Archive for October, 2011

The Fan In You: How Portugal Changed My Heart

In The Fan In You (TFIY) series, TSG explores how a fan became fanatical about their favorite team. This piece about the sport itself.

Arguably Benfica's greatest....Eusebio...

By: RJ DeMello

The beautiful game enveloped me completely in the summer of 2006. A school trip in my sophomore year of high school to Portugal opened my eyes to the sport I had written off years before. It was pure coincidence and has turned into pure addiction.

Growing up in Rhode Island (you know smallest state, mobsters by the name of Joey Bananas, something written by the Farley brother, I get it) I had the typical American attitude towards the sport.

Joe Max for the Revolution...

My dad will always be the ultimate sports fan, if jai alai was on, he would find a reason to get behind one player and watch the entire match. He would turn on the Revolution in the late 1990’s to “support the home team.” He had zero concept of what was going on but nonetheless there we were sitting and watching the ball go back and forth, and back and forth. I just sat there, petulantly stewing all game long, complaining of how boring and stupid the game was.

Anything but this would be better to watch, give me jai alai, the Electric Company, FALCON CREST!.

Years of this went by until I hoped on a plane in May of 2006 with a few of my classmates to visit Portugal on a school trip.

All of a sudden, this weird game Europeans loved so much enveloped me. Driving down the main drag in Lisbon I distinctly remember seeing a giant banner draped over a building with Cristiano Ronaldo on it and thinking, “Who the hell is that pretty boy?”

Sporting Ronaldo...

Looking back at my naivety, I am embarrassed. One of the biggest stars of the sport, I am even in his home country, and I don’t have the slightest clue who this guy is.

It only gets worse from there. On our continued tour of the city, we stopped outside of the big red wonder that is the Estadio de Luz. One of the great stadiums the featured one of the greatest teams in Europe.

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Clint Dempsey Will Karatacize Your *ss

Matt Mathai. On a loaner camera after getting rained on in Miami.

I triple dog dare you to find a better picture taken of the USMNT this year!

Our next orator is Fulham’s Clint Dempsey, who will speak on the art of Ecuadorian Attack Philosophies in Contemporary Time. Clint?

"....but you knew he would try this"

The US Falls To Ecuador, 1-0, In Anything But A Bullfight

So if the US beats Ghana in the Round of 16 at World Cup 2014 will the end justify the means?

Jozy was on the ball Tuesday...

The US players walked off the field on Tuesday night in Red Bull Arena with the fat kid on the other side of the see-saw as US manager Jurgen Klinsmann saw his match record drop, while the US dropped a 1-0 decision to Ecuador. Two goals for through five matches, four goals conceded. One win.

Ask yourself this question–an unfair one perhaps to the last manager–would you rather see Tuesday’s performance against Ecuador where the US dominated possession and statistically measured out far ahead of their opponent or would you rather see a draw against mighty Argentina with forward long balls raining down like misguided tailgate footballs?

There is no right answer and that really is an unfair question really as former manager Bob Bradley was never given carte blanche to reform the program while that is the edict–one of many success metrics that are unknown–of the new manager Jurgen Klinsmann.

If the perspective is taken that it is still a year away from World Cup qualifying then this was a positive performance.

This was a difficult match to review, but a succinct one to pick out some of the positive and negatives.

The Positives

The US defense came through with strong marks. Yes, Ecuador treated opportunities on goal like jelly beans at Easter. Yes, Tim Ream made a rookie mistake and was embarrassingly beaten for a header that should have never happened. [Hey Tim, mistakes happen, but when you thrust your arms down to the side and act like a kid who just had his baseball cards stolen, it doesn’t scream “future leader.”]

However, beyond that, the US was stout. Oguchi Onyewu ran with forwards and covered when Steve Cherundolo lacked some pace. Carlos Bocanegra played clean-up on the scraps that somehow got passed Timmy Chandler. It may not have been the strongest effort from Bocanegra, but the US backline was more cohesive and working in unison. If blame is shouldered by captain when the defense is disorganized, then credit must come on the reverse.

All-stop! Tim Chandler, only received one sheet of gloss.

Take a step back and realize the Timmy Chandler has contained Antonio Valencia and Eden Hazard over the past month plus for the States–on the inverse flank nonetheless! That’s special–whether you’re playing in Red Bull Arena or the Red Bull Arena parking lot.

On the right flank, Steve Cherundolo was challenged at times, but once again was flawless in his mental focus. Cherundolo is older and has been off-form and he like Bocanegra will give way to youth shortly, but consider this. “If you’re trying to learn to build possession an offense from the back, do you really want a leaky defense compromising that?”

Shea, a giant in the making...

Cries that Brek Shea should be converting more opportunities or still has ways to go are bunk.

Shea is a player developing right now. It’s exciting to watch. What’s perhaps more exciting is how Shea is reading the game, understanding when to attack and when to create width. It was no coincidence that after an initial look-off early from Clint Dempsey in the left corner, that the Fulham veteran started playing more and more balls to the active Dallas winger.

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East to Eden: The Eastern Conference & Its MLS Cup Dark Horses

James Grossi covers MLS with a focus on the Eastern Conference for TSG

The Preamble

MVP candidate Dominic Oduro has le....wait Dominic Oduro! Yes, MVP candidate Dominic Oduro has led the Fire to the cusp of the playoffs....

A cursory glance at the MLS standings could give the impression that there is an imbalance of power between the Western and Eastern Conferences.

Los Angeles, Seattle, Salt Lake, Dallas, and reigning champions Colorado are indeed the class of the league. Toronto, New England, DC, New York, Columbus, Kansas City and even current table toppers Philadelphia have all struggled at various times this season.

Whether this holds true would require an in-depth analysis of each club’s schedule, their stability, and the current state of their roster evolution, but based purely on points, the West is the superior conference, by an average ~0.16 points-per-game.

This season’s playoff structure sees three guaranteed spots for each conference, and a further four wildcard places for the highest-ranking remaining sides from either conference. Those final four candidates will play a one-match play-in tie, winner moving on to complete the four team groups that will combat the quarterfinals (conference semifinals).

With the final two weeks of the regular season in progress – matches kickoff Wednesday night – the current standings see seven clubs battling for those four wildcard spots, with two applicants from each conference holding down the positions.

Three clubs from the West and four from the East remain in the running for those playoff berths. The guaranteed Western spots are all locked up, while those in the East have not yet been clinched.

Two of those three Western wildcard applicants – Dallas and Colorado – are alive in the CONCACAF Champions League as well, which will take some of their attention away from league play. Portland – the remaining Western candidate – play their three remaining games spread over nine days, with two of them on the road, a place they have not fared very well.

The East – with more clubs alive and fighting – sees only a ten-point spread between first and seventh; plenty to play for in the remaining matches.

Though the apparent strength of the Western Conference makes it appear inevitable that the MLS Cup champion will come from their ranks, playoffs are a beast different to league play. The ability to perform night in and night out is very different from showing up when the pressure is on.

With that in mind, it is better to come in battling for progression than to coast in; to be tempered in the fire of do-or-die prepares a team for the winner-takes-all nature of the playoffs.

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USA vs. Ecuador: Live Commentary

About to get it on in Red Bull Arena in New Jersey. It’s the USA. It’s Ecuador. There are no marbles involved.

Some solid manu-et-manu match-ups though: Chandler vs. Valencia, Benitez vs. Bocanegra, Noboa vs. Williams–perhaps.

Starting line-ups shortly…as well as your commentary.

Dempsey rips around the corner...

Orange Slices: USA vs. Ecuador

Orange Slices! USA vs. Ecuador

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day before the match
———

This ain’t your adolescent Honduras.

The USA welcomes Ecuador to the cement concrete confines of Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. Game five of the Jurgen Klinsmann era. Will it still be the Orozco Fiscal era? Good question.

A welcome homecoming today for Tim Howard (MetroStars), Michael Bradley (MetroStars) Jozy Altidore (Red Bulls), Juan Agudelo (Red Bulls) and Tim Ream (Red Bulls).

Kickoff today at 7pm ET, 4pm PT.

Broadcast:

ESPN returns to the press box for this USMNT game. That means a crisper picture and internet coverage. Thank you ESPN. The Spanish broadcast by Univision–who do a great job as well.

Alexi Lalas in the studio for the Ocho, 30 minutes before the first Beckerman tackle.

As always if you have a stream for the ex-pats drop it below.

TSG Coverage

TSG’s OFFICIAL USA vs. ECUADOR PREVIEW
Live Commentary: Right here at TSG*

Around the web:

Podcasts that are worth it:

» These guys clean-up well. The Best Soccer Show kicks off with an inaugural episode dedicated to Chuck Blazer look-a-like, Dr. Ruth…and some Honduras commentary of course.

» The Total Soccer Show juxtaposes their review of USA vs. Honduras with some datapoints from Opta.

Reading material:

» An excellent contrarian view to the Donovan-Dempsey expectation-versus-achievement debate. Good stuff.

...but can he score off the pitch!

» Soccer Over There breaks down Herculez Gomez’s astounding record coming off the bench south of the border.

» Legacy: The Jose Torres Vortex

Weather forecast:

Remember those picturesque Fall days where you couldn’t wait to finish 8th period, so you could get to soccer practice and then go grab some pizza with the guys afterward because it was so nice.

Nice job Harrison, NJ….way to outclass Miami Gardens, FL. 65-to-70 and sunny at the start tomorrow.

Surf forecast:

C’mon…not this time buddy. Asbury Park, your closest break. But wait there’s a hurricane! Yes, but that’s on the Pacific Coast so San Francisco doesn’t get any USMNT matches, but it’ll get some waves.

Not much else on the surf here so we’ll give you these two random nuggets:

» Sunny Garcia (d*ck) talking smack to Kelly Slater on Twitter.

» And a classic from 2008: You’re not gnarly unless you’ve dodged a jet ski at Teauhpoo. Fact!

Public Service Announcement:

Mr. Chopper...

» Coming to a theater near you. The Jay DeMerit Story. Nice work all around. Check out the locations here…..or check out our interview with Jay’s….beard, yes beard, from earlier this year.

How goes against the Galapagos:

The US-Ecuador Series:

  • The U.S. holds a 2-4-4 record against Ecuador, but both wins have come in the last two meetings.
  • After only scoring two goals in eight games (both in a 2-2 draw on Dec. 2, 1984), the U.S. finally earned their first victory against Ecuador on March 10, 2002, with a 1-0 victory in Birmingham, Ala.
  • A young Tim Howard earned his first cap and first shutout that day.
  • In the next match of the series, the U.S. was led by all-time leading goalscorer Landon Donovan who registered a hat trick in a 3-1 victory on March 25, 2007, in Tampa, Fla.

FakeBob Rants On Klinsy, Omar, Orozco

FakeBobBradley with an epic rant last evening. Reproduced with his consent below.
You’ll need to read from the bottom up.

FakeBob went on the attack...

I’d challenge @FakeKlinsmann to a Twitter duel, but I think he would just give excuses that he’s building for the future instead of scoring.

These guys thought Moses was something. THEY AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET!

Oh, last thing. The weather here. Really gives a new meaning to “sweats.” OUT!

After the Beibs of course. He’s the diggity RT @The_Real_DA Yes! @FakeBobBradley is tweeting again. The best twitter feed there is.

So does the USMNT my friend. So does the USMNT RT @DanaWessel @FakeBobBradley Miss ya, coach.

This has been fun. Maybe we can do this tomorrow. I’ll bring the strategy, experience & hummus and Klinsmann can bring his notepad.

Except for my attire RT @FJGadsby If there’s anything that can be said for @FakeBobBradley, it’s that he prevents you from falling asleep.

I just got an email from Twitter. They think my account have been compromised. Um, that happened a long time ago thank you very much Sunil!!

There are a lot of distractions here. Like gunfire and bombings and annoying little people that speak about a thing called democracy.

I’ve always wanted to not use an MLS players. AND NOT I HAVE MY CHANCE. MU-HAH-HAH-HAH!

I just got retweeted by @fire_bobbradley — the guy with that handle is either confused or can be found wearing a LeBron Cavaliers jersey.

I have to go soon. The 17 quarters that gave me 3 mins & 45 seconds at the laundromat down the street on the 56K connection are almost up.

Not to be outdone by the oh-so-original Kaiser, I’ve decided that our kits will employ hieroglyphics when we face Brazil. Take that Blondie!

I think it’s great that the US is having open practices now. Might as well be open-bar too.

Dear @FakeKlinsmann, I have rounded out my staff WITH ASSISTANT COACHES THAT ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING!

Fire Jurgen Klinsmann! (“Just got that t-shirt from Junior in the mail”) ….oh f*ck, I thought I was dm’ing Omar again.

In a nod to my successor in America, I’ve decided to recruit players from the Sudan. I’ve heard the Sudano influence cures all!

Who do you think will have more goals in 2012? The USMNT or Robbie Findley. Think before you answer, you’ll thank me.

I love that @FakeKlinsmann gave Landon, Dempsey’s #10 kit. How cute. Might as well give Orozco Fiscal, Bornstein’s #12 kit.

Really excited about our new centerback prospect! Mohamed Omarus Abdul Gonzalez.

Do I have this straight? Fans are excited about a 1-0 victory over a JV team in the rain? I thought the expectations were supposed to go up?

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