Archive for July, 2009

USA vs. Honduras review: Business as usual

Get used to Stu Holden celebrating

Get used to Stu Holden celebrating

Chances are if you watched today’s USMNT game at Soldier Field in Chicago it won’t rank high on your list of memorable USMNT games.

There was little flair though, yes, a very positive performance. 2-0 for the good guys.

However for those of us who report on the USMNT, Gold Cup and US progression in hemispheric and global soccer, this game was about one thing really: reinforcement

I’ll save one major reinforcement observation for a column on Friday, but here’s what was reinforced today if you partook in the viewing:

- This is clearly Stu Holden’s last Gold Cup as a proving ground. Holden was clearly dominant. He was so sure of his play that he allowed things to develop and rarely made a mistake.

- Robbie Rogers has it, but needs time to develop. Rogers was again hurried, but this time aggressive. His crosses were excellent. He took a knock on the head in the mid 2nd half and wasn’t the same, but Rogers will be on display for awhile.

- U.S. strikers (more on this tomorrow) need to play a more active and creative game.

- Logan Pause, Jay Heaps, Davy Arnaud are skilled players, however may not be worthy of advancing for their country passed Gold Cup level.

- And Brian Ching in one play showed his true potential if he could develop more deft touches with the ball.

Beyond these observations, the US played a solid if unspectacular game.

Now, let’s get into the analysis.

As usual, we go: Summary – Preview Follow-up – Ratings

Best Play of the Game: (Troy Perkins) While the Yank’s Holden-to-Goodson corner for the first score was textbook, it was Troy Perkins who made the play, and save, of the game coming out in the 85th minute to thwart a Honduran run up the middle. Jay Heaps, cleaned up the mess, but Perkins was clinical in closing down the threat and keeping the score 1-0. Well done.

Most Unheralded Play of the Game: (Clarence Goodson) This is the second game in a row that the emergency center defender earned this. After earning the start, it was in the 75th minute that a well-played cross was played into open space in the US back third, Goodson–once again showing the technical acumen TSG applauded him for in the Panama game–took a specific and perfect angle in stopping Carlos Costly from turning him and having an unimpeded path to goal. Goodson’s body angle and positioning, shear perfection. Well played.

Golden Shinguard: (Stu Holden) If this award went to Chad Marshall, Clarence Goodson, Troy Perkins or Brian Ching I’m not sure anyone would dispute it, but Stu Holden was simply an all-star among pros. There is no better way to phrase it.

Preview Follow-up:

Here’s what TSG was looking for prior to the game:

Will Parkhurst (who we figure to start) and Marshall clamp down on Carlos Costly? We say yes

The answer is an emphatic yes, with a slight exception. BB tabbed Clarence Goodson to start and despite being a little soft as the game drew to a close, both Goodson and Marshall proved that the center back position is a U.S. strength.heading into South Africa

Davy Arnaud – we want you to test the Honduran final curtain with your speed and quickness

Arnaud, in short, disappointed. He did not link up well at all with the midfield and frankly looked gas. Whether it was the physical beating he took against Panama or not, he just didn’t produce today.

Robbie Rogers to come out fired up and really challenge down the left flank and track back on D

Not a direct yes or no here. Rogers really reminds me of young Clint Dempsey or even Justin Mapp before the injuries. He’s going to impress — he’s just not there yet. Did a great job of creating chances, including baiting a backfield cross in the 1st half that nearly led to a score, but didn’t finish. He’ll get there; bet on it.

Ratings:

C: Bob Bradley – 5

Noticing a pattern? Basically, with no more than a “6″ ranking from TSG yet, we’re seeing Bob Bradley as your average coach. Despite recalling Michael Parkhurst, Bradley made a keen decision to start Clarence Goodson and was rewarded with a killer performance from him. However, again the U.S. attack was mundane. Finally, Bradley, who’s shown a penchant to be too loyal to some favorites, left Robbie Rogers in too long after a blow to the head (anyone could tell Rogers was not himself afterward), leaving the middie in for almost ten minutes as Rogers eyes looked glassy on each camera shot. Bradley waited too long to bring in Kenny Cooper as well (84min) when Arnaud clearly was not pushing the play. Bob, you need to do better.

G: Troy Perkins – 8

Challenged twice and game up big twice — that’s all you can ask for. Parried a solid opportunity in the 1st half over the limbo bar on a wicked shot and came out to defend an errant Carlos Costly late in the 2nd. Perkins shows an uncanny ability to known when to stay at home and when to come out and challenge. Additionally, seems to have great communication with his backline.

D: Jay Heaps - 6.5

If I was grading Jay Heaps to his ability I would give him a 9.5 for the game. The reality is: he’s not your national team’s first choice defender. Was absolutely stellar in defense on a wider pitch, however showed absolutely zero ability to threaten in the attack.

D: Clarence Goodson – 8

Quickly dealing himself into discussion in the US’s now crowded center back pecking order. Absolutely unfailing in his technical game, Goodson showed himself a threat on set pieces by scoring the first goal on a Stu Holden cross to end the 1st half. Dare I say the U.S. is best served sending Boca out wide with the depth we now have in the middle.

D: Chad Marshall – 7.5

Solid, solid, solid. Didn’t see him get beat once and again controlled the distribution excellently from the back. You didn’t notice him, like an offensive tackle in football who shuts down a pass rushes and gets no penalties.

D: Heath Pearce – 7

Had to deal with the speed of Honduran striker Marvin Chavez and did so adequately; helped out on the attack.

M: Robbie Rogers – 6.5

Comments were made earlier — has the stuff, just not sure how and when to deploy it yet.

M: Logan Pause – 4.5

A non-factor. Seemed it was always Kyle Beckerman who was forward and Pause merely holding behind him. Did track down some countering offenders. He’s not USMNT material with the U.S. loaded defensive midfield.

M: Kyle Beckerman – 7

Great in possession and moved the ball well. Was always in the play on both offense and defense. Played smartly and made the right pass. Really, a pleasure to watch.

M: Stu Holden – 8.5

Well, he solved the set pieces today. Beyond the service to Goodson for the first goal, had an outswinger to Ching that narely missed. Played some great one and two touch with the midfield. For Holden, the game appeared to be moving in slow motion. His performance is all the more impressive in that Jay Heaps did not help him threaten down the right flank.  Holden, who factored in both scores, is quickly playing his way into the first team minutes dicussion.

F: Brian Ching – 6.5

Worked tirelessly all day on the up-and-over ball and he usually does. Had a clever backheal to Holden that led to a score. However, Ching is one-dimensional–he can really be a difference maker is he can add at least another skill.

F: Davy Arnaud – 4.5

Not his day; we covered him above.

Sub: M: Santino Quaranta – (inc.)

Came on at the 76th, didn’t make an impression, but didn’t make any mistakes.

Sub: F: Kenny Cooper – 7.5

That’s 4 goals in 6 appearances for Kenny Cooper. The chorus for more playing time will continue. Cannot for the life of me figure out why BB didn’t bring him on sooner. Showed range in his game, by beating defenders on the wing, moving the ball and then tiptoeing the offsides line for the 2nd US score. If there is knock on Cooper’s 7 minutes, it’s that he jogged a bit too much. Coops, you’re in for 7 minutes, run your cleats off.

One off the noggin…

One off the heel…

More on US strikers tomorrow and we’ll see you on Sunday.

D: Chad Marshall – 7.5

Central Back, August 12th? Jay DeMerit (63%)

Jay DeMerit, your choice

Jay DeMerit, your choice

The–indisputable–results are in for your choice for center back partnership with Gooch on August 12th at the Azteca.

You want Jay DeMerit to partner Oneywu with a resounding 235 votes out of 373.

Let’s hope Bob takes the queue.

TSG Fan Chris May says, “No question Demerit, but only so that Boca can play LB.”

Fan sfinke1 says, “Demerit in the middle with Gooch…and have Spector and Boca on the outsides….that is the strongest d line we have”

See all the commentary here.

Everton adds another: Cody Arnoux joins the fight

Cody Arnoux

Cody Arnoux

Update: Read more TSG coverage of Everton here.

My support for Everton football just got a bit stronger — American Cody Arnoux is foregoing his senior season at powerhouse Wake Forest and joining Everton FC.

That makes this the second American signed by Everton just this year–little known Cal Poly alum Anton Peterlin was the first–to go with vet Timmy Howard between the wickets.

Everton has now clearly established itself as the EPL’s America FC wrestling the title from Fullham who set the tone (and consequently had many Americans in their corner) over the past few years. While the Fullham side still boasts Clint Dempsey and a renewed Eddie Johnson (plus alums Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegro), Everton has, count ‘em, three American born-and-bred players. Certainly another great step for American soccer.

While I personally enjoy watching some of the sensational international flavor that Everton has to offer: Aussie Tim Cahill is stellar in the air, Moroccan-born Belgium international Maroune Fellaini has the flair (and the hair) for the dramatic, and pint-sized South African Steven Pienaar can slalom through defenders with the best of them, the real story here has to be the program that Wake Forest has built. If you haven’t had a chance to watch any NCAA tournament soccer over the past few years, I encourage you to try and take a moment and watch the Demon Deacons come together for 90 minutes–the fighting spirit that 2007 and 2008 Coach of the Year Jay Vidovich has instilled is second to none.

wake-m-soccer-logo

Among just a sampling of the former and current players that Wake Forest counts among their locker room alum are:

Sam Cronin — featured in the U.S.-Haiti Gold Cup game last week

Michael Parkhurst – USMNT defender who will probably get the nod at CB today against Honduras

Cody Arnoux – bringing his 32 goals and 16 assists from last season with him to Everton FC

Marcus Tracy – Forward and now starter for the top Danish squad AaB

Ike Opara – 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year who runs with the U.S. U-20 squad

Pat Phelan – MLS New England Revolution starter

and a personal favorite….

Julian Valentin

Valentin is an alum of Wake Forest and the Los Angeles Galaxy, however he is probably best known for a vicious hit he received in the 2007 NCAA Championship game (one of the best college or pro games I have watched). Valentin went head first to defend a loose ball near the Wake Forest 18 and received a cleat in the face that is one of the worst if not the worst cosmetic injuries I’ve seen in soccer.

Kudos to a great Wake Forest program and to Cody Arnoux. Take a peek at that 2007 Championship game between Wake Forest and Ohio State here, along with the facial to Julian Valentin at the 1-minute mark of the clip. Apologies as the clip is grainy.

Hey Honduras, Remember This!

With the US matching up against Honduras for second time this tournament (and 3rd time in two months), it gives us a reason to watch the great team goal from the July 8th game. Yep, the one with the Benny spin-o-rama that was finished off by Santino Quaranta. You’ll also get to see the Ching header that quickly followed.

Spector or Hedjuk, maybe Dolo? Who’s your RB?

Frankie: Getting up, Standing up

Frankie: Getting up, Standing up

Spector: West Ham-ing it up

Spector: West Ham-ing it up

We’re going to wrap up our other Gooch poll here shortly at TSG, but we’ve got a new one suggested by TSG contributor Eric.

Who’s shutting down the right side for the U.S. right now: Jonathan Spector, Frankie Hedjuk or Steve Cherundolo. Who’s the best option? Will there be a better option in 6 months?

Vote on the right and add your comments below.

TSG thinks Spector will win in a landslide, but let’s see what the fans think.

Note 1: This poll pits brother vs. brother as one of Mark’s favorite USMNT players is Spector and I’ve got Frankie’s back. That being said, I’m fully prepared to throw in the scarf on this one.

Note 2: Frankie’s caption is a reference to Bob Marley’s famous. Perhaps not surprisingly, Hedjuk is huge Marley fan. Because you know, Bob played.

ESPN Hype Machine & The World Cup

Normally I abhor the routine beating of a stable of dead horses by ESPN on whatever topic they choose. However, the run-up to the World Cup might be an exception if the World Wide Leader uses the machine to not just promote programming, but to educate people on the game. Check out the ESPN’s latest WC promo, Fan Feast: World Cup Soccer, with a (marginally) tolerable Kenny Mayne.

(If you can’t access the YouTube version, view Fan Feast: World Cup Soccer at ESPN.com.)

_________

One topic for a future discussion and poll — “Soccer” or “Football?” My quick take: Words matter and Americans will not embrace they idea of calling it “football” with the NFL being the resident goliath of American sports. Let’s stick with “soccer” and eliminate the time wasted by sportscasters making lame jokes about “football.” Who cares if it is an American word.

Quick Preview: Thursday: US vs. Honduras

Will Carlos prove (wa, wa, wa...) Costly?

Will Carlos prove (wa, wa, wa...) Costly? Maybe, but this is Carlos Pavon. (Thanks, Don.)

We’re getting a quick preview up a day early here for all of those like us who find it too long between national team

games.

Here’s what we are looking for at TSG from the U.S. Team:

  • Will Parkhurst (who we figure to start) and Marshall clamp down on Carlos Costly? We say yes
  • Davy Arnaud – we want you to test the Honduran final curtain with your speed and quickness
  • Robbie Rogers to come out fired up and really challenge down the left flank and track back on D

“11″ at the Whistle:

Much more likely that the actual Carlos Costly will prove...err...costly.

Much more likely that the actual Carlos Costly will prove...err...costly.

G: Troy Perkins

D: Heath Pearce, Michael Parkhurst, Chad Marshall, Jay Heaps

M: Robbie Rogers, Sam Cronin, Kyle Beckerman, Stu Holden

S: Brian Ching, Davy Arnaud

Disclaimers?

  • Logan Pause to supplant Sam Cronin in the midfield.
    Pause is more veteran player, but is also coming off a long arduous game against Panama
    Likelihood: 75% Pause starts
  • Santino Quaranta to play vet over Robbie Rogers
    We don’t see this one either, but it wouldn’t surprise us given Quaranta’s goal in the earlier game against Honduras
    Likelihood: A coin flip
  • Kenny Cooper to pair Brian Ching up top
    If Bob Bradley wants a look-see, here’s the time to do it. However, we don’t see it.
    Likelihood: 25%

What do you think? Let’s hear it. (We’ve been wrong before).

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