Friday, July 4, 2014

Quarterfinals weekend

Before we, grudgingly, turn our attention to other things, one last survey of things you might have missed:

  • Lionel Messi Is Impossible
    By now I’ve studied nearly every aspect of Messi’s game, down to a touch-by-touch level: his shooting and scoring production; where he shoots from; how often he sets up his own shots; what kind of kicks he uses to make those shots; his ability to take on defenders; how accurate his passes are; the kind of passes he makes; how often he creates scoring chances; how often those chances lead to goals; even how his defensive playmaking compares to other high-volume shooters.

    And that’s just the stuff that made it into this article. I arrived at a conclusion that I wasn’t really expecting or prepared for: Lionel Messi is impossible.

    It’s not possible to shoot more efficiently from outside the penalty area than many players shoot inside it. It’s not possible to lead the world in weak-kick goals and long-range goals. It’s not possible to score on unassisted plays as well as the best players in the world score on assisted ones. It’s not possible to lead the world’s forwards both in taking on defenders and in dishing the ball to others. And it’s certainly not possible to do most of these things by insanely wide margins.

  • Who Was Dent McSkimming?: The truth behind the legend of the lone American reporter at the 1950 World Cup.
    But what about those two uncredited stories? Newspaper byline rules could be stringent and arbitrary, and these were different times. Maybe the Post-Dispatch withheld credit from McSkimming because he was on vacation. Maybe the stories were too short to merit a byline. But McSkimming had joined the paper in 1922. Wouldn’t he have wanted credit for his work, and wouldn’t the paper have wanted to showcase the fact that its star soccer writer was on the scene?
  • Belgium 2-1 USA: Belgium dominate but take ages to make the breakthrough
    Then came an inspired USA fightback. Substitute Julian Green, on for Bedoya, scored a consolation goal and his side rallied. Those final 13 minutes were extremely impressive, with the goal seemingly giving the USA another gear and simultaneously making Belgium even more tired.

    Bradley, Jones and Cameron, so frustrating in the first half because of their collective insistence on running high up the pitch and leaving space in behind, were now perfect for the situation – a desperate fightback. Witsel and Marouane Fellaini looked exhausted, and Wilmots’ refusal to bring on another midfielder, or even strengthen his defence, was remarkable. He left his side open to constant attacks, and few other sides have exited the competition with such an impressive late rally as this from the United States.

  • Walking to Stay One Step Ahead: Lionel Messi has figured out how to win matches by moving less than everyone else.
    Of course, if three or four Swiss players were watching Messi, it means that there was space elsewhere on the pitch for Argentina to exploit. But Argentina had not exploited that space, because it seemed that all 10 of their players were watching Messi, too. All of their attacking play was directed through the No. 10, to the exclusion of any other ideas. Every time we recover the ball we try to pass to him, as he is the best player we have in the team and he will score goals.
  • MLS Salaries Released, High Level
    There's no question that MLS went out to buy as many US National Team players as they could last year. The reasoning behind it is simple; Bring the hordes of USMNT supporters that pack international events over to MLS. Jury is out on this reasoning. Michael Bradley, one of the new signings that's making more than all but four whole teams, played in front of just 12k fans at Crew Stadium last week.
  • MLS Salary Breakdown of the USMNT
    Six figure salaries among USMNT players, even historically is not rare. Going back to 2006, each World Cup squad has only had one MLS player making under the six figure mark: Robbie Findley in 2010, and Clint Dempsey in 2006 before he left for England.
  • Does The Successful Economics Of MLS Portend Doom For The USMNT?
    As the league gets stable, there's some risk that American stars will have to choose between getting guaranteed starts in a country they know well for the same kind of money they would make in a foreign land where they might not prosper. For the leading soccer leagues - England, Germany, Italy, Spain - the interest in national team players staying at home is not so important for the health of the national team, as those players that do stay home (and this includes the vast majority of them) face elite competition when they play for their native clubs. For countries with only okay, but well-heeled leagues - Mexico, Russia, and now, maybe, the United States - the fact that the best players can make the best money if they stay at home arguably retards progression, rather than encouraging it.

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