Category: MLS

So You Think You Are A MLS Super Fan?

You do don’t you? You follow the MLS, watch games, you knew about Henry to RBNY months ago. You can tell me who Kei Kamara played for before the Wizards and the DP rules make perfect sense to you AND you can explain them well enough that your friends understand too. You got the knowledge and you know it. So does everyone else.

Today is a whole new ballgame though bigshot. Let’s run you through the gauntlet here friend. Time to see if you can run and gun with the best of them. No cheating, legit ballers only. Honor rule style. See if you can name the two MLS sides that make up each of these MLS rivalry cups:

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Posters legitimize the Heritage Cup

The Brimstone Cup
The Honda SuperClassico
The Atlantic Cup
The Rocky Mountain Cup
The Heritage Cup
The California Classico
The Texas Derby
The Lamar Hunt Pioneer Cup
The Trillium Cup

The answers and my results after the jump.

 

There Will Be Blood

 

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leaving on a jet plane…

The Summer of Soccer kicked off last night as I raced over to Oakland after work to catch a plane to Seattle for this weekend’s Earthquakes – Sounders game with this week’s podcast guest Shawn. I was pretty excited as the Earthquakes have been playing quite well and being able to be to catch a game in Seattle with the Sounders being the home team would allow me to see the Sounders support in action. I got much more then I bargained for and stumbled upon what could be an impending disaster.

Everything started innocuously enough. I caught BART from SF under the bay, and as I sat down I stumbled upon a sign. BART has advertising in the cars, but this was the first I had seen related to the World Cup much less soccer. It was spectacular, regardless of the fact that is it not a US ad. To see any ad at all for the World Cup is stellar. BART-WC-1024x768

After the free wifi in Oakland crashed my computer twice, I was able to get online for about five minutes before my flight, to pull up some information on Pelada for the post that I am working on. Board the plane, get in the air, see them taking drink orders, order a coke in the can and…. pass out. Wake up an hour later, see that the guy next to me has my drink on his tray table, thank him and snag it and sleep again. Wake up to hear the captain say something and fall back asleep. You get the picture. Finally wake up to a gorgeous sunset, the first I have seen from a plane. Spectacular.

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As we head in on our approach, I scope the coke, thinking I should knock it back to get some energy. What I discover is that all roads lead to Africa. If the beginning of the trip isn’t the green light for the next one, I don’t know what is.

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Things That Suck 3 with Tom Henning Øvrebø and Koman Coulibaly

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Hello, Koman Coulibaly and Tom Henning Øvrebø here and we want to bring you some things that suck. How qualified exactly are we to talk about things that suck? That is quite funny that you would even bother asking that. Honestly, do you know who we are? This is our God given talent! If not, spend a moment and Google us. Come back once you understand how qualified we are, we will see you in about two minutes!

1. The World Cup Final – Face it, it was awful. The match was poorly played, the Dutch were overly cynical, and even Koman could have reffed the match based on how Howard Webb decided to run it. Thank St. Collina that the match didn’t go into penalty kicks, or it would have easily been the worst final in World Cup history. To back up our English referee compatriot, it wasn’t entirely his fault, there was tons of pressure on him and the Dutch gave him a very difficult task given the obscene amount of hacking they were doing, which, when paired with the amount of rolling around by both squad, led one to believe that World War III had started and these were the first casualties. World Cup Final, you sucked, and you disappointed everyone.

The Evil Return of Bad Decision Bob (and the Options that Could Have Been)

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And here I thought his time was up

In a shocking turn of events that makes no sense to most USMNT fans, even those that liked the bald-headed poor decision maker, Bob Bradley has been hired on for four more years of torturing Biggy and providing enormous amounts of comedy fodder for Chamo.

Seemingly a second choice decision from Gulati, it was made only after it was clear Jürgen Klinsmann still wanted Gulati to step off his preaching chair and let the coach actually change the system. Of course Mr. Gulati never had any intention of removing his ever-present political roster choices from the cards, so he fell back on his bald headed friend, Bob Bradley.

That said, Bradley also looked for greener pastures in Europe, and was even tipped to get a chance to manage at Aston Villa given the American Randy Lerner connection, but nothing ever came to fruition. Frankly, the Villa move would have spelled disaster for Bradley, and he was better off looking for a smaller European spot that wasn’t in the turmoil that the Midlands team currently sees itself in.

So, despite a flurry of names being thrown out from all ends of the USMNT supporters sections, from Pekerman to O’Neill, Sunil Gulati offered Bob his second stint at the helm.

Let me get a few things out of the way:

  1. Forget all this garbage about second term coaches. The reason you get hired on as a second term National team coach is because you did something right the first time, so naturally you are already set up for failure. This is why the statistics go against the second term men. It would seem insane not to have hired Bruce Arena back after his miracle run in 2002.
  2. In reality, there really weren’t a whole lot of options. Klinsmann of course is always on the list, but all these names were pretty much just a whole lot of hearsay. The real pool was a bunch of current MLS coaches, but only a few have any national experience (Like my choice, Sigi).
  3. Regardless of your belief, the USMNT is just as political as the Argentinian team, meaning Gulati and the higher-ups like to have a certain amount of control over the player pool and development. This limits your managerial options, because coaches like Klinsmann won’t deal with it.

Why it was the Wrong Decision:

1) Favoritism: Bob Bradley has given a lot of players opportunities to play for the National Team in controlled arenas, which is great. However, when it comes to the important matches, Bob plays favorites.

Even in friendlies, Bob is unwilling to alter a good selection of players. Michael Bradley, DaMarcus Beasley, Rico Clark, Brian Ching, Oguchi Onyewu, Robbie Findley, Jonathan Bornstein, and Carlos Bocanegra are all examples of Bad Decision Bob’s favoritism. While in certain cases he is forgiven because a lack of positional depth (Bornstein) other times he is not (Rico Clark, I can name at least 3 other CM’s in the player pool better than him).

The issue with this comes down to the talent he will end up wasting. Jose Francisco Torres is the best center mid the USMNT has ever seen in terms of passing ability, poise on the ball, and control. However, since he refuses to pull Baby Brad off the pitch, even for a friendly match, you are unlikely to ever see how Torres pairs with Edu, or Holden, or even Benny for that matter. That is just one example of where favoritism hurts the US.

 

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2) Futbol: I’m not talking about Brazilian Samba football, but I am talking about learning some attacking possession, not boot and run. The US has been playing the same slingshot offense for years, and refuses to go away from it. They possess it in the back, then boot it forward and hope that Jozy, Chuck D, or, now that Bradley is back at the helm, Robbie Findley can chase it down and start something.

It’s no wonder that the US forward line scored less goals than England’s (England had one… USA had none). The US relied on the impressive Landon Donovan to provide all the attacking prowess in the World Cup, but the Ghana game showed what happened once a team stuck someone on him the entire match.

People often point out that the US out possessed three of the four teams they played in South Africa. Possession does not equate directly to attacking ability however. The USMNT possession is too far away from the goal, and you hardly ever see a winger fight to the corner, not see an option and pass it back to start the play over. The team needs a mindset overhaul from a foreign coach, even if only for two years, so they can learn patient football.

3) Expectations: Aside from winning the 2014 World Cup, Bob cannot succeed. I know I already said to forget about the second term coach syndrome earlier, but this is different.

With everything Bradley has achieved for the US, with the success at the Confederation Cup, a decent World Cup, the 2007 Gold Cup victory, Bob cannot possibly succeed. Every small mistake will be scrutinized, any loss will be torn apart.

The USSF was better of finding a replacement, if nothing else, to detract from the watchful eyes that will undoubtedly be placed on Bad Decision Bob every match till 2014.

The Other Possibilities:

Jürgen Klinsmann:

  • Advantages: Knows how to play the game, and can teach the US to play with some attacking flair. Could get the most out of Jozy, and would utilize JFT. Possibly most important, he would completely revamp the youth system to produce more quality players, earlier in their careers, at the expense of a college education. Lives in California, has National Team experience.
  • Disadvantages: Sunil Gulati would be bitter the entire time that someone else came in and did his job better than he did, while he was still technically hired (I’m referring to the youth system). Also unlikely to have instant success since he would likely change the entire way the USMNT plays. Could potentially be a huge failure.

Martin O’Neill

  • Advantages: Out of a job currently, but known for getting the most out of players considered to be mediocre, or not performing at their potential. Northern Irish, so would likely produce a USMNT vs. Northern Ireland friendly that Biggy and Chamo have been dreaming of for years. Also wears sweatpants to all games, so aesthetically not a huge change for USMNT supporters, though the glasses would be a new touch.
  • Disadvantages: No National Team coaching experience, British accent, and like Klinsmann, likes to have more power over his team than owners are willing to allow him. Would likely transform Jozy into Heskey, which would horrify USMNT fans.

José Pekerman:

  • Advantages: I was surprised at the amount of people who threw this name around. I really don’t believe he was ever an option, but talk about learning to play beautiful football, this would be your man. Again, likely see more creative players than run and gun, get rid of Findley, see more JFT. HUGE emphasis on youth production.
  • Disadvantages: English… The whole language barrier potential issue. He, too, would likely want a revamp on the youth system, and Gulati seems unwilling to let anyone tell him how to run his program.

Any MLS Coach:

  • Advantages: Know the MLS system, see the upcoming talent and know the system in the US. Likely wouldn’t demand anything from Gulati like the big wigs were. Some have USMNT experience (Sigi).
  • Disadvantages: No change in style of soccer. Nothing too interesting, basically implementing a non-bald Bob Bradley.

Disagree with me? Let me know in the comments!

Section 8 kicks it old school

MLS fans are epic. Soccer fans are way more creative then any others. This is just awesome. Congrats Section 8, that was magnificent.

 

DC United vs Seattle Sounders – May 4th

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Excuses for not writing: accepted to grad school, tore ACL for the 3rd time, Sharks playoff hockey, and lastly, moved across the country to Washington DC, which brings us to the focus of this article, DC United vs. Seattle Sounders.  When Groupon (shout out) offered decent tickets to the game for a good price, I could not pass up the opportunity. After settling in Foggy Bottom in NW DC and with RFK on the same metro line as me, I had no excuses. Ticket: $16, Metro ride: ~ $2. Alcohol: $10-15

I will not provide a comprehensive analysis of the match because I simply do not want to and who in God’s name would want to read it. Go to soccernet for all I care.

However, Charlie Davies’ goal in the 52’ was a good piece of play with a nice ball played down the right side and a well placed cross, allowing Davies to cash in from about 4 yards out and provide us with a lovely rendition of the stanky leg.  The goal came moments after I explained to two less informed soccer fans that Charlie Davies is a poacher.  Now before you get angry, I realize this is probably an unfair and inaccurate assessment of him as a player.  However, I do not see this as a bad thing whatsoever (Filippo Inzaghi has made himself quite the career out of that role). While I do not think the two are the same player my message is such, THE USMNT NEEDS A PLAYER LIKE THIS. Someone who will simply score goals, not always the pretties, but who cares?  Davies doesn’t necessarily have to be that player, and maybe he isn’t, although it’s tough to argue with his scoring record thus far.  Nevertheless, the USMNT desperately needs a player who can simply be in the right place at the right time and score goals.  ZERO goals from US forwards in the 2010 World Cup ringing any bells for anyone?  I’m not looking for some miracle forward from the US, how about someone who can get a deflection and put it in the net.  How about ANY forward who can put it in the back of the net?  The USMNT’s laundry list of issues will not be solved by this, but scoring goals never hurt any team.

Yup, no transition.  Being an avid EPL (English Premier League for you amateurs) the quality of football in the game was pretty poor with a few moments of genius, as is the story for most MLS games.  But the most surprising game play was with about 7-10 minutes left and DC United up a goal.  They played by far their best football of the match.  They focused on possession, keeping the ball on the ground, swinging it from side to side, with no giant rush to get the ball in the 18.  It is easy to understand why they would play this way, protecting a one goal lead, but I would love to see an MLS team play the entire game like this! Unfortunately, most MLS teams do not possess the technical skills to play this way, as was displayed by DC United when they tried their best to give the ball away in their own defense.  But it was fun to watch and exciting to see an MLS team does actually occasionally value possession and the ball staying on the ground.  The bottom line is the MLS will become a better league when teams can increase their technical ability and attempt to keep possession of the ball for more than 2-3 passes.  This should be obvious, yet I NEVER SEE IT when I watch an MLS game.  I hope to see this transition in the MLS soon because the faster it happens, the quicker the USMNT begins to have a roster with a little depth.  While it is still a must for USMNT players to play in Europe for us to have any chance of competing, an improving domestic league can only strengthen our national team.

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Start of 2nd Half

A Brief Thank You to MLS

I’m addicted. No, not to drugs or alcohol or Parmesan cheese. Although, I would really like to be addicted to cheese, it is so good. No, I speak of something that I check multiple times a week. Something I monitor on my girlfriend’s phone while I am missing it. It is the first thing I do when I get home. It’s the MLS website. And I love it.

 

The MLS is a retirement league falacy

beckham-henry‘Becks, where are we grabbing dinner postgame?’

For some time, the notion that ‘The MLS is a retirement league’ has been floating around. This idea came around rightwhen guys like David Beckham started taking some pretty large salaries to join MLS teams. Apparently, when one switches leagues later in live, it is only for a fat paycheck and the ability to do whatever you want and not be held accountable. Yet the last two games I have watched, Beckham and Thierry Henry have both looked like they are at the top of their game. Tonight Beckham was spraying around brilliant passes with ease, to the point where it looked like he could have stepped out of his Galaxy jersey straight into one of his perfectly tailored suits, head straight into any of the finest nightclubs in Hollywood, and melt the panties straight off of all of the beautiful women in the building. Henry on the other hand, is at his finest when he is working his ass off, constantly creating scoring chances to the point where he makes his teammates look bad because they do not capitalize on what he creates for them. For example, Henry here versus the LA Galaxy, creating for Luke Rodgers:

Certainly my eyes can be deceiving and one game is an awfully small sample size, so I looked into the statistics for what each of these guys do best. Henry scores goals, Beckham sets them up. Currently Henry has 14 goals, Beckham 15 assists. They are both in the top 3 in their respective category this year. Could be an off year for the MLS though right? In 2010, Henry would have been tied for fourth in goals and Beckham would have been second in assists. In 2009 Henry would have been third in goals and Beckham would have been first in assists. In 2008 Henry would have been tied for fourth and Beckham tied for second, bumping his past self out of the top 5. As you can see, each of them easily average a top five spot in their respective categories. Does this mean that *gasp* maybe they moved to the MLS to actually continue playing and not just collect a paycheck? The horror! Certainly their production this year indicates this is true. Even more relevant is the fact that each of them have only played 26 games this year, reducing their opportunity to boost their stats with more games. They have each produced with less opportunity then those they are chasing in the stats column.

Okay, so clearly Becks and Henry aren’t here just to collect a paycheck. Maybe the MLS as a league just sucks? It must be an easy league to do really well in without much effort! I mean, if a guy as famous in world football as Henry can ride the subway to the stadium and not be noticed by very many people, the league must be trash. Yet, in the past year, Real Salt Lake lost in the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, three MLS teams are in position to qualify for the knockout round of the CCL (and two more are on the cusp) and an MLS team won in Mexico for the first time ever. To dismiss the MLS would mean you would have to do the same with all the central American leagues that compete in the CCL as well. The race for the playoffs will go down to the final game and 64,000+ attended Saturday night’s Seattle Sounders – San Jose Earthquakes game. The league has been more competitive this year then previously, and the level of play has been at the highest it has ever been. Teams like PSG are still interested in acquiring David Beckham’s services, and players like Brek Shea will be making moves to clubs in Europe based on their performance in the MLS. Between travel and play on turf, the MLS is likely the most grueling league in the world on a player’s body. I’d say this makes a pretty compelling case that MLS is not an easy league to play in and not an easy league to compete against. It is a league that is on the rise in a country where soccer continues to become more popular.

At this point, it is safe to say calling the MLS a retirement league would be a false statement and there is minimal evidence to support such a claim. No one would argue that the MLS is not at the level of the EPL, but it is a competitive league that fits in nicely on the map of world leagues. So please, stop with the claims that players just come for a paycheck and Disneyland trips, and save your breath and my time.

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