Combine Blues

My normally cheerful, sunny disposition is really taking a beating this morning.

I'm supposed to be in sunny Ft. Lauderdale, where coeds go to frolic and MLS coaches go to run up bar tabs on the company dime and pretend they're looking for talent.

Instead, due to some last minute glitches I'm stuck here watching the house slowly disappear under a mountain of snow. Then again, the Spring Break Skin Parade hasn't hit yet and the coaches are about as likely to uncover some hidden future superstar as I am to be laying out back this afternoon working on my tan.

Out of sheer frustration at not, this very moment, finding myself Detroit leaning down North Atlantic Boulevard in the finest Avis has to offer, I've already checked the calendar to determine when the next MLS combine dates are.

(For the record, it looks like January 10-13, although it's still too early for the Sheraton Yankee Clipper to book me a room. And in a nice piece of symmetry, the NSCAA convention - where the draft is always held in a desperate attempt to draw a decent crowd - will be in Philadelphia. That will be the very first official MLS event that will involve the new Philadelphia team. The league might want to consider booking a bigger ballroom, as I expect the Sons of Ben will be well represented. Noon is a little early to be stone drunk of course, but I'm guessing The Dark Horse can accommodate them somehow.)

However, I'm haunted by a nagging suspicion that perhaps - just perhaps - today might be the beginning of the last MLS Combine, at least in the current form and that I'm kind of like the last few guys that got left on the beach at Dunkirk as the boats disappeared over the horizon.

It's true that, as Daniel pointed out, nobody much is basing their entire draft list on how some kid did playing with a bunch of total strangers in the functional equivalent of a couple of pickup games.

It's also worth noting I suppose that while the number of draft rounds has been cut in half with the elimination of the Supplemental, the number of teams drafting players keeps increasing to the point that the vast majority of the invitees will be drafted anyway.

I guess my suspicion is based on what seems to be a growing realization that, particularly with the cancellation of the Reserve Division and the subsequent slashing of the Dev roster from ten to four, MLS is more or less admitting that the Superdraft, while a terrific PR vehicle, isn't really where they're going to be going for talent.

Players now have to have a realistic shot at making the senior roster in the short term or there's just no room for them and noplace for them to play besides the occasional US Open Cup match or those glorified scrimmages with PDL teams.

Couple all of that with the fact that the Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire right around the same time that the invitees would be lining up to get their brand new monochromatic adidas combine uniform, designed in about an hour by the lowest intern on the creative staff.

Maybe it's just me but history tells us that when something that costs as much money as the combine begins to be of questionable utility, MLS has a habit of dumping it. I certainly hope I'm wrong, because I'm really looking forward to that drive along the beach.

I wonder if Avis books 12 months in advance.

Those of you who are sick to death of the Loney-and-Archer Galaxy-and-Crew blogging might want to click over to Ollie's blog right now. He's doing terrific work and it'll save you same teeth gnashing.

That said, the main personnel moves we have to chew over involve Ezra Hendrickson (ex-Gals and Crew) retiring and the just-announced trade of Stefani Miglioranzi from the crew to the Gals, whence he came a couple of years back.

(Ironically, THE BEST ELEVEN JUST POSTED an "MLS Boomerang Players" list, which became outdated pretty much about the same time he hit "post")

Migs has stuck around the league (he was drafted by the Fire in 1999 but chose instead to bounce around England for a few years) mainly by dint of being left-footed. Like a left handed reliever with an 11.80 ERA (or Chris Leitch) , if he was a righty he'd have been out selling insurance for a living years ago.

The Crew is happy to unload his $75k salary (which, along with freeing up the similar amount Ezra was pulling down, makes it appear like Warzycha has some plans that involve spending around $150,000) and Arena is likely happy to pick up a talented and experienced guy for a fourth round pick in 2010.

Yesterday was a big day for Wake Forest senior Marcus Tracy: he picked up the Herrmann trophy and told MLS to go fish. He's headed overseas.

As noted previously, Tracy put himself in a tough position when hen turned dwon a GenA deal last year. Now, with no eligibility left and nine (maybe ten - stay tuned) new GenA's likely to go in front of him, he has virtually no leverage to use in getting himself something better than a dev salary.

As for Alexi Lalas' opinion on David Beckham's future plans, here's the only amusing thing Panayotis ever did: