Preview: L.A. Galaxy vs. Seattle

August, 5, 2012

The Los Angeles Galaxy hit the road to face the Seattle Sounders in the ESPN MLS Game of the Week on Sunday (9 p.m., ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN). Here is our statistical preview of the pivotal Western Conference clash:

• Sounders forward Eddie Johnson returned to MLS this season after four years in Europe and soon rediscovered his goal-scoring form. Johnson has been an especially effective finisher with his head this season. Johnson has scored six of his team-high nine goals via headers, which is tied for the most in the league.

Midfielder Mauro Rosales' open-play crosses and corner kicks could be the reason for Johnson's goal-scoring resurgence. Rosales has assisted on five of Johnson's headed goals this season; three assists have come from open-play crosses with the other two coming from corner kicks.

• Let's put David Beckham's long-range scoring prowess this season into perspective: Beckham has scored a league-leading six goals from 20-plus yards, which is equal to or greater than the total goals from that distance of 16 other MLS teams.

• The Sounders recently added midfielder Christian Tiffert of Germany as a designated player and are counting on him to show the same creativity he displayed in his past two seasons with Kaiserslautern in the German Bundesliga.

Tiffert, who has 12 years of top-flight experience in Germany and Austria, created the most scoring chances in the Bundesliga the past two seasons with 161.

• Collectively and individually, the Galaxy have been extremely sharp in the attacking third of the field and the penalty area this season. The Galaxy have the fewest turnovers (91) in the attacking third; Galaxy forward Robbie Keane has nine goals this season, all of which have been scored inside the penalty area.

Breaking down MLS' win over Chelsea

July, 25, 2012

The MLS All-Stars came from behind to defeat European champion Chelsea 3-2, their second win against the Blues following a 1-0 win in 2006. Here are five notes on the MLS victory, which ended a three-game winless streak against European clubs.

• Eddie Johnson scored the decisive goal in the 91st minute, the latest game-winning goal in All-Star Game history. The previous record was the 88th minute, by Steve Pittman in 1996 and Brian McBride in 1997. The only later goal of any sort was a Landon Donovan 92nd-minute strike in 2001.

• Chris Pontius' 73rd-minute goal tied the game at two and was the 100th goal in MLS All-Star Game history. That's an average of 5.9 goals per match over the 17 All-Star Games.

• Chris Wondolowski opened the scoring in the 21st minute, with the earliest goal by an MLS All-Star since Honduran Amado Guevara in 2004.

• From the department of completely meaningless information (even more so than usual), the goals by Pontius and Wondolowski mark the second All-Star Game in which two different players with the same first name have scored. Juan Toja and Juan Pablo Angel both tallied in 2007 against Celtic.

• John Terry's equalizer in the 32nd minute came by heading Frank Lampard's corner kick. The method of scoring should come as no surprise: Over the past two league and European seasons, Terry leads Chelsea with six headed goals.

Preview of the MLS All-Star Game

July, 25, 2012

Major League Soccer's annual All-Star Game is Wednesday at PPL Park in suburban Philadelphia, and the league's best players will match up against European champion Chelsea. MLS is winless in its last three All-Star Games versus European clubs after winning its first four such matches.

Here is a statistical preview of the match:

• Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder David Beckham has built his goal-scoring reputation on his ability to score from long range. Beckham has six goals this season, all of which have been scored from an average distance of more than 30 yards. Beckham is not the only long-range scoring threat for the MLS All-Star Team. The Red Bulls' Thierry Henry is capable of finishing goal-scoring chances from 20-plus yards similar to Beckham. Henry and Beckham have combined to score four of the 11 free-kick goals in MLS this season.

• Chris Wondolowski has scored a league-high 17 goals this season for the San Jose Earthquakes, and he has accumulated most of those goals via his efficiency in the penalty area. Wondolowski is first, or tied for first, in MLS in touches (110), shots on goal (27) and goals (16) in the penalty area.

• Seattle Sounders forward Eddie Johnson has rediscovered his goal-scoring form, and it helps that he is literally using his head. Johnson has scored five of his eight goals on headers this season, which is third in MLS and one behind both All-Star teammate Chris Wondolowski and Alan Gordon, both of the San Jose Earthquakes.

• The additions of Eden Hazard and Marko Marin give Chelsea an attacking dimension that it has lacked the past two seasons. Both Hazard and Marin excel at dribbling past opponents in the attacking third of the field. Across the top leagues in Europe (England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain), Hazard and Marin ranked among the top five in successful take-on dribbles the last two seasons. Hazard, who transferred from Lille in France, was third with 113 and Marin, who came to Chelsea from German side Werder Bremen, had 108. Only Barcelona's Lionel Messi (249) and Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery (124) had more in a major European league.

• Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard has been one of his team's most reliable goal-scoring threats with 24 goals in the Barclays Premier League and UEFA Champions League the past two seasons. Lampard is especially effective from the penalty spot. Across all competitions, Lampard has scored nine penalty-kick goals, which is tied for second among players in Europe's five major leagues and two cup competitions.

The U.S. stumbles to draw

June, 3, 2012

The United States faced Canada on Sunday night with a chance to win its fourth straight match outside the United States, but it wasn't to be as the CONCACAF rivals played out a 0-0 draw. Here are five notes looking at Sunday night's game, the United States' last match before World Cup Qualification begins on Friday against Antigua & Barbuda (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

• The United States extended its unbeaten streak against Canada to 15 matches, but it has never won three straight matches. Its last loss to Canada came on April 2, 1985 when Canada recorded a 2-0 win in Vancouver. The United States has kept 12 clean sheets during that streak.

• Michael Bradley completed 78 of 90 passes (86.7 percent) in the match, the most passes completed and attempted by a player in 13 matches under coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Bradley has led the team in passing for three straight matches, compiling an 87.0 percent completion rate over that span.

• The United States is now 3-6-2 against Canada in matches played in Canada but is 2-0-1 in its past three matches north of the border.

• Carlos Bocanegra made his 99th start Sunday night, which tied him for fifth all-time with Kasey Keller. Next on the list is Cobi Jones, who made 109 starts from 1992-2004.

• Sunday's scoreless draw was the first for the United States since October 2010 versus Colombia and its first against a CONCACAF opponent since March 2007 versus Guatemala.

Tough night for the U.S.

May, 30, 2012

• The U.S. has lost nine straight matches against Brazil since upsetting the reigning World Cup champs in the 1998 Gold Cup semifinals. The nine-game slide is the second-longest run for the U.S. versus any country, topped only by a 10-game losing streak against Mexico, from 1937-57.

• This was the sixth friendly against a World Cup winner since the 2010 World Cup for the United States, which defeated Italy and lost to Brazil (twice), Argentina, Spain and France. The only other country to face as many World Cup winners in that time span is Chile, but half of its six games were in either World Cup qualifying or the Copa America.

• Despite the final score, the U.S. actually outperformed Brazil in the second half in a number of categories, yet goals did not follow the home side's increased production.

• One positive for the USMNT was midfielder Michael Bradley. Bradley completed a team-high 53 passes just four days after completing a game-high 63 passes against Scotland. It was Bradley's through ball to Fabian Johnson that led to the only U.S. goal, scored by Herculez Gomez.

Bradley has now completed four through balls in his past two matches, three more than any other USMNT player has completed since Jurgen Klinsmann took over.

• For Brazil, the star was left back Marcelo. He completed a game-high 60 passes, had a game-high five tackles and successfully dribbled past U.S. defenders three times, also a game-high. The Real Madrid player also added four pass interceptions and a beautiful assist on the Brazil's fourth and final goal, setting up AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato.

Can the U.S. end its losing streak?

May, 30, 2012

• The U.S. has lost eight straight matches against Brazil, last winning 1-0 in the 1998 Gold Cup semifinals. The eight-game slide is the U.S.'s second-longest versus any country, topped only by a 10-game losing streak against Mexico from 1937-57.

• After beating Italy in February, the U.S. could beat two of the eight World Cup winners in the same calendar year for the second time in team history. The only previous year was 1999, when the Americans defeated Germany twice, including a Confederations Cup win, and also topped Argentina 1-0 in Washington, D.C.

• Besides Landon Donovan and his hat trick, the stars of the 5-1 win against Scotland on Saturday were midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. Bradley finished with a game-high 63 passes completed. Despite completing nearly 400 more passes than any other Chievo player this past Serie A season, he never completed more than 53 in a match. Jones led the team with 23 passes completed into the final third, which is the most for a player in a single match under Jurgen Klinsmann.

• As Brazil's lucrative world tour continues, this will be the Selecao's 23rd match since the 2010 World Cup. Twenty of those 23 games have been played away from home. With two more friendlies in the United States plus an August road match against Sweden, Brazil won't play at home again until a September friendly against Argentina.

• Though there will be several Brazilian stars missing from this match, the Selecao will not be short of talent in the back. AC Milan defender Thiago Silva led his team in clearances, interceptions and blocked shots this past Serie A campaign. Real Madrid left back Marcelo tied for the team lead in interceptions and was third in tackles, clearances and blocked shots. And in limited action, Manchester United defender Rafael led his team in tackles per 90 minutes in the Premier League.

U.S. versus Scotland preview

May, 25, 2012

On Saturday against Scotland, the United States plays the first of three friendlies leading up to a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala. Here are five notes to get you ready for the first of five American games in the next 18 days.

•  Landon Donovan has not played in the United States' last eight games, his longest absence from the team since his debut in October 2000. If he starts against Scotland, he will break Jeff Agoos' American record with his 125th career start.

•  After defeating Slovenia in November and Italy in February, the U.S. could win three straight games against European teams for the first time since a three-game win streak over Switzerland, Sweden and Poland from October 2007 to March 2008. The U.S. is 1-3-2 all time versus Scotland but is unbeaten in the last three meetings, and two of the losses came more than 60 years ago.

•  Following one win in Jurgen Klinsmann's first six games, the U.S. has won four straight for the first time since a six-game run during World Cup qualifying in 2008. All four victories have been by one goal; the only other time the U.S. won four in a row by a single goal was at the 1993 Gold Cup.

•  With Brek Shea's absence from the roster, no player will have appeared in every game of the Klinsmann era. Shea leads the United States with eight chances created in the previous 10 games, but he had only one in his last five international appearances.

•  A strong presence moving forward from his left-back spot, Timmy Chandler was another notable omission from the squad. Chandler was tied for second on the team with 122 passes completed in the attacking half under Klinsmann, despite appearing in only six games. Only Shea, with 130 passes completed, had more in the attacking half of the field.

Chelsea wins the Champions League

May, 19, 2012

Chelsea stunned host Bayern Munich in Saturday's Champions League final, tying the game in the closing minutes before coming from behind to win the shootout. After its worst league finish in the Roman Abramovich era, Chelsea finally won the Champions League. Here are five other notes on the drama in Munich.

• Chelsea wins its first European Cup despite Bayern's 35-9 edge in shots and 11-3 advantage in chances created. Perhaps most impressively, Bayern held a 20-1 lead in corner kicks, but Didier Drogba headed in the Blues' only corner to tie the game in the 88th minute.

• Arjen Robben missed a penalty in extra time, as Petr Cech saved the attempt that Robben fired low and right. Robben had converted six of seven penalties this league and European season, and his previous miss was also low and right.

• Bayern Munich lost on penalty kicks in UEFA competition for the first time after winning its first four shootouts. Chelsea had lost its previous two UEFA shootouts, including the 2008 final to Manchester United, before knocking off Bayern 4-3.

• Chelsea's sixth-place league finish is the worst by any winner in the Champions League era, one spot below 2005 Liverpool and 2000 Real Madrid. The lowest finish for a European Cup winner is 1982 Aston Villa, which ended up 11th in England.

• Chelsea is also the first club from London to win the European Cup, doing so before Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham, among others. It has been a while since a newcomer had won the trophy. No team had won the European Cup for the first time since Borussia Dortmund defeated Juventus in 1997.

Preview of the CL final

May, 18, 2012

The world's most prestigious club competition ends Saturday, with Bayern Munich facing Chelsea at Allianz Arena. Here are five notes for the grand finale in Munich.

• Bayern Munich will be the first club since Roma in 1984 to play the European Cup final in its home stadium. Roma lost on penalties to Liverpool, but the other two home teams won the title, though both were more than 40 years ago.

• Bayern Munich's European history is much richer than Chelsea's, with four European Cup titles and nine final appearances to Chelsea's zero titles and two finals. However in the past decade, their accomplishments are very similar. Each has made nine Champions League appearances and a pair of finals in the past 10 seasons.

• Neither team won its domestic league title, making this the first final matchup of such teams since AC Milan defeated Liverpool in 2007. Chelsea finished sixth in the Premier League, which would be the worst league finish for any Champions League winner. Both 2000 Real Madrid and 2005 Liverpool finished fifth when they lifted the trophy.

• Chelsea is the seventh English team to reach the Champions League Final in the past seven seasons. But the only one to win the title in that span was Manchester United, which beat Chelsea on penalty kicks in 2008. Liverpool was the last English team to beat a club from another country in the final, topping AC Milan in a shootout after trailing 3-0 in the Miracle of Istanbul.

• A record seven players are suspended from the final for disciplinary reasons (three on Bayern and four on Chelsea), and the defensive end will be affected most for both sides. Chelsea will be without three of its five leading tacklers this Champions League season: Ramires is second on the team with 23 tackles, followed by Raul Meireles (19) and Branislav Ivanovic (tied for 4th with 15). Bayern may feel its absences most in the air, as Luiz Gustavo and David Alaba have won the most aerial duels on the team during the competition, with 11 and nine respectively.

Recapping a dramatic Prem finale

May, 13, 2012

The last time Manchester City won the English League title, Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" was the No. 1 song in the United Kingdom. That's an appropriate anthem for half of Manchester today, as Sergio Aguero scored in the 94th minute to give City its third league title. Here are five notes on the Premier League's dramatic final day:

• Manchester City won its first league title since 1968, clinching the title on goal difference over Man United. This is the first time in the Premier League era that the title has been decided by a tiebreaker, and the sixth time in English League history. The most recent occurrence was 1988-89, when Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 on the final day to win the championship on goals scored.

• Manchester City's 44 years between titles represents the fourth-longest such drought in English history. Blackburn had the longest stretch, ending an 81-year drought in 1995. Chelsea also ended the third-longest dry spell in 2005.

• Manchester United finished with 89 points, nine more than the Red Devils earned in their title run a year ago. Those 89 points are most ever by a runner-up in England, while United's 28 wins also match its most in a Premier League season.

• Arsenal came back to beat West Brom and finish third in the league, locking up a Champions League berth for next season. That extends its streak of Champions League campaigns to 15, the third-longest active streak in Europe, trailing only Real Madrid and Manchester United.

• Despite the loss to Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers finished 17th and remain in the Premier League, sending Bolton to the championship. All three newly promoted teams survived for the second time in the Premier League era. The other was 2001-02, when Fulham, Blackburn and Bolton all stayed up.