Archive for January, 2011

Orange Slices: USA vs. Chile

Orange Slices! USA vs. Chile

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update throughout the day and also serves as the place for you to drop comments like, “I can’t believe Bob Bradley started five centerbacks….what was he thinking?”.
We go a little earlier this week due to travel down to HDC tomorrow.

Bob Bradley’s January campers round our their Southern California training camp this Saturday as the United States faces World Cup group stage advancer Chile.

Chile will be commandeered by Marcelo Bielsa–who is now back, at least temporarily to take the reins of a team that hardly resembles the one that dazzled in spurts in South Africa.

The Home Depot Center hosts the contest and kickoff is scheduled for 7pm local time.


TV: Telefutura; Internet:

For TSG’s full preview see: Preview: USMNT in HDC, Just Chile-Axing?

Other good previews:

Carlisle: Opportunity Knocks For Young Players

Otherwise known as "The Ambassador to Brazil" around TSG, temporary nickname? "Old Man Winter"

• Particulars: 23 bug-juice drinking campers left.

The U.S. will dress 18 players with a maximum of six substitutions and the Yanks will wear their white-on-white-on-Nike grey unis.

(So we get to see those phenomenal red Chilean unis I suppose)

• Weather: Carson conditions call for 72 and sunny for the day, with it being in the mid 60’s around game time. Pristine conditions for the US to score with a Teal Bunbury header in the 31st minute. Just saying.

• Surf: If you’re hitting the beach because you’re in from, say, Omaha or Lincoln, wander down the north end of Manhattan Beach. There you’ll find a rock jetty with peelers on either side. Pay no mind that the rock jetty was created to a cover a “sh*tpipe”–it’s still good surf and other stuff will kill you first.

• From the Archives: September 2010: 5 To Confront for Sweats II: The five issues that Bob Bradley must confront as he steams the boat to World Cup 2014.

• It’s Not Just Happening in Carson:  A plethora of Yanks working abroad this weekend. Some at new companies. Jermaine Jones likely to make his debut with Blackburn at Elwood Road against…..Robbie Findley tries to “steal” a goal with Nottingham Forest as they face of against Conor Doyle’s Derby. Finally, Eric Lichaj likely won’t have a chance to make up for his gaffes as Manchester City clashes with Villa.

And on Monday, Stu Holden, Chelsea…should be a good one there.

And Edson Buddle has just scored in his debut for FC Ingolstadt Humperdink in Bavarian country.

• Straight from the press release:

» Average caps per player: 1.1 (that’s great)

» A total of six players will be age eligible for the 2012 Olympic Games in London: Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Mikkel Diskerud, Sean Johnson, Brek Shea and Anthony Wallace.

Preview squad revision:

I still see the Yanks starting in a 4-2-3-1 as I wrote in the preview, but from everyone that’s actually been at camp the general consensus is Jeff Larentowicz to start as oppose to Sam Cronin.

So to review, TSG guest-o-meter comes up with: G: Nick Rimando; DEF: Anthony Wallace, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, Marvell Wynne,  DM: Dax, Larentowicz MID: (The tall trees:) Brek Shea, Mix Diskerrud, Alejandro Bedoya, UP TOP: Teal Bunbury.

Bench guess: Dominic Cervi, Sean Franklin, Ryan Miller, Eric Alexander, Eugene Starikov, Juan Agudelo, Chris Wondolowski

In The Stands Guess: Sean Johnson, Matt Pickens, Zach Lloyd, AJ De La Garza, Sam Cronin, quad strain

Guessing non-MLSers might make the bench…will be tough(er) for BB to Miller and Starikov in action rather than a AJ De La Garza

And many more links, bits of info coming….

The Crew’s Justin Meram: Back-Up Plan

Via TSG writer Jason Price….Columbus hopes for a better version, I imagine, than Devin Barclay

Op-Ed: Pass The Damn Ball!

The USMNT need more players like Holden. Players who are comfortable and safe with the ball.

Guest contributor John Nyen, wrote an interesting piece that TSG published on why one should be more excited about Tim Ream and Eric Lichaj versus Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury.

He maintained that the USMNT needed to shore up their defense in order for them to win more games. Though the US scored 5 goals, they also let in 5 and ultimately went home, earlier then expected.

Where as I do agree that the best form of offense is defense, I think the number one problem for the USMNT is not offense or defense, age or youth or formations. It’s the ability to complete a pass on a consistent basis.

If one looks at passing stats from the past World Cup, the USMNT ranks second lowest in passes completed out of the teams that made it into the group stage (1175) and out of the 32 teams, ranked 26th in percentage of pass’s completed at 67%.

Basically a third of the passes made by the USMNT went astray or were intercepted. They did have a better percentage with their shorter and medium length passes at 72% and 73% respectively, but that didn’t put them in the top of half of the teams that went to South Africa.

Ball possession is one of those overblown stats. We’ve all seen many matches, when the team who had the majority of ball, leaves the pitch as losers (Spain against both the US and Switzerland come to mind). There is a difference though between not possessing the ball, but playing good bend not break defense and losing the ball when in possession a third of the time.

When you get caught in possession or gift the ball to an opponent with a bad pass, your team gets caught out of position. This enables the offense to take advantage of space and can attack more freely and create goals. Obvious huh! but it’s the reason the USMNT give up so many goals (first goal against Ghana for example). If it wasn’t for Howard, who saves the USMNT time and time again, there would be many more goals being let in.

Also, the majority of the USMNT’s goals, are scored on quick breakaways where only a few passes are required or long/longish balls in a route one style (Bradley’s goal against Slovenia). This method is effective as a counter punch, but the lack of consistent passing would explain why no US striker has scored in a World Cup in a long while.

The USMNT’s best passers of the ball are also their most dangerous players. Donovan and Dempsey and now Holden are comfortable on the ball and rarely give it away cheaply. Problem is their team mates do, so a goal in which the USMNT works the ball around for a minute or so, looking for a hole in their opponents defense is a rarity.

Still needs to work on his passing and distribution before he becomes an elite full back.

In my opinion, all US players, especially the ones going to the camp need to work on their ball control and passing. Even players playing in the EPL like Lichaj and Spector, give the ball away too easily and for a defender especially, that’s a cardinal sin.

If the USMNT can hold the ball up and pass it around with ease and accuracy (doesn’t have to be Tika Taka), their chances at the next World Cup dramatically improve, because one thing is certain. If their opponents don’t have the ball, they cannot score.

Pass completion….something I’ll be looking at this Saturday when the USMNT face off against Chile.

Associated from the archives:

• Paging Bob Bradley: Let’s Get Holden & Feilhaber More Run!

Red, White, and Sydney Leroux


This is a guest interview by frequent contributor and USWNT expert Dan Wiersema.
The USWNT kicks off the Four Nations tournament Friday in Chongqing, China against Sweden
Check out Dan’s site and novel concept here: The Free Beer Movement


Think back to when you were just 20 years old.

What had you accomplished at such a young age?

Most of us we’re slogging through college, working, trying to make ends meet.

Were you also the Golden Boot winner at the U-20 Women’s World Cup? Were you also leading your college side deep into the NCAA playoffs? Were you off to such places as Chile and China to represent your country? Were you eagerly awaiting your first cap for the National Team? Did you have to balance a life of school, soccer, and dating a professional baseball player?

The answer is probably “no” for most of us, but for University of California at Los Angeles junior and U.S. Women’s National Team forward Sydney Leroux these are just daily deposits in a life already chock full of success.

Leroux was called into her second National Team camp this January and is now in China preparing for the USWNT’s participation (and possible her first cap) in the Four Nations Tournament. The speedy front-woman is regarded as one of the women’s program’s brightest prospects. She’s got the pace and finishes lethally as demonstrated by her five goals in the U-20 World Cup and her 30 goals in total in 36 matches for the youth team.

TSG got a chance to catch up with Leroux via the Gmailer as her hectic schedule created chaos around a phone time. Here’s our exchange below.

The Shin Guardian: You made a decision, at a very early age, that you wanted to play for the U.S. National Team. (Leroux was eligible to play for Canada).

Continue reading

MLS: Follow Arsene Wenger…or Don Garber?

Editor’s note: Our next piece is by Eric Beard of a A Football Report…one of my favorite cerebral soccer reads. I choose not to run it late last week because I thought it would get lost in the draft “horserace” media coverage.

Eric, a member of the Emory University team is currently on location in Barcelona…studying the game as well as slithering his way into a club situation. Good luck Eric. Read more about Eric below the piece.

What about the Wenger way?

“You build the player like a house. The basis is the technique that happens before 12. If the player can play, the next floor is the physique at 14-15. Then it the tactical ability – how to use your technique and physique in the game. The last part, the roof, is the mental side. If you have no roof, it rains in your house. How competitive are you? How motivated to do well every day? That is the final step. I believe that hunger is something you get at 18 and remains relatively stable during your life. That is decided between 18 and 20. And that decides careers.”- Arsene Wenger

Careers in Major League Soccer tend to begin at around 21 or 22 years old thanks to the brilliantly American-sounding “SuperDraft”, which took place last Thursday in Baltimore.

Instead of the European and South American philosophy that spends years grooming talents under a certain skill set from a young age to create a cohesive unit that thinks as one, in MLS the best talents available to the clubs are picked off one at a time and after one day a team is reborn.

So who’s right: Mr. Wenger or MLS Commissioner Don Garber?

Lalas takes on Valenciano sporting a hall of fame ugly kit!

Alexi Lalas and Cobi Jones were both born in 1970 and their playing days began far before Major League Soccer came to fruition. Both players went through the college set-up before their respective careers kicked off after the 1994 World Cup, but one similarity remains: they both began their professional club careers abroad.

In 1992, when Lalas finished his time at Rutgers and had just competed in the summer Olympics, the defender with flowing ginger locks was able to get a trial with Arsenal and eventually played for the Reserve team. In 1994, Cobi Jones also went to the Premier League to ply his trade with Coventry City, featuring mostly as a substitute. Lalas never made the first team with Arsenal, but his experience gained with the Gooners helped make him a better player and perform to his potential in the World Cup. This showing led to a move to then-Serie A side Padova. Let’s not forget that in the early 90’s Serie A was the best league in the world with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Juan Sorin, Didier Deschamps, Dennis Bergkamp, Jean-Pierre Papin, and the list goes on. Lalas is the first to admit that the focus the Italians placed on the defined details in the game during training was something he had never been exposed to before.

Of course, in 1996 Major League Soccer began and a plethora of American talent abroad, including Alexi and Cobi, returned home for its inaugural season.

The teams in the league had no history aside from the experience of their players in other competitions.

In 1996, with no real structure compared with the vast reserve leagues and youth academies clubs with century-long histories in other continents, a draft made sense in MLS. There were no academies in place, so what was more logical than equally distributing the best young talent as it comes?

But now, 15 years later, nearly every single MLS team has an academy, though they are of little use thanks to the ease of picking up the best established talent at the university level. Does this method make sense for individual clubs? Certainly.

Revs man Steve Nicol...

It’s so easy! Steve Nicol, Liverpool legend and manager of the New England Revolution, has been notorious for picking players from the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), especially Wake Forest. And he’s done well in the league creating solid MLS-caliber players year-in, year-out.

The precise problem, which Nicol’s mindset exemplifies, is that clubs like the Revolution are doing enough to get by rather in comparison to the other teams rather than developing a true style of play and consistent club philosophy.

When Nicol chose a player like (now MLS Cup-winning) Jeff Larentowicz in the 4th Round of the draft, he did so to fill a specific role rather than to set the league on fire. Andy Dorman and Clint Dempsey had been speculating moves abroad for quite some time, so Steve needed a reliable player to fill in when they left.

Continue reading

Laurel & Hardy, Sort Of, At USMNT Camp

Heckyll & Jeckyll?

A Day In the Life Of Brek and Dax…well done US Soccer.

Touché Tabloids: Fabregas One Ups Via Twitter

Cesc Fabregas is a great follow on Twitter. Earlier this year, I was going to put out a piece regarding how athletes Twitter personalities give us a sense of who they are and help explain the projection of them on the field.

Some of my favorites on Twitter? Fabregas (though I only understand half his tweets), Jay DeMerit, Rio Ferdinand and Nick Rimando (who just seems downright genuine.)

For Fabregas his Twitter profile was: “Obviously mature, seems like a natural born leader.”

So it was funny yesterday when a “report” came out yesterday that quoted teammate Denilson as saying that Fabregas was not a leader.

Here was Cesc’s Twitter reply…classic:



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