Posts Tagged ‘marcus tracy’

Revelry! And USMNT Jan Camp Begins….

Coach Mike Sorber

“Good morning and welcome to your first day of Camp Cupcake.

For those of you that I’ve only spoken with on the phone, I’m Assistant Coach Mike Sorber and I’ll be taking you through some camp pointers this morning then out to the warm-up pitch. Perhaps some of you youngsters caught me on the tube around 1994–I hope you show the same intelligence and cautious temerity that I showed on the pitch during the Cup run….I digress.

Coach Bradley will be joining us shortly. He’s on the horn with Owen Coyles over in the UK

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Bradley’s 30: What Is This? Junior High

Marvell: Back on the scene, crispy and clean

Coach USA took the next step to shoring up the remaining roster spots in South Africa today by inviting an inordinately large contingency of 30 players, 25 from the MLS, to camp this year in Los Angeles.

The annual January camps kicks off January 4th and making their way to the bunk beds will be:

GOALKEEPERS: Kevin Hartman (Kansas City), Troy Perkins (Valerenga), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake), Zach Thornton (Chivas USA)

DEFENDERS: Kevin Alston (New England Revolution), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC), Brandon McDonald (San Jose Earthquakes)

MIDFIELDERS: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Jeff Larentowicz (New England Revolution), Dax McCarty (FC Dallas), Chris Pontius (D.C. United), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew),

FORWARDS: Justin Braun (Chivas USA), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Jeff Cunningham (FC Dallas), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), , Marcus Tracy (Aalborg)

—–

Thoughts:

• Follow-up on our preview on the January camp:

» TSG contributor Connor, see comment section, nailed the goalies. TSG thought Thornton–at 36 years–deserving, but a little long in the tooth.

» Unfortunately, no Sean Franklin. TSG suggested an invite be sent the injured defenders way, but understandable that it was not

» No Darrius Barnes, as TSG suggested. Just a little bit too young.

• Coach USA goes with a whopping 12 midfielders, suggesting that his midfield is hardly set and that players like Robbie Rogers and Jose Francisco Torres are not locks yet for WC 2010.

• If you look at the defensive selections, here’s TSG reading Coach Sweatpants mind, “I need to get reps for middle guys here. Goodson, you know have Gonzalez pushing you….your sub spot to lose. Let’s see what this McDonald kid has there too.

Got to figure that outside picture out: Show me something Kevin, Heath, and Marvell–Heath, Marvell this is your final shot.”

» Wynne was in the rotation late last year and early this year. If the speedy outside full can show he’s overcome the nagging injuries and that he’s matured in his read of the game, then he’ll be making a strong play for that left wingback back-up role….back-up for now.

»Note: The official USSF release has Brandon McDonald as a forward. Unless Coach USA sees something we don’t, McDonald should get trotted out at center back and center back alone. I’m this close (if McDonald shows well) to calling him “Gooch Jr.”

¤ TSG has lobbed an email into USMNT spokesperson Neil Buethe to get confirmation on the release and McDonald’s position.

¤ USSF amended their release and now lists McDonald appropriately as a defender.

• Is this the close of the Big Aloha Brian Ching’s USMNT career or is he being given time to rest his knee? If you remember Ching did some heavy lifting this year with the USMNT Gold Cup tourney, qualifiers and a Houston playoff run.

• In Ching’s stead and in the absence of TSG-promoted Nate Jacqua is Chivas USA’s Justin Braun. We’ll have to learn more about Braun here at TSG as we’ve only seen him play a handful of time. 6’3” and 22-years-old is a good start.

• A three-man race for the Charlie Davies role at camp amongst Marcus Tracy (Welcome to the USMNT program, Marcus!), Robbie Findley and Jeff Cunningham. Should be a good one to watch.

• Goodnight Frankie Hedjuk. You will be missed.

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?

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Camp Cupcake Invites: Kljestan’s Last Stand?

(My brother told me referencing a printing press for invites is a stretch…so we’ve thrown out the old title, “Dust Off the Gutenberg: Camp Cupcake Invites?” and now have a new one….)

No better time to start pontificating on who should be present in the customary January 2009 camp….an invitation is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

Last year, the camp was essentially MLS pre-season with more than 80% of the players under contract in America’s soccer league. With the Scandinavian leagues the only other major leagues out of session, expect 95% of the players to come from nordic lands or America proper. Note, the Mexican league is in training so potential midfielder invitees JFT and Edgar Castillo are out. (You like how I keep hyping Castillo as a halfback….)

Given Bradley’s latest friendly roster selections, specifically MLSers Dax McCarty and Jeff Cunningham, it’s easily confirmed through selection that Bradley has an affinity players where he’s either run them out on the pitch before or coached against them on multiple occasions. There are exceptions of course, Charlie of Hammerby making the journey overseas last year–though remember CD9 barely factored until the Confederation Cup.

One odd note from Cupcake 2009, the Chicago Fire had a host of  invitees last year  (John Thorrington, Chris Rolfe, Jon Busch), but none of that crew got any run after 2009’s first trimester. Who will be this year’s MLS team du jour? RSL? Galaxy?

So with the camp less than one month away, let’s just break down the elementary questions:

What’s BB’s mix? Last year, Coach USA brough a mix of veterans and rooks; expect just a slightly different tweak on that from Bradley.

There is no reason to look beyond 2010 at this point. The USMNT number one priority is to compete in the 2010 World Cup as of qualification this past October. Coach B will use the camp to solidify the two or three remaining roster spots up in the air for a trip to South Africa if possible. Expect to see two types of player vying for those roles–those with the resume to suggest they belong (Beckerman, even Dax) and those that contribute a wrinkle to the roster complexion, be it oustanding pace, service or ability to knock a header on goal (Tracy, Findley, etc.)

Lastly, the presence of a Jimmy Conrad, Frankie Hedjuk and Brian Ching (and all will probably be in training), does not necessarily signify they are making the roster next year so much as Bradley relying on veterans to provide stability and know-how in camp to set the tone for the youngsters. There is good chance that Conrad in particular is purely serving as mentor as he’s active in the MLS labor situation and likely for that to be his primary focus.

Striker! Striker! Striker! Yes, CD9 replacement. Yes, Conor Casey’s chops are being highly questioned. Last year we saw a mix of Brian Ching, Kenny Cooper, Chuck Deezer and Chris Rolfe? All of those later saw USMNT senior team pitch time, with only Rolfe, due to injury and play, falling off the map. Will we see even more strikers added this year as it is clearly a position of deficiency?

Will this be Tracy's first time donning the kit?

° Here are some possible invites: Jeff Cunningham, Chris Pontius, Marcus Tracy, Robbie Findley, Nate Jaqua, Conor Casey, Brian Ching

° Here are some unlikely candidates: Chris Rolfe, (Kenny Cooper-not coming), Mike Grella, Eddie Johnson

° Redux:

Chris Rolfe will be interesting. Rolfe goes overseas on transfer to Danishland. He’s most likely out as he makes that move, but there is probably a 5% or so shot he gets a call.

Kenny Cooper, who didn’t get any more calls after the Gold Cup and is nursing an injury is likely not in play–not now and not next year until he gets back to his goal scoring ways in Germany. It’s not hard to see Coops is not invited to Coach Bradley’s card games either.

Brian Ching? Ching should be there. Is this a big moment for the Ching-Casey battle for the target man role? Has Ching already lost it? Has Casey already won it?.

Speaking of target man, can we give Nate Jaqua a shot. With the Big Aloha aging and Conor Casey really not showing much over in Friendlyville, should Coach B be at least snooping around some other options for the holdup role? Jaqua, in particular,  provides height, has a decent amount of speed and can play more than one position–we know Coach USA likes versatility. The 6’0′ Chris Pontius also fits the versatile, target man role and he’s more attack minded to boot. TSG is willing to wager that Pontius is in camp; Jaqua, not.

Marcus Tracy, another question, as recent form dictates an invite, but oddly he’s never been in the national team system–will Tracy’s move to the starting rotation at Aalborg and his Wake Forest pedigree be enough to get him to California? Yup.

EJ and Grella are still committed for the winter term to overseas club in session and won’t be released–no matter how little playing time they are currently seeing.

Shh….he didn’t mention it above, but an outside chance puts Brek Shea in camp. TSG is not in that corner.

Midfield: If there is any place that has an abundance of senior team talent all around the same level, it’s the USMNT midfield. We learned that during the WCQ trials after learning it in the Gold Cup as well. Gold Cup alumni (and camp vets from 2008) Stu Holden and Robbie Rogers graduated from the Gold Cup rosters to the qualifiers’ rosters. So what is the USMNT looking for in the midfield? My guess is that Bob Bradley will really test out the wing positions as only Stu Holden, Clint and obviously Landon are shoo-ins for RSA still and their back-ups have not been set.

° Here are some possible invites: Dax McCarty, Sam Cronin, Alejandro Bedoya, Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan, Kyle Beckerman, Benny Feilhaber

° Here are some unlikely candidates: Ricardo Clark, Stu Holden, Jose Francisco Torres

° Redux:

Coach B will want to have a little bit of experience in camp. Last year’s camp found the quadrumvirate of Kljestan, Holden, Rogers and Clark. Kljestan lives in the area and will be in the fold, though Clark is probably brushing up on his Italian with the rumored move to Serie A side Livorno still in the offing; he’ll be absent. Rogers is there.

Will Coach USA be able to capture a little Charlie-In-A-Bottle with Bedoya? For those not familiar with Bedoya, here’s the best available clip on him. The two-time Hermann trophy MVP candidate missed a shot at the Beijing Olympics and promptly headed overseas to Swedish top division club Örebro SK where he netted twice in 13 games in 2009.

We originally had our man Benny Exclamation off the list, but given it appears Coach B is trying him out at a few pitch locations, might Benny make the 230 hour journey from Denmark?

Stu Holden might be wearing a kilt before the new year to go along with a new contract overseas.  The TSG fave we think is out though there are rumblings that the MLS is trying desperately to keep him at the Dynamo.

• Defense: In the summer of this year, TSG would have said Coach Sweatpants looks to the future here as the World Cup roster has been crystalized, but with injuries galore along the backline, the VIP list here is all over the board.

Gonzalez: He's earned his shot...

° Here are some possible invites: Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall (assuming he’s fully fit), Heath Pearce,  Kevin Alston, Jonathan Bornstein, Jimmy Conrad, Frankie Hedjuk

° Here are some unlikely candidates: Chris Wingert, Eric Lichaj

° On the fence in the far corner of the ranch: Marvell Wynne, Patrick Ianni

° Redux:

TSG will go on the record and say watch out for MLS 2008 Rookie of the Year Sean Franklin who’s a little bit like Cherundolo…with increased speed at the wingfull. An injury robbed Franklin of most of his 2009 MLS campaign, but in our mind the youngster–who started to come on for the Galaxy at the end of the year–should be back for his second camp.

Can we please get this Lichaj guy a shot? I’ve never seen him play but the Interwebs are alive with songs of his praise. Alas, he’s committed for January.

We’re putting Geoff Cameron in defense, but he could easily move up the pitch. Watch to see where he plays in camp, it might tell you a lot about Bob’s first team and second team thinking on the left and right back roles.

Alston and Gonzales, both are green and both should be looking comfortably at a shot at the roster….in 2014.

Heath Pearce’s last stand? Frankie trying to sing another Redemption Song?

After an injury plagued 2009, any chance that Coach USA gives speedy Marvell Wynne another shot? Is he even close to fit enough? Not likely. Similarly, there a chance 24-year-old Seattle Sounder Patrick Ianni gets a phoner from Bradley? Again a near definite no, but TSG wanted to throw his name out there.

• Goalie: Not much to add here. Big T mans the pipes with Guz backing him up and Hanhneman likely earning the 3rd nod as he picks it up for Wolverhampton (MH shutout Tottenham on Saturday). That’s as stone as it gets.

° Here are some possible invites: Troy Perkins, Jon Busch, Luis Robles, Will Hesmer, Matt Pickens

° Here are some unlikely guaranteed non-candidates: Marcus Hahnemann

° Redux:

Hahnemann is starting to play now at Woverhampton. No plane ticket, invite for him obviously.

Not much else to add here, I’d wager on any other keeps coming from the MLS. Maybe Nick Rimando gets a reward for his MLS Cup play?

Who’d we miss? Who’s the next Charlie-In-A-Bottle? Our best shot at getting in Bob Bradley’s head?: (Note, we’ve moved up Geoff Cameron to midfield and slotted Pontius back into it and are aware that Frankie Excitement can play there in scrimmages)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Troy Perkins, Luis Robles, Will Hesmer
DEFENDERS (9): Jonathan Bornstein, Sean Franklin, Chad Marshall, Jimmy Conrad, Clarence Goodson, Frankie Hedjuk, Omar Gonzalez, Heath Pearce, Kevin Alston
MIDFIELDERS (8): Geoff Cameron, Kyle Beckerman, Sacha Kljestan, Dax McCarty, Alejandro Bedoya, Robbie Rogers, Chris Pontius, Benny Feilhaber
FORWARDS (5): Brian Ching, Conor Casey, Marcus Tracy, Jeff Cunningham, Robbie Findley

And Then There Were Four…

The lasting image of one of my favorite games of all time....

I tried. I really did this year to get in more NCAA soccer time. Wasn’t able to do it.

The crossover of the USMNT to the MLS got me watching the easier-to-find-on-the-dial MLS games rather than college soccer.

I did watch a handful of Indiana, Bucknell (not sure how that one happened) and Maryland games this year–mostly on late Friday evenings on Fox Soccer Channel with such very challenged broadcast teams.

I was able to catch a USF game in person–sadly USF after coming in a top 30 team slid terribly this year…7-10-2….the highlight was a win over Santa Clara midseason at home…luckily the game I attended.

Best part about the college game, in my humble opinion, the all out full effort of the players. It might be a lack of discipline, but the field often looks like eleven Carlos Tevez(es) running around.

Tomorrow is the final four and I’m going to try and dial up ESPN’s fine 360 product for what should be a good one: Wake Forest at Virginia. The other game pits undefeated and untied Akron vs. UNC.

For those that don’t know or remember this column way back when, the 2007 college final between Ohio State and Wake Forest, featuring such players as a sophomore Cody Arnoux and Marcus Tracy was one of the most enjoyable soccer games I’ve ever watched. (Check out the video at the end of the column for sure.)

The game was monumental for Arnoux as in his freshman year he booted a great opportunity and made up for it in this Final.

Feel free to comment below on the games throughout the season if you are an expert or fan.

Cue the Mike Grella Hype Pieces

Did 2 goals just earn a Camp Cupcake invite?

One month ago, Robbie Findley was the flavor…still is actually.

Last week, Marcus Tracy was heating up.

Today, Duke Blue Devil alum Mike Grella, battling in the FA Cup, lashed home two in extra time for Leeds of League One in a 5-1 victory. A US striker, playing against English competition and (just) scoring some goals….is that a recipe for a USMNT January camp invite?

This is tongue-in-cheek mind you–though I’m feeling oddly omniscient by throwing his name out in my piece on Sunday.

If you don’t know Grella, don’t worry he’s on the radar having been selected by Toronto FC in the MLS (that put him on Bob Bradley’s radar…wink) and played some U-20 ball.

Vid on Grella here; if we get the 2nd goal or it’s available on the 360, we’ll let you know.

Update: Jozy Altidore was all over the game on Twitter today.

The Vitalness of The Jermaine Jones Caboose

I’ve been trying not to type this column since I saw the Mikey B replay Sunday. TSG has written these thoughts before. The fans have suffered through qualifier after qualifier illuminating the sentiment contained herein. However, if I don’t write it, then I can’t come back and reference it at a later date for its braininess or its stupidity.

—-

Just an exquisite, amazing pass, a Donovan to be precise, from Michael Bradley for his club team, Bo’Munchen, to assist for a score against Bayern Munich this past Saturday.

<video removed by provider>

….and yet this splendid play brought out the curmudgeon in me.

I hated it for what is was “not”….hold this thought for one moment because we’re going to put it on a collision course with one below.

A polar observation:

The US draws England as the heavy in the World Cup group. Immediately I, and I’m sure you as well, had a niggling, pin-pricking voice in your mind that hinted at, “Yes, yes there is a chance we can knock down that victory.”

You’re next thought, or at least mine? How? How does it happen? How do we win that one?

The Brits, deployed in a 4-4-2. A strong 4-4-2 with maybe three exceptions or outright weaknesses: A target forward for Wayne Rooney to play off of, problems at wingfull with the shaky Wayne Bridge and oft-injured Wes Brown and Glen Johnson there, and, much like the US, a little bit unsettling situation in the midfield where James Milner might be making a play for time, but the rather limited Gareth Barry and the off-form Frank Lampard man the central pitch. These gents are flanked by very poor man’s Donovan Shaun Wright Phillips or Aaron Lennon and the Clint Dempsey of the England Steven Gerrard relegated to the wing.

Gareth Barry

Barry: Solid, but vulnerable

What I currently envision for how the game play–we can dream a bit, right?

The U.S. works to combat Wayne Rooney and holds firm. On the other side of the ball, a counter attack or two netted by Landon and Stu (or maybe even Robbie Findley or Marcus Tracy) after possession had been linked through the midfield.

It’s not secret that the U.S. will need and already need to maintain more possession in the middle of the pitch. However, how ironic is it that our very first opponent in World Cup 2010 will demand that strategy as the prescription to beating them.

Crash! Back to our weekend observation. Really a gorgeous play by Coach USA’s son, the type of play that Mike Bradley does well on. It’s a relative strength for USMNT midfield stalwart, his quick reception and distribution….and it’s categorically not the type of skill that the USMNT demands in its first match-up in South Africa. The US will demand possession, protection and carriage in their central midfield, not hot potato.

Which brings me to the title of my piece. TSG, and all our contributors and commenters, have reviewed the USMNT midfield before, exhaustively, and I’m sure we’ll do it many time again. TSG has championed for more Benny Feilhaber; only his 2009 pairing with MB isn’t nearly close to the rhythmic coupling the two had in the Gold Cup of 2007.

Let’s be honest, the USMNT 3rd highest leader in minutes played during qualification and would-be minutes leader if he didn’t earn a red card and have to drop a game, Michael Bradley will most certainly be on the pitch in June barring an injury.

We know Ricardo Clark is not the answer in attack from a possession standpoint and probably from a complete game standpoint. We know that Coach USA is looking at Benny as reliever and possible winger. We probably know that Edgar Castillo is flanking in the midfield or defensive third of the pitch, but flanking, not centering.

We know Coach Sweatpants will not waver from his borderline maniacal focus on defensive coverage in the midfield–which to his credit has time and time covered for questionable play by the wingfulls while allowing for the threat of Donovan and others on the outsides.

Only the USMNT midfield demands someone who can possess the ball in combination with that defensive intensity.

We’ve been waiting for a healthy Jermaine Jones midfield caboose to rumble into town. In a moment of brilliance from Michael Bradley, here’s another, or perhaps the best, reason why.

Jermaine Jones

Casey Jones you better speed it up....

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