Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Late Tackle, 12 15 2016: The Saddest Draft of All, Player Moves, and Onalfo's Chances

Today, we all wear white dresses and sad faces.

Yeah, yeah, we’ve all been bludgeoned with videos of “the save” (i.e., the only interesting moment in MLS Cup 2016), but the little wrinkle of playing broadcaster reactions over it charmed me just enough. For me, Panama (that rolling “r’) and Poland (“superman”) win it.

Moving on…

MLS Waiver Draft, aka, Sad Junior High Dance
I held off on posting this till after MLS held the Waiver Draft today, the mildly depressing annual tradition of professional athletes waiting for a team, any team, to pick them for a potentially (but probably not) life-changing slow-jam dance. SBI Soccer posted some players who might help out a team – and, going over the full list, I picked out a couple names of my own (and with the Portland Timbers at least in the back of my mind – e.g., Stiven Mendoza (NYCFC), Luke Boden (Orlando), and Phanuel Kavita (RSL) – but (what the hell? another metaphor), the Waiver Draft is the draft equivalent of closing time at a bar full of lonely, lonely people. Still, Portland needs cover at left back (Boden), wingers, even if just for depth (Mendoza), and we’re thin enough at centerback (Kavita); maybe tonight we don’t need to go home alone…just sayin’.

Still, the results are in and, ouch. Not one player picked. Nothing but a bunch of kids eyeing the dance floor and biting back tears…

(Worthwhile) Player Moves Round-Up
With some level of “wait-and-see” inherent to any player move, and with some other portion of them involving people I know some form of jack-shit about (e.g. guys from foreign leagues*), it seems better to lump the overwhelming majority of off-season moves into a sort of wrap-up paragraph, and to withhold actual judgment till I’ve got something to work with (e.g., data in the form of real playing time). As such, I’ll just note the ones that seem notable and mumble some crap about it when the spirit moves me. Here goes…

FC Dallas picked up Anibal Chala*, a young Ecuadoran left back (can’t hurt) and re-signed Atiba Harris (who can hurt, but mostly other players, or via a couple breakdowns in the Western Conference semifinals against the Seattle Sounders). Elsewhere, Minnesota United FC appear to be filling in some blanks on their roster by holding onto a forward from their NASL days (Christian Ramirez, some other guys, too), while also weighing what to do with the very first pick on Superdraft Day (Jeremy Ebobisse). There, I’ll be most interested in seeing how well Ramirez transitions to MLS – or even if fans will get to see it. Meanwhile, the other United FC, Atlanta, made the most eye-catching (which, here, means weird) move of the day by bringing in Jeff Larentowicz from the LA Galaxy. After 12 years in MLS, Larentowicz is a step beyond “known quantity.” While he’s still serviceable, there’s a decided end to the length of service, not to mention some question on its quality. Larentowicz was never the fastest, and having 33 years on those legs hardly gives them more juice. So, what? Is this a locker-room/security blanket kind of move? I guess where I’m going there is, if Larentowicz came to Portland, I’d scratch my head at it. So the same applies for Atlanta. What’s the real upside, and what’s the opportunity cost?

A Yank in Edinburgh
The only thing noteworthy about Aaron Kovar’s trial spell with Scotland’s Hibernian lurks in a familiar question, if one directed most often to Europe’s bigger leagues. That question: how would MLS clubs fare in the Scottish Premier League? Kovar’s status with the Sounders provides at least one glancing answer to that one.

On LA, On Onalfo
Just because the hiring of Curt Onalfo strikes me as another “wait-and-see” situation doesn’t mean people aren’t writing about it. Will Parchman (aka, the only soccer scribbler who goes on longer than me, and definitely the only professional to do it) turned in a big, thoughtful piece for; Parchman certainly knows more than I do, so take the time if the topic turns your crank. Another piece went up on SBI Soccer, one topped with a headline so inane that I almost skipped it, but it did contain one points of interest:

“The changing nature of the [LA Galaxy II] roster helped Onalfo become a better coach as he adjusted his tactics on the fly to fit his personnel.”

There you have it: it’s not definitive or anything, so much as a note as to why Onalfo MIGHT succeed.

All for today.

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