Archive for January, 2010

The USMNT Is Going To Play Where?

Back in August, TSG explored the idea of creating “Soccertown USA” — one city where the USMNT would play all of its games. In that piece the following was noted:

Since the beginning of 2006 the USMNT has played games in 19 cities —San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Cary (NC), Nashville, Cleveland, E. Hartford, Phoenix, Tampa, San Jose, Boston, Chicago (2 locations), Houston, NYC, Washington (DC), Columbus, Seattle and Salt Lake City (9/5).

The USMNT travels back to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay for the first time since 2007 to face El Salvador in February.

Looking at these locations and the relevancy of the games — friendly, World Cup qualifier, Gold Cup — there did not seem to be much rhyme or reason to where the games were placed by US Soccer. In fact, we likened the USMNT to a traveling circus due to their seemingly random movement throughout the country.

Though TSG never thought the US Soccer Federation actually threw darts at  a map of the United States as their method of selection, little explanation has been offered behind match site decisions. Thankfully, the USSF offered some insight into their due diligence and decision-making process during TSG’s trip to training camp last week.

The guiding principle for stadium selection by USSF is to put the game in a place where US Soccer has “the best chance to be successful.” Based on some of the selection criteria below, the definition of “successful” is likely some combination of team performance on the pitch, financial success and the potential to reach and reinforce a growing fanbase, though US Soccer didn’t specifically elaborate on its definition.

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Dodging The Bullet: Deuce Gets Mini Vacation

Say It Ain't So! Say It Ain't So!

Update 01/19 afternoon:

Whew!

That was a close call.

The official statement today from Fulham FC.

“During the Blackburn Rovers fixture on Sunday 17 January, Clint Dempsey sustained moderate damage to a ligament in his right knee. Following the results of a scan, early indications are positive in that no operation is required. At this stage it is thought that the injury will not prevent him from featuring for Fulham, prior to the end of the season.
Whilst obviously disappointed, Clint is focused on his rehabilitation and will work hard, in line with medical advice, to return at the soonest opportunity.”

Reprinted from FulhamFC.com

This quote by Bob Bradley from US Soccer.com:

“The news about Clint’s injury is positive, especially given the fact that he will not require surgery,” said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley.  “We are confident that Clint will be ready to be an important part of our team during the World Cup.”

Not a vacation, but not surgery either.

Just had the exchange with TSG Contributor Chris over IM:

Chris: What do you think of the phrase ‘moderate ligament damage’ & ‘should be playing again before May?’

Matthew: I think that’s best we could have hoped for. I think that as long as it wasn’t the ACL then that’s a good thing.
I think the silver lining is that Demps will be fresh. Probably the best news we could have hoped for.
Thanks to TSG Contributor BW for sending the Deuce news our way.

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Carling Cup Semi Man U – Man City

Tevez, has a face that makes babies cry...but a harder worker you will not find

WHAT A GAME. The replay at United will be quite the affair. Tevez is the hero but it was Irish keeper Given who kept them in the match. Lunch time for me.

94:00 - Tevez deservedly named Man of the Match, but its all Rooney right now as he wins anther corner. Its header clear by the taller City defenders but Rooney eventually gets the ball and has a shot. It’s all United as they keep attacking. City defend incredibly and the whistle blows to end the game.

92:00 – Bellamy breaks clear but an errant pass ends up in Scholes feet who pushes forward. Rooney ends up with the ball just outside of the box and with some nimble footwork sends a low shot in that is expertly saved by Given and goes out for a corner. Corner comes in and Diouf gets a free header but sends it agonizingly wide.

89:00 Scholes’s first move is to lose the ball, but Zabeleta who has  a great game tiredly gives it away. United keep attacking and win a corner. Man U make their last change and bring on Diouf for Rafael. 5 minutes of added time. Sir Alex will still complain that it wasn’t enough!

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Preview: Not Quite October 10th, But We’ll Take It

Good day and welcome to our USMNT-Honduras preview for this Saturday.

Coach USA congratulating the king before he assumed the throne four days later...

Beyond the visage of Jonathan Bornstein and Conor Casey taking the pitch for the home side Saturday, the match is nearly inverse in all ways to the nervous match that sent the States to the World Cup Finals later this year.

TSG will focus almost exclusively on the USMNT here in this preview as the side that Honduras is bringing is not immediately clear.

What we do know is that the first half should show some high quality competitive soccer, and the 2nd half as substitutions are introduced, might drop a notch in quality, but should be no less competitive.

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Chad Marshall, Still On The Mend, Talks To TSG

Marshall could be manning the back line for the USMNT come June 12.

Upon listening to the recording of TSG’s interview with Chad Marshall, a voice can be heard at its conclusion in the background.

“That’s more than you normally get.”

This is followed by another voice saying, “C’mon Chad, one-word answers.”

Marshall may let his play primarily do the talking en route to 2 MLS Defender of the Year awards and 1 MLS Cup, but he did have a few interesting things to say to TSG last week at USMNT training camp at the Home Depot Center.

The defensive stalwart for the Crew is still recovering from a September knee injury that sidelined him for the last round of World Cup qualifying and the European friendlies in November, but is happy with his progress.

“I wouldn’t say it’s 100%,” said Marshall last Wednesday following practice, “but I am able to train. It was rough being out for so long, so getting things back, it’s been a process. But I’m getting through training, so it’s alright.”

Unfortunately for the #2 overall pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft, this isn’t his first time dealing with injuries. Marshall had a run of concussions earlier in his MLS career that nearly forced him off the pitch for good.

Coming back from the brink of forced retirement changed Marshall’s outlook on the game.

Said Marshall, “You definitely appreciate the game more…It sucks being up in the box watching games.” This mentality has helped Marshall get through training on his way back to fitness which at times has been “daunting.”

Marshall’s deeper appreciation for soccer has led to tremendous success on the pitch, but the winner of  back-to-back Defender of the Year awards in MLS (as well as a shout-out from President Obama on the Crew’s trip to the White House) is all about the team.

Chad Marshall's 2008 included scoring the eventual game winner in the MLS Cup.

When asked about his goals for 2010 outside of the World Cup, Marshall said, “The main goal always…going into every season is to make the playoffs and make a run for MLS Cup. 2008…was the best year of my career and it all came down…to as a team winning it. The individual awards…are great and stuff, you know, tell the grandkids later on in life, but…it’s nice having those rings.”

If it was up to Marshall team success would extend beyond the Crew and USMNT. Despite a tryout with FSV Mainz 05 in Bundesliga 2 at the end of 2008, Marshall signed a multi-year deal to return to Columbus. However, he still harbors aspirations of heading over to Europe.

“I’d like to go over there, you know, for at least for a contract…to experience that,” said Marshall, “I think MLS has come a long way, but…the best football in the world obviously is still over there….if, you know, I don’t get a chance to go over there I won’t be mad that I spent my whole career in MLS.”

One thing about the 6’4″ central defenders game that surprises people is his quickness; something this writer knows little about. Marshall attributes his unique size-to-speed ratio to combination of natural talent and training. Said Marshall, “I think it is something that our trainers in Columbus have done a really good job helping guys with quickness, working on…different forms of running. It’s a credit to them, but…I kind of got blessed with it, I guess.”

As one of the Best XI in MLS the past two seasons, Marshall is clearly at the top of the American club game. His ability to bolster his resume for a potential European contract by playing meaningful minutes in South Africa hinges on the health of Oguchi Onyewu. Whether that happens or not, expect Marshall to continue to let his feet do the talking en route to a long career with the US National Team.

Defense Through Offense Is The New Black

I’ve meant to write this column for a while now and, while not a perfect lead-in, Everton’s strategy and performance versus Manchester City yesterday presents a timely and opportune parallel.

TSG's Running Commentary Man Shaun is a beach disc champ

First, let me start with a parallel to the game of  ultimate frisbee. (Those reading TSG since inception know I’ve traveled for international frisbee tournaments in a previous life.)

Ultimate frisbee, though complex in field movement, is a simple game when it comes to winning. Obviously the team with the most points at the end of the game wins–but concurrently, since a possession ends in either and only a score or a turnover–the team with the least turnovers is always the winner as well.

This would seem to make it imperative to both not turnover the disc on offense and create turnovers on defense. Typically the former, not turning it over on offense, is more difficult. Whether it’s game conditions (wind, rain), mental or physical errors, or the largest factor–balancing aggressiveness to score versus the timidity to maintain possession–turnovers can be limited, but typically never abolished from the offensive game.

However, that’s exactly what the championship teams do. They maintain possession and score on nearly all of them…and by doing this they can afford to gamble on defense. The number of combined turnovers of both teams in the last ultimate frisbee national final I watched? Three, on over 30 possessions.

A team that knows they are going to score every single time on offense, by all accounts can, nay should, take as many risks on defense.

Since turnovers equal possession and the offense always score, it makes sense to go for the turnover which you may get 50% at the price of the other team scoring. If you’re opponent only scores 50% of the time, and your offense does at a higher rate, the game is won.

(There is a flaw in this statement in that the defensive team is the offensive team once they create a turnover–there is no substituion…but let’s overlook that for now.)

Similarly, you are starting to see more and more of this philosophy and strategy dominate team construction across sports because of some of the farther reaching applications of the strategy.

Xavi: Positively offensively defensive

Let’s take Barcelona…the top team in the world in football. They are labeled as having a world class front 6, with only an above average back four, specifically whoever pairs with Puyol. But their “defense” is not who their back three, four, or five are.

Their defense is the dominance of the possession on offense in the central midfield with Xavi, Ineista, Messi and company. Cheekily, I would wager it is harder to score without the ball then with the ball against, say, Terry Carvahlo, Cole Essien and company. Continually, why spend budget for central defenders when the midfield ahead of them is going to assure they are hardly challenged.

The further reaching ramifications of this are, beyond for the management a more exciting game, but more importantly, with a high-octane, high-performance, machine-like, pick-your-cliche offense a team is more comfortable, schooled, suited to score when it needs to.

Many USMNT fans, are shaking their heads in unison, with a concerned “yes,” realizing the trouble the team will have if they go down 1-0, 2-0 in the opener against England. Is the know-how there for the US to score? Well, not really.

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Everton Rolls City, Donovan Holds His Own

Though only two games in, might LD regret signing a long-term deal with Galaxy?

Behind the strength of Marouane Fellaini and Steven Pienaar, Everton had one of its best showings of the season in a 2-0 win over Manchester City.

Landon Donovan, deployed as a right midfielder, had another positive performance in his home debut for the Toffees. Though Everton seemed to be forcing the attack down the left flank, Donovan did some good work during the run of play and on set pieces. His one area of noticeable weakness, before being subbed in stoppage time of the second half, was going one-on-one against isolated defenders. Donovan was dispossessed a handful of times in these types of situations.

But perhaps the best indication of the Donovan’s play were the the chants of U-S-A, U-S-A from the home crowd late in the game for the midfielder.

A couple more observations:

  • The tide turned for Everton this season (4-1-5 in its last ten contests) after manger David Moyes switched the roles of Tim Cahill and a full-strength Fellaini on the pitch. With Fellaini rooted deeper on the pitch, Cahill has more freedom to press forward or help cover.
  • Manchester City fullback Micah Richards fell apart tugging on the shirt of Saha outside and then inside the area leading to a penalty kick that put Everton ahead 2-0.
  • Steven Pienaar’s scored a set piece goal that Shay Given could only get a fingernail on before curling inside the near post. Pienaar’s celebration? A hug for a security guard that led to this exchange between Matthew and Miss ShinGuardian watching at a part in New York City.

Miss ShinGuardian: Why did Pienaar hug the security guy?

TSG Matthew: No idea.

Miss Shinguardian. Aren’t you supposed to know that?

Lando, Timmy Howard and Everton next take on Birmingham in the FA Cup next Saturday followed by a return to EPL action versus Sunderland who got blasted 7-2 by Chelsea earlier this morning.

Shh…I’m bogarting the end of Mark’s piece here so I can contribute one of my favorite YouTube soccer clips (which ironically appears under our tsg glossary section as well.)


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