I, too, believe the best players in soccer history never won a World Cup

Posted on January 14, 2012 4:12 pm

I’d say Houston stuck Montreal with a $400,000 white elephant.  Except elephants are supposed to have good memories:

“I decided that I want to retire on my own terms,” Ching said at a press conference on Friday. “I don’t want to be dictated into retirement and, honestly, I feel like I have another year of good soccer left in me.”

….

Compounding Ching’s transition is the specter of a potential trade back to Houston that seems to stay in the eye of the national media. But while the discussions play out, the 33-year-old forward is resigned to putting those rumors out of his mind to help facilitate his move.

“I see it as a cat and mouse game that I’m caught in the middle of,” Ching said. “I’m disappointed with how things went down and I’m disappointed where I’m sitting today, but I’ve come to accept it and at this point I’m focused on going to Montreal and playing for my teammates and fans up there, especially the ones who’ve reached out and are excited for me to come up there.”

I assume Brian Ching will track down the fool who decided to make this fight public in the first place.  But it won’t be that easy – I had read that person vowed to take a job in the Houston front office, but for some reason he’s not listed here yet.

Speaking of changing the subject.  I hate to start a blogger fight with Martin, especially because there are over a hundred comments on his post and you don’t REALLY need my input.  So I’ll try and keep it short, and not get sidetracked into a rant about how Bill Simmons’ basketball book was worthless garbage.

It’s difficult enough to compare players who are contemporaries, but play in different leagues.  Hell, it’s difficult enough to compare the same players in different competitions.  Quick quiz – is Diego Forlan worthless, or incredible?  You’ll get different responses from English and Spanish league fans.

So you want to compare players from different eras.  Fine.  We’ve only got a couple of options.

One: send players back in time machines (or forward, I guess), as finished products.  This is basically the T-1000 hunting John Connor option, and yeah.  Guys bigger, taller, and faster are going to woot and pwn and God knows what else.  And if you went back to Renaissance Italy, you could invent the steam engine, and now who’s the genius, Leonardo?

The other scenario is where the same guy is born in a different decade, or a different country, but is still the same person.  What happens then is that environment takes over, and guys who were stars in one era would be stars in any era.

I think that’s a little closer to accurate, for a number of reasons.  Take a couple of milestones from the 1950′s, the four minute mile and the ascension of Everest.  People obsessed with those accomplishments.  Edmund Hillary and Roger Bannister were two of the ten most famous people in the world.  Now?  I had to Google to make sure Roger Bannister wasn’t guy who shot down the Red Baron.

Either (a) human evolution has sped up thanks to atomic radiation that thousands of people today were born better than literally everyone before 1954, or (b) training and technology has something to do with it.  We have the exact same argument here – and we see that even with objective milestones, once the barrier is broken duplicating the feat becomes easier, sometimes even commonplace.  In other words – no, you can’t objectively measure across eras.  You compare how they did against their peers.

It just makes more sense to me to assume the average player in one era would be an average player in another.  There are plenty of variables, and we can argue about those.  In American soccer, for example, the game spent the occasional half-century in semi-pro status at best.

So yeah, for the same reason we have track stars that make Roger Bannister look like Regular Gonzalez, I guess we have soccer players that could go back in time and make River Plate’s Maquina or 1960 Real Madrid or whoever look like slow, pitiful, wannabes.  I also guess that if Billy Gonsalves or Bert Patenaude or Walter Bahr were coming up now, able to train and play full time instead of having to have a freaking day job, they would have been even more dominant today than they were in their own eras.

So maybe Messi has time to be counted among the all-time greats.  Cristiano Ronaldo, though, wouldn’t make an all-time Madrid team.  There were giants in those days.

That’s not what I came here to post.  For those of you who have just joined us, I have this schtick were, because I have absolutely no idea about any of the players picked in the Superdraft, I go back five years and see how it turned out.  Because nothing will ever make me care about college soccer.  If my kids get scholarships, I’ll read about them on the relevant BigSoccer threads.

But, after ten years, it has become a schtick.  And historically, the correlation between good draft and good team has been pretty close to random.  MLS seems to have recognized that this year, knocking the length of the draft to two rounds.  In total players picked, that compares reasonably with a four round draft with ten or twelve teams.  Realistically, though, two players can only affect a team so much.  Let alone two players who weren’t able to go straight to Europe.  And it’s been rare when two players picked in a year ended up contributing for a team – having that be the whole draft class?  Five years from now, I’ll be handing out A’s to teams who picked a backup midfielder that made the roster.

Shame, really, because for once we have a team that you could say made a serious difference in the quality of their drafts.  The Galaxy, who everyone agrees is the best team in American history – can you imagine what they’d do to Fall River if they had met?  It would have been premeditated murder – built themselves up through the draft.

And stealing Landon Donovan from the Earthquakes.  And getting one acceptable year from Beckham, and turning Juan Pablo Angel into Robbie Keane.

But the 2007 draft – that was a Super hot cup of nothing.  Maybe not as bad as 1999, but the long-term effects of this draft were almost entirely negative.

TORONTOMaurice Edu, Andrew Boyens, Richard Asante, Jeffrey Gonsalves.  Kinda tailed off there pretty severely, but getting a great player at the overall number one spot is an A+.  Since we’re grading on an MLS Superdraft curve.  As we will see, this probably was the best draft of the year.  Years of playoff success would not follow.

CHICAGOBakary Soumare, Jerson Monteiro, Nate Norman, Mike Banner, Simon Omekanda.  Since we’re grading on an MLS Superdraft curve, this is an A.  Should have been better, but Soumare and Denis Hamlett soon put a stop to that – and with it, the Chicago Fire as a meaningful factor in the East.  I liked Mike Banner a lot more than everyone else seemed to, and I have high hopes to his full return after his Achilles injury.  He’s still with the same team that drafted him, isn’t he?  That’s another MLS Superdraft milestone, sadly.  A

KANSAS CITYMichael Harrington, Edson Elcock, Kurt Morsink.  Harrington lost his starting spot to Seth Sinovic last year.  Sinovic is now an Impact, so we’ll see whether Harrington is extremely prematurely washed up.  Morsink has at least one fan in Curt Onalfo.  A, with a plus if Harrington starts 29 games again.  [EDIT - no, per comments below, apparently Harrington has to win his starting spot first after all.  Research is such WORK.]

REAL SALT LAKEChris Seitz, Steven Curfman.  Seitz has been a career backup, but to some pretty damn good keepers.  Still, not the draft of a team that would make it to MLS Cup anytime soon, right?  B-

NEW ENGLAND: Wells Thompson, Amaechi Igwe, Ryan Solle, Bryan Byrne, Adam Cristman.  Like everything else about New England, this seemed better back when they won the East every year.  Both Thompson and Cristman would eventually get their MLS Cup rings.  And I still think Cristman was railroaded back in November.  B+


This may be the least flattering picture of anyone ever – congrats, Wells

COLORADO: Nico Colacula, Greg Dalby, Omar Cummings, Nick LaBrocca, Justin Hughes.  Only Cummings would still be around for their championship year.  And I keep waiting for Cummings to turn into an All-Star – maybe I should get over that.  I still want to give this draft an A, though.  Best Rapids draft ever, that’s for sure.

CHIVAS USA: John Cunliffe, Cameron Dunn.  For a long time, I assumed “Chivas USA draft pick” meant a quality player.  I’m over that now.  By the way, the other thing CUSA did in this draft was trade a pick, plus a Designated Player slot, for Amado Guevara.  Preki worked in MLS for years after this.  F–

FC DALLAS: Anthony Wallace, Fuad Ibrahim, Andrew Daniels, Ryan Guy, Scott Jones, Tommy Kirzanovic.  Not really Dallas’ fault that they thought Ibrahim would be better.  Wallace turned out to be a good enough player, although he’s another guy who ended up winning his ring with someone else.  C+

DC UNITEDBryan Arguez, Brad North, Jay Needham, Ricky Schramm, Luis Robles.  Hard to say that Arguez’ career is over, but he’s due for some success.  Robles is in the national team pool.  Needham shunned DC United for Puerto Rico, because DC United didn’t feel he commanded the kind of salary he was asking for – and that caused a ten days’ panic on BigSoccer on whether MLS was losing its best players to the USL.  The D stands for comedy.

HOUSTON: John Michael Hayden, Corey Ashe, Mike Sambursky, Eric Ebert.  If Ashe had risen to the occasion in November, this would have been an easy A.  I have absolutely no memory of the others, though.  B+, anyway, seeing as how they still love him down in Houston, and I guess this draft didn’t hurt the Dynamo when it mattered that year.

COLUMBUS: Brad Evans, Aaron Chandler, Ben Hunter.    Well…the coach did make Evans in to a serious contributor for his current team…wow, tough one to grade from a Crew point of view. C, I guess.  I suppose I’m factoring in “maybe Evans shouldn’t have been exposed after the 2008 season,” which isn’t the point of the exercise.

LOS ANGELES: Robbie Findley, Josh Tudela, Ty Harden, Tally Hall, Bobby Burling.  Hall went to Denmark before joining the Dynamo a couple of years later, Harden quit MLS altogether before joining Toronto, Burling played for Chivas USA and San Jose, Findley you all know about.  Actual contribution to the Galaxy, though, spells out D.  The day before this draft, however, the Galaxy signed a certain midfielder from Leytonstone, so it’s possible the brain trust wasn’t necessarily focused on Indianapolis.

NEW YORK: Dane Richards, Sinisa Ubiparipovic.  I don’t care much for Richards, but Red Bulls fans do, and I suppose it’s their opinion that matters.  Ubiparipovic was a useful player opponents came to hate, although he will be irritating for the Impact from now on.  That’s an A.  I wonder whatever happened to the Red Bulls’ coach from this season, he seemed to know what he was doing.

Don’t forget, by the way, the Jay DeMerit contest is still going on.  Post here, on the other thread, or on Twitter, or basically find some way to get your entry to my attention.  Win a DVD, or an awesome autographed poster.  You have until Tuesday, get to work already.

 

 

 

 

 

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