Monday, January 9, 2017

The Late, Late Tackle 01 09 2017: Melano, Maloney, and Rebuilds

Never been asked before, but, is this metaphor to harsh?

After weighing my personal comfort level with the thought of losing my job and my increasingly-impending mortality, I’ve decided that I can’t post at work anymore. Yes, this means I’ll always be behind. That means I better make this interesting, goddamn it.

Speaking of, or the opposite, these brief highlight reels from the MLS Combine (ongoing, check your local listings: Chaos v. Control and Copa v. Tango) don’t really give you much sense of how any given player is doing (fine, admittedly, they’re not awful). Personally, my default in this, not to mention when watching the college game is, “he’ll never get away with that in MLS.” And, by and large, that holds.

This will fill in some blanks, but, even then, nothing matters till you suit up and perform, week after grueling (often pointless) week in Major League Soccer (unless you’re chasing the Supporters’ Shield; otherwise, why care till the end o’ June? (Yes, I’ll bury this thought in the background soon…rule of 3, rule of 3, rule of 3)). And, I guess that’s the point of all the roster rebuilds going on right now, so let’s get back the recap of things I can barely understand, but that I understand a little better than The Combine. Starting local, as I always will, when I can.

One time future bright spot Lucas Melano got shipped (OK, loaned) out of Portland and back to his original (right?) Argentine club today. To the credit of the Timbers front office – and I mean this – they made an arrangement I hadn’t thought of: they loaned him back to Atletico Belgrano, so that they still might have an asset to move if Melano improves down there. Because he sure wasn’t doing it up here…

I won’t do more than quibble with Stumptown Footy’s argument that Melano painted his tenure here in Portland more grey than black and white, in that, I think to argue that Melano helped carry the team to MLS Cup 2015 gives him too much credit. By my count, Melano took over all of one game his entire time here; even if you could talk me up to five games, that’s not only just not DP-level, it’s also a shit return on investment, so what else is there to talk about…except maybe to say that, sure, Melano didn’t pan out (c’mon, guys, denial helps no one; I didn’t even say “at all” so that’s meeting you halfway), but that doesn’t mean you don’t take chances on promising young players when it makes sense. So, yeah, long as we’re clear on the thing about making sense…are we good?

Look, I don't judge players for every little…OK, yes, yes, I do. Still, take chances, but recognize when it’s time to cut bait. And, unless I missed a detail, the Timbers produced as positive an end to Melano’s tenure as possible. Good luck to Luca, though, and honestly. Good luck, kid.

SKC’s Rebuild (Hint, hint, fucking hint).
When Sporting Kansas City signed Gerso Fernandes, it was noted that he wasn’t the best when it comes to shooting on goal (I swear...fine, it's implied in here). That deficiency necessitated finding another scorer, someone who could take the heat of Dom Dwyer (who does often feel lonely up there; and god forbid SKC cross the ball any more often than they do). Turns out SKC picked up another player today, this one a goal scoring machine named Latif Blessing. The only downside – and this is potential, going both ways – is that Blessing is young, plays in what I’m pretty confident is an unknown league for, oh, everyone who doesn’t follow it professionally, and who could, literally, have had just one of those freak years of goal scoring - something like the way the Houston Dynamo's Mauro Manotas built his current reputation on the back of one hat-trick against the Timbers. That doesn’t mean that Blessing won’t tear MLS a new asshole, so much as to say that, 1) it doesn’t mean anything until he does it; and 2) history is not on his side (or is it? Check back this weekend)

The Future Is Rusnak, Really
Until I read MLSSoccer’s write-up on how intently Real Salt Lake pursued Albert Rusnak, I couldn’t tell how much they’d invested in him in all senses of that word, “invested.” There’s no question that RSL needs to get younger – most notably, and perhaps irreplaceably, in the only position/player that Rusnak knows coming in (e.g. Kyle Beckerman) – and they are in most places…except Beckerman’s. It’s a good move (assuming Rusnak lives up to his billing) in that attacking midfielders are Hell to replace, while a player like Beckerman has several degrees of replacement value below him before one gets to USL material. If Rusnak does work out, and if RSL can find a replacement for Beckerman, they are getting young, if not good, in a lot of positions right now. Just something to watch…

The Shaun Maloney Rule
This rule is pretty specific – in fact, it’s confined to Scotland, and Scottish players – but, with reports coming out about some “hot prospect” from Scotland, a player who’s signed to Celtic, but who still plays with Hibernian, I can’t help but think about when the Chicago Fire signed Shaun Maloney, and how excited I was to see a young-enough player bring the frenetic, muscular pace of the EPL, or even the SPL, to MLS. And then…well, Maloney got homesick, I guess? Look, I’m not shitting on Maloney (OK, am a little, but from a place of understanding), but the Shaun Maloney who did show up for Chicago – a team that has, to the utter obliviousness of its fans, been ambitious for a while, only quite badly (ah, never mind; shouldn’t say that till I look more closely) – was tortuously slow (EPL?!), a step behind Arturo Alvarez in 2016, and even Johan Goosens. The point is, I will take every Scottish signing with a grain of salt until the memories of Maloney (and Kris Boyd) exit my mind.

Just a Quote, re The Colorado Rapids
For what it’s worth, I think the Rapids are one, maybe two, better attacking players away from being a real force in MLS next season (a position that assumes, obviously, that that defense works as well as it did last season). For all that they have one (high-class) rumor attached to the team, I actually liked something I saw from this morning even better. This is Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni talking:
“We’re looking to fortify every position, really,” said Mastroeni. “I think a lot of times, you set your sights on a position, and that player isn’t available during this transfer window. So it’s important for us to be open-minded and look to improve at every single position on the field. We’re scouring the globe and [the front office] is doing a fantastic job of making sure we’re finding the best fit for this group.”
I think that quote captures why I get pissed off every time I hear anyone say, “what this team needs is a No. 10!”

All for tonight, and ample.

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