Archive for May, 2011

Some Wednesday Bullets: Adu, Gulati, More

And some quick thoughts as we roll into our Spain and Gold Cup coverage:

Adu: A lifeline to chasing the dream...again.

Updates:

Per the Washington Post: DaMarcus Beasley is seeking a deal at Pachuca.

Per Brian Strauss and the Sporting News: Herculez Gomez has moved from Pachuca to Tecos.

• A small, abstract positive if Freddy Adu has a positive Gold Cup? Perhaps a little bit more showcasing for Adu to move to a better team more in the limelight or against better competition. That next could have the positive see-saw effect of Adu developing further for the US national team.

A lot hanging in the balance here for Adu and his US Soccer career this June.

• Obscure loser in what we’ve dubbed #fifapocalypse: Sunil Gulati and USSF.

Sure you may suggest that the United States and perhaps a World Cup 2022 bid may yet be in the offing if Gulati and USSF remain mum. However, think of the positive marketing that the federation would be reaping now if they tactfully and quietly voiced their concern after the World Cup voting process.

The United States had an excellent platform to project their concern on the selection process: the technical score of their bid was very strong while Qatar’s ability to host was called into question. Instead the United States, in a very un-American way, decided to keep quiet as a country that does not recognize equal rights made of with the prize.

It is worth remembering that with the acknowledgement of the temporary CONCACAF World Cup qualifying format and the lip service of considering a seasonal switch of the domestic MLS league to the traditional soccer schedule that the United States still pandered to FIFA, although perhaps not monetarily.

All of this to this writer, makes USSF look nothing but weak on the global soccer stage.

No Cary for Chandler...

• In case you missed it, Brian Sciaretti talked to Timmy Chandler’s agent who commented that it was a mutual decision of everyone involved to forego the Gold Cup. Agent Thomas Kroth also commented that a possible change of heart by Tim Chandler to investigate his German national team potential was not at all behind the move.

While it’s a negative that the US can’t introduce Chandler this June, the move should give US coach Bob Bradley some leverage in dealing with Nurnberg, Chandler’s club team, in the future.

• Disagree with Sports Illustrated Steve Davis’s dislaimer yesterday that “If Stu Holden were healthy, we wouldn’t be having the Freddy Adu conversation.”

Holden’s value and role seem to be continually mislabeld by many. (Perhaps TSG has it wrong?)

For the US, since 2009, Holden has never played in a true attacking role. Yes, he played more advanced at the 2009 Gold Cup, but upon moving to the “A” team, he’s always played one one of the midfield flanks. Bob Bradley’s primarily used Holden in the attack to link north-south to a striker or forward in front of him or to drive up that flank and issue a cross, not to create offense on the interior.

For his club, Bolton, Holden has been used much like Bob Bradley has used Michael Bradley, as an advanced CDM (pardon the expression). Holden has typically been tasked defensively with taking the first attacker coming into the center of the pitch and then deployed offensively as link in moving the ball from the backline up the field. Not as a #10 or CAM.

Conversely, Clint Dempsey, Benny Feilhaber, Eddie Gaven (as rumors have circulated that Gaven was extended a camp invite) or even Mix Diskerud have been used a more of the an attacking midfielder for the States and this is presumably the role where you would try a Freddy Adu. A role where a player can take on a defender and beat him if the opportunity presents itself or slot a pass to a teammate for a scoring opportunity if the defense is drawn.

Also, don’t rule out Bob Bradley using Adu–because of his speed with the ball and handles–as more of a second, withdrawn striker from time to time.

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Next up: Our TSG Official US vs. Spain Preview

Video: Winner 2010 Don’t Tread Challenge

The winner of the 2010 TSG “Don’t Tread Video Challenge” makes a special appearance today.

For those that have entered for 2011, voting commences on Monday!

Selected Images Revisited: USA vs. Argentina

As the US embarks on at least four matches in a row, a look back to their last friendly series through the shutter of Matt Mathai. We’re sorry it took so long to get the images up here Matt. Some great pics of Messi, Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley among others:




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Five Gold Cup Questions For Bob Bradley

And go…because I’m sure we’ll have five more in about a week:

The promise of Bornstein continues....

5. Will a wrong-footed leftback be considered and can they be a difference maker?

The US leftback position hasn’t been a star level since, well, since forever.

Carlos Bocanegra has been more than serviceable in the role, playing smart positionally, but never really offering a lot going forward.

For more than two years now, Jonathan Bornstein has been his understudy, unfairly criticized by fans because a major mistake in his neck of the woods is magnified by the damage it can cause to the scoreline. Bornstein, alas, has more warts as well.

Bob Bradley had the following to say this past Monday about the position:

“Carlos Bocanegra and Jonathan Bornstein obviously give us two left-backs to begin with but we have seen Eric Lichaj play as of late at left back. Jonathan Spector has played some at left-back too, so we do think we have some different possibilities there and we’ll certainly look at all of them when we get into camp.”

The challenge for Eric Lichaj or Jonathan Spector excelling in that role is dualfold.

First, the worst thing a Yanks defender can do–besides being out of position–is author a turnover when the team is countering up the field that leaves the defense unset, out-of-position and caught out–and with no help from the midfielders.

The last World Cup cycle bore witness to game-alering turnovers (not just by defenders) when the team on the counter or possession had just flipped: Ricardo Clark against Ghana, Clint Dempsey against Honduras in Chicago, Oguchi Onyewu against Honduras, Benny Feilhaber against Italy all come to mind.

Lichaj and Spector have tendencies to do this on their strong foot; their right–which would be right into a counter attack for the other team. Step one to challenging for a leftback role will be this.

Step two, is how do you involve either in the offense. Probably the best you’re asking for is an in-bending cross that finds the head of Clint Dempsey or Chris Wondolowski this summer.

Bob Bradley has shown a penchant to–correctly–and ultimately favor left-footed players at left back. Unless Lichaj or Spector are turnover prone–relatively–in camp and provide the ability to author a looping cross from that flank, bet on the role staying with Bocanegra and Bornstein.

Um, not that Robbie Rogers shouldn’t git it a shot, because he should.

4. Is it centerback by committee or is it a Clarence Goodson vs. Oguchi Onyewu vs. Tim Ream et all?

Calls for his demise are in the right area, but at present exaggerated...

First, let’s dispel one notion here.

Oguchi Onyewu is not washed up or doesn’t deserve less of a shot to play. Let’s put Onyewu’s status in perspective a little.

It typically takes 18-24 months to come back fully from a major knee injury. We are just in that “sweet spot” right now with Onewyu. He’s not the player he once was; and he may never be.

Ironically enough it’s not the physical discount that has hurt Onyewu upon his return in my opinion. It’s the challenges with things he already struggled with, that being distribution and focus to be positioned correctly.

If you watched Onyewu trail out and protect against Messi when the Yanks played Argentina he did an above average job in that aspect of his game.

Onyewu, rightfully, will play when the States take the field in the Gold Cup. He’s a seasoned veteran who knows the competition well.

But a larger question looms for Bob Bradley, that is who does he start grooming through World Cup qualifying and how soon?

Is Clarence Goodson really the answer in 2014 or should he merely be seen as a stopgap until a player–perhaps–like Ike Opara or Gale Agbossumunde comes along. Will either of those players–or ones of their ilk–be seasoned by then as well. Centerbacks typically have more experience.

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Manchester United vs. Barcelona Going Live

For all the marbles at Wembley.

Park and Messi, today's two key figures

Sir Alex chooses the more balanced formation and keeps Chicharito to start up top with Fletcher only making the bench.

Man United leads with: Van der Sar; Fabio Rio, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Giggs Park; Rooney Hernandez.

Barca leads with: Valdez, Alves Pique Puyol Abidal – Xavi Busquets Iniesta – Pedro Messi Villa

* Interesting selection of Abidal, great story but is he ready?

Champ’s League Final: Prediction: United (Yikes!)

Editor’s note: No “I told you so’s” here. Basically United have to play a flawless defensive game and execute in the areas below for the win. Confidence in my prediction? 50%”

Manchester United vs. Barcelona in a rematch of the 2009 final in Rome.

Park needs to be--and should be--loud tomorrow...

I’ll take the probably very clichéd contrarian approach of suggesting that Manchester United will take this one. Barcelona certainly has the upper hand and there is not reason that their possession-oriented “attack” shouldn’t work on the divots of Wembley.

Alas, why Manchester United could win?

Here are some reasons:

Ji-Sung Park:…. The effect of Park on the game for United cannot be understated. I haven’t looked at other previews, but I would imagine that this is a central theme in most of them.

With Park, you have a player with the speed and ability to quickly jump into the offensive play faster than their marker can join, but recover on defense to stop said-marker who has now become attacker.

Park will tuck in and provide a highly effective ability to know when to double down and help on defense and will also provide a quick outlet upon a turnover. He’s the safety valve both ways.

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