Archive for November, 2009

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.)

The True MLS MVP (Most Valuable Pale)

Note from TSG: Late last week, Mark and I got into a little tiff on beers…and thus our Beer & Soccer Review Series was born.

TSG is kicking off the series with a kick*ss piece from Die Hipster Brewing Co.

Die Hipster is a San Francisco miniature-brew founded by my Black Sox soccer teammate Chris Hanson and Scott Riley. I’ve had their beer and all I can say is, “Tasty!” and “Arrange transportation beforehand.”

Who is the real MLS MVP?

So without further adu, Die Hipster Brewing and their take on MLS MVP.

—-

In deference to the upcoming MLS Cup,  Die Hipster Brewing is proud to introduce and announce the results of the 1st Annual MLS MVP (Most Valuable Pale).  We at Die Hipster have been brewing for years and have attempted many styles – from  the dull catenaccio of a partial mash ale to the Totaalvoetbal of an imperial bourbon porter.  In the process, we’ve all but completely overlooked pale ales, much like most of the globe has overlooked MLS.  To remedy this, we spent the summer producing three MLS-themed pale ales in the lead-up to an eventual group judging event to determine an MVP.

Our candidates were chosen based on their sheer “MLSness” (not to mention their paleness).

Riles & Hanson: Dropping science

These three beers are named for three of the hardest working MLS semi-stars whose play has earned them a few appearances for the USMNT but scant European interest and only, it seems, from the Scandinavian part of the continent, which will work doubly in their favor when the Minnesota Thunder finally get their MLS franchise.  In the meantime, their current MLS squads are happy to have them.

In creating recipes, we kept within pale ale style guidelines, but went for three different grain mixtures.  We used the same yeast (similar to Sierra Nevada’s) for all three.  The goal was nothing too crazy or involved, just serviceable pale ales that will do the job without wanting to make real money (read: euros) or get identified on the streets of America.

The Eddie Gaven

The first selection, we went with Eddie Gaven. To get ourselves in Eddie’s mindset, we channeled our inner Eddie Gaven and in a specific nod to Gaven’s highly respected and publicized devote and pious nature, we asked ourselves not “WWJD?”, but, with the holidays approaching, “What Would Jesus….Brew?!”

As a result, Gaven’s beer was a fairly basic but a little heavier on the hop schedule – Gaven’s game, after all, is nothing if not bitter – along with some dry-hopping to finish it off.  The result was a pretty robust pale that could be mistaken for an IPA in some circles. Not bad for the player who was the youngest to score for the, uh, MetroStars and sports that stubbly beard. Is that perma-stubble-plus?

The Kyle Beckerman

The second selection went to Kyle Beckerman.  Beckerman’s beer had a healthy dose of malt, owning the appropriate moniker ‘Special B’.

Unfortunately, an eighth-inch log of his hair proved difficult to procure in Sandy, UT.  This one was also dry-hopped and the ‘Special B’ livened up the overall flavor profile – almost like marking said shorter dude who hasn’t washed his hair in 15 years.

The Dax McCarty

The last selection was Mr. Dax McCarty.  In our best deadpan, Dax’s beer had to stand out from the pack.  To accomplish this, we replaced specialty grains with malted grains and flaked wheat.  The result was a much lighter and drinkable pale that we hope will make an appearance in the 72nd minute in a Friendly possibly against Slovakia.  And….wait, yes that just happened.  Pretty sure Slovakia’s Martin Skrtel is the only Slovakian player who has ever faced a red head on the field (Scholes) before Dax danced his way on.  Sadly the Dax pale was neither made with nor tasted like Ginger.

The Victor

So who won?  The same player that could also be the MLS Cup MVP:  Kyle Beckerman by the length of one of his dreads (read: in a malodorous landslide).  There were only a small percentage of votes cast for Eddie and Dax.  While we also voted for Beckerman, Dax has grown on us quite a bit and is a session pale we were really looking for.

Since our brewery is not a democracy, next summer, Dax will be made again. Perhaps just in time for his cameo in South Africa?

We’ll need nominations for two new challengers to get called up to participate in the 2nd annual MLS Most Valuable Pale. Please nominate below in the poll or the comments.

For more information on Die Hipster Brewing and the MLS Most Valuable Pale recipes.

From TSG: A sincere thanks to Chris and Scott for the good read. If anyone has any questions, about such things as oh “beer” and/or “procurement,” please email shinguardian@gmail.com and we’ll bundle up the emails, float the pigeon and get you a response.

Continue reading

Next Stop: All Whites & Hobbitville

Cruisin' the Zealand

A quick note to the TSG community, that yours truly will be–sniffle, sniffle–on sabbatical for a few weeks recharging the batteries and spending time with the significant other.

Come Thursday evening, I’ll be New Zealand bound with my lady and camper-vanning aroud the South Island  for two weeks taking in some sights, surfing, and…..soccer! Actually, we’re going to try and get to a soccer bar for the World Cup draw.

Our TSG production schedule will be just a tad lighter, but we’ve tee’d up some guest contributors and I have some columns that we just took out of the freezer and are thawing. Don’t worry, they’re still fresh.

Have a happy, healthy and filling Thanksgiving.

Matthew

P.S. Watch out for a killer piece coming this evening by our first guest contributors followed up by a cool announcement from the TSG mothership tomorrow. It’s going to be a great end of the week.

Thierry Henry Doing Whatever It Takes

FRIDAY UPDATE: Said Thierry Henry today, “Of course the fairest solution would be to replay the game but it is not in my control.”

Not surprisingly, the soccer world sits transfixed this morning on Thierry Henry’s helping hand rather than the USMNT’s poor showing in Aarhus.


The play that propelled France to a World Cup finals over Ireland is being almost universally seen as a deliberate handball. In fact, Henry himself even admitted he used his left paw to bat the ball down towards his feet and left his fate at the mercy of the referee.

The game shouldn’t and won’t be replayed, but what about Henry’s confession? Is this one time we wish a player wasn’t honest? Would the injustice be a little more palatable if Henry had said, “The ball bounced up towards me and I did my best to control and pass to William.” Perhaps.

What Henry did on the pitch was wrong, but no matter which way he went with his comments after the game, he wasn’t going to be right. You might as well have asked Henry whether he wanted to be known as a “cheater” or “admitted cheater” at that point.

Not a classy move for someone who is reprenting a pretty good World Cup cause nonetheless off the pitch.

Grant Wahl wondered aloud last night (via Twitter) whether “fair play still mattered” in reference to Henry suggesting it was the official, not he that was at fault. Calls for “fair play” with the inference that Henry should somehow have red-carded himself for the infraction are easy when the fate of a proud footballing nation isn’t resting on your shoulders and you haven’t been taught to do everything it takes to win. And when was the last time the scoring team approached the referee asking him to disallow the goal?

Those who support Ireland as well as those who wanted to see France lose are justifiably outraged at the official, Henry and to an extent FIFA,  but let’s not forget that Ireland had 180 other minutes to ensure that one moment of shenanigans wouldn’t derail their World Cup bid.

Boom Goes The Dynamite: DEN 3, USA 1

Jeff Cunningham flew into the line-up and produced the USMNT's lone goal.

A quick note on the title…”boom goes the dynamite” is a reference to one of the all-time best YouTube clips. The classic line comes at the 2:29 mark.

No “W” for the USMNT and not even a “D” as a listless second half saw a 1-0 US lead go by the wayside in the span of about 7 minutes for a 3-1 win by the Danish Dynamite.

Since it is a friendly and everyone knows about the USMNT absences due to injury, MLS playoffs and other things (Cherundolo / Dempsey), there is not much to glean at a team level other than the fact that the USMNT doesn’t look all that deep.

Perhaps one observation of note is that the US seemed to struggle in the one area where they fielded the most regulars, the mid-field. This shouldn’t be that surprising since the Junior-Rico combo out there today has struggled for some time.

Overall, it was a forgettable performance that saw the US on its heels most of the game with short stretches of possession that rarely crossed into the offensive-third of the pitch.

(Note: In the unlikely event you want to watch a replay, it is available on ESPN360.)

Awards

Best Play of the Game — Jeff Cunningham’s goal: Sure it was gift pass from the Danish keeper that set-up the chance, but Cunningham kept his composure and buried it with his left foot! (He’s a righty.) Given that the 33-year-old’s strike was the only goal in 180+ minutes of play on this European vacation, he’s deserves some recognition.

Most Unheralded Play Jonathan Bornstein getting a boot on the ball to stop the Danish counter in the first half: After a turnover in the mid-field the Danes tried to feed an outlet pass to their right winger. Bornstein managed to get his left boot on the ball and control. If the outlet pass had gotten through, the Dynamite winger had acres of real estate in front of him to set-up a great chance on goal.

The Golden Shin Guard Benny Feilhaber: Played inspired ball in-front of his hometown fans. Benny made smart passes (including a beautifully slotted ball to Cunningham), drew fouls, took a few shots and limited the turnovers as he went the full 90.

Preview Follow-up

Edgar Castillo.

Frankie's last hurrah?

As expected, Señor Castillo collected his first cap for his country of origin. Castillo entered in the 61st minute at left-mid (with Feilhaber shifting inside). The lack of any semblance of possession or rhythm down the stretch severely limited his touches, although he did have one nice feed into Altidore that set-up a shot for Rogers at the top of the area.

As a projected left fullback by most (except TSG Matthew) it was certainly interesting to see Castillo play in the mid-field in his debut. Only time will tell if that is Bob-O’s long-term plan for Castillo.

Okay, what’s going on now with the RB situation? Or should we call it the Specs situation?

TSG assumed Spector would man the right side, however he stayed in central defense with Frankie Hedjuk getting the starting nod. While Hedjuk is a fan favorite in part for his frenetic style, today’s start may have been his swan song for the national team as he looked over-matched all day and was borderline reckless at times. If Hedjuk’s 85th cap is his last, consider the captain’s arm band given to him when Boca subbed-off kind of like the gold watch at his retirement party.

While there is no additional clarity at the top of the RB depth chart with Cherundolo and Spector sitting 1-2 in some order, it should be noted that Heath Pearce didn’t even make it on the bench for either friendly.

Will a woeful attack see a new strategy…..

Bob-O did switch up the strategy today which was both a product of the personnel he deployed and the 4-3-3 Danish formation. Bradley and Rico formed a holding tandem in the mid-field and the US generally attempted to push the ball wide to take advantage of playmakers Stu Holden and Benny Feilhaber on the wings.  You also saw the central backs spread a little wider and work to get more involved in the attack to take advantage of Spector’s service abilities.

….or a new entrant?

Looks like the preview piece should have read “and / or” as both the strategy was changed and a new striker was deployed. The aforementioned Jeff Cunningham was awarded the start while Conor Casey didn’t even make the bench. Aside from the goal and brilliant hold-and-cross, Cunningham’s day was rather uninspiring although the lack of a cohesive attack plagued his chances.

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 219 other followers