Posts Tagged ‘Michael Bradley’

Assault Lake City: TSG’s Official USA vs. Honduras Preview

It's a redemption shot for the USMNT and certainly Fab J.

It’s a redemption shot for the USMNT and certainly Fab J.

The USMNT finds itself in Sandy, Utah this week looking to affix a three-point dollop of whip cream-and-cherries on top of the 6-point ice cream sundae it crafted at the expense of Panama and Jamaica over the past week. Sure would be nice with expected temps at game time hovering around the nineties.

The States have manufactured four goals during this Hex stretch in four distinct ways, a salvo that has resulted in two victories and put the Yanks close to punching that coveted 2014 World Cup ticket.

The Honduras fulcrum game here is one that loomed large and pivotal on the qualifying calendar upon announcement but even more so after the US tripped over itself and coughed up a 1-0 lead–and its gumption–to the Honduran squad in February’s opening round of the Hex campaign.

Now, though, the US is dining from a position of strength atop the qualifying table and Los Catrachos are the ones powered down for the return match.

Victor Bernardez, Maynor Figureroa, Boniek Garcia and Jerry Bengston among others all set to miss the Sandy city clash on Tuesday for the visitors. Additionally, while Honduras pummeled the Jamaican speed bag on Friday–a 2-0 win that sent Reggae Boyz skipper Tappa Whitmore to the Jamaican Fed guillotine–the lead-up to the match saw Los Catrachos go scoreless through the two previous road qualifiers against Panama and Costa Rica.

Against a States team that has been rippling the nets, going scoreless probably doesn’t get Honduras the draw and single vital point in this match-up that they seek.

Scoops up!

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our (near) customary preview.

It goes:

TSG What Are We Looking For?

About The Opponent: Honduras

11 At The Whistle

(Photo courtesy American Outlaws Salt Lake City)

(Photo courtesy American Outlaws Salt Lake City)

TSG What Are We Looking For?

» Middle management

This game will may “will likely” be won again in the midfield.

Here are the numbers in February from the central midfield battle between Los Caratchos and the Yanks:

Honduras: 107 of 127 passing (84.25%), 5 tackles won, 4 interceptions, 15 recoveries

United States: 114 of 139 passing (84%), 5 tackles won, 1 interception, 13 recoveries.

("You'd want the one on the left")

(You want to have the chart on the left. The one on the right looks like some incubating virus or something.)

Seems rather even, yes?

One more datapoint to add.

That Honduran CMF stat line was accomplished with two field positions (and two players, Luis Garrido and the indefaiguable Roger Espinoza) while the US line was accomplished with three field positions (and five players Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones/Graham Zusi and Danny Williams/Maurice Edu.)

Those numbers are astounding. Let it be noted that most of the damage was done by former Sporting KC johnny-on-the-spot Espinoza–no boots to the face in the match though (yes, that’s Ike Opara, Sam Cronin and Cody Arnoux in that video also).

Honduras flat-out bossed the midfield. It took Los Caratchos three fewer players and they defiantly shoved the line of confrontation into the US’s defensive half. By the way, subtract Danny Williams’s contribution from the numbers and the difference in the stat line of Bradley-Jones versus Espinoza-Garrido is staggering. Bossed.

Things have a funny way of changing of course and the roles here seem reversed; Honduras’s depleted troops and Los Caratchos being on the road may make the US midfield selection more complex actually.

After Tuesday’s man of the match performance, many will want to see Stoke City utility man and TSG fave Geoff Cameron in central midfield.

However Honduras may elect to press the midfield–given their success with that strategy last time–much more than Panama. In something few pundits incredulously pointed out, while Cameron excelled on Tuesday, he did so with very little pressure on him on-ball and in possession–think of a running back whose blockers have lined-up defenders and so the back doesn’t need to elude but instead can take his time and pick his holes.

That was Cameron on Tuesday who gave an excellent performance against a weak opponent with a perplexingly passive defensive effort. It may be different if the Roger Espinoza terrier is unleashed.–as it was in the series opener–to push high and shut down the deep US attack supply line.

Not his best day to be ... nice.

Not his best day to be … nice.

Jermaine Jones has proven he has the steel and ability to run with the ball and deliver passes with a man on his hip already. So maybe the decision in favor of Jones is rote?

However, Honduras may, in fact, look to sit deep and protect their second-string centerbacks. Does Klinsmann then opt to keep Cameron on the field–while either granting more rest to Jones or even Bradley–because he did well in tracking space and spraying passes against a similar defense?

Then again, if Honduras is consistent with its two previous road deployments, it will likely put out three central midfielders, one more than February. So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. So Jones is the pick?

The bet here is that Klinsmann goes back to Jones-Bradley in the middle and uses the former’s harried on-ball defending to push the line of confrontation to around the halfline. Both Jones and Bradley are adept if Honduras starts pressing and putting them both on the field likely dissuades Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suárez from thinking he can gain an advantage by pressing.

(Note A: A big theme in the February match-up was the inability of US fullbacks–Fabian Johnson and Tim Chandler–to get ahead in the attack or even provide width and–while that is true–it’s damn near impossible to get ahead in the attack if your midfield is losing the turf war centrally in your defensive end.)

(Note B: There’s some prevailing notion out there that central midfield is Cameron’s best position–hard to say that. He’s a very good stand-up defender on the interior and he’s good at surveying the field from the middle, but his best skill is not turning in traffic with a defender on his hip. Centerback is likely where Cameron ends up on the club and national team level and where he ultimately excels.)

» Backswap

A look back at the Panama game plan suggests that Klinsmann and staff expected Panama to have more bite in their  central midfield.

Last week, Klinsmann schemed to get Jozy Altidore going in the Germany friendly with early balls in stride to his feet through Brad Evans. Tuesday, Klinsmann game-planned to get DaMarcus Beasley and Matt Besler active earlier in possession and providing supply up to Fabian Johnson, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore–because pressure was expected in central midfield and because Panama’s Leonal Parris tends to put himself in positions that even Lindsey Lohan would find shocking.

Anyway.

The US left rear pairing had the second (Besler, 72) and third (Beasley, 70) most pass attempts on the evening after Michael Bradley’s team-high 87.

All *incomplete* passes by Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez. Besler was given license to drop more long balls up the field, 2 to 1.

All *incomplete* passes by Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez. Besler was given license to ping more long balls up the field, 2 to 1. Gonzo’s long balls were typically clearances as well.

Many expect musical chairs to ensue and for Fab Johnson to be moved to the backline with Brad Davis or Eddie Johnson moved ahead of him, but that seems poorly conceived if it transpires.

First Fab Johnson is giving the States some much-needed width on the left through his ability to hold the ball and break down defenders. Davis would give the States width, but give very little going forward. Eddie Johnson would offer width, but little cover for a new leftback.

The logical choice to deputize is Edgar Castillo who has the ability to distribute appropriately from the back and defend on the break.

Castillo hasn’t many supporters this camp, but he’s versed in Honduras’s style and he’s got a way of playing big when he’s truly needed.

(Castillo was called on after having gone through morning training already for a Canada friendly in May 2012; he was one of the best players on the field. In the US’s first victory at the Azteca in an August 2012 friendly, Castillo played pristine positional and on-ball defense as DaMarcus Beasley failed to track back on multiple occasions.)

» Good circulation

Given that Honduras probably retreats some in this one looking to clip a draw or 1-0 win, how does the States elect to break down the bunkered defense.

The schematic seems simple and is one that anyone hanging around Kansas City in October of last year probably is familiar with. October 2012 saw the US shellack Guatemala at Sporting Park 3-1. The Guatemalan side they faced that day  looked a lot like the US opponent Tuesday; Guatemala was beset by injuries, especially to its backline resulting in a novice centerback pairing.

In the October 2012 match, the US aggressively pushed the ball up the flanks to create space centrally, both in possession (Eddie Johnson on the left) and through passing sequences (Graham Zusi on the right). As they worked on the fullbacks for Los Chapines, the young Guatemalan centerback pairing was called in for support.

That cued space in the middle, something that Clint Dempsey knows exactly how to make use of. With Herculez Gomez running the channels, Clint Dempsey playing hide-and-seek and Michael Bradley making his Late Box Runs, Los Chapines were overwhelmed and succumbed.

The key of course to this attack, like most, is quick ball circulation. Below is Danny Williams passing chart for that match. 82 of 88 passes completed on the day, nearly all of them laterally. Don’t play Hot Potato with that man; he’ll be still standing.

Danny Williams, horizontal shuttler, USA vs. Guatemala (3-1 US, October 2012)

Danny Williams, horizontal shuttler, USA vs. Guatemala (3-1 US, October 2012)

The faster you move the ball, the more out of position the support defense is and the easier the opponent’s defense breaks down. With two of Fabian Johnson, Eddie Johnson and-or Graham Zusi on the wings Tuesday, this will hopefully be the same tale for the States on Tuesday.

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Michael Bradley: Trying To Reclaim MB90 Status

Bulletin July 2012: Michael Bradley to Roma.

MB90 with a Gatorade and “smile” circa a DCU Reserves vs. Metrostars match in October 2005.

May Update:

What’s changed since we did this piece below in March:

• The Resurgence of Stan Petrov at Aston Villa

The skinny: After coming back from injury, the captain increasingly found the pitch for Villa as they navigated away from relegation waters. Petrov’s calmness on the ball and “been through it before” resume certainly contributed to his name being on the first eleven team sheet more often than not through the first half of 2011.

Whereas it though Petrov might be encouraged to move on from Villa at year’s end, it now looks like a sure bet that he will finish out his contract, training his days at The Barn.

• Today, Nigel Reo Coker and Robert Pires were released by Villa.

The skinny: Pires was done-for well before today at Villa. He rarely contributed through the 2nd half of the campaign.

As for Reo-Coker, it appears that the demand for his services is paramount to what Villa was willing to ante up to procure his services. Very interesting indeed and it moves up Michael Bradley now to 3rd or 4th in the pecking order, depending on how one evaluates it.

The depth chart in the central midfield may look like this: 1) Jean Makoun 2) Stan Petrov 3) Fabian Delph (for more on Delph see below) 4) Michael Bradley

Delph, a star in the making for England, will certainly be given more chances in 2011.

• Ashely Young and Stuart Downing are both “plotting their escapes” from Villa.

The skinny: Ashley Young is rumored to sign for Manchester United (oh my) on Monday. While Stuart Downing this past week did an abrupt you turn and said that he would play out his current contract with the club.

Downing’s future is more of a mystery, while Reo Coker sees assured of moving to a stronger side, be it in the EPL or elsewhere.

The impact here? How will Villa uses the funds secured from moving Ashley Young. With Mark Albrighton in reserve, they may not opt for another winger and it’s well known that Houllier loves his central midfielders.

• Borussia Moenchengladbach escape relegation on Wednesday with a win over Bochum.

The skinny: Bradley of course went on loan from “Bo Munchen” in January to Villa. Many different reasons why the transfer ensued–American media reports say he put in for a transfer while German reports are mixed.

Either way Gladbach can stomach the return of Bradley from a roster cost perspective in 2011-2012, though (thanks to @amfid on Twitter for the next part where I originally erred), Gladbach Sports Director Max Eberl said in an interview that there is no way back for Bradley.

Additionally, Havard Nordtveit (20) and  Roman Neustädter (23) doing well in the dual holding roles and Gladback reportedly seeking a new player for this position in young Matthias Zimmermann (2009 U-17 euro champion with Germany) a talent from 2nd Bundesliga team KSC set to join Gladbach in the center.

From fans that have cascaded through TSG, the sentiment seems to be that they want Bradley to transfer and get a decent price for him.

Going into June:

Going into June, Michael Bradley will be a key figure for the US in their pursuit of Gold Cup victory. Incredulously, Bradley has played nearly as many international minutes thus far in 2011 as he has club minutes.

A strong showing in the Gold Cup would help Bradley, but most of the audience for the tourney is here in the States, not abroad.

Best bet for 23-year-old Bradley? Back to the Bundesliga or slotting in with a mid-to-bottom table side EPL side if Villa declines to make the move for him, perhaps a Wigan. Roberto Martinez obviously did the American World Cup coverage for ESPN and saw quite a bit of the Bob Bradley’s son.

Wild card? Let me toss out Everton, long with a storied connection to Americans as well as rumors of Jack Rodwell moving on. Bradley would be a fine complement there to the possession, less-defensive oriented hubs of Fellaini and Arteta.

Our bet right now? Villa makes a short term (2 years?) play for his services. With Reo-Coker out and Bradley already familiar with the system, Bradley would seem like a good bet in the midfield committee for the Villians. Villa has until May 31st to decide if they want to accept Gladbach’s transfer terms.

That said, it sure looks like Gerard Houllier is jettisoning Americans at the club with Brad Friedel rumored out to Liverpool and other realms, with Brad Guzan likely moving to a Championship side and with Eric Lichaj saying he wants to stay at Leeds.

Below from March 6th…

———-

Always determined: Michael Bradley (photo credit: Matt Mathai)

Much has been made in the American media about the growth, and recent plight, of US international Michael Bradley.

A polarizing figure to say the least.

2007 USMNT camp: Tough guys..

A wavy, but abundantly positive-trending, career has seen Bradley selected into MLS…by his father (present USMNT coach Bob Bradley, then NY-NJ MetroStars manager) as a precocious and brooding 16-year-old. Bradley soon after took to Europe and ended up scoring more goals in a season overseas than any American, 16 league goals for Eredivisie side SC Heerenveen in 2007-08 (of course, this record is currently threatened by Giuseppi Rossi in La Liga who notched his 15th for Villarreal in their stunning 3-1 loss to Atletico Madrid this past Saturday.)

Upon his Dutch success, a big move to Bundesliga side Borussia Moechengladbach (Bo’Munchen) was in the offing and Bradley became a fixture in their line-up during his time there (despite some clashes with the coaches).

Bradley’s fixture status even extends to the USMNT national team where he played all possible minutes for the US in South Africa. This after being one of three players through the 2010 World Cup qualifying to play 1300 minutes or more for the States (the others were Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra). Bradley and company played 12% more time than anyone else including stalwarts Oguchi Onyewu (injured in the final game of qualifying) and Tim Howard.

The case in point?

Michael Bradley is resilient, oft-not-injuried, critical component of any team he plays on and his pedigree shows an upward moving level to his play.

That notion makes Bradley’s next few months at his club Aston Villa all the more compelling.

Having been transferred to Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa side in the January window–until this past Wednesday in the FA Cup–Bradley had not played more than 45 minutes or started for club or country in 2011, astounding for a player who seems more and more effective the faster and faster his pitch odometer revolves.

American media loves to use and re-use the statement that wherever he has went, Bradley has eventually earned starter’s minutes and made an impact.

Man, Barry Bannan is like Deco-tiny, huh? MB90 being a bad Citizen this past Wednesday.

However, while it appears Bradley will stick at Villa Park–his current playing time hiccup more a matter of game fitness than ability in this writer’s opinion–the battle for consistent and exclusive starter’s minutes may be less about how he plays and more about the dynamics outside of his control, specifically player contracts and manager tinkering.

The crowded Villa centerfield has no less than eight players that could theoretically play for the 1st team or have played for it.

Let’s take a look at each of these players, dissect their situation and round out with Junior Bradley’s playtime prognostication:

First, let’s dismiss two of these players outright:

The Non-Contenders

It’s a good thing Ireland isn’t there, or else with fellow dome waxer MB90 it could get awfully confusing on the inside….

Stephen Ireland: The highly talented Irishman arrived at Villa Park with a bunch of quid in a swap for James “I wish I never met Steve Cherundolo” Milner under the reign of previous manager Martin O’Neill. Once Houllier arrived, Ireland appeared to fall out of favor and both sides mutually agreed to part ways for the rest of the season as Ireland join the Tynesiders on loan through the end of the campaign. Said Houllier at the time, “Once a player wants to go, he goes.”

Ireland is out of contract this year and his chance of re-upping at Villa I would put at no higher than 0%.

Isiaih Osbourne: England youth international Isiaih Osbourne appears to be moving on as well as Summer 2011 dawns. The 23-year-old is currently on-loan at Sheffield Wednesday–where they’ve been pleased with his play–but the same can’t be said for the Mothership.

Osbourne–who was arrested, but not charged for suspicion to rob in 2009 further muddling his shot at Villa– has been loaned out four times by the senior side.

Despite being 6’2”, 23-years-old and clearly having some talent, Osbourne appears destined to move on in the Summer when his contract expires as well.

—-

That leaves six, for now. Let’s handicap the rest, starting with may appear the lesser of the threats:

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Michael Bradley To Be Re-Upped At Villa? No So Fast…

A report out today by Tim Abraham in Birmingham, link forthcoming, saying that US international Michael Bradley might still factor in Gerard Houllier’s Aston Villa plans for next year despite the lack his lack of playing time to date.

That kit may still be worn yet in 2011!

Villa assistant boss Gary McAllister, presiding over the team in as Houllier recovers from a heart condition, with the following quote, ““Michael has done enough on the training ground to suggest there might be something come the end of the season because he has an honest, hard-working guy as well as a good player,” said McAllister.

“It’s true that it has been hard to play him at a time when we have had senior experienced players available in the situation we have been in.”

“And that is purely all that has held him back, nothing else, because his attitude has been top draw.”

“He is a fantastic professional for such a young guy – he is captain of his country don’t forget and he is a top player.”

Now, before you run about or tweet about, there is a conflict here.

If Bradley was as an excellent a player as is being stated here, then why isn’t he playing. Surely if Villa were to need Bradley’s services it would be now–as he was procured for–in the middle of a relegation battle.

That conflict, as we spoke about it our previous Bradley pieces (here and here) is Nigel Reo Coker. What’s the easiest way to rattle an agent who is playing chicken with his player’s forthcoming work postal code in 2011-2012? Why that would be floating a story that his understudy is about to be signed off loan from Germany for the next year’s campaign.

Stay tuned.

On Michael Bradley & Aston Villa

Timothy Abraham

The Shin Guardian had the occasion to interact last week with Aston Villa beat reporter Timothy Abraham who writes for Birmingham’s Express & Star. Abraham gives us an unvarnished, untarnished by American lens view on the goings on inside Villa Park. TSG is thankful to have Abraham’s thoughts here as we respect he’s an on-staff writer for the Express & Star.

Follow Tim on Twitter here.

(Editor’s Note: This TSG piece on Michael Bradley–vetted by Abraham–is a requisite read beforehand.)

Will it soon be a walk in the Park or from it?

TSG: You mentioned Michael Bradley is struggling with game speed. Do you think this is due to lack of game time or is it something different?

Timothy Abraham: Some players do take time to adjust to the pace of English football and I think this is evident in Michael’s case. In his fleeting appearances for the first team he has been caught in possession too easily sometimes and his passing has been found wanting. It is in stark contrast with Jean Makoun – who joined Villa from Lyon in the January transfer window – and has looked at home in English football straight away.

TSG: You mentioned that Michael Bradley won’t likely be resigned by Villa next year. Is he still Premiership material?

Timothy Abraham: The jury is out at the moment. I don’t think Michael’s situation has been helped by Villa having struggled at the bottom of the Premier League for most of the season. With the exception of Jean Makoun Villa manager Gerard Houllier has gone for players who are tried and tested in English football. If Villa are able to pull clear of the relegation battle in the next few matches then Michael might get a run of games towards the end of the season and given a chance to stake his claim to remain at Villa.

TSG: Will Michael Bradley’s situation be impacted at all by Nigel Reo Coker’s? Will Reo Coker resign with Villa? If not, if Bradley an option?

Reo-Coker...

Timothy Abraham: Nigel Reo-Coker’s future is up in the air at the moment. His Villa career looked over when Martin O’Neill was in charge but he has been reinvigorated under Gerard Houllier. The problem for Reo-Coker is that he is probably not quite good enough for the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea etc so that leaves him with very few options. I think Villa is about his level but my inclination is to say that he is seeking a big contract and with under pressure to cut the wage bill he will not get the kind of deal he is after and will leave the club. I guess there is a chance Michael Bradley could be a replacement but with the kind of money that Borussia Monchengladbach want for him, and with a surplus of midfielders at Villa I think a deal is unlikely.

TSG:  About other Americans: Brad Friedel’s club standing? Will Eric Lichaj ever see the light of day at Villa? Or even Brad Guzan?

I want to work....there...

Timothy Abraham: I expect Brad Friedel will be offered a new deal although he may well have to accept that he will not be first choice next season as Villa look to sign a keeper for the future. Eric Lichaj has done well at Leeds and, with the exception of a couple of mistakes in a game against Manchester City on a day when no-one from Villa covered themselves in glory, when he came in he did well.

I’m not sure he’s quite in the class of on-loan Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker and with Lichaj being 22 I suspect he may move on sooner rather than later. The same probably applies to Brad Guzan.

TSG: What’s the general perception of Houllier’s reign thus far?

Timothy Abraham: The reviews on Gerard Houllier’s short tenure have been mixed. His development of young talent and commitment to play more aesthetically pleasing football than previous manager Martin O’Neill have been appluaded by a lot of fans.

However, there have been some PR gaffes which has alienated sections of the fanbase. Not least his comments after the defeat against Liverpool (although they were taken out of context) and in particular the decision to field a weakened side in the FA Cup against Manchester City which really angered supporters. Houllier has perhaps been guilty of trying to change too much at Villa at once when he should have waited until the summer to make sweeping changes.

 

Re-Publish: Turkish Delight

When in Rome...er Istanbul.

A few years ago, in an effort to find myself, I quit my job and decided to work for myself; so that I could travel the world. Leaving potential clients hanging in the wind, skipping town in the beginning of a relationship (that ultimately failed), and avoiding general responsibilities wasn’t the best idea, but I was youngish and stupid!

My travels took me to Istanbul, Turkey and as a huge soccer fan, I had to go to a couple of games. My goal was to watch a game at the famed Ali Sami Yen stadium, where Galatasaray play. I had read stories and seen pictures of manic fans wielding cutlasses with fires a blazing behind them, and I wanted to see this for myself. Sadly, the only game they were scheduled to play during my time there, was a Champions League game against Bordeaux at the Olympic Stadium (where Liverpool won in 05 in a thriller against AC Milan), as Ali Sami Yen was deemed too small to host a Champions League match.

European side of Istanbul, taken from the Asian side docks.

Below are my experiences at a Super Lig game and at the Champions League group game.

Fenerbache vs Antalyaspor
Around 6pm, I proceeded to buy a ticket to Kadikoy which is on the Asian side of Istanbul. I still can’t get over the fact that I went from Europe to Asia in 20 minutes to watch a football game, but there you are. According to the website the game was supposed to start at 8pm, so I wanted to get there early and take some pics of the more fanatical fans. I expected the boat to be full of Fenerbache fans in their blue and yellow striped jerseys, but surprisingly they weren’t…more on that in a bit.

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Michael Bradley Back at Bo’Munchen

Michael Bradley was back at the Borussia Mönchengladbach training grounds Monday. Here’s an interview conducted by the club (translated via Google from German) that Bradley issued after training today.

Junior in May 2009 versus Turkey (courtesy, Matt Mathai)

No talk of the silly Blackpool rumors (unfortunately) or other player movement discussion.

Michael, welcome back in the Borussia-Park. Are you a little sad that the holiday is over already?

Michael Bradley: Of course I have enjoyed some time off and mentally and physically recharge.I was with my family and my girlfriend in my home. The first time we were in New Jersey, then in California. This has done really well. But who knows me knows that I always have a mind on football and I’m glad it starts again.

Too much you ought not to have lost in three weeks so …

Michael Bradley: That’s right. I have naturally regenerated predominantly, but nevertheless I have kept fit, so I should be back relatively quickly at 100 percent.

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Juxtaposition: Junior Breaks Nose

Junior...mixing it up...

Update: Bradley is expected to be back in action next week….though possibly looking like Marcia from the Brady Bunch.

Just as we were receiving the information on Sweatpants Sr. winning coach of the year, we got reverse news on Sweatpants Jr.

Michael Bradley suffering a broken nose in training today with Bo’Munchen. Surgery scheduled for today.

We’ll label him on the Match Fit Index later this week.

Get better Mikey. The USMNT needs you…in some capacity that has hasn’t been completely figured out yet.

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