Cause for Alarm

Guest Writer: Tony Felich

I was waiting for three events before buying my Wizards season tickets- The draft, the game schedule, and their first pre-season game. I have been disappointed on all three fronts and will not be purchasing season tickets this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll get to a bunch of games and do my best to support my team, but the actions of management over these last few months have been terribly disappointing. I write this only in hopes for an explanation (not just blown smoke) and hopefully to encourage reconsideration on a few fronts. I think I am saying what at least a few other fans think.

First, I am disappointed with the Wizards draft. Everyone knew we were going to lose Eddie Johnson. Johnson scored approximately one third of the Wizards goals last season and accounted for several others. A freed up Scott Sealy owes his goal scoring opportunities largely to the presence of Johnson. Like him or loathe him, there was no more impacting player on the Wizards last year than Eddie Johnson. Losing Johnson meant a major loss of goal production and would require an aggressive effort to acquire a legitimate scoring threat. What do the Wizards do? They essentially trade veteran Nick Garcia for Chance Myers and blow their first overall pick in the draft. I am not suggesting that Myers won’t turn out to be a solid player, but the immediate need was a scorer and I’m not so sure Myers wouldn’t have still been available later in the same round. The Wizards did not draft one forward, not one. Instead they drafted six defenders, three of which could play midfield also. O.K., fine Coach Onalfo, I’ll readily admit you are smarter than me, maybe you’re thinking it’s safer and a better investment to draft and develop defenders- fine, but with all the freed up money, how about some moves for a playmaking center midfielder or a forward, perhaps a DP (heck, if LA can have 3, can’t we have one?)? Rookie Defensive midfielders will not make up for the lack of goal production caused by Johnson’s exit. What about the Eddie money now available? I’m seriously hoping the Wizards aren’t trying to mimic the Royals financial model, but it looks sort of that way. They get EJ transfer money, EJ’s freed up salary, Burciaga and Garcia’s salaries freed up, two Generation Adidas players (Myers and Espinoza), and they acquire NO ONE. Sorry, but the draft and attending lack of offensive player activity really took the wind out of my once excited for the 2008 season sails. The Wizards weren’t even .500 last year with Garcia and Johnson, they cannot be considered a better team than that going in to this season, it’s just not possible.

Second, I am disappointed with the game schedule. I am doing my best to talk up the Wizards and get friends and acquaintances to go to games. I think many committed fans are desirous of Wizards fame to be spread in our city, the potential is definitely there. Maybe it’s not the team’s fault on this, but there will be no home games in KC from April 12 to June 14! Two whole months in the season without a home game! This is absolutely stunning. What am I missing? Is it a stadium situation? This is hugely damaging. Last year April and May were two of the more exciting months of Wizards soccer. The national team stuff hadn’t yet interrupted the season (a real pet peeve of mine), and good weather made for a great time to get out for a game or two. This year- no home games for two months! Wow. It’s hard to think of a bigger marketing fumble than this.

Third, I am disappointed with the first pre-season game today. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t normally fret a loss this early, but I think it revealed a strategy that will likely mean this season will be very long one. The formation was a 3-5-2, one that is heavily dependent on the midfield. Midfielders in this line up must play both ways very effectively. Offensively such a line-up puts particular pressure on the center midfield to produce scoring chances for the two forwards. Usually such a line up possesses three marquee, game controlling, players laced through the middle. Conrad is the guy on defense, so we have one of those pieces for this line up. The two other middle pieces are center mid and center forward (although there are two forwards, one is the main go-to guy, like Eddie last year). What primarily worries me is the placement of Marinelli in the center mid spot. I think this reveals Onalfo’s strategy. He drafted a bunch of defenders who can play midfield, adding to several experienced players of the same ilk. He then places them around Marinelli. He must think Marinelli is the key to this offense, a 3-5-2 requires it. If Onalfo is depending on Marinelli to be the catalyst for offense, 2008 looks bleak to me. Please understand, I hope I am dead wrong about this, but Marinelli clearly is not the “new Maradona” everyone thought he was and his mysterious foot injury seems to have neutralized him significantly. He scored just one goal and had only five assists in 19 games last year. Even when he is healthy, he is not effective, and that was with Eddie up top. As for forwards, Sealy is not the go-to guy the Wizards need, either is Pore or Colombano. We know nothing about Trujillo. The Wizards lack the key transitional center mid needed to play an effective 3-5-2 and they are further missing a proven finisher up top. Two of the three key components of a 3-5-2 are missing for the Wizards, there’s no denying this. Today, with their defender-heavy line-up, they gave up four goals and failed to score at all. I am afraid this may be a sign of things to come if a couple moves aren’t made soon.

The problem is the international transfer window is closed now, so I can’t see where even one of these two pieces would come from. Honestly, the only hope is that Marinelli stays healthy- something he hasn’t done for some time- and produces- also something he hasn’t done with the Wizards- and Trujillo turns out to be half as good as Eddie Johnson.

It seems like the Wizards have gone on the cheap and are possibly holding pattern until their new stadium is built? I don’t know, but I am disappointed.

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34 Responses

  1. The schedule is horrible.

  2. “The problem is the international transfer window is closed now, so I can’t see where even one of these two pieces would come from. ”

    – Well here’s your main problem right here.

    MLS’ transfer window doesn’t close until April. The transfer window is based on the league where the player is being signed.

    There will be hundreds of players on the market as seasons come to an end.

    Patience.

  3. My bad on transfer window, i thought it was close.

    I hope my main problem is therefore solved…we’ll see.

  4. I just wanted to thank Tony for writing this. His evaluation is enlightening and exactly what I believe OnGoal wants — and needs — in terms of fan feedback.

  5. Thanks Mizzouligan. I want this team to do well and i want KC to embrace it.

    Szazzy set me straight on the transfer window- my bad. I just hope there are plans to address these pieces through transfers…soon.

    Tony

  6. Where would you spend the money? Forwards? Mid?

    Today’s result doesn’t mean anything. The new formation will take some time for the guys to learn.

  7. Even with the transfer window open until April, the later we wait to sign someone (if at all), the less of an impact they can have. i mean that to include actual games played (see marinelli and colombano coming mid-season last year), but also the fitness that comes from training and the chemistry that comes from preseason. not to mention the inevitable paperwork that can take excruciatingly long and adds weeks on to a signing, i.e. ivan trujillo.

    needless to say, ideally we would have had our full roster in camp by now — then again, maybe we do.

  8. JD- one would have to say that today’s results at least reveal strategy. In that way, it most certainly means something.

    Missouligan is right on about fitness/chemistry…the longer this goes, the less likely we will get the pieces necessary.

  9. I agree that waiting makes adjustment tougher. With how long visas take to work out these days, it can be even worse. Onalfo might even be happy with who is out there, I don’t know. I just know that there is still time to bring people in.

  10. Over React!
    Over React!

  11. You have to keep in mind that this team is rebuilding. This is only the start of the second season that this ownership and coach have control over the team.

    Dont you think the best way to get the team to make the changes you want is to give them financial support so that they can make the changes you want?

    It seems kind of ridiculous to back out on season tickets and then ask for a big international signing.

  12. Felixx, part of the back out is the two month period without a game. These would be prime months for me to go. Lots of Sunday games too. It’s not just about the lack of improvement to the team. I’ll still get to plenty of games and spend plenty of money.

    Hey, they have a bunch of money under the salary cap, so it’s not like money is the issue- it seems to be the willingness to spend it right now.

  13. I think the reason they refuse to sign a big name player is that he will get shot when he has to play at Bannister in two years. So unless Adidas comes out with clima-bulletproof jerseys how will we convince any big name player to risk his life.

    Not getting season tickets is wise, you may even let your life insurance company know you are not getting any your premium may go down.

  14. I have to agree with GS

    OVERREACTION

    How can you make an assumption on 1 preseason game where the starters didn’t even play that much?

    All of this sounds like just a cop out.

  15. The schedule is the way it is due to stadium situations. The T-Bones season starts and the grass at CAB is going to be replaced as well. That’s the main reasons for the Wizards schedule being the way it is.

  16. The schedule is making the best of a bad situation. Not a lot of choices for where to play and what dates. When you are not the primary tenant of any venue, you have to manage around everything else. I think the fact that we have so many Saturday games compared to last year is a huge improvement.

    It is is bound to take some time to adjust to playing 3-5-2, adding several first and second year players to the lineup and getting them all to come togather as a team.

    If they had won today by a score of 4-0, would you be buying tickets to the MLS cup?

    I do not kow if 3-5-2 is the answer, or if we are going to add more players than Ivan, or if they will sign someone else soon or not, but i do know that I will be there for every game.

  17. I like the schedule. lots of home night games is good. and not playing in april through june at home is also a plus for me cause its too hot in kansas city. and if the reason you aren’t going to get season tickets is because you don’t think we will do well is stupid. support the team no matter what.

  18. I think he is saying he will support the team, just not at a season ticket level for the three reasons he listed. He makes good points. If the current roster is the final roster, it’s hard to see how this team will better last year’s record.

    BloodEagle- April and May are the best months to play in KC-when they won’t be playing here. It’s scorching July-Sept.

  19. While I think it’s too early to size up this current roster, raising legitimate questions doesn’t equate to not supporting the team.

    I think the 3-5-2 is a great formation, but it does need the personell to make it work…not sure the Wizards have that currently.

  20. listen, I hope I am over-reacting. Still, no one has really addressed the heart of my issue concerning the last point- the lack of two key pieces for the 3-5-2 to be effective: A reliable, playmaking Center mid and a legitimate scoring striker.

    It’s not the 4-0 loss to Columbus in preseason, it’s the line up Onalfo put forth. It reveals a commitment to the 3-5-2 (which I think can be be very effective formation-the Wizards won the Cup in 2000 with that line up…and Preki fulfilling one of the roles we now are missing), and the reliance on Marinelli I find troubling.

    Guys, I hope I’m wrong. I’ll not stop supporting the team- frankly, being honest about this stuff is, in fact, supporting the team.

    Down the Byline said it well on his blog:

    “This lineup does not look to strike much fear in our opponents, though. The back line is going to be prone to youthful mistakes I think, and Iván Trujillo can’t get here soon enough if we’re going to rely on a Sealy-Pore striker tandem. I can’t think of one back line in the league that would be scared of that partnership.”

  21. A couple pieces of food for thought:

    Last year we lost 3-0 in our first pre-season match and went to the semifinal. Crew won all their pre-season matches, yet finished behind us in the standings.

    A major priority for our coaching staff was adding speed and versatility during the draft. They did not evaluate any of the forward prospects more highly than either Chance or Roger in the first round, so we acquired two very talented young players who are hardworking AND Generation adidas, so we control them for an extended amount of time without having to expose them to the expansion drafts that are coming soon.

    Coach Onalfo (I heard him tell TelaFutura this yesterday) believes that be successful in MLS, the best strategy is to stock your team with hard-working, talented defenders, goalkeepers and holding-type players from the USA and to invest in foreign players for the final third of the field (Marinelli, Colombano, Sealy already). This strategy will take time to develop fully.

    Also don’t forget that Davy has not yet trained. He automatically improves the team when he steps in.

    Coach and PV are, in my mind, the best pairing of coach/GM/TD/Personnel guy in the league because they have an exact plan in place and will not stray from that. I have no doubt in my mind that they will bring a championship club to Kansas City. To do that, we need fans. Coach asked me yesterday how season tickets are going. They care very much about putting an exciting team on the field that entices fans to come and watch. I would ask that you reconsider and buy season tickets. Not only will we entertain you this year, but you will have priority for seating in 2010 when we open Hillcrest Road, the stadium. I’ll personally introduce myself to you if you do and ask you after the season if you’ve regretted your choice. You will not.

    Oh, we don’t have the home games for two months due to T-Bones schedule and field re-surfacing. Think of it as a second opening day when we get back in town! (I hope there weren’t any typos, I wrote more than I intended to.)

  22. Forgot to mention. Marinelli looked brilliant yesterday. He is now fully comfortable and has better relationships with his teammates than he did at any time last year.

  23. AJF–dude, you need to take a chill pill. IT’S FEBRUARY! Don’t forget that Ivan Trujillo will be here when his visa paperwork is in order. Regarding the schedule….remember last season when we got 5 Saturday night games and played our home opener on a rainy Wednesday night? This season we have 11 Saturday night home games out of 15. Other than the 2 month time in between home games (which is only due to the T-Bones schedule), I think our schedule is very favorable. We only play DC and NY twice, and we play Chicago and NE twice at home, only traveling to C-bus and Toronto for two away games within our division. Everybody has complaints about the schedule, but there is not much that we can do about it. It is WAY WAY WAY WAY better than last season’s schedule, so you need to learn to deal with it. If this is all you have to stress about, life sounds pretty damn good for you right about now!

  24. Thanks Hillcrest for the great reaction piece (it changed what I was going to write completely). It logically explains all the issues brought up by Tony without dumbing down the fact that building a championship side will simply take time. We can’t turn into a Dynamo overnight.

    I already firmly believe that Coach and PV have a strong plan in place that will make us a winner for years to come after the new stadium is open. As Szazzy said at the top of this thread, Patience.

    “…but you will have priority for seating in 2010 when we open Hillcrest Road, the stadium.”

    Will it really truly be called Hillcrest Road when it opens? Oh man that sounds so beautiful. (and it’s not another Park)

  25. Sorry Tony, but you are either a phony fan, or this is a big joke.

    Let me get this straight. You say you were waiting to buy tickets until you saw the result of the first preseason game. Nooooooo. Come f’ing on! No sports fan has ever used that lame excuse in the history of civilization. That can’t be one of the 3 most important determiners to buying tickets – ever! You are either a fool or still pouting over a meaningless loss. LOL over and over again at how silly you sound.

    Next, the schedule is a marketing mistake? Huh?? More Saturday nights than we have had in years, if not forever, and you are complaining? Perhaps you preferred the horrible days and times of last years schedule? Dude, check the Tbones schedule to see what is going on at CAB while we are away and you’ll see the building OWNER is playing a ton of games in their HOUSE during that time. Is the break really worse than a bunch of wed and sunday night games? Really? No, really?

    Now help us understand this, you know more about player talent than our coaching staff? Wow, where have you been hiding? Perhaps you should put in your application for Henderson’s open position so you can educate Onalfo and Peter Vermes on their lack of soccer knowledge. Did you notice that several more teams also passed on the “obvious” talent we passed on? Could that be a hint of their actual worth? And let’s look at who was rating those forwards and making up all the mock drafts. Fans and the media!! …and we know they are the best talent scouts out there, never letting the fact that they never played a second of real ball have anything to do with their opinions. Seriously for a minute, has it ever dawned on you that maybe Onalfo passed on them because he thought they did not have what it takes to be great in this league? Taking the best forward in the draft is NOT THE SAME as drafting someone who will be a great pro. Does any of that make sense? And just because they haven’t consulted you on their future acquisitions, you assume they are not looking for new players? Wow, simply wow!

    And by the way, since you know so much about everything, would you be my co-mayor? I need some help running the city so give me a call. And in the meantime, turn off your computer, go buy your tickets and cheer on the Wizards. And please for your own sake, never post this type of rubbish again.

    Sincerely,
    Mark Funkhouser

  26. Hillcrest- thanks, I appreciate your addressing my concerns and the confidence you carry regarding the future. I appreciate a new coach and management takes time to reshape the system and you may indeed be on the right long term track. I have just been a bit confused by the draft (which you have answered a bit)and lack of transfer pick ups. We don’t even have a DP yet. I’d love to know the thought process on that component. Are there plans to use some of the cap space on more signings this year? Communication on this stuff will really help fans be more patient with the apparent re-building. Expectations are high having started so well last year and getting so close to the finals. On the surface, it seems like we’ve regressed. Hearing your explanation of strategy certainly helps. Thanks again.

    As for the schedule, I’m just sore because April-June is my best time frame for attending games for me personally. I realize this isn’t your fault as such, but , on the personal level, it does make it tough for me to buy season tickets as I’ll have to miss a bunch later. I’ll get to many games and spend plenty of money. On the macro level, it’s a tough break for establishing a fan base- such a huge gap in home games, but I’m guessing you know this.

    Classy for you to respond, I mean only to encourage the progress of the Wizards and will support them. I am sure I represent the thinking of more than a few fans, so your addressing my post goes a long way.

    Thanks,
    Tony Felich

    P.S. I’m hoping I’m totally wrong about Marinelli. He obviously has shown the potential in his earlier career. You guys obviously have faith that he can return to that form for a whole season if you aren’t planning to go after transfer help. I will be the first to retract, recant, and apologize for second guessing him should he bust out with a monster year. That would be superb.

    Kcboy- you’re response was lame, I’ve already spent too much energy even acknowledging it.

  27. Hillcrest- thanks, I appreciate your addressing my concerns and the confidence you carry regarding the future. I appreciate a new coach and management takes time to reshape the system and you may indeed be on the right long term track. I have just been a bit confused by the draft (which you have answered a bit)and lack of transfer pick ups. We don’t even have a DP yet. I’d love to know the thought process on that component. Are there plans to use some of the cap space on more signings this year? Communication on this stuff will really help fans be more patient with the apparent re-building. Expectations are high having started so well last year and getting so close to the finals. On the surface, it seems like we’ve regressed. Hearing your explanation of strategy certainly helps. Thanks again.

    As for the schedule, I’m just sore because April-June is my best time frame for attending games for me personally. I realize this isn’t your fault as such, but , on the personal level, it does make it tough for me to buy season tickets as I’ll have to miss a bunch later. I’ll get to many games and spend plenty of money. On the macro level, it’s a tough break for establishing a fan base- such a huge gap in home games, but I’m guessing you know this.

    Classy for you to respond, I mean only to encourage the progress of the Wizards and will support them. I am sure I represent the thinking of more than a few fans, so your addressing my post goes a long way.

    Thanks,
    Tony Felich

    P.S. I’m hoping I’m totally wrong about Marinelli. He obviously has shown the potential in his earlier career. You guys obviously have faith that he can return to that form for a whole season if you aren’t planning to go after transfer help. I will be the first to retract, recant, and apologize for second guessing him should he bust out with a monster year. That would be superb.

    Kcboy- you’re response was lame, I’ve already spent too much energy even acknowledging it.

  28. The stadium name is definitely still to be determined, but the road will be there so there’s no harm in calling it that for now.

    DP is the trickiest thing in sports to find. You have to find someone who has the talent to merit the huge salary, is still young enough to make an impact during our hot summers, is motivated to play hard AND brings extra fans to the gates. This isn’t easy. Sign Denilson and look what happens. If EJ didn’t leave, we would have had a DP this year essentially.

    As for looking like we regressed, last year we lost an American international striker to a foreign league and traded away what had been starting defenders for picks and brought in one foreign player (Marinelli). We got better. This season is eerily similar.

  29. Hillcrest- so you’re saying the current roster is essentially it?

  30. PV and CO are spot on in their assesment that college doesn’t develop attacking talent you’re better off going and getting a foreign player to cover that area. Very few forwards come out of college and score goals in MLS, look at Pore if I remember correctly he was one of the leading goalscorers in college before he came out as a junior and look how much pt he’s gotten and how many goals he’s scored so far.

  31. […] fan would be interested in and not sure you’d catch in the comments. You may wish to read Cause for Alarm as well if you have not yet. If you don’t know Hillcrest is part of the front office staff  […]

  32. the problem with barely making the playoffs in a rebuilding year, is that it makes people lose track of the fact that we’re still in rebuilding mode, and causes major overreactions when the team seems to “take a step backwards.” see: 2007 Chiefs. Relax, and enjoy the season for what it is: a stepping stone to a better future for the Wizards.

  33. I have purchased my season tickets and will continue to do so.

    The new owners had me at keep the team in KC and build a new stadium — I must be easy.

    It can take years to judge a draft, seems a little early to be second-guessing. In general, the build from the back philosophy seems sound, and with Trujillo coming I think the Wizards may be better up front than many think.

    Not every team can win every year, I will support the team win or lose, but I think we have good coaching and management with a vision and I look forward to the season.

  34. […] wrote an article entitled “Cause for Alarm” back in February that raised the public ire of many Cauldronites but elicited supportive […]

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