Archive for January, 2011

The Return Of The Don’t Tread Challenge!

Wildly fun, virally successful, and some great indie editors straight out….BALLIN’.

Fire this guy....up!

For those veterans of TSG, the Don’t Tread Challenge for World Cup 2010 was sweet. Of course, the videos were so excellent that they threatened those that spend too much money producing lesser ones…which caused a chain reaction and some folks were sent copyright notices.

Have no fear! The Challenge is back!

TSG is cranking up the USMNT hype machine.

Today, TSG announces the 2nd annual Don’t Tread Challenge for the most insanely awesome video that gets fans and foreigners fired up about the Gold Cup.

Our goal is first to compile the most insanely ORIGINAL and TALENTED videos for the TSG community and others to enjoy.

Then, TSG is going to get a VIP GUEST  video committee to select the finalists and then fans will vote for the winner. The prize is to-be-determined, but is guaranteed to be more substantial in meaning than monetary value–last year’s winner Colin Campbell made of with scarves, shirts, cleats and more!

So, TSG faithful, please spread the word.

Some details for those producing videos…

  1. Thank you.
  2. Videos will be accepted through May 1st.
  3. All videos must be new and include the name of the competition in the title and a link to The Shin Guardian.
  4. Videos that rip off one already made will be sent to the waste bin–so get going.
  5. Length is flexible, but somewhere between 2 minutes and 4 minutes sounds about right.
  6. Email link / video or any questions to shinguardian@gmail.com

After the jump…last year’s entries that are still floating in the video ether.

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MLS: Cheer For Fan Friendly, Not Family Friendly

TSG’s Nick Sindt with verbiage on MLS fan support

Swearing in MLS Stadia

Posh Spice is a trollop, Posh Spice is a whore,

When she’s shagging Davey Beckham, She thinks of Joe-Max Moore

-       Chant told to Dan (FBM) and I by a New England Revolution supporter at a Chicago Fire game

Earmuffs!

Earlier this past season, the front office of the Philadelphia Union sent an open letter to its season ticket holders highlighting that the fans of the Union come in all shapes and sizes and they all have a right to enjoy the game.  This letter went on further to highlight vulgar chants directed towards the opposition are not fostering an environment that is suitable for fans of all ages.  In years past, the Nordecke in Columbus have come under similar fire from the Crew’s front office.

Sixteen years into its existence, Major League Soccer has come to an interesting stage of its development/maturation.  No longer is the sport viewed as just a game for kids to burn off energy.  No longer is it a spectator sport just for mommy, daddy, little Tommy & Suzie.  Instead it is showing continued growth amongst the most important demographics and most of the teams can count on fervent supporters groups to be at each and every home game.  At 16, and given the examples mentioned above it appears that MLS clubs need to make a decision about who’s money are they more interested in; the family dollar, or money from the 18+ crowd?

As the league continues to grow it is less and less dependent on the fleeting family dollar and therefore it would be in each club’s best interest to not agitate their passionate season-ticket holders with open letters condemning their language.  However, the clubs and league cannot yet ignore the soccer moms and youth teams.  For one, these butts in seats are still butts in seats, and two, the parents bringing these kids to games when they’re young creates that link to future fandom.  The question then becomes should the clubs’ front office personnel go out of their way to continue championing a family friendly environment?  Or, should they simply let their environments develop as they will?

Personally I would like to see MLS franchises begin to care less and less about the family friendly environment as that money is exceedingly transient (especially in a recession) and families tend to create library-esque environments unless a certain blond-haired Englishman is marauding up and down the pitch.  Is there really a concern that five-year olds are hearing foul language and asking their parents what the word means?  Better yet, if the kids are hearing the words and recognizing them, then this isn’t their first exposure to the word then, is it.

Make it loud...but creative....

All of that being said I am in agreement with the MLS brass when it comes to profanity, but not for the same reasons.  The profane chants that I’ve been a part of when attending MLS and US games (You suck asshole, single finger salutes, etc.) are rudimentary, pedantic, and just plain uncreative.  Essentially we’re using profanity as if we were the middle schoolers (the ones we’re supposedly offending) and we just learned these fun words.

If we fans were to come up with more creative ways to get under the skin of the opposition (like the New England fans’ chant above though it does involve a word that isn’t acceptable in most conversations), especially if there’s less profanity being used, not too many front office types will have anything to say to about it.  Let’s consider it a challenge to come up with better chants and not just to reduce the amount of profanity for profanity’s sake, but to reduce the amount of ennui that emanates from the tired vocal stylings of that one techno song that you hear in every stadium from Leverkusen to Los Angeles.

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Ten Minutes With Brian Carroll

It seemed even last year that the Philly Union wanted Brian Carroll to come their way...

Best thing we can do as a media outlet, is to provide a bridge between the fans and the players. We’ve inventoried the interview requests that you’ve made to TSG and we’re working our way through them.

First up, Brian Carroll of the Philly Union. Billy Myers of Philadelphia Union supporter group, Sons of Ben, reached out to us and kept pestering hounding us–per TSG’s request–to reach out to Brian when the Union gobbled him up in the Columbus Crew “out with the old, in with the old” fire sale.

We got 10 minutes with Brian on the first day of training camp and both agreed it would be good to get in touch when he had a more perspective on the Union and his teammates after the season had put a month or two in the books.

Brian Carroll, physical complete, now member of the Union pitch staff, position…central clean-up Crew.

TSG: The reason the interview came up is I had a member of the Sons of Ben request it actually. At TSG we’re just a conduit to the fans really. Anything you have to say to Sons of Ben or the entire Philly Union fanbase? Any request for a specific cheer? SOB…what do you want to say to them…request for a specific che

Step 1: Get team, Step 2: Dale O, Dale O, Dale O, Dale O

Brian Carroll: Thank you for providing just an incredible atmosphere to play in. The stadium was truly great to come and visit with the atmosphere they created last year and I’m really looking forward to playing in front of them this eyar.

TSG: Okay, second question. This your second go-around with Peter Nowak. Are his training camps as intense as…as he is as a person?

BC: I think he just has a certain style that he likes to employ to get the best out of each and every one of his players. I don’t mind how rigorous or how much running his training camps have.

As long as he’s going to make me a better player….at the end of the day he’s just trying to improve the team and the individual.  And whatever way he does that, whatever way his style is, I look forward to that.

TSG: Any specific ways he improved you as a player?

BC: Well, I think the way he trains his squad creates a lot of competition which brings a lot of sharpness everyday.

The fitness level that he creates with his team from player one all the way down to the bottom, has them the most fit they can be and it’s usually more fit than other teams.

Just skill and tactics that he employes for the formations he wants to play, put the overall team in the best position to get a result and that’s what you takeaway.

TSG: Have you discussed your role on the team this year? Will you be playing your customary midfield position?

BC: You know we’re just getting underway here. We’re literally at physicals.

I haven’t spoken with Peter in terms of role on the team, or what the specific plan is for me involved in the team.

I’m just excited to be here and be under Peter and look forward to the challenges of the season.

Literally just getting into the playoffs.

TSG: What’s a realistic barometer for the Union. The playoffs?

BC: Well we would be shooting for the playoffs and the when we get in, anything can happen.

Called on by Nowak's mentor, Bob Bradley...

TSG: Okay, you’re a veteran and coming into a younger team. How do you employ leadership if you’re a veteran but new to a team? It’s seems sort of like the role Bob Bradley asked you to play recently for the US against South Africa in South Africa.

BC: Well the trip to South Africa was tremendous. First, it was an opportunity to see a part of the world that I’ve never been to.

Going into that situation it was a little different being one of the older guys, having some experience around me and being asked primarily to solidify the middle of the field.

But coming in here to Philly and bringing the experience I ‘ve been able to gather over the past eight seasons….it’s a little broader and I hoping over the course of the season that will transition to others and into points to get us into the playoffs.

TSG: Biggest rivalry for the Union in your perspective? United or the Red Bulls?

BC: I think really it’s both. The proximity to each of them inherently creates a good solid rivalry or rivalries.

Being literally the 1st day here in Philadelphia, I’m going to have to wait on that one.

I’m not sure how they were created last year, but I’m sure they’re both pretty big.

TSG: Any issue wearing the Bimbo sponsored shirt?

BC: I’ve only seen the jersey. I think it looks great and we’re really happy to be partnering with them.

They have a good history with other team sponsorships, especially in the Mexican leagues.

TSG: Are you going to try to convince Danny Mwanga to play for the US?

BC: [chuckles] I think for Danny…well, in a sense, it’s everyone’s individual decision. I’m sure thinking about the things that can be brought by playing for the United States and their advantages speaks for itself.

If that’s the decision and the way he decides to go, then that’d be great.

TSG: Did you get your brothers any Union jerseys? (Brian’s two brothers played for DC United)

BC: [chuckles] No, I have not yet. I haven’t even tried on the shirt yet or figured out my size, but I’m sure when things get settled I’m going to pick up some jerseys for them and the rest of the family.

TSG: Well our time’s up unfortunately. Loved to be able to get back in touch after a few weeks of games are in the books. Thanks for your time Brian.

BC: Sure, set it up.

Brian Carroll, Philly’s savvy new addition.


Bradley’s Clipboard: January 2011

Our 2nd entry in what is sure be a long-running journal. Here was our first entry in October.

After most camps and friendlies, TSG puts together a piece with the following components for discussion amongst the community.

Could this triumvirate be celebrating goals together in the summer?

To refresh….

I. The Best “A” Team starting eleven.

This is the team that would play regardless of opponent, situation or formation if the Yanks had to choose a line-up blindly for a potential World Cup game….tomorrow.

It’s what should be on Bradley’s clipboard.

II. The Depth Charts.

For each position we’ll list the top two, three or four players that if TSG–you always ask for our take instead of “what Bob Bradley will do”–was running the USMNT whom we’d have in what positions on Bradley’s clipboards.

III. The “X” Things

The two or three issues that are top of mind coming out of the last match or camp.

Go:

I. The Best Eleven

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Jumping The Pond? It’s Really All About The Euro

This piece authored by frequent TSG writer Jay Bell

MLS fans have grown accustomed to losing their favorite players to Europe.

Buddle: All about the bundle....of cash?

A lot of them who are also US Soccer fans actually want the best American players to leave MLS for the benefit of the US Men’s National Team by gaining game reps at the world’s highest level leagues.

US fans love to see when Landon Donovan and Stuart Holden step right in and play with the world’s elite players.

It gives them a sense of pride to see former MLSers like Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, and Ryan Nelsen doing well.

It is when MLS players go to lesser European leagues when US fans are disappointed to lose them. Clint Dempsey to Fulham? Good. Jozy Altidore to Villarreal? Awesome. Edson Buddle to Ingolstadt? Not so much.

Money was apparently a big part of the deal. Buddle was reportedly being offered a sizable pay increase by MLS. Reports say that Ingolstadt’s offer was twice the size of MLS’s biggest offer.

It is hard to begrudge a guy for jumping the pond for a big raise. This is where it is tough for MLS to compete with the rest of Europe even outside of the top leagues. Until MLS is able to compete more financially, American fans will continue to see their favorite players go to the Danish Superliga, Norwegian Tippeligaen, 2.Bundesliga and the nPower Championship to tuck away more coin.

Another common belief for players jumping from MLS to the lower leagues in Europe is that the belief that there is a greater chance to be discovered by scouts from the bigger leagues in Europe.

It is believed that players signed with lower leagues in Europe with the intentions of working their way up the ladder. So when fans see Buddle sign for Ingolstadt, he’s not just signing for a relegation fighter in the 2.Bundesliga. He is signing for the next team or two he plays for on his European journey. In theory, for most, each club and league they transfer to will be better than the last.

Is exposure a viable benefit?

MLS has a high profile internationally, at least when it comes to scouting. European teams continue to find top players from Major League Soccer. The English Premier League has long been a popular transfer destination for top MLS players. Former MLSers have played for the entire spectrum of EPL teams; from Manchester United to teams that were relegated. If they are not snatched up by teams in England or Germany, then near-top teams in other leagues want them.

MLS players have signed for Villarreal, Benfica, Anderlecht, Rangers, Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven, and more. These types of clubs, along with the EPL and Bundesliga, are where players are trying to get to when they leave MLS. How many of them actually do it?

Bradley...waves made at Heerenveen

Michael Bradley is the most successful example. He signed as a teenager with a Dutch team that is usually fighting for a spot in Europe and jumped to the Bundesliga.

Bradley’s next move will likely be to a better club in England, with Sunderland the popular rumor lately. Stern John played for multiple teams in England and made it to the EPL with Sunderland. Clarence Goodson also moved up from IK Start in Norway to Bondby IF.in Denmark. And . . . who else? For a myriad of reasons, MLS players very rarely move up the ladder in Europe whether it is because of injuries, financial reasons, personal reasons, or even just a simple lack of quality. Here is a small list of players who signed outside of the top clubs or leagues in Europe and stayed at or below the same level:

Wade Barrett

Nat Borchers

Adin Brown

Danny Califf

Joe Cannon

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Game Review: USA 1, Chile 1, Bunbury 1

Tag team game review here by TSG’s “Tuesday” and Editor-in-moniker only Matthew.

We start with Tuesday and I’ll follow up with bullets and ratings

Review

Bunbury....bang!

The kids were allowed to stay up late on Saturday night.

It was a chance for USMNT fans to see what lies beneath their current first 11, what talents might lurk in a group that has just a handful more caps than it has contenders for starting spots. It was our first glimpse of what the future might look like, who might be reaching their peak in Brazil and even Russia. At times last night I found myself thinking I was watching high school soccer, with neither team intent on keeping the ball for very long, instead looking to win it, get it quickly forward and pressure when possession was lost. But upon second viewing, I realized it wasn’t as bad as all that. Both sides had a youthful look, lacking top players from the World Cup, and that was evident in the flow and tempo of the match.

Chile presented an interesting challenge for Bob Bradley’s young group, lining up in a somewhat unusual 3-3-1-3 formation. Bradley sent his players out in the 4-2-3-1 with which he’s started to find some success and, by extension, increased faith. One of the weaknesses of this formation tends to be that it can become narrow in the final third without the threat of fullbacks overlapping. While Loyd got up and down the flank on the left (where the USA enjoyed most of it’s attacking success) on the right Franklin tended to stay home. This meant Bedoya was often found drifting centrally to try to find the game, leaving Chile to defend narrowly with their 2 fluid banks of three. At any time Bielsa’s side can form a back four or five with the wing backs, Meneces and Mena dropping back or the holding player, Silva dropping in when one of the 3 center backs was pulled out wide.

Chile and the USA both took similar approaches into the match, despite differing tactical line-ups. Both sides like to pressure the ball high up the pitch after loosing possession, with the USA tending to rely on the athleticism of its back four while their opponent rely on covering runs among it’s back 6 players. The result was some helter-skelter football as neither side were allowed time to settle in possession. This also mean that the USA was rarely pressed back into a defensive shape – which only rarely resembled a 4-5-1 some fans fear in the defensive third and usually was something more akin to the two banks of four which we’re accustomed to.

Disk mixing it up with the ball....

In attack, Diskerud frequently found higher up the pitch than Wondoloski. This was something of a problem for the US attack at times, with their central striker drifting deep and wide allowing Chile were able to maintain a high defensive line without the threat of the USA getting in behind. The US started the game intending to play the ball quickly with one and two touches but often seemed instead to lack composure when on the ball. They were defensively shaky in the opening minutes, with Franklin nearly conceded a penalty in the opening moments as he was caught out on the wrong side of Puch as he cut into the box.

Soon the US attack began to find some success – with the second 10 minutes being the brightest spell of the first half. Their problems were evident, however, in that most of their chances came from outside the box – McCarty’s fine strike from 35 yards in the 12th minute that was tipped over the bar by Garces and a minute later with Wondo’s clever turn across his defender when Shea found him after good work up the flank by McCarty. Chile soon adjusted and were able to condense the space on that flank without the US taking advantage of the real estate then available on the right.

After 30 minutes of play, the pace slackened and neither team were able to create many chances. While Chile were still getting the ball quickly forward, they lacked the final ball and the US defense seemed equal to the task. The USA did a good job managing possession of the ball in their own half of the field but struggled to find penetrative passes out of the back to create chances in the final 15 minutes of the first half. The US was admirably fluid in attack throughout the match but too often all four attacking players were found lining up across the Chilean back line in the center of the park, too far from the deeper midfield pair to have the needed support. Perhaps the US were trying to leverage their height advantage in aerial challenges, but they made it easy for Chile to sweep up any second balls instead. Chile’s fluid defensive system dealt well with a 4-2-4 look that might have troubled another side.

All and all, it was a good team showing from Bob Bradley’s young team, with no player performing truly poorly. Though no one player really stood out either. For me Dax McCarty was the best player of the first half, though he was occasionally sloppy with the ball.

Gonzo, an okay first half...

At halftime Bradley decided to experiment, bring on Marvell Wynne at center back in place of Gonzalez. It was not a success. Wynne was involved in nearly every chance Chile were to fashion in the second half. The converted fullback was significantly culpable for Chile’s goal. Despite excellent interplay on the right flank between Seymour and Meneces which beat three US players with a quick 1-2, Loyd’s recovering run was good and the cross should have been dealt with easily. Had Wynne been aware of where danger lurked, in the form of Parades, rather than watching the ball, he would not have been pulled so far out towards the flank as to leave space and time for the Chilean number 9 to take down the ball and finish acrobatically to atone for an imperfect first touch.

The US soon began to create chances to equalize, with Bedoya staying wider in the second half before making central runs later in the development of US attacks. Franklin also began to come into the game a little more. With Aguedelo and Bunbury coming on for Shea and Wondolowski after 60 minutes, I expected the USA to revert to their more standard 4-4-2, but that never really happened. Both the substitutes drifted around to receive the ball with both Diskerud and Bedoya running into the spaces beyond them. Bedoya nearly fashioned the equalizer with a slashing diagonal run into the box and a good touch past two Chilean defenders before being spoiled by the goalkeeper, but he was unable to pounce on a tantalizing rebound when Garces spilt the ball.

Bedoya was also involved in the play which led to the penalty and US equalizer from Bunbury. Ream found McCarthy with the sort of penetrative pass along the ground that the US too often lack. Dax laid the ball off to Aguedelo, who played a quick 1-2 off Bedoya and found himself running at players on the edge of the box. With a clever touch, the youngster played the ball by Silva, but the defender–his hands already aloft protesting his innocence–clipped Aguedelo’s foot on his way by and the referee blew for a penalty. Bunbury made no mistake with his finish, or with the dance-steps celebrating his first international goal, joined by the player that had earned the spot-kick.

While the US searched for a possible winner, Chile fashioned a couple more good chances through their best player of the half, Marvell Wynne. The MLS cup-winner’s defending was erratic. That his physique is not quite that of the typical footballer was only highlighted by his lack the mentality and awareness required of defenders well at the international level. He looked comically out of place at times. Hopefully, it’s another case of Bob Bradley giving a player that’s not quite cut out for the international level one last chance to prove himself. If it’s not, we can only ask, Wynne will Bob Bradley learn?

Observations and Ratings

• You’re likely to see, at most, 4 of the Yanks on the field last night make a true dent in their “this game matters” USMNT cap count. In that group, I’d put Tim Ream, Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo and maybe Mix Diskerud. The tier right after them–meaning a Gold Cup call-in is certainly possible: Ale Bedoya, Brek Shea, Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin and Dax McCarty.

• Decidedly split reviews on Dax McCarty last night. It an enormous task to control the offense and initiate the linking and attack against a game played at that speed. I think Dax acquitted himself well last night. His defense was challenged initially and I think he learned what he needed to do as the game wore on. Rating: 6

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Game Commentary: USA vs. Chile

Halftime thoughts:

McCarty's got the armband this eve...

Mix Diskerud clearly the best Yank on the evening. Great ball control save one play. Consistently opening up run for others.

The States need more off the ball movement for certain. Too many times a player had a single option.

Zach Lloyd played nearly too aggressive for the first 20 minutes, but he stood up every attacker and his confidence grew. Was fun to watch him on the flank from the press box.

Dax had a little bit of a tough time adjusting to the pace, once he settled down you could see why he was this camp’s Benny Feilhaber.

Sean Franklin thankfully had the speed of recovery twice on getting juked, a ho-hum half for TSG’s man.

Wondolowski, very tough ask from Bob Bradley this evening, and he just doesn’t have the speed to do it.

——-

Game time:

Checking in now as Nick Rimando and Sean Johnson start warming up.

Sean Franklin: Starting in his club stadium....so proud...

You’re starting line-up…sorry we’re late:

GK: Nick Rimando

DEF: Zach Lloyd, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Sean Franklin

D MID: GINGER NATION (Dax, Larentowicz)

MID: Brek Shea, Mix Diskerud, Ale Bedoya

STR: Chris Wondolowski

Bench: GK Sean Johnson; Ds A.J. DeLaGarza, Anthony Wallace, Marvell Wynne; MF Eric Alexander; F Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury

Bobby B goes with speed on the flanks in Franklin and Lloyd anticipation of Chile’s chaotic come-at-you offense.

Chris Wondolowski up top as Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo deputize. This is big for Wondo and Coach Sweats likely sat Bunbury (age: 20) and Agudelo (18) out of sheer youth. Don’t want to damage the youngsters and put to much pressure on them the first time out in front of a home crowd.

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