Archive for January, 2010

Saturday Redress: So What Results?

HDC Practice Pitch (Courtesy: US Soccer.com)

Some excellent points in the comments section in our previous review piece on Sunday…so we’ll republish them here and ignite more dialogue:

• TSG contributor Bob asks, “After watching the team practice in camp, were there any players that you believed should have played or should have been given more playing time?”

Well, here are a few:

» Contrary to some other words out there, Goodson paired Gonzalez in camp and Conrad paired Marshall. TSG should have seen the Marshall, Conrad pairing coming. We erred.

» Alejandro Bedoya who we thought played confidently–though sloppy on a few occasions–was part of the 1st team when we watched the scrimmage when Robbie Rogers was out. We probably should have picked up on that too. What we saw Saturday was a confident and stronger on the ball Bedoya. I also note that Bedoya was communicating a lot and even directing players–that is the mark of a player who knows his ability and is trying to create on the pitch.

Bedoya is on standby for South Africa at this point in our minds and may be–as we surmised beforehand–the short-term surprise of camp.

Cameron was a middie in camp, but didn't really distinguish himself....

» I know Geoff Cameron is a popular name, but with Cameron playing on the right midfield when we saw him, his touch and speed were off. Perhaps Bob had him in the wrong position. At best, we could have seen Cameron in the 18, but we’re not dismayed by him watching Saturday in street clothes.

» “Pearce looked a little clumsy in first touch reception on tougher passes and had, what they call at the NFL combines, ‘tight hips.'”

That was our comment from camp and it was appropriate. Heath Pearce’s playing time was just about right Saturda. He’s just not agile enough though his game is very smart. It’s a shame because he has a feel for the game, but his physical ability doesn’t necessarily match it. Case in point? A handball on a little bit difficult ball reception.

» Conor Casey–we’ll get back to him–looks the exact same in practice as he does on the field.

» In hindsight, we witnessed Sacha playing on the right wing. He didn’t establish himself in practice either.

» Nick Rimando clearly deserved to be the back-up from our brief look into camp.

» Brad Davis is one of those players that we though did everything well, but nothing great. Sort of like a Antawn Jamison.He was solid and without error in our reviews. Completely surprised by his impact on the game on Saturday. It was above and beyond. He had the right tempo in the game and was a major factor in creating late game chances. Probably not enough to fly standby right now, but certainly improved his standing with his game play.

Conor Casey, Conor Casey….what to think?

TSG is pretty sure Conor Casey is who he is. A beast of a body in the middle who can receive passes and sometimes distribute effectively. Occasionally, he’ll surprise with flair (Honduras, San Pedro Sula), but twice as many times his touch and straight-ahead speed will fail him (Honduras, Chicago…..Costa Rica, D.C.).

Casey: Strong in the post-up game. Too strong in the first touch game.

The reality is that Casey is on the plane. The USMNT beyond Jozy, does not have a big body to bang around in the middle. I’m not sure why Brian Ching isn’t still in the fold…given that Casey has really not outshined.

The USMNT, in our opinion, need a post-up guy beyond Jozy. Our best option is Casey. Any better ideas? From TSG, not at this time….unfortunately.

On Sacha Kljestan:

From Tuesday and Matt Mathai in the review piece:

Tuesday: “Sacha Kljestan is a player who is now very far from cutting it at any level higher than MLS. He is not in poor form, he just isn’t very good and never was. How many times does he have to prove it? The hat trick was one of those freak things that happens in footie sometimes. It won’t happen again. Let’s put it in some perspective: Sweden is not going to the world cup and has plummeted from being ranked in the low teens to the 40s over the last four years. Added to that, Sweden’s line-up was every bit as experimental as our 2009 Gold Cup Squad . Excepting that match, in 2009 we lost every match against non-CONCACAF opposition in which Kljestan appeared and were 1-1-1 within CONCACAF. In 2008, Kljestan had a 16 minute appearance in the 0-0 draw vs. Argentina but otherwise didn’t appear against non-CONCACAF opposition: his “run of form” came against the likes of Cuba, T&T, Barbados & Guatemala. The only wins against non-CONCACAF opposition in which Klejstan has appeared came against China, South Africa and Sweden (x2).”

Matt Mathai: Klejstan (sp?) was terrible. He had almost no influence on the game, besides a negative one. He did a lot of standing around, and a fair amount of aimless running into heavily defended areas. It was almost like he was trying to play his way off the team. I think he’ll have the rest of the friendlies to show he belongs. Things don’t look that good for him, but I’m guessing he gets taken along anyway.

Tuesday, I think there are some meritorious comments here for sure. That being said, we should use the Dempsey axiom on Kljestan in my opinion. Kljestan is not designed for the US system….he’s the exact inverse of Stu Holden. Kljestan is not a down the line and cross player on the wing and he’s not a motoring central midfielder who combines one touch passing with recovery defense.

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Home Recycle Center: Hondo Lays It On

TSG decided to take in last night’s game from the edge of the American Outlaws Supporter section 137.

137? AO. 138? Somewhat Honduran. 139? Extremely Honduran.

If you’re unfamiliar with the American Outlaws, they are a USMNT supporter group that started in 2007 and for last night’s friendly probably had close to 150 people eating up rows in the far corner. The American Outlaws were kind enough this past summer to reach out to The Shin Guardian saying they loved our writing (A big “Thank You!” back) and wanted to offer it via links to their constituents.

Thanks AO. We enjoyed the camaraderie and it’s a great group you’ve created to support the United States. Thanks for a memorable experience off the field!

—–

My brother drove past the Home Depot Center earlier in the day before yesterday’s 3-1 Honduras answer to San Pedro Sula and commented, rather snidely, “They didn’t even have the game up on the broadcast board.”

Well, that might have been just as well.

What?! What! You're giving me a yellow for this?!

In a game where the U.S. wasn’t looking for a result so much as looking at the result of a few weeks of work, a 17th min sending off of  World Cupper Jimmy Conrad changed what could have been a competitive fun trial of players into a struggle for quick and precise ball movement on a narrow Home Depot Center field.

Conrad was booked for a debatable but understandable yellow on a break in the opening minutes. However his 17th minute sending off was, in this writer’s opinion, clearly not warranted without a warning. Forget that this was a friendly, a lay off pass to Carlos Pavon saw the offender’s head down as he drove a ball over the top of the crossbar…were Pavon to play the ball across the goal face or were he to even look up to make a pass….or were the tug on Jerry Palacios a clear and direct action to the Honduran stumbling…maybe a yellow would have been warranted. Not a yellow, and this writer’s analysis is not colored.

You make the call on Conrad’s yellow… did the tug warrant a yellow? Was it after the play? Check the :40 mark here:

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Orange Wedges: The USMNT Is Back

Orange Wedges is TSG’s gameday post that  is updated until kick-off.

Fond memories from the last time the US played Honduras.

The USMNT takes the pitch for the first time in 2010 for a friendly versus Honduras tomorrow in Los Angeles (Carson). It has been 66 days since we last saw the US squad put on a forgettable performance in Denmark, but this is a new year…a World Cup year!

The match will kick-off at 9:oopm Eastern / 6:00pm Pacific time and can be viewed on Fox Soccer Channel and Telefutura. TSG will be converging on Carson to watch the match live from in the American Outlaws section at the Home Depot Center.

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Rewind: The Sacha Kljestan Invitational

Wow…a full year ago that the USMNT invited over Sweden for some friendly action in Carson, California.

Sacha Kljestan netted the 2nd hat trick to kick of a career in USMNT history and there were a number of other, now eye-popping milestones and memories:

• Danny Califf captained the team, it was also Robbie Rogers first cap.

• Tomorrow’s starting wingfulls could be the same: Marvell Wynne and Johnny Bornstein

• Charlies Davies started and was relieved by Kenny Cooper

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Holden Bolton: Benny Says Stay Focused

Updated: January 21st: We are updating this piece, first published on January 18th. Reports emerging…Holden is Premiership-bound, headed to Bolton, according to Houston Dynamo Chief Operating Officer Chris Canetti via Fox Houston. Vindication for Holden and for Benny below who said last week Holden had the quality to play in the Barclays.

Holden: EPL Strong?...YES!

Canetti on Fox: “”I will confirm all indications point to Stuart apparently signing with Bolton,” Canetti said.” (courtesy: Fox News)

The Wanderers currently sit in next to last place, just above the man-made disaster that is Portsmouth. As for Holden’s opportunity, Chung Yong Lee–who we learned from Wanderer message boards is considered the Ronaldo of Bolton–has recently come on on the right flank. In the middle they’ve got a platoon amongst the following: Mark Davies (a English wunderkind) and Fabrice Muamba, both 21, who Holden could supplant and Tamir Cohen, recently arrived from Israel.

Matt Taylor historically a defender, has moved up the pitch to the left flank…he’s got 5 goals on the year…so he is likely staying put.

Best bet for Stu…central midfield.

In the meantime, TSG caught up with Benny Feilhaber just last week to discuss Stu’s overseas forays.

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Beer & Soccer Series: What’s Your Yankee Brew?

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Kyle Beckerman Pale Ale

(Can someone Facebook this sucker….we need more input!)

If you remember, the genesis of our beer series was a little spat my brother and I had in the comments section about who was the expert of what? From those handbags, came the dawn of the great “Beer & Soccer Review” Series on TSG as well as the second installment today.

For those that missed our first installment, it’s going to be tough to beat. Kyle Beckerman’s very-own Pale Ale….we’ll try our best. (By the way, when we gave the beer to Kyle he walked away and said to Geoff Cameron, “Dude! I have my own beer!”)

We’ve composed a panel of experts–minus the TSG crew on hand–to help us select the appropriate brew for the appropriate USMNT event.

Need a bevy recommendation for the next USMNT friendly? Just scroll down here.

Not sure what to stock for the June 12th affair with the Queen? Look no further.

First, our panel of experts:

The Free Beer Movement in action....

He’s a man with too many USMNT jerseys. He’s got a blog and a dream…and it has to do with beer. Say hello to Dan from the Free Beer Movement. He’s going to be like the Simon Cowell of this thing; I can feel it. I mean c’mon the guy grew up in Milwaukee and now lives in Texas. Beer, beer, beer!

He owns the only establishment in the greater San Francisco area that carried the English telecast of the States-Honduras qualifier in October….and he’s not even American. Don’t judge him…let him judge something greater than us all. Welcome Steve Pritchard, owner of Danny Coyles in San Francisco’s Lower Haight district.

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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.)

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