Archive for November, 2009

Could The USMNT Injury Tide Be Turning?

A mere two weeks ago following news of a severe knee injury to striker Kenny Cooper, TSG started to wonder if Bob Bradley had opened an umbrella inside while walking under a ladder holding a black cat.

Cooper seemed to be another in a long line of Fall ’09 injuries for U.S. Soccer that included Jay Demerit (eye), Chad Marshall (knee), Charlie Davies (multiple), Clint Dempsey (shoulder), Tim Howard (foot), and Oguchi Onyewu (knee).

With rumors of a shredded ACL circulating the media, word came that Cooper only suffered a sprain and would be out for only three weeks. This led Matthew to update TSG’s Kenny Cooper injury piece with the following:

Our luck is turning! Coops out only 3 weeks. Can you feel it turning?

Well, Matthew must feel luck turning a bit faster than the average guy as USMNT fans have been treated to some great news on the injury front the past two days.

Jay Demerit is looking to return to the pitch soon.

First, Jeremy Schaap reported that Charlie Davies is “recovering quickly” and expects to play this summer. Regardless of where you pin the odds of CD9 suiting up in South Africa or how effective he could be, this is great news.

Then today, BBC Sport is reporting Jay Demerit, “looks on course to make a quicker than expected return following eye surgery.” The USMNT and Watford defender has been sidelined since late September after a scratching his cornea.

That’s three pieces of good news in the last two weeks on the injury front for the USMNT.

Who’s next?

(Mo Edu…I’m looking at you!)

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UPDATE: Commenter Brad alerted TSG to the fact that Maurice Edu resumed training with Rangers. Mo’s tweet from Friday:

Now, who’s next? Jermaine Jones? (yes, please.)

World Cup Soccer Balls: Tiento To Jabulani

The required equipment list for soccer spans exactly one line that reads “ball” in some language. Even the term “ball” is relative as disadvantaged kids around the globe are known to use wadded-up plastic bags and Pelé allegedly juggled a grapefruit.

The 1930 World Cup was played with the Tiento. (How much do you think this weighed when wet?)

For most Americans of my generation, the term “soccer ball” conjures up an image of black-and-white paneled ball that would leave hexagonal imprints on body parts if one happened to block a boombosa from close range.

Soccer balls haven’t always been the meticulously stitched spheres most in America play with today as illustrated by the Tiento (right), the ball used for the first World Cup in 1930. Actually, two Tiento balls were used, one selected by Argentina in the first half and one second ball selected by eventual winner Uruguay for play after the interval.

Recently, the online version of the Telegraph posted a photo collection of soccer balls from every World Cup that illustrates the evolution of the soccer ball from the hand-stitched leather ball of Uruguay ’30 to the thermally-bonded Adidas +Teamgeist of Germany ’06 . The collection also includes a ball called “Allen” (France ’38), the numerous Tango versions and the controversial Fevernova (South Korea ’02).

One interesting piece of trivia contained in the Telegraph piece is that the black-and-white panel design was created for television to help distinguish the ball during black-and-white telecasts. Hence, the name Telstar. (It goes without saying that this television-induced sports innovation fared much better than the Fox / NHL “glowing puck” experiment from a few years ago.)

Adidas has created the Jabulani

Starting in 1986, for the World Cup in Mexico, Adidas designed the look of the ball to reflect the host country in some way. According to Footballshirtculture.com, Adidas has engineered the Jabulani (left) for World Cup 2010 in South Africa . “Jabulani” means “to celebrate” in isiZulu, one of the official languages of South Africa.

The eight panel, spherically molded ball boasts technology that ensures “perfect roundness” while the eleven color design represents the eleven players per side during a match. The Juablini will be formally introduced on December 4th, the day of the World Cup draw.

Trading Sundays For Saturdays

“September through January my weeks only have six days. Sundays don’t exist.”

Even Toby has been lobbying for a USMNT jersey recently.

This phrase, or some variation of it, has been uttered by yours truly more times than I can remember in the last decade. And it was true. The NFL and the New York Jets have had a profound impact on my life as Sundays have been filled with early games, late games, highlight shows and the Sunday night game. And of course you can throw in the Monday Night Football, Turkey Day games and December Saturday affairs as well. Simply, I watched a lot of (American) football.

This season, however, things have been a little different. Here are some examples:

  • Early Saturday mornings spent in front of the television with my dog have grown in importance while only two Sundays have found me in the NFL bunker for 12 hours.
  • My fantasy (American) football teams are doing pretty well…which apparently is inversely proportional to the amount of time spent proposing trades and scouring NFL news as my time spent on my teams this year is decidedly less than the past seven
  • Given the opportunity to watch Patriots-Dolphins or a blow-out La Liga match three weekends ago, I eschewed the match-up of the NYJ rivals to watch Valencia assault the Real Zaragoza goal repeatedly in a 3-1 victory. It should be noted that I was also visiting family in Alaska at the same time.
  • Last Sunday, I drove the 75 miles back to my in-laws home a little faster than I should have after attending the Broncos-Chargers game to arrive in-time for the start of MLS Cup coverage even though it was set to DVR. (FYI, my wife is die-hard Bronco fan.)

And now we come to tomorrow morning’s conundrum. Barcelona versus Real Madrid (GolTV, ESPN360.com) and the New York Jets versus the Carolina Panthers both at 11:00AM local time. In years past this would be a no-brainer, but this year I’m not so sure…and it has nothing to do with the mounting losses by the NYJ.

So, what’s happening to me? All I can think of is that…I got a fever…and the only prescription is…MORE SOCCER.

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On a separate but related topic, regular TSG commenter pckilgore passed along the recent ESPN.com dispatch from Jimmy Conrad in which the KC and USMNT defender offers his ideas for over-hauling and growing the popularity of soccer in the US. The article, while leaning heavily on many previously discussed strategies, is both a good read and thought-provoking.

Best American Soccer Player In The Universe

As part of the US Soccer’s Best of 2009 Awards, the finalists for Male Athlete Of Year were announced earlier this week.

First, TSG thinks its title for the award sounds much more exciting…see above.

But, without further adeu, the five finalists for the award are:

Michael Bradley…he of the two goals versus Mexico in February and the right place-right-time goal versus Costa Rica in October.

Landon Donovan…he of the truckload of awards (MLS MVP, Honda Player of the Year), assists and all-around stellar play for the USMNT in 2009.

Clint Dempsey…he of the Bronze Ball at the Confederations Cup, brilliant header at Rio Tinto and the current run of 5 goals in 5 matches for Fulham.

Tim Howard…he of the magnificent saves while frequently getting bombarded by shots for both the USMNT and Everton.

Oguchi Onyewu…he of the stalwart central defense, great work with his dome and transfer to AC Milan.

The five 2009 finalists represent 5 of the past 6 winners of the award — Donovan in 2003 and 2004, Onyewu in 2006, Dempsey in 2007 and Howard in 2008

According to US Soccer:

The finalists for each award were nominated on the basis of: a) competing and excelling at the highest level (both at the national team and professional level) during the calendar year; b) exhibiting decorum on and off the field that reflects well on U.S. Soccer; and c) contributing toward the growth, development, credibility and popularization of soccer in the USA.

Unlike the Honda Player of the Year this award is based on play for both the national teams and club teams.

Another piece of hardware for Donovan's already crowded 2009 trophy case?

With all of his accolades and press this year, one would expect Landon Donovan to take this one in a walk. The criteria of club play adds an interesting wrinkle as Donovan clearly isn’t “competing and excelling at the highest level” playing his club ball stateside. However, Lando has been the best performer on the national team this year.

Weighing club play more heavily…

Clint Dempsey should get a boost in his bid for the award as a regular starter and current dangerous striker for Fulham in the EPL. Tim Howard and Oguchi Onyewu had stellar first halves of 2009 for Everton and Standard Liège, respectively. However, Howard has had a statistically poor ’09-’10 campaign behind a suspect Toffee defense while Onyewu’s much ballyhooed transfer to AC Milan resulted in little playing time before his October injury.

I’ll let you folks can chime in on who has or has not been true to criteria “b” above. And of the five finalists, Onyewu probably comes out on top for criteria “c”  as his transfer to AC Milan from Standard Liège was viewed and celebrated as a big step forward for American soccer, regardless of his lack of playing time.

The winner will be crowned through voting by fans on US Soccer.com (50%) and media members and US Soccer representatives (collectively, 50%). One can assume that Bob-O can’t vote for Junior, right?

Who are you guys voting for?


Fan voting will be open through December 13th along with all of the Best of 2009 awards, like Best Soccer Blog. (hint…hint.)

Dempsey Nets Two More, Timmy Stones Jozy

Some USMNT-related EPL happenings today.

Clint Dempsey (90 minutes) led the way with a brace versus Blackburn in a 3-0 Fullham win. In other action Jozy (73) and suddenly potent Hull conquered Tim Howard (90) and Everton, 3-2.

TSG didn’t catch the games, but we can bring you the highlights.

First up…Deuce’s Double…a perfectly timed run and a post-up conversion.

Hull at Everton…starts with a great save by Tim Howard of an Altidore blast.

USMNT: What We’re Thankful For

First, a brief warning.

I don’t know where this piece is going. Most columns that I write on TSG I have a desired point, argument or review that I want to communicate.

My axiom: Get to where you are going using the least words possible. Once I get there, I go back over the column and try to eliminate even more words. Sometimes I’m aghast at just how superfluous my writing is. After that 2nd purge, I’m done. It’s hard for me to re-read and proofread my prose because I’m a constant tinkerer.

So I immediately publish (or sometimes my brother proofs first) and I leave a whole bunch of easter egg misspellings and typos for you the reader to find. That’s unintentional and something I must work on. However, this is a Thanksgiving piece not a New Year’s Eve resolution.

Over the course over the past few months I’ve wanted to write multiple pieces with amorphously the same theme: “Why I love to root for the USMNT.”

Every time I began writing the piece, my inner monologue scolded me that I should not color the fans with my opinion on USMNT fandom. Sure I can provide insight on line-ups, strategy and soccer in general, but I fiercely believe that, like the infamous cliche of asking someone why they love someone else, that “to each their own” when it comes to rooting for your team.

Everyone can be a fan and everyone should celebrate how deeply or thinly they root for a team. It’s their choice of involvement, time commitment and enjoyment.

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Barca-Inter With A Lyon-Fiorentina Finish

Does it get better than these two?

And thats it Liverpool playing in the second tier Euro competition. Liverpool had their chances. Last minute shoddy defending in their last game against Lyon sealed their fate…Their defense has been atrocious all season…i said it in August and unfortunately i was right…Oh well…Now they can concentrate on the league…oh wait they have been…UGH

90: Lisandro with a great shot and Frey with another fantastic save…

3 Minutes of extra time…ALLEZ LYON

89: Liverpool have won their game…All eyes and ears at Anfield on this game. Gilardino offside…phew

88: Another close one for Lyon…one of these has to go in…please…please…PLEASE

86: All the play still in the Fiorentina half..Lyon have a corner…WOW…Frey makes a incredible reaction save…UGH

Meanwhile Liverpool still up 1-0…god they are playing terribly…what is possession if you can’t score!

83: Lyon really attacking here…Fiorentina just content to play defense…hopefully they will rue that decision…I WANT SOME RUEING!

82: Great cross by Lyon and Di Silvestri the Fiorentina defender wastes time…sigh…Liverpool have only themselves to blame if it remains this way

81: Lyon gets a freekick that ricochets off for a corner…nothing comes with it and Fiorentina launch a counter attack

OK…Barca are going to win this game so am switching to the Lyon/Fiorentina game…ugh regular definition…CMON LYON

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