't matter. His presence alone gave us space to work in, and a chance to establish what we enjoy. The appreciations of Lamar Hunt deserve to be wide-ranging, and I'm glad they are. Thank you Lamar. Thanks for giving us MLS, and keeping it here long enough for my DC United to beat your Wizards in 2004. Even as your team lost, I hope you knew that to some degree, we all owed you one.

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13 December 2006

RFK to host MLS Cup 2007

Everything is under the radar these days. Breaking with the recent past of only holding MLS Cup Finals at Soccer Specific Stadiums, The Washington Post is reporting that MLS will announce that the 2007 MLS Cup Final will be at RFK.

Now, for all the conspiracy minded out there who think that MLS was somehow instrumental in the Adu trade, this might feed that fire, since it offers DC a nice little bit of free publicity right after the Adu trade. For the moment, I will imagine that these are seperate stories... but man, the timing is interesting, no?

Addendum: Commenter Ray W says there ain't no quid for the quo here. I believe him. Also, there's something good about knowing that even if DC doesn't win the 2007 Championship, we'll still be closer to the Cup next year than the LA Galaxy ever will.

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The Washington Post covers the Freddy Adu trade fall-out with a big piece on the front of your sports section this morning. The headline "It's a win-win for Adu and United" is shockingly optimistic. In my opinion, Adu does come out of this deal as the clear winner, but I'm not sure that either United or RSL (carefully left out of that headline) did the right thing. Again, while I have no problem with trading either Adu and/or Rimando, both of whom had value, I feel like we don't know that we'll ultimately got as good as deal as we could have gotten for either, let alone both as a package. Of particular note in the Post story is a sidebar graphic on United's previous use of allocations, a good idea (seen here yesterday) made better by expanding it back from 2004 to 2002. And when you do that, United's track record looks even worse. As much as it pains me to acknowledge that the RSL Front Office got anything right, this seems accurate:

Real Salt Lake chief executive Dean Howes was not concerned about whom United would acquire with the allocation, saying: "Allocations don't score goals and don't keep the ball out of the net. . . . We'd rather get a proven player and let the other teams spend the money to take chances on players who may or may not be successful in this league."

I think there's a lot of truth in that. United has had success with some allocation moves, but also a lot of failure. We've bought cap room and the tools to do something with the cap room, but success in using it is not a foregone conclusion. If we had traded Rimando and Adu for known commodities within MLS the deal might not seem as valuable, and we would not have the same flexibility, but the deal would probably carry considerably less risk. Kevin Payne and DC United have gone for a big move that they think they can execute, but we've been hopeful about such things in the past.

And now, for old-times sake, your last "Freddy to Europe" transfer update: Manchester United is reportedly concerned about his temperament and will not offer him a deal anytime soon. Plus ├ža change...

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12 December 2006

Three Years of Adu at DC United: An Evaluation

It's interesting, but I think among many DCU fans, including myself and some others, a predominant feeling is one of relief today. For three years Freddy Adu has thrown a spotlight on United. Typically evaluations were made on the basis of "what's the best for Freddy?", "What's the best thing for MLS?" or "What's the best for the US National Team?" rather than "What is the best for DC United?" It made sense for people, especially those that are not particularly attached to this team, to think that way. To some degree, DC United found itself attempting to placate these people, even though there was no reason why these goals would necessarily align with DC United's fundamental goal: Win championships.

Now after three years of Freddy, what can we say to these people? First, while DC United acknowledged these demands, we maintained a focus on our team first. That was good. At times, we accomodated Freddy (to the detriment perhaps of our fortunes) and at times Freddy was held back (to the detriment of Freddy, and perhaps US Soccer). It was a balancing act, a compromise. It wasn't always pretty. But for three years we did it.

As for Freddy's growth, I think the best that can be said is that he's a better player now than when he came in. Is he as good as he could be? I doubt it. But we didn't ruin him. He's not a burnt-out has-been at the age of 17. He got better in all aspects of his game. It may have been possible that another coach and team could have gotten him even farther. In fact, I feel like it is likely. But I also feel like other situations may have ruined him, destroyed his confidence and ability, and sent him into permanent mediocrity. After three years, the glee may have subsided but the potential remains. If we were grading DC's performance on handling and developing Adu alone, I'd give DC a B-. If we grade DC on the act of balancing Freddy's development with the needs of the team, I'd say we're in B+/A- territory.

The tension of Freddy is now one RSL will deal with, even if they don't think of it that way. Fine. We didn't ruin him, we made him better, and now we wish him well. I'm relieved. So, I imagine, is Freddy.

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Keep Track of It All

There's a new section in the "At A Glance" section on the right where I've decided to list all the transactions so far this year. Enjoy.


Adu/Rimando to RSL: Did DCU Get Enough?

Barring major developments, it seems like today will be a day devoted to The Trade. Kinney was right when he said it would take some time for us to get our heads around this one. There are so many angles to look at, let's start with the most pressing one: Was this a good deal for DC United?

We are giving up a quality keeper, one that isn't going to start with a team that has another quality option, but a good starter in his own right. We are giving up a startling level midfield player who has marketing appeal. And what do we get in return?

Well, on-hand, we get a backup keeper for Troy Perkins. Okay, a part that was necessary in this deal, since we didn't have any good options for a true #2 keeper. We get a major playor allocation. We get a conditional draft pick. We get salary cap space. Is it worth it?

The cheap answer is to say "Well, we'll have to wait until we see who we sign with those allocations." First, it seems like there is some confusion as to the nature of the allocation. From what I can tell, this is not RSL's "Designated Player (DP)" allocation (the so-called Beckham rule) but rather a typical international allocation. I'm sure I'll get corrected if I am wrong. Now, let's consider some of DC's usage of international allocations since 2004:

  1. Christian Gomez: Brilliant.
  2. Steve Guppy: Bust.
  3. Facundo Erpen: Decent.
  4. Lucio Filomeno: Bust.
  5. Mattias Donnet: TBD, but if DC can't resign him and he leaves after half a season, it was a bust.

We've gotten two strong contributors with allocations, but we've also had some missteps. Our allocation strategy is decent, but it's not a sure thing. Similarly, our history with draft picks isn't anything to brag about either. So by clearing out Freddy Adu and Nick Rimando, all DC has gained is the potential to make future moves with both cap space and roster flexibility, including an allocation and a DP slot to be used.

Does this make sense? Personally, being a fan, I would rather get a young player we could use now with this package. Rimando/Adu would have been enough to purchase a great deal. So right now I'm uneasy about this deal. The only way this makes sense is if DC has targets for both the allocation and the DP identified, and that the DP is pretty expensive. Yet even that scenario carries a certain degree of risk. While people may be quick to say "Ah, this is a bang-bang deal for both sides," I'm not sure I agree. DC has given up one play to make another, and the marginal cost to some degree must include a calculation of the uncertainty surrounding their moves. Right now, this deal makes some sense, but I doubt it is as good a deal as we could have gotten on the margins. We gave away a lot, and right now have little to show for it. Patience, I know, but this will require scrutiny from now until opening day 2007.

Update: Again, "wait and see" is not the only message. I think this requires "wait and see" with "be a tad skeptical, and think on whether whatever we get is as good as we could have gotten." I'm not saying it's a bad deal. I'm just saying that it may not be as good a deal as you could have made. Think "Opportunity cost."

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11 December 2006

Adu Traded to RSL

In a blockbuster trade, DC United has traded Freddy Adu and Nick Rimando to Real Salt Lake for a major allocation, Jay Nolly, and future considerations. It seems some of the future considerations is a portion of Freddy's possible transfer fee. More analysis to come later, but for now how large that portion is could be the difference between a great deal and a horrible trade.

I am still grappling with this in my head. D and Oscar don't hesitate to chime in, as well as any commentators.

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An Open Letter to Fans of the Washington Capitals

Dear Caps Fans,

I understand that some of you were annoyed by the presence of DC United fans at the recent Mighty Ducks - Caps game. Some of you think that we were disrespectful to the game. Some of you feel that our attempt to import some of the rich supporter's culture of DC United, and soccer as a game, was out of place in the hockey environment at the Verizon Center. I can understand, and to a degree, sympathisize with your position. But I ask you not to write it off as a failed experiment just yet.

When I started as a Caps fan, I thought #3 Scott Stevens was the greatest player ever. I was a fan when the Caps scoring five goals elicited a chant of "Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!" And through all that time, from when I was about seven onwards, it was generally acknowledged that it was somewhat embarassing when Flyers, Islanders, or Rangers fans could come into the Caps Center and outcheer the home team. To be fair, Caps fans had the look of a habitually beaten dog. The Caps consistently made the playoffs and couldn't get out of the Patrick division. Games had a constant overtone of "How will we lose the Penguins in the playoffs this year?" There wasn't much enthusiasm for anything that happened during your typical regular season game.

Things started to change in the late 90s. We followed our team through a Stanley Cup run. We got new ownership that made me feel like the team wasn't always an afterthought for the Bullets. We signed Jagr, and thought that a line with Bondra and Jaromir could spell intense trouble for everyone. For once I approached a Capitals preseason with hope instead of apprehension. Only it didn't happen, and the collapse was acknowledged and well documented. The tiny stirrings of hope were extinguished as players were traded, left, and accusations over the management of the team and the league grew more and more bitter.

Last year the Capitals signed Alexander Ovechkin, and as he proved to be everything that was promised and more, there seemed to be a sense, for the first time in over six years, that rooting for this team was not a waste of emotional intensity. The product on the ice is not only worth watching, it is worth cheering for, it is worth being excited about.

As soccer fans, perhaps the one thing we can understand is bringing enthusiasm to the game. We are not completley ignorant of hockey or the Caps. If anything, we are perhaps too aware of the defeatist mentality that characterizes Capitals fandom. All we want is to bring some of our enthusiasm and spirit, honed around the various soccer stadiums of the United States and the world, to the Verizon Center. This is not to say that I think that the soccer fandom way translates perfectly to the rink. We may have to fine tune some traditions, pick our spots better, and customize more of the chants. I'll admit that it would be a work in progress. But give it a chance, eh? For so long it feels like the only unique Capitals tradition was flaming out in the Conference Semis or Patrick Division finals, let's try and create a new one. One that brings some unique feel to the Verizon Center. We'll work with you, and I ask you to work with us. Give us a chance before you run us off.

All that being said, cutting down on the booze is a non-starter. Other things (and I'll leave that to the various elders and presidents of the supporter's groups) may be negotiable, but that's sacrosanct.

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Two Stories of a Transfer Denied

CARROLL NO GO? John at Pseudo Corner Kick left this in the comments, but it is worth highlighting. A website is reporting that Brian Carroll will not be offered a contract at OM. Official confirmation is still pending, and YA still has him on the big board of potential moves.

DCENTERS A NO GO? So Blogger apparently has this new version of their software, that allows for really nice things like labeling posts. When it was in Beta, they wouldn't let me switch it over. So I was thrilled to discover that they are now rolling it out to everyone, and I tried to switch this site over to it. No luck. Why? Because I talk too damn much. From their help file, some blogs can't switch if they are "A very large blog. (More than a couple thousand posts + comments.)" We're only about 750 posts, but I guess the point remains. There has been some preliminary talk about moving this blog to a new site at some point, maybe a wordpress site, but we'll see what happens. I've also got the urge to redo the graphic layout. We'll see if that leads to anything...

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07 December 2006

Still interested in owning United

No not the metrostars, but former Duke basketball player Brian Davis looks to still be part of United's new ownership group, according to Thomas Heath's article in the Washington Post. The first half of the article deals with an attempt to purchase the NBA Grizzlies, the info that's of interest to DC fans comes towards the end. Particularly, the nugget that Kevin Payne heads the group trying to buy the team, reportedly for $33 million.

We'll get news about the purchase when it happens, and although we'd all like it to happen sooner rather than later, undoubtedly there are a ton of other factors we'll never know about. The lack of an ownership group hasn't affected the front office's ability to resign Gomez and Moreno or put a hold on looking for new players to sign.

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Two stories in the Post this morning that are worth your time, especially since there's some interesting details. Steve Goff on Christian Gomez, Brian Carroll, David Stokes, Mattias Donnet, and (maybe) Piotr Nowak. Thomas Heath on those that would buy DC United, and their NBA problems (which Quarter Volley was discussing yesterday...)

I don't have time to analyze it right now, but it will get analyzed as there are some tasty details to be examined.

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06 December 2006

What can we say about Brian Carroll at OM?

If he does get signed, he'll have an experience on his hands. The debate within the OM message boards shows that there is some resistance among OM fans to Americans in general. Typically, the OM message boards read like the French version of Big Soccer, with various people claiming sources (including one who made it sounds like OM and Carroll had reached a 3 year deal which would be announced after the friendly). Others seem impressed by Carroll's workrate (no surprise there) but are adopting a buyer beware attitude about a 25 year old american.

So, all in all, this tells us very little until we hear something from the OM Front Office. It seems like OM fans are willing to give him a chance to make the team better, but aren't convinced he's a quality every day solution.

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Addendum and Correction

THE REBUTTAL: Harry Hotspur from the Harry Hotspur blog dropped by yesterday to defend the anti-EPL side of the equation. I direct you to his comments here. I've also added a link to his excellent blog, which, in ironic fashion, is labeled "[EPL-Spurs]" over in the blogroll. Perhaps that only amuses me. But I'm very happy he dropped by with his words. As someone once said: "By God, I cannot flatter; I do defy the tongues of soothers" (Henry IV, Part I, IV, i.) So my thanks to him for his candid appraisal of the matter. COYS!

OKAY, IT'S RFK, NOT THE SOCCERPLEX: Kinney finally pointed out that DC United has, in fact, announced that Leg 2 of our CONCACAF Champions Cup match against CD Olimpia of Honduras will be at RFK. What makes it more embarrassing is that he found it in a press release I had linked to, and somehow not read the last paragraph of. Shame! Shame! So, to be clear, here are the details reproduced verbatim:

D.C United will also be participating in next year's CONCACAF Champions' Cup as well, where they will take on Honduran side CD Olimpia in the quarter-final round. The Black-and-Red will travel to Honduras for the first leg of the tie, set for Feb. 20-22. United will then return to RFK for the decisive home leg, likely to be held either Feb. 28 or March 1.
As the kids say, "My bad." Or are the kids even saying that anymore? I doubt it. I mean, it's been four years since Kurt Angle used it in a promo he cut. They've got to be saying something else now. Perhaps, to really confuse people over 25, they now say "Oh, pardon me! My most heartfealt apologies!" Man, that would freak out every English teacher in the nation if they heard that in the halls.

DUE DILIGENCE: Quarter Volley looks at the potential DCU suitors, and notes that a major sporting organization has already found a beef. Does this affect the sale? Hmmm... I'm thinking once bitten, twice shy myself on this matter.

CARROLL AT OM: YA carried the story that DCU Defensive Midfielder Brian Caroll's trial was entering the crucible stage with Olympic Marseille's friendly against FC Martigues. I've been seeing if I can pick up any French media on the match, and haven't found anything, but I'll let you know.

BOSWELL CHATS ABOUT MILITARY, HOTNESS, AND DAN STEINGBERG, NOT THAT THOSE TOPICS ARE NECESSARILY RELATED: Bobby Boswell chats with fans today. Expect lots of questions about general hotness, and the fact that Bruce Arena may sign Robin Rexroat just to counterprogram DC United's defense.

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05 December 2006

In Defense of using the "EPL"

Since I'm thinking about annoying habits of the English, I want to address the use of the abbreviation "EPL" in referring to the FA Premier League of England. If you read the European press, Tony?  Yes Control?  Tell me Tony, how do you talk about association football?  Well, Control, with my mouth I suppose?  Yes, Tony, but how specifically?specifically the UK Press, and their associated comment sites and message boards, you can see many examples of someone from, say, "St. Louis, MO" referring to the EPL and promptly having a slew of people from London, Swindon, et al yelling about "American ignorance" for not referring to England's top league as either the "Premiership", "FA Premier League", or the "Barclay's Premiership." Okay, they don't really insist on the last term, but the point remains that somehow referring to the top-flight English league as the EPL is verboten. It is silly and hypocritical for anyone in England to object to the use of EPL by a Yank.

Let's start with why it is silly. In the immediate islands in and around the UK, there are four different "Premier" organizations: the FA Premiership (England), the Scottish Premier League, the Premier Division of the Irish League, and the Irish Premier League (Northern Ireland). Admittedly, only the Scottish Premier League seems to have greater European prominence (Celtic not too shabby, eh?), but given the various genealogies of American citizens, it seems reasonable that we could trace our ancestry, and relatives, to supporters of any of these teams. EPL is a convenient shorthand for specifying which Premiership we're talking about, especially in Europe. Yes, there may be a slightly hidden confusion if you bring the African leagues into the equation. Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethopia all boast "Premier" leagues. But in common soccer fandom, you probably care about your domestic league, South America (maybe) and Europe). Within that context, which is the context of, I think, the vast majority of fans over here, EPL is a sensible abbreviation allowing one to specifically address what you're talking about. Given that at least 13 of the UEFA members use "Premier" in their name, and at least three of those are significant powers, it makes sense.

Now for the hypocrisy. The yanks get a bit of a rap, perhaps deservedly, for being overly American-exceptionalist, USA-centric, and a bit xenophobic for anything outside of the Community Anglais. This is a favored pastime in the various UK tabloids for the amateur sociologist/columnist. Yet the use of "EPL" speaks to a wider intentional view, opening its eyes to old and new Europe, moving away from an anglic-centric view to a more international view. Naturally, this passes right over the head of the anti-"EPL" zealots, who suddenly revert to their own English supremacist views. There is only one premiership, and it is the FA Premiership. There is only one United. There is only one top league in the world. Crikey!

Now, as far as I know, I personally have never been taken to task for using "EPL" and may never get any such flak. I use the term frequently, especially in the blogroll on the right. It is an appropriate term to use. And I'll stop using it when you pry it from my cold, dead, carpel-tunnel ridden fingers.

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Opening Day... On the Road

We know two games of the schedule now... At Colorado (now featuring Herculez Gomez and Ugo Ihemelu, aka "The Mediate Leg-Breaker") on April 7. The game will be nationally televised in order to show the USA television audience the impressive nature of Dick's...Sporting Goods Park. I know... that joke has been made many times before, and will probably be made many more.

The home opener is against Kansas City on April 14, featuring the Wiz's new head coach (and DCU alumish) Curt Onalfo. Not a great opener, but at least one that promises some interest in a "Let's see what this guy does" sort of way. Is this a Gansler-esque team of exquisity boring soccer, or a team with a new character? Yup... trying to work myself into a lather for this game isn't happening. More excited about the Germantown Soccerplex game in February.

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04 December 2006

In the Soccer Justice System, Players are Represented by Two separate yet Equally Important Groups...

...The management, deciding when to use the players, and their agents, attempting to get players the best deals. These are their stories.

A summary of the international movement for DC:

Brian Carroll remains on trial at Olympique Marseille. Prognosis: Decent chance of getting an offer, but we wait to hear additional news.

David Stokes' trial at St. Pauli ended without a contract offer. It's interesting, but getting David Stokes in the news has allowed all sorts of people to take shots at him. From the "considered a bust" line in the linked YA article to Du Nord's slam of "if they [St. Pauli] sign Stokes then they are in much worse shape than I thought" he has not been getting kind reviews. I'm not going to say it isn't merited, as Stokes has shown little fulfillment of some of the grander predictions of talent that accompanied him. Still, man, the guy's still human. This is a dehumanizing world at times, especially in the way we talk about soccer players. I don't think there's a way to write nicely about it an be fair, but it does bother me at times, even as I will succumb to the same type of comment.

Freddy Adu's trial is over, and no word on whether ManU will offer him a contract for his Super 18th Birthday Party (Jojo not invited). Tribal Football attempts to take American management to task over their comments on Freddy:

"DC United coach Peter Nowak and technical chief Dave Kasper who indulged in a little lazy commentary....Nowak's uninformed swipe at how United treat their young players does little for the standing of MLS officials outside the 'States."
Yup, but here's the thing. Tribal Football essentially complains about us uninformed MLS types for saying that Freddy won't get time at ManU. Oh no, they say Sir Alex has shown he will play young players...by loaning them to other teams, and then letting them go permanently elsewhere! And this means everyone over here is wrong to write that Freddy wouldn't see time in the First XI at Manchester United how actually? Please. This is a lazy and intellectually dishonest argument and interpretation from those writers. They should know better. We all know Freddy isn't likely to be wearing a kit with "AIG" on the front of it any time soon. But TribalFootball seems content to take swipes at ignorant Yanks by misstating the intentions of Nowak and Kasper. More on other examples of English Exceptionalist interpretations later.

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