Saturday, March 5, 2016

Soft Launch: MLS, Crew '16 Kickoff

The start of the 2016 MLS season has arrived once more. So, uh, here we are. Everybody excited? Yes? No? There does seem to be a hangover type feel to the beginning of this season for Crew SC. If you read into the (scant) interviews and comments from the "doers" in the organization you get a different feeling than in the previous two years.

It is hard to hang a single word on the build up to the 2016 season. Lethargic? Complacent? Maybe a Crew player should be assigned to how it feels. Maybe it makes sense to say January and February were more Michael Parkhurstonian than say, Josh Williamsonian, or Frankie Hejdukistic.

This isn't to say that the team is either better or worse than the previous two years, or that it's bad to have a quiet build to the season. But it does say something. Perhaps it's just that the new car smell that came along with a new team operator has gone away - or perhaps it is perfectly natural that the overall team feel to topple Frankie Hejduk's energy and morph into the temperament of the Head Coach (and Sporting Director!).

Not sure. The yin and yang are out of balance from what they were, though.

All that said, MLS has all their games kicking off tomorrow with Columbus taking on Portland on ESPN. If you are a Crew SC fan and still feeling the hangover of the MLS Cup Final loss, it's okay! I have the perfect remedy to shake that off and get you in the Major League Soccer state of mind.

[For what Parkhurstonian is, check out his ESPNFC blog]

In addition to Homegrown Players and College Protected Players – clubs may have priority for up to three players from their USL affiliate. In order to retain priority on any additional USL affiliate players, such players must be added to an MLS club’s Discovery List. 
MLS clubs may sign players from their USL affiliate to Short Term Agreements (up to four-day contracts) for CONCACAF Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and exhibition matches. An MLS club may sign a player to a maximum of four short term agreements each season (maximum of 16 days). 
Players may also be signed to Short Term Agreements for MLS league season games but only in cases of Extreme Hardship. the case of an MLS player to their USL Affiliate:

- All loans from MLS clubs to USL affiliates must be free (i.e. no loan fees paid by USL affiliate clubs). 
- In the event that an MLS player is loaned to a USL affiliate club, such player may not be paid in excess of the player’s MLS budget charge without that compensation being captured on the MLS club’s Salary Budget (including, but not limited to, performance bonus compensation). 
- An MLS club can receive roster relief and budget relief for a maximum of one player loaned to its USL affiliate; provided, however, that: The player is under the age of 25 (i.e., he does not turn 25 prior to the end of the calendar year). 
- The player’s total compensation is less than or equal to the MLS Senior Minimum Salary (including any loan fees, transfer fees, agent fees, housing, car, etc.); and 
- The loan of the player to the USL affiliate must last for the duration an entire USL season; provided, however, that in the event that such loaned player is a goalkeeper, he may be recalled to his parent MLS club only in the case of Extreme Hardship.

Feel better now? Of course you do. More importantly, after all that EPL and Bundesliga you've been watching, you are rewiring your brain for MLS.

Not quite there yet, you say? Got yourself hooked on that Leicester run this season and forgotten about the pain of the Crew losing (and out supported) at their home stadium back on December whatever? How about an excerpt from the latest CBA to help clear that right up and get you pumped...

Except as limited elsewhere by an express written provision of this CBA, MLS, in the exercise of its functions of management, shall in addition to its other inherent and legal rights to manage its business, including the direction and control of the Teams, have the exclusive right at any time and from time to time to take any action it deems appropriate in the management of its business, including but not limited to the exclusive right to determine when, where, how and under what circumstances it wishes to operate, suspend, discontinue,
That's my favorite Article in the latest CBA. In fact, we just saw MLS just enact some ARTICLE 5 action on the Chicago Fire in the offseason. If you recall, before that, it was Chivas USA. Looking down the road I wouldn't be surprised if the Colorado Rapids gets the same treatment.

Okay, now, here is the full PDF of the new CBA for you to go over. Once complete, you may read my quick Crew SC season preview.


One one hand, there is a singularity to what this team has to do now in order to have a "better" season than last year. Sure, there is US Open Cup to win (I don't see the team focusing on that) or winning the Supporters' Shield (unlikely), but the only thing left for the team to do is win the MLS Cup.

Can they? With pretty much the same roster as last year this season will be more about what to expect from their opponents. Think of it like retaking the same exact quiz in school. I don't expect Gregg Berhalter to have added much tactically, so with the same roster it will be up to how well their opponents prepare.

It's not that much more complex than that.

Does this mean, however, that the Crew are standing still while other teams are racing to catch up? Yeah, in a way it does, but I'm not sure what they could have done to measurably improve outside of picking up a more disciplined right back. Also, what else is there for a MLS side than getting into, and winning, the MLS Cup? CCL maybe, but you can get there without it.

Outside of all that, two main concerns for this team will be health and the ability of Kei Kamara to duplicate last season. Either of those (or both), would push this team down the standings and have them starting from the back in the postseason.

Crew 2016 in a single bulletpoint? They will not score 58 goals again but, with an improved defense, their goals against will be down. Expect them to be around even again this year, only in the high 40s / low 50s.

How about, let's say... 49 Goals For, 47 Goals Against.

I expect another solid regular season and playoff performance - but do not expect them to be playing in the MLS Cup final again.


The best way to list out how teams will finish the Eastern Conference is to just group them up...

1. Columbus Crew SC
2. New England Revs
3. DC United

4. Toronto FC
5. Montreal Impact
6. Orlando City
7. New York Red Bulls

8. NY City FC
9. Chicago Fire
10. Philadelphia Union

Columbus at number one? Not really, just my way of putting some sort of expectation on the team. They might start the year off slow, but I expect them to float towards the top as all the summer extracurricular activities start up (Copa America, friendlies, Summer Olympics, Euro 2016, etc).

Callout 1: NY Red Bulls will not be as good as last year. In fact, they will drift around the middle of the table all year. They had something to prove last year after all the offseason junk, as well as had a good backline, and a surprise Mike Grella and a good Robles. Ah, just take my word for it.

Callout 2: Columbus at one just means they are most likely to make the playoffs, not the BEST team in the east. I put them at the top because it will be a disappointment if they don't finish near the top.

Callout 3: Not much change to the bottom this year. I think Orlando will start the year better and, if they get into that new stadium, will have a strong finish.

Callout 4: NYCFC will be average, again. They'll still sell a bunch of tickets.


Welp, how I see it, thanks for reading.

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