Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tchani Exposing Crew Limitations

The game against NY this weekend is a reminder of the mid-season player transaction Columbus made in 2011; Toronto FC's Tony Tchani for Crew players Andy Iro and Leandre Griffit.

As things stand, this trade was a waste of valuable time and resources for both teams.

For TFC: Iro and Griffit aren't only out of Major League Soccer, they are out of the professional game all together. For Columbus? Well, let's look at that.

Tony Tchani was a talent that was identified early in his life. He became a Generation Adidas player and was drafted into the league as a 2nd overall pick in 2010 by the NY Red Bulls. While with NY he saw time in a significant number of games. 2011... couple games into the season saw a desperately rebuilding TFC pick Tchani away from desperately sinking NY. Tchani, at that time, was seemingly just along for the ride on the DeRosario roller coaster trade.

On April 23th of last year, Tchani scores his first career MLS goal for TFC. Against who? The Crew (how do you do). He also gets his first Red Card seconds later for an embarrassing kit waving celebration with fans.

Columbus signs him a few weeks later.

After the signing with Columbus he spends half the year recovering from an inherited knee injury that the Crew either overlooked or accepted, Tchani inexplicably makes his first Crew club start in the 2012 playoff game against Colorado. Predictably, the Crew lose.

Enter the off-season: Crew brain trust decides that asking Tchani to become Team Captain is a smart idea.

Yes. That happened. Two time MLS Defensive Player of the Year on your team in Marshall, MLS Cup Goal Keeping Winner - Hesmer, and ever steady Eddie Gaven on the team - and one start, twice traded in one year Tchani is asked to lead the team.

It wasn't surprising that Tchani slumped away from the mere thought of being team captain. What was surprising was how far he fled from the responsibility. Also surprising was that the conversation became public. In effect, it left Coach Warzycha standing there with egg on his face.

On a subtle level, this Tchani / Captain event is one of the strangest misfires I've seen in professional sports.

Around that same time Tchani developed a mystery illness the night before traveling with Generation Adidas and their tour of Holland.

Tchani's development as a player has been a downward spiral. He now plays, essentially, as a six figure Reserve Team Crew player whose league mandated salary eclipses all the other Crew Reserve players, by six figures.

The Crew, as a franchise of Major League Soccer, have shown a tendency to choose players like Tchani. Players that they had simply seen have a good couple games against them (recent example: Olman Vargas).

Columbus is a club that's rooted. Front Office and Coaches have been with the team nearly since the beginning. Even TV and radio play callers have been around since 1996. It is important to have that kind of consistency so it isn't surprising that the Crew's recent player finds are through sons, relatives (Warzycha, Iribarren, Gehrig) or asking existing team players to make recommendations (Miranda for Mirosevic, Renteria for Anor, Indiana for everything).

Arguments can be made for bringing in friends and player recommendations (and have been made, Soccernomics Simon Kuper, Stefan Szymanski) but putting that together with the Crew plucking away players that caught their eye playing their own team tells me is that the Crew have little, if any, functioning scouting network. Relying on recommendations as over 50% of your new signings is not sustainable. It's no wonder recent Crew castoffs are not just sent packing from Columbus, but professional soccer in general (also speaks to the real need for team affiliations at lower levels. Imagine baseball without the minor leagues).

Young players. Ben Sippola, Kevin Burns, Andy Adlard, Andy Iro, Leandre Griffit, Alex Riggs. All 2011 Crew players, none of them playing soccer professionally. Santiago Prim is barely hanging on with only 16 minutes of pro soccer this year.

Crew still make the playoffs. Resource wasting trades and the final bus stop, et al is probably more a testament to MLS's insistence on playing puppet master. Something for another day, perhaps. Not sure how to start it but here's how it will finish...

Open aperture. Wide shot... Hold that. Show a Sea World whose better days are clearly behind it and an evacuated / bankrupt Orlando.

Ghost text "MLS Expansion City?" over top of "For Lease" signs on 20 story hotels. Pan down to $100 million dollars in cash in front of Disney World.

Fade to black. Add text "NO COMPROMISES FOR COMPETITION, MONEY TALKS" in IMPACT font. Queue AC/DC's Money Talks.

Credits. Legal.

Found object from the Internets. "John" from Ohio puts this whole thing really well, the actual day of the Tchani trade to Columbus. The lone comment under a column:

"The crew management only picks players that scored on them. Tchani sucked that's why the other teams got rid of him and Columbus loves to take leftovers. They got rid off Griffit for that. The only reason Columbus picked him is that they think he is a horse that will run and never stop. Balchan is the same kind of player like Tchani but both don't known how to play real soccer. Balchan now is hurt because he ran like a maniac on the field. This is american futbol not creative soccer."

He is right. Balchan out for the year. Tchani is a misfire, to this point. Even O'Rourke isn't immune in playing, what has become, an impossible CDM Crew spot.

Let's hope Urso doesn't kill himself out there.

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