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MLS Combine Day One: power brokers, bad offensive soccer and a new crop of coaches

The first day of the 2008 MLS Combine will be remembered for two things. It was the day we saw a new generation of MLS coaches get to work and it was a day that set offensive soccer back about 100 years as nervous draft prospects did little to stand out in front of the scores of MLS coaches and management folks in attendance.

Two games were played totaling 180 minutes and exactly one goal was scored. Gonzaga forward/midfielder George Josten’s 18-yard blast in the second half of the day’s second game saved spectators at Lockhart Stadium from forgetting what a goal looked like.

There were new faces galore in attendance. You had Ruud Gullit (who must have been wondering if he could get rid of his truckload of draft picks after watching some really bad soccer). You had Denis Hamlett fresh from being introduced as Chicago’s head coach. You also had Juan Carlos Osorio and Frank Yallop, who were both at the first combine for their new clubs.

I will break down the day’s events into the stuff on the field, and the stuff off the field.

My take on the first day of games will come in a short while. For now, I will focus on off-the-field observations:

Twellman speaks, Revs respond

I managed to speak with disgruntled New England forward Taylor Twellman this morning. After my traveling down here prevented me from connecting with Twellman on Friday, I was able to interview him on Saturday morning about his unhappiness with New England’s decision to reject a bid for Preston North End valued at $2.5 million.

Being down here did allow me the chance to have an impromptu interview with the New England power trio of Mike Burns, Sunil Gulati and Steve Nicol. Long story short, don’t expect the Revs to budge any time soon but don’t expect Twellman to give up on his desire to go to England. I will give this its own post later and will have a more in-depth piece on the situation for

Hamlett shows up with some friends

Denis Hamlett was seen sitting with Fire president John Guppy as well as long-time coaching colleague Daryl Shore, but also with Mike Jeffries and Frank Klopas, two other coaches who were up for the Chicago job. Hamlett wasn’t ready to announce any coaching hires but a coaching/technical staff of Hamlett, Shore, Jeffries and Klopas would look pretty good.

It would be fitting given this is the 10-year anniversary of the 1998 MLS Cup winning Fire squad, which Hamlett, Jeffries and Klopas were a part of (Hamlett and Jeffries were assistants on that team while Klopas was a player). Coincidentally, all four men were part of the Fire coaching staff in 2000, the year Chicago reached the MLS Cup final and won the U.S. Open Cup.

Osorio observes

Osorio was in the house with assistants Des McAleenen and Richie Williams. There is no word yet on who his assistant coaches will be but we should have word soon. Williams being here suggests that he will remain on the coaching staff but don’t be surprised if he takes another position with the club.

Crew stay tight lipped

Columbus head coach Sigi Schmid and GM Mark McCullers made the rounds and McCullers wasn’t giving up anything new on his designated player target (not that he should after giving about a dozen clues). My guesses were Jan Koller and Patrick Kluivert. He wasn’t budging. I’m willing to bet that McCullers is a pretty good poker player because he had the poker face working.

Ghosts of coaches past

The scene at Lockhart Stadium didn’t just include current MLS coaches. Former MLS coaches Thomas Rongen and Greg Andrulis were in the house. Andrulis, now the head coach at George Mason, is serving as a coach for one of the Combine teams while Rongen, the U.S. Under-20 coach, was observing some potential U-20 prospects.

Odds and ends

Word out of Chicago is that the Fire never offered Houston assistant John Spencer the head coaching job. Whether that is spin or the truth is pretty irrelevant at this point but what is clear is that Spencer didn’t make any friends by going public with his comments. If you are a team looking for a head coach would you consider a candidate who just might go out and badmouth you if things go sour?

Sources have told me that newly-signed FC Dallas defender Duilio Davino will make in the $400K a season range, meaning he’s a max salary-plus player, not a designated player. That still sounds pretty pricey but apparently FC Dallas thinks Davino’s marketing potential makes him worth that money.

There were no trades to report today but I’m sure there will be plenty of talking as all the league’s power brokers gather tonight to have a few drinks and socialize.

That’s all for now. I will be back in a bit with my observations from today’s matches so stay tuned.


  1. Elliott,

    It’s because of ignorance with regards to how the soccer world works by many here in the US where many fans are true novices (yet have big “half baked” opinions).

    It’s also because many are Euro Posers and only care about US players going anywhere in Europe. Europe is their holy grail mentally.

    It’s about insecurity and respect. Many fans need Euro approval of our players to feel better about themselves in their limited worlds.

    This happens all the time…everywhere. Welcome to the real world sheltered US fans. Just shows the general naivete we have here. Whether fans, coaches or players. Long way to go.

    When I here “transfer jail” or “how MLS is holding guys back” all I can think of is one word for those pleading and whining – morons.

  2. Come on, Tim F. If Twellman wants more freedom in the transfer market then he should avoid signing multi-year contracts without buy-out clauses.

    You don’t see Stephen Hunt complaining to the press about his blocked transfer to a club that would pay better wages( Clubs block transfers all the time.

    I don’t understand why we act like MLS players are in “transfer jail.” It’s a CONTRACT. When you sign it, you consent to certain things.

  3. Thanks for updates! While I think Twellman is more valuable to Revs/MLS, it’s a shame that US players who want to play (at least part of their career) in Europe get held back against their will.

  4. Yep, Davino is a defender, just a brain cramp on my part. Lot of writing going on.

    And Terp, I will definitely be doing a mock draft. I may try to crank one out today and do one each day. That’s if I have time. Either way I’ll be doing one soon.

  5. Guys, there were some decent showings by attacking players but the team play made it tough for people to stand out. Also, some good attacking players weren’t here, like Nyarko and Avila. I’m writing a report on the games as we speak so stay tuned (only for about another hour this time).

  6. So Ives, is it a good thing my Dynamo only have 2 picks? (at 42 & 56 as well) Or was the talent just not playing up to their potential.

    Secondarily, how is the goalkeeping depth this year in the draft?

  7. All along people have been saying that this year’s class had quality and depth in the defensive areas, while lacking quality attacking players. Maybe today was just a manifestation of those factors. I’m looking forward to having a nice group of defenders fill out the league. We spend our big money on goal scorers so maybe this is actually a blessing in disguise.

  8. The only players that probably looked good were defenders. Yikes.
    It’d be really interesting and funny and sad to know what Ruud is thinking after today’s games.

  9. Ives – You gotta ask McCullers about Schelotto after the Argentine wemt on television last night saying he wanted out of MLS and was working on being able to sign with Gimnasia.


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