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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Raves and Rants – Klinsmann, What ESPN’s SPI Tells Us & Stadia Not What They Used To Be

Written by on August 5, 2011 | 23 Comments »
Posted in General

Some of the best of the soccer web with an atrocious piece thrown in now and again.

This article comes from the July 2006 Observer but it seems like a good time to link to it given the proliferation of match-fixing stories and investigations.

Just to give a wee bit more context to the story Peter Swan was an England international who would have in all likelihood been a starter at the 1966 World Cup Finals and Tony Kay had become England’s most expensive signing when he moved to Everton.

It was an investment that Everton would see disappear after less than two years when the allegations broke.

Sporting Intelligence looks at the impact on this summer’s friendlies involving European sides in North America.

Official sign from Jonathan Wilson of getting old – he has an “it is not like it used to be” column.

Adrian Musolino bemoans the lack of a fan culture in the A-League – something that many MLS clubs have now established. Or to give credit where credit is due – something that fans have established at many MLS clubs.

An article written just before the 2006 World Cup by Spiegel writer Dirk Kurbjuweit that focused on Jurgen Klinsmann and the trials and tribulations of his times with national team.

It was part of a special international edition that focused on different elements of the tournament. I thought at the time the Klinsmann article was one of the best pieces of writing I had ever come across. I held on to the magazine and last weekend I read the piece again. It was as good as I remembered.

Next step was to try and find it on the internet and sure enough it was there. Simply put this article should be considered a “must-read” for anyone interested in the US national team.

A piece penned by Jurgen Klinsmann a year ago for the BBC during the World Cup Finals. It makes extremely interesting reading and over a glimpse into the future for the US national side.

Sam Kelly takes us through a week in which Argentina changed their coach and established a top-tier of 38-teams. Yes 38.

Zonal Marking’s best XI from the Copa America.

John van Laer takes a look at the upcoming Bundesliga season for WSC.

ESPN forecasts the chances of CONCACAF and COMNEBOL countries qualifying for 2014 World Cup Finals using the Soccer Power Index. We are told that the “Soccer Power Index is ESPN’s exclusive algorithm that is designed to forecast international and club soccer events.”

The ESPN Soccer Power Index has registered on the Soccer Report Extra BI – Bullshit Index.

A little bit more research back to December 2009 shows that ESPN describes their SPI as a rating “designed to provide the best possible objective representation of a team’s current overall skill level. In particular, the SPI ratings are intended to be forward-looking: They measure a team’s relative likelihood of victory if a competitive match were to be held tomorrow.

So unless World Cup qualifying is going to get underway and be wrapped in the next week the article is a crock.

Here are the SPI predictions made in December 2009 for group stage qualifying at the 2010 World Cup Finals

The success rate was 10 out of 16 – not much different than we would might expect from a reasonably interested fan.

Fitness tips for some of us who just cannot give up.

The BBC price survey of British football – programs, pies and a ticket.

A Globe and Mail editorial on “silent” youth soccer.

The article is a few weeks old and my apologies for not posting earlier. It is an interview with Dave Wasser – if you are looking for old NASL games Dave is the man.

The Diary of a Travel Team Soccer Coach” contributes his thoughts on player development.

Research shows that goalkeepers have a propensity to dive to their right on penalty kicks. The research goes into a situation analysis that takes the score into consideration.

At the risk of sounding like a smart arse I always thought it common knowledge that most keepers prefer diving to their right. It was something that was told to me decades ago and one of the reasons I use to put most of my penalty kicks to the keepers left.

The reason I was given for the majority of keepers choosing their right was simply down to most keepers being right-handed and right footed. The right-handed explanation is no brainer. The right footed not so much so.

If you are right footed you generally push-off on your left leg when jumping – hence a keeper more likely to go to his or her right. Also a reason why some keepers will line up just a little bit “off-centre” at penalty kicks because they are confident of covering more of the space on their right side.

Sid Lowe on Chelsea’s new signing Oriol Romeu. I have to admit to having only seen him a couple of times and certainly did not focus on him. Nonetheless his style reminded me of Nigel de Jong.


“Anyone can win the league; ourselves, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal or Chelsea.”

With this comment Sir Alex Ferguson establishes the baseline. Measurements to be taken as the season progresses.

“A similar player to Joao Plata, Avila could settle on the opposite side of a 4-3-3 formation that asks a lot of its outside attackers and allows them to run at isolated wing backs before providing quality service — a role Santos never worked in.”

That was a paragraph from a Toronto Sun article about Toronto FC’s CONCACAF Champions League win. The specifics relate to the acquisition of Eric Avila from FC Dallas.

#1 – I can’t remember Santos being asked to play wide on the right side of an attacking threesome.

#2 – “Isolated wing-backs” – very few teams in MLS play with wing-backs, they may play with full backs but why would full backs be considered isolated?

#3 – I have not watched FC Dallas as much I would have liked this season but it seems to me that I have never seen Avila play as part of an attacking threesome wide on the right – the mirror image of Plata on the left. Avila has usually sat either centrally or has pushed a bit to the right – but always midfield.

Sounds like another Toronto reporter sipping the TFC Kool-Aid.


Infostrada Sports

“2014 #FIFA World Cup Final will be played at #Maracanã stadium where in 1950 a record 199854 spectators watched the #WorldCup #final #Brazil – #Uruguay 1-2”

The Maracana will be the same stadium in the way that Hampden Park or Wembley is the same stadium ……or in other words it isn’t. The Maracana went through a redevelopment for the 2007 Pan American Games and is undergoing another in preparation for the 2014 World Cup. It isn’t anything like the stadium that hosted in 1950.

It reminds me of a Shops teacher we used to have. He was always telling us that tools had to be cared for and he would then bring out a hammer that he claimed was 25 years old and it had only needed three new heads and two new shafts.

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23 responses to “Raves and Rants – Klinsmann, What ESPN’s SPI Tells Us & Stadia Not What They Used To Be”

  1. Rob says:

    Bobby thanks for the articles on Klinsmann. That first one was brilliantly written and I can see why you saved it!

    Regarding that article, do you feel that Klinsmann sees the US as a place where the “enemy from with-in” just won’t be there or at the very least just not as bad?

  2. Rob – what a very good question. My best guess is that Klinsmann sees the USSF establishment (and that is a very broad footprint) as more malleable than the German version. As in the article no “Fritz Walter syndrome” to worry about.

    Having said that the US also presents different challenges – geographic area, the need to continue to encourage and grow grassroots participation while nurturing elite development and many more.

    One of things I was not able to get into the FSR or the podcast was the need for someone to be totally on top of Klinsmann’s messaging and communications.

    I don’t know if he envisages a full time communications manager as part of his backroom staff but in my opinion it is a very important position to cover of.

  3. Gus Keri says:


    To tell you the truth, I liked the second Klinsmann article more than the first. It was more pertinent to the current situation.

    The first article, I felt, a reflection of a time whem all of Germany was in doubt of what he was doing and although from the “art of writing” point of view, it was a masterpiece, I felt some “personal grudge” on the part of the writer. But I could be wrong.

    The second article on the other hand provides an insight into how Klinsmann thinks and plans.

    Two things caught my eyes:

    “Every nation has its own culture and specific environment as well as its own footballing identity, England have to develop their own vision and decide how they should play.”
    “As I found, making that vision work is not an easy process. It will take time and England’s results might not be positive while it takes effect.”

    The US fans need to be patient. It’s going to take time and we shouldn’t expect immediate success. We might not win against Mexcio but don’t dispair if we didn’t

    “England will also need the help of the Premier League. Every club coach will have their own philosophy but I tried to work with those in the Bundesliga to build something together.”
    “There are a lot of foreign players and managers in England but that should not make a difference. You simply have to explain to them what the style of play is that you want to develop and be prepared to persevere.”

    I hope he will implement his philosophy into all the MLS clubs. If he is able to install this full attack mentality to all the MLS clubs, it will be great.

  4. Gus Keri says:

    What happened to the “edit” botton?

  5. LA says:


    The more I read articles you post re Klinsman, the more I realize he is really following a blue print already introduced in Germany.

    One statement: “I could never coach a team that played defensive-minded football.”

    I bet that he will create a style of play as much as he “finds” one. Maybe a few adjustments due to talent limitations.

  6. Soccerlogical says:

    I think one of Klinsman’s main objectives should be getting the most out of this talented squad. Because in all honesty, the likes of a Robbie Rogers, Torres and Buddle are nowhere near the same class as Schurle, Holtby, Gotze, and Grosskreutz.

  7. Gus Keri says:

    UCL play-off draw:

    Udenese (Bobby’s favorite Italian side of last season) vs. Arsenal (Bobby’s favorite English club)

    Other interesting match-ups:

    Benfica vs Twente
    Bauern Munich vs Zurick
    Lyon vs Robin Kazan

  8. Gus Keri says:

    U-20 WC updates:

    For all lovers of the Latin style of soccer, rejoice!

    9 teams are assured of a place in the knock out round and all of them either a Latin country or a country known to play the Latin style, although not always successful result-wise.
    The interesting part is the fact that they are playing a very beautiful attacking soccer and achieving big results on the way.
    Look to the knock out round to be huge success.

    These are:
    Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Nigeria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

    We Already know one match up and it’s going to be a cracker if they kept their group stage forms:
    Argentina vs Egypt

    Another match up is
    Brazil vs (Nigeria or Saudi Arabia)

    Coutinho of Brazil and Ibrahim of Egypt lead the golden boot race with 3 goals. Ibrahim had the only hattrick of the cup agaisnt Austria.

    Today’s game:

    Group B: at 6 pm EST
    Portugal vs New Zealand
    Uruguay vs Cameroon

    Portugal already qualified.
    New Zealand qualify with a win or draw
    Uruguay qualify with a win or a draw
    Cameroon needs a win to qualify

    Group A: 9 pm
    France vs Mali
    Colombia vs South Korea

    Colombia already qualified
    South Korea qualify with a win or a draw
    France qualify with a win or draw
    Mali need a win by 4 goals (less win need other results to go their way)

  9. Gus Keri says:

    U-20 WC:

    One more thing:

    England will qualify to the knock out round today if New Zealand lose to Portugal or South Korea lose to Colombia or Mali beat France by less than 4 goals. Either result is enough.

    In other words, you can bet your money on it happening today.

  10. John Bladen says:


    Though I’ve only caught about half the TFC games I did last year I do recall that, early in the season, Santos played a single game – at least until subs moved him inside – on the right in a 4-3-3 (which at various times, as is the custom, became a 4-3-2-1… but let us not go down the fluid-formations-that-commentators-see-as-rigid route…).

    It was a colossal failure, as I recall. This did not distinguish it from the majority of TFC’s other inspired selection efforts this season. I don’t want to sound like I’m blaming Winter… I think he’s just seeing what he’s got. Judging by the wholesale changes, it seems he thinks he had about what rational football fans think he had…

    Anyway, I don’t recall the experiment being repeated.

    As for Avila, I’ve only ever seen him play centrally (again, in limited viewing opportunities). It would be nice to see some more out of market MLS games here in Canada, but with a third (and final) team coming next year, that seems unlikely.

    Waaay too much kool aid drinking in all forms of the game, IMO.

    It’s all well and good to say that one can’t judge a team unless you’ve seen “all” their games. The unspoken corollary being, of course, that you can’t accurately judge a team against it’s broader opposition unless you watch them play as well. No matter what the sport, watching “only” your favourite team will always give a completely false impression of it’s level of play (see Toronto Maple Leafs).

    None of us are immune from this. As a youth, when I judged my performance against my own previous performances, I always graded out higher than the 7-0 thrashings we suffered would have suggested…

  11. Soccerlogical says:

    Is it really a proper Paul Scholes Testimonial if Scholes doesn’t get red carded for a ruthless tackle on one of the Cosmos?

  12. Gus Keri says:


    In regard to the “goalkeepers diving right on PKs”, the researchers wrote:
    “it doesn’t have anything to do with being left-handed or right-handed.”

    They didn’t explain how they reached this conclusion. It might be explained in the full article, still to be published.

    It’s possible they compared “left-handed goalkeepers” vs “right-handed goalkeepers” and found no difference. Otherwise, they would look very stupid to make such claim.

    Maybe we should wait until the full article come out.

  13. Tim says:

    Can anyone remember Klin’s comments about Germany’s loss to Spain in South Africa? Didn’t he blame the coach for not sicking to their style….i really cant remember what he said, but it may be important when the US play a big team

  14. Gus Keri says:


    You are right.

    Germany played very cautious game against Spain and Klinsmann criticized them for abandoning their free flowing attacking soccer.

    But Klinsmann insistance on his style led to the two defeats against Italy in 2006.

    It was similar to Brazil story against Italy in WC 1982.

    live by the sword, die by the sword.

  15. Boris says:

    Borussia Dortmund is going to be a very exciting side to watch. Never mind Sahin. The current squard is even better with a healthy Kagawa, Goetze, Grosskreutz and the newcomer, Perisic. I can’t wait to see what they can do in the Champions League.

  16. LA says:

    Brazil loss to Italy 1982 one of the saddest soccer losses.

  17. Roberto Manita says:

    Dortmund’s going to be a breath of fresh air in the UCL this year. Good young team with an emotional coach. Best atmosphere in Europe too with their 80,000 strong full of beer swilling fanatics. Best to avoid them in your group.

  18. Gus Keri says:

    U-20 WC updates:

    Qyalifiers so far:

    South America: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia
    CONCACAF: Mexico
    Europe: Spain, Portugal, England, France
    Africa: Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon
    Asia/Oceania: Saudi Arabia, South Korea

    Eliminated so far:

    Uruguay, Mali, Panama, Austria and North Korea

    3 spots left in the round of 16, will be contested among 6 nations:

    Croatia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Australia, New Zealand and Ecuador

    Today’s games:

    Group C: at 6 pm EST
    Spain vs Australia
    Ecuador vs Costa Rica

    Spain already qualified
    Costa Rica need a win or a draw to qualify
    Australia and Ecuador need a win to qualify
    (other results for all might get them through but it will depend on other results)

    Group D: at 9 pm
    Nigeria vs Saudi Arabia
    Croatia vs Guatemala

    Nigeria and Saudi Arabia already qualified but both teams want to win it to avoid meeting Brazil in the round of 16. A draw will send Saudi Arabia to meet the Brazilian.

    Believe it or not, in spite of the two heavy defeats, Guatemala can still reach the round of 16 if they beat Croatia. (if they do what they did to the US, they might)
    Croatia need a win to move on.
    A draw most likely will eliminate both (it depends on other results too)

    New Zealand can only qualify if (Croatia drew Guatemala) or (if Ecuador draw at best and Australia loses.)

  19. Ed Gomes says:

    On the CL Playoff draw
    Lyon vs Rubin Kazan seems to be great. A tough draw for both squads, considering the options.

    Benfica vs Twente could also be a very good one.

    Bayern should pull through easily, even with Robben and Ribery on the mend, once again.

    Arsenal got a huge break in drawing Udi. Udi has been on a selling spree and are rebuilding once again.
    The only way Arsenal muff this up is if they don’t sell their sulking Captain. They have really jammed themselves up with this Cesc fiasco. Nasri stench, still lingers is the air as well. They have to keep Nasri as Cescs replacement, no?
    By the way, no improvements have brought in for a squad in need of them. Gervinho? really? Did people forget that RVP has a huge ego and wants nobody around him. Remember Chamak playing well last season and then disapearing?
    They still need a goalie. New one is the same as the old one.
    They still need a strong center back. Only talk of selling one, not getting one.
    Still, no leaders either.
    The only thing saving Arsenal in teh EPL is Tottenham not being able to spend, and Liverpool needing time.

    The U20’s it’s been fun to watch. It gets as bit crazy, with a lot of ball hogging, but I get the youngsters wanting to show their worth.

    As for Klinsman, there’s a lot of work to do. The US will be able to produce the athletes, but the coaching has to improve. Better ball handling and movement needs to be taught at the youth levels. I don’t mean playing like Barca, but it looks like nothing is being taught at younger levels. These traveling teams have become money making machines for people, and the kids are suffering instead of improving. And I’m coming from soccer crazy NJ. Yes, there’s some good programs, but a lot of the people involved just aren’t that good, they just think they are.

  20. Gus Keri says:

    U-20 WC updates:

    Today’s results:

    Spain – Australia: 5-1
    Ecuador – Costa Rica: 3-0
    Nigeria – Saudi Arabia: 2-0
    Guatemala – Croatia: 1-0

    Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala qualified

    the qualifiers are:

    South America: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador
    CONCACAF: Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala
    Europe: Spain, Portugal, England, France
    Africa: Nigeria, Egypt, Cameroon
    Asia/Oceania: Saudi Arabia, South Korea


    South America: Uruguay
    CONCACAF: Panama
    Europe: Austria, Croatia
    Africa: Mali
    Asia/Oceania: Australia, New Zealans, North Korea

    The two biggest surprises are:

    Uruguay’s elimination: Uruguay U-20 was burdened with the success of the senior and U-17 teams. They failed to deliver. Although they played very well in the qualifications where they eliminated the Olympic champion Argentina from London 2012.

    Guatemala’s qualification: After losing to Nigeria and Saudi Arabia with the combined 0-11, no body gave Guatemala a chance to beat Craotia and stay in the competition but that what they did.

    Round of 16 match-ups:

    Brazil/Saudi Arabia
    Spain/South Korea
    Colombia/Costa Rica

  21. Ian says:

    The Diary of a Travel Team Coach is the worst thing I’ve ever read. Is it meant to be tongue in cheek? Please tell me I’m missing the joke.

  22. Ian says:

    I keep reading some of his other posts and I cant tell if he is the worst thing in the world or if this is him poking fun of coaches like this. I’m fascinated.

  23. Ian says:

    Ok, hes definitely kidding. I feel foolish now.

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