Friday, December 24, 2010

We're Moving!

Check out our new permanent location at !

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On the race for the Pichichi -- Week 15

Leo Messi had been stuck one goal behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the Pichichi race since Week 11.  Since then every brace or hattrick has been matched by his Madrid counterpart.  This week, Real Madrid kicked off first.  With Ronaldo scoring off a beautiful freekick, Messi had to get at least one to keep pace.  Messi opened the first half with a beautiful 1-2-1-2-1-2 (that's 3 give and go's in a row) with Dani Alves before slotting home.  He then went on to score one of the more ridiculous goals of the season to equal Ronaldo for the Pichichi.  Why ridiculous?  He dribbled past 5 defenders in the box by doing nothing more than dribbling in a straight line.  No stepovers, no feints, no swivelling of the hips like a Turkish stripper, just pure dribbling. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On the race for the Pichichi -- Week 14

When I did the first post on the Pichichi race, I wasn't intending for it to be a recurring theme.  However, I think this year we are witnessing something special that warrants extra attention.  During this week's Barca match, the commentators were saying that Messi averages a goal a game under Pep Guardiola.  Scoring a goal a game is impressive under short spells during the season, but to do it consistently for two and a half seasons is a whole other level. 

Messi and Ronaldo are both averaging more than a goal a game this season.  After their matching hattricks before El Clasico, they followed it up with matching braces after El Clasico.  Their goal scoring pace may seem unsustainable, but Messi had a higher goals per game average for the second part of the 2009-10 season than he has for the start of the 2010-11 season.  If he could match that pace, he'd be on target to score 42 goals this season and still possibly lose the Pichichi to Ronaldo. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On the race for the Pichichi and the Superclasico

The build up to the Superclasico has been at a fever pitch lately.  The front pages of Spain's sport dailies Marca and SPORT have been running stories about it for weeks now.  Adding to the hysteria is the rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo.  The last few weeks in La Liga has been something of an "anything you can do, I can do better" contest between the two.  I can't recall ever seeing two players scoring at will like this.  Whatever one does, the other has to match or exceed.  Messi, so far this season, has 3 braces and a hattrick -- not a bad haul for week 11.  Ronaldo?  3 braces, a hattrick, and a 4 goal game. 

Last year, the anticipation for the match was at a ridiculous level since it was the first time Ronaldo would be facing Barcelona as a Madrid player.  However, the form that he and Messi were in was nothing compared to the form they are in currently.

In 2009, Messi and Ronald both got off to better starts to the season than in 2010.  However, Ronaldo picked up an injury and Messi cooled off, so they both came into the Superclasico looking somewhat human. 

This season, they both got off to modest starts, but then really kicked it into high gear for the last 5-6 weeks.  What's particularly amazing is that a lot of players are blaming their slow starts to the season on World Cup hangovers.  Doesn't seem to be a problem for these two.   

On the MLS Draft -- Which Position To Pick?

The MLS Superdraft is one of four ways in which teams can reinforce their squad.  They can also sign players from their academis, sign players from outside the league that they scout themselves or be allocated players from the US National Team pool.  Given that there several options on how to get new players, it's important to think about what type of player you want to get through each method.  For the MLS Superdraft, I wanted to see if any patterns appeared that would indicate drafting a certain type of player would be more successful than others. 

I started by looking at the breakdown of what types of players were being drafted and compared that to what the breakdown would be for a 4-4-2 formation.  In the MLS Superdraft, forwards and midfielders are over represented while defenders and goalkeepers are under represented.  For this analysis, I am excluding goalkeepers because the sample size (n=6) is too low to get meaninfgul results.  What this means is that teams are biased towards so-called "flair players".  Are they making the right decisions?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On the Importance of Copa America

This week US Soccer officially announced that its first friendly of 2011 will be against Chile in January and the rumors that they will also be facing Argentina in March were strengthened by FIFA listing that fixture on their official site.  Normally I would be ecstatic over this news, but this week was also the draw for Copa America and the combination of the two really drove home the point of what we'll be missing out on this summer. 

In order to get better, you need to be playing against opposition that really challenges you and pushes you.  In CONCACAF, the US is at a disadvantage.  For our qualifiers, we either destroy small countries that never really had a shot at qualifying, or we slog through horrible, chippy matches against teams fighting for the 3rd and 4th spots.  These games are difficult, but not for the reasons that help the team grow and improve.  Our only real match that pushes us is against Mexico (and thanks to politics within CONMEBOL, 2014 will be the last time we see them in qualifiers).  Compare that to CONMEBOL qualifying where teams are constantly going up against some of the best teams in the world.  Each and every match is difficult (just ask Argentina about their last trip to Bolivia...wasn't pretty).  This is why I love CONMEBOL qualifiers and why I love Copa America.  Copa America is all the tension and excitement of the World Cup, but you get to fast forward through the elimination of all the minnow teams like North Korea, New Zealand and Honduras.  Sure, it's fun to root for the underdogs and hope they can pull off an upset, but honestly, I just want to watch the best teams play the best football.  Copa America gives you that. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On the MLS Draft: Linear Regression

In my first two posts on the MLS draft I was looking at patterns in the 2009 and 2010 drafts.  I've now started looking at the data from the first 5 seasons.  Again, I'm using minutes played as an indicator of success.  I'm not attempting to predict which players should be picked when and who will be successful in MLS, but instead I'm trying to reveal patterns that show a breakdown in the draft decision making process.