New England Revolution Preseason Update: Team Still Half-Baked

If this pre-season is the time when Chef Nicol creates the Revolution main dish that will be served for the MLS 2011 season, then it’s clear that the meal is still half-baked. Here on Soccer Soap Box, I have occasionally counted on the contrasting perspectives of situations being “Half Full” or “Half Empty” in game reviews, and will apply a modified, point by point, version for reviewing where the team is so far this pre-season. Half Full: The Revolution has secured two victories in two pre-season games, both 2-0 victories. Half Empty: The Revolution did not score a goal from the run of play against a team of second string 16-year-olds (no players in that US Under-17 Team scrimmage started today’s important match against El Salvador) and only put two in against a college team, one of which was a deflected (aka, lucky) shot.    Half Full:  Significant press coverage has been given to Shalrie Joseph’s increased focus, acceptance of leadership responsibilities and even direction to pursue coaching someday.   In fact, when talking about the amount of inexperience surrounding him Shalrie offered, “we just have to be leaders for these guys and try steer them in the right direction.”  Great. Half Empty:  Team experience, skill and ...
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New England Revolution: Domi, Dabo, DPs and a Missed Opportunity

While the New England Revolution fans have been waiting for news of a big dollar, big name Designated Player (DP), the team has instead added a couple experienced, if not front of mind, French internationals: Ousmane Dabo and Didier Domi. The first question across many Revolution fans’ minds: who? Tip of the tongue names or not, there is little doubt that the team is improved by addition of these players, each of which has an impressive resume that includes top European leagues and clubs.  While we don’t know how much of a hit either of them is to the team’s salary cap, this is clearly the beginning of a number of moves that will leverage the cap room opened up with Taylor Twellman’s unfortunate early retirement and the jettisoning of pricey Edgaras Jankauskus.  With news of other signings to come soon, one can also surmise we are also seeing use of some salary-dropping Allocation money, since the Revolution likely had access to more of that this year having missed the 2010 playoffs. Given the spending, there is a segment of fans that will undoubtedly bemoan the lack of a “big name” signing thus far as a continuation of disinterest from the front office because that is ...
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Adding “Sabor Latino” To MLS Marketing

In the last post, I sifted through an interesting interview with MLS EVP Dan Courtemanche (Part One and Part Two) and worked through some of the marketing-oriented commentary. However, while I called out a mention of the league’s continuing interest in the Hispanic audience, I didn’t delve into the topic. So here are a few tidbits from the interview and elsewhere, along with a reasonably crazy and unrealistic idea to go with them. The interview offers hints that the SuperLiga competition’s days may be over, though that decision hasn’t been made public at this point.  The SuperLiga was (or is?) an odd competition in many ways: a marketing invention between MLS and its Mexican counterpart.  There are other regional competitions that MLS and Mexican league clubs play each other in, namely CONCACAF Champions League, that had much more tangible international relevance and for SuperLiga, the Mexican clubs were only in their pre-season, so MLS victories were somewhat tainted (and with non-matching calendars, that may always be a challenge with any regional competition). All that negativity aside, the games were entertaining and typically had a better level of intensity than nearly any regular season MLS game. That aside, for a New England Revolution fan, it offered what MLS could ...
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MLS Marketing and the New England Revolution

I’ve talked before about being a marketer by trade, so my intrigue about a number of recent MLS marketing related news items should come of no real surprise.  What was a bit more surprising was my inability to immediately tie them into a neat and tidy theme, with the exception of the inevitable thoughts about how these items affect, or compare to, our local New England Revolution. What prompted these thoughts was L.E. Eisenmenger‘s interview with MLS EVP Dan Courtemanche on the marketing of MLS (if any of this is interesting to you, go read Part One and Part Two), which included a number of interesting tidbits, only a few of which I’ll cover here. Courtemanche made it clear that the MLS marketing is targeting the “core soccer fan in the 18 to 34-year-old age group,” and his belief that marketing messages to that core group will resonate reasonably well with older and younger audiences, who all seek to emulate that group anyway.   Key to winning over this group will be a focus on “authenticity and the Hispanic audience.”  (I’ll cover some thoughts on attracting the Hispanic audience in my next post.) The interview spent a fair amount of time focused on “game presentation,” which ...
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MLS: Planting the Seeds of the 2011 New England Revolution

It may have been a bit slow in starting, but the New England Revolution offseason transformation (we hope it will eventually be qualified as such) has begun.  Today’s announcement that the team has waived Emmanuel Osei follows a week of player movement and news. The changes started with the addition of Didier Domi, an experienced, left-sided French fullback that has played in many of the top European leagues.  We can talk about Domi’s addition, questioning everything from his age (we are replacing Gibbs, a 31-year old American left back, for Domi, a 31 year old French left back), his cost (not yet known) and his current playing level (the Greek league isn’t the EPL now is it?)…but he clearly has some pedigree if there is still gas in the tank and the right mentality to come in and compete. Roster changes, however, must be thought of holistically, since small rosters and tight salary caps mean every change causes ripples throughout a team. With the addition of Domi, there are some interesting roster implications that were highlighted the very next day when the Revolution announced the re-signing of Chris Tierney.  Tierney is most frequently used on the left side at both defense and midfield, and we should suspect these ...
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The Soccer Soap Box Library

I am not what you would call an avid reader. For work, I’m constantly reading this or that commentary on the technology market, often in short-attention-span-approved blog or trade-journal prose. But, like many nowadays I suspect, I find I need to force myself to finish longer, more in-depth pieces. Not surprisingly then, finding the time and the drive to read for personal pleasure is that much more difficult. Outside of the pre-digested Newsweek, Soccer America or magazines about cars or home electronics, not much gets my attention most weeks. Books, in fact, rarely get cracked open. There is, however, one notable—and extremely unsurprising—exception. Books on soccer and/or soccer “culture.” Yes, I know…you’re shocked. I am writing about this now because I just finished one of those “soccer culture” books— "Among the Thugs," by Bill Buford. Saying it was about “culture” is difficult, because the subject matter, soccer hooliganism, is the antithesis incarnate of a civilized culture. I don’t regularly read about hooliganism and am not one who is particularly enamored by its mystique. However, despite all of that, this book was enthralling. Even given a busy work schedule and two little ones who see an adult attempting to read as a jungle gym in ...
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The New England Revolution: Planning for an Agile 2011

The theme of 2011 planning continues, building off the idea of Agility that I mentioned in the last post. And no, I’m not suggesting that the team sign up for advanced calisthenics, Bikram Yoga classes or take ballet (though, after last season’s struggles, I’m not necessarily against any of the above either). Instead, as I sat in those 2011 marketing planning meetings last week, I was reminded of a key theme that pervades our corporate marketing direction—the idea of becoming more agile. This is not an abstract idea of agility, but rather a reasonably well accepted marketing adaptation of agile development process. There are plenty of places for you to get information on agile marketing principles, but here is a nice summary. Instead of recreating the depth of that article, there are a few key tenets…frequent status checks and communications built on trusted relationships, around simple repeatable topics, that can deliver measurable increases in key metrics. Oh, and expect… no… welcome (!) changes to your plan, as it represents new, better information on which to make decisions. The good news for our New England Revolution marketing department is that it seems to have adopted some of these key themes. Perhaps by accident, perhaps by ...
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New England Revolution: 2011 Planning and the Real World

I’ve almost come to peace with the fact that this blog sits idle for long periods of time (especially in the offseason), but am always happy when a thought creeps in that feels worth sharing. Like many others, I face a pesky day job that must come first and can take a fairly significant amount of time from my whole soccer alter-ego.   But for once, the day job has offered me a relevant theme for a Soccer Soap Box post. What it offered was the better part of a week spent in 2011 marketing planning—something the Revolution is certainly in the midst of as well. Well, if I’m honest, it was a combination of the day job and some recent news out of the New England Revolution. The primary thing that the Revs did which caught my attention was the recent outreach by the Revolution communications team to the blogger community and its requests for input on content and its social media outreach. Which got me thinking… shouldn’t I have something relevant to say? It’s been a while… And this is when the 2011 work planning and the Revolution outreach came together. You see, a couple of topics of work planning were extremely relevant to Revolution planning. I work in marketing ...
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Mr. Bilello, I Have Don Garber on Line One.

This was certainly an interesting week for MLS and US Soccer. We are gearing up for MLS Cup 2010. We saw a 17-year-old score his first goal—a game winner no less—for the US National Team against South Africa. And Don Garber delivered his “State of the League” address. I was already feeling vindicated that my 2010 Most Valuable Country award for Colombia was pushed further from reproach as David Ferreira won the 2010 Volkswagen MLS Most Valuable Player award. With Jamison Olave’s already announced MLS 2010 Visa Defender of the Year award, my pick was looking pretty solid. Little did I know that during the 2010 MLS State of the League address MLS commissioner Don Garber would offer up some tidbits to help my burgeoning soccer blogger ego by hitting key points that Soccer Soap Box has been focused on for some time. I thought Mr. Garber touched on critical areas during his address that many fans knew were necessary: an improved and re-launched Reserve League, increased roster capacity that focuses on younger players, help for teams competing in the CONCACAF Champions League and a re-examination of the playoff format that saw two Western Conference teams compete for the Eastern Conference championship in ...
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Colombia: MLS’ Most Valuable Country 2010

At the end of the MLS 2010 season we find ourselves awash in end-of-season awards.   After some thought, I’ve decided to create one of my own…"Most Valuable Country 2010” (MVC). Okay, I’ll admit that I entered into this thinking with a certain bias.  I have two nations that are close to my heart—both in soccer-wise and otherwise—the USA and Colombia.  Since this is an American league, dominated by American players, I excluded the USA.  So I’ll admit it, I entered into this with the belief that my adopted second country had the inside track.  But, I did my best to be objective by sifting through the official roster lists and comparing country contributions. (Note that the MLS official player roster “NATL” (nationality) breakdown was almost frustrating enough for me to forgo this whole idea…many players were listed according to where they were born…which is fine, but means very little in the international soccer world.  U.S. International Pablo Mastroeni as Argentine?  "Reggae Boy" Andy Williams as Canadian?  Ugh.  So, when I talk about how many numbers of players come from these countries, please understand your mileage will vary.) Here are a few thoughts… Argentina makes a very strong case for being MVC as it brings 10 players ...
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