Archive for November, 2009

“How can i love one woman when i’m in love with 11 men”…

Always singing when you're winning

So I’m a Liverpool fan. For most of my life things have been pretty good. In the early years, they were winning the League, the FA Cup, European cup and the Milk cup (Carling cup). I loved my team but I was too young to be completely overwhelmed by wins or losses. Sure I was disappointed when they lost games but I got over it pretty quickly.

Internationally things were different. I’m English but I grew up in Switzerland and like a lot of kids those days my footballing heart was with Brazil. Their 82 and 86 teams were amazing. They boasted world class players like Zico, Falcao, Socrates, Careca etc… and were a pleasure to watch. Their 82 team is often considered the greatest team never to win the WC. They all came back in 86, seasoned, wiser and favored to win. I was 100% on their bandwagon though now my allegiance to my country of birth was playing a greater role. My ultimate dream/nightmare was for England to meet Brazil in the final. Obviously I would root for Brazil but I was fine with an England win. England as you may or may not know were divinely eliminated in the quarters by the “hand of god” (admittedly his second goal was pure class) and Brazil were eliminated by France, a day earlier, in one of the greatest matches ever played. They say no team deserved to lose that game and the footballing spectacle was one for the ages. It came down to penalties and when it was over I was in shambles. It was up until then the hardest and saddest two days of my life.

It was the first time a non parental scolding or physical injury brought me to tears. I was so invested in the Selecao, followed them with such passion that their premature exit from the WC was something that I couldn’t understand, I couldn’t grasp that it was just a game and everything would be ok…my life as I knew it was in ruins.

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Say It Ain’t So Kenny!

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

—–

Can the USMNT stop dropping like flies? Please.

The TSG brothers had this unfortunate exchange this evening.

Kenny Coops, shelved?

Mark: “Kenny Cooper may have blown out his knee.”

Matt: “Are you kidding me?! So disheartening. I can’t take it anymore…I don’t want to live.”

(Well, that last part about “living” may have been absent.)

Mark: “If that’s the case, I’m leading the campaign to shut down our top 18 until May.”

To the best of current reports, USMNT hopeful and FC Dallas alum–wait why wasn’t he stationed in Slovakia and Denmark this week–Kenny Cooper may be out, for awhile. Coops is rumored to have blown out his ACL in practice. For a striker in particular, that is not best injury to sustain.

We’ll update you when there is official news, let’s just hope it doesn’t become official

A few weeks ago, Sunil Gulati made an excellent point in the press that we’ll reproduce here as the context present itself..

“We don’t have a lot of players playing at Man U and Barcelona,”

“We’re getting there. Those are some of the best clubs in the world, and it’s not like we have a lot of players playing there, so for people’s expectations to be that we’re going to go out and play like that, or have a high-level performance every time, it’s not the case.”

Gulati’s comments ring even more true as some of the USMNT’s most talented players continue to suffer from injuries. Whereas a team like England has a Joleon Lescott to fill in for a Rio Ferdinand, a team like Brazil can turn to Pato or the Hulk for striking power and a team like France can turn to Alou Diarra with Jeremy Toulalan battling fitness concerns, the USMNT does not have the same luxury.

Not now and not lurking in the ranks.

Let’s hope the run of unfortunate circumstances ends in 2009 and stops just short of something major to Coops. Let’s hope we don’t have to cross him of the striker-in-need list just yet.

Maybe we just need to keep a little horse placenta around?

Wrapping Up 2009…And Hopefully Denmark

USMNT Aarhus: Late day training

USMNT Aarhus: Late day training

It is nearly time to cue the end of the year pieces.

After an uneven, nail-biting and ultimately euphoric World Cup qualifier run, the USMNT is in Aarhaus, Denmark set to take on the Danish Dynamite this Wednesday to close the 2009 campaign. By the way, yet another kick*ss nickname for a team.

Per our column yesterday, excused from the team’s Slovakia roster are: Steve Cherundolo, who was last seen rolling off the field on Saturday and has an emotional situation to attend to; Chad Marshall, whose knee continues to bother him after playing a single game in the last month; and

dynomite

Uh, no, Danish Dynamite...not DYN-O-MITE!

Clint Dempsey, presumably to get some pitch time for more midfielders.

The man nearly all TSG fans wanted to see on the starting pitch once added to this roster, Pachuca’s José Francisco Torres, was called up, but then excused. Odd in it’s own right, Torres also only played 45 minutes of Pachuca’s contentious affair this past Saturday with U.A.N.L.

Bee-lining eastbound for the Yanks are the Dynamo’s Stu Holden and Ricardo Clark and a man who now needs no introduction, Edgar Castillo, who is making his way to Coach USA’s roster for the first time. Here, here! JFT’s roster spot will go unfilled.

Taking on the Yanks will be the Dynamite who did more than just survive (and top) a difficult WCQ group that included both Sweden and Portugal. The Danes dismissed Sweden in their last 2nd to last WCQ qualifier, dropping the Swedes and blanking them on the goal sheet. In September, Denmark’s defense was just as stiff in limiting a Portugese squad that included Ronaldo, Deco and Nani to a single goal in a 1-1 draw.

Alas, Denmark’s November star has lost some luster as Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner is scheduled for groin surgery and Liverpool central defender Daniel Agger is taking a breather…er…rather…bowing out with an undisclosed nagging injury. Five additional players that started in the last legs of Denmark’s qualifying run, including Ajax striker Dennis Rommendahl, were absent from the Dynamite’s 0-0 draw against Ji-Sung Park and South Korea this past Saturday.

poulsen

Poulsen: An important cog at Juve

Actually trotting out to the pitch Wednesday for Denmark in a starring role will still be Danish player of the year in 2005 and 2006, Christian Poulsen who cleans up the middle for Juventus. In a little bit of interesting trivia while Poulsen shipped in to Juventus from Sevilla he spent the bulk of his earlier career at German side Shalke 04…where his replacement in central defense was none other than Jermaine Jones.

Others to watch out for Vladimir Weisse-style (as in little known players that cause problems, see Slovakia: Saturday), are Thomas Kahlenberg (Wolfsburg) and Duncan Rasmussen (Danish side Bronby). We know Johnny “Be Good” Bornstein is up to the task though….yup just coined a new TSG nickname. (Note: ESPN reporting that Kahlenberg won’t play; we’ll find out — he started and played Saturday against South Korea).

On the flip side of the ball, if the USMNT thought they had a difficult time finding offense in Bratislava on Saturday, they’ll not find it easier this time around. Only 5 goals against the home side in the WCQ trials (again in that group that included Sweden and Portugal) and heady Stoke City keeper Thomas Sorenson in net. If you’ve read TSG over the past two months, you know that we think quite highly of Sorenson who has been tested more often than perhaps any other EPL goalie in the last two years.

Let’s get right to our customary preview.

    1. TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”
    2. 11 at the Whistle
    3. *Disclaimers

TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”

Overview: As we saw in Bratislava, Coach USA is looking to be competitive in the first half and investigate new players in the 2nd half. Coach USA’s recent roster additions (only Castillo, new, amongst the group) suggest that he’ll employ that strategy again.

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And You Thought USA vs. MEX Was Contentious

french_ireland

This upcoming Henry trip is nothing compared to what is going on off the pitch

Courtesy of my SF Black Sox teammate Chris Hanson (and brewer of the “Dax McCarty” beer), comes an absolute great link showing just how, well, hostile the French-Irish qualifier this weekend is getting.

First, you had French coach Raymond Domenech call Ireland “England’s B team.”

Then, you had Richard Dunne absolutely lambast Domenech for doing oh-so-little with oh-so-much talent.

(Note to TSG readers, take everything after this point with a grain of salt….if that didn’t occur already.)

Now, today’s letter-writing fisticuffs between the two “governments” over seats to the match.

This is the first time on TSG that I have labeled something a must read.

Thanks Chris.

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The Opposite Of Saturday

In the wake of the Bore-islava “classic” you may be thirsting for some fast-paced soccer with lots of scoring and creativity. If so, head over to ESPN360 right now for the final two periods of the Beach Soccer World Cup match between Nigeria and Brazil from Dubai.

Beach Soccer is played in three 12 minute periods and at the end of the first stanza it is Brazil 5, Nigeria 2. Just an FYI, Brazil invented the game, so they are pretty good. And as a bonus there are the requisite crowd shots of the Brazilian (female) supporters.

Replays of a few other games from the Beach Soccer World Cup may also be viewed at ESPN360.

USMNT Aarhus: A Few Changes

Edgar Castillo

Show us what you got, Edgar.

MONDAY UPDATE: A Sunday night update to the US Soccer press release on the roster said that Jose Francisco Torres has been excused for personal reasons after being initially called into camp. According to Neil Buethe at US Soccer (US Men’s Spokesman and a very nice guy as well) this morning, there is no further information available through US Soccer at this time and no player will assume JFT’s spot.

Questions by TSG surrounding further inclusion of Torres and why Jeremiah White wasn’t selected, though Benny Feilhaber was, in his home stadium were met with a “No Comment – Coach’s Decision” as well.

—–

USMNT Bratislava took off this morning for Aarhaus, Denmark….well most of the squad did.

Dropped from the roster called up for yesterday’s 1-0 loss to Slovakia were Chad Marshall, Steve Cherundolo and Clint Dempsey. Folks may be surprised that Dempsey was sent packing back to England. Since there are a number of plausible reasons we are not inclined to climb into Bob-O’s head before we have our first cup of coffee this morning, but we’ll revisit the issue later this week. Also of note, Soccer Insider reports that Chad Marshall’s knee is still not right.

With the MLS playoffs behind them, USMNT regulars Ricardo Clark and Stu Holden were added to the group.

Now that the Mexican standings are set, TSG fave Jose Francisco Torres is on a plane over to Denmark to continue his Saprissa redemption tour. Torres is joined by left back (we say left middie) Edgar Castillo. Castillo is set to answer the hype in his first call-up to the US mother ship. Let’s see those chops–and passport–young lad.

In other Sunday news:

  • Congrats go to the Salt Lakers whose playoff run continued by extinguishing the Fire on kicks. RSL generally clamped down on the Fire offense and was able to maintain possession in the midfield–the key to the game for them.
  • Uruguay made World Cup qualifying a bit tougher on the Costa Rica besting the Ticos 1-0 on the throw rug at Saprissa. This WC bid will be settled on Wednesday in Montevideo.
  • Here, let me write this next one like ESPN would to get you to “click” the story: “Is another America defender headed to the Premiership! To Man City no less!”…..Sorry to do that on a Sunday, reports have former Thomas Rongen whipping boy Neven Subotic, who now plays for Serbia after coming through the US “U-” series, possible going to Man City in the January window. We’re fine with Spector, but the depth would have been nice.
  • The friendly series was not kind to Arsenal yesterday, Arsenal superstriker and Netherlands national teamer Robin Van Persie limped off in Italy 15 minutes in to the 0-0 draw and is now expected out for 3 months. That leaves Arsenal without size up front as Denmark nattie Nicklas Bendtner is slated for groin surgery and at least a month on the shelf dating back to his Halloween injury versus Tottenham.

Bratislava…More Like Bore-islava (SVK 1, US 0)

Marek Hamšík

Guzan guessed left, Marek Hamšík went right and that was the game.

The 1-0 Slovakia win was not the most exciting match and the lack of fans, dreary weather and field conditions made the game seem entirely unimportant. With injuries, MLS playoffs and roster decisions it was a toss-up heading into the game whether the US would really learn anything in Bratislava. It ended up being what we didn’t see that was the most telling.

We didn’t see:

…the US disorganized as a result of the patchwork line-up…however, as the second half progressed and subs came on the attack came apart a bit

…Altidore and Casey get involved in the first half…a direct result of lack of Lando?

…the ball go in the back of the net for the Yanks…with Davies and Donovan it was challenging at times…without them it was a constant struggle

…the backline in disarray without Gooch…and surprise central defense starter Spector added a different dimension as the ball was played back to him routinely

…Rogers give the ball away all day like he did during the Gold Cup..nice to see the maturation process continue

…Dempsey checking his watch to see how much time was left…Clint did some work today, but still expect more

…Guzan channel his PK heroics from last week to stop the Marek Hamšík effort in the first half

…One second of stoppage time…in fact the first half came in under 45 minutes on FSC’s game clock

Coach Bradley’s strategy was clear. Play the best players you have and let the newcomers and re-comers sub in late. The first half saw the US play more down the right side with Rogers getting off some good crosses, the best of which came in the 2nd minute. The duo of Junior and Feilhaber played well for about the first 50 minutes or so and the US was able to maintain a sizeable possession advantage for the duration of the game.

Again, however, it was the USMNT’s inability to find the back of the net despite a number of chances was glaring. (At TSG that is now referred to as USMNTitis.)

brad_guzan

In good hands with Guzan.

Awards

Best Play of the Game — Guzan’s point blank stop in the 74th minute: Coming off a free kick for Slovakia, Dax McCarty’s poor clearance led to strike on goal that was deflected right to a waiting Satislav Sestak about 10 yards from goal. Sestak walked in on Guzan who challenged and then made a terrific kick save with his left boot.

Most Unheralded Play Cherundolo’s hustle in the 60th minute: Only Dolo’s hustle prevented a certain breakaway after a US set piece deep in Slovak territory. The ball was kicked out to a sprinting attacker, but Dolo got there just in time to poke it over to Johnny B.

The Golden Shin Guard Jonathan Spector: Playing out of position at center back, the recently shaky Spector seemed confident and provided great support to the front six

Preview Follow-up

Mr. Robbie Rogers, please report to the starting line-up. Claim your ticket to South Africa now.

Rogers is clearly a Bradley favorite at this point and added a strong game to his resume for South Africa. He provided good service including a moon ball from the deep right corner on a set piece that dropped right at the back post and the 6-yard line

Eddie Johnson vs. Cunningham: Let’s get it on.

Eddie Johnson came on for Casey at the start of the second half. The US changed tactics slightly to see if he could be a Charlie Davies-light by serving up a few longer balls to Altidore and hoping EJ could run off him. The US found a little more room to work in the offensive zone when EJ came in and Johnson even got a few shots, but overall his speed was neutralized by the soggy turf.

Cuningham entered late for Casey and you could immediately see why he’ll remain a long shot for the World Cup roster. Unfortunately, Cunningham’s slight frame allows him to get knocked off the ball with a pinkie-check. Eight minutes in Bratislava may be all the run Cunningham gets.

Can the Bradley-Benny! pairing recapture Gold Cup (’07) magic?

Wonder of wonders, the US was able to play up the middle for the first time since in well…let’s just say its been a long time. Bradley and Benny seemed more comfortable with each other and seemed to remember where each other was on the pitch this time which helped to make some room in the middle and not leave the back line exposed. We didn’t see a dynamic duo in the middle, but the pairing made progress today.

Does Clint Dempsey shine or sputter in Donovan’s absence?

There was much more shine than sputter for Deuce today including a cracker of shot on goal from thirty yards out on a free kick. Some of Dempsey’s creativity was on display and he seemed more active overall. But as Matthew mentioned in game observations Dempsey seemed a little visibly frustrated at times when he didn’t think the right play was made by his teammates.

Conor Casey

Float like a rhino...stink like a...

Make us believe Conor Casey

We are closer to believing…that Casey may have been a one-game wonder in Honduras. He had more opportunities than Altidore with the ball, but didn’t really do anything with them. Came off at the half, but that was probably planned to give EJ and JC some run in the second half.

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