28 November 2007

Succession Planning

If there's something we know, it's that United's front office thinks ahead. They kept tabs on Luciano Emilio for years before bringing him into the fold. No sooner had Piotr Nowak left the head coaching position than Tom Soehn was promoted. They replaced Freddy with Fred seamlessly, and things moved on.

Now, the off-season tends to make me depressed and gloomy, but I should also acknowledge that this team generally makes efforts to get better. So it's worth speculating what the plans are. We know of the pursuit of Veron in Argentina, and while he wouldn't be my first choice for a designated player from that part of the world (that would still be Riquelme... look, I can dream, right?) I've come to accept he's a good option. The conventional wisdom is that Veron, in addition to being a talented midfielder, is insurance against a possible Christian Gomez departure. That makes sense, but I want to throw another idea out there: Veron also helps the succession planning for Jaime Moreno if Gomez stays around.

In 2007, we saw Tom Soehn move Christian forward more frequently then Piotr Nowak would. And there's a certain logic to using Christian in a withdrawn forward type position. He can still create chances, he can still track back for the ball (although perhaps not as deep, but with Veron he theoretically would not need to), he has a decent shot from 20 yards out, and he's elusive in tight corners. The one downgrade is that I don't think he plays quite as well holding the ball at the top of the box than Jaime does (Christian can hold the bell well around the center circle, but the dynamics of midfielders trying to knock you off the ball and those of defenders are different). If Jamie were to go somewhere else (sad, but it must be considered) or see his playing time reduced (we know that must be considered) then it seems to me that Gomez would have to be considered a top candidate to move into that position -- moreso than Addlery, Kpene, Dyachenko, or any of the other reserve forward options.

Now, this premise sort of implies a few things: United would have to find a way to keep Gomez and Veron without Gomez getting Designated Player type money. That could be a difficult sell, but it is still possible. Getting Gomez to $300K is not impossible, and would be a 20% increase over his current yearly salary. Would Gomez be willing to take that? I don't know. Veron's going to count as $400K against the cap at least (and a salary around the $2M mark would not surprise me). But I can see uses for Veron beyond the obvious one-for-one substitution for Gomez, and that's intriguing.

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10 Comments:

At 28 November, 2007 10:25, Anonymous Mickey said...

Good call D - Way back when, I kind of assumed the Gomez-Veron pairing would supplant the Moreno-Gomez pairing when (a) rumors of the Veron pursuit first started prior to the 2007 season, (b) there was a LOT of discussion about Moreno pending retirement, and (c) when DCU and Gomez were still in discussions about a contract extension early in the 2007 season. I can't seem to find a confirmation on-line, but I recall that Gomez played a withdrawn forward roll on one/several of the teams before coming to DCU and acutally had to "adjust" to his current roll that he is in... If Moreno would leave and Gomez were pushed up top for Veron in midfield, Gomez would be returning to a position with which he may be quite familiar.

 
At 28 November, 2007 10:36, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good analysis. My only quibble is that Gomez might want more than 300k. He turned down $325,000 for two years (saying he wanted a three year deal). He might take a two year deal now, but it will probably be for more than $325,000 if wans to prorate the money he left on the table last year.

 
At 28 November, 2007 10:50, Blogger D said...

Mickey: Good things to think about. When I first heard of Veron, I wasn't exactly thrilled, but I figured there had to be multiple reasons for doing this, and not just one.

Anon: Agreed, which is why I felt that I had to bring it up. Making the money work will be difficult. 300-330K may not be enough, but the closer you get to 400K+, the closer you are to needing to use the designated player rule, which would preclude Veron from coming here (I don't think there's a shot in hell at getting Veron for $500K or less). So you somehow have to juggle allocation money (we have some) and the designate player spot to make things work.

 
At 28 November, 2007 10:58, Blogger Bob said...

"the off-season tends to make me depressed and gloomy"

Well at least you have LAG v Sydney FC to tide you over! Galaxy lose! Beckham scores! SportsCenter Top 10 plays!

 
At 28 November, 2007 11:03, Blogger D said...

That was not helpful Bob...

 
At 28 November, 2007 11:05, Blogger Nivek Yrurd said...

Mickey, I think you are right about Gomez playing a withdrawn forward role. Obviously he wouldn't play the same way as Jaime, but the Gomez-Veron pairing is probably our best chance at replicating the Moreno-Gomez pairing. Depends on their chemistry. I think Gomez wants more than 300k but we shall see.

 
At 28 November, 2007 11:46, Anonymous Mickey said...

A couple other thoughts...

Nivek yrurd raises a good point - a Luci-Gomez-Veron dynamic would definitely be different than the current Luci-Moreno-Gomez dynamic - but WOW! - that would be a truly legendary combination the likes of which would have been unthinkable in MLS 5-6 years ago.

Also, forgot to mention earlier, Gomez and Moreno also have to start thinking about the "second season" of their careers. While the Middle East may beckon with some extra cash, both may be encouraged to stick around if they are at all interested in getting involved in coaching in No. or So. America.

 
At 28 November, 2007 16:27, Blogger Jeffrey said...

Interesting thought, and one that makes a good amount of sense. However, though I am firmly in the "Moreno's production has dropped way off" camp, I'm not entirely sold on the Gomez-as-striker idea. I, like you, question his hold-up play and his striker's instincts, though it would be nice to have him closer to goal and to open up a spot on the field for Simms. I'd need to see it work before I'd be convinced.

Of course, it doesn't matter what I think of the idea; the question is whether Tommy Soen adheres to the school of thought that says you should play your best 11 regardless of position. So far, I think the evidence suggests that he generally does; he played Olsen, Fred, Gros, and McTavish out of position at times when better-fitting but lower-quality alternatives were available. Given that history, I think that an Emilio-Gomez-Veron attacking triangle is probably something he's considering.

 
At 28 November, 2007 23:43, Anonymous Nick said...

D,
Veron is not a 10, he is a pure 8 with some defensive skills (plays similar to Beckham, but stronger, quicker, and better on the ball) so even if Gomez leaves, Veron would not be our replacement at that position. Perhaps they would try Fred at the 10 in that case, but I don't think he's good enough. So I would say to you that moving Gomez to the 11 is fine, but that would still leave us with a gaping hole at attacking midfield, so I don't think the United brass look at this as a swap or as a position change possiblity for Gomez at all. I would speculate that if they think Gomez is leaving, they are looking for a 10 right now while they are there in Argentina. Ortega from River (longshot) and Montenegro of Independiente (possibility) would be two quality candidates that would consider coming to MLS at this stage in their careers to replace Gomez if that were the case...

 
At 29 November, 2007 11:28, Blogger D said...

Nick: What you say is correct if you think DC will continue with a 4-4-2 diamond. But that's not where I think they would go. I can imagine them adopting a 4-1-3-2 with Veron, which simultaneously removes some of the demand for traditional wing play (given Fred and Olsen, I think that's a good thing). I don't think we necessarily need a traditional #10 with Veron, and I don't think they would necessarily move to pick one up.

That being said, if they do stay in a standard 4-4-2, or 3-5-2, of some sort, then you're probably right, we need a new #10. But I think Soehn would adapt the formation to put Veron and Simms and Fred all on the field at the same time if he could.

 

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