Archive for March, 2011

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!”

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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…

About The Making Of: “Rise & Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story”

This piece by Dan Wiersema of The Free Beer Movement.

Jay DeMerit, now in Vancouver

In late February United States National Team and Vancouver Whitecaps defender Jay DeMerit tweeted out to his followers that “Rise and Shine: The Jay Demerit Story” was not up for one of this year’s Oscars. He ended his statement with the hash tag “coming to a theater near you”. If you follow DeMerit on Twitter, or know anything about him, there are very few things that he does or says off the field that one should take serious. It appeared as though his announcement was just a well-timed joke.

Fast forward two weeks and a trailer for “Rise and Shine” pops up on the Internet. It quickly makes the rounds across various soccer blogs, websites, and media outlets (including this one) and by the end of the day has been pulled off of YouTube. Soccer fans were left wondering if this was the real deal or some sort of mockumentary.

Enter Nick Lewis to clear up the confusion. Lewis is the co-director and co-producer, along with a friend, Ranko Tutulugdzija, of this mystery film.

“Rise and Shine” is, in fact, a real movie and it is just as advertised, “The Jay DeMerit Story.” The documentary’s mission, as Lewis put it, was to “recreate his path” and follow DeMerit’s unbelievable rags to riches American soccer story.

The documentary's cover artwork...

The film’s own story began about six or seven months before the 2010 World Cup. Tutulugdzija, who has played soccer with DeMerit in college at the University of Illinois at Chicago, approached his former teammate with the idea to tell his tale.

“We had a passion, we wrote a script, and Jay said ‘This is great,’” Lewis said. “He’s very interested in hearing what others had to say (about him) along the way.”

Setting aside their day jobs, Lewis and Tutulugdzija, an attorney and an acupuncturist, respectively, set off on a journey to track down many of the people in DeMerit’s past; an American soccer, “This Is Your Life.”

They were joined by a fresh-out-of-college 24-year old director of photography Zach Salsman, who they found on the Internet. In another twist, Lewis and Tutulugdzija were originally only going to write and pitch the script, but after their original director bailed on them, they were now at the helm

Lewis wanted to emphasize, “We could not have made this without (Zach).”

The three trekked off to interview and film Jay’s story from Green Bay, Wisconsin, a small Midwest (American) football town, to Chicago to throughout Europe and to the English Premier League and, finally, to the U.S. National Team.

Along the way the filmmakers were able to get great interviews with some of the lives that Jay’s story has touched along the way; from the family he stayed with during his trial days to his Watford coaches to USMNT coach Bob Bradley and teammates Tim Howard and Carlos Bocanegra. Some of the most interesting parts of the film are these moments when these people open up about how unique and inspiring a tale Jay has woven.

Lewis said the whole project took about a year and landed the crew on three continents.

“There’s a story within a story about how this film was made,” Lewis said.

He continued, “In a lot of ways it was just like Jay’s story.”

Lewis, Tutulugdzija, and Salsman have made this movie completely from their own money. At this point they’re sitting on a nearly finished project.  According to Tutulugdzija the film was recently honored with the “Rising Star” award at the Canadian International Film Festival.

The film is set to be screened for DeMerit’s family, friends, and teammates in Vancouver on April 4th at the District319 Theater.

“It will be a community celebration of soccer and Vancouver,” Tutulugdzija said in an e-mail to TSG.

At this point, unfortunately, the film is limited to the private screening on April 4th and the film festival circuit until its makers can find more financial and distributional support.

Lewis indicated that the movie, which includes footage of DeMerit’s time at Watford and with the USMNT, would have to pay extremely expensive rights fees to FIFA and the Premier League for it to see a large audience. Just a minute of World Cup footage, according to Lewis, runs upwards of $50,000.

If the movie had a distributor, someone to take on these fees and help get it to mainstream audiences, Lewis believes it would “do well worldwide.”

“We tried to capture the game and how powerful it is,” Lewis said. “But it’s not just about soccer. It’s a universal theme.”

“A lot of people know who Jay is, but they don’t know his story,” he continued.

DeMerit’s story took him from Wisconsin to Watford, with soccer panhandling stops all across Europe, before his dream of playing professional soccer was realized. In 2003 DeMerit set off for Europe with $1,800 and barely a hope; only armed with perseverance. With friend Kieren Keane the two of them showed up on the door steps of clubs all across the continent looking for a tryout. Starting in the ninth-tier of English soccer for Southall both DeMerit and Keane moved to seventh division Northwood where, in a pre-season match, Jay impressed the coaching staff of Watford, a team in the English Championship.

Coming "so far, so fast....enough"

By 2007 he was the captain of Watford in the EPL and by 2010 starting in the World Cup for the United States. Following the World Cup DeMerit signed with the Major League Soccer expansion side, Vancouver Whitecaps, and last week was named its captain before the opening of the 2011 season.

Right now, though, the film version of his fairytale sits at a crossroads. Few who would or could be captivated by this story will see it if the makers can’t get over their distribution and rights roadblocks.

DeMerit’s dream hinged on the hopes of getting noticed and proving he could play top flight soccer. His story’s tellers now hope their project follows a parallel path: get noticed, prove the film’s value, and show it off on the world’s stage.

For more information and information on how to donate to help finish the project visit: Jay DeMerit Story.com

Help get the word out. Become a fan on FACEBOOK. (click here)

TSG has an advance and will have a review up later this week.

US Roster Update: Three Down, Lichaj In

Monday update: Multiple reports have Stu Holden out “6 months” with an as-yet unclassified knee injury.

Holden acknowledges on Twitter he’ll be having surgery later today.

Holden "escorted" off the pitch yesterday...

As expected after yesterday’s gashing, Stu Holden, 26 stitches heavier, is out of the US upcoming friendlies against Argentina and Paraguay. Unfortunate events seem to follow Stu as they usually are a prelude to major USMNT action. First DeJonged in the Netherlands and now Johnny Evans being studly on Holden’s knee.

Hopefully no more damage.

Zak Whitbread also out as is key right fullback Steve Cherundolo.

Lichaj, containment yes, overlap? Not so much yet.

The Cherundolo absence is troubling for the US who would have likely used the Cherundolo-Landon overlap as a primary offensive weapon at least against Argentina. Whether it’s Jonathan Spector or Eric Lichaj–called in upon Dolo’s absence–starting at rightback neither possess the skill to get and down in a hurry. It will be interesting to see what Coach Sweats does with the offense now.

Also, you’re seeing how the Yanks may be increasing their upper level talent on the field, but the depth is just not there.

Interesting days ahead.

Breezy For Chuck Deezy: Charlie Davies Nets Two In MLS Debut

Poetic.

Charlie Davies with a brace as DC United downs the Columbus Crew. What a start.

Jay Bell on Fire-Dallas in MLS

Pappa, not big enough on the road...

Surprisingly, FC Dallas has picked up right where they left off despite losing several players in the offseason, moving players around and having to endure some injuries in the preseason.  Dallas was oozing chemistry and quality that you would expect from a group of players who have been together for a while.  Milton Rodriguez has settled down nicely in MLS and his backheel goal brought dallas back level just one minute after allowing a shocker goal to the Chicago Fire.

And it was a shock.  Chicago was on their backheels for the first 15 minutes of the game and really for most of the first half.  Marco Pappa took a free kick in the 17th minute that took a deflection in the box before Kevin Hartman made a save on a scuffed shot from Cory Gibbs.  New acquisition Diego Chaves was in the right place at the right time to clean up the mess for Chicago to score on a tap in from three yards out.
Both teams’ defenses settled down to make much of the rest of the half uneventful as the crowd at Pizza Hut Park grew quiet towards the half.  Everyone should take notice of how comfortable the back line of FC Dallas is on the ball.  When they executed some nice passes, it was a refreshing change of pace from MLS defenses “booting” the ball up the field.  Unfortunately, there were quite a few sloppy tackles mixed in from both teams.
Hartman was forced to make a save early on in the second half, but FC Dallas was still in control.  In the 55th minute, Chicago pounced on a miskick from Brek Shea.  Shea tried to recover and grappled with the Chicago striker 40 yards out from goal to try to get the ball back and instead earned himself a straight red card as the last defender on what the referee deemed a goal scoring opportunity.  With Dallas down a man, the match became much more even.
The score was almost made uneven when Gaston Puerari broke out on the counter in the 60th minute.  He cut through for a one-on-one with Kevin Hartman.  Hartman continued his stellar form from last season and made what ended up being a match-saving save for Dallas.  Dallas stiffened up their defense three minutes later with the introduction of Ugo Ihemelu for Eric Avila, who was largely ineffective on the left side.
The last 30 minutes of the second half were similar to the last 30 of the first half: back and forth, few chances, narrow misses to be in on goal and mutual weaknesses from both teams on set pieces.  US fans will be disappointed not to see a bit more from Sean Johnson.  He was not particularly bad, but he did not command his area as well as fans would have hoped.  On the other end, Kevin Hartman produced the save of the match in stoppage time to prevent Pappa from stealing two points for the Fire.
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