Random Wednesday: Sacha, Strikers, $8 Water

Haven’t done a random, non-scripted piece in awhile…but I have a bunch of things in my mind and maybe they start some productive conversations in the comments section:

There...I've done it again...I've inserted a picture of Landon instead of the Clintinator

• While blogs show pictures of Donovan supporters and folks revel in the chants of ” USA, USA, USA” I can’t help, but wonder if Clinton Drew Dempsey were a bit more charismatic if the heaps of praise lavished on Landon would have already been earmarked some time ago for Deuce….especially overseas. Seems, I don’t know, just odd to me, the fanfare around Donovan when Demps has been doing it for awhile and was really coming on this year.

• I’ve mentioned it before and maybe I’m putting too much stock in well-delivered answers, but I’m looking for Sacha Kljestan to be a contributor. You have to think that Kljestan is on the cusp of the South African team…but if he gets his form he could challenge for a role with Stuie on the right side if Clint is up top as is now expected.

• I am giddy like an….like an…I don’t know NBA 1st round pick in a strip joint after the draft about our beer piece dropping tomorrow…just an excellent panel of experts helped us out. Thank you in advance.

• It’s been nearly 100 days since the Charlie Davies 9th minute salute…and where do we stand on strikers?  CD9 is flicking a ball (“Push It, Charlie…we need you!), according to the aforementioned Kljestan.

From Group 1 of our “With Davies In Repair, Who Strikes?” piece, we almost lost Dempsey to injury and Altidore is starting sporadically with the mercurial Amr Zaki arriving on the scene.

From Group 2, Conor Casey looks like a lock for the team and has a shot at starting. Group 3 inclusions, Kenny Cooper and Brian Ching, seem semi-permanently and permanently out of the picture.

"You should be getting your boarding passes in the mail any day now..." (courtesy: Matt Mathai)

Group 4…holy smokes I just realized I forgot a Group 4. Sorry guys.

Group 5 has seen Bob Bradley kick the tires of Eddie Johnson and Robbie Findley with more expected of Findley. Rolfe and Adu, also included in the group have not factored and may never. My money is on Rolfe over Adu for those that have not shown.

Group 6 was all Jeff Cunningham …and…he…is… slowly…making…his…case.

Group 7 included Marcus Tracy, a camp injury casualty and Preston Zimmerman…not summoned.

More feedback as we get closer here.

Check out the latter columns of the “Who Strikes?” series. Part II and Part III.

Part III is one of my favorite pieces I’ve written….wait, did I say that out loud?

• Shout out  to Rico Clark….without spoiling a forthcoming World Cup piece….we owe you some pub. A big move over to the Bundesliga, message boards lit up overseas with your praises, and the Germans even labeling you Rambo. More shortly Rico…TSG owes you some love. (Thanks Evan for the link.)

• And from the Wild Idea for a Wednesday Files (do we have those?): Does the Africa Cup of Nations present a new model for sports coverage? Look at the games….virtually no one is attending, not to mention the personal security threats that one has to endure psychologically in attending. What if the games were presented with phenomenal HD coverage, but no fan attendance? Would the experience improve?

Okay, we have to have fans there–what if they held Cup of Nations game both in Africa but also in locations where there were a lot of African emigres? Maybe they could hold the group stage overseas? Before you condemn, you’ve got to be pretty wealthy and motivated already to attend these games.

Probably all of this is ridiculously not possible, but what I do know is there is a ton of media coverage of the event, no one in the stands, and a bottle of water, because of supply and demand, is like $8. My lone attention the Cup of Nations is what I hear on World Football Daily and occassionally tune into. Seems like this could be so much more.

• Finally, I wrote this in the comments section of a Stu Holden piece on December 15th, 2009 and while I’m getting worried about my analysis, I’m going to stand by it…..for now.

I just don’t see how the players and owners don’t strike an agreement before a striking date….don’t see it.

Keller: Saving would-be goals, but also splashing rhetoric...

Here were my sentiments through a little role-playing:

Tongue-in-cheek, here’s how I think the labor discussion went between Stu and Don:

Stu: What about the labor situation.

Don: There is no labor situation; we’re playing.’

Stu: Yeah, but Jimmy…Eddie…those guys are serious over there.

Don: I know, I know…the most foolish thing this league could do *as a whole is to delay the start of a season during a time when the World Cup is coming that summer and the World Cup bid is being assembled…we’d miss all the free promotion.

Stu, you don’t strike as a league like us…it would be curtains. What you are hearing now is a little bit of rhetoric. Look I grew up in marketing and I saw what happened with NFL Europe…the lack of continuity would kill this league.

Won’t don’t it. Can’t do it. Mike Singletary style….

Stu (protesting): ….yeah…but…my salary….you know the guarantee and all…

Don: Again, we’re not the NFL…this not about millions of dollars at stake and agents pushing coddled clients…

This is about players making a fair wage…Look at you, star of our league at $35K…that’s not going to fly going forward. What we need to do is make it equitable for fans, owners, and players alike.

We need a little bit more visibility into how 2009 was and what 2010 sponsorship and growth look like. Look, Jimmy over there is not going to get everything the player’s want…we need to make it attractive for owners to come in to leagues…

But we know there are much better alternatives for pay elsewhere.

It will happen…or I’ll take a hike.

I’d love everyone’s opinion on any of the above….not that I need to ask for it by now…wink…

24 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/20 at 6:14 PM

    The Dempsey-Donovan thing is interesting. A lot of people in England (three weeks ago, anyway) were convinced that Dempsey is the best American player. I’m pretty comfortable saying that Donovan is the best field player we’ve ever produced.

    Dempsey does a great deal to endear himself to teams – he’s very hard-working, shows flashes of style occasionally, and scores goals. However Donovan’s style of play is much more attractive immediately. he’s fast, makes excellent passes, and is very creative. His vision and understanding of the game are miles beyond the vast majority of American players.

    They both bring great things to the USMNT, and I’m glad they’re getting the work all spring. We’ve just dodged a big injury bullet w/ Clint – now let’s hope that Donovan stays healthy until June. Success in South Africa is more dependent upon him than on any other player.

    (As a side note, I LOATHE Donovan when he puts on a Galaxy shirt, but I root for him otherwise.)


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/20 at 6:18 PM

      Thanks for the comment — Shaun and I are revising our Donovan and Dempsey debate because of recent developmens and we’ll through it out there next week.

      …and thanks for the Casey pic Matt…love it.


  2. Posted by Evan on 2010/01/20 at 6:34 PM

    To offer my two cents on the part about Landon and Clint, they are both very good players and although it is clear to me that Donovan is the better of the two, Dempsey has always been my favorite.

    Even though I am a DC United fan, I always used to watch the New England Revolution games just to see what Dempsey would be doing. I never wanted to miss a moment because there was a chance that I could miss an amazing bit of skill from Clint. Although Donovan seems more consistent and is probably more important to the US team, he doesn’t provide as many take your breath away moments like Dempsey does. Donovan scores a lot of goals, but outside from his goal against New England this year, most of them seem like typical goals, not bad goals, just goals that wouldn’t make Sports Center top 10. Landon also has a completely different mentality then Clint does while on the ball.

    Landon wants to make the simple pass and keep possession of the ball rather than risk giving it away, while this can be a good quality, I feel like this is what was wrong with him in the 2006 World Cup, he was afraid to try anything creative, and the team suffered from it. Dempsey is always willing to take a chance and take someone on, even if his team is losing 3-0 to Brazil. I really admire him for that because Donovan it seems, takes the easy way out. It is why he didn’t succeed in Europe in the past. He could have stuck his time out at Bayer (although admittedly in a bad situation) and worked hard to get off the bench and earn games, but he took the easy way out and came back to MLS. Dempsey started out as a sub and scored against Liverpool to earn a starting role.

    Then Chris Coleman got fired and he started games on the bench again until he scored against Portsmouth I believe. Then Laurie Sanchez got fired and he started on the bench again. Clint never gave up despite being out of favor at 3 different times during his European club career. As for the charisma issue, their personalities on the field reflect what they say off of it. Donovan is often very vague in interviews and looks bored even when he is making bold predictions such as going down to mexico for 3 points.

    Dempsey also doesn’t look interested in anything until you ask him about rap, when he proceeds to become very animated just like he does during his goal celebrations. I started out writing this just to compare Donovan and Dempsey, but it is clear to me now by putting my thoughts down that Donovan seems like he has more raw talent but in his game and his life he has always been content to settle for things beneath him, while Dempsey has had nothing given to him his entire life and has had to work hard and overcome incredible odds to even make it to MLS; Dempsey takes chances in games and in life because his ambition is greater.

    For this reason, I am confident that Clint will do what it takes to be back in time for the world cup, because without him, we won’t have our x-factor, a player who can go off at any time and lead this country to success.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/20 at 6:35 PM

      Evan…thanks for all the commentary there…you’re like a machine…how you don’t mind that I’m fixing the formatting. :>


      • Posted by Evan on 2010/01/20 at 6:49 PM

        Yes thanks, my bad I have never been good at structuring my thoughts I just kind of start somewhere and keep writing


  3. I agree that if Clint had a little more charisma he might’ve turned out to be the poster-boy for US Soccer, to be adored by teens, tweeners, and 20-something girls/women as well as all the guys supporting the USMNT. However, he wouldn’t be Clint Dempsey then, he’d be the typical pin-up american athlete.

    ‘Cakes is the typical american athlete that any girl could bring home to mom and dad, and they would love him, which is why he’s been marketed as the face of the game. But Deuce is the rebel without a cause that mom and dad pretend to be nice to but really don’t trust him. It’s that personality difference that makes them both who they are as players, and also what makes them both work within the same Sweatpants concoted system. Would we really want two Donovans manning the flanks passing first, shooting second? Similarly would we want two Dempseys running around (seemingly aimlessly for the National Team)?

    As a player who was all hustle and grit (I think Sweatpants would’ve had a soft spot for me since I’m a hard-tryer with hardly any execution), I used to find it tough watching Dempsey because he doesn’t look like he’s hustling (for the ‘Nats anyway) on every play and cherishing the fact that he gets to don the Stars and Stripes. However, after watching him these last 9 months for country and especially club, I have changed my tune and become an avid Dempsey fan. Sure we’ll still scream bloody murder at the TV when he makes a mistake but that’s only because we see him play a certain way for Fulham and expect him to play the same way for the US.


    • Can we have a TSG rule about not using the word “charisma” in the same sentence as “Landon Donovan”?

      Stu Holden has charisma. Gooch and Tim come across as nice guys. But, Lando and Deuce are forced into a media role because of their prominence on our team, but they just come across as awkward and uncomfortable most of the time.

      I know that really has nothing to do with their soccer but while we’re having random rant day I wanted to get that off my chest.

      As for players, I don’t think we can read too much into English praise of Donovan at the moment. It’s when the toffees start struggling that we’ll see the fans true feelings. I’ve got to be honest, Lando did a few things during the Man city game that had me scratching my head,. While that could be a symptom of playing with a new team, if it keeps up don’t be surprised to see popular opinion turn.

      And frankly, I think it will take quite a bit to knock McBride off his perch as England’s favorite American.,


      • Your last statement scared me, I thought I had said something blasphemous about McBride…whew, I didn’t.

        I agree that it’ll take quite a bit for anyone to knock McBride off his perch of American’s go-to example of a Yank succeeding in England. Think of what he could’ve done had he been there for more than 4 1/2 years (meaning earlier in his career, not now that he’s pushing 40). Or, with a team that wasn’t doggedly fighting the drop each season.


  4. Posted by MichaelN on 2010/01/20 at 7:37 PM

    Just to throw a wrench into the debate….where does ol’ Timmy fall into the current pecking order of American talent? I don’t think you’d find many people that would disagree that Donovan/Dempsey are the most skilled American products out in the field, but I’d argue that Howard’s relative overall talent at least matches that of those two. They all have very different skill sets/roles for USMNT and club, but if it was a straight ranking of talent….where do Howard, Dempsey, Donovan sit?


    • Posted by Dylan on 2010/01/20 at 7:56 PM

      Well said. I think Howard is by far the most successful European player of the three. But if I had to rank according to talent I would say, Howard, Donovan, Dempsey. In order of importance to the team I’d say Dovovan, Howard, Dempsey. In order of the IT factor {what ever that maybe} Id say Dempsey, Donovan, Howard.


      • Very interesting comment. I have to say I agree, and that IT factor ranking is the most interesting.

        I guess my way of expressing it would be this. If before a game someone gave me a pill that would make whoever I gave it too have the game of his life, I think I’d always give it to Dempsey. When Dempsey does well, we tend to do well.

        Makes me wonder though, if it’s there is a chicken/egg argument there…


    • Posted by Mark T on 2010/01/21 at 12:30 AM

      I think you have to but Howard #1 as he is at / near the top of his profession in the top league.


  5. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/01/20 at 7:49 PM

    El Pistolero will be behind Stu for that right-hand role, not Sacha. Robbie was the last ounce of Charlie-in-a-bottle that the USMNT experienced. That beautiful cross about 20 seconds after he came on in the 2nd. Then the run into the box off of a semi-break that saw his boomboosa go wide(he was wearing #9 by the way…if I’m not mistaken). And wear has Sacha been?. . .


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/21 at 1:00 PM

      @Antonio — Don’t agree on El Pistolero (and I’m not ready to adopt that nickname yet. :>). Kljestan can play defense, is somewhat physical when necesary…and can play multiple role….Torres from what we’ve seen can manage possession, has flair, and is adequate defensively.

      I’m not sure how Torres is going to fit into the system… in the middle Bob B demands defense as a prerequisitive….on the outside it’s the ability to cross and challenge 1-on-1….Torres in my opinion in a better fit on the wing in the 4-3-3 or on the inside mid in a 4-5-1. He’s a good player…but without being established on the team already and not in the system…I think it will be a challenge.


  6. Posted by Mark T on 2010/01/21 at 12:35 AM

    Matt, my first thought after reading your Deuce – Lando comment was that Donovan was a product of the system, groomed to be a star. Deuce just sort of happened.


    • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/21 at 7:11 AM

      I don’t know if he was ‘groomed’ to be anything. He (and Beasley) stepped up at the U-17 WC. Donovan was selected as the best player in the tournament. (I believe this is fact, but that hasn’t stopped me before.)

      He put himself into the spotlight very early with his stellar play, and was lauded because of the promise he showed. Dempsey had a much tougher road to stardom. He was much slower to develop.


      • Posted by Mark T on 2010/01/21 at 8:19 AM

        Perhaps “groomed” was the wrong word. I was trying to point out that Donovan came up through the U- teams and the IMG Academy. His talent and potential to be a star was recognized at an early age, so he was always on the radar of US Soccer. On the other hand, Dempsey’s route to this conversation was not under the guise of US Soccer.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/21 at 1:02 PM

          My thoughts here is that Lando and DaMarcus continue to trade of the name they made in 2002….Dempsey obviously doesn’t have that in his quiver.

          You hear so much talk of DMB and when you ask folks overseas…they remember his 2002 and not 2006 tourney.


  7. Donovan. Never underestimate the power of the “winter transfer saviour”. It happens a lot – come over to a club in January, do well for a couple matches, maybe score a goal or two. Everyone in England loves you and the Fantasy Pundit says to transfer you in immediately (week 21). However, soon it becomes evident that you’re not quite in sync with new team-mates, have some uninspired performances, and find yourself plastered to the bench, harrassed from the terraces for every bad touch when you do play and the critique begins among the pundits and in the pub. Can he play in this league, etc? Because Donovan’s such a tryer it seems less likely in his case but look out, fans can be fickle. If it does happen he’s going back home end of March anyways.

    Dempsey is the 6th highest scoring midfielder in the fantasy game, 1 point behind Arshavin who costs 4 million more pounds. He was basically responsible for keeping Fulham up in his first season. My impression is that the pundits wonder if he is capable of stepping up to the next level, playing for a Champion’s League level club. Maybe Donovan is capable of the same but his US soccer love-in will prevent us from finding out anytime soon. Though he’s been around forever, Donovan’s just coming into his prime so Moyes might find the money to make the move permanent despite the new 4-year contract. Landon fits well into the system they play. Donovan + Fellaini + Arteta + Cahill + Bily/Pienaar would be one hell of a midfield when you’ve got Saha or Yakubu up front.

    Personally, I think the USA cheers are just because Donovan is more readily identified with the US National Team than Dempsey, whose stand out performance for the nats was at the confederation’s cup. Neither one of them are particularly charismatic off the pitch, but show me a footballer who genuinely is…


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/21 at 1:04 PM

      Agreed Tuesday.

      I hate to say this, but Donovan got on the ship so to speak just as the tide was rising.

      Fellaini started coming on. Neville returned to the line-up after a stay out (and is playing quite well I might add).

      Diniyar Bilyaletdinov has settled in and understands the system. Cahill has shook of early season poor form.

      The thing about it…is that Everton…who always plays better in the 2nd half of the season…have most of the horses back…Donovan will contribute to that success, but not be the lone creator of it.


      • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/22 at 8:57 AM

        My only concern is that as Everton gets all its regular players back, Donovan might get pushed aside a bit. If he continues his strong run of form, he should hold his place, though. There are plenty of matches to be played during his loan period.


  8. Posted by evan eleven on 2010/01/21 at 12:46 PM

    Donovan is the new kid on the block and Everton is a bigger club than Fulham, hence the British Dunovan Luv. but i bet most Premier League followers would say Deuce is the better player.


  9. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/21 at 1:00 PM

    Wow, I don’t know where to start. I kind of dropped this piece last night…when back to building a financial model…published that beer thingy and now I’m deluged with good commentary coming back here.

    @pckilgore…good point on Donovan…as in does not equal charisma…mind you and I should have been specific….it’s not the English people and press that I find odd….it’s the US press which covers American’s abroad…I should have been more specific about it.

    I get Lando has a great brand name among the UK populace…but for the seasoned folks in the US we know all about Demps, Lando…etc….so the hubbub on this side of the pond I don’t understand.

    @MichaelN — I think you need to separate outfield players (I hate the term) vs. goalies. Just like in football with the quarterback if you have potential for dazzlement offensively it resonates more with the media and fans…

    So this is why I did not include Howard in my comments yesterday.


    • I think the big deal about Donovan on the stateside of the story is the Euro-redemption angle. After two failed attempts to make it abroad, our Best Ever Outfield Player (TM) Lando goes to an historic English club and shows he can play with the big boys. It finally proves all that German stuff was just a fluke because Germans had a kinky inclination to play him in the middle or whatever and we can all finally rejoice in the wholesomeness of the Landy-cakes we’ve been sold over the years!


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