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Armchair Analyst

15 May 7:36 de la tarde

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 4:22 de la tarde

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 5:20 de la tarde

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 4:49 de la tarde

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 9:15 de la mañana

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 3:00 de la tarde

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.

29 April 3:55 de la tarde

As our man Greg Seltzer pointed out last week, US national team striker Terrence Boyd has had a pretty stellar first season of top-flight European soccer. He's been mostly a starter, he's been mostly really good, and he's been mostly really consistent at putting the ball in the back of the net, scoring 12 times for Rapid Vienna.

But while he's been good, his team just hasn't. Not by their own standards, anyway. Currently the Green-Whites are 23 points off the pace set by (hated rivals) Austria Vienna, and are fighting for the second Europa League spot. For a club that's used to the top of the table – Rapid have an Austrian record 32 titles – third place just isn't good enough.

So the fans bricked up the front doors of the club's offices and made it clear that general manager Werner Kuhn is, ahem, not well-liked:

Message sent.

Credit to Deadspin for spotting the story, and to the Rapid Ultras for the image.

02 April 4:40 de la tarde

Put this one in the "It's about time" file: FIFA finally approved goal-line technology last summer, and now they've picked out a provider for this summer's Confederations Cup and next summer's World Cup, both of which will be held in Brazil.

The lucky winners are GoalControl of Germany, who were chosen ahead of three other competitors from around the world, according to a FIFA press release.

Goal-line tech has already been used at last December's Club World Cup, so the Confederations Cup will mark the second FIFA tourney to use it should the final tests go to plan. The Club World Cup went off without incident.

The move for goal-line tech gained momentum after the 2010 World Cup, in which Frank Lampard had what appeared to be a good goal ruled out against Germany in an eventual 4-1 England loss. Some, however, still argue that the shot didn't cross the line.

MLS executives have previously expressed interest in using goal-line technology, though FIFA licensing requirements make the timeframe a bit of a moving target.

Think it's time to make goal-line technology standard? Let us know in the comments section below.

09 March 6:57 de la tarde

Rioters in Egypt set the Egyptian soccer federation building ablaze on Saturday, the latest in a series of protests in the wake of last year's Port Said soccer riots.

According to Jeff Bradley, Egyptian national team coach Bob Bradley, who coached the US from 2007-11, is safe:

The rioters were protesting a court's ruling to acquit death sentences for 28 fans of Al-Masry SC, prompting retaliation by supporters of Cairo-based Al-Ahly that left one person dead and several dozen reportedly hospitalized.

The ruling also upheld death sentences for 21 men who were found guilty of playing a role in the murder of 79 rival fans, mostly Al-Ahly supporters. There were also riots over the original ruling in January, leaving another 21 dead.

Bradley told SI.com in February that he intends to continue as Egypt's manager through World Cup qualifying despite the adversity. The Pharaohs, who have not qualified for the World Cup since 1990, are currently atop Group G with six points from two games. They return to action on Marcy 26 vs. Zimbabwe, a game scheduled to be played in Alexandria.

21 February 6:46 de la tarde

All soccer specific stadiums are beautiful. Even ones that have the camera on the wrong side.

Check out Louisville's planned soccer specific stadium here. It's pretty great - it really is.

The one issue is that, if the mock-ups are accurate, the camera will be pointing toward the "open" end instead of the filled grandstand. That's a shame, because it absolutely will take something away from the TV broadcast/online stream.

But hey, they're all beautiful. Even when the camera's fixed on the wrong part.