Toros Rojos de Nueva York

If various reports are to be believed, the New York Red Bulls are all about assembling a team of galacticos, with the club being mentioned in pursuit of Thierry Henry, currently retired Italian demi-god Paolo Maldini and, the latest, Real Madrid’s Raul.

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Hey, it worked for the Cosmos, didn’t it?

So what are the odds of these types of players continuing to blaze the path of Juan Pablo Angel and Becks before them? Personally, I think Beckham’s initiation into MLS (dodgy pitches, mediocre teammates, opponents hacking him down regularly) has had a chilling effect on aged stars considering a move across the pond and that these flirtations amount to little more than a negotiating ploy with the deeper-pocketed–and not league-owned–teams in the Old World.

Captain Cuckold

The inevitable happened today as Chelsea and England centerback John Terry was terrystripped of the England captaincy following revelations that he nutmegged former Blues teammate Wayne Bridge’s ex-girlfriend, Vanessa Perroncel.

Rio Ferdinand takes the armband from the disgraced Terry, with Steven Gerrard named vice-captain.

Interestingly, the news mirrors a long-rumored situation involving the US Men’s team in 1998. Former Nats striker Eric Wynalda confirmed on Fox Football Fone-In that ex-teammate John Harkes had an affair with Wynalda’s wife prior to the World Cup in France. This revelation contributed to Harkes being dropped from the World Cup team by Coach Steve Sampson, who cited nebulous, “leadership issues.”

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And Sampson this week saw an opening to blame the US’s poor performance in France on something other than his awful coaching.

“Hey! We had one of those affair thinghees too and that’s why we sucked at the World Cup in 1998, not because of my absurd 3-6-1 formation or the fact that I changed a handful of starters after the opening loss to the Germans or that I’m as tactically astute as a ball-peen hammer!”

Sorry Steve. Not buying it.

What effect this will all have on the England side remains to be seen–what are the odds we can convince Fabio Capello to consult with Sampson over how to deal with the fallout?–and it does not appear Terry is any danger of getting the Harkes treatment. But we’re sure to hear plenty more about it as the June 12 opener vs. the US draws closer. The British press isn’t exactly known for its restraint in these matters.

Going Greek

The trials of Eddie Johnson and Freddy Adu sometimes read like a Greek tragedy. Precocious young talents derailed by bad decisions, poor management and middling form. Sophocles would be all over these two. Currently stranded well outside of the US Men’s player pool, the pair are miles away from being in the conversation for a World Cup slot and only a few months to impress Nats Coach Bob Bradley.

So they’ve gone to the cradle of democracy, Greece, and club side Aris Thessaloniki, to find answers. Both came on as subs last weekend and teamed up for a goal in a 2-1 loss to something called Skoda Xanthi.

Both players, of course, were once thought to be the future of the National Team. EJ made a huge splash in qualifying for the ’06 World Cup, scoring seven goals in six games, before injury and a severe dip in form derailed his playing time in Germany. Since, he’s gone from MLS to Fulham, which loaned him to Cardiff, and now onto Greece. Adu, the former prodigy and Nike marketing darling, joined him a week later, after a troubled loan spell at Beleneseses (which followed a year-long loan at Monaco, where Adu played sparingly) and the pair are hoping to re-start their dwindling chances to make the roster in South Africa.

The odds are against them, but maybe a trip to the Oracle at Delphi can give the players a clearer picture.

Bornstein for President

When the U.S. takes the Home Depot Center pitch this Saturday against Honduras, the most popular player on the field will be…Jonathan Bornstein?

It was Bornstein’s injury time equaliser against Costa Rica in the final qualifying match that sent Honduras into the World Cup for the first time since 1982 and propelled him to Hero status in the Central American country.

This, just four days after the U.S. team played the role of villain with an improbable 3-2 win over Honduras at San Pedro Sula to cement their own World Cup credentials.

All was forgiven, however, after Bornstein headed his last-gasp goal. According to Soccer By Ives, Bornstein has been invited by Honduran President Roberto Michelleti to vacation in the country, should he need some R&R after the World Cup.

I love this video featuring Honduran announcers. Have you ever been this happy about anything in your life?

Bonus points for the Costa Rica assistant coach being the spittin’ image of John C. Reilly.

Bornstein is assured of starting at left back and seems to have a stranglehold on the spot for South Africa. Saturday’s game is at 6 p.m. PST and will be broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel.

Landycakes Swings One In

Fresh off making a hilarious run for the border, Landon Donovan debuted Saturday for Everton at Emirates Stadium against home side, Arsenal. His inclusion in the starting team was something of a surprise, considering he’s been idle since skying a spot kick over the bar in MLS Cup and has only been training on Merseyside for a week. Regardless, it took him all of 12 minutes set up a Leon Osman goal off a corner.

Following the 2-2 draw, Everton manager David Moyes was quoted in The London Times as saying, “Donovan did very well. From what I have seen of him his football’s simple, quick, lively and he was intelligent today. He tracked people back and we know he can play off the front or wide. I thought he made a good contribution.”

Most of the other games in the Barclay’s Premier League were cancelled on the weekend due to weather, but Donovan’s USMNT teammate Clint Dempsey led a slew of highlight shows with this cracker against Stoke mid-week.

Quite a finish. Still lost to Stoke. Looks like English punters will see plenty of the Americans leading up to the US-England World Cup tie on June 12.

Away at Camp

The U.S. Men’s National Team convened it’s winter training camp today in Carson, CA in preparation for a friendly on Jan. 24 at Home Depot Center.

The annual camp traditionally features a number of fresh faces, as the majority of European-based starters remain with their club teams. Of the 23 called into Coach Bob Bradley’s set-up, nine are looking for their first cap.

The team does include some familiar names, like midfielder Robbie Rogers and center back Chad Mashall, both of whom saw time last summer in the Gold Cup and will hope to make a bigger impression . Others played roles in qualifying, including Benny Feilhaber, Conor Casey and Jonathan Bornstein, and will provide leadership and have a chance to enhance their South Africa credentials.

But the focus here is on the new guys, players can make a big impression and vault themselves into the contention for a spot with the Senior Team, and especially enticing prospect with the World Cup in South Africa just more than six months away.

While this is not a simple task, one must only look back to last year, when the U.S. notched a 3-0 victory over Sweden (their ‘B’ team, to be fair) at the end of the winter camp. In that game, Sacha Kljestan scored a hat trick to send his stock rising, albiet temporarily, and a young striker by the name of Charlie Davies put in a solid first half. Both were involved in qualifying after that, with Davies stamping himself as a star.

Ironically, it’s Davies’s accident/injury that might open the door for a couple of the newbies.

Alejandro Bedoya, like Davies, is a Boston College product who went straight from campus to the Swedish League. The 22-year-old midfielder currently plies his trade with Orebro and made 13 appearances for the club in 2009, scoring twice. Though the U.S. midfield is considered deep, the loss of Davies might necessitate moving winger Clint Dempsey up front to partner Jozy Altidore, an option favored by many pundits, including this one. The likes of Stuart Holden and Jose Francisco Torres are sure to get first shot at any midfield openings, but the attack-minded Bedoya will view the camp as a chance to include himself in the conversation.

Another former collegiate star making waves in Scandanavia is Marcus Tracy, a striker for Aalborg in Denmark. The 23-year-old M.A.C. Hermann Trophy winner from Wake Forest has two goals this season in 21 appearances. Not a great haul, but, for many young players, just breaking into a professional Starting XI is quite an accomplishment (eh, Freddy Adu?). Tracy has a ton of pace, which the U.S. loses up front with Davies out. He lacks experience, but speed is something you can’t teach.

The full training camp roster:

Goalkeepers: Kevin Hartman (Kansas City), Troy Perkins (Valerenga, Norway), Nick Rimando (Salt Lake), Zach Thornton (Chivas USA)

Defenders: Kevin Alston (New England), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles), Clarence Goodson (IK Start, Norway), Chad Marshall (Columbus), Brandon McDonald (San Jose), Heath Pearce (Dallas), Marvell Wynne (Toronto)

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro, Sweden), Geoff Cameron (Houston), Brad Davis (Houston), Brad Evans (Seattle), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus, Denmark), Eddie Gaven (Columbus), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas), Jeff Larentowicz (New England), Dax McCarty (Dallas), Chris Pontius (D.C.), Robbie Rogers (Columbus)

Forwards: Justin Braun (Chivas USA), Conor Casey (Colorado), Jeff Cunningham (Dallas), Robbie Findley (Salt Lake), Marcus Tracy (Aalborg, Denmark)

DaMarcus Beasley Finds His Form

When we last saw US international midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, he was gifting
Brazil a counter-attack goal in the Confederations Cup last summer with a giveaway so egregious that even his staunchest supporter, National Team coach Bob Bradley, was forced to sub him, lest Beasley embarrass himself any further.

That poor first touch off a short corner kick seemed to be the last straw as DMB was left out of the side for the Nats’ final five games of the World Cup qualifying campaign, after featuring in three previous matches in the hexagonal, one of which was the disastrous attempt to play him at left back. Even worse for his future prospects with the national team, Beasley was firmly ensconsced on the bench in Scotland with his club team, Rangers.

Well, lookee here. Beasley is back in favor at Ibrox and is finding his form. He has made four starts and a substitute appearance in the last five games. He’s drawn a penalty, scored a cracker mid-week against Dundee (see below) and today, was involved in the buildup to a pair of goals before bagging one himself in a 6-1 thrashing of Motherwell.

It’s been more than two years since Beasley broke his leg in a Champions League match against Stuttgart. He’s been out of form ever since, while also battling groin and hamstring injuries, which appeared to rob him on his greatest asset, his speed. In addition, his first touch has been dreadful, as has his confidence. He no longer seemed willing or able to run at defenders.

He has, of course, shown plenty of ability in the past, scoring important goals for the national team, like his strike against Mexico (off a short corner!) that helped clinch World Cup qualification four years ago. He has a good understanding with Landon Donovan from their youth days and the pair have always combined well. His recent spate of playing time in Scotland coincides with the upcoming January transfer window as rumors persist coach Walter Smith might be looking to unload him to another club. But not only is Beasley taking advantage of his recent opportunities, he’s making a renewed impression on his coach.

“DaMarcus has come back and played extremely well,” Smith said. “He started his career here like that but unfortunately got a bad injury. He is back and playing well and is the type who is liable to score as well, as he has shown in the last couple games.

Perhaps it’s not yet time to close the door on Beasley’s international career, particularly in light of Charlie Davies’s injury, which robs the US team of pace. Beasley is still just 27 and if he continues to get minutes and play well, he’ll certainly earn another look from Bob Bradley.

As long as it’s not at left back.