Archive for January, 2011

Thursday Bullets: SuperDrafting, Nguyen, More

Update: Kenny Coopah….Cooper officially signs with the Portland Timbers.

Some quick news to get you started on just a Suuuuper Draft sort of day.

• Just Super

Only a little from TSG...

MLS SuperDraft day today. Unfortunately, we’re not your best resource today….but I am hearing that “there is a lot of speculation as to the 1st pick.” (Ha, ha)

I’ve seen Will Bruin play a few times; like his game though.

Add your comments in and I’ll put them up in this post or another….

• Not USMNT

Lee Nguyen apparently applying for Vietnamese citizenship so he can join their national team. This is one courtesy our friends at Soccer Over There. Saw him play against China–briefly–in 2007 he had “junky” offensive game (that’s a positive), but just couldn’t or hasn’t put it all together yet.

• Icy Cool

Via German based reporter Dan Bu, Nürnberg´s Marek Mintal will travel to the USA this weekend to negotiate a deal with MLS club Philadelphia Union.

Video of the Slovakian slugger right here.

(Bu also comments that an update on Freddy Adu is expected soon.)

• Rover Over

Roque Santa Cruz is headed back to Blackburn, the scene of the last place he didn’t steal a salary. That was always the odds-on destination for him; his brother is in the Academy there.

•  Double Dutch

Hide your Stu Holdens! … Sky Sports reports the Heckyll to Nigel De Jon’sJekyll, master black arts man Mark Van Bommel wants a Barclays move, already “linked” with Villa.

•  From Prime to Choice

Apparently, the Yak (Yakubu) will be fed at Championship side Leicester City through the end of this campaign. The move expected to be made permanent in the summer.

Totti: Ingloriously Slipping To Obscurity At Roma?

Bundled on the bench...are the good times now over for Totti and Roma?

Editor’s note: I’m pleased to kick off our Serie A coverage–I’ll use that word lightly  for no–with a kick *ss piece from guest columnist Eric Giardini.

This week the great Roma star Francesco Totti came out with a simple three-word, but monumentally deflating, statement for every Roma fan after being introduced with but four minutes left in a 2-1 loss at Sampdoria.

“I am sad.”

Giardini explains the tragic weight behind those words:

Closing time?

NO TOTTI, NO PARTY?

The accolades speak for themselves:  one Scudetto, two Coppa Italias, two Suppercoppa Italianas (think England’s Community Shield), one FIFA World Cup, as well as countless individual awards.  He is Roma’s all-time leader in appearances and goals – 590 and 251, respectively (and counting).  He has spurned offers from other clubs repeatedly to stay with the club he supported as a boy and made his debut for at the age of 16.  This, as well as his jabs at Lazio – from famously celebrating a goal by revealing an undershirt reading “Vi ho purgato ancora” (“I’ve purged you guys again”) to his thumbs down gesture after defeating Lazio last season, signifying that Lazio will be relegated (which didn’t happen and now Lazio sits in 2nd at time of writing…karma) have endeared him to Romanisti worldwide.  Very few players have meant more to a club and its supporters than he does.  He is Francesco Totti and he IS Roma.

Totti has long been one of my favorite players.

His ability is without question (as countless YouTube videos with questionable music pairings can attest to).  It is not just his class on the pitch that I enjoy watching, it is his brash style of play that accompanies it.  Whether it is him chipping in a penalty or kicking a player in frustration, he plays with an honesty and emotion that is rare to see.  While most consider his style “too flashy” or him being too much of “hothead”, Italians, and more specifically Romans, will tell you that it is part of being Roman.  My grandfather from the outskirts of Rome can certainly attest to this (and my friends will also tell you that I exhibit this as well).

For years, my weekend routine has consisted of the following:  setting my alarm at 8:45 every Sunday, putting on some coffee, putting one of my Roma jerseys on (with a new Totti one on the way), and watching Roma play while keeping my voice down to not wake my roommates.  I tell you this because what I’m about to tell you shakes the very core of my beliefs as a Roma supporter.  What I propose is Francesco Totti no longer be the first name in the Starting XI and that his minutes be reduced for the good of his career and the long-term good of Roma.

The Presider...

Under Claudio Ranieri, he is no longer an automatic presence in the Starting XI, nor should he be.  Times have changed and this is no longer 2001, the year of Roma’s last Scudetto, and Totti, while remaining an integral part of the squad, should begin to see his minutes reduced.  The days of Totti needing to play 90 minutes every match are behind Roma and behind him.  Injuries are finally catching up to him and Roma now has the depth up top to allow the goalscoring load to be spread between a few players and not solely on Totti.

At the age of 34, Totti’s legs have seen many matches and don’t have the pace they once did.  The footwork, back heels, and perfectly weighed through balls are not as successful as they once were.  The body always goes before the mind, and while it seems Totti believes he can still play at the same level he was able to, it just isn’t happening this season.  While a new contract at €9m per season is a lot to leave sitting on the bench (along with Adriano’s €5m but that’s another story), I think it would be in Roma’s best interest that he sees more time there.

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London Footie Map: Where Not To Wear Red

Very cool graphic in the latest Wired magazine, courtesy of my pops (whose story I’ll have to tell sometime).

Wait, Wired magazine? Yes, gives me a chance (or excuse) to talk about something else….the Long Now Foundation. Just check it out. Hard to explain.

Anywho, an extremely fastidiously crafted map off all London footie. Never walk down the wrong supporter street again. Click to enlarge.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Herculez Gomez: “You Never Know Where Life’s Going To Take You….So Make The Most Of It”

Herculez Gomez for Pachuca...

I had the hardest time coming up with angle for our in-depth conversation with Herculez Gomez below and then I chuckled. In the interview, Herculez and I “debate” what player his game is most like. I suggesting Salomon Kalou–and that’s not really a great one. He suggesting….that he really can’t come up with a comparison.

But as much as Herculez Gomez is perhaps unorthodox in how he’s risen in his career–to striker at one of the top teams in the Mexican Primera–and how he arose to consideration for World Cup 2010 (and eventually to a starting spot in the most critical group game for the States)…..

And as much as you can’t define his game or perhaps how, or why, he’s had success……

There’s a single theme that I found resonating, strongly and supremely, through Herculez Gomez’s answers.

He’s an All-American….brimming with the American can-do spirit.

And then that analogy of unorthodoxy works all the better considering Herculez Gomez is a Mexican-American, who grew up a fan of MLS–considering Cobi Jones one of his favorites nonetheless–and has reached the pinnacle of American soccer…without ever, in his words, being the best on his club team.

Ladies and gentlemen, the All-American:

TSG COMMENTARY: JUNE 12th, 2010

TSG: So first question I’ve wanted to ask you for a while and I apologize, but it’s a World Cup question.

What was that moment like when Bob Bradley called you to the touchline in the England game. You hadn’t played much for the US until then and here you are. There are only a few moments left and Bob Bradley calls you to the touchline. While it was wasting time, we also commented at the time that it was a bold move by Bob Bradley to make sure you were ready when called on, whether for this game or next.

Take us through that moment.

Herc: I think Bob was just trying to waste time. But in my head, I’m thinking, if I can get on the field last minute, maybe there’s a chance.

Maybe, who knows what happens. I think it was Bob trying to kill some time. Throw in a sub.

I was still eager to get on the field, but it was bittersweet. It was awesome that we got a great result against England.

I definitely would’ve loved to touch the pitch though. It was one of those “Oh, jeez, almost” moments.

TSG: Do you think he was getting you ready for the next game where you came in earlier in the 2nd half against Slovenia? A sort of “Be ready when I call you” thing?

Cue....Team Celebration FC!

Herc: It definitely showed me that Bob had faith in me and that he was willing to throw me in. He could’ve chosen anybody, but he gave me the opportunity.

Bob throughout the tournament gave me the confidence and that is something every player needs–a coach’s confidence.

I remember then when I came in against Slovenia, I was buzzing. I was lively. I made a run.

I cleared some space for Michael and for Jozy and he nodded the ball down to Michael. And Michael had a great finish.

That was a ridiculous game to be part of. The way we came back and battled and how much character our team showed.

It’s good to feel that in the those moments your coach has faith in you.

TSG: One of the things that the fan in me loved about that moment….I loved that Michael Bradley when he went to celebrate was yelling at and beckoning for the whole bench to come join him at the corner flag.

So many times you see goal scorers celebrate themselves, but for US fans I think that was just a great moment after the goal to see the team celebrate.

Herc: You know, we’re a different team than most. We’re a very hard-working team.

People here in Mexico ask me what it’s like [to be part of the USMNT].

We were a machine. There’s no one bigger than the team. Everybody does their part. Everybody pulls for another.

You know, we were down there [in South Africa] for a month and when you’re seeing each other everyday, getting to know each other, it builds a bond.

And now you’re fighting for your country at the biggest sporting event in the world….it’s not just one person scoring a goal, it’s the whole team gaining something.

That’s the way we saw it.

TSG: Has that experience changed your perspective at all on soccer? Changed your preparation or anything else?

Herc: Absolutely. I think it’s the greatest thing about playing soccer, playing on a national team.

You get to learn something new. Everything’s so intense at the international level. You learn what it takes to play at that level. The dedication. The work. Everything you have to put in. The sacrifice.

Spending that time going to the World Cup, seeing how certain players prepare themselves. Seeing how the competition reacts to certain things, how they lift themselves up.

Seeing how your teammates do that for you.

Those things go a long way and you don’t necessarily see them at the club level.

Intimidating, but loved

TSG: Is it indicative of Bob Bradley, that is, the US’s team profile, if you will, or is it just the American ethos? I would say it’s a little bit of both, but you tell me.

Herc: I do think it’s a little bit of both. I think you see Bob’s personality in our team. We pick and choose our moments.

We’re an all or nothing team. We definitely leave it on the field….and that’s Bob in a nutshell.

Bob’s an intense guy. If you ever meet Bob, your first impression of him is that he’s a very intimidating.

He may not want to come across that way. But that’s just Bob. That’s the way he is and that’s why we love him.

He’s our manager and he’s a no bullshit type of guy.

TSG: Let me follow-up on that intensity theme. I didn’t watch much of your play until May of 2010 and I might have had my doubts….[pause]

But one thing that impressed me the most about your game is your hustle on the field is just amazing. It’s not like you’re just burning energy on the field to burn energy. You still have economy of motion, but you’re constantly in motion.

I watched you in that Czech game specifically and you were always looking for a spot to be open or making a move to open up someone else.

How did you develop that ability and mentality?

Herc: I think it’s adaptation really. And this is being very sincere here.

I was never an ODP [Olympic Development Program] player. I was never best in state.

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Herculez Gomez: “Nunca sabes que la vida te traerá. Si tienes una oportunidad, hacelo con todo tu ánimo.”

Herculez Gomez: Pachuca

Conrado R. Hinojosa, Javier Leija y Conrado Hinojosa contribio a esta traducción

Era el momento más dificil pensando en un ángulo para nuestra conversación con Herculez Gomez pero despues de pensar eso, nomas me reí. En esta entrevista, Herculezy yo “discutimos” con qué futbolista se compara (yo creo que es Solomon Kalou), Herculez  me dice que no puede decír con quien se compara (si hay uno).

Pero tanto como heterodoxo es Herculez Gomez en como ha crecido en su carrera—adelante en uno de los mas prestigiosos equipos en la Primera Division de Mexico—y como surgió para consideración para el equipo de los Estados Unidos para la Copa Mundial de 2010 (eventualmente comienza como parte del once inicial del equipo)

Es un Americano… rebosante de ánimo y de suerte.

Y con ese analogía de heterodoxo trabaja mas fuerteconsiderando que Herculez Gomez es un Hispano, que creció apoyado por Cobi Jones, unos de sus futbolistasfavoritos, y que ha alcanzado el pináculo del fútbol en los Estados Unidos… sin nunca, en sus propias palabras, siendo el mejor en su equipo.

Señoras y Señores, el Americano.

TSG: La primera pregunta que te quiero hacer, y perdoname, si te pregunto de la Copa Mundial

Como era el momento cuando Bob Bradley te llamó en elpartido contra Inglaterra? Hasta ese momento, no jugaste mucho para los Estados Unidos. Nomas faltaban unos minutos para el final del juego, estabas listo? Hablame de ese momento.

Herc: Yo creo que Bob queria perder  tiempo, pero en mi cabeza estaba pensando. si puedo jugar en los últimosminutos, puedo hacer algo para ayudar a el equipo.

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From Studio 90: On The HDC Grounds

Apologies folks, we’re not going to be able to get to camp like last year. We’ll be down at HDC for the game though.

A look inside from the great work by US Soccer’s Studio 90. Man, when Bob Bradley barks, you almost feel it through the screen, huh.

Why Ream & Lichaj Are More Exciting Than Agudelo & Bunbury…

John Nyen is a frequent contributor at TSG.

He’s a USMNT fan as well as a Liverpool fan…and still proud.

Ah, I can see the corrugated etching on the Ballon d’Or award.

USMNT material, yes!...?

The White Whale, the Golden Idol, the Impossible Dream….. this is something that all fans of the US Mens National Team think about, a forward with the talent of Messi or Ronaldo who is American and plays for the USA. He would take passes from Holden, Bradley or “Germany” Jones and skip around defenders leaving their mouths agape and flashing the ball into the side netting.

The world would explode at his talent, and we would win the World Cup.

Eventually he would be picked up by a major team such as a Real Madrid or Barcelona. This harbinger of the explosion of skill in the US would galvanize youths with his breathtaking ability and financial windfall. When Juan Agudelo scored in his first friendly for the US at the age of 17, you could hear the pen clicks of a thousand sports writers as they salivated at the upcoming wunderkind.

Except we are all wrong.

Estimated time of delivery on Jozy?

In the eulogy for the US team in South Africa the common sports writer often bemoaned (and beat the drum) that no US forward scored. They wailed that if we wanted to be a proper team we needed to have a proper Center Forward, someone who could take the ball from the mids and put it in the back of the net. Some of the more bucolic suggested that we have an American Idol competition to attempt to find our new “talented” forward. Nevermind the fact that American Idol can’t even find good and decent music, much less someone who can take on Maicon and win.

The facts and statistics for this World Cup do not back these theories up.

When we look at the information it becomes clear…. fans of the Yanks should be praying for Full Backs and Center Backs.

We should be looking for the next Pique and Maicon, not Messi. While it would be great to have impetus at the front end the fact is that the US struggles because our defense is not as good. The team is often mislabeled as “hard working” which is really just a euphemism for “lack of talent but cohesion as a team”. However, when it comes down to it, the defense is the thing to trigger wins. It doesn’t help if we score 5 goals but let 5 in.

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