Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Late Tackle 01 31 2017: A Baby-Step Victory and Betrayed by Achilles!

Harry Shipp’s next step?
Let the record show that I did watch the U.S. post that goal-less draw against the Serbian First Division All-Stars (or, just Serbia). The only thing I have to add beyond what’s already out there (yay, Darlington Nagbe! yah, Sebastian Lletget!) is the thought that the U.S. looked actually comfortable on the field for the first time in a while. If nothing else, sending players onto the field with some form of tactical direction marks the only departure from the Jurgen Klinsmann Era, I’ll call that enough of a win.

Let the record also show that I’m probably gonna miss U.S. v. Jamaica. Then again, who knows? Maybe work’ll be dead on Friday.

How a Situation Becomes a Crisis
With the whole Sebastian Blanco thing waiting for someone to tie on the bow, and with a linkable report to the Portland Timbers’ loss to Istra 1961 not yetup, the biggest news out of Timbers Land probably came with yesterday’s report that Gbenga Arokoyo, the possible/planned preferred partner (sorry, got on a roll) for Liam Ridgewell, has been downgraded to broken. The guy blew out his Achilles tendon, apparently, and, sad to say, his only contribution as a Timber that I will ever recall was providing what might have been an assist on Rennico Clarke’s own-goal in the preseason opener. Tough, tough break for Arokoyo, obviously, and you feel for the guy…all while pretty much thinking that he’s not a player to bank on for the future.

If, like me, you wanted to see the Timbers sign a central defender even before Arokoyo went down, this looks closer to a mountain than a molehill (a foothill?). Portland’s thin for personnel back there, and possibly (debatably) thinner in quality, so, in a word…goddammit. If Portland goes into the regular season with the current corps of defenders, I’ll start 2017 by protecting myself (e.g. tempering expectations).

How a Crisis Deepens
Regular visitors might recall that I’ve spent parts of this offseason anxiously eyeing roster rebuilds for the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City. I was able to take a little comfort in the idea that Portland wasn’t alone in standing something closer to standing pat; if nothing else, we had the San Jose Earthquakes. As it happens, we might not have them anymore. Just a day after hinting that they would stand-pat on big moves till the summer, San Jose signed Marcos Urena; then, just this morning, their GM, Jesse Fioranelli, announced that still more reinforcements are coming. Like, now.

Sure, even if Urena feels like a decent pickup (he does to me), the rest of the guys could be nobodies. Banking on that feels like a bad idea – and that’s a little too close what the Timbers appeared to be doing with central defenders. And that was before Arokoyo went down.

One last thought on trades/transfers/signings, etc. You can do worse than duck into SBI Soccer’sMLS Ticker” posts to keep track of this stuff. Unless you’re really switched on, most of those names won’t mean anything to you anyway.

Second Acts in the Modern Game
To circle back to some old news, people were talking last week about the intersection of free agency and MLS academy products coming into the league. A couple separate pieces came in to frame it – e.g., thinking about how Harry Shipp and Will Bruin will do in Seattle (which hits the subject a little obliquely) – but the most interesting thing came with this paragraph from a Matt Doyle/The Armchair Analyst write-up on the state of the present free agency market:
“The advent of the academy age is going to change free agency starting around 2020. Each year we'll see more and better players available for the wintertime silly season – possibly earlier in their careers – and I think that will have a profound effect on how teams build their rosters.”
Two thoughts here, just to sort of keep the ball rollin’. First, Doyle lists all still available free agents, as well as the players who found a home, and I can’t say it includes guys that most teams will beg their local team to acquire. Second, and this wasn’t too long ago, Will Parchman listed and ranked the MLS academies, each according to their best current product and their best product all-time.

That brings things back to Shipp. Whether you think he has struggled, or if you think he’s been repeatedly undermined, signing Shipp feels more like taking a chance than landing on a solution. As much as he could go either way, the fact that Shipp’s coming into a team with the kind of depth that might force him to play out of position, or not at all, makes it worth wondering how long it’ll really take for the academies to have that “profound effect” on roster builds.

Like most people, I assume it’ll come, if only to some teams (e.g. FC Dallas and New York Red Bulls). It’ll be interesting to track regardless.

Finally, Because We Are Not Allowed to Escape It…
Being of my particular political persuasion (flexible, but allergic to assholes), I find it heartening to see a couple MLS athletes, and the MLS Players’ Union, issue public statements against what’s being called Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.” (Personally, I think it’s more trial balloon than actual ban, and no less noxious for it, still…) While Kei Kamara’s statements feel more relevant, I did like Michael Bradley’s decision to circle back with a bolder, no-actually-fuck-this statement (same as last link).

Elsewhere, MLS, as a league, had this to cough up:
“An MLS spokesman said Monday the league was in daylong expansion-team meetings and not prepared to issue any statement.”
Fine, I guess. Sit on the fence; it’s a free country (for now). At the same time, how long’s it take to say, “yeah, total bullshit?”

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