Saturday, June 02, 2007

Fouls, Fouls, Fouls

Climbing the Ladder takes a look at fouls in this blog entry. They're searching for a way to gleam information from how many fouls a play commitments versus how many they suffer. It left me wondering who in Major League Soccer (MLS) is committing the most fouls. The numbers are from the league's fair play table. As you can see Toronto FC has committed the most both total and per game.

Team GP Fouls Fouls Per Game
Real Salt Lake (0-3-5) 8 87 10.875
New England Revolution (5-2-2) 9 103 11.444
Chicago Fire (3-4-2) 9 104 11.556
Kansas City Wizards (5-2-1) 8 106 13.25
Los Angeles Galaxy (1-3-2) 6 82 13.667
New York Red Bulls (5-1-2) 8 110 13.75
Houston Dynamo (2-5-1) 8 111 13.875
Columbus Crew (1-2-5) 8 118 14.75
Chivas USA (3-3-2) 8 120 15
Colorado Rapids (4-2-3) 9 136 15.111
FC Dallas (5-4-1) 10 152 15.2
D.C. United (3-3-1) 7 125 17.857
Toronto FC (2-5-1) 8 157 19.625

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Transfers? But It's Not Even Summer Yet

It doesn't seem to matter that the summer transfer window isn't open and that some leagues haven't finished playing yet, the press is already talking heavily about transfers. Most of them are still rumors. But a few are already done deals. I'll try building off of this list from time to time. More so, I'll make a point of keeping a list of rumored moves that were claimed to be serious but never panned out.

Tottenham Hotspur
In :
Gareth Bale - The 17 year-old decided to not spend another year with with Southampton and head to the Premiership. It's shame since as talented as he is, he still has a lot to learn about defending. The headlines say it's a £10 million move. But the details are £5 million with up to another £5 million possible depending on first team appearances, national caps, etc. Not as sexy as the reported 10m but it's a lot less risky of a move for Spurs. Saints on the other hand need the money since they were not promoted and their golden parachute from their Prem days has now ended.

In :
Luksz Fabianski - The terms of this one have not been announced. As a 22 year old goalkeeper, it's unlikely that Fabianski will see a lot of playing time next year despite being a member of the 2006 WC team for Poland.

In :
Sylvan Distin (FAILED) - Distin was rumored to be joining Liverpool but he joined Portsmouth instead.
Out : Robbie Fowler, Jerzy Dudek

In :
Hermann Hreidarsson - Signed from now relegated Charlton
Sylvan Distin -
Bonaventure Kalou (Rumor)
Out : Andy Cole (Rumor) - Was on loan at Birmingham and may be signed now that they've been promoted

Manchester United -
In :
Berbatov (Rumor) - If there is any truth to the rumor Sir Alex will send Luis Saha plus his entire transfer budget, £27.5 million, for the summer to Tottenham's Ditmar Berbatov. It would be a nice bit of business for Spurs but it's hard to picture any team spending that much for Berbatov. More so that Manchester United have just spent big money to bring Owen Hargreaves in from Bayern. Owen Hargreaves - Sir Alex Ferguson has been pursuing him since last year. The deal is set to go through when the summer window opens in a couple weeks. Manchester United with be sending £17 million to Bayern. Ben Foster - Technically not a transfer but after 2 years of being on loan at Watford it feels a bit like bringing a new face into the team. Rumor has it that SAF has already decided that Foster will get the starting nod. Watford signed Arsenal's Estonian GK Mart Poom as a replacement.
Out : Saha (Rumor)

Real Madrid
In :
Christoph Metzelder - The German international will be joining Real Madrid. No word on how much Dortmund got for the 26 year-old center back. No word on who's going to be heading out

Monday, May 28, 2007

Should Sarachan Be Fired?

Should Sarachan be fired? That's the question MLS Underground is asking today. It's not a new one. Many Fire fans have been asking this for a couple years. Going into the 2007 season they were my dark horse pick to finish last. I wouldn't have put a lot of money on them for sure finishing last in the East. But every year we seem to have a team that surprises people and falls apart. The Fire were the best candidate for that. I didn't think Sarachan was changing the team up enough, their back line was too slow and Barrett and Rolfe getting more attention than they deserved.

What bothers me about this question is the timing. I do not understand why teams go into a new season with less than 100% confidence in a coach and when things don't go well they fire the coach only to scramble to find a replacement. Even worse they miss out on being able to give a new coach the off-season to make trades, sign new players and train the team in ways they feel they need. That is, not only do you piss away the first few games of the season but you're making it hard for anything to go well until the season is over.

That is why the question should be what if anything Chicago can gain right now from firing Sarachan. What changes could a new coach make? Who could be the new coach? Who is even available? Bradley and Nowak had their interim label removed for USMNT. Colin Clarke's signed with Puerto Rico. Soehn and Onalfo are in their first year with their clubs. So who? Brian Bliss? Denis Hamlet? I like Hamlett but if you feel things are going so poorly that it can't wait until the off-season to make a change, why would you not completely changes things? Why put the general's under study in charge?

A new coach may be able to squeeze a bit more juice of out the squad but unless they're able to bring in a bit more creativity to their offense and some pace for their defense things won't be very different under the new coach in 2007 than under Sarachan. That doesn't mean that Sarachan deserves to have the job. It's too bad they didn't use last summer to seize the moment, bring in a coach like Onalfo, Soehn or even Morrow with fresh ideas. I fail to see how a new coach right now will change things enough to be worth the risk. The risk being that you give the job to someone who isn't best suited simply because you need to hire someone, anyone, right away. They'd be better served waiting until December to make this move when teams will be willing to part with their coaches and players as they try to change up their teams.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

At Last, Soccer Has That Hometown Feel

Props to Mark Kiszla for his column in the Denver Post today. As someone who grew up in a time when the mainstream media ripped on the soccer if they even bothered to mention it all, it's been wonderful to see the changes over the last few years. More and more it's being covered in a positive light and at that by sports journalists who aren't devoted to the game. That is, those who cover sports in general are playing attention to the beautiful game.

When Will The Revs Learn?
For those who didn't catch the game, the Revolution and Kansas City had a shootout of sorts at Gillette Stadium. The game ended 4-3 in KC's favor. New England went out to a quick 2-0 lead thanks to goals by Ralston and Twellman. Twellman had nothing in the 23rd minute except a little space to take a shot and he scores his 7th of the year. But within a minute or two KC turns around and scores.

The play starts with a long, stray pass by Shalerie Joseph out of New England's back. KC's Harrington get's the ball about 60 yards from goal. He plays it to center mid who plays it to Victorine on the left, who plays it to Zavagnin in the center. Michael Parkhurst disappears somewhere up the field (busy writing a thank you card to Bradley for his US call-up?) and neither Joseph nor Riley pick up Arnoud coming straight through the middle to put away the goal. 2-1 NE but it's not over.

Not even a minute after the first goal, KC scores their second. For some reason Riley has a poor clearance that goes to KC's right back Jack Jewsbury who puts it right back in the mix. Eddie Johnson, in appropriately marked by Jay Heaps (no offense to Heaps; he just doesn't have the skills to mark EJ).

Both goals were perfect examples of how important possession can be. Neither was an instance where the defender gave up the ball in an obviously dangerous position. But they were stray passes that KC was able to quickly take advantage of. Worse, with the New England team being essentially the same to have just lost to Houston in the MLS Cup one has to wonder if they've learned nothing about concentrating on the game after scoring a goal. It wasn't as quick as the in the MLS Cup final but they should not have let KC turn around and score so soon after going up 2-0. Had they done a better job of that they would've walked away with points at home.