Archive for September, 2010

How Have We Not Heard Of This Guy?!

This is a guest post by frequent contributor Nick Sindt

No, I don’t know where I’m going; But, I sure know where I’ve been.

Hanging on the promises; In songs of yesterday.

An’ I’ve made up my mind; I ain’t wasting no more time.

Here I go again; Here I go again…

How haunting that the first verse of Whitesnake’s epic monster-ballad could ring true to the United States Soccer Federation’s supposed deficiencies in identifying “American” talent in the cases of Conor Doyle and Nick May. If you’re a fan of the USMNT or Americans getting chances outside of our borders, then you’ve probably come across this story on Nick May or one of the many on Conor Doyle.

Conor Doyle in action...just not for US Youth...

You’ve heard of them, but the questions that keeps gnawing away at the back of your brains are, “How had we not heard of these kids until now?

“Have they slipped through the cracks of the U.S. Soccer Youth National Team setup?”

After some preliminary digging, I can tell you that Doyle played his youth club ball for the Dallas Texans (one of the most storied teams in all of Texas counting Clint Dempsey, Lee Nguyen, Hunter Freeman,and Jared Jeffrey amongst others as alums) before attending Creighton University, and May was playing for the Florida ODP team when given his trial at Estudiantes.

Without having access to their personal diaries, which surprisingly aren’t available on the interwebs via Facebook, Friendster, or Twitter, I don’t know for certain whether they’ve been given their fair shake with the U.S. Youth National Teams.

But how can Derby County recognize the talent in Doyle (a big athletic target striker of which we have few in the U.S. Player Pool) and the USSF cannot? Or how can Estudiantes, in Argentina, and Queen’s Park Rangers, in London, be salivating over May but he was conspicuously absent from Rongen and Cabrera’s squads for their recent Youth World Championships?

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Report: USA vs. Chile in January

Bielsa for Chile

According to a Chilean report, Marcelo Bielsa will be bringing La Roja to Carson, CA to face the States (and attendees of January Camp) on the weekend of January 23rd, 2011.

Will 21-year-old Alexis Sanchez make the trip for the Chileans? Probably not, but it’s possible.

Maybe Marcelo and Coach Sweats can sit down and discuss, oh I don’t know…formations?

Good Stuff: The Weekend In Video

Some motion picture of a phenomenal soccer weekend:

• Michael Bradley…bang!

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• We tried to tell you in our preview and on Twitter that West Brom was hot and would toss the kitchen sink–and Peter Odemwingie–at Arsenal and take it to the 12th round.

The crew from the Emirates didn’t respect us.

Terrible quality video here, but Chris Brunt is truly a quality player that footie fans do not see enough of.

A perfectly timed, weighted and directed back heel nutmeg here that leads to the Baggies 2nd goal.

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• Does MLS not have the best fans? Chicago Fire fans re-enact Super Mario Brothers.

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Charlie Davies On Radio Show

Our friends over on WFD had Charlie Davies on their show on Friday.

Nothing earth shattering in the interview, but a few new tidbits:

• Charlie refutes a Soccer America report that he’s completely out of sorts in his comeback. Says the journalist who issued the report only watched him one game.

• Charlie says his goal for a return to the U.S. team is next summer’s Gold Cup.

• Davies said he had doubts about his World Cup candidacy in April when Sochaux shut him down for the season.

One Doozy Of A Weekend…

MLS Old 'Skool

Add your weekend commentary here….

I’ll mention it again. Thanks to all of you who pushed for TSG to get into and starting covering MLS. It’s been a great experience from learning all the team names–kidding–to interacting with the media teams of many of the clubs.

The Galaxy, the Earthquakes, the Wizards are just some of the clubs that have been great to work with.

In homage to the move to cover MLS, we’ll lead this weekend preview with MLS as opposed to the EPL as we customarily do.

MLS

Friday:

The Herbalifers hope to slow down the running of the Red Bulls

Los Angeles-New York 11 p.m. EDT ESPN2

JPA wasn't smiling when he was fixed to the pine last week...

Maybe it’s the absence of Thierry Henry or that the Los Angeles Galaxy will trot out promising, but wet-behind-the-ears Leonardo, and Trinidadian Yohance Marshall in central defense as Omar Gonzalez is on suspension, but there’s a little less luster to this game than last time around.

Or maybe it’s the Friday night start time.

Anywho, the fulcrum point of this game will be in the central midfield, specifically how Los Angeles manages protecting their 2nd-string central defense pairing while linking the ball and countering the forceful Rafa Marquez and Tony Tchani of NYRB.

Juninho–who was fit, but didn’t play against D.C. United–is again the key figure here. In fact, it seems that the Galaxy’s play turns on just how much the lithe Brazilian can boss the game and find his spots.

This game will be no different. If Juninho can control the tempo and Dema Kovalenko (who I expect to start as well) can play enforcer well, the Galaxy should still handle this one at home. Beckham is a 2nd half sub in my mind. Last thing you want him having to do is run around after Tchani or getting terrorized by Marquez to start the game.

You know what would be the best golden moment in this? A bench shot of Jovan Kirovski (who has to be tired from all the minutes up top lately) and Eddie Lewis eating hot dogs with their cleats off. 140 caps between the old guys.

Anyway…

Saturday:

The Vermes Army entertains the ‘Stache and the Hoops

Kansas City-Dallas 8 p.m. EDT Direct Kick

Here’s your game of the week in my opinion.

The Kevin Hartmann storyline won’t happen here. Kansas City is playing some excellent attacking ball right now and come off a zestful midweek come-from-behinder against the “other Texas team.”

Meanwhile, Dallas–who I consider to be the most balanced team in the league–will have to survive without MVP candidate Hartmann and that will come down to how well their defense can marshal themselves in his absence on the road.

If you’re looking for one MLS game to watch this weekend, this is the one.

Toronto FC needs a good showing on the road at San Jose.

Toronto-San Jose 4 p.m. EDT Direct Kick

Stephenson is finally bossing MLS in his fourth stop...

Soft spoken giant Khari Stephenson is the key in this one. He enables Sam Cronin to go rooting around the pitch for a tackle or pass reception. In short, San Jose has been a different team with Stephenson in the middle.

In fact, the Jamaican has been so good since joining up in San Jose that his national team has recalled him for the first time in more than a year for its next friendly series.

Elsewhere:

The Union show the love to Chivas: TSG has a Justin Braun interview coming up shortly.

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NY vs. LA: Well That Got Out Of Hand

Just finished watching the New York Red Bulls play their game and and overwhelm a Galaxy squad that had a poor game plan.

Juninho...and his buddy Kovalenko were manhandled in the middle, but they didn't have a good plan either...

It was that simple as the New Ark Red Bulls handled the home side, 2-0, at Home Depot Center this evening.

Looking for the key to this game, it’s just as simple.

In central midfield Juninho and Dema Kovalenko (who has an absolutely atrocious game) played just a nudge above the Galaxy’s duckling central defensive pairing, failing to come out and challenge the Red Bulls’ central midfield attackers.

Conversely Tony Tchiani and Rafa Marquez were omnipresent–as we predicted in our preview–forcefully meeting each of their opponent’s counterpart central midfield attacker and shutting down passing lanes.

Admittedly the latter task of disrupting the Galaxy’s passes was made easier by an extremely stagnant Galaxy midfield.

If you didn’t know any better you would’ve guessed that the Home Depot Center locals were fatigued by multiple games in multiple days. Wasn’t the case though.

LA Coach Bruce Arena certainly should shoulder the bulk of the blame, maybe not for his player selection, but because he failed to counsel his team on how to move against the Red Bull defense and worse he failed to adjust when the stagnation issue was apparent in the early going and never overcome.

The result of the Galaxy defensively playing well behind the ball and the Red Bulls challenging each possession was evident as soon as the ball changed hands.

Upon a turnover, the Galaxy players were know well behind the play and the Red Bulls were allowed to organize and set-up shop on defense.

Conversely, upon a turnover, the Red Bull attackers–already up on their men–could break and create scoring opportunities.

Coach Ba-Ba-Booey needs to look in the mirror before looking at his team....

It wasn’t until nearly the 80th minute that Bruce Arena finally made a minor adjustment, sending David  Beckham to play more in the interior, attempting to create some possession and flow. By that point, it was too little too late.

Some things that the Galaxy could have done better to create flow is send an extra forward-attacker (Jovan Kirovski) back centrally to receive balls, help link play and draw out the central defense.

Instead, Arena and L.A. puzzlingly had Kirovski make runs to the wing where he lacked the speed to create and frequently was overmatched by Carlos Mendes or Tim Ream.

Landon Donovan is also capable of moving the ball under duress, but this is the type of game that a Donovan in the interior sometimes disappears in…as he did tonight.

It’s funny, I’ve seen a number of folks in the media lately suggest the Galaxy probably don’t need David Beckham.

Au contraire.

David Beckham may be the only player–if he can find better short-range range passing touch that failed him this evening–who can capably create opportunities under pressure in the middle of the field. Juninho needs more space and Mike Stephens (who frequently came back and helped move the ball in the early going) seems to have hit the rookie wall.

Mind you, Beckham centrally was just such a move last year by Bruce Arena that helped ignite the Galaxy’s last season play and championship game run.

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More:

Luis Boa Morte

Luis Boa Morte: Dane Richards' doppelganger

• Is Dane Richard Luis Boa Morte re-incarnate? It’s always painful to watch a player that possesses the physical goods to be dominant, but lacks the feel for the game.

• New York fans, is Joel Lindpere really that good. If you’d asked me a player that would make a difference by moving off the ball offensively and tracking back defensively in this one, I would have said Donovan. That man was Lindpere tonight.

• Mehdi Ballouchy is a player. I didn’t get a chance to see enough of him in Colorado. Ballouchy possesses a wide breadth of  offensive skills and has the enviable ability to drift in possession with the ball while effortlessly holding off defenders.

Seems like in the early going, the Red Bulls got the better of that deal.

• Can someone tell me precisely how Donovan Ricketts is an all-star? I’ve watched probably 10 Galaxy games this year and see the same pattern with Ricketts: He makes one or two tremendous saves, but he reacts like he just pounded three pale ales before the game (slow) and is absolutely horrendous at marshalling his backline.

Leonardo may have been guilty on the first goal, but a good keeper is shouting at his novice defenders well before that play developers.

• A difficult task tonight for Todd Dunivant, but he performed admirably in letting Dane Richards threaten but typically author a give away instead of an opportunity.

Toffees: A Fine But Typical Mess

 

Blues is right....

 

Everton are swooning…big time.

In fact, the Goodison crew is getting such poor results that they even have manager David Moyes worried, as evidenced by his going public that he expected to start the year better.

Early season struggles for Everton are nothing new under David Moyes whose teams routinely come out of the gate like a stud with a nail in it’s hoof.

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Last night, I had a chance to discuss Everton’s plight on the Followtonians podcast with Eric Howell and Peter McPartland, an excellent group of guys.

You can listen to the podcast here and I’ll offer some background below.

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This year is really no different. The Toffees have given up only seven goals on the campaign, better than all but six other Premiership squads. One problem, they’ve only deposited four in their account and the offensive problems are continually systemic of an early season Moyes-managed team.

Everton have struggled to create offense through a lack of width on the pitch, too many ‘tweeners on the team, and some poor tactics.

Quick, name the best wide player on Everton? Is it really Leighton Baines? Quite possibly.

 

The re-introduction of Arteta hasn't been a boon yet....

 

The Toffees are loaded up the middle with the likes of Cahill, Fellaini, Rodwell and Arteta. One problem, opponents know this and hunker down in the center lane of the pitch….and Everton just kowtows to them because their key wingers (Pienaar, Osman, Bilyaletdinov) love to take the play more centrally–what they would call in the NFL “between the hashmarks.”

Not only do the wide players find more congestion when they drive inside with the ball, but they also create less space for their talented interior players to play.

Further, none of this is helped by a striker ensemble that looks lost (Jermaine Beckford), disinterested (the mercurial Luis Saha) and either pouty-or-pudgy (Yakubu) in the opening frame of the season and are failing to create space vertically.

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