After probably the toughest season in Crew history, everything’s coming up Massive for the Crew. An absentee, out-of-town investor/operator has been replaced by a committed local group led by the Crew’s long-time team physician Dr. Pete Edwards. A new stadium in the heart of downtown is in the works, Tim Bezbatchenko has returned home to Columbus as President, and Caleb Porter returned to Ohio to win an MLS Cup for Columbus. With the Crew returning 96% of minutes played in 2018, look for an evolution rather than a revolution on the field from Caleb Porter’s men.Read More
By most accounts, the 2015 MLS Cup runners-up had a pretty poor 2016. A team that was generally expected to contend for a Supporters’ Shield and a championship finished the season 9th in the East on 36 points. During a stretch to start the year that saw them win just two games in 11, they jettisoned their Best XI forward, Kei Kamara, for feuding with their best chance creator, Federico Higuain. Higuain then sat out 14 games throughout the rest of the season with injury issues stemming from a sports hernia.
In spite of this turmoil on offense, the team’s real problems were on the other end of the field. The Crew gave up three or more goals 11 times, and their 58 total goals allowed was second worst in the league, though they were only fifth worst in expected goals allowed. The fact that Columbus is a possession oriented team means that they generally surrender few shots- in 2016, they allowed only about 12 shots per game. But the shots they did give up tended to be higher quality chances.
Ola-tta more after the jump.Read More
It's Christmas Eve, so what better time to highlight an article by Jonathan Wilson of the UK Guardian which talks a little about formations and the future of positions in soccer?!
As positions become more specialised, as we divide the holder into destroyer, regista and carrier, and all points in between, so the importance of formations has diminished. Terms like 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 are useful as a rough guide, but only that: the higher the level, the more teams are agglomerations of bundles of attributes; the key is balance rather than fitting to some abstract designation, even if that shape can be useful in the defensive phase.
This is something that Drew, Matthias and I have mentioned on past podcasts and something that I believe is a true within the "modern era" of soccer. Players are increasingly versatile, and as such are able to handle more duties on the pitch, as well as the fact that it's being more expected of them. The reality is that we see players put into areas of the pitch based on what they are able to do and what makes them unique to the roster. Wilson speaks of position rather than an interpretation of what I assume is a role.
Parreira's 4-6 vision of the future has been overtaken by a 3-7, either as three centre-backs or two centre-backs with a destroyer just in front of them. That is another discussion, but what is true is that to speak of a holding role is merely to describe a player's position on the pitch and not how he interprets it.
Wilson here is speaking of Brazilian national team coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and his prediction that soccer would migrate to more ambiguous roles. Also this article was speaking specifically to the roles of midfielders, but I think we can safely apply his words to the attack as a whole. There is a possibility we may be seeing something of this prophecy come about in Major League Soccer in 2014. Teams such as Portland, Chicago, Columbus, New England, and even Seattle with some of it's recent moves, have the pieces to move towards a 4-6 where they have a lesser-defined striker, or "false nine," at the top of their formation. These teams' capable scorers like Darlington Nagbe, Mike Magee, Federico Hinguian, Diego Fagundez and Clint Dempsey aren't relegated to striker positions by convention, where they probably wouldn't play best anyway.
This isn't to say that strikers or players of those specific roles and old time "mentality" is absolutely wrong or trash now. No, I think this is something that you incorporate. As Wilson said in his post, "it's about balance," and it's about putting together a group of players that are able to A) create good shots on the opponent's goal and B) defend and attempt to prevent shots against its own goal.
This goes further into building a roster and down through a rabbit hole of discussion which I'm sure that we could have any time, and which would eventually eclipse my knowledge base. That said, I think this is real. I don't think this is a fad but something that will be realized as a changing of the guard and a new way of thinking.
I'll excuse myself as I mutter something about idealism, while trying not to have the door hit me in the hindquarters as I woke out.
Today, I was asked simply, which team has the best pairing in MLS? It's a good question, and oddly one that I've been asked a lot and. Despite the frequency of requests, it's something that I have trouble answering. There are a lot of ways to measure performance for attacking personnel, but due to my time restraints I found the easiest way to do this was to go to Squawka and use their attack score. Below is a listing of teams and their two highest* attacking score combos. Since it's a purely cumulative stat I pro-rated it to 90 minutes. As you probably wouldn't be shocked to find out. Mike Magee, Landon Donovan and Federico Hinguian round out the top-3.
|Player||Team||Minutes||Attack Score||AS per 90|
|Carlos Alvarez||Chivas USA||1653||360||20|
|Eric Avila||Chivas USA||1634||260||14|
|Dwayne De Rosario||DC United||1208||343||26|
|Kyle Porter||DC United||1403||244||16|
|Blas Perez||FC Dallas||1569||584||33|
|Landon Donovan||LA Galaxy||1380||753||49|
|Robbie Keane||LA Galaxy||1320||698||48|
|Marco Di Vaio||Montreal||1868||897||43|
|Diego Fagundez||New England||1621||613||34|
|Lee Nguyen||New England||2137||527||22|
|Thierry Henry||New York||1952||854||39|
|Tim Cahill||New York||1761||441||23|
|Sabastian Le Toux||Philadelphia||1864||729||35|
|Chris Wondolowski||San Jose||1890||530||25|
|Shea Salinas||San Jose||1400||434||28|
|Graham Zusi||Sporting KC||1860||680||33|
|Claudio Bieler||Sporting KC||1986||620||28|
|Jonathan Osorio||Toronto FC||1164||397||31|
|Robert Earnshaw||Toronto FC||1495||333||20|
There are a couple of key individuals missing from this list that may or may not "pop out" at you. The first is Philadelphia's top goal scorer Jack McInereny. Part of this is due to his missing time with the Mens National Team during the early rounds of the Gold Cup tournament. The other part is that outside of his bunches of goals scored early in the season he hasn't done much else with his time.
The other name, though less likely to be spotted, is Luis Silva. Since arriving at DC United, he's posted the top overall score determined by Squawka, as well as the highest rating on Whoscored, with his new club. However, he's only played 5 games and a total of 420 minutes for DCU, so it's a small sample and I decided to drop him from the listing. This lowered DC United's end score rather dramatically and yet corresponds quite well with whatever combination player they might be able to muster.
Now, taking all those dynamic duos and adding them together gave us a combined score of the two best attacking players on each team. Here are those in order.
|AS per 90|
It's not a surprise to see LA at the top of any such list. Robbie Keane and Donovan have long be herald as the best dynamic attacking duo of the league. But if you are looking beyond those two the teams are rather surprising. Vancouver, Chicago, Columbus and Philly all make up the top-5 with the often scrutinized Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson contributions falling just outside the grouping.
Another interesting note, taking us further towards the discussion of single best player. While individual performances matter, it's about team accomplishment rather than singular performances over the stretch of the season. It's obvious that while Chicago and Columbus both have had outstanding performances from their key men up top, they are lacking something on a team level such that these individual metrics don't correspond entirely to the tables at the end of the day.