Saturday, November 29, 2008

Schmid is Gone, Now Who Does He Take With Him?

Sadly, El Luchador has concluded that Elvis will very soon be leaving the building.

Sigi Schmid, the Buddha of Columbus, the William Howard Taft of American soccer, the MLS Coach of the Year will join the Seattle Sounders FC. The announcement will come this week, probably on Monday, sources tell the Nordecke Luchador.

"I don't know where I'll be next season," Schmid told the Chicago Tribune. "I need to make the decision that's best for my family. But regardless of what happens, the fans in Columbus will always have a special place in my heart."

Sound like someone who intends to stick around?

Sigi, we were never worthy. Thank you for your service to the brothers and sisters of Crew Soccer Nation. El Luchador will pay tribute in greater detail at a later date.

For now, let us all give thanks for what we had. And let us hope that Sigi does not demonstrate the same proclivity for luring players away with him that he did when he left LA.

A friend of Ryan Junge, who was in LA for The Game, tells El Luchador that Schmid will take several Crew players with him to Seattle. Among these will be Danny O’Rourke. Yes, I know he just re-signed with the Crew. That doesn’t matter. Just watch.

At least we will keep Schelotto.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Is Sigi Leaving?

Soccer by Ives is reporting that it’s nearly a done deal that Sigi Schmid will turn his back on Columbus and head for Seattle. Now, the Columbus Dispatch joins the chorus. The Luchador is still holding out hope that Sigi and the capitalists at the Crew will do the right thing. But time is running out. Come on Crew!

A Tale of Two Footballers

As everyone knows, the story goes like this: David Beckham came to America with much fanfare in 2007. He was sent to save “soccer.” He was promptly injured and missed most of the season. In 2008, he stayed mostly healthy but posted mediocre results for a man whose annual income (more than $6 million) exceeds the payrolls of most entire MLS franchises.

Meanwhile, another 30-something foreign soccer legend came to the U.S. at around the same time, making about one twelfth the salary, with no celebrity endorsements, no Posh Spice wife, no entourage and no breathless commentators analyzing his every move.

The Columbus Crew’s Guillermo Barros Schelotto is everything David Beckham is not.

Both men were born in the early ‘70s, enjoyed storied careers in their native countries and are making a last stand in the United States in the twilight of their careers. Both are midfielders, team leaders and play makers known for their ability on set pieces.

But the similarities end there. In short, Schelotto is an honorable man destined for greatness, grounded in the essence of the beautiful game, humble, with an exemplary work ethic and now the double MVP for 2008’s indisputable best team in the U.S., the Supporter’s Shield and MLS Cup winning Columbus Crew.

Beckham is a washed up has been, a poser who pretends to care about the game when all he really cares about is (to paraphrase Johnny Rotten) his self, his beautiful self.

Schelotto is a worker. Beckham is a member of the ruling class.

Beckham lives in swanky L.A. with his celebrity wife and three children being raised by paid help. Schelotto lives in New Albany, Ohio, by himself, as his wife looks after their three sons in their native Argentina while he completes this temporary adventure in America. Schelotto is a family man who makes frequent trips home to be with the boys and is known on the Crew as a teetotaler with no interest in “partying.”

Beckham globetrots preens, poses, changes hairstyles and has his own blog. People magazine writes articles about Beckham spending the Thanksgiving holiday with Tom Cruise and his family.

When Beckham comes to MLS stadiums, the home teams sell special three-game package deals to hordes of mindless bourgeoisie from the suburbs who normally couldn’t care less about “soccer” but show up wearing LA Galaxy gear, packing the stands like Catholics who show up to church only for Easter.

Schelotto doesn’t have a blog. He has not a single friend who has jumped on Oprah’s couch. He can walk unrecognized down the streets of Columbus. He shows up to all the tedious promotional events he is asked to. He is the real deal.

Schelotto's results on the field are impressive. Beckham's are average. Schelotto had 7 goals and a league-leading 19 assists and was voted by sports-writers and coaches as the best player in the league. Beckham had 5 goals and 10 assists and led his Galaxy to a tie for last place in the league with expansion San Jose.

Schelotto made some of the most artistic plays of 2008, including the final goal of the 2008 MLS season, a wizardly flea-flicker chip to the head of Frankie Hejduk to seal the deal on the MLS Cup final.

But the past week tells the real story. As the Crew prepared to face the New York Red Bulls in Beckham’s home stadium, a true American soccer fan might assume that the British saviour of Football would be doing wall-to-wall commentary in and around the stadium, using the occasion of America’s closest thing to a soccer Super Bowl to promote the game in the hopes that one day the MLS Cup might at least approximate the Super Bowl. Well, not exactly. Beckham did not attend the premier U.S. soccer event taking place in his own back yard. No, he flew to Las Vegas for a boxing match, then was spotted that night back in LA, not at the MLS Cup but at the LA Lakers game.

Here’s the moral of the story: A great man came from a foreign land in 2007 to save American soccer. That man was not David Beckham.

He lives a humble existence among the toiling masses. He is authentic. He led his team to the pinnacle of success, has fallen in love with soccer in America, and has announced his intention to stay next season.

His name is Guillermo Barros Schelotto. And he makes David Beckham look like the wanker that he is.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

O'Rourke Re-Signed, Evans Let Go

There are mixed signals as to whether Clark Hunt and the Crew management are serious about building on the 2008 success.

On the one hand, unsung workhorse defender and homegrown Columbus hero Danny O’Rourke was resigned on Wednesday to a new contract.

However, foolishly, the bourgeois capitalists who control the means of production at Crew stadium have let midfielder Brad Evans slip to the expansion Seattle Sounders.

First, O’Rourke: Smart move, even though there was little doubt he would leave. At 25, O’Rourke has played in 96 career games, including stints with the San Jose Earthquakes and the New York Red Bulls (losers). He had a career-high 6 assists this year, but stats aren’t the name of the game for a defender. Crew bourgeoisie Brian Bliss called O’Rourke a “vital cog” in the defense, which indeed he has been.

Of course, the terms are undisclosed, but chances are it wasn’t a lot of money.

The average Columbus Crew member makes less than the Nordecke Luchador and most of his faithful readers.

The Crew Capitalists exploited O’Rourke’s labor last year for $59K and change.

The Crew players will share $211,000 in postseason bonus money because of their MLS Cup win, under to the league's collective bargaining agreement.

Each player would get $6,800, if management were to split the postseason bonus money 31 ways among all players. $6,800 is well over half what a developmental roster player at the bottom of the pay scale makes like Ryan Junge or Adam Moffat ($12,900).

As far as Evans, he was paid a measly $33K. For that, the Crew 26 solid games with one assist and 5 goals, three of them game winners in matches with one-goal margins. Not bad.

Moffat, whom Evans replaced early in the season, will get his starting spot back. And, the Crew will be required to pay him more this year, as he will move off the development roster.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Schelotto, Schmid

Not to throw a downer on the MLS Cup celebrations, but more bad news: Sports Illustrated reports that unless the Hunt ownership group ponies up some serious cash, the prospects are not good for retaining double MVP (regular season and MLS Cup) Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Coach of the Year Sigi Schmid. The next year will be a huge test for the organization. With all the talk by Clark Hunt about "family" and yada, yada, yada, how committed is he really to making the Crew a dynasty franchise. They have taken Sigi right up to the brink with his contract set to expire in a matter of days. Wewill know within the next week whether they intend to rest on their laurels or offer a serious defense of their newly acquired title. The Nordecke Luchador was on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday evening as hundreds of Crew faithful gathered to honour the club in the company of Gov. Strickland. Every time Clark or Schmid was mentioned, the crowd chanted, "Re-sign Sigi!" Indeed. Resign Sigi, do what it takes to keep Schelotto, and don't let go of Lenhart, Moffat, and Gaven to name just a few. It's not as challenging as it sounds. "Cash moves everything around me."

Expansion Draft

The MLS today released the list of Columbus Crew players eligible for the expansion draft. Just days after winning their first MLS Cup in its history, the Crew is willing to part with some of the young talent that got them there? Notables on the list: Eddie Gaven, Steven Lenhart, Stefani Miglioranzi, and Adam Moffat. Predictions: Moffat and Lenhart are both gone (Moffat makes $14K, Lenhart not much more and both are exceptional goal scorers, although Moffat was injured most of the season). This would be a shame. Gaven's too expensive and will stay. Sad to see Duncan Oughton on the list, but he won't get picked up.