Archive for January, 2012

Pep. Mourinho. Bradley? Klinsmann? The US El Clasico

John Nyen sees parallels

The two managers sit across from each other, both hooked up to the machine. The humming and whirring increases as they are instructed by the lab technician in the white coat.

“Think of your ideal, of what you want your team to become. Imagine the best possible scenario, with the best possible players, on the largest scale. What we will see is a real world simulation of that, from start to finish.”

On the overhead monitor the scene comes into focus and the teams walk out onto the field with one group all in white and the other in the blaugrana. The managers step back from the machine and begin to watch.

It strikes as odd that the similarities–loosely at minimum– What I speak of here is Real Madrid and Barcelona as the logical elite ideal example of what the US men’s soccer team could become. In these two teams are the very ideals of the last two (and some could say three) coaches of the United States men’s soccer team. Certainly there are differences, and it is important to recognize and discard these in order to get to the meat of the matter.

The USMNT's new possession navigator...

With the Jurgen Klinsmann-Barcelona comparison the difference is that Barcelona play more through their midfield, slinging passes together in creative rhythm, while the USA (under Klinsmann) is being built to attack more down the flanks using wingers and play from the LB/RB position.

With the Bob Bradley-Real Madrid comparison the difference is that Madrid tend to control play against most of their opponents (with the exception of Barcelona). As a caveat though to this difference, one could argue that Bradley’s team during their nadir fell under the same spell. They would control the game more so playing inexperienced and physical sides while having difficulty with quick/skill based sides.

Having stated that though, the similarities in this one particular game are striking.

Looking at this through Bradley’s ideal you have Real Madrid playing counter attack soccer, packing their side of the ball with defenders who break down the offense with their shape and then funneling the ball out via long passes (usually by the stalwart linking midfielder Xabi Alonso) to attack the opposing team when they are at their most vulnerable, AKA when the opposing team has committed players on offense. Defensively oriented, Real Madrid relies on work rate, formation, and shape to thwart more offensive teams.

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USA vs. Venezuela: Lucy, I’m Home!

Ricardo FTW!

The US’s January Cupcake Campers took on Venezuela’s B-minus side Saturday night in Glendale, Arizona.

And while the run of play favored the States, it was unlikely former scapegoat in Rico Clark who provided the only nail in the coffin as the US opened their pair of camp-closing games with a 1-0 victory.

Let’s just break in down good, bad and indifferent-style:

The Good

• Synergy at Centerback

The Venezuelans offered too much room for the States and Bill Hamid might as well’ve been already in his Phoenix club gear, but the partnership between Geoff “The Corporal” Cameron and Michael Parkhurst was solid–but rarely tasked–in tandem last night.

Both we’re active in managing both the line and their outside fullbacks–the latter in different ways. Cameron offered covered for an unfocused Heath Pearce by merely cleaning up anything that came through or over the top while Parkhurst played the angles when AJ DeLaGarza would forage forward.

US center midfielder Jermaine Jones might’ve had some audacious plays on the evening, but five (5) turnover left the backline under the potential for duress and all were snuffed out by Jurgen Klinsmann’s pairing.

A good opening bid for more time from botH.

The Bad

• A Little More Please

JJ: What did you expect?

Hard to judge “bad” in this game, but here’s the riddle: Don’t you expect a former Champion’s League club team starter and a World Cup vet to do just a little bit more in the middle of the field.

While Jermaine Jones and Benny Feilhaber were two of the best players on field Saturday night, both still should have done more with their opportunities.

For Jones, his first touch often betrayed him and his see-saw game saw one threaded pass here and one “did he really try that play” over there. Jones didn’t take his chances well either.

For Feilhaber, his onfield hissy fits after getting dragged down in the box are not the moxie you expect of a World Cup vet. Sure Feilhaber had his customary seeing-eye passes of brilliances put too often he didn’t do enough, was reactive or was caught pouting after a no-call. It’s the same thing from rec league on up. Certain referees call it certain ways. Adapt or die. A player with his pedigree should not only know that, but also be one of the voices of reasons for younger players.

Reaction Action

More on the reactive front. It was a common theme for a set of players not comfortable playing with one another yet.

It also started from the top where Teal Bunbury really didn’t show enough of any one skill to be considered a legitimate contender for US senior side action….if this was a single observation. Bunbury was challenged in hold-up play, late from time to time and seemed slow to comprehend what was going on. Teal will get better, but then again so will those around him.

The Indifferent Disclaimer

The level of play makes this a very difficult game to rate players. Some miscellaneous notes:

Pearce was usually late justifying himself with the backline...

• Heath Pearce didn’t acquit himself all the well on the left keeping Venezuelan attackers onside three times. Pearce with out the ball flowing through him seemed to float in and out of the game.

• Jeff Larentowicz was a non-factor, but that’s not a bad thing. In a game like this where, the other side was posing no threat, Larentowicz did his primarily defensive job and allowed Feilhaber and Jones to get forward.

• Chris Wondolowski, the extremely poor man’s Klaas Van huntelaar. It’s clear Wondo has a tremendous soccer brain and that–and a lethal right foot when he gets a rip–should give him squad looks (top 18) time to time.

Differing opinions on Graham Zusi, but the Sporting KC man was adept at one thing. Two-touching and moving the ball quickly. Zusi’s rate of play was good. he’ll get a look with the senior team and some point this year.

AJ DeLaGarza showed the speed that has allowed him to become a central defending force in MLS. The challenge at the international level will be the position. DeLaGarza can’t cross the ball and is better playing an attacker vertically rather than confronting a winger coming off the corner. A good utility man at some level.

—–

On to Panama.

Sunday Live Commentary: United vs. Arsenal; City vs. Spurs

Scotty Parker having a tough go of it so far this morning.

Later Fox has the big one.

I'm not coming down until you give me another midfielder...

Venezuela vs. US Friendly: Live Commentary

And away we go.

The armband...

Orange Slices: USA vs. Venezuela Preview

January is treating TSG like Gio Dos Santos doing the US at the 2011 Gold Cup. Unmercifully. Ouch.

Parkhurst gets his shot?

Thanks for baring with us.

On to what you came here for.

The US attempts to break down Venezuela at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona Saturday night 6pm PT.

For the US, this match will represent the first time that Jurgen Klinsmann has had more than two weeks to prepare his team for a match.

While the player selection will be devoid of the creme-de-la-creme not in camp, a certain degree of homogeneity should have been spawned from a training period where the players have gotten comfortable with one another in Carson, CA.

That means that a US defense should be more cohesive than a typical camp while there should be better interplay up the pitch when attacking.

The US will play a Venezuela team that is a on an upswing. Los Llaneros are steaming forward on a trajectory that began with the changing of guard to youthful Coach Cesar Farias.

Farias took over in 2007 and his resume should make him a diety already back in the homeland: Venezuela’s first win over Brazil, a near-miss in qualifying for World Cup 2010, a semifinal birth for the first time in the 2011 Copa America with wins over Chile and Argentina.

The Venezuelan side might be lacking their Euro stars like the States, but they’ll come in a well drilled team and, if they deploy as expected in a 4-4-2, then the US will attempt to win the press-up-the-pitch battle that they’ve been trying to practice since Klinsmann’s first match.

TSG What We’re Looking For

• Centerback selection and competition

This Venezuela match marks the first time that US fans will get to see alternate options at arguably the US’s weakest position, centerback. Mind you, the States are not short on possibilities, but no one–new–has stepped up to own the role.

The options that were thought to be be first choices coming in to camp, Omar Gonzalez and George John, are now no longer–the latter loaned to West Ham and the former now recovering from season-curbing knee surgery.

The injury and moved created a chance for Geoff Cameron to get the feature look that many analysts and fans were rightfully pining for. (Though unproductive in the wake of a MLS Cup game injury, it’s curious to wonder if Klinsmann would have faciliated a loan for the Dynamo man in the off-season.)

In an interesting move–and on that is likely telling–Cameron has been playing left centerback in camp. With the experienced Heath Pearce out on the left flank and Brek Shea the arguably the States’ strongest attacker on Sunday, don’t be surprised if Jurgen Klinsmann sends the ball more frequently into Venezuela’s rear right side kitchen with the US experience and firepower on that side.

Tactically-sound bet Michael Parkhurst will probably get the start at RCB.

Old guard or new guard

Currently an international man of mystery...Zusi...

Take a look at this in threes. In the “old guard” you have Benny Feilhaber, Jermaine Jones and Ricardo Clark. The new guard? Perhaps Graham Zusi and an elevated Jeff Larentowicz.

Is Jurgen looking to be competitive and then the “vets” out or did he merely bring the likes of Jones and Clark in camp to provide competition.

Venezuela’s B+ B- team here represents a sizable challenge for MLS players who haven’t seen game action. Watch who Klinsmann entrusts with which role. It say more about the status of Feilhaber and Jones particularly if they don’t get the early run out.

Miscellaneous

» Will Chris Wondolowski be left on an island in second January camp game like last year?

» Will Geoff Cameron make foraging runs forward to add to the attack, not something that Klinsmann has employed with the senior squad?

» Will Bill Hamid get his first look in goal? Can Bill Hamid marshall a new defense against a difficult first-time opponent? Has Sean Johnson possibly usurped Hamid’s spot in the pecking order? Or will it be vet Nick Rimando who will steady the first-time backline?

Possible USMNT deployment versus Venezuela

continuing to Orange Slices—

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US Women Warm Up Qualifying Engine

Qualifying starts. Maura Gladys has you covered.

Morgan looking to excel--in a new role?--as winter closes...

The last time the U.S. Women’s National Team competed in a CONCACAF qualifying tournament, they almost missed the cut for the 2011 Women’s World Cup. Only a two-legged playoff series with Italy, which was essentially won by then-newcomer Alex Morgan, saved the USWNT from missing their first major international tournament in history.

Entering the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, which kicks off tonight, the U.S. Women’s National Team will be looking to erase those memories and secure their spot in this summer’s Olympic Games. While that is an extremely realistic and achievable goal, it’s not as much of a sure-thing as it’s been in the past, and the tournament will by no means be a cake walk.

The top two teams in the eight-team tournament book their tickets to London, meaning that the two semifinal matches are much more crucial than the championship match.

In order to make their passage easier, the U.S. will have to take care of business earlier rather than later. They start off group play with matches against the Dominican Republic tonight and Guatemala on Sunday, what should be two victories. (Although who doesn’t remember the USMNT’s loss to Panama in last summer’s Gold Cup.) In their final group play match, the U.S. takes on Mexico. A win here is crucial as it should allow them to avoid playing Canada in the all-important semifinal. (This is assuming that Canada does its part and wins Group B as well.) If the U.S. can get past Mexico, they should miss playing a very good Canadian team at home and instead face a much more manageable squad (such as Costa Rica.)

Sundhage’s roster feels more and more static, featuring the same 20 or so names for the past year. This version features only one addition, recent number one WPS Draft pick Sydney Leroux. While Leroux, a Vancouver native, is probably a bit of a sentimental pick, she could see some time during the U.S.’ earlier games.

But the player that may make the difference, or at least add the most change to the lineup is Kelley O’Hara. O’Hara was a striker throughout all of college, and featured on the left wing during her brief appearance in last summer’s Women’s World Cup.

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El Clasico: Real vs. Barca

And here they go again….

Umpteenth

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