Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reading tea leaves - Hot Stove Baseball/Soccer report: The N.Y. Mets went a-courting yesterday, to meet with Barry Zito, but they also met with Jeff Suppan. The thinking is that they want to send a message to Zito and his agent, Scott Boras, that they have a back-up plan. So, are they testing Zito's desire to play for a New York team that might be a serious World Series contender for years? If they're asking Zito to take a lot less money to come to the Mets, I expect that Zito will go elsewhere. My instinct tells me that he will stay at home in the Bay area -- signing with the San Francisco Giants, who will beat the Mets offer, in years and dollars. So, the Mets will be left with Suppan, for whom they will probably over-pay...and run the risk that he falls into the New York-itis that has afflicted other Yankee and Mets free-agent signings.

MLS -- DC United fans had some news last week to celebrate. The league has awarded the 2007 MLS Cup to RFK Stadium. That will likely mean the largest crowd in the facility's history -- close to 58,000 (the record was set for the 1997 Cup when 57,431 turned out at RFK -- if they can find a place for more spectators, I'm sure they will come).

In the future, United may have its own, smaller stadium, which would not be as attractive to the MLS. Still, I expect that RFK may get one other shot to host the Cup final. 2007 will be the Nationals' final year there. In subsequent years, the soccer pitch will not be marred by having to cover over a baseball infield. I would guess that another 57,000+ sellout, in 2007, will encourage MLS to give RFK one more shot, before the old grey lady goes off into that good night.

This evening brings more interesting developments for United fans. Coach Peter Nowak's status has been in doubt for a couple of months, but he surprised everyone by jumping ship to join Bob Bradley's national team staff. Nowak will be replaced at D.C. United by his top assistant, Tom Soehn. As I have noted before, United has a pretty good record with new coaches. The team has had three head coaches. Each won the MLS title during their first year as head coach.

Is 2007 the year for DC United's return to the top, with Tom Soehn at the helm? United has taken a few steps backward in the off-season, but we are led to believe that all these moves have set the stage for a big international signing. Perhaps this will set the stage for a return to the top. Strive for Five!

The Nowak development is especially surprising in that it comes on the heels of the trade of Freddy Adu. This seemed to be an endorsement of Nowak's plan for the team. It also brings up the question as to whether Adu would have pushed for this trade, had he known Nowak would not return to DC?

Curiously, as it stands now, Adu may be stuck with Nowak again. If Adu continues to play for U.S. national sides, Nowak will be the assistant for Bradley on the Olympic team -- likely Adu's next stop. If Bradley stays on with the national team, Adu will have to prove himself to Nowak all over again, in order to get a spot on the top team...and he will have to contend with Nowak's ideas as to where Adu should play. Could this hiring push Adu to reconsider playing for Ghana instead?

The early comments on the Washington Post article all mention Freddy Adu. Great United fans think alike. WaPo article on Nowak's move.

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