The 11′s top 11 stories of 2011

The editor of this site is a self-professed geek. And, unlike almost every other writer I know, I enjoy crunching numbers.

So, when it comes to picking the year’s best stories, I let the numbers speak for themselves. I went back through Google Analytics and looked at the 11 stories you, the readers, kept reading and re-reading.

You can argue that a story put up in January has had more time to accumulate hits than a story slapped up just a couple of weeks ago. But, in truth, most of the traffic generated by stories happens in the first week after they go up.

And, as a lover of magazines and long-form journalism, I am relieved that the numbers confirm a massive trend we are seeing in online journalism. The stories with the most drawing power aren’t the news tidbits and rewritten press releases — the kind of stuff that everyone will get within 10 minutes. The stories that people are looking for are unique columns and interviews. (Thanks, iPad!) Yes, we’ll always let you know who Toronto FC made a deal to acquire or who the Whitecaps signed. But we know the kind of material that really grows the site are the features. The stats don’t lie — and that’s what they tell us.

As well, you will notice a lot of FC Edmonton content in the Top 11. I think it shows how much Canadian soccer supporters see us as the spot for news on Canada’s NASL squad. For sure, there are many places to get news on the Whitecaps, TFC and Impact. So, it’s no surprise that being a leader in covering FC Edmonton has been a major attractor of support to this site.

So, here are the top 11 stories:

Matt Lam

1. Big in Japan: Another FC Edmonton player leaves for JEF United (CLICK)
Japanese soccer fans are passionate. And they are obsessive. When we got this item up about Canadian Matt Lam going on a one-year loan to second-division Japanese side JEF United, the clicks just kept on coming. And most of them came from Japan. Ichihara. Chiba. Tokyo. It made this story easily the most read piece we have ever run.

2. FC Edmonton’s Sidra claims TFC reneged on contract offer
After signing with his hometown FC Edmonton, Eddy Sidra went on the record about his trial that went oh so wrong with Toronto FC. He claimed that TFC had promised him a deal, then, when Aron Winter was named technical director, that pledge was scrapped. Was a big draw for both TFC and FCE fans. Unfortunately, the former national teamer couldn’t beat the injury bug, and was released by FCE at the end of the season.

3.Sportsnet’s arrogance comes through in broadcast of NCC finale (CLICK)
From CONCACAF Champions League delayed by baseball broadcasts, to national-team games on upper-tier Sportsnet One, the broadcaster was subject to some angry Twitter campaigns from angry Canadian soccer fans. And this article, critical of how Sportsnet was promoting a baseball game during the NCC broadcast, got a lot of hits.

Alessandro Del Piero and his Juventus practiced at Lamport Stadium in Toronto before taking on Fiorentina at Rogers Centre. PHOTO: STEVEN SANDOR

4. Juventus and Sporting to meet at BMO Field in July (CLICK)
If only all the people who clicked to this piece actually followed through and bought tickets to the game… The game drew just 10,028 fans. So, there is clearly more interest in reading about international friendlies than actually going to international friendlies.

5. Surprise move: FC Edmonton’s general manager resigns
FC Edmonton lost general manager Mel Kowalchuk before the start of its first NASL season due to personal reasons. Kowalchuk’s name has been synonymous with soccer (Drillers, both indoor and outdoor) and minor-league baseball (Cracker-Cats, Trappers) teams in the area. He’s been a He still holds the presidency of the Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League, which has not yet given up the ghost despite the pledge of the Winnipeg Alliance that it won’t be back in 2012.

6. FC Edmonton loses midfielder van Gessel to Japan (CLICK)
Same reasoning for this story’s popularity as we had for our No. 1 piece. Basically, the JEF United/FC Edmonton loans spawned two hit singles. Matt Lam was likely more of an unknown quality in Japan, which made his story more popular than this one over there. And, Lam is Canadian. Sander van Gessel is Dutch. Explains why it was more popular over here.

7. TFC’s 4-3-3 philosophy bleeding into junior ranks (CLICK)
This story looked at how the top-down approach Toronto FC has made to the 4-3-3 system even affected feeder programs, such as West Toronto United FC. Story tied the Dutch coaching philosophy to player development.

8. FC Edmonton unveils new road kits, shirt sponsor (CLICK)
Jersey stories are always popular on the site. Maybe we’re all secret fashionistas. No, it’s just that the colours matter to us. FC Edmonton’s jersey unveiling got a lot of looks.

Justin Farenik

9. FC Edmonton defender Farenik restarts career after trio of brain surgeries (CLICK)
The story ran a couple of weeks ago, but already earned enough hits to get in the top 11. Why? Farenik could be one of the most remarkable stories of the upcoming NASL season. The Calgary native learned he had a brain tumor while he was playing in Belgium. Now, after three brain surgeries, he’s looking to make FCE’s starting XI.

10.Toronto FC vetoed Celtic loan for De Rosario: Sources
It was either Dwayne De Rosario’s dispute with the Toronto FC front office or the Canadian women’s team’s threatened strike action against the Canadian Soccer Association for the title of biggest domestic-soccer soap opera of 2011. I can honestly say that I have never covered a story with so much off-the-record information from multiple sources. The entire story will likely never come out, but it’s good to see that most of the parties have moved on. De Rosario sure has, winning the MLS MVP and the Canadian Player of the Year title.

11. New FC Edmonton GM says new stadium is top priority (CLICK)
Mel Kowalchuk’s resignation from FC Edmonton’s general manager position made the list, and so did the hiring of new FCE GM Tom Leip. And, Leip made no qualms about his No. 1 job — to get FCE a new home. Since then, there has been talk of moving to a new temporary stadium, and even Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has expressed his support to get FCE and the Women’s World Cup a new 10,000-15,000 soccer-specific stadium.

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.