Archive for July, 2011

The 2011 MLS All-Stars According To Hans Backe

Hans Backe has spoken.

Sean Franklin...but you knew this picture was going here...

Below is his game-day roster to match Manchester United in the MLS All-Star Game July 27 at Red Bull Arena. That last statement was contradictory I know.

As long as Brad Davis was on the roster, it was mostly acceptable. Some consternation over the exclusion of Chad Marshall and Joel Lindpere.

I did not think Charlie Davies deserving of all-star status at this time.

Your thoughts?

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2011 MLS All-Star game-day roster

Goalkeeper: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Faryd Mondragón (Philadelphia Union)

Defenders: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Bobby Convey (San Jose Earthquakes), Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy), Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake),Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls).

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo),Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers), Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Cummings(Colorado Rapids), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Inactive All-Stars (Note that another six inactive All-Stars will be chosen via player voting): Kasey Keller(Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Rafa Marquez (New York Red Bulls), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

Women’s World Cup Final: Japan Keeps Coming…And The US Capitulates…

TSG’s Maura Gladys on the intersection of fandom and objectivity after yesterday’s US Women’s World Cup Final loss.

The US ladies get close, but are upended by a Japan team that kept coming...

In the end, this whole tournament was about heart. We saw that in yesterday’s championship match, in the semifinals, quarterfinals, and group stage. We saw that in the way teams played with the grace, creativity and fire that can only come from a good heart.

I’d like to say I was heartbroken after yesterday’s match, when the United States fell to Japan in penalty kicks in the World Cup final. But my brand of heartbreak is easy to take when you put it in perspective with the heartbreak that the Japan squad, and its country, is dealing with. And because this tournament was about heart, and heartbreak, there couldn’t have been a more fitting outcome.

Japan had their own perfect match today, almost identical to the one that the USA celebrated a week earlier. Two comebacks, one of them in the dying minutes of the second overtime period, followed by a triumphant penalty kick victory. For anyone other than a United States supporter, this was a classic ending.

But for the U.S., what about Destiny? What about the idea that there was something special about this U.S. team that was going to guide them to a World Cup championship, regardless of on-field factors?

Make no mistake about it, the United States lost this game. They weren’t unjustly carded, weren’t robbed of a win thanks to a bad call. They lost. They dominated much of the game, were ahead, twice, and let Japan back into the game, twice, then failed to convert on three of their four penalty kicks. As sobering as it is, they lost. But it wasn’t without impressive possession play, goals from the present and future of the American attack, and some trade-mark USWNT drama.

“It is pretty clear to most of us that we are not going to see the same Japan team that we saw the last couple of friendlies. They are playing for something bigger and better than the game. When you are playing with so much emotion and so much heart, that’s hard to play against.”- Hope Solo

Whether it was a gut feeling or a calculated move, Pia Sundhage knew that Amy Rodriguez finally had to sit. After five largely ineffective games, Sundhage benched the striker in favor of right winger Megan Rapinoe, allowing Lauren Cheney to start up top. This way, Cheney could drop into the midfield, to morph the team into a 4-5-1, keeping the midfield tight and compact to better deal with Japan’s passing game.

Sundhage’s switch, as always, paid off immediately. Both Cheney and Rapinoe came out strong, serving up balls to teammates and coming close themselves.

No one could blame Wambach if she had a few choice words for the crossbar after the match..

Just 20 seconds into the game, Cheney broke through the Japanese defense and barely missed sliding it over to Abby Wambach in the middle.

For the entire first half, the U.S. dictated the pace, pushed forward and created chances, but in a reversion to old habits, failed to finish. Cheney put one just wide in the eighth minute. Rapinoe missed at 12” and clanged one off the post at 18”. Wambach sent up a beautiful shot in the 27th minute, that was headed straight for the back of the net, but knocked off the far edge of the crossbar. Flashbacks of the United States’ warm up match with Mexico, when the United States could not find the net until Lauren Cheney’s stoppage time screamer, began to creep in as the teams went into halftime tied at zero.

After halftime, Lauren Cheney emerged from the tunnel with her right shoe off and a large bag of ice wrapped around her sock. She had suffered an injury during the first half and wouldn’t be able to continue, making way for striker Alex Morgan. It was a switch that quite possibly would have happened eventually anyway, provided less distribution, but more speed.

With each scoreless minute that ticked, Japan’s confidence grew. Their touches were clean, their passes accurate. It was almost like the United States was in a race with the clock to net a goal before Japan’s momentum and confidence reached an unstoppable level.

“The breakthrough at long last.”  -Ian Darke

At 69 minutes, Morgan, whom the team has taken to calling Baby Horse, due to her status as the team’s youngest player and her speedy gallop, collected a brilliant long ball from Megan Rapinoe and was off to the races against her defender. After getting a step on her marker, she coolly slotted a low ball past goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori to give the United States a 1-0 lead. The goal was the product of absolutely swarming defense by the United States at the other end of the field when no less than three defenders crowded around striker Yuki Nagasata until she coughed it up, allowing Rapinoe to spring Morgan.

"Here, I've got this thing jabbing me in my side. It's kind of heavy to tote around. It's a torch. Here you take it."

The ten minutes that followed Morgan’s goal was probably the best possession soccer that the United States played all tournament. Armed with the confidence of a one-goal lead, the U.S. made Japan chase, and possessed around them, as Japan fought for its World Cup life. But the Nadeshiko got a reprieve in the 80th minute, when a U.S. defensive blunder put the ball on a silver platter for Aya Miyama.

Pressing forward, Nagasato sent a cross in from the right wing to Karina Maruyama,that was snuffed out by Rachel Buehler, who slid in step with Maruyama. But, in an effort to clear the ball, Buehler turned, while still half on the ground, and booted her clearance right at Ali Krieger. The ball deflected off Krieger, who was racing towards the play, and fell right to Miyama who had a point blank shot at Hope Solo from about six yards out, something she wasn’t about to miss. One all. Despite some good attacks by both teams, regulation would end in a tie.

“If the U.S. ends up winning this, they’re gonna have to bronze that beautiful dome of hers”-Julie Foudy, after Abby Wambach’s go-ahead goal.

After 90 minutes, Sundhage had made just one sub, due to an injury, an uncharacteristic move for the coach, who usually makes at least two subs in the second half, sometimes three. But with Rapinoe already on the field, and A-Rod not a good fit for the current U.S. system, there was no logical switch. Sundhage certainly wasn’t going to sub for Lloyd or Boxx, who had their best game as a midfield partnership. The two bossed the midfield completely for almost an entire World Cup Championship game, plus overtime, a feat that seemed impossible a few weeks ago.

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USA vs. Japan: Women’s World Cup Final: Live Commentary

All the marbles. All the pretzels, so to speak.

USA vs. Japan. For the Cup.

Japan is no stranger to the Ali Krieger & the USWNT, losing two friendlies to the US just two months ago by identical 2-0 scorelines...

A quick aside here. The US ladies should probably first thank Japan when they line-up and shake hands.

It was Japan that took down heavy hometown favorite Germany in the first knockout.

Then it was Japan that took out the US group stage foil Sweden–who presented probably the most difficult challenger tactically to the States in the Women’s World Cup.

Carli Lloyd is looking to bounce back from a tough France match...

What that does say about Japan is that allusions that the US should win outright are miserly misplaced, even though the States went 2-0 against Japan in a friendly series less than 60 days ago.

Kickoff is set for 2:45 ET on ESPN. (Ratings expectation here in the States? Let’s go with a very strong 9.0 which would trump the USMNT’s knockout against Ghana just a year ago (8.2).)

Starting line-ups coming along shortly.

In the meantime, brush up if you haven’t:

The Official TSG Preview here.

Jeff Carlisle: US faces tough test against Japan.

The All White Kit: There Won’t Be Any Suprises Between These Two.

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And if you’ve somehow missed them, two must-read USWNT interviews:

Heather O’Reilly: Another Champion Label Awaits: Heather O’Reilly

Alex Morgan: Sounds Like A Veteran, Plays Like A Veteran…Oh Wait, It’s Alex Morgan

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Enjoy the match.

* Oh one more note, since I haven’t been able to mention it yet.

Carli Lloyd (pictured up on the left) was so dominant in college that she asked to practice with the men’s team at Rutgers because she wasn’t challenged playing against her women’s opponents. Wow.

Not To Be Outdone? Ode To O’Reilly

The actual email exchange below.

———-

1:06AM:

i saw the rapinoe song friday and knew i had to make one for heather o’reilly, so i did:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsEz9cFNP5U
i had already been thinking of making a team song…i was gonna rhyme rapinoe with “neato”.  casino is a much better choice.

anyway, when i heard someone had made one for rapinoe i had to hurry up!  made in less than 1.5 days. (i’m kinda proud how quick it came together) hope you like it.

Jeff

———-

Fantastic.
American Idoly-type stuff.
This will go up now.
Thanks,
Matthew

———-

(Now if someone does one in 45 minutes for Hope Solo to Bette Midler’s “The Wind Beneath My Wings” I might literally die.)

Women’s World Cup Final Primer: US vs. Japan

Update: USA vs. Japan: Live Commentary…right here

TSG’s Maura Gladys almost home with her primer for the Women’s World Cup Final.

Rodriguez will start of course...

There’s really not much to talk about at this point. We can talk about tactics, strategy and lineups for hours, but it won’t do any good.

The U.S. is big and physical.  The Japanese are short and speedy.

Rapinoe's version of the Haka...

Amy Rodriguez will start. Megan Rapinoe will not.

The United States will probably looked frazzled at some points.

But for all intents and purposes, what’d done is done. After 90 minutes (hopefully) tomorrow in Frankfurt, a new Women’s World Cup Champion will be crowned, and either team competing for the title will be deserving.

What we do know is that the two friendlies that the teams played in May, which the U.S. won by identical scores of 2-0, are inaccurate reflections of both teams.

Japan still plays the same disciplined, possession style that they did in May, but on top of that, they’ve added a creative, dynamic attack and a willingness to mix it up and take outside shots instead of always trying to play into the box.

The United States, for as much as they talked about switching to a possession-based style at the time, has been making it’s living off of aggressive play and set pieces.

As different as the two squad’s seem, they have some striking similarities, that could factor into tomorrow’s match.

Sawa on Wambach

Homare Sawa, the team’s unquestioned veteran leader, has, as her counterpart for this situation, Abby Wambach, put it, “literally [put] her team on her back and [carried] them to the final. “ She’s done this with four goals in five matches, three of which were scored with her head.

Sound familiar? Wambach only has three goals, two with her head, one with her shoulder, but the sentiment is still there, and it’s clear that Wambach, one of the team’s veteran leaders, has done as much as Sawa to inspire her own team.

The two teams also share an adeptness for set pieces. Japan has the brilliant Aya Miyama who has three assists, and can bend or float a ball to a certain spot at will.  The U.S. counters with Lauren Cheney and Megan Rapinoe behind the ball and, of course, the head of Abby Wambach towering over defenders.

One other potential factor is who scores first. Against both Brazil and France, the United States jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, then sat back while their opponents continuously gunned for a leveler. If the U.S. is going to score first, it would almost be better if it came a little later in the game. This way, the squad would already be settled into a rhythm and wouldn’t just be pleased with its great start.

In the end, and we know this going into it, this game is about heart, and hope, and all that good stuff that we talk about when we know that it’s about more than a game. Both teams have already displayed a remarkable amount of intangibles to get to this point, and you almost don’t want to see either side lose, if only for the compelling storylines that come out of a victory. Either Japan brings glory and happiness to a wounded nation, or the U.S. writes a happy ending to its fairytale. Either way, hearts will be broken tomorrow.

But don’t worry about that for now. Be excited. Let the Megan Rapinoe song get stuck in your head, pump up some “Never Solo” and tonight, let the sweet sweet melodies of Pia Sundhage’s version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feelin’ Groovy” lull you to sleep.

2011 Transfer Time: Silly Season Is Going Down! Bottom’s Up!

Ah it’s silly season…when rumors of Wayne Rooney heading to Barcelona, Manchester City signing every player from Barcelona and AS Roma signing all the Americans run rampant.

Let's sell some papers....AND it came true!

First, stop what you’re doing. If you haven’t read our piece from last transfer season about how most US (and pretty much any nation’s) transfer rumors are really just a stupid spiral of creating clicks from your computer to some failing online newspaper, be sure to do that.

Here’s the equation again, if you don’t want to fall into our trap of clicking on one of our columns:

US (or any) Player + Newly promoted team with budget OR Team with history of employing players of same ilk as Player + Dodgy, Sensational Publication = Suspect Rumor

Keep that one in your back pocket as you hear the ridiculous rumors of Wesley Sneijder bound for City, Landon Donovan for Newcastle or RVP for Mars. (Not sure even Mars wants to deal with Van Persie’s ego….unless he’s healthy.)

Oh and by the way for all the bbbbbuzz about AS Roma picking up every American from Jermaine Jones to Jack McBean, the tally of Americans at Daniel De Rossi’s stomping grounds is precisely zilch.

So let’s kickoff our silly season coverage with the following:

• Here’s what’s gone down (over the past week)

• Here’s what’s rumored to be going down (some more incredible than others)

and…

• Here’s some hypothetical trades….if there were, you know, trades between teams and leagues.

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Shouldn't this be Cesc in this picture?

Here’s what’s gone down (over the past week)

» Stewart Downing rolls from Aston Villa down to Liverpool to join newcomers Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson

The skinny: Along with the addition of Sunderland up-and-comer Jordan Henderson and Blackpool standout (though apparently locker room villian) Charlie Adam, Liverpool’s front six (with a healthy Andy Carroll presumed) is taking on a very lethal appearance….and perhaps more importantly doesn’t need to rely on the health or wistfulness of one Steven Gerrard (might Gerrard be Fed-Ex’d somewhere shortly?).

Just yesterday, Liverpool scooped up the Revivalist Known as Stewart Downing. Once the heir apparent to David Beckham on the Three Lions, Downing went down with Middlesborough in relegation a few years, was procured by Aston Villa, proclaimed his allegiance to the club and became a mainstay on the flank for them. He’ll get the same chance at Liverpool and add width to an attack that includes carbo-burner Dirk Kuyt as well. Scary…scary as well for Joe Cole who now may need to look for work in Germany…or Turkey? … or the Red Bulls….(now that would be good rumor starting right there….)

Seems like Liverpool’s Carroll splash has done the job, no?

» Gervinho to Arsenal

The skinny: The Eduardo that Arsene Wenger never had. TSG is predicting a fantasy explosion for the Lille forward winger. With Andrei Arshavin motivated by (night)club appearances and Samir Nasri playing “He loves me; he loves me not” with Wenger and the Emirates, a solid pick-up here for the London powerhouse.

Another Riise....really?!!!

» John Arne Risse’s left boot and that’s about it inbound to Fulham from Roma

The skinny: Unfortunately this isn’t the 2002 version of Risse. It’s real nice that Risse wants to link up with his brother Bjorn (also at Craven Cottage), but if you’re trying to appeal to the wandering eye of Clint Dempsey or Brede Hangeland, there’s got to be something better up the Cottagers sleeve this month or that Michael Jackson statue is going to get vandalized by frustrated fans.

» Ashley Young once a Villian, now plays a Red Devil

The skinny: Ashley Young to Manchester United–that’s going to be a nightmare for opponents. So now United possess two capable and true wide players in Antonio Valencia and Young, either of whom can be offset or rested for Nani.

As in Nani, the 1st half MVP for United last season.

Fergie has figured out that to give life to Wayne Rooney, it’s not follicles that are needed, but license to drop deep for ball reception and linking, with acreage provided ahead of him by the off-ball movement of Chicharito. Scary. United are going be a bundle for their foils next year with a formation that’s going to look more like a 4-2-4 with a diamond at the top.

» Brad Freidel to carries a Rednapp(sack) next season.

The skinny: Hmm, stay at Villa where the management is in flux and the club is hemmoraging attackers OR….or…head to Spurs and challenge Heurelho Gomes for a starting role and the right to watch Bale’s rumbles from an excellent vantage point?

Where do I sign?

The days of playing in the snow with Robinho are over for Micah Richards

» Gael Clichy, just your everyday Citizen.

The skinny:  That sound you just heard? Either it was the thud of coin hitting Clichy’s bank account or it was Micah Richards hitting the treadmill realizing that the good ol’ days are over unless he restricts the waistline.

» Mourinho gets his man, Fabio Coentrao

The skinny: Ashley Cole’s number has just been deleted from Mourinho’s contacts. This is the year for Real Madrid if it ever will be under Ye Old Special One.

Malaga...yes Malaga...here we come!

» Malaga. Okay, who wants to join Malaga?

The skinny: Malaga has been downright insane this offseason. They’re like Manchester City’s bastard child or something.

Here’s who they’ve already rolled the dice on: Jeremy Toulalan, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Joris Mathijsen, Isco, Martin Demichelis.

There like your buddy in your fantasy league who buys on reputation…from 2004 and he may get real lucky….or not.

Next up, Lucho Gonzalez or Damien Duff? How ’bout Michael Owen?

» US national David Yelldell with a doozy of an opportunity at Leverkusen

The skinny: Okay, you make the call. More amazing? Yelldell is a solid American goalkeeper and he has hair or incoming from Duisberg Yelldell finds himself in the thick of a battle for the starting spot at the #2 team in the Bundesliga because ace keeper Rene Adler is out with knee surgery.

Yelldell, perhaps the most interesting American abroad to watch as the 2011-2012 campaign gets underway.

» Fabio Quagliarella, Andres Pirlo to Juventus

The skinny: Wedding season at Juventus as they pick up something old in midfield maestro Pirlo from Milan and something new, “Q” who should set the league on fire freed from a Napoli team that often wasn’t enough about him.

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