Archive for May, 2012

Op-Ed: Buy-In Time Is Nigh

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Joshua Wells graces TSG again.

Following the USA vs. Brazil 4-1 drubbing in Landover, Maryland, Jurgen Klinsmann vented his spleen.  He was forthright, honest about his feelings, and blunt about his disappointment.

As you watched the press conference, you knew that you were getting exactly what was inside of Jurgen’s head…well not exactly, because I’m sure it would have come out much smoother in German than English.  So, you were getting a pretty close approximation of what was going on in Jurgen’s head.

“The machine here works just fine.”

He had some of his facts wrong.  The penalty on Onyewu, while harsh, is probably going to be given 60-70% of the time.  It looked to me like Pato was onside for the fourth goal, but I don’t think Jurgen had seen any replays, so we can forgive him that.  Aside from the factual missteps, I absolutely loved what Jurgen had to say.  He was…defiant.

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As an American, a fan of the United States National Teams, and a fan of soccer in general, I’ve spent the majority of my fandom hunkered down, happy for the little crumbs of indulgence tossed my way by the U.S. sports media.

In the early days of my fandom, before the internet was really in full bloom, I searched the dark hallways of the world wide web for drops of soccer knowledge from across the pond.  I dug deep to find message boards and fanzines where I could humbly seek the wisdom of English or European fans of my favorite teams.  I would roll with the jabs about my nation’s lack of soccer prowess and make a few self-deprecating stabs of my own.  When podcasts started to proliferate, I downloaded them all, lusting after those delightful accents that provided enlightenment about a beautiful game that my neanderthal American mind could just barely comprehend.  I studied the Guardian and Telegraph sport sections like archeologists studied the Rosetta Stone (the real Rosetta Stone, not the computer software for those of you who skipped humanities).

At a certain point, things changed.

Suddenly, I came to the realization that because I’m an American, and we’re awesome at getting what we want, I had access to and watched more soccer than anybody who wrote or talked about the sport for a living across the pond.  Not only that, but I saw all kinds of soccer.  EPL, MLS, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, K-League, A-League, SPL, Primera Division, and on and on…I saw it all.  I learned to read a match like a book.  I could critique lineups, formations, and substitutions with the best of them, and rarely did I hear points made by the experts that I hadn’t already thought of myself.

Around the same time, I saw my native soccer culture begin to change as well.  The pastor at my church was asking me about the Champions League Final.  My dad was watching big matches and asking me about them.  My brothers became fans and started playing.  I joined the Oklahoma City Chapter of American Outlaws (amazing right?  AO has not one, but two chapters in Oklahoma).

My kids were playing in 6 and 7 year old leagues, and they were good, and not only were they good, but there were are tons of really good players. Not the stereotypical rich white kid good either…there was flair, diversity, streetball craft, and excitement.  I went to watch some local high school matches in the inner city, and far from being the lump it forward browbeating I expected, the matches were fluid, sharp, racially diverse, and even beautiful.

Beaconing….

Sell out crowds were piling into stadiums in Portland, Seattle, Kansas City, and Salt Lake as MLS finally figured out that the sport would rise and fall with the dedicated soccer fan, and not the mini-van driving soccer moms (not including my wife Jill, who happens to be both and is also the best player I know.  I considered genetics when I married, and I’m not ashamed to admit it).

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Brazil 4, USA 1: The Bird’s Eye Review & Midfield View

Yes, yes we were watching.

This review by Darius Tahir, frequent TSG contributor and now noted photogenic nosebleed level master

It’s appropriate the scorelines of the past two games were just nearly opposite—if Scotland is the high for Jurgen Klinsmann, then we certainly hope Brazil is the low for Klinsmann.

Obviously nothing is guaranteed either way, but this feels like reasonable bookends for defining the performance of the team and setting expectations for the future. As such I think we have a pretty good handle on the future direction of the team, at least in the near-term future.

The revealed preference of Klinsmann appears to center around three box-to-box type midfielders who can bully opposing midfields and defenders into submission, win the ball up the field, and distribute or create as necessary.

That may be why Klinsmann wished for more “nasty” from his team—the team that scythed down a player (Jones), got in fights and generally sent Brazilian players to the deck at a fairly regular occurrence.

Klinsmann wants the US to go Beastie Boys….”Hello Nasty!”

It was not obvious–from a bird’s eye view–that the team lacked nasty. It lacked the same voracious pressing as against Scotland, though. This ferocious pressing might resemble, say, Sporting KC at their best or Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea teams—proactivity through bullying. The problem with bullying is that eventually you meet someone your own size or bigger; Brazil is that. Then you need some ability. This is where the midfield comes into play.

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USA vs. Brazil: Klinsmann’s Post-Game Reaction

A special review coming from TSG commenter DTH who was at the match.

Here, Jurgen Klinsmann on the officiating and the US’s “field tone” in the 4-1.

USA vs. Brazil: Live Commentary

Just one win to show in 16 against Brazil in 16 outings for the States. Tally differential: -21 to the home side. However, eleven matches have been decided by only one goal.

The US starting line-up in a few hours; Brazil’s has already been named.

Herculez vs. Hulk. Greek god vs. marvelous superhero. About to get it on….

Orange Slices: USA vs. Brazil

Orange Slices! USA vs. Ecuador

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day before and of the match
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It’s Brazil, but it’s 2012, not 2014. (And unfortunately it’s not 2013 or the Confederation’s Cup, but why dwell.)

The Yanks welcome the international heavweight Brazil Canaries to FedExField in Landover, Maryland on Wednesday.

The US side is beaming, coming off an absolute lambasting of the Scots in Jacksonville. Keeping with Stanley Cup time, the US lit the lamp five times “en-rout” to a 5-1 victory.

How will it perform against a vastly more offensively talented opponent?

Broadcast:

Once again, ESPN has the English coverage. The game is available on ESPN 2, ESPN 3.

Telefutura has the Spanish coverage.

Around the web:

Reading material:

» Written in advance of the Scotland beatdown, MLS Soccer’s (and TSG alum) Deven Pleuler takes an analytical (and graphical) approach to breaking down the Klinsmann revolution.

US of JFT

» Brian Straus of the Sporting News tacks on to our Jose Torres piece with a supporting one of his own.

» Any and all works by The Professor of Football, Christopher Gaffney who writes on the Brazilian football culture and on the impact of stadiums in Brazil.

» Rafa Benitez on tactics….a good one.

Weather forecast:

Showers in the AM, fluffy bunny dusters in the sky and 75 degrees by game time. Unlike the Scots, the Brazilians are altogether fine with warm weather.

Surf forecast:

Not a hurricane in sight….and that’s unfortunately what you need in the Mid-Atlantic to slide on some waves on the coast. But, if you are craving a bunch of knees slappers and wanting to wade in somewhere, your closest spot is Ocean City, Maryland. It may be small, but please be careful out there.

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USA vs. Brazil Primer: Is Pato Ducking His Talents?

As in Pato loves the nightlife….

TSG’s Serie A expert Eric Giardini on one troubled duckling…

What is there to say about Alexandre Pato?

Pato’s real passion: Berlusconi

The AC Milan striker, who currently spends more time on the training table and off gallivanting around Milan with Barbara Berlusconi than on the field at the San Siro, is the most experienced striker on this very young Brazil roster. The 22-year-old (yes, he’s only 22, it seems like he’s been around for forever) has recently been cleared by doctors after chronic muscular injuries forced him to miss the final two months of the season, which saw him feature in only 11 games and score just one goal.

After not being a part of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa under former manager Dunga, Pato has featured for Mano Menezes and is looking to show that he is fully fit and should continue to be one of a Seleção as they look forward to the Confederations Cup next summer and the World Cup in 2014.

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USA versus Scotland – SNAP JUDGMENTS

USMNT celebrating first half goal

Wow. When was the last time a US men’s soccer match provided so many positive talking points?  The win over Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup?

Congratulations US fans. You just witnessed the red and white stripes romp over a not-that-bad Scotland team. Here are some of the top stories to take from the recently-concluded match in Jacksonville:

Still thirsty for success

Take a bow, Mr. Donovan. Take a bow.  In a week when Donovan was making headlines, though not necessarily “for all the wrong reasons,” the US’s all-time leading scorer stole the show Saturday night.

Donovan this week was talking about the end of his career even though it is obvious to anyone watching that he has several years left at the near-top of his game.

Donovan showed his still-dangerous speed on the break, his vision and incisive passing and the killer instinct that led to 46 international goals prior to tonight.

I think it is likely that LD returns to the LA Galaxy with a little more fire in his belly than recent months. Though, there are now more than whispers that even Donovan himself is thinking that a move away from LA may be best for all concerned.

General Bradley.  Donovan gets the headlines, but another player was arguably just as dominant as Donovan.

Bradley just finished a banner season in Serie A and showed why even the mighty Internazionale Milano are being linked with the young star.

Basically all criticisms of a young, immature Bradley have been erased by his steady progression on the field. Bradley earns the most praise these days for addressing his weaknesses and turning them into strengths.

Bradley showed his intelligence and soft first touch in the middle of the field. He only went to ground when the play dictated so. He exhibited his abilities in the final third, both on his screaming volley into the upper 90 and the direct assist to Donovan.

Think about this, the US’s best three players in South Africa were arguably Donovan, Dempsey and Bradley. Right now, they may all be playing even better in their own respects.

Jurgen turning that frown upside down after great US display.

System overload. The first four months under Juergen Klinsmann were not the most pleasant for US fans. A 1-4 record and a total of one goal scored was the immediate reward for a change of coaching regimes.

Now, to follow up a 1-0 defeat of Italy, the US just blasted Scotland 5-1. It can’t be a culmination of Klinsmann’s new system since players like Altidore and Dempsey were not even on the field, but it is the result of nine months of scheming, teaching and learning by everyone in the USMNT.

First and foremost was, not Donovan, but the three central midfielders’ performances. Bradley, Edu and Jones played in a way that previously only existed in the dreams of US fans since Jones made the switch from Germany.

All three floated across the field, cutting down Scotland’s attacks and then racing forward on the break. Jones’ long strides could be seen galloping down upon the Scottish defense on numerous occasions.

Bradley, Edu and Jones dominated the center of the park, but Scotland was assaulted by pressure coming from all over the field. Donovan, Torres and Boyd were unrelenting. Cherundolo and especially Fabian Johnson provided yet another wave of attacking verve in the final third.

An added long-term benefit is that the US player pool is poised to heap depth upon an already lethal lineup. Shea, Gatt, Gyau, Corona, Lichaj and still possibly Timothy Chandler are among a number of USMNT prospects still coming up through the ranks with varying amounts of international experience.

HOME field advantage. Often times, a US home game has looked disappointingly similar to a road match. Not Saturday night in Jacksonville.

A record southeastern crowd of 44,000+ cheered the US on to victory. The support the team has received in Nashville, Florida, Philadelphia, etc. has provided more and more evidence that this isn’t your….older brother’s US team.

Donovan with Gatorade, Dempsey with Nike, Bradley in Serie A, five different club captains in the squad and larger pro-US crowds are all evidence pointing to a higher profile US team than ever before.

I don’t know if I would go as far as others in calling this team fully “mainstream,” but better home crowds could provide the US an extra boost in this cycle of World Cup qualifying.

Can the USMNT replicate their form from tonight against Neymar and crew?

World Cup destination.  And that is the ultimate goal: qualifying for the World Cup. With the way the US performed against Italy and Scotland, it is tough to imagine the US having difficult qualifying for Brazil 2014, but qualifiers are a totally different beast.

US fans have felt the pain of seeing the US men shredded in the final 70 minutes of the 2011 Gold Cup final, the US Under-20 national team fail to qualify for the World Cup and, most recently, witnessing the heartbreaking loss by the Olympic team in the group stages of the qualifying tournament.

The US senior team was able to shake up that recent string of disappointment with Saturday’s thrashing of Scotland. In 13 days, the US will be back to playing “games that matter” and begin the process of trying to avoid “disaster.”

Qualifying is not a short process, and definitely not an easy one. Klinsmann’s approach is aimed at avoiding complacency. The US will have to have a short memory with games like Saturday’s and learn from the disappointments that always come. Then of course, if they qualify, expectations will mount once again.

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