Saturday, June 30, 2007

Week off: Oh What a Week it was!

So right after the USMNT “got” bye the Canadian National team and booked their trip to the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, I too took a trip. I ended up going out to Iowa for wedding related issues. While I was out in Des Moines I was able to catch the Gold Cup final at The Royal Mile (if you ever get to Des Moines, check it out, the place is awesome).

That was one helluva match. Bocanegra being a monster on the backline, Tim Howard having a great match, Donovan stepping up and not chocking on the PK, and Benny’s goal. Damn that was a good game.

I was glad to see Mexico come out firing and pushing the Americans back. The entire tournament it had been the USA storming out of the gates, but this match was different from the other five. Yes the score line was the same, but I saw a different USA come out in the second half. One that was down a goal for the first time since January and needed to recapture its lost form. They did that in the form of Ricardo Clark. His play in the second half injected a much needed presence in the midfield which woke up the Americans. Too bad we couldn’t win the game 2-0.

Hats off to the USMNT for winning their second straight Gold Cup and booking a trip to South Africa in 2009.

So right after that, or during it (I really don’t remember) I saw that Thierry Henry finally decided to make the move to Spain and join Barcelona. I honestly think that this move came one year too late and cost Barcelona the Champions League and La Liga this last season. This move also has pretty much sunk Arsenal for their 2007/08 season.

Without Henry, Wenger (if he is still around next season) has a much larger task at hand, and no real incentive to draw star players to the Gunners. Next season, pretty much as this last season went, the EPL “Big Three” will be Manchester United, Chelsea & Liverpool. Sorry Nigel.

So when I returned to DC from Iowa, I went straight into a week long Microsoft training class. Having to study for two tests in one week forced me to miss my first home DC United match of the season. Pissed me off too, it looked like a good one. I was happy to see (DVR is god) that after we went down a goal, that the entire squad stepped up their play and we were able to get a PK for our efforts. Hopefully Kpene’s injury doesn’t keep him off the field for too long. Getting the offense in gear is a good sign.

The other big United news this week was the Facundo Erpen for Greg Vanney trade that just happened. I really don’t know how to rate this one. On one hand you have a very talented, but very erratic young Argentine defender who could have become a longtime defender for the club; and on the other you have an experienced US player who instantly brings solid defensive experience to a backline that has been anything less than stable. Trading Erpen does keep the club from having to use a Senior International roster spot next year, giving the club a chance to bring in an other experienced defender or (heaven forbid) a possible replacement for either Gomez or Moreno. Trading Erpen also allows us in Blog land to retire the phrase: Erpen had his usual gaff/flub/SNAFU/…ect. I do wish him well in Colorado.

I do like the move of bringing in Vanney. Considering that he at most will stick with the club for this season and maybe next, the time he is here should be a god send for helping Boswell and Namoff as they move more and more into the USMNT spotlight. Having Vanney’s experience assist their talent should get them more playing time, as well as giving Troy a little bit less work to do over the course of the season.

Now we have the Copa America and Bradley’s first loss. You knew it was coming and you knew that if it didn’t come from Mexico, Argentina was going to serve that big L on a dish served cold. We all knew that we would loose to Argentina, the fact that we even got a goal in my mind was the surprise. Yes it was a PK, but I was shocked we even held them in the first half.

After watching the match again on DVR, I saw that Bornstein played a great match, much better than any he had in the Copa America. Ben Olsen provided the same thing that he has been doing for DC United, he was the energy bomb that the squad needed to run. Once he left the field and Argentina decided to bring on Aimar, the match was over. I had hoped for a better score line considering that we held them in the first half, but 4-1, in a match with a USA B/C team against the best Argentina has to offer…that ain’t half bad. This loss will go so much farther in getting our guys ready for World Cup Qualifying than any of the Gold Cup matches will.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Match Recap: USA 2 - 1 Canada

A couple of days ago I wrote this little piece about the growing complaints from losing players and coaches about how they felt that CONCACAF had rigged the Gold Cup to get the dream match up of the USA vs. Mexico in the tournament final.

After watching the USA vs. Canada, I think I need to change my position. The USA were gift wrapped that match tonight. Sure, Hejduk's goal wasn't something that the ref manipulated, but that second and game winning goal was definitely one that a PK was questionable on. Yes, there were stretches of the match where the US played very strong soccer, but the better team was Canada.

Yes, Michael Bradley had been given a 1 match vacation due to his horrible, horrible tackle late in the second half, which if the ref was under orders to favor the USA, he might have not given a red card for. However that was a situation where the ref had no choice and had he not given a red card, it would have been the smoking gun. It is a shame too, Bradley had been playing a really great match in the defensive midfield role, up until he completely lost his mind and decided to hack a guy.

Well, CONCACAF have half of their dream final, now Mexico has to take care of business; or the refs, who knows?

Yet again, Eddie Johnson shows why he is a shitty US forward. He is slow with the ball, doesn't know how to make a decision to save his life and shoots like a 3 year old; I take better shots with Vodka. He doesn't even have the understanding of his position to know that if two of your teammates are making a 2 on 1 run with the ball at goal, you run you dumb ass after them to be in a position to collect a rebound. Beasley tried to pass to Donovan who wiped big time yet still kept the ball. If Johnson had a fucking clue as to what his job on the field was, he would have been an other option for Donovan to pass to, instead, EJ was no where to be found and yet another US attack flamed out.

Somebody get him a copy of the 2002 World Cup Final. Ronaldo score one of his goals off of a rebound that Kahn did not smother. Goals come from rebounds, but they only come from rebounds when a player actually gets into a scoring position.

As for the rest of the side...I am not sure. Deuce still created alot of plays for the US, but when he was in on goal, it seemed like a hip hop track went off in his head and he got the urge to dance and be a disco star. Shoot the damn ball!

Hejduk scored a great goal, but he has a vacation this Sunday as well. Pablo "Hulk Smash" Mastroeni played a great game and with Bradley out for the final, whatever was making him limp had better get cleared up soon.

Donovan did pretty good, but at the end when he was the only guy running the right side, I hoped he would have made better runs with the ball. It was only around the 86th minute that he started running for the corner, which I think he needed to do sooner.

Beasley needed to get into more of the game. Canada did a very good job of clogging the midfield, which limited DMB's chances.

Overall, it wasn't a great performance by the USA. I am still waiting for full effort by the entire side. Maybe Coach Bob needs to finally settle on 11 guys and put them out there.

So, they are in the final, which we all expected...but this US team is not the one that we all expected. I guess this is a sign of the changing US Soccer landscape. A few years ago we expected tough games in our region, then we started to roll the other teams and now we expect, damn near demand them to walk over the little CONCACAF nations. I remember all sorts of people demanding that we send our second string team to the Gold Cup as the competition was light. I for one am glad we didn't, as we wouldn't be in the final.

A note for the future: Canada is for real. That is a side that will be one of the toughest CONCACAF opponents we face in qualifying. Playing them at BMO Field will be a war. Guatemala will be tough in qualifying, as will Panama and Mexico. Now the big question: Are they all going to be tough because they are getting better, or because we are getting worse?

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United should buy him: Riquelme not returning to Villarreal

According to CNN/, Villarreal will not be bringing back Juan Roman Riquelme and will try ever attempt at selling him.

Manchester United, if they really want to pull anymore than a double next season, should do everything that they can to buy him. Having Riquelme in the midfield with Hargreaves, Scholes, & Carrick with Giggs, Ronaldo and Rooney available up front would be murder. United wouldn't even really need to try and get an other forward as Ronaldo would be able to play up front or a withdrawn forward full time.

Add Riquelme to the acquisition of Nani & Anderson along with the possibilty of Rossi returning to the squad should give SAF enough depth in the midfield and forward positions, something he was starting to worry about towards the end of the season.

United passed up the chance two seasons ago when Barcelona let him leave for Villarreal, hopefully they don't do the same this time.


Copa Libertadores: Boca win 6th Title

Boca Juniors lifted their 6th Copa Libertadores title last night behind two Juan Roman Riquelme goals as they defeated Brazilian side Gremio 5-0 on aggregate. They will join AC Milan and Pachuca in the 2007 FIFA World Club Cup.

Riquelme is a freakin stud. Argentina is going to miss having that guy run their midfield. When he first made his move from Boca to Barcelona, I knew that he would be awesome. Hell, it was only last year when he damn near single handedly carried Villarreal to the Champions League Final. Here he guides Boca to their 6th Libertadores championship.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

CONMEBOL: Stacking the Deck?

I might be wrong about this, but I just read something regarding the Copa Libertadores that is either confusing or in my opinion, plain wrong.

CONMEBOL Executive Secretary Francisco Figueiredo stated that as in the recent past, Mexican clubs will be invited to the Copa Libertadores but will not represent the region in the FIFA World Club Cup if they win the Copa Libertadores.

I understand this as it makes sense. The Mexican clubs are not a part of CONMEBOL so if they do win, they shouldn't be the CONMEBOL representatives at the FIFA World Club Cup. CONCACAF used the same rules with it's invited guests to the Gold Cup in relation to the Confederations Cup. This I have no problem with.

The next thing that Figueiredo said I had a problem with.

Figueiredo said that the Copa Libertadore's final match cannot be played outside of South America, even if a Mexican club reaches the final. As the Copa Libertadores final is a two legged series which is played home/away, this strikes me as wrong and borderline criminal.

So if next season Pachuca reaches the finals and faces Sao Paulo, one leg would be played in Sao Paulo, but the other leg which should be a Pachuca home game will be played somewhere else? I thought the entire idea of having two legged, home/away series was to give each club a home match that would be at their advantage. How would Pachuca get any type of advantage?

Unless CONMEBOL is switching the Copa Libertadores final to a single match similar to the UEFA Champions League final that will rotate from different CONMEBOL member cities each year, I suspect that this decision is the direct result of Pachuca winning the Copa Sudamericana last season. CONMEBOL is looking at outside ways to ensure that CONMEBOL clubs always win their pre-eminent club tournament.

Something about this doesn't sit well with me. This looks like another reaction to Pachuca's victory last season. I feel that their first step was grouping the CONCACAF clubs that are taking part in the Copa Sudamericana against each other this upcoming tournament, rather than allowing them to face off against CONMEBOL clubs. Instead after the second round, half of the CONCACAF clubs invited will be out of the tournament, reducing the number of non-CONMEBOL clubs that could challenge for the title.

I don't know, but if CONMEBOL wants to have its clubs win it's tournament's championships, then maybe stop inviting outside guests?

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Soccer News & Notes: 6/19/2007

WTF was he thinking?
- Alexi Lalas claims that the EPL is an inferior league. Huh?

Beckham have a broken ankle?
- Becks says he felt his ankle snap. Was that the Galaxy's hopes of making the playoffs or did that already snap?

Trecker dishes up his thoughts on the USMNT.
- Well, go read it...not really sure if this is that interesting.

Blatter trying to convince the world that South Africa will host the World Cup.
- I love how FIFA constantly feels that it must continually re-affirm that the 2010 World Cup will be in South Africa. Is it for their nerves or the South Africans?


Copa Oro Rigged? Say it ain't so!

So after the weekend of Quarter Final action in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, new complaints were heard from losing teams that CONCACAF has rigged the tournament to ensure that the USA vs. Mexico dream final will take place. Costa Rican head coach, Hernan Medford stated that CONCACAF had already determined when and where the two teams would be playing their Quarter Final matches before their last group phase matches took place. So based on that, he feels that CONCACAF are favoring the two teams.

Panama seems to be feeling something of the same poison. Ives highlights this on his site, as the Panamanian captain, Felipe Baloy says that the calls were all going the USA's way in their match up on Saturday. He says that the USA vs. Mexico result is what CONCACAF wants.

So, is that happening?

I am not sure, but I doubt it. I do think that CONCACAF, in order to get the most out of their little regional championship, does want and hope that the final match up will be the USA vs. Mexico. That is the biggest draw in the region and should provide the most revenue. So I think that they would want that result to happen.

Are they actively manipulating the events of the matches and the final results? I don't think so. CONCACAF and its refs can give penalty kicks, but they still don't account for the other 7 goals that the USA has scored in the tournament thus far. Yes, the second goal on Saturday was off of a free kick, which if you want to say was due to the ref giving the call, but the USA still had to convert the free kick, which Bocanegra did very well.

As for the cards issue, didn't Gooch get tossed from the first game? Haven't there been at least 7 times a USA player has been called offsides when it is clear as day that he was still onsides? If anything, the officiating thus far in the tournament has been negative against the USA. The same complaints that Medford brought up from the Costa Rica/Mexico match were brought up after the USA vs. Guatemala match. Guatemala were tackling just as hard as the USA, but the US players were getting called out for fouls and given cards.

I think that the biggest problem in this tournament (and I have already brought this up before) is that with the exception of the Mexican ref Benito Archundia, CONCACAF doesn't have good officials. Their experience is limited to piss poor leagues and the majority of the refs that called up for international duty are not international quality. You rarely see a UEFA ref allow a match to get so out of hand that they are handing out Yellow Cards like they are dinner rolls, yet in a CONCACAF match, it is damn near common practice.

Because of the poor officiating, the teams that can actually adapt to the horrible calls are the ones that can actually rise to the occasion. So in a sort of twisted way, all those years of the USA getting the short end of the stick while playing in CONCACAF has sort of trained us to expect bad calls and to have our team adapt to them. Add to this the fact that our squad has probably become the fittest squad in the region and probably has more talent in our B Squad than most Q Squads, the other nations have to result to a more physical type of play, which as in the case of the Panama match, plays right into the poor officiating of the CONCACAF refs. As we watched the match on Saturday, my girlfriend asked me why Panama was playing like a bunch of thugs, always chopping down guys. I told her I thought it was the only way they felt that they could handle our players, as they couldn't match their talent or work rate.

Is CONCACAF trying to ensure that the final has USA vs. Mexico? I doubt it. I think we would have seen several more PKs called in the Mexico matches than we did. The fact that we have only seen one PK for Mexico (and it was in their 2-1 loss to Honduras) makes me feel that CONCACAF isn't trying to get the Mexicans into the final. The only real way CONCACAF has affected the tournament was when they announced that there would be no invited guests. Considering that in past tournaments, the USA or Mexico have pretty much only been ousted from the tournament by an invited guest, CONCACAF went a long way towards stacking the deck against the rest of the region.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Match Recap: DC United 3 - 1 Chicago Fire

Ok, I definitely have a question or two after tonight's match: Is DC United as good as they were tonight in utterly dominating the Fire or are the Fire just that damn bad?

I cannot remember the last time I saw DC United dominate any opponent as completely as they did against the Fire tonight. The Fire were able to venture into United territory maybe, maybe for 20 minutes tonight. Tonight I saw the United of last season, the United to ruled the midfield and dictated the entire match.

Sadly, I also saw the United that seemed to have completely forgotten that it was there to play soccer, and that United allowed the one Fire goal. The best sign of the night wasn't Emillio's two goals, or Benny's awesome flank play or the play of was that once United reverted back to the bumbling, stumbling defensive unit and allowed the one Fire goal, they went right back to work and shut down every and any attempt the Fire made to truly get back into the match.

Dare I say that Soehn has finally put the squad together?

So now United sits on 17 points, currently fourth in the East. All three clubs ahead of United dropped two points each so the Eastern Conference race just tightened up abit. United's next match is away at Real Salt Lake, a club that is still searching for their first victory. Alecko Eskandarian and Nick Rimando will have some extra incentive to play against United, but considering what I saw tonight coupled with how utterly awful I saw RSL play Thursday night, this might be the first trip out to Utah that I am not that worried about.

On an other note, we should find out this week who the USSF calls into the camp for the Copa America. As we already know that Jamie is training with Bolivia for their campaign, we might have to brace ourselves for the chance of losing two to three more guys to the tournament. The way that Benny is playing right now, I cannot be more than happy for him to be considered for the USMNT squad. Boswell and Namoff are rumored to be in line for callups as well, so our bench depth is going to be brought into question even more as this week goes on.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Chelsea Away Jersey's: The Highlighters?

Uh, somebody please tell me that this is a really bad joke?

If you would like to pre-order, click here.


Ben Olsen: MLS Goal of the Week

DC United's very own Benny Olsen won this week's MLS Goal of the week. Ben can put that award right next to his MLS Player of the Week that he was awarded Monday.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sign of the Apocalypse: I agree with Waldo

I just found out that I agree with Eric Wynalda...I think am gonna be sick.

Good to see that I am not to only one thinking of this, but I doubt that Garber & Co. will really move on it.

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FIFA Rankings: USA #16?

FIFA released its June rankings and other than Brazil dropping to #3, the biggest story is the USA moving up from #29 to #16. It is speculated that the large jump is due to the strong start to the Gold Cup, as official tournament matches have more weight than friendly matches. Mexico on the other hand, dropped six spots to #26. Poor Mexico.

Ok, does anyone out there really think that wins against Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago, and El Salvador along with a friendly win over a less than experienced China warrants a 13 place jump? Are these FIFA rankings the same inflated/bloated ones that had had the USA ranked #5 in the world?

Assuming we make it to the Gold Cup finals, our run here should help offset any problems we get from the performance in the Copa America.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Match Recap: USA 4 - 0 El Salvador

I liked the result. Good to see Twellman finally get his goal, at home no less.

The USMNT secured first place in Group B and will either play Guadalupe or the Group C 3rd place side on Saturday at Foxboro. This means everyone has more than enough time to get some rest in preparation for the Quarter Finals.

Is El Salvador really that bad? I say that because they came out flat in the first half but they actually pressed in the second half, but they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Their shots were horrible. I can't really think that they are that bad, but considering this is CONCACAF, who's to say?

The officiating crew was a little better tonight. The linesmen still messed up several offsides calls, most of them against El Salvador. The ref did one thing tonight that should have been done in the Guatemala match; he took control of the physical play early by giving several guys cards. I think it helped the tempo of the match and could have saved the first match.

Gooch picked up an other Yellow Card tonight, I guess he is lucky that they reset in the Quarter Finals. He could have been given a second one near the end of the second half. It looked like he damn near put his elbow through an El Salvadorian forward's head. I really hope that he maybe slows his play down a bit, without affecting his play.

Michael Bradley scared me tonight. Not only did he pick up a Yellow card for a really bad tackle, but he made several more harsh challenges that were pretty late on the ball. He was lucky not to get another card.

Feilhaber looked pretty good. Several of his passes were a little soft, but overall I though he did well. I am pretty sure we will see him in the midfield for the rest of the tournament.

Pablo "Hulk Smash" Mastroeni returned from his World Cup three match banning, only to get another yellow card. Pablo did all right tonight. His composure in the defensive midfield helped out as Donovan and Beasley made their forward runs along with Feilhaber, Spector and Bradley.

Spector had a much better match tonight than I have seen from him in a long time. I would keep Hejduk on the bench and have Spector and Simek duke it out for the right back position.

Twellman and Ching worked really well up front, especially with Deuce behind them. Deuce was the friggin man in the midfield in the second half, especially once Ching came on. I liked how Twellman and Ching were looking for each other, but someone needs to teach Ching how to cross, he either sends the ball straight up in the air or right along the ground. If EJ is out with his knee problem (haven't heard either way) having Twellman and Ching play off each other doesn't look like a bad pairing.

Beasley was a real powder keg on the wings. His two goals were very good, his first one he was in the right place at the right time and his second one his speed got him on line with Deuce's pass. Good to see that he is playing like the old DMB that we needed last summer.

Overall, I really don't have that much to say. I think that the fact that this is the third match together and the fact that El Salvador decided to try for the draw in the first half did more for the result than anything else. Hopefully it took the guys three matches to gel together and now they will be able to roll to Soldier Field and the finals.

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Messi: New Hand of God?

I am sure everyone has seen this, but I figured I would post it anyways.

So again, why don't we need video replay in soccer? FIFA? Fat Blatter?

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Success to make MLS change?

I know that this was announced a while ago, but I just came across it and it got me thinking.

FIFA declared at the end of May that the LA Galaxy must release David Beckham for any and all England national team matches that he is called up for. As this is really nothing new in the international soccer world, it makes sense that FIFA would re-establish this with the Galaxy. The only problem with this is that this is something that MLS really hasn't ever really had to deal with and if MLS continues to try and lure more star players over here, it is a problem that they will have to deal with on a more permanent basis.

Right now, MLS really only has to worry about US players being called up for USMNT matches. Most of the time, these call ups come during the summer and the MLS clubs live through them, playing with different players instead of the US players. Living with might be a strong word, as last year the LA Galaxy themselves showed how bad they were without Landon Donovan and missed the playoffs based on their May/June results. Regardless of this, MLS never really had to worry too much about loosing too many of its players, and with the exception of Donovan and Dempsey (last year) never had to worry about losing its stars due to these call-ups.

Now they do. David Beckham will most certainly be called up for the remaining Euro 2008 qualifiers unless his form in MLS dips so low that he looks like he is 45 instead of 32. Chances are that he will also be called into their friendly matches as well, which means a total of six matches away for England. Those six matches either fall on the same date or around the same date as LA Galaxy matches. For the soccer fans who bought tickets for those six matches, sorry, let me restate that: For the non-soccer fans who bought tickets for those six matches only to see Beckham, they are now stuck with tickets to a regular MLS season match, instead of the Beckham show.

Considering that MLS intends on trying to lure more quality "stars" over to the USA, this is going to be a larger problem than MLS wants to deal with. The clubs themselves are going to really start to cry foul if their superstars and revenue producers are not in uniform for several matches. MLS will have to do something about this and they will have to start with the 2008 season.

The easiest answer will be for MLS to take the international calendar into consideration when they schedule their matches. I can only think of a few leagues world wide that do not halt their regular season when there is a FIFA date scheduled, MLS is one of them though. As we are seeing right now with the Gold Cup saw last season with the World Cup and will see with the Copa America, MLS chugs right along while FIFA has international match dates. MLS is going to have to adapt to this in the future.

A big problem with that is scheduling. Right now, MLS schedules their matches when they can. Several clubs share venues with other non-MLS sports clubs (DC United and the MLB Washington Nationals; New England Revolution and the NFL New England Patriots for example) so trying to schedule their matches around their home ground partner is hard enough for MLS, adding the FIFA dates to ensure that future players will be available will be even tougher, but it is something that they must do now. In the next couple of years, it will become easier as MLS clubs get their own Soccer specific stadiums or are no longer sharing a field with a baseball team. Once MLS gets used to scheduling their season around any FIFA dates, I honestly think they will have yet another reason for players to see MLS as an alternative to over leagues.

Obviously as with MLS operating as a Spring/Summer/Fall league, the scheduling gets worse and worse every time a FIFA regional championship or the World Cup is played. The best answer would be to move the schedule to a Fall/Winter/Spring league which would then mean MLS is only forced to schedule around qualifiers and friendly matches. Most people claim that it is pretty much impossible to have a Winter league in places like New England, Toronto, Denver, Salt Lake, Chicago and other northern cities. I have to say tough. I know that right now, MLS doesn't have the fan base to attract 12,000 fans out to a match at Gillett stadium in December when the wind chill and the snow might make it 10 below zero, but unless MLS is ready to always have to deal with losing the very stars that it is trying to bring over, for months at a time, they will have to come up with a different way to schedule their regular season.

In any case, MLS is going to have to do something about their scheduling when it conflicts with FIFA dates. If MLS really wants to sign players who are regulars for their national teams, then they will have to set up their schedules to allow them to play in both settings, without the conflicts occurring. The reason is that those players salaries are going to be primarily paid for by the club owners, who will lose them when the national team comes calling. If MLs begins to start scheduling around FIFA dates, with next season, this problem will be averted and we might see owners toss even more cash at higher priced players.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

USMNT vs. El Salvador: Starting 11?

Ives Galarcep (one of the top 5 American based soccer writers IMHO) has suggested that the following starting 11 be used tomorrow night in the final group stage match up for the USMNT:


Ives got me thinking and I figured that I should post whom I thought Bob bradley should send out against El Salvador tomorrow night in Foxboro. Here is my starting squad:


Squad selection reasons:

Howard - I think that he is clicking better with the defenders right now. Granted that Keller is a rock and he was playing behind a group of guys he probably just met or have only known for a total of maybe 7 days, I would rather see Howard start. It also wouldn't hurt to keep rotating the two keepers, if that is Bradley's intent.

Onyewu - Honestly, I would rather not start Gooch. Considering that the CONCACAF ref's seem to always see a Tank destroying a VW beetle whenever he is within 3 feet of a player, I am not so certain I would have him come back for tomorrow's match. However, considering my other defensive choices, I feel that Gooch is the only one who can play in the middle.

DeMerit - If we have Gooch starting in the central defense, I feel that the calming play of DeMerit is the only pairing that Bradley could choose. He settled the backline against Guatemala and he was a rock in the back against T&T. he should start again tomorrow night, if nothing else, to help ensure that Gooch doesn't have to put himself into any "Hulk Smash" type of situations.

Simek - I felt that Simek was a much better option on the right than the likes of Frankie Hedjuk. Frankie seemed to be a little too much speed when Simek seemed to have better poise and positioning.

Bocanegra - Here is why Gooch starts. I would rather have Bocanegra and DeMerit in the central defense, but unfortunately, the left defensive position is one that I haven't seen anyone step up in. Bornstein was damn near always getting beat by Guatemala and Spector really didn't show me that left defense is his spot. Spector plays right wing for West Ham, so I suppose I could have him in for Simek, but I still feel better with Simek on the field than I do with Spector.

Feilhaber - He needs to be on the field. His play overall has been one of the better points of the tournament so far. I think he will have a better chance of creating more chances for the wingers and forwards as the tournament goes on. I also think that he will have a better chance at creating chances with Clark working behind him.

Clark - With the last match at hand, 1 point is really all the USA needs to secure 1st place in Group B, so why not have Clark out there? He is a wonderful defensive midfielder and can help ensure that Gooch doesn't have to be put into any situations that require him to wipe out an El Salvadorian forward. He showed Saturday that he can also move forward and get involved in the offense. I also would rather have Michael Bradley get some rest for the Quarter Final match later this week.

Beasley - He has shown over the last two matches (that he has played in) that he is back in form. Having Beasley and Deuce run the wings gives the USA alot more speed and creativity. Beasley's creativity is the only reason why I say start him over Mapp. Mapp had a great game on Saturday, but I think Beasley edges him.

Deuce - Because he should start. The only other guy I would consider for right wing would be Donovan, who I think should start up front.

Donovan - Yes, at the beginning of the year I didn't like the idea of Donovan playing forward. I never thought I would come around, but I have. The reason is so that we can get two of the most creative guys on the field at the same time: Donovan and Deuce. Having Donovan play a withdrawn forward role give the USA an other creative force in the attack and a guy who can switch on the afterburners like he did against Mexico in February and as he did Saturday.

Twellman - The biggest reason I think Twellman should start over Ching or EJ is because I think that he works much better with Donovan and Deuce. His play off those two guys creates chances. EJ still hasn't sold me that he has really found the goal (Donovan gifted him an open goal on Saturday) and Ching really didn't show me that much on Saturday. I think that Twellman gives the US attack a better creative chance, rather than a guy who is just a target.

Well, there is my squad. I would have EJ and Ching waiting for second half subs. EJ to use his speed against an El Salvadorian side that will probably get run around and Ching to be the target guy against a defense that is way too tired to jump.

I just hope that we get out of the match with 1 point, no injuries and no cards.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Match Recap: DC United 4 - 2 Red Bull New York

I have to tell you, I was actually worried going into this match today.

Yeah, in years past, a match against RBNY would have been a time of celebration and many a beer to drank and tossed in the air. RBNY for the last few years had been DC United's bitch. well, despite today's result, RBNY took a huge step closer towards removing that title today.

RBNY has been playing some very, very good soccer lately and as United's form hasn't been that stellar, I was actually expecting a loss today. I expected to see Reyna carve up our defense and Angel give Erpen so many fits that he either lost it or lost it. Boy was I glad that I was wrong.

Here are a few observations:

-Juan Pablo Angel is a machine. That guy is probably the best acquisition that Red Bull has made since they bought the NY club. He was always making dangerous runs and causing the two United defenders covering him fits. Granted his goal at the end of the match saw pretty soft due to United being incredibly lax on getting back into form for the restart, he still showed over the whole game that he was going to score. That guy is money.

- Boswell and the Red Card Vacation. Well, Bozilla has an MLS sponsored 1 match minimum vacation due to his two yellow cards today. His first card was pretty stupid and his second card I really don't think he deserved. Brian hall is IMHO the worst ref in MLS. he will make questionable call after questionable call throughout a match. Does that make up for Bobby getting a red card? No, good players and good teams must adapt t o how refs are calling matches, not bitch and whine about it. The bitching and whining is what we bloggers are here for, the players are here to play the games. I just don't know who we will have in central defense this Saturday.

- Benny. Congrates on your first ever Hat trick. each goal was a great one. Maybe you should be on the USMNT roster? Copa America?

- Fred. That guy keeps getting better and better as the season moves on. I cannot wait to see how he does as the season progresses. His play with Gomez and Emillio is amazing.

Over all, I am happy with today's match. It was one of the better matches that United has played in the MLS season. Our defense stepped up and contained one of the most dangerous strikers in the league and only allowed him to score once the result was no longer in doubt. Troy had another stellar match in goal. Gomez and Moreno played great, especially when we were down to 10 men.

Next week we have Chicago who is in a huge rut right now, but always brings it when they play United. We have a major dilemma in central defense as the one guy who usually covers for Erpen and his gaffs is probably going to drinking beers in Barra Brava. Tom Soehn has alot to do over the next 6 days.

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CONCACAF Officiating: Horrible

So I waited until today to jot down my thoughts from the second of three first round matches in the Gold Cup. The USA won 2-0 yesterday over T&T from goals by Brian Ching and Eddie Johnson. Unfortunately, yesterday's match was more of the same crap I saw Thursday night. The officiating was again horrendous, the US team itself was just good enough to win and the FSC production crew were terrible.

The USA played essentially an entirely different squad against T&T from the one that played Guatemala but the same problems were showing up in this match as the Thursday night match. Our passes were either too soft or they were off target, our play off the ball was lacking and our attempts at finishing were pretty poor (including Ching's goal).

After watching the entire match, I came away with some positives, but not many. Justin Mapp proved that he belongs on this team. He was alive and always running and trying to get into open positions. He and Beasley are going to have a good fight for that left midfielder spot. Kasey Keller was Kasey Keller. He was a rock in the back and didn't give up many gaffes. The only other real positive I saw was the combined play of Donovan and Twellman once Twellman came on. Those two played well off of each other and the T&T defenders were having fits with them. Was that due to the T&T defenders being worn out? I am not sure, but I liked what I saw and having them start up front in the next match wouldn't be a bad idea.

The FSC crew...well, they really need to learn that the live action on teh field is what they need to show. Having the camera show the coaches as a guy is streaking up the sideline with the ball, or just showing the goalkeeper when a free kick is being taken, neither are what the viewers want to see. Please, get the rest of the matches right.

Now for the officiating. After the Thursday night match, I was upset at how the CONCACAF crew handled the match. I felt that they really didn't have a grasp as to what they were supposed to be calling. Some times the ref would decide that a tackle was earth shattering, but a similar one two minutes later was nothing. They got the cards right in the first match, so don't get me wrong, but the ref was utterly hopeless in calling an even match. Then in the second match yesterday, the far linesman was consistent...consistent in failing to correctly call a player offsides. There were three separate times where Eddie Johnson was called offsides, two of them a T&T players was dead even with him. It got to the point where I gave up anytime we had the ball, I figured we would be called offsides.

I was beginning to think that there was some massive conspiracy going on against the USA, which there might be (if there is, they need to get over it and just continue to score goals). However, after attending today's MLS match at RFK between DC United & Red Bull New York, I am beginning to believe that the actual problem is the CONCACAF officiating in general. Today there were too many offsides calls when the player was dead even with a defender as the ball was played, yet he was called offsides. There were too many calls ignored, just to be called at a different time. Based on the officiating I have seen over this season and in the Gold Cup, I would have to say that when you compare the CONCACAF crews to the UEFA crews, there is a huge difference. The UEFA crews call better matches. Bundesliga, La Liga, EPL, Serie A, UEFA matches, they all call better matches with the calls down the line. Is it really a wonder why FIFA did not call in any CONCACAF refs for the World Cup last year?

My thinking on this is that as a region, this is yet an other gripe fans will have with CONCACAF and an other gripe that will be ignored by Jack Warner because it isn't something that will make him money to look into. However, I think that this is an issue that might actually see some level of change, as the USSF has decided to hire full time refs, and as they will get more and more proper training, one can hope that they will use that better training to actually make better calls in their matches.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Match Recap: USA 1 - 0 Guatemala

I haven't felt this bad after a USA win...ever.

That was one horrible match tonight. The officiating was awful. The play of the USA was deplorable. The Guatemalans were completely gutless and the FSC production staff should be taken out back and shot.

First off, the officiating was awful. The referee practically did everything that he could to get a result for Guatemala. I am not saying that the cards he gave out to the USA players were wrong; they weren't. Hejduk had a WWE headlock on the Guatemalan player that he took down, so he deserved a yellow card. Gooches first yellow was a little soft, but everything that Gooch does looks like he is breaking bones, so the ref probably felt that he needed to card him. His second yellow was stupid. Bocanegra's card was a soft one, but by the rules, he deserved it.

My biggest complaint was how the ref really failed to make the same calls against the Guatemalans. There were four or five times when Beasley was laid out and the ref never even looked twice at him. Carlos Ruiz (who I utterly fucking hate now) took out Gooch and Bocanegra so many times, that I lost count. The ref should not be allowed to ref again.

With the two following exceptions: the goal and Tim Howard's play, the rest of the USA looked like they had just been put together 20 minutes before the match started. Where was the side that took it to Ecuador? How about the side that took everything that Mexico threw at them? How about the group that served China four goals? The goal was very nice; Beasley with the header pass and Twellman with the instinct to pounce and pass. But he rest of the match was pretty bad. The funny thing is, it got worse once Guatemala opened up and stopped putting 10 guys behind the ball.

Uh, hello!? Did the USA fail to say that the Eddie Johnson who has 9 goals in MLS was the one who was called up and not the shitty forward of last year? How many times do I have to see that guy pass the ball? He is a fucking forward, his sole mission is to try to get shots on the goal. He barely had one shot on goal. When he had chances to actually take a chance on goal, he looked for a way to pass the ball away.

What the hell happened to our backline? I gave up on Bornstein around the 40th minute mark and Hejduk really didn't show me that much either. I would rather see DeMerit and Simek get starts on Saturday...oh wait, one of them will have to start, Gooch has to sit the match out. Howard did well, evern though there were several shakey moments in the second half by his defenders. I am hoping that the guys give Keller a better ride on Saturday.

So, the USA came out and finally scored against Guatemala in 2007. I am happy that they were able to do that. I am extremely unhappy at how they played. I really hope that Nowak has the guys running laps around the stadium right now. I am not sure if T&T will come out with the same game plan as Guatemala did (they should, as Guatemala has pretty much shown twice that it really does work) and bunker and hassel the players. Regardless of how T&T comes out, the USA has got to get their act together. The passing out of the midfield needs to be crisper and more accurate. The defenders need to get better support form the midfield in linking up together. I would say about 10 minutes of the match tonight was wasted by the defenders passing between themselves as they tried to get a midfielder to come back and help link up the attack. I want to see the midfield that we had against Ecuador and China. The midfield that showed up tonight, they can go home.

In a parting note, I would like to say that FSC has got some of the worst camera men and producers in the sports business. There were at least 4 different times when the camera was focused on the Guatemalan coach and not the match, yet we here the FSC announcers calling out a play, 2 of them were right at the goals. They have two days now, maybe they should borrow some tapes from ESPN and watch how to produce a proper soccer match.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

USMNT Recap: USA 4 - 1 China

Well, that was a better result than the Guatemala match.

Considering the opponent and the make up of our side, I am happy with the result. We got several starters back on a scoring trend and were able to get two goals off of set pieces, which we need to continue doing. I wasn't too thrilled with some of our passing and our defensive play which lead to the lone Chinese goal. Our defenders didn't look like they really wanted to clear the ball and it came back to bite them in the ass.

Over all, the better side won the match. We had much better possession and passing overall, but some of our passes looked a little daft. I liked how Feilhaber did in the midfield and I liked how Deuce and Beasley worked on the attack.

I am hoping that Bob will take the defense aside and get them to work on their clearances as I honestly think that was their only problem. Other than that, there isn't much to be pointing out. Deuce and Gooch had great header goals and I fully expect to see more goals from set pieces in the next few matches.

The USA starts the Gold Cup this Thursday at HDC against Guatemala, here's hoping that the Guatemalans actually try and play the game and we get to score on them.


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