MLS: You Want to Be Taken Seriously?

Simply put: Last night can never happen again. A team that has no right in the final, playing football so negative it makes Atletico Madrid look expansive, winning the league title on PK lottery.

Flat out: League titles should never be decided by PKs. I thought this when SKC won in 2013. I still think that. I will DIE thinking that. Penalties are the worst way to decide a sporting contest ever imagined.

Second: Half the league being admitted to the playoffs is absurd. And it invites a team playing like Seattle did last night. Ok, we’re Americans. We like playoffs. I don’t disagree with the concept. I wish we could go single table and have Supporter’s Shield be an actual title, and MLS Cup be the League Cup to the Open Cup’s FA/Pokal. But my wish is unlikely. But playing 30+ games to eliminate 1/3rd the league is absurd. At the very least, all tiebreakers should go to the team that had the higher finish in the league at the end of extra time. No PKs ever. Make the lower seeded team win.

Third: Here’s my alternative to PKs. That is, assuming we can’t have a good-old-fashioned replay. The 1st 15 minutes of Extra Time play out as normal. From there, each side is reduced one player, allowed 1 sub (for fatigue concerns), and plays 15mins sudden death. Rinse & repeat for each period after until it’s 7v7. The subs should reduce any serious injury concerns, and this is a FINAL we’re talking about. So being tired next week isn’t a concern. And by opening space, it forces a defensive team to decide when it’s going to come out of its shell and play.

Oh, btw. I also think once MLS gets to 32 teams, they should have the mother of all single-table seasons, and then split into 2X16 team divisions, with promotion and relegation between them. If any further expansion happens, then they start in MLS 2. And for every 2 team added, 2 extra promotions. Though I would cap the whole structure at 38 teams (18 in MLS, 20 in MLS 2). I think there are enough quality candidates for expansion to fill that structure. Or at least will be within a decade.

MLS rant over for now. Regular programming resumes tomorrow, or Tuesday at the latest. It’s been going ok so far. 😉

Blood and Gold: An Introduction

771px-rc_lens_logo-svg

Sang et Or–as the French phrase the title translates, are the colors of Racing Club de Lens. The common understanding is the colors symbolize the mining heritage of the region, blood for their toil, gold for the wealth the coal mines brought. (There is another story that one of the owners was something of a fan of the Spanish flag, and it hit him while studying a ruined Spanish monastery. Be that as it may, the miners took to the colors) Founded in 1906, with their colors dating to the mid-20s, the club’s early years were tied to the fortunes of the mines, for good and ill. Like many of the English clubs from the early days of the FA, the local workers provided the backbone of the team.

Even when the club entered the 1st Division, they provided the fans. Such that their stadium, with over 38,000 capacity is around 5000 more than the small city it calls home. It’s a trait not uncommon in the northern clubs, as the Pas-de-Calais department is one of the most densely populated in the entire nation, yet without large cities. It’s primary rival is Lille OSC, with whom it contests the Derby du Nord. Only 40 km apart, Lens is the working class “provincial” club, while Lille is the cosmopolitan choice. That RC Lens has to look up a division at their rivals presently is the first matter to rectify.

The club nearly went under when the mines collapsed in the 60s. But revived in 1979 under Roger Lemarre and then increased its stature as Gerard Houllier and Joachim Marx took the reins. But it was Daniel Leclercq, “The Druid” who led them to glory in 1998, with a League win followed by a Coupe de la Ligue triumph the next season, and reaching the UEFA Cup semi-final, losing to Arsenal. The next year, in the Champion’s League, they became the only team to defeat the Gunners in Wembley stadium.

That was the high-water mark. From there, the decline to Ligue 2 began, ironically in a 2007 season with Guy Roux, the Auxerre great who serves as patron saint of LLM managers, attempted a comeback with the club. It lasted three months, and the turmoil it wrought took the team down with it. From there, they’ve teeter-tottered between the Leagues. Much of their problem, like Auxerre, is financial. They ran afoul of French financial regulations, such that their 2014 promotion was nullified, and thus suffered a financial relegation in 2015. Nor did they rebound last year, instead finishing 6th place in Ligue 2. And it is there we begin our tale.

Why RC Lens? Well, as I noted, I have a soft spot for the French Leagues from my LLM days. I’ve never quite found them as enjoyable as the Bundesliga. But seeing as I have a personal attachment to Germany I don’t to France, that’s not a fair comparison. I enjoy the tactical diversity and abundance of young talent that permeates the French game. While Ligue 2 has an apparently strict 2 non-EU policy, the classification of the old colonial nations as “national” players mitigates that. Indeed, the “overseas departments” still can (and do) contribute to the full French National team. While Lens doesn’t allow scouting overseas, that ‘colonial’ influence is still felt in youth intakes.

Oh, did I mention RC Lens has excellent youth and training facilities? After my nightmares trying to get the Viola to develop youth, I have some gems in my U-19s. And the board is all-in on letting me develop youth for the 1st team.

Also, I will conceal nothing from you: I like their kit. Though apparently the Missus doesn’t agree with me on this one. 😦

rc-lens-16-17-kit2b252832529

I mean, if you’re going to toil through the ranks, it’s a lot better to look at a kit you like than one that is the visual equivalent of razers on a chalk board.

Third, with secure finances, a World Cup quality stadium, and the aforementioned training facilities, they’re mostly set for when we make the leap to the Ligue 1. I’ll need to expand the coaching and scouting. And the budget is squeaky-bum tight, because we still have players left over from the previous stint in Ligue 1 (no transfer fee after retaining key squad and quality youth). But if we make it up in year 1, (which is my expectation) we have the platform to build on. Maybe even recreate the glory of those Leclercq-bossed sides.

Ultimately, as with every game I play, this is a career save. Not a club save. But I do have short and long-term goals with RC Lens. Some of which I won’t step away from unless the Board sacks me.

  1. Earn Promotion. Expected for Year 1.
  2. Establish ourselves as a permanent resident of the top-half. By year 4.
  3. Win the League at least once.
  4. Win either of the Domestic Cups at least once.
  5. Dominate the Derby du Nord over Lille.
  6. Knock PSG off its fracking oil-money perch. (SWIDT? 😛 )
  7. Make ourselves a regular in Europe within a decade.
  8. Have a core of the team developed through our own youth set-up.
  9. Do not pay transfer fees for players over the age of 25. (Free transfers older acceptable, sparingly as below.)
  10. Sell any 1st team player who is offered more than twice their current value. We’re not so rich I can hold onto *everyone.*
  11. Have moneyball replacements for anyone I may sell. (This is where a 1-2 year free stop-gap may be acceptable.) Preference is always to be given to in-house solutions.
  12. Play attractive, but responsible football.
  13. Secure club finances long-term.

I will not (willingly) leave until: Our place in League 1 is assured. Lille is given its comeuppance. And our finances are assured, long-term. That is the minimum, no matter who calls. If we win Ligue 1, I’m not saying, “Mission accomplished.” But I will begin listening to offers at that point. Unless I’m having too much fun. 😛

That’s the nuts-and-bolts. Next time I’ll talk about our manager, introduce you to the club, and establish the ‘how’ of this year’s update. Because I’m still a wannabe writer. There has to be SOME narrative to it. 😉

(All images stock.)

Featured Image -- 2850

Suggested Teams #FM17 #WeAreTheCommunity

Good list for reference. Though I’d suggest Sporting KC for MLS. Great kits, fans that fill CM Park to BEYOND capacity on an absurd sell-out streak, and recent success with silverware in 3 of the last 4 seasons. That despite not getting Garberbucks like the Galaxy, Seattle, or Toronto. 😛

The FM Journal

In light of recent posts detailing some teams that you could manage in FM17, I’ll be doing my own take on this topic, going through country in the game at the start (no databases) and giving you the team from that country which, in my opinion, would be the most interesting one to manage. So here we go:

Europe
Austria: FC Wacker Innsbruck
A fairly new club, having been formed in 2002 and currently playing in the second tier of Austrian football, they were the result of the demise of two clubs: FC Tirol Innsbruck and (the original) FC Wacker Innsbruck. FC Tirol Innsbruck, at the time of their liquidation in 2002, were the strongest team in Austrian football, having won the Premier League title in 1999, 2000 and 2001, the last being under the stewardship of Joachim Low, the current German national team manager. As in many cases…

View original post 7,076 more words

Sorry About the Mess

Let me clear these magazines off the couch for you to have a seat. It’s been a while, I know. You might note there’s some new images and format here, that might have  something to do with my plans for Football Manager 17. But I should probably start with what’s gone on the last few months.

The short answer: Not a heapload. Max Furey finished his third season with Fiorentina top of the Serie A once more. And really, with a side that had brought in Rashford and Pulisic that season, I really ought to have kept going with the Viola. But I was disheartened by my worst youth intake ever. That is to say, two 2 star candidates out of the entire batch: One with “unmotivated” as a personality, the other with “tempermental.” I tossed the *entire* intake and sacked the Head of Youth Development after that. But there was no replacement willing to come to a side with mediocre facilities and horrible youth coaching. Neither of which our board was inclined to change.

So after losing 3-2 to Juve in the Coppa Italia, in a game featuring 1 goal conceded by the infamous FM backheader and another that everyone in the stadium but the lineman saw was offside–OK, THAT is not unrealistic for Juve in the Serie A, at least–I resigned. Manchester United offered me their job. And as a matter of in-game roleplay, I considered that a logical “yes.”

Unfortunately, watching David de Gea give up right back schloss goals from 40 yards 2 games in a row was enough to kill my enjoyment of FM 16 in total. Which is why I didn’t write up ANY of that until now. Put me firmly in the “Realism in the Match Engine over Features” camp. I played almost 1400 hours of FM15. And dumped FM16 at just over 500. And that’s counting the time it took me to write the game up last year, which I wasn’t doing in FM15. So take another hundred hours off the relative comparison. And yeah, I probably did enjoy FM15 3x as much as last year’s slog.

That also explain a good part of my reticence to get back into blogging until now, even though I’ve had FM17 on my hard drive since Beta day. To be honest, I’m not the beta-testing type. But as an economic decision, buying the game at a discount made sense. Even the ‘puny’ 550 hours I put into FM16 is value for money ($10 hours a buck). It just wasn’t as MUCH value for money. So I’m done cursing the darkness. I’ve putzed with FM17 for a bit now, and what I’ve seen and read leaves me content the game is better this year. Still see the overpowered counters compensated for by craptastic 1v1 misses, but not 2 or 3 a game, like in last year’s version. I can play a possession-oriented game and not feel like I’m putting a knife to my throat.

My other reason for not jumping right in is that two of the candidates I was considering for this year’s first blog were taken before I could get comfortable with the game. Stuttgart was the side I’d been looking at since last year. But once again, Deep Lying Podcast has stolen my idea. 😛 I thought about kicking it over to the other “They shouldn’t be in 2nd Liga side, Hannover 96.” But they aren’t as compelling to me. I also looked at Ajax, but their goalkeeper crisis to start out left me cold. And I even thought of starting my Bob Bradley challenge with Minnesota United. But I can say now that waiting a year as manager of a team that does essentially nothing is not fun to me. I’d have to holiday and take something of similar stature in year 2. That’s not to say I don’t believe I’m a better manager than Adrian Heath. Ahem. Not an impressive pick there, Loons.

The other team I lurch to for starting a new save is well-taken by FMPressure James, the mascot of every former LLM player: Auxerre. I had a couple awesome saves with them in 01/02. One starting with them, the other picking them up 7 years in when they’d been relegated to Ligue 2, bringing them back up, and storming Ligue 1 the next season. That after bringing Toulouse through the leagues. That was my last save in 01/02 before the disc cracked. 😦  That said, seeing a France was my go-to for good LLM games back in the day, (though I had a nice one with Rot-Weiss Essen as well), I thought it would be good to start with a Ligue 2 side this year too. One that really ought not be in Ligue 2, and has some nice facilities.

If you’ve looked at the banner, you know who I mean. But like a good writer, I’ll leave that a cliffhanger for right now. 😉 Until next time, have a classic au revoir.

 

 

Featured Image -- 2818

Auxerre: Aloé, Aloé

Love this series, the revival of the team LLM managers longed to replicate in the day.

FMPressure

Last year was a big step for us, we made huge progress in the league, winning 26 games and finishing only 9 points behind eventual champions PSG. There were some frustrations as well, being knocked out of Europe in the group stages and obviously going out of the domestic cups early on. We did however, qualify for the Champions League for the first time.

This year, I’m again aiming to get into that top three positions. We’ve got the best placed playoff to get through to the group stage of the Champions League which would be great for the club due to the financial benefits it would bring.

Transfers

As good as we were last season, I felt we needed improvements in midfield. If the right players were available, then signings would be made. A few players were going to be leaving as well either due to the offer being…

View original post 1,644 more words

Featured Image -- 2779

League Building: How to Compete in the Unequal World of Football Manager

Good article. If I ever “stayed” at clubs long-term, this would be the methodology I follow, even if I was in an already big-league. But I haven’t stayed 5 years at a club since……well…. CM01/02. lol

FM17 might be different on that score. As I’ll have the game early enough to do a proper long-term save, instead of 7-10 years.

Football Manager is a tough game. We all have dreams of taking those minnows from the Bulgarian First Division to Champions League glory, but it’s a proper slog isn’t it? At least, this is one of the first issues I have been brought up against whenever I have suggested smaller clubs to players looking out for a good save.

“Nah, there’s no money there”

“I will never do anything in Europe”

All true, in the short term at least. That’s the beauty of a long term save in an unknown nation. With the right engineering, and the right foundations, you can lead your team to glory, and with the right emphasis on league building, you can stave off the frustrations of being domestically dominant whilst suffering in Europe. It’s one method I have used throughout Football Manager, and are currently using in my Dnipro save, as I attempt to build…

View original post 1,017 more words

Striking Furey: ACF Fiorentina Season 3.1

Nine preseason wins were surrounded by a loss at Azteca to Club America to serve as a reminder why Americans should never appear in the stadium. House. Of. Horrors. Still, with comfortable wins over Anderlecht, Standard Liege, and Austria Wien thrown into my usual cupcake battering, there was no reason to lack for confidence.

The Italian SuperCoppa pitted us against US Sassulo at the San Siro. Their formation appeared more aggressive than in the past. Which only served to ensure we dominated the match. Donny van de Beek got his first career goal off a well-worked passing move. Mati Fernandez came off the bench to deliver a precise free kick that Marlon towered to send home in the 78th minute. Sassulo’s fans followed in short order, as Max Furey received his first Domestic Cup win as Fiorentina manager.

The Fixture List served up the most important rivalry in Italy for opening day. Fiorentina vs Juventus, at Artemio Franchi. Unai Emery brought in Renato Sanches and Heinrikh Mkhitarian to bolster his side. But they played passive through the 1st half, and we really should have gone in with a lead. We came out with similar dominance, and Borja Valero scored his 1st–and only–goal of the season in the 52nd minute, passed into space by a header from Van de Beek to unleash a volley that left Buffon motionless. But as the fans sang, and victory looked assured, Dybala somehow got free of Astori and Marlon, and fired home an 82nd minute, undeserved equalizer. So it ended 1-1.

100games.png

Goals would flow with much less regularity than last season. 13 League games would pass before we scored 3 in a game, against Carpi at home. 6 before we scored 2, against US Sassulo. The culprit in our profligacy was clear: Andrea Belotti. If last year I was troubled by his inconsistency, this year he simply stunk to High Heaven. His return of 10 goals was half last season’s. And once again, the bigger the opponent, the more invisible he became. He scored against Napoli in our 3rd game and still managed a 6.9 overall rating. Then he didn’t score again in the league until Genoa, almost 2 months later. He did manage a penalty kick in our 2-0 Champion’s League victory over Barca, however. A well deserved victory that put us in control of a tough group including Beskitas and Shaktar.

DownGoesBarca.png

CLDraw2017.png

The match against Barca proved one that made Ricardo’s eyes light up in Euro Signs as well: RecordGate.png

So if our goalscoring had dried up, we returned to the DNA of our first season. High possession and press to strangle the game, and a stout defense. Timo Horn played his part, and the Brazilian defenders Samir and Marlon strengthened the backline.Marlon.png

Lazio was playing prettier football. But we were, in effect, the classic Serie A side: Controlling games, dictating terms, scoring when we needed to, and never giving up cheap goals.

Oct17tab.png

So it should come as no surprise that we had to play Lazio immediately after our home win against Barcelona, with top of the table up for grabs. To their credit, the Rome side came to Artemio Franchi to play football, and while both defenses played well, it was not for a lack of testing. In general, Mati Fernandez, Levin Oztunali, and Milan Badelj dictate the midfield, but Lazio’s front-line threatens on counters. The difference in the match was our goalkeepers, Timo Horn came up with 2 good saves, while Frederico Marchetti spilled a Levin Oztunali shot into the path of Christian Tello in the 52nd minute. Our leading goalscorer made no mistake. 1-0, top of the league.

Barca returned the favor on us in the Champion’s League, winning 2-0 in Camp Nou, leaving the group poised on a knife’s edge. We traveled to Istanbul to play a Beskitas side we had crushed 3-0 in the home side. But they scored an early goal. Levin Oztunali equalized off a Tello corner in the 70th minute. Then Belotti emerged from his slumber to finish a Reidewald cross in the 88th. Only for Karim Frei to steal victory in injury time with his 2nd goal. The 2-2 draw left us needing a win against Shakhtar in the final match. Fortunately, they had no intention of doing anything but defending. Marlon scoring off a free kick was enough to see us through to the Knockout round as top of the group.

The young Dutch defender had turned into a star for us at both the club and international level: JairoStars.png

With of course, the applicable international interest. We had already beaten off the host of typically derisory bids the AI sends in. I laugh when people talk about ‘the insane money the AI spends.’ Because honestly, 4 out of every 5 bids I get is non-negotiable and less than the player’s value unless he plays 50 games, becomes an international star, blah, blah. So far, he’s not been speaking up. But I suspect it’s only a matter of time, as he is ‘flattered by the interest.’

My other former-Ajax regular, Donny van de Beek, comes to me for a new contract after I reject an almost-fair offer from Arsenal. I promise him he’ll get one after the season. He accept that and gets about his business.

In an attempt to shake up the side, and our profligate strikers, I adjust our tactics, setting them to Target Man from Complete Forward, and instructing our backs to get the ball to them specifically. Against AC Milan. Bonnazoli does this well. The promising ex-Sampdoria striker had struggled much of the early season with injuries. But he scored a nice goal and generally made a nuisance of himself as we dominated the moneyed side in a 2-0 win. Belotti scores two goals in the new role against Carpi, and I allow myself to believe maybe I’ve shaken the slump. Also encouraging is that when Maxwel Cornet comes in for them, the shift to a False 9 throws off defenses used to the battering up top from the strikers.

Unfortunately, in the Dell’Appennino Derby against Bologna, reality returns. Tello and Belotti both play horribly. Their inability to finish thrown into stark relief by Destro taking the one SHOT they have to that point to equalize. All that keeps Max from full rage is an own goal from Dirar in the 77th minute. Still, after the match, he calls Belotti in and issues a warning for poor form. One the striker accepts.

Matias Vecino comes to me and inquires after his lack of playing time. To be fair, he’s only just returned from injury. He also has the misfortune of playing behind Levin Oztunali, who is producing games like this one with routine:

LevinMadSkills.png

However, I do give him the start against Atalanta Bergamo, and he returns my faith with 2 goals, including one moment of perfect beauty. Keeping with the theme, Milan Badelj almost bests him in the first round of the Italian Coppa against Cesana. This year, despite the board giving it low priority, I decide to play much of the 1st team in the Cup, though with Ciprian in goal. I want the Domestic Treble.

Those ambitions will be sorely tested coming out of the Winter Break with away matches at Roma and in the Turin Stadium against Juventus. Still, despite our dodgy striking, we could be doing worse in the League:

WInterBreak17.png

And it’s hard to be completely angry with your side when you set a Serie A record for invincibility:

RecordStreaker.png

So, with the Viola competing on three fronts, and vultures swirling our squad with the Winter window once more, what will this third season hold in store?

It Has Happened.

I have done something I have never done before. I have pre-ordered Football Manager. No more buying months after release for me. I will properly start a save during the Beta. Probably not the Bob Bradley Challenge 1st off. But who knows?

Internet dropped this morning, so I’m behind in updating my save. I’ll post as soon as the Daemons allow me the freedom of the web at home again.

UPDATE: I had to reinstall Chrome because it stopped playing nice with Windows 10. Seems this is something of a thing if your Chrome install predates the upgrade. I’ve been screaming to my wife’s amusement for the past 2 hours. Definitely too fried to do writing tonight. 😛 Good news is, I’m off for Monday. So I might get a bonus post in then.

Also, since I will be starting FM17 from the drop this year, I’m going to move my NaNoWriMo up to September. I will update as I can, but I need to do a good 50,000 words of productive writing before I take a month off of extra work for FM obsession. 😛

TBH, you might not notice much of a difference. As I’m currently in Season 4 preseason. So I’ll probably remain ahead until Beta Day. 😛