Alejandro Bedoya

Philadelphia Union 2019 Season Preview by Jared Young

The Union faithful have been donning their Sherlock Holmes deerstalkers this offseason. They been dealt a small handful of clues to answer some pretty big offseason questions. Was their 2018 season really their best ever? What became of Borek Dockal? What new tactics will new GM Ernst Tanner ask Jim Curtin to employ? How did they actually land their biggest signing ever in Marco Fabian, and what does this all mean for 2019?

So let’s begin our tour to unravel these not-so-elementary mysteries, my dear Dr. Watson….

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Postseason Preview: Philadelphia Union by Jared Young

Is this the year that the Philadelphia Union break through? That is the big question on the minds of the Union faithful. In their nine seasons the team has reached the MLS Cup playoffs three times and matched that with three US Open Cup Final appearances, but they’ve collected a record of 0 wins and 6 losses in those pivotal moments. Generally speaking they’ve been outclassed in these games as well, allowing 13 goals and scoring just 4. Are these results just the growing pains of a new franchise or is something else going on?

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Setting the Table Week 32: Lee Nguyen's new role, the rise of Ebobisse, and Mutch ado about nothing by Eric Walcott

Welcome to Setting the Table. Each week we take some time to focus on the best chance creators in MLS from the last weekend. If you want to see the best chances that were wasted, check out Lowered Expectations. Here we focus on chances that ended with the ball in the back of the net.

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Orlando, DC, and MLS' Latest Strategic Fashions by Kevin Minkus

The press (whether high, counter, or other) is in vogue in MLS. MLS teams are, on average, they pressiest they’ve ever been. The Red Bulls, NYCFC, Atlanta, and New England all primarily defend in some form of press. A handful of other teams - Sporting Kansas City and LAFC most prominently - go to it on occasion. Orlando City began the season trying to play a higher pressure defense:

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Little Things from Week 17: The Union Midfield, Gressel's Quiet Contribution, and Jeff Attinella's Decision Making by Harrison Hamm

Philly’s Midfield

The Philadelphia Union are making a concerted effort to keep the ball this season. They are fifth in MLS in passes per game and have built their attack around getting the ball into the half-spaces and putting the wingers (especially Ilsinho) in positions to run at defenders.

Their 4-0 home win against Vancouver was a manifestation of their newfound approach. They were on the front foot for most of the game against the bunkering Whitecaps, so even with midfield distributor Haris Medunjanin suspended, they demonstrated how good they can be with the ball.

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The Elusive Advanced Defensive Metric by Mark Asher Goodman

It all started with Micheal Azira.

At the conclusion of the 2017 MLS season, I sifted through the wreckage of the Colorado Rapids awful season, player by player, to see what could be learned. Who, among these players was actually a high-quality soccer player? Who should the team retain for next year? Who should be jettisoned? Why? How can I know the difference? And, most importantly for readers of a data-obsessive website like American Soccer Analysis, can I find a credible way of answering those questions using advanced metrics?

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Philadelphia Union 2017 Season Preview by Jared Young

The Earnie Stewart era in Philadelphia has been marked by change but the Union haven’t quite been able to emerge from their history of mediocrity and underperformance. Change, mediocrity and underperformance - remember those words. They underpin the state of the Union. First let’s take a look at a picture of pure mediocrity - a history of the Union, through the results of their three coaches across seven years.

Fancy graphs after the jump.

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Jurgen Klinsmann and the Guatemala Paradox by Jared Young

The frustration with the state of the United States Men’s soccer team is at a new peak in the Jurgen Klinsmann era. After a disastrous second half of 2015 which saw them suffer historic losses to Jamaica and Panama in the Gold Cup followed by an extra time loss to rival Mexico, the Federation was hoping 2016 was a new beginning. But following another tragedy against Guatemala in World Cup qualifying on Friday, the U.S. has now failed to win its last four competitive matches where the talent gap was not obscene (apologies to St. Vincent and the Grenadines). The demons from last year are still lurking it appears. But to what can we attribute those demons?

Is it Klinsmann or the players?

What those demons are is the subject of much debate. Many claim that Klinsmann himself is the problem as questions surrounding his tactics, player selection and the positions he prefers for those players are appropriately criticized. After promises of progressing the U.S. style of play to compete with the more proactive national teams, Klinsmann has employed a more pragmatic reactive approach since before the World Cup. He likely regrets his promise as he’s since been unable to collect a midfield with enough talent to play a possession oriented style of soccer. When he trots Alejandro Bedoya and DeAndre Yedlin out to the wings, away from their preferred positions, in a World Cup qualifier he can't be expecting a cohesive midfield performance. Nor should the fans. But the team did waste too many balls in the final third attempting high risk passes. Do we blame the tactics, the players or both?

More after the jump.

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Gold Cup Team Preview: United States by Jared Young

On July 7th the United States Men will play their first competitive match in nearly a year, and in so doing begin their defense of the Gold Cup. A successful run through the final in Philadelphia would guarantee their place in the Confederations Cup in 2017, and confirm them as the dominant force in CONCACAF. Failure to win would not be the end of the world, but it would put a damper on the momentum the team has recently built with a positive World Cup run followed by overall strong performances in this cycle’s friendlies. In the end, a Gold Cup win keeps the U.S. on Jurgen Klinsmann’s aggressive path to improvement. An exit of any kind will start to raise doubts if the team has the talent to make a serious run this cycle.

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USMNT at Denmark: Beyond the score by Matthias Kullowatz

By Jared Young (@jaredeyoung)

These three statistics help tell the story behind the latest USMNT result, and look beyond for big trends.

+7, -10. Those numbers represent the USMNT’s goal differential since the World Cup, split up by the first half and second half, respectively. A dominant first half has typically been followed by a more tragic second half coming out of the locker room. It’s well noted that the USMNT second-half defense is being criticized, but did you know that Johannsson’s second half goal against Denmark was the first goal the US team has scored in the second half since the World Cup? The late slump is not just a defensive concern.

Part of the issue could be that Klinsmann is playing less experienced players in the second half. That is somewhat true. Players who were on the World Cup roster have played 75 percent of all of the first half minutes. That number drops to 62 percent in the second half. But that overall percentage isn’t as experimental as it seems. The World Cup players have a strong presence, regardless of the half.

20.4%. The USMNT only squeezed off four shots against Denmark but managed to score on two of them. That extreme efficiency has been the trend more recently, and the World Cup players specifically have been blistering since July. Led by Jozy Altidore and his 44-percent finishing rate, the players on the World Cup roster have scored on 20.4 percent of the shots taken since the big tournament. Compare that to the 4.3 percent finishing rate of the new players on the team.

60%. (We’ll get to what this number stands for in a bit) I’m sorta kinda from New Jersey, and so is Alejandro Bedoya, so I’m probably supposed to root for him. But his persistent presence on the pitch for the USMNT continues to bother me. First, let’s talk about what I appreciate from Bedoya, and it’s well documented. His work rate is exceptional and his positioning is first rate. He’s a defensive minded midfielder that will do the dirty work and doesn’t look for the limelight. His defensive work against Denmark was critical in the first half as he sat deep enough to assist an otherwise sloppy back four. My trouble with him is that, from a playmaking point of view, he offers very little. And the US can’t afford to have players like Alejandro Bedoya play in the World Cup. For me, Bedoya is a stark reminder of the limitations of the team. As long as he is playing, I worry the US is not progressing as much as they need to during this cycle. The US struggled mightily to generate offense on the wings in the World Cup, and they simply have to upgrade that area to be a global force.

Bedoya is third on the team in minutes played since the World Cup with 409 minutes, behind only Mix Diskerud and Jozy Altidore. In the recent match against Denmark he was moved to the center of the midfield, where he typically plays at Nantes and where his lack of playmaking can be better hidden. So where does the 60 percent number come from?  That was the percent of Bedoya’s passes that were backward in the match. A typical team will pass 20-25 percent of their passes backward over the course of the game, and for a deep lying player 60 percent is way too much. Tack on the fact that the US was ceding possession and would have benefited from a more direct approach, and Bedoya’s backwards passing tendency becomes more of a glaring issue. Sorry my Jersey breathren, I’m looking for more in Russia.

To sum it up: The USMNT comes out extremely red hot in the first half, and somehow flips to an even more extreme cold in the second half, and that is what has everyone concerned. Experimentation is part of the problem, but protecting leads should be the key focus until it gets fixed. The players who played in the World Cup are very efficient right now in scoring goals, converting over 20 percent of their shots, while the newcomers are struggling in front of the net. I’ve also got my eye on Bedoya and I’m looking to see who is going to pass him on the depth chart, either on the wing or now at central midfield.