Thursday, August 31, 2006

In Limbo: News and Notes

by Tim Froh

DaMarcus Beasley moves to Manchester City?

It's astonishing really, what a change of scenery can do for a person. DaMarcus has expressed his frustration with life in Eindhoven for a year now, and it wouldn't surprise me if this rumored, nearly confirmed, move to the English Premier League gave Beasley the fire and determination he needs to jumpstart his career. It's a win-win situation for both clubs. Manchester City needs a true left-sided midfielder (they were so desperate opening weekend that they started Claudio Reyna there), and Beasley needs a team that is committed to helping him raise his game and get him playing time, which PSV, for all the good it's done for DaMarcus, just isn't right now. At the very least, this move makes a lot more sense than coming to Real Salt Lake.

Heath Pearce with offers from abroad?

Young American left back Heath Pearce has apparently received offers from several foreign clubs including Celtic of the Scottish Premier League and Hannover 96 of the German Bundesliga. This is great news for Pearce, even if he and his agent can't work out the deal before the transfer window closes. While it's good news for Pearce, this is bad news for MLS. As more and more young American players go to the Scandinavian leagues for the higher pay, foreign experience, one can now add the increased exposure to European leagues as well. MLS can't offer these kids the kind of money that the Scandinavian leagues can (sometimes as much as ten times the salary), nor can they any longer promise that MLS will earn them a move abroad. This especially rings hollow as the league rejects more and more offers for its more marque players (Johnson, Dempsey, Joseph, Conrad, among others).

MLS rejects Celtic's $1 million offer for Shalrie Joseph.

This is the only understandable rejection that I've seen so far. Not only is Joseph one of the league's best players, but he's also a commodity on his team, and had MLS sold he and Dempsey so close to the playoffs, Revolution fans would understandably be upset. The $1 million offer tabled by Celtic is indeed low for a player of Joseph's skill, but hopefully MLS told Celtic to field a better offer rather than just reject the offer outright. Even so, that MLS refuses to part with some of their players, including ones that want to leave (Dempsey and Johnson most specifically), is foolish. Yes, offers for Dempsey were low, but how does the league explain away their rejection of the Johnson deal which was reportedly worth around $2 million? MLS brass need to sit down and figure out what their strategy is exactly. Do you keep a player like Johnson who obviously doesn't want to be here, isn't considered an asset to his team, is costing you nearly $1 million in salary a year, and whose value is depreciating every day? Or do you sell him now and cut your losses?

Announcement on the Kansas City franchise expected today.

Announcement of a sale? Stadium news? Franchise move? With Don Garber attending, the chances are high that today's announcement is either really good news or really bad, but there's no way that this announcement will be inconsequential.

Hugo Sanchez rumored to be in the running for next coach of the U.S. Men's National Team.

Whether this is true or not, I've found the reactions that this rumor has elicited over on Bigsoccer to be monumentally amusing. Personally, I don't care where our next coach is from, so long as he gets the results. However, I've never been sold on Sanchez's ability, despite his two titles with Pumas. Likewise, I'm not entirely sold on Klinsman, nor on Nowak. Not that any of these gentlemen shouldn't be considered. They should certainly be considered since they all have tremendous coaching potential, having achieved some success at club level (Nowak, Sanchez) and at the national level (Klinsman). The most experienced and decorated coach in MLS is Frank Yallop, and I hope that he is strongly considered for the position regardless of his problems with the Canadian National Team (which has as much to do with the failures of the Canadian FA than it does with Yallop's coaching ability). People tend to react negatively to Sanchez because he's Mexican, but I'd welcome it, if not only to see what kind of hysterical overreactions it would elicit from Mexican National Team supporters.

Finally, Kansas City Wizards and U.S. National Team forward Josh Wolff has his work permit rejected, and his hopes of playing for Derby squashed.

Poor guy. Your heart really has to go out to him since this was probably his last chance to play abroad. The ruling is, of course, a load of bullocks. Nevertheless, let's all hope he gets another chance.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

OTFATT 2006: Update #9

4/11 (85 players remaining)
4/24 (66 players remaining)
5/7 (46 players remaining)
5/26 (28 players remaining)
6/19 (18 players remaining)
7/9 (11 players remaining)
7/29 (6 players remaining)
8/20 (5 players remaining)

The list of who's played every minute of every MLS match this season is down to four men, all goalkeepers. Kyle Beckerman, the last field player, was not in the lineup tonight for Colorado after getting his fifth yellow card on Saturday against Chicago. It was a stupid foul too, near the end of stoppage time.

It seems like it would be much easier for goalkeepers to make it through the whole season, but they make up only 9/24 of the previous survivors.

Dropped off (1):

Kyle Beckerman

2006 Candidates (4)

CHI-Zach Thornton
DC-Troy Perkins
HOU-Pat Onstad
NE-Matt Reis

Order of teams being totally wiped out, with last surviving player:

1. CLB-Jon Busch
2. DAL-Dario Sala
3. CHV-Jonathan Bornstein
4. NY-Danny O'Rourke
5. RSL-Chris Klein
6. KC-Kerry Zavagnin
7. LA-Ugo Ihemelu
8. COL-Kyle Beckerman

The 24 previous winners (1996-2005)

MLS: Youngest & Oldest Lineups

The youngest starting lineup was a result of international callups. It wasn't too long ago, and they mentioned it on ESPN2 (so a lot of you should know the answer to this). The date was 6/19/2004, and the game was Metrostars vs Los Angeles Galaxy (match report). As MLSnet says, the Metros were missing nine players total, but still managed to win 2-1. This was the start of World Cup qualifying, where the USA played Grenada and all the remaining CONCACAF teams were in action. The Galaxy were only missing Jovan Kirovski and Carlos Ruiz, but still suffered the indignity of allowing Kenny Arena's only MLS goal.

Youngest Lineup

June 19, 2004 (Metrostars 2:1 Los Angeles)

27.40-John Wolyniec
25.22-Chris Leitch
23.36-Kenny Arena
23.31-Zach Wells
22.98-Tim Regan
22.24-Jeff Parke
21.88-Pablo Brenes
21.36-Ricardo Clark
20.96-Gilberto Flores
19.79-Mike Magee
17.65-Eddie Gaven

Average age: 22.38 years

For the oldest starting lineup, we have to go back to the early days of the Chicago Fire. Not the MLS Cup winning 1998 team, but the 1999 squad that came between two great years. After 1999, many of their aging players left or were let go, and were replaced by younger players like DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra, and Evan Whitfield.

On 8/28/1999, the Chicago Fire played (and beat) New England at home 2-1, the same result as above (match report). Several younger players were missing: Chris Armas out with an injury (what's new?), and I believe Diego Gutierrez was too although I can't find any proof. C.J. Brown came out early in the previous game and sat this one out, possibly with a slight injury as well. In addition, Frank Klopas made a rare start over Josh Wolff, possibly because he "kicked out the first ball prior to the game in a ceremony honoring the 1984 Chicago Sting."

Not 100% sure on this, but I haven't found anything older.

Oldest Lineup

August 28, 1999 (Chicago 2:1 New England)

36.01-Francis Okaroh
35.60-Lubos Kubik
35.15-Peter Nowak
33.60-Frank Klopas
33.53-Roman Kosecki
33.37-Tom Soehn
32.70-Jerzy Podbrozny
29.16-Sam George
25.88-Zach Thornton
25.80-Jesse Marsch
25.49-Ante Razov

Average age: 31.48 years

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Last Men Standing

It's April 2, 2005, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Over 18,000 fans were on hand to witness the debut of the expansion team, Chivas USA. After months of boastful promises and controversy, the newcomers were utterly outclassed by the vistors, the defending champions DC United. Welcome to MLS. The whole year turned out to be a nightmare, and most of the offending players were jettisoned. Looking back at that first game, only four of the first xi remain with the club. Things weren't much better for Real Salt Lake, who also only have four of the original starting lineup left after one year.

Looking at that, I wondered, who was the last surviving member of the original First XI for every MLS team? Let's find out.

Chicago Fire

Zach Thornton, Lubos Kubik, Francis Okaroh, Andrew Lewis, Jorge Salcedo, Frank Klopas (Zak Ibsen 66), Rich Kotschau, Chris Armas, Peter Nowak, Roman Kosecki (Jesse Marsch 83), Tony Kuhn (Ante Razov 74)

Armas is still there. Thornton left and came back, and I don't count that.

Colorado Rapids

Dusty Hudock, Denis Hamlett, Ian Butterworth, Troy Edwards, Matt Kmosko, Steve Trittschuh, Chris Henderson (Roy Wegerle 77), Dominic Kinnear, Scott Benedetti (Richard Sharpe 77), Shaun Bartlett, Jean Harbor

The worst season in 1996, and all players were gone by 1999. Henderson (in his first stint) and Trittschuh both played through 1998. But Henderson was traded on 11/19/98, while Trittschuh wasn't traded until the 1999 season started.

Columbus Crew

Bo Oshoniyi, Mike Clark, Mark Watson, Shane Battelle (Todd Yeagley 84), Janusz Michallik, Billy Thompson, Doctor Khumalo, Brian Bliss, Pete Marino (Brian Maisonneuve 72), Adrian Paz (Mac Cozier 78), Brian McBride

Both Clark and McBride played through 2003. McBride was bought by Fulham in January 2004, while Clark retired in March. Maisonneuve outlasted both of them but didn't start the inaugural game.

Dallas Burn

Mark Dodd, Ed Puskarich, Diego Sonora, Richard Farrer, Leonel Alvarez, Chad Ashton (John Kerr 75), Jason Kreis, Lawrence Lozzano, Gerell Elliott, Washington Rodriguez (Jimmy Glenn 82), Ted Eck

No prizes for guessing this one. Became RSL's first player after the 2004 season.

DC United

Jeff Causey, Said Fazlagic, Jeff Agoos, Thor Lee, Mario Gori, Richie Williams (Erik Imler 87), John Harkes, Marco Etcheverry, Shawn Medved (Mike Huwiler 71), Juan Berthy Suarez, Raul Diaz Arce

Another easy one. Left after 2003, even though I believe he wanted to stay.

Kansas City Wiz

Pat Harrington, Samuel Ekeme, Sean Bowers, Tommy Reasoner (Scott Uderitz 83), Uche Okafor, Matt McKeon, Preki, Mark Chung, Eric Eichmann, Frank Klopas (Diego Gutierrez 83), Vitalis Takawira

Preki played a year for Miami in 2001, but still was the last man standing when he left.

Los Angeles Galaxy

Jorge Campos, Dan Calichman, Robin Fraser, Arash Noamouz, Mark Semioli, Manny Motajo, Cobi Jones (Brad Wilson 65), Mauricio Cienfuegos, Chris Armas, Eduardo Hurtado, Harut Karapetyan (Andrew Shue 65)

The only player to be with the same team for all eleven years.

Miami Fusion

Jeff Cassar, Leo Cullen, Wade Webber, Cle Kooiman, Matt Kmosko, Henry Gutierrez (David Vaudreuil 66), Diego Serna (Kris Kelderman 79), John Maessner, Marcelo Herrera, Carlos Valderrama, Dan Stebbins.

Two survivors here due to contraction. Cullen was traded midway through the last season.

New England Revolution

Jim St. Andre, Zak Ibsen, Alexi Lalas, Richard Weiszmann (Aidan Heaney 89), Peter Woodring, Geoff Aunger, Mike Burns, John DeBrito, Alberto Naveda (Giuseppe Galderisi 59), Robert Ukrop, Welton

Burns was there until 2000, when he was traded to San Jose.

New York/New Jersey Metrostars

Tony Meola, Nicola Caricola, Rhett Harty, Andrew Restrepo (Matt Knowles 74), Ken Hesse, Danny Barber, Mickey Kydes (Miles Joseph 58), Damian Silvera, Peter Vermes, Giovanni Savarese, A.J. Wood (Edmundo Rodriguez 65)

Only Meola, Harty, and Savarese were still with the team two years later. Meola is the team's survivor, because he was traded on 1/29/1999, while Savarese was traded nine days earlier. Harty was never re-signed after the 1998 season, and I believe MLS contracts run through the calendar year, so he would be third (right?).

San Jose Earthquakes

Tom Liner, Troy Dayak, John Doyle, Michael Emenalo, Tim Martin, Jorge Rodas (Paul Holocher 79), Victor Mella, Ben Iroha (Eddie Lewis 89), Paul Bravo, Jeff Baicher, Eric Wynalda

Dayak left and came back. Doyle was there for the ugly early years, through 2000.

Tampa Bay Mutiny

Mark Dougherty, John Diffley, Cle Kooiman, Steve Pittman, Frank Yallop, Ivan McKinley, Steve Ralston, Carlos Valderrama, Martin Vasquez, Evans Wise (Derek Backman 89), Roy Lassiter

Ralston, the 1996 Rookie of the Year, was there from day one and never left. Yallop was the second to last guy, playing through the 1998 season.

Chivas USA

Brad Guzan, Orlando Perez, Aaron Lopez (Isaac Romo 74), Ryan Suarez, Ezra Hendrickson, Francisco Gomez (Francisco Mendoza 32), Hector Cuadros, Ramon Ramirez, Arturo Torres (Antonio Martinez 58), Thiago Martins, Matt Taylor

Ramirez is very likely to retire. Guzan seems the most likely choice here. It's very possible the rest could be gone next year.

EDIT: Yep, Guzan was the last survivor.

Real Salt Lake

D.J. Countess, Eddie Pope, Nelson Akwari, Matt Behncke, Rusty Pierce, Dipsy Selolwane, Andy Williams, Marlon Rojas (Luke Kreamalmeyer 72), Brian Kamler, Clint Mathis, Jason Kreis

Kreis is my pick, despite his age. Akwari is the youngest by far, but lacks the talent.

EDIT: After Kreis and Pope retired, Williams was the last man standing.

Houston Dynamo

Pat Onstad, Kelly Gray, Ryan Cochrane, Kevin Goldthwaite, Wade Barrett, Ricardo Clark, Dwayne De Rosario, Adrian Serioux, Brian Mullan, Brian Ching, Alejandro Moreno.

So, who's going to last here? Due to his age, if he doesn't get transferred, Clark is a good bet.

EDIT: It's July 2008, and we're down to Onstad, Barrett, Clark, De Rosario, Mullan, and Ching.

Monday, August 28, 2006

MLS 2006 - Week 22 Goal Compilation

Youtube or Download (Ipod compatible)

Music: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Phenomena"


Edson Buddle
Ante Razov
Jordan Cila
Dasan Robinson
Ante Razov
Edson Buddle
Dwayne De Rosario
Todd Dunivant
Jeff Larentowicz
Dwayne De Rosario
John Wolyniec
Jonathan Bornstein
Edson Buddle

Missing: Alan Gordon, Chris Albright, Landon Donovan (x2), Facundo Erpen, Scott Sealy, own goal (x2)

MLS Weekly Compilations

All my MLS comps on Youtube

2006 - Week 21 - download
2006 - Week 19/20 - download
2006 - Week 18 - download
2006 - Weeks 9-17 - download pack (124 mb)
2006 - Weeks 1-8 - download pack (97 mb)

Other Comps

RSL 2005 - YT - DL
Ante Razov - YT
Clint Dempsey - YT - DL
Brian McBride - YT- DL

Sunday, August 27, 2006

MLS: Most & Fewest Goalscorers in a Single Season

In the same vein as my recent post on the Most & Fewest Players Used in a Single Season, here's a look at which teams got their goals from a wide variety of players and who didn't. I think you'll see that the quality of the teams are not consistant in either one. In each category, there are some great and horrible teams.

The average number of goalscorers is 12.1.

(MLS regular season only)

Most Goalscorers in a Single Season

1 2005 Chicago 17
1 1997 DC United 17
3 1997 Columbus 16
3 2003 Dallas 16
3 1999 San Jose 16
6 2000 Chicago 15
6 2001 Chicago 15
6 2002 Chicago 15
6 1996 Dallas 15
6 1999 Dallas 15
6 1999 DC United 15
6 1996 Los Angeles 15
6 2000 New England 15
6 1997 Tampa Bay 15

2005 Fire goalscorers

Armas, Barrett, Caballero, Curtin, Gray, Guerrero, Herron, Jaqua, Johnson, Mapp, Marsch, Reiter, Rolfe, Segares, Stewart, Thiago, Thorrington

1997 United goalscorers

Agoos, Diaz Arce, Etcheverry, Gori, Harkes, Iroha, Kamler, Kelderman, Maessner, Marsch, Moreno, Peay, Pope, Rammel, Sanneh, Wegerle, Williams

Fewest Goalscorers in a Single Season

1 2002 Colorado 6
2 2001 Miami 7
3 2001 Colorado 8
3 2003 Colorado 8
3 1999 Kansas City 8
6 1999 Colorado 9
6 2004 Columbus 9
6 1998 Kansas City 9
6 2004 New England 9
6 2005 New York 9
6 2000 San Jose 9

2002 Rapids goalscorers

Carrieri, Chung, Henderson, Kingsley, Spencer, Valderrama

2006 Contenders

New England 5
Chivas USA 7

Dallas 14

Friday, August 25, 2006

Way Too Early Expansion Draft Analysis

Today, Toronto FC is expected to name Mo Johnston as its first head coach. The merits of that decision can be debated, but one thing for certain is that Johnston will have the chance to pick up a couple of decent players in the expansion draft.

I say "a couple of decent players" because that's all that can really be expected out of it, especially looking back at the 2004 edition. Only five players remain on with RSL (Andy Williams, Nelson Akwari, Chris Brown) or Chivas USA (Orlando Perez, Matt Taylor), and only Williams has had any kind of real impact.

On the other hand, the 1997 edition saw the Chicago Fire get a few players that really helped them in their title run: Zach Thornton, Francis Okaroh, and Diego Gutierrez. They also traded their first two selections (Danny Pena and Kevin Hartman) back to the Los Angeles Galaxy for Chris Armas and Jorge Campos. Very smart.

This year's version will be different because only one team is joining the league. That means that Toronto should be better off than RSL/Chivas. Of course, we can't forget that Toronto's player rules will be different. Canadians will count as domestic players, and Americans as foreigners. I'm not sure if this is still the case, but here's what I previously read: In addition to the normal 4 SIs, Toronto will be allowed to have 3 more additional American senior roster players. They will also get 5 youth international spots (under 25). Every MLS team gets 3 normally, but the expansion teams get 5 for the first two years. So Toronto could have 12 non-Canadians on their 28 man roster.

But they won't be able to keep that many guys from the expansion draft, because they can only draft senior roster players. Here were the rules from the last time:

Existing MLS teams are allowed to protect 12 players on their senior roster, and players on the developmental roster are exempt from the draft. Teams are allowed to leave no more than one Senior International player unprotected. After each player is selected, his team is allowed to remove one exposed player from their list, and teams are not able to lose more than three players.

That's what I'll use to guess which players might be available this year. One key thing to remember is that while there are only 6 senior roster players available for selection from each team, the real number is less than that because teams will leave unsigned and old, expensive players unprotected (I don't include any such players below). I'm also unsure if any developmental players may "graduate" before the draft occurs. I think if they turned 25 before the draft, then they will. Any other circumstances, then I don't know.

Having said that, here's the best guys whom Toronto FC might be able to grab from each team:

CHV-Orlando Perez, Matt Taylor, Brent Whitfield
CHI-Floyd Franks, Ryan Johnson, Logan Pause
COL-Matt Crawford, Luchi Gonzalez, Chris Wingert
CLB-Ezra Hendrickson, Chris Leitch, Johnny Walker
DAL-Jeff Cassar, Clarence Goodson, David Wagenfuhr
DC-Bryan Namoff, Brandon Prideaux, Jamil Walker, Nick Rimando, John Wilson
HOU-Craig Waibel, Zach Wells
KC-Jack Jewsbury, Alex Zotinca
LA-Alan Gordon
NE-Avery John, Marshall Leonard, Khano Smith
NY-Mark Lisi
RSL-Chris Brown, Scott Garlick

As you can see, there isn't a lot here worth taking. Serioux or Jazic could be left unprotected, but I doubt they would let Toronto have them for free. One thing I want to note is that they may be able to take a few younger guys, then try to sign them to developmental deals.

At the very least Toronto should be able to get a good (backup?) goalkeeper, and a decent player from DC. Avery John is worth a look as well. They should be able to get another role player or two, maybe a couple younger unproven players that I didn't list and that's about it. With the roster restrictions, they may not even use all their picks.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

In Limbo: Jeff's Bradley New Editor

by Tim Froh

(the article from which this edition of In Limbo is taken, can be found here).

It has been the loudest and most consistent cry of Jeff Bradley in the wake of the U.S. national team's three-and-out performance in the World Cup:

"The U.S. now needs to hire my brother, Bob Bradley."

What a load of garbage.

The reality is, the coach of the U.S. national team needs to be the person best suited for the job. And if not the best person, then at the very least the second best.

Why the best person suited for the job? There are so many reasons.

In case you haven't been paying attention, coaching the U.S. national team is a pretty unique challenge. Did you hear Bruce Arena whining recently (and not so recently) about the position? Lack of facilities. Lack of a top-flight professional league. Lack of meaningful MLS games. His bitch list goes on beyond that, too.

Most are the complaints of a frustrated and bitterly disappointed egomaniac.

Truth be told, Arena coached the U.S. national team during the best of times in American soccer history. A pro league is better than no league at all. A subpar national training center is better than no national training center. A small but growing fanbase is better than no fanbase. Arena deserves some credit for actually finding something to complain about during the "best times in American soccer history." But, more than just patting himself on the back, Arena felt he needed to stab his "friend" Sunil Gulati in the back too.

And there would be no better way for Gulati to get back then by naming a new American coach.
Seems the most vocal among those who are clamoring for Bob Bradley do not believe there are any other viable candidates for the position. Again, a load of garbage.

In replacing Arena, U.S. Soccer is replacing the greatest coach in the nation's recent soccer history. Now, take a look at Arena's background and how he came into the position.

Arena was named the coach in '98 because he'd won at the University of Virginia and he'd won at D.C. United. Now, ask yourself this, did Arena win at UVA because he was a great coach or because he and his staff were able to recruit the best players in the country? Did he win at D.C. United because he was a great coach or because the league was quite a bit different back then? Think about the core of the great D.C. United teams. Marco Etcheverry. Jaime Moreno. John Harkes. Jeff Agoos. Those were all players gifted to D.C. and Bruce Arena by MLS HQ. Arena coached D.C. for three years and never had to disassemble his core and retool because of the salary cap. That was left to the coaches who followed him, including the Polish born Piotr Nowak, who looks to match Arena's success of two MLS Cup titles in three years. Point is, Arena's success in American soccer may have been the reasons he was named to the post. But, when you look back, his success was not earth-shattering.

As Arena might say himself. "But there's not a team in this league as talented as the D.C. United teams I had."

When you examine it closely, Arena did a poor job coaching the U.S. because, while it was his dream job, he stopped believing in the American player. He was patriotic about the whole thing, except when it came to showing respect for other nations. He was willing to deal with a difficult system, but when the going got tough, he blamed everyone but himself. He was willing to do whatever it was going to take, unless that involved changing his system. In short, he was the quintessential American.

Mostly because he was American.

Now, it's time to find the best coach out there. A guy who will: look at the job as a dream job and not a stepping stone to something bigger and better. Not a guy who will throw up his hands when he's watching a mid-July afternoon game in Houston or Dallas and wonder what the heck it is he's watching.

Who's the right guy? Let U.S. Soccer sit down and grill the candidates and decide. Let U.S. Soccer ask the candidates about the player pool, after giving them a fair chance to study the player pool. Let U.S. Soccer ask the candidates about who they see as the best up-and-coming young players, after giving them a fair chance to look at those players.

And then decide who is most worthy.

Don't just bring in a bunch of American guys who've won in MLS or college and fallen in love with their resumes. If they don't know what's going on in international soccer, then what good are they going to do for the U.S. national team?

When you get right down to it, the national team job is probably 90 percent about player selection anyway. And, a guy who's going to have to take a few weeks to get just a basic handle on the American personnel does stand a good chance of making the right selections. Doesn't he?
American soccer has changed a lot since the day Arena took over the national team. That cannot be argued. But the coach of the U.S. national team still has to have a feel for all there is that makes American soccer what it is, and how it can become a part of "The World's Game." Bring in a guy from a country where there's soccer and only soccer and he's going to have a lot to say that could improve the American game. Think a qualified coach is going to want to take the time to watch college soccer? The USL? Think he's going to have a really good feel for the American system of player development -- or the lack thereof? The answer is, in a word, yes.

The U.S. is entering a critical stage in its soccer development. The national team has risen for the past eight years because of its growing popularity and a core of very talented young players.
Now, U.S. Soccer needs to recognize that they have to find the best candidate for the job.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Helping Hand: Part Two (Individual Assist Leaders)

Part One

Now, let's take a look at the top individual seasons when it comes to assists in MLS. But before I do that, there are two things I would like to mention first.

1) In order to get the data on secondary assists, I went through each match report on MLSnet. There were no lists of secondary assists, other than the league leaders. The "league stats" pages for 1996-2002 have leaders in assists, primary assists, and secondary assists, while the "team stats" and individual player pages just have assists. In just looking at the leaders for each season, there are a number of differences from the data I have and what MLSnet says. Maybe they recorded it wrong originally and went back and changed it. Who knows, but for the list of primary assist leaders below, I used what the MLSnet stats said, except for 2003-5 where they didn't have that data.

2) On Bigsoccer, Kenn Tomasch supplied some info from the "1998 MLS Statistical Manual." It's a laundry list of ridiculous items, including these:

Example 3 - Attacker “A” shoots and the ball is blocked but not controlled by the opposing goalkeeper. Attacker “B” gains possession of the loose ball and passes to attacker “C” who scores. Score the play as a goal for “C” and assists for “A” and “B”. NOTE: Attacker “A” should also receive credit for a shot, with the result being a save.

Example 4 - Attacker “A” hits a 50-yard pass from his defensive third to attacker “B” who collects the ball at midfield and dribbles into the corner of the field. Attacker “B” then crosses to attacker “C” who scores. Score the play as a goal for “C” and give assists to “B” and “A” because possession was never broken even through perhaps 30 to 60 seconds elapsed between the first pass by “A” and the goal by “C”.

There's also something about a shot hitting the goalpost and "possession never being broken," so of course assists are ok on that too. Just ridiculous stuff, all coming straight from MLS. That's nothing though, compared to this paragraph:

NOTE: There is not a distinction between passes that did exhibit a high degree of skill, vision and/or accuracy and passes that did not: CONSECUTIVE POSSESSION is now the rule.

That, my friends, is why MLS needs to go back and revise the historical records. While it would be very hard to review every single assist, it would be very easy to just eliminate the secondary assist altogether. See yesterday's post if you need more reasons why. 50 years from now, the overuse of secondary assists and the shootout win/losses will look really stupid and make it impossible to compare the early years to the (then) current ones. They're going to have to change it eventually, so why not just do it now? Otherwise you have some unattainable and unfair records, and that's no good. It's not like Cy Young in baseball with 500 wins, where the game changed dramatically.

For fun, here's how the top single season assist marks would be affected if secondary assists were dropped:

Top Single Season Assist Totals

1 2000 TB Valderrama, Carlos 26
2 1996 DC Etcheverry, Marco 19
2 1997 TB Valderrama, Carlos 19
2 1998 DC Etcheverry, Marco 19
2 2002 NE Ralston, Steve 19
6 1999 TB Ralston, Steve 18
7 1996 TB Valderrama, Carlos 17
7 1997 KC Preki 17
7 1999 DC Etcheverry, Marco 17
7 1999 LA Cienfuegos, Mauricio 17
7 2000 TB Ralston, Steve 17
7 2003 KC Preki 17

Top Single Season PRIMARY Assist Totals

1 2000 TB Valderrama, Carlos 21
2 1996 DC Etcheverry, Marco 16
3 1997 TB Valderrama, Carlos 15
4 1998 DC Etcheverry, Marco 13
4 1999 DC Etcheverry, Marco 13
6 1997 KC Preki 12
6 1997 SJ Lewis, Eddie 12
6 1998 CHI Podbrozny, Jerzy 12
6 1998 COL Paz, Adrian 12
6 1999 TB Ralston, Steve 12
6 2002 NE Ralston, Steve 12
6 2003 KC Preki 12

Big changes here. There's still a bias for the older guys because of the strange guidelines explained above, but those years did have higher scoring. Plus, unless I can go back and look at every assist, this is the best "improvement" we can do for now. Getting double digits in assists should be a huge accomplishment, and it is now in today's MLS.

There are 22 seasons of 15 assists or more; only three of them are legitimate. For comparison, there are only 26 "real" double digit assist seasons. As for the top spot, Valderrama only loses five secondary assists and still comes in with a huge 21. I know he had a great year, but considering the differences in the number of assists given out in 2000, you have to wonder how many 1996 Etcheverry would've had in that year. In yesterday's post, you saw how the 1996 data was normal until they started messing with it the next season. So I would have to say that 1996 Etcheverry's performance is probably equal to 2000 Valderrama.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Helping Hand: Assists in MLS

This past Saturday in the Home Depot Center, the game between the Los Angeles Galaxy and F.C. Dallas changed in a matter of seconds. In the 26th minute, Troy Roberts sent a long ball from his own half to Landon Donovan. Dallas defender Greg Vanney and goalkeeper Dario Sala had a miscommunication, which allowed Donovan to sneak in and chip the ball over Sala's head and into the net.

What's the most amazing thing about that goal? It's not the poor defense or the opportunistic finishing. It's that Pete Vagenas was awarded an assist. This despite Roberts taking a decent run up to the ball before striking it, which again was from his own half of the field, and the ball bouncing next to Vanney and Donovan. I have no idea what Vagenas' contribution actually was on the play, because the highlight clip on MLSnet doesn't even show him. He's also not mentioned on the official recap or in the LA Times story.

Ladies and gentleman, you have now met the secondary assist, one of the last remnants of the "Americanization of soccer." Most of the complaints from that era from hardcore soccer fans were about the things that happened on the field (mainly the shootout), but the statistics were Americanized too.

I'm sure most of you remember the "catch/punch" stat for goalkeepers? MLS only stopped including it in the league stats last season. Ditto for "points" and blocked shots. They still have a "consecutive games with a point" stat, but that's not a big deal. They could word it differently (games with a goal or assist), but the important thing is that the made up stat of "points" is gone. Goals and assists are important, but they stand on their own. You don't need to create an official stat to combine them. This isn't hockey.

Which brings me to assists. My historical knowledge is shaky, but I believe the NASL was the first league to record assists in soccer. It comes from hockey, where the last two players to touch the puck before a goal get an assist. I can't find anything online about it, but I want to say that the NASL gave out two assists for goals as well. This page shows the top 50 all time assist leaders for the NASL, and most have one for every two games. That's basically the same as Carlos Valderrama, Preki, and Marco Etcheverry in MLS.

Anyway, along with the points stat, the NASL brought the assist from hockey to soccer. The difference between the two stats is that the assist is actually a useful addition to the game. FIFA now keeps track of them, and actually has started using them as a tiebreaker for the Golden Boot (which is why Eddie Johnson won it in the 2003 U20 tournament).

So the assist is good. The secondary assist is not though, because it's arbitrary and unnecessary. Rarely are there two very good passes which lead to a goal. Even then, the secondary assist doesn't directly set up the goal, which is what an assist should measure. FIFA and the rest of the world don't use the secondary assist. That's not to say that's why we shouldn't either. Quite simply, the inconsistency of its use in MLS along with the inconsistency in the quality of those passes means that it should be dropped.

I want to explain further what I mean about the inconsistency of its use in MLS. From 1997-2002, secondary assists were given out like candy on Halloween. Regular assists too. This wouldn't be a Climbing the Ladder post without some stats to back up my assertions, and here you go:

Assists Per Goal

Goals Assists A/G
1996 539 505 0.94
1997 522 620 1.19
1998 685 866 1.26
1999 549 738 1.34
2000 612 769 1.26
2001 519 697 1.34
2002 421 565 1.34
2003 433 418 0.97
2004 392 398 1.02
2005 551 557 1.01
2006 347 328 0.95

MLS started ok in 1996, but then things got out of whack. After 2002, assists went back down to a more normal rate. All of the 2006 numbers are accurate through August 20.

Primary/Secondary Breakdown

Assists Primary Secondary Prm-Pct
1996 505 397 108 78.6%
1997 620 427 193 68.9%
1998 866 551 315 63.6%
1999 738 454 284 61.5%
2000 769 498 271 64.8%
2001 697 431 266 61.8%
2002 565 343 222 60.7%
2003 418 300 118 71.8%
2004 398 271 127 68.1%
2005 557 388 169 69.7%
2006 328 238 90 72.6%

Not only were more assists being given in 1997-2002, but more secondary ones as well. Also note that 1996 had very few secondary assists.

There are some discrepancies on MLSnet. I added up the total number of assists from the team stats pages. On the overall league stats pages, there are differences in 1998 (+1), 2001 (-2), and 2004 (+1). It wouldn't really make a difference though. Oh, I also should note that since last year, it appears that MLS doesn't keep track of goalkeeper assists any more (surely less than 10 a year).

Primary/Secondary Assists Per Goal

Goals Prm/G Sec/G
1996 539 0.74 0.20
1997 522 0.82 0.37
1998 685 0.80 0.46
1999 549 0.83 0.52
2000 612 0.81 0.44
2001 519 0.83 0.51
2002 421 0.81 0.53
2003 433 0.69 0.27
2004 392 0.69 0.32
2005 551 0.70 0.31
2006 347 0.69 0.26

Now it's clear how the secondary assist got out of hand. Things have been remarkably consistent since 2003 though, which I'm happy to hear. It dropped in half in one year! Notice the rate of primary assists decreases as well.

In England (and probably FIFA/Europe), assists given out less frequently. Anyone who plays Winning Eleven knows what I mean. One difference there is that they give out an assist to the man who earns a penalty, provided it's not the man who takes it. These are probably good ideas. With all my talk about the secondary assist, it's important not to give out bad primary ones as well.

While I'm glad that MLS has tightened up the awarding of assists (I remember reading about someone who got one for hitting a penalty off the post, which a teammate finished), they need to go further. When guys like Pete Vagenas benefit (and Troy Roberts, for that matter), it hurts the players who have truly earned assists. When you give them out too easily, it makes them less meaningful and a less accurate stat. Let's eliminate the secondary assist, and only consider primary assists when looking at the historical records in MLS. Much like my pet peeve of shootouts being counted as wins, it gives an unfair advantage to those early years. Oh, and they benefited from the whole "assists that aren't really assists" thing too.

Tomorrow, in part two of this post, I'll take a look at the top individual seasons in MLS when it comes to assists, and how they're affected when considering primary assists only.

Monday, August 21, 2006

MLS 2006 - week 21 goal compilation

Youtube or Download (Ipod compatible)

Music: Kleptones - "Down On Bennies"


Chris Klein
Christian Gomez
Landon Donovan
Kyle Beckerman
Andy Herron
Carey Talley
Sebastian Rozental
Santino Quaranta
Joseph Ngwenya

Missing: Nate Jaqua, Chad Barrett, Justin Mapp, Chris Klein, Douglas Sequeira, Adrian Serioux, Jeff Cunningham, Jose Burciaga, Jonathan Bornstein

All my Youtube videos

MLS Weekly Compilations

2006 - Week 19/20 - download
2006 - Week 18 - download
2006 - Weeks 9-17 - download pack (124 mb)
2006 - Weeks 1-8 - download pack (97 mb)

Other Comps

RSL 2005 - YT - DL
Ante Razov - YT
Clint Dempsey - YT - DL
Brian McBride - YT- DL

Sunday, August 20, 2006

OTFATT 2006: Update #8

4/11 (85 players remaining)
4/24 (66 players remaining)
5/7 (46 players remaining)
5/26 (28 players remaining)
6/19 (18 players remaining)
7/9 (11 players remaining)
7/29 (6 players remaining)

Ivan Guerrero was subbed off today during the Chicago Fire's 1-0 win at New England. They were the last team with multiple players on this list of who's played every minute of every MLS match. Now only five remain, and congratulations to Kyle Beckerman for being the last field player.

If I had to pick one guy to survive for sure, I would take Matt Reis. There's a huge gap in talent between him and his backup, and they need him for every match.

Dropped off (1):

Ivan Guerrero

2006 Candidates (5)

CHI-Zach Thornton
COL-Kyle Beckerman
DC-Troy Perkins
HOU-Pat Onstad
NE-Matt Reis

Order of teams being totally wiped out, with last surviving player:

1. CLB-Jon Busch
2. DAL-Dario Sala
3. CHV-Jonathan Bornstein
4. NY-Danny O'Rourke
5. RSL-Chris Klein
6. KC-Kerry Zavagnin
7. LA-Ugo Ihemelu

The 24 previous winners (1996-2005)

Friday, August 18, 2006

MLS: Most & Fewest Players Used in a Single Season

Generally, the better a team is, the fewer players they use. If the guys you're using are getting the job done, then why change? So it's not a shock to see that the former Metrostars hold the record for the most players used, while San Jose holds the record for the fewest. Though, it may be surprising to see that the Earthquakes used the fewest players in 2002 (not 2001 or 2003), and that the 1999 Metros don't even make the top ten for the most. The 1996 Metros used the most players, and interestingly, Manny Lagos played for both that team and the 2002 Earthquakes.

Note: Counting MLS regular season games only.

Most Players Used in a Single Season

1 1996 New York 36
2 2005 Real Salt Lake 32
3 1999 Miami 31
4 2005 Colorado 30
4 1998 Miami 30
4 1997 New York 30
4 2002 New York 30
8 2005 Columbus 29
8 1998 New York 29
8 1999 Tampa Bay 29

1996 NY/NJ Metrostars

Baba, Barber, Brauchle, Caricola, da Silva, De Avila, Donadoni, Gillen, Harty, Hennessey, Hernandez, Hesse, Huseinovic, Johnson, Joseph, Ken-Kwofie, Knowles, Kydes, Lagos, Lembryk, Longenecker, Meola, Munnelly, Namazi, Ramos, Restrepo, Rinker, Rodriguez, Savarese, Silvera, Thornton, Unger, Vermes, Villegas, Wood, Zaun

Fewest Players Used in a Single Season

1 2002 San Jose 19
2 1996 Tampa Bay 20
2 2000 Tampa Bay 20
4 1999 Colorado 21
4 1999 Columbus 21
4 2001 Dallas 21
4 1996 Kansas City 21
4 2002 Kansas City 21
4 1996 Los Angeles 21
4 2001 Los Angeles 21
4 2002 Los Angeles 21
4 2004 New England 21
4 2001 San Jose 21
4 2003 San Jose 21
4 2004 San Jose 21

2002 Earthquakes

Agoos, Barclay, Barrett, Cannon, Conrad, Conway, Corrales, Dayak, De Rosario, Donovan, Ekelund, Gonzalez, Graziani, Ibsen, Lagos, Mulrooney, Robinson, Roner, Russell

2006 Contenders

Columbus 32
Los Angeles 30

Houston 18
Chivas USA 21

Thursday, August 17, 2006

In Limbo: Arena Mouths Off

by Tim Froh

Ah, Bruce Arena. His dramatic rise and fall in the estimations of American soccer fans was practically Shakespearian. Where once he could no wrong, now every word he speaks is scrutinized. Some call him a hypocrite, others an egomaniac, and still others a ruthless opportunist. For some fans, he has become the arch-enemy of American soccer, whose bitter musings are the marks of a man driven mad by the bruising of his own ego. But who exactly is Bruce Arena, and more importantly, is what he says true?

When reading through his recent interview with Grant Wahl, one is struck almost immediately by his supercilious, cynical tone. Comments such as, "Let me tell you this: I wasn't convinced I would come back if they wanted me back," demonstrate Arena's arrogance at its very worst. This was a man who gave every indication that he wanted to come back to the job after the U.S. lost to Ghana in the World Cup. And honestly, who could blame him for wanting to redeem his legacy? He feels that American soccer reached its apotheosis during his tenure as coach (a sentiment that National Teamer Bobby Convey disagrees with). He tells Grant: "Oh yeah. They're going to win the next World Cup, from what I'm told. So I wish them the best. Because we did so poorly over the last eight years, I'm sure they're going to win the next World Cup." He even goes as far as saying, "I've probably showed them the finest eight years of the national team they're going to see for a long time."

But for all his faults, Arena is outspoken about the problems that face American soccer. He rightfully distrusts the relationship between MLS, US Soccer, and their advertisers. When Grant brings up the new MLS television contracts, Arena is quick to point out that the league's first focus should be raising the standard of play. He's said what many fans have said: raise the quality of play and many of those stay-at-home soccer fans will start watching. Most importantly though, Bruce recognizes a good thing when he sees it. The Red Bulls organization, which has at times struggled in its first year as owner, is good for the league and good for the sport and has invested too much money to suddenly cut their losses and run.

The anger that has been directed towards Arena since the World Cup by American soccer fans is understandable, if not somewhat regrettable. While fans claim that Arena's adherence to his 4-5-1 formation was a surprise, it shouldn't have been. On the South American program Los Technicos, Arena revealed his line-up several months in advance of the World Cup. Fans had the opportunity to question and criticize those tactics then, but only a few did. Indeed, Arena's rigidity as a tactician got the better of him, but fans ought not hate Arena for what were seven and a half years of quality service to US Soccer. All sports fans (myself included) are fickle. We loved Arena's loud mouth when we were winning, but were disgusted when he refused to take the blame for the U.S. Team's failures in Germany. Sometimes, you just have to take the good with the bad.

Transfer Notes:

Recent rumors have DaMarcus Beasley returning to MLS to play with Real Salt Lake, while West Bromwich Albion of the English Championship have supposedly offered MLS two million dollars for Eddie Johnson of the Kansas City Wizards.

Who would've thought that of American soccer's so-called "golden generation," the player that would emerge as its most mature and dedicated would be Bobby Convey? Santino Quaranta has suffered through a career plagued by immature personal choices, injuries, and squandered opportunities. Eddie Johnson, who still has the chance to turn his fortunes around, suffered a horrible foot injury, the long-term psychological effects of which are still hurting his game today. Landon Donovan, Clint Mathis, and now perhaps DaMarcus Beasley, have all returned from Europe, tail firmly between their legs.

Beasley though, who in recent months has seen the quality of his play diminish, and who seems more and more depressed as time goes by, could perhaps use the return home. His time at PSV, once filled with Champions League glory and a career-high goals tally, seems to be coming to an end. Like Convey, he could try to stick it out and raise his game with the hope of securing a transfer to another European club. His problems may not be physical though, but mental. A DUI arrest last year and a long distance relationship, and a difficult and heavily criticized World Cup would certainly demonstrate that something's not right with Beasley. If a move back to MLS will help DaMarcus recover physically and emotionally, then more power to him.

As for Eddie Johnson, there's only one thing that MLS can do: sell. Who cares whether the situation is right? That anyone is still willing to offer two million dollars for Johnson after a disappointing World Cup and MLS season is remarkable. Johnson supposedly rejected the five million dollar deal offered by Portugese club Benfica last year. He'd be unwise to do so now. Yes, West Brom is a Championship club, but it's also one keen on returning to the Premiership, and one that would provide an opportunity for Eddie to prove that he really is a "grown ass man" and not an immature kid.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

2010 Seeding Formula: August 2006 Update

Never too early to start worrying about the next World Cup. The top seven teams here will be seeded along with South Africa as hosts.

You'll notice little movement has taken place since last month. Get used to that. Until the groups for World Cup qualifying come out (oh, in another 16 months) there won't be much to talk about. Not only that, but it's very likely that only the top eight teams will really have a chance to be seeded, unless one fails to qualify.

This month, Ecuador/Guatemala/Korea replaced Colombia/Uzbekistan/Honduras based on FIFA rankings changes. The USA falls from 13th to 19th, while Mexico jumps up two spots. As mentioned by FIFA, the Gold Cup results were devalued this month which helps to explain that.

For an explanation of this formula, visit the Bigsoccer thread of the same name.

1 Brazil 61.3 29.3 32
2 Italy 58.3 27.3 31
3 England 54.3 26.3 28
3 Germany 54.3 30.3 24
5 France 52.3 23.3 29
6 Spain 51.3 25.3 26
7 Argentina 51.0 21.0 30

8 Portugal 47.3 22.3 25
9 Netherlands 41.7 14.7 27
10 Mexico 36.3 19.3 17
11 Switzerland 35.3 15.3 20
12 Ukraine 34.7 16.7 18
13 Sweden 32.3 19.3 13
14 Czech 29.0 6.0 23
15 Paraguay 25.7 11.7 14
16 Ecuador 25.0 17.0 8
17 Nigeria 24.7 2.7 22
18 Cameroon 24.0 3.0 21
19 Denmark 23.7 7.7 16
19 USA 23.7 13.7 10
21 Uruguay 21.7 2.7 19
22 Cote d'Ivoire 21.0 6.0 15
22 Croatia 21.0 9.0 12
24 Australia 18.3 11.3 7
25 Korea 17.7 15.7 2
26 Japan 17.3 13.3 4
27 Costa Rica 13.3 8.3 5
28 Iran 11.3 5.3 6
29 Guinea 11.0 0.0 11
30 Romania 9.0 0.0 9
31 South Africa 4.0 3.0 1
32 Guatemala 3.0 0.0 3