15 November 12:07 de la tarde

On approche de l’apothéose de la saison et on peut déjà en tirer quelques bilans. Je vous ai donc préparé mon « top 10 » et mon « flop 10 » de l’année 2012 en MLS, et comme cette rubrique s’appelle Coup Franc, je les ai respectivement rebaptisés « Pleine lucarne » et « Droit dans le mur ». Je vous les dévoilerai deux par deux, en alternance, les jours où l’actualité est plus calme. On commence aujourd’hui avec les n°9 et 10 de « Droit dans le mur ».

10. Au LA Galaxy, défendre sur le flanc gauche est optionnel
Si la plus mauvaise défense des 10 participants à la phase finale est celle du LA Galaxy, la faute en revient principalement aux buts qu’elle a encaissés qui se sont construits depuis son flanc gauche. Dunnivant, Gaul et consorts ont été trop complaisants et ont beaucoup trop laissé centrer. Heureusement pour les Californiens, depuis le début des duels à élimination directe, ce problème ne s’est pas (encore ?) posé. Et s’il s’agissait de la faille à exploiter par Seattle pour renverser la vapeur ? Mais pour cela, il faudra compter sur un Rosales en pleine possession de ses moyens.

9. Columbus peut se réjouir de ne pas jouer au basket
Heureusement que Columbus est allé chercher Federico Higuaín pour amener un peu d’animation à sa saison, parce que jusque-là, on ne peut pas dire que la formation de l’Ohio nous offrait beaucoup de spectacle. Cela dit, derrière, ce fut souvent le même scénario d’un bout à l’autre de l’année avec une défense laissait l’adversaire manœuvrer à sa guise loin du but et a concédé de nombreux buts marqués à distance. Une tactique qui leur aurait été encore plus préjudiciable en basket avec les paniers à trois points…

14 November 2:08 de la tarde

What do Messi, Falcao, Neymar and Eric Hassli have in common? They've all scored mindblowing goals over the last year, or so. 

Yep, today FIFA announced the list of nominees for the 2012 FIFA Puskás award, given annually for the best goal in world football.

Your boy Eric is in.

The guy didn't win Goal of the Year in MLS for 2011, but Hassli's wonderstrike against Toronto FC this season might end up grabbing some hardware, and rightly so.

Voting ends November 29, get in there

14 November 12:57 de la tarde

When it comes to friendlies, Tim Howard may be the greatest 'keeper in the world. He's the hero of Wednesday's 2-2 draw.

And when it comes to soccer, the US are still better playing direct, simple stuff than trying to be Spain. No, you're not going to get many results if you rely primarily on running volleys from outside the 18. But at least that's a club the US have in the bag. Tika-taka isn't.

Anyway, here's what we learned in order of importance:

Jurgen Klinsmann's message got through to Jozy Altidore loud and clear

He wasn't Pelé out there, but he didn't need to be. What the US forwards have done well since the days of Wynalda (and probably before) is work damn hard on both sides of the ball. Even Jozy's done that well at times in his career — notably the summers of 2009 and 2010, and as recently as as last year against Slovenia when his pressure led to Edson Buddle's goal.

That Jozy was back against the Russians. There was little combination play to speak of in the final third — something we'll get to in point No. 2 — but Altidore can't be blamed for that. What he should get credit for is pressuring the Russian backs and checking to midfield constantly, offering a largely outskilled and creatively bereft midfield an outlet when they got in trouble.

And again, he wasn't perfect in that. But he was really good, won a ton of possession-positive headers, found space a few times to let rip, and made a bunch of unselfish runs off the ball. If there was any justice, he'd have gotten a better touch on that Fabian Johnson pass in the 70th minute.

You can have two of Danny Williams, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones on the field at the same time

Any more than two and you get a midfield that plays like ... well, like what we saw today. I don't know how many times we have to see that during Klinsmann's tenure, but let's add a "+1" after Wednesday's draw.

The slightly mitigating factor is that the Williams/Bradley/Jones trio looked a bit more useful when Klinsmann switched away from the 4-3-3 to a lopsided 4-4-2 with 25 minutes to go (with Williams eventually coming off for the effective Mo Edu, which is a like-for-like switch).

The improvement makes sense since the US, as a whole, were much better in 1-v-1 situations than they were in combination play — a bizarre thing to say/think about a team with such strong Bundesliga influences. And, of course, because it opened up space for Bradley to move forward. Without that switch he's nowhere near Juan Agudelo's knock-back header to find the equalizer.

The 4-3-3 can still work with this team, but it needs a midfield trio that can hold the ball and build chances. Williams/Bradley/Jones ain't it.

Josh Gatt is still more athlete than soccer player

I've been harping on this a lot, as I often do with Youtube heroes. And I'm not going to stop.

The player Gatt reminds me of most is Dane Richards. He's got a ton of speed — both at the start and the top end — and can make things happen in the open field pretty damn well. He also attacks the back post ferociously, a prerequisite for any winger in a 4-3-3 (which is what Gatt is for his club team in Molde, and was on Wednesday as well).

However, at this point, he's unable to make decisions in possession, and defensively he's an absolute nightmare. Any simple one-two left him undone (witness his last action of the game, in the 62nd minute), and the Russians went at him incessantly during the game's first 20-odd minutes.

He got better as the half went on, but right now he's a significantly inferior soccer player — and national team prospect — to guys like Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon and, quite obviously, Graham Zusi.

But figuring out stuff like that is what friendlies are for.

Bonus thought: Once again, the US played better when Sacha Kljestan came on

Other than Landon Donovan, no one in the US pool sees the game quicker. And he's become much, much stronger on the ball in the past two years. If it were my call, his name would be on the starting XI in pen.

14 November 11:45 de la mañana

La Fifa vient de publier la liste des 10 candidats au Prix Puskás 2012, récompensant le plus beau but inscrit sur la planète au cours de l’année écoulée.

Au milieu de sublimes réalisations de Neymar (lauréat l'an dernier), Messi ou encore Ben Arfa, on retrouve le but inscrit par Eric Hassli pour Vancouver contre… son club actuel, le Toronto FC, le 16 mai dernier. À la dernière minute du matrch, l’attaquant français reprend un centre de la gauche d’Alain Rochat d’une superbe volée du pied droit en pleine lucarne pour faire 1-1.

C’est à vous de désigner le lauréat du Prix Puskás, et vous pouvez voter dès à présent. Le scrutin se passe en deux tours : après le 29 novembre, les trois buts les plus plébiscités resteront seuls en lice. Le vainqueur recevra son prix lors du Gala FIFA Ballon d’Or, le 7 janvier 2013. Vous ne pouvez voter qu’une fois par tour. Rendez-vous ici pour effectuer votre choix.

Ne cherchez pas le but d’Hassli dans les candidats au But de l’année de la MLS, il a été inscrit lors du match aller de la finale de la coupe du Canada (officiellement baptisée Championnat canadien Amway). Ça ne vous empêche pas d’aller élire ici la plus belle réalisation de la saison en MLS. Votez bien et régalez-vous avec tous ces superbes buts !

13 November 6:14 de la tarde


Fans of a potential expansion team in the New York borough of Queens received some interesting news on Tuesday, courtesy of the New York Post.

The mayor's office reportedly has a short list of priority projects, and the soccer stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park is among them.

That news comes on the heels of a survey that reveals that 71 percent of Queens residents support the stadium project. Last month, MLS officials discussed details of the plan for the first time.

Fans can get the latest news on the expansion bid by signing up at and following @MLStoQueens on Twitter.

13 November 5:42 de la tarde

"I woke up one morning in February and told my wife I wanted to start an MLS franchise."

Those are the words which led to the MLS version of the Seattle Sounders, who have a desperate fight on their hands to keep their 2012 playoff hopes alive on Sunday (9 pm ET, ESPN, TSN2/RDS2 in Canada).

The MLS Sounders turned five years old on Tuesday. On Nov. 13, 2007, a press conference was held to announce that the club would start play in 2009.

At that event, Commissioner Don Garber confessed that the club, which now holds every attendance record in league history was triggered by a cold call (read about it here).

The rest, as they say, is history.

13 November 1:17 de la tarde

L’émission Coup Franc de cette semaine (à écouter ici) s’intéresse tant à ceux qui sont en lutte pour la Coupe MLS qu’à ceux qui ont déjà la tête à 2013. Parmi les sujets de discussion :
- La phase finale de la saison en questions. Se dirige-t-on vers une nouvelle finale LA Galaxy - Houston ? Qui de Seattle ou de DC United a le plus de chances de renverser la tendance au match retour en finale de conférence ? Les animateurs parlent aussi de leurs surprises et de leurs pronostics.
- Entretien avec le journaliste Nick Sabetti, actuellement en Italie avec Montréal. Il évoque l’état d’esprit des joueurs et du staff technique, ce qui a changé (ou non) aux entraînements, la possibilité que Mauro Biello succède à Jesse Marsch ou encore le genre d’entraîneur que les joueurs aimeraient.
- Débat : Mauro Biello peut-il devenir le T1 de Montréal en 2013 ?
- Nouvelle rubrique : club de lecture. Aujourd’hui, Olivier Tremblay vous conseille « Football and Chess ». Si vous aimez lire, allez voir la bibliographie du site zonalmarking.
- La vente aux enchères du brassard de capitaine de l’Impact de Montréal par les Ultras Montréal.

L'émission Coup Franc est aussi disponible sur Stitcher et iTunes. Vous pouvez nous joindre par courriel ( ou sur Twitter (@CoupFrancMLS).

12 November 6:35 de la tarde

The rich just keep getting richer. 

Right when you think things can't get any better for LA Galaxy, they get some twitter love from Snoop Dogg. 

The Lakers and Clippers also get a mention, which makes you wonder how Chivas USA must be feeling. Snoop was clearly a Robin Fraser guy. 

12 November 5:47 de la tarde

Does this even qualify as a rumor? It's not coming from The Sun or The Daily Mirror or some obscure web site out in Asia.

This is Didier Drogba himself talking.

Here's what Chelsea's 2011-12 UEFA Champions League hero tells SuperSport about his MLS plans.

“If I’m able to achieve my objectives at the end of my contract with Shanghai Shenhua in 2014, I’d love to attempt another adventure, maybe in the United States.

“I had some proposals last summer but they all looked like what I had in England. I wanted to move far way to another culture. I’ll be 37 then and I think I can still play because I’m always a young man in front of the ball,” he said.

Will an MLS club be willing to take a chance on a "young" Drogba at age 37? Why not?

12 November 5:23 de la tarde

US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has never been shy to let his opinion be known on soccer matters.

While on a scouting trip in England ahead of the USA's Wednesday friendly in Russia, he stopped to visit with the BBC's Gary Lineker, who asked Klinsmann for his views on diving and technology in soccer (WATCH THE INTERVIEW HERE).

Klinsmann has apparently given this more than some thought. Here's his plan:

"Use specific elements right away," Klinsmann said. "You have a fourth referee already out there. So if he has a a television screen, he can tell you like in American basketball or in football. Within 10 seconds he tells you if it was behind the line or it wasn't. It was a penalty or it wasn't. Give [the fourth official] the final shot real quick. They're connected with the ear phones already on the field. Give it a go.

"Give him the signal right away, the main ref, and he can make his call. I would use it."

The former Tottenham Hotspur star also provided Lineker some insight into what he believes to be his mission at the helm of the US national team.

"[Americans] are obviously looking for a national team that they can identify with and that maybe one day goes a little bit further in the World Cup," Klinsmann said. "That's the locomotive of the whole game in the country because their pride is huge when the national team plays. And that's kind of a little bit down to me to hopefully guide them to Brazil 2014 and do well there."