Friday, March 31, 2006

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - 2005

The current day, finally. Expansion meant more games and more goals, but the number of goals it took to make the top 25 stayed at 44. No one dropped off.

Jason Kreis was the first man in the MLS century club, while he and several other of the top goalscorers switched teams (Razov, Cunningham, Cerritos, Ruiz, Donovan).

The top 25 after each year:


1) Jason Kreis, RSL - 100

One of five men to score in all ten MLS seasons (Moreno, Chung, Ralston, Henderson).

2) Jaime Moreno, DC - 94

Up to second from fourth, and is knocking on the door. With the way he's come back, and the calibre of team he's on, he could pass Kreis this season. He's also a year younger than Jason. 16 goals in 2005 tied a career high.

3) Roy Lassiter - 88
4) Ante Razov, CLB/MET - 84
5) Raul Diaz Arce - 82
6) Preki, KC - 79

7) Jeff Cunningham, COL - 74

Doesn't really jump out at you as one of the league's alltime best, but he's here anyway. Maybe that's because he has yet to play for a team that reached the MLS Cup. Regardless, he could be in the top 5 by the year's end.

8) Ronald Cerritos, SJ - 71

9) Taylor Twellman, NE - 64

In my opinion and virtually everyone else's, he's the guy who will shatter Jason Kreis' mark and reign as the goal king for years...unless he gets too good.

10) Cobi Jones, LA - 62
10) Brian McBride - 62
12) Mark Chung, COL/SJ - 61
12) Carlos Ruiz, DAL - 61
14) Diego Serna, COL - 57

15) Josh Wolff, KC - 54

He's put together back to back double digit seasons for the first time in his career. Another one is likely in order, but this is probably his last year in MLS and the top ten seems out of reach.

16) Paul Bravo - 52
16) Dante Washington, RSL - 52

18) Wolde Harris, NE - 51

Hey, at least he scored a goal in his 2005 comeback, even if it was a penalty. That's more than you can say for Diego Serna.

18) Clint Mathis, RSL - 51
18) Steve Ralston, NE - 51
18) Giovanni Savarese - 51
22) Chris Henderson, COL/CLB - 48
23) Mamadou Diallo - 47
23) Eduardo Hurtado - 47

25) Landon Donovan, LA - 44

The only newcomer, he should make a steady climb into the top ten by the end of the decade, if he really does stay stateside.

25) Ariel Graziani - 44
25) Stern John - 44

Falling off the list


Other Active Players


Looks like Buddle and Klein should be on there by the year's end. Obviously, don't expect much to change from year to year now that we're a decade in. In the future, it'll be like the home run leaders in baseball; when somebody moves up the charts it'll be a big deal.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

MLS: 2006 Season Preview Part Two

The West still appears to be the weaker of the two conferences, but all 12 teams have the same 1 in 6 odds of getting to the MLS Cup. Like the East, I see two teams out ahead of the other four. If a team other than those four wins the championship, I'll be surprised.

Western Conference

6) Real Salt Lake

They have certainly improved with the additions of Jeff Cunningham and Chris Klein. But it would be hard not to show improvement over last year, and I don't think they've done enough to make the playoffs.

With Eddie Pope almost certainly going to Germany, they'll be hurt worse than almost any other team, because he is the heart and soul of the defense. He should have a better season than last year, but the guys around him haven't improved. Daniel Torres, Carey Talley, and Chris Brown are no better than Dunseth, Pierce, and Akwari.

Relying heavily on the inconsistant Andy Williams and the oft-injured Jason Kreis for offense may not pay off either. They should score more goals and let in fewer, but still, I don't think they have enough to post a winning record.

5) Colorado Rapids

Best teams:

1. 1999
2. 2002
3. 1998

Worst teams:

1. 2001
2. 1996
3. 1997

Now here's a team that seems to be favored to miss the playoffs every year, but still manages to finish 3rd or 4th. That's probably because they're the MLS team people know (and hear) the least about. So people are always kind of surprised when they make their patented second half run. They've made the playoffs four years in a row now, but this time I think everyone else is gonna be right.

Nat Borchers' transfer is a huge loss, and leaves them with a hole in defense. Pablo Mastroeni supposedly may move to the backline, but like RSL with Eddie Pope, they are going to be hurting come June.

Overall, the defenders and forwards seem below average. Neither Kirovski and Peguero, like the Soccernet preview said, are going to be 15 goal scorers the way Cunningham could be. They were ninth in goals scored last year, and probably will be at or near the bottom again. Clint Mathis should be improved, but will need a hell of year to make them championship material.

4) FC Dallas

Best teams:

1. 1999
2. 2002
3. 2005

Worst teams:

1. 2003
2. 2004
3. 1998

A lot of talent, but a lot of question marks as well. There are a lot of unsettled positional battles on the team. Usually people might say that's good to have that amount of competition, but last year's inconsistancy in finding the best lineup must not carry over to 2006 if they want to be successful. Only twice in the last three years has a team changed its starting lineup more often than Dallas last year.

A full season of Carlos Ruiz, with no international callups, may be the greatest thing to happen to the team. Without any injuries, he could very well win the Golden Boot. Elsewhere on the field, they should have a good second forward with one of Cooper/Mina/Thompson. The midfield is full of talent as well, but the defense is the weakest point. Other than Vanney, I feel that the other three men are all average MLS starters at best.

Like Chicago, they were very inconsistent last year, and I'm not sold on the coach. This has to be the make or break year for Clarke. He needs to advance past the first round of the playoffs. But I don't see it happening.

3) CD Chivas USA

How do you predict this team? Like RSL, they can't help but improve. Bob Bradley may not be the guy to give them tremendous success though, given his time with the Metros. You have two older acquisitions on defense, and a bunch of young guys everywhere. It doesn't look like a championship team, but who knows how good or bad they'll be.

The one guy that looks like a major improvement is Ante Razov. He was good at times for the Metros, and if he's healthy should get back to his usual double digit haul. Big if though.

Juan Pablo Garcia and Francisco Palencia are probably above average MLS players, and will make them competitive in every game. I expect a little more out of them than they showed last year, since now they actually can start fresh. We might see the spark they showed in the first game at the Metros last year.

But it's the rookies and youngsters that will be the key to the success of the team. According to MLSnet, Chivas will likely start Jonathan Borstein and Lawson Vaughn at LB and RB (Who?). Sacha Kljestan will be important as well. It'll be fascinating to watch this transformation unfold, win or lose.

I should mention that John O'Brien is coming to MLS, and Chivas has the first allocation. So they should either get him, or get something in a trade for that allocation. Either way they'll be improved, and so I have to take that into account in predicting their placement.

2) Houston Dynamo

Best teams:

1. 2005
2. 2001
3. 2003

Worst teams:

1. 2000
2. 1997
3. 1998

(officially SJ is not the same team, record keeping-wise)

Losing Danny Califf and Mark Chung hurts. Now, they'll rely on Ryan Cochrane to start in defense, and Marcus Storey is sort of the new Chung. That's definitely a decline. But even though they still have more than enough talent to challenge for the title, they will decline somewhat. It would be almost impossible not to, given the run they had last year as the third best team in regular season history. However, they won't be hurt during the World Cup, and anything less than second place in the West would be disappointing.

Of course, it's not the regular season that matters most.

1) Los Angeles Galaxy

Best teams:

1. 1998
2. 2002
3. 1999

Worst teams:

1. 2003
2. 2005
3. 2004

They are not a fourth place team. The playoffs showed that the Galaxy were among the league's best teams last year, despite their record. People are wondering if Hercules Gomez can repeat his form, and how they will cope with Landon Donovan gone for the World Cup. I'm not worried about either. This team has dumped the guys who sucked, and without any changes, should still improve.

There were so many games where they allowed late goals and dropped points last year, or where they dominated and somehow lost. It's very unlikely that'll happen again to that extent.

They ranked 8th in goals scored, and 7th in goals allowed in 2005. Ihemelu should be improved, and the defense looks very good. They could use another forward, but without Pando and Naldo (hopefully) in there to muck things up, they should score enough goals. No team relies on one player more than the Galaxy and Donovan, so if they can survive his absence, and also improve their away form, first place isn't out of the question. Not that it really matters with "Mr. October/November" Landon Donovan taking charge come playoff time.

Overall Predictions

MLS Cup: LA over DC

MVP: Landon Donovan

Golden Boot: Carlos Ruiz

Coach of the Year: Bob Bradley

Defender of the Year: Tyrone Marshall

Goalkeeper of the Year: Matt Reis

Rookie of the Year: Sacha Kljestan

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - 2004

2004 saw the rise and fall of the Columbus Crew, and the return of D.C. United to championship glory. The playoffs were exciting, but it was a year there were no truly great teams. The top two, CLB and KC, are only ranked as the 25th and 26th best MLS teams of all time on PPG. Meanwhile, the other nine best teams for each year are in the top 17.

It was also the year with the lowest goals per game average in league history, 2.61. A combination of injuries and parity allowed the league's top goalscorers (Brian Ching and Eddie Johnson) to only score 12 times in a 30 game season.

Three guys who have been some of MLS' biggest stars finally made the top 25: Ruiz, Twellman, and Wolff.

1) Jason Kreis, DAL - 91

After five years, a new goal king is crowned. June 26 at Cotton Stadium in a 1-1 draw vs D.C. United, he scored his 89thh league goal to mark the huge milstone.

2) Roy Lassiter - 88
3) Raul Diaz Arce - 82

4) Jaime Moreno, DC - 78

Back in DC, and back to business for Jaime. Will he ever stop? I don't know...

5) Preki, KC - 77
5) Ante Razov, CHI - 77
7) Ronald Cerritos, DC - 65
8) Jeff Cunningham, CLB - 62
8) Brian McBride - 62

10) Cobi Jones, LA - 59

Did not score all year long. That wasn't his job any more, but his play led some to think he was finished.

11) Diego Serna - 57
12) Mark Chung, COL - 54
13) Paul Bravo - 52

13) Dante Washington, CLB - 52

He's back! Oh, that wacky Andrulis.

15) Giovanni Savarese - 51
16) Wolde Harris - 50

16) Steve Ralston, NE - 50

After 7 straight years ranked in the 20's, he finally made the move back to the teens, which is the best position yet for him.

16) Carlos Ruiz, LA - 50

50 goals in three years is only topped by Diaz Arce and Lassiter from 1996-98.

19) Clint Mathis - 48
20) Mamadou Diallo - 47
20) Eduardo Hurtado - 47
20) Taylor Twellman, NE - 47
23) Chris Henderson, COL - 45
24) Ariel Graziani - 44
24) Stern John - 44

24) Josh Wolff, KC - 44

Never going to blow anyone away, but Wolff has been scoring goals for 8 years now on a steady (when non-injured) basis. An interesting fact, his 2004 MLS Cup penalty was the only playoff goal he's scored.

Falling off the list

Welton (22, tie)
Joe-Max Moore (25)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

MLS: 2006 Season Preview Part One (or, Wake Me Up When September Ends)

It's been an interesting the field, that is. When it comes to the actual teams, not a lot has changed. There's been a couple big trades, but not a lot of new impact players coming in. That's why just like in the previous year after expansion (1999), I don't see a big shakeup on the horizon.

Part One: Eastern Conference

(best and worst teams ranked by points per game, counting shootouts as draws)

6) Red Bull New York

Best teams:

1. 2000
2. 2001
3. 2005

Worst teams:

1. 1999
2. 1997
3. 1998

Somebody has to finish last, and they seem like the best candidates. Mo Johnston breathed new life into the team last year, and they probably should've had a better record than they did, as they failed to dominate the expansion teams. But it just doesn't seem like they have the players to win a championship. Guevara and Djorkaeff are great players, but they have little depth and injuries could kill them.

Edson Buddle was just added at the expense of Eddie Gaven. This is a good move for the team and fills a huge hole up front. After the top two in the Eastern Conference, the next four teams seem about even. It wouldn't surprise me much if New York finished 3rd or 6th. However, I still think the team is on course for last.

Had the fourth worst defense last season, and despite Marvell Wynne, it doesn't seem like they've improved much in this area. The center backs especially don't inspire confidence. Overall, they've made quite a few changes but don't look to have improved enough. Johnston seems like he could be a good coach, and he'd better have a good game plan.

5) Chicago Fire

Best teams:

1. 2001
2. 1998
3. 2000

Worst teams:

1. 2004
2. 2002
3. 2005

I hate to have the Fire missing out on the playoffs, but talent-wise, Kansas City looks better, while I have a good feeling about Sigi Schmid's moves with the Crew. Wildly inconsistent last year, the Fire have a bunch of young guys who may or may not be great players. Chris Rolfe, Nate Jaqua, Justin Mapp, Thiago, and Gonzalo Segares all had good seasons last year, and I don't know if they can all repeat that. The only real acquisition was Diego Gutierrez, who will replace Jesse Marsch. No change there. CLB, KC, and NY have all been making moves, while the Fire have stood pat. I'm also not sold on Dave Sarachan's coaching skills.

Like the 2003 Galaxy, the 2006 Fire will start out on a long road trip, 9 games in a row. If they can survive that and get at least 10 points, they'll be in pretty good shape. Although that's no guarantee for the rest of the season, as FC Dallas found out last year.

4) Columbus Crew

Best teams:

1. 2001
2. 2004
3. 1998

Worst teams:

1. 2005
2. 2000
3. 2003

Sigi Schmid should lead the Crew back into the playoffs after their worst year ever. Despite the loss of Simon Elliot, they've added a number of players who should contribute, especially defensively. Sigi's teams in LA were always great defensively, and I expect that to be the case here as well. In 2005, the Crew were tied for 7th in goals allowed. I expect them to be in the top 3 or 4 this year. With Ward/Pierce/Kitamarike/Leitch on the bench, they have great depth on defense.

The offense is another question. Without Edson Buddle, they'll need some guys to step up and score goals. One of Wolyniec/Garey/Cameron/Hill is going to have to step up. But with Gaven and Martino in midfield, they should be able to create enough. All they need to do is score more than they allow, and they should do that.

3) Kansas City Wizards

Best teams:

1. 2000
2. 2004
3. 1997

Worst teams:

1. 1999
2. 1998
3. 2002

They were easily the best team in league history to miss the playoffs, and would've finished tied for third in the Western Conference. They were also in the top half of the league in goals scored and goals allowed. Plus they've added one of the league's best forwards, Eddie Johnson. Diego Gutierrez shouldn't be a big loss, but Chris Klein will be harder to replace. Despite that, they have way too much talent to miss the playoffs again.

They will have a hard time during the World Cup, as they'll be without probably at least two starters (Johnson, Wolff), and maybe up to five (Conrad, Zavagnin, Sealy). So they'll have to overcome that especially on the offensive side. Ryan Pore and Yura Movsisyan will have to step up.

The x-factor will be the rumored acquisition of FC Utrecht winger Dave Van den Bergh. This guy would easily be the top foreign import in the league this year, and significantly improve the team. It looks like a done deal.

2) New England Revolution

Best teams:

1. 2005
2. 2003
3. 2000

Worst teams:

1. 2001
2. 1999
3. 1998

Probably the best team in the conference, but they'll be hurt by the World Cup and they don't have great depth. So despite having everyone back, they may not finish first again. I don't see them finishing lower than second, though.

They'll have a full season with Daniel Hernandez, and hopefully will get decent contributions from Tony Lochhead and Leandro de Olivera. The defense has no big stars but gets the job done, just like D.C. United. It should be another winning year for New England, although given Nicol's track record in the playoffs, I wouldn't expect them to win the title, even though on paper they look like the league's best.

1) D.C. United

Best teams:

1. 1998
2. 1999
3. 1997

Worst teams:

1. 2000
2. 2001
3. 2002

If it's not broke, why fix it? D.C. had a great year ruined by the last playoff game, and they've stood pat with their roster. Kovalenko left, but everyone else is back. It's been good enough for the past two years, and should be again in 2006. They will also have a full season out of Lucio Filomeno, and hopefully will get back Alecko Eskandarian as well.

Only Ben Olsen seems to have a shot at making the World Cup roster, and even that seems unlikely. So with no problems there, that figures to push them ahead of the Revs as the Eastern Conference winners. Besides that, they have a number of quality young players who should only get better: Adu, Quaranta, Boswell, etc. Of course, Jaime Moreno will have to decline someday, and that would leave a huge hole. But given his preseason form, it doesn't look like it'll happen in 2006.

Tomorrow: Part two and overall predictions.

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - 2003

2003 was the year where MLS finally removed the much-maligned "first to 5" playoff format in favor of the one we have now. I know there's still a lot of complaining, but it's so much better now.

On the goalscoring charts, it was more of the same, as Carlos Ruiz and Taylor Twellman tied for the league lead with. Razov and Spencer were one behind.

It was a season interrupted by the Confederations Cup and the Gold Cup, and it was also the first year there were no changes in the top 25.

1) Roy Lassiter - 88

2) Jason Kreis, DAL - 86

Missed half the season due to injury, or he would've scored more than 7 goals and broken Lassiter's record. Still finished as the Burn's leading scorer, though.

3) Raul Diaz Arce - 82

4) Preki, KC - 77

An MVP winner at age 40, it was a magical year for him and the last good one of his career. Has never been lower than sixth after all ten years, and the 12 goals he scored in 2003 will keep him in the top 25 for years to come.

5) Ante Razov, CHI - 73

6) Jaime Moreno, MET - 71

Had a very forgettable and injury plagued year with the Metros.

7) Ronald Cerritos, DAL/DC - 63

8) Brian McBride, CLB - 62

The year after the World Cup saw him score 12 times, his highest total since 1996. And it was off to Fulham in January.

9) Cobi Jones, LA - 59

10) Diego Serna, LA - 57

The magic wasn't working in LA for Diego. Although to be fair, not much of anything was working for the Galaxy in 2003.

11) Jeff Cunningham, CLB - 53
12) Paul Bravo - 52
12) Dante Washington - 52

14) Mark Chung, COL - 51

Another stellar season, two in a row with 11 goals.

14) Giovanni Savarese - 51
16) Wolde Harris, NE/KC - 50
17) Clint Mathis, MET - 48
18) Mamadou Diallo - 47
18) Eduardo Hurtado - 47
20) Ariel Graziani - 44
20) Stern John - 44
22) Steve Ralston, NE - 43
22) Welton - 43
24) Chris Henderson, COL - 42

25) Joe-Max Moore, NE - 41

Scored four times in his MLS comeback year to keep himself on the list.

Falling off the list


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - 2002

2002 was the first year after contraction, and the talent dispersal led to three years of incredible parity. We're back to 12 teams now, which I believe will be the end of that. But in 2002, everyone was tightly bunched except for the Galaxy, who were obviously the top team going into the playoffs and won the title.

With two fewer teams and a reduced schedule of 28 games, it's no surprise that there wasn't a whole lot of movement on the chart as fewer goals were scored than before. And also, a number of the league's early goalscorers had retired or left by this point. Still, the goals per game average was over 3.0 for the last time, as Carlos Ruiz and Taylor Twellman took MLS by storm.

1) Roy Lassiter, KC/DC - 88
2) Raul Diaz Arce - 82

3) Jason Kreis, DAL - 79

Made a big jump with 13 goals, and finally somebody is within striking distance of the top two.

4) Jaime Moreno, DC - 69

The first of two disappointing seasons for the Bolivian before his renaissance in 2004.

5) Preki, KC - 65

6) Ronald Cerritos, DAL - 59

Traded to the Burn, and he hasn't really been at the same level since.

7) Ante Razov, CHI - 59

Breaks into the top ten for the first time, where he's resided ever since.

8) Cobi Jones, LA - 57

9) Diego Serna, MET/NE - 54

Funny that Serna and Diallo were so highly regarded before contraction, and neither could recreate that success from 2002 on. At least Diallo still looked pretty good at times with the Metros.

10) Paul Bravo - 52
10) Dante Washington, CLB - 52
12) Giovanni Savarese - 51
13) Brian McBride, CLB - 50

14) Jeff Cunningham, CLB - 48

Kind of forgotten with Ruiz and Twellman putting up big years; he finished as the third highest scorer in 2002 with 16 goals.

14) Wolde Harris, NE - 48
16) Mamadou Diallo, NE/MET - 47
16) Eduardo Hurtado - 47

18) Ariel Graziani, SJ - 44

Now this guy could play. Jumped onto the top 25 after four years in MLS; he would go back to Ecuador after 2002. Which was a shame, because he had a lot of talent and couldn't have been that expensive.

18) Stern John - 44
20) Welton - 43

21) Mark Chung, COL - 40

Another great season overshadowed by Ruiz and Twellman. Along with those two, he was the third nominee for MVP. He really gave his career a boost going to the Rapids in 2002.

22) Clint Mathis, MET - 39
22) Steve Ralston, NE - 39

24) Chris Henderson, COL - 38

The third man to jump onto this list in 2002, along with Graziani and Chung.

25) Joe-Max Moore - 37

Falling off the list

Eric Wynalda (21, tie)
Mauricio Cienfuegos (23)
Mo Johnston (25)

Monday, March 27, 2006

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - 2001

2001 was the year where the wonder boy himself, Landon Donovan, came to San Jose to play for the Quakes. Just like the Wizards and Metros the year before, they would go from bad to great en route to the championship. You also had the Ray Hudson led Miami Fusion, the second best team in MLS history (PPG, counting shootouts as draws). Chicago, Columbus, and Los Angeles all had good teams as well. I don't think there's another year where five teams had W-L-D records like those five.

You also had the worst team in league history, the 2001 Tampa Bay Mutiny, a.k.a. the only team to give Delvin Barclay regular playing time. He actually scored the last goal in Mutiny history. They allowed 2.52 goals per game, way more than any other team in MLS history (second worst is 2.19).

It's a shame that contraction had to happen, and not just because the great Fusion team was broken up. 2000 and 2001 were possibly the league's most exciting years, with a number of teams as real title contenders. I think the quality of play was the best MLS has ever seen. The league stopped bringing in the the expensive imports, and on the field MLS has seemed to stagnate. Of course, I totally understand why it happened, and it looks like it was the correct move, but it's still unfortunate. With some careful planning from the get go (1996), it could've been avoided.

1) Roy Lassiter, KC - 88
2) Raul Diaz Arce, DC/COL - 82

The end of the line for the two leaders. Lassiter would play one more year in MLS, but no more goals for either.

3) Jason Kreis, DAL - 66
3) Jaime Moreno, DC - 66
5) Preki, KC - 58

6) Ronald Cerritos, SJ - 55

Never a superstar, but always consistant, sixth is the highest place after any season. Although that could still change.

7) Cobi Jones, LA - 54
8) Paul Bravo, COL - 52

8) Diego Serna, MIA - 52

Four years with the Fusion, and 52 goals in exactly 100 games. Hell of a player. Second in the league with 15 goals to his teammate Alex Pineda Chacon, a first year MLS player. This was the first year where the league's leading goalscorer wasn't on this list at the end of the year.

10) Giovanni Savarese - 51
11) Eduardo Hurtado - 47
12) Dante Washington, CLB - 46

13) Brian McBride, CLB - 45
13) Ante Razov, CHI - 45

Both of these guys combined to score 3 goals in 2001; McBride had yet another injury, while Razov was off to Spain to play in the second division before returning.

15) Wolde Harris, NE - 44
15) Stern John - 44
17) Welton - 43
18) Joe-Max Moore - 37
19) Mamadou Diallo, TB - 35
19) Clint Mathis, MET - 35
21) Steve Ralston, TB - 34

21) Eric Wynalda, NE/CHI - 34

Jumps back onto the list after his 10 goal haul for the Fire. Good that he went out a high note (we'll forget the whole Charleston thing ever happened).

23) Mauricio Cienfuegos, LA - 33
24) Jeff Cunningham, CLB - 32

Got onto the list after his first four years in MLS. Although, he would beat that 32 goal total in the next four years.

25) Mo Johnston, KC - 31

Falling off the list

Vitalis Takawira (21, tie)
Mark Chung (24, tie)

Friday, March 24, 2006

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - 2000

2000 was the first season with Don Garber in charge, and he finally eliminated the shootout. There were also a lot of great foreign strikers joining the league (Valencia/Stoitchkov/Molnar/Hernandez), and scoring was back up over 3 goals a game. In addition, the two year experiment with three divisions started, and the standings were turned upside down, as KC and the Metrostars had their best years ever. D.C. United meanwhile went into the basement, as their dynasty ended.

1) Roy Lassiter, MIA - 81
2) Raul Diaz Arce, TB/DC - 78
3) Jason Kreis, DAL - 59
4) Jaime Moreno, DC - 57
5) Giovanni Savarese, SJ - 51
6) Preki, KC - 50
7) Cobi Jones, LA - 48

8) Eduardo Hurtado, NE - 47

Doesn't seem right to think of Hurtado and Savarese as Revolution and Earthquakes players respectively, although it was only for a handful of games.

9) Paul Bravo, COL - 46
10) Ronald Cerritos, SJ - 44

10) Stern John - 44

Along with Moore and Takawira, the first players on the list without playing in MLS that year.

10) Brian McBride, CLB - 44

13) Ante Razov, CHI - 43

18 goals were a career high, and second in the league.

13) Welton, MIA - 43
15) Wolde Harris, NE - 41

16) Dante Washington, CLB - 39

Appears that he re-energized his career with the move to Columbus, scoring a career high 15 goals.

17) Joe-Max Moore - 37
17) Diego Serna, MIA - 37
19) Mauricio Cienfuegos, LA - 31
20) Mo Johnston, KC - 30

21) Clint Mathis, LA/MET - 28

From the day he was traded dispersed to the Metrostars, the next 12 months would be possibly the greatest year any American player has ever had.

21) Vitalis Takawira - 28
22) Steve Ralston, TB - 27
23) Mark Chung, MET - 26

23) Mamadou Diallo, TB - 26

Certainly the final man to make the list in one year. With 26 goals after 30 games, he had two shots to tie or break Roy Lassiter's 1996 record, but he couldn't do it. It was home and away vs Kansas City, and apparently he did score but it was waived off for a handball.

Falling off the list

Eric Wynalda (21, tie)
Jeff Baicher (24, tie)
Marco Etcheverry (24, tie)
Pete Marino (24, tie)
A.J. Wood (24, tie)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

MLS: Starting Lineup Stability (2003, 2004)

I'm trying to figure out whether or not the number of returning starters from the previous game has an impact on the team's preformance. Previously, the 2005 data made me believe that there was a bit of a pattern. Now having completed the 2003 and 2004 seasons, unfortunately that doesn't appear to be the case. Seven more years to go.

Here are three seasons worth of MLS data:

2005 2004 2003
4-7 1.21 1.18 0.76
8 1.30 1.71 1.53
9 1.39 1.43 1.26
10 1.55 1.14 1.62
11 1.35 1.27 1.29

It appears that there is an affect if you return only 7 starters or less. But other than that there's not much of a pattern. The average PPG over these three years is 1.37, which matches perfectly with the data for 9 returning starters (RS), the league's average per game.

2005 2004 2003
Home 9.15 8.99 9.19
Away 8.99 8.98 9.00

Total 9.07 8.98 9.09

This is the data for home/away games. Teams seem to make slightly more changes away from home, but not in 2004 for some reason.

2005 2004 2003
4-7 -0.15 -0.18 -0.43
8 -0.03 0.39 0.13
9 -0.04 0.06 -0.10
10 0.16 -0.22 0.24
11 -0.05 0.01 -0.07

This table is the difference between what we expect the PPG to be based on the number of home/away games and what it actually was. In this case, the "Total" is the three yearly figures added up and divided by three, rather than a true total using all the games. That's because I used different home field advantage values for each year. 9-11 are preforming basically as expected. 2004 was a big year for 8 returning starters, but I doubt it actually means anything. However, 4-7 RS has underpreformed what was expected every year, so that shows that it probably is the RS affecting it.

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - 1999

The end of the Logan/shootout era saw more of the same, as the same teams dominated the regular season. It was the second year with 12 teams; I wonder if the same thing will happen this year? Based on the number of high profile signings this winter, quite possibly.

Scoring was actually way down. The goals per game average of 2.86 is the second lowest in league history behind 2004.

This would be the last year everyone on the top 25 played in the league.

1) Roy Lassiter, DC - 73

Scored 18 goals to lead the league, along with Jason Kreis and Stern John.

Rocket Roy would take over the alltime lead on opening day 1999, March 20, when he scored twice in a 5-2 away win versus the Tampa Bay Mutiny. He would hold the alltime lead until Jason Kreis took over 5 years later.

2) Raul Diaz Arce, SJ/TB - 69

4 teams in as many years, but he was still going strong. This was the last double digit season for both of the top two.

3) Giovanni Savarese, NE - 51

4) Jason Kreis, DAL - 48

18 goals won him the MVP, and shot him up the list 7 spots. Has yet to look back.

5) Eduardo Hurtado, MET - 47
5) Preki, KC - 47
7) Jaime Moreno, DC - 45

8) Stern John, CLB - 44

Only two years to get to this point. No more though, as it was off to Nottingham Forest for him.

9) Cobi Jones, LA - 41
10) Ronald Cerritos, SJ - 40
11) Paul Bravo, COL - 39
11) Welton, LA/MIA - 39
13) Brian McBride, CLB - 38

14) Joe-Max Moore, NE - 37

After a good season, went to Everton on a free transfer.

15) Vitalis Takawira, KC - 28
16) Mauricio Cienfuegos, LA - 27
17) Wolde Harris, COL - 26
17) Mo Johnston, KC - 26

19) Ante Razov, CHI - 25

Debuts on the list after a 14 goal haul.

20) Dante Washington, DAL - 24
21) Mark Chung, MET - 23
21) Eric Wynalda, MIA - 23
23) Steve Ralston, TB - 22
24) Jeff Baicher, SJ/NE - 21
24) Marco Etcheverry, DC - 21

24) Pete Marino, TB - 21

Slowly, slowly dropping.

24) Diego Serna, MIA - 21
24) A.J. Wood, DC - 21

The other two debuts. One would have great success in the next few years, and one wouldn't. I'll leave it for you to figure out.

Falling off the list

Harut Karapetyan (22, tie)
Alex Prampin (24, tie)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - 1998

1998 was the first expansion year in MLS, and also the league's highest scoring year. 3.57 goals were scored per match. LA and DC dominated as the two best goal scoring teams in league history, while the Fire were solid and won when it mattered most.

5 newcomers to the list, while 6 drop off.

1) Raul Diaz Arce, NE - 56

Both he and Lassiter moved on to new teams in 1998, but kept up the scoring. Each man had 18 goals to keep Diaz Arce's lead at 1.

2) Roy Lassiter, TB/DC - 55

Worst trade in league history, bar none.

3) Giovanni Savarese, MET - 41
4) Eduardo Hurtado, LA/MET - 40
4) Preki, KC - 40
6) Jaime Moreno, DC - 35

7) Cobi Jones, LA - 33

19 goals in one year from Cobi, on the highest scoring and best overall team in league history. His second highest total is 8. Overall, the team was 22-6-4 counting shootouts as draws. Chivas really should've hired Zambrano.

7) Brian McBride, CLB - 33
9) Paul Bravo, COL - 32
10) Welton, LA - 31
11) Jason Kreis, DAL - 30
12) Vitalis Takawira, KC - 28

13) Stern John, CLB - 26

26 goals in one year, from 27 games. Amazing stuff. Highest single season goals per game average of anyone with more than 4 games played.

14) Ronald Cerritos, SJ - 25

15) Mauricio Cienfuegos, LA -24

Along with fellow foreign #10 Marco Etcheverry, makes his top 25 debut here.

16) Mo Johnston, KC - 23

Never a profilic scorer in MLS, this is as high as it gets for the future Red Bull manager.

17) Joe-Max Moore, NE - 22
18) Eric Wynalda, SJ - 21
19) Mark Chung, KC - 20
19) Pete Marino, KC - 20
19) Dante Washington, DAL - 20

22) Wolde Harris, COL - 18

Looks to have been cut from the Rapids roster this year.

22) Harut Karapetyan, LA/SJ - 18
24) Jeff Baicher, SJ - 17
24) Marco Etcheverry, DC - 17
24) Alex Prampin, TB - 17
24) Steve Ralston, TB - 17

Falling off the list

Antony De Avila (13, tie)
Steve Rammel (13, tie)
Alberto Naveda (20, tie)
Gerell Elliot (23, tie)
Giuseppe Galderisi (23, tie)
Lawrence Lozzano (23, tie)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - 1997

As we move on to include MLS' second season, the "bottom line," or the number of goals to make the list, doubled from 6 to 12. Along with 2002, that increase of 6 goals was the highest of any one season (and probably will be forever).

Due to ties, 27 men made the list in 1996 and 28 in 1997. 6 men fell off the list in 1997, while 7 more made their debuts.

Raul Diaz Arce, DC- 38
2) Roy Lassiter, TB - 37

Diaz Arce takes over the top spot in what would be a back and forth battle for years for the alltime goalscoring crown. It wasn't just close at the end of this season, they would go back and forth at the top for a few more years. According to my data, there was only one change this year, on 4/26/1997, when Diaz Arce got to the top. However, that was done pre-lineup database, so I'll be sure to double check it soon.

3) Preki, KC - 30
4) Eduardo Hurtado, LA - 29

3rd and 4th place would be their highest positions on these year end charts. It's all downhill from here (for a bunch of others too, but I'm not gonna point out every one).

5) Giovanni Savarese, MET - 27
6) Brian McBride, CLB - 23

7) Paul Bravo, COL - 21

Traded to the Rapids. He's currently still their alltime leading scorer.

7) Jason Kreis, DAL - 21
7) Vitalis Takawira, KC - 21
10) Pete Marino, CLB - 19

10) Jaime Moreno, DC - 19

Jumped on here thanks to 16 goals, the start of a long trek towards the top.

12) Mark Chung, KC - 18

13) Antony De Avila, MET - 15

Up 9 spots, the most of any player. Too bad he's gone after the season.

13) Joe-Max Moore, NE - 15

13) Steve Rammel, DC/COL - 15

Also traded to the Rapids. Rammel fell 7 spots, most of anyone who didn't drop out.

13) Eric Wynalda, SJ - 15
17) Cobi Jones, LA - 14
17) Harut Karapetyan, LA - 14
17) Welton, LA - 14
20) Jeff Baicher, SJ - 13
20) Alberto Naveda, NE - 13
20) Dante Washington, DAL - 13
23) Ronald Cerritos, SJ - 12
23) Gerell Elliot, DAL - 12

Giuseppe Galderisi, TB/NE - 12

Actually traded back to the Revs, where he started in 1996.

23) Mo Johnston, KC - 12
23) Lawrence Lozzano, SJ - 12

Since I didn't get into soccer until 2000, I have no memory of some of these guys. Lozzano is one of them. I hear he sucked, though.

23) Steve Ralston, TB - 12

Ralston has somehow managed to stay on this list every season to the present day. He gets little share of goals every year.

Falling off the list (with last year's rank)

Jean Harbor (11, tie)
Missael Espinoza (14, tie)
Shaun Bartlett (16, tie)
Marcelo Balboa (18, tie)
Adrian Paz (22, tie)
Hugo Sanchez (22, tie)

Monday, March 20, 2006

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - 1996

Starting today, I will be posting the top 25 alltime MLS goalscorers in league history, as the list appeared after each season. You will be able to see how the list has progressed, and how players have risen or fallen through the years.

I will post 1996-2000 this week (Monday-Friday), and 2001-2005 next week.

Roy Lassiter, TB - 27

Single season record for goals, which still hasn't been eclipsed. That's unlikely any time soon, because of national team callups. It could happen in a year like this, where other teams are missing players for a while, and somebody unaffected by it takes advantage. Carlos Ruiz anyone?

2) Raul Diaz Arce, DC - 23

Scored for 5 different MLS teams (DC-NE-SJ-TB-COL), second only to Andy Williams' 6. Dunseth, Henderson and Razov can all get to 5 this year and equal that accomplishment.

3) Eduardo Hurtado, LA - 21

Only 7 times has an MLS player scored 20 goals in a year. So that means it happened 3 times in 1996, and only 4 times since.

4) Preki, KC - 18
5) Brian McBride, CLB - 17

Career highs for both.

6) Steve Rammel, DC - 14
7) Paul Bravo, SJ - 13
7) Jason Kreis, DAL - 13

7) Giovanni Savarese, MET - 13

Scored the first 8 goals (not counting an own goal) in team history, and no one's overtaken him as the team's leading scorer since.

7) Vitalis Takawira, KC - 13

11) Jean Harbor, COL - 11

One of three players on this list (Espinoza, Sanchez) who would never score another MLS goal.

11) Pete Marino, CLB - 11

11) Joe-Max Moore, NE - 11

Lowest total for a team leader in 1996.

14) Missael Espinoza, SJ - 10

14) Eric Wynalda, SJ - 10

Another career high for a notable player in the league's history.

16) Shaun Bartlett, COL - 8

Currently playing in the Premiership with Charlton.

Mark Chung, KC - 8
18) Marcelo Balboa, COL - 7

18) Giuseppe Galderisi, NE/TB - 7

Only player on the list to be traded during the 1996 season.

18) Cobi Jones, LA - 7
18) Steve Ralston, TB - 7

This was actually a career high for Ralston. He's been remarkably consistant.

22) Antony De Avila, MET - 6
22) Mo Johnston, KC - 6
22) Harut Karapetyan, LA - 6
Alberto Naveda, NE - 6
22) Adrian Paz, CLB - 6

22) Hugo Sanchez, DAL - 6

One of three
two players, (Frank Klopas, Roy Wegerle) who played in both in the NASL and MLS.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

MLS: Starting Lineup Stability (2005) - Home/Away


On the Bigsoccer thread I started about this topic, Numerista asked "Is a team less likely to change up its line-up for a road game?"

The total number of returning starters per game leaguewide was 9.07. That breaks down to:


So yes, teams were more likely to make changes on the road.

But I wated to go a little further than that, and see if the PPG data I came up with could be explained by the home/away breakdown. Here's the table from my last post, with the PPG measured by the number of returning starters:

4-7 1.21
8 1.30
9 1.39
10 1.55
11 1.35

Now, here's the home/away splits for each category:

4-7 17/21
8 31/46
9 62/45
10 48/47
11 28/27

I'm excited about these numbers, because as you can see, the PPG with 10 returning starters (RS) is higher than with 9, but the home/away breakdown favors 9. So that could mean that there really is something to this.

Although, I was checking the data, and it seems that RSL had way more games with 9 RS than 10, while SJ was just the opposite. RSL had 12 games with 9 RS, and 4 with 10 RS, while SJ had 3 and 15 respectively. Maybe that would explain why the PPG with 10 RS was much higher than with 9 RS, rather than home/away splits, or stability actually meaning anything. Here's what you get if you remove those two teams' numbers:

9 1.41 (1.39)
10 1.49 (1.55)

Makes things a little closer, but there's still a pattern.

Anyway, back to the home/away data. In 2005, MLS home teams went 92-56-44, for a total of 1.67 PPG. Away teams had a 1.10 PPG (a difference of 0.56). So with a litle math, I was able to guess the expected PPG for the RS breakdowns based just on the home/away split. I did that by multiplying 1.67 times the number home games and 1.10 times the number of away games for each category, then adding the two numbers and dividing by the total number of games for each category. And here are the results:

4-7 1.36
8 1.33
9 1.43
10 1.39
11 1.39

That what's we would expect the numbers to be for each category based only on the number of home/away games. 1.39 is the average PPG for any MLS game in 2005. Compare this to the numbers from above, the ones I got by looking at the number of returning starters:

4-7 1.21
8 1.30
9 1.39
10 1.55
11 1.35

This data gives me some hope that there really is something to this. I need a lot more data to know for sure though.

Blog Update

In other news, I have a lot of cool stuff planned for the next two weeks:

1) The 2006 MLS season starts on April 1, and to celebrate, I'll be posting about the league's top 25 alltime leading goalscorers. Not just who they are currently, that would be too easy. I'm going to post lists of who the top 25 were after each MLS season. So you'll be able to see how the list has progressed over the last ten years.

2) Everyone knows that Roy Lassiter has the single season record for most MLS goals (27 in 1996). But what you might not know is who holds the records for most goals in 2, 3, 4, and 5 consecutive seasons. We'll take a look at the top 10 in each category.

3) Of course, I wouldn't be much of an amateur pundit if I didn't give you a preview of the season, complete with predictions and analysis.

4) As soon as I compile the "Starting Lineup Stability" data for another season, I'll be sure to post it here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

MLS: Starting Lineup Stability (2005)

I mentioned previously that I have wanted to study the effects of starting lineup stability on a team's performance. Basically, my goal is to figure out the number of starters returning from the last match, and check out the points per game depending on that number.

MLS is obviously very different from other leagues because of the games players miss because of national team duty. That could mean that it would be a better indicator of the impact of those absences, but all teams miss players at the same time. And of course, the much debated playoffs. I'll have to try and do the Premiership some time.

I have put together the numbers for this past season, and not only that, but I'm also figuring out how many days there are since the team's previous game, and whether or not a cup game was played in between. So when I eventually do this for every season (probably a while from now), I will have a bunch of great stuff at my disposal.

Let's start out by looking at some basic team stats (using games 2-32 of the MLS schedule):

Returning Starters Per Game

1 SJ 9.77
2 KC 9.48
3 NE 9.32
4 CHV 9.29
5 CLB 9.13
MET 9.13
7 DC 9.10
8 COL 9.00
9 LA 8.81
10 RSL 8.71
11 DAL 8.58
12 CHI 8.55

League Average: 9.07

The top team has the fewest changes in their starting lineup. The Revs are right up there as well. I think that you also can go without a lot of changes because you really don't have anybody else to turn to, which explains the high ranking of Chivas. The two teams who changed their lineups the most were Dallas and Chicago, not too surprising. Both teams missed several players through international callups and struggled with consistency.

I'm not sure how much you can really tell from that stat. But I think it's pretty clear that the best teams rarely change their lineups. Just look at Reading in England this year. Again, with MLS it's hard to draw conclusions. Let's take a look and see how teams' rankings in this stat compare to their 2005 rankings in points per game (PPG) and subs per game (SPG). RSPG stands for "returning starters per game."

SJ 1 1 12
KC 2 7 (tie) 8 (tie)
NE 3 2 11
CHV 4 12 8 (tie)
CLB 5 (tie) 10 1
MET 5 (tie) 6 10
DC 7 3 5 (tie)
COL 8 7 (tie) 3 (tie)
LA 9 7 (tie) 2
RSL 10 11 7
DAL 11 5 5 (tie)
CHI 12 4 3 (tie)

Of the top 6 teams in RSPG, 5 are in the bottom half in SPG, and vice versa. So it would seem like the more starters you have returning per game, the fewer subs you use. Which again, either means that what you have is working, or you have little to work with. Or it could also be a matter of who's doing the coaching.

PPG by # of Returning Starters

RS PPG Games
4 1.33 3
5 0.67 3
6 1.50 10
7 1.14 22
8 1.30 77
9 1.39 107
10 1.55 95
11 1.35 55

This does not take into account anything but the basic stats, so there's nothing in here to account for the strength of the team, or whatever else. And, I don't know how teams matched up in terms of the number of returning starters. Since international absences usually affect everyone at the same time, it might be more useful to do a direct comparison of head to head matchups in this stat. That's for another day.

There were very few instances of 4-7 returning starters (a combined 9.9% of total games). If you were to combine those categories together, it gives you 1.21 ppg, and a more obvious pattern:

4-7 1.21
8 1.30
9 1.39
10 1.55
11 1.35

Though this is very preliminary, there could be somewhat of a relationship between the two statistics. Again, I believe teams that don't change their lineup are either very strong or very weak, which averages out. In this case, keeping all starters led to 1.35 ppg, compared to a 1.39 average for every league game (including the first six games which weren't included above, obviously).

Although, a quick check says the numbers don't back that up. The league average is 4.58 games per team with all 11 starters returning. SJ and NE did that 9 and 7 times respectively, while CHV and RSL did it only 4 and 2 times. I guess teams don't perform as well keeping all their starters than they do with ten. Every team returned all their starters at least twice, and only three had better PPG with 11 than 10. DAL and DC posted modest improvements in the comparison (0.11 and 0.12 ppg), while only LA showed remarkable improvement:

10 0.75 4 3
11 2.40 5 12

The last two columns are games and points. Of course, with the small sample size there could be other reasons. The 5 games with 11 returning starters were games 2-6 of the season for LA, including 4 straight at home. Conversely, 3 of the 4 games with 10 returning starters were on the road.

While this is very interesting stuff, we can't really conclude anything just yet. Gathering more data from previous seasons will help to determine any true trends. Such as, do better teams perform better when returning more starters?

Once I have that data (and/or data from the Premiership, which again I believe would be a better test), we'll know for sure. Or at least a little bit better. Then I can have a big enough sample size to really analyze the data to determine significance, variation, and all that other stuff I don't remember how to do. I actually got a C in my stats class, can you believe it?

If anyone wants this data to help me with this project, or to analyze yourself, don't hesitate to contact me.