Posts Tagged ‘Benny Feilhaber’

Wrapping Up 2009…And Hopefully Denmark

USMNT Aarhus: Late day training

USMNT Aarhus: Late day training

It is nearly time to cue the end of the year pieces.

After an uneven, nail-biting and ultimately euphoric World Cup qualifier run, the USMNT is in Aarhaus, Denmark set to take on the Danish Dynamite this Wednesday to close the 2009 campaign. By the way, yet another kick*ss nickname for a team.

Per our column yesterday, excused from the team’s Slovakia roster are: Steve Cherundolo, who was last seen rolling off the field on Saturday and has an emotional situation to attend to; Chad Marshall, whose knee continues to bother him after playing a single game in the last month; and

dynomite

Uh, no, Danish Dynamite...not DYN-O-MITE!

Clint Dempsey, presumably to get some pitch time for more midfielders.

The man nearly all TSG fans wanted to see on the starting pitch once added to this roster, Pachuca’s José Francisco Torres, was called up, but then excused. Odd in it’s own right, Torres also only played 45 minutes of Pachuca’s contentious affair this past Saturday with U.A.N.L.

Bee-lining eastbound for the Yanks are the Dynamo’s Stu Holden and Ricardo Clark and a man who now needs no introduction, Edgar Castillo, who is making his way to Coach USA’s roster for the first time. Here, here! JFT’s roster spot will go unfilled.

Taking on the Yanks will be the Dynamite who did more than just survive (and top) a difficult WCQ group that included both Sweden and Portugal. The Danes dismissed Sweden in their last 2nd to last WCQ qualifier, dropping the Swedes and blanking them on the goal sheet. In September, Denmark’s defense was just as stiff in limiting a Portugese squad that included Ronaldo, Deco and Nani to a single goal in a 1-1 draw.

Alas, Denmark’s November star has lost some luster as Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner is scheduled for groin surgery and Liverpool central defender Daniel Agger is taking a breather…er…rather…bowing out with an undisclosed nagging injury. Five additional players that started in the last legs of Denmark’s qualifying run, including Ajax striker Dennis Rommendahl, were absent from the Dynamite’s 0-0 draw against Ji-Sung Park and South Korea this past Saturday.

poulsen

Poulsen: An important cog at Juve

Actually trotting out to the pitch Wednesday for Denmark in a starring role will still be Danish player of the year in 2005 and 2006, Christian Poulsen who cleans up the middle for Juventus. In a little bit of interesting trivia while Poulsen shipped in to Juventus from Sevilla he spent the bulk of his earlier career at German side Shalke 04…where his replacement in central defense was none other than Jermaine Jones.

Others to watch out for Vladimir Weisse-style (as in little known players that cause problems, see Slovakia: Saturday), are Thomas Kahlenberg (Wolfsburg) and Duncan Rasmussen (Danish side Bronby). We know Johnny “Be Good” Bornstein is up to the task though….yup just coined a new TSG nickname. (Note: ESPN reporting that Kahlenberg won’t play; we’ll find out — he started and played Saturday against South Korea).

On the flip side of the ball, if the USMNT thought they had a difficult time finding offense in Bratislava on Saturday, they’ll not find it easier this time around. Only 5 goals against the home side in the WCQ trials (again in that group that included Sweden and Portugal) and heady Stoke City keeper Thomas Sorenson in net. If you’ve read TSG over the past two months, you know that we think quite highly of Sorenson who has been tested more often than perhaps any other EPL goalie in the last two years.

Let’s get right to our customary preview.

    1. TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”
    2. 11 at the Whistle
    3. *Disclaimers

TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”

Overview: As we saw in Bratislava, Coach USA is looking to be competitive in the first half and investigate new players in the 2nd half. Coach USA’s recent roster additions (only Castillo, new, amongst the group) suggest that he’ll employ that strategy again.

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Rise Up: Free Benny Feilhaber!

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(Whew, it took some Mission: Impossible moves to get our pics back from confiscation and our message out before Saturday against El Salvador.)

Without further ado, we give you our mancrush piece. Our final salvo.

A few weeks ago, we got a great email in our inbox from a TSG fan named Greg. This happened to coincide with some readers to our publication from ESPN.com to our post entitled, “Paging Bob Bradley: Let’s get Benny and Stu some more run!”

What you don't see is the skywriting in the background

What you don't see is the skywriting in the background

Well now TSG is pulling out all the stops. We’ve ordered about 10,000 vuvuzelas with “Free Benny Now!” on them in an effort to get the U.S. linking midfielder some more playing time, some more starting XI time to be precise. To borrow a catch phrase, “Yes, We Can!”

Those vuvuzelas are not coming soon by the way–budget, economy, you know.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to blare the message. Heading this piece up top, is a pic of my brother Mark from TSG “protesting” outside Soccer House in Chicago. Now it is true that Mark went to Chicago on other professional business (or so he claims), but his commitment to the cause cannot be questioned.

Following below here is the exchange I had with Greg on our profound “love” for Benny Feilhaber. Consider it our man-crush piece. We love you Benny, in the we-want-to-watch-you-on-the-pitch, inflicting-some-serious-offense-against-the-other-team sort of way.

Clark, Bornstein: Lots of love for Feilhaber

Clark, Bornstein: Lots of love for Feilhaber

Now, our exchange with Greg and a little hidden way that you too can contribute to our vital cause. Oh, and huge thank you to Greg, who is an extremely astute commentor on our publication. Thanks Greg for the question and exchange–if we ever get around to TSG, uh shinguards….well the first pair is going your way.

—–

Hey Guys,

Just found your blog today through a link. I was immediately drawn by your focus on Feilhaber. When Benny first stepped on the scene in ’07, I thought he was promising, and this past summer has solidified my view on him (I think he’s as important as you guys do). What I’m hoping is that you guys could give me your description on Feilhaber. Why do you guys think he’s such an impressive player, in general and for the US?

—–

Greg,

Thanks for reaching out. Thanks for the kind words as well. Glad you liked our blog — might I ask where you saw it?

If you’re talking about Benny, I really think this piece here sort of sums it up.

Beyond that, in Benny Feilhaber, you’re talking about one of the few players who is just extremely comfortable in possession of the ball. In our minds, not a lot of players have this ability and certainly not on the US team. A player like Landon has to be, or let’s say is exceedingly more comfortable attacking with the ball or laying it off ; Landon is not going to work the ball to create multiple opportunities.

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You Say Benny, We Say Benny, We All Say Benny

BF: About to get Neo on El Salvador

BF: Ready to go Neo on El Salvador

The numbers are in. And they don’t lie.

We’ve now closed our poll on the right sidebar entitled: “Who should Bob Bradley sub into the midfield for the El Salvador game?”

Your choices? Individual players and combinations of players, including Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres and Stu Holden.

And the answer is emphatically Benny Feilhaber. Our TSG mancrush continues. (Stay tuned for our final salvo post next week to get Feilhaber into the starting line-up against the Cuscatlecos…..you’ll love it, TSG promises….and let’s just tease it by saying TSG did a little road trip to make it happen.)

Back to the data.

First, only 2% of you want Coach Bob and the US to keep the same line-up as Mexico. That’s a pretty resounding number.

The most selected answer that won the plurality was “Benny and Stu” with 35% of the vote.

Nearly 70% of you want Benny Feilhaber starting in some capacity, either just himself or with a combination of Stu, Jose or all three. That’s another resounding number.

Amazingly, 54% of you want the Iceman Stu Holden starting in some manner. That was probably the most surprising data that came back. TSG loves Stu (check out our interview the Dynamo star if you haven’t seen it yet), but, as my brother pointed out yesterday, he’s probably going to inhabit the second half spark plug role that Feilhaber had if BF starts. Alas, Freddy, this was yours to lose at one point!

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Paging Bob Bradley: Let’s get Stu Holden and Benny Feilhaber a little more run

Strike Force 1

Strike Force 1

Recently, TSG had the opportunity to email some questions to Stu Holden. One question we asked him is, “How did you develop such a good first touch on the ball and ability in possession?”

While we await that answer and others from The Kilted One, let’s delve into just why Bob Bradley needs to find more room in the rotation for players with the skills of Stu Holden and TSG favorite Benny Feilhaber.

Feilhaber and Holden possess a rather unique ability among U.S. players to…well…possess…the ball that is. They not only understand the value of possession, from how subtle positioning of the ball on their foot–whether it’s instep or the inner arch to continuous motion with the ball in their possession can virtually unlock offensive opportunities and change the entire complexion of the field: new passing lanes are opened, new runs opened up, etc.

Strike Force 2

Strike Force 2

The second component of possession, putting the ball in motion, is perhaps the single most misunderstood and neglected skill set in soccer. By putting the ball in continuous motion, the defense has no choice but to react, they know not where the next movement will come from–a defender is thinking “defend” not “takeaway.”

And continually that defender is now at risk and has lost whatever upperhand they may have had.

Take a look here (9 minute mark of the clip) at the second goal from the Americans against Spain in this year’s Confederation Cup semifinal. A long square ball is played to Benny Feilhaber with the opportunity for Benny to drive to the goal.

Because Benny is comfortable with his possession and keeps the ball in continuous motion, he’s able to effectively stall and slot a pass to Landon Donovan who is trailing off his right foot. Feilhaber, before the pass, is clearly in a threatening position, but the defense is sitting there, reacting, because of Benny’s subtle continuous motion with the ball. As we now know, Donovan laces a shot unimpeded that Clint Dempsey then pokes in for the 2-0 lead. All of this, compliments of Benny Feilhaber’s solid work in possession.

Stu Holden as well possesses this gift of skill as we saw in the Gold Cup.

The U.S. in the top tier and mid tier tournaments this year continually suffered from a lack of possession maintenance. It’s up to Bob Bradley to find room in his midfield rotation to balance out the defensive middies (Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, etc) with the threat of the offensive creation of Benny Feilhaber and hopefully with a little more maturity Stu Holden as well.

SG ManCrush: Benny Feilhaber

Benny...is back!

Benny...is back!

My friends, teammates, and fellow writers here has asked me to write a feature piece on my appreciation of Benny Feilhaber’s game.

Coming soon, but I’ll cut it down from 3 chapters to 2,000 words or so….

Update: Ok, appreciation is too weak of a word…let’s start with “Kaka’s little brother”

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