Archive for March, 2011

USA Kit: Out With Nike Grey, In With Red

Let's see dynamo Dax McCarty in the #10 in this sucker...

The U.S. Men’s National Team will debut a new Nike red jersey when they face Argentina on Saturday, March 26 at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Jut a reminder that amid conjecture, TSG confirmed that red kit in January. (Sorry for the self promotion, long night.)

I think a white sash would have been better for the contract, but what do I know I don’t design boring jerseys. #oops.

 

The Jack Of All Trades: Chatting With Brek Shea

Brek Shea was the first player born in the 90's to be capped by the senior USMNT.

TSG got the opportunity to catch up with Brek Shea right before the beginning of the season. In Brek’s short career he has played striker, midfielder and defender and has played every position well. He must be a coaches dream, as he doesn’t complain, and just goes out, plays as hard as he can, and does what is asked for him.

Here is our conversation before their last pre-season game.

TSG: Okay, first question. Are you going to be okay now that Heath Pearce is no longer in Dallas? Or perhaps better question: Is Dallas a safer place?
Brek Shea: I don’t know man. He brought a lot of fun stuff and I’m going to miss him. I’m pretty jealous he’s going to be out in California which sounds pretty sweet, especially with non-soccer related stuff.

TSG: Alfonso Mondelo, the MLS technical director, said you impressed scouts on the Generation Adidas trip to Spain, but you impressed them in central defense though?! What is your ideal position? Where do you prefer to play?
Brek Shea: I don’t know. I’ve had to play center back because there has been a shortage of people and injuries, so coach asked me to play there, and I have to do what he asks. I don’t know if I have an ideal position. A lot of people like me at center back and a lot of people like me as a left midfielder. I don’t really have a preferred position so whatever the boss asks of me I’ll do.

TSG: So where do you see yourself playing 5 years from?
Brek Shea: Well it all depends on what I play this season. If I play left mid this season, then I’ll probably play left mid for the rest of my career. If he (coach) switches me to center back, then I will probably be playing center back.

TSG: You’ve played striker, forward, winger, and defender over the past 5 years. Any interest in playing goalie?
Brek Shea: I did start off as a goalie when I was young. I would get mad when we got scored on, so I would go up to our goalie and say “hey let me play goalie”. [ TSG throws in some sort of pun about how it is good to take things into your own hands. Brek chuckles ].

Knocks them in regardless of the position he plays.

TSG: You’ve graduated from the Generation Adidas program. Can you tell us about your experience with this program?
Brek Shea: It’s a great program for young people and for young athletes coming into MLS. They help you out, they give you a chance to go to school, and they hook you up with some really great opportunities.

TSG: Getting back to Heath’s departure. The team let both Pearce and Dax McCarty go in the re-allocation draft and in the process got younger, but arguably less experienced? Who are the main leaders now and who will need to pick up the slack?
Brek Shea: Our captain (Daniel Hernandez) and Kevin (Hartman) are two main veterans on the team and they do a pretty good job, but I think everyone needs to pick it up. We have some new guys and a lot of youth guys that came up, so everyone needs to take it in their own hands to be responsible.

TSG: Do you see yourself taking on more of a leadership role?
Brek Shea: Well I’m not a very big vocal leader, but I hope I can show some leadership by playing well. I like a lot of the younger guys and I hang out with them as well, so that they can feel like they can come up to me if they need anything, or talk to me about stuff that they might be scared to with the older guys.

TSG: You went to Bob Bradley’s January camp this year after featuring in an October friendly against Colombia. First, what skills did you improve on in the camp and 2nd, tell us a little bit about the differences in training and game preparation between Schylles Hyndman and Bob Bradley?
Brek Shea: When I was there, they really wanted me to work on coming inside, instead of just being out on the touchline. They asked me to come inside and get the ball and run at the players, instead of being out wide and going around players. They wanted me to come in, so I could get shots off, and that really helped with my game. I was really thankful for that.

We had the whole month to prepare for one game with Bob. It was mostly about getting back in shape and learning and dealing with his style of play. They are different guys and they go about things differently.

This picture captures two of Brek's goals this year. Be more dominant in the air and get more chances with the USMNT. TSG says "that shouldn't be too hard".

TSG: What skills do you want to work on and improve upon this year?
Brek Shea: Well one of the big things I want to work on is my heading. I’m one of the bigger guys out there and my heading hasn’t been the best in the past, so I want to come in this year and win a lot of headers and score a lot more goals with my head. I also want to work on everything. Obviously my left foot is more technical than my right and I want to get it up to speed.

TSG: Last year, the media was reluctant to place a “favorite” tag on FC Dallas as the team was undefeated for major stretches in the season, but those matches were draws instead of wins. How do you feel about being a “favorite” this year and teams gunning for FC Dallas?
Brek Shea: I kind of like the pressure. Last year, even up to the final we were the underdogs, and I think this year people will have more respect for us. To be honest, I like it because each game will be a hard game and those games are always fun.

TSG: Dallas season tickets are up 300% on the year. That’s good, however Pizza Hut park still has a ways to go, or rather attendance has a ways to go before the park fills up. Is it difficult playing at home in front of half empty stadiums?
Brek Shea: Well as a player you definitely hope it will be more packed and louder than last year. You can only expect what you had the week before, so we never expected the big crowds, but as you said sales are up, so hopefully we’ll have a good loud crowd to play for.

TSG: You’ve been having a fantastic pre-season. Obviously your team goals are to win the MLS cup. Any specific personal goals for the season?
Brek Shea: Well, I would like to get more chances with the national team and I want to do bigger and better things than last year, like score more goals, get more assists and play with more consistency.

TSG: Describe what it’s like playing with a true #10 in David Ferreira?
Brek Shea: Well obviously he played very well last year and was MVP of the league. It’s great cause every time we are in trouble we can find him and he relieves tons of pressure from the rest of us.  He is someone you can always rely on to keep the ball, to keep possession and can find the right angles and passes to create the offense.

TSG: What are your long-term plans? Do you have plans to try and make it in Europe? What’s a good destination league or team for you?
Brek Shea: Well as a soccer player my goals are to play in Europe, but as of right now I’m focused on this season. Hopefully in the future when the time is right, I will play in Europe, but who knows when that will be. I would like to play in one of the big leagues and hopefully I can focus on doing and improving on what I do every day so that I can get there eventually.

Brek's hairstyle is more dynamic and ever-changing then Holden's, however both hairstyles tweet!

TSG: We recently did an interview with Brandon Zimmerman. How do you feel about him as a player?
Brek Shea: [Perks up]. Brandon Zimmerman. He’s one of my good friends. I love playing with him. I would call him a traditional “English style player”, who wins the ball and dishes it out and crushes everyone as he runs past them. To be honest, I like the way he plays. He inspires you to play hard when you play with him, because he lets everyone know that it’s “game time”.

TSG: So both yours and Stuart Holden’s hair have twitter accounts. Whose hair is better?
Brek Shea: To be honest, Stuart’s always stays the same, where as mine changes every once in a while. I get a little more flair with the change, but I don’t know…

TSG: Well good luck with the upcoming season.
Brek Shea: Thank you very much.

On Dax McCarty, Brek Shea Carpentry & More…

Let’s roll this out Mike Lupica style.

Dax McCarty...continuing to impress...

• Kind of what would be nice? funny? cheeky? if Dax McCarty trotted out for DC United’s next home game in a Ben Olsen jersey, no?

On Dax, props to Real Salt Lake insisting that we make sure people know it was Dax who authorized the Chuck Davies road to redemption free kick.

How in the world Dallas let this guy go without compensation is…mind boggling?

• ROLFing or whatever it’s called. Brek Shea commandeering Heath Pearce’s place as funniest Hoopster.

Yesterday’s Shea went Villa, Bob, not David. Too funny.

• Joe Cannon revists the Bay Area today with the Vancouver Whitecaps…reserves, according to Robert Jonas. That’s all wrong or it’s like a Bizarro Major League flick with Cannon standing in for Corben Bensen.

• This tweet from MLS Insider this morning: “Portland Timbers today announced that they will host Dutch club AFC Ajax in an international friendly 5.25.11 at JELD-WEN Field at 7 p.m.”

"1....2....3....everyone....EXHALE!"

Holy smokes! Literally. That’s a lot of puff-puff-give in one location. Probably won’t matter who wins, you know? Or maybe everyone wins.

Or just eats a lot.

• More tribute videos? Charlie Davies or Double Rainbow guy. Anyone want to send us a mash-up?

• Speaking of DC United, the Toffees come to town for a pre-season friendly with Chuck Breezy and friends.

That date? July 23 at RFK Stadium.

Meanwhile, transfer rumors about that the ‘Fro may be relocating. So Real Madrid despite not being able to stay healthy.

(That said, might you see more athletes moving out of the EPL to less physical leagues. Good question. Ronaldo knows the answer here.)

• The evolution of the keeper position at Arsenal. Had no idea. Or sort of did. But.

(Check out more spoof photos on Jens Lehman and Arsenal here.)

Looks about right....

 

 

 

Video: USA Dusts Off The Cleats For Argentina

“Messi this…”

“Messi that…”

“Messi once scored two goals in a game while saving a baby from a burning building and painting a Picasso.”

TFIY: The Timbers Fall, But One Man’s Army Shone Brightly

This “The Fan In You” piece by John Nyen

The Timbers Army on foreign soil....

Editor’s Note: This is a piece by Denver-based John Nyen who saw his Timbers kick it off in MLS Saturday. Despite the loss, still a rocky mountain high.

“I was a stoop-shouldered wreck of a man, stumbling around the Gatorade aisle of the Super Target. I purchased a bottle of lemon-lime, a can of peanuts and walked out to the car, pulling on my sunglasses. The light diffused across the lenses showing the heckle-jeckle spottiness, the result of beer being spilt on the lenses.

The remembrances flooded in from the weekend due to this unusual trigger.

“We are green… we are white…”

The Timbers Army sat in the corner of Dicks Sporting Goods Park, taking up sections 100 and 101. It would be easy to say, “game is at 8:00 pm show up then”, but that isn’t how the Timbers Army or the PID Army/Class VI does things.

Friday Night:

I rolled into downtown and already the reports had been coming in from fans. 400 to 500 Timbers Army were coming down from Portland and swarming around downtown. There was a scheduled party between the differing fan supporter organizations at the Celtic, downtown. Pulling into Denver, I wondered what the reception was going to be like, but there was no reason to worry. One block over from my car there were two Timbers Army members, scarf clad and clothed in green, crossing the street. I kept running into more and more as I got closer to the bar and then it was ID time, walking around the bouncer into the inner sanctum. The Rapids fans were clustered en-masse in the middle of the floor, and I walked into the final sounds of “GLORY, GLORY COLORAAAAAAAAAADO!”

Continue reading

Microscoping The Weekend: Clint Dempsey, Stu Holden, Friberg, More

Let’s start off Monday with TSG’s favorite, beaten-to-death reminder before we launch into our commentary here.

“You can’t look at solitary observations in isolation. You need to review the entire body of work.”

Nothing this weekend in MLS really means anything. For nearly all teams it will be their first game under their belt and whether it be playing on the road (or home), getting their true sea legs under them or merely going up against real competition and hits for the 1st time, it’s unfair to suggest that anything this weekend is 100% indicative of the coming season.

With the USMNT though that’s not the case. We’ll get to our MLS observations in a minute:

• #23 plays like a #9, but hits #10.

#10 for #23

If there ever was an unorthodox player like Clint Dempsey who just “makes things happen.” He’s not a winger, not a true forward, and not a true striker.

Is there a comp for him? You bet there is. How about Dennis Bergkamp. Everytime I see Deuce play it reminds me of how the Ajax-Arsenal great would just pop up in places where he could get the ball in the dangerous situation. And then he’d either finish or play someone in.

Deuce is doing that now. Neil Blackmon over at The Yanks Are Coming, pointed out this morning that the Deuce of two years ago doesn’t score the goal he did this weekend, down two, on the road and right after the half (where Dempsey’s focus always seemed to wane in the past–actually it’s statistically proven.)

Oh, and that goal? The most for American, 10, in a Premiership campaign.

Astounding more so in that it’s coming in a season for Fulham where their 2nd best weapon to Deuce is Damien Duff. Not Damien Duff circa 2004, 32-year-old Damien Duff.

• No Disco for Stu Holden

Photo courtesy The Offsides Rules blog....

Unlucky.

Poorly timed injuries seem to be wreaking havoc on Stu Holden’s career. And the injuries always seem to come at key inflection points. There was Stu’s trial at Sunderland which was unceremoniously cut short by a fractured eye socket courtesy of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Just this past year, there was a “Hi-how-are-you” from Nigel DeJong on Stu’s shin. World Cup squad still made; impact, minimized.

Not just as Stu looked like we would complete one of the best campaigns every by an American midfielder in the Premiership, Jonny Evans got negligent with the studs and Stu will have knee surgery today for an as-yet unclassified knee injury.

For Stu’s sake, let’s hope it’s cartilage, a decidedly more forgiving injury for knee agility than a ligament.

Note: On the tackle, it was reckless, but not malicious.

• How’s That Midfield Go Now? And against Argentina?

Will be very interesting now for Coach Sweats how his midfield morphs?

We’ll do this again later this week, but let’s get it started now anyway.

Here’s your problem with Game 1 against Argentina. In Batista’s men, you have a squad that employs a 4-3-3, but it really plays more like a 4-2-4.

Messi pulls the strings (if Messi is absent the role will likely fall to Pastore) with two “strikers” in front of him. As part of the second band of three, Angel Di Maria is often found wandering foward on the wing–so he joins with Messi and said strikers.

The second band is make up of Javier Mascherano and Esteban Cambiasso stay home as holders. Elder, but still fleet, right fullback Javier Zanetti ocassionally will venture forward on the flank providing a fifth player in the attacking third for Argentina.

So the formation looks like this.

Kickstarting Saturday...

To counter it the US will easily keep a band of two holders. Using the striker selection as my lone datapoint, I assume the Yanks will go 4-2-3-1 (I can’t see Buddle and Altidore playing together or Agudelo starting yet, but stranger things have happened.)

Assuming that’s the case, here’s how the US defense could be set up. I go with the defensive formation as this has proven to be Bradley’s mindset of “protect-and-defend-before-offend.”

While I think the actors on the diagram will likely be in different roles; the basic set-up ppt’ed should remaind the same.

You’ll have Landon on the right looking to get behind DiMaria (with unfortunately no Cherundolo galloping forward). You’ll have one of two different midfielders on the left in Benny or Jermaine Jones. They will be designed to stop the service to Messi, help out centrally and come centrally on a turnover to provide linking through the midfield.

We’ll stop there for the day and get the thoughts going on Saturday.

On to MLS….

MLS:

• Erik Friberg. That’s a lot responsibility straight away?

Friberg-er, serving 'em up....

Sounders coach Sigi Schmidt has been talking ad nauseum about this year being a critical year for the Sounders who by many estimations underwhelmed the past two seasons.

First, let’s make this claim. The Sounders attack is broken. It’s not an institutional offense. As Fredy Montero–and to a much lesser extent Steve Zakuani–go, so go the Sounders. Speed guys like Mike Fucito, post-up guys like Obrian White and the now-Seattle-departed Blaise Nkufo (who was killing that team’s offense mind you) can’t seem to integrate.

Zakuani can’t do much when he’s not 1-vs-1 in space and Montero shows an amazingly lack of drive if he’s asked to do hold-up work. Drive isn’t the word; ambivalence is.

That’ll make distribution from the midfield, vital to Seattle’s forwards getting chances. And that role has falled to Friberg.

Friberg didn’t look overmatched in Seattle’s First Kick loss to the Galaxy but he also didn’t look sharp.

“He’s a simple but effective player,” Schmid said over his Swedish midfielder. “There’s not a lot of complications to his game, which is good because we have guys that take a little more time on the ball like (Steve) Zakuani and (Fredy) Montero. He can keep the ball moving. He has good vision for the forward pass. “

The Sounders are now 0-2. Like we said, just two observations here, but something to keep observing.

• Juninho….Jumanji!

Will the gas tank remain on "FULL" this campaign?

Juninho, two goals, two games. Again, two observations.

Let’s remind Los Angeles Galaxy fans that they saw this same thing last year with Michael Stephens. I did a little search of the TSG commentary and the name “Stephens” and “USMNT call-in” wafted through multiple times.

Why this year may be different is that the weapons of David Beckham and Landon Donovan force the other team to pay attention externally, opening up the middle of the field a little more here in 2011. And now Juninho is taking advantage.

Can he–unlike a very green Michael Stephens–keep it going for the bulk of the games and until teams adjust? (At which point, Bruce Arena will be tasked to have a better answer than last year.)

• CD United

A gallant return for Charlie Davies with two goals in his game back in action. Heard a little “Cap him” undercurrent dribbling through the Twitter wires and other places this year.

That’s not going to happen and shouldn’t…yet.

If you’re Charlie Davies, you have two things you need to prove to Bob Bradley in your on-field resume. One, you have game-breaking speed. That is team’s either play off you or they are consistently burned by you.

And second–going hand-in-hand with the first–does your game make an impact? Whether it’s running with the ball or off the ball, does Charlie force other teams to adjust and account for him.

If you’re a DC United fan watch the defense against Davies next time he takes the field. To they respect him or are they willing to challenge what he’ll do.

Until such time that those criteria are met, and met in repetition (which could come before the Gold Cup squad is decided, after it, or never) then it’s unlikely you’ll see Davies–yet–in the Nike Grey, White & Blue.

And…says TSG friend Chris Riedy on DC United: “I’m just about ready to anoint Ben Olsen the next USMNT coach. He’s got the Mourinho-style trenchcoat down to go with the pacing up and down the sideline and first game, a good performance plus the result.”

More coming…

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