Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Late Tackle, 12 06 2016: Picking at MLS Cup News, (A) Goalkeeper Theory, and Johnny Foreigner

I object! Not Seattle!
MLS Cup will dominate the headlines through Sunday I figure (for they will still speak of it the day after, even if it sucks), but it’s also that time of year when the post-mortems start to roll in. MLSSoccer.com posted a sort of weird early edition, something they called a “tactical review” of each MLS club. I’ve read better, but I’ve also read worse; call it “of interest.” Almost started my own reviews last night (true story), but. 1) I’m still processing, and 2) not everyone’s done and that felt like driving away from a wedding just because all involved didn’t respect your objection to the proceedings. (Also, I’ll need something to do over the off-season.)

Getting back to MLS Cup, I’m short on things to say about Saturday’s match-up for some reason. That Toronto FC v. Seattle Sounders sure looks like a solid match-up only makes that a little weirder. Maybe it’s simple as the notion that, regardless what’s said going in, those two teams will meet on Saturday and something will happen. No one knows what, either, which I suppose is the hallmark of a good final. Dunno, still working on it, I guess. Maybe inspiration hits tomorrow.

Others are trying, of course, but most of what I’ve read so far interests me only tangentially. For instance, a write-up on Seattle’s Stefan Frei got me thinking about how to best evaluate a ‘keeper. When Frei went to Seattle, I remember telling a couple Sounders-loving friends that they landed a good ‘keeper. Frei got shelled when he played for TFC, but that only made the argument for looking past something basic the number of goals Frei “allowed,” because, when it comes to letting in goals, ‘keepers typically have “helpers.” Frei typically came off looking like the best part of a bad system, and that was enough to recommend him. Timbers fans should have a comfortable grasp on after 2016…not that Gleeson didn’t let a couple slip (see, Vancouver).

One other take, one that has less to do about either team in MLS Cup, but about the league as a whole, came from Matt Doyle, The Armchair Analyst. He (or someone else) crunched the numbers on the balance between foreign and domestic players in MLS. The headline contends that Toronto leaned more heavily than most into their domestic pool, a perfectly respectable choice, but the more interesting details point to league-wide trends. One point of interest is that the decline in domestic v. foreign players isn’t linear (e.g. it ticks down one year, then bounces back up), but it’s also worth noting the rate of decline. On the one hand, it’s slower than I expected (e.g. from just over 60% domestic in 2010 to about (never mind, precisely) 53.66% last year), but the more interesting wrinkle comes from elsewhere – specifically, the 2016 MLS Best XI, as chosen by the lackeys in the Bureau of Information (aka, MLSSoccer.com). (And maybe others. Didn’t check.) Regardless, the extent to which that Starting XI is ‘Murican should catch the eye, because that says something else about the international/domestic balance, and where teams seem to look when they need next-level guys. Back to the original piece, it’s worth checking your own team to see where they fit into that whole scheme.

Speaking of next-level guys, I’m confident that this is the last place you read about Miguel Almiron signing on with Atlanta United FC. While I hereby claim ignorance of Almiron (while also sniffing at the value of “youtube scouting”), I have only this observation: it’s getting easier to predict when a player will work out in MLS, because the hype they get coming in feels a little bit different. I can’t put that distinction into words, so file under the “porn” standard (e.g. we know it when we see it), but, between his youthful age, the Young Designated player status, and his CV, Almiron comes in with a vibe similar to Mauro Diaz, or Nicolas Lodeiro (some difference in age notwithstanding). Atlanta still needs to bring the cast, but it’s always best to lay a good foundation.

Another signing popped up in today’s Kickoff, one that feels that little more heartening in the context of the domestic/foreign divide dwelled on above. New York City FC picked up young forward Sean Okoli off Cincinnati FC*, a kid in a “skill position” (aka, just an attacking piece) who also happens to be (goddamn right), red-blooded American (well, I’m assuming; he got some calls ups for the youth U.S. Men’s team). As much as I’m never disappointed to see good foreign players like Almiron (or even Laurent Ciman) come in, we’ve got a National Team to stock, and that means needing promising young Americans to keep popping up wherever they do. That specific context – e.g., a guy like Okoli signing somewhat quietly for one of the league’s glamor clubs – hits the whole idea of American players proving themselves abroad in a funny way. The latter might be the preferred theoretical path, but what’s it say when American attacking players struggle to find the field in MLS?

I can think of a couple things, but that’s for another day. Back tomorrow. Just had a brain-fart-storm.

(* Still coming to terms with what it will mean, personally, if my hometown team joins MLS. I mean besides developing a stronger hatred for Columbus.)

No comments:

Post a Comment