Wednesday, May 30, 2007

USMNT Line Up vs. China

Here is the line-up for the USMNT for their friendly against China this Saturday:

GOALKEEPERS (3) - Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Tim Howard (Everton FC), Kasey Keller (Borussia Moenchengladbach)

DEFENDERS (6) - Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham FC), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Jay DeMerit (Watford FC), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Frank Simek (Sheffield Wednesday), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS (7) - DaMarcus Beasley (PSV Eindhoven), Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen), Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC), Benny Feilhaber (Hamburger SV), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Jesse Marsch (Chivas USA), Lee Nguyen (PSV Eindhoven)

FORWARDS (3) - Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Kamani Hill (VfL Wolfsburg), Ante Razov (Chivas USA)

I have t0 say, this is one interesting line-up. It is good to see that Nguyen is getting a look in the midfield along with Marsch. In all honesty, I have never even heard of Davies and Hill, so seeing how they do should be interesting.

Based on this line-up, I have a good feeling that we will probably see the midfield of Beasley, Bradley, Feilhaber and Deuce. Considering that pretty much everyone is expecting that Bradley and Feilhaber are the future of the US midfield along with Freddy Adu (who isn't exactly walking the talk he has dropped in RSL), having the two of them anchor the midfield is a good thing. I liked what I saw from them in the Ecudaor match and the Guatemala match.

The defense, IMHO, should be a line-up of Bornstien, DeMerit, Onyewu, & Bocanegra. Spector could easily fill the left back role instead of Bornstein, but something tells me that hard workin Bob will stick with his Chivas USA kid.

Then come the goalkeeper. If at all possible, and considering that this is a friendly, I think it is possible, I would like to see Howard start and only play the first 45 minutes. I would then want to have Guzan play the second half. There is really no point in having him join up with the side unless he is going to play. As he is often mentioned as a possible choice for the Copa America, he might as well get some time in with some of the defenders.

Overall, this is a very young and green group. Bocanegra and Beasley, I think, have the most experience of the outfield players, Keller having the most overall. Seeing how they handle China will be a telling point of the rest of the season. China isn't a group of gang busters, but on this level, no one should be underestimated. Considering the two mixed results we saw with the Ecuador match to the Guatemala match, we need to be on our game.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Their First Team can't win either: America falls to Pachuca

So right as I was leaving Mexico City last week, everyone and their brother was gearing up for the two legged series between America and Pachuca for the Apertura championship. America had sent it's second string side to Brasil to face Santos in the Copa Libertadores in hopes of resting their first string players for the Pachuca match-up. Well, it really didn't do them much good.

Pachuca won the first leg last Friday 2-1 at Azteca Stadium and drew 1-1 at home Sunday night to win their second league championship in the last three tournaments. Pachuca also added a third trophy to its case, having just picked up the CONCACAF Champions Cup in April and winning the CONMEBOL Copa Sudamericana in December.

One bright spot for America was that Cuauhtemoc Blanco scored in both of the matches; however, as these were his last two matches with America, they should begin to look for another forward. Blanco signed with MLS side Chicago Fire and should be joining them in the next several weeks.

So much for resting the First Team. Maybe they should have sent their first team to Brasil and used their second team against Pachuca?

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Match Recap: DC United 2 -1 Houston Dynamo

Third straight 2-1 match and third straight victory. I will take that any day.

Tonight's match was a lot better than the last home match. United came out of the blocks a little flat, but recovered quickly and grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 4th minute. With the exception of Gomez's goal, Houston looked like the better side. Olsen's goal in the 28th minute was excellent and it allowed United to do more with the field and the ball. This was the first match this season that I didn't have that feeling in my gut that a draw was ok.

The second half was more of the same until Josh Gros decided to play Outfield for the Nationals. The PK was warranted and deserved. Troy Perkins stepped up tonight as an MLS Goalkeeper of the Year should step up. He not only stopped D'Ro on his PK, but he made several point blank saves that kept United's lead intact. I can fully understand Gomez being named the match MVP, but in my book, I have to hand it to Troy.

Overall, I liked what I saw from the entire team. Erpen made several great defensive plays and really didn't have his usual defensive gaff. As a whole, the United defense really only f'd up once, which was when two players flew past D'ro on his goal.

Christian played a much better match tonight, which I hope is a sign of better things to come. Kpene worked his ass off and should have been awarded a PK when he was shouldered down in the box in the first half. Kpene has again shown that he will be a forward threat for United in the near future. One question that in my mind that should be coming up is if Moreno should maybe step back and fill a midfield role rather than a forward position? I think that a United line up with Emilio and Kpene up front, with Gomez, Moreno, Fred and Olsen with Bozwell, Gros, Erpen and Namoff would possibly be a more potent offensive unit and a better defensive side than what we have seen.

Anyways, we have a trip out to LA for a match against a Galaxy side that is still having troubles finding wins in matches that are MLS regular season matches. Considering that the Galaxy lost tonight 1-0, next weeks match should be a bit more of a high pressure situation for them. The Galaxy hasn’t won a league match in three matches, so going a fourth straight would be horrendous. United should be very cautious of them.

I liked what I saw out of United tonight. Sure the last 20 minutes were a little dicey, but against the defending MLS Cup champions, I would expect nothing less. United have strung 4 straight matches without a loss. The defensive gaffs that plagued United over the first three matches haven't really been that bad, and when they have, the club has covered for themselves. I like the direction that Soehn has the club going in. I want three points from FC Beckham-Elect.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

My Trip to Mexico.

I ended up having to spend the last week in Mexico City for work and while I was there, I was able to enjoy the World's game from a different point of view.

I spent part of Wednesday watching the UEFA Champions League Final with several Mexico's and other Latin Americans and I have to say, that wasn't that great a match. Liverpool looked the better of the two sides, but Milan was able to play a better second half than their first and that was all that mattered.

Later that night I sat in Papa Bill's Saloon drinking Sol and Dos Equies while watching America play on a very wet field against Santos in the Copa Libertadores. America sent it's Second team to Brasil because their First team are playing against Pachuca in the Apertura Finals tonight and Sunday. While I was still a little unsure why a club would send two separate teams to play in two separate tournaments, I watched America take a 1-0 lead into half time against Santos. That lead would soon evaporate as Santos came out firing on all cylinders and won the match 2-1 behind two great second half goals. I understand that winning the Apertura championship is the highest importance in America's plans, but I did not agree with sending what in all cases, was their second string side to play in a Quarter Finals of an international tournament.

The whole two teams issue got me thinking about MLS and how much of a chance it might be for MLS clubs to adopt that philosophy. While I was in Mexico City, it was announced that DC United will again take part in the Copa Sudamericana and again face off against Chivas de Guadalajara, the same club that knocked United out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup. With the Sudamericana taking place in September, right after the SuperLiga, and possibly during the US Open Cup run and the tail end of the MLS regular season, DC United will have several choices to make concerning player personnel. Considering that the MLS regular season and playoffs should be the club's primary focus, should United send an all reserve side into the US Open Cup? I say yes, and send the reserves into the first match.

The bigger question I saw was that as MLS grows and possibly gets involved in more and more international tournaments, will we see the type of two team commitment that I saw with America? I know that right now, several MLS clubs sort of do this when it comes to the US Open Cup, but will we see this with the SuperLiga? Sudamericana? I hope not. I honestly see no reason why a club would send a second side to take part in an international tournament. To me, it doesn't make sense. Sure, I understand sending some of the reserves, but an entirely different team? America didn't even send it's first team goalkeeper. I really hope that this practice is not adopted by MLS sides. Use reserves in the US Open Cup, but when MLS clubs take part in international tournaments, I want to see their best team sent out there.

All in all, being in Mexico with so much Soccer going on was really cool. Every TV channel pretty much had coverage of both the Champions League final and the upcoming Apertura championship with America and Pachuca. ESPN SportCenter lead off their show Wednesday night with the Champions League final, then had an update on the Apertura championship, then the Copa Libertadores match in Brasil, then the International friendly between Ecuador and Ireland, then they finally had coverage on the NBA playoffs. I couldn't understand a word of Spanish during the broadcast, but seeing so much soccer on ESPN, and leading off SportsCenter was great to see. I doubt that we will ever see that type of coverage in the State's, but a guy can dream, can't he?

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Weekend thoughts: FA Cup, DC United & Other stuff.

So I went to Summers to watch the 2007 FA Cup Final along with about 200 or so other people. The match was ok, more of a boxing match with neither side really being able to take the other out. Ryan Giggs' no goal was hard to take as it looked from my seat like Cech had pulled the ball behind the line before Giggs hit him. Had that been the ruling, the match would have at least gone to PKs, which I would have favored Van Der Sar over Cech.

IMHO, neither side really showed that they deserved the win, more because they were too evenly matched. United had several good runs of play, but their passing wasn't the greatest. Several times Chelsea players only had to take an extra step to pick up the ball because a United player was just waiting for the ball or the pass was too soft. Chelsea on th eother hand looked like they were more comfortable putting as many people behind the ball as they could and hope to spring Drogba. Not sexy football, but Jose football.

Ronaldo, again, IMHO, failed to really show up. His judgement when he had the ball was very lax, trying to take on 100 Chelsea players instead of passing off to anyone of the other 10 red shirts out there. There were several times in my mind that had Ronaldo passed the ball, I think United would have had much better shots at the goal.

In anycase, both of these teams showed why they finished 1-2 and why the rest of the league was chasing them the entire season. I can't wait to see them face off in the Community Shield.

Later that day, DC United took on Toronto FC and picked up 3 vital points with a 2-1 victory. I was only able to watch the first half and I was really unhappy with what I saw. Maybe it was getting used to the carpet that they were playing on, but United's passing and effort wasn't that great. The second half seemed much better once Jamie was dropped into the midfield. I always thought that Jaime should have been dropped into the midfield and have United play a 4-4-2 with Eskandairian and Emilio up front, Moreno, Gomez, Fred and Olsen in the middle with Erpen, Boz, Namoff and Gros in the back. UNfortunately Esky is in Toronto so we haven't got him anymore, but that would have been my pick for this season.

DC United have another week before they face the defending MLS Cup Champs at RFK. Moreno will be out of that match, so it will be interesting to see if Soehn puts Fred or Kpene in the withdrawn forward slot. Considering how well Kpene has done in the last few matches, I would like to see him up front with Emilio.

So DC United are now in 5th place in the East, 3 points behind Chicago. Considering how New England and RBNY are collecting points hand over fist, this 3 match unbeaten streak couldn't have come at a better time. The Houston match should be a tough one and United follow it up with a trip out to HDC to take on the LA Galaxy. The Galaxy have been playing pretty good football, but they haven't been able to pick up any real points, pretty much like United. That match should be a sluggfest, especially if LA fail to pick up points today against Chivas USA or at the Rapids next week.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

US Soccer: Hard Workin Bob be The Man.

So the worst kept secret for the last few days is that today, Sunil Gulati will announce that Bob Bradley will become the official US Men's National Soccer Team Head Coach. No more is his title 'Interim," but he is full time. He can officially move into the big man's office. I say about damn time.

I was a little taken back when the whole Klinsi saga fell apart and Bradley was dropped on us. I think the biggest reason is that Gulati took so long to select any type of head coach that we all assumed that the waiting period was just to allow Jurgen time to unwind from the 2006 World Cup. Well, when Gulati evidently balked at some of Jurgen's demands, we got Bob.

I have to say, over the last four matches that Bob has been running the show, I do like what I see, but I want see something better. The Denmark match was really a USA-Lite vs. Denmark-Lite and really should be tossed when you talk about performances. The Mexico match, with it's all too familiar scoreline was different. Bob sent out a relatively soft side made up of guys who normally just play against each other in MLS and took down one of the strongest sides in teh Western Hemisphere. That Mexican side ran the USMNT guys up and down the field, but never cracked the back line and left Arizona with more displays of unsportsmanship behaivor.

The Ecuador match was again a great display, but this time Bob had just about every US pool player that he could have wanted. He followed it up with a much different looking side against a much weaker side in Guatemala and failed to win for the first time. That had more to do with the fact that Guatemala decided before the game to try and not win or lose as opposed to the USA failing to win. However, this is the game that I point to as why I want to see something better.

Guatemala showed the rest of CONCACAF how to avoid getting lit up by Donovan & Co., just bunker the midfield and don't allow anything. With the Gold Cup right around the corner, Bob and his staff are going to have to figure out a way to plan and prepare for every CONCACAF side to come out with teh same exact game plan, only this time, I want to see Bob and his boys beat the bunker and still take the victory.

In anycase, Bob Bradley will become the official Head Coach today. He deserves it. He is a soldier who took his orders and did his duty. Now without the interim tag, lets see how he really drives.

On an other note, with Bob no longer being the U-23 coach, I believe that makes Peter Nowak the U-23 coach. all I have to say to the U-23 guys is, get ready to run boys, he is gonna work you something good.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Match Recap: DC United 2 - 1 Chivas USA

Sorry that this is late. Work hasn't been as boring as it usually has and actually requires me to be productive.


So they finally picked up a victory in the 2007 MLS season. It wasn't the prettiest of matches, and I felt that United played better Thursday night against the Revolution, but they pulled out the victory. With the win aside, several questions still linger IMHO, namely the back line and the midfield.

Having Josh Gros play in the back as part of a 4 man back line is working better than a 3 man back line, but there has got to be a better answer out there. As I understand that United has some cap space and allocation cash on hand, hopefully once the transfer window opens on June 15th, United's scouts will be looking around for a defender to take Josh's spot in the back line.

The midfield is another touchy issue and one of those reasons is that the possession play just isn't there anymore. Brian Carroll seems to be showing all of us why he never landed a gig in Europe over the winter tranfer period. He did play better Sunday than in previous matches, but he was playing more like a guy who was told to produce or pack your bags, than a guy who has found his inner midfielder. Clyde Simms has shown on more than several occasions that he is a much better choice for the midfield holding role that Carroll is asked to fill.

MVP, despite his goal on Sunday, still seems to be abit slower this year. Is the fact that United has refused to give him DP cash affecting his play? I never understand why guys who are having contract issues play poorly. Wouldn't they want to play well to show why they deserve the cash? Maybe it is getting to his head, I don't know. I do think that Gomez will be able to get better looks at the ball when he is flanked by Fred and Gros and with Emilio in front of him.

One thing that I have been happy about is that Soehn is cycling guys in and out of the line-up. Giving Jamie the first half off on Thursday, for punishment or not, was a good move in the long run, as was holding Emilio out of the first half on Sunday. These guys have got alot of games ahead of them and most of them will be in very hot and humid weather, while wearing a black jersey. As we saw last year, they are gonna get gassed, so why not save some of their energy right now, no? We have seen that Kpene can play at this level as well as Casal, so if they can come in and give Moreno or Emilio a half or a night off, then I say get them on the pitch.

So now United have another week off before they head up to Toronto to take on the MLS newbies. With another two weeks to rest up, hopefully Fred will be able to make the trip and get some time on the field. Hopefully the defense will be able to get a better grasp of their new assignments over the next two weeks as well.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Match Recap: DC United 1 - 1 New England Revolution

Well, I didn't write a preview for this match and I really haven't said anything since I wrote a preview for last Saturday's match at Columbus. I haven't done much for several reasons, mainly because I really haven't been able to figure out what to say. We are really 8 matches into United's 2007 season and we have really seen two completely different sides put on the black & red.

Most of us had rather low expectations for the CONCACAF Champions Cup, seeings how United had only been together for about three weeks and were set to face clubs in their midseason. Yet as I sat at Summers and watched Gomez notch two goals against Olimpia and saw the entire team work over their opponent, my expectations began to rise drastically. United came home and fought a scrappy back & forth match in the cold rain and put away Olimpia to set up a date with Chivas, the Real Chivas. They showed that they could run with a club that was on a mission and that they could keep putting in goals.

Chivas came into town and showed that they were a step above United in form and pace, but never showed me that they were a super club or anything. I thought it might have been because United stepped it up a bit...maybe Chivas were really playing down to United's level, who knows? The away leg of that series yielded another pretty solid performance and one that the club shouldn't hang their heads for. All of this lead up to the start of the MLS regular season.

Well we all know where that has us right now.

Three straight losses and just about the bottom of the barrel in the East.

So, what did I expect from tonight's match? Not much. I didn't expect anything because I wasn't even sure which United would show up for the match...the CONCACAF Champions Cup side that played well together...or the MLS side that looked like they forgot who was on their own side and really didn't think playing defense was that important. Which side would show up?

Well, I didn't really see either side at the match tonight. I did see a much better defensive effort, the best of the MLS season. I saw Erpen do his usual "gaff" but he did it in a situation that didn't really cause any harm. I did see Troy position himself better, but his distribution at the beginning of the match was awful and he was responsible for several give-aways, simply because he passed the ball to Namoff when Namoff shouldn't have received the ball in the first place.

New England's goal was against the run of play and considering the shot that Twellman took, a rebound was going to be loose. It was one of those goals that you have to expect from time to time. It really wasn't Troy or the defense's fault, just something that the guys need to be a bit more prepared for.

I am still wondering about our midfield. Christian seems out of sorts a bit lately. In the first half United dictated most of the play, but the offensive midfield never really looked together. Fred looked very good and I really hope that his leg injury doesn't keep him out of the match Sunday. The one guy I was impressed with was Kpene. I realize he came in after Joseph's red card, but United's offense looked better once Kpene was in the match. I was puzzled as to why Gomez was playing so wide in the last 20 minutes, but as a whole, United showed a much better attacking presence in the last 20 minutes, even against a bunkering side.

So....1 point. It took United four matches to get their first point, when they picked up their first point in the first match of last season. Tonight was a better performance against an MLS side. I want to see a better offensive effort from Gomez on Sunday. Hopefully Fred will be able to play and will be able to work off of Gomez and Emillio and Moreno. I have a strong feeling that as the season goes on, we will see the midfield of Fred and Gomez cause problems for clubs. Right now as everything is trying to run through Christian, opponents only have to hack at him and double team him. Once Fred really gets the system down, clubs will have to get more guys on him, or he will hurt them. That should free Christian to return to his MVP mold.

See everyone out at RFK on Sunday.

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