Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Remaking the San Jose Earthquakes

Before losing this weekend, the San Jose Earthquakes were riding a nine-game unbeaten streak which has them on the verge of leaving the Western Conference basement. The team has turned over a fair percentage of its roster during the season, trading for proven MLS vets such as Arturo Alvarez, Kelly Gray and Scott Sealy.

However the biggest spark has been provided by two foreigners that might not have been on the radar of MLS fans -- Darren Huckerby and Francisco Lima. Acquired within days of each other in July, these two players have put up a total of six goals and six assists in the last nine games, breathing life into a toothless San Jose attack. So just who are these players?

Huckerby is the better known of the two stateside. He spent the last five seasons playing for Norwich City in the English Championship and Premiership, where he made roughly 200 appearances for the Canaries. In May of this year he was named as part of the club's "greatest ever line-up."

Brazilian midfielder Lima came to the 'Quakes from Brescia in the Italian second division. Prior to that he travelled Europe, playing in Russia, Switzerland, Turkey and Italy. During four years with Roma, he played nearly 90 games, including almost 30 appearances between the Champions League and UEFA Cup tournaments.

I guess it just shows that you don't have to bring in big name stars to have a major impact on the quality of your team.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mac Kandji: the next Ching... or the next Tarley?

This evening Macoumba Kandji made his debut with the New York Red Bulls, becoming the latest forward to jump from USL1 to Major League Soccer. Should Red Bulls fans expect a scoring explosion? Recent history suggests not.

A number of forwards have made the jump since 2002. The most successful of these is Brian Ching. Released after a year with the Galaxy, he played with the Seattle Sounders in 2002 and scored 16 goals in 25 games. He jumped back to MLS in 2003 where he has scored 59 goals in 114 appearances. During this time he's also become a member of the national team.

Other USL1 forwards have been less successful:
  • Current Galaxy forward Alan Gordon co-led the A-League (the forerunner of USL1) in scoring in 2004 with 17 goals for the Portland Timbers. In MLS he has scored a grand total of 11 goals in the last three years.
  • Melvin Tarley caught the eye of Real Salt Lake with his strong play in the 2005 US Open Cup, but scored only one goal in 12 MLS appearances.
  • Gavin Glinton notched 11 goals for the Charleston Battery in 2006, good enough for fifth in the league. In MLS he has been a journeyman, scoring six goals in parts of five seasons for three different teams.
  • While playing for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in 2003, Thiago Martins led the A-league in scoring with 22 goals, but he scored just six goals in 56 MLS games.

Will Kandji become the next Ching? It's difficult to tell since we are working with a limited sample size... but I would suggest against holding your breath.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Newcastle to be Bought by Nigerians?!?

A number of news outlets are reporting that a consortium of Nigerian businessmen are attempting to buy English side Newcastle United. I don't know about you, but if the letter below is any indication, I find this bid highly suspicious.


I am Mrs. Mariam Abacha, the widow of the late Gen. Sanni Abacha former Nigerian Military Head of State who died mysteriously as a result of Cardiac Arrest. Since after my husband's death, my family is under restriction of movement and our Bank Accounts both here and abroad are being frozen by the Nigerian Civilian Government.

Following the recent discovery of my husband's Bank Account by the Nigerians Government I therefore decided to contact you in confidence that I was above to move out the sum of US$400 Million Dollars, which was secret and is sealed in two Metal Boxes for security reasons.

I personally appeal to you seriously and religiously for your urgent assistance to move this money into Newcastle United Football Club where I believe it will be safe since I cannot leave the country.

You can contact me through my family Lawyer who will arrange with you for face to face meeting. Please do not sell Michael Owen, for he is my favorite player.

Go Toon!


Monday, September 22, 2008

Hexagonal Blog

If you're a stat geek like me, cast an adoring eye at Hexagonal Blog. Howard Hamilton has spent what is likely to be a ridiculous amount of time putting together club and domestic league power coefficients for CONCACAF, similar to those created for UEFA.

Where does MLS rank at the moment -- third, which seems about right to me. Now go over there and check the rest of it out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's RBI People!!!

I am really tired of sportscasters saying that a batter had two (or more) RBIs in a single game. RBI stands for Run Batted In. If a player doubles two runners home, they had two runs batted in. Thus they had two RBI -- NOT two RBIs. They did not have two Runs Batted Ins.

I realize this is a weird plural, like geese or radii, but it's your *@^# job people! I also realize that some dictionaries say it's acceptable to say RBIs. In my mind it's like wearing a Skoal t-shirt and baseball hat to church on Sunday. Just because society has deemed it allowable doesn't mean it's right.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The USL/MLS Overlap II: The Wrath of Khan

In a previous post I had researched the former Major League Soccer players that could be found on three USL1 teams - the Montreal Impact, Charleston Battery and Puerto Rico Islanders. Here's the rest of the league, broken down by team:

Atlanta Silverbacks
Scott Buete 21
David Hayes 18
Jerson Monteiro 5
Blake Camp 3
Justin Moore 2

Minnesota Thunder
Luchi Gonzalez 30
Mark Schulte 19
Melvin Tarley 12
Stephen deRoux 10
Tighe Dombrowski 4

Rochester Rhinos
Tenywa Bonseu 87
Andrew Gregor 23
Tiger Fitzpatrick 18
Alfonso Loera 15
John Ball 11
Luke Kreamalmeyer 6
Steve Guppy 5

Carolina Railhawks
Ronald Cerritos 224
David Stokes 24
Rey Martinez 8
Joey Worthen 3

Seattle Sounders
Taylor Graham 34
Josh Gardner 21
Leighton O'Brien 10
Nikolas Besagno 8
Roger Levesque 4
Danny Jackson 1

Portland Timbers
Chris Brown 208
Jamil Walker 77
Leonard Griffin 18
Byron Alvarez 8
Ray Burse, Jr. 6
Cameron Knowles 4
Chris Bagley 3
Arsene Oka 1
Scot Thompson 1

Vancouver Whitecaps
Nicholas Addlery 11
Justin Moose 8
Jay Nolly 8

Miami FC
Avery John 75
Eric Vasquez 23
Connaly Edozien 9
Willie Sims 9
Bruno Menezes 3
Sam Reynolds 2

Update: Added Luchi Gonzalez to Minnesota. He was listed as "Luis" on the USL site.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

MLS Raiding USL2

There were a flurry of moves leading up to the Major League Soccer roster freeze deadline, and a surprisingly large number of them were signings of players from USL2 -- which is essentially the third division of American soccer.

Colorado: Kwame Sarkodie (Cleveland City Stars)
Columbus: Stanley Nyazamba (Richmond Kickers)
Dallas: Jeff Rowland (Wilmington Hammerheads)
DC: Greg Janicki and Thabiso Khumalo (both from the Pittsburgh Riverhounds)
New York: Terry Boss (Charlotte Eagles) and Matt Mbuta (Crystal Palace Baltimore)

Interestingly, Rowland and Khumalo were both drafted by MLS teams but didn't stick.

So why a bunch of players from USL2, rather than USL1? My guess is the classic combination of low asking price and potential upside. I doubt any of them will be major contributors during the MLS stretch run, but it certainly never hurts to look at young talent for the future.

A Tale of Two Strikers

So far this year a certain MLS forward has these statistics:

12 games, 1 goal, 566 minutes

Also this year, a certain forward has the following statistics during World Cup Qualifying:

5 games, 6 goals, 441 minutes

The name of these forwards? Carlos Ruiz and... Carlos Ruiz. That's right, the same player who can't seem to buy a goal for Los Angeles or Toronto this year is a scoring machine for Guatemala.

So what's the difference? Are CONCACAF defenses that much worse than those in Major League Soccer? Does Guatemala's midfield give him that much better service than David Beckham or Amado Guevara have this year in league play? Is he pining for the Hooters he helped open instead of attending the All-Star Game? Only El Pescadito knows for sure.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mass Effect Review

Made by the company behind the fantastic Baldur's Gate role-playing games, Mass Effect is the first sci-fi RPG I've ever played, and it's fantastic.

The main plot line involves a baddie named Saren who wants to wipe out humanity (and everything else) by finding and unleashing a race of intelligent machines called the Reapers. The scope is monumental, the look sleek and futuristic and the soundtrack well composed -- all things you would expect from a game of this type.

However the little things really make this game stand out. There are many subtle nods to actual science such as naming a location after Stephen Hawking and a type of ammo made up of Bose-Einstein condensate. The alien races are truly alien - both in look and behavior. The beefy elcor preface each sentence to non-Elcor with the emotion that is meant to be conveyed because truly understanding their native language requires the listener to be in tune with subtle scent and body posture variations. Are these sorts of details really needed? Of course not, but it certainly helps the immersive feel of the game.

There's lots of action, lots of sleuthing and lots of fun to be had. My verdict: this is a game well worth buying instead of renting, especially if you enjoy a good RPG... or alien ladies in tight-fitting body armor.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stupid Sports Injuries

For those of you who might have missed it, Real Salt Lake's Fabian Espindola managed to injure himself so badly last week that he had to be subbed out of the game and will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a severely sprained ankle. What happened? He did a backflip to celebrate a goal... that was disallowed for offsides.

This made me think of other odd sports injuries. Football fans may remember Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte knocking himself out of a game when he head-butted a wall celebrating a touchdown, or kicker Bill Gramatica who tore up his knee celebrating a more-or-less meaningless field goal.

Baseball is replete with weird injuries - but most of those seem to happen off the field. The Brewers' Matt Wise sliced his hand open on a pair of salad tongs a year or two ago. One of my favorites was that of Royals outfielder Mark Quinn, a former member of my fantasy baseball team who injured himself because he tripped over a table while "playing kung fu" with his brother.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Is it bad that whenever they mention Hurricane Ike on the news I get this image in my mind?

If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to mention my favorite news headline of all time Ike 'Beats' Tina to Death.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Leading MLS in Assists and Goals

If you look closely at the last two posts, you might notice one name that's shared across the lists -- Jaime Moreno. So far he's the only person to lead the league in both assists and goals (albeit not in the same season.)

No player has ever led the league in both categories in the same year, but two players have come close. In 2006 Real Salt Lake's Jeff Cunningham led the league in scoring with 16 goals, and ended tied for second in assists with four other players. One of the players he was tied with was Christian Gomez, who tied Ante Razov for the second most goals at 14.

MLS Scoring Title Margins

In keeping with yesterday's theme, here's a look at the biggest gaps between the MLS Golden Boot winner and the second place goal scorer.

The race for top scorer has been very close most years, with only four seasons where the top scorer beat the man in second by more than two goals. In three seasons (1999, 2003 and 2004) two or more players tied for the lead.

If the season ended today, Landon Donovan would be fifth on the list, as he leads teammate Edson Buddle and Dallas' Kenny Cooper by three goals.

Mamadou Diallo 8 2000
Stern John 7 1998
Roy Lassiter 4 1996
Alex Pineda Chacon 4 2001
Jeff Cunningham 2 2006
Jaime Moreno 1 1997
Carlos Ruiz 1 2002
Taylor Twellman 1 2005
Luciano Emilio 1 2007

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

MLS Assist Title Margins

With Guillermo Barros Schelotto attempting to become just the second MLS player to reach twenty assists this year, I thought it would be interesting to see just how dominant Valderrama's record-setting 2000 season was.

As it turns out, not only did Valderrama set the mark for most assists, but he also set the record for the largest gap between the top assist man and second place, outdistancing Steve Ralston by nine helpers. The only tie occurred in 2001 when Diego Serna and John Wilmar Perez shared the crown.

Carlos Valderrama 9 2000
Preki 6 2003
Jaime Moreno 4 2004
Marco Etcheverry 3 1998
Steve Ralston 3 2002
Marco Etcheverry 2 1996
Carlos Valderrama 2 1997
Steve Ralston 1 1999
Dwayne De Rosario 1 2005
Terry Cooke 1 2006
Steve Ralston 1 2007

If the season ended today, Guillermo Barros Schelotto would place second on this list, as he is currently eight assists ahead of Salt Lake's Javier Morales.

Monday, September 08, 2008

How much more black could it be...?

After watching the last two US world cup qualifiers, it seemed time to update the list of the worst-lit stadiums.

1. Estadio Esteban Hawking, black hole in Sagittarius A*, central Milky Way
2. Estadio Mateo Flores, Guatemala City, Guatemala
3. Estadio Pedro Marrero, Havana, Cuba
4. Ernest Shackleton Stadium, Lake Vostok, Antarctica

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Soup

The Soup can be summed up in one word: snarky. Every week host Joel McHale skewers the worst of television and pop culture, targeting the deplorable (such as A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila) the egomaniacal (Tyra Banks, Janice Dickenson) and the incomprehensible (say Willard Scott or the spaghetti-eating cat that mysteriously showed up on the Mike and Juliet Show.)

The humor ranges from the high-brow to the bargain basement and back again. You're as likely to hear them ridicule MTV's pronouncement of The Hills as this generation's A Tale of Two Cities with actual Dickens jokes as you are that the self-professed "Yank Skank" who slept with Alex Rodriguez was called a "Cub Dumpster" when she lived in Chicago.

All in all, this is one of the most consistently funny shows on television. For more information check out The Soup Blog

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The USL/MLS overlap

With the fantastic results of Montreal and Puerto Rico in the CONCACAF Champions League and the highly entertaining US Open Cup final involving the Charleston Battery, some would argue that the gap between the USL and MLS is narrowing. This may be due (at least in part) to the influx of former MLS players into USL.

There are a number of players on these three teams with MLS experience, including two players with more than 100 appearances. (There are also a number of players that were drafted by MLS teams, but never played. Those players are not listed below)

Here are those players, listed in order of MLS appearances.

Charleston Battery
Nelson Akwari 78
Stephen Armstrong 77
Lazo Alavanja 58
John Wilson 32
Dusty Hudok 12
Marco Reda 8

Montreal Impact
Matt Jordan 117
Pato Aguilera 19
Felix Brillant 19
David Testo 16
Adam Braz 13
Roberto Brown 13

Puerto Rico Islanders
Petter Villegas 117
Fabrice Noel 18
Bill Gaudette 17
Alberto Delgado 14
Osei Telesford 2

(edit -- I missed Stephen Armstrong in the original list. Thanks for pointing that out Mike!)

Friday, September 05, 2008

CCL Results By Country

Now that the preliminary round is if the CONCACAF Champions League is complete, I thought it would be interesting to see the results broken down by country. Mexico is first, in part by virtue of Cruz Azul's pounding of Hankook Verdes. If you're an American fan... avert your eyes. Ugh.

Mexico 3 0 0 15 0 15 100.0% 3.00
Trinidad & Tobago 2 0 0 6 1 5 100.0% 3.00
Puerto Rico 1 0 1 3 2 1 50.0% 2.00
Canada 1 0 1 1 0 1 50.0% 2.00
Panama 2 1 1 8 2 6 50.0% 1.75
Guatemala 1 1 0 1 5 -4 50.0% 1.50
Honduras 0 0 2 4 4 0 0.0% 1.00
Costa Rica 0 1 1 2 3 -1 0.0% 0.50
El Salvador 0 1 1 3 4 -1 0.0% 0.50
Nicaragua 0 1 1 0 1 -1 0.0% 0.50
USA 0 3 1 2 9 -7 0.0% 0.25
Jamaica 0 1 0 0 3 -3 0.0% 0.00
Belize 0 2 0 0 12 -12 0.0% 0.00

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Can Donovan Join the 20 Goal Club?

Landon Donovan's brace against New England last weekend brings his goal total to 16 with eight games left on the Galaxy's schedule. If he manages to knock in four more goals, it would make him the ninth player in MLS history to reach the 20-goal plateau.

Player TM GM G Year
1 Roy Lassiter TB 30 27 1996
2 Stern John CLB 27 26 1998
Mamadou Diallo TB 28 26 2000
3 Carlos Ruiz LA 26 24 2002
4 Taylor Twellman NE 28 23 2002
Raul Diaz Arce DC 28 23 1996
5 Eduardo Hurtado LA 26 21 1996
6 Luciano Emilio DC 29 20 2007

As you can see, no player has ever registered at least 20 goals more than once. When Luciano Emilio did it last season, he was the first to do so in five years. This is Donovan's best goal-scoring year by far with 16 goals in just 18 games played. Can he make it to 20? That's a very interesting question.

Because MLS does not break for international dates, Donovan will likely miss at least two of the Galaxy's remaining eight games while on World Cup qualifying duty. The US plays Cuba on 9/6 and Trinidad and Tobago on 9/10, meaning Donovan will miss the 9/6 game against Salt Lake. The US plays the return legs of those fixtures 10/11 and 10/15, which means he'll likely miss the 10/12 game against Colorado. Factoring in fatigue and injuries from these games, he could also miss 10/18 against Houston and 9/13 against Kansas City.

If he keeps scoring at this rate, he'll finish with 20 goals if he plays at least five more games. Whether he plays that many remains to be seen. If he doesn't, it's yet another in a long line of arguments against MLS playing on FIFA dates.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Schelotto Hunts 20 Assists

Over the weekend the Crew's Guillermo Barros Schelotto notched his fifteenth and sixteenth assists of the year, putting him in prime position to achieve something that has only been done once in the history of Major League Soccer -- tally 20 assists in one season.

Carlos Valderrama set the single-season mark in 2000 with 26 assists in 32 games. How hard is it to get 20 assists? Only two other players have ever reached 19 assists - Marco Etcheverry (who did it twice) and Steve Ralston. In fact if Schelotto's fails to tally another assist, it would already tie him for the fifth best season of all time.

Player TM GM A Year
1 Carlos Valderrama TB 32 26 2000
2 Marco Etcheverry DC 26 19 1996
Carlos Valderrama TB 20 19 1997
Marco Etcheverry DC 29 19 1998
Steve Ralston NE 27 19 2002
3 Steve Ralston TB 32 18 1999
4 Carlos Valderrama TB 23 17 1996
Preki KC 27 17 1997
Marco Etcheverry DC 22 17 1999
Mauricio Cienfuegos LA 30 17 1999
Steve Ralston TB 30 17 2000
Preki KC 30 17 2003
5 **Schelotto** CLB 22 16 2008
Carlos Valderrama COL 27 16 2002
Martin Machon MIA 24 16 2000
Mauricio Cienfuegos LA 30 16 1998

How good are Schelotto's chances? If he continue to provide assists at his current rate, he would end with 21 assists. If he tallies a helper every other game, he'll end with 20. It's not a lock, but the chances look pretty good.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Amy Winehouse Decision Tree

Now you too can determine whether or not you should go to rehab.

113 Miiiiillion Dollars...

So what can you purchase for 113 million dollars? If you're the soccer clubs of Manchester, England, you can buy two players. That's right, just two. On the last day of the European transfer window, Manchester United purchased Dimitar Berbatov from Totteham Hotspur. The price? Roughly $55,00,000.

However that wasn't even the largest transfer of the day. Not to be outdone, Manchester City pulled a fast one and plucked Brazilian winger Robinho out from under the noses of Chelsea for a British record $58.5 million bucks. Isn't Roman Abromavich being outbid for a player the third seal?

Somewhere Dr. Evil wishes he had this kind of money.