Monday, July 28, 2014

Columbus, Ohio area player Emmanuel Dapaa had 8 goals in 4 games at US Youth Soccer Championship
at U16 level this past week.

7.28.2014: Emmanuel Dapaa Should Be Crew Academy Target
By Ryan Kozlowski, Crewture Editor

Here's a signing the Columbus Crew should make in their backyard for the Youth Academy.

16 year old Emmanuel Dapaa, who plays for Ohio Premier out of Dublin, Ohio. A suburb just miles away from Crew Stadium.

Dapaa, a youngster who would be eligible to play for the United States (grew up here since three), Italy (was born there), or Ghana (parents are from there), was the leading goalscorer in the US Youth Soccer Championship (at all levels) with 8 goals. Oh, and he did that without playing the first game!

Eight goals in four games at the U16 National Championship isn't bad for a weeks work.

Also, Dapaa carried his side completely on his back. His impact was displayed the two times OPE matched up with the #1 ranked U16 side Baltimore Celtic.

The game Dapaa missed, A 4-1 loss to Baltimore Celtic to open the tournament for OPE, was a lot closer in the final when the two sides met again with Eman present.

In the rematch Dapaa, tied up the U16 final on a free kick, and kept OPE in the game for 110 minutes for a 1-1 result after extra time; but the Ohio Premier Eagles eventually succumbed 4-2 on PKs to the Celts.

Prior to Dapaa's breakout in this tournament, he had the 2013 Goal of the Year in US Youth Soccer. Also, a ridiculous 38 goals and 15 assists in his Ohio high school season last year, the most goals in 2013 in any Ohio High School Division. Eman also supposedly has had contact with Manchester United.

This past week, I saw Dapaa play twice. I filmed or produced 14 games from the U14 to U19 levels at the US Youth Soccer National Championships in Germantown, Maryland, 2 of Dapaa's. Dapaa was one of two or three players that really stood out for me.
Start at 2:21 (I filmed the flip celebration on his second goal, one of the better goals of this tournament):

Dapaa, and a similar striker for Baltimore Celtic, are who US Soccer should be fast tracking to the National Team. Also, a U-14 Striker Andrew Carleton.

Why go after German-Americans for the future, when there are Americans out there like Dapaa and Carleton (who is with the USMNT U14's) that could be focused on or groomed to be strikers that the National Team is missing.

Hopefully, since this is the US Youth Soccer National Championship, Dapaa is getting a look as well. Kids like this should be in MLS academies, until they can make the next steps to MLS and the USMNT.
Further, if the Crew don't know or care to get this kid in their backyard. They should probably just close their doors. Dapaa is an exciting player. If you're not interested in getting exciting strikers into your academy, and eventually on your first team, what's your business?

But, possibly it's not the Crew who don't want Dapaa, but Dapaa that doesn't want the Crew yet. According to a youth soccer parent, the Crew Academy, despite being free, isn't very attractive in the lower youth levels.
Eman is the real deal as they like to say. I've watched him play against my son's teams since roughly u12. Despite what you think, the best kids in Columbus/Ohio don't play for the Crew DA at the u-16 level. I can't comment on the older u-18 group because I haven't seen the kids over the last few years since my son is u-16 this year. I've watched the last 2 years of the Crew DA team play and know almost all the kids because my son has played or guest played with or against them...even the Crew Challenger ones that were brought in this November after their high school seasons ended. They seem to have made an impact and stabilized the team a bit although they are sitting in 3rd from last place in the table.

OP U-16 would handle the Crew DA pretty easily in my opinion. We'll never know though. In the U-15 age group Lesh's Blast team is far superior to anything the Crew has as well. You probably find this hard to believe but the top players in Ohio South aren't all clamoring to play DA for the Crew. Lot's of kids want to do multiple sports, play with and in front of friends in HS and maybe have steered clear for other reasons. I know a lot of unhappy Crew Pre-Academy families from the last year or two. Just for the record my son has never played Gold, Pre-Acad or DA but some of his ex-teammates have or still do.
If this comment was a shot on net, it would be right on target.

If Dapaa played for the Crew now he would have to give up high school soccer, high school basketball, and playing with the OP Eagles. All things he currently enjoys doing.

But, around 17 or 18, when he might need a few years of Major League Soccer before possibly jumping over to Europe, maybe then Dapaa makes the switch.

I doubt Eman is anywhere near as good at basketball as he is at soccer. If he also had LeBron potential that would be amusing, but I'm going to just go out on a limb and say he doesn't. So, eventually when it comes to a future, near graduation, he's going to have to seek out either the Columbus Crew or somewhere else.

If I was at Columbus Crew, or even my previous colleagues at Dayton Dutch Lions, where their whole money deal is (or was) trying to eventually sell kids to Europe to make money (and they have some connections overseas) I would be after this kid like Nick Saban after an Alabama blue chip. Hell, the kid was in the Columbus Dispatch for possible tryouts with Manchester United feeder clubs. What do you need to do to say "hello, I'm good over here?"

Does Dapaa need to score 10 goals in the US U16 Club Championship? Before you offer him and his entire family and friends free season tickets and access to anyone he wants. Either club should be bending over backward for this kid, because it's smart for business.

Even DDL, although MLS play is about 50 times more attractive than USL Pro obviously, could try to groom the kid for two more years, give him a year of USL Pro to dominate, then transfer him overseas. Or Columbus can give him a few years of MLS and do the same.

But, if OP Eagles are giving him the ability to be on the biggest stage at the U16 club level, and Columbus or Dayton cannot, then why move?

Either way, it still should be a priority of the Crew at that level.

Smart transfers are a good business model. The unheard of Giancarlo Gonzalez, when the Crew signed him, ended up being a World Cup defensive standout for Costa Rica. That was a smart transfer for Columbus; in for probably $250,000, out for possibly $5 million.

So would a kid like this in another way, as Dapaa has the potential in three or four years of being attractive to someone in Europe.

So, say the Columbus Crew lure him for free, four years down the road they could snag $4 million for him.

Yet, because most of the money goes to MLS MAIN when one of these transfers occur, I feel like there isn't as much of an emphasis on these two type of moves by MLS teams. Even if it helps the club for a couple of years on the field, do MLS teams get enough to do whatever it takes to grab these players? A greater free market economy in MLS, and more benefits for these moves (like getting 100% percent of the transfer) would lead to more growth and more ambitious owners in this league, doing everything in their power to get youth players like Dapaa and making more transfers like Giancarlo.

Either way, Crew or elsewhere, I think you'll hear more from this kid down the road.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

          Pic by Sam Greene/Columbus Dispatch

Player Profile- Not on the Radar, College Student Athlete Becomes Major League Soccer Starter
By Ryan Kozlowski
Crewture Editor

Josh Williams was very close from never receiving the opportunity to become a professional player.

The right back, who has become the senior member of the 2014 Columbus Crew with over 60 appearances, under normal circumstances would've never received the chance to impress.

An unexpected phone call and a decision to answer in 2010 changed that.

Williams was in a college class at Cleveland State, an unknown number called.

Could've been a telemarketer. A creditor. But, for some reason Williams answered. It was Crew's Coach Brian Bliss.

Bliss called Williams, out of the blue, in 2010.

Bliss was on the phone because he wanted to possibly sign Josh. Bliss wanted the unknown Josh to be ready to be a backup signing in a hour for Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew, if another deal fell through on deadline day.

One could only imagine Williams reaction crouched in his class room.

On most days.. Josh wouldn't have answered an unknown number in the middle of class, could of let it go to voice mail, and continued to listen to his Sport Management lecture that afternoon.

If he did the usual, not answer his phone in class, chances are Josh Williams wouldn't be a Major League Soccer player today.

Josh likely would've instead struggled to get a foot in the door of the management side of sports, where six figure salaries are reserved only for upper management.

But, in a stroke of good fortune a higher profile, overseas signing did fall through on that day.

One Kwaku Nyamekye who never kicked a ball professionally and is now a trade support analyst in oil. 

Appears that one worked out for Williams, the Crew, and perhaps even Kwaku.

Kwaku Nyamekye

Now Williams, who was at the first Crew game in 1996 as an 8 year old fan, has over 60 appearances for the club that he has always followed.

Josh often took the road less traveled to get there.

Josh could've played baseball at Division I colleges. He had full rides to Kentucky and West Virginia.

But, Josh wanted to play soccer and went to the only place that would give him the same opportunity, Cleveland State.

Most would not turn down a Kentucky Wildcat or Mountaineer uniform for a Horizon league one. But, Josh did.

Following a successful career at Cleveland State, Josh played lower division soccer with the Cleveland Internationals and received semi-chances with the Crew in reserve exhibitions.

That is how the Columbus Crew's Brian Bliss became accustomed with the hard working Williams, mainly because he was in the area and persistent.

When those chances occurred with Columbus reserves luck played a role with Williams. Injuries gave Williams an opportunity to get on the field.

At Cleveland State

And apparently that was enough to be a last second signing.

But, Bliss won't take full credit for the discovery of Williams.

"Josh wasn't really on our radar, but we knew him," Bliss recalls. "He did OK in those college games (with the Crew). His geographic location was a big part of it."

For the next four seasons, Josh has been a starter for the Columbus Crew.

Not bad for someone who wasn't on a team's radar.
Was only signed because another deal fell through.
He was geographically close.
And he picked up his phone.

            Pic by Sam Fahmi

Player Profile- The Confident, Acrobatic Steve Clark's Soccer Journey
By Ryan Kozlowski, Crewture Editor

In February 2010, Steve Clark was on his way to Norway with Honefoss BK, after his visa permit was denied to move to League One Bradford City and a Stabaek deal fizzled out.

England International Keeper, turned Bradford City goalkeeper coach Nigel Martyn at the time told Clark to "keep going."

"I believe in your training habits and instinct and ability."

Martyn, with 680 caps at Leeds United, Everton, and Crystal Palace, rated Clark. Clark took confidence from this.

Clark kept going, and found a home in Norway through what he was known for during his stay there, his American determination.

Clark set up, or rather engineered a trial himself.

"On Tuesday, I called Honefoss after hearing a deal with Stabaek's second choice goalkeeper fell through."

Clark was training at the time with Stabaek.

"So, I asked if they needed a goalkeeper and here we are."

England former international Nigel Martyn had 23 caps with the Three Lions.

This inner-confidence to seal a deal with Honefoss wasn't built completely by Martyn's words, but also from Clark's former stops; as Clark signed and didn't forget where he came from.

"I thank my coaches at Oakland University that helped give me the confidence to believe in myself."

Clark, as an All-American, led Oakland to two NCAA appearances.

"I also want to thank the Michigan Bucks ownership and coaches for everything they have done to help me get my first pro contract last year. My four years with the Bucks went a long way to prepare me for what life was going to be like in the real world having to go out and fight for a job in pro soccer.  I will always cherish my experience with the Bucks and will make them proud of me over here."

The Bucks goalkeeper, with over 75 appearances as a PDL regular season and playoff champion, did just that.

He helped Honefoss to promotion, and then his stellar goalkeeping kept Honefoss, expected to go straight back down, in the League.

Clark was named the Tippeligaen Goalkeeper of the Year in 2012.

"I think the way you get league Best XI is to not want to get league Best XI."

Clark's attitude and play has led to him being the best wherever he has played.

"You can't want something so badly or else you'll end up fearing failure on gameday.If you can compartmentalize your thoughts, you can make big gains in your game."

Clark, who played every game for Honefoss from 2011 to 2013, is making big gains in Major League Soccer so far with Columbus.

Will his 2014 lead to another BEST XI? Will a few years in MLS lead to bigger things?

"I've always dreamed of playing in the Bundesliga."

"I'll be the first one to tell you, I'm not at that level yet, but maybe in a couple years. Maybe not, but I'm certainly going to shoot for it."

I wouldn't count against Steve Clark.

But, first let's hope he leads Columbus to some playoff success.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

4.30.2014: Road Games Crucial For Columbus
By Ryan Kozlowski, Crewture Editor

The Columbus Crew started out the season with a surprise three wins. Gregg Berhalter was described as a new genius, an American special one.

Awe, you making me laugh Soccer America.

Since then, the Columbus Crew have puttered to 3 points out of a possible 12.

Surprisingly, in an inept East, that 12 points is good enough for first place. But, it shouldn't be good enough for Berhalter or his charges.

Out of those four games, three were at home.

One was a tactically bad 2-0 loss to a depleted Toronto FC (where most Toronto fans on forums were predicting a 3-nil defeat), one was a last second comeback tie with DC United at home (who Columbus dismantled a month prior away), and one was two points surrendered after a good start against New York Red Bull.

Two points, at home, out of the last nine isn't going to do it this year.

The Crew are surviving on their 9 out of 9 points from their first three outings.

They are in first place, but there's only four teams one point behind them.

And a couple more so-so performances on the road will finally see the Crew start dropping down the standings.

Good news is, so far in 2014 Columbus has been better on the road, picking up 7 out of their 9 road points.

These two road games will show a lot, whether Columbus will be a top team or find themselves just outside of the playoffs again.

Keys for Columbus:

1.) They need to get that crucial second goal, Columbus has won every game once they've put in a second goal.

The defense isn't solid enough yet to win 1-0 and minimize that one lapse in concentration on defense.

2.) Arrieta, Oduro need to get going offensively. Not just with penalty kicks.

3.) Columbus needs to win these two games and then stop saving it for the road. Columbus had the opportunity to give themselves a nice lead in the East at home, now they rely on road games to keep themselves near the top.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Oh you're the best US National Team player? Well...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

This picture is of Karolina, a beautiful reader of Maxim magazine. Apparently, you should stand at the magazine rack more often flipping through a Maxim. As all these ladies are readers.

Overall, I love what Berhalter has done here in Columbus, 3 wins and 1 loss is a great start to a season where expectations were not huge.

But, I wonder if declaring Gregg Berhalter as North America's special one jinxed the Crew this past weekend against Toronto F.C.

TopDrawer Soccer announced Berhalter's work as revolutionary in an article earlier this week, and perhaps deservedly so.
What Berhalter has done to the Crew over the course of the first three games of the season has been nothing short of revolutionary.  
Most young MLS coaches – especially those in their first year because MLS hires unnaturally young – come upon league gates frowning down upon them, and only men like Peter Vermes and Jason Kreis and Bruce Arena stare back from the other side. Most young coaches opt to scale the craggy earthworks to either side, content to play it safe in lieu of attacking ideas. There are few in the league’s history who’ve had the temerity to take the gates head on. Berhalter appears to be one such man.
Geesh, high praise. Berhalter must be saying "thanks guys, but I still have 31 games left in my first MLS season!"

That wasn't all. writer's were lauding Berhalter's new system all week, stating how it has given players like Wil Trapp the freedom to flourish and spread their wings or what have you, according to MLS,
Columbus currently lead MLS in possession, passing accuracy and passing accuracy in the final third. In fact, the Crew lead by a wide margin in both passing accuracy benchmarks, more than 3 and 4 percent, respectively.
They also lead in fancy charts.

But, then you lose to Toronto F.C. at home, and create little attacking chances, and then fans say this:
The game plan in the first half failed miserably. The team created zero chances and struggled to even put two consecutive passes together. In the second half, the only idea was to cross, which was just dumb. The players were poor, and the tactics were poorer.

The media is always looking for that next legendary coach, and Berhalter hopefully is that for us.

But, just like the U.S. needed to realize there is two halves to a game vs. Mexico.  Some commentators might need to realize there are 34 games to a Major League Soccer season.

In a game that was a perfect advertisement for Major League Soccer, this highlight is really all MLS should play on their commercials.

Nice atmosphere, some smoke bombs in the background, great goal, good dancing.. Perfect.

I wish there was a city with a big stadium between Portland and Seattle. I would love a neutral site game with about 40,000 fans of both teams on each side.

Rarely do you see a 50/50 crowd in soccer, like you see in college sports. Think that would be a lot of fun.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Nice Sightline in That Pic, Glad that Wil Trapp's Grandmother allowed MLS to borrow her Sony Camcorder

Would It Kill MLS To Get a Preseason Stream Right?

I would stop bringing it up if it wasn't a problem. But, the people Major League Soccer has hired in video production cannot figure out how to live stream.

The Malmo game I could only watch about 60 minutes, this one 37 minutes. Why? This is supposed to be a professional league right? And, the specs at these facilities should be top notch (high speed internet, decent press box, decent to great conditions).

And, I get perhaps if it was outside, and there were torrential rain storms, and you're trying to protect the league's (or your production companies) equipment. So, you went offline until conditions improved. But, that wasn't the case and I have still streamed in those conditions with limited problems all the way through (;

Instead, it's sunny out and Disney should have a pretty good upload speed. So, what would throw the stream offline?

Nothing should, other than terrible equipment, or someone running it that doesn't know how to keep the stream up on that equipment. I have produced several soccer games (some turned out well, some could've been a lot better), some in great conditions like PPL Park or UC Santa Barbara, and some in crap conditions with about 8 feet of space for like three monitors, a camera, and four people. But, I never had an issue with keeping a stream up with decent equipment in decent weather.

Maybe it's the facility? Well, I would consider Disney Challenge to have if not great, at least a good facility to stream from. With Disney money and what they try to bring in to play at their facility, they have to be running at top notch speeds. So, I can't figure out a reason why the stream would temporarily be unavailable multiple times except if the equipment is outdated by five years, or the producer has no idea what there doing.

You would almost have to be trying to mess up the stream in today's conditions. I have streamed a full game live from a D3 school with better success from a Verizon Jet Pack. With a hot spot speed of 6 mbps (almost too slow) and MLS can't pull it off with a 75 mbps upload (really fast)?

And, it's so easy to live stream anything to YouTube (you could teach a computer illiterate how to stream in a few hours, someone that's tech savvy in twenty minutes). The only thing that should make it impossible to stream is if it's something on YouTube's end, such as their live streaming capability being down (that's happened once to me due to YouTube making improvements to their system and that sucks because there's nothing you can do). That wasn't what happened here.

But, even if the streaming was working, the production level is so low.

The Disney Classic cameras are what a dad would use to film his son's soccer games (see above pic). At times there is no audio. There is no B Roll, no interviews, no look at the commentators.

Why not take a few HD cameras down there and a few inspired people, for cheap, trust me there are a few of them in the business- I would like to think of myself as one-, and there's a ton I've run into across the U.S. in video production that focus on sporting events in general and soccer in particular. And have those people try to get a uniformed preseason broadcast that might bring in some sponsors for MLS?

Or throw down a little cash and give all the preseason games to a mid-level production company. Anything compared to the current "oh well, who cares, it's preseason."

Because whoever produces or is in charge of these live streams obviously doesn't give a shit. I've made dumb mistakes in my broadcasts, but I've always tried to make them better next time. But, for MLS, every year it's the same, "hey Orlando kid walking down the street, do you film for the high school year book? Want to film a Major League Soccer game at Disneyland!"

I wouldn't usually go to a Toronto F.C. fan, but this one hit the nail on the head (Loconet on Red Patch Boys Forum):
It's the year 2014. We are on the cusp of having self driving cars, we have eye wear that act as powerful computers connected to the internet, we watched a robot land on mars in almost real-time (speed of communication with a remote planet limited).

... but yet MLS/teams cannot sort out a simple video feed from Florida.

The destruction of the league will not be spending or over spending in players. It will be their goddamn potatoes for cameras and zucchinis for modems in pre-seasons.
Believe it or not MLS, the preseason is important. It's where a championship season begins, it's where fans can start formulating opinions on the offseason moves that were made. MLS fans, as well as people all over the world want to view it. But, they can't in 2014.

Or well any year.

It's amateur and MLS needs to fix it.