Posts Tagged ‘Stu Holden’

Congrats to the Galaxy’s D & Home of the Hobbit!

In a fitting combination that put the Galaxy through to the championship, Omar Gonzalez knocked a cross into traffic that fell to Gregg Berhalter for a righty touch and score. The tally was the difference in the 2-0 Galaxy win over the Dynamo to knock the away team out of the playoffs.

gonzalez

Persistence personified.

TSG’s late night comments:

♦ Just horribly embarrassing moments for the MLS as the lights went out twice at Home Depot Center. You would have thought it was a Park & Rec league game and someone had to wake up the groundskeeper. We’ll allow the MLS this one reprieve and hope they have a prevention strategy going into 2010.

♦ This game belonged to the Galaxy defense who were airtight against a relatively weak Dynamo attack. Rook AJ Delagarza (a phenomenal performance by the youngster) and last year’s rook of the year Sean Franklin on the wings continually shut down the feeble runs of the Dynamo on the outside while sprinting up to join the attack. Gregg Berhalter recovered from a tough Chivas series and Omar Gonzalez dismissed his weak playoff record-to-date and returned to the form that made him this year’s rookie of the year.

The strength, quality and consistency of the defense kept the Galaxy in the game until their one-dimensional attack prospered.

♦ While the announcers commended Berhalter on the score, big guy Omar Gonzalez’s effort to get to the cross, keep it alive and redirect the nugget was “the” play of the game in TSG’s eyes. OG, unfortunate initials for a defender, would not be denied. When coaches talk about wanting it more, they just need to pop in the DVD of Gonzales’ disregard for his health as he went above, around and through players to get to David Beckham’s service.

Heart.

No doubt, this was a tremendous effort by the Maryland grad.

♦ While the Dynamo attack was inadequate to say the least, I was surprised by the Galaxy’s lack of creativity in getting the ball to Landon Donovan. The offense for Arena’s squad seemed to continually defer to Beckham and forgot that LD was on the pitch. Odd. If the Galaxy fail to score the free kick and the Dynamo somehow squeak in a shot and eek out a victory in this one, you can be sure that TSG would have been all over the Galaxy’s lack of creativity.

♦ Conversely, it’s the Galaxy’s ability to build tempo that creates the flow of their offense and usually crescendos with a score that didn’t make it happen either. While ESPN announcer Alexei Lalas thought that the play stoppages benefited Los Angeles, I think any sane person would have clearly recognized this disrupted the Galaxy’s rhythm and ability to build the offense; just what benefits the defensive strategy of the Dynamo.

♦ Houston lacked everything on offense. Brian Ching couldn’t unshackle himself from LA’s backline and Dominc Oduro, who TSG thought in our preview might expose the elder Berhalter, was lost…and that’s a compliment. While the service to Oduro was itself lost, Oduro seemed to have slept through the lead-up to this one and have no idea how to attack the defense. A horrid performance.

That being said, through a share of crosses and scrums in the middle, Houston had a full 14 shots versus LA’s 7.

♦ We’ll say it right now, Stu Holden is a winger. While Holden presented himself more on offense tonight than in the Seattle series, the Dynamo’s young captain has trouble navigating the middle of the pitch. While Holden maintained possession, he lacked the ability to attack and threaten through the middle. After viewing Stu here and in the Seattle series, TSG thinks he’s better when there is the threat of space in front of him.

The Iceman navigated to pockets in the opening minutes to create some chances, but once LA adjusted, Holden’s offensive touch failed him and he acted merely as a hub, receiving and redirecting the ball from one side of the pitch to the other; not a bad skill, but not attacking football either. Anytime Stu operated the wing, not only was he more confident on the ball, but he seemed to have a plan of attack. Might we credit Bob Bradley again here?

♦ Ricardo Clark’s belligerence cost the Dynamo tonight. Clark who steadily fed and fed more guff to the refs was booked for an open field tackle in his half (free kick and score #1) and nonchalant trip in the box (penalty kick and score #2). Not a sterling performance for the USMNT hopeful.

♦ David Beckham was solid, but not spectacular today…but it was enough.

♦ With the loss, the Dynamo’s Stu Holden, Brian Ching, Ricardo Clark and Brad Davis are all available for Denmark recall tomorrow. TSG thinks we may see Holden round the globe, but that’s about it. Brad Davis deserves at least a trip to Camp Cupcake in January, don’t you think?

In other news, the Kiwis are through! Congratulations to the All Whites who qualified for their first World Cup finals in 28 years. Having watched the first match earlier this year against Bahrain, this one was a near mirror image with numerous mistakes and abundant USMNTitis. New Zealand was stouter on defense and that was the difference as a technical symphony this game was not.

By the way, nothing more comical than the raucous celebration by Bahrain when they earned a 2nd half penalty kick juxtaposed against the horrible excuse for a penalty take that grounded almost directly at the All Whites’ keeper thereafter.

In other news, no beer in New Zealand is allowed to exceed more than 4% alcohol, so hopefully the Zealanders started knocking them back after Rory Fallon’s goal winner header at 44 minutes in the first half.

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.

Continue reading

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

BF: About to get Neo on El Salvador

BF: Ready to go Neo on El Salvador

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

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

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

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

Back to the data.

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

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

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

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

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“Disco Stu” or “Iceman?” You Call It

Disco Stu?

Disco Stu?

Or The Iceman?

Or Iceman?

(Update 2: That’s right, Iceman is the winner here by a nearly 60/40 split for Holden’s uncanny resemblance to Val Kilmer’s Kazanski in Top Gun. Uh, the plaque for alternates is down in the ladies room folks.)

(Update: Iceman is pulling away here)

And then there were 2….

Two poll answers left that is. Will Stu Holden be christened Iceman or revert to his nickname of legacy, Disco Stu (of Simpsons lore) on TSG?

Get your vote on….and get your friends to weigh in. The vote is closer than Gore-Bush–don’t worry Florida won’t be a problem.

(Note: One of the reasons that TSG is coining nicknames is that when we’re writing a piece on a player, we need a few other monikers throughout the piece to make it read well. It’s really tough to write and read a story where it follows, “Stu this” and “Stu that” or “Holden this” or “Holden that.” We’ll have all our current nicknames up shortly.)

Stu Holden: The Shin Guardian Interview

(Note: Full video after the page break)

A few weeks ago TSG was lucky enough to land an interview with Gold Cup performer extraordinaire Stu Holden.

We were specifically enamored by Stu’s play this summer after watching him sporadically with the Dynamo. As huge fans (as those of you that read this publication know) of Benny Feilhaber, the ability to maintain possession is a talent and skill heavily favored at TSG.

USMNT mainstay? For sure

"Stu, you've got the swagger too"

However, when we started digging into Stu’s Interwebs history and researching more about him, we found a lot more things that impressed us about Stu.

First and foremost, for those outside the Houston area, Stu won 2008 USSF Dynamo Humanitarian of the Year Award for his work with Athletes of Hope and Holden’s Heroes. What makes this award even more impressive is that Holden won it in his first year on the team–rookies typically have trouble just coming into a league. This is just another example of why we think #22 will be a fine ambassador for the US for years to come.  Find out in the interview a little bit more about what motivates Stu’s work on such endeavors.

We also dug up quite a bit of content that seemed to suggest Stu is a Man United fan. One post even suggested the Stu “idolized” David Beckham growing up (sorry Stu, by your reaction that might mean someone was stretching it).

Guess who Stu would train with from Manchester history? For those of you that watched the last five minutes of the Haiti game, you might get this one right.

Finally, we tried to peg down Stu to a nickname, either The Kilted One (kind of boring), McGroin (debatable legs to this one as well), Hollywood (possibly) or Metro (apparently that’s a USMNT favorite).  However, while Stu answered our Twitter question — this one got left out. (Clark, we don’t blame you for leaving that question out.)

Some other questions we should have snuck in for the Dynamo standout?

* What do you think your chances of making the World Cup roster are? (We say they are about 99%-100%)

* What is feel like to represent your country, especially when traveling abroad?

and

continue reading and view the video interview

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

Strike Force 1

Strike Force 1

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

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

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

Strike Force 2

Strike Force 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Predicted, ESPN.com Misses The Mark

While Ives Garcalep (www.soccerbyives.net) filed a fair game report on the U.S. meltdown against Mexico, the same cannot be said for ESPN soccer editor Jen Chang.

While I generally feel that Chang’s commentary is right on (calling out BB’s strategy of two defensive midfielders, arguing for overseas players over MLS players), his commentary on yesterday’s game was just plain off.

Chang calls out the Americans for letting Mexico recover it’s swagger by not fielding a strong Gold Cup team. He further excoriates the U.S. depth and suggests that beyond Stu Holden and Troy Perkins, yesterday’s performances by Kyle Beckerman and Chad Marshall among others undid all the work they put in earlier in the tournament.

My first issue is that I did not hear from Chang the entire tournament. Maybe he was recovering–like nearly THE ENTIRE US FIRST TEAM–after a long arduous tournament against top competition in a different time zone. Really Jen, you wanted the U.S. to trot out it’s first team in a weak Gold Cup field where no team brought all their top talent after playing 5 games in 3 weeks just days before? Further, after many had been away from their club teams and the top level play we want them to get before 2010.

Also where was your analysis early on? The U.S. struggled against Haiti and even Panama at times. That they would struggle yesterday was more likely than the phenomenal 1st half display the team put on.

To suggest that players like Marshall and Beckerman did themselves a disservice is another egregious mistake without mentioning that a) their play was strong in the first half and b) Javier Aguirre was so concerned with his team’s first half play against a second rate U.S. squad that he brought in Carlos Vela to pair Giovani Dos Santos to start the half. That’s two, count’em, two EPL strikers to take on the U.S. jv team.

Further, it is play against quality competition that coach Bob Bradley can use to measure his arsenal of players. He just saw his “A” team against Spain and Brazil less than a month earlier. What did the “A” team have to prove in the Gold Cup? What player insights would be gained against mostly inferior competition for players that taken on 3 of the top 10 teams in the world?

A better angle if you wanted to call out the USMNT team would be to discuss the eerie parallel between Brazil piling on the U.S. in the 2nd half of the Confederation’s Cup final game with yesterday’s second half implosion. As this blog can well atest, I have been critical of Bob Bradley’s halftime adjustments and considerations in such situations and again yesterday we saw the U.S. come out not ready to handle an invigorated Mexican attack. While the manner of attack was flashy and the score finally obnoxious, the U.S. had a similar behavior against Haiti, giving up two goals in the course of ten minutes after half time in a decidedly different manner.

At least this time Bradley tried to change up the team (admittedly too late) with early insertions of Kenny Cooper and Santino Quaranta.

The story of yesterday is not the Yanks letting Mexico regain their confidence (if Mexico has to rally around beating the U.S. “B” team just a year before the World Cup that’s a bigger problem) or how certain players canceled out their entire tournament. It’s about measuring the Gold Cup team in aggregate (by achievement and by the next step of growth necessary) and a disturbing trend of coming out tactically unprepared in the 2nd half.

Yesterday’s post-game opinion saying ESPN would miss the mark

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