Friday, July 1, 2016

2018 Russia WC Roster Prediction #3

Now that the Copa America is done, this is my third prediction for our WC 2018 roster.  Here's my first prediction and second prediction.

Brad Guzan, Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath
(Tim Howard, Cody Cropper, David Bingham, William Yarbrough, Zach Steffen, Sean Johnson)

Brad was Klinsmann's clear #1 at the Copa and looks to remain that way through Russia, unless he continues to get benched in England.  I've had Hamid in the top 3 since 2014 even though Klinsmann hasn't.  I'm predicting he finally becomes a regular call-up in the next 2 years, representing the MLS as its top keeper, even with Tim Howard's return.  Hamid beats out Yarbrough, Bingham and Johnson as the #2.  Ethan Horvath, as this year's Copa #3, appears to have the inside track for the keeper-in-waiting role over Cropper and Steffen.

John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Matt Miazga
(Omar Gonzalez, Steve Birnbaum, Michael Orozco, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Ventura Alvarado, Tim Ream)

Klinsmann's choices for CB at last year's Gold Cup essentially cost us that tournament, when he started a still-green Brooks and an over-matched Alvarado.  For me, Cameron and Besler should have been entrenched in those roles since 2014, until the emergence of Brooks.  Now Brooks and Cameron have proven to be the duo, while Besler brings experience and depth.  Miazga will have made a name for himself at Chelsea (we hope) and beats out US-20 partner, Carter-Vickers, who will only be 20 by Russia.  But whatever happens, here's hoping Klinsmann doesn't again take an inexplicable favorite of his, the hot-headed Orozco.

Outside backs:
DeAndre Yedlin, Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler, Jorge Villafana
(Edgar Castillo, Eric Lichaj, Greg Garza, Brek Shea, Kellyn Acosta)

Yedlin's progress in the Premier League is an encouraging sign for US fans.  Chandler will have to hope that he doesn't get a DNP for a 2nd WC in a row.  On the other side, our lack of a dependable and natural LB has plagued us for over a decade.  In the last 3 world cups, we've started winger Eddie Lewis, CB Bocanegra and winger Beasley there - serviceable players, but still just necessary stopgaps.  Without a solution that Klinsmann likes in sight, Fabian might still be at LB in 2 years time.  Think of this Copa, when Klinsmann brought in both Lichaj and Castillo into prelim camp, then opted to play Orozco(!) when Fabian was injured.  Shea and Garza have dropped out of favor and Acosta is playing central mid at his club (which hasn't stopped Klins before, I know).  Just for kicks, I'm putting in a new name at LB backup, Villafana, but my preference is still the speedy Shea.

Central mids:
Michael Bradley, Perry Kitchen, Alfredo Morales, Emerson Hyndman
(Jermaine Jones, Mix Diskerud, Danny Williams, Wil Trapp)

Even though his play this Copa was subpar, Bradley will return to form and captain the squad.  Jermaine Jones might be 36 in 2 years, but I will not be completely surprised if he continues his beastmode-ness until then to make Klinsmann's choice difficult.  Kitchen seems to be the def mid-in-waiting now that Beckerman should be ushered out.  Its amazing that Morales is starting in the Bundesliga but hasn't found much time under Klinsmann.  The young Premier leaguer, Hyndman, might be a future US captain.  Mix seems to have lost his way and Danny Williams seems to have lost Klinsmann's favor.

Outside/Attacking mids:
Gyasi Zardes, Alejandro Bedoya, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Gedion Zelalem
(Graham Zusi, Lee Nguyen, Luis Gil, Joe Gyau, Ethan Finlay, Julian Green, Joe Corona)

Zardes's tireless work rate on both offense and defense offsets his infamously poor first touch.  Nagbe's playmaking role should grow over the next couple years.  Bedoya's experience and leadership will enable him to beat out Zusi for the veteran role.  All US fans have their fingers' crossed that Pulisic and Zelalem become the world-class players that have thus far evaded our country.

Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Aron Johannsson
(Clint Dempsey, Jozy AltidorePaul Arriola, Rubio Rubin, Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd)

If a 32 year old Landon was left off last time, a 35 year old Dempsey (when 2018 comes around) likely will have stood little chance to keep his place.  Perhaps Klinsmann will want him as the 18 yard box specialty poacher in the waning moments of a game, but I doubt it.  Dempsey's accomplishments have been earned more due to his unyielding will, and less because of any natural or physical talent that he was born with.  When father time catches up with him, his will shall go down fighting, but go down nevertheless.
Wood has emerged as the starter even over Jozy after this Copa.  The question will be whether he and Jozy can play together when Clint is out.  Jordan Morris, who was inexplicably left off this summer's Copa roster for a useless Wondolowski, will have made a move to Europe before WC 2018.  Johannsson recovers from injuries the last 2 years to excel in Germany and gets selected as Jozy pulls another hamstring in WC camp.

Monday, June 20, 2016

NBA Top 10 Players of All Time

Both ESPN and SI came out with their Top 50 NBA players of all time in February.  Here are their top 10 lists.  (These were before Lebron's 3rd title, but it doesn't change the players within the 10).

ESPN (expert panel):
1) Michael Jordan
2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
3) Lebron James
4) Magic Johnson
5) Wilt Chamberlain
6) Larry Bird
7) Bill Russell
8) Tim Duncan
9) Shaquille O'Neal
10) Hakeem Olajuwon

SI (Jack McCallum):
1) Michael Jordan
2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
3) Wilt Chamberlain
4) Magic Johnson
5) Lebron James
6) Oscar Robertson
7) Larry Bird
8) Bill Russell
9) Jerry West
10) Tim Duncan

My Top 10

1) Jordan
5 MVPs, 6 Finals MVPs, 6 championships, 10 All-NBA First Teams, 9 All-NBA Defensive Teams
30.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 5.3 APG, 49.7 FG%
- Jordan never lost in the NBA Finals in 6 appearances.

2) Kareem
6 MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs, 6 championships, 10 All-NBA First Teams, 11 All-NBA Defensive Teams
24.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 55.9 FG%
- The best big man of all time and was fortunate to play with Magic.

3) Lebron
4 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs, 3 championships, 10 All-NBA First Teams, 6 All-NBA Defensive Teams
27.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 49.8 FG%
- Lebron has never had a big man star and never had a great coach.  He is possibly the most dominant player to ever play the game and can play every position.  5 Lebrons beats 5 of any other player. 

4) Russell
5 MVPs, N/A Finals MVPs, 11 championships, 3 All-NBA First Teams, 1 All-NBA Defensive Teams
15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APG, 44.0 FG%
- Russell never won a Finals MVP award even though he won 11 titles.  That's because they invented and named the award after him.  He played his best on the biggest stage.  Would have likely dominated defensive teams but they invented that award his last year.

5) Magic
3 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs, 5 championships, 9 All-NBA First Teams, 0 All-NBA Defensive Teams
19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, 52.0 FG%
- Greatest point guard to ever play, and he could have played any position.

6) Duncan
2 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs, 5 championships, 10 All-NBA First Teams, 15 All-NBA Defensive Teams
19.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 50.6 FG%
- Duncan is the best PF in history and beats out Wilt because of his championships, leadership and sacrifice.  His 15 all-defense teams are the most of all-time (by 3).

7) Bird
3 MVPs, 2 Finals MVPs, 3 championships, 9 All-NBA First Teams, 3 All-NBA Defensive Teams
24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 49.6 FG%
- Best player of the 80s Celtics dynasty.

The top 7 has separated themselves as the elite who have consistently carried their teams in the regular season and in the playoffs.

8) Wilt
4 MVPs, 1 Finals MVP, 2 championships, 7 All-NBA First Teams, 3 All-NBA Defensive Teams
30.1 PPG, 22.9 RPG, 4.4 APG, 54.0 FG%
- That Wilt only has 2 titles should be an embarrassment.  Wilt's lone Finals MVP is an indictment on his play on the biggest stage.

9) Shaq
1 MVP, 3 Finals MVPs, 4 championships, 8 All-NBA First Teams, 3 All-NBA Defensive Teams
23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 58.2 FG%
- Shaq's lone MVP is an indictment on a lack of season-long commitment.

10) Oscar
1 MVP, 0 Finals MVP, 1 championship, 9 All-NBA First Teams, 0 All-NBA Defensive Teams
 25.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 9.5 APG, 48.5 FG%
- The 2nd point guard in the top 10, Oscar squeezes himself into my 10th spot though his trophy achievements aren't as comparable.  But his numbers as the league's premier triple-double guy are impressive.  Aside from Lebron, he might be the league's greatest all-around player.

Random observations:

- The greatest basketball team of all time by position: Magic, Jordan, Lebron, Duncan, Kareem

- If Steph Curry can replicate the last 2 seasons for another few years and win another couple titles, he should lay claim to the 2nd best PG of all time.  He'll need to finish with 3 titles and 3 Finals MVPs (he was robbed in 2015), and 3 regular-season MVPs.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lebron James, 3 Time Champion

Lebron won his 3rd NBA Championship in his seventh visit to the NBA Finals and brought the Cavaliers their first title in their 46 years of existence.  More importantly to the city of Cleveland, it was their first major championship in 52 years.

He did it against the reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors, who had also claimed the title of best regular season team ever with a historic 73-9 record (besting Jordan and the Bulls' 72-10 in '95-'96).  The Warriors were led by Steph Curry, statistically the greatest shooter ever and also the reigning and 2 time NBA MVP.  Curry was universally considered as the best player in the world.

Coming back from down 3-1
The 2016 Cavaliers are the first team to come back from 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals (0 for 32 until now).  Teams without home court advantage were 0 for 23.

Before the 2016 Finals, teams trailing 3-1 in any playoff series had only won 10 times in 230 tries, which is 5% of the time, (including the 2016 Warriors in the West Conf Finals).

Even more astounding is that teams trailing 3-1 in any playoff series and didn't have home court advantage (which means 2 of the last 3 games are on the road) have only come back to win 2 times in 153 tries (1.3%).

Winning Game 7 on the road
Before these Finals, there have been 125 game 7's in any playoff series and road teams were only successful 24 times, a 19% rate.

The Cavs are just the fourth team in 19 tries to win game 7 on the road in the NBA Finals and the first in 38 years.  The other 3 are 1978 Washington (at Seattle), 1974 Boston (at Milwaukee) and 1969 Boston (at Los Angeles).

Lebron Random Observations
He is the first player to be the NBA Finals series leader (for both teams) in points 29.7, rebounds 11.3, assists 8.9, blocks 2.3 and steals 2.6.

He is the first player (along with teammate James Jones) to make 6 successive NBA Finals in 50 years.  Bill Russell and 6 other Celtics teammates did it, last appearing in 1966.  Keep in mind that back in Russell's days, there were only 11 teams in the league and only 6 made the playoffs.

Lebron's Finals History
Lebron is now 3-4 in the NBA Finals.  He was swept out on his first trip in 2007 against the Spurs, though Duncan correctly predicted that the league would be Lebron's one day.  However, that year he had no chance against the Spurs dynasty, as the 2nd best player on the team was either Drew Gooden or Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

His second shot came after his move to South Beach in 2011.  He mistakenly ceded the alpha dog role to Dwyane Wade and only scored 17 points a game in their 4-2 loss to Dallas.  That series will always be a black mark on Lebron's resume when the greats are measured.

In 2012, Miami learned from their failure and Lebron lead them to a 4-1 rout over Oklahoma City for his first championship.  He repeated in 2013 in what was an all-time battle of greats between Lebron and Duncan, prevailing in 7 games.

Duncan and the Spurs however won the rubber match vs a Lebron team in their 2014 4-1 series win, having evolved to a ball-moving, quick-tempo, 3-ball offense that an aging Miami couldn't match.

Seeing the writing on the wall for the Heat, Lebron returned to Cleveland in 2015 but again fell to a ball-moving, quick-tempo, 3-ball offense in the surprise Warriors.  It didn't help that Irving and Love were both out, leaving the 2nd best player role to either Tristan Thompson or Timofey Mozgov.  Would that be the cruel full circle to Lebron's career?  Finishing right where he started?

Down 3-1 in the 2016 Finals, Lebron finally had enough.  He scored 41 points in both game 5 and game 6, then finished game 7 with a triple-double and a monster block on Iguodala (the 2015 Finals MVP), manifesting his championship resolve.

With this 3rd ring, Lebron now has 4 MVPs and 3 Finals MVPs on his claim to all-time greatness.  With really just that one black mark on his resume, I have him in the top 5 of all time.  He's somewhere behind Jordan and Kareem, but has pulled alongside Russell and Magic in my book.  Considering the fact that Jordan had only won 3 titles at age 32 (Lebron's current age), Lebron has time to move up.  I think if he gets another MVP and another title, he moves to 2nd all time.  The GOAT title is probably too far out of his reach, but if you can overcome 0.013% odds to win this year's title, who can really doubt him?

Friday, May 27, 2016

US Soccer Roster Comparison from last 3 major tournaments: 2014, 2015, 2016

With Klinsmann's roster announcement for this summer's Centennial Copa America, I thought I'd compile his rosters from the last two major tournaments - 2014 WC and 2015 Gold Cup - alongside so we can see the progression of our player pool.

2016 Copa America
Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Ethan Horvath (Molde IK)

Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur)

Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Perry Kitchen (Heart of Midlothian), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Graham Zusi (Sporting KC)

Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburg SV), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

2015 Gold Cup
 Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)


Ventura Alvarado (Club America), DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers)


Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Joe Corona (Tijuana), DeAndre Yedlin (Tottenham Hotspur), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)


Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

2014 World Cup
Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

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)

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

Players who have made all 3 rosters:
GK: Brad Guzan
Def: John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, DeAndre Yedlin
Mid: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi, Kyle Beckerman, Alejandro Bedoya
For: Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski

Notable missing names:
- Jozy would have been on this list but his annual summer hamstring injury this year occurred before the final roster announcement.
- Aron Johannsson had a good chance of making it this year were it not for his lingering hip issue. 
- Tim Howard obviously belongs among this group, but he took 2015 off.  He is now 2nd string.
- Timothy Chandler was a last minute injury scratch this year.  Castillo took his place.
- Geoff Cameron should probably have been a CB starter for the last 3 years however, he opted to honor his club's request and rest for the 2015 GC.
- Matt Besler was in Klinsmann's doghouse, but he really should have been a starter over Ventura.  Klinsmann can look back at his CB decision as one of the big reasons for our GC failure.  Notice that the only CB on all 3 rosters is John Brooks. 

Players in their first tournament this year:
GK: Ethan Horvath 
Def: Steve Birnbaum, Edgar Castillo, Michael Orozco 
Mid: Christian Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe, Perry Kitchen
For: Bobby Wood

- I don't have any major quibbles here.  I would have liked to see Ream and Lichaj here instead of Orozco and Castillo, but perhaps its of some benefit to have some backups who are more comfortable with futbol in the Americas than footie in England, given that its the Copa America.  Its worth mentioning that now without Chandler, we are missing a true RB backup.

Players who made the 2014 and 2015 rosters but are now left out:
GK: Nick Rimando
Def: Omar Gonzalez, DaMarcus Beasley, Timothy Chandler
Mid: Brad Davis, Mix Diskerud
For: Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson

- Omar and Mix still have a chance to be in the mix going forward should their play impress Klinsmann.
- Rimando and Davis should now be retired internationally.  We still miss Beasley at our revolving LB spot.
- As mentioned, Jozy, Aron and Chandler are injured.

Others conspicuously missing this year:
 - We had such high hopes for Julian Green in 2014, but haven't seen much progress in the 2 years since.
- Where are the goalkeepers-in-waiting for the next cycle after 2018?  Bill Hamid has either not progressed enough or Klinsmann just doesn't rate him.  Horvath is the front-runner now.
- Jordan Morris.  He's fast.  He's young.  He's the future.  And he's been left home for Wondo.  They say Wondo's been the best of the MLS, but he only has 1 more non-PK goal this year than Morris.  If neither is a starter, why not bring the young gun as a spark off the bench?  Wondo's just as likely to flub on the biggest stage.
- Lee Nguyen is one of the most creative playmakers in our pool but was edged out by Zusi, who is perhaps better at defense, but offers little upside.
- Alfredo Morales is a starter for a Bundesliga team.  Are we so deep that he can't even get on the bench?  Might he become a regular call-up once Beckerman is out?

Is this the last tournament for these veterans?
- Clint Dempsey - with so many young guns now in the fold, will Klinsmann keep calling him in after this year?  He's 8 goals short of Landon's record.
- Tim Howard - his skills have declined severely over the last couple years.
- Jermaine Jones - hasn't shown his age yet, so I think he has the best chance of remaining part of the core for another year or two.
- Beckerman, Zusi and Wondo - thank you for your service.  But if you guys are called in again for Gold Cup 2017, our player pool development is a massive failure.

My ideal Copa starting lineup:
Bedoya-Bradley-JJ - Nagbe

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Quarterbacks taken 1st Round of last 20 drafts

With Jared Goff and Carson Wentz about to go #1 and #2 in the 2016 NFL Draft this week and Paxton Lynch and possibly even Connor Cook going in the 1st round, lets take a look at how often teams hit on franchise QBs with their first round pick in the last 20 years.

2 categories - Starter and BUST.
- Starter players are ones who've started 6 or more years for the team that drafted them or traded for them, or are clearly on track to do so.  (Yes, this is highly subjective).
- Busts are ones who became journeymen, merely backups or are just out of the league.  They were bad investments for the team that drafted them.

#1 Jameis Winston - Tampa Bay - Too early to tell
#2 Marcus Mariota - Tennessee - Too early to tell

#3 Blake Bortles - Jacksonville - Too early to tell
#22 Johnny Manziel - Cleveland (BUST)
#32 Terry Bridgewater - Minnesota - Too early to tell

#16 EJ Manuel - Buffalo (BUST)

#1 Andrew Luck - Indianapolis (Starter)
#2 Robert Griffin - Washington (BUST)
#8 Ryan Tannehill - Miami (Starter)
#22 Brandon Weeden - Cleveland (BUST)

#1 Cam Newton - Carolina (Starter)
#8 Jake Locker - Tennessee (BUST)
#10 Blaine Gabbert - Jacksonville (BUST)
#12 Christian Ponder - Minnesota (BUST)

#1 Sam Bradford - St. Louis (BUST)
#25 Tim Tebow - Denver (BUST)

#1 Matt Stafford - Detroit (Starter)
#5 Mark Sanchez - NY Jets (BUST)
#17 Josh Freeman - Tampa Bay (BUST)

#3 Matt Ryan - Atlanta (Starter)
#18 Joe Flacco - Baltimore (Starter)

#1 JaMarcus Russell - Oakland (BUST)
#22 Brady Quinn - Cleveland (BUST)

#3 Vince Young - Tennessee (BUST)
#10 Matt Leinart - Arizona (BUST)
#11 Jay Cutler - Denver (Starter - traded to Denver)

#1 Alex Smith - San Francisco (Starter)
#24 Aaron Rodgers - Green Bay (Starter)
#25 Jason Campbell - Washington (BUST)

#1 Eli Manning - NY Giants via trade (Starter)
#4 Philip Rivers - San Diego via trade (Starter)
#11 Ben Roethlisberger - Pittsburgh (Starter)
#22 JP Losman - Buffalo (BUST)

#1 Carson Palmer - Cincinnati (Starter)
#7 Byron Leftwich - Jacksonville (BUST)
#19 Kyle Boller - Baltimore (BUST)
#22 Rex Grossman - Chicago (BUST)

#1 David Carr - Houston (BUST)
#3 Joey Harrington - Detroit (BUST)
#32 Patrick Ramsey - Washington (BUST)

#1 Michael Vick - Atlanta (Starter)

#18 Chad Pennington - NY Jets (Starter)

#1 Tim Couch - Cleveland (BUST)
#2 Donovan McNabb - Philadelphia (Starter)
#3 Akili Smith - Cincinnati (BUST)
#11 Daunte Culpepper - Minnesota (Starter)
#12 Cade McNown - Chicago (BUST)

#1 Peyton Manning - Indianapolis (Starter)
#2 Ryan Leaf - San Diego (BUST)

#26 Jim Druckenmiller - San Francisco (BUST)

- 50 total quarterbacks have been drafted in the 1st round of the last 20 drafts.  18 of them were Starters, 28 are BUSTS, and its too early to judge the 4 QBs from 2014-15 that are currently starting.  Of course there's no issue passing judgment on Manziel's BUST status.

- So of the 46 picks we have passed judgement on, there has been 18 successful picks.  That's a 39% success rate.

- Of the overall #1 picks in the last 20 years, 13 have been quarterbacks.  Excluding 2015's Winston, 8 of the 12 were successful (and I'm generously counting Alex Smith as a success, even though Rodgers was still on the board).  67% success rate ain't bad.

- That also means that only 10 other first round picks were successful, out of the other 34 non-#1 overall picks chosen.  A miserable 29.4% success rate.

- How about picks #2-#10?  4 of 14 were good picks - 28.5% success rate.

- Picks #11-#32?  6 of 20 were good picks - 30% success rate.

- What is the success rate of the 2nd QB taken? Again, only 4 out of 14 were successful.

Conclusion - If you need a QB, you better hope you have the #1 overall pick.

- Let's examine actual championship success: Superbowls.  How many first round draft picks in the last 20 years have won championships?

-Peyton Manning 2007 for the Colts, 2016 for the Broncos
-Eli Manning 2008, 2012
-Ben Roethlisberger 2006, 2009
-Aaron Rodgers 2011
-Joe Flacco 2013

Out of the 50 QB chosen in the last 20 years, just 5 players have won championships.  So the championship success return rate for a 1st round investment is really 10%.  Those 5 QBs won a total of 8 titles, though Peyton's 2nd title wasn't for the Colts, who drafted him.  Ignoring that, let's be generous and say that 1st round QBs have won 8 of the last 20 Superbowls - 40% of all the championships.  Yep, definitely worth it!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

US Soccer Jersey History

(Updated March 17, 2016.  Initial post from 2010)

This is the (chronologically compiled) history of US Soccer jerseys (as best as I can figure out given the limited resources online).  Some are historical pictures, some are recently created throwbacks, some may even be just flat out wrong (- my apologies in advance).  The editions worn in a World Cup are noted.

1916 White
This seems to be a picture of an early US "All-America" team on a tour of Norway and Sweden in 1916.  It could be the trip in which US Soccer played its first international match, in Stockholm vs Sweden.  (We won 3-2.)  The US shield crest appears very large and centered on the chest.  The v-neck collar is clearly a darker color, as are the socks.  If this is the first official US jersey, I'll give it a 5 out of 10 for being first.

1930 White (World Cup)
This is a picture of the US team who participated in the first ever World Cup in 1930.  Just like the 1916 version, its a simple, white long-sleeve v-neck with a US flag themed shield centered on the chest.  The shield, having been reduced in size since 1916, is the founding father to our current crest, which showed up in 1995.  No matter what changes will occur to the crest in the future, I hope we never lose the shield look.  This shield has no letters on it, letting the stars and stripes do all the talking.  Unfortunately, without the shield, this jersey could pass for underwear.  4 out of 10.

1934 Blue (World Cup)
Who knows if this is actually the shade of blue we wore back in '34?  But I would have preferred a darker, navy blue.  The crest is also a little too wide and round for my tastes, as if it couldn't decide if it wanted to be a circle or not. 3 out of 10.

1950 Home (World Cup)
This design is the next evolutionary step to the '30s look and has become instant legend after the 1-0 upset of England..  They added USA letters to the improved shape of the crest and added the famous diagonal red stripe, of which they are continuing to base throwback variations to this day.  Retro throwback special release jerseys with sashes had been released 3 times, I believe, mostly to a rousing response, but none were the actual jersey that is worn for a 2 year cycle until the 2010/11 World Cup release.  9 out of 10.

1959 Home - Pan America Games
A Pan America USA crest was used for the 1959 Pan America Games, where the US won the bronze medal, only behind Argentina and Brazil.  Another addition was the strange lace-up collar, which is essentially a feminine look nowadays.  Lastly, the diagonal stripe turned into a 2 stripe design, which I actually prefer over the wide sash of the 2010 editions.  But it can't make up for the crest and lace.  3 out of 10. 

1972 Home (Olympics)
  (US Olympic Team)
Worn at the '72 Olympics, this appears to be a modified v-neck jersey, paired with red shorts.  The crest itself is hard to make out, but it may be a shield with perhaps "USA" lettering.  2 out of 10.

1974 Red
(Kyle Rote Jr.)
Worn in a 1974 game vs Mexico, it drops a crest and goes with awful USA lettering.  And without that awful lettering, this could pass as USSR.  A forgettable effort during the dark ages of US Soccer.  1 out of 10.

1979-81 Home
The white version of the standard Adidas template.  They lacked the foresight to go back to a shield, unfortunately.  2 out of 10.

1981 Blue (Youth)
(Todd Saldana)
I have no idea if only our youth team wore this style, but since it was worn in international competition (shown here vs Poland), you'd think Adidas would have outfitted our men's team in it as well.  Either way, its worth a look.  This kit is quite the departure from our ugly 70's template.  This design is the first modern design I've come across in US history.  It could actually still be used today.  6 out of 10.

1983 Team America (NASL)
(Dan Canter)
Apparently US Soccer joined the NASL that one season as a club team so they could have more training time together.  Not sure that they played any international games in this kit, but we'll include it here anyway.  Does this shirt remind anybody of anything?  Say, a certain 2012 release?  Not a fan.  1 out of 10.

1984 Home
A very 80's look by Adidas.  Not horrible, not really memorable.  The USA "flag" font however looks ridiculous.  They would have been better off with solid letters or with our old crest/shield.  4 out of 10.

1984 Blue (Olympics)
At least we know that the blue version was worn in Olympic competition.  Not sure about the exact shade of blue, but either way, its an improvement over white or red.  5 out of 10.

1984 Red
This is starting to look more and more like a goalkeeper kit to me.  Not sure why there is an added patch below the lettering but a 4 year old could have designed it. 3 out of 10.

1988 Home
For our first successful WC qualifying campaign in 40 years, Adidas put out another classic clean look.  The only feature that sticks out is the blue stripe on top of the shoulder, slightly (American) football-ish.  Also, a new circular crest has appeared for the first time, definitely an upgrade.  A traditional US shield is actually enclosed inside the ring.  The crest looks better up close but it appears too busy from a distance.  5 out of 10.

1988 Away 
This actually has a very distinct V-shaped thread pattern (which almost makes it look like a soft blanket).  As opposed to the home, it loses the collar and opts for a V-neck.  Also, the crest is darkened for this away version and looks even busier, if that is possible.  Actually, it reminds me of a US military crest.  Overall, one of our more interesting looks.  6 out of 10.

1989 Home
(Paul Caligiuri)
One site lists this as the 1986 home.  Others says that it was the '90-91 edition.  Perhaps they wore it in the mid 80s and brought it back for '89 qualifiers.  Maybe they had different WC jerseys just for the '90 WC but also used this through '91.  Who knows?  What we know is that this is the design in which Caligiuri scored the "shot heard round the world" back in Nov 1989.  I'd give this simple look a 5 out of 10.

1988-? Away
(Mike Windischmann)
This away jersey seems to have been worn in games in '88 as well as possibly 1990-92.  (There are pictures of Wynalda wearing this shirt and his international career didn't start until the 90s.)  Like the white home version above, it is difficult to pin down when this edition came out.  However, you'll notice that the adidas logo is their famous trefoil, which they seems to have been replaced after the '90 WC for their new triangular logo.  Sure, the darker circular spots livens up the plain classic design a bit, but not for the better.  4 out of 10.

1990 Home (World Cup)
(Tab Ramos)
For our first World Cup in 40 years, this was a pretty poor effort.  To me, this doesn't say, "the USA is back!".  Its more like, "you ain't gonna remember us anyway."  The longer I look at it, the more I think it almost has a Native American Indian look.  3 out of 10.

1990 Away (World Cup)
While probably released for the '90 WC, the US wore its home whites for all 3 group matches.  Basically a reverse of the home look, Adidas made an emphasis of the over-the-shoulder stripe look from the '88 home which they would then continue in the 1992-94 edition.  I like it slightly better than the white, which isn't saying much.  4 out of 10.

1991 Blue
(Dominic Kinnear / Peter Vermes?)
This jersey was worn in the inaugural 1991 Gold Cup, won by the US in an upset.  It ushers in the triangular adidas logo, instead of the traditional trefoil.  Also, Adidas becomes extremely aggressive with the 3 stripes for the next few years until they completely lost their minds for the '94 world cup.  This '91 edition has a white collar and the old crest, which sets it apart from the '92 edition.  5 out of 10.

1992-1994 Home
(Cobi Jones)
The new US crest is not much of a crest at all.  But we have continued the swooshing ball to this day on the current shield.  As for the blue and red stripes, it is memorable for ushering in the modern look in US jersey history.  But I can't shake the feeling that it looks like a girl's jersey.  5 out of 10.

1992-1994 Away
(Fernando Clavijo)
A slight variation to the '91 Gold Cup since these don't have the white collar.  Red shoulder stripes may have helped, but the white just looks obnoxious.  And the blue is still too light.  You would never guess that this was a US jersey.  4 out of 10.

1993 Third
(Brian Quinn)
It seems that Adidas tried balance out the jersey with 3 shoulder stripes on the both sides with this release.  More of a bad thing does not a good jersey make.  At first glance, I actually thought this was a France jersey.  6 out of 10.

1994-1995 Home (World Cup)
(Marcelo Balboa)
Yes, I get how the wavy red lines looks like our flag just like what they were trying to do with the white stars on a blue background in the home version.  But I just don't like vertical stripes on a jersey, especially wavy ones.  And for some reason, the sleeves were left white.  2 out of 10.

1994-1995 Away (World Cup)
(Alexi Lalas) 
One of the most memorable jerseys in US history.  Also one of the worst.  Who decided that a denim look would work on a soccer jersey?  And why unleash this thing during the first World Cup we ever hosted?  Alexi Lalas is probably the only one who can pull it off.  These two efforts probably led to the switchover to Nike.  1 out of 10.

1995-1998 Home
(Thomas Dooley)
Nike takes over US Soccer and starts with a solid effort.  I like the polo shirt look to it and the solid stripe across is a respectable look for any soccer jersey.  The US crest also appears here for the first time.  7 out of 10.

1995-1998 Away
(John Harkes)
Nike decided to go away from the lighter blue to the navy blue, you know, like the color we have on our flag.  6 out of 10.

1995-1998 Third
(Eric Wynalda)
Nike's first US soccer jersey looked much better in white and navy blue.  This light blue one just looks dull and very.... blah.  4 out of 10.

1996 Third White
I honestly had not seen this one before but it may have been used during the Gold Cup in '96.   The dark horizontal stripes, perhaps a predecessor to the '08 release, combined with the dark trim gives it a very sharp look.  I also like the red number font.  8 out of 10.

1996 Third Blue and Red

No idea if these are legit or not.  I literally have never come across a picture of any US player wearing any of the 3.  But the blue seems to be the exact inverse of the 1996 Third white version.  For some reason, I think the red jersey would look even better with a collar on it - polo style. 7 out of 10.

1998-2000 Home (World Cup)
(Brian McBride)
Nike keeps the stripe-across-the-chest-polo-shirt-look going.  It does looks a little like a tennis shirt but I like the classic feel overall.  One of my favorite designs.  9 out of 10. 

1998-2000 Away (World Cup)

(Claudio Reyna)
This is one of my favorite US jersey of all time.  I like the vibrancy of the red as well as the usage of white and blue.  It has to be paired with the blue shorts, however.  10 out of 10.

2000-2002 Home
(Earnie Stewart)
This design is simple and clean but in the end, it looks like a lazy effort.  Its basically a white t-shirt with blue trim.  Great, thanks.  Okay, so this t-shirt is still better than the 94 WC jerseys.  4 out of 10.

2000-2002 Away
(Landon Donovan)
Since it has color, it rates better than the home whites.  While red is a great jersey color and I loved the '98 edition, I still think our main away color should be navy blue.  Red has been the predominant color of just about all US enemies - the redcoats, the nazis, the communists, the devil, etc.  And if we do wear red, it has to be paired with blue shorts.  5 out of 10.

2002-2004 Home (World Cup)

(Brian McBride)
When these first came out, I was completely in love with the shirt.  Now I think I was just in love with the success of the team.  Some critics have said it just looks like a volleyball jersey, but I still do like the angular designs under the arms.  I also like the font used for the numbers.  7 out of 10.

2002-2004 Away (World Cup)
(John O'Brien)
The away edition loses the collar but preserves a cool athletic look to it.  Too bad we lost both games in the WC in which we wore it.  8 out of 10.

2003 Third
(Cory Gibbs)
The first 1950 throwback was released with a blue sash instead of the original red.  9 out of 10. 

2004-2006 Home
(Claudio Reyna)
Again, Nike goes to a simpler look during the non World Cup cycle.  This time, the front has a one piece framed design, which I grew to like a lot.  What I did not like so much was the dark patch on the back where the name is supposed to be.  I also did not like the circle around the number font, however.  I know its on the Nike soccer balls, but did it have to be on the jersey too?  6 out of 10.

2004-2006 Away
(Taylor Twellman)
Again, it is merely the reverse of the home jersey but somehow even more boring.  4 out of 10.

2004 Third
(McBride / Jonathan Spector)
This throwback to the 1950 shirt was not worn nearly enough.  They used the red stripe instead of '03s blue.  I prefer this crest to our current one as well.  The 3/4 sleeves keep this one from perfection.  8 out of 10. 

2006 Special (Don't Tread on Me)
(Eddie Lewis)
This "Don't Tread on Me" special release was worn just once in a warm-up game to the World Cup.  The look of it is beautiful, again with the rich red and a two toned sash.  I also prefer the collar.  The only downside to this jersey for buyers is that the version released to the public was made of a cheap polyster material, or something like that.  9 out of 10.

2006-2008 Home (World Cup)

(Clint Dempsey)
Nike's Dri-fit age begins here as well as their more fitted look for jerseys.  I do not mind the collar-less look of these because the two toned stripe down the left side is unique and instant classic.  The stripe extends down the shorts to the left sock.  Awesome.  The crest is nicely enlarged here and outlined with a gold trim.  Lastly, I also like the college font used for the numbers.  9 out of 10.

2006-2008 Away (World Cup)
(Damarcus Beasley)
Nike brought back the 96-98 away look for the 2006 world cup this time without a collar.  I liked how the home and away versions were completely different but I marked this one down for unoriginality.  5 out of 10. 

2007 Third
(Michael Bradley)
This jersey was memorable because of the hat trick that Donovan dropped on Ecuador.  The design seemed to come out of left field with no throwback theme or really any correlation to any other US shirt.  By itself, I don't think its so bad, but the shade of blue is not to my liking and the thin pinstripes seem out of place on the field.  4 out of 10.

2008-2010 Home
(Frankie Hejduk)
This off cycle jersey again goes for the plain look but this time has big light blue hoops.  While I'm not a big fans of the hoops, we did pull off the Spanish conquest in these.  6 out of 10.

2008-2010 Away
(Carlos Bocanegra)
For the first time, the US uses a color other than blue or red for the away jersey.  I'm not sure what color this is, anthracite?  I actually went months thinking that it was a dark blue but its actually probably closer to black?  Who knows?  Let's stick to the navy blue please. Other than that, this was just plain.  4 out of 10 .

2010-12 Home (World Cup)
(Landon Donovan)
This is obviously another nod to the classic 1950s kit.  While I prefer the white tops to be paired with blue shorts, FIFA's rules don't always allow it, which is why Landon scored the Algeria goal in the all-whites.  The light gray sash seems to me to be an indecisive touch by Nike - on television, it is hardly noticeable at all.  Go big or go home.  It should have been the navy blue or perhaps two toned - red and blue.  Also, the sash should have been thinner and slightly more horizontal so that it doesn't run shoulder to hip - and therefore less pageant-like.  7 out of 10.

2010-12 Away (World Cup)
(Michael Bradley)
US wore the away blues for the first 2 matches of the WC.  As much as I did not really prefer the white sash, the entire look did grow on me, especially when Dempsey, Landon and Bradley scored giant goals in 'em.  It is essentially the reverse of the whites, except that the white sash is now very prominent.  Again, a red stripe inside or alongside the white would be an improvement.  I have yet to mention the strange stripe on the socks for all versions - it is horizontal across the shin but goes down behind the calf.  Just weird.  6 out of 10. 

2011 Third
(Brek Shea)
After a tremendous amount of fan interest, Nike released this extremely popular red kit, since US diehard fans (supporter sections) prefer to wear red at games.  In general I personally prefer the blue as the standard away color, but because Nike decided to use a blue sash instead of the beauty pageantish white sash, this one rates higher.  8 out of 10.

2012-14 Home
(Steve Cherundolo)
This may only be the 2nd time in US jersey history that our home jersey is not predominantly white (94 flag jersey being the other).  In addition to the red stripes, it still has a sash, though it's extremely muted and nearly invisible - "subtle tonal" sash, I think they call it.  The 'Where's Waldo?' jersey, might be what we end up calling this edition.  After finally seeing it on the field of play, it is my least favorite US jersey since Adidas' 94 World Cup shirts.  I get that the red stripe look is straight off our flag.  But it actually looks like a yuppie sailor outfit, the kind you'd wear if you were dressing up at Halloween.  And they didn't even have the conviction to run the stripes all the way around.  The back has a horrendously huge, white square box, presumably so that the number and name can be displayed inside.  The past 3 Nike off-World Cup ('00, '04, '08) home jerseys have been fairly plain.  They would have been better off sticking to that plan.  1 out of 10.

2012-14 Away
(Jozy Altidore)
Nike is going with the "sash" design for this off-WC 2 year cycle.  It's rumored that Nike may decide to keep the sash indefinitely as US' trademark look - I'm not entirely against the idea although I'll miss seeing the new ideas they come out with every 2 years.  For the blue away, they have changed the white pageant sash to a dark one - a marked improvement.  However, the sleeves are now white, giving the whole jersey the look of a vest - a marked regression.  The new tri-color collar reminds me of a ribbon, but I don't hate it.  Though we beat Italy in Italy in this jersey's debut, I'm giving it just a 6 out of 10.

 2013 Centennial Special
(Michael Bradley)
This new jersey commemorates the 100th anniversary of US Soccer's existence (1913).  Just as the pre-1950s jerseys were, it is plain white, with the shield being the main attraction.  However, I wish they had the guts to use an enlarged shield and place it centered on the chest, just as it was 100 years ago.  The blue v-neck collar and thick arm cuffs are a nod to the first US jersey as well.  Yes, overall this throwback is clean, simple and elegant.  And yes, it is a necessary (and hopefully extended) relief from the horrific "where's Waldo" disaster.  But ultimately, the reality is that this jersey is nearly identical to the '00-'02 Home jersey, except with the throwback shield.  Furthermore, I personally prefer the shield to say 'USA' on it.  7 out of 10.

2014-16 Home (World Cup)
(Jermaine Jones)
After ditching the traditional home whites for the "where's waldo" horror show, Nike went back to what it began back in 1995 for every edition of our home jersey.  I actually love that our home jersey is white.  But I'm not too excited with this release.  At first glance, this looks like those travel polos that our team wears on the plane.  Or something Federer wears at Wimbledon.  I've got no problem with collars, but why are there buttons on a jersey?  However, the biggest mistake is the lack of imagination in a World Cup year.  Look at our last two WC home releases.  One had a vertical stripe '06, the other a (faint) diagonal stripe '10.  Like it or not, they were at least unique designs to the US.  This one is nearly identical to England's 2010 WC home.  Plain, white polo with buttons.  Ok, ok, up close, it has thin, gray pinstripes, but they're undetectable from a distance.  Bring back a red/blue two toned stripe somewhere.  Anywhere.  They call this a classic, I call it boring.  As for the crest, a lighter shade of blue has been used predominantly throughout.  4 out of 10.

2014-16 Away (World Cup)
(Clint Dempsey)
For the first time since the red kits of 1998 and 2000, the away jersey is not predominantly navy blue.  Technically, its mostly red on the front and completely red on the back.  In a Nike-crafted statement, Dempsey hails it as a "patriotic colorway".  Is this design unique as US jerseys go?  Absolutely.  Is it American?  No.  It looks like Russia invaded Nike HQ.  Not acceptable at all.  Adidas actually had us in a lighter shade of blue all the way up through the '94 WC (denims!?!) but when Nike took over in '95, they went to dark blue.  Besides, the barely-worn pinstripe third jersey of '07, this is the first time they've gone back to that lighter shade.  Nike, please go back to the blue from our flag.  And just as the Where's Waldo stripes did, I think it looks better on our women's team than on our men.  But, I must admit that this kit has grown on me a bit since its release.  Unlike its home counterpart, it is an unique design not often seen in futbol.  6 out of 10.

2015 Third
(Fabian Johnson)
Just as they did in 2011 and 2007, Nike has released an alternate away jersey the year after a World Cup.  And just like last year's away WC jersey, Nike has decided to keep the lighter blue color scheme.  (See complaints about the lighter blue above).  Well, sort of.  They call it a "stylish gradient design" (think sedimentary rock) and it "gradiently" incorporates white up at the neck/shoulder area, a lighter blue for most of the shirt and a dark blue strip from the waistline down.  The brightness of the white neck/shoulder area looks completely out of place and detracts from the look.  On the plus side, the shorts and the socks are dark blue and the thick white stripe running down the side of the entire kit works.  However, just like the "Where's Waldo" and last year's "Bomb Pop" designs, this looks much more fitting for our women's team than our men's.  It leads me to believe that this was designed with this year's Women's World Cup in mind.  At least it isn't predominantly red.  3 out of 10.

2016-18 Home
(Gyasi Zardes)
At first glance though, it is an interesting take to our traditional white kit.  The design reminds me somewhat of the 2004 edition, where the cut of the shoulder/arm seams frames the torso to give it an athletic look.  It can also look like a raglan baseball shirt.  My major gripe though is still with the lightness of the blue.  They brought in the lighter shade for the 2014 WC and I'm hoping it goes away in time for the 2018 WC.  Also, the white front looks like its lacking something - a stripe running in any direction would be an improvement.  4 out of 10.

As for the new crest, I'm glad they kept the shield, used the letters 'USA' and went to blue letters and red stripes (instead of the previous blue stripes and red lettering).  However, the narrow design and the flat top give it an overly modern look and therefore robs it of a certain timelessness.

2016-18 Away
 (DeAndre Yedlin)
Because it is black, the away version looks more like a training/warmup shirt than the white version - you know, like an Under Armour compression shirt worn for workouts or under football pads.  I am not bothered by the different color sleeves, however I do like that the blue is closer to that of our flag.  The black patches on the chest muscles is much more noticeable on the black version, and it gives it the look of a superhero's body armor.  Should've gone all in and put in an 8-pack like Italy did a few years ago!  I kid.  Ultimately, even though I would have preferred if they used the navy blue instead of black as the predominant color, I don't mind experimentation with the away kits during these off-WC years.  Also, you probably need to workout before wearing it.  5 out of 10