Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Better Than Their Record?
|We have a good idea of who the best and worst MLS teams in MLS history are. I've already gone over this subject in depth here, detailing the top ten in single and multiple seasons. However, that's only considering their regular season record. What I've never done before is to make a list of the top & bottom single season teams over all competitions. How would that change the standings?|
I was thinking about this the other day as I watched the Los Angeles Galaxy get pounded again. They're a bad team, no doubt, but if you look at all of their games the story isn't quite so dire. They have a record of 3-10-5 in regular season play for a PPG of 0.78, on pace to be the 6th worst team in league history. Just horrible. But they went 2-1 in Open Cup play and are 3-1 in the Superliga (reminder: final tonight), so if you add that 5-2 record into their total, it becomes 8-12-5 over all competitions. The PPG is now 1.16 vs 0.78 in the regular season only, a huge difference.
The 2005 Galaxy were pretty much the same story, winning the double despite an average regular season record (partly explained by Donovan missing games). However, they went 7-0-1 in the Open Cup and playoffs:
The 2005 Galaxy only improved the third most all time. So which teams have improved and decreased the most in MLS history? Obviously it's a lot more likely for a team to get better, because if you lose in the knockout competitions then you are done. Not to mention the Champions Cup. Let's take a look.
Most Improved Teams When Counting All Competitions
Interesting that 3/4 of Chicago's years under Dave Sarachan make this list.
There are three MLS Cup champions on this list. Those teams also made huge leaps in the overall table (see below). But the number one team here is actually one of the worst ever. They get credit for their participation in the Champions Cup and the Giants Cup, as well as their US Open Cup semifinal run.
Most Decreased Teams When Counting All Competitions
2001 and 2002 feature prominently here and on the previous list. That's because those two years had the shortest seasons, at only 28 games (actually 26 or 27 for 2001, due to 9/11). So they would be easier to affect.
The number one team here, the 2001 Crew, played only a 26 game regular season. They went 2-4-1 in other competitions, including the Giants Cup.
Several teams had had huge playoff collapses: TB/MIA/SJ, all Supporters Shield winners.
Best & Worst Single Season Teams Revisited
So if we were to look at the all time lists normally and under all competitions, how would things change?
The best teams:
Three changes in the top ten, all of newcomers Fire teams. The 2003 edition is now in third place all time, while the 2002 Galaxy move from tenth to second.
In all competitions, the most points all time would go to the 6th and 7th place teams at 84 (and also the most games at 44). The 2000 Fire's 26 wins are also a record.
The worst teams:
Only one change here. Like I said above, obviously there's more movement among good teams.
2005 Chivas won their first Open Cup game which bumped them up a bit.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Guyana is the New St. Vincent
|Over the summer, CONCACAF announced that the basic format of World Cup qualifying for South Africa 2010 would remain the same: 12 team semifinals and a 6 team final group (aka "the hex"). Last week, the details were released and there were a few minor changes in the early rounds.|
In short, just like last time, the top 12 teams have been given byes to the last 24, where they will be drawn against the next 12 teams (13-24th best in the region) to play off for the 12 semifinal spots. The big news is that they used a new method of determining the top 12 teams.
Unfortunately, they've repeated the same problems from last time. More on that later.
Let's take a look at the what was wrong from 2006, one that was brought to my attention by Peter Goldstein of Planet World Cup in his columns. The top 12 teams in 2006 qualifying were the 12 teams from the semifinal round in 2002. St. Vincent received a bye instead of Cuba or Haiti, by all accounts much stronger teams. So when the final 24 teams played off, St. Vincent was virtually assured to advance, while Cuba/Haiti were screwed. Just look at the matchups:
(seeded teams on the left)
Unless Cuba/Haiti were drawn against Barbados or St. Vincent, they were going to lose. But the worst part is how St. Vincent benefited from an incredibly easy 2002 qualifying draw, which enabled them to get to the semifinals twice in a row.
I'll explain further. Through 2002, CONCACAF had each team play preliminary rounds on the basis of location. So you had Central American and Caribbean teams playing amongst their regional rivals (which is how the Gold Cup qualifying is done now). Then they had an "interzone playoff" for the final couple of spots, with Canada coming into the mix there.
For the Caribbean qualifying, teams were placed into 3 brackets with one team advancing to the semifinal round in each. The finals of the three brackets were as follows:
Not exactly balanced, as the two weakest teams were likely St. Vincent and their opponent. Jamaica had been given a bye to the semifinals by virtue of their 1998 World Cup appearance. The three losers here had to play Canada, Guatemala, and Honduras, and they all lost.
So St. Vincent only had to beat the US Virgin Islands, St. Kitts, and Antigua, while Haiti lost against Trinidad and Honduras. Because of that easy draw in 2002, they were then seeded for 2006. St. Vincent is one of the top 15 teams in CONCACAF, but it was wrong to let them benefit unfairly like that.
Unfortunately, this system still remains in place for 2010. What they've done this time though, is to take the teams and seed them based on the FIFA rankings for May 2007. This results in three changes in the 12 seeded teams for 2010: Cuba/Guyana/Haiti are in for El Salvador/St. Kitts/St. Vincent. While it's nice to see Cuba/Haiti finally get their due (and a virtual lock on advancement), Guyana seeded is a disaster way bigger than St. Vincent ever could be.
Everyone knows El Salvador is much, much better than Guyana, who lost to Grenada 8-1 on aggregate in 2006 qualifying. Why are they ranked so highly?
In the past year (this cycle) Guyana has a 8-1-1 record:
Win: St. Lucia (x2), Barbados, Surinam, Netherlands Antilles, Grenada, Antigua, Dominican Republic
Loss: St. Vincent
They also beat Guadeloupe in the Digicel Cup. They have a 4-0-1 record from the 2006 qualifiers until a year ago, so overall they're 12-1-2 since the beatdown from Grenada, clearly better than the other Caribbean minnows. They should be given their population. However, they still haven't done anything to prove that they're better than El Salvador, or St. Vincent.
Top players appear to be Randolph Jerome (North East Stars, TRI) and Nigel Codrington (Cleveland City Stars, USA), both attackers. Codrington was named to the All League 2nd team in the USL-2 and appears to be their current best player.
El Salvador, meanwhile is 4-10-2 this cycle and 2-8-2 before the May rankings were released. Of course, the teams they've played are a lot better than Guyana: Honduras, Panama, Bolivia, Belize, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Haiti, Trinidad, USA, Paraguay. Up through May, they only had wins against Belize and Nicaragua, so I can understand their horrible FIFA rank and their lack of a seed. In a way, this is due to the new FIFA ranking systems which now is less complex and heavily weights things towards the past year (50% vs 22%). But there's no way that El Salvador does any worse than 8-1-1 with Guyana's schedule.
CONCACAF needs a better system (but that's another post).
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Tim Froh Column Archive
|Past editions of Tim Froh's weekly column here on Climbing the Ladder:|
OTFATT 2007 - Update #7
Big 24 hours for the OTFATT competition (where we keep track of those MLS players to have played every minute of the season) in midweek.
On Wednesday, Gonzalo Segares was sent off after receiving two yellow cards at Kansas City, although I believe he would've been suspended after the first one. He was the last Chicago Fire player left.
Then on Thursday, Ty Harden was out of the lineup for Los Angeles due to an injury, making way for Kyle Veris. He would've been benched way sooner if they had a suitable replacement, which Veris showed he was not. Harden was the last rookie. Unfortunately there's not a favorable comparison with 2006's last surviving rookie, Jonathan Bornstein.
In other news, there are no more true defenders left! That's pretty shocking. You have two guys remaining who have played decent minutes there (Brennan & Klein), but they're just there out of necessity. No defenders survived last year as well.
Meanwhile, Matt Reis is going for his second straight year of playing every minute.
Remaining Candidates (7)
Order of teams being totally wiped out, with last surviving player:
1. NY-Todd Dunivant (5/24)
2. HOU-Eddie Robinson (6/10)
3. RSL-Chris Klein (6/24)
4. DC-Bryan Namoff (6/24)
5. DAL-Drew Moor (6/30)
6. CHV-Brad Guzan (6/30)
7. CLB-Marcos Gonzalez (7/14)
8. CHI-Gonzalo Segares (8/19)
Friday, August 24, 2007
2010 Seeding Formula: August 2007 update
|The new FIFA rankings are out for August, so it's once again time to look ahead to the next World Cup. This will start to get really exciting with the December edition, after the qualifying draws are done in late November. That's also the first month of the three that get locked into place for the rankings half of the formula.|
Top 7 teams seeded
(South Africa automatically seeded as hosts)
Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are in the formula this month in place of Ghana and Uzbekistan.
Portugal's slight drop in the FIFA rankings causes them to drop to 8th. Their draw against Armenia can't help for next month.
Teams like Croatia and Czech Republic may be high in the formula, but they have no real shot due to their poor World Cup performance. They're about as high as they can get currently.
For an FAQ on these rankings and links to previous editions, see this link.
Probably the biggest thing that can affect this rankings is the UEFA pots for the November draw. For instance, Spain right now would be in the second pot which means that they could easily draw Italy, England, France, or Germany. UEFA qualifying involves lots of good teams and not a lot of games. For more on the pots as they stand now, click here.
Pot 1: Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Spain
Pot 2: Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine
Pot 3: Cameroon, Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay, Tunisia, Uruguay
Pot 4: Australia, Costa Rica, Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, USA
Group A: South Africa, Ukraine, Colombia, USA
Group B: Spain, Czech Republic, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia
Group C: Germany, Serbia, Morocco, Costa Rica
Group D: Argentina, Netherlands, Cameroon, Japan
Group E: England, Croatia, Uruguay, Mexico
Group F: Italy, Greece, Cote d'Ivoire, Australia
Group G: France, Romania, Paraguay, Korea
Group H: Brazil, Portugal, Tunisia, Iran
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Ann Killion is Wrong
By Tim Froh
There are no good responses to these questions. Killion is so blinded by her own negativity about a league she doesn’t even watch that it would be impossible for her to provide a satisfactory response of any kind. It’s remarkable when a small-town paper from tiny Salinas, California beats the local newspaper to a major Earthquakes story. I hope by now though, you all realize that it shouldn’t be surprising.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Israel Sesay Lottery
With the news that there will be another weighted lottery in MLS, I thought I'd go over the protocol and the odds for this one. You remember the weighted lottery, right? Over the years it's decided the fates of players like Robbie Rogers, Danny Szetela, Alex Yi, D.J. Countess, Nelson Akwari, Kyle Beckerman, and Gus Kartes. Yes, feel free to cue up the jokes about it being rigged in favor of the Metrostars. Not that it's really helped them.
Why are there weighted lotteries in the first place? According the to MLS rules, they're for:
1. Generation adidas players signed after the MLS SuperDraft
2. Draft eligible players to whom an MLS contract was offered but who failed to sign with the League prior to the Draft.
Seems like they're one of the few outdated procedures still around. I wouldn't expect them to be held a decade from now. Having said that, let's go on the actual rules. Here's an older article from the Szetela signing (which was probably the most high profile lottery), explaining how the odds are determined. Basically, you take the total points over the past 32 regular season games (one season's worth) and give bonuses to teams who did well in the playoffs. The teams with the lowest totals have the best odds of winning. Now the current rules say to use the 32 games, even though it used to be 30 back when the season was that long. So I wonder if they've changed that back to 30, just like they changed the season length as well? That would make more sense, but I'll use 32 games here because that's what the rules state and note any changes below.
According to Goff (see the first link), Toronto will not participate and Columbus can't because they already won one this year (Rogers). So with 11 teams, these are the rankings:
The two ties are broken by goal differential. I can't give exact odds because it appears they're determined by position, not points, and the example for Szetela shows ten teams. However, they will probably be very similar to that. So RSL will probably have around a 25% chance, and Colorado a 20% chance, and so on. Probably a 70% chance it's one of the first four teams.
If the drawing isn't until after Wednesday or Saturday, then these rankings could slightly change to the new results. The teams from 5-9 are packed very tightly so one result could make a huge difference. However, by the actual time of the draw MLS will probably release the odds, so this is just to get an early look at it.
Changes with using 30 games
If only the past 30 games are used instead of 32, then the following changes occur:
MLS Overall Positions Table
|Everybody can remember whether or not their MLS team had a good or bad season in any given year. Although, with the MLS system set up the way it is, it's hard to know exactly how good sometimes. That's because of the playoffs, first of all, but also because of the conference set up that's been around since the league started. So while people may remember the seed their team had in the playoffs, it's harder to remember exactly where in the overall stand they finished. That's where this table comes in handy. Oh, and there's also the fact that MLS changes draft positions based on playoff performance.|
This is a table of where every MLS team finished in the overall league standings in each season. Ties were broken by the league's current rules, in which head to head is the first tiebreaker and goal differential is the second. As always, from 1996-9 shootouts are counted as draws.
Top Half/Bottom Half Breakdown
Most years in a row in the top half:
7 years, LA 1996-2002
Most years in a row in the bottom half:
6 years, NE 1996-2001
Hypothetical Superliga Qualifications
The new Superliga competition will be filled with the top four MLS teams starting next year with the second edition. If it had been around since MLS started, how many times would each team have qualified?
Hypothetical First Relegation
If finishing in the bottom three resulted in relegation, when would each team have suffered it for the first time?
MLS Cup Ranking Breakdown
Lists the overall rankings of the finalists with winners on the left. To see a ranking of the MLS Cup champions by PPG, click here. Despite being a 4 seed, the 2004 DC United team was the worst champion in league history in PPG.
I know somebody will probably ask me this. Why is LA listed as the 7th best team for the 2005 season, when the standings clearly show 7 teams ahead of them? For the MLS seeding, LA loses the tiebreaker on goal differential to Colorado making them the 4th seed in the West, and the 8th best playoff team out of 8. However, in the overall standings there was a three-way tie for 7th place between COL, KC, and LA. The Galaxy win that three-way tiebreaker, although they would've (and did) lose the tiebreaker just with the Rapids.
Here's a table of the head to head results:
So the Galaxy win that. COL and KC must then be separated (once a three-way tie is broken, you go back to the first tiebreaker with the two remaining teams). KC then wins the second tiebreaker vs COL, goal differential, which means that the Rapids were 9th in the overall table despite being the 7th best playoff team. Got it?