Tag:USA
Posted on: March 23, 2013 2:54 pm
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USA Survives Snow, Costa Rica w/ Player Ratings

When the USA announced their first home game for The Hex would be played at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver, Colorado, they were looking for a game at altitude (and cold to throw off Costa Rica) to prepare for Mexico’s Estado Azteca and they were looking for a great home field
advantage. They got all that and whole lot more.

While some might have predicted snow in late March in the Rocky Mountains and perhaps that might not be the best place to play a soccer game, I humbly disagree. It’s a brilliant place to play a game, weather and all and the USMNT made the most of playing on their home turf, where they’ve been dominant in home qualifiers for well over a decade.

However, early in the second half with Costa Rica pressuring, the FIFA/CONCACAF match commissioner appeared to stop the game as the snow built on the field. However, the final decision fell to match referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador who listened to the players (at least, were
assuming that’s what happened), had the grounds crew shovel off the lines again, and continued play. There was significant debate about whether the game would be abandoned and restarted, or delayed and restarted later. With the weather probably not improving in the Denver area over the next few days, stopping the game after 55 minutes seemed the better option to trying again on Saturday or Sunday with both teams having games on Tuesday.

The USA, with a first half goal from new captain Clint Dempsey, was able to weather not only the storm but consistent pressure from Costa Rica. However as the field conditions deteriorated, so did the hopes of a Costa Rican comeback and the USMNT, complete with their makeshift backline, off the field drama and possible broken locker room rose above it all and got what they desperately needed: three points.

Now it’s on to Mexico to face the suddenly struggling El Tri, who dropped two points at Honduras after a Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez brace had them in front, 2-0. Now the USA sits second in the table with a 1 win, 1 loss record and three points, just one point behind Honduras and one
point ahead of Mexico. A win at Estadio Azteca would not only be historic, but it would put the USA significantly ahead of their rivals in The Hex standings.

Onto the match ratings…

Men/Women of the Match – The Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Grounds Crew (10) – Words cannot describe the effort that these people put out to make this game actually possible. From continually shoveling off boundary and penalty box lines to plowing of the field at halftime, the grounds crew survived the elements along with the players. There are even pictures of a [USMNT signed snow shovel ](hopefully a game used snow shovel) that should be prominently displayed underneath DSG Park.

GK Brad Guzan (7) – Wasn’t needed often to actually stop shots,  but with the poor conditions he was required to come of his line and claim a number of crosses and back passes which he did beyond well in the blizzard. Came off his line and missed a corner once in the six and was saved by a correct offside flag in his first USA game in almost four years.

LB DaMarcus Beasley (9) – For a player that hasn’t played for the USMNT since in almost four years, at a position he only rarely features at, Beasley was outstanding. He defended well, was able to join in the attack and linked up well with the midfield.

CB Clarence Goodson (7) – Added a lot of stability in the backline and kept the defense organized. He was able to add the veteran presence that was sorely lacking in center defense against Honduras.

CB Omar Gonzalez (6) – With passing kind of a hit or miss thing on the ground, Gonzalez was called on to own the air and he did for a young player in such awful conditions.

RB Geoff Cameron (5) – Not a great day for Cameron, especially late in the game giving away some silly fouls. I think the conditions affected him the most on the defense but the US didn’t really have anywhere else to turn to so Cameron featured on the right, where he plays regularly for Stoke City.

CM Michael Bradley (6.5) – A quiet day for the big midfielder as his offense was pretty much negated from the start off the game. He hung back and let his holding midfield partner move up forward in the attack.

CM Jermaine Jones (5.5) – Had a sloppy second half and was rightly subbed off in the late stages. Received a yellow card mid way through the half and could have gotten worse from his forearm to a Costa Rican player, deep in his own corner.

LM Herculez Gomez (6) – Odd to see Herc lined up on the left hand side, not that the formation really meant anything after kickoff. Not a whole lot to say on the attack, but he provided excellent cover for Beaseley on the left more than once despite his more natural forward position.

AM Clint Dempsey (8) – Besides the goal, which was brilliant, Dempsey was consistently able to drive the attack forward, getting the ball to Jozy up front or on the flanks to his various midfield partners. Put the team on his back for 90 minutes once again.

RM Graham Zusi (5) – Consistently got into space and even more consistently put crosses out of bounds. Just like Cameron on the right, Zusi seemed to be the most affected by the conditions and never really found a rhythm to the game and was subbed off after 75 minutes.

ST Jozy Altidore (7.5) – I’ve been waiting for Jozy to have a game like this. He played as a lone striker as a legit target man and was able to hold the ball to help build up the attack at times. His shot from distance deflected straight to a wide open Dempsey for the winner. For the longest time Jozy has only affected games when he scores (which has been rare of late) but yesterday he was everywhere in the attacking third and if conditions were better, I'd bet he would have scored.

HC Jurgen Klinsmann (7) – It was a solid lineup from Klinsmann that preformed well despite mainly surviving the entire second half and generating little possession. I would have preferred some of the substitutions earlier, especially Zusi and Jones coming off, who both clearly spent most of the second half struggling. But it was his performance during the week leading up to the game that deserves praise as the veteran leaders
in the locker room (Dempsey, Bradley, Gomez) rallied behind their coach and went out and got three points.

SUB Eddie Johnson (6) – Got about 15 minutes to affect the game and his pace on the wing immediately caused problems for Costa Rica but ultimately the conditions stifled any chance of EJ changing the outcome.

SUB Maurice Edu (6) – Was able to provide some much needed fresh legs for the final stages as well as another big body in the back, but that was all he had time for.

SUB Kyle Beckerman (NA) – A stoppage time cameo for the RSL midfielder.



Category: Soccer
Posted on: March 22, 2013 9:29 pm
 

USA - Costa Rica Lineups and Preview

Okay, here we go, lineups for tonight's game in Denver:

USA Lineup (4-2-3-1) – GK: Guzan; Cameron, Gonzalez, Goodson, Beasley; Jones, Bradley; Zusi, Dempsey [C], Gomez; Altidore

Not surprising to see DaMarcus Beasley getting the rare start at left back with the USA thin on defensive options. Geoff Cameron will slide over to right back, where he normally plays for Stoke City and Gonzalez and Goodson will lineup in the center in front of Guzan. All in all, it could be worse for the USA defensively. I like the idea of Zusi, Dempsey and Gomez playmaking in front of the holding midfielders Bradley and Jones. I’ve never liked Jozy Altidore playing as a lone striker, but ideally the formation will have Gomez and Dempsey alternating playing as the second striker and outside midfielder hitting in crosses with Zusi primarily playing on the left side.

I expect to see a lot of Dempsey, Gomez and Zusi bringing the ball and leading the counter attack. In the build-up plays, I’d like to see Cameron coming up from the right flank for two reasons: I don’t want Beasley over exerting his position on the backline and because I expect the right flank to be open as Dempsey moves around the field. All I want from Guzan and the backline is organization. Costa Rica’s attack is not to be taken lightly and many of the MLS guys know why.

Options for the USA on the bench will include the versatile Eddie Johnson, who could feature up front as a striker or as a winger. Kyle Beckerman is the extra holding midfielder, Matt Belser and Justin Morrow the extra defenders. Playmaking wingers Sasha Kljestan and Brek Shea are available as well as the striker Boyd. Brad Davis is not in uniform as the “24th player.”

Costa Rica Lineup

Navas, Gamboa, Gonzalez [C], Umana, Bolanos, Oviedo, B Ruiz, Saborio, Barrantes, A Rodriguez, Miller

The player to remember in this lineup is Alvaro Saborio, Real Salt Lake striker and one of the best goal scorers in CONCACAF. He’s known for playing well against the USA and he’s in good form in the MLS. And since he plays in nearby Salt Lake, don’t expect him to be affected by the elements.

Weather Watch

Shocking, but it’s snowing at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver, Colorado so I’m sure that’s going to make this match extra entertaining. Hopefully we won’t see a lot of cold related injuries in this game. I hope the local Dick’s has some extra thermal wear and orange soccer balls…otherwise that would just be embarrassing.

Also, the match referee's will have to sign off on the pitch. There is accumulation on the field and it's up to the refs to determine if the game can be played.

Honduras 2 – 2 Mexico

What it means for USA: Well it means that Mexico now has two draws in their first two games after a late Honduras rally nullified Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s early double. So if the USA beats Costa Rica tonight, they’ll be on three points, one ahead of Mexico heading into Azteca. With all the controversy surrounding the USA leading up to this game, it should be mentioned alongside of Mexico’s early struggles and Honduras’ leap to the top of the CONCACAF table.



Category: Soccer
Posted on: March 20, 2013 11:58 am
 

Brian Straus' USMNT Bombshell

For the first time in my life, I saw something "blow up" on Twitter. Mainly because I've only had an account for the better part of a week however, and since I am only following soccer websites, writers and analysts, the bombshell that was dropped on the USMNT was bound to get noticed.

That bombshell came from AOL Sporting News' Brian Straus. It is one of the [single greatest peices of journalism] I've ever read. In fact, I want you to stop reading this stupid blog and go read it if you haven't already. Click the link. Then comeback and finish this. Here's the link again.

[http://aol.sportingnews.com/soccer/
story/2013-03-19/jurgen-klinsmann-u
s-mens-soccer-coach-national-team-u
sa-american-world-cup-2013]

Just about every major soccer website in the USA has been reacting to this story since it came out yesterday afternoon. There are a lot of varying opinions but I hope mine is a simple one. Jurgen Klinsmann is, as of right now, on the hot seat. And his preperation style must change. Immeadiately. Not his player selection (save for one defender...), not his line-ups (as long as it's a 4-4-2), but establishing a gameplan for qualifiers needs to happen. Now.

For those of you saying that it's just a bunch of unnamed sources, this is 22 unnamed players (a minimum of 11 players in MLS), staff and others associated with the USMNT. This is not a few poeple airing dirty laundry about Jurgen Klinsmann, this is not a case of if there's smoke there's fire. This is a full blown, 10-alarm blaze that is threatening the USA's qualification for the 2014 World Cup.

The most alarming part of all of this appears to be Klinsmann's general lack of tactics. I'm pretty sure that most of the players in camp are getting conditioning and nutritional help from their club teams. National teams have only a few short days/practices to decide on a formation and gameplan for an upcoming qualifier or friendly. So if all this talk about Klinsmann spending time on condidtioning (January camp aside, where I'd expect some conditioning work for the MLS guys in the offseason) and other "non-soccer" stuff is true, then the USA could be staring at one point in The Hex through three games.

That is a far cry from the heightened expectations Klinsmann put on the USMNT when he took the job. He wanted to change the USA into a more technically skilled side, much like his 2006 Germany team that finished third in the World Cup. And Klinsmann does bring up some good points in this article, some like these changes won't happen overnight and some that I think are lost in translation. When Klinsmann says he wants the USA to play like Spain, I want to believe that Klinsmann means he wants the USA to play at the level of Spain. And four years ago, the USA did just that. How? By being tactically organized, playing good defense, countering well and finishing the few chances they get.

It was called boring soccer. Bob Bradley soccer. It was the soccer Klinsmann want to get away from. It was the type of soccer that the USA could never win a World Cup playing. It's also the soccer that the USA is the best at. Why? Because that's the type of players we have. We don't have a Lionel Messi type player and the USA might never have a player like that. You can't change the talent pool that you have right now. Right now, you have the best generation of players the USA has ever had in its history. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra. Theses guys have been playing for the better part of the last decade. You're not chaging what they are, what the USMNT is right now. What you have is a very technically sound group of players who when organized, are very tough to beat. And I think up until recently, the rest of the world knew it. Not anymore. Not after struggling in the semifinal round of CONCACAF vs. Jamaica and Guatemala. Not after Brian Straus' bombshell.

I said before this tournament started that the USA needed four points from it's first three games. Draw at Honduras, Win vs. Costa Rica, Loss at Mexico. Basically, defend your home turf and sneak results on the road when you can. The USA started with the three hardest opponents in the region and two of those games on the road. This is about the worst case scenario to start qualifying from. Add in Landon Donovan's sabbatical, Tim Howard's injury and the first choice defense being unavailable, and perhaps we shouldn't be shocked if the USA has one point through three games. 

With all this being said, the fact remains that the USMNT will have to survive this story and survive the next two qualifiers. That's all I can ask them to do right now. It's early enough in The Hex to where I'm not going to push the panic button immeadiately after the USA doesn't win against Costa Rica. But this needs to be a wake up to Klinsmann and the rest of the USMNT coaching staff. Pick a formation (here's a hint, it's a 4-4-2) and give players defined roles. If that means Dempsey is going to be up front as a striker, fine. If that means Eddie Johnson is a left midfielder, fine. But that means they should be practing at that position leading up to the game.

If for some reason this blog should find the USMNT and/or Jurgen Klinsmann, I have a message for you. Or rather, Carlos Bocanega does, who [posted on his Facebook page.] I don't care about Bocanegra's form with Racing Santander (whom he hasn't played for in almost two months), that man is the captain of the USMNT. And Klinsmann had better get him back into the squad for the June qualifiers.

That is if Sam's Army doesn't run him out of town by next week.


Category: Soccer
Posted on: March 18, 2013 6:22 pm
 

Breaking Down the USMNT Roster for March

Jurgen Klinnsman is putting a lot of faith in a defensive backline that fell apart in Honduras barely a month ago. But this time, long time captain Carlos Bocanegra won't even be on the bench.

[Detailed Roster - USsoccer.com]

Klinsmann and the USSF announced the 23-man roster that will face Costa Rica and Mexico on Friday, March 22 and Tuesday, March 26 respectfully. Several other US regulars are missing due to injury, including keeper Tim Howard and defenders Steve Cherundolo, Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson. That means a variety of young defenders with only a total of seven international games (Omar Gonzalez the most experienced with four) will likely feature with Clarence Goodson (34 caps) and Geoff Cameron (12 caps). And without Tim Howard in net, longtime backup Brad Guzan (who's killing it with EPL side Aston Villa) will be between the pipes with MLS veteran Nick Rimando likely on the bench (Chicago Fire keeper Sean Johnson also is on the squad).

 It is also possible that Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones or DaMarcus Beasley (who played leftback against Trinidad & Tobago in a WCQ in 2009) could feature in defense as well at some point during the next two games, despite being natural midfielders.

Klinsmann and the USA will have a wide variety of options in midfield as well, with regulars Mike Bradley and Clint Dempsey joined by a host of playmakers including Brek Shea, Sasha Kljestan and Gharam Zusi. Several regulars are also up front for the USA attack, inlcuding Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson and Herculez Gomez.

I wasn't a big fan of Klinsmann's lineup against Honduras and with more injuries to the backline it makes too much sense for Bocanegra to starting in the backline. So leaving him off entirely means that something is wrong with Bocanegra health wise or he has fallen out of favor with Klinsmann. These are two crucial games coming up for the USMNT and almost a must win against Costa Rica in Denver, Colorado this Friday. Klinsmann is putting a lot of faith into a backline including young Omar Gonzalez, who will be a defensive stalwart in this squad with Geoff Cameron for the 2018 World Cup cycle, but he's being called up too early for 2014 Brazil. MLSers Matt Belser (Sporting KC), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake) and Justin Morrow (SJ Earthquakes) only have one international appearance each and while all three are good defenders, they're also completely unproven on the international level. 

As always with the USA, it will be down to the midfield, more importantly Mike Bradley (who should get the captain's armband as well in my opinion) to control the pace of the game and shield the defense. If Clint Dempsey is featured up front instead of the midfield, his link up play with Altidore or Gomez will be the key. Dempsey is going to have chances of his own, but it's the ones he creates for others that I think drives the US attack. This is why I prefer Dempsey in the midfield, or maybe an attacking mid in a 4-4-1-1. Eddie Johnson also had a productive game against Honduras at left mid and has been tremendous up front for the Seattle Sounders early in MLS.

Either way, these next two games will set the stage for the rest of the US WCQ campaign and the USA can't afford to fall farther behind then they already are.    




Category: Soccer
Posted on: March 18, 2013 6:09 pm
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Posted on: February 26, 2013 4:00 pm
 

USA vs. Honduras Players Ratings

Like I said, I’ve never done one of these before so here goes nothing…

Players will be graded on a 1-10 scale though I guess zeros and elevens are possible if someone plays that poorly or awesome. This is just
on the individual contributions of the player to the game/team and are completely my opinions though I will try to as fair as possible to everyone,
including guys that I’m not fond of (Danny Williams) or who are in bad form with the USA (Jozy Altidore).

Also, for those who didn’t read my full entry on the game, I missed the first 30 minutes due to a small broadcasting error. My local
establishment did not have BeIN Sports as part of their DirecTV package (but they did in 2012) which left me scrambling to find an alternative viewing spot. According to my sources, I didn’t miss much. On to the rankings…

GK #1 Tim Howard – (7) – Had several good saves in the first half. Spent most of his day trying to organize his disastrous backline and
probably cursing. Loved his reaction to the first Honduras goal which was somewhere between shocked, impressed and WTF is my defense doing.

LB #23 Fabian Johnson – (4) – After stabilizing the problematic USA left back spot last year, didn’t really have a great impact on
the game at either end, especially in the second half as Honduras consistently pressured the US goal.

CB #5 Omar Gonzalez – (3) – Generally an ineffective day for the young LA Galaxy back, and that was before he failed to mark Bengston on
Honduras’ winner. You might be able to get away with that in MLS Omar, but certainly not against international competition.

CB #20 Geoff Cameron – (4) – I know that Cameron has all of 12 caps at 27 years of age, but that made him the elder statesman of this
makeshift back four of the future. He needed to step up and lead this bunch and clearly wasn’t ready or didn’t want that responsibility. Harsh, but in my opinion true, Tim Howard isn’t the only guy who can get on defenders.

RB #2 Timmy Chandler – (3) – Timmy, when Steve Cherundolo takes his job back next month, I want you to watch everything that he does and then copy it. As far as you’re concerned, Steve Cherundolo is God. Jurgen Klinsmann is the personnel officer who hired God. The fact that Cherundolo [just underwent knee surgery ]does not change this. (Anyone who knows that reference is my hero, leave the guesses/answer in the comments.)

LM #18 Eddie Johnson – (6.5) – My first reaction to Eddie lined up on the left: What is Klinsmann doing? Thirty minutes later I was sad
to see him get subbed off. Great energy and pace on the left on both ends and easily could’ve scored the opener if Duece wasn’t there.

CM #4 Michael Bradley – (6) – Spent too much time picking up what little clearances the defense gave him. Very poor day from set pieces
generally although he very nearly set up the equalizer in stoppage time with a corner. Did he ball watch on the equalizer? Possibly, but not nearly as bad Omar did on the winner so I wasn’t as upset with it…it’s a perfect overhead kick, you can’t defend a world class strike.

CM #13 Jermaine Jones – (6.5) – Very solid first half, filled the center of the midfield very well and was the only player to consistently create movement, especially on the attack. A perfect pass to Dempsey for the opener and another player I was sad to see subbed off.

RM #14 Daniel Williams – (3.5) – I don’t want to keep saying that Danny isn’t an international starter, but until he proves me wrong I’d
rather see him come off the bench where he might be able to impact a game for 15 minutes because he just doesn’t do it for the first sixty. Rightfully first man subbed off and that’s saying something with the way the backline was all day.

ST #17 Jozy Altidore – (5) – Just didn’t get to see enough of the ball because he doesn’t have anyone to get it to him and he doesn’t come
back enough to get it. I’m okay with Jozy getting starts, he’s killing it for AZ, but he’s a pure striker, always facing goal. He needs someone who can play off him better like Gomez or Dempsey/Donovan on the wings. He just gets lost out there when the US doesn’t give him a chance to run onto the ball and the few half chances he does get are few and far between.

ST #8 Clint Dempsey – (7) – Amazing finish though sadly only the second best goal of the game. Still don’t know why he started up front
instead of at right mid but either way, didn’t get the ball enough and when he did couldn’t do much with it.

Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann – (3) – Terrible lineup, no fluidity to the formation, but I actually thought that the three early subs were aggressive and attack orientated but at the end of the day nothing can save him from that disastrous backline performance with Bocanegra sitting on
the bench.

SUBS

MF #7 Maurice Edu – (6) – Had an immediate impact coming in for Danny Williams, mainly because of his predecessor’s performance. His energy
level  alone between the boxes should be enough to see him featured in the next set of qualifiers.

MF #16 Sasha Kljestan – (5.5) – Tried to make an impact on the left side but didn’t have enough opportunities in the thirty minutes he was
on the field but his playmaking ability in the midfield can’t be denied, when his team can actually gain possession.

MF #19 Graham Zusi - (4.5) – Spent most of the time fouling on the right wing and was in my opinion lucky to escape a yellow on multiple
occasions. Almost assisted on the equalizer off a corner late in the game.

 

 

Category: Soccer
Posted on: February 26, 2013 3:51 pm
 

USA Drops WCQ to Honduras

Oh boy, here we go again…

Yes, I’m back, first blog entry in a while (since when do 6000 people read my MLS Power Rankings?) and I know that you’re all excited to read my soccer entries.

I’m not. Just months after the US MNT won their semifinal qualifying group by the skin of their teeth, Jurgen Klinsmann and his boys get
thumped 2-1 at Honduras to start the final CONCACAF WCQ round, also known as “The Hex.” I want to write about happy things. Good games where I write about things the USA can improve on, not awful things that need to be blown up…like our defense.

I’ve never done one of these before, but I’m posting a separate player ratings entry with to give a little more info on the how the individual players did, because this entry is going to focus on a broader problem with the US MNT.

For starters, I’d like to thank BeIN Sports/TV or whatever the hell you call yourselves for making it nearly impossible to watch USA away games. I understand you have the rights to the CONCACAF stuff due to a very complicated broadcasting system for international soccer (basically each country/federation only controls their home games). Dear FoxSoccer / ESPN, if you guys ever lose a bidding war (ESPN’s Alexi Lalas says there was never an offer to do the USA away games from anyone but whatever, I think I heard this from his Twitter feed which I’m not counting as a source) to a station that is not even in this hemisphere again, I hope you both go bankrupt. Seriously, ESPN can get all of the Mexico qualifiers but not USA? Spare me your excuses, this stuff matters to some of us and it’s a joke that I have to leave my house and miss the first thirty minutes of the game trying to find an establishment that has DirecTV.

Secondly, the actual game itself wasn’t terrible. I’m actually a fan of the USA dominating the midfield and building up attacks with possession. Not that they did either of those effectively against Honduras, but when it did happen there was good soccer, capped off by Jermaine Jones’ brilliantly weighted ball that sent Clint Dempsey (and Eddie Johnson) through on goal with an equally brilliant first time volley to the back corner of the net. It’s hard to say what the USA did wrong on the Honduran equalizer. It’s a corner that’s so bad it ends up on the other wing, it’s re-centered and
bicycled in past Howard very quickly. Sure the cross could have been contested better on the wing but Geoff Cameron/Michael Bradley were marking their men well enough that the bike/overhead kick was about the only thing Honduras’ Juan Carlos Garcia could do. The winner however is a completely different story. Where to begin…Gonzalez is watching it, Cameron has no idea what to do with it, Howard doesn’t help anything, Gonzalez is still watching it and Jerry Bengston has a tap-in. Ugh. Then after that goal, the USA actually shows some life and energy and tries to scrape an equalizer but it’s too little, too late, game started at 4PM EST guys, it’s almost 6PM.

Third, if these are the results that Klinsmann is going to give us, then I’m going to say this: If Bob Bradley can get fired for making the Round of 16 at the WC, when does Klinsmann get canned for having us at the bottom of the table? I’m serious. I’m putting about 70-75 percent of the blame for this loss on Klinsmann. His defensive back four selections for this game was laughable and ineffective at best. Tim Howard spent most of his day bailing them out, watching them get beat and failing to clear the ball out of the defensive third. If my boy Jerry Bengston (NE Revolution, MLS DP) put any shot on goal other than the winner this could’ve been 4-1 Honduras. But that’s okay, Carlos Bocanegra was on the bench for reasons that elude me. I understand that Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron and the now cap-tied Timmy Chandler are the future defensive unit. That’s for Russia 2018, not Brazil 2014. That means Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo (who missed the game with an injury) are in the starting
lineup. Period. For more on Timmy Chandler and the rest of the defense, you’ll have to go to my player ratings entry, they’re kinda the focal point of my angst.

This game (and the qualifying cycle in general) proves just how badly the USA misses Landon Donovan. There was no wing play today for several
reasons, mainly because USA didn’t have any wingers. Clint Dempsey apparently is now a striker, Brek Shea was too injured to join the national team (but he can transfer to Stoke) and Landon is MIA. Fine, Eddie Johnson did a decent job on the left side for a guy that normally plays striker and he was clearly more effective than Danny Williams who continues to get caps despite never doing anything. And I like Danny, but he’s not a starter at this level yet. I didn’t have a problem with Jozy Altidore up front but he didn’t have a good strike partner. I would have rather seen Herculez Gomez up front with Dempsey on the outside mid. Michael Bradley was rendered ineffective because of the complete breakdown of the USA formation, which should ALWAYS be a 4-4-2. PERIOD. This is America, let’s not try to be something that we’re not. We play defense, have
box to box midfielders and we don’t have silly miscommunications that lead to soft goals because our center backs are sleeping. By the way, Omar, Jerry Bengston is behind you.

Here’s how the formation should have been at the start of the game, reading left to right: Howard; F. Johnson, Cameron, Bocanegra,
Chandler; E. Johnson, Bradley, Jones, Dempsey; Altidore, Gomez

Am I crazy? I understand there were limits to this particular USA roster and it’s a very odd, one time game on the road with a roster than came together apparently on Monday? Why though?

 I didn’t post anything on the USA-Canada friendly because it was pointless. Essentially, a USA MLS All-Star team played the Canadian Olympic team (U-23 with De Rosario and Dunfield) in a scoreless draw that Klinsmann used to fill out his bench and third keeper spot (Chicago Fire keeper Sean Johnson had a solid game in net though). You know what might have been a good idea coach? Trying to figure out who’s going to start at defense in the opener against Honduras. That means calling up Chandler and the rest of the European based players into camp and working on communication and chemistry. I don’t give a hoot if that pisses off their clubs, this is WCQ on FIFA international dates. If you know that you’re
starting right back (Cherundolo) isn’t playing, why not see who can replace him? I’m all for getting a lot of guys capped and bringing up the MLS guys to see who can hack it with the A-Team, but not for qualifying. You have to have your best players in camp for two weeks, European clubs be damned. This isn’t politics, it’s soccer, no playing nicey-nice with the Euros because they don’t like our qualifying schedule. Tottenham will just have to find someone else to score goals in the spring while Clint Dempsey scores for the USA. Clearly the tail end of last year proved that the USA has dropped back to the pack. You just can’t show up at Honduras and Jamaica and Guatemala and just expect to win anymore without anything less than your full side. You’re going to play games on crap fields, during a monsoon or 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity against teams that are gunning for you.

So for the love of Sam’s Army act like you want to be there. Or stay in Germany. Yes, that was directed at you Chandler, welcome to the US
MNT. Now park your butt on the pine and thank Jamaica for a scoreless draw at Azteca against Mexico. Because the USA sits only one point behind Mexico…

And El Tri have dropped two points at home.

Category: Soccer
Posted on: March 27, 2012 8:26 pm
 

US Soccer's 2012 Olympic Failure No Big Deal

After watching the USA Men's U-23 team have victory against El Salvador, and progression to the CONCACAF Olympic Qualification semi-finals, snatched from them at the last minute I was just as disappointed as the players who sat down in disbelief on the field. But just as equally disappointing to me is the actual CONCACAF Olympic qualification process, which puts it's the best four teams from the group phase into essentially a one-game playoff with two berths to London on the line.

Regardless of my disdain for the actual qualification tournament, the true problem with the CONCACAF qualification is that the matches do not fall under an FIFA International Fixture date, meaning clubs are not required to release players for international duty. Several top US Olympic hopefuls such as Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar, Denmark), Danny Williams (1898 Hoffenheim, Germany), Timmy Chandler (FC Nuremberg, Germany), Alfredo Morales (Hertha BSC, Germany) and Josh Gatt (Molde, Norway) were not released from their first team duties and Gatt was actually recalled to Norway due to injuries to other players.

That's a significant portion of the USA's talent pool that isn't allowed to be selected because FIFA doesn't care about the Olympics. Yes, while the Olympic soccer football tournament is often called the U-23 World Cup, it really isn't. First off, only 16 teams qualify for the Olympics, rather than the full field of 32 for the top World Cup and 24 for the U-20 and U-17 World Cups. And unlike those previous competitions I mentioned, CONCACAF (North/Central America and the Caribbean) only sends two representatives to London (UEFA - Europe will send four with hosts Great Britain while the AFC - Asia, CAF - Africa will send three each with a four bid up for grabs in a playoff before the games start).

Now, I took a shot at FIFA before explaining all that, and for good reason. This technically isn't a FIFA sanctioned tournament, so while they force clubs to release players for the Olympics, they can't force teams to release players for qualifying. Teams at the Olympics aren't allowed to wear their countries "badges" or emblems but instead wear their national flags in their place. The reason FIFA doesn't care about the Olympics is basically becase they aren't making money off of the tournament, the IOC is. And since most leagues are off during the Olympics, very few leagues (such as MLS) are actually affected by Olympic call-ups. And FIFA (and by FIFA I mean Sepp Blatter) is less inclined to help out CONCACAF (and the USA) by releasing players because of Blatter's hatred of MLS's league calender because it's not the same as Europe's. (I made that reason up, but it's true, Sepp Blatter thinks MLS should play at the same time as the EPL, i.e. in winter...hope LA likes to visit Foxborough, Mass. in January...)

Does this take away the sting of the USA's failure to qualify for London 2012. No, but do you really expect a team without it's two best forwards (Altidore and Agudelo, who was injured during the tournament) it's first team defense (everyone in Europe I mentioned above) and back-up keeper (Sean Johnson replaced Bill Hamid during the El Salvador match after he injured his knee) to win three games in five days and then a winner-takes-all match four days later? You'd be hard pressed to find any team in the world whose second team could qualify for a major tournament. You can question Caleb Porter's decision to not sub out Hamid until after he gave up two goals, you can question why players are being asked to play games every other day for a week with a 20-man roster, which doesn't allow a lot of room for substitutes and leads to some very tired looking players, especially those players who aren't playing regular minutes with their club teams...which is about everyone on the USA roster that plays in Europe. 

And at the end of the day, the experience that many of these players are getting abroad and domestically with their club teams might be better than playing friendlies and tournaments agaisnt CONCACAF teams. But that only works if said players are actually getting first team minutes. Terrence Boyd made his senior debut for the USA against Italy as a substitute before playing his first professional game with his club in Germany, yet Boyd is being relied on to start and win games for qualification to the Olympics instead of two players in Altidore and Agudelo who are regular senior team call-ups. Certainly these players want to make the Olympics, but they have well paying club gigs waiting for them while the largely domestic players representing El Salvador view the Olympics as their Super Bowl. And they have a good chance of progressing and seeing that dream.

But for the USA, there are bigger fish to fry. And several of the players who didn't qualify for London are going to be relied on to get the Yanks to Brazil in 2014. And if you're playing in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, are you going to care that you didn't play in London 2012? 

Not a chance. 
Category: Soccer
 
 
 
 
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