Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tuesday, Cup Countdown Continues

[continuing my freeform-ish posts for MLS Cup week, check out yesterday's if you haven't]

Woke up this morning to a Tom Reed article over at Cleveland.com on how a disaster of a Browns season will lead to a high draft pick. It's a built-in mechanism these days that the worst pick first. It's been this way for as long as I can remember, save for the NBA when I think they had regional drafts way back.

It's got me thinking about building teams in MLS...

The older I get the "last picks first" model comes across as elementary school recess nonsense. It's 100% anti-player. It does more to wreck potential careers than help and it's difficult to find a team in any league (save for the 1980s-90s NBA) where it as helped dramatically. It is what it is, though. Looking at how Golden State has drafted since they picked Stephen Curry back in 2009, you see a list of regular picks (as far as draft position) that most teams get up the championship team they are today. As a matter of fact, they haven't even had a draft pick outside of a guy named Kevon Looney since 2012.

[It's not just me, check out 538 and their 7000+ submissions to help fix the NBA draft]

How much of their success is picking the right guys and how much is it the environment they go into. I wonder if there is a formula. Like...

50% Coaching, development, training
25% Player Ability
15% Team location, environment
10% Media and press

If I were to grade, say, the Cleveland Browns it would look like this:

F - Coaching, teaching, training
B - Player Ability
D - Team location, environment
C - Media and fans

That's a poor overall 1.10 GPA on a 4 pt scale. For me, that first item is sort of a gate to the rest. If you have the development down then you can move on to the rest. That's the foundation.

For the Columbus Crew SC under Anthony Precourt, you see how they have built around the first item. Not just Gregg Berhalter but also with Josh Wolff, Pat Onstad, Sixten Boström and the rest of the team. Their score looks something like...

A - Coaching, teaching, training
B - Player Ability
C - Team location, environment
C - Media and fans

3.25! Hey, I kinda like this. I may have to do a rating of more teams in the future, but you get my point. You've got to have the right coaching and create that environment for players to succeed and then give them the tools. Look at Tony Tchani, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay. Guys who were a season away from no longer earning a MLS paycheck are now top in the league and playing in a final.

You see this with three of the four MLS Conference final teams. FC Dallas is likely the strongest right now with A, A, C, F (3.30 gpa) followed by Portland with B, A, B, B (3.15 gpa).

NY Red Bulls are the odd team out here. B, C, D, D (2.25 gpa). Looking at it this way, I don't expect them to have a good year next year. Impressive this year, of course, but you never want the situation they walked into this year as far as the supporter mess and big time players heading out. It can galvanize a team, but it isn't a sustainable practice that you can build around. I guess some teams like the headlines, though, in those cases, I would create a separate set of grading criteria.

MLS does all they can to control player movement and entry into the league. They are coming at the whole thing from a different angle because the are a small fish in a gigantic pond. It's part of the reason there are so many rules, as a whole.

I think what Crew SC the last couple offseasons in regards to the college entry draft has been stellar. With Berhalter running the show the college draft of 2015 yielded exactly one start. His talent is coming by way of experience. Steve Clark, Michael Parkhurst, Kei Kamara, Gaston Sauro, Harrison Afful, Mohammed Saeid and Cedrick are all players that didn't develop in the college system or even really in MLS (outside Kamara, but he has since gained a lot of international experience.

Non-of those guys were "last picks first" guys or even really "MLS guys" (think; Dax McCarty). They are smartly chosen professionals. In a lot of ways their careers sort of match Berhalter. Not a bad thing.


Don't think anyone was expecting a rip-roaring build-up to the final this weekend but it does seem very quiet out there. Last night on the local news I saw NBC4 had a reporter stationed at the stadium for the evening news but there wasn't a whole lot of gravity to the report or the event.

There was also this, I guess:

Meanwhile, over at Reddit (somewhere) is a conversation about TV ratings. Things aren't looking good, sad to say. I'm thinking the English language will be around the 500-750k range and Spanish around the same (closer to the low). It's due to a lot of reasons that I don't feel like getting into right now. League has a lot to sort.

On a bright note, Mapfre Stadium sold out in about 15 hours. What aided this was that it was pretty clear that both Portland and Columbus were advancing after the first leg. Stadium is going to be loud and fun.

All for now.

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