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ISN Editorial: National Soccer Media at Fault … Not at Fault

2012 MLS SuperDraft exposes the stretched coverage of college soccer

It’s no wonder the national media was hard on Luke Holmes surrounding the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft. They look at his stats from Notre Dame College and wonder how bad the competition must be … lets be serious he scored 24 goals as a junior and an NAIA best 29 as a sophomore. When you compare those stats to “only scoring” five goals in 16 games for the University of Akron as a senior one can understand why Holmes endured such criticism from national media leading up to the 2012 Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Kansas City.

The sarcasm is deep because if the media compares the stats as though he played out wide at Notre Dame they should be talking about him as though he is not an MLS caliber player … how could they imagine a player who scored 70 goals in three seasons at a small school in Ohio to be a world-class player, let alone an MLS player if the positions were the same?

Simply they should not, nor would they have any reason to.

But the position he played at Notre Dame was strikingly different than what he played at Akron.

After spending two weeks working on the Mock SuperDraft and then spending four days and nights at the NSCAA Convention and SuperDraft I have found the national media is just that … national. Their knowledge about the college players even at a national prominent Akron are more than lacking.

The issue is at the regional and local levels that players are not getting the exposure with video or commentary about the players outside of school website game reports.

There is a true lack of knowledge about individual players and what their strengths and weaknesses and how those will translate at the MLS level.

I don’t knock the major networks for not having a show dedicated to college soccer, however there is no such show, and there are not nearly enough games broadcasted to allow broadcasters and media to understand players.

So regardless of each media member’s ability to evaluate talent, it’s not their fault they do not understand how a player will translate at the MLS level.

This being said, they still do not understand and have little or perhaps no understanding that Holmes is not a winger. Ives Galarcep, one of the best in the soccer journalism business, listed the three-year standout at Notre Dame College and senior at Akron as a winger … not because that is the best position for Holmes at the MLS level but rather that is where he played his one season for the Zips as he supported and supplied the second overall pick forward Darren Mattocks with eight assists as the sophomore talisman scored 21 goals for the Zips before earning a Generation adidas contract with MLS.

In his three years under Head Coach Michael “Mac” McBride at Notre Dame Holmes scored a program best 70 goals playing in the middle of the pitch. He played up front as a striker for the first two seasons earning American Mideast Conference Freshman and Player of the Year and AMC Player of the Year. As a junior he moved to center mid where he scored 24 goals and led the Falcons to their first National Championship Final with a 23-1-0 record.

Holmes was best when he was in front of goal. His goal total shows his ability to score at the NAIA level, but what does that mean to a national media that has probably never watched the level of the NAIA and many of them would have to Google the acronym to know what it is? To them it means nothing.

This was Holmes’s struggle before the MLS SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft with the national media who said he was not athletic enough, was too small, and always tried to cut-in from his wide position at the MLS Player Combine. Sadly for the Oldham, England, native he was forced to play out of position once again … did the scouts and technical staff with the combine even know his strengths as a forward and goal scorer?

Now Holmes played a season at Akron and had the exposure of playing in the MLS Player Combine, think about the lack of knowledge the media has about Dan Knight and Travis Wall, two other players who also went undrafted in the in the SuperDraft and Supplemental Draft.

Wall, the Division III National Player of the Year, led Ohio Wesleyan to their second National Championship with 19 goals and 15 assists. His 2.12 points per game was good for 13th best in the nation. Wall also played four seasons for Dr. Jay Martin, whose 608-115-49 record make him the winningest college soccer coach in the history of the NCAA, regardless of division.

Knight, a center back and three-year captain for Notre Dame was a surprise inclusion to the official MLS Draft Eligible list provided to the media at the SuperDraft in Kansas City. It made people wonder how a player who didn’t know they were eligible for the draft would be just that.

The morning before the Supplemental Draft, Susan Marschall the Coordinator for New Media for the MLS stated, “A player can be named to the draft eligible list by having an MLS team request that player to be added.”

So both players were on the radar of at least one club if not several and when looking at the players selected in the Supplemental Draft it strikes me as shocking that these players, along with the aforementioned Holmes, would go through 114 picks without being selected. It leaves plenty of room for questioning the MLS scouting departments, but also with the national media knowing nothing about their abilities and the level of competition that each player succeeded at makes one question how they are “experts”?

Knight led the Falcons to an outstanding 77-7-3 record over his four year career. That record also includes a program best 36 game regular-season unbeaten streak that began after dropping a 2-1 decision to Roberts Wesleyan on Oct. 27, 2009. As a junior in the program’s final season as a member of the NAIA he led them, along with Holmes to their first NAIA National Championship final appearance in 2010. Knight was instrumental in a program-best 32 shutouts in 84 matches while leading NDC to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. Prior to his arrival on College Road, Knight earned 26 caps with the Welsh U16, U17, and U19 national teams.

Did the media check to see that Holmes finished second in the PDL scoring in 2010 with 32 points (14 goals, 4 assists) while leading Forest City London to the Central Conference Semifinals?

Why you might ask is the PDL relevant to comparing a player to his MLS readiness?

Over the last three years the PDL has produced 111 alumni, equal to 70 percent of the draft selections from the MLS SuperDraft. This year 26 of the 38 players selected in the SuperDraft – more than two-thirds, with six of the top 10 including the first overall selection, having PDL experience.

The Chicago Fire Premier had a record 11 alumni selected and Holmes’s 2011 PDL team, Michigan Bucks had a duo with Lucky Mkosana and Babayele Sodade were both taken in the second round, going to the Chicago Fire and Seattle Sounders respectively.

The USL’s PDL continues to offer the opportunity for growth and development during the summer as players work toward their goals of turning professional. For those players coming from the 70 teams spread through nine divisions that cover North America the PDL paid dividends. So why has the national media not discovered this connection to players like Holmes.

Holmes’s ability and skills didn’t go unnoticed by everyone. One team media member who coved both the MLS and Premier Development League said Holmes’s performances in the PDL reminded him of another Ohio-based player, Chris Rolfe. Rolfe a Kettering, Ohio, native made 123 appearances for the Chicago Fire scoring 36 goals.

If Holmes can go onto have a career similar to the two-time Chicago Fire Golden Boot winner then the team that picks him up at this juncture, after he was skipped on the 114 picks that made up the 2012 MLS SuperDraft and subsequent Supplemental Draft, will be getting a true steal.

That steal could be in line with Steven Lenhart who totaled 38 goals and 12 assists in 61 collegiate games at NAIA Azusa Pacific University (Calif.). Lenhart  was named to the was honored as the NAIA National Tournament’s Outstanding Offensive Player in 2006 and 2007 helping lead Azusa Pacific to the 2007 NAIA national title. Lenhart has gone onto make 83 appearances in the MLS scoring 19 goals for Columbus Crew and San Jose Earthquakes.

Holmes was named the NAIA National Tournament’s Most Valuable Player in 2010 along with the NAIA National Player of the Year while leading the Falcons to National Runners-up.

The media is at fault even though it’s not their fault. People go to the news sources for just that, news. If the information provided by broadcasters and writers covering the coming presidential election, NFL draft or Super Bowl were inaccurate, they would certainly lose their jobs.

The national soccer media should look to add measures of “credibility” to their reporters and add to the pool or people reporting on the college game. It is impossible for the media to know every player, but they should have a much better understanding than they displayed this year when they spoke about players as if they had watched countless hours of match tape or sat in the stand taking notes.

It seems to me that the media went off the hype surrounding a player or the lack there of. For Holmes, Knight, Walls, and countless others there was little to no hype surrounding them.

Who do we blame their respective local media, their coaches, or the national media for the lack of hype that kept them from being players the media could speak intelligently about?

The truth of the matter is the soccer media in the U.S. is stretched. As much as it pains soccer fans to say it, the game while growing is not a heavy hitter with sponsorship and advertising money. Thomas O’Toole, wrote an article that appeared in USA Today on April 22, 2010 the NCAA reached an 14-year $11 billion contract with CBS and Turner Sports. Roger Pielke Jr. wrote a New York Times article on Nov. 24, 2011 that pointed out the NCAA’s sale of football television rights soared from $50 million to nearly $11 billion in 30 years when they signed with the most recent contract.

Those staggering figures allow networks to hire individuals who focus on the college game. For soccer it’s different.

The soccer media in the U.S. are responsible for not only covering the MLS, but also the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League, the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams, international tournaments, and then there is college soccer.

So it’s not media’s fault for having a lack of expertise in the area where there is the least amount of sponsorship and advertising revenue … figures on Major League Soccer’s television contract are a reported $10 million. That’s over $10 billion less than the NCAA contracts for football and basketball respectively or over $21 billion less than the two contracts combined.

It’s not the fault of the media who passionately covers a game they love. Some of that passion needs to be turned over to some new knowledgeable reporters to assist the prominent national reporters and writers.

It will be exciting to see Holmes, Knight, and Wall make the move to the professional game. There is no doubt they each have the ability on the field to do just that, regardless what the media writes or says.

NSCAA Convention Recap

This year’s NSCAA Convention in Kansas City was one of the most eventful in recent memory.  The MLS SuperDraft featured one of the best draft classes in MLS history, while the WPS Draft took place in a cloud of uncertainty.  The good news is that MLS is growing by leaps and bounds and WPS gets another season and another opportunity to be the best women’s league in the world.  The Olympics should provide both leagues with another opportunity to add fans.

Some other exciting developments included:

  • The resurgence of the Kelme brand in North America
  • Progressive plans to deal with the growing problem of concussions by Korrio CEO Steve Goldman
  • The science behind the newest boots by Pelé Sports
  • An exciting win for the MISL Wichita Wings over the Missouri Comets in front of 8,200+ fans at the Sprint Center

The excitement will continue to build until the 2013 NSCAA Convention takes place in Indianapolis.

With the First Pick in the 2012 MLS Supplemental Draft, the Montreal Impact Selects…..

With the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft in the books, we now turn our focus to the final picks of the year in the supplemental draft.  There is still a lot of talent on the board and many of these players may still end up in the MLS Reserves or even sneaking onto a roster and seeing some time with “the big boys”.  Remember there isn’t much difference between a 2nd round SuperDraft pick and someone taken in the first round of the Supplemental Draft.

The MLS dreams for these dozen players will still come true,  they are just delayed until tomorrow:

1.  DF Gienir Garcia, Mexico

2. MF Jason Banton, UK

3. FW Luke Holmes, Akron

4. MF Kirk Urso,  North Carolina

5. FW Brian Ownby, Virginia

6. MF Andy Rose, UCLA

7. MF Kohei Yamada, Japan

8.  MF Tony Walls, Wisconsin-Green Bay

9.  FW Evans Frimpong, Delaware

10.  FW Bryan Gaul, Bradley

11. MF Michael Green, New Mexico

12. DF James Kiffe, UCSB

Korrio Teams with Axon Sports to Empower Families

Most parents and coaches know concussions are a serious health concern in youth sports. Stories of players suffering traumatic injuries after returning to play with undiagnosed head trauma are sadly not uncommon. Many groups are working hard to raise awareness on the issue, and most states have passed laws mandating concussion education for players and families.

Korrio, developer of the 21st century sports automation platform Playflow®, is proud to announce it will integrate Axon Sports’ Computerized Cognitive Assessment Tool (CCAT) results into its personal player dashboards. Axon Sports’ product is an online cognitive test that provides a “before” snapshot of an athlete’s healthy brain activities including attention, processing speed, working memory, and learning for comparison to future results in the event of a head injury. Test results help healthcare providers manage return-to-play decisions, reducing a player’s risk of additional concussions before recovering from initial injuries. A pilot program utilizing Playflow’s integrated baseline cognitive testing will start in the upcoming spring soccer season. Participating teams include select teams from Seattle United, Sudbury Youth Soccer and Massachusetts Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (ODP).

The easy availability of an affordable online test is a real game changer in the world of youth sports and concussion management. Previously, health-conscious families took children to clinics and doctors’ offices for baseline cognitive testing, and results remained with the child’s medical records. Now, for the first time, families can be proactive in a best-practice concussion management program by administering baseline tests to children in the privacy of their own homes and enjoying mobile, password-protected access to test results at any time. The athlete essentially takes a “snapshot” of his or her brain’s speed and accuracy to establish a baseline measurement for future comparison. Families can quickly and conveniently share Axon Sports’ baseline test results with coaches, doctors and trainers in the event of an injury.

Doug Andreassen, President of Washington Youth Soccer, is a longtime proponent of concussion education and management in youth sports; he says he gets many questions from families committed to learning more about how to best manage players’ head injuries. “Remember, this is a private test with secure results that can be taken at home,” Andreassen emphasized. “Results are only accessible to coaches and healthcare providers if families share them. Also, this test is not diagnostic and cannot be taken on the sidelines, but comparing before and after results – baseline vs. after-injury – will help healthcare providers assess the seriousness of an injury. Korrio and Axon Sports are providing a very valuable tool for families and athletes, and we would love to see clubs require the test during the registration process.”

Playflow families, who use the online platform to manage all aspects of their sporting lives, are now able to better manage player injuries and can easily test children prior to beginning season play as part of the registration process. The families can then easily access test results online anytime, anywhere. As an option for clubs who plan to implement a concussion management program, Playflow can enforce mandatory requirement of all players to take the test prior to season start. The test is easy for kids to understand and fun to take, featuring playing cards which foster a game-like attitude and encourage a “best effort” baseline.

Korrio CEO Steve Goldman said his company is excited to integrate Axon Sports’ online test results into Playflow. The product fits Korrio’s vision of providing easy, integrated, safe and mobile solutions that make sports families’ lives easier and more enjoyable. “Once again, Korrio is changing the game for the benefit of youth and families,” Goldman said. “This is a significant step forward in an area we care deeply about – youth safety. Our research indicates significant concussion awareness in the youth soccer community, but families and organizations don’t know how to take the next step to ensure safety. Preseason baseline testing gives parents and coaches more peace of mind, knowing they are taking the needed steps to help protect their children’s health.”

Soccer clubs and families have never before had such easy and organized access to baseline cognitive testing. Making the test readily available to families and providing the clubs with the option of requiring the test to be taken as part of the registration process is a major breakthrough in the efforts to manage and treat concussions.

“We are excited to work together with Korrio to provide more families and players easy, affordable access to baseline cognitive testing,” Axon Sports President and CEO Polly James said. “We know that giving parents this option in such a convenient format – making it part of Playflow’s registration process – will lead to more awareness around the crucial health issue of concussions and allow more athletes to complete baseline testing that can help healthcare providers treat head injuries.”

Axon Sports’ concussion management baseline test will be fully integrated into Playflow by April 1; in the meantime, Korrio users can access the Axon Sports CCAT at Korrio will introduce the product partnership at the NSCAA Convention (booth #501) on Jan. 11 – 15, 2012, at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Mo.

SuperDraft Analysis from GolTV’s Phil Schoen

1.  How important is the MLS SuperDraft to the success of a club?

First, I think the SuperDraft itself has lost significance when it comes to player acquisition. There is already a solid base of players, even with expansion and with academies and a wider range of international players being targeted the actual opportunity for a college player to come through the draft and make a major impact is very small.

Each draft has some very good players, though. However, the top pick has been somewhat cursed by mediocrity. Of all of the top picks in the history of the SuperDraft I believe only Maurice Edu has lived up to the billing. He was so good; he only spent two years in the league before moving to Europe.

2. What did you think about the first two picks of the draft?

I think the top two players this year did go 1-2. While Darren Mattocks might have been the most exciting player in the draft, Andrew Wenger has the talent and ability to shine at almost every position on the field. With Montreal just starting out I think they appreciated the versatility more than an established team might have.

I think Mattocks will get the best chance to shine in the first year. You can’t coach speed, and he’s got the skill to go with it. Plus he’s on a team that is still relatively new – and one that did very poorly last season. The Jamaican will get a chance to prove himself early in the season. From that point, it’s up to him. I would say he’s the early favorite for Rookie of the Year.

3. What was the biggest reach of the draft?

Colin Rolfe could see time with Houston, but it was a bit of a surprise pick, unless they know they won’t get Brian Ching back and they won’t be able to sign Kris Boyd. How many big center forwards do you need?

4. What about a sleeper that could make an immediate impact on an MLS roster?

As far as a sleeper goes, I like Enzo Martinez. Not just because he dropped deeper into the draft, but because of where he landed. He will fit in fine with Salt Lake, even though it might take a season or two to see it.

5. How did the Columbus Crew fare in the draft?

For the Crew, I think their biggest moves of the off-season came before the draft. Short-term, Mirosevic and Vargas will be dangerous if someone gives them chances. A good long-term pick-up was getting Ben Speas on the squad. I think he might have to wait for an opening, but I would not be surprised to see him in the rotation by the end of the year.

Ethan Finlay was a solid pick for the Crew, Arguably the second best player in college soccer this season and he fell to the tenth pick.

I think Warzycha will shake the formation up a bit, especially without Ekpo so Finlay will get a chance to prove himself right off the bat, especially if Mirosevic struggles to adapt. Finlay’s probably Mattock’s biggest rival for Rookie of the Year, but he’ll have more competition for playing time. He reminds me a bit of Landon Donovan, cutting in from the flanks.

Perry was a good pick, but will have to play a waiting game to see action behind Miranda – and that might mean he plays the numbers game to stay on the roster.

George plays a bit like Shalrie Joseph, calm on and off the ball, good vision and touch. However, I don’t see him beating out O’Rourke or Tchani. Maybe with a bit of work and bulk he could drop into the backline as a sweeper.

6. A lot of quality players remain undrafted. Any names to be on the lookout for in the supplemental draft?

Among the guys to keep an eye on for the supplemental draft: UCLA DM Andy Rose and Japanese attacking mid Kohei Yamada. The situation at left back might make the Crew interested in UCSB’s James Kiffe.

Phil Schoen is the lead play-by-play announcer at GolTV.  You can find out more about GolTV by visiting or by following Phil on Twitter @PhilSchoen.