Tennessee is not recruiting well just because they got 18 dudes
Last time out. Facing the suspension of Deandre Yedlin, Klinsmann flipped Fabian Johnson to the right and brought in Matt Besler as a left-back-type-substance. This looked weird on the surface. When soccer folk attempt to describe an overall tactical approach with a formation those formations are invariably symmetrical and identical in attack and on defense; neither of these things are true in practice. Besler barely ventured forward when the US had the ball; Fabian Johnson bombed up the right sideline all game. Both of these decisions were suited to their play, and the US played their best first half of the tournament. It was predictable but it put people in roles they were good at.
Things went nuts in the second half after red cards to each team. Jermaine Jones put a fist in the vicinity of an Ecuador player to even things up after Antonio Valencia got a second yellow card, turning what should have been a comfortable exercise in seeing out a game a man and a goal up into a frenetic finish. Klinsmann left Clint Dempsey on the field an inordinately long time, leaving the US with just seven guys trying to defend. This paid off with a goal, and then bit the US when Dempsey continued afterwards. Klinsmann also left on a number of US players on yellow cards and got his just desserts for doing so when an exhausted Alejandro Bedoya pulled an opponent back after getting beaten. He was issued a yellow that suspends him for this game. Steve Birnbaum would come on in the 93rd minute as a middle finger to common sense.
But they're here, in a semi-final against Argentina. This is an opportunity for history.
This dude 1) scores 2/3rds of a goal per game in the EPL, 2) comes off Argentina's bench
So… Argentina. The problem is that they're not just Messi. Throw a rock at the attacking players on Argentina's team and you will hit a cornerstone of one of the elite clubs in the world. A dude with 102 goals in 150 appearances for Manchester City comes off their bench. FIFA rankings blah blah blah; #1 does mean something.
After years of frustration they've finally figured out how to deploy Messi in the context of the national team: they tell him to do whatever he wants and try to run into useful places. Messi roams from sideline to sideline, from front to back, and is extremely difficult to mark out of a game as a result.
Their defense looks elite but is part a creation of their possession; they had a shaky period against Venezuela where the Rio Tinto outside backs were bombing forward and unsettling the D's organization. Venezuela hit a post, missed a penalty, and forced a couple excellent saves out of the Argentina keeper.
Argentina's back four is not to the standard of the rest of the team. They start Gabriel Mercado, a 29-year-old Liga MX player with just six caps, at one outside back spot. The other outside back spot is a Man U player who has trouble getting league appearances; Everton center back Ramio Funes Mori has been a bit iffy in this tournament. This is still Argentina we're talking about here but they're not overwhelming back to front like a Germany is. Those center backs are generally regarded as the weak links of the team, and a quick counter attack or successful overload could stake the US to a lead. Argentina is vulnerable to the kind of goals the US scored against Ecuador. The US can have a period of similar productivity, and maybe they have better luck.
Just one problem.
Wood is the man, and he's on the bench. Wood is a brutal loss since he's been maybe the USA's best player in this tournament not named John Brooks—he is capable of runs behind the defense and hold-up play, a complete forward the US hasn't seen since the brief moment when Charlie Davies was reaching his peak. While it came to little, Wood's tenacity and speed were most apparent on a run early in the Ecuador game that had no business turning into a shot but did nonetheless:
That is a guy who puts the fear of God into center backs.
Woods had two hockey assists in that game as his runs drove the opposition back to the mouth of their own goal and opened up space for crosses against a defense that had already spent a center back chasing him.* Davies was the last US forward to threaten like this. His activity became so integral to the USA's gameplan under Bob Bradley that Bradley not only brought but started Robbie Findley during the 2010 World Cup. Since Findley was a version of Davies with cement blocks for feet this was a mistake; it demonstrates just how dangerous and difficult to find a guy like Wood is for the US. (Except they've got another one playing in Seattle, but that's another post.)
Everyone assumes that the US will slide Zardes up top and try to get the same production. Zardes does match Wood's speed and endurance but Wood is super productive at finding space, something Zardes is erratic at. His first touch has been discussed to death for good reason; he's not likely to replicate Wood's production. The US is hoping he has a moment or two where it works out and he can apply his physical gifts. The other option is Chris Wondolowski, which: no.
*[Fancy talk for this is "running the channels." To execute this a center forward runs diagonally to the edge of the field, usually when the outside back is up the field. A center back generally gets pulled into an uncomfortable spot and the defense has to rotate to cover. Just like in basketball, a rotating defense is a vulnerable one. The second goal is a quintessential example of that activity.]
What now? Wood, Jones, and Bedoya are suspended for the semifinal. Losing the two central midfielders at the same time is rough but survivable since there are reasonable replacements; losing Wood is probably fatal for the USA's chances in a game where they don't figure to have much of the ball.
I'm operating under the following assumptions:
- The US will continue using Dempsey as a second forward under a true #9
- They will not be averse to asymmetry in the formation
- Darlington Nagbe made fun of Klinsmann's hair
Klinsmann has gone with all the old guys for his substitutions so far, frustratingly. Continuing that would be a major mistake. The Argentina back line had a lot of trouble with Venezuela's outside speed. Beckerman has just about reached his expiration date. I'd rather roll with a more athletic player there.
I would stick with the unbalanced formation the US used against Ecuador and slide Fabian Johnson up. You're going to need a moment of brilliance or two and Johnson is one of the likeliest candidates to provide that if he's allowed to play on the wing. It could look like this:
You could flip Pusilic in for Zusi but the chances of that seem very low.
FWIW, this is the formation most of the USA internet has arrived at. It lets Yedlin fly up the wing like Fabian Johnson did in the previous game and puts Johnson back at the spot that he excelled in this season for Gladbach. With Argentina down Angel Di Maria and Nicholas Gaitan they don't have a ton of width. Their outside backs don't get forward much; they don't do a whole lot of crossing. They had only 12 in the Venezuela game, and one of those was the ridiculous Messi assist from 40 yards out. All this means the US would do well to replicate their gameplan against Spain in the Confederations Cup: load up the middle and clear the crosses.
The gameplan with Beckerman looks something like this:
Nagbe has been more effective in the center of midfield in the last couple years of MLS play but this would be more or less fine. Other exotic options include dumping Dempsey for a 100% bunker, bringing in DM Perry Kitchen, and deploying Pusilic. None of these seem at all likely, but Klinsmann might Klinsmann.
Nagbe is critical because he is the USA's best bet to relieve pressure and get more of the ball. His exclusion has been somewhat reasonable to date; leaving him out in this game means both Zusi and Beckerman are playing and means the US is playing to survive a 90 minute onslaught and hope for the best in penalties. Given the situation Nagbe is a better defensive player than Beckerman. He would not fare as well in a defensive mid role but he doesn't have to play it, and Nagbe is a huge upgrade in both athleticism and ability to possess the ball.
This tournament is already a success. It's hard to imagine that the continual changes in both personnel and formation will persist going forward. The back five are just about set. Wood and Dempsey are your first choice forward pairing. Jones, Bedoya, Zardes, and Nagbe will battle for midfield spots. There's one slot in the first-choice 11 that is up for grabs based on performance (Zardes) and two that may have to be revisited due to age or continued problems with red mist (Dempsey and Jones). For a team that didn't start the same center back pairing since the assassination of Franz Ferdinand until the run up to this tournament that's a quantum leap forward.
Most of the questions concern backup spots now and even a couple of those (Jordan Morris, for one) have reasonable answers going forward. Outside back, as always, is the main area of concern.
Klinsmann still behaves like a man who's petrified people will see through the emperor's new clothes and is replacement-level at best, but… hey, replacement level! I can dig that!
Scouting Charles Matthews. Scout's Xavier site put together an uncommonly useful reel from Matthews's freshman year at Kentucky:
They don't cover some of the downsides, which comprise almost everything that can go in a Kenpom profile. Matthews had vanishingly small usage, turned the ball over a lot—although low usage will magnify TORate on a small number of TOs—and shot just 42% from the free throw line. All of these numbers have a low sample size, but it's clear Beilein has his work cut out for him developing the offensive side of Matthews's game.
Hudson destroys all comers. Pennsylvania's Big 33 game against Maryland was a few days ago*. Pennsylvania featuring an array of D-I talent. Most of the top guys from PA were there, including five-star PSU RB Miles Sanders, USC TE Cary Angeline, a half-dozen Pitt commits, and Slippery Rock DT Clark Wilford. Hudson blew these dudes out of the water. Hudson was the game MVP per the announcers (the organizers gave it to Sanders) and his coach raved about him to Chris Balas:
“He is an absolute freak,” Pennsylvania head coach Mike Matta of Downingtown East High said. “I didn’t look in advance to see if he’s a three-star, four-star, five-star or what, but I saw the film before the game, and when he got here … I can’t believe he got out of the state. Actually, I can’t believe everybody in the world didn’t make this kid a priority. There’s nothing he can’t do … and what he can do is just outrageous.”
Pitt partisans can only sigh and put weird commas everywhere at his escape:
Doing us all a favor, I'll get the Khaleke Hudson portion out of the way, first. If you watched the game, you undoubtedly understand the reference. "There's that number 21, again…" … seemed to be the only player on the field, tonight.
Various reporters we like… dang:
Khaleke Hudson is good. Damn good.
— Greg Pickel (@GregPickel) June 19, 2016
Khaleke Hudson just did amazing things on a punt return & it's going to get brought back, but I don't really care.
— Daniel Gallen (@danieljtgallen) June 19, 2016
Khaleke Hudson just tackled two Maryland players at the same time. #Big33
— 412-CFB-Recruiting (@MJsteelcityPitt) June 18, 2016
Hudson had a ridiculous punt return that was wiped out by penalty and thus not included in the clips VSN TV posted to YouTube.
*[Ohio dumped their traditional matchup in the Big 33 game because they kept getting housed, then tried playing Michigan, got housed a couple times, and has now given up entirely.]
Hawkins wobble: stand down? Brad Hawkins was recently the subject of a bunch of internet rumormongering based on the fact that he scrubbed his twitter page of any Michigan mentions and was not yet in the student directory—everyone else is accounted for. Ominous, but unless something drastic happened in the last few days it seems like it's a false alarm. Philly.com just named him their South Jersey player of the year, and the article to accompany the honor is pretty explicit about Hawkins's near future:
Hawkins has signed to attend the University of Michigan on a football scholarship. He plans to depart Friday for Ann Arbor to begin summer workouts.
Hawkins, who also is a strong student, stood outside the fence at Camden's football field at Farnham Park the other day and marveled at the speed with which his high school career had passed.
If he's not on campus by this weekend then you can start running in circles.
Man did I biff this one. The Swiss national team had a jersey blowout reminiscent of the various issues Michigan had a couple years back, and one of the infinite Swiss soccer players with an X in his name seriously outperformed yours truly when trying to snap back at the clothing company:
The shortage of action in France and Switzerland’s dull 0-0 draw in Lille on Sunday night prompted increased attention on deficient equipment, with Swiss kits tearing easier than paper and the winger Xherdan Shaqiri telling Blick: “I hope Puma does not produce condoms.”
Can't win 'em all. /kicks dirt
While the company in question here is Puma, the Only Incompetent Germans couldn't let a fiasco like this go by without getting involved:
Adidas were also left red-faced when one of their Beau Jeu footballs burst when Antoine Griezmann was challenged by Valon Behrami. One of Griezmann’s studs appeared to put a hole in the ball. The balls retail at £105.
Nike stuff will be available at Moe's in just under two months, everybody.
A minor fan revolt in Nebraska. Via GTP, the Cornhuskers made some news a few weeks ago when some Nebraska season tickets actually went on sale to the public. The local paper took the opportunity to interview some discontents in Lincoln. Nebraska has a get-in-the-door fee of 2500 that is causing a lot of people to balk:
Aaron says: “How many people out there are able to pony up a $2,500 donation per seat — or even $2,000 for seats in the east balcony? Drop that down to something people are more comfortable with and they’ll go in a heartbeat. The desire of fans to see NU play is still there, but the price of attendance has to be rationalized. (Shawn) Eichorst is no dummy, he’ll get it figured out.”
The rub is, these donations have been factored into the NU athletic budget for years. Take them out, or reduce them, and what fills the void? Scott has a thought:
“I can’t believe that the donations that would go away couldn’t be replaced by a $40 million Big Ten annual check.”
Scott also reminded: “In a previous century, considering the fact that 1) we were winning national championships, and 2) every game was not on TV, you could charge a donation to get tickets.”
This guy nails one of the worst feelings the Brandon regime imposed on Michigan fans:
“What really makes me hate the streak are those signs at the stadium: ‘Through these gates pass the greatest fans in college football.’ It’s a guilt trip from the A.D.’s office. ... Don’t tell me I don’t love my team just because I won’t fall for what amounts to ‘emotional extortion’ in an attempt to separate me from my cash in the name of preserving this farce of a streak. Like any relationship, it works both ways."
It's a harsh world when supporting the team that you love simultaneously makes you feel like a rube. College football is trending away from that somewhat with better nonconference schedules, but seemingly only because they have to. If Nebraska's having trouble selling out you know there's something afoot in the wider college football world.
ESPN holds on. The other half of the Big Ten package goes for some dollars as well:
ESPN will pay an average of $190 million per year over six years for essentially half the conference’s media rights package, according to several sources close to the talks. Two months ago, Fox Sports agreed to take the other half of the package for an average of $240 million per year. CBS Sports also has told the conference that it will renew its basketball-only package for $10 million per year.
This is stoking Nebraska fans' ire when they see that windfall and compare it to their pocketbooks. For the league itself it clearly separates the SEC and the Big Ten from the rest of the Power 5, for as much as that actually helps them compete. Survey says… not much. NCAA rules induce a lot of inefficient substitutions that can't overcome proximity.
I wonder if the Big Ten will sit on a big chunk of this money in case the landscape isn't as friendly in six years when these deals expire. At that point it'll be more clear what shape the new media landscape is taking and how much money they can spend without overcommitting to a model that could come apart.
The FOX deal gives them first choice of games, so expect a lot of Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt over the next few years. OSU/Michigan is headed to FOX.
2017 athletic budget items. Michigan is back to break even after some big deficits at the end of the Brandon tenure. The new Nike contract and the return of the International Champions' Cup are aids:
Budgeted corporate sponsorship revenues are projected to increase by $1.49 million due to a new apparel agreement.
• Budgeted facility revenues are projected to increase by $1.4 million due to a special event in Michigan Stadium following a fiscal year with no such events.
Manuel's approach to his budget is slightly different than his predecessor's:
"It's not my mindset to say we're going to use Michigan Stadium to make money," he said Thursday following his budget presentation to the Regents. "We want to look at opportunities where they exist, but I don't step in with a philosophy of, I want to use Michigan Stadium to drive more revenue."
It's fine to use Michigan Stadium to drive more revenue as long as that revenue isn't 1) bankrupting student organizations or 2) flooding commercial breaks at Michigan Stadium with ads for weddings. Extra events are a good thing.
Etc.: Michigan's top newcomer will be a HUGE SURPRISE TO YOU if you just arrived from space from 50 years in the past because of time dilation. NCAA might cut satellite camp window to ten days. That's a more reasonable restriction than zero. Satellite camps cost 0.02 percent of Michigan's athletic department budget. Pride comes before the fall.
The US came out of a reasonably difficult group at the Copa America and now faces Ecuador, a team they just beat 1-0 in a pre-Copa friendly, in the quarterfinal. Assorted items. Nobody cares if you don't like soccer, sports talk radio enthusiast.
Klinsmann wasn't entirely wrong after Colombia… The opener against Colombia was a 2-0 loss but far less dispiriting than a lot of victories over the past couple years, and because everyone's on edge about how Klinsmann is a bad coach there was a ton of pushback/panic/etc. Klinsmann in the aftermath:
Despite the loss, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann declared himself generally pleased with how his team performed in what he termed “a totally even game.”
“We were absolutely OK with the team performance,” Klinsmann told reporters in his postgame press conference. “Obviously we got punished for two set pieces in the first half, and then against such a quality team [it’s] very, very difficult if you don’t force one goal to get back into the game and equalize it. But overall, we were completely even. We didn’t give them anything.”
This was sort of correct and sort of the same product Klinsmann's self-serving excuse factory has been dumping into the river for a couple years now. (Please do not try to compare the above statements to anything Klinsmann said during or after the 2015 Gold Cup. If they touch each other they will explode.) Colombia generated little from the run of play. The fancystat Expected Goals more or less thought the game was a wash:
xG map for USA - Colombia. Not much in this one between the goal and the Bacca big chance. pic.twitter.com/RZWb2NhG7O
— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) June 7, 2016
That more or less corresponds to what I saw, except the one big Colombia chance it sees is overrated by the formula because it doesn't take the difficulty of Bacca's attempt into account. I'll take that against the #3 team in the world. One missed mark on a corner and a fluke PK were about it for Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Bacca, and company. That's the bit where Klinsmann was right. The bit where he was wrong was a game state thing. Colombia scored within ten minutes and were happy to sit back and see what happened, especially once it seemed like the US was no threat. It wasn't a threat, and a large part of that goes back to the manager.
[After THE JUMP: soccer content that will probably revoke your man card or something]
Jalil Irvin's commitment post is here.
One of many softball-related activities that did not occur yesterday [Brian Fuller]
Severe weather delay. Most of the WCWS was rained out yesterday, so they'll try again tonight. This might be good for Michigan since starting pitcher Megan Betsa has a sore back. Michigan plays LSU at 9:30, or after the conclusion of an Alabama-Oklahoma game that was stopped in the middle of the second last night. On the other half of the bracket, Georgia continued its Cinderella run with a win over FSU; Auburn beat UCLA. Game's on ESPN2 tonight.
Harbaugh just likes it man. While nobody is denying that satellite camps are about recruiting, for Harbaugh it's also about football. Pick a report from one of these camps and you'll get some insight into Harbaugh's maniacal intensity:
During one exercise -- a one-cut drill with running backs in linebackers -- Harbaugh was so into things he completely lost track of time.
Another staffer shouted over toward him after taking a look at his watch: "Ready to rotate, coach?"
"No," he fired back with excitement. "OK, I guess so."
247's Keith Niebuhr is an Auburn reporter who was at the camp for his own Auburn-related reasons:
-The kids loved being around Harbaugh. He's very personable when he coaches these guys. It seems genuine. He speaks their language. Makes them all feel special -- even the kids that have no shot of being D-I guys.
Dude just likes football more than most people like anything. But he dislikes "soup sandwiches."
Sliiightly misplaced priorities. Let's recap events in the SEC since Greg Sankey went on his smarm offensive about satellite camps:
- Tennessee is hit with a Title IX lawsuit that alleges Baylor goings-on in Knoxville.
- Alabama fires an assistant coach because of recruiting violations. Saban further bitches about NCAA drug testing policies, implying that someone got McGary'd.
- Ole Miss is hit with a half-dozen Level 1 NCAA violations that don't even include the revelation from Laremy Tunsil that he was paid by Ole Miss employees. Contrary to the lies Ole Miss fed various credulous reporters, most of the allegations concern Hugh Freeze's tenure, not Houston Nutt's.
- Mississippi State enrolls a five-star recruit who was caught on tape beating a prone woman. They suspend him for the Southern Alabama game.
- Texas A&M loses a quarterback commit, causing an assistant coach to go on a twitter rant that causes further decommits. This one is more dumb than troubling, but it's really dumb.
The comeuppance here is truly spectacular, not that any of the various mouthpieces down south have noticed. Here's Tony Barnhart setting the last vestiges of his dignity on fire:
Had Mississippi State not taken Simmons, there was no guarantee that he could not enroll at another SEC school. https://t.co/hIf7LjctRA
— Tony Barnhart (@MrCFB) June 2, 2016
Hooooooly shit. Turn around and show us Sankey's hand up your back, buddy. Barnhart's descent into the SEC's personal Iraqi minister of information has reached its climax. What an ass.
Oh right and also that. Baumgardner runs down why Saban's crocodile tears about compliance are particularly funny/enraging:
Harbaugh did more than that. He called him out -- a hypocrite, actually. And I'm not sure how anyone can find fault with it.
Saban -- who has, of course, won four national titles at Alabama -- is literally in the middle of a situation where recruiting violations within his program were found. An assistant coach has been forced to resign and the school currently is awaiting the result of that NCAA investigation.
And if that were the only thing going on here, it'd probably be enough. But it's not.
Like in 2009 when a businessman paid for stars Mark Ingram and Julio Jones to go on a fishing trip. Or in 2013 when a former Alabama player was caught giving Tide offensive lineman D.J. Fluker impermissible benefits. Or later that same year when Saban had to fire a staffer after he paid safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Anyone remember that whole deal about the disassociated Alabama booster who continued to sell signed Crimson Tide merchandise -- from players who still were on the team -- back in 2014?
Like Ole Miss this is just the tip of an iceberg. It should be interpreted as a glimpse into a sophisticated NCAA rule violation factory that occasionally screws up. Alabama does not care about NCAA rules one iota. Saban doesn't want to know. Bo Davis's mistake was knowing.
Further Baylor fallout. Baylor's 2017 recruiting class turned into a ghost town, as you might expect. They're down to one dude. More pressingly, seven players from Baylor's already-signed 2016 class did not enroll as planned and are asking out of their LOIs. One of them is already free to pick another school because Baylor treated his LOI like a sexual assault and didn't report it to the relevant authorities. Baylor isn't releasing them yet because they're holding onto a vague hope that Jim Grobe will be able to salvage some of these guys. Survey says not likely:
The elder Cobb said it was a "good visit, but we let them know my son wants to pursue other options. His mind is made up."
"We bought in completely, and we're crushed," JP's mother, Emily, said. "And it's more than Briles. The whole environment is toxic, and there is no way a kid should have to go there."
"We were shocked and appalled when we found out Thursday the severity and widespread extent of Baylor's wrongdoing in multiple instances," Julian said. "We had no idea. Now that we know, we will not be a part of that."
Baylor has 30 days before it has to make a decision and can force the various players who want to go elsewhere to either delay enrollment or pay their own way for a year. It's unlikely it comes to that—it seems like most of the Baylor defectors have no intention of going to Waco, so Baylor would be further killing its reputation for no benefit.
This is another example of why the NLI does little to nothing for players and should be avoided if at all possible. Players can sign financial aid paperwork that locks the school in without locking the player in.
Revisiting potential NCAA involvement. I do think the NCAA is going to do something here. There's a recent precedent in which a school violated its own policies and got hit because of it: Syracuse. Syracuse had a bunch of different things go down under scofflaw Jim Boeheim. One of them was ignoring their own drug testing policy:
"Like many of the other severe violations involved in this case, the institution's actions regarding its dismissal of the written drug testing policies and procedures were aimed at preserving student-athletes' ability to compete for the men's basketball program," the NCAA report said.
Baylor's internal justice-type substances are in violation of their written policies and should be similarly actionable, since it was also in the service of preserving eligibility. Hopefully it's far more actionable than Syracuse's issues.
Uh, yeah, poke around these guys maybe. At least two of the Baylor defectors should be of serious interest to Michigan: four star OL Patrick Hudson and JP Urquidez are both high-profile players who can play tackle. That spot is a sore one for Michigan after Logan Tuley-Tillman was booted and Devery Hamilton flipped to Stanford. Michigan was vaguely involved with Hudson; Urquidez went off the board just a few months after Harbaugh was hired and did not appear to have any relationship with M beforehand.
Michigan will undoubtedly ask both about their interest once that's permissible—schools can't contact any of these guys until they are released.
A balanced schedule. A desultory hooray for Big Ten Hockey, which finally managed to put together a second half of the season for Michigan without a month and a half between games at Yost. Michigan's back half has eight games, all of them in the Big Ten, and the longest stretch without a game at Yost is three weeks. I'm slightly nonplussed by the two bye weeks Michigan has in the second half—the weekends of January 6th and 28th are open. But this is much better than the previous two years.
Adam covered the nonconference portion of the schedule when it was released. In short, it's nice for fans to get BU at Yost but other than that it's a bunch of middling-to-bad teams that won't help Michigan make the tournament if their record isn't as shiny as it was a year ago. Which… yeah. Probably won't be.
Play the penalties before extra time. If one team outscores the other in the subsequent 30 minutes of open play, then that result will trump the outcome of the penalty kicks. If extra time ends in a draw, then the game goes to the penalty winner.
That's brilliant. While the shootout does still have its unsatisfying place in the game, playing it early reduces its impact and guarantees that one team will always be frantically pressing for a goal. That change should be implemented immediately.
Etc.: Pay-to-play in US soccer is a necessity because the money has to come from somewhere. Ken Starr's personality is to the best of his ability. Seriously, can we not send him to jail? Are there not laws against this behavior? Michigan's not attending Baylor's camp anymore, it appears.
An irregular series in which I fix all of a sport's problems. Previously: hockey.
10. Use goal line technology. The imposition on the flow of the game is minimal and there is no reason to not have it. Whether or not a goal is scored is kind of a big deal in a sport that sees 3 or 4 a game.
9. Offsides is reviewable on goals. Again, this disrupts the 90-minute-flow that soccer and only soccer has. But since the game is getting broken up anyway—at least slightly—a quick peek at whether an offsides was or was not accurate is worth it as long as they adopt the NFL's hard limit on time available to make a decision. If it's not obvious in 30 seconds the call is close enough.
8. Stop the clock when people are injured. Ideally soccer would dump the whole stoppage time concept and have a clock that actually reflects what time it is. Every other sport manages this. In lieu of a total overhaul which is not coming, soccer games should borrow a concept from college soccer and allow the ref to cease the inexorable march of time with an X symbol over his head.
The X is deployed when the game is stopped because a player is down. Right now the perception amongst players is that falling over when nursing a late lead helps you win, so it happens all the time. Erase that perception and second half time-wasting gets 50% more tolerable.
7. Yellow cards for being Pepe. In the Champions League Final, Real Madrid defender Pepe twice rolled around like he'd been shot after light taps to his face. These should be cardable events. I will also accept a firing squad.
6. Dump Financial Fair Play and replace it with… I don't know. FFP, if you don't know, is an attempt to prevent a rich owner buying a Chelsea or Manchester City and making them very good by spending a lot of money. Because teams are allowed to spend what they make it tends to set the current power structure in concrete, Leicester notwithstanding. Also it does not work for the same reasons that NCAA amateurism rules, and prohibition more generally, don't work. There is always someone smart enough to cheese the rules. Like… yep, Leicester.*
I have no idea what to do with it in its place. Ideally the euro soccer structure would change so that a Leicester City event was more of a one-in-ten-year event instead of one in a hundred, but I struggle to come up with something that would work. Even Germany—which has the most even revenue distribution and rules against club ownership by individuals—has seen Bayern win four straight titles and 12 since 1998.
The predictability of euro soccer is the main reason I can't be bothered to care about any of it. I have the choice of picking the Yankees or the Lions, and no thanks to either. But without radically reshaping it into a socialist American-style thing*, which isn't happening, there appears to be no solution other than buying a little defensive midfielder from Ligue 2.
*[The cheesing Leicester managed was not enough to get them anywhere near the giants in the EPL and should not color anyone's perceptions of the magnitude of their accomplishment. The fact that there's a Guardian expose on the fact that Man Who Owns Soccer Team Spends Money On It that includes the phrase "Leicester City’s dash to an unlikely Premier League title is billed as football’s most romantic story in a generation but" is so very NCAA and demonstrates why FFP is destined to fail.]
**[The irony here is vast, yes.]
5. Allow refs some discretion on PKs. Right now a lot of fouls in the box don't get called because the punishment for them is outlandishly severe. Also some harmless situations get punished in an outlandishly severe way. If a ref spots a foul in the box that doesn't disrupt an imminent scoring chance he should be allowed to call for a free kick at the spot.
4. Free kicks resulting from fouls that draw yellow cards should be more dangerous. Defenders should not be allowed to line up in the penalty box on the resulting free kick unless they are level with or behind the ball*. That's not as severe as a penalty kick, but it's a lot more severe than it currently is and would adequately punish teams that specialize in those canny fouls just outside of PK territory.
*[IE, they can still defend the opposition on FKs that are more or less corners.]
3. No shootouts in finals. I don't care what you have to do to prevent them. Anything vaguely resembling the actual sport that's going on is far superior to the current system, in which all of a sudden a darts competition breaks out after 120 minutes. The only person who likes that is Steve Lorenz. I grudgingly accept that maybe you have to have shootouts for early stages in competitions because winning the equivalent of a triple OT hockey game is going to destroy your fitness for the next game. Finals should end with someone scoring a goal.
There are various ways to approach the problem but I think the simplest and best is to remove the goalies after 30 minutes of extra time and play sudden death. Is that 100% soccer? No. But it's at least 50% instead of 0%.
2. All throw ins must have a totally rad flip before them. I mean.
This one is obvious.
1. Teams have the option of putting a guy on field with skates. Offsides does not apply to him. Goals he scores count double. It works for any sport!