Archive for August, 2009

Chelsea Rolling…

Okay time to go surfing.

Lampard: Still getting comfortable

Lampard: Still getting comfortable

Burnley has fought valiantly through the 10 minute mark in the 2nd half here, but Michael Ballack just deposited a header in the net for the Blues followed by an Alex Cole volley to make it 3-0 early in the 2nd half. Probably not the best feature game here for ESPN.

Do you think Phil Scolari is still wiping egg off his face somewhere? His hesitancy to pair Drogba and Anelka last year looks like an extremely poor decision after a precise connection between the two for Chelsea’s first goal today and great run for the dynamic duo to start the term.

About the only thing that hasn’t looked great for Chelsea is some of the play through the diamond in the middle. Indeed Frank Lampard looks still hesitant in the new formation.

Couple the fact of Lampard getting comfortable with absence and eventual return of middies Joe Cole and Russian signee sensation Yuri Zhirkov (check out this YouTube compilation set to Euro club music) and I think you have no doubt that Chelsea will not only challenge for the Premiership but probably leave quite a wake as they do it.

One more quick note: Petr Cech, for me, is looking indecisive in net. Might he be going the way of Jens Lehmann now?

You Say Benny, We Say Benny, We All Say Benny

BF: About to get Neo on El Salvador

BF: Ready to go Neo on El Salvador

The numbers are in. And they don’t lie.

We’ve now closed our poll on the right sidebar entitled: “Who should Bob Bradley sub into the midfield for the El Salvador game?”

Your choices? Individual players and combinations of players, including Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres and Stu Holden.

And the answer is emphatically Benny Feilhaber. Our TSG mancrush continues. (Stay tuned for our final salvo post next week to get Feilhaber into the starting line-up against the Cuscatlecos…’ll love it, TSG promises….and let’s just tease it by saying TSG did a little road trip to make it happen.)

Back to the data.

First, only 2% of you want Coach Bob and the US to keep the same line-up as Mexico. That’s a pretty resounding number.

The most selected answer that won the plurality was “Benny and Stu” with 35% of the vote.

Nearly 70% of you want Benny Feilhaber starting in some capacity, either just himself or with a combination of Stu, Jose or all three. That’s another resounding number.

Amazingly, 54% of you want the Iceman Stu Holden starting in some manner. That was probably the most surprising data that came back. TSG loves Stu (check out our interview the Dynamo star if you haven’t seen it yet), but, as my brother pointed out yesterday, he’s probably going to inhabit the second half spark plug role that Feilhaber had if BF starts. Alas, Freddy, this was yours to lose at one point!

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USMNT 2010: Filtering Out the Noise

With the results of the USMNT post-Azteca battle and forthcoming qualifier buzz, the debate fury on the happenings of the USMNT–on the web, in bars, just about anywhere–and what the team leadership should and should not do has been running rampant.

We here at TSG thought we’d provide you a little guidance in navigating some of the commentary that you’ve seen or you’re sure to see.

1) Number one on our list is formations and now is not the time to experiment.

We all like to talk about alternate formations and this formation will do this and that formation will cover that. Lots of them actually make a lot of sense.

Let’s get one thing clear though the US has two “formations” going into South Africa:

– huddle in the back and pray and kick the ball over the top. Just kidding….I think….okay really just kidding.

Your World Cup 2010 cheat sheet

Your World Cup 2010 cheat sheet

The US has two formations: 4-4-2 and some modification of a 4-5-1 when they are attempting to lay back in defense. That’s it.

The US will not be trying any other formations, not now or not in RSA, until after 2010.

How does TSG know this beyond the obvious? Take a look at the US starting line-up for their Brazil Confederation’s Cup championship match a few weeks back. Now look at the formation employed by club team of the 11 starters. At least 90%* and quite possibly 100% of the players in the USMNT starting XI come from a 4-4-2 club formation. I’m giving a * disclaimer to Aarhus, Benny Feilhaber’s team, because I am not certain they employ the 4-4-2.

Familiarity with position can speed the cohesiveness challenges of the USMNT who come together only sporadically for the next 9 months.

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USMNT Roster for El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago

[Update: Apparently, the time lapse release was also meant to confuse people. The total roster announced is 24, not 21 deep. See additions, below.]

In a somewhat dubious move, most likely to drive traffic to their new, shiny website, US Soccer released the roster for the USMNT’s next two matches five players at a time over four hours today. I really can’t conceive of one fan-friendly reason for the time lapse release on

Here are the 21 24 that made the roster for the games versus El Salvador (in SLC) and Trinidad & Tobago (in Port of Spain). TSG’s projected starting eleven is asterisked. (We don’t see Bradley going away from Dempsey yet.)

As a reminder Gooch is on the roster and he’ll take his yellow card accumulation suspension versus El Salvador.

GK: Howard*, Guzan

D: Demerit*, Spector*, Bocanegra*, Marshall*, Bornstein, Cherundolo, Goodson, Onyewu (suspended)

M: Feilhaber*, Donovan*, Dempsey*, Bradley*, Holden, Clark, Beckerman, Torres, Rogers

F: Altidore*, Davies*, Ching, Casey, Robbie Findley

I’d like to see what Holden could do in the former role held by Feilhaber — 2nd half midfield sub. Bradley could bring him in in tandem with Torres or Beckerman with Dempsey sliding up top.

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EPL Week 3: Now We’re Rolling

"Hey TSG, if I get into the EPL can you throw some press my way?" Damn right Jay!

"Hey TSG, if I get into the EPL can you throw some love my way?" Sure Jay!

(As last week, each Thursday we’ll try to give you our insights on the English Premier League primarily and other global leagues with analogies and dialogue favoring Americans Abroad.)

Wow, we’re at week 3 already in the EPL. This is the week that you discover if data points from the first two week are part of a growing trend or if they are put out to pasture as isolated instances.

Let’s get right to it.

ESPN’s Saturday Game of the Week: Chelsea vs. Burnley

Chelsea is coming off a convincing away win against Fullham at Craven Cottage after clubbings of Hull and Sunderland to start the term. Nice segway here in that Burnley have proven to be 2009 version of 2008 Hull City Tigers who took the EPL by storm and we’re sitting in the top half of the Premiership through December of last year. Burnley can boast wins over two of last year’s top five teams in “Premiership champ” (they should just make that their official nickname now) Manchester United and Everton. Admittedly Everton was in disarray, but nonetheless impressive wins for the recently promoted squad.

I think Chelsea will keep the duo of Anelka and Drogba up top so they can continue forming their partnership, it’s possible you may see Kalou given a start though and also see munchkin Deco as well.

Here’s how I would watch this game. Tune in for the first 15 minutes and get a read on the game. If it’s back-and-forth, grab your oatmeal. If Chelsea looks dominant, check back in at the 30 minute mark of the 2nd half. If Chelsea are not on top by more than 1-0, you’ll know Burnley are for real and the next 15 minutes or so will merit a look-see.

The first heavyweight fight of the season: Manchester United vs. Arsenal (on FSC, 9:30 PST I believe)

Now, this is the game you want watch. Arsenal visiting Old Trafford. Arsene Wenger’s squad has been lights out to start the season, raking both Everton and Portsmouth over the coals the past two weeks. However, they are facing a renewed Red Devil squad after their 2nd half massacring of Wigan last week. If not for that 2nd half, I think you would have had a completely different storyline coming into this week of Man U’s season on the ropes or endless discussion on Ronaldo’s absence. (Alas, Rooney was near the equal of Ronaldo from a focal point perspective).

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No B.S. – Simmons and Lalas Talk Soccer

UPDATE:  Support the petition to get Bill Simmons to the US qualifier against Costa Rica in RFK and sitting with the American Outlaws.

Simmons: This is the summer that I inexplicably fell for soccer. I can’t explain it. I don’t know why it happened now. I don’t know if it is like a mid-life crisis, but I have thrown myself into the US National Team and the English Premier League.

Lalas remains one of the most recognized faces in US soccer.

Lalas remains one of the most recognized faces in US soccer.

Lalas: You don’t have to explain it. It’s like…uh…love. You know, it just happens. You got to go with it.

And thus began a meandering, but interesting 58-minute conversation between ESPN’s Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) and Alexi Lalas early this week as part of Simmons’ B.S. Report podcast.

Say what you want about his motivation for covering the sport or knowledge of the game, but the increasing coverage of soccer by Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) can only be a good thing. This isn’t Simmons first foray into the world’s #1 game. A couple of years ago he wrote a two part piece about picking his EPL team—Tottenham Spurs. But, ultimately, Simmons lost interest.

Continue Reading for Highlights of the Conversation

USMNT: Common Sense in Defense





Michael Bradley, Bundesliga, age 22, 34 US Caps

Jermaine Jones, highly touted, Bundesliga, age 27

Ricardo Clark, Serie A Livorno perhaps?, age 26, 33 caps

Sam Cronin, 2008 Herman Trophy Finalist, age 22, 2 caps

Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake Captain, MLS Allstar, age 27, 9 caps

Maurice Edu, Scottish Premier League powerhouse Rangers, age 23, 4 caps





I’ve got some old news for you guys. You all play the same position.

The math: 6 viable options, 1, yes 1 (see Issue 1 below) starting nod. Chances of making the staring XI (all things being equal which they, of course, are not): 16.7%

Take that 16.7% and let’s consider some observations at TSG (and probably in many other locations and hopefully in Bob Bradleys office) on the US’s “Summer of Soccer” 2009:

Issue 1: The USMNT is extremely challenged by employing two defensive midfielders — hence this two defensive pairing in the middle needs to end. It can’t be Bradley and Clark. It has to be defensive holder and Benny, Dempsey, or even Freddy Adu.

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