Archive for August, 2012

Decoding the MLS Playoff Push & That Tiebreaker Thing

Will Chivas shake off the Galaxy drubbing and muscle their way to the playoffs?

Steve Fenn with his second piece for The Shin Guardian

Sunday’s Superclasico between Chivas USA and LA Galaxy was one of the few matches we have left in this MLS season with major playoff implications. It was also a matchup between the two clubs most directly affected by MLS’ new playoff tiebreakers, announced last Wednesday. With the season over 70% gone for some clubs, it was announced that teams level on points will be ranked by:

1) Most total goals scored

2) Greatest goal differential

3) Fewest disciplinary points

4) Most road goals scored

5) Greatest road goal differential

6) Most home goals scored

7) Greatest home goal differential

8) Coin toss (for 2 teams) or drawing of lots (3 or more teams)

For those wondering what disciplinary points are, check this page which has both the current rankings and the calulation guidelines.

There are reasons to criticize this new standard, but Bruce Arena and others have covered those pretty well already. My main focus today is examining the standings, and the impact of this rule change on the already-underwhelming 2012 playoff race.

As we discussed a couple weeks ago, per game figures are much more telling than totals when clubs have played uneven numbers of matches. So, here’s the current league table with points, goals for, goal differential, and disciplinary points all broken down to per game figures:

Clearly, Chivas USA is the biggest loser in this new tiebreaker format (and did themselves no favors on Sunday). If they rally to tie LA on points, they would need to outscore them by 29 goals in the process. The Columbus Crew can’t be terribly pleased with the change either, but at least one of the teams they are trying to catch is the also-low-scoring Chicago Fire. If they do make up enough points to draw even with the Fire, it is at least possible that the Crew with 3 games in hand could outscore Chicago by 8 goals in the process.

The tough news for Chivas USA, the Crew, and all other playoff hopefuls is that one of top 5 in their conference would need to suffer a pronounced dip in form to give them a chance at the postseason.

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TSG’s Official USA vs. Mexico Preview: Have Fun Storming The Castle!

It’s a tired movie analogy, but it works oh so well here.

The movie–of course–the Princess Bride. The scene? Billy Crystal’s Mirace Max character has just returned the Dred Pirate Roberts (“Wesley”) to life.

Along with swordsman Inigo Montoya and behemoth Andre The Giant–rest his soul–the half-alive-Wesley and crew are expected to take on Prince Hupperdink’s army, liberate the princess and make a be-pajamaed Fred Savage happy that his Peter Falk grandfather came over to read stories. Mission accomplished though Miracle Max says it will take a….

The castle in this case?

None other than the nearly impenetrable Colossus of Saint Ursula or to known the fervent US fan merely as “the Azteca.” …. a rocking cauldron, more than 7,200 ft above sea level, of anti-“whoever” energy bombing down on the opponents just as quickly as beer and urine do on the unlucky enemy winger taking a corner kick.

Alan Gordon is your Giant and Herculez Gomez is perhaps your vindicated Montoya.

Moving on….

Alan Gordon or….

(Wait, can’t you just see Alan Gordon on a white horse in the 94th minute knocking in a ball off his thigh … it’s the stuff dreams are made of it’s the stuff that lives on trashy romance novel softcovers.

Okay, now, quick, quicker, to the preview!

Alan Gordon…whew…there, that’s better….

Alan Gordon? Nope.

Chris Pontius not on the travel roster? Nope.

Steven Beitashour? Sean Johnson? Brek Shea? Nope across the board.

The United States national team will travel for “what really shouldn’t be called a” friendly at the Azteca in Mexico City and the biggest surprise of what was an eventful selection process will be the absence of US national team captain Carlos Bocanegra.

This marks the first time–excluding the 2009 Gold Cup Final where Bob Bradley used a “B” team–that Carlos Bocanegra will not captain the United States against Mexico since June of 2007 and it will be the first time that Bocanegra doesn’t play against Mexico in any encounter–save the one mentioned above–since September of 2005. Even in that one, Bocanegra was on the bench.

(Note: The last time Bocanegra wasn’t selected for a Mexico match it was April 28th, 2004. Bruce Arena was coach, Josh Wolff started at forward. Oh and the last US captain (non- 2009 GC Final) not named Carlos Bocanegra? This guy!

Now what do we do!!!

Is it a changing of the guard? No, not really; one can expect Captain Carlos to be back on the field come qualifying time in September against Jamaica, sporting the armband and dishing out meaningful fouls–but it’s still a moment.

For whatever reason that the current Rangers player wasn’t selected (club situation up in air, beginning of the Fall Euro campaign), it still is a nod–like many other player selections–to a forward-looking roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The US has improved under Jurgen Klinsmann in defense, but they haven’t improved in central defense.

Whether it has been Oguchi Onyewu’s recent walkabouts in qualifying, Brazil’s forwards playing spin class with the US interior or Slovenia playing over-the-top-ball late last year in almost coming back on the Americans on their home turf, the US’s aging central defense has been an area of protection, not strength for the side.

This shouldn’t be a newsflash for anyone.

At Euro 2012, the average age of the starting centerbacks for what largely is a tournament with the highest percentage of elite teams, was 28-years-old. In their recent qualifying series, the average age of Clarence Goodson and Carlos Bocanegra was almost 32.

That’s acceptable, but only if the players have last names like Nesta, Stam or Desailly.

Now the US will brandish a younger, perhaps more athletic central defense when they play under a shroud of vitriol this Wednesday. It’s a rude education.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary TSG preview.

It follows:

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Jurgen Klinsmann With MLS Focus in Azteca Roster

Alan Gordon summoned….

[San Jose Earthquakes forward Alan Gordon has been added to the US roster.]

Zusi makes his bid for the depth char…

Klinsmann’s caravan to the great smog stadium in the sky on August 15th:


GOALKEEPERS (3): Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (6): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steven Beithasour (San Jose Earthquakes), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim)

MIDFIELDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (4): Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

The Weekend: Live Commentary

Will Shalrie Joseph bring revolution to the Goats season? A poor man’s Michael Essien in tempo management and distribution? Yay? Nay?

Grenadian Goat (photo courtesy

The Beautiful Game: Fair Trade And Soccer

TSG’s Beautiful Game Series explores how soccer brings about social change around the globe.

Here is Senda Athletics founder Santiago Halty

“The Beautiful Game” would not exist without a soccer ball. Something so simple can bring so many people so much joy. Sometimes that same ball can create distress at the same time, when the people who make them are not treated fairly. My goal after graduating from college was to make anyone happy with soccer, and I found that my way to do so was with Fair Trade Soccer balls!

[You can support Senda Athletics goals right here]

Growing up in Argentina, soccer is a major part of daily life and so many people, including myself are passionate about it. When I decided to go to college in the United States, I realized that the world was a much bigger place. Although I enjoyed my time living in a different country, I found myself homesick many times. The main way that I stayed sane was playing soccer.  Soccer was something that connected all kinds of people, with completely different backgrounds, through passion, camaraderie and a love of the game.

Meeting factory workers…

During my studies at UC San Diego, I learned about sweatshops in the athletic equipment industry, as well as an alternative known as Fair Trade. At one point, I realized how some soccer balls were being made: in very poor working conditions. Unfair wages, long working hours, and child labor were problems prevalent within the soccer ball industry. I saw the soccer ball, something that could bring so much joy, could also bring so much injustice to the people who manufactured it. I decided to combine my passion for soccer and my interest in other people’s well-being into making a fair trade soccer company—and in 2011, Senda Athletics officially launched in the Bay Area, California.

Fair trade means providing reasonable wages and hours, clean and safe working conditions, no child labor, and the ability for people to uphold their dignity by providing themselves with an honest living. Fair Trade USA, a nonprofit, certified Senda’s factory in Sialkot, Pakistan, as a Fair Trade factory.

In May of 2012, I visited the factory where Senda’s soccer balls are made. I was very pleased that I got to meet the people behind the product. I lived in the factory for ten days, and with the help of my guide’s translations, I was able to communicate with the workers. I also had a chance to meet some of their families, and even play a game of soccer.

Pick-up in Pakistan…

In the worldwide context of soccer, the game is growing, both in popularity and skill, within the United States. It is important for this growing demographic of soccer lovers to realize that their balls can both come in quality and provide some good for people. Some skillful American players have already joined us on the path to making soccer a fair trade sport, such as Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes) and Natalie Spilger (Chicago Red Stars).

(Sam Cronin (left) from the San Jose Earthquakes and Natalie Spilger from the Chicago Red Stars, support Senda’s Fair Trade Mission.) 

I hope you will join us and change the world through soccer as well. I want to share this story of empowerment through Fair Trade and soccer with others, and to do so I just launched an Indiegogo campaign to make a short documentary, “Senda: Soccer’s Path to Fair Trade” about this trip, how Senda came to be, and our non-profit soccer partners. Anyone can contribute, and we have some great soccer and Fair Trade perks for our supporters!

Live: Gold Medal Game: Japan vs. USA

The two veterans of last year’s World Cup final clash again today for the right to have the Olympic Gold medal bestowed up them. It’s about to go down.

Last year, Japan undercut the US’s hopeful bid to claim the World Cup’s top prize.

U.S. Women vs. Japan Women 2:45 p.m. ET Wembley Stadium
London, England
NBC Soccer Channel, NBC Live Extra (web)

Sporting KC Talks Organization First In Hoisting The US Open Cup Trophy

A sparkling celebration….

Jay Bell took in the game then ran around grabbing sound bytes like a squirrel stocking nuts for the winter.

The story off the field of last night’s dramatic US Open Cup final victory for Sporting Kansas City is easy to write. A multi-year process was undertaken by Robb Heineman and Sporting Club, formerly OnGoal, LLC, to re-brand the Kansas City Wizards as Sporting Kansas City and build a progressive Major League Soccer franchise. That process resulted in a first-class stadium in LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, a fervent fan base and now a US Open Cup championship.

The attitude isn’t just team-first at SKC, it’s organization-first and community-first.

“I feel extremely happy,” said goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen after the victory. “I think it is so well deserved for this whole organization and the whole city. There’s a lot of hard-working people in this organization doing a great job to promote the soccer team. This is not only Sporting Kansas City’s win tonight. It’s the whole area; whole Kansas City. I think it’s unbelievable how soccer has been growing here the last year and a half.”

Kamara: Badge First

“It’s a team,” said fan-favorite Kei Kamara, who collapsed on the field once the win was secured. “Owner Robb Heineman put the perfect letter on Twitter earlier, ‘Everybody is Sporting Kansas City.” The front office, fans, everybody, players — we’re all one.”

“I really mean this, it’s not really anything that I feel personally,” said SKC head coach Peter Vermes. “I really feel more for our ownership group because they’ve invested so much into this team to try to turn it around and turn into a real professional sport in this area. Obviously, you see the environment. It’s unreal. You can’t deny that. Our fans — it’s a reward to them. It’s a reward to our ownership group and our staff for the hard work that they do putting all this stuff together and putting it on. Finally, the players, they have stayed very committed and we’ve been building this over the last three years. We’re now here and it’s an exciting time.”

That excitement and reward was never certain for the home team in Wednesday night’s match. The Seattle Sounders traveled to KC as one of the hottest teams in MLS and as the three-time defending US Open Cup champions. The Sounders had never lost a US Open Cup match as an MLS club.

Threatening skies–and MLS’s hottest team–greeted the baby blues when they took the field.

Sporting was in the ascendancy in the early going. Osvaldo Alonso picked up a card for Seattle in the fifth minute and Paulo Nagamura was able to shake off a tough early challenge to the face that would be covered by a bandage for the rest of the game. Sporting was never able to find the key pass or shot. Teal Bunbury scuffed one early shot and later did not see an open Kamara waiting inside the penalty area. Graham Zusi was also left without service on the right despite drifting away from the defense.

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