Thank you all for your questions. I hope to go more in depth on some of the questions later with full articles but for now I answered 4 questions.
1) Do you ever anticipate the academy system being a reliable source of squad players? if so, when? how do the inherent limitations in the system that zaggy mentioned affect the investment? is this wise to espouse as one of our core priorities? or are they just saying what they think everyone wants to hear?
Good question. In theory the academy system is a way to get quality players who will won't affect the salary cap however population and other demographics do come into play. Remembering most MLS teams have a home territory of 75 miles around their training facility this really places teams like RSL and Portland at a disadvantage when compared to the larger markets like LA or New York. In fact the the home territory of the LA Galaxy has produced 300 MLS players during the lifetime of MLS! Oregon's list includes the likes of Alex Nimo, Nate Jaqua, Ryan Cochrane and the most famous soccer player from Oregon Tiffany Milbret. Washington fairs a little better with DeAndre Yedlin, Kasey Keller, Marcus Hahnemann, and our own Caleb Porter but is still a far cry from the list the Galaxy can produce.
One of the changes MLS made after introducing the HG player rule was to expand the boundaries of the smaller market teams. In some cases they gave them entire states, which is the case for the Seattle Sounders (except for 50 miles from Portland's Stadium, which means Vancouver is in Portland's territory) and the Portland Timbers. They have also allowed for satellite areas such as Real Salt Lake's academy in Arizona.
With all that said I do think the Timbers are trying to utilize the academy as a pipeline for players and not just playing lip service to the idea. However as stated above there are disadvantages that Portland has to overcome. I think in order for it to be really successful we have to somehow get satellite academies in places like Boise, Arizona and other states that have no MLS presence and essentially expand the reach of the academy.
One last reason it be wise to focus on academy products is because it allows continuity, of course this is dependent on having a coach or the same philosophy for an extended period. When you have a player coached a certain way for an extended period of time it makes it easier to play the drag and drop method of roster building. Just think about places that produce and keep their home grown talent, like Barcelona, where the players know the system and can replace other players with ease. The younger players also grow up together and get to know each other's game which helps form chemistry that sometimes is hard to develop on the first team.
2) Why do we water down the pitch for games?
The pitch is watered before every game to help it act a little more like real grass. The water clumps the rubber pellets together and to help apply traction. Here is the quote from the grounds crew:
"Said Puckett, "Prior to games, we water down the field to get the rubber infill to lay more level, provide better traction, and help the ball play truer. We also use a grooming machine-kind of like a Zamboni used for hockey rinks-every six weeks that runs over the field to comb the fibers and redistribute the rubber particles."
3) Looking at the statistics vs. the league, what's worse our offense or defense?
There are a lot of stats we can explore which shows how awful the Timbers offense and defense has been but based on the fact that Portland has yet to record a shutout when they had 14 last year is a major reason they have tied at home and lost on the road this year. The Timbers are making way too many mistakes defensively and their mental sharpness is lacking.
The fffense is coming around with goals in all but 2 games this season. Which is on par with other teams farther up the table than the Timbers. Couple this with the fact that the Timbers have hit the post 9 times! Which leads the league and only one other team has more than 5.
I expect the offense to continue to score but the defense needs to improve or the Timbers will not reach the 51 points they feel they need to get in order to make the playoffs.
4) What impact will the increase revenue to MLS from the new TV deal have? Should we expect an increase in the salary cap soon?
This is a tough question. The amount for the English and Spanish rights came in a little higher than expected. It is safe to assume that the $100 million mark expected will be met when all of the TV contracts are added up (Including Canadian and International contracts). This means that every year MLS will be receiving the equivalent of a NYFC franchise fee. How they utilize this money is going to be an interesting question to answer but I know there are rumblings that quite a few of the newer owners, Merritt Paulson included, want to significantly raise the salary cap but that a few of the owners like the idea of a gradual increase. If I had to hazard a guess I would say the Salary cap will start in the $4 to $5 Million range after the next round of CBA's.
What is an even better question is whether or not we will see a strike or lockout at the start of next season. The players association is gunning for complete free agency and increased wages. This was a major sticking point in the last CBA negotiation 5 years ago and the players only won limited free agency through the re-entry draft and only for those who qualify. Essentially the players want to eliminate the Herculez Gomez effect, which is the fact that SKC, who did not want Gomez still holds his rights because they extended an offer to him.