11 April 2008

How to Construct a Straw Man

I agree with the facts of this post, but I fine the tone off-putting. While I don't doubt that there are those who believe that early-season form would be an issue, I think most of us in DC-land have been pretty clear. Our mantra has always been "there are no moral victories" and part of that is denying any prebuilt excuse for the timing of any tournament. Perhaps the closest we've come for making an excuse was the altitude of the first leg at Pachuca, but even then it was one point among many.

So let me say this to Luis. Yes, sometimes writers are Diogenes with his lamp looking for one honest man, and sometimes you're part of the crowd at a hair metal concert lifting your lighter above your head. The points you make are far more typical for the second group. We all agree that the salary cap is a hindrance to international success, so don't go acting all indignant and righteous. Because it's not that special.

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At 11 April, 2008 10:17, Anonymous Dave Lifton said...

If altitude/climate isn't legitimate, how come Mexican teams, club or country, can only beat their American coutnerparts with regularity when playing at home?

Excuses work both ways, you know...

At 11 April, 2008 10:22, Blogger L.B. said...

I didn't think I was acting righteously. I suppose if the tone wasn't as tempered as I wanted it to be, it was because the television commentators influenced me somewhat. I kept hearing "preseason" and "preseason" during the games and just got tired of that.

Thanks for your thoughts. Always good to know how stuff comes across to others.

At 11 April, 2008 10:26, Anonymous Mickey said...

Scheduling (Preseason) and venue (Altitude) are definitely factors - not necessarily excuses.

At 11 April, 2008 11:05, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with his general point that the biggest discrepancy is salary-cap. All too clear how we missed Olsen and Jaime in the first leg. We have decent depth by MLS standards, but there's no way our roster can compete with international counterparts.

But preseason is legit, especially when you have a team that has changed as much as DCU in the off-season. Not an excuse for early failure, perhaps, but definitely a cause for hope looking down the road.

DCU will be a better team this summer, no doubt.

At 11 April, 2008 11:17, Blogger Kinney said...

D: I think you have some right to be upset the way Luis framed his post given your views and DC United's official stance on international tournaments. DCenters declared and end to all "moral victories" in international play this time last year.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of scarecrows running around on these intertubes. I think those are the people Luis was talking about in his post. These living straw men are becoming less numerous as time goes on but are still there.

LB: Thanks for coming by. Funny how US announcers are some of the worst soccer analysts around.

At 11 April, 2008 12:44, Blogger D said...

Dave: As I said, I think there is some legitimacy to the altitude excuse, but it can not be used as a catch-all. I agree with you.

L.B.: Thanks for dropping in. Your explanation makes some sense. The line that really set me off was "Yet all we hear about this competition is how DC will be a better team come July and the sad reality is that this tournament is played in April." Maybe that's all you've been hearing, but I know we, and many others, have been at pains to move away from that argument over the last two years. So that's what kind of annoyed me. I know others agree with you, and having been making the point for some time.

Mickey: True. I think we have to be careful about drawing that line between excuse and factor very clearly.

Anon: Here's where LB and I agree. When you write "But preseason is legit, especially when you have a team that has changed as much as DCU in the off-season." That only works so far. If it's always true, why even compete? It will always be pre-season. The point is that factor is known, and must be overcome. If it is not overcome, it is a failure of the team, not the timing.

Kinney: I agree, and perhaps that is what LB responded to, but I think the tide is turning. Or rather, turned a while ago.

At 11 April, 2008 13:07, Blogger L.B. said...

Well, to clarify that, I think at the end of the game Max Bretos or whoever did the game said something like "this DC team will be good come July" or something to that affect and it's actually a bit of an insult to them. I think DC is good now. Hell, I picked DC to win MLS Cup this year. It just bugs me when people use the preseason excuse over and over again, especially the TV announcers since they have such a great influence on the viewers.

Also, if people keep pointing to the preseason as the reason for MLS clubs' collective failures in this tournament (at least since 2002) then you are avoiding the real issue, which is the pathetically low salary cap and all the roster restrictions MLS teams have.

At 11 April, 2008 13:24, Anonymous Skippy said...

Seemed to come down a little hard on him. Though I think its pretty much agreed that the early season excuse doesn't fly. Particularly in this case, since I really came away feeling like DC could have taken the series. If fitness is a problem, that's something that individual clubs need to tackle with individual players. If DCU is still concerned about Emilio's fitness level, that's a problem - both Pachuca games were after the MLS season had started. Top form, maybe not, but I don't think fitness is too high of a standard to request (and I don't mean to come down on Emilio because I simply don't know).
But if the depth is a problem, and I understand that it would be, isn't having a tournament early in the season helpful. I feel like most of us were willing to shrug off loses or ties early in the MLS season if it meant beating Pachuca and it seemed that Tommy Soehn felt the same way. And I know Moreno and Olsen had injuries that required digging into the bench, but don't we expect that there would actually be more injuries and exhaustion in the middle or end of the season? Come Superliga, U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup, (or Copa. . . DC's not being invited back to that, are they? I'll be honest, I don't know how often the tournament runs - is it annual?) I would think depth becomes more of an issue.

At 11 April, 2008 15:54, Anonymous Jeremy said...

I don't think that D's tone was harsh. Of course, I tend to react harshly when my co-workers describe MLS as an intramural league.
So maybe I had the same oversensitive take on the article that D did.
The league has made huge strides in the last five years. International respect is up there, evidenced by the way that the Mexican clubs approached the tournament this year. Many years, they didn't take the competition seriously and it showed on the field. Pachuca obviously took the competition very seriously this year and it showed.
Can we compete with top flight clubs in Europe and SA yet? No, of course not. The growth is visible though, and in another five years who knows where we'll be.


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