With Regards To Coaching The Revs – “No Budget, No Stadium, No Players; No Thanks:” plus An Interview with Darrius Barnes
Posted by tonybiscaia on November 3, 2011
A VIEW FROM THE FORT by Jim Dow
The above quote, taken from a Tweet by FSC pundit and former player Eric Wynalda known for being hyperbolic and perhaps unfair, may be the word in the MLS Street about the state of the New England Revolution in the aftermath of the recent dismissal of Steve Nicol.
Taken all in all the Ayrshire gaffer likely drove to training at Foxborough about two thirds the number of times he traveled to Melwood, the home for the world famous Liverpool Reds where he toiled with distinction for 14 seasons. Here, with the Revolution, he labored for ten, mostly on the uptick, often making good purses out of the uneven mixture of silk and sows that the ownership’s fiscal policies and fortune allowed him to obtain.
With both clubs his tenure was marked by a fierce devotion to the cause, significant success and a combination of affability and grit that earned him the everlasting respect of the vast majority of his colleagues, his coaches and players, including the likes of Bob Paisley, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Paul Mariner, Taylor Twellman and Shalrie Joseph, to say nothing of this supporter and sometime scribe.
Around those who cover the team he spoke a version of English that challenged even multi-linguists like Jankauskas and Stolica but his body language could verge on the inspired, particularly when he was asked a foolish question or while fumbling with the earphones while sputtering “cheers” at the termination of his obligatory, in-game interviews on TV. On the other hand, in guest shots on ESPN, he made himself perfectly understandable, making it crystal clear that he picked his spots, choosing to relate to people on his own terms.
While he likely needed to go, if only because coaches and managers take the chop for the failures of the whole, those who remain are, as far as football goes, lesser folk and in need of an equally sharp-ended reality check if the Revolution’s fortunes hold hope for improvement.
Robert and Jonathan Kraft understand a world where everything is mandated, set up and controlled through the college draft. The Patriots pick players from a fish bowl; no one with serious gorilla ball aspirations seeks a career outside the NFL and every single one of them has been scouted to the point of full cavity searches. MLS, on the other hand, is a lesser destination at best, so finding and then convincing a foreign player of any consequence or potential to come to the far Massachusetts suburbs to play on plastic-coated concrete requires a sell job that the Pats owners have never had to do, save at the outset, when they wooed, well, Pete Carroll (remember, they inherited the Tuna).
Further, the Krafts much lauded smart business tactics work in the NFL where low-balling means $2 million instead of $3 million, so one less Hummer or a bit less bling for a slightly declining interior lineman. Use that approach in MLS and you are undercutting people’s ability to fill a grocery cart or buy a refrigerator to put said trolleys’ contents in; no wonder players have left for greener pastures pissed off or worse.
Juan Luis Borges once described the Falklands/Malvinas war between Argentina and England as “two bald men struggling over a comb.” When it comes to the soccer side of things, the Kraft Sports Group’s method of negotiating salaries is a Dickensian approach in that reduces players to squabbling over the monetary equivalent of a tonsorial tool.
As I said, my suspicion is that the Revolution ownership has a sophisticated understanding of the closed shop world of the NFL, but it may be beyond their comfort zone to go outside the kind of business dealings they know best, as in; “sign here or you can take your skills to the Arena League.” It is true that they have to pay the porkers millions, but when you consider the percentages the hardball approach is philosophically the same.
To use a now nauseatingly overused term, everything in MLS requires a “Moneyball” approach to the world game.
The question now is if this understanding will arrive in Foxborough with the new coach. At this juncture, it is impossible to say but with the league as a whole moving away from the colleges as the main source for players, New England needs to catch up or risk continuing its’ present decline towards competitive irrelevance.
To be fair, it is true that there have been a number of foreign signings over the past few years, to wit, listed A to Z: Assengue, Augustine, Badilla, Baker, Caraglio, Castro, Coria, Dabo, Domi, Jankauskas, Lekic, Mansally, Niouky, Nyassi, Osei, Perovic, Stolica, Zerka. Yet, as of this writing, only Caraglio, Lekic and Zerka seem capable of impressing themselves as top-level MLS players and they all still fall under the category of “potentially.”
Again, to be fair, if Marko Perovic does return to the Revos fold as rumored and Coria, Mansally and Nyassi improve and thrive under the tutelage of a new coach that would be seven out of eighteen successful foreign signings in four years, not a bad haul at all for MLS.
If I were Steve Ralston, or any other candidate for the position, I would arrive for my interview knowing all of the above, plus the following facts to cement my argument for change.
In 2003 the NFL had 13 foreign born players out of 1,695. There are more recently but mostly from Canada. The NBA in 2011 was made up of 20% non-US players. At the beginning of this past season 234 of 846 baseball players with Major League contracts were born outside this country. In 2008, 80% of NHL players were “foreigners,” of course when more than 50% of all the NHL players are from Canada the stats are a trifle skewed but nonetheless there are a great many from far-flung Western and Eastern Europe. As for MLS, well this past season 99 different countries, plus the United States were represented on squads in an 18-team league.
While it is unclear how many scouts the other “Big Four” Boston teams employ to look in foreign lands there is no question that the Revolution should, considering where the talent that makes a difference is coming from going forward.
To make a point for the future with a positive from the past, what do these eleven players have in common, besides possibly being the best All Time Revs side? All of them arrived by allocation, draft or trade and not foreign scouting and all grew up in the US club/college system, which provides a similar informational base as for the NFL draft.
But that was then and now is now.
I chose this group to represent the most effective team, not necessarily the eleven best individuals who have played here. Also, they all had to be players who excelled while they were actually active with the Revs. If you wanted to opt for a 4-4-2, I’d remove Larentowicz, slide Ralston outside and add Carlos Llamosa to make a back four, but the stat would be the same, the cool Colombian arrived here via the Dispersal Allocation Draft when the Fusion folded.
Matt REIS (GK)
Michael PARKHURST (CB)
Jay HEAPS (RB) Mike BURNS (LB)
Shalrie JOSEPH (CM) Jeff LARENTOWICZ (DM)
Clint DEMPSEY (RM) Steve RALSTON (AM) Benny FEILHABER (LM)
Taylor TWELLMAN (Striker) Joe-Max MOORE (F)
In other words, to form this team, which I should think everyone would agree is a good one, all Revolution execs had to do was pick up the phone. Like the NFL, they knew what they were getting, even with the gamble that is the draft.
It doesn’t work that way anymore.
After presenting the above, if interviewed, I would give the background research below based on the three categories of player acquisition. I have taken the liberty of being highly selective and listing players who have played a significant part, either positive or negative, while with the Revolution. There are, with apologies, omissions.
Via MLS Drafts – Allocation, SuperDraft and Supplemental:
Kevin ALSTON (2009 -) Generation Adidas – MLS SuperDraft / Imad BABA (1996 – 2000) MLS SuperDraft, traded to Colorado / Adin BROWN (2002–04) signed after Allocation Dispersal Draft after other teams passed on his high (relative) contract, left for Norway / Michael BURNS (1996-00) assigned by MLS in the Inaugural Allocations / Alex Pineda CHACON (2002) via Allocation Dispersal Draft / Ted CHRONOPOLOUS (1996-2002) via Inaugural Draft, traded to MetroStars / Clint DEMPSEY (2004–06) MLS Superdraft, left for Fulham (UK) for transfer fee / Mamadou DIALLO (2002) via Allocation Dispersal Draft, traded to MetroStars / Andy DORMAN (2004-07) MLS SuperDraft, left for Saint Mirren (SPL) after acontract dispute / Benny FEILHABER (2011 – ) via Allocation Draft for returning U.S. Internationals / Guiseppe GALDERISI (1996, 1997) via Inaugural Draft, then traded to Tampa Bay / Ariel GRAZIANI (1998) Allocation from MLS, then traded to Dallas for Leonel Alvarez / Eduardo HURTADO (2000) Picked up on waivers from MetroStars, then released / Shalrie JOSEPH (2003 – ) MLS Superdraft, currently negotiating new contract / Alexi LALAS (1996-97) Inaugural Allocation / Jeff LARENTOWICZ (2005-09) MLS Supplemental Draft. Left as a free agent after salary dispute / Carlos LLAMOSA (2002-05) MLS Dispersal Allocation Draft, released / Joe-Max MOORE (1996-99, 2003-04) via Replacement Allocation for injured Giuseppe Galderisi, then left Everton “by mutual consent” and returned to Revs to retire after injury / Pat NOONAN (2003 – 07) Via MLS SuperDraft, option not picked up / Oscar PAREJA (1998) Allocated by league, traded to Dallas for Damien / Michael PARKHURST (2005-08) Generation Addidas-MLS SuperDraft, left as a free agent for Denmark / Steve RALSTON (2002-09, 2010) via Allocation Dispersal Draft. Left on a free transfer to A.C. St. Louis (Div II), returned to Revs for one game before retiring after injury / James REILY (2005 – 07) MLS SuperDraft, left unprotected in Expansion Draft / A.J. SOARES (2011 – ) MLS SuperDraft / Chris TIERNEY (2008 – ) MLS Supplemental Draft / Taylor TWELLMAN (2002 – 10) MLS SuperDraft, retired after injury.
Now via trade or free agency:
Chris ALBRIGHT (2008–10) via trade for allocation $. Traded to Red Bulls / Leonel ALVAREZ (1999-01) via trade for Ariel Graziani. Contract not renewed / Leo CULLEN (2001 – 03) Traded from Miami, left to pursue college degree / Raul DIAZ ARCE (1998) Traded from D.C. United. Traded to San Jose / Joe FRANCHINO (2000-08) from LA Galaxy as cost for acquiring Luis Hernandez. Traded to LA / Mario GORI (1999) via trade with Miami. Traded to Columbus / John HARKES (1998-2001) Traded from DC for draft picks. Traded to Columbus / Wolde HARRIS (2000 – 03) Traded from Colorado for draft picks. Traded to Kansas City / Jay HEAPS (2001-09) Traded from Miami for Brian Dunseth / Daniel HERNANDEZ (2002-03, 2005-07) Traded from MetroStars then transferred to Necaxa (MEX), then re-signed by Revs, then waived, now with Dallas / Brian KAMLER (2002-04) via trade from MetroStars. Chosen by Salt Lake in Expansion Draft / Ivan McKINLEY (1997 – 2000) traded from Tampa Bay, then to Miami Fusion / Mauricio RAMOS (2000) traded from Tampa Bay, left for Oriente Petrolero / Matt REIS (2003 – ) traded from Galaxy for a draft pick / Giovanni SAVARESE (1999) Acquired via trade from MetroStars, left for Perugia (IT) / Diego SERNA (2002 – 03) Via trade from MetroStars, left for Atletico Nacional (CO), then returned to MLS and the Galaxy / Jurgen SOMMER (2000 – 02) signed from Connecticut Wolves after coming to MLS via the Columbus Crew. Retired / Andy WILLIAMS (2001 – 02) Traded from Miami, then traded to MetroStars / Mauricio WRIGHT (2000 – 01) Via trade from San Jose, left for CS Herediano (CR).
Finally, actually scouted in other countries, in some cases by the league, particularly in the early days…
Jose Manuel ABUNDIS (2006) Scouted by the Revs. Left for Queretaro (MEX) / Michael AUGUSTINE (2011) Scouted by Revs at Abjua (Nigeria). Waived /Gabriel BADILLA (2008-10) Scouted by the Revs at Saprissa. Released and returned to Saprissa (CR) / Jose CANCELA (2003–06) scouted by Revs at Saprissa, had to leave when Jose Vegara’s All-Tico policy went into effect. Left unprotected in Expansion Draft, picked by Toronto / Milton CARAGLIO (2011 -) Signed as a loan from Rosario Central. Scouted by video / CASSIO (2005) Scouted by Revs at Olimpia Ascuncion (PAR). Waived, now with Adelaide United (AUS) / Mauricio CASTRO (2008-10) Scouted by the Revs at Olimpia (HOU). Released / Franco CORIA (2011 – ) Scouted by the Revs, on loan from Chacarita Juniors / Ousmane DABO (2011) scouted by Revs while without a club. Retired / Didier DOMI (2011) Scouted by the Revs at Olympiakos (GR). Retired / Diego FAGUNDEZ (2011 – ) signed from Revs Academy / Alejandro FARIAS (1997) Scouted by Revs (MLS) from Boca Juniors (ARG). Returned to Nuevo Chicago (ARG) / Edwin GORTER (1998-99) Scouted by Revs from NAC Breda (HO). Traded to Miami Fusion / Richard GOULOOZE (1998-99) Scouted by Revs (cousin to coach) while at Cambuur (HO). Returned to NEC (HO) / Steve HOWEY (2004) Scouted by Revs at Bolton (ENG). Waived, returned to Hartlepool (ENG) / Edgaras JANKAUSKAS (2009-10) Scouted by the Revs from REO Vilnus (LI). Waived, now at Fakel Voronezh (RUS) / Avery JOHN (2004-08) Scouted by the Revs, formerly played in Ireland, then for Steve Nicol’s Bulldogs. Went to Miami FC, USL / Rajko LEKIC (2011 – ) Scouted by the Revs from Silkeborg (DEN) / Kenny MANSALLY (2007 – ) Scouted by Revs from Gambia U-20’s while in Canada / David NAKHID (1998) Scouted by Revs from Joe Public (T&T). Left for Malmo FF (SWD) / Beto NAVEDA (1996-98) Scouted by Revs (likely the league) from Quilmes. Left for Maccabi Acre (ISR) / Joseph NIOUKY (2010) Scouted by Revs from Port Autome (SEN). Released, now with Jersey Express (USL) / Sainey NYASSI (2007 – ) Scouted by Revs from Gambia U-20’s while in Canada / Emmanuel OSEI (2009-10) Scouted by Revs from Liberty Professionals, waived / Marko PEROVIC (2010-11) Scouted by Revs from F.C. Basel, tried out came on a free transfer. Option declined in mid-season 2011 / Iljia STOLICA (2010 – 11) Scouted by Revs from Buducnost Podgorica (MONT). Released / William SUNSING (2000-02) Scouted by Revs and signed from CS Herediano (CR), left to play for Deportivo Saprissa (CR) / Walter ZENGA (1997-99) Scouted by Revs, left to pursue acting career, returned as player-manager, fired / Monsef ZERKA (2011 – ) Scouted by Revs via video after release from Greek club Iraklis after their relegation.
It would be interesting to do this exercise with, say, Real Salt Lake or Seattle, to name only two.
Case closed, I hope Ralston, or whoever, tells this to the interview committee.
Most MLS teams that miss the playoffs continue training for a week or so after the season and, despite the departure of Head Coach Stevie Nicol, the Revs are no different.
I caught up with defender Darrius Barnes to see how things are going.
JIM: I’m interested in the transition from one coach to another, at present unknown and how it affects you guys on the team, not so much emotionally, I’m sure that differs individually but professionally. I know that last year, you trained after the season as well, what do you set yourself for goals for the next couple of weeks?
DARRIUS: Mostly a mentality, you have just got to come out here and be professional, to get the training done just like if we were in the playoffs or during the season. But mostly it is a mental (thing), it’s not something that you want to be doing right now, you don’t want to be here training for not being able to play games on the weekend, so it is kind of a motivation to maker sure that we have a good season next year, we don’t want to be training when the season is over, just for the fun of it, we want to be training because we are getting ready to compete in playoff games and getting ready to compete to try to win a championship. So we are coming out here and putting the effort in just as if we were in playoff mode…
JIM: Yes, I noticed there was some hard contact and tough play…
DARRIUS: Yeah, yeah, everybody is here competing and everybody is giving their full effort and putting everything they can onto the field even though the season is over with but you make sure you are putting the same effort in and getting ready to push each other (as if you were) mak(ing) a playoff run.
JIM: You probably have heard Jurgen Klinsmann’s opinion that the MLS season is too short, now there are other people who follow the game in other parts of the world who say those seasons are too long. Teams are sometimes playing 70 games a year, all told. What is your opinion about that, where is the balance for you?
DARRIUS: I feel like the MLS season is long enough, I mean if you have a different job and you are going to work every day, close to 365 days a year (it is different) but this game is so taxing on our bodies that you have to find time to give your body a rest, so I feel like there should be a median, somewhere between the MLS season and the European season, especially with all the competitions (like the) Champions League that some of the MLS teams are playing in, along with the MLS season (and playoffs), I mean you can tell which teams are playing in both competitions towards the end of the MLS season, they get drained a little bit, so I definitely feel that somewhere a median between those two leagues would be (best).
JIM: Suppose they extended the season to 40 games, or 38 games, it would mean that, say, here in New England you might be playing in very early March or very late November. That is pretty much impossible.
DARRIUS: Yes, exactly. That is where I find a problem with trying to extend the MLS season, I mean today we are here practicing in the bubble because it snowed last night, so in climates like here, in Toronto, Vancouver, places like that, you never know what you are going to get (for weather) so it would definitely be tough.
JIM: Would you consider it a real disadvantage if, for instance, it meant that teams like the Revolution had to play their first and last two or three games on the road, it seems like that would be a tremendous disadvantage.
DARRIUS: Yes, I could see that being a disadvantage, especially if your team was on the bubble, the fringe of the playoffs and you needed those last two or three games to get into the playoffs and you are playing them on the road. You can ask anybody across the league that playing on the road is definitely tough within itself, so playing with that pressure on you and you are trying to make a playoff run and playing those games on the road could definitely be a disadvantage but you know, in this league and in soccer generally you are going to be faced with adversity, so it is something you have to deal with.
JIM: In your college days did you have a coaching transition, anything like what will be taking place here?
DARRIUS: Yes, I actually did, my first two years at Duke I played under John Rooney and then he retired and John Kerr came in, who used to play here, coached at Harvard and played at Duke, so its’ definitely something that is a little different, I mean when you have to deal with a coaching change, because you get used to one thing, I know a lot of people here were either brought in or drafted by Stevie, so it is going to be a change for everybody here. We don’t know who the new coach is going to be, we don’t know what the mentality is going to be, everybody just has to be ready to go when their number is called.
JIM: When something like this happens, does it make the team focus on itself more, I mean you guys are now the legacy, in the sense do you feel, in a funny way, even more of a connection with the team when the coach is let go (as you said, he brought you here)?
DARRIUS: Yes, it is tough because we felt like we kind of let him down because we definitely hadn’t played up to our standard this year as a team and in the end result, that reflects on Stevie and he ends up losing his job because of that. So we definitely feel a sense that we let him down and we have to go out there and show what we can do, show what we are capable of, what we really didn’t show this year during the season.
JIM: Not meaning this in any negative way but you know the old saying that you can’t fire the players so do you guys as professionals understand that it is this crazy imbalance, somebody has to go to the chopping block for everyone.
DARRIUS: Yeah, it is unfortunate that somebody has to sacrifice their job in a situation like this but our jobs are on the line too, (when) the new coach comes in, he may like some of us, he may not, depends on what type of playing style he’s looking for, so we are definitely out there with something to prove, too.
JIM: With the long offseason in this league, you won’t get back until literally mid-January, what do you do, after resting for a little while, what do you do to keep it going?
DARRIUS: I definitely take a little break to recharge the batteries a little bit and there’s a place I work with, I go back to North Carolina, try to get away from this Boston weather a little bit. I go down to Raleigh, North Carolina (where I’m from)…
JIM: I just published a book with Duke in Durham, so I’m really familiar with the area…
DARRIUS: Oh yeah?
JIM: It is a great area.
DARRIUS: Yes, so I’ll go back there, hang out with the family over the holidays and I work out at a place called Athletic Performance, which is a sports-specific training facility, I have trainers there who fix me up.
JIM: It is a real soccer hotbed.
DARRIUS: Yeah, exactly, so there are a lot of players training (there), a lot of professionals train there, so I do that and every once in a while I mix it up a little bit, do some variety, some pilates and yoga and things like that, just to get a variation so you don’t get bored during the off season.
JIM: Here, with the Revs, you guys are training at a very high level, you are pushing each other, so when you touch the ball, every time, there is somebody in your face and that is basically simulating what goes on in MLS-level games. When you get away from this level, how do you duplicate that pressure for yourself, so the training pushes you?
DARRIUS: You can’t, you really can’t duplicate it. The most you can do is what some players (do) and go overseas and train for a little while, get set up with their agents for overseas training, but if you are training on your own it is just really hard to duplicate that, so you just have to make sure that you are fit coming in and then that is what the pre-season is for, to kind of get that repetition and then you get back up to speed a little bit, so that is one thing we do here in New England, is kind of ease into the season, kind of raising the level each week, so hopefully everybody will go home and stay fit and try to stay sharp and work on little technical things that you can do to bring back that routine. But, ultimately, when you get back for pre-season that is when you get the game level again.
JIM: What are some of the other things that you, personally, are really interested in doing during the off-season, besides just chilling and maintaining your fitness?
DARRIUS: Just spending time with my family, I’ve been up here the whole season and I’ve only seen my family once, so just going back there to see my family and getting some southern food, going home for Thanksgiving, mostly that is what I’m looking forward to.
JIM: That’s great I’m going down there, to Durham, in a couple of weeks myself.
DARRIUS: Well, you enjoy it, it is great.