The MLS Combine Show

If you were lucky enough to be able to convince your computer to show some, most or even all of the MLS Combine Show yesterday, then you are now privy to the great secret of these affairs.

No, not the fact that most of the coaching staffs spend the weekend so drunk that they can barely stand up, let alone pretend that they have any idea what's going on out on the pitch; everybody knows that already.

In any case, none of that is evident on TV. Since the various team GMs are there as well (although most of them are equally hammered, just on a better grade of booze) it's considered very bad form to be seen slumped over in your seat or stumbling around like a sailor on a 36 hour shore leave.

So they struggle manfully to keep up appearances lest they end up reassigned to coach their teams' academy u14s. Nobody ever said the job was easy.

Neither is it the ugly fact that MLS can't seem to find the will to isolate the players from the horde of agents who swarm the hotel like flies around a day old roadkill groundhog or the fact that, by and large, the assembled team staffs don't have much more of an idea of who any of these kids are than the average BigSoccer poster.

MLS budgets are thin, there's not a lot of spare time and even fewer spare assistants hanging around, so the opportunities for in season scouting are largely limited to schools within a two hour drive of home that they can scoot out to after practice on a Tuesday .

Every once in a while some poor deluded player or parent who, sadly, actually believes that I know something, asks me how to get picked in the Superdraft and my answer is always twofold:

1) Figure out how to get your team into the NCAA Final Four, which the coaching staffs actually have time to attend and 2) Show up at the combine in the best shape of your life and run around like your pants are on fire the whole time.

Because if your team doesn't get out of (or, even worse, into) the regionals not only do you remain largely anonymous but you also will come to the combine even farther away from being in actual game shape (some of these guys haven't played a meaningful game in two months or more) and the combination means that you're going to have to demonstrate the skills of a Lionel Messi in Florida to get anyone to notice you.

But again, all of that is pretty well established even for the casual observer (a category which includes about 95% of the journos, scribes and bloggers who have been confidently publishing "mock drafts" of a bunch of players they have never once seen boot a ball.

(Europe has the Silly Season; MLS has the mock-draft-laden Stupid Season.)

No the dark secret of the MLS Combine is that, frankly, the games pretty much stink. These guys mostly just met Thursday night. There was no time allotted for practice. They're handed shirts, shoved out there and expected to play for their lives.

That's not to say that they aren't sometimes interesting; indeed, from time to time it comes close to being fun, particularly since it's not you out there fighting to get noticed so that you don't have to go home and work in Dads' hardware store. But artful and attractive it ain't.

The good thing is that these are mostly pretty strong players - although there are always a handful of guys who make you scratch your head wondering who could possibly have thought they hand a chance in hell of playing beyond PDL - and one of the truisms of sport (as well as a good part of life, work and everything else) is that talent recognizes talent and quickly figures it out.

Unfortunately, this effect mostly manifests itself on Game Day Three, at which point the coaches have either already left, have already made up their minds and/or are so hung over from their four day bender that they wouldn't notice it if Superman laid a Cruyff turn on Morbo the Annihilator and netted one through Lindsay Lohans' five hole.

If you're really interested in knowing what the real poop on the Combine is, I strongly urge you to check out the incomparable Joe Mauceri at PRO PLAYER PIPELINE who not only has seen most of the players a lot more often than the most of the assembled coaches have - and in fact probably more than anyone else on Earth - but also provides, free of charge or attribution, the ratings and reports that all those writers out there steal...excuse me, "reference" as the basis of their fearlessly authoritative mock drafts.

Great stuff.

A couple additional MLS notes for a Sunday morning:

First, it appears that, contrary to the usual blizzard of media reports which announce David Beckhams' every bowel movement, Stupid Spice will not be joining Spurs due to an inability to reach an agreement on insurance for his aging joints and tendons.

He will reportedly hop on over there for a few weeks of "training" but will not be rostered for the EPL.

And in keeping with our motto around here: "All Beckham, All the Time", apparently POSH IS PREGGERS

Second, in what is legitimately a shocker, Edson Buddle is reportedly IN THE PROCESS OF SIGNING WITH FC INGOLSADT of 2 Bundesliga.

Whether this is a short term deal that will see Buddle back on the Home Depot pitch come opening day remains to be revealed.

Enjoy your Sunday.