Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Playing the Game

Some time ago, I tried to buy some additional time at a Georgetown game by walking my eldest around the loggia. We happened past Alonzo Mourning signing copies of his autobiography "Resilience: Faith, Focus, Triumph." I did not follow Mourning's career, but there was no one around so I picked up a copy and put it on the shelf.

I finally read the book last month; it basically confirms everything that I've loved about Georgetown's basketball program. The story of a kid in foster care in the Tidewater growing up to be a member of the board of directors of an elite private university is likely to be interesting regardless of the vehicle for ascendance. But because the last basketball book I read was George Dohrmann's fantastic (albeit horrifically depressing) "Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine," Mourning's tale is affirmation of the value of collegiate athletics.

As the mirror image to Dohrmann's exposure of Tim Floyd to be everything we thought he was, Mourning exalts John Thompson II as everything we hoped he might be. I may live in a town where a head coach was allowed to temporarily dismiss a woeful educational record with vacuous claims about the professional careers of a minority of his players, but the long shadow of JT's program meant that folks up here always understood that -- national championship notwithstanding -- it didn't have to be this way.

So it surprises me that in terms of the concocted conflict between the men's basketball programs of Georgetown and Maryland, I'm fully on board with Kevin Anderson's approach of overt confrontation. Is there likely to be a Georgetown-Maryland basketball game played anytime soon? No, of course not. Egos have been bruised and the Hoyas have been backed into a corner.

There will certainly be collateral damage. The refusal to schedule games across all sports after this season is a blow to the intense rivalry between the men's and women's lacrosse teams (although the lady Hoyas haven't taken a game since 2006, so perhaps they will welcome the respite). It is also a blow to the budding rivalries between the women's soccer programs -- after Georgetown's women's soccer team knocked off the number one team in the country in the second round of the 2010 NCAA tournament -- and women's basketball programs -- after Georgetown's women's basketball team blistered the Terps in the second round of the 2011 NCAA tournament.

But there's a deeper point here. Some teams announce their return to prominence with t-shirts that read "Respect Is Back/ Fear Is Next"; others call out the local powerhouse and demand a reckoning.

Maryland will get blown off. And critics will find another reason to take shots at Kevin Anderson. But in the interim, Maryland's going to be a major impediment to Georgetown's concerted efforts over the last several years to lock up elite local talent. When Queen Anne's County High's Damonte Dodd decided to become a Terp, he turned away from an unparalleled tradition of excellence in developing big men:
Former Georgetown great and NBA veteran Dikembe Mutombo was in regular contact with Dodd, according to [Queen Anne's head coach Dale] Becraft.

"Mutombo had his cell number, and called him from time to time," Becraft said. "Damonte, I know, enjoyed that, too."

And why?
"I always liked Maryland," said Dodd, who attended the Terps' 75-70 victory over Miami on Tuesday night. "And visiting them, I liked how they stuck together as a team, and how the coaches wanted players to be successful, whether in the NBA or getting a degree."
New day.

The gauntlet has been thrown down -- Maryland wants to test itself against the biggest kid on the block and Georgetown prefers derbies with American University and Howard.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


We had provisionally planned to drop by Hyattsville this afternoon to witness Paul VI successfully complete the first undefeated WCAC conference run from a team not named DeMatha before realizing that the game had already sold out by the end of last week.

Plan B was Comcast and helping "Pack the House" for Duke-Maryland. As much as we would have enjoyed hanging with all the college coaches at DeMatha, an afternoon with the Lady Terps means a Comcast memory exceeding American's upset in 2007.

Fantastic game; even if Tiana Hawkins' putback off her ninth offensive rebound -- her ninth offensive rebound (with zero defensive rebounds) -- didn't go in or Alyssa Thomas doesn't make the incredible block to close out the win, it was still the best spectacle I've experienced firsthand in the stadium.

15,150 people. Eighth largest crowd in ACC women's basketball history (not coincidentally, also the eighth largest women's crowd in Maryland history and the eighth largest crowd during Coach Frese's tenure). Number five team in the country visiting and that team just happens to be Duke. Kids going nuts throughout the game and not once -- not once -- does a "Duke Sucks" chant even begin as a whisper in the stands, even though there are a sizable number of students in the arena.

Add 2,800 more fans to today's total and what transpired this afternoon should be the aspirational dream of the Athletics Department for every game at Comcast.

Cut through all the chauvinistic crap about how women's basketball is a lesser liberal sideshow not worthy of the attention of true red-blooded sports fans and what you get is tension, exhilaration, and excellence on par with anything on display in men's basketball.

At Maryland, you also get a bunch of added benefits. For example, on offer is an emphasis on academic achievement equal to athletic success, evinced by a graduation success rate for an exceptional women's basketball program -- measuring freshman that preceded Coach Frese's tenure by a year and extending to 2004 -- of 81 percent compared to Gary Williams' substantial improvement to 46 percent (and Ralph Friedgen's 59 percent). On offer is a coach committed to winning over the community -- both on campus and in the broader metropolitan area -- despite the affected apathy of the doyens of sport in Washington D.C.

Coach Frese wears her heart on her sleeve, taking pride in how much effort she's put out in bringing fans to the game rather than bemoaning short shrift. Because of that commitment, what was exceptional in 1992 (a women's game drawing 14 thousand plus in College Park) is now almost pedestrian.

Coach Frese has been indefatigable in this regard. When she started, attendance for women's games averaged under 2 thousand people; it was 833 as late as the 1994-1995 season and at 1,681 in 2001-2002. The current total hasn't dipped below 4,500 since the 2004-2005 season (4,169).

A losing season in the ACC in 2010 led attendance to collapse from near 9,000 fans a game in the three seasons between 2006 and 2009 to around 5,000 the last two years. And, yet, despite the fickle nature of support, the team has thrown itself into wooing fans from outside the school (with multiple meet the players and team events) and within (student raffles for video game consoles). Prior to the Miami game, there hasn't been a lot of payoff for those efforts. But the team persisted and the faith shown in the community paid off today.

As good as Maryland was on the court, it was just as good in the stands.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Maine, with a ratings percentage index ranking just south of Jersey City's mighty St. Peter's, has posted double digits in wins this season, including a twelve-point shellacking of Holy Cross. That away loss for the Crusaders came a little more than a week after Holy Cross beat Boston College by twelve -- sending the Eagles into a tailspin that led to a 36 point decimation at the hands of UMass.

So, it is a little difficult to make the case that Boston College is a good college basketball team. At the same time, by beating Florida State at home, BC had achieved something that Maryland hasn't managed this season: a victory over a ranked opponent.

In the upper deck at Comcast, the Terrapins convincing win kindled faint discussions about the remote possibility of an at-large bid -- a whisper that will grow louder if Maryland can pull off an upset at John Paul Jones a few hours from now.

From my vantage point, the story was Nick Faust insofar as how much the freshman has improved over the course of the season. Yes, Faust was 4 for 12 from the floor and, yes, he committed a career-high five turnovers. But he also posted career highs in steals (5) and assists (6) while confidently attacking the high pressure that the Eagles threw at him defensively.

I had assumed that what would turn me around on Maryland basketball this season would be Pe'shon Howard running the point (going a little something like this). Faust has a similar flair for dropping pretty dimes, has begun to assert himself at the one in Howard's absence, and brings the added benefit of being able to close out games with authority.

Fun game to watch; fun team to watch. And they're getting better.

AND... there are great stories to be told about the squad, like Don Markus's wonderful profile of Jonathan Thomas in the Baltimore Sun. Dean's List. Mechanical Engineering major. Math minor. A class called "Vibration, Controls, and Optimization I." And Thomas is playing varsity basketball -- albeit in limited minutes -- on a court named after Gary Williams. Stunning.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Men of Honor

Part and parcel of the anti-Edsall careening bandwagon is the idolization of former Maryland assistant James Franklin. With a fawning profile and subsequent musings following Vanderbilt's surprising first season under the rookie coach, WaPo's done its part. Vandy's 6-6 year and loss to Cincy in the Liberty Bowl was, of course, a dramatic sea change for a program that went 6-6 with a win over a ranked Boston College team in the Music City Bowl under Bobby Johnson three seasons earlier. Cultural change complete; Vanderbilt ascendant; Terps miss out; Kevin Anderson is a miserable failure.

The Tennessean's Jeff Lockridge's short tweet summarizing Coach Franklin's characterization of de-commits as "not men of honor" and "not men of integrity" in a pep speech at the beginning of the month probably won't register up here. But it certainly raised a few eyebrows in other ACC circles. Per Michael Carvell at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, UNC Coach Larry Fedora waxing poetic on Coach Franklin's sense of honor:
North Carolina’s Larry Fedora: “What does [Franklin] say about the kids that were committed elsewhere and de-committed from their places to go to his place? That’s my comment. What is his comment on those people? He’s got someone in his recruiting class that did that very thing. He’s saying those guys are not men of honor? Basically, he’s saying he has got kids in his own recruiting class that are not men of honor. He said that, and I didn’t.”
Sour grapes for losing Patton Robinette? Sure. Fine. But after crediting Coach Franklin with answering his questions and conceding the inconsistency of some of his views, Carvell included this Vandy recruiting Valentine's in a blog post Tuesday:
Sandy Creek DB Shaq Wiggins, who committed to UGA last weekend, was offered by Vanderbilt on Monday. “I got to talk to about four coaches, including the head coach [James Franklin]. They all knew that I committed to Georgia but they wanted to let me know that I had an offer from Vanderbilt, and they invited me to their Junior Day.”
Beautiful: Coach Franklin loses formerly committed Josh Dawson to the Georgia Bulldogs. Coach Franklin opines that some honor or integrity is lost by de-committing. Coach Franklin retreats from comments when called on them by Carvell. Coach Franklin, three days later, then gouges return eye by openly recruiting a Georgia Bulldog commit after public announcement is made.

Whatever justification may exist (or, more likely, doesn't exist) for the action, refusing to release players to transfer to Vanderbilt was another incompetent public relations misstep. At a minimum, it further fueled the perception that Coach Edsall is unreasonable, petty, and dictatorial. But before gilding the Commodores any further, let's be clear about what we're talking about. Men of honor. Men of integrity.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The Chicago Bears helmets that used to adorn the top of the living room bookcase have all been moved to the basement; in their place now rests three full-size Maryland football helmets.

Season ticket renewal letters were sent out last week and although I could barely use our allotment last season, we will renew and may even upgrade this year.

In the interim, every single whiny "I hate Randy Edsall," "I want Kevin Anderson fired," comment that I read or hear will get me even more fired up for the opener.

Is Randy Edsall a good football coach? Maybe not. I don't know.

At times last season, I watched the special teams unit and tried to recall, going back to high school, if I remember a team executing that poorly on so many important plays in the flow of the game. At other times, I saw a group of players that busted their rears through the waning minutes of games. Still, I don't understand how an evaluation of Edsall's tenure could be intelligently discussed as the consensus opinion regarding the Coach has been formed based off of WaPo's dislike for him, the complaints of reporters regarding his style, and a terrible inaugural record.

Two seasons removed from a 2 and 10 year and one season removed from a glorious trip to the Military Bowl for a game that drew less people than the one against Temple last season, it is de rigueur to vacuously pine for the days of The Fridge. Great. Best of luck. Sorry you are giving up your season tickets; but if that allows me to relocate for a better view without having to climb more stairs with toddlers in tow, thank you for taking that principled stand and God speed.

Two months until the Red-White spring game.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Drafting History

One of the byproducts of being a lifelong Cubs fan is the ease by which you can resign yourself to the fact that morons run the club you love.

In the last twenty-five years, I've spent plenty of time scratching my head, trying to figure out why the Northsiders acquired or dispatched a particular player. But come what may, I've been obliged to root for whatever crap was put out on the field.

So it'll be a familiar feeling going to RFK for D.C. United fixtures this season.

I've no objections to letting Charlie Davies pursue his comeback elsewhere and I'm happy that I'll not have to see Joseph Ngwenya in the black & red for another season -- both Davies and Ngwenya were great with fans and I'd have preferred to see them do well, but they didn't perform and it was time to turn the page.

Maybe Hamdi Salihi and Maicon Santos will improve the attack. Maybe not. Whatever.

D.C. United also showed the door to most of the fullbacks on the roster, leaving only Chris Korb and Daniel Woolard under contract.

Having added Robbie Russell -- a 32-year old MLS veteran -- the front office declined to augment their depth at the position through the draft. But building talent through drafts is, in any event, not one of D.C. United's strengths.

Because it amuses me, a walk back in time through the club's drafts during Dave Kasper's tenure (relying heavily on wikipedia) --

Justin Mapp (1st)
Daouda Kante (1st)
Mike McGinty (2nd)
Mohammed Fahim (3rd)
Dennis Ludwig (4th)
Bob Brennan (4th)
PASS (5th)
PASS (6th)

(notable draft picks: Leonard Krupnik, 6th; Ricardo Villar, 5th; Davy Arnaud, 5th; Adauto Neto, 4th; Kevin Sakuda, 4th; Noah Delgado, 4th; Chris Leitch, 4th; Marshall Leonard, 4th; Cory Gibbs, 4th; Gavin Glinton, 3rd; Dipsy Selolwane, 3rd; Alejandro Moreno, 3rd; Ian Fuller, 2nd; Danny Jackson, 2nd; Jon Busch, 2nd; Shalrie Joseph, 2nd; Kelly Gray, 1st; Kyle Martino, 1st; Chris Gbandi, 1st; Brad Davis, 1st; and Taylor Twellman, 1st).


Alecko Eskandarian (1st)
David Stokes (1st)
Brian Carroll (2nd)
Doug Warren (2nd)
Hayden Woodworth (4th)
John Swann (5th)
Michael Behonick (6th)
PASS (6th)

(notable draft picks: Frank Sanfilippo, 6th; Kevin Friedland, 6th; Marco Velez, 5th; Chad Dombrowski, 5th; Jack Jewsbury, 5th; Kenny Arena, 4th; Jamil Walker, 4th; Matt Crawford, 4th; Taylor Graham, 4th; Josh Saunders, 4th; Rob Friend, 4th; Logan Pause, 3rd; Roger Levesque, 3rd; Arturo Torres, 2nd; Damani Ralph, 2nd; Tim Regan, 2nd; Scot Thompson, 2nd; Eddie Gaven, 2nd; Arturo Alvarez, 2nd; Diego Walsh, 1st; Shavar Thomas, 1st; Nate Jacqua, 1st; Todd Dunivant, 1st; Mike Magee, 1st; Pat Noonan, 1st; and Ricardo Clark, 1st).


Freddy Adu (1st)
Kevin Ara (3rd)
Josh Gros (4th)
Kevin Hudson (5th)

(notable draft picks: Alan Gordon, 6th; Jeff Parke, 6th; Andy Dorman, 6th; Khari Stephenson, 3rd; Matt Pickens, 2nd; Will Hesmer, 2nd; Seth Stammler, 2nd; Ned Grabavoy, 2nd; Josh Gardner, 2nd; Chris Wingert, 2nd; Steve Cronin, 1st; Ryan Cochrane, 1st; Matt Taylor, 1st; Chad Marshall, 1st; Ramon Nunez, 1st; Clarence Goodson, 1st; Clint Dempsey, 1st; and, of course, Joseph Ngwenya, 1st).

Freddy Adu pick received from Dallas for allocation money; 1st round pick, 6th round pick, and Ali Curtis traded for Ronald Cerritos; 2nd round pick traded for Hristo Stoichkov.


Nick Van Sicklen (2nd)
Tim Merritt (4th)
Matt Nickell (5th - Supp 1st)
Andrew Terris (7th - Supp 3rd)
Shawn Kuykendall (8th - Supp 4th)

(notable draft picks: Jeff Larentowicz, 8th; Chris Wondolowski, 8th; Dan Kennedy, 8th; Dan Gargan, 8th; Cameron Knowles, 8th; Bill Gaudette, 5th; Boyzzz Khumalo, 3rd; Gonzalo Segares, 3rd; Quavas Kirk, 3rd; Chris Rolfe, 3rd; Jay Nolly, 2nd; James Riley, 2nd; Kevin Goldthwaite, 2nd; Ryan Pore, 3nd; Jack Stewart, 1st; Tim Ward, 1st; Scott Sealy, 1st; Hunter Freeman, 1st; Drew Moor, 1st; Ugo Ihemelu, 1st; Danny O'Rourke, 1st; Chad Barrett, 1st; Michael Parkhurst, 1st; and Brad Guzan, 1st).

1st round pick and 3rd round pick acquired from Chicago Fire (for 2nd round pick in 2006 draft) traded for Jaime Moreno; Nick Van Sicklen pick received from Colorado for rights to Alberto Delgado; 2nd round pick and 3rd round pick traded for 2nd round pick in 2004 draft.


Justin Moose (1st)
Rod Dyachenko (3rd)
Jeff Carroll (4th)
Kenney Bertz (4th)
Andy Metcalf (6th - Supp 2nd)
Devon McTavish (8th - Supp 4th)

(notable draft picks: Chase Harrison, 7th; Willis Forko, 6th; Dasan Robinson, 6th; Daniel Paladini, 6th; Jordan Harvey, 5th; Mike Chabala, 4th; Jonathan Bornstein, 4th; Ray Burse, 3rd; Ryan Johnson, 3rd; Marc Burch, 2nd; Jed Zayner, 2nd; Blake Wagner, 2nd; Tyson Wahl, 2nd; Dominic Oduro, 2nd; Jozy Altidore, 2nd; Yura Movsisyan, 1st; Patrick Ianni, 1st; Calen Carr, 1st; Nathan Sturgis, 1st; Jason Garey, 1st; Kei Kamara, 1st; Mehdi Ballouchy, 1st; Dax McCarty, 1st; Marvell Wynne, 1st; and Sacha Klejstan, 1st).

2nd round pick traded to Chicago for 3rd round pick in 2005 draft; Jeff Carroll pick received from Columbus for Devin Barclay; 4th round pick and 6th round (Supp 2nd) pick in 2005 draft traded for Jason Thompson; Kenney Bertz pick received from New England for Doug Warren.


Bryan Arguez (1st)
Brad North (2nd)
Jay Needham (3rd)
Ricky Schramm (3rd)
Luis Robles (4th)
Shawn Crowe (5th - Supp 1st)
Guy-Roland Kpene (7th - Supp 3rd)

(notable draft picks: Daniel Woolard, 8th; Kevin Burns, 8th; Kosuke Kimura, 7th; Osei Telesford, 6th; Steve Purdy, 5th; Aaron Hohlbein, 5th; Jarrod Smith, 5th; Nick Noble, 5th; Sandi Gbandi, 5th; Adam Cristman, 4th; Bobby Burling, 4th; Tally Hall, 4th; Kurt Morsink, 4th; Nick LaBrocca, 3rd; Sinisa Ubiparipovic, 3rd; Mike Banner, 3rd; Omar Cummings, 3rd; Dane Richards, 2nd; Fuad Ibrahim, 2nd; Corey Ashe, 2nd; Ty Harden, 2nd; Ryan Guy, 2nd; Robbie Findley, 2nd; Brad Evans, 2nd; Andrew Boyens, 1st; Anthony Wallace, 1st; Chris Seitz, 1st; Wells Thompson, 1st; Michael Harrington, 1st; Bakary Soumare, 1st; and Maurice Edu, 1st).

Jay Needham pick and third round pick in 2008 draft received from Colorado for Brandon Prideaux.


Andrew Jacobson (2nd)
Ryan Cordeiro (3rd)
Tony Schmitz (4th)
Brandon Owens (5th - Supp 1st)
Dan Stratford (6th - Supp 2nd)
James Thorpe (8th - Supp 4th)

(notable draft picks: Daniel Antunez, 7th; Tino Nunez, 6th; Kyle Altman, 6th; Mike Palacio, 6th; Chris Tierney, 5th; Kheli Dube, 5th; Danleigh Borman, 5th; Keith Savage, 4th; Steven Lenhart, 4th; Brandon McDonald, 4th; Mike Zaher, 3rd; Stephen King, 3rd; Ryan Miller, 3rd; Luke Sassano, 3rd; Geoff Cameron, 3rd; Peter Lowry, 2nd; Yomby William, 2nd; Jonathan Leathers, 2nd; Brian Edwards, 2nd; Alex Nimo, 2nd; Shea Salinas, 2nd; Michael Videira, 2nd; Eric Brunner, 2nd; Eric Avila, 2nd; Josh Lambo, 1st; David Horst, 1st; Dominic Cervi, 1st; Pat Phelan, 1st; Roger Espinoza, 1st; Andy Iro, 1st; Julius James, 1st; Chance Myers, 1st; Tony Beltran, 1st; Patrick Nyarko, 1st; Sean Franklin, 1st; and Brek Shea, 1st).

1st round pick traded for Rod Dyachenko (Toronto selected Pat Phelan); Ryan Cordeiro pick and third round pick in 2007 draft received from Colorado for Brandon Prideaux; 3rd round pick traded for Jerson Monteiro.


Rodney Wallace (1st)
Chris Pontius (1st)
Milos Kocic (2nd)
Lyle Adams (2nd)
Brandon Barklage (3rd)

(notable draft picks: Marcus Tracy, 4th; Michael Fucito, 4th; Nick Zimmerman, 3rd; Quincy Amarikwa, 3rd; Neal Kitson, 3rd; Danny Cruz, 3rd; Darrius Barnes, 3rd; Mike Grella, 3rd; Jack Traynor, 2nd; Andrei Gotsmanov, 2nd; Brad Ring, 2nd; Baggio Husidic, 2nd; Graham Zusi, 2nd; A.J. Delagarza, 2nd; Peri Marosevic, 1st; O'Brian White, 1st; Jean Alexandre, 1st; Jeremy Hall, 1st; Sam Cronin, 1st; Stefan Frei, 1st; Kevin Alston, 1st; Michael Lahoud, 1st; Matt Bessler, 1st; Steve Zakuani, 1st; Omar Gonzalez, 1st; and George John, 1st).

Chris Pontius pick received from Colorado for Christian Gomez; Lyle Adams pick received from Houston Dynamo with Zach Wells for Bobby Boswell; 4th round pick traded for international roster spot.


Jordan Graye (4th)

(notable draft picks: Euan Holden, 4th; Shaun Francis, 4th; Brian Perk, 4th; Joseph Nane, 4th; Sean Johnson, 4th; Steven Kinney, 3rd; Eric Alexander, 3rd; Chris Schuler, 3rd; Kyle Nakazawa, 3rd; Ben Zemanski, 3rd; Mike Seamon, 2nd; Korede Aiyegbusi, 2nd; Kwame Watson-Siriboe, 2nd; Ross LaBauex, 2nd; Toni Stahl, 2nd; Zak Boggs, 2nd; Andre Akpan, 2nd; Andrew Wiedeman, 2nd; Steven Beitashour, 2nd; Seth Sinovic, 2nd; Michael Thomas, 2nd; Tim Ream, 2nd; David Estrada, 1st; Austin da Luz, 1st; Tony Tchani, 1st; Jack McInerney, 1st; Amobi Okugo, 1st; Corben Bone, 1st; Collen Warner, 1st; Bright Dike, 1st; Blair Gavin, 1st; Danny Mwanga, 1st; Dilly Duka, 1st; Ike Opara, 1st; Michael Stephens, 1st; Zack Schilawski, 1st; Zach Loyd, 1st; and Teal Bunbury, 1st).

1st round pick traded for Fred; 2nd round pick traded for Christian Gomez and goalkeeper Mike Graczyak; 3rd round pick traded for Josh Wicks


Perry Kitchen (1st)
Chris Korb (2nd)
Joe Willis (3rd)
Blake Brettschneider (5th -Supp 2nd)
Pass (6th - Supp 3rd)

(notable draft picks: Amani Walker, 4th; J.C. Banks, 4th; Ryan Richter, 4th; Jimmy Maurer, 4th; Dan Keat, 4th; Michael Boxall, 4th; Matt Gold, 3rd; Scott Gordon, 3rd; Jarad van Schaik, 3rd; Alex Caskey, 3rd; Ryan Kinne, 3rd; Davis Paul, 3rd; Bilal Duckett, 3rd; Bernardo Anor, 3rd; Joao Plato, 3rd; Charlie Campbell, 2nd; Cole Grossman, 2nd; Hector Jimenez, 2nd; Anthony Ampaipitakwong, 2nd; Jeb Brovsky, 2nd; Servando Carrasco, 2nd; Stephen McCarthy, 2nd; Michael Farfan, 2nd; Victor Estupinan, 1st; Eddie Ababio, 1st; Corey Hertzog, 1st; Michael Nanchoff, 1st; Justin Meram, 1st; Kofie Sarkodie, 1st; Bobby Warshaw, 1st; A.J. Soares, 1st; Zarek Valentin, 1st; Rich Balchan, 1st; Paolo Cardozo, 1st; Omar Salgado, 1st; Janil Anibaba, 1st; Will Bruin, 1st; Zach MacMath, 1st; Darlington Nagbe, 1st; and C.J. Sapong, 1st).

2nd round pick traded for Stephen King (United's second round pick of Chris Korb was obtained from Red Bulls for Carey Talley); 3rd round pick traded for Avery John (United's third round pick was obtained from Galaxy for two 4th round picks -- LA used the picks to take Dan Keat and Ryan Thomas).


Nick DeLeon (1st)
Lance Rozeboom (4th - Supp 2nd)
Charles Rodriguez (5th - Supp 3rd)
Matt Kuhn (6th - Supp 4th)

2nd round pick traded for Jed Zayner and 4th - Supp 1st round pick in 2011 draft; 3rd - Supp 1st round pick traded for Julius James.
The club's poor track record in drafts can't be for lack of recognition of the usefulness of college soccer: Kasper played forward for the Terps and translated his collegiate success into a multiyear professional career in the early 90s.

Plus, the MLS draft has a high bust to boom ratio. I've not taken the time to breakdown other franchises' experience in the draft, so it may be unfair to look at D.C. United's history in isolation.

Nevertheless, it is hard to see how the draft has been a priority for the club.

In the last decade, draft picks have accounted for seven core players on the team, with over half of those coming in the 2003 and 2004 drafts alone:
Perry Kitchen (2011); Chris Pontius (2009); Rodney Wallace (2009); Josh Gros (2004); Freddy Adu (2004); Brian Carroll (2003); and Alecko Eskandarian (2003).
If you expand that list to those that have provided cognizable first-team impacts, nine more are added:
Blake Brettschneider (2011); Chris Korb (2011); Jordan Graye (2010); Andrew Jacobson (2008); Guy-Roland Kpene (2007); Rod Dyachenko (2006); Devon McTavish (2006); and David Stokes (2003).
This means that in ten years, a grand total of sixteen draft picks have been significant additions.

Joe Willis, Nick DeLeon, and Lance Rozeboom may yet be included amongst them, but we can already be sure that 2012 draft picks Charles Rodriguez and Matt Kuhn will not.

Not that cutting two draft picks early in camp could have been that surprising. Consider Chad Ashton's comments following the draft:
“They’ve all gone to programs that have had success the past couple of years, and we feel like they have those qualities that will translate to our league," Ashton said. "[It] would be a wonderful surprise to not only make our team but come in and play some minutes for us."
A wonderful surprise? It would be a wonderful surprise if someone who walked off the street made the team and played some minutes for United. But draft picks? What kind of scouting philosophy does this reflect?

But maybe that's just the way things are, that there is such a dearth of talent in college soccer that fifth and sixth round draft picks are largely longshots to make, let alone contribute to, an MLS team.

Except its not.

Of the sixteen draft picks that saw more than a handful of games with the first team, two were taken very, very late -- Kpene was effectively a seventh round pick and McTavish was effectively an eighth round pick. Going back to 2002, United's only used picks that deep on three other players: James Thorpe; Andrew Terris; and Shawn Kuykendall.

It is a limited sample size, but a 40% hit rate in the seventh and eighth rounds of the MLS drafts should indicate scouting genius. And it should cement the simple observation that every pick matters.

Now compare the success in those two rounds with the team's second and third round picks since 2002.

United pulled Brian Carroll in 2003 and Chris Korb in 2011, but their other seven second round draft picks were Mike McGinty; Doug Warren; Nick Van Sicklen; Brad North; Andrew Jacobson; Milos Kocic; and Lyle Adams.

A similar story is presented by the third round picks. United took Joe Willis in 2011 and Dyachenko in 2006, but their other six picks were Mohamed Fahim; Kevin Ara; Jay Needham; Ricky Schramm; Ryan Cordeiro; and Brandon Barklage.

Giving the benefit of the doubt to Willis, four out of seventeen in the second and third rounds of the MLS Draft would seem to reflect scouting incompetence.

In the years that United made picks in those rounds, the club passed on MLS stalwarts like Davy Arnaud, Jack Jewsbury, Josh Saunders, Jeff Parke, Andy Dorman, Jeff Larentowicz, Chris Wondolowski, Jordan Harvey, Mike Chabala, Jonathan Bornstein, Aaron Hohlbein, Kosuke Kimura, Kheli Dube, Steven Lenhart, Danleigh Borman, Chris Tierney, Michael Fucito, and Michael Boxall -- all taken in the fourth round or later.

Dyachenko merits special mention, as he was not only a third round draft pick in 2006. Two years later, United burned a first round pick to get him back from Toronto FC.

In lieu of college scouting, the club seems to approach draft picks as assets that can be used to acquire veteran players. Indeed, trades of draft picks for veteran players has played a major part in United's personnel strategy:
  • Justin Mapp, D.C.'s first round pick in 2002, was traded for Dema Kovalenko.
  • United's second round pick in 2004 was trade for Hristo Stoichkov.
  • A first and third round pick was traded for Jaime Moreno in 2005.
  • Their first round pick in 2010 was traded for Fred.
  • The second round pick in 2010 was traded for Christian Gomez.
  • Josh Wicks was acquired for a third round pick in 2010.
  • DC's second round pick in 2011 was traded for Stephen King.
  • Avery John was obtained for a third round pick in 2011.
  • The second round pick in 2012 was used to obtain Jed Zayner.
  • Julius James cost United its third round pick in 2012.
Not starving for irony, United used draft picks to acquire players that other clubs had picked up as draft picks and developed. Zayner was a second round pick in 2006, taken after United selected Justin Moose in the first round. Julius James had been a first round draft pick in 2008, the year United gave up its first round pick to get Dyachenko back. Stephen King was a third round pick that year, while United took Ryan Cordeiro in the that round.

If Rozeboom isn't offered a contract, the current United team will have just as many players on the roster acquired through the draft (five) as those drafted by other teams in the third round or higher:
  • Daniel Woolard was an eighth round pick in 2007.
  • Kurt Morsink was a fourth round pick in 2007.
  • Brandon McDonald was a fourth round pick in 2008.
  • Stephen King was a third round pick in 2008.
  • Danny Cruz was a third round pick in 2009.
In other words, season ticket holders are being asked to come out and root for a team loaded with later round draft picks developed by other clubs while simultaneously being told that the draft is not important enough to merit roster spots for the club's fifth and sixth round selections.

The roster's current construction belies any claim that there is a D.C. United way of playing soccer and 2012 will present, once again, a team lacking any meaningful identity.

I'll remain optimistic about the academy and am excited to see Ethan White, Bill Hamid, and Andy Najar play for another season. But it's pretty difficult to get ginned up for another group of vagabonds pieced together by management that ludicrously and uproariously claims that the change that needed to come to the club was in the culture of the locker room and not the front office.

Maybe this is the season it all works out. In which case, fine. The MLS is a different animal and player development has to take a back seat to fielding a winning team.

But the more likely scenario is that this is yet another season where the vaunted international scouting machine of United places risky bets on foreign players that don't pay off while season ticket holders are denied even the delusional optimism derived from cheering for a hard-working, hungry kid like Brettschneider.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Night in Comcast

There is not much I regret about having kids, but I have missed the season tickets to Georgetown men's basketball. We had great seats, alongside good friends, and got to watch charismatic teams. Saturday mid-day games bridged into enjoyable afternoons in the city.

But it's no place for an infant and the three-year old has let it be known in no uncertain terms that she's not a fan. She says that Hoyas games aren't for kids and begins lobbying for a quick exit roughly ten minutes after finding our seats.

Now, however, I have found a suitable replacement. Maryland women's basketball games are now calendered events. This season we've lucked into a team that is as charismatic as any Hoyas squad in recent history.

While conference play has exposed weaknesses in the team, this iteration of the Terps has performed well beyond reasonable expectations. They are, simply, a fun team to watch; a well-balanced rotation of hard-workers without an elite level talent that towers above the rest. (Four players average double digits in scoring; four players average over five rebounds a game).

And then off the floor, there is the game experience in the stands.

Finding a gelato cart at tonight's game against Boston College eliminated any bad feelings that might have lingered from having to sit until the final whistle at Verizon.

More importantly, the school has shown its gratitude to the team's fans by making players consistently and regularly available. In the few occasions that our eldest has wanted to take advantage of the opportunity, she's thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it has palpably enhanced her interest in rooting for the team. I'd hazard a guess that this is true for a lot of the kids that come out to Comcast for games.

We've enjoyed the season so much, that I began to contemplate picking up Washington Mystics season tickets again. That idea was quickly quashed by the abysmally depressing escape of Marissa Coleman to Los Angeles. I'm not troubled if Maryland loses a game or two or three or four, because what the team offers, night in and night out, is competence. The contrast with the egos run amok that have torpedoed a good WNBA franchise is stark.

Tonight, incidental to demolishing Boston College, Maryland once again demonstrated that they provide maybe the best family-oriented sports ticket in the region.

Yesterday, in sending an iconic Terp on her way (rather than boldly arrest a stunning decline), the Mystics proved that when it comes to alienating loyal fans, the Wizards aren't the only game in town.