On Tuesday, I noted that Uri Rosell has done superb work cleaning up messes in the central midfield for Sporting KC which, in all honesty, was one of the big questions for that team headed into the season.
Thanks to his work (and Paolo Nagamura, and Benny Feilhaber, and Peterson Joseph, and even a little bit of Lawrence Olum), attacking KC up the gut is still a no-go. But attacking from out wide doesn't work so great, either:
|Sporting Kansas City||268|
|San Jose Earthquakes||221|
|New York Red Bulls||208|
|Real Salt Lake||189|
|New England Revolution||175|
|Seattle Sounders FC||148|
Obviously, this doesn't mean SKC are unbeatable. They can be had, especially in transition, and their attack still isn't clicking the way Peter Vermes must have hoped it would heading into the season.
But they still get the basics right. And that's why they'll be at or near the top of the Eastern Conference through the rest of the season.
It's something of a transition year for Sporting KC, as they commit a little more fully to building chances from possession, rather than forcing chances via turnover.
That said, forcing midfield turnovers is still a huge part of their game, their high pressure still works, and someone still needs to do the dirty work in the midfield. Uri Rosell, the Barcelona product, has been more than happy to do that particular job:
Leading the league in recoveries is no small thing – Ozzie Alonso's done it each of the last two years, and is rightly regarded as one of the two best d-mids in the league. But Rosell could push himself into that conversation if he keeps playing at this level.
Dax McCarty, by the way, probably already belongs in that conversation. He was second in recoveries to Alonso last season, and would be leading the league this year if he hadn't missed the past couple of games through injury. It's fairly amazing that the Red Bulls have coped so well without him.
In Friday's entry, I made the point that Portland have climbed toward the top of the standings by both dominating the ball, and by doing so upfield. They lead the league (comfortably) in passing completion percentage in the opposition half.
As many pointed out, both on Twitter and in the comments section, Vancouver were second in that same metric. And the 'Caps are nowhere near the top of the standings.
Here's the difference, though:
|Team||Passes Opp Half|
|Real Salt Lake||3,255|
|New York Red Bulls||3,147|
|Sporting Kansas City||3,090|
|San Jose Earthquakes||2,683|
|New England Revolution||2,185|
So, there's your context. The Timbers are defending from the front, holding the ball as far up the pitch as possible, for as long as possible.
And it's working.
You've probably noticed that the Portland Timbers are pretty tough to beat. They're one of only two teams in the league with just a single loss, and it's not because they're bunkering.
On the contrary, they'll holding the ball higher up the pitch, and defending from the front better than anyone in the leauge:
|Team||Passing Accuracy in Opp Half: 2013||Passing Accuracy in Opp Half: 2012|
|Sporting Kansas City||71.7||69.81|
|Real Salt Lake||70.92||73.21|
|New York Red Bulls||70.74||72.21|
|Seattle Sounders FC||70.35||69.28|
|New England Revolution||63.26||67.6|
|San Jose Earthquakes||62.64||69.92|
That's what coach Caleb Porter has instilled from Day 1: Defend the ball, not the goal. And his team has taken to it with aplomb thus far.
If you want to understand what "Porterball" really is, that's where you need to start.
P.S. We'll get to that outrageous 2012 number for Chivas USA at a later date. Statistics, remember, can often be damned, dirty lies.
This one's pretty easy:
|Player||Chances Created from Open Play|
|García, Oscar Boniek||17|
Bear in mind, Wondo has played more minutes than most of the guys on that list, and San Jose's wide-open style is conducive to creating a ton of chances no matter who's out there.
But still... he's leading the league in chances created from the run of play. And he's tied for second in assists. It takes more than a poacher's instincts to manage that.
It took two games for Roy Miller to become a punchline this season, but since his return to the lineup in mid-April, the New York Red Bulls have gone 4-1-0. Here's a chart that should give you some idea as to why:
|Team||Crossing Open Accuracy||Crosses/Corners Accuracy|
|New York Red Bulls||31.21||33.02|
|Seattle Sounders FC||25.22||27.85|
|New England Revolution||24.32||23.58|
|Sporting Kansas City||22.78||30.37|
|Real Salt Lake||18.38||22.65|
|San Jose Earthquakes||18.32||23.1|
This is not to say that Miller, alone, is the cause for New York's crossing prowess. In fact, he rates significantly lower than Heath Pearce – the "other" left back in Mike Petke's rotation – by Opta's count.
But one of the best aspects of Thierry Henry's game is his ability to drop deep on the left, find space, then curl in a right-footed cross to the penalty spot – usually aiming for the head of Tim Cahill, who still excels at making those delayed runs from central midfield.
The reason Henry has all that space? Because Miller overlaps as relentlessly as any fullback in the league, dragging defenders away from the Frenchman, creating new passing lanes, and just making it harder to defend that side of the field.
As our man Greg Seltzer pointed out last week, US national team striker Terrence Boyd has had a pretty stellar first season of top-flight European soccer. He's been mostly a starter, he's been mostly really good, and he's been mostly really consistent at putting the ball in the back of the net, scoring 12 times for Rapid Vienna.
But while he's been good, his team just hasn't. Not by their own standards, anyway. Currently the Green-Whites are 23 points off the pace set by (hated rivals) Austria Vienna, and are fighting for the second Europa League spot. For a club that's used to the top of the table – Rapid have an Austrian record 32 titles – third place just isn't good enough.
So the fans bricked up the front doors of the club's offices and made it clear that general manager Werner Kuhn is, ahem, not well-liked:
Credit to Deadspin for spotting the story, and to the Rapid Ultras for the image.
Rioters in Egypt set the Egyptian soccer federation building ablaze on Saturday, the latest in a series of protests in the wake of last year's Port Said soccer riots.
According to Jeff Bradley, Egyptian national team coach Bob Bradley, who coached the US from 2007-11, is safe:
Just spoke to Bob. He's fine.
— Jeff Bradley (@JerseyJBradley) March 9, 2013
The rioters were protesting a court's ruling to acquit death sentences for 28 fans of Al-Masry SC, prompting retaliation by supporters of Cairo-based Al-Ahly that left one person dead and several dozen reportedly hospitalized.
The ruling also upheld death sentences for 21 men who were found guilty of playing a role in the murder of 79 rival fans, mostly Al-Ahly supporters. There were also riots over the original ruling in January, leaving another 21 dead.
Bradley told SI.com in February that he intends to continue as Egypt's manager through World Cup qualifying despite the adversity. The Pharaohs, who have not qualified for the World Cup since 1990, are currently atop Group G with six points from two games. They return to action on Marcy 26 vs. Zimbabwe, a game scheduled to be played in Alexandria.
How close is Miami to joining the queue to get an MLS expansion franchise?
Maybe not as close as a recent report from Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl seemed to indicate.
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee took to Twitter on Monday to address the report, which said that MLS Commissioner Don Garber had engaged in talks with the NFL club about bringing a team to South Florida. Dee said that there had been no formal discussions between the two parties, but explained that the Dolphins would "keep an open mind" about MLS:
Comm. Garber's apparent interest in MIA is the latest testament to our growing reputation as the premier soccer market in N. America (1/3)
— Mike Dee (@MikeDeeFins) March 4, 2013
While we've not taken part in formal discussions re ownership of a MLS team, we'd certainly keep an open mind w/r/t any proposals that (2/3)
— Mike Dee (@MikeDeeFins) March 4, 2013
...could bring an MLS franchise to Miami. (3/3)
— Mike Dee (@MikeDeeFins) March 4, 2013
On Monday evening, MLS released a statement regarding the situation, saying that "no formal discussions" had taken place between the league and the Dolphins.
All soccer specific stadiums are beautiful. Even ones that have the camera on the wrong side.
Check out Louisville's planned soccer specific stadium here. It's pretty great - it really is.
The one issue is that, if the mock-ups are accurate, the camera will be pointing toward the "open" end instead of the filled grandstand. That's a shame, because it absolutely will take something away from the TV broadcast/online stream.
But hey, they're all beautiful. Even when the camera's fixed on the wrong part.