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Vancouver Whitecaps FC

31 July 2:25 pm

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.

31 July 12:45 pm

La période des transferts internationaux estivale est terminée et de nombreux clubs en ont profité pour se renforcer. C’est le thème de notre émission Coup Franc cette semaine (à écouter ici), avec le menu suivant :
- Notre invité Eric Hassli parle de son transfert et de son rôle à Toronto, de son état de forme, de son style de jeu par rapport à celui de Danny Koevermans, évoque Vancouver à qui il est encore très attaché ainsi que de son amour de la liberté sur le terrain et en dehors.
- Les principaux transferts du mercato : quel est le meilleur coup ? Gros plan sur les arrivées les plus récentes : Tim Cahill (New York), Jerry Bengtson (New England), Frederico Higuain (Columbus), Christian Tiffert (Seattle), Sherjill MacDonald et Alvaro Fernandez (Chicago). Nous sommes curieux de connaître votre opinion à ce sujet !
- L’apport des joueurs du Honduras à la MLS : Najar, Espinoza et Bengtson éliminent l’Espagne aux jeux Olympiques, Bernardez et Chavez ont un rôle important dans la première place de San José, Houston est intouchable depuis l’arrivée de Garcia.
- La remontée de Philadelphie, contre New England (résumé vidéo) et au classement

L'émission Coup Franc est aussi disponible sur iTunes. Vous pouvez nous joindre par courriel (coup.franc@MLSsoccer.com) ou sur Twitter (@CoupFrancMLS).

25 July 1:09 pm

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
    J Pts
1. San José 18 36
2. DC United 18 33
. Kansas City 18 33
4. Salt Lake 18 32
5. New York 18 31
6. Vancouver 18 30
7. Chicago 18 28
8. Seattle 18 27
9. Columbus 18 25
. Houston 18 25
11. Chivas USA 18 23
12. Colorado 18 22
. New England 18 22
14. LA Galaxy 18 20
. Philadelphie 18 20
16. Portland 18 19
17. Montréal 18 18
18. Dallas 18 15
19. Toronto 18 13
COMPARAISON 2012 / 2011 APRÈS 18 MATCHS
    J 2012 2011 Diff.
1. Vancouver 18 30 14 +16
2. San José 18 36 22 +14
3. Kansas City 18 33 22 +11
4. DC United 18 33 23 +10
5. Chicago 18 28 18 +10
6. New England 18 22 16 +6
7. New York 18 31 25 +6
8. Houston 18 25 20 +5
9. Chivas USA 18 23 21 +2
10. Salt Lake 18 32 31 +1
11. Seattle 18 27 28 -1
12. Colorado 18 22 23 -1
13. Columbus 18 25 27 -2
14. Portland 18 19 21 -2
15. Toronto 18 13 15 -2
16. Philadelphie 18 20 28 -8
17. LA Galaxy 18 20 34 -14
18. Dallas 18 15 34 -19
 
24 July 3:35 pm

 Cette semaine, votre Coup Franc hebdomadaire (à écouter ici) est, à votre demande, plus long de quelques minutes afin d’approfondir certains sujets. Au menu :
- Notre invité Sébastien Le Toux parle de son transfert inattendu à New York, de son rôle dans sa nouvelle équipe et de la liberté qu’il y reçoit, de la situation de ses deux anciens clubs (Vancouver et Philadelphie, où il est parti en mauvais termes avec Peter Nowak), ainsi que de la possible suite de sa carrière en Europe.
- Débat sur l’évolution de la MLS au cours des dernières années. Quels sont les principaux progrès qu’elle a effectués ? Quels sont les avantages et les inconvénients du plafond salarial ? À quel championnat étranger peut-on la comparer (voir le classement de l’IFFHS) ? Quel est l’apport des anciens joueurs aujourd’hui entraîneurs ? Comment la MLS peut-elle conserver ses vedettes, de plus en plus convoitées à l’étranger ? Grâce à quoi fera-t-elle son prochain grand pas en avant ?
- Vancouver se sépare d’Eric Hassli (voir le geste des supporters en son honneur) mais Martin Rennie gagne pour le moment son pari suite à la victoire contre San José (revoir le penalty aussi controversé que décisif).
- Revoyez aussi le troisième but de Houston contre Montréal, image de la semaine d’Antonio Ribeiro.

Des discussions hautes en couleurs auxquelles nous vous invitons à participer en ligne, que ce soit par courriel (coup.franc@MLSsoccer.com) ou sur Twitter (@CoupFrancMLS).

L'émission Coup Franc est aussi disponible sur iTunes.

17 July 11:58 am

Cette semaine, les trois mousquetaires de l’émission (à écouter ici) sont quatre, puisque Patrick Leduc, consultant sur la chaîne de télévision RDS, les accompagne pour un Coup Franc presque totalement consacré aux trois clubs canadiens :

- Tous ont fait le grand ménage : Montréal s’est départi de Braun, Wahl et Montaño, Toronto a envoyé De Guzman, Plata et Soolsma sous d’autres cieux, alors que Chiumiento et Le Toux ont quitté Vancouver. Lequel a réalisé les meilleures opérations ?
- Lequel des trois clubs est en meilleure posture, cette saison et à plus long terme ?
- Pourquoi le changement soudain de philosophie à Vancouver, qui prend un virage écossais ? Les amateurs de beau jeu doivent-ils s’inquiéter ?
- Martin Rennie est-il toujours maître à bord ?
- Toronto se portera-t-il mieux sans De Guzman ? Y attendait-on trop de lui ?
- La blessure de Koevermans n'est-elle finalement pas la plus grande perte pour le TFC ?
- Di Vaio n’a pas encore marqué pour Montréal (revoir sa grosse occasion à Philadelphie) : le doute s’installe-t-il ?
- Dans quelle logique s’inscrivent les récents départs à l’Impact ?
- Lequel des entraîneurs restera en poste le plus longtemps ?
- San José - Salt Lake : un sommet à sens unique.

De nombreuses questions auxquelles nous tentons de répondre, mais nous aimerions aussi recevoir votre opinion. N’hésitez pas à nous l’envoyer par courriel (coup.franc@MLSsoccer.com) ou sur Twitter (@CoupFrancMLS). N’oubliez pas non plus de nous envoyer vos compositions pour le générique de l’émission.

L'émission Coup Franc est disponible sur iTunes.

16 July 9:15 am

MLS is fast becoming a home away from home for Scottish players. First Kris Boyd inked a deal with Portland. Then his former Rangers teammate Steve Smith joined him in the Rose City. Ex-Celtic midfielder Barry Robson joined the Whitecaps last month, and now it looks like the rumored deal to bring international striker Kenny Miller to Vancouver is done. 

“I told Kenny all about the club and he is excited about coming," Robson said, according to The Sun. “Kenny will be a great addition. He’s a top-quality player and everybody will be excited about his arrival. He is the type of player who would fit into any team. He is a goalscorer, he has talent and is intelligent. Kenny will offer a lot to the side with his pace, movement and goals. He is a top player."

Miller, who has spent time with Rangers, Celtic and Wolverhampton, among others, was most recently on the books at Cardiff City, where he scored 11 goals in 50 overall appearances.

“He’s a proven scorer at the highest level," Robson said, "and I’m looking forward to him becoming part of it all."

12 July 12:56 pm

La finale de la Coupe des États-Unis, programmée de longue date à Kansas City, opposera le Sporting local à Seattle, triple tenant du titre. L’affiche rêvée !

Lors des demi-finales programmées ce mercredi, Kansas City s’est imposé 0-2 à Philadelphie, vengeant le cinglant 4-0 concédé en championnat il y a quelques semaines, alors que Seattle a confirmé son retour en forme en battant Chivas USA 4-1. Mais Sigi Schmid ne sera heureux qu’en cas de victoire lors de la finale, le 8 août. Rappelons que le vainqueur décrochera aussi un ticket pour la Ligue des champions 2013-2014.

La journée a également été très animée du côté nord de la frontière. On a commencé par des transferts : Davide Chiumiento quitte Vancouver pour le FC Zurich, Justin Braun rejoint Salt Lake et quitte Montréal qui s’est renforcé avec l’arrière gauche suisse Dennis Iapichino, alors que Toronto se sépare de Nick Soolsma et prête Joao Plata.

En soirée, le duel entre les Ontariens et leurs compatriotes du Pacifique a eu des allures de feu d’artifice (résumé vidéo complet). Le marquoir indiquait 2-1 à la fin du temps réglementaire, avant que Mattocks n’égalise de la tête suite à une détente digne de la NBA. Mais tard dans les arrêts de jeu, Dunfield a offert les trois points au TFC.

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.
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.