15 May 8:36 pm

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:

Team Headed Clearances
Sporting Kansas City 268
San Jose Earthquakes 221
Vancouver Whitecaps 213
New York Red Bulls 208
Portland Timbers 201
Houston Dynamo 198
FC Dallas 197
Colorado Rapids 189
Real Salt Lake 189
D.C. United 182
Montreal Impact 179
New England Revolution 175
Chivas USA 175
Columbus Crew 167
LA Galaxy 162
Toronto FC 162
Seattle Sounders FC 148
Philadelphia Union 141
Chicago Fire 118

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.

14 May 5:22 pm

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:

Player Recoveries Touches
Rosell, Oriol 102 865
McCarty, Dax 94 699
Chará, Diego 90 825
Bernier, Patrice 90 707
Reo-Coker, Nigel 88 687
Cronin, Sam 87 762
Baca, Rafael 84 592
Michel 82 717
Gonçalves, José 81 569
Johnson, Will 80 778
Ashe, Corey 80 742
Holgersson, Markus 80 596
Beckerman, Kyle 79 799
Sarvas, Marcelo 79 612
Alonso, Osvaldo 78 580

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.

13 May 7:04 pm

Statistics are often overlooked in soccer, and we here at think that's too bad.

So each Monday, we'll be bringing you five of the most telling stats following the previous weekend's round of games. They might be about the individual game itself, a team's recent run of results or an individual player lighting it up. This week, we've got all three.

Here's five key stats from Week 11:

  • 25 players have scored 3 or more goals in MLS 2013 so far. Five of the 25 – exactly one-fifth – are Portland Timbers players. [Mike Donovan, @TheMikeDonovan]

The five players are Ryan Johnson, Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Rodney Wallace and Darlington Nagbe. The New York Red Bulls come in a close second with four players (Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill, Fabián Espíndola and Jámison Olave). To make up for those two hogging all the three-goal scorers, Chivas USA, Seattle, Vancouver, Colorado, D.C. United, Chicago and New England have a combined zero. Ouch.

  • With Sunday night's victory against the Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City have now handed MLS opponents their first loss at a new stadium at six different stadiums: BBVA Compass Stadium, BMO Field, Qwest Field, Rio Tinto Stadium, Robertson Stadium (Houston Dynamo) and Spartan Stadium (San Jose Earthquakes). [Sporting Kansas City]

Quite rude of them to crash house parties in such a manner, really.

Jack Mac has done everything in his power to earn a US national team call-up for this summer's Gold Cup. It would be more than a mild shock if his early season form doesn't translate to his first senior team cap. Are you paying attention, Jurgen?

The math is in their favor, though; only one Canadian team resides in the Western Conference, so they'll avoid Toronto FC and Montreal for a second (and/or third) time in the regular season as well as the playoffs, barring an MLS Cup meeting.

  • The San Jose Earthquakes have won just one of their past eight games, a stretch that includes three losses. During their Supporters' Shield-winning 2012 campaign, the fewest games they won during an eight-game stretch was four, and that run was without a loss.

For context's sake, the 2012 stretch came during the final eight games of the season with the Supporters' Shield already won and San Jose resting starters for the playoffs. Granted, it's still early in the season, but the Earthquakes are well behind their 2012 pace of 1.94 ppg (1.17 so far in 2013), which is a difference of 26 points over a 34-game season.

Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.

13 May 6:20 pm

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
Portland Timbers 3,180
New York Red Bulls 3,147
Sporting Kansas City 3,090
San Jose Earthquakes 2,683
Columbus Crew 2,603
Houston Dynamo 2,541
Colorado Rapids 2,459
D.C. United 2,352
LA Galaxy 2,343
Vancouver Whitecaps 2,303
Seattle Sounders 2,199
New England Revolution 2,185
Toronto FC 2,167
FC Dallas 2,087
Philadelphia Union 2,022
Montreal Impact 1,987
Chivas USA 1,899
Chicago Fire 1,893

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.

10 May 5:49 pm

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
Portland Timbers 74.1 69.86
Vancouver Whitecaps 72.48 68.55
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
LA Galaxy 69.25 70.82
D.C. United 69 68.47
Montreal Impact 68 70.31
Colorado Rapids 67.51 72.11
Columbus Crew 67.14 69.18
Philadelphia Union 65.85 69.87
Houston Dynamo 64.8 74.13
Toronto FC 64.63 65.15
FC Dallas 64.25 64.45
Chicago Fire 64 71.68
New England Revolution 63.26 67.6
San Jose Earthquakes 62.64 69.92
Chivas USA 60.31 75.42

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.

09 May 10:15 am

This one's pretty easy:

Player Chances Created from Open Play
Wondolowski, Chris 18
Lee Young-Pyo 17
Higuaín, Federico 17
García, Oscar Boniek 17
Ferreira, David 16
Harris, Atiba 16
Henry, Thierry 15
Chara, Diego 15
Feilhaber, Benny 14
Bruin, Will 14

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.

08 May 4:00 pm

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
D.C. United 27.27 30.32
Colorado Rapids 26.67 30.9
LA Galaxy 25.56 29.26
Seattle Sounders FC 25.22 27.85
Montreal Impact 25 29.27
New England Revolution 24.32 23.58
Sporting Kansas City 22.78 30.37
Chivas USA 22.76 32.92
FC Dallas 22.48 23.16
Houston Dynamo 22.31 27.66
Chicago Fire 20.65 21.05
Vancouver Whitecaps 19.72 22.58
Philadelphia Union 19.23 25.13
Portland Timbers 19.08 20.19
Real Salt Lake 18.38 22.65
San Jose Earthquakes 18.32 23.1
Columbus Crew 16.13 27.27
Toronto FC 12.71 17.47

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.

07 May 11:04 am

L’émission Coup Franc de cette semaine (à écouter ici) est consacrée en grande partie à Houston. Pour peaufiner l’analyse, nous vous invitons à lire le blog de Vision du Jeu, sur lequel nous nous sommes basés également et qui fournit des données et des exemples clairs.

  • Finaliste de la Coupe MLS ces deux dernières années, le club est-il encore armé pour jouer les premiers rôles ?
  • Son début de saison pas toujours convaincant, marqué par plusieurs absences d’éléments importants
  • Une équipe prévisible qui passe systématiquement par les côtés, est efficace en attaque posée mais manque de vitesse
  • Sa défense, ni particulièrement mauvaise ni particulièrement bonne, qui peine à subir le jeu
  • Les individualités de l’équipe qui se démarquent
  • On tente de comprendre pourquoi Houston est imbattable à domicile mais plus friable à l’extérieur

On ne pouvait (évidemment) pas ne pas revenir sur la victoire 6-0 de Montréal contre Toronto en Championnat canadien Amway, le changement d’état d’esprit par rapport au match aller, ses conséquences pour les deux clubs, etc.

Autre gros sujet de discussion cette semaine : le retour de Kei Kamara à Kansas City. Écoutez aussi la chanson qui lui a été consacrée lors de son séjour en Angleterre. La première période des transferts vient de prendre fin : quels sont selon vous les meilleurs renforts engagés ces derniers mois ?

L'émission Coup Franc est disponible sur Stitcher et iTunes. Vous pouvez nous joindre par courriel (, sur Facebook ou sur Twitter (@CoupFrancMLS).

28 March 11:06 am

Les 530 joueurs actifs actuellement en Major League Soccer sont nés dans 61 pays différents, ce qui fait de la MLS la compétition la plus internationale des cinq « grands » championnats de sports collectifs aux États-Unis et au Canada. Les 6 différentes confédérations continentales y sont représentées.

Sans surprise, les États-Unis arrivent en tête de liste, avec un total de 293 joueurs. Suit le Canada, avec 24, talonné de près par le Brésil (23). Viennent ensuite la Colombie (19), l’Angleterre (15) et la France, en cinquième position, avec 14 joueurs. Le Mexique, la Jamaïque et l’Argentine ont aussi chacun vu naître au moins 10 joueurs actuels de MLS.

Environ 40% des joueurs sont nés à l’extérieur des États-Unis ou du Canada, mais plusieurs parmi eux ont acquis la nationalité d’un de ces deux pays, pour qui ils peuvent donc se produire en équipe nationale. En outre, le nombre de 317 « locaux » constitue un sommet dans l’histoire de la MLS.

Ceux qui croient que la MLS est faite pour les « vieux étrangers » doivent revoir leurs préjugés : leur moyenne d’âge est de 26 ans et demi. Et elle n’est que de 25 ans et 3 mois pour ceux arrivés depuis la fin de la saison dernière. La tendance semble donc davantage à la recherche de jeunes talents prometteurs hors-frontières.

Les données fournies par l’Elias Sports Bureau permettent de constater que la NBA est la deuxième compétition la plus diversifiée, avec des joueurs provenant de 44 nations différentes. 19 pays sont représentés en LNH, pour un total de 24,3% de joueurs ni américains ni canadiens.

Pour voir une carte du monde des joueurs de MLS par lieu de naissance et une liste de ceux nés à l’étranger, rendez-vous ici.

16 January 1:15 pm

Après avoir regardé hier l’impact immédiat des joueurs recrutés lors du SuperDraft, penchons-nous aujourd’hui sur leur impact à long terme. Pour cela, j’ai choisi la génération arrivée en 2008 (il y a 5 ans), des joueurs désormais dans la force de l’âge.

Cette année-là, 56 joueurs ont été choisis. Dix d’entre eux étaient en 2012 des éléments incontournables de leur club en MLS. Fait intéressant, la plupart des membres de ce cercle restreint ont conservé le même employeur durant cinq ans : Tony Beltran (Salt Lake, photo), Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy), Patrick Nyarko (Chicago), Chance Myers (Kansas City), Brek Shea (Dallas) et Roger Espinoza (Kansas City, transféré cet hiver à Wigan). On pourrait leur adjoindre Geoff Cameron, qui est resté plusieurs saisons à Houston avant de partir à Stoke l’été dernier.

Les autres sont David Horst (Portland), Andrew Jacobson (Dallas) et Steven Lenhart (San José). Ces deux derniers n’avaient été respectivement que le 24e et le 48e choix du SuperDraft 2008. Avec Cameron, 42e, ils étaient les bonnes pioches de cette génération. Parmi les dix réussites majeures, on retrouve les quatre premiers choix, mais seulement cinq joueurs du top 10.

Cinq autres recrues du SuperDraft 2008 sont encore en MLS aujourd’hui, mais passent le plus clair de leur temps sur le banc voire en tribune : Julius James (9e choix) ainsi qu’Eric Avila, Shea Salinas, Eric Brunner et Michael Videira (tous entre le 15e et le 20e choix).

En dehors de ces 15 joueurs, personne n’a su trouver sa place en MLS. Seul Ryan Miller a bien rebondi, puisqu’il est désormais titulaire à Halmstad, remonté en D1 suédoise pour la saison 2013. Nombre de ses partenaires de promotion ont disparu de la planète soccer, alors que d’autres se retrouvent dans les divisions inférieures aux États-Unis ou dans des compétitions aussi nébuleuses que le championnat d’Estonie, la D2 finlandaise ou la D4 anglaise.