Dynamo Cruise through the First Month of 2017 Season

18apr

We have really gotten off to a great start, much better than we could have expected. On my YouTube channel you see the win against Seattle. In the next match against Columbus we fell behind 0-1 at the half and then shredded the Crew for a 3-1 win. The match at Portland was a grind. We struggled for possession, and were actually out-possessed 48-52 but we created more shots. We controlled the game against the Red Bulls, having 69% possession and outshot them 11-4. They never even really made us sweat. Our ten points is only two off the pace set by Vancouver, who have been stingy in taking all the points from their first four matches. The great start is highlighted by our winning all of our home matches.

Jose Carranza

I mentioned in my video I believed I would be able to sign Jose Carranza, and I did:

José Carranza_ Overview Profile

Obviously he isn’t ready for first team play yet. I’ve made him available for Rio Grande Valley, but so far they haven’t given him any matches so I’ve made him available for loan. The offers I’ve gotten aren’t great because I’m pretty sure he’d buried on the depth chart so I’m going to sit on them.

Rio Grande Valley FC Toros

Speaking of my USL affiliate, they’ve gotten off to a surprising start as well:

rgv17-1

Their 16 points is only 2 off the pace in the USL Western Conference. Several of the guys I’ve loaned and/or made available to them are contributing. Andrew Wenger (AM R/L) has even played at DM. My DC prospect Jacques has even scored two goals (penalties). They’re giving important minutes to guys who I’m pretty high on, such as Jacques, Alejandro Fuenmayor, etc.

Looking Ahead

may17

We really need to take all the points from New England, Minnesota, and San Jose. My squad isn’t any better than those 3 clubs, but they are not the elite teams of MLS. Toronto FC has perhaps the best squad in the league, so that will be a tough road trip. Joe Willis will start between the sticks in all those matches, but hopefully Tomas Martinez will be back to continue his center-striker experiment against Minnesota United.

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Team 2017

Final Preseason Results

17preseason-results.PNGManaged to get through the preseason slate without a loss, but it is somewhat concerning that we drew with 2 of the 3 MLS clubs we faced. RSL scored the equalizer in the 85th minute, DC in the 75th. I’m not going to get too worried yet, but definitely it causes me to be a little worried going into the MLS season.

17houstoncup

The Houston Cup was just a silly little friendly cup that I arranged with some of the local clubs. Was actually easier than it looks.

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We added to our trophy case by winning the Desert Diamond Cup preseason tournament. Should have had maximum points but blew that game against RSL as I stated.

The Squad

So let’s look at the final 28-man squad. First of all, a couple of  big signings since the last post:

17debuchy3

17podolski

These two Designated Players are going to make us a formidable club this season. Obviously they would normally go against my transfer policy, but this is a big rebuilding season. I’ve brought in a lot of young players but they’re frankly not ready to carry the team yet. Guys like Para, Debuchy, and Podolski will keep me winning matches while we develop those youngsters. In 2018 I don’t plan on bringing in aging stars.

Here is the final 28:

17squad

Overall this is better, and deeper squad than 2016. Most of the second team players will also be guys who we believe are going to develop into stars rather than guys who are occupying seats on the bench.

Here is my First 11 squad (+subs)

17first11

And my second 11:

17second11

That first team is pretty sick. And I’d actually put my second team up against a lot of MLS teams. I feel good about my squad and what I’m really looking forward to is the knockout stage of the Champions League at the beginning of next season once all those early-twenties have had a year to develop.

MLS Preview

17odds

Somehow the media is predicting Beckham’s squad to win the league in their first season. I looked at their squad and I simply don’t see it. They’re in the Eastern Conference, which means I wouldn’t really have to worry about them until the MLS Cup anyway. According to the oddsmakers My biggest competition is going to come from the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders. After Seattle there’s a pretty big dropoff. I refuse to count out Sporting Kansas City, they pushed me to the final day last season for the Supporters Shield.

17dreameleven

 

 

 

 

 

We did place two on the Preseason Media Dream Eleven. Both are newcomers; Lucas Podolski and Para. On the key players list we also had Erick Torres.

 

 

 

Conclusion

So enough’s enough, it’s time for season two. I’m shooting for 75 points in MLS play this season. That would easily beat the record of 68, which I tied with last year. Obviously I want to win the Open Cup again, and I want to take maximum points from Champions League group stage play when that rolls around in the fall.

2017 Preseason

Tour of Brazil

The tour of Brazil went swimmingly. All wins, and we got a good look at our lineups for the 2017 season. We opened with a 2-0 win at Bragantino, and the a pair of 3-0 wins against Linhares and Botafogo (SP). In the final match at Olaria we faced our first bit of adversity when we gave up a penalty in the 7th minute. The lads fought back and we walked away with a 3-1 win and ended a perfect tour. Hopefully we increased our profile in Brazil and pick up a little marketing revenue in the process.

After getting of the plane from Brazil, I walked into the Chairman’s office and we discussed improving our youth situation. He agreed to increase the Junior Coaching Budget and the Youth Recruitment. So improvements to the club are continuing to be made.

Roster

After the draft I needed to sort out my roster, and whittle it down to the final 28. First I’ll go position by position.

At Goalkeeper, the stater will still be 2016 Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year Tyler Deric. Last year the backup was Joe Willis, but in 2017 it will be Hector Escobar. That means the #3 spot is between Calle Brown or Joe Willis. Willis is the odd man out because he is occupying a Senior Roster spot and is making $45K more per year than Brown. So I’m going to transfer list Willis, and if noone wants him by the time Registration comes around then he will be waived.

I have seven guys at DC. Jalil Anibaba, who was recently called up by Bruce Arena for the January USA National Team camp, and loanee Riccardo Marchizza were the planned first two starters, with Leonardo and 22-year old Danil Rajden slated to be the backups. However, the signing of Designated Player Mathiey Debuchy from Arsenal has changed that. I will now look to move Leonardo, as he has reached his maximum potential and I prefer a different type of player at his position. Radjen has good potential and needs to start working into the rotation. Behind them I have Robby Sagel and Taylor Hunter. I do want to have at least five, but Hunter is no-hoper while Sagel could at least develop into good-not-great player. So Hunter will be waived, not loaned.

At right back I just brought in DP Para, and his backup (for now) will be loanee Kyle Duncan. On the left I still have Beasley, although he has deteriorated quite a bit, with Olexander Osman (loanee from Dynamo Kiev) competing for that spot. Dylan Remick is also there, but he’s about maxed out on potential and he’s really not that good. What I’d like to do is trade or sell Beasley or Remick, but if that doesn’t work then Remick will likely be loaned out. Behind them I have two guys I just drafted in Alfonso Garcia who can play on either side or left back Joe Thorpe. They will probably both be loaned out. If I need one to stay for depth then it will be Garcia.

At defensive mid I have plenty of options, really. The plan as of now is to start Cabezas with Eric Alexander backing him up. Lukman Haruna can also play there, although he is the first choice MCR option at the moment. Kyle Duncan can also play DM in a pinch. The MCR starter will be Haruna, and at MCL (the more attacking role) will be Tomas Martinez. Memo Rodriguez and Cristian Lucatero will be the two guys I hope to be the primary backups to begin their development. I need them to be strong players by the time the Knockout Stages of the CONCACAF Champions League rolls around next January. For now, Alex will be considered the backup MCL although I’d like to move him. Tommy Thompson can also play in these positions if needed. I hope to be able to send SuperDraft pick Miguel Angel Robles on loan to RGVFC. Joe Holland is a no-hoper and will be waived if I can’t sell or trade him.

At winger, I plan on employing my Honduran connection: Alberth Elis on the right and Romell Quioto on the left. My original plan was for Andrew Wenger to be the main backup on the right and Jose Escalante on the left, with Wenger being able to play either side. However, with the guys I drafted I’m now going to look to move Wenger. He’s another guy who has mostly maxed out his potential and I believe that Erik Ramirez and Jeff Dyer can both be better. Vincente Sanchez has set a retirement date for the end of this season. He still has good skills but his physicals have deteriorated. He’s a sub now at best.

Striker is definitely a position of strength for us. We have Erick Torres coming back, who netted 26 goals across all competitions last year, including 20 in MLS play. Mauro Manotas is his backup and we have high hopes for him. We drafted Jeff Manning and we believe he is a future goal scorer in the league, and Adonijah Reid is a 17 year old Canadian that we picked up off waivers last season. We’d like to have 3 on the squad and Reid’s international status makes him the most likely to be loaned out, especially considering that he wouldn’t even be in the top 2. His contract also runs through 2019, so there isn’t necessarily any urgency to get him on the field.

After looking at the squad, I did find that I would have one too many International Players. It was a difficult decision, but the odd man out was Romell Quioto. He’s a good player, but he was not going to get much better and he played a position where I had plenty of comparable options. The best offer I found was for a second round pick from the New York Red Bulls (via the Philadelphia Union). NYRB was the only interested team and he will be less likely to hurt us in the Eastern Conference, so that’s where he went.

So the guys who will be waived if they aren’t sold: Joe Willis (GK), Taylor Hunter (DLC), and Joe Holland (DM, MC).

The players who I’d like to trade, but might loan out if I can’t are: Alex (MC/AML) and Andrew Wenger (AM RL).

And the guys almost certainly going out on loan: Alfonso Garcia (D RL), Joe Thorpe (DL), Jeffrey Manning (ST, MC), Miguel Angel Robles, (MC, AMC) Erik Ramirez (AMR), Jeff Dyer (AML, ST), and Adonijah Reid (ST).

There is also the question of what to do with DaMarcus Beasley or Dylan Remick. One or the other probably needs to go. But that will get me down to 28 at least.

Conclusion

Next I’ll be back with the final results of the Preseason and a look at the roster heading into the 2017 season.

2017 MLS SuperDraft

Before going into a SuperDraft I like to follow all the news that emerges in the days leading up (with the exception of all the articles about how a player is hoping to be drafted by a certain team, way too many of those and it doesn’t matter anyway). From the articles I have seen, it has become apparent that the biggest prospect in the draft is a Right Winger from the University of Portland:

17draftcarranza

He does look pretty good, although not overwhelming current attributes. He comes up as the #1 overall pick on the “Mock Draft”, which is a pundit’s opinion of how the draft will shake out:

17mockdraft2If Carranza falls to me at the fourth pick then I’ll probably take him.

The Mock Draft has me taking this AMR from the University of Wisconsin with my first pick:

17draft-ramirez

He looks pretty good, but more like a full-on winger. I prefer more of an inside forward, someone who is a better passer and finisher than crosser.

I’m also expected to pick this striker from Clemson with the 7th pick:

17draft-cruz

I could definitely get behind this pick. A pacey striker with good finishing. Obviously he has some rough edges to work out, but he would not be a bad pick.

Building my Draft Board

In American professional sports, when teams are preparing for a draft, they create a board to try and determine who they are going to pick. Essentially they “rank” the available players. While this takes time, I assemble a list of where I rank the top players. So here is my list for the top 24 prospects:

Rank Player Position Age
1 Josue Carranza (GA) AM R 22
2 Kenny Setzer (GA) AM RLC 20
3 Sam Henley (GA) AM C 22
4 Hector Escobar (GA) GK 22
5 Erik Ramirez AM R 23
6 Nathan McGuire (GA) ST C 22
7 David DeLass (GA) AM C 21
8 Tom Howard (GA) AM R 22
9 Edson Cruz (GA) ST C 21
10 Stephan Neptune GK 21
11 Rene Jolicoeur (GA) DM, M C 23
12 Craig Chen (GA) M L 21
13 Brian Potts GK 21
14 Miguel Angel Robles AM C 21
15 Bob de la Cruz AM C 23
16 Jeffrey Manning ST C 23
17 Jeff Dyer AM L, ST C 22
18 Dan Hickman D L 23
19 Jack Newman D C 22
20 Stuart Sweeney M R 23
21 Ricky Fisher AM C, ST 23
22 Adolfo Cantu AM R 23
23 Mobi Kiefer M/AM R 22
24 Dylan Goodwin M LC 23

If I picked for every team in the draft, this is how it would go. This helps me to do a couple of things: First of all, I will make my pick based on this list. For example, in the 2017 my first pick is 7th. If for whatever reason, Sam Henley is available at #7, then I am selecting him. I also have noted on this list who the Generation Adidas players are. This will help me get an idea of how each player will affect the salary cap.

The other good thing about this list is that if ANY of these guys are still on the board when my second round pick comes up, I will choose them. That is unlikely since I have the last (24th) pick in the second round, the list is still helpful. I won’t bore you with the lists but I make one for each of the first three rounds, and it’s almost always good enough for the fourth round as well. I very rarely have to make a fourth round pick of a player that isn’t on my board for the first 3 rounds.

There are different ways to assemble your draft board. My personal philosophy is simply to take the best player available. This could mean best current ability, highest potential, or a combination of the two, but ability is the only factor I take into account when building my board. Another philosophy is to build your draft board according to your needs. I don’t want to pass on what might be a world class striker simply because I need a fullback. I’ll worry about those issues after the draft.

The SuperDraft

So, very exciting, here we go. The draft starts with FC Dallas making a somewhat surprising pick of Kenny Setzer at #1. Not shocking, as he was #2 on my board and on the Mock Draft, but there you go. Sporting Kansas City then acquires LAFC’s #2 pick during the draft and picks the highly touted Carranza. No big shocker, Minnesota United goes with Sam Hanley at #3, just as I expected.

So that brings up my pick. I went to my Inbox first, just to make sure that on other clubs were offering me something for this pick. It was actually a harder choice than I thought, because next on my board is a goalkeeper. I normally don’t like using first round picks on goalkeepers because there are usually plenty. So looking down my board I have Ramirez, who as I already stated is not a great fit for my style of play. Next on my board is a striker named Nathan McGuire from the University of Rutgers.

17draftmcguire

The kid looks pretty good. His physicals are eye-popping, he obviously has great determination, and his finishing looks to be high. This guy is starting immediately no matter who takes him. Ramirez not fitting my style and also not being a Generation Adidas mean’s I’m not taking him. It was a tough call between Escobar and McGuire, so I asked my Assistant and he suggests Escobar. There is strength in numbers when it comes to player evaluation, so I choose Escobar. He will allow me to get rid of one (or both) of my backup keepers, sit for one year behind Deric before becoming the first choice guy in 2018.

The first big surprise comes with the 5th pick when Columbus took Dave Torres (DM, MC). Torres was a guy with good current attributes but I rated as a second round pick at best because of his lower potential rating. So I cross my fingers hoping that McGuire would still be available at the 7th pick. Sadly, the Colorado Rapids nabbed him at #6. So with #7, I either have my the 7th guy on board, David DeLass, or Ramirez. Wanting to be thorough,  I look at Tom Howard, another AM R prospect who I rated 8th. Comparing Howard to Ramirez was basically a wash. First of all, it’s not clear because I don’t have complete scouting on all of their attributes. Howard definitely has superior technique, finishing, decision making, and natural fitness. But Ramirez has better vision and is a slightly superior physically gifted player. One disadvantage for Ramirez is that he is not a Generation Adidas and will almost certainly demand a Senior Contract, which will affect the salary cap. In the end, however, I have to go with Ramirez. While not the perfect fit for the system, I have to believe that I can develop him into what I need. I won’t worry about the salary cap impact right now because I’m most likely going to loan him to Rio Grande Valley FC the first year anyway, and I have to take the best player available. Of course, Tom Howard was taken with the very next pick by Conference-rival Portland Timbers.

When the 22nd pick rolled around, I still had 9 players from my first round board left. The highest rated was an AM C named Miguel Angel Robles, which was my #14:

17draft_robles

This was actually a pretty easy pick. Although my scouts had other players with higher current ability ratings, he was easily the highest rated in potential. He also has a fairly professional personality which means there is hope for his development. Orlando took another guy not on my board at #23, so I still had plenty of options at #24. I landed on Ramirez’s teammate Jeff Dyer, a left winger:

17draft_dyer

This kid had some of the best physicals that I saw in the draft. Scouts rated his potential to be pretty high as well. After drafting Ramirez and Dyer I was curios to see how Wisconsin performed with these two lads up front. In 2016, they went 15-3-5 (5-2-1 Big Ten), won both the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships. They made it to the Elite Eight (quarterfinals) of the NCAA Championship Tournament before falling to Presbyterian on a golden goal. I think it would be kind of cool if someday they could be on the front line in the future, winning the MLS Cup.

When it came to my second round pick, 48th overall, the #16 player on my board was still available, Jeffrey Manning:

17draft_manning

Scouts are high on him, he’s a local guy, and I like his determination. I believe he’ll develop into a top MLS striker. His first year I will ship him off on loan to RGVFC, which is where he played college so he’s familiar with the area.

In the third round I picked up a Left Back:

17draft - thorpe

At this point I’m absolutely drafting based entirely on potential, which my scours are high on this guy. He’ll be a good team guy, possibly a future captain. Clearly as a player he is a bit of a project to become the attacking fullback that we prefer, but he’ll get there.

And the last pick of the entire draft is this fullback from East Tennessee State:

17draft-garcia

Another guy to help at outside back in the future. Versatile enough to play on either side, which was certainly a factor on choosing him.

So that’s the draft. I ended up with 8 guys who I think will help the team. Some now, others a year or two down the road. They rated my draft poorly, but they always do because I don’t worry about current ability at all beyond the first round. In 2020 I will stack my draft picks up against anyone:

17draft-grades

This is where the challenge really begins for putting together your MLS Squad because as of now I have 38 players. This means that at least ten of those guys have to either be let go or sent out on loan. While obviously a handful of no-hopers can be sent packing, the rest will be tricky as I have to take into account the salary cap, international player restrictions, etc. I’ll look at that, as well as my preseason, in the next post.

Offseason

Awards

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:

16mlsbestxi

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.

Affiliate Report

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.

Dynamo Academy

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.

Offseason Changes

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.

The Moves

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:

osman

To fill the need for an attacking right back I signed Brazilian Para from Flamengo on a Designated Player contract:

para

Para will also be able to play left back should the need arise. I also brought in young American Kyle Duncan on loan:

duncan

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:

marchizza

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:

17combine ace

This method gets me scouting reports on 64 of the 150 players at the SuperDraft.

Club Improvements

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.

League News

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.

Preseason Schedule

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.

17preseason

Conclusion

Next I’ll do a post on the SuperDraft, and how I go about maximizing my team using it.

2016 MLS Playoffs

Western Conference Semi Final – v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

The Whitecaps came in tired after outlasting Seattle in the Wildcard round to advance. We took advantage, shelling in the away leg 4-0. The home leg was a little more even, but we were still victorious winning 2-1 and moving on the conference final.

van1stlegvan2ndleg

Western Conference Final – v. Portland Timbers

This is where our finishing problems really started rearing its head again. At Portland in the first leg, we dominated possession and created 25 shots, but were only able to escape Providence Park with a 1-1 draw. In the home leg we were even more dominant and yet we only scored two goals on 27 shots, and one of those was a penalty. Nevertheless, it was enough for a 2-1 win and the Conference championship.

por1stlegpor2ndleg

mlsconf

MLS Cup Final

We caught a bit of a break when Orlando City SC made their way through the Eastern Conference. Orlando finished 4th place in the Eastern Conference, and had to defeat the top two teams New England (1) and DC United (2) to reach the MLS Cup. Overall, Orlando City had the 8th best record in the league. So obviously we could have faced stiffer competition.

The week of the Cup Final Tomas Martinez suffered a twisted ankle that would have put him out 2-3 weeks. I NEVER do this, but seeing as how this was the final game of the season I decided to give him the injection to get him through the Final, and it would actually turn out to be a brilliant move. Tomas was credited for an assist when Boniek Garcia knocked in his free kick after it rebounded off the crossbar. Martinez would then knock in the match’s final goal to bring the MLS Cup back to Houston for the first time since 2007.

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2016playoffs

Great first season, but this offseason we have some decisions to make with six players over 30 and one more turning 30 next year.

2016 Regular Season

Well it went down to the final match of the season, but we were able to secure the MLS Supporters Shield for the team with the best overall regular season record. This means we have home the home field advantage throughout the playoffs, including the MLS Cup Final is we can make it that far. Below is the final standings:

mls16_table

Here are the results:

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The results really dipped in about the middle of the season where we lost four matches out of six. We obviously recovered in mid-August, losing only once in our last 13. If there is a concern heading into the playoffs it would be our lack of finishing towards the end. In every match we were creating chances, we just weren’t putting them away. Some of that could be attributed to injuries to some of our top players and the fact that we played our second 11 in a few of those matches, but even with most of our top players on the field we struggled to put the ball in the net. Not sure that there is anything for me to do as we created the chances, it’s just a matter of the guys putting them away.

This is how the team has performed statistically over the course of the regular season:

16stats_regseason

Some areas of concern:

Leonardo’s passing percentage. I don’t like any regular starter to be below 80%. Given his attributes, this really isn’t surprising. That’s one change we will look to make in the offseason.

Vincente Sanchez’s pass percentage is also a bit low for an attacking player at 84%. While not terrible, in contrast his counterparts Quioto (88%), Escalante (88%), Wenger (90%), and Elis (90%) all had significant better percentage. I’m going to overlook the passing percentage because the reality he is that he is very old and will likely be let go, and he was the team leader in assists.

I’m actually quite happy with the team number of mistakes. Cabezas has 32 which was the most, but none led to goals and most of the rest of the teams in the league had players in the 50s and 60s in mistakes.

US Open Cup

16opencupresults

The squad rotation policy that I covered in a recent post turned out to be a success, as nervous as the game against Philadelphia turned out to be, however International call-ups played into that. Surprise package North Carolina FC (from 2nd division NASL) did make things interesting by staying within a goal until deep into the match, but our policy of keeping guys fresh for Cup matches clearly paid off.

MLS Playoffs

As I stated in MLS guide the playoffs begin with a “Wild Card Round”. Our performance allowed us to bypass this round straight to the Western Conference Semi Final. Our opponent will be the Vancouver Whitecaps, who advanced from the Wildcard Round by defeating Seattle 2-1. The biggest advantage of earning a bye to the Semi Final is that your opponent will be forced to play against you after a only a couple of days rest.