Archive for the ‘USA vs. Mexico’ Category

Stood Up By The Sports Guy

Update From Mark: The title and notion that we were “stood up” was written firmly tongue-in-cheek. Seems like it didn’t come across that way to some readers based on the comments. However, we certainly appreciate the impassioned discourse. For 45 days a note sat in the sidebar about the Campaign. This post was to wrap it up, say we failed and thank people for making the effort.

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Assuming you can be stood up by someone who never actually said “yes,” the USMNT faithful were stood up by faux USMNT fan Bill Simmons of ESPN.com last week when the Yanks took on Costa Rica at an emotional RFK stadium. And thus we came to the unsuccessful conclusion of the Bill Simmons Campaign.

Based on the emails we received and various message boards around virtual America, I know everyone put forth a great effort to reach out to Simmons via email and twitter imploring him to attend the final World Cup qualifier. (Matthew and I explored other avenues to make direct contact, but were ultimately unsuccessful as well.)

To all who did what they could, THANK YOU.

To be honest, I knew the campaign was in some trouble when Simmons opened a recent “Mailbag” with an ode to October as the best month for sports and didn’t even make a casual reference to World Cup qualification matches.

The Sports Guy was not in the stands (as far as we know and with his second half tweets as evidence) for the dramatic draw, but it sounds like he wishes he was there. (Don’t we all!)

Here’s an excerpt from his Friday NFL column:

RFK STADIUM (-3) over Any Other Soccer Venue
Did you see Wednesday’s incredible USA-Costa Rica game? Phenomenal crowd, upper decks hanging over the field, entire sections swaying, tons of history … the whole thing was Estadio Azteca-esque, only without the fluid-throwing. I was lucky enough to stand on that field once with the Hogs for a 2002 column. It’s an incredible place. Every seat feels like it’s right on top of you. So can’t we just make it official? Every big American soccer game should be played in RFK. We need the home-field advantage. Done and done.

Most interesting to me was that Simmons made no mention of Charlie Davies or The Salute in his note; especially considering the human side of sport and fan experience is what this guy’s career was been built on.

Let me let the statement resonate with you.

A guy who makes his living speaking from the fan perspective didn’t even note the tribute to  Charlie D, the player who scored the only goal that the “Sports Guy” ever saw in person.

(I’ll leave the debate about RFK as the national stadium to you guys and Jason Davis over at Match Fit who recently addressed the subject. Is Simmons qualified to offer an opinion on a national stadium for the USMNT…umm, no.)

In reality, the inclusion of the above snippet in his weekly NFL column seemed like Bill Simmons was tossing a bone to the soccer fans among his faithful readers. Kind of like a “See guys, I still follow soccer.”

For all the reasons we stated in the original piece kicking off the Campaign it was worth giving it a try as there is no denying the coverage by Simmons would have been a boon to Soccer in America. However, at the end of the day, soccer was simply a convenient August distraction and fodder for Simmons’ columns when needed.

Hey Bill, can we at least get a response the next time your soccer crush kicks in?

No caption needed

Honestly, "Sports Guy," how could you miss this? (Awesome photo by Matt Mathai.)

Inspiration for El Salvador from Soccer Mom

The Soccer Mom

The Soccer Mom

From time to time at TSG, we’re going to have our mom–who is quite a prescient sports fan–weigh in with commentary. Like most of your moms I’m sure who read this publication, your mom was there to bring you to (in our case) soccer, baseball, basketball practices and games even after a long day of work.

Beyond our appreciation for the support of our sports career, our mom has probably watched nearly 3 times the amount of sports game that we have.

She typically roots for the underdog.

And she’s not afraid to speak her mind. Countless times I’ve watched games with my mom and her commentary is always so simple and succinct. Some of her favorite lines are, “Go! Go! Go!” and “Oh, he’s so stupid, how could he do that.”

Some of the players across sports that she’s rooted for over time: Derek Jeter, Landon Donovan, Tony Meola, Kasey Keller, Roger Federer and Tim Howard to name a few. (Our mom loves the goalie position).

Continue reading

What’s Up With Clint?

Dempsey: All cylinders go this morning

Dempsey: All cylinders go this morning

We are nary a few hours into the EPL season (so excited) and we are just 30 minutes into the Portsmouth-Fullham game and US left winger Clint Dempsey has looked extremely active this morning and already assisted to Bobby Zamora (guy has a cannon) for a 1-0 Fullham lead.

Clint looks the inverse of what we saw on Wednesday–active, engaged and playing with purpose.

We’re going to do an in-depth piece before the El Salvador game, but let’s get it started with your thoughts.

Was is it just the altitude in Mexico City?

Is Clint just bored with the U.S. strategies and tactics?

Is he just saving himself for next year’s Cup?

Tell us what you think and we’ll research.

Peter Vermes Doesn’t Mess Around

If you’re interviewing Peter Vermes after you read this, let me tell you one thing. Cut to the chase, be efficient with his time, and let him get out of there quickly because all he wants to do is his job and do it well.

Vermes: Live and in color

Vermes: Live and with color

If you’re a KC Wizards fan, that’s a good thing.

TSG had the opportunity to interview KC Wizards coach Peter Vermes this morning and he did not disappoint. Just like he showed us in his playing career, Vermes is a straight shooter, aimed at hitting goals and having success.

While we tried to banter a bit with Peter and get him engage in a little bit of one-two conversation, Vermes was all business and his answers as you will read were matter of fact. A number of times, the KC coach led his answers with, “Look…” as if to say, “This is what’s important and get the story right.”

In the spirit of Peter’s brevity, we’ll keep his answers on the Wizards, Landon Donovan, Jimmy Conrad Twitter escapades, playing in the Azteca, and everything else curt and to the point.

Thanks Peter for the interview….and away we go.

Hey Peter, you could have gone anywhere, why KC?

Look, I’ve been involved in the biz side of the business for awhile and then became technical director at Kansas City. I had the choice of a number of jobs, but I like the technical job. In terms of the KC coaching vacancy, we needed someone who could step in right away and provide some cover until we found the right candidate. We didn’t want to rush into a new coach.

Peter, what are some of your goals or success metrics through the end of the year?

Look we have to be very realistic. We’re in 13th place. We’re a long shot to make the playoffs. You have to look where you are and where you want to get to and then figure out how to get there. For us, it starts with the basics. Number one we have to improve our performance, on a practice-to-practice basis and week-to-week basis. We can’t be rolling the dice on what we’re doing. Each player has to be committed to a better performance.

Look, we’re not magicians, we know where we are in the standings, but if we’re committed to better performance the results will come

Okay, great, but what are some specific things you are looking for?

All players have to raise their intensity.

We need to create more offensive chances.

Kevin Hartman’s having a good year and we still need to keep more clean sheets.

Intensity is the key ingredient though. If I see more intensity, then I know the results will come.

click here for Peter Vermes’ thoughts on US Soccer, US-MEX, U-20 up-and-comers, and Landon Donovan

Mexico 2, USA 1: Progressions [Updated]

Davies...slick

Davies...slick

8:30pm (Pacific): Post has been updated with player ratings

“You measure this game by the next.”

Again…

“You measure this game by the next.”

While the U.S. lost a heart-breaking and hard-fought game in Mexico this afternoon, how successful you judge their play, and their coaching I might add, will be the quality of their play–and coaching–come September 5th against El Salvador.

If you didn’t watch the game, I’ll sum up the first half by a play in the 2nd half at the 3:05 mark. Landon Donovan is peeling down the right flank.

He outpaces everyone, throws his hands up (as is to say, “Where are you guys?), flips, to his dismay, a square/back pass to Michael Bradley, Bradley squares it to Clark, who has an errant touch to Boca coming up the left flank. Ball out of bounds.

Offensive chance closed, first half encapsulated.

The story of the first half is a familiar story for the U.S., tucked in their defensive third, absorbing combination after combination, and shot attempt after shot attempt, from the Mexicans in the hopes of preserving a clean sheet.

Once a possession was gained by the US defense, they’d launch an 80/20 ball (that’s 80 Mexico, 20 US) halfway up the pitch just to get it out of their end. Four out of five times, the ballstarted coming right back their way with the Mexicans on the attack

Why was this the case? Two defensive central midfielders.

Unable to maintain possession and waiting on Donovan and Dempsey to leave their rear guards (or unable to work the ball up the central field space), the U.S. had to relieve pressure with the longball.

Much was the same at the 3:10 mark of the 2nd half with Donovan having flashed up the line with the ball streaking out of the back instead of being worked through possession.

In fact, the next 14 minutes of the 2nd half, saw frustrated and tired defenders (Cherundolo at the 6-min mark, Gooch (or it may have been Boca) at the 8-min mark and Howard at the 17-min mark) just say forget it and punt the ball up the field to try and give them a breather.

I’m checking my watch at this point and seething, “Okay, let’s see the sideline shot of Benny….c’mon Bob.”

And then it happened, Benny up off the lumber…..and, wait, Holden right behind him. I was watching at Kell’s Pub in San Francisco, only downing ginger ales mind you, but I had to do a double take. Tie game, 1-1 in the 2nd half and we’ve got Benny AND STU coming in.

That was a moment of progression, I hope, for Bob Bradley. With a collapsed central midfield that was not helping out the pressure on the defense, Bradley stepped away from his conservative approach and said, “I’m going for it. We need it. We’re good enough.”

This was a good moment for US Soccer.

While the US went minus-one (-1) the rest of the way, that 20-min mark hopefully saw the introduction of even better things to come from US soccer in the coming year.

While Benny didn’t have his best game, he slowed the pace down. A simple back tap to Gooch found the team some working room out of the back. Then you had Holden, showing no fear, attempting some trickery in the Mexican half before literally flying down the right flank and launching perhaps the most gorgeous on-the-fly cross, I’ve seen from the Americans in awhile. A revelation and hopefully the future. (Now if only Charlie had a big head like my brother.)

If I’m Bob Bradley, here’s what else I learned today:

  • Stevie Cherundolo’s going to fight Jonathan Spector for the starting nod on the right. Calm and composed all day long, consistent and solid in possession and always providing cover, Cherundolo shined today.
  • I’ve got Clint Dempsey problems. Dempsey was virtually non-existent this game and whatever the opposite of crisp is (ruffled?). He was lacksadasical in possession and inconsistent in effort, maybe Holden’s entrance was a wake-up call. (More on Dempsey-Bradley in another post).
  • Oguchi Oneywu is irresponsible in central defense. Coming off his play in the Brazil game, Gooch needed to show consistent awareness of offenders. I’m sorry Gooch, the 2nd goal is nearly all yours, what were you doing?
  • Charlie Davies is the best I’ve got up top. He put forth an enormous effort elongating and pressuring upfield all day long. Calm and composed on the US lone goal. The best is ahead for Davies.
  • And the hallmark point, two holding midfields in the center puts way too much pressure on my defense. Can’t work, won’t work. Clark had a mildly bad game (solid in defense, charitable in offense), Bradley had a horrendous game. That being said, they don’t get upfield with consistency and leave the U.S. perilously weak in attack and thus weak in defense as well.

click for Awards – Preview Follow-up – Ratings

Quick Hitters @ the Half

Recapping the first 45-minutes:

  • Speed kills…Davies (not “Davis” as the announcers were saying) with a great run and placement…will he succumb to fatigue in the second half?
  • Poor passing…the US is not valuing every touch and is giving possession away to easy
  • Good placement by Donovan on the set pieces…good work all-around
  • This isn’t Go Fish…stop asking for cards…the epidemic of bookings by the US “A” team leads right to the coach
  • Bradley and Dempsey are underwhelming
  • Beautiful strike by El Tri for the goal…of course it came after ten straight minutes of possession in the US  defensive third

Looking for in the second 45-minutes: [post-game follow-up in green]

  • How will the US come out of the locker room…questionable second halves have been the hallmark of the summer for the USMNT (see: Haiti, Mexico-Gold Cup, Brazil) solid start to the half…broke-down late
  • More quality possessions…not America’s strength, but it has to get better – marginal improvement, forwards were able to do a little more with the long balls
  • When will Bradley go to the bench…don’t want to see him wait until 70 to get Benny in. TSG homeys Feilhaber and Holden came in around the 60th for Ching and Clark. Holden was solid, Benny showed some passion, but his touch was a little off
  • Altidore to come in for Ching…my preference, but it could depend on Davies fitness and whether Bradley decided to shift Dempsey up top. Ching left, Dempsey moved up high, Altidore came on late for a cramping DaviesI think Davies would have played the full 90 without the fitness issue. Alitdore was a non-factor
  • The fatigue factor…How the teams progress from the 18 on the change of possession – the game slowed in the second half, but the blow-by on Donovan may have been a result of fatigue…Davies was a casualty
  • Bradley NOT playing for the tie. – stayed the course in the second half looking for the one magic long ball

Check back a little later today, Matthew will have the full recap and I’ll add my take in the comments. Right now I’ll just say, don’t blame the ref.

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