Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jurgen Klinsmann, Tim Howard and Kyle Beckerman recap the game vs Germany, "Group of Death", Beligum & more

RECIFE, Brazil - US men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Tim Howard and Kyle Beckerman share their thoughts and opinions with the media after Thursday's 0-1 loss to Germany. Here's a recap of the post-game press conference.

Jurgen Klinsmann & Tim Howard: Post-game Interview (On the field)
 
Thoughts on the game...

JK: "We can still do better. We got through the group, but we have to do better in the Round of 16. And we will do better."

On Germany & getting out of the group... 

TH: "Proud of the group. We still got a lot left in us. I thought we played well throughout the group. Today was a tough game, tough conditions. Hats off to Germany. I think they have the opportunity to win the World Cup. That's how good I think they are."

"It's shows how far we've come. That we're not happy just getting there. That we want to progress. We still got a little left in us."

On the offense and not having many opportunities vs Germany...

TH: "We're going to try and get as much rest as we can. Everybody comes into this last game tired. Germany's a top team. they're going to make it difficult on us. Not only do they defend well, they use the ball well. So they don't give you many opportunities. But offensively I thought we've been good in this tournament so that will continue."

On Jozy Altidore...

TH: "Anytime you lose a big player it stings a little bit, but I think the top teams and the top players move on. You realize that injured guys can't help the team and you use what's in reserve and you go again."

Kyle Beckerman: Post-game interview (In the tunnel)

On playing Germany...
 
"We knew it was going to be a huge challenge. Germany is such a good team...one of the best in the world. They really came at us in the beginning of the game, but I thought we responded well after the first 20 minutes or so. We tried to get in their and get a win. We didn't play for a tie. We just came up short."

On advancing to the Round of 16...

"It's huge. We knew it was going to be extremely tough. But we believed in it. We felt like there was a chance. Everybody's got to play the same game, and if that's the case, we have a chance. We did enough to advance. We can start to dream. Hopefully we can make some upsets."

On facing Belgium in the Round of 16...

"Extremely good team. Got a ton of great players that play all over the world at some big clubs. It's going to take a huge effort from us. We're going to have to score our chances and defend with everything we got, but it's a game that two teams have to go out and play, so we feel like we got a chance. And with a chance, we're going to give everything." 

Jurgen Klinsmann (Post-game Press Conference)
 
On Germany and advancing to the Round of 16...

"It's a huge achievement by our team to come through that group and qualify for the knockout stage. We knew it was going to be a very tricky game that a tie was going to be enough. It was not easy to handle it mentally. We had a little too much respect the first 20-25 minutes of the game and then the nerves settled a little bit and we got better."

"It's tremendous for this team, for our group. If somebody would've said that after the draw, that Germany and U.S. would be going through - and we're sitting with the German team in the driver seat for the last game (after two games) - probably nobody would've believed it. But, we have a very, very strong team. The players are so hungry to do well. The effort and the commitment they showed for all 90 minutes was outstanding. I wish we would've created more chances and find more ways to take it to Germany, but overall it's a fantastic achievement by all the guys."

On the "Group of Death"...

"I think that most of you would agree (maybe with another group or two) that this was by far the strongest group to go through. Ghana and Portugal bring such quality to the table and Germany is among the top 4 or 5 favorites to win this title. It was hard work... Whoever we face now, we're going to take it to them."

On starting Omar Gonzalez over Geoff Cameron...

"Everyone is so important. We wanted to give [Geoff Cameron] a break. Omar has worked so hard and he was ready for it."

On Jermaine Jones... 

"He is who he is. He's a warrior. He's so important to us & to the team b/c he has this never-die attitude. He is playing a very good tournament so far. Hope he steps it up another notch in the round of 16."

On the weather/conditions of the field...

Reporter: Were you tempted to do you trademark dive slide?

"It would've been no problem. It was wet already. [chuckle] Might be difficult after defeat.

On what the U.S. needs to improve...

"We have to improve. We have to keep the ball longer. Every time we connected 4, 5, 6, 7 passes and shifted it to the other side we looked really good. We have to be calmer on the ball and make the opponent run. We have to be a little bit calmer under possession. We have to stay composed and move the ball around with one/two touches and make the opponent run."

On facing Belgium...

"We're familiar with Belgium because we played two friendlies with them over the last few years... We will be prepared."

On U.S. conceding a goal to Thomas Mueller...

"We'll look at the video and see what we did wrong. Every time you concede a goal you did something wrong. It's just normal. It's mostly a sequence of events... Thomas is a player who doesn't need two chances. He's fine with one and puts it in the net. We'll have a closer look at it tomorrow."

Monday, June 23, 2014

13 Quotes: USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann talks about Michael Bradley, DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Besler, Jogi Low and more

MANAUS, Brazil - US men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann shared some interesting thoughts and opinions with the media after Sunday night's 2-2 draw with Portugal. Here's a recap of his press conference summed up in 13 quotes.

Thoughts on the game...

"It was a thriller...a real exciting match. Everybody who had the chance to be in Manaus today will talk about this game for a long time."

"We discussed it at halftime that we were going to get a goal and then get a second goal. And we could’ve added a third or a fourth goal with the chances we had."

"These finishes are very emotional for all of us. For the fans, the players, the bench. That’s what a World Cup is all about. It was a little bit of a bummer, but you move on and get the next one."

"It is what it is. Now we’re going to get everybody hungry and excited. We are full of confidence. We are right there. We have one foot in the door and we just need to walk the other one in there and get it done." 

On the final play (Portugal's equalizer)... 

"Michael got caught in the middle of 3-4 guys and lost the ball unfortunately. And then the counter break comes. Even with 3 centerbacks on the field we were not able to get to that cross. It was a beautiful cross."

On arranging a draw with Germany coach/friend Jogi Lov... 

REPORTER: If Jogi calls you and says let’s just play a draw, you’re going to say no, 100 percent?

"There’s no such call. We’re good friends, [but] Jogi’s doing his job and I'm doing my job. My job is to do everything to get us to the Round of 16 and that’s what I’m going to do. There’s no time right now to have friendship calls. It’s about business now." 

"I don’t think we are made for draws, except if it happens like tonight. [USA and Germany] go into this game and they want to win the group. We want to recover fast, go at Germany and get 3 points. That is our goal. 

"The United States is known to give everything they have in every single game. We’re going to go into Recife very ambitious, with a lot of confidence to beat Germany. This is our goal. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to get a good game there."

On Michael Bradley... 

"Michael is undoubtedly one of our key players and I think he showed that tonight. He has an engine that is unbelievable. He’s covering for other players all over the place. His vision and his passing is outstanding."

"I’m not expecting any perfect games from anybody. I expect that they give everything they have and if somebody makes a mistake the other guy is there to help him out."

On DeAndre Yedlin...

"He has the qualities to make an impact right now in this World Cup. Which he did. We knew it. That’s why he’s here... It’s fun to watch that kid.” 

On Matt Besler...
 
"It’s fun to watch Matt [Besler]. He’s one of our most promising young centerbacks that we’ve brought along for the last two-and-a-half years."

Final Statement...
 
"Our goal is to go to the next round so we will do everything in our capability to go into the next round. I’m not thinking about what’s going on in other people’s minds. We’re going to take our game to Germany. We are going to give everything we have and give it a real fight. If you see the team from tonight we are capable of surprising even more teams in this tournament. I’ll see you guys in four days in Recife."

Monday, April 21, 2014

NYCFC's Jason Kreis "very, very happy" with 110 x 70 field dimensions at Yankee Stadium

NEW YORK - On Monday, Major League Soccer's 21st team, New York City FC, released field plans for their inaugural season. The main kicker, all homes games are expected to be played at Yankee Stadium - 161st St, Bronx, NY 10451 - and could continue like that for the next three years.

NYCFC have not given a specific timeline as to how long they'll be staying at Yankee Stadium, but did note that it could be less and it could be more.

The field will stretch from the first baseline to the left field wall as opposed to a more traditional approach in years past with the field being situated on an angle from right field to left field.

The sidelines will run along the outfield wall (right-center) and the third baseline (image, above).

Yankee stadium will be redoing the current pitchers mound so that it can be removed and put back in via crane (for easy access), however the mound itself will not affect the actual playing field.

The projected field dimensions, 110 x 70, will make NYCFC's playing surface the smallest of any other team competing in MLS.

Current field dimensions for all 19 teams in MLS:
  • 110x75 - 1 team
  • 110x76 - 1 team
  • 114x74 - 1 team
  • 115x70 - 1 team
  • 115x74 - 2 teams
  • 115x75 - 2 teams
  • 117x74 - 1 team
  • 117x75 - 1 team
  • 120x75 - 7 teams
  • 120x77 - 1 team
  • 120x80 - 1 team
Seven teams call home to a field that is 120x75 - 30 feet longer and 15 feet wider than what is expected at Yankee Stadium. The field which resembles the closest comparison is RFK Stadium (110x75).

Despite playing on a much smaller pitch than what is currently being used at Rio Tinto Stadium (120x75), NYCFC head coach Jason Kreis said he's "comfortable" with the reduced width. "Rio Tinto was 70 yards wide in 2009-10. I'm a very, very happy man."

Tim Pernetti at NYCFC Press Conference
After a barrage of questions regarding NYCFC's length of stay at Yankee Stadium and any future plans of building a soccer-specific stadium of their own, Chief Business Officer for the club, Tim Pernetti, put an end to the presser with one simple statement...

"When we open the door to a new soccer-specific stadium it will be spectacular!"

For more information on acquiring season tickets for NYCFC's first season in Major League Soccer, click here!

Monday, February 24, 2014

MLS Fantasy prizes for the 2014 season do not get any better than this!

The 2014 Major League Soccer season starts in less than two weeks (March 8th) so if you haven't yet registered a team for this year's new-and-improved version of MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager, it's about time you get that going.

If you have registered a team and joined my private league I have some great news for you!

(Note: If you want to join click this link or enter the code 2-30 on the "Leagues" page)

After agreeing to terms with two incredible sponsors from the New York City area, I am able to confirm the prizes I'll be giving away for the upcoming 2014 FMLS season. My two sponsors are Upper 90 Soccer and Daniel Nyari.
Playmakers hoody by Daniel Nyari

I have some incredible prizes to offer you so let's get to it!

All players in my league will be entitled to a special promo code good for 10% all online purchases from Upper 90 soccer - the No.1 soccer store in New York City. You can find this code in the "Forum" section when you join the league.

This code is valid through May 31, 2014. Upon entering their site you will also have the option to register an email address. Do that and you'll receive another promo code valid for $10 off that can be used in combination with one another. Also, there's free shipping for any orders over $90.

Upper 90 Soccer will also be giving away some very generous prizes for the Top 3 finishers overall.

Here's how the league will work --> Head-to-Head format with the regular season winner (best record and overall points at the end of Round 29) taking home any one item from the online store of New York based artist/illustrator Daniel Nyari.

There will be a 16-team playoff from Rounds 30 to 33. The Top 3 finishers at the end of it all will receive the following:

1st Place - Adidas 2014 World Cup Brazuca match ball and a $100 gift card to Upper 90 Soccer

2nd Place - Adidas 2014 Major League Soccer match ball and a $50 gift card to Upper 90 Soccer

3rd Place - Adidas 2013 Major League Soccer match ball and any short-sleeve jersey of your choice from the Upper 90 store

I am very honored to have these two sponsors on board and I hope you can appreciate the length we all went to in order to be able to offer this to you for the 2014 season.

Neither of my sponsors are receiving huge benefits from doing this so please show them some love. If you're on Twitter please give Upper 90 Soccer and Daniel Nyari a follow. They have both been very supportive of my efforts to make this the No.1 private fantasy league in all of MLS and I think that with the prizes being offered we definitely accomplished that.

Leave a note in the comments below or send them a brief message to thank them on Twitter. Best of luck this year everyone. Cheers!
Upper 90 Soccer store located at 697 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10025 (646) 863-3105
Note: All winners will need to provide proof of residence in order to be eligible to receive prizes. Players who create more than one team will be removed from the game and will not be eligible to receive prizes.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The MLS SuperDraft may be small for the fans, but it's huge for the media

If you've never attended a MLS SuperDraft in the past you're missing out on a lot. There will always be people who criticize or doubt the success of the SuperDraft from a player standpoint, but when it comes to media-related events, it doesn't get much bigger than this.

Major League Soccer has changed the format of the draft several times over the years, but they finally have the right system in place to keep it the same each year going forward.

The draft day format goes something like this:

10am: Media credentials
11am: Fans start trickling in (DC, PHI and NY)
12pm: Draft class enters followed by some brief announcements
12:15pm: Speech from MLS Commissioner Don Garber and then the draft begins
  • Two rounds: 19 picks for each = 38 total selections
4pm: Draft is over. Article time for media personal. Everyone else is out the door.

While the draft may not mean much to the "average" fan, the media eats it up. This year, after a player was selected they made their way down a catwalk and answered a couple questions from Real Salt Lake broadcaster Brian Dunseth in front of the entire audience - roughly 2,000 people. Then they walked over to a brand new 2014 Adidas Brazuca match ball and signed their John Hancock on it before being greeted by team personnel.

After they said their hellos they walked past the media area and into a side room for a quick photo opp before interviews. The players posed with a Bazuca alone, then with the coaches (some with jerseys) and then the fun began.

Players and coaches are interviewed separately. Were the questions draft related? For the players - yes, mostly. For the coaches - Eh, not so much.

Most of the players are nervous and they don't really know what to say so most of the really good stuff comes from the coaches. And that's exactly what makes it so special.

Think about it. Where else can you get to do scrums and one-on-ones with Coaches and General Managers from every team? Not only that, after Round 1 commences, Don Garber heads back to the media room and to do a presser of his own.

Questions were thrown at Garber regarding Camilo, TV deals, Edu and much, much more. The @thesoccerdon was out-spoken as always. He wasn't happy about the Camilo situation or the Edu rumors, but he gave the media a chance to grill him for a solid 20-30 minutes. What more could one ask for?

This might seem like the norm for people who've been in the business, but for a first-timer like myself, it couldn't have been a more fulfilling experience.

Is Philadelphia the cleanest city? No. But the people within Major League Soccer and from the different media outlets around the nation made this event something very special. Coaches, GM's. players and MLS front office members ready and willing to drop knowledge on everything you ask of them. Doesn't get much better than that.

The fans were great as well. D.C. United came in first, followed by Philadelphia and New York. Loud chants between the Philadelphia and New York supporters - separated by a mere two feet - gave the room a chilling, invigorating vibe before the draft even started.

Parents brought their kids and friends and family showed up to support the draftees in attendance. It was an amazing turnout filled with people of all ages and an incredible atmosphere for everyone who took part.

For media members, there were stories flying around all over the place. NY Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke addressed the Xavi rumors, Bruce Arena told us why LA needed another center back, John Hackworth talked in detail about Maurice Edu and Don Garber said a lot. A LOT.

Plus coaches and general managers were wheeling and dealing:
  • DC United traded No.1 to Philadelphia for No.2 and allocation money
  • FC Dallas traded No.5 to Montreal for No.10, allocation money and an int'l roster slot
  • Philadelphia traded No.6 overall to Dallas for No.10 and allocation money
  • Philadelphia traded No.10 overall to Toronto for No.15 and allocation money
  • New England traded No.11 to Colorado for No.12 and No.19
  • Montreal traded No.29 overall to DC for int'l roster slot
So while the draft may not be the best or most efficient way to bring talent into this league, the MLS SuperDraft will be around for a very long time.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Relive the 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw Round-by-Round

Relive the 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw Round-by-Round:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Can Major League Soccer save ESPN and the negative light it shines on athletes in America?

Turn on ESPN and what do you see? Murder. DUI's. Steroids. Crime. The list goes on and on. It's a growing problem in several major American sports and the media is having a "field day" with it.

While the National Football League, Major League Baseball, NCAA Football and others continue to make headlines for the wrong reasons, Major League Soccer is making headlines for the right reasons.

Earlier this season LA Galaxy's Robbie Rogers became the first openly gay male athlete to play in a major professional sports league in America. Leading up to the announcement that he would join LA this season, Rogers' story became increasingly popular throughout the mainstream media and a key focal point of change and growth in American professional sports.

Rogers made his first appearance with the LA Galaxy in the 77th minute on ESPN's MLS Game of the Week on Saturday, May 26; a 4-0 win over the Seattle Sounders. In front of a packed house, Rogers was gifted one of the loudest, uplifting reactions from MLS fans all season.

Flash forward a couple weeks later and it's almost as if nothing ever happened. What might possibly be the biggest story in Major League Soccer this season went from something controversial, problematic and revolutionary all at the same time to almost a non-issue.

If you compare Rogers' story to what is going on with Johnny Manziel right now, which is more inspiring, motivational, positive? Easy. So why does the mainstream media seem to focus so much on negativity? Instead of highlighting and praising athletes for the positive role they're portraying, the media seems to look for ways to accentuate their mishaps and make them the subject of even more controversy. Sometimes you can even catch the analysts on TV giving the player some form of fatherly advice.

A lot of people, including myself, think that soccer in America has not been given the respect it deserves from the mainstream media. Rarely do you see something highlighted on television or in the newspaper with regards to soccer. It's something that I think is going to change eventually, but when?

U.S. soccer does not generate nearly anything close to what the NFL or MLB does with regards to revenue, but from a media standpoint what are we teaching our youth? We shine a light on players in other sports who continue to let us down, while players in Major League Soccer are doing things lift others up. News has never been more accessible than it is today through social media, and according to this article (written 4/8/13) 37% of teenagers in the U.S. have their own smartphone. I'm sure that number has only gone up since then.

Aaron Hernandez (NFL), Alex Rodriguez (MLB), Ryan Braun (MLB), Johnny Manziel (NCAA), Tiger Woods (PGA) and even Kobe Bryant (NBA) have become global icons for their respective sports. All of these athletes have worked very hard to get where they are/were in their careers, but at some point or another have let us all down. When was the last time you could say that about a U.S. Soccer player?

Here are some of the latest search results from Google with regards to the six athletes named above. I've also included U.S. Men's National team player and LA Galaxy forward, Landon Donovan.

Google - Estimated number of results (7/31/13)

Alex Rodriguez - 157,000,000
Aaron Hernandez - 105,000,000
Tiger Woods - 68,400,000
Ryan Braun - 68,000,000
Kobe Bryant - 61,100,000
Johnny Manziel - 35,700,000
Landon Donovan - 19,100,000

You could argue that the difference between Alex Rodriguez and Landon Donovan (approximately 137,900,000 results) is so large mainly because Rodriguez is under investigation for steroid use. We all know that he makes more money than Donovan and that he's a bigger star among the mainstream media, but why do people insist on giving a bad seed more and more publicity?

Rodriguez is 38 years old and he hasn't done anything for the United States of America. He really hasn't done all that much for Major League Baseball either. If anything, he's ruining the entire sport and its reputation. Didn't the U.S. Men's National team just win the 2013 Gold Cup? Shine some light on that.

ESPN has seen a decline in ratings this year and it serves them right. Some people are even having a little fun mocking it (Dave Letterman's Top 10 lowest rated shows on ESPN). Breaking news is great, but when you go on and on about the same subject it gets old. If soccer is the most popular sport in the world, why not put it on TV more often?

This brings us to some good news! ESPN FC, ESPN's new soccer show that will air Sunday through Friday at 530pm ET starting August 11. What this show does ratings wise could be very beneficial for the growth of soccer in America. Details regarding the hosts and primary focus of the show have not yet been released, but we'll find out soon enough.

ESPN's show will not be the only new soccer show set to air in August. Fox Sports 1 will introduce FOX Soccer Daily on August 19. This show is also 30 minutes long (starts at 4pm ET) and will be recorded from a studio in Los Angeles. For more details on the show, click here.

As a kid, I grew up idolizing all athletes. I was in awe of them. But now, because of their actions and the way they're portrayed on TV and in the mainstream media, I've become more cautious. Anybody can be a good athlete, maybe even a phenomenal one if they work hard enough, but character is what earns you respect in my opinion, and until you have that...you're nothing.

Here's hoping that ESPN FC kills it! In a good way.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Twitter is taking over the sports industry...are you following?


Your alarm clock goes off and it begins. And by it, I mean Twitter.

For most of the working population, you likely do one of three things when you wake up in the morning;

1) Get a drink
2) Go to the bathroom
3) Check your phone/computer

This used to be the order in which I started my day...not anymore. No. 3 has quickly become my new No. 1, and before I knew it, my urge to use the bathroom or take a swig of OJ had not only dropped in the pecking order, it had been prolonged an extra 15-30 minutes. And it's all because of Twitter.

When I started working as a freelance editor for Major League Soccer in 2011, I spent roughly 6-8 hours/day on Facebook and 15-20 minutes/day on Twitter. Flash forward 18 months later and you'll catch me on Twitter 6-8 hours/day (if not more) and Facebook 15-20 minutes/day.

Before we jump into the effect that Twitter is having throughout the soccer community, here are some general stats regarding the social media giant (via statisticbrain.com).

Total number of active registered Twitter users 554,750,000
Number of new Twitter users signing up everyday 135,000
Number of unique Twitter site visitors every month 190 million
Average number of tweets per day 58 million
Number of Twitter search engine queries every day 2.1 billion
Percent of Twitter users who use their phone to tweet 43 %
Percent of tweets that come from third party applicants 60%
Number of people that are employed by Twitter 2,500
Number of active Twitter users every month 115 million
Percent of Twitters who don’t tweet but watch other people tweet 40%
Number of days it takes for 1 billion tweets 5 days
Number of tweets that happen every second 9,100

As a writer/editor looking grow my career in the industry, Twitter is the ultimate resource. It's a great way to get the latest news from around the world and grow your image at the same time. Most of my friends back in Port Richey, Florida couldn't care less about Twitter, but my friends and coworkers living in New York City can't live without it.

Does Twitter thrive in metropolitan areas? Yes, but that shouldn't be the case. Whether you use Twitter to voice your opinion or check your local news, it is the most efficient way to obtain information, especially with regards to sports.

Sports Illustrated senior editor, Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl), is one of the most accomplished writers for the sport of soccer in America. He currently has 320,000+ followers on Twitter and that number continues to grow every day. Each tweet he sends out is read by tens of thousands of people.

Wahl tweets mostly about the U.S. Men's National team and Major League Soccer which makes him one of the most influential media icons in North America with regards to soccer.

A simple tweet like...
...got 367 retweets and 90 favorites.

Stephen Goff (@SoccerInsider) is another key figure relaying soccer news in America. He's a reporter for the Washington Post, covering mostly D.C. United of MLS and the U.S. Men's National team. Goff is approaching 100,000 followers.
Twitter has quickly become the most efficient way to communicate with people, companies, celebrities, etc. I can go months without texting my coworkers, but you'll likely see the majority of us communicating through Twitter on a daily basis.

It's not easy gaining followers, but if you work hard it, you'll get there. Grant Wahl didn't get to where he is because he tweets pictures of his dog. Almost everything he tweets is relevant and work related.

What you tweet and how you tweet it ultimately paves the way for success or failure amongst your peers. It's the most important form of self-promotion we have and it's free. Most people do it as a way to promote their work, brand, etc., and if done the right way, it can greatly increase your chances of landing a better job down the road.

(Note: I'm not killing it by any means when it comes to followers. Hopefully I can make a mid-season push and get to 1,000 by the end of the year. We'll see.)

Here are the most popular soccer-related accounts in the Twitterverse;
  • No. 16 Overall: Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) - 19,832,900 followers
  • No. 21 Overall: Kaka (@Kaka) - 16,121,900 followers
  • No. 57 Overall: FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) - 9,501,145 followers
  • No. 76 Overall: Real Madrid (@realmadrid) - 8,237,678 followers
Even more amazing is this fake Lionel Messi account (@LeoMessi_Barca) that has 715,094 followers.

Major League Soccer and each individual team will never catch a team like Barcelona, but that doesn't mean they aren't making progress. Here are the latest Twitter numbers for MLS (as of July 19, 2013):

Major League Soccer (@MLS) – 208,900 followers
  1. LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) – 142,659
  2. New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) – 76,560
  3. Seattle Sounders (@SoundersFC) – 73,530
  4. Sporting KC (@SportingKC) – 56,067
  5. D.C. United (@dcunited) – 52,473
  6. Houston Dynamo (@HoustonDynamo) – 51,312
  7. Toronto FC (@torontofc) – 47,870
  8. Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) – 46,849
  9. Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) – 46,219
  10. Chicago Fire (@ChicagoFire) – 43,419
  11. Chivas USA (@cdchivasusa) – 42,193
  12. Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) – 41,543
  13. Montreal Impact (@impactmontreal) – 37,856
  14. Columbus Crew (@ColumbusCrew) – 33,242
  15. San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) – 28,962
  16. FC Dallas (@FCDallas) – 28,753
  17. New England Revolution (@NERevolution) – 28,665
  18. Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) – 27,856
  19. Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) – 21,757
*** All MLS teams combined – 927,800+ followers ***

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New York Red Bulls 1, LA Galaxy 0: Why Carlo Cudicini shouldn't be blamed for Tim Cahill's game-winning goal


It's been a while since I last posted on here, but today's game (New York Red Bulls vs LA Galaxy) tested my patience. And since Twitter only lets me vent in 140 characters or less, here I am.

I don't have a favorite MLS team. I root for action-packed games and creative play from both sides, but my main focus is on fantasy soccer. I want certain players to do well so today I needed a LA Galaxy clean sheet.

Tim Cahill's game-winner in the 92nd minute is the main reason I'm a little heated right now, and in my opinion, Carlo Cudicini is not the only person responsible. Let me tell you who is and why.

Here's the breakdown on the game-winning goal...

The picture above was taken three seconds before Juninho crosses the ball into the box (via set-piece) in the 91st minute. After the ball is kicked, it's in the air for just under two seconds before Tim Cahill heads home the game-winner, leaving me, along with several Galaxy players stunned.

So, what's wrong with this picture?

First let's look at the matchups and see who is marking who: Omar Gonzalez/Thierry Henry, Sean Franklin/Jamison Olave, Todd Dunivant/Markus Holgersson and AJ DeLaGarza/Tim Cahill. The rest of the players pictured for LA; Greg Cochrane (hiding behind Omar), Gyasi Zardes and Rafael Garcia are marking nobody.

Dax McCarty and Lloyd Sam are completely unmarked. Why? Did LA fail to communicate with each other properly on the most important set-piece of the game? The answer is simple. Yes.

Is this Omar's fault? Is he the leader of the team when it comes to defending set-pieces? How can he see two guys completely unmarked and not be yelling at someone to get on them? Let's take a closer look.

Which player is responsible for the goal? (No. 1 = most reliable)

1. Gyasi Zardes - There are a lot of things that upset me with the way some players act on the field and silly fouls are very high on that list. I don't have the best access to picture quality at the moment so bear with me. Zardes fouls Roy Miller at the bottom of the screen right around the 90:30 mark.

Why?

Miller is dribbling towards the sideline with two options basically - he can pass to Jonny Steele or try to beat Zardes, Franklin and others off the dribble. The foul allows Juninho (a set-piece magician) to set up one final opportunity in the closing minutes of a 0-0 game. To me, this alone makes Zardes the No. 1 reason why the Galaxy lost today. If there's no foul, there's no set-piece. If there's no set-piece, there's no goal. It's not rocket science.

Even though Zardes commits the initial foul he can still make up for it by defending properly, but Zardes wastes time, precious time (pictured below). He takes too long to get back and mark up. Dunivant already has Holgersson, which means Zardes should move to either Olave or Cahill.

If Zardes is the second-tallest player on the field for the Galaxy at 6'2" behind Omar Gonzalez (6'5"), why isn't he marking someone who's a scoring threat in the air? Not only is he not marking a tall target, he pretty much marks no one at all. He basically just tracks back into space once the ball is kicked.

And why is AJ DeLaGarza (5'9") marking one of the best aerial players (Cahill) in the entire league? If Gonzalez has Henry, Dunivant has Holgersson and Franklin has Olave, Zardes' needs to be on Cahill, right?

2. Greg Cochrane - After the foul Cochrane immediately marks up on Dax McCarty, which is exactly what he should do. But, when McCarty moves behind the Gonzalez/Henry matchup, Cochrane gets lost and doesn't respond immediately. Then, instead of moving in front of Omar to get back to his original position, he runs behind him. This move is what keeps Tim Cahill in an onside position.

Since Cochrane keeps Cahill onside, he's the second player responsible for today's debacle in my opinion.

3. Carlo Cudicini - Bruce Arena was quoted as saying that the ball served up by Juninho was 90 percent keepers ball, and I agree to some extent. You can put a lot of blame on Cudicini for not coming out and punching the ball away, but in all honesty, he has roughly 1.5 seconds to make that decision from when Juninho strikes the ball. That's not a whole lot of time.

Cudicini struggled judging the flight path of the ball due to the angle of the kick and swerve it carried through the air. Juninho put just enough pace on the ball, causing Cudicini to second guess coming out. If you take a screenshot of the ball when it hits Cahill's head, there's no question it's Cudicini's ball to get rid of. But, it's much more complicated than that. If this were a corner kick, I'd be all over Cudicini, but the positioning of this free kick makes the keepers' job a lot harder than it looks.

4. Bruce Arena - It's tough putting the blame solely on coaches in soccer because they can only do so much. In this case, Arena prepared the marking matchups for set-piece situations so I have to find him at fault to some extent. Arena (pictured above, lower left) is standing calm and collected (with his arms crossed) while the second-tallest player on his team tries to delay time by standing in front of Juninho; who is simply just setting up the ball for one final kick. Juninho isn't trying to rush the kick, so why isn't Arena yelling at Zardes to get back and mark up. Arena is a legend, but not every player is as tactically gifted as a Robbie Keane or a Landon Donovan. Zardes is 21 years old and has played just 124 minutes in a Galaxy uniform this year. He's inexperienced and needs direction. If I'm Bruce Arena at the time of this picture, I'm screaming at the top of my lungs for him to get back and mark up.

The real heroes for New York aren't just Juninho and Cahill. Watch the goal again and notice how Henry avoids rushing in for the ball entirely, holding Gonzalez off long enough to prevent him from tracking back to clear the ball. If Henry runs in and tries to head the ball, he either disrupts Cahill's run or allows Gonzalez just enough time to get back and make a clearance with his head. It's the little things like this that made the Red Bulls the smarter team on this particular set-piece. This is what teams need to do to win championships. It's kind of like saying, "in your face" but without words, just movement. Henry, I applaud you on this one.

FYI: I was sitting 10 rows behind Juninho when he took the kick so I saw it all unfold right in front of me.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

2012 MLS All-Star MVP should've been...

As soon as ESPN cut back after the break to show the MVP presentation at the 2012 MLS All-Star game, I expected to see Vancouver Whitecaps defender Jay DeMerit. Unfortunately he wasn't there, but instead stood a front-runner for this years' MLS Comeback Player of the Year award, Chris Pontius.

Surprised? Yes. Shocked? Yes again. Sure Pontius got the equalizer and helped play a bit of a role in the game-winner, but anybody watching that game knew who the real MVP was. Even if I was picking the second best, or even the third best player on the pitch it wouldn't have been Pontius - no offense Chris.

DeMerit made numerous tackles, clearances and blocks, while his decision making was spot on as well - that of a former and (should be) present U.S. Men's National team player.

The team was playing superb in the first half, but the injury to Aurelien Collin (soon to be official on MLSSoccer.com) really hurt the MLS back line. Not necessarily in terms of production. More so it threw off their rhythm, ultimately leading to Chelsea's first goal of the night.

It was a joy to see the all the players clicking at such a high level. Their pace was extraordinary and their passing was spot-on. Sure Chelsea isn't in peak condition like MLS players are, but for the majority of the first half - other than a few spurts - they were seriously outplayed.

I could go on and on about how well the MLS players performed in the first half, but I won't because that's not really what this post is about.

Back to the MVP discussion - Beckham second and De Rosario and Beitashour in a tie for third.

For those of you that don't already know, David Beckham is an amazing player and MLS is extremely benefiting from him being here. Honestly, the guy deserves anything he wants. No other player I have EVER watched has had the ability to play the long ball more accurately than David Beckham has. What you witnessed last night was normal, everyday stuff from him.

Now let's discuss DeRo and Beitashour to wrap this up. DeRo is a great all around player. He's been doing it for years. If you have been watching the game you really don't need for me to go on. Steven Beitashour on the other hand has been that diamond in the rough coaches are trying to find. I haven't looked at the micoach numbers yet, but I'm sure they read this - Beitashour ran the most sprints, reached the highest speed and tallied the highest total distance covered by any player on the field - or at least for any MLS player.

No matter who the MVP was we have to appreciate the effort and skill put forth by all of the MLS players last night. I'm kicking myself for not going now.

Monday, June 18, 2012

2012 MLS Salaries - Top 20 players making $50k or less

After the MLS Players Union released salary information for the 2012 MLS Season, it was clear that several players were both out-performing and under-performing based on the contracts they had previously signed. This article will focus primarily on the steals of the 2012 MLS season.

It shouldn't take much for a player to out perform a $50k contract, but they're quite a few players that deserve much more. Some of these players are on loan and their former clubs could be paying some of their salary, but for MLS teams, these guys are definitely worth the little they're paying them.

Initially, I was going to release my top ten steals, but after going through the names again and again I realized that the list had to be expanded. Here are my top twenty steals of the 2012 MLS season so far.

1. Sebastian Grazzini - Chicago Fire ($50,400)
Unbelievable production for Chicago in the central (midfield) attacking role. A joy to watch on the ball in open play and an above average set-piece specialist. Chicago will need to consider picking up his option if they have any plans of making a playoff run. Oduro has proven to be the shaky finisher he was back in Houston so others will need to produce if Chicago plan on climbing back up the Eastern Conference standings.

2. Steven Beitashour - San Jose Earthquakes ($44,100)
An outside back who some consider USMNT potential, Beitashour has made a name for himself this year with his ability to get forward and cross in superior balls to Wondo, Gordon and Lenhart. I expect him to play a large role in San Jose's success or demise as the season draws to an end.

3. Rafael Baca - San Jose Earthquakes ($44,100)
At one time this midfielder was praised for his ability to win the second ball and create in the attacking half. For some reason head coach Frank Yallop doesn't seem prone to keeping him in more than 70 minutes a game. Not sure if Baca will rebound from his sub-par performances as of late, but the Earthquakes will need him to be more attack down the road.

4. Justin Morrow - San Jose Earthquakes ($44,1000
Strong defender who can play outside and in the middle. He has the ability to get forward and contribute in the attacking half, but he's more of a presence in the box than a crosser. We'll see what he can do going forward, as San Jose will need him to be above average down the final stretch.

5. Austin Berry - Chicago Fire ($44,000)
Beastly player in the back and a quick learner based on his production thus far. Rookies have been thrown into action much more frequently this season and Berry has stepped up. Arne Friedrich should return shortly from a hamstring injury, but Berry should continue to be used as a starter until he rebounds to full strength. Like Hedges, Berry adds another dimension at the attacking end with regards to set-pieces.

6. Rauwshan McKenzie - Chivas USA ($44,000)
Chivas has been up and down this season, but their defense has made some good improvements. Rauwshan is now teamed up with former Philadelphia Union starter, Danny Califf, who left Philly due to differences with ex-coach Peter Nowak. Losing Heath Pearce definitely hurts them because McKenzie still has a bit to learn. He too is a threat on corners and set-pieces.

7. Bernardo Anor - Columbus Crew ($44,100)
Columbus are set with Meram and Renteria up top so Anor must battle Gaven and others for playing time out wide. The Crew already have several starters out due to injuries, but Anor is a speed demon who can remain healthy all season. As soon as the next person goes down, look for Anor to come in and produce when called upon.

8. Tony Cascio - Colorado Rapids ($44,000)
A rookie no more, Cascio has become a focal point in Colorado's attack. Not sure how much playing time he'll get once Casey and Cummings are back at full strength, but he adds attacking depth that should prove helpful due to the long and strenuous season.

9. Martin Rivero - Colorado Rapids ($50,004)
Rivero is probably Colorado's best player in my opinion. Larentowicz and Moor are solid players, but Rivero adds creativity and vision in the attacking third. He's great on set-pieces and could be the deciding factor if Colorado plan to rebound from their sub-par start.

10. Matt Hedges - FC Dallas ($44,000)
When Ugo Ihemulu missed time with a concussion, Hedges stepped right in a made an immediate impact. He's gotten on the scoring sheet in very little time and it looks like Dallas made the right move grabbing him in the draft. Possibly a little overrated coming out of college, but I like the way he's come in and made a name for himself in very little time.

11. George John - FC Dallas ($47,250)
When I saw what John was being paid for his services this season I as shocked. To own a player for this cheap and possibly sell him to an EPL team in the future, well, let's just say the profit could be sizable. John has proven to be a top 5 back in MLS, but Dallas have not been playing up to their potential. Their defense seems strong on paper, but right now something is terribly wrong the lone-star state.

12. Nick DeLeon - DC United ($44,000)
Aside from Ryan Meara, DeLeon is the hottest rookie in the league. He's cooled down a bit after a hamstring injury sidelined him for multiple weeks. There's no question the rigorous schedule affected his rebound time. Now that;s he back to full strength look for him to continue to grow and excel as an outside attacking threat.

13. Nelson Rivas - Montreal Impact ($50,000)
A solid addition to a struggling expansion squad, Rivas has come in and held his own. He's a monster in the back and has pretty good vision as well. With Rivas and Ferrari minding the central defense position, Montreal looks to have a good chance of reaching the playoffs in their first year. Look for Rivas to continue to help shut down the oppositions' forwards if Montreal want to be successful.

14. Lee Nguyen - New England Revolution ($44,000)
This quick and crafty midfielder has brought new life to a Revolution team that seemed destined for the bottom of the table yet again. He's added a new dimension with his speed on the ball and his vision to find a cutting teammate. New England look like they'll be in contention for a finally playoff spot when that time comes.

15. Brandon Barklage - New York Red Bulls ($44,000)
Came in and instantly made an impact for a New York team that lost several starters. Helped turn one of the worst defenses in the league, into one of the best. Hasn't played much since entering the league a few years ago, but was a key contributor in the Red Bulls' turnaround this season.

16. Connor Lade - New York Red Bulls ($33,750)
Along with Barklage, Lade came in to a rough situation. New York was struggling with both on and off the field issues. Connor took the initiative and showed all short fellas that you don't have to be a "presence" to make your presence felt.

17. Ryan Meara - New York Red Bulls ($33,750)
Possibly a top 5 goalkeeper in MLS and a possible candidate for Rookie of the Year. Meara has made some huge saves and looks to be getting even better as the season continues. He's a key piece to New York's recent success and should be fun to watch come playoff time.

18. Raymon Gaddis - Philadelphia Union ($33,750)
Speedy right back who;s been hung out to dry in Philadelphia. He's made some great plays and some not-so-great plays, but when his technical skills on the ball improve, he could a promising young star in the future. Philadelphia is a mess, but Gaddis has continued to show the coaches that he's willing to do whatever it takes to be on the pitch.

19. David Estrada - Seattle Sounders FC ($44,000)
Off to a hot start then cooled down a bit, Estrada has stayed afloat with goals here and there. He's been given consistent playing time with Johnson, Rosales and Fernandez struggling to return to full strength, but some are still wondering if he's got what it takes to be an every-game starter. Only time will tell...

20. Zach Scott - Seattle Sounders FC ($46,314)
The Sounders have struggled to field a consistent back line all season, but Scott remains a strong option each and every week. He got abused against Montreal this past Saturday, but he's rarely injured and can play a full 90 minutes anytime he's called upon.

Monday, April 30, 2012

MLS Week 8: Good vs Poor - Decisions that lead to goals

Goals don't just happen. There's a reason why they happen - either a bad pass to a defenseless keeper, a great tackle that changes the possession, or maybe even an off the ball run which allows a teammate to get free on goal. No matter what the circumstance is, when it comes to scoring or conceding goals - there's always a could've, should've, would've on both sides of the ball.

Let's take a look at how a key goal developed in Week 8 and expand upon it from both sides.

Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders: Breaking down the own goal conceded by Arne Friedrich

Point #1 - Pressure forces poor decision making
At 36:45 Chicago Fire goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, catches the ball and rolls a short pass to Dan Paladini. Seattle Sounders' right back Adam Johansson immediately closes on him, forcing him to turn back to goal and lay the ball off to Gonzalo Segares. Segares has a clean pass to Patrick Nyarko up the line, but Jeff Parke immediately closes on him, forcing Nyarko to get rid of it quickly as well.

The ball eventually ends up at the feet of Jalil Anibaba who is, once again, immediately pressured by a Sounders player (Eddie Johnson). Instead of playing the ball back to Johnson who can launch it up field - Anibaba decides to switch the field of play in his own half. The high wind gusts force the ball to sail behind Dan Gargan and out of bounds, giving Seattle possession deep in Chicago's half. A few passes later the ball winds-up back in Seattle's half where a mistake by the Sounders' keeper almost changes EVERYTHING.

Point #2 - One touch can make all the difference
At 37:40 Sounders' goalkeeper Michael Gspurning receives the ball from Parke about 5 yards out of his box. He too makes a somewhat questionable decision (with the high wind gusts) by trying to chip the ball to Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. Sebastian Grazzini's eyes light up as he sees the ball drifting right to him. Normally Grazzini will do much better here, but his first touch slightly gets away, allowing Hurtado (the only defender standing in his way of a sure goal) to win a crucial last line tackle. This tackle not only denies Chicago of a clear scoring opportunity, but ultimately leads to the start of an attack that results in a Sounders goal a mere 20 seconds later.

Point #3 Regroup and use your vision
After the tackle Osvaldo Alonso controls the ball and distributes to David Estrada around midfield. Estrada passes it back to Alonso who then feeds a brilliant half-field thru ball to a streaking Eddie Johnson. Johnson gathers the ball by the end-line and passes to Estrada who has just caught up to the play. Estrada's pass towards Freddy Montero has no shot of getting there, but a poor touch from Arne Friedrich catches Sean Johnson in "no man's land" and gives the Sounders the lead going into halftime.

Match Highlights and Recap - Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders

How it could've been avoided...
Multiple things could've went differently between Johnson's distribution to Paladini and the own goal by Friedrich. Pressure helps force turnovers, but the costly mistake was Anibaba trying to do too much. He should've known what the wind was doing to the ball, especially by the 38th minute.

Seattle instantly benefited by regaining possession, but almost gave it right back. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (returning from an ACL injury) was my "Man of the Match" along with Osvaldo Alonso in this game. The Seattle back line had its hands full with Nyarko and Oduro all night, but Hurtado was a key contributor in Seattle's victory - at both ends of the field.

Friday, April 27, 2012

MLS Video: My Skill Set - Portland Timbers' Franck Songo'o

We don't always get a chance to see players up close and person. If you never meet a player or see them in an interview, it can be hard to fully appreciate their talent unless they're out on the field performing.  Newcomer for the Portland Timbers, Franck Songo'o, looks like he could be a nice addition to a struggling Timbers squad, but unfortunately he's only seen 151 minutes of play so far in 2012.

At just 24 years old, Songo'o has already played for clubs in both the English Premier League and La Liga. It's difficult to say how much playing time he'll get this season, but he's definitely got the skill set to perform at a high level. Will he gel with his teammates and does Head Coach John Spencer see him fitting into a specific role?

Only time will tell how quickly he adjusts to his new surroundings. Until then, meet Franck Songo'o and enjoy this video that highlights his skill set.