By Tony Edwards - San Jose, CA (Sep 24, 2013) US Soccer Players - For Tuesday, Tony looks at which MLS club played themselves out of playoff contention this past weekend, asks why possession as a way to control the game hasn’t caught on in MLS, and counts shots off target and penalties.
What was it about possession this weekend?
If you look at the Salt Lake, Los Angeles, and Montreal games, the team with overwhelming possession did not come away with maximum points. However, it’s not just this past weekend, it’s every weekend.
What MLS lacks right now is a team that uses an advantage in possession as a way to control the game. Kansas City and Salt Lake, at times, are the exceptions to this observation.
In 2013, we still have supposedly good teams all too content to get a lead, then sit back and clog the passing lanes. This isn’t an effective strategy, as evidenced by the amount of goals scored in the last 15 minutes of a game.
Too often in MLS, a lack of possession is looked at as a positive, evidence of a team’s organized defending and the lack of a need, since they are leading, to control the game. Prevention isn’t control. Eight players in the box is just asking for a bad bounce or a blown assignment. It’s not a new idea, but how about killing a game by forcing the other team to defend?
At non-elite clubs, do things ever really change?
As Jozy Altidore looks at a week where, potentially, he’ll be playing for three different head coaches, the question is worth asking how much transformation is going on at Sunderland, with one revolution piled on top of another. First, it was Roy Keane and Niall Quinn. Then Steve Bruce. Then Martin O’Neill. Then it was a Director of Soccer, Roberto Di Fanti, and Paolo DiCanio as head coach.
Fourteen new players over the summer, one point from give games, and all of a sudden DiCanio’s positives (such as holding players accountable, dietary changes, and meticulous training groundwork) are negatives. Yes, there’s other aspects to DiCanio’s personality that you can imagine wearing thin after a while, but after six months?
Undoubtedly, Sunderland’s management will bring in an anti-DiCanio, someone who whispers rather than shouts, says all the right things in the media (read: nothing), and probably plays a 4-5-1 and tries to grind out points.
One thing about DiCanio is that he didn’t constantly go after the referees; something MLS coaches should consider in their postgame comments.
Are we calling any more teams eliminated from the playoffs after this weekend?
Dallas now has to leap over four teams to get to fifth place. Yes, they are only five points out with five games left, but those five are Columbus (at a bad time to be playing Columbus), at Salt Lake, Chicago, Seattle, and at San Jose. In other words, you look at the schedule and the form of the teams they are scheduled to play and you wonder where the points might come from.
Dallas apparently has at least begun to gets its financial house in order. They have both a naming-rights deal for their stadium and a shirt sponsor who isn’t involved in multi-level marketing. Even in 2013, this is not something to be sneezed at. Now if this perennially underachieving team can get it right on the field.
It’s difficult to look at Dallas’ roster and think ‘this is an eighth place team.’ Management has been very patient with the coaching as the franchise has tried to get the financial side in order, but maybe it’s time to look at the game-day performance.
Which MLS team has had the most shots off target this season?
Unsurprisingly after Friday evening’s performance at Portland, it’s the Colorado Rapids, with 206, according to whoscored.com. While US National Team player Edson Buddle constantly puts himself in dangerous positions, he’s only had 48 shots this season, in 21 games. As Colorado has taken 411 shots this season (top five in the league), I’d imagine ‘get the ball to Edson’ is high on Colorado’s to do list in these final weeks.
As part of our periodic looks at ongoing statistics, and with penalties in the news in Week 30, how are MLS penalty takers doing this season?
70 penalties, 54 goals. That means 16 misses or saves, with New York goalkeeper Luis Robles saving three of the eight he’s faced in 2013.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.