Archive for the ‘USMNT’ Category

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...

Roster:

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?

Wednesday.

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.

Continue reading

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.

Report: Jozy Altidore Heads To The Eredivisie

Talking Turkey...

US national and Villarreal club goer Jozy Altidore is expected to don the red and black of AZ Alkmaar in the Netherland’s highest division the Eredivisie. Shut out of a role up top for the Yellow Submarine, Altidore will head northward to compete under the watchful of former US national Ernie Stewart who assumed the Technical Director role at the club just last June.

It was originally reported by Greg Seltzer at MLS Soccer that Alkmaar–4th in the table in the last campaign–was looking at Altidore, but needed to make some personnel moves of their own. Fox Soccer confirmed the move Thursday evening.

This represents the fourth club that Altidore will play for in a little over a year. Altidore concluded the 2009-2010 season at Hull City, then in the Premiership in England. He headed back to Villarreal and found playing time tough to come by for the early part of the 2010 season and ended up on lone to Bursaspor in Turkey’s top league to close out the 2010-2011 campaign.

It’s unknown whether this is a permanent transfer for seasonal loan at the time.

Preview Lite: USA vs. Mexico: Been There, Done That

Yee-Haw Lichaj? This will be the biggest game yet for the USMNT's newly annointed leftback

It’s Germany. It’s Argentina? Let’s get it on….

Okay, not quite, that’s the look the US (Germany) and Mexico (Argentina) are going to give you. However, as is well known, these two neighbors battling it out for CONCACAF supremacy–much more so in the wake of Jack Warner’s demise–are very familiar with each other.

This Saturday the prize? The Gold Cup trophy and a trip to the World Cup 2014 warm-up tourney the year before.

As the two favored nations to reach the Final before the tournament started, both teams took decidedly different, but also dramatic, paths to Pasadena.

The United States played, and dreadfully lost, an ill-advised pre-tournament friendly against the world’s number one team Spain.

They followed it up with an uneven group stage that saw their first ever loss–to a well-organized Panama side–in group play.

Coming off that monumental match, the States swapped out their backline–which has now been their key to their organization and defense–made it through the group stage, dismantled an overmatched though on-form Jamaican side, survived a war of field position against Panama and…now here they sit.

Oh, manager Bob Bradley–as is now custom during any camp or tournament of more than two matches–again came under the fire and the US sat their all-time caps, goal leader, and flag boy Landon Donovan on the bench.

Had enough?

Mexico arrives in the final with no less a dramatic drive. Hard to figure what was the bigger headline for El Tri in their group stage?Their tainted-chicken-steroid-player suspension situation–five players are no longer with the team but were replaced–or their overall attack dominance. El Tri lit the lamp 14 times in the group stage. 14 times!

More drama? FIFA is investigating irregularities in some of those matches early-on.

A younger Dempsey takes on Mexico in 2007. What will the mature one do?

As the US neighbor headed through the knockouts they looked decidedly more earthbound, however that was merely because of better competition and tiring legs.

Make no mistake in this one, Mexico is and should be favored going in.

Let’s get to our customary preview. It goes:

About the Opponent: Mexico

TSG What We’re Looking At

11 At The Whistle

Disclaimers

———-

About the Opponent: Mexico

Nothing unfamiliar here for the States. Discussion of whether Mexico is running a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-1-1 here is mere semantics. Mexico plays a very adaptable game with players interchanging frequently.

One quick note here, the speedy and on-form Andres Guardado is questionable for the match having received an ankle knock in Wednesday’s match against Honduras. If he can’t go–as is presumed–manager José Manuel de la Torre will insert Aldo de Nigris in his place. We’re not talking a big drop-off at the position because De Nigris himself has been solid in June. (Saturday update: Guardado is now expected to play.)

The Dos Santos Swivel: No matter what "formation" it's considered, Mexico interchanges well. Dos Santos will slide across the field depending on the match-up and Mexico's midfield will support accordingly.

Up top, the Mexican attack will feature Manchester United frontman Chicharito–he of the supreme poaching skills and six Gold Cup 2011 goals–in the center of the pitch.

Off him, Gio Dos Santos (who notoriously always seems like the anti-Donovan to the Yanks despite his big club team failures) will pick his spots and flip from one flank to the other depending on the match-up advantage.

Mexico uses their two wide midfielders Barrera and, Saturday, De Nigris to provide support if they are sharing the flank with Dos Santos or out wide if they are on the opposite flank from Gio.

Next, Israel Castro pushes up to fill in the center with Gerardo Torrado providing Castro with support as well as another option centrally or with Torrado staying home–effectively forming a 3-man backline up the pitch with central defenders Rafa Marquez and Hector Moreno–the fullbacks advancing. Castro and Torrado have been maligned for their speed, but they are smart players who know where to be on the field and that makes up for it.

Carlos Salcido–a teammate last year of Clint Dempsey’s at Fulham–mans the left with Efraín Juárez, Celtic, to the right.

Most folks and media previews will focus on Chicharito in this one, but it’s the 18-yard box-extended and the flanks where Mexico initiates its attack.

Supporting Dos Santos, Barrera and De Nigris well, El Tri likes to push wide and when a help central defender moves to provide cover either issue a cross or play it back on the floor to a trailing midfielder. That is the bigger battle in our opinion.

Mexico is very fluid and very good in tight spaces, so a disciplined shape from the Yanks is essential.

One more note, I’ve been somewhat surprised by just how frequently Mexico is issuing crosses in the air this tournament, perhaps a result of their confidence in Chicharito.

The Yanks have had one notorious breakdown–against Panama in the group stage–on a set piece cross and Saturday, if Mexico chooses that route, Clarence Goodson and Carlos Bocanegra–both very able aerially–will need to be on their games here.

TSG What We’re Looking For

MB90 like never before?

Can the USMNT central midfield tandem of Michael Bradley-Jermaine Jones hold up for one more game and find the hold-up player?

For US fans, this is the biggest question.

A long-running criticism of Coach Bob Bradley is his insistence on keeping son Michael on the pitch for the full ninety minutes. In fact, it’s earned midfielder the nickname “MB90″ for Bradley’s son as much as the midfielder’s aggressive, never-say-die style of play.

For the States, of course, this will be the grueling fifth game in 15 days. (And remember, no team has a homestand in this tournament. The US went Detroit, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Washington DC, Houston and now Pasadena–that’s brutal).

Towards the 70th minute of the last two matches, Bradley The Son tired.

For the United States, Bradley is critical as the defensive funnel and as the lead ball distributor from the back.

Mexico will flood centrally when the ball is on the flank, Bradley will have to do yoeman track-back work–he typically sits ahead of Jermaine Jones on defense–and will have to find the high-pressure outlet–and this is perhaps the most key point of this preview–after the US wins possession in its end.

If not? The States will play huck-it-up ball to a teenager against a seasoned backline and it could be a long afternoon.

Key match-up: Chicharito vs. Clarence Goodson-Carlos Bocanegra

Both the US centerbacks will be tasked with minding the off-ball work of Chicharito. Whether this means holding a disciplined line, following an angled run or dueling in the air, the communication between the veteran and the up-and-comer in central defense will need to spot on.

Can the US get its flankers up the pitch?

Mexico love to attack the gaps between the wide defenders and the centerback. That will often mean many times–more so than in any other game in this tournament–that Eric Lichaj and Steve Cherundolo will have to be narrow with the centerbacks on defense. Can they make their way up and wide on the pitch to provide support?

Remember it’s the Yanks wide fullback play that has been more key to their width than their midfielders in Summer 2011.

Um, might be nice to have Charlie Daves or Robbie Findley hanging around.

El Tri has been playing a highline for a bulk of the tournament using their front six pressure to create nightmares on a change in turnover. As their opponents have looked for joy up the field to alleviate pressure, they’ve been introduced to the Mexican backline playing far up the field.

The US will have to ping the ball on the floor to get out of the back, but as soon as a Clint Dempsey or Alejandro Bedoya has the ball up field they’ll need another outlet further up the field or risk being closed down by Mex’s “last line” defenders.”

Will Agudelo find the spots and does anyone on the States have enough speed to worry Moreno and Marquez for Mexico and force them to sit deeper?

11 At The Whistle:

The skinny: Two basic questions:

» How does Bob Bradley get his best, in-form players on the pitch together in a cohesive line-up all at one time?

» How does Bradley address the Mexican attack–the toughest one of the tourney–in terms of a defensive posture?

Gut feeling here is that Bradley with the below line-up.

Defensive posture from the Yanks in the line-up that Bradley may use... *amended with help of the TSG community...

Beyond the regular starters this Gold Cup, Alejandro Bedoya will be used to help Steve Cherundolo over the right flank or Eric Lichaj over the left flank. Only concern about putting Bedoya on the left flank is both he and Lichaj are new to the Mexican rivalry on the same side.

*Thanks to the TSG community for the commentary on the US line-up.

G: Tim Howard

The skinny: Mexico loves the cutback ball, in the air or on the ground. Howard’s going to be challenged on when to come out and when to stay put in this one. Oh not only on the wide balls played-in, but on the counters when the US may be caught out. It’s going to happen.

DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Eric Lichaj

The skinny: No surprises here, biggest game of Lichaj’s short tenure manning the left fullback spot.

Will the industrious Bedoya get yet another start?

MID: Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones,  Landon Donovan

The skinny: Can Bedoya continue his all out up-down play that’s been the hallmark of a very positive Gold Cup for him. He’s going to need to help Dolo and get ahead in the attack.

On Donovan: If he’s healthy he plays.

FW: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: (Edit from TSG community) Dempsey will play a roving forward and hold-up role. Makes sense.

STR: Juan Agudelo

The skinny: This ain’t gym class; but it’s also not Panama’s Felipe Baloy. This games sets up much better for Agudelo’s skillset. Can he take advantage.

Disclaimers:

» Maurice Edu for Donovan or Bedoya (with Donovan moving to his flank)

Odds: 45%

The skinny: Very possible. You don’t think Bradley was perhaps trying out a potential Mexico defensive line-up against the similar Argentina

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Oh, and can’t leave this question unattended. Will there be another late game Freddy Adu sighting accompanied by heroics?

Is the writing in the stands?

Orange Slices: USA vs. Panama, Again

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

Orange Slices! US vs. Panama

Hello and welcome to game day!

The United States Men’s National finds itself one game away from a possible Gold Cup final showdown against Mexico.

Standing in their way? Group stage foil Panama, who adhered to a disciplined game plan in their 4-4-2 deployment last time and sent the United States to their first ever Gold Cup group stage loss.

What a difference a week makes. The US are coming off a strong showing against the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica while Panama needed penalty kicks to reach the sequel here today.

Reset Button: TSG’s Official USA vs. Panama Preview

Broadcast:

Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT.

English TV Broadcast: Fox Soccer (Kyle Martino with analysis) —  Spanish TV Broadcast: Univision, Web: Concacaf.com or Univsion.com

Live Commentary: Right here at TSG!

———-

Supporting Material:

• Unrelated: Simon Kuper looks at a statistical revolution underway in football. (TSG says it’s always in the numbers also.)

• Anthony Mannino of USA10Kit highlights the keys to the States five man midfield.

•  John Levy, The Yanks Are Coming is thinks the Yanks will roll big in the rematch.

•  Podcast: The Girls In The Cheap Seats, hailing from the Lone Star State, talk US Men’s National Team from a woman’s perspective as they follow around the team during Gold Cup 2011.

Viewing?:

American Outlaws members gather here.

Weather forecast:

T-Storms bearing down on H-town. Alas, the US will be facing off with Panama in the Reliant Stadium….dome.

Surf forecast:

There’s no surfing in Houston….you bet there is!

In fact Galveston, Texas–and tanker surfing!–was profiled in probably the best surfing documentary of the 2000’s, Step Into Liquid. We couldn’t find a clip of that, but there is no shortage of southeast Texas–read: Galveston Bay–surfing on YouTube (below) and …. even directions on how you can surf one of those tankers.

———-

When In Houston:

Shoutout to some Houston locals and TSG community members:

Chris Figat: Chris has been coming to TSG since it’s inception. He’s a hell of a graphic designer. He authored TSG’s holiday card andsome USMNT wallpaper before last year’s World Cup. Thanks Chris.

Kevin, Forever Orange: Kevin is youngster who’s been coming to TSG as well since we opened the doors–I believe one of his first comments was pleading for some face time for Bobby Boswell on the USMNT (Sorry Kev, not going to happen :>).

He’s always the first to nominate TSG for best US Soccer Blog at US Soccer. Thanks Kevin. And Kevin, I changed it from “Orange Wedges” to “Orange Slices” because the word “wedges” just annoys me for some reason.

Miscellaneous:

Dempsey, playing at heights never achieved before by a US outfielder...

Nachodelicious!: US forward extraordinaire Clint Dempsey hails from tiny Nacogdoches, TX, a mere two-and-a-half hours north from Houston. Dempsey is likely to have quite an entourage at Reliant tomorrow. Couldn’t find anything official on Clint and Nacogdoches, but I did find that the urban dictionary actually labels a “Clint Dempsey Day.”

Timmy Terrific: Tim Howard is moving up the goalkeeper record charts, and with 35 wins he is third all-time and two behind Tony Meola. With 23 shutouts he is in fourth place, one behind Brad Friedel.

Why Start Now?:  The U.S. has never been eliminated at the semifinal stage of the Gold Cup by a CONCACAF opponent…

….However: The U.S. has made three appearances in Houston and has a 0-1-2 record, losing to Ecuador on June 10, 1988, in the first ever appearance there.

The two U.S. ties in Houston came against Mexico in friendly matches in 2003 (0-0 on May 8, 2003, and 2-2 on Feb. 6, 2008). Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu scored the goals in the 2008 appearance.

Blas Perez who?: Group stage terror and Panama striker Blas Perez is out this game after receiving a red card against El Salvador. However, his partner-in-crime-Luis Tejada’s three goals in the 2011 Gold Cup have made him Panama’s all-time leading scorer in the tournament with eight career goals. Perez is next with seven career Gold Cup goals, including one in the 2011 opener.

And this is of course….Panama!

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