Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:34 am

USA - Italy Preview

The Jurgen Klinsmann era of USA Soccer is a few months away from hitting full stride. The Americans begin CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying in  June and today’s match against Italy will be their first true test of 2012. With a “B” strength side (I prefer JV but "B" team is the going phrase around the world) recording wins Venezuela and Panama in late January, the last time the USA fielded their top senior side was during two-match trip to play at France (L, 0-1) and Slovenia (W, 3-2) in November 2011. Klinmann’s squad might have turned a corner in that 3-2 win at Slovenia several months ago, scoring three first half goals and breaking out of a scoring slump (1 goal in 5 matches) in the process. Thanks to injuries, the USA will feature most of their top senior players, but also a few youngsters that will need to pick up the slack and make the most of their opportunities.


GK – #1 Tim Howard (Everton), #18 Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), #23 Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEF – #2 Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City), #3 Carlos Bocanegra [C] (Rangers), #5 Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland), #6 Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), #15 Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), #21 Clarence Goodson (Brondby)

MID – #4 Michael Bradley (Chievo), #7 Maurice Edu (Rangers), #12 Fabian Johnson (1899 Hoffenheim), #14 Brek Shea (FC Dallas), #16 Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), #19 Daniel Williams (1899 Hoffenheim)

ATT – #8 Clint Dempsey (Fulham), #9 Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), #17 Jozy Altidore (AZ), #20 Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy)

INJURIES – Timothy Chandler, Oguchi Onyewu*, Jermaine Jones, Jose Francisco Torres, Stuart Holden*, Landon Donovan^ (*-indicates long-term injury, not selected for squad / ^-indicates illness)

The starting lineup isn’t too hard to predict, assuming that Klinsmann is throwing out his most experienced lineup. Howard should start in goal with a back-four of Bocanegra, Cherundolo, Spector and Goodson deployed in some fashion in front of him. The midfield is the most exposed with all the injuries and this is where I would make one interesting move. I would put Bradley and Edu in the center, with Kljestan and Shea at the wings, which would bump Dempsey up top to striker with Altidore. I expect the midfield to be rotating around a little bit anyway, but I’d stick with those four as starters because I think it gives the USA their best creative midfield and puts their best finisher (Dempsey) up top. Another option (and the one Klinsmann will likely do) is to drop Dempsey back to the midfield for either Kljestan or Shea and start Buddle up front. This isn’t exactly a deep bench for the USA, as the six outfield players I don’t have starting (including Buddle), have only 30 caps between them (Buddle and Parkhurst have 10 and 11 respectively and Boydhas yet to make his debut). Several of these call ups (Shea, Boyd, Williams and Johnson) were called up from the Olympic camp, perhaps to get them more first team experience, though Brek Shea likely could have made the squad without the injuries. The fact that Donavan and Dempsey still haven’t played together since Klinsmann took over as head coach is being a little overblown in my opinion, but there are still three warm-up matches before WC qualifying starts (Scotland, May 26 / Brazil, May 30 / @ Canada, June 3) and I highly doubt that Donovan missing a friendly in February is going to affect this team in any way.


I’m not going to type the mostly domestic 23-man roster Italy has selected for this game so here are the highlights: Forwards Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano will both miss the game with injuries. Man City forward Mario Balotelli was not selected for the squad. The Azzurri midfield paring of Andrea Pirlo and Daniele de Rossi is one of the best and most experienced (150+ combined caps) in the world and keeper Gianluigi Buffon could
probably play until he is 44.


The USA is 0-7-3 against Italy all-time, however, five of the last six meetings have been decided by one goal or less, the exception being the last meeting between these sides at the 2009 Confederations Cup, a 3-1 Azzurri victory. This is the first real test for Klinsmann’s new style and mentality and he has a roster that is capable of deploying his new attacking style. The USA has always had problems creating chances (and finishing for that matter…) in the run of play, but Klinsmann was brought in to solve that. The USA has never been the best team at possession, preferring to put men behind the ball and out working opponents to create chances. Expect to see a little more individual play with the USA midfield that will create runs for the wingers and strikers to create chances and shots against a stout Azzurri defense. Also, expect the USA to press a little higher up than in the Bradley era. If Klinsmann wants the USA to attack the game, then I don’t expect to see eight or nine men behind the ball every time Italy has possession.  But that doesn’t mean the USA can neglect the defensive side of the ball. The Italian midfield is still pretty good and considering I’ve seen about a thousand goals scored in Serie A this season, let’s just assume that any Italian striker can find the back of the net at the moment, if given the chance. This is a veteran USA defensive corps that has
been working out some kinks for what seems like the last ten years. A strong showing by the backline will only breed confidence going into the summer. Also, expect Tim Howard to play the full 90 minutes. As much as I like Guzan and Rimando as backups (likely Guzan will be named as a substitute with Rimando heading back to RSL preseason camp and not making the trip), when playing against world class opponents, you should keep your world class keeper in the net.


The WNT starts the 2012 Algarve Cup today in Portugal when they play Denmark. The WNT will also play Norway on March 2 and Japan on March 5 as well as a final match on March 7 against a TBD opponent. The Men’s U-23 Olympic squad will play against Mexico’s U-23 in Texas later tonight. The US Olympic squad begins qualification for London on March 22 against Cuba then Canada and El Salvador on March 24 and 26 respectively with the knockout semifinals on March 31 and the final on April 2.

Category: Soccer
Tags: Italy, USA
Posted on: June 9, 2010 10:40 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2010 7:24 am

World Cup 2010 - Group F Preview

At long last, we're three-quarters of the way done with the Group Previews. Here in Group F, it appears to be a rather cut and dry group of teams. One international power, two up-and-comers and one minnow. A really good sleeper match should happen between those two up-and-comers. But the the strangest storyline of the group: will that minnow go scoreless for a second straight major FIFA competition?

Group Previews - [A] / [B] / [C] / [D] / [E]

Italy [ITA] – Rankings (5 FIFA / 11 SPI)
Qualification – UEFA – Won Group Eight
Recent Matches – T 0-0 vs. Cameroon, L 1-2 vs. Mexico, T 1-1 vs. Switzerland

Say what you want about the defending World Cup champs and their recent form, but they have the easiest draw in the whole tournament. There’s no reason, based on rankings anyway, why the defending champs shouldn’t walk away with nine points here. The only way the Azzuri don’t top the Group F standings is if the sleepwalk through the group phase like they did in their warm-up friendlies.

New Zealand [NZL] – Rankings (78 FIFA / 91 SPI)
Qualification – Won OFC/AFC Playoff vs. Bahrain, 1-0 agg.
Recent Matches – L 1-2 vs. Australia, W 1-0 vs. Serbia, L 1-3 vs. Slovenia, L 0-2 vs. Chile

This is a team that I’d love to see succeed the in the World Cup. The Oceanic (OFC) Champions rarely get much more than a look over largely in part to the region they qualify from and this is only the second World Cup for the All-Whites. They have a total of one-point in major FIFA competitions, a scoreless draw vs. Iraq in the 2009 Confederations Cup, also in South Africa.

Paraguay [PAR] – Rankings (31 FIFA / 20 SPI)
Qualification – CONEMBOL – Third Place
Recent Matches – L 1-2 vs. Ireland, T 2-2 vs. Ivory Coast, W 2-0 vs. Greece

I really wish I had gotten to see more of the CONEMBOL qualifying, basically to see more of Paraquay and Chile. Paraguay has established themselves as a force in South America behind Brazil and Argentina in recent years. But how many CONEMBOL teams in the World Cup can say they beat Brazil and Argentina in the same qualifying campaign? Just one, La Albirroja.

Slovakia [SVK] – Rankings (34 FIFA / 49 SPI)
Qualification – UEFA – Won Group Three
Recent Matches – L 0-1 vs. Norway, T 1-1 vs. Cameroon, W 3-0 vs. Costa Rica

Any team that can get four points in a qualifying group against the Czech Republic should be considered dangerous. This is Slovakia’s first World Cup appearance as an independent country after decades combined as Czechoslovakia, but don’t mistake that for inexperience. The Slovakians have a deep soccer history and are looking to make a mark in their first World Cup.


Let’s face it, that second game isn’t that important. What is important is the result of that first game. A win sends that team through to the next round. A draw would likely mean a goal differential tie-breaker based on how many you beat the Kiwis by and how bad the Azzuri beat you.

PREDICTIONS                                     STANDINGS

ITA 2-1 PAR                                         ITA 2-0-1, 7 pts, +5 GD
NZL 0-2 SVK                                        PAR 2-1-0, 6 pts, +3 GD
SVK 1-2 PAR                                       SVK 1-1-1, 4 pts, +1 GD
ITA 4-0 NZL                                         NZL, 0-3-0, 0 pts, -9 GD

Italy [F1] and Paraguay [F2] advance to play Denmark [E2] and Netherlands [E1] respectively.

It’s really hard to give Slovakia just a gimmie point to Italy on the last day (plus the win to New Zealand) as their only real points in the group, but I think Paraguay is the better side. I think Italy will be resting players having already clinched a berth to the knockout round and that could give Slovakia a chance at a win but I see them being out of it by then. And I really want the Kiwis to score a goal. I really do. But they didn’t do it in the Confederations Cup and aside from Spain, they played two average teams and couldn’t do put on into the old onion bag. But I hope they do, and there won’t be anyone cheering more for it than me when it happens.

Posted on: June 22, 2009 12:27 pm

Confed Cup - SA 09 - Group Phase Power Rankings

Well, the semi-finals are set. The US will take on Spain this Wednesday and Brazil and the hosts South Africa will meet on Thursday to set up the finals and third place game. But, there are four teams that have been eliminated here, where is their place in all of this? Well, how about a quick power ranking of all the teams so far.

1 - Brazil (3-0-0, 9 pts, 1st Group B) - Brazil takes the top spot in our rankings, mainly because of strength of schedule. They annhiliated the Italians 3-0 yesterday, eliminating the Azzurri in stunning fashion. Brazil might not have played consistently throughout this tournament and yes, they were outplayed by Egypt, but they played three incredibly tough games in a tournament setting and after a scary start, played to their normal, dominant form, something that had been lacking in thier CONEMBOL qualifying efforts recently in my opinion.

2 - Spain (3-0-0, 9 pts, 1st Group A) - What else can I say here? Spain handled thier business, nothing more. They played comfortably in front most of their matches, say for the 1-0 win over Iraq. The were favored to win this group and rightfully so, they did what they needed to do and now play the US in the semis. And somewhere I bet the Spanish players are licking their chops, thanking Brazil for taking out the Italians. They can't overlook the US here. 35-match unbeaten and a 15-match winning streak, both records, are on the line.

3 - Egypt (1-0-2, 3 pts, 4th Group B) - Eagle, you can't honestly rank the "worst" team from Group B third overall. Um, yes I can. I can do what ever I want. Egypt came out and outplayed two teams ranked in the top 10 in the FIFA world rankings. Were it not for a late Brazil goal and the Pharohs coming out slightly flat against a pumped up US team, there would be two African teams in the semis. Egypt deserves to be here, there's not a doubt in my mind.

4 - United States (1-0-2, 3 pts, 2nd Group B) - Really, the US could and probably should be lower. But they played Italy tough for 60 minutes, 30 of which they were a man down. That 3-1 loss doesn't do the American's effort justice in my book. They played well when they had too and were able to advance by the skin of their teeth. I just hope this doesn't become a habit for the US team, their last advancement in a major tournament, the '02 World Cup, was lucky as well.

5 - South Africa (1-1-1, 4 pts, 2nd Group A) - I didn't give them much respect at the beginning of this tournament and I'm probably not giving them enough respect now. But South Africa's only victory was against New Zealand, and that's the only reason why they're advancing. I love what the home side has done, but there's not a doubt in my mind that the four teams above them played better opponents and were in better form, including the US, as strange as that sounds. I could put South Africa 4th, ahead of the US, but that would be an injustice. Blame the vuvuzelas.

6 - Iraq (0-1-2, 2 pts, 3rd Group A) - You know what, I like this. Iraq played a solid defensive strategy the whole tournament, played the best out of anyone in their group against Spain. I'm okay with this. Yes, the Iraqis didn't score a goal in the entire tournament. But they only allowed that one goal to Spain. I'm convinced this team can play with anyone and it's a shame that we won't be seeing them in the 2010 World Cup next year. They've already been eliminated in Asian qualifying. Still, this was a fantastic experience for a team that has to play all of it's games on the road.

7 - Italy (1-0-2, 3 pts, 3rd Group B) - This is the team that should be most disappointed right now. They were really out played the entire tournament with the exception of a 30 minute stretch against a 10-man US side. There's no reason to be down 3-0 at halftime in a game where a tie gets you to the next round. Sure, if the Italians won they had a chance to win the group, but they would have needed at least a 4-0 win, and maybe more, to do so. They could have played for a tie, taken a page out of Iraq's book and played 9 guys behind the ball the whole game. Instead, they're crashing and burning. I must note again that I picked them to win it all. Shame on me. This is what happens to teams that I pick to win and greatly underachieve. They go to the doghouse. But sadly, I can't put them last...

8 - New Zealand (0-2-1, 1 pt, 4th Group A) - I like the Kiwis, I really do. But I can't condone a celebration of a draw when you've already been eliminated from the tournament. That's disrespectful in my book, especially since they had just eliminated Iraq in the process. Aside from that, this team did play well in that final match and I can allow them to celebrate a little bit. They have yet to win a game in a major FIFA tournament, so a draw against a very good Iraq team is still a credible part of a nice resume this team is building up. They, like Iraq, didn't score in the tournament and aside from a miserable 5-0 dismantling by Spain, the Kiwis will take a great experience as they try to qualify in 2010.

If you'd like to debate this rankings feel free to comment below. Please be respectful and give insightful reasons to your opinions. I have already been called an idiot more times than I can count and I don't need reminding.

I'll be back with a semi-final preview tomorrow for both games, as well as predictions. Sadly, I'm going to be missing the US-Spain game live due to a doctor's appointment and I'm not DVR'ing the game. Why? Because the only game I didn't DVR was the one against Egypt. That game turned out really well. The other two, um, not so much. Probably will break out the running commentary again for the Brazil-South Africa game, but no guarantees. Until then, feel free to check out the rest of my Confederations Cup entries.
Posted on: June 16, 2009 11:25 pm

Confederations Cup - SA 09 - Group B Recap

Sorry for the late post, but since there wasn't any games today, I think everyone lived. I sadly DVR'd the USA-Italy game from Monday and started watching it just as the game was ending. We'll get to that in a second, but first, let's get to the morning game from Group B.

Brazil 4 - 3 Egypt

I kept a live commentary blog for each half of this game. Fantastic idea, but I don't think I'm going to be able to do that until the semi-finals. Either way, this was a fantastic game and I'm glad that I watched it live at 10 AM. I'd like to start by saying that I was right about Brazil. They showed flashes, especially early, of their old dominance but were out-played for most of the game. Egypt created all of their goals on the run of play and Brazil had to rely on mainly set pieces to score their goals. Even the winning PK by Kaka in the 90th minute was setup by a shot on goal by a free kick. Sadly, the rules of soccer clearly state that you can't use your hand in goal unless your the keeper and Egypt gave up the PK and red card. Which was really a shame because Egypt's back-to-back goals in the 52nd and 53rd minutes were truly brilliant. Brazil was outclassed throughout the second half and Egypt deserved at least a point from this contest. Unfortunately, their defense faltered again on a late free kick and they now face Italy and another loss would likely mean they would be unable to make the semis.

Italy 3 - 1 USA

I'd like to highlight a few different things about this game:

Ricardo Clark's Red Card

First off, that's a tough red card to give in a competitive tournament game. I've seen similar fouls get called in league play, but rarely international tournaments. As a soccer referee myself, I was mildly disappointed at the call, and the fact that Italy's Fabio Grosso didn't recieve a red card for his elbow on Landon Donovan just minutes later. Straight red cards like Clark's rarely happen. Clark clearly was going for the ball and made the mistake of following through the sliding tackle anyway. It wasn't malicious or intentional and was an easy yellow card, while Grosso's elbow could have denied a scoring chance for Donovan, which by rule is a red card. It's a shame that the referee changed the game dramatically in what had already been a decent game. If the ref keeps that card in his pocket, that might have been a fantastic game.

Landon Donovan

Here's a breakdown of Donovan's last 10 international goals - 8 PK's, 1 Free Kick, 1 Run-of-play goal. That last one goal means that it happened on something other than a set piece, free kick, etc. That doesn't mean that Donovan isn't a good scorer, but it means one of two things in my book. Either Landon is getting most of the defenses attention, or he's developed into an American David Beckham. What I mean by that is Donovan is a playmaker, but not the prolific scorer that everyone thinks he is. And really, that's not a bad thing. The US is going to need more players to step up, like Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, especially on the attacking end.

Jonathan Specter

If you DVR'd this game, do me a favor. Go back and see how many crosses this defender blocked out-of-bounds. It was unreal. Oguchi Onyeuw might be the backbone of the American defense, but Specter was probably the best defender on the American backline on Monday.

Giuseppe Rossi

The New Jersey native has duel citizenship in the US and Italy, where his parents immigrated from. He came on early in the second half and scored a unassisted goal to level the scoring just minutes after he came on as a sub. Rossi stole the ball from the US near midfield and rifled a shot from about 30 yards past US GK Tim Howard. Absolutely a world class shot. Rumor has it that former US coach Bruce Arenas gave up on Rossi during the scouting process and that's why he chose to play for Italy. I'm not buying it because frankly, Italy is the better international team and has better leagues than MLS. If he wanted to play competitve soccer at a high level, Italy isn't a bad place to go. So congrats to the local guy for doubling up his other country. Can't blame him for the USA's loss. Might be able to blame a certain referee though...

So what did we learn from this game about the US? Well for starters, we know they can play with the best in the world. The US gave up two long goals in the second half, the second goal was screened by Onyewu who might have deflected the ball slightly. The third goal (Rossi's second) was given up late in stoppage time and was more a factor of fatigue than anything else. This team held off the reigning World Cup champs for roughly sixty minutes, thirty of which with only 10-men. This was the first time the USA had lost a game when leading at the half in a very long time. Honestly, Brazil looked unimpressive at the end of their match with Egypt. You can score on them and if the USA focuses on their defense on set pieces, they could win that contest.

All right, I've got a standings breakdown that will get posted sometime tomorrow. I'm debating on whether or not to include Group A in that post since Spain is going to win anyway and I have no earthly idea who that second team will be from that group. The breakdown is really just a "what if" scenario for the outcome of all the games and what each team needs to do to make the semi-finals.

Fear Sam's Army

- Eagle

Category: Soccer
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com