Archive for September, 2009

Getting the Ball Rolling on Honduras

We are less than 20 days away to the next US qualifier in Honduras. Thought it would a good time for TSG to take a few minutes to re-watch the June 6th USA-Honduras match on June 6th in Chitown and re-ignite the fervor and dialogue among the USMNT fanbase.

Did I mention I love ESPN360.com? What a great product.

It’s always fun to go back and watch USMNT tape months later to see the player changes and play progressions.

First Bob Bradley came out with an even more defensive on his home turf starting Ricardo Clark and Pablo Mastroeni in the midfield with Connor Casey pairing Altidore upfront.

Wow, seems a tad warmer and less friendly this time around

Wow, seems a tad warmer and less friendly this time around

The backline is probably what you should see on 10/10: Bornstein, Boca, Gooch and Spector. However, Cherundolo’s name, with his experience and continued playing time overseas might see him back in the line-up at the expense of Spector.

Some observations in retrospect:

- I loved the aggression the US came out with at the whistle. The Yanks really looked to link and score. Actually come to think of it, they may just have been only mildy aggressive however holding that June 6 match up against the light with the T&T one, the aggression is magnified that much more.

- That aggression was helped by Honduras playing defense to the U.S.’s strengths. Honduras played an extremely narrow midfield with their wing defenders collapsing inward. This allowed Pablo Mastroeni, of all players, to just keep milking the easy pass to the wing for the US to migrate (with Landon and Clint) nearly unchallenged up the pitch. Will Honduras stay as narrow in the rematch? Mastroeni literally looked like a qb hitting the running back out of the backfield for dump-and-swing passes all day long.

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Your Feedback on Some Monday Bullets

TSG has a few columns coming up this week:  a follow-up on our nickname piece, an update on the Honduras TV situation, a retrospective on the June 6th USA-Honduras qualifier game and more….but I have so many random comments for today that I’d love for our fans to weigh in on.

Why a Duke has served on this exchange for 35 years!

Why a Duke has served on this exchange for 35 years!

- Does anyone else think the recent transfer ban actions are a means of slowing down spending in soccer overseas? Just today FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that further scrutiny would occur on 15 recent transfer actions. Far be it from TSG or me to question whether there are transfer irregularities, but the news is somewhat “coincidental” when Real Madrid comes out today and says they are $327M in debt.

- Did anyone else actually enjoy the trash talking, both in the run-up and denouement, of the Manchester Derby? From the antagonizing billboards, to Sir Alex Ferguson’s diatribe against Manchester City just this past Friday, to Mark Hughes’s dressing down of Gary Neville over his injury time goal celebration on Sunday, this has the makings of an even better rivalry. Would you ever hear Yanks skipper Joe Girardi launch into putdown of the Red Sox heading into a series like Ferguson did? No way.

Need more? How about a study here about “the 12th man” on the field for United in stoppage time.

And then Carlos Tevez says Manchester United miss Cristiano Ronaldo. I’ve got news for Tevez though. Ferguson’s teams always start slow with or without Ronaldo. This year, beyond a loss to Burnely, they’re off to a flying start by their measures.

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USMNT: Lots of Benchtime This Weekend

A little late on my weekend wrapping here.

Not as much tape for Bob Bradley to watch this weekend. His son Mike Bradley went featureless for Bo’Munchen (see nicknames). Jonathan Spector took a seat for West Ham. Oguchi Onyewu dressed, but didn’t play in Milan’s Bologna win. Milan, with a 1-0 win, are hardly looking dominating these days and with the center back a position where full field fitness rarely is a necessity, there is reason to be concerned about Onyewu’s long term playing prospects right now. TSG thinks he’ll now feature October 4th at best.

Beyond the usual starters (Howard, Dempsey, Friedel, Davies & Boca), you had Altidore playing 64 for Hull City. Marcus Hahnemann is slowly watching his RSA prospects diminish as he can’t get on the field for Wolverhampton, same for DaMarcus Beasley. Jay DeMerit didn’t dress for Watford as well and the odds are that Boca is centrally located again  on 10/10 right now.

At least Jonathan Bornstein played locally against Seattle and Steve Cherundolo played 90 for Dortmund.

My brother did a great job already on the outstanding Manchester Derby. For my part, that pesky alarm that I switched off for Sunderland-Burnley (which turned out to be not-so-much of a yawner), I forgot to turn back on for the city of Manchester showdown. Needless to say I was bummed and relegated to highlights.

Quite a striking ability without the golf club

Quite a striking ability without the golf club

Craig Bellamy, though?! No Robinho, no Adebayor and Bellamy nails two. I have to tell you, despite their defense, I’m a Man City believer now when your possession midfielder (Barry) can pick up a goal and your 5th best striker knocks it in. With the returns of Adebayor and the pending return of the #2 scorer in the EPL two years ago (Roque Santa-Cruz), I’m not so sure that Robinho’s questionable attitude and play-when-he-wants to spirit stay around Citizens.

And how about Michael Owen knocking in the game winner. Earlier this year, when the Red Devils announced his signing, radio show World Soccer Daily called around to sport jersey outlets. You know how many Owen jerseys were sold across all outlets in the first week after his signing? Zero. Redemption.

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It Pays To Get Up Early

Giggs: The Man of the Derby

Giggs: THE Man at the Derby

With the rich storylines, coaches banter and drama coming into the United – City match, it would have been easy for the actual Derby to be a disappointment. Thankfully, that was not the case as this morning’s Derby was one for the ages.

If you didn’t have the opportunity to watch at least the second half, figure out a way. And when you do watch, grab a few folks that aren’t really interested in soccer and you may just make fans out of them. I’m not just saying that because the second half featured five goals, each arguably more dramatic than the last. Rather, it was nearly the total package in terms of a great soccer watching experience.

In the second half alone…

You had one team controlling the run of play, but an opponent that wouldn’t give up and found a way to answer ALMOST every blow.

man derby

You had the crowd at Old Trafford in it every step of the way.

You had stellar scoring chances stymied by equally stellar goalkeeping. (Hey Matthew, the announcers had the perfect summation of Berbatov after being denied by Shay Givens on two point-blank headers…”he did everything except score a goal.”)

You had Scotsman Darren Fletcher bang home two with his dome for United and Welshman Craig Bellamy score two for City in breathtaking fashion.

You had a 35-year old Ryan Giggs triggering the attack and, to use an NBA term, dropping dimes on his way to accumulating 4 assists.

You had two managers underscoring the drama by coaching from the technical area and leaving them ten feet apart as they visibly reacted to every high and low

And, finally, you had (free transfer) Michael Owen slotting home an improbable winner in the 96th minute.

I am sure there are all other sorts off things I missed, but I simply watched and enjoyed (almost as much as I enjoyed the Jets victory over the Patriots later in the afternoon).

As the game entered stoppage time, a controversial one at that, the announcer summed up the classic best (and I am paraphrasing here):

The eternal shortcoming of football is that it lasts but ninety minutes.

The American Soccer Landscape

Frankie believes that last pass is what separates MLS from the EPL.

Frankie believes "that last pass" is what separates MLS from the EPL.

[TSG: Thanks to @AOBoston on Twitter for passing along the link to the article.]

The Columbus Dispatch ran an interesting story today entitled, Soccer’s Footprint is Expanding. The wide-ranging article tackles a variety of topics including the popularity of MLS, the rising tide of support for soccer in the US, the influence of European clubs and television coverage of the sport.

A couple of the things in the article jumped out at me…

The Gap Between MLS and European Clubs

Frankie Hedjuk produced this opinion on the gap between MLS and European club teams.

“”The biggest difference is the (European teams) have pure finishers and that’s the next level for our game. We are physical enough and can run up and down the field with them, but it’s that last pass that is the difference maker between those teams and MLS teams.”

From the MLS and European soccer I have watched, the gap seems bigger than “that last pass.” I’d probably throw game speed (not fitness) and touch in there as well. What do you think?

The Rise of “Tribal Like Passionin the MLS

Perhaps I am just getting old, but it was surprising to read that the MLS commissioner Don Garber would remark that “[I was] walking around the field with Clark Hunt before a playoff game last year and I did not feel comfortable walking close to [The Nordecke] supporters section (and) I shouldn’t.” (Emphasis added by me.)

Believe me, I am all for the “tribal like passion” as Garber calls it, but I draw the line at suggesting that intimidation of other fans, and executives in this case, is somehow a good thing and what MLS clubs should be striving for. Please let me know if I am lacking some historical perspective here relative to Garber, the MLS, etc.

European soccer hooliganism is not something that should be emulated by American supporters of US club teams or our national team. Not to mention that such activities would just seem fake given the corporate upbringing of MLS clubs. Do we really want opposing fans / families concerned about attending MLS games given the current state of support for soccer in America? The sport needs all the fans it can get.

(Aside: I am a firm supporter of  heckling opposing players within bounds of decency.)

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Say What?…Soccer Quotes

Sadly, Dr. Evil did not make the list.

Sadly, Dr. Evil did not make the list.

I have a fondness for words and quotes.

In the USMNT nickname discussion, commentor Baquito Alyeska jokingly suggested the name “The Wynaldas” and remarked that there is a “limitless supply of Wynalda quotes to put on the t-shirts” and provided a couple including this gem:

On Mexico: “Once I step on the field, I hate ‘em. Nowhere is it written that I have to say I like them. That’s just the way it is.”

While I won’t get on-board with calling the USMNT the Wynaldas, it did inspire me to search for interesting quotes about / on soccer. So, below are 10 plus a “bonus”.

Add your favorites in the comments.

“Soccer is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated. It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening–it is without doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”
~ Unknown

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