Thursday, July 25, 2013

Desmond Named Pre-Season Player of the Year

34 year old striker Anthony Desmond brings the luck of the Irish with him every time he steps onto the pitch for the Covington Old Boys. The quick quiltedman has rode that luck to over 300 goals in his 16 year career for the senior club -- including netting over 40 each of the past 4 seasons. Desmond nearly became a 60 goal scorer twice, in season 28 the MVP finished 1 goal away, then in season 30, Desmond picked up his 3rd MVP and finished with 58 goals. Desmond's consistent domination made him an easy choice to pick up a record 5th MVP. While he has clearly accumulated some miles while re-writing the record book, Desmond can afford to slow down and still be the best. He is surrounded with premier talent and will face several low-tier clubs, where he can rack up multi-digit goals. I expect Desmond to once again finish with 40+ goals and bring home the league MVP.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Greensboro Picked 7th -- Old Boys Picked to Win

In the USA World 67 preseason poll the league coaches predicted the Vipers would remain 7th in the league table. The predicted order of finish placed the Vipers once again behind the "Big 6" clubs -- Jersey Shore, Minnesota, Chelsea, Old Boys, Dallas and Arizona.
Old Boys, who finished 6th but led the league in goal differential last year, were a trendy pick to win it all -- along with defending champ Chelsea and perennial juggernaut Minnesota.
Even though the Vipers were picked 7th, owner Chris Fields knows that the table position likely won't accurately show the team's progression.
"We could finish 7th but be 40 goals better than we were last year," said Fields, "We really like the additions we made in the offseason and our young guys are progressing nicely. We will be a much better team this year, even if the standings don't show it."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Greensboro Adds 3

Greensboro added three names to their short roster Wednesday: one new and two familiar.
Abran Aponte and Gregorio Capitan signed one year contracts and agreed to return to Greensboro. Aponte has been with the club since last season, when the then 22 year old midfielder played two games. Although the young Argentinian didn't see the field often last season, he shows flair and promise.
Unlike Aponte, Gregorio Capitan last played for the Vipers in season 28. Then, at age 18, Capitan appeared in 35 games as a starting forward. Unfortunately, as detailed in our last post, the Argentinian striker struggled, only netting 10 goals. Greensboro management decided to allow Capitan to develop elsewhere and Capitan signed a three year deal with FCDD. After earning a starting role on the bottom tier Dynamo squad, Capitan finally broke through as a 21 year old. Capitan netted a personal best 18 goals last year and decided the time was right to re-enter the transfer market as a young, skilled forward. Lacking depth at forward, Greensboro FC management submitted a bid and won the services of Capitan for at least one more year. Although Capitan will once again be coming off the bench, time will tell if the second time is a charm for Greensboro and Capitan.

Greensboro waited until the end of the day to make their biggest splash. With Aponte and Capitan added to provide depth, Greensboro focused on bigger targets. With several of the most sought after stars signing mega-deals, (see: Fabio Minelli and Javeon Cristemas)  Greensboro narrowed their focus to a few realistic targets. At the top of their list was Keshon Altidore. The 32 year old American winger spent his last 9 seasons in the dessert with the Green Snakes, but Arizona decided to part ways. To Greensboro, Altidore was a clear under appreciated star. Greensboro saw a versatile and skilled athlete that put the ball in the back of the net -- A lot -- Altidore scored double digit goals in 8 of his 9 years in Arizona. Altidore's skill and affordability made him extremely attractive to Greensboro. Owner/manager Chris Fields stated that "Altidore is one of those guys that might not be young, sexy and glamorous, but this guy flat out gets it done." With the finances and the skills both checked out, Greensboro cashed in. Altidore and the Vipers agreed to a two year deal for $655,000/year.
Altidore's addition makes Greensboro's midfield a formidable group of both youthful and experienced players. Fields stated that Altidore's versatility gives him some flexibility with the team's formation. "Altidore can play a variety of positions. He played some outside defender for Arizona and could do the same for us. Obviously he has a lot of experience in the midfield. We also like him as a winger or an attacking mid. We'll definitely give him the opportunity to make plays all over the field."

Greensboro is still looking to add one more player, most likely a defender.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Transfer Period Targets - Forwards

The season 32 pre-season transfer period is underway and with only 14 players on the roster and over $11 million in the bank, the Vipers are prime candidates to make a few moves.
Looking at the Vipers roster, their biggest need is clearly at the forward position. Both depth and talent are needed. Benjamin Kevin has one spot locked down, but Braulio Ghinassi is 21 and with three seasons under his belt has yet to show enough progress to impress Greensboro management.
In addition, Greensboro is in dire need of some depth to back up the two aforementioned returnees.
With a need for both talent and depth, Greensboro is targeting several talented veterans as well as young amateurs.
The biggest of those targets: Fabio Minelli.
The 30 year old Brazilian is one of the top forwards in the world and is hitting the free agent market after two years with the Minnesota Torpedoes in which he earned over $2 million per year. Prior to his time in Minnesota, Minelli spent nine seasons with now defunct American club Chelsea. He scored over 30 goals four times for the blues. To obtain Minelli, clubs are going to need to bid well into the $1.5 million range, and while Greensboro has excess cash, a move like that is typically made to win championships, not move from 7th to 5th in the league table. With that being said, I don't expect Greensboro to be a serious player for Minelli. Look for a club trying to make the final push for a ring to land Minelli.
With Minelli seemingly out of the picture, Greensboro will likely focus on several younger prospects. One name might sound familiar: Gregorio Capitan, a now 22 year old Argentinian who played for Greensboro back in season 28. In that, his rookie season, Capitan played 35 games but only netted 10 goals, and was promptly let go. After three years with FCDD, Capitan has re-emerged as a Greensboro target.
In addition to Capitan, we have confirmed that the Vipers are targeting 18 year old amateur Ethan Gilpin,a 5'8" Irish youngster who shows promise and skill on the ball. Gilpin woud require more development than Capitan, but also shows more long term potential. If Gilpin is accquired, Greensboro management would likely need to make a decision between Ghinassi or Gilpin in the starting 11, but with such little depth, both would likely see ample minutes. One current Viper who is doing his part to bring in Gilpin is fellow Irish striker Benjamin Kevin. "I've phoned the young lad and told him how giddy we'd be to have him playing his professional footy across the pond," said Kevin.
These three targets seem to be at the top of Greensboro's board. With such a need at the position, Greensboro will likely devote serious funds towards filling this need. Unfortunately for the Vipers, there is a serious lack of strikers on the market, and high demand throughout the world. If the Vipers are unable to land one of these targets, don't be surprised if management turns to another familiar face: Xavier Maronna.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Season 31 Review

Season 31 was about one thing for the Greensboro FC Vipers: Bouncing Back.
After a 17-7-14 season, the worst finish in 17 years, the young Vipers squad needed to show that they had hit rock bottom and were ready to right the ship.
Their 21-9-8 finish proved that they were indeed steering in the right direction.
There were ups (beating two top six clubs in the final four games).
And downs (losing to two bottom tier clubs in the middle of the season).
But as a whole, this season was a step in the right direction.
A step that Greensboro owner Chris Fields hopes is just the second stride on a long walk to the top.
Basically, Fields set out a 10 year plan after the club's championship in season 27. Fields knew that his club had got the most it possibly could out of a strong generation of players. The club had won three championships in a five year period and was simply out of gas.
After that championship, Fields and management came together to design a plan of replacing older retiring players with young talent.
The club and Fields had a strict policy of allowing tenured players to retire on their own terms. Fields believes in building a family atmosphere. That belief is why Fields shows such ardent loyalty to the Viper veterans.
With that in mind, Field and his team of management planned a longterm plan that allowed the Vipers first generation of championship players to retire on their own terms, while still rebuilding the roster relatively quickly and efficiently. 
In the seasons following the third championship, the club quickly showed that time had caught up to it. The team dropped to 5th in season 28 and 6th in season 29.
After the 6th place finish, in the third season of the ten year plan, the roster was nearly halfway turned over to the new generation.
The combination of youth and age showed. The clubs 9th place finish in season 30 was the bottom of the bottom.
But during the offseason, Fields and co. remained true to their plan. They brought in a bevy of young and experienced players to help restock the roster, such as Dunlang Moiles and Benjamin Kevin. The additional experience and talent showed. 
You could say it started with Moiles in the defense.
The 18 year old came into Greensboro raw and talented. He went through struggles and made youthful mistakes. His talent was often hidden by his mental mistakes. But as the season progressed, the young defender showed progress. He credits that progress to tutoring by a legendary defense, anchored by AaronJames Sequeba and  Stanfield Takemoto. Sequeba and Takemoto took Moiles under their wing and taught the young defender the ins and outs of defending at the highest level. By the end of the year, Moiles' talent far outshined his mental youthfulness. Moiles used his 6'1 frame and skill on the ball to get forward and become a threat on the offense end, especially in the air. Moiles finished with 8 goals, more than Takemoto has ever netted and 3 more than Sequeba netted in his inaugural campaign. The tutoring also payed off on the defensive end. Moiles, who showed mental lapses and collected 3 yellow cards in the beginning of the season, finished with only 41 fouls and was never sent off, something he credits to Sequeba, who hasn't picked up a card in his professional career.
If Moiles started the Greensboro rebound, veteran first year Viper Benjamin Kevin certainly finished it, literally and figuratively. After playing 12 years for his hometown club, Irish FC, the 31 year old striker was put on the transfer block because of several lackluster seasons. Greensboro management unanimously approved a move for Kevin after several young players performed underwhelmingly. The Irish juggernauts accepted the transfer and Kevin was Greensboro bound. In his first year, Kevin immediately stepped into a leadership and starring role on the team. Kevin knew the Greensboro board believed in him and knew he was going to get a chance to be the featured striker day in and day out. "Ben brought confidence and veteran leadership to our team. As soon as we played with Ben, we knew he could be a go to striker. That really relieved a lot of pressure on the defense. We had an outlet that could hold the ball, make things happen, and obviously put the ball in the back of the net," said Sequeba. Kevin finished the season with 36 goals in 32 games, good enough for 3rd in the league.
Finally, the new talent at defense and striker needed someone to bridge the gap. That gap was filled by three 19 year old midfielders. Carleton Lorigan, Ivor McGeough and most importantly, Bailey Aspenlind provided energy, enthusiasm and creativity between the boxes. The trio, two of them defensive minded, were fierce competitors that gave the team a much needed jolt when the older defenders and strikers grew tired. "Their energy is infectious," said keeper Kylan Hartman, "you can just tell everyone's effort gets better when those guys are working their tails off box to box."
As a whole, the units came together very nicely. Veterans like Benjamin and Sequeba led the group of youngsters to both wins and progression. Progression, really the key to this year's team, will again be a focus for the Vipers next year. If they are going to improve on their finish, the young talent can't rest on their laurels.
While this season can easily be deemed a big success, only if the young players continue to improve will Fields' longterm plan come to fruition.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Greensboro Makes It a Double

The Vipers finished their two game home stand with the two biggest wins of the season.
After knocking of big six stalwart Dallas, the Vipers netted four goals to double up Jersey Shore. 
Benjamin Kevin
Leading the charge for Greensboro was star forward Benjamin Kevin. The 31 year old striker is finishing his first year in Viper red and blue strong -- After a hat trick against the Spinkers he has climbed to third in the league with 36 goals.
Midfielder Ty Jolley added the 4th goal  by heading in a Bailey Aspenlind cross. That goal, in the 56th minute, put Greensboro up 3-0 and proved to be all the Vipers needed. Greensboro's defense allowed two goals in the final 20 minutes, but the Spinkers push came too late.
The Viper victory gives the team 21 on the season, with two thirds of those victories coming at Viper Stadium.
Minnesota and a bottom tier team are the two remaining obstacles between the Vipers and the offseason. With 7th place locked down and four more wins than last year, the Vipers duties are done. They have accomplished their goals and played up to, if not above, their potential.
A strong final two games will simply be a cherry on top.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Vipers Slay Dragons

Prior to Greensboro's three game stretch of big six clubs, we wrote that one win, one tie and one loss would be an excellent  outcome.
The hard part is out of the way - Greensboro took down the visiting Dallas Dragons 3 to 1 at Viper Stadium Friday night. Game stats and facts can be found here.
Although the Dragons won nearly every statistical battle, they lost the war.
The one statistical battle not won by the Dragons, corner kicks, led to three Viper goals.
First, Braulio Ghinassi headed home a corner in the 7th minute. The early lead allowed Greensboro's midfield to play with a more defensive minded approach.
With Greensboro's defense packed in, Dallas began settling for long distance shots from outside the box. Dallas peppered the the Greensboro goal a total of 11 times, but 10 of those 11 efforts were turned away by Viper keeper Kylan Hartman -- a season high for the star goalie.
Greensboro owner Chris Fields called Hartman's outing his best in a Greensboro uniform.
The Vipers leading goalscorer Benjamin Kevin added two second half headers to solidify Greensboro's lead. Kevin has now scored 33 goals for the season, good enough for third in the league.
The Vipers return home tonight to face Jersey Shore, who currently sit at 2nd in the league table. Kickoff, as usual, is 11pm. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Season 31 Winds Down

With 4 matches remaining in the Vipers season 31 campaign, the club is sitting comfortably in 7th place, behind the big 6 clubs.
Greensboro has established itself as a rebuilding giant -- a club that still has enough leftover talent from a goldenage, but one that is generally focusing on building young, homegrown talent.
That combination of young and old has contributed to Greensboro's awkward position between good and bad.
They sit 9 points and 50 sum odd goals clear of 8th place, but are nearly equally as far back from 6th. Simply put - they are in no mans land.
Before Greensboro wraps up the season, they must finish a stretch where 3 of their final 4 games come against big 6 opponents -- Dallas Dragons, Jersey Shore and Minnesota.
A reasonable goal for the Vipers is 1 win, 1 tie and 2 loses in these final four. If the Vipers can attain that goal, they will finish with 20 wins and 9 draws on the season -- with only 9 loses. Last season, the club dropped 14 contests.
And while the club would love to finish strong, it's clear that player development is key. They will likely finish in 7th -- a respectable and expected position -- no matter what the outcome of these final four games.