Home Guard Metrics: 3 Weeks and Counting

With just under three weeks to go before United States Men's National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann must submit his preliminary World Cup roster to FIFA, the key members of the MLS Home Guard are beginning to round into form. Clint Dempsey returned from his two-game suspension with fire in his belly and TNT in his boots. The USMNT front man has notched five goals and two assists in the Seattle Sounders' last three games to finally curb USMNT fans' anxieties. Michael Bradley sat out Toronto FC's 0-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids but returned to put in a full 90-minute shift in a losing effort at FC Dallas. It does not appear that Bradley's knee knock will hinder his World Cup preparations. We'll look at all of Major League Soccer's World Cup hopefuls in this edition of the Home Guard by focusing on the players' metrics from the early stages of the 2014 MLS campaign.  Each World Cup candidate is categorized by the position he plays in Klinsmann's base 4-2-3-1 system: forwards (including the "withdrawn" forward), central midfielders, center backs, wing-backs (full backs/outside backs) and wing-forwards (outside midfielders). Bear in mind that some of the Home Guard play different positions for Klinsmann than ...
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Early Numbers on the Home Guard

As the Home Guard prepare to take on Mexico this week, we're going to look at some of the early-season stats for these U.S. men's national soccer team hopefuls. This is the last U.S. national team game before head coach Jurgen Klinsmann names his preliminary 30-man World Cup roster. After this game, Klinsmann's evaluations of a player's form will come from games in Major League Soccer. Soccer is a notoriously stat-starved sport. If you look at a "box score" for a soccer match, you see relatively rare events like goals and assists along with more mundane factoids like the match attendance, red and yellow cards, the number of corner kicks taken and substitutions. Recently, several soccer news outlets have beefed up their stat reporting, but the raw data doesn't tell you much and the various attempts at graphical representation (heat maps, passing charts, etc) don't tell you much about the data that goes into those images. is one soccer news outlet that does a good job of coding and reporting raw numbers for basic but important indicators of a player's performance in offensive, defensive and possession phases of the game.   For the analytical enjoyment of B/R readers, the following statistics will be recorded ...
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The MLS Home Guard Returns and Prepares for the World Cup

If any sports writer had written a year ago, "Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley will lead their Major League Soccer teams into the 2014 season," it would not have been long before that poor fool was looking for work after suffering the indignity of a public mocking—for good reason. Yet, here we are, the start of the 2014 season, and not only are Dempsey and Bradley leading their MLS teams onto the field, but they already faced off in a rugged game that saw Dempsey receive a two-game suspension for taking a swipe at an opponent's most sensitive region in a fit of pique.   There is no debate that it was an earth-splitting coup for Major League Soccer. But, there will be no end to the debate about whether or not Dempsey's and Bradley's moves to MLS are "good for Bradley/Dempsey" or "good for the US Men's National Team."  With 12 weeks to go before the FIFA World Cup Final, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann finds himself with half of his player pool competing in MLS, including 40 percent of his team's "spine." In the first World Cup (1998) after MLS came into existence, 16 of the 22 players on the USMNT roster ...
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Home Guard: MLS Playoffs Run into USMNT October Qualifiers (Updated)

In the very first edition of the Home Guard your intrepid USMNT analyst predicted that the October World Cup qualifiers would inevitably raise the ugly specter of the nefarious club versus country tug-of-war.   The first tugs on the rope are pulling the principles into the mud. The only questions remaining are whether the war will go hot or stay cold, and which players could benefit from the battle.   A Dilemma Wrapped Inside a Paradox According to FIFA (emphasis added): a) Qualifying matches for an international competition played on fixed/set dates These matches take priority over matches in a national championship. In other words, matches in the national championship or cup competition should not be arranged on one of the fixed/set dates. A club holding the registration of a player called up to play in the national team must release him to the national association on the fixed/set dates for international matches in each calendar year. The player shall also be released for the period of preparation. If the player is called up to play in a qualifying match for an international competition, this period shall be 4 days (including the day of the match). The period of release shall be prolonged to ...
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Home Guard: USMNT Stars Sit Out This Week’s Key MLS Games

The USMNT Home Guard took to the field for their MLS teams last week as the playoff race and the CONCACAF Champions League group stage come down to the final rounds.  Or some of them did anyway. The premier matchup between Landon Donovan's LA Galaxy and Clint Dempsey's Seattle Sounders was contested without the two USMNT stars.  Donovan is nursing a rolled ankle and Dempsey a bum hamstring. Neither injury appears serious and their clubs seem to be taking a cautious approach. USMNT fans will only have to work their worry beads until each appears again. Donovan's Galaxy have an away game at Cartagines on Wednesday. Dempsey's Sounders host the NY Red Bulls this Sunday. USMNT hopeful Juan Agudelo of the New England Revolution also sat out last week with a tricky hamstring that limited his minutes last week. The Revolution are also taking a cautious approach with their young star. In this week's edition of the Home Guard we'll look at the performances of the remaining MLS players on USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's short list and look down the road toward the upcoming October World Cup qualifiers. Player data courtesy of with all metrics computed by the author.  Begin Slideshow
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Home Guard Beats Mexico, Qualifies USMNT for 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals

The American Home Guard, Major League Soccer players on the U.S. Men's National Team, stepped up big time in Tuesday night's Mexican cage match. The dos a cero score line would not have been possible without the Home Guard doing some very heavy lifting. With the Americans missing Serie A midfielder Michael Bradley to a freak ankle sprain, and English Premier League players Jozy Altidore and Geoff Cameron plus 2012 MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler to yellow cards, the depth of the American team pool was tested with a fathom-long measuring stick. Six of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's starting XI were members of the Home Guard and the measuring stick never hit bottom as they stood tall in the deep end of international soccer. European-based players Alejandro Bedoya and Mix Diskerud also stepped in and made significant contributions to the final result. They too are evidence of the quality choices at Klinsmann's disposal. In this edition of the Home Guard we'll look at the contributions made by MLS players in taking down El Tri. All metrics courtesy of MLS soccer.Begin Slideshow
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The Home Guard: MLS and the Upcoming USMNT Qualifiers

Nine Major League Soccer players were called to play for the USMNT in the upcoming qualifiers. That number fell to eight after Brad Evans injured his calf over the weekend. Jurgen Klinsmann's roster reflects his team's yellow card problem. With Costa Rica looking for revenge at home on Friday and the cage match against Mexico on Tuesday, Klinsmann had to make sure he had backup players to cover for his starters should they pick up a second yellow card against Costa Rica.   As reported by, between yellow cards and injuries Klinsmann has several of the home guard on speed dial: We know that the problem is we’ll be having nine players going into that game with yellow cards, so anything can happen after that game. We put everybody on notice to be in touch with us, and if there are changes to be made after that game we’ll make those changes. A Jozy Altidore injury scare over the weekend had a few tongues wagging about who would replace the star American target man, but Jozy reported to USMNT camp and was declared fit to play.  Klinsmann chose FC Augsburg fullback Michael Parkhurst over less experienced MLS fullbacks to replace Brad Evans for the qualifiers. Parkhurst, ...
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The Home Guard: MLS and the USMNT Roster

The home guard of the U.S. Men's National Team was in full action this past week. The LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo both started their CONCACAF Champions League campaigns while the MLS season entered the home stretch. With two World Cup qualifiers coming up Sept. 6 at Costa Rica and Sept. 10 in Columbus hosting archrival Mexico, we can expect a new USMNT roster by early next week.  Since MLS stubbornly refuses to honor the FIFA International Match Calendar, any MLS players called to national team duty will miss key league games. Seattle Sounders players on the USMNT roster will miss two home games, Sept. 4 versus Chivas USA and Sept. 7 versus the Chicago Fire. The league standings are tight in MLS and every game is crucial in securing a playoff birth. Because all of the European-based players are free from club duty there is a strong possibility that the MLS playoff race will affect Jurgen Klinsmann's roster choices. Klinsmann will certainly call his MLS starters but clubs may be reluctant to release key players during the playoff chase to sit on the USMNT bench. If Klinsmann doesn't call in a player for these qualifiers, it does not mean that player is out of the ...
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The Home Guard: MLS Players in the US Men’s National Team Player Pool

Welcome to the first edition of the Home Guard, a weekly review of Major League Soccer players in the US Men’s National Team player pool. Any current fantasy starting XI for the USMNT in Brazil will include 4-7 MLS players. This means MLS players will have a profound impact on the Nats’ performances in Brazil. Much like the ubiquitous Americans “abroad” features, we’ll look at the players' club performances for the past week, provide some metrics courtesy of, and assess how that player’s performance affected his chances of making the final World Cup roster and the overall quality of the USMNT. The MLS/USMNT player pool will consist of any current MLS player who was either capped in 2013 or whose name appeared on any of the last three USMNT rosters. If you think there is an MLS player who could figure into coach Juergen Klinsmann’s plans for Brazil, drop me a note in the comments and I’ll consider adding their name to the Home Guard.Begin Slideshow
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USMNT: Why Clint Dempsey’s Move Is Good for US Soccer

At first blush, Clint Dempsey's record MLS transfer from the EPL may seem like a nasty blow to American pride. Our biggest European football star called it quits on his European career. Of course, this follows the three most productive years of Dempsey's career. Three years that were anything but smooth sailing professionally but unarguably the three years that will define Dempsey's legacy—unless the gambit pays off and Dempsey plays a glorious swan song on the world's biggest football stage, the World Cup. We are sure to hear from Dempsey himself in the coming days, but for now we are left speculating why Dempsey would leave European football now.  His club situation is a mess, no doubt, but one would have to figure that if Gareth Bale leaves Tottenham Hotspur that Dempsey would have been a valuable talent for Andre Villas-Boas to call on. Why isn't Dempsey tempted by the challenge of helping fill Bale's size 11 Adidas? Even if White Hart Lane was a rotten place to continue his career, why not choose another European club?   Because he is more tempted by World Cup glory. And who can blame him? Since the 2010 World Cup, Dempsey made an average of 43.7 club appearances per year. Over that same time ...
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