Archive for September, 2010

Poland Roster: New Legends Of The Fall?

It’s out and it’s sort-of, kind-of like we expected.

Jermaine Jones

Snuffleupagus no longer! Welcome Jermaine Jones!

The USMNT kicks off it’s first game of the post-Klinsmann era in a little less than a week as they take to Soldier Field in Chicago to face the White Eagles of Poland.

The message Bob Bradley is sending with his roster today is: “experience” and this camp is sponsored by the letter: J (as in Jermaine Jones no longer U.S. Soccer’s Snuffleupagus!).

G: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan

DEF: Jonathan Spector, Carlos Bocanegra,  Clarence Goodson, Eric Lichaj, Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Parkhurst, Steve Cherundolo, Heath Pearce

MID: Maurice Edu,  Alejandro Bedoya, Stu Holden, Benny Feilhaber, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Brek Shea, Clint Dempsey

STR: Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson

We’ll have follow-up shortly, but didn’t see Shea getting called from playoff-bound Dallas through he merits the call-in.

Discuss!

The TSG Take

• Okay boys, here’s how it’s going down

Interesting roster from Bob Bradley. I’m going to call it the “Set The Tone” Camp Roster.

Thirteen veterans from World Cup 2010 to take on Poland and Colombia?! Seems to me that Bradley wants to start off getting his veterans with him on the same page.

• Defenders on notice (*this is the biggest signal from the roster selection)

Now, if you check the roster you’ll see that only 10 players were chosen for the front 6!

A full 8 players were brought in for the back four.

With Brek Shea as the only middie/attacking player as the only player who didn’t make Bradley’s 30-man roster, one thing is clear:

Bradley is putting together a seasoned front six so that he can evaluate his back four.

It’s hard to evaluate new players if the ones around them don’t have chemistry developed already.

• Jozy or Bust

Not sure why Justin Braun wasn’t rewarded with a camp. I disagree with that.

Or more appropriately, I disagree with only two strikers coming in.

I think you can pretty much put in the book that Bradley will start in some configuration of a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1 (more on this topic tomorrow).

Another note, Clint Dempsey should not be used as a lone striker. Poor move, hope it doesn’t happen.

• I’m staring at the man in the mirror

Brek Shea meet Ale Bedoya, Ale Bedoya meet Brek Shea. If Robbie Rogers were here, he’d hang out with you both. Diskerud may shortly join that party as well (if he plays wider on the USMNT than he does for his club).

One thing we know about Bradley (from his playing career, player selections, and his son’s game) is that he likes physical players that can take a hit.

From the triumvirate of the aforementioned, Bradley has some big winger/forwards that he’s looking to integrate.

• About that Gold Cup

Many have asked me on Twitter how Gonzo or Donovan don’t get selected.

Two answers: (1) Los Angeles is swooning. Their players either need to recharge (Donovan, Buddle) or focus on the playoffs ahead (Gonzalez, Franklin).

And (2) remember the Gold Cup is coming up next year during MLS’s season. That’s four Galaxy players and Bradley’s probably going to want at least two.

And some minor points:

» A shame that TSG fave Sean Franklin can’t come in and learn from ‘Dolo here. We of course made the viable Los Angeles point above, but that would have been nice for the fan in me.

» No Mix Diskerud. In my mind, his spot went to Shea, similar type players.

Reason 1: Shea has been in a camp already. Diskerud has not. Bradley favors bringing in newbies for long camps if possible before getting their first cap.

» Or…A few weeks ago TSG issued this piece: a tongue in cheek piece on hypothetical trades. In it, we suggested that USSF trade Dallas a friendly in the area for some considerations because of the Pizza Hutters sagging attendance. And…

Very interesting selection Pearce and Shea during the MLS stretch run. The conspiracist in me suggests that may be a little promo work.

I’m not really serious here…but…

» I will not be a happy camp…evaluator if Stu Holden sits again here. He’s earned the right to start…a very long time ago.

Justin Braun Makes His Name

Defenders are starting to learn about Braun...the hard way...

Players get “missed” all the time.

But missing a 6’3” Tom Brady-look-a-like who races around the pitch and is prolific at doing the one thing–scoring–in the one position–striker–that is lacking at the national team level? Well that stands out like Justin Braun himself when he ambles onto the pitch.

If not for an amateur tournament in Carson, CA and catching the eye of then-Chivas USA coach Preki, Braun, as he tells it, would likely be chained to a desk for the bulk of the day working with numbers.

Now?

The 23-year-old Braun is having a stellar MLS season–notching 9 goals thus far–after making his pro debut just last year.

He’s now on the national team radar–and likely to receive his first cap in Chicago in a few days–and sees a move to play overseas as more than attainable.

TSG had a chance to catch up with the Chivas USA striker as he prepped to play the Union in Brotherly Town last week. Braun proved to be an even-keeled subject, quick to lavish praise for scoring on his teammates and only taking umbrage with a single question we asked him.

That question?

“So Justin, some folks seemed to have bestowed the nickname “Braunaldinho” on you, how do you…”

Braun, “Personally I really don’t like Braunaldinho.”

“Good, neither do we.”

Braun, “Fan groups have come up with Braunzilla and Z (Zach Thornton) calls me SuperBruan. Anything but Braunaldinho.”

It’s only fair that the man who nearly didn’t get a chance to make a name for himself has the last word on his nickname, no?

And now, our conversation with Chivas USA’s super striker, Justin Braun.

A rare time where Braun didn't outshine the opposition...

TSG: Hey Justin, how are you?

Justin Braun: I’m good, man.

TSG: A good campaign for you in a tough year for Chivas. What were your personal expectations heading into this season?

JB: The team knew things were going to be different with a new coaching staff. Change was coming and we were prepared for that.

We definitely had high hopes with the team.  From day one, we always believed that we had a good team and a good group of guys. We believed we were going to do well.

Personally for me, I made a goal for myself to improve from the previous year and make myself known as a striker in MLS.

TSG: Where does the team sit now with less than a month left in the season. How’s the team feeling about closing out the year given that the playoffs are likely unreachable?

JB: I think we’re just taking it one game at a time and go out each week and get a few points.

Continue reading

Updates On Bolton’s Stu Holden

• Holden re-ups with Bolton through 2013. Good move for the 25-year-old who has more than solidified his starting spot. I smell a captaincy in a year or so.

• Bolton manager Owen Coyle on Holden getting beat by Michael Owen for a score that allowed Man United to draw Bolton last weekend:

“He’s feeling a little hard done by because of that, but I can’t complain too much because Stuart has been magnificent for me since day one.”

• U.S. Soccer interviews Stu…

…who looks like he’s in a dorm room or something.

Here you go.

Champs League: Edu, Mata & Miller Time

Some quick previews, more a piece to post your thoughts.

It's go time again for Edu...

• Rangers Attempt to Carve Up Bursaspor

2:45 p.m. EDT – DirecTV

The Ibrox side did well on the road a few weeks ago against Fergie’s crew. Now Maurice Edu puts down his PlayStation paddle for a few hours and will take it to the Turkish side from Bursa.

The Rangers would be wise not to sleep on Bursapor who finished ahead of more notable clubs Fenerbache and Galatasary in their league last year.

Prediction: Kenny Miller, who’s in great form, has at least one goal for the home side, maybe two.

———

• Spurs Hoping That In Hindsight They Knock Off Twente

2:45 p.m. EDT – FSP

Steve McLaren’s former crew–who’s having a rough go of it in the Eredivisie–travel to White Hart Lane to face a non-so-red-hot Redknapp squad.

Spurs, who are coming off a 1-0 loss to West Ham where their central midfield, especially Tom Huddlestone, got absolutely worked by TSG not-so-favorite Scott Parker.

For the visitors, keep an eye out for Swiss youngster Luuk De Jong. He’s already got five goals in seven competitions this year after primarily being a sub last year and notching 7 onion baggers in 20 matches. Thirteen of those matches though he played less than 45 minutes!

De Jong is sort of like a tall Pippo Inzaghi. He consistently tests and skirts the offsides line looking to pounce on lead passes, but he can also get it done in the skies.

———

• Valencia Hope to Make Manchester United’s Spanish Sojourn An Absolute Nightmare.

2:45 p.m. EDT – FSP

Sir Alex Ferguson would be wise to go with his most veteran team in this game as the home side Valencia is flying right now.

The Spanish side has not lost in La Liga all year.

Their #10 is Juan Mata who’s recently been linked with moves to both Liverpool and Inter Milan. The 22-year-old Spaniard is an absolute wizard with the ball…one of those players that fits the cliché “he sees two passes ahead of everyone else.”

———

• A Rafa Team Is On The Ropes Again. Is An Upset Bremen?

2:45 p.m. EDT – FSP

Inter Milan is stumbling and with AC Milan bringing in the firepower right before the window closed, there’s mucho pressure on the side that Jose Mourinho waltzed to a treble last year.

Milito’s out for the hosts, but Werder Breman have left some major pieces of their arsenal back to celebrate Oktoberfest (Pizarro, Frings and Fritz).

Milito though had some inspirational words (below) for his side.

———

Elsewhere:

Rubin Kazan-Barcelona 12:30 p.m. Fox Soccer Channel

Spurs-Twente 2:45 p.m. FSP

Inter Milan-Werder Bremen 2:45 p.m.

Hapoel Tel Aviv-Lyon 2:45 p.m. DirecTV

Schalke-Benfica 2:45 p.m. DirecTV

Panathinaikos-Copenhagen 2:45 p.m. DirecTV

A Look Ahead: USA vs. Poland

Update: 09/29

A few weeks ago–one month before the USA played Poland in Chicago–TSG took a look at who Bob Bradley might be sending email invites to for October camp.

Away we go!

With a few more weeks under the belt, the MLS playoff picture nearly calibrated, and some more insight on playing time for Americans over in the Old World, here’s an update on that list. (Below is our original piece published three weeks ago.)

That said, not sure how Bob Bradley plays this one. Does he use it as a kickoff to 2014 and bring back in a bulk of the veterans? Or does he realize the opposition (both Poland and Colombia are two of the weaker opponents the US has seen in awhile) and go with more new faces?

Also, will Bob Bradley (like he did last November) go split squad, calling some players in for the 1st game and then calling in others for the 2nd to avoid conflicts with playing days. Highly possible in our minds.

(Any “*” delineation next to a player’s name means they may be in camp for only one game.)

Finally, on the surface, the most important next milestone for Bradley’s troops will be readying the team to play in 2011’s Gold Cup.

Goalies: Brad Guzan, Dominic Cervi

My turn?

As we wrote on September 13th, arguably the States strongest position–keeper–it’s also the position with the most current flux.

Look for Brad Guzan to be your starter near his hometown. Dominic Cervi will make the trip from across the pond since Bradley likely won’t be able to see him at January’s camp cupcake with Celtic.

Bill Hamid is out, Samr Badr just finished U-20 duty, Cody Cropper just moved to Ipswich and Luis Robles is playing less and less for his Bundesliga II team.

If Bradley goes for a 3rd keeper, it’s anyones guess, from stalwart Tim Howard (who deserves a break), former Gold Cup participant Luis Robles, local Chicago Fire sensation Sean Johnson or reliable walrus Zach Thornton.

Others in consideration: Tim Howard, Luis Robles, Sean Johnson*, Zach Thornton*

——-

Defenders: Jonathan Spector, Oguchi Onyewu, Eric Lichaj, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Clarence Goodson, Hunter Freeman, Kevin Alston*.

Chicago beckons for the Villa club man...

As we mentioned yesterday, the time to begin investigating the central defense is now.

Spector should get a chance here in Chicago to play for the first time in over a month as he’s been left out of the 18 for West Ham for over a month now. Hardly the recipe of a central defender.

With L.A. swooning before the playoffs, look for Bradley to think long and hard about bringing in both Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin for this one. Both rightfully deserve to be there.

New England’s out of the playoffs so Alston’s into the camp, especially because he was shelved for all of last January’s camp.

Does Jay DeMerit get a near-hometown cameo to showcase his abilities? Probably not in our book.

Others In Consideration: Sean Franklin*, Omar Gonzalez*, Michael Orozco*

——-

Midfielders: Stu Holden, Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, Mix Diskerud, Alejandro Bedoya

Snuffleupagus dons his cap!

Big question remains: “Will Michael Bradley get a rest from nattie service?” He should, but history shows Coach Sweats never misses a chance to invite Junior.

Beyond that Mix Diskerud should–and deserves to–be “the new guy” in camp.

Stu Holden–now firmly entrenched at Bolton–replaces Sacha Kljestan who is coming off an injury and should now establish himself again at Anderlecht.

Snuffleupagus gets his first cap and, of course, the “U.S. Ambassador to Brazil” Ale Bedoya gets another rep.

Jose Torres and Pachuca have a game on the 9th, so he’s probably out.

Others In Consideration: Sacha Kljestan, Jared Jeffrey, Clint Dempsey

——-

Forward-Striker: Jozy Altidore, Justin Braun*,  Eddie Johnson, Brian McBride*

Should be there...

Jozy Altidore steps out of the shadow of Nilmar and Rossi for a long weekend while red hot Justin Braun should get more service from national team counterparts and has certainly earned his club releasing him for the camp.

Brian McBride a cameo? It’s not Bob Bradley’s style, but it should be done.

The striker position seems to be the lone one that could present a true surprise. Coach Sweats always likes a speed option so unless Bradley unearths a Mike Grella who’s been buried deeper than Jozy at Leeds this year or Chris Rolfe returns to fitness, the most likely speed candidate is Eddie Johnson. Don’t everyone applaud at once.

Kind of highlights the issue, you know?

From September 9th:

From a match in August (USA vs. Brazil) that was dubbed as Bob Bradley’s potential swan song to this….an October 9th friendly now one month away in Chicago where the U.S.S. Bob Bradley II officially sets sail on its journey to Brazil 2014.

"Power To Prevail"...how appropriate

Welcome back Bob and we assume you’ll be saying, “Hello” to a few new players.

With MLS in the middle of some critical games around the fixture date and with Bob Bradley and USSF having a track record for respecting club teams’ seasons, expect to see few representatives from the domestic league.

Look for MLSers whose teams have been eliminated from playoff contention (Chivas) or who have a hole in their schedule (Union, Galaxy) to perhaps send a player or two.

In August Bob Bradley called in 18 players to face La Selecao; expect a slightly bigger number this time around as there are two games and, with the Jermaine Jones late recall fiasco, better to have a little more cushion.

Poland should be a good side for Bradley to start mixing in some of the younger class of 2014 hopefuls and begin taking a look at Gold Cup prospects.

The Poles missed out on the World Cup and sit at #56 in the FIFA rankings just below powerhouse Mali.

Worse, Poland doesn’t look to be improving in their past few games losing at home to Australia and drawing against Ukraine. Continually, the States and Poland share more common recent opponents than just Australia: Poland lost to Slovenia 3-0 and 2-0 to the Czech Republic earlier this year.

Again, a good friendly to trot out new faces.

Here’s a very early stab at selecting some of the “approximate 18 or so” right now:

Will Guzan play the role of hero instead of...(courtesy The Offsides Rules)

G: Brad Guzan, Bill Hamid, Dominic Cervi

(Update: Hamid is set to have surgery…looks like he’ll miss out)

The skinny: It’s time to give Tim Howard an early season break. Howard’s not needed for this match or the upcoming Colombian one.

Brad Guzan is your starter. He grew up twenty minutes from Soldier Field.

Get Guzan going and let’s see early competition for the Gold Cup back-up or possible starter.

Will D.C. United be eliminated from playoff contention and see Hamid instead of Troy Perkins go?

With Samir Badr playing the U-20’s, he out for this one.

Other possibilities: Chris Seitz, Cody Cropper

Cropper just signed with Ipswich Town so he may not make the journey back. (His hometown is somewhat nearby: Maple Grove, Minnesota)

Sean Johnson would be an excellent addition (those who say he doesn’t merit some consideration for MLS rookie of the year–I’m not sure what they’re watching), alas he’s got a key game the night before for the Fire.

——-

If Lichaj doesn't get called, march yourselves right down to Soccer House after the game and demand a reason why...

DEF: Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Eric Lichaj, Jonathan Spector, Jonathan Bornstein, Hunter Freeman, Michael Orozco

The skinny: Ruling out some MLS players here. Out will likely be Heath Pearce and teacher’s pet Chad Marshall. As TSG is a champion of trying out Spector in central defense, we’re hoping Bob plays that card this time around.

That said, does former Fire-man Captain Bocanegra–whose last visit to Chicago yielded a diving game-winning header–come into camp as the able veteran voice?

Expect to see Eric Lichaj here for sure. He’s getting spot duty on his club team and is from Chicago suburb Downer’s Grove…that’s less than a 1/4 tank to the pitch.

Hunter Freeman, starting opposite Clarence Goodson at IK Start, we’ll take a shot at him here too. Haven’t seen much of him, but he was “near” (as oppose to “in”) the picture last year before an injury.

Other possibilities: Big question on whether Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin or both get a trip to Chicago on USSF’s credit card. Do either? Too much risk of injury?

I don’t see a Tim Ream call-in just yet because I think Bob Bradley will hold off calling in a rookie in his first MLS campaign who is focused on a deep playoff run.

Who plays leftback? Big question…TSG still suggests Edgar Castillo is a midfielder posturing as a defender. As a note: Castillo is on loan at San Luis this year in Mexico. He’s not a starter and has been primarily used as a mid-to-late game replacement…in the midfield.

Does Michael Orozco get another–in our opinion–undeserved shot with the Union possibly on the outside-looking-in?

Kevin Alston is a wildcard here depending on what New England does over the course of the next few weeks.

Like I mentioned, Bobby Convey is another deserving selection, but he could be MLS playoff-bound as well.

Wildcard: Danny Williams. He’s played only 45 minutes off the bench in Freiburg’s start to the Bundesliga. Does USSF reach out?

Continue reading

Five To Confront For Sweats II

With the October friendlies just one block over, it’s time to kickoff discussion on what challenges await the U.S.S. Bradley as it commences maneuvers for its 2014 assault on Brazil.

The U.S.S. Bradley commences it's 2014 Brazil voyage...now.

Some of these are specific to Bradley’s style or coaching; others are about getting more out of talented players.

This is by no means a comprehensive list as new issues will begin rearing their heads once friendlies, camps and Gold Cups get going, but it’s where the team left off at the end of June in South Africa.

Go:

5. Once a striker himself, can Bob Bradley cultivate Jozy Altidore or, if not, locate at least one man up top that finishes for the Yanks?

Conor Doyle, Justin Braun, Herculez Gomez. These all may be options up top (along with Charlie Davies or Robbie Finldey). So may those further from seeing the pitch for the Yanks, like a David Estrada or Pippo Inzaghi II (Jack McInerney).

In Altidore, however, the U.S. has a 20-year old striker with a world of physical talent that has only been exhibited in flashes. Let’s repeat that. He’s 20-years-old (with one World Cup as a starter under his belt).

With what is looking like little club time this year, can Coach Sweats wring more effort, more consistency and more importantly more scoring from the talented Jozy in his brief exposure in U.S. camp? A major and daunting task, but doable as well.

A quite note, I’m sick of hearing that U.S. strikers didn’t score for the U.S. in the last two World Cups. In 2006, the hottest striker (Taylor Twellman) was left home. In 2010, the hottest striker Edson Buddle got two sips of coffee on the pitch. Anyway…

Dempsey will be a club force for four more years...but on the Natties?

4. Can Coach Bob get more out of a now-aging Clint Dempsey? Will he even try?

Bob Bradley’s challenge in locating Deuce on the pitch in the first go around was easily apparent. Dempsey’s style didn’t subscribe to Bradley’s frantic pressing and defensive posture, meaning Coach Sweats’ game plan seemed to account for Dempsey as a cog in the system with misunderstood talent, less as a star.

Dempsey will be 32-years-old when Brazil 2014 comes around. He’s already prone to fatigue and disappearing during games (as we’ve mentioned before, 85% of Dempsey’s career club goals have come in the 1st 20 minutes or last 20 minutes of a match).

Further, the nature of his game isn’t what one would call “career-prolonging.”

How does Bradley keep the oft-maligned Dempsey involved over the next four years? Is it as a point forward? Is in his customary wing role? Is it even up top where fewer options are apparent here in 2010?

Deuce is looked upon as a leader on the team and Bob’s treatment of the quiet, but intense ball wizard will speak volumes in the locker room. Aging veterans will take note of the Bradley-Deuce interplay.

3. Developing a centerback partnership that: (a) picks the right pieces, (b) gains valuable repetitions,  and (c) is not often prone to youthful mistakes.

You might suggest that managing the central two of the back four was Bob Bradley’s biggest shortcoming during his first term as president of the USMNT pitch. That’s my belief.

Bradley mismanagement started with Califf...but didn't end there...

Whether it was force-feeding Danny Califf (or Michael Parkhurst or Michael Orozco) into the picture early in qualifying before each player was seasoned or…

That nasty string of giving up set piece aerial strikes to the opponents during the 2009 Gold Cup or…

Failing to develop a capable central defender-in-waiting beyond the elder statesmen of DeMerit, Bocanegra or Onyewu or…

Continually playing and attempting to ready Chad Marshall for the World Cup despite obvious fitness concerns or…

Playing Oguchi Onyewu against England (and Slovenia) when it was clear he was not sharp and helping the team or…

Continue reading

Champ’s League-ing Tuesday

Raise your hand if you love UEFA Champ’s League. Okay, who was the one guy in the back that prefers CONCACAF Champ’s League? Is that you Don Garber?

Good ones of course today:

• Will Ajax Scrub Milan Out at Home?

Oops! Wrong jersey. Is Zlatan the Johnny Damon of Serie A?

This should be the game that you’re going to want to pirate at work.

Ajax is flying in the Eredivisie with a league-leading 20 goals through seven games. They’ve only leaked one goal per game as well.

That said, Milan travels with a Robinho, Pato, Ronaldinho, Boateng and Ibra-with-a-chip-on-his-shoulder.

I’m sorry Grant Wahl, Ajax is going to struggle to get through this group.

• Frankly, the Blues should still win in a walk.

Lampard is out for Ancelotti’s men, Marseille bring Loic Remy, Andre-Pierre Gignac and Ghanian Andre Ayew to the Bridge. It’s still not enough.

• Will it be Merry Festivus for FC Basel?

Um, no.

Bayern Munich will come out with their guns blazing on the road at FC Basel after manager Louis Van Gaal gets a vote of confidence with a new contract and after being embarrassed by Mainz at home this Saturday.

Plus, FC Basel start Franco Costanzo between the pipes. My motto? Never trust a goalkeeper who pulls one of his defenders’ hair.

• Wenger’s going to need an Arsenal if his netminders continue to pull Homer Simpsons. Partizan Belgrade vs. Arsenal Wenger.

First, let me say I think Luis Fabianski is a decent keeper.

That said, I actually feel for Arsenal fans. Their goalkeeper situation is a like a port-o-potty at an underfunded state park: The longer the situation goes on, the more it fills up with sh*t. It stinks to high heaven and the area around it (the defense) starts to get trashed.

Enough already, bring in Lloris….watch Wenger transfer in Robert Green.

All I can tell you about Partizan Belgrade is that 14 out of 18 of their players’ last names end in “ic.”

They seem too one-dimensional to me; Emirates pulls this one out.

(Thank goodness for the unique Jonathan Wilson who actually has a viewpoint on Partizan.)

And more:

Spartak Moscow v MSK Zilina

Auxerre v Real Madrid

Braga v Shakhtar Donetsk

Roma v CFR 1907 Cluj-Napoca

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