Posts Tagged ‘Robbie Findley’

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.

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….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....

MLS Cup: 120+ Minutes, PKs & Mr. Findley

It may not have been the best display of soccer over the course of 120+ minutes, but it had its moments. The counter-attack that put the Galaxy on top 1-0 was pure class as Beckham slotted a great ball to a streaking Donovan who lifted a perfect cross to the back post and an on-rushing Mike Magee.

In the end, Real Salt Lake, the better and more fit team, took home the MLS Cup in a dramatic penalty shoot-out (5-4) after overtime concluded with score still knotted at 1-1. Again, it was RSL keeper Nick Rimando coming up big in another penalty shootout in a performance that earned him the MLS Cup MVP.

Rimando cemented his legend as some sort of PK-saving savant in the Cup.

Almost as surprising as Real Salt Lake winning the MLS Cup was the penalty kick that Landon Donovan sailed over the cross-bar in the shoot-out. Ultimately, Lando’s miss wasn’t the difference as Galaxy (back-up) GK Josh Saunders’ brilliant stop on the try by RSL’s Andy Williams pushed the shootout into sudden death. Two rounds later, Robbie Russell banged home the winner after Cup MVP Rimando stopped Edson Buddle’s attempt and the RSL championship dog-pile commenced on the penalty spot.

For all the “new” ESPN technology the best innovation (at least I haven’t noticed it before) was the microphone placed in the goal that picked up the sweet sound of the ball hitting the netting during the PKs.

Major storylines coming out of the game will be the big injuries — Ricketts, Gonzalez, Morales, Johnson — the (fake) turf that was noticeably slick and the war of attrition down the stretch in extra time.  Also, TSG expects that sometime tomorrow morning MLS and ESPN will finally stop talking about the Seattle soccer faithful and the success of the Sounders, although 46,011 fans in attendance was impressive.

Up next for a tryout at striker for the USMNT?

TSG was most interested in tracking RSL and USMNT-hopeful striker Robbie Findley…and he did not disappoint. Findley’s patience, speed and play-making ability were all on display. Perhaps most impressive were his recognition and ability to hold the ball to maximize the opportunity and his sustained effort whistle-to-whistle.

Though it would have been nice to see more of his chances put on-frame, Findley was johnny-on-the-spot to bury home the equalizer in the 64th minute and generally wrecked havoc all over the Galaxy backline.

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Weekend: Friendlyville, Playoffs, & Beckermania

soccer_ball-2490

Mark's Soccer Globe #8

So much soccer this weekend, that…yup…just checked my Swatch, we passed noon on hump day. We’re going with our weekend preview a day early to get everyone amped up and get the good comments flowing.

Our global piece is dominated by American soccer this weekend and by that wonderful “soccer globe” to our left.

Look at it sparkle. We’re going global….

….but we start in the Land of the Free and Home of the Whopper: For you USMNT hounds who missed it, here’s the TSG Slovakia preview. I hope you, Dax, and Frankie all enjoy watching the game.

Let’s stay stateside or rather States-wise with (the) MLS:

» Friday night brings us Houston vs. Los Angeles from the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles.

Wait, maybe I should just send you to ESPN’s piece right now that states that the key for Houston is to shut down David Beckham and Landon

ld_db

ESPN: Psst...Houston...to win you are going to need to stop Beckham and Donovan. TSG: No sh*t

Donovan. Let me guess ESPN, 11 guys a side to start the match also? Thank you, recess is over ESPN, please proceed to 4th period reporting where today we’ll learn how not to just state the obvious.

Are you kidding me? TSG has nary a few weeks of MLS under our belt….we can do better than that. My fingers are actually crossed right now. Go:

  • How about the Brian Ching going up for head dingers against rookie Omar Gonzales, who has pretty much played down to his age during these playoffs. Ching has the experience and the nastiness, Gonzales the strength and the youth.
  • Is Ricardo Clark fully fit in the midfield and able to injure David Beckham? For the little MLS, I’ve watched, I always see extremely “borderline” tackles by the Houston USMNTer on the English pretty boy. Don’t get me wrong, Beckham is some times too Roy Keane on his tackles, but my observations usually point to Beckham being the worse for wear after the affair.
  • Does Stu Holden involve himself in the game? First, let’s commend Holden, who TSG is a fan of, in that he plays to one set of his strengths for the USMNT (flying down the wing, big crosses, tracking back on defense) yet his club demands different qualities (linking play in the middle of the field, finding space). Quite dynamic for the Dynamo captain. We offered some criticism of the Iceman in the Seattle series for not more aggressively finding the ball.
Galaxy: You have the Iceman's attention

Galaxy: You have the Iceman's attention

Best way to neutralize Donovan and Beckham, Stu and company? Maintain possession. That’s right, Iceman, be dangerous…with the ball.

  • While many are worried about Becks and Donovan, what about Edson Buddle? The Galaxy striker while not extremely proficient around the net recently makes the defense work hard. You’ve got a big pitch, you’ve got a re-jiggered Dynamo defense with the suspension of Mike Chabala and now you’ve got the aggressive runs of Buddle coming at you. Watch Buddle vs. Houston Back 4–that’s a good match-up.
  • Turning tables, the Galaxy better watch out for Houston’s Buddle, Mr. Dominic Oduro. TSG has only seen Oduro twice, but, if I were a betting man, I might take the Oduro-Berhalter match-up over the Buddle match-up just mentioned. For all his experience, Berhalter was exposed against a Chivas attack that really wasn’t very technical adept in the strike zone. Oduro, playing off Ching and with Stu and Brad Davis (does he ever have a shot at a nattie team call-up?) trailing after Becks and Donovan are racing to catch up after a counter.That might present some problems.

» Saturday evening’s affair brings us the Cinderella Salt Lakers vs. the Chicago Blancos. TSG has less observations of these teams, so we’ll keep our comments brief.

  • Fresh off the US friendly in the morning, you can imagine all glassy-eyed USMNT fans will try to focus their peepers on the strikers: Chris Rolfe
findley

Has Findley captured a little Charlie-In-A-Bottle?

and striker-du-jour Robbie Findley. While Rolfe has had his shot, Findley only got a sniff. Both will likely be in contention for the right to be the last guy picked for the RSA playground. Findley’s been playing to fine form and, with the MLS going into hibernation, one more big impression, in the hometown of US Soccer no less, couldn’t hurt.

  • Having watched a few RSL games, I really like the play of Kyle Beckerman lately. The veteran in the middle has–in the games I’ve seen–been pretty much anywhere he’s needed. He has a unique ability to read where the RSL defense is going to break down and make himself available in support or to take on the offender. I’m going to call it Beckermania….props to you rasta man.
tummi

I dare say Blanco is just as agile as this fellow and definitely more visionary

  • Here is a question I’d like to ask Chad Marshall, Jay Heaps, Omar Gonzales, Bobby Boswell or pretty much anyone on an MLS backline. Why, really why, is it so freaking difficult to get the ball away from a 36-year-old with a history of injuries who looks like Tummi Gummi? Actually, nothing but respect from TSG for Cuauhtemoc Blanco as he signs off from the MLS. Guarantee if that man had played at, say, Inter or Valencia he would have had a lot more global fans.
  • Our brief read of a few rags on this match, many are talking about the prowess of Javier Morales being the key to Real unlocking the scoring, the player who has caught our eye the most on the offensive end for RSL is Russian Yura Movsisyan. We just checked the stats on Movsisyan and we’re astonished to find that he started 19 of the 26 games he played in this year. The biggest impact we’ve seen from the 22-year-old is when he’s come off the bench and completely changed the offensive complexion for RSL.

I would term RSL’s offensive pre-Yura insertion as “assiduous” while I would term RSL offense post-Yura insertion as “zippy.”

Does TSG not have enough observations to make that claim?

beckermania

Beckermania, coming to a pitch near you!

  • Yup, that all TSG is qualified to offer on this piece. You, the fans, that read our publication have many more observations. Have at it in the comments.

We now cross the pond to World Cup playoffs.

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Weekend Redux: Reds Fire, Rapids Expire

A wonderful weekend of soccer just concluded. I happen to have the time to catch the marquee match-up at Anfield, Rapids-RSL and some of the West Ham vs. Arsenal.

Let’s jump right in.

• Liverpool knocks over Manchester United, 2-0

» You can’t start commentary here without talking about the play of Fernando Torres. He consistently threatened the Man U’s backline all day long, testing the offsides barriers and commanding possession. He gave Nemanja Vidic fits, so much so that Vidic “earned” his third straight red against Benitez’s side.

Torres to Ferdinand: Take a seat and I'll beat up Johnny Evans

Torres to Ferdinand: If you're done being embarrassed, take a seat and I'll start busting up Johnny Evans

But that’s not it, Torres went toe-to-toe with Vidic–at 25 mins of the first half winning corner that had Vidic just flabbergasted–and won on strength and then literally danced around Man U’s left center and left flank (more on that later). The Spaniard also tracked back on defense and with a little more than 20 minutes left parried a dangerous free kick that would have challenged Reina.

I’m not old enough to make this claim, but for his shear combination of strength, finesse and precision, Torres is, in my book, one of the greatest to play the game.

» What in the world has happened to the left side of Manchester United’s defense which was leaking like a sieve all day long. Rio Ferdinand is just a slim shadow of the player he used to be and Patrice Evra so disinterested that he thinks it’s a privilege that Sir Alex is allowed to play him. TSG never makes these statements in isolation and today again both Evra and Ferdinand looked marginal to average at best.

Case in point, about 55 mins in a horrible play by Evra gifts the ball to Benayoun who rumbles to goal. Evra is seen just jogging back into the play; somewhat incredulous.

As for Ferdinand, Fernando Torres abusive run against him on the game winner about 60 mins in was indicative of how the oft-injured Ferdinand has lost a step and lost strength. You know how you know when a player is slowly losing it? He starts to complain to the ref incessantly. Ferdinand used to be average at best in his ref discussions, now it looks like he is looking for some sort of courtesy from the zebras. Your time has gone Ferdinand.

» Speaking of losing it, the Paul Scholes is very quickly heading to the over-35 req league — fast. Scholes often trailed the play and was a non-factor today. Going forward Scholes will be dubbed at TSG, “The fading Paul Scholes”

» In other news, Dimitar Berbatov has earned the nickname “The very average Dimitar Berbatov”

» Wrapping these points up, without Gerrard the Anfielders had the depth to take it to the Traffords. The game, in my opinion, was really won with Benitez’s line-up selection.  Aurelio, Benayoun, Torres and Kuyt capably backed by a resurgent Lucas and industrious Macherano. Fergie’s backline played high and was at risk from the through ball and counter all day. The central midfield of Giggs, Scholes and Carrick couldn’t link anything and the last 20 minutes of the game saw long ball after long ball USMNT style in an attempt to get some offense going.

Real Salt Lake defeats the Colorado Rapids

(Note: tried to watch Galaxy – Earthquakes, but it didn’t make the tele — if someone has a report, would love to hear it.)

» The best USMNT striker on the field Saturday night was clearly Robbie Findley over Conor Casey. Casey had a sloppy game and didn’t seem in sync with his club. Meanwhile, Robbie Findley netted a brace and showed excellent offensive runs and command of the ball. After a 15th  minute header, Findley had a highlight real goal just before the half as we gathered in a long lead pass in time to juggle it over the Rapid’s goalie and then slot it into the bottom right.

Coming off that brace, Findley moved the ball excellently in the 2nd. We still lacks some strength, but he’ll see another call-up from Coach B.

See Findley’s highlight goal at the 2:15 mark.

» Did Colorado already quit on their coach? I found their lack of effort and execution appalling. It was clear that the Rapids were eager for the oft-season.

» Former USMNT hopeful Drew Moor looked slow as his hips were turned twice on the 3rd RSL goal.

West Ham battled back against Arsenal for a 2-2 draw

» Yank’s Johnny Spector was in the right full position and was matched up alternately against the likes of Arshavin and Van Persie and did a very admirable job. Good job in Specs getting the start and making use of it. Specs had other player responsibilities for the two Emirates goals.

• Other bullets:

Amr Zaki who?

Amr Zaki who?

» Fulham battled back to tie Man City, 2-2. Remarkable given that Fulham find the back of the net less than DaMarcus Beasley. Clint had his typical seeing-eye header that bounced and then dodged the valiant effort by Shay Given.

P.S. If you want to see the lamest goal celebration ever, check out Lescott’s score where Adebayor tried to get the credit. Beyond lame.

We changed our minds, it’s better than an Amr Zaki start. Twice this year, we’ve commented to look out for Hugo Rodallega. The Colombian national, fresh of a transfer from Necaxa of the Mexican league, is making DW Stadium forget all about Zaki who came out roaring last year for the home side, but then fizzled after a bout with I’m-too-good-itis. Rodallega netted a brace against Burnley on Saturday. Look for the 26-year-old to put his national team back on the map in the coming years–he’s that good.

» If the Slovakia friendly November 10th does happen for the US, you may see star Marek Hamsik (who we discussed Friday) come in as a future member of Chelsea. Rumor has it he is the guy for the Blues come the January transfer window.

» Just another piece of evidence that superstar Lionel Messi is not too fond of Diego Maradona skippering his national side.

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?

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