Michael Bradley: This Is SportsCenter

The Procrastinator’s Guide To A Proper US Kit

Like the US MJ instead of FJ these days.

Like the US MJ instead of FJ these days.

Matt Biggerstaff & Eric Giardini go shopping for icy pops.

We’re backkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk. You might remember us from a time long ago called December.

The 23 is set, whether you like it or not.

If you don’t like it, be sure to take to social media and let your friends know! We did. Or didn’t. But we did notice the team and a certain someone were still trending more than a day after the announcement.

If nothing else, at least people care! People that regularly use Twitter anyway.

Poor Brian Ching, he was ahead of technology on this one.

After one moderately successful friendly that was incredibly windy and one amazing chip and volley goal that soothed some fears, we have no Tonya Harding-style injuries to report, so your jersey choices stay with the original 23, or maybe not. We will see.

You have two weeks to get your jersey, so read up and then order it today. Like, now. NOW. GET TO THE CHOPPA!! Wait, where am I? Anyone who can rock Schwarzenegger on the back of a kit has my respect. In case you aren’t that legit (and trust me, you aren’t) we’ve got a few more options for you. Joining me is the maestro of Roma, Eric Giar-somethingorother. Why does everyone that writes for this site have such a ridiculous last name. We need a Smith or two. Speaking of last names, away we go.


Alejandro Bedoya

Still ... standing...

Still … standing…

Biggy: Homie’s still here. Not only is he here, he started at the Stick. There are lots of things to like about Ale, starting with his ability to lead Nantes fans in great chants, his taste in electronic music, and his skills on the field.

He works hard, takes players on, and knows how to score.

He also crushed it in the last summer tournament the US played in, and is ready to ball out in Brazil. He may not always be the flashiest guy, but he certainly is consistent, and I see him sneaking in a goal against Ghana.

Heard it here first.

Unless you said it to yourself in your head earlier, then this would not be first. This is also a solid choice for the next cycle too, as Ale is going to see a lot of the field going forward. Invest in his future and your own, so you look like you know what you are talking about come summer of ’16 at your local bar/pub/house party of choice.

Alejandro Bedoya, the TSG Ambassador to Brazil.

Eric: Way back in December, I said this and I’m sticking to it: “I think December might be a bit too early to splash the cash for Alejandro, but once May comes around I think you’ll be in a better position to see how he will fit in with the team.” December was too early but he now looks like he’s going to be walking out in Natal with the Starting 11 so I guess he is fitting in to the team nicely. Buy for the “investment” but mostly for my clairvoyance.


John Brooks

The dude had to get a tattoo to remember where he was born... but he's got potential.

The dude had to get a tattoo to remember where he was born… but he’s got potential.

Biggy: Speaking of still here, YEAHHHHHHH John Anthony Brooks! Way to make the 23!

A dark horse all along, he’s now a dark horse to start. Like one of those ridiculous 1,000:1 bets that you laugh at, then get sad when it happens and someone actually bet on it and you didn’t, even after you legitimately considered it. JB is a beast, and has a real future with this team, however it appears unlikely that WC 2014 is going to be the beginning of that future. So scoop up this jersey if you’re more of a “What’s Coming Next” person versus being cool right now.

Also, if Brooks gets on the field, Eric is going to shit himself with fear, so if you are pro-Eric shitting, this is your man. And your jersey. Nothing wrong with being cool before it’s cool to be a Brooks fan. Or is there? Who knows. Solid center back in the making, unsure how strong his Gooch face is though.

Eric: DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THIS! I mean, I’m happy for Mr. Brooks that he is going to Brazil as his view of the games will be much better than mine when I have to quickly minimize my World Cup feed from my office, so good for him. I mean it, he seems like a likeable person and his tattoos on his elbows are pretty rad. There are other German-Americans jerseys I’d rather have (Oh, Terrance where art thou?).

Nice job Jimmy.

Geoff Cameron

"Stop right there."

“Stop right there.”

Biggy: Speaking of defenders, let’s jump to one that should play a huge role at the World Cup. It’s looking like the Besler/Cameron pairing that so many of us greatly desired is finally happening. Maybe Brooks/Cameron though?!

Weird to say this, but Cameron is currently the best American field player playing in the EPL. Yep, America’s finest plays at Stoke.

Just let that simmer for a minute. Fortunately Cameron has turned into a steely defender who can play both right and center back and has had to deal with some of the best attackers in the world on a regular basis as he lined up against teams like Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea.

You might say “Chelsea?” and I would remind you that they have a midfield that is top notch, despite the absence of forwards. If you like to rock the center of the park, boss the pitch, and hold down the shutout, this is the jersey for you.

Also, if you like Cameron’s stylish hair and stoic on-field facial expressions, you might as well get his shirt. Just to complete the look, you know.

Eric: If you would have told me that Cameron would be the best American field player playing in England a year ago I would have laughed in your face and then probably slapped you for good measure, but here we are. I think Cameron will be poised to have a solid-to-good tournament down in Brazil and is the defender that I feel the best about – especially after the lackluster game Besler had at the Stick. This would be a solid pickup for a solid player. Nobody is going to come up to you and say “Geoff Cameron, sick shirt brah!” but you also won’t get laughed out of the bar. The best you’re going to get is a nod, a raise of a PBR, and sometimes that’s all you need.


(Editor’s note: Allow me to blow your mind for a second. You have three picks left for your 23-man USMNT squad and you can select from four players. Those four players are: Landon Donovan, Julian Green, Juan Agudelo … and …. Freddy Adu. Who do you take?)

Julian Green

Eric: First off, I am all aboard the Julian Express. His “recruitment” (let’s call it what it is) is a master stroke from Klinsmann in a move that likens him more to John Calipari than to a proper national team manager. He’s quick, seems to be creative, and can score, if YouTube and Wikipedia are to be believed. More importantly, he signifies a hope of what the USMNT can be: full exciting, brash, multicultural players who can and do play with the super clubs in the world. Now I’m just waiting for Zelalem to follow and that 12 year old who is at La Masia to follow suit.

Biggy: The super sub. The man who could inflict all the hurt in the world coming from the 75′ on. Your tired legs mean you are struggling to keep up with his pace, and boom, he’s past you and ohhhhh sh*t, now your team is behind. Can Julian Green be that man? Is it too soon? Is he ready? Is Portugal ready?

Are YOU ready?

All questions that are floating around that could be answered in Brazil. All questions that might not be answered in Brazil. SO MANY QUESTIONS. If you are in the Green jersey, people will need to recognize that you clearly know the USMNT. Now that he made the 23, you might not be as edgy as you were a month ago. It’s a tradeoff. Can you deal with the fact that this might become other people’s favorite player? Perhaps that you won’t be the only person in your town who is knowledgeable about the German fourth division? Or does Green crush it off the bench and find a spot on Bayern’s squad next year? Should I stop asking questions that no one has an answer to yet?

Chris Wondo(w)lowski

More "W's" guaranteed on Wondo's jersey then the US in Brazil...

More “W’s” guaranteed on Wondo’s jersey then the US in Brazil…

Eric: I’m going to keep this short and sweet. Get a Wondolowski Quakes jersey, not a USMNT one, and save me from having an aneurysm #TeamBoyd. Other things I dislike: Puppies, sunshine, smiling, Christmas music, general mirth and merriment. (Also, these views do not reflect The Shinguardian or any of its other writers or sponsors).

Biggy: First, good luck getting his name on the damn jersey to start with. Long enough to make a nice half circle on the back of your jersey even without that extra W, Chris making the World Cup team is nothing short of a dream, an extremely well deserved dream for an incredibly hard working individual.

If you can’t cheer for this guy, you can’t cheer for America. You can feel his passion any time he is on the field, and he wants to score more than you do at the bar on your birthday. Copping his shirt means you believe in hard work, extreme passion, and exuberant misspellings that inspire buckets of goals to pour out of the heavens like a delicious fountain of whatever tasty beer the Free Beer Movement is currently enjoying. WONDO IS GOING TO BRAZIL!

Mix Diskerud

Eric: Be still, my heart. What’s that I hear tickling my ear? Is it? No, it can’t be “Careless Whisper,” can it? What? It is?! Now that we got that out of the way, we can get back on track. Out of everyone on this list, he would be whose jersey I’d get. Bradley is a very close second but if we are going hair vs. no hair, hair wins every time. Also, remember when Mix wanted to have “Mix” instead of “Diskerud” on the back of his shirt? How perfect would that have been?

Biggy: HAIIIIRRRRRRR FLIPPPPPPPPPP! Seriously, sexy Mixxy looks nice, he plays nice, and he is nice. Have you looked at his Twitter? I feel like we would be friends. Actually, I feel like he would be friends with everyone. What a guy. Not to mentioned he grabbed a solid goal versus Azerbaijan. There certainly is some serious weight rocking that number 10 shirt, but those broad, muscular shoulders certainly can carry it. Rocking the new number 10 says that you believe in Jürgen and his plan for 2014 and beyond! It also says that you not only recognize talented soccer players, but good looking ones as well. Get it Mix!


Michael Bradley

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Selected Images: USA 2 – Turkey 1

From eye of Matt Mathai–the Ansel Adams of American soccer imagery.





Clint Jozy1 Bradley Cameron

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Positioning: Catastrophe Averted, 43′, USA 2 – Turkey 1

First, of all, I love Jermaine Jones. To me, he gets too much stick from the US fanbase. He often does the grunt work of carrying the ball despite opponents draped all over him. (See, USA 4 – B&H 2 or even USA 2 – Mexico 0 over the past year.)

That said, he’s being thrust into a role that is less than ideal for his skillset right before the test of a lifetime. Many commented that it was Jones’s distribution at issue, if any, on Sunday.

Take a look though at the sequence below. It’s a curious defensive display from the States in the least.

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 9.05.03 PM

Michael Bradley goes to close down a Turkey midfielder whose checked to a pass, but Jones goes too. Why? (And BTW, lot of greenage there in between the lines.)

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 9.06.27 PM

Later on in the sequence, the US swarms in the middle of the field, Jones is neither coming up to support, guarding the linking player or otherwise….

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 9.07.50 PM

The ball gets played by the Turkey midfielder to the support square pass on the right flank. Jones, with two players, behind him goes to close the player down. Jones is the CDM–there are as many as four Turkey players central ready to break down the US if a ball find its way vertically.

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 9.06.50 PM

The Turkey rightback launches the ball to his striker counterpart. The break is on! There are three central trailers bearing down in support. Only a misplaced ball by the striker allows the US to barely escape what could have an excellent chance.

There are a number of issues here. (1) The US spacing between its backline and its midfield can be measured in acres instead of inches. (Arrigo Sacchi is unimpressed.) (2) There is half-commitment from Jones with no failover in midfield–that’s probably Zusi? in that final slide who doesn’t stay with a runner and (3) Jones appears to be positionally naive at CDM and gets sucked exceedingly high. (Note: I would also think that Besler should be face-guarding his opponent–or in front of him–but I’m not sure the right positioning there.)

This type of defense Ghana for one and likely Germany and Portugal will pounce on. This was–in the end–an innocuous play; overlooked by broadcasters, but scouts for the US Group G opponents no doubt caught this.

US v. Turkey: Live Commentary


A little Art Blakely–ain’t much better on the keys–after the surf sesh. Crack a Scrimshaw and we’re in to USA-Turkey. This used to be George Vecsey time.

Will Brad Davis start? Can he hang if it gets going up and down and will he make a difference from the top of the attacking third out left?

Starting line-ups shortly.


TSG’s USA v. Turkey Preview: Turks & Chaos?

Fresh off the forgettable...

Fresh off the forgettable…

Fresh off a most forgettable 2-0 victory on Tuesday against Azerbaijan, the US xeroxes its second game of the 2010 Send-off Series in 2010 and steps into the ring against a young, unproven Turkey side in New Jersey Sunday afternoon. The absence of John Harkes on the broadcast means the over-under on “Kearny, NJ” references drops to single digits. Here, here.


The Jose Francisco Torres game.

That was the moniker bestowed upon the 2010 US-Turkey World Cup warm-up match in Philadelphia. The US prevailed 2-1 in classic Bob Bradley rope-a-dope style.

It was an affair that saw some fundamental breakdowns in defense–primarily from Benny Feilhaber–including perhaps the most bewildering clearance attempt ever in a US shirt–and secondarily from Ricardo Clark which led to the lone US concession.

It also saw the love affair renew with the diminutive Torres whose efficient “three-touch” distribution display in the second half had fans drooling with possession potential for South Africa. (It was not to be though as Torres corkscrew pass attempts against an underrated Slovenia only led to turnovers and to his World Cup campaign being over after just 45 minutes. And those who say that Torres is the Mexican Xavi are probably okay when Spotify recommends Jesus Jones as a “you may be interested in” selection for U2.)

The 2010 match also saw Jonathan Spector exposed for speed on the right–and forever relegated to the bench by Bradley thereafter and the US deploy in a 4-2-3-1; a single forward set that fans were pining for at the time.

Ironically, the formation and deployment the States used on that day was a mirror image of what Jurgen Klinsmann would use through qualifying.

The US pushed high on the right side through Spector (in Stevie Cherundolo’s stead), Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore in the first half in a blueprint that mimicked the US pushing high and left through Beasley, Dempsey and Altidore throughout 2014. Graham Zusi plays the tucked-in shuttler role to protect the US rightback in 2014 and this was Landon Donovan’s role that day on the left to protect the less-than-nimble Carlos Bocanegra.

Of course, that formation gave way to Bradley’s battle-tested 4-2-2-2 when the US fell behind in the second half with Robbie Findley entering for the sacrificed Feilhaber. The US used Landon Donovan as the attacking conduit with Jose Torres the conductor as the US motored back to victory.

It’s a different tale nearly four years later. Bradley’s team had the Onyewu injury situation and a rather pedantic debate of wether to tab Maurice Edu or Ricardo Clark in midfield as its lone lightning rods.

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 9.45.28 AM



The Yanks enter their 2014 match against the Crescent Moons with Landongate tailgating in their rearview mirror, a new diamond 4-4-2 formation and some second guessing over coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s tactics. That’s Chris Christie-approved drama right there.

And after much touting upon Klinsmann’s naming and being tried at five different positions including leftback (because anyone can play leftback), Jose Francisco Torres will not have a sequel Sunday–and will join the lift of misfit toys discarded by US fans that includes Charlie Davies, Edgar Castillo and more.

Much to prove and showcase as the Send-Off series really kicks off and Brazil is nigh.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our customary preview. As usual it goes:

⇒ About The Opponent: Turkey

⇒ TSG: What We’re Looking For

⇒ 11 At The Whistle

About The Opponent: Turkey

It was a tumultuous 2014 qualifying attempt for the once formidable side of Turkey–third place finishers at the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan.

In a 2014 group that included the Netherlands, Romania, Hungary, Estonia and Andorra, the Crescent Stars fell well short, like Garrincha short, of slipping themselves into a playoff for a potential UEFA World Cup spot.

If you’ve been following along with the previews here at TSG, then you’ve been exposed to the assessment that Turkey will ape Group G opponent Portugal in their style. However, the Turks appetite for the 4-3-3 isn’t as set as it once was.

The 4-3-3 was the formation the side used to run through the qualifying gauntlet under former manager Adbullah Avc1 who many identify as being the culprit behind Turkey’s failure to represent in Brazil.



New head man Fatih Terim–who has pinged back and forth between the national team job and skippering Galatasaray–is a long-time employer of the standard 4-4-2, however.

That said, with Turkey’s solid wide forward play and the developing skillset of rising moon Hakan Çalhanoğlu–whose name is buzzing around the transfer tabloids in association with Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and more–a 4-3-3 likely makes best use of the full complement of the Turkish roster. Indeed this is the formation that Terim’s side rolled out in Thursday night’s 2-0 win over World Cup-bound Honduras at RFK in DC.

Kim Kallstrom-esque!

As such, they’ll be–at minimum–the stand-in for Portugal in this preview.

The first such comparative here is Turkey’s UEFA record–the side did much better playing away in final qualifying than they did at home. No doubt this is due to the comfort level of playing on the counter where Turkey play their best soccer.

And like Paulo Bento’s static Portugal sides, the inverse is true as well; the squad has trouble when tasked with being the aggressor and facing other defend-deep-and-counter sides.

For Turkey, the attack will all–hopefully–start with Atletico Madrid’s Arda Turan, the slick-handles left winger who blazed up the US left flank in 2010 for the only goal conceded by the States that day.

Turan is coming off a rigorous club season that saw him miss out on the Champions League Final and has now been ruled out for Sunday. His replacement could be Ahmet Özek.

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Jurgen Klinsmann on USMNT Squad Selection

Part of Rog Bennett’s ESPN documentary.


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