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Philadelphia Union

24 June 8:41 pm

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.

19 June 5:48 pm

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 !

11 June 12:15 pm

It may have gotten lost outside Philadelphia with Euro 2012 hogging the headlines, but rumors swirled this weekend that Union head coach Peter Nowak had put his name in the hat for the managerial opening at Scottish Premier League side Hearts.

Nowak was quick to deny the claims, but that doesn't mean the Edinburgh Evening News' Barry Anderson is backing off his report, coming out on Twitter to make his position clear.

So who to believe? Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

06 June 5:50 pm

Manchester United.

That’s the match – back in July 2010 – that many MLS observers still hang on to when it comes to reminding themselves of the promise of former Philadelphia Union striker Danny Mwanga.

But the magical days in a Union shirt for the former No. 1 SuperDraft pick have been few and far between in the last two seasons.

Mwanga’s last goal for Philadelphia in MLS play? It came nearly a year ago (June 25, 2011).

The 20-year-old has been on the field for 61 league matches over three seasons and found the back of the net in just 11 of those games.

One reason for the limited production is injuries. Plenty of them. Rarely will you find a third-year player who has missed matches due to the same variety of injuries: hip, right knee, groin, hamstring, shoulder and a case of sore ribs after falling on them in practice earlier this season.  

If Mwanga’s durability to withstand the physical rigors of MLS is a concern, his lack of production without Sebastien Le Toux is downright alarming. Of his 12 goals in his MLS career, nine came off assists from Le Toux. The other three were unassisted.

In MLS you have to be tough and you have to be ready to adjust to any situation and any player. That’s why the Union are better off with the experienced Jorge Perlaza.

The Timbers highlighted Perlaza's speed when they acquired him at the start of last season and we’ve seen signs of how much of a factor it can be. But not in the goal-scoring department. Six goals in 32 starts – none this year – is nothing to write home about.

However, put Perlaza’s production into perspective: The Timbers are a team that don’t score many goals in general, whether Perlaza is there or not. In fact, only three teams have scored fewer goals than the Timbers this year. It was the exact same story at the end of last year.

Does Mwanga have more upside? Sure. He also brings good hold-up ability and the potential to playmake and create his own opportunities. But that’s also what Darlington Nagbe was expected to bring at the second forward position.

Mwanga’s integration into Portland’s system and his impact on Nagbe’s position will be fascinating to watch. It may not prove as seamless, however, as Perlaza who has the traits to be the perfect partner for hard-working compatriot Lionard Pajoy in the Union attack.

29 May 2:16 pm

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.

25 May 6:55 pm

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.

CLICK ME!

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.

27 April 5:21 pm

Otra semana pasa y nos alistamos para otra jornada de la MLS.

FC Dallas y Real Salt Lake ya comenzaron la Fecha 8 con un partido que terminó en un frustrante empate para ambos clubes.

Ahora viene el plato fuerte, y como hemos tomado de costumbre, ofrecemos nuestros pronósticos para esta fecha.

Aquí en Tiro Libre no somos adivinos, pero si muy competitivos. Así que veremos quien de estos panelistas tiene razón en su manera de ver el juego y analizar los equipos.

Como siempre, ustedes nos pueden acompañar en esta causa y dar sus propias predicciones por Twitter.

Aquí vamos:

Semana 8

Partido

Kristel Valencia
Editora

Edgar Acero
Editor Asociado

Simon Borg
Senior Editor

Carlos Rodriguez
Editor de Video

MTL v POR
(Sab, 2 ET)

EMPATE

EMPATE

NY v NE
(Sab, 3:30 ET)

PHI v SJ
(Sab, 7 ET)

EMPATE

EMPATE

DC v HOU
(Sab, 7:30 ET)

EMPATE

EMPATE

CLB v VAN
(Sab, 7:30 ET)

EMPATE

EMPATE

EMPATE

CHI v SEA
(Sab, 8:30 ET)

EMPATE

EMPATE

COL v CHV
(Sab, 9 ET)

EMPATE

RSL v TOR
(Sab, 9 ET)

EMPATE

EMPATE

LA v DAL
(Sab, 10:30 ET)

Correcto/Total

 

4/9

 

 

4/9

 

 

3/9

 

 

4/9

 

20 April 3:43 pm

Vaya semana para hacer pronósticos…

Nos enmudecimos la jornada anterior pero regresamos en esta fecha para desafiar al futuro y predecir lo que ocurrirá en los partidos de la Jornada 7 de la temporada regular.

El Gringo Simon Borg tuvo algo de suerte en la Jornada 5 y nos ganó a todos, mientras que Kristel y yo tenemos que desempatar esta semana. Carlos por su parte... pobre Carlos.

En fin, los verdaderos expertos son ustedes, los aficionados, así que como siempre esperamos que también nos den sus predicciones en los comentarios abajo o por Twitter en @Futbol_MLS.

Deséenme suerte, y los dejo con esto:

ESCUCHA: El Matador Luis Hernández opina sobre la suspensión a Rafa Márquez  

Semana 7

Partido

Kristel Valencia
Editora

Edgar Acero
Editor Asociado

Simon Borg
Editor Senior

Carlos Rodriguez
Editor de Video

TOR v CHI
(Sab, 3:30 ET)

EMPATE

CLB v HOU
(Sab 7:30 ET)

EMPATE

COL v LA
(Sab, 9 ET)

EMPATE

EMPATE

VAN v DAL
(Sab, 10 ET)

EMPATE

CHV v PHI
(Sab, 10:30 ET)

EMPATE

EMPATE

EMPATE

SJ v RSL
(Sab, 10:30 ET)

EMPATE

EMPATE

POR v SKC
(Sab, 10:30 ET)

EMPATE

DC v NY
(Dom, 6 ET)

EMPATE

EMPATE

Correcto/Total

 

2/8

 

 

2/8

 

 

1/8

 

 

5/8

 

 

17 April 9:50 am

There’s a lot that goes into being a captain, and each of the 19 in Major League Soccer approach it in a different way. From Shalrie Joseph’s ever-present chatter to Davy Arnaud’s work ethic, our new series “Taking the Lead” provides an in-depth look at what leadership means to those wearing the armband, as told in their own voices. The series debuts Wednesday, April 18 with Real Salt Lake captain Kyle Beckerman.

16 April 12:02 pm

The first MLS international transfer window of the season closes on Monday night and reports have several MLS teams scrambling to make some late additions to their squads. The next international window opens in the summer.

Here's the rundown of the names in the news: 

Kai Herdling: The Philadelphia Union are rumored to have worked out a loan deal for the 27-year-old Hoffenheim forward which could potentially run through December.

Luis Advincula: The Houston Dynamo are reportedly chasing this Sporting Cristal winger with paperwork already being exchanged, according to this article.

José Erick Correa: Chivas USA may be landing an in-form striker from Boyacá Chicó, who has six goals in league play and has been called up to the Colombian national team this week.

Andreas Dober: The Austrian right back is reportedly in Portland negotiating a move to MLS. He currently plays with TSV Hartberg, which has given him the all-clear to leave.

Wilmer Crisanto: The Honduran Olympic right back has been linked to FC Dallas and D.C. United. But his contract status with Honduran side Victoria is still unclear.

Arnold Peralta Another Under-23 Honduran player is rumored to be heading to D.C. United with a contract already on the table. This report has a rumored seven-month loan from Honduran club Vida with an option to buy.

Daniele Paponi: The Italian forward from Bologna was reportedly heading to the Chicago Fire on trial. The MLS club says that they have sought out information about Paponi but they say they've not been directly in contact with him.