Category Archives: USMNT

Ramblings about the US Mens National Team.

The H1N1 virus hits the USMNT

Sweden v USA

They say that playing a match at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City is tough, but following Wednesday’s match between the USMNT and Mexico at the Azteca, a breaking news story has surfaced.

Landon Donovan, who most USMNT supporters would consider the team’s best player, has contracted the H1N1 flu virus.  In an article posted on SI.com, soccer writer Grant Wahl is reporting that the USMNT star has tested positive for the virus. (Wahl’s article)

While the news most American sports fans will wake up to is the fact that Michael Vick has now signed with the Philadelphia Eagles after his two year stint in prison for his connection to a dog fighting ring, Donovan will only receive the back page stories.  What is the American media coming to when we no longer care about our stars who do right and play through the tough times, but instead focus on those who break the rules and receive a mere slap on the hand for doing so?  Vick, while he will be taunted and picketed against by various organizations this season, will be rewarded for his athleticism.  Donovan on the other hand, will be pushed to the back pages and none will be the wiser about his struggles in a tough match for the USMNT.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that we need to wake up.  We should not be giving attention to a player like Vick.  Donovan struggled throughout the match Wednesday, and while he thought it was just from the altitude, smog, and heat; it was actually something much more.  Donovan did not contract the virus while in Mexico, but here in the US where he was tested on Sunday.  Normally one of the most influential players on the pitch for the US, Donovan only managed an assist on Wednesday early in the match before looking sluggish and out of sorts to the viewing public.

Donovan has not said whether he will play this weekend or not, but one thing is for sure.  If he feels up to it and is allowed to play, he will be on the pitch captaining his team.  This has come at a poor time for Donovan as his current run of form has been brilliant the past few months, having netted in his last three MLS matches to help pull the Galaxy towards the top of the Western Conference.  This could hurt the Galaxy in the short term, and though I am not always the staunchest Donovan supporter, I do wish him well.  He has class and has come to show what it means to put your team before yourself.  So while you are reading your Michael Vick stories in the morning flip to the back and try to catch a glimpse at the blurb they give Donovan for his performance in a match for his country, during which he was obviously struggling.

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Filed under CONCACAF, International Football, Los Angeles Galaxy, Mexico, MLS, Uncategorized, USMNT, World Cup

Disappointment and Defeat at the Azteca

MEX SOC DOS SANTOS

Being blocked all week has not been fun but today’s match has unblocked me and I actually had to wait a bit before writing this so it would be readable for any and all ages who may be reading. So first off I have to say I was disappointed but not totally disappointed at the same time.  Does not make much sense I know, but going into this how much were we the USMNT fans actually expecting?  I know I expected to see a tough match that would produce some great moments, and I think for the most part we got that out of this match.  I would also say I expected much more than I got in the form of entertainment from the TV broadcast of this match.  But let us get into it now as there is no need to delay the inevitable story on how the USMNT has yet again failed to produce in Mexico. Well the score line was 2-1, so right off, Guardado was wrong and we did not lose 3-0.  The match gave all USMNT fans hope early as they did not look to be affected by the altitude, smog, or stage they were playing on.  Charlie Davies did not disappoint but did not come on as a sub as most fans would have expected either, netting from a one on one with the Mexican keeper Ochoa on a ball played into space by Donovan in the 9th minute, putting the USMNT up 1 and taking the crowd out of the match for the moment.  Now this goal should have been a great thing since Davies is only the 4th player to net for the USMNT in a match in Mexico, but it would prove to not be any more important than a future stat or trivia question as the match went on.  I can see it now, “Who was the 4th American to score a goal on Mexican soil?”  It will be a question we will all know the answer to but one we would rather not think about.

Mexico v USA - FIFA World Cup Qualifier

With fans thinking the USMNT might finally be in the driver’s seat during a match in Mexico, we all sat back and breathed a sigh of relief to see the side score.  Not a good thing at all since the team decided to do that as well for the majority of the rest of the match.  All I have to say is one goal is not enough and if the players thought that they accomplished something by scoring in Mexico then they are wrong.  I did not go into this expecting us to win but after scoring early there is no need to pack it in and play 9 and 10 behind the ball, basically closing up shop.  The boys basically gave the Mexicans the ball and said, “Here if you can penetrate the defense then you can have the match!”  Now I know many of you think this is not true and that the boys played hard and all that but I tell you to, “Wake up!”  After scoring the boys played horribly and put on possibly one of the worst performances I have seen out of them to date.  The most unlikely person to net would manage a shot from around 25-30 yards out that would stay up just long enough to beat Howard, but there was no pressure at all.  The goal was a beauty and one that I am sure Mexican fans will remember for awhile, since barely ten minutes had past from the opening goal by the USMNT.  The boys would continue to pack it in and try to counter on into the second half to their demise again as poor defense and lack of pressure left Aguirre’s super sub Miguel Sabah open in the box to poke a shot over Howard that would propel the Mexicans to a much needed victory.

MEX SOC RIOT

Now aside from the poor performance by the USMNT, the officiating was atrocious!  Having complained enough to have the referee who had previously tossed Aguirre from the Gold Cup, the Mexicans would find a new sucker in Roberto Moreno Salazar from Panama.  Now a ref missing a call here and there is one thing, but the amount of calls this ref missed, his crew got wrong, or he just decided not to call was appalling.  I am not saying the ref and his crew are cheats or anything but in a match that was physical from the start it is questionable that the only cards given in the first half were to the Americans, and not just any Americans but 3 of the starting back 4 for the USMNT.  This is no excuse for the poor performance but you would think after Donovan being pulled down after beating a defender twice would result in something, and tripping Steve Cherundolo, who is not the fastest, would lead to something.  As it happened though the Mexicans would not receive any cards until a scuffle in the 75th minute when Davies was down on the pitch with cramps and Nery Castillo decided to drag Davies up off the pitch by his head along with 2 other Mexicans in order to get in a quick corner.  The ensuing scuffle would earn the USMNT’s Benny Feilhaber and Mexico’s Gerardo Torrado yellows for an altercation that took place after Feilhaber stepped in to protect his teammate and Torrado went for Benny’s throat.  Not class by either side, but honestly with all of Mexico’s posturing and flopping about on the turf they of all sides have no right to touch a downed opponent.  All in all it was a poor performance by the Panamanian crew and I would hope not to see them in an officiating capacity for a USMNT match anywhere in the near future, though I am sure the Mexicans will be saying a few prayers that Salazar and crew are at every match of theirs throughout the rest of qualifying.

Mexico v USA - FIFA World Cup Qualifier

As an American I know some people see us as racist or closed minded when it comes to cultural aspects of other countries and all but I honestly do not want to ever have to watch another match put on by mun2 or any other related channel when watching the USMNT.  After all the hype and press that this match garnered leading up to the English language broadcast, the best the channel could do was bring in Tom Schoen and Marcelo Balboa to commentate.  The broadcast was one of the worst I have watched as they obviously did not know their details and could not even correctly pronounce half the names right that they were talking about.  I hate to admit it but I was actually thinking that it would not have been such a bad thing to have to listen to Alexi announces the match.  I know that bad right?  After listening to that I am actually looking forward to MLS announcers as well as some of the others who I normally do not prefer to listen to.

Mexico v USA - FIFA World Cup Qualifier

It was a poor match but one in which the USMNT did not get a fair shake in my opinion.  The Mexican fans proved their worth again as they tossed cups of beer and other things at Donovan when he was taking a corner to try and tie the match up.  Come on people can you not have any class when leading a match?  Do you have to go out and make yourselves and your country look classless at every opportunity?  In the end I can console myself with the fact that no matter what happens the rest of the day, the USMNT is still above Mexico and in no imminent danger of missing out on the World Cup.  The road will be a bit tougher but we will be stronger for it and managed a better result than most were expecting, so El Salvador lookout as the USMNT will be out to recapture those points in the next match.

And here is a brief performance grade on the USMNT players who graced the pitch today.

Howard – Not a bad match for Howard but it was his first loss to Mexico and his defense did him no favors in the end.

Cherundolo – Gave a concerted effort on both ends.  Not spectacular but I do not think anyone can argue that Spector would have done a much better job in this match.

Onyewu – An early yellow hampered Gooch’s play but he played hard throughout and saved the US on many occasions.

DeMerit – Still showing as a good option in the back, though an early yellow hampered how aggressive he could be for much of the match.

Bocanegra – Looks to have wrapped up the LB spot at the moment but was caught out on both goals and looked to be struggling at times.

Donovan – Played a decent first half but disappeared in the second half.  Needs to step up his play and give a full 90 if this team is going to be successful.

Clark – Did not hear much about Clark until his exit, but not hearing a holding midfielders name means he was not screwing up.  I was surprised to see him on the pitch after his recent club schedule but he did his job in the middle as always.

Bradley – Supposed to be the second holding midfielder but everyone thinks he needs to get involved in the attack.  He played solid in the middle but never looked dangerous going forward.

Dempsey – I was completely unimpressed with Dempsey’s effort and performance on the day.  He looked tired and disinterested until he moved up top, and honestly if he is not going to produce unless he is up top, then bring him off the bench as a forward.

Ching – I cannot say anything bad about Ching as the front men did not receive much service throughout the match, but he did not look to be too dangerous on the day, minus one header over the crossbar.

Davies – He scored a goal and tried to be involved until he exited the match.  I am still not convinced he should be starting though as his pace would be more helpful after the other side are tired.

Feilhaber – Aside from his yellow card the match, Benny was a non factor during his time on the pitch today.

Holden – Holden had his moments on the day and would be a good replacement if Dempsey cannot get it together sometime soon.  He managed to find spots when everyone else looked defeated and made an impact on the right side after he entered the match.

Altidore – Not much to say about Jozy as he did not get much time or service, but he will be an asset going forward to the World Cup.

And to close it all out, “Who is going to learn to clear the ball out of the back without sending it right back to the opponent?”  The play from the back was awful all match long and there is no excuse for it at all.  Cards and poor officiating have nothing to do with being able to find a mate on the pitch to dish the ball to.  The boys looked like a bunch of school kids out there seeing how far they could boot the ball down the pitch at points, not impressive at all, and it did not help get the Mexicans out of the final third all match.  So now it is time to write this one off and look forward, good to see my block is now gone and I have something to say again.

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Filed under CONCACAF, International Football, Mexico, USMNT

This Weekend in MLS – Week 21 Reviewed and Recapped

Shea Salinas

Coming off the shocking performances of a few teams in MLS last week, what was a fan to expect for an encore?  Would we see this week to get the blood flowing in a league that is supposed to be built on parity?  I am sure the results came out in favor of a few sides, and my predictions improved a bit, but overall it was a good week for the MLS.  Many sides were still out with exhibition matches and CONCACAF CL play, so there were only 6 matches taking place this week, with Houston playing in two of them.  I also decided to add a nice video I found of Week 21’s Goals of the Week, which I will post after the recaps for you to enjoy before looking forward.

My predictions for this week: 3-3

MLS All-Time predictions: 7-12

FC Dallas  1 – 0  Houston Dynamo

Starting off the week was a match that I saw Houston taking from start to finish as they travelled to Pizza Hut Park to take on FC Dallas.  After Dallas’ shocking performance last week, taking Kansas City 6-0, I did not expect one of the worst teams in the MLS to show an equally strong performance this week.  Dallas would shock even its fans though as Jeff Cunningham continued to score, netting in the 20th minute and giving Dallas the only goal they would need on the night.  Cunningham missed a penalty earlier in the half but it turned out the Hoops would not need it as Houston obviously did not show up to play on this night.  Only odd thing that happened in the match aside from Houston’s lack of offense was when Houston winger Brad Davis earned a red card from the bench late in the match.  Davis would miss Houston’s next match but as I did not see anything from the replays; I am still wondering what he did.

Colorado Rapids  4 – 0  Chivas USA

In one of the strangest matches of the weekend, Colorado waxed Chivas from the opening minute, literally.  Pablo Mastreoni took a back pass from Omar Cummings and blasted it from about 25 yards out in the first minute of the match to give Colorado the 1-0 advantage. (First time Pablo has scored since 2005)  Three minutes later Colorado would practically shut the door on Chivas when Conor Casey lofted a ball from just inside the 18 to beat the Chivas keeper, putting the rapids up 2-0 inside the first 5 minutes.  After the quick start Colorado would settle into the match and wait until the 23rd before scoring their 3rd goal of the match, and again until the first minute of stoppage time to get their 4th, after a red card was given to Chivas defender Shavar Thomas for taking down Omar Cummings in the box.  It was a light red card but Casey scored his hat trick in the first half and Cummings extended his assists total to 10 on the season with 3 coming from this match; I would give him 4 for drawing the penalty as well.  Chivas looked dire in this match and without scoring and without a presence in the back, they could be looking at dropping farther to the depths of the Western Conference by the end of the season if something does not turn around quick.

Real Salt Lake  1 – 0  Seattle Sounders FC

A match that saw Seattle lose yet again!  Could Seattle finally be feeling the freshman pressure of their maiden season in the MLS?  I think so as their results continue to pile up in an unfavorable fashion of late.  Seattle owned this match in every way but the final score.  They dominated possession and had many chances to get in on goal but lack of finishing was yet again the Achilles Heel of Seattle.  RSL keeper Nick Rimando played a ball long in the 62nd and caught Seattle sleeping, hooking up with Robbie Findley, who would shake his defender and put RSL in the lead just before the halfway point of the second half.  Try as they might Seattle never answered and Findley’s goal would be the game winner for RSL.  Seattle needs to wake up if they plan on staying on track for the playoffs.  They have not dropped from their playoff position yet, but if they do not find the scoring touch pretty soon they could follow Chivas down the standings.

San Jose Earthquakes  0 – 3  Columbus Crew

Coming off a few strong performances, San Jose were feeling good and looking to try and take down another strong opponent this week.  Seattle and DC had failed to defeat San Jose in the past two weeks but Columbus is a bird of a different color and would not be had so easily by the Earthquakes.  San Jose would play the Crew tough throughout, but once the Columbus found the back of the net in the 69th it was all downhill.  Moreno would net for the Crew in the 69th after coming off the bench to put the Crew ahead.  Four minutes later in the 73rd, Robbie Rogers would find the net to increase the score line, and in the dying minutes (87th) of the match substitute Adam Moffat would finish off the Earthquakes with a goal of his own.  The Crew is looking strong and will only become better as they see some of their top talent return to fitness.  Could there be another MLS cup in their future this season?

New England Revolution  1 – 2 Los Angeles Galaxy

On the road in a place they have not won since 1999, LA would try to continue a run of good form with a win over the Revs.  They would not be disappointed this round, as NE is a bit weaker than previous seasons and LA seem to have found their stride of late.  What can only be described as the inevitable goal of the week happened for LA and Landon Donovan in the 21st minute, when a shot deflected from inside the box found Donovan just outside the right wing of the 18 and he smashed it with a volley into the side netting past Matt Reis, putting LA up 1-0 early.  Kirovski would add to the lead in the 52nd after find the end of an Eddie Lewis cross that got Reis out of position and allowed Kirovski to turn and poke the ball into an uncontested net to pad the Galaxy’s lead.  New England is not a team to quit though and a takedown in the box in the 82nd by Galaxy rookie Omar Gonzalez would grant the Revs a PK opportunity.  Not one to miss a chance, veteran Steve Ralston would step up for NE and slam the PK home to give the Revs a chance in the final minutes of the match.  Through some desperate defending that LA have not been too successful with in the past, they would hold on and finish out the match though, earning a big 3 points on the road in this one.

Houston Dynamo  3 – 2  Chicago Fire

Closing out the week on Sunday night, Dynamo players and fans were out looking for a win against the visiting Chicago Fire.  After a disappointing performance Thursday, the Dynamo would come out firing, though their breakthrough would not come right away.  In the 21st minute however, Houston would catch the Fire sleeping in their own end and Kei Kamara would receive the inbound pass and turn to find himself in on Fire keeper Busch without a defender in sight.  Kamara would fire almost point blank on Busch and put it past him and into the far side of the net.  In the 38th Houston would strike paydirt yet again as Brian Ching played a beautiful long ball into the left side of the box for a hustling Ricardo Clark, who would take a nice left-footed touch over an onrushing Jon Busch and into the net, putting Houston up 2-0 at the half.

The second half may have seen a totally different Houston side emerge as Chicago came out pressing to get back into the match.  A Blanco ball found an open Patrick Nyarko in the 47th minute before Nyarko laid it off to Chris Rolfe; Rolfe took the pass and cleared some space before unleashing a rocket from 25 yards out to beat Houston’s Pat Onstad, bringing the scoreline to 2-1 and breathing life into the Fire.  Minutes later a questionable decision would be made by Houston defender Julius James when ushering a ball to the touchline; Blanco would approach and looked to give James a nudge knocking him off the ball that would soon lead to the game tying goal.  James in my opinion went down way too easy, but in the 48th Blanco took that ball and played a beautiful cross into the box that found Peter Lowry right before he volleyed it into the net to tie up the match.  The decision to not call Blanco for the foul on James was questionable, but unless you have the Oscar’s that Blanco has in his trophy case you cannot go down that easy.  The match looked to be a tie going into the end when Houston’s Corey Ashe was taken down late in the proceedings by Brandon Prideaux on what can only be called a very light penalty.  Whether it was a makeup call for the Blanco no call earlier or the ref believed it was a penalty is beyond me, but there did not look to be enough contact to warrant a penalty in this case.  In the end Stuart Holden would step up and put the game away for Houston from the penalty spot, giving Houston the win and me a win over Chicago in my predictions for the first time.  It was a good match and one that Houston needed after the poor result earlier in the week.

Next weekend looks to be a very busy one on the MLS schedule.  Most teams will be back on track with only New England, San Jose, and Colorado having the week off.  After watching the USMNT travel to Mexico City this weekend the focus will be back on the MLS for a bit here in the US, so looking at next week here are a few matches to look out for.

  • DC United  v  TFC – Which team gets back on track in MLS after recent poor league form.
  • Chivas USA  v  NYRB – Can the Red Bulls steal one against a struggling Chivas side?
  • FC Dallas v  Columbus – Can Dallas continue their race towards the playoffs?
  • Seattle  v  LA – Does Seattle find their form or do LA continue their ascent?

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Filed under Chicago Fire, Chivas USA, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, DC United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, International Football, Kansas City Wizards, Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Toronto FC, Uncategorized, USMNT

Jozy’s Future – New Move to Hull City?

SOCCER: APR 01 World Cup Qualifier - Trinidad and Tobago at United States

Speaking from his Twitter account, Jozy Altidore has announced that there will be an announcement on his future at a 2:30 press conference tomorrow, adding a wink wink and telling us that the clubs first match is against Chelsea FC.  Information from Tuesday had Altidore linked with Fulham and Hull City of the English Premier League.  Checking the schedule against Jozy’s post would indicate that he has found a home at Hull City, team voted most likely to be relegated this season after barely escaping the drop last season.  Now while another American International in the EPL will boost the position of American soccer on the global front, is it really a good move for the young American?

I think it is.  After being sold to La Liga side Villareal by MLS side New York Red Bulls, Altidore found himself first on the bench then on the way out the door on loan to the Spanish second division side Xerxes.  Altidore did not find much favor in either place spending the majority of his time on the bench in his first season abroad, but strong performances with the US Mens National Team over the past year has garnered interest from other clubs.  The rumors circulating earlier this summer were that Altidore would find himself in Greece with Olympiacos, but when the loan deal fell through it was looking as if Altidore might find himself on the bench for another season.

This season is important for Altidore as he needs as much time on the pitch as possible leading up to next summer’s World Cup in South Africa.  With Fulham and Hull City both interested in the young American it was hard to decide which club I would rather see him at.  With Fulham he would most likely find the bench again behind proven players in the EPL, but at Hull City, a team who struggles to score goals; it looks more likely that he will find plenty of time on the pitch.  This increased pitch time against quality opposition week in and week out should improve Altidore’s already impressive skill set, but if he was looking for a winning side to move to he may be sadly disappointed.  As one fan on Twitter put it, “Jozy you know Hull is a s***hole!”  I could not agree more, but playing time is playing time, and I would rather have the future of US soccer playing against quality instead of less quality sides or sitting the bench for another term.

Whether or not Hull stay up this season is not really the concern here, as I am sure the addition of one goal scorer will not make a big enough difference to avoid Hull’s fated drop back to the Championship.  The main thing is that Jozy gets time on the pitch.  He should have no trouble working into the lineup at Hull City, with his skill set and athletic ability.  I am afraid he will burn out as many other Americans have when going to the EPL though.  This fear is not to worry about though as he is reportedly set to sign only a one year loan deal, no details on whether or not there is an option to buy at the end, and if he does not cut it in the EPL he will just find himself back with Villareal at the end of the deal.  Should Jozy impress though he could see himself do one of three things.  Either sign with Hull full time, if there is a buy option attached to the loan.  Earn himself another shot with Villareal, though they have a strong attack currently already which is why Altidore is being loaned in the first place.  He could also have a good enough season to earn himself interest from other clubs that Villareal could sell him to, making some cash on their initial investment but losing a talented young player in the process.

So heading to the World Cup next summer the outlook is good.  Most of our first team squad is playing their trade in Europe, and we have players in Europe who are actually seeing time on the pitch.  While this does not mean more Americans will follow, it does open the door for clubs abroad to look in at the merchandise.  I was not initially happy about the decision to ship Jozy to Hull City, but in delaying this article to think on the topic some, I have come to a conclusion.  This is the best thing US soccer and Jozy could have hoped for leading up to the new season!  He goes to a side where he will see playing time ahead of the World Cup, have quality opponents, and be plying his trade in a country where he can further his skills in the game.

Looking forward to the press conference tomorrow, I will now be happy to see Jozy become a Tiger.  I wish him good luck this season and will be watching him progress against some of the best players in the world.  The US is invading Europe, and little by little they will recognize us and the quality of players we are producing.  So, good luck Jozy, I will be watching and hoping you get what you wanted out of this move.

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Filed under EPL, Hull City, La Liga, MLS, New York Red Bulls, Rest of the World, Uncategorized, USMNT, World Cup

A Week in – Oguchi Onyewu’s progress with European Giants AC Milan

AC Milan v Chelsea FC

So with a week in the squad and a little more than 100+ minutes played, how does new American CB Oguchi Onyewu stack up at AC Milan? Not well if you talk to many supporters across the World Wide Web and abroad. I have heard things about his pace, his lack of skill, and even his touch on the ball. I will tell you this. Gooch is a Centerback and not a Fullback or Midfielder, so his touch on the ball and his pace are not something he is known for. And for those who say he lacks skill on defense, go back and watch him over his career, and most recently in the Confederations Cup before you make yourself look more ridiculous than you already do.
Gooch is a strong defender who has had two foul ups since stepping on the field with AC Milan, but does that all of a sudden make him horrible and unable to defend? I think not. The club he has joined in Milan has many other things to worry about aside from their defense. They are lacking up top with the young Brazilian Pato and aging Inzaghi as their main attacking threats, and after selling Kaka they are going to be dependant on Ronaldinho, who may or may not regain his status as a world great in the near future. The team is aging in Milan and it is looking like it might take some time for them to euthanize the side for the future, but one defender is not much to worry about going forward.
Gooch started with a blunder, allowing a forward from Club America behind him to put home a goal in a scoreless match, but it was not an easy finish and Gooch straightened up and finished the match out strong for Milan. In his second match with the side he came on some time into the second half, replacing the veteran Nesta again, and played strong in a losing effort against a Chelsea side that looks to be in good form already going into the season. Then the most recent match for Gooch, the unofficial Milan Derby, one which saw the sides face off on American soil. The early goal scored by Diego Milito was partially Gooch’s fault for not closing down closer to the forward, but having already dealt with one cutback, who can blame him for staying back and expecting another for a better angle on goal. Milito fired a rocket from a tight angle and I put more blame on Milan keeper Kalac for not covering his near post than I do on Gooch for not closing down, the inside post is not something you give up and Kalac left a gaping hole there for the forward to put one past him. The rest of the match for Gooch went off well and he made many great clearances from the back and looked fine in my opinion.
Bottom line is Gooch has had a rough start to his Milan career. This is the biggest club he or any other American has played for, aside from Tim Howard at Manchester United. He will get his bearings with his new side, and defending against some of the best in the world is not something he is new at. He has played with the USMNT for years now against some of the top players in the world. In the last year alone he has faced the players from England, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil. In these matches the U.S. defense did get beat from time to time, but what other side in the world doesn’t, even with some of the world’s best in defense. Gooch is new at the club, working out the language, and getting used to new teammates and coaching. His time at Milan will not be short in my opinion, and I hope none of you have written him off either. He will benefit from his time at Milan and the only thing I can see beyond the experience paying off for his own career is that of which he will bring into the USMNT squad in the future. So do not write the big man off yet, let him have some time to find his feet and I think you will be just as surprised at his play as you were about his signing. Good things will come, so do not write him off quite yet, this is the kind of thing we as American soccer supporters have been asking for is it not? An American abroad who can make it at a big club is no longer a fairy tale but reality instead.

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Filed under International Football, Serie A, Uncategorized, USMNT

Gold Cup Final – Disappointment for the U.S.

CONCACAF Cup - Championship Match

To close out a summer that had its ups and downs, the USMNT would face its biggest down of the summer.  Playing in East Rutherford, NY at Giants Stadium, the USMNT would be putting their home unbeaten streak on the line against a Mexican side, who was without its A side, but filled with talent.  During the course of the Gold Cup competition people have been referring to the squad that U.S. coach Bob Bradley has brought in as a B team or even C team at times, but at no time in the tournament would this side live up to that potential until the Final.  Having squeaked out victories or draws in the group stages and knockout rounds, the side seemed to be just “good enough”, but the Mexicans would prove an entire new test for the boys from the U.S.  With a team made up of mainly MLS players, 9 of 11 in the starting 11, the USMNT would prove to not be quite a strong enough side to take on the Mexicans.

Starting his 5th out of 6 matches, USMNT keeper Troy Perkins would be tested like he had not been yet in the tournament and left out to dry on plenty of occasions as well by an understaffed back line, he proved to be a tough customer but just did not have enough in the end to combat the talent of the Mexican youngsters.  Now I could go on and write a whole blog about how poor the USMNT backline was in this match, but I will shorten it down for all concerned who do not feel like reading a depressing book on inadequacy.  Out of the four players making up the back line only 1 even deserves a chance with the full squad and that would be a backup role if any.  Chad Marshall had a strong tournament and lacked speed, decision making, and support in this final match of the tournament, but could still see himself with the full side next year in South Africa.  While the stories of all the players who do not normally play with the full squad were interesting and fun to see play out at times, a few of these players do not need to be called back in, unless it is just for training.  Jay Heaps is a bit old and slow for international football these days, and while it was good to see him get some caps, he does not need to come back into the USMNT and should just stick it out until retirement in the MLS.  Clarence Goodson had his moments in the tournament and could see himself invited back, but unless there is an injury to our more talented players he does not really have a chance at CB at this point.  And Heath Pearce, who is off the books in Germany now and looking at a move back to MLS?  Not a good idea if he wants to build on his skill, making him a good option at LB, but I am afraid Bradley is going to bring him back in anyways since that position is weak in the side right now.  He needs to watch his positioning though and make sure to not push as far forward, getting caught out many times, against quick and talented opponents.

Through missed chances by the U.S. in a back and forth first half, in which they controlled the match, the U.S. failed to put any points on the board in the Final.  While I could go on and talk about coaching decisions, putting the coaches under the bus, I won’t.  Bradley did everything he could with this bunch of players, down to making tactical and personnel decisions when needed.  But the man of the day was Mexico’s Coach Aguirre, who saw his side struggling offensively in the first half, and made the best decision that could be made.  He brought on Arsenal youngster Carlos Vela, who along with Spurs youngster Gio Dos Santos would transform this match from one in which there was no score to one in which it was hard to see the Mexicans not scoring.  The U.S. players tried hard in the second half of the match, well the first half anyways, but in the 54th minute a poor call in the box and ensuing PK that put Mexico up 1-0, would break the players from the U.S.,  both mentally and physically, making them as good as gone in the Final.  Coach Bradley would counter quickly by bringing in Kenny Cooper and Santino Quaranta for Logan Pause and Davy Arnaud, but not quick enough as Mexico would find a second before the two men even set foot on the pitch.  The pain would not be over for the U.S. in this one quite yet though as Mexico would continue to press, scoring 3 more with no responses from the U.S. before this match was over.

Outraged by the result, many first teamers from the USMNT would flood Twitter with comments stating their disappointment and letting it be known that they were now looking forward to the rematch that will take place against Mexico at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on August 12th.  The U.S. has a less than stellar record when playing on Mexican soil up to now, and although many first team players for the USMNT are now pumped up for the match, it is likely the form the USMNT shows when playing in Mexico could stay true to form.  So we will be on the lookout for this match now, as if we would not watch anyways, and hope to see the USMNT jump the hurdle they have faced in Mexico until now, and come out victorious in the end.  The USMNT side will now go back to World cup qualifying, and although they have now disappointed in two tournament finals, I would say they are showing improvement on the whole, and look to coast through the final stages of qualification with ease.

As for overall views of the tournament and these new players Bradley has brought into the fold, here is my view on where the players now stand.  Troy Perkins while many disagree with me, I believe has bumped himself up the pecking order to fight for the #2 spot with Aston Villa backup keeper Brad Guzan.  Heath Pearce playing in a spot the U.S. lacks depth could still find himself in the final squad, but I am not hopeful that he will be able to provide the strength we need on the defensive wing and hope to see Bradley find a permanent solution for that spot going into South Africa.  Clarence Goodson could find himself invited into camp in the future, but at the moment I do not think he will be able to beat out the players we currently have in the CB position.  Chad Marshall, while not the quickest and not the most talented at the moment, could find himself on the bench for South Africa as a backup because of the size and strength that he brings to the backline.  Jay Heaps got his Swan Song in the Gold Cup, and although he brings a strong veteran presence to a back line, he just does not have the makeup to make it on the International stage anymore.

A few notables who played in the defense during the tournament are Brad Evans, Jimmy Conrad, and Michael Parkhurst.  Evans is young and could find himself on the pitch for the USMNT in the future, but his chances look bleak at this point, he is young though and will have many chances in the future.  Jimmy Conrad, a strong veteran, could find himself with a chance for the World Cup, but the chances are not good that he will see any pitch time if he manages to make the squad, he is a strong CB though and has served the USMNT well over the years.  Michael Parkhurst in my opinion was inconsistent in his time during the Gold Cup, Bob will most likely invite him into camp but I cannot see him making the squad without some serious improvement, like Evans though he is young and does have a shot for the future with the USMNT.  Luis Robles, what can I say, he played in place of Perkins between the pipes in one match during the Gold Cup and looked out of place for practically the entire match.  We were lucky to pull a draw in that match and I do not see Robles making an appearance again in the near future, as we have currently a roster loaded with quality young keepers.

The mid fielders for the Gold Cup will most likely find a chance in the future, but there are a few of note that have a chance, and I will mention them here.  Stuart Holden made a case for himself in this tournament, proving he is cool under pressure, but does disappear at times during the match.  He could find himself on the squad for South Africa, though most of his time will probably be coming from off the bench.  Robbie Rogers is another strong player who has a strong chance in the future of USMNT football, and while he is a strong player, I do not see him quite having enough to make the squad for South Africa but will definitely be invited to camp and given a chance.  And though he will most likely not make the full squad, I think Kyle Beckerman will get a call into camp at least.  He is a strong holding midfielder and I think Bob will give him a look, unfortunately for Beckerman though, holding midfield is one of the strongest and deepest positions in the USMNT camp.  So these three MLS players I believe have a chance for the future, but I would not hold my breath if you are a fan and hoping to see them lining up with the first team any time soon.  One of note who was not with the side throughout the tournament, but in my opinion has written his ticket to South Africa already though, is Benny Feilhaber.  The kid is good and will be there in either the first 11 or coming off the bench, but at this point there is no reason to leave him out.

Up top is somewhere the U.S. lags behind many in the rest of the world, but here is what I saw from the Gold Cup.  Brian Ching is the best replacement as a target man since Brian McBride has retired from the national team, he will be in South Africa, but it is likely he will not be starting.  Ching’s replacement could be youngster Jozy Altidore, who has now gone on loan to Greek side Olympiacos, and barring a season on the bench could solidify himself in the USMNT starting 11 by the time the World Cup starts.  Surprise of the summer though would be Charlie Davies, who started strong during the Confederations Cup and continued into the Gold Cup before joining his new side Socheaux for preseason.  Davies is quick and dangerous up top, something we have been lacking in the USMNT the last few years.  It will be interesting to see how Davies does and where he takes us in the future.  Davy Arnaud and Kenny Cooper both competed in the Gold Cup, but neither impressed fans enough to want them in the full squad.  Cooper became the super sub in the tournament, scoring twice in 4 appearances from the bench, but he is young and still needs some work before he can make it with the first team.  Arnaud on the other hand played a strong role in the Gold Cup, but does not hold the quality the U.S. needs going into the World Cup.

All in all the 5-0 defeat by the Mexicans in the Gold Cup final was disappointing.  What did you expect though, as Bradley put out a pro MLS team to play against some of the best players in the world from our region?  This Gold Cup did not matter towards the next World Cup or Confederations Cup and so Bradley did the right thing, and impressed by taking a pro MLS side as far as he did.  Finding out what depth we have was a plus for Bradley in this tournament, and now we can get back to the business at hand and finish World Cup qualifying strong.  I am looking forward to it as I know all other USMNT fans are.  The next year will be interesting to say the least and next summer promises to be exciting.

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MLS Week in Review – Results and Analysis

Fire vs. Sounders

As the MLS week started on Friday night it looked to be a promising and exciting weekend of matches.  What we would find though is a few sides falling short of expectations and a few teams who really miss their players who are away for International duty with the USMNT in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.  I managed to watch most of every match this weekend between MLSnet.com’s  Match Center, ESPN, ESPN2, and FSC.  I have to say that the $19.95 I spent on Match Center has to be one of the best investments I have made this season, allowing me to catch anything I may have missed by reviewing the match On Demand after it has been played.  So, although there was some controversy and poor officiating it would prove to be a satisfying weekend of soccer here in the U.S.

Friday would see the weekend kickoff with Real Salt Lake taking on a struggling FC Dallas side at the Rio Tinto stadium.  Dallas started off quick by getting 2 goals by the middle of the second half and would not allow RSL back in before halftime, this giving FCD fans some hope.  This would not last though as RSL, through tactical and personnel decisions, would get a goal back early in the second half and be tied by the time it was halfway through.  RSL’s Coach Kreis would find himself sent off for abusive language towards the referee later in the half, only to find his team pull ahead off of a FCD own goal off Daniel Torres.  Coach Hyndman for FCD would again not adjust tactics or make the needed substitutions to get FCD back in the match.  Drew Moor for FCD would be sent off for a brutal tackle in the 90th minute and moment’s later RSL midfielder Yura Movsisyan would put the match away by beating FCD keeper Ray Burse to take the score line to 4-2 in favor of RSL.  This match kicked off the week and disappointed many FCD fans, leading to questions from the fans about Coach Hyndman’s decision making this season.

The first match of Saturday would see a Chicago Fire side, which has been plagued with some injuries; go to Qwest Field to take on the MLS’ newest expansion side, Seattle Sounders FC.  The match would see many opportunities for both sides, but none would manage to find the net, resulting in a 0-0 finish at the final whistle.  The Fire’s John Thorrington would be given his second caution for a challenge from behind in the 54th while moments later Seattle’s Freddie Ljundberg would receive his first caution for simulation outside the box and immediately be given his walking orders when he received his second caution for dissent towards the referee, completely losing his cool.  Both sides would have many chances throughout the rest of the match, with Seattle owning most of the match, but nothing would come before the final whistle.

After watching a goalless draw in the first match of the day, we were witness to a match that would go to the final minutes to decide a winner in Columbus.  Toronto FC was the visitors, but Columbus had a team missing many of its key offensive pieces.  Columbus would strike first after some back and forth play from both sides in the 32nd; When Columbus midfielder Eddie Gaven beat the young TFC keeper Frei to put Columbus up 1-0.  Not to be outdone, TFC would strike back quick on the breakout with De Rosario getting one past Columbus keeper Will Hesmer to tie the score up at 1-1.  With both sides going in at the half tied, the second half could only be more exciting with both sides fighting to get in front.  This would not take long as newcomer to TFC, Ali Gerba, scored his first goal for TFC in the 49th to give TFC the lead.  Columbus would fight back for the majority of the second half, finally finding the equalizer in the 76th through Steven Lenhart, leaving the fans with an exciting finish.  The nail would be put in the coffin for TFC in the 92nd when Crew’s Frankie Hejduk set up Jason Garey, who finished the match and TFC with the game winning goal.  Great match and win for the Crew, who overcame injury and international to get the win against TFC.

The day got interesting here as I was juggling matches between the TV and PC, but I have to say I could not have missed much by missing the New England Revolutions trip to Robertson Stadium to face the Houston Dynamo.  NE has not lost in Houston in awhile, and while one would suspect this rivalry match to be good from start to finish, it was anything but.  New England having one of its more undesirable seasons of the last few years have played strong but not gotten the results they have wanted of late.  Houston, who started slow this season, has seen a good run of form push them right to the top of the Western Conference, a place where they are more than comfortable.  The match would be a lot of back and forth with neither side ever taking charge, but in the 76th minute, after some nice passing, New England’s Kheli Dube would put the ball in the Houston net, guaranteeing the Revolution win.  One of the more uninteresting matchups of the weekend in my opinion, and one that I am sure Houston would love to forget going forward.

And it was time for the newest installment of the Beckham Saga.  Would there be any backlash from the previous week’s altercation, or would the Galaxy come together and put their efforts into taking out the Kansas City Wizards, only time would tell.  With a depleted roster for the Wizards and LA’s form of late, one would have thought the Galaxy would have no problem with the Wizards on this night.  This would not be the case though, as while LA had the majority of the possession throughout the entire match, they just could not find the touch to finish tonight.  Kansas City would actually start the scoring off on the night, when LA lost the ball around midfield and Wizards forward Claudio Lopez took the ball and launched a shot from beyond the halfway line that would beat Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts, injuring him in the process as he crashed into the post with his back.  While this was completely against the run of play, LA just kept plugging away, trying to find the equalizer.  The equalizer would come through Landon Donovan in the 33rd minute after receiving a ball from David Beckham that he would rocket into the net past Hartman.  The rest of the match would see LA with the majority of the possession, but lack of creative chances on goal.  Hartman would save KC on many occasions, but LA never got through and finished the match tied 1-1.  Only bit of news on the Beckham Saga is a fan who actually got to shake Beckham’s hand (he learned and stuck the hand out before the guy was snagged by security), and his interview with Rob Stone after the match, during which he stated his distaste for the treatment he has been receiving from the Galaxy fans he thinks should love him, though he left them and plans to do so again at the end of the season.  Get over it Beckham, finish your season, pack your bags, opt out of the last 2 years of your contract, and take yourself back to Europe so you can sit the bench for England in the World Cup.

The two late games of the evening would see another disappointment for one side and an unexpected finish for another.  The first would be the train wreck known as the New York Red Bulls, who would be travelling to Colorado to take on the Rapids.  Now the Rapids are tough at home, but NYRB have been disappointing all season, going from MLS Cup to the last place in the league.  Colorado would put up 4 goals on NYRB from 4 different players, while not conceding a single goal.  Colorado would start in the 5th minute through Jacob Peterson, start the second half with Pat Noonan in the 46th, and finish the Red Bulls off through Nick Labrocca and Mehdi Ballouchy in the 61st and 67th.  The Red Bulls were never in this match and do not look to show signs of life anytime soon.  Does this spell the end for Coach Osorio or are NYRB going to let him finish out the season?  I am sure we will see soon enough as NYRB have not accepted disappointment like this well in the past.

Closing out the evening would be D.C. United playing the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw stadium in Santa Clara, California.  D.C. has had a poor road record this season, not looking good for the postseason with this record, and today would not reward them on the road either.  D.C.’s Emilio was taken down in the box early, and Christian Gomez would step up and put the penalty past Joe Cannon to give D.C. a 1-0 lead 3 minutes into the match.  Gomez would score again in the 21st, on a goal that will for sure be questioned about an offside call by Earthquake supporters.  San Jose would snatch a goal beck before the half though, after pressuring the D.C. goal when a ball flicked on by Zayer that Ryan Johnson would put past D.C. keeper Josh Wicks in the 36th minute.  Moments later Johnson would leave with a shoulder injury, but the comeback was on as San Jose went in at the break only one goal behind.  D.C. struggled to gain back complete control of the match, and in the 62nd minute as San Jose took a free kick from about 25 yards out, D.C.’s Rodney Wallace would stick a hand in the air and connect with the ball.  This would earn him a yellow card and San Jose and important penalty kick that could tie the match up.  T&T International, Cornell Glen would step up and put the PK in the back of the net, scoring his second goal of the season and equalizing for the Earthquakes.  Neither team would find the net the rest of the match, although there were many opportunities for each side to take the lead, ending the match 1-1 and giving San Jose a point they needed and deserved while disappointing a D.C. United side who was picked to win this match by many.

So as I close out the day I look back, I had a disappointing week in picking my MLS matches, finishing 2-5.  Never would have predicted the 0-0 draw in Seattle, the 2-2 tie in San Jose, the loss by the Dynamo, or the 1-1 draw by LA, but then again that’s what soccer is all about.  We will start gearing up for next week and hope the predictions and results go much better.  Now it is time to prepare for the CONCACAF Final tomorrow between the USMNT and Mexico.  While this rivalry is old and heated at times, the faces are a bit different this time around.  A friend has told me to quit picking against the sides I support so I will pick the USMNT in this match to take out the Mexicans, and win the CCGC yet again this season.  The overabundance of MLS players in the squad this year is good, as it shows there is strength in U.S. soccer, but while we field our 3rd string team we all question their strength.  Is the side strong enough?  I think so, and hope to celebrate all afternoon tomorrow.

So: Prediction is USMNT win v Mexico

Also I will try to get interested in the final two matches of the World Football Joke and report on the Club America v Chelsea FC match (winner is champion) and the Milan Derby on American soil between Inter and AC Milan.  Truth is much of the play in this tournament has been uninteresting as these sides are still in preseason, but it is one of the few times we get large clubs here in the states and so I will try my best to have some interest tomorrow evening.

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