Good Friday Funblast - April 2, 2021
On this holiest of holy days, I find myself wishing for warmer weather in the metal hell that is the NuBailey. The novelty of preseason soccer has already worn off. I’m ready for the uncut black tar. Anyways, onto the news of the week…
INTERNATIONAL HOUSE OF CONTRACTS
The FC made two additional roster additions this week, going overseas to sign Isaac Atanga from some Danish club with that weird “ae” letter in their name and Gustavo Vallecilla from the Ecuadorian league. This immediately started the speculation about how FCC would get into roster compliance by the start of the year, considering that they’re now at 12 international players and have an MLS-imposed limit of 8 (which we’ve bought up to 9, and could buy up to 10 – more on that in the next section). We’re assuming, for the sake of this article, that someone at FCC understands this process and that Gerard isn’t gonna be blindsided next week when someone asks him who we’re cutting.
Other, smarter people can do the roster analysis math here or explain where and how we can get into roster compliance. Me? I just find the entire concept of international roster restrictions fucking stupid. I understand, in theory, that you want to ensure there are playing opportunities for American-born players and to make sure that there is a pipeline to create new USMNT players. But, in practice? Fuck that. I want to see the absolute best possible product on the field in MLS. If that means we aren’t running a make-work program for mediocre American players then so be it. There’s plenty of room in the USL for everyone who wants to be thoroughly average at soccering. Plus, if you look at the USMNT roster, nearly everyone is playing at better clubs in Europe anyway. If Dest or Pulisic wanted to play in MLS, they wouldn’t need some bullshit “American born” roster exemption to get a spot in the league.
The entire argument also falls apart because MLS lets teams work around roster restrictions by counting anyone with a green card as a non-international player. This basically means that anyone with access to a decent attorney and a few thousand clams for processing fees can skirt the rules on international players. Given that, why the fuck does the rule exist anyway? We’re a nation of immigrants. There’s a poem about it on the base of the Statute of Liberty. The idea of “Keeping American jobs for Americans” seems like something you’d see scrolling on the bottom of a fucking Tucker Carlson segment, not a prominent aspect of a professional sports league’s roster rules. Imagine the Cincinnati Reds being told by Major League Baseball “Sorry, you’re not allowed to have Luis Castillo pitch opening day because you’re over the international roster size limit.” (EDITED TO ADD: I wrote this line on Thursday morning. In hindsight, maybe someone at MLB should’ve had this conversation with the Reds). Fuck every bit of that.
If MLS teams want to go overseas and use their salary cap money signing international talent, let them. And if American players can’t make MLS rosters as a result: Git Gud.
FRANKIE-WATCH CONTINUES TO CONTINUE
The Frankie “don’t call me Franuel” Amaya saga continues to swirl with new rumors suggesting The FC’s midfield destroyer may be on the move. I would have discounted all of this entirely, but Will Forbes is on a heater (after having correctly predicted the Brenner acquisition) and Travis “RUMORS Y’ALL” Grimes has independently confirmed the talks. This feels like one of those “where there is smoke, there’s fire” situations, given that Frankie has also found himself on the bench for all of The FC’s preseason activity due to “fitness issues.”
I wrote at length earlier this offseason about how anti-American it is that Frankie is refusing the play on his rookie deal for a shitty team. But, at this point? If he’s so unhappy and hates it here so much, just ship him out. His departure would create a hole in the midfield that needs filled, but I suspect that any deal within MLS would almost certainly bring back a shitload of Tricky Don Funbucks™ and, possibly, an additional international slot to use on a replacement player (since I don’t expect the league to read my take above and abolish the roster system immediately). We learned a little bit about where Frankie rates in the grand scheme of things when he didn’t manage to make a bad United States U-23 roster (the same one that couldn’t qualify for the goddamn Olympics). One would think that kind of public humbling would make a player want to put his head down and work hard to prove the doubters wrong – but if Fran’s response was to remain firm in asking for his walking papers, maybe that should be teaching us a little bit about him too.
Bottom line – I’d save the receipt on any Franny gear you’re thinking about purchasing from the team shop.
JOZY AND THE PUSSY HACKS
Seemingly out of nowhere, USMNT striker Jozy Altidore went for the jugular on Taylor Twellman on twitter this week. Twellman, who at this point is pretty much just a sentient hot take in muppet form, has made a brand for himself of relentlessly criticizing everything and everything about the USMNT, and apparently, Jozy has had enough. In a string of tweets, Jozy accused Taylor being: 1.) bad at soccer, 2.) a recipient of race-based favoritism in broadcasting, and 3.) completely unfair to the accomplishments Altidore has had in his career. Because this is America in 2021, everyone online immediately had to pick a side in this debate – meaning that actual human beings went online to simp for Taylor fucking Twellman.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I hate Taylor Twellman. He’s probably a nice guy in person (I pissed at a urinal next to him at the Don Garber “Town Hall” event in 2016 and he seemed cool enough – shook twice before zipping up), but he’s everything that’s awful about modern sports punditry. He’s a graduate of the Stephen A. Smith school of broadcasting, where every take has to be at a higher volume than the last and where every statement needs to be physically emoted like you’re some fucking community theater hack. Twellman’s real big break, where he pivoted from being just a faceless soccer guy and into being a genuine “ESPN Personality” (where the real money is, just ask Tony Reali), was his infamous “WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?” rant following the World Cup qualifying debacle against Trinidad & Tobago. And since that point, he’s been pretty relentlessly critical of Jozy’s “generation” of the USMNT.
There’s a pretty decent argument to be made that Jozy gets treated unfairly by the US media and USMNT supporters. I’m not gonna make it a black / white thing – mostly because that’s a rail I’m not qualified to touch – but it’s really hard to ignore the fucking pile of examples in the sport of black athletes being maligned. Was Jozy one of the “leaders” of a USMNT that failed to qualify for the WC? Sure. But so was Michael Bradley, and I don’t hear a lot of the same bullshit directed at him that Jozy gets. Jozy’s time at Sunderland wasn’t great, but “wasn’t great” describes the performance of just about every goddamn player at Sunderland over the last ten years, which is why the Black Cats are currently in the 3rd division of English Football. You know who didn’t a play a single minute of time in the Premier League, though? Taylor fucking Twellman.
Twellman’s legacy escapes criticism largely because no one really wants to go after the guy who had to call it a career due to injury. It makes him an almost lab-perfect broadcasting critic, as he can spew takes that would melt the fucking sun with virtually no fear of someone clapping back at him. This Jozy situation perfectly encapsulates this, as just one set of tweets sent the internet white knighting for Twellman at Warp 15 (yes, I’m aware you can’t go faster than Warp 10; the point still stands). As an aside: remember when we all pledged to be better about listening to black athletes speaking their truth? Good times there. At this point, most of the people watching soccer have absolutely no memory of Twellman actually playing, meaning that there’s no framework to put his takes in beyond “He’s famous for saying crazy shit.”
That last thought has stuck with me this week, because I’ve finally realized who Twellman really is: He’s the Don Cherry of American Soccer. If you’re not familiar with Cherry, that’s probably because you never lived close enough to the Canadian border to get TSN included on your TV package. Cherry was an NHL coach in the 1970s who moved on to broadcasting and got famous for incredible hot takes and wearing suits that would’ve made Craig Saeger pause. He got into punditry at about the minute the NHL started to take off in popularity outside of Canada due to cable television showing games nationwide and ended up having a nearly 40 year career just saying ridiculous shit (until it was ended by, you guessed it, going on a xenophobic rant about immigrants in Canada).
The thought that we’re stuck with Twellman for that long is fucking depressing, so I’ll make one plea to Taylor: Please get some louder suits.
THEY MADE A SONG ABOUT THE CINCINNATI REDS BROADCAST DEAL
It’s called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”
Alright, that’s it for this week. Internationals forever. Domestics never. See you motherfuckers in the Thunderdome.