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Toronto FC

12 July 12:56 de la tarde

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.

06 July 3:18 de la tarde

Joao Plata was at the "White House" on Friday afternoon and his former club in Toronto couldn't seem any farther away.

Although there has been no official word from Toronto FC, the Reds fan favorite was holding up a Liga de Quito jersey in a press conference held at the Ecuadorian club's Casa Blanca, where reports indicate he will remain through the end of the year.

Plata returned to Ecuador earlier this week unbeknownst to TFC, who were expecting him to show up to practice earlier this week although they admit they were investigating a potential loan deal with his former club.

The 20-year-old did not appear under new Toronto manager Paul Mariner, who took over for Aron Winter, and Plata told FutbolMLS.com earlier this week that he did not figure in the Englishman's plans.

But they were happy to have him in Ecuador, if this photo from Friday is any indication.

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.
27 June 12:09 de la tarde

Nous sommes le 27 juin, date importante puisque c’est l’ouverture de ce qu’on appelle communément le mercato, c’est-à-dire la période de transferts de mi-saison. Dès aujourd’hui, et jusqu’au 27 juillet, les 19 équipes de MLS peuvent se renforcer avec des joueurs évoluant à l’étranger.

Certaines n’ont pas attendu avant d’annoncer l’arrivée de nouveaux éléments, mais ceux-ci ne pouvaient pas jouer en match officiel avant aujourd’hui. C’est le cas notamment de Jairo Arrieta (Columbus), Oscar Boniek Garcia (Houston) et Marco Di Vaio (Montréal). Philadelphie a aussi annoncé l’arrivée de l’international malien Bakary Soumare.

Quelles équipes ont selon vous besoin de renfort, et à quelle position ? Qui peut d’ores et déjà s’en servir pour préparer 2013 plutôt que pour réussir 2012 ? Quels joueurs désignés joindront les rangs de la MLS dans les prochaines semaines ?

Le premier à l’œuvre sera Di Vaio, puisque Montréal affronte Toronto dès ce soir (19h30). Une raison parmi d’autres de se déplacer au stade Saputo. Selon l’Impact, le TFC est un « ours qui dort ». Va-t-il marquer quatre buts à domicile pour une troisième fois consécutive face à un adversaire qui se cherche un leader en défense ?

Notez pour conclure que les belles histoires des équipes de divisions inférieures ont pris fin hier en Coupe des États-Unis, dont les demi-finalistes sont Philadelphie, Kansas City, Chivas USA et Seattle.

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 !

07 June 2:46 de la tarde

Eh bien voilà, je préparais tranquillement un texte intitulé « Peter Byers défie l’Amérique » pour vous présenter les éliminatoires de la Concacaf dans les autres groupes que celui du Canada, quand le Toronto FC a encore frappé.

Aron Winter est la victime de cette nouvelle poussée de renvoyite aiguë : le Néerlandais cède sa place à Paul Mariner, qui devient le septième entraîneur d’un club qui joue en MLS depuis à peine plus de 5 ans. Nommé en janvier 2011, Winter détient pourtant un record de la longévité à la tête du TFC.

Il était venu pour construire, prônait un système de jeu chatoyant et a lancé plusieurs jeunes comme Morgan ou Henry, promis à un bel avenir. Winter a hissé l’équipe en demi-finale de la Ligue des champions, a remporté deux fois la Coupe du Canada, mais ce n’était pas suffisant. Ses dirigeants lui font payer les résultats désastreux de l’équipe en MLS… juste au moment où elle commence à prendre des points et de la confiance.

Et maintenant ? Mariner dit qu’il suffit de « quelques ajustements mineurs »… demandant « beaucoup de travail ». Comme le dit une chanson pour enfants : Trois pas en avant, trois pas en arrière, trois pas sur le côté, trois pas de l’autre côté…

29 May 3:16 de la tarde

Total Points – Dwayne De Rosario (89)

With Thierry Henry missing several weeks due to a hamstring injury, DeRo has taken over as the No. 1 player in Fantasy Soccer: Manager.  He’s had a weeks of 10, 15 and 20 points, and his most recent point output was the most by a single player thus far in 2012.  DeRo has 20+ more points than the next closest midfielder, making him a legitimate threat every week and a player you can build your team around.

Percentage Owned – Jay DeMerit (35.3)

DeMerit has been the most widely selected player in FS: M the entire season. Thirty-five percent of all managers currently have him on their roster. The second-closest player is Kenny Cooper (28 percent). At one point, DeMerit had the highest score of any defender, but lately he’s been slipping. D.C. United players Daniel Woolard and Brandon McDonald, Aurélien Colin, and even teammate Lee Young-Pyo have since leapfrogged DeMerit, so only time will tell if it’s his worldwide fame or his actual production that makes him the most “popular” player in MLS.

Crosses & Key Passes – Graham Zusi (33) & (34)

Zusi has calmed down slightly after a fast start, but his 33 crosses are still seven better than the next closest player. Three successful crosses equals one bonus point, so Zusi could’ve potentially gained an additional 11 points for his efforts thus far. He also leads the league in Key Passes (34) and has seven more than the next closest player in this category as well. Zusi should continue to be one of the most coveted midfielders due to his time on the ball and SKC’s all-out attack style offense.

Big Chances Fluffed – Dominic Oduro (7)

One of the fastest – if not the fastest – players in MLS has been a huge bust in 2012. In the four games in which Oduro has scored, he’s tallied six or more points each time. However, in every other game this season (eight games) he’s managed just two points or less. In his last seven games he’s put up one point or less on six different occasions. Oduro is getting great looks, but he’s missing every single one of them. He leads all players in BCFs and has been deducted seven points total because of it. At this point, he’s more of a risk than anything.

CBI’s – A.J. Soares (123)

My initial pick for Defender of the Year is not having a sophomore slump by any means. His 123 CBIs (clearances, blocks and interceptions combined) leads all players and he’ll likely widen the gap with two games coming up in Week 13. Only three other players have more than 100 CBIs and none of them will be under more pressure than Soares should the rest of the season. He’s an absolute ball shark, but has never really been a threat on set pieces. One can only hope that his recent goal will encourage Jay Heaps to push him up more often.

Recoveries – Osvaldo Alonso (136)

Disregarding goalkeepers, there’s a tight battle for the title of “the best second-ball winner” in MLS. Alonso currently leads Dax McCarty (133) by only three recoveries, but that’s pretty much his only competition. Kyle Beckerman has the third most with 100, and it looks as if his absence due to national team duty will only widen the margin. Alonso has gained 19 bonus points already from recoveries so expect him to keep this all season long.

Transfers In – Nick DeLeon (3,800+)

When David Estrada (3,500+ transfers) started cooling down, DeLeon became all the talk. The D.C. United rookie is currently the most added player with over 3,800 transfers. His value started at $5.5m and quickly made its way to $6.8m. Now that he’s back from injury don’t expect him to return to his previous form. When DeLeon was clicking, DeRo and Salihi were in a slump. Now that they’re back in form, expect DeLeon to take a back seat. He’s still valuable, but not as much as he was back in April.

Dream Team – Kenny Cooper (4)

No one has made the “Dream Team” more times this season than Kenny Cooper, but you have to credit Thierry Henry with helping him reach this point. Coop-dog has scored six or more points on nine different occasions in 2012, making him one of the most consistent forwards in MLS. He continued to put up numbers even when Henry was out, so look for him to only get better now that he’s returned.

25 May 7:55 de la tarde

You have an iPhone. You use it all the time. You sing songs to it. You need it. You love it. Maybe a little too much.

Maybe you sleep with it under your pillow. Maybe you grouse to it about your boss. Maybe you tell it about that one time in college when you... well, that's between you and Siri. Because Siri understands.

Siri also understands updates. She loves 'em. And we love 'em, too.

So here's the MLS iOS app update, which was just approved in the store.

CLICK ME!

Key new features:

  • Condensed games for MLS live subscribers
  • Enhanced highlight ui
  • New live ui
  • Bug fixes

Oh, and Android users? Your update is coming. Be patient.

 

Sent from my flip phone.