Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Late Tackle 01 18 2017: On Deploying Porter's Boys, Hot Teams and a Hot Prospect

You'll get there, tiger!
In case anyone hasn’t spotted it yet, I want to draw attention to a little something to the left of’s home page. See it? Portland v. NY Red Bulls, January 27, 2017, Preseason. That’s just over a week away. Next Friday, in fact. Bastards better at least stream that one, because jonesin’.

Of which, with an eye to cutting down on bar costs (he told his wife), I picked up the cord-cutters version of cable, Sling TV. I’ll let interested parties know how I feel about it.

Back to that first preseason game, I’m just now thinking about the kind of team I want to see Caleb Porter field for that preseason opener, and I find myself torn. As much as I want new/younger players and the T2 call-ups (e.g., Rennico Clarke…and there’s no “e” at the end, right?) to get real tryouts during the preseason – especially in defense, and especially if Portland hasn’t added new personnel by then – but I think I’d rather see Porter at least start what he envisions as his starting eleven for this first game, to just sort establish an average for the season (as in bowling) and to figure out how to beat it later. I’ll be providing input all season long…even if it goes unheeded…pearls of wisdom, spurn’d and unclaim’d.

That’s the “first time” for the 2017 season, but the U.S. Men’s National Team’s friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica follow shortly thereafter, too, and I’m actually interested in the friendlies this year, feel like they’ll be building toward something less irritating than under Jurgen Klinsmann, etc. Then fer-reals real preseason starts with the month of February. We’re sliding into home, people, the regular season that, at times, seems like it’ll never end, even as it feels like it started years ago.

Eminently-mockable as MLS’s regular season is, it’s precisely the length of the thing that makes it feel like “normal.” By that I mean I feel a little antsy, even weird, during the off-season.

On to other things of note…

The Tastiest Camp Cupcake in Years
I’ve been checking on the U.S. Men’s January camp out of the corner of my eye, noting stories about eager debutantes (pullin’ for ya, kid) and post-Klinsi reclamation projects, but I also know that we’ll all have something real to add only after each of those two friendlies. I wish Benny Feilhaber, in particular, the best of luck (for it was he who gave Klinsmann the proverbial “business”), but if he fails to make either game-day roster, never mind play in either of them, what’s his omission from both but one of those alternate-reality talking points that make the soccer blogosphere go ‘round?

A thought that keeps coming up across a lot of the articles on this is that Bruce Arena has no plans to blow up the roster and start things all over. With available time and repetitions limited, I get that and think everyone else does too. Regardless, I hope to see Bruce give some of these players –the reclamation guys, in particular – a real shot to get involved in qualifying.

Abu Dunladi: His Reputation, My Ignorance
As much as I try to stick to a policy of not having firm opinions till I’ve got some form of goods (no matter how stoned-sideways/misguided) to back them up, the steady, league-wide buzz on Dunladi, the kid Minnesota United FC made 2017’s #1 draft pick, makes me wonder if he won’t be the next Cyle Larin or Jordan Morris…which, it bears noting, assumes that Larin and Morris will continue to be their best selves. Anyway, Dunladi sounds like someone to take seriously. Hope he holds up to the hype, even just for Minnesota’s sake.

There’s this interview about Atlanta United FC that gives one the feeling that Minnesota’s viewed as the slow kids of their expansion class.

About That Article
So, here’s the link for the paragraph immediately above (yeah, yeah, stupid), and that interview on Atlanta’s prospects is interesting enough, take your time with it if you want a bead on why Atlanta buzzes bigger than Minnesota, but I’m mostly interested in an argument Alexi Lalas (one of the interviewees, along with Stuart Holden) about coaching in MLS. Here’s that:
“[Tata Martino,  Atlanta’s first head coach] will be challenged more than in any other job he’s had because of the parity and manufactured parity with rules and regulations. This is not a league of haves and have nots to the extent that it is in other places.” “You actually have to coach. It’s not about buying players. You have to get them better and get better out of the players that you have. That’s what good teams in this league do and that’s what good coaches in his league do.”
Interesting thought, at the very least. And anyone else ever notice the semi-circularity of Lalas’ patter?

And, finally, MLS put up a piece on how this year’s transfer windows will work. Thought I’d share…even though, I just realized that the only reason I ever know either transfer window is open is when someone notes that it’s open when they’re responding to something I posted (e.g. “Yeah, Steven Taylor’s a problem, but not much we can do about it till the Primary Transfer window opens.”)

All for today.

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