Combine time is here again,
and that makes for one of my favorite times of the year, as far as American soccer goes. See, I'm not a college soccer head at all. In most years the only college soccer I see is the final four, and I missed that somehow, so don't expect me to start expounding on why the Metros need to be picking Garey or Sturgis or Peterson or whoever. Any information or opinions formed on a player - right now I'm all about taking Sacha Kljestan - comes thirdhand (which makes it all seem so much more valid and exciting, ironically - all these players are future SUPERSTARS!). God bless those who are clued-up - some of them are providing a valuable service
right now, ahead of the draft in Philly. For the rest of us, the combine kicks off a chaotic, mysterious week during which we'll get our hopes up over guys we've hardly seen, if at all, project how the whole thing might shake out successfully for our club (truth is, we won't know what "success" is for 2 years, at the least), and then watch as none of it comes to pass AND a nice "untouchable" chunk of our team gets shipped away.
It seems to happen that way every year, especially if you support the Metros.
Unlike some other leagues (MLB and the NHL come to mind) MLS doesn't typically experience a wild flurry of activity in the days before the in-season trading deadline. It might be the cap, it might be the relatively rigid nature of MLS squads once the season is underway, but the transaction wire rarely even gets up to orange-hot at the deadline. On the other hand, Draft Day is the focal point of a ton of activity just about every year. Teams go through amazing, contorted transformations on Draft Day, and that can be quite a sight to be behold. So far, all signs point to the Metros being in that dance once again.
I'm sitting here hoping Alexi and Mo aren't planning to tear down this team, but I can't say that they won't. Read the interviews that Mo's given since taking over, and you see it over and over again - new faces, new blood, new attitude are what he wants. "Not good enough", Mo says
. And he's right, but from the outside, I wouldn't say we were so bad as to have to start rebuilding again. I'll expand on this later, but I quite seriously believe that if they had just managed to kill off Revolution on that night in Foxboro, the Metros would have won the entire thing. So while improvements are in order, giving up players like Michael Bradley, Mike Magee, Jeff Parke, and (if smoke indicates fire) Eddie Gaven would be an awfully bitter pill to swallow, after we've already endured 2-3 years of their growing pains. We could do without another shake-up. Will Bradley - a dirt-cheap, solid starter and future star - be dealt to purge the most prickly reminder of his father's regime? Will Magee - by now a versatile part, if not the Twellman Mk. II I foresaw him becoming - go as well? How about Parke, who can't possibly be as bad as last year made him look? It's one thing if Mo's got a vision, but I'm especially uninterested in plans of this sort if they're done solely to further Lalas's agenda of big name stars.
Which makes what I'm going to talk about next sound a little hypocritical.
If retooling is in the cards in Secaucus, then it may
require cutting the deck right at the Metros' best player, and greatest potential albatross.
I'm talking, of course, about what Metrofanatic calls the Guevara conundrum
, now quickly gathering steam over the issue of Amado playing in an exhibition game in Honduras
a few days ago, sans team permission.
We've heard his opinions on the refs, on his pay (both legitimate gripes).
We know he wasn't happy with not getting to trial at Blackburn (an even more legit beef - it's odious of MLS to hold him back from that chance, regardless of how good he is for the Metros, but that's league m.o.).
At what point is enough, enough?
And if it isn't enough now, what if there's a good chance it will be halfway through the season, when there ain't much to be done about it?
If Alexi Lalas, Mo Johnston, and you, Metrofan, want the transcendent Guevara, the MVP-caliber Amado possessing incredible ball skills and the ability to dominate a game, you're simply going to have to put up with the Guevara of stupid cards, whining to the media, and unsanctioned jaunts to play for a team thousands of miles away. Embrace the Guevara that explodes with a hat trick against Colorado, wires the last kick of the game into the top corner against Chicago, or dispatches penalties (usually) in cold blood, and you'll have to suffer the Guevara that bogarts corner kicks (terribly) and free kicks (inconsistently), takes the bait from cagier opponents, slows and diverts Metro attacks with his dilly-dallying nearly as much as he electrifies them, and, as we saw in the homestretch last season, has the ever so slight inclination to canine it if he's not happy.
Some might dispute this, but I don't quite know how; Amado Guevara is the greatest Metrostar ever. This team has never had a player who has performed at such a high level, so consistently, effectively and durably, for so long. Not Donadoni, not Clint, not Gilmar (!) He is, as much as can be said of anyone on a team that now draws 15,000 on an outstanding day and hardly ever troubles the NY area sports radar, the Metros' icon, the Metros' face. In times to come, we will be talking about these years as the Guevara era. But for all the moments of brilliance, there's real reason to doubt if the Metros' Guevara era will ever include a championship.
That's the underlying premise of this blog - discovering and describing what it's going to take for the Metros to win their first MLS Cup (and their next, and the one after that, and so on). That's all I'm really concerned with, nothing else. It should also, of course, be the only thing Alexi, Mo & co. are thinking about. Amado's amazing when he's on....but is he the one to lead this team to a title?
A good question. Remember, that generally speaking, when a team trades one big talent for several smaller talents/prospects/picks, that team almost always comes out on the short end. Even more so in MLS, where a solid vet with a high salary can be had for a late round pick.
As I said...look for this to come to a head rather quickly in the next 10 days, one way or the other. That's if Alexi & Mo are playing things smart. A pacified Amado or a gone Amado. We'll have a hard time getting to the promised land with an unsettled Amado.