Archive for August, 2010

West Coast: You Want China!

(Note: USSF has not finalized the USA vs. Colombia match that is rumored or slated for October 2010.)

Check out the tadpoles who got the nod the last time the U.S. played in the Bay Area...

Hey West Coast, beyond a few of your stadium turf issues, you want to root for a Japanese or Chinese, but not an Australian, friendly.

Got it?

Rumors–likely to be confirmed–have a United States versus Colombia friendly now scheduled for on or around October 12th.

Add that in to the recently announced United States versus Poland match October 9th at Soldier Field in Chicago and save some Camp Cupcake Finales the United States men’s national team seems to have an allergic reaction to playing with its A squad on the West Coast. Outside of a Gold Cup game against Grenada in Seattle–repeat the quality of that game back to yourself–and games at the official training center at HDC, the US has not played on the West Coast with an “A” side since early 2007.

Of course, there is a method to this.

Just a few months ago, TSG investigated how USSF selects the locales for USMNT home games.

You can throw most of the criteria in that piece out the window for this round of friendlies because there are only two factors that matter with these games having the least meaning of those in the run-up now to 2014:

Continue reading

Monday Midday Thoughts: Wigan, EJ, More…

A fun weekend of soccer as we start to rev up the EPL season and head for the home stretch of the MLS one.

Some thoughts:

The next Wayne?

• Get ready for a Rooney-like bombardment by the Brit tabloids…

…of stories about Andy Carroll.

TSG would like to take this opportunity to apologize to you for suggesting you shouldn’t put Carroll in your fantasy team for at least the first seven games of the season.

Had you listened, you’d be sitting near the bottom of the fantasy table…just like us.

Carroll looked impressive in notching a hat-trick as Newcastle rebounded off their season opening loss to the Red Devils with a 6-0 shellacking of Villa. Admittedly, Villa was playing their 2nd game in three days and were missing some key players…still.

Carroll with an extraordinary game and if the youngster doesn’t get a call-up to F.C. England Senior shortly then fans across the pond have every right to get upset.

Talking...to the BBC...

• As we mentioned yesterday, Bob Bradley went on BBC live to comment on his interest in the Aston Villa job.

We’ll keep the conversation on Villa and Bradley in yesterday’s piece, but a very shrewd move by Bradley’s agent Ron Waxman.

First, even without any expressed interest from Villa, you get a major media outlet–the most major media outlet–in England putting the words “Bob Bradley” in the same story multiple times with “Aston Villa.”

This drives up Bob Bradley’s brand equity, in the same country that he has aspirations to coach in.

Let’s says Bradley’s name were to come up for, I don’t know, the opening at Sheffield United, now you would have folks saying, “Oh yeah, I know Bob Bradley–he coached the US team and was going to be the coach at Villa,” even though Villa has never expressed that Bradley is, in fact, a candidate.

Further, by telling his story overseas, it dampens any negative blowback that might occur if Bradley made the statement Stateside.

It might have been construed as, “He’s the coach of the U.S. National Team and he wants to coach in England?” by the lay soccer fan.

As an American soccer writer, I don’t like that the tight-lipped Bradley–arguably the most visible non-player associated with US soccer–commented to a foreign outlet, but I understand the calculation of the move.

• Well, if Villa isn’t in the offing for Coach Sweats, then Wigan could be.

Roberto Martinez might have been electrifyingly good in his commentary during the World Cup, but the preparation and pride of his Wigan side is the diametric opposite in the early going of the Premiership.

Wigan should have never been crushed at home by Blackpool in the opener; against Chelsea on Saturday is a little bit more understandable.

However, if you take a look at the end of the game and the final goal by new Chelsea signing Yossi Benayoun, you see a defense that was horribly out of position, lacks discipline, and worse, looks like it gave up.

Can you really quit on a team and coach two games into the season?

If Wigan don’t bounce back next week, there may be new rumors linking Bob Bradley with the gig…or Curt Onalfo (kidding).

On Friday, we contributed our thoughts on Roy Hodgson potentially ticketing Alberto Aquilani out of Merseyside; now word today on Aquilani’s midfield mate Javier Mascherano being Barca’s new Cesc. Terms yet to be agreed on.

I don't know Eddie...I think you've gotten plenty of chances overseas...

• Eddie Johnson commented that Americans don’t get respect in the EPL.

I could understand if Clint Dempsey were making those accusations, but Johnson is the same player that couldn’t push 31-year-old molasses-maker Eric Nevland out of a role last season.

It’s not a conspiracy EJ.

Eddie I wonder what you have to say about…

Making his mark...

• Thanks to our community for posting this to us:

Owen Coyle on Stu Holden:

“He brings an unbelievable energy and desire. I mean this is a lad that we managed to get for free last year from Houston and hadn’t played in the Premier League – and probably had a bit of rejection early in his career. I think he’d been over at Sunderland for a little bit. The thing I love about that is that he’s got a real desire to try and be a Premier League professional. As you say, there’s an energy about him and with him and Muamba in there they certainly cover every blade of grass.”

Coyle doesn’t have a conspiracy against Americans and I’m wondering how much dinero MLS missed out on by the management of Holden in 2009. Could MLS have structured something to make some change from this? Not sure.

• Asked new MLS Designated Player signing Geovanni on Saturday how he felt playing up top instead of out wide as he did quite often for Hull City last season. His response? Diplomatic:

I like playing forward, the main thing is I like that the team won today. I like more more that we won. The crowd was very good to me and gave me a good reception when I came in.

I’d like to thank the club and the fans and everyone for welcoming me.

Geovanni said the weather was hot and he’s going to ready to give more next week.

(Thank you kindly for the translation provided by Jay Mettee of San Jose’s front office.)

• A quick note on a good read on soccer journalism by Brent Lathan–he of the multitude of years doing a good job covering the game.

Lathan laments the use of “anonymous sources” in “breaking” a story. Couldn’t agree more. Also agree, in the much shorter time that we’ve interacted with USSF, that they are notoriously quiet on newsworthy issues…either that or our publication is way too young to have curried favor or developed a deep-rooted rapport.

What is perhaps worse than Latham’s frustration at anonymous sources, is those that cite stories using them as a source in their own pieces.

Pieces with a headline like, “Bradley reportedly favorite for Aston Villa job.” Read a few lines in and you learn that the source is…The Daily Mirror. C’mon.

• Question: “So let’s say they marched off about 50 yards between you and Jozy Altidore and had you both run at one another, who’s hitting the ground?”

Answer: “Oh. Jozy’s a big boy; he and I weigh about the same. He also has to run with the ball and keep defenders off’em. But I played football. So, he’s hitting the ground. I think I’ve got him.”

Our interview with DC United goalkeeper and USMNT prospect Bill Hamid, who shut out the Union this past weekend, coming up this week…

Your Sunday Commentary Here

Wow, Newcastle is pounding on Bob Bradley-less Aston Villa.

Andy Carroll has just put the Beermen up 3-o…yes, that’s the same Andy Carroll we said you should lay off on your fantasy team.

The rest of your Sunday commentary here.

Carroll: Looks like there is hope for England after all....

Quakes Shake Galaxy, Shimmy To 1-0 Win

TSG took in the San Jose Earthquake-Los Angeles Galaxy game from the stands Saturday at a sunny Buck Shaw Stadium and watched as the Earthquakes took the lead early and then befuddled a frustrated Galaxy side.

Wondo: Making $48K go a long way...

An acute angle strike by $48,000-per-year man Chris Wondolowski–he of the now 8 goals on the season–put the Quakes ahead and set the upset in motion.

However, if you witnessed the lead-up, then you know the credit, or discredit, goes to the Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts for failing to communicate with back-up leftback A.J. De La Garza on a cross into the box.

Both De La Garza and Ricketts avoided the incoming hot potato and Wondolowski was all too happy to collect the marble before it bounded beyond the endline and fire it low into the left corner pocket. San Jose was 1-0 to the good.

L.A. coach Bruce Arena was still perturbed at the early gaffe in the post game press conference adding, “I don’t know what Donovan (Ricketts) was thinking on that one. I think he thought the ball was going to go out. I’m going to have to ask him.”

The strike was all the Quakes would need on a day when it appeared they followed the blueprint on the whiteboard in their locker room to the letter. It read:

1. Score

2. Just f*cking win

Once San Jose had the lead, they sat extremely deep and clogged the midfield, resorting to relieving pressure on over-the-top balls to Cornell Glen who, though ably defended most of the day by the Galaxy defense and seemingly beset by a multitude of injuries big and small, battled until he was relieved by the league’s newest Designated Player Geovanni late in the 2nd half.

Despite a big "SuperCannon" banner draped from the stands, Busch raised his game and was a difference maker

Thanks to seven saves by keeper Jon Busch–one an intelligent wrong-handed punch in the 2nd on a ball that it seemed Busch thought would go out–the Earthquakes bend-don’t-break strategy only bent and the battle of California went to the uptown side.

The game certainly appeared to turn in the midfield.

Arena might have credited star Landon Donovan with his “man of the match,” but the Galaxy looked like a team–in midfield–that was far from the top of the table.

At one point in the first half, Sean Franklin waved and audibly called Michael Stephens off the ball, only to see the youngster play the ball and immediately turn it over.

On multiple occasions, Donovan seemed frustrated, either throwing his hands up in the air or constantly beckoning forward Mike Magee to move off him off the ball. (Mike Magee had a nasty case of USMNTitis on the days as well. Definition here.)

Omar Gonzalez could be heard hollering at one point up-the-field at Stephens, “Where the (blank) do you want me to go with that ball?”

I asked Arena about what seemed like a lot of confusion through the center of the pitch after the game:

“Coach, seemed like a lot of confusion in your midfield today and a lot of frustration coming with it. A lot of players throwing their hands up in the air or failing to move off the ball.”

Arena’s response? “Really? I didn’t see it. I didn’t see the gestures.”

San Jose midfielder Sam Cronin did though: “Yeah, I noticed their players getting frustrated. I think we were in good spots. They’re maybe used to getting more space, but we felt as long as they didn’t get behind us today we’d be alright.”

Cronin gave his side a “B+,” citing a good team effort for the high mark, and lack of possession which took it down from an A.

At the end of the day, a B+ effort gets San Jose a hard fought win over the league-leading Galaxy.

Other notes:

Canada's newest import...

• Asked Cronin about Cody Arnoux, his former Wake Forest teammate who recently signed the Vancouver Whitecaps:

“Yeah, I spoke with Cody, he’s excited by it (signing with Vancouver). He had a good time at Everton, but realized he wasn’t ready yet when he went over there. He’s got a good future up there and I think he’ll make it back to Europe.”

• Checked in with Ike Opara, a really nice and well-spoken player, who hobbled on crutches through the press area.

Opara on his broken foot:

“It’s coming along fine. I’m on schedule.”

On possibly missing an opportunity to join up with the USMNT when they faced Brazil:

“Aw, I’m not even thinking about that. I’m just focused on this (pointing to his injured wheel) right now.”

• TSG will be doing a profile on Chris Wondolowski shortly. If you have any questions just send them in.

• If you’re in the Bay Area and making it down to a San Jose, the team management does a great job with the facility it has and the pulled chicken sandwich is the way to go at the concession stand.

• Some comments from the TSG/Black Sox/DieHipsterBrew crew that I attended with:

• “That Gonzalez guy looks like he played the wrong sport…he should be playing rugby.”

• “Those hooligans (the “Ultras”) are so organized.”

• “De La Garza is very aggressive when he’s 1-on-1 with himself and the ball.” Um, okay

• “Mike Magee, following the lead of US nattie team strikers everywhere…”

• “Jeez…how much lemonade do they serve here? No beer, just lemonade.” (The ratio of lemonade vendors to all other vendors at the Buck is 135:1)

BBC Comments: Bradley Mentions Villa, That’s All

Update: 08/22

Moving an inch each month closer to getting a role...

Bob Bradley speaks, finally, on his current coaching predicament and specifically on the vacant Aston Villa job:

“I’d be honoured to have a conversation with Randy Lerner,” Bradley stated on BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek.

“I’ve had no contact with him. There have been talks with my representatives to find out the situation.”

“Villa is a massive club, with a great history and a great following. Those opportunities would of course be of interest. It’s pretty clear that Randy Lerner has done a solid job where tradition is kept.”

The TSG Skinny:

Bradley’s comments and their timing merely show that USSF and Bradley are no closer to a deal today than they were after the Ghana game. They also, in our opinion, confirm that Martin Rogers’ report on an extension below is, in fact, bunk.

You can hear the entire interview here.

—————

The flutter of rumors over Bob Bradley’s new Premiership top table destination have finally subsided.

Soccer House: We need Woodward and Bernstein for this one...

Then, a report on Yahoo Sports went the other way and suggested that Bob Bradley is now being courted for and offered four more years by US Soccer.

TSG followed up with USSF spokesman Neil Buethe–as we know the coaching decision, outside of finding a top-rate striker, is probably the biggest issue on the mind of US fans.

As a note, that I have no problem mentioning here, Neil Buethe is a stand-up guy at USSF and tries always to provide clarity on all reports no matter how close or far away they oscillate from the truth.

We’ll use Neil’s comments as a backdrop to provide some review and depth on what seems like a somewhat stagnant USMNT managerial situation. To Neil…

On last week’s Aston Villa rumor shenanigans….

Neil Buethe: :  The rumor that Bob had resigned, or was going to resign, and that he gave a farewell speech after the game started from a fan blog which has a history of erroneous reports.

It was 100 percent not true.

Unfortunately, that report got picked up by a number of larger outlets who didn’t really consider the source of the information or take the time to call us to inquire if the report was accurate.

The false report took on a life of its own for a few days, but eventually we were able to make it crystal clear that nothing had been decided about Bob’s future with the national team.

On a forthcoming meeting between USSF and Bob Bradley

NB: The plan is for Sunil and Dan to speak with Bob most likely this week or next. They will be figuring out the exact timing very soon. I’m not sure if a location is decided. We wouldn’t offer that information (location) anyway.

On Martin Rogers’ story…

NB: The U.S. is having discussions with Bob, but I can’t speak to anything beyond that.  That is what I told Martin last (Monday) night.

On whether Sunil Gulati has had discussions with other coaches…

NB: I have no comment on that. I am not privy to that information.

Matthew, TSG: Is there a specific timeframe or stop date that USSF has in regards to signing a coach with the Gold Cup–presumably–as the next big tournament?

NB: No. There’s no specific timeframe.

———-

What heck goes on up there after he puts his sweats on....

So not much from USSF and understandably so.

For now, here’s how we see the situation:

• Together we stand, divided…make negotiations for both of hard…

Does USSF want a new coach? I have an inkling this is the case. Does Bob Bradley want a new gig? I have an inkling that that is the case, too.

That said, a common axiom for job seekers that applies to both parties here is, “It’s always easier to find a job when you already have one.”

If USSF wants a new coach, it’s a lot easier to negotiate with a potential candidate if there isn’t–at least perceived–an immediate need.

Further–and to use another business axiom–rule of thumb on integrating a new employee into a workforce is 3 months. It makes virtually zero sense–ZERO SENSE–for the U.S. to dismiss Bradley–if that were the choice–without the long term successor ready to go and Bradley still under contract.

What’s the sense in taking those three months to integrate a coach that is not going to be the choice anyway? Zero sense. Why spend the extra money?

Likewise, if Bob Bradley is entertaining offers from other clubs, he’s got the USMNT job in his pocket as a chip in those discussions.

• Free Readers! Get your…Free Readers

Quick, how many people in the United States? 300M.

How many people in the United Kingdon? About 50M.

Hyping things “American” in English papers drives traffic to Web sites and readers to papers. It’s that simple.

Here’s the thing, you can be sure that Bob Bradley–who we’ve all heard say he wants to coach in England–was not in serious contention for either the Aston Villa or Fulham job.

Too much risk for either of those clubs, period. Having an American coach–who is not proven at the level–doesn’t sell tickets. It risks ticket sales. Not a good economy to be doing that.

There are many candidates available, why take a shot on the risky one?

Mind you, not saying that Bob Bradley isn’t qualified, merely that there is too much risk in hiring an unproven coach in the EPL…who doesn’t have previous ties to the Queen puts a team at risk in the current economic climate.

• Judgement again by Asamoah Gyan

If you’re Bob Bradley, one of the reasons we’re suggesting he probably does want to move on–if and only if the correct situation presents itself–is because his success likely comes down to how the US does in one or two games in 2014.

As Bradley and others have stated previously, the goal for World Cups is to qualify (maybe be first in your CONCACAF group) with a team that doesn’t practice together, save for a few days before each match.

So judgment on qualifying performances aren’t something that will improve Bradley’s resume.

No, it’s the knockout rounds of the World Cup…and that’s four years away.

• So what if Old Trafford or the Bernabeu call

Highly implausible opportunities for Bob Bradley, but we’re illustrating a point.

Will Bob Bradley be able to leave before another 4-year term is up if he signs on?

If we assume that “negotiations are on-going,” one of the issues to resolve would be, “Can Bob Bradley walk away from the job if a better one to his liking comes along?”

Everything is at least somewhat about money, so the answer is, “Bradley will always be able to leave, but what is he penalized if he does? Are their restrictions on what teams Bradley can go coach for?”

Big question here, “How firm is another 4-year commitment from both sides and what does that entail…from a compensation, operations, and severance perspective.” That does take time.

• The TSG Skinny

Remember, Bob Bradley wasn’t Sunil Gulati’s first choice.

Bob Bradley likely can’t “prove” anything in the US job and certainly not prove it–and take advantage of it–until 2014.

That said, a better question may be, “What is the better alternative for either of them?”

Most conversations we here across the spectrum start with Jurgen Klinsmann, sprinkle in the name of the a coach who was just in the news: Dunga, Martin O’Neill, and throw in one of the best in MLS, Dom Kinnear to be well-rounded. None of these conversations are rooted in news or information any of the aforementioned candidates is, in fact, being considered.

U.S. Soccer is not going to make a change just to make one while Bradley would likely not take a job like, say, DC United, unless he had to.

To invoke Chris Rock–unbelievably–“a man is only as faithful as his options.” Applied here, it would seem the Bradley-USSF tandem is going to the altar for another for more years unless those options appear here…fast.

Your Saturday Commentary Here

Ian Holloway and his bushel of Tangerines....

Arshavin and Arsenal welcome...

Saturday is overflowing with good matches. TSG and our club team Black Sox will be taking to the Buck to watch Geovanni go Arsenal on the Galaxy.

Speaking of Arsenal. It’s Wenger and Arshavin versus Holloway and Adams in probably the most hyped early season EPL match.

However, a few other battles to check out include:

• Birmingham vs. Blackburn…bigger than you might think.

• Schalke vs. Hamburg…a nice early season entry in the Bundesliga

Update:

• Junior starting for Bo’Munchen, Rico Clark on bench for Frankfurt as they face Dolo (starter) and Hannover. Jones and Schalke have the late game.

• 18-year-old Conor Doyle goes 72 mins in his first start for Derby who are down 2-1 to Coventry at present.

Friday Opine: Whither Aquilani & Liverpool

Clap for me...I know what I'm doing...

Our friends over at Yanks Are Coming asked us why Roy Hodgson would cast aside Alberto Aquilani on loan this season when the player might be a revelation for Liverpool’s attack in the middle.

First, let’s look at all the actors popping up on the interior for Merseyside, either at the club or via the transfer rumor grapevine:

Does this man work with Charlie Sheen or Fernando Torres? You make the call...

Javier Mascherano: An energizer bunny of a player who is adept at linking play and tracking back…..and who may or may not be the twin brother of John Cryer.

Alberto Aquilani: The oft-injured jump-the-shark acquisition for Rafa Benitez who dazzled last season…when and only when Liverpool played Burnley

Scott Parker: The West Ham defensive midfielder who is largely ho-hum, but somewhat incredulously seems to be the darling of transfer rumors to big clubs including Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and, of course, Liverpool.

Lucas Leiva: The 20-year-old (former) Twittering bandit who comes with astonishingly high skill, but a little bit of inconsistency. Lucas, by the way, has been a team captain wherever he’s went.

Christian Poulsen: Steady, Danish, 30-year-old and good enough

Jay Spearing: A vivacious tackler and, like Lucas, an on-field leader wherever he’s went. If you put this man’s spirit and acumen in, say, Yaya Toure’s body…it would be lights out.

Steven Gerrard: A man you bears no introduction and seems possible to skirt responsibility for losses at Liverpool whilst being lauded in victory. How do I get that job?

The conundrum facing Roy Hodgson is this? How to–and who to–best deploy as the foundation of his first line of defense and building the attack in the central midfield for the Reds.

First, it is known that Javier Mascherano wants out of England.  You can’t have a player who doesn’t want to be there as a key cog in your starting 11….unless your name is Cesc and you play at Emirates. There’s got be a little fallout there, right?

Here’s the challenge for Hodgson. If he’s losing Masch, as is expected, why would he want to take a very creative player in Aquilani and send him out for the season and maybe beyond…permanently?

A few reasons.

Aquilani at Roma: Willing to bet this aerial maneuver cost him 7 games...

First, Aquilani hasn’t played just under half his club teams games over the last four seasons. He’s brittle–at 26 nonetheless!–and coming into arguably a more physical league than his last one.

Ask Andriy Schevchenko how that went? (Ok, he was maybe over-the-hill…ask Jose Bosingwa who arrived from La Liga or Samir Nasri or Luka Modric…you get the point…). On a team where Aquilani couldn’t get healthy last year and that has players like Torres and Johnson in its employ, does Liverpool need another injury risk?

Second, it’s looking increasingly likely that Roy Hodgson’s going to batten down the hatches in the center of the pitch with two holders (especially if Mascherano goes) and send the wing mids and wide backs (Danny Wilson, Glen Johnson, etc.) up in the attack to support Gerrard, Cole, Kuyt and company. If Gerrard is your CAM or FW, where does that leave Aquilani?

Are you going to pay him to primarily come off the bench? No, you didn’t get him to be Alessandro Diamanti.

Yes Aquilani is Liverpool’s most creative player (I’m no Gerrard fan), but Gerrard (home grown rule or no home grown rule) is and was always staying–especially when an Englishman took over–and Aquilani is a casualty of this.

The bigger mistake than shipping out Aquilana, if a decent fee can be fetched, in my opinion is bringing in Scott Parker.

I'd rather have Ricardo Clark...I'm not kidding...

Scott Parker is a highly hyped English defensive midfielder. In fact, he is so good that when Fabio Capello was unsure about Gareth Barry’s health for the World Cup, he decided he would rather have a not-quite-fit Barry and off-form Michael Carrick in an emergency rather than Parker.

Parker is a creation of the English media, much like Americans hype up a player to be “the difference” only because he hasn’t got a chance (See: Castillo, Edgar and the U.S. leftback role.)

Don’t get me wrong Parker is a fine EPL player, technically sound and team first. What he is not is a difference maker for a top 5 table side….so says Jose Mourinho’s quick jettisoning of him from Chelsea when he took the reins there. Note, Parker was brought into Chelsea just a few months before The Special One.

Oh, and Parker is 29…surely if he was better than sliced bread his mark would have been etched already, no?

Back to the Roman.

Expect to see Alberto and probably Maxi Rodriguez moved out of the side here sometime in the next 6 months.

If Liverpool feel the need for a little more seasoning or strength in the middle of the pitch to add to the triumvirate of Lucas, Spearing (claimed to be part of the first side this year) and now Poulsen, they’d be wise (home grown rule non-withstanding) to either make a play for Nigel DeJong with James Milner’s entrance at City, try to procure the services of a Diarra (Lassana or Mahamadou) that is not the apple of Mourinho’s eye at Read Madrid for a relative cut rate price, or pick-up a journeyman (Jonathan Greening, maybe even Matt Taylor) instead of overspending for Parker.

Our two cents on Aquilani and Liverpool’s midfield.

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