Archive for May, 2010

One From Our Photog: MB90

Matt Mathai is not well-rested and needs to go to work. But he found the time to slip us a teaser of some of his shots of the evening. Man, Matt, you’re good!

Last night MB0....but that's ok....

Review: The Last Of The 30

Who won?

Run DMB was effective...

In a tune-up test where the USMNT succumbed 4-2 to the Czech Republic, this may have been the first affair where I didn’t mind the score or maybe the final tally didn’t register with me.

The USMNT came out with a “developmental” roster against their 2006 group stage foils and, as we mentioned in the preview, were looking to prove two things….either that they were fit (Gooch, Stu) or that they belonged (Goodson, Torres).

It was the customary US playbook as the Yanks’ thrust the attack up the right side when they had the momentum and covered over the left flank.

How major a  focus was this?

At one point, for about 2 minutes (9th min or so) I watched DaMarcus Beasley run up-and-down the field…in the central midfield!

At the turn of the half and upon a 1-1 deadlock, the USMNT switched up the pieces and started to find some joy in the attack, but as players digressed to unfamiliar plots on the field–Edu to the central defense and Stu Holden inside–the US broke down and eventually found themselves without answers to Czech attacking questions.

Maurice Edu puts the Yanks ahead.

Let’s get to our customary review:

TSG: What We Were Looking For…

Awards

Players Ratings

TSG: What We Were Looking For…

• How’s Gooch?

First, as per usual, we’ll invoke the now-famous TSG axiom: “You can’t look at observations in isolation. You have to look at the whole body of work.”

Well, none of us have seen Gooch’s body of work this year, limited as it may be.

Here’s a few telling things about this game. Bob Bradley put Onyewu on the left side, away from the pressure and away from where the US was generating that attack. In essence, since this was a friendly, Coach USA kept the kids gloves on.

Second, Gooch looked tentative attacking attackers and pursuing them as well. I think everyone saw this.

Third, the primary season you need the Milan big man in South Africa? Set pieces. Onyewu was beat for one that directly led to the 1st Czech goal and a 2nd that indirectly–a few bounces removed–led to the 3rd Czech goal.

However…

The label on this game for Gooch is still out based upon how he performs against Turkey and Australia. If Gooch bounces back against Turkey, then the label on this games is “Just getting used to full speed.” If Onyewu shows weakly in the next two then the label is, “Not ready yet.”

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Interlude: I’ve been having a spirited debate with our goalkeeper on our club team, who obviously as a goalie has a contrasting point-of-view on the first goal against the US that I’ll add in here:

“Watch the replay.  I’m not saying Gooch made a great play. He didn’t, but it was a tough play.

He’s backpeddling, Sivok’s coming forward full speed, and he get’s beat. But it wasn’t exactly a brilliant strike

and Onyewu’s presence had something to do with that.

Watch #22 (Stu Holden).  The ball goes over the top.  He turns.  Watches it sail by.  Stands still.

Stands more. Watches. <Says something I’m not typing in here>

Then watches the ball scoot just inside the left post.

<In capital letters> The (expletive) post he should have gone to the second the ball switches field over his head.

My response: You’re a goalie. Isn’t that Guzan’s fault. Wasn’t he guarding someone?

Still valid contention.

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• Who’s going where on the backline?

This is the question that I was left with this evening. First, I’ll address Heath Pearce’s play in the “Player Ratings” section.

As of this evening, I can see Bob Bradley–even with Onyewu et all still ailing–taking only seven true defenders in the back.

I think the reason you saw Jonathan Bornstein on the left side was to give him more reps. If you legitimately thought Heath Pearce had a shot, well then he would have been your starter this evening.

Right now, you’re looking at a core, fit group of Boca (we think), DeMerit (we think), Dolo, Spector, Goodson and, yes, Bornstein. Beyond that you’ve got Specs and Edu able to move to the middle in an emergency and maybe Rogers to the back left.

Pachuca was well represented by Torres and Gomez tonight...

•  Am I a winger, a central mid, both, or does it matter?

Well, it turns out this wasn’t the needed question. What did we learn in the midfield tonight?

» Stu Holden is class, but needs some reps to get all his fitness back

» Beasley flashed his speed…and will be flashing his passport.

» Edu is effective going forward in addition to his stout defense

» Torres has risen to the challenge; he’s on the plane.

» Sacha Kljestan most likely is not. Robbie Rogers I’ll reserve judgment on and Ale Bedoya didn’t get the chance we hoped for (is that good or bad?)

•  The 4-4-2 might means you, Mr. Gomez….or you Mr. Buddle….but really probably means Robbie Findley.

The most fascinating game review tonight was, of course, up top. TSG’s main camp question of where Edson Buddle is thought to play was finally answered.

Buddle started up on the top right where the States’ kept stuffing the attack and performed very well. There was one particular moment at I believe the 14th minute where Buddle had the speed to challenge for a ball and the heft not to get knocked over by the better positioned wing defender. That play–even though the States lost the ball out of bounds was important to me.

Buddle was effective in movement and seemed to, well, remember his Bradley playbook as the half went on. Further, on at least two occasions and perhaps outside that playbook, Buddle tracked back and made two critical clearances of balls played into the defensive third.

Eddie Johnson didn’t fare nearly as well but in fairness he was on the little-used left side. The crowd did get treated to the customary “Oh no he’s offsides EJ call.”

In the 2nd, we saw a rejuvenated Brian Ching who with yet another precise pass–a cheeky backheel to Gomez–displayed his breadth of ability as a target man.

…and that brings us to Magic Gomez. Gomez carries himself the way every player you hope does. He’s passionate, invigorated and you can see the focus in his eyes. However, contrary to Alexi Lalas’ proclamations, two things I picked up on suggest he’s not a lock just yet.

1st, Gomez got knocked off the ball with his back to the goal. That’s okay since it’s not his forte, but you would have liked to see him show a little bit of strength there.

Second, in a one-on-one situation midway through the 2nd, Gomez lacked any sense of creativity and tried unsuccessfully to get some space on his dominant right foot.

I think he’s going to be a 3am decision Wednesday morning for Bob between Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez for the speed striker role.

Awards

•  Best Play Of The Game:

(Holden to Goodson to Gomez). On a Holden cross, I’ll let Shaun describe the rest:

66:00 – GOOOOOOAL GOMEZ – From a deep corner, Goodson gets up high and sends a header across the goal that Gomez easily heads in. That was a a nice of goal of another set piece. Czech Republic 2 – US 2

Thanks Shaun. A goal that lends itself to a little bit of background. Last year’s story, Stu Holden, puts it in play to the revelation of the Gold Cup, Clarence Goodson, who deposits it over the top to this year’s feel-good story, Herculez Gomez, who earns his keep. Well done.

All the way from the Gold Cup...

•  Most Unheralded Play Of The Game

(Clarence Goodson, 35th minute or so…)

Clarence Goodson may have been whistled on the play, but when a threatening ball was played deep into the left corner beyond an advanced Bornstein and a beaten Onyewu, it was the IK Start starter who galloped over from his left central home base to stand up the attacker on an island. Goodson got flagged, but clearly shouldn’t have on the play.

•  Golden Shinguard

(Clarence Goodson)

With lite apologies to Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez and heavy apologies to Maurice Edu and Steve Cherundolo, it was Clarence Goodson to was singled out by Bob Bradley immediately at the close of the game for stellar play.

You know what…I’ll just copy our game review from the match against Honduras last year in the Gold Cup on Goodson:

D: Clarence Goodson – 8

Quickly dealing himself into discussion in the US’s now crowded center back pecking order. Absolutely unfailing in his technical game, Goodson showed himself a threat on set pieces by scoring the first goal on a Stu Holden cross to end the 1st half. Dare I say the U.S. is best served sending Boca out wide with the depth we might have in the middle.

Sure, Goodson could have done a tad better on the third CR goal–and frankly scrums at this feet are known weakness of his–but behind that Goodson was stalwart in defense, proactively moving up the pitch when the offense was on his side as well as covering over the other half of the field and a true, non-hyperbolic monster in the box.

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U.S. V. Czech Republic – WC friendly

One of the bright spots for the USMNT tonight. Goodson was immense save for one little mistake.

See you Saturday when the US play Turkey. The Turks are a stronger opponent but also not going the World Cup. This is fodder for another column but the US will also have a much stronger side out there. Recap from Matt coming soon.

Well overall not a good performance by the USMNT. There were some bright moments. Goodson was excellent save for his mistake that led to the third goal. There was some nice one two passing here and there. Ching and Gomez looked sharp as did Buddle. Holden needs another match but looked good.

90:00 – GOOOOAL Necid. Recent substitute latches onto a poorly cleared header by Edu who is playing out of his customary position as CB. Guzan is wrong footed and cannot do anything. That is pretty much the last play of the game. Czech Republic 4 – US 2

89:00 – Game going through th emotions now. This would be a great time to show BB what you can do. Bedoya making things happen and Ching is playing a good set up striker role.

85:00 - US regrouping but they are not maintaining possession like they were in the first part of the second half. Senior like Capello will not be pleased with this performance but I think he has had some questions answered for him. Against Turkey this Saturday we will see a much more definitive US team as the Donovan, Dempsey, Bocanegra etc… should all factor

81:00 – US defense a little shaken now as they fail to clear a corner properly. Luckily they block well and the two subsequent CR shots are dealt with and danger is averted.

80:00 – Goodson should still start. That was unlucky as he has been immense this game. A huge bright spot for the US.

78:00 – GOOOOAL – Fenin. TERRIBLE defending by the US as they get around Pearce too easily and then cross goes under Goodson’s foot when he should have cleared. Ball bounces out to Fenin who blasts it home. The goal was initially Pearce’s fault and then Goodsons. Shame as they both were playing very well. Czech 3 – US 2

76:00 - From a headed clearance by Goodson, Gomez counters but is slow and tries and gets around a CR defender and then takes a shot when a pass to Ching would have been the smarter and better option. He does a win a corner though but Cech clears easily

71:00 – US attacking again as Bedoya scampers outside the box but it is well blocked by a CR defender. Ball comes back out to Dolo who sets up Holden but his shot is wide. Even though they gave up an easy goal the US are looking much better this second half.

70:00 – That goal was all about Goodson. Right now he’s had a much better game than Gooch. Who keeps Goodson out of the starting 11?

67:00 – Bedoya on Gooch off.

66:00 – GOOOOOOAL GOMEZ – From a deep corner, Goodson gets up high and sends a header across the goal that Gomez easily heads in. That was a a nice of goal of another set piece. Czech Republic 2 – US 2

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Hard Goodbyes: 4 Hours Till the Whistle

Harder goodbye? Vote below….

OR

Biding Time: The “Best Of” CONCACAF

Okay, that “Orange Slices” column is not going to hold us all day while we wait for our first USMNT action in nearly two months.

Commenter GeorgeCross, a UEFA native, gives his us this little fun piece to debate while we’re waiting.

Just for a little bit of fun, I thought it would be cool to name a ‘dream team’ from each of FIFA’s Confederations. (Our first in the “Best Of” series)

Obviously, the list of players is exhaustive, so there’s not one right answer.  My aim was to perhaps debate a little, and perhaps learn something – a TSG member might throw out a name that most of us ignored, forgot about or hadn’t even heard about.

Logic:  each player’s country has to be at The Finals and the player has to be part of said country’s provisional 30-man squad.  In addition, I have take the liberty to chose a   4-4-2 diamond  over a 4-3-3 formation.  And I have also picked the best players (IMO), rather than a team to beat a specific opponent. To begin, we’ll start with CONCACAF. A little tough as I have only a few squads to choose from.

GeorgeCross … I’ve taken the liberty of adding my on-the-fly suggestions to yours below.

Goalie:

GeorgeCross: Tim Howard, USA

TSG: Tim Howard, USA

Defense:

GeorgeCross: Carlos Salcido, MEX – Oguchi Onyewu, USA, Rafael Marquez, MEX -  Ricardo Osorio, MEX

TSG: Carlos Salcido, MEX – Oguchi Onyewu, USA, Jay DeMerit, USA  -  Maynor Figueroa, HON

The Spurs strongman makes both lists...

Midfield:

GeorgeCross: Stu Holden, USA – Wilson Palacios (CDM), HON – Clint Dempsey (CAM), USA – Andres Guardado, MEX

TSG: Clint Dempsey, USA – Wilson Palacios, HON – Cuauhtémoc Blanco Bravo, MEX – Landon Donovan, USA

Forward:

GeorgeCross: Carlos Vela, MEX – Landon Donovan, USA

TSG: David Suazo HON – Carlos Vela, MEX

Honorable Mention:

TSG: Rafael Marquez, MEX – Giovanni Dos Santos, MEX – Jonathan Dos Santos, MEX – Jozy Altidore, USA – Michael Bradley, USA – Stu Holden, USA

GeorgeCross: Pending

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Have at it folks … just seven hours until the whistle.

Orange Slices: Beat The Republic

Our “Orange Slice” post is back.

Go time!

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update throughout the day. Everything goes in here (links, photo, video) that seems interesting and pertinent. Honestly, I hate attempting to do a column on gameday. This–the match–it’s what we’re all here for.

The USA takes on The Republic today at Renstchler Field in Hartford, CT. Coverage begins at 4:30PM PST. Game time is 5pm PST.

For TSG’s full preview see: Preview: Who’s Bob Czeching Out?

• I harp on Soccernet quality, but never Jeff Carlisle. One of TSG’s favorites has an excellent, in-depth, non-frothy piece on Landon Donovan.

• I’ve received this question in email and I’m sure I’ve seen it in the commentary somewhere: The USMNT will be boarding for South Africa in D.C. (not Philly) — no other details are known at this time.

• Update:  From Steve Goff at the Washington Post:

“The very early — and very unconfirmed, unofficial — buzz is that several regulars will remain in street clothes. The names I hear are Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Carlos Bocanegra. Other veterans will be in reserve.”

*Note (no disrespect to Steve at all) – the last buzz from the WP was that Freddy Adu was in the 30-man roster.

• The USMNT will be wearing their new home Nike Grey, White & Blue jerseys for the game.

• The weather will be around 80° F when the USMNT takes the field. Altitude (ha) will not be a factor as Hartford, home of some great pizza, is only 75 feet above sea level.

• 23 men dress, 6 subs allowed.

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PSA: TSG Corporate Announcement: New team players and one man’s World Cup goal

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• A very “cool” move by Bob Bradley, inviting the pride of the University of San Francisco, Bill Russell to USMNT training. Well done Sweatpants (who’s wearing shorts in these pictures).

• Carlos Bocanegra had a little-seen chat on ESPN on Monday. One statement caught our eye, “I’m hoping that Finley will be one of the surprises of the tournament. I think he’s got something special to take guys on one on one.”

Might Carlos know something that we don’t know?

• Landon Donovan on SportsCenter, says the US can go to the World Cup finals.

Question here, why doesn’t the US trot out another young face with Donovan? A Stuart Holden, a Michael Bradley? Everyone knows Donovan. Want to interest casual fans….introduce them to a new star!

• The US last played Czech…yes…in 2006. 3-0 to the bad. Tomas Rosicky–two goals in that one–is not with the team for their American roadtrip; neither if not-so-gentle giant Jan Koller. Lowlights here.

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