Wrapping Up 2009…And Hopefully Denmark

USMNT Aarhus: Late day training

USMNT Aarhus: Late day training

It is nearly time to cue the end of the year pieces.

After an uneven, nail-biting and ultimately euphoric World Cup qualifier run, the USMNT is in Aarhaus, Denmark set to take on the Danish Dynamite this Wednesday to close the 2009 campaign. By the way, yet another kick*ss nickname for a team.

Per our column yesterday, excused from the team’s Slovakia roster are: Steve Cherundolo, who was last seen rolling off the field on Saturday and has an emotional situation to attend to; Chad Marshall, whose knee continues to bother him after playing a single game in the last month; and


Uh, no, Danish Dynamite...not DYN-O-MITE!

Clint Dempsey, presumably to get some pitch time for more midfielders.

The man nearly all TSG fans wanted to see on the starting pitch once added to this roster, Pachuca’s José Francisco Torres, was called up, but then excused. Odd in it’s own right, Torres also only played 45 minutes of Pachuca’s contentious affair this past Saturday with U.A.N.L.

Bee-lining eastbound for the Yanks are the Dynamo’s Stu Holden and Ricardo Clark and a man who now needs no introduction, Edgar Castillo, who is making his way to Coach USA’s roster for the first time. Here, here! JFT’s roster spot will go unfilled.

Taking on the Yanks will be the Dynamite who did more than just survive (and top) a difficult WCQ group that included both Sweden and Portugal. The Danes dismissed Sweden in their last 2nd to last WCQ qualifier, dropping the Swedes and blanking them on the goal sheet. In September, Denmark’s defense was just as stiff in limiting a Portugese squad that included Ronaldo, Deco and Nani to a single goal in a 1-1 draw.

Alas, Denmark’s November star has lost some luster as Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner is scheduled for groin surgery and Liverpool central defender Daniel Agger is taking a breather…er…rather…bowing out with an undisclosed nagging injury. Five additional players that started in the last legs of Denmark’s qualifying run, including Ajax striker Dennis Rommendahl, were absent from the Dynamite’s 0-0 draw against Ji-Sung Park and South Korea this past Saturday.


Poulsen: An important cog at Juve

Actually trotting out to the pitch Wednesday for Denmark in a starring role will still be Danish player of the year in 2005 and 2006, Christian Poulsen who cleans up the middle for Juventus. In a little bit of interesting trivia while Poulsen shipped in to Juventus from Sevilla he spent the bulk of his earlier career at German side Shalke 04…where his replacement in central defense was none other than Jermaine Jones.

Others to watch out for Vladimir Weisse-style (as in little known players that cause problems, see Slovakia: Saturday), are Thomas Kahlenberg (Wolfsburg) and Duncan Rasmussen (Danish side Bronby). We know Johnny “Be Good” Bornstein is up to the task though….yup just coined a new TSG nickname. (Note: ESPN reporting that Kahlenberg won’t play; we’ll find out — he started and played Saturday against South Korea).

On the flip side of the ball, if the USMNT thought they had a difficult time finding offense in Bratislava on Saturday, they’ll not find it easier this time around. Only 5 goals against the home side in the WCQ trials (again in that group that included Sweden and Portugal) and heady Stoke City keeper Thomas Sorenson in net. If you’ve read TSG over the past two months, you know that we think quite highly of Sorenson who has been tested more often than perhaps any other EPL goalie in the last two years.

Let’s get right to our customary preview.

    1. TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”
    2. 11 at the Whistle
    3. *Disclaimers

TSG’s “What We’re Looking For”

Overview: As we saw in Bratislava, Coach USA is looking to be competitive in the first half and investigate new players in the 2nd half. Coach USA’s recent roster additions (only Castillo, new, amongst the group) suggest that he’ll employ that strategy again.

Coach B will likely insert the Iceman Stu Holden into the starting role vacated by Clint Dempsey and then flip-flop wings with Robbie Rogers. Rogers, as we mentioned, looked strong and deserving of more play time on Saturday. With JFT now missing, we’re fairly confident in the outside selections.

On the inside, expect to see Benny! and Mike B who played admirably and collectively in concert on Saturday. While Rico makes the trip, Benny Exclamation–TSG as you know is a BF fanatic–is playing in front of his home crowd and we’ve seen with Coach USA’s classy gestures towards Jay Heaps and Kyle Beckerman among others; Bradley loves to get players run in front of their fans.

A quick interlude here: The blogosphere is buzzing with the lack of a Jeremiah White inclusion who plays at the home stadium with Feilhaber. White made a cameo in Bradley’s January camp in 2008, but not 2009. At 27, not necessarily accomplished and out of the mix for the past two years, White does not seem a World Cup roster candidate. Bradley has a solid record in getting player run in front of their home fans (Robbie Findley, Beckerman, Jay Heaps, etc.) so let’s applaud that Bob is working hard to find those missing combinations for RSA.

What else are we looking for?

» Edgar Castillo.

Castillo’s name is all that is needed here–TSG doesn’t need to go any further on that two word “question” above. Fans have been pining for the New Mexico-born player for some time. We’ll probably see Castillo in the 2nd half and we’ll likely see Jonathan Bornstein give way to the Tigres star’s cameo. (P.S. Does Heath Pearce get in there at all?)

That being said, let’s all take a look–though remember it’s a single observation at Castillo’s style of play. Categorically, TSG believes Castillo who plays in a more offensive league than the MLS is a middie masquerading as a fullback. Here’s hoping for some overlaps and some challenges so we can get another observation.

» Okay, what’s going on now with the RB situation? Or should we call it the Specs situation?

Jonathan Spector, though challenged infrequently, looked the part of a central back on defense. Specs was likely in there so that Coach USA can evaluate a full range of back-up plans as three (wow 3!) of the US central defense are ailing: DeMerit, Gooch, and Marshall.

While we expect Specs to slot back out on the right side and Goodson to get a start centrally, is Dolo heading the depth chart at RB? Does that depth chart now include Heath Pearce (who plays the right side for FC Dallas)? Is Specs being groomed now for central defense?

Calls for Jimmy Conrad will may–we say may–go unheeded as the central back hasn’t played since October 24th.

» Will a woeful attack see a new strategy…..


Benny! chopping it up with Hamsik on Saturday. Does the USMNT march it up the middle on O again?

Yanks’ fans, despite not depositing the ball in net, had to like watching the U.S. attack and play up the middle on Saturday. The last time we saw that a fit Claudio Reyna and John O’Brien were manning the central, and we’re pretty sure George Bush was only in his first term. DaMarcus Beasley was a  player.

With Dempsey out, how will the U.S. build the attack on Saturday? Is there any chance Stu Holden moves inside or will he continue to make wingward runs on the outside and look to cross?

With the addition of Holden in the starting midfield, does that add enough to speed to allow Conor Casey another shot at the starting eleven? More on that in a second.

Against Denmark, with Poulsen fronting Blackburn’s Lars Jacobsen and Serie A up-and-comer Simon Kjaer–arguably a stronger central pitch defense core–will the US employ the same strategy?

» ….or a new entrant?

Let it be said here that TSG is not jumping on the bandwagon of Eddie Johnson or Jeff Cunningham. Taking a look-see at Robbie Findley or even Chris Pontius is warranted before making any assessments.

We would like see Bob Bradley send a message to Conor Casey: Your role is not guaranteed, you need to do more.

Casey did an admirable job of occupying strongman Skrtel on Saturday allowing Dempsey to move up the pitch to receive possession and JZA to make diagonal runs. However,  the additional traits that earned respect in TSG’s eyes, playing through the ball, mixing it up were not on display on Saturday including an early game run-on for a lead ball (15th min or so) that Casey made a half hearted challenge for and eventually trickled out for a goal kick.

That being said, Wednesday is probably not the game to knock Casey out of the line-up. The USMNT has Stu Holden’s speed to play off Casey and Coach USA is probably going to want to take a look at that partnership again against a quality side. (In foreshadowing of a future piece let’s just throw out this name: “Nate Jaqua.” Do Casey or Ching have to be the only two target man options here?)

11 at the Whistle

G: Brad Guzan

D: Jonathan Spector, Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein

M: Stu Holden, Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Robbie Rogers

S: Jozy Altidore, Conor Casey

Subs off the bench: EJ for Casey, Kljestan for Rogers, Castillo for Bornstein, Pearce for Spector


  • Spector goes outside; Conrad deputizes, not Goodson.

TSG is going with Goodson here. Made a cameo on Saturday to get on the same page with Boca and he’s in shape. If BB wants experience, he goes Conrad, but frankly TSG thinks Conrad and Hedjuk are just doing some nice sight-seeing tours on this trip and helping out Coach Bob in camp.

Also of note, Denmark is throwing some strikers out there that are a little long in the tooth….so Spec’s speed won’t be challenged as much around the end as it would have against Slovakia.

Likelihood: 15%

  • Spector stays inside; Pearce (or Frankie Haircut) deputizes for Dolo outside.


Pearce: A forgotten man

We’re betting Specs goes outside, but if he stays in don’t be surprised if Coach USA goes to the bullpen for Heath Pearce who had a strong, though roller coastery Gold Cup, and has always been in consideration for BB.

Pearce plays right back for FC Dallas and with Castillo likely to make a play for the other side that would leave Pearce #3 on a depth chart of just two. Wouldn’t make sense to bring him over in that case.

Likelihood: 20%

  • Robbie Rogers gives way to Sasha Kljestan or even Benny! on the outside. If it is Benny!, expect Mr. Victoria’s Secret or (gasp!) Rico Clark pairing the center with Junior.

I think we still see Benny and his FLYING HOVESTADS! in central midfield.

To read the article, just take the link and put it into this link here.

Gosh I was waiting the whole column to drop that one after “reading” it to the best of my ability last evening. Something tells me that Google: Translate (Danish to English) had budget cuts this year. So we’ll contribute and memoralize the definition.

Flying Hovestad – (n) – an amazing pass or shot by Benny! Feilhaber that displays panache and generates excitement (see Mexico, Gold Cup 2007, or Spain, Confed Cup 2009)  or one who has a play that resembles a Benny! Hovestad.

Post digression, if Paco Torres was on the plane, I think you would have seen him on the outside in Rogers’ role. If Robbie is bench bound to start, you’re likely to see–I would think Benny! slide outside and actually Kljestan make the interior start.

Redeem yourself whether you start or not Sacha. You’re rep it taking a beating lately.

Likelihood: 25%

Enjoy the game and we’ll be along with info on viewing, our Orange Wedges piece and an our post-publishing beatdown of the TSG writers in the comment section.

15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/16 at 1:53 PM

    Noting that TSG’s opinion on Edgar Castillo at this point come from two game osbservations by me/Matthew.

    In both I saw Castillo push forward often–and sometimes recklessly–though he was able to track. A very offensive minded player.


  2. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/16 at 2:24 PM

    ESPN reporting that Martin Joregensen of Fiorentina will play in this game. We thought he was out. He was recalled but did not make the starting 18 on Saturday.

    If he plays, he’s a highly creative player who is now a super sub at his club side. He typically feeds the strikers and he’s on of those guys that gives his all for his team on the pitch.

    He actually played fullback I think last year when folks were injured over at Fiorentina…reminds me of Peter Vermes.


  3. Posted by Dylan on 2009/11/16 at 2:33 PM

    I’m hoping for a Eddie Johnson start over Casey. I think Casey’s inability to catch up to that ball plalyed to him early in the game on sat. was the last straw. He’s not capable of competing at this level.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/16 at 3:36 PM

      I remember that pass–the switchfield pass that you thought CC would get to.

      Not sure EJ starts in this one if only for Casey to beat down the defense a bit and also to see if the threat of Stu off Casey improves flow.


  4. Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/16 at 3:28 PM

    Here’s to hoping the only Victoria’s (Little) Secret I see is in my bedroom and not on the pitch. I would like to see Specs stay in the middle, but with Dolo out that is not likely. Looking forward to an Edgar Castillo sighting. We need to put one in the back of the nets this game. Two friendlies with no goals scored does not work.


  5. Posted by kaya on 2009/11/16 at 4:48 PM

    Wait… Who is Mr Victoria’s Secret? I thought Niklas wasn’t playing at all let alone for the US.
    Am I missing a footballer that did a lingerie show?


  6. Posted by kaya on 2009/11/16 at 5:32 PM

    OK. But that has no explanation…
    Don’t tell me he’s dating a Victoria’s Secret model. There’s punching above your weight and then there’s ridiculous. He must have a great personality… oh wait…


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/16 at 7:10 PM

      Allegedly, according to Kljestan himself, he is dating a VS model wannabe who is in some VS competition. He (or his rep or even her) have been spamming folks via his Twitter account with message to “Vote For…[whatever her name is]”. I think a tweet may have even come at halftime of the Slovakia game.

      Hence Mr. Victoria’s Secret was born.

      (I am just kidding about the Slovakia game.)


    • I hear Vicki’s Secret types like the brooding emo ‘stache.


  7. With Bradley Junior and Benny! capable of slotting out wide to cover (Sweatpants Jr. should onyl do this to cover someone) I would love to see either Rogers or Holden make a buccaneering cross-field run and end up on the other side of the pitch once or twice, particularly Rogers if Castillo is behind him. The amount of space it would create by dragging a defender half-way across the pitch could open up some nice opportunities. Especially if Jozy got involved going the opposite direction…just a thought.


  8. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/17 at 8:19 AM

    Nick — I think you’re pining for Davies there on the cross-field run (and I don’t blame you I might add). Maybe EJ or JC can do this ahead of the play.

    For Robbie’s part–and I’ve only watched a handful of Crew games–he draws himself inward as play develops. Did this through the Gold Cup and did this on Saturday — not sure why and incredulously to me, his spacing when he does this is effective for the overlap. I also think it relegates him out of those crossfield runs.

    While Stuie is a dynamic player, he’s got too much responsibility in defense and he usually has two or three MO’s: 1) linking quick passed and moving the ball up with the central midfielder 2) pulling the ball back for the crossfield (a skill and discipline that I stand up and applaud the tv so I hope that Stu and the USMNT hear me) and making hay down the line into the corner for a cross.

    If anyone is going to make that run outside a forward, it would be Stu and it would be nice to see once or twice.

    This is going to be an interesting dynamic against the A- squad for Denmark because no Clint, no Lando — can’t remember the last time we saw a midfield that was missing both at the top level.


  9. Posted by kaya on 2009/11/17 at 11:24 AM

    Btw, some details about US TST is now on the ussoccer website and they sent out e-mails this morning to USSC members.


  10. […] For TSG’s full preview see: Wrapping Up 2009…And Hopefully Denmark […]


  11. Posted by Dave on 2009/11/17 at 6:44 PM

    Castillo plays for the Autonomous University of Nuevo León ( possibly on loan from América, too lazy to look that up). Toluca would be a big step up, both quality and altitude.
    Also, the three times I’ve watched parts of Tigres games he has played left mid twice and left back once.
    For what little it’s worth.


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