Friday, November 12, 2010

A Couple Big DP Rumors

As we near the MLS off season, you start to hear about what different teams are looking to do to improve their squads for next season.

We already know that New England is looking at signing a Designated Player or two and that Juan Pablo Angel is going to be available.  Now there are reports that both Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy are looking at a couple potential acquisitions. And there are still questions about the futures of Guillermo Barros Schelotto (retirement?) and Omar Cummings (Europe?) among others.

The first rumor is one that we've seen many times before involving Ronaldinho going to LA, with NBC Sports being the latest outlet to touch on it. According to Gazzetta Dello Sport the Galaxy are ready to throw nearly $10m per year at the AC Milan player.

A player like Ronaldinho, who has a history of not taking training seriously, is a HUGE risk and to actually drop this kind of money on him would be a terrible decision for the team. However, it could be great for the league. He's super well known, but not because of personality over performance like Beckham or even Henry at this point. Instead, he's actually famous strictly for his skill on the ball and beautiful play. That's the kind of thing that will get people to tune in to a game or two just to check him out, and maybe grow the fan base a little more.

Rumor numero dos comes from the Houston Chronicle via MLS Insider. The Dynamo are probably a little gun shy to go signing another Designated Player after the disaster that was Luis Angel Landin, but if these reports are correct then they're trying for another young Mexican international; Giovani Dos Santos.

Giovani would bring a creative attacking force to a Dynamo squad. Now, you may wonder why a team that scored 40 goals last season, tied for fifth in the league, would look for more offense rather than shoring up a defense that allowed a league-worst 49 goals. I would wonder that too. On the bright side though, a player of Giovani's abilities (and heritage) would certainly help bring more fans to a stadium that already packed in 17,000 per game. Plus, it would give US national team fans a #1 team to hate.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

US Roster for Nov. 17th Out

That dude you see is Teal Bunbury. In that picture he's pissing off a bunch of Columbus Crew fans because he just dropped the first goal of his professional career. In this post, he's pissing off the entire country of Canada because he just bailed on them to come play for America.

According to a post on Soccer by Ives earlier today, Bunbury (20) is one of six players called to the match next week who are in line to earn their first ever senior cap for the United States. The rest of the youth invasion includes Dominic Cervi (24), Tim Ream (23), Gale Agbossoumonde (18), Mikkel Diskerud (20), and Juan Agudelo (17).

The full squad, as reported by Ives

Brad Guzan (Aston Villa - 18 caps)
Dom Cervi (Celtic - 0 caps)

Clarence Goodson (Brøndby IF - 16 caps - 2 goals)
Jonathan Spector (West Ham United - 27 caps)
Jonathan Bornstein (Tigres de la UANL - 35 caps - 2 goals)
Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa - 1 cap)
Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake - 2 caps)
Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls - 0 caps)
Gale Agbossoumonde (Sporting Braga - 0 caps)

Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro - 5 caps)
Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew - 7 caps)
Brian Carroll (Columbus Crew - 7 caps)
Logan Pause (Chicago Fire - 5 caps)
Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew - 12 caps - 1 goal)
Mikkel Diskerud (Stabæk - 0 caps)

Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake - 10 caps)
Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls - 0 caps)
Teal Bunbury (Kansas City Wizards - 0 caps)

That's 145 caps and 5 goals spread across 18 players. 78 of those caps and 4 of those goals are from just 3 players too. For comparisons sake, Cobi Jones, the most capped player in USMNT history, has 164 caps. That's how you start a youth movement!

The two guys I'm most excited to see are Gale Agbossoumonde (who will henceforth be known simply as 'Boss') and Juan Agudelo. Boss is a 6'2" monster of muscle who played like a man among boys during the Milk Cup in July. He's played 16 games with the US U-20's and has probably made at least one opponent cry during each of those matches.

Agudelo looked like the best player on a Red Bulls team featuring million-dollar-men Juan Pablo Angel, Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry during their first round playoff loss to San Jose. He has 23 caps with various US youth teams, during which time he tallied 15 goals. That's the kind of strike rate that gets a young kid called in, especially when all of the other forward options haven't been performing lately.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Elo Ratings Are A Pretty Good Predictor

One of the blogs I love (and link to on the sidebar) is Climbing the Ladder because all he ever does is look at random statistics that 99% of soccer fans wouldn't care about.

His latest post was about trying to predict what lead to success in the home-and-home playoff series that have existed since 2003. Here were the results
Note: I adjusted percentages to not count ties

Fewer games (18-7-7 72.0%)
Goal difference (21-11-0 65.6%)
Less experienced coach (19-12-1 61.3%)
Top goalscorer (17-11-4 60.7%)
Momentum (19-13-0 59.4%)
Higher seed (19-13-0 59.4%)
Goals for (18-13-1 58.1%)
Home record (18-14-0 56.3%)
Older team (18-14-0 56.3%)
Goals against (16-13-3 55.2%)
Won season series (12-10-10 54.5%)
Away record (17-15-0 53.1%)
Younger coach (17-15-0 53.1%)
2 year record (16-16-0 50.0%)
3 year record (14-18-0 43.8%)
Coach w/ better all time record (13-19-0 40.6%)

This is obviously super interesting to me, so I ask him for the data because I'd like to look at how the Elo Ratings do. He's a badass so he replies and it turns out Elo prediction went 21-11, matching goal differential at 65.6% success.

Below are the results of each series with the Elo difference and games-played difference for the winner of each series (winner is on the left):

2007 HOU vs DAL (92.41) (+2)
2006 HOU vs CHV (56.99) (+2)
2008 CLB vs KC (56.84) (-1)
2006 DC vs NY (53.85) (+1)
2003 CHI vs DC (53.84) (0)
2005 NE vs NY (43.24) (0)
2009 CHI vs NE (42.04) (+1)
2007 NE vs NY (40.12) (+3)
2008 CHI vs NE (34.88) (-7)
2003 NE vs NY (34.07) (-1)
2010 LA vs SEA (27.33) (-8)
2006 NE vs CHI (23.31) (0)
2003 SJ vs LA (20.61) (-4)
2003 KC vs COL (16.81) (-1)
2004 LA vs COL (12.96) (0)
2005 COL vs DAL (12.82) (-4)
2009 LA vs CHV (12.48) (-3)
2004 DC vs NY (12.30) (0)
2010 COL vs CLB (8.94) (-10)
2009 HOU vs SEA (8.71) (+5)
2004 KC vs SJ (4.91) (-1)
2008 RSL vs CHV (-30.67) (-4)
2010 DAL vs RSL (-39.07) (-7)
2010 SJ vs NY (-41.22) (-3)
2006 COL vs DAL (-51.11) (0)
2004 NE vs CLB (-61.74) (-1)
2009 RSL vs CLB (-68.02) (-6)
2007 KC vs CHV (-70.75) (0)
2007 CHI vs DC (-77.37) (-10)
2005 CHI vs DC (-81.97) (-4)
2005 LA vs SJ (-99.84) (+2)
2008 NY vs HOU (-105.34) (-14)

The really cool thing to me is that only once in 11 series (2005 LA) did a team with more games played and a lower Elo rating win the series.

So does this mean anything? Well, it's not quite statistically significant (although the fewer games one is pretty damn close to 95% confidence and is over 90% confidence) but I think that some of the results would be trends worth paying attention to next season if you happen to find yourself in a position to wager a little money.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

LA 2 - 1 Seattle: Where Did This Galaxy Team Go?

After the first game of this series I gave the credit to Bruce Arena for his great coaching. That may have been selling the players short, because the whole Galaxy team has played beautiful soccer these past two games.

I wondered if Sigi Schmid would be able to draw up a new plan for his Sounders team to give them a chance at this series, but it just wasn't meant to be. The Galaxy dominated the run of play again, stifling Seattle's attack and scoring two goals off of great set piece deliveries by David Beckham (who seems to be happier than he has been at any other time in his MLS career).

Dare I say that this team looks very similar to the one that began the 2010 MLS season. In the beginning of the year, LA Galaxy appeared to be positioning themselves as a Real Madrid/ManU style team that clearly outclassed their league competition. They put up 32 points in the first 12 games with 22 goals for and 3 goals against.

That run slowed though. In their next 11 games LA only managed 12 points (11 GF, 14 GA) and you could see problems in their play. Landon Donovan was being moved all over the pitch, injuries were hurting them, and Buddle and Donovan each missed games with the USMNT at the World Cup.

Things did appear to turn around at the end of the season, with Galaxy earning 15 points in 7 games (11 GF, 9 GA), but it was still not what we saw from them to start the year. The team was struggling with how to integrate David Beckham to the team and figuring out exactly who to play in the midfield and where.

Like I said last week, Arena figured it out. This team is playing out of their minds right now and looks poised to make a deep run towards their third MLS Cup.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yes, Colorado Can Hold On (Barely)

After the first game I openly wondered if Colorado Rapids could hold on to defeat Columbus Crew. Colorado left a lot of great chances on the table and squeaked out a 1-0 win at home. Well it was enough alright, although just barely.

Columbus came out with their hair on fire, playing with the kind of resolve that almost saw them tie up the first meeting in Colorado. Eddie Gaven rattled the post early, and Andres Mendoza skimmed one just past the post not too long after. Colorado was on their heels and finally gave up an opening goal to Eddie Gaven that came from a ball bouncing around in the box.

I don't know if Columbus purposely slowed up after that or if Colorado settled in and started to play better, but the Crew attack wasn't nearly as dangerous once they leveled the series. If it was Columbus pulling up, possibly fearing getting caught on the counter, it was a huge mistake. In the 35 minutes of the series up to that point where Columbus pushed the game, they absolutely dominated. When they sat back and tried to defend, it didn't go nearly as well.

However, Columbus looked poised to take the series anyway after Robbie Rogers survived a bump from Anthony Wallace and slid a goal past Matt Pickens in the 70th minute. Maybe sitting back and counter-attack can work, right Columbus?!


Colorado's attack is too good to give them repeated chances to attack. You have to make them defend if you want to slow them down. Conor Casey demonstrated why in the 84th minute when he slid on to a low cross from Omar Cummings (those two guys always seem to show up, huh?) and put an unstoppable ball by Andy Gruenebaum.

The game went to extra time and then to penalties, which I've embedded below in their entirety. You can watch them if you want, or read the commentary I wrote out as it was happening. BL = bottom left, TR = top right, etc.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

COL: Conor Casey - BL, guess BL, goal
CLB: Guillermo Barros Schelotto - BL, guess BR, goal
COL: Mac Kandji - BR, guess BR, goal off a terrible save blunder
CLB: Jason Garey - TR, guess BL, goal
COL: Jeff Larentowicz - BL, guess BL, goal
CLB: Eddie Gaven - BR, gues BL, goal
COL: Claudio Lopez - TL, guess BR, goal Christ, unsavable
CLB: Eric Brunner - TR, guess BL, goal
COL: Julien Baudet - TL, guess BR, goal
CLB: Brian Carroll - BAGGIO'D!!!!!!!!

Colorado gets another home game now, hosting San Jose Earthquakes in the Eastern Conference finals (yeah, I know) next Saturday. Hopefully their fans do better than the pitiful 11,872 that showed up last time, because this team is good and they deserve better.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bobby Convey Parties Like It's 2006

This post was supposed to be about the NY/SJ series, but one player took the last game over to the point that I have to concentrate on him and him alone.

Remember when Bobby Convey was a young phenom? He came up with DC United after being the second youngest player ever drafted. He impressed so much that Tottenham tried to by him for $3m, but his work permit was denied because of too few appearances with the national team. Instead he went to Reading for the highest transfer fee they've ever paid.

It wasn't all fun and games though. He slowly fell out of favor with the national team (rumors are because of a poor attitude) and reached a mutual agreement with Reading to leave the club in 2009. Even his first season back in MLS wasn't too great.

However, he has completely turned it around this year. He's been huge for San Jose, playing great in the midfield and sliding back to play left back when their defense was ravaged by injuries. He's set up goals all over the place, delivered beautiful set pieces, and been a huge reason for the Earthquakes improvement this season.

All of this was on display last night as San Jose went into Harrison and beat New York Red Bulls 3-1 to come back and win the first-round playoff series.

First, he scored on a brilliant shot to the upper left corner off a cross that sat in the box.

Then he turned rookie of the year candidate Tim Ream like a Lazy Susan and netted another with a blast over Bouna Coundoul.

After New York scored to get level on aggregate Convey took over again, playing an inch-perfect ball from 40 yards out over the defense to Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski whose header to the upper right corner was absolutely unstoppable.

If Convey's resurgence this season isn't enough to get him called back in to the national team, I don't know what Bradley can be looking for. I know that left back isn't his preferred position, but we're super weak there and he would bring an attacking quality from the back line that we're seriously missing right now.

It's been great to see him turn his career around at 27, and there's still plenty of time left for him to continue to dazzle.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Whoa There, CCL

CONCACAF held the draw for the knockout stages of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League today, and that picture you see above is the result.

The two MLS teams will be facing off against each other, with the winner going against whichever Central American power survives the Olimpia/Saprissa matchup. Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, all four Mexican teams will have to fight it out for a shot at the title.

There are a couple good things going on here.
  1. The first knockout leg is the worst one for MLS teams. It takes place about 1 month before the season starts again, so teams haven't really even had time to train together yet. By putting two MLS teams together, yes it guarantees one will get knocked out, but it also guarantees that one will be able to get in better form and hopefully compete in the next stage.
  2. No Mexican teams until the final. MLS teams have performed much better against the Mexican competition this year, but it's still abundantly clear which is the superior league. I'm not saying an MLS team couldn't beat a Mexican team in a home-and-away series, but now they don't even have to worry about that until the finals
The schedule for the knockout stages is below.

First Leg (February 22-24)
Toluca (MEX) vs. Monterrey (MEX)
Cruz Azul (MEX) vs. Santos Laguna (MEX)
Columbus Crew (USA) vs. Real Salt Lake (USA)
Saprissa (CRC) vs. Olimpia (HON)

Second Leg (March 1-3)
Monterrey (MEX) vs. Toluca (MEX)
Santos Laguna (MEX) vs. Cruz Azul (MEX)
Real Salt Lake (USA) vs. Columbus Crew (USA)
Olimpia (HON) vs. Saprissa (CRC)

And yes, I am writing up my thoughts on the other two games this weekend (for all 4 of you out there who care) but suffice to say they can be summarized by "OMGWTFNYRB" and "Let's not start sucking each other's *popsicles* quite yet FC Dallas."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Seattle 0 - 1 LA: I Guess Coaching Does Matter

Despite all my proclamations to the contrary, LA Galaxy came out in the first leg of their series against Seattle Sounders and took control of the proceedings. Edson Buddle dropped in a beautiful goal from maybe 30 yards out that provided all the scoring Galaxy needed as the beat Sounders 1-nil in Seattle.

The biggest thing I took away from this meeting was that LA's midfield really seems to be coming together. In the middle of the season Donovan was getting moved around too much, too many people were getting playing time, and it was hard for the midfield to develop a character. Then Beckham came back after missing the first 23 games with injury and added a new wrinkle everyone needed to get used to.

Now, after some more experimentation with Landon up top or Becks in the middle, LA seems to have found a formula that works. Buddle up top with Mike Magee (or occasionally Tristan Bowen if you want speed), Juninho as the attacking mid, Landon on the left, Beckham on the right, and then either Dema Kovalenko or Chris Birchall in the back depending on whether it's more important to disrupt the opponent's attack or provide service forward. It worked extremely well tonight.

Juninho disappeared from time to time in the first half, but is clearly the answer in that slot. Check out this combination play between Landon, Magee and Juninho that really should have doubled LA's lead in the 85th minute.

But that wasn't the only reason LA got the win; they had a great plan for shutting down Seattle's dangerous wing play and played it tremendously. I was worried with Eddie Lewis starting on the left that Zakuani and Nyassi would have a field day using their speed to get past him. But Arena had Donovan tracking back to provide cover against the speed and then Lewis was able to use his experience to close the young guys down once they had to attack him from a stop.

It was amazingly well executed, and only made possible by LA having a player of Landon's caliber. Other teams clearly haven't been able to play the same strategy but Galaxy gave Seattle fits this year, beating them by a combined 7-1 in the regular season.

Maybe I didn't give the past enough credit and chose to ride Seattle's greatly improved play in the second half to make my decision. I'm still not ready to completely write off Seattle's chances, mind you. Sigi Schmid is a great coach and I'm sure he'll have something new ready for the return leg in Los Angeles. Whether or not it's enough to overcome a goal deficit, we'll have to wait and see.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Can Colorado Hold On?

Colorado Rapids beat the visiting Columbus Crew 1-0 last night on a goal from Pablo Mastroeni to open up the MLS Cup Playoffs. But Colorado had numerous chances to put the game, and the series, away and failed to do so. Will that come back to haunt them next week when they play the leg in Columbus?

The match was very entertaining with lots of attacking and chances (although most of them were for Rapids). If you didn't manage to catch the match, the highlights are right below this paragraph and you can read match reports from the Denver Post or Columbus Dispatch to get a little hometown flavor.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

So now the obvious question is can Colorado hold on and win? After Columbus came out strong to open the game, Colorado dominated play for 75 minutes. No one on the backline seemed to be able to mark Cummings or Casey, Anthony Wallace was flying down the left wing with basically nothing stopping him, and Larentowicz and Mastroeni were stopping every Columbus attack before it even crossed midfield. It was a clinic in how to play the game.

Except that Colorado only got one goal. And then Columbus started to turn things around in the last 10 minutes. Suddenly they were the team attacking on all cylinders, finding guys unmarked in the box, and keeping possession of the ball. If Columbus comes out next week and plays like this at home, it could be a long game for the Rapids.

Not to mention, we saw Colorado blow a 2-0 lead at home the week before against Real Salt Lake. Is it possible that this team is just a little mentally weak, especially with them not having the post-season experience of a squad like Columbus?

I picked Colorado to win this series, and I still think they can, but it's going to be a lot more exciting than I thought it would be at halftime.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Toronto FC: Season Retrospective

Overall: 14-8-8 (33 GF, 41 GA)
Home: 6-6-3 (24 points, +4 GD)
Away: 3-2-10 (11 points, -12 GD)

Finish: 11th overall, 5th in the East

Scoring Leader: Dwayne De Rosario (15)
Assists Leader: Nick LaBrocca (6)

Year in review

Seattle Sounders: Season Retrospective

Overall: 14-6-10 (39 GF, 35 GA)
Home: 8-3-4 (27 points, +5 GD)
Away: 6-3-6 (21 points, -1 GD)

Finish: 6th overall, 4th in the West

Scoring Leader: Fredy Montero (10), Steve Zakuani (10)
Assists Leader: Fredy Montero (10)

Year in review

San Jose Earthquakes: Season Retrospective

Overall: 13-7-10 (34 GF, 33 GA)
Home: 7-3-5 (24 points, +3 GD)
Away: 6-4-5 (22 points, -2 GD)

Finish: 8th overall, 6th in the East

Scoring Leader: Chris Wondolowski (18)
Assists Leader: Bobby Convey (10)

Year in review

Real Salt Lake: Season Retrospective

Overall: 15-11-4 (45 GF, 20 GA)
Home: 11-4-0 (37 points, +24 GD)
Away: 4-7-4 (19 points, +1 GD)

Finish: 2nd overall, 2nd in the West

Scoring Leader: Alvaro Saborio (12)
Assists Leader: Javier Morales (9)

Year in review

Philadelphia Union: Season Retrospective

Overall: 8-7-15 (35 GF, 49 GA)
Home: 6-6-3 (24 points, +6 GD)
Away: 2-1-12 (7 points, -20 GD)

Finish: 14th overall, 7th in the East

Scoring Leader: Sebastien Le Toux (14)
Assists Leader: Sebastien Le Toux (11)

Year in review

New York Red Bulls: Season Retrospective

Overall: 15-6-9 (38 GF, 29 GA)
Home: 10-2-3 (32 points, +9 GD)
Away: 5-4-6 (19 points, +0 GD)

Finish: 3rd overall, 1st in the East

Scoring Leader: Juan Pablo Angel (13)
Assists Leader: Joel Lindpere (6)

Year in review

New England Revolution: Season Retrospective

Overall: 9-5-16 (32 GF, 50 GA)
Home: 7-3-5 (24 points, +3 GD)
Away: 2-2-11 (8 points, -21 GD)

Finish: 13th overall, 6th in the East

Scoring Leader: Marko Perovic (6)
Assists Leader: Shalrie Joseph (5), Kheli Dube (5)

Year in review

Los Angeles Galaxy: Season Retrospective

Overall: 18-5-7 (44 GF, 26 GA)
Home: 9-2-4 (29 points, +8 GD)
Away: 9-3-3 (30 points, +10 GD)

Finish: 1st overall, 1st in the West

Scoring Leader: Edson Buddle (17)
Assists Leader: Landon Donovan (16)

Year in review

Kansas City Wizards: Season Retrospective

Overall: 11-6-13 (36 GF, 35 GA)
Home: 7-3-5 (24 points, +6 GD)
Away: 4-3-8 (15 points, -5 GD)

Finish: 9th overall, 3rd in the East

Scoring Leader: Kei Kamara (10)
Assists Leader: Ryan Smith (7)

Year in review

Houston Dynamo: Season Retrospective

Overall: 9-6-15 (40 GF, 49 GA)
Home: 6-3-6 (21 points, +4 GD)
Away: 3-3-9 (12 points, -13 GD)

Finish: 12th overall, 7th in the West

Scoring Leader: Brian Ching (7)
Assists Leader: Brad Davis (12)

Year in review

FC Dallas: Season Retrospective

Overall: 14-14-4 (42 GF, 28 GA)
Home: 8-6-1 (30 points, +12 GD)
Away: 4-8-3 (20 points, +2 GD)

Finish: 4th overall, 3rd in the West

Scoring Leader: Jeff Cunningham (11)
Assists Leader: David Ferreira (13)

Year in review

DC United: Season Retrospective

Overall: 6-4-20 (21 GF, 47 GA)
Home: 3-1-11 (10 points, -13 GD)
Away: 3-3-9 (12 points, -13 GD)

Finish: 16th overall, 8th in the East

Scoring Leader: Danny Allsopp (5), Andy Najar (5)
Assists Leader: Santino Quaranta (2), Rodney Wallace (2)

Year in review

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Columbus Crew: Season Retrospective

Overall: 14-8-8 (40 GF, 34 GA)
Home: 10-2-3 (32 points, +10 GD)
Away: 4-6-5 (18 points, -4 GD)

Finish: 5th overall, 2nd in the East

Scoring Leader: Guillermo Barros Schelotto (9)
Assists Leader: Guillermo Barros Schelotto (9)

Year in review

Colorado Rapids: Season Retrospective

Overall: 12-10-8 (44 GF, 32 GA)
Home: 8-5-2 (29 points, +15 GD)
Away: 4-5-6 (17 points, -3 GD)

Finish: 7th overall, 5th in the West

Scoring Leader: Omar Cummings (14)
Assists Leader: Jaime Smith (8)

Year in review

Chivas USA: Season Retrospective

Overall: 8-4-18 (31 GF, 45 GA)
Home: 6-2-7 (20 points, +0 GD)
Away: 2-2-11 (8 points, -14 GD)

Finish: 15th overall, 8th in the West

Scoring Leader: Justin Braun (9)
Assists Leader: Justin Braun (3), Alan Gordon (3), Rodolfo Espinoza (3), Michael Lahoud (3)

Year in review

Chicago Fire: Season Retrospective

Overall: 9-9-12 (37 GF, 38 GA)
Home: 4-7-4 (19 points, +1 GD)
Away: 5-2-8 (17 points, -2 GD)

Finish: 10th overall, 4th in the East

Scoring Leader: Marco Pappa (7)
Assists Leader: Patrick Nyarko (10)

Year in review

Monday, October 25, 2010

The 2010 Season is Over: Weekly Wrapup

6 months, 240 games, 591 goals, and now we're here. Half of the teams are preparing to continue on into the MLS Cup playoffs while the rest start next season today. There were some things we expected (LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Landon Donovan) and a few surprises (DC United, Le Toux, Wondolowski) but mostly there was soccer.

As we get ready for the playoffs to start this Thursday, let's look back at the last week of the 2010 MLS season.

Game Reports

First, the two midweek clashes

San Jose Earthquakes 3 - 0 Chivas USA
Chris Wondolowski provided all of the scoring in this affair against a Chivas USA team that will be happy to start the offseason. There's a lot of youth on this Chivas team, but it seems like there's not a ton of talent especially after losing Kljestan and Bornstein. San Jose, on the other hand, is going to the playoffs for the first time since coming back to the league in 2008.

New York Red Bulls 2 - 0 New England Revolution
A home win clinched the Eastern Conference title for New York. New England has a lot of work to do in the offseason, but ownership seem committed to improvement and are willing to pay for it.

And now, this weekend's action

Houston Dynamo 2 - 1 Seattle Sounders
Seattle's been the hottest team in the league lately, but they suffered their first loss since adding Blaise Nkufo to the team, falling 2-1 at Houston. Sounders scored first thanks to a great shot from James Riley, but lost after goals by Geoff Cameron and Cam Weaver. I wouldn't worry if I was a Sounders fan though, their form has been excellent and they should be a real test for LA in the first round of the playoffs.

DC United 2 - 3 Toronto FC
Dwayne De Rosario did what he does and carried TFC to a victory against the league's worst offense in history. Neither of these teams had anything left to play for, which made for some interesting lineups, but the 18,071 fans who showed up to see off Jaime Moreno were treated to an exciting contest. They also got to see Moreno regain sole possession of the MLS leading scorer title when he slotted home a penalty in the 39th minute.

Kansas City Wizards 4 - 1 San Jose Earthquakes
Maybe it was the fact they were playing on short rest against a team that wanted to prove they deserved better than they ended with. Whatever it was, San Jose ended their regular season on an embarrassing note. Birahim Diop pounded home a hat-trick for the Wizards including this wonder-strike from deep and Chris Wondolowski secured the Golden Boot for 2010, notching his 18th goal of the season.

Colorado Rapids 2 - 2 Real Salt Lake
In what has to be one of the most gut-wrenching endings to a Rocky Mountain Cup game, Alvaro Saborio scored two goal in second half stoppage time to bring RSL back and earn a point against Colorado. The Rapids' dynamic striker pair of Omar Cummings and Conor Casey each scored a goal as their team went up 2-0, but it wasn't meant to be.

Chivas USA 1 - 4 Chicago Fire
Brian McBride's final professional game saw him give his captain's armband to fellow retiree CJ Brown, score a goal on a heel flick, and win 4-1 at the Home Depot Center. Chicago dominated this game from start to finish and will hope to build on that performance as they look to next season.

Columbus Crew 3 - 1 Philadelphia Union
The biggest result from this game is the injury to Will Hesmer, which will force the Crew's starting goalie to miss the entire playoffs. Andy Gruenebaum has looked good in limited minutes during the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League, but it's asking a lot for a reserve goalie to get his first MLS minutes of the season in a playoff start.

Los Angeles Galaxy 2 - 1 FC Dallas
LA finally came out with Landon in the midfield again and it helped spark them to a 2-1 win at home over FC Dallas. LA didn't dominate the game by any means though, and there are clearly still issues that need to be solved quick if this team is going to make a run in the playoffs. For FC Dallas, Brek Shea didn't start for the second straight game. I hope Schellas Hyndman just wants to give his young attacker a short rest before the playoffs, because I really think they're going to need Brek if they want to challenge RSL in the playoffs.

Random Thoughts

Nothing this week. You've already seen my predictions, and I want to save all my good stuff for the season retrospectives I'll be doing for every team over the next couple days.


MLS Elo Ratings
1,600.45 - Real Salt Lake
1,565.31 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,561.38 - FC Dallas
1,537.98 - Seattle Sounders
1,535.53 - Colorado Rapids
1,532.26 - New York Red Bulls
1,526.59 - Columbus Crew
1,496.72 - Chicago Fire
1,495.26 - Kansas City Wizards
1,491.03 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,473.27 - Houston Dynamo
1,457.60 - Toronto FC
1,450.91 - Philadelphia Union
1,447.05 - New England Revolution
1,430.63 - Chivas USA
1,398.03 - DC United

Playoff Field Set

I'm still working on the weekly wrapup, but in the meantime the MLS Cup Playoff field is set. We've known the teams for a while, but not necessarily how it would all shake out.

In the East, conference champion New York Red Bulls will be matched up against San Jose Earthquakes and Columbus Crew will face off with Colorado Rapids.

It the West, Supporters' Shield champions Los Angeles Galaxy will play Seattle Sounders, the hottest team in the league, while Real Salt Lake will match up with FC Dallas in what will probably be the most entertaining first round series.

Prediction: Real Salt Lake repeats as champion, beating Seattle Sounders in the semi-finals and New York Red Bulls in the finals after New York holds off Colorado Rapids.

For those interested in watching the games, every single one will be on national television, starting this coming Thursday with Columbus visiting Colorado on ESPN 2.

The full schedule (in EST). See if you can pick out which matchup ESPN really likes:

Week 1
9pm - Columbus Crew at Colorado Rapids (ESPN 2)

5pm - Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas (FSC)
10pm - New York Red Bulls at San Jose Earthquakes (Telefutura)

8pm - Los Angeles Galaxy at Seattle Sounders (ESPN 2)

Week 2
8pm - San Jose Earthquakes at New York Red Bulls (ESPN 2)

4pm - Colorado Rapids at Columbus Crew (Telefutura)
10pm - FC Dallas at Real Salt Lake (FSC)

9pm - Seattle Sounders at Los Angeles Galaxy (ESPN 2)

Friday, October 22, 2010

More Information on the Expansion Draft

MLS has released a little more news about how the expansion draft is going to work late next month.

We already knew the basics, that MLS teams would be able to protect only 11 players, that Generation Adidas and homegrown players will be exempt from selection and therefore don't need to be protected.  Here are a couple more rules that will be important for how clubs select their 11 protected players.

-If club has a player selected, it can move one more player to the protected list.

-DPs can be left unprotected in the expansion draft, unless he has a no-trade clause in his contract. In that case, he must be protected.

-If a player has a contract option, the team can protect him without exercising the option.

-If Portland or Vancouver selects a developmental player, they must offer him a senior roster slot.

So there we go, a little more information about the process we'll be very familiar with in four weeks time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Last Days of CCL Group Stages

There are 4 more matches to be played today and tomorrow, but all of the MLS teams in CONCACAF Champions League now know their respective fates.

In Group A action, a very, VERY reserve-heavy Real Salt Lake squad held court (again) at home beating Cruz Azul 3-1 behind a brace from Paulo and a third from Collen Warner, just for good measure. Cruz Azul notched one late from Cesar Villaluz, but it was nowhere near enough.

Now look, I'm admittedly not very good with Mexican league teams. I'm sure the Cruz Azul was rolling out a b-team as well given they had clinched passage through. What I do know though, is that Real Salt Lake only had two starters (defenders Nat Borchers and Tony Beltran) in this CCL game who also started in their last league game against FC Dallas. In a welcome surprise, 16 year old Arsenal target Luis Gil got the start and 45 minutes of action for RSL.

Toronto FC ended their tournament on a high note, beating poor, defenseless Arabe Unido 1-0. I hesitate to go too far in giving them credit against an over-matched opponent, but TFC played a good game. Hopefully that's high praise coming from me because I have been pretty hard on them lately even when they do manage to get a result. Maybe this and their final game this weekend at DC United can be building blocks for next season.

Finishing only 2 points out of 2nd place though, you know Toronto is kicking itself for a poor showing down in Panama and a draw at home against RSL.

A quick jump to Group C and sees Seattle Sounders lose at home to Saprissa in the team's final CCL game. Seattle had been eliminated a while ago, but continued to fight hard with reserve lineups and almost pulled off a result except for a goal by Josue Martinez in the 89th minute. Seattle does get the pleasure of knowing they will be back next year though, thanks to their second straight US Open Cup championship.

Finally we move to Group B where, even though they didn't play, Columbus Crew are now guaranteed a spot in the knockout stages thanks to Santos Laguna pounding out Municipal 6-1. Columbus will finish their group stage tomorrow against Joe Public in Trinidad, but will probably put out the most reserve-laden squad they can manage. It is impossible for them to improve their position in the group and they are just 1 point back of New York for first place in the East.

Like Toronto, Columbus may end up kicking themselves, however. Had they sent out a real lineup last game against Municipal and won, they would be in position to win their group rather than finish second.

As it stands, two MLS squads, RSL and Crew, will face off in the knockout stages in late February/early March.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Timbers Add Four Players

Today, Portland Timbers announced the first four players set to join their MLS club next season. Three of them are current Timbers, two have prior MLS experience, and one was in Manchester United's youth system.

Steve Cronin (GK)
-27 years old
-Part of the U-17 academy in Bradenton
-2009 first team USL performer
-55 goals allowed in 2655 MLS minutes isn't the best stat ever (about 1.86 goals per game) but you have to remember that he was the unfortunate soul stuck with LA's 2008 defense in front of him.
-Would be a servicable starter or a great backup.

Ryan Pore (M/F)
-27 years old
-16th pick in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft
-61 appearance with Kansas City Wizards, 17 starts, 1842 minutes, 3 goals, 2 assists
-2009 first team USL performer
-2010 USL golden boot winner (15 goals in 29 starts)
-Plays more of an attacking mid role, but could be a poor man's Le Toux (aka a little better than the Seattle version of Le Toux)

Bright Dike (F)
-23 years old
-12th pick in 2010 MLS SuperDraft, but not signed after camp with Columbus Crew
-10 goals in 23 games this year as a rookie out of Notre Dame
-You don't get drafted 12th without talent. He may not have shown it immediately for the Crew (or they may have just missed on him) but he seems to have found a scoring touch in his first professional season.

Eddie Johnson (F) - no, not that one
-26 years old
-Born in Chester, England and spent ages 15-18 in Man U's youth system
-Came to USL to join former coach at Coventry City after his club Chester City fell into financial trouble.
-14 goals in 26 games this season for Austin Aztex
-This would be an exciting signing to me if I was a Timbers fan. Sure, he couldn't hack it in Europe, but a lot of guys like him have come to MLS and contributed mightily. He's still young and clearly has talent.

Monday, October 18, 2010

RSL Rolls and Goalie Goals: Weekly Wrapup

This is definitely the hardest time of year to be an MLS fan. BCS standings are just starting to come out, NFL teams are really rounding in to form, MLB playoffs are going strong, the NHL season is starting, and MLS is in its final weeks of the regular season with legitimately nothing to play for. We've only got one more week though, and then the playoffs start, which hopefully picks up the interest a bit.

Game Reports

Seattle Sounders 2 - 1 Chivas USA
Seattle actually beat TWO Chivas teams this week. First they dispatched the Mexican club on Tuesday with a roster of reserves, and then defeated their American counterpart on Saturday with the starters. Not a bad week for Sounders fans who are lucky enough to watch one of the hottest teams in MLS right now.

Chicago Fire 0 - 0 DC United
This game was kinda boring, so instead let's use this space to honor Brian McBride who just played his last home game. McBride was honored pre-game, at half, and post-game, which was well deserved.

McBride has performed everywhere he's played. He was so beloved by Fulham fans that they renamed the pub at Craven Cottage to McBride's after he left and put out this tribute video. It's rare that you'll find a more professional player, who someone who deserves the respect that McBride does.

62 goals in 161 games with Columbus Crew
40 goals in 153 appearances with Fulham
17 goals in 57 games with Chicago Fire
96 caps and 30 goals as an American International

Here's McBride's final farewell to the Chicago faithful.

Toronto FC 2 - 2 Columbus Crew
Columbus still failed to impress, much as they've done the entire second half of the season, but they managed to pull out a point in Toronto thanks to a goal by goalie Will Hesmer off a last second set piece. It was terrible defense by TFC failing to close out a guy who is clearly not comfortable with the ball at his feet, but that kinda typifies their season. Maicon Santos looked VERY good in attack though (including this blast for a goal and this one that was barely saved) and hopefully plays in to TFC plans for the future.

Philadelphia Union 2 - 1 New York Red Bulls
In a game that could have clinched the Eastern Conference championship for them, New York Red Bulls could not get past local rival Philadelphia Union. For the first half New York looked like they may as well have not even shown up. Their attack was poor, their defense was poor, it was just not the performance you'd expect from a team this talented. They went into half time down 2-0 and deserved every bit of that scoreline.

New York tried to play a 4-4-1-1 with Ballouchy behind Angel (Henry was out injured) and it was a disaster. JPA needs another forward to play off and the flow just wasn't there with him alone up top. For a guy about to leave the team though, he showed that he's not dogging his final days in New York, calling the team together before half time and giving a rousing speech to try and spark the under-performing team. It seemed to work temporarily as NY pulled one back 3 minutes in to the second half, but they couldn't find an equalizer the rest of the game. US U-20 forward Juan Agudelo almost tied it in the 94th minute with a great header off a corner kick, but Fred was manning the near post to clear the shot off the line.

New England Revolution 1 - 0 Kansas City Wizards
This result knocked Kansas City out of the playoff race. It wasn't for a lack of trying, as the Wizards took 22 shots, but only 4 of those were on frame. Not much else to say here honestly, better luck to both these teams next season.

Real Salt Lake 2 - 0 FC Dallas
One streak is over; Dallas finally lost a game. Another still lives, as RSL is unbeaten in their last 25 home games. In what looks more and more like a preview of the first round of the playoffs, RSL outplayed FC Dallas all over the field. It wasn't a dominating performance by any means, but for this day at least RSL was clearly a better team.

I was a little surprised that Brek Shea didn't see any time in this game. Despite well Marvin Chavez has played recently, Shea is a better player and will need to contribute for FCD to make a run in the playoffs.

San Jose Earthquakes 0 - 1 Houston Dynamo
The Dynamo used to be the Earthquakes, and they also used to be an MLS powerhouse. That didn't matter a whole bunch here though, as the Dynamo rode a shutout from Tyler Deric in his debut. A classy squad came to play despite their disappointing season and managed a win. Andrew Hainault's diving header was the only goal of the game, but it's worth watching.

Los Angeles Galaxy 1 - 3 Colorado Rapids
In the final game of the week LA got off to a quick start with a goal by Edson Buddle in the opening minutes of the game. That was as good as it got though, as Buddle gave back an own goal less than 10 minutes later (although it was really Sean Franklin's fault as he kicked it off the forward's chest into the net) and Colorado's prolific striker pair of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings assisted on goals to each other.

I'm still not convinced that LA has their offense figured out with all their players healthy. Bruce needs to stop trying to just play his best 6 front players and actually put a team out there that can play together and work as a unit. It's not like there's a huge dropoff between the guys he starts and the first choice bench players. Also, not the best game from Omar Gonzalez this week. He's gonna need to step it up again for LA to succeed in the playoffs.

Random Thoughts

The final round of CCL group stage is this week. RSL is guaranteed to go through, but will be facing off with Cruz Azul to see who wins the group. Columbus is in great position to go through, but will need a result at Joe Public or a loss by Marathon. Seattle and TFC are already out of it, but will attempt to end on their respective high notes at home.

10/19 8pm: Toronto FC v. Arabe Unido
10/19 10pm: Real Salt Lake v. Cruz Azul
10/19 10pm: Seattle Sounders v. Saprissa
10/21 8pm: Columbus Crew @ Joe Public

On a side note, how does CCL not start the final round of group games at the same time? You don't think teams will alter their lineups and strategies now based on what happens? You don't think that this makes it way too possible for teams to collude? Really CONCACAF, sometimes you baffle me.


MLS Elo Ratings
1,600.00 - Real Salt Lake
1,567.24 - FC Dallas
1,559.45 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,545.36 - Seattle Sounders
1,535.98 - Colorado Rapids
1,525.78 - New York Red Bulls
1,519.84 - Columbus Crew
1,492.98 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,484.67 - Kansas City Wizards
1,481.76 - Chicago Fire
1,465.88 - Houston Dynamo
1,457.66 - Philadelphia Union
1,454.23 - Chivas USA
1,453.53 - New England Revolution
1,449.19 - Toronto FC
1,406.44 - DC United

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More on Juan Pablo

Allen Hopkins has been spitting hot fire all day today about the backstory on Juan Pablo Angel leaving New York Red Bulls after this year.

Just after noon today he put up on his twitter feed:
Classy JPA has known since MLS ASG in July he would not return to @RBNY. 4 MLS clubs tried & failed to trade for JPA. NOT a big revelation.
Uh, speak for yourself Allen. This is kind've a big revelation to everyone else (unless you're talking about JPA being classy, in which case yeah we got that).

During his appearance on ExtraTime Radio later in the day, Hopkins mentioned that NY basically told Angel "you're welcome to leave now if you can find a team" after the game in Houston. Juan Pablo moving midseason would've been one of the biggest trades in MLS history.

The four teams Hopkins ended up mentioning:

DC United: Not surprising at all. Their attack is anemic and Angel would've been a huge boost. They really don't have any talent to offer back in a trade though.

Colorado Rapids: The shocker of the bunch. NYRB and Colorado did end up doing a trade later in the year, but that was for Ballouchy and Kandji. Not sure what they would've had to give up for Angel, but clearly they weren't interested in dumping Cummings.

Seattle Sounders: This was before they had traded away Ljungberg and brought in Nkufo. This is somewhat surprising to me (not so much to the ETR hosts) but I'm sure they're happy they ended up with Nkufo at 1/4 the cost and nobody lost.

Los Angeles Galaxy: Daaaaaamn. Buddle, Angel, Donovan, Beckham? That's an eff you attack right there. Apparently a potential deal for Angel was a big reason they got rid of Alan Gordon to Chivas USA, to open up a striker spot in case they were able to pull it off.

So we're still not much closer to figuring out where he ends up (although it sounds like he and his family love the NYC area so Philly, New England and DC seem like front-runners) but it will definitely be THE story to watch during the offseason.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

JPA 2 NYRB: ttyl

Caught up in the boringness of last nights US/Colombia match was Juan Pablo Angel's announcement at half time that he "probably won't" return to the New York Red Bulls next season.

This isn't entirely surprising. He and Thierry Henry play very similarly as strikers and with nearly $11m tied up in Designated Player salaries already with Rafa Marquez and Henry New York isn't likely to put $500k+ into another striker. So that leaves us with the question: where does Angel go?

He's said his family feels at home in America, so he may stay around with another MLS team. Also, he obviously still has the skill to contribute a lot to any MLS team, and will deserve DP money for at least a couple more seasons.

Some possible targets:
New England Revolution: There have been a couple articles lately that New England is finally ready to open up and pay for a DP who can help them win. Does that mean that they'll go outside the organization to get one or just that they'll give Shalrie Joseph the money he's deserved for years? Or, is this all just a big gimmick to get season ticket holders to stick around?
Houston Dynamo: Assuming, of course, they aren't still bitter from signing Luis Angel Landin for way too much money last time they tried a DP experiment. Sure they could use more help on defense than offense, but they still have the 3rd lowest number of shots on goal in the league.
DC United: Yeah, there's not much good going on in attack here outside of Najar and they've put the money up for DPs before.
Expansion clubs: This idea is a little more out there, but signing JPA would give instant credibility to either Vancouver or Portland's attack.

Also happening last night:

Chicago Fire 0 - 2 Kansas City Wizards
Kansas City had to win in Chicago to have any hope of making the playoffs and they did. Teal Bunbury scored another goal, got an assist, and had a couple other good shots. He's already turned down a callup from Canada (who he also has the option of playing for) holding out hope that he could play for the US one day. Given the terrible play of our forwards recently I say make it happen; let's call him up.

US 0 - 0 Colombia: This is why people hate soccer

The US tied Colombia 0-0 last night. If there was any action worth talking about from the game I'd tell you, but there really wasn't. The match was pretty terrible to watch, even from a soccer fan's perspective. Anyone who was tuning in for the first time probably won't be doing so for a second any time soon. The only things worth mentioning are that Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj both got their first cap with the national team.

So what have we learned from these past two friendlies?

1. We play the 4-4-2 for a reason
Saturday it was the 4-2-3-1, Tuesday is was the "4-3-3" that looked like a 4-1-4-1. Both games saw the offense look stagnant at best. Maybe that's more a result of playing guys with less experience and not having Landon, but it wasn't fun to watch.

2. Our players need to play
Gooch looked a little better against Colombia than against Poland, but there's still a ton of rust there. Jozy keep squandering chances and it looks like the ball plays him instead of vice-versa. These guys are very good and need to be cornerstones of our team, but they won't be if they sit on the bench at their clubs.

3. Jobs are up for grabs
With all the new players coming up, and few performing extremely well, there could some serious turnover in the next 18 months. Landon, Deuce, Timmy, Boca and Dolo are safe. The rest will have to fight. I'm especially excited for the Edu/Bradley/Jones battle since they all look like actual soccer players.

Rating the Players
This is my attempt to rank who did well and who didn't over these past few games. Players are measured against the standards I held for them before the friendlies, and more time on the field will mean higher placement, just because I got to see you more.

Jermaine Jones (great introduction to the team)
Steve Cherundolo (old man's still got it)
Stuart Holden (will start and probably let Deuce play forward)
Clint Dempsey (looks like a meth head, but balls outta control)
Eric Lichaj (looks like the new Dolo in a few years)
Clarence Goodson (should be moving on from Norway to a better league)
Tim Howard (not gonna fault him for 2 awful clearances)
Michael Bradley (all over the place, but not his usual self)
Carlos Bocanegra (still our best option a LB)
Heath Pearce (did better than haters want to give him credit for)
Maurice Edu (not his fault he had to play a new position)
Michael Parkhurst (solid in the middle, not really tested)
Brad Guzan (didn't do much, didn't have to)
Eddie Johnson (played better than Jozy in his few minutes)
Jozy Altidore (at least he scored once)
Brek Shea (a disappointing debut for the young player)
Benny Feilhaber (I gave him too much credit after Poland)
Jonathan Spector (invisible)
Alejandro Bedoya (still not an international)
Oguchi Onyewu (way too rusty)

Monday, October 11, 2010

All Set But the Positioning: Weekly Wrapup

All of the results pretty much fell in line with how you'd expect this weekend. This is great news if you're a bettor since you probably did really well unless you over-thought yourself. If your a Wizards fan, then it went much worse since your loss to Seattle coupled with San Jose thrashing DC United and Colorado grabbing a point from FC Dallas pretty much assures that you'll be watching the playoffs.

Game Reports

New York Red Bulls 0 - 0 Real Salt Lake
This game was much more exciting than the nil-nil score line. It featured great scoring chances from , but none found their way into the back of the net. One reasonable question I think needs to be asked is "Will Thierry Henry get his legs in time to have a real impact in the playoffs?" I know he's going to be a good MLS player, he has too much talent not to be, but the end result for this season could be very disappointing for NYRB if he doesn't turn it on soon.

On a side note, this results, coupled with LA's win, basically snuffs out RSL's chances at the Supporters' Shield.

FC Dallas 2 - 2 Colorado Rapids
Colorado rolled out what will become their new and improved sick-nasty attack (Cummings-Casey-Kandji in a 4-3-3) and became only the third team to score two goals against FC Dallas since April. Granted, both of their goals were scored by Jeff Larentowicz, but still. It wasn't enough though, as Dallas stretched their unbeaten streak to a new MLS single-season record 19 games.

DC United 0 - 2 San Jose Earthquakes
The Chris Wondolowski show is in full effect. San Jose's suddenly dominant forward added two more goals (his 13th and 14th of the season) against a DC United team just waiting for the season to end. His first goal was a goal of the week candidate volley which he followed that up with a nice left-footed finish off a rebound. Just a reminder, San Jose got Wondo for Cam Weaver and a conditional draft pick. For a team that is usually so good at player evaluation, the Dynamo really blew that one.

Also, this game featured the rare double red card situation in the 8th minute although I have no idea how to describe what happened (or didn't to be more precise). Moreno hit the ground like he'd been shot before a free kick and, next thing I know, two guys have red cards shown to them.

Kansas City Wizards 1 - 2 Seattle Sounders
Sanna Nyassi continued to build upon his great form scoring the first goal, his 4th in his last 3 games, and Alvaro Fernandez wants people to remember that while he may not be a starter, this DP's got some game as well. The two wingers provided all the scoring Seattle would need. Davy Arnaud pulled a goal back on a penalty in the 84th minute off a foul drawn from Teal Bunbury, but it was too late by then. The game all but eliminates KC from playoff contention.

Chivas USA 3 - 0 Toronto FC
TFC put out a good lineup again (starting Maicon, Mista nowhere to be found) but that alone isn't enough to make them a good team right now. Yeah, Maicon blew some chances, but he's still, unfortunately, the best option for Toronto. Chivas USA would ride goals from Jorge Flores, Jesus Padilla and Rodolfo Espinoza (hey, can you guess which MLS team has a Hispanic owner?) to a not-quite-as-dominant-as-it-sounds 3-0 victory.

Houston Dynamo 1 - 2 New England Revolution
Geoff Cameron got pushed up to the midfield for this game (which I am all in favor of) but it wasn't enough as New England downed the Dynamo in Houston. Shalrie Joseph and Kheli Dube provided the scoring for Revolution while Dominic Oduro tallied for the Dynamo in a game that saw two teams experimenting at the end of disappointing season.

Random Thoughts

The Elo Ratings do a great job of showing which team has had a more impressive overall season. However, it does not do a good job telling you which team is playing the best at the moment.

Take Seattle, for example. They've been rocketing up the Elo Ratings, currently finding themselves in 4th place. Does this really rate them fairly though? They've just finished winning the US Open Cup for the second straight year and have 29 points in their last 12 league games. They are maybe the most dangerous team heading in to the playoffs.

I'm working on a couple different ways to maybe address this, but they probably won't be ready for prime time until next season. They will produce some pretty cool graphs for the end of this year though!

Also, a big FU to whoever working over at decided to put a 38 second pre-roll ad before every video highlight, even a 45 second goal highlight. You didn't think some kind of "This highlight brought to you by FIFA 2011" screen was enough or something? Just to name a few other problems, there's the way-too-script-heavy site that is makes browsing painfully slow, the fact that your player links don't always go to the right person, your video player is now wider than its html div in Firefox/Chrome. It's unbelievable how much you guys can screw up a website.


MLS Elo Ratings
1,591.95 - Real Salt Lake
1,575.29 - FC Dallas
1,574.99 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,541.23 - Seattle Sounders
1,533.23 - New York Red Bulls
1,520.44 - Colorado Rapids
1,519.52 - Columbus Crew
1,503.21 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,499.75 - Chicago Fire
1,476.66 - Kansas City Wizards
1,458.36 - Chivas USA
1,455.65 - Houston Dynamo
1,450.21 - Philadelphia Union
1,449.52 - Toronto FC
1,446.90 - New England Revolution
1,403.09 - DC United

Sunday, October 10, 2010

US 2 - 2 Poland: A few surprises, not much learned

The US Mens National Team hosted Poland (if you can call it hosting when probably 65% of the crowd was Polish) and played to a 2-2 draw in a game that featured some lineup and formation experimentation.

You can find great write-ups of the action here and here, so I won't focus on that. Suffice to say that I was happy with how the US attacked, we need to finish chances better, and the two goals we allowed were both the fault of awful clearances due to our roster changes, and I'm not at all worried about that becoming an issue for the first-team USMNT in the future. You can watch the goals below to get a little better idea of how it went.

Instead, here's a list of good and bad things I got from this game:

The Good
-A new formation! It didn't go great, which you'd expect with a first time change, but I'm glad to see Bob experimenting.
-Stuart Holden built on his recent club form and went the full 90, putting in dangerous balls, and continuing to look like a big piece for the team's future. He's going to force his way onto the field soon.
-Benny Feilhaber looking good when he had the ball, but it would've been nice to see him with it a little more.
-Jermaine Jones is fitting in well out there. His ball to Altidore for the first goal was first class.
-Steve Cherundolo...UNBELIEVABLE. Can we freeze Dolo in time for 4 years?

The Bad
-The center backs were not what we would've hoped for. Edu rightfully looked like a guy playing out of position (not that he doesn't have great potential as a CB, but he's not there now) and Gooch still looks bad. That missed clearance for the first goal was TERRIBLE.
-For a game that allows 6 substitutes, there were way too few subs and the single was was pretty bad. If the last two games have shown anything, Alejandro Bedoya is not an international right now. Also, Eric Lichaj deserved a cap.
-I'm still not 100% sold with Jozy's lone-striker abilities. His one goal was great as was his rocket off the cross bar, but there is still a lot of his game going towards the net that needs improving.

So what do I expect for the game Tuesday against Colombia? Well, given the single sub and Bocanegra going back to France, I think it'll be a very different lineup.

I expect the backline to be
with Parkhurst and Lichaj getting minutes. If Gooch was getting time with Milan I think he sits, but he really needs all the minutes he can get right now.

Similar to Gooch I think Jozy gets the start again due to needing minutes, but GAM (that's Grown Ass Man for you non-hip cats) Eddie Johnson comes in for action as well.

The midfield should be fairly similar to start with, but change a lot at half. Brek will get minutes but I don't think he starts. It's hard to see Bradley not playing, but I think we'll get to see some Edu/Jones D-mid pairing as well. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Holden slide back there for a bit if 2 of  Jones, Edu and Bradley are off, opening up another chance for Bedoya to try and look good on the wing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Charlie Davies Update

As we near a pair of US friendlies, ESPN just put out an article by Charlie Davies that talks about the accident last year and his rehab since that night. It's a truly inspirational piece that I recommend any USMNT fan read.

His story flows from the tragic
It's tough to describe how hard it was to walk again. Putting pressure on my right leg and believing it would hold me up felt like trusting somebody with your life on a 300-foot cliff. In the fourth week, I moved across the road to the national rehab hospital. With a lot of help, I took my first steps on crutches -- and I broke down and cried. It was the first time I ever saw my dad shed tears.
to the disappointment of a comeback that just wasn't enough
So when I got that call from Bob, telling me he was proud of my progress but that I wasn't ready for training camp, my world crumbled. But, looking back, in my heart I know I couldn't have competed then at the international level. I have no bitterness and now no deadlines: I'll be ready when I'm ready.
to the continued progress and resurgence we all hope for.
But I'm seeing the old me more often. A few weeks ago, after finally returning to play in reserve matches, I had a guy one-on-one and figured it was time to pull out my go-to move. I did my stepover to the right, then blew past my man on the left, took a shot and forced the keeper to make a good save. When I looked back, my bench was standing up, and the crowd was clapping. It hit them before it hit me: I'm almost there.
Get well Chuck D. We'll see you at the Gold Cup.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Seattle Sounders: 2 Seasons, 2 Trophies

So, no disrespect to DC United, but may need to be handed over at some point if this keeps up. Seattle Sounders beat Columbus Crew 2-1 in front of over 30,000 fans to repeat as US Open Cup champions. They are the first repeat champion since New York PancyprianFreedoms (yeah, that's a team) in 1982 and 83.

I will never be able to do justice to a US Open Cup match report like does, so go check out their coverage of the final or check out the highlight video below.

<a href="" target="_new" title="Open Cup Highlights: Seattle/Columbus">Video: Open Cup Highlights: Seattle/Columbus</a>

Some fun facts about the game from the @usopencup twitter account:
With 5 goals, Nate Jaqua of @SoundersFC & Paulo Araujo Jr of @MiamiFC finish as the top scorers for the 2010 @USOpenCup
Not only is Nyassi 1st to score 2 in a @USOpenCup Final in the Pro Era - he's 1st to score twice in a Final over a CAREER @SoundersFC @MLS
2010 @USOpenCup Final: @ColumbusCrew 1-2 @SoundersFC - 66th min. - Sanna Nyassi scores - 1st in Pro Era to score multiple goals in the Final
2010 @USOpenCup Final Official Attendance: 31,311 BREAKING NEWS! That's a new Open Cup attend. record ... nevermind, we knew that was coming 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Colombia says "No thanks, MLS"

Colombia released their roster for the two US-based friendlies they'll play in the coming weeks. Despite strong showing from all 3 this year, Juan Pablo Angel, David Ferreira and Fredy Montero all missed out on the callup.

Colombia's roster:

Breiner Castillo (Independiente Medellin)
Farid Mondragon (Cologne)
David Ospina (Nice)

Pablo Armero (Udinese)
Ivan Cordoba (Inter Milan)
Aquivaldo Mosquera (America)
Luis Amaranto Perea (Atletico Madrid)
Juan David Valencia (Independiente Medellin)
Mario Yepes (AC Milan)
Camilo Zuniga (Napoli)

Juan Cuadrado (Udinese)
Victor Ibarbo (Atletico Nacional)
John Javier Restrepo (Independiente Medellin)
John Valencia (Once Caldas)
John Viafara (La Equidad)

Falcao Garcia (Porto)
Teofilo Gutierrez (Trabzonspor)
Giovani Moreno (Racing Club)
Adrian Ramos (Hertha Berlin)
Darwin Quintero (Santos Laguna)

Now, Ferreira and JPA are not young. I get that. They've had their time with the Colombian national team and don't project to have any real impact in the future. However, they're both playing great right now, are based in the country where these friendlies are taking place, and, in JPA's case, live maybe 45 minutes away from the location of the game October 12th against the USA. I know that MLS isn't looked at as a top tier league, but shouldn't 58 goals in 98 appearances and living just down the road be worthy of a look?

The more interesting case is Fredy Montero. They 23 year old forward for Seattle Sounders has been playing out of his mind in his second season here, and will be a contender for the league MVP award. He's had 4 caps with the national team since 2007, most recently in August of 2009. However, if he's not getting noticed now, you have to wonder when he will be called in.

Look at the forwards Colombia chose instead:
Falcao Garcia - This 24 year old is a monster. 27 goals in 34 for games for Porto, he should be a fixture for some time to come.
Teofilo Gutierrez - 25 years old, recently moved from the Colombian league (where he was one of the leading scorers) to Turkey.
Giovani Moreno - 24 year old now playing for Racing in Argentina after 5 solid seasons in Colombia.
Adrian Ramos - 24 year old who has established himself as a regular with Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga.
Darwin Quintero - 23 year old with Santos Laguna who plays often, but doesn't have the best goal scoring record

That's 5 forwards, all under the age of 25, and all playing outside Colombia. It's going to be tough sledding for Montero to crack that group considering MLS's (undeservedly poor, in my opinion) reputation abroad.

Of course, it is always possible that the Colombian team didn't want to interupt MLS players at the end of their season when all of them are in the playoff race. It could have been a benevolent decision intended to curry favor with MLS coaches.

Somehow I don't think that's the case though.

October International Friendlies

The US has two friendlies coming up this month, facing Poland in Chicago this Saturday and Colombia in Philadelphia next Tuesday. The roster Bob Bradley called in is heavily European-based, with Heath Pearce and poster boy Brek Shea being the only two MLS players called in. They won't be with the team on against Poland, but will be available for the Colombia game next week.

The full roster is:

Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, 16 caps)
Tim Howard (Everton, 55 caps)

Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Étienne, 83 caps/12 goals)
Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96, 64 caps/2 goals)
Clarence Goodson (IK Start, 14 caps/2 goals)
Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa, 0 caps/0 goals)
Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan, 56 caps/5 goals)
Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland, 8 caps/0 goals)
Heath Pearce (FC Dallas, 32 caps/0 goals)
Jonathan Spector (West Ham United, 25 caps/0 goals)

Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro, 3 caps/0 goals)
Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach, 47 caps/8 goals)
Maurice Edu (Rangers, 16 caps/1 goal)
Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus, 35 caps/2 goals)
Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers, 15 caps/2 goals)
Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04, 0 caps/0 goals)
Brek Shea (FC Dallas, 0 caps/0 goals)

Jozy Altidore (Villareal, 29 caps/9 goals)
Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC, 66 caps/19 goals)
Eddie Johnson (Fulham FC, 41 caps/12 goals)

The biggest news here is newcomers Eric Lichaj (LEE-high) and Jermaine Jones. Jones has been the object of many US fans obsessions since saying he was interested in switching from Germany and Lichaj is a young defender in England who just may grow in to an answer to the USA's lack of full back.

I do think it's kinda odd that no players based in Mexico got called up, it would've been nice to see Torres again. Unfortunately, I can understand not calling in Herculez Gomez. He's 28 and has no real future with the USMNT. He'll be too old for the next World Cup and isn't so good right now to warrant a spot on the 2011 Gold Cup roster regardless of age.

Some other folks I'd like to see at some point:

Hunter Freeman - Defender who MLS fans may remember. Plays with Clarence Goodson at IK Start now and is a pretty consistent starter. Only 25, may be a good piece for us with such an aging defense.

Justin Braun - The Chivas USA forward has a big body, but also brings more on the ball skill than you'd expect from a 6'3" white kid.

And then, as for (non-obvious) people in playoff races
Omar Gonzalez
Kyle Beckerman (I know we have about 800 CMs, but dude's been awesome this year)
Robbie Rogers

Tim Ream needs more than 25 games of good showing to get a callup, in my opinion. He's no better than Gonzalez was as a rookie, and he had to put up a season and a half of solid play to get capped.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Home Stretch: Weekly Wrapup

Please forgive the lack of substance in this update. I was at a wedding this Saturday (who schedules a wedding during a fall Saturday in the South?) so I only have highlights to go off of for all of the games except the Super Clasico. Because of this I'm going to try to focus more on the impact of the results rather than the play that got them there.

Game Reports

Chivas USA 1 - 2 Los Angeles Galaxy
Let's go ahead and start with the game I can comment the most on. LA Galaxy maintained their dominance of the Super Clasico, downing Chivas USA 2-1. LA scored on a volley by Edson Buddle off a beautiful ball by Michael Stephens and a David Beckham free kick that reminded us why he's the master. Chivas pulled one goal back on an (offside) Alan Gordon header, but that was all the could manage dispite playing the last 20 minutes a man up.

LA changed up their lineup (AGAIN) and saw much better play on the pitch. Landon was moved up top with Buddle, and then the midfield played in a diamond with Juninho in the back, Beckham in the front, Chris Birchall on the right, and rookie Michael Stephens (who I really like and played well early in the season) on the left. If you're going to let Becks roam around the field, putting him in the middle makes a lot of sense. It meant that one side didn't get overcrowded or too empty to keep the defense honest.

I wasn't a huge fan of Donovan's role up top though, and here's why. If Bruce is going to play him and Buddle as a flat pair up top, Donovan is going to be receiving the ball with his back to the goal way too often. That neutralizes his best asset, his speed and ability to run at defenders. It would be like constantly giving the ball to Dwight Howard 18 feet from the basket. If you're going to play his as a forward, he needs to be behind a guy like Buddle who can receive the ball, hold up play, and then pass off to Donovan making a run.

Seattle Sounders 3 - 2 Toronto FC
Another big crowd and another home win for a Seattle Sounders team that has suddenly moved up to 6th in the table. Blaise Nkufo added another goal as did the two speedy wingers Zakuani and Nyassi. I was somewhat surprised to see Seattle put out the entire first team lineup tonight considering the US Open Cup final is tomorrow, but good for them getting 3 points. As for Toronto FC, they finally put what I would think is their best 11 out there together to start. Even better, Mista wasn't even in the 18.

Colorado Rapids 0 - 1 DC United
After 4 straight 3 goal victories at home, Colorado Rapids got caught by visiting DC United and lost 1-0. I have to wonder if they were looking ahead to their last 3 games of the season (@FC Dallas, @LA Galaxy, vs. RSL) and thought they could take a terrible DC team lightly. Colorado tried to rest Marvell Wynne, Anthony Wallace and Omar Cummings and it came back to bite them. DC players get paid too, you know, and no professional wants to lose.

FC Dallas 3 - 0 Chicago Fire
The big story here was Jeff Cunningham tying Jaime Moreno's record of 132 goals in an MLS career on a penalty in the 67th minute. He has one more home game this season (against Colorado this coming Saturday) to take over the lead in front of his home fans. Hopefully he can do it in the run of play and not from the spot.

New York Red Bulls 1 - 0 Kansas City Wizards
Dane Richards continues to impress, scoring the game's lone goal as New York Red Bulls downed Kansas City Wizards 1-0 at home. Granted, the goal was kinda gifted to him by a horrible play from KC center back Jimmy Conrad, but his finish deserves some praise. Backe went back to a 4-4-2 this game with Juan Pablo and Henry up top and Ballouchy in the midfield, but Marquez was out injured so we're still not 100% sure how they're going to line up when everyone's available.

New England Revolution 1 - 2 Real Salt Lake
When you really break the game down it doesn't appear that Real Salt Lake played very well at all, but they still managed to earn 3 points on the road against a bad New England Revolution side. There isn't much to say here other than "they are who we thought they were."

Columbus Crew 0 - 0 San Jose Earthquakes
Oh goodness Columbus Crew, what's going on with you? New York is now atop the Eastern Conference table after Columbus manages just a point at home against San Jose Earthquakes. The Crew are have earned just 6 points in their last 6 league games, going 1-3-2 with just 4 goals scored.

Philadelphia Union 1 - 1 Houston Dynamo
Yeah, these two teams tied. Nothing changed because of it.

Random Thoughts

No good thoughts this week since I didn't watch enough to make any huge conclusions. All I'll say is please watch the US Open Cup final tomorrow night on FSC. It's a great tournament and I really want to see more Americans embrace it so that there is better coverage of the earlier stages.

Both Columbus and Seattle take silverware seriously and should come out strong in a chance to win something for their fans and qualify for the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League.


MLS Elo Ratings
1,591.35 - Real Salt Lake
1,578.26 - FC Dallas
1,568.05 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,533.83 - New York Red Bulls
1,532.93 - Seattle Sounders
1,529.30 - Columbus Crew
1,517.47 - Colorado Rapids
1,491.71 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,489.97 - Chicago Fire
1,484.95 - Kansas City Wizards
1,465.52 - Houston Dynamo
1,459.92 - Toronto FC
1,457.15 - Philadelphia Union
1,447.96 - Chivas USA
1,437.04 - New England Revolution
1,414.60 - DC United

Friday, October 1, 2010

24 Under 24: The Other Guys is doing a really cool series called 24 under 24 right now, highlighting the 24 best players in MLS who are under 24 years old. The rankings are based on a combination of (1) Skill; (2) Upside; (3) Q-Rating or Marketability; (4) Future Value; and (5) Intangibles.

To this point they have released spots 24 through 6:

24. Dax McCarty (FC Dallas - M)
23. Roger Torres (Philadelphia Union - M)
22. Jack MacInerney (Philadelphia Union - F)
21. Kevin Alston (New England Revolution - D)
20. Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake - M)
19. Juninho (Los Angeles Galaxy - M)
18. Chris Pontius (DC United - F)
17. Teal Bunbury (Kansas City Wizards - F)
16. Tony Tchani (New York Red Bulls - M)
15. Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew - M)
14. Bill Hamid (DC United - G)
13. Tristan Bowen (Los Angeles Galaxy - F)
12. Ryan Smith (Kansas City Wizards - M)
11. Ike Opara (San Jose Earthquakes - D)
10. Justin Braun (Chivas USA - F)
9. Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls - D)
8. Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire - G)
7. Brek Shea (FC Dallas - M)
6. Marco Pappa (Chicago Fire - M)

Unless there's something really amiss, the top 5 pretty much has to be: Andy Najar, Steve Zakuani, Omar Gonzalez, Fredy Montero, and Danny Mwanga. In my mind they would be ranked:

5. Steve Zakuani (Seattle Sounders - M)
4. Danny Mwanga (Philadelphia Union - F)
3. Andy Najar (DC United - M)
2. Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy - D)
1. Fredy Montero (Seattle Sounders - F)

But this post isn't about these guys, it's about a handful of young guys who just missed out on the top 24. Here are some more guys who deserved some thought:

George John (FC Dallas - D):A big reason why FC Dallas has one of the best defenses in MLS this year.
Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes - M): I will argue to the death that Cronin going from Toronto FC to San Jose changed the future for both of these clubs.
Sanna Nyassi (Seattle Sounders - M) & Sainey Nyassi (New England Revolution - M): These twins give defenders fits with their speed and ability on the wings.
Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake - D): He's worked his way into being a starter for the best defense in MLS.
Nana Attakora (Toronto FC - D): This was the worst omission if you ask me. He's been THE rock in the TFC defense. He and De Ro are pretty much the only two reasons that Toronto stayed as competitive as they did for so long. Just singling out defenders, I really can't understand how you put in Kevin Alston and not Attakora.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

CCL Matchday 5

There's one more match left for the CONCACAF Champions League competitors, but it's pretty clear what's going to happen. Real Salt Lake is guaranteed to go through and will be playing Cruz Azul at home for the right to see who finishes first in Group A. Columbus Crew would need a TON of bad luck in order to not get through Group B, but will likely finish second. Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders will be playing their last CCL games October 19th as both sides have been eliminated.

Toronto FC 1 - 1 Real Salt Lake

Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake started the week with a contest at BMO Field. Both teams rolled out strong lineups as RSL was fighting to clinch a spot in the knockout stages and TFC was just trying to stay alive. There were a few first teamers missing (Chad Barrett, Javi Morales, Stefan Frei) but you could tell each team was going for it.

TFC actually looked good this game, a big improvement from their first few games under Nick Dasovic, almost (dare I say) dominating the first half. Jacob Peterson scored a goal off a Howard-to-Landon type distribution from Toronto keeper Jon Conway to give the Reds a 1-0 lead at the break.

Javi Morales, who was subbed in at halftime, would get that goal back though with a beautiful free kick. The rest of the game was mostly RSL attacking and TFC defending, but Jon Conway almost gave Salt Lake the win in the 94th minute with what would have been one of the most embarrassing own goals of all time

Municipal 2 - 1 Columbus Crew

I'm not sure I understand Robert Warzycha's strategy here. He had a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout stages with a tie, but left starters William Hesmer, Chad Marshall, Brian Carroll, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Emmanuel Ekpo, Danny O'Rourke, Frankie Hejduk and Emilio Renteria at home. Municipal took advantage and won the game, moving only 1 point back of Columbus in the standings.

Now yes, Municipal does have to travel to Santos Laguna (the group leader) next while Columbus goes to Joe Public (the bottom of the group), but why even put yourself in that position? Why risk not going through by keeping 8 of your best players out of the lineup? Resting them for a match against a San Jose Earthquakes that also played a midweek game seems like an iffy excuse at best.

Seattle Sounders 2 - 0 Marathon

The Sounders, on the other hand, had all the reason in the world to send out a young lineup and they did. And, for the second straight game, the kids played really well when given the chance.

Seattle started
G: Kevin Boss
D: Taylor Graham, Tyrone Marshall, Tyson Wahl, Zach Scott
M: David Estrada, Alvaro Fernandez, Miguel Montano, Michael Seamon
F: Roger Levesque (ugh), Mike Fucito

and looked like they had always played with them. Fucito scored both goals, giving him 3 in 178 minutes of CCL play. Good work by the Harvard man who was injured all of last season. Seattle can't go through, but they played with pride and may have knocked Marathon out of the quarterfinals.

The only weird part was seeing Qwest Field with only 12,000 fans in it. Hopefully that doesn't become a regular occurrence.