Posts Tagged ‘Clint Dempsey’

Part III: Davies Still Repairing, Who’s Striking?

(Part IV of the series coming real soon….)

Two months ago to the day, TSG wrote one of our more popular columns: “With Davies in Repair, Who Strikes?

We followed this column with Part II that suggested that the answer to the USMNT striking problem may lay not with the players themselves, but with a different formation that took into account the rejiggered talents of the team that Bob Bradley could currently field.

So where do we sit today? Sixty odd days after the USMNT began addressing the issue for the South African replacement–sniffle–for one Charles Davies we’re still left with a lot of head scratching, if not even more.

Cakes: "I'm the man, but I'm still curious who's the man in front of me?"

TSG’s biggest question on the day and biggest requirement? How does the new look upfront impact Landon Donovan who clearly has the class now to be a difference maker, but needs the team and strategy tailored to his style. (Just ask Clint Dempsey about this….)

On our Landon issue, no current answers. With Landon absent for both friendlies, we learned little about potential replacements in Eddie Johnson and Jermaine Defoe Jr.–I mean Jeff Cunningham–who were called in to be considered for the role.

Cunningham scored in his starting debut, but was also knocked off the ball on multiple occasions. Eddie showed a little bit of pace, but a troubling lack of creativity in one-on-one situations. Further, since that friendly, EJ was moved to the discount rack at Fulham, buried on the bench and likely available to and at the mercy of the first suitor. No playing time for the potential South African hopeful.

Worse for the USMNT, it appears that Jozy can’t get a handle on things in Davies absence either, being wildy erratic and nearly invisible in the two friendlies–whether Jozy has been told to roam the offensive 1/3 or play hold-up is not known–what is known is that whatever role he was inhabited in Friendlyville it certainly didn’t breed confidence or create systemic opportunities.

JZA’s club situation has not shed any light on his future contributions either.

So going forward in this column, we’ll take a different tack in reviewing the possible players and combinations.

We’ll do the following: We’ll give some general priorities that Bob Bradley has favored through qualification. We’ll give our take on how the offense changes with various personnel and finally we’ll interject about the USMNT’s group stage opponents in helping us with our evaluation.

General priorities:

Complement Mr. LA Galaxy Landon Donovan.

Let me lead this segment with a broader question: Should it be Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey who the team is built around?

Wow! Did you see that question coming?

Continue reading

Do We Have Some More Insight on Clint?

Not sure how I missed this.

According to the Daily Mirror this past Monday (a 5 out of 10 on the quality newspaper scale), Fulham manager Roy Hodgson and USMNT cap Bob Bradley are working together to ensure that Clint remains fresh and fit for both Fulham and the States.

Dempsey....getting warn out....

Say what?! This is like a scene out of bizarro Seinfeld–usually all you hear about are clubs and countries fighting like kids in the schoolyard over player usage. Arsenal wants reparations for Robin Van Persie. Harry Rednapp expresses exasperation at Fabio Capello calling up injured players. Even Hodgson himself is in a row with Ghana over the use of John Paintsil this December.

The record speaks for itself, it’s never cordial….except as it would appear here.

A few months ago, TSG did a piece on Clint invoking the velvety tone of Marvin Gaye. The theme of our tune? Asking Clint, “What’s Going On?”

Do we have our answer now? Is Clint merely burnt out from over usage?

Players like David Beckham, Robinho, etc are known for not having a full tank to go a full 90….is Demps any different….should he be treated different?

Doesn’t sound like Clint’s getting burned out from this, very reputable, blog evaluating his EPL campaign thus far. (Note, the Brian McBride Award here as well.)

Continue reading

Best American Soccer Player In The Universe

As part of the US Soccer’s Best of 2009 Awards, the finalists for Male Athlete Of Year were announced earlier this week.

First, TSG thinks its title for the award sounds much more exciting…see above.

But, without further adeu, the five finalists for the award are:

Michael Bradley…he of the two goals versus Mexico in February and the right place-right-time goal versus Costa Rica in October.

Landon Donovan…he of the truckload of awards (MLS MVP, Honda Player of the Year), assists and all-around stellar play for the USMNT in 2009.

Clint Dempsey…he of the Bronze Ball at the Confederations Cup, brilliant header at Rio Tinto and the current run of 5 goals in 5 matches for Fulham.

Tim Howard…he of the magnificent saves while frequently getting bombarded by shots for both the USMNT and Everton.

Oguchi Onyewu…he of the stalwart central defense, great work with his dome and transfer to AC Milan.

The five 2009 finalists represent 5 of the past 6 winners of the award — Donovan in 2003 and 2004, Onyewu in 2006, Dempsey in 2007 and Howard in 2008

According to US Soccer:

The finalists for each award were nominated on the basis of: a) competing and excelling at the highest level (both at the national team and professional level) during the calendar year; b) exhibiting decorum on and off the field that reflects well on U.S. Soccer; and c) contributing toward the growth, development, credibility and popularization of soccer in the USA.

Unlike the Honda Player of the Year this award is based on play for both the national teams and club teams.

Another piece of hardware for Donovan's already crowded 2009 trophy case?

With all of his accolades and press this year, one would expect Landon Donovan to take this one in a walk. The criteria of club play adds an interesting wrinkle as Donovan clearly isn’t “competing and excelling at the highest level” playing his club ball stateside. However, Lando has been the best performer on the national team this year.

Weighing club play more heavily…

Clint Dempsey should get a boost in his bid for the award as a regular starter and current dangerous striker for Fulham in the EPL. Tim Howard and Oguchi Onyewu had stellar first halves of 2009 for Everton and Standard Liège, respectively. However, Howard has had a statistically poor ’09-’10 campaign behind a suspect Toffee defense while Onyewu’s much ballyhooed transfer to AC Milan resulted in little playing time before his October injury.

I’ll let you folks can chime in on who has or has not been true to criteria “b” above. And of the five finalists, Onyewu probably comes out on top for criteria “c”  as his transfer to AC Milan from Standard Liège was viewed and celebrated as a big step forward for American soccer, regardless of his lack of playing time.

The winner will be crowned through voting by fans on US Soccer.com (50%) and media members and US Soccer representatives (collectively, 50%). One can assume that Bob-O can’t vote for Junior, right?

Who are you guys voting for?


Fan voting will be open through December 13th along with all of the Best of 2009 awards, like Best Soccer Blog. (hint…hint.)

Dempsey Nets Two More, Timmy Stones Jozy

Some USMNT-related EPL happenings today.

Clint Dempsey (90 minutes) led the way with a brace versus Blackburn in a 3-0 Fullham win. In other action Jozy (73) and suddenly potent Hull conquered Tim Howard (90) and Everton, 3-2.

TSG didn’t catch the games, but we can bring you the highlights.

First up…Deuce’s Double…a perfectly timed run and a post-up conversion.

Hull at Everton…starts with a great save by Tim Howard of an Altidore blast.

USMNT Aarhus: A Few Changes

Edgar Castillo

Show us what you got, Edgar.

MONDAY UPDATE: A Sunday night update to the US Soccer press release on the roster said that Jose Francisco Torres has been excused for personal reasons after being initially called into camp. According to Neil Buethe at US Soccer (US Men’s Spokesman and a very nice guy as well) this morning, there is no further information available through US Soccer at this time and no player will assume JFT’s spot.

Questions by TSG surrounding further inclusion of Torres and why Jeremiah White wasn’t selected, though Benny Feilhaber was, in his home stadium were met with a “No Comment – Coach’s Decision” as well.

—–

USMNT Bratislava took off this morning for Aarhaus, Denmark….well most of the squad did.

Dropped from the roster called up for yesterday’s 1-0 loss to Slovakia were Chad Marshall, Steve Cherundolo and Clint Dempsey. Folks may be surprised that Dempsey was sent packing back to England. Since there are a number of plausible reasons we are not inclined to climb into Bob-O’s head before we have our first cup of coffee this morning, but we’ll revisit the issue later this week. Also of note, Soccer Insider reports that Chad Marshall’s knee is still not right.

With the MLS playoffs behind them, USMNT regulars Ricardo Clark and Stu Holden were added to the group.

Now that the Mexican standings are set, TSG fave Jose Francisco Torres is on a plane over to Denmark to continue his Saprissa redemption tour. Torres is joined by left back (we say left middie) Edgar Castillo. Castillo is set to answer the hype in his first call-up to the US mother ship. Let’s see those chops–and passport–young lad.

In other Sunday news:

  • Congrats go to the Salt Lakers whose playoff run continued by extinguishing the Fire on kicks. RSL generally clamped down on the Fire offense and was able to maintain possession in the midfield–the key to the game for them.
  • Uruguay made World Cup qualifying a bit tougher on the Costa Rica besting the Ticos 1-0 on the throw rug at Saprissa. This WC bid will be settled on Wednesday in Montevideo.
  • Here, let me write this next one like ESPN would to get you to “click” the story: “Is another America defender headed to the Premiership! To Man City no less!”…..Sorry to do that on a Sunday, reports have former Thomas Rongen whipping boy Neven Subotic, who now plays for Serbia after coming through the US “U-” series, possible going to Man City in the January window. We’re fine with Spector, but the depth would have been nice.
  • The friendly series was not kind to Arsenal yesterday, Arsenal superstriker and Netherlands national teamer Robin Van Persie limped off in Italy 15 minutes in to the 0-0 draw and is now expected out for 3 months. That leaves Arsenal without size up front as Denmark nattie Nicklas Bendtner is slated for groin surgery and at least a month on the shelf dating back to his Halloween injury versus Tottenham.

With Davies in Repair, Who Strikes?

Now that the harsh, though thankful, realities of Charlie Davies’ injuries are known, it’s time for Bob Bradley and the braintrust to start contemplating the front line going into World Cup 2010.

Davies: Speed and strength

Davies: Speed and strength

Taking a step back, TSG would promote that Charlie Davies was the 3rd least replaceable player on the States’ roster. That’s quite a statement for a player who only factored regularly starting in July 2009 and has less than 20 caps to his name.

Think about it.

There is Landon — irreplaceable on offense, on the left wing and defense. And there is Tim Howard. While Brad Guzan would deputize capably, USMNT fans have come to expect and probably demand Howard’s one to two saves a game and on field direction that change the score.

Next up? Mike Bradley? Nope, you’ve got Benny and Rico, not to mention Paco and maybe Jones or Edu. Dempsey, no again, in fact Stu Holden might be more than his equal on the right wing. Gooch or Boca? I guess we’ll find out here with Gooch’s knee tear but it’s not not incredibly hard to envision Chad Marshall , JayDeMerit, or even a Jimmy Conrad or a Clarence Goodson filling in admirably for either of them.

Altidore? A player who remains the single biggest wildcard for 2010′s Cup theatrics oddly wasn’t on the pitch to start for the States’ two most important qualifier matches, away at Honduras and away at Mexico and remains on the bench at his club team. Ruminate on that.

Davies? Well there is….

In fact there is no one for an abundance of reasons. Charlie Davies, the 3rd least replaceable player on the US national team, and now likely gone through the World Cup.

In July that wouldn’t have seemed like much. In October, it means the entire team dynamics.

Take a look at what Coach Bradley was developing on the left side: Bornstein, Rico, Davies and Donovan–perhaps the four fastest players at their position.

With the Davies-Donovan combination on the left, the U.S. was first using it’s offensive prowess to cover for what deficiencies the team may have at left back (depending who you speak with).

Is it coincidence that both Mexico and most recently Honduras started their attacks down the right side? Nope, they knew that throwing numbers up the U.S. right flank was much less dangerous. Had they tested the U.S. left flank, either opponent would have had to deal with the explosive, yes that is the right word, counter potential the Yanks deployed. (See Confed Cup, Brazil, Rico to Donovan to Davies to Donovan.)

In fact the Davies-Donovan offensive pairing, more than covering for defense, was perhaps the U.S.’s best 1-2 strike combination ever. Yes, I said that–with apologies to Joe Max-Moore and begrudgingly Eric Wynalda. This combo wasn’t lofting a cross onto McBride’s head or Reyna slotting a run for Clint Mathis–this was much more. This was World Cup-grade striking teams avoiding the U.S. left flank.

"Who's this ball going to?"

"Who's this ball going to?"

This was Donovan being able to have a player that matched his speed in possession who knew how to create space for the offender behind him. As we talked about in our Costa Rica review piece (see the LD section in player ratings), Donovan clearly suffered from Altidore, though strong on his own, and Casey not clearing or positioning fast enough for his midfield runs against the Ticos. Charlie knew exactly where to go and got there…fast.

Additionally, Davies speed in and of itself with the ball would open that filling position for Donovan to trail the play and execute. Opponents had to respect Davies’s ability to get up the pitch and round the defense. Altidore, sure he will turn the corner on the defender, but whereas Davies “happens,” Altidore “unfurls.”

Get my drift.

And even smaller subtle things were developing. Davies penchant to go extremely wide and throw a cross on frame as opposed to just breaking down his man (see El Salvador). With Casey and Altidore lining up on the other side that was a very healthy and high probability-type attack.

Yes, CD9 you will be missed on the pitch.

The riddle now is two-part: Who replaces Davies? and Does Bob Bradley change his entire attacking scheme or does he try to slot in a player with some of Davies attributes (speed, one-on-one ability) in front of Donovan?

Come to think of it maybe it’s just one question: Who allows the USMNT’s best player, Landon Donovan, to have the biggest impact on the game?

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 220 other followers