Saturday, December 16, 2006

Beckham To Los Angeles (yet again)

The David Beckham to MLS / New York Red Bull / Los Angeles Galaxy rumor has surfaced again. This time it's one of LA's coach Frank Yallop's old teammates saying it's in the works. Toronto MLS FC Blog includes an audio link to the radio interview with Craig Forrest where the claim is made.

Gareth Bale, Wales Answer To Roberto Carlos

Gareth Bale is a 17 year old left back for Southampton FC. He's generated a good amount of buzz going into the current Championship season. He already has 3 caps for Wales (for what that's worth). Various Southampton officials, including his manager George Burley, have sworn up and down that they won't be selling him. For Southampton's sake I hope that's the case. He would do well to note how little playing time Theo Walcott got when he left and stick around for a couple years. Especially considering how young he is and how much work his defending still needs. But if he keeps playing like he did today against Norwich, the Saints may be getting some big offers in a way weeks for the kid. He seemed to single handedly dismantle Norwich at times. They didn't seem to be able to stop him even after adjusting tactics and player personal to try to deal with his constant runs down the left side. And he scored a nice goal off a free kick, his 5th of the season in 20 games.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Step-Stool For Landon

With all of the attention Freddy Adu has received this week, you may have overlooked the news that Landon Donovan is marrying his girlfriend Bianca Kajlich. I had a great laugh this morning when I saw that Throughball is raising money to buy him a step-stool for his wedding gift. I encourage everyone to throw in a buck to let Lannycakes know you really care.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Rest In Peace Lamar Hunt

Lamar Hunt has passed away. He founded the Dallas Tornadoes in the old NASL. He also was an original investor in the AFL, starting the Dallas Texans and eventually moving them to Kansas City where they became the Chiefs. More recently he was a founding investor for Major League Soccer (MLS) with teams in Columbus, Kansas City and Dallas. He recently sold the Kansas City Wizards to a group of KC investors. Columbus was the first MLS team with a soccer specific stadium. May the perpetual light shine upon him.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

McLaren and England

McClaren demands time to revive England

This headline caught my attention this morning. McClaren's pleading for more time to revive England? It's times like these that I wish I had more access to everything that he said. He very well may have not used those words. But it's clear is asking for more time in saying "Rome was not built in a day...It is where you end up, not where you are after the initial period." I agree that coaches at times are given unreasonable expectations. For example, anything short of winning every game when coaching England. Excuse my French but shit happens. That said, this is the English national team. They're not in an overly difficult group. The team should be able to better Croatia and Russia. The team may need some time to be shaped into one capable of winning the World Cup. But the World Cup isn't until 2010. They have time just by the nature of the competition. They shouldn't need time to do well in qualifying. Is McClaren trying to take some pressure off of his players? Or is he trying to come up with excuses for himself?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Adu Overshadows Other News

With all the press the Adu deal got, it's overshadowed a lot of other important soccer news here in the states. Before touching on that, I still have one lingering question about that trade. Did Real Salt Lake have to take Rimando as part of the price for getting Adu? Or did DC have to give up Rimando in order to move a player that wasn't happy playing for them? The night before the big trade was announced, it was reported by 3rd Degree that FC Dallas would be naming ex-Arsenal player Steve Morrow as their new head coach. I don't think anyone was surprised. FC Dallas has a good squad. They don't need to make major changes. And the word on the street was that Morrow was the decision maker on player moves before the announcement such as placing Simo Valekari on waivers. Morrow has said he'll take a more aggressive approach to the game. On the same day they announced their biggest signing ever, Real Salt Lake opened their books to Salt Lake County. Probably the most surprising thing to come out of that was to find out that an investment group of Goldman Sachs owns 1/2 of the team. That is, the 1/2 of the 1/2 that the MLS doesn't own. It's unfortunate that more teams don't have to do this to secure public funding for their stadium projects. Lastly, Lamar Hunt is very sick. As many of you know, he's been battling cancer for a few years. He was hospitalized before Thanksgiving and things don't look. This news is even more sad as I awoke this morning to an early hour phone call. My great uncle Joseph passed away in the night after a long struggle with cancer. And now the US soccer family is about to lose one it's patriarchs to the same disease.

Adu, Adu, Adu

As I mentioned yesterday, US soccer blogs around the internet are full of stories on the Freddy Adu trade. Columnists are already chiming in too.

Andrea Canales mentions that the ball got rolling a few weeks when Freddy ran into his old coach Ellinger :

About three weeks ago, Adu and his agent ran into Ellinger at a soccer event. There, Adu clued his former coach in to his readiness to make a move.

"We started to maneuver and tried to figure out if we could make it work," said Steve Pastorino, Real Salt Lake's general manager.

Ives Galarcep hasn't had a column printed on the subject yet but had this to say on his blog :
What's my take on this trade? It is an absolutely horrendous deal by Real Salt Lake, whose front office folks have dunce cap imprints from all the bad deals they have made.
Pseudo Corner Kick believes it's a good move for both RSL and DC United.

Are You Loyal? already has pictures of Adu arriving at SLC last night.

Dan Loney, over at Big Soccer's blogs, apparently hasn't seen these photos yet and light heartedly wondering if this is some sort of Ghanian version of a Nigerian email scam.

Screaming Eagles Podcast, the official blog of the DC United's supporters group the Screaming Eagles, has a nice synopsis of what a few others have to say.

And just in case you forgot the deal was just about Freddy, MLS Fangirl is going miss Nick Rimando.

My Soccer Blog reminds us that Freddy's likely to miss part of the MLS season with the U-20 World Cup being played this summer. Surely DC United had that in mind as they try to build a team that can win it all next year.

The Far Post points out that DC United needs someone who can play outside midfield and that Adu's salary was too much in the MLS for what Freddy's able to produce.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Adu = Salt Lake Stadium???

Will Adu Bring The Stadium?

As you probably already know, there was a huge trade today in Major League Soccer involving DC United and Real Salt Lake. The news was big enough that it was even mentioned on Monday Night Football. And there's hardly a soccer blog stateside that hasn't mentioned it (as you can see below).

It's a good move by both teams. But the reasons may not be apparent. Let's take a look at the definite pluses for each.

Real Salt lake

Nick Rimando :
He's barely mentioned but Real Salt Lake was needing a new starting goalkeeper. Garlick looked competent at times last year. But many others he looked as though he didn't realize that diving was part of the job description for a goalkeeper. Garlick along with Bo Oshoniyi was the least convincing of starting GKs in the league last year. RSL needed a new goalkeeper and Rimando while not perfect is a good choice.

Freddy Adu :
He's the poster boy for American soccer. It's likely that only a deal for David Beckham would get more press in the US. While Freddy is not the next Pele, he's not 18 yet and clearly a talent player who is already doing good things. Most importantly for RSL, the good press from landing this huge deal could be the last little something they need to get the deal for their new stadium deal completed. RSL's front office may have had a ground breaking in August but they have yet to get Salt Lake County to sign on to the deal. Ad without the county's money, they can't pull off building their new soccer specific stadium in Sandy. They're close to completing the deal but it's been dragging on for months. During this time they've been taking a lot of damage in the media over the deal. If they don't close soon, the county could pass on the deal for the 2nd time in less than a year.

Stadium :
Did I mention this could be the PR the team needs to finalize their stadium deal? I did but need to mention it as it's own category since without it, Real Salt Lake is likely to leave metro Salt Lake City.

DC United :

Major Allocation : While it's not a designated player slot, it's still worth enough to bring in a big player at league max. DC United in the past has shown while they're not perfect, they are skilled at finding good players at this level. Gomez and Moreno are two good examples of this. With DC making a push to do with in internal competions and winning the MLS Cup starting in a couple months, they will need more talent around if they're to do well on multiple fronts.

Jay Nolly : Nolly showed in 2006 that he's a competent stand-in when called upon. Unlike Rimando Nolly's not expecting to start and frees up @ $70,000 in cap space. That may not sound like a lot but in the MLS that give DCU room to add some good depth if not a new starter to their squad.

Better Focus, Natural Width :
Let's face it, Freddy Adu was a distraction for DC United. He wasn't content not being played in the middle nor in not being a guaranteed starter. He made this well known to the extent that at one point DCU had no choice but to suspend him for shooting off his mouth in public. And the focus on the team from the press was just as much about Freddy as it was about the entire team. Without Adu around the press can get back to talking about the team and the team can worry about playing well instead of how to integrate Freddy and deal with his antics. And without Freddy, DC can look to bring in natural width that's happy to play their role on the rather than how well they're setting up their big money move to Europe.

Nowak :
Whether Peter Nowak, arguably the best coach in Major League Soccer, would be back next year or not has been up in the air. It's unlikely the team would make such a move without it being made by whomever they were going to have coach next year. And given the friction Nowak and Adu had, it's reasonable to assume the deal has Nowak's seal of approval and that he's on the verge of finalizing a new contract with the team.

Cap Space :
As mentioned, Adu and Rimando being gone gives DC United a lot of flexibility in staying under the salary cap. Getting rid of Rimando should enable them to bring Donnet back (if that's what they want) or bring in a solid MLS player. And the allocation gives the ability to bring in a very talented player while keeping their designated player slot open for an even bigger signing.

Money :
If Adu is sold, DC United will see a good portion of it. This is money they will need with Gomez and Moreno in their last years in the league.

There are some negatives for both teams.

DC United :
Talent Loss : DC United loses a GK capable of starting in the league and in international club play. If Perkins sustains a major injury the team could struggle. And Adu would've been a good player to have around to fill in in the middle if Gomez, who is 32, is injured or needs a rest with DCU playing in 4 club competition next year. Injuries aside, DC may lose Jeff Carroll from their midfield. And they've probably lost John Wilson (last year's knee injury may be career ending). Having Freddy around would mean one less hole to fill.

Positive Press :
As much as DC United has been the closest thing to a dynasty that Major League Soccer has had, they still couldn't generate the kind of press that Freddy can. Metro Washington is one of the if not the best soccer market in the United States so they won't disappear quietly into the night. But they will clearly get a lot less attention.

Real Salt Lake :
Payroll : For Real Salt Lake they have to worry about not just the salary cap but also making their payroll. They're still picking up part of the tab for Clint Mathis (likely in the neighborhood of $150k). It's likely that Jeff Cunningham, coming off a career season, will be looking to increase his $212k salary up to the league max (@$300k for 2007) if he's to stick around. As big as Freddy Adu is, he can not replace Cunningham's 16 goals and 11 assists. Real Salt Lake is also facing paying Eddie Pope ( $400k in 06), Chris Klein ($178k), Jason Kreis ($198k), Andy Williams ($100k), Garlick ($100k). RSL's other teenager, Nick Besagno is up there too with his 06 wages (up to $90 depending on bonuses) even though he's only started a handful of games over 2 years.

More Changes Needed :
RSL was worst in the league for goals allowed in 2006. They finished last in their conference. And with Ballouchy, Williams, Klein and even Kreis they were not in need of yet another attacking midfielder. If Adu plays more forward as a link between the midfield and Cunningham, it makes what to do with Kreis more of a question. If he plays in the midfield, it leaves more of a question of how their midfield will play defense with Williams, Ballouchy and Klein all not being known for being strong coming back. More so it's hard to see how the team can afford to keep Garlick around With 2 other well paid, experienced and talented keepers on the marker - Hartman (LA) and Thorton (Fire) - it's unlikely that RSL will be able to get much for Garlick.

Quick Loss / Designated Player Slot :
Freddy Adu turns 18 this spring. He's already made it clear that he wants to move to Europe. With his birthday he very well make that move. And while he's grandfathered in for 07, if Adu does stick around in 2008 Real Salt Lake will have to use a designated player rule slot on him to keep him in 2008. The MLS has done a great job on selling the DPR as the Beckham rule. They've sold it as a chance for teams to bring in big players. But the reality is it's the league moving to tighten up their salary cap requirements. There are only 13 of these slots and any team willing to trade theirs going into 2008 should be able to command a steep price for theirs knowing that RSL would have little choice but to trade for it to keep Adu. That is assuming RSL uses their in 2007. If they do that player is likely to be on a 2 year guaranteed contract so they'll need that 2nd slot for Adu.

Given all of that the temptation is to reduce the trade into terms that imply that one team can only make gains at the expense of the other. Trades are never that simple. DC United may not make good use of their cap room. Keeping Nowak around may not be enough for the team to win a couple of their competitions like they expect to. But even if things go well, that doesn't mean Real Salt Lake loses. Simply landing Adu is likely to help their local media realize they are a major team. And with the team facing having to move or be sold if they can't finalize their stadium deal, that's a lot to loose. In the short term they stand to loose on the field and this move will necessitate more roster moves. But all the negatives they face with the deal would be well offset if this deal is indeed the tipping point in finally securing their stadium.