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Archive for October, 2009

It’s been almost 48 hours since the US’s improbable tie against Costa Rica and in a concerted effort to let it stew for a while before providing some reflection, here it is. (Ha, really just being lazy)

In the realm of qualifying for South Africa, the only real implication it had was this….
Awesome video and a great moment for Honduras; congrats on your first visit to the dance since 1982, courtesy of…Jonathan Borenstein.
In the realm of how the US team qualified, and in light of recent events, it was an excellent result and well deserved.
The team was clearly a little shook from the get go, with the only real spark coming from Jozy Altidore, who clearly wanted to score and honor his boy Charlie Davies. He provided a gilt edged chance to Game 9 hero, Conor Casey, in the infamous 9th minute but Casey could not deliver. From then on Altidore was busting his ass to get in position to score and came close a few times but just seemed unable to gain any composure when it came time. That performance showed again why he is considered such a promising young American though and he is my American Man of the Match.
The combination of size and speed and vision is unseen in an American Striker. Hopefully he can gain some playing time at Hull City and refine some of the finer points of his game moving towards next summer. Phil Brown thinks he will get his chances as the EPL unfolds.
The pressure on Altidore only intensifies with Davies likely to miss the WC now. Hopefully he can gain some inspiration from Davies, as he seemed to do on Wednesday night. There is also the question of who takes Davies spot, I will try to address in the next few days.
Moving to his strike partner, Conor Casey did not take his chances as effectively on Wednesday as he did last Saturday. It’s unfortunate b/c that is how he is effective. Every now and then he will provide a random nice flick but if he’s not finishing when the opportunities present himself, he isn’t the solution for BB. His touch and his finishing were both lacking in DC and it was nice to see Bradley give Kenny Cooper a chance in the 72′, although I would have like to see it a few minutes earlier.
Cooper will get a chance to refine his form this winter though as he seems to have a solid role at Bundesliga.2 club 1860 Munich. I think he deserves to get chances during the warm up friendlies and, barring a disaster, probably a squad spot in SA.
BB’s sub which was probably the difference maker was the introduction of Jose Francisco Torres in the 62′. He hasn’t gotten many chances since the early rounds of the hex but he finally got some time and made the most of it. He looks very comfortable on the ball, at multiple speeds and has great long range passing vision/accuracy. Something that is sorely lacking from many of the US midfielders. He also puts great pace on his crosses and that corner kick for Borenstein was perfectly placed.
He replaced Benny Feilhaber, who underwhelmed against Costa Rica. I am as big a fan of his style of play as you will find but sometimes he seems to try to do too much…call it Dempsey syndrome…and he ends up giving it away. I love his vision and calm nature on the ball though, maybe he can be flexed to the RM role much more effectively than Torres.
I thought Michael Bradley played well once again and love his forward thinking play. He also distributes the ball pretty well and isn’t afraid to get into the fray. His eye for goal is also key as we haven’t seen goals come from the CM role for the US in a long while….John Harkes anyone?
Donovan once again proved to be dangerous with the ball although sometimes his touch deserts him. This can be brutal when playing the highest level teams who will make the US earn all their possession and make as much out of each one as possible. He also seems to have only one playing speed….full steam ahead, he’s gotta develop that intermediate role and look to spray the ball a little further.
Stuart Holden looked okay and I thought Robbie Rogers introduction in the 68′ was a definite spark. His pace late in the game is enough to make any LB a little nervous after the 70′.
What seems to be lacking for the US is quality service though. Crosses drift over the cross bar or are floated in there way too often. Opposing GKs have a field day with them and its a total waste of possession.
In the defensive third, the Onyewu injury will hurt, especially if he can’t find time to get back into match fitness/form before South Africa. What looked to be a promising year for the American Center Back has now turned into a trying 3-4 month recovery period. He did get absolutely abused on that first CR goal though.
Bocanegra was solid but seems to have problems closing on the ball and often gives up these long range bombs that leave Howard out to dry. That first goal was a beauty but someones got to be in his face as soon before he even looks tempted to shoot. How the central of defense adjusts to his absence will be interesting to watch as the US starts playing these warm up friendlies (the first one against also-qualified Denmark on 11/18 in Aarhus).
Borenstein showed some real heart in the LB role and that goal was an awesome way to cap it all off. He likes to get into the mix too and is aggressive going forward but lacks that final ball into the box.
On the other side, Cherundolo was decent but nothing worth noting other than the fact that he got beat with pace a bunch. The two wide fullback roles are still major ?s.
More on the squad moving forward coming up next….
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UPDATE: This blog is providing excellent status updates.

It is with a suddenly emotional match tomorrow night in Washington DC that the US finishes their qualifying campaign for the 2010 WC.

Taking into account the fact that they have secured qualification and today’s frightening development, let’s keep tomorrow’s game in perspective. While finishing the CONCACAF qualifying hexagon in first would be a great finish to what has to be considered a successful summer of preparation and would probably carry some weight in Dec 4th’s draw, this team will have larger questions weighing on their mind.

This is not to say that they will roll over. It is a chance for a player, or a few, to take a leadership role and decide how the team will respond.

I am not going to get into specifics now but watch how they respond as a team.

Keep Charlie Davies in your positive thoughts for the next few days.

He’s getting crazy love in the twitter-verse.

This AP link from the top will probably give the most reliable status updates as fast as anything.

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It’s a good thing I didn’t write that final preview for the US v Honduras game as it definitely would not have come close to foreshadowing that type of result. Overall it seemed more like Honduras were intimidated at home and the US was able to capitalize when opportunities presented themselves.

I though the inclusion of Stuart Holden worked out pretty well, as he showed flashes down the right hand side and defended pretty. His handball late could have been disastrous but he got lucky. Hopefully he this valuable experience helps him to keep improving. His service from the right is more often than not, exceptional.

Speaking of which, a great ball into Charlie Davies midway through the first half really should have been finished. Improving as a striker means those are the chances that must be taken calmly. Davies didn’t seem to be a threat at any other time although his pace clearly makes opposing defenders nervous.

His striker partner, the surprising inclusion, Conor Casey is the headline stealer as the US secured their 6th World Cup birth in a row. Never a threat with the ball at his feet but who can argue with two goals. The first one is the type I hate as it reinforces that kick and pray type of soccer which is so often associated with Americans. It is rarely effective and Casey got lucky that the Honduran GK was indecisive enough to allow him to get there first. The second goal was the product of a great ball from Donovan but did require a clinical finish; never underestimate the importance of clinical finishing from a striker and this is was Casey brings to the game. He will not create chances on his own but give him a chance and he is excellent at finishing.

Speaking of Landon Donovan, the Man of the Match IMO, for the US. He is the energy and vision going forward and he seems to be embracing the role of offensive leader for this team. As Donovan goes, so goes the US. His free kick, which turned out to be the game winner, was a blast but benefited slightly from more suspect Honduran GK’ing. His celebrations could also use some work, maybe talk to Davies and Altidore about that buddy. Will he get a shot to make a move to Europe in Jan? Does he want to? It might serve him well going into next summer but his form is so good right now that I am not sure you want to make such a drastic move.

Michael Bradley wasn’t present for much of the game but did make some very good runs going forward. He also has a wicked right foot and isn’t afraid to take his chances from outside the box, something you have to like to see.

Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Borenstein both provided some quality going forward, an important part of helping cohesive forward progress, but were definitely suspect in the back. I like the potential that Spector brings but his final ball never seems to be on the mark or direct enough. Borenstein sometimes seems to get lost out there and while I like his desire, he still has a way to go before being a threat.

In the center, Carlos Bocanegra was a beast. He was in position and came up with multiple key blocks. Maybe his role for the US is in the center but only if BB can find a valid solution on the left I think. Edgar Castillo, donde esta?

Oguchi Onyewu didn’t seem to be at his best. From an early turnover followed immediately by a bad foul, his lack of playing time in Milan seems to be hurting. He did get in during Milan’s latest CL debacle so hopefully that is a sign of things to come. His form going into next summer is as important as anyone in the back.

Overall it was an excellent way to guarantee a place next summer and avoided the must-win scenario that wouldn’t be fun for anyone on Wednesday. The next step is putting together a win on Wednesday in DC, guaranteeing first place in the CONCACAF hexagonal stage, and making their case for being in one of the top 2 pools for the WC draw.

For those of you who didn’t get to see any of the game….

US vs Honduras Highlights – 10/10/09

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Yo man, I think BB reads my fcking blog!!!! Yea right, lets not get out of hand here…but in a twist of events, Clint Dempsey has been ruled out with a Shoulder and taking his spot is USMNT classic/I Fischi favorite, Mr. Frankie Hejduk.

Personally, in Honduras, I think Hejduk should get the starting nod at RB. How can age trump experience, fitness, and the leadership he brings? Spector may be the future but this game requires points so BB should put forth the team that gives him the best chance.

Dempsey being out raises and interesting question about who will take his spot in the midfield. Personally, I think it immediately opens the door for Stuart Holden.
He has had a great summer and seems to be the sole beneficiary of the US’s Gold Cup run. BB has taken a liking to him and gave him an oppt in the last two qualifiers.
Also the chance that he opens up with Feilhaber on the right side, although I think he is more natural in the center, or Jose Torres, although he hasn’t proven too much lately.
Something useful beyond a roster release has come out of USSoccer.com, a CONCACAF hexagonal scenario generator. What it comes down to is that the US needs to get at least a point in Honduras. Costa Rica has to beat T&T if they want a shot at auto qualification and that should be fairly simple. If the US gets beat on Saturday night, it will make the final game next Wed. way more nervous than anyone wants.
Check back later this week for final pre-game thoughts.

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Coming Back -> etc

After a prolonged absence from posting, here is an attempt at a return post.

If you weren’t able to tell, September of the year before a World Cup is a crazy time in the world of soccer. From all the continental leagues starting, to World Cup qualifying breaks, to CL Group stages kicking off, to the U20 World Cup beginning; it’s a monster month for the sport and impossible to keep up with unless you have the luxury of doing this for a living. It is with that in mind that I am making a bit of a change to this blog.
The focus of I Fischi from here on out will be the US Men’s National Team; it is the team that I am most passionate about/which I feel I am most knowledgeable about and can therefore contribute the most. As they do not play that often, there will be bits and pieces about any other Soccer I feel like writing about. That’s it.
US WCQ Update
Moving on, the US resumes qualifying a week from tomorrow in San Pedro Sula, Honduras against…naturally…Honduras. The full 22 man roster was released yesterday and can be found here, this also applies to the final qualifying match against Costa Rica on 10/14 in DC.
It seems that Stuart Holden has taken over Freddy Adu’s bench spot. An interesting turn of events for one of America’s all time overhyped athletes, although the kid does a great job of keeping his head on straight and working hard….at least his Twitter makes it seem like that. Ha.
No major surprise inclusions although it should be noted that Jay Demerit was left out due to a recent eye injury which has developed into an infection. He has been replaced by the 6’4” Clarence Goodson.
There is still no sign of Frankie Hejduk since his 87′ game saving goal in El Salvador. A little unfortunate considering the energy and veteran leadership he brings to this team. Not to mention the shaky situation in the back.
I am also dissapointed that BB didn’t choose this opportunity to at least bring the recently defected Edgar Castillo into camp.
A quick note….Edgar Castillo is a 22 y/o Mexican left back who has taken advantage of a recently changed FIFA ruling that loosens the restrictions on switching Nat’l Team affiliations. Since he never been capped for the Mexican Sr side, he was allowed to file paper work and become a member of the American squad regardless of his age. Previously the cutoff to declare was 21 y/o. Having been born in Las Cruces, NM to Mexican parental units, he is a natural American. Jermaine Jones is in a similar situation but in the midst of an extended injury absence.

Castillo provides another possible solution at Left Back for the US and you can naturally see why BB wouldn’t at least include him in camp to see how he would mesh with the rest of the squad. Come on BB, Edgar could be the best LB on the roster by next summer and with meaningful competition nearing its end, he should have at least been brought to camp.

Now that most of the American’s are well into their European campaigns, it will be interesting to see how they all come together for this key matchup. As we have seen, these Central American countries are very difficult places to play on the road. Adding to that, Honduras is currently in the 3rd and final guaranteed spot in CONCACAF having 13 pts from 8 matches, only 1 ahead of Costa Rica. Being the 4th place team means a home and home with the 5th place team from South America, a spot which could very well be an Argentinian squad which no one wants to face, no matter how badly they are struggling. Of the top 4 teams, in order, US, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica….none are in danger of missing out entirely but one of them will be forced to play for that final spot. With a W, the US rule that out…with an L, they are very much in the mix going into the final game against Costa Rica.
Every road trip the US has taken in this qualifying campaign has seen them put forth a poor performance. Whether it was a 1 goal victory against lowly T&T, a terrible performance at that Saprissa in CR, or a luckily salvaged tie in El Salvador this team has consistently failed to be at their best on the road. Whether its a lack of a vocal veteran presence or the pack the back and kick it forward coaching tactics which BB and co seem to resort to on the road, they need to put in a better performance next week. A tie would be acceptable, albeit not ideal, but a loss would put way too much pressure on themselves.
Some more commentary on the match itself coming later next week.
On another note, apparently this match will only be on closed circuit TV in the US. SeriouslY?! WTF? SUM? ESPN? GOLTV? FSC? Whoever dropped the ball clearly shit the bed here. Are we in 1983? this is absurd. For a list of locations (read: bars) showing the US v Honduras World Cup Qualifier on 10/10/09, click here. Apparently there is also a viewing party at the Play by Play bar inside MSG here in NYC, tickets are $20 (prior to stupid TicketMaster surchage) and are currently onsale. Details.
US U20
A few brief notes on the US Men’s U20 World Cup campaign in Egypt. I didn’t watch much besides the South Korea match today but the results are very schizo. Apparently they were totally outclassed by the Germans in the opener which was followed up by an excellent 4-1 win against Cameron and then today’s 3-0 defeat to S Korea. All is not lost as apparently a few of the top 3rd place group teams make the knockout round but they will have to wait till group play wraps up tomorrow to find out for sure.
In years past, players like Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore have impressed the world and shown that at this level at least the US can compete with the world. No one in this class seems to have stepped up yet, although you never know what might happen. + I hear some good things about this kid Dilly Duka out of Montville, NJ.
Overall I think there are some issues with the talent development model in this country but that can be saved for another post.
This Weekend & Randoms
Not a great weekend in the EPL but Sunday morning brings us a delicious Liverpool v Chelsea matchup at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea started on fire but lost at Wigan last week while Liverpool took some time to get on track but have been firing away in the EPL the last few weeks. Both are coming off subpar midweek CL results, a L/absolute drubbing in Florence for the Reds and a measley 1-0 win in Romania (i think) for the Blues. Liverpool is the team which ended Chelsea’s 80-something home match unbeaten streak last season and has the confidence to know they can win. Can the recover from their poor midweek showing against a Chelsea team eager to get back to winning league games? 11 AM, Sunday AM, FSC. Watch.
A sickkkkkkk goal scored by a HS kid from Westport, CT. Credit to his coach, my friend and burgeoning mentor, Dan Woog.

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