Archive for December, 2009

Memory Lane: USA Clubs Honduras

To conclude the year, a look back at one of my favorite columns I’ve ever written for any publication.

I hardly remember what I wrote without re-reading and re-reading the piece, but I remember making mental note after mental note as I watched USA vs. Honduras on October 10th unfold at Danny Coyles in San Francisco.

Arriving home at 2am, I was committed to recounting this moment and sharing it with the TSG community. I published the typo-riddled piece (I don’t believe I’ve even edited since) at 5:04am PST the morning of October 11th without getting in a snooze….and then had some oatmeal and too much coffee and headed to a soccer game at 7am. That game was played drunk on adrenalin and perhaps some Guinness as well.

USMNT fans will remember where they were for this one….

So closes the decade….I’ve scheduled this piece to re-publish at 5:04am this morning…..a mere 82 days later.

Tomorrow TSG’s first salvo on the USMNT roster for South Africa.

———-

In a game that media outlets could have used to springboard soccer to new heights in the U.S., perhaps it was best that the diehard fans watched and appreciated clustered together in 37 packed bars across the nation.

Who cares if ESPN and half of America doesn’t recognize? (P.S. As I write this, ESPN.com on their home page and their soccer page has still not acknowledged one of the greatest qualifier games of this decade if not longer. [Update: it finally garnered a mention on their homepage.])

It’s 3am in the morning and I am attempting to put some words to describe the U.S.’s emphatic, seize-the-day announcement that they will be present in South Africa. I wish my mobile phone wouldn’t have died so I could present you with a simple picture, a portrait. It would be the ear-to-ear grin of Michael, a USMNT fan from Tracy, CA (nearly 2 hours from San Francisco) who shook my hand on the way out of Danny Coyles and had the most satisfied expression I’ve seen on a Yanks’ fan’s face in a long time.

Michael, I know the elation probably carried you long past your drive home. The USMNT is Cup bound.

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Lunch, Backpack, Check! TSG Goes To Camp

Is Marvell Going "A" or "B" team?

Update: We’re in the process of figuring out the days we’ll be in camp and who we want to chat with….so last shot here folks.

The Shin Guardian is going to attend the USMNT January camp.

Want to know how Geoff Cameron feels about his first call-up?

Want to know how Benny! feels about being one of the senior guys leading the charge?

Want to know how Kyle Beckerman washes the dreds?

Use the comment section below and let us know who you want us to (try and) speak with and what you want us to (try and) ask.

Happy holidays and happy New Year.

One more quick note….TSG will be heading to the January 23rd game against Honduras as well.

“RIMANDO!” “RIMANDO!”

Can The USMNT Avenge The Ghost of Frings?!

There is no antibiotic for World Cup fever.

And yesterday’s piece on the starting 11 for the decade had us recanting the Cup games of the past 10 years….with conversations around Sanneh and the Germany game in 2002 on the forefront of our mind.

While TSG will be decidedly focused on the three first-things-first matches for the USMNT in most of its coverage, does Germany again await the USMNT should they graduate the group?

For our younger readers, you missed a good one in 2002….a stellar performance by world class keepers in Kahn and Friedel, a vintage Donovan performance before he was vintage and, of course, a handball by rocket-footed defensive mid Torsten Frings that makes Theirry Henry look like a saint.

And yes…per out piece yesterday as well…that is a dynamite lead pass to Donovan for scoring attempt…from Reyna…wow!

…and what a run by Tony Sanneh!

USMNT ’00-’09: TSG’s Squad For All The Marbles

This one is sure to be controversial as we begin ringing in the New Year….and closing the decade.

TSG sat down and asked ourselves the question: “Selves, if you had to put one team out there to win a game for the USMNT, grabbing players only from the decade we are now concluding, who would you select?”

The premise as simple as the criteria:  The player needs to have at least one cap for the USMNT during the 2000’s. That’s it.

It would however be assumed that this player was at their utmost skill level or potential for the game. For example, if Ernie Stewart is/was selected then it would be assumed he was in his tip-top 1996 or so form for the game, not his early 2000’s form.

Additionally the players had to fit together as a plausible team–so we’re not going with, let’s say, Jozy Altidore, Brian McBride, Joe Max-Moore and Eddie Johnson up top at the same time.

Boca: Head and shoulders above on the left flank. You're in the 11, Captain.

With these guidelines in mind, we threw-away our concocted mix of criteria we had originally came up with:

3 parts play for the USMNT team, 2 parts club play. 1 part longevity across both

…and made the selections based 100% on TSG brother discussion over Cooper’s Sparkling Ale from Australia (not a champagne mind you, more of an amber) during the Christmas holiday to avoid discussion with our wives and girlfriends. Shh….oh come now that’s not true.

While Mark and I had the discussion, I’ve created the piece and I’m sure he will no doubt shoots some arrows in this pioneer’s back.

Winning the big one for the natties? Admittedly fandom may have drifted ahead of analysis here, but not by a huge margin.

I think we’ve arrived at a squad very representative of the style, grit, and American personality to take on the best of the international elite.

In your reading remember, the goal is to win one game, not evaluate who is the best by position (through statistical review or other) throughout the course of the decade. That exercise, as we mentioned, might bore all of us.

Here’s who TSG goes to war with in our, cough, 4-3-2-1 formation.

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Monday-P-L: Specs Gets In, More…

We’ll just use this column today to update Americans in the Premiership and all other mild goings-on during a global holiday week.

Specs: Shaky in return at LB today

• One game in the book thus far, Jonathan Spector subbed in for Herita Ilunga at leftback in the 20th min. Specs, who’s been per our last columns, the 5th defender looked a little bit rusty and slow.. He did however, get beat for a Jermain Defoe strike attempt that Defoe rushed to the rebound and knocked home late in the 2nd of the 2-0 loss.

Specs is looking more and more like a central defender to me these days or a right back that needs cover in defending against the Defoes and Robinhos of the world.

Another game note, TSG fave Luka Modric (pictured as well) had a beaut of a goal in his first starting assignment since coming back from a broken leg.

Clint Dempsey is playing a more reserved role on the left flank today against Chelsea. Zoltan Gera has gone up to the forward role and already produced, giving Fulham a 1-0 lead 20 mins in at the Bridge. Dempsey would have gotten beat up on his crossing and down the line runs today against the Blues. Update: 2-1 Drogba, with an onslaught by Chelsea in the 70th minute decade. Goal for Didier, own goal on Smalling for Fulham. 2-1 Blues.

• Hurry up Landon Donovan, it took Everton 82 minutes, the last 20 or so with Burnley down a man to score at home against the EPL newcomers. Yikes! Disclaimer in that Luis Saha is out of the 18 for this one–shows you his impact. The game closes 2-0 Everton, seven saves for Big Timmy Howard and a late goal from South African Steven Pienaar.

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TSG Weekend Revs: Jozy Fights The Fergusons

→ Yesterday’s piece on Phil Brown using Jozy more.

Well, first, a big thank you to our readers. I had the luxury of reviewing all your comments before this evening’s Hull City-Manchester United replay on FSC. If you must know why I’m watching the 2nd showing, I was in transit back to the Left Coast via a frisking at JFK–sure was fun.

Here are some off-the-cuff bullets having just finished the game:

♦ Steven Hunt and Rafael missing ridiculous gimmes…at the 33rd, are you kidding me?

♦ “Berbatov hits the side of the net” — let’s just make that permanent saying once a half. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Rooneyaldo?

♦ It’s about time they start calling #10 for Manchester United, Rooneyaldo, no? Exquisite day, minus the back pass, for England’s main thoroughbred.

♦ And if you watched Hull’s pitch personality, you’re pretty damn sure that they have done the exact opposite of quitting on Phil Brown. That’s a team with some serious fight in them.

Now on to Big Jeezy

First, it’s important we reset the stage for this game and Jozy’s last month or so.

Hull City comes off an away loss at Arsenal where they has absolutely nill in the way of offensive play, especially in the 2nd half. As we mentioned in our last piece, Manager Brown went with a 4-5-1 with Fagan as the ball tracker up top. The Tigers attempted to strike from the corners, but as soon as Geovanni and Hunt tired, Hull had nothing and in case defensive replacements.

Altidore for his part wasn’t in the 18 at Emirates and previously didn’t lift himself off the bench in the game before that. Prior to the most recent two games, JZA was a late game sub in a draw at Blackburn going about 30 minutes in that one and was excused from the pitch at the 54 min in the game that Jimmy Bullard got injured in.

Speaking of Bullard, without him–and Ian Ashbee mind you–Manager Brown has went with a highly defensive midfield of Olofinijana and Boateng in the middle. You could argue that the pairing of Rico and Mikey Bradley are better overall and better offensively then those two. (Boateng was a player in his day.)

Brown: Making Big Jeezy the big target today

Which now leads us to Jozy’s role for the day.

Minus the midfield service, Brown mixed up both his strategy and tactics. Gone was Geovanni on the wing-point forward role for the day. With Carrick and Fletcher in the middle the smaller Geovanni would have been beat up by the Red Devils central midfielders on the day.

Instead Brown employed Altidore in the Emile Heskey target role and ran Craig Fagan off him, relying on Altidore to play in a reserved striker role for up-and-over play to him up the pitch.

Manchester United had to be constantly aware of Altidore receiving and distributing, but also Craig Fagan sneaking in behind them or making a long sprint up the pitch. Want to challenge a disorganized defensive line (Rafael in, Brown returning and manning the center), how about having them choose speed or strength on every offensive possession against them.

So Jozy’s role was target man. In this role, Jozy is not required, nay, instructed not to make the long runs or run willy-nilly all over the field. In fact, that’s precisely Craig Fagan’s job. I don’t think Jozy had too little energy today. I think he was playing the role that Phil Brown gave him–middle of the field, receive the ball. In the first half, he played the part fine.

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Big Jeezy: Phil Brown Talks To WFD

A picture of Jozy on the pitch at KC Stadium

Update: Jozy gets the start Sunday at KC Stadium….itching for a goal for the big man.

Somehow Jozy Altidore has ended up with 3 nicknames on our publication. The ultimate one being Big Jeezy.

Anywho, I finally got around to listening to Phil Brown, Hull City’s Manager on World Football Daily. I was hoping for a little bit more on JZA, but the interview focused more on Brown, Hull City and avoiding relegation.

Here’s what we did hear, paraphrasing, on Brown’s take on Jozy’s time in Yorkshire:

“Jozy’s a great talent. He went to Villarreal at early age and didn’t get a lot of run out. I’m really looking forward to him in the New Year. He’s got a lot of stuff to learn.

I’m hoping that his loan extends beyond this year. Once Jozy gets time in the Premiership and more matches, he’ll be able to showcase his talents.”

For our story on Jimmy Bullard’s impact on Jozy Altidore’s game, click here.

For what folks over the pond in Hull City think, click here.

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