|Shit. Where’s the other goddamn shoe??|
Trying to time the Late Tackle a little better (earlier), maybe not take the player (me) out of the game when I go in...
Of Bargains and Busts
On Monday (yeah, laggin’), Four Four Two put up a list of Major League Soccer’s Top 15 (mostly young) bargain players. It’s a respectable list, but the players come in a couple ways, as I see it. Some fit the bill on just about every level (e.g., DC’s Steve Birnbaum, Dallas’ Matt “Not Chris” Hedges, NYCFC’s Tommy MacNamara, and Orlando’s Cyle Larin), while others come in because, at their price point (e.g., low), they don’t need to produce raw stats, so long as they can tilt a game a little (e.g., Colorado’s Dominique Badji, for under $60K). Another group features regular starters and decent players who play positions, like fullback or defensive midfielder, that pose mildly depressing questions of how much they’ll ever be able to pull down; their teams get a good player at a good price (see, New England’s Scott Caldwell or San Jose’s Fatai Alashe), but one has to wonder how much higher each player’s salary can go at any point in their careers.
One little thought to float: a good attacking fullback should be worth more than what most teams are paying (think low $100,000s are the ceiling). At any rate…
The one player on the list who really caught my eye was Columbus’ Wil Trapp. And a whole lot of questions roll into that, starting with one I haven’t been able to shake for a couple days. What are the odds that Trapp falls into the same sort of professional slough as Colorado’s Dillon Powers; in other words, will fans see Trapp fielded as something close to a stop-gap in the not-to-distant future, as Powers was in last Sunday’s Western Conference final? As much as I like some things about Trapp’s game – e.g. quality long-range passing – he strikes me as one of those players who drive me crazy – i.e., one who needs a support system in order to function. Trapp’s qualities are real, but he’s not a great tackler (and I think that mattered for Columbus this year), and that obliges Crew SC to stick another player alongside him or risk getting overrun. With that in the equation, how can that $178,250 price tag not look a little more dear?
The Hidden Downside of American Coaches Abroad
Pretty simple: American coaches know the good American players, and can pass those quality savings onto their foreign club. I mention this in light of chatter about Swansea gaffer (pip, pip, peeps!), Bob Bradley bringing Birnbaum over to Wales/the EPL for a spell. I wouldn’t begrudge Birnbaum the opportunity – and, ideally, traffic between MLS and the EPL will level out a little in future (though I doubt MLS will hold the edge anytime soon) – but it would suck to keep seeing MLS’s better players go abroad. Especially if they just ride pine.
On Player Acquisition, Orlando Style
Orlando’s SB Nation blog, The Mane Land, ran a piece that speaks specifics while reading universal. It lines up five potential targets for Orlando to look into bringing on during the offseason, and it’s both intriguing and revealing to note the one quality that keeps coming up, directly or otherwise: leadership. That tracks my broad opinion that Orlando tends toward indiscipline (brought up recently as yesterday), a failing that leadership can reign it. It’s also how Columbus’ Michael Parkhurst and Dallas’ Zac Lloyd meet the same need as Toronto’s Will Johnson (hands off, assholes! He’s ours!) or San Jose’s Chad Barrett. (The same goes for Paolo Nagamura, for sure, but with 13 years in central midfield on those legs…dunno, don’t they want a leader who can still trot?) The specific choices are just that, choices. It’s the thinking behind them that makes it interesting.
Phrases Without Meaning, Chapter 1
I celebrated a tweet either Monday or yesterday in which Bruce Arena talked about wanting “better passers” in midfield. After five (was it five?) years of Jurgen Klinsmann’s posi-core bullshit, a simple statement like that entered my ears as poetry. I read something this morning, an article that seems to come from the same conversation with Arena (this one, I think), only the idea that U.S. needs better, more composed midfielders, came out like this (and it wasn't inaccurate; he did say it):
“However, Arena believes the U.S. is missing one vital piece: a true No. 10.”
There aren’t a lot of thoughts that get “shields up” in my brain quite like talk of teams “needing a true No. 10.” I have no idea who coined the term (hats off to him/her), but there’s a reason why some people call a good No. 10 a “unicorn”: they’re rare to the point of being unavailable. As such, the line about “needing a true No. 10” is the roster-construction equivalent of saying, “I need $100,000,000” – i.e. the gap between talking about and having either is vast.
In the context of a national team, it borders on the ridiculous. Either a player of that description was born within (or in sufficient proximity to) a country’s pool of available players or he/she wasn’t. A country can aspire to train one (nothing wrong with goals), but the actual existence of a unicorn is a blessing. (Related: has U.S. Soccer made any attempt to send virgins out into the world to solve this problem?)
“Familiar Faces”; A Tradition Continues
Nope. Haven’t heard of any of those guys. (This is on the players called up for the U-17s.)