Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Late Tackle 02 08 2017: Adu-Shaped Puzzle Pieces That Don’t Fit

Tell me he's not dead. Please.
As I’ll be noting all over the place, I am trying to simplify/routinize what I do across my various projects, despite my steady failure rate with…uh, I prefer the term differently successful.

For now (and for as long as I keep it up), I’ve decided to slim down these Late Tackle posts to one main topic. Outside of these, I’ll write up games (one tomorrow!) and put together the odd larger project (have two in the pipeline). All of it will relate to (probably) the Portland Timbers first, Major League Soccer second, and the U.S. Men’s National Team last. In all honesty, the primary function of these posts is making me keep current on the news.

Oh, speaking of, I will also flag things like results as they come. For instance, the San Jose Earthquakes edged the Seattle Sounders yesterday, the New England Revolution nicked Sporting Kanas City 2-1, and the LA Galaxy drew at ones against Mexico’s Club Tijuana.

There are a couple games on tap for today, but most of them are weird (is that the word I want? I mean is they’re against non-MLS teams, and that trips up context). At any rate, even if they’re preseason games – and “preseason games don’t mean anything” (allegedly; investigation #1) – I still like tracking ‘em. It’s not the best data, but it’s the data we got, people.

Finally, the topic. Future installments will pull out the first two paragraphs, so that should tighten’ ‘em up a bit. And, for what it’s worth, I toyed with writing up Dax McCarty’s pointed comments about his move from New York Red Bulls to the Chicago Fire, but McCarty pretty much covered it…in something like a TED Talk on sports business ethics. Impressed…

MLS’s First, and Only, Child-Star (and the Timbers Rebuild)
Given his long, winding, and increasingly weird career (loaned down to the Finnish Third? damn), it seemed more than a little strange to see even somewhat steady coverage of Freddy Adu’s brief, long-shot trial with the Timbers. I’m not talking about twitter snark, either, but regular news pieces like one that went up on SBI Soccer this morning. How does Adu continue to be worth the attention, except as a cautionary tale? (Here, I’d reference Matt “The Armchair Analyst” Doyle’s brief, brutal take on Adu (think it was on ExtraTime Radio – e.g., “he doesn’t look like an athlete.”)

A couple thoughts grow from that. First, the good news: Adu’s long, slow fall from relevance speaks to the extent to which MLS has evolved. That’s also less an argument that one can’t find middling talent in an MLS roster, than to make the case that middling talent has to bust ass if they want to make up for whatever they didn’t get from the good Lord. And Adu, who’s kinda the Corey Feldman of American soccer (he’s the one still kicking, right?), doesn’t have a great history with ass-busting.

Second, I get that this amounted to Caleb Porter doing ol’ Freddy a solid, and even though it didn’t ask much of the staff besides watching Freddy run around during practices they were gonna hold anyway, a subtle question lurks in all this. Portland doesn’t need personnel where Adu plays. If the team needed trialists in any position, it’s central defense. And that’s my question: how does that work in the real world? How do the Timbers communicate that need? I read somewhere that the Timbers hope announce a new centerback to cover for Gbenga Arokoyo’s tragic injury, but I’ll be damned if I can find it (Side Note: I swear I read an article where Porter hinted that Portland would sign a new defender, but googling that shit only turned up stale (sad) content). So, do agents and under-employed players just sort of poke around team web pages and scan articles in local market outlets looking for announcements like, “Yo, Portland Timbers over here, looking for CBs,” so they can plot their next move? If that’s the case, why aren’t guys showing up?

I have a feeling that MLS’s restrictive player rules answers some part of the question. For all that, the bottom line in all this isn’t so much why are the Timbers wasting time on Adu, as how do they SPEND TIME on the players we need, maybe see if they can’t unearth a gem? Or does this whole centerback thing necessitate a trade, or the same sort of scouting/wooing (if with less wooing) that got Blanco to come to Portland?

I’ve made steady reference to other teams’ rebuilds (e.g., Houston Dynamo and Sporting KC, in particular) throughout preseason, and I’ll be concerned whether Portland has done enough till The Big Reveal (the regular season) gets under way. Even as I see work-arounds (e.g. how deep David Guzman dropped through the draw with the Sounders over the weekend; Stumptown Footy also investigated some options), and even Guzman filling a clear need, and Portland finally landing Sebastian Blanco to fill another, I’ll still feel more like the team is keeping up when they land a starting CB. I could certainly live with it if Timbers feel like they’d done enough by bringing back Lawrence Olum, or even signing Roy Miller. I just won’t like it.

All for today. Just…wanna be happy over here.

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