We had a few players recognized for their performance during the MLS Season. Tyler Deric was named the Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year and I was given the MLS Coach of the Year Award. We also had four players named to the MLS Best XI squad:
Erick Torres was chosen as the fans player of the year and the young player of the season. Lukman Haruna’s goal against Philadelphia was named the team’s goal of the year:
Haruna’s acquisition was the named the club’s best signing, although really it was our ONLY signing. Haruna was a very important player for us and was definitely worth the salary we paid him.
I have three affiliates that function essentially like Reserve and Youth teams. Here is how their 2016 season went.
Rio Grande Valley FC Toros
RGVFC Finished 3rd in the USL Western Conference with a 16-7-7 record. They were actually second in goals scored. Their performance was good enough for the USL Playoffs, but they were eliminated in the Conference Quarterfinals by Tulsa Roughnecks.
Brazos Valley Cavalry
The Cavalry are a U23 team that competes in the Premier Development League Mid South Division. The club plays a 14-match schedule in the summer, but they did not have the kind of season they would like. They finished 3-3-8, 5th place in a division of 6 teams.
This is our youth affiliate. They had a really good season in 2016, winning the USSDA Frontier Division with a 17-6-7 record. Their 65 goals scored was the second highest in all the USSDA. They were eliminated in the group stage of the USSDA Championship, finishing 2nd to the team that would go on to win the competition.
Looking at my squad, there are a few areas where changes need to be made. I make some mental notes as I head into the offseason.
Strengths: Striker, Central Midfield. I’ll begin by understanding where I don’t have needs. At Striker, I have Erick Torres who scored 26 goals in all competitions last season. Mauro Manotas, while not productive in his limited appearances last year, has a lot of potential. My scouts are also high on Adonijah Reid that we picked up off waivers last year. There is absolutely no need to bring anyone in at striker.
We have a plethora of central midfielders. Tomas Martinez, Lukman Haruna, and Juan David Cabezas make up one of the best triumvirates in the league. Memo Rodriguez can occupy one of the positions behind the forwards, and at 20 years old he can only get better. Alex and Eric Alexander provide more depth, although they aren’t long term options there. I would prefer to go younger with the backups but there are other priorities.
Weaknesses: The back line. Pretty much every position. Last year I played Boniek Garcia as the first choice right back, but he’s more of a midfielder. Behind him it was kind of a patchwork situation. I played A.J. DeLaGarza, Adolpho Machado, and Jalil Anibaba there. At left back, DaMarcus Beasley is 34 years old. He isn’t going to be a high level player for very much longer. Behind him is Dylan Remick, who never was starting-MLS quality. Center Back is another position where I played a bunch of different guys. Ricardo Clark played at center back for most of the year, but he can slot into the midfield if needed. Leonardo was a first choice DC, but I would prefer someone with stronger ball skills. The same is true of Agus. DeLaGarza and Machado fit that description, but lacked in important defensive technical or physical attributes. I have a couple of young center backs that I hope I can develop into the type of player that I want, but they’re not ready to start yet.
I’m actually solid at Winger, but I’d like to strengthen depth. Hondurans Alberth Elis (20), Jose Escalante (21), and Romell Quioto (25) are young and dynamic. Andrew Wenger can play on either wing and makes for a strong backup. Vincente Sanchez is 37 years old.
My goalkeepers aren’t terrible, but I would also like to improve there as well. Deric won the goalkeeper of the year but it had more to do with our limiting opponents’ chances with our possession style of play. Joe Willis is not a significant drop off from Deric, but neither have the potential to improve very much. I do have a goalkeeper that my scouts are high upon so I will consider signing him, but he is due one more year of development at that level.
Atlanta United approached me for Boniek Garcia. Obviously Boniek is a valuable player, but he is aging and they put a first round draft pick on the table. It was hard for me to imagine getting better compensation so I accepted. Atlanta had the 4th pick in the draft, so it will probably mean I’ll get a very good player.
Next came the Expansion Draft. This is where the four expansion teams get to choose players that the existing MLS clubs choose not to protect. The clubs are required to protect 11 players, which must include their homegrown players and any players they have brought in loan. I chose to protect Erick Torres, Mauro Manotas, Tomas Martinez, Ricardo Clark, DaMarcus Beasley, Lukman Haruna, Romell Quioto, Juan David Cabezas (loan), Alberth Elis (loan), Jose Escalante (loan), and Memo Rodriguez (Homegrown). With the first pick, Atlanta United chose A.J. DeLaGarza who I was not too disappointed to let go of. Fortunately, by rule I can only lose one player in the Expansion Draft.
D.C. United came in offering their first round SuperDraft pick (22nd overall) for Ricardo Clark. They also wanted the rights to Luis Garrido, some General Allocation Money, and one of our international slots for one year. I don’t like letting go of my international slots for any amount of time, so I renegotiated by adding more General Allocation Money. They accepted this offer and while losing Clark hurts from a veteran leadership perspective, I know have four picks in the first round of the SuperDraft (4th, 7th, 22nd, 24th). This will be consistent with my transfer philosophy as the players I will be receiving should all be in their early 20’s.
I shipped 31-year old Adolpho Machado off to Montreal for… nothing. I also wanted to move Agus so I offered to him no Non-MLS clubs. The only club to come back with an offer was Troyes, offering $240K. I accepted without negotiation. It was below his value of $1.2M but he’s 31 and noone was going to offer me that. Leonardo is a player that I want to move because he doesn’t fit the style of play and now he’s coming asking for a bigger contract, but losing DeLaGarza, Clark, Machado, and now Agus has left me thin at center back. I might still try and move him after the SuperDraft and after I try and strengthen the position through Discovery signings but right now I need to keep him just in case I can’t improve my DC situation.
My scouts brought me a couple of good acquisitions. First of all, young left back Olexandr Osman from Dynamo Kyiv:
To fill the need for an attacking right back I signed Brazilian Para from Flamengo on a Designated Player contract:
Para will also be able to play left back should the need arise. I also brought in young American Kyle Duncan on loan:
The supporters were not happy with this loan, and to be fair his skills are not first team-quality yet. However, I see him mainly as a second teamer at right back and occasionally at DM with high potential. I do have an option to purchase for $500K so we’ll see how that goes.
To help fill the need at Center Back, I loaned in this Italian player from Roma:
He will walk into the starting XI and only get better. His passing isn’t where I’d like it to be, but we’re going to hit that hard and hope he improves.
The SuperDraft and Generation Adidas Players Announced
So about a week before the season turnover date (Dec 26), you will get news items informing you that the players have been selected for the MLS SuperDraft and the Generation Adidas players are announced. The SuperDraft players are obviously the pool of players that you will choose from when it rolls around in January. The Generation Adidas players, as mentioned in my guide, are a group of 12 players in the Draft pool who have been given special contracts that will not count against your Salary Cap until they graduate from the GA program (3 years-ish).
You will be given the option to scout all of the Generation Adidas players, however the only players from the SuperDraft pool that you can scout are the ones that your Assistant Manager recommends scouting, which is not many. Usually it’s only around 10 (out of 150), some of which will be Generation Adidas players that you will already be scouting anyway. I sort of have a way around this. First I go to the MLS Draft Combine Competition, and scout the competition. Then, just to be thorough, I go to each team at the combine, select each player, and then right click and choose get scout report:
This method gets me scouting reports on 64 of the 150 players at the SuperDraft.
The club announced a profit of $10.25M for 2016. This probably pales in comparison to some of the profits for the big Euro leagues, but for MLS that’s a pretty big number. Turning profits will help to secure the improvements I intend to make at the club.
Speaking of facility improvements, the board approached me about possibly increasing the budget for Physios, or investing the money somewhere else. I suggested improving the training facilities as I see that as our greatest immediate need. They obliged and we are now in preparation to make those improvements.
The club also acquired a new 4-year, $800K sponsorship deal which is obviously good for $200K a year. Not a monster number, but every bit helps.
Obviously there will be 4 new clubs entering the league next season, Atlanta United, Inter Miami, Los Angeles FC, and Minnesota United. The league has also increased the salary cap to $3.84M p/a, so that will help. Our club was also given $800K worth of Targeted Allocation Money, which we can use to convert a Designated Player to a Senior Player, allowing us to sign more than the maximum 3 Designated Players.
I always like going on tour to start my preseason. This year I’m off to Brazil. In these first four matches I like to play my first 11 for one half, then the second 11 one half. I rotate which 11 starts the match. When I get back from the tour, I have some matches against cupcakes setup where I force the players to play the whole 90, rotating between first and second squads. I also like holding a little cup with the smaller local clubs as a final prep for our preseason exhibition competition, which this year is the Desert Diamond Cup. And I always end the preseason against my U23 and my Reserve affiliates.
Next I’ll do a post on the SuperDraft, and how I go about maximizing my team using it.