Bring Out Your Dead

I was interviewed over at Tha Dogg Pound - I hope you love the sound of my voice as much as I do, otherwise you might find it rough going.  I'll give away the ending - it took me about forty-five minutes to pick the conference winners to go through to MLS Cup.  You can't buy that kind of insight, man!  Hell - you can't even give it away.

Hilariously, I knew going in I wanted to say LA over KC in the final, but I JUST COULDN'T DECIDE who would lose in what order along the way, and thus the sounds of me thinking out loud, while Derek and Brett screamed for mercy. 

They also wanted to talk about the Red Bulls, who I am so completely over it's not funny.  I picked them to win the East - which wasn't much to ask, was it? - and like everyone else, I've got egg all over my face because of it.  (Or something that came out of the back end of a chicken.)

But let's look at where everyone else went wrong.

NEW ENGLAND faw down and go boom.  Shalrie Joseph probably gone, Steve Nicol definitely gone.  Chase Hilgenbrinck clearly knew something we didn't.

Steve Nicol coached in this league for ten freaking seasons.  When Nicol started his second, and slightly longer, stint with the Revolution, Jam Master Jay, Left Eye Lopes and Davey Boy Smith (The British Bulldog) were all still alive.  Thank you, Wikipedia, for providing some perspective.  If you'd like a little more perspective - in 2002, the man who is now the [EDIT - second-]longest continuously serving MLS coach scored 13 goals for the Dallas Burn.  And when Jason Kreis took over Salt Lake, he was the youngest coach in league history. 

But...man, it's hard to argue with the Krafts for making this move, even though, as a famous Massachusettsian once said, a fish rots from the head.  And even though some team, somewhere, sooner or later, is going to benefit greatly from yet another Revs giveaway.  The hot seats in MLS coaching ranks just got a little hotter with Nicol in the shop window - and with rare exceptions, MLS coaches aren't a terribly secure group to begin with. 

Then again, Paul Mariner died and went to hell when everyone thought he was a lock to take a head coaching job, so who the hell knows. 

Anyway, the Revolution were overdue for a shakeup, but where do you start?  Look, the problem is, you can't share a stadium with an NFL team and play on FieldTurf, and expect any kind of support...oh.  Sorry, that was very MLS 1.0 of me.  Maybe the Revs should build a stadium in downtown Boston.  (Wow, Jared Diamond was right, geography is destiny.)

Hopefully, some day Revolution fans will look back on this and...well, "laugh" is pretty unlikely.  It's easier to turn around an MLS team than in a lot of other leagues, though, and maybe Benny Feilhaber morphs back into his 2007 form again next season.  But seeing as how these days the fan experience is as bleak as the on-field product, where on earth would you find any grounds for optimism?   

It looks like VANCOUVER will take a mulligan on this season.  Next year, they will play in their own stadium full-time, they'll have a new coach, and the Whitecaps even played acceptably towards the end of the season.  Maybe the coaching staff really was the problem.  Martin Rennie - who, apparently, was not there the day the earth stood still - is a highly respected second division coach with a great eye for useful talent, but I thought the Caps had someone like that in Thordarson.  And maybe I'm reading between the lines, but even for a press release about the firing of lame duck assistants, this came across as shockingly terse.  Although perhaps Fire fans won't be shocked at the idea of Denis Hamlett being abruptly fired.

Still, being a Whitecaps fan looks fun.  They've got the whole Cascadia thing going, they have a number of exciting, if erratic, players (led by Two Shirts Hassli), and they even finished at .500 at home, which meant they were courteous enough to be horrible away from their supporters.  Short term prospects aren't great, since the Western Conference won't be easy for a while, but if this organization can start thinking long-term, the payoff down the road should be enormous.

I was going to draw a cautionary comparison with the Caps' countrymen in red, but apparently TORONTO is going to win CONCACAF and go undefeated in MLS next year, because Danny Koevermans is better than Beckham, Henry, and God put together.   A couple more players like Koevermans and Berhalter's Bane, and Toronto will be invincible.  Maybe Toronto will even stop trading players who end up becoming MVP candidates (MVP candidate status for Chad Barrett still pending). 

Plus, next year they finally get the hated rival joining the league.  It looks like being a Tories fan is going to be fun again.  Warm up your cushion-throwing arms, guys.

What can you say about SAN JOSE.  Suspicious of the larger world that scorns and mocks them, heirs and survivors of a past filled with rejection and exile, where even the triumphs were mixed with bitter defeats, and now close to seeing their promised home after years of disappointment, the San Jose Earthquakes are the MLS version of the State of Israel.  Except their scouting sucks.

I had such high hopes for that metaphor, and it turned out unforgivably abysmal.  I may end up trading it for a thousand Chivas USA metaphors.  This disappointment is much like the Earthquakes 2011 season.  How long is Yallop going to live off 2001 and 2003, anyway?  If Steve Nicol has gone stale in New England, Yallop has gone moldy.  At least they have a new stadium to look forward to.

If, on the other hand, CHIVAS USA is the State of Israel, then I'm the Arab world, because I don't recognize their right to exist.  The Guadalajaran entity has received some good press this year, mainly because Robin Fraser is the most competent coach they've had since Bob Bradley became Sunil Gulati's permanent interim manager.  That doesn't change the very low ceiling this team has - the parent club's scouting network outside Mexico is, almost by definition, nonexistent, the parent club won't spend any money on players, and their marketing is, again almost by definition, laughable. 

Oh, but sure Cue and Vergara will build them a stadium.  Keep clapping, I think I saw Tinkerbell twitch.

Why Cheapass USA sticks around like a bad smell while DC UNITED is on the endangered species list, is a continuing and baffling injustice.  If San Jose, Kansas City, Colorado and Dallas - all former MLS waifs - can get stadiums built, then there's still hope for the most dignified pro sports franchise in town.  But hope does not spring eternal. 

Assuming the team doesn't hike for Baltimore or Sioux City or wherever, it's going to be interesting to see how United recovers from the disappointment of missing the playoffs.  They SHOULD be fine - assuming Andy Najar comes off the milk carton, Pontius, Boskovic and Jakovic heal, and the brain trust does something about the hideous lack of depth.  A couple of defenders couldn't hurt.  They probably won't improve another 17 points next season, but man, what if they do?

CHICAGO should be better next year, mainly because they should have been better this year.  The big question mark is who will coach.  Whoever it will be, he (or she) will inherit a roster that has for several seasons been less than the sum of its parts. 

So, all that's needed is a coach that can get Pappa to perform consistently, one that can keep Oduro scoring, one that can keep Pardo from aging, one that doesn't screw up Sean Johnson, one that can keep Grazzini happy, and MLS Cup is in the offing. 

Of course, considering Chicago's recent coaching hire history, I wouldn't make plans for November soccer in Illinois QUITE yet.  You'd think the Fire couldn't do worse, but with the Fire, nothing is impossible.

There are too many damn teams these days.  Who's left?  I'm already tragically late with this thing.  Probably no one important. 

Oh, PORTLAND.  Um...well, apart from having every opportunity to take that playoff spot from New York, and failing, aren't things fine?  At least the Screaming Trees were in the playoff hunt, unlike their British Columbia pals.  John Spencer showed why teams kept pestering him to coach (including, significantly, Chicago, who, equally significantly, didn't offer him enough), and it's really difficult for me to see how this team doesn't continue to solidify.  Nine wins at home is very, very impressive for an expansion side.  By 2013 at the latest, people will stop saying "for an expansion side" when talking about them.

If it sounds like I'm unreasonably optimistic about some of these teams, you might have a point.  After all, they didn't make the playoffs, did they?  There must be something wrong.  I mean, you might as well say there are playoff teams with big problems.

Oh, hi, DALLAS, nice of you to join us.  I didn't even think to send you guys an invitation until about a week ago.  How you feel about Toronto's chances next year, and how you feel about New York's odds against the Galaxy, probably inform how you feel about the Burninators right now.  Me?  I think the Toronto loss in the CONCACAF Some Champions League was just about the most inexcusable loss I've seen since Joe Public took down the Revolution. 

Informed sources and optimists blame Dallas evaporatory end to the season on the absence of David Ferreira, which is understandable, and fixture congestion, which isn't.  To pick an example entirely at random, a couple of teams that played a similar number of games were Seattle and Los Angeles.  To pick an example less at random, another team burdened and yoked to the toil of continental play was Toronto FC.

My gut reaction is that we've seen the last of Dallas for a while.  George John turned worthless just about the time his move to the Premiership fell through, as tends to happen when riches and fame are dangled in front of promising young MLS players only to be snatched away (see Kljestan, S., failed transfer to Celtic).  By this logic, not only is John going to be awful if he stays, so will Brek Shea, current "beneficiary" of the European rumor mill. 

Well, better never than late.  Now, to just click on FSC and enjoy Colorado beating Columbus.  (Well, if by "beating" you mean "winning on penalty kicks, just like last year.")

Really?  FSC is missing a chance to show such a guaranteed classic?  Well, I'm sure glad I won't have to deal with Fox broadcasting important soccer games anytime in the near future.