Monday, May 20, 2019

Danish Cheese

I'll have some commentary on the USMNT's provisional Gold Cup roster a little later, but first let's shine a light on some rally heroics by our boys over in Denmark from Sunday night.

We'll start with Emmanuel Sabbi, who saved Hobro from relegation with an extra time header. After setting up the goal that leveled their survival playoff tie with Vejle BK early in Sunday's away leg (play starts at 0:15 in this clip), the forward bagged his sixth of the term to decide matters.

He wasn't the only American to ring the bell yesterday, as FC Nordsjælland winger Jonathan Amon started the home side's comeback from two down in an essentially meaningless 2-2 draw with Odense BK.

- Greg Seltzer

Saturday, May 18, 2019

It's good to be the king.

Where's Wondo? At the top of the all-time regular season MLS scoring hill. Yep, San Jose skipper Chris Wondolowski's Saturday four tallies (!!!!) against Chicago has put him past Landon Donovan as the new record goal-getter.

Of his 148 (and counting) strikes...

- 143 came as a member of the Earthquakes
- Five came back when he was with Houston

- 41 have been game-winners (tying the record held by Donovan and Jeff Cunningham)
- Nine of those winners came in the final quarter hour or stoppage time

- 79 have come at home
- 65 have come on the road

- 78 have come after he turned 30

- 25 have come from the penalty spot
- One came from a spot kick rebound

- 92 have come via his right leg
- 28 have come via his left leg
- 28 have come from headers

- 83 of them got his side on the board
- Of those, 55 were the game's opening goal
- Of those, 15 were the lone goal of the game

- 83 came in a winning cause
- 27 came in a loasing cause
- 38 came in draws

- 57 came in the first half
- 91 came in the second half

- 17 came in the opening 15 minutes of a match
- 21 came between minutes 16-30
- 18 came between minutes 31-45
- One came in first half stoppage time
- 25 came between minutes 46-60
- 31 came between minutes 61-75
- 24 came between minutes 76-90
- 11 came in second half stoppage time

- 14 have come against the LA Galaxy, his most frequent victim
- One came against San Jose

And here was today's haul, including the actual record-breaker:

- Greg Seltzer

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Fitting Farewell

In his last home game for Borussia Dortmund, Christian Pulisic bagged the opener in a 3-2 win over Fortuna Düsseldorf that kept their Bundesliga title hopes alive and kicking into closing day.

- Greg Seltzer

The Snipers Club

If you've ever read anything about soccer or watched enough telecasts, you know well by now that the clichéd gold standard for goal scorers is to strike about once every two games or better. It's the line to strive for, no matter where in the world one laces the boots.

And if you read my stuff over at MLSS, you may remember a bit ranking the top Argentineans to ever play in Major League Soccer from a couple months ago. In that list, I noted that only 10 players in league history with at least 100 MLS games under their belts (combining regular season and playoffs) had achieved a goals per 90 minutes mark better than Montreal star Nacho Piatti, and that all of them were forwards (which he is obviously not).

Well, I can go further than that. There are 19 players with more than a century of MLS matches that hold a career mark of better than a half-a-goal for every 90 minutes played. And again Piatti is the only one that cannot be described as a forward. In fact, sixteen of them are dyed in the wool center strikers. It goes to show just how impressive the Impact's recent run to the top of the East has been without their main weapon.

Back to the main topic at hand, there are some snipers well worth mentioning that are not on the list below. Atlanta United ace Josef Martinez (0.911 goals per 90) should reach 100 MLS games very early next season, and when he does, he'll rocket straight to the top of the chart. Chicago cobra head Nemanja Nikolic (0.636) should jump into the top five this year if he stays in the line-up (and, ya know, gets enough service) and the Fire make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Ola Kamara (0.560) missed out on a top 10 spot when he departed having played but 95 MLS games. 

He's not the only former league goal hound that misses out on qualifying due to a coming up short on league matches. Stern John (0.873 rate in 60 games) and Mamadou Diallo (0.732 in 76 games) would already be leaders here with more MLS participation, while Cyle Larin (0.590) and Obafemi Martins (0.548) fell just 13 and 20 games short of easily making the list, respectively. Like Diallo, Camilo (0.530) needed 24 more appearances to qualify, whereas Marco Di Vaio (0.515) needed 23.

Of course, we can't forget a couple of legends with gaudy goal rates who have failed (or quite likely will fail) to chart due to their relatively brief MLS involvements. Didier Drogba (0.684) did his considerable damage in only 33 games, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic (currently on 36 games) would stand as the efficiency king of all MLS scorers thanks to a ridiculous 0.944 rate.

There's also a small group of notable MLS stars that narrowly missed the list by scant percentage points: Brian Ching, Dom Dwyer, Eduardo Hurtado, Joe Max-Moore, Ante Razov, John Spencer, Erick Torres, Dante Washington and Chris Wondolowski all were (or are, in the case of a couple guys there) reasonably close but not quite. And yes, Landon Donovan was also not far off with a career rate of 0.464 goals per 90 minutes.

But enough with the ceremony, here are the 19 players in league history with a goals per 90 average above that oft-stated "goal every two games" line (active MLS players are marked with an asterisk). A few may surprise you.

0.699 David Villa
0.663 Bradley Wright-Phillips*
0.658 Robbie Keane
0.630 Jozy Altidore*
0.617 Sebastian Giovinco
0.605 Carlos Ruiz
0.602 Raul Diaz Arce
0.592 Roy Lassiter
0.585 Taylor Twellman
0.561 Giovani Savarese
0.546 Ignacio Piatti*
0.541 Alvaro Saborio
0.541 Mauro Manotas*
0.527 Juan Pablo Angel
0.522 Pete Marino
0.515 Fanendo Adi* 
0.514 Ariel Graziani
0.513 Diego Serna
0.513 Jeff Cunningham

- Greg Seltzer

Friday, May 10, 2019

Your 2019 U20WC Squad

Before we get to today's big announcement, a quick programming note. As I was preparing to post the promised stat-nerd bit on MLS double game weeks the other night, I noticed an error. The win-loss totals did not match up, so I must go back through the numbers to find where I goofed and fix it. That recount will take me a little time, but I do have a replacement regarding the all-time leaders in scoring efficiency set to go for the morning (no, seriously, for reals this time).

But first... the real point of this post, our Under 20 World Cup squad. I'm a bit surprised that Tab Ramos opted to go with only six defenders - it might have been nice to include Julian Araujo instead of one of the winger/forward hybrids not named Timothy. That said, there can't be too many complaints over the selection and I think we're in for some knockout round fun this year.

G - CJ Dos Santos (Benfica), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Brady Scott (FC Köln)

D - Sergino Dest (Ajax), Chris Gloster (Hannover 96), Aboubacar Keita (Richmond Kickers), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Matthew Real (Philadelphia Union), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich)

M - Edwin Cerrillo (FC Dallas), Chris Durkin (D.C. United), Richard Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Alex Mendez (Freiburg), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Brandon Servania (FC Dallas)

F - Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), Konrad De La Fuente (Barcelona), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg), Justin Rennicks (New England Revolution), Sebastian Soto (Hannover 96), Tim Weah (Celtic)

- Greg Seltzer

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Exploding From the Blocks

I've been doing a little MLS stat-nerding lately, so you will be getting a short series of posts to that effect. I actually meant to get this first one up on Friday, but it's been crazy around here - work stuff, visiting animals to look after, visiting humans to show around, middle of the night Blues games recklessly juggling my sleep schedule, etc.

But here we are, finally. And how did we get here? Well, I've been marveling at the instant domination offered by new Toronto FC playmaking stud Alejandro Pozuelo, and in his fifth game, was nearly as impressed when Portland became the first MLS club to keep the Reds #10 off the score sheet.

So I wondered: Had anyone in league history bettered the stunning four-goal, five-assist output he produced over his first five games? As it turns out, no.

Crew mainstay Federico Higuaín is the only other player in MLS history to have notched nine official goal participations during his first five league appearances. And since we kinda have to give goals a little more juice than assists, I'm hereby ready to proclaim that Pozuelo authored the most offensively prolific five-game start in the league's 24 seasons.

All in all, there have been 13 players who managed at least five goals/assists over that hello span. The funny thing is, eight of those introductory runs have happened since the start of the 2015 season. I suppose those old-timers took their sweet time to blow up (the only guys with debuts preceding Pineda Chacón's 2001 bust-out that came close were Preki and Carlos Valderrama, who each chalked up two goals and two helpers in their first five MLS games).

9 - Alejandro Pozuelo 4g, 5a
(tie) Federico Higuaín 3g, 6a

8 -  Diego Rossi 4g, 4a

6 - Carlos Ruiz 6g, 0a
(tie) Josef Martinez 6g, 0a
       Didier Drogba 5g, 1a
       Carlos Vela 4g, 2a
       Nicolás Lodeiro 2g, 4a

5 - Alex Pineda Chacón 5g, 0a
(tie) Charlie Davies 5g, 0a
        Ignacio Piatti 4g, 1a
        Sebastian Giovinco 3g, 2a
        Miguel Almirón 2g, 3a


Tomorrow, just in time for the start of another batch, we're going to talk double game weeks. Which clubs love 'em and which hate 'em? You'll soon see.

- Greg Seltzer