Posts Tagged ‘Michael Bradley’

Round Cleat, Round Hole: Who Gets New Digs?

Roy Wegerle and John Harkes were the first two Americans to lace up in the EPL

Well, Chelsea slept on Blackburn…told them Blues not to do that.

We’ll have an Altidore update up as soon as we get a confirmed one.


Commentor GeorgeCross brought up the following question in a post last week:

“I am going to throw this one out there regarding Altidore. What about Arsenal? Wenger has been rumoured to be interested in Cole and Balotelli – why not Altidore? Fair enough that Altidore needs to be polished, but who better than master rock tumbler Wenger, who has a remarkable track record with young unfinished and raw players. He might not get as much playing time, but technically he has to improve (otherwise he won’t get into the first XI).”

A decent match there GeorgeCross and it got TSG into a column we’ve been meaning to pen for a while. We’ve already looked at the best mentors (Look for Part II in the next month) for a selection of USMNTers, but how about the best team to play on, from a playing time perspective as well as a mentoring perspective.

In fact those are two of the criteria, along with a third, playing style, that we considered when making some of these selections below. Caveat: TSG’s normally objective look at Americans may have been a wee compromised in this column.

Give Big Jeezy a few years and he just may be leaping buildings in a single bound too...

Jozy Altidore: Aston Villa

Pretty close for Jozy on Arsenal, but not as close as Villa. For Jozy at Arsenal, there are few challenges. First, Robin Van Persie is the show’s lead and Nicolas Bendtner it would appear is beginning to fulfill the promise that had Wenger plucking the then 16-year-old from F.C. Copenhagen way back in 2004. (Bendtner is now rumored to be a candidate for the front line at Bayern.) Plus Arsenal have up-and-coming England nattie in waiting (and 190lbs) Jay Simpson (on load at Queens Park Rangers) waiting in the wings.

Second challenge for Jozy–his first touch. With Arsenal employing a quick touch brand of football and accentuating player movement may not play to Jozy’s strengths.

For Villa, it’s a question of replacement and pairing.

In Emile Heskey and John Carew, Villa have a 32 year-old and a 31-year-old in the target or big striker role. Both, along with third stringer Maron Harewood (on-loan and 31) have battled countless injuries over the past year.

Altidore, who was healthy until Friday’s unexplained injury, is the direct opposite, younger and less (cough) injury prone.

Additionally, Altidore would slip in quite nicely next to the zippy Gaby Agbonlahor up top. Agbonlahor, on the edge or a World Cup bid this year for England at the age of 23, is, in comparison to Charlie Davies, a few notches faster and just hair below in strength–a fine complement for the former Red Bull frontman.

Next, with two Americans (Friedel and Guzan) on their senior and a third (Eric Lichaj) likely coming, Aston Villa (with American owner Randy Lerner) would vie for mass public support from the Americans. Finally, and due to Lerner, Aston Villa is a well-run team that should be able to pay Villarreal’s transfer price request ($5M?)

Just look$ right

Landon Donovan: Everton*

It’s hard to argue that Landon Donovan didn’t just trial on the perfect team for him to transfer too. Everton sits just below the top four in the EPL, removing Lanverton from an unworldly amount of scrutiny when he nestled in during the winter.

In terms of Everton’s game and Donovan’s ability to recognize what is needed, the Galaxy man presented the perfect complement to improve Moyes’ offense.

That being said, can Everton afford the transfer fee for the California resident who recently?

Chelsea rumors abounded as well as opinion that Donovan was perhaps better suited for the Iberian peninsula (where no American has ever truly suceeded yet…Ante Razov 2nd division stint at Racing Ferrol being probably the best in the last twenty).

But Donovan doesn’t seem to be the guy who wants to stray too far from what makes him comfortable. It appears he wants to fit in, do his job, and call it a day. So, in the event that Everton can’t ante up the green, other Donovan prospects might be Arsenal red where Donovan could be an outside forward just like at Goodison and be in heavy rotation with Arshavin, Walcott and Nasri. Only drawback? Wenger usually buys low, not high.

Junior...mixing it up...

Michael Bradley: AC Milan

Outside of Bo’Munchen where could Mike Bradley go to prosper, thrive and contribute.

TSG looks at Bradley and we see an upgrade over shaky post-Arsenal man Mathieu Flamini who, despite below average form, has still featured in 19 games for Milan on the year.

Bradley, should the transfer cost not be prohibitive for the Rossoneri who have battled some budget issues (see Onyewu, Oguchi), would slot in nicely next to Pirlo (or whomever his successor is) and also provide, again, youth as Clarence Seedorf ages and the classy Gennaro Gatusso likely heads to pasture after this year. Further, learning from a midfield ace like Milan coach Leonardo–assuming he’s still around–priceless.

Buddy up Gooch, Junior may arrive.

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The Vitalness of The Jermaine Jones Caboose

I’ve been trying not to type this column since I saw the Mikey B replay Sunday. TSG has written these thoughts before. The fans have suffered through qualifier after qualifier illuminating the sentiment contained herein. However, if I don’t write it, then I can’t come back and reference it at a later date for its braininess or its stupidity.


Just an exquisite, amazing pass, a Donovan to be precise, from Michael Bradley for his club team, Bo’Munchen, to assist for a score against Bayern Munich this past Saturday.

<video removed by provider>

….and yet this splendid play brought out the curmudgeon in me.

I hated it for what is was “not”….hold this thought for one moment because we’re going to put it on a collision course with one below.

A polar observation:

The US draws England as the heavy in the World Cup group. Immediately I, and I’m sure you as well, had a niggling, pin-pricking voice in your mind that hinted at, “Yes, yes there is a chance we can knock down that victory.”

You’re next thought, or at least mine? How? How does it happen? How do we win that one?

The Brits, deployed in a 4-4-2. A strong 4-4-2 with maybe three exceptions or outright weaknesses: A target forward for Wayne Rooney to play off of, problems at wingfull with the shaky Wayne Bridge and oft-injured Wes Brown and Glen Johnson there, and, much like the US, a little bit unsettling situation in the midfield where James Milner might be making a play for time, but the rather limited Gareth Barry and the off-form Frank Lampard man the central pitch. These gents are flanked by very poor man’s Donovan Shaun Wright Phillips or Aaron Lennon and the Clint Dempsey of the England Steven Gerrard relegated to the wing.

Gareth Barry

Barry: Solid, but vulnerable

What I currently envision for how the game play–we can dream a bit, right?

The U.S. works to combat Wayne Rooney and holds firm. On the other side of the ball, a counter attack or two netted by Landon and Stu (or maybe even Robbie Findley or Marcus Tracy) after possession had been linked through the midfield.

It’s not secret that the U.S. will need and already need to maintain more possession in the middle of the pitch. However, how ironic is it that our very first opponent in World Cup 2010 will demand that strategy as the prescription to beating them.

Crash! Back to our weekend observation. Really a gorgeous play by Coach USA’s son, the type of play that Mike Bradley does well on. It’s a relative strength for USMNT midfield stalwart, his quick reception and distribution….and it’s categorically not the type of skill that the USMNT demands in its first match-up in South Africa. The US will demand possession, protection and carriage in their central midfield, not hot potato.

Which brings me to the title of my piece. TSG, and all our contributors and commenters, have reviewed the USMNT midfield before, exhaustively, and I’m sure we’ll do it many time again. TSG has championed for more Benny Feilhaber; only his 2009 pairing with MB isn’t nearly close to the rhythmic coupling the two had in the Gold Cup of 2007.

Let’s be honest, the USMNT 3rd highest leader in minutes played during qualification and would-be minutes leader if he didn’t earn a red card and have to drop a game, Michael Bradley will most certainly be on the pitch in June barring an injury.

We know Ricardo Clark is not the answer in attack from a possession standpoint and probably from a complete game standpoint. We know that Coach USA is looking at Benny as reliever and possible winger. We probably know that Edgar Castillo is flanking in the midfield or defensive third of the pitch, but flanking, not centering.

We know Coach Sweatpants will not waver from his borderline maniacal focus on defensive coverage in the midfield–which to his credit has time and time covered for questionable play by the wingfulls while allowing for the threat of Donovan and others on the outsides.

Only the USMNT midfield demands someone who can possess the ball in combination with that defensive intensity.

We’ve been waiting for a healthy Jermaine Jones midfield caboose to rumble into town. In a moment of brilliance from Michael Bradley, here’s another, or perhaps the best, reason why.

Jermaine Jones

Casey Jones you better speed it up....

Best American Soccer Player In The Universe

As part of the US Soccer’s Best of 2009 Awards, the finalists for Male Athlete Of Year were announced earlier this week.

First, TSG thinks its title for the award sounds much more exciting…see above.

But, without further adeu, the five finalists for the award are:

Michael Bradley…he of the two goals versus Mexico in February and the right place-right-time goal versus Costa Rica in October.

Landon Donovan…he of the truckload of awards (MLS MVP, Honda Player of the Year), assists and all-around stellar play for the USMNT in 2009.

Clint Dempsey…he of the Bronze Ball at the Confederations Cup, brilliant header at Rio Tinto and the current run of 5 goals in 5 matches for Fulham.

Tim Howard…he of the magnificent saves while frequently getting bombarded by shots for both the USMNT and Everton.

Oguchi Onyewu…he of the stalwart central defense, great work with his dome and transfer to AC Milan.

The five 2009 finalists represent 5 of the past 6 winners of the award — Donovan in 2003 and 2004, Onyewu in 2006, Dempsey in 2007 and Howard in 2008

According to US Soccer:

The finalists for each award were nominated on the basis of: a) competing and excelling at the highest level (both at the national team and professional level) during the calendar year; b) exhibiting decorum on and off the field that reflects well on U.S. Soccer; and c) contributing toward the growth, development, credibility and popularization of soccer in the USA.

Unlike the Honda Player of the Year this award is based on play for both the national teams and club teams.

Another piece of hardware for Donovan's already crowded 2009 trophy case?

With all of his accolades and press this year, one would expect Landon Donovan to take this one in a walk. The criteria of club play adds an interesting wrinkle as Donovan clearly isn’t “competing and excelling at the highest level” playing his club ball stateside. However, Lando has been the best performer on the national team this year.

Weighing club play more heavily…

Clint Dempsey should get a boost in his bid for the award as a regular starter and current dangerous striker for Fulham in the EPL. Tim Howard and Oguchi Onyewu had stellar first halves of 2009 for Everton and Standard Liège, respectively. However, Howard has had a statistically poor ’09-’10 campaign behind a suspect Toffee defense while Onyewu’s much ballyhooed transfer to AC Milan resulted in little playing time before his October injury.

I’ll let you folks can chime in on who has or has not been true to criteria “b” above. And of the five finalists, Onyewu probably comes out on top for criteria “c”  as his transfer to AC Milan from Standard Liège was viewed and celebrated as a big step forward for American soccer, regardless of his lack of playing time.

The winner will be crowned through voting by fans on US (50%) and media members and US Soccer representatives (collectively, 50%). One can assume that Bob-O can’t vote for Junior, right?

Who are you guys voting for?

Fan voting will be open through December 13th along with all of the Best of 2009 awards, like Best Soccer Blog. (hint…hint.)

Questions Up The Center For The USMNT

After Charlie Davies injury another possibility no one wants to consider is that the USMNT could be without defensive stalwart Oguchi Onyewu when the World Cup kicks-off next June. In fact, the US is facing question marks all the way up the middle with the exception of Timmy Howard between the sticks.

Might this be Gooch's "uniform" come June?

Might this be Gooch's "uniform" come June?

ESPN had a story today entitled “Onyewu plans a speedy recovery from knee injury” in which Gooch stated,

I know my body and I know how hard I work to recover and how my body heals. I think I can be back in four months, realistically.

Well, USMNT doesn’t need Gooch back, the team needs him better. With the official recovery time-line at 6 months, that seems out almost out of the question. So the best case scenario is Gooch at the WC in summer of 2008 form which is good, but not great. And let’s not forget that the recent knee injuries in the USMNT player pool (Jones and Edu), though different, haven’t resulted in textbook recoveries.

Moving up the pitch, Jay DeMerit continues to be out with an eye injury. His recovery time is slated for a much shorter duration, but we are talking about an eye here. It’d be very surprising if he didn’t make it to South Africa, but he is most likely in the midst of about a six month layoff right now.

In the central mid-field the US could be perceived as down its two most able holding mid-fielders in Twitter-fiend Maurice Edu and International Man of Mystery Jermaine Jones. And third on depth chart, Rico Clark (with a minor knock of his own), has been nothing more than serviceable as a starter in the WC qualifiers.

Can Jozy earn the #1 Striker moniker he's been given before he flies to SA?

Junior seems cemented in whatever position he is supposed to be playing at the other midfield spot, but has struggled to develop any consistency with a mid-field mate and disappears for large stretches to the point that the defense just starts bypassing him.

Perhaps the biggest (and most obvious) hole sits at striker with CD9 being out, however, TSG discussed that already. But what about Altidore?

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Wrap It: Giggs, Adebayor & More…

Weekend wrapping by TSG:

– Fuzzy math tells me that almost 80% of USMNT’ers that returned to their club did not dress or feature this weekend. One player note however. Michael Bradley who remained in the doghouse and on the bench for Borussia Moenchengladbach — can I get a nickname for that club from someone?

– Our weekend preview suggested that no one was living in Goochville, Milan. Now we can’t even find the neighborhood on the map just like Milan can’t find the victor sheet. Oneywu didn’t dress for Milan on Saturday and Milan only mustered a draw versus average joe Livorno. That being said, as our piece suggested a few weeks ago, look for Gooch to play–probably subbing–this Sunday against Bologna at home. Fox Soccer Channel has the game (man, they rock this year). If you don’t see the American CD’er, it may be awhile.

Van Persie: Not a fan of Adebayor's tap dance number

Van Persie: Not a fan of Adebayor's tap dance number

– Arsenal fans should be irate if Emmanuel Adebayor doesn’t get a heavy suspension for his purposeful cleat to the face of Robin Van Persie. If Eduardo gets an unsportsmanlike call and pending suspension for diving, you better believe that Adebayor should be roped to the bench for multiple games. His play was disgusting.

– Speaking of Adebayor and Manchester City, don’t look now but guess who’s been scored on the least in the EPL. That’s right, the Citizens of Manchester City. The team that was deemed all offense and no defense by pundits and fellow managers has two goals against in four league games. Perhaps Man City have the starting pitching to go all the way.

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Jermaine Jones, Video Kick

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Jones: Watch your legs...and teeth

Jones: Watch your legs...and teeth

TSG ran a feature last week proposing that one of our multitude of quality defensive central mids should take a stab at a wingback position.

With with wealth of talent at holding midfielder, it would be difficult–a player would have less than a 17% shot–of starting on the pitch there.

Obviously Jermaine Jones, he of the lore, but not the USMNT cap resume, factored into our discussion. There is probably no other player in terms of ability, place, and role who’s inclusion is as much a factor.

TSG reader Kevin made some good comments in our piece and also did one better by sending us  a video. Thanks Kevin for getting our piece started.

What follows are two videos of the German enigma.

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USMNT: Common Sense in Defense





Michael Bradley, Bundesliga, age 22, 34 US Caps

Jermaine Jones, highly touted, Bundesliga, age 27

Ricardo Clark, Serie A Livorno perhaps?, age 26, 33 caps

Sam Cronin, 2008 Herman Trophy Finalist, age 22, 2 caps

Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake Captain, MLS Allstar, age 27, 9 caps

Maurice Edu, Scottish Premier League powerhouse Rangers, age 23, 4 caps





I’ve got some old news for you guys. You all play the same position.

The math: 6 viable options, 1, yes 1 (see Issue 1 below) starting nod. Chances of making the staring XI (all things being equal which they, of course, are not): 16.7%

Take that 16.7% and let’s consider some observations at TSG (and probably in many other locations and hopefully in Bob Bradleys office) on the US’s “Summer of Soccer” 2009:

Issue 1: The USMNT is extremely challenged by employing two defensive midfielders — hence this two defensive pairing in the middle needs to end. It can’t be Bradley and Clark. It has to be defensive holder and Benny, Dempsey, or even Freddy Adu.

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