End of Season Part II – Who stays and Who goes?

PTFC End of Season Part II- Taking off the “Rose City” colored glasses…

Grab your bevy, get some eats and settle in…

To begin, if you read my “End of Season Part I”: http://www.columbian.com/weblogs/port… you’ll recall that I offered some general performance statistics of players relative to their salaries… looking to answer a simple question… What does the money invested by PTFC translate to, given the management value of the player, with respect to goals, assists and minutes played? I also provided some less specified numbers about player’s strengths and weaknesses racked up against other players.

Now… Who stays and who goes?

First I need to ‘set the conditions’ for my assessment…

  1. PTFC had the third worst record (34 points) in the MLS; which means one thing. This team was not a well balanced attacking and defending team.

  2. PTFC had the third worst goal differential in MLS (-22); which means one thing. This team had the third worst combination/balance of defending midfielders, back-four and goal keeper in the league.

  3. PTFC had the second lowest goals scored (34) in MLS; which means one thing. This team had the second worst combination /balance of attacking midfielders and forwards in this league.

  4. PTFC won one road game and had the worst Road Goal Differential (-25) in MLS this year under two different Head Coaches. Some might blame the poor road record on one coach (take your pick) but to have only one road win under two coaches it is more likely that the balance or blend of players in the side isn’t right as opposed to just both coaches being wrong.

  5. The level of change is usually relative to on-field results and contrasts between old and new systems of play.

  6. This is not a witch hunt to paint players as being bad or good; despite stark remarks by some fans and pundits.

  7. Finally, this assessment is based upon Gavin Wilkinson’s indication that Portland’s “core players” will stay and that a new Head Coach will bring change.

In considering that, here are my two assumptions before defining what the phrase ‘core players’ means to me.

Assumption #1: Anyone who makes less than or equal to $70K (for the purposes of this analysis) is not included; so all of these players are excluded. This is not to say that some of these players will not be moved; I think some should be. But for the purposes of this effort these players are not included in my inital first 17:

Franck Songo’o
David Horst
Bright Dike
Eric Alexander
Joe Bendik
Jose Valencia
Ryan Kawulok
Jake Gleeson
Sebastian Rincon
Charles Renken
Freddie Braun
Christopher Taylor
Ian Hogg
Steve Purdy
Mike Fucito

Assumption #2: Anyone who makes more than $70K next year is a ‘first team’ player. Below is the list of players who will make more than $70K next year.

Jack Jewsbury
Darlington Nagbe
AJ Baptiste
Brent Richards
Kalif Alhassan
Sal Zizzo
Rodney Wallace
Futty Danso
Lovel Palmer
Hanyer Mosquera
Kosuke Kimura
Eric Brunner
Steven Smith
Diego Chara
Donovan Ricketts
Danny Mwanga
Kris Boyd

I am identifying three Scenarios/definitions for what the phrase “core players” could mean:

Scenario #1 Core players are about 20% of the 17 players listed above. Therefore in scenario #1 there are 3 core players that PTFC will look to keep from the list above.

Scenario #2 Core players are about 30% of the 17 players listed above. Therefore in scenario #2 there are 5 core players that PTFC will look to keep from the list above.

Scenario #3 Core players are about 40% of the 17 players listed above. Therefore in scenario #3 there are 7 core players that PTFC will look to keep from the list above.

Next: Two things…

Thing #1: Gavin Wilkinson has already indicated that Jack Jewsbury will be back next year; so subtract 1 from each scenario. Jack Jewsbury stays.

Thing #2: Caleb Porter already knows who Darlington Nagbe is and how to get the best out of him; therefore subtract another 1 from each scenario; Darlington Nagbe stays.

Therefore Scenario #1 has 1 additional player as ‘core’, Scenario #2 has 3 additional players who are ‘core’, and Scenario #3 has 5 additional players who are ‘core’.

Scenario #1 – My ‘core player’ is AJ Baptiste:

AJ Baptiste (Age 20) is athletic, young, strong, and fast and represents what I feel are all the qualities you want in a strong center-back who will make his presence felt. The upside from his low salary and ability to learn and adjust was apparent to me given his performance in the last game of the season compared to the first game of the season. Although I rated AJ not as strongly as I did David Horst or Eric Brunner there is just too much upside on his salary ‘and’ potential to not include him in the ‘core’, and most importantly identify him as the first ‘core’ player outside of Darlington Nagbe and Jack Jewsbury.

Scenario #2 – My ‘core players’ are AJ Baptiste, Brent Richards and Kalif Alhassan:

Brent Richards (Age 22): He’s young, quick, has pace, sinewy strenght and is good in the air which provides him the abilty to play multiple positions and roles. It’s hard to tell what real results Brent will bring to this team next year and I don’t think he will start. But his salary (just over $70K) is an upside and he is a local player who has made good. The reality of seeing a local player work his way up through the system provides a great example for others to know and follow. I sense that Brent Richards is exactly the type of player that Caleb Porter wants to further develop on his team.

Kalif Alhassan (Age 22): This is not a ‘crap shoot’ for me; he is one of the most talented players on PTFC when healthy! He has great foot skills and superb vision but he can be somewhat delicate. Evidence of his talent is recognized elsewhere as PTFC have had a request for KAH to go on loan to a team in Europe who wants to add him during their run in the Europe Cup. If he doesn’t stay with PTFC there is a reasonable chance that he will be sold and bring additional flexibility to the PTFC salary structure. For now I see him remaining on this team given his huge upside and low salary requirement ($79K).

Scenario #3 – My ‘core players’ are AJ Baptiste, Brent Richards, Kalif Alhassan, Sal Zizzo and Rodney Wallace:

Sal Zizzo (Age 25): Sal is young, blindingly fast, and has improved considerably over the course of this year; he can play fullback or winger and has shown he can alter his style of play to suit others (driving more towards the top of the 18 as opposed to down the wing; which was Kosuke’s strength). He can still improve his overall foot skills and add some depth to his turning repertoire; with hard work I think he gets there and gets better than he is now. Of additional note is his salary ($81K); and if not a starter in the first 11 Sal presents and added dimension coming off the bench that others on this team cannot provide.

Rodney Wallace (Age 24): Rodney is young, strong, fast, has good foot skills, vision, great leaping ability and can play multiple positions. He may need a bit of polishing but I sense he is a diamond in the rough who has matured quite a bit this year. The drawback to Rodney (perhaps?) is his salary of $159K next year. I’m not sure if that value balances with what he provides or might be able to provide. But when considering his athletic upside and versatility I will stick with him for this assessment. There are probably one or two players who are stronger or have fewer weaknesses now but in considering potential and that other players will be brought in, Rodney gets my vote as being someone who stays.

In conclusion: For me it is likely that the overall number of players moved is at least 10 or more; if more I would not be surprised. Here’s my list of non-core players in these scenarios:

Futty Danso
Lovel Palmer
Hanyer Mosquera
Kosuke Kimura
Eric Brunner
Steven Smith
Diego Chara
Donovan Ricketts
Danny Mwanga
Kris Boyd

These are good players, but combinations of these players during games this year did not get PTFC good results.

Of interest; the combined salaries of these players is ~ $2.9M dollars. That’s enough money to pay for 5 players with a salary around $400K and 5 players for a salary around $200K; or enough money to bring in 10 players with a salary around $300K each.

Finally, this assessment does not address:

  1. The new salary cap for 2013 is ~$2.95M versus about ~ $2.81M in 2012,

  2. The additional allocation money PTFC will receive from MLS given their poor record this year,

  3. The additional money PTFC will receive from other MLS clubs (luxury tax) for carrying three DP’s,

  4. The financial flexibility that PTFC may gain resulting from transfer fees moving players overseas,

  5. The financial limit and ‘time’ Merritt Paulson provides Caleb Porter to turn this club around,

  6. All of those factors will play a role in who stays versus who goes.

Some stray voltage that has value…

  1. MLS will continue to grow and become a stronger market force in the world of soccer,

  2. $250K in America may be a better style of living for a soccer player than $300K elsewhere,

  3. The Academy Program needs to be the primary feeder for players making the first team,

  4. Developing the Academy Program down to the U-12’s should be a focus for PTFC,

  5. When drafting, PTFC should evaluate/test players like the NFL, before signing them to contracts.

Bottom Line at the Bottom: PTFC had a terrible season last year and a new Head Coach is arriving; “results matter” and draconian approaches are not unusual in the world of soccer; expect change – big change. I do.

You can follow me on twitter at: https://twitter.com/ChrisGluckPTFC

Chris Gluck

Chris Gluck

I have been covering the Portland Timbers and Major League Soccer, as a community blogger/analyst for the Columbian Newspaper, since June, 2012. Since then my involvement in soccer analysis has expanded to include participating in the Regional Emmy Award Winning Soccer City PDX TV Show (Comcast Sports Northwest). My unique analytical approach has been published in Europe and presented at the World Conference on Science and Soccer 2014. I also appear regularly as a co-host on Rose City Soccer Show and the Yellowcarded Podcast. You can find my work on PossessionwithPurpose.com, PTFC Collective and Prost Amerika.

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