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.
The Scottish Premier League's loss just may be Major League Soccer's gain.
After the collapse of storied club Glasgow Rangers, their prized winger Sono Aluko is being linked with a move across the pond to the United States. According to a report from The Scottish Sun, the 23-year-old Nigerian international has declared publicly that he does not want his contract renewed, with the publication contending that the Houston Dynamo are leading the charge for his services.
According to the Sun, the New England Revolution are also in the hunt for the outside midfielder, who scored 12 goals in 21 appearances last season for 'Gers. The English-born Aluko spent three seasons playing for fellow SPL side Aberdeen – where he tallied seven times in 82 appearances – prior to joining Rangers. The report also mentions Championship sides Crystal Palace and Charlton as teams interested in Aluko's services.
If the Scottish Football Association agrees to transfer his registration, he could be set to make an immediate impact for whichever club he signs with.
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.
Coup Franc prend de l’ampleur ! En plus des textes quasi quotidiens sur cette page, MLSsoccer.com vous offre désormais une émission hebdomadaire en français. Elle sera mise en ligne chaque mardi. Rendez-vous ici pour écouter la première.
En voici le menu, ainsi que quelques liens et vidéos pour en savoir plus sur les sujets abordés :
- L’inauguration du stade Saputo rénové (photos) ; le troisième but de Montréal et la passe « Brésilienne » de Patrice Bernier (vidéo)
- Notre invité André Hainault parle du match Houston - Dallas, de sa meilleure place sur le terrain, du caractère offensif des défenseurs de Houston, des conditions de jeu dans son club qui vient d’inaugurer son nouveau stade
- L’équipe nationale canadienne, avec un retour sur Canada - Honduras
- Nouvel entraîneur à Toronto et à Philadelphie : est-ce que le choc psychologique fonctionne vraiment ? (Articles 1 et 2 sur des études menées à ce sujet)
N’hésitez évidemment pas à réagir et à nous envoyer vos commentaires, vos suggestions et vos questions !
2012 hasn't been particularly kind of FC Dallas on the field, but it seems the return of El Capitán, the cannon awarded to the winner of the Dallas-Houston rivalry, could go a long way toward increasing morale.
At least that's the message I'm getting from the club's most recent video offering, an immensely enjoyable dub over featuring many of the squad ahead of Saturday's match on ESPN2.
Although there is some debate around MLS Digital HQ about FC Dallas' dance moves – the feelings range from envy to embarrassment – I've got to give Schellas Hyndman's side credit ... they really embraced the concept.
My favorite moment from FC Dallas' ode to El Capitán? The scene from 1:35 until 1:59 with David Ferreira waltzing in from left to right to start things off and Jair Benítez flashing a megawatt smile throughout.
As they say, timing is everything.
On the same day the Houston Dynamo found out that they will face Honduran side Olimpia in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League this summer, the MLS club has reportedly plucked one of Olimpia's most prized possessions.
Honduran international midfielder Oscar Boniek García is apparently heading to the Dynamo after rumors of the deal first surfaced several months back. Diez is reporting that the president of Honduran club Olimpia has confirmed the deal.
The article states that Boniek García, who was one of the stars of the 2011 Gold Cup, will be joining the Dynamo following the second of two World Cup qualifiers on June 12 in Toronto.
He's versatile enough to play in several of a number of positions from holding midfielder, to attacking midfielder and even on the right side of midfield, a position still in flux for Houston in 2012.
Total Points – Dwayne De Rosario (89)
With Thierry Henry missing several weeks due to a hamstring injury, DeRo has taken over as the No. 1 player in Fantasy Soccer: Manager. He’s had a weeks of 10, 15 and 20 points, and his most recent point output was the most by a single player thus far in 2012. DeRo has 20+ more points than the next closest midfielder, making him a legitimate threat every week and a player you can build your team around.
Percentage Owned – Jay DeMerit (35.3)
DeMerit has been the most widely selected player in FS: M the entire season. Thirty-five percent of all managers currently have him on their roster. The second-closest player is Kenny Cooper (28 percent). At one point, DeMerit had the highest score of any defender, but lately he’s been slipping. D.C. United players Daniel Woolard and Brandon McDonald, Aurélien Colin, and even teammate Lee Young-Pyo have since leapfrogged DeMerit, so only time will tell if it’s his worldwide fame or his actual production that makes him the most “popular” player in MLS.
Crosses & Key Passes – Graham Zusi (33) & (34)
Zusi has calmed down slightly after a fast start, but his 33 crosses are still seven better than the next closest player. Three successful crosses equals one bonus point, so Zusi could’ve potentially gained an additional 11 points for his efforts thus far. He also leads the league in Key Passes (34) and has seven more than the next closest player in this category as well. Zusi should continue to be one of the most coveted midfielders due to his time on the ball and SKC’s all-out attack style offense.
Big Chances Fluffed – Dominic Oduro (7)
One of the fastest – if not the fastest – players in MLS has been a huge bust in 2012. In the four games in which Oduro has scored, he’s tallied six or more points each time. However, in every other game this season (eight games) he’s managed just two points or less. In his last seven games he’s put up one point or less on six different occasions. Oduro is getting great looks, but he’s missing every single one of them. He leads all players in BCFs and has been deducted seven points total because of it. At this point, he’s more of a risk than anything.
CBI’s – A.J. Soares (123)
My initial pick for Defender of the Year is not having a sophomore slump by any means. His 123 CBIs (clearances, blocks and interceptions combined) leads all players and he’ll likely widen the gap with two games coming up in Week 13. Only three other players have more than 100 CBIs and none of them will be under more pressure than Soares should the rest of the season. He’s an absolute ball shark, but has never really been a threat on set pieces. One can only hope that his recent goal will encourage Jay Heaps to push him up more often.
Recoveries – Osvaldo Alonso (136)
Disregarding goalkeepers, there’s a tight battle for the title of “the best second-ball winner” in MLS. Alonso currently leads Dax McCarty (133) by only three recoveries, but that’s pretty much his only competition. Kyle Beckerman has the third most with 100, and it looks as if his absence due to national team duty will only widen the margin. Alonso has gained 19 bonus points already from recoveries so expect him to keep this all season long.
Transfers In – Nick DeLeon (3,800+)
When David Estrada (3,500+ transfers) started cooling down, DeLeon became all the talk. The D.C. United rookie is currently the most added player with over 3,800 transfers. His value started at $5.5m and quickly made its way to $6.8m. Now that he’s back from injury don’t expect him to return to his previous form. When DeLeon was clicking, DeRo and Salihi were in a slump. Now that they’re back in form, expect DeLeon to take a back seat. He’s still valuable, but not as much as he was back in April.
Dream Team – Kenny Cooper (4)
No one has made the “Dream Team” more times this season than Kenny Cooper, but you have to credit Thierry Henry with helping him reach this point. Coop-dog has scored six or more points on nine different occasions in 2012, making him one of the most consistent forwards in MLS. He continued to put up numbers even when Henry was out, so look for him to only get better now that he’s returned.
You have an iPhone. You use it all the time. You sing songs to it. You need it. You love it. Maybe a little too much.
Maybe you sleep with it under your pillow. Maybe you grouse to it about your boss. Maybe you tell it about that one time in college when you... well, that's between you and Siri. Because Siri understands.
Siri also understands updates. She loves 'em. And we love 'em, too.
So here's the MLS iOS app update, which was just approved in the store.
Key new features:
- Condensed games for MLS live subscribers
- Enhanced highlight ui
- New live ui
- Bug fixes
Oh, and Android users? Your update is coming. Be patient.
Sent from my flip phone.
Could Geoff Cameron become the latest US men's national team player to make the jump across the pond?
Power 5 Center Backs: Best Ball Skills at #3
According to a report on Soccer by Ives, the 26-year-old Houston Dynamo is attracting a number of suitors from across Europe. Though no specific teams have been mentioned, the report cites interest from England, Holland, Germany and Portugal.
If Cameron does make the jump to Europe, which league would fit his style the best? Should he jump straight to the big time and opt for a move to England or Germany, or would he be better off testing the waters in Portugal or the Eredivisie?
Wherever he goes, it's clear that we will begin to hear a lot more about Cameron. His play for the Dynamo has caught the eye of US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who now considers him among his top options in the center of defense thanks not only to his defensive abilities, but also his technical skills, which fit in well with Klinsmann's vision for the team.
Does Cameron have what it takes to cut it in Europe? Can he show he's the center back of the future for the US national team? Weigh in with your comments below.