Archive for October, 2012

The Weekend: Live Commentary

Marbles.

Mauro Rosales...

Will Seattle steam into the playoffs? Who gets the cold shoulder?

Still Framed: USA 3, Guatemala 1

From the eye of Matt Mathai. F-Stop champion; white balance assassin.


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With A Hexclamation Point!: USA 3, Guatemala 1, Fish For Dinner!

The US was so confident on the night they had a moment of silence for Guatemala *before* the game.

Will Parchman goes retro-diarying for The Shin Guardian as the US advances. The pundits exhale.

Follow Will on Twitter here.

It is here. Judgment Day wrapped in the Soccerpocalypse deep fried in an explosion. Win or a draw gets you through. Book it.

We open the broadcast with Bob Ley’s voice bouncing around the walls of the StrongBox as he says, “The US did not play well on the road Friday,” and the camera snaps to an earlier image of Tim Howard clopping down the hall, his earbuds in. As Ley mentions the A&B game, Howard smiles. HOW DID HE KNOW?? There’s only one answer. Tim Howard is divine. Or Bob Ley shouts really loud. This game is redemption.

Alexi Lalas the Greekbeard! There’s so much ginger on my TV screen right now. I like it. Nay! I love it. Winterbeard the Tzatzikiginger! Seeing the highlights of the A&B match is like watching a public access show in Fargo on the mysteries of bermuda grass. “Lads, this is how you don’t plant grass in the ground!” We have a 45-minute pregame show. I’m still amazed by this. I probably never will not be (so many negatives. That can’t be a good sign, but I’m reading tea leaves in everything today. A coworker told me he liked my pants today and I shouted at him NO JERK OF COURSE WE’LL WIN TONIGHT. I am an idiot).

Our XI:

Howard; Dolo, Cameron, Bocanegra (capt.), Parkhurst; Zusi, Williams, Bradley, Johnson; Dempsey, Gomez

A defense divided against itself cannot stand! And Boca on the left in that analogy was like… Jefferson Davis? Maybe? That probably doesn’t make any sense. But it’s good to see Boca and Cameron back together in the middle (Like Bonnie & Batman!). Feel good about Parkhurst too. Deserves a shot.

Did we give away the diary with this pic? Huh? Did we? Yes?

It’s a 4-2-3-1 with EJ wide left (which will probably turn more into a two-striker format as the game wears on), Zusi on the right, Dempsey in the hole behind Gomez (yes!) and Williams and Bradley pairing on the back shelf. My guess is that Williams and Bradley will rotate around each other, allowing Bradley to occasionally run the channels and Williams to sit and provide more often than not. I want to point out that Bradley has, on occasion, been getting forward for Roma (when healthy) and doing it well. Is anyone else happy Jones is suspended tonight? Kind of like ripping the keys out of a ranting, drunk guy’s hands. Did I just compare Klinsi to a drunk guy? There’s probably something smart in there somewhere. The Williams/Bradley pairing is the future there anyway. Tays comes out swinging on the team’s width tonight, saying there’s little there. Can’t argue too much with him, but I blame the pool as much as I blame Klinsmann. Wingers are not sloughing off tree limbs for us. I pine for Josh Gatt. I pine.

Our first Ian Darke sighting! *Swoon*

Fun moment. Monica Gonzalez, in the process of interviewing Boca during pregame, speaks about Michael Parkhurst and Geoff Cameron: “Tonight is by far the biggest night of their lives.” Haha, what? Not the biggest game but, like, the biggest NIGHT? That… can’t be right.

Whoa! Herc segment.

This is unexpected.

Julie Foudy is alone with Herc in his house. DON’T GO IN THE BEDROOM JULIE, HERC IS IRRESISTIBLE. My takeaways from this: Herc loves cheesy motivational quotes. DEUCEFACE CUTOUT SIGHTING!!!! I am so happy right now. Lalas makes a GREAT point about our pool: we have more talent than we’ve ever had, and we’re beginning to hit the borderlands of new territory. There are only so many spots, and it will begin to come down to fit over talent. That doesn’t necessarily mean all of Klinsmann’s choices have been correct ones, but it’s become inevitable now that a talented player will be sitting at home during these qualifiers no matter what.

Alexi Lalas, the Beardmaster Vermillionhammer, says he’s not nervous. Good enough for me. Leggo. (side note: does anyone else think this cheesy anthem they play when the USMNT walks in sounds like a proposed theme song for the A Team that didn’t make it?)

And go:

‘1 – Eddie Johnson and Dempsey already have some interchange up top. I know Johnson isn’t a winger, but he’s been tremendous. Where’s this GAM been before 2012? Quite interested to see if the wider playing surface will get Dempsey more involved.

‘2 – The Jamaica game is not synched. CONCACAF is run by cumquats in suits. Yes, the region is helmed by food.

Gomez no score on evening, but did Foudy?

‘4 – HANDBALL MISSED on Herc’s play-through at the edge of the box. Dempsey was in. Angry words.

‘5 – WHAT WAS THAT. Carlos Ruiz GOAL??? How the FUDGESTICKS was he so open? Cameron is too high, Boca is back and Howard doesn’t come for it. Darke: “Dreadful defending. There’s no other way to put it.” Yes there is, Ian. APOCALYPTIC FAILFACE.

‘7 – US coming back hard, pushing into the box. Dempsey doesn’t attack a cross that wasn’t dealt with. Hope this doesn’t end up being one of those laggardly nights for him. We need a response tremendously. This is worst-case right here.

‘8 – I just saved this Word file as ‘Disaster.’

’10 – BOCA’S FEET OF MAGIC. GOAL USMNT, 1-1. Brilliant movement by Dempsey to flick on for Boca to slot it home. Herc Gomez does so many little things well. Chases down a ball on the end line and earns a corner that ends up leading to the equalizer. It’s such a Gomez-type thing that he won’t show up in the scoresheet for the goal. But he’ll show up in our hearts.

’13 – That goal was so key. I just re-saved this file as ‘Moderate Disappointment.’ If another goal from Guatemala comes, it’ll be on a speculative long ball or a deflection on a free kick. So, in other words, it’s not likely. But not impossible.

’15 – TAYSQUOTE: “Oh, I wouldn’t leave anywhere.” That probably made sense in his head.

’18 – Ruiz is toying with Boca and Cameron. He’ll dive in through one channel, dummy a run and spur on through a different one. He’ll tag along Boca’s back CLINT DEMPSEY YOU BEAUTY!!!! 2-1 to the good guys. What a sequence, what a goal. Incredible ball from Dolo to unhook the D – the unsung movement of that whole reel – Johnson shuttles in a brilliant rolling cross and Dempsey with a deceptively difficult finish through a slide.

’20 – Key bit of info here is that Johnson and Zusi flipped flanks just before that goal. Zusi is shooing inside-out for crosses on the left and Johnson is running on the right. Interested to hear postgame what spurred that change.

’24 – Dempsey is coming deeper. He actually dropped underneath Bradley just then. That’s usually a good sign, that he’s feeling the flow of the game. You can’t script his game.

’27 – Eddie Johnson looks superb. Absolutely on-point. He’s rotated almost into a central midfield role and Herc has shifted out to the right where Johnson was to provide width. Either way, whether Johnson or Herc decides to move wide right, it’s not an ideal situation. And now Zusi and Johnson have swapped places again. Johnson is back out left. What’s this crafty German got up his sleeve?

’31 – Danny Williams is what Jermaine Jones dreams about at night when he dreams about being a better soccer player. Then he sobs silently as he stares into the middle distance before going studs up into the coffee maker. A referee inevitably jumps out of the closet to issue a yellow.

’35 – ZUSI almost goal. He could have splayed one inward but opted to drive one low and hard at the keeper’s feet before it was booted out. He wants that home goal like cray. The StrongBox will lift off if he does.

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USA – Guatemala: Live Match Thread

Deuce needs on the scoresheet…

Will the US chug into the Hexagonal or will it fall over itself and clunk in. The LIVESTRONG field is a key advantage for the States, it’s size and well … it’s lighting, if you remember the US’s last game against Guatemala at Estadio Mateo Flores in June.

No fouls near the box this one and someone bring some Carlos Ruiz kryptonite, because the fishy flopper keeps getting on the score sheet. For the States, Clint Dempsey needs a goal celebration.

Starting line-ups shortly. Here for TSG’s Official Preview.

Will it be Grown Ass Man Gone Wild in KC today …. like it used to once be for the former Fulham man.

 

That Wasn’t Algeria: TSG’s USA vs. Guatemala Preview

One player, though, was vindicated.

Scruff of the neck stuff it was not. Nor was it Algeria. Cathartic for Eddie Johnson; anything but for the nation he represented.

The United States is going through the reps in Kansas City today, preparing for the final game of this World Cup qualifying series….and that work is perhaps just a tad less intense following Eddie Johnson’s late game winner on a saturated pitch in Antigua & Barbuda Friday. US fans exhaled, the States suctioned themselves to the top of their CONCACAF group qualifying table.

Let’s begin at Sticky Wickets in Antigua & Barbuda.

The USMNT is out of whack. In short it’s some sort of a makeover-in-progress–one that likely spans more than this cycle.

The USMNT struggled mightily to earn quality chances on goal Friday while its improved defense under Jurgen Klinsmann faltered and was just as much an eyesore.

The US managed just a single shot on goal while the Benna Boys looked downright El Salvador-like in making fans sweat out a victory on the road. While El Salvador-like? Because they always make the States work for it, but typically come up short.

How out of whack is the US or was the US in this one?

» A mid-30-year-old veteran was asked to move to a position he hadn’t played in over two years–a positioned that demanded speed and fitness and whose foil merely superior speed, not skill, of the opponent.

TSG told you in the preview it would be a poor move and it turned out to be as Carlos Bocanegra was often unsure whether to be tethered in parallel to the central defenders or take up an advanced position. It was Bocanegra who made the turnover that resulted in A&B’s lone goal. (Mind you, this was the same position and opponent who the US played at home in June and the manager proclaimed that “anyone could play leftback.” He then penciled in Jose Francisco Torres much to the detriment of the Primerican’s ankle.)

» The renaissance forward brought in from the Pacific Northwest–the one that feasted on crosses and lead passes–was tasked with playing left midfielder in a 4-4-1-1. Now, the role did allow Eddie Johnson to float in on the back post for good angles and chances, but it also saw him drop deep–too deep–and fail to create, turnover the ball or worse compromise space for his buddy Clint Dempsey. Also, it didn’t help that his cover over leftback wasn’t the strongest.

» A central defender who was last seen being subbed out against Guatemala due to quality of play was re-inserted into the line-up, even though his club form has been wanting all season and another player who was heralded as a potential central defender (Maurice Edu) remained on the bench. Not that Edu deserved a start here, but he also did pair somewhat effectively with Cameron against Mexico six weeks ago.

Sadly, there’s more.

Against a bunkered Antigua & Barbuda, a dropping Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey combined with Michael Bradley being vital on the ball, left Danny Williams in no man’s land and with very little value to the side. Bradley’s need for space with the ball often pushed Williams out slightly to the left away from from a true CDM role. He couldn’t go forward because that was the space being found by EJ and Dempsey. Williams was sacrificed for Jermaine Jones–rightfully–in the second half.

The US started out the game with Michael Bradley on the ball. That notion is fine, but launching diagonal balls into the opponent’s right rearguard as a first order of attack before even trying to breakdown the opponent with less risky passes is not.

Let’s stick with Michael Bradley here–because again as the TSG preview cited–Bradley would be needed/required/essential to the US threading any passes through a buckled-up back eight for the Benna Boys.

Bradley got on the ball and he was excellent in the conditions; a shine to his game that no other player possessed on the field.

However, as the Benna Boys retreated Bradley found himself unchallenged in possession and thus Danny Williams became an innocence bystander in a tactical mess as sloppy as the field itself. Williams was caught; surplus requirements to manning the CDM space that Bradley had free movement in, conflicted in going forward and joining the attack from the #6 position.

TSG had that one in the preview too. (Klinsmann-Velasquez appeared to realize this gaffe by inserting Jermaine Jones just after halftime.)

More broadly, the US players seem at odds with themselves on the field, unsure whether to push the tempo or maintain possession.

The States–as had been known under American coaches Arena and Bradley for the past decade–have been temporarily castrated.

The fitness superiority and counter-attacking ability that were hallmarks of the past generation have been gashed from the attack by Klinsmann in favor of driving at a more balanced team that can morph based upon both personnel and tactical tweaks based upon its opponents strengths and weaknesses.

It’s an ambitious goal and Klinsmann–in name, prestige, German-ness–may have been the only one that could do it, but the drive towards that goal–much like the US attack–is like riding in a pick-up on a gravel and rock-laden road. Oh, you’ll make it to the end of the road, but the journey will be uncomfortable and it will be bumps-and-bruises galore.

The US hasn’t mastered it’s possession game and it has gotten rusty on the counter.

Don’t worry folks, we’re entering even ground here before the next climb. Take a breather and grab a sit-upon.

Friday’s game wasn’t a rude awakening, nor was it a warning. It was status quo for an era and coach who are trying coax victories, by inspiration or trial-and-error, out of revolving pieces.

C’mon fans, you’re no stranger to this. Just the expectations.

Without further Freddy Adu, let’s get to our TSG preview. It goes:

TSG What Are We Looking For

11 At The Whistle

TSG What Are We Looking For

• Why Alan Gordon of course!

Belongs….yes…really.

You knew it the moment the roster was announced. As certain as Jermaine Jones’s voluminous and distinguished yellow card collection.

The US battled for the first 30 minutes on the road in Guatemala a few months back trying desperately to use Herculez Gomez with his back to the basket to hold up the ball.

The US found no joy and, as the 65th minute dawned, Jozy Altidore was inserted into one of his more regrettable performances of the 2012 campaign to take over the banging on Guatemala’s central defenders. Altidore ended up looking for fouls and looking plain unfocused.

The US desperately needed someone to hold-up the ball instead of racing up and down with a Guatemala team that could at times have been mistaken for Argentina with its upfield pressure. Yes, it was that good–a tribute to their coach Hugo Almeida.

Enter Alan Gordon–a player whose first call-up brought questions and whose second call-up brought proof. Terrence Boyd isn’t there yet and Altidore may never excel in the role. Gordon is the target man–for now.

Bruce Arena had Brian McBride. Bob Bradley, Brian Ching–who probably would have made the 2010 World Cup roster if not for his balky hamstring. (Ching turned over into Edson Buddle who was first on Jurgen Klinsmann’s list when he started).

Klinsmann tried Buddle early on and that led to quick bat of the eye at Teal Bunbury and next extending a stepladder to Terrence Boyd’s senior campaign, still a work in progress.

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Live Commentary: USA – Antigua & Barbuda

The starting line-up looks to be out with:

Updated.

G: Howard, DEF: Dolo, Goodson, Cameron, Boca, CDM: Williams, MF: Dempsey, Bradley, Zusi, FW: EJ, Gomez

Get.

It.

On.

TSG: USA vs. Antigua & Barbuda Mini-Preview

The Jamaican eleven … will it play well in the islands?

The US dons the sunscreen galoshes in October and heads down to the land once sought by the British as they take on Antigua & Barbuda in the first game of an away and home series and the final qualifying coupling of 2012.

Whereas Bob Bradley’s team trudged through World Cup qualifying in 2010 with less flare and a more “steady-as-we-can-go” approach leading to results, results and … results but often less-inspiring wins, the Jurgen Klinsmann era has ushered in the age of trial-and-error whipping around the emotions of US fans enough to light-up the talk show and podcast switchboards. (Thank you for that, Jurgy.)

Last time off America soil, it was a sloppy loss in Jamaica after being up 1-0 followed by returning home and authoring an annihilation of the same opponent days later back in the States. Have you no respect for aging fans with weaker hearts, Klinsmann?!

Many will maintain here that this will be Antigua & Barbuda playing the “game of their lives”–and no doubt the Benna Boys will be up to as much of the challenge as they can at their home ground fondly called “Sticky Wickets”–harkening to the real colonialist passion that still inhabits the island….

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