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Portland Timbers

31 July 2:25 de la tarde

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.

25 July 1:09 de la tarde

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
 
11 July 1:51 de la tarde

Ask Joe Bendik about his eight-year-old nephew Gavin, and his eyes instantly light up.

You see, Gavin has cystic fibrosis and Bendik, the Portland Timbers backup goalkeeper, has used his notoriety as a professional soccer player to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  It's a passion that has led Bendik to raise close to $3,000 through the Portland chapter of Team Gavin as part of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's Great Strides National Walk Event.

Those efforts have earned him the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Month award for July.

Bendik and a handful of teammates participated in the May 19 Great Strides event at Oaks Park Amusement Park or donated gear to show their support. Along with the money generated at the local event, Team Gavin raised more than $30,000 nationwide.

Bendik is hoping to draw on the excitement displayed during the Great Strides walk to plan a charity golf tournament in August. He's also working with a local high school in the area on an alumni football game fundraiser.  All of it with Gavin in mind.

Article by Dan Itel. Read more.

10 July 11:58 de la mañana

Cette semaine, Olivier Tremblay, collaborateur à MLSsoccer.com, se joint à l’équipe pour une émission à écouter ici et au menu encore très riche :
- Nick De Santis, directeur sportif de Montréal, nous parle des coulisses du transfert d’Alessandro Nesta, notamment du fait qu’il n’est pas joueur désigné. Il évoque aussi les renforts que son club cherche encore.
- Notre invité Aurélien Collin révèle les secrets de l’excellent début de saison de Kansas City, fait part de ses attentes en vue du Match des étoiles (All-Star Game) contre Chelsea et évoque aussi de sa passion, la mode.
- On analyse le Onze Populaire de la MLS, choisi par le public, avec Christian Schaekels de Vision du Jeu. Comment Ben Olsen doit-il compléter ce groupe, en fonction des qualités des joueurs choisis, du style qu’il prône et des qualités de l’adversaire, Chelsea ?
- Décevant sur le terrain, Portland limoge son entraîneur John Spencer.
- L’accolade entre Zakuani et Mullan après Seattle - Colorado.
- Les trois buts marqués par Saborio en un quart d’heure.

L'émission Coup Franc est disponible sur iTunes.

09 July 3:38 de la tarde

MLS W.O.R.K.S. and MLS corporate partner Continental Tire announced their commitment to educate the next generation of energy users during MLS Cup 2011 and are participating in Bonneville Environmental Foundation's (BEF) Solar 4R Schools program. A solar panel installation was awarded to KIPP Los Angeles Preparatory School--also the location of an environmentally friendly service project that culminated Greener Goals week and included players from MLS Cup 2011 champion LA Galaxy.

In addition, MLS W.O.R.K.S. and Continental Tire launched the "How Green Are Your Goals?" campaign as a way to engage MLS fans to participate and support environmentally friendly efforts leading up to Earth Day. Fans were encouraged to visit the Greener Goals website to share stories of how they incorporate green efforts into their everyday lives.

Thanks to the incredible support from supporters and fans, the Portland Timbers are the MLS W.O.R.K.S./Continental Tire "How Green Are Your Goals?" contest winners. A deserving school in Portland will receive a $50,000 solar panel installation as part of an MLS W.O.R.K.S. Earth Day 2013 community service project.

Timbers fan Jeffrey Briley was named the "How Green Are Your Goals?" Sweepstakes Grand Prize winner and has won a trip to the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at PPL Park in Chester, PA, and a set of tires, courtesy of Continental Tire.

Congratulations to the Portland Timbers and Jeffrey Briley for your outstanding commitment to the environment.

 

For photos from the event at KIPP LA, visit the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Flickr page.

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 2:57 de la tarde

Whoa.

Timbers Army brought the heat this weekend at JELD-WEN Field, adding another epic tifo to the growing list of massive displays that seem to serve as the precursors to Portland-Seattle matches. (See Portland's King of Clubs and Seattle's Decades of Dominance for example.)

As you can see above, the banner stretched across the entirety of the north end of the stadium, creating an absolutely stunning tribute to the city of Portland and its soccer past. The Timbers Army hit all the right notes with this effort: the Portland skyline, city and cascadia flags and Clive Charles right smack in the middle as a focal point. That's soccer art, for sure.

Sounders beat writer Jeremiah Oshan wraps it all up here with a little more detail.

I'll leave you with one more image from the match, which had no shortage of talking points.

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.