With two goals in his last four games, Bright Dike has been on a bit of a run as of late.
After being one of the first Timbers players ever signed in the MLS era, Dike ruptured his Achilles' tendon in the first MLS preseason game and missed much of the 2011 season. After a hard dedicated recovery, he came back to the team and was loaned to USL PRO side L.A. Blues earlier this season.
In ten games, Dike got his groove back and pocketed six goals. So while he wasn't there for the entire season, USL PRO was impressed enough to name him to the 2012 All-League Second Team.
In other MLS-related news in USL New York Red Bulls forward Corey Hertzog was a finalist for MVP after spending the season on loan with the Wilmington Hammerheads. The small but increasing number of MLS teams loaning players to the USL is a growing phenomenon as more and more teams look to further develop their players with more games and minutes. Timbers defender and 2012 MLS SuperDraft first round pick Andrew Jean-Baptiste was also loaned to the Blues in 2012 for six matches.
WATCH: Dike finishes off Zizzo cross against Rapids
The Timbers Academy teams--fresh from announcing their inaugural rosters--take to the field for the first time this weekend against the academy squads of Chivas USA and LA Galaxy.
“We know that thanks to U.S. Soccer we got an easy weekend to start off,” Timbers Academy Director Mike Smith jokingly told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “It is the highest level of competition [playing Chivas USA and Galaxy]. After four weeks of preseason, we are excited to see where the boys are. It will be a good learning lesson for us.”
The article also talks about Timbers U-16 winger Rubio Rubin who was a member of the adidas Timbers Alliance club Westside Timbers and is training with the US U17 Residency program in Florida.
Finally, central Oregon's Bend Bulletin has a good article on Timbers U-16 player Logan Riemhofer who is bypassing his high school team in Bend for the opportunity to be a part of the Timbers Academy. Though a difficult decision, his former coach at Mountain View High School, Chris Rogers, gives his full support:
“As bad as you want him to stay and play for you, (the academy) is so much more important a place to go for his development. I told him if I had that chance (in high school) I would have jumped at the opportunity," he added.
“This is the absolutely best thing for American soccer," Rogers says. “We’re finally doing what the rest of the world has done for the past 50 years."
“I want him to play for that team (the Timbers’ MLS club)," Rogers says. “I want to watch him play professionally and know I did everything I could to help him along the way."
Everyone I know who loves soccer loves EA Sports' FIFA series. You can play it on Playstation or Xbox, your iPhone or iPad, connect with friends, create a team, and manage it to untold glories.
Check out the latest ad EA just dropped touting FIFA 13's pending September 27 release:
MLSsoccer.com has teamed up with EA Sports to create a custom cover for FIFA 13. The number one player from MLSsoccer.com's 24 Under 24 will automatically be on the list, but there's three slots still available and our very own Darlington Nagbe is among the nominees in a special poll.
Wondering what 2012 Timbers U-23 alum, Troutdale native, and current University of Portland Pilots midfielder Steven Evans has been up to now that school is back in session?
Just a little bit of this:
Evans is one of four U-23s players on the University of Portland squad joining Justin Baarts, Ricardo Carillo, and Marc Tonkel on a team predicted to finish 3rd in the West Coast Conference. Evans was also selected to the Preseason All-WCC team alongside U-23s teammates Erik Hurtado (Santa Clara Univ.) and Clark Phillips (Gonzaga).
The Pilots are currently 2-1-1 on the 2012 campaign.
Lies, damn lies, and statistics: How adidas' miCoach could change MLS (plus a cameo from Jean-Baptiste)
The Backcut has talked about the growing importance of statistics in soccer before. Manchester City is busy crowd sourcing ideas by releasing reams of stats from last year's campaign while MLS has already made much of the same information available through their excellent Matchcenter Chalkboard.
But now none other than the immenent tech geek bible Wired takes a look at the new adidas tech wizardry behind their new miCoach system and its potential impact on the league through their excellent Playbook blog.
Starting off at the 2012 MLS Combine in Florida, the article talks about how a number of draft eligible players taking part in drills and scrimmages--Portland's eventually drafted Andrew Jean-Baptiste among them--were outfitted with prototype miCoach trackers that fed information about speed, location, heart rate and more.
It’s far flashier than such antiquities as a timed 40, but not much different in that the athletic attributes it measures have little to do with sport-specific skills like, say, passing the ball.
Still, proper dribbling technique is more easily taught than absurd acceleration through a defensive alignment, which is why University of Connecticut defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste started turning so many heads.
Jean-Baptiste was among those participating in the miCoach trial ahead of a league-wide rollout next season. As four Adidas reps roamed the sideline holding iPads displaying real-time readings from the field, coaches and team officials filtered by with raised eyebrows and the occasional question. Everything was proceeding as expected until Jean-Baptiste took off on a sprint across the pitch and his measurements exploded.
“Ten to 12 teams’ staff people crowded around me at once,” said Jan Mueller, a manager for the miCoach line. “They were watching intently, and then began asking a lot of questions.”
Given the long established importance of statistics in sports such as football, baseball and basketball, MLS is looking to push the envelope as to what kind of stats become more important for soccer. And not just for coaches and players, but for fans as well. The aforementioned Chalkboard feature is already readily available for fans and writers alike to breakdown certain elements of a game with heat maps, pass completion rates, shot locations and more.
miCoach adds another layer into the player performance aspect by breaking down individual elements to a very specific level. And while much of that in-game analysis of miCoach may not be something that fans will have immediate access to, MLS Digital general manager Chris Schlosser says in the article, “We’re working on what we feel like is a game-changer in the digital match experience — a whole new way for consumers to experience the game."
And even coaches who are intrigued with the possibilities of what miCoach could bring to the table such as Philadelphia Union head coach John Hackworth, there's still a belief that not everything seen on a computer screen tells you everything you need to know about a player.
“We’ve always had lies, damned lies and statistics,” said Timbers assistant coach Amos Magee. “For example, just because a guy is covering a lot of ground, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s smart running or that he’s in the right place at the right time. That’s a statistic that needs to come with experience. So some of these measurements are going to be useful, but some aren’t. We’ll just have to see which ones fill a void.”
In that capacity, miCoach readings will fit right in with the rest of soccer’s statistics. There’s another school of thought, however, that presents an even warier eye.
“Soccer is so much art, and art is impossible to measure, like music or dance or paintings,” said Hackworth. “The beauty of our sport is that there are so many creative, imaginative and skillful moments, and you’ll never be able to truly quantify that.”
It's a fascinating read about some great tools MLS is leading the way with. Read the whole piece here.
How do you see the focus on statistics changing the game? Let us know in the comments below or send us a note at thebackcut(at)portlandtimbers.com
The Akron Zips finished up their time in Nebraska at the Ameritas Classic with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over SIU Evansville. Senior Chad Barson and sophomore Bryan Gallego scored for Akron--both via great corner kick executions--and Caleb Porter's team improved to 2-0-1 on the season.
Gallego, Alfred Koroma-who had an equalizer against Creighton on Friday night--and Eric Stevenson were all named to the Ameritas Classic All Tournament team.
Also check out the Akron Beacon Journal's article about Porter's accepting of the Timbers job but staying with the Zips through the 2012 season. Writer Marla Ridenour says Porter is "leaving with class." It's a great piece that lauds Porter's loyalty to his Akron team and how Portland presented a dream job.
In Caleb Porter's first University of Akron match after being named head coach of the Portland Timbers, the Zips came from behind to draw with #2 Creighton 1-1 in Omaha, NE on Friday night.
After going into the half down a goal for only the 11th time in Porter's seven years at the helm in Akron, the Zips found the equalizer in the 57th minute on a Alfred Koroma header.
Were it not for an offside call in the ensuing overtime, Akron would have come away with the win. As it was, they dominated both halves of the overtime outshooting the Bluejays 4-1.
Check out the recap on the GoZips.com website. Akron next plays SIU Edwardsville on Sunday morning at 10am PT in their final match of the Ameritas Classic in Omaha.
As is well known by now, Caleb Porter will be the Timbers new head coach beginning in 2013. After a stellar career at the University of Akron, an NCAA national championship, buckets full of talented players who went on to MLS--including our own Darlington Nagbe, a slip up with the US U-23s and Olympic qualifying, and one final year with the Zips, Porter has decided to make the jump to the next level.
MLSsoccer.com's Jonah Freedman talks about what he calls "The Fraternity" of college coaches who made the same leap and the challenges they face:
The 37-year-old Porter will join [Schellas] Hyndman, Bruce Arena, Thomas Rongen and Sigi Schmid. Those four have among them six MLS Cups, five Supporters’ Shields, five US Open Cups and seven MLS Coach of the Year awards among a laundry list of other accomplishments.
No pressure, right? By now, no one should be crying that college coaches don’t have the chops to make the jump directly to the pros. That quartet is clear proof they do.
Freedman goes on to explore what that pressure is like and how some of that quartet dealt with it to become successful in MLS.
The Oceania Football Confederation--home federation for New Zealand Football--wrote a nice piece about new Timbers signing Ian Hogg recently that makes for a good read. A starter in all three matches for the Oly Whites at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Hogg played alongside Jake Gleeson who was also a member of the team.
"I'm just looking to take any opportunities I get given," said Hogg. And with Timbers GM/interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson and assistant coach Cameron Knowles also being veterans of the All Whites New Zealand national team, Portland has a growing Kiwi contingent.
Read the article here.
The article refers to Hogg's first goal in his senior national team debut during a friendly against El Salvador earlier this spring in Houston. It's a pretty quick run down the left flank that leads to a confident strike. See it here (Fast foward to the 29:41 mark, commentary in Spanish).
Then watch Hogg's first training with the team from last week.
Last week, famed English Premiere League club Manchester City announced a special program that would release loads upon loads of statistical information from the team’s 2011-2012 EPL season. They did this in a unique way to crowdsource ideas and analysis of players' performances. Gavin Fleig, Man City's head of performance analysis, told The Guardian, "The whole reason for putting this data out there is to open the doors. The data has value, previously it has been kept in-house and behind guarded doors, but there is a recognition now that clubs need to help this space develop."
Both Michael Lewis' Moneyball and Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski’s Soccernomics tell the story of the importance of statistical analysis in sports--Lewis' with baseball and Kuper and Szymanski's then building off of that to get into soccer. With Man City, their document is incredibly thorough and open to all after registering at their website. Broken out by player, there’s every match and every stat you could think of: Right Footed Shots off Target, Goals from Corners, Total Unsuccessful Passes Excluding Crosses, Corners and much much more. It’s a deep document.
But that kind of statistical analysis and, more importantly, access to it, is something that MLS has been similarly doing on a league-wide scale since last season as they rolled out their toolbox of features with Opta. Every Matchcenter page on MLSsoccer.com has up to the minute stats in game and the Chalkboard feature is filled to the brim with heat maps, pass stats, positioning information and more.
And with adidas’ new Smart Soccer platform having debuted at the 2012 MLS All-Star Game with an eye towards even more use in 2013, the importance of statistics and their meaning on the game becomes even deeper. See their latest ad running with quite a few cameos from Timbers players.
How do you see the focus on statistics changing the game? Got a thought? Let us know in the comments below or send us a note at thebackcut(at)portlandtimbers.com.