Monday, July 30, 2007

BYU Season wrap-up

While the season didn’t end the way BYU wanted it to, a 0-3 shutout in the Western Conference finals at the hands of the Fresno Fuego, the team certainly has some things to feel good about after the 2007 season:
  • The Cougars 13-1-2 season marks their best PDL campaign to-date.
  • Two of their players were named to the all-conference team; Brock Trejo (M) and Hugh Van Wagenen (D)
  • They had six Team of the Week honors (including a Player of the Week) during the sixteen week season.
  • Brandon Gilliam, their starting goalkeeper, was second in the league in Goals Against Average with a .707 rating for the season.

The 2007 season also marks the last season for six departing seniors and assistant coach Brian Jolley.

This loss won’t be the last game that BYU plays in 2007 though. They’re promising a series of friendlies in the fall, though I’ve not seen any specifics yet.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Colorado Rapids U23s at BYU Cougars

I winced when they introduced Brett Stevens as the ref tonight. It seems like he’s really called a bad game every time I’ve seen him. Tonight was no exception, with a number of missed calls. He also tends to call the scoreboard, and when Colorado went down a man that really hurt BYU.

Colorado scored first and controlled the run of play even when they went down a man early in the first half. Jake Cavanaugh scored the equalizer for BYU and both teams went on to squander a number of chances. When I asked Coach Watkins about the game he responded, “It wasn’t our best night, but we played hard and got a point.”

Sadly, the PDL playoffs are going to be in California this year. I’m not going to be able to make the roadtrip to watch the games, but I’ll be keeping an eye on the games the best I can. Good luck to Coach Watkins and the boys!

Hugh Van Wagenen Again!

I took off for a week of scout camp, and BYU landed another spot on the PDL Team of the Week. Hugh Van Wagenen (D) was received the honor for second time this season, this time for his play in BYU’s two wins over Ogden. This marks the fifth time a BYU player has earned this honor.

In last night’s game, BYU seems to have put on another pretty good show. Steve Fellows and Daniel McKinley both scored with Hugh Van Wagenen and Zach DeFrancis getting assists. With another strong showing tonight BYU might land a sixth Team of the Week mention.

Next week, the PDL will announce their playoff schedule. With BYU near the top of the league in points, they should get get the chance to play several games at home.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Coach Watkins on Ogden-BYU 11 July

Chris Watkins, the BYU Coach was kind enough to comment on a couple of aspects of last night’s game. I got his answers too late to include in my game write-up, but I wanted to include them here where everyone could read them.

On BYU’s looking flat:

We were proud that we could win in a game where we were a bit off our game. Ogden defended quite well and made it difficult for us to get good looks at the goal.

On Zach DeFrancis’ second yellow card:

Zach showed a bit of his youth with that last tackle, he did get a piece of the ball, but it was not worth the chance he took. We had a sub at the table to take him out at the time.

Ogden-BYU game report: 11 July

The simple recap:

It wasn’t a pretty game, but we came away with three points.

The longer story:

For the first two-thirds of the game, neither side really looked like they wanted the win. Ogden played a very tightly packed, defensive game while BYU spend a long time playing around the wings and probing for an exploitable weakness. Both sides managed to create some chances, but weren’t able to capitilize due to poor finishing.

A BYU triple subsitution in the 55th minute led to some crisper, more energetic play and, eventually, a goal in the 69th minute by Tyson Miller (assisted by Brock Trejo). Coach Watkins said “[O]ur subs came up big for us. We have come to rely on them.”

I’ve heard several people call Trejo the best player on the team, and on this goal he showed why he gets such praise. He took possesion of the ball in the box and drew the goal keeper and a couple of defenders, then cooly dumped a pass off to Miller who was wide open less than ten feet from the open goal.

Once again the ref didn’t do a very good job of controlling the game. There were a number of missed or bad calls early on, and only when the match got close did he really start to enforce things. Even then, there were two ref’s decisions that could have cost BYU the game.

  1. The first came around the 70th minute (I didn’t catch the exact time), when Ogden substituted Ken Hickman onto the field even though he wasn’t on the sub list. Coach Watkins spent some significant time trying to get the refs to call this, but seemed to be warned that if he kept it up he’d get tossed. Not a good call by the officials involved, we’ll have to see what the USL does about it.
  2. The second was a Yellow Card awarded to Zach DeFrancis (last week’s PDL Player of the Week ) in the 81st minute. The call really seemed like a reach for what looked like a pretty minor foul. It was compounded a minute later when DeFrancis was awarded a second yellow (this one deserved) and ejected.

With this win, BYU is 11 points ahead of FC Tacoma in the standings. Tacoma has 12 points still available in their season so a Tacoma loss or tie, or a BYU win in any upcoming game will clinch the division for BYU. Tacoma faces the Cascade surge on Friday and the Yakima Reds on Saturday—what can I say but ‘Go Cascades! Go Reds!’

BYU will face Ogden again when they travel to Ogden on Saturday to play the final game of their intra-Utah series (which BYU leads 2-0-1). Given the history between the two teams, this should be another close fought game.

Zach DeFrancis: PDL Player of the Week

BYU has had their fourth player named to PDL Team of the Week honors, with Zach DeFrancis (M) being named Player of the Week for week 12 of the PDL season. Zach joins Doug Clark, Hugh Van Wagenen, and Richie Bindrup as Team of the Week honorees.

The PDL announcement detailed DeFrancis’ efforts in wins over Ogden and Spokane:

“The BYU Cougars, along with the unbeaten Hampton Roads Piranhas, became the first to clinch a playoff berth in the Premier Development League, picking up a pair of victories over Ogden and Spokane to move to 10-1-1 on the year. Zach De Francis tallied three goals and an assist in the effort.

“The Cougars opened the week on the Fourth of July against their state rivals on the wrong side of the scoreline as the Christenson brothers linked up for the opening goal for the Outlaws in the 26th minute. De Francis would level the score three minutes before the break for BYU. As the Cougars pulled away from a 2-2 scoreline late in the match De Francis would add a second goal for the night.

“The club then hit the road for a trip to Spokane Saturday and again found themselves trailing with Spokane’s Jake Moug tallied 19 minutes in. The Spiders lead held until De Francis set up David Clark in the 62nd minute to tie the game. Eleven minutes later Spokane again took the lead on a strike from Matt Stueckle, but De Francis would answer personally with his third goal of the week and team-leading sixth of the season in the 80th minute to tie the match up once more, allowing Toni Niccoli to bag the winner two minutes later.” USL News Release

The PDL weren’t the only ones to sing Zach’s praises though. Kim Christenson (BYU Media Relations) said, “This is a huge honor, to be named player of the week is no small feat. Zach really stepped up to the plate and earned this recognition.” Zach’s Coach, Chris Watkins, also speaks very highly of him, “He is now our best attacking player and we expect him to only get better.”

When asked about being named Player of the Week, DeFrancis responded, “It was just really exciting to hear that. I guess I was a little surprised as well.”

BYU has turned a lot of heads with its play this season. Hopefully that’s a trend that will continue on both the individual and team level.

Jason Kreis' Open Letter

Jason Kries sent an ‘open letter’ to RSL fans and the Utah soccer community. As a member of both groups, I thought I’d post my initial thoughts in response.

First of all, this is more response (and recognition of just how bad things are) than I ever saw in the John Ellinger era at RSL. On the other hand this open letter is just an IOU until it’s backed up on the playing field.

Belief. Passion. Desire. Determination. Commitment. Sacrifice.

These are the core values inside the Real Salt Lake locker room, the values upon which team success is built and those we demand from every individual that walks through those doors. Nothing but the utmost adherence to these tenets is tolerated.

With the possible exception of the game against DC United, these values haven’t been displayed by the eleven players on the pitch for a full game so far this season. There’s a perception in the online fanbase that it’s better to be an ‘Kreis insider’ than to play hard. Kreis and the team are going to have to work hard to overcome that bias.

Our fans are the best in MLS, and have been since day one. That our fans share the same values — Belief, Passion, Desire, Determination, Commitment and Sacrifice — motivates every player, coach, and administrator in the RSL organization to forge ahead and redouble efforts to emerge from this rut.

I’m glad coaches and administrators were included in this. The front office is taking a lot of heat right now for their apparent bungling of PR, the stadium, personnel moves, etc. While several players have been traded/let go for not living up to these values, there hasn’t been a lot of accountability for the front office staff. These aren’t changes that Kreis can make, they are changes that the team needs to make.

As I said upon my introduction as Head Coach of RSL, “Fortune Favors the Bold.” I believe this in my heart of hearts, and the bold changes we are currently implementing in our team and in our coaching staff will bring imminent fortune.

Imminent, ‘ready to take place’, doesn’t really seem to describe a change in RSL’s fortune. I may be wrong, but to my eye’s it looks like there’s a long, hard way to go before before RSL is a good team. Perhaps a better catchphrase for the RSL players, coaches, and staff to consider is “less talk, more action”.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ogden at BYU in the Local News

Dan Rasmussen, over at the Deseret Morning news has written a piece on the BYU-Ogden game tonight. It includes some background on the two teams (more on BYU than Ogden), as well as notice that it will be on BYU-TV—a channel that appears on a lot of cable/dish line-ups. So if you’re interested in watching a USL game tonight, it just might be possible (July 11th, 7PM MDT).

I may record the game to watch again later, but I should be there for another (I hope) BYU win.

Scariness Catchup (Weeks 13 and 14)

Well, my work and home schedule finally caught up with me and I ended up missing last weeks scariness ratings. That made this weeks much harder to do. Since I needed to do some extra work (and since I felt guilty for missing last week’s post) I decided to add in some extra bits. Enjoy!

Week 13

Team Adj Scariness Wk 13 ranking Wk 12 Wk 11 Wk 10 Wk 9
Houston 3.46 1 1 4 4 6
DC United 3.04 2 3 2 1 3
Columbus 2.93 3 4 10 13 13
Chivas 2.29 4 9 1 2 4
Dallas 1.75 5 6 9 6 12
Salt Lake 1.62 6 5 11 8 9
Toronto 1.50 7 7 3 9 5
New England 1.42 8 2 8 7 7
New York 0.85 9 8 6 5 2
Kansas City 0.84 10 10 5 3 1
Los Angeles 0.64 11 11 7 12 10
Chicago 0.44 12 12 12 11 11
Colorado - 0.02 13 13 13 10 7

Before I give you the week 14 ratings, I thought I’d look at a couple of the games, make some belated predictions, then walk through the results and how they affected things.

First up, DC United (3.04) playing at Kansas City (0.84). Since I’m giving a point of scariness for playing at home, this would give DC a 1.2 point edge in scariness so I’d guess that they should win. This is just what happened, DC pulled out a 1-0 result and took three points on the road. Now, let’s see what this did to each of their ratings:
  • DC United won a game by one point, on the road against a KC team that had a 1 point per game (PPG) average. This raised their score from 3.04 to 3.25.
  • Kansas City lost by one point to a team averaging 2 PPG. This dropped their score from 0.84 to 0.43 (a lot of this drop came from their last winning dropping out of the range I consider for the scariness ratings).
Let’s look at the Toronto (1.50) at Real Salt Lake (1.62) for a counter example. Since RSL was at home, they end up with a 1.12 point edge, which I’d also think was good enough for a win. In reality, they dropped the game 0-2. How much did this hit their ratings:
  • Toronto won a road game by one points, and their score went up 0.65 points to 2.15.
  • RSL’s loss at home dropped them to 0.96 points.

If you look at the full week 14 schedule, adjusted scariness ‘predictions’ would have been 8-3-1. That’s not a bad average, but I’ve got a lot of hindsight working in my favor too. Here’s the full scariness table after week 14.

Week 14 Scariness Ratings

Team Adj Scariness Wk 14 Wk 13 Wk 12 Wk 11 Wk 10 Wk 9
Houston 4.1 1 1 1 4 4 6
Columbus 2.9 2 3 4 10 13 13
Dallas 2.8 3 5 6 9 6 12
DC United 2.29 4 2 3 2 1 3
Toronto 1.94 5 7 7 3 9 5
Los Angeles 1.52 6 11 11 7 12 10
New England 1.45 7 8 2 8 7 7
Chivas 1.15 8 4 9 1 2 4
Kansas City 0.86 9 10 10 5 3 1
New York 0.79 10 9 8 6 5 2
Salt Lake 0.38 11 6 5 11 8 9
Colorado 0.27 12 13 13 13 10 7
Chicago 0.2 13 12 12 12 11 11

There are a couple of things here that are interesting (at least to me). Kansas City and New York are both hanging out in cellar dweller land, but neither team has done much of late, so that’s probably not unfair. Salt Lake is still scarier than either Colorado and Chicago—I wonder how long that will last? Finally, for the first week that I recall, there are no teams with negative scariness.

I also included a history of previous scariness rankings so that you could see how consistent a team was. I’m not sure what to draw from those numbers other than that Houston and DC United have both looked very scary for the last several weeks and that Colorado and Chicago don’t look to be frightening anyone anytime soon.

Finally, I thought I’d use the current rankings to pick each of the games for week 15. Anything within .25 points will be a draw, wider spreads will go to the higher team. I’m not going to bother trying to pick scores.

Week 15 Picks by Scariness

  1. Houston (4.1) @ Chicago (0.2 + 1)—Houston wins
  2. FC Dallas (2.8) @ DC United (2.29 + 1)—DC wins
  3. New England (1.45) @ New York (.79 + 1)—New York wins
  4. Salt Lake (.38) @ Kansas City (.86 +1)—KC wins
  5. Columbus (2.9) @ Chivas USA (1.15 +1)—Columbus wins
  6. Toronto (1.94) @ Houston (4.1 + 1)—Houston wins

I’m not sure that there are any shockers there, but I guess we’ll see.

Jason Kreis, On The Hot Seat?

Color me surprised. Bruce McGuire, over at du Nord put out his list of three MLS coaches on the hot seat. His list looked like this:

  1. Fernando Clavijo – Colorado – rumored to be gone any day, but the geniuses who run the Colorado team don’t want to pay him and new coach. So they rot.
  2. Frank Yallop – LA – his team stinks, and the rumors of chaos in LA get louder all the time.
  3. Jason Kries – Salt Lake – absolutely nothing has changed since he took over except they got rid of one of the best goal scorers ever in MLS. Yes, Kries is green, but I believe he has no chance of turning this thing around. Could it be the Checketts curse? Maybe we should look up the New York Knicks record while he ran that team. I bet it’s sorry and only got worse over time, not better.

The first two names on the list make a lot of sense, and would probably show up on just about anyones list, but Jason Kreis surprises me. Not because RSL is doing well, but because of the awful mess he inherited. I’ve got to think that Kreis will be given at least the rest of the season to turn things around.

While there’s certainly a lot of local unhappiness over the team (see RSLFM, AYL, and KUTV among others), I don’t think that changing coaches again would help that—now if RSL would make some other front office changes, that might go over well.

Of course, there’s no telling what the next step in Dave Checkett’s diabolical plan is, but I hope it’s not dumping Kreis without giving him the time (and training) he needs to have a fair shot at turning things around.

Monday, July 9, 2007

US-Uraguay U-20 on ESPN? Here's a Way to Make it Happen.

Over in the comments of Steven Goff’s blog I found this gem (slightly edited):

We need to start trying to convince ESPN to show the U-20 World Cup Round of 16 US game vs. Uruguay on ESPN as well. It would replace a repeat broadcast of the Home Run Derby. To contact ESPN, use their form

This is a great chance to give ESPN a reason to carry the Round of 16 game (and maybe the later games as well), so don’t just sit here reading my blog—go hit ESPN’s form and fill it out!

BYU at Spokane: July 7th

BYU took a one game trip to Washington on Saturday, and came home with three points. It looks like Saturday’s game against Spokane was a good one. (Although, I’m pretty glad I didn’t have to go sit through another game in the 100+ degree heat—these summer games are brutal.)

BYU continued exchanging starts between Benjamin Walunas (tonight’s starter) and Brandon Gilliam in goal. Coach Chris Watkins explained, “[Ben] has been playing very well and is especially effective against very direct teams that serve in a lot of 50/50 balls.”.

Spokane put the first point on the board in the 19th minute off of a corner kick, and held the 0-1 score going into the half. The second half looks like it was almost all BYU though. Zach DeFrancis had another great game, getting an assist on David Clark’s goal in the 62nd minute and scoring one of his own in the 80th. Spokane put a second goal on the board in the 73 minute, when Matt Stueckle scored on another cornerkick. Super-sub Tony Nicola also scored for BYU (in his first minute on the field) getting an assist from fellow substitute Daniel McKinley.

Zach DeFrancis has played very well over the last several games, and is now leading the team with six goals and one assist in the 515 minutes he’s played this season. The six goals are even more impressive when you realize that they come in only nine shots, making DeFrancis a very effecient scorer. Watkins seems excited about him, saying “Zach is now fully recovered from the 2 years off he had while serving a mission. He is now our best attacking player and we expect him to only get better.”

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Super-Sub Wins PDL Team of the Week Honors

For the third time this season, BYU has had a player selected to the PDL team of the week for week 10. This time around, Doug Clark (M) was picked based on his play in Yakima on Friday, June 22nd. He came on in the 73rd minute as a late substitution for James Bindrup (who’d picked up a yellow card), and proceeded to score a goal and get an assist during his 17 minutes on the field.

Clark joins BYU players Hugh Van Wagenen (D) and Richie Bindrup (D) as PDL team of the week honorees. Given that there are 63 teams in the PDL, putting three players onto teams of the week speaks pretty highly of BYU. With the excellent effort put forward last night by several of their players against Ogden, they might see another name or two added to this list.

Ogden at BYU: July 4th

Last night we headed out to BYU’s South Field along with 800+ other folks. It turs out that BYU passed out some kind of flyer at the July 4th parade earlier in the day and pulled in a huge crowd in comparison to the others I’ve watched. There was even a significant Ogden contigent there—I guess since they’re only about 2 hours away that shouldn’t surprise me. BYU really blew it though, by not opening there concession stand. As hot as it was, they would have made a killing.

The game itself was pretty physical (27 fouls and 5 Yellow Cards) and really poorly ref’ed with a number of phantom and non-calls. I don’t think Ogden can complain too much about the calls though, as both teams seemed to be hit equally by the bad officiating.

Ogden controlled the first five to ten minutes of the game, but weren’t able to capitalize on it. BYU finally settled into the game, and started to win more possession and Ogden started to play more of a counter-attacking game. The first score came on a quick counter in the 23rd minute with Kyle Christensen putting the ball into the net. Zack DeFrancis equalized for BYU in the 42nd minute and the teams were tied going into the half.

BYU opened the second half scoring with a header by Brock Trejo off of a free kick in the 56th minute. Ogden’s Matt Broadhead converted a questionable penalty kick in the 65th minute to even the score again. Zack DeFrancis scored the second goal of his brace just a minute later to put BYU ahead for good. Brock Trejo scored his second goal of the night in the 76th minute, on another set play. Second half subs David Clark and Steve Fellows added goals in the 83rd and 87th minutes.

In my view, Trejo was the man of the match, with stiff competition from DeFrancis and Richie Bindrup. I hope one or more of them gets a nod from the PDL player of the week for their efforts.

(I should be posting pictures later tonight, I just didn’t get to downloading them this morning.)