Archive for March, 2013

Mexico vs. USA: Live Commentary

Let the rumble begin. Starting line-ups shortly.

HANDBAGS TIME! Ante up!

Orange Slices: USA vs. Mexico

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day of the match. Don’t accept substitutes, imitators or copycats! Ask for fresh, wholesome Orange Slices by name.

Orange Slices! US vs. Mexico

Hello and welcome to game day!

From Snowfairyland to the Hell in the Heavens–for the United States that is. It’s the Azteca and the location almost as much the lede as the team on each side.

In this corner, the United States, phoenixing out of their first World Cup qualifier nadir in Honduras to slap together a 1-0 result on home…ice.

And in the other corner, the champion–Gold Cup 2011 that is–Mexico’s El Tri, needing a tune-up after captiulating in San Pedro Sula on Friday.

Plenty of hitting below the belt, probably a few rabbit punches, definitely not a good clean fight.

Let’s get it on!

TSG’s Official Preview: USA vs. Mexico: On The Road Again

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Broadcast:

Date Matchup Time Venue TV
March 26, 2013 U.S. Men vs. Mexico * 10:30 p.m. ET Estadio Azteca
Mexico City, Mexico
ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision

The ESPN brought an A team with analysts Alexi Lalas, Alejandro Moreno (terrific) & Taylor Twellman in the house. Oh and of course, Bob Ley and The Knighted, Sir Ian Darke.

Live Commentary: Right here at TSG!

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Ah...the Azteca...

Ah…the Azteca…

Supporting Material:

Border Warz: A video history of the US-Mexico rivalry

• MLSSoccer.com’s Simon Borg says the US should go 5-across in the back. Not a bad idea, but enough prep?

• Grant Wahl ponders whether the Azteca has lost it’s aire of invincibility.

• Jon Levy of The Yanks Are Coming with a preview, players to watch for each side and a prediction.

• ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Eric Gomez debate whether the US or Mexico is in better form and who has more to lose.

• Must-listen: Terrific ESPN “Bighead and the Redhead Podcast” featuring Ian Darke, Alejandro Moreno (he’s a must follow on Twitter) and Alexi Lalas among others.  Solid primer

• The heartfelt tug-of-war that comes with this rivalry when you’re Mexican-American.

• Landon Donovan trains with the University of Wisconsin. How the players felt he did.

Viewing?:

American Outlaws members gather here.

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Weather forecast:

TIm Chandler would do okay here Tuesday night. 65, clear and cool in the forecast when the States take the field.

Surf forecast:

It’s sleeping right now (4-5ft, non-breaking) and likely will hibernate again–unless there is a Pacific hurricane–through October, but Todos Santos on Baja’s north side is…

LAAAAA

JIT!

This is Tom Curren–the smoothest surfer who ever waxed a stick, below in the grainy video.

The data on USA v. Mexico:

» With its first victory on Mexico’s home soil last year, the USA is now 1-23-1 all-time in Mexico.

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TSG’s Official USA vs. Mexico Preview: On The Road Again

It's "that fixture" time of year again. Classic.

It’s “that fixture” time of year again. Classic.

“A rolling snowball gathers only momentum” — Book of TSG, New Testament, 3:22

Okay, everyone thawed out now? Did the USMNT melt your heart Friday?

Thank you. We’ll move on.

Here’s what we learned tactically about the U.S. Friday night.

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...like boarding on fresh powder...

…like boarding on fresh powder…

Okay, moving on again. Well, maybe we got a daisy cup cocktail of knowledge. Two parts Beasley, one part Jozy, and a sprinkle of Guzan– tremendous focus from the Villa keeper who probably thought he was playing with ping pong paddles instead of gloves on his hands.

Let’s get back to that momentum thing because it would appear to be the single strongest factor as the US and Mexico are set to collide Tuesday night.

The US of course is the warm front emerging from the cold, putting a notion of internal strife behind them for now with a pragmatic and gritty effort Friday night in Colorado. If you take a step back, the conditions in Commerce City favored the Costa Ricans, in so much as they were looking to junking up the game; content to sit back and punt upfield with a dash of hope. The US is the one that needed the points and would have to press at some point for a goal; luckily it came early.

Now the US rolls into the Mexico City’s fire pit in the sky; it has to be a little less daunting bus ride to the Azteca after the travel to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park–with a number of players who were on the right side of the final whistle in a friendly last August.

No less than 13 current squad members were present in the friendly dress rehearsal; a 1-0 victory off a Brek Shea nutmeg, Terrence Boyd flail and final Michael Orozco Fiscal poke home in the box. 1-0. The Fiscal Game.

The much celebrated El Tri however is hearing it from their nation this weekend and it’s cold and blustery. The celebrated squad is thought to be in their Golden Age, with a squad that all grew up together in their respective roles and fresh off a symbolic Olympic victory over the measuring stick of Brazil. Instead, El Tri arrives as the cold front.

Having been booed at home multiple times in their February draw against the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica, Mexico headed down San Pedro Sula way to face a confident Honduras side on Friday. They put the Caratchos on their ass early with two deposits from the ever-improving, indefatigueable Chicharito only to see the defense capitulate in the second half when Honduran Jerry Bengston banged home his own penalty kick miss. Thisclose to pulling out of town with three points and changing the narrative.

But they didn’t and Mexico is sitting–restless–on two points with the Yanks coming to town.

Storms a’coming.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary preview.

As usual it goes:

About The Opponent: Mexico

TSG: What We’re Looking At

11 At The Whistle

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About The Opponent: Mexico

A possible El Tri deployment. (Note: With Reyes entering for Rodriguez, CB pairing location might swap.)

A possible El Tri deployment. (Note: With Reyes entering for Rodriguez, CB pairing location might swap.)

It’s the US archrival. It’s the Azteca. The expectation is for a Mexico win and a US loss.

However the high performance engine of Mexico is just not purring perfectly right now. A shaky defense, a hardly pristine possession game and just lacking that player–like a Blanco–who can sit in the middle of central midfield and demand respect in possession without necessarily having to be attacking.

The player is/was supposed to be Gio Dos Santos, though he may just have broken his slump with a solid performance in Honduras.

For US fans though, the no notion that Dos Santos is at all off right now, should bring no (read: ZERO) solace.

It’s seems like each year, Dos Santos has comes into national team camp off little club time–that’s changed with Levante this year–and been a mop-haired, bandana-wearing green wrecking ball against the States. Maybe it speaks to Dos Santos needing the biggest stage to drive his desire; it’s unclear.

Either way, Dos Santos’s resume is comfortably padded with entries ripping apart the US in Azteca in 2009–though he didn’t score he forced the entire US left central defense to seemingly be magnetized to any space around him opening up holes everywhere else–and of course in the Gold Final in 2011 when he hung a triple on Tim Howard and the discombobulated backline.

That said, the Mexican attack really begins with Javier Chicharito Hernandez.

He’s that important.

His movement open space and helps dictate the game.

In fact, you can consider the Mexican attack as a progression of sorts from the initial stimulus of his movement.

Let’s go through that progression below.

» 1. Mind your mark and the posts or you’ll lose the little guy.

This Mexico side is the most dominant on the cross that I can remember. It’s well integrated into their game plan. El Tri use it frequently to set the tone at the outset of matches. And it’s all because of one little vegetable. The star of the El Tri pea pod.

Chief Vegetable...

Chief Vegetable…

Javier “Chicharito (Little Pea)” Hernandez.

Chicharito.

Tireless off-the-ball, Hernandez is the engine of the El Tri attack from the point of the attack.

The Mexican striker who leads the line, Chicharito seems to understand–and revel in–that his movement opens up gashes in the opponent’s defense.

Play a high line and Hernandez will hang of a centerbacks shoulder and drive that highline back. Once a defender is on his heels, Chicharito will check back and, rather that attempt to hold the ball and wait for the attack, he’ll knock-on to the wing for an advancing forward. It’s a patented El Tri play.

Conversely, play deep against Chicharito & co. and now you’ve put the hunter in his habitat, the box. The Mexico attack thinks nothing of continually dumping, crossing, slicing the ball into the box for a run that Hernandez has made or the guy trailing behind him. It’s almost worse to play deep–it’s all bad, really–because he’ll drag a CB all over and open up critical space in the middle.

He’s a can opener for the attack; then a merciless finisher on the one-touch.

How the US elects to manage Chicharito’s movement will shape the entire States’ defensive strategy.

Dare, I.

Wait, first go get a beer from the fridge. Ready? Okay shotgun that beer. Go get another one and crack it.

Gold Cup 2011.

It may have been Gio Dos Santo knocking in the triple against the US in that 4-2 debacle, but it was Chicharito popping up like the mole(s) in a whack-a-mole game that threw an already disorganized US backline into further disarray.

Carlos Bocanegra had his clear problems on the day as did Clarence Goodson.

In fact Goodson, who owned the snowy skies Friday night might find himself pine-bound for this one. Whether it was Guatemala, July 2012 away (with Carlos Ruiz), Italy in February 2012 (Giovinco probably was onsides for a few where he scooted behind Goodson) or that dreaded 2011 Gold Cup Final match, Goodson has an exceedingly difficult time at keeping an offside trap. It’s an abject weakness for him.

Now, if you remember, it was Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu in central defense back in August of 2012. There is a good bet that at least one of these players. will start at CB paired with one of Gonzalez or Goodson Tuesday night.

They’ll have to solve some simple but effective movement from Chicharito.

Below are two stills of Mexico’s first goal Friday in Honduras. Marking Chicharito is Victor Bernardez who many–myself included–consider one of the top CBs in MLS.

The first still is Bernardez goal-side. His defending mistake–after his first error, perhaps, of rushing back to keep Hernandez onside? His hips are squared upfield.

Bad move buddy. [Better form is to stand at an angle, not unlike an outfielder in baseball when the pitch goes up, and defend the near post. The far post is, well, further for the ball to travel accurately and presents the ability for your goalie to come get it.]

The second still shows you that it’s already curtains for Bernardez. Chicharito has given a quick fake far post while on the left Andres Guardado has beaten his man.

A quick service now to Chicharito who has broken to the near post shows that Bernardez has no chance. Hunter, hunted.

Chicharito about to get jiggy with it.

Chicharito about to get jiggy with it.

Chicharito, owning the near post.

Chicharito, owning the near post.

(Note that the pass from comes from the left flank where Mexico tries to get Guardado going early–the reason why comes shortly in our preview.)

You can watch the sequence here.

Just how well the US contains Chicharito will dictate that progression of the Mexican attack and conversely offer just how many opportunities going forward the US has on the day.

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Mother Nature 10 – USA 1 – Costa Rica 0: The Blizzard Ballin’ Retro Diary

Captain'd

Captain’d

Will Parchman, Retro Diary Time, grab a beer

I think it only appropriate to open today’s verbal broadcast with a quick shout: Free Boca. #freeboca. Tell your friends.

So I guess we have to talk about Brian Straus’ story, which added a hint of D-Day to an already difficult Costa Rica game. We didn’t need the added difficulty of anonymous sources parachuting behind Klinsmann’s line and planting land mines. After you read the story, did anyone else hear Omar from The Wire in your ear screaming SNITCHES GET STITCHES. No? Just me? I want to pretend, based on his awesome post-story comments, Michael Bradley stomped into the next team meeting with a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, literally beat everybody on the team over the head with it, and then, without speaking a word, solemnly walked out. I’d follow that guy into a Celine Dion concert.

And THEN, even after watching Mikey B douse the snitches in napalm, Klinsmann went after Deuce for the armband. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like he tapped Bornstein to lead this group (I wish this had happened for so, so many reasons), but it has to be Bradley. Bradley could’ve captained this team when he was five. The million-yard stare, the glistening bald head, the mid-interview words lit on fire with the intensity of supergiant Beta Orionis… my man brings the sound and the fury. Great, Deuce has a face that can kind of look weird to Jamaicans sometimes. Bradley is a literal Nazgul.

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I’ve just come across the USMNT XI. And… I… what? Is Klinsmann like Joaquin Phoenix at this point? Just growing out a ridiculous beard and blindly groping his way through a really weird off-Broadway performance of “Ernest Goes to Camp?” 4-2-3-1, which I like. But the logistics here are somewhat odd. It’s like a woman slowly taking off her clothes, only to reveal 30 seconds in she’s actually Nick Nolte. Drunk. Demspey in the hole (dig it), Bradley and Jones holding (totally), Cameron at RB (makes a kind of sense), Zusi wide right (fine), Herc wide left (do what now?), DMB at LB (GOD HAVE MERCY ON US ALL). Last time I saw DMB on the left side, he’d gotten lost on the field at Azteca and was quietly sobbing to a Mexican child that he’d lost Geoff Cameron and needed money for a snow cone. The last time he was at LB? The 2009 disaster at Saprissa. NO BIGS JURGISTANK.

It’s snowing in Colorado. I love that it’s snowing in Colorado. Suck it, Costa Rica. Honduras gives us a swamp. THE USMNT WILDLINGS BRING YOU CENTRAL AMERICANS NORTH OF THE WALL. Keller and Lalas are wearing the pelts of fallen badgers on their heads. I don’t know what to make of this. In normal circumstances, I’d tell you all the US is about ready to get ripped apart down the left flank with Gomez and DMB (shudder) holding in. But it’s snowing. And we all know that one joke that one guy told at a bar that one time about a Costa Rican soccer player played in Colorado snow. Right!?

Enough. Game time. Ian Darke wants to Barry White this game to you. Taylor Twellman can’t believe you’re not wearing a scarf at home. Let’s go.

‘1 – The boys are wearing white in the snow. This is the Fightin’ Waldo uni taken to its next logical conclusion. I’m freaking out over here.

‘2 – I fear all tactical analysis is more or less moot tonight. A lot of hoofing over the top, not much cogent foot-to-foot play. Lot of adventurous play, not much in the way of pretty play, though. We’ll see if that holds. This game is going to be ridiculous and awesome. Just predicting. Which I’m terrible at.

‘3 – Tays: “Jermaine Jones, getting into the attack.” Schalke: awesome idea. USMNT: ITS RAINING FIRE ON US.

‘5 – Half the time I have no idea where the ball is. We need that awesome/terrible FOX hockey puck trail graphic that died like 10 years ago. Actually, never mind. This may just devolve into ridiculous bathroom humor tonight. Stay tuned. Positive: DMB isn’t sobbing yet.

‘7 – The boys have done well early maintaining composure and tactical rigidity. Essential in games like these where squirrely touches can lead to unexpected goals.

‘9 – Beasley is down holding his face. Sobbing jokes aside, that looked rugged. Fascinating yarn now. Does Beasley, easily the last choice in the XI, get pulled? Stays in for now. Edu in at LB soon? Gahhhhhhhgishdgl.

’14 – The midfield is beginning to figure out the snow and its tactical response to it. Bradley is shifting between a deep lying role and one in the early part of the build-up, Jones is taking it from there (looks so much better since his Champions League run for whatever reason) and Dempsey looks as dangerous as ever. If one of these balls squirts through…

’16 – Oh hello Dempsey, our first crack at goal. Not too close as it wheels out but chances like that DEMPSEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY GOAAAAALLLLLLL WHAAAARBLLLLEEES

Cold-hearted?

Cold-hearted?

’17 – Good lord was that a Dempsey goal or what? Seventh qualifier goal for the Nacogdoches Ninja, and how many looked like that? Tons. Altidore took a shot on and Dempsey followed its track perfectly. Call it a Hoover goal if you want. Lacks curb appeal/whatever. Doesn’t matter. Dempsey does it so well. I predicted two Dempsey goals tonight on Twitter. Halfway there.

’19 – Ian Darke just told us all the refs could abandon it if they can’t see the lines. I DARE THEM. Then he snapped off a “The icemen cometh” line. On air. I love this man. Leave me alone, Chris Hansen. You don’t know what we have together.

’21 – Altidore told anyone who’ll listen the last couple months how beneficial AZ has been for his hold-up play. He’s been outstanding on that front tonight.

’22 – Cameron’s terrible giveaway up past midfield (what is he doing up there that early in the buildup?) nearly leads Costa Rica in for a goal. Plus side: they think the snow is the frosting from mini wheats. Clarence Goodson, meanwhile, has been bafflingly great this half. Bafflingly.

’25 – Jermaine Jones is down, looks like a sub needed. Has to be… someone better? Down side: we maybe lose Jonesy. Plus side: No yellows!

’27 – Tays: “Anything goes with the conditions.” All I hear from my wife in the kitchen: “Hah. Your mom goes with the conditions.” Somewhat incomprehensible jokes about things Taylor Twellman says? I love my wife.

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Costa Rica vs. USA: Live Commentary

Line-ups shortly. No more to say on this one.

....but this time Deuce has to balance the captaincy also. USA vs. Costa Rica. Now.

….but this time Deuce has to balance the captaincy also. USA vs. Costa Rica. Now.

Orange Slices: USA vs. Costa Rica

Orange Slices! Yanks vs. Ticos

The triumphant return! Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day before and day of the match.
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It’s the must-win game. A game coming off some high drama in the US sports media. It’s the game where the most influential player already has been Magic Spray.

It’s US vs. Costa Rica A team the US hasn’t beat since 2005 and who is hardest to peg in terms of what their going to bring game in and game out due to their tinkering coach Jorge Luis Pinto and the transitional stage it’s in.

Broadcast:

Date Matchup Time Venue TV
March 22, 2013 U.S. Men vs. Costa Rica * 8 p.m. MT Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Commerce City, Colo.
ESPN, WatchESPN, UniMas

TSG’s Official USA vs. Costa Rica Preview: Defeato The Tico Incognito

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Around the web:

Reading material: (lots of good stuff on this one.)

Will Beasley make a return at LB (hopefully not, read on below....)

Will Beasley make a return at LB (hopefully not, read on below….)

» Worth linking to yet again. Brian Straus’s bombshell expose on the state of the US national team from more than 22 (anonymous) sources.

» Alexi Lalas on Twitter called his quotes in this piece, “Not my finest hour and back when I thought I knew it all. But I’ll own it.”

» ESPN’s Doug McIntyre sits with Bruce Arena and chats Klinsmann and US Soccer.

» ESPN’s rising soccer writer Rog Bennet takes us through one lens of US Soccer history.

» MLS Soccer has a pretty neat video preview of today’s game.

» Soccer Over There vacuums up all remaining tidbits that you need to be prepared..

Viewing?:

American Outlaws members gather here.

Weather forecast:

Game time temps of just above freezing, but don’t issue the orange ball alert just yet.

Surf forecast:

C’mon brother. It’s all snowboards and snowbunnies in Colorado.

Guess again.

Colorado River, coming at you!

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Bocanegra: There Is No Defense For The Ravages Of Time

"Time" is undefeated.

“Time” is undefeated.

Joshua Wells on the inevitable and the impersonal.

The legend is ingrained in our culture.

The powerful leader stands before his followers, wizened by years, wrinkled by time, but still strong and seemingly invincible to his enemies.  He leads his warriors against the foe in a last blaze of glory, winning a vicious battle and going to a glorious death.  As his funeral pyre burns, a new generation carries on his legacy while simultaneously honoring his memory.

Unfortunately, legends rarely manifest themselves in the real world.

In the real world, time is undefeated.  It adds weight and saps strength.  It gives experience while slowing thought.  Time diminishes us until the young take our place.

Part of being a fan of sports is watching the ravages of time overtake our heroes.  I knew I was getting old when I could remember the entire careers of athletes who were retiring.  I began to feel even older when athletes began to retire who started their careers after I started mine.  Jurgen Klinnsman’s latest World Cup Qualifying roster bore further evidence that time does, and always will, remain undefeated.

It became apparent from the moment Jurgen’s roster was announced that the names on the team sheet owed much to necessity and rather less to choice.  Injury had decimated his choices of fullback and had necessitated the promotion of Brad Guzan to first choice keeper.  While the inclusion of names like Bessler, Beltran, and Morrow on the roster certainly give cause for concern, given the shallow depth of the player pool at the moment, it’s difficult to name viable alternatives that would definitely be upgrades.  Two names not on the roster signal something different though…the offensive and defensive leaders of the USMNT in the last World Cup would not be playing in the two most important matches of Jurgen Klinnsman’s reign to date.

Landon Donovan has removed himself.  There’s nothing much that can be done on that score.  After fourteen years of competition at the highest levels, or not so highest levels according to some (most), Landon has decided to take an extended sabbatical.  Last seen posing for photographs with Cambodian youths, there’s no telling if or when the hero of World Cup 2010 will return.  Jurgen is wisely moving on as if Donovan will never wear the badge again.

Indelible.

Indelible.

The matter of Carlos Bocanegra is different entirely.  Until a few months ago, Boca, as he’s affectionately known, was the undisputed captain and leader of a transitioning USMNT backline.  An ill fated move to Racing Santander in the Spanish Segunda league, five matches played, and more than a month without a game have seemingly left Carlos on the outside of the USMNT looking in.  In what seems like an amazingly short period of time, Bocanegra has gone from indispensible to unwanted in deference to a group of defenders who have barely played a meaningful match in the red, white, and blue strip.

Understandably, the focus of analysis on this roster has been on the exclusion of Bocanegra.  On a roster filled with nascent defenders, how can the USMNT afford to dispense with the experience and leadership that Bocanegra is famed for providing as it faces a must win match against Costa Rica and a trip to the cauldron that is Azteca?

If you gave Klinsmann a truth serum, my guess his answer would simply be, “Easily.”

The value of leadership in any group is dependent on both the effectiveness of the leader and the willingness of his followers.

In the present circumstance, the value of Bocanegra’s experience and leadership has been compromised on both fronts.

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