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    • Back in the glory days of the 24thMinute.com (no one blogs anymore. It’s kind of sad, he says ironically) I used to publish a monthly projection of the MLS standings that was designed to take into consideration the massive swing in fortune between teams playing at home and on the road. Many TFC fans got irrationally angry at such a suggestion because, at the time, they had seen no evidence of teams excelling at home. Man, weren’t those early days fun! However, the simply projections proved to be remarkably accurate throughout the years that I published them. After a Twitter exchange with Kurt Larson and Doug Roberson of AJC.com earlier this week I was compelled to revisit my old tracking system. The impetus to the discussion and my curiosity was the fact that Atlanta has an absurd six game home stand in September.  As with TFC’s absurd road trips to start 2015 and 2016 the reason for the long stretch at home is stadium related. The Falcons are building the latest shrine to the NFL (No, Tom Brady has not been invited to the grand opening) and Atlanta United is sharing in the spoils. By all accounts it’s going to be one hell of a stadium. It must be because it’s not exactly one of those Soccer Specific Stadiums Don Garber talks about when it fits his agenda. At any rate, Larson felt that this long home stand, combined with a current solid run of form, meant that Atlanta was in the Supporters Shield race. Roberson, who covers the team for AJC.com, agreed, with the caveat that Atlanta was a difficult team to project in 2017. I, the contrarian I tend to be, disagreed and I threw a whole bunch of those fancy stats at them to back up my opinion. Specifically they have the worst PDO in MLS, were 12th in xGoals, 19th in xGoals against and 12th in TSR. For those who read the above paragraph as Greek – the PDO number means they are, statistically speaking, the luckiest team in the league, score way more goals than their possession and shot placement would suggest, let in fewer goals than the same against them would suggest and they typically give up more shots than they get themselves (which has proven to be a very effective measure of success in global football, albeit less so in MLS). Now, part of the reason Atlanta’s numbers are lower might be because they’ve played more road games than home games (12 to 8), but it’s still dangerous to ignore them completely. There’s little to no guarantee that a home heavy schedule will automatically mean that you can just automatically say 6 x 3 = 18 GO! Just ask 2015 TFC about that… But, anyway. I decided to break it down into the simplest projection I could think of to try and factor in the home schedule of Atlanta’s to see how much of a penitential threat the upstarts are to TFC’s Shield run. Before I present the table please remember that I fully understand that a projection based on past performance in no way guarantees that the same form will continue. It simply means that IF teams continue to play the way that they have this season thus far we can reasonably project that they will finish with X amount of points. This isn’t a complicated formula (H pts / H GP x 17) + (R pts / R GP x17) = Projected final points. Here are the results:   East 1.       Toronto FC 66 2.       Chicago 62 3.       NYCFC 59 4.       Atlanta 59 5.       NYRB 54 6.       Columbus 49 7.       Orlando 45 8.       Montreal 44 9.       Philly 39 10.   New England 39 11.   DCU 30 West 1.       Dallas 61 2.       SKC 54 3.       Houston 53 4.       Seattle 50 5.       Vancouver 48 6.       Portland 46 7.       San Jose 43 8.       RSL 38 9.       Galaxy 37 10.   Colorado 31 11.   Minnesota 27 Plan. The. Parade. Ok, maybe not, but the projection backs up the eyeball test that TFC remains the clear favourite to capture the Shield and it also suggests, as most eyeball tests have also suggested, that Dallas is the class of the West. Another thing that it suggests is that if you’re under the red line in July, it’s going to be a fight to pull above it by October. It’s happened, but far, far less likely than the hype-masters at league headquarters would have you believe. The standings at the 2/3 point are usually pretty close to how things will shake out at the end. In terms of Atlanta, it does show a very healthy return on points, but ultimately they are probably too far back already in MLS, where 6 points might as well be 20. Of course it all resets to 0 once the final 12 are decided. As for TFC…maybe don’t plan the parade, but start sketching out the Shield winning tifo design. Quietly. You wouldn’t want to jinx it, after all.     
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    • Back in the glory days of the 24thMinute.com (no one blogs anymore. It’s kind of sad, he says ironically) I used to publish a monthly projection of the MLS standings that was designed to take into consideration the massive swing in fortune between teams playing at home and on the road. Many TFC fans got irrationally angry at such a suggestion because, at the time, they had seen no evidence of teams excelling at home. Man, weren’t those early days fun! However, the simply projections proved to be remarkably accurate throughout the years that I published them. After a Twitter exchange with Kurt Larson and Doug Roberson of AJC.com earlier this week I was compelled to revisit my old tracking system. The impetus to the discussion and my curiosity was the fact that Atlanta has an absurd six game home stand in September.  As with TFC’s absurd road trips to start 2015 and 2016 the reason for the long stretch at home is stadium related. The Falcons are building the latest shrine to the NFL (No, Tom Brady has not been invited to the grand opening) and Atlanta United is sharing in the spoils. By all accounts it’s going to be one hell of a stadium. It must be because it’s not exactly one of those Soccer Specific Stadiums Don Garber talks about when it fits his agenda. At any rate, Larson felt that this long home stand, combined with a current solid run of form, meant that Atlanta was in the Supporters Shield race. Roberson, who covers the team for AJC.com, agreed, with the caveat that Atlanta was a difficult team to project in 2017. I, the contrarian I tend to be, disagreed and I threw a whole bunch of those fancy stats at them to back up my opinion. Specifically they have the worst PDO in MLS, were 12th in xGoals, 19th in xGoals against and 12th in TSR. For those who read the above paragraph as Greek – the PDO number means they are, statistically speaking, the luckiest team in the league, score way more goals than their possession and shot placement would suggest, let in fewer goals than the same against them would suggest and they typically give up more shots than they get themselves (which has proven to be a very effective measure of success in global football, albeit less so in MLS). Now, part of the reason Atlanta’s numbers are lower might be because they’ve played more road games than home games (12 to 8), but it’s still dangerous to ignore them completely. There’s little to no guarantee that a home heavy schedule will automatically mean that you can just automatically say 6 x 3 = 18 GO! Just ask 2015 TFC about that… But, anyway. I decided to break it down into the simplest projection I could think of to try and factor in the home schedule of Atlanta’s to see how much of a penitential threat the upstarts are to TFC’s Shield run. Before I present the table please remember that I fully understand that a projection based on past performance in no way guarantees that the same form will continue. It simply means that IF teams continue to play the way that they have this season thus far we can reasonably project that they will finish with X amount of points. This isn’t a complicated formula (H pts / H GP x 17) + (R pts / R GP x17) = Projected final points. Here are the results:   East 1.       Toronto FC 66 2.       Chicago 62 3.       NYCFC 59 4.       Atlanta 59 5.       NYRB 54 6.       Columbus 49 7.       Orlando 45 8.       Montreal 44 9.       Philly 39 10.   New England 39 11.   DCU 30 West 1.       Dallas 61 2.       SKC 54 3.       Houston 53 4.       Seattle 50 5.       Vancouver 48 6.       Portland 46 7.       San Jose 43 8.       RSL 38 9.       Galaxy 37 10.   Colorado 31 11.   Minnesota 27 Plan. The. Parade. Ok, maybe not, but the projection backs up the eyeball test that TFC remains the clear favourite to capture the Shield and it also suggests, as most eyeball tests have also suggested, that Dallas is the class of the West. Another thing that it suggests is that if you’re under the red line in July, it’s going to be a fight to pull above it by October. It’s happened, but far, far less likely than the hype-masters at league headquarters would have you believe. The standings at the 2/3 point are usually pretty close to how things will shake out at the end. In terms of Atlanta, it does show a very healthy return on points, but ultimately they are probably too far back already in MLS, where 6 points might as well be 20. Of course it all resets to 0 once the final 12 are decided. As for TFC…maybe don’t plan the parade, but start sketching out the Shield winning tifo design. Quietly. You wouldn’t want to jinx it, after all.     
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    • At the time, I was living in Pakistan at the Tarbela Dam Project with my parents. There was a large Italian construction community there and after the win, they all got in their cars at 2 in the morning and honked their horns all the way through the construction town for 30 minutes. Woke us all up wondering what was going on.  
    • I’ve often told the story about how the first soccer game I remember watching in its entirety was the high water mark of the Canadian men’s national team – the infamous day in St. John’s when a bunch of hosers qualified for the World Cup for the first and only time. I’m the anti-Drake. I started from the top and now I’m here. However, that’s not the first soccer memories I have. Growing up in a family with British heritage (my grandmother was born in Bristol, England, and I have family in the UK to this day), I was exposed to all sorts of English culture from a young age. I eat beans on toast, watch Doctor Who (although I picked that habit up as an adult – On The Buses and Are You Being Served? were more of my childhood staples) and, most relevant to here, have always had an affinity to sports played in the UK. Had soccer been on television more often in the early 80s, I’m sure my young self would have watched it. I know that I was aware of it though and I spent a great deal of time learning about British sporting heroes. I was likely the only person in my elementary school who knew who Sebastian Coe was. I also knew who Wayne Gretzky was, obviously, because try as I might my English heritage was never going to overshadow my Canadian upbringing. Thus, when I stumbled upon that game in St. John’s oh so many years ago it was like a light-bulb went off in my head. Finally I had found something that was totally and completely mine – something that combined all aspects of my evolving self-identity into a single thing that was new and exciting and that spoke to a Canadian experience that seemed modern and different from the experience that my parents had had growing up. Although at the time I probably just thought it was cool. I wasn’t that deep as a kid. At any rate, these thoughts came back to me today upon reflecting on an anniversary of significance for Italians and for the city that I now call home. It was 35 years ago today that Italy won the 1982 World Cup. At the time this had limited impact on my life. As I said, I was aware of soccer, but watching the World Cup final was not something I would have considered important at that time (maybe if England was playing, but they weren’t and Italy had no personal connection to me in any way). But, what I do remember was being at my Aunt’s house the next day when the Toronto Star came to the door. Upon looking at the front page, which featured 500,000 people celebrating the win on St. Clair West, Auntie Mona let out an audible gasp – paraphrasing, she said something along the lines of “I can’t believe there are that many people here that care.” I’m sure a lot of people in Toronto said the same thing that day. It was the last time they said it though because that was the day that would forever betray the idea that soccer wasn’t important to a great deal of Canadians. It was the day that Pierre Trudeau’s image of a multicultural Canada that blended traditions and passions of both here and there into one unique Canadian experience became real.   Moving away from the sociopolitical, it was also a day that changed the sport in this country. If you look back on the soccer participation boom of the 1980s, it likely started with that image of 500,000 people that cared. That was also the day that other cultures started to slowly tear away from the British dominance in managing the game. Soccer had always been here, but it started its march to the mainstream that day. There were also a lot of young kids of Italian decent that watched that game that day and then traveled down to St. Clair West to celebrate that ended up getting deeply involved in the game. But, they did so with the same (if slightly more Mediterranean) outlook as I had. They were of Italian decent, but they were also Canadian. They too brought a blended experience to their soccer passion. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually that lead to a soccer culture that is thriving now – a culture that instinctively understands that it’s possible to have duel (or more loyalties) and that there is something in the sport for everyone. Obviously, the national team success is a different story (but not if you extend it to the women, where the North American mindset towards equality has allowed the New Country to surpass the Old when it comes to the women’s game – I guarantee there were people in that attached photo that also were also smiling in 2012 and 2016 when Canada claimed bronze), but on a participation level and a spectator level there absolutely has evolved a uniquely Canadian perspective on the Beautiful Game. A perspective shaped by Italy in 1982 and 2006 and Canada in 2012 and 2016 and by the arrival of a new domestic club culture starting in 2007 (and by hundreds of other moments from both here in Canada and around the world). It doesn’t have the same length of history as you’ll find in other parts of the world, but the history it does have is every bit as real and reaffirming. And it all started when 500,000 Canadians of Italian decent took to the streets and told us soccer matters.     
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    • Let’s not be subtle here. If the allegations are true – and it’s a little hard to come up with a scenario where they aren’t – then Cyle Larin was, well, a dumbass last night. He blew .182 blood alcohol level. That’s not “had a glass of wine too many” drunk. That’s I can’t see straight, blind hammered. There is no way he possibly thought he could drive. There’s very little possibility he thought, period. This was a major, major lapse in judgement and no one should be making excuses for him. In fairness – and this is the only bit of fairness I’ll allow him today – he hasn’t come out and made any excuses so far today. He, nor the club/league/CSA, haven't said anything at all. That’s not anything to celebrate, but the lack of excuse making is at least not rage inducing. By all accounts, he was “cooperative” during the arrest. Thank God, for small miracles, I guess. Look, we all make mistakes. And, we all deserve chances to make up for those mistakes. For two years, in my early 20s, I worked as a correctional officer for young offenders. The idea of redemption and rehabilitation is close to my heart. I will watch Cyle Larin’s next moves closely and, so long as this isn’t a pattern of behaviour, I will continue to wish him the best. But the other side of redemption and rehabilitation is consequence. You can’t have the former without the latter and Cyle Larin will need to face consequences for these actions. He most certainly will legally – I suspect he’ll have to park that Mercedes for a while – but he should also face them professionally. Earlier today, I ran a poll asking whether Larin should be excluded from Canada’s Gold Cup roster because of this. As of writing, close to 500 people had responded with 55 per cent agreeing that he should be left home. The majority is right. This is a serious incident and the CSA needs to react in a serious way. To fail to do so is to value the potential of soccer success over doing the ethically responsible thing.   One mistake should not destroy a career. Larin should, and absolutely will, get lots of opportunity to redeem himself. We all should hope he does. But, not before he is appropriately punished. Leaving him off the Gold Cup roster is a perfectly appropriate punishment.          
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