Archive for June, 2011

USA vs. Panama: Live Commentary

Jamaica couldn't see Clint Dempsey, will Panama?


No Donovan in the starting 11

USA lineup: Howard; Cherundolo, Goodson, Bocanegra, Lichaj; Bradley, Jones; Bedoya, Kljestan, Dempsey; Agudelo

It’s the United States.

It’s Panama.

All over again.

Probably for the right to play Mexico in front of 90,000 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The States will attempt to keep their midfield from being stretched while Panama will look to bunker more than counter in this one.

Most expect a big States win. 1-0, 2-0 after Panama starts pressing, perhaps?

Starting line-ups coming up.

Orange Slices: USA vs. Panama, Again

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day before the match. Don’t accept substitutes, imitators or copycats! Ask for fresh, wholesome Orange Slices by name.

Orange Slices! US vs. Panama

Hello and welcome to game day!

The United States Men’s National finds itself one game away from a possible Gold Cup final showdown against Mexico.

Standing in their way? Group stage foil Panama, who adhered to a disciplined game plan in their 4-4-2 deployment last time and sent the United States to their first ever Gold Cup group stage loss.

What a difference a week makes. The US are coming off a strong showing against the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica while Panama needed penalty kicks to reach the sequel here today.

Reset Button: TSG’s Official USA vs. Panama Preview


Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT.

English TV Broadcast: Fox Soccer (Kyle Martino with analysis) —  Spanish TV Broadcast: Univision, Web: or

Live Commentary: Right here at TSG!


Supporting Material:

• Unrelated: Simon Kuper looks at a statistical revolution underway in football. (TSG says it’s always in the numbers also.)

• Anthony Mannino of USA10Kit highlights the keys to the States five man midfield.

•  John Levy, The Yanks Are Coming is thinks the Yanks will roll big in the rematch.

•  Podcast: The Girls In The Cheap Seats, hailing from the Lone Star State, talk US Men’s National Team from a woman’s perspective as they follow around the team during Gold Cup 2011.


American Outlaws members gather here.

Weather forecast:

T-Storms bearing down on H-town. Alas, the US will be facing off with Panama in the Reliant Stadium….dome.

Surf forecast:

There’s no surfing in Houston….you bet there is!

In fact Galveston, Texas–and tanker surfing!–was profiled in probably the best surfing documentary of the 2000’s, Step Into Liquid. We couldn’t find a clip of that, but there is no shortage of southeast Texas–read: Galveston Bay–surfing on YouTube (below) and …. even directions on how you can surf one of those tankers.


When In Houston:

Shoutout to some Houston locals and TSG community members:

Chris Figat: Chris has been coming to TSG since it’s inception. He’s a hell of a graphic designer. He authored TSG’s holiday card andsome USMNT wallpaper before last year’s World Cup. Thanks Chris.

Kevin, Forever Orange: Kevin is youngster who’s been coming to TSG as well since we opened the doors–I believe one of his first comments was pleading for some face time for Bobby Boswell on the USMNT (Sorry Kev, not going to happen :>).

He’s always the first to nominate TSG for best US Soccer Blog at US Soccer. Thanks Kevin. And Kevin, I changed it from “Orange Wedges” to “Orange Slices” because the word “wedges” just annoys me for some reason.


Dempsey, playing at heights never achieved before by a US outfielder...

Nachodelicious!: US forward extraordinaire Clint Dempsey hails from tiny Nacogdoches, TX, a mere two-and-a-half hours north from Houston. Dempsey is likely to have quite an entourage at Reliant tomorrow. Couldn’t find anything official on Clint and Nacogdoches, but I did find that the urban dictionary actually labels a “Clint Dempsey Day.”

Timmy Terrific: Tim Howard is moving up the goalkeeper record charts, and with 35 wins he is third all-time and two behind Tony Meola. With 23 shutouts he is in fourth place, one behind Brad Friedel.

Why Start Now?:  The U.S. has never been eliminated at the semifinal stage of the Gold Cup by a CONCACAF opponent…

….However: The U.S. has made three appearances in Houston and has a 0-1-2 record, losing to Ecuador on June 10, 1988, in the first ever appearance there.

The two U.S. ties in Houston came against Mexico in friendly matches in 2003 (0-0 on May 8, 2003, and 2-2 on Feb. 6, 2008). Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu scored the goals in the 2008 appearance.

Blas Perez who?: Group stage terror and Panama striker Blas Perez is out this game after receiving a red card against El Salvador. However, his partner-in-crime-Luis Tejada’s three goals in the 2011 Gold Cup have made him Panama’s all-time leading scorer in the tournament with eight career goals. Perez is next with seven career Gold Cup goals, including one in the 2011 opener.

And this is of course….Panama!

Reset: TSG’s Official USA vs. Panama Preview

The States will likely have to do better than just a Goodson header--the lone tally in game one--to knock off Panama..

The United States heads into Wednesday night’s Gold Cup semifinal game with quite a bit of familiarity of their opponent, still brandishing the bruises of playing them in the group stage and now with the ability to hit the reset button on a FIFA game gone wrong.

The States foil for a trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena this weekend to contend for the Gold Cup championship? That would be Panama of course, the lone pothole thus far on a meandering road to CONCACAF supremacy and a date with Confederation’s Cup in 2013.

Is Landon Donovan refreshed and ready to go vs. Panama this time? (Another phenomenal shot from Matt Mathai here)

Last time out, the United States were done in by a midfield that got stretched as Panama sat deep, played possum and waited for the States to get caught up the field on a change of possession and head the other way. Unfamiliar and always challenged on breaking down teams that play on the counter, the US attack got caught out of shape and lost the ball with with little quality opportunities in the early going.

Upon a turnover–with the ball at their feet on the turn and quick movement out of their own defensive end–Panama, near the triple digits in FIFA’s team rankings, consistently threatened the Yanks overstretched midfield and its relatively junior centerback pairing. A night to forget for Tim Ream specifically ensued.

This time out it will be fascinating to see how Bob Bradley changes things up as the euphoria around an excellent team outing–and a well coached victory–against Jamaic subsides.

Will Bradley employ the same or similar 4-2-3-1 that he did against Jamaica? Landon Donovan can’t possibly start on the bench again, can he? (Don’t expect that.)

For their part, Les Marea Roja enter the fray with less than confidence one would think from having beaten their opponent. A lengthy struggle in Sunday’s second game, led to extra time–not what weary legs need at this time of the Gold Cup–and to their dominant striker who challenged the US repeatedly, Blas Perez, receiving a red card. He is, of course, unavailable for this one.

Let’s get to our customary preview. It goes:

About The Opponent: Panama

TSG, What We’re Looking For

11 At The Whistle


About The Opponent: Panama

For more on Panama, see here as well.

The tried-and-true Panama they will likely deploy against the States...

Expect much the same for Panama in this one as they showed the Yanks in the first group stage meeting.

The starters all remain the same with the exception of Luis Renteria replacing Blas Perez in the starting line-up.

Coach Julio Dely Valdés must expect that Bob Bradley will be more careful with his forward wing deployment in this one and not have the same gaps that were provided to his team last time for the quick outside-inside counter.

Expect Panama to sit deep again again and let the States take it to them, both because it worked last time with their disciplined defense and also because coming off 120 minutes of up-and-down action Sunday,Dely Valdés will not want to see his team get into a foot race with a slightly fresher side.

Armando Cooper started making central runs when the Yanks pushed up the right flank in their 2nd half 4-2-3-1 last time. Expect more of that this time...

The small wrinkle–and the States saw some of it in the second half when Panama was looking to do anything to relieve pressure after the Yanks went 4-2-3-1–is that Panama will likely use right winger Armand0 Cooper--a one time target of MLS’s New York Red Bulls–on central runs both to provide an outlet from pressure and to create a numbers mismatch on the counter in the middle of the field.

Whereas Panama looked to go outside to link in the first half of the first match to Cooper and left wing Nelson Baronha–with the States employing a wider look–Dely Valdez will call on this tactic to try to create a mismatch centrally when the Yanks are pressed up.

Panama will also–as they did in Game 1–look to bring Luis Tejada back to hold up the ball and find the onrushing Cooper or Baronha overlapping wide or Luis Renteria splitting down the right flank.

TSG What Are We Looking For:

• With Jozy Altidore ailing, the decision on who starts up top is both critical and complex?

Quite a conundrum for Bob Bradley here. Quite a conundrum.

Wondo rues his missed sitter to tie in the group stage match against Panama...

With the US having but three true strikers on its depth chart and now likely down to two with Altidore ailing, who Bradley calls on out of the ‘pen and for how long they go are critical to the Yanks’ tournament success.

On form and talent, Juan Agudelo is probably the likely choice in a single striker set. That said, the youngster put in some challenging and thankless minutes Sunday by his lonesome at RFK. If Bradley goes Agudelo here in a single striker set, he’s certainly risking the effectiveness of a player that will be counted on against Mexico in the final if Altidore is unavailable.

The US could go with Chris Wondolowski and Juan Agudelo up top–however if the last game against Panama proved anything, it’s that a two striker set–given how deep Panama sits and little space there is to operate–is probably not a strong deployment.

And finally, the US could go with Chris Wondolowski by as its lone man up top. Allowing a fresh Wondolowski to absorb some of the punishment in the early going knowing that breaking down the Panama defense will stand a better chance as players tire may be a better option for Bradley.

•Will Bradley’s formation force Dempsey and Donovan to do countless shuttle runs?

One thing that Bob Bradley preaches is to “run as little as possible within the team concept on defense.”

What is meant by this, for example, is if the to strikers up top criss-cross one another, they remain on their respective sides or take up the nearest defensive position of the group. In this way, a team doesn’t get stretched and a player is cognizant of where he is on the field rather than rushing back to a position he’ll never get back to.



Continue reading

Video: Mens & Womens Going Off

Two vids for you. The first? Abby Wambach, not kicking any copiers. (Question: Couldn’t ESPN have used a different star here for a change? Maybe Heather O’Reilly or Alex Morgan? Just a thought.


…and men’s…US Soccer’s Behind the Crest series.

No Jozy, No Cry: USA Rolls Jamaica, 2-0

The result they've been looking for...

Bob Bradley shook up the line-up–removing the US all-time goal leader–and the formation–going 4-2-3-1– at the outset of today’s Gold Cup quarterfinal at RFK stadium, but it’s the squad’s unshakeable and positionally-sound game that has it hopping into the semifinal on a better foot than they arrived here.

Big moments today from the big kid...

Landon Donovan donned a pinny and found himself a substitute in a US shirt for the first time since 2007, and both Sacha Kljestan and Alejandro Bedoya were inserted into the starting line as the States looked to quell an upstart Jamaican team.

The first half saw the US control the bulk of the tempo and pound the ball down the right side, beating back Jamaica’s typically high-flying left flank. More importantly for the Yanks in the half–and on the day–was their impeccable defensive integrity that saw smart and calculated forward runs without losing shape.

The only blemish beyond another slow start for Jermaine Jones, was lone striker Jozy Altidore hiccuping on a forward run and having to be subbed out with an apparent hamstring injury.

While the half arrived deadlocked at nil-nil, the US had the better of the play.

The second half saw more of the same from the States while Jamaica’s team shape continued to deteriorate. It would be the aforementioned Jones who would be a key player early on. A one-time volley on a rebound found paydirt after a deflection and it was 1-0 to Bob Bradley’s crew.

After being played forward midway through the half, Jones pulled a Charlie Davies was clipped on a tackle from behind and Jamaica would have to come from behind one man down.

The US purchased some insurance shortly thereafter as  Juan Agudelo, Altidore’s replacement, streaked on to a through ball and slotted across goal for a rushing Clint Dempsey who hitched left with Jamaican keeper Donovan Ricketts bearing down. Dempsey pulled off the sidestep, took a step, and dribbled the ball in.

Final scoreline, 2-0 to the Red and Blue. Jamaica’s tournament is done. The US moves on to the semis and will rematch Panama.

Key observations

• Bob Bradley’s team moved well as one

Some gutsy calls here by Bob Bradley. First, going 4-2-3-1. And then, removing Landon Donovan from the line-up. Late flight arrival or not, that decision certainly would have been second-guessed had Bradley’s team lost.

Most impressive from the States was their defensive shape, refusing to leave themselves open to a speedy counter from the Reggae Boyz.

At one point in the first half, Michael Bradley–seeing the team’s offensive shape pinched up–actually dribbled backwards to draw out the defense.

The Yanks still stagnated too much off the ball and the Jermaine Jones-Michael Bradley partnership still needs work, but a good day notwithstanding.

Oh and lest we  forget, nearly two years after Bob Bradley and Clint Dempsey had a come-to-Jesus conversation at the Confederation’s Cup regarding Dempsey’s role in the offense, now Bradley is showing a pattern of giving Dempsey the freedom, both positionally and tactically, to dominate the game the way he can. Never thought I would have written that last paragraph.

• The effect of Eric Lichaj at left back is, currently, massive.

Things are looking up at left back...

An excellent game from the rightback-come-leftback.

After a tactical move by Bob Bradley authorized Lichaj to push up and deny service to Dane Richards, Jamaica saw nearly no joy down Lichaj’s flank.

US fans have come to expect that type of performance from Steve Cherundolo, but not Lichaj or anyone else on the left flank.

Beyond hardcore defense, Lichaj was more than useful in the attack, staying wide when  necessary and making prudent forward runs.

Further, Lichaj’s presence enabled Carlos Bocanegra to play truer to his central defense role and also freed Bocanegra from any distribution responsibilities on the left.

• Can JJ make himself dyn-o-mite?

We once referred to it as the Jermaine Jones Caboose Effect. As Jermaine Jones, so go the Yanks it appears.

Better from Jones today, who still had stretches of average play.

To this writer, it appears Jones is wrestling with the notion that he’s at least a hair under the player he used to be. You can see it when he got beat on two tackles today and begged the ref for a call. The Jones of two, three years ago makes those tackles outright.

For the Yanks to win the Gold Cup, Jones will need to be at or near his present day best over the next two matches.

The Golden Shinguard

With apologies to Clint Dempsey and Eric Lichaj, young Juan Agudelo deserves this one.

After Jozy Altidore limped off with an injury early in the first half, Agudelo showed he was up to the task with a tremendous match. Agudelo ran well, was responsible with the marble, and found a few of the moves that got the press around him raving a few months ago.

And of course there was the sublime  square pass to Clint Dempsey who then netted the insurance score.

Well done.



Player Ratings

Tim Howard: 7

A solid  effort from Howard, complete with the customary one or two goal saving plays.

Steve Cherundolo: 6.5

Cherundolo again controlled his side. Got ahead in the attack and lashed some strong crosses. A shoulder knock seemed to slow his game down, but he did the job.

Clarence Goodson: 5

Not Goodson’s best game. He did very well in a few 1-vs-1 situations and stepped up well on oncoming attackers (something the Yanks have struggled with early in this tournament), but his  distribution was troubling.

That and he had a slightly “deer in the headlights” look about him today. Watch that going forward.

Carlos Bocanegra: 6.5

Yeoman-like and well-positioned.

Eric Lichaj: 7.5

A revelation on the left flank. Before the tournament, there was concern about Lichaj’s penchant to give the ball away on his weaker, left foot. He didn’t do that today. The rest we covered above.

Jermaine Jones: 6

Once again, uneven. The quality is there as are some of the nasty tackles. Now needs consistency.

Michael Bradley: 6.5

I liked Bradley’s game today for the most part. Finished runs and tackles. Bradley as distributor still has some challenges. Some poor giveaways and ill-conceived switch fields, but beyond that very strong.

Clint  Dempsey: 7

Proving masterful when undermatched (is that a word?) against CONCACAF competition. He needs a giant “F-U” match in the next two to elevate to the top of  the casual US soccer fan universe with Landon Donovan.

Sacha Kljestan: 7

Brilliant, simply brilliant from the Anderlecht man. Proved more adept than I thought at receiving with his back to the basket and turning. Kept moving in the attack without the ball when the Yanks were sedentary in the first half.

Has been guilty of being too unselfish now a few times at the Gold Cup. US fans should take that as Kljestan has matured overseas into a more complete player and clearly reduced the selfish ways that led to an “overrated” label.

Alejandro Bedoya: 6.5

Tirelessly raced the right flank in the first. Used his body well a few times to shield defenders. His runs were of an aggressive, attack-minded nature.

He just needed to finish one or two of his chances today.

Jozy Altidore: INC.


Juan Agudelo: 7.5

Was prepared for the game and worked his socks off. Never gave up on a play on both offense and defense. An assist and a well-deserved pat on the back.

Landon Donovan: 6

More energy today from Donovan and lots more running in a shortened half.

Maurice Edu: INC

Entered with Jamaica down a man and the result already in the bag.

Pictorial: Clint Dempsey, Vindication

From the eye of Matt Mathai:

Clint Dempsey celebrates his stutter-step goal against Jamaica. US win 2-0 to move on to the semifinals to face Panama.

USA vs. Jamaica: Live Commentary

Happy Father’s Day and apologies no Orange Slices today.

Will the unofficial captain have his say today?

Update: Wow! More surprises from Coach Bradley.

Landon Donovan starts on the bench. Bedoya in his place. Injury, late arrival over night or form?!

Kljestan as well. Meaning a 4-2-3-1?

Freddy Adu makes the bench.

US goes: Howard, Cherundolo, Goodson, Bocanegra, Lichaj, Jones, Bradley, Dempsey, Bedoya, Kljestan, Altidore

The United States faces a tough upstart opponent in the Reggae Boyz of Jamaica at RFK Stadium at 3pm ET for the right to play the winner of Panama v. El Salvador in the semifinals.

Mexico and Honduaras are through already and will square off on the opposite side of the bracket.

Will the United States move on? Will Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey be bleary-eyed from their cross country jaunts cross continent? Does Alejandro Bedoya perhaps get a start? Can Jozy look beyond a single shining moment per match to bunches of them? Will Jonathan Bornstein score another critical goal in CONCACAF at RFK? Does prodigal son Freddy Adu perhaps make the 18?

It all goes down shortly just off Capitol Hill!

If you missed our official preview it’s right here.

See you in a few hours.


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