Archive for June, 2011

No Jozy, No Cry: USA Rolls Jamaica, 2-0

The result they've been looking for...

Bob Bradley shook up the line-up–removing the US all-time goal leader–and the formation–going 4-2-3-1– at the outset of today’s Gold Cup quarterfinal at RFK stadium, but it’s the squad’s unshakeable and positionally-sound game that has it hopping into the semifinal on a better foot than they arrived here.

Big moments today from the big kid...

Landon Donovan donned a pinny and found himself a substitute in a US shirt for the first time since 2007, and both Sacha Kljestan and Alejandro Bedoya were inserted into the starting line as the States looked to quell an upstart Jamaican team.

The first half saw the US control the bulk of the tempo and pound the ball down the right side, beating back Jamaica’s typically high-flying left flank. More importantly for the Yanks in the half–and on the day–was their impeccable defensive integrity that saw smart and calculated forward runs without losing shape.

The only blemish beyond another slow start for Jermaine Jones, was lone striker Jozy Altidore hiccuping on a forward run and having to be subbed out with an apparent hamstring injury.

While the half arrived deadlocked at nil-nil, the US had the better of the play.

The second half saw more of the same from the States while Jamaica’s team shape continued to deteriorate. It would be the aforementioned Jones who would be a key player early on. A one-time volley on a rebound found paydirt after a deflection and it was 1-0 to Bob Bradley’s crew.

After being played forward midway through the half, Jones pulled a Charlie Davies was clipped on a tackle from behind and Jamaica would have to come from behind one man down.

The US purchased some insurance shortly thereafter as  Juan Agudelo, Altidore’s replacement, streaked on to a through ball and slotted across goal for a rushing Clint Dempsey who hitched left with Jamaican keeper Donovan Ricketts bearing down. Dempsey pulled off the sidestep, took a step, and dribbled the ball in.

Final scoreline, 2-0 to the Red and Blue. Jamaica’s tournament is done. The US moves on to the semis and will rematch Panama.

Key observations

• Bob Bradley’s team moved well as one

Some gutsy calls here by Bob Bradley. First, going 4-2-3-1. And then, removing Landon Donovan from the line-up. Late flight arrival or not, that decision certainly would have been second-guessed had Bradley’s team lost.

Most impressive from the States was their defensive shape, refusing to leave themselves open to a speedy counter from the Reggae Boyz.

At one point in the first half, Michael Bradley–seeing the team’s offensive shape pinched up–actually dribbled backwards to draw out the defense.

The Yanks still stagnated too much off the ball and the Jermaine Jones-Michael Bradley partnership still needs work, but a good day notwithstanding.

Oh and lest we  forget, nearly two years after Bob Bradley and Clint Dempsey had a come-to-Jesus conversation at the Confederation’s Cup regarding Dempsey’s role in the offense, now Bradley is showing a pattern of giving Dempsey the freedom, both positionally and tactically, to dominate the game the way he can. Never thought I would have written that last paragraph.

• The effect of Eric Lichaj at left back is, currently, massive.

Things are looking up at left back...

An excellent game from the rightback-come-leftback.

After a tactical move by Bob Bradley authorized Lichaj to push up and deny service to Dane Richards, Jamaica saw nearly no joy down Lichaj’s flank.

US fans have come to expect that type of performance from Steve Cherundolo, but not Lichaj or anyone else on the left flank.

Beyond hardcore defense, Lichaj was more than useful in the attack, staying wide when  necessary and making prudent forward runs.

Further, Lichaj’s presence enabled Carlos Bocanegra to play truer to his central defense role and also freed Bocanegra from any distribution responsibilities on the left.

• Can JJ make himself dyn-o-mite?

We once referred to it as the Jermaine Jones Caboose Effect. As Jermaine Jones, so go the Yanks it appears.

Better from Jones today, who still had stretches of average play.

To this writer, it appears Jones is wrestling with the notion that he’s at least a hair under the player he used to be. You can see it when he got beat on two tackles today and begged the ref for a call. The Jones of two, three years ago makes those tackles outright.

For the Yanks to win the Gold Cup, Jones will need to be at or near his present day best over the next two matches.

The Golden Shinguard

With apologies to Clint Dempsey and Eric Lichaj, young Juan Agudelo deserves this one.

After Jozy Altidore limped off with an injury early in the first half, Agudelo showed he was up to the task with a tremendous match. Agudelo ran well, was responsible with the marble, and found a few of the moves that got the press around him raving a few months ago.

And of course there was the sublime  square pass to Clint Dempsey who then netted the insurance score.

Well done.

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Player Ratings

Tim Howard: 7

A solid  effort from Howard, complete with the customary one or two goal saving plays.

Steve Cherundolo: 6.5

Cherundolo again controlled his side. Got ahead in the attack and lashed some strong crosses. A shoulder knock seemed to slow his game down, but he did the job.

Clarence Goodson: 5

Not Goodson’s best game. He did very well in a few 1-vs-1 situations and stepped up well on oncoming attackers (something the Yanks have struggled with early in this tournament), but his  distribution was troubling.

That and he had a slightly “deer in the headlights” look about him today. Watch that going forward.

Carlos Bocanegra: 6.5

Yeoman-like and well-positioned.

Eric Lichaj: 7.5

A revelation on the left flank. Before the tournament, there was concern about Lichaj’s penchant to give the ball away on his weaker, left foot. He didn’t do that today. The rest we covered above.

Jermaine Jones: 6

Once again, uneven. The quality is there as are some of the nasty tackles. Now needs consistency.

Michael Bradley: 6.5

I liked Bradley’s game today for the most part. Finished runs and tackles. Bradley as distributor still has some challenges. Some poor giveaways and ill-conceived switch fields, but beyond that very strong.

Clint  Dempsey: 7

Proving masterful when undermatched (is that a word?) against CONCACAF competition. He needs a giant “F-U” match in the next two to elevate to the top of  the casual US soccer fan universe with Landon Donovan.

Sacha Kljestan: 7

Brilliant, simply brilliant from the Anderlecht man. Proved more adept than I thought at receiving with his back to the basket and turning. Kept moving in the attack without the ball when the Yanks were sedentary in the first half.

Has been guilty of being too unselfish now a few times at the Gold Cup. US fans should take that as Kljestan has matured overseas into a more complete player and clearly reduced the selfish ways that led to an “overrated” label.

Alejandro Bedoya: 6.5

Tirelessly raced the right flank in the first. Used his body well a few times to shield defenders. His runs were of an aggressive, attack-minded nature.

He just needed to finish one or two of his chances today.

Jozy Altidore: INC.

SUBS:

Juan Agudelo: 7.5

Was prepared for the game and worked his socks off. Never gave up on a play on both offense and defense. An assist and a well-deserved pat on the back.

Landon Donovan: 6

More energy today from Donovan and lots more running in a shortened half.

Maurice Edu: INC

Entered with Jamaica down a man and the result already in the bag.

Pictorial: Clint Dempsey, Vindication

From the eye of Matt Mathai:

Clint Dempsey celebrates his stutter-step goal against Jamaica. US win 2-0 to move on to the semifinals to face Panama.

USA vs. Jamaica: Live Commentary

Happy Father’s Day and apologies no Orange Slices today.

Will the unofficial captain have his say today?

Update: Wow! More surprises from Coach Bradley.

Landon Donovan starts on the bench. Bedoya in his place. Injury, late arrival over night or form?!

Kljestan as well. Meaning a 4-2-3-1?

Freddy Adu makes the bench.

US goes: Howard, Cherundolo, Goodson, Bocanegra, Lichaj, Jones, Bradley, Dempsey, Bedoya, Kljestan, Altidore

The United States faces a tough upstart opponent in the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica at RFK Stadium at 3pm ET for the right to play the winner of Panama v. El Salvador in the semifinals.

Mexico and Honduaras are through already and will square off on the opposite side of the bracket.

Will the United States move on? Will Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey be bleary-eyed from their cross country jaunts cross continent? Does Alejandro Bedoya perhaps get a start? Can Jozy look beyond a single shining moment per match to bunches of them? Will Jonathan Bornstein score another critical goal in CONCACAF at RFK? Does prodigal son Freddy Adu perhaps make the 18?

It all goes down shortly just off Capitol Hill!

If you missed our official preview it’s right here.

See you in a few hours.

Exodus?: TSG’s Official USA vs. Jamaica Preview

Tim Howard's organization skills will be called on again Sunday against the speed Jamaicans...

The tables are turned as the United States heads into its first knockout match of the 2011 Gold Cup.

Their opponent, Jamaica arrives in DC with an industrious upstart moniker similar to the one affixed to the Yanks at World Cup 2010.

Jamaica has buzzed through its CONCACAF tourney competition thus far and, under the guidance of manager and former player Theo “Tappa” Whitmore, shed some of its stereotypical image as great athletes with little more. The Jamaican team is retooled with a stronger–though not faultless–backline, a resolve to maintain poise and possession that comes directly from Whitmore and, devoid of some of it’s biggest global starts, a stronger team ethos on the field than typically accompanies the Reggae Boyz.

Meanwhile, the United States rolls, nay, totters into Sunday with a somewhat “English” hue shall we say.

A group stage that was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the Yanks instead exposed flaws in the main production. A sloppy win against Canada preceded a listless loss to Panama which preceded a “just-enough” effort against “powerhouse” Guadeloupe to see the Yanks pull themselves into the knockouts with all the grace of a 2nd-grader attempting his first pull-up.

Beyond the clunky display on the field, a late week announcement that the the Yanks two main offensive stars, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, would be foregoing practice to participate in their respective sibling’s wedding put the air of lack of focus and dedication around the group–warranted or not–at a time when it looks like the US could use all the stick-together that they can muster.

Tappa Whitmore, an Essien-type, during his playing days..

The US should be sweating Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz when they head into RFK on Sunday as the outlook from this vantage point has upset plastered all over it.

Let’s get to our customer TSG preview. As usual, it goes:

About the opponent: Jamaica

TSG What Are We Looking For

11 At The Whistle

Disclaimers

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About the opponent: Jamaica

The Reggae-Boyz, rolling in 2011.

Jamaica has been bullying teams like Buffalo Soldiers at Gold Cup 2011.

Seven goals, none conceded, and a quite a bit of conviction behind their style of play. Long known for having speed, uh, speed and athleticism abundance with little discipline, the Reggae Boyz have put it together this summer showing a build-up and possession game that has never been identified with their style of play, until now.

The Boyz opened the tourney by hanging a four spot on overmatched Grenada, followed up it up with a 2-0 victory over Guatemala and concluded the group stage with a convincing 1-0 war of attrition and substitution over Honduras.

The Reggae Boyz have deployed predominantly in a 3-4-3 at the Gold Cup, but against Honduras shifted to a 4-4-2 resting many of their key starters.

The difference in their Honduran schematic was the positioning of MLS striker-forward Ryan Johnson who shifted into a split forward deployment with Dane Richards. In the center, however, is Johnson’s key position this tourney. He has assumed the “big striker role” of injured Ricardo Fuller ; he’s in form and delivering the goods in Gold Cup 2011 with two goals and solid play.

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USWNT: Positioning More Core To US Backline Success Than Experience

Editors’s Note:  The US Women are on the ground in Germany, but how will their back four fare on the pitch?

TSG guest columnist Maura Gladys takes a look. Offer her some feedback.

Christie Rampone, has nearly all the "Been there, done that" of the back four.

A quick scan down the U.S. Women’s World Cup roster and it looks like the U.S. boasts a veteran back line. With Christie Rampone 35, the only holdover from the 1999 World Cup, Amy LePeilbet, 29, Heather Mitts, 32, Ali Krieger, 26, and Rachel Buehler,

Mitts, for all her experience, will likely be doing here high-5'ing on the sideline this summer...

Stephanie Cox and Becky Sauerbrunn, all 25, the average age is a seasoned 28.75. However, the experience of the group is a far different story. Take away Mitts, who will not likely see many minutes this tournament, and LePeilbet, Krieger, Buehler, Cox and Sauerbrunn collectively total 197 caps, 37 less than Rampone has amassed in her career.

More numbers?

Total number of world cup appearance? Six. Four for Rampone, two for Cox.

Olympic appearances? Three for Rampone, two for Mitts and one for Buehler and Cox.

But numbers only show so much. The more significant issue is whether this perceived lack of experience will negatively affect the play of the U.S.’s defense.

Short answer? No.

Slightly longer answer?

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Re-Post: The Moment: Genesis Of A Salute

I’ve eschewed writing this post for some time–mostly because it it could come across in a misrepresented way–but with the absolutely terrific Steve Zakuani tribute on Saturday and positing the question to the audience, well, I’d say it’s about time.

And let me comment, that I hope “on-the-minute” soccer tributes live-on, regardless of nation or team or any qualifier.
9
October 2009

For some odd reason, I remember the two day burst of the Charlie Davies accident and Salute quite vividly. I have a fairly typical photographic memory–if I’ve driven to someplace in my life once I can get back there without direction.

That said the morning of Tuesday, October 13th stands out quite vividly.

It actually started at about 2am PST with a cryptic tweet from Maurice Edu. Twitter has long since deleted the tweet–and if that memory serves me correctly so did Maurice Edu–but Edu’s twitter spun out a somewhat haunting and foreboding message, “Oh it’s terrible. It’s terrible.”

As fans new to twitter and with fewer athletes on at the time, Edu received a deluge of returning tweets with, “What is it Mo?” or “Everything, ok?”

No response. I went to sleep. But Maurice Edu would be a key figure, and the content would frame a difficult day for US soccer fans.

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