Top 10 Best-Selling MLS Jerseys of 2016

MLS saw a lot of star power in 2016, both in legendary global soccer names and in new homegrown players. But which jerseys did fans want the most? Here are the top ten best-selling player jerseys for 2016:

  • Jordan Morris – One of the young faces of American soccer, Jordan Morris turned down opportunities to play in Europe and debuted for the Seattle Sounders FC in 2016. He scored 12 goals, added 4 assists, and led the Sounders in minutes played, showing a glimpse of why so many are so bullish on his future.
  • Andrea Pirlo – A name known worldwide, Pirlo is considered by many to be one of the finest midfielders of his generation. The Italian superstar played for both Inter and AC Milan before leading Juventus to four consecutive Serie A titles. He joined NYCFC for the 2016 season and managed a goal and led the team with 11 assists while facilitating their attack from his usual spot in midfield.
  • Clint Dempsey – One of the iconic names of American soccer for over a decade now, Dempsey only managed to play in 17 games for Seattle, but showed off his supreme talent, still registering 8 goals and 2 assists in his shortened season.
  • Steven Gerrard – Another name known across the world, Gerrard joined the LA Galaxy for the 2016 season after an illustrious career in England, all with Liverpool. Another midfielder considered among the very best of his era, Gerrard scored 3 goals for the Galaxy and added another 11 assists.
  • David Villa – Spain’s all-time leading goal scorer, David Villa is another global megastar. He joined NYCFC in 2014 and, paired with Pirlo in 2016, scored 23 goals, showing that during his age-35 season, he’s still got it.

David Villa shoots

  • Nicolas Lodeiro – A name perhaps less familiar outside of South America, Lodeiro was one of the biggest stories in MLS in 2016. Joining the floundering Sounders in late summer, Lodeiro scored 4 goals and registered 8 assists in a mere 13 games, leading the Sounders all the way to the MLS Cup Final, in which he scored a decisive penalty kick to help deliver the trophy to Seattle.
  • Osvaldo Alonso – A longtime fan favorite for the Sounders, Alonso was another major cog in their MLS Cup Championship season. He managed 3 goals and 4 assists in over 2,800 minutes registered, but retained his reputation as one of the league’s finest central midfielders with an MLS-best 92.32% passing accuracy.
  • Giovani dos Santos – LA Galaxy’s 2016 Player of the Year in his first full season with the team, dos Santos flashed the skill that has made him a regular for the Mexico national team. He scored 14 goals and assisted 12 others, playing over 2,300 minutes as well as all of the Galaxy’s playoff games.
  • Robbie Keane – The longtime Tottenham Hotspur player and all-time leading goal scorer for The Republic of Ireland, Keane joined the Galaxy in 2011. In 2016, his age-36 season, he managed 10 goals, good for second on the team, and added 2 assists in only 17 games played.
  • Frank Lampard – Yet another legendary midfielder, Lampard is Chelsea’s all-time leading goal scorer and the only midfielder ever to score 150 goals in the English Premier League. He left England for MLS in 2015 and in 2016 scored 12 goals in 19 games played for NYCFC.

 

The 2016 End of Season MLS Stats

The regular season portion of 2016 Major League Soccer season came to a conclusion on Sunday, with FC Dallas winning the Supporters’ Shield (given to the team with the most league points) by 3 points from the New York Red Bulls.  New York City FC qualified for the post season for the first time, in only their second season of existence, and the Colorado Rapids improved their year over year points total by 21, to go from last in the West last year, to 2nd, and a 1st round playoff bye game.

Dallas finished in 1st in the West despite only being the 8th highest scoring team with 50 goals, the same number that the Columbus Crew SC, who finished 9th in the East scored.  New York City were the highest scorers in the league, yet finished one position below the Red Bulls, who scored one goal fewer.  The overall average for the league was 1.4 goals per game, which was slightly higher than the English Premier League last season (1.35 gpg in 2015/16).

As for the rest of the 2016 MLS stats:

Top Goalscorer:

Bradley Wright Phillips

  1. Bradley Wright-Phillips – New York Red Bulls (24)
  2. David Villa – New York City F.C. (23)
  3. Sebastian Giovinco – Toronto FC (17)
  4. Ignacio Piatti – Montreal Impact (17)
  5. Dom Dwyer – Sporting KC (16)

Most Shots on Goal:

David Villa shoots

  1. David Villa – New York City FC (68)
  2. Sebastian Giovinco – Toronto FC (59)
  3. Bradley Wright-Phillips – New York Red Bulls (56)
  4. Dom Dwyer – Sporting KC (44)
  5. Ignacio Piatti – Montreal Impact (42)

Most Team Shots on Goal:

Vancouver Whitecaps

  1. Vancouver Whitecaps FC(175)
  2. New York City FC (174)
  3. New York Red Bulls (174)
  4. FC Dallas (169)
  5. Philadelphia Union (167)

Most Assists:

Sacha Kljestan

  1. Sacha Kljestan – New York Red Bulls (19)
  2. Sebastian Giovinco – Toronto FC (15) 
  3. Mauro Diaz – FC Dallas (13) 
  4. Benny Feilhaber – Sporting KC (13) 
  5. Justin Meram – Columbus Crew (13)

Most Saves:

Jake Gleeson Portland Timbers

  1. Jake Gleeson – Portland  Timbers (118/160)
  2. Joe Bendik – Orlando City  SC (114/178)
  3. Brian Rowe – LA Galaxy (113/148)
  4. Steve Clark – Columbus Crew (112/161)
  5. David Ousted – Vancouver Whitecaps (110/166)

Yellow Cards:

Marcelo Sarvas Yellow Card

  1. Marcelo Sarvas – D.C. United (11)
  2. Roger Espinoza – Sporting KC (10) 
  3. Cristian Higuita – Orlando City SC (9) 
  4. Brek Shea – Orlando City SC (9)
  5. Luciano Acosta – D.C. United (9) 

Most Fouls Committed:

Luciano Acosta slide tackle

  1. D.C. United (507)
  2. Vancouver Whitecaps (479)
  3. Colorado Rapids (458)
  4. Orlando City SC (457)
  5. New York Red Bulls (450)

Least Fouled Teams

Colorado Rapids Tackle

  1. Colorado Rapids (341)
  2. Vancouver Whitecaps (373)
  3. Columbus Crew (376)
  4. FC Dallas (392)
  5. New York City FC (393)

Most Offsides:

Columbus Crew

  1. Columbus Crew (105)
  2. D.C. United (95)
  3. Chicago Fire (88)
  4. Toronto FC (79)
  5. New York Red Bulls (78)

 

Stats source: mlssoccer.com

The 2016 MLS Playoffs

After a long season of 34 league games,  the dust has finally settled, and a full 8 teams have been eliminated from the MLS playoffs, leaving 12 to compete for the championship.  While many MLS fans won’t be shocked by the Chicago Fire and the Houston Dynamo going home early, not many would have expected both of last year’s finalists to be sitting on a tropical beach in late-October, with the Columbus Crew finishing 6 points outside the playoffs and the reigning champions, the Portland Timbers, just missing out on the last day thanks to a 4-1 drubbing at the hands (or feet) of the playoff-less Vancouver Whitecaps.

In the East, both New York teams earned byes to the next round, with Frank Lampard coming on in the 73rd minute of NYC FC’s game against Columbus, when the score was tied at 1-1, to push the team to a 4-1 win and finish one point ahead of 3rd place Toronto. In the West, Dallas and last year’s bottom team Colorado got some additional rest time, as they finished in the top 2.

As for the first round matches… here’s a preview of each of the 1 legged, winner take all, games, which are to be played midweek this week.

Toronto F.C. v Philadelphia Union (Wednesday)

Regular season Toronto 1-1-0
Philadelphia UnionWith only 1 win in the last 6 matches of the regular season nobody can accuse Toronto of being the “in form” team, that solo win being a 3-2 squeaker against the basement dwelling Chicago Fire in the last game of the season.  One extra win in that period would have leapfrogged them above NYC FC, but it wasn’t to be. so they get to face a Philadelphia Union team that’s on an even worse streak than them, winless in 7.  On paper, Toronto should go through, they have the better team, have performed to a higher standard over the course of the season, and have home field advantage, but in a one game scenario anything can happen

LA Galaxy v Real Salt Lake (Wednesday)

Regular season LA Galaxy 1-1-0

The star studded LA Galaxy may have recently welcomed Landon Donovan back to the fold, but there is speculation that Steven Gerrard has announced his farewell to the team through an Instagram post.  Real were sitting in 4th place, prior to their last game, but a loss to Seattle meant that both they and Sporting KC leapt above them, meaning that they now have to take on an LA team they’ve been unable to beat in both meetings this season.

D.C. United v Montreal Impact (Thursday)

Regular season  0-2-0

DC United Patrick MulllinsD.C. United were the form team in the Eastern conference, with 4 straight wins, before the final day loss to Orlando, propelling them from just outside the playoff picture to a 4th place finish, and home field advantage against a Montreal team who’ve only won 2 of their last 8 games, and have an upset star in Didier Drogba who was recently fined for refusing to be named as a substitute.  In the 2 games that they played against each other this season, neither team was able to register a win, in this game one of them has to win.

Seattle Sounders v Sporting KC (Thursday)

Regular season Sporting KC 2-0-0

Seattle rocketed into the playoffs with 5 wins out of their last 7 games, and thanks to Salt Lake losing on the last day, they took 4th place, and a home tie against a Sporting Kansas City team that’s beaten them twice this season, although the last time was when Seattle were going through a bad patch of form in July.  Now, it’s Sporting that’s stuck in a rut of poor results, with only 2 wins in their last 9 league games (both over the, now vacationing, San Jose Earthquakes).

The Final Stretch of the 2016 MLS Season

The 2016 MLS season began with promise for so many teams, yet with every team now having played over 2/3 of their games, that promise has vanished for some, and

In the Western conference, FC Dallas, and last year’s worst team in the West, Colorado Rapids, have broken away from the pack, looking to have a lock on the top two places.  While only the Houston Dynamo, who parted ways with their Scottish head coach, Owen Coyle, in May, and the Seattle Sounders, who fired longtime coach Sigi Schmid, look to be out of the playoff hunt.

In the East, the top 5 of New York City FC, Toronto FC, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia Union, and the Montreal Impact have created a gap between them and 6th place, a position that DC United, Orlando FC (the other MLS team to remove their coach, Adrian Heath, this season), and the New England Revolution are scrapping for.

Over the course of this season we’ve seen fantastic goals, spectacular saves, crunching tackles, magnificent moves, player and coaching suspensions, and season ending injuries.  There was even a sighting of Superman at an NYC FC v New York Red Bulls game (obviously the Red Bulls were carrying kryptonite, as they defeated NYCFC 4-1 that day)

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…and a brief reenactment of Crouching Tiger,  Hidden Dragon at a DC United v Portland Timbers game.

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The most curious suspension this season, was that of D.C. United’s Head Coach, Ben Olsen, who was suspended for one game after entering the field of play during a loss to Toronto.  He didn’t enter the field of play in a pique of rage, or to do anything nefarious.  He saw that a second ball was on the pitch, right by his technical area, so he stepped on to get it away from play.  Technically, according to the letter of the law, that was an invalid action, so the league both suspended and fined him for doing so (his later suspension after he was thrown out of the game against the Philadelphia Union, for abusive language towards the referee, was to be expected).

Of course, the primary goal for a team is to score…well… goals, and we’ve seen plenty of them so far this season.  Some where the forwards tapped the ball past the goalkeeper from close range, such as these goals from the New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips, and from D.C. United‘s Álvaro Saborío.

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…as well as some long distance shots that produced spectacular, but ultimately futile, dives from the goalkeepers

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When the goals are scored, the teams naturally celebrate.  Some, such as D.C. United’s Marcelo raise their head and hands to the heavens.

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Others, such as the New York Red Bulls’ Ronald Zubar, leap and yell with delight.

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While F.C. Dallas‘ Maximilliano Urruti’s celebration appeared to indicate that out of all of the superhero shows on TV at the moment, he prefers “The Arrow”.

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Of course, not all attacks resulted in a goal, sometimes the keepers threw themselves at the feet of the attackers to prevent them from scoring, as demonstrated by Portland’s Jake Gleeson, diving to deny D.C. United’s Patrick Mullins.

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…and sometimes the keepers had to activate their slinky like spines to leap majestically into the air and keep the ball out of the net.

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There have been breakaways…

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Lunges for the ball…

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…aerial karate kicks

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…tugs and pulls

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…fancy feet, jinxing their way past defenders

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…and players using their strength to push their way through the opposition’s defenders.

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As to how the season will end… there’ll undoubtedly be more twists and turns, more spectacular plays, nail-biting finishes, along with joy and despair for supporters and players alike.  With the transfer window closed, all of the teams have to make do with the players they have, for better or for worse.  Only when October 23rd rolls around, and the last ball is kicked, will we absolutely know the 12 teams that have made the playoffs, then the post-season can begin.

 

Simon Heseltine is based in NYC, and does MLS photography for The Huffington Post, as well as digital marketing for Hewlett Packard Enterprise

 

 

MLS Playoffs 2015 Twitter Chatter

MLS Chatter twitter playoffs 2015

Soccer is built around rivalries. Take, for example, Manchester United vs. Liverpool, whose very public rivalry centered around a long campaign of media battery from United supporters in frustration of Liverpool’s dominance from 1976 to 1990, resulting in 10 championships.

In football systems – not just soccer but also gridiron football and rugby – rivalries drive the sport. They make casual observers into diehard fans. They fill stadiums in bad weather for teams with terrible records. They fuel legions of bar and pub debates; fill volumes of newspapers, magazines, and blogs; and generally drive the passions of anyone following the rivalry. In short, rivalries mean big business for those in the sports industry.

However, there seems to be something … odd … about the rivalries in Major League Soccer. While there are fans who feel true animosity toward other teams, there is a sense that the rivalries in the league are plastic and were set up by the league to encourage ticket sales. This argument is supported by the high number of rivalry cups contended for over the years. While it can be argued that college football also has a large number of rivalry games and tournaments, these developed organically during a nearly 150-year history. Most MLS rivalry cups are held between teams currently – or previously – owned by the same owner.

With the sense of rivalry already suspect in the MLS, the question of how fans are reacting to each other during these conference championships is an open one that may be hard to quantify concisely.

Measuring Positivity

MLF friendliest rival Twitter chatter

When looking at the sentiment scores of the four participants of the MLS Conference Championships – the Portland Timbers, FC Dallas, Columbus Crew SC, and the New York Red Bulls – an unexpected picture emerges. FC Dallas and Columbus compete for the Lamar Hunt Pioneer Cup, as both were owned by the Hunt Sports Group. However, looking at the sentiment of social mentions of the conference finalists reveals that this rivalry seemingly doesn’t make much of a difference.

The Portland Timbers received the highest sentiment score at 0.185, suggesting modestly positive sentiment toward the team online. Portland’s biggest rival is market competitor Seattle Sounders FC, which may help to explain why there is relatively little negative talk about the team on social media; besides Seattle, Portland has no market competitors.

At 0.0375, the New York Red Bulls have the lowest sentiment score of the conference finalists. The team’s only true rival is the New York City FC – which is weird, because the teams have not played each other yet – but, being in the super-metropolitan area comprising Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., the team will naturally have rivalry with other upper Atlantic coast teams.

Friendly Rivalry Online

MLS most positive terms Twitter chatter

Among the conference finalist-related terms that received the most positive sentiment are “Castillo FC Dallas” – a reference to Colombian-born FC Dallas forward Fabian Castillo, who signed a new five-year contract with FC Dallas this year and was added to the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Roster to play against Tottenham Hotspur FC – and “Zendejas FC Dallas,” referring to FC Dallas midfielder Alex Zendejas. The 17-year-old is in his first year with FC Dallas, previously playing with FC Dallas U-16 U.S. Soccer Development Academy team for three seasons.

Other high-ranking terms include sports broadcaster and national and international soccer correspondent Ashleigh Ignelzi, FC Dallas’s Toyota Stadium, and FC Dallas forward Blas Pérez.

While most of the top terms focused on FC Dallas, several terms focused on the other conference finalists, including Columbus Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark; “Portland,” “Timbers” and “Beaverton” – referring to the Portland Timbers and their training facilities in Beaverton, Oregon – and Columbus Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter.

It is important to note that while Portland vs. Seattle is a far cry in rivalry terms from Manchester United vs. Liverpool, the idea that both teams are discussed openly and with some enthusiasm online is a start. While the exploits of the National Women’s World Cup Team and their success in Canada this year helped to bring soccer into the consciousness of sports fans in this country, it still significantly lags behind other sports on the professional level – the MLS has the lowest valuation of all of the major American sports leagues.

However, with every passing year, more sports viewers develop a passion for the sport that has captivated the rest of the world, and – slowly – the rivalries that define and fuel the international soccer community are finding a home with America’s homespun teams. It is in these rivalries that soccer lives and soccer fans become diehard fanatics and devotees.

“The tension, the passion, from both sets of supporters and players,” U.S. Men’s National Team striker Jozy Altidore said to the Washington Post about the U.S. team’s rivalry with the Mexican team. “It just goes so far back, the game means so much more each time it’s played.”

Sources

Methodology:

We pulled every tweet with #FCDallas, #Timbers, #RBNY, and #Crew96, and using the Alchemy API, we looked at the targeted sentiment score of the most commonly used terms throughout. The targeted sentiment looks at the words around a particular term and determines on a scale of -1 to 1 how negative or positive these words are, with 0 being neutral.