A Big Summer for Goalkeepers – Who Will Shine This Season?

2014 has been the year of the goalkeeper. With Tim Howard, Manuel Neuer, Keylor Navas, and Memo Ochoa taking center stage at the World Cup with their memorable performances and multiple teams making big moves for keepers this summer, there has never been a better time to be between the posts and in the spotlight.

Looking good Tim.

Tim Howard’s memorable performance against Belgium launched him from USMNT stud to national hero. 16 saves to keep the US in the match, an absolutely legendary performance from Tim. It’s not often that you becometimhowarddepartd the Secretary of Defense of the United States of America involuntarily, but add that to Tim’s resume. The country is safe in his Nike goalkeeper gloves, this much we do know. Now he’s back with Everton, attempting to lead them to a spot in the top four with his glorious beard and ridiculous reflexes. It’s time for the EPL to experience #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave firsthand.

Another guy attempting to build on a phenomenal World Cup is Keylor Navas, who Real Madrid acquired from Levante after Madrid activated his buyout clause.  Navas led Costa Rica to the quarterfinals at the World Cup, making multiple big saves against Greece in penalties after Costa Rica shocked the world by winning group D.

 

Madrid made multiple big money moves this summer, but the acquisition of Navas could be the most important as goalkeeper has been a position that has given them problems over the last couple years as Iker Casillas has not been playing at the world class level that he used to. Perhaps Navas could lead Madrid to Champions League glory with more amazing saves coming from his Sells keeper gloves?  Time will tell if this is a reality, one thing is for sure, Keylor Navas will be ready for anything shot at him.

Keepers from the La Liga have been in high demand this summer, as Malaga’s Willy Caballero made a move to Manchester City to compete with Joe Hart for the number one spot. City will be a favorite to win the Premier League title again, and Caballero has been brought in to make sure this happens. Overlooked for Argentina’s World Cup squad by Sabella in favor of Sergio Romero, Caballero will be fresh and have a chip on his shoulder as he attempts to show the world why he should have been minding the nets for Argentina this summer in Brazil. Beating out Joe Hart will be no easy task, but Caballero certainly looks up to the task.

Maybe the biggest goalkeeper move of the summer was one where no transfer fee was involved, as Thibaut Courtois returned to Chelsea after three years on loan to Atletico Madrid. Courtois performed quite well at the World Cup as Belgium made the quarterfinals, and upon his return to Chelsea he was immediately put in the spotlight as José Mourinho decided to start him over Petr Cech.

This decision shocked many, as Cech has been the incumbent at Chelsea for multiple years and has performed at an extremely high level. It might be time for the kid to take over though, and Mourinho seems to be thinking that based on Monday’s lineup card. If Courtois slips up, it will be very interesting to see how much faith Mourinho has in him before he hands the reins back over to Cech.

What goalkeeper do you think will make the biggest impact this year? One of the guys we covered, or someone else?

 

The Street Soccer USA Cup Kicks Off Today in San Francisco!

This weekend San Francisco will be the host of the Street Soccer USA Cup at Civic Center Plaza, starting today, Friday the 15th at 12pm, and continuing from 9am to 7pm Saturday August 16th, and Sunday August 17th from 9am to 4pm.

socialmedia2-2

 

If you are in the Bay Area this weekend, you should definitely make an appearance to watch this exciting tournament! Three courts have been set up at Civic Center Plaza in the heart of SF in preparation for fast paced and highly entertaining 4v4 Street Soccer tournament on trademark Street Soccer Courts featuring the best amateur soccer players the Bay Area as well as the Street Soccer USA program teams of homeless men and women from 16 US cities. If not, check out Street Soccer USA on Facebook and also on Twitter for the livestream link of the event once it is up and running and for more info! If you are following along on social media, use the hashtags #SSUSACupSF or #IPlayFor to join the conversation.

The Street Soccer USA Cup is a 3-day street soccer tournament that will transform Civic Center into a unique sport festival with music, food trucks and 4v4 street soccer. The tournament has over 30 teams and seating for 7,000 fans to enjoy one of the most beautiful plazas in California. It is a true hands-on opportunity to deeply engage with our organization and be a part of one of the most impactful social movements in our country.

The Street Soccer USA Cup brings together the 20-team league comprised of homeless men and women across the US for three days of competition and camaraderie in which one team will capture the National SSUSA Cup Title. The top 8 players from the male division and the top 8 from the female division selected for achievements off the field in life as well as on the playing field, will go on to represent the US in the 64-national Homeless World Cup, which will be held in Santiago, Chile in October 2014.

All registration fees support Street Soccer USA’s social program that teaches job and life skills to at-risk, homeless and kids living in low-income housing developments. This competition is designed to help Street Soccer USA expand its urban mini pitch construction and Street Soccer programs for at-risk youth across SOMA, Tenderloin and the Western Addition neighborhoods.

If you need more details, check the Facebook event, RSVP, and share with your friends! There’s a strong chance you will see special guest USMNT World Cup team member Chris Wondolowski out there this weekend as well. You can win free San Jose Earthquakes tickets if you post your favorite photo from the event using the hashtag (#SSUSACupSF) and tagging @StreetSoccerUSA on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. We’ll RT and the photo with the most likes wins a pair of tickets to a San Jose Earthquakes match courtesy of The Faultline! Check the event on Facebook for more details on this contest.

wondo SSUSA

Best of luck to all the teams and players participating, and hope to see everyone out there!

It’s TSG Fantasy EPL time!

That’s right. The Shin Guardian Fantasy EPL is back. But wait, there’s more!

Dat. Hair.

Sorry, I got distracted when I said the word fantasy. Mainly because I started thinking about Geoff Cameron’s hair. Now that is a fantasy. Sorry Stu, your run as best Amhairican out there looks like it has come to an end. So get in on the official league of the most official soccer site on the most official internet that you know: Oh to have hair like Geoff Cameron!! (click meeeeeee) through the delightful fantasy dot premier league site. They do all the work, you do all the winning.

Speaking of winning, we’ve linked up with the good people over at Ruffneck Scarves / Who Are Ya Designs to give away some prizes during the fantasy EPL season. At the end of each month, whoever is in the top spot in the league will get to pick a scarf or t-shirt of their choice from the lovely collections they have. Only deal is once you win once, you can’t win again. No hogging all the goods.

We will also do a couple random giveaways throughout the season that will be randomly chosen, for those of us who have zero shot at finishing first. Like me. So basically, get in. Maybe you will win. Then you could take your new gear for a spin. That surely will leave you with a grin. Unlike my last 4 sentences.

Dos A Cero!

Brilliant.

Click here to get in the finest fantasy EPL league of them all or if you just need the league code, it is: 230169-260522. While you are clicking on things, give the TSG Facebook page a like if you feel so inclined. Tell your friends to get in the league too, so you can embarrass them with your expert knowledge of  the English Premier League, and then watch as they beat you based on picking players with the shortest names. It happens. I’m not bitter at all, I promise.

Ignore Geoff Cameron At CB At Your Own Peril

"Stop. I'm a CB."

“Stop. I’m a CB.”

Alex Olshanky makes the technical call: Geoff Cameron is a lion-in-waiting at CB.

The consensus among most long-time observers of Geoff Cameron is that the American international is best-utilized as a central defender or, potentially, as a central defensive midfielder. Not surprisingly, Cameron seems to agree with this assessment. Most do not see Cameron as a natural right back.

And yet, that is where he has carved out a nice role for himself at Stoke. Cameron made 36 of his 37 appearances in that role during the most recent EPL campaign. While he performed ably and drove his skillset up the RB quality curve–by the end of the year he was Stoke’s main conduit from the back and was hitting a higher percentage of crosses–it was a role where he was unable to make full use of his athleticism, arguably Cameron’s best attribute.

Cameron's Azteca point-blank-shot-saving header.

Cameron’s Azteca point-blank-shot-saving header. 

But, there is growing speculation that other European teams see in Cameron what he sees in himself: an international-caliber center back. The evidence, though not conclusive, indicates that Cameron should have no trouble finding a role in central defense for another team.

While we have a pretty good understanding of key performance indicators for attacking soccer players, there has been woefully little progress in measuring defensive players and, in particular, central defensive players. This is understandable: the best attribute for a defender is the attacking play that did not happen – how do you measure that? It’s like when a defensive tackle collapses the pocket, so a linebacker can make a play. There are no stats for “collapses pocket.”

This major caveat aside, there is one measurable trait that most of the best central defenders possess— the ability to win aerials. Opta measures both the number of aerials contested in a match and the % of these aerial battles “won” for every player. Although he played as a right back, Cameron demonstrated an aerial prowess that compares well to his central defensive peers.

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Skeptical that aerial win (%) means anything? Here are the players with 70%+ aerial win.

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We do have some more recent data on Cameron as a central defensive player.

We looked at his games vs. Turkey, Nigeria, Ghana, Portugal, and Belgium (he played as a central defensive midfielder this game).

We evaluated Cameron on three key central defensive indicators: aerial win (%), # of clearances, blocked shots (as a percent of shots conceded). While not all-encompassing in their scope, these are some of the better indicators we have for center backs.

Here is how this admittedly small sample size of Cameron’s international work stacks up against the best center backs in the EPL (per composite rankings of Whoscored, Squawka, Castrol). This analysis is in no way definitive, and you are no doubt thinking of that error vs. Portugal, but there is undoubtedly some compelling evidence on Geoff Cameron’s side.

Compelling evidence for Cameron.

Compelling evidence for Cameron.

1AD: Landon Donovan, US Soccer Synonym, Retires

The ever-moving attacker finally comes to rest….

Well done Landon.

Our piece from 2012… can’t say much more different now.

The Counterattack Heard Round the World

 

 

An MLS All-Star Twist

Valeri.

Valeri.

Steve Fenn has writes for TSG and on his own publication, Stat Hunting.

We have nearly reached the end of the silly season in the United States.

Not in regard to transfer rumors, which will continue to circulate worldwide for weeks, but we are about to see the other side of international friendlies in the States. For years now, US Soccer and MLS have regularly played host to barnstorming European powers of the game, who sweep through the country playing against each other and domestic sides. Huge crowds pay good money to watch scrimmages that neither side takes very seriously, and the climax of these exhibitions is the MLS All-Star Game.

Tonight the MLS All Stars will face Bayern Munich. Well, most of Bayern Munich. Well, most in terms of number of players, not in terms of talent. Like the majority of these summer friendlies, the match makes sense only on economic terms, but such considerations carry decision-making. The logic goes that All-Star festivities involving only MLS players did not sell in the past, and hosting a superclub (especially one with a budding American star in reserve) attracts attention and sells tickets.

Isn’t that thinking outdated, though? The last All-MLS All-Star Game took place in 2004, and the big names scoring the goals were Guevara, Eskandarian, Ching, and Kreis. As great as those players were in their day, I doubt they even had a Q-rating, while World Cup marketing campaigns (some more recent than others) has been built around the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry, etc.

While MLS has the stars to potentially make an East vs. West game interesting, the league seems to want a popular team in their marquee event. Conveniently, few teams have a bigger presence the United States Mens National Team during a major international competition, and the USA will compete in a major tournament, or two, during each of the next five summers, hosting most of them. The 2015 Gold Cup, 2016 Copa America, 2017 Gold Cup, 2018 World Cup, and 2019 Gold Cup will take place in their respective Junes, and should the US qualify, they would also send a team to the Olympics in August 2016. MLS should strongly consider going back to a USA vs. the World format, this time hopefully even bringing the national team coach into the fold.

Advantages for US Soccer and Jurgen Klinsmann

Chance to work with players that aren’t yet eligible. The All-Star Game is not sanctioned by FIFA, so Klinsmann’s team includea players seeking US eligibility, like Darlington Nagbe, Ozzie Alonso, Diego Fagundez, etc.

Check-in with US mainstays. 11 players on the current All Star roster took part in Klinsmann’s 30-man World Cup camp, eight of whom he took to Brazil. National teams don’t get to play together often, and every chance a manager has to work with them is precious. Landon Donovan’s presence could well be awkward, but that would add to the drama of the event.

Evaluating fringe players. Sporting Kansas City’s Dom Dwyer, Seattle Sounder Chad Marshall (withdrawn due to injury), and DC United’s trio of Bill Hamid, Bobby Boswell, and Sean Franklin are the only American All-Stars who were not in the camp. Others would join these ranks on a full American 18, whether by selection of Klinsmann, commissioner Don Garber, or others in MLS.

Beyond this, the new addition to All-Star week, the Homegrown Game, could serve as a youth national team match, pitting the league’s young stars against a youth national team every year.

Potential USA rosters (those not on current roster are in bold):

Goalkeepers (2): Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Bill Hamid (D.C. United)

Defenders (6): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Boswell (DC United), Sean Franklin (DC United), Seth Sinovic (Sporting KC)

Midfielders (7): Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders FC), Dillon Powers (Colorado Rapids), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Diego Fagundez (New England Revolution)

Forwards (3):  Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City) (status)

World class?

World class?

The World:

Goalkeepers (2): Jaime Penedo (LA Galaxy), Raul Fernandez (FC Dallas)

Defenders (6):  Aurélien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), José Gonçalves (New England Revolution), Jamison Olave (New York Red Bulls), Gonzalo Segares (Chicago Fire), Hassoun Camara (Montreal Impact), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Columbus Crew)

Midfielders (6): Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls), Will Johnson (Portland Timbers), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas), Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake), Federico Higuain (Columbus Crew)

Forwards (4): Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders FC), Erick Torres (Chivas USA), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City) (status)

Of course, as stated earlier, the biggest factor in decisions of this nature is money, and some monetary forces are at odds with one another as to the feasibility of this solution. MLS would save on expenses, as they would no longer need to pay exorbitant appearance fees to European clubs. On the other hand, a pseudo-official national team could draw Nike and Adidas into direct conflict over what the USA All-Stars would wear. Nike pays a great deal to outfit the national team, while Adidas does the same for everything MLS.

Hopefully this and any other obstacles could be overcome for the sake of an All-Star Game that truly promotes the league and provides an opportunity for the national team. With a new collective bargaining agreement pending, this could be the perfect time to restructure this event, and MLS might as well do everything in their power to improve it.

The USA U-20 team can help fill that World Cup-size hole in your heart

U20 MNT starting ix

Are you suffering from World Cup withdrawals? Do you find yourself chanting USA USA USA under your breath at work? Do you book two hour meetings that aren’t real on your work calendar in hopes that it might coax the World Cup to start again? Have you walked by a bar longingly on Saturday morning, wishing you weren’t outside in the sun and instead surrounded by sweaty Americans, all covered in beer? Me too. It’s hard. I feel it too. Unfortunately nothing can actually replace the World Cup. Not even vodka (trust me). Instead, let’s look at some other solutions to attempt to fill that World Cup-sized hole (at least temporarily). Tomorrow, 7/18 (or today if you are out in the East) the USMNT U-20 team takes on the Australia U-20 team for the championship of the NTC Invitational. With the goal differential situation, the USA can win the event with a draw or victory against Australia. This tournament, held at the StubHub Center, has seen the US take on both Bermuda and Chile so far. The best part is this game is being streamed, Friday night at 7 PM PST on http://www.ussoccer.com/. Throw your US jersey on and put that withdrawal to rest for the evening.

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