The Business of Sports

Navigating the College Soccer Recruiting Journey

Let me begin by saying that I believe everyone has a slightly different perspective on the college soccer recruiting process based on their own experiences. With that said, let me give you my perspective, which has been shaped by the following experiences:

  • Going through this process 16 years ago, and foregoing several top D3 program offers to be a “recruited walk-on” at a D1 program in Georgetown University
  • Having worked at IMG Academy from 2012-15, and experiencing a unique soccer academy approach to the recruiting process with high school student-athletes
  • Working for a college athletics recruiting agency called Student-Athlete Showcase from 2017-2020, which took more of a bulk client approach similar to a NCSA, utilizing website profiles and mass emailing strategies
  • Working independently with about a dozen high school soccer student-athletes on a personalized approach from 2021-present
My senior year at Georgetown, before beating UConn to clinch the program’s 1st Big East Reg Season title.

So let’s begin with the question, “Is it worth it?” For me, the answer was simple, 100% yes. However, that answer is conditional, and is dependent on whether the student-athlete is all in. If he/she is not, it will lead to burnout, frustration, and ultimately be a waste of time. That is why one of the first questions I ask the high-school athletes I work with is, “On a 1 to 5 scale, how important is playing college soccer to you?” If the answer Is not a 5, we may have an issue.

What did I gain from my college soccer experience? From the start, I believe it helped me gain a college degree at a top 20 university. While I was a 50/50 candidate to get into Georgetown, soccer is what ultimately helped pushed me over the edge with admissions. And while I didn’t receive a scholarship in my early years at Georgetown, I eventually earned one that resulted in a “full-ride” for my 5th year of eligibility and a Master’s Degree. Secondly, it taught me some crucial life lessons around time-management, hard work, and leadership. Waking up at 6am for lifts and early morning practices, dedicating 20+ hours a week to one common mission, and then learning to balance all of that with a rigorous academic course-load at the age of 18, is extremely challenging. Lastly, the college soccer experience gave me a “fraternity” of brothers who have been in my corner for life after college, whether that be coaches who have been mentors or references for jobs, or teammates who have gone on to be groomsmen in my wedding … it gave me a support system of people that have gone to bat for me over the last 10+ years of my life. That is only the case given the experiences we shared together for the 4 (or in my case 5) years of the most formative period of our lives.

While highlight videos are a good way to catch a college coach’s initial interest, prospects will almost always need to pass the “eye test” live.

So what is the secret to getting recruited? Let me begin by saying, every prospect has a different path, and there are no two exact same situations. Student-athletes come from different financial situations, have different academic scores and abilities, are exposed to different levels of youth soccer academies/clubs depending on where they’re from, which all work together to create a unique “story” for each student-athlete. Here are my general pieces of advice to high school student-athletes who recognize that they are “all in” to chase their dream of playing college soccer:

  1. Cast Your Initial Net Wide. If you’re not opened-minded, you’re setting yourself up for failure. I can’t tell you how many folks reach out to me and say “I want to go to one of these top Ivy’s, Stanford, Duke, or Notre Dame.” If I could guarantee that, I would have the job title of “Miracle Worker” and likely be retired by now. There are over 200+ Division 1 men’s college soccer programs out there, and even more Division 3 programs, and there are a lot of quality ones. If you’re receptive to conversations with coaches who may not be on your initial list, you’ll set yourself up for success down the road. Interest breeds interest. If/when a coach on your “top list” asks you who else has been recruiting you, you’ll be able to reference those earlier conversations. Those early conversations will also give you quality practice with coaches who may be higher on your list. With that said, always be genuine and truthful with your intentions/desires, as the recruiting world is small, and word gets out quickly if you develop a bad reputation of misleading coaches.
  2. Put Yourself Out There. College soccer recruiting is very much a two-way street. Those prospects that are communicating with coaches earlier on generally are rewarded come decision time. The most tangible way to put yourself out there is in the form of a recruiting video. It’s one of the first things I do with the student-athletes I work with, as getting quality footage is one of the easiest ways to present yourself to coaches who may not necessarily be able to see you play in person. It oftentimes is the “first impression” a college coach has on prospects. The highlight tape can jumpstart communication and lead to invitations to ID camps or requests from the coach to see the prospects’ upcoming playing schedule.
  3. ID Camps. There are several good ones out there that are legitimate recruiting opportunities, and there are also several others that are used as “money-makers” where little to zero genuine evaluation/recruiting takes place. The key here is for prospects to ask the right questions in advance of the camp, such as “Where are you in the process of your 2024 recruiting class,” “Where do you project me fitting into your program,” or “What percentage of your recruiting class generally attends a camp?” There are several camps where multiple college coaches attend, that often can provide a better “bang for your buck” depending where you are in the process.  If you’re further along in the recruiting process and have the opportunity to attend one of your top choice program’s’ ID camps, and want to check out the campus a bit more, than those could also be wise ones to attend.
  4. Play with the best players you can. This is a lesson I picked up from experience in going through the process myself. I played on the best club in the state of Massachusetts from U11 to U14, however when some of the more meaningful recruiting years came around from U15-U17, the club quickly faded from the top. I eventually realized that for me to play in more recruiting showcase tournaments and with better players who shared my vision of playing college soccer, I either had to drive an hour south into Boston to play for the Boston Bolts, or drive an hour north to play with Seacoast United in an effort to not only get sufficient opportunities to be recruited but also to properly develop as a player. When you play with others who are better than you, it forces you to think quicker, play quicker and ultimately become that much better. This is true about most sports, but I’m not sure it’s more true in any other sport than soccer.
  5. Time is your greatest asset. It’s simple but true … The longer you wait to begin initiating with college coaches, the less likely you are to play college soccer. While every program is different, most D1 programs generally close their recruiting class in the late fall of the preceding calendar year, while D3 programs will trickle into the preceding spring. The only way to manipulate time in this process is to reclassify with a PG year (which is not an option for most prospects or their families), so I generally recommend prospects to begin getting serious about the process at some point in their sophomore year. On June 15th after their sophomore year, college coaches are allowed to start communicating back to them.
There are hundreds of Recruiting ID Soccer camps out there, make sure to ask the right questions before going.

The last part I’ll mention here is to enjoy the process. It’s easy to get anxious, stressed out, and disheartened if things are not happening as quickly as you’d like them to. Deciding where you’re going to college is a huge decision, and often that decision does not happen quickly, as finding the right fit takes some time and should be a process. With all that said, the reason I’ve stayed involved in this space over the years, is because of how meaningful of an experience college soccer was for me, and how strongly I believe it can positively impact young men and women’s lives.  

NBA Trade Deadline Eve for Celtics Nation

The last two weeks have made this one of the most exciting NBA trade deadlines in recent years for Celtics Nation. Winners of their last 6, the Celtics now sit in 7th in the Eastern Conference, only 4.5 games out of 1st. And what makes this trade deadline a bit more enticing is that there are no clear favorites to win the East, as only 1 game separates the top 4 teams (Heat, Bucks, Bulls and Cavs).

Prior to the Celtics current 6 game winning streak, the C’s had not been able to string more than 3 wins together all season. What has been the formula to the team’s recent success? Simply put, the team’s health. Many thought that from a personnel standpoint, this was the most talented Celtics team in recent years … and now with all pieces available to first year Head Coach Ime Udoka, it seems as though that is finally playing out to be true.

Nevertheless, the team suffered lots of criticism in the early part of the season, with many calling to break up the Tatum-Brown duo, which currently ranks as the 2nd highest scoring pair in the League.

During much of the first half of the season, many have
called for the breakup of the duo Brown and Tatum.

What makes this deadline even more interesting is the fact that it is Brad Stevens first as the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations, a role formerly occupied by Danny Ainge.

So given all this recent excitement, what are the main things Celtics fans should keep an eye on during the eve of the NBA trade deadline?

Some potential trade deadline targets linked to the Celtics. Upper left: John Collins (PF, Atlanta); Lower left: Dante DiVincenzo (PG, Milwaukee); Upper right: Malcolm Brogdon (PG, Indiana); Lower right Terrence Ross (SG, Orlando).

Potential Targets:

  • Terrence Ross (SG/SF, Orland Magic): The 31 year old shooter from Orlando is averaging 10.9 pts this year in a reserve role for the Magic. The C’s would likely need to give up Schroder and either Langford or Nesmith to make this work. He was one of the proven shooters available at the deadline.
  • Dante DiVincenzo (PG, Milwaukee Bucks): This has been one of the more rumored deals, where the Celtics would make a Schroder-DiVincenzo swap. The issue with this has been the Bucks have been rumored to want to include Grant Williams in this, which many believe to be a non-starter for the Celtics. While DiVincenzo is having a down year from the field, he has proven to be an effective two -way player pre ankle injury.
  • Malcom Brogdon (PG, Indiana Pacers): After Indiana acquired Tyrese Haliburton from the Kings on Tuesday, it became apparent that Brogdon may be a moveable piece for them. Brogdon is averaging 19 ppg, 6 apg, and 5 rbg and would be an undeniable upgrade at the PG position compared to Marcus Smart. To get Brogdon, many believe the C’s could still keep Smart, but instead give up Richardson, Schroder and one of their 2019-20 1st round draft choices.
  • John Collins (PF, Atlanta Hawks): The 6’9’’, 24 year old PF is on the same “timeline” as Tatum and Brown and could give the C’s a true big 3 (similar to the Garnet, Pierce, Allen grouping that won them a title). This offseason the Hawks signed Collins to a 5 yr, $125 mil contract, however after the Hawks have gone 26-28, reports have surfaced about Collins being disgruntled. To get him, the C’s would likely need to give up Horford, Smart and potentially one other piece.

Best Case Scenario: I think most of Celtics Nation would agree that the untouchable pieces are Tatum, Brown and Robert Williams. If there was some way to land Brogdon and Collins, the C’s would have a starting 5 of Brogdon, Brown, Tatum, Collins and Williams, with an average starting age of 25. While you would deplete your bench a bit in achieving that, you’d probably still be able to maintain a 2nd unit that would include Pritchard (who many believe is a more than competent backup PG), Enes Freedom, and probably either Nesmith or Grant Williams. Leaving the C’s probably needing to sign one more capable bench piece. That starting 5 would easily be the best positioned group in the Eastern Conference over the next several years.

Other notable things to keep an eye on around the league tomorrow include whether James Harden is moved out of Brooklyn, what Philadelphia decides to do with Ben Simmons, and how far will the Trail Blazers fire-sale go.

Of course, more times than not, the Trade Deadline disappoints and rarely lives up to the hype. But as fans, we naturally love to dream … only time will tell what type of stamp Brad Stevens puts on his first NBA trade deadline.

GPS Wearable Technology in the NCAA

When I was playing college soccer at Georgetown 12 years ago, there wasn’t one team in the country using GPS wearable technology. 7 years ago, while I was working at IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, the performance coaches had just started to experiment with wearables. Today, having worked at Catapult Sports for the last 4 years, I have found just about every single professional team use some form of GPS technology across the NFL, MLS, NBA, and NHL. While the majority of teams in college football and soccer use it as well, and a healthy percentage of teams in college basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, volleyball and ice hockey.

So, why are all these athletes wearing sports bras that hold these blinking devices between their shoulder blades? How does this technology help athletic performance and why do coaches care about this data?

The GPS device is secured with a compression-fitting device in between the athlete’s shoulder blades.

In this piece, I’ll talk about the evolution of GPS wearable technology specifically within the NCAA landscape and how it has become such a central piece to athletic performance.

What does GPS wearable technology do and how can it improve athletic performance?

If you don’t know what the specific physical demands are in your competitions, it’s impossible to optimize your training to prepare for those demands.

Athlete monitoring allows coaches to effectively measure the volume and intensity of their athlete’s training and competitions with an actual measuring stick to reduce soft tissue injuries, optimize performance and develop more robust return to play protocols. The ancillary benefits of using a GPS system allow coaches to use the data as a communication tool, as well as a recruiting tool reflecting the coaching staff’s commitment to student-athlete wellness, and ultimately instilling a level of professionalism within the team.

Where did wearable technology come from and who were the early adopters?

In what now is a very saturated marketplace, there were a few companies that were first to the table with GPS wearable technology, starting with Catapult. The Australian government decided to invest in the newly created Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) after a poor performance in the 1976 Olympic games.

Shaun Holthouse and Igor van de Griendt, eventual Catapult founders, began a project with the AIS in 1999. Taking a unique approach to evidence-based science improving sport, they began to measure all facets of athlete performance. Wearable sensors were then created to make science more accessible to athletes, and more routinely deployable across training and match situations. They were implemented for the 2004 Athens games, and then Catapult was born in late 2006.

Aussie Rules Football began using the sensors before the technology expanded globally to rugby, soccer and American Football in the following years.

How has it been adopted in the NCAA?

Inevitably this technology made its way over to the United States around 2012 as performance coaches started adopting it in their training. Florida State Women’s Soccer was one of the first Catapult NCAA clients, using the GK devices on a couple of their goalies. Jimbo Fisher, the Head Coach of Florida State’s football team at the time saw an antenna on the field at a Women’s Soccer practice. After doing a quick investigation of the tech, he started using it with his own team.

Florida State Women’s Soccer were one of the first NCAA Olympic teams to begin using GPS wearable technology. Here, they celebrate their 2018 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Soccer National Championship.

GPS tech quickly spread to football teams in the SEC Conference and then to the other Power 5 conferences. In a press conference after Alabama’s 24-7 win in the 2016-17 Peach Bowl, Nick Saban, the Head Coach of Alabama, went on record saying how much Catapult helped with their conditioning. Today, every single SEC Conference football team, but one, uses Catapult technology. Many athletic departments have taken a wholistic approach, doing multi-sport agreements, enabling cross sport communication between performance coaches.

“We use the Catapult system that gives us a scientific picture of where players are. After the season we did a total analysis of how we went through the season from a physical standpoint. We made some changes on how we practiced and how we monitored this systematically through the season … That has helped us manage our way through and keep our team a little more physically fresh.”

Nick Saban, Head Coach Alabama Football

Today, this technology has trickled down beyond D2 and D3, into high school programs and even youth academies. The largest growth of wearable technology in the college space in recent years has been in the mid-major/FCS level of the NCAA.

What do you need to look for in a GPS wearable system?

The Catapult Vector system includes the pod itself, a vest, a charging case and dock, and a live receiver.
  1. Reliability – Even on the cheaper side of the market, wearable tech is still a significant investment and therefore making sure the technology has been validated (white papers, etc) in its measuring accuracy is critical.
  2. Functionality – Depending on training environment and what the coaching staff values, there are a few features that you will want to vet out:
    • Live capability – If looking at information live is important, you want to make sure the system has that capability (some do, many do not). Live tracking is good for return-to-play and rehabilitation protocols as well as in-game decision making.
    • Indoor and Outdoor functionality.
    • Dual external & internal tracking capability (i.e. heart rate functionality)
  3. Support – GPS wearable companies have a wide range of sizes. Some are equipped to provide meaningful support while others only have a handful of employees. Every team is unique in their personnel structure, but for many, having sport science support is essential in making actionable insights from the data.

What is the next wave of innovation in the GPS wearable space?

Catapult acquired SBG, a video analysis software company for $40m in the Summer of 2021 to help enhance the integration of wearables and video.

While half of Catapult’s business is built around GPS wearable technology, the other half is built around video editing software. This past summer Catapult acquired a company called SBG, a UK-based video company that specializes in Formula 1 motorsport and elite soccer video solutions. The acquisition was a strategic one, as the SBG software has enabled Catapult to accelerate their ability to integrate wearable metrics onto video, allowing coaches to get more visual context to the physical data. With the wearable technology, you may know that your center forward made 40 high velocity sprints during the match, but now with this wearable-video integration, you see exactly when those 40 high velocity sprints happen and what has happening in the match. With the performance data married to the tactical information, the technology’s value has grown exponentially and has become more digestible to your average coach.

The New Look Boston Celtics – 2021-22 Season Preview

The 2020-21 season was a disappointing one for the Boston Celtics. A team that many picked to contend for the Eastern Conference last year ended up getting hampered by ongoing injuries as they were forced to play in the play-in series as the 7th seed, before losing to the Nets in 5 games in the first round.

Fast forward to now. Danny Ainge was replaced by Brad Stevens as the new President of Basketball Operations, and Ime Udoka replaced Stevens as the 18th head coach in the organization’s 75 year history.

New Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens (left) and new Head Coach Ime Udoka (right) are aimed to get the Boston Celtics banner #18.

The first trade of the Stevens era happened quickly as the Celtics swapped their starting point guard and four time All-Star, Kemba Walker, for a former Celtics legend, five time All-Star Al Horford. While no one will doubt Kemba’s ability as a playmaker and scorer, his nagging knee injury kept him out of the lineup frequently … and most noticeably, the knee only allowed him to play 3 of the 5 games in the Nets playoff series. He’s 31 years old, and several speculate his best years are behind him. With Tatum and Brown as the Celtics primary scorers, many believed the Celtics didn’t need a score first, point guard, which is what Kemba represented. Moreover, Kemba’s inability to defend made him a liability down the stretch in crucial games. A weakness that was exploited heavily when the Miami Heat eliminated the Celtics in the 2020 playoffs.

Celtics Nation knows what they’re getting in Al Horford, who was a fan favorite in his first stint in Boston. Horford’s best attribute is his passing ability from the frontcourt. Last year the Celtics played lots of isolation basketball given their 3 playmakers in Tatum, Brown and Walker, which resulted in them finishing near the bottom of the league in Offensive efficiency and assists (26th and 25th respectively in the NBA last season). Horford, will certainly help with that, as his best ability is to connect the other four players he’s sharing the court with at any given moment.

Towards the end of July, the Celtics decided to use the remainder of the trade exception created by the sign-and-trade deal that sent Gordon Hayward to the Charlotte Hornets, on 27 year old, versatile swingman Josh Richardson from the Dallas Mavericks. While the Celtics will represent the 4th team Richardson has played on in the last 4 years, Richardson is defensive-minded, like Horford, which was much needed. The Celtics had their worst defensive rating in the 8 year coaching era under Stevens last season. It’s also worth mentioning, that both Richardson and Horford have spent time with new Celtics Head Coach Ime Udoka in their previous stints in Philadelphia.

This offseason, the Celtics added the four new additions on top, left to right, PF Al Horford, SG Josh Richardson, PG Dennis Schorder, and C Enes Kanter (as well as PG Kris Dunn not pictured). While they lost, left to right on the bottom, PG Kemba Walker, SF Evan Fournier, C Tristan Thompson and SF Semi Ojeleye.

On top of the Josh Richardson signing, the Celtics also acquired point guard Kris Dunn, center Bruno Fernando and a 2nd round pick from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Tristan Thompson. The goal here was for Boston to shed the money they owed Thompson, while bringing back some minor but cheaper contributors, namely being Dunn.

Many remember that on the infamous 2016 draft night, Celtics fans rioted when they chose to take Jaylen Brown over Kris Dunn. With that said, Jaylen has turned out to have the far superior NBA career up until this point. Dunn will likely be a third string ball handler who was also primarily brought in for his production on the defensive side of the ball. He has some of the most active hands in the league, as he averaged 2 steals a game in 25 minutes per game off the bench in Atlanta in the 19-20 season. Expectations aren’t overly high, especially because he was injured all of last year, but I would anticipate him being assigned to the opposing team’s best ball handler when they need to give Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown a rest.

As Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum continue to grow as players and leaders on this Celtics team, the organization will continue to climb the Eastern Conference ladder.

Just last week, the Celtics made one of the final big splashes of the NBA offseason, scooping Dennis Schroder to a one-year $5.9 million contract. The big news around this signing was that Celtics are paying him $78 million less than an extension figure he infamously declined with the Lakers last season. After Lowry wen to Miami, Conley stayed in Utah, Lonzo signed with the Bulls, and Pelicans replaced him with Devonte Graham, Schroder and Boston ended up being the final pair; one a point guard and the other being a team in need of one for cheap.  

For the Celtics, the value of this deal is insane, as they’re getting a guy who was valued at over $20 mil/yr just a couple of months ago for now just a hair below $6 mil. While this deal won’t make the Celtics title contenders in and of itself, it’s a low risk deal as it’s only a one year deal for low money. You now have 3 guards in Schroder, Smart and Richardson all playing on expiring years of their contract this upcoming season, which should make for a very competitive backcourt.

The changes in personnel, present several potential interesting starting lineup possibilities:

#1: (Big Frontcourt + Schroder @ PG): Schroder, Brown, Tatum, Horford & Williams III

#2: (Big Frontcourt + Smart @ PG) Smart, Brown, Tatum, Horford & Williams III

#3 (Defensive-Minded): Smart, Richardson, Brown, Tatum.& Williams III

#4 (Athletic): Schroder, Smart, Brown, Tatum & Williams III

#5 (Experience): Schroder, Smart, Brown, Tatum, & Horford

My guess would be the first lineup will be the one they eventually land on with Smart, Richardson, Kanter, Nesmith, Pritchard, Dunn and Langford all coming off the bench.

Most people have the Celtics around #5-7 in the Eastern Conference preseason power rankings with the Nets, Bucks, 76ers, and Heat comfortably ahead of them, and then the Hawks, Celtics and Knicks in that 5-7 group. With that said, this Celtics team is probably one of the most exciting rosters to monitor heading into this upcoming season, given the coaching change, the several personnel changes, and the anticipated growth of Brown, Tatum and Robert Williams III.

It seems with the late addition of Schroder, that Stevens was able to improve this team through this offseason. I do believe they will be competitive this season, and may have an outside chance, if the new pieces gel the right way, to get to the Eastern Conference Final this season.

The Spending Spree in Foxboro

In less than 24 hours, the New England Patriots guaranteed over $127.5 million, placing them second in NFL history for most guaranteed money in a free-agent signing period … and free agency hasn’t even officially began yet (starts later today at 4pm ET).  The Patriots are only about $10 million shy of last year’s Dolphins who spent $147.2 million. Needless to say, it’s been a historic past couple of days in Foxboro.

Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft had a plan all along. They alluded to it often over the last year. The New England Patriots made moves last year to maximize their availability for this year. They’ve been planning for this off-season for quite some time … and now it’s here. So let’s break down the moves.


Within 24 hours, the Patriots went from having arguably the worst tight end core in the AFC, to probably having the best with the signings of Jonnu Smith (4 Yr, $50 Million)  from the Tennessee Titans and Hunter Henry (3 Yr, $37.5 Million) from the Los Angeles Chargers. Quite simply, the Patriots have had the NFL’s lowest pass catching production from the tight end position over the last two seasons … and so they went out and got the two best tight ends in free agency. While Henry is the more prolific pass-catcher (196 catches vs Smith’s 114), Smith’s ceiling is much higher as he is only 25 years old. Cam Newton relied heavily on Greg Olson in Carolina, and it seems as though the Patriots are trying to recreate that same TE connection here in New England.

The signing of Hunter Henry on Tuesday, March 16th, coupled with the Jonnu Smith signing, turns the Patriots Tight End core instantaneously from the worst in the AFC to the best.

Of all the signings within the last 48 hours, the Smith one has been perceived as the most controversial, mainly because, he has just become one of the league’s highest paid tight ends despite his numbers (41 catches, 448 yards, 8 TDs). In fact, it’s the most expensive per-year deal the Patriots have ever given to a pass-catcher, topping past contracts for legends such as Randy Moss and Rob Gronkowski … which is hard to believe. And the recent drafting of N’Keal Harry (and ensuing disappointing production) has led some Patriot nay-sayers to question the organization’s ability to evaluate pass-catching talent.

Here, is where we need to pause … because if you look a bit more underneath the hood, I think most of Patriot nation might be a bit surprised.

At 6’3”, 247 lbs, Jonnu Smith is one of the most athletically gifted TE’s in the league and has been called the “best after the catch [TE] in the league” by Belichick.

His 6’3’’, 247 lb frame coupled with nearly a 40 inch vertical and 4.6 40 time, make him as athletic a tight end as there is in the league. He often lines up as tailback, a la Aaron Hernandez back in the Patriot glory years. Smith’s red zone stats since the ’19 season are remarkable, with 10 TD catches (4th among TE’s) coupled with an astonishing 0 drops. His production was lower than it should’ve been in a run-heavy Tennessee offense that featured the best running back perhaps of the last decade in Derrick Henry.

Before the 2020 AFC Wild Card game against the Titans, Belichick sang the highest praises of Smith, “He can do a lot of things: blocks well, runs well, is a good receiver. I mean, hell, they played him at tailback. He looked pretty good back there. So, he’s a very athletic player, hard to tackle, catches the ball well. He’s great after the catch — probably the best in the league. I mean, I can’t imagine anybody better than him after the catch.”

The duo of Henry and Smith has drawn early comparisons to the old dual TE Belichick offense that featured Gronk and Hernandez. Both come from run-heavy offenses, which figures to be the case again this year for the Patriots.

A #2 AND A #3 WR

In the recently acquired Raiders Nelson Agholar (2 yr, $26 million) and the 49ers, Kendrick Borne (3 yr, $22.5 million) the Patriots have just acquired their likely #2 and #3 wide receivers respectively. Agholar, the former 1st round pick from USC, ranked 29th in the league after having his best season last year with 896 yards on 48 catches and 8 TDs. Unlike Agholar, Borne went undrafted, but similar to Agholar is also coming off his best season last year with 667 yards on 49 catches and 2 TDs. While Agholar is one of the league’s best deep threats (think a poor man’s Tyreek Hill), Borne is one of the better third down receivers, which was a glaring weakness for the 2020 Patriots.

In regards to these WR signings, the Patriot pessimists are saying we don’t need a #2 and a #3, and that instead we really needed a #1. Additionally, similar to Smith, those same pessimists are saying we’re overpaying based on not enough documented success. In reality, Smith will likely be our #1 receiver now, unless somehow one of the ‘Bama studs in Waddle or Smith falls to us at #15 (or we trade up), which I believe to be highly unlikely. But when you take a step back and look at the additions of Agholar and Borne to a receiving core that gets Julian Edelman back, you all of a sudden have a very deep group that is rounded out with former 1st round pick N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Myers and Damiere Byrd.


From a personnel perspective, if you combine the return of the COVID holdouts (Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung) along with the signings of the Ravens LB/DE Matthew Judon (4 yr, $56 million), the Eagles S Jalen Mills (4 yr, $24 million) and the Dolphins DT Davon Godchaux (2 yr, $16 million), and then throw in the resigning of Deatrich Wise (4 yr, $30 million) you have the most improved defense, THUS FAR, this offseason.

The biggest name here is of course Judon, who should provide a huge lift in the pass rushing game. Over 80 games with the Ravens, he’s notched 35.5 sacks while proving to be incredibly durable (only missing 4 games). Judon will be the Pats #1 edge rusher, followed by Chase Winovich, Josh Uche, and Afernee Jennings. While Bentley and Hightower should hold down the Inside Linebacker starting spots.

Matthew Judon is the highest profile defensive addition to the Patriots this off-season, as he ranked 5th among all edge rushers last season in pressure rate. He’s totaled 35.5 sacks through his 5 year NFL career.

Godchaux, from the Dolphins, shores up the nose for what was the 26th ranked run defense last year. Wise was a key keep for his position versatility in Belichick’s front. Anderson, Mills and Bethel are all Patriots’ types of rotational role players. Between all their defensive youngsters and veterans Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung returning from opt outs, there are lot of pieces on the board for Belichick to manipulate in his hybrid scheme.

With the return of Patrick Chung to compliment Kyle Dugger, Stephon Gillmore, J.C. Jackson, Devon and Jason Mccourty, Jalen Mills, Adrian Phillips and Jonathan Jones in an all-of-a-sudden over-crowded secondary, some are speculating that Gillmore (given he’s on the last year of his contract anyway) could become trade collateral to move up in the draft.


Last year was an absolute disaster for Cam Newton who averaged an embarrassing 177 ypg and threw for a mere 8 TDs. But again, if you look a bit closer as to what played into that, you begin to understand why. Newton was signed extremely late in the off-season and didn’t really have the preferred ramp up time to learn a relatively complicated McDaniels’ offense. Combine that with COVID shutting him down for 2 weeks of the season and one of the historically worst receiving cores in recent NFL history, it does add up. For a former #1 overall pick and a former NFL MVP, the relatively small resigning cost should be seen as a win for the Patriots, who really had no other immediate option at the QB position as they headed into free agency.

Nonetheless, I think everyone is in agreement that there is going to have to be another QB brought in who isn’t named Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer who can properly challenge Cam Newton for the QB1 job. The most obvious place to look for that person is in what is a particularly strong top-end QB draft class this year with Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones being the most talked about targets for the Pats. Each one of those guys is slightly different and does different things well. Lance and Fields are most like Cam as dual-threat guys who could likely learn really well under him; whereas Mac resembles more of the pocket-passer that TB12 was.

Justin Fields (left) from Ohio State, Trey Lance (center) from North Dakota St, and Mac Jones (right) from Alabama, are all believed to be the three most likely targets should the Patriots draft a QB in the 1st round of this year’s 2021 Draft.

Another option is free agency. While Dak Prescott, Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s names have already been taken off the board, Mitchell Trubisky is still unsigned and could certainly provide a potential QB battle if signed to compete with Cam.

The last option would be to trade for Jimmy G, which has been an ongoing rumors for the last year. While Jimmy knows McDaniels offensive schemes well, his durability has been a major concern over the last 2 years.

Needless to say it’s been an eventful off-season already for the Patriots. The Patriots need players, and they’ve gotten players. And if the aggression is any indication of what the Patriots might do on draft day, well buckle up your seatbelts.

There is a saying in New England, “In Bill We Trust” … and for good reason, the man is undeniably the best coach in the history of the sport. With that said, the last piece of puzzle is still unsolved at the moment. Depending on how that final piece is managed, that very well could largely decide the final chapter in Bill Belichick’s coaching legacy.

Is Cam New England’s Stairway to 7?

There are only a few free agent signings in the last 20 years of sport (Lebron James to the Heat, Barry Bonds to the Giants, Shaq to the Lakers, A-Rod to the Rangers, Rice to the Raiders) that rival what I believe will become the most impactful signing in the history of the NFL … Cam Newton coming to the New England Patriots.

There have been a few blockbuster free agent signings over the last 20 years … Lebron James to the Miami Heat may very well top the list. 

The storylines are endless.

  • You have probably the most dominant franchise in the history of modern sport in the Pats, seemingly abruptly halted with a wild card weekend defeat followed by the departure of their fearless leader and greatest of all time, Tom Brady.
  • Never once in the history of the NFL has a team lost a league MVP and acquired a league MVP in the same offseason.
  • There is now a QB race in New England between two former Auburn Tigers who couldn’t be any more different.
  • There may not be a more boisterous, off-the-field headache of a QB in the league in Cam Newton, coming into a more business-like team first environment in New England.
  • And on top of all this, you will have Bill Belichick who will be coaching a team for the first time in 20 years without Tom Brady, who will inevitably answer everyone’s question by season’s end … was it the Belichick system or the Goat TB12 responsible for the 6 rings?

Jarett StidhamQB
Jarrett Stidham has only thrown 4 NFL passes and one of them was a pick 6. Compounded by the fact that he was a 4th round selection and is only 23 years old, many believe Stidham may not be ready. While others, especially close to the organization, maintain Stidham may very well still be the starter when the 20-21 season begins.  

Why this is a great signing for the Patriots:

  1. Jarett Stidham isn’t ready to start. Stidham has thrown a total of 4 passes in the NFL, one of which was a “Pick-six” interception. By all accounts, the New England coaching staff is very high on Stidham, but coming in at 23 years old trying to replace the GOAT is a formidable task.
  2. Cam Newton is an upgrade over Brian Hoyer. While Tom was the GOAT, he was not mobile whatsoever. Josh McDaniels and the offense are likely going to change things up quite a bit schematically with a more mobile QB leading the way. The positive about Hoyer was that he knew the Patriots system … but unfortunately for Hoyer, that system is likely changing now given the personnel.
  3. Cam gives them the best chance to win this season. If healthy, Newton is undeniably the more talented QB (and it’s not close). Cam was a former #1 Overall Pick, 3x Pro Bowler and a former MVP. Belichick is a win first type of coach, and Newton (again, if healthy) gives them the best chance to win this season.

    Cam Newton was a National Champion and Heisman Trophy Winner at Auburn (coincidentally Stidham’s same alma matter), as well as a NFL MVP and 3x Pro Bowler with the Carolina Panthers. If healthy, Newton will be the most talented QB ever to wear a Patriots uniform. 
  4. True QB competition this offseason. Many people thought the Pats were going to draft a QB in the draft and yet they held tight. Many thought they were going to make a move earlier in free agency for a guy like Jameis Winston. Competition breeds success and having two legitimate QBs in the mix will make them both better.
  5. The Value was absolutely insane. Newton agreed to a one-year deal with a base of $1.05 mill, the minimum salary for a player with his amount of experience (9 years) in the league … and only half of that money is guaranteed. Now with all the incentives, Newton can earn an additional $5.75 million, creating a max value of the contract of $7.5 million. Low risk, high reward … it doesn’t get any better than that.

Antonio Brown played in one game as a New England Patriot and cost them $9 million. Needless to say that was an investment did not pay the expected dividends. 

The Patriots have a history of bringing in controversial, yet talented players over the years . Some have worked (Corey Dillon, Aquib Talib, Randy Moss) and some haven’t (Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Adalius Thomas and most notably and most recently Antonio Brown).


It’s the most important position in all of sport. It has been the most dominant franchise in the history of sport. And now you have one of the most polarizing talents in the National Football League who has been handed the keys to replace the GOAT.

The Draft Came and Went … and the C’s are Still Confused

Rewind the clock 365 days … the Celtics were a team that was one game away from the NBA Finals (despite playing without their best player and another All-Star). With the loan pick of their 2018 draft used to secure big man depth with Robert Williams, the Celtics (on paper) were poised to runaway with the East. My my, do things change quickly.

An All-NBA Point Guard in Kyrie Irving, two proven NBA All-Stars in Al Horford and Gordon Hayward, two of the biggest emerging young talents with Jayson Tatum and Jaelyn Brown, a deep bench, a Head Coach/GM combo that many would say is the best in the league, and future draft picks that would even make a trust fund baby excited … a birth in the finals or bust was the expectation of Titletown USA for the 2018-19 Celtics season. Spoiler alert: it was a bust.

Head Coach Brad Stevens (left) had pressed all the right buttons up until this last year for the Boston Celtics. Danny Ainge (center) has been heralded as the best GM in the NBA today. Yet with star PG Kyrie Irving (right) seemingly out the door, Ainge and Stevens are focused on re-tooling for the 19-20 campaign in a more challenging fashion then originally anticipated. 

Finishing 4th in the East, and a near sweep in round 2, the Celtics vastly underachieved. That much is not up for debate. With the World Series and Super Bowl trophies in hand, and one game shy of the Stanley Cup … the spoiled Boston fandom, while disappointed in the C’s season, still seemed to have an unwavering trust in the Ainge & Stevens team. Names like Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Kristis Porzingis had danced in Celtics fans’ heads as the future draft picks accumulated. Danny Ainge had the keys to the Ferrari … while Celtics Nation feverishly awaited the master plan.

But as visions of cherry-plums transformed into these nightmare headlines, the tune in Titletown took a shift:

“The Celtics belief they can re-sign their All-Star point guard [Kyrie Irving] has “eroded” amid increasing speculation he wants to join the Brooklyn Nets” (Bleacher Report).

“Contract talks have now apparently shifted toward Horford exiting Boston as news of Horford’s imminent departure from the Celtics was also reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski as well.” (ESPN)

“I put up with a lot this year. I said what I said after the season, and I think we all know that I’m not trying to step into that again” (Terry Rozier).

With what originally looked like a potential dynasty to run the East for many years to come, the Celtics all of a sudden headed into draft night like a lost puppy … as an organization looking for an identity. 3 first round picks, a 2nd rounder, a 2020 Memphis 1st rounder, and a roster riddled with talent … it seemed like a blockbuster deal was inevitable … but it never came. And so this is how the anticlimactic draft night unfolded for the Celtics:

#14: Romeo Langford (SG, Indiana) – An oversized 2 that has drawn comparisons to Evan Turner … likely a role player in year 1, that has a high ceiling.

The Celtics selected SG Romeo Langford from Indiana University with their first selection at #14. 

*Two-for-One: Celtics trade pick #20 to the 76ers for picks #24 and #33

#22: Grant Williams (PF, Tennessee) – The two-time SEC Player of the Year, Williams is an undersized PF, yet freakishly strong. Highly intelligent, Williams has been compared to P.J. Tucker and seemingly would fit well as a role player within the Celtics current roster.

*Bye Baynes: Celtics deal Baynes to the Suns in exchange for the Bucks 2020 1st Round Pick (1-7 protected)

#33: Carsen Edwards (PG, Purdue) – Undersized at 6 feet, Edwards still was one of the nation’s top scorers with 24 ppg. Despite being limited defensively, Edwards does provide depth at what could be a very empty point guard position come free agency.

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 4.21.41 AM.png

#51: Tremont Waters (PG, LSU) – See Edwards’ description above. Battle with Edwards to see who gets a roster spot.

In a draft that is drawing immediate comparisons to the underwhelming Fab Mello (RIP), Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, and James Young draft … this draft was largely disappointing for the Celtics, especially given the plethora of picks and the lack of addressing immediate needs. Having said that, you now have a Boston team that has the potential of 25-26 mil in cap space heading into free agency. The most rumored target at the moment is the first time All-Star, Orlando Center Nikola Vucevic.

Best Guess 2019-20 C’s Depth Chart:

PG: Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Carsen Edwards

SG: Jaylen Brown, Romeo Langford

SF: Gordon Hayward, Grant Williams

PF: Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, Daniel Theis

C: Nikola Vucevic, Robert Williams


If you’ve read my writing before or you know my general outlook, I’m relentlessly optimistic … and that optimism holds true with this roster. Listen, on paper, this is a team that is less talented than the 2018-19 roster, there is no question about that. However maybe not as much as people think. You replace Al Horford with another All-Star Center who is younger if we can pull off the Vucevic signing.

All-Star Center Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic seems to be the new prized target for the Celtics Free Agency. 

You have a “changing of the guards” at point with Irving being replaced by Rozier. The C’s played better with Rozier running point, as many believe he deserves an opportunity to show the league he is an elite starting PG (the insurance policy was drafted tonight with Edwards and Waters). Most importantly, you maintain your best youth talent in Tatum and Brown.

Looking at Brad Stevens, he has always over-achieved with less talent … between bringing mid-major Butler to two National Championships and transitioning that ability to the NBA in bringing a Irving/Hayward-less C’s team to game 7 of the Eastern Finals in 2018.

Is this best case scenario, probably … is it unlikely though, I’m not sure it is. If this team gels like they did two years ago in the front half of next year (and with appealable trading assets in hand), this team could be one deal away from being a title contender again as soon as the trade deadline of next season.

Breaking into the Sports Business Industry: A Note from my 30-Year-Old Self to my 20-Year-Old Self

Everyone loves sports.

Our culture is predicated around them for better or for worse. Sport has served as humanity’s greatest form of unwritten entertainment from it’s very beginning. And since then, sport has transcended humanity, snowballing into a captivating phenomenon over the centuries into what we know it to be today.

I am one of those people who became unequivocally enthralled by the power of sport from the very beginning. At 5, I was religiously reading the Sports Section of the Boston Globe. By 10, I was tapping my toes and fidgeting with my batting gloves in the Little League batter’s box emulating my favorite Boston Red Sox, Nomar Garciaparra.  When I was 15, my all-boys catholic prep school gave us the day off school so students could attend the parade and celebrate the New England Patriots winning their 2nd Super Bowl, which has now turned into 6 (and counting).  And at 20, I accepted a summer internship to work at Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton, OR … marking the day I officially transformed my passionate fandom into making it a career and launching my path into the sports business industry.

As a young, eager junior at Georgetown University, the sports business industry was something I dove into passionately, yet somewhat by chance. And now, after having just turned 30 this past year, it has caused me to think back on everything I’ve learned in my] career as a sports business professional. I will get approached from time to time by college students or recent college grads asking for advice about the industry … and so I figured I would reflect on a few things (many of which I failed miserably at and others that I did okay with) that I wish I could tell my 20 year old-self who had just accepted that first sports business internship.

Be Opportunistic. It may sound like a cliché, it may even sound blatantly obvious … but I believe it’s the single greatest factor that distinguishes people who succeed in this industry versus people who don’t. That first Nike internship I got was somewhat of an odd happening. I received an email from a Georgetown email domain that looked identical to the hundreds of other spam emails I receive … however for some reason I opened it.

Nike was a company that I resonated with from being an athlete … it was the company I chose when my dad told me I could pick any one stock to invest in as just a little kid (it turned out to be an ok pick). Needless to say, I followed through with the application process and sure enough became the one Georgetown student-athlete that Nike chose that year to be part of their Summer Internship Program. It was only until after I was out in Beaverton, OR that I realized how lucky I had gotten. Nike received about 10,000 applications for their Summer Internship Program that year and only 90 were selected (45 student-athletes from Nike sponsored universities and 45 “at-large” candidates).  After doing the math and realizing that was a 0.09% acceptance rate, my sense of opportunity heightened.

While I had been opportunistic to have secured that internship, I look back at that experience and realize I could’ve been more opportunistic in my time at Nike. While I was definitely doing some cool things like playing hoops with LeBron James and showing Manchester City around the Nike campus, I underestimated how valuable an opportunity that was to network and build more meaningful relationships with key people within the company. Several people in that intern class with me (many of whom I’m still friends with today) have advanced through the ranks at Nike over the last 10 years and are in various Senior Director roles, due in large part to the networking and relationship-building they did during the course of their two months on the Nike campus that summer.

Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton, OR. 

Never underestimate the power of your current situations (no matter what it might be) and take advantage of the resources you have at your disposal.


Be Patient. The sports industry is an interesting one given the discrepancy between earnings of athletes and everyone else in the industry. Manny Machado signs a $300 million deal yesterday in becoming the San Diego Padres newest shortstop and simultaneously you have an extremely competitive application process to get selected to be one of the San Diego Padres unpaid summer interns. Because its sports, people are willing to work for next to nothing to be in the industry. Consequentially, entry level salaries fall below many other industries.

When I had graduated from Georgetown in 2012 (after having gotten both my BA in English and my MS in Sports Management), I had a good majority of friends go straight into Finance. Meanwhile, I chose to head down to sunny (yet somewhat desolate) Bradenton, FL to work at IMG Academy … making a fraction of what my friends were making at any of the big banks or consulting firms.

IMG Academy is one of the world’s biggest and most renown sports academies in Bradenton, FL. The campus is over 500 acreas, costs over $80,000/yr to attend and hosts many of the world’s top professional athletes throughout the course of the year. 

I occasionally had fleeting thoughts of whether I had made the right decision with my career, but my day-to-day work of being at one of the world’s best sports academies and largest global sports companies made it worth it.  And while that was certainly a humble beginning, I very quickly got promoted within 6 months from running the Academy’s Soccer camp/team business to overseeing their brand-new Lacrosse program. In growing the program from 15 Floridians to 50 boys from all over North America and becoming a nationally ranked lacrosse program, my experience at IMG Academy was incredibly rewarding.

The sports business industry is not a race, especially at the beginning given the nature of the industry. Find the right environment, with a path for growth and your patience will pay dividends sooner rather than later.


Find a Mentor. Most people want to help other people … it’s human nature. This is a concept that extends far beyond just the sports industry; however, it was something I didn’t fully grasp early on. I think I had a do-it-yourself mentality for much of my early career, perhaps due to my competitive nature of being a former athlete or perhaps simply due to lack of experience.

I would encourage all people new to the sports business industry to try to find one (or a few) people whose careers they regard highly and whose footsteps they want to follow. Get to know that person or people and build a relationship with them.

For me, these mentors I developed during my earlier years In the industry introduced me to key people, gave me advise on important career steps I was considering, and ultimately opened doors to more opportunity within the industry. Just like sales, people buy from people … and when a well-regarded person in the industry can endorse your own abilities and character, more doors will quickly open up.

Surround yourself with the right people and find the one or two you really connect with on a personal level, whose career path you identify with, and cultivate those relationships.


Put Yourself Out There. The sports and entertainment industry is perhaps more of a people industry than any other industry in business. And while yes, there are some technical-based jobs within sport, the very nature of the industry is predicated on people. The cliché holds true: “It’s who you know, not necessarily what you know.” People are often the commodity within sports business, whether it be an athlete you’re trying to sign, a sponsor you’re trying to land, or an audience you’re trying to market to.

Catapult hosts workshops throughout the world for coaches and users to learn and better utilize their wearable technology. 

This has never been truer for me than in my most recent endeavor with Catapult Sports. When I transitioned over to the sports technology field about a year and a half ago, I had lots to learn quickly about the industry while simultaneously trying to hit my number and do my job as a Business Development Manager. Much of my time was spent early on attending conferences and conventions, meeting with the major players in the space (both externally and internally at Catapult). Sometimes it would mean staying up late and having a drink with an expert Catapult client/user after a long day at a convention, another time it might be listening to a panelist speaker at a workshop and being compelled to engage with that person in deep conversation afterwards.

You can’t be afraid to swing and miss … that’s part of being a professional. Roll up your sleeves, talk to people, go to conferences, and put yourself out there to not only listen but also to be heard.

2018 World Cup Russia Takeaways

It’s the world’s most popular sport on the sport’s biggest stage … it’s the World Cup. With as much hype as the Super Bowl and yet the international relevance of the Olympics, the World Cup is unique to it’s kind. The event is positioned as a measuring stick of where the game of football (or soccer, as us Americans call it) currently sits – with players, coaches, and fans across the world taking note at which playing styles prevail, which continents are the most dominant, and who the world’s most elite players really are. So with that, here are 5 of my biggest takeaways from 2018 Russia.

  1. Europe is Still King.

With 15 of the 32 qualifying countries coming from Europe, this World Cup saw 6 of those European countries make up the final 8 teams in the tournament.

Samuel Umiti’s header sent Les Bleus and the French past Belgium and into the World Cup Final.

It made for an all-European semi-finals and upcoming final between France and Croatia on Sunday. 4 out of South America’s 5 teams went through to the Round of 16, however without Brazil, Argentina, Columbia or Uruguay making the semi-finals, CONMEBOL will view this World Cup as largely a disappointment for themselves. While Africa’s expectations are not quite as high as South America’s, they too, will be disappointed without seeing a single one of their 5 teams advancing to the Round of 16. Given the mere 3 teams Asia had representing the continent, Japan became a bit of a Cinderella team after having Belgium on the ropes, up 2-0 in the 2nd half of a Round of 16 match. While only one of the 3 North American teams (Mexico) advanced to the Round of 16 … North America also claimed the tournament’s worst performing country with a record of 0-3 and a -9 goal differential

Belgium Counter Attack Goal
Down 2-0 in the 2nd half to Japan and facing elimination, Belgium had one of the most improbable comebacks in World Cup history. The comeback culminated with Belgium’s Nacer Chadli’s last touch of the ball off a brilliant counter attacking goal in stoppage time.

with Panama, the same country who eliminated the US from qualifying.


  1. Tika-Taka Out, Counter-Attack In

For those unfamiliar with the “Tika-taka” style of play, this is known as a Spanish style of the game that is characterized by short, quick movement passing while working the ball through channels and keeping possession. While it’s a style of play largely associated with Spain and Barcelona FC, it’s the pervasive style of many South American teams like Brazil and Argentina as well. In France’s wins over Argentina and Uruguay, as well as Belgium’s win over Brazil in the Quarters, the world saw a new counter-attack style of soccer prevail predicated on sharpness in transition and catching opposing teams off balanced on the counter attack.

The concept here is centered on the idea of attacking as soon as the ball is taken possession of in an effort to catch up an opposing a team unbalanced defensively. Belgium and France did this better than any other two teams in the tournament in large part due to attacking midfielders who fit this mold with De Bruyne and Hazard for Belgium and Mbappe and Griezmann for the French.

  1. Set Pieces Decide Matches

The numbers are staggering with 70 of the 160 goals scored in this World Cup having come off set-piece finishes, an unprecedented 43.8%. The team that everyone was talking about on set-piece goals was England, who got their lone goal in the semi-final yesterday off a free-kick.  The tournament saw a lot of penalty kicks but also very well-executed corner and free kick designed plays. The aerial aspect to the game is still a critical part of deciding matches.

Trippier England Goal
England’s Kieran Trippier’s set piece goal in the 5th minute of yesterday’s semi-final was the quickest goal in a World Cup semi-final since 1954. The England were’s able to bring it home, but distinguished themselves on set pieces throughout the tournament.

  1. Video Assisted Review (VAR) – Verdict Still Out

Every professional sports league in the United States have official replays and reviews and yet this was the first year of it being introduced at the World Cup. Quite frankly it was overdue. Having said that, I think there are still differing opinions about the technology as it applies to soccer after this World Cup. The technology helped Sweden collect a pivotal PK against South Korea, which was justified and changed the face of Group F. Meanwhile the Brazilians felt like their defender was pushed on Switzerland’s tying header in group play. And France was awarded a very soft PK against Australia after reviewing a foul on Griezmann.

VAR Review
Russia 2018 marked the debut of Video Assistant Referees which certainly changed a few matches. There are still mixed opinions of the technology, but many believe it is here to stay.

There is still a huge element of the sport that relies on human judgment which the traditionalists of the sport will argue should be left in the hands of the person with the whistle in the middle of the field … while the VAR supporters will argue the more eyes on the play the better and that it is simply a matter of mastering the use of the new technology. I think the two biggest knocks on the implementation of the technology have been, one, how long does it delay the game and secondly, the appropriate timing of when the play is actually stopped to review the questionable play.

  1. Too Many Dives

FIFA terms it simulation, that is, the act of when a player takes a dive. In fact the governing body of international soccer instructs it’s officials to issue a yellow card if and when a player does this. Nonetheless, diving is still a huge part of today’s game, which was exemplified by Neymar throughout the tournament. Neymar was in fact the most fouled player in this year’s World Cup by a landslide. However, what several players and coaches were most upset about, was the excessive exaggeration of the injuries and perceived time-wasting that was associated with it.

Brazil’s Neymar was the tournament’s most fouled player, however, he received an overwhelming heat of criticism among players, coaches and fans for the way in which he “sold” many of the fouls.

The rolling around in agony and flailing arms led to countless comedic videos go viral, and even allowed Kentucky Fried Chicken an opportunity to commercialize a combo meal “Making a Meal Out of It” through the course of World Cup television commercials. I personally believe the Video Assisted Review will play as a big a role in discouraging this behavior as it will to confirming or denying penalty kicks.

At the end of the day, there is diving or “flopping” in every sport, American football, hockey, and basketball. US soccer legend, Alexi Lalas, in fact calls simulation a skill, stating that there are good ways and bad way to sell fouls.

The World Cup Final on Sunday will feature heavily favorited France take on a somewhat surprising Croatian team. If Croatia prevails, Croatia will be the second smallest country in population (4 million) to ever win the sport’s most coveted trophy after Uruguay (3.4 million) did it in 1930 and 1950. Meanwhile the French feature the second youngest team in this World Cup, with an average age of 26. Needless to say it should be an entertaining final.

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