Monday Myriad: April 29


MLS draftee watch: A few games in

Honestly, I’m just doing this so I can have links to all the MLS draftees in one place. But I figured I’d share. I haven’t looked up every loan deal or injury or reserve game – feel free to add info in the comments.


1. New England: Andrew Farrell (D, Louisville) – Starter

2. Chivas USA: Carlos Alvarez (M, Connecticut) – Starter; one goal through six games

3. Toronto: Kyle Bekker (M, Boston College) – One start, a few sub appearances

4. Vancouver: Kekuta Manneh (F, Gambia) – Nice goal over the weekend

5. Vancouver: Erik Hurtado (F, Santa Clara) – Six games, three starts

6. Colorado: Deshorn Brown (F, Central Florida/Jamaica) – Starter and scorer

7. Dallas: Walker Zimmerman (D, Furman) – Yet to play

8. Montreal: Blake Smith (M, New Mexico) – One cameo

9. Columbus: Ryan Finley (F, Notre Dame) – 15 minutes so far

10. Seattle: Eriq Zavaleta (F, Indiana) – One cameo

11. Colorado: Dillon Powers (M, Notre Dame) – Starter

12. Salt Lake: John Stertzer (M, Maryland) – Two appearances

13. Houston: Jason Johnson (F, VCU/Jamaica) – Yet to play

14. Kansas City: Mikey Lopez (M, North Carolina) – Yet to play

15. San Jose: Tommy Muller (D, Georgetown) – Yet to play

16. Toronto: Emery Welshman (F, Oregon State) – One cameo

17. D.C. United: Taylor Kemp (D, Maryland) – Yet to play

18. Montreal: Fernando Monge (M, UCLA) – Didn’t make team; turned up as guest player with New England

19. Los Angeles: Charlie Rugg (F, Boston College) – He starts, he scores!


20. Dallas: Ryan Hollingshead (M, UCLA) – A little busy right now

21. New England: Donnie Smith (F, Charlotte) – One start

22. New York: Ian Christianson (M, Georgetown) – Yet to play

23. New England: Luke Spencer (F, Xavier) – Didn’t make team

24. Los Angeles: Kofi Opare (D, Michigan) – Yet to play

25. Colorado: Kory Kindle (D, CSU Bakersfield) – Yet to play

26. Philadelphia: Don Anding (F, Northeastern) – Yet to play

27. Montreal: Paolo DelPiccolo (M, Louisville) – Went to Eintracht Frankfurt instead

28. Columbus: Drew Beckie (D, Denver) – Yet to play

29. Salt Lake: Devon Sandoval (F, New Mexico) – Six games, two starts

30. Chicago: Yazid Atouba (M, Cameroon) – 55 minutes so far

31. Philadelphia: Stephen Okai (M, Mobile) – Now with Charlotte Eagles

32. Montreal: Brad Stuver (GK, Cleveland State) – Signed but not on roster; loan?

33. San Jose: Dan Delgado (M, San Diego) – Not yet signed

34. Portland: Dylan Tucker-Gangnes (D, Washington) – Yet to play

35. Seattle: Dylan Remick (D, Brown) – Yet to play

36. New England: Luis Soffner (GK, Indiana) – Yet to play

37. Houston: Jimmy Nealis (D, Georgetown) – Waived

38. Los Angeles: Greg Cochrane (D, Louisville) – Two starts

Washington Spirit vs. Sky Blue: Welcome back, Gabarra

Lori Lindsey's long-range shots are getting closer and closer. Photo: Quinn
Lori Lindsey’s long-range shots are getting closer and closer. Photo: Quinn

“I was here really early so I didn’t go in the wrong locker room,” said Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra, the only head coach in the 10-year history of the Washington Freedom.

He chatted with Washington Spirit assistant Kris Ward, who coached in the Freedom’s once-sprawling club structure, as he strolled to the bench. He raved about the Maryland SoccerPlex facility that hosted the Freedom from 2004 onward and still bore a couple of its logos until a few weeks ago.

And he watched his Sky Blue team beat the Spirit 2-1, remaining unbeaten on the season.

Gabarra’s team had a good sense of where to attack the Spirit. They earned an early corner kick, conceded a bit too easily, and sent towering defender CoCo Goodson into the box to head it past Ashlyn Harris. Their speedy forwards harassed midfielder-turned-center back Tori Huster.

But the Spirit contained Kelley O’Hara, who started at forward rather than the backline and spent a lot of the game running at Kika Toulouse, not Ali Krieger. O’Hara managed to cut back and shoot a few times, but they were harmless shots that didn’t trouble Harris. And O’Hara’s frustration boiled over a couple of times — she earned yellow for a rash challenge that left Toulouse sprawled on the grass. The speedy Lisa DeVanna, a former Freedom forward, and the formidable Danesha Adams were a handful.

The shot count, particularly in the first half, was lopsided in Sky Blue’s favor. But Harris didn’t have to pull off anything as spectacular as the big stop on Abby Wambach’s header last week. Sky Blue was willing to shoot from anywhere, but aside from the two goals on which she had no chance, Harris easily had the angles covered.

The Spirit found forward Tiffany McCarty a few times, once on a beautiful bending ball from Stephanie Ochs that would’ve put McCarty one-on-one with goalkeeper Brittany Cameron if not for a dubious offside call.

But McCarty was unusually tentative when sprung free by peripatetic Spirit attacker Diana Matheson or when handed the ball by a Sky Blue error. Some fans yelled for McCarty to be subbed out, though we don’t know how many of those fans are Virginia supporters who wanted to see Caroline Miller.

In any case, those fans got their wish in the 71st minute, and Miller provided instant offense off the bench. She turned Christie Rampone — yes, longtime U.S. captain Christie Rampone — in knots before forcing Cameron into her best save of the night.

Another subplot of the night: The Canadians, who set the stage for the midfield rivalry on Twitter:

Matheson and Sophie Schmidt battled in midfield a few times and scored two of the game’s three goals. Matheson, as she was in the first two Spirit games, was the team’s sparkplug all night. We the media (sadly not including a newspaper or TV representative) chatted with captain Lori Lindsey about the team’s formation — it’s either a 4-4-2 with McCarty and Matheson up front, a 4-2-3-1 with Lindsey and Julia Roberts holding behind Matheson and two wingers, or a 4-4-1 + Matheson covering the entire field.

Lindsey’s influence on the field is perking up. She’s helping the Spirit win more midfield battles, and she had some threatening long-range shots, as you’ll see in the highlights:

Things you might not have seen on the broadcast or the highlights:

– Toulouse left the game briefly after tangling with O’Hara, then removed roughly 800 feet of gauze from her leg. She’s still dealing with a preseason knock.

– The ref (correctly) stopped play when Krieger took a throw-in while a stray ball was on the field. The stray was removed, Krieger got another ball, and a ballgirl raced out to grab the ball Krieger had thrown to the other half of the field. Then the ballgirl tossed another ball to Brittany Cameron. Thankfully, Cameron saw the ball with her peripheral vision and booted it back, avoiding further delay.

– I have no idea what to make of this, though I’m guessing they loved it in the crowded beer garden:

Next up for the Spirit: Portland visits. They’ve sold 3,500 or so tickets. Get there early and get your barbecue and funnel cakes.

A few NWSL rules

The “peculiar case of Elizabeth Guess,” as All White Kit’s Chris Henderson so aptly put it, has raised a few questions about the new rules in this new league.

After asking around a bit, I can pass along the following:

– Injury replacements: One player on disabled list for at least 45 days? No replacement. Two players? League discretion. Third? Roster relief. But not necessarily salary cap relief.

Teams can do whatever they must (within salary cap) to dress out two goalkeepers for each game.

– Waivers: Teams have to submit a “waiver request” to release a player. Every day at 5 p.m. CT, the league will send a list of waived players to every team. Teams have 24 hours to make a claim, or else the players become free agents.

– Allocated Player trades: Must trade U.S. player for U.S. player, Canadian for Canadian, etc. “Future considerations” heading to Chicago in the Keelin Winters deal must be a pretty good player.

– Discovery Players: Allowed four through March 24. After March 24, teams can have a total of six.

– Call-up during national team absences: This one seems pretty well-known, but just to confirm — teams can call up amateur players to replace international players. They can’t be paid. (The rules don’t mention college eligibility, which is an NCAA issue rather than an NWSL issue.)

– Trade deadline and roster freeze: July 31, 5 p.m. ET

– One non-roster rule: The first tiebreaker is head-to-head. Second is goal difference, then goals scored.

Any questions?

How modern pentathlon stayed in the Olympics (attn wrestling)

In elementary school, I used to wander into the Coliseum at the University of Georgia to watch wrestling. When UGA cut the varsity wrestling program, I drafted a complaint letter and had my classmates sign it. That letter was reprinted in a local weekly. (In retrospect, that may have been my first published work.)

In 2008, I covered a little bit of wrestling and a little bit of modern pentathlon. In 2012, I watched a bit of wrestling and a bit of modern pentathlon online.

Guess which I enjoyed more? No, not the wrestling.

College wrestling, when I get a chance to watch it, isn’t bad. International wrestling is one of the most befuddling sports to watch in the Olympics, and I say that as someone who has watched a live trampoline competition.

Modern pentathlon, on the other hand, has modernized. The shooting and running phases have been combined to resemble biathlon, a popular winter sport in Europe. The athletes are shooting laser pistols. In London, they ran through a cross-country course in Greenwich Park. If you didn’t see it, it’s your loss.

How did modern pentathlon realize all of these changes would be a good idea? They communicated with the IOC. Maybe cynics would say it takes more than communication to get the wheels moving, but the fact is simple: Modern pentathlon responded to IOC concerns, and wrestling didn’t. That’s the lesson of a USA TODAY story by my former Olympic press center office-mate Bryce Miller, who is leading a comprehensive look at wrestling’s Olympic fight at The Des Moines Register.

If anything, wrestling got worse over the years. It was already a sport that turned on arcania, particularly the Greco-Roman competition. Remember the highlight of Rulon Gardner’s monumental upset over Russian giant Alexander Karelin? The final score of that contest: 1-0. Gardner was awarded his point when Karelin’s hands broke apart on a clinch. That’s it.

Now we have “ball draws” and foam blocks. Defense still rules.

In a conference call earlier this year, I asked whether wrestling might consider drastic changes such as replacing Greco-Roman with grappling. I didn’t hear much enthusiasm for that idea.

The lobbying effort that quickly sprang to life, with the USA taking the lead but forging solid relationships with Iran and other countries, has made vague references to tinkering with the rules:

The objectives of this committee include these key points: 1) simple for spectators; 2) increases action 3) rewards risk-taking; 4) allows no bias into officiating; 5) allows the best athlete to win; 6) is exciting for television viewing.

An Iran Times piece* put it this way:

(A)nother goal is to try to make officiating more “scientific” and less subjective.  There have been many complaints from both within and without wrestling that a move will get a wrestler points from one official and punishment from another.

The IOC’s voters might be seeing the backlash from the recommendation to drop wrestling. But they’re too proud to save face and change their minds. A few changes might be enough to let them claim that they’re keeping wrestling in the Games because wrestling met their demands. For better or for worse, that’s how the Games game is played.

* The original link is here, but I can’t get it to load.

Monday Myriad, April 22: Tri this


Washington Spirit vs. Western NY Flash: Dan Borislow was wrong

Those of you who recall WPS may remember that Dan Borislow was an immense supporter of U.S. national team players. Other players, not so much. The idea of fans cheering for anyone other than Abby Wambach almost struck him as repugnant.

I never asked Borislow how much WPS he watched before buying the team formerly known as the Washington Freedom. He would have seen ample evidence that fans can embrace players who aren’t the U.S. stars. Washington’s crowd favorites included those who had put down roots with the organization (Rebecca Moros) and those from overseas (Sonia Bompastor).

Tonight proved the point once again. The fans turned up and screamed for Abby. By the end, they were also screaming for the home team, which got a late penalty kick and another 1-1 draw.

Make no mistake — Abby Wambach gave a complete demonstration of why she’s a star, and I don’t just mean the time she intimidated the experienced international referee Kari Seitz into blowing a whistle on a questionable call. (No such luck when she sprinted 80 yards, the fastest Wambach sprint I’ve ever seen, to complain about the PK call in the Spirit’s favor. Strange thing to do when you’re not even the captain.)

Wambach won balls in the air, as you’d expect. Someone a couple of seats away from me marveled at her accuracy and precision. Put the ball near her head, and she’ll flick it to a teammate in a good spot. I’m not sure TV does any justice to this remarkable skill.

She had her chances, too. One clanged off the crossbar. Another produced a jaw-dropping save from national teammate Ashlyn Harris. (Note to self: We forgot to ask Harris about that play in postgame, so remember to ask her some other time how the hell she managed to keep that ball out.)

So let’s spare a thought for Washington’s Tori Huster, who has drawn the most difficult and thankless job in women’s soccer aside from explaining it to Sepp Blatter. The midfielder had never played center back before preseason. Tonight, she spent 90 minutes going up against Abby Wambach. And she deflected praise for keeping Wambach scoreless on the season: “I know that I have the girls around me that will cover me.”

Wambach did get an assist, as Ashlyn Harris confirmed. A long Flash free kick floated into the box, and Wambach ever so slightly nudged it with her head. Sam Kerr was equal parts lucky and good, knocking it in as Harris scrambled to cover the post.

That was in the 85th minute. Shortly thereafter, the Spirit got a call in their favor, as Jasmyne Spencer fell in the box. Some Twitsters say dive. The Flash folks in the postgame interview wondered if the ball was too far away from Spencer. Come on — she’s Jasmyne Spencer. If the ball’s on the playing surface, she can get to it.

Adrianna Franch, the terrific young Flash goalkeeper, guessed correctly. But Diana Matheson placed it perfectly.

And the crowd went wild.

That’s a crowd of 4,569, packed into the Soccerplex stands and grass. The beer garden was full. The hill under the beer garden was full. And maybe a few fans showed up knowing no one but Abby Wambach, then learned to love some of the home team’s players.

Matheson continues to be one of the best players on the field, looking dangerous whenever she gets the ball. Ali Krieger gets forward to join the attack, then returns for timely defensive interventions. Lori Lindsey was an effective midfield general tonight.

Both teams will be better by summer. Good plays alternated with miscommunications. The young Spirit attack had an off night, though Stephanie Ochs had an entertaining battle all evening with right back/team president Alex Sahlen. Harris spoke frankly about her need to keep yelling to keep her young teammates dialed in. (If Harris switched to MMA and fought Ronda Rousey, I think Rousey would get her in an armbar, only to relinquish it in fear of Harris’s wrath.)

But this was a great night. The fans came out in strong numbers and got a dramatic, entertaining game.

Just one thing marred the evening. Around the 90th minute, a hard-struck ball nailed Wambach in the head. She slowly got up and kept playing hard all through stoppage time, but at the final whistle, she needed help. Diagnosing head injuries from afar is a stupid and pointless thing to do, but we can only hope she heals fully and quickly.

The Flash were the first team to play the Spirit in the Soccerplex, and they’ll be the first team to play here twice, returning in June. Maybe Wambach will get some time to spend with the fans then. And maybe the fans will know more of their Spirit team, which is proving to be more resilient and dangerous than the preseason prognosticators imagined.

Time for a women’s sports and fitness channel?

At espnW, former WNBA president Val Ackerman explores women’s sports on TV with consultant Neil Pilson, who mixes some blunt assessments of the broadcasting landscape with a couple of interesting ideas, such as this:

One possibility would be to have [the channel] show more than just women’s sports. See if you could link with women’s health. See if you could link to some form of children’s programming that would link daughters and mothers together.

So would a women’s sports and fitness channel make sense? Particularly if it’s part of a larger sports/entertainment company that offers cross-promotion? (In other words, the dedicated channel would show a lot of women’s sports, while the “main” channel would pick up big events and highlights.)

And if ESPN doesn’t do it, would Fox (now launching a full-fledged ESPN rival) or NBC (building on soccer and Olympic sports) consider it?

The semiannual restatement of facts on promotion/relegation

Amid other lunacy on Twitter today, someone alerted me that the man whose Twitter ID rhymes with “locker deform” brought me into a conversation about the topic that has consumed most of his 70,000-plus tweets: the prospect of promotion/relegation and “open systems” in U.S. soccer.

We don’t have good discussions about such things in this country for a couple of reasons:

1. Soccer fans who have been on the Internet since the mid-90s have been discussing it since the mid-90s.

2. “locker deform” and a handful of others have dominated the conversation for the past five years, doing so with a conspiratorial bent that would make Alex Jones say, “Whoa, wait a minute, let’s be reasonable here.” The cycle goes as follows: Someone attempts to have a rational conversation with him and point out the logistical and financial hurdles facing a pro/rel plan, and he labels that person as a lapdog (or perhaps surreptitiously paid agent) of a USSF/MLS plan to undermine what would otherwise be a thriving multi-division ladder in the United States. As another journalist once put it — if anyone took him seriously, we’d have to sue him.

That’s a pity, because I think we’re getting closer to the point at which we could actually discuss such things.

MLS now has 19 teams. Orlando has made substantial progress toward being the 20th, even as the league is focused on a 20th team in New York. In a country of this size, a 24-team league with two geographical divisions is reasonable — each team plays its division-mates twice (22 games) and plays each other team once (12, for a total of 34). But once you get beyond 24, it’s time to talk about the options.

And so for those who have not been kicking this topic around for nearly 20 years and 70,000 tweets, here’s a quick guide to the issues as described in past posts:

December 2011: For all the talk of MLS as a “closed system” that imposes “limits” on its teams, MLS owners have no shortage of ways they can invest money. They can invest in youth academies (and some are doing so with eight-figure outlays). They can use their Designated Player slots to sign three of the world’s best players. The salary cap has about as many loopholes as the NBA’s.

Also, as you’ll see in other posts, no one with money or the hopes of raising money has backed a promotion/relegation league in the USA.

May 2011: A commenter on this post reminds us of something: This is a huge country. Geographic divisions make more sense here than they do in England. (Yes, Russia is also huge and manages the Moscow-Vladivostock trip, but do we really want to start following Russia’s lead on anything?)

October 2011: Plenty of teams are moving up the pyramid without official promotion/relegation in place.

February 2012: Along those same lines, I think this is the most succinct way I’ve summed it up to date:

– You can move up the ladder in American soccer if you have the capital and facilities to do so.

– Most clubs choose not to do so.

And that’s the issue. From a practical (and legal), you are not going to see U.S. Soccer force the Carolina Railhawks to move up to MLS if they win the NASL title. Nor can it force the Columbus Crew into what certainly would be a death spiral with a relegation.

Pro/rel fanatics never admit this side of the equation. They think pro/rel and open markets are great because they’ll encourage owners to build superclubs. That’s plausible. They also see second-division teams enthused by the possibility of promotion, which is less plausible — at least at the moment, when teams can compete in the NASL or USL Pro without risking a ton of money.

They don’t address this part of an “open market”: What happens to the crowds in Columbus if everyone knows that the Crew, like Stoke or QPR, will be doing little more than battling to stave off relegation? Or if they’re Fulham, which might not be relegated but isn’t likely to snare the prizes at the top of the table?

You can’t see a crowd of 78,000 for a couple of touring European giants and say, “See? The USA has deep soccer support!” It’s one thing to travel one hour or five to catch a one-time glimpse of a European team. And I have no doubt that the Sounders and Galaxy could keep up or even improve upon the crowds they get today if they were able to field eight Robbie Keane-level players.

The question is whether fans will turn out to see a team that is fighting relegation this year and doesn’t have the market size/ownership to to compete for the league title.

So to those of you who want to see MLS move away from its “closed” system, all I can say is this: Be patient. And understanding. Since 1996, MLS has moved away from its gimmicky tiebreaker and substitution rules, brought in the Designated Player, and issued all sorts of exceptions for “home-grown” academy players. Who knows what will happen in the next 17 years?

But what do I know? I’m just too busy counting all the money I’ve received from my closed-system overlords.

Spring makeover on the site

I didn’t intend to spend so much time tweaking the site this week. Frankly, it’s all a rookie mistake, though I’m far too old to be a rookie. I updated my theme without backing up or making a child theme and all that.

So widgets that were once in their proper form were suddenly too wide or nonexistent. The fonts were all out of whack. I suddenly have a second menu bar that won’t go away.

I’ve more or less replaced all the widgets. I tweaked one font slightly. But I’ve given up replicating the old SportsMyriad look, at least for now.

But I figured I might as well make a few small changes while I was trying to restore some sort of order:

1. Most of the categories I use with some sort of regularity are in that second menu bar.

2. I also added a couple of tags in that second menu bar: NWSL and Single-Digit Soccer. Not coincidentally, these are my two book projects this year.

3. The UFC ladders project is on hold for now. No one’s reading it, and it’s a bear to update.

Feedback welcome.