Brad Guzan

Expected Narratives: A Bad Defense of a Bad Defense by Ian L.

We’re back! MLS has returned and as goeth MLS so too goeth the takes. Now, it would obviously be silly to make any grand sweeping proclamations based on only one week of soccer. It would be pointless, likely incorrect, and wildly irresponsible. So obviously we’re going to do it anyway. Let’s get that narrative machine cranked up!

Chatter amongst the savvier MLS analysts has been about Atlanta and SKC rising to dominate their divisions. While I don’t exactly have a seat at that particularly niche Algonquin round table, I do try and make myself available to refill their drinks or mop up any spills Tenorio makes when he gets over excited about a scoop, and impressionable as I am, I too was convinced of these teams being unmatched in their respective divisions. I think a good many MLS enthusiast was surprised to see the opening weekend come and go with neither of the presumptive divisional favorites taking even a point, and Atlanta being the only team in the entire league that couldn’t even muster a goal.

Benny Olsen should charge 200k TAM per team and offer up whatever he’s figured out that often makes Atlanta become utterly pedestrian when they come up against mighty DC. Actually, it seems like whatever the Red Bulls do also works more often than not.

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Atlanta United 2019 Season Preview by Tiotal Football

Join me for a moment in a Lovecraftian horror in which time is an illusion and the events of life as we know it, or the meaningful events at least, (soccer matches) progress not sequentially by the steady consumption of the present as measured in minutes and seconds but by the experience of passes being attempted from open play. In this nightmare, as the fates dictate the average MLS team experiences 900 such passes attempted during a match (the total of both teams over 90+ minutes), and using passes experienced as the unit of account, the average 2018 MLS team spent 46% of its matches with a level score line (27% leading and 27% trailing).

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Postseason Preview: Atlanta United FC by Harrison Crow

We joke about it. Atlanta has become the Marcia Brady of Major League Soccer and while that’s annoying to most all of us, it’s also not undeserved. This talented team has not only assembled a rare grouping of talent but they’ve been able to build upon their first season and grow to become a giant in this league.

While the narratives are often what they are this is a good opportunity to put into context what Atlanta has truly accomplished and what they are at their bones. A really really good team that has few flaws and has managed to minimize their opponents ability to expose those flaws.

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Tim Howard, Frank Rost, and MLS' Abandonment of the Average American Player by Bill Reno

The offseason is a truly wonderful time for every backup player. Will this be the offseason their hard work is rewarded? Perhaps they'll receive a new contract with their current club. Maybe they will move up the depth chart or see greener pastures with a new team. The winter break changes teams’ concerns from what players have done last season to what the players could do next year. For backups and fringe starters, the starting of a new season offers hope in a variety of ways.

As ASA’s resident goalkeeper dude, the offseason carousel is truly a righteous ride. Each new year holds the potential of a Tim Melia: a goalkeeper who was passed on by every team in the league only to become the best. And then there are the Sean Johnsons and Joe Bendiks, players whose careers are finally ready for a positive turn with a new team. But don’t forget about the youngsters, like Alex Bono and Zack Steffen, who are given a chance to take the reins despite being a little green. With all these positive strides in the league, I was curious about the most important position’s payment for their services.

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The State of the USMNT Goalkeepers by Bill Reno

The latest drama to break in the American goalkeeping scene was centered squarely on Jesse Gonzalez. After a will-he-won’t-he back and forth that is only rivaled by Pam Beesly and Jim Halpert, Gonzalez has officially tied to the US Men’s National Team. The lovestory dates back to 2015, when he first played for Mexico’s U20s, then received an invite to a USMNT camp, only to drop out of the camp, admitting he was leaning towards Mexico, then ultimately switching to the US last month for his final decision.

It’s been a whirlwind for Gonzalez over the last two years but chances are he isn’t going to be competing for the starting spot until after the 2018 World Cup. Simply with his exclusion from this year’s Gold Cup roster it seems like Gonzalez’s time with the national team will start farther down the line. Hypothetically he could be a Julian Green-esque addition but for a player who has only recently started playing consistently for an MLS side, it’s most likely next cycle. Looking at the rest of the group, only a handful of goalkeepers are truly in the running for a trip to Russia.

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Atlanta United FC 2017 Season Preview by Jared Young

Writing a data based season preview for an expansion team is an interesting proposition. The only data available are individual player statistics with other teams, but projecting how those players will work together in the new whole is nearly impossible. What data we do have for Atlanta United is that owner Arthur Blank, currently the most depressed sports mogul in the universe, has spent significant money to bring excitement to the city of Atlanta.  Exactly how much remains to be seen but given the names on this list it’s safe to say that Atlanta United will be among the spending elite in MLS.

They started by signing a big name coach in Gerard “Tata” Martino, most recently the coach who oversaw Argentina’s drubbing of the United States in the Copa America Centenario. The roster is impressive as well. They signed Kenwyne Jones, the Trinidad and Tobago striker who scored more than 70 goals in England. There’s the young Venezuelen DP striker Josef Martinez, and USMNT left back Greg Garza, on loan from Liga MX. On the wing will be Hector Villalba, another DP from Argentina’s San Lorenzo. Blank also shelled out to have USMNT keeper Brad Guzan arrive in the summer. Oh, and I almost forget their prized signing, worth a reported $8.5 million transfer fee, the Arsenal target Miguel Almiron, a 23 year old attacking midfielder. This list keeps going with MLS veterans Michael Parkhurst and Jeff Larentowicz, and more. Arthur Blank might be feeling better real soon.

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Six Goalkeeping Narratives You're Dying to See Unfold by Bill Reno

Who Will Emerge in New England? - The biggest question mark within any team’s goalkeeper situation is easily New England. They appear to be leaning towards to Cody Cropper in preseason, which makes sense as Bobby Shuttleworth didn't exactly inspire confidence last season. It’s odd to think that New England was just in an MLS final a little over two years ago but they’re now trying to forget last season completely. Whoever they decide to start with, don’t be surprised if they give the second stringer a chance to win the job midseason. Cropper has looked good this preseason but a twenty-three year old goalkeeper has to be really outstanding to make it in this league.

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Guzan v Howard: Battle of the Balds by Bill Reno

Classic USMNT. While the rest of our team is struggling to keep its head above water, we’re overflowing with bald talent at goalkeeper. It’s one position we haven’t had a worry about since before Jimmy Douglas’ first World Cup shutout in 1930 and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. Brad Guzan and Tim Howard fill the depth chart for the Americans and the question of “Who should start?” is as unanswered as a year ago.

Unlike Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel Guzan and Howard seem to actually enjoy playing with each other. There’s nothing wrong with love and even though we’re all glad the animosity between the goalkeepers isn’t DEFCON 5, we’re still not sure who should be in net. Klinsmann has stated multiple times that Guzan is his number one moving forward but after a four goal outing against Brazil for Guzan, Howard may have found his foot in the door.

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USMNT 1 - 1 Panama: Sitting back and taking it easy by Jared Young

A desperate Panama team did enough to draw the United States 1-1, and earn the point they absolutely needed to have a hope of advancing to the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup. The USMNT, perhaps distracted by the heat and a game that meant little, woke up in the second half enough to salvage their result and fend off the critics. Panama must now wait to see if they advance while the U.S. awaits the identity of their opponent.

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Season Preview: Chivas USA by Drew Olsen

Most people would associate Chivas USA with the pinnacle of terribleness within MLS. They've accrued all of 56 points combined the last two seasons which barely eclipses the LA Galaxy totals, their evil timeshare neighbor, over the course of just one year. The club from the beginning has sported a feel that was awkward---almost insulting---and it has been a bit of an outcast from the rest of the league. Despite what we all know about them now, it's easy to forget that as few as five years ago they were the more dominant LA brand, earning top-three finishes in 2006, 2007 and in 2008. They were lead by the likes of US internationals Brad Guzan, Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein. They boasted the scoring prowess of Ante Razov, one of the premier scoring talents in MLS history, who is still the club's all-time goal scorer. Despite the recent woes, it's not outside the realm of possibility that they could return to a run of strong form. But it will likely need to be built upon the youth and Academy products they've been working to develop, as Chivas USA has been cited as one of the more talent rich organizations at the youth level.

Make no mistake about it; things are just starting to get interesting in the City of Angels.

2013 Finish: 26 points, 9th in the Western Conference, Missed Playoffs ChivasXI

Player Added Position From Player Lost Position To
Andrew Jean-Baptiste D traded from Portland Timbers Patrick McLain GK Option Declined
Tony Lochhead D Free (Wellington Phoenix) Mario de Luna D End of Loan
Andrew Ribeiro D Free (Harrisburg City Islanders) Jaime Frias D End of Loan
Fejiro Okiomah D Free (Charlotte Eagles) Steve Purdy D Option Declined
Donald Toia D Free (Phoenix FC) Daniel Antunez D Option Declined
Thomas McNamara M SuperDraft (Clemson) Jorge Villafana D traded to Portland
Austin Pelletieri M Free (Racing Club) Edgar Mejia M End of Loan
Mauro Rosales M traded from Seattle Sounders Marvin Iraheta M Option Declined
Adolfo Bautista F Free (Unattached) Josue Soto M Option Declined
Gabriel Farfan M loaned to Chiapas
Jose Manuel Rivera F Option Declined
Tristan Bowen F traded to Seattle
Julio Morales F End of Loan

Roster Churn: 52.24% returning minutes (lowest return rate in MLS)

Okay, we know this team sucks. They've sucked each of the last four years. So they'll suck again this year right? Well... maybe. Or perhaps they're a team that could catch a couple of early wins and find some teams napping---much like what they did last year---and continue stealing points right up to a fifth-place finish. They've injected some talent, and there is the possibility, if the rumors about Luke Moore are true Chivas confirmed Moore has signed for the club yesterday, that they're not done yet and that's a very good thing for the club moving forward.

roster-chivasYes, Erik 'Cubo' Torres is perhaps the most talented piece on the roster. Yes, he will head back to his native Chivas Guadalajara in June which will pretty much bone the forgotten leftovers of Jorge Vergara. Which is sad because the talent level and parity for MLS is close that it really wouldn't take much for Chivas to become a club that could quietly sneak into MLS playoff contention.

The Goats off-season was largely productive if you forget about the addition of AdolfoChivasINFO Bautista---who, to me, is a worrisome deal considering the 34-year old didn't even score a goal last season through his 16 games (international appearances included) and could very well turn out to be a scrub.

Looking specifically to the defense, the club acquired Andrew Jean-Baptiste for pretty much being at the right place at the right time. This is an unequivocal boon for a defense that was just plain bad through the 2013 campaign, posting a league worst expected goals against (xGA) total of 55. This speaks not just to the volume of shots the line-up allowed, but also the quality at which they were fired at Dan Kennedy's goal. Baptiste isn't necessarily an earth-shattering piece now, and he's still raw, but getting him starts and placing him alongside Carlos Bocanegra could cultivate the young 21-year-old's potential, and he could grow into a top-level central defensive player with the aspirations of being involved with the USMNT.

Recs/90

The midfield has it's share of questions, as they lacked effectiveness, if not bite, with Oswaldo Minda in central  defense. Recoveries are a good thing and "even have a positive correlation with long term results". The other side of that is fouls are mostly bad (duh). Yet, I'm not sure that fact was ever explained to Minda. When Minda was able to find his way on to the pitch healthily, he committed a lot of fouls (35) and it limited the helpfulness of the recoveries (95) that he procured. Top central defending midfielders (think in this case of Osvaldo Alonso and Kyle Beckerman) usually boast twice that ratio. What that means is simply that Minda must play more minutes, foul less, and gobble up more free balls if the goal is to lessen the load for the youthful defense.

KP/90We've now reached the part of this segment where I try to convince you that Mauro Rosales will help Chivas USA, and that he's not done yet. In fact, I feel that with his help, Cubo Torres could become more Torres than you could likely handle or imagine---and yet, at the very same time, Rosales could rip what heart is left from the limited Chivas USA faithful. He was 9th in MLS in creating shots (65 total key passes), but in reality he was further up the chain in the per -90 version of the stat, which I prefer as I feel it's a stat that is better in ratio format.Rosales isn't just about delivering passes though. The guy still has some pace to him, puts forth a ton of effort, and can score a few goals too. While he doesn't even average a shot per 90, that wasn't his role with Seattle. He averaged roughly one goal every 500 minutes, and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a slight bump in those numbers. With that in mind, he's getting older, and part of the reason why the Sounders parted ways with him (beyond the issue of his contract) is that he's declined in each of his three seasons with in the Emerald City. He's going on 33 years old this season, and after visibly losing a step last year, there is reasonable concern that he might not make 2,000 minutes, let alone a full season. Despite all that, what minutes he manages to get he'll make an impact for The Goats.Looking at the roster as a whole, there is quite a disparity in age. There are 7 of the 23 individuals on the roster that are over the age of 30. Then on the other side of the coin there are 6 of 23 that are 21 or younger. If---and perhaps a better word is "when"---injury strikes, they could to be forced to throw those young players to the rest of the league. This is obviously going to affect their play, as there is a drop off in not just talent but also experience.I see a situation where they could improve over their season last year. Then again, it could be a situation where we find the team forced to play younger players of lesser quality, getting stuck in the same trend they were last year where they have some interesting players without the supporting cast to take them into contention for a playoff spot. Either way this is a club that, in our pre-season survey, 93% of voters rated as a non-playoff club. That's the highest percentage of any club, even in the East where there is an extra team left out of the playoffs.This off-season was an improvement---you'll get no argument from me about that. Major League Soccer purchasing the club and preparing for a rebrand, is again, a good thing not just for the league but the fans that support Chivas. As the organization adds talent and continue to bring in the young players from their once promising academy, the club will only move closer to contention. Finding a new owner that can and will match the dollars that LA Galaxy throw around is another key item on the list.Crowd Sourcing Placement: 9th place in Western Conference; 286 of the 406 9th-place votes (70.44%).*ExpGD is the same as our xGD statistic on the site.