Liverpool gain nine-point lead over City

Soccer Recap: Seattle wins MLS Cup, Liverpool top Man City, Bayern Munich stomp Dortmund

Credit: Major League Soccer

Seattle Sounders FC return to the pinnacle of American soccer after defeating Toronto FC 3-1 in front of 69,274 spectators on Sunday - a new record for a sporting event at CenturyLink Field. Across the Atlantic, Liverpool widened the gap between themselves and defending champions Manchester City in the Premier League title race.

Among the other top stories this week:

  • USWNT picked up 3-2 win vs. Sweden, 6-0 win over Costa Rica in Andonovski's debut as Head Coach
  • Judge grants class action status to USWNT in gender discrimination lawsuit
  • Ecuador's Independiente del Valle wins 2019 Copa Sudamericana
  • Barcelona / Real Madrid tied atop La Liga
  • Bayern Munich rout rivals Dortmund

Major League Soccer

The 2019 MLS season concluded with the MLS Cup championship game on Sunday. Seattle Sounders FC and Toronto FC met in the final for the third time in the last four years. Seattle defeated Toronto by a 3-1 scoreline to collect their second MLS Cup - joining the Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City with two league titles (only LA Galaxy and D.C. United have more with five and four, respectively).

2019 Major League Soccer Awards

  • MLS Cup Champion: Seattle Sounders FC
  • MLS Supporters Shield Champion: Los Angeles FC
  • Most Valuable Player: Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC)
  • Defender of the Year: Ike Opara (Minnesota United FC)
  • Goalkeeper of the Year: Vito Mannone (Minnesota United FC)
  • Coach of the Year: Bob Bradley (Los Angeles FC)
  • Rookie of the Year: Andre Shinyashiki (Colorado Rapids)
  • Newcomer of the Year: Carles Gil (New England Revolution)
  • Comeback Player of the Year: Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)
  • Golden Boot: Carlos Vela (Los Angeles FC) with 34 goals [MLS record]
  • Humanitarian of the Year: Matt Lampson (LA Galaxy)
  • Referee of the Year: Allen Chapman
  • Assistant Referee of the Year: Brian Dunn
  • Goal of the Year: Josef Martínez (Atlanta United FC)
  • Save of the Year: Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
2019 MLS Best XI

Goalkeeper - Vito Mannone (Minnesota United FC) / Defenders - Ike Opara (Minnesota United FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC) / Midfielders - Eduard Atuesta (LAFC), Carles Gil (New England Revolution), Maxi Moralez (New York City FC), Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC) / Forwards - Zlatan Ibrahimović (LA Galaxy), Josef Martínez (Atlanta United FC), Carlos Vela (LAFC)

The offseason is officially underway with a temporary trade window until Wednesday, followed by a series of offseason drafts. It is important to note that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire and will be an additional story to follow.

English Premier League

Most of the focus in the Premier League was on the battle of the top two teams from last season. Liverpool expanded the gap in the title race to a nine-point lead over Manchester City after a 3-1 win at home.

Top six: Liverpool (34), Leicester City (26), Chelsea (26), Man City (25), Sheffield Utd (17), Arsenal (17)

Scoring leader: 11 - Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Assists leader: 9 - Kevin De Bruyne (Man City)

Spanish La Liga

Lionel Messi scored three in Barcelona's 4-1 win over Celta Vigo. Real Madrid collected a 4-0 win at Eibar. The two Spanish giants share the top of the table on points and are on a collision course towards their December 18th meeting.

Top six: FC Barcelona (25), Real Madrid (25), Atletico Madrid (24), Sevilla (24), Real Sociedad (23), Athletic Bilbao (20)

Scoring leader: 9 - Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Assists leader: 4 - Several players tied

German Bundesliga

Bayern Munich looks to be back on the right course, responding to the dismissal of their Head Coach Niko Kovac with a 4-0 win over rivals Borussia Dortmund. Borussia Monchengladbach lead the Bundesliga standings at the moment.

Top six: Monchengladbach (25), RB Leipzig (21), Bayern Munich (21), Freiburg (21), Hoffenheim (20), Dortmund (19)

Scoring leader: 16 - Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Assists leader: 6 - Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Thorgan Hazard (Dortmund)

Italian Serie A

Top six: Juventus (32), Inter Milan (31), Lazio (24), Cagliari (24), Atalanta (22), Roma (22)

Scoring leader: 14 - Ciro Immobile (Lazio)

Assists leader: 8 - Luis Alberto (Lazio)

French Ligue 1

Top six: PSG (30), Marseille (22), Angers (21), St-Etiene (21), Lille (19), Montpellier (19)

Scoring leader: 9 - Moussa Dembele (Lyon), Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco)

Assists leader: 7 - Islam Slimani (Monaco) / Yoann Court (Brest)

U.S. Women begin new era

Newly appointed U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski got his first wins in a pair of friendlies after a 3-2 win over Sweden and a 6-0 rout of Costa Rica.

Copa Sudamericana

Ecuador's Independiente del Valle defeated Argentine side Club Atlético Colón with a 3-1 result at the Estadio General Pablo Rojas in Asunción, Paraguay on Saturday. This marked the first time the tournament was decided by a one match final in a neutral location. It is also Independiente del Valle's first international title. The Copa Sudamericana is South America's secondary international tournament, similar to the UEFA Europa League.

TV listings (All Times CT):

Tuesday, November 12

1:00 p.m. - [International Friendly] Netherlands vs. Slovenia (GolTV)

Wednesday, November 13

10:00 a.m. - [AFCON qualifying] Cameroon vs. Cape Verde (beIN SPORTS)

Thursday, November 14

10:00 a.m. - [AFCON qualifying] Egypt vs. Kenya (beIN SPORTS)

11:00 a.m. - [EURO qualifying] Turkey vs. Iceland (ESPN2, TUDN)

1:00 p.m. - [AFCON qualifying] Ghana vs. South Africa (beIN SPORTS)

1:45 p.m. - [EURO qualifying] Czech Republic vs. Kosovo (ESPNEWS)

1:45 p.m. - [EURO qualifying] France vs. Moldova (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [EURO qualifying] France vs. Moldova (ESPN+)

1:45 p.m. - [EURO qualifying] Portugal vs. Lithuania (TUDN)

Friday, November 15

6:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Nations League] France vs. Moldova (ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN)

8:00 p.m. - [Concacaf Nations League] Portugal vs. Lithuania (Univision, TUDN)

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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