Pre Copa América Centenario Fun

The #USMNT is getting ready for life without Jozy Altidore (down and out again,  with yet another hamstring injury …) as Jurgen Klinsmann’s begins final prep activities for the Copa América Centenario.

Two things stick with me from this article. First, there is an interesting spin on last year’s Gold Cup.  Second, some of the comments are enlightening.

… during the USA’s run to the Gold Cup semifinal.

That is classic. The author calls last summer’s debacle, a ‘run’ – when it should be listed as “… during last summer’s early and disappointing Gold Cup exit.”  There is a difference; no reason to try and spin a better outcome.

From the comments section, there is an interesting debate centered on wondering (guessing) if Klinsmann will play our best players in their natural positions that they currently play for their club teams.  How did it come to this?

As for me,  I expect very little from this team, which is disappointing.  Of course I am ever the cheerleader and will be expecting miracles.  Something tells me I will be cussing and fussing instead.

Go USA!!!


USMNT – Defensive Calamity

Dissecting the USMNT’s 2-1 Gold Cup exit at the hands of Jamaica is really not worth the effort. Plenty of sites have already done as much, including calling for the head of Jürgen Klinsmann.

While the U.S. dominated the game, their defense ultimately let them down. Again. How many times do we have to sing this song?

Disappointing doesn’t begin to describe my feelings on this one …

Go USA … just not to the Gold Cup finals. #ThrowAwayTheCup


Gold Cup – Will the USMNT Sort Out Defensive Woes?

Over the years, how many times have I written about Team U.S.A. being let dow by an awful defense? I’m not going to go there yet, but I will let Matthew Doyle take us to that special place in his latest Armchair Analyst article:

But we won because Michael Bradley serves in sick set pieces and because Clint Dempsey is an American badass. It’s been a very good combination over the years, and if you’re struggling to take something overly positive away from the game… well, you’re not alone. Just don’t take those two guys for granted – as long as they’re around, the US have a chance.

2-1 over Honduras, taking the three points home last Tuesday night. Haiti is next, tomorrow night. We should secure the group, but the boys better be ready and not allow Haiti to think the have a chance.


U.S. Gold Cup Prep (Down Goes Clockwork Orange)

After today’s U.S. 4-3 come from behind win over the Netherlands, Team USA gives us some hope for the future.

I was at work, so didn’t get to watch the match, but after watching the highlights, I’m encouraged to see our boys never gave up hope. Sure it was just a friendly, but overcoming a 3-1 deficit shows a never die attitude.

Team USA improves to a lukewarm 3-1-2 record in 2015.


U.S. Delivers Under Pressure, 1-nil Over Jamaica

The U.S. deserved more, playing a brilliant first half, mostly in the back third of Jamaica’s “play for a tie” defensive strategy. It all went wrong for Jamaica in the second half when Gomez blistered in a set ball piece from 28 yards outside of the box.

As much as I enjoyed the first half, I equally disliked the timid play of the U.S. in the second once they secured the 1-0 lead. Instead of keeping up the attack, maybe with a smaller push from the backs, just to be safe, the U.S. looked discombobulated, and unsure of how to proceed. I wish we stayed with an attacking style mentality and attempted to get a knockout goal, which would have put the U.S. at the top of the table.

In the end, the U.S. was after 3 points, but against a better team, I think the second half uncertainty would have been costly.

At this point for the U.S., things are pretty straight forward. Win their next two matches, and advance to the knockout round.

Seeking its seventh straight World Cup appearance, the U.S. plays at virtually eliminated Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 12, then completes the semis four days later against Guatemala at Kansas City, Kan.

One would have to think the A&B match is a given 3 points for the USMNT, but in CONCACAF qualifying, the U.S. should take nothing for granted, and should push as hard as possible to move up the goal differential chart. When Team USA hosts Guatemala, hopefully the confines in KC will be as good to the U.S. as Crew Stadium!

Columbus Crew Stadium is an unimposing structure on the downtown periphery of the city, yet the USMNT keep coming here, and it is not hard to see why. The U.S. are now 6-0-3 in Columbus Crew Stadium, outscoring opponents 13-1. From “The Star-Spangled Banner” onward, the atmosphere was unrelentingly rowdy and occasionally emotional. From the 9th minute to the 11th, the 23,881 in attendance stood on their feet and cheered in remembrance of 9/11. The U.S. team responded in kind. In the crucial first 15 minutes that set the tone for the rest of the game, the stats were 80 percent possession and 100 percent adrenaline.

So now we wait 30 days, keep our eyes on the health of the squad as they play their club matches, hopefully sharpening up for the final stretch into the round of six.

Go U.S.A!!!


U.S. Flat In WC Qualifier Loss To Jamaica

I never thought I would see the day where Team U.S.A. was defeated due to poor set play. While the first goal was sort of a fluke, as a perfectly placed ball went under the would-be blocking wall, the second goal was a “what in the world just happened” moment.

Taking nothing away from the Jamaica strikers; they took full advantage of their two chances. It is just a bit of a shame that a team that once had some pride in capitalizing on their on set plays, and not giving an once when the tables are turned, just went down the table three points to Jamaica.

“Jamaica deserved that win. They were hungrier and they were more determined,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We have to fix it now.”

“We have to do to do a better job with concentration,” American goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “To give away six, seven free kicks in that area is not good enough.”

“We need to figure out a way, whether it’s more width, whether it’s more crosses, whether it’s just doing a better job of keeping the ball,” Dempsey said.

“Next game we have to limit the mistakes and create more chances,” Edu said. “We are disappointed but we still have more games to play.”

You think? Party line quotes. We just had our asses handed to us, so what us is there to say except how does the U.S. fall to Jamaica for the first time ever? After wasting a strong Gomez effort, which resulted in a Dempsey goal inside of the 1′ mark (~30 seconds into the match), I felt good about coming away with at least a point, alas, I went to bet sick at what transpired on the Kingston pitch.

Granted, the U.S. was without Bradley and Donnovan, but where was the depth at midfield? I say it every time I write about U.S. soccer – our defense will be the death of this team.

Time to move on and regroup; September 11 Tuesday night home game against Jamaica, hosted by the Crew. I never thought I would see the day where the U.S. was down 3 points in the table, equal with Guatemala.

In another “I can’t believe it moment” – the U.S. Soccer Federation didn’t bother to try to ensure broadcasting rights for U.S. away games were picked up by a channel that a least allowed a few soccer fans to watch the match. beIN Sports is not exactly a household name. Instead I went to google and found an internet broadcast – no idea if European site Front Row Sports is on the up and up, but it did allow me to watch the miserable loss to Jamaica.

There were multiple streams available, and after settling on a decent one, the only real issue I had was trying to quickly close down any “adult” oriented ads before my 10-year old saw them. For much of the first half, it was very touch and go!


U.S. Gives Points to Guatemala

I understand that there must be plenty of pressure, hostility, and adversity that go along with playing in Guatemala City. I get that; really I do, although I didn’t bother to pay $29.99 + tax to watch the U.S. give up a late goal (83’) to Guatemala on a set play that completely froze Tim Howard.

As far as I can tell, once again poor play in the backfield led to our undoing, as Fabian Johnson was badly beaten, pulled down a Guatemala attacker, the ultimately earned Guatemala a tie, and cost the U.S. two badly needed points.

The same thing more or less happened in the U.S. win over Antigua & Barbuda, with Oguchi Onyewu contributing to Antigua & Barbuda’s only goal.

With the top two teams advancing, the U.S. heads the table on goal differential in a weak Group 1 that also includes Jamaica. The U.S. heads to Jamaica September 7 and hosts the Reggae Boys September 11. These two games will ultimately decide if the U.S. advances, which will continue to be in question if the U.S. does not figure out the backfield over the summer.


U.S. Finishes … Defense Still Suspect

Jurgen Klinsman’s boys flat out whipped Scotland 5-1, as Landon Donovan managed an impressive hat trick (and an assist for good measure). This was perhaps the most complete game in the Klinsman’s era.

“Tonight, you saw many elements of what we’re always talking about, what we’re trying step-by-step to develop,” Klinsmann said. “It’s a fast-paced game. All those elements I think we saw a lot today. It’s obviously a lot more difficult to play that way against Brazil or Italy, but the players they understand more and more what we’re trying to achieve. Today, it was really fun to watch.”

I loved the fast paced, possession style attack, with only one real complaint. On a couple of occasions, the U.S. had a couple of great buildups, only to kick it away without managing a shot on goal.

The United States completed 84.6 percent of its passes against Scotland (466 out of 551), its highest completion percentage in 11 games under Jurgen Klinsmann. Steve Cherundolo completed 90 percent of his passes (54 of 60), best on the team among those with at least 10 passes.

I know defeating Scotland is not the end all, be all, but anytime you completely dominate a Top 50 team, you can be sure you are doing more right than wrong, even if Scotland was not at full strength.

So what to make exactly of this U.S. performance? It should be noted that Scotland brought a seriously understrength side to this match, with players like Darren Fletcher and James Morrison among the missing either through illness or injury. And the Americans will no doubt encounter a much tougher test this Wednesday against a youthful Brazil side. The upcoming World Cup qualifiers — in particular the away date against Guatemala on June 11 — will also offer considerably more hostility and tension than Saturday’s match.

But it’s nonetheless encouraging to see the U.S. begin to show a level of comfort with the principles that Klinsmann has been preaching: namely, a more attack-minded approach with an emphasis on playing the ball out of the back and pressing high up the field.

Over the last few years I have been writing about Team USA’s lack of class quality finishers. I think Donovan more than rose to the occasion, and I cannot wait to see what happens when the U.S. is back to full strength with Clint Dempsey.

The U.S. defense is still worrisome; I don’t see how Klinsmann can sleep well with the current back four (Fabian Johnson, Carlos Bocanegra, Geoff Cameron, and Steve Cherundolo).


Historic Day

Sunday, November 20, 2011, was very much a historic day as one of my top three favorite NASCAR drivers, Tony Stewart, became a three time Champion. I think it is pretty amazing that an owner/driver (Stewart-Hass racing) was able to achieve this accomplishment.

Stewart’s Homestead-Miami Speedway victory and Championship drive was even more amazing considering Stewart apparently fired his crew chief Darian Grubb earlier in the Chase (Charlotte Motor Speedway).

If this was not going to be Jeff Gordan’s year, then Stewart was a great replacement for 5-time Champion Jimmy Johnson.

L.A. Galaxy
Completely switching gears, not to be out done, the L.A. Galaxy finally managed to get that elusive Championship that seemed so automatic after the David Beckham signing in 2007; it just so happens to be Championship number three for the Galaxy.

With no regional MLS teams to cheer for, I keep my interest playing as and along with (in various FIFA games for the PS3) Donovan, thus the Galaxy connection.


MLS Moves to NBC

I have been trying to figure out if last week’s announcement that the MLS will move to NBC (really Versus Network, which will become NBC Sports Network on Jan 2, 2012) will really push the MLS (and U.S. Soccer) forward.

The best I can tell is that the MLS is anticipating a huge marketing banana as result of the larger NBC Sports coverage of the 2012 Olympics. I’m never one to call hoping a decent strategy!

Versus Network in and of itself has been a death sentence for the IRL.

IndyCar’s ratings, while still a long way from NASCAR’s, for example, recently resulted in its three most-watched races on Versus this summer (Texas, Toronto and Edmonton), though all of those ratings points were less than 1.0, which represents 1.1 million households.

The rebranding of Versus should make the channel–which some have complained is too obscure and difficult to find, especially for casual fans–much more of a household name. IndyCar certainly hopes some of that expanded recognition will rub off on it.

There we go with that hopeful thing again. The top three IRL races on Versus have netted a total of 3.3 million viewers. Wow; let’s be honest, those number suck.

I agree that moving to the NBC brand will be better for the MLS, but to me it seems like the MLS would have tried to go all in with ESPN.


57 Minutes of Stink, Stank, Stunk …

Did it really take the U.S. a full half and then some to get their first shot on goal against Mexico? I didn’t expect miracles the first match out with Jurgen Klinsmann leading the way, but I was expecting the U.S. to show off a more attacking approach based on the buildup to this not so “friendly” with bitter archrival Mexico.

Instead, the U.S. was adrift; playing on its collective heals until the final 25 minutes before managing the equalizer. 1-1 sure does look better than 1-nil.

Mostly, the U.S. walked away with a draw in which it actually had the bulk of chances because Mexico didn’t look sufficiently perturbed by the score line to actually do something about it.

Agree. In fact, while the US may have been missing its full complement of players (i.e. Dempsey), Mexico certainly didn’t bring its A game to Philadelphia.

Yet much that ails this team is still far from resolved. Mexico eventually began running through the lines, tapping the U.S. into oblivion and picking it apart like it had in June, destroying the Yanks in the possession department. It was only the U.S.’s sturdy play in the middle and El Tri’s inability to connect with a forward through the middle that kept the scoring floodgates from opening. Not until Mexico tired in the final 20 minutes did the U.S. start producing on offense, when young forwards Robbie Rogers, Juan Agudelo and Brek Shea created problems for Mexico with their movement. Before then, however, the U.S. had mustered nothing of consequence on offense, establishing a presence neither on the wings, through the middle nor at center forward.

The bad is still bad; defensive play is shaky at best, and no real attacking threat. The U.S. now has a tendency to exhibit miraculous, tenacious spurts of attacking, which is nice until you analyze and consider that the opposition is either digging in, waiting to sting the U.S. via a counter. Or in the case of Mexico, not pissed off enough to take the game back.

The good news is that we have some young talent (Juan Agudelo, Brek Shea, Robbie Rogers) that made a difference in the second half, but I temper that by saying how much did Mexico care at that point in the game? Agudelo can only get better; needs to not be so feather light getting position. I hope in the upcoming September matches, we get to see more of Shea and what he can bring to the team. Rogers? I’ll be honest, I do not know much about him, but was pleased to see him immediately go over to Shea and congratulate (thank) him on the open net assist. It looks like Rogers may also bring some much needed speed to the pitch. It should be fun to see how these guys develop.

The ratings always tickle me because sometimes they are so arbitrary; everyone sees the game differently. I thought Jermaine Jones was useless, and that Landon Donovan played a solid game on offense, defense, in transition, and servicing the ball into the box.

D Carlos Bocanegra, 7.5: The captain is still completely irreplaceable in the middle of the U.S. defense. He had another strong game and was caught out just once by Rafa Marquez.

Agree. Major concern over the buildup to World Cup qualifying next year has to be shoring up the defense and finding the eventual replacement for Bocanegra. At some point age will catch up with him. It always does.


U.S. Falters in Gold Cup Final

I really shouldn’t be bitter because the better team won. Mexico was faster, more explosive off the ball, and faster.  Did I say faster?  Mexico’s speed was an amazing contrast to just how slow our backfield (and pretty much everyone on the field) is in comparison.

On this day, and really until some significant changes occur within the U.S. program, this Mexico squad will be the superior CONCACAF team for the next World Cup buildup.

Going down 2-0 just pissed Mexico off, although I was going nuts in my living room, in stark contrast to the crap ‘home field’ advantage of playing in front of a pro Mexico crowd in the Rose Bowl.

I never expected the game to start like it did; I was just praying that we could hold the game in check for the first 15 minutes, settle down, and maybe get a chance. Instead, Mexico scored two in a row two times. After four straight goals it was more or less apparent that the U.S. has a long way to go.

Shades of the last Confederations Cup. Only this time we did not wait until the second half to let our opponent back into the game.

So what went wrong? Defense; lack of speed and closing ability. Losing one defender shouldn’t spell complete doom.

Defender Steve Cherundolo, who had played every minute of the Gold Cup for the United States, sprained his left ankle and left in the 11th minute. His disappearance seemed to take some of the focus out of the United States defense.

Are you f’ing kidding me? That is the understatement of the year. I like how Cherundolo has played (plus Cherrrrunnndoloooo just rolls of the tongue), and while I have not written about his consistent play, I had no idea how much he mattered to our shaky defense. Once he was out, it was really all she wrote.

It is not as if Cherundolo would be warming the bench of any major club teams, so it is sad to see such a shocking drop off in his sub. I wonder what the thought process was in bringing in Bornstein? Seriously; WTF was Bornstein doing out there? He was awful, as was the rest of the line and defensive midfield.

Bitter? Yes, but I should not have been, because in my heart of hearts, I knew this U.S. team was flawed, and will continue to be until we see some major changes.


Gold Cup Final. Can the U.S. beat Mexico?

This is (obviously) one of those games where I think I put my heart more into things than looking at the palpable facts. The U.S. may have made it to the finals by an undesired path, but they are in the Gold Cup final, which was what was expected of this team. Can they win?

Of course I want the U.S. to win, and while some improvements were made over Jamaica and Panama, I just see this team lacking in too many key areas. I have written too much of late about the lack of finishing ability and lapses on defense that cannot be allowed on a top International contender. I think Mexico will expose our defense, but there could be some hope.

The one lingering thought in the back of my mind is that at some point the U.S. has to start getting some luck and actually putting the ball the net. If quality chances continue, it is bound to happen sooner or later, right?

The other hope (and it is probably little more than a false hope) is that Mexico is tired after having to advance by going to extra time against Honduras. If the U.S. actually has fresher legs, and if they can avoid some of their historically stupid blunders to start the game (and the opening minutes of the second half), Team U.S.A. could have a decent chance to win the Gold Cup.

I just think they will have to play the perfect game, which is not really a good go in strategy. It is hugely unfortunate that the finals will be in the Rose Bowl; the crowed will be hostile towards the U.S.

Of course I want the U.S. to win, but do I expect them to win? Honestly, it is hard to say, even after spending the last few minutes asking the same question. I think the U.S. does have a chance, but they do have to control the pace, finish, and not have any horrendous gaffs.

Go U.S.A!


U.S. Takes On Panama (Again)

This time the stakes are much higher, as the winner of tonight’s matchup will face the Mexico/Honduras winner in Saturday night’s Gold Cup final.

Can the U.S. recover from their earlier disappointment at the hands of Panama? While the U.S. are favored to advance, I am not sure if this is because we are on home soil or if it is because we should actually win. Maybe both.

I think the U.S. can and should win, but of course they have to look closer to the Jamaica game instead of the previous defeat to Panama. As always, the keys have to be solid defense, and the ability to actually finish. Hopefully Donovan will be in full form and decide to attack!

It stinks that I would even have to write this, but I hope that the Houston crowd actually favors the U.S. and does not give us the appearance of a neutral crowd.  These days you just never know.  Because of the nature of America, I wonder if we will ever see a day when we will not have to worry about split nationalities (loyalties of immigrants and second generation Americans seem to always reside with their home country).

A win would be a nice little birthday present for my middle son, who turns 9 today. Wishing him a happy birthday, and for the U.S. to bring home a victory

U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!


U.S. Still Cannot Finish

Despite taking care of Jamaica 2-nil, I am still somewhat worried as the U.S. now prepares for a Wednesday night match up in Houston, TX against the winner of El Salvador – Panama.

At what point will the U.S. learn to finish? I was going to post this a few days ago after our Guadeloupe escape, but I was just too down on our play to bother posting another in a series of “negative” Team U.S.A. posts.

While Guadeloupe goalkeeper Franck Grandel delivered a string of impressive saves, the U.S. was also guilty of some shocking misses that bordered on the comical, none more so than Clint Dempsey’s blown chance in the 76th minute. Presented with a simple tap-in after being set up brilliantly by Alejandro Bedoya, Dempsey’s casual attitude allowed an opposition defender to recover and block his shot.

The U.S. will likely trot out the old, “Well, at least we’re creating chances” bromide, but that won’t fool anyone. Instead, it will only reinforce the perception that something is missing from the U.S. side in this Gold Cup. Granted, on the one hand, the U.S. can comfort itself by the fact that it has survived the group stage playing far short of its best. And by finishing second as opposed to third, it managed to avoid facing Mexico in the quarterfinals.

On the other hand, the Americans’ complete lack of a killer instinct is troubling, as is their tendency to play down to the level of their opposition. And that will simply not be good enough against a Jamaica side that looks to be well-organized and more than athletic enough to compete with the U.S.

I think it still stands, only this time Dempsey figured out how to reach the back of the net, and will have to do so again Wednesday night if Jozy Altidore’s injury (hamstring?) proves to be Gold Cup Tournament ending.

On the bright side (other than the win of course) was the switch to a 4-5-1 formation, which either kept Jamaica on the defensive most of the game or maybe caught them completely off guard. Either way, I loved that we came out attacking; just have to be able to finish!

Jamaica’s Donovan Ricketts (of MLS LA Galaxy fame – I thought it was cool that my soon to be nine-year old son called that out right away due to his MLS card collection) kept the U.S. at bay time and again with some quality saves, which really reminded me of how the U.S. has managed to do so well in International play over the last 10-15 years. A great keeper can really compensate of multiple problem areas on the pitch.

It will be interesting to see how the U.S. approaches Wednesday night’s game, regardless of the opponent.

Go U.S.A.!!!