Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Busy Day of Tournament Soccer Tomorrow

There are three tournament games tomorrow for MLS teams.

First, at 7pm, is New England hosting Morelia in the finals of Superliga. The game will be broadcast on Telefutura and also streamed for free on the official SuperLiga site and MLSsoccer.com.

The first of the US Open Cup semifinal games kicks off at 730pm as DC United hosts Columbus. There is no national broadcast for the game, however there will be a free live stream available at dcunited.com. I've used this site before and I can tell you that DC puts out a great free product that a bunch of other teams out there should look in to.

Thankfully, one of those teams that also streams their US Open Cup games is the Seattle Sounders. Seattle will be facing off against Chivas USA at 10pm and you can tune in for free to watch the game by visiting the Sounders FC webpage.

For a great preview of these two games go check out TheCup.us. These guys do a great job covering every part of the tournament from all of the USASA squads you've never heard of all the way through to the MLS clubs.

The Devil You Know

The breaking news last night was the decision by the US Soccer Federation to keep Bob Bradley on as coach for another 4 years. Feelings are mixed among a lot of people, but no one seems too emotional either way. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that people seem to accept Bradley but not be enthralled by him? Let's try to break this down.

The Good

1. Bradley has been successful
In the past 4 year, the USMNT has reached both Gold Cup finals, winning one, made it to the finals of a FIFA tournament, won the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying group, won it's World Cup Group, and beaten home team on 3 different continents (North America, Europe, and Africa). Not many coaches in US history can claim these kinds of credentials on their resume. He is clearly a very good coach who has done great things with the US team.

2. The players like Bradley
If there is one thing that BB has done incredibly well it's protect his players. They know that what happens inside the locker room will stay there and they respect that. Bradley does not air out dirty laundry in the press, does not put himself above the team, but will tell players how it is even when they don't like it.

3. Bradley is good at bringing in new talent
Some have been hard on Bradley for not bringing in new faces fast enough, but I think that's off. Charlie Davies got called in when he deserved to get called in. Same with other young players like Bedoya. You can't be turning over the lineup every friendly to give each fringe player a shot. Besides, after watching him get eaten alive against Brazil, does anyone here really want to argue that Bedoya should have been on the team over another midfielder?

The Bad

1. Bradley is not a good tactician
That ugly 4-4-2 empty bucket reared its head for too long. I understand that the US gets by more on physicality, fitness and heart than having skilled players, but there need to be better game plans against the top squads. We've seen it too many times where one player is clearly out-classed by his assignment and there is no tactical change to provide him some sort of cover. We saw it with Neymar on the wings in the Brazil friendly, and we saw it with Ghana's midfield having way too much time on the ball in the World Cup. Very rarely will a plan make up for a significant gulf in talent, but the right tactics can make the US a better team than they are right now.

2. Bradley relies on his guys too much
This relates back to tactics. How long did it take for Beasley to finally fall out of favor? What about Mastroeni? Rico Clark and Oguchi Onyewu in the World Cup are two more examples of Bradley's difficulty with letting go. Sure his loyalty works as well. The calls for him to bench his son have disappeared as Michael Bradley has become maybe the most important player on the US squad at the moment. However, it's a dangerous game he plays and I think there have been more bad results from it than good ones.

I can understand if you think this is at odds with #3 of the Good list, but hear me out. Bradley picked the right 23 to go to South Africa. Where he had problems was putting the right people on the field without seeing someone fail first. Once Gooch looked slow and hurt, he was off. Once Bradley realized Rico didn't belong on the pitch he subbed him out in the 31st minute against Ghana. They shouldn't have been left off the team, but they should not have been starting. The problem is, he should have been willing to make these moves before poor play forced his hand.

3. 2-term coaches don't have good track records
Bruce Arena in 2006. Marcello Lippi with Italy. Raymond Domenech with France. Can Bradley buck the trend and provide 4 more good years? If Landon and/or Clint start to slip in their early 30's is a coach who has been relying on them for 7 years going to be able to say "Sorry guys, it's time for a young guy like Brek Shea or Mix Diskerud to take your place" or will he stay loyal?

Overall I would say I'm not disappointed that Bradley is sticking around. I think he has done an admirable job and I think we are in good not great hands going forward. I would have liked to see him take a job in Europe for a couple reasons (to open up the door for US coaches to move there and to bring in a new coach to lead the US team) but I'm not going to be upset that he is still in charge of the team.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Red Bulls Dominate, Galaxy Tumble: Weekly Roundup

I'm so blown away by how much LA has collapsed over the past 8 weeks that I may devote a separate post to really examining what's going on there. It's shocking that a team with that much more talent on the pitch and at coach is suddenly struggling for points.

Also, happy birthday to me today! To celebrate my 26th successful year of not dying, forward this link to someone who likes soccer.

Game Reports

Let's go ahead and get this out of the way. LA lost at home to Kansas City 2-nil. An anemic Wizards attack put two goals past Donovan Ricketts and forced a couple more good saves. LA had some chances to score, they always will with the talent they can field, but again they couldn't find a way to get a goal. I'm not saying they're in freefall mode yet, but I certainly don't think they're the favorite for Supporter's Shield or MLS Cup anymore.

On the other side of the spectrum are the New York Red Bulls. Coming off a 4-1 thrashing of Toronto FC at BMO Field you had to wonder if there would be a let down game against a pretty damn good SJ squad. Well, no need to worry about that any more. Red Bulls dominated the game for 90 minutes, winning 2-0 and probably deserving more. Henry and Rafa have integrated with the team and Dane Richards is no longer just the really fast guy who can't play soccer that well (Marvell Wynne has a lock on that title now). Whatever they are doing to inspire his performance, keep doing that. Also Geovanni got in 35 more minutes for San Jose in this game. With the playoffs about 8 weeks away he should be in top form with plenty of time to help SJ in their push.

Philadelphia used a pair of late goals to grab a 2-1 win at New England. No goals for my man-crush Mwanga, but he played well and had an integral part on the second tally. On a selfish note, it's awesome to see Atlanta kid Jack McInerny get his second goal on a very nice one-touch effort. Don't look now, but you could put out a surprisingly good squad of Atlanta-bred players. Sean Johnson, Sam Cronin, Jack Mack, Rico Clark, Josh Wolff, get Clint Mathis to coach. It's no Southern California, but they can play.

Colorado used an early, and deserved, red card against Lovel Palmer to score 3 goals in the first 23 minutes and then coast to victory against Houston Dynamo. I'm pretty comfortable saying that ends Houston's playoff chances, so the only other thing worth noting here is Mehdi Ballouchy's cut that belongs in a video game to free himself for a shot that turned into Conor Casey's goal. Damn.

DC and Chivas showed why they are two of the bottom teams in MLS as Chivas got the 1-0 victory at home. It's never good for the league when the nationally televised match features two teams that can't hold possession, build up an attack, or feature much in the way of attractive play. At least two young guys showed up with Najar flashing his skill on the ball after being subbed in and Justin Braun notching his 8th goal of the season.

Freddy Montero beast mode is back in full effect. The Colombian scored twice, including one in stoppage time, to give Seattle the 2-1 win at home over Chicago. No blame for Sean Johnson though, the young keeper did what he could but there was no stopping Montero's two shots. It will be interesting to see what Seattle does with him after this season. Do they re-write his contract and pay him the DP money he's going to deserve or do they look to sell him abroad and invest that money elsewhere in the team? Selfishly I hope the former, but would 100% understand the latter.

Remember how I pointed out that Toronto, Columbus and RSL were all resting players for big league matches this weekend? Well I don't think any of those teams are going to be disappointed about earning 1 point a piece, but the total of 0 goals scored in 2 games did not make for the greatest viewing.

Toronto managed a nil-nil draw against Real Salt Lake at home that featured some serious chances by RSL late in the game. Stefan Frei should be pretty happy with his goalposts right now.

Meanwhile, Columbus held off a surging FC Dallas squad to also earn a point from the 0-0 result at home.

Random Thoughts

RSL has officially overtaken LA as the top team in the Elo Ratings, and they did it after LA had what may be the worst result of the year. It's the second biggest drop numbers-wise, but the other one came earlier in the year when New England lost 4-0 at home to Chivas. The ratings hadn't calibrated to just how bad NE was this year at that point so I think LA going down 2-0 at home wins.

Not really sure what's going on over there in LA-LA-land, but they can't find the net all of a sudden, scoring 10 goals in their last 10 games. Not to harp on this or anything but PUT LANDON BACK ON THE RIGHT SIDE!!!

Superliga finishes up this Wednesday as New England hosts Morelia in the finals. Given the state of the two clubs I would expect NE to go all out for a win (and the straight-cash-homey) and Morelia to put out a reserve squad and stay rested for league play. Hopefully New England can pull off the win.

Also on Wednesday are the semifinals for the US Open Cup. DC will host the Columbus Crew and Seattle will host Chivas USA. Not to step on teams already having bad seasons, but I hope for the sake of the Open Cup, which I love by the way, that a strong squad wins it. I just don't think it looks good when one of the 3 or 4 worst teams in MLS wins a national tournament.


MLS Elo Ratings
1,579.92 - Real Salt Lake
1,564.92 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,561.10 - FC Dallas
1,553.34 - Columbus Crew
1,511.20 - Seattle Sounders
1,510.07 - Colorado Rapids
1,505.41 - New York Red Bulls
1,502.48 - Chicago Fire
1,483.51 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,482.08 - Kansas City Wizards
1,479.97 - Chivas USA
1,476.13 - Toronto FC
1,474.29 - Houston Dynamo
1,456.43 - Philadelphia Union
1,444.48 - New England Revolution
1,414.68 - DC United

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thierry Henry. Best DP in MLS History?

Major League Soccer Talk can be pretty hit or miss. Some of the writers there are very good, some are not, and some serve only to up the pageviews by taking creating controversy where there need not be any.

Their latest article by Eric Altshule is a look at the effect Thierry Henry has had on the Red Bulls and if, given his stellar playing record and rather young age, he can become the best Designated Player in league history. I especially liked the following passage and think it's a good look at why he may be right:

And yet, since coming to the Red Bulls, Henry looks like a man reborn.  Henry seems intent on integrating into this Red Bull team and not dominating it, and his link-up play has been terrific.  As Henry has gotten his fitness back, his football has become more dazzling.  He is looking to form a striking partnership with Juan Pablo Angel, and yet there is nothing exclusive about his play.  He is feeding every Red Bull that can get in position, and looking to be an outlet for every Red Bull who possesses the ball.

Most importantly, Henry looks like he is playing with joy for the first time in a long time.  He was simply dazzling tonight against San Jose, and had his backwards lob evaded the tips of keeper John Busch’s extended fingers, Henry would have added a top 10 goal to his personal highlight reel.  Finally, when his first Red Bull goal came, Henry proved him self to be a true teammate.  The goal came after an outstanding cross by Dane Richards, and landed at Henry’s feet in a position where it was harder to miss than to score.  Henry did score, and though it was the moment that many Red Bull fans were waiting for, Henry immediately pointed at Richards to tell the crowd who really created that goal, and went over to lift the diminutive winger into the air.

Check out the whole article here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Young Guns Get Ready for Peru

The US Soccer Federation recently released the list of players who will be playing in a four-team U-20 tournament in Peru. The US will play Paraguay September 6th, Colombua September 8th, and Peru September 10th.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Samir Badr (F.C. Porto; Fairfax, Va.), Cody Cropper (Ipswich Town; Athens, Ga.)

DEFENDERS (7): Gale Agbossoumonde (S.C. Braga; Syracuse, N.Y.), Anthony Brooks (Hertha BSC; Berlin, Germany), Bryan De La Fuente (Chivas USA; Bell, Calif.), Christian Flores (Club Tijuana; El Cajon, Calif.), Greg Garza (G.D. Estoril Praia; Grapevine, Texas), Emilio Orozco (Tigres; Oxnard, Calif.), Korey Veeder (Crystal Palace Baltimore; St. Petersburg, Fla.)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Victor Garza (Tigres; Edinburg, Texas), Kevin Huezo (C.F. Pachuca; Santa Ana, Calif.), Francisco Navas Cobo (Houston Dynamo; Richmond, Texas), Ernest Nungaray (Monarcas Morelia; National City, Calif.), Moises Orozco (Tigres; Oxnard, Calif.), Conor Shanosky (D.C. United; Sterling, Va.), Cesar Zamora (Chivas USA; Sylmar, Calif.)

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls; Barnegat, N.Y.), Jerome Kiesewetter (Hertha BSC; Berlin, Germany), Adrian Ruelas (Santos Laguna; Fontana, Calif.), Omar Salgado (Portland Timbers; El Paso, Texas)

Notice anything special about that roster?

Nope, it's not that only 8 of the 20 players are holdovers from the Milk Cup that the US won last month.

Nope, it's not that there are more players from Tigres (3) than any other team and as many from Mexico's Primera Division as MLS (5).

Nope, it's not that there are 6 players plying their trade in Europe (3 from Portugal, 2 Germany, 1 from England).

But those are all very close!

This is the first time in history that a United States youth team has been made up entirely of professional players. With no disrespect meant to the college programs out there, this is a big step for the US development program. Young players now have the respect and ability to earn roster spots on teams competing in professional leagues and aren't forced to try to improve in a system where they are already better than 99% of the players they match up against. That's a huge advantage for the future of American soccer teams.

Good luck kids.

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Americans in Europe

Following up on the previous post about Americans in the UK, here are the Americans plying their trade in the rest of continental Europe. The criteria for being American are pretty weak, but basically if wikipedia has an American flag next to your name, you count to me. If I've missed some people (very possible for lower-level leagues or Eastern European countries) please let me know and I'll add them to the list.

And now, our boys abroad


La Liga

Jozy Altidore (20) - FW - 30 caps


Liga De Honra

G.D. Estoril Praia
Bryan Arguez (21) - MF - 0 caps
Tony Taylor (21) - FW - 0 caps


Ligue 1

AS Saint-Etienne
Carlos Bocanegra (31) - DF - 84 caps

FC Sochaux
Charlie Davies (24) - FW - 17 caps



Borussia Mönchengladbach
Michael Bradley (23) - MF - 48 caps

Eintracht Frankfurt
Ricardo Clark (27) - MF - 31 caps

Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo (31) - DF - 64 caps

Schalke 04
Jermaine Jones (28) - MF - 0 caps

2. Bundesliga

1860 Munich
Kenny Cooper (25) - FW - 10 caps

FSV Frankfurt
Matt Taylor (28) - FW - 0 caps

Ingolstadt 04
Amaechi Igwe (22) - DF - 0 caps

Luis Robles (26) - GK - 1 cap

NOTE: Daniel Williams (21 - DF) of SC Freiburg and David Yelldell (28 - GK) and MSV Duisburg both have duel nationality between Germany and the United States.


Belgian Pro League

RSC Anderlecht
Sacha Kljestan (24) - MF - 25 caps

The Netherlands

Eerste Divisie

Helmond Sport
Charles Kazlauskas (27) - DF - 0 caps


Danish Superliga

AaB Football
Chris Rolfe (27) - FW - 10 caps
Marcus Tracy (23) - FW - 0 caps

FC Nordsjælland
Michael Parkhurst (26) - DF - 8 caps

Danish First Division

AGF Aarhus
Benny Feilhaber (25) - MF - 36 caps

Viborg FF
Babajide Ogunbiyi (23) - DF - 0 caps


Serie A

Giuseppe Nazzani (20) - DF - 0 caps

AC Milan
Oguchi Onyewu (28) - DF - 56 caps



Aris Salonika
Freddy Adu (21) - MF - 15 caps



FC Tom Tomsk
Yevgeni Starikov (21) - FW - 0 caps



FC Inter Turku
Daniel Antunez (24) - MF - 0 caps

Vaasan Palloseura
Greg Eckhardt (21) - DF - 0 caps



Halmstads BK
Ryan Miller (25) - DF - 0 caps

Örebro SK
Alejandro Bedoya (23) - MF - 4 caps



Hønefoss BK
Steve Clark (24) - GK - 0 caps

Stabæk Fotball
Mikkel Diskerud (19) - MF - 0 caps

IK Start
Hunter Freeman (25) - DF - 0 caps
Clarence Goodson (28) - DF - 15 caps

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Not The Strongest Follow Up

First happy birthday to my sister Katie who turned 24 yesterday. You can blame her for the lack of updates. And now, on to the pain.

Week 2 of the CONCACAF Champions League was not nearly as good for the MLS participants. Overall the teams went 0-4, including 2 stoppage time defeats in Mexico. Yikes.

Arabe Unido 1 - 0 Toronto FC

The refs did Toronto no favors in this game. Granted, the goal Arabe Unido scored was very well taken and deserved and Toronto didn't have any valid goals taken away (don't worry, we'll get to some of those later) but Salvadoran referee Marlon Mejia was still terrible. He handed out two awful red cards to Toronto players Nick LaBrocca and Faud Ibrahim that greatly influenced the game.

This is not to absolve Toronto of any blame for this loss. I'm pretty disappointed with the lineup that TFC rolled out down there. I was really hoping that they would take their best chance at road points seriously, but they were obviously playing to win this weekend and get in to the MLS Cup Playoffs. Oh well, to each their own. I can't find reliable number for how much advancing in CCL play is worth to teams, but I'm going to have to assume it's not enough to make Toronto focus on CCL instead of MLS playoffs.


Santos Laguna 1 - 0 Columbus Crew

Columbus Crew left 3 of their best players at home to prepare for a match this weekend against FC Dallas. Santos Laguna rolled out a mostly reserve squad. Really nice to see squads taking it seriously.

Still though, Columbus went ahead in the 22nd minute off a goal by Andy Iro. Or so it seemed. The referee waved off the goal because Edgar Renteria, who delivered the cross in, was wearing a shirt with no number.

Let's go over the series of events leading up to this:
1) Juan Pablo Santiago elbows Renteria in the head, drawing blood
2) Renteria goes over to the sideline, gets stitched and bandaged, changes shirts
3) Renteria is allowed back into the game
4) Renteria points out to the 4th official that he has no number
5) The 4th official tells Renteria it is okay and to go back to playing.
6) Renteria's assist is disallowed and he received a yellow card.

A-plus work CONCACAF referees.

Columbus was trying desperately to hold on in the last 15 minutes of the game but Santos eventually broke through. Watching the game you could see it was only a matter of "when" not "if" given the pressure Santos was able to provide and the trouble Columbus was having marking men in the box.


Cruz Azul 5 - 4 Real Salt Lake

Un. Buh. Leave. Able. As much as it hurts to lose, this was one of the most entertaining games you could ever see. RSL went us 3-1 in the 64th minute on a goal by Fabian Espindola. However, in the 67th minute Espindola was subbed out for Robbie Findley and then in the 74th minute Javi Morales was subbed out for Andy Williams. At that point, the floodgates opened.

RSL gave up 4 goals in the final 15 minutes of the game to give away the best chance any MLS team has had to win in Mexico. Jason Kreis needs to do some serious re-evaluation of which players are capable of contributing in continental play as clearly losing the Latin influence in attack devestated Real. Still though, it took a goal in the final minute of stoppage time to guarantee Cruz Azul 3 points.

Again in this game, there was a legitimate goal for the MLS team pulled back by the referee. Will Johnson clearly ran from an onside position to tap home a rebound in the 1st minute that was disallowed. To worsen matters, the goal Cruz Azul scored in the 5th minute should've been stopped because Cruz Azul never brought the ball to a stop after a foul was called to restart play.

You can see both of these in the first 30 seconds of the highlights below, but remember that RSL has only themselves to blame for what happened last night.


Seattle Sounders 0 - 2 Monterrey

Well, I guess we can go ahead and expect Seattle to pack it in for the rest of CCL. I hope they show up well for the home fans, because those guys are so loyal they don't deserve to be spited for the team's struggles, but they should be focusing on securing a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs now.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who Won The Vancouver/Portland Draft of Drafts?

Future MLS clubs Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers held a draft yesterday where they selected which priorities each club would have. Vancouver won the initial coin toss and here are the results:

1. Vancouver - MLS SuperDraft (#1 Selection)
2. Portland - Expansion Draft (#1 Selection)
3. Vancouver - Allocation Ranking (#1 Ranking)
4. Portland - Designated Player Ranking (#1 Ranking)
5. Vancouver - USL Player Priority (#1 Priority)
6. Portland - Discovery Ranking (#17 Ranking)
7. Vancouver - Waiver/Re-Entry Draft (#17 Selection)
8. Portland - Lottery Ranking (#17 Ranking)

On the whole I think Vancouver misused their first-pick advantage and did worse than Portland in this draft.

Being first in the expansion draft is MUCH better than being first in the SuperDraft. By being first in the SuperDraft, Vancouver picks 1, 19, 37, 55 and Portland gets 2, 20, 38, 56. That's only 2 picks of any real advantage, and the difference between first overall picks and second overall picks in SuperDraft history is negligible. In fact, you could make a case that the #2 pick has performed better over the 11 drafts they've had.

2000: Steve Shak, Nick Garcia
2001: Chris Carrieri, Ali Curtis
2002: Chris Gbandi, Taylor Twellman
2003: Alecko Eskandarian, Ricardo Clark
2004: Freddy Adu, Chad Marshall
2005: Nikolas Besagno, Brad Guzan
2006: Marvell Wynne, Mehdi Ballouchy
2007: Maurice Edu, Bakary Soumare
2008: Chance Myers, Brek Shea
2009: Steve Zakuani, Sam Cronin
2010: Danny Mwanga, Tony Tchani

To complicate matters, if Vancouver thinks that Omar Salgado is the best player available, they shouldn't want the number 1 pick since he can't play for a Canadian team for 2 more years. Let Portland take him #1 and then get whoever was at the top of your draft board next.

Meanwhile, in the expansion draft, Portland is going to get to select before Vancouver 10 times. Plus, Portland gets to set the tone of the draft early. Every expansion draft has a rule about how many players an existing team can lose. In this draft, since there are two expansion teams, it's almost guaranteed that no MLS team will be able to lose more than 2 players. Now Portland gets to hold Vancouver's feet to the fire after each pick. Vancouver knows that if they don't pick from the same team as Portland, then Portland can make all of those players unavailable by selecting another player from that team. That's a confusing couple sentences but hopefully you get it.

Here are the last 4 expansion drafts (Toronto, San Jose, Seattle, Philly)

2006 - Toronto FC
Paulo Nagamura
Danny O'Rourke
Jose Cancela
Adrian Serioux
Nate Jaqua
Rod Dyachenko
Jason Kreis
Tim Regan
Ritchie Kotschau
Will Hesmer

Note: Toronto basically gutted this roster by trading these players to other teams for other players, allocation money and draft picks. They got $125,000 for Kreis (although he would've been nice as a coach), Edson Buddle for Tim Regan, and 2 2008 first round picks for Nagamura and Dyachenko. Smart stuff.

2007 - San Jose Earthquakes
Ryan Cochrane
Clarence Goodson
Ned Grabavoy
James Riley
Joe Vide
Ivan Guerrero
Brian Carroll
Jason Hernandez
Gavin Glinton
Chris Pozniak

2008 - Seattle Sounders
Nate Jaqua
Nathan Sturgis
Jeff Parke
Jarrod Smith
Khano Smith
Peter Vagenas
Tyson Wahl
James Riley
Stephen King
Brad Evans

2009 - Philadelphia Union
Jordan Harvey
Andrew Jacobson
Brad Knighton
Sebastien Le Toux
Stefani Miglioranzi
Alejandro Moreno
David Myrie
Shea Salinas
Shavar Thomas
Nick Zimmerman

There aren't many world beaters here (although Clarence Goodson and Brad Evans are US Internationals) but TFC, Seattle and Philly should be very happy with their takes.

The rest of the selections are single use priorities, most of them involving the rare occurrence where two teams file paperwork for a given player on the same day. Allocation Ranking is obviously the most important and most likely to be used, so good for Vancouver not messing that up. Again though, they were either going to be #1 or #2, so unless they are fighting with Portland for a player it won't make a big difference.

Random note: if the Discovery Ranking had been #1 and #2 instead of #17 and #18 it may have been worth the third overall selection.

No huge advantage is gained on the rest of the selections by either squad, at least not enough to make up for Vancouver's mistake of selecting SuperDraft over Expansion Draft.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another Week in the Bag

Before I get in to the MLS action, indulge me for a second. What the eff is going on in True Blood?! My head is going to explode. Eric vs. Russell!! Bill vs. Eric!! Jason vs. Tara!! Sam vs. his whisky-fueled memories!! Hoyt vs. Tommy!! Only two more episodes this season makes me :(

Also, how should I take the fact that SBI is jacking my style now?

Game Reports

Oh. My. Goodness. 4 to 1? On the road!?! In Toronto!?!?! Don't look now, but New York may be putting it all together. After all, if you're going to be the only away team to get a result this week, you may as well do it in a convincing way. Of course, it may have just been a case of a tired team who played out of their minds to earn 3 points against Cruz Azul a few days earlier, but New York basically told TFC, "You eat like that." The scariest part for other teams is that Henry still doesn't look settled yet. Marquez is only starting to connect, Tchani is a revelation in central mid, Lindpere is much more comfortable out wide left. When Henry gets clicking, this is going to be a VERY dangerous team.

Geovanni's debut was a good one as the Earthquakes beat LA Galaxy 1-0 in San Jose. MLS's newest DP only got 18 minutes and a huge round of applause, but his team got the win thanks to some great goal keeping by Jon Busch. On another day LA probably puts home 2 or 3 goals given the chances Donovan and Buddle missed (and oh was Buddle's miss terribad). Still, I'm not going to go agreeing with Landon and say that LA deserved the victory. They were just as lucky that Cornell Glen hit the post after sneaking one past Donovan Ricketts. And don't look now, but RSL is closing in on the best team in the league.

Brek gonna Brek, and FC Dallas is gonna keep winning. A single tally by Brek Shea was enough to give Dallas the 1-nil win at home over Chivas USA. I think they would've hoped for a more convincing win over a lesser team, but they earned 3 points and got over 10k people to attend so that's wins all around for them.

Someone forgot to tell the goalies there was a game going on in Houston, where the Dynamo put away the Fire 4-3. All of Houston's 4 goals came on set pieces, which has to be worrying for the Fire defense. They've got to find those tall guys and put a body on them. In a nice display by someone left of the plane to South Africa, 3 of those goals contributed to a Brian Ching hat trick including a bicycle that I didn't know the 32 year old had in him. Also, can Houston please stop wasting Geoff Cameron as a defender?

Kansas City pounded New England 4-1, behind 2 goals from a guy who hadn't started an MLS game in 8 seasons. Well done, Birahim Diop. I can't find anything that tells me he's related to fellow Senegalese athlete DeSagana Diop, but I can't find anything that says he isn't so I'm starting that rumor.

Columbus saw no drop off from the midweek game, dispatching Colorado 3-1.

Random Thoughts

This time of the season is when I really like the MLS Elo ratings. There are a lot of power rankings out there, but I love how the Elo ratings really show the gaps between groups of teams. Right now there is a top-2 (LA and RSL), a next two (Dallas and Columbus), and then a smattering of teams who are fighting for the last 4 playoff spots. Also, the worst 3 teams in the league are clearly the non-NY Atlantic seaboard folk.

Chicago had 3 to 5 games in hand on it's competition coming in to this week. I don't know why that's how the schedule worked out, but that was the situation. Earning 6 points would have been huge for them, but while they took care of business at home against New England they did not play well in Houston and only got 3 this week. Now they're 4 points out of the final playoff spot with 2 games in hand. Not as great a position as when they were 7 out with 4 games in hand.

CCL Games this week:
8/24 - 10pm - Toronto FC @ Arabe Unido
8/24 - 10pm - Columbus Crew @ Santos Laguna
8/25 - 8pm - Real Salt Lake @ Cruz Azul
8/25 - 10pm - Seattle v. Monterrey

This week's slate of games is much tougher than last week. Added to that, all of these teams have tough games coming up this weekend (Columbus v. FC Dallas, Toronto FC v. Real Salt Lake, Seattle v. Chicago) so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Toronto has a great chance to get 3 road points given Arabe Unido's two defender suspensions. That could nearly guarantee them passage through to the knock out stage. RSL and Columbus will each be trying to be the first MLS team to win in Mexico during CCL. Crew will be going up against the Mexican team in the best form at the moment and RSL will be up against a Cruz Azul team fighting for their CCL lives. Meanwhile, in the one home game, Seattle will be riding their home fans to try and earn 3 points and stay in the tournament.


MLS Elo Ratings
1,582.06 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,580.34 - Real Salt Lake
1,559.39 - FC Dallas
1,555.06 - Columbus Crew
1,508.24 - Chicago Fire
1,505.44 - Seattle Sounders
1,500.69 - Colorado Rapids
1,497.01 - New York Red Bulls
1,491.91 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,483.67 - Houston Dynamo
1,475.71 - Toronto FC
1,475.35 - Chivas USA
1,464.93 - Kansas City Wizards
1,453.92 - New England Revolution
1,447.00 - Philadelphia Union
1,419.29 - DC United

Friday, August 20, 2010

SBI's Seattle Suggestions

Nice alteration on the title there, huh? Soccerbyives has a great article up called Five things the Sounders can take from CCL loss at Marathon. Take a couple minutes, check it out, and then see my responses below.

Now, I've been very impressed with Marathon in the past. I would rank them as one of the top 5 clubs in Central America, with Saprissa, Olimpia, Arabe Unido, and Municipal making up the rest. So I don't think Seattle should be killed for this loss, even if it came at the hands of an injury-ravaged starting 11 and a horrible mistake by Tyrone Marshall. Seattle has a big game next week at home against Monterrey. If they get a win there, they're right back in the thick of things.

And now, SBI's list of 5.

1. "[I]f winning on the road is tough in MLS, it's even more daunting of a task in CCL."

So very true. Any points on the road are going to be difficult, which is partly why it hurts that Seattle had such a good opportunity and let it get away. Their other two away games, @Monterrey and @Saprissa, will be harder than this one was.

2. "[T]he Sounders have to overcome officials' calls against them."

I actually thought Seattle did a great job at this. You can argue that the ref wasn't great, but he certainly wasn't terrible and the penalty was clearly deserved. I didn't see the Sounders lose their cool, which is a welcome change from the days of Freddie Ljungberg.

3. "[T]he Sounders have to adjust to playing in cavernous and near-empty stadiums"

This seems kinda silly. Having no atmosphere is supposed to be tougher than a hostile atmosphere? I mean, they've already earned results @ Colorado, @ FC Dallas, and @ Chivas USA, right? (crappy fanbase burn!)

4. "Schmid might have to put aside his fierce loyalty to defender Tyrone Marshall and go with someone who can keep up with fleet attacking players."

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Marshall was slow and nonchalant getting back to clear the ball that cost his team a penalty. Sure he didn't mean to kick Diamond, but you can't clear a guy out with a leg sweep in the box and not expect to give up a penalty. The fact that Marshall didn't see him coming is more an indictment on his lazy play than an excuse for his foul.

5. "Five, and lastly, Schmid must keep adjusting for all the travel and busy game schedule."

Seattle does face some schedule congestion in the coming week. I'll be honest though, at this point I would go all out for the 3 points at home against Monterrey. If that doesn't work, I'm using the CCL games as opportunities for experience for the young guys like Montano and Estrada and focusing on the two competitions I have a real chance of winning.

Seattle is in a strong position to repeat as US Open Cup champs and is set up to make a deep run in the MLS Cup playoffs. Having 1 or 0 points after two games in CCL (including a home match) pretty much guarantees you're eliminated.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2 Stories From Today

1) MLS Players Association released an updated list of player salaries. The price tag for some of these additions:

Thierry Henry - $5,600,004
Rafael Marquez - $5,544,000
Nery Castillo, Forward, Chicago - $1,788,060
Mista - $987,337
Branko Bošković - $516,000
Alvaro Fernandez - $300,000

At first glance, "wowowow" at Nery getting nearly $1.8m and Mista getting almost $990k. I can kinda understand the Nery number since he got stupid overpaid a few years ago by Shakhtar and every loan deal is going to require picking up a player's current salary.

Mista seems like a bad deal by TFC.  Even though he's been in La Liga, he's only scored 5 goals in 61 appearances over the past 5 years. Not exactly a world-beater they brought in, but if he performs I guess he can earn that money.

2) US U-20 forward Omar Salgado's loan to the Vancouver Whitecaps for the rest of this season is apparently not going to happen.

The former Chivas youth player was signed to a Generation Adidas contract by MLS with the plan being to loan him out to a team in USSF-2 until the MLS Superdraft. The initial choice was Vancouver, but apparently FIFA rules complicated their attempt at bringing in 16 year old.

He was originally registered in Mexico when he was in the Chivas youth system and hoping to play for the Mexican National Team. Recently he changed his mind and was let go because of the Chivas policy to only use Mexican players. Because he's under 18 he can only transfer his registration to another country if his family moves there. His family has already moved to the US so he can transfer his registration to here, but not Canada.

Apparently Portland Timbers is the best bet for where he'll go on loan now, and they also have one of the top two picks in the upcoming MLS Superdraft. Since he couldn't play with Vancouver for a full year if they drafted him, this could very well be a tryout for him if he goes to Portland.

A Great 2 Days for MLS

CONCACAF Champions League group play opened up this Tuesday and so far MLS teams have earned the full nine points in their three games played. Sure it involved three home games, but who are we to complain?

Every team ran out a first-team lineup, allowing for injuries and suspensions, which is great to see. I really want to see teams take this competition seriously and perform well. The UEFA Champions League is the second best tournament to watch in the world (behind the World Cup, obviously) and I would love to see something similar here.

Toronto FC 2 - 1 Cruz Azul
By far the most impressive result, Toronto defeated Mexican giants Cruz Azul behind goals from Marco Saric and Mista. Cruz Azul was able to pull one back late off a free kick by former Pachuca star (and known enemy for anyone who was way into previous CCLs or Superligas) Christian Gimenez, who seems to have put on about 94 pounds.

The best part of the result is, TFC deserved every bit of it. They went out there and played their collective asses off up and down the field and could've won by more if it wasn't for a shockingly bad DeRo pass meant for US U-20 striker Fuad Ibrahim late in the game. In this extremely tough group, getting 3 points against Cruz Azul is HUGE. Like, Precious huge.

Touching on the DP theme from last post, Mista looked really dangerous on the attack and this is the first time I can remember thinking "Holy crap, this guy is good!" basically every time De Guzman was on the ball. Hopefully he can keep up that run of form because it's missing from his play in league matches too often.

TFC v. Cruz Azul Highlights

Columbus 1 - 0 Municipal
Emmanuel Ekpo put in an early contender for goal of the tournament to give Columbus the 1-nil victory. The highlights linked below don't quite do it justice but you can still see just how gorgeous the whole thing was from his cutting through 3 defenders to lining up a perfect curling shot to the inside of the back post.

Schelotto had at least 3 chances that he buries on a better day, or this scoreline could've gotten out of control. As it stands, the Crew took their first step towards what should be a pretty easy qualification from the weak Group B.

Columbus v. Municipal Highlights

Real Salt Lake 2 - 1 Arabe Unido
Group A is the group of death, and right now the two teams sitting on top are Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake. That's a pretty welcome sight for MLS fans.

It wasn't easy for RSL though. They went down early on a deflected goal in the 13th minute. Not long afterward, Arabe Unido defender Nahill Caroll was sent off for an awful two-footed challenge on Dreads Beckerman and the game was on. Saborio pulled a goal back in the 45th minute off a gorgeous cross by Chris Wingert and then tallied again five minutes into stoppage time on a penalty.

"Wait, what?! Five minutes!" you say? Yes. And actually there were eight minutes of stoppage time total.

You see, desperate for a 1-1 draw down a man and away from home, Arabe Unido found it possible to suffer life threatening injuries from any and all contact. Referee Paul Ward did an amazing job handling the situation, getting writhing Panamanians off the pitch as quickly as possible and issuing yellow cards for obvious time wasting. He also made the right call when Nelson Gonzalez was body checked away from a header he put past defender Jose Justavino (aka the short dude with giant-Super-Monkey-Ball-esque ears) in the box.

Another good outcome for MLS is that Arabe lose two players for their match next week at home against TFC: Caroll for the straight red and Andres Santamaria for two yellows for dissent. That was going to be their best chance all stage of getting 3 points and they'll be missing two starting defenders. If TFC can go down to Panama and win, Arabe is all but eliminated and at least one MLS team is guaranteed to move forward.

Real Salt Lake v. Arabe Unido Highlights

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Rise of the Designated Player

Prior to this summer MLS teams had signed 13 Designated Players in 3 years. 6 of these guys are no longer in the league (Blanco-old, Denilson-sucks, Luciano Emilio-both, Marcelo Gallardo-homesick, Luis Angel Landin-sucks, Reyna-old) and 2 of whom are still in MLS but are no longer getting paid DP money (Claudio Lopez, Schelotto).

This summer 7 MLS teams have signed a total of 9 DPs:

New York Red Bulls - Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez
Seattle Sounders - Blaise Nkufo, Alvaro Fernandez
Chicago Fire - Nery Castillo
DC United - Branko Boskovic
Kansas City Wizards - Omar Bravo
San Jose Earthquakes - Geovanni
Toronto FC - Mista

There a couple big movements I see here.

1) It's great to see teams like KC and San Jose signing Designated Players. These are small market clubs that just spent straight-cash-homey to make their teams better. NY, Seattle, Chicago, DC and Toronto all make sense to me since they are well-funded and/or soccer-crazy. Two teams playing in minor-league baseball stadiums while their new homes get built didn't make my radar as likely DP buyers, but I dig it.

In fact, here are some rankings I put out at the beginning of the season about how likely teams were to add a 3rd DP, not that it's an option.

Definitely would

Probably could
DC United

Little chance
Real Salt Lake
FC Dallas

Never will
San Jose
Kansas City
Chivas USA
New England

It's nice to see two of the teams I don't think will ever take full advantage of the 3 DP limit still willing to go get one. BTW, I don't think New England will ever so much as get 1 DP. Bob Kraft is waaay too cheap. They're gonna end up being like the Pittsburgh Pirates, if you ask me, where the owner just does the minimum and cashes his check due to revenue sharing.

2) The type of player teams are bringing in is changing a little. The three members of the Mexican National Team and Thiery Henry are obviously name players who can draw a crowd just with their jerseys. This is how the DP started and how I think it will continue to operate for the near future.

The other five, though, are guys with legit top league and/or WC experience who will come at a more reasonable price. Nkufo is the only one of these guys whose salary is public and it's $480,000. I would expect the others to be pretty similar, with Geovanni probably being the highest at maybe $800,000 or so. These aren't owner-killing costs and it's bringing great experience and skill to the teams.

Also, the players tend to be older and established (Fernandez excluded) unlike Denilson and Landin who couldn't latch on anywhere after success with their initial teams.

Hopefully these are the types of players that teams continue to invest in. I mean, I love being able to watch Henry okie-doke some fools or Landon Donovan run through entire defenses, but that's not the best thing for most MLS teams since it would destroy their spending power. LA, NY, and Seattle will be able to buy these names and still field deep teams. The rest of the league will have to be smarter.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another MLS Weekend

I got to watch a LOT of games this weekend because the weather was awful and I was spending a lot of time coding a project I'm working on. It was a welcome change from having to go on highlights and match reports to get the majority of my commentary

Game Reports

The marquee game this weekend was LA Galaxy visiting the DP-show that is New York Red Bulls. LA won the game 1-0 thanks to Edson Buddle's goal off a mistake by Rafa Marquez. Now, I understand that NY fans are going to be disappointed about losing ANY home game given their now-stacked roster, but Hans Backe wasn't too upset about the result and I think he's right. NY played a great game, they held possession well, they didn't give up a ton of chances, they created good scoring opportunities, they just didn't find the back of the net this time. Henry and Marquez still aren't fully integrated to the team, but you can see the talent is there. Losing 1-0 against the best team in the league isn't really that big a deal. Obviously they can wish it was better, but don't overreact.

Real Salt Lake cemented themselves as the second best team in the league with a convincing 2-0 win at home over Columbus. RSL used some bulletin board material from Crew keeper Will Hesmer (they put a quote from him saying RSL wasn't a deserving champion on the video board) to fuel a really good home atmosphere and Javi Morales provided the rest.

MOOOORRRRREEEE MMMMMMMWANGAAAAAAA!!!! Philly tied Colorado 1-1 at home thanks to the rookie-leading 7th goal from Danny Mwanga, owing to Sebastien Le Toux's 9th assist. Philly came out in an interesting formation, dropping Le Toux back to the wing and starting Moreno up top with Mwanga. I think this may have helped free up their offense a little more as they were able to play through more than just Fred in the midfield.

FC Dallas scored 4 goals visiting DC. Thankfully one of them was into their own net or else DC United would've been shut out. Again. For the third straight league game. I feel bad for this group, and I'm not sure what easy changes they can make to get back to competing.

Chivas and Seattle fought, literally, to a nil-nil draw. There were a lot of bodies flying around, but nobody could find the net.

San Jose beat Kansas City 1-0 at home on a nice goal from Chris Wondolowski. Remember, Wondo (1300 minutes, 33 shots, 7 goals) was traded to San Jose with a draft pick for Cam Weaver (329 minutes, 6 shots, 1 goal). Pretty clear winner so far on that trade.

Remember when New England and Houston was an exciting game that meant something? Sigh. Revolution got a 1-0 win at home.

Random Thoughts

LA is pretty solidly atop the league right now after a couple stumbles. This is why subjective power rankings are silly, a couple bad games does not change them from being the best team in MLS.

Nice article on Thierry Henry from NJ Post with a great quote:

“I don’t know why you guys have” — the former Arsenal and French star has to pause to find the correct word in English — “such a complex about your football.

“You guys have new stadiums. You have good players here. You have big crowds at games. Obviously, we want it to grow — that’s why we’re all here. But you should be happy about it.”

If NY can survive their next 6 games (@TFC, SJ, @RSL, COL, @FCD, @LAG) and get to October they should finish strong with 3 of the worst teams in MLS on their schedule (KC, RSL, @PHI, NE).

BTW, you want to know why NY is so low in the Elo Ratings? Look at those tough games they haven't played yet and remember that they have a already negative goal differential. Yikes.

CCL games this week:
Toronto FC v. Cruz Azul - 8/17
Real Salt Lake v. Arabe Unido - 8/18
Columbus Crew v. Municipal - 8/18
Seattle Sounders @ Marathon - 8/19

RSL and Columbus really need 3. It won't kill them, but it will hurt. Toronto and Seattle should be shooting for 1 and hoping for 3.


MLS Elo Ratings
1,590.02 - Los Angeles Galaxy
1,580.34 - Real Salt Lake
1,555.12 - FC Dallas
1,547.68 - Columbus Crew
1,509.82 - Chicago Fire
1,508.07 - Colorado Rapids
1,505.44 - Seattle Sounders
1,492.41 - Toronto FC
1,483.95 - San Jose Earthquakes
1,480.31 - New York Red Bulls
1,479.62 - Chivas USA
1,477.19 - Houston Dynamo
1,469.14 - New England Revolution
1,457.05 - Philadelphia Union
1,454.61 - Kansas City Wizards
1,409.24 - DC United

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Americans in the UK

Today kicks off the English football leagues, so I figured what better time to give you guys a list of the Americans currently playing their trade in Jolly Ole England (or Scotland). Of course there's still a bit of time left for transfers so this could change, but here are the Americans in the lineups for week 1.

Barclay's Premier League

Aston Villa
Brad Friedel* (39) - GK - 82 caps
Brad Guzan (25) - GK - 17 caps
Eric Lichaj (21) - DF - 0 caps

Bolton Wanderers
Stuart Holden (25) - MF - 15 caps

Everton FC
Tim Howard (31) - GK - 56 caps

Fulham FC
Eddie Johnson (26) - FW - 41 caps
Clint Dempsey (27) - MF - 66 caps

West Ham United
Jonathan Spector (24) - DF - 26 caps

Wolverhampton Wanderers
Marcus Hahnemann (38) - GK - 8 caps

There are also a couple academy players, both without Wikipedia articles. Sebastien Lleget, a defender at West Ham, and Will Packwood, a midfielder at Birmingham City.


Derby County
Conor Doyle (23) - FW - 0 caps

Leeds United
Mike Grella (23) - FW - 0 caps

Norwich City
Zak Whitbread (26) - DF - 0 caps

League One

Carlisle United
Frankie Simek (25) - DF - 5 caps

Plymouth Argyle
Anton Peterlin (23) - MF - 0 caps

League Two

Northhampton Town
Sebastian Harris (23) - DF - 0 caps

Wycombe Wanderers
Jon-Paul Pittman (23) - FW - 0 caps

Scottish Premier League

Celtic FC
Dominic Cervi (24) - GK - 0 caps

Maurice Edu (24) - MF - 17 caps

* - retired from international play

Friday, August 13, 2010

An Introduction to Elo Ratings

One of the features of this site that I hope to build out even more are a set of proprietary Elo Ratings for Major League Soccer teams. The most up to date ratings can always be found by clicking that tab up above here that says MLS Elo Ratings. You may be familiar with the idea from the national team Elo ratings at www.eloratings.net or if you were ever a giant nerd who got really into chess. If you want some more information on how I developed it you can read this paper, otherwise just check out the 5 most common questions I get on it.

1. So what's the deal?

The Elo Ratings are based on a chess ranking system centered around a base value of 1500. A team's ranking goes up or down after each game depending on the quality of their opponent, the game's result, and the goal differential.

Anything over 1600 is up there with the best teams in MLS history. Anything below 1400 is super awful.

2. What about home field advantage, season-to-season carryover, expansion teams?

Based on historic MLS results home field advantage is worth about 85 points on a 1500 point scale, so we just add 85 points to the home team right before running the calculations.

When a new season starts, a team's rating moves halfway back to the 1500 midpoint. So if the Columbus Crew end the 2010 season with a 1540 rating they will start 2011 with a 1520 rating.

Expansion teams come in at a 1500 rating. It's not the best method by any means since most of these teams tend to be pretty poor, but it starts to correct itself over the course of a season.

3. Is it accurate?

Yes and no. It takes around 15-20 games for the ratings to normalize to the new team strength, which means at least half the season. Even then, if one team makes a big improvement during the season, like bringing in Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez during the summer transfer window, it will take longer for the ratings to normalize than it will for a fan to notice who is playing well.

4. But my team is so much better than you say!?

Actually, even though I admit it's not perfect, odds are you are wrong here. Go back and look at your team's schedule. Look at how many of your wins were at home, or how many are against bad teams, or the overall goal differential. Beating the patsies by a goal will not help your Elo Rating very much at all.

5. Do you do other leagues?

Kinda. I've done the legwork of putting together the ratings for Premier League teams, but I haven't watched the changes for a season yet, so I'm not sure how good they are right now. It took a lot of work to get the MLS Elo Ratings developed since I used every results from the league's first season in 1996 and I want to make sure the other leagues are equally good before I unleash them on the masses.

I do answer a couple questions a month from people looking to create their own ratings though, so maybe you'll see some more pop up from other people.

Anyway, I hope that gives you a good background on how these work. If you have any questions just send me an e-mail or post in the comments and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Should Philadelphia change their style of play?

Philadelphia got another point last night in a 1-1 draw against a Real Salt Lake team that was resting some key players in anticipation of a game this weekend against Columbus and their first CONCACAF Champions League game next Wednesday. However, the big question is "why didn't they get three?"

Philly was dominating the game in the first half, really taking the action to the defending champions. They kept their foot on the pedal after going up 1-0 and that, combined with a terrible individual mistake by Juan Gonzalez (not that one, but that would be awesome) cost them a goal that ended the scoring.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened, either playing for an extra goal lead and giving up a tying goal or playing for the win instead of a draw and ending up with a loss. So now I have to wonder if their tendency to keep pressing forward is a positive or a negative. For one, it provides a very entertaining (although frustrating when it works out like this) style of play for the fans. It also helps the team grow I think, and could serve them well when they mature a little and are down a goal, pressing to get one back since that's already in their style of play.

However, it's obviously costing them goals and points right now. You have to wonder what kind of effect that's going to have mentally on such a young team. Losing points sucks and you have to hope that Piotr Nowak is able to keep his teams' heads on straight as they go through this learning process.

On a side note, MORE MWANGA!!! Danny Mwanga was in full-on beast mode last night. That kid is sick. Like, who-do-we-have-to-pay-off-in-the-government-to-make-sure-he's-American-and-not-Congolese sick. 6 goals in 734 minutes as a 19 year old? Sign. This. Man. Up.

Here are last night's highlights for you:

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Portland Timbers hire a coach

The Portland Timbers introduced Houston Dynamo assistant John Spencer as their head coach for next year's inaugural season. Prior to his beginning his coaching career with Houston, Spencer played with Rangers, Chelsea, Everton, and Colorado Rapids among others, also collecting 14 caps for his native Scotland.

Houston's been a very good team with him as the second in command, so he'll be expected to perform well right out of the gate.  I can't find any information about this, but if he had a big hand in the talent evaluation for the MLS Superdraft then he's got a very good chance of meeting expectations based on Houston's drafts since 2006.

1.08 - Patrick Ianni
3.32 - Andre Schmid
4.44 - Mike Chabala

1.13 - John Michael Hayden
2.26 - Corey Ashe
3.39 - Mike Sambursky
4.52 - Eric Ebert

3.42 - Geoff Cameron
4.56 - Jeremy Barlow

3.41 - Danny Cruz
4.56 - Marcus Tracy

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Brazil/USA Quick Recap

I'm tired, it's late, but here are my starting 11 thoughts after the 2-0 win for Brazil.

1. I wasn't going in expecting the US to win so I won't say I'm disappointed in the result, it would've been nice to get a goal back somewhere though. Landon staying up in the box in the 3rd minute shows the kind of classy player he is, but I should would've loved to have seen him let the ref know he got run over and earn the penalty he deserved.

2. Michael Bradley had another solid game although he had some very uncharacteristic mental errors late in the game. Glad he got to wear the captain's armband too.

3. I would rank the performances of the 4 young guys:
Gonzalez >>>> Feilhaber = Jozy > Bedoya

4. Omar Gonzalez is a beast with a future. I'm saying he's as good, but it didn't look like we lost a whole lot with him out there instead of Gooch or DeMerit and the kid's only 21. On the flip side, we've seen young American defenders look really good against elite South American squads during friendly games in NYC before and we know how Heath Pearce hasn't quite turned out as hoped.

5. With Gonzalez (6'5") and Goodson (6'4") in the middle, that's a combined 12 feet 9 inches of defender you have to get a ball over. A scary thought for teams who want to play down the wings and cross it in.

6. Feilhaber and Jozy looked to be playing to avoid injury more than anything else. Considering all the transfer talk that's going on around those two right now I can't say I blame them.

7. Jozy's year with Hull did one thing for sure. That kid can draw fouls like no one else on the USA roster. He drew 4 fouls in his first 20 minutes of play that all lead to dangerous set pieces. Those are the things that really help the team. Not as much as if he was scoring again, but still plenty helpful.

8. Bedoya looks a step slow at all times out there and his lack of defensive ability really exposed Spector, who we already knew wasn't the greatest RB in the world. Unless the US can develop some better fullbacks any outside mid we play will have to be able to stop the attack.

9. Starting Landon in that second striker position made for a weird lineup at the end of the game when the US had 3 strikers and 3 central midfielders trying to play their part in a 4-4-2.

10. Brazil is soooooooooooo pretty to watch. They clearly had a flair that wasn't there with Dunga. Whether it was because of a friendly game they didn't have to worry about, or the infusion of young studs like Pato and Neymar, it was a joy to watch their skill even if it hurt to see the US lose.

11. If this was the last game on the sidelines for Bob Bradley, then thank you sir for all you've done these past four years. Good luck in Europe.

USA v. Brazil friendly tonight

Here is the final roster that the USA will dress against Brazil tonight. Coverage will begin at 8pm on ESPN2-HD.

GOALKEEPERS- Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)

DEFENDERS- Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Étienne), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS- Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht)

FORWARDS- Jozy Altidore (Villareal), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Pachuca)

Jermaine Jones and Chad Marshall were initially called in but had to decline the invites, unfortunately. While some were worried that Jones may be second-guessing his decision to join the American squad he put those rumors to rest pretty swiftly, explaining that he wants to make sure he is 100% healthy before joining the team. I'm good with this explanation. It isn't important to me that a guy who is still recovering from a broken leg to play a friendly in August, it's important that he comes out next year and monkey-stomps Mexico in the Gold Cup.

There is a silver lining to JJ missing the game though, and that is Omar Gonzalez's USMNT debut. I <3 this kid. He's been a rock in the back line for LA, and with the US backline looking pretty shaky for 2014 grooming this kid for international duty is going to be super important.

One guy who didn't get the call up was Bobby Convey. I understand that he was kind of an entitled punk for a couple years there, but he seems to have turned his game and personality around this season. He performed well in 45 previous caps during his younger, less d-bag years, and has been a force for the San Jose midfield this season, dishing out 8 assists and providing numerous more dangerous balls. Even if he is already 27, I'd love to see him on the field as either a left-side midfielder or left-back and I think his play this year has earned that.

Monday, August 9, 2010

This week's games

This is a common feature you'll see as we go forward. I'll quickly sum up all of the week's action and toss out a few thoughts on where everyone stands in the league. Some games will get more coverage than others depending on how much I get to watch and how closely, and how much extra I care about the teams involved.

Game Reports

New York and Chicago was the most anticipated game of the week, featuring 5 designated players, two of whom were making their MLS debuts, and national HD coverage on ESPN2. The game ended 0-0, but hopefully that didn't turn off the casual fan as the overall soccer was a great display of skill not usually seen in an MLS game. Castillo went 30 minutes, Henry went 45 minutes, Marquez went about 60, and Ljungberg and JPA made it all 90. Hopefully Henry, Marquez and JPA will be ready to go this Wednesday at home against TFC. The word is that Henry came out with a strained groin, but he doesn't think it's going to be a big deal.

Philadelphia lost two games this week, first 2-1 at home against Columbus and then 3-1 on the road at FC Dallas. The obvious problem is either that they need more Danny Mwanga, or that they had to play two of the best teams in the league over a span of 5 days. I'm going with MORE MWANGA!! Watch out for FC Dallas if Jeff Cunningham gets going though. They are already a very good team, but adding his scoring touch to Ferreira, Brek Shea and Atiba Harris would be brutal.

Toronto FC beat Chivas USA 2-1 at home. Chad Barrett kept up his good run of form with what turned out to be the game winning goal. Maicon looked great again and seems to be fitting in very well with the team. Justin Braun had a number of good chances for Chivas, but he couldn't find the net this game.

Seattle and Houston closed out the weekend. Seattle won 2-0 with Montero providing a goal and an assist. Alvaro Fernandez got the other goal, scoring his second goal in his second appearance. That's 2 goals in 67 total minutes played, quite the ratio so far! I know it's early in his career there, but judging by how he interacted with his teammates after the goal I think he's going be a great locker room presence on top of his talent. That's certainly an upgrade over Ljungberg.

Colorado beat San Jose 1-0 at home on a howler of a mistake from Jon Busch.

Coach Ben Olsen wasn't enough to keep DC from continuing their losing ways, as they went down 1-0 to New England in Boston. It's hard to turn away from this team right now, kinda like a car wreck on the interstate.

Real Salt Lake quickly answered an early Kansas City goal by Kei Kamara with a tally from Robbie Findley in the 33rd minute. That was all the scoring though, and the game ended tied 1-1.

Random Thoughts

Sean Johnson was easily MOTM for Chicago. A very athletic 21 year old got introduced to MLS this past week by facing the two scariest attacks in the league, LA and NY. While you would understand a rookie making some costly mistakes against these skilled veteran attacks, Johnson actually performed very well. He's been up against 41 shots, 13 of them on goal, and has only given up 2 goal with one of them on a penalty.

I made some predictions early in the season and it's time to forget about one of them. I'm officially willing to give up on my O'Brian White getting 7 goals prediction. The guy couldn't get on the field consistently early in the season and then Toronto brought in Maicon and Mista so there's little to no chance he even has the opportunity to start banging in goals.

Fredy Montero is playing on another level right now. A goal or assist in his last 9 games, and 8 goals and 9 assists on the year. In a year that looked like it would be the Donovan/Buddle show, Montero and Sebastien Le Toux have made themselves serious contenders for MVP.

New England and Morelia will meet next month for the Superliga finals. Houston put up a good fight in the first half, but couldn't convert on their chances. Still, come September 1st, "gogogo MLS!!"

MLS, fix the scripts on your freaking scores page (http://www.mlssoccer.com/scores/Aug-02-2010). You have a very "cool" website but it takes forever to load everything. Function > Form.

A little about this blog

Before we get to the whole "me posting" part, here's a little background on what you can expect from This American Pitch.

I hope that over the next few weeks and months this will become a regular stop for you to get commentary on everything relating to American soccer. This means MLS (a lot of MLS actually), Americans playing overseas, US National Teams at all levels, and anything else I feel like talking about at the time. I'll toss out plenty of random statistics, talk about young players I really like, and hopefully get to interact with you guys in the comments section.

There are only two things I hope you'll get from this site (and if you don't, yell at me in the comments):
  • Intelligent, well-explained commentary
  • Amusement
That's all. Please let me know if I'm missing one of the two.

As for me, I grew up on the southside of Atlanta, never playing a ton of soccer even though plenty of teams around me were very good. Now I live in Decatur (as in "College Park, East Point and Decatur they got my back" and "This is for Decatur, what's up, Bobby Ray") and still somehow found it in me to support a league that doesn't have a team within 600 miles. This is my outlet for that passion now.

Thanks for stopping by.