blog

Sporting Kansas City

01 July 6:21 pm

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

You should be reading Andrew Wiebe's Opta Spotlight every week. This past week's edition was especially good. Click me!

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.

30 June 12:22 am

Just in time for the seven games on the MLS schedule that are available on MLS LIVE this weekend, our developers have launched two new features for the live match streaming service.

Multi-game: Users can now watch up to three games at once
Game Alerts: Users can now get notified on screen about other game events.
 
This is available immediately for both live and archived content. Which is important, because you probably don't already watch enough soccer.
 
Go to http://live.mlssoccer.com to sign up for MLS LIVE and watch all the best MLS action live.
 

 
We're pretty happy about it. Hopefully you are, too.
 
PS - We're also working on new features on the iPhone/iPad in the coming weeks. Patience.
26 June 1:26 pm

Comme chaque mardi, Coup Franc passe de l’écrit à l’oral. Notre émission hebdomadaire est disponible ici. Au menu :
- Le match au sommet entre New York et DC United (résumé vidéo ; le 2-1 par Barklage). Quelles sont les forces et les faiblesses de ces équipes, leur bon classement actuel reflète-t-il leur réelle valeur ?
- La découverte de la semaine, Antoine Hoppenot, est notre invité. Voyez ici son but, le penalty qu’il a provoqué et sa première grosse occasion. Nous faisons sa connaissance, il nous parle de la cinglante victoire de Philadelphie contre Kansas City (résumé complet) et des changements apportés par John Hackworth.
- Nos choix pour le Match des étoiles (All-Star Game). N’oubliez pas de voter !
- Le tifo de Portland contre Seattle.
- Hassoun Camara, qui en est à sa deuxième saison à Montréal, connaît-il bien le Québec ?

L'émission Coup Franc est désormais aussi disponible sur iTunes.

25 June 10:37 am

Let's be honest, even Philadelphia fans didn't see that coming.

And while all the plaudits for Saturday's 4-0 thrashing of Sporting KC will go to Jack McInerney and Antoine Hoppenot, I can't help but think Carlos Valdes is getting the short shrift. The guy, not singlehandedly it must be said, shut down a front line in Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara and C.J. Sapong that makes most defenses look, well, defenseless at least a couple times per game.

On Saturday, there was none of that at PPL Park. Valdes cleaned up any mess that entered his area, kept Zac MacMath from having to do much other than boot the occasional goal kick and generally bossed the area of the field SKC was trying to exploit. So in homage to Valdes performance, we've put together a highlight reel of his second half contributions. Frankly, it was the least we could do.

So sit back and enjoy, unless you're a Kansas City fan of course.

24 June 9:41 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.

18 June 12:00 pm

Other than to say it looks like Sporting KC's ambition knows no bounds, I'll let Peter Vermes do the talking on this one.

The Kansas City manager begins discussing the club's pursuit of the Mexican national team starlet around the 3:30 mark in the video below.

29 May 3:16 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 7:55 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.

04 May 1:01 pm

Sporting Kansas City's Bobby Convey is neck deep in bath water and surrounded by quite the ambiance (lit candles included) for another edition of #FollowFriday.

How on earth the fine folks at Sporting KC managed to convince the club's new winger to push the envelope even further from a few weeks ago is beyond me. That said, the results are incredible.

Convey clearly doesn't care about Twitter, which obviously makes him a minority in the KC locker room. It seems lap dogs, bathrobes and bubble baths are more his style. I can't begrudge that, even if I can't remember the last time I took an honest-to-goodness bath.

Showers for the win. As Chance Myers would say, #raaaaaaa.

20 April 5:18 pm

To be clear, I didn't oversell that headline.

Sporting Kansas City's Bobby Convey really is in his bathrobe in the club's new video series "#FollowFriday with Bobby Convey." He really does have a dog on his lap...pay close attention to the identity of said pup.

He also starts the video with a disclaimer: "I'm not on Twitter. I don't ever plan on being on Twitter." Maybe it's just me, but that's exactly what I would expect Convey to say.

If that didn't sell you on hitting play, just trust me that this is gold from the folks in Kansas City, who appear to be having plenty of fun (see Collin's Corner) during their 7-0-0 start.

The best moment comes when Soony Saad reenacts the Lion King with what -- I believe -- are his kittens. Quite a household...Saad, Konrad Warzycha, Dom Dwyer and two fluffy kittens.