The failure of Erik Soler
August 8, 2011
A year ago, one would be hard-pressed to find things wrong with the Erik Soler regime. The Norwegian general manager led Metro to a spectacular turnaround, pulling them from the dreads inflicted by Juan Carlos Osorio and Jeff Agoos and to the top of the East in one short season. Now... not so much.
For on the heels of a number of brilliant moves, Soler's handling of the roster this year has been spotty at best, leaving the team teetering on disaster with ten games left. Witness the major moves since last season ended:
Letting Juan Pablo Angel walk: we are on the record of admitting our mistake when we asked Angel to stay another season. To say that he hasn't set the world on fire with LA is an understatement. That said, they could have handled his departure in a smoother way.
Signing Jan Gunnar Solli: at times, the Norwegian has been terrific, and at times, a defensive liability, as he's been forced to play an unfamiliar right back spot.
Signing Luke Rodgers: When he is on the field, the bald Englishman has been the little engine that keeps on running and fighting... If only he could stay on the field.
Signing Teemu Tainio: The Finn was arguably the team's MVP through the first third of the season, but various injuries have derailed his campaign. And considering he had a history of getting hurt...
Acquiring Dwayne De Rosario for Tony Tchani and Danleigh Borman: At the time, one of the best trades in team history.
Acquiring Dax McCarty for Dwayne De Rosario: At the time and now, a puzzling, frustrating move.
Trading Austin da Luz: We understand the move was made for salary cap reasons. Giving away a talented player to a rival is absurd.
Signing Frank Rost: A necessary move, considering the goalkeeping problems... but let's just say that the German jotunn has not been in form so far.
If you take each move one at a time, none of them are terrible. But unfortunately, just like with this year's Metro team, the whole doesn't equal to the sum of the parts.
The team Soler has assembled, one through eleven, is, on paper, pretty damn good. When everyone is healthy, there's little doubt that Metro could be a juggernaut that we've seen at times this season. Unfortunately, that is a big if... and the dropdown after eleven is spectacular.
There is a reason why "Clever" Hans Backe refused to use his bench: he doesn't have any. The depth of the team has been completely gutted by Soler. Witness the De Rosario and da Luz deals; Metro basically gave away three useful depth players (Tchani, Borman, da Luz) while getting just McCarty in return. There is no backup forward, so in case the team needs offense off the bench, there isn't any available. There is no backup defensive midfielder, so an injury to Tainio forces Backe to place Mehdi Ballouchy to central midfield, with often disastrous results.
Oh wait... there is a backup defensive midfielder. His name is Carl Robinson, and he is being paid to be injured. With all due respect to the Welshman, his best days are behind him, and Soler knew that when re-signing him to a smaller deal this offseason. But while Robinson is not harming the team on the field, he is taking up precious salary cap space and an international slot... the two things da Luz was given away for.
And then there is Brian Nielsen, always six-to-eight weeks away from returning. Salary cap space? Check. International slot? Check. Horrible attitude? Triple check. Why Soler kept him on the roster during the offseason is an unsolved mystery worthy of "Unsolved Mysteries".
A year ago, we thought that Soler had figured it all out. Now, we are so not sure. Thankfully, there are still ten games left in the regular season, ten games left for Soler to prove that what he did was right. For with old pal Dietmar Beiersdorfer out in Salzburg, who knows how safe Soler's seat it.
But here's the strange thing: even if Soler departs today, he would leave as the best GM in Metro history -- by far.
Oh, why are we so accustomed to failure....