Archive for October, 2011

Monday Bullets: MLS Playoff Odds, Golazo Czar, More…

Fantastic weekend of footie:

• MLS Playoff Odds

Big changes in the little schematic we put together last week:

• Seattle Sounders (now: 12 to 1) vs. Real Salt Lake (remains 6 to 1)

Beckerman wants you to believe...

Mauro Rosales are no Mauro Rosales, Seattle now looks dusted. While the Sounders are capable of offensive explosions (the Sounders’ 56 goals led in the regular season), hard to imagine they are going to hang at least a three-spot on the visitors from Rio Tinto on Wednesday.

For one thing, pushing for three goals creates more of an up-down game, one where RSL can be just as lethal on the counter to Seattle’s foray; for another, you have Real Salt Lake able to play a possession game and limit Seattle’s time on the ball.

With a three-goal home lead in aggregate, you would think that RSL’s Cup chances go up. But that all depends on the health of their starting centerbacks, Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers who both left with injuries.

Knock, knock, that’s just Kyle Beckerman rattling the cages of all the naysayers who said he was a weak link on the US. Without Olave and later, briefly, without Borchers, Beckerman provided the cover over the back to preserve the shutout at home.

• New York Red Bulls (remains at 20 to 1) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (remains 4 to 1)

Los Angeles now the favorite–for now–on The Shin Guardian. They basically did what they had to in New York. The Galaxy–as is Bruce Arena’s perennial game plan–played for the draw on the road (Los Angeles concedes almost 50% less shots on goal when away from the Home Depot Center) and the tandem of Omar Gonzalez and AJ De La Garza sealed the central defense while Castrol Index Best XVIII’s Mike Magee tallied the lone goal.

This isn’t over for New York heading out to mid-week game in HDC. The Red Bulls appear more comfortable and commanding on the road and has of course that “nothing-to-lose” thing going for them. The loss of Rafa Marquez only stokes the fire more for the Red Bulls younger guard to prove themselves.

A dangerous position for Los Angeles, but they should still see their way through.

• Houston Dynamo (was 14 to 1, not 8 to 1) vs. Philadelphia Union (was 7 to 1, now 15 to 1)


Whoa is TSG….flip-flopping the odds here.

How in the world do you test out a new defense–of all things–at home in Game 1 of the playoffs.

Peter Nowak–who TSG is now casually humming and walking away from as their Coach of the Year candidate–did the unthinkable. Whether the strategy to employ a five-man (or three is you prefer with wingbacks) defense may be defensible at some level–which I don’t understand because the Dynamo’s team set-up doesn’t exactly scream, “Don’t come through the middle!”–what’s not defensible is attempting to employ it on the fly in the playoff.

Philadelphia looked flummoxed in the first half on what to do and it’s their coache’s fault alone.

I find it hard to see how the Dynamo won’t defend the series at home, especially since Philadelphia made their strikers even seem dangerous.

• Sporting KC (remains 8 to 1), vs. Colorado Rapids (was 10 to 1, now 20 to 1)

I’m not sure what bothers me more: pretty everything about Colorado or Sporting KC’s playoff mantra “I believe that we will win.”

Addressing the latter, what is this….Notre Dame or something. There’s no crusade for respect going on in Kansas City. What happens if they don’t win this year, what’s their motto for next year, “I believe last year; this year I know”….c’mon now.

As for the former, from Gary Smith leaving to Omar Cummings ability to turn it on or turn it off to the overrated Marvell Wynne and Jeff Larentowicz, I just want the Rapids to go away now.

They’ve got no shot in Kansas City on Thursday, but if they somehow eek the playoff series out, I’ll say, “Both time that team acted like defending champions.” (And yes, I know they have injuries.)


• The Golazo Czar

…couldn’t agree more…

Last week on Twitter, CBS Sports Reporter Dana Wessel and our friends over The Yanks Are Coming suggested that before we start calling every Kei Kamara or Fernando Torres sitter a “Golazo” that someone, perhaps TSG, rules on it over Twitter or elsewhere.


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Happy Halloween from TSG

Spotted out in San Francisco - Zombie Mia Hamm, Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Julie Foudy!

Saturday: Your Live Commentary

Arsenal with a beatdown of Chelsea and their backline, 5-3.

Next up: Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders clash in the 1st round of the playoffs.

Game on.

Men in the mirror....

MLS Playoffs Live: Colorado Hosts Columbus

In “the other wild card” game, two offensive lineman type soccer clubs come together, again.

Reigning champs Colorado have swept the flakes off their pitch to host Abercrombie FC, the Crew(necks.)

Kimura (left), if you didn't know, is Japanese....ironically...

First, some odds:

• 25 to 1: Will Hesmer scores or gets an assist

• 30 to 1: Marvell Wynne, own goal.

• 15 to 1: An Andres Mendoza goal celebration is the talk of the Internet tomorrow.

• 2 to 1: It is noted by the announcers that likely Colorado Rapids starter Kosuke Kimura “is Japanese” or “is from Japan.”

• 1 to 2: At least one player leaves with a pulled hamstring

• 10 to 1: At least one player leaves with a serious injury of another kind.

• 5 to 1: Rich Balchan is called the next Frankie Hedjuk

• 1 to 50:  A notable American soccer “celebrity” grouses about the playoff format.

• 2 to 1: Colorado wins in regulation

• 9 to 1: Columbus wins on penalty kicks

• 2 to 1: Wells Thompson makes the sign of the cross at least twice

• 5 to 1: Pablo Mastroeni yellow card

• 10 to 1: Pablo Mastroeni yellow card…in the 1st half.

• 30 to 1: More than one Twitter joke than Anthony Wallace’s head-vs-body reminds someone of Beetlejuice. (Note: Wallace is out for the year with knee surgery.)

• 45 to 1: Omar Cummings blows passed Chad Marshall for the 1st score.

• 20 to 1: Omar Cummings yellow card for flop in the box.

• 35 to 1: Charlie Davies says on Twitter that Cummings was hauled down and the card should go the other way.

• 75 to 1: Omar Gonzalez RT’s with a “N-O” in front of Charlie Davies tweet.


Wildcard game #2 about to get blustery at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Line-ups shortly.



MLS Headache Time: Reviewing 2011 Predictions

One thing that always bugs me about sports coverage….and reason #345 why we started The Shin Guardian…is that no one ever goes back and evaluates their predictions in great detail. Nobody calls themselves out!

About the domestic league...

This happens all the time in the business world.

You build a model based upon assumptions within a certain range and then after you execute on the product or service, you look back at model and see what you got right and what you got wrong.

Well, we do that today on The Shin Guardian.

A bunch of us knuckleheads–if you remember–got together for a little roundtable before the season and made some plain stupid predictions, audacious predictions and one or two savvy ones. And now we evaluate.

To refresh, he’s all who satisfied the $.50 buy-in:

Seated at the head of the circular table, he’s an AP published reporter, a hell of a video maker, and it is my pleasure to have him write once write for The Shin Guardian. He’s Jay Bell.

Our next participant never met a goal he liked…that’s because he was an award-winning collegiate keeper (at Middlebury). And, get this, he also led the 2nd division Maliwian national league in scoring and was so revered he became a Malawian national team assistant coach. True story. He’s Jason Price.

All MLS analysis, no alligator blood

Jared DuBois drops science every week as the co-host of the Best Soccer Show podcast, aptly named since Apple had to add another iTunes server to handle the download rate.

He’s an unabashed Los Angeles Galaxy man who may go postal if Herculez Gomez doesn’t get a sniff of Jurgen Klinsmann’s personal locker room. Wait, that didn’t sound right.

Here we go:

Golden Boot Winner:

MLS Winner: Dwayne DeRosario


Jason Price: Pre: Victor Estupian

For the record, the Estupinan thing was in jest.

I think at the time I would have thought Le Toux would have been a fair bet. I’m shocked to see that Wondo quietly had another very good year.

Matthew, TSG: Pre: Omar Cummings

Will Nicolas Anelka pass the Le Sulk nickname this way. It sure seems that pouting, not scoring, was Omar Cummings job in the follow-up to the MLS Cup win this year in Colorado.

Injured for part of the year and seemingly disinterested as well after an attempt to impress and transfer to Aston Villa fell through.

What is it with moody Jamaican strikers? (Ricardo Fuller, Ryan Johnson).

DeRosario, DeServing.


Jared DuBois: Pre: Juan Pablo An-hahahaha-gel

As comically bad as my JPA pick looks now in hindsight, of the players picked by our panel he is tied for the second best pick with Saborio on 10 goals.

If he had only started the season with LA’s younger step brother he may have had a chance.  But while we are on goal scorers, how quiet has Chris Wondolowski’s 14 goals been?  The guy has got no pub all season long and is only one goal behind DeRo going into the last game.



The Rooster for MVP. The rooster on the left that is...

Jay Bell: Pre: Landon Donovan; Post: Brek Shea

Brek Shea.  How many people remember that David Ferreira was the leader of this team?  Playmakers have an abnormally strong impact in MLS.  Other teams have not handled losing their playmaker that well: DC United (Christian Gomez), Chicago (Blanco), Columbus (Schelotto), etc.

Shea has been a force on a team that needed it.  The guy tracks back pretty well too.

Jason Price: Pre: Landon Donovan; Post: Kasey Keller

In honor of his retirement I’m going to go with Kasey Keller on this one.

Seattle had an outstanding season, and this can be attributed in part to his calm and confidence in the back. Have a look at the league leaders in saves this year. Keller is currently third, just two shy of Matt Reis. Ask yourself when the last time a team finishing second in the league table demanded their GK make that many saves…

Jared DuBois: Pre: Javy Morales; Post: Maybe Javy Morales?

You know what’s awesome about picking a player that got injured?  I, technically, have the editorial equivalent of Diplomatic Immunity.  I am above the law! Try to prove Javi Morales wouldn’t have been the winner.

You can’t! Techincally, as I write this, he still has 90 minutes to convince the league the award should be his.

Matthew, TSG: Pre: Landon Donovan; Post: Brad Davis

You’ve read TSG before, right? Okay, let’s move on.


Most Surprising Team

Jay Bell: Pre: Union; Post: Dynamo

I picked the Union in the preseason, but they’re not surprising to me anymore.  Now, for me, it is the Houston Dynamo. They were pretty good before and after the Koke “debacle,” if you can call it that.  They barely risked anything other than time on him.

Their veterans continue to perform at a high level, their youngsters have stepped up and some in-season acquisitions have performed much better than Koke did.

Jason Price: Pre: Union; Post: Crew

This would have to be the Crew, who’ve put in another quality shift for a town that appears to not care less. How do they stay competitive with the roster they have?  Much credit to Sebastian, James and Marshall – I’d take any of them over Rafa Marquez in MLS anyday.

Sporting KC...

Jared DuBois Pre: Union; Post: Sporting KC

I’m going to buck the trend set here by our humble editor and say The Union is not the most surprising team.  I’m going to go with Sporting KC.

This is the best collection of young unabashed athletic players since Chris Webber needed a time out.  All SKC needs now are black socks and boosters.

Matthew, TSG Pre: Timbers; Post: Crew

I thought the Timbers would challenge for a playoff spot….which they did…..thanks to the Megabus.

But just like the rest of you folks, I cannot believe the Crew with as few offensive weapons as they had, the roster turnover, the most petulant striker in the league, the second most petulant striker in the league, the trading of Andy Iro, the curious case of Robbie Rogers would at one point late in the season be atop the East.

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MLS Playoffs!: Live: FC Dallas vs. New York Red Bulls

Game Time!

It’s come down to this for the New York Red Bulls. No cushy, concrete confines of Red Bull Arena.

On the road, in Frisco, in the rain.

Hans Backe’s team is typically winners there in their last 4 (3 wins), but Dallas was missing some hands on deck.

Dallas will try to shake the slump–and as we learned in today’s column by Jeff Carlisle–“momentum” going into the playoffs means little.

FC Dallas vs. New York Red Bulls, about to get going. Line-ups shortly.


TSG’s 2011 MLS Awards Ballot

And here you go.

And let the second guessing begin.

First some bullets:

• Had an extremely difficult time for the Best XI as you might imagine. We were committed to choosing four defenders (who plays three defenders in MLS?) The toughest calls were: (1) Osvaldo Alonso (narrowly beating out Kyle Beckerman), (2) Sheanon Williams (narrowly beating out Chance Myers),  and (3) Mauro Rosales (narrowly beating out Landon Donovan and Sebastien Le Toux.)

• Did you realize–thank you Jason Price–that Kasey Keller made 110 saves! That’s ridiculous….especially for a 2nd place team.

• Coach of the Year was really a four horse race. Let’s remind everyone here that the Philadelphia Union are in their second year as a professional team. All they did was completely pull a 180-degree turn in goal differential, survive Sebu Le Toux’s early season doldrums and Freddy Adu being a super sub. Peter Vermes in at #2 while Frank Klopas and Schellas Hyndman both did an excellent job.

• Brad Davis is our MVP followed closely by Brek Shea with Dwayne DeRosario on his heals.

» Let’s take a little bit closer look at Brad Davis versus the competition. He played and started every game. What other candidate can say that?

» He plays defense. David Beckham, Dwayne DeRosario

» He was the only creator in his midfield. Landon Donovan

» Take a step back and–yes this is perhaps an unfair comparison, but–look at each team and remove their MVP candidate(s). Who’s roster wouldn’t you want to have besides the Houston Dynamo. (Sorry Dynamo fans).

» Brad Davis had nobody to take the heat off. Brek Shea nearly nobody.

• Perhaps a little head scratcher–or not–Carlos Valdes is selected as our defender of the year just ahead of Omar Gonzalez, Chad Marshall and George John.

• And a final note: PERLAZA! Oh so close to putting the Megabus in there somewhere.