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.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Brett Hundley leads UCLA to 3 straight wins over sc

Brett Hundley has led UCLA to its first 3 game winning streak over the trojans since Cade McNown beat sc 4 straight in 1995-'98.

UCLA 38 - usc 28

Hundley stats: 22 for 30, 234 yards,1 passing TD, 2 rushing TDs

Game notes:  UCLA was ranked #17, sc was #21.  At the Rose Bowl, UCLA jumped out to 24-0 lead.  usc pulled within 3 points (31-28) with just over 7 minutes left, but Bruins marched down 83 yards to seal the victory.  Johnathan Franklin rushed 29 times for 171 yards and 2 TDs.

UCLA 35 - usc 14

Hundley stats: 18 for 27, 208 yards.  80 yards rushing, 2 TDs

Game notes: UCLA was ranked #22, sc was #23.  UCLA scored the first 2 and the last 2 TDs of the game.  First win at sc since 1997.

UCLA 38 - usc 20

Hundley stats: 22 for 31, 326 yards, 3 TDs, 1 rushing TD

Game notes: UCLA was ranked #9, sc was #19.  Hundley's 1st pass was a pick six.  After sc tied the game 14-14 early in the 2nd quarter, UCLA scored 24 straight to put the game away.  Eric Kendricks' sideline INT turned the momentum of the game permanently.

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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Giants win 3rd World Series in 5 years!

Game 1: Giants 7 - Royals 1

Coming into the game, the Royals were undefeated through all 8 of their postseason games and had the home field advantage, thanks to that utterly ridiculous allstar-winner-gets-home-field-in-WS rule.  At stake: merely that in the last 17 WS', the winner of game 1 went on to win the WS 15 times.  (Historically, of the 108 WS', game 1 winners win the Series 63% of the time).

Key moment of the game:
1st inning - Royals pitcher, James Shields, allowed a Blanco single, a Posey single, a Sandoval double and a Pence HR.  It was 3-0 before Bumgarner even took the mound.

It was game over when:
Well, pretty much when Madison Bumgarner took the mound with that 3-0 lead.  However in the 3rd inning, Royals threatened with runners on 2nd and 3rd and no outs.  Bumgarner strikes out the next two Royals swinging and gets a groundout to end the threat.  Royals were never in it after that, scoring just 1 run (7th inning HR) and lost 7-1.  Bumgarner pitched 7 innings, had 5 strikeouts and allowed just 3 hits, 1 walk and the 1 run. 

Other facts:
- This was the Giants' 7th straight WS win, starting back in 2010 WS Game 4.
- Giants outhit the Royals 11-4 and even left 9 men on base.
- Pablo Sandoval lead all Giants hitters with 3 hits and 2 RBIs and extended his postseason on-base streak to 24 games (streak ended in game 3 at 25 games).
- Hunter Pence got on base 4 times (2 hits including the HR, 2 walks) and also had 2 RBIs.
- Bumgarner has now won a game in 3 different World Series, joining only Schilling, Clemens, Glavine and Pettite to do so in the last 3 decades.
- Bumgarner's shutout streak in the WS ended at 21 innings, tied for the 7th longest in WS history.  The last pitcher to reach 21 shutout innings was Koufax back in '66.

Game 4: Giants 11 - Royals 4

The Royals won Game 2 (7-2) with a 5-run 6th inning, then held on to win Game 3 in SF (3-2)  with great bullpen pitching.  Momentum had clearly swung in KC's favor: with the WS tied 1-1, teams that have won game 3 on the road have gone on to win the WS 22 of 29 times, which is nearly 76% of the time.  And of course, the Royals were now 10-1 in this postseason and needed to win just 2 of the last 4 games.  Lose game 4, and SF will have to win the last 3 games, including 2 at KC.  Bochy decides to stick with Vogelsong instead of Bumgarner on short-rest in this near must-win situation.

Key moment of the game:
Sandoval's 6th inning 2-run hit broke a 4-4 tie and the Royals never recovered.  Leading up to that moment: Vogelsong was forced from the game in the 3rd inning, after giving up 4 runs on 5 hits and 1 walk in the 3rd inning.  Being down 3 runs, the Giants clawed their way back with a 1-run 3rd inning, a 2-run 5th inning, a 3-run 6th inning.  Entering the 7th, it was 7-4 with 9 KC outs left.

It was game over when:
The Giants continued their upward hitting trend with a 4-run 7th inning to extend the lead to 11-4.

Other facts:
- The Giants had 11 runs, tied for the 3rd most in WS history.
- The Giants had 16 hits, tied for 2nd most in WS history.
- 11 different Giants had hits, tying for the most in WS history.
- Hunter Pence led the way with 3 hits and 3 RBIs.
- Buster Posey's 3rd inning RBI tied him with Barry Bonds for a team record 21 postseason RBIs.
- Yusmeiro Petit pitched 3 shutout innings to earn the win and also contributed with a hit, becoming the first Giants reliever to do so in the WS since 1936.
- Bruce Bochy became only the 5th manager to win 40 postseason games, joining Torre, LaRussa, Cox and Leland. 

Game 5: Giants 5 - Royals 0

The winner of game 5 wins the WS 66% of the time (27-41).  Because this was the Giants' last home game, it was still a virtual must-win game so that SF wouldn't have to win 2 games on the road.  In the 6 previous SF World Series when it was tied 2-2, they went on to lose the title.  Cause for mild concern: Bumgarner was 1-3 with a 4.67 ERA in 6 games at home in the postseason entering Game 5.

Key moment of the game:
Madison Bumgarner takes the mound.  Complete game shutout, 117 pitches (and 84 for strikes), 4 hits, 8 strikeouts, no walks.  Never allowed a runner past 2nd base.

It was game over when:
Well, when Madison Bumgarner took the mound.  Also, when the Giants took a 2-run lead into the 8th, Sandoval and Pence both singled and Juan Perez crushed a ball that hit inches from the top of the wall, scoring both runners.  It was 4-0, insurmountable on this night.

Other facts:
- Going back to the 4th inning of Game 4, the Giants had scored 15 unanswered runs.
- UCLA alum Brandon Crawford actually led the Giants with 3 RBIs on 3 at-bats.
- Sandoval and Pence both had 2 hits, and were each batted in by Crawford once, as well as Perez's double. 
- Bumgarner pitched the first WS shutout since 2003 and is the first Giant to do so in 52 years.
- This was Bumgarner's 2nd complete game this postseason.  No other pitcher in baseball even had one.
- He's the first pitcher in 56 years to win the first four WS starts of his career.
- In those 4 WS starts/wins spanning 31 innings, he's allowed just 12 hits, thrown 27 strikeouts and gave up only 1 RUN.  Career WS ERA: 0.29, best in history (with at least 25 innings pitched).

Game 7: Giants 3 - Royals 2

After a game 6 Royals shellacking (10-0) including a 7-run 2nd inning that put the game away, the Giants were facing some pretty long odds.  The last nine game 7's of the World Series had all been won by the home team.  You'd have to go back 35 years to find the last road team who prevailed in the winner-take-all 7th game.

Key moment of the game:
Bottom of the 5th inning, Bumgarner steps out of the bullpen on 2 days rest with a 3-2 lead and pitches 5 shutout innings for the save.

It was game over when:
Sandoval squeezes the foul ball to end the Series.  Situation: score was 3-2, bottom of the 9th inning, 2 outs, Royals runner on 3rd base.  Salvador Perez is the only Royal to get a run off Bumgarner in this series and he's up.  Bumgarner uses Perez's aggressiveness against him and gives him high fastballs until he pops out to Sandoval.

Other facts:
- In the 2 innings that the Giants scored, both Sandoval and Pence led off and got on base each time.  To be in position for Morse's game-winning hit, Sandoval memorably tagged up on 2nd and sprinted to 3rd on Belt's sacrifice fly to left field.
- Bumgarner threw 68 pitches on this final night and had 5 shutout innings, again on 2 days rest.
- Against 17 hitters, Bumgarner never went to a 3-ball count, the only appearance without a 3-ball count this entire season.
- His 5-inning save was the longest in World Series history, by 4 outs.

Other Bumgarner Postseason facts:

- Bumgarner's pitched 21 innings this World Series, finishing with a ridiculous 0.43 ERA.
- He pitched over a 1/3 of the Giants' World Series innings (and more postseason innings than the rest of the starters combined).
- His career World Series ERA went down to 0.25 which is the lowest of all time (minimum 25 innings).
- In 36 career WS innings, he only allowed 1 run and just 14 hits.
- He pitched 52 2/3 postseason innings this year, which bested Curt Schilling's 2001 record of 48 1/3.
- His ERA this postseason is 1.01, the best of all time (minimum 40 or more innings in a single postseason)
- His ERA is 3.06 in the regular season, but drops to 2.14 in the postseason.

Other Giants' Facts:

- Sandoval's career World Series batting average is .426 (20-47), which is 3rd best ever (minimum 40 WS at-bats)
- Sandoval had the most hits in a single postseason of all time with 27.
- Pence was an incredible 7-14 with 2 strikes, and finished .444 (12-27) in this World Series.
- Jeremy Affeldt saved the Giants in Game 7 (no team since 1947 had won Game 7 when its starter failed to reach the 3rd inning) and raised his consecutive scoreless postseason outing mark to 22 games (2nd longest of all time).  His postseason career ERA is 0.86 in 33 games.
- Bruce Bochy is only the 10th manager in history to win at least 3 World Series'.
- The 8 players to be on all 3 of the recent WS' rosters are: Bumgarner, Affeldt, Casilla, Lincecum, Javier Lopez, Posey, Romo and Sandoval.  Only Bumgarner and Posey were started in the same positions in all 3 runs.
- The Giants have won 10 straight postseason matchups and have gone 13-2 in 1-run games.
- The Giants are the 5th franchise to win 3 World Series titles in a 5 season span.
- They are the 1st National League team in nearly 70 years to win 3 in 5 years.

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.

Friday, August 1, 2014

2018 Russia WC US Roster Prediction

The impossibility to see into the future makes these detailed predictions so fun, and so wrong.  Here's the 23 man squad for Russia 2018, prediction #1. 

Brad Guzan, Bill Hamid, Cody Cropper
(In the mix: Sean Johnson, Tim Howard)

Its time for Guzan to get his cycle as the #1 keeper.  Hamid will emerge as the #2 in waiting while Cropper's appearance at WC camp means he's the future, albeit distant future.

Central Backs: John Brooks, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Will Packwood
Fullbacks: Fabian Johnson, DeAndre Yedlin, Timothy Chandler, Greg Garza
(In the mix: Geoff Cameron, Shane O'Neill, Tim Ream, Andrew Farrell, Alfredo Morales)

Because our current defense is relatively new, having just ushered out the Bocanegra/Cherundolo old guard, they are mostly young enough to hold their places through this cycle.

Central: Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud, Danny Williams, Wil Trapp
Outside: Luis Gil, Julian Green, Joe Gyau, Brek Shea
(In the mix: Joe Corona, Perry Kitchen, Alejandro Bedoya, Gedion Zelalem, Josh Gatt, Kelyn Rowe)

Bradley and Mix will be the central mids while young attacking talent make themselves known this cycle.

Jozy Altidore, Aron Johannsson, Juan Agudelo, Terrence Boyd
(In the mix: Will Bruin, Teal Bunbury, Bobby Wood, Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey)

Jozy and Aron will be in their primes come 2018, while Boyd and Agudelo reinsert themselves into Klinsmann's rotation.

Starting Lineup:

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, June 9, 2014

Sports Illustrated US Soccer Men's Covers

July 4, 1994 - Earnie Stewart (vs Columbia in WC)

May 27, 2002 - World Cup Preview (Clint Mathis)

June 24, 2002 - Landon Donovan (vs Mexico in WC)

June 5, 2006 - World Cup Preview (DaMarcus Beasley, Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu, Bobby Convey)

June 7, 2010 - World Cup Preview (Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard)

June 9, 2014 - World Cup Preview (Clint Dempsey)

SI has put out a World Cup US preview cover every 4 years starting in 2002, but not in '90, '94 and '98.  Certainly, the US finally qualifying for a WC for the first time since 1950 did not have quite the same cultural impact back in 1990.  In '94, though the bigger story was that the US was hosting the WC for the first time, SI did not have a preview cover either for the tournament or for the US team.  In '98, it seems that nobody cared before, during or after, given the US' dismal performance.

It is notable that there were 2 non-WC preview covers. This means that the sporting result was remarkable enough and had a big enough cultural impact to merit its own cover.  1994's upset over Colombia and subsequent advancement out of the group stage was a massive moment for the US.  2002's run to the quarterfinals was that 2nd moment.  I'd argue that Landon's 2010 extra-time goal vs Algeria was just as impactful, but perhaps their immediate loss to Ghana in the round of 16 ended their cover-chances.

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.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

2014 Brazil WC US Roster Prediction - Feb 2014

This is my 5th prediction for US Soccer's 23 roster spots for Brazil 2014.  (Previous predictions, for the record: July 2010, June 2011, January 2012, and January 2013).

Tim Howard (S), Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando

In the mix: Bill Hamid, Sean Johnson

One of 5 players than Klinsmann has penned into his Brazil starting lineup is of course Howard.  In this cycle, Guzan has shown that he deserves to be #2.  Klinsmann seems to prefer Rimando, who started so capably through last year's Gold Cup, over young guns in Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid for the last GK spot.  Rimando is 35 though, so it may be of some benefit to bring a young gun along for the ride.

Omar Gonzalez (S), Matt Besler (S), Clarence Goodson, Geoff Cameron

In the mix: Oguchi Onyewu, John Brooks, Michael Orozco, Maurice Edu, Tim Ream?

In my first 3 predictions, I didn't include Bocanegra, figuring he'd be too old by 2014 (35!).  And yet, Klinsmann started him game and after game as his captain.  I finally relented and added Boca to my last prediction in Jan '13.  Days later, in the first game of the final WC qualifying round, Boca was relegated to the bench in a shocker, never to see the field for the US again (besides a well-deserved testimonial, I hope).  He didn't even sniff a spot for the Gold Cup when we sent our B team.
Besler and Gonzalez both emerged out of the '13 January camp as starters, and both may get the nod come June.  Goodson and Cameron have been used often by Klinsmann over the last 2 years and it would surprise me if either were excluded.  Cameron also provides cover as a RB, seeing that he plays there for his club.  Gooch has been making some noise in recent weeks, but is it loud enough to catch JK's attention?

Fabian Johnson (S), Brad Evans (S), DaMarcus Beasley, Timothy Chandler

In the mix: Michael Parkhurst, Edgar Castillo, Eric Lichaj, Michael Orozco, Steve Cherundolo

The starting LB battle is really between Fabian and DaMarcus.  I gave Fabian the start just for kicks.  He could very well slide up to LM and partner with Beaz up the left.  Brad Evans was the RB starter the majority of our A team's games in '13, but I shudder a bit thinking of Ronaldo bearing down on Evans on the left side.  Chandler seems to be in the doghouse now, but our RB pool is extremely shallow.  Sadly, Dolo just can't get healthy and time is working against him anyway.  Parkhurst and Castillo have been useful to Klinsmann in this cycle, but not preferred.  Lichaj was brought in at the end of '13, and may still be on JK's radar.  (I'd much prefer to take him instead of Evans).  And again, Cameron may very well slide over and start at RB.

Central/Defensive Midfielders:
Michael Bradley (S), Jermaine Jones (S), Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu

In the mix: Danny Williams, Stuart Holden (not really but I just wanted to include him), Dax McCarty

This is the one position that's the most set in stone.  JK actually views this position as a two-way role, a box-to-box midfielder, if you will.  Two of Klinsmann's core players include Bradley and Jones.  Beckerman is clearly his favorite if either went down with injury.  The only question is whether Klinsmann needs a 4th player of this type.  I think Edu has the versatility to also fill in at CB, if needed.  Given the attacking prowess of our group opponents, I think JK uses this extra midfield spot to shore up defensively.

Attacking Midfielders:
Clint Dempsey (S), Landon Donovan (S), Graham Zusi (S), Brek Shea, Mix Diskerud

In the mix: Sasha Kljestan, Alejandro Bedoya, Joe Corona, Jose F Torres, Brad Davis, Benny Feilhaber, Mike Magee

According to Klinsmann, Dempsey is really the only lock to start here, and he really could be considered a forward since he'll play just under Jozy.  Zusi emerged in Jan '13 camp as a capable fill-in on the right during Donovan's absence and started the majority of the A team's games last year.  I'm thinking Klinsmann will ultimately decide to start both players on the wings, while Brek, EJ and Fabian provide the depth out wide.  Diskerud edges out Kljestan as Clint's backup.  There's a slew of names that are in the mix, so much will depend on who's in form come May.

Jozy Altidore (S), Aron Johannsson, Eddie Johnson

In the mix: Chris Wondolowski, Terrence Boyd, Juan Agudelo, Herculez Gomez

Klinsmann reiterated that Jozy's got his spot locked up (although I'm not sure why if he's unable to score in club play), while young Aron Johannsson's speed and skill earns him a place as well.  EJ has found some usefulness to JK often as a change of pace attacker off the bench.  Wondo may have to go on a tear in the MLS to get a real chance, while Boyd and Agudelo have opportunity to make their mark in Europe the next few months.  As we saw last WC (Findley!?!, Buddle!?!), strikers just need to get hot at the right time.  Speaking of '10 WC forwards, whatever happened to Herculez?  He was our de facto starter in '12, then went AWOL.

Starting Lineup:


Thursday, January 16, 2014

49ers: NFC Championship Game History

The San Francisco 49ers are about to play in their 15th NFC Championship.  Its their 3rd straight NFC Championship game, the third time they have played in 3 consecutive NFL semifinals in their history.  Of the 15 times the 49ers have made it, only twice (1981, 1997) did they make the NFC Championship without playing it in the year before or reaching it the year after.  Since the playoffs take place in the following calendar year, we'll denote each 49ers appearance by the regular season's calendar year.  ( For instance, the 49ers are about to play in the 2013NFC Championship).  The years in which the 49ers were victorious are in bold.

Dallas Cowboys 17 - SF 49ers 10
Kezar Stadium (SF)

Dallas Cowboys 14 - SF 49ers 3
Texas Stadium

SF 49ers 28 - Dallas Cowboys 27
Candlestick Park

Washington Redskins 24 - SF 49ers 21
RFK Stadium

SF 49ers 23 - Chicago Bears 0
Candlestick Park

SF 49ers 28 - Chicago Bears 3
Soldier Field

SF 49ers 30 - Los Angeles Rams 3
Candlestick Park

New York Giants 15 - SF 49ers 13
Candlestick Park

Dallas Cowboys 30 - SF 49ers 20
Candlestick Park

Dallas Cowboys 38 - SF 49ers 21
Texas Stadium

SF 49ers 38 - Dallas Cowboys 28
Candlestick Park

Green Bay Packers 23 - SF 49ers 10
Candlestick Park

New York Giants 20 - SF 49ers 17
Candlestick Park

SF 49ers 28 - Atlanta Falcons 24
Georgia Dome

SF 49ers vs Seattle Seahawks
CenturyLink Field

Random Observations:

- In our 14 previous conference championship games, we have won 6 and lost 8.  Starting with the Walsh dynasty, which is really the 49ers that I know, they've actually been 6-6.  Walsh himself was 3-1.

- From 1981 to 1997, we played in 10 of the 17 NFC Championship games.  Considering our sustained excellence over 17 years, the fact that there was a 13 year absence is quite sad.

- SF has now surpassed Dallas in having the most NFC appearances and also tied Pittsburgh with conference championship appearances with 15.

- Of the 13 previous games, we've played Dallas 6 times, more than any other team, winning only twice.

- The 49ers have hosted 9 NFC Championships, far and away the most by any team.  Dallas and Washington have each hosted 5.

- Our record at home in this game is 4-5.  (4-4 at Candlestick Park since our 1st NFC champ game was played at Kezar Stadium.)

- The 1981 game against Dallas featured Montana-Clark's "The Catch", which jump-started the Walsh dynasty.

- The sweetest NFC championship win was the 1994 game over Dallas.  It was the 3rd consecutive meeting between these rivals in the NFC Championship, with SF coming up short both times before in '93 and '92.  The 49ers also disappointingly missed the '91 playoffs (even with a 10 win season).  As for 1990....  

- The most bitter NFC championship loss was the 1990 game where our hopes of an unprecedented Superbowl 3-peat was abruptly ended by the Giants in a 2 point loss.  This was the last playoff game Montana played for the 49ers.

- The 1997 loss to GB was just about as painful because the Packers had ended our postseason 3 consecutive years ('95, '96, '97 - which is clearly why TO's '98 "The Catch II" to beat the Packers was so cathartic).  If anyone was writing the storybook properly, we were supposed to finally prevail in 1997 (or at least in '98) and win the SB, just as the '94 49ers defeated the Cowboys on the 3rd try.

- Our record on the road is 2-3, with victories at Soldier Field in 1988 and at the Georgia Dome last season.  We lost at Texas Stadium twice and RFK once.

- Harbaugh's 49ers came back from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Falcons last year 28-24.  He is now the only coach to advance to the NFL semifinals each of his first 3 seasons.

- Kaepernick's road record in this game is obviously 1-0.  Montana was 1-1 on the road (3-1 at home).  Young was 0-1 on the road, (1-3 at home).

- This is only the 2nd time that the 49ers will play a fellow NFC West opponent.  In the '89 season, we pounded the Rams 30-3.

- This will be only Seattle's 2nd NFC Championship game.  They won their only visit in the 2005 season 34-14 over the Panthers.  Of course, they lost to Big Ben's Steelers in the Superbowl.

After we were punished by the Colts in Week 3, I was already resigned to the tall task of having to beat the Seahawks in Seattle to get back to the Superbowl.  Given Seattle's cake schedule and the feeling that our window closed when Kaepernick's pass sailed over Crabtree's head on 4th down vs the Ravens, I should probably be ecstatic that we're back in the NFC Championship.

Seeing as we haven't been able to get within 3 touchdowns in our last two games there, it is a frightening prospect anyway you look at it.  However, there is a glimmer of hope, since Arizona beat them in Week 16 and their offense has been off for the past few games.  (Wilson only completed 9 passes for 103 yards last week.)  As for the 9ers, they've emerged unscathed and as the most balanced team from the gauntlet of a -10 degree wind chill weather in Lambeau and a tough D in Carolina.

But clearly, this will be the toughest test.  For the 9ers to win, Willis/Bowman/Brooks need to contain Lynch (which the 49ers haven't proven they can do) and pressure Russell with just our 4 man front.  On offense, no turnovers can be allowed and Gore needs to at least have an effective day.  I can't actually make an objective prediction due to my intense hatred of the Seagulls, so here's hoping we get an early turnover or two and jump out to a 17 point lead.  We'll finish off the clock with a heavy dosage of Gore/Hunter and win 31-17.

Monday, January 13, 2014

3 Consecutive Conference Championship Appearances List

1970-73 Dallas Cowboys, 2-2 (won SB in 1971 NFL season)
1974-76 Los Angeles Rams, 0-3
1980-82 Dallas Cowboys, 0-3
1988-91 San Francisco 49ers, 2-1 (won SB '88, '89)
1992-95 Dallas Cowboys, 3-1 (won SB '92, '93, '95)
1992-94 San Francisco 49ers, 1-2 (won SB '93)
1995-97 Green Bay Packers, 2-1 (won SB '96)
2001-04 Philadelphia Eagles, 1-3
2011-13 San Francisco 49ers, 1-1, TBD

1971-73 Miami Dolphins, 3-0 (won SB '72, '73)
1973-77 Oakland Raiders 1-4 (won SB '76)
1974-76 Pittsburgh Steelers 2-1 (won SB '74, '75)
1990-93 Buffalo Bills 4-0
2011-13 New England Patriots 1-1, TBD

- The balance of power was clearly with the AFC in the '70s, with the NFC in the '80s and '90s, and nonexistent in the 2000's.

- 14 times, including this season's Patriots and 49ers, a team has advanced to at least 3 consecutive Conference championships.  9 times in the NFC, 5 times in the AFC.

- 4 of those times, a team made it to 4 consecutive conference championships - Dallas '70-'73, Buffalo '90-'93, Dallas '92-'95, Philadelphia '01-'04.

- 1 team earned 5 consecutive trips - Oakland '73-'77, but only advanced to the SB once.

- The 49ers and Cowboys are the only two organizations that have had multiple conference championship streaks.  Both have done it 3 times.

- The Dolphins and the Bills are the only two teams that never suffered a loss during their conference championship streaks.  Of course, sadly, the Bills never won a SB in 4 tries.

- In fact, including the Bills, there were 4 times where teams did not at least win the Superbowl at least once during their respective conference championship streaks.

- Also, only 4 times did an organization win multiple SBs during their conference championship streak.  Let's not be the 5th.  Hopefully that'll be the Belicheats.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

49ers Division Round Playoff History

1949 - NY Yankees @ SF, Won 17-7 (AAFC)
1957 - Detroit @ SF, Lost 31-27
1970 - SF @ Minnesota, Won 17-14
1971 - Washington @ SF, Won 24-20
1972 - Dallas @ SF, Lost 30-28
1981 - NY Giants @ SF, Won 38-24
1983 - Detroit @ SF, Won 24-23
1984 - NY Giants @ SF, Won 21-10
1986 - SF @ NY Giants, Lost 49-3
1987 - Minnesota @ SF, Lost 36-24
1988 - Minnesota @ SF, Won 34-9
1989 - Minnesota @ SF, Won 41-13
1990 - Washington @ SF, Won 28-10
1992 - Washington @ SF, Won 20-13
1993 - NY Giants @ SF, Won 44-3
1994 - Chicago @ SF, Won 44-15
1995 - Green Bay @ SF, Lost 27-17
1996 - SF @ Green Bay, Lost 35-14
1997 - Minnesota @ SF, Won 38-22
1998 - SF @ Atlanta, Lost 20-18
2002 - SF @ Tampa Bay, Lost 31-6
2011 - New Orleans @ SF, Won 36-32
2012 - Green Bay @ SF, Won 45-31
2013 - SF @ Carolina

- 49ers have played in 22 divisional playoff games and have a 14-8 record.  Their 1949 AAFC playoff game is not counted here.

- They played the Vikings 5 times (4-1), Giants 4 times (3-1), Redskins 3 times (3-0), Packers 3 times (1-2), Lions twice (1-1),  Bears once (W), Saints once (W), Falcons once (L), Buccaneers once (L) and Dallas surprisingly only once (L)

- 17 of the Divisional playoff games were played at home.  They went 13-4.

- On the road, the 49ers were 1-4.  That doesn't bode well for us vs Panthers.

- In the 17 years stretch from 1981-1998, the 49ers played in an unbelievable 15 divisional round playoff games.

- In the 31 years preceding 1981 ('50-'81), they only reached this round 4 times.

- In the 16 years since 1998, the 49ers reached this round another 4 times, including this year.

- Harbaugh has reached this round in all 3 years of his NFL coaching career.

Facing the Carolina Panthers

The 49ers have never faced the Panthers in the playoffs and are actually 7-11 against them all-time.  SF is winless in the last 4 games against them, including the 10-9 ugly loss earlier this season at Candlestick.  In that game, Vernon Davis was lost to concussion and Crabtree had not yet returned.  The Panthers basically doubled Boldin and stacked the box to stop our run.  Now in the playoffs, Kaepernick is clearly allowed to tuck and run whenever he wants, adding a 3rd dimension to the attack, which turned out to be the x-factor vs the Packers.

Among the issues the 49ers need to address, is the ridiculous use of timeouts, especially early in the 2nd half.  Does Kaepernick not understand that losing 5 yards on 1st down in the 3rd quarter is worth saving a timeout for?  Not having our timeouts cost us in the Superbowl, and I'm afraid we still haven't learned our lesson.  Speaking of Kaep, I'd also like to see him tuck the ball when he's running.

Our redzone offense can be a bit frustrating as well.  Against the Pack, we could have been up 21-0, and against our defense, the game would have been over.  Settling for field goals won't cut it against the Seattle Seagulls.  Prediction: 24-16, 49ers win.