Archive for November, 2009

Observations From The Couch: USA vs. SVK (1-0, Final)

bratislava

Fact: Bratislava is sunny one day a year

Matthew and I are going to being adding some commentary on the game this morning (instead of just insulting each other over Google chat as we are doing now).

(New updates on top)

Second Half

  • What time is it? Bornstein time!!!…let see some energy here in the last two minutes.
  • More chances down the stretch, more balls into the hands of the Slovak keeper who is playing a strong game.
  • Bradley clearing the bench with Kljestan and Cunningham coming in for Rogers and Altidore
  • To quote Marv Albert…Feilhaber “serves up a facial” to Martin Skrtel on a wicked rip from 25-yards (“YES!!!”)
  • First cap for Dax McCarty who comes in for Dempsey. Goodson on for Boca.
  • US building some offensive tempo again….I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the one person who reached our publication this morning by searching for “vertically challenged stars”
  • JB said to foul the offender on the counter; no call and the 1 vocal fan for Slovakia objected.
  • Sestak for Stoch: Sestak has some speed. Let’s see how our 60-mins-in d performs.
  • US losing possession a bit; a little flat to start the half. Battle going on with EJ and Altidore and ‘vakia’s central backs — get more aggressive US.
  • Is that one, single guy on the vuvuzela making all that noise? I think that is one lone horn….nope two — but certainly no more.
  • FSC announces are good, not great — but a welcome departure from ESPN announcers who seem to think that our injured CB is named Onyewu Oguchi….WHO?!
  • Rogers having a solid game without youngster mistakes. He’s looked good being drawn in and linking with the midfield. Reminds me a bit of the second game against Honduras in the Gold Cup.
  • EJ on for Casey — it’s your time big guy.

Half Time Comments Brought to You Courtesy of Guinness and John McCann Steel Cut Oatmeal

Jonathan Bornstein not having the stongest game at left back, but let’s look at the positive as both he and Cherundolo are getting up the pitch wide.

Benny and Junior starting to play better in the center of the pitch. If Mike Bradley’s first touch was stronger, he could switch fields faster instead his unsteadiness is forcing him to play the ball back rather than across too much.

Loved how Benny called for the ball at the 41st minute after he got fouled and then drove up the middle of the pitch. Need to see more aggressive play from my BF in the 2nd.

US is playing conservative, better offensively — that’s a positive too

Observation in the back: Spector-Cherundolo communication much better than Gooch-Spector communication. Did Coach USA see that too?

Dempsey has had a few bouts of bad body language, but looks otherwise enthused. An absolutely perfect free kick take that nearly found the netting. C’mon Demps

Two words not to use yet in the Altidore-Dempsey interplay up top: “Natural chemistry”

I would expect at least one sub out of halftime for the Bobster.

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Starting XI: USMNT vs. Slovakia

new_usa_Bradley seems to be going with who he knows. Looks like someone is going to be playing out of their natural position in the back four as a result.

So much for using this friendly to see what the newcomers can do.

GK: Guzan

DEF: Spector, Bornstein, Bocanegra, Cherundolo

MID: Rogers, Bradley, Dempsey, Feilhaber! (Matthew, the ! after Benny’s name is required now, right?)

ST: Casey, Altidore

BEN: Conrad, Kljestan, Goodson, McCarty, Cunningham, Hahnemann, Eddie Johnson

Congrats to the Galaxy’s D & Home of the Hobbit!

In a fitting combination that put the Galaxy through to the championship, Omar Gonzalez knocked a cross into traffic that fell to Gregg Berhalter for a righty touch and score. The tally was the difference in the 2-0 Galaxy win over the Dynamo to knock the away team out of the playoffs.

gonzalez

Persistence personified.

TSG’s late night comments:

♦ Just horribly embarrassing moments for the MLS as the lights went out twice at Home Depot Center. You would have thought it was a Park & Rec league game and someone had to wake up the groundskeeper. We’ll allow the MLS this one reprieve and hope they have a prevention strategy going into 2010.

♦ This game belonged to the Galaxy defense who were airtight against a relatively weak Dynamo attack. Rook AJ Delagarza (a phenomenal performance by the youngster) and last year’s rook of the year Sean Franklin on the wings continually shut down the feeble runs of the Dynamo on the outside while sprinting up to join the attack. Gregg Berhalter recovered from a tough Chivas series and Omar Gonzalez dismissed his weak playoff record-to-date and returned to the form that made him this year’s rookie of the year.

The strength, quality and consistency of the defense kept the Galaxy in the game until their one-dimensional attack prospered.

♦ While the announcers commended Berhalter on the score, big guy Omar Gonzalez’s effort to get to the cross, keep it alive and redirect the nugget was “the” play of the game in TSG’s eyes. OG, unfortunate initials for a defender, would not be denied. When coaches talk about wanting it more, they just need to pop in the DVD of Gonzales’ disregard for his health as he went above, around and through players to get to David Beckham’s service.

Heart.

No doubt, this was a tremendous effort by the Maryland grad.

♦ While the Dynamo attack was inadequate to say the least, I was surprised by the Galaxy’s lack of creativity in getting the ball to Landon Donovan. The offense for Arena’s squad seemed to continually defer to Beckham and forgot that LD was on the pitch. Odd. If the Galaxy fail to score the free kick and the Dynamo somehow squeak in a shot and eek out a victory in this one, you can be sure that TSG would have been all over the Galaxy’s lack of creativity.

♦ Conversely, it’s the Galaxy’s ability to build tempo that creates the flow of their offense and usually crescendos with a score that didn’t make it happen either. While ESPN announcer Alexei Lalas thought that the play stoppages benefited Los Angeles, I think any sane person would have clearly recognized this disrupted the Galaxy’s rhythm and ability to build the offense; just what benefits the defensive strategy of the Dynamo.

♦ Houston lacked everything on offense. Brian Ching couldn’t unshackle himself from LA’s backline and Dominc Oduro, who TSG thought in our preview might expose the elder Berhalter, was lost…and that’s a compliment. While the service to Oduro was itself lost, Oduro seemed to have slept through the lead-up to this one and have no idea how to attack the defense. A horrid performance.

That being said, through a share of crosses and scrums in the middle, Houston had a full 14 shots versus LA’s 7.

♦ We’ll say it right now, Stu Holden is a winger. While Holden presented himself more on offense tonight than in the Seattle series, the Dynamo’s young captain has trouble navigating the middle of the pitch. While Holden maintained possession, he lacked the ability to attack and threaten through the middle. After viewing Stu here and in the Seattle series, TSG thinks he’s better when there is the threat of space in front of him.

The Iceman navigated to pockets in the opening minutes to create some chances, but once LA adjusted, Holden’s offensive touch failed him and he acted merely as a hub, receiving and redirecting the ball from one side of the pitch to the other; not a bad skill, but not attacking football either. Anytime Stu operated the wing, not only was he more confident on the ball, but he seemed to have a plan of attack. Might we credit Bob Bradley again here?

♦ Ricardo Clark’s belligerence cost the Dynamo tonight. Clark who steadily fed and fed more guff to the refs was booked for an open field tackle in his half (free kick and score #1) and nonchalant trip in the box (penalty kick and score #2). Not a sterling performance for the USMNT hopeful.

♦ David Beckham was solid, but not spectacular today…but it was enough.

♦ With the loss, the Dynamo’s Stu Holden, Brian Ching, Ricardo Clark and Brad Davis are all available for Denmark recall tomorrow. TSG thinks we may see Holden round the globe, but that’s about it. Brad Davis deserves at least a trip to Camp Cupcake in January, don’t you think?

In other news, the Kiwis are through! Congratulations to the All Whites who qualified for their first World Cup finals in 28 years. Having watched the first match earlier this year against Bahrain, this one was a near mirror image with numerous mistakes and abundant USMNTitis. New Zealand was stouter on defense and that was the difference as a technical symphony this game was not.

By the way, nothing more comical than the raucous celebration by Bahrain when they earned a 2nd half penalty kick juxtaposed against the horrible excuse for a penalty take that grounded almost directly at the All Whites’ keeper thereafter.

In other news, no beer in New Zealand is allowed to exceed more than 4% alcohol, so hopefully the Zealanders started knocking them back after Rory Fallon’s goal winner header at 44 minutes in the first half.

Orange Wedges: Breakfast In Bratislava

Orange Wedges is TSG’s game day post that will be updated until the start of the match. Due to the early start for us left coasters for USMNT – Slovakia, we thought we’d kick it off a day early.

fribble

All this talk of Friendlys makes me want a Fribble. (East Coasters understand.)

The USMNT will play Slovakia at 10am EST / 7am PST on Saturday (11/14). The match can be viewed on Fox Soccer Channel which will also replay the game at 8:30pm EST / 5:30pmEST for those too hungover to catch the game live.

(Updates added at the top.)

  • Who are you most looking forward to seeing out on the pitch tomorrow? Cunningham and Johnson hold some allure due to the vacancy at striker, and its going to be nice to get a look at Guzan with Timmy back in the UK. However, I am most looking forward to seeing Clint Dempsey, no matter where he lines up. TSG was critical of Deuce in the September round of qualifying and then he was unfit for the October clincher in Honduras. Now Dempsey is fit and in the midst of a goal-scoring binge for Fulham. More importantly, the US needs him to make his presence felt with Donovan and Davies out of the lineup.
  • Not much news coming out of the squad today…probably because Twitter fiends Holden, Ching and Davies are absent and Altidore’s tweeting has been a little less frequent (and less about soccer) since he got his hand slapped by Hull City following his suspension. So, we’ll just leave you with this recent video from Studio 90 to get you reacquainted with Marcus Hahnemann and his transportation preferences.
  • The match will be played in Tehelné pole stadium which translates into “brickfield” according to wikipedia.com. I hope something was lost in the translation there because playing on a field made of bricks can’t be good on the knees. Considering the place is on tap to be demolished, I don’t think the USMNT is walking into Slovakia’s version of the Home Depot Center.
  • Despite the training weather, the forecast for tomorrow is cool (high of 50) and likely rainless (20% chance)
  • It’s been a rainy and cold training week over in Bratislava for the USMNT. For pictures in the slop, head over to USSoccer.com.
  • For TSG’s full preview, check out USMNT Battles Slovakia. As an American of Polish (and Ukrainian) descent I would be remiss if I didn’t add that I am looking forward to the USMNT avenging Poland’s 1-0 defeat to Slovakia in the October round of World Cup qualifying. (Our Ukrainian brethren took care of business versus the Slovaks, 3-2, earlier in the year.)
    • Poll follow-up:
      • 57% of TSG readers says that Sacha Kljestan’s onfield behavior makes a difference in extending a USMNT spot to him. Let’s see how SK plays and behaves this Saturday–he’s probably a 2nd half sub.
      • 76% of you are more excited to see Eddie Johnson over Jeff Cunningham. Grant Wahl suggested that if EJ scores this will lead to over-hype–TSG says this is 2010, not 2006.
  • One note on the upcoming friendly with Denmark (11/18)…Look for the roster to be released sometime on Sunday morning as US Soccer communicated that they are waiting until after the  Saturday MLS and Mexican league playoffs games. Ching, Holden, Rolfe, Donovan, Findley, Castillo and Torres are all in play for a Denmark call-up depending upon the club results (and Bob Bradley’s discretion).

Feedback: Viewing Parties and WC Team Kits

crowdWe’ve gotten a lot of feedback by email on coverage for two subjects:

  • Viewing parties for the US friendlies
  • World Cup team kits.

In that vain, TSG will gladly honor that feedback and put up a story/sidebar on both.

Viewing Party

If you have a viewing party for an upcoming USMNT friendly, just post it in the comments section in this piece.

If you would adhere to the following format, it would make TSG’s life easier (we still do not have an intern from Arizona State or UCLA, but I digress):

Which friendly: Slovakia / Denmark

What time: 5:00pm EST/PST, etc.

Where: Kell’s, The 500 Club, My basement

City, State: Gary, Indiana

Map link/Yelp link: (link)

Cost: (if any): Your left pinky, your don’t tread on me retro USMNT shirt, $5.99

Other/Summary: There will/won’t be beer or Must be 21/Must be 21 and like beer or AO Viewing Party, etc., etc.

This will allow us to cut and paste it at once into the body of a post. Thank you.

If you’re in Chicago, TSG recommends: The Small Bar

If you’re in San Francisco, TSG recommends: Danny Coyles

—————————————————————————————

World Cup Team Kits

We’ll start a post here shortly, but if send us photos (as oppose to links) to shinguardian at gmail dot com.

Righteous and thanks….carry on.

Oh, and one more note. I would just like to “report” that two people have reached our publication today by searching for “Holden McGroin.” For some reason, that makes me happy.

Fill Up The Cooler, Jones Watch Rolls On

TSG feels like we need to do something here. Jones has stubborn shin injury and after-all, we are The SHIN Guardian. Suggestions?

According to Soccerway.com (vai Match Fit) the Jermaine Jones Watch will stretch into 2010 with the Schalke 04 mid-fielder and USMNT tease being ruled out of Bundesliga play until after the turn of the calendar.

Schalke coach Felix Magath was reported as saying, “We’re half way through November and it doesn’t look like he will be able to return to the pitch in four weeks from now.”  (The Bundesliga season wraps up for the break in mid-December.)

For the last setback in early October TSG recommended grabbing a seat some pretzels and a case of Doppelbock. However, with Jones officially recognized as a US national by FIFA, we are going to suggest a good American beer. So, in the spirit of rest and relaxation TSG recommends Kona Brewing’s Longboard Lager, a Top 5 brew on the big board here at TSG.

(Just an FYI, I intentionally kept this post “light” as I don’t want to think about the increasing likelihood that Jones never plays a meaningful game for the USMNT, nor draw any parallels to the tight time line Gooch is facing to be fit for the World Cup.)

Weekend: Friendlyville, Playoffs, & Beckermania

soccer_ball-2490

Mark's Soccer Globe #8

So much soccer this weekend, that…yup…just checked my Swatch, we passed noon on hump day. We’re going with our weekend preview a day early to get everyone amped up and get the good comments flowing.

Our global piece is dominated by American soccer this weekend and by that wonderful “soccer globe” to our left.

Look at it sparkle. We’re going global….

….but we start in the Land of the Free and Home of the Whopper: For you USMNT hounds who missed it, here’s the TSG Slovakia preview. I hope you, Dax, and Frankie all enjoy watching the game.

Let’s stay stateside or rather States-wise with (the) MLS:

» Friday night brings us Houston vs. Los Angeles from the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.

Wait, maybe I should just send you to ESPN’s piece right now that states that the key for Houston is to shut down David Beckham and Landon

ld_db

ESPN: Psst...Houston...to win you are going to need to stop Beckham and Donovan. TSG: No sh*t

Donovan. Let me guess ESPN, 11 guys a side to start the match also? Thank you, recess is over ESPN, please proceed to 4th period reporting where today we’ll learn how not to just state the obvious.

Are you kidding me? TSG has nary a few weeks of MLS under our belt….we can do better than that. My fingers are actually crossed right now. Go:

  • How about the Brian Ching going up for head dingers against rookie Omar Gonzales, who has pretty much played down to his age during these playoffs. Ching has the experience and the nastiness, Gonzales the strength and the youth.
  • Is Ricardo Clark fully fit in the midfield and able to injure David Beckham? For the little MLS, I’ve watched, I always see extremely “borderline” tackles by the Houston USMNTer on the English pretty boy. Don’t get me wrong, Beckham is some times too Roy Keane on his tackles, but my observations usually point to Beckham being the worse for wear after the affair.
  • Does Stu Holden involve himself in the game? First, let’s commend Holden, who TSG is a fan of, in that he plays to one set of his strengths for the USMNT (flying down the wing, big crosses, tracking back on defense) yet his club demands different qualities (linking play in the middle of the field, finding space). Quite dynamic for the Dynamo captain. We offered some criticism of the Iceman in the Seattle series for not more aggressively finding the ball.
Galaxy: You have the Iceman's attention

Galaxy: You have the Iceman's attention

Best way to neutralize Donovan and Beckham, Stu and company? Maintain possession. That’s right, Iceman, be dangerous…with the ball.

  • While many are worried about Becks and Donovan, what about Edson Buddle? The Galaxy striker while not extremely proficient around the net recently makes the defense work hard. You’ve got a big pitch, you’ve got a re-jiggered Dynamo defense with the suspension of Mike Chabala and now you’ve got the aggressive runs of Buddle coming at you. Watch Buddle vs. Houston Back 4–that’s a good match-up.
  • Turning tables, the Galaxy better watch out for Houston’s Buddle, Mr. Dominic Oduro. TSG has only seen Oduro twice, but, if I were a betting man, I might take the Oduro-Berhalter match-up over the Buddle match-up just mentioned. For all his experience, Berhalter was exposed against a Chivas attack that really wasn’t very technical adept in the strike zone. Oduro, playing off Ching and with Stu and Brad Davis (does he ever have a shot at a nattie team call-up?) trailing after Becks and Donovan are racing to catch up after a counter.That might present some problems.

» Saturday evening’s affair brings us the Cinderella Salt Lakers vs. the Chicago Blancos. TSG has less observations of these teams, so we’ll keep our comments brief.

  • Fresh off the US friendly in the morning, you can imagine all glassy-eyed USMNT fans will try to focus their peepers on the strikers: Chris Rolfe
findley

Has Findley captured a little Charlie-In-A-Bottle?

and striker-du-jour Robbie Findley. While Rolfe has had his shot, Findley only got a sniff. Both will likely be in contention for the right to be the last guy picked for the RSA playground. Findley’s been playing to fine form and, with the MLS going into hibernation, one more big impression, in the hometown of US Soccer no less, couldn’t hurt.

  • Having watched a few RSL games, I really like the play of Kyle Beckerman lately. The veteran in the middle has–in the games I’ve seen–been pretty much anywhere he’s needed. He has a unique ability to read where the RSL defense is going to break down and make himself available in support or to take on the offender. I’m going to call it Beckermania….props to you rasta man.
tummi

I dare say Blanco is just as agile as this fellow and definitely more visionary

  • Here is a question I’d like to ask Chad Marshall, Jay Heaps, Omar Gonzales, Bobby Boswell or pretty much anyone on an MLS backline. Why, really why, is it so freaking difficult to get the ball away from a 36-year-old with a history of injuries who looks like Tummi Gummi? Actually, nothing but respect from TSG for Cuauhtemoc Blanco as he signs off from the MLS. Guarantee if that man had played at, say, Inter or Valencia he would have had a lot more global fans.
  • Our brief read of a few rags on this match, many are talking about the prowess of Javier Morales being the key to Real unlocking the scoring, the player who has caught our eye the most on the offensive end for RSL is Russian Yura Movsisyan. We just checked the stats on Movsisyan and we’re astonished to find that he started 19 of the 26 games he played in this year. The biggest impact we’ve seen from the 22-year-old is when he’s come off the bench and completely changed the offensive complexion for RSL.

I would term RSL’s offensive pre-Yura insertion as “assiduous” while I would term RSL offense post-Yura insertion as “zippy.”

Does TSG not have enough observations to make that claim?

beckermania

Beckermania, coming to a pitch near you!

  • Yup, that all TSG is qualified to offer on this piece. You, the fans, that read our publication have many more observations. Have at it in the comments.

We now cross the pond to World Cup playoffs.

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