When it comes to evaluating new talent, American soccer fans are mostly in the dark. Soccer isn’t like baseball or hockey, where a player arrives in the bigs with an extensive minor league resume that – in baseball, anyway – includes enough statistics to extend a seamhead’s virginity by another three years. It’s not like basketball, where any decent college player has played in multiple nationally televised games before draft day. And it’s not like football, where even the draftees who will be working at Best Buy in three months are vetted and – some would say – stalked by Mel Kiper and his band of high-jump-obsessed elves.
In soccer, draftees and foreign acquisitions are almost always completely unknown to most fans. That’s why I don’t obsess over the MLS draft; my reaction is usually nothing more than, “Oh . . . okay.” Same with foreign signings: MLS imports are hardly ever anyone I’ve seen play. As a result, I’ve created my own criteria for evaluating new players, and how they apply to D.C. United’s new signings:
Pedigree. This is a horrible way to evaluate talent. There are people in this world who have “20 years of experience doing X” on their resume, but it’s never mentioned that they’ve been doing X badly for 20 years. Former United midfielder Matias Donnet had good pedigree out of Argentina, but in hindsight he must have had an uncle on the Boca Juniors board or compromising photos of Diego Maradona or something, because he was not a good player. Still, it’s one of the only data points we have. Defender Emiliano Dudar does well in this category: He played for one of Switzerland’s top clubs and was named that league’s top defender in 2010, which is especially impressive when you consider that Swiss soccer is like the Swiss military: mostly focused on defense. Winger Nick DeLeon played for Louisville, which went to the NCAA final, so that’s good. But midfielder Matt Kuhn went to Drake, which I believe is one of those online colleges you attend in your pajamas, so that’s bad (indeed: Kuhn has already been cut). In fact, all of United’s supplemental draft picks do poorly in this category, because they didn’t even go in the Superdraft, which is held in a fancy hotel with a buffet and free wi-fi and lemon wedges in all the water pitchers. No, the supplemental draft is held in the corner booth of a Waffle House in Great Bridge, Va.
Potential for name-based puns. As a blogger, this is vitally important; I need to be able to crack jokes based on players’ names. Again, Dudar does well here; when United plays Houston, part of me will be rooting for Calen Carr to score just to set up the “Dudar, where’s my Carr” pun that will land me a Pulitzer. Also scoring well: United supplemental draft pick Lance Rozeboom, who has an action-packed last name and a vaguely suggestive first name that appeals to the 10-year-old in me. The player really letting me down here is United midfielder Charles Rodriguez. Really…Rodriguez? One of the most common names in the world? What am I supposed to do with that? I hope he at least goes by Chuck.
Comments from random people on Internet message boards. Super-reliable information to be found here. Apparently, DeLeon ”pwns,” at least according to “DrNutz92,” from whom I get all of my news. “Tweetybird18” says Rozeboom is quick and good on the ball, but Tweetybird18 also calls Lana Del Rey “supr talented,” so I would take everything he/she says with a grain of salt. “NCCougarHunter” says Rodriguez is “teh best player on the team lol!” though I'm not sure whether the "lol" at the end is meant to indicate sarcastic cackling or uncontainable exuberance.
Effect on Joseph Ngwenya’s playing time. All of United’s new acquisitions are knocking it out of the park in this category; Ngwenya is no longer with the club.
Quick announcement: We are trying to come up with a short, two-word moniker to place before my posts in order to differentiate my content from Steven Goff’s content (because if you were Goff you’d definitely want that). Right now we’re going with “Maurer Minute,” which is the best we could come up with but is still not very good. If you have a suggestion, please leave it in the comments. Ideally, it would incorporate my last name, which – it should be noted – rhymes with “flower” in spite of the bonus “r” in the middle. We’ll announce two winners: one in the category of “best suggestion,” and one in the category of “best insult.”