Archive for July, 2009

The Quaffed One and the beautiful game

If you are a US soccer fan who has never been to Wembley or the San Siro, you may want to pick up a ticket to the forthcoming World Soccer Challenge as some rather high profile teams from the Old Country come stateside to showcase their skills, drum up some merchandise sales, and reconnect with the emigrants.

Having borne witness to Chelsea-Club America two years ago at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA, I came away with 3 etched-in moments of observation:

1) Upon gazing upon the field, it is abundantly clear that European–English specifically–soccer players are decidedly “bigger” than their American counterparts — obvious as football is the sport of choice across Euroland. I had no idea that Frank Lampard could double as the 49er tight end.

2) In the early 2nd half, Chelsea forward Didier “I play when I feel like it” Drogba decided to dazzle the crowd with a strike from 25 yards out. No, the shot didn’t go in, but the sound of it hitting the crossbar is one that gave the crowd a moment of pause before applause and one that I will never forget.

I am clearly more Special than you

I am clearly more Special than you

3) Jose Mourinho is a coach like no other — clearly relishing the spotlight,  preening for the cameras in either minted slacks and sport coat or tracksuit right out of the plastic–and making the game as much about him as his team.

In fact Mourinho, known as The Special One, is in for the return as his new team Inter Milan who kick off the tourney Saturday in Palo Alto about 1 hour before the U.S. takes the field in Philly.

With Club America in the house, you can surely expect some fireworks…in the stands that is. Two years ago saw the Club America superfan section lit up a blaze so bright that soccer moms nearly made for the exits.

Despite, the fireworks, the exhibition, which will see the European teams playing at about 85% effort level is a chance to see professionals manage a game who have arrived at the pinnacle of their sport with a completely different upbringing–one that favors the glory of the beautiful game and for the American youngsters out there the precision and expertise of the first touch.

If one takeaway should be made this time around, it’s watching the precision with which the Italians and the Spanish (who come in the form of Champions League hero FC Barcelona) manage the ball immediately upon reception and how that ability transcends to a different game.

The “C” Team Must Have an “A” Start

There will be no spark plug off the bench to wreak havoc inside the 18 nor a calm sub  to create in the midfield this Sunday versus Panama. Both Charlie Davies and Benny Feilhaber have left the Gold Cup for training camps across the pond. While this isn’t a fatal for the US hopes, it certainly makes the margin of error much smaller against a determined Panama squad.

It is no secret in soccer that the first goal can dictate the match. The US connected six minutes in against Haiti, but failed to capitalize on the early goal. With Davies and Benny not around to “save the day” tomorrow, it is imperative that the US squad strikes first again; only this time they can’t “take their foot of the gas” (and show they did learn from the debacle at Gilette.)

With Davies departure I’m guessing Davy Arnaud gets the start alongside Ching (as a reward for Arnaud’s goal in last week’s match.) Benny probably wouldn’t have started anyway, but his calming influence will be missed if the US is tied or down a goal after 70 minutes.

Here’s to the US Team making their absences a non-issue by about 5:30 (PST) tomorrow evening!

_______

In Other News: “Bees! Bees! They’re everywhere! Your firearms are useless against them.” That’s right, folks, get ready for a positively buzzing World Cup as FIFA gave the thumbs-up to the infamous vuvuzela for the 2010 tourney.

Call Your Cable Operators, Email Obama, Do Something!

Hoping to watch the Yanks take on El Tri in their much-anticipated WC Qualifier on August 12th from the comfy confines of your living room? If so, brush up on your Spanish or hope that the fledgling “mun2″ network is beamed down to your flatscreen.

Telemundo (owned by NBC/Universal) which owns both the Spanish and English rights to US-Mexico could not reach an agreement with ESPN to televise the game in English. The latest update via a combination of Grant Wahl of SI, Steven Goff of The Washington Post and various blogs (including Match Fit USAThe Big Lead and The Other Football) is that Telemundo tried to cash in on the US success in the Confederations Cup and ESPN wouldn’t play along by paying up.

If you are properly outraged, check out Jason Davis’ post over at Match Fit USA to sign an online petition and for instructions on who to email to voice your “stern displeasure.”

Since we are on the subject of the US-Mexico game. Haiti plays an interesting role this Sunday. What?

After El Tri coach Javier Aguirre decided to get in on the action against Panama during last Thursday’s match (only the “ball” he was attempting to kick was attached to Panamanian midfielder Ricardo Phillips) he received a three-match ban from CONCACAF. Should Mexico reach the finals of the Gold Cup, Aguirre will be able to complete his three-match ban with this tournament. However, if Mexico doesn’t reach the finals (which wouldn’t be all that surprising), then the ban carries over to the World Cup Qualifiers. And Mexico’s next qualifier is August 12 against the US.

Given the way that El Tri has played under Aguirre, his absence might not be that big of a blow for the Mexican squad.

Very surprising and poignant comments from Stu Holden

Maybe this is now old, but I just read Stu Holden’s commentary on the Haiti game this past Saturday. There has been some talk that Holden could be a great spokesman for U.S. soccer. His writing only seeks to affirm that.

This article, it’s sincerity and honesty, was something you might expect from a gracious ambassador for U.S. soccer, specifically his feelings immediately upon scoring the equalizer.

Donovan in at 39th in the world on Goal.com

USMNT captain Landon Donovan was named to the 39th spot in Goal.com’s top 50 for 2008-2009

Does this calls for a celebratory dinner with the Beck-man?

Thankfully, he was ahead of Arjen Robben, however he was also one behind Benedict Arnold.

Your 11 on the pitch for U.S. vs Panana?

USMNT, sweeping through the Suez

USMNT, sweeping through the Suez

Update: We’ve updated the post as Cherundolo and Parkhurst have jumped across the pond for club action.

Who would you start? Who is going to start? Let us know.

For Panama, expect a team that comes in the typical Central American role. They will have great footwork, questionable defensive integrity, and a feisty attitude. You could pretty use that describe most other teams between the two tropic lines.

Panama is fresh of a 4-0 blitzing of a 10-man Nicaraguan squad Sunday so they’ll have a little confidence.

I’m going with the following, expecting BB to take another conservative approach following the bit of chaos that ensued Saturday.

11 at the whistle:

G – Troy Perkins
A very steady performance against Honduras earns that cap

D (Wing) – Sam Cronin, Heath Pearce
With Cherundolo heading back over sees, I think it’s a coin flip between Cronin and Evans on the back right. My hunch is that with Cronin playing the better game last Saturday, you’ll see him there this Saturday….

D (Center) – Chad Marshall, Jimmy Conrad
Jimmy earns the start that should see him improve upon his Foxboro outing. The U.S. needs Marshall in there.

M (Wing) – Robbie Rogers, Santino Quaranta
Can they hold the flanks? Both have proved to flashes of one-on-one attack, now let’s see if they can link some more passes and come out and support their d counterparts.

M (Center) – Stu Holden, Kyle Beckerman
The makings of an excellent pairing here. Both are workmanlike and steady on defense giving Bob Bradley a junior pairing not unlike Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley.
(Note, you may see Benny in here, but I think more as a late inning reliever, not starter….if that’s the case Holden will move out wide and you’ll see Quaranta making way).

F – Davy Arnaud, Brian Ching
Interesting coupling here. Main question? No Davies. I think Bradley will use Davies much like he did in the Honduran game…bringing him as a late gamer when the defense is tired.

Disclaimers?

- Possible that Bradley brings back Feilhaber in which case I think you’ll see Holden move out wide.

Likelihood: 50%

- Possible that Davies gets the start with Arnaud backing up

Likelihood: 75%

- Possible that Ching roams up front and U.S. goes with Benny up front backed by Beckerman and Holden in the holding roles

Likelihood: 35%

See you Saturday

Really? Mones Cheri?!

Ah, mon petite cheri...

Ah, mon petite cheri...

Watching the reply of the U.S. – Haiti game on Saturday.

I still cannot believe that that the go ahead goal was scored by a guy named Mones Cheri. I mean were his parents giggling when they were filling out the birth certificate.

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