Archive for the ‘USMNT’ Category

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


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Op-Ed: Jozy Altidore, Patience Is Advised

This is an editorial by TSG’s Jay Bell.

Another strong opening for Altidore, but....(seen here with former USMNT & current Alkmaar director Ernie Stewart.)

Jozy Altidore opened up his season for his new employers, AZ Alkmaar, early (so so very early) this morning with only his third league goal in the past 18 months. The commentators continuously said it was his first league goal since scoring against Manchester City in February of 2010, but Altidore also scored for Bursaspor against Antalysaspor in April this Spring.

Altidore’s Jolazo™ was the third goal in a 3-1 victory over Dutch power PSV Eindhoven. It was a home game, but the performance proves that there is plenty of room for optimism for AZ this season and in the future. Maarten Martens scored a peach of a goal early in the match. The Belgian winger is in the prime of his career at the age of 27. The 35 yard rocket to put AZ up 2-0 came from a 22 year old defender, Nick Viergever, who had never before scored a professional goal.

Altidore entered in the 65′ for Ruud Boymans, 21, soon after he seemed to be pointing to his ankle after pressing into PSV’s corner. Altidore displayed maturity on his goal with intelligent off-the-ball movement rarely seen during his stints with Hull City and Villarreal. Altidore, (still just) 21, slowed his run, accelerated and cut behind his defender to beat the goalkeeper to Adam Maher’s cross. Maher, only 18, was one of three substitutes utilized by AZ manager Gertjan Verbeek.

The two 21-year olds, Altidore and Boymans, will look to compete for playing time as the striker in the Dutch 4-3-3. All of AZ’s players Sunday were aged 21-27, with the lone outlier being Maher. Verbeek may have already molded the young AZ squad into a title contender.

Verbeek was in charge of Heerenveen during Michael Bradley’s time in the Netherlands. Heerenveen was an attacking force, scoring 88 goals in only 34 matches (they also gave up 48 goals). In his final year, Bradley scored 16 goals in the Eredivisie and 20 in all competitions. With AZ’s attacking personnel, they could be in position to mimic that attacking prowess.

Altidore's Gold Cup crusade ended with a bum hamstring against Jamaica.

Altidore’s performance in the Gold Cup, albeit expected against the level of competition, and now an early goal for AZ after returning from an injury will get plenty of American fans ready to call for Altidore’s career ascension. Optimism is warranted, but enthusiasm should be tempered.

Jozy has done this before.

After scoring for the US in the Olympics against the Netherlands, Altidore hit the ground running for Villarreal. The 18-year old showed energy and an aggressive attacking verve in his first appearance with the Yellow Submarine. The young striker found it hard to get minutes for the Spanish club, but notched his first league goal against Athletic Bilbao in a 4-1 victory.

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Freddy Adu, Jose Torres, & DaMarcus Beasley Headline Klinsmann’s First US Roster

And away we go!....

The Jurgen Klinsmann Express has just left the station, US Soccer management and fans hopeful that it barrels instead of chugs to World Cup 2014.

Klinsmann officially installed as the new US manager last Friday after Bob Bradley’s ouster had little “official” time to prepare for his 1st examination by US fans, August 10th against the rising tide of Mexico’s El Tri in the City of Brotherly Love.

And he’ll have little time to prepare for the US’s last foe and foil for a Confederation’s Cup bid.

With that the former German striker went with a battle-tested roster for next Wednesday’s official FIFA clash but did paint well outside the old regime by favoring players from the Primera in Jose Torres and Michael Orozco Fiscal among others.

Clearance for Clarence: Goodson was just named captain of Denmark's top club, Bronby...


GOALKEEPERS (2): Bill Hamid (D.C.United), Tim Howard (Everton)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne), Edgar Castillo (Club America), Timmy Chandler (FC Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), José Torres (Pachuca)

FORWARDS (5): Freddy Adu (Benfica), Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Edson Buddle (FC Ingolstadt), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)


The skinny:

» Edgar Castillo, Paco Torres, and Michael Orozco all hailing from the Primera. A league that Bob Bradley valued a little less (but is high on Sunil Gulati’s wish list).
» Will Castillo get the shot at LB now?
» DaMarcus Beasley back in the mix? Interesting given he just started to get it going for Pachuca.
» With Brad Guzan locked in to finding playing time for this campaign and with an eye to the future DC United’s Bill Hamid gets called in to play with idol Tim Howard.

US Roster Wednesday…The Klinsmann Journey Begins

With the United States-Mexico friendly nary two weeks away, Jurgen Klinsmann’s first brushstroke to his legacy begins.

But who else?


On Wednesday, the US roster comes out for the August 10th friendly against El Tri in Philadelphia.

There is a lot to balance in the first roster announcement including dialing up the appropriate amount of cut-bait with respect for legacy players. All of this is of course subject merely to availability and with little time to navigate.

Per his press conference and Sunil’s words afterward, expect many of the same faces to go up against Mexico.

It will be interesting though to see just who, especially in Europe, Klinsmann secures with clubs readying for the beginning of the season.

Help us shake it out.

Busy, Call Back Later

Clint Dempsey. “Sorry, Jurgy. I’m exhausted.”

Hard to imagine Fulham and US managing a Deuce recall for this one. The Gold Cup  burned out Dempsey and Fulham gave him a huge rest through the opening of the Europa Cup this summer.

Our guess is he stays in London.

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REPOST: What’s the deal with Jurgen?

This was originally posted on September 20th of last year.

I (not necessarily Matt), still stand by it.


Is he really a good coach?

So if Jurgen can stir up a hornets nest, so can I. I’m curious to know what the big deal with Klinsy really is. A lot of USMNT fans really really want him as head coach and I want to know why. I’m English, so first and foremost I support England, but having lived here for 20 years, I REALLY want to see the USMNT national team get to the next level in International Soccer. I just don’t see how Jurgen can take them there.

He’s had two managerial spells. One with the German National team and one with Bayern Munich.

With Bayern, he coached for less than a season (08-09) and was fired in April 09, with Bayern knocked out of the German domestic cup in the quarters, Champions league in the quarters and in third position of the Bundesliga, endangering their next years Champions League qualification.

He was given a squad that had won their domestic league the previous year and set them a few steps backward.

Germany's 2006 success had more to do with their fans, the players and hosting the Cup then their coach.

Klinsmann was more successful with the national team, at least on first glance. He took a young German team to third place at the 2006 World Cup and did do a good job of shunting out the older generation of players who had failed so miserably in the 2004 Euros, revamping Germany’s national footballing program on the way.

BUT, lets look at his results. Klinsmann’s first two years in charge did little to impress the footballing world, as they did poorly in friendlies building up to the 2006 World Cup (which Germany was hosting, so no need to qualify).

At the big dance, they won their group, but had less than challenging opponents in Costa Rica, Poland and Ecuador. They then beat Sweden (a solid team, but no world beaters) in the first knock stage and then an average Argentinian team on penalties in the quarters. They lost 2-0 to Italy in the semis.

Keeping in mind that every game they played, they were spurned on by their home fans, and that they had a relatively easy route to the semi finals. I would venture to say that the players got them as far as they did and not him as a coach. When they needed him to do something different and come up with a tactical magical moment, he failed and Italy won late in extra time.

After the World Cup, with the German press and pubic in full support, Klinsmann decided to resign, saying he didn’t have the drive anymore and wanted to spend time with his family. Joachim Löw took over and has taken an even younger Germany to the next level, and they are one of the favorites at Euro 2012 and Brazil 2014.

Did Klinsmann realize that he didn’t really have what it took to take Germany further and intelligently decide to step down on top? The cynic in me says yes.

A fantastic striker and amateur diver, Klinsmann and the word defense aren't very synonymous

I’m not saying he’s a bad coach, but I really don’t think he’s what the USMNT wants. I wouldn’t go as far as to say Klinsmann would be a step backward from Bob Bradley, but I don’t think he offers anything special.

Klinsmann was a fantastic striker in his playing days and his coaching style is reflective of that. I don’t believe the word defense is in his lexicon. This is not what the USMNT wants. The US’s counter attacking style and speed is one of their strengths, but they do not possess the skill to just outscore their opponents. They need discipline at the back and Klinsmann cannot provide that.

Who would be perfect for the job. Honestly I don’t know. What perplexes me though, is why so many people think “California Klinsy” would be the savior of the USMNT.

Your thoughts!

The Talent Gap

Guest TSG contributor, DTH asks if there is a talent gap between the USMNT and their rivals south of the border.

Freddy Adu. A bright spot for the USMNT in the Gold Cup Final.

Somehow the hysteria has sustained itself for a month or so after the Gold Cup loss; it was traumatic, sure, but that’s no reason to draw the wrong conclusions. Most people seem to blame a talent gap, with some reasonable people—like, say, Brian Straus, suggesting that the Gold Cup loss was inevitable, even after going up 2-0. While Straus is a really good reporter, this seems almost unbearably silly: a team good enough to go 2-0 up is good enough to finish the game off. Mexico had trouble scoring two goals against its previous knockout round opponents—Guatemala and Honduras—and the U.S. is more talented than either.

Still, one game doesn’t make a trend and a talent gap, if real, would be a disturbing sign for the U.S., particularly since it had the edge in the previous decade in terms of results. The talent gap people are fuzzy on exactly what they mean: do they mean a talent gap right now or do they mean a talent gap that they can foresee in the future due to superior youth? Both questions are interesting, and I disagree with the common take on both, though to varying degrees.

Let’s take the talent gap right now, and look specifically at the 2011 Gold Cup rosters. Admittedly, I don’t know the Mexico depth chart in perfect detail, but it’s my impression that the roster is basically the most talented assemblage of Mexican players available, save for perhaps Jonathan Dos Santos and Carlos Vela (I have a personal fondness for Edgar Pacheco though as far as I know no one was really surprised he was excluded by de la Torre.) On the other hand, the U.S.’s roster was plainly not at full strength, for whatever reason—the most prominent being Stuart Holden, Timmy Chandler and (personal bias again) Mikkel Diskerud.

Can Mixx bring it at the national level?

There’s quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding each respective team’s fringe players, but I don’t think there’s a substantial difference necessarily. Holden can’t be counted on, as he’s missed large parts of three different seasons now to injury; Chandler may perhaps be a one-half-season wonder and Diskerud hasn’t been tested beyond the Tippeligaen. Still, the Mexican players have their own weaknesses (on the positive side–one Mexican player, dos Santos, addresses a specific and glaring need for Mexico: deep-lying midfielder. Despite the mistaken reputation of some players—no matter how many times you say it, people, Stuart Holden isn’t a number ten and doesn’t play as one, so please stop suggesting he’ll cure any creative woes—I’m not sure any of the U.S. players closest to the top 23 fill any current glaring needs.)

So then let’s consider the rosters themselves. Talent is difficult to quantify, especially in soccer, so I like using a couple of heuristics: number of players in Europe, and number of appearances in Europe. The best players generally play in the best leagues, and generally start in them. The U.S. featured 11 players in top five leagues, and five players playing for other European leagues. Mexico featured five top five league players, and three players playing in other European leagues.

I suppose Mexico partisans might claim that the relative strength of the Mexican league vis-à-vis the MLS helps explain a current talent gap, but this explanation doesn’t fit for me. We know that the U.S. and Mexico were at rough parity in results in the previous decade: was the U.S. substantially less talented during that time? That seems unlikely. It seems more likely that the U.S. and Mexico were roughly equivalently talented. And the gap between Mexico and the MLS was much larger then than now. So our domestically-based players are, relative to the past, getting much tougher competition and the gap between the difficulty of the competition is smaller.

Currently the most successful USMNT player abroad.

As you might imagine, the U.S. made substantially more appearances in top five leagues than Mexico: in total, Americans appeared in 212 top-five league games, for an average of 19 appearances per player. Mexico made 103 top-five league game appearances, for an average 20.6 appearances per player. Aside from Chicharito, Mexicans weren’t playing for substantially more successful teams than Americans: Cherundolo, top-four; Dempsey, mid-table; Howard, mid-table; Jones, lower-table but not relegated (but also Champions League); Bradley, lower-table but not relegated; Bocanegra, mid-table; Edu, champion; Lichaj, upper-table in Championship; Spector, relegated. By contrast two of Mexico’s top-five league players were relegated, and Barrera barely appeared for West Ham (he looked like he needed time to adjust, to be fair). The closer you look, the harder it is to see the talent gap: Americans play for more European teams and at a similar level.

So how to explain the gap? A few theories: Chicharito is just that good; the talent doesn’t mesh; the coaching is poor. Personally, I subscribe to elements of all three.

It’s a fair criticism to note that the U.S.’s best players are aging and Mexico’s are young. That’s where the fairest talent gap criticism comes into play, and given the weakness of American players aged 20-23, that generation will probably always be a weak spot. The youth players criticism even extends to youth teams. This is more interesting. Mexico just won its second u-17 World  Cup in five tries, and the team that won it this time around was very talented. Meanwhile, its American peers alternated from looking very good in the public eye (e.g. against the Czech Republic, or, before the tournament, against South Korea) and looking absolutely clueless. In fairness, this is a lot better than previous American u-17 teams, who looked consistently clueless (aside from the ’99 team with Donovan, Beasley, et. al.)

Mexico's future looks bright as their under 17's just won the World Cup

But if there’s one thing the hysteria has missed, it’s that like Tolstoy’s diagnosis of the family—all happy teams are the same; all unhappy teams are different. There’s the problem with analyzing the two team’s u-20 teams. The U.S. failed to qualify for the team on poor play and a series of flukes, essentially; but on the other hand, it’s already amassed the second-most professional appearances for an u-20 team ever (the exception being the 2007 team, which benefited from Freddy Adu’s huge number of appearances. Also note that this has been done while we’re still in the middle of the year; the gap will grow larger by the end.) At least as far as that generation is concerned, it’s hard to say the U.S. is worse at development. (Especially since the MLS is better: these u-20 players are earning more time against tougher competition.) On the other hand, Mexico’s u-20’s look like a solid bunch with a couple of very good prospects—Guarch and Torres, in particular—but have often looked workmanlike or worse against bad teams. (To take only one example: they struggled to beat a Chinese national team filled with players one or two years younger than they.)

My diagnosis, overall, is that there will be a talent gap—the game is about stars, particularly offensive ones, and the U.S. is not producing proven ones at the moment. On the other hand, it’s doing a good job of producing the Alejandro Bedoyas and Steve Cherundolos of the future. It’s a case of doing some things well and some things too poorly. That’s bad, but it’s a different kind of bad than we’ve been led to believe.


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