Archive for July, 2012

TSG’s USWNT Olympic Primer, Double A Battery Included

So many ways to score…so little time….

Welcome back Maura Gladys. We missed your USWNT coverage.

No one knows when the exact moment occurred. We don’t know if it was a instant of enlightenment at a day of training, a late-night soul-searching session or the second that Japan lifted the trophy at the Women’s World Cup last summer.

But at some point in the last year, Pia Sundhage made the conscious decision to start both Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan, and that was the moment that determined the outcome of this summer’s Olympic Games women’s soccer tournament.

Because of that pairing, along with several other tactical shifts and decisions, the United States is rolling on all cylinders and is poised to defend their Olympic gold medal.

Unlike the men’s tournament, which is essentially a U-23 tournament, the women bring their strongest squads and the stakes are just as high as the World Cup.

With the U.S. playing at their current level, they are the odds-on favorite to defeat the likes of Brazil, Japan and France to claim their third gold medal in as many Games.

The move to put Morgan and Wambach together up top is huge in that endeavor.

The two play beautifully together, with Wambach still operating largely in her target striker role and Morgan using her speed, balance and vision to sneak behind defenses and create opportunities for herself and Wambach. It’s what “we” were begging for from Pia a year ago. Add in Sydney Leroux a lightning-quick super sub (a role Morgan donned in apprenticeship last year), and the forward position is completely stacked and more than equipped to take on any defense in the world.

Now, the other key moments that have and-or will, define the U.S. women’s road to gold.

January 20th, 2012, USA vs. Dominican Republic, 43rd minute:

Youch!

As soon as Ali Krieger crumpled to the turf of B.C. Place in the middle of the United States’ 14-0 rout of Dominican Republic, the U.S.’ defense changed drastically, and not for the better.

Krieger was arguably the best right back in the world and the bright spot on a usually sputtering defense.

Krieger tore her ACL and MCL in her right knee, sidelining her for the Games and forcing Sundhage to accelerate her experiment of converted forward Kelly O’Hara at left back, and switch Amy LePeilbet, a converted center back who had been playing on the left, over to the right. Instead of easing into a defensive role in preparation for Christie Rampone’s retirement and subsequent need for more depth, O’Hara was essentially handed a starter’s role and forced to learn on the fly.

And she’s done fine.

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The Tree Has Fallen In The Forest, Timbers’ Fans Hear It & The Sound Is Deafening…

Portland & Gavin: Looking back at what could have been?

This piece by John Nyen written *prior* to the Timbers 5-0 FC Dallas debacle.

In the front room of a schoolhouse for survival training, Gavin Wilkinson gives master classes.

Somehow, one way or another, Wilkinson remains a sole surviving and thriving link between the re-incarnated Timbers of 2001 and the modern MLS Timbers of today.

Quite possibly he remains because of his ability to sideswipe criticism, perhaps it is his intensity, or perhaps it is his friendship in the right circles. However, given the issues involved with the Timbers this year it becomes important to the Portland Timber’s Ramiro Corrales–a Timbers Original.

Coming over from Kilkenny City in 2001, Gavin Wilkinson started a now 11-year career with the Portland Timbers, first playing 124 games in the back four for Portland and then as an assistant manager and then manager for the Timbers in the lower divisions.

Renowned as a fierce competitor, Wilkinson has always had a penchant for not exactly being an “easy guy to know”. The former captain of the Timbers, Ian Joy, wrote a column for Prost Amerika saying about Wilkinson, “my former coach and someone who I thought I knew very well but found out in the end I knew nothing about.”

That phrase could be interpreted many different ways, but the discussions and conversations among players about Wilkinson’s reign with the Timbers has always been couched in similar Joy-like terms: “An extremely aggressive man who himself is very passionate about winning at all costs.”

Wilkinson is not without bestowed honors, and nor is he without success.

Did he as manager oversee a 25 game winning streak in 2009? Yes. Did he flame out of the playoffs every time he got the team there? Yes.

Did Wilkinson achieve success at different points in the USL? Yes Was that success with a lineup stocked with former MLS castoffs and also rans that happened to be a step above the competition in the USL? Also yes.

You can’t necessarily give Wilkinson grief for succeeding with talent when given the opportunity, but the contradiction to where the Timbers sit now with that notion is that Wilksonson wasn’t going to have the upper hand in procuring talent for a MLS team as he did previously in USL days.

Wilikinson was appointed General Manager in 2006, appointed technical director of the MLS Timbers at the beginning of 2010.

The close of the 2010 season saw the Timbers finishing 3rd, getting knocked out of the USL playoffs in the quarterfinals by the Vancouver Whitecaps and knocked out of the Open Cup in an epic match with the Seattle Sounders. Upon completion, Gavin hung up the clipboard and redefined his position solely as the general manager and technical director.

He left the sidelines with a sugar-coated 50-29-39 record and two coach of the year awards. From the outside it appears that this was someone the fans should revere, but Wilkinson has never had a rapport with the Timbers Army or the greater Timber fan.

That’s not a necessity, but it helps especially after the sour knacks of falling apart in the playoffs and playing with tactics that would be considered old school in Scotland. Combine that with a record against teams in the USL ranks that were so under supported and funded that they don’t even exist anymore (see California Victory) and the veneer starts to etch.

Now, by proxy,  his time as General Manager for the MLS Timbers is fairly up for debate.

The Timbers fan: Defiant in the face of adversity…

As much as John Spencer made mistakes, had multiple verbal and logic gaffes, and seemingly drove fans crazy with player selection and favoritism, he was still squeezing wins from a roster whose components don’t exactly fit together like Voltron.

The Portland Timbers are team of tweeners and less talented value pickups. Their problems (and to a certain extent Spencer’s problem) resulted from a lack of talent at necessary positions combined with mental and system mistakes. The biggest problems come from the acquisition of players that seemingly aren’t simply good enough at their position in MLS. Looking at this from the outside perspective, one could easily say that “the Timbers are an expansion team that just need more time”.

However this ignores the simple fact that some of the Timbers problems would be fixed had they simply not gotten rid of the talent that they already had on their team.

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Tim Cahill About To Run With the Red Bulls

Bit of a personal note here.

Tim Cahill was very much the reason that Everton FC is a frequent watch at TSG headquarters. The now 32-year-old who joined the Toffees in 2004 epitomizes the club.

In his younger days, he had the perfect concoction of two parts lunchpail, one part creativity that made him perhaps one of the most complete squad players anywhere in the Prem.

Now? Headed to the New York Red Bulls of MLS. Will he be a DP? Who goes? And does this seal Tim Howard’s arrival back in the former land of the Metrostars in three years time?

The Weekend: Live Commentary

Hassli is the latest….who’s next? (The Whitecaps mercurial forward dealt to surging Toronto FC for a draft pick Friday).

How about that statement of intent from Toronto FC to immediate bring in supplies once Koevermans went down?

Adrift at sea, Mariner secures Hassli.

Two must-read pieces on the week:

» Will Parchman with an exquisite review of Chris Wondolowski and his scoring efforts against RSL.

» The Sporting News’ Brian Straus takes the time to set up his question in this interview with Don Garber

 

 

Report: Geoff Cameron Fee Agreed

Cameron on the go

Reports out of London suggest Cameron to Stoke City is getting done today for $2.5m (£1.6m).

This seems about right as two other centerbacks were brought into the Premiership with arguably better resumes: Adrian Mariappa (Watford to Reading, £2.5m) and Jose Manuel Flores (Genoa to Swansea, £2m).

Good on you Cameron.

 

 

An Endangered Species: The Fulhamerican

The Cottage will be lonely…

This is Eric Beard‘s second piece for The Shin Guardian. Eric is Wikipedia-like on global soccer. He founded and created the excellent A Football Report and he also is a recent great pick-up for The NY Times.

We’re all in a long distance relationship.

Some of us are casually making an effort to keep in contact with good friends. Others want to maintain a more intimate relationship. Sometimes sacrifices are made to keep this symbiotic relationship thriving.

Thankfully, it’s easier than ever to endure distance with technology shrinking our desired surroundings so that they are accessible at our fingertips. T

That being said, the ever-potent poison to any relationship is apathy. There needs to be a spark, a connection that keeps us interested in continuing a conversation.

While some are more committed than others, all American soccer fans have developed a relationship with Fulham. Many of us have been in a relationship with Fulham for nearly a decade, since Brian McBride moved to England permanently in January 2004 for a mere $1.5 million. Again, the feeling is mutual.

As McBride explained earlier this year, “While our Premier League rivals are only now just discovering the delights of America’s top leagues, it’s fair to say that [Fulham’s] been unearthing its hidden treasures.”

Eddie Lewis’s cup of coffee as the 2000s decade turned creaked the door open, but it was McBride who paved the path along the Thames River. Soon following were Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, Kasey Keller, and easy Eddie Johnson.

Fulham earned and embraced the nickname “Fulhamerica.”

The original American bungalow….

American Airlines advertisements began popping up along the Cottage’s pitch and on the club’s official website. For American fans, Fulham became a second home in a land that made American players fight for every word of praise.

The turn of the 2006-20007 to 2007-08 season was iconic for two of American soccer’s best attacking players of all time.

McBride, earning his permanent residence at the Cottage….

McBride earned the captain’s armband in August, but it was Clint who had just kept Fulham afloat in the Premier League with a match-winning goal against Liverpool on Cinco de Mayo two short months earlier.

McBride decided to move back to Chicago at the end of 07-08 campaign, but only after he was named Fulham’s Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons. McBride was not only a dream player for any manager, but he was an honest, hardworking person. In the most English manner possible, the club granted him legend status by naming a pub inside Craven Cottage “McBride’s.”

But as one club legend departed, another had finally been given the freedom to showcase his talent. Clint lifted his game and the club reached new heights with an unbelievable run to the Europa League final. No American, English, or Italian fan will forget that chip against Juventus, but little did we know that such an ineffably perfect goal only scratched the surface of Deuce’s potential. Clint soon became Fulham’s all-time leading goalscorer and one of the highest regarded players in the Premier League.

Of course, this isn’t new information. You know exactly what Clint and Brian have accomplished, but isn’t it nice to bask in the nostalgia?

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As nice as it is to look back, nostalgia’s presence at Fulham is problematic. Not to go too abstract, but nostalgia’s roots lie in two Greek words: nóstos (homecoming) and álgos (ache). Fulham and American fans long to see another driven header from McBride or a 35-yard-blast from Dempsey, but it’s clear that these things won’t be occurring at Craven Cottage ever again.

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MLS: Best of 2012 At The Turn

It’s kind of like the mix tape you made for that not-as-special-as-you-thought-they-were-at-the-time significant other back in high school.

MLS, they love us.

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