The inevitable staff clearout wasn't long in coming. Only Goodstein and Simpson survive from the previous era, though I've brought in Chris Armas as a coach, and he looks to be potential assistant material. Given some of the questionable advice Simpson's been dishing, his days may be numbered.
A quick burst of scouting gives me a shortlist of around 25 players that I have a serious interest in. It's made up primarily of MLS players and free transfers from around the globe since I've got limited financial backing in the transfer market. I'll be looking to make 4-6 signings before the start of the season and wasted no time in making my first.
Signing #1: Henri Camara arrives on a free transfer to immediately give us some speed and energy up top. He's on the wrong side of 30, but he's quick and cheap. Of course, I then get off on the wrong foot with him by declaring at his unveiling to the press that he's the type of player DC United should be attracting. Apparently, he took offense. Then he got injured in training and will miss the upcoming trip to Honduras. I suspect Olsen had issues with Henri's "dedication to the cause" and decided to make a point in training.
Signing #2: Bobby Boswell returns to DC in exchange for Lawson Vaughn (Houston wanted a right back) and a first round draft pick. Pretty steep price, but he's an experienced leader at the back who can win balls in the air. I was tempted by a couple of Sudamericanos on the far side of 30, but one was 37, and the other didn't boast the solid mental stats that Boswell does. Besides, we've been down that road in the "real" world, haven't we?
Becks-watch! Everton have made a bid for Golden Balls.
Signing #3: Claudio Lopez arrives from KC for Emilio and some draft picks, giving us both depth and quality in attack and an option on the left if I decide to send Fred packing should he fail to impress in pre-season. In real life, this wouldn't be much of a trade, but Lopez looks to be a high quality, mobile attacker in FM 2010. Also, I've cleared a big chunk of cap space by ditching Emilio.
Signing #4: 26-year old Columbian GK David Gonzalez arrives on a free transfer. He's projected to be the #1, leaving Wicks, Kocic, and 34-year old Argentine trialist Pablo Cavallero to fight for the backup slot.
Cue the sad trombone, MLS, Becks is a Toffee!
INS Alert! Gomez got his green card, which creates roster space for the international talent we're bringing in. Of course, I'm not certain Gomez will be around on opening day, so we'll see how much of a benefit this brings.
The Tour of Honduras
Tactical choices need to be made. I'm going to start by looking at 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, and 4-4-1-1. Each will get a runout in the pre-season tour of Honduras...
@CD Platense: Won 2-1 with goals by Quaranta and Fred after injuries and international call-ups forced me to scramble to field a viable starting eleven. A dour, scoreless first half in an offset 4-2-3-1 gave way to a more interesting second when we switched to a balanced 4-2-3-1. Fred was running amok in central midfield after Gomez failed to impress in the same role. Interesting...
LA is starting to fall apart--Shakhtar are in for Donovan!
@CD Motagua: Won 1-0 on a 25-yard golazo from Moreno, playing as the sole striker in a 4-2-3-1. I toyed with the balance between a deeper, wider version and a more narrow compact version, concluding that both may have a place in our tactical arsenal. I'm leaning towards the former at the moment as it seems to create more chances.
Riot Squad suicide watch! Donovan's off to the Ukraine.
@CD Marathon: Lost 0-1 to a cheap counter in the last 15 minutes. Playing 4-4-1-1, we were in control but never looked as threatening as in earlier matches. That said, we were much more solid looking at the back, in midfield, and kept the ball well, though that probably has as much to do with getting our international players back in the fold as anything else.
Signing #5: 34-year old Argentine GK Pablo Cavallero, capped 35 times and moderately impressive on trial, arrives on a free transfer to provide an experienced backup for Gonzalez (and a travel roommate for Claudio Lopez). Wicks is now officially surplus to requirements, and Kocic's international status puts his future up in the air as well.
Chalkboards across USL America
A trio of games against lesser opposition will give me a chance to further evaluate my tactics and figure out who isn't going to make the final roster cut in a few weeks...
@New York (USL): Ran out a more direct 4-2-3-1 with the wingers (Lopez and Quaranta) cutting inside. dominated the match and won 3-0, but maybe didn't test the keeper as much as we should have. Biggest fault? The deep-lying central mids had plenty of good chances from just outside the 18, but weren't hitting the target. Cue the long-range shooting drills!
@Crystal Palace Baltimore: started in a tweaked 4-2-3-1 trying to get the wingers more involved, but Olsen went and got himself sent off after 23 minutes. Playing 4-3-2, we looked more dangerous with two forwards and in control of the midfield with three playing central. Makes me want to try 4-3-1-2 and 4-3-3 (Holy Grail!) to see what we can come up with. Won 2-1 in the end with goals from Lopez and Quaranta.
@Pittsburgh Riverhounds: Tried out the 4-3-3 and 4-3-1-2, neither with any great success as we struggled to a 1-0 victory with yet another goal from Tino. Next two tests are against MLS opposition, so we'll see how the 4-2-3-1 plays against them before resorting to 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1. Jacobson got himself sent off in the dying minutes. That's two reds in a row for central midfielders. Might have to start laying on the discipline...
The Final Tune-ups & Deadline Day
@Chivas USA: Ran out the wide/deep 4-2-3-1, but with players given less freedom than in the previous matches. We started well, with Olsen driving one in from the edge of the box early in the first half. Chivas equalized when Benny gave away a PK off a corner. The first half was pretty much even, so in the second I switched to a 4-4-2. It didn't look to be working, but Moreno rifled home the rebound after Camara was denied on the break. We switched back to the 4-2-3-1 with fifteen minutes to go and looked to counter, with Pontius and Camara showing an instant rapport, creating three good chances for each other in the closing stages before Camara finally closed things out. 3-1.
Time for the brief interlude that is roster deadline day and the waiver draft. I cut loose Wicks, Kocic, Burch (gods, that felt good to write!), and N'Silu, and I'll be looking for a #3 developmental keeper in the waiver draft (domestic, as we're out of international slots, thus the reason for cutting Kocic).
Instead, I somehow end up with Robbie Rogers (signing #6, with Avery John being waived to make way on the senior roster) and a potential new kid for the #3 GK spot (Bobby Shuttleworth) though he needs to sign for Dev Dollars before I can shoehorn him into the roster. With Rogers providing a solid option at left mid, I've waved Ely Allen as well.
Seattle Sounders: First look at my boys in RFK and wouldn't you know it, SNOW! Break out the orange ball and keep things simple. Seattle are the first team we've faced who are playing anything other than a bog-standard 4-4-2. They're in a wide diamond 4-4-2. Sadly, the 4-2-3-1 isn't doing the job at home, possibly because they've got a player sitting in the hole to mark my central attacking midfielder. I think I'll try a 4-4-2 next time I face the wide diamond.
Final roster tweaks need to be made in advance of the last pre-season match. The Shuttleworth kid signs for Dev Dollars(signing #7), and Janicki walks the plank as I sign Carlos Mendes (signing #8) after the MetroCows waive him. We've got a lot of new pieces to integrate (8 new faces on a 23-strong roster--yikes!), so I'm anticipating a fairly slow start until the team starts to gel.
@Richmond Kickers: Ran out a 4-4-2 and was pleased to get first half goals from my two strikers (Camara and Lopez), but some of the play was pretty dismal, and we didn't create enough chances for my liking, winding up with a 2-0 result. I suppose we'll start the season with the 4-2-3-1 and see where it takes us.
Time to rest up and get the bodies healthy before the season kicks into gear. Also, I'll look to polish some decent set piece routines because we've been winning loads of corners in the 4-2-3-1.
Think I'm making a mess of this? Grab a copy of Football Manager 2010and have a go yourself. Then write it up and post it to your own blog or send me a copy and I might post it here on FBF...