Monday, October 11, 2010

Today's buzzword: Organization with a Z

I was listening to a football inspired podcast today, like I typically do to and from work. The pundits were discussing how to prevent a team from scoring early; and as a manager how to get your team to come out to defend against this. They didn't really have an answer, so I thought I'd throw my two cents into the discussion.
As a coach (I coach youth football and work with players 10-14) it can be incredibly frustrating to give up a goal within the first five minutes. But how do you keep a team from going 1-nil up early on?
Unless you're completely over matched talent-wise the basic way to keep teams from scoring early is to have your team organized. In football, organization can be the biggest factor between getting a result and going home empty handed. Teams such as Chelsea and Barcelona have great players, however, they win because of the organization and detail that is put into their teams.
Liverpool is a team that has (arguably) more talent than Blackpool. However, Blackpool came in better organized and with a better game plan. Thus, overwhelming the Reds and winning 1-2, and heaping the pressure on Liverpool who is now a relegation contender.
Italian football has always put a great emphasis on setting up a team on the pitch, who does what and when they do it. This attention to detail has been the catalyst to 16 Italian teams playing in the European Cup/Champions League final between 1982 and 2010. That is 28 years!
I know many will say, "Okay, organization, but what does that entail?" Simply put organization, to me, has to do with a team's formation, where their movement takes them offensively and defensively and tactically how do they line-up (will they defend in numbers or will they all-out attack).
The USA's lose to Ghana in the 2010 World Cup is an example of a team's organization being quite poor. The team was set up in a 4-4-2. An extremely rigid 4-4-2. With this formation the midfield would move forwards and backwards together leaving either large gaps between the midfield and backline (thus giving no cover to the central midfielder who advances) or gaps between the midfield and strikers. This was evident when Ricardo Clark lost the ball in the midfield resulting in Ghana's first goal. Their was no one within 20 yards to close down the Ghana player once he picked up the ball.
Some better organization from the coaching staff and this may not have happened. There may have been cover for Clark who would have immediately closed down the Ghana player with the ball.
Organization will not always win out, however, it puts you in a better situation to get a result. In closing, remember last season's Champions League Semi-final 2nd leg. Barcelona and Inter Milan at the Nou Camp. Barca absolutely hammered Inter from the kickoff. But Inter prevailed, why? Because of the team's defensive organization preached to them by the master of organization Jose Mourinho. Thus proving the most talented team doesn't always win. But it sure helps.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Kansas City Wizards: What's next?

I feel there are two major points in the KC Wizards' season that are the most memorable. One is obvious; that is the friendly victory over Manchester United and Kei Kamara's epic miss from 1 yard. I would like to discuss the United match and what the KCW have done and are doing now.
In the US this was seen as a huge win for a MLS team and for MLS. However, across the Atlantic where I lived in England this was seen as an anomaly, a blip. It was only pre-season for United and it is not uncommon for big teams to lose pre-season matches. Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool all
lost matches in the pre-season. This KCW win (blown out of proportion greatly) was used to market the club and seems to have made the club money on tickets, shirts and anything else the "Johnny-come-latelys"
could get their hands on in the short-term. I believe this win and the marketing towards it to be a false economy.
Yes, fans will come through the turnstiles and part with their hard earned cash when hearing of beating the almighty Manchester United, but this will only last for a short time. How many of these people will return time and again. KCW WILL miss the playoffs yet again this season, despite beating Manchester United in a truly meaningless match. It's October now and how many people talk about this game? I assume few and those are the true Wizards' nerds.
If KCW and OnGoal want people to care about this club then they have to preform well in their domestic league. They have to win a trophy in the USA (again), or atleast make the playoffs on a regular basis. For example, look at New York Redbulls. Sure, they have three DPs, but people care because for once the club is winning and has a chance at the MLS Cup. That is what brings fans and supporters back to games. You can win one off matches and bring in DPs like Omar Bravo (KCW have signed him for next season), but people will not consistanly come back in most parts of America or Canada without winning. Everyone loves a winner.
In Toronto despite what we hear from MLSE about the sell-out attendance, Toronto is losing steam due to not winning. They have extremely passionate fans, but those fans will stop coming because TFC isn't winning and the club doesn't seem to be making moves to become a winner.
This brings me to OnGoal, KCW owners. This group of business men don't seem to totally
grasp what they're doing. They are in a city with three professional sports teams: The NFL's Kansas City
Chiefs (who have massive support), baseball's Kansas City Royals (who haven't had a winning season
since 1994) and the KCW who are a former MLS Cup and US Open Cup winner. They can't/won't surpass
the Chiefs, however, KCW have the chance to pass or be on par with a terrible baseball club. But OnGoal's inability to put money into key areas of the team is costing them in matches. Along with aquiring fresh talent the club needs to dispose of over the hill, average players that make far too much money. I'm referring to Jimmy Conrad and Josh Wolff. The club also needs to use other means of finding players than eastern Europe and South American. The USL has quality players in it. Look at the lower divisions in England, Sweden, France and Germany which also has talent and would move abroad if given the chance. I know the club is bringing in Omar Bravo next season. However, this shows yet another MLS franchise grasping at
straws. Mexican players and some South Americans seem to be brought in to get Mexican and South Americans to care about MLS. Well, they don't. They don't have to care. These moves are complete marketing moves. Bravo is over the hill and will not help KCW in marketing long term (a full season) nor will he help the club on the pitch.
At the beginning of the 2010 season KCW had a golden egg dropped into their lap; Luis Gil. The so called next Landon Donovan. He is currently 16 years old and playing for Real Salt Lak (though was loaned to Miami FC). This is a player KCW could have taken and molded into the next great US player. He could have been the face of the franchise. But what does KCW do? They trade him. KCW replaced this moldable talent with a future second round draft pick. So, you trade a 16 year old who can be worked with by professional coaches for the chance to draft someone atleast two years older who may not be as good and has been in a college program that most likely wasn't concerned about his future playing career post-college. Not to mention, what if he is released without being given a contract? I think this typifies OnGoal's lack of soccer knowledge and their inability to put knowledgable people in charge of running the club.
OnGoal is now in the process of rebranding the team (or beginning that process). This will most likely mean a new name and colours. Colour-wise not a big deal as this has precendent in MLS. The LA Galaxy and Colorado Rapids have all done this. I don't see a problem with changing the shade of blue or adding other accent colours. It happens in soccer throughout the world.
I do have a problem with a name change. OnGoal seems to be going down one of two roads with the name. The first possibility, is a name that may try to appeal to Mexican or South American fans and immigrants. Names such as Deportivo Kansas City or Sporting Club KC have been mentioned. These names, like signing Mexican players is a mis-step. The other idea is to use the fact Kansas City has a large area (western Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and all of the northern midwest) it can draw from. There is a possibility the club could rebrand itself and reflect this vast expanse. But my question is, if the club does rebrand itself
Midwest FC will people in Iowa City, Iowa care? Well, no they won't.
Unlike FC Dallas and Red Bull New York, KCW have both a MLS Cup and US Open Cup trophy to their name. This alone is something that OnGoal should realize. This club has root in the league and in US soccer by essentially having won two cups. Much like the San Jose Earthquakes when an expansion team was placed there following the orginal clubs move to Houston. I feel that if KCW are to do anything to their name it should be the adding of '96 to their name: Kansas City Wizards '96, to indicate the year of formation. Much like many German clubs (example Shalke '04).
OnGoal typifies Americans thinking they know soccer and actually only worried about making a buck. It's not like American football or baseball and I think unless they change their thinking KCW and it's TRUE supporters are in for a long road. Being a Missourian and a KCW supporter since '96, if these unsavory
changes happen I feel that I will most likely walk away from this club. I don't want to support a team who I feel doesn't have me in mind. The supporters are the most important part of a club. KCW need to recognize this.