Saturday, September 30, 2006

2005 Attendance: What We Know Now

I'm sure by now most of you have read the amazing story out of the San Diego Union-Tribune, where the attendance numbers of MLS are de-mystified and fully explained.

Average MLS Attendance

Paid 10,746
Comps 3,090
Total Distributed 13,836
Total Announced 15,118

So basically, MLS lies about the attendance to the tune of 1,282 fans per game. That's 9.3%, just made up out of thin air. MLS President Mark Abbott offers some weak explanations about why the announced number is higher than the distributed, but don't buy it: "In 11 straight matches at Columbus, it was exactly 1,000 people higher."

At the very least it's incredibly lazy and inaccurate.

Team by Team

Paid Comps Distributed Announced
Chicago 12,104 2,523 14,628 17,238
Chivas USA 12,121 4,821 16,942 17,080
Colorado 8,058 3,485 11,543 13,638
Columbus 8,608 3,735 12,342 12,916
Dallas 6,634 3,864 10,498 12,525
DC United 11,982 3,186 15,169 16,664
Kansas City 7,004 1,917 8,921 9,691
Los Angeles 19,940 3,214 23,155 24,329
New England 9,725 1,472 11,197 12,525
New York 9,956 3,776 13,732 15,077
Real Salt Lake 12,689 3,009 15,697 18,037
San Jose 10,134 2,077 12,211 13,037

Total 10,746 3,090 13,836 15,118

It's always disappointing when people lie to you. San Jose fans have to be especially upset after seeing how their team is 6th is paid attendance (vs 8th in announced). But I think everybody already expected the lying, and it's not uncommon for sports teams to do that sort of thing. Doesn't make it right though.

Now, I want to post the lists Andy_B did on Bigsoccer, aka the "fudge factors," along with the comps percentage that he also did.

Fudge Factors

% Comps Paid vs Ann Dist vs Ann
Chicago 17.2% 42.4% 17.8%
Chivas USA 28.5% 40.9% 0.8%
Colorado 30.2% 69.2% 18.1%
Columbus 30.3% 50.0% 4.7%
Dallas 36.8% 68.7% 6.6%
DC United 21.0% 39.1% 9.9%
Kansas City 21.5% 38.4% 8.6%
Los Angeles 13.9% 22.0% 5.1%
New England 13.1% 28.8% 11.9%
New York 27.5% 51.4% 9.8%
Real Salt Lake 19.2% 42.1% 14.9%
San Jose 17.0% 28.6% 6.8%

Total 22.3% 40.7% 9.3%

So what can we take from all this? I don't think there's anything really too shocking. It was obvious that MLS gave away a lot of comps, and that the real attendance was lower than the announced. It was published previously in a NJ article that the turnstile counts for the Metros in 2004/5 were 64.8% and 61.3% of the announced number, and actually closer to 50% if you take out doubleheaders. As I've mentioned before, the important thing now is to get stadiums built. Once the league is profitable, then you can improve level of play and marketing which will then increase the fan base.

Ziegler in the article says that sponsors did not have access to this "Game Attendance Summary," although Radioshack says they aren't bothered by it. I'm sure that they know exactly what's going on before putting their money in. That's why this report doesn't matter much, because the league is getting tons of new money regardless. In a way, the fact that such a story is being written about the league is a sign that MLS is moving up. I remember back when contraction occured that I was actually happy that the league didn't get much media coverage. With increased coverage comes increased criticism and pressure, and that's a good thing. Paul Gardner and Grahame Jones were just ahead of their time.

MLS: Local TV Coverage Stats

Great stuff from Kenn Tomasch on Bigsoccer, on "readily available" tv broadcasts for each team (aka no FSC/HDnet/Direct Kick):


Games Televised Pct
New England 32 32 100.0%
New York 32 31 96.9%
Los Angeles 32 25 78.1%
Chivas USA 32 24 75.0%
DC United 32 23 71.9%
Chicago 32 16 50.0%
Real Salt Lake 32 16 50.0%
Houston 32 14 43.8%
Dallas 32 13 40.6%
Columbus 32 13 40.6%
Colorado 32 10 31.3%
Kansas City 32 3 9.4%

Total 384 220 57.3%


Games Televised Pct
New England 16 16 100.0%
New York 16 15 93.8%
Los Angeles 16 14 87.5%
Chivas USA 16 12 75.0%
DC United 16 11 68.8%
Houston 16 10 62.5%
Chicago 16 9 56.3%
Colorado 16 7 43.8%
Dallas 16 3 18.8%
Real Salt Lake 16 2 12.5%
Columbus 16 2 12.5%
Kansas City 16 0 0.0%

Total 192 101 52.6%


Games Televised Pct
New England 16 16 100.0%
New York 16 16 100.0%
Real Salt Lake 16 14 87.5%
Chivas USA 16 12 75.0%
DC United 16 12 75.0%
Columbus 16 11 68.8%
Los Angeles 16 11 68.8%
Dallas 16 10 62.5%
Chicago 16 7 43.8%
Houston 16 4 25.0%
Colorado 16 3 18.8%
Kansas City 16 3 18.8%

Total 192 119 62.0%

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Open Cup Final Stats (1996-2006)

Players who have played for more than one team in a US Open Cup final:

Williams, Andy CLB/MIA/NE/CHI
Garlick, Scott DC/DAL
Gutierrez, Diego CHI/KC
Gutierrez, Henry ROC/MIA
Harris, Wolde COL/NE
Heaps, Jay MIA/NE
Jolley, Steve NY/DAL
Kamler, Brian DC/MIA
Marshall, Tyrone MIA/LA
Pope, Eddie DC/NY
Sanneh, Tony DC/CHI
Soehn, Tom DAL/CHI
Vanney, Greg LA/DAL
Vaudreuil, David DC/COL
Washington, Dante DAL/CLB
Williams, Richie DC/NY
Wolff, Josh CHI/KC

Most US Open Cup finals played in:

Williams, Andy 5
Armas, Chris 4
Brown, C.J. 4
Jones, Cobi 4
Marsch, Jesse 4
Marshall, Tyrone 4
Vagenas, Peter 4

Most US Open Cup final minutes:

Brown, C.J. 374
Marshall, Tyrone 360
Vagenas, Peter 357
Jones, Cobi 343
Williams, Andy 295
Marsch, Jesse 291
Armas, Chris 287
Williams, Richie 287
Thornton, Zach 279
Whitfield, Evan 275

Players who were in the top 25 of those who have played the most MLS games without playing in an MLS Cup who also haven't played in a US Open Cup final (whew):

Chung, Mark
Valderrama, Carlos
McKinley, Ivan
Brown, Chris
Burns, Mike
Deering, Chad

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

2006 US Open Cup Final

Since it's that time again, I wanted to bring attention to this post post I made last year. It contains some interesting info/stats on the goalscorers previous Open Cup finals. That's all I was going to post, but I might as well give you my thoughts on the game while I'm at it.

It's the Chicago Fire vs the Los Angeles Galaxy. MLSnet has some good background information. This is a classic Open Cup rivalry (if there is such a thing). Josh Wolff and Alexi Lalas both had golden goals in their 2000 and 2001 semifinal matchups. Don't forget Luis Hernandez's stomp on Peter Nowak.

Going by previous Open Cup finals and taking into account the dominance of home teams, the lack of scoring in Open Cup finals, and the lack of American goalscorers, 1-0 Fire by an Andy Herron goal sounds about right. Plus, Chicago is 12-0-0 all time in the US Open Cup at home. The forms of the two teams would suggest a Fire win as well. Chris Armas will be out due to his red card against DC, which could be a problem. Odds are Logan Pause will fill in for him. But they still should have enough to get the win over a lackluster Galaxy squad. Landon Donovan will have to be at his very best. Doesn't stop Dave Sarachan from worrying though.

I'll leave you with this awesome picture:

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

CONCACAF All Time Rankings (1993-current)

Expanding on yesterday's post, I have compiled an all time ranking of all 35 CONCACAF teams from the first FIFA ranking in August 1993 until today. Here's how I calculated it: For each month, the team that was first in the region received 35 points. Second is worth 34 points, third is worth 33, and so on. That goes even for when the region had fewer than 35 teams. The following is the combined points from all 158 months. Like I mentioned yesterday, 12 times the rankings skipped a month, so I have counted the previous month's rankings twice to make up for it.

All Time CONCACAF Ranking (1993-current)

1 Mexico 5,525
2 United States 5,377
3 Costa Rica 4,953
4 Jamaica 4,927
5 Honduras 4,917
6 Trinidad 4,852
7 Canada 4,505
8 El Salvador 4,192
9 Guatemala 4,141
10 Cuba 3,899
11 Barbados 3,770
12 Haiti 3,674
13 Panama 3,544
14 St. Vincent 3,347
15 Grenada 3,186
16 St. Lucia 3,153
17 St. Kitts 2,972
18 Surinam 2,884
19 Antigua 2,717
20 Bermuda 2,374
21 Domincan Rep. 2,314
22 Net. Antilles 2,109
23 Cayman Is. 2,063
24 Dominica 1,990
25 Guyana 1,826
26 Puerto Rico 1,633
27 Nicaragua 1,535
28 British VI 1,327
29 Belize 1,214
30 Aruba 1,171
31 Bahamas 745
32 Anguilla 482
33 USVI 359
34 Turks & Caicos 192
35 Monserrat 123

CONCACAF Rank By Cycle

(Only the three "full cycles" are included. A cycle is the full four years until the next World Cup. For example, 2006 includes rankings from 7/2002 until 5/2006.)

1998 2002 2006
Anguilla 31 32 31
Antigua 21 18 19
Aruba 27 28 30
Bahamas xxx 29 29
Barbados 9 12 13
Belize 29 27 24
Bermuda 23 23 21
British VI 30 24 23
Canada 6 8 9
Cayman Is. 24 22 28
Costa Rica 7 5 3
Cuba 11 9 8
Domincan Rep. 22 20 22
Dominica 25 19 25
El Salvador 8 10 11
Grenada 14 15 16
Guatemala 12 7 7
Guyana 26 26 27
Haiti 16 11 10
Honduras 4 6 4
Jamaica 3 4 5
Mexico 1 1 1
Monserrat xxx 35 35
Net. Antilles 19 25 26
Nicaragua 28 31 20
Panama 13 13 12
Puerto Rico 20 30 33
St. Kitts 18 16 15
St. Lucia 17 17 14
St. Vincent 10 14 17
Surinam 15 21 18
Trinidad 5 3 6
Turks & Caicos xxx 34 34
United States 2 2 2
USVI xxx 33 32

Monday, September 25, 2006

FIFA Rankings: CONCACAF's Best Historically

Let's get the explanation out of the way first. The FIFA rankings were first published in August 1993. Since then, there have been 146 editions. Early on, they were only published 10 times per year. However, since the 1998 World Cup, the only time they are not published is during the month the World Cup is taking place (June 2006, for example). So what I have done in the lists below is to count the 12 months before a list was not published twice, for a total of 158 months in the rankings. That's what the "extra" column means below.

I should note that for the vast majority of the rankings (until the last couple years), there doesn't appear to be ties between teams equal on points. I wonder if on FIFA's site, they didn't break ties and just listed them in alphabetical order (or some other way)? Figuring that out would require looking through each month's ranking carefully, which is too much work for now.

Also, several teams are missing from the rankings on certain months and I don't know why: Bahamas (12/1993-2/1999) Cuba (2/1995-6/1995), and Dominica (9/1995).

So who has been the number one team in CONCACAF since August 1993? No prizes for guessing:


Months Extra Total
Mexico 142 12 154
United States 6

Twice they were tied, which explains the two extra months. The USA first was ranked #1 in the region in June 2003. Until 2006, that was the only month anyone in the region had outranked Mexico. The two teams have basically split 2006, although Mexico is ahead now.

Both teams have dominated CONCACAF over the years. In fact, in the 13 years since 1993, they have held the top two spots every month. The closest any team got was in September 2001 and January 2002, when Honduras was ranked only one place below the USA.

With the dominance of the top two, it will be interesting to see which teams have held the #3 spot:


Months Extra Total
Costa Rica 57 1 58
Jamaica 35 5 40
Trinidad 29 1 30
Honduras 24 5 29
Canada 1

Costa Rica is the best of the rest. However, almost all of their time in the third position has occured since the 2002 World Cup. Jamaica benefited from their 1998 qualification. Canada's lone month was in March 1994.

Let's now check out the top five and top ten in CONCACAF:


Months Extra Total
Mexico 146 12 158
United States 146 12 158
Honduras 112 9 121
Costa Rica 110 7 117
Jamaica 100 7 107
Trinidad 81 8 89
Canada 32 5 37
Guatemala 3

Honduras is third here. They have always been good, without ever doing enough to qualify. Seems surprising that Guatemala has barely cracked the list here. Their three months are the three most recent rankings. So, only eight teams have cracked the top five in 13 years. That just goes to show you how top heavy the region really is.


Months Extra Total
Mexico 146 12 158
United States 146 12 158
Costa Rica 146 12 158
Trinidad 146 12 158
Jamaica 146 12 158
Honduras 146 12 158
Canada 144 12 156
Cuba 125 8 133
Guatemala 109 4 113
El Salvador 78 10 88
Haiti 54 1 55
Bermuda 20 4 24
St. Vincent 16 4 20
Panama 14 1 15
Surinam 12 3 15
Puerto Rico 7 1 8
Barbados 4 0 4
St. Lucia 1 0 1

Here's where things get a little more open. There's 18 teams on this list, which means that over half of the region's 35 teams have cracked the top ten at one point. A full 60% of the top ten (6 teams) has never left since the first ranking. Canada was 11th in December 2001/January 2002 or there would be one more.

It's strange seeing Cuba so high up. They've been in the top ten 84% (133/158) of the time, and every month since late 1995. Never in the top five though. Currently they are sixth; they had some good results qualifying for the 2005 Gold Cup, in the Caribbean Cup.

El Salvador and Guatemala have never been constantly strong, but I would've expected them to be higher. After all, they seem good enough to always be in the region's top ten, right? Another Central American team, Panama, is experiencing their first run in the top ten since July 2005.

Bermuda actually made it to the final eight of World Cup qualifying in 1994, including a win over El Salvador in the process. Feed the goat! Along with Surinam they were in the top ten early on in the ranking's history. As for St. Vincent, they finished second in the 1995 Caribbean Cup and qualified for the Gold Cup as a result. From late 1995 to early 1997 they were in the top ten.

St. Lucia was ranked #10 in the reigion in July 1995. The only thing that appears to have caused that is a 2-1 win over Barbados in the Caribbean Cup. Barbados' four months were around this time as well, so perhaps that explains it. Flash forward to today, and actually they (St. Lucia) are now a perplexing 11th.

Puerto Rico's inclusion is shocking. They haven't won a game since 1994. Only in the first eight months of the ranking were they in the top ten. They did some decent wins in 1993/1994. That appears to be the time when Chris Armas played for them. If you don't know, he played five times for them and almost couldn't play for the USA because of that. Was it all Armas, or did they have other decent players?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

MLS 2006 - Week 25-26 Goal Compilation

Youtube or Download (Ipod compatible)

Music: Supermode - "Tell Me Why"


Kenny Cooper
Christian Gomez
Andy Herron
Juan Pablo Garcia
Carlos Ruiz
Andy Dorman
own goal (Carlos Mendes)
Clint Dempsey
Josmer Altidore
Jaime Moreno
Amado Guevara
Scott Sealy
Jeff Cunningham
Josmer Altidore
Amado Guevara
Francisco Mendoza
Josh Gros
Taylor Twellman
Matias Donnet
Clint Dempsey

Missing: own goal (Jim Curtin), Calros Ruiz (x2), Andy Williams, Chris Klein, Jason Kreis, Dwayne De Rosario, Jason Garey, Chris Rolfe, Landon Donovan, Andy Herron

For those interested, I've decided that I'm going to upload the comps to Rapidshare from now on, because the links last longer. If you're having problems, I can email you the file (address is on the left).

MLS Weekly Compilations

All my MLS comps on Youtube

2006 - Week 24 - DL
2006 - Week 23 - DL
2006 - Week 22 - DL
2006 - Week 21 - DL
2006 - Week 19/20 - DL
2006 - Week 18 - DL
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

Friday, September 22, 2006

Uh-oh! The Single Table Idea Have Started to Move!

Two days ago, Jack Bell of the New York Times reported that single table could be implemented in MLS next season:

There is a 50-50 chance the league will do away with its two-conference format next season and go to a single set of standings when Toronto F.C. begins play as the 13th team. The top eight teams would qualify for the playoffs.

I say uh-oh because of the polarized reaction that's sure to come from the fans. Is this a good idea? The league plans to be at 16 teams by 2010. Presumably, that means a 14th team will join in 2008. So for 2007, there will be 13 teams. Keeping the two conference system where four teams make it from each would be unfair, because of the odd number. A team shouldn't get an advantage just because it happens to be in a certain region. The next thought is probably, why not just allow the top eight teams to make it regardless of conference? That's pretty fair, but if you're going to do that, then why have conferences in the first place? Which then leads to the single table. I have no inside information, but I'm betting that's the reasoning behind it.

Although, if the league does quickly go to 14 and then 16 teams, both even numbers, does a change even need to be made? I think so. At some point, you can't have huge conferences. The scheduling becomes harder; if MLS gets to 20 teams with two conferences, some teams might meet only once per year. So you can have two choices. You can split into three or four divisions, which just creates additional drama for no reason. Does it really mean anything to be a division champ? Are MLB's San Diego Padres looking back fondly on last year's 82-80 team? It lets more crappy teams into the playoffs, and usually unfairly helps them with higher seeds (see New England Revolution, 2002).

I'm in favor of single table, not just because of the fairness issue but because it gets MLS one step closer to being like the Premiership and other top European leagues. I think that's the ultimate goal that many hardcore fans would like to see. Not just the quality of play and the fans, but the format also. Hate to bring up the dreaded promotion and relegation, but it would be incredibly exciting. Don't say it can't be done with franchises either, just look at the J-League in Japan. They already have a 12 team second division despite only being around since 1992. I think once the league gets to 20 teams, there can be some real talk about it. Just hold off on expansion for a few years, and add several teams at once (possibly by including some lower league clubs like Rochester who probably still won't be in MLS by then, similar to how the J-League did it). Expansion teams can start in the second division.

What does this announcement have to do with relegation? Once MLS switches to single table, it's hard to see them switching back. As fans become more soccer savvy (and savvy fans and owners get more into MLS), the pressure will start building to eliminate all the Americanized things about the sport. We've already seen it with the 1996 uniforms, shootout, overtime, and the complaints over announcing at the World Cup. We all know what the long term goals of the league should be, and this is a small step in getting there.

Single table with playoffs is still good, while we wait for the future. Did you know that the only reason MLS stuck with eight teams in playoffs after contraction is because of Lamar Hunt? Can't remember where I read it, but I believe there would be only six playoff teams if not for him. He's also the guy who wanted to add two more playoff teams in the NFL this past offseason. He's done so much for soccer, but I think MLS would be better off without him now. That's another post though. Anyway, the one final point I want to make is that if MLS has a single table with playoffs, only seven teams should make the playoffs instead of eight. This gives a real reward for finishing first: a quarterfinal bye. Seems like a no-brainer. So forget all the future talk, if they do go ahead with it, that's the one key thing they need to implement.

(link for those of you who don't get the title of this post)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

In Limbo: The Saga of Yanks Abroad

by Tim Froh

American players abroad can never seem to get things right, and the fans are even worse. Who would've thought, two years ago, that Bobby Convey would be in the most ideal playing situation of any American player in late 2006? At the time, Reading was a good, but certainly not great, club in the English First Division (soon to be renamed the Coca-Cola Championship), and Bobby couldn't even get off the bench. Fast forward one year later. Bobby is not only starting for Reading, but winning plaudits for his play on the left wing, and shockingly enough, scoring goals as well. Reading itself was tearing apart the Championship, winning game after game enroute to one of the greatest finishes in the history of modern first division football. Now Bobby is regularly playing in the English Premier League, and according to SkySports, was recently offered a deal with Hamburg, a Champions League club in the German Bundesliga.

Now compare Bobby's situation with DaMarcus Beasley's. When Beasley left for PSV Eindhoven some two years ago, the situation seemed ideal. DaMarcus would be playing for a club that was world renowned for its ability to develop young stars. He would be playing in the Champions League under one of the world's greatest tacticians, Guus Hiddink. Unlike Convey, Beasley began his PSV tenure brightly, scoring more goals in his first season than he ever scored in MLS, including several in the Champions League. On one special night, he terrorized Jap Staam, Holland and AC Milan's famed central defender. But then something went horribly wrong.

In his second season with PSV, DaMarcus was plagued by problems both on the field and off. He struggled to assert himself into Hiddink's plans, being confined to a substitute's role. With his confidence sinking, Beasley's behavior off the pitch suffered. In January, 2006, Beasley was arrested for drunk driving, and in April, was prosecuted for a DUI. Meanwhile, his on-the-pitch woes continued at the worst time possible. Not only was Hiddink leaving PSV at the end of the season, but the World Cup was only two months away.

That World Cup performance and its aftermath cannot be pinned solely on DaMarcus. He was only one of many of our European and MLS based players that simply did not show up to play in Germany. Head Coach Bruce Arena did little to help DaMarcus' waning confidence, first starting him out of position (on the right side of midfield) against the Czech Republic, then singling him out for criticism after the game. Arena continued to play Beasley out of position (now in central midfield) against both Italy (as a substitute) and against Ghana. What should have been his moment of vindication, a game-winning late goal against Italy, was reversed by Brian McBride's obstruction of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

It's no surprise then that Beasley, in the dog house with both club and country, would want a change of scenery. In August, PSV agreed to send him on loan to Manchester City of the English Premier League. Still nursing a hamstring injury, Beasley is yet to start for the club. Yet what is most troubling is that Beasley has left one trying situation, only to find himself in another. City is currently fighting what will doubtless become a fierce relegation battle, and recently lost to Championship cellar dwellers Colcester City in the Carling Cup. The adversity that Beasley will face this season may make or break his confidence and indeed, his career.

Most remarkable though, is how systematic Beasley's story is of the problems facing many American players abroad. Few have enjoyed the success of a Bobby Convey or a Jay DeMerit (or early in their careers, Kasey Keller and Claudio Reyna). Both Bobby and Jay had something to prove in England, whereas coddled players like Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley have struggled when things got tough. To his credit, DaMarcus has stuck it out and wants desperately to turn his European career around. Landon infamously fled back to the safe confines of MLS. Either way, Europe is a dangerous place for American players, and only those with the strongest wills survive. It's heartening to see a player like Tim Howard fight it out at Manchester United and when things didn't work out, he secured a loan to Everton.

Now more than ever are many of America's most talented young players choosing to play abroad. Benny Feilhaber and Preston Zimmerman are fighting for first team time with Hamburg, and Benny recently was placed on Hamburg's Champions League roster as a reward for his consistently good second-team play. These two, along with young men like Michael Bradley, Johann Smith, and Jonathan Spector, fight it out in the reserves for their chance with the first team. Like Bobby, they know that if they keep fighting and keep working hard, their time will come. While we're always impatient for results as fans, maybe just maybe we can be patient and trust that these kids know what they're doing. Lord knows they deserve it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Worst Offense Ever

Last year, RSL scored only 30 goals in 32 games for an average of 0.94. That's the record for the worst MLS offense ever. One year later, two teams have a chance to break that record:

2006 CLB 0.79
2005 RSL 0.94
2006 LA 0.96

LA probably won't do it, but Columbus seems like a sure thing. In order to NOT have sole posession of the record, the Crew need to score 8 goals in their last 4 games. Given the way their current strike force has performed, I would be shocked if that happened. When a guy from the German third division can come in and start right away, it's not a good sign. Also, when nobody on your team has more than 3 goals...not good. They never should've traded Buddle.

Columbus (currently: 22 goals)

23-Sep HOU
30-Sep DAL
7-Oct @ CHI
14-Oct @ NE

Los Angeles (currently: 27 goals)

23-Sep @ CHI
30-Sep CHV
7-Oct @ DAL
14-Oct DAL

Monday, September 18, 2006

Looming Goalkeeper Crisis/Turnover/Uncertainty in MLS

It's something I've read a number of times this year. The new common wisdom is that the state of goalkeeping in MLS is not what it was a few years ago.

You can see this debate on the national team as well. After being completely solid at the position since our return to the World Cup in 1990, we now face a future without Friedel/Keller/Meola. It seems like the only guy who is near that level is Howard, but if he goes down then we may be in trouble. Marcus Hahnemann is decent but may not be around in 2010 (he'll be 38).

Ives Galarcep talked about it back on January 31 in this story. That was before this season; now it seems even more pronounced. The two expansion teams may have diluted things a bit last year, but I think what we're seeing now is a bunch of players who have been in the league forever and are past their prime. Tony Meola is having a really bad year, but also there's Scott Garlick, Kevin Hartman, Bo Oshoniyi, and Zach Thornton. In fact, of the 12 main guys for each team, only 2 are below the age of 30 (Perkins, Gaudette). In 2003, it was 7/10.

That's not to say that old keepers are less talented. Just take a look at Friedel, Lehmann, or Van der Sar in England. But the Premiership has it's share of youth as well. On the opening weekend, nearly half (9/20) of the keepers were under 30.

So there's definitely going to be a lot of change in the next year or two as those veterans retire or get pushed aside. There needs to be some quality young prospects ready to step in and stake their claim. Already we've seen in with Troy Perkins, and now Brad Guzan will get another chance with Chivas. Matt Pickens has looked decent filling in for Thornton. Steve Cronin is another one, although he couldn't replace Hartman this year. However, he was named to the All Star team at the U20 World Cup in 2003, so he should be a solid pro. Will Hesmer and Jay Nolly are two more young guys who have seen playing time this year. There's a lot of promise, but the jury's still out on these guys.

Every time I see Meola or Garlick beaten to the near post, or a goal like Hartman's against Cunningham, it makes me worry about this. We need the young guns in MLS to step up so we can keep up the high standard we've been used to.


CHI-Zach Thornton (32)
CHV-Preston Burpo (33)
CLB-Bill Guadette (25)
COL-Joe Cannon (31)
DAL-Dario Sala (31)
DC-Troy Perkins (25)
HOU-Pat Onstad (38)
KC-Bo Oshoniyi (34)
LA-Kevin Hartman (32)
NE-Matt Reis (31)
NY-Tony Meola (37)
RSL-Scott Garlick (34)


CHI-Zach Thornton (29)
CLB-Jon Busch (27)
COL-Scott Garlick (31)
DAL-D.J. Countess (21)
DC-Nick Rimando (24)
KC-Tony Meola (34)
LA-Kevin Hartman (29)
NE-Adin Brown (25)
NY-Tim Howard (24)
SJ-Pat Onstad (35)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Conference/Division Titles (and Last Place Finishes)

(Regular season only, 1996-2005)

First Place Finishes

Los Angeles 5
Chicago 3
DC United 3
Kansas City 3
New England 2
San Jose 2
Columbus 1
Miami 1
New York 1
Tampa Bay 1

None: Chivas USA, Colorado, Dallas, Houston, Real Salt Lake

Last Place Finishes

Columbus 3
DC United 3
Kansas City 3
Colorado 2
Dallas 2
New England 2
New York 2
San Jose 2
Chicago 1
Chivas USA 1
Tampa Bay 1

None: Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Real Salt Lake

Worst to First

2000 Kansas City
2000 New York
2004 Columbus

First to Worst

1998 Kansas City
2000 DC United
2004 Chicago
2005 Columbus

Most Consecutive Years Without First or Last Place Finish

Dallas 7 1996-2
New York 5+ 2001-?
Colorado 4 1997-0
Colorado 4+ 2002-?
Columbus 4 1996-9
Tampa Bay 4 1997-0

Teams Who Have Never Finished in the Same Position Two Years in a Row

New England (5-4-6-5-2-3-1-2-4-1)
Tampa Bay (1-2-5-3-2-4)

(and of course CHV-HOU-RSL)

Teams Who Have Never Finished Above Third Place

Colorado (5-4-3-4-3-4-4-3-3-3)

(and of course CHV-HOU-RSL)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

In Limbo: Bruce Arena - Man, Myth, Legend

by Tim Froh

Former U.S. National Team coach, and current head coach of the New York Red Bulls, Bruce Arena stands out as a man of tremendous vision as well as of tremendous ego. His recent interview with Jack Bell of the New York Times does nothing to dispute this claim. In it, he lays out a unique vision for improving MLS and the American game as a whole. However, in it he also chastizes his "friend" Sunil Gulati while also refusing to take responsibility for the United States' failures in this year's World Cup, instead heaping blame on the USSF, MLS, his players, everyone but himself. What emerges is a portrait of a man very much in love with himself and his ideas, but whose ideas nevertheless ought to be taken with a seriousness that befits our own desire to soccer in America succeed. I for one will take his ideas seriously no matter how preposterous I find his view of the 2006 World Cup. Here are ten of Arena's ideas and thoughts that demand commentary:

1. Environment affects performance.

In Limbo: In the context of MLS: false. Certainly, the more infinite confines of their specially designed stadia have helped the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chicago Fire among others. However, the long term importance of Soccer Specific Stadia has less to do with on-the-field performance than it does with financial viability. It could also be that Arena is referring not to stadia but to training facilities. However, that's a bit of a wash, when you consider that the 2001 and 2003 MLS Cup winning San Jose Earthquakes trained at a local community college field that lacked so much as a single bathroom.

2. Certainly to improve rosters and the product in the league is going to mean more dollars and more quality foreign players in the league.

In Limbo: Fact. This is a pretty non-controversial statement that I think anyone would agree with. However, what Arena means by quality foreign players is clearly at odds with league's marketing strategy (read, "Beckham rule"). Later in the article, Arena names names, and they are more along the lines of Christian Gomez than David Beckham.

3. "We have a number of people in decision-making positions that think the answer to everything is Hispanic {Sunil Gulati, the new president of U.S. Soccer, has often mentioned a need to find Hispanic players from the grassroots}."

In Limbo: Arena is looking at this from a performance perspective, which is wrong. The USSF isn't looking at this from a fan's perspective but from a business perspective. They're thinking is that if there are more Hispanic players on the U.S. National Team then more Hispanic fans will cheer for the U.S. This is flawed thinking at odds with the many fans who continue to root for the national teams of their ancestral homes, but there's nothing wrong with them trying, and Arena recognizes this as well.

P.S. Gulati's right. The USSF currently does a piss poor job of finding and developing talent at the grassroots level, particularly minorities, no matter what Bruce says.

4. The U.S. did not take a step back with their performance in the last World Cup.

In Limbo: Fact. Yes, the team failed to live up to lofty expectations, but if anything, their failure on the international stage not only pointed out many of the weaknesses, not only of our talent, but of the USSF itself. The performance was poor, but it not only increased media scrutiny, but will only move the program forward in the future. To call the performance a failure, while true from a results standpoint, is to miss the point completely.

5. "We finished like we should have finished {the U.S. was eliminated after the first round in Germany, tying one game and losing two}. It’s probably an accurate representation of where we are in the world."

In Limbo: False. We did not finish where we should have finished. In fact, the United States was in a position to advance out of the group had they beaten Ghana. Yes, Ghana was a solid team, but had the U.S. instead gone with two strikers and a more attack-minded gameplan, a victory would not have been out of the question. Bruce's tactics, and the players' unmotivated performances are solely to blame. Does that performance though, bear out where we are in the world? Yes and no. Yes, we are not a top ten, or maybe even top twenty team, but neither is Ukraine, Switzerland, or Mexico (according to Bruce), all of whom advanced to the next round of the World Cup.

6. A good organization equals a good team.

In Limbo: As it concerns MLS, this is patently false, and the results bear this out. Was the Earthquakes organization that presided over the 2001 and 2003 MLS Cup winning teams a good organization? No. The New England Revolution is hardly a model organization and they've been to the MLS Cup final two times in four seasons, and in 2003 and 2004, advanced to the Eastern Conference Championship game. So while this is often true, it's not always true, and especially not in MLS, where anyone can win given the right coach.

7. An improved MLS will only increase our chances of winning the World Cup.

In Limbo: Thanks Captain Obvious, but that doesn't quite jive with your "our players need to go to Europe" sentiment in the wake of the World Cup. That statement was itself incredibly perplexing given that most of our European players had disastrous Cup performances.
8. Opportunities evolve at the ground level, not by committee.

In Limbo: Fact. Do I really need to discuss this one? I'll just put what Arena said in its entirety:

"[Our players overseas] are not good enough. Or they’re secondary players on generally not very good teams. It’s a natural process. How do Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley emerge out of that group? It wasn’t because of a plan. It just happened they had opportunities. They were talented people that were given good opportunities, who had a good environment, for us anyway, in the Bradenton thing. We will have thousands of kids playing soccer if we create a better environment; players will surface. It’s a natural evolution. It’s not going to be from a plan, it’s not going to be a committee ¬ that’s the next U.S. Soccer stuff, it will name committees, to win the World Cup, committees to do this, committees to do that. But it’s really done at the ground level. People just busting their ass and creating better environments for their kids. More players will surface over time with this league, but this league has got to get better."

9. American players are unmotivated and not dedicated enough.

In Limbo: Fact. Arena's justification that American players are settled into a middle class income bracket is fascinating. He suggests that while the players are motivated enough to make money doing what they love, they're not motivated enough to keep pushing to make (as in other American sports) or to achieve more because in MLS there is a limit on how much you can make and achieve, and the ceiling is not nearly high enough.

10. The next coach of the National Team ought to be American.

In Limbo: False. As I tried to demonstrate in my satirical riff on Jeff Bradley's article, it's silly to single out candidates for any reason. Hire the most qualified, most talented available candidate, no matter his nationality. Period. End of discussion.

I have tremendous respect for Arena despite my frustration with his coaching and tactics in the 2006 World Cup. I hope he can turn things around with the Red Bulls, and best of luck to him with his team's push towards the playoffs.