Monday, February 9, 2015

My USMNT caps

I used to go to the Home Depot Center game held after January camp every year, but to my shame, I was absent in '09, '10, '11.  Then they didn't play Jan games in Carson in '12 and '13.  (I'm still not sure if I was at the Jan 2004 game vs Denmark.  I definitely was at the 2003 MLS allstar game, which Donovan, Beasley, Bocanegra, Mathis and Hejduk played in).  I vow to take my kids to every US Soccer game held within LA county from now on.  To preserve my own memories, I'm listing my caps.

My caps:


January 20
US 5 - Norway 0, Home Depot Center
(Twellman 5', 17', 76'; Eddie Pope 67', Chris Klein 87'). - Taylor Twellman hat trick.

February 10
US 3 - Japan 2, AT&T Park
(Eddie Pope 24'; Clint Dempsey 39'; Taylor Twellman 50').

June 12
US 0 - Czech Republic 3, Fifa World Cup Stadium (Gelsenkirchen)
FIFA 2006 WC!

June 17
US 1 - Italy 1, Fritz-Walter-Stadion (Kaiserslautern)
(Italy own goal 27') FIFA 2006 WC - 9 men.

June 22
US 1 - Ghana 2, Frankenstadion (Nuremberg)
(Dempsey 43') - FIFA 2006 WC


January 20
US 3 - Denmark 1, HDC
(Landon Donovan PK 44'; Jonathan Bornstein 57'; Kenny Cooper 80') - Bob Bradley debut.

June 7
US 1 - Guatemala 0, HDC
(Clint Dempsey 26') - Gold Cup 1st round

June 9
US 2 - Trinidad & Tobago 0, HDC
(Brian Ching 29', Eddie Johnson 54') - Gold Cup 1st round

September 9
US 2 - Brazil 4, Soldier Stadium
(Carlos Bocanegra 21'; Clint Dempsey 73') - Kaka'! Ronaldinho!


January 19
US 2 - Sweden 0, HDC
(Eddie Robinson 15'; Landon Donovan PK 48') Landon Donovan became US' all time leading scorer.

June 15
US 8 - Barbados 0, HDC
(Clint Dempsey 1', 63'; Michael Bradley 12'; Brian Ching 20', 89'; Landon Donovan 59'; Eddie Johnson 82'; Own Goal 86') - My first World Cup qualifier.


June 25
US 2 - Mexico 4, Rose Bowl
(Michael Bradley 8', Landon Donovan 23') Gold Cup Final, Bob Bradley's last game

September 2
US 0 - Costa Rica 1, HDC
My eldest son's first game.  US dominated possession, but couldn't convert.


February 1
US 2 - South Korea 0, Stubhub Center
(Chris Wondolowski 4', 60')


February 8
US 2 - Panama 0, Stubhub Center
(Michael Bradley 27', Clint Dempsey 37') 2nd son's first game.  Bradley's Olimpico!

- I've seen Dempsey score the most - 7 goals.  Twellman and Donovan both scored 4.  Bradley bagged 3.

- 15 games total.  9 at the Home Depot / Stubhub Center, 3 in Germany, 1 at the Rose Bowl, 1 at AT&T Park, 1 at Soldier Field.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Landon Donovan, the Greatest US Soccer Player Ever

Regardless of how anyone (including Klinsmann) feels about Landon's approach or attitude, he retires as the greatest player in MLS and US Soccer history.

Landon stands alone as the only player to ever win 6 MLS Championships.

He holds the MLS record for most goals all-time with 144.  (32 were scored with the San Jose Earthquakes from 2001-04, and the other 112 were scored with the LA Galaxy, from 2005-2014.)  The next leading scorer is the retired Jeff Cunningham with 134.  The current player with the most is De Rosario with only 104, so it will be awhile before Donovan's scoring record is broken.

He holds the MLS record for most assists all-time with 136 as well.  The retired Steve Ralston has 135 and the current player with the most is Brad Davis with 112.

Including all club competitions with the Earthquakes, Galaxy and his 5 European stints (Bayern Leverkusen II, Bayern Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Everton twice), Landon's scored a whopping 182 goals in 458 games.

As for US duty which stretched from 2000-14, Landon is the career leader in US goals all-time with 57.  Dempsey has the 2nd most with 39 and will likely need to keep playing through the 2018 World Cup to score another 18 goals.  To give you context, if you add the 3rd and 4th highest US scorers' goals together (Brian McBride and Eric Wynalda), you would only have 64, just 7 more than Landon's mark.

Even Jozy, who has 25 goals in 76 appearances, will need to keep up that pace for the 2nd half of his international career just to have a shot at the record.

As for assists, Landon has 58 all-time US assists.  The next highest is Cobi Jones with 22.  In fact, if you added the assists numbers of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th leading assists players (Cobi 22, Reyna 19, Lewis 16), you'd have 57, one less than Landon's total.  The active player with the most is DeMarcus Beasley with 13.  Bradley and Dempsey are next tied at 12.

Cobi Jones is the leader with a remarkable 164 caps, but Landon is 2nd with 157 caps.  Beasley has 121 while Dempsey has 110.

Of course, our only regret is that Landon wasn't in the game vs Belgium, where he would have finished off the pass from Jermaine's head for his 58th goal in stoppage time.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

SF Giants 3 World Series Championship Rosters

Here are all the 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series Giants players that played in the WS for that year.  While some bench players may have got a start here or there, I listed starters that played the majority of the time.


C Buster Posey
1B Brandon Belt
2B Joe Panik
SS Brandon Crawford
3B Pablo Sandoval
LF Travis Ishikawa
CF Gregor Blanco
RF Hunter Pence
DH Mike Morse

Juan Perez (PH, LF)
Andrew Susac (PH, C)
Joaquin Arias (PH, SS)
Matt Duffy (PH, SS)
Mike Morse

Madison Bumgarner (MVP)
Jake Peavy
Tim Hudson
Ryan Vogelsong

Javier Lopez
Hunter Strickland
Jean Machi
Jeremy Affeldt
Tim Lincecum
Santiago Casilla
Sergio Romo
Yusmeiro Petit


C Buster Posey
1B Brandon Belt
2B Marco Scutaro
SS Brandon Crawford
3B Pablo Sandoval (MVP)
LF Gregor Blanco
CF Angel Pagan
RF Hunter Pence
DH Ryan Theriot / Hector Sanchez

Ryan Theriot (PH)
Joaquin Arias (3B)
Aubrey Huff (PH)
Hector Sanchez (C)

Matt Cain
Madison Bumgarner
Ryan Vogelsong
Barry Zito

Tim Lincecum
Jose Mijares
George Kontos
Jeremy Affeldt
Santiago Casilla
Sergio Romo (C) 


C Buster Posey
1B Aubrey Huff
2B Freddy Sanchez
SS Edgar Renteria (MVP)
3B Juan Uribe
LF Pat Burrell
CF Andres Torres
RF Cody Ross
DH Pablo Sandoval / Aubrey Huff / Pat Burrell

Pablo Sandoval (PH)
Nate Schierholtz (RF)
Travis Ishikawa (PH, 1B)
Mike Fontenot (PH)
Aaron Rowand (PH, CF)

Tim Lincecum
Matt Cain
Jonathan Sanchez
Madison Bumgarner

Santiago Casilla
Sergio Romo
Javier Lopez
Ramon Ramirez
Jeremy Affeldt
Brian Wilson (C)
Guillermo Mota

The seven players who have played in all three Series':

Buster Posey
Madison Bumgarner 
Pablo Sandoval 
Tim Lincecum 
Jeremy Affeldt
Sergio Romo
Santiago Casilla

- Affeldt, Romo and Casilla were relievers for all 3 Series'.  (Note: Javier Lopez was on the 2012 roster, but did not play).
- Lincecum was the starting pitcher (the ace) in 2010, but sadly has regressed as a reliever in the other 2 Series'.
- Sandoval was a DH in 2010 for 1 game, but did not start at 3B in that Series.  Obviously he was the MVP in 2012 and has set a record for hits in a postseason this year.
- Buster is the player to appear in all 16 Giants' WS games, and is the only non-pitcher to play a critical role in all 3 World Series'.
- Madison's career World Series ERA is down to 0.25 (1 run in 36 innings pitched), the lowest in history, minimum 25 innings.

2-time World Series participants:

Brandon Belt ('12, '14)
Brandon Crawford ('12, '14)
Gregor Blanco ('12, '14)
Hunter Pence ('12, '14)
Joaquin Arias ('12, '14)
Ryan Vogelsong ('12, '14)
Travis Ishikawa ('10, '14) 
Javier Lopez ('10, '14)
Aubrey Huff ('10, '12) 
Matt Cain ('10, '12)
Posey, Bumgarner, Sandoval, Lincecum, Affeldt, Romo, Santiago - all 3 Series'
- So 13 players played in both '12 and '14 Series'.
- 6 of the 8 field positions were returnees from 2 years ago: Buster, Belt, Crawford, Sandoval, Blanco and Pence.
- Bumgarner and Vogelsong were the 2 returning starting pitchers for those 2 runs.
- Angel Pagan was injured late this year, otherwise he would have been our starter again (instead of Ishikawa).

- In contrast, only 9 played in both '10 and '12 Series'.
- In addition to the seven 3-time participants, Matt Cain and Aubrey Huff played in those two championships.
- Cain would have played this year had it not been for injury.  It probably would have made this championship a bit easier.
- Aubrey Huff started at 1B in '10 and as a pinch hitter in '12.
- Brian Wilson would have likely been our closer still in '12 but suffered a season-ending injury early on.
- In terms of field positions, only Posey was a fulltime player in both, while Sandoval came off the bench in '10.  That means that Brian Sabean basically built a championship winning lineup then completely did it again within two years for a 2nd championship.  Amazing.

- Travis Ishikawa was a bench guy in '10 (1B) and part-time starter in '14 as he got pushed in the left-field role late in this season.
- Javier Lopez also didn't play the '12 Series but he was on the roster.  Giants only played 4 games, and it just happened that he wasn't needed.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Peyton Manning All-Time Passing TD Leader

Peyton threw his 509th TD in his 246th game last night to break the NFL record for career passing TDs.  I'd argue that he is the greatest regular season QB of all time.  (Greatest postseason QB of all time?  Joe Montana, of course).  Favre had previously set the record in 2010, although he bested Marino's 420 mark back in 2007.  I figured we should take a closer look at their numbers.

Peyton Manning 
Games: 246
TD: 510
INT: 222
Yards: 66,812
Completions: 5,681 (Attempts: 8,669) 
Completion Pct: 65.5%
Per game: 2.07 TDs, 0.90 INTs, 272 yards

Brett Favre
Games: 302
TD: 508
INT: 336
Yards: 71,838
Completions: 6,300 (Attempts:10,169) 
Completion Pct: 62.0%
Per game: 1.68 TDs, 1.11 INTs, 238 yards

So it took Peyton 56 less games than Favre to reach the 508 TD mark.  Along the way, he's thrown 114 less interceptions (and 2 more TDs), at a much higher completion percentage rate (65.5% to Favre's 62%) while averaging 34 more yards per game (272 to 238).  Sorry, no comparison.

So what would Peyton's numbers look like if he played the same number of games as Favre (302)?  At Peyton's career average rate, he'd have 626 TDs, 272 INTs and 82,021 yards, which would destroy Favre in every way.

Favre still leads only Peyton in career completions and yards.  At Peyton's career rate, it would take him another 27 games to break the completion record and another 18.5 games to break the yardage mark.
However, Peyton's numbers in his 2.5 seasons at Denver are even more incredible.

38 games, 111 TDs, 24 INTs, 999 completions, 11984 yards
Per game: 2.92 TDs, 0.63 INTs, 26.3 completions per game, 315.4 yards per game

At this rate, he'd beat Favre's completion record in 23.5 games and would only need 16 more games to set the yardage record.

Peyton v Active QBs

So how does Peyton compare to his contemporaries?  Let's look at other great current QBs, Brady, Brees and Rodgers and what their stats would be at their 246th game (Peyton's current) mark.  Brees (374) and Brady (372) are 4th and 5th on the all-time TD list, behind Marino's 420 TDs.  Rodgers might have an outside shot at Peyton's TD record (although he lost 3 years on Favre's bench). 

Drew Brees
Games: 193
TD: 374
INT: 184
Yards: 52,997
Completions: 4,659 (Attempts: 7,062)
Completion Pct: 66.0%
Per game: 1.94 TDs, 0.95 INTs, 275 yards

So Brees needs 53 more games and based on his career rate, he'd have 477 TDs, 234 INTs, 67,551.  He'd be 33 TD short of Peyton while throwing 12 INTs more, but have 739 more yards.

To reach 508 TDs, 35 year old Brees needs to play another 69 games at his career rate, which is another 4.3 seasons. 

Tom Brady
Games: 200
TD: 372
INT: 136
Yards: 50,854
Completions: 4,329 (Attempts: 6,832)
Completion Pct: 63.4%
Per game: 1.86 TDs, 0.68 INTs, 254 yards

Brady needs 46 more games and based on his career rate, he'd have 458 TDs, 167 INTs, 62,550.  Brady's far behind Peyton in TDs and yardage but far ahead in INTs.

To reach 508 TDs, 37 year old Brady needs to play another 73 games at his career rate, which is another 4.5 seasons. 

Aaron Rodgers
Games: 101
TD: 206
INT: 53
Yards: 25,871
Completions: 2,086 (Attempts: 3,166)
Completion Pct: 65.9%
Per game: 2.04 TDs, 0.52 INTs, 256 yards

Rodgers needs 145 more games and would end up with 502 TDs, only 128 INTs, and 63,013 yards.  So if Rodgers plays another 148 games (9.25 seasons) at his current rate, he could reach 508 TDs at the age of 40.

I'd guess Peyton plays at least another season beyond this, knowing what a football junkie he is.  Having thrown 55 touchdowns last season, he's on track this year (19 TDs in 6 games) to reach the 50 TD mark.  If he reaches that and let's be conservative and say he only throws 30 TDs next year, he'd finish with 571 TDs.  Brees, Brady or Rodgers would have to sustain a high level of play into their 40s to even have a realistic chance.  Unless Andrew Luck or another young gun develops a Manning-like passing obsession, I think Peyton holds onto the career TD record for a few decades.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 World Cup Distance Covered (Miles per 90 minutes) - Michael Bradley #1

Four years ago, I ran the numbers on how much distance players covered per 90 minutes of play during World Cup 2010.  FIFA only releases the total distance covered (in km) in the entire tournament, but that is not helpful because some played 7 games, while others played 3.  Also, some knockout round games had extra time periods, which would also skew the numbers.  For example, Thomas Mueller covered the most distance in this tournament with a total of 84 km (52.20 miles) over 7 games but he did it in less minutes (682 min) than it took Javier Mascherano (720 min) to cover 81.2 km (50.46 miles).

So, armed with the two stats that FIFA does give us, a) total minutes played and b) total distance covered, I again converted it to my own measure of a player's effort.  How many miles does a player cover over the course of every 90 minutes he played in World Cup 2014?  Although this is obviously not an exact science, these are the guidelines I put in place to give us a more accurate measurement.

a) The player must have averaged at least 90 min a game.  Obviously, if you play for just the last 10 min of a game, you can sprint around and increase your distance rate when extrapolated over 90 min.  Originally, I lowered the minimum to 80 minutes, but this only changed 3-4 players mostly near the bottom of the top 15, not enough to break tradition with my 2010 system.  I did not put in place a ceiling because its just too complicated to measure how tired each player is and how it impacts his distance covered.  1 player (Martin DiMichelis) averaged 110 min per game.  Clearly, the Argentine defender did not finish too high in our rankings (#145). 

b) The players must have played in a minimum of 3 games.  This arbitrary minimum is put in place to disqualify the speciality or bench player who did not have to push himself through at least 3 games.  Also, it is set at 3 because that is a full tournament for half the teams.

The math: I took each players total tournament minutes and divided by 90 to find how many 90 minute increments they played.  For example, Thomas Mueller's 682 min divided by 90, comes out to 7.58.  He actually played 7.58 90-minute soccer games.  Then I simply divided each player's total distance in miles by how many 90 minute increments they played.  So for Mueller, 52.20 miles divided by his 7.58 "games" comes out to 6.89 miles per 90 minutes played.  For our findings, he ranks 15th overall.

The top 15 players in distance covered per game of Brazil WC 2014:

1) Michael Bradley (US) 4 games, 390 minutes, 33.99 total miles, 7.84 miles/90min
2) Marcelo Diaz (Chile) 4 games, 390 minutes, 32.44 total miles, 7.49 miles/90min
3) Victor Fayzulin (Russia) 3 games, 270 minutes, 22.25 miles, 7.42 miles/90min
4) Mile Jedinak (Australia) 3 games, 270 minutes, 22.00 miles, 7.33 miles/90min
5) Alexander Kokorin (Russia) 3 games, 270 minutes, 21.93 miles, 7.31 miles/90min
6) Muhamed Busic (Bosnia & H) 3 games, 270 minutes, 21.69 miles, 7.23 miles/90min
7) Charles Aranguiz (Chile) 4 games, 364 minutes, 29.20 miles, 7.22 miles/90min
8) Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium) 4 games, 390 minutes, 31.25 miles, 7.21 miles/90min
9) Koo Jacheol (South Korea) 3 games, 270 minutes, 21.56 miles, 7.19 miles/90min
10) Miralem Pjanic (Bosnia & H) 3 games, 270 minutes, 21.44 miles, 7.15 miles/90min
11) Nabil Bentaleb (Algeria) 3 games, 270 minutes, 21.31 miles, 7.10 miles/90min
12) Yuto Nagatomo (Japan) 3 games, 270 minutes, 20.94 miles, 6.98 miles/90min
13) Kyle Beckerman (US) 3 games, 270 minutes, 20.75 miles, 6.92 miles/90min
14) Alexander Samedov (Russia) 3 games, 270 minutes, 20.69 miles, 6.90 miles/90min
15) Thomas Mueller (Germany) 7 games, 682 minutes, 52.20 miles, 6.89 miles/90min

Random Observations:

- Of the 608 players that played in the 2014 World Cup, only 176 met our criteria for this study (3 games minimum, 80 or more minutes played per game).  24 of those 176 were keepers.

- In 2010, Michael Bradley finished #2 overall with 7.41 miles/90min.  (#1 then was a North Korean, An Yong Hak, with a distance of 7.50).  This year, Bradley was the only player to best the 7.50 mile/90min mark.  But what is absolutely shocking is how far above everyone else he is.  The approximate difference between each of the scores down the entire 176 player list is around 0.01 to 0.04.  Bradley is heads and shoulders above 2nd place by 0.35 miles/90min.  The next time there is a gap larger is between the last field player, Thiago Silva 4.97 miles/90min and the first keeper, Maty Ryan 3.83.  For all the criticism Bradley received, you cannot argue that he did not give it his full effort.

- Bradley is also the only player to make the top 15 in both 2010 and 2014.  Bastian Schweinsteiger, #6 in 2010, actually averaged 7.00 miles per game over 6 games (good for 12th this year), but he only averaged 84 minutes a game.

- Countries with multiple players on this list include: Russia with 3, US with 2, Chile with 2, Bosnia and Herzegovina with 2.

- Of the 15 players, 11 were midfielders, 3 were forwards (Jacheol and 2 Russians - Kokorin and Samedov) and 1 was a defender (Nagtomo).

- #13 Kyle Beckerman's impressive distance covered asks even more questions of Klinsmann's decision to bench him vs Belgium.

- The other Americans on the list are
#16 Jermaine Jones at 6.83
#30 Geoff Cameron 6.64
#43 Clint Dempsey 6.56
#88 DeMarcus Beasley 6.14
#160 Tim Howard 2.67

Other noteworthy US players who played between 65 to 89 min a game:
- Alejandro Bedoya 71 minutes per game, 23.49 miles, 7.42 miles/90min
- Graham Zusi 65 minutes per game, 20.94 miles, 7.28 miles/90min
- Omar Gonzalez 70 minutes per game, 15.29 miles, 6.52 miles/90min
- Fabian Johnson 76 minutes per game, 21.69 miles, 6.46 miles/90min
- Matt Besler 87 minutes per game, 23.55 miles, 6.13 miles/90min

- Howard ranked #9 for the goalkeepers.

- You'd probably think that Neuer's 3.12 easily covered the most distance of all the goalkeepers seeing how he essentially played sweeper, but he actually finished 4th.  It might be due to the fact that his team had possession most of the time and he had little to do.

- As for some other notable Germans, Toni Kroos finished 26th with 6.69, Lahm was 43rd at 6.56 and Hoewedes was 49th with 6.52.  Along with Mueller, those 4 covered the most distances for players who played 7 games.  Another reason why they won it all.

- Other notable players:
#28 Sneijder 6.65
#58 Robben 6.43
N/A James Rodriguez 6.46 (only 80 min per game)
#49 Pirlo 6.50
#64 Van Persie 6.36
#67 Iniesta 6.32
#68 Mascherano 6.31
#72 Ozil 6.25
#79 Oscar 6.17
#86 Sergio Ramos 6.15
#93 Neymar 6.11
N/A Di Maria 6.06 (only 85 min per game)
#105 Modric 5.99
#118 Benzema 5.89
#144 David Luiz 5.37
#151 Thiago Silva 4.97

- And of course, the two best players in the world - #121 Cristiano Ronaldo 5.84 and #150 Lionel Messi 5.06.  Well, they're not exactly box to box midfielders, are they?  Messi was 2nd to the last of all the field players.  I'll cut the guy a bit of slack, he made it to the 7th game after all.  Either that, or Fifa's distance numbers are wrong, therefore rendering this entire post moot.

Friday, July 4, 2014

2014 US World Cup Roster Analysis

US Soccer 23 Man Roster 2014 World Cup Thoughts


Tim Howard
I still remember when Howard went from NY Metrostars to Man United 13-14 years ago and I had such high hopes for somebody finally dominating in Europe.  12 years even at Everton ain't no joke.  Its good to see him have a career-capping WC performance.  I'd argue that he's taken over the mantle of greatest US keeper ever.  Friedel only had '02 WC, though it was a monster performance.  Keller manned the posts in 98 and 06, both group disasters.  Howard is the only keeper to go 2 for 2 - advancing from the group both times.  Now that he's set the record for most saves (16) in a WC match since '66, he's GOAT in US history.

Brad Guzan
Guzan will likely get his chance to start between the posts in this next cycle and in Russia 2018.  Until then, he needs to keep the bald-US-goalkeepers-in-the-Premier-League tradition alive.

Nick Rimando
Though I would have liked to see Klinsman bring a young gun like Bill Hamid or Cody Cropper along for the experience, UCLA-alum Nick Rimando seemed to be an important locker room presence.  A great reward to cap off a solid career.


DaMarcus Beasley (LB)
Beaz is in the top 10 in US scoring all time and the only US player to appear in 4 WCs.  He held his own this summer as a reinvented LB, and managed to keep Timmy Chandler on the bench.  A feel good ending to this legend's sometimes bumpy career.

Fabian Johnson (RB)
I was relieved to hear that he had been playing at RB for Hoffenheim, knowing that he was the solution to our RB woes.  More than that, he was one of our best attacking players as well.  Should be a mainstay in this next cycle.

Timmy Chandler (LB)
Coming off injury and exile from the US team going into camp, I thought he was still one of our best options at either LB or RB and needed to make the plane.  I would've never guessed that he wouldn't see the field at all though, especially behind Beaz.

DeAndre Yedlin (RB)
Of the 30 man camp roster, I figured he might be the first to be cut since he wasn't the best defender and is still new to the US fold.   I thought that the starter for most of our hex qualifiers, Brad Evans, and the back-line versatile Michael Parkhurst, would be fighting it out for the backup RB spot.  Now we know Evans was only being looked at for a CB spot, strangely enough.  Instead, Yedlin probably had a spot from the beginning.  His world-class speed would overshadow his lack of experience and defensive skill, putting pressure on WC opponents.  He was even deployed at right mid.  And hey, he got a Tottenham contract out of it.  Literally, he went from what I thought was the least-worthy guy in camp to our brightest star within a month.


Matt Besler (CB)
Since Boca's unceremonial boot at the start of the hexagonal qualifiers, Besler has been the new rock in our central defense.  He played well, aside from the stoppage time mini-gaffe vs Belgium, and should be around to anchor our 2018 WC squad.  Unfortunately, this summer may have been his best chance at going to Europe, but opted to stay at KC.

Geoff Cameron (CB)
I thought perhaps he'd be in consideration for RB, given his club position at Stoke, but that was clearly never in Klinsmann's mind.  Cameron made mistakes, especially vs Portugal in gifting Nani his early goal and losing his man, Varela, for the shock stoppage time goal.  But in his 3 starts, including an interesting choice at def mid instead of Beckerman to face Belgium's (tall) Fellaini, he had a respectable showing in his what will likely be his only WC.

Omar Gonzalez (CB)
Omar came into camp with a leg injury, but managed to recover well enough to start vs Deutschland and Belgium.   Omar will be a big part of this next cycle and is in contention to start in Russia.

John Brooks (CB)
Before camp, Brooks was basically terrible every time he'd pulled on a US shirt.  I thought with Omar's iffy injury status, a solid veteran like Clarence Goodson would be a shoe-in.  Not according to Klinsmann.  And when Besler went out at halftime of our first game and Omar perhaps not ready yet, Brooks comes in, defends well, then ... becomes legendary.  He's the first US sub to score a goal in WC history.  This 21 year old should be in the mix for at least 2 more WC cycles should all go well with his club career.

Central Midfielders

Michael Bradley
The blame for Bradley's mediocre WC will be debated for a long time.  Jozy's injury forced Dempsey into Jozy's position and Bradley further up the field into Dempsey's.  Asking your two best players to play new positions on the fly is risky at best, especially for Bradley.  I think it's obvious that he's best suited to a deep-lying role, where he is a bulldog between the boxes.  His assist to Julian from deep gives testimony to this.  While his work-rate was still exemplary, he wasn't nearly as effective as a #10 under a single striker.  Who should have been in that role instead?  Landon.  or Dempsey.  or even Diskerud.  Going forward, Bradley should be captain come Russia 2018 and hopefuly he's playing back where he belongs.

Jermaine Jones
I still believe that had we had JJ during his prime for WC 2010, we don't lose to Ghana (remember Ricardo Clark?  sorry to bring him up).  Though not statistically prone to red cards, Jones had the label coming into this summer of being a yellow-card waiting to happen.  Instead, with Bradley playing ahead of him, Jermaine was an absolute beast for us.  He had the energy of 21 year old paired with presence on the ball.  Who can forget his strike vs Portugal?  It was clearly not something produced out of the US soccer system.  Jermaine made the most of his only WC experience.

Kyle Beckerman
A Klinsmann favorite from the moment he took the reins, Beckerman proved Juergen right in this WC.  I personally never thought he deserved even a look, but he acquitted himself well in the role right in front of the central defenders that he is best at.  And who can dislike someone whose dream of playing for the US in a WC came true?

Mix Diskerud
Given the fact that Klinsmann had played (at least) 2 defensive midfielders for most of this cycle, I thought Maurice Edu was likely to make the team instead of an offensive-minded Mix to give JJ and Beckerman a backup.  Diskerud's absence would be negated with Dempsey and Donovan both suited to play the #10 role ahead of him.  Well, without Landon, Mix was in.  As it turns out, Mix was one of two field players not to see the field, even though our team's play clearly lacked a playmaker, someone who could hold the ball and create.  I'd argue that he's still better at the #10 role than Bradley and should have a place there in 4 years' time.

Wide Midfielders

Graham Zusi
Zusi took over the right mid spot when Landon went on his sabbatical early '13 and never gave it up.  Though Zusi never had the superstar upside, he was a useful contributor to us and had a WC spot even before camp.  Who can forget his stoppage time goal vs Panama to keep Mexico's WC hopes alive (why? why?  we gained nothing from that goal!).  In the WC, Zusi directed the corner kick to Brooks' head vs Ghana and a pass to Dempsey's gut vs Portugal, both for goals.  Unfortunately even with a high work rate, as with the rest of the team, he offered little in keeping possession.

Alejandro Bedoya
Going into camp, I thought Bedoya was locked in a battle with Brad Davis, Joe Corona and Julian Green for 2 spots.  Given his European club experience and youth, I figured he would emerge as Zusi's backup at right mid.  Who knew he would start 3 and play in all 4 games.  I'll remember him most for this quote during camp: "Your legs go first, then your lungs constrict, and you spit up in vain after every lap but you keep your eyes on your competitors and that keeps you going," he said. "I kept telling myself, this is for the team, this is for my family, this is for Brazil, this is for Ghana."  Yes, admirably, he ran his tail off.  However, just like Zusi, he offered little in possession or attack.  He'll be 31 in 2018, and I'd guess he probably won't make the plane to Russia.

Julian Green
Most people jumped on Julian for taking Landon's spot.  I didn't understand that reasoning by any measure.  Klinsmann had said that Landon was only being evaluated as a forward.  LD simply doesn't have the youth in his legs for an outside wing spot.  Even if LD was going to play wide mid, you still take Green.  He is a future star that Bayern Munich values.  There is nobody else in our pool that Bayern even remotely cares about.  Nobody.  And even if Klinsmann had exchanged a roster spot promise for his US allegiance, why is that a problem?  There's always 2 or 3 players who don't play a minute in the WC, why wouldn't it be the brightest young star you have in preparation for the next WC?  Of course, he goes out and scores in OT with his first touch.  Hopefully, he'll be a star for us for WCs to come.

Brad Davis
Ok.  This is the spot that I'm really upset about.  Is Brad Davis faster than Landon Donovan?  Does he have more experience?  Does he possess more skill?  Is he younger?  No, no, no and no. What in the world does Brad Davis offer that Landon Donovan doesn't?  To make things worse, he started and played a forgettable game vs Germany where he contributed nothing.  Its not Davis' fault.  He is who he is, he's had a great MLS career and I'd probably get along better with him than Landon.  But unless we can sub him in to just take lefty corner kicks, there's no reason he should've been on the plane over Joe Corona, much less Landon Donovan.


Jozy Altidore
He had a breakout game vs Nigeria heading into the WC and seemed poised to make his mark.  Instead, his hamstring injury in the 1st half of the 1st game was the single biggest reason why we were so offensively inept this tournament.  Jozy's injury revealed Klinsmann's lack of a backup plan for him.  Honestly, it was the only position that we didn't have a backup for.  My answer would have been Terrence Boyd, who's game is more like Jozy's.  Klinsmann's plan?  Move Dempsey up to be the sole forward and move Bradley away from the deep-lying midfield role, that he excels in, to an attacking mid role that he's never played.  As for Jozy, at least he's only 24 will have at least 1 if not 2 WCs left to turn his WC career around.  For now, we're just hoping he finds a way to score 15 goals a year in the EPL.

Clint Dempsey
So again, with Jozy's injury, Captain Clint gets stuck as the only forward, with his only central support from Bradley, who's just learning how to play the #10 role for the first time on the international stage.  You know who would have been perfect to slot in as the #10 under Clint if Jozy goes down with injury?  LANDON DONOVAN.  Or even Mix Diskerud, who seemed to be the only true #10 on the roster.  Dempsey managed to score a beautiful opening goal vs Ghana in 30 seconds (5th fastest in WC history) and then that "gutsy" goal vs Portugal.  He nearly scored that beautiful set piece extra time goal vs Belgium that would have got him elected US President.  He's now the only American to score in 3 different WCs.  And he played most of the 4 games with a broken nose.  Dempsey will go down as one of the greatest players in US history, but at age 31, he has likely played his last WC match.

Aron Johannsson
Aron probably came into the WC with a leg injury which limited his effectiveness against Ghana and kept him on the bench after that.  Who knows how this affected Klinsmann's selections after Jozy's injuries.  Still, I don't have an issue with bringing Aron, given that he is a talent that should be in the mix for the next couple WCs.

Chris Wondolowski
His name is not allowed to be spoken in my house, except for when my boys egg each other on about not shanking goals.  "Don't be Wondolowski!", they would say.  So it all came down to that one moment - he had trained as a goal-poacher his entire life and became so good at it that one day, US coach Juergen Klinsmann declared that the greatest goal-scorer in US history (and the greatest goal-assister) and US WC history, would be cut from the team to make room for him.  Here came stoppage time of a 0-0 WC knockout stage game and Jermaine Jones' header drifts toward our wide-open poacher, mere yards from goal.  The keeper is out of position, the net is wide open.  Let me ask you, who is more equipped for this moment?  Chris or Landon?  Is Wondolowski a better goal-scorer than Landon Donovan?  (9 international goals to Landon's 57.  92 MLS goals to Landon's 144).  Does he have more experience on the biggest stage to perform under pressure?  Is he faster?  Is he better conditioned?  Does he have better ball skills?  Is he a better passer?  Is he a young gun whom we'd like to mold for the future?  Does he have more upside?  What exactly is Chris Wondolowski better than Landon Donovan at?  And in that moment, WHO WOULD YOU RATHER TAKE THAT SHOT?  The one who created, then scored the most clutch goal in recent US soccer history?  Or would you like to take Chris Wondolowski?  UGH.  We can't unequivocally say that Landon would have made it.  But he gives you the best chance.

And that's what US fans should be upset with Klinsmann about.  His decision to move Bradley, who is possibly our best player in his prime, out of position, his lack of a backup plan for Jozy, and his vendetta against Landon robbed US Soccer of a great chance to make the quarterfinals.

Ballack made this point in the aftermath: What we were missing are the players that convert from defense to offense.  The guys that can hold the ball, play-make, create opportunities.  Basically the guys who control between the halfway line and the opponents box.  We're missing true #10s.  I think that's probably the hardest position to develop for a growing soccer nation like ours.

Thinking back though, we've had guys like Tab Ramos '94, Claudio Reyna '02 version, John O'Brien.  And even today, we've got guys like Feilhaber, Jose Torres and Mix.  (All six of those guys in the last sentence had international or parental-immigrant roots, not coincidentally).  Instead Klins deployed Bradley at the #10.

Also, I wouldn't say that we've shown great development quite yet.  We've always had great goalkeeping, a disciplined/tough defense, and we've always been able to run forever and had the never say die attitude.  We didn't become something this WC that we haven't always been.  By next WC, we want to see more possession, more ideas in attack.  Yes, it is hard to develop in a few years, so we'll just have to keep importing them until we do.

In this cycle, we've already said goodbye to Bocanegra and Cherundolo.  By the time WC qualifying starts in 2016 or perhaps by the start of the Hex in 2017, Dempsey, Howard, Donovan, Beaz will all likely be axed too, if not sooner.  We have the Gold Cup in 2015, then the Copa America 2016, which will be played here in the US for the first time.  So will Klins let our veterans compete in one or both those Cups?

Going forward, of our player pool for WC 2018, only Bradley (90 caps) and Jozy (71 caps) even have more than 32 caps.  They are the only holdovers from our golden generation.

Monday, May 26, 2014

US Soccer World Cup Roster History, Club Comparison

2014 WC 23 Man Roster

Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) - 2 Europe, 1 MLS

Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Fabian Johnson (Borussia M├Ânchengladbach), Timmy Chandler (N├╝rnberg), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC) - 4 Europe, 1 Mexico, 3 MLS

Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Julian Green (Bayern Munich) - 4 Europe, 4 MLS

Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes) - 2 Europe, 2 MLS

Total: 12 Europe (4 England, 4 Germany, 1 France, 1 Netherlands, 1 Norway, 1 Turkey), 1 Mexico, 10 MLS 

2010 WC 23 Man Roster

Tim Howard (Everton), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) - 3 Europe

Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Jonathan Spector (West Ham), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96) and Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA) - 6 Europe, 1 MLS

Landon Donovan (Galaxy), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Michael Bradley (Gladbach), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus) and Francisco Torres (Pachuca), DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers) - 7 Europe, 1 Mexico, 1 MLS

Josimer Altidore (Hull City), Herculez Gomez (Puebla), Edson Buddle (Galaxy), Robbie Findley (Salt Lake) - 1 Europe, 1 Mexico, 2 MLS

Total: 17 Europe (8 England, 3 Germany, 2 Scotland, 1 Italy, 1 France, 1 Norway, 1 Denmark), 2 Mexico, 4 MLS 

2006 WC 23 Man Roster

Kasey Keller (Gladbach), Tim Howard (Man U), Marcus Hahnemann (Reading) - 3 Europe

Eddie Pope (Salt Lake), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham), Jimmy Conrad (KC), Eddie Lewis (Leeds Utd), Gregg Berhalter (Energie Cottbus), Chris Albright (Galaxy).  Cory Gibbs (ADO Den Haag) and Frankie Hejduk (MLS) both replaced by last 2 after knee injuries. - 5 Europe, 3 MLS

Claudio Reyna (Man City), John O'Brien (Chivas USA), Landon Donovan (Galaxy), DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado), Bobby Convey (Reading), Clint Dempsey (NE Revs), Ben Olsen (DC United) - 4 Europe, 5 MLS

Brian McBride (Fulham), Eddie Johnson (KC), Brian Ching (Houston), Josh Wolff (KC) - 1 Europe, 2 MLS

Total: 12 Europe (7 England, 3 Germany, 1 Belgium, 1 Netherlands), 11 MLS 

2002 WC 22 Man Roster

Brad Friedel (Blackburn), Kasey Keller (Tottenham), Tony Meola (KC) - 2 Europe, 1 MLS

Frankie Hejduk (Bayern Lev), Jeff Agoos (San Jose), Eddie Pope (DC United), Tony Sanneh (FC Nuremberg), Gregg Berhalter (Crystal Palace), David Regis (FC Metz), Carlos Llamosa (NE Rev), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96) - 5 Europe, 3 MLS

Claudio Reyna (Sunderland), John O'Brien (Ajax), DaMarcus Beasley (Chicago), Earnie Stewart (NEC Breda - Netherlands), Joe-Max Moore (Everton), Eddie Lewis (Fulham), Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado), Cobi Jones (Galaxy) - 5 Europe, 3 MLS

Brian McBride (Columbus), Landon Donovan (San Jose), Clint Mathis (NY), Josh Wolff (Chicago) - 4 MLS

Total: 12 Europe (6 England, 3 Germany, 2 Netherlands, 1 France), 11 MLS 

1998 WC 22 Man Roster

Brad Friedel (Liverpool), Kasey Keller (Leicester City), Jurgen Sommer (Columbus) - 2 Europe, 1 MLS

Frankie Hejduk (Tampa Bay), Eddie Pope (DC United), Mike Burns (NE Rev), Thomas Dooley (Columbus), David Regis (SC Karlsruher), Jeff Agoos (DC United), Marcelo Balboa (Colorado), Alexi Lalas (NY) - 1 Europe, 7 MLS

Joe-Max Moore (NE Rev), Tab Ramos (NY), Cobi Jones (Galaxy), Claudio Reyna (Vfl Wolfsburg), Chad Deering (Vfl Wolfsburg), Roy Wegerle (DC United), Brian Maisonneuve (Columbus) - 2 Europe, 5 MLS

Earnie Stewart (NAC Breda), Brian McBride (Columbus), Eric Wynalda (San Jose), Preki Radosavljevic (KC) - 1 Europe, 3 MLS

Total: 6 Europe (2 England, 3 Germany, 1 Netherlands), 16 MLS 

1994 WC 22 Man Roster

Tony Meola N, Brad Friedel N, Jurgen Sommer (Luton Town) 1 Europe, 2 Domestic

Cle Kooiman (Cruz Azul), Mike Lapper N, Thomas Dooley N/Germany, Marcelo Balboa N, Paul Caligiuri N, Fernando Clavijo N, Alexi Lalas N - 1 Mexico, 6 Domestic

John Harkes (Derby County), Tab Ramos (Real Betis), Roy Wegerle (Coventry City), Claudio Reyna N/Virginia Univ, Mike Burns N, Hugo Perez N, Cobi Jones N, Mike Sorber N - 3 Europe, 5 Domestic

Earnie Stewart (Willem II), Eric Wynalda (FC Saarbrucken), Frank Klopas N, Joe-Max Moore N - 2 Europe, 2 Domestic

Total: 6 Europe (3 England, 1 Germany, 1, Spain, 1 Netherlands), 1 Mexico, N (No Club team) 15 - either signed to play exclusively for USSF or in college

1990 22 Man Roster

Tony Meola (Virginia Univ), Kasey Keller (Portland), David Vanole (Los Angeles) - 1 College, 2 Domestic

Steve Trittschuch (Tampa Bay), John Doyle (San Francisco), Jimmy Banks (Milwaukee), Mike Windischmann (Albany), Brian Bliss (Albany), Paul Krumpe (Chicago), Desmond Armstrong (Baltimore), Marcelo Balboa (San Diego) - 8 Domestic

John Harkes (Albany), Tab Ramos (Miami), Eric Eichmann (Fort Lauderdale), John Stollmeyer (Washington), Bruce Murray (Washington), Chris Henderson (UCLA), Paul Caligiuri (UCLA), Neil Covone (Wake Forest Univ) - 3 College, 5 Domestic

Chris Sullivan (Raba ETO - Hun), Peter Vermes (Volendam - Ned), Eric Wynalda (San Francisco) - 2 Europe, 1 Domestic

Total: 2 Europe (1 Hungary, 1 Netherlands), 4 College, 16 US Domestic League

1950 Roster

Frank Borghi, Gino Gardassanich

Joe Maca, Harry Keough, Bob Annis, Geoff Coombes

Ed Mcilvenny, John Souza, Charlie Colombo, Walter Bahr

Frank Wallace, Ed Souza, Gino Pariani, Bob Craddock, Joe Gaetjens, Nick Di Orio, Adam Wolanin

1934 Roster

Julius Hjulian

Joe Martinelli, George Moorhouse, Ed Czerkiewicz, Herman Rapp, Al Harker

Peter Pietras, Tom Lynch, Bill Lehmann, Tom Amrhein, Jimmy Gallagher, Bill Fiedler

Billy Gonsalves, Walter Dick, Werner Nilsen, Aldo Donelli, Bill Mclean, Tom Florie, Francis Ryan

1930 Roster

Jimmy Douglas

Alexander Wood, George Moorhouse, Ralph Tracey, Frank Vaughn

Mike Bookie, Jimmy Gallagher, Arnie Oliver, Phil Slone

Bert Patenaude, Bart McGhee, Billy Gonsalves, Jim Gentle, Tom Florie, Jim Brown, Andrew Auld

Club Analysis:

In 1990, we had 2 players in Europe, 4 college players and 16 in the domestic league at the time, which, for our purposes, is comparable to the MLS as its forerunner.  Result: Group stage exit.

In 1994, we had 6 in Europe, 1 in Mexico, and 15 under contract with the USSF.  (Apparently in the early nineties, the US Soccer Federation began signing some of the top US players to exclusive contracts to compete for the US.  Some were loaned by the USSF to European clubs as well.)  For our purposes, we'll equate the 15 to the MLS.  Result: 2nd round.

In 1998, we had 6 in Europe and 16 in the MLS (1995 is its inaugural season).  Result: Group stage exit.

In 2002, we had 12 in Europe and 11 in the MLS.  Result: 3rd round.

In 2006, we had 12 in Europe and 11 in the MLS.  Result: Group stage exit.

In 2010, we had 17 Europe, 2 Mexico, and 4 MLS.  Result: 2nd round.

This year, we have 12 Europe, 1 Mexico, and 10 MLS.

- From 1990 to 2010, we've had a steady increase of players (from 2 to 17) plying their trade in Europe.

- Then this year, we have gone back to 12.  Bradley, and Dempsey's return perhaps indicates that the MLS is getting better.  What is not in doubt is that the MLS is paying our star players even better than European opportunities.

- We've alternated between advancing and finishing last in the group stage every other tournament.  This is the year that we are supposed to exit after the group stage.

WC Experience on US WC Rosters:

In 1994, we returned 6 players from the 1990 team.  (Meola, Balboa, Caligiuri, Harkes, Ramos and Wynalda).  Result: 2nd round

In 1998, we returned 13 players from the 1994 team.  (Friedel, Sommer, Burns, Dooley, Balboa, Lalas, Max-Moore, Ramos, Jones, Reyna, Wegerle, Stewart and Wynalda).  Result: Group stage exit

In 2002, we returned 10 players from the 1998 team.  (Friedel, Keller, Hejduk, Agoos, Pope, Reyna, Stewart, Max-Moore, Jones, McBride).  Result: 3rd round

In 2006, we returned 11 players from the 2002 team.  (Keller, Pope, Cherundolo, Lewis, Berhalter, Reyna, Donovan, Beasley, Mastroeni, McBride).  Result: Group stage exit

In 2010, we returned 7 players from the 2006 team.  (Howard, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Donovan, Dempsey, Beasley).  Result: 2nd round

This year, we return 6 players from the 2010 team.  (Howard, Guzan, Beasley, Bradley, Dempsey, Altidore)

- So, the year we returned the least amount of players ('94), we advanced out of the group.  The year we returned the most amount ('98), we were the worst team in the tournament.

- The two years we only returned single digit number of players, we advanced out of the group both times.

- The three years we returned double digit number of players, we were out shamefully two of those three years.

- But the year we went the farthest ('02), we had 10 returning players.

So the conclusion is that there is no real correlation.