Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Late Tackle, 12 08 2016: Still More MLS Cup Crap, Players Moving, Players Departing, and an Understudy Rising?

Looks like he's been crying. Or he's just drunk.
You know the drill: MLS Cup dominates, while the 18 (or 20) other Major League Soccer teams quietly start figuring out how they’ll knock the eventual champion off its pedestal. Circle of life, etc.

More MLS Cup Crap
For all that it might not come through, I’m actually pretty excited about this year’s MLS Cup. I’ve got a clear, strong voter interest (which, my luck, spells a Seattle Sounders win, goddammit). Whatever happened with them all season long (e.g. Seattle sucking for 2/3 of it), both teams hit the final playing well and, on top of that, each team’s stars are shining. That goes for the attacking players as much as anybody, which could explain why’s predictions post sees goals, goals, goals in MLS fans’ future (to be fair, one prediction only gets to “goal, goal” and, also of interest, gives both to Seattle). A related article, this one a compare/contrast between Jozy Altidore and Jordan Morris, sticks with a similar focus.

I’ll put up more thorough personal theories tomorrow (good lord willing), but part of me wonders how much faith in high scoring grows from a form of recency bias. Some articles talk about loosely about how either team attacks (great!) and defends, but without much discussion/acknowledgement of particular circumstances. For instance, how much of the “vulnerability” in Toronto FC’s defense grew from the Montreal Impact series alone? Isn’t it just as important, if not more important, to note that they shut out New York City FC in their first round series, while also allowing 19 fewer goals through the length of the regular season, as was noted in a write-up on Drew Moor’s move to/upgrading of Toronto’s “rugged” defense. (Alternately, is it rugged and vulnerable, y’know, like how Daniel Craig played James Bond in the last Bond flick?) The point could be right or wrong, but the basic assumption tracks a logic similar to writing up a “what happened to Lodeiro” piece based on Seattle’s series against the Colorado Rapids (related: Have you watched that tape, Toronto? Can you watch that? Please?).

Or, to crawl out of the other side of the rabbit hole, maybe Nick Hagglund will give away a cheap goal, as noted in a “young players to watch” post I read (Hagglund made the cut and, in fairness, he is genuinely of interest). By the same token, maybe he scores a goal and gets an assist, too. (Or maybe Montreal didn’t game-plan Hagglund fer shit?)

At any rate, yeah, looking forward to MLS Cup Saturday. Now, looking elsewhere…

Michael Parkhurst Moves South
Reports confirm that Parkhurst will anchor Atlanta United FC’s backline for their inaugural year, or at least play in it (or eye it angrily from the bench). While that’s hardly a blockbuster move, it’s one I’ll watch with interest, especially after Parkhurst’s stumbling 2016 season. Parkhurst’s work last season files under the question of how much he struggled versus how much his teammates hung him out to dry. A move to a new club answers questions like that…or it might just reinforce rumors and allegations of Parkhurst’s decline.

Speaking of Declines…
The Vancouver Whitecaps gave the ol’ “bon voyage” to once-star midfielder Pedro Morales. I predicted bad things for Vancouver this season, and a lot of my doubts centered on Morales. Most my hang-ups on that, however, assumed he wouldn’t play enough; the reality proved worse in the end – e.g. that he would play, just not well. Morales gets at one of those key definitions in sports: the difference between a great season and a good career. Morales leaves with decent numbers, just too many of them concentrated into too few seasons. Over time, he didn’t so much as hurt the club, as fail to live up to his best times. It happens, I suppose. Hope he finds a new home and a lot more “moments.”

The Quiet Man for the Job
Sports Illustrated reported this morning that Curt Onalfo is the favorite to succeed Bruce Arena as the Los Angeles Galaxy’s head coach. To make fun of myself a little, that’s something close to an “Occam’s Razor” answer to all the meandering threads I put into LA’s coaching replacement in this earlier post. Unless LA goes big ‘n’ foreign, something they’re publicly wary to try, sticking with a more modest candidate, but one who knows the system and the players, adds up pretty cleanly. Being the favorite isn’t the same as getting the keys to the office (and the locked bar therein, presumably), but there’s enough logic in Onalfo’s ascension to support the theory.

Right. All for today. Just two days to go till MLS Cup….and I got nothing for polls. Nothing, I tell you!

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