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30 July 11:50 de la mañana

L’émission Coup Franc de la semaine (à écouter ici) a un menu très éclectique : parité, joueurs désignés, semelles, recrutement, Gold Cup ou encore Match des étoiles sont au programme.

  • Cinq points d’écart entre le premier et le dixième, dix entre le premier et le quatorzième : le classement est on ne peut plus serré. La chute de Dallas, la remontée de Colorado ou l’étonnante régularité de Philadelphie en sont de bons exemples. Pour jouer les premiers rôles, faut-il être « tiré » par des joueurs désignés, ou le niveau d’une équipe est-il déterminé par celui de ses éléments les plus faibles ?
  • Il y a eu quelques duels très rudes ces dernières semaines en MLS, par exemple Wingert (Salt Lake) contre Kansas City la semaine dernière ou Thomas (Colorado) contre le LA Galaxy cette semaine. Que faire pour calmer les esprits ? Devra-t-on attendre des incidents tels Mullan - Zakuani ou Witsel - Wasilewski pour sévir ?
  • On commente l’embauche d’Hernan Bernardello et Adrian Lopez à Montréal : leur apport potentiel dans l’équipe cette saison, les plans à long terme qu’ils constituent, leur intérêt à venir en MLS.
  • Retour sur la Gold Cup remportée par les États-Unis, les espoirs que cela donne aux Américains en vue de la Coupe du monde et le bon niveau de la compétition malgré les nombreuses vedettes absentes et ce, entre autres grâce aux joueurs de MLS.
  • Sans oublier un petit détour par le Match des étoiles et les ajouts de Donovan et McInerney à la sélection, ou encore la devinette de Frédéric Lord sur les champions du monde en MLS.

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

09 July 1:01 de la tarde

On vient de passer la moitié de la saison régulière et les animateurs de l’émission (à écouter ici) tentent de faire le bilan de cette première partie de championnat et/ou reviennent sur leurs pronostics de début d’année. Parmi les sujets de discussion :

  • Les bonnes surprises venues de Portland, Salt Lake et Montréal
  • Columbus et Chicago, déceptions majeures, au même titre que San José et DC United
  • Caleb Porter et Marco Schällibaum, les entraîneurs qui se sont mis en valeur
  • Les transferts réussis venus de l’étranger
  • La saga Chivas USA
  • La meilleure équipe canadienne
  • Perspectives pour la deuxième moitié de saison

Benito Floro a été nommé sélectionneur de l’équipe nationale du Canada. Une embauche qui suscite beaucoup d’enthousiasme mais est aussi entourée de nombreux points d’interrogation. Lisez le communiqué officiel de son intronisation, qui contient des détails encourageants aux yeux de l’équipe de l'émission Coup Franc.

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

21 May 5:35 de la tarde

L’émission Coup Franc de cette semaine (à écouter ici) prend une perspective très canadienne et s’intéresse de près aux deux sujets les plus chauds du moment au pays de la feuille d’érable.

« Nous entrons dans une période fort excitante pour le soccer canadien », clame l’Association canadienne de soccer, qui a mis en ligne un sondage auquel vous pouvez répondre ici. Le thème principal est ce qu’il faut faire pour que le Canada devienne une nation de soccer modèle d'ici 2018. Une démarche a priori intéressante qui suscite néanmoins autant de perplexité que de questions… et un vif débat entre les animateurs. Et vous, qu’en pensez-vous ?

On est à mi-chemin de la finale du Championnat canadien Amway. Après le 0-0 entre Montréal et Vancouver, les deux clubs prétendent avoir effectué la bonne opération du match aller, disputé entre une équipe locale amoindrie et des visiteurs dont le seul but était de ne pas encaisser, avec un arbitre qui a pris beaucoup de place. Quel est le réel niveau de Vancouver ? Qu’attendre du match retour ?

Bien entendu, l’actualité de la MLS n’est pas laissée de côté. Parmi les faits saillants des derniers jours, les rumeurs annonçant que Francesco Totti jouerait bientôt dans notre championnat. L’arrivée d’anciennes gloires de ce genre est-elle bonne pour la compétition et son image de marque ? L’action sur le terrain n’est évidemment pas oubliée, avec entre autres la confirmation du retour en forme de Seattle, l’esprit conquérant de San José ou la victoire de New York contre le LA Galaxy (lisez aussi le texte de Christian Jack sur le jeu offensif de New York).

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

16 April 12:14 de la tarde

Choisissez trois joueurs de MLS autour desquels vous bâtiriez votre nouvelle équipe : la question lancée par Frédéric Lord a inspiré l’équipe, à nouveau renforcée par Olivier Brett, pour la thématique de l’émission Coup Franc de cette semaine (à écouter ici).

Pensez-y bien… et écoutez l’émission pour vous rendre compte que nos spécialistes ont des visions très différentes. L’un choisit un joueur par ligne, l’autre se concentre sur la colonne vertébrale dans l’axe du jeu, un autre encore choisit trois joueurs d’un même secteur pour définir un modèle de jeu déjà précis. Et aucun nom ne fait l’unanimité. Nous sommes très curieux d’avoir votre opinion !

Autre débat très animé de cette émission : la Ligue des champions. Comment la MLS se compare au championnat du Mexique. La priorité que devraient lui accorder les entraîneurs. Le rayonnement qu’elle apporte à la MLS, qui veut à moyen terme entrer dans le top mondial. La discussion bifurque (évidemment) sur la compétition qui permet au représentant canadien de s’y qualifier et le fonctionnement du soccer au Canada. Là encore, des avis divergents de nos spécialistes : nous aimerions avoir les vôtres.

Enfin, on revient sur le match entre Montréal et Columbus. L’Impact retombe-t-il dans certains de ses travers de 2012 ? Le jeu sur les flancs reste problématique et les pistes de solution ne semblent pas nombreuses. Faut-il être inquiet ou confiant en vue de l’affrontement contre Toronto ?

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

21 March 11:49 de la mañana

Ce vendredi, presque toute la planète aura les yeux rivés sur la reprise des éliminatoires de la Coupe du monde 2014. Dans la Concacaf, on disputera la deuxième journée du dernier tour, sur fond de polémique aux États-Unis qui s’apprêtent à affronter le Costa Rica d’Alvaro Saborio puis le Mexique.

Après une défaite initiale au Honduras, Jürgen Klinsmann a convoqué un groupe loin de faire l’unanimité et se fait tirer dessus à boulets rouges par un article de Sporting News qui, en gros, le dépeint comme un incompétent habile à créer des tensions dans le vestiaire, le tout grâce à des témoignages anonymes d’internationaux américains.

Il va sans dire que l’ambiance n’est pas au beau fixe et que les réactions fusent de toutes parts. Les analystes se demandent si les joueurs sont des enfants gâtés ou remettent en question la communication de Klinsmann. Honte, gêne, déception : certains internationaux, à l’image de Michael Bradley, ne sont pas heureux de voir les sentiments sortir du vestiaire.

Autre son de cloche du côté d’Herculez Gomez, pour qui il était à peu près temps que les médias commencent à poser des questions difficiles. « On serait au Mexique, ESPN en parlerait toute la journée », ajoute le joueur de Santos Laguna qui pense que l'équipe en ressortira plus forte. Voilà qui remet les choses en perspective.

Ah, oui, le Canada aussi joue ce vendredi, il affronte le Japon au Qatar. Seul pays du G8 à être déjà éliminé, il a un entraîneur par intérim qui est aussi directeur technique de la fédération. Cette dernière programme des matches (c’est un progrès par rapport à il y a 10 ans), prétend qu’elle cherche un sélectionneur et prépare la prochaine Gold Cup mais n’expose aucun plan à long terme pour aller en Russie en 2018. Pas de polémique cependant : les médias s’en désintéressent complètement, en dehors de quelques-uns très complaisants. Vu sous cet angle, ils sont chanceux, les Américains…

11 March 8:27 de la tarde

Missed the weekend action? Couldn't watch all the matches? Get your fill with a weekend edition of the Smorgasborg:

CANADIAN SWEEP: It was one of the main themes of the weekend as Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto all won. But is it just a coincidence that the three Canadian teams have won all of their matches thus far in 2013 (except for Toronto, who lost to fellow Canadian side Vancouver on opening weekend)?

Here's an attempt at an explanation: One common thread that runs through all three teams is that they feature an above-average number of starters with experience playing outside the US and Canada. This past weekend, Vancouver fielded an MLS-high nine of 10 starting field players who have spent time abroad while Toronto and Montreal are right behind with eight of 10 starting field players. The league average for players with overseas seasoning in a single MLS starting lineup: 5.

COOL MOVE: Jay DeMerit, the Vancouver Whitecaps captain who suffered an Achilles injury last week, led his team out of the tunnel on against the Columbus Crew. On crutches.

LINEUP QUESTION: A second look at Colorado Rapids midfielder Kevin Harbottle doesn't convince me that he brings more to the table wide left than second-year player Tony Cascio. This Colorado team, which has played well over 180 minutes, needs a player who can knife through a defense, cause havoc and especially shoot on goal. Harbottle has a single shot (none on frame) in two matches.

KEY INJURIES: Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni pulled up lame after nine minutes with a left hamstring strain. Eddie Gaven apparently rolled his ankle in Crew training and wasn't on the squad. D.C.'s John Thorrington is getting an MRI on his knee and Fire manager Frank Klopas revealed that Chris Rolfe has a muscle issue that is affecting his knee.

GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: It's the point of view that only a former player can share. After Mastroeni left the match, Altitude color analyst and US soccer legend Marcelo Balboa: "Been there, done that. You start digging your hand in right underneath the glute where the hamstring attaches becuase you just want to see if it's tight." His best line came five minutes later when he impressed upon viewers the need for players to stick to their assignment when asked to guard the post on a corner kick: "You do not leave the post. ... I'm going to go back to my Top Gun. Don't leave your wingman."

DEFENSIVE GAFFES: These three defenders may very well be in the running for Defender of the Year by the time the season ends, but the Crew's Gláuber (Kenny Miller's goal), FC Dallas center back George John (Oswaldo Minda's strike) and Sporting's Matt Besler (Robert Earnshaw's first) all had plays that could be in the running for Gaffe of the Year this weekend.

GOALKEEPER FOLLIES: The defenders are not the only ones who should be put under the microscope. Goalkeepers have had their share of mishaps. One week after an error by backup 'keeper Steward Ceus cost the Rapids big time, first-string 'keeper Matt Pickens made a killer error of his own on the Union's first goal. Crew netminder Andy Gruenebaum was caught way off his line on the Goal of the Week candidate from Daigo Kobayashi. And Philadelphia's Zac MacMath probably should have reacted better to Jamie Smith's equalizer in Colorado.

BOSTOCK RISING: After his showing against Sporting Kansas City, some will be wondering what the San Jose Earthquakes were thinking not signing Englishman John Bostock when they had him in camp earlier this preseason, especially given the Quakes' relationship with Tottenham Hotspur. Toronto were most dangerous on Saturday when Bostock was creating on the right flank.

WHAT'S HAPPENING TO SKC?: After two seasons finishing tops in the Eastern Conference, has a bit of complacency snuck in at Sporting KC? How else to explain the opening first half in Philadelphia (Week 1) and then in Toronto (Week 2)? Road fatigue could also be cited as one factor or perhaps the new players inserted in the lineup have taken that edge off a team that was known for its bite, pressure and harassing of opponents.

REMEMBER ME?: In just two games, Sporting Kansas City Designated Player Claudio Bieler has shown why he's DP quality: two shots on goals and two goals to show for them. The truth is that Bieler has been fairly invisible in both of Sporting's matches. In fact, after the halftime break he only had four passes and a throw-in to his name before his 77th-minute goal and that's when Sporting's pressure was its greatest.

Although his continuing adaptation to MLS may be at play, we may eventually figre out that he's a forward who needs another attacker playing closer to him. Perhaps in a 4-4-2? His goal vs. Toronto where he connected with C.J. Sapong on a flick header looked to be a very natural movement for him.

HEARD ON THE FIELD: We got a glimpse at some of the communication challenges that Chivas USA may be facing as goalkeeper Dan Kennedy set up his wall and attempted to grab the attention of teammate Tristan Bowen. Check the MLS LIVE broadcast at minute 21:07. "Tristan! Tristan! Right. … Not you! Tristan!"

OLD MAN JOEL: Match broadcasts are a wealth of information. From the NBC Sports Network broadcast, you learned that Joel Lindpere's girlfriend thinks "he runs like an old man" and he admits it (it's the truth). But even more entertaining is the nugget that the Chicago midfielder never leaves home without his trusted tennis ball which he "takes everywhere he goes just to roll on his back." We need some more information about that one.

CREAM RISES: Big, bad San Jose defender Víctor Bernárdez is a fan of Vick's vapor rub. It's that mentholatum cream that some players wear on their jersey to help their breathing. But did the Boss need an entire jar vs. Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls?

NOT GOAL OF THE WEEK: The prize goes to Chivas USA's Miller Bolaños in the 49th minute against FC Dallas. It's one of the weakest attempts you'll see at goal on a 1-v-1.

THE REAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK: The media voted for the guy who got two goals. But Robert Earnshaw's match for Toronto doesn't stand next to Kenny Miller's performance for Vancouver. He was the impact player of the week with his runs, his passing and his chasing. The 'Caps captain was buzzing. And it's perhaps time for those of us who criticized him after his dismal 2012 to eat our words.

MR. UNDERRATED: While Miller will get his due over the course of 2013, Montreal left back Jeb Brovsky may be one of the most underrated players in MLS. He plays his position effectively with excellent technique, stamina and passing. He should be getting plenty more plaudits than merely for his humanitarian efforts.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Tip of the cap to the Vancouver Whitecaps who put on a show for their fans in their win against the Columbus Crew. The one criticism: They made life extra hard on themselves by conceding an inordinate number of free kicks to ever-dangerous Crew playmaker Federico Higuaín.

WHO KNEW MLS HAD ITS OWN BATMAN: The UniMas broadcast crew taught us that Chivas USA defender Joaquín Velásquez is nicknamed "Murciélago," which translates to "bat" in English.

FIT TO BE UNTIED: Of the 17 matches played in MLS after two weekends, there has been just one draw: the 3-3 tie between Portland and New York.

RED ALERT: Also worth noting that there's not been a single red card shown by MLS referees after 17 league matches.

CHALK TALK: In addition to another memorable press conference, Chivas USA manager Chelís was caught by TV cameras during the match vs. FC Dallas having a passionate discussion with some fans near the bench (84:52) … during the match. Dallas broadcaster Brian Dunseth, who was on-site, says it was a prolonged discussion. Can the fan on the other side of the conversation please step up?

THE DAY PIGS FLEW: Elias' Peter Hirdt confirms that the last time Chivas USA and Toronto FC won on the same weekend was July 18, 2012, which is also the last time Toronto FC won a match. And while New England won their first MLS regular-season match at Toyota Park since July 8, 2006, RSL still can't win in D.C. (eight matches and counting).

OOPS: Both TSN and the KCWE broadcasts missed the Bieler goal. And the second half of Vancouver vs. Columbus kicked off before Sportsnet got back on the air.

RATED R: That rating is for Colorado vs. Philadelphia, specifically at 27:14 when the Union's Amobi Okugo lets Colorado's DeShorn Brown know that he thinks he took a dive: "Get the **** up. Stop doing that ****!"

TIFO TIME: The Section 8 supporters in Chicago take the cake for the best tifo of the weekend with the Phoenix rising thematic – "Chicago will rise above them all." Too bad there was no rising by the Fire on Saturday night.

MIXING AND MATCHING: Chicago's Frank Klopas is trying his best to get those Section 8 fans a goal. There was more shuffling of his forward line on Saturday to see which partnership works best. Here's what we've seen over 180 minutes: Chris Rolfe-Sherjill MacDonald (68 minutes), Chris Rolfe-Maicon Santos (87 minutes), Alex-Maicon Santos (25 minutes) and Alex-Chris Rolfe-Maicon Santos (33 minutes). Still no goals, however.

COMBINATION SENSATION: If you didn't catch the Chicago vs. New England match, it's worth the effort to get on MLS LIVE and watch the six-pass sequence put together by the New England Revolution at 55:40 in the second half. The quick combination play featuring Andrew Farrell, Juan Toja, Kellyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen resulted in a corner kick. Welcome to Revolution soccer in 2013.

JAPANESE TRADITION: MLS has featured Japanese players in the past, but Vancouver's Daigo Kobayashi is the first we've seen offer up a ceremonial bow as he came off for a 77th-minute substitution. When he reached the touchline, he turned back around facing the field and gave a subtle bow, a sign of appreciation and sportsmanship toward fans, officials and the opponent.

DOES RYAN JOHNSON NEED HELP UP TOP IN PORTLAND?: We were enthralled by the quick passing combinations of the Nagbe-Valeri-Alhassan trident in midfield during the Timbers' opener against the New York Red Bulls. But as skillful as they are, can the Timbers afford to play with all three in the 4-2-3-1 at the expense of giving Ryan Johnson more help up top? The Timbers will not be able to pass their way through everyone every weekend.

HEAD OVER HEELS: The "shimmy" seemed to be the most popular goal celebration this weekend (see the ones by FC Dallas and the New England Revolution), but the Robert Earnshaw front flip was on full show. How long before Ryan Nelsen hears the Fabián Espíndola back flip injury in 2008 and asks Earnshaw to retire the celebration?

05 March 1:06 de la tarde

On l’attendait avec impatience, on a été comblé le week-end dernier. Le championnat a repris ses droits et l’équipe de Coup Franc consacre son émission hebdomadaire (à écouter ici) à cette première journée.

Pour mieux suivre nos conversations, voyez aussi :

Par ailleurs, n’oubliez pas que la Ligue des champions recommence ce soir, avec Houston - Santos Laguna.

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

02 March 1:13 de la tarde

As the sun came up on North America, the Twitterati took to their laptops, phones, tablets, soup cans, whatever they use to tweet, in order to express their thoughts about the 2013 MLS season opening up on Saturday. Here are some of my favorite ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here's one of my own (shameless self-promotion!) with a priceless quote from a family member.

02 March 10:38 de la mañana

It's the morning of the opening day of the 2013 MLS season. I'm sitting at a funky cafe called Local 61 in Brooklyn (it's exactly what you imagine it would be), killing time before the Philadelphia Union and Sporting KC kick off to get things going.

Until that first kick, much of the soccer world's mindshare will be occupied with the Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Despite my MLS myopia at times, my own focus this trained on the Bernabeu this morning. If you love soccer, you better be watching.

It all got me thinking: Who from the many stars on the two squads would I most like to see in MLS?

The obvious choice is Barcelona's Lionel Messi. After all, he's the reigning World Footballer of the Year, three times over, and the most creative, devastating weapon of his generation.

But many others would say Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, who is like a growling NASCAR car compared to Messi's Formula 1 machine. 

Still others would go for Xavi, the diminutive maestro who conducts the Barca midfield like Leonard Bernstein putting an orchestra through Copland's Appalachain Spring.

There's also Andres Iniesta, who quietly goes about the business of scoring and setting up goals for the Blaugrana, and with nary a peep; Kaka, the experienced, still-graceful artist who can turn a game for Madrid when given the opportunity; and Karim Benzema, who just gets better with each year up front at the Bernabeu. Not to mention Pedro and Mesut Ozil and... well, you get the drift: There are a lot of big stars on the field today.

For me, it's Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain. He's done nothing but score goals his entire career. His effectiveness is not tied to speed or overwhelming skill. He's just one of those guys, like Carlos Ruiz or Chris Wondolowski, who know how to be in the right place at the right time to stab home a goal. I'd definitely pay money every week to watch him play in MLS.

And no, I wouldn't want him playing alongside his brother in Columbus.

WHO WOULD YOU WANT TO SEE? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW. 

 

20 February 11:32 de la tarde

Landon Donovan has a history of insightful, personal interviews. He just hasn't given very many of them lately.

That seems to have changed on Wednesday night, as the US national team and LA Galaxy legend answered questions in public for the first time since helping lead his team to the 2012 MLS Cup. Donovan appeared at a Q&A session titled "The Competitive Edge" on the campus of the University of Southern California.

One promising young scribe proceded to live tweet the event. We can't vouch for the veracity of his transcription, during which Donovan talks about everything from his relationship with his dad to that time he almost quit soccer in 2006 (which, from memory, was right before kickoff vs. Ghana), but I guarantee you we'll all be talking about this out-of-the-blue appearance by LD for the next 48 hours:

Here's the best part, if you're a US fan:

And here's the part that's Landon being Landon to, like, the Nth degree: