Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Late Tackle 01 24 2017: (Slim) Info on Portland Timbers' Preseason Opener, Plus Players Keep on Shufflin' and Scrutinizing the Academies

MLS, aka American Soccer Hogwarts. Only without the magic.
With the Portland Timbers’ first preseason game of 2017 just days away, and seeing as all I know about it is the opposition (New York Red Bulls), feels like it’s time to flesh out the details.

OK, game is in Arizona (not making it), it starts at 5:30 p.m. (at least I’ll be off work), and, judging by the programming note, it’ll stream on Timbers.com (internet collection, don’t let me down…).

Well, that’s that. Not sure what’s left to talk about till after the ball starts rolling, at least barring injuries, scandals, and some new blood getting pumped into the team.

The next domestic action comes Sunday, with the U.S. Men’s friendly against Serbia. Ball’s starting to roll, people. Get frosty.

But, I started with MLS so may was well stay there.

Comings, Goings, What Issues from Academe?
It’s more or less the same ol’ new stuff: teams around MLS continue to round out their rosters, whether it’s small-ish stuff (contained in this roundup) like the Red Bulls continuing to get younger, Minnesota United FC staying loyal to the old peer group after transferring to that shiny rich-kid school (MLS), or the (momentary?) desolation of Mix Diskerud’s career (pullin’for ya, Mix, just not hard enough to want you to wear Timbers green…and, dammit! That woulda been a better poll for today! (but do see the other one)).

They’re not all tiny moves. For instance, the Vancouver Whitecaps picked up an “attacking player” thereby filling a gaping conceptual (really?) hole for that team. Yardy Reyna, aka, the “attacking player,” hails from Peru and has some time in on Peruvian national team (as a regular? dunno, and how much does it matter). There’s good news regarding a still more desperate locale – e.g. the New England Revolution’s defense; word is, they’ve got two TAM-level defenders coming, and that should be smelling salts to Revolution fans. Uh, what else? There’s talk of Real Salt Lake rearranging the chairs (ideally not on the Titanic) to give new signing, Albert Rusnak, pride of place, oh, and Orlando City SC signed a kid from their academy…and that’s what some of today’s best content covers.

The Armchair Analyst broke down Ian Harkes’ signing for DC United (at length; and legacy kid). He spends quite a bit of time lauding the Academy, and I’m on board with all those projects, honestly. Still, I felt like I got a clearer perspective on the state of MLS’s Academy system by reading Will Parchman’s piece for TopDrawerSoccer.com (sp…nah, don’t ask). On his way through ranking each team’s academy, Parchman flags the top product from each and that, that, my friends, felt a little more clarifying than arguments and projections…

…again, for all the questions/possibilities I try to kick out into the world, I’m a lot more comfortable when I can wait on the answers. And that applies to all the above, even the question of whether Mix can find gainful employment in MLS.

Another Bite of Cupcake
Don’t know how many people saw it, but Landon Donovan recently declared the current collection of available personnel the best in U.S. Men’s National Team history; he makes clear, though, that they could benefit from someone lighting a fire under their asses (thereby rhyming with the broadest intent of Tim Howard’s famous comments (and those echoed comments by Abby Wambach, which somehow came out infamous). While I like to think of Bruce Arena’s tenure as the best available means to test that proposition (i.e., was it Jurgen Klinsmann, or how much the team hated playing under him…especially after all those trips under the bus to figure out whatever could have gone wrong), a separate article posed an oblique counter-point to Donovan’s comments: if the pool’s that much better, what the hell is “Old Man” (DaMarcus) Beasley doing in camp?

It’s easy to dispatch with one piece of the question (Beasley was good for the Houston Dynamo last season), and the rest gets at an idea that’s part truth, part indictment. If you consider the stakes and the options, the U.S. needs Beasley at least integrated into the team, if not outright available, if not starting, for those March World Cup qualifying matches. Keep your own counsel on how he fits in, but, given where things are with qualifying, sign me up for Team Steady Hand.

CCL Re-Format, Explained by Someone Who Cares
SBI Soccer posted a simplified primer on the changes to the new CCL format. I’d read that over just about anything else. The author also gets the quibbling basically right, at least for me: I like the condensed playing calendar (though not the lag between qualifying for the tourney and playing it), and hope they lean further into it, but the smaller countries/leagues got more spots in the CCL without gaining much in practical terms, and MLS clubs will continue to endure the compounded handicap of playing some games out of season.

Seems like there’s a way to make this work, I suppose, just don’t know that CONCACAF will ever get there.

And…that feels like enough. Back tomorrow…

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