Daily news roundups

Perspective, red cards, Panama Papers, more

Philadelphia Union

Saturday’s loss in Chicago was disappointing; conditions, and Warren Creavalle’s red card aside, it was plainly an opportunity for a point, if not a win. That said, the loss doesn’t seem to have the demoralizing feel familiar from past recent seasons, a perspective The Guardian has noted:

Chicago Fire got their first win of the season on Saturday evening, and Philadelphia Union have now won twice and lost twice.

Yet for both teams, the result was less important than the degree of progress being made in every part of the field…

Philadelphia, meanwhile, can count themselves unlucky to have hit the woodwork three times only to leave the stadium with nothing. What’s perhaps most encouraging for them is that they look a more secure unit this year – according to staff at the club the arrival of Earnie Stewart as technical director has greatly streamlined accountability for the coaches right through to their USL team, Bethlehem Steel, who played the first home game under that storied US soccer name on Sunday.

The new training center has also exponentially increased the sense of professionalism around the club, and a team that’s lived through a soap opera of instability and under-achievement since its expansion days is finally beginning to look as if the conditions are there for it to compete.

Saying the conditions are there is no guarantee of results of course, but the sense of downward momentum that seemed to gather pace with every historical Union defeat, has abated. They’ve had a solid start, and just dropped a result on the road. That’s a setback. It used to look like fate. The Union are making progress. Chicago got the points on Saturday, but their own journey to solid ground is just beginning.

Yep. Now all the Union needs to do is top Orlando on Friday at Talen Energy Stadium.

Power Rankings! At ESPN, the Union remain at No. 8: “Losing to the Fire, no matter how much they might have improved, is never a good look. But the Union do have a bit of an excuse as the weather in Bridgeview might best be described as ‘biblical.'” At SI, the Union drop two spots to No. 10: “Andre Blake was stellar again, but the Philadelphia attack couldn’t repay him in a 1-0 loss to the Fire despite its 17 shots—and a 47th-minute red card to Warren Creavalle didn’t help the cause.” At Soccer America, it’s a four-spot drop to No. 9: “The Union carried much of the play at Chicago and piled up a 17-10 shot advantage despite a second caution issued to Warren Creavalle but were denied three times by the woodwork. A shot by Ilsinho rang the crossbar shortly before the dismissal. The defeat ended a two-match winning streak.”

Chicago Fire Confidential on Chicago Fire’s pursuit of Dutch midfielder Michael de Leeuw: “The Fire have been in pursuit of de Leeuw for some time…Complicating matters further was the fact that the Philadelphia Union held Discovery Rights for de Leeuw and would seemingly be in line for compensation if a deal to bring the player stateside was reached…If it’s one thing the Fire have in surplus it’s stock of MLS funny money. Completing a move with the Union, who haven’t shown interest in pursuing de Leeuw, doesn’t appear to be problematic.” Per MLS rules, the Union stand to receive $50,000 from the Fire for de Leeuw’s Discovery Rights.

At the Union website, Marisa Pilla has a good read on the challenge Taylor Washington faced in overcoming dyslexia.

You will recall from Monday’s roundup that the Union Academy teams went 2-0-1 against PA Classics over the weekend. At Brotherly Game, Matt Ralph has some more detail on the games.

Bethlehem Steel FC

The power rankings at USLsoccer.com only rank the top ten teams in the league. With Sunday’s home opener loss to Cincinnati, Bethlehem has fallen out of the top ten in the latest rankings.

Some more reports on Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia Union (video), Cincinnati Soccer Talk and Vavel.

The Brown and White quotes Lehigh University Director of Athletics Joe Sterrett on Goodman Stadium being the home of Bethlehem Steel: “It’s so important for us to be a part of the community and do what we can do to be available when the community needs us to be.” The article continues, “Sterrett said this partnership with Bethlehem Steel FC is not necessarily financially beneficial for Lehigh as other partnerships are. However, it is more focused on Lehigh’s genuine commitment of embracing and helping out with the communities.”

Local

Harrisburg City Islanders and Pittsburgh Riverhounds have officially announced K&L Gates and the Pennsylvania Lottery as the sponsors of the Keystone Derby. The City Islanders travel to face Pittsburgh in the first game of the series (which does not include Bethlehem Steel) on Saturday.

At the PDL website, former Reading United midfielder Luke Mulholland gets a shoutout for scoring the game-winning goal in Salt Lake’s 2-1 victory over Kansas City last Saturday.

Lehigh University has announced eight new players that will make up the men’s soccer Class of 2020.

Sydney Zandi (Penn Fusion; West Chester, Penn.) has been called up for the US U-17 GNT camp in Carson, Calif., April 16-23.

Soccer Wire reports the Elite Clubs National League, which before the recently announced US Soccer Girls Development Academy, served as the highest level of club competition in girls club soccer, will soon announce the launch of a boys league, “a development that could effectively double the size of the league and cause further reverberations across an already in-flux U.S. youth soccer landscape.”

MLS

There’s been a lot of talk about the number of red cards issued over the opening weeks of the 2016 MLS season. Union head coach Jim Curtin said after the loss in Chicago, which saw Warren Creavalle ejected, 2016 is “the ‘year of the red card’ across the league.”

LAG head coach Bruce Arena said after last weekend’s scoreless draw with Vancouver, a game that saw the Whitecaps’ Matias Laba sent off, “”[T]here’re just been too many red cards in this league. It’s ruining games; it doesn’t make the games entertaining, and I don’t think the fans like it.” Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson agreed with Arena, explaining, “The players are unsure (about what a good tackle is).”

Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted said,

I understand what MLS is trying to do by protecting the players, but right now, we’re trying to take tackling out of the game. That’s not going to purify the game. It’s not going to make it any prettier to look at, and it’s especially not going to evolve this league. I think it ruins games more than it benefits the players.

It’s something that needs to be looked at. We are in this together, MLS and the players, to develop this league into hopefully one of the best in the world, but I think some of the (disciplinary) things are misplaced. I think it’s a duty of the players as well to sometimes speak up and tell MLS that we’re not moving in the right direction with this (new mandate).

And you will recall the Toronto Sun post we linked to in Monday’s roundup that said MLS referees are “out of control.”

However, post at MLSsoccer.com, which includes a chart of the number of red cards issued through the opening weeks through the league’s 21 seasons, says “the notion that more ejections are taking place at the start of 2016 compared to other seasons is a bit off”:

In fact, the red-card numbers for this year look very similar to the totals from each of the last two seasons. As mentioned above, officials have handed out 16 reds through the first 42 games of the 2016 season. That’s only two more than the 14 reds shown through 42 games in 2015, and three more than the 13 shown in that span in 2014.

On a broader scale, the red-card totals from 2016 are comparable to many of the seasons in the league history.

Of course, PRO signalled its intention before the season when an evaluation of 2015 found 28 percent of warranted red cards “were missed.” But, as Fox Soccer’s Ryan Rosenblatt notes, “The desire from MLS and PRO to protect players is good. There’s nobody who would question the intentions. But whether this is the way to do it and whether the unintended consequences make for a better sport are up for debate.” More at Seattle Times.

Former Union man Chris Seitz was named SI’s Defensive Player of the Week.

Kansas City Star has a look at the Wiz-inspired throwback jerseys Sporting Kansas City will wear in warmups before their 20th anniversary game on April 13.

More on Cincinnati’s MLS aspirations from Cincinnati Enquirer.

US

The USWNT will host Japan in a friendly on June 2 (9 pm, FS1). Yes, why the first meeting of the two teams since 2015 Women’s World Cup final is being played at Dicks Sporting Goods Stadium in Commerce City, Colo., is a wonderful question.

At ESPNW, Julie Foudy wonders why the USWNT isn’t using a “fair-play clause” — “VIX. Additional Payment if Compensation Ratios Change” —  that was added to the team’s contract in 2005 in its current wage discrimination action against US Soccer.” Foudy says the attorney representing the US women, Jeffrey Kessler, and Megan Rapinoe “did not know the clause existed when I asked them about it. U.S. Soccer confirmed to me that the clause still carries forward to the current CBA”.

At Yahoo Sports, Leander Schaerlaeckens reviews how US Soccer’s image had been taking a beating.

Ali Krieger wants to play in the Olympics.

Elsewhere

Check out the latest Footy on the Telly for today’s Champions League quarterfinal games.

The fallout from the Panama Papers continues to have world soccer connections. Michel Platini, recently banned from the game, has been linked to an offshore company registered in Panama. The AP reports, “Platini says all his accounts and assets are known by tax authorities.” Platini has been a “fiscal resident” of Switzerland since 2007, the same year Balney Enterprises Corp., the company leaked papers say he manages, was founded.

The father of Lionel Messi has also denied any involvement “in tax evasion projects” revealed in the leaked papers aimed related to image rights deals. Messi’s father said the family will sue Spanish newspaper El Confidencial for defamation after reports there made the link to tax evasion. Barcelona released a statement in support of the Messi family. Meanwhile, Spanish authorities say they are investigating the allegations. More at Goal.com and SI.

At Soccer America, Paul Kennedy writes the Panama Paper leaks “are a distraction to FIFA, which would like to tell the story that the scandals of the Blatter era are behind it under new president Gianni Infantino. But they are just the tip of the iceberg”:

Over the next few months and years, Swiss authorities will release the results of their investigation into suspicious bank transactions linked to various FIFA scandals. Until now, those indicted by U.S. authorities were those who had ties to the United States through transactions in U.S. banks or business activities on U.S. soil.

New names will counter the FIFA narrative that the scandals have been confined to the Americas and CONCACAF and CONMEBOL officials seeking personal gain from regional television and marketing deals.

The AAP reports from Brazil, “Sao Paulo police have banned away fans from attending city derbies until the end of the year after a bystander was shot dead on Sunday as Palmeiras and Corinthians fans battled ahead of their state championship game.”

23 Comments

  1. Not sure about any of the others, but Creavalle earned his ejection. Polster should have been tossed, too. Perhaps the problem isn’t as much with the refs as it is with players who don’t know how to tackle. They should all take lessos from Ritchie Marquez, his tackle, I think it was of Gilberto, was excellent.

    • I was thinking along these lines. The referees are poor, mainly inconsistent in calling some things and then letting a lot of rough (even violent) play go. Players pick up on it and play more roughly (even violently). I recall a Salt Lake game last year where each free kick by Salt Lake looked like lining up for a stock car crash and wondering how no fouls could be called. I suppose it starts with the refs getting a consistent handle on how rough it can get. I thought the ref in the NE game a few weeks ago did a good job – I also suppose a NE fan might disagree (about the red card).

      • old soccer coach says:

        Jay Heaps made no beef about the red card; and i would not characterize him as tolerantly mute in the face of perceived injustice.

    • Plus, toss in a heaping helping of “small sample size.” That’s sort of what the linked article to mlssoccer.com was getting at, in it’s own way.

      • Jim Presti says:

        Yeah but MLSsoccer.com is spends more time trying to “promote” the “improvement” of the league more than anything else. Many, many of the reds issued this season have been garbage. Its both the officiating and the play.
        .
        You pretty much need to take any article from MLSsoccer.com with a grain of salt.

    • Yes, Creavalle’s ejection was earned. And yes, that tackle by Marquez was perfectly executed.

      • Also shows not only great timing of when to slide, but also situational awareness. Why would Creavalle even be going to the ground in that part of the field makes no sense to me. Which doesn’t even mention the fact he was literally looking at the players back when he went down. And that fails to mention he was already on a yellow. Horrible play all around.

    • Its funny this discussion of ‘what was Warren Creavalle thinking’ or what he did and timing.
      .
      None of it is new…he has had terrific errors of judgment since arriving here and ultimately this is part of his game… solid bench player given to ‘momentary lapses of reason’.

      • While I agree. Nothing he has done was anything like the 2nd foul. He’s overrun things and been overaggressive (I assume because his athleticism has allowed him to get away with it in the past), but this was on a whole new level.

  2. As someone noted above, consistency is the issue. The red cards are besides that point. If they want to dish out RCs, dish them out fairly. Dish them out to everybody or nobody. Polster staying in and WC getting thrown out is what is so glaring. WC earned his red, don’t get me wrong, but based on the league’s current stance, how did Polster get to stay in? Booooooo I’m still salty from Saturday.

    • Dr. Union says:

      Polster got to stay in due to misidentification. They didn’t give him the initial card he deserved that to me is the only difference. It wasn’t a matter actually of inconsistency in this case because it was identifying the wrong person who initiated the foul and deserved the yellow.

  3. old soccer coach says:

    Concerning the Red cards, a useful analytical tool would be to correlate the events of each season against time. Is there a pattern of greater frequency at the beginnings of each season when the points of emphasis are being taught, is there some other pattern in the data, are there no discernible patterns at all.
    .
    Such a study would provide a baseline for purposes of comparing this season to other seasons. It would also serve comparative purposes for projecting the future more realistically.
    .
    Roughly sixty games have occurred already this season (3 weeks x 10 games per week), so the sample size is no longer so small as to be entirely invalid, as MLS wants us to believe. An increase of 2 from a base of 14 in the previous season is an increase of roughly 14%, which is bigger than most usual margins for statistical error that we laymen see in sampling data.

    • Atomic Spartan says:

      In other word, MLS PR is full of crap. Shocking!

      • Jim Presti says:

        +1. Exactly. That article is junk. Not substance. Just an attempt by the MLS PR machine to say “Hey, it’s no different than previous years…”

    • I wish I could remember where I saw it, but I read a piece a year ago in which respective international leagues where ranked on a number of criteria and red cards issued was one criteria used to gauge the quality of play across the league. The idea was that high red card counts was more likely the result of poor play than of poor officiating (though arguably both would impact a league negatively). MLS’s score was negatively impacted by its red card count.
      .
      This isn’t really a response to you post, OSC. You post just made me think of this and think that the stats you’re looking for must be out there somewhere.

      • Spot on Pete….I’ve argued this multiple times last season and it kind of falls on deaf ears… yes it is one part MLS branding the physical soccer of the American Frontiersman as manly and macho…which is one thing US Soccer has always been… and one part a lack of skill set, football specific agility and the inability, in my opinion of the american player to earn the proper respect and defensive space by being able to ALWAYS beat the first defender.
        .
        Defenders have no respect for the ball carrier so defenders play the man.
        .
        And on the occasion when a carrier turns a defender, either the scythe comes out or the arms pull the player down. It sucks and is precisely part of the reason.
        .
        Out of control is out of control… both by the league and the individual players.

      • You can see it on the face of Barnetta when he gets butchered in the midfield. His face reads to me like a genuine “WTF?!?!” It happened in that Chicago game. I think Chicago as a whole played really shitty soccer. Really embarrassing stuff. The hacks they took at Alberg. Unreal.
        .
        If such is the case, one would hope free flowing red cards would eventually work as deterrent. What is more likely, though, is this line that the refs are out of control.

    • 14% is indeed a large deviation. But…

      There’s actually less than 60 matches played so far this season. The Union have played 4, for example, not 3. Looking at the league standings, in both the East and West, 8 teams have played 4 games, and 2 teams have played 5 games; that’s a total of 74 games recorded in the standings – though the actual number of games played is half that number — 37. So there’s been roughly .43 red cards per match, league wide, so far this year.
      .
      I do agree that it would be interested to compare the number of reds per match this year to years past and check for patterns. Maybe most years see a spike early, then see things settle in. Another interesting aspect to look at would be the number of straight reds compared to the number of double-yellow infractions. Are we seeing more straight reds, for example, and does that account for the increase? Such an analysis should also probably look at overall fouls – maybe there are more reds per match, but the amount of reds in relation to the amount of overall foul calls is consistent, just that there’s more foul calls. Lastly, it would be really interesting to understand how PRO determined the number of incorrect and missed reds from last year, and apply that to the matches played so far this year.
      .
      This sort of data analysis is popular – not just in sports. You’ll see the buzz phrase “big data” tossed around a lot in business circles. This is the sort of thing “big data” is meant to look into – trends, correlations, etc.

      • I agree with the double yellow vs straight red distinction. I never quite understood why they basically had the same punishment. Maybe they could force the player to leave with 2 yellows but allow the team to sub in someone if there were subs left. Seems like a much fairer way to deal with, especially if the 2 yellows were not dangerous fouls.

      • John Ling says:

        Yeah, once the data was gathered there could be all sorts of interesting discoveries waiting to be gleaned.
        .
        As for 2 yellows being equal to a red… *shrug* I don’t have any problem with it. The first yellow means, “don’t be a douche.” The second one means, “I said, don’t be a douche!” If a player already on a yellow goes into a tackle from behind (*cough* Warren *cough*), grabs a player and yanks him/her to the ground, etc, then he/she deserves his/her marching orders.
        .
        And now I find myself sitting here wondering if I could get the data from somewhere other than building it myself from game logs over the past several seasons…

  4. In general, I have a visceral urge to disagree with whatever Bruce Arena says, so I clicked on the link to watch the red carded infraction myself. In his own words, Mr Arena did not see the play. So, he just knows it was unjust. “Too many red cards.”
    I say, too many bad tackles.
    Tomato, tomahto.

  5. Kind of funny that players and coaches are complaining about the number of red cards during the week then, during a game, calling for a card on almost every foul…

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