Sunday, January 14, 2018

I Went to a Soccer Town Hall

By: Vidda Grubin

If I were to sum up Eric Wynalda's vision for American soccer in very few words, it would be this...

Facilitate the expansion of opportunity to achieve.

I am tempted to leave this blog post with those words and those words only.

The part of me that was stunned at how well Mr. Wynalda expressed what I have been trying to write about for the last seven years cannot stop typing. From youth soccer, he's a dad of six, to the professional level (both female and male) to the national team level, Eric gets it.

He gets that with the United States Soccer Federation's vast wealth, power and ultimately backing and reason for being; millions of dues paying players, parents, fans and others, the next great leap forward is, and must be, by empowering each and every corner of the American soccer family to have a chance at creating Clubs (with a capital "C") that can build from youth through pro. Clubs, and the people who make them Clubs, which can strive and compete with both small goals and great big goals in mind.

Specifically, if I may be permitted to extrapolate out from what Eric Wynalda talked about (Please, Eric, if you read this, correct me where I'm misunderstanding your stance), the marketing of the American game must be taken away from SUM and brought back in house to the USSF. Talks should then be started with MLS as to whether they want to be part of the USSF's professional soccer initiatives, which will adhere to FIFA standards. The regional map for thousands of clubs to exist within a thriving American amateur and professional club soccer family is already in place. Publish the standards and requirements for each level and then help facilitate where possible.

Mr. Wynalda wants these things to happen. And importantly, he wants to use transparent governance to make them happen.

I went to a soccer town hall. I am happy I did. I hope Eric Wynalda can win the fight ahead of him. Transparent governance facilitating the expansion of opportunity to achieve is nothing less than the singular goal in front of American soccer.

By: Vidda Grubin

I'm going to a soccer town hall today. Eric Wynalda will be speaking. I'm curious. I've also, for the past four years, been a soccer voyeur, sitting quietly and guilt free watching the soccer world spin.

I haven't always been a soccer voyeur. I was a player through college and into many years of amateur adult play. I was a coach for 25 years. I was a referee (we need more of these thingies). I am a soccer dad of two soccer playing sons, now grown and doing there own meta. I've been a soccer writer, depending on your definition, on and off for the last 7 years. I've also written some novels, kids short stories, poetry and recently music lyrics.

That last bit of stuff was always for myself. (I wanted to learn to write. I flunked all my high school grammar tests, true story) And, it was for friends, family and most importantly my children. As I aged like concrete setting on a sweltering summer day in Florida, sweat dripping off my solid grey dreams and worries of not ever having done anything meaningful, the novels, stories and poetry became that hopefully meaningful part of myself, the part I could give as gifts and share with the world.

And some really horrible things happened in my real life. Things that expose human beings and being itself for what they/it truly is, capable of virtually anything, good, bad, heroic, vicious, indifferent, selfless. 

Why am I telling you all this? Seems important to me. You need to know where the soccer/life experience has taken me so that, maybe, you understand what I'm about to say.

Anthony Precourt is right. Yep, he's a bit of a scumbag, but he's right in wanting to move the Crew out of Columbus. I wrote a couple of months ago about the Crew's move here.

Since then, I've done the voyeur thing. I've looked at Columbus physically, socially, and culturally. While Columbus is a perfect place for a professional soccer team, it's movers and shakers couldn't give a tiny rat's ass about soccer and the Crew. Look at the map below carefully.


Now, be honest with yourself. Where is there a compelling space for a downtown area Columbus Crew stadium? Did the people who could purchase/set aside/develop land in the rapidly developing downtown area keep the Crew in mind when transforming downtown, the Brewery District, the Short North, Italian Village, Franklinton? When Crew stadium was built at the fairgrounds did the movers and shakers begin to shape the area around the stadium into a destination for soccer/entertainment? Be honest.

There really is nowhere. The best spot is probably the Audubon park adjacent to German Village/Brewery District. That's not going to happen. Instead of hotels, condos, bars and restaurants going up near Crew stadium we got Lowes, Frisch's Big Boy and Aldi.

All of the above leaves only one good place for Crew stadium going forward; right where it is, but only if half the fairgrounds were sold to Precourt and developers to turn into Condos, bars, restaurants and parking garages. That is not going to happen.

Precourt and Garber, scumbags that they are, made an assessment of the prevailing money, culture and social environment (mostly the money and power part) in Columbus and decided, rightly, that the Columbus money and power people not only didn't care about soccer and the Crew, they actively worked against the Crew for...well...ever.

I'm going to a soccer town hall today.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Current Crew Roster

Preseason training is here and in a little under a month the team travels to Hawaii to start tuning up with some games. Time to take a snapshot of the Crew roster and identify where the team is headed.

2018 Estimate : Name
 $1,050,000 : Federico Higuain
 $844,000 : Jonathan Mensah
 $731,000 : Pedro Santos
 $500,000 : Ola Kamara*
 $350,000 : Wil Trapp
 $350,000 : Justin Meram*
 $300,000 : Harrison Afful
 $250,000 : Gaston Sauro
 $200,000 : Mike Grella
 $175,000 : Mohammed Abu
 $150,000 : Hector Jimenez
 $125,000 : Artur
 $120,000  : Josh Williams
 $105,000 : Zack Steffen
 $95,000 : Adam Jahn
 $85,000 : Alex Crognale
 $75,000 : Eduardo Sosa
 $73,000 : Niko Hansen
 $73,000 : Lalas Abubakar
 $73,000 : Cristian Martinez
 $65,004 : Jon Kempin
 $53,004 : Logan Ketterer
 $53,004 : Connor Maloney

- 23 players filling up a possible squad of 28, as things stand.
- ~$5.8m in wages, last summer it was $6.7m
- Team has about $1.0m to play with

*The big thing: 
The future of 2018 roster makeup hinges on Justin Meram and Ola Kamara, who have both expressed interest in leaving. Should one or both depart, they would be taking 60% of team goals (31/53) with them (Chicago, NYRB and NYCFC only teams higher). It creates a huge hole. Some of that will be made up by the arrival of Grella and increased scoring output from Santos (either by himself or contribution to others increasing their output from last year).

The team is clearly a playoff contender as-is, but I do expect Kamara and or Meram leaving. Kamara's the player that people want. Meram being the player others can afford.

Berhalter and company have room to play, so they are in a good position to fill gaps, should that happen. If it does, I expect the team to be fairly up and down early in the season, but the number of home games will help keep the positivity going.

It's difficult to foresee the overall impact of what's going on around the team and the move to Austin. I've head that players are confused and not sure what to say or do. It's an awful position to be in. It can also be taxing, emotionally. I expect that players that do have options (or feel they are desirable to others) will just not want to deal with the drama surrounding the team.

Outside of Kamara and Meram that would be Mensah, Higuain, Grella and Afful, who I see as guys who might not want to put up with it and seek a move at some point during the season. The rest of the squad is fairly set.

On the coaching, team admin side, the announcements by Kamara and Meram put a lot of work on Berhalter's desk.

Friday, January 12, 2018

NPSL in Columbus

FC Columbus is a new NPSL side announced today.
“We are thrilled to bring the NPSL to Columbus, one of the truly great soccer markets in North America,” NPSL Chairman Joe Barone said. “We have been working with this group since early summer and we are excited to have them as part of the NPSL family.  Ohio deserves great soccer and we are confident that FC Columbus will deliver an exemplary product on and off the field.”  
The leadership of the team will include Owner/Coach Maziya Chete, Co-Founder/Coach Seymour Alleyne, General Manager Darrell Hughes, and Game Day Manager Analisa Trares.
Maziya Chete made it clear that this has been in the works for some time and has nothing to do with what is going on with MLS Columbus Crew SC's potential move to Austin, TX.

It's an obvious hot-button issue. Crew fans are embroiled in an existential crisis right now as their favorite meeting place for the last 20+ years (or last few, for most of them) is being taken away from them. With that, it's a very important fact that FC Columbus ownership made it clear that the formation of the team is completely separate from that activity.

I moved to Columbus nearly 10 years ago. I've always been struck by the strong soccer community here. Having lived in two other hotbeds of youth soccer (Northern Virginia and Raleigh, NC), I have found the relationship to the sport to be real and firmly placed, especially at the youth level. Almost to the point of operating completely outside the drama that comes with the pro game (MLS, USL, NASL, USSF).

It's an exciting and refreshing development in Columbus and will open up parts of the game to the community that most haven't seen before.

For more head over the great interview over at Midfield Press.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

US Players Abroad, Rating

Here's a quick look at US born players abroad in some of the top leagues in Europe, right now. The way I ranked the players was based simply on four criteria on a 10 pt scale (10 best-7-5-3-0 lowest):

1. Strength of League
2. Man of the Match (MotM)
3. WhoScored Rating
4. % Mins played (possible)

(ooo) is transfer value per, in thousands.

1940,500Christian PulisicBundesligaBorussia Dortmund27.1884%100
34225Josh WicksAllsvenskanSirius26.7480%75
271,350Alfredo Morales2. BundesligaIngolstadt07.0379%68
273,150Timothy ChandlerBundesligaEintracht Frankfurt16.8558%68
222,700Matt MiazgaEredivisieVitesse16.7881%68
2412,600John BrooksBundesligaWolfsburg07.2240%63
253,150Bobby WoodBundesligaHamburger SV16.5162%63
20450Cameron Carter-VickersChampionshipSheffield United16.7560%60
301,800Tim ReamChampionshipFulham06.8292%55
244,500DeAndre YedlinPremier LeagueNewcastle United06.7678%55
322,700Geoff CameronPremier LeagueStoke City06.6757%55
23450Brendan Hines IkeAllsvenskanÖrebro06.8795%50
291,580Eric LichajChampionshipNottingham Forest06.7358%48
26450Terrence Boyd2. BundesligaDarmstadt 9816.4525%45
194,050Weston McKennieBundesligaSchalke 0406.4347%45
281,800Danny WilliamsPremier LeagueHuddersfield Town06.3246%45
28270Andrew Wooten2. BundesligaSandhausen07.212%43
22630Julian Green2. BundesligaGreuther Fürth06.6849%43
304,500Fabian JohnsonBundesligaBorussia M'gladbach06.5130%40
21450Shaq MooreLa LigaLevente6.4926%40
33450Caleb StankoBundesligaFreiburg06.2112%40
24270Jerome Kiesewetter2. BundesligaFortuna Düsseldorf06.811%38
2222Romain GallAllsvenskanGIF Sundsvall06.5853%38
19450Haji Wright2. BundesligaSandhausen06.3230%38
22675Lynden GoochChampionshipSunderland06.2429%33
20315Keaton ParksPrimeira LigaBenfica06.163%33
27900Aron JóhannssonBundesligaWerder Bremen05.990%33
19Luca de la TorreChampionshipFulham06.022%25
22900Emmerson HyndmanPremier LeagueAFC Bournemouth25
20135Jonathan KlinsmannBundesligaHertha BSC25
1823Brian ScottBundesligaKöln25
20Kyle ScottPremier LeagueChelsea25
22225Desevio PayneEredivisieExcelsior06.396%20
24225Shane O'NeillEredivisieExcelsior18
2395Mael Corboz2. BundesligaMSV Duisburg18
1990Orrin McKinze Gaines2. BundesligaDarmstadt 9818
29360Conor O'BrienEliteserienStart13
21270Rubio RubinEliteserienStabæk13
29113Andrew StadlerAllsvenskanDalkurd13
2690Alexander Ray De JohnAllsvenskanDalkurd13
2890Stefan AntonijevicEliteserienLillestrøm13

I created a little rating system to help me sort who is playing well and try to find out any surprises and not so much surprises. In no particular order:

1. Josh Wicks, 34, GK, Sirius in Allsvenskan
Some might remember Wicks from his time in MLS in 2009. He got into a fight with teammate Marc Burch in a league match and also two foot stomped Fredy Montero (Seattle) in a US Open Cup game. He wasn't seen again in MLS and moved to Europe right after. He's been bouncing around Nordic leagues since. Having a good year this year. His WhoScored Rating of 6.74 (top 30%-ish of all players in the league). He may be crazy but had a good 2017.

2. Christian Pulisic, 19, Attacking Mid (L/R), Borussia Dortmund in Bundesliga
Pulisic has shot up to be possibly the best player the US has ever had. Grew up in Pennsylvania but moved to Germany around age 16. At 19 now and, according to TransferMarkt, worth over $40 million. Both American owned Manchester United and Liverpool want him so that fee could easily jump. 3 goals and an assist in 1300 minutes this year, with an astonishing rating of 7.18 which easily puts in the top 50 players in the league.

3. The Central Defenders
Matt Miazga (22), John Brooks (24) and Cameron Carter-Vickers (20). All under 25, all player will in their respective leagues so far this year. Brooks' (Wolfsburg) 7.22 rating and pass success rate of 85% is best in class, but his minutes sit less than 700 thus far.

4. Yedlin, Tops in Prem
DeAndre (24, Newcastle) took a chance heading over to the Premier League. Signed with Tottenham, loaned to Sunderland but now found his home in Newcastle. He's seen the dark side of relegation and the joy of promotion. I like his story. Like it or not, he's the only player in the regular starting eleven the US has right now, playing in 78% of possible minutes. His success has got his transfer fee close to $5 million.