Archive for October, 2011

Op-Ed: Time To Burn Down The Fraternity

Syracuse University and its bastion

In 1994, I was a member of a fraternity at Syracuse University.

It was one of the more popular fraternities on campus. If I could send a text message back to my college self, I would probably suggest not check-marking “popularity” as a top criteria for choosing essentially your friends and lifestyle at college.

My time as a “frat guy” existed all of two semesters of living in “the house” (as I would imagine most frat guys refer to their beer-soaked-covered-splashed-with-bleach domain that they inhabited more than could really call a home).

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One Roma Fan’s Agonizing Diary Of Last Weekend’s Derby

A depressing Derby...for one man...

TSG’s Eric Giardini recounts the horrors of Sunday’s Roma-Lazio Derby

Heading into Sunday afternoon’s Derby della Capitale I had every intention of writing an unbiased review of one of the most hotly contested derbies in world soccer. Roma had won five straight in the series, which they were more than willing to remind their cross-town rivals, and the city was in the midst of violent protests as part of the Occupy Wall Street worldwide movement which had even threatened to delay the derby. I had my computer in front of me and was abstaining from alcohol in an attempt to keep a clear head to compile my thoughts into an artful, intelligent review.

Instead, you are getting this – the completely bias perspective of a fan. If you are looking for what the “experts” have to say about the match, there are plenty of great sites around that will provide you a recap. However, those recaps will not provide the emotion associated with being on the edge of your seat living and breathing with every kick.

Even with Francesco Totti out due to injury, I still had a good feeling heading into the match. The players had begun to buy into the new system being installed by Luis Enrique and were unbeaten in their last four. I, foolishly, had looked to see how far up the table Roma would climb with the full three points (3rd and one point back from the leaders) with all of the results earlier in the weekend seemingly going Roma’s way. I even overlooked the fact that Enrique’s lineup only featured two players who had started any of the three derbies played last year. “Oh I get it. He’s putting in ‘neutrals’ that won’t get caught up in the madness and will keep cool” is what I told myself. The naivety of hope.

At 2:40pm, I put on the new 11/12 third shirt which I had diligently worn, and not washed, since the unbeaten streak began. I turned the ESPN3 stream on and waited for kickoff.

My pre-match confidence disappeared faster than the new iPhone 4s from the local Apple store. I was a wreck. I went from sitting in my chair, to standing, to pacing, back to sitting and the only thing that could calm my nerves (without drinking) happened in the first five minutes.

Two of the new summer acquisitions, Miralem Pjanic and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (Enrique, you genius!), combined to put Roma ahead. Osvaldo, who looks like he should be selling, um, “medicine” near the Spanish Steps in Rome rather than being on the field, had just scored his fourth goal on the trot. “OSVALDOOOOOOOOOO,” I yelled as I sprang out of my seat doing some sort of double fist pump that would have made even Tiger Woods blush. My girlfriend, sitting on the couch, shot a puzzled glance at me from over the top of her laptop computer but I didn’t care. We were up 1-0 in a dream start and well on our way to handing Lazio their six consecutive defeat in the rivalry. As he lifted his shirt in celebration to reveal “I ho purgato anch’io” written on his undershirt – roughly meaning “Even I have purged you” in a tip of the cap (or lift of the shirt) to Francesco Totti’s famous “Vi ho purgato ancora” (“I have purged you again”) celebration from 1999, I laughed out loud. That was just the icing on the cake.

An early, but ill-fated Eureka moment...

The first 25 minutes went according to plan as Roma was able to hold possession and, for the most part, dictate the pace of the match. Lazio were able to launch a couple of counterattacks but I still wasn’t worried. It was only around the 27th minute did I begin to have my doubts.

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Selected Images: USA Vs. Ecuador

More from super photog Matt Mathai.

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Can Portland Pull The Rabbit? A Timbers Fan On Tonight’s Match & The Season

John Nyen on his beloved Timbers.

See that?

Cooper sky-high to start the sesh...

The glowing yellow leaves and migrating birds tell the tail.

Tiny cold smudges of frost let you know that summer is over and Fall is in full swing. This should also tell you something as a MLS fan. That is, that the regular season is coming to a close. All the struggle, conflict, good play, bad play is heading to its ultimate end, and beginning the hopeful rebirth into play-offs for those of us lucky enough to follow teams with that verve.

For the Portland Timbers we come to the penultimate game. Eight months worth of work comes down to a rescheduled match against DC United and the finale against Real Salt Lake. The task for this non-expansion-expansion side is to take a moribund away record and perform a simple trick, winning their final two matches on the road.

With the recent defeat from Houston that reduced the playoff odds to a scant 5%, it would be easy for many Timbers fans to sink into an area of finality. However, fans are made of tougher stuff than this; and with a history littered with seminal moments such as “The Gordon Chainsaw Massacre”, the “Sunshine goal”, and the “Sunflower Goal” there is no reason to quit believing in this team.

The flutter of memories detail the many amazing and painful moments from this year.

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Klinsmann’s Depth Chart: October 2011 Edition

The Krew...

Two games, one win, one loss from October Camp.

TSG goes diving again into the USMNT...

And now the US will embark for Europe in early-mid November for friendlies against France and Slovenia. Though Slovenia was presumably only chosen because other European nations had commitments, the US finds itself challenged by two vastly different systems and talent levels.

France run a similar 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 if you prefer set to the new States deployment while Slovenia features the tried-but-true 4-4-2, using their top two forwards to both check back and create space for their central midfielders.

An easy turn at this month’s depth chart before those November friendlies. We go, per usual:

• Observations

• The Depth Chart


• A Tale of Two Disciplines

It’s funny to actually look at a Klinsman line-up and strategy and say the following, “I remember when Bob Bradley used to do that.”

If you take at look at last year’s Send Off Series before the World Cup–matches versus Turkey and the Czech Republic–you saw the Yanks go with Clint Dempsey as a withdrawn forward with Jozy Altidore fore of him. In that set-up, Dempsey would usually be found wide of Altidore on the strong side (the US right flank).

The US looked to pound the ball into the living room of the opponent’s leftback. (Against the Czech Republic, it was Edson Buddle up top with none other than Eddie Johnson behind him playing a central forward-striker role).

The US pushed up the field in both games hoping that they could box in the other team and use the possession chops of Altidore and Dempsey to create opportunities and push the opponent back.

If the ball got reversed quickly, Landon Donovan (Turkey) or DaMarcus Beasley (Czech Republic) would be there for an open field-green field quick attack from the weak side. The US played a high line with Clarence Goodson pushing near midfield against the Czechs. It was Jay DeMerit in Philly against Turkey. (No need to rehash the first goal in that game.)

Klinsmann's scratchwork vs. Honduras...For Bob Bradley against Turkey last year, flip this. Shea & Altidore represents Dempsey and Altidore while push Clint name to the right and that's Landon.

Fast forward to October 2011 and–courtesy the screenshot from the  Atlantic Magazine on the right–what should appear? Jurgen Klinsmann’s formation mirrors Bradley’s; inverted to the left side however.

Whereas in this camp, Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore would be up top and the ball would be pushed into the opponent’s rightback position.

Danny Williams is playing the Beasley-Donovan role in this one. (In fact, if you went back to our reviews we scolded Klinsmann for Edu not helping out in the Ecuador match. Turns out that may not have been Edu’s role. You have to tell us about these things in advance, Jurgy! Though we still think you left too much space there for linking passes.)

Both Bradley and Klinsmann used the formation as a defensive strategy in different ways.

For the former, this was an attempt to protect the Yanks weak left flank–the side where concrete-cleated Carlos Bocanegra would man the leftback slot (oh my did he still play well into the box against Aaron Lennon) and the recovering Oguchi Onyewu would be on the left.

For the later, it appeared Klinsmann did used this strategy to beat back Antonio Valencia and Cuchu Benitez in the Ecuador game (the diagram on the right if the set-up versus Honduras), however the Yanks attempted to move the ball through interactions between Danny Williams and Steve Cherundolo on the right…which may signal…

Landon, pushing the ball against the Ticos...

• Speaking of the right side, is that where Donovan fits in.

…Landon Donovan in that spot.

Anyone else think that Williams looked awkward away from the center of the pitch where he is more used to linking and destroying?

Good, glad we got that cleared up.

That interplay seems like the role that Donovan will slot into when he returns. Acres of space and the familiar Cherundolo to work off of.

The next data point in this question? November call-ins.

• Six of one & half dozen of the other, + Bradley, + Beckerman, + Orozo-Fiscal

Loaded and confusing bullet title here, but we’ll press on.

And first beat a decaying horse horse.

Biggest difference of the Klinsmann Era deployment wise has been stacking the midfield with three players instead of two like his predecessor did. Though Klinsmann has also pushed two of those AM’s up the pitch. For Ecuador it was Edu and Dempsey.

As with his predecessor, Jurgen Klinsmann’s midfield (and the defense behind it) still has work to do in order to more effectively protect counterattacks and keep the opponent penned in. Take that last statement away as the important one from this segment.

For Bob Bradley, it was a deployment of Michael Bradley in essentially the push or “contain” role with Jermaine Jones providing the big stick behind it. Let’s call this the “Funnel & Smack” type play in the central midfield. It’s not unlike a linebacker cleaning up a blocker and routing a RB for the strong safety to come up and make the tackle in American football, if that analogy makes it more more clear.

(And oh by the way, this terminology shouldn’t really be truly called “a bucket” central midfield as is commonly a misnomer about Bradley’s reign. Bradley was typically fore of Jermaine Jones, not parallel with him in defense.)

Bob Bradley's defensive shutdown on a break left the back door open when Michael Bradley overpursued or Jermaine Jones got caught up field...

The challenge with Bradley’s midfield were dualfold. First, too often Jermaine Jones would go walkabout or be caught up on the attack, removing the “stick” part of that equation. And secondly, for all Michael Bradley’s positive CM attributes; his biggest weakness was perhaps thinking he could accomplish too much. Often Bradley would either be too sharp with his angle or attempt to make the stick himself and the weakside would be left open after a less than ideal angle was taken.

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Over At FBM: On Coldplay, Pearl Jam & American Soccer

We dropped some science over at friends of the TSG, The Free Beer Movement today.

A little ditty entitled: “Why American Soccer: A Dissident, A Dissident Is Here.”

Check it out if you would.

Pearl Jam, Seattle, 1991...just getting going...

Selected Images: USA Vs. Honduras

Matt Mathai is a our resident photographer. NUF SAID!

His story and affiliation with US Soccer and MLS is deep; you can check it out here.

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