Archive for June, 2010

TSG Reconvenes With ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle

Carlisle for ESPN...

TSG’s Brian Mechanick spoke with Jeff Carlisle as the ESPN reporter was about to hop a plan for South Africa.

Mechanick follows up today with a debrief from Carlisle with a little more than a week left at World Cup 2010.

To Brian & Jeff…..

Q: How do you rate the U.S.’s performance in this World Cup?

The exceeded expectations slightly. The fact that they won their group for the first time in 80 years, I don’t think anyone was expecting that. A lot of people say the group was weak, but anytime you can draw with England and take care of business in the other two games, that’s a solid accomplishment. On the other hand they went out in the second round, which a lot of people expected, so you can make the argument that they met expectations, but I would kick it up a few notches higher than that.

Q: How do you evaluate Bob Bradley’s performance as a manager in this World Cup?

On the whole I think he did pretty well. It’s easy to look at back on the game in hindsight and say, “Clearly he shouldn’t have started Ricardo Clark and Robbie Findley”, but I think if you pick a part that decision you have to put yourself in his shoes at the time he made the decision. The fact is the U.S. was coming off of two very intense, exhausting games against Slovenia and Algeria, and I think the logic of putting someone in the midfield who was a little bit fresher, that makes sense to me.

In terms of Findley, the U.S. offense was predicated on having Donovan and Dempsey pinch in and tuck into the middle and have the fullbacks overlap, but if you’re going to do that you need a guy who is going to stretch the defense vertically, so from that standpoint, putting Findley back into the line-up makes sense as well. Clearly, it didn’t work out as Bradley planned, but I think you need to give Bradley credit that he didn’t wait around until halftime and make changes then. He knew that the American’s tournament was on the line, he made changes, and I think they worked pretty well.

One thing a lot of people forget is when extra-time started Bradley had the right guys on the field, and they still coughed up a goal that was very preventable. That to me comes down to the players, not the coach.

Q: Has the American’s talent been overrated, or has the team underperformed to their ability?

I don’t think we’ve been overrating the U.S.’s talent. Coming into the tournament most people expected the team to make the second round and they did that. Could they have gone further? I think they could have. It wasn’t like they were dominated versus Ghana. Yes the first thirty minutes were looking pretty grim, but the U.S. as they so often do gathered themselves, rallied, made a game of it and took the match into extra time.

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TSG’s Refined World Cup Picks

Now that the brackets are reset, the TSG writers make their picks and commentary on how the rest of the tournament goes down.

"Yeah, we didn't change a thing from our originals...."

And some commentary:

(Brian) I called that Paraguay and Uruguay would reach the quarters, and I’m sticking to my pick that CONMEBOL reps hard, as we have three South American teams in the semis and an all CONMEBOL final.

(Shaun) Ghana vs. Uruguay – This will be a close game. Ghana are a well-disciplined side and will be buoyed by being the only African team left. I actually think that they didn’t play all that well against the US (compared to their games against Serbia and Germany). They will be missing a couple of starters due to FIFA’s stupid card policy which will hurt them. Ghana wins.

(Matthew) I think Ghana played their best game versus the States. They’ll be in, but they won’t be able to solve Uruguay’s defense. Suarez scores.

(Matthew) I’ve got Brazil running it, but if Holland….oh Holland you deserve more time…end up pulling the upset it will because of the mastery of Wesley Sneijder–who is on the top of his game right now–pulling the strings.

Elano, an unsung here on the national side...

(Tuesday) Holland vs. Brazil – Just when you thought the Dutch landscape couldn’t get any flatter, look who shows up in your quarter. This Brazil team is a steamroller but they won’t be running up the score when missing the under-rated Elano against a solid Dutch defense. Okay, so I thought one of Brazil and Spain might head to an early grave when colliding in a second round match, but really they’re on a collision course for the dream final instead.

(Tuesday) Germany vs. Argentina – It’s all happy party times for Go, Diego, Go in South Africa. With his side brandishing their leader’s attacking flash, Diego is like the World Cup’s very own Jolly St. Nick. Unfortunately his unique gifts for management will run out in this quarterfinal against an expansive German attack featuring more speed on the flanks than a pile of blow on the touchlines. I thought an inexperienced German side might be out by now, but these new-fangled Deutschlanders have been a delight to watch and will hang around for the semi-finals in style, just like and unlike in the past.

(Tuesday) Ghana vs. Brazil –  With the Ivory Coast out, I’m still backing an African team to get into the semis. The vanquishers of the USA become the first African semi-finalist but the Black Star’s yellow-brick road into the reaches an abrupt end here. You could see this going the way of last summer’s Confederation’s Cup Final with Brazil going down a goal but in the end, Ghana gonna get Maiconned.

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Best Of Those Left: Public Is On Target

Suarez was having a mundane Cup until he expected last match...

Largely, I think ESPN–with the exception of little bit of challenges in pairing broadcasters and FIFA’s way too much use of the super zoomed-in slow motion shot (who’s producing, Jerry Bruckheimer?)–has done a really good job of presenting the World Cup in the United States. Well done, Mickey Mouse Sports!

Even online in many cases. Jeff Carlisle–who TSG writer Brian Mechanick spoke with on the phone over the weekend–is doing just a bang-up job.

Now ESPN revises their “Best Players” Flash Do-Hickey and asks “Who is the best player left at the World Cup?”

Surprisingly, with the exceptions of low ranking for defenders Maicon and Lahm way too low, I think the public did a great job.

Have some fun here.

Here below is TSG’s quick reaction list when we asked the question, “On current form, who are the most critical players left in World Cup 2010.”

Frankly, TSG would have backtracked and selected Lionel Messi, *if he had put away a chance and Carlos Tevez wasn’t in supreme form. If Messi plays the #10 role to perfection against a team–like Germany–that has the defensive abilities to potentially limit him, I may, highlight may, eat my words on Maicon over Messi.

But not yet!

Will Wesley lead the Netherlands to that elusive land?

1. Maicon
2. Lionel Messi
3. David Villa
4. Mesut Özil
5. Wesley Sneijder
6. Carlos Tevez
7. Kaka
8. Luis Fabiano
9. Xavi
10. Luis Suarez
11. Robin van Persie
12. Arjen Robben
13. Diego Forlan
14. Philipp Lahm

You don't want to "f" with Lucio....really...

15. Lucio
16. Iker Casillas
17. Gonzalo Higuain
18. Julio Cesar
19. Miroslav Klose
20. Robinho
21. Thomas Müller
22. Asamoah Gyan
23. Andres Iniesta
24. Cristian Riveros
25. Fernando Torres

Gonzalo Higuain, who Shaun think is merely “Pippo Inzaghi +” and I contend is much more much be recognized with his official TSG video.

Initiating Coverage: USMNT In RSA

A last huddle...

Now that time has passed since the Yanks–sniffle–exit from South Africa, time for TSG to take a look at which players raised, met, and, yes, failed to meet expectations at World Cup 2010. Which way did their individual stock go?

TSG will also give you some very hypothetical–or dreamy if you prefer–club scenarios for the Yanks.

Exceeded Expectations

Bradley (one word)..."excelled"

1. Michael Bradley

Overall Tournament Player Rating: 7

Analyst Recommended Action: Strong Buy

The skinny: Hard to not give Michael the biggest thumbs-up from TSG here. Junior, much maligned by this publication, proved himself to be up to the task of bossing the midfield in international play. Sure, it was Bradley Senior that authored the younger Bradley in such a role to succeed, but Michael still had to produce.

Bradley did his job at outworking his opponent’s shadow, had a near flawless game against England, and, bravo, no cards for the youngster.

While Junior can be blamed for at least one of the Slovenia goals, that’s a near perfect World Cup given just how unfathomably much he was tasked with.

Clubs that should be looking: MB90 has stated he wants to play at a top club. He’s not going to move unless it’s an appreciable jump for where he currently is. No insights unique to TSG here, but some fits for the up-and-coming Bradley in our minds would be: 1) Roma (hard-nosed team embodies Bradley’s spirit), 2) Tottenham (Tom Huddlestone is Tom Huddlestone and Wilson Palacios is oddly rumored to Barca).

2. Steve Cherundolo

Overall Tournament Rating: 6.5

Analyst Recommended Action: Strong (Value) Buy

The skinny: Cherundolo always blew hot and cold (most, though not TSG, castigate his Azteca performance during the 2009 qualifier), but ‘Dolo was firing early on in World Cup 2010. In the England game, it was Cherundolo who effectively abused James Milner and then limited the impact of Shaun Wright Phillips and Ashley Cole. That is, Ashley Cole, England’s best player in the tournament and a world class leftback.

Cherundolo was further instrumental against both Algeria and Slovenia, though his form against Ghana came back closer to Earth.

For a player who was largely considered a back-up until Jonathan Spector’s form took a turn for the worse in the Send-Off Series, Cherundolo’s play was both steady and dynamic and much needed on a shaky backline.

Clubs that should be looking: None-‘Dolo’s performance got him two more years at Hannover ’96.

Lando the Magnificent (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

3. Landon Donovan:

Overall Tournament Rating: 7

Analyst Recommended Action: Buy

The skinny: Nothing short of a classy tournament for the United States’ flagship player. It’s not that Donovan needed to prove anything–most in the foreign media that TSG spoke with championed Donovan as the States top player before the tournament and a “dangerous” (the most heard adjective) player–it’s that Donovan needed to rewrite the legacy of 2006 while being a leader.

Through his work on the front end of the Slovenia comeback and the back-end of the Algeria game-winning goal, Donovan did that before his penalty shot against Ghana.

Donovan is clearly in his prime right now and he’s figured out his value as a player. He’s kind of like two-time MVP Steve Nash in a way. He’s a passer first, who’s completely able to score when the team needs it at crunch time….and he makes those better around him. Players seem to love play with both of them.

Clubs that should be interested: Will MLS hold out for a Ronaldo-sized ransom? Manchester City rumors have swirled, but Donovan is an idyllic fit for Toffee blue.

4. Clint Dempsey

Overall tournament rating: 6.5

Analyst Recommended Action: Buy

The skinny: Gone was Clint Dempsey’s pouting in this tournament. Gone was Clint Dempsey’s failure to track back.

While Dempsey was never labeled the Chosen One to put the Yanks on his shoulders, he did just that against Ghana, consistently finding his way to midfield to earn and keep possession when it seemed none of the other Yanks could.

While one might disparage Deuce for his inability to find paydirt, especially against Algeria–but also against Ghana–it wouldn’t be fair. Dempsey was consistently yo-yoed between midfield and striker and often had the focus of creation away from his side.

Clubs that should be interested: A report has Dempsey as the apple of Napoli’s eye. Not a bad fit, but Dempsey has expressed multiple times that he’s quite settled in England. Will the Deuce follow Roy Hodgson down the road to Redsland?

5. Benny Feilhaber

Feilhaber got a lot more leeway from Bob Bradley in 2010 versus 2008...

Overall tournament player rating: 5.5

Analyst Recommended Action: Buy

The skinny: I need to apologize because another writer–I believe it was Jeff Carlisle, but if not I apologize–made the point that Bob Bradley allowed Benny Feilhaber to play himself into shape. I missed that notion and I think it’s an excellent point.

Feilhaber continually got stronger as he got in-game reps and by the third game, with the help of an advanced Clint Dempsey, Feilhaber was dictating the run-of-play for the States.

Perhap it should have been Feilhaber–who quarterbacked quite successfully with Michael Bradley in the midfield through 2007 –who partnered Bradley in the middle against Slovenia? Why didn’t Bob use him in the role he used to inhabit (and did during the Confederation Cup final)?

Clubs that should be interested: Feilhaber is at his best oscillating between an advanced midfielder role and a non-defensive assignment-based holding midfielder role, sort of like a Xavi. I’ll have to rely on the TSG community for recommendations here; I still need to mull them over.

5. Jonathan Bornstein

Overall tournament player rating: 6

Analyst Recommended Action: Weak Buy

The skinny: Pipe down with your TSG favoritism comments. Jonathan Bornstein went into World Cup 2010 with–as I said on a radio show a month ago–more vitriol directed at him than any other player on the United States….by far.

He leaves the World Cup vindicating his selection. Surprising? Nothing short of shocking.

Bornstein was far from flawless and needed some support from Carlos Bocanegra, but you could argue that against Ghana he was the Yanks’ best defender! (I just heard the click of the window on about 100,000 browsers.)

More to consider, Bornstein is all of 25 and has the following on his resume: 34 caps (that’s more than half of what Onyewu has), a goal to win a World Cup qualification group, a Confederation Cup and now two World Cup caps to his name.

At 29-years-old in 2014, guess whose name is currently sitting near the top of the States defender depth chart? Those who suggest Bornstein doesn’t deserve it, I’ll ask the question: The best US defender against Ghana will have four more years under his belt and a great deal of experience, he shouldn’t be considered?

Clubs that should be interested in Bornstein: Tough one here. I’m not sure that Bornstein is ready for role outside of MLS and–the bigger question–how much development does Bornstein have left in him? That’s the golden question and I asked above as well.

Primera teams in Mexico have been rumored to be sniffing around. Frankly, I think Bornstein could really benefit–or perhaps sink–from a move to the German second division a la Kenny Cooper. Better chance for him is likely the Portugese leagues somewhere, like Adu’s old Belensenses club.

Met Expectations

Findley, what was expected?

1. Robbie Findley

Overall tournament rating: 4.5

Analyst Recommended Action: Hold or Pass

The skinny: Just about right on for a World Cup for Findley. The same player review could have been written for Findley for all three games he played.

“Showcased world class speed. Consistently worked hard. Out of ideas with the moment bearing down, lacks a final ball.”

Findley, an MLS spot sub, going into camp did the job Bob Bradley asked with the exception of scoring. It’s not like Findley was setting MLS on fire through May.

Clubs that should be interested: Without a final ball, I can only see a mid-table, cash-strapped Scottish Premier League team (because of the physical nature of the league) taking a shot on Findley.

2. Carlos Bocanegra

Overall Player Rating: 5.5

Analyst Recommended Action: Hold or Pass

The skinny: Bocanegra, the captain and team player, was tasked with leftback and central defense for the States. Bocanegra was never dominant over four games and was soundly run by Aaron Lennon against England–though England could do nothing with Lennon’s service.

That said, Captain Carlos never made any egregious mistakes. He was physically beat on Asamoah Gyan’s ultimate USMNT exit ball for the second Ghana goal.

On the downward slide of his career, Captain Carlos did all he could.

Clubs that should be interested: Bocanegra will likely stay at Rennes for another year or two, then I can see him Galaxy-bound.

DeMerit, out of contract with Watford....where next?

3. Jay DeMerit

Overall Player Rating: 6

Analyst Recommended Action: Weak Buy

The skinny: The book on Jay DeMerit was just about spot on.

“Struggles early in games. 1-on-1 defender with the best of them. Misjudges balls in the air.”

DeMerit played to his utmost potential at this World Cup, but not beyond. Truly a heart and soul player, some of DeMerit’s technical ability, or lack there-of was exposed. However the crafty veteran also minimized the damage through the middle with two different partners, one a liability through injury, the other a converted left back.

Clubs that should be looking: Despite some challenges in ability, DeMerit’s know-how and experience…both World Cup experience and Premiership experience with Watford make DeMerit a valuable veteran.

Perhaps a union with Stu Holden backing Gary Cahill–who might fly–at Bolton?

Failed Expectations

1. Oguchi Onyewu

Overall Player Rating: 4

Analyst Recommended Action: Hold

The skinny: Onyewu was a professional and gave his all. However, at the end of the day Gooch was not fit to play in a World Cup. It’s possible that Onyewu’s experience alone helped the US earn the draw against England. However, lacking game fitness and the ability to string together consecutive strong games saw Onyewu hit the pine for the Yanks final two games.

A saving grace for Onyewu is that he is locked in at AC Milan for a few years and at centerback he’ll get a shot at competing for a spot next to Thiago Silva as Nesta sunsets his career.

2. Jozy Altidore

Overall Player Rating: 5.5

Analyst Recommended Action: Hold

The skinny: I’ve now flip-flopped Altidore between the meets expectations and failed expectations category six times. Whose expectations are those? (Just before I published this I moved Altidore to “Failed Expectations” for a seventh time.)

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Landon On Letterman

Bob Bradley Tunes In On Dan Patrick

A pensive time....

Bob Bradley is getting his message out there now that Sunil Gulati has.

Coach Sweatpants stopped by the Dan Patrick show. What’s more impressive?

That Bradley said he’d be honored to continue as US Coach or that he used the word “gutted”

DP: How long did it take to get over the loss to Ghana?
BB: I’m still going through the process. When a team has put a lot into it and it ends quickly, I think it takes a little while.

DP: What was the locker room like after the loss? How long was it before you said something?
BB: I went around to each individual when they were sitting there and thanked everybody. We didn’t actually talk to the whole group until the next day.

DP: If I could give you a mulligan, what would you do differently with your lineup against Ghana?
BB: I don’t think I’d change the lineup as much as I’d change the way we’ve started some games. We just put ourselves in the hole too many times. Ultimately, we kept fighting back, but when we did it again to start the overtime, it just seemed to be too much.

DP: Do you think you were better than Ghana?
BB: I think we are, yes.

DP: Is there one aspect you have to improve if you’re going to remain head coach?
BB: When you look at all the games, we created a good number of chances. That’s always something you’re trying to do. But at the end of the day, I don’t think we took our chances as well as we needed. Particularly in the Ghana game, I think we gave up three chances, and they scored twice. We probably created five or six good chances, and our only goal came off a penalty kick.

Full transcript here.

Round of 16 – Spain versus Portugal

Can the divine soul patch add to his goal tally

PEEEEEP PEEEP PEEP. Game over. Spain versus paraguay in the last quarter

89:00 - Red card for Costa for an apparent elbow. That was unbelievable acting by Capdevilla. If that isn’t a call for post match cards for diving then I don’t know what is.

87:00 - Llorente beats the offside trap and heads just wide.

85:00 – Spain maintaining insane amounts of ball possession. Ronaldo has been marked out of this game and has been largely ineffective.

77:00 – Villa now has the self belief that he is god and tries an audacious shot from pretty far out. He comes close but Eduardo easily punches clear.

70:00 – Sergio Ramos is released by Xavi and hammers a shot goal bound but Eduardo does well to save. He’s defender everyone!

63:00 – GOOOOAAAALLLL. Villa on his second effort, sends it in the back of the net. A lovely backheel from Xavi releases Villa whose first shot is saved but he gets the rebound and buries it. Spain 1 – Portugal 0

61:00 - Villa then tries his luck from distance but his curling shot is inches wide.

61:00 - Llorente makes an immediate impact by diving for a cross with his head. It’s well saved by Eduardo.

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