Archive for March, 2011

Looking In The Mirror: USA vs. Paraguay Preview

Around TSG we love to use Paraguay as a comparatively equal team to the States.

The Yanks have Tim Howard to thank for the good juju coming in to Tuesday...

From their deployment–normally two defensive midfielders coupled with two striker-forwards up top and usually in a 4-4-2–to their game planning–defensive pressure–all the way to how they score–for the past two World Cups they have more goals scored from the striker role than the US. That number is “1.”

Paraguay, 24th in the FIFA rankings to the US’s 19th. Fair to say however that the States have more offensive firepower in this one.

After fortressing themselves in against Argentina in the early going Saturday, the Yanks will look to do a little TCB, Elvis-style, in his home state of Tennessee against a team that embarrassed themselves against Mexico to the tune of 3-1 in Oakland, CA over the weekend.

Despite the loss and lagging form,  Paraguay, a World Cup quarterfinalist, should provide an equitable opponent and one who USMNT coach Bob Bradley can measure some new players against after Argentina saw Bradley’s short term “A” team fully deployed.

Expect some new faces in the starting line-up, a multitude of subs and…hopefully some warmer weather.

To our customary preview, we go. Per usual:

TSG What We’re Looking At

11 At The Whistle

Disclaimers

About The Opponent

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TSG What We’re Looking At

• Agudelicious

Can Juan continue to fly high?

It’s almost cliche to bring up the 18-year-old as a “key observation” at this point, but we do nonetheless.

Saturday saw the third relief appearance for Agudelo who has shone brightly during his slighly more than 90 minutes for the States. His two goals already for the senior team? Even up with such notable roster counterparts as Benny Feilhaber, Edson Buddle and Jonathan Bornstein.

With Chicharito scorching the Paraguayan left flank on Saturday, Tuesday’s affair gives us a window into how quickly Bradley will allow the New York Red Bull striker to become a major part of the attack. If Bradley was watching tape, he had to be salivating at the opportunity to deploy Agudelo similarly to the Little Pea.

Bradley, never one to bend, will still find it awful hard not to succumb to the pressure of playing arguably the Yanks’ top striker right now, because until Charlie Davies shows consistency during the run of play, there are really no other speed options.

Should he start the youngster or should he continue to handle him with oven mitts and meter out his time over more caps.

Last time Altidore cruised this region, he bucketed three....

• Just how aggressive will Bob Bradley be.

Paraguay’s coach Gerardo Martino called out his side for resting on their laurels Saturday…and the loss showed some of Paraguay’s real weaknesses. An aging and decidedly average set of centerbacks, lack of a true game breaker, and a glaring weakness at striker.

Don’t expect Bradley to employ the same clog the midfield and sit-deep defensive strategy that he did against Argentina.

I expect to see a much higher line from the US defense. I expect to see the US looking to boss and control the game a little bit more.

• And Stu Holden’s replacement–sniffle–is?

Perhaps a minor point here, but, in Stu Holden, Coach Bradley had a versatile midfielder who he could count on for solid defense every time out. Further, it was clear that Bradley favored Holden’s know-how to determine when to help out internally with that defense and when to advance on the flank.

Beyond this, Holden could be counted on to be precise with his crosses and maintain possession.

Who is Holden’s replacement for the Gold Cup? Could it possible be Sacha Kljestan in consideration? Maybe even Mix Diskerud who played the right wing down in South Africa? Is it still Benny Feilhaber?

• Can the US string together two strong performances in a row?

Evident during 2011 qualifying, the US has challenges in keeping consistency for the back-end of two-game sets. A decent effort against El Salvador in September 2009 back-ended by a stinker–though a win–against Trinidad & Tobago. The Honduras clincher followed by eeking out a draw at RFK against Costa Rica (that one was understandable.)

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Jose Mourinho, Special in Net?

Some good work from Guardian reporter Sid Lowe and the Football Weekly podcast. As I walked to work today, I listened to their podcast (I also listen to Extra Time Radio, AM Soccer Show, World Football Daily for podcasts).

Anyway, Lowe was live and heading to a scrimmage at Real Madrid’s “Field Four.”

It was the media members versus the Real Madrid officials and Lowe joked that Jose Mourinho would likely be in attendance.

Low–no pun–and behold upon lacing up his cleats, Lowe confirmed that there was a Special One in goal. None other than Jose Mourinho manning the nets.

Here was Lowe’s tweet after the affair. And here’s some video.

sidlowe Sid Lowe 

For those asking: Mourinho was good in goal, made a couple of blinding saves. Also, playing up front, dreadful dive to try to win pen

Bocanegra & Boca Juniors: Finishing Thoughts

Some random, settled-in thoughts as the Argentina friendly is left behind.

Audi....

• Edson Buddle back to Germany is interesting. Is it me or do you feel he’s just not given his shot for some reason?

Then again, I’m not watching at practice like George Vecsey.

• So little in a scoreline, fair to say that if Argentina finishes their chances the outcome and reception for the Yanks efforts is very different. That said, a poor pinball effect had Cambiasso finishing the lone goal.

• If Argentina was the CONMEBOL equivalent of Mexico, then Paraguay is the equivalent of Honduras. Almost missed that US Soccer; nice job on the friendlies.

Horrible job on the pitch–unless the patchwork pitch actually played to the Yanks advantage. Conspiracy theorists unite!

• Those making comparisons between Juan Agudelo and Eddie Johnson don’t watch a lot of soccer, do they.

The most impressive part of Agudelo’s game Saturday night wasn’t his goal. It was his feel for the game and his temperament on the ball.

Eddie Johnson has all the skill in the world and he’s probably still faster than Agudelo, but he’s never been able to compete because he gets caught offsides all the time, I mean, because his mental game hasn’t progressed.

Measure Agudelo on his entire game, not his scoring numbers.

• Our preview out in a little bit today. Paraguay’s game is easy enough to dissect. What will be difficult will be who Bradley feels he needs to give a rest to after Saturday night.

I do expect to see Jermaine Jones for that counter attack downfield volley Poland-game style.

From the fan forum:

TSG reader “Crow” was kind enough to drop some dialogue from the fan forum in the comment section. Thanks. Selected thoughts republished below:….

Some notes from the “fan forum”:

I used a question someone had posted about whether recent “dual-nationals” such as Teal Bunbury, Timmy Chandler, etc. committing to The National Team was a coincidence or part of a “better effort” to target dual nationals or part of a different strategy. Sunil basically said that I had it in my question- just comes down to a personal decision.

He did open up a bit, though, telling a few interesting specific stories. For instance, he told a story about how while he was at the Confed Cup in 2009, he told a FIFA official the story of Giuseppi Rossi (shortly before he entered the game) and shortly after he scored that brace. More interesting- he talked about about private discussions he and other members of USSF/coaching staff had with Subotic and others .

Apparently, in some cases the players didn’t want to play for the US because it was easier to play in Europe travel-wise. He commented that he did not agree with the FIFA rule to allow players to change nationalities after playing at any level for a certain country (Subotic leaving and Jermaine Jones coming to the USA). I mentioned how Timothy Chandler had said in an interview this week about the fact that he liked the American program over the German program because it was “different” in a good way. I asked if this could be highlighted to potential dual-nationals or if in the long run it just comes down to a personal decision and he went with personal decision.

Other notes:

An older man and his son from Las Cruces, New Mexico came to the game and commented how there was barely any advertising/marketing for the game nationwide or in New York City.

Sunil vehemently disagreed saying their was a “buzz” about the game along with a big billboard he had seen after leaving JFK airport.

Sunil acknowledge that more can be done to promote the team. The man made an interesting point how when these games come it is almost that the message is: ARGENTINA is coming, BRAZIL is coming, SPAIN is coming and not that the USA is playing. I thought this was a good point but Sunil didn’t really address it.

Someone asked about a Technical Director and Sunil was actually very open saying it was discussed and different candidates have been interviewed and Bob knows about it.

He made the point how the women’s program has a Technical Director and Coach and it works well. He acknowledged that the coach and technical director would obviously have to work together and cooperate for it to work.

A question was asked about the pay-to-play setup in the USA, but he just talked glowingly about the US Developmental Academies. I’m not sure how they are set up exactly but who can actually attend? A man in the crowd originally from Southern California and now living in Balitmore, MD mentioned about how many inner-city youth aren’t exposed to soccer but apparently these academies are the solution according to Sunil.

A few light hearted questions were asked as well.

 

TSG’s Official Match Review: USA 1, Argentina 1

You don’t have me fooled Bob Bradley. Got you pegged now.

Indivisible, but only in the 2nd half....

It was the tale of two halves for the States Saturday night–again–as the Yanks weathered a blitzkrieg of an attack from Argentina for the first forty-five minutes before revving up their own offensive engine to sneak in a goal on some free kick spillage.

The final tally? A 1-1 draw and insights galore. Oh where to start.

With the coach.

From the line-up selection through his tell-tale 2nd half “energy-insertion”, the playbook on Bob Bradley should not need a revision on your Kindle.

Against arguably more talented teams, Bradley prefers to deploy trusted veterans, bunker down, ride out a wave of attacks, and then make a halftime adjustment that accounts for the US’s liabilities, addresses the other team’s strengths and leaves the other team to morph on the fly in the 2nd half.

It’s a good old-fashioned rope-a-dope. It’s a heckuva a way to play. It gets results–rather, may get results–but I’m not sure it motivates the troops or hastens US program development.

Those last two (motivation and development) are obviously not in Bob Bradley’s job description and a debate for another time.

Should Bradley be commended for getting results that seem at best by poor design and at worst lucky? Start philosophizing.

Does it fatigue players to continually be instructed to be robotic and flawless on defense to the detriment of their offense? It’s not like this is Inter Milan 2010 with Mourinho at the helm, and the strategy only applies against one opponent for one or two games.

Let’s move on to the match.

The first half saw Bob Bradley trot out his tested veterans. The strategy was a sound one, nay a strong one, from the 2nd-term coach. Bradley compressed his front six and tried to make the transition space between his defensive third and the halfline, the battlefield.

It was a true 4-5-1. With Jozy pushing one way or the other, Bradley packed in three central midfielders–again–and kept Donovan and Dempsey even with this band of defenders.

The Clog Zone...

The goal: Clog.

Clog and force Argentina’s less-creative players (that’s all relative of course) in Javier Mascherano, Esteban Cambiasso, and Ever Banega to navigate their way to a scoring opportunity.

A smart strategy, however Argentina seemed to adjust well. The visitors went to work on the the Yanks’ right side of the body with Messi shading out to that flank and playing in DiMaria or vice versa.

The persistent rib cage battering finally found joy  for the visitors as an unmarked Esteban Cambiasso latched on to a rebound from yet another Messi-DiMaria combination, and hit paydirt. 1-0 Batista’s men.

The Yanks barely saw the ball in the 1st half, and the expression and play from their offensive players began to the show the effects before halftime.

Clint Dempsey, in particular, fatigued from the Yanks inability to create any attack and in a move that hearkened back to a certain Chicago Honduran qualifier; tried to backheel and split two Argentinian defenders in a risky spot in midfield.

Perhaps by design or by acknowledging the folly of his initial player selections, Bob Bradley returned Maurice Edu to his customary center midfield role while Jermaine Jones, who looked positively mundane during his minutes, was sacrificed for Juan Agudelo. Jonathan Spector, detrimental to the cohesion of the back four, gave way to Bundesliga product Timmy Chandler.

With the migration to a  4-2-2-2, Agudelo making smart and efficient runs, and Chandler calming the right flank siege, the States turned the tables on Argentina and began to show an offensive heartbeat in the second stanza.

Donovan and Dempsey were able to leak out on attack and Agudelo’s speed provided a lead-pass outlet. The midfield was balanced, and Edu and Bradley were able to exert some tackling on the Argentinian mids.

The Yanks controlled much of the run of play though the early part of the second stanza and the equalizer came on a set play. Landon service, to Bocanegra playing on, with Agudelo picking up the table scraps and toepoking home.

That would be the end of the scoring as the run-of-play see-sawed for the final twenty minutes. After two minutes of stoppage, Landon Donovan’s beckoning to the ref to blow the whistle was all the imagery needed to know the Yanks were happy to depart the Garden State with a draw.

Observations:

• A reprieve for the defense.

First, hard to fault the defense for the most part in the 1st half, though Tim Howard was forced in multiple saves.

Remember, while it may look like the backline is porous, there are not many international backlines that sit there and take as much pressure or abuse as they do. Yes distribution should have been better, but it’s not like the midfielders and forwards were holding up signs saying “Kick it here” either.

• This veteran trust/defensive discipline thing is killing you Bob.

And this is the biggest takeaway and point of this review. So go grab a beer (or coffee) and contemplate the next few sentences.

Was forcing Oguchi Onyewu back on to the pitch before we was ready, as a World Cup nonetheless, not enough of a lesson?

Bradley is so maniacal about playing a flawless defensive game and being risk-averse that he becomes the team’s own worst enemy sometimes.

Exhibit A from Saturday: Jonathan Spector

The years at West Ham, and on the national team, proved that Jonathan Spector is a liability against speedy wingers. That’s an indisputable fact.

Yet there he was Saturday out against dynamo Angel DiMaria. C’mon!

A few early observations showed the player selection was a disaster waiting to happen. Sure Bradley lacked Steve Cherundolo there, but just about any other “quick” option–Lichaj, Chandler–would have been better.

Bradley was so fixated on employing someone he could trust to make the right defensive plays, that he ignored the player’s fatal physical flaw in being able to actually successfully carry out the plan.

Spector never really made a mistake; it’s just his abilities never really gave him a shot. Ding the coach.

Exhibit B from Saturday: The multiplicity of Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley & Maurice Edu

Again, Coach Bradley, slavish to defensive discipline employs three defensive mids with a similar game in the middle. All three still got beat by Messi at different junctures and none of the three provide the oh-so-vitally-needed hold-and-link to Donovan and Dempsey.

Yes Coach Sweats might have went with Holden is he wasn’t torn up, but still…..

A debatable move by Bradley, however a 1-0 halftime deficit and early subs suggest it wasn’t the right move. (Benefit of doubt coming below.)

• Agudelo: It’s not luck Harkes, it’s know-how.

Mug it up youngster, you deserve it...

Juan Agudelo answered the questions about where he stands on being able to contribute to the States A team.

I’ll save two of his heady plays for our “Unheralded Play” award, but Agudelo was revelatory again in a US kit.

Hysterical to hear Harkes and Darke banter about “the ball just seems to be finding Agudelo tonight.” Uh guys, that’s skilled runs to and from the ball, something Jozy Altidore did not provide for the Yanks in the first stanza.

Agudelo was creative, protective of the marble in possession, seemed to make the right play in terms of tempo nearly every time, circling on a play where the counter wasn’t prudent, and distributing when pressure was coming.

Agudelo, appropriately wearing the #9 shirt, he should be first on the striker depth chart now.

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Awards:

Best Play Of The Game: A toughie here. Sure the Yanks only had one score, but I’m giving this one to Tim Howard.

Big T's play of the game...

About the 12th minute, Howard sniffed out a Messi off-ball run that left both DeMerit and Spector flat-footed. He came charging out of his net to clean up by maybe a second, a sure goal by the Barca man which would have been the Argentine’s first against the US.

Most Unheralded Play of the Game: (2) Let’s just say Agudelo’s “complete” game impressed me tonight.

Two plays, on in the 69th minute one in the 85th, had me wide-eyed at the youngster’s maturity and they both earned him the “Unheralded Award”.

In the 69th minute, Agudelo had forced a throw-in for the Yanks with Jozy taking it I believe. Agudelo realized that the Argentina players, as well as many US players, were deep in the box. Agudelo stayed near the endline and demanded the throw-in, preventing Argentina from making about four Yanks offsides.

Heady play.

Next in the 85th minute a similar situation. I believe it was a cross slung in from the right flank. With the ball overshot and Lavezzi, I believe about to clear, Agudelo took the foul, a trip, and immediately acknowledged to the ref it was intentional.

Had Argentina cleared it, many Yanks were still stranded in the box and Argentina might’ve been countering.

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Snap Judgements: USA vs. Argentina

Jay Bell with his thoughts on today’s match. TSG’s match review coming shortly…

What happened to the US team that could go toe-to-toe with the Spains, Brazils, and Argentinas of international football without looking so poor at times?

Hedjuk? What's his pic doing in here?

Do not be fooled. The US was bullied around for most of the game tonight, but the US’s best young starlet continues to play beyond his years. The US squad was lucky that Tim Howard was in “beast mode” once again against Argentina. A young and inexperienced Brazil squad embarrassed the US back in August as well.

But it all starts with defense. In 2008, 2009 and 2010 the US back line had an in form rightback: Frankie Hejduk, Jonathan Spector and Steve Cherundolo; a leftback playing over his head: Heath Pearce, Jonathan Bornstein and Carlos Bocanegra; and resilient centerbacks who did not punt the ball upfield every possession: Bocanegra, Danny Califf, Jay Demerit and Oguchi Onyewu. Well, none of those are the case any more unless Cherundolo goes into the summer continuing his good form.

And the US will need him to be in top form this summer. Timothy Chandler and Eric Lichaj should be options behind him because Spector should not be an option anymore. Onyewu is not the same player that he was in the summer of 2009. The US needs a leader in the back and Onyewu may not be it. Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson and even Maurice Edu should be given the chance to step up at CB. Bocanegra can still play leftback, but he, Gooch and Demerit should not be on the field at the same time. Bornstein and even Chandler or Lichaj could get a look.

If the defense does not work out its issues, then a team like Costa Rica or Guadeloupe will surprise the US before they even get the chance to be toasted by Chicharito and Vela in the final.

How does the team go from typically one defensive CM to three, and the midfield pressure gets weaker?

Simple: They are all too similar. Mr. Kyle Martino said it best when he said all three of Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley and Edu are left marking space instead of players. Stuart Holden obviously would have fit in somewhere, but now that will have to wait a while after his injury.

Spector or even Kljestan would work more efficiently with two of those three instead of clogging the midfield again.

Donovan and Dempsey HAVE to be allowed to create offense and the current system just is not allowing it.

Creator. Yes. Playmaker. Yes. All-out Defender? No.

Numerous matches have provided evidence that a bulk of the US’s attack goes through Landon Donovan. When Donovan is not in the driver’s seat, then Clint Dempsey is the aggressor. Coach Sweats was most likely hoping that Holden would be able to take up some of that attacking responsibility, now he must look for other options. It does not look like Bradley or Jones will be the answer with both playing further back.

With a combination of Spector and Bocanegra, Dempsey and Donovan are spending so much time in the defensive half and are unable to get forward. Cherundolo or Chandler may be able to help change that predicament, but Bradley will have to find an answer before the US matches up with Spain in June.

The end result? The US reverts back to a standard 4-4-2 for Gold Cup.

It seems inevitable now with Stuart Holden out. The rapid ascension of Juan Agudelo certainly facilitates this change as much as anything. Agudelo can pair with Altidore or even Dempsey or Donovan if necessary. Mikkel Diskerud (I want Mix Disk to catch on so bad), Sacha Kljestan, Spector, Alejandro Bedoya or Chandler could emerge as possible starters in wide midfield positions. Benny Feilhaber can maintain his role as a supersub for those positions as well.

The emergence of a crop of forwards can help as well. Agudelo is the star, but Bunbury will be an option once he maintains his health again. Edson Buddle, Chris Wondolowski and Robbie Findley will be fighting for inclusion when healthy. Kenny Cooper and, yes, even Charlie Davies are going to be pushing for a spot through MLS play.

So just prepare for it US fans. Fans have pined for an evolution away from the 4-4-2, but Holden’s injury likely stymies that development. The alternative is that Bradley forces the team to retain the 4-2-3-1 system in a detrimental manner similar to his attachment to Robbie Findley last summer.



USA versus Argentina – Live commentary 3.26.11

The best players on their respective teams. Unfortunately Dempsey hasn't got much opportunity to prove it.

Agudelo and Chandler were the difference makers in the second half and if not for Howard the score would have been embarrassing. Argentina played pretty football but their finishing let them down…that and Howard was immense.

TWEEET TWEET TWEET. Well a draw. Who would have thought after the first half. Typical US resolve and never say die attitude got them a scrappy goal.

91:00 - 2 minutes of extra time. US did well to equalize but i think it really masks the fact that their defense was picked apart time and time again. Thank heavens for Howard who per usual was magnificent. Also lost was Argentina’s woeful finishing.

89:00 – Chandler has a five head. Not even a forehead… A FIVE HEAD!

86:00 - Good playing by the USMNT as they ping the ball around. Altidore sends in a good cross but it’s headed out. Messi counters and is finally dispossessed by 4 defenders. US counter very well, but again Argentina counter. Messi’s final shot is woeful though.

84:00 - Nothing comes from the corner, but the US wins a free kick in a dangerous area.

83:00 – US win a corner. Good chance here.

81:00 – ARGY BARGY!

79:00 – Game getting a little chippier and the US playing a lot better in the second half, at least on offense.

77:00 – Argentina having their away again, but Chandler blocks well. A definite for the future.

73:00 – Gooch showing his skills from his younger days as he muscles Di Maria off the ball as DeMerit loses the ball in front of the box. Good play by the veteran from Twente.

71:00 – US playing a lot better counter football and it has all to do with Agudelo who comes back for the ball and attacks with a purpose. It’s infectious as Altidore is also playing better and working hard.

69:00 – Agudelo playing with confidence as he is giving the Argentine defense something to think about.

67:00 - Chandler has been a very positive addition. His forays up front have been the impetus for all positive US attacks.

64:00 – One way to showcase how good a keeper Howard is. He has been pummeled over and over again, due to swiss cheese like defense and yet has only let in one goal. US get one chance and get one passed Andujar.

63:00 – Messi wins a free kick but his kick is poor and goes over.

61:00 - The USMNT took advantage of what they are good at by scoring of a set piece but their defense is JUST ATROCIOUS!!! If it wasn’t for Howard, the US would be down 9-1.

59:00 – GOAAAAL Agudelo scores at home from sloppy defending off a set piece. Donovan sends it in that Bocanegra sends goal wards. It is blocked by the keeper but Agudelo pokes it from inches away to equalize. Argentina 1 – US 1

58:00 – Levezzi gets acres of space as he runs at Bocanegra. Once again Howard saves the day by parrying the shot up in the air and catches it.

56:00 – Bradley doing a good job as a midfielder destroyer as he breaks up a couple of promising plays. Equal to the challenge is Mascherano who is not letting anything go by him.

52:00 - Nice play by the substitutes as Chandler crosses it into the box and Altidore flicks it down for Agudelo who sends a weak shot wide. Better and more imaginative from the US.

48:00 – Altidore and Agudelo do a good job of keeping possession and the US charge into the Argentina half. A cross comes in from Donovan, but it is cut off before Altidore can get a chance to put it in the back of the net nice positive play by the US.

47:00 - Argentina take over from where they left off as Di Maria has a quick shot that goes just over the bar.

46:00 – Looks like Agudelo is coming in for Jones and Chandler on for Spector.

PEEE PEEP and the second half is underway.

TWEEET TWEEET Half time. Well if the US are going to play so many players behind the ball, they can’t just sit there. THEY HAVE TO CHALLENGE the ball. That way if they get beat, there is someone right there to challenge again. What they are doing right now is just waiting for Argentina to take it to them which they gladly  are doing.

On offense…well its hard to play offense when you don’t have the ball, but their brief forays up field do look positive. Dempsey and Donovan need to take charge.

45:00 – Argentina continuing to dominate as they ignore the fact the US has defenders. The US are playing their role as spectators well. CHARGE THE FRIGGIN BALL!

42:00 – GOOOOALLLL - Cambioasso. Another display of ping pong passing as Messi gets the ball on the byline and slots into the middle, the first shot is saved but the rebound falls to Cambiasso and he hammers it into the back of the net. A wel deserved goal. On a positive note, the US defense was holding up somewhat up until then. Lesson to be learned. DON’T site back and wait. Argentina 1 – US 0

39:00 – US playing much better as they attack more, but lose the ball and it becomes the Messi show as he scampers through everyone and once again his shot is well saved by Howard.

37:00 – Deuce and Donovan show what they can do as Donovan holds the ball up and sends Deuce through, who shoots with his right, but its blocked, so he shoots the rebound with his left and that is well saved. Take note young US players…learn to shoot with both feet!

34:00 – Howard, per usual, is sparing the US’s blushes as he holds onto a ball as Di Maria waltzes through 4 US defenders who remain rooted to the spot. As good as Argentina is their finishing is poor.

32:00 – Now they’re giving a clinic on long range passing as Cambiasso brings the ball down and slots one for Di Maria to latch onto, but his shot is going wide as Howard pushes it even further wide. The US defense is looking slow.

30:00 – US gets a free kick, which they are always dangerous at, but Donovan’s (who has been absent from this game) delivery is poor.

28:00 – Spectacular passing all within 3 feet of each other as Messi’s shot flashes wide and no one in the middle to tap it in. Gorgeous stuff that.

24:00 - Messi goes down from a shot to the head from Gooch. Accidental but that has to hurt.

23:00 – Howard comes out bravely to deny Messi from a great bass by Banega. Argentina passing the ball at will.

20:00 – Bradley playing well as the defensive midfielder and has made several key blocks.

18:00 - Bocanegra gets hosed by i believe Levezzi as he waltzes through the defense and wins a corner. Nothing comes of it though.

17:00 - Would like to see that again, as that could have been a handball in the box against Argentina from a brief counter by the USMNT.

15:00 - Argentina playing an excellent job of keep-a-way as it is 5 against 10 in the US red zone. USMNT playing decent D.

12:00 - Messi shows his class and completely free’s up Di Maria in the box who for some odd reason decides to cross it back HARD, when a shot on goal could have produced better results.

11:00 – US work it well but Edu can’t get around 3 players and Argentina counter well. Spector does well to block a Rojo shot.

9:00 –  Gooch gets worked by Levezzi as his knee gives out or was it his ankle and he gets caught in possession. Nothing comes of it though.

8:00 - Messi’s first pass is not his best and it’s half cleared to Di Maria who has a shot straight at Howard who holds it well.

6:00 - Messi playing very shallow as cheers from the crowd as the ball is glued to his feet. Ball seems deflated.

2:00 - All Argentina in the opening up minutes, though Dempsey latches on to a bad pass and runs all the way into the box, but his shot is weak . Notice Messi playing D the whole way!

So cold out there that this simian is missing his....

PEEEEP. USMNT kicks it off in their shiny new tops!

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A moment of silence for Japan. Classy call US federation!

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Do they usually do anthems for friendlies? The place is packed!

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Argentina: Andujar; Rojo, Milito, Burdisso, Zanetti; Mascherano, Cambiasso, Banega; Lavezzi, Messi, Di Maria

And now back to footie. Looks like a great atmosphere at the meadowlands. WOW that is a lot of kids to exchange!

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So this might be blasphemous on this site, but am watching Butler versus Florida right now. I live, eat and breath soccer and it is by far my favorite sport, but I might say that the NCAA tourney could be the best sports tournament on the planet. No BS (except maybe the play in games), always upsets and cause its “amateur”, the players are playing for glory. They work their ass off and there is very little prima donna crap going on. Oh and go UCONN (when I moved to the states it was to CT and the Whalers were sent packing a few years later)

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Still waiting on the official Argentine lineup, but as expected from BB, the US line up is probably their most experienced as well as their most predictable. Hope “sweats” experiments a bit. For me the big question is whether Deuce can replicate his club form on the international stage. Personally I think Dozy gets in his way.

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USA: Howard; Spector, DeMerit, Onyewu, Bocanegra (c); Jones, Bradley, Edu; Dempsey, Donovan; Altidore

Argentina:

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Back with lineups and kick off shortly

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I hear it’s cold enough to re-configure the anatomy of a brass monkey out there at the Meadowlands. Our main man Matt Mathai is out patrolling the sidelines with “axe” in hand. Hopefully we will be seeing some of his stellar photographs in the up coming days. His brief current report from NJ is as follows “IT. IS. FREAKING. COLD!! I have on 4 layers of pretty sophisticated cold and wind gear and it feels like I’m wearing a tank top.”

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Well we’re about 45 minutes from game time and there is not much to be said that hasn’t been said on our site or by our intelligent followers. This will be the first test (i see Brazil as a “lets push the USMNT hype a bit from the world cup” game) as to what we shall see in upcoming tournaments. They key is to see what Bradley senior does with what he learns today in the game against Paraguay.

Orange Slices: USA vs. Argentina

Orange Slices! USA vs. Argentina

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day before the match
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Welcome to game day!

The USA “A” Team led by Bob Bradley and Carlos BocaJuniors headed northward Thursday from their Cary, NC training grounds to take on FIFA and CONMEBOL powerhouse Argentina in a friendly at the New Meadowlands, today, in front of 60,000 fans.

Kickoff  is set for 4p.m Best Coast and 7 p.m. ET.

TSG’s Official USA vs. Argentina Preview

For TSG’s “Playing Mourinho” game planning column click here.

Broadcast:

English TV Broadcast: ESPN2

(Note, no ESPN pre- or post-game–being replaced with women’s World Cup promos)

Spanish TV Broadcast: Univision

Al Gore: ESPN3.com

Live Commentary: Right here at TSG, courtesy Shaun Webb

If you’re outside of the States, we’ll try and locate a good stream for you.

Weather forecast:

34-f*cking-degrees....farenheit!

Pleasant…if you live in Novo Scotia in February. Just above freezing at kick-off. I can already hear Angel DiMaria’s teeth chattering.

More here.

Surf forecast:

C’mon…not this time buddy. Asbury Park, your closest break.

More:

Don’t Tread On Red: As we confirmed in January, the men’s team will debut some snazzy new red kits. ‘Bout time.

History 101: The U.S. has played Argentina nine times in their history, holding a lifetime record of 2-6-1 against the Artists Formerly Vice-Gripped by Maradona.

The last time? A 0-0 draw on June 8, 2008 at the same site as today.

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Dog Years: Average Caps, USA vs. Chile? 1.1 …. Average Caps, USA vs. Argentina: 30.5

Balboa: This pic not photoshopped...

Bald is beautiful: With a cap in this game, Landon Donovan passes Marcelo Balboa for 3rd place outright on the US caps list.

The Ricardo Clark Butterfly Effect:

In a role reminiscent of one that Rico Clark played during qualifying, Maurice Edu is rumored–via a Grant Wahl tweet–to be pushed up the field as an advanced central midfielder. He would be backended by Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.

Mistake. Not a Balboa haircut mistake, but not far from it.

Ze Americans:

German Americans David Yelldell and Timothy Chandler got their first camp invites. Chandler should make the 18.

Welcome.

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More coming throughout the day–add to the commentary any news and we’ll move it up here in the body of the post…

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