Monday, March 31, 2008

Which teams need to be successful in 2008?

I mean in terms of what would benefit the league the most, as well as the individual franchises. We all know that some teams could use a championship season way more than others. So if you're watching a match that you have no rooting interest in, then this could give you a reason to cheer for either side.

This is the third year that I've done these rankings. Click these links for the 2006 and 2007 posts.

1) Los Angeles Galaxy (2007-1st, 2006-12th)

The league's most high profile team with the league's biggest star. David Beckham and the Galaxy being successful would be the best possible thing that could happen this season. It would lead to more media attention and bigger crowds.

2) Real Salt Lake (2007-2nd, 2006-4th)

This is a fan base that has never experienced winning. Yes, the stadium's coming and the future is secured, but you don't want them to turn into the next Columbus. Despite the losing, they still do very well with season tickets and media coverage. Can you imagine what it would be like for a winning team?

3) Red Bull New York (2007-5th, 2006-2nd)

Like I said a year ago, until the new stadium is built we're unlikely to see a huge effort from Red Bull (especially after their initial game in 2006 was a disappointment). That'll be the most important year. But they're 3rd now because the market is so vital, and they barely know what winning is. The Beckham game last year showed what is possible for a NY team.

4) Columbus Crew (2007-7th, 2006-7th)

This team has been bad for a while now. The Crew are behind RSL because I can't imagine the same level of excitement in Ohio compared to Salt Lake City if the team suddenly became a winner; the team has been around for too long now. And they're behind NY because there's less upside league wide for a good team team here. You know, once every MLS team gets a stadium, just having one won't mean success. In the future, once expansion slows, the thought of this team leaving Columbus is not an impossibility.

5) CD Chivas USA (2007-4th, 2006-1st)

Chivas is one of the hardest teams to rank. Drawing Mexican fans is a huge priority for MLS, but this team was excellent last year and didn't draw well. Can they be successful without Mexican stars? I don't know how much winning would really help them. But despite the fact that the numbers may not be there, the demographic is super important and they still should rank high here IMO. They also are probably the one team whose future is not secure.

6) Colorado Rapids (2007-3rd, 2006-10th)

Another franchise with a history of losing that could use a spark. Perfect start on Saturday.

7) Toronto FC (2007-8th)

They did even better this year, selling 16,000 season tickets, despite another projected year of struggling. Winning isn't necessary for them in 2008, but they do need to get that first good season sooner or later. If not this year then next, because by then the newness will have worn off.

8) San Jose Earthquakes

No one expects them to do well this year, so that shouldn't have a big impact on the crowds. Plus, winning didn't help them in the past. It would be nice to relaunch the team on the right foot, though.

9) Chicago Fire (2007-9th, 2006-6th)

Chicago and Dallas seem to be in the same boat now: decent crowds, decent records, and new stadiums. But the Fire are in a bigger market and have a huge star, and therefore are ranked higher, even though Dallas has very little success.

10) FC Dallas (2007-10th, 2006-5th)

Can't see a championship really changing much.

11) Houston Dynamo (2007-6th, 2006-3rd)

There's still untapped potential here when it comes to the fan base. Just look at the difference between the regular season and playoff crowds. But two titles in a row, that's like the best you can hope for in this playoff format. They're pretty much established already in the city, and another winning season is not necessary.

12) DC United (2007-11th, 2006-11th)

United have experienced more success than any other MLS team, and they have great crowds. A down year would not hurt them, and they wouldn't gain much (compared to the teams above) from another title. However, DC is probably the second most well known team outside the US, after the Galaxy. Their success with a large contingent of South Americans would probably encourage more to come here.

13) Kansas City Wizards (2007-12th, 2006-8th)

Hard to see them benefiting much from a winning year. With the stadium situation not changing this year or next, success won't lead to better crowds. By the time the new stadium is built, this year's success won't matter.

14) New England Revolution (2007-13th, 2006-9th)

They drew more fans last year, which was good. However, they've been good for several years now and it's hard to see another winning season really changing anything. It's not like much will change regardless of the record. Would a championship really improve things?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

MLS 2008 - Week 1 Goals Video

Time for this again:

Music: Angels & Airwaves - "Call To Arms"

Week 1 Results:

Columbus Crew 2:0 Toronto FC
Real Salt Lake 1:1 Chicago Fire
New England Revolution 3:0 Houston Dynamo
Kansas City Wizards 2:0 DC United
Colorado Rapids 4:0 Los Angeles Galaxy
FC Dallas 1:1 CD Chivas USA

Goals: (in order shown)

Sainey Nyassi
Terry Cooke
Ivan Trujillo
Cuauhtemoc Blanco
Adam Moffat
Maykel Galindo
Adam Cristman
Steve Ralston
Claudio Lopez
Colin Clark
own goal (Bakary Soumare)
Alejandro Moreno
Christian Gomez
Juan Toja
Omar Cummings

Friday, March 28, 2008

MLS 2008 Survey Results

A few days have passed, and it's time to look at the results. A link to the survey was posted here, as well as on the MLS General forum at Bigsoccer. Results are from March 24-28, 2007, up through about 6 am on the 28th.

I asked a lot of the same questions that I asked in last year's survey (link at the end of the post), as well as in other surveys. I like to get a sense of how opinions change over time.

MLS 2008 Survey

(268 responses. Percentages are rounded.)

1. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Don Garber is doing as MLS commissioner?

Approve 87%
Disapprove 3%
Unsure 10%

One year ago, the results were 85-2. Last August, it was 87-6. Obviously you guys are still huge fans of the Don. In all three times I've asked the question, he has a net approval rating of over 80 percent. A year ago I said that apparently there's little he can do wrong, and that's still true.

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the job ESPN2/ABC is doing with their MLS broadcasts?

Approve 53%
Disapprove 29%
Unsure 18%

One year ago: 55-22. Last summer: 45-37. Now it seems to have gone back up, and I believe I know the reason why. The August survey was right after the first Beckham game, which was probably the low point in ESPN coverage in recent years. Still, there's only a small majority who approve of the coverage. Last year they hyped a bunch of changes in the broadcasts which didn't amount of much. This year, nothing on that front but the commentators have changed. Will that affect your opinions either way? On one hand, no more DOB, but on the other the interesting Eric Wynalda is gone as well.

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Telefutura is doing with their MLS broadcasts?

Approve 50%
Disapprove 4%
Unsure 46%

I asked this question for the first time, and it's interesting to compare it to the previous one. Basically the same number of people approve, but with virtually no disapproval. I suppose that many people responding don't understand Spanish, which leads to the high number of unsures. That and the fact that not everyone gets the network. I suppose it's important to point out that the Spanish thing probably means that most people aren't judging based on the commentary, but rather the broadcast itself.

4. One year later: Do you approve or disapprove of the signing of David Beckham?

Approve 91%
Disapprove 4%
Unsure 5%

No change from last year (91-4-4). Hardcore MLS fans still overwhelmingly support this move.

5. For MLS teams, do you prefer "American style" nicknames (Galaxy, Rapids, Wizards) or traditional "soccer names" (United, FC, Real)?

"American style" nicknames 27%
Traditional "soccer names" 48%
Unsure 25%

Last year I did not include an unsure option, and the results were 36-64. This year, if you take only the people who picked one or the other, the percentage for traditional is exactly 64%. So again, no change. People still prefer the traditional names, which is good for MLS since that's the path we're traveling.

6. Do you feel that MLS as a whole is too "traditional," too "Americanized," or just right?

Too traditional 1%
Too Americanized 30%
Just Right 62%
Unsure 7%

Last year's results: 2-24-55-19. Less undecided, but they broke evenly to either side. While the majority thinks that it's just right, nobody thinks that it's too traditional.

7. Which foreign signing will have the greatest impact on MLS this season?

Mauricio Castro, NE 0%
Duilio Davino, DAL 6%
Kenny Deuchar, RSL 6%
Oscar Echeverry, NY 2%
Tomasz Frankowski, CHI 5%
Marcelo Gallardo, DC 50%
Claudio Lopez, KC 25%
Gonzalo Martinez, DC 2%
Ivan Trujillo, KC 3%
Raphael Wicky, CHV 2%

Gallardo takes first over Lopez, and the margin is surprising to me. I expected it to be much closer, with maybe even Lopez winning. You have nobody else even close, though. Castro did get one vote, so it wasn't exactly zero for him.

8. Which team has the nicest soccer-specific stadium?

BMO Field (Toronto) 16%
Columbus Crew Stadium (Columbus) 3%
Dick's Sporting Goods Park (Colorado) 16%
Home Depot Center (Los Angeles) 43%
Pizza Hut Park (Dallas) 5%
Toyota Park (Chicago) 17%

The most expensive SSS is number one. No love for the Hunt parks.

9. Assuming that it was feasible, would you prefer a multi-division MLS with promotion and relegation, or an NFL style large league with playoffs?

Multi-division with promotion and relegation 56%
Large league with playoffs 39%
Unsure 5%

Same question was asked last year, without the unsure option but with virtually the same results: 56-44. Some people said on Bigsoccer that this question kind of tripped them up. My line of thought here is that there is no way MLS will stop at 20 teams, so eventually we'll be at the size of the other major leagues and then this will become an issue. I probably should've explained that better in the question.

10. Who is the best MLS player at this moment in time?

Juan Pablo Angel, NY 22%
David Beckham, LA 9%
Cuauhtemoc Blanco, CHI 9%
Dwayne De Rosario, HOU 29%
Landon Donovan, LA 9%
Luciano Emilio, DC 10%
Shalrie Joseph, NE 5%
Michael Parkhurst, NE 1%
Guillermo Barros Schelotto, CLB 3%
Taylor Twellman, NE 2%

DeRo, really? Not my choice. Obviously it was hard to pick only ten guys. I wanted to have at least one defensive player on there so that's why I chose Parkhurst. My personal answer for this question is Beckham. He's the most talented player in the league, even if he hasn't had much of a chance to show it yet. I really didn't go by performances but rather by talent.


Not much has changed in the questions that I've asked multiple times, and that's fine. I'm going to keep asking them, so we can get a nice timeline going that future fans can look back on. Also, I really should've asked a question on the other tournaments that MLS takes part in. I remember an interesting thread on Bigsoccer asking people to rank them by importance. I think a US Open Cup poll in a few months time would be good.

Previous Surveys

January 30, 2007 - 2010 MLS/USMNT
April 6, 2007 - MLS 2007
August 5, 2007 - MLS/USMNT Summer Survey
November 17, 2007 - MLS Cup 2007

Thursday, March 27, 2008

2008 MLS Predictions

Here's my predicted order of finish for the 2008 season. Like always, it's very difficult to judge MLS due to the lack of exposure to foreign signings and draft picks.

For further reading, I recommend's MLS previews, which are excellent. Martin Rogers at Yahoo Sports is writing some great stuff too (I think he's quickly become the top MLS writer), as is MLSnet which gives great quotes from coaches and players that let you get into their minds a bit.

Western Conference

7) San Jose Earthquakes

The starting lineup looks halfway decent. It would not surprise me to see them finish around .500, actually. What I like about the team is what somebody pointed out on the team's Bigsoccer board: virtually every player they have has plenty of MLS experience. The big problem though is the lack of offensive talent. Kei Kamara and Gavin Glinton have started a combined total of 29 MLS matches in their careers, and there's no one underneath them. The guys they have on trial, like Jamil Walker and Matt Taylor, are no better. In fact, like most expansion teams, there is very little depth overall. A few injuries and they could be in for a world of hurt. It also looks like Ned Grabavoy will be leading the attack, so he needs to have a good season. I think their defense may is around the league's average, but the offense is easily worst.

6) Colorado Rapids

First of all, I approve of the Christian Gomez trade. Good for them trying to improve their team, because he is still a very good player and I don't think anyone expected them to use their DP slot anyway. This team does seem to have a lot of depth, but they don't jump out at you and I can't see them succeeding with Fernando Clavijo finishing out his contract. He's made the team worse, and the situation seems similar to Dave Sarachan's last year. I expect them to start poorly, hopefully fire him in midseason, and have the interim coach lead them to a decent second half. And even if they were to make the playoffs, they still aren't championship material. When they made the "final four" in 2005 & 2006 (which BTW Fernando, is not a big accomplishment), no one expected them to win it all even then. The player to watch here is Conor Casey, who I feel can be a star when healthy and was starting to turn it on late last year.

5) FC Dallas

Serious issues up top, where they need Kenny Cooper to produce. Steve Morrow's in the last year of his contract, so he needs to do well. They have a ton of young talent, but they just don't seem to be getting any better. Looks like they'll go with three in the back, so Mexican defender Duilio Davino will need to have a good year. The offense has gotten progressively worse since 2005, with the defense in the middle of the pack. That three man back line may turn into five at times, so the defense may get better. But do they have the attacking players necessary to win games? I just don't see it.

4) Real Salt Lake

Give them credit for trying. They're bringing in guys left and right, and we'll see if it pays off. I think Jason Kreis may have ruined 2007 for RSL by breaking up the team, but it may pay off in the long run. Let's face it, how long were Jeff Cunningham and Chris Klein going to be productive? Long enough to build around them slowly? I really like some of the trades they've made, getting guys like Kyle Beckerman for nothing. Once they get settled and figure out their starters, they could actually have a decent team for once. The midfield and goalkeeping are strengths, but it remains to be seen if the defense will come together. I don't put a lot of faith in Euro nobodies like Ian Joy. They could have a rough start, but I would then expect the young guys like Nate Sturgis and Tony Beltran (rookie of the year?) to move into the starting lineup, which will improve it. The forwards, while nobody stands out a great deal, have enough talent to put out a decent pair. They definitely should not be last again.

3) Los Angeles Galaxy

Alright. I know I overrate the Galaxy every single year. Last year, they had big injuries to Chris Albright & David Beckham and a chaotic schedule, plus some very poor moves. And yes, now they have few recognizable names and could have three rookies in this weekend's starting lineup. However, they still possess two of the league's top ten players (Donovan's due for a good year). Carlos Ruiz is a proven goalscorer, and Edson Buddle is good for a backup. They have proven MLS vets like Chris Klein (better off in midfield?) and Greg Vanney. Ruud Gullit should be able to handle the pressure. They really don't look nearly as bad as people are pointing out; they just need to stay healthy. Defense is an issue, but it can't get worse than last year (12th out of 13), right? They start off with a ridiculously easy schedule (@ COL, vs SJ, vs TOR), which should help set the stage for a good year.

2) Houston Dynamo

Still showing no signs of slowing down, though they have had a pattern of doing very well in one season followed by an average/only slightly good season. Including the SJ history, 2004 and 2006 were not so good compared to 2003, 2005, and 2007. Bobby Boswell is equal or better than Ryan Cochrane in defense, while everyone keeps mentioning the forward situation. Somebody's got to emerge next to Brian Ching if they want another title. Chris Wondolowski seems ready, though they may need another midseason trade or signing. Still easily in the top three teams though.

1) CD Chivas USA

The exact same first XI is back, with the same young talent ready to enter their primes. Not only that, but they've addressed their biggest weakness: depth. Now they have some proven talent on the bench: Jim Curtin, Alecko Eskandarian, Paulo Nagamura. Too bad Alex Zotinca just tore his ACL. They also signed Raphael Wicky, who started all four Switzerland matches at the 2006 World Cup and only turns 31 this month. He does have a history of injury problems, but he should be one of the top signings of the year. Like some people have mentioned, they may not necessarily look like favorites in the playoffs with Houston there, but I feel that they are the number one team in MLS at the moment.

Eastern Conference

7) Columbus Crew

It's now year three of the Sigi Schmid era, and the team is in no better shape than when he first took over. They go into this season looking pretty much the same as last season. Nicolas Hernandez is not really any better or worse than Andy Herron, while left back Gino Padula has hardly excelled in his travels. Brian Carroll is a good addition, but losing Marcos Gonzalez hurts. The team will have to hope that Guillermo Barros Schelotto can stay motivated and have a great season, and also that their young guys (Gaven/Rogers) can step their game up. I just don't believe they can do it this year.

6) Toronto FC

Certainly should improve and be not horrible, but I can't see a winning record. Still too many question marks all over the field, and they'll be hurt worse by the Olympics than any other team. Jeff Cunningham needs to have a big year, and they need some more quality signings. They have some good, solid players in the starting eleven like Maurice Edu and Todd Dunivant, but the lineup isn't even apparent one week before the season. Injury problems should not be as big of a factor, at least. That alone makes them look better.

5) Kansas City Wizards

People seem to be predicting big things. I see one big signing up top (Claudio Lopez) replacing a guy who was one of the league's top scorers, and a big downgrade at center back (Tyson Wahl vs Nick Garcia). Sure, we know Eddie Johnson's not as talented as Lopez, but 15 goals is huge. They're not really improving much there, I don't think. Not to mention that Lopez seems to be further along on the downside of his career than a guy like Juan Pablo Angel. The other forward signing, Ivan Trujillo, is far from a sure thing. I really don't see much improvement here, sorry.

4) Chicago Fire

My favorite team, which always gives me problems in judging them. They were a team of two halves last year; how much of the second half improvement was due to C.Blanco and how much because of Osorio? We'll find out. I don't have good feelings about Denis Hamlett. I expect to see more goals scored and allowed, which should lead to more exciting games but maybe not a better record. Forward play will be critical, as will resolving the Wilman Conde situation (motivated to play in Chicago?). Then again, when have the forwards ever scored tons of goals?

3) New York Red Bulls

I like Juan Carlos Osorio who's intensity and tactics should improve the defense, and the offense is already good. They just need another couple players to really make a run at DC. Claudio Reyna obviously is the key guy; he has to earn his salary this year. Still a lot of weak parts, and they don't seem to be title contenders, but by the time the year is over they should be back in the playoffs.

2) New England Revolution

Should be worse than last year, but not too much worse. The losses really aren't that bad, and they have as much depth as usual (read: very little). Hopefully a foreign signing can work out for once, because they need it this year. Anyway, Andy Dorman was coming off the bench by the end of the year while Pat Noonan was not lighting it up by any means. Adam Cristman isn't too big of a dropoff. The big issue is how motivated Taylor Twellman will be after getting his transfer shut down. Meanwhile, Chris Albright is a nice addition. Steve Nicol has proven time and time again that he knows how to succeed in the regular season, so second place looks realistic.

1) DC United

First of all, the good thing is that we now know Tom Soehn can coach just as well as Peter Nowak. Second, unlike many teams, they address their weaknesses and try to improve. It's hard to imagine them keeping up the amazing form (last year = 10th best season in league history) with so many changes. They have to come back down to earth at some point, right? There are definitely more question marks this season with all the changes, like at goalkeeper. However, no other team in the conference seems like they'll overtake United. First place is not the most important thing, though. The playoffs are virtually assured, which is when they really need to start winning.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Take the MLS 2008 Survey!

Click here.

10 questions on the broadcasts, players, and formats of the league. Definitely not your traditional 'who do you think is going to win survey,' that bores me. We all know who the favorites are. If you'll notice, I asked a few of the same questions as last year. It will be very interesting to see how opinions have changed (or not) since last year's survey.

Results will be posted here on Friday, the day before the new season kicks off.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

2008 MLS Probable Starting Lineups: Western Conference

Eastern conference post is here.

Once again, this is what I've been able to gather from the message boards, other sites, quotes from coaches, and match reports. Shape of the formations is definitely not going to be 100% accurate.



Alex Zotinca's big injury (acl tear) means that Vaughn will start at right back. Swiss international Wicky is a defensive midfielder and will likely take Paulo Nagamura's spot. The other possible change is at center back, where Thomas got a late start to preseason due to visa issues. Jim Curtin would go if he doesn't.



The Rapids are going with a 4-5-1. When healthy, you can expect to see Mike Petke in for Keel and possibly Ugo Ihemelu for Kimura. Dan Gargan is also a RB option and they have Kelly Gray on trial. Also, there's a very decent possibility that Mastroeni may not start the opener; in that case it looks like that spot would go to Ciaran O'Brien or maybe John DiRaimondo. Conor Casey also would probably start up top for Cummings as well, if he was healthy. Two more players worth mentioning: Gomes is a new signing from the Portuguese second division. Herculez Gomez is an option up top or on the left.



3rddegree does a great job keeping us to date on the FC Dallas lineup. With Arturo Alvarez and Drew Moor suspended for the opener, the lineup's going to look a bit different. Yi should take Moor's spot for that one game, but Wagenfuhr could start longer due to an Alvarez injury (Alvarez could always go on the right too). Davino's injured at the moment right now as well; if he misses the opener Aaron Pitchkolan will fill in. Marcelo Saragosa is also an excellent candidate for the central midfield positions. Rocha is a new Brazilian and another loan from Atletico Paranaense.


........................De Rosario......................

Same as last year except Wondolowski up top and Boswell instead of Ryan Cochrane. Richard Mulrooney will see plenty of time as well; he's started on the right during the Champions Cup due to Mullan's knock. Corey Ashe also started in place of Davis versus Municipal. New signing Franco Caraccio and Kyle Brown are options if Wondo falters; they also talked about maybe putting DeRo or Mullan up top. But it looks like this is set.



Now this is still way up in the air. At least we know the center backs and goalkeeper are set. Steve Davis' comments on Soccernet suggest Ruud Gullit will play a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 with Donovan and Beckham on the left and right. We know they'll be in the lineup regardless of where they actually take the field. Up top, Alan Gordon could play in a 4-4-2. At right back, Klein faces competition from first round pick Sean Franklin. At left back, Mike Randolph is also an option but the spot appears to be rookie Gavin's for the taking. Pretty good for a supplemental draft pick. Their exhibition match last night featured Alvaro Pires (or just Alvaro in the Brazilian tradition) and draft picks Ely Allen and Brandon McDonald completing the lineup. Not sure if Pires is officially signed yet or not, but he looks the most likely of those three to start. Josh Tudela's another option, while Pete Vagenas is apparently hurt at the moment. So it looks like the Galaxy could start three rookies in the opening match next week.



Findley may not start due to missing time at Olympic qualifying. Fabian Espindola should partner Deuchar in his possible absence. That is if Deuchar makes it there. Rookie Tony Beltran could go instead of Wingert, Matias Mantilla could start for Olave, while midfield is far from settled. You have veterans Andy Williams and Carey Talley fighting for spots there; they both started last night in the final friendly instead of Cordoba/Kovalenko. Anyway, I bet Beltran will beat out Wingert sooner or later (likely sooner).



Ha, nice forwards. This actually doesn't look too bad outside of that, but the depth is awful.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

2008 MLS Probable Starting Lineups: Eastern Conference

This is what I've been able to gather from the message boards, other sites, quotes from coaches, and match reports. Shape of the formations is definitely not going to be 100% accurate.



Busch will take over for the departed Matt Pickens (QPR), while new Polish signing Frankowski should start up top. His strike partner is less certain, though. Looks like it will be Barrett, with Andy Herron also a possibility. Should be a much more attack oriented team with that front five. Who knows if Conde will really start after the offseason controversy.



This is my best guess. Sigi Schmid's comments here are confusing, but suggest that the top 5 will all be starting. There's always the possibility of a 4-3-3/4-5-1 with Moreno alone up top too. I'd say Hernandez is less certain to start than him. Stefani Miglioranzi and Duncan Oughton could start in the midfield as well, if Sigi goes for two DMs. Not sure if Padula is officially signed yet, but he looks likely to start. Miglioranzi is a good candidate there if he's not ready. And who knows about the foreign players in camp.



Three foreign signing move into the lineup: two central defenders and a playmaker are replacing starters from last year's great team. Ben Olsen will miss at least the first month of the season. He's been replaced by the impressive McTavish. And it looks like Jaime Moreno may not be ready for the opener; if so he'll be replaced by Franco Niell.



They will be using the 3-5-2 this season. Sealy should start on the bench, although he might not if the foreign additions aren't fit. It looks as though based on the lineups so far, they're going into the season with a questionable defense featuring Wahl on the left and Jewsbury on the right. Behind Wahl, I guess Aaron Hohlbein would be next in line. Davy Arnaud's recovery from injury means that #1 pick Chance Myers should start on the right in the early going.

EDIT: I guess they'll be using a 4-4-2 after all? If so, move Harrington to LB and (probably) Morsink to the bench in favor of Sasha Victorine or whoever mans the left side of midfield. Jewsbury and Myers could still both start on the right though. Also, Lopez may note have his visa in which case Scott Sealy would get the nod.



OK, unusually for the Revs there's lots to discuss here. First, Steve Nicol is apparently considering a 4-4-2, although mostly in second halves with the reserves. Second, the starting forward spot next to Twellman is up for grabs. Gambian Abdoulie Mansally and Zimbabwe's Kheli Dube are also options. Also, Honduran international Mauricio Castro has signed and can play on the left or as a #10. He'll probably end up starting eventually at the expense of Smith/Thompson (whoever is playing worse). Although who knows given Nicol's history with hispanic players (somewhere, Paul Gardner has already started to write the column).



Looks as though a three defender formation will be in effect here too. Dane Richards' injury means that rookie Luke Sassano will get an opportunity; he's been starting in the Carolina Challenge Cup. Oscar Echeverry, the Colombian forward, could start as well and will certainly get plenty of time nonetheless with Altidore going to the Olympics. Like Ives has said, the team needs a playmaker and a left back. Lider Marmol would probably start somewhere if he ever signs.



Hmm. I have fellow rookie Pat Phelan in there due to Julius James' injury, but Puerto Rican signing Mario Velez and Andrew Boyens are also options. That article also mentions English trialist Martin Brittain, who could play on the right side of midfield. He's been starting in preseason, but is not under contract. Still, who else do they have? Maybe they could put Velez at right back and move Wynne up. There also could be a place for midfielder Kevin Harmse.

Friday, March 21, 2008

MLS Young Player of Year Award 1996-2007

See yesterday's post for my thoughts on the "old player of the year" for the same time period.

This post attempts to answer the question, "if such an award had been in existence for the whole of MLS history, who would've won it in each year?" But first one small note: the normal standard for a "young player" is U23. I've selected an age cutoff date which I explained yesterday. A player must be under 23 years of age on July 1 of the season to be eligible. I'm also taking into account only the regular season games.

1996 - Steve Ralston, TB (22 years old)

There were not a ton of young players in MLS' first season, and even fewer of those were impressive. Eddie Pope was also eligible, as was a young Jaime Moreno (but who only played in 9 regular season games). While Pope may have scored the winning goal in the MLS Cup, he only played 18 games during the season due to the Olympics. Ralston started 31 games and scored 7 times en route to being named rookie of the year for the league's top team. He's also the only player I have winning young player and old player of the year (for 2007).

1997 - Ronald Cerritos, SJ (22)

Made the Best XI scoring 12 times in 22 games. Sadly, Moreno and Pope were too old in this season. I have to go with the guy on the Best XI, as I was not a fan at this time, but I bet Frankie Hejduk, Matt McKeon, and Welton were possibly deserving too.

1998 - Stern John, CLB (21)

26 goals in 27 games, the second highest total ever. Yes, he played in tiny Ohio Stadium, where games involved an average of 5.00 goals per game
(!) that year. And yes, 20 of his 26 goals were scored there. But if take a look at the numbers for 1996 and 1997, you'll see that the Crew's home games featured fewer goals than their away games in those two years. 1998's the exception, not the norm. Plus, scoring that season reached its peak in MLS at 3.57 goals per game, and the Crew had a high powered forward line with Jeff Cunningham and Brian McBride as well. So the stadium may have helped him a little bit, but even if he had 20 goals instead of 26 it would still be a remarkable season.

1999 - Stern John, CLB (22)

Now, with the opening of Crew Stadium there's no excuse. John led the league in goalscoring for the second straight season with 18, tied with Kreis and Lassiter. However, there were many other good candidates who may have deserved this award instead: Jeff Cunningham, rookie of the year Jay Heaps, Clint Mathis, Ben Olsen, and Josh Wolff.

2000 - Carlos Bocanegra, CHI (21)

Rookie of the year and a rock for the Fire. Just barely edged out Nick Garcia in a strong year for young defenders. KC had better defensive stats, but I'll go with the award winner. Other good years were enjoyed by Junior Agogo, Dema Kovalenko, and Brian West.

2001 - Tim Howard, NY (22)

The goalkeeper of the year takes it here. This was his first season as a starter and his best year in MLS. There were two main choices here; the other one was Landon Donovan in his first MLS season. He was very good, but not quite Best XI material yet.

2002 - Carlos Ruiz, LA (22)

Once again, two candidates. Ruiz and Twellman, what an impact they both made. Ruiz was the league MVP, the youngest player ever to win it.

2003 - Landon Donovan, SJ (21)

This was the season, a year after the amazing World Cup run, where Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley really showed what they could do in the league. I thought Donovan had a very good case for MVP that year but it was not to be. He wasn't a finalist, but certainly in the top 5 by anyone's standards.

2004 - Eddie Gaven, NY (17)

Dempsey was the rookie of the year, but a 17 year old Eddie Gaven was better.
Eskandarian had his first (and only) really good MLS season, but Eddie Johnson broke out and would be a better choice at forward. So for me this year came down to Donovan, Gaven, and Johnson, and it was probably the hardest decision. However, it was a down year for Landon. Anyway, Gaven was really something else in 2004.

2005 - Michael Parkhurst, NE (21)

Dempsey may have had a great year, but I thought he faded late. Parkhurst was the top rookie and anchored the New England in the first year of their not-quite dynasty, playing every single minute and only committing six fouls.

2006 - Kenny Cooper, DAL (21)

Adu, Bornstein, Mapp, and Parkhurst were also contenders, but Cooper's season easily won the voting of US soccer bloggers on my little poll here (and with me as well). Johnson, meanwhile, had a disappointing year.

2007 - Sacha Kljestan, CHV (21)

You could've made a list of contenders from only Chivas players: Bornstein, Guzan, Kljestan, Mendoza, etc. Altidore had a great year as well, and so did Edu and Toja. Very stacked year for young players.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

MLS Old Player of Year Award 1996-2007

No, there is no such award. But I've always felt that MLS should have a young player award like many countries and the World Cup do, and this would be a natural counterpart to it. When I conducted a poll of US soccer bloggers for year end awards in 2005 and 2006, I made sure to include such an award on the ballots. What if such an award existed in Major League Soccer, and had been given out after each season? Who deserved to win in each year? I'll attempt to answer that question in this post.

First of all, my standard for what constitutes an old player is based the standard for the "young player" awards. Those are usually U23, so I figured that exactly a ten year difference would be perfect. So a player is eligible if they are 33 years or older on July 1st during that season. Why that date? That's the date used in baseball to determine what age a player is for that season among statisticians, since it's about the halfway point of MLB. That's pretty much the case in MLS as well, so I use it for this as well.

I would post the hypethical young player awards first, but I'm still debating a few of them. I'll post that in a few days.

1996 - Carlos Valderrama, TB (34 years old)

An easy choice as he won the league's Most Valuable Player award.

1997 - Preki, KC (34)

Preki also won the MVP for the first place Wizards.

1998 - Peter Nowak, CHI (33)

A Best XI selection and an MVP finalist.

1999 - Lubos Kubik, CHI (35)

This was the first hard year for me to select, especially since I didn't really start watching MLS until 2000. The first three years are obvious, but not here. Kubik was the defender of the year in 1998, and followed that up with a Best XI selection again in 1999. He was the only person eligible for this award to make the Best XI, and he won the team MVP award as well for the Fire. The only other eligible person to win a team MVP award was Mo Johnston for the horrible Wizards.

Other names that could possibly have deserved this: L.Alvarez, Caligiuri, Dooley, Doyle, Gorter, Hermosillo, Kosecki, Limpar, Nowak, Preki, Valderrama, Warzycha.

2000 - Peter Nowak, CHI (35)

Another tough choice, as five eligible players made the Best XI. First off, of the two defenders, I could eliminate LA's Robin Fraser as KC's Peter Vermes won the defender of the year award. Plus the Wizards were better defensively. Hristo Stoitchkov was only second on his team to Nowak, despite a great year. Plus he only played slightly more than half the year due to injuries. So my choice was down to Nowak, Vermes and Carlos Valderrama. The Wizards' top defensive player was goalkeeper and league MVP Tony Meola. Plus they had one of the top rookies in Nick Garcia. On that reasoning, I eliminated Vermes and decided to go with Nowak again. Yes, I'm a Fire fan, but Chicago was just a much better team than Tampa Bay that year.

2001 - Jeff Agoos, SJ (33)

Nowak and Preki made it to the Best XI, but Jeff was the only defender in league history to be an MVP finalist and was rejuvenated after being traded to the Earthquakes. They had the best defense in the league that year. Although starting him at the 2002 World Cup looks stupid now, he as coming off what was likely the best season of his career at the time.

2002 - Oscar Pareja, DAL (33)

He was the only eligible player in the Best XI. What a weird year 2002 was, as the schedule was only 28 games and the World Cup messed up the seasons of the top players. Plus contraction bunched things up; I believe this was the year where no team won three games in a row until the last month of the season. Dallas was very good for most of the year until fading late (go figure), and he was their top player.

2003 - Preki, KC (40)

MVP winner and no brainer. What a season at the age of forty.

2004 - Robin Fraser, CLB (37)

Defender of the year for the surprising Crew. None of the top scorers that year were 33 or older.

2005 - Youri Djorkaeff, NY (37)

Has to be him IMO. He was so solid his first year for the Metros. Pat Onstad was probably the next best contender, winning goalkeeper of the year and being named to the Best XI.

2006 - Chris Armas, CHI (33)

Very tough year with no Best XI members to choose from. It came down to Armas and Onstad, with Claudio Suarez third. Tony Sanneh and Jason Kreis were decent as well. While Onstad was good, he didn't equal his 2005 season and also didn't make the three finalists for GK of the year award. I thought Armas was having his best season in several years (and his last good one).

2007 - Steve Ralston, NE (33)

I settled on a list of five guys to consider: Blanco, Onstad, Ralston, Schelotto, and Suarez. The only one to be on the Best XI was Schelotto, but I felt that was kind of a surprising Best XI choice. Blanco was listed as a forward on the ballot or otherwise he would've made it as well. But Blanco, while having a better year than GBS, only played half the year and I really don't think he deserves it because of that. I don't think any player deserves to be an MVP finalist based on half a season, unless it's absolutely unreal (which his wasn't).

It came down to the other three. Both defensive guys were very good but Ralston was great as well, and without much to separate them in my mind I just decided to go with him here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

MLS: Top 25 Goalscorers History - Through 2007

What follows is a list of the top 25 goalscorers in MLS history (regular season only) as of the end of the 2007 season. Now that is certainly interesting, but you can get a list of the all time leaders at MLSnet already. What's so exciting about that?

The answer lies in the series of posts made before this, and you'll find the links below. If you read them all in order, you can see the progression of the top 25 all time goalscorers after each of the twelve MLS seasons. It seems that so many people enjoy looking at statistics and records, but they don't necessarily tell the history of how they came to be. I was inspired by this Wikipedia page on the history of the all time home run leaders in MLB.

1996 - 1997 - 1998 - 1999 - 2000 - 2001 - 2002 - 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - 2006

Looking through those posts, you can see the rise and fall of various players. Like for example, for the first time since their debuts, Mamadou Diallo and Eduardo Hurtado have fallen off the top 25.

Teams listed are those the player took the field for in 2007. Only 12 of the top 25 played in MLS during the 2007 season, so we're getting to the point where these records are going to be more set in stone.

1) Jaime Moreno, DC - 112

After 12 years, he's finally the leading scorer in league history. This comes after being in the top ten every year since 1997. Very few expect him to hold this position for long, though. But who knows, with a little bit of luck a long reign could happen.

2) Ante Razov, CHV - 109

Ante Razov is now the second leading goalscorer in MLS history. Sounds pretty crazy, huh? He's come back from a Frank Thomas-esque two down years (2004-05) to continue his successful career. It would not be surprising to see him overtake Moreno during 2008. We also could be in for a situation similar to the early years, where Roy Lassiter and Raul Diaz Arce traded the record back and forth for a couple of years.

3) Jason Kreis, RSL - 108
4) Jeff Cunningham, RSL/TOR - 96

Taylor Twellman, NE - 91

Twellman is the horse everyone's bet on for years, but with the off-season drama I wouldn't really count on him to break the record any more. He obviously wants to go to Europe, and that means he likely won't be sticking around long enough to reach the top. Let's say the top scorer has 130 goals after 2009. Twellman's probably not going to score 40 goals in the next two seasons, which means that he would be on pace to break the record sometime in the first half of 2010. He signed a contract extension before last season, which I believe means that 2010 is the last year of his contract. It's unlikely that MLS and the Revs would wait until the final year to sell him, plus he's already 28 and not getting younger.

6) Roy Lassiter - 88
7) Raul Diaz Arce - 82
8) Carlos Ruiz, DAL - 81
9) Preki - 79
10) Ronald Cerritos - 71
11) Cobi Jones, LA - 70
12) Landon Donovan, LA - 64
13) Brian McBride - 62
14) Mark Chung - 61

14) Steve Ralston, NE - 61

Slow and steady may not win the race, but it gets you into the top 25 and keeps you there. Ralston has been in the top 25 every single year since the league's debut. Joining him in that elite category are 8 other players (Bravo/Diaz Arce/Jones/Kreis/Lassiter/McBride/Preki/Savarese).

16) Clint Mathis, NY - 59
16) Josh Wolff - 59
18) Diego Serna - 57
19) Edson Buddle, TOR/LA - 53
20) Paul Bravo - 52
20) Dante Washington - 52
22) Wolde Harris - 51
22) Chris Henderson - 51
22) Giovanni Savarese - 51
25) Chris Klein, RSL/LA - 48

Only newcomer on the list.

Falling off the list

Mamadou Diallo (25th, tie)
Eduardo Hurtado (25th, tie)

Other Active Players

44-De Rosario

Looks like the Dynamo duo are locks to be on next year's edition. Well, Ching at least. Assuming Klein scores a couple, DeRo will need 7 to make it. Christian Gomez would have to score 12 times for the Rapids, which doesn't seem likely.