Welcome back! Now if you remember last time I had just resigned from my position with Argentina’s U20 side with offers from Corinthians, River Plate, Portland Timbers, New York City FC and FC Zurich.
Firstly allow me to apologise for the delay, I was on a string of early shifts at work and when I do a lot in a row it can wipe me out a bit and leaving me not really wanting to write. However I’ve got a break now and thanks to some excellent community content the itch to get writing (and then more importantly playing!) is back.
My plan is to write the next two pieces this weekend and get them up in relatively quick succession. That will then get you caught all up to date and I can push on with the save. So let’s dive in.
So as you can probably tell from my not-so-subtle headline I decided to go with the Portland Timbers. Let me explain my reasoning.
I quickly dismissed FC Zurich because I decided I didn’t want to go to Europe just yet and Corinthians because I’m never sure I can cope with the sheer volume of games in Brazil.
River Plate were also dismissed because, despite having a lot of my favourite players I was partially aware from previous saves that they are an absolute disaster financially and figured after a year of AI management it probably wouldn’t be great.
Besides I wanted to go to MLS, easily one of my favourite leagues in real life and in Football Manager. I know a lot of people are put off it because of the rules or the shoddy AI management but it’s just fantastic and I won’t hear a bad word about it. I was really tempted to go to New York because of the lure of the big city and more pertinently David Villa. However Portland had a better squad, a better fanbase and had man-crush Diego Valeri so I decided to go with them.
So I joined mid-way through the 2017 season (MLS runs at a different schedule to most of Europe) and in fact I only had 14 matches of the 34 game regular season left. I was sitting comfortably in the play-offs, was in the quarter-finals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League group stage was due to start soon.
Our first match was in around a week against arch-rivals Seattle Sounders. I didn’t have much time to work on a formation so I trusted my gut and experience in MLS and went to a diamond formation. The squad was a little thin thanks to a international call-ups so I signed a couple of academy kids to pro contract to bulk out the bench.
Two goals from Jack McInerney gave us a lead but we switched off in the last fifteen minutes and allowed them to get a 2-2 draw. However a it was a decent start against one of the best teams in the league.
The next few games brought comfortable wins against two lower league sides in the cup and Minnesota United in the league before we lost away in Houston. After that we went on an 11 match unbeaten run which included winning the Open Cup.
You may be a little confused why winning the Open Cup was mentioned in such a throw-away manner, allow me to explain. For those who don’t play in MLS on FM or watch it in real life it’s simply because teams don’t care. It’s often an after-thought and teams will regularly rotate their teams. The problem is that SI takes this a little too literally and the AI can often field extremely weak sides, similar to the Coppa Italia which I also think needs looking at.
I tend to take cups seriously, especially if the league I’m playing in only has one cup and as such we weren’t too troubled given I named strong teams. Of course I was delighted to lift the cup but the play-offs were the key.
And that’s where things get a little awkward. Yep that’s us missing out on the play-offs. Our end to the season was horrific, one of the biggest implosions I’ve had on FM. Played five lost five scored four conceded thirteen.
Yes we were missing wing-back Alvas Powell, who’s really important to how we play but it was just embarrassing. I tried shifting to a 4-1-4-1 after we let in six at Orlando but all that did was give us no attacking threat and we drew blanks in the last two games.
If you want an example of how the Open Cup is basically irrelevant the board decided to haul me in for a meeting about my future, such is the importance of the play-offs. I asked for a transfer window to bring in some players I wanted and they relented.
So firstly let’s look at my aims for next season. We’d open up the 2018 season in the knock-out stages of the CONCAF Champions League and I wasn’t optimistic. Mexican clubs dominate this competition and we’d drawn continental powerhouses Club America so I was already writing that off. I also decided I would change my policy and throw the Open Cup, I had to put everything into the league and reaching the play-offs.
Tactically I had faith in the diamond, it allowed me to get the best out of Valeri and my wing-backs. I decided it was the players’ fault, not mine. I needed a new goalkeeper, centre-back, left wing-back and midfielder as well as possibly a new forward.
Finally let’s end on a positive note. One of the academy kids I had brought through, Frank Wilson had taken to the league like a duck to water. He was only 17 but finished with nine goals in 14 starts in all competitions! I decided to use him as one of my strikers next season due to Fanendo Adi being totally useless. I’m very excited about him and here he is a year later at 19.
Next time I’ll quickly run through pre-season to see if I could get the players I wanted (as well as talking a little bit more about my tactics) and then I’ll cover the 2018 season to let you know how we got on, then I can get back to playing!
Oh one last thing. Apropos of nothing, I’m sure many of you now pride yourself on flag/country knowledge thanks to FM but I had one regen come through with a flag/nationality I had never seen before. Here he is.
Please send me your random nationality regens, especially if they’re good, it’s one of my favourite things about FM!