Archive for November, 2009

US Soccer Best Of ’09 (TSG Nominated! Thanks!)

Well, TSG made the cut. Thanks to you guys, TSG is one of ten nominated for Best Soccer Blog of 2009 on USSoccer.com. Matthew and I sincerely appreciate your continued support and are honored to be in the great company of those nominated for the award.

It is worth spending time over at USSoccer.com going through all the award nominees in the twelve different categories. US Soccer has done a fine job of including descriptions, pictures and videos were possible to help USMNT fans re-live the great moments from the past year. And let me just say, the voting is not as easy as you think…just see Best Clutch Performance, for example.

Here are the categories:

Best Goal
Best Assist
Best Performance: Player
Best Performance: Team
Best Video
Best Soccer Bar
Best Soccer Blog
Best Fan Photo
Best Photo
Best Clutch Moment
Best Academy Story
Best Soccer Specialty Store

Voting ends on December 13 and fans are allowed vote once per day.

FIFA Calls “Extraordinary Meeting” Prior To Draw

Although it remains a near impossibility that FIFA would order a replay of IRE-FRA, let the speculation begin…

Announced on FIFA.com today:

Due to recent events in the world of football, namely incidents at the play-offs for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, match control (refereeing) and irregularities in the football betting market, the FIFA President has called an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee.

The extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee will take place in Cape Town on 2 December 2009, starting at 15.00.

Of course this “extraordinary meeting” could be nothing more than a dog-and-pony show to give the appearance that FIFA takes the Henry affair seriously and that soccer is on the proverbial “up-and-up.” Should no action of any kind result from Sepp Blatter’s pow-wow it will be hard to perceive it any differently.

ESPN Soccernet chimes in on the “crisis meeting” speculating about the use of an goal line assistants, condemnation of Henry’s helper and an explanation of seeding.

Any chance FIFA will stream that meeting live on its website?

Guus For Thanksgiving?

TSG Note: Catching up on comments this morning, a few of you were wondering why we hadn’t mentioned Guus Hiddink. So…here you go.

Plain sweatpants (Bradley) or Monogrammed sweatpants (Hiddink)?

With Russia getting bounced from World Cup contention last week it has been widely speculated that super-coach Guus Hiddink could be back on the market. Furthermore, it has been suggested by some American soccer “pundits” and fans alike, that Mr. Gulati should have Hiddink on speed-dial should that happen with an offer handing over the keys to the USMNT kingdom.

Let’s put aside the facts that

a) Hiddink’s ties to Chelsea owner and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich may not be severed anytime soon,

b) Sunil Gulati has categorically stated that Bob Bradley will coach the USMNT through the World Cup, and

c) Hiddink said in an interview in the past few days that he would make a decision on his next move (Argentina? Chelsea?) within the next few months.

Let’s also assume that Hiddink actually rang up Soccer House and offered his services, but only through the 2010 World Cup.

What should US Soccer do? More specifically, what is best for the US squad seven months away from kick-off at the World Cup? And since we haven’t asked this question directly on TSG, why bounce Bob Bradley?

The Phone Call

Say “thanks, but no thanks” to Comrade Hiddink, even if the coach suggests a technical director position. The US isn’t Argentina with a head coach that is clearly in way over his head, a Bradley-Hiddink combo is doubtful to work.

What is best for the US squad?

With the USMNT struggling to field a team of eleven international-quality players who are fit, adding a new head coach to the mix at this late juncture would be, to quote commenter Kaya, “ridiculous.”

Consider that in Guus’ two most recent World Cup finals stops (South Korea and Australia) he had at least a year to work with the squad. Also, subtract two months from the available time-frame as Hiddink wouldn’t get to work with the team until January leaving less than six months to put together the USMNT squad.

Bringing on a new coach at this juncture would be risky at best and have implications beyond South Africa ’10.

Right man for the job?

Why bounce Bob Bradley?

From what I can tell by cruising around the ‘net, one is either on the Fire Bob Bradley bandwagon or labeled a Bradley Apologist. There doesn’t seem to be an in-between. Not sure why that is, but perhaps I will put myself in a country of one.

Bob Bradley has his struggles (specifically, in-game management), but he has also done some good things with the talent available and turned a collection of individuals into a team.

Bradley’s familiarity with entire player pool and the bonds developed through triumph (Spain / Honduras) and tragedy (Charlie Davies) are important heading into the World Cup with a most uncertain squad. He has performed admirably enough to carry the USMNT, his team, through the World Cup.

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The stark reality of firing a coach is that you have to hire another one that is only guaranteed of “looking good on paper.” Every coach could be better, especially one of an inconsistent team, but there is no reason to blow-up a to-date successful program seven months out of a World Cup…even if Hiddink was available.

MLS Cup: 120+ Minutes, PKs & Mr. Findley

It may not have been the best display of soccer over the course of 120+ minutes, but it had its moments. The counter-attack that put the Galaxy on top 1-0 was pure class as Beckham slotted a great ball to a streaking Donovan who lifted a perfect cross to the back post and an on-rushing Mike Magee.

In the end, Real Salt Lake, the better and more fit team, took home the MLS Cup in a dramatic penalty shoot-out (5-4) after overtime concluded with score still knotted at 1-1. Again, it was RSL keeper Nick Rimando coming up big in another penalty shootout in a performance that earned him the MLS Cup MVP.

Rimando cemented his legend as some sort of PK-saving savant in the Cup.

Almost as surprising as Real Salt Lake winning the MLS Cup was the penalty kick that Landon Donovan sailed over the cross-bar in the shoot-out. Ultimately, Lando’s miss wasn’t the difference as Galaxy (back-up) GK Josh Saunders’ brilliant stop on the try by RSL’s Andy Williams pushed the shootout into sudden death. Two rounds later, Robbie Russell banged home the winner after Cup MVP Rimando stopped Edson Buddle’s attempt and the RSL championship dog-pile commenced on the penalty spot.

For all the “new” ESPN technology the best innovation (at least I haven’t noticed it before) was the microphone placed in the goal that picked up the sweet sound of the ball hitting the netting during the PKs.

Major storylines coming out of the game will be the big injuries — Ricketts, Gonzalez, Morales, Johnson — the (fake) turf that was noticeably slick and the war of attrition down the stretch in extra time.  Also, TSG expects that sometime tomorrow morning MLS and ESPN will finally stop talking about the Seattle soccer faithful and the success of the Sounders, although 46,011 fans in attendance was impressive.

Up next for a tryout at striker for the USMNT?

TSG was most interested in tracking RSL and USMNT-hopeful striker Robbie Findley…and he did not disappoint. Findley’s patience, speed and play-making ability were all on display. Perhaps most impressive were his recognition and ability to hold the ball to maximize the opportunity and his sustained effort whistle-to-whistle.

Though it would have been nice to see more of his chances put on-frame, Findley was johnny-on-the-spot to bury home the equalizer in the 64th minute and generally wrecked havoc all over the Galaxy backline.

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That Kyle Beckerman…He’s So Hot Right Now!

TSG Travel Note: While Matthew is making like Frodo down in New Zealand, I spent a tidy 15.5 hours driving from San Diego to Breckenridge, CO yesterday. We are now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Player Heat Maps...probably not as insightful for the goalkeeper.

Here’s hoping that JP Dellacamera doesn’t paraphrase Mugatu from Zoolander during tonight’s telecast as ESPN goes…well…all ESPNy on the MLS Cup Final broadcast.

The Worldwide Leader will be experimenting with optical tracking technology during tonight’s game which will attempt to quantify the game and player performances with speed and distance stats as well as a “heat map” of player locations.

In addition to the tacking technology, the broadcast will feature 19 cameras including two super slo-mo cameras, ESPN Axis which rotates camera angles on replays and an EASports FIFA video game like Offside line.

It should be interesting to see how the new stats and graphics contribute to the understanding of the match. ESPN, however, has their work cut out for them as soccer is a game with few breaks and the last thing you want is for the fancy broadcast toys to intrude on the play and viewers.

Moving to a more American-style broadcast may offend some of the purists, but progress always upsets the hard-core traditionalist. Taking a different perspective, broadcasting innovations are just another attempt to engage fans in the sport, so a fist-bump to ESPN for trying in that regard.

Continue reading

Mr. Shin Guardian Goes to Bristol

Watch out, Johnny Boy Harkes: Here we come.

That’s right TSG; we’re taking our show on the road!

And we need your help.

Power to the People!

The Shin Guardian is attending Media Day for the World Cup, December 4th at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.

The Shin Guardian 007 is on the move....

Making the journey westward will be my brother Mark as yours truly will be on a brief sabbatical in New Zealand as I mentioned the other day. (Actually I’m in the plane right now but magically posting this through the power of the world wide webosphere.)

For Mark’s little sojourn, we need your help. Wait, that’s incorrect.

We want to travel with your questions. The questions of our readers. The comments of our readers.

Sitting around Mark in the studio as the fateful draw for the USMNT–or some might call it the Bafana Bafana lottery….please let the US be a 2-seed with the Bafana, please the let the US be a 2-seed with the Bafana…..no whammy, no whammy….stop–will be none other than ESPN analysts Alexi Lalas, John Harkes and one Mr. Tommy Smyth.

We are TSG. We represent you, the fans of the USMNT, the fans of American soccer. We take that responsibility seriously.

So we will play gopher and scribe here.

Send us your comments and questions to take with us: either for a specific commentator, on ESPN coverage, or on World Cup 2010.

As we’ve come to expect from the community here, be heady and well-written in your commentary, but don’t make it personal. Also try to be curt, as we are going to want to pepper folks with as many questions as possible.

While TSG can’t promise anything in return; we promise we’ll try to get your questions and comments heard and commentary returned.

38 Minutes With MLS MVP Landon Donovan

Nice to hear from the USMNT playmaker.

With Sunday’s MLS Cup being broadcast on ESPN and ESPN360, the Worldwide Leader called upon Bill Simmons, aka The Sports Guy, to generate some buzz via a B.S. Report podcast with MLS MVP, LA Galaxy star, and USMNT engine Landon Donovan.

Given the recent sub-par performances by the USMNT which demonstrated the incredible need for Donovan on the pitch, national team fans will probably be happy just to hear Lando’s voice at this point.

The 38-minute discussion runs through a variety of topics including PK and corner taking, Jozy Altidore, youth programs, MLS and the USMNT’s World Cup bid.

Relevant to the US hopes in South Africa, Donovan mentions that the team is preparing to play the World Cup without Davies and Onyewu. (Read into that what you like regarding Gooch.)

There also are some interesting insights on Brazil, their match in the Confederations Cup and how the country continually produces great teams. And, similar to Brazil, Donovan explains that Coach Bradley is attempting to create an American style of play that is consistent from the national team through the youth programs and has reached out to coaches at the various levels.

Finally, the podcast finishes with a quick exchange on creating a home city for USMNT games where Donovan admits that the guys on the squad do talk about developing a fan base in one place to create a home field advantage. As expected Seattle and Columbus are mentioned. (Readers may recall that TSG covered that a few months back in our two-part Soccertown, U.S.A. piece.)

All-in-all it’s worth a listen.

(It can be found on ESPN.com or downloaded from iTunes.)

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