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Archive for the ‘Confederations Cup’ Category

With the French national team and their penchant providing consistent media fodder as the World Cup approaches the 45 day mark (tomorrow), I thought it would be a good time to pay the tournament some attention here.  It’s also a rainy Monday, and what better way to break that up then with some sweet World Cup YouTubing.

ESPN World Cup Commercials

ESPN released a new commercial late last week in order to continue building hype and excitement around the event….it does a way better job than I ever could….

Wasn’t that fun everyone? Despite the use of Bono, I can’t help but get some goosebumps from that.

There is also this one touting Martin Tyler’s joining of ESPN from a few months ago, a little more soccer centric, so it’s coolness takes on a bit of a separate tone…

America

Moving into a more locally focused video…some amateur American filmmakers have put together a multi-part documentary focused on Soccer in America, specifically the US Men’s Team and the road they have taken to get to South Africa. It is thorough in its coverage and does a great job of providing a snap shot of the passionate subculture of the wildly enthusiastic fan contingent known as Sam’s Army.

The production quality is very high for a YouTube only release (as far as I know) and definitely worth the 7 minutes.

Despite their shortcomings, this first episode will remind you that, if healthy, this team can beat anyone out there over the course of 90 minutes…anyone that is, except Brazil.

That’s it for video today but there have been some other interesting old fashioned written pieces out there over the course of the day.

Charlie Davies update

The NYTimes Jeffrey Marcus takes a look at Charlie Davies recovery progress and where his World Cup chances stand. We are only about 3 weeks away from Bob Bradley’s final 30 man camp in Princeton, NJ and if Davies can get the call to that then it must be seen as a good sign regarding his chances.

To be blunt though, there are other American strikers out there making an impact who could push him out due to lack of playing time (always considered an important Bradley factor).  Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle have been lighting up the Mexican Clasura and MLS respectively and could push an out of shape Davies from consideration.

I do think Davies deserves a shot, at least in that camp and then leave it up to the coaching staff to evaluate him.  He has shown too much ability and understanding with Altidore to be left from consideration.  I think Bradley is as anxious as the rest of us to see how he has progressed.

Additionally, according to his Twitter feed, he has resumed full training w/the club.  Despite the club’s statement last week that he will not be ready to play again this season, this is an excellent sign as getting in full speed work puts him in better position heading into that May USMNT camp (if he gets an invite.

Freddy Adu? Unlikely

Grant Wahl had an excellent piece in the April 19th issue of SI on Freddy Adu and what has kept him from taking that next step. The sources he quotes are very insightful and cover a wide array of people who have been close to Adu’s journey.  Definitely worth a read.

That’s all for now, but I will keep posting the Road to South Africa videos from YouTube.  However, this week my focus is turning to the 2nd leg of the CL semi-finals.  Visca el barca.

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A good friend of mine says that a 2 0 lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey. Yesterday it also proved to be disastrous for the the US National Team. At halftime, their fortune was an exact 180 from the prior Sunday’s final group game against Egypt. They went from a match that seemed to be a formality to being up 2-0 in a final with only 45 minutes to play against one of the top 3 teams in the world.

Unfortunately, that 2-0 lead was turned into 2-1 lead within the first 40 seconds of the second half. A turning point so obvious that in the midst of the Yankees sweep last night, Joe Morgan himself (oblivious to even his own career) shared with us that he thought the goal just after the half was when their fortunes changed.

From that point on the US was under constant attack from Brazil and the 2nd and 3rd goals really only seemed to be a formality. Some overall thoughts from the game and the tournament…

Skip

BB did a great job of instilling a never say die attitude in his team after 2 disastrous group stage games. He prepared them impeccably for the Spain game, in which they outplayed and outmatched the undisputed #1 team in the world to that point. He had them believing in themselves for the first half against Brazil when they did a good job of sticking to their guns, accepting they would have less possession but being responsible when they did get the ball.

My issues surround the subsitutions he made in the 75th min, Bornstein and Sacha (I belong here) Kljestan for Feilhaber and Altidore. Both were probably too tired to be 100% effective but they had an idea for the flow of the game and what Brazil was bringing, while Kljestan especially has never been in a game of this importance and looked entirely out of his element.
This could relate to BB’s questionable squad choices all along. Why are you carrying only 1 true defensive midfielder, especially if you planned on going all ‘pack the back’ when getting a lead. Why carry so many defenders and not include a hard nosed guy like Pablo Mastroeni who you could slot in if Clark got a Red Card or you needed to go more defensive.
He also seemed content in just clearing the ball and conceding possession for the whole 2nd half instead of making any effort at forming an attack or even just holding some possession.
This all being said, I think (qualification pending) BB has earned himself the right to coach the US in their return trip to South Africa next summer. He’s got a good core of like 13 guys who deserve to start or be a first choice sub; let’s hope he adds to that with some experience and insurance for those key defensive/midfielder roles.
His Gold Cup selections are also a little experimental but the first choice guys definitely deserve a break after most played long European Seasons and a full slate of Confed Cup games. More on that in the leadup to the opener on July 4th.
On the field…

Landon Donovan is clearly the winner of my highly anticipated (he told me played extra hard for this accolade alone) AotT Award (American of the Tournament). He played hard, never stopped running, was integral to the build up and provided a great finish to that 2nd goal, and basically led by example through the entire tournament. This is a major step for him and it comes with greater weight being added to his shoulders going into the WC. His reaction to the loss is also what I like to see…
“What is respect? Respect doesn’t mean anything. If we lose our next two qualifiers, nobody cares about respect. We need to get to the point where we’re winning in these kind of tournaments.”

Pedro Martinez-esque.

Hopefully he can parlay this success into another attempt with a European team in the buildup to next summer.

Tim Howard made a late run with a brilliant game yesterday but nevertheless, they lost, he let in 3 goals and the sense that he was slightly off earlier in the tournament prevented this. 9 saves on 31 shots is excellent but his response to the game was a little too, “o well” for my liking. Overall, the US should be pumped to have him back there for the foreseeable future…when he’s good, he is as good as any GK in the world.
Feilhaber does well with the ball but I think he does better playing a more forward position than just slotting in for Bradley who is relied on for a more Box to Box role.
Charlie Davies necessary maturation has seemingly already begun. His final ball to Donovan on the 2nd goal yesterday was perfect and I couldn’t help but worry when it came to him that he was going to try to go 1 on 1 and lose the ball. Field vision is key if you are going to be part of a striker pairing and he seems to be developing it.
When he is front of goal with the opportunity to score it seems like Clint Dempsey just plays with more passion. He continued to get too fancy when relegated to the RM/RAM role yesterday and was eliminated from the game after the first half.
As mentioned earlier, Sacha (I am a hipster) Kljestan, is not ready for the National Team yet. He had a good year up to this point and the potential is there but he needs to improve vastly before contributing on the international stage. Also, I doubt him purely for the fact that he seems to be a hipster and from experience I know they can’t play this sport.
Michael Bradley was sorely missed. There is no one else in the US pool right now that has his ability to be a true CM. Offensive ability, aggressive on D, vision with the ball and a desire to have it at his feet.
Confed Cup Lookback

Dear Disney/ABC/ESPN…
Please please please do not employ JP Dellacamera and John Harkes any longer. John Harkes sounds senile and bitter from the booth, often reflecting and longing for his own playing days and providing only the most inane insights into life on the team. He does make occasional good points about the flow of the game but for the most part is just a bore. Dellacamera is intermittent in his commentating and his lack of knowledge of the game is at best, hidden behind Harkes.
Overall it was a great showing from the US team. Two early/demoralizing defeats, followed by a great W and some necessary luck, followed by a brilliant showing against the top team in the world and a hallmark win for US Soccer, and closed with a great run at another huge upset. The experience of even playing in the final will be incredibly valuable for the core of this team moving forward. A win would probably have set the bar too high for next summer and resulted dissapointment, so it’s important for the entire US Soccer establishment to learn from this and utilize it as they continue to try and make that leap to Soccer powerhouse.
Others views…

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Some video reaction from the players on Wednesday’s win.

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Spain Vs United States Highlights 6/24

Quick thoughts…
Tim Howard showed why so many consider him one of the top GKs in the Premier League and therefore the world at this time. Quick off his line, aggressive and accurate in the air, and constantly in great position to make big save after big save.
Bocanegra on the left was a brilliant move by BB. It is the best solution at this time as it allows the US to get their best defensive players on the field at once. Onyewu was a stud and as I said has really developed the instincts and mental clarity needed to be a world class Center Back…this should do wonders for this imminent transfer. Borenstein has potential but he doesn’t bring enough offensive ability to justify the defensive dropoff.
Dempsey probably played his best game of the tournament so far but still think that when he’s playing as a striker, even if its slightly deeper than Jozy, is when he’s most effective. It also allows Feilhaber to get on the field, and I can’t recall an American who seems so natural and controlled with the ball at his feet.
Jozy played very well and I hoped that playing against the nation where he plays his club soccer would inspire him to put forth maximum effort and it seemd to do so. His play to get in position for the goal was brilliant and while he got a little lucky with the shot as it was almost right at Casillas, he did have him going the other direction.
Charlie Davies and his speed cause problems for opposing defenses but he needs time to mature and develop a better sense of the where he/his teammates are on the field. Starting him though, and then making that ~60th min change to Feilhaber on the right and Dempsey up front is an option I like though.
Spector has shown a lot this tournament and while I still like Hejduk back there for the time being, the future is bright and clear at the RB position for the US.
While it’s always unfortunate to see someone go down hurt, Bocanegra in this case, I am really happy that Jay Demerit finally got a big chance (READ THIS ARTICLE FROM SI IN ’06). He plays as hard as anyone out there and brings an aggressiveness to this backline that only improves this team.
Landon Donovan has been a sparkplug for this team and hopefully he understands how important he is to this team. Performing in CONCACAF qualifying is one thing but finally he didn’t disappear on a huge stage.
Michael Bradley’s Red Card was absurd….honestly, that was fcking bullshit. The ref had it out for the American’s all night it seemed and that really just confirmed it. Sometimes I think referees from classic soccer nations get upset when the American’s play well and then decide it’s their own job to show them up somehow. It’s a disgrace and hopefully FIFA looks at it and accepts some sort of appeal. He didn’t come in late, with two feet, cleats up, or with any malicious intent…..where’s the red card??? Please….tell me??
GFY Jorge Larrionda from Uruguay
Others thoughts…

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Sorry for the delay with this reaction. Fathers Day, the USOpen ending on Monday, and actual work all pushed this back…in the interest of time, I have combined reaction with a brief look at the US v Spain Semi Final tomorrow at 2:30 (see it live on ESPN or DVR it)

Just when everyone was ready to send BB back to the MLS and make snide comments about the staet of American soccer, they put together an incredibly gutsy performance which included 3 (yes…3!) goals from the run of play.
Egypt, who looked to be coming into the role of WC dark horse, looked sluggish and was entirely outplayed by the US. Whether they were up to it or not can be argued, but their impressive performances against same powerhouses who dismantled the US, cannot be understated.
Player thoughts…
It is too bad Jonathan Spector and Frankie Hejduk both play right back; Spector has really come into his own over the past two months. He is showing a great combination of willingness to get into attack and make the effort to get back on defense; his defending will only improve with experience. His crosses still go wayward occasionally but that ball on Dempsey’s header was perfect. Spector seems to be a little more polished, confident and smooth than Borenstein on the other side.
Speaking of Clint Dempsey, he seemed to be uninterested in both attacking and defending when put on the wing opposite Donovan. He was giving the ball away again and just loafing around. Switch him to the striker role though and he immediately sprang to life; maybe this is where he would serve the team best…pair him with Altidore up top and see what happens. What makes this slightly interesting is that FIFA’s “Castrol Index” has Dempsey ranked in the top 4 midfielders of the tournament. The accuracy of something like this is obviously questionable, but the idea is interesting.
Dempsey’s counterpart out wide, Landon Donovan, is probably the player of the tournament so far for the Americans. He has discovered a fondness for having the ball at his feet and has showed no fear in running at the opposition, just stop being so concentrated on playing provider and take a chance on goal every now and then.
I thought Charlie Davies experiment worked well, his energy and pace causes trouble for defenses and his goal was very well taken. Some luck was needed, but he stayed with the play and deserved the lucky bounce. His inexperience showed slightly as he is always looking to shoot but he has the potential to improve vastly.
Michael Bradley is one of two other players who could make a case for American player of the tournament thus far. He must cut down on bad fouls but does a great job providing from the middle, has great vision (on both long and short balls), causes trouble when pushing forward, and does a very good job when given chances in the box; both taking shots and finishing often enough that those efforts are warranted.
Ricardo Clark rebounded nicely from that Red Card and has the mindset/aggressive nature needed to play that defensive midfield enforcer role. His most important contribution is probably allowing Bradley Jr to concentrate on being more of a pure Central Midfielder and not worry quite so much about defensive responsibilities. I can’t help but wonder how Maurice Edu would have compared though…
Along the backline, Jay Demerit has stepped in admirably for Bocanegra. Other than being embaressed late by Pirlo (jokes on him though) he plays hard and is a very natural defender. Onyewu is the final American nominated for my American of the Tournament Award (AotT – the trophy is being polished as we speak). While we knew he had the ability in the air, I have been most impressed by his ability to step up in place of attacking defenders early enough to stop the attack, his defending sense is now catching up to his ability; him v Fernando Torres will be an excellent test.
V Spain

It hardly needs to be said but the chance to play Spain in the semi finals is a golden opportunity. Their performances against Italy and Brazil left much to be desired, so another shot at a powerhouse provides a shot at redemption. Let’s see if BB tinkers with his lineup anymore…the only change I would like to see is move Dempsey to the #2 striker role and insert Feilhaber into the RM/RAM slot (this could be Torres or Adu as well, but Feilhaber seems to be favored by BB right now).
While a victory is an obvious long shot, Spain has set a record with 15 straight wins and 35 straight w/o a loss, but…..THIS IS WHY THEY PLAY THE GAME

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Not sure what the title means but it incorporates all the important colors of the game….back to basics.

Anywho, based on the way yesterday’s game unfolded, let’s be honest…the final socre wasn’t a surprise.

For the US to be red-carded, deservedly or not, and be up 1-0 at the half the first 45 couldn’t have turned out any better unless Bradley Jr or Altidore had remember to finish.
However, BB made the mistake of including only 1 defensive midfielder for this trip to S Africa, Ricardo Clark. In order to play the 10 man, defensive 4-4-1 with the goal of winning possession and sending the ball far forward as quick as possible, he really needed a defensive midfielder willing to get in the mix, cut off the Italians farther out, get the ball wide and make progress up the wings.
Instead BB relied on Bradley Jr and Feilhaber in the middle, and while I liked the early idea of having them out there with Clark, they do not posses the skill set needed to maintain that “pack the back” type of mentality; Bradley Jr is a decent defender but Feilhaber is much better in the offensive half than in the defensive half.
With no one defensive minded patrolling the middle, they were leaving the middle open to the Italian midfield and it showed with 2 goals coming from well outside the penalty area (the third was late, desereved, and well taken) They were also out of luck going forward, as Altidore had no one to help him up front and his touch deserted him as the game wore on. Charlie Davies brought little to the mix when he got in, except a seemingly mistimed effort on a late corner.
For the first 35 minutes or so though, the US did look excellent and evenly matched. It probably helped that the Italians attempted to put Vicenzo Iaquinta on the LW in one of the oddest 4-3-3s ever assembled, but this was still the defending world champions and the US looked up to the task. The unfolding of the game can only be described as unfortunate.
Brief Thoughts…
Once again Clint Dempsey attempted to do too much too often. When he works hard and busts his ass, he is invaluable. When he gets the ball and does those outside of the foot circles, it must result in losing possession like 75% of the time…it’s like he’s overthinking himself.
Michael Bradley did look good for most of the game, could have done more in front of the goal in the first half but overall provided good service and was a force in the middle.
Benny Feilhaber is probably the best pure passer out there for the US but was overmatched in the 2nd half when BB had to employ him in a more defensive role.
Landon Donovan proved that he also works well with Jozy Altidore upfront, providing excellent balls and making things a little tough for the Italian defense; the more offensive his role the more effective he is, although I still prefer him on the wing.
Oguchi Onyewu was a beast in the back and it says something about his effort with Jay Demerit that the only way the Italians could get on the board was from such distance….that was until the laziness took hold in the final minute and they put away the 3rd.
Speaking of the 3rd….Giuseppe Rossi. His first goal was sublime and his 2nd was a perfect finish. Creating for himself or doing justice to some unbelievable one man buildup from Andrea Pirlo, the 22 year old from Teaneck is establishing himself as a World Class talent. Am I bitter that he took a chance by spurning the USMNT for the Italians, got an opporunity beginnning in last years olympics, earned a spot on the senior team and then scored two beautiful goals against the US? Goals that I am not sure anyone on the current US roster would have scored? Of course but that is the state of US Soccer….the talent exists in the country, and while it might be best developed by a private club team in Europe, we need someone of that level to step up and say, I want to make a difference to United States b/c I love this country and I want to play for them….Want is that key trait that Rossi did not possess. It is worth to note that he is 22 and has been working at this for a while….hopefully that serves as an inspiration or kick start to someone with a desire to be an American.

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A little preview type post (WTWF = What to watch for) for the USMNT’s upcoming South African adventure.

To state the obvious, this opportunity sets up as excellent preparation for next summer’s World Cup. There are tough matches in the CONCACAF region, however they tend to be that way due to hostile environments rather than top class opposition. Not taking anything from Costa Rica, Mexico, or Honduras but no one in the region (US included) compares to Italy, Brazil, or Spain. Playing this quality of opponent at a neutral site is a definite litmus test for this team going into the T-1 year countdown.

US Schedule (All games on ESPN/ESPN2):
US v Italy 6/15 @ 2:30 PM EST
US v Brazil 6/18 @ 10 AM EST
US v Egypt 6/21 @ 2:30 PM EST

As the top 2 teams advance to the group stage it will take some inspired play and perhaps a slip up from Brazil/Italy for them to get through. Not quite though impossible as Italy has looked shaky on the International Stage since their German triumph and Marcello Lippi has taken an interesting mix of experience and youth to South Africa.

Players to Watch:

Benny Feilhaber – After a great 2nd half showing against Honduras it will be interesting to see if BB can mix him and Bradley Jr on the field successfully. The ability to think -> execute creatively is never the strong point for a USMNT but if Feilhaber can bring it on a consistent basis, his presence is necessary for this team.

Conor Casey – Got the start against Honduras and while he does well with his back to the goal he doesn’t have the pace or skill to punish defenders while running at them. If he can finish a few times down there, he puts his name into the mix for that striker role moving forward, if not…Bradley should continue to explore options…cough…Marcus Tracy…cough.

Jozy Altidore – As exciting a prospect as the US has ever produced had great games against Mexico and T&T earlier in qualifying but fell off slightly in the latest two. Can he bounce back against what is probably the stiffest competition (especially Italian d) he’s ever come up against?

Freddy Adu – An American enigma continues. During the few chances he does get he tends to look confident with the ball but continues to be the 3rd option at best and usually inserted as a shot in the dark late in the game. What kind of chances will he get this time around? This could go a long way in determining his club situation next year as well…

Carlos Bocanegra – Injured late against Honduras so it will be interesting to see if he is able to go against Italy or Brazil. If not, how does Demerit respond? If he’s healthy, let’s see how he and Onyewu look in the face of a Brazilian attack

Overall Trends:

The left side of the midfield – I think we can agree that Clint Dempsey, despite his occasional attempts to do way too much, is the #1 option on the right. What works on the left is less certain, I prefer Donovan out there as he doesn’t have the strength to hold up in the middle but I expect Bradley gives Torres a shot out there too.

LB/RB – After quality performances against Honduras you gotta hope BB shows some faith in Jonathan Borenstein and Spector during at least the first two games. A decision to experiment next Sunday against Egypt would probably be worthwhile though, especially if the prospect of advancing has disappeared.

Opening round Squad Picks??

Not really gonna go through this as you gotta figure he’ll come out with what worked against Honduras so no point in being experimental and thats whats fun about this.

If they are out of contention for the elimination stage then hopefully BB gets creative and gives some guys a shot. Maybe a full 90 for Adu? Things like that…don’t throw the game out the window but this team hasn’t shown enough yet for him to be comfortable with any of the formation options. Unless of course they have 3+ pts from the first two games….

Check back for some reactions….

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