À l’issue de la mini-trêve réservée aux équipes nationales, il ne restera que deux semaines de compétition à la saison régulière et deux rencontres à toutes les équipes dont le sort n’est pas encore scellé. Voici un tour d’horizon des différents enjeux. À vos pronostics !
San José est quasiment assuré de remporter le trophée. Avec 5 points d’avance sur Kansas City, il lui suffit à toutes fins pratiques d’un point pour terminer en tête du classement (en cas d’égalité, les équipes sont départagées par le nombre de buts marqués, ce qui avantage nettement les Californiens). Ils auront l’occasion de le remporter contre le LA Galaxy puis à Portland. En cas de double échec du leader, les Sportingmen devront réaliser le sans-faute à New York et contre Philadelphie pour s’adjuger le Supporters Shield.
San José est d’ores et déjà assuré de participer à la Ligue des champions car Kansas City s’y est qualifié en remportant la Coupe des États-Unis.
Salt Lake, Seattle et le LA Galaxy accompagneront San José en phase finale. Le dernier siège sera pour Vancouver ou Dallas. Avantage à l’équipe de Martin Rennie, qui compte quatre unités d’avance sur son adversaire. Une victoire contre Portland ou à Salt Lake lui suffira. Les Texans, qui ont marqué plus de buts, ne peuvent se permettre la moindre défaite et sont quasiment contraints au 6/6 à Seattle et contre Chivas USA.
Kansas City et Chicago sont déjà rassurés sur leur sort. Quatre équipes luttent pour les trois dernières places. DC United (3e, 54 pts) est le mieux classé mais son calendrier est ardu, avec la visite de Columbus et un déplacement à Chicago. Tout comme New York (4e, 53 pts), qui accueillera Kansas City avant d’aller à Philadelphie, il peut se contenter d’une victoire ou tabler sur une défaite des deux autres prétendants. Houston (5e, 50 pts), qui reçoit Philadelphie et se déplace à Colorado, doit prendre au moins autant de points que Columbus (6e, 49 pts et en mauvaise posture car la moins bonne attaque des quatre) qui, après son déplacement à DC United, jouera contre Toronto.
À trois journées de la fin de la saison régulière, la qualification de Vancouver pour la phase finale ne tient plus qu’à un fil. L’émission Coup Franc de la semaine (à écouter ici) se penche, entre autres, sur le cas du club de Colombie-Britannique, mais ce n’est qu’un ingrédient d’un menu à nouveau très riche :
- Notre invité Alain Rochat parle de la méforme de Vancouver, des problèmes que la défense a connus pendant l’été, de l’attaque remodelée, des départs de Le Toux et Hassli, de l’intégration des renforts écossais, de son nouveau rôle, de Darren Mattocks et des nombreux changements dans l’effectif.
- Le grand match de Thierry Henry contre Toronto, et la valeur ajoutée des joueurs désignés
- Le sommet entre Kansas City et Chicago (résumé vidéo)
- Dallas qui pousse San José dans ses derniers retranchements
- Débat : Conférence Est ou Ouest, laquelle est meilleure ? Selon quels critères ? La question est-elle pertinente ? La discussion glisse sur le sujet du calendrier déséquilibré (voyez la déclaration de Bruce Arena à ce sujet) et s’enflamme…
- Les qualifiés pour la phase finale seront-ils tous des prétendants à la Coupe MLS ?
A few weeks ago, I was pretty convinced that the Western Conference playoff race was over. Sure, Chivas USA were lurking around, and Colorado had some pieces in place, but neither really seemed threatening.
LA, meanwhile, were heating up, and Vancouver seemed rock-solid despite overhauling their roster.
Fast forward to this week. The 'Caps have lost two in a row, and are just 3-6-3 in their last 12. They're right there with the Galaxy on 37 points, and should be safe, but ... here come FC Dallas.
They've been a new team since David Ferreira has returned to fitness, and the reigning MLS Player of the Week just so happened to eviscerate the Whitecaps last Wednesday in a 2-0 win at BC Place. Brek Shea has come to life for club and country, while Fabián Castillo has started to look the part of a Designated Player thanks largely to the space Ferreira has created for him in attack.
They've just been missing one piece: center forward Blas Pérez. The big Panamanian was one of the stars of the early-going this year, but has missed much of the last several months with both injuries and personal tragedy when his father passed away.
It's been a long road back. Which probably made this tweet that much more satisfying:
CORRECTION: D.C. United has not yet clinched Carolina Challenge Cup championship. I apologize for the confusion. #MLS
— Andrew Wiebe (@AndrewWiebe_MLS) March 3, 2012
Ever wonder what the days are like in the life of MLSers leading up to matches?
Well, now you can find out. Major League Soccer and NBC have announced a new, day-in-the-life series, MLS 36. The program – which follows in the footsteps of fellow NBC Sports Network series Fight Night 36, IndyCar 36 and NHL 36 – takes viewers behind the scenes for a player's 36 hours prior to kickoff.
San Jose Earthquakes star and golden-boot leading Chris Wondolowski wil be the first league player highlighted, when his preparation for the 2012 MLS All-Star Game will air on Sunday, August 5 at 9:30 pm ET on the NBC Sports Network. The second installment is set to air the following Friday, August 10 when Seattle's Fredy Montero's preparations are recorded ahead of the Sounders' World Football Challenge match vs. Chelsea on July 18.
Additional episodes and players of MLS 36 will be announced at a later date. Which player to the right would you want to see featured? Or, let us know who else you would want in the comments below.
On vient de dépasser la mi-saison et j’avais envie de voir à quel point les équipes en étaient par rapport au même stade l’an dernier. Le calendrier de la MLS étant ce qu’il est, j’ai d’abord réalisé un classement des 18 premières rencontres de chaque club (qui permet au passage de relativiser le classement actuel). Ensuite, je l’ai comparé avec le classement de leurs 18 premiers duels l’an dernier pour voir leurs progressions / régressions respectives. Même s’il faut prendre ces tableaux avec des pincettes, notamment en raison du déséquilibre entre les matchs joués à domicile et à l’extérieur, ils n’en demeurent pas moins des indicateurs très intéressants. À vous d’en tirer vos propres conclusions… N’hésitez pas à les partager !
|CLASSEMENT 2012 APRÈS 18 MATCHS|
|COMPARAISON 2012 / 2011 APRÈS 18 MATCHS|
Julian de Guzman appears to be on his way out of Toronto after four years spent as one of the biggest names on the Reds’ roster.
Sportsnet in Canada is reporting that de Guzman has been traded to FC Dallas, although it’s unclear exactly what head coach Paul Mariner’s club will get in return for one of their three Designated Players.
De Guzman has appeared in 65 games for Toronto since signing as the first Designated Player in club history in 2009. Read the report here.
When shooting multi-camera interviews, it's helpful to use a utility of some kind to sync up the audio and video from those cameras in the post-production process.
Sometimes it's done with a clapperboard (in the movies, it's the little black-and-white board with an arm that snaps down, usually with the movie name and scene written on it). In this case, FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea was our "sync popper", so I asked him to clap each time we started recording, which ended up being eight takes in all. He certainly made the most of his new responsibility.
There's like a 99 percent chance that, if you're reading this blog post, you also watched the 2012 European Championship final between Spain and Italy.
It was awesome. Even if you had no rooting interest (full disclosure: I'm a quarter Italian, but was pulling for Spain), it's hard not to get caught up when the stakes are that high and the quality of soccer on display matches it.
And it just kills me that CONCACAF and CONMEBOL can't figure out a way to get a "Copa Américas" up and running every four years, starting immediately after the Euros. What an incredible opportunity the two confederations are missing.
Hopefully someday, they'll figure it out.
Anyway, only one real observation this week...
Scoring keeps going up and up and up
OK, now that you've read it, you know that teams are passing more, passing more accurately, passing more aggressively, and as a result (we assume), scoring more. Before this week scoring was already up 12 percent over last season's pace. That will have gone up some more, since in Week 17's 10-game slate there were 34 total goals.
And it's not just a blip. Since the end of the international break, MLS clubs have produced 100 goals in 33 games (thanks to Greg Lalas for that little tidbit).
It's the reversal of a 10-year trend. Back in 2001 MLS averaged 3.28 goals per game; by 2010, that was down to 2.46. Here's the whole table:
2011 -- 2.58
2010 -- 2.46
2009 -- 2.54
2008 -- 2.81
2007 -- 2.66
2006 -- 2.62
2005 -- 2.87
2004 -- 2.61
2003 -- 2.89
2002 -- 3.01
2001 -- 3.28
2000 -- 3.19
1999 -- 2.86
1998 -- 3.57*
1997 -- 3.26
1996 -- 3.37
The key thing here isn't just that MLS have imported guys like Thierry Henry (one of the league's elite finishers) and David Beckham (one of the league's elite chance creators). The league's also kept guys like Dwayne De Rosario and Brad Davis, who've both had overseas interest; they've developed highly rated talents like Chris Pontius and Will Bruin, who've both been given plenty of time to figure out where the net is; and, of course, used the Reserve League to help build Chris Wondolowski, who's turning into one of MLS' all-time greats.
It's a multi-faceted approach to finding and cultivating talent, and the numbers say it's working.
* For those of you who don't remember 1998 for one reason or another ... yes, that season was as crazy as the numbers indicate. Go find some YouTube clips of that year's Galaxy squad — it'll be worth your time.
I just went 2/9 on my weekend picks. This was after going 2/6 midweek.
It’s not because I’m bad at picking games (though lord knows, I’m not good), but it’s because the parity in MLS is just that hard to get a handle on these days. This is a league where players like Branko Boskovic and Chris Rolfe come off the bench, where Danny Koevermans goes from misfiring back to deadeye, and where a nine-point week is enough to vault you back into the playoff race.
Turns out the Galaxy aren’t dead yet
Sorry, I know this is going to annoy a lot of you. It’s always fun to try to shovel dirt on the champs – doubly so when it’s a high-profile team.
But it turns out that was premature. LA just rattled off three straight wins, including two by shutout. It’s too early to say they’ve returned to their 2011 form, but it’s also clearly too late to take back all the nasty stuff we’ve said about them over the past couple of months.
One thing to bear in mind: David Beckham said it came down to being happy and loose in the locker room, and that it’s cleared up only in the past couple of weeks. So whatever it was that was eating away at LA’s commitment went away when Robbie Keane did. Will it return now that he has?
“Emergency Defender” proving a rock in Philly
Last week John Hackworth said that youngster Amobi Okugo would be playing in central defense for the time being as an emergency measure. If his first two games there are any indication, he may never get a chance to move back to the midfield.
Okugo is simply excellent when the game is being played in front of him, showing good anticipation and understanding of both when and how to play outlets to the midfield. He’s also big and strong enough (6-foot, 170 pounds) to bully around in the box when it comes down to that.
Most importantly, though, he’s just a better player when he doesn’t have to have 360 degree awareness. This isn’t unusual – d-mids tend to mature later than other players precisely because it’s such a complex position.
But Philly already have two veterans (Brian Carroll and Gabriel Gomez) for that spot, and are paper-thin in defense. And the US… well, we know all about the plethora of defensive-minded central midfielders available to Jurgen Klinsmann.
There are, however, precious few young central defenders who’ve impressed on a game-to-game basis. Okugo’s off to a good start in that regard. Let’s hope he stays there, and we see a bit of him in the red, white and blue this January.
Why not build more Gordons?
Alan Gordon didn’t just become a good soccer player overnight. He’s always had a great passing eye, a good understanding of where to be in build-up play and a willingness to stick his nose in. Even if he’s not a 90-minute player, he’s still valuable. The past two months – and past two games especially – have been proof enough of that.
The thing is, though, that Gordon (and his teammate Steven Lenhart) were built by years of practice and occasional game time. Each of them took several years to get up to speed, and now the Quakes are reaping the rewards of both LA’s and Columbus’ hard work.
Which begs the question: Why don’t more teams take on young guys like Gordon and Lenhart then groom them for that specific role? While combing through MLS rosters, the only ones I’ve seen who are really, truly doing that are Columbus (with Tom Heinemann and Aaron Schoenfeld), Houston (Cam Weaver and Colin Rolfe) and New England (Blake Brettschneider).
None of these guys are truly ready right now – though Brettschneider is close, and Heinemann would have gotten there this season if not for his injury – but in two years, all of these guys can be looked at as Gordon or Lenhart-types.
Or, if you want to go with the original model: Brian Ching-types.
So yeah, putting a guy like that – a true center forward – out there may not be what Vicente del Bosque would do. But no MLS team is going to have Xavi, Iniesta, Silva, Fabregas and Busquets to call on. If you’re not Spain, chances are you’ll need a target.
I’d want my team already hard at work making one.