Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Late Tackle 01 25 2017: Perennials, Paths to Roster Construction and (Personal) Timbers' Mysteries.

A strained metaphor. Also, a plant.
I don’t know how Los Angeles Galaxy newcomer/midfielder, Joao Pedro, will play in Galaxy whites, but, in a write-up on his arrival, he has already said the funniest thing that will ever be said about or during Big Bang Theory. Goddammit, I hate that fucking show so much!

I have a pretty tidy topic for today. I’ll wrap with a note or two on the Portland Timbers. Why? Because the post flows better that way.

I should, however, share my personal theory that most of Portland squirted a little with the news that Timbers’ much-beloved, thoroughly-missed left back, Jorge Villafana, finally got the call to join the U.S. Men’s National Team. Whatever the extent to which Portland fans are over the moon, the rest of Soccer Nation should take some measure of solace in seeing another option at a notoriously troublesome position for the Yanquis (haven’t used that word in a while).

OK, on to the body of this thing.

Planting and Fertilizing Your Perennials for Maximum Health and Growth
If you think about (but not too hard) a soccer team isn’t a lot different from a perennial flower – i.e., it’s something that sticks around year after year (unless some collection of bastards moves the local team to another city, thereby ripping fans’ fucking hearts out), only to grow and (maybe) bloom every year. As with any plant, perennials require some amount of care and tending*. With soccer teams, that care and tending comes by way of tinkering with rosters, with an eye to getting the most out of that team during the growing (and/or regular) season.

(* I don’t really know how perennials work; I can kill a plant with a glance #blackthumb.)

Of all the items covered in ExtraTime Radio’s 2017 Eastern Conference Preview, nothing stuck with me quite like their discussion of how, with bonuses kicking in, Toronto FC, last year’s MLS Cup Champ’een for the East, essentially has to stand pat on its roster. In other words, all the money they spent on the way to building that super team has finally bumped against the salary cap and exhausted all available gimmicks, and that (apparently) leaves them with little to do beyond hoping the same team can take them to the Promised Land.

As I read the news this morning, the paths that a couple MLS teams are opting to take this season jumped out of the articles. The New York Red Bulls, for instance, signed yet another of their academy products, thereby confirming their devotion to their own Youth Movement (as well as rising to their goal of filling an entire school bus with age-appropriate players…well, plus a couple chaperones (thinking Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan…and missing Dax McCarty again)).

That, of course, was just one of several approaches. Tick over to Columbus Crew SC, for instance, and you see a team that’s…well, stocking up, I suppose? Crew SC landed a new midfielder, a guy named Mohammed Abu, who, per the report, plays defensive midfield. On reading that, all I could think is, what’re they gonna do with their old midfielders (e.g. Nicolai Naess, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani)? A lot of teams (e.g. FC Dallas and the New England Revolution, if only lately for the latter) set out to plug clear holes in their roster. Crew SC, meanwhile, looks like they’re going for the “competition at all spots” theory.

The San Jose Earthquakes make for another interesting case. Word came out this morning that they plan to add whatever designated players they will add during the summer – a choice we’ll call “The Lodeiro Gambit” till something better comes along. While there’s plenty of wisdom to biding time on a rebuild to make sure you get it right, recent history points to a slow start for the ‘Quakes in 2017. Given how most players take time, San Jose could find that, whether by circumstance or design, they wound up building for 2018.

By way of contrast, the Colorado Rapids sure as Hell look like they’re building for today, striking while the iron is still hot, etc. Sure, signing young Manchester City product, Nana Adjei Boateng speaks to longer-term ambitions, but signing “Old Man” Alan Gordon at least raises the possibility that the Rapids brain-trust sees their current chances through a temporal window (e.g., they think they’ve got only so much time with current personnel, but, having guys like Axel Sjoberg and Marlon Hairston(?) to build around gently somewhat undercuts a sense of urgency).

Speaking of Alan Gordon, there’s a wee mystery that I’ve never been able to square. Even if Fanendo Adi’s arrival made it easier to forget, I was always struck by how many people seemed to rue/mourn the departure of one-time Timbers forward Ryan Johnson. I’m not bothered by that, so much as I’m unable to figure out is why so few Timbers fans seem all that concerned that the Timbers let go of Alan Gordon way back when. I get that people connect to what any given player does in all kinds of different ways, but Gordon was once a Timber and it’s not like the man hasn't produced in MLS.

Anyway, no, I never got that. Feel free to explain in the comments, or to tweet theories. Just wondering…

And, finally, yes, I caught wind of Freddy Adu’s trial (or other?) with the Timbers down in Arizona. I have one, and only one thought, on that: I’m in favor of anything that will improve the team, whether in terms of performance or aesthetics*. If Adu can make it happen, swell. Sign the guy.

(* I have fairly high tolerance for losing beautifully. Honestly, think of having the totality of the Montreal Impact’s 2016 playoff run as a permanent part of team lore.)

Also, no, I don’t think Portland signs Adu.

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