and then, the hex

Arena’s First Order of Business? Address the Midfield

Even the best of national team management tenures usually end poorly, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s was no different.  After a somewhat self-inflicted loss against Mexico and capitulation against Costa Rica, the US found itself in last place in the Hex.  Enter a manager change: the USSF hired Bruce Arena to ensure the US’ qualification for the 2018 World Cup.  Even with the two game deficit, odds are that the US should still qualify.  What’s unknown is what Arena’s team might look like at the World Cup itself. Continue reading “Arena’s First Order of Business? Address the Midfield”

US Attacking Options Against Mexico

It’s US v Mexico, Round 8 for Jurgen Klinsmann.  Klinsmann started his US coaching tenure with an appropriately disjointed 1-1 draw against Mexico.  Only Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Tim Howard, and Michael Orozco remain from the starting XI that day.  However, the approach to attacking chances represented US v Mexico games in the Klinsmann era.  Mexico favor a high-volume approach to shooting, while the US tend to take fewer shots, but place a higher percentage of those shots on target.

Last year’s Confederation Cup playoff game, though, broke the trend.  Continue reading “US Attacking Options Against Mexico”

The Ballad of Tommy Thompson, MLS Homegrown Attacker

San Jose won the Supporters’ Shield in 2012 in style, scoring a commanding 72 goals and generating a +29 goal differential.  After grabbing a 1-0 lead away, a slip-up against Los Angeles in the return leg of the playoffs tainted an otherwise stellar season.

In hindsight, the 2012 season was an aberration.  The following four season recaps range from “Average” to “This Season Never Happened”.  Worst of all was a dire 2014, when San Jose finished last in the West with a mere 0.88 points per game, its lowest total since rejoining MLS in 2008.  The highlight of the season was a noble shoot-out loss to Toluca in the CONCACAF Champions League with an injury-plagued team.

Amidst such carnage, fans look for optimism wherever they can find it.  One source emerged from the signing of Tommy Thompson, San Jose’s first (and only) homegrown player.   Continue reading “The Ballad of Tommy Thompson, MLS Homegrown Attacker”

The Making of John Brooks

John Brooks produced a Man of the Match performance against Paraguay in the final game of the Copa America group stage.  It was a game that solidified his place as starting center-back for the US.  Brooks followed that game with another outstanding outing against Ecuador, propelling the US to a semi-final match-up with Argentina.

It’s all a far cry from last summer, when Brooks received criticism for his play in the 2015 Gold Cup, most notably against Jamaica.  In just a year, how did Brooks go from a lightning rod for criticism to a player that inspired a hashtag? Continue reading “The Making of John Brooks”

Goal of the Week: Juan Agudelo v. Argentina, March 2011

With a Copa America semi-final looming, let’s look back at the last American to score a goal against Argentina.  Continue reading “Goal of the Week: Juan Agudelo v. Argentina, March 2011”

Why Does Mexico Have Longer Odds than the US at Copa America?

The US opens Copa America tonight against Colombia.  It should be the toughest game of the group stage, but it’s unlikely the US will have any easy matches in this tournament. Continue reading “Why Does Mexico Have Longer Odds than the US at Copa America?”

Goal of the Week: Clint Mathis v. South Korea, June 2002

South Korea had one of the stingiest defenses in the 2002 World Cup.  The co-host reached the semi-finals, and before the third place game, conceded to only Clint Mathis, Christian Vieri, and Michael Ballack.  Among those goal-scorers, Mathis scored with the most style. Continue reading “Goal of the Week: Clint Mathis v. South Korea, June 2002”

Evaluating 2015 MLS Passing and Dribbling Success

For the past 8 years, the Spanish/Barcelona possession-based philosophy cast a long shadow over the soccer world, inspiring imitators and reactive trends alike.  Of course, there are many ways to attack, and teams such as Atletico Madrid and Leicester City have thrived recently without dominating possession.

While possession dominance hasn’t correlated to MLS success, it is still important to have individual players who can successfully complete a pass and retain possession when needed.  The expectations for how many passes a player should complete will vary by role on the field and a team’s tactical plan.  Let’s look at multiple passing statistics from the 2015 MLS season for a better sense of the league norms.  Continue reading “Evaluating 2015 MLS Passing and Dribbling Success”

Goal of the Week: Bruce Murray v. Austria, June 1990

Bruce Murray emerged from the wilderness of mid-80s US soccer to retire as the leading goal scorer in national team history.  Though it was a consolation goal, it’s fitting that his list of accomplishments includes scoring in the World Cup. Continue reading “Goal of the Week: Bruce Murray v. Austria, June 1990”

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