Archive for the ‘USMNT’ Category

TSG’s USA vs. Belgium Preview: Who’s Got The Muscles In Brussels?

Young Agudelo will likely get his first USMNT Euro cap... (Photo credit: Matt Mathai...of course)

It’s Tuesday Night Football.

USA. Belgium.

Party at Kljestan’s!

The United States is in Europe Tuesday as they conclude the second match of their first true camp under Jurgen Klinsmann.

As sure as the opponent and match location are the diametrically opposite to the Home Depot Center and Costa Rica…is the approach and stature of Klinsmann and his predecessor Bob Bradley.

Klinsmann, focused on the attack in the early going of his tenure...

Whereas Bradley was given a short tether and media statements around him were perennially stamped with the almost-infamous phrase “get results,” Klinsmann’s early term has been marked with a draw and now a home loss against a Costa Rican side that played about as organized as a pick-up team from the San José barrio.

Tuesday? The United States will face much stiffer competition in Belgium–a team that boasts quite a bit of talent, but never seems to compile it well all at once.

In fact, many of the Red Devils can be readily identified by their clubs (Chelsea, PSV, Arsenal, Manchester City, Benfica, Lille and more) and by their lone last names as well: Fellaini, Vermaelen, Kompany, Lukaku, and Hazard.

Despite those names adorning their kits, Belgium comes off a pedestrian effort; a 1-1 draw in the Euro qualifiers on Friday against Azerbaijan.

The Red Devils had a slight advantage in possession and more than a triple advantage in opportunities, but could only muster a penalty kick for their lone tally from 34-year-old Nuremburg greybeard Timmy Simons.

That said, the United States simplistically controlled the run of play with fundamental checkbacks in the 1st half against Costa Rica while appearing worn out in the 2nd half, offering up a goal on an odd man run that was the difference maker.

Should the States play defense anywhere near how they did the entire match against Costa Rica the final scoreline might make USSF cringe–rightly or wrongly–at the opening salvo from Heir Klinsmann.

On to our official USA vs. Belgium preview. As usual we go:

About The Opponent

TSG What Are Looking For

11 At The Whistle

Disclaimers

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The Belgium front four--quite an abundance of attacking prowess...

 

About The Opponent:

Conspiracy theory? Sunil Gulati knew Klinsmann was his man immediately after the Gold Cup final and asked the German who he wanted his September friendlies against.

Evidence? Belgium plays a similar 4-1-2-3 to the formation the United States has used in its two previous games.

Differences?

Lukaku, formerly of Sacha Kljestan's Anderlecht...

Belgium employs Chelsea wunderkind and Didier Drogba carbon copy Romelu Lukaku at striker–though a teenager, Lukaku is explosive and shortly should take the reins up top for the Blues at Stamford Bridge.

That and Belgium doesn’t get it’s fullbacks up the pitch nearly as much as Klinsmann hopes his make it Tuesday.

In fact, rightback Toby Alderweireld is a centerback by trade for Ajax. (He’s still loop in some crosses for the massive target afro of Marouane Fellaini.)

Wait…did someone say Fellaini?!

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TSG What Are We Looking For:

• The best defense better be a good offense

While media raved about the United States attacking combination play, TSG will play the role of wet blanket here.

Costa Rica’s defense was shambolic. The play by the US fundamentally sound at times, but elementary in nature.

Simple checkbacks with an overlapping winger or defender usually easily opened up Costa Rica in the 1st half.

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US Roster: Jurgen Klinsmann’s September Campers

Brek Shea flies again...

Wow.

First, no Michael Bradley–yup! But no Jermaine Jones either.

Some surprises for sure. Namely a Jeff Larentowicz call-in, no look-see for Brad Guzan and young Fabian Johnson taking a shot at being the next German-American star.

Just call them the German bookends for the next generation with Timothy Chandler and Johnson in camp.

Teal Bunbury finally gets some run as well.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C.United), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Edgar Castillo (Club America), Timmy Chandler (FC Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Jose Torres (Pachuca)

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)

Selected Images: USA vs. Mexico; Klinsmann Debuts

For those new to TSG, Matt Mathai is a our resident photographer.

His story and affiliation with US Soccer and MLS is deep; you can check it out here.

Matt’s nickname–“Hansel Adams”–around the TSG Hall is one part Zoolander (Hansel…so hot) and two parts, well, Ansel Adams. Take a look–again–at Mathai f-stopping his way through last Wednesday USA vs. Mexico match-up in Philadelphia.

Update: If you’re on Twitter and like Matt’s work, do a solid and RT this: http://twitter.com/#!/shinguardian/status/103493511625719809

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USA 1, Mexico 1: Optimism, But Not Victory, Reigns Supreme

By Neil Blackmon

Calls for "Cleetus 2.0" just got louder.

For sixty minutes, the United States plodded along like a side still lost in the wilderness, no matter what name was spelled out in the press guide next to “Manager.”

There was little in the way of attack, save an early cross just past a leaping Edson Buddle’s head and a late arriving Jermaine Jones’ outsretched right leg.

There was sloppy ball movement, not simply in rare forays towards the Mexican half but in clearing distributions, where at least three or four passes by newly inserted fullback Edgar Castillo on the left found men in green jerseys in space and caused heads to shake and profanities to be uttered.

Mainstays like Steve Cherundolo and now the senior “Bradley” on the team, MB 90, were also shaky, the former in his normally outstanding distribution to the midfield and the latter in his decisiveness on the ball, a new development that seemed to echo the failings of six weeks ago in Pasadena.

There was zonal confusion, players too bunched together and the attendant lack of shape that results from those issues. With lack of shape comes lack of space, and since, as Rinus Michels once noted, “football is a game of space”, it was eye-opening to see how much more space El Tri had than the Americans. In short, even with the obvious disclaimer that this was an American side twelve days into a regime change with no more than three practices in a new system under its belt, the first hour of Wednesday night’s affair in Philadelphia had a bit of a “Meet the new boss…Same as the old Boss” feel.

Klinsmann took the game in stride...

And yet, despite all of this, there was Jurgen Klinsmann, finally manager of the US Men’s National Team, telling ESPN’s Monica Gonzalez at the half that he felt great, and that things were very positive, all while wearing a big grin.

Meet the new boss indeed.

Meet him and understand that despite the very obvious reservations one could have about the man charged to take the United States Men’s Soccer program to the next level, one can’t help but get sucked in by some overwhelming sense of optimism.

Optimism because a team can be thoroughly outplayed and find itself down 1-0 on a goal that was a bit fluky.

Optimism because a back four and a new left back (there’s that old demon of a position again) can have fits with his clearances, but enough of a defensive shape and ability to maintain responsibility can prevent more than one successful shot on goal despite a half where a world class opponent was camped out in the US half.

Optimism because a striker left alone in a game not coming to him didn’t let his isolation affect his movement and work rate—and yes, it is the little things.

Optimism because of a manger that seemed more calm than confused, one who smiled and looked like someone in awe of the job he had, not the job he had to do, even after his team did what the last manager’s teams too often did late in his tenure—fall behind before twenty minutes.

And optimism because of fan and, far more critically, player reaction after the game ended in a 1-1 draw, a reaction that suggested that the United States as a footballing nation can, and will, be better. “We’re not all world beaters,” Tim Howard suggested after the match. “But we can be better than what we are.” It was a game that captured the sentiment of Jared DuBois, co-host of the great American Soccer Show and guest columnist here at TSG earlier this week: Yes, we can…and should be optimistic, even amidst our fear of being too hopeful.

Here are two overarching final thoughts and perhaps reasons for that optimism with reservation, as well as player ratings from Wednesday night’s match.

First, you want optimism that for a moment allows American fans to feel a sense of swagger? And after only one friendly? How about the fact that for just around thirty minutes Wednesday night, the United States played as encouraging a brand of football as their fans have seen in well over a year.

And they did against a team that has had one of, if not the best summer, of anyone in international football. And they did it without their finest player.

Indeed, after Carlos Bocanegra’s wicked but misplaced header ricocheted off Guillermo Ochoa’s right leg, the Americans played like a team full of the new and quiet sense of belief their manager entered the job with.

Suddenly, the zonal confusion and lack of shape that so plagued the first half was gone, with the US utilizing width in ways it hasn’t in recent memory and substitutions Juan Agudelo, Brek Shea and Robbie Rogers menacing the Mexican defense with their movement, creativity, and pace.

Agudelo showed many why there’s so much promise for his future, dazzling with his work rate and his willingness to get back and involve himself in the match–Harkes be damned.

Outcome-wise, his willingness to track back to the edge of the US area contributed to the game’s most controversial and critical moment in the 88th minute. Agudelo closed in on a Mexican attacker along with Ricardo Clark, who won the ball impressively and then flicked it forward to himself and over a Mexican defender, playing a brilliant ball in space to a streaking Robbie Rogers.

Rogers, who looked every bit the player now playing for a manger he has a long relationship with and hitting the restart button on a disappointing career, took the ball and looked to be clear on goal. It was not to be. And yes, given Rogers’ history we have no sound reason to believe he would have finished his chance.

Still, it was shades of El Tri frustration past, as a terrified Gerrardo Torrado played the role of Eagles free safety at the Linc and dragged him to the ground, ending the chance and quite possibly preserving the draw. Jamaican referee Raymond Bogle, a ninety-minute advertisement for the inferiority of CONCACAF officiating, blew his second call in a fifteen minute span, issuing only a yellow to Torrado. But it was a compelling moment. And there were other promising things from Agudelo, including his movement off the ball and his willingness to take on defenders in constricted areas, a reminder of both his bright future and why he should stay in New York and continue to train with the great Thierry Henry, who his game resembles in bright moments.

Brek Shea, too, gives reason for belief. The cynics about his possible role on this team pointed, with some justification, to hot MLS players brought into the fold in the past.

The Conor Casey’s, Kenny Coopers and Chad Barretts of the world had let us down so many times before. But Brek Shea is but twenty-one, we can now retort. And his form and play last night denote a future that’s immense—and more critically, one that’s immense away from the center of midfield, which has become the hub of promising American player development. Shea was controlled on the ball and poised, able to make good decisions, reluctant to act too quickly but decisive enough to act when need be, and no more was this evident than on his timely cross to Rogers on the American equalizer, where he waited for support, strong enough to hold off two defenders just long enough for it to arrive.

There is plenty of time to debate whether or not Brek Shea is nearly ready to ply his trade overseas. This writer, at least, would caution against such a move, and point to Stu Holden, who established himself as a dominant multi-year force in MLS before departing for greener pastures with success. Those discussions, however, miss the point. The FC Dallas man having a breakout season appears poised to help Jurgen Klinsman establish a new American identity, and at twenty-one, has a long while to do just that. And all of those things are reasons to be tremendously encouraged.

Of course, we need to mention the reservations. There was the matter of the match’s first hour. Yes, the Americans played stirring football for half an hour (albeit most of it occurring one Rafa Marquez had departed from the Mexican backline). And yes, it’s also true that the team had very little time to implement a new system, and bumps in the road are to be expected. Thing is- those moments of brilliance don’t happen in a vacuum. The first hour showed just what type of job Jurgen Klinsmann does have in front of him. The aforementioned lack of shape and zonal confusion was made worse by the performance of Edgar Castillo, who looked outclassed most the evening, sloppy in his clearances, choppy in his first touch and outright panicky when the Mexicans threaded attacks up his wing. When he did advance, his offensive skill-set made him look a bit better, but it is clear that he is little more than a depth-guy at the international level.

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US vs. Mexico: The Klinsmann Era Begins: Live Commentary

"So Klinsman thinks you can help us. Here's what we do..." (but you knew this was going to be the player picture)

The United States takes to the pitch in Philadelphia, PA against CONCACAF rival and arch-nemisis Mexico.

Kickoff at Lincoln Financial Field is set for 9 p.m. ET. Pre-game at 5:30.

Already a lot of news today in advance of this game that was no doubt timed for this.

MLS inking a TV deal with NBC. Freddy Adu reportedly headed to Chivas.

When the game begins though all eyes will for the first time perhaps be on the sideline with interested and giddy eyes at new US coxswain Jurgen Klinsmann.

We know the starting line-up already, it’s #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9,#10, #11 — #12 – #18 on the bench.

We’ll find out shortly what players don those first eleven numbers.

TSG and your analysis gets going….now.

Snapshot 1934: How “USA vs. Mexico” Was Birthed….in Rome

This contribution by Rory McLean. He is a historian and soccer writer based in “middle America.” He is the co-writer of Steven Cohen’s Not Blowing Smoke, a collection of biographical short-stories available for the Amazon Kindle.

Processing the Stars & Stripes in 1934...

The taste of a sour Gold Cup finale is still puckers the lips of the US soccer fan.

The shadow of Mexico’s 4-2 come from behind victory looms large as the two teams are set to face off today in yet another meeting of this region’s premier soccer rivalry.  However, one would probably be hard pressed to find many fans in the stadium, or anywhere for that matter, that merely know as much about the first soccer match between these two nations must less know someone who may have attended.

In fact, a wager that the answer is zero; unless of course you read on.

Following an increase in interest due to the success of the inaugural World Cup in 1930, organizers had to develop a qualifying process for the 1934 World Cup in Italy.

The United States–a 1930 participant–filled out their paperwork too late–seems like late rosters and tardy administrative work is in US Soccer’s blood–to fully participate in qualifying but the States were granted a reprieve when organizers arranged for the North Americans to play a final qualifying match against the champions from Central America, Mexico.

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USA vs. Mexico Preview: Will The Kaiser Roll?

Thomas Dooley, chosen as an assistant coach by Jurgen Klinsmann, for USA-Mexico this Wednesday. Here, getting ahead of Mexico in the 1995 Copa America...

Slapped on the schedule right after the Gold Cup, the US-Mexico clash looked like nothing more than a money grab by US Soccer.

With the outstanding ratings of the Gold Cup final, Sunil Gulati and chums eyes surely widened at the vats of creamcheesy cash that they figured could be made in Philadelphia.

Assuming the throne...

With the sudden termination of stoic Bob Bradley and the insertion of media darling and tabbed savior Jurgen Klinsmann the match’s importance changes for USSF.

Wednesday, the USMNT takes on Mexico’s El Tri at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

It’s new beginnings for the US under the guise of a dig-the-trench rivalry. In fact none other than Freddy Adu coined it best when he tweeted this week, “Should I rent Avatar or Dark Knight.”…oops wrong tweet, when he tweeted “Did you guys see Mexico’s roster? Like I said there is no such thing as a friendly against Mexico.”

But at the end of the day Wednesday–and leading into the game–it’s all about perceptions and messaging as one game does not a coronation define, for the good or the bad.

Consider some of the following:

» With a roster so laden with Mexican leaguers, USSF appears to be firing a shot across the border at Mexico with the pronouncement, “Miguel Ponce and Joe Corona may go your way, but we’re taking this ‘game’ seriously now.”

Will we see a radical infusion of “Latinos” in the starting line-up? Probably not.

» One “Primerican” that isn’t there? Jonathan Bornstein. Add in the absence of Sacha Kljestan–admittedly in action already this campaign–…or even Benny Feilhaber and Jurgen Klinsmann’s first camp clears out some of Bob Bradley’s entrenched regime or pet projects. Note: Robbie Rogers was brought in to replace Maurice Edu on the roster however Klinsmann actually played with Rogers on a semi-pro team in California upon a time.

An asterisk no longer....

» Yes, Michael Bradley is there, but so are now five other central midfielders who will seemingly vie for two or three spots max. That means that Junior Bradley–considered a “core” member of his father’s regime (beyond the genetic ties) is likely no longer core and in a fight for his position for the first time since he manicured a bushel of hair on his dome back in 2006.

With little time to install too much new, expect to see a somewhat similar game plan to that used by the States in the Gold Cup final with two exceptions.

First, by both by design and because the Gold Cup performance was so sub-standard, expect the States backline to both perform better and for the fullbacks to get ahead in the attack much more than that demoralizing day in July.

And second, the US got overrun in the central midfield by their elder El Tri counterparts that day. The US will certainly maintain better shape and the new manager may install a third central midfielder to control the critical part of the field.

On to our customary TSG preview, it goes:

TSG What Are We Looking For/At

The Opponent*

11 At The Whistle

Disclaimers

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