Pitch Points adds more talent

Time for a Swope players post? Kidding… but only half-kidding, given yesterday’s post and that Technical Director Mike Jacobs built Swope Park Rangers’ roster.

Anyway, Nashville SC has traded future considerations for Swope midfielder Lebo Moloto:


Here’s the NSC story and the USL one.

“Lebo is a dynamic combination of creative ability & team-first mentality,” said Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith. “He has a graceful appreciation of the ball when in possession and is capable of making and scoring goals on his own or linking with others.  On top of that, his genuine attitude makes him a terrific team player with a totally unselfish approach.”

The trade is still pending league approval, and I’m interested to see what those future considerations entail (I’ll be the first to admit I’m not intimately familiar with USL rules and regulations). I would imagine if the Nashville SC franchise does indeed get an MLS expansion slot, those considerations will be cash, and otherwise there might be both cash and player considerations.

Here’s a highlight reel from the 2015 season, when he played with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds:

He’s certainly skillful and creative. Can’t get a whole lot of feel for his athleticism from most of those highlights (and in my opinion, if an athlete’s highlight reel doesn’t showcase athleticism, it tends to be because it’s not considered one of his primary assets). To the stats:

Swope, as you may recall, finished runner-up in the USL playoffs, despite finishing just fourth in the Western Conference table. Since we’re looking at an offensive-minded player, it’s worth noting they scored 55 regular-season goals, fifth-most in all of USL. It’s worth noting they added only two more in the playoffs, winning a 1-0 decision and coming out victorious in penalties from 1-1 and 0-0 scorelines.

The 5-11, 159-pound South African was third on the team with seven goals, and played just over 2,500 minutes in 33 games, both among the tops on the team. His goals all came from the right foot, and just one from outside the box. It took 51 shots (22 on target) to notch those seven goals, so even when he wasn’t actually finding the back of the net, he was making opposing keepers work.

He completed an outstanding 84.1% of his passes, and while he doesn’t dominate the ball (47.2 passes per 90 minutes, ninth-best among first-team regulars), all you can ask is that he does complete the ones he fires, and Moloto does. He also has a really good long-passing accuracy, which is partially because long passes for a guy who plays an advanced midfield role are often going to be intended for wide open players. Moloto had four assists on 52 key passes, and completed two of four crosses. He’s not a guy who is going to get wide.

For a guy who is most known for his offense, Moloto is a pretty good contributor defensively, as well (which the Gary Smith quote embedded above should indicate). He won 70.6% of his tackles, and 39.9% of his duels (with a slightly higher aerial duel success rate, a little surprising for a smaller guy).

At 27, he’s right in the prime of his career, so his best days may be ahead of him, and NSC seems to be building a team that might rely upon him to run the offense.

MLS expansion… tick… tock. There’s some debate about whether Don Garber implied that Detroit is out of the expansion race because of their stadium situation:

That’s no different than what MLS’s long-held position had already been (with exceptions like Atlanta United, of course), and that’s why most – myself included – considered Detroit fourth out of four candidates. About which: LOL.

The MLS Board of Directors meeting is Thursday, and at that point we should start to get some leaks about where this thing is headed. Some reports from the expansion presentations indicated Nashville may be No. 1 even over Sacramento, which would be an interesting twist.

The Tennessean‘s analysis piece about whether an MLS team can survive in Nashville is not of the “I think this thing that is literally the opposite of the stated criteria is a positive for the bid” variety:

Soccer has additional appeal because the support draws in a diverse fan base, including those whose families come from non-English speaking countries where soccer is king. Among the members of the steering committee of local supporters is Yuri Cunza, president and CEO with the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s good for a city that is growing, the diversity that this brings — but also the economic impact that those who support soccer can bring to our market,” Cunza said, adding that he’s heard from several of the 275 members of the Hispanic Chamber who are interested in offering corporate support for the MLS franchise.

Some of the rest of it is pretty fluffy: “I think Bridgestone is an awesome venue,” says VP in charge of PR for Bridgestone Arena. You don’t say.

ESPN is the Worldwide leader in sports. A mini-thinkpiece on why ESPN2’s World Cup Draw reaction program did so much better than FS1’s, despite not having a lead-in of the draw itself:

On FOX, besides the commentary regarding “under-the radar” players by Landon Donovan and Alexi Lalas (both of whom ironically picked guys from Liverpool who are nowhere near under the radar for the average Premier League viewer), nothing of real cutting-edge insight was discussed. In contrast, the ESPNFC program airing on ESPN2 hosted by Dan Thomas featured hard-hitting analysis and even an argumentative segment on former colleague (and now Belgium Coach) Roberto Martinez when the Belgian’s prospects for winning the World Cup were discussed.

That may play a role, but it’s definitely overstating the value of what type of cutting-edge analysis is valuable to the layperson. First and most importantly, they’re going to go with a sports television brand they know and trust, not the MMA Reruns Channel, even if the event being analyzed was just on said MMA Reruns Channel.

It’s a matter of big-picture programming decisions, not the quality of one studio show, that has people not watching FS1. Until it presents itself as a serious competitor to ESPN instead of the network that hires guys like Skip Bayless after they get fired by the four-letter network (for the “make sure you change the channel immediately when this show comes on” hour or half-hour or however long his show is), FS1 is going to struggle in ratings.

This isn’t a soccer problem or a quality-of-analysis problem, it’s a Fox problem (and it pervades to college football – which is the only thing other than Bundesliga I think I’ve literally ever watched on their network, which is sayin’ something).

Etc.: Oakland County FC is selling ownership stakes to fans. Good for engagement, probably not going to be a panacea that expands the club quickly. MLS is touting a new marketing deal with Dugout, which literally nobody has heard of, but neither the league nor the company seems interested in giving an explanation of their product. “It will make us money” is about as specific as it gets. When you completely miss the (pretty obvious) point.

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