Archive for March, 2013

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

Will likely captain Michael Bradley guide a bunch of youngsters to 3 points in Colorado?

“There is work to be done”
Will Michael Bradley guide a bunch of youngsters to 3 points in Colorado?

It’s about as close to must-have that a non-must-have is.

The US coach, Jurgen Klinsmann believes it is, in fact, a must-have.

And the US goes forward with, at best, a second choice squad this week.

The United States opens the home leg of its CONCACAF final round World Cup qualifying round this Friday at Dick Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado still licking its wounds from February when it stumbled badly in a single game qualifier against Honduras.

The US looked lethargic and unassertive against the Catrachos, sparking more questions about Klinsmann’s ability to steward the States through a qualifying campaign that sees the strongest front-to-back CONCACAF field perhaps ever.

And now the US skipper will have to attempt to answer those questions without even close to his best arsenal.

Tim Howard, Tim Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Edgar Castillo, Danny Williams, Jose Torres all out for this pair of matches.

Boca: Not playing and now not traveling with the States...

Boca: Not playing and now not traveling with the States…

Veteran Carlos Bocanegra not recalled from Racing Santander (though deemed Monday not out of the national team picture by Klinsmann) where he cannot get on the pitch for the second division Spanish side.

Clint Dempsey has just returned to game action for Tottenham Hotspur and looked rusty against Fulham on Sunday.

Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi and Maurice Edu all carry yellow cards which will rule them out of the Mexico clash if they pick up one during the Costa Rica game.

That’s more than a stacked deck against Klinsmann; it’s the whole casino.

Yet, the States need this result badly against the Ticos more so than even a draw against El Tri at the Azteca next Tuesday.

In CONCACAF, defending home turf is imperative in order to escape with a World Cup berth. With the US coming of a defeat on the road and staring at a probable loss in their next match, a result–a win that is–moves the US forward with serious but doable work to do coming out of this home-and-away camp. A loss puts the US in a precarious position and squarely an underdog in finding its way to Brazil 2014.

The States will need to manage a talented Costa Rican front three while relying on their midfield to provide defensive cover and generate service up the pitch in parallel, something that midfield group has struggled mightify with over the the past two years.

That said, the complexion of the Costa Rica team and where the US has experience on the field bodes well for a good result for the States in the Rockies.

Without further Freddy Adu, let’s get to our customary preview:

As usual, it goes:

About The Opponent: Costa Rica

TSG, What We’re Looking For

11 At The Whistle

NEW: Fan Feedback

The Tico Attackers: Ferocious!

The Tico Attackers: Ferocious!

About The Opponent: Costa Rica

Once the continual “bronze medalist” from CONCACAF, the Costa Rican team has stumbled to the middle of the pack ever since Jonathan Bornstein drilled home a US corner kick at the death in the final CONCACAF qualifying game in 2009.

That Borstein header forced the Ticos into an ill-fated home-and-away series with CONMEBOL’s Uruguay for the right to go World Cup 2010. The Ticos met their demise as Uruguay started to steam its way to the label of 2010 World Cup darling.

Though not as sensational as the phrase may sound, you could say the Ticos have never been the same since.

Centeno, long a warrior, but now a captain and player no longer...

Centeno, long a warrior, but now a captain and player no longer…

Gone after the 2010 cup run is midfield general Walter Centeno, long the heart and soul of the Costa Rican team and, at 137 games played, the team’s all-time cap leader. Likewise for Rolando Fonsecu, the Ticos all-time leading scorer with 47 deposits in 113 caps; the forward called it quits from international play in 2011.

Like the US, the Ticos have struggled since change occurred at the top after the 2011 Gold Cup. Colombian Jorge Luis Pinto is back for his second try at leading the team. Players have been juggled in and out of the line-up and many have been moved into roles where they don’t see time on their club teams. The line-up deployed deployed Friday will likely contain at least two changes from Costa Rica’s February qualifier.

The lack of homogeneity has–like it has the USMNT–resulted in its attackers often being starved for service and the team forced to have a moment or two of brilliance to pull out a result.

That’s exactly what happened in February when the Ticos needed a header from Alvaro Saborio and moment of wizardy from the soon-to-be-much-discussed Bryan Ruiz to escape Panama with a 2-2 draw.

While it’s simple to see just how Costa Rica can punish the opposition when the ball and team get forward with frequency, a clear cut definition of roles in the Ticos’s 4-3-3 is not wholly possible.

One can almost consider Costa Rica’s attack similar to that of the Premiership’s Manchester City where the width is provided by galavanting fullbacks and the front five are given license to roam and make runs, many focused on checking to or overloading the ball-side.

A possible Costa Rican deployment

A possible Costa Rican deployment

Given the point of attack, Costa Rica push their fullbacks extremely high up the pitch. They do this especially well on the left where Christopher Meneses gets and stays forward often, almost functioning as a wingback at times. (Update: According to feedback, Everton man Brian Oviedo is the first choice option at the wingback position).

Ahead of the back four is a double pivot midfield set up in top-heavy triangle who serve as ball carriers, forward pivots and “switch-field” artists to generate the Tico attack.

That pairing could be Ariel Rodríguez and Celso Borges. Rodriguez sits as the link to the front while Borges–who was horrible and thus substituted early for Michael Barrantes against Panama–serves as a deeper fulcrum and will have more defensive duties. Disclaimer again as that the play is very fluid and the midfield pawns frequently interchange.

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Klinsmann’s 23-Man Roster To Face Costa Rica, Mexico

And there you have it.

No cards and good passes, okay?

No cards and good passes, okay?

Klinsmann’s crew to face Costa Rica in Colorado and Mexico at the Aztecz.

Discuss.

G: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson

DEF: Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Clarence Goodson, Justin Morrow, Tony Beltran

MF: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, Kyle Beckerman, DaMarcus Beasley, Sacha Kljestan, Brek Shea, Joe Corona

FW: Clint Dempsey, Graham Zusi, Eddie Johnson,

STR: Jozy Altidore, Herculez Gomez, Terrence Boyd

Note: The official roster listed the following squad members as out:

Edgar Castillo (facial fractures), Timmy Chandler (hamstring), Steve Cherundolo (knee), Tim Howard (back), Fabian Johnson (hip), Jonathan Spector (ankle), Jose Torres (hamstring) and Danny Williams (illness

Debate: Klinsmann’s US Roster To Face Costa Rica, Mexico Due Monday

Jurgen Klinsmann will debut the US squad for two vital qualifiers tomorrow morning.

Here’s a look at who might be on that list Monday. We did not confine the list to a set number so expect less names tomorrow.

Again, as always, this who Klinsmann might pick–not who TSG would.

My time!

My time!

G: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson

The skinny: Guzan is the #1 with Tim Howard ailing and Nick Rimando the back-up. Rimando’s experience in altitude and in CONCACAF will come in handy should Guzan take an unfortunate knock. Bill Hamid’s been the best keeper in MLS this season, but Sean Johnson–with a terrific effort against Sporting KC this weekend–gets the nod as he’s the third incumbent currently.

DEF: Tim Chandler, Geoff Cameron, Carlos Bocanegra, Omar Gonzalez, Michael Parkhurst, Fabian Johnson, Matt Besler, Alfredo Morales.

The skinny: This is troubling for the States. Off the name above, only Timmy Chandler is on form right now and his last time in the Waldos wasn’t exactly spectacular. Cameron is back in the line-up for Stoke City after a hiccup–the Potters registered a shutout this weekend as well. Of course, Steve Cherundolo and Edgar Castillo are out for the States with injuries.

Omar Gonzalez–your likely starter again–was okay in the Galaxy’s draw as was Matt Besler against Chicago a week after having a poor outing in Toronto. One has to wonder if Jeff Parke or Justin Morrow–January camp participants will be given a look at here at all also.

MF: Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Danny Williams, Maurice Edu, Jose Torres, Kyle Beckerman

The skinny: No true surprises here. Klinsmann goes with tried and true–even if that means Jose Torres might get some playing time.

FW: Clint Dempsey, Graham Zusi, Eddie Johnson, Herculez Gomez, Alejandro Bedoya

The skinny: The Costa Rica game for the States is precisely what you want a fit Clint Dempsey for. Alas, Deuce just made his return to Tottenham this Sunday, subbing in in the Spurs 1-0 loss to Fulham. He may go the distance, but it’s not likely. Eddie Johnson will likely be employed in the left-side “swing forward” role. Tasked with playing defense ahead of Fabian Johnson and then pushing up high on the left. Johnson, of course, excelled centrally at striker for Seattle this past weekend his more natural role (that said, EJ also looked painful in that striker role during the January camp friendly against Canada.)

Herculez Gomez has been firing and the Yanks are sure to glad to see it while both Graham Zusi and Joe Corona have played good club ball of late.

No Shea or Gatt call-in, though pulling in one of the two (esp. Gatt.) would seem to make a ton of sense as a variable off the bench.

STR: Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo

The skinny: Altidore is burning up the Dutch league, but he’s been profiting off the creation and hold-up play of others. The US will ask him to play with his back to the basket again which may work against an inferior central defense of Costa Rica but would be challenging against El Tri.

Juan Agudelo looks to be renewed under new Chivas USA coach El Chelis. Remember, Agudelo already has 17 caps to his name.

WCQ: Costa Rica’s Squad To Face The USMNT

And here you go. Let the defense adjustments begin.

Costa Rica calls in an expected and veteran team to face the US in Denver.

Goalkeepers: Keilor Navas (Levante), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense)

Defenders: Juan Diego Madrigal (Santos de Guápiles), Christian Gamboa (Rosenborg), Michael Umaña (Saprissa), Johnny Acosta (Dorados de Sinaloa), Giancarlo González (Valerenga), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls), Bryan Oviedo (Everton), Christopher Meneses (Alajuelense)

Midfielders: Celso Borges (AIK), Osvaldo Rodríguez (Santos de Guápiles), Cristian Bolaños (Copenhagen), Ariel Rodríguez (Pérez Zeledón), Keylor Soto (Pérez Zeledón), Yeltsin Tejeda (Saprissa), Michael Barrantes (Aalesund), Diego Calvo (Alajuelense), Bryan Ruiz (Fulham), Mauricio Castillo (Cartagines)

Forwards: Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake), Joel Campbell (Real Betis), Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew)

..

Joel Campbell for Real Betis….

Brief: Jurgen Klinsmann’s Twitter Commentary

Whither the USMNT goes, this guy is driving the bus...

Whither the USMNT goes, this guy is driving the bus…

Jurgen Klinsmann took to Twitter today to answer questions from the US Twitteratti. Here were some of his answers.

On Clint Dempsey: “Spoke with Clint. Back in training & hopes to play v Inter. All good for WCQs”

 On Brad Guzan replacing Tim Howard: “Brad has played in WCQ and having an awesome year @ Villa. We are confident he will step up.” Q: Do you think Guzan will step up w/o Howard?

 On announcing location of the next home qualifiers: “Very soon. We are excited about the venues!”

 On Brek Shea: “Happy for Brek to play in the Premier League. Hopefully he gets more PT RT: @coleman_gibbs Do you think Shea has a chance to start v CRC?

 On USMNT players (yawn): “To become more consistent and rise to their next level” ‏RT@marktopshelf22 What is something you have been emphasizing for USMNT players?

› On Fabian Johnson: Yes. He should be good to join us in Denver. RT @ChiefFif Heard that Fabian Johnson is returning to training. Option for the next 2 games?

› On Josh Gatt: Alot of work ahead. He’s had a great attitude so far. RT ‏@alval211how high is Josh Gatts potential for the USMNT?

› On Steve Cherundolo: Happy he is back in training. Hopefully he can catch up as soon as possible. @ElChosenJuan94 how is cherundolo doing?

› On Jozy Altidore: Thrilled when he scores for AZ. Hope it happens with us as well. RT@lucasloredo Jozy has had success at AZ. How do you translate to USMNT?

› On the most dominant player you’ve ever played against: Most dominant I’ve ever been on the field with is Maradona

› On grass versus turf: If I have the choice, I always prefer grass. RT @sunmysidepdx would you ever play a WCQ on turf? In Portland? 

› On the roster timing: Once we know that all players made it through the weekend healthy.

(con.)

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