Category Archives: World Cup

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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

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

Beckham – Back and Injured? Never

LOS ANGELES GALAXY TRAINING

Will the newest installment of Beckham news keep him out of this weekend’s friendly with the visiting FC Barcelona?  Who knows, but it would not surprise me to see this niggling back injury keep Beckham out of the side for a bit.  Why else would Beckham want to miss matches?  Could it be that the mediocre performance his side produced against Kansas City last week has reminded him where he is playing?  Only time will tell, as the Galaxy continue on their way this weekend against the European Champions, and Beckham has found another way to keep his name in the media.

Hopefully for Galaxy fans Beckham stays fit for the remainder of the season, as an injury no matter how minimal could keep Galaxy fans enraged over the long term loan he pushed for in Milan.  While I am sure the injury is real, why come out with it only days away from a big friendly, one that has sold out the Rose Bowl Stadium.  Beckham’s fan issues since returning to the Galaxy seemed to finally be simmering down in the media, and now after waiting days to do so, he shows up in the training room with a back injury.  Could the extended play over the last year be taking its toll on his aging body?  I hope this is the case, as Galaxy fans do not need more fuel for the fire going into this weekend’s match.

Beckham since returning has said that he is happy to be back with the Galaxy and MLS, but the whole time he has made it clear that his intentions are to return to Milan at the close of the MLS season.  At seasons end this will mark the 3 year mark of Beckham’s five year contract with the MLS, and after 3 years he is able to forego his final 2 years of said contract.  Will this turn into a media circus over who wants Beckham?  You know it will, as there is no bad advertising and MLS will be looking for more free press.  But will Beckham forego these two years or just go out on loan again?  I cannot see him leaving the paycheck he gets from the MLS plus endorsements to sign full time in a European league.  He does not have the talent on the field that he once did, and he is starting to get up in years while most sides around Europe are trying to get younger.  He may find himself a loan spot in Europe after the MLS season to secure his World Cup spot, but I do not foresee any sides taking him on full time for the money MLS currently pays him.  He is Brand Beckham, but while the brand still sells, the man is lacking in the bang for your buck category these days.

So while this back injury could spell out another poor year for Beckham in MLS should it linger on, he will keep selling the brand to the American people to line his pockets.  Where all of this love suddenly came from for MLS again is beyond me.  He obviously knows the fans are furious with him and nothing will gain their respect back better than quality performances on the pitch, and wins.  This could be the first season since Beckham arrived that sees the Galaxy make the post season, will it be despite him though or with him on the pitch?  I am sure we will find out this weekend though, should he play he will have gone a long ways towards earning the respect of Galaxy fans and MLS fans alike back.  And should he not play?  Well lets just say that it could be a long season for Mr. Beckham should he fail to perform regularly for the Galaxy.

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Filed under International Football, La Liga, MLS, Uncategorized, World Cup

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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Filed under International Football, MLS, Uncategorized, USMNT, World Cup