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18 July 3:02 de la tarde

If you haven't already, give this morning's OPTA Spotlight on Danny Koevermans and his contributions to Toronto FC over the past year a quick read.

Here are some diagrams (the first a plot of the result of each of his shots this season and the second a map of his shots on target) that show how Koevermans has scored each of his nine goals in 2012. As you can see, he's almost exclusively been a poacher that relies on proximity to goal rather than pinpoint finishing to be successful.

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

18 July 12:37 de la tarde

Pendant que Seattle n’aura d’yeux que pour son match amical contre Chelsea, l’action se poursuit en championnat avec un mercredi bien chargé.

Les trois clubs canadiens, dont nous avons longuement parlé dans notre podcast d’hier, partiront avec l’avantage du terrain. À Montréal - New England (direct RDS et TSN2), où les supporters locaux attendent le premier but de Di Vaio, et à Toronto - Colorado, la victoire sera obligatoire pour garder le peloton de tête en (lointain) point de mire. De son côté, aussi sur RDS et TSN2, Vancouver entamera son virage écossais contre un LA Galaxy toujours friable derrière.

Après avoir atomisé Salt Lake, San José a une tâche a priori plus facile contre Dallas, où l’arrivée de De Guzman engendre une redistribution des cartes (direct NBC Sports Network). Le déplacement à Houston, emmené par un Bruin qui respire la forme, ne s’annonce pas aussi facile pour Kansas City mais son gardien Nielsen pourrait encore de faire des miracles.

La journée commencera très tôt, avec un New York - Chicago où la chaleur jouera les trouble-fête. Enfin, Chivas USA - Portland risque d’être particulier, opposant une équipe très faible chez elle à celle qui se déplace le moins bien.

LE PROGRAMME COMPLET
Mercredi 18 juillet
13h00 : New York - Chicago
16h00 : Chivas USA - Portland
19h00 : Toronto - Colorado
20h00 : Montréal - New England
20h30 : Houston - Kansas City
22h00 : Vancouver - LA Galaxy
23h00 : San José - Dallas

Toutes les heures HE (heure de New York et Montréal)
Rendez-vous ici pour la disponibilité des matchs sur MLS Live et les diffuseurs locaux
Hors États-Unis et Canada, vous pouvez voir des matchs de MLS via ces diffuseurs ou LiveSport.tv

18 July 4:39 de la mañana

Es el jugador más representativo de Seattle Sounders en el medio del campo, y muchos dicen que incluso es el mejor jugador actualmente en la MLS.

Ese es Osvaldo Alonso.

Claro está que no lo es en todas las posiciones de la cancha, tal y como muestra este video, donde el estelar cubano es vencido en la portería por una pequeña jugadora de fútbol.

Zapatero a sus zapatos.

17 July 6:57 de la tarde

SEATTLE — One question that fans often ask me is "Which MLS team has the best training facilities?" My answer is always, "I don't know," since I've never actually made a study of it and always forget to ask people who have.

That said, judging by the reactions of Chelsea FC ahead of Wednesday night's Herbalife World Football Challenge opener against Seattle (9:30 pm ET; ESPN2), the Sounders may be the odds-on favorites.

That's French for "Holy crap, this place is diesel!"

Praise for the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton — about 25 minutes from downtown Seattle — has been a recurring theme amongst both the Chelsea players and staff.

"First I have to say is the facilities, the training ground is really unbelievable," winger Marko Marin said on Tuesday. "I never saw something like this — so big and everything."

Branislav Ivanovic had said something similar on Monday after a kick-around with members of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks (with whom the Sounders share the facility). And head coach Roberto Di Matteo was simple and to the point: "Very, very good," he offered.

So there you have it. Not a definitve answer by any means, but a neat little data point along the way.

 

17 July 2:26 de la tarde

Michael Bradley made his first appearance for Roma on Tuesday, but another American stole the show.

Terrence Boyd, who is starting his first season with Rapid Vienna, scored a spectacular bicycle kick from a save popped up by the Roma goalkeeper.

Just check out the video below. My words can't do it justice.

17 July 11:58 de la mañana

Cette semaine, les trois mousquetaires de l’émission (à écouter ici) sont quatre, puisque Patrick Leduc, consultant sur la chaîne de télévision RDS, les accompagne pour un Coup Franc presque totalement consacré aux trois clubs canadiens :

- Tous ont fait le grand ménage : Montréal s’est départi de Braun, Wahl et Montaño, Toronto a envoyé De Guzman, Plata et Soolsma sous d’autres cieux, alors que Chiumiento et Le Toux ont quitté Vancouver. Lequel a réalisé les meilleures opérations ?
- Lequel des trois clubs est en meilleure posture, cette saison et à plus long terme ?
- Pourquoi le changement soudain de philosophie à Vancouver, qui prend un virage écossais ? Les amateurs de beau jeu doivent-ils s’inquiéter ?
- Martin Rennie est-il toujours maître à bord ?
- Toronto se portera-t-il mieux sans De Guzman ? Y attendait-on trop de lui ?
- La blessure de Koevermans n'est-elle finalement pas la plus grande perte pour le TFC ?
- Di Vaio n’a pas encore marqué pour Montréal (revoir sa grosse occasion à Philadelphie) : le doute s’installe-t-il ?
- Dans quelle logique s’inscrivent les récents départs à l’Impact ?
- Lequel des entraîneurs restera en poste le plus longtemps ?
- San José - Salt Lake : un sommet à sens unique.

De nombreuses questions auxquelles nous tentons de répondre, mais nous aimerions aussi recevoir votre opinion. N’hésitez pas à nous l’envoyer par courriel (coup.franc@MLSsoccer.com) ou sur Twitter (@CoupFrancMLS). N’oubliez pas non plus de nous envoyer vos compositions pour le générique de l’émission.

L'émission Coup Franc est disponible sur iTunes.

16 July 5:22 de la tarde

Before things got hectic on the MLS docket Saturday night, the Insider had a chance to cruise out to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the 2012 edition of MLS ¡Futbolito!, the official 4v4 tournament of Major League Soccer held annually in cities all over the country.

The idea around the event? In short, bring a bunch of soccer people together, pace out some fields, put down small goals, roll out the balls and stir until ready. 164 squads ended up making their way out to Queens on Saturday, boys and girls ranging in age from U-8s to grown-ups, and everyone enjoyed themselves just the same. 

Here are a few of our observations while we were out there: 

1. Bring your kit or stay home. It seemed like every team--regardless of age or division--was outfitted in some sort of matching kit. If you didn't know better you might have thought it was a mini-FIFA Club World Cup. Boca Juniors, Sao Paulo, Marseille, Real Madrid, New York Red Bulls, D.C. United. Added a lot to the vibe. 

2. Young girls in Messi shirts are cute. A team of girls sporting t-shirts that either had 'Messi', 'Ronaldo' or 'Neymar' on the back provided the cutest image of the afternoon, and perhaps ever. They were accompanied by a junior version of the Paraguayan national team, kitted out head-to-toe. Watching the Paraguayans practice set pieces under the guidance of their manager/older sister was pure entertainment, for sure. 

 

3. People like to watch. For the adult premier division matches, pretty much every field was lined with friends and family providing "atmosphere" to the proceedings. By atmosphere, we mean cheering, oohing, aahing, and giving the refs a piece of their minds -- sometimes very big pieces of their minds. Made sense since there was a pretty hefty cash prize on the line for the winners, which was eventually the NY Golden Eagles who managed to score 45 goals in seven matches on their way to the title. 

4. A stadium might look very good out here. This year's event was held on Field 9 of the park, which sits just across the Van Wyck Expressway from the potential stadium site for a second New York City MLS club. A lot needs to happen before that, of course, but it was fun to think about all the players, their families, and their friends coming here for an entirely different soccer experience someday. 

16 July 11:22 de la mañana

San José, qui a humilié Salt Lake, et Kansas City sont (encore) les bénéficiaires d’une journée riche en buts et en spectacle.

Le duel entre les deux premiers à tourné court : le leader s’est imposé sur un score de forfait (5-0). Déjà mené, Salt Lake s’est effondré après l’exclusion de Beckerman. Auteur d’un triplé, Wondolowski enfonce le clou : « J’aurais pu en mettre plus au fond » !

Le sort de l’équipe des Rocheuses a été partagé par DC United, qui a pris quatre buts à Houston après l’exclusion de son gardien Hamid. Ben Olsen remet en cause l’engagement de ses joueurs, alors que les Texans se félicitent du jeu de leurs ailiers dans leur nouveau 4-3-3.

Autant de spectacle mais plus de suspense à New York, où les nouveaux Le Toux et Gaudette se sont illustrés, mais n’ont pu offrir la victoire à leurs couleurs contre Seattle qui a sauvé un point grâce à Montero, étonnamment remplaçant.

Les supporters visiteurs et les spectateurs neutres se sont beaucoup amusés lors de Portland - LA Galaxy (3-5), avec des vedettes californiennes à leur meilleur. Pas de choc psychologique dans l’Oregon, où l’entraîneur par intérim Gavin Wilkinson assume ses erreurs.

Kansas City a profité des faux pas de ses concurrents grâce à une victoire convaincante à Columbus partiellement occultée par la blessure de Peterson. Victoire à la Pyrrhus également pour Toronto, qui a perdu Koevermans blessé au genou.

LES RÉSULTATS
Philadelphie - Montréal
New England - Toronto
Columbus - Kansas City
Chicago - Vancouver
Colorado - Dallas
San José - Salt Lake
Portland - LA Galaxy
New York - Seattle
Houston - DC United

2-1
0-1
0-2
1-0
1-2
5-0
3-5
2-2
4-0
Cliquez sur un résultat pour voir le résumé vidéo

 

16 July 9:15 de la mañana

MLS is fast becoming a home away from home for Scottish players. First Kris Boyd inked a deal with Portland. Then his former Rangers teammate Steve Smith joined him in the Rose City. Ex-Celtic midfielder Barry Robson joined the Whitecaps last month, and now it looks like the rumored deal to bring international striker Kenny Miller to Vancouver is done. 

“I told Kenny all about the club and he is excited about coming," Robson said, according to The Sun. “Kenny will be a great addition. He’s a top-quality player and everybody will be excited about his arrival. He is the type of player who would fit into any team. He is a goalscorer, he has talent and is intelligent. Kenny will offer a lot to the side with his pace, movement and goals. He is a top player."

Miller, who has spent time with Rangers, Celtic and Wolverhampton, among others, was most recently on the books at Cardiff City, where he scored 11 goals in 50 overall appearances.

“He’s a proven scorer at the highest level," Robson said, "and I’m looking forward to him becoming part of it all."

13 July 6:56 de la tarde

The final of the 2014 World Cup is two years from today. Amazing, huh? Seems like only yesterday, we were all huddled in soccer pubs and living rooms and tapas bars watching Spain beat the Netherlands in the final in Johannesburg.

But, in reality, that was a while ago. And now, everything is focused on 2014. Samba on the brain. Caipirinhas before dinner.

Seems like a good to look at what Jurgen Klinsmann's US national team needs to do to get to Rio.

Qualifying – "The Semifinals"

Technically, the current round of qualifying is called the Third Round. It's a group stage, and the US are in good shape after two matches. They beat Antigua and Barbuda 3-1 in Tampa on June 6 and then drew with Guatemala down in Central America four days later.

So at this point, the US are tied with Jamaica at the top of Group A, with four more matches to play.

That Guatemala away game would traditionally be the most difficult one of this round. But this cycle is a little different.

The trip down to Jamaica – who have improved greatly in the past few years – on September 7 will not be a Rastafarian walk in the park. It's made trickier because the two nations square off just four days later in Columbus. Klinsmann will have to manage his roster and squad smartly to avoid fatigue and any letdown in the second match.

Other than that is the away game in Antigua and Barbuda, on October 12, which will indeed be a walk in the park. The return match against Guatemala, at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City on October 16, won't be an easy three points, but the hope is that by then, the US won't need points. By then, they should've clinched a spot in the next round.

My guess is that the US will get nine more points – I think they'll struggle in Kingston – and move on without too many issues.

Qualifying "The Hex"

Everyone's favorite game of Russian Roulette – the final round of qualifying for CONCACAF. Here are the most likely countries with bullets in the chamber:

Mexico: The Gold Cup champions are perfect in qualifying so far and will eventually cruise through.

Costa Rica: Los Ticos have been here before, and although they slipped up at home against El Salvador, they have enough firepower and experience (e.g. RSL's Alvaro Saborio) to make it.

Honduras: Loaded with familiar names, such as Sporting KC's Roger Espinoza and New England's Jerry Bengtson, los Catrachos are not the powerhouse they were a few years ago, but they still have enough to make the Hex. 

Jamaica: This is the year for the Reggae Boyz – led by Colorado's Omar Cummings and Vancouver's Darren Mattocks – to make another serious run at a World Cup berth for the first time since 1998.

The sixth country is probably going to be either Panama or Canada.

Panama look very good through the first two matches, securing two wins, including a 2-0 shocker in Honduras. The other one, though, was a squeaker at home to unfancied Cuba. Still, Blas Pérez and the Panamanians are alone at the top of the Third Round Group C.

But Canada are nipping at their heels after battling for a win in Havana and then earning a draw at home against Honduras. They're in a good position, but will probably need to beat Panama at home and earn a result on the road against either Honduras or Panama.

No matter who makes it, the Hex will be rough road for the US, as it always has been. Klinsi got his first taste of life in CONCACAF when the US went to Guatemala. But the quality is better in the Hex. And the urgency, too.

The US has done well in the Hex recently, coming on top of the final six in each of the past two qualifying tournaments. But this is a different Mexican team than in the past – maybe the best Tri we've ever seen.

But the Yanks don't have to top the group. Just finish in the top three. Most likely, the cut-off for qualifying will be 16 points. That's what it was in 2010 and 2006. It was 17 in 2002, the last time the US qualified in the third spot.

Qualifying – Interconfederation Playoffs

What if the US stumble in the Hex and somehow finish out of the top three? Well, all is not lost. In fact, this year, the scheduling gods have smiled on CONCACAF: The fourth-place team in the Hex will still have a chance to get in through an inter-confederation playoff against the top qualifier from Oceania (a.k.a., New Zealand).

Last time out the playoff was between CONCACAF's fourth-place finisher and South America's fifth-place finisher. Costa Rica lost to Uruguay, as expected.

The hope for US fans, of course, is that it never gets to that point.