30 January 2007

And we're off...

The big news is the start of pre-season training. Yes, you can read all about it in the Times, Post, or Examiner, but really, the place to go for some great coverage is the SE Podcast. Why? Because you can here this quote in its original form. (Quoted from the Examiner):

Although it will be a long season, Olsen figures it will be easier to handle under Soehn, whose coaching style is less intense than Nowak's.

"It's not too much. Fortunately, Tommy's in charge now. With Peter, it'd be way too much," Olsen said. "Tommy will do a good job with managing us throughout the season."

The tone of voice leads me to believe that this is something around the office we like to call "Ha-ha, Only Serious." Yeah.

I, of course, am a bit out of it right now, going through one of those heavy In Real Life times, but I'll try and keep on top of things as best I can. Hopefully it will all subside in a bit and I can get back to covering this team the way it should be. And noting the implications of things like Luis Robles going to Germany instead of to MLS. Unfortunately, I really don't have the time to focus in on those things, but when the time comes, oh yes, when it comes...

Labels: , , , ,

26 January 2007

The Highly Unpredictable Nature of International Markets

When thinking back to our discussion of the theorized DC United Masterplan, Commenter Big Kris commented that he thought there was a plan, but it might not be coming off. Now, we have to reserve all judgements until after 1 February 2007, but I have to say that the sentiment rang true to me. International transfers are notoriously dodgy. As for whether United is in good shape right now, well, that's an open question. It is possible that viewing everything through the lense of the stadium negotiations has colored my judgement. Or maybe not. United was a team in need of improvement last year. Yes, it won the Supporter's Shield, but as they say on those Ameritrade ads: "Past performance is not indicative of future results" We could see that our team was good, but flawed. That statement is still true today.

Which brings us to the Bobby Boswell story. Do I have a problem with him declining a contract? Nope. Dude wants to get paid. Fine. But the transfer market is just as unpredictable for players as it is for managers. It may work out great for him. It may not. But as long as he plays the way he has while he's here, I have no problem with what he's done. And I hope he does get his big payday, one way or another.

Labels: ,

Five United players called into USNT camp for Mexico match

Bob Bradley called up five DC United players into the national team camp ahead of the showdown with Mexico. Bobby Boswell (D), Bryan Namoff (D), Brian Carrol (M), Josh Gros (M), and Troy Perkins (G) are on the roster. Boswell started in central defense against Denmark and acquitted himself well, while Namoff came on in the second half. Perkins will be up against Joe Cannon, Matt Pickens, and Matt Reis in the net, and I'd expect Bradley to give Reis or Cannon the nod. Will Gros see any playing time? I think his speed and hustle could certainly be useful against the Mexican team, but he'll have to show well in camp to be seriously considered. Carroll also has his work cut out for him, as Ricardo Clark and Pablo Mastroeni did a good job as defensive midfielders against Denmark. Nonetheless, the experience should serve all the players well, and whet their appetite to stay in the candidate pool for the foreseeable future.

Labels: , , , , ,

24 January 2007

Welcome back, and welcome here: It's celebrate Steve Goff Wednesday

We'll lead with the fact that Defensive Midfielder Brian Carroll has inked a new deal with United. And we'll point out that it's on Steve Goff's new soccer blog, Soccer Insider. I feel relieved about this.

And welcome to Steve Goff (who we'll permalink on the right shortly). Between him and Steinberg, I like the fact that the

Post is making a strong on-line committment to soccer. And yes, that means we expect Steinberg to continue covering the team. You can't just let Goff cover the pumpkin tossing (that sounds so dirty).

Now, you are no doubt wondering how we, as unpaid amateurs, feel about the pros getting into a space we've had almost to ourselves for so long. Well, we like it. The more, the better. You wouldn't think we'd be so intimidated by major media coming here that we'd resort to something juvenile, would you? Nah, not us. We can handle it. Really.

Really. We can.

Labels: ,

23 January 2007

What is the Masterplan?

Two quick links before I digress into a discussion for which I have no answers.

ACCORDING TO SIMON & GARFUNKLE, THEY NEED TO BUILD A BRIDGE: The Post follows up on their analysis of the Anacostia's rivers (I think Oscar posted a link about two weeks ago) with an editorial calling for the new Nationals and United owners to pony up for clean-up costs. Sure, fair, fine. The only thing is that you now have to consider that part of the cost of the buy-in to the area, which means that the idea of the city "giving away the land" is shown to be more and more of a false premise. It ain't a give away once you consider the environmental costs. So let's stop that argument right now, shall we? I'm sure the Post will get right on that.

WE LIKE VICTOR, CAN WE GET HIM FOR OTHER SPORTS? BlackAthlete.Com laments the failure of [Crazy Uncle Moneybags] Brian Davis to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies. In the process, you can almost hear "Why didn't he get into an ownership group like the one he's part of with United?" We don't know, but we're happy he did.

WHAT ARE THE WINDOWS? Okay, now to what I want to talk about. I had a wonderful time watching the Denmark/US game from Oscar's place. As you can imagine, there was much talk not just about the US National Team, but also about United. CVS, an occasional commenter in these parts, asked a telling question: "Do you guys feel like this is a rebuilding year?" I don't think so, but I understand where that sentiment comes from. We cleared out a lot of players for allocation cash, cap room, and draft picks. We didn't necessarily draft for need. We have a rookie head coach. Add to that the unspoken fear that this might be Moreno's last year (although no one other than Jamie would really know) and you have the feeling that DC isn't really in a "Win Now!" mindset.

I think "rebuilding" is too strong a phrase, but I agree that, as of today, this is a team with more questions than any team since 2003. If I had to offer a complete guess as to what might be in play, I would think that the 2008 and 2009 seasons are more important to the Front Office than this season. Yes, I know we have SuperLiga and the CONCACAF Champions Cup. But that'll be old news as we enter the stadium push endgame. When that time comes there will be real political considerations to having a team that looks strong. Remember that RSL supporters even theorized that the Freddy Adu deal was made to give Dave Checketts some momentum in his stadium maneuvers. I've made fun of Checketts for many things, but that made sense to me.

The fact is, the idea of "windows" popularized in NFL analysis doesn't really translate as well to soccer. Sure, there's a salary cap that comes into play, but it's implementation essentially means that all the teams have to deal with its restrictions all the time, as opposed to the boom and bust cycles of American Football. However, there are times when you can put out a stronger team than others. I think that DC United will be competitive next year, but I don't think you'd look at them as the odds-on favorite for anything. That could change by '09 when planning from this year and next comes together.

So, if I had to guess (and this is only a guess), I would think that United is going to try and be competitive, but not overwhelmingly intimidating, for the next year or two. After that will come the next real set of "Great United Teams." That's the hunch.

Labels: , , ,

22 January 2007

Weekend Catch-up

BOSWELL AND NAMOFF WITH THE NATS: Bobby Boswell got his first start for the US National Team, and second cap, in the 3-1 win over Denmark. I thought Bobby did well as part of the four man backline employed by Bradley. While Brian Garrison notes that he was out of position on the Denmark goal, it wasn't his marker who was involved in the play. He did well, and showed that his name certainly belongs in the mix for CONCACAF related tournaments.

Namoff's play as a late-sub was acceptable, but had an extended sequence where he played himself into trouble. Exactly the kind of thing you don't want to see when you bring a defender off the bench.

WARD 8 RESIDENTS SKEPTICAL OF STADIUM DEAL: There's no reason to panic over this David Naknamura article. Remember, we've already stated that Ward 8 concerns will play a role in the coming stadium debate, and this is one of the first media mentions to articulate them:

"This is gentrification at its best, the restoration of urban property by the rich that will result in the displacement of lower-income people," said D'Angelo Scott, a neighborhood activist, drawing applause from the crowd. "All the billions of dollars that will come from the stadium and the hotel -- is any of it going back to the low-income people who might disappear?"
It does indicate that D.C. United has work to do to alleviate concerns. And remember, it's unlikely that everyone will be satisfied no matter what United does. A component of the stadium deal will most likely include two things: Affordable housing support, and job set-asides for Ward 8 residents. The question is: "Will it be enough?" I think a good package will soothe enough people who realize that the existing residents of Ward 8 will be better off with the stadium deal than without. The fact that there won't be houses torn down to make room for the stadium makes this much easier than it might otherwise be.

FOWLER TO UNITED?: Nah, this doesn't ring true, but if you insist on knowing about all the rumors, here's another one. It seems like a bad idea that has pretty much already been ruled out by the DC FO, but you never know...

NOT SOCCER RELATED, BUT IF YOU'RE CURIOUS ABOUT THE THINGS I AM CURIOUS ABOUT...: I find this sort of thing fascinating. Yes, this is one of the other types of things I do in my spare time. More information on the Billion to One sub-project here.

Labels: , , , , ,

20 January 2007

D.C. United's Pre-Season Schedule Annouced

United annouced its pre-season schedule yesterday. I am suprised at the number of games they are playing against MLS teams to tune up for Olimpia. DC only has one game against non-MLS opponents, and that is thier first game, so obviously not a tune up game. The one game against foriegn competition is verses Odense Boldklub, a Danish team currently 3rd in the Danish Superliga (the top flight Danish league). I think we will just have to hope that stealing Olimpia's best player is enough for United to cancel out a lack of fitness. Also, you will notice that the CONCACAF matches against Olimpia are set. The away game should be shown live on FSC while the home game could be either live or on tape-delay.

D.C. United 2007 Preseason Schedule (all times EST):
Monday, January 29 - Sunday, February 4: Training in Washington, D.C.
Monday, February 5: Depart for Bradenton, FL
Tuesday, February 6: Match v. Odense Boldklub (4 p.m.)
Friday, February 9: Reserve match v. New York (10 a.m.)
Sunday, February 11: Match v. Columbus, reserves and senior team (10 a.m.)
Wednesday, February 14: Match v. New York (10 a.m.)
Sunday, February 18: Match v. Kansas City (10 a.m.)
Monday, February 19: Depart Bradenton for Honduras
Wednesday, February 21: CONCACAF Champions' Cup match @ CD Olimpia (9 p.m.)
Thursday, February 22: Return to Washington, D.C.
Friday, February 23 - Wednesday, February 28: Training in Washington, D.C.
Thursday, March 1: CONCACAF Champions' Cup match v. CD Olimpia (7 p.m.)

Labels: , ,

19 January 2007

Truth in Advertising

Well, if RBNY can try to imitate DC United's players and coaching staff, why not copy DC United's marketing?

In your heart, you know we're right.

Ah, that's why.


Needs Assessment Part II

Continuing our earlier thoughts, let's look at another off-season priority for DC United

2. Find Threats on the Wing

Why? Attacking threats on the wing have never been D. C. United's strong suit. The departure of Freddy Adu and the unlikely return of Mattias Donnet have exacerbated this situation. Pairing Josh Gros and Domenic Mediate on the wing is serviceable, and unlikely to do any harm, but is unlikely to strike fear in most MLS backlines. What's more, the conventional wisdom says that the outside back position is one of the thinner talent depths throughout MLS, exactly the kind of situation a 3-5-2 could exploit. Further, while Gros has the flexibility to play outside back for United, the lack of depth in this area makes moving him a dangerous opposition, and denies us tactical flexibility.

Efforts to Date: The big story in this area seemed to revolve around Ruy Beuno Neto. It's not clear if those negotiations are dead or simply stalled (the story changes from week to week, back and forth again.) However, since Emilio Luciano was signed on a free transfer, United still has a great deal of allocation money left, so obstacles to a deal are more likely coming from player negotiations and not from the clubs (if they are coming from the clubs it is probably fair to assume that the transfer fees being asked for are ridiculous.) The D.C. United front office has recognized this need, and if future signings are planned it is likely that this is where the allocation will go.

What to do? Signing an international with an allocation seems like the correct move here. It's unlikely DC United could work a favorable deal to trade for a wing player already within MLS. There are far too few of them to make the potential cost reasonable. However, the transfer market, as we have seen, is a crazy place to work. It's possible that even with the best efforts and intentions, United might be unable to make something work. At that point you're stuck with either using Gros, Mediate, and McTavish on the wings, or trying to convert a player. The 2006 roster doesn't provide much hope here, as Alecko Eskandarian was the one player who DC United experimented with on the wing as a potential conversion. United may try to convert a Brad North or Ricky Schramm to the wing, but without seeing them in person neither seems to be a particularly good candidate. Supplemental pick Guy-Roland Kpene may be the most reasonable option, given his decent assist tally which indicates at least some ability to send a ball through. At 5'10", he's not a target forward, which makes me hope that he has some skill with the ball and some pace as well. Of course, that's a long-shot, but that's what the Supplemental Draft is for, right? And if you can't get someone with an allocation, taking a long-shot while playing safe with Gros and Mediate doesn't seem like that bad a deal.

Labels: , ,

18 January 2007

Supplemental Draft is Done

The Supplemental Draft was today. This can be an important draft as some nice players can be found in these rounds. Last year's pick of Devon McTavish is probably the most recent example of this occuring for D.C. United. However, I am a bit confused with United's picks this year. They picked up another goalkeeper and an international forward.

The goalkeeper is Shawn Crowe who isn't on Buzz's radar. DC took him with the 11th pick in the Supplemental Draft. He is from Florida International, which is the same school that Bobby Boswell hails from. Apparently DC has decided to let Crowe, McIntosh, and Robles fight it out for the 2nd and 3rd goalkeeper spots. I think this is an idication that the powers that be at DCU do not think that Nolly will be coming back to the States.

The forward is Guy-Roland Kpene of Division II champions Dowling College. He was taken with the 37th pick of the Supplemental Draft. If anyone has seen this guy play, please tell us about him in the comments section. He didn't even make Buzz's Top 56 Forwards. All I have is that he got Division II Second Team All-American honors and scored 25 goals with 10 assists in just 24 games. I think this is another Ssejemba type move by United. They have the Y-I spots for him, he can obviously score at a lower level, they are taking a gamble that his skills will apply at a higher level. It didn't work out for Ssejemba and I doubt that it will work out here, but it is better than drafting somebody who will be a solid reserve that will never see the game day roster.

Labels: , , , ,

Past and Present

KNOW THE PRESENT: In DC, when any personality makes it to all five of the Sunday Morning Talk political shows on the same day, it's supposedly known as "The Full Ginsberg". I propose that when a soccer personality manages to hit The DCenters and the DC Sports Bog on the same day, it should be known as "The Full Needham."

Ricky Schramm gets his student newspaper bio: "Who needs David Beckham? We’ve got Rick Schramm." That's the kind of arrogance we appreciate.

Soccer365 lets you know that the Coach likes the Luciano.

KNOW THE PAST: Pretty much all the mainstream media were quick to invoke "Pele and the Cosmos" after the David Beckham signing. That's why it is pretty nice that the Washington City Paper decided on another historical allusion: Johann Cruyff and the Diplomats. It's nice to know that chain smoking soccer personalities have a rich DC Soccer tradition. Perhaps at some point I should put up an image of my Ben Olsen autographed pack of Camel Reds? (No, Concerned Parents of America, he didn't smoke any of them. He just signed it.)

Labels: , , , , ,

17 January 2007

Jay Needham: The DCenters Interview

The DCenters caught up with DC United's first pick of the third round over the phone while he was in LA. He claims he was visiting his girlfriend "before it gets all crazy," but we think he was there to egg the new Beckham estate. Regardless, Jay was more than willing to answer our questions, and anyone willing to talk with us is okay in our book. Jay was refreshingly honest and articulate. We had actually planned to ask the first question below sixth, but after we had mentioned how happy we were to see him drafted, he was more than willing to address his draft position. Oh, and assuming that Mr. Steinberg works for us is always a plus.

After what was reportedly a great combine for you, with observers noting at various times that you were a "rock that read the game very well" and the "best pure defender in the class" are you surprised that so many other teams took a pass on you?

People thought I fell. I did too. There were mixed emotions. But to end up with DC United, that's a perfect team with great tradition. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that? I was talking to my agent about it, about the draft, and reading Buzz Carrick. In his mock draft, he had me first round with DC United. At least he got the team right, even it was the third round.

So, yeah, I was a little surprised. There were a few anxious moments. A lot of people's big issue with me was my pace, which I'm trying to fix. It was kind of stressful, but when I got picked up by DC-- my Dad and I knew it was the best place. You think of Bobby Boswell, MLS Defender of the Year, who wasn't even drafted. This is the right place for me.

What was the first thing the DCU people said to you at the draft?

I wasn't actually at the draft. I watched the draft in Texas with my family. I talked on the phone with Coach Soehn. He said that it was "Important to come into camp in shape. Have your head on right." That sort of thing.

Have you moved to the area yet? How much does DCU help in getting you acclimatized to DC? Find places for you to rent, board you with other players. Tell you where the hangouts are?

Funny you ask me that. I'm flying up there Sunday night. The rookies come up and train a little earlier, and we're put up in a hotel. Three weeks in DC, then two weeks in Florida. So I'll find a place to live then, but I'll be in a hotel for awhile.

When did you know you wanted to be a professional player?

I've always played sports as a kid, and it is something I love to do. Baseball, football, basketball. Always wanted soccer as a career. It's kind of a cliche to say "all my life," but it's true.

Did you have offers or think about going overseas?

No, I had talked to my agent a little bit about it, and there are always offers of people who are willing to set something up. You know, those kind of offers that people will make. But there was always a vibe that something important would happen to MLS, and with Beckham coming it really is there now. So this is the best time, when there's a buzz about the league.

Who is your favorite player either MLS or elsewhere in the world?

Steven Gerrard. I love the way he is very loyal to Liverpool, which is one of my favorite teams. I love the way he works hard. Liverpool is one my favorite teams. Everything about Gerrard, the pace, the power, the way he presses forward.

[I'm pretty sure that with this answer, Jay has assured himself positive treatment in every Screaming Eagles Podcast from now on.]

Have you met any of the other DCU players yet?

No, not yet. I haven't met anyone ever. [Teammate Chase Wileman] apparently met Ben Olsen and Bobby Boswell.

What do you feel you bring to the game, and what aspect of your play are you most hoping to improve?

In terms of strength: Consistency. I think it's something I proved at SMU, there are very few days I feel like that are off days. I bring poise, calm, the ability to read stuff, see stuff before it happens. I'll have to adjust to the speed of play certainly.

At the end of the 2007 season, what do you hope to have accomplished?

Hopefully be seeing regular playing time, a roster spot. Everyone wants to be rookie of the year, but I want everyone to say we won an MLS cup, and I was a part of the team and not hassling the team.

What do you want people to know about you other than "Jay Needham, Defender"?

I'm just a normal, easy-going guy. Nothing too complex. I like to have a good time.
Your major?

Double major in economics and international markets.

Are you more of a free trader or a Marxist?

[Laughs] More of a free trader.

You know, the local media love players with personality, and DC has Gilbert Arenas and United has people like Eskandarian and Nick Rimando whose exploits are now almost legendary. Do you have a favorite exotic cheese yet? It will help you with some of the local media personalities if you do.

No. It's funny you ask. My girlfriend was trying to get me to try some cheeses. I'll definitely have to look into it now. See if she still has some. I'll call my dad and get some recommendations.

Your dad sounds very important to you...

My dad is my best friend. I talk to him about everything. My family is why I stayed so close to Ft. Worth. So they could attend games. My dad's always been a great factor, a great role model.

If you could invent a catchphrase after taking the ball from someone, what would it be?

Heh. I don't know. "Got it"... something like that. Depends on who it is, or if I just smashed him. If I smashed him, I might say something more vulgar.

What if you took it from Beckham?

If it was Beckham? It depends. It would be kind of funny to look back and say I talked trash to David Beckham

Anything else?

I look forward to getting to DC and working hard there.

Who's your favorite DC United blog?

The DCenters, obviously. [Laughs] [Now that's learning how to talk in this town!]

[Quick note on my impressions: Jay is tremendously easy to talk to over a phone across from coast-to-coast. He made me want to root for him to do well. Our thanks to him for taking some time to talk to us in the middle of his day, and to the DCU Front Office for helping set this up. And we need a catchphrase better than "Got It!" for him. Plus I think I need to mock up an image of him in a Liverpool kit. Just to see if it fits.]

Labels: ,


If you were expecting Part 2 of the 3 part Needs Assessment... well, so was I. But something else came up, and I think that'll be more interesting to you all. So check back later tonight or tomorrow morning after that's published, and then I'll get back on schedule.


Washington Post Odds and Ends

Goff had an online chat today. Good stuff as always.

Also, he has more information on the Emilio signing. Luciano is making about $200,000 a year, for four years. Notice how Goff reports the Beckham contract correctly, unlike a majority of other sports writers across the world.

The sports Bog had this great story on draft day, and though it was in our comments section thanks to one of our readers we never linked to it until now. Good stuff about United's G'town draft pick, Ricky Schramm.

Leonard Shapiro has an intersting article on Beckham's signing, which is one of the better articles I have read on the matter. But most interesting to United fans when he parapharases Kevin Payne.

In Washington, he [PAYNE] pointed out, cable ratings for D.C. United games on Comcast were about equal to ratings for Wizards regular season games and about 2 1/2 times greater than numbers for the Capitals.

First off, everyone knows that both the Wizards and the Capitals have a lot more games than D.C. United. So they obviously make more money because of that, just like they do in attendance. Some people knew that United had better ratings that the Caps. But, I had no idea that United was basically even with the Wizards in ratings. That is very interesting, and these numbers are a good sign for D.C. United's future.

Labels: , , ,

Subba cultcha: These are your thoughts, and you are certainly thinking.

Our recent discussions on soccer and subculture have spawned some interesting in writing in our comments and on other blogs. So much so that I'd like to highlight some of the interesting things people said.

First, since I dragged her into this discussion, I thought it interesting that Kali at RSL blog posted her thoughts. While the entire geek aspect that I was looking at may not be true for the soccer community at large, she think it certainly seems true for soccer bloggers, including the ones that self-reflect on the issue:

What I couldn't figure out is why I kept writing, even though it started to feel like an obligation rather than a hobby ... Thanks to my comrade in DC, however, I've arrived at the answer: I'm a geek. While I'd like to think it's in a goofy, stay-at-home-on-Friday-nights-and-watch-the-History-Channel sort of way, I'm beginning to have my doubts.

While I'm starting to come to terms with my status as a soccer geek, if I start frequenting hacking websites or building my own robot in the garage after work, I'm shutting this thing down faster than a beer stand at RES. Just saying...

I think I know where she's coming from on that one.

Specifically in response to Kinney's posts, there are some great thoughts that I wanted to make sure people saw:

From an Anonymous commenter:

Soccer is unusual (in American sports circles) in the mostly non-stop action. Most major American sports feature a lot of stop-start action. I think that translates at least some into how one thinks and perceives things - some folks just can't "get" sports like soccer that ebb and flow but rarely stop.
From "BQ"
About 2 years ago I was sitting at a bar in downtown Minneapolis watching a soccer game with fellow Dark Cloud supporters (MN Thunder Supporters group) saying that I worried about a day when and if soccer really did become popular in this country, as we all wish for, would I still love the game the same way.
"MEL" makes a great economic point:
There are other reasons why being out of the mainstream is attractive to some beyond a counterculture mentality. Being out of the mainstream means demand is lower, and that means prices are lower and access to the team is greater
Our old friend Matt W has three great points, but I wanted to highlight the second point because it not only reflects something I think but also will tie into the comment after that:
2. For people like me for whom expressions of pride in country are normally suppressed, rooting for the national soccer teams allows us to wave the flag with joyful abandon. Also, civic pride where other local teams' fanbases are so meatheaded (like, say, the Redskins').
I think there's a lot of truth compressed into that paragraph, especially when compared with BlackDogRed's cryptic note:
I very well aware that my fandom satisfies an aspect of my personality that's susceptible to those very characteristics authoritarian demagogues (of all flavors) know precisely how to exploit, whether as incitement to action or diversionary strategy to misdirect energy. But enough.
Finally, a nod to BigKris, who wrote:
Kinney's post, however, I think is spot-on in describing it as a subculture (or rather as a collection of subcultures) -- those who don't want to be mainstream. In addition to Kinney's example of the overlap with an indie music subculture group, I also note that there is a large collection of microbeer enthusiasts among DC fans. And it would not be possible to be a member of a supporters' group without embracing a more multicultural environment than a typical American suburb provides. No doubt there are other overlapping nonconformist tendencies as well.
There's a lot of smart people out there. I think the sense is that there are two ways of viewing this: Either soccer has a subculture simply by virtue of its sharing its position outside of the mainstream of american society (In which case that culture may deteriorate if or when the game becomes more popular) or there is something unique about the game itself and its competition that lends itself to the development of a culture like the one we see (especially around RFK). I tend toward the latter position, but I couldn't prove it. Most of you (with a few exceptions) seem to tend toward the former. Although perhaps Joanna neatly expressed a hyrbird position: "to be a soccer fan is to be... less US-centric and more able to appreciate other cultural experiences be they European, South American, whatever. Which is related to your whole idea of subcultures and having an interest in things outside the mainstream" Which means it isn't the game itself but more "The Game + All of the Global Traditions around it. (Kali had a great point about how everyone becomes Simon Kuper when politics and rivalries are mentioned). And if I missed a key thought from anyone, let me know. Some great reading out there.

Labels: , ,

Signs, Signs, Everywhere They Sign.

WHO BETTER TO TELL YOU ABOUT OUR NEW DRAFT PICKS THAN THE PEOPLE THAT SAW THEM PLAYING BEER PONG A DAY BEFORE FINALS? Okay, perhaps that was just our college experience. All right, it wasn't (although I did have a final class on Literary Theory take place in a bar around a pitcher once. That was nice.) So, if you don't know the first thing about some of our draft picks, what should you do? Ask their peers! The Daily Northwestern profiles under-the-radar second round pick Brad North, noting "North's selection by D.C. United ... will undoubtedly boost the school he helped revive. Before North signed on with the Wildcats, the program was pretty much dead." Wow. Kid saved a program. That's a hell of a recommendation.

Southern Methodist University's Daily Campus also gives you a quick look at Jay Needham: "I don't know any of the other guys who were drafted. I don't really know anyone on the team. It will be a complete fresh start for me out there." Jay, if you want to blend in, here's a hint: As part of your rookie hazing ritual, they will try to convince you that Jamie Moreno's first name is pronounced "Hie - ME". Don't be fooled! He's name is "James Wentworth Moreno III, Esq." and he likes to be called "Jay-ME" or "Cookie."

I SAID UH HEY HEY, LUCIANO: Someone on BigSoccer already pointed out the wonderful adatation of The Fall that this signing offers, but I'll steal the joke. Anyways, Luciano Emilio was introduced to the world and given Eskandarian's #11. That may rankle some (and that includes me for a bit) but I gurantee that if he makes good on his hopes, it will all be forgotten. From The Times --"My first goal here is to win a championship, and secondly I want to be the top goal scorer." That's a sound byte my friend. You may do well in this town if you can deliver. Steve Goff is also covering the story, but includes this interesting quote as well: "Kasper said the club is getting close on deals for other South American players but 'at the end of the day, it has to be a good long-term signing. We're not going to rush and make a quick decision.'" There's ways of parsing that which could be interesting.

Labels: , , , ,

16 January 2007

Needs Assessment Part I

Even with Luciano Emilio, DCU's Roster Is Incomplete

Let's get out those pencils, and take a look at DC United's requirements for improving its roster. I don't think these have been formally stated, but let's give it a shot. If we had to pick three top priorities for considering transactions, what would they be, what has DC United done to date, and what do they need to do? Here's how I would analyze this (part 1):

1. Improve Backline Depth

Why? For all of the legitimate focus on getting balls in the net, this is an area that is overlooked by many fans. This was a mild problem before Brandon Prideaux was traded to Colorado, but his departure certainly elevated the situation. Our back 3 of Erpen - Boswell - Namoff is a good group, but behind them you have Wilson (a servicable LB), Stokes (erratic at best), and potentially conversions of Josh Gros and Jeff Carroll. In this situation, Prideaux (when healthy) was a great 4th option. Given the fear on injury or the problems of card accumulation which dogged United the second half of the season, there's not much there. A starting quality back, preferably on the outside, could help a great deal in maintaining a three man backline, let alone giving Tommy Soehn some flexibility in moving to a four man back line if he felt the occasion warranted it.

Efforts to Date: United drafted Jay Needham from Southern Methodist University, and there's reason to think Neeham has significant potential. That being said, let's not forget how unlikely and rare the Bobby Boswell story was. Even Bobby was sent to the bench the second half of his rookie year, and while his potential was clear to see, he really matured in his second year in the league. To expect Needham to do the same or even more is unfair, he'll need a year of acclimation just to acquaint himself with the speed of the game. I don't think you can rely on him as the answer.

What to do? The conventional wisdom says that MLS is relatively poor when it comes to play at LB, the center backs are relative plentiful. You can get an option there simply because supply outpaces demand. The reason Erpen was worth an allocation was his speed makes him a rare commodity on the outside. I don't think you have to use an allocation to grab a player here, but if you do it should be for a back that can play outside as opposed to in the middle of the line. Stokes, if he is to have an impact, needs to step it up this year. If he can show more to his game than I think I, or pretty much anyone, have seen to date, he has the most to gain from this situation. Otherwise we may have to look at some form of midseason trade, and our one area of depth where we could deal from is our defensive midfield. We may resign Carroll, only to see him or Benny or Simms traded. For purely fan reasons, I don't like that idea, but it might be the only competitive option.

Labels: , , ,

United Scheduling Problems

So apparently the Steven Goff article that broke the Luciano Emilio signing was updated with a bunch of good off-season info after I linked to it the first time. Most have to do with various calender issues in one form or another.

DC United worked out a deal with the MLS Players Union to allow them to start practice on January 26, eight day earlier than normal. This is important because the Concacaf Champions Cup is coming up quickly and DC United needs to be both fit and cohesive. Under the terms of the agreement DC will have to forgo practice eight days they would have in pre-season. Hopefully the pre-season training schedule will be announced soon as well.

Another scheduling problem that hasn't been worked out yet is the Superliga game against Houston. DC is supposed to host all three of their Superliga games in the group stage, SE Podcast has the original press release. Unfortunatly the Nationals are in town on the date of the United vs. Dynamo game. Good planning MLS. According to Stephen Zack no definate plans have been made yet, but the game will be held somewhere in the general region, but not the Soccerplex or FedEx.

For anyone that needs to plan some weekends ahead, here is the Nationals schedule. You can basically figure out the DC United schedule by noting the weekends the Nats are on a road trip. Remember that there will be ESPN2 games on Thursday and a Univision/Telefutra game on Sunday.

And in news completely unrelated to scheduling Dave Kasper says that he is confident of re-signing Brian Carroll sometime this next week.

Labels: , , ,

15 January 2007

D.C. United Sign Luciano Emilio

The long awaited Emilio signing has finally gone through according to Goff at the Washington Post. For those of you that haven't been following breathlessly via badly translated website reports, Luciano Emilio is a Brazilian striker currently playing for Club Olimpia of Honduras. Yep, thats right, the same team that is United's first round opponent in the Concacaf Champions Cup that is coming up in a little more than a month.

At first blush this seems like a good signing by the DCU braintrust. Emilio is 28 years old, which is old, but not ancient. He is a Brazilian striker, with stints in Germany before moving to Olympia and was the top goal scorer in the Honduran league for 3 of the past 4 years. Plus, we are taking away our first round opponent's best player. Not too shabby. Goff also mentions that there will be one or two more South American moves this offseason, but the Ruy negotiations have stalled.

Labels: , ,

The Geeks in the Stands: Its About Subcultures

This is my response to a great post by D just below. Please read it first. Basically my thesis is that soccer is a sub-culture outside of mainstream American culture and that the same people who choose to take the path less followed in one aspect of their lives are more prone to do it in another.

I soccer attracts what most people call geeks in America because it is currently out of the mainstream. Just like being a geek is almost by definition. Right now, soccer is like a good indie band before it gets the major record deal. Seriously, I don't know 3/4ths of the bands named at most music discussions I hear at Barra or Screaming Eagles events. The same people that follow indie bands follow soccer. There is a certain amount of overlap in subcultures that buck the mainstream, and the soccer/indie thing is just one example of this.

Soccer doesn't really attract the computer nerd that lives at home in front of the screen. It attracts the people who like the world, but don't want to just follow everyone else and instead consciously avoid the normal. This isn't a dis on fans of other sports as I am someone who basically follows other people when it comes to music or fashion or whatever, but for random reasons really like soccer. So I don't really think it is bad to follow the mainstream (and we all do it in some aspects of our lives). But the fact remains that soccer right now is outside of the mainstream and attracts people that live in an independent world.

An interesting thing that I have noticed is that given a small amount of exposure to soccer at a youth level, American sports fanatics also really like soccer. I am not talking about JoeSixPack who sits down to watch Football on Sundays, and catches the NBA and MLB playoffs. I am talking about the people who have 3 to 5 fantasy football teams, can tell you how the Washington Wizards (for DC fans) match up against the rest of the NBA on a team by team basis, and can explain a balk in baseball. That last one was a little weak, I am not a huge baseball fan, but you get the picture.

I have two friends who are like this, both of whom like other sports teams much more than United. The Washington (darn you KC for making me write out Washington every time) Wizards and Skins in one case and the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Michigan, Tulane, etc., etc., in the other case. But for these guys soccer is just another sport to learn and watch, which is what they love to do. These two guys are the ones that I bring most often to games because they get it, they are already fans and not just spectators, just because that is the way they approach all sports.

Again, I think this is because they are part of a sub-culture of sports fanatics lost in the sporting culture of America. In this case the overlap between the sub-cultures of soccer and sports fanatics is quite obvious, but is hidden because watching sports is mainstream. However mainstream watching may be, being a sports junkie is not. These guys are exactly the people that we can sway to support soccer in the USA. To some extent you can already see this with some of the DCenters commentators, or with the overlap between soccer and hockey fanatics on the Sports Bog. Just like our indie friends of the music world, they have a lot of cachet in their community, because they are usually the most knowledgeable. I think soccer would do well not just to look into our overlap with the regular geeks, but also with the somewhat hidden sports geeks.

That's my take. I would love to hear some other comments on D's idea below.

Labels: , ,

The Geeks in the Stands: An Unlikely Alliance of Sport and Subculture

About a year ago when Kali from RSL blog visited Our Nation's Capital, there was a discussion about the kinds of people you see at soccer venues. For whatever reason, we were talking about whether or not Soccer fans tend to be geekier than other types of fans. Joe from We Call It Soccer was the one who was willing to say it straight out. As I recall, he said "No doubt, some of us are out-and-way-out nerds." It was, I should admit, said with a certain degree of awkwardness. There was a quick look around to make sure that none of us would qualify for that characterization before we all hastened to agree. It's true: Soccer attracts a certain degree of dorkism. And, to be honest, Kali, Joe, and I were probably closer to being in that category than any of us were willing to admit.

I've been meaning to write about that for some time, and Througball gave me the reason. Josh at Throughball notes that Fox Soccer is advertising on Lifehacker, and he writes: "I'm struggling to make the connection between one of the most popular blogs for geeks (including yours truly) and an all-soccer channel. FSC must have seen some convincing demographics."

Perhaps they have. There were tongues wagging when Slate wrote about soccer becoming the sport of choice of the "intellectual". Of course, they were writing primarily about European soccer, but the point remains. There is something of a geek aesthetic to soccer supporters across these United States (and for which the Barra mocks the Eagles). But, in DC's loud side at least, it isn't just the geeks. It's a hybrid of the geeks, the refugees from DC's hardcore scene, and the strong ethnic supporters from Europe and the Americas. It's a strange conglomeration, the kind depicted previously only by a handful of cyberpunk writers.

Now, the temptation in such thinking is to think that one could align MLS with the "Geek Culture Ascendant" meme that's been propagating the last five or so years. That The Lord of the Rings box office take bodes favorable for soccer in America. I caution against such thoughts. Even if Slashdot were to establish a Sports category that dotes on MLS, there's no reason to think that this indicates a leading edge change that will soon filter into the mainstream consciousness. For every Peter Jackson raking in the cash there is a Joss Whedon who comes close but is ultimately cancelled before acceptance by a larger audience.

Still, my experience, from what I can see, is that there is more acceptance by geek culture of soccer than most professional sports. I wonder "Why is that?" and I'm also wondering "What does it mean?" I don't have good answers, but the questions are, I think, interesting ones.

Quick Afterthought: Of course, the Beckham signing is a nice point in opposition, since that is quite a fashionable move. Hmmmm....

Labels: , ,

We Are Well in the Middle of It

Let's set the table for the upcoming week with a quick recap of the ton of stuff that's going on right now, shall we?

STADIUM DEAL: EVERYONE TRIES TO PREEMPT EVERYONE -- Part of the reason that we've been covering the stadium situation so closely was that we were convinced that the deal would be much more publicly examined, even without a final plan on the table. Now, while we've been careful to state that we have to see a plan before final judgments can be made, and to determine some tests on how to evaluate it, The Washington Times has decided they know enough to weigh in with an editorial judgment: "This is a sweetheart deal for wealthy sports magnates worth tens and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars."

Again, we think the indications are different on this, but we think final decisions can't be made until the facts are on the table. The Times apparently thinks differently, applying the same editorial standards and news judgment to the pending stadium deal that they applied to the war in Iraq.

OFF SEASON TRANSFER MOVEMENT: Let's just establish that until you see an official press release on a team's website, it's difficult to know who's going where. We can give you (and will give you) all the rumors we have, but those are the simple facts. Steve Goff in the Post says Ruy Bueno Neto is not coming to DC United, but Luciano Emilio may be. MLS Underground (in a slightly older post) says that the Palermo situation is "contradictory" but they're thinking things are moving towards the cooler end (we have not heard an update from our people on this, but if we get something we'll let you know.) SportsYA (credibility - untested with us) says that the Emilio deal is done because Olimpia, DC's CONCACAF Champions Opponent, took too long to make an offer. And George Solomon in the Post thinks that something's going to happen because "Kevin Payne does not sit quietly on the sideline." Last season, the transfer season was not nearly as crazy as this, but I tend to think that all of the contradictory, confusing, and somewhat exhilarating developments are more likely in the future. Kinda fun, for an offseason.

SUPERLIGA ANNOUNCED: DC UNITED IN GROUP B: The long rumored MLS / Primera Division de Mexico competition has been announced, and DC United and the Houston Dynamo represent MLS in Group B. The system currently calls for only three games to be played in the group stage, and all in the United States (er?) Hey, it's something, and while I'd prefer a home-at home setup, this will work for now. They'll continue to mess around with it. Fine with me. Games are July through August. I can't wait.

THE DRAFT AIN'T DONE: The MLS Supplemental Draft is coming. And yes, that matters. Consider that both Andy Metcalf and Devon McTavish, both of whom got some time with the first team last year, were selected in the supplemental draft. McTavish remains on the roster so far. Domenic Mediate was also acquired for a supplemental draft pick, and seems to have shown some value. So there's more to come. The Supplemental Draft will be held on Thursday.

Labels: , , , ,

12 January 2007

Alexi Lala comments on the LA Galaxy Draft

In a conversation with The DCenters. Tape Starts.

On Second Rounder Robbie Findley:

LALA: Can you believe this kid fell so low? When you think of what he can do with Beckham on the wing and Landon in the middle, it's almost criminal how much value we got for this second round pick. Put this down - he's going to be a star. He's like Jozy Altidore, only better. I'll shave my head if he doesn't get more than eight goals his first year.

On Second Rounder Joshua Tudeula

LALA: I like this kid. He's basically what would happen if Beckham and I had a child. I mean, I had flame colored hair, and he played for the Evansville Flame. And he wears #7, just like David Beckham. I mean, that's amazing when you think about it. He's going to make a major contribution to this league. Remember the story of Joshua in the Bible, and how the trumpets would sound and blow down the walls? Well, when our Joshua blows, you better believe things are going to fall down.

On Second Rounder Ty Harden

LALA: Ty Harden shaves his head, just like Bruce Willis and David Beckham have done. In fact, they wanted to call the first Die Hard movie "Ty Harden" but Ty wouldn't let them because the movie was too weak. Walk across broken glass in bare feet? That's for wusses. I saw Harden walk across molten lava then cover his feet with honey and stick it in an fire-ant hill. That's talent, especially when you consider the Home Depot surface.

On Fourth rounder Tally Hall

LALA: I could say that name all day. Tally Hall. Tally Hall. Tally Hall Tally Hall Tally Hall. You know what other name I could say all day? David Beckham. Beckham Beckham Beckham. Really, this kid is the coronet for the crown jewel of Major League Soccer. By that I mean he's essential to the support of the jewels, you hear what I am saying? And he's got an indie music band named after him. That's street cred. Like me. I'm from the streets. Work it, Dawg! We should totally hang and jam sometime. I'm writing a song now. It's called Hall the Ball for Beckham. It's awesome!

On Fourth Rounder Bobby Burling

LALA: It's just so amazing awesome. Like, if all the happiness in the world were condensed in a balloon, it would probably burst into tears of sheer ecstasy. I'm crying because it's so good. We're the galaxy. Just seeing our logo is like a million orgasms in a switch that you turn on and turn on again and-you-keep-turning-it-on -and-you-can't-stop-because-it's-so- damnamazinglyawesomewithbecksanddonovan. I see it now! I see it! Oh my god, it's full of stars! Yiyiyiyiyiyiiyiyiyiyiyiy....

Tape Ends.

Labels: ,

DCU's #11 Selection Is...Bryan Arguez, Midfielder. Brad North selected 2nd round. Needham and Schramm in 3rd.

UPDATED: And it's Bryan Arguez. A project, to some degree, central midfielder holding type. Interesting choice...Not sure the one I would have made (Findlay being on the board still) but one that could work out. May fall under the "this guy is safe, let's get him" theory.

What do people say? Buzz Carrick rated him as the #3 Midfielder in the draft, noting he's a good linking and posession midfielder with "upside". Jeff Carlisle had him projected as the #9 pick: "Arguez is described as a player with great tools who is incredibly comfortable on the ball." In short, the more I look at this, the more it makes sense as a "Best available talent" selection. Which is fine with me. The fact that he's a Generation Adidas player doesn't hurt either.

This may not have been the pick I would have made, but it's not a bad pick. It doesn't address a need, but it's tough to do that in the draft. Working with Simms, Olsen, and perhaps even the Carroll brothers... you have a player that can contribute in a few years.

Kinney's Take: I agree with the above. Very much a "best available talent" pick. Which IMHO is the way to in the superdraft.

SECOND ROUND: BRAD NORTH (F-Northwestern) -- Our Rod Dyachenko for this year? Led Northwestern with 9 goals and 2 assists in his Senior Year. A pick from off the radar of most, I'm guessing. Nice to grab a forward.

Kinney's Take: Ranked 20th of the forwards by Buzz. First player picked not invited to either the combine or Generation Adidas. Hopefully this is just more great scouting by the DC Front Office, but we're just hoping at this point. Could be the next Van Sicklen as well. Here is his School Bio.

THIRD ROUND: Jay Needham (D - Southern Methodist University). For a kid who got rave reviews in the Combine, he fell a long way. DC picks him up, and at first blush it seems like great value. From College to the Pros praised his size and awareness, and Joe Soccer Fan said he read the game well. This seems like a good pick at this late in the game. Add a defensive reservist to develop, which is something we need.

Kinney's Take: Great pick this late. I wanted him in the second round. Makes the North pick okay even if he doesn't pan out in my mind. Buzz has him rated 5th out of all defenders. He has problems with pace, but should be good as a back-up. Basically a younger Prideaux with more ball handling skills, won't be as savy, but United can teach that.

D: Totally in agreement with that. Allows us to still take a flyer with our other 3rd round pick. Good stuff here.

THIRD ROUND: RICKY SCHRAMM (F - Georgetown). Anyone? I have no idea. Kinney, what you got?

Kinney's Take: I've got nothing. 21st on Buzz's Forward Rankings. 2004 Big East Player of the Year. Waiting on what JoeSoccerFan thinks of this pick. Hopefully it is one of the ones he was holding close to his chest because he thought we could get him in the Supplemental. But I don't know. Buzz calls him a sleeper pick, but apparently he is very streaky.

FOURTH ROUND: LUIS ROBLES (GK - Portland): This seems like a "Have him in the pocket" pick. Robles wasn't at the Combine, but that's okay. Robles was the 3rd rated keeper from Carrick. Wynalda mentions Nick Rimando, the the absurdly high save total indicates that Robles has some reflexes along those lines. One of those "Hey, why not?" picks. Look, it's the fourth round, you're not going to be wowed, all you can hope for is that you don't get a "What are they thinking" pick. This is fine.

Kinney's Take: This is the goalkeeper that we wanted all along folks. I don't know that for a fact but Goff said that United might draft a goalkeeper and Robles is one of the better ones. Didn't play for a big name team, but he has been on the fringe of the youth national team for while now. Not sure how I feel about taking a goalkeeper, but I think this is exactly what DCU was looking for with this pick. By the way D, Carrick moved him up to second after he wrote the ESPN article, maybe because Noble didn't show much at the combine.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

DCenters' Draft Day Guide

This is for the fanaticos who follow the superdraft in the midst of the biggest signing in MLS history. Below are a list of the best combine reports, player rankings, and mock drafts for this year's draft. Read up before noon, when you can follow the proceedings on ESPN (well the first round at least) or on your computer at MLSnet. First things first however, here is the official list of players, the draft order, and the list of Generation Adidas players. EDIT: Goff has a great article on the draft in this morning's paper.

3rd Degree
Written by Buzz Carrick these are the creme de la creme of the bunch. He is so good ESPN hired him to be the Mel Kiper of MLS. Check out his EPSN top 25 prospects as well as his striker, midfielder, defender, and goalkeeper ratings, but the best stuff is at his matchnight site where he has updated the player ratings since the draft.

Forward ratings
Midfielder ratings
Defender ratings
Goalkeeper ratings

Combine Day 1
Combine Day 2
Combine Day 3
Combine Wrap-Up

Top Drawer Soccer
Usually a pay site, they have provided this year's combine content for free. Possibly the preeminant youth and college soccer site. They also have a nice three part series from the player's perspective, written by draft hopeful Greg Dalby.

Combine Day 1
Combine Day 2
Combine Day 3

A BigSoccer poster and DC United fan, sitting behind him at last years draft was eye opening. He made a lot of different calls that look very good in retrospect and there were only a handful of players in the whole draft that he didn't recognize. DCenters already posted JoeSoccerFan's combine reports, but we will link them here for you as well.

Combine Day 1
Combine Day 2
Combine Day 3


Mock Drafts
Below are two mock drafts. One by a professional that only does the first round and most likely got it very wrong. Another by a DCU fan who did all four rounds and probably has one of the better first round mocks I have seen.

Jeff Carlisle at ESPN (first round only)
Zman Gunner at BigSoccer

Labels: ,

11 January 2007

This is more like it. YA Says Carroll Could Well Remain with DCU

Full story here. This is the kind of news I can get excited over.

Even I'm not sure if I'm being sarcastic or not.

Probably not. I like CarrollB. He fits well. Would I pay $125K for his services? No. Would I pay more than $58K? Yup. There's good value here between those numbers. If he stays, I'll be quite happy.

Labels: , ,

OK, Becks to LA

I know I should write something about Beckham going to LA. It makes LA a better team, even though we all saw how well Beckham dealt with the heat of summer. It'll probably bump attendence at Galaxy road games. Yet the thing is... I just don't feel much at all. It's sort of like Dice-K signing with the Red Sox. It's a big deal for some, especially Boston fans, but I don't feel like it significantly impacts the team I support. I'm sure AEG will make its money back on this. I think Beckham makes them better. I'm sure this brings all sorts of attention to MLS... and yet I just don't care. What's wrong with me?

UPDATES: Here's your DCU angle: Kevin Payne comments. As for me, I think the problem is that I'm somewhat emotionally numb right now. The ownership, the stadium... I've been all worked up over those so there's little left for this.

Labels: , ,

It's Not Coming, It's Here Now: The Local Media Starts On the Stadium Deal

Yesterday I wrote about how a brief (and pleasant) conversation with Marc Fisher convinced me that the local media would soon turn its attention to the proposed D.C. United stadium at Poplar Point, and how I think that debate needs to be considered. To some degree I was trying to get a head-start on what has the potential to be a highly charged situation. Well, guess who has chimed in on the topic today? From our friend Marc:

City and federal officials expect that tiff will be worked out, at which point Fenty will have to explain why it's not okay for the city to pay cash for a stadium, but it is okay for the city to give United's principal owner, Victor MacFarlane, or Snyder control over valuable riverfront land.

Now, we know that the answer to this question is that MacFarlane, once a proposal is out, is going to show that giving him control of the land provides a very good return on investment to the city. But wait! What about the people who live there already?

Council member Marion Barry, whose Ward 8 is home to the soccer stadium site, is even more welcoming: "There's a commitment from the mayor and myself to assist in building not only a stadium, but $800 million to $1 billion in housing, retail and office development at Poplar Point," he told me. "We're talking about up to 2,500 units of housing" with at least 30 percent reserved for affordable housing.

Man, both major points we raised yesterday, and we can already see that they're coming into play. But what I wrote yesterday about all the facts in the world not being good enough for some people still holds true, and Marc has done us a service and stepped forward to personify that role:

The bottom line, however, is that this kind of giveaway is no more fair to the taxpayer than the baseball deal. As expensive and messy as that process was, at least it involved some competition for the rights to develop the area around the ballpark. In a perfect world, baseball's owners should have footed the cost of the stadium.

Really? This "giveaway" (a "giveaway" where the owners of D.C. United are expected to put up some significant amounts of cash) is not more fair to the tax payer than the MLB deal in which the City was put on the hook for everything? Is it unfair to the taxpayer that the city and MacFarlane convert Poplar Point to tax-generating real estate? Is it unfair to the taxpayer that more affordable housing is established in a mixed usage community? Now, perhaps Mr. Fisher has a point, but by placing the D.C. United proposed stadium deal (details pending) next to the Nationals stadium deal (Details well known, and putting the city on the hook for a ton) and concluding that they are the same deal to the taxpayers of DC is hyperbole of the laziest form. And that's just the point. When you can't argue the facts, or the law... well, that's a cliche. A cliche because it is true. And a cliche that neatly answers another cliche which poses as a column in today's Post.

A few quick notes: Not to pile on (okay, to pile on, let's be honest), Fisher seems to have missed the sports blogging community that showed up at the WaPo Summit. So let me assure you that both Nationals' bloggers and fellow soccer bloggers (Nice to have met you I-66) were both there, and we even had a few vocal moments. Maybe it's just that because of all this stadium stuff, he considers us political blogs now. Also, yesterday's writing seems to have spawned a relevant thread on Big Soccer. While the confluence of politics and Big Soccer posters seems to more volatile then dropping a Free Republic writer in the middle of DC Indymedia, they are keeping their heads over there. Think clearly, think rationally, make the case, and this will see us through. And remember, we're not sure of anything, even our own right, until we can see the details on the table. The indications are good that D.C. United is doing the right things, but they are only indications. Once we see the plan we'll know better. But to instantly dismiss things out of hand is... saddening, but not surprising.

Update: As is the case when anyone who is the subject of one of our posts leaves a comment, we like to point it out at a high level to give them an equal platform. So while Mr. Fisher has yet to comment on today's post, he does leave a comment on our writings from yesterday:

As my column today notes, the stadium is a great idea and if MacFarlane is paying for it, he should be welcomed just as Abe Pollin was when he volunteered to cough up the cash for the MCI Center. But the giveaway of riverfront land to MacFarlane's group for the hotel, housing and other parts of the development is another story entirely--and that's where the political battle will and should rage.

Fair enough. But his column today is a gross oversimplification of the facts, and is entirely premature. He's probably correct in what he says, which is where the battle will be fought. But to reach a conclusion, as he seems to have done in his column today, seems to be jumping the gun. C'mon Mr. Fisher... let's see what offers are made first, shall we? I think the indications are that a fair deal will be put out there. As for criticizing a give-away, well, I'd be more concerned if there was an abuse of eminent domain to obtain the land for the developers as a giveaway. This doesn't strike me as egregious at all.

There are all sorts of other things that need to be said. I hope to get to them.

Labels: , , , ,

10 January 2007

MLSNet to Bloggers: Give Us Your Rantings, Yearning to Breathe Free

DCUnited.COM seems to be linking to 3rd party blogs (including us). Right now I can't tell if other teams are doing the same. Fascinating. Maybe I should watch my mouth. Anyone out there finding other teams doing this?

Labels: ,

Houses in Motion: Progress on the New DC United Stadium Will Be Scrutinized by Everyone


Yes, a long post warning. But this time I think you should read it.

The Background: One of the panelists at last night's "Blogger Summit" hosted by Washing Post-Newsweek Interactive was Marc Fisher, a name well known to the soccer community. The author of a regular metro column and the Raw Fisher blog did not disappoint, as he told the audience he read a number of local politics and sports blogs, including Nationals blogs, but then felt the need to point out he didn't read DC United blogs. Sigh.

All that being said, I grabbed a quick word with him in between sessions. If you'd like, you may berate my cowardice for not opening my conversation with "Mr. Fisher, why do you hate all that is good about America?" Instead we spoke briefly about soccer, and what caught my attention is how interested he is in the entire stadium debate, and specifically Mayor Fenty's initial friendliness to the idea of some public financing for the stadium.

To date, D.C. United has been working quietly in building its support for the stadium deal and reinforcing its community outreach programs. All of that will come under the glare of the local politics angle soon. While Fenty, Brown, Gray, and Barry are supportive now, one only has to look at the various late night conversions during the DC City Council's debate on the Nationals stadium to know that things can change quickly. If you want a more recent example, you can always look west as well. Add to this the fact that Fenty was one of the more outspoken opponents of the stadium deal, and you can just imagine the delight with which stadium opponents will throw the charge of hypocracy at Fenty.

The Coming Debate: Yes, there will be stadium opponents. Take it as a given. Even if Victor MacFarlane, Will Chang, and Crazy Uncle Moneybags pay for the land to the stadium, the construction of the stadium, the land for devevlopment, the parking lots, and all the city ponies up for is a new traffic light at Martin Luther King Jr Ave and Talbert St, there will be cries that Fenty has reversed himself and is supporting corporate welfare. There will be people that view any development of the area other than schools, low-income single-family or multi-family housing as displacement through gentrification. In fact, to some degree, these voices are already starting to come out. Since there's no plan on the table for everyone to yell at each other about, there's no reason to think they have much of a case. But the early indications from D.C. United are that the easiest objections to the plan will be answered. They must be.

Let's set the basic ground-rules. This deal requires two things to come off: It must be sufficiently profitable for D.C. United's owners, and also politically supportable by the D.C. City Council. We can assume that any plan put on the table by D.C. United will meet the first criteria, but it should be explicitly stated because you can imagine all sorts of anti-stadium opponents creating scenarios that D.C. United would (and should) never agree to. As to the second point, from my view, the D.C. City Council needs a plan that meets two goals.

  1. The Deal Must Offer the District a Return on Investment. This is important. The charge of hypocracy against anti-baseball stadium supporters fails if this point is true. Most of the anti-baseball stadium polticians consistently made the point that they felt the deal between MLB and the city was a bad deal, not that they were totally against all public support for a stadium. If D.C. United and the District have a deal that shows a reasonable return on investment for the city's contributions, then this charge is largely refuted. This won't matter to some anti-stadium people, but will matter to most people watching the debate. No doubt others will attempt to dispute the numbers proposed, but a good-faith effort will stand-up.
  2. The Deal Must Not Indicate that Ward 8 Residents Are Being Forced Out. This is the second key factor, and no doubt explains why such an emphasis has been placed on community outreach, local fields for children, and affordable housing. This deal must indicate that the Poplar Point stadium is taking a place among Ward 8's residents, not replacing them. Whether this is through setting aside a certain percentage of housing units as low-income, set asides for jobs for local businesses, or other means can be fine-tuned in the details. Again, no matter what the deal is, there are some who will scream that it is mere tokenism. However, a good-faith effort is more than possible, and is vital to ensure the continued support of the political community.

Every indication we see so far shows that D.C. United has successfully set the groundwork to exceed these challenges, and that MacFarlane and company will have a plan on the table that shows that the stadium deal is reasonable and fair to all parties involved. I'm hopeful. That being said, one of the points I've made repeatedly is that no matter how fair the deal is, it won't be enough for some, and they'll probably scream the loudest and attempt to influence people through sheer force of volume and will. That's where supporters like us will come in.

The Role for Supporters: When a plan is placed on the table, soccer supporters (especially district residents) should take the time to read it and ask themselves if it meets the criteria above. If so, then be a reasonable voice to support the deal around your water cooler, association meetings, or wherever. Soccer fans are frequently painted as insane hooligans, sometimes by media personalities in this town. While that's probably fair when describing the passion we have in supporting our team, it is manifestly unfair when it is used to imply that we have no facility for critical reasoning. We won't be able to chant our way to victory, but we can reason our way there. To understand how the stadium deal will meet this challenges will be important to all of us in shaping this debate. It matters now because the spotlight of the media and activists will now focus for the first time on what has been our private saga for so long. If they see that our ducks are in a row and our motives are decent, then I truly believe we will have a house of our own.

Labels: , , ,

Stomp the Rink

Lots to talk about in the next few days. Start yourself off by reviewing JoeSoccerFan's Day 3 2007 MLS Combine report. Enjoy the wire reports on the second Barra invasion of the phone booth: "boisterous", "fun", and "hooligans...usually seen at D.C. United games in the MSL [sic]... bringing a fun atmosphere to an otherwise half-empty building." This last article of course uses this as a peg to slam soccer, but somehow instead does more damage to the Flyers' performance. Oh you local sports writers, will your humor never start? (OffWing notes that our proud representatives from the Barra were seated right in front of the pressbox. Excellent.)

We're in the final few days before the SuperDraft, so I encourage you to brush up on your draft knowledge. The DCenters will try and publish a cheat sheet for you in the future.

Also, last night the DCenters was one of the many local DC blogs invited over to the Washington Post for a blogging summit. Most of the actual proceedings are probably, at this time, of little interest to you, but I do want to talk about a quick conversation I had and what it might mean for the stadium. Provided I can carve out enough time in my day to get those thoughts down, it'll be coming. For a full round-up of what actually happened, check out DC Metblogs, and I'm sure other will have their thoughts up in a bit..

Finally, aren't you glad your relationship isn't like this? (Almost perfect, -1 for not using "Citeh")

Labels: , , ,

JoeSoccerFan's Combine Report - Day 3

Day three of JoeSoccerFan's on site Combine coverage. This was the last day of the combine. The "super" draft is this friday. I plan to get a combine report and draft preview up sometime tomorrow.

Team Azteca

Christman, Adam - Forward - UVA
came on when Guadarrama got hurt in 1H for a few minutes. Lost the ball a few times but really didn't suck as much as usual. 2nd half playing central defender was physical (er, very physical) - perhaps this is his calling. I still don't think he's good enough to play MLS but maybe someone else will.

Cummings, Omar - Forward - Cincinnati

DNP - perhaps I was mistaken about seeing him, yesterday. Won't be the first time.

Douglass, Justin - Defender - Missouri State
Big + Played very well - breaking up plays. Still made mistakes. Not sure if he's got enough quality - willing to consider.

Guadarrama, Willy - Forward - Campell
better - but the difference is between projectile diarrhea and running stools. Has skills just doesn't know what to do with them.

Helton, Kyle - Defender - Duke

Krizanovi, Tommy - Forward - Jacksonville
Spoke to his father before the match, they are fans of dynamo Zagreb (which is a plus for Srdan) - understands what he's doing but isn't tricky enough or quick enough to be effective here (let alone MLS)

LaBrocca, Nick - Midfielder - Rutgers

horrible - no clue (2H) - 1H - not horrible ----- average out to be partly horrible?

Marfuggi, Phil - Goalkeeper - Clemson

4th best GK here - should buy Justin Hughes dinner.

McGrane, Justin - Midfielder - Northern Illnios

ok - nothing special

Omekanda, Simon - Forward - Penn State
finally showing something - beats Dalby on dribble forces Diramondo to foul him.

Patterson, Randi - Forward - UNC Greensboro

speed, power, strength and balance. I had this kid going #1 coming into the combine, but I like a few others more - since the Combine roster was announced. He's got a lot of qualities of Davies - except doesn't really create space or beat players with dribbling skills (instead of speed).

Richards, Dane - Forward - Clemson
He continues to impress doing the things that he's good at - running at players with speed and beating them around the edge. His crosses could be better - if he wasn't a YI with 2 yrs to go.

Sambursky, Mike - Forward - South Carolina
Ty Domi (sp). He's a physical defender. He gets beat way too much. I'm not sure that he will be more than a project. He looks awfully raw out there. He's getting beat pretty regularly.

Solle, Ryan - Midfielder - Wake Forest
Just a solid soccer player. He's top notch. Not sure where he would fit in with DCU.

Soumare, Boukary - Defender - UVA
Solid play

Team Tango

Boukhemis, Karim - Midfield - Marshall
If not a gym teacher, maybe he should consider U13 coach. He understands the game, he just doesn't have enough skill - thank you, sir - may I have another

Cunliffe, John - Forward - Ft. Lewis
Looks tired - not as good in 1H - 2H much better. Capitalized on mistake for his goal which was well struch and placed.

Curfman, Steven - Midfielder - Wake Forest
ok, just doesn't have a lot of game.

Ebert, Eric - Midfielder - California
not enough skill - as a DM he plows along in the defensive midfield not adding much to his team. There are better DM options.

Findlay, Robbie - Forward - Oregon State
top class. Didn't have his best day (which was his first). Just does more; puts himself and his teammates in dangerous positions.

Harden, Ty - Defender - Washington
Watched him a little bit more today. He looked a lot better. Still don't think he's athletic, his passing is his biggest challenge. MLS Defenders need to pass (more than to gk). Think he looks better because the other team has anemic forwards.

Harrington, Michael - Defender - UNC

explosive out of the back
Hayden, John - Midfielder - Indiana
at time dangerous - reserve (maybe). Can play the game which doesn't surprise me coming from Indiana

Ibrahim, Abdus - Midfielder - None
Spent considerable time watching him. Tall and thin - he's a legit 6'. Athletic and willing to work with his teammates. His first touch fails him. He puts himself in bad positions. If you watch Dalby, he puts the ball where he can either give himself time or where he wants to go for his second touch. Abdus doesn't do this. Either he doesn't know where to put the ball or isn't able to. He won't have as much time on the ball in the MLS where defenders will close quickly. Also, his shot is lacking from the outside. He's is 15! Wow.

Kent, Jarod - Midfielder - ODU
Scored 2 goals - he can play in MLS - not because of the 2 goals. His quickness and ball holding ability along with his brashness. I was thinking a 3rd - Revs coaches seemed impressed.

Kirby, Zach - Defender - Boston
Much better - more dynamic. See Harden (poor opponents) perhaps

Moojen, Frederico - Forward - Clemson
touch horrible - tries to make the flashy pass. I don't want him. 1 year YI not worth my time

Noble, Nick - Goalkeeper - WVU
Like him - best GK that's here. 3rd/4th Round

Norman, Nate - Midfielder - Notre Dame
so-so - looked better on TV.

Smith, Jarrod - Forward - WVU
hurty hammy honest defender as a forward. Like him. 2 yr as YI.

Team Geist

Alvarez, Gerardo - Forward - Northwestern
Doesn't react to to other - lack of anticipation. I'm not impressed - pass

Asante, Rich - Midfielder - Syracuse
Hard to score a goal and still be the worst player - but he is. I stopped writing bad pass and started using tally marks. Forget about him

Chandler, Aaron - Forward - San Francisco
don't like. Just doesn't do anything.

Colaluca, Nick - Midfielder - UVA
Best player for his team - his goal was absolutely amazing tremendously struck with accuracy and precision.

Cunliffe, Alex - Midfield - Fairfield
mixed feelings - you can see his athletism - but he makes lots of mistakes.

Guy, Ryan - Forward - San Diego
2H battling with skill, he's quick he's worth a mid-round maybe 4th.

Hughes, Justin - Goalkeeper - UNC

dnp - best he's shown this combine

Jones, Scott - Midfielder - UNC Greensboro
2H strugged on LM; seems that he needs to be in the middle

Loftus, Chris - Forward - Duke
much better - actually saw him run. Perhaps he's a morning person. If MLS would play at 0900, he could be an all-star. Not really.

MacDonald, Hugh - Defender - Monmouth
Struggled, not MLS quality

Meier, Billy - Defender - Wisconsin-Milwaukee
painful to watch. Gets himself in good pos.

Needham, Jay - Defender - SMU
a rock in the back. When he came out - (slight hammy) - D was like a sieve.

Thompson, Wells - Midfielder - Wake Forest
hustled - just not able to turn the corner on avg speed players.

Trott, Josh - Forward - Holy Cross
not very good

Wileman, Chase - Midfielder - SMU
active and intelligent. Good skills - plays well - just so damn short - maybe.

Team Tricolor

Altcheck, Charles - Forward - Harvard
go to law school. The best thing that he did today was run over solle - providing a little entertainment for the sadist amongst the fans

Ashe, Corey - Forward - UNC
he can play. He had his hands full marking richards. Impressed with how he got back to cover richards - unfortunately, richards recovered beat ashe then got an assist

Dalby, Greg - Midfielder - Notre Dame
DNP in 1st H; 2nd Half steady nothing to good-bad; got beat once by Omekanda; question marks - quickness; like his passing and presence and leadership. Did try a 40 yard chip of the gk - nice try.

Daniels, Andrew - Forward - Brown
looking more comfortable in the back. He's got a modicum of athletic ability and he's tall and rangy. However, he's not skillful on the ball. He runs like Eddie Pope - that gait. I'm not convinced either way.

DiRaimondo, John - Midfielder - Saint Louis
he provides an interesting option in the back - I am not impressed with his midfield play even though this is where he typically plays. I don't think he'd be that effective. However as a defender (if he can defend sufficiently,) he might be an option. Just doesn't wow me.

Elcock, Edson - Forward - ODU
active and aggressive; used his quickness to score the first goal in the 2nd minute. I can see him being like that little annoying gnat that keeps popping up and being a pest. He is easily shoved off the ball - not strong enough. Has some promise.

Evans, Brad - Forward - UC-Irvine

I have him starting in 1H as AM but can't find any notes nor can I recall him playing - could be a numerical error. DNP in 2H.

Faz, Luis - Midfielder - None
just a bad player - stick him with whoever signed him as a GA!
[EDITOR'S NOTE: 3rd Degree is reporting that Faz is not a GA but instead just one of those instances of MLS not following their own rules]

Hall, Tally - Goalkeeper - San Diego State
don't want - had an atrocious goal kick that Christman was not able to convert (should have - but it's Christman).

Hohlhein, Aaron - Defender - Wisconsin
didn't impress

Marples, Nigel - Defender - Towson
had a terrible time trying to cover Patterson - he is much too slow to not have defensive coverage. I like his play.. He's just not athletic enough (quick) to stay with fast fwds.

Monteiro, Jerson - Forward - UAB

best player on the team - he was aggressive and confident dribbling atr people and not afraid to shoot - this doesn't mean that he can shoot. Erratic would be kind. Let me say the FAA put out a small plane advisory at the airfield behind his goal. Had the assist on a very calm play.

Purdy, Steve - Defender - California

Tudela, Josh - Midfielder - Indiana
Much better from the previous 2 days, demanding the ball; there's a difference between assertive and pressing. Josh went to pressing. Taking bad shots when he should pass. I think he was trying to showcase his skills.

Ubiparipovic, Sinisa - Midfielder - Akron
terrific play today. Spraying the ball onto his teammates path for shooting. He's very field cognizant. Not sure if he can play AM in MLS - maybe. He's got the skills - wonder about his speed. He's not the fastest player out there.

Ustruck, Erik - Forward - Santa Clara
2h only - so-so; beaten on the dribble several times. Hmmm. Playing RM shouldn't be too much of a stretch. Concerns.

Random Extra Goalkeeper

Konopka, Chris - Goalkeeper - Providence
ok - nothing special


09 January 2007

The Anacostia river today

The Post today looks at the condition of the Anacostia river. One potential snag - development might slow if its not cleaned up.
Already, though, there have been battles over pollution control at the stadium. Environmentalists say they're happy that the city plans to try to corral stormwater, but they had also hoped for a green roof of plants on the (baseball) stadium.

Labels: ,

Trust, but Verify

I think everyone has the correct attitude: We're interested in the new owners, we're happy they are here, but we want to see what happens next. By all means. Now, I'm not sure that we'll get a big signing this year (even the best clubs miss their targets occasionally) but let's see how things progress. Major media takes are fairly similar. Steve Goff agrees with us that MacFarlane introduced himself well. But the story of the ownership is pretty much consistently packaged with the story of the stadium. Tim Lemke in the Times, like pretty much everyone, pushes the two angles simultaneously. The Post also carries many of the stadium implications in a second story (in the Metro Section?! Page B4!)

Now, the stadium story seems to be the next major issue, and some are still wondering about how loyal the new ownership is to the team as opposed to the real estate development aspect. For the moment, those two issues are highly intertwined. In fact, I can imagine that the owners are going to be less inclined to part with money for player signings until the stadium deal is finished. Not saying that it is definite, just a possibility considering that the owners will be parting with some cash to build the thing.

Which brings us to this: What horizon do we have on judging the new ownership based on their actions rather than our impressions? Well, honestly, given how huge the stadium is in this entire situation, I don't think we'll be able to make a fair assessment of the owners until 2010. The next few years will be interesting, as the priority is clearly on the stadium. That's not to say that the resources for acquiring players won't be there, but they may be reduced compared to a post stadium situation. In the meantime, we can't judge them based on acquiring big players, we'll have to judge them based on how well they continue to play the MLS game of old: Finding good talent at a discount. The good thing is we know they have a guy that can play that game.

Labels: , , ,