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Philadelphia Union

24 July 3:35 de la tarde

 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.

19 July 4:14 de la tarde

     

 

MLS W.O.R.K.S. Gives Back to the Chester Community

MLS Players and Executives to Leave a Lasting Impact on Behalf of the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game

MLS W.O.R.K.S. is committed to increasing the accessibility of soccer, creating sustainable projects that leave a lasting legacy and supporting local youth programs that will encourage children to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

On July 24, Major League Soccer will join the Philadelphia Union, AT&T, Chester Upland School District and organizers from KaBOOM! to construct a new playground and small-sided field at Science and Discovery High School.  The AT&T Community Field and new playground will provide more than 500 children in the Chester community with a safe place to play, and will increase awareness and provide additional opportunities for local youth to play soccer.

Over 200 volunteers will help construct the playground while Philadelphia Union Academy coaches lead drills and small-sided games for approximately 100 local children as part of the AT&T Youth Clinic. MLS All-Stars and Philadelphia Union players will join the day's festivities, taking part in youth activities, the construction of the playground and the ribbon-cutting ceremony with MLS and Philadelphia Union executives and members of the Chester Upland School District.  Former MLS All-Star Alexi Lalas will also volunteer his time to participate in youth activities.

The day of service - a partnership between MLS W.O.R.K.S., the Philadelphia Union Foundation and AT&T - is part of the League's community service program, Unite. Volunteer. Serve., a collaborative effort to combine sport and service, promote good will and improve lives and communities at the grassroots level.

On Wednesday, July 25, MLS W.O.R.K.S. and the Philadelphia Union will team up with Starlight Children's Foundation for a hospital visit and placement of a Starlight Fun Center™ mobile entertainment unit at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pa. Part of the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Soccer Kicks Cancer program, the visit will provide an opportunity for seriously ill children and their families to enjoy a unique experience and a renewed sense of strength and hope. Union players will visit with patients, play games and participate in other activities prior to the dedication ceremony. In addition to the Fun Center, MLS will also provide tickets to the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game to Starlight families. The 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, featuring the MLS All-Stars against Chelsea FC, will be played on Wednesday, July 25 at 8:30 p.m. ET at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

During halftime of the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, MLS W.O.R.K.S. will announce the 2012 Community MVP Grand Prize winner. Fans across the League had the opportunity to nominate individuals who are committed to improving their communities. Nineteen winners were selected, representing each MLS market, and competed in a two-week online contest. The Grand Prize winner will receive a $10,000 donation to the charity of their choice and a trip to the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at PPL Park, which includes roundtrip airfare, two nights' accommodation, an award from Tiffany & Co. and official MLS merchandise as part of the prize package. Click here to view the final list of 2012 Community MVPs.

In addition, MLS W.O.R.K.S. and Continental Tire will recognize the winner of the "How Green Are Your Goals?" contest, created to engage MLS fans in environmentally friendly efforts leading up to Earth Day. Fans were encouraged to visit the Greener Goals website and share stories of how they incorporate green efforts into their everyday lives. Portland, the MLS market with the greenest MLS fans, has won a Solar 4R Schools Renewable School package valued at $50,000 for a deserving school in their city for Earth Day 2013. The prize includes a solar panel installation and a renewable energy education package for teachers. As the Grand Prize winner, Timbers' fan Jeffrey Briley won a trip to the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game and a set of tires, courtesy of Continental Tire.

Be sure to follow @MLSWORKS on Twitter and get updates from all of our events at #MLSWORKS and AT&T #MLSAllStar Game.

01 July 6:21 de la tarde

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 de la mañana

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 de la tarde

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 de la mañana

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 de la tarde

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.

19 June 6:48 de la tarde

Coup Franc prend de l’ampleur ! En plus des textes quasi quotidiens sur cette page, MLSsoccer.com vous offre désormais une émission hebdomadaire en français. Elle sera mise en ligne chaque mardi. Rendez-vous ici pour écouter la première.

En voici le menu, ainsi que quelques liens et vidéos pour en savoir plus sur les sujets abordés :
- L’inauguration du stade Saputo rénové (photos) ; le troisième but de Montréal et la passe « Brésilienne » de Patrice Bernier (vidéo)
- Notre invité André Hainault parle du match Houston - Dallas, de sa meilleure place sur le terrain, du caractère offensif des défenseurs de Houston, des conditions de jeu dans son club qui vient d’inaugurer son nouveau stade
- L’équipe nationale canadienne, avec un retour sur Canada - Honduras
- Nouvel entraîneur à Toronto et à Philadelphie : est-ce que le choc psychologique fonctionne vraiment ? (Articles 1 et 2 sur des études menées à ce sujet)

 N’hésitez évidemment pas à réagir et à nous envoyer vos commentaires, vos suggestions et vos questions !

11 June 1:15 de la tarde

It may have gotten lost outside Philadelphia with Euro 2012 hogging the headlines, but rumors swirled this weekend that Union head coach Peter Nowak had put his name in the hat for the managerial opening at Scottish Premier League side Hearts.

Nowak was quick to deny the claims, but that doesn't mean the Edinburgh Evening News' Barry Anderson is backing off his report, coming out on Twitter to make his position clear.

So who to believe? Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

06 June 6:50 de la tarde

Manchester United.

That’s the match – back in July 2010 – that many MLS observers still hang on to when it comes to reminding themselves of the promise of former Philadelphia Union striker Danny Mwanga.

But the magical days in a Union shirt for the former No. 1 SuperDraft pick have been few and far between in the last two seasons.

Mwanga’s last goal for Philadelphia in MLS play? It came nearly a year ago (June 25, 2011).

The 20-year-old has been on the field for 61 league matches over three seasons and found the back of the net in just 11 of those games.

One reason for the limited production is injuries. Plenty of them. Rarely will you find a third-year player who has missed matches due to the same variety of injuries: hip, right knee, groin, hamstring, shoulder and a case of sore ribs after falling on them in practice earlier this season.  

If Mwanga’s durability to withstand the physical rigors of MLS is a concern, his lack of production without Sebastien Le Toux is downright alarming. Of his 12 goals in his MLS career, nine came off assists from Le Toux. The other three were unassisted.

In MLS you have to be tough and you have to be ready to adjust to any situation and any player. That’s why the Union are better off with the experienced Jorge Perlaza.

The Timbers highlighted Perlaza's speed when they acquired him at the start of last season and we’ve seen signs of how much of a factor it can be. But not in the goal-scoring department. Six goals in 32 starts – none this year – is nothing to write home about.

However, put Perlaza’s production into perspective: The Timbers are a team that don’t score many goals in general, whether Perlaza is there or not. In fact, only three teams have scored fewer goals than the Timbers this year. It was the exact same story at the end of last year.

Does Mwanga have more upside? Sure. He also brings good hold-up ability and the potential to playmake and create his own opportunities. But that’s also what Darlington Nagbe was expected to bring at the second forward position.

Mwanga’s integration into Portland’s system and his impact on Nagbe’s position will be fascinating to watch. It may not prove as seamless, however, as Perlaza who has the traits to be the perfect partner for hard-working compatriot Lionard Pajoy in the Union attack.