Thursday, December 31, 2015

Why Chad Barrett Makes Sense for San Jose

On Monday, the San Jose Earthquakes made their first major move of the offseason by signing free agent striker Chad Barrett to a contract. Here's five reasons why this is a good move for San Jose:

1) Despite another big season from Chris Wondolowski, the Quakes scored more goals than just two teams in 2015, Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids. Midseason acquisition Quincy Amarikwa was the only player other than Wondo to score more than three goals, something Barrett has done eight times in 11 seasons including five goals in 2015 for Seattle.

2) Injuries to Innocent and Steven Lenhart left the Quakes without much quality depth up top in 2015. Adam Jahn, Mark Sherrod, Tommy Thompson, Leandro Barrera and Mike Fucito combined to score just 1 goal in 57 appearances, and it wasn't until the addition of Amarikwa that the Quakes had any semblance of a credible second attacking option.

3) Barrett is a winner. Over the course of his career he has won two U.S. Open Cups, two Supporter's Shields, one MLS Cup and two Canadian Championships. The Quakes have just one postseason appearance in the past five years while Barrett has made eight trips to the postseason.

4) Barrett is accustomed to coming off the bench as he's made at least as many substitute appearances as starts in each of the past four seasons. Quake reserves combined to score just one goal all year (by Cordell Cato vs LA on June 27th). Barrett scored two goals as a sub in 2015, three as a sub in 2014, two as a sub in 2013, one as a sub in 2012 and two as a sub in 2011.

5) Only two teams allowed fewer goals than San Jose in 2015, the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Seattle Sounders, but San Jose still missed the playoffs by four points in the tough Western Conference. If Barrett can even provide a slight uptick in offense, the Quakes who had five games in 2015 that ended as either a 0-0 draw or a 1-0 defeat could be a playoff team.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Making Moves

Here's a look at three more moves in what has already been a busy MLS offseason:

1) Marco Pappa traded to Colorado. Pappa's two year stint with the Sounders has drawn to a close as the Guatemalan midfielder was shipped to Colorado for cash earlier this month. It comes as a bit of a surprise that Seattle would cut ties with the useful midfielder, but in addition to Pappa, the Sounders will also be heading into 2016 without Lamar Neagle (DC United), Michael Azira (Colorado) and Andy Rose (Coventry City) in addition to having Chad Barrett, Leonardo Gonzalez, Troy Perkins, Gonzalo Pineda and Zach Scott all not under contract. Pappa should provide an immediate boost to the Rapids' league-worst attack and adds a veteran presence to their midfield. The MVP of the 2014 Copa Centroamericana has 35 goals and 27 assists in 161 regular season matches for Seattle and Chicago, and has also notched three assists in ten postseason appearances. He also scored this gem against the U.S. during World Cup Qualifying in 2012.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Flashback Highlights

Saw this on Facebook the other day, and didn't realize it was from like two years ago. Anyhow, here's a clip of some ridiculous goalkeeping by Peruvian U-20 goalkeeper Angelo Campos as he denies Uruguay's Gonzalo Bueno twice in succession at the 2013 South American Youth Championship, and I'm pretty sure wins a goal kick as well. Peru would add a late goal to tie the match at 3 goals apiece.


The Mexican Exodus

It's still early in the MLS offseason, but already four MLS regulars have made moves south of the border to join first division teams in Mexico. Juninho (Tijuana), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Luis Gil (Querétaro) and Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna) will all be in different jerseys next season with Villafaña and Gonzalez joining Champions League sides from Liga MX. While this is a positive move for U.S. Soccer with Gonzalez, Villafaña and Gil all with some level of National Team experience, it doesn't do a lot for MLS's Champions League aspirations. The Galaxy lose both Juninho and Gonzalez from their 2015-16 Champions League run and could now conceivably have to play against Villafaña in the CCL Knockout Round. Not only that, the Timbers won't have Villafaña for their run in the 2016-17 Champions League. Similarly, Real Salt Lake is also still alive in the 2015-16 Champions League and they will have to move forward without Luis Gil. A Champions League title continues to prove elusive for MLS and as long as players in their prime (Gonzalez is the oldest of the four at age 27) are transferring south instead of north, it will continue to be an uphill battle for MLS clubs.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Making Moves

Lots of moves in the early stages of the MLS offseason, but here's my thoughts on three:

1) Drew Moor Signs with Toronto - Moor leaves the Colorado Rapids where he won an MLS Cup in 2010 and made it to his first All Star game in 2015, a season after suffering an ACL injury. A veteran of 11 MLS seasons, Moor has appeared in over 300 regular season matches, as well as appearing for the U.S. Men's National Team in 2007 and 2008. What Moor will give Toronto is a veteran presence on a back line that allowed a league-worst 58 goals during the 2015 regular season. For all of Colorado's struggles during the 2015 season, the defense conceded just 43 goals, ranking behind only FC Dallas, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle and San Jose. Toronto had no trouble scoring goals this past season with the likes of Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley running the offense, but with the addition of Moor and Steven Beitashour, the defense becomes less of a liability moving forward.

2) Tyler Miller Signs with Seattle - So last winter Miller made headlines by opting not to sign with the Sounders in favor of a fourth division opportunity in Germany, a topic of conversation that we covered in our Superman & SoccerSmith Q&A last January. Now, a little under a year later, Miller has signed a deal with the Sounders for the 2016 season. Funny how things work out. Stefan Frei is still the number one guy in Seattle, but with Troy Perkins' option declined, Miller has a chance to serve as his back-up.

3) Dan Kennedy Traded to LA Galaxy - I was excited last year when Kennedy joined FC Dallas, and I'm equally excited about him getting picked up by the Galaxy this year. While he won't have defensive stalwart Omar Gonzalez in front of him in 2016, the Galaxy will still likely be one of league's top teams, and Kennedy will be an upgrade over the declining Donovan Ricketts in net. Kennedy allowed just 19 goals in 16 starts for FC Dallas last season before getting replaced by 20 year old phenom Jesse Gonzalez down the stretch. Dallas, in return for Kennedy, will receive a pair of draft picks in 2017.

Barcelona Wins Club World Cup

With a 3-0 win over Argentina's River Plate on Sunday, Barcelona won their third FIFA Club World Cup Final, becoming the first team to do so. Barcelona, who also won the tournament in 2009 and 2011, defeated Guangzhou Evergrande (China) 3-0 in the semifinals behind three goals from Uruguay's Luis Suárez before riding two more Suárez goals to an identical 3-0 win in the Championship. Suárez's five goals are the most ever scored by a player in the tournament's history (which dates back to 2000). As such, Suárez earned the tournament's Golden Ball while teammates Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta earned the Silver and Bronze Balls respectively.

And We're Back!

Been a wild month here with the birth of my second son, but things have finally settled down enough to get back into the blog. With that said, a lot's happened since my last post. There's a new MLS Champion, players are changing teams, Abby Wambach has retired, there's a new NCAA Champion, and so much more... There's obviously no way I can cover it all, but as they say when trying to eat an elephant, you do it one bite at a time. So here we go in full catch-up mode. Enjoy and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Three Things - 12/6/15

1) Lucas Melano's nail in the coffin against FC Dallas last weekend was filthy, and that's exactly the reason that Portland signed him to a designated player contract. The 22 year old had just a goal and three assists during the regular season after signing in July, but he's obviously got some moves.

2) Two of MLS's best African strikers will face off against another today as Fanendo Adi (Portland/Nigeria) and Kei Kamara (Columbus/Sierra Leone) both led their clubs in scoring this season. The two combined for all three goals in the only meeting between the Crew and the Timbers during the regular season, a 2-1 win for the Timbers.

3) Here's five players to watch from each team in today's final.

For Columbus:

Kei Kamara - Tied for League Lead with 22 goals this season
Ethan Finlay - 12 Goals and 13 Assists during regular season
Federico Higuaín - Excellent playmaker in central midfield
Gastón Sauro - Big Center Back who has dramatically raised Columbus's level of defending
Justin Meram - Iraqi International; scored fastest goal in postseason history vs NYRB

For Portland:

Fanendo Adi - Led Team with 16 goals during regular season
Diego Valeri - Sensational passer/playmaker, now finally healthy
Darlington Nagbe - Latest addition to USMNT, could play huge role in 2018 World Cup Cycle
Nat Borchers - Amazing Beard, bruising defender, natural leader
Adam Kwarasey - League-high 13 shutouts, won shootout vs Sporting KC this postseason