Christopher Wondolowski should be an American sports icon. He should be beloved and admired. If he is hated by anyone, it should be by MLS fans in the same way Indianapolis Colts fans “hate” Tom Brady. He is the underdog of underdogs – the working class man who beats the talented elite at their own game. At 36, he keeps breaking scoring records in MLS, including setting the all-time big one a few weeks ago with a four-goal match. He is on the precipice of being the first player to score 10+ goals in 10 straight MLS seasons. His time and opportunity with the US Men’s National Team should have been longer than it was – but for many fans, there would be no cry for Wondolowski’s return to the national team. No matter how many goals he scored or how often his league form was more impressive than the strikers getting the call, his national team legacy was cemented. Outside of a few San Jose Earthquakes fans and pundits, there are no calls for “Wondo” to be on the team by the American soccer public because of one infamous situation that occurred on July 1, 2014.Read More
Matias Almeyda and Guillermo Barros Schelotto are two of the most experienced managers in MLS history. They are also both just beginning their careers as MLS coaches.
To start his managerial career, Almeyda retired as a player and took over a River Plate side that had been relegated for the first time in club history. Immediately after that season, he led the team back to promotion with a first place finish in the second division. Almeyda did the same with Banfield in Argentina, winning his second Primera B Nacional title. At Chivas Guadalajara in 2015, Almeyda inherited another difficult situation, tasked with bringing the Mexican giant back into the spotlight. With Chivas, Almeyda won Copa MX twice, Supercopa MX, Liga MX, and CONCACAF Champions League. Now, he has embarked on a new journey with the San Jose Earthquakes, who finished in last place in 2018.
After leading the Columbus Crew to an MLS Cup as a player (he won both league MVP and Finals MVP in 2008), Guillermo Barros Schelotto started his managing career with Lanus in Argentina. He led the club to a Copa Sudamericana, the second most prestigious club competition in South America. Schelotto then signed with the club he spent most of his playing career with, Boca Juniors, and led them to two league titles.Read More
2018 In Review
The “wooden spoon” award has its roots in the University of Cambridge. It would be awarded to the student who had the lowest marks but still earned a third-class degree. There are also three degrees in MLS: Those who win silverware, those who make the playoffs, and those who do not make the playoffs. Given MLS does not have relegation, obtaining (I almost said “winning” there) the Wooden Spoon just means one still gets to play the next year at the same level. In 2017, the Independent Supporters Council, who instituted the Wooden Spoon award in 2015, renamed it the Anthony Precourt Memorial Wooden Spoon.
This is not the trophy San Jose Earthquakes General Manager Jesse Fioranelli had in mind at the beginning of 2018. He attempted big splashes, signing Allsvenskan Golden Boot winner Magnus Eriksson as a designated player, a fellow Swede to go along with a “real” manager Mikael Stahre (replacing not-interim/interim first-time coach Chris Leitch), also from the Allsvenskan. In keeping the attacking core from 2017 who helped the team snatch the final playoff spot despite a -21 goal differential, plus adding Eriksson, finally getting Panamanian international Harold Cummings healthy, and adding two more young defenders, Fioranelli bet that would be enough to catapult San Jose higher in the Western Conference. It seems he underestimated the MLS talent level compared to middle-of-the-road European leagues and the ability of a foreign coach to quickly integrate a team.Read More
Josef Martinez is a man on fire, and, as of writing this, he currently sits on 28 goals in 2018, having just broken the all time scoring record of 27 first set by Roy Lassiter in MLS’ inaugural season and matched by Chris Wondolowski in 2012 and Bradley Wright Phillips in 2014.
But I want to take this opportunity to look at how goal scorers score goals, and compare Wondolowski, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Martinez (we don’t have data on Lassiter, sadly) on their march to 27. Yes, Martinez has broken the record, but this article is going to deal with his stats on the way to 27. For a more complete breakdown of his data and where he lands, I’m sure someone at ASA (let’s say, Harrison) will write you that article at the end of the year.Read More
They say time flies by when you’re arguing over video review, and would you look at that? We’ve crossed the halfway threshold in the 2018 edition of Major League Soccer. The first half of the season has been a lot of fun if you like to read and talk about Atlanta. Last year’s MLS Cup finalists are more or less dead in the water, two of the league’s best coaches just peaced out to Europe, and with the transfer window opening shortly we’re bound to see some table shuffling over the next few months. We’ve been gone on World Cup duty for the last couple of weeks, so there is a lot to talk about now that I’m back from break. We’re gonna hit a few narratives hard and fast so buckle in.
Narrative: The All Star game is stupid.
Narrative Accuracy: Yes.
Welcome to Setting the Table, where 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.
#5 Bradley Wright-Phillips to Daniel Royer, NYRB, 5th minute, 0.387 xG
Passes in sequence: 1
San Jose made big strides in 2017 to go from the second worst team in the West to a playoff team. After adding more talent, and some youth, they’ll hope to build on that for 2018.
The 2017 San Jose Earthquakes ended the season with a -21 goal differential, the worst ever of any team to make the playoffs. But, they did make the playoffs, as the 6th seed in the West. And, after missing out every year since their Supporters’ Shield winning 2012, that was rightfully cause for celebration among Quakes fans, despite bowing out to the Whitecaps 5-0 in the knockout round.Read More
2016 was another forgettable year among many (since 2012) for Quakes fans. The team finished with just 38 points, eight points out of the playoff race. That finish was good for 9th in the West, and 17th in the overall league table. The team actually got off to a decent start, with four wins in their first eight, but they couldn't keep that momentum going. From May 22nd to August 5th, the team won just one game, and then only two more through the rest of the year.
The team’s defense kept them in most games - they had the fifth best xGA in the league and the fifth best shots against. San Jose’s real problem was chance creation. They averaged just 12 shots per game, third worst in the league, and only 8.8 key passes per game - second worst in the league. Many of those chances came from balls lumped into the box from out wide - they averaged 21 crosses per game, second most in the league.
More Goonie talk below the jump.Read More
I’ve been wondering for some time about soccer teams’ reliance on star power and top statistical producers. Is it really a good strategy? Are teams with one main goal scorer or playmaker easier to “figure out”? When the game is on the line, is a singular threat easier to neutralize than a team with a plethora of attacking options? And would this kind of reliance actually hamper a team’s success across a season?
My skepticism must seem foolish to European executives, given the huge fees Gonzalo Higuain and Paul Pogba went for this summer. But the conventional wisdom is different in the American sports landscape. In our most popular sports, one person simply can’t do it all. Here, Defense Wins Championships. The San Antonio Spurs, the best NBA team of the past two decades, emphasize team play over everything. Peyton Manning was completely underwhelming in both of his Super Bowl wins, needing his incredible teams to carry him to glory. One star pitcher or one star hitter is simply not capable of winning a World Series on their own. The anecdotal evidence even appears in MLS. Chris Wondolowski’s 27 goals in 2012 didn’t get the Earthquakes past the first round of MLS playoffs; neutralize MVP Sebastian Giovinco, and 2015’s Toronto FC didn’t have much else to offer.
More after the jump.Read More
With a cross to through ball ratio of 17-1 in a league where few teams break 5-1, San Jose in 2015 continued their storied tradition of raising their middle finger to modern soccer and losing on their own boring and regressive terms. Tackle, tackle, cross, cross, etc. The reason for this style runs to the core of San Jose's identity as a blue collar club that doesn't seem to put value on creativity or play making. One the most fan maligned players on that club, for instance, is Matias Perez Garcia. Boo! Hiss! Look how terrible this dude is after the jump.Read More