Sorry for the late post. As is so often the case on Mondays, I’m being harried around the building, and just when I think I’ve found a place where the madding crowd will leave me alone, I discover that I once again have unwanted company. So here I am, the post it late, sunshine is probably nearly on fire by now, and all I have to console me is that it’s very unlikely that I am within range of any of the ordinance that he is likely to have on hand.
I read with a certain sorrow the news blurb informing me (and the rest of the world) that Frank Songo’o had ensconced himself in Dynamo Houston’s training camp. Although it pains me to say it, I think that this is a fabulous move for Mr. Songo’o. Although his return for us was kind of limited, I am of the opinion that that particular statistical reading was (for the most part) the result of exogenous factors rather than of any lack of quality on the part of the player himself. Houston was about ten points off the pace in the Eastern Conference last year, which was good enough for a mid-table finish. That still puts them miles above us in terms of the quality of their play. If I had to make a prediction, I would expect that Songo’o would thrive in a place with a more passing oriented offense. Of course, that is the sort of arrangement that seems to be coming into existence here. But then there’s the matter of salaries and allocation money and all of that. Maybe we can somehow produce a silk purse out of all of this, but at this point it’s looking very much like it’s a sow’s ear and likely to stay that way.
In other news, the kerfuffle over the copyrighting of the Cascadia Cup rumbles on, although with rather less passionate intensity than it looked to be doing as of a couple of days ago. Apparently the folks on the Cascadia Cup Council have had a conference call with the League which was conducted in a polite and measured manner, if reports are to be believed. That’s probably for the best. Ramping up the rhetoric does no one any good. I’m reminded here of an old adage that one here’s in academic. Academic conflicts are so intense, so the saying goes, because the stakes are so low. There is an element of this in the dispute over the Cascadia Cup. Perhaps more important (although from my perspective it is related) is the fact that this league has not yet so firmly established itself in the sporting consciousness of North America that it could allow an internecine pissing match to bloom. It is important that the League maintain good relations with the fans. They (we) are where the dough comes from, and we could just as easily be using that money to watch other sports, or to increase our collections Magic: The Gathering Cards, or what have you. At the same time, it’s really not in the interest of even the most diehard fans to antagonize the League needlessly. The League can do a lot of things to make the fan experience better. One could argue that it is in their interest to do so, since (once again) the fans are where the money comes from. It is one of the less fortunate aspects of the common behavior of institutions that they are prone to overlook such considerations. Keeping things copacetic with the League improves the chances that, in future cases, they will act with at least a modicum of concern for us. This is a sad position, but it is where the fans of the vast majority of professional leagues in the world find themselves and we shouldn’t shy away from the facts.
Back to matters on the field of play. There is an article on the MLS website in which Diego Valeri talks about the ease with which he is slotting into the style of play that Porter is demanding of the side. The key word here is: possession. But there is possession and then there is possession. There was a period last season when we were doing a lot better in terms of holding on to the ball, but this was merely an extension of the tendency to knock it around the back and play negatively that was part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Possession isn’t really that great when you’re constantly passing to a guy behind you. It’s better than given the ball up but it doesn’t do much to relieve the pressure in defense, and that was really the root of the problem for us. What we need is possession in attacking areas. Of that we had precious little last season and it showed in the paucity of offensive chances that we created. Valeri can add a lot to this process. He’s a disciplined player who is comfortable on the ball and likes to go forward. Porter had the following take on him:
He’s a guy who you won’t see his complete quality until you throw him in a match, and yet you see some nice little touches…Today, even just in the pattern play, you can see the composure, the final passes, the finishes, even the movement, the timing, those little things you can’t teach. He’s going to bring a different sophistication to this group.
The signing of Valeri is the kind of thing that inspires confidence. There was precious little of that last season, when it seemed like one bad decision followed another. While the addition of Valeri and Johnson has created a bit of a logjam in central midfield, it does also mean that people are going to have to play for their spots. Too often last season it seems like the bar in terms of acceptable play in a particular position was too low. Having someone breathing down your neck can have positive aspects, especially due to its tendency to concentrate one’s focus for fear of getting the hook.
Ok, it all kicks off tomorrow with our first preseason match in Tucson. Hoefully I can find some sort of video feed, since I am absolutely desperate so see the lads in action again, as are you I’m sure.