Alan Gordon

USMNT 1-2 Jamaica: The Reggae Boyz clear the dance floor by Jared Young

Hey U.S. fans, look on the bright side. We get an extra soccer game this fall! The USMNT will be in a one game playoff against either Mexico or Jamaica for the privilege of representing CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup. That bit of fun was brought to you by a loss of stunning proportion to Jamaica. The U.S. gave up two goals in five minutes off of set pieces in the first half and couldn’t mount a useful attack against a determined Jamaican defense. The 2-1 loss, the first to a Caribbean side on U.S. soil since 1968, will sting for a long time, especially for yours truly who was looking forward to going to the Gold Cup Final to watch the U.S. with his son. Not all stories have Hollywood endings. And certainly sports wouldn’t be sports without the heartbreak.

This game was a perfect example of why soccer statistics can sometimes lie. If you didn’t watch the game and just looked at the box score you might think that the U.S. was simply unlucky. They held 60% of the possession and completed 82% of their passes. They outshot the Jamaicans 20-10 and put 7 more shots on goal (10-3). The U.S. won the expected goal battle by a score of 2.3.-1.0, but looked up at the scoreboard at the end and saw the final score was actually reversed.

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Season Preview: San Jose Earthquakes by Drew Olsen

Soccer in San Jose has a unique history, going back to the Clash earning MLS’s first ever victory in 1996. The franchise changed its name to the Earthquakes in 1999, and a few years later it started winning MLS Cups thanks to a Landon Donovan-sized gift from Bayer Leverkusen. A young Donovan helped to lead San Jose to MLS Cup wins in 2001 and 2003. But after the 2005 season, the ownership group grew tired of failing to embezzle funds from Silicon Valley’s tax payers and moved head coach Dominic Kinnear and the rest of the team to Houston. The Earthquakes were not reborn until the 2008 season, and since then they have been mired in a streak of mostly 6th and 7th-place finishes, with an out-of-the-blue, historic 2012 season sprinkled in.1

2013 Starting XI

SJ11

Transactions

Player Added Position From   Player Lost Position To
Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi M Out of nowhere Ramiro Corrales M Retired
Atiba Harris F Trade from Colorado Nana Attakora D Option declined
Billy Schuler F Weighted lottery Dan Gargan D Option declined
Tommy Thompson M Homegrown Marcus Tracy F Option declined
Shaun Francis D Re-Entry Stage 2 Evan Newton GK Option declined
Brandon Barklage D Re-Entry Stage 2 Peter McGlynn D Option declined
Bryan Meredith GK Free Cesar Diaz Pizarro F Option declined
J.J. Koval M SuperDraft Mehdi Ballouchy M Out of contract
Justin Morrow D Traded to Toronto FC
Rafael Baca M Transferred to Cruz Azul
Jaime Alas M Loan expired
Marvin Chávez M Traded to Colorado
Steven Beitashour D Traded to Vancouver

Roster churn: San Jose returns 68.8% of its minutes played from 2013, 14th in MLS and 6th in the Western Conference.

2014 Preview

SanJoseINFOComing off a 72-goal, 66-point performance in 2012’s regular season, many thought San Jose would likely find the playoffs again, and even be in the running for an MLS Cup Trophy. But 2013 saw the Earthquakes miss out on the playoffs completely, abruptly ending their hot run during the second half of the season. Striker Chris Wondolowski’s past two seasons mirrored those of the team, eclipsing the league in 2012 with 27 goals, and then failing to reach half that tally in 2013. Our upgraded shot locations data suggest that Wondo scored just 88.5 percent of the goals that a league-average player would be expected San Jose's 2014 Rosterto score based on his shot opportunities. Will 2014 see the return of Wondolowski and San Jose to one of the top seeds in the West, or will it prove to be the franchise that has placed 6th or 7th in five of the past six seasons?

San Jose was a perplexing club from a statistical standpoint last season. Our expected goal differential statistics (xGD) really liked the fact that the Earthquakes earned 4.8 shots per game from zone 2---the dangerous area around the penalty spot---which was good for second best in the entire league. San Jose finished with the league’s third-best xGD at +6.8. Those metrics seem to suggest that the second half of last season, when San Jose earned 33 points over 17 games, was more representative of their true ability. Indeed, it's worth noting that San Jose has been one of the best teams in the league for three-quarters of the past two seasons.

Before we get moving too quickly, though, we have some new data to bring the Goonies partway back to earth. This year’s version of shot locations data will break shots down by how they were taken, specifically headed versus kicked. With almost all the data in, now, it turns out that San Jose took nearly 23 percent of all its shots as headers---second only to Seattle---but headers are finished at about half the rate of kicked shots. The upgraded xGD 2.0 pegged the Earthquakes at an xGD of about +2.0 in 2013, which placed them fifth in the West. Fitting, as our readers picked San Jose to finish 5th in this coming season.

Of course, statistics from last year have a hard time determining the effect of losing players like Steve Beitashour and Marvin Chávez (the team’s assist leader in 2012). The major scoring pieces are still there in Wondolowski, Alan Gordon, and Steven Lenhart, but it’s harder to peg down the importance and replaceability of those midfielders and defenders.

If San Jose can continue to generate dangerous opportunities, as they have in each of the past two seasons, then look for the Earthquakes to regain a playoff spot in 2014.

Crowd Sourcing Results

5th place in the Western Conference; 138 voters (31.4%) felt that San Jose will be either a 4th or 5th seed in the playoffs in 2014, but 228 voters (56.4%) projected them to miss the playoffs completely.

ASA Podcast: Episode III by Harrison Crow

Hello, there, you fine traveler. If you are of a west coast bias, you'll love today's show. First I have to say I'm really saddened by the fact that neither myself nor Matty worked in a "Third" joke with as much as we like to talk about cutting the field into thirds, and with this being our third podcast. *sigh* it didn't happen, maybe we'll save the jokes for Episode XXXIII. Anyway... we have the following for you.

We chronicle the life and times of your's truly, me, Harrison Crow, and little background as to why I created the site.

We talk a bit about possession stats: why they're important, why they are not, and how they are sometimes misleading. I referenced a blog post from Opta during this conversation. Please take a look, as it has a lot of really good information. I'm trying to come up with a bunch of material for a post later on today. I hope you all check it out.

We do mention Montreal and their Italian-influenced defense/counter-attack system and how it's helped them to a second-place start in the Eastern Conference.

Next, we chronicle the poor start for the Sounders, and perhaps why they have produced no goals despite an excellent possession percentage. We also mention Sporting Kansas City and the LA Galaxy, as well as the Portland Timbers and their dominance in possession.

We use the segue of the Portland Timbers to talk a little bit about Will Johnson. He's an underrated pick-up who has scored some amazing goals, and his ability to troll Alan Gordon is exceptional. Yep, he's gone for 3 games. Gordon, not Johnson...

And for those of you who didn't catch his brilliant goal at home, which effectively gave the Timbers 3 points, check it out below:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHMV-zPqccc]

Lastly we talked about our Game of the Week, the matchup between Sporting Kansas City and the Los Angeles Galaxy. While separated by 7 points in the table--with two games in hand for LA--Tempo Free Soccer's rankings has them 1 and 2 overall in MLS. We make our picks for who we like, why, and a few little facts to back it up.

We hope you enjoy the podcast!

[audio http://americansocceranalysis.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/american-soccer-analysis-podcast-3.mp3]