Archive for May, 2012

USA vs. Scotland Primer: About The Opponent

Grant Russell penned this column. Russell is a journalist for STV (Scottish Television) and regarded as an expert on Scottish football and on homegrown rules and players eligibility. Russell also tweets frequently on the Rangers and the American contingent playing there. 

Grant is a must-follow on Twitter.

Levein still a work in progress….

Two-and-a-half years have passed since Craig Levein’s brave new era got underway, yet Scotland are still in a period of exploration as the national coach tries to find the formula which will take the team to its first major championship since 1998.

The right steps are being taken behind the scenes to overhaul youth development, something long overlooked but being addressed by the appointment of Mark Wotte as performance director.

As ever in Scotland though, there is an expectation of the short term to be equally prosperous. After failure to qualify for the 2012 European Championships, the man at the helm is arguably facing a make-or-break World Cup qualifying campaign, albeit with a public element frustrated to date with his approach and not necessarily from his bosses.

Levein, at least, will have the next 18 months to win over a largely sceptical public. The friendly with the USA is hardly whetting even the most committed Scotland follower’s appetite and only a spectacular result in Jacksonville will register with most.

The friendly with the USA also comes against a backdrop of internal strife in the Scottish game. Rangers dominate the headlines owing to their perilous financial state and their incredulity at a year-long signing ban placed upon them by the Scottish FA for failing to pay government tax for nine months.

There is also the looming threat of worse to come for the club, with a ruling overdue on a possible £75m tax bill and an ongoing investigation into whether payments to players were hidden from the football authorities for over ten years, something which could see them stripped of almost all of their titles won since 1998.

An international match would normally divert the focus temporarily. But the squad named by Levein, with one relatively low-key exception in Matt Phillips, has failed to capture the imagination enough to suggest the game in will be little more than a footnote.

Scottish winger Matt Phillips for Blackpool.

Jordan Rhodes, one of Scotland’s two hopes of a superstar emerging in the near future, is instead with the under-21 selection for a more important European Championship game with Bulgaria. The other prodigy, Celtic’s James Forrest, misses the trip through injury.

Steven Fletcher, a respected and developing goal scorer who bagged nine in the English Premier League this season, remains in the wilderness because of a dispute with Levein.

Jamie Mackie, the man who threatened to thwart Manchester City in their title hopes in QPR’s final day fixture, misses out because his wife is expecting. Same too for Graham Dorrans, an established midfielder in England’s top flight, who could have used the match to enhance his own prospects of a permanent place in the starting team for the World Cup qualifiers. Likely starter James Morrison, another who impressed with West Brom tjis season, is absent through injury.

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USA vs. Scotland Primer: On Scotland’s Xavi, Barry Bannan

Villa's Barry Bannan

Barry Bannan stands out.

RJ Sepich is an ardent Aston Villa and USMNT Supporter.  Sepich is the Sports Editor at The Pitt News, the daily student newspaper at the University  of Pittsburgh.  This is RJ’s first piece for TSG.

Like many Aston Villa fans and players, Villa midfielder Barry Bannan was probably happy to see the end of a miserable season for the West Midlands side. It was the worst Premiership campaign ever for Villa, who just skirted relegation while finishing a not-so-respectable 16th.

Up next for the Scottish international is a trip to the States for a friendly with the US, and Bannan is likely welcoming the trip.

Scotland plays Bannan both inside and outside, but either place he’s still silky with the passes.

The diminutive Bannan—all of 5’7’’—struggled to get into Alex McLeish’s defensive-minded side at Villa this season. On the national scene though, he still managed to impress for Scotland during the run-in of their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. In September, in his first competitive start for his country, Bannan assisted on the only goal of a 1-0 victory over Lithuania and his man-of-the-match performance led several pundits to declare him the future star of Scottish football.

He finished off the qualifying campaign with back-to-back starts against Lichtenstein and Spain as Scotland narrowly missed out on the playoffs after a 3-1 defeat to the defending European and World Champions. The now 22-year-old held his own against a Spanish midfield comprised of Barcelona’s Xavi and Manchester City’s David Silva, using the skills he learned in his earlier years at the same Aston Villa academy that has recently produced the likes of Chelsea’s Gary Cahill, Sunderland’s Craig Gardner, and a handful of other young Villa players such as Gabriel Agbonlahor, Marc Albrighton and Ciaran Clark.

Barry Bannan’s youth career began at Celtic, but he then joined Villa’s well-known academy system on a trial at 14-years-old. The Scot spent the next few years developing his game as a creative midfielder, making dozens of appearances in the youth and reserve teams at Villa. Bannan and promising young American right back Eric Lichaj were both staples of the Villa reserve team during the 2008-2009 season, and they both began working their way into the first team the next year.

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FIFA Interview: Landon Donovan On Klinsmann, Brazil 2014

Donovan, the younger years…

Landon Donovan from a FIFA interview posted today:

In this, the first of a two-part interview, all matters Stateside are discussed, such as Los Angeles Galaxy’s start to the Major League Soccer season, the dominance of Mexican sides in the CONCACAF Champions League, the appointment of Jurgen Klinsmann as USA coach and why the FIFA World Cup™ is so special. Considering the attacking players in the Galaxy’s squad, it would be the envy of many teams across the globe. Is that a sign of your attempt to capture a second MLS Cup?

Landon Donovan: Well in our league, and particularly in LA, we have an owner here who is very committed to not only winning but to making sure we are putting an exciting product on the field. Most places around the world it’s just about the football, but we are still trying to build our game, so we need to have, hopefully, an exciting product that people want to pay money to come see. We’re fortunate that we’ve got an owner and a coach who are committed to that and it’s fun for me as an attacking player because I get to play alongside some of these great, talented players.

Looking at the current table and the CONCACAF Champions League, it wasn’t the start you would have hoped for. What do you credit that to?

It was tough. We are certainly a much better team than we showed early on. I think a big part of it was not having myself and Robbie [Keane] there from the beginning of the pre-season. We were a little bit disjointed to start and it kind of showed on the field. We weren’t playing terribly, but our league is parity-driven, so if you are a little bit off-form and a team is playing well they can beat you. So it’s not like we are Manchester United or Barcelona, where you have a bad day and you can still win 2-0 or 3-0. We have a bad day and we can lose games, and that’s what happened at the start of the season.

Monterrey have qualified for the FIFA Club World Cup. It always seems to be the Mexican teams that reach the final of the competition. How close are MLS teams to narrowing the gap?

We’re close, but there are realities. We’re the exception, but most Major League Soccer teams have a payroll of $3-4m USD for the entire squad. Some Mexican teams have a payroll of $20-30m USD. The reality is that the teams who are paying more for their players generally win. We’re getting better – our league is committed to continuing to spend more money, but they’re running a business so they’ve got to be smart about it. We’ve had a number of teams, even with the discrepancy in pay, doing very well and getting very close. Last year, Real Salt Lake went close against Monterrey – and were less than 45 minutes away to advancing to a Club World Cup. It’s only a matter of time, but as long as we’re progressing I think we’re still OK with that.

Do you think the Galaxy may be the team which are in the best position to narrow that gap?

Yes, if our team is healthy. We’ve got enough talented players to pull off plays and score goals. One deficit we had at the start of this year we were missing arguably our most important player in Omar Gonzalez, our centre-back, and I think we paid for it. We gave up some pretty soft goals early on and goals that you wouldn’t expect to give up if Omar was there. So I think if we were a healthy team, we’d have a realistic chance to do well.

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Jurgen Klinsmann’s Campers: Getting Close To Full Squad

The updated positional roster–additional and official–eleven names:

DEFENDERS (4): Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)
MIDFIELDERS (1): Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (6): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Herc Gomez against Turkey…

Twitter and other news reports out on Saturday suggested that there were two more additions to the US final preliminary roster set to be release sometime today. Those flown in today are apparently to include Herculez Gomez and Chris Wondolowksi

That would make the current roster look like this:

(Blue text means unconfirmed by US Soccer:)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (4): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
FORWARDS (1): Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

That leaves 9 players set for possible inclusion today. The best guess update:

G: [None]

DEF: Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Parkhurst, Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream, Eric Lichaj, Clarence Goodson

MID: DaMarcus Beasley

FW: Brek Shea, Jozy Altidore

The skinny: Might Brek Shea be dropped for this after his suspension and with it concern about how many games he may miss? Is DaMarcus Beasley surplus to requirements with the addition of Joe Corona? Are there one too many centerbacks now being called in?

Possible edition: Jonathan Spector.

UEFA Champion’s League Final: Bayern vs. Chelsea Live

In the battle of Bayern vs. Chelsea…Ribery vs. Drogba–TSG’s two pivotal players, TSG roots for….

Michael Essien. Knee surgeries have robbed the global soccer world of Essien’s excellence.

May he shine today for the Blues. The hopeful scoreline? Bayern 0, Chelsea 0…..Essien 3.

Always a superstar–white-haired or not–in TSG’s book.

MLS Predictions: Cascadia…Take Me Away & SuperClasico

Someone call a plumber because this backline sh*t stinks! (Leonardo returns for the Galaxy)

… and so it begins, rivalries in full flow, television screen packed with pomp and circumstance as the familiar elevens gather to do battle on the grassy field. This week we explore some rivalries, talk about Cascadia and the battle for Los Angeles, and discuss trades that were. Lets get down to business.

The Record!!

I managed to nail the Montreal v LA Game giving me another correct pick and exacta, which brings my total on the week to 5-5 and makes my overall record 29 correct – 33 incorrect with 5 exactas. Thanks go out to the red card in the Crew match and the ineptitude of Colorado for messing up what could have been a 6-4 week with 3 exactas.

I also managed to take in a u-23 pdl US Open Cup game (which was highly entertaining), and once again highly encourage all of you in all areas to go. If you are in the Southeast, this is a great opportunity to show your support for one of the great open tournaments in the world.

Once again, all times East Coast, Olympic Stadium in Montreal is cavernous even when filled, Carlo Rossi and Sprite is not a drink, and Battleship is a game… not a movie.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

5:00PM – Vancouver v Seattle – BC Place – Television: TSN RDS2

The battle for Cascadia starts here, and what a game it will be. For those of you unaware… The three clubs of Cascadia (Portland, Vancouver, and Seattle) play a supporters made tournament throughout the year for the right to be called the best team in Cascadia and have their supporters group hold the Cascadia Cup. While Vancouver lacks some of the utterly bitter emnity of Portland versus Seattle, the rivalry still exists and inflames.

This year, Vancouver and Seattle kick off the Cascadia Cup tournament in Vancouver, and the Whitecaps are hoping that their home form will hold. With both Seattle and Vancouver finishing last week with a loss, both playing ten games on the season and Vancouver only 5 points behind Seattle in the League, this has all the earmarks for a tight, pulsing game.

Seattle has yet to lose on the road, winning two games and tieing one. You have to imagine that Seattle is going to attempt to come out and try to pressure Vancouver, while Vancouver attempt to get the connection between their midfield and forwards working. Eric Hassli has really started to warm up, finishing last week with a spectacle of a goal in the Canadian Championship game. Of course, if you want to look at spectacular you only have to look at the Qwest field version of this game last year in which Hassli hit a stunning shot past Kasey Keller.

Right away I think you have to look at whether Vancouver’s midfield can track and match up with Mauro Rosales and Osvaldo Alonso. As well, will Seattle’s back line be able to thwart Le Toux, Hassli and Chumiento.

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