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 ESPN.com.
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 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.