Archive for the ‘World Cup Qualifying’ Category

Cupcakes? Check. Who’s Camping In January?

Camp cupcake invites are supposedly out…tomorrow. We know one guy already gearing up to cascade past the San Fernando Valley into LAX.

Who's cupcaking in January?

Also, we’ll be making the short hop on Virgin down from SFO to take in a practice at some point and talk to the guys. We’ll be at the Chile game as well.

Here’s a revised look–our best stab–at whose name makes tomorrow’s announcement tomorrow:

GOALIES: Kevin Hartman, Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid

The skinny: No change from our list below. Sean Johnson was solid over in Europe for Generation Adidas. We still think Bradley takes a look under the hood of Hamid.

Also in contention: Will Hesmer, Matt Pickens.

———-

DEFENDERS: Kevin Alston, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall, Heath Pearce*, Marvell Wynne, Tim Ream, Sean Franklin, Michael Parkhurst

The skinny: Removed Ike Opara who didn’t have a stellar Generation Adidas campaign we’re told. Gale Agbossoumounde is supposed to head out on loan to Sweden I believe.

Don’t see a call-in for Nat Borchers–just can’t see him cracking the central defense. Jay DeMerit…could be call-in.

AJ De La Garza just misses out from our original list and Bobby Convey…flat out, no idea?

I remember watching Jeff Cunningham last year at January camp and with his age and demeanor he really looked like an interloper. I just don’t see Convey going to a Jan Camp…maybe if he continues his form a friendly camp next year.

———

Cameron will be there, Bornstein's gone fi$hing in Monterey, Mex...

TWEENERS: Geoff Cameron, Brek Shea

The skinny: Because we can, we introduce a new position here. The Tweener today….only temporary. The following two guys could play pretty much anywhere, but striker and goalie and your guess is as good as mine.

We learned that Geoff Cameron is on the radar of some teams overseas for his size and ability to play across the backline. Coach Bradley played him primarily at right mid last year in camp. Brek Shea just got lauded by Atletico Madrid…for his central defense play.

———-

MIDFIELDERS: Alejandro Bedoya, Benny Feilhaber, Eddie Gaven, Jeff Larentowicz, Dax McCarty, Robbie Rogers, Mikkel Diskerud, Collen Warner

The skinny: Dropped Tristan Bowen as he now deals with a transfer crosstown and I just don’t see. Free Benny Feilhaber plays the midfield quarterback again for Bradley. Remember, Feilhaber attended nearby Northwood High School in Irvine…only makes sense to get him in there.

And even money says the pairing in central midfield against Chile is Feilhaber and Larentowicz. Just smells right there.

Logan Pause may, just may slip in there as Coach Sweats needs a little steel in the middle.

Possible sleeper: Dilly Duka.

———-

FORWARDS: Justin Braun, Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Chris Wondolowski

The skinny: We drop Jack Mac from Philly…though he may slip in and toss in Chris Wondolowski in his place. I’d like to see Jack Mac get a spot though. Edson Buddle may get the call as well, but I kind of feel that with Bradley not playing him when he was in amazing form for the World Cup, he’s not going to select him in a little lower value January camp.

From December 6th, 2010:

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Five To Confront For Sweats II

With the October friendlies just one block over, it’s time to kickoff discussion on what challenges await the U.S.S. Bradley as it commences maneuvers for its 2014 assault on Brazil.

The U.S.S. Bradley commences it's 2014 Brazil voyage...now.

Some of these are specific to Bradley’s style or coaching; others are about getting more out of talented players.

This is by no means a comprehensive list as new issues will begin rearing their heads once friendlies, camps and Gold Cups get going, but it’s where the team left off at the end of June in South Africa.

Go:

5. Once a striker himself, can Bob Bradley cultivate Jozy Altidore or, if not, locate at least one man up top that finishes for the Yanks?

Conor Doyle, Justin Braun, Herculez Gomez. These all may be options up top (along with Charlie Davies or Robbie Finldey). So may those further from seeing the pitch for the Yanks, like a David Estrada or Pippo Inzaghi II (Jack McInerney).

In Altidore, however, the U.S. has a 20-year old striker with a world of physical talent that has only been exhibited in flashes. Let’s repeat that. He’s 20-years-old (with one World Cup as a starter under his belt).

With what is looking like little club time this year, can Coach Sweats wring more effort, more consistency and more importantly more scoring from the talented Jozy in his brief exposure in U.S. camp? A major and daunting task, but doable as well.

A quite note, I’m sick of hearing that U.S. strikers didn’t score for the U.S. in the last two World Cups. In 2006, the hottest striker (Taylor Twellman) was left home. In 2010, the hottest striker Edson Buddle got two sips of coffee on the pitch. Anyway…

Dempsey will be a club force for four more years...but on the Natties?

4. Can Coach Bob get more out of a now-aging Clint Dempsey? Will he even try?

Bob Bradley’s challenge in locating Deuce on the pitch in the first go around was easily apparent. Dempsey’s style didn’t subscribe to Bradley’s frantic pressing and defensive posture, meaning Coach Sweats’ game plan seemed to account for Dempsey as a cog in the system with misunderstood talent, less as a star.

Dempsey will be 32-years-old when Brazil 2014 comes around. He’s already prone to fatigue and disappearing during games (as we’ve mentioned before, 85% of Dempsey’s career club goals have come in the 1st 20 minutes or last 20 minutes of a match).

Further, the nature of his game isn’t what one would call “career-prolonging.”

How does Bradley keep the oft-maligned Dempsey involved over the next four years? Is it as a point forward? Is in his customary wing role? Is it even up top where fewer options are apparent here in 2010?

Deuce is looked upon as a leader on the team and Bob’s treatment of the quiet, but intense ball wizard will speak volumes in the locker room. Aging veterans will take note of the Bradley-Deuce interplay.

3. Developing a centerback partnership that: (a) picks the right pieces, (b) gains valuable repetitions,  and (c) is not often prone to youthful mistakes.

You might suggest that managing the central two of the back four was Bob Bradley’s biggest shortcoming during his first term as president of the USMNT pitch. That’s my belief.

Bradley mismanagement started with Califf...but didn't end there...

Whether it was force-feeding Danny Califf (or Michael Parkhurst or Michael Orozco) into the picture early in qualifying before each player was seasoned or…

That nasty string of giving up set piece aerial strikes to the opponents during the 2009 Gold Cup or…

Failing to develop a capable central defender-in-waiting beyond the elder statesmen of DeMerit, Bocanegra or Onyewu or…

Continually playing and attempting to ready Chad Marshall for the World Cup despite obvious fitness concerns or…

Playing Oguchi Onyewu against England (and Slovenia) when it was clear he was not sharp and helping the team or…

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Moving On: USA vs. Brazil, August 10th

TSG will be back this week with a boatload of debrief on the USA’s second round run in World Cup 2010.

Agbossoumonde &.....

In the meantime, moving forward, who should take part in the USA vs. Brazil exhibition August 10th in New Jersey.

We’ll take another look beyond this one. Don’t worry.

Here’s a very early stab at selecting some of the 23 right now:

G: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando

The skinny: Will Guzan get out for this one? He certainly needs some exposure, especially if he’s planning on competing with Tim Howard who will be 36-years-old for World Cup 2014, Brazil.

I’d like to see Bill Hamid make the drive up the road from D.C., but I think that’s a bit too early.

...Lichaj...future defensive bookends?

DEF: Jonathan Bornstein, Chad Marshall, Clarence Goodson, Eric Lichaj, Omar Gonzalez, Kevin Alston, Gale Agbossoumonde, Tim Ream, Sean Franklin, Jonathan Spector

The skinny: Hard not to include hometown man Ream. Not a huge fan of Ike Opara, but he perhaps warrant a look or spot. Both Agbossoumonde and Lichaj deserve to be in next year’s Gold Cup squad if not on the pitch August 10th.

Omar Gonzalez is….a no-brainer.

MID: Landon Donovan, Alejandro Bedoya, Stu Holden, Maurice Edu, Robbie Rogers, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Torres, Mix Diskerud

The skinny: I think you have to run Donovan out there. He’s local with the Galaxy and he just screams USA Soccer enough with relative fresh faces likely to be in the picture.

Stu Holden should start. Period. End of question. I don’t even care if he’s not there. A travesty at Holden’s lack of playing time this June.

Will Diskerud be in the "mix"?

Will Mikkel Diskerud make the jump? How about player on the periphery Jeffrey who will be starting up a Bundesliga campaign?

STR: Charlie Davies, Robbie Findley, Jozy Altidore, Tristan Bowen

The skinny: Would be a great moment for the fans to Charlie Davies get a run out. Mike Grella who spent a lot of pine time at Leeds might merit consideration.

Freddy Adu, should not. He’s had his chances and though he’s from nearby Maryland. It’s time for a fresh face to represent the States up top.

Others to consider: Herculez Gomez (F), Sam Cronin (M), Kenny Cooper (F), Brad Evans (D), Sacha Kljestan (M), Jared Jeffrey(M), Gabriel Ferrari (F), Sal Zizzo (F), Ike Opara (D), Luis Gil (M), Mike Grella (F) and Jimmy Conrad (D – as a veteran presence and MLS representative).

Who do you think?


Op-Ed: If It’s Not The Fan, Is It The Opponent?

A logo redesign may be in order.

Ghost written….sort of

Illegal…not according to FIFA Statutes (pg 17).

Inconceivable…nope; ask the Socceroos, though they had different reasons.

Improbable…yes.

Incredibly risky…absolutely.

If the Olympics prove anything it is that once every four years, Americans like rooting for their athletes in random sports. How many friends of yours became luge or bobsled “experts” during the recent Winter Olympics?

So why does that spirit not transfer directly to the USMNT, the only big team sport that plays international competition throughout the year? Is soccer more fringe than ice dancing, skeleton, curling or even hockey? Even the most ardent soccer un-enthusiast wouldn’t agree with that.

One of the great things about being a fan of the USMNT is the opportunity to wear the colors and root for the flag. That can’t be done in basketball, baseball, football or hockey more than one time a year if at all.

If the lack of sustained support for the USMNT cannot be attributed  the team, their performance or the sport itself. Could it be the opponent?

Perhaps Americans, on average, just don’t care about the US beating up on the likes of Honduras, El Salvador, Granada and Canada. And it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that most Americans don’t view Mexico as the enemy in sports either. (For proof, consider that Giants Stadium turned into Azteca North for the Gold Cup Final less than 8 months ago, complete with the throwing of projectiles at Americans taking corner kicks.)

Would support be different if the US squared-off with any sort of regularity against the likes of the big UEFA countries like Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia and England. I think so.

Though garnering more public support may have been the impetus for this idea, there is far bigger payoff should the USSF withdraw from CONCACAF and shack up with UEFA.

The quality of American soccer will improve with more games against high quality opponents. and and entry into the World Cup finals going from near “sure thing” to “in the mix.”

The added benefit is that you get the US in the second biggest soccer tournament in the middle years between World Cups.

This would eliminate the “we get no respect from playing on CONCACAF” crap AND force the USSF to work harder at developing the program because qualifying for the WC just got a little harder. All the U-programs would play in bettercompetitions and kids would get exposure in Europe. Hell…MLS could even join the Champions League and get a taste of how far away the talent level really is.

With more US players based in Europe and the availability of East Coasts stadiums for home games, the travel isn’t too much of an issue. The US could still play friendlies with MLSers and train with the B team in Carson during January and February. Then, throw in a yearly December friendly against Mexico with the big boy club to maintain the rivalry.

Money is of course the big issue, but it ain’t like the US is filling stadiums anyway.

So how about it?

Quick Bit: Our 2010 Not Going Team…

This column is a warm-up for a piece publishing tomorrow morning….

Robinho or Pato? We'll take Pato every time...

TSG member Dylan posed the question in our comment section yesterday: What is TSG’s All-Not-Going Team….as in not going to South Africa in June.

We’re going to pick this team as we would any other….for the best shot to win as a team, not a collection of individuals.
Thus a few folks are going to be left off due to position depth or team reasons (like Craig Bellamy). We’re also not limiting to ourselves to only players from nations not attending, we’re open to players not going with their qualified national team.

This is my personal best foot forward for players I like, so open to quite a bit of debate.

Here we go:

11 at the Whistle

G: Shay Given (Manchester City, Ireland)

Vargas: The pride of Peru shoots down would-be strikers on the left...

LB: Juan Vargas (Fiorentina, Peru)
CB: Brede Hangeland (Fulham, Norway)
CB: Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal, Belgium)
RB: Dmytro Chygrynskiy (Barcelona, Ukraine)

CDM:Mahamadou Diarra (Real Madrid, Mali)
LM/FW: Alexandre Pato (AC Milan, Brazil)
CM: Luka Modric (Tottenham Hotspur, Tablecloths)
RM: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United, Ecuador)

STR: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Barcelona, Sweden)
STR: Hugo Rodallega (Wigan, Colombia)

Subs:
G: Brad Friedel, Edwin Van Der Saar
DEF: Yuri Zhirkov, Vincent Kompany, Darijo Srna
MID: Ryan Giggs, Ronaldhino, Clarence Seedorf, Andrei Arshavin, Euzebiusz Smolarek
STR: Emmanuel Adebayor, Edin Dzeko

Thankfully, Maradona came to his senses at the end of last year and started calling in one of TSG’s favorite attackers (and perhaps the best striker not named Rooney right now?) Gonzalo Higuain.

Following the Zebra Principle: Croatia and Modric (center, bottom)...are there 15 of them there or 6?

2009: Columbus Alive as States Downs El Tri

Ching: Yoeman work up top for the Yanks

One year ago today, the United States laid the hurt on Mexico…and Sven Goran Erickson I might add…in a packed Columbus, Ohio. Congrats Columbus by the way, hell of a soccer town. A solid 2-0 victory at home to open up the final round of CONCACAF qualifcation.

Interesting formation for the United States as they came out–if I remember correctly–in a 4-4-2 with Landon pairing Ching up top, but Beasley, Lando himself and Dempsey all took turns running off Ching.

Lot of wide play in this game as well.

Some other thoughts:

• An extremely active DaMarcus Beasley in this one. Time to find your form again son.

• Michael Bradley did a Costa Rica and knocked in a ball that was knocking around in the box. His 90th minute strike from 25 yards or so off a post-up and dish from Big Jeezy helped along a string of games where Bradley thought he was Zidane or something and started volleying from the half line.

• Boca was in the middle on this one again and was serviceable but also let a lot of play come into his area.

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