Waived MLS Players Could Find New Home in Lower Divisions

Both Columbus Crew and New England Revolution waived three players respectively on Wednesday.  Any of these players could become immediate impact players on the rosters of lower division teams in this country.

Columbus Crew cut Korey Veeder (20) a US u-20 defender and u17 resident camper, Aubrey Perry (21) a 2nd round pick and u17 resident camper, and Shaun Francis (25) a Jamaican defender.

New England Revolution waived Jeremiah White (30) a versatile American right winger, and two foreign players.

These four players were waived by their MLS clubs on Wednesday and other teams in the league will have until 5PM EST on Friday to claim these players.  If the players are not selected by other MLS teams, they will become free agents.  After Friday afternoon these players will be available on free transfers to NASL and USL-Pro clubs.

Korey Veeder and Jeremiah White will be the most wanted out of this group, but for different reasons.  Veeder was a member of the residency camp in Bradenton, Florida for the u-17 national team.  He then participated in several u-20 national team training camps.  There are currently several former youth national team players plying their trade in the NASL (Julian Valentin, Gale Agbossoumonde).  Veeder is young enough to attract teams with his future potential but has a solid footing in professional training in the last four years.

Jeremiah White is a veteran, some may say journeyman playing for 8 clubs in 10 years, who can play in several positions.  His speed can make him a serious threat in NASL or USL-Pro.  USL-Pro teams can be effective with balls over the top for a speedy player to run onto.  White’s natural ability as a right winger can make him a first choice player on any number of NASL teams.

I fully expect two or three of these four players to be snapped up by a professional club in the U.S. by this time next week.  NASL and USL-Pro teams have been in season for 12 weeks, which is long enough to know in which areas they need improvement or reinforcements.  Any of these players could get serious minutes and help a team make a late-season playoff run.

Club Ambitions: Rochester Rhinos, New York Red Bulls, Tottenham Hotspur

Recently the topic of ambition has come up in discussions I’ve had with regard to the three teams I follow; Rochester Rhinos, New York Red Bulls, and Tottenham Hotspur.  As I consider myself first and foremost a fan of these teams, and a writer/blogger second, it’s important to me that the club feels the same way I do.

Rochester Rhinos just suffered a seven game winless streak and several fans voiced their frustrations with the “lack of ambition” of the 1999 U.S. Open Cup Champion.  Up here in Rochester we are very proud of what our city’s team achieved in the late 90s and early 2000s, but that success is a double edged sword.  The other side of the blade is that the Open Cup trophy and several league titles loom over our head. Continue reading

Three Lower Division Teams’ Signings

Three important signings were announced by lower division American soccer teams on Thursday.  Orlando City (USL-Pro), Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL), and Rochester Rhinos (USL-Pro) all signed young players with lots of potential yesterday.

Let’s visit south Florida first and the club in Orlando.  I say club and not team on purpose.  Orlando City Soccer Club operates a professional team, a u23 team in the USL-PDL, a u20 team in the USL Super-20 League, and u12 through u17 teams in the USL Super Y-League.

Orlando announced that they had “promoted” a promising midfielder from their u23 team to their professional team.  Adama M’Bengue has been the most consistent player for the PDL side through 10 games this season but joins an already very talented Orlando midfield.

Heading north, let’s pop in on Atlanta Silverbacks.  The Silverbacks have a reserve team playing in the National Premier Soccer League (same league as FC Buffalo).  The club announced Thursday that they had promoted defender Chris Klute from the reserve team to the senior team.  Atlanta could use all the help it can get on their back line, the team has allowed the most goals in the league (25) and has only won a single game this season.

Speedy forward Kendell McFayden signed with the Rhinos but apparently could still play for FC Buffalo later in the summer.  McFayden was initially included in the 2012 season media guide published by the Rhinos but wasn’t listed on the team’s official roster.  When I saw that the trialist then signed with FC Buffalo I thought something was a little odd.  The other two stories involved teams from the same club and the vertical progression of a player to the senior team.  McFayden’s trip is a bit different because the Rhinos organization doesn’t operate a reserve team or have a presence in the USL-PDL, NPSL, or USL’s Super-20 League.  However, an exciting aspect of this deal (besides the potential of the player himself) is the pipeline this creates for future players.  Perhaps more players from FC Buffalo, which features high school standouts from Sections V and VI as well as college talent from both the Buffalo and Rochester areas, could find themselves training or even signing contracts with the Rhinos in the next few years.

McFayden is clearly a prize for the NPSL side and has proven his class throughout this season.  He joins a Rhinos forward corp that has struggled to find the net so far in 2012; the team as a whole has only scored 13 goals in 13 games.  In fact, the four strikers who have played so far this season have only combined for three goals and one assist.  Graciano Brito has one goal from 11 shots in 597 minutes.  Andrew Hoxie has one goal on 12 shots in 469 minutes.  Isaac Kissi has only played 43 minutes across two games as he tries to recover fitness.  Tam McManus plays the withdrawn forward role but only has one goal and one assist to show for himself.  Clearly the team needs a fresh approach up top.

I recently pinpointed an effective forward as one of two improvements the Rhinos can make to easily turn their fortunes from a stuttering slump to an unbeatable championship quality run. Perhaps McFayden can provide the spark up front that the Rhinos need to get back to winning ways.

Comparing Tam McManus and Rafael van der Vaart; How Effective is the Rhinos’ 4-4-1-1?

I have been a Tottenham Hotspur fan for a number of years, now.  My beloved Spurs have found pretty remarkable success playing in a 4-4-1-1 formation.  While the team stuttered a bit through the 2010-2011 season, this past English Premier League season saw Tottenham go on a run of only one loss in 19 league games, dropping only 11 points out of 57 possible.  This was due in large part to the production of Rafael van der Vaart, who scored 6 goals in a 5 game stretch in the fall.  Van der Vaart excels when he plays in the hole behind a lone striker and in front of the two central midfielders.  But because of his role, in order for van der Vaart to succeed, the team needs certain players in those positions around him.  Without a target center forward in front of him and the combination of a deep playmaker and ball winner behind him, van der Vaart would not be free to play his game; popping up in space outside the 18 yard box to take precision shots or making the late arriving runs into the area.

During the offseason, on February 6, 2012 to be exact, the Rochester Rhinos announced that they had signed Scottish veteran attacker.  Bringing nearly 15 years of professional experience from the Scottish Premier League and Major League Soccer, McManus was a very exciting acquisition for the team of my youth.  While I initially pictured McManus as a poacher in the mold of Doug Miller, when the team began lining up a 4-4-1-1 during preseason I realized the Scotsman would be much more like a Rafa van der Vaart.

Both players operate as the link between midfield and striker, while filling the exact role of neither.  They both brought a high level of experience to the teams they joined (van der Vaart did have those years at Real Madrid).  And as the Dutchman has proven for Tottenham in the last two years, I believe they are both more than just a cog in the machine going forward.  McManus had the opportunity to be the focal point of the Rhinos attack in 2012. Continue reading

2012 Lower Division Attendance Update: June 18

Every USL-Pro has seen its average attendance slip since the first couple weeks, except for Pittsburgh and Charlotte.  This phenomenon is pretty common across leagues and almost every team sees some up and down in numbers throughout the summer.

Charlotte should be proud of an announced gate this week of 1447, which was more than double their average attendance before Saturday night of 701.  Pittsburgh’s increase can be attributed to very poor turnouts earlier in the season.

Over in the NASL, Puerto Rico, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta have all seen their number increase since the beginning of the season; so credit to their marketing departments or supporter’s groups or whatever is responsible for that.  Keep in mind though, that Puerto Rico started with two draws under a thousand so improving upon those numbers wasn’t too difficult.  Edmonton is also playing at a stop-gap field with-out permanent seating facilities and from what I have gathered, the increase in their figures reflects standing only tickets.  This past week Atlanta registered 6000 despite their former sell-out number maxed at 5000 earlier in the season.

The largest announced attendance in either league remains San Antonio’s home opener on April 15 against Puerto Rico with a figure of 13,151.

As of Monday, June 18 here are the ranking of teams in the two professional leagues under MLS in terms of attendance:

  1. San Antonio Scorpions: 9460 [NASL]
  2. Orlando City: 6978 [USL-Pro]
  3. Rochester Rhinos: 6637 [USL-Pro]
  4. Atlanta Silverbacks: 4697 [NASL]
  5. Wilmington Hammerheads: 3995 [USL-Pro]
  6. Minnesota Stars: 3865 [NASL]
  7. Charleston Battery: 3782 [USL-Pro]
  8. Carolina Railhawks: 3102 [NASL]
  9. Fort Lauderdale Strikers: 3070 [NASL]
  10. Tampa Bay Rowdies: 3060 [NASL]
  11. Richmond Kickers: 2998 [USL-Pro]
  12. FC Edmonton: 1585 [NASL]
  13. Harrisburg City Islanders: 1447 [USL-Pro]**
  14. Puerto Rico Islanders: 1116 [NASL]
  15. Antigua Barracuda FC: 1067 [USL-Pro]
  16. Los Angeles Blues: 897 [USL-Pro]
  17. Dayton Dutch Lions: 866 [USL-Pro]**
  18. Charlotte Eagles: 826 [USL-Pro]
  19. Pittsburgh Riverhounds: 810 [USL-Pro]

*Missing games from each team

As of Monday, June 18 here are the averages for each of the two leagues:

  • USL-Pro: 166,755 total over 59 games (missing five) makes an average of 2826.4 per game across the league [the missing numbers are from lower drawing teams]
  • USL-Pro team median is 1447, but that’s problematic because I’m missing a few numbers from Harrisburg City Islanders.
  • The average of the top half (teams above the median) in the USL-Pro is 4867.2.
  • NASL: 171,567 total over 46 games makes an average of 3729.7 per game across the league
  • NASL team median is 3086.
  • The average of the top half (teams above the median) in the NASL is 5281.

What American Soccer Can Learn from Mexico: Lobos Prepa and Mexican Youth Player Development

I spent the last semester studying abroad in Puebla, Mexico.  In these past few months I’ve had the opportunity to see three hometown teams in action.  First and foremost is Puebla FC, the Primera Division team that employs resurgent DaMarcus Beasley.  Second is fellow professional team BUAP Lobos, who made a respectable run in the Liga de Ascenso playoffs.  And then there is Lobos Prepa, an amateur team stocked almost entirely with youth players.

Lobos Prepa, play in the third tier which is called la Segunda Division and is split into two sections, each of which is then split into two geographic zones.  Lobos play in zone one of the developmental half of the pyramid.  These teams are only interested in growing players and don’t compete for promotion into the Liga de Ascenso.  Lobos Prepa made this choice because the BUAP Lobos are currently and have been for most of its existence a second division team in the Liga de Ascenso.  It makes little sense for the same organization to operate two clubs in the same division from the same city who in fact share facilities and the stadium at Ciudad Universitaria.

The sole purpose of the Lobos Prepa team is to develop young talent who can then go on to play for BUAP Lobos or other professional clubs.

The Mexican Primera Division has 18 teams and the Liga de Ascenso currently has 15 because one club was dissolved after the 2011 Apertura campaign.  Compare this to the 19 teams currently in Major League Soccer (MLS) and the 18 clubs combined in the North American Soccer League (NASL) and United Soccer Leagues Professional Division (USL-Pro).  With the exception of promotion and relegation, the top levels of the soccer pyramids in Mexico and the United States are fairly similar.  Most of the top markets in terms of demographics (the 18-35 year old males) and television viewership are represented by professional soccer clubs.  What I find more interesting is the comparisons of lower division and youth soccer between the neighboring countries. Continue reading

Amid All the Soccer Buzz, Let’s Go See the Rhinos!

The summer is great for soccer in the United States.  Tonight the USMNT kick off their World Cup qualifying campaign against Antigua and Barbuda in Tampa.  But I won’t be watching that match.  Thanks to DVR, I’ll be standing and jumping and cheering at the Rochester Rhinos’ game against Wilmington.  As I write this post I’m watching the Poland and Greece game recorded on my TV.  This past week I’ve been struggling to get in shape and regain my touch on the ball ahead of the season opening tournament for my summer recreation league.

As odd as it seems, all the soccer excitement this past week has prevented me from finding time to write about soccer.  Two weekends ago I attended my first FC Buffalo match with my girlfriend and was not disappointed.  The team, which plays in the National Premier Soccer League, consists of local high school and college standouts and boasts a tight group of devoted supporters.  Last weekend, I was one of the Rhinos’ faithful at Sahlen’s Stadium trying to urge the ball in the net against Richmond Kickers.  The Rhinos could not find an equalizer to Richmond’s early goal, but Rochester spent most of the match pressing and probing their opposition’s defense.  While many of the most vocal supporters were away in Toronto lending their voices to the national team against Canada, there were a few of us attempting to replicate the atmosphere we’re used to.

As much as we all wanted Poland to win in the opening game of the Euros as co-host of the tournament, I took a great deal of pleasure in seeing Szczesny’s facial expression as he got sent off.  Group A is now a wide open race for second place after Russia dominated the first half of its match against the Czech Republic

In a few hours I’m going to be heading out to Rochester with a car full of friends.  Hopefully we can do our work to create a welcoming atmosphere for the Rhinos despite the USMNT game starting at the same time.  After starting the season 6-0-0, the team has gone 0-2-2 in the league and only managed to score 3 goals in that time.  At this point, it seems as though the season might come down to Isaac Kissi’s return to fitness up top.  He may provide the dynamism in the forward position that the Rhinos so desperately need.  The team has gotten production from midfield and has looked solid in the back.  Tam McManus has done everything he can to help the team, but Andrew Hoxie and Graciano Brito have failed to make a mark so far this year.  Hopefully head coach Jesse Myers can figure something out quick before we see the Rhinos skid outside of the top three in the USL-Pro standings.

I’ll be there and hope to see some of you at Sahlen’s Stadium tonight too.

Join the Stampede.