28 February 2006

The Preseason Job Center: GK

Today is a quiet day on the DCU front, what with the team being in Spain. In my other life, things are ridiculous, but that's not much of a change. So let's revisit the preseason job center, and it is time for the final installment: who will stand under the crossbar.

There aren't many permutations. Weber is gone, which means this is all about Rimando, Nick vs. Perkins, Troy. So for this final installment, I'm ditching the format used in previos installment of the job center for a simple tale of the tape.


Rimando: 5'10", 190 lbs

Perkins: 6'2", 190 lbs

Advantage: Perkins


Rimando: Excellent in the flow of play. Acceptable on penalties.

Perkins: Decent in the flow of play. Decent on penalties

Advantage: Rimando

Positioning on Set Pieces

Rimando: Similar the path of an electron disproving Bohr's model of the atom. A state of quantum uncertainty prevails as he darts around.

Perkins: Conventional, you can almost see him plotting his line in his head.

Advantage: Perkins.


Rimando: Good on short throws, decent to back mids, overly ambitious on the wings.

Perkins: Mediocre decision making but decent execution.

Advantage: Rimando

Back passes

Rimando: Good dribbling and distribution. Occasionally gets into trouble making a move.

Perkins: Seems to have learned wrong lessons from Rimando recently, as I've seen him get caught with the ball at his feet on the line more often in 2005 than in 2004.

Advantage: Rimando

Contract Status

Rimando: Got a raise, so now a mid-sized contract.

Perkins: Cheap.

Advantage: Perkins


Rimando: Can be caught napping or leaning.

Perkins: More vocal, but not clear he's saying the right things.

Advantage: Perkins


Rimando: Nice to kittens and old ladies.

Perkins: Nice to kittens and old ladies.

Advantage: Draw

Analysis and Predictions

There's more discontent in the DCU fanbase with Rimando than with Perkins. It's difficult for me to make judgements since there's not really been a rotation of the players, but rather one or another has been the starting keeper while the other was relegated to the bench. My sense is that Rimando catches the eye more easily than Perkins, while Perkins may be more fundamentally sound and have those all important four inches that so obsess the DCU fan. However, with no 3rd string keeper, neither will be going anywhere. My best guess (and it is trule a guess) is that Nick will get the starting nod more games than Troy, but it won't be 30 MLS games as it was last year. More like 22 starts for Nick, 10 for Troy who'll also get the early rounds of the US Open Cup. But that's a guess.

27 February 2006


Got an e-mail asking if I would post a link to the Screaming Eagles podcast. Would I? Damn straight I will. I'll put a permanent link in the blogroll soon, but here's the lovely Screaming Eagles podcast homepage for your audio pleasure. Somebody should do one of those for all MLS. I will, of course, whore myself out to it.

Also, you may note that I did some reorganizing of the blogroll this weekend. Of note, the new regional soccer blog area. I'm still debating about what to do with USL related things like with the Timbers and their army. New section? U.S. section? I dunno. Plus, the new MLSFanGirl site, who seems to be a DCU ex-pat out in the country somewhere. As Dan Rather might say: "Courage!".

Also, I see that Bruce's Belly called the DCenters "admirably diplomatic." I'm guessing it's because the spellchecker flags "blatant wuss-out." Actually, the Belly's comments on Cunningham mostly echo my feelings on the matter, as do Matt's comments last week. I guess what I was trying to say is that Cunningham was adding nothing factual to the discussion, which is why I didn't acknowledge much about it. Everyone needs to shut up about it until we hear something one way or the other. That includes me.

Wait Until Dark


So like many of you, I've been wondering when MLS will release the results of its in-depth investigation into the Nowak/RSL incident. Now, it has occured to me that they may have already finished it, and are merely waiting for the proper time to release their findings.

Consider that DC United let the media know of its plans to release three players late on Friday afternoon. As any part-time media observer or TV viewer of The West Wing in season 2 can tell you, the late Friday time period is the perfect time to let unhappy news go out. You get the happy advantage of having the story be covered on a Saturday, the story is not covered in the Sunday papers, and by Monday is old news. That's the theory, as I understand it.

Steve Goff himself notes: "The 28-man rosters must be submitted to the league by Wednesday." So there was more time to make these cuts, but they wanted to get it out of the way now. Now, admittedly, I'm pretty sure that DC United wasn't playing this deep a game in timing the information they release. But I'm also pretty sure that MLS would definately do such a thing. Which means, I think that the Nowak situation will be addressed no earlier than March 3rd, the next opportunity for MLS to take advantage of this situation. However, given that DC United will be in Spain at the time, the league might even not make a move until March 10, in order to allow for Kevin Payne to put his imprint on the issue as needed.

Of course, you have to believe that MLS would really run its media relations in that manner. And this should definately be filed under the realm of baseless speculation. In short, the perfect blog post.

Arena: Freddy Needs Time

In an wide-ranging interview with the League Managers Association, Bruce Arena gives his thoughts on all manner of things, such as coaching in the Premiership and the state of US Players. Oh, and some Freddy Adu stuff. Key grafs:

I’m sure that spectators in Germany and TV viewers worldwide would love to see Freddy Adu play in Germany. He’s still a young boy; has this World Cup come around too soon for him or is he in contention?
Freddy Adu is 16 years old. He is making good progress. However, the expectations are a little unreal. He needs time to grow both on and off the field of play.
There’s constant speculation in England that Freddie will join Manchester United or Chelsea. You know him well and know our Premiership well; could he make an impact in England?
Perhaps one day. As I’ve said, he needs time.

Interesting, and I wonder what signal this is supposed to send. While I would not be surprised to see Freddy go overseas after this year, considering he will be 18 in 2007, does is Bruce asking Freddy to stay around for a few more years in the US? Seems that way.

25 February 2006

3 Out, 1 In


The Washington Post reports that DC United released Goalkeeper Andrew Weber, defensive midfielder Shawn Kuykendall, and attacking midfielder Nick Van Sicklen on Friday. According to John Haydon in the Washington Times, former Columbus Crew and Maryland Terrapin Dominic Mediate is near a contract with the team.

Let's start with the easy one first: Andrew Weber was never challenging for a starting position, and his only reserve minutes last year came as a forward for the team. It is not entirely surprising that he is leaving.

Nick Van Sicklen's departure is also not entirely unexpected. In The DCenters midfield preview, the prediction was that Rod Dyachenko would move ahead of Van Sicklen for a shot at the Center Midfield location. This move seems to confirm that whatever Dyachenko has down DC United in Florida, it was enough to make them think they had made the right choice.

The loss of Shawn Kuykendall does surprise me though. Shawn's work in the reserves had been decent, and I was hoping he might pull it out. Failing that, I thought he might have some trade value for DC United, even if it was for a very late draft pick. Ben Olsen and Brian Carroll had the top jobs locked up, and Clyde Simms has apparently played well enough to secure the back-up job. Jeff Carroll will apparently be the developmental hope for the team. Now, I can certainly imagine another team taking a look at Shawn, so I wish him well wherever he lands.

The signing of Dominic Mediate, who was a major drain on the DCenters fantasy team last year, is also a bit of a surprise. While Haydon writes that he imagines Mediate contenting for a wing position, part of me wonders if he also might not help challenge Brandon Prideaux for a RB slot.

24 February 2006

A Soccer Team Returns

Sure, San Jose fans thought they had it bad, until they remembered it isn't like their entire league disappeared. So chin-up folks, because I-66 at DC Sports shows that some soccer teams do come back. For myself, I am thrilled about this, but now I am presented with a strange conundrum: Do I root for the Washington Freedom, or for Northern Virginia's Majestics? Tough one... But hey, at least it's a derby of our very own (June 28 and July 16 seem to be the two dates where those teams will face one another). See, some times they break your heart but they come back again.

I was waiting for that joke

I'm not sure where this is going (other than Germnay obviously) but What's the Fuss? World Cup 2006: Two Americans Storm Germany seems to be an interesting travelogue that's being written. It may also get them to the top of DuNord's blogroll of title length. The Ich Bin Ein Hamburger post is intersting...

23 February 2006

What He Said...

Yes, I know Jeff Cunningham commented on the Nowak situation. No, I don't have much to say about it, because as Jeff admits, he didn't hear a damn thing. He simply believes in Ellinger. I believe in Nowak, Payne, Walker, and potentially the AR. We're both waiting on the league, who better not be cute with their words. That's all.

Network and Networth

So I see that there's this Big Soccer network out there. Which is cool and all, and I'm debating whether to sign The DCenters up for it. I confess to some ambivalence on the matter though. I mean, other than as a link exchange to generate traffic and giving BS posters a chance to rate sites. Which, don't get me wrong, is useful. And there are some of my favorite sites up there. But I guess I'm a little queasy for miscallaneous reasons:

  1. I don't like to feel like a mooch
  2. I've always felt like this was an oasis from the constant chatter of BS. Wouldn't this be, in effect, endorsing the idea that there is BigSoccer, the amorphous entity that can, in effect, represent the entire Internet Soccer Population?
I don't know. I don't even know if those are all the reasons that I'm feeling strange about it.

I don't object to networks in general. I love what Oscar has done at Soccerblogs, which is an honest way of him providing a service, and if he grabs a few bucks from some google ads, so much the better. I like that he asked before adding me to their list, and I like that he only does a partial RSS feed, instead of publishing whole articles. There's a guy I know who's thinking of doing something similar for DC Sports Blogs in general, and I'm down with that as well, so what the hell is my problem? No idea.

Speaking of the entire linking situation, I got an email from this site requesting a link exchange. Now, I have a few rules about me setting up links in the lovely blogroll over there on the right. First, I have to be generally interested in your content. Second, I don't want to feel like your content is an excuse for commerce. If I feel like you write posts just to get people to look at your ads, or to use your propreitary service, you don't get a link. That's the rule. I don't know where this site is going to fall. It seems pretty ad driven, what with two whole columns. And my interest in betting on soccer is pretty academic. I should also confess that I don't like the "you link to me and I'll link to you" approach. There are several sites that I link to that don't send anything back here, but that doesn't matter because I'm not linking to them out of vanity, but because they interest me.

On the other hand, this guy does seem like he's trying to provide an interesting viewpoint. So I dunno. And yes, I realize that this entire post so far is way too pretentious in the long run. I'm hardly the Alpha and Omega of Soccer Blog sites. But I'm funny like that. I dig prentension. And its two siblings: arrogance and self-importance. We're a happy family.

Plans of Attack

I'll let you in on a little secret as to how I do things here. There's a formula. This is the first thing I check each morning. That's typically how I figure out what people are saying around this vast, wide, internetty thing. From this I typically cull two to three articles that are of interest to me, and thus the morning news briefing. Then I might make a few notes towards posts on things I think about the stuff I've read recently. I'll scan The DCenters email box (thedcenters(at)gmail(dot)com, if you didn't know) for any emails to tips people have mailed in. A check of the soccerblogoball (sphere is synonymous with ball, right?) follows. Then I might drop in on Big Soccer to see what the latest headache to their moderators is.

Now, the nice thing is that following Happy DC United Day, things here have quieted down. I click that first link above, and see little that needs comment. Which means I can turn and think about bigger things. For instance: "what's changed since 2005?"

It has been a crazy off-season (Adu's going to New Jersey, Adu's going Chelsea, Adu's not going to Old Trafford, There was a draft, DCU caught a moose, Piotr Nowak may have said something really bad, somewhat bad, or totally inoccous, Chelse wants Adu -- but only if he's going to be great...) , made all the crazier by a simple fact that seems elusive: Very little has changed. Last year saw the departure of Ezra Hendrickson, Ryan Nelsen, Ernie Stewart, and then mid-season Mike Petke. That's an entire back line, plus a winger who could cross a ball. This season DC United has lost only Dema Kovalenko. Brandon Prideux has not been traded. Nor has Freddy. Nor has Rimando. United decided to stand pat for the most part. What's more, my money is that no DC United player will be going to Germany (Ben Olsen is still only a 20% shot based on the most recent odds posting)

Compare this with the wheeling-dealing Metros, coaching changes in Columbus and New Jersey, The Revs looking at losing Noonan, Dempsey, Twellman, and who knows who else to Bruce, Kansas City has made more than one move... I tend to think that consistency, in a world-cup disrupted year, could be a great factor (especially going after that Supporter's Shield). The question still remains: Is this squad talented enough to catch fire for a cup bid? To my mind, it is clear that the most talented team in the East is still New England. I think New Jersey's talent level has improved, and could get stronger by the end of the season. Columbus will certainly be more of a threat this year. Kansas City is still a cypher to me. Chicago seems to have taken a similar approach as DC this off-season, and we know how they fared at the end of last year. Quick summary: teams that finished below DCU have gotten better. Teams above DCU are standing pat, but may have more problems with World Cup conflicts. I think DC can hold its own for the regular season, but will it translate to playoff success and another cup? Of course, the answer now is "no." It seems like the modus operandi of Payne, Nowak, et al, is to put the team in a good position during the regular season, evaluate their needs in August, then see if they can broker a good deal or transfer to meet that need. It's an interesting strategy, and one that probably prevents the massive sell-offs that could destroy a quality team. But it doesn't create a team that you look at preseason, knowing it's an odds on favorite for the Cup.

I figure I've written about 20,000 words this off-season, which is an awful lot for a team that is still, largely, the same.

22 February 2006

Happy DC United Day Final Installment: Butterstick Trial

So I hope everyone is as cheered up as I was by Happy DC United Day. Our master of ceremonies would like to end the day by discussing his trial with DCU during this offseason. Now, FIFA regulations say that Tai "Butterstick" Shan is too young to sign with DC United, plus he's technically a citizen of China, so an overseas permanent transfer can't happen for several years. That being said, the Stick did give me this picture of his preseason training with DC United. In a closed friendly with the Revs, here we see the stick knock Revolution defender Jay Heaps off the ball with a clean tackle. Note that Heaps subsequently handles the ball in a most flagrant fashion, for which he received a caution:

That's all for Happy DC United Day. I certainly feel refreshed, I promise not to do this to you all again. That is, I won't do it again for at least a year.

Happy DC United Day Part 3: Cats

Happy to laze on the couch most of the day, likes food at a regular time, content to chase a ball around the house using only its feet, easily Gypsy the Catdistracted by shiny objects... yes, that's the natural state of a soccer fan. Similar to cats in that respect. So, I am happy to provide in a spirit of comraderie to RSL fans, a picture of a soccer happy cat. This is Gypsy, who as you can tell is kitted up in true DCU style with her black and white outfit accented with a hint of red from the collar. Gypsy's favorite player is Nick Rimando. Gypsy enjoys soccer, but wonders why they run around for 45 minutes at a time. She thinks MLS should institute regular bathing and naps for ten minute intervals.

Happy DC United Day Part 2: Bread

The all-day Happy DC United Day (scroll down for previous entries) event continues, with me sharing my DC United related kitcken equipment. Why? Because I figure if I admit that I am this ridiculous, everyone will feel better. So here we go...

There comes a time in a man's life where he must turn to the business for providing for his family. My in-laws got me a stand mixer last year for Christmas, so I have begun to bake bread. Bread is a mysterious substance, playing into space at a deceptively slow rate, absorbing multiple attempts to beat it down, and ultimately delivering tasty goodness.

Sadly, there are few MLS licensed products for the kitchen. Courtesy of a Hambone and Jennicakes custom order, I am now in posession of a tea towel that perfectly expresses the nature of the bread I wish to create. Yes, the Marco Etcheverry tea towel captures all of the tasty needs I have for my bread. Who better to watch over my bread during its rising process? And dig the nice mullet on El Diablo there... good stuff.

Happy DC United Day: The News

I'm going to let Tai Shan take care of the news roundup for Happy DC United Day. What do you got Butterstick?

I'm Going to Spain, cousin Norman had a real fine time last year - DCU has announced a friendly with Getafe, a mid-table team in Spain's top division. In Spain. That should be fun. If only I had a passport. And lots of money. And time off.

Chatbug - For those without a propensity for ulcers, you can dive into the Steve Goff chat at noon today, which I'm sure is bound to not be depressing or upsetting in the least.

The New Argentina - MASN grabs interviews with Facundo Erpen, Lucio Filomeno, and Christian Gomez. This is a nice, easygoing interview that doesn't go anywhere contravertial. Just what I needed for Happy DC United Day.

Happy DC United Day Part 1: The US of A

Okay, so I've been bummed out by all of this controversy and kerfluffle recently, so today is going to be "Happy DC United Day." Any day like this needs a master of ceremonies that can truly life everyone's spirits, and for the District of Columbia, we're fortunate to have just the right person for the job. So, direct from the National Zoo, pleas welcome Tai Shan, aka Butterstick!

So Butterstick, are you ready for Happy DC United Day?

Good man...er...panda. So what happy things should we celebrate for Happy DC United day?

Right, Ben Olsen's goal for the US National team. That was pretty cool. I guess we should update the odds on DCU people making the Stars and Stripes. Now, while the Olsen goal helps him, I think that DCU candidates are still behind on the Arena's depth charts, and none of the front runners are really making the mistakes needed to allow DCU players to move up.

  1. Ben Olsen (Odds - 4:1, previously 5:1. The goal, his attitude, and his versatility have to be attractive to Arena, but will he take a name off to make room for him?)
  2. Santino Quaranta (Odds - 12:1, previously 10:1, some nice passing, but running out of time, and doesn't have the versatility [yet] of other options at the wing)
  3. Brian Carroll (Odds - 14:1, previously 12:1, not only running against other Dmids, but against Olsen. Ben's gotta be ahead in that race.)
  4. Bobby Boswell (Odds - 50:1,unchanged, BUT HE'S CAPPED! WOOO! BOSWELL, NATIONAL TEAM PLAYER! I am such a homer. Photo from Yellow Card Journalism of #4 Boswell here.)
  5. Freddy Adu (Odds - 50:1, unchanged)

Thanks for reminding me Butterstick. Stay with us, and I'm sure you'll have more as we celebrate Happy DC United day, including my DC United kitchen materials, and images from Tai Shan's trial period with DC United.

21 February 2006

Change of Pace

Given that we now have both the old story that won't die, and the new story that won't die, I'm declaring tomorrow "Happy DC United" day, in which I will post happy DC United images. And maybe a picture of a kitten. Or a small panda. Something like that.

Nowak and Alleged Racist Comments: RSL Pushing the Issue

Previously on this topic: [1] [2] [3]

From the Washington Post today, we see that RSL has indeed filed a complaint that prompted Garber's press release yesterday. While I was originally stating that if Ellinger pressed the issue, I would be upset, I'm going to back away from that right now. It seems like Kevin Payne also wanted a full MLS investigation:

"We've asked the league to look into it because we know what happened and we know what was said -- Real Salt Lake is simply mistaken," said Payne, who was near the team bench during the match. "The league also needs to look into how Salt Lake has handled it. I talked to some of the Salt Lake people after the game and they didn't say a word to me about it, not one word. For them to handle it this way is mind-boggling."
I think that's fair. There are a number of thing that no one outside of MLS knows right now that need to be known before any final judgements can be made. They are:
  1. What is the nature of RSL's complaint? Do they specifically allege racism, or is it a complaint about Nowak issuing a command to injure another player?
  2. The statements from the Assistant Referees are very important. It should be noted that right now only DCU has said the ARs never heard a racist comment, but we don't have that from the ARs or MLS itself. I can't imagine DCU would be wrong about something like that, especially since they are the true neutral parties in this situation.
  3. I don't like going after Ellinger, because it does have a sort of "blame the victim" taste to it. But there are legitimate questions as to how RSL has handled this. Why allow for a radio interview to create hazy suspicion when a "that's something for the league to look into" or "no comment" would have sufficed? Does Ellinger feel that he has to file the protest now in order to maintain his reputation after the radio interview? And will MLS examine the way in which this story went public?

Now, let's be clear: Ellinger if he heard a racist comment should have filed a grievance directly and immediately against DCU. If he felt that MLS wasn't taking him seriously, then I can understand going public in order to draw attention to the situation. But by allowing this story to be propogated in public first, he is allowing for public perceptions to taint the images of everyone involved before any decent fact-finding has been done. That's wrong. He has stepped outside of the chain of command, and encouraged a poisonous atmosphere to develop under these actions. Ellinger has every right to be outraged, and every reason to channel that outrage through the appropriate channels. This may just have been a case of a poor deflection of a media question, in which case all he has to do is say "I said the wrong thing. My bad." All will be forgiven here then.

Let me reiterate: It is now incumbent on MLS to be definitive in their findings, and to act appropriately. Nowak, even if he said "to the hospital," might merit a significant suspension, but MLS must make it clear that is what the suspension was for. Simply issuing a vague statement that "Today, Piotr Nowak was suspended 5 games for conduct detrimental to the league" won't cut it. I would also like MLS to say precisely what the allegation was, and what information was used to evaluate it. In the manner, we can all have confidence that the correct decision was reached, for the proper reasons, and the appropriate sanctions issued.

Oh, that other bit of insanity (Adu to Chelsea, another round)


Yes, today I longed for a "Turn Freddy Adu Blue" story, and I wasn't disappointed, as we now have new comments from Chelsea indicating they might be interested in Adu. What makes this story different is that it attributes comments to someone directly in the Chelsea organization, and provides a vaguely reasonable timeline for Freddy moving over (not immediately, but at the end of the season.) Key quotes:

DC United but the club have hinted he could be available at the end of the year...We are interested in any young top-notch player," Buck told Sky Sports News. "That's why we brought Frank Arnesen on board and I'm sure Frank has watched him play and is looking at him [Adu]. And if he's as good as people say he is, then I think we would be interested...
Now, I'm not sure where DC United has hinted that he's available at the end of the year, but let's assume that's true for the moment. We now have at least a tenuous reason for speculation for Adu moving to the Blues after 2006. Is that reasonable? Who knows. Note the careful phrasing: "If he's as good as people say he is" That implies at least some doubt, which they would want to rectify through observation. What I do know is this: Freddy's motivation for playing is huge, as he is now auditioning for both the US Nats and Chelsea. That might raise his game a bit, it might also feed his frustration if he doesn't get minutes. Certainly an interesting bit of fun to have for the rest of 2006.

20 February 2006


MLS Launches Review of Nowak Statements [Updated Below]

Well, we're in for it now. MLS has announced that they are conducting a review of Nowak's alleged racist comments during the RSL-DCU game. The obvious inference is that Ellinger filed his complaint, but I'd like confirmation on that. If he did, then I damn well hope he has additional information to impart.

Now that Don Garber has put MLS into this situation, I hope it is handled strongly one way or the other. MLS should either determine that Nowak said "back to Africa" and suspend him for the year (and then DCU should fire Nowak) or they should determine that Nowak said "back to hospital" in which case they can suspend him for a few games for unsporting behavior (or not, if they believe he wasn't ordering that a player be roughed up). The worst thing they can do is look into this situation, and then pass with a statement like "we find no conclusive evidence that Piotr Nowak uttered racist commentary." If they do that, while it allows them to let everyone off the hook, it still tarnishes Nowak's reputation by letting it stay out there that he might have said it, only no one knows. MLS must make a determination on what was said for this to be fairly resolved, and publish openly the results of their inquiry. I do worry that they will look at the situation and punt. That would be the worst of all possible outcomes.

UPDATE 4:55PM DC United responds. They seem very confident in their language, predicting not only won't just punt on the issue, but instead "they will find that no such comments were ever made" or find the negative. I would imagine they wouldn't say that unless they were damn sure of themselves. And I hope they are, the league finds accordingly.

More Fallout on Nowak Racism Allegation

The plan was to write an epic poem celebrating Bobby Boswell's first cap, but the news cycle doesn't rest, so let's move with the tide. First, Steve Goff now is on record regarding the allegations discussed here yesterday (and discussed everywhere else as well). Key graf:

"Peter was telling [United rookie Kenney Bertz] to get back at their player," Walker, who is black, said in a telephone interview. "The guy was big and reckless, and he shouldn't have even been in the game. When Kevin told me after the game what the Real guys were saying, I was like, 'That's funny because that's not what he said.' Everyone heard it."...Ellinger, a Montgomery County native, was traveling yesterday and couldn't be reached for further comment, but a team spokesman said the club was considering filing an official complaint with MLS.
So, at this point in time, to believe that Nowak made a racist comment, you have to believe all of the following:
  1. That DCU players like Walker are lying to cover for Nowak.
  2. That Kevin Payne is lying to cover for Nowak.
  3. That Nowak is lying when he says he was instructing Kenny Bertz to retaliate for physical play and never said a thing about Africa.
  4. That the AR (as neutral a party as you can get) on the scene failed in his duties to accurately monitor the situation.

That's an awful lot to swallow, even if I could be persuaded on one of those points (sure, players and coaches are in a power relationship, Payne has political concerns regarding that stadium, etc...) to believe all of them requires a full suspension of Occam's Razor. It is a much simpler explanation that RSL misheard Nowak.

Which brings us to Ellinger. I have no problem with his actions to date, but if he does file a formal complaint with MLS, then he is raising the stakes. And if Coach E does that, he better have a whole lot of evidence to support it, and certainly more than we know of now. The act of filing a complaint will tarnish Nowak's name even if there's nothing to the story. You can't file a complaint here with a "Well, let's find out the truth" mindset. That would be a cop-out. No, if you file the complaint, it's because you think he did do it, and you want him sanctioned. If all Coach E has is what we have so far, his actions would only serve to damage Nowak, and weaken US Soccer as a whole by clouding an issue where, it seems to me, none exists.

Reaction from other quarters is appropriately moderate. Kali neatly summarizes the confusion of the entire situation over at Real Salt Lake Blog. The Belly looks to see if a double standard is being applied between reactions to Nowak's comment and the Houston 1836 reaction, and reaches a surprising but well-reasoned conclusion.

19 February 2006

Racism and the Black and Red.


Warning: Long, serious post ahead. I think it is worth your time, but be warned...

Part of me doesn't even want to write about this. Which is why I should write about it. For those seeing this for the first time, let's bring you up to date: During a friendly between RSL and DCU (which was lost 3-1), John Ellinger alleged that he heard DC United coach Piotr Nowak say of RSL trialist Atiba Harris, "Send him back to Africa." Atiba Harris is not african, but instead from St. Kitts. That's neither here nor there, since the phrase "send him back to Africa" regardless of where the player is from is close enough to certain white-power sentiments as to be a racist remark. This allegation occurs during a radio show, and you can find the link courtesy of Joe at We Call it Soccer.

As you can imagine, Big Soccer is all over this one (that's a link to the general DCU forum, since traffic is heavy among multiple threads). DC United responded in a message covered by MASN. Kevin Payne and Doug Hicks say that Piotr Nowak never said "Send him back to Africa" but instead "Send him back to the hospital." Key graf:

The Real Salt Lake technical staff reacted, at that moment, as a group, apparently misunderstanding what Peter had said. DC United has confirmed with US Soccer that the match officials also heard nothing like Real Salt Lake is alleging to have been said, despite the fact that the senior assistant referee working the match was within a few feet of Peter when RSL believes they heard the comment in question.

Now, let's lay the ground rules here. First, if Nowak said "Send him back to Africa," that's a racist comment. Period. The phrase is insulting, implying that a person is being judged by some standard and in failing that standard should be removed from the United States. Any reading of that phrase must take race into account. There is simply no innocous way of saying it. It is racist.

Second, if Nowak had said such a phrase, he would need to fired (or do the right thing and resign). Soccer has a problem with racism, thankfully that problem is typically in Europe and not here in the US. However, that's because US Soccer, and MLS, must have a zero tolerance policy for racism. The sport doesn't need that taint in this country. Even if Piotr Nowak believed he is not a racist, and he said such a thing, he would need to go. Such an act must have consequences, and they would need to be severe. I actually for a time thought of some of the more insensitive coaches in American Sport (JoePa's comments at Penn State for instance), and was thinking how we tend to tolerate it. But we shouldn't, and I won't succumb to the trap of "I like him, I like his team, I can make an excuse this once." There can't be excuses, because it opens to door for the next excuse, or to move the line a little more into what you might be willing to stomach. And once you start doing that, where do you stop?

So there's the deal. If he said what was alleged, he had to go. However, I want to be sure he actually said it. DC United says that he said no such thing. Now, I can't pretend to imagine what he meant by "Send back to the hospital." It doesn't sound right to me. The only way I can imagine it making sense is that he's calling for a player to be taken out with a hard foul (which doesn't reflect well on Piotr, but at least it isn't racist.) So there are reasons to doubt that he actually said such a thing, in that it really doesn't make sense on its own. If that's all we had, I'd probably be calling for Nowak's ouster right now. But it isn't all we have. The DC United players on the bench say that Nowak didn't say "send him back to Africa." Sure, but they could be protecting their coach. So more importantly is the fact that the Assistant Referee didn't hear it, and was apparently in the area to do so. What's more, it is part of an AR's job to detect just that sort of behavior. Under the Laws of the Game, "offensive or insulting or abusive language and/or gestures" are offenses that call for someone to be sent off. The FIFA Fair Play Code states:

Help to kick racism and bigotry out of football. Treat all players and everyone else equally, regardless of their religion, race, sex or national origin.
That's nice words, but the Beunos Aires declarations make them actionable:
requires team coaches and club officials to impose effective punishments upon players in their charge who indulge in or condone any form of racist behavior... requires referees to be more vigilant with regard to gestures or verbal offences of a racist nature between players and/or coaches and/or the public, and to take immediate action to punish offenders and to report such incidents clearly and fully.
In short, if the AR had heard such a thing, it is precisely the sort of thing he is supposed to instantly take action on. That he didn't lends strong credence to me that Piotr Nowak did not in fact say "Send him back to Africa" and supports the idea that what Nowak did say was misheard by the other side.

So after considering all of this, and considering what I know of Piotr Nowak, a man that loves the game and has never shown during his tenure an inch of racism, and seeing that the officials did not detect anything wrong, and that the mainstream media (and Steve Goff, once he had enough for a story, would be all over this) have not yet run with this story, I think the evidence supports Nowak unless something more comes out. In short, this probably was a misunderstanding, and should be treated as such. Nowak didn't say anything racist, or that if the right words were heard could have been interpreted as racist. What happened is over a loud pitch with a lot of noise, someone on RSL heard Nowak incorrectly, and reacted strongly. Do I blame RSL for this? Hell no, if I thought I had heard the same thing, the reaction should be strong. But I should also be open to the fact that perhaps I didn't hear what I thought I did, especially if those in a better position seem to think otherwise. Accordingly, with the evidence I have so far, I don't think Nowak should be fired, I don't think he's a racist, I don't think he made a racist comment, and I think this story should be put to bed. If there's more evidence, then I could change my mind, but with what I have now, this is done with.

17 February 2006

The Preseason Job Center: The Backline

My feelings on this are pretty clear, as I would like to see Namoff-Boswell-Erpen. But just because I want something to be true, doesn't mean it will be, so here's how best I can breakdown the preseason battles for the backs...

The Incumbents:

LB: Bryan Namoff (2005 regular season: 17 games played / 15 games started / 1348 minutes / 1 goal / 1 assist)
CB: Facundo Erpen (8/8/696/1/0)
RB: Brandon Prideuax (29/28/2455/0/0)

The Challengers: Bobby Boswell, David Stokes, Stephen DeRoux, John Wilson, Kenny Bertz

Analysis: There's been some discontent with the DCU backline, but it's really hard to object to their performance after losing Ryan Nelsen and Ezra Hendrickson and then allowing the lowest goal total in the league. Brandon Prideaux was the subject of trade rumors in the off season, but it was never clear how seriously anyone seemed to be taking the idea. Boswell's national team camp time should help him in the long run. John Wilson remains an option on the left side, especially if Namoff moves over to the right in the event Prideaux does get dealt. The dark horse is David Stokes, who could see snag some minutes.

Given the rule changes for yellow cards, the biggest obstacle for Boswell isn't the own-goal problem, but instead his tendency to grab a yellow for his professional fouls. Erpen's tendancy to go to the ground may also see him grab more than the expected number of cautions (he had 4 yellows in 8 games last year). While I don't see anything yet that indicates a definate shift in the typical starting 3, I can certainly see some fluidity in terms of rotational starting.

Kenny Bertz looks for all the world like a player that will see time almost exclusively in the reserves, USL friendlies, and perhaps a US Cup game in the early stages.

  1. Opening Day Starters: Namoff, Erpen, Prideuax.
  2. Rotation Starters: Namoff for Prideaux, Boswell for Erpen, Wilson for Namoff.
  3. Bench Order: Wilson and Boswell, Stokes, DeRoux.

16 February 2006

At a certain point in life, you learn how to delegate

Freddy talks of Chelsea directly in TSN Interview

Freddy, please, let your agent talk about Chelsea. That's fine. That's, in some respects, his job. But when you talk about it, it seems a little strange. Yes, you're cautious about it, but given the brou-ha-ha recently, I'd let it lie fallow for a bit. Don't say things like this:

''They've expressed a lot of interest,'' the 16-year-old soccer phenom said in an interview from Florida, where his MLS team, D.C. United, is in pre-season training.

''It's true, but it's not all true,'' he says of the Chelsea reports. ''Not every single thing they say about that is true, but it's true to a certain extent. They have been interested. We have been talking - well, my agent has. We'll see what happens.''

Also, when discussing videogaming, instead of saying:
Adu's first choice of team is D.C. United. ''Because I get to play with my character in the game,'' he explained. ''If I'm not playing with my character actually, I usually go with three teams. I play with Chelsea, Real Madrid or Manchester United.''
If you really wanted to impress people, say "I love the it captures Christian Gomez in a 3-5-2, and I can keep Facundo Erpen from sliding all over the place. Plus those Barra Brava banners are nicely rendered."

Oh well, this article will probably fade without a trace, since I think a bit of Freddy for the Blues fatigue has set in. Which is good. And the article as a whole is okay for Freddy. He comes off well. Just leave the transfer stuff to Motzkin.

Goal Glutton.

I can't get enough Eskandarian interviews, even though we've been over them time and time again. So I bring you MLSNet's Eskandarian has a point to prove. The point Eskandarian wishes to prove is that he is still a viable scoring threat. However, the point I wish to prove is that Matt Reis is a thug, even if that is a name you won't find in this particular article. I'm guessing Perry White took that bit out of Mr. Nierman's otherwise excellent interview.

The Pre-Season Job Center: Midfield

Five top spots up for grabs, and I think midfield is where we may see some of the most transformation. Dema Kovalenko is gone, which means the RM position is wide open to be won. On the left, Josh Gros had an acceptable 2005 starting at LM, but has not yet secured the job for this year. Gomez, Carroll, and Olsen seem to be a solid triangle in the middle, but what comes next? Let's take a look

The Incumbents:

  1. CAM: Christian Gomez (2005 regular season: 31 games played / 30 games started / 2419 minutes / 11 goals / 9 assists)
  2. LM: Josh Gros (30/29/2563/4/4)
  3. RM: Open [Dema Kovalenko]
  4. CM: Ben Olsen (23/22/1874/2/4)
  5. CM: Brian Carroll (32/30/2567/1/3)

The Challengers:

  1. LM: Freddy Adu, John Wilson
  2. CAM: Freddy Adu, Nick Van Sicklen, Rod Dyachenko, Santino Quaranta
  3. RM: Justin Moose, Santino Quaranta, Nick Van Sicklen
  4. CM: Shawn Kuykendall, Clyde Simms, Stephen DeRoux, Jeff Carroll.

Analysis: The heart of the midfield starting order seems secure: Christian Gomez will miss the opener serving his red card suspension, but probably had the slot secure. Olsen and Carroll, provided that national team duty doesn't interfere (and I don't think it will), should serve well in the middle.

The departure of Dema Kovalenko opens the right midfield slot to competition. Justin Moose was drafted at least in part to fill this position, but I wouldn't be surprised if Santino Quaranta got the first couple of starts. Moose will get some reserve time, and then could challenge around midseason for the starting job.

The left midfield situation would seem to be more stable, given that Josh Gros and John Wilson both played the position and are returning. Gros certainly would seem to have the edge, and a nice raise to go with an everyday starting role. Yet my gut tells me that Freddy Adu may well get his share of minutes here, and more than an occasional start. Freddy has spoken about playing on the left in USMNT camp, and Bruce clearly indicated that he had to work on his defense to succeed in that postion. Add the occasional Bruce and Piotr phone call, and one gets the feeling that LM could be up for grabs.

As an added wrinkle, Gomez has not gone the full 90 for most of his time here, and Freddy was the typical sub. But if Freddy and Gomez both start the game, and Piotr wants to make a strict CAM for CAM sub, then suddenly the depth chart at CAM becomes very interesting for whomever can grab the #3 position. The battle here could be between third-round draft pick Rod Dyachenko and reserve player Nick Van Sicklen. Winning that battle could result in more than just a few token minutes.

As for the Central midfield position, both Carroll and Olsen are well established. Yet injuries are not unknown to Ben Olsen, so a strong battle between Shawn Kuykendall and Clyde Simms (with potenital dark horse Stephen deRoux) could have practical first team implications in determining the depth at CM.

John Wilson seems to be on the outside looking in, but given that he can be used at left back as well, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on an expanded bench. Jeff Carroll I can't see as much beyond a reserve player this year, and Stephen deRoux may also have to look at the backline for advancement.


  1. Opening Day Starters: LM-Gros, CAM-Adu (Gomez CHI red card), RM-Quaranta, CM-Olsen, Carroll.
  2. Rotation Starters: Adu for Gros, Moose for Quaranta.
  3. Bench Order: LM - Adu, Wilson. CAM - Adu, Dyachenko, Van Sicklen. CM - Simms, Kuykendall. RM - Moose

The Pre-Season Job Center: Moving Forward

So we're officially in camp, I guess it is time to examine what the potential starting 11 and bench will shake out. I'm going to assume a 3-5-2 until I see any reason to think otherwise. Starting up top, here's what we have for the two forward slots:

The Incumbents: Jamie Moreno (2005 Stats- 29 Games, 28 Starts, 2445 mins, 16G, 7A) and Santino Quaranta (18/13/1185/5/5).

The Challengers: Alecko Eskandarian (12/7/661/0/1), Freddy Adu (25/16/1487/4/6), Jamil Walker (22/6/732/2/7), Lucio Filomeno (1/0/22/0/0), Matt Nickell (4/0/31/0/0).

Analysis: The DCU forwards are an interesting bunch. Of the incumbents, only Jamie Moreno is truly secure in his poisition. The hot race is who Moreno will partner with -- Quaranta will certainly face strong competition to accompany Moreno up-top. Despite the worry about the lack of a true striker voiced over a Big Soccer, there are three decent candidates to fit that role: Eskandarian, Filomeno, and Nickell. Matt Nickell certainly has shown the potential to emerge, but hasn't seen much in the way of minutes. At 22, he's young enough that you can keep him for another year in the reserves and look to see what happens. I wouldn't be surprised that with an injury or two he sees some first time minutes as well. His big chance will be in his 3rd year, depending on Moreno's health. Jamil Walker's speed seems to dictate that he be used similarly to 2005 - as a 2nd half sub to challenge tired legs. Quaranta is squeezed here, and I can see him dropping back to bench to make way for Eskandarian, or sliding over to the right midfield location.


  1. Opening Day Starters - Moreno / Eskandarian
  2. Rotation Starter: Filomeno for Eskandarian
  3. Bench Order: Filomeno, Adu, Quaranta, Nickell.

Half-Price Special

Former Buyers Go After Minor League Baseball Team

Global Development Partners, the erstwhile buyers of DC United, are looking to purchase the Double-A Diamond Jaxx, a Chicago Cubs affiliate. Of interest here is the price tag: 12.5M USD, or a little less than half of what they were looking at with DC United. In short, something they can more readily afford. 25M was out of their range, I'm guessing, so they take the same plan and cut it in half.

Note that the Jackson Sun of Tennessee still thinks the DCU sale is on. I wonder how prevalent that perception is outside the beltway?

15 February 2006

Point. Laugh. Sympathize.

The Wikipedia Entry on Houston 1836 is great reading right now. Choice excerpts:

Houston 1836 was a soccer club based in Houston, Texas that didn't quite get to participate in Major League Soccer...The soon-to-be-named-again (not Houston 1836) club will play its home matches at Robertson Stadium, located on the University of Houston campus...The name "1836" has drawn the ire of some, as the date's meaning can be read as intrinsically anti-Mexican. This has led to name-gate, and the franchise will be renamed. Again.

I haven't used The DCenters to comment on the Houston 1836 mess for a few reasons. First, it's Houston's problem, and this is a DC United blog. They have the team now, do with it what you will. Second, while I can consider myself an expert on ethnicly insensitive names being a fan of the Redskins, I really am not sure how offensive 1836 is. I mean, is it like calling the team the New York 9/11/2001s? Really? If so, the name had to change. If not, then I don't see what the fuss is. I'm guessing that it really isn't that offensive, but what do I know? Maybe Houston 1836 is the equivalent of Dublin 30 January 1972. What do I know? Nothing. Which is why I won't comment on this. Because I don't know.

Houston Lone-Stars would be lame. Sadly, I'm a fan of Houston Gatos. The fighting kitties of Houston! Keep the orange and black scheme, it would work.


I'm trying, as a general rule, to adhere to the basic principle of "don't poke fun at people less powerful than you are." Now, that doesn't make a whole lot of people off-limits, but when a writer at MLSNet is assigned to cover the Maxim US Squad photo-shoot, well, I think poor Jason Halpin fits that category. Now, others have noticed how ridiculous the photos are. But I wanted to look at an excerpt of Mr. Halpin's article:

Actually, the discussion of rap and hip-hop music took up most of Dempsey's time in front of the camera. It was an exposition, a history lesson on his influences.

From humble beginnings listening to Vanilla Ice - whom Dempsey now admits is "whack" - and MC Hammer, the Nagocdoches, Texas, native moved on in junior high to Master P and the Underground Kings.

How do I say this? Well, if you read that quote aloud (please do) doesn't it sound like, well, um... white. Really white. As in token-white-guy-in-a-blacksploitation -film-chosen-for-his-glasses-and-sweater-vest- and-just-overall-whiteness-to-show-how-ridiculously-white-some-white-people-are white. The whack in quotes just puts it over the top. It's not Mr. Halpin's fault. I mean, he's doing his job, and trying to respect Clint "Deuce" Dempsey's lyrical flow, but man... It's tough. Jason, if you are out there, and you chance across this blog entry, I will buy you a beer in DC for your troubles. That can't have been an easy assignment to take with a straight face from your Perry White (hah!) lookin' editor. I feel for you.

For more on the difficulty of articulating the hip scene with a non-hip ethos, you can always listen to Rod McKuen's "No Pictures, Please" on the Beat Generation Boxed Set. Or, more satirically, listen to all of Del Close's tracks on that set of 3 CDs.

Theme to 2006

You know, after thinking about the use of "We are Family" by the Buckos in the late 70s, it occurs to me that many great championship sports teams have a song, not necessarily contemporary, that somehow comes to typify the season. It plays during half-time, or at the end of the game, or pregame, or something. These songs are different than the hype the crowd songs like the overuse of Ozzy's "Crazy Train." Somehow they express, usually in delightfully cheesy ways, the spirit of the team and the city all at once. Occasionally they are local bands making good, occasionally just well known songs borrowed for the occasion.

I'm curious what songs could emerge as a candidate for DCU this year. Certain songs would be disqualified for being too obvious or cumbersome ("Back in black" comes to mind.) My personal recommendation might be Kim Wilde's "Kids of America", as it has the right amount of cheesiness but also of inspiration. Any suggestions?

Update 15 Feb 2006 (mattwdc)'s suggestion of "Bustin Loose" is a damn good one, adding local flavor and nice beats and lyrics that could apply to a soccer game (sort of...). We're still early in the search. In fact, if we get enough suggestions, I'll even run a poll for the winner. And not only that, I'll buy the winning song, if available in iTunes, for a bunch of you (say, up to $20 -- can you buy songs for people? You should be able to.) That's the plan.

Originally posted 14 Feb 2006

Mood: Debatable

Sadly, today is one of those days where I really want to just not post anything. All tired out for some reason. But alas, the hungry maw of the blog beckons, and things are happening. So let's take a look at your preseason briefing for today:

ALECKO ESKANDARIAN INTERIEW AT WP Steve Goff sits down with Alecko Eskandarian. I think this interview has the best catalogue of exactly how awful recovering from a concussion can be. I only had to it once in my life, and for a few days it was kinda surreal to be walking around. I can only imagine what multiple concussions can do. Plus the interview furthers the Reis (heel) vs. Eskandarian (face) feud. Reis's response is "What, I don't get it? What did I do?". Well, go read it yourself. I like the timing of this interview too, since we've been recapping the history of Reis and Esky around here.

MASR (HEARTS) DC UNITED In a series of interviews with Assistant Head Coach Soehn, Josh Gros, and Bryan Namoff, MASR caps each with a "how are you celebrating Valentine's Day?" Nick Rimando was not asked, as he realized that the raise he got in the offseason barely covered his Valentine's Day obligations. A scrimmage with the MetroStars produced a 1-1 draw.

COOKING UP SOME SOCCER (AND A STADIUM?) Roll Call, of all places, has an article I can't read (behind a subscription wall) about Judah Cooks working in Ward 8 on a youth soccer program. While the snippet of the article I can see doesn't mention it, it should be noted that this is probably a continuation of the outreach efforts corresponding to the stadium push. After all, Mr. Cooks is listed as a "Special Projects Coordinator, D.C. United & United for D.C." Important take-away? Despite the (lack of an) ownership change, the stadium efforts are still simmering out there.

14 February 2006

MLS Rule Changes in 2006

I haven't seen anyone pick up on this yet, but MLS is changing some of the rules. The new rules for 2006 were posted at MLSNet, and I, for one, welcome our new bureaucracy. Let's take a look:

THE SUPPORTER'S SHIELD WILL MEAN SOMETHING as the winner of a single table MLS gets an automatic bid to the Champions Cup. This is a change that I thought had already happened (it didn't) and is certainly overdue. The MLS Cup winner gets the other bid. The great thing is that if someone wins both the Supporter's Shield and the MLS Cup, the second bid goes not to the MLS Cup runner-up, but to the second place finisher in overall points. Yes, I know, the schedules aren't balanced. I don't care, I like this change, as it will contribute something to the regular season.

BALANCED ROSTERS I know why they had the "visiting team only carries five on the bench, while the home team can put most the Chamber of Commerce on their bench" idea, but I'm glad it has been scrapped. Seven on the bench for both sides.

NO MORE CAUTION POINTS, NOW IT'S FIVE YELLOWS AND TAKE A SEAT Also a good change, as the caution point system was impossible to follow. Now after five yellows, you're suspended one game. Then every three more yellows and another suspension. No good behavior bonus. I like this as well, as it will make keeping track of caution problems easier for teams and for bloggers that don't have Stata or Cognose or something installed on their machines.

So, while everyone loves complaining about MLS, at least these changes are good ones. Not major, but small and significant improvements. I'd like to see at least 8 on each team's bench, and I'd prefer a single table (but that's a fight I've given up a long time ago) but this is good stuff, and overdue.

My Excuses, In Advance

Does Steve Nicol want to tell us something?

So I'm reading Steve Nicol's interview over at US Soccer Players, and I'm struck by what seems to be a fairly petulant tone. The entire article is a forum for Steve Nicol to vent at MLS for the schedule the Revs have:

It adds up to frustrating reading for Nicol, whose side does not travel outside of Foxboro for a match in August..."We understand that there are different things that different teams need at certain times of the year, and we, frankly, aren't concerned with other teams, but this doesn't help us," he said.
Now, I know an "us against the world" mentality is a tried and true tactic of coaching, but this seems much more depressed and resigned than unifying. It's almost as if Steve thinks the Revs can't overcome the schedule, and is spinning expectations low. My guess is that Steve thinks the Revs will muddle through until August, at which point he will announce the season a success by virtue of the fact that they aren't in the cellar. Then once his internationals come back, he can discuss the timing of a late run into the cup.

So Steve, I don't believe you man. I think this is just a lame expectations game. Personally, I hope you're right, and the Revs get pounded to seven points back of KC. Then I can say I told you so. Or more accurately, "You told you so, but you didn't believe yourself."

MLSNet puts DC United First (in Preseason Coverage)

MLSNet has been posting capsule summaries of preseason activity in a "Florida Notes" series. This is kind of nice. What I find interesting is the fact that DC United seems to get the headline treatment, as yesterday's and Sunday's capsules both lead with DCU and follow with the Fire. If I were a Fire fan, would I be slighted by this? Eh, probably not. But if the trend continues, I expect to hear some whining about it.

MLSNet also has a Moreno/Gomez overview that is entirely worth the price of a click just to get that nice view of the Jamie's new blonde hair. Although with five kids now, I can imagine that hair will go snow white soon enough.

DC United: The Next Generation

Pablo Gomez, On Trial with DC

I never really liked Muppet Babies all that much. I thought the original muppets were great (even if they were on the air slightly before my time ) and Muppet Babies just seemed cloying. Still, I'm going to keep an open mind about the DC United Babies, as Pablo Gomez becomes the most recent relation of an established DCU player to have some workouts with the team. Yes, he joins Jeff Carroll in the relation department, but let's not forget that Jaime's cousin joined up for a spell, or the appearences of Kenny Arena last year. We are family! I got all my sisters with me!. Sounds like it could be a championship team's song...

13 February 2006

Inter- and over- and hyper- active

Some interesting things to share (Note: On emails to me, I've decided to use initials unless the correspondent specifically requests anonymity or says it is okay to use his or her name.) ...

BACKSTORY ON REIS V. ESKANDARIAN Reader JD sends in some interesting context from the Boston Globe and New York Times on the Reis v. Eskandarian discussion. From the Globe on 9/13/05:

Reis returned to confront a controversy involving D.C. United forward Alecko Eskandarian, who has been out with a concussion since colliding with Reis June 18. Eskandarian criticized Reis for his part in the play, which occurred in the penalty area at RFK Stadium with United on the way to a 2-0 victory.

"I feel sorry for him," Reis said.

"He is frustrated. I have had concussions in the past. He lashed out and said some things. I don't feel I did anything wrong it was a 50-50 ball."

It may have been a 50-50 ball, but Reis made no effort to play the ball, he went straight after Alecko. The DCenters finds the defense lacking. Reis's "I feel sorry for him" comment is patronizing and pathetic when not accompanied by at least a "I, as in me, Matt Reis, am sorry for clocking him". As for The Times, a quote from Eski on 8/30/05 when Matt got a suspension:

...Reis had been physical, but it was the first time he had been sanctioned. On June 18, Reis hit D.C. United's Alecko Eskandarian in the head when they collided on the edge of the penalty area. Eskandarian sustained the third concussion of his M.L.S. career and has not played since. Reis was involved in another collision July 9, this time with the Chicago rookie Chris Rolfe. Both times, Reis appeared to ignore the ball and play the man. He did not receive a yellow card in either game.

In an e-mail message, Eskandarian said Reis's punishment was long overdue. ''I am glad he finally got penalized for being so reckless, but at the same time, he is out for one game while I have been out for over 10 weeks, so by no means do I feel as though justice has been done,'' he said. ''I feel very strongly about this. I know soccer is a physical game and things happen on the field.''

So to confirm to all the people that come to this page by typing into Google "Is Matt Reis a Thug?" then answer is yes.

STILL UPSET ABOUT MISSING BRAZIL Reader CC alerts me to this interview with DCU alum and current staffer John Harkes over at Goal.Com. John's primarily discussing the US National Team and the state of soccer in the USA. No discussion of John's potential as an MLS head coach or the potential wrestling career that will culminate with a steel cage match against Steve "3-6-1" Sampson.

RIGHT WING-BACK CONSPIRACY BIGGER THAN PREVIOUSLY ESTIMATED After noting The DCenters strange designation in Kinja web cards, MattWDC noticed that he was labeled as both "liberal" and "Conservative". Nice to see it wasn't just this place that got some strange associations. However, since then we see that the web card has been updated, and The DCenters is now labeled only as "Sports" (good) and "New York" (sigh...)

Supplying Demand


One of the interesting questions regarding the entire Chelsea after Adu situation is "Where did these rumors come from, and why now?" While that question may not be definitively answered yet, the number one suspect has to be Adu's agents (this should be considered seperate from Adu himself and Adu's mom.) John Haydon in the Washington Times bites on the idea that Adu could anchor a revamped Chelsea youth system:

The London club realizes if it's going to stay on top, it can't just keep forking out giant transfer fees of $45 million for big-name stars. Instead, it must build a strong youth team similar to the Manchester United youth team of 1992...While the suits at the MLS office in New York have made all the obligatory denials about Adu not going anywhere anytime soon, they are secretly delighted about all the exposure their prized asset is getting. The question is whether they will make the right decision before the novelty wears off.

Then came more rumors that the aforementioned ManU was in talks to acquire Adu, talks that have since been denied directly by Manchester United and Sir Alex himself. The denial sheds some light as to where this is coming from:

The player's agent, Richard Motzkin, was quoted over the weekend saying United and Chelsea want to bring the 16-year-old to the Premiership.

The implication is that Motzkin is playing a game to keep his client in the headlines. Neither Chelsea nor ManU seem to be ready to bring Adu over, and I doubt they would do so before Adu turned 18. Paying a huge sum for him now would be a bit strange, even if you buy Hayden's idea that it would be used to rebuild the Blues youth system, given the not-so-gentle mocking of Chelsea's balance sheet going on in England. However, if Motzkin can raise the idea that both Chelsea and ManU are interested in Adu, it could create a market for the Freddy larger than his talent would dictate. There could now be an interest in acquiring Adu simply so your rivals don't. Motzkin might also imagine that this places pressure on MLS/DCU to give Freddy his minutes. MLS might want to showcase Freddy to ensure a high transfer fee. DCU can now hear the audible ticking of the clock on Freddy's US Days

What seems at odds here is Freddy himself. His desire is to make the National team, and to do that he needs first team minutes. To that end, his positive repsonse on returning to DCU's camp and working with Piotr Nowak make total sense. Nowak might be on a slightly tighter leash this year, but it is still hard to imagine him bowing to external pressures to play someone. Furthermore, I can't imagine Kevin Payne dictating such a decision to Nowak. So Freddy is saying the right things, playing good-cop to the bad-cop of his agent. Interesting to say the least. My sense is that this is all smoke, no fire, and until Freddy is close to turning 18, none of this will amount to much. However, Motzkin may have managed to inflate the market for Adu's services, and in so doing has served his client well. What's more, by keeping this on the other side of the Atlantic for the most part, he has managed to do it in a way that doesn't put Adu in a bad situation at home. Now Chelsea and ManU will let the idea stew in their heads a bit, and Freddy is probably poised to have his best domestic season yet. The dollar value calculations could increase. The point isn't to get Freddy over to Europe now, but rather to make him more marketable at a later date. He becomes LeBron James - The guy who everyone knows someone is going to take a risk on despite his young age, the question is merely who and how much. Skillful. At least, if my theory is right as to what is going on here.

Can we get Henry Rollins to write "Are you ready for some soccer?"

DCU Preseason Work Underway, Draft Picks Find Net

A six-nil victory over the USA U-17 team in a game featuring a complete line shift is nothing to pay much attention to, unless you're trying to get a read on how good DCU's draft was.

Seeing that the names of Rod Dyachenko and Jeff Carroll found the net is nice. Add two Justin Moose assists and things look interesting. This also provides our first glimpse at what a starting eleven might look like (disclaimer: this is an exhibition game that meant nothing, etc...). First, your wide midfielders were Gros and Moose, indicating that I think DCU hopes Moose can be a regular starter replacing Kovalenko on the right mid. Namoff and Prideaux started, and Erpen came in as a later sub. Eskandarian did not see action due to a groin strain (at least it is not a concussion).

See, this is fun, talking about DCU game action again. I think we're not really going to have a good sense of who is and isn't ready for the season until the Carolina Cup, but it's great just to be talking about things. Yah.

Dig Out

U[MLS]A 3 : 2 Nippon

NATS SANS BOZ Sadly, Bobby Boswell did not get time in the U[ML]SA's 3-2 win over Japan. Brian Carroll and Ben Olsen both got some good moments into the game, and neither hurth their cause. Tino missed the game with a groin strain, which is a shame since this was the kind of game where he might have shown some strong skills. The best thing any of DCU's hopefuls had going for them was the play of Chris Klein, who started off the game sending three balls into the stands by the 20th minute. Since Bruce was experimenting by placing him in the back, it is a situation where the more defensive of DCU's midfield candidates might profit. So, accordingly, your revised odds for DCU players making the Stars and Stripes:

  1. Ben Olsen (Odds - 5:1, unchanged, decently played but not exceptionally so.)
  2. Santino Quaranta (Odds - 10:1, prevously 8:1, injury took away chance to impress)
  3. Brian Carroll (Odds - 10:1, unchanged, decent play, but again not exceptional. Needs more time if going to make team, and is going to have a hard time finding it.)
  4. Bobby Boswell (Odds - 50:1, previously 45:1, didn't make the game, wasn't even listed on the bench. Ouch. Still, he was an extreme longshot coming into camp. Perhaps one day...)
  5. Freddy Adu (Odds - 50:1, unchanged, we'll see what happens if the season starts.)

10 February 2006

As a conservative blogger might write, "Heh"

Over at DC Sports, I-66 finds something funny. Now, I'm no Soccer Supremacist, but considering we have to put up with all the digs from the pointyball people, its nice to see the occasional gentle poke in the other direction.

Washington Capitaless

Some quick notes, but another post coming later...

IT WASN'T MLS, IT WASN'T DC UNITED The theory that I've propounded on the failure of the DC Sale was that Global Development Partners (GDP), faced with various projects around the country not aligning, found themselves in a capital crunch after they agreed to buy DC United. The money obligated to the black and red suddenly seemed much better applied to some of their other business goals. In short, the problem wasn't the books and ledgers on the MLS side of the equation, but by the investor. Now, Don Garber is certainly far from a disinterested party in interpreting such events, but it is worth nothing this quotation in the San Jose Mercury News, in an article ostensibly about Landon "Not Dreamy At All" Donovan:

When I caught MLS Commissioner Don Garber coming out of San Jose City Hall a couple of weeks ago, he told me that the sale of D.C. United collapsed because “we had an investor who wasn’t approved for membership in the league.”
That certainly fits with the idea that GDP suddenly didn't like its financial position, and the league didn't much like it either. So they called the whole thing off.

DCENTERS WILLING TO PROSTITUTE SELF TO BILLIONAIRES. OR MILLIONAIRES. OR PEOPLE THAT PLAY THE MONOPOLY GAME AT McDONALD'S. I see that Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonesis has a blog now (HT: Off-Wing). If Mr. Payne, or Mr. Garber, or an upper-type at AEG wish to guest-write for The DCenters, I am more than willing to discuss terms. (Seriously, wouldn't it be great if Sigi keps a blog this year? Or to read the comments section after Alexi Lalas's "Make the Goals Bigger" post? Or to read five posts from Piotr Nowak on "Run More. And Be Better on the Ball!" I'd read it.)

DCENTERS PART OF VAST RIGHT WING BACK CONSPIRACY Like all true narcissists on the web, I occasionally google the title of this blog, and was interested to see The DCenters Kinja web card. Apparently, Kinja applies through some proprietary method, a series of categories to each blog. The DCenters comes down as "sports" (Sure), "Conservative" (er?), "New York" (dead wrong), and "gmg" (wasn't that the active ingrediant in E? No?) Now, I'm not sure how this happened, but I'm sure there is a reason. But Conservative? Do I really seem conservative to everyone? What's going on here? I'm not saying I'm a bleeding heart longing for the days of the revolution, but I don't see this as a conservative blog, even if I was a conservative person (and, in some limited respects, I suppose I am). Thus narcissism reaps its reward: paranoia.

09 February 2006

11 AM, work on overdue blog postings

An informant for The DCenters has passed along excerpts copied from the dayplanners of various MLS individuals. Can you guess who they belong to?

Excerpt #1

2PM Organize strategy to cheat at lottery.
3PM Cheat at lottery.
4PM Deny cheating at lottery. (Note: Important to look bemused.)
5PM Guitar lesson. Does Mo play drums?
6PM Try to find Harrison on map again.

Yes, that's our boy Alexi Lalas, who somehow saw the MetroStars win one of MLS's Events of Random Chance. Now honestly, I don't feel bad about this, since I don't see a place for Arvizu on United. Still, one has to laugh at the following excerpt:
"It's not every day you win the lottery. The odds were against us, but as they say, you have to be in it to win it," said MetroStars President and General Manager Alexi Lalas...This marks the fourth lottery that the MetroStars have won. The other three were for Nelson Akwari (August 12, 2002), DJ Countess (August 7, 2001) and Joey DiGiamarino (March 31, 2003).

Excerpt #2

7PM Familiarize self with pitch. Figure out which goal is mine
7:30PM Reminder! Reis might be on my team this time.
8PM Earn cap.
9PM Apologize to Matt for shooting on him by mistake.
10PM Call Family to talk about game
10:01PM Apologize to family for forgetting about time difference.
11PM Rerun of Gamera plays on Bravo

That's right, Bobby Boswell may be up for his first cap when the US Men take on Japan. I kid because I love, since Bobby is a favorite around these parts. So I hope he does well and earns that first cap.

Exceprt #3

2 April - 29 April Enjoy being home. Tell players to run more. Schedule appointment with Virginia Tobacco about creating PN#10 Cigar.
8 June Get Tivo To Go for laptop, set for US and Poland games.
26 June Pack for long business trip. Buy cigarettes. Run more, and yell at players while running more. Then do wind sprints. Smoke cigarettes during wind sprints.
5 July Happy Birthday to Me! Allowed to smile twice today, no more than 30 seconds. Tell players to run more.
17 August Home at last. Unpack while smoking and doing wind sprints. Send email to players telling them to run more. CC: media, they should run more too.

Yup, that's the season schedule for Piotr Nowak and DC United. There's a monster road trip in there, but being at home at the end is nice.

08 February 2006


2006 SEASON SCHEDULE As promised yesterday, MLS releases the 2006 season schedule today. My thanks to the tipsters who gave me a heads-up this was coming. Analysis for Operation: Deflower purposes coming in a bit, but a preliminary look says 12 August to 19 August looks interesting.

ALECKO ON REIS Ask and you shall receive, as Jimmy (is that you LaRoue?) from MASR kindly points out that it was they that had Ian Penderleith's interview with the great Eskandarian discussion on Matt Reis. Thank you sir, and a nice bit of interviewing to bring that back. The key graf:

"I forgive, but I don't forget," said Eskandarian. "I've watched the replay enough, where I still feel the same way about everything. I feel like it could have been avoided, but that's soccer, that's life. I think if he was a man he would have apologized, or even said it was freak thing, but he never said anything. And even if you look at the tape, as soon as he hits me....I think he knew exactly what he was doing. Normally when something like that happens and it's an accident you go right over to the person and check, and with him he just turns his back and walks away."
Well said, and well captured. My thanks.

Finally, some great comments, and while I try to respond in the comment section, I've recently been bringing it to the post area. Still, if you're interested in a quick back and forth on getting Adu more playing time by trading Gros, it happened yesterday.

Status Quo

ADU STAYS IN DC Everyone else in the world is leading with what we already knew, that Freddy is staying here for this year. This is not a surprise. It will also not be a surprise when Freddy eventually does leave for Europe. For those wondering, I'm guessing 2008, even though 2007 will be in play. DC United's official statement denying the Chelsea transfer is up at DCUNITED.COM

DRAFT JAMIE KUYKENDALL IN 2010 One of the interesting things is the soccer families we see out there, and it is fun to see where relations end up in the soccer world. Since DC United drafted Brian Carroll's brother Jeff, why not add Shawn Kuykendall's sister Jamie? Ms. Jamie Kuykendall has signed with Jackson University's soccer team. Shawn Kuykendall, who I think is a decent defensive midfielder prospect, would probably support the idea. With the passing of the WUSA, who knows?

ANYONE KNOW THIS? Somewhere out there is an article where Alecko Eskandarian discusses his current feelings on Matt Reis. Something about while he may not call Reis a thug, he says (paraphrasing from memory) "Reis knows what he did, and he never apologized, or said anything about it. That tells you what you need to know about Reis". Anyone know where this article is? I tried to find it, but can't...

07 February 2006

Your 2006 DC United Schedule...

...is not yet posted. But The DCenters has heard that MLS will be announcing the entire schedule tomorrow (8 February 2006), complete with your Soccer Saturday viewing. From what we understand, the schedule may not entirely be finished yet, but it is anticipated to be finished to allow for MLS to release it Wednesday.

Of course, with all things MLS, this could be a 60-90 days situation. And with all things bloggy, I like to leave myself a way to weasel out if this doesn't occur exactly as predicted. But it is the best information I have right now.

Which means, when it comes out, we'll have to bring Operation: Deflower back to the forefront.

Black, Red, and Blue

If I ever wondered if Freddy-mania was still around, today answered the bell nicely. Two major Freddy stories are running in parallel. The first is the known Freddy Adu returning to DCU from USMNT camp thread. There's not much development, Steve Goff's reporting included, but an AP report went out which was echoed throughout the googleverse. My feelings on this are clear: Freddy is not the top option at a striker, Center Forward, Center Attacking Mid, or Left Attacking Midfield option. He may be second on those depth charts, and that may translate into more starting time, but I don't see him as starting every game. The second thread is the reemergence of Freddy going to Chelsea. The BBC is running with the story about a potential move to the Blues, and I'll share some of my thoughts at the bottom of this post.

The Playing Time Situation

Comments yesterday were interesting, but I want to answer the "Start him early because he has upside and those early games don't mean much anyways" argument. While this is a very valid way of thinking, and I could well imagine some on MLS trying it out, we're talking Piotr Nowak here. A man who consistently says "I put my best 11 out on a given week." Now, there's reason to think that Piotr doesn't adhere absolutley to his own rule here, but as a guiding principle it seems to be valid. So unless Freddy is on the top of the depth chart for a position, it is tough to see him involved at opening kick under Nowak's system. Which means that the tension over playing time may well escalate again. Now, Freddy has said all the right things recently, as has Nowak. And I don't think Freddy is insincere when he talks of being a team player. I'm sure he means every word. But I am still mindful that he is a teenager, and once the season starts and he finds himself coming off the bench again, his feelings may get the better of him. I'm ambiguous in my phrasing, because I don't know. Freddy may indeed get regular starting time, or if he doesn't he may be a model Nowak citizen. But the possibility for tension remains, and I think Bruce Arena has escalated the stakes with his comments dangling a USMNT position out there.

Does CFC spell ADU?

Now, as for the potential move to Chelsea. I don't think it happens soon, but I've long accepted that Freddy is eventually going overseas if he is truly to become a star. So I have no problems with talks going on, or the Blues expressing their interest, or Adu's agent talking about it in more than hypothetical terms. Fine. If Freddy goes, than DCU loses an asset, but should be well compensated by a in-turn well compensated MLS.

However, the transfers of various footballers is always a topic of discussion, much like the MLB hot-stove but all the time, not just the winter. This is only talk now, and until I see definate evidence that Mr. Adu has typed his name on an English work-permit application, this all seems like thin speculation. In terms of concern for Freddy, I wonder if Chelsea will develop his talent well. We know they can purchase talent. But Freddy needs development, in a way that Chelsea hasn't demonstrated they can do with the youth system they have now, let alone with a new American. That's not to say they can't do it, but rather that the evidence in my mind is inconclusive. Chelsea Blog's comments are fascinating here, as in two comments they neatly describe this dilemma. Yes, he's an amazing hot property, but yes, he's not better that Shawn Wright-Phillips at the moment. Can he push out of that and emerge in that system? Mike H. seems to have similar concerns, and a good parting thought.

UPDATE: As I see that this story is indeed large, I want to answer one argument being advanced. Deadspin summarizes a completley incorrect viewpoint as follows:

If Adu does come to Chelsea, the MLS will have secured the youngest, least productive years of Adu’s presumably long, distinguished career. Adu had no real memorable MLS moments and his time with DC United will surely be forgotten in five years, if not sooner. The MLS helped him develop (kind of), and then released him to the “real leagues.” That’s right: The MLS is the Montreal Expos of world soccer.
First, that's utterly wrong. Lest you forget, Freddy was a finalist for MLS Goal of the Year in 2005, and probably should have won over a direct free kick, however nifty DDR made it. MLS got a year of Freddy spiked ticket sales, and got a phenomenal goal out of him (his finish in LA wasn't too shabby either.) The fact has always been that Freddy ultimately was going to do more good for the US National Team than for MLS or any of its clubs. Always. It is a pure fact that to become a great player in his prime, he must go overseas. That does not make MLS foolish to have him here, to pay him here, as it cements the fact that this is a player for the USA who got his professional start in the USA. History is important, and MLS may have purchased a piece of it. Good for them.

Update 2: John from Pseudo Corner Kick pops into the comments to point out that DCU has officialy refuted the transfer rumor.

06 February 2006

Getting the Full 90

Good morning all. It is February 6, and pointy-ball is officially off the radar here. Which means we're gearing up for April now. Speaking of gear...

CYBORG ESKANDARIAN TAKES PITCH Saturday, John Haydon gets a good article on Aleck Eskandarian. As Comcast has been showing in the Brunch With DC United series, Alecko was pure gold during the 2004 playoff run, so if putting him in protective headgear gets him on the pitch, then do it. In a good note, maybe the concussions caused amnesia of the way he was snakebitten during the playing time he did have in 2005. And while I am thrilled with the possibility that he might come back, I have to remind myself to temper my enthusiasm. It's probably going to take a few games at full speed for him to find his touch again. But at least he'll have the opportunity.

FREDDY ADU - "BRUCE WANTS ME TO BE A REGULAR STARTER" Is anyone other than me nervous about the entire Freddy Adu / Bruce Arena / Piotr Nowak situation that could be brewing? Grant Wahl at CNN/SI scores an interview with Freddy Adu. What worries me are passages like this:

Adu: I had a meeting with Coach [Bruce] Arena, and he gave me the choice of whether I wanted to stay with the national team or join D.C. United for the start of preseason in order to compete for a starting spot on the team. It's my third season, and he feels I should be playing more and that a player gets better by playing games. He wants me to be a 90-minute player, so he suggested that and gave me the choice. I decided to follow that advice. The best thing for me to do is join D.C. United from the start because I want to be a regular starter for the team.
Now, Freddy is still behind Christian Gomez on the depth charts. You can slide him over to the wing only if you think his defense is good enough to support it. Up-top, he's fighting for time with Moreno, Eskandarian, Walker, and Filomeno. I don't see a regular full ninety minutes in the cards for him at the start of the season. And if that doesn't happen, will he lash out again? Bruce has just complicated Piotr's life. It would have been better if Bruce had said "You know what Freddy? I don't see you going to Germany, but with some good effort for your club and a strong workrate in future camps, I can definately see you getting more caps in the upcoming Gold Cups." It is worrisome.

HOW TO BE IN THE FRONT OFFICE FOR DC UNITED, NOT USING WORLDWIDE SOCCER MANAGER 2006 Quick little article in the Post on how some people break into Sports Management. If you're interested. It sounds like while the jobs are more open than before, it is still a tough road to take.

Okay folks, more thoughts later, but that's the weekend news. Oh, and there is all this stuff here, for those of you who are interested and still occasionally put fries on top of your salads. Or your sandwiches. Or anything. With a fried egg.

03 February 2006

In Search of Lost Steel City Time

I suppose it is fairly silly to even pretend that this weekend is about MLS, or soccer. No, this is Super Bowl weekend, and I would be a fool to pretend otherwise. What's more, I don't want to. Unlike many SuperBowls of the past, where I had no connection to either of the teams playing, I am actively supporting the Pittsburgh Steelers this time around. There are many Pittsburgh ex-pats in the DC area, and the fervor to which they remember the Steel City surprises many from other parts of the nation. Hell, it surprises me. I only lived in Pittsburgh four and a half years, so I certainly can't pretend to be a yinzer. But there's something about Pittsburgh that infects you while you are there. It's not that the people are especially welcoming and inclusive. They are, but so are most people. Rather it is the fact that Pittsburgh has a unique culture that is not the product of intent or artifice. The Seattle music scene, and hipsters in general, made a fetish out of Terrible Towel authenticity. In so doing, in trying to be authentic, they failed. Pittsburgh doesn't care about authenticity, or keeping it real, or any of that. It is what it is, and you accept that or you don't.

It is a surprisingly beautiful city, especially after you are prepared for it by people who were last there in 1962. There are tons of small nooks and crannies to lose yourself in, and they aren't segregated into some ethnic area but rather are spread throughout the city, though there are certainly areas where one culture may be more dominant than others. I lived in Shadyside for most of my time there, and loved every moment. My room in my apartment was a sun room overlooking Walnut Avenue, so the gay pride parade marched right by my windows, and the concert series held over the summer made it feel almost like a sky-box. The 2 bedroom apartment cost $800 a month, which was split three ways. For those that are around DC, Shadyside would probably remind you of a slightly nicer Takoma Park. It was wonderful.

Like many, I left Pittsburgh. The excuse we all give is that there were no jobs. The truth is closer to "There weren't any jobs that I wanted to take." So I returned to the DC area where I could make more money in a cushier job even after cost of living adjustments. I think many Pittsburgh ex-pats have a sense of guilt about this. The city needs people, younger people especially, to stay and work and keep it going. And we've abandoned it. So as an act of atonement, we carry black and gold around town, wave our terrible towels, and search for cases of Iron City. One day perhaps we'll go back. One day.

Photos from Wikipedia under Creative Commons License.