Weekend: Junior & The Shin Guardian Clash

Yes, we’ll have a column up tomorrow for the Manchester United vs. Ameriton. (Everton)

Have you been reading our comments section?

Cheesy soccer globe #(something)

Honestly some really, really good stuff in there this week.

Thanks for all the contributions. A quick thank you to GeorgeCross, who by being dually a supporter of the Three Lions and a repeat contributor to TSG has added some contrarian commentary to balance our American-esque commentary. Thank you.

More stellar commentary like:

GeorgeCross on Steven Gerrard and others diving lately: “We English talk about our fair play vs European / Latin dirty tricks etc, but we’re the one’s who are trophyless since 1966…”

Killer photog man Matt Mathai on injuries on the USMNT:  “A partially fit Davies might be useful, but a sub-100% Onyewu might be a liability.”

ChrisR on Arsenal: “How do you have a squad that is seemingly competing for trophies with two of the more mental keepers around (Almunia, Fabianski)? Arsene should have signed a keeper in the summer and if not then, he surely should have signed one in January.”

Sam on soccer growth in America and ESPN:  “….the ball in MLS’ court to do two things. Generate ticket revenue and secure primetime ratings.  A long run by MLSers in the USMNT at the World Cup could do that, however with talent escaping the league as soon as it pops up the problem gets a little more stretched.” …and more.

And even more…take a read today if you haven’t got there yet.

And I’d like to thank everyone for keeping the commentary informative and non-personal. I seriously enjoy reading you’all. Thanks.

On to the weekend:

Friday:

We always bet on TSG....except this time...

TSG Battles Sweatpants Jr. (TSG Hoffenheim v. Bo’Munchen)

TV: GolTV, Today, 11:30 PST

UPDATE: 2-2 tie…TSG holds its own against Baby Bradley

Miss Shinny applies the jab to Matt under the Rocky statue...

Wait, why didn’t anyone tell us this:

That’s right folks its Michael Bradley vs. The Shin Guardian today as our German arm TSG Hoffenheim takes on Bo’ Munchen. 1899 Hoffenheim–as they like to be called–was in the German 5th league as recently as 2000. A stratospheric rise to the top…hey sounds like….did I say that out loud?

One more goody here, the team nickname is “Hoffe”…as in Don’t Hassle the Hoff. A German team adopting Knight Rider’s (sorry youngsters) nickname…amazing…simply amazing.

Saturday:

Everton roll out the blue carpet for Manchester United at Goodison

TV: ESPN2, Saturday, 4:45AM PST – Yikes!

This is the big one for American fans….Tim Howard once again taking on the side that vanquished him in the mid 2000′s. Everton man-of-the-month Landon Donovan getting the once over by the Red Devil defense.

TSG surmises that you’re going to see Ji Sung Park on Landon’s side and you can guarantee Donovan will be on the bad end of one filthy tackle by the Scotsman Darren Fletcher.

More? Landon taking runs, potentially, at Rio Ferdinand who might make a return….or even Nemanja Vidic who the US might face in a Serbian showdown after the Group Stages 2010.

This is going to be a tough one for Everton. And they would be wise to keep the ball wide. Maroune Fellaini is out and Tim Cahill is ailing making Everton very vulnerable in the interior midfield.

Specs, rather quiet on the year thus far...

Hull City Tigers go way down the road, about 200 milers, to face the West Ham Zolas.

TV: Setanta, Saturday, 2pm PST, delay

C’mon, admit it.

There will be a ton of bad jokes Saturday afternoon if Jozy Altidore turns Johnny Spector and scores a goal. I’m torn between being beat on top of the head with that angle in the media or Big Jeezy depositing in the back of the net.

Alright, I’m going with the Jolazo….and if Illunga starts for Spector…well it will be disappointing (but might just save that storyline too.)

The Arsenal welcome Sunderland to the Emirates.

TV: Setanta, Saturday, 7AM PST

Did you see this video that we posted last week? Just phenomenal. Still it doesn’t distract from that keeper and defense situation for Arsene Whiner.

Gael Clichy, welcome to the MLS….kidding. But seriously already, forget about your back injuries and get it together.

Sorry, nothing is interesting about playing Sunderland these days.

Wolves vs. Blues… (FSC, Saturday, 9:30 EST)

TV: FSC, Saturday, 7AM PST

Kevlar? Check. Foam padding? Check. Elbow pads? Check. Box cutter? Uh, check. Okay, suit up Marcus Hahnemann with all of those things except that last one as he enters the firing line against Drogba and crew. Doesn’t matter that this one is away, it’s trouble for Wolverhampton.

Any chance Mick McCarthy rests the guys at home this time around? Nah…seems fair though.

Time to get it going, boys....

St. Johnstone welcome the Ibrox crew of Mo Edu and DaMarcus Beasley

Owen Coyle’s former side St. Johnstone host Rangers.

Will Mo Edu make his third start of the season?

Will DaMarcus be back from the reserve squad?

Will either of these players step up and solve the temporary injury void created by Benny, Ricardo and Clint?

Sunday:

Wigan vs. Tottenham (FSC, Sunday, 8:30 EST) &

Aston Villa vs. Burnley

Main plot: I’m looking to see who is the better target man or striker sidekick if you prefer. Peter Crouch or Emile Heskey? I know who I currently favor and I’m giving them one a one day audition.

Here’s the assessment of TSG Commenter GeorgeCross below:

Problem with Crouch is that he is too static.  One of our biggest threats throughout WCQ has been to exploit the space Heskey creates.  Plus, IMO, Heskey is a better target man, better hold-up and link-up play.

If England go for route one football, then Crouch is your man.  He’s had plenty of practice this season – Tottenham have played significantly more passes greater than 30 yards than any other team in the Prem…

Yup, sounds about right.

Subplots:

Just how long will this run of form go for Big Bird Friedel?

How about Jermain Defoe’s run?

How far away from Match Fit is Aaron Lennon?

Does Brad Guzan stay rooted to the pine?

Blackburn vs. Bolton

Well Iceman Holden if you’re lucky enough, you’ll be evaluating here whether you made the right selection in following Coyle vs. Allardyce…not that Blackburn’s interest in your services was ever confirmed.

Hopefully, Stuie gets to make that eval first hand from the bench or better yet from the pitch.

Possible in this one as Blackburn is just dreadful in the middle.

More in this piece as the day goes on…including:

The Champion League Placement Cup: Manchester City vs. Liverpool

TV: FSC, Sunday, 7AM PST

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39 responses to this post.

  1. Interesting note, I read in an interview a few years ago that Marcus Hahnemann wears a cup. Apparently he took a shot in the stones early in his career and never recovered mentally until he started wearing a cup. These are the funny things I like to hear about

    Reply

    • just to clarify, the stuff I like to hear about is stupid little stories like this, not Hahnemann’s balls

      Reply

      • Posted by Mark T on 2010/02/19 at 12:37 AM

        I was giving you a 15 minute grace period to clarify before I commented.

        Reply

      • Posted by B-Mac on 2010/02/19 at 1:26 AM

        Speak for yourself, I personally am intrigued my Hahnemann’s balls…

        But on a more serious note, these fixtures between now and March 3 I am finding really intriguing for the USMNT. Playing time for Edu, Beasley, Holden will really be key to see who gets the chance to show himself against the Dutch.

        I’ve also been pondering the backline a lot lately. Was reading someone (Wahl perhaps?) who was talking about Bocanegra being superior in the center versus left back. I still can’t really decide on Boca vs. Demerit at CB, but putting Boca there would make for some interesting developments at fullback. Do you go Johnny B/Spector? Spector/Cherundolo? That’s why I’m really going to be watching the defense most closely versus El Salvador, because I really want to see whether I see starting caliber play out of Bornstein (as well as if a guy like Goodson deserves to start versus the Netherlands).

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/19 at 6:41 AM

          I’d love to see the arguments, if someone could send the link, for Boca at CB….

          Reply

        • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/02/19 at 7:45 AM

          B-Mac, have you not been watching the USMNT matches lately? JB is our #1 OUTSIDE back, not just left back. As for the RB situtation. I think bob should deploy Spector & Dolo depending on who we’re playing & how fast the opposing team is on the outside/wings. Using this logic I can see Dolo starting the match on the 12th

          Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/19 at 7:53 AM

          I think the question you should ask yourself is: who would you want in the left back position if you had Christiano Ronaldo, Leo Messi, Frank Ribery or ‘insert pacy winger’ running at you? Also, even if I were Lippi and had Grosso or DelBosque and had Capdevila, I wouldn’t want them isolated against those tricky buggers. You get XYZ to track back and double up, right?

          Admitedly, I haven’t seen too much Ligue One lately (so could be totally wrong) but when he was at Fulham, wasn’t he used primarily as a centre back? Could anybody shed any light on Bocanegra’s position and form at Rennes?

          Reply

        • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/02/19 at 8:14 AM

          Well quite frankly we really don’t have many options at LB. Jb is our guy. Spector is nowhere near as fast as he is and thus could not keep up with said winger. And if you but Dolo on the left. Then who will *attempt* to cover the Maloudas. The Simaos. The Nanis. Etc. Wish we actually had a valid choice for a 2nd option like you do, George.

          Reply

        • Posted by KMac on 2010/02/19 at 9:37 AM

          I think an interesting suggestion for Left Back is Spector. I think it has been mentioned on other post comments that he has done pretty well with the likes of Lennon in EPL games. A lot will ultimately come down to individual form at game time and Coach Sweatpant’s judgement (see Red October, “crazy Ivan” ).

          Reply

        • Posted by B-Mac on 2010/02/19 at 10:41 AM

          Ives Galracep made the argument in his last mailbag: (http://www.soccerbyives.net/soccer_by_ives/2010/02/your-january-questions-answered-part-4-1.html)

          “I still rate Bocanegra ahead of DeMerit at center back and think Bornstein has made enough strides at left back to merit starting there.”

          Reply

  2. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/02/19 at 7:47 AM

    Off topic. I just had an epiphany. Foreshadowing?

    Which midfield would the USMNT rather face: one manned by Essien or Ozil?

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/19 at 7:57 AM

      I do not understand you question, Antonio!! Essien is primarily used as a defensive midfeilder, no?

      Reply

      • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/02/19 at 8:08 AM

        You’re right Geaorge. But basically my question was would we rather have all of our offensive tactics thwarted by that Ghanian beast or come under constant fire by Ozil.

        Reply

  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/19 at 7:57 AM

    @GeorgeCross….I’ve delaying my Part II of the “Elephant” series as I can’t get any observations of Boca….

    I will say this after reviewing Confed Cup tape and anything else I could get my hands on, Boca’s range is very limited….not liability levels, but certainly not an advantage.

    Reply

  4. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/19 at 8:13 AM

    And re. subplot, what about Rooney sticking a couple past Howard?!?

    Reply

  5. Posted by Mark T on 2010/02/19 at 8:16 AM

    Following up on WC ticket sales item from a few weeks ago. Fifa actually admits in made a mistake.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup-2010/7266330/Fifa-admits-World-Cup-ticket-prices-too-high.html

    Reply

  6. As usual, complaining on Twitter got Comcast to sort themselves out and come do the installation in my new place just in time for this week-end’s matches. Everton vs. Man U. in glorious HD over a proper breakfast. Yum, black pudding and Landycakes! Now we just need a twitter campaign to get Fox Soccer HD on Comcast. Right.

    As for Bocanegra, I think he’s 3rd choice centreback and 2nd/3rd choice left back. He’ll definitely play at some point, but I don’t think he’s a starter vs. England. I think first choice would be Spector, DeMerit, Onyewu and Bornstein. If you remember Boca conspiring to make Gio Dos Santos look world class in Mexico City, it doesn’t take much imagination to think he would be absolutely terrorized by Aaron Lennon.

    Reply

    • Posted by B-Mac on 2010/02/19 at 9:51 AM

      My choice at fullback against England would depend a lot on who they play on the wings. If Lennon starts, I want Bornstein. I think I want Spector marking Gerrard whichever side he is on. What would be interesting is if Capello puts Gerrard on the right and a quicker guy like Ashley Young or Milner on the left. Then I think you see Bradley go with Boca/Spector or Spector/Dolo.

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/19 at 10:06 AM

        I think it will be a toss up between Lennon and Walcott for the right side. In terms of formation, with Cole out, I think the game in March might see Capello try something else – Gerrard has done OK on the left but Cole’s overlapping runs cannot be ignored, and I am not sure the incoming leftback has the same nous as Cole. However, Spector IMO will start at rightback. The March friendly is going to be interesting – Babbel and Robben are going to ask some difficult questions.

        Reply

  7. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/02/19 at 9:38 AM

    Good article to take us into the weekend.

    Re: Bocanegra, I’m actually happier to see him at CB than on the left. I don’t think he has the speed to keep up with the speedy wingers he’d have to face. Sure, he has a tendency to commit silly fouls and that’s deadly in the center, but with his lack of pace I’d rather see him in the middle where he can organize things.

    I think Demerit is a superior CB at this point, but he’s faded a bit since his injury. Haven’t heard that he’s tearing up the league right now, but if he heals in time, I want to see Onyewu and Demerit at CB. Goodson surprised me. As a product of the DC area, I saw him quite a bit when he was younger and I didn’t predict this kind of development. I think he’s still a couple of years away from being close to a first-choice CB, but he is very composed and that’s encouraging.

    Let’s be optimistic and say that there are no injury issues come May. Given that, my first-choice back line would be Spector, Onyewu, Demerit, Bornstein. The only one I’m shaky about is Bornstein. He’s made great improvements recently, but he’s still the weakest link because of his inexperience.

    I’m really looking forward to the Premier League matches this weekend. (I honestly don’t recall ever having said that before. I support Americans there rather than any team there, but the Donovan, Howard, Jozy, Friedel, Spector factor plus HD availability have me hooked.)

    I called my FIOS rep yesterday to inquire about when I might expect to see FSC in HD (real HD, not just the logo) and FoxSoccerPlus HD added to my channel lineup. Nothing. Zip. F-all. No plans to add FSC in HD, and they hadn’t heard of FS Plus at all. This is bad. It means I might return to Comcast, although I don’t want to. (Yes, I know it’s pathetic to switch providers over a couple of channels, but they carry about the only TV I watch.)

    I live in Annapolis, and am tired of the snow. We had 47″ over a ten-day stretch. Given that 6″ in a whole winter is considered about average… Luckily, I have a break coming up. I’m going to Tampa for the US-El Salvador match. Just got word that my photo credential was approved by US Soccer. Woohoo!

    If I can manage it, I’ll try to get some shots of the U-17 match that’s to be held just before the main event.

    Reply

    • Matt, Does Comcast carry those channels up your way? They offer neither of these down here in Alexandria and somehow I expect it will be a very very long time before they find bandwidth to broadcast FSC in HD. We have a pretty weak selection of HD channels already, due to Comcast’s local monopoly.

      Reply

      • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/02/19 at 11:25 AM

        I don’t actually know if Comcast has plans to carry the two channels here. I’d be loath to switch back to Comcast anyway – I had nothing but trouble with them. I switched to FIOS the second I could and have been very happy. They do introduce new HD channels periodically (unannounced) so I’m hopeful that the same thing will happen here.

        Maybe by the summertime. I hear there’s some soccer thing going on then.

        Reply

  8. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/19 at 9:49 AM

    Antonio: The drop in quality after Ashley Cole is vast, especially given his form this season.

    But I guess you guys are in a worse situation, like Tuesday eluded to above. I have watched most of the US games recently but Bradley keeps chopping and changing the left back spot which suggests to me that he hasn’t particularly liked what he has see and is no wiser than TSG contributors… Time is running out for experimentation!

    I do agree that this looks most likely:

    Spector, DeMerit, Onyewu and Bornstein

    Q: If everybody is fit, what would be your first XI, and what formation would you choose?

    Reply

    • Posted by B-Mac on 2010/02/19 at 10:12 AM

      I think this one is pretty obvious for everything outside of the fullbacks:
      Jozy–Davies
      Donovan——–Dempsey
      Jones—–Bradley
      JB—-Demerit—Gooch—Spector
      Howard

      With a healthy Jones though, I’d be really tempted to try out a 3-5-2
      Jozy–Davies
      Dempsey
      Beasley——–Donovan
      Jones—–Bradley
      Demerit—Gooch—Spector

      I think letting Beasley and Donovan attack the wings while Dempsey can just clean up in the middle of the field would be a very intimidating proposition for opposing sides. Throw in a healthy Jones to provide some cover for the 3 backs, and wow, that would be some fun football.
      Howard

      Reply

  9. Posted by Swa on 2010/02/19 at 10:42 AM

    The ship has to have sailed on Jermaine Jones at this point. At most he’d get time against the Czechs and Turks and even that seems like a long shot with the “progress” that he’s making. And if we’re talking about Boca being too slow to play outside, is DeMerit really viable there?

    But beyond that yeah our first choice XI is pretty much set if everyone can rehab fast enough. They’ve all played significant time together and nobody is likely to really step their form up enough to steal a starting spot.

    I hear everyone’s arguments about Borny and Boca but I just really have a soft spot for the starting XI that beat Spain.

    Charlie Jozy

    Lando Junior Rico Deuce

    Boca Gooch DeMerit Spector

    Howard

    Reply

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/19 at 11:16 AM

      ***********BREAKING NEWS*****************

      Davies has broken down!!!

      Reply

      • Posted by Swa on 2010/02/19 at 11:37 AM

        Well in that HYPOTHETICAL scenario, I am a big fan of Jozy and Dempsey up top with the Deuce playing a little more withdrawn so as to better find his seams.

        And I’m not going to lie, after reading the Chingterview I spent an hour or so watching clips of him and, although I could only find MLS and ’09 Gold Cup, he is an outstanding distributor, phenomenal with his head, and he even has a decent shot from outside the 18. I base my negative judgments of Ching on the two Mexico games from this summer, and let’s face it, everyone was garbage at Giants Stadium, and there wasn’t a great deal of offense post-Charlie at Azteca. The more I watch the JOLAZO, I see Ching doing exactly what VoH does on that play, and with good service from Lando, Spector and even Holden, he could definitely drill a header past David James. I’m not going to say I’m in the Ching camp until close analysis of the next two weeks’ games, but I’m no longer distraught that he’s an option up top. ESPECIALLY since Davies will be match fit and can come on in the 65th if Ching is invisible and change the game completely.

        Reply

    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/02/19 at 12:38 PM

      It’s not really about steping up form fast enough. Pachuca Man is doing that now(sort of). But it’s about fitting the style of footballl that Coach wants to play for the first 60 or so minutes of a match.

      Reply

  10. Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/19 at 10:54 AM

    @B-Mac — I think with the play in the Confed Cup and the starters at the Azteca…Jay DM and Gooch are the first choice center back.

    Outside of playing in place of JDM or Gooch, Boca will have played zero games in 2010 at center back outside of the national team

    It is nice to finally have the media recognize Bornstein’s talent after JB’s been bashed for so long. Bornstein has so much talent, he’s just too tentative sometime.

    On to the weekend…..and I need to write my follow-up to this: http://theshinguardian.com/2010/01/03/elephant-in-the-room-its-not-gooch-demerit/

    I’m trying to find where I can watch this Rangers game as (and yes another column here) the USMNT center midfield is looking positively shaky outside of Michael Bradley right now.

    Reply

    • Bornstein has a lot of potential, he just needs to stop making the types of mistakes that a midfielder might get away with but are deadly from your fullback: Getting caught too far upfield, getting caught in possession, playing poor passes to the CM/CB that is intercepted and trigger a counter-attack, occasionally losing composure. He’s definitely improved in these areas. I don’t think he’s quite automatic but he’s the best option we have against teams that attack using the flanks. Spain had no width at the Confederations cup so Boca played narrowly almost tucked in as a 3rd centreback. Against a team that attacks down the flanks his mobility is a problem.

      I’m hoping we see Torres get a chance to start against the Netherlands. With injuries, it might just happen. I don’t know, a Torres/Bradley midfield might be a bit of an adventure defensively but it could be a good fulcrum comprised of an organizer and box-to-box destroyer. I think Feilhaber is more a creator than an organizer so he’s had mixed performances in central midfield when asked to set tempo. If Feilhaber faces a race to be fit, I think we need to bring Torres more into the mix. However, knowing Bob, he’ll probably play him outside midfield with a more defensive pairing along the lines of Bradley/Edu in the center.

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/02/19 at 12:28 PM

        Tuesday, sounds like what Cesc said re. Fabianski: the top teams do not make these types of mistakes…

        Reply

        • You’re assuming I’m under the delusion that the US is a top team. In reality, I’m hoping we are lucky enough to get away with the mistakes we’re going to make, and minimize any suicidal tendencies.

          Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/02/19 at 2:26 PM

        @Tuesday — I’m going to lead my next Boca piece with this…

        “Spain had no width at the Confederations cup so Boca played narrowly almost tucked in as a 3rd centreback. Against a team that attacks down the flanks his mobility is a problem.”

        The most glaring impact to Boca playing at CB was how withdrawn he was and forced the cover players around him.

        It might kill the counterattack opportunities…

        Reply

  11. Posted by Matt B on 2010/02/19 at 11:24 AM

    At some point, I would like to see Spector on the left and Cherundolo on the right. Obviously this will have to wait as Dolo is still out right now, but I think he is a much better player than most give him credit for. I see Spector and Cherundolo being more or less even on the right, and they are the 2 best fullbacks we have. I just can’t see Bocanegra handling speedy wingers as LB, and even though Bornstein has been much better lately, I’m still not totally convinced.

    Reply

    • Posted by Swa on 2010/02/19 at 11:44 AM

      Also agree with this. Dolo is a seasoned veteran who starts and plays 90 on a weekly basis in the Bundesliga and has for 12 years, and has experience in 2 World Cups (only playing in 1 but starting all three games in ’06 and taken off twice for EJ when we needed offense badly). He really gets overlooked but from what I’ve seen his speed dropoff is not significant from Bornstein and he doesn’t have those tentative moments that lead to El Salvador taking the lead in Utah.

      Reply

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