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U.S. Scenarios

June 18, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | 2 Comments | Filed in England National Team, United States Men's National Team

What does the U.S. need to do to advance out of the group after today’s two contrasting draws, one thrilling, one as boring as boiled tomatoes.

First, the table:

Team W L D P GD GF GA
Slovenia 1 0 1 4 +1 3 2
United States 0 0 2 2 0 3 3
England 0 0 2 2 0 1 1
Algeria 0 1 1 1 -1 0 1

Now, the tie-breakers:

1. Head-to-head
2. Goal differential
3. Goals scored
4. Goal differential in games featuring tied teams
5. Goals scored in games featuring tied teams
6. Lots (yes, lots are drawn from a hat)

Scenarios:

If the U.S. loses to Algeria:

They will be eliminated.

If the U.S. tie Algeria:

They will advance if Slovenia defeats England.

If England and Slovenia draw, they will advance on the third tie-breaker–goals scored–if England score fewer than two more goals than the U.S. does on Wednesday. For example, if the U.S. draws 1-1, England would need to score at least 3 goals (a 3-3 draw with Slovenia? Unlikely).

They will be eliminated if England beat Slovenia.

If the U.S. wins:

They will advance regardless of the other result and can top the group if Slovenia draw or lose.

Got it? The easiest route would seem to be beating Algeria, who were decent tonight v. England. They have some skill on the ball and crazy pace at left-back, but I didn’t see anything in defense to make the U.S. tremble. Their clean sheet was more a product of England’s poor decision-making and touch, than any outstanding display. Boy, do the Three Lions have issues.

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I Didn’t See That Coming

June 18, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | No Comments | Filed in United States Men's National Team, World Cup

So many talking points after the U.S. came from behind to gain a point in the 2-2 draw with Slovenia:

* The U.S. continues to concede goals early, a glaring deficiency.

* Oguchi Onyewu resembled nothing more than a statue on both Slovenia goals, failing to close down Valter Birsa on the first and keeping Zlatan Ljubijankic onside for the second.

* A lackadaisical first half, seemingly played at half-speed. If you’re starting Robbie Findley and Jose Torres, isn’t the idea to use your pace advantage and move the ball quicker?

bradleyusa

FUUUUUUUUUCK! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!

* Bob Bradley’s halftime substitutions. Outstanding. Maurice Edu provided cover in the middle for Michael Bradley (and Onyewu). He wasn’t at his best, but the change allowed the rest of the midfield to push forward. Benny Feilhaber didn’t have as much of an impact, but pushing Clint Dempsey forward gave space to Bradley and Donovan behind the strikers. And Herculez Gomez, desperately on for Onyewu, made a great clearing run on the equaliser. Not to be overlooked is that last change could not have been made without Edu’s versatility, as he effectively moved to centerback after the goal.

* The amazing comeback. Remarkable to come from two down in a Woirld Cup against a defense-first side that only conceded four goals in 10 qualifiers. At half-time, I couldn’t rationalize it.

* The disallowed goal. It’s now being reported the foul was called on the “scorer,” Edu. Bollocks. There’s no replay in the universe that supports that view, but plenty that show four U.S. players being bear-hugged and ball-tickled.

* Unbelievably (and I mean UNBELIEVABLY), the U.S. still has its own destiny in its hands. Beating Algeria by two goals or more puts them into the knockout rounds regardless of the results of the two other group games. That is eminently do-able. If they can manage to not fuck up the first 15 minutes.

I’m of many mixed emotions. A draw with Slovenia is not exactly something to crow about (though, credit to them; they were good and dangerous all day), but the manner in which it was achieved is certainly cause for celebration. The U.S. were literally eight minutes from being 95% out of the tournament. And now they control their destiny. Relief. The probable winner was taken away by a poor decision. Infuriating.

Going into the final group game, a big question will be the lineup. Will Onyewu get another chance? I think so. The only palatable option, one that doesn’t include Jonny Bornstein or Jonathan Spector, is pairing Edu in the middle with Jay DeMerit, but there’s a lack of experience and familiarity there. Findley is out on two yellows, so do you go with Edson Buddle or Gomez up top, or put Dempsey up there from the off and bring in Feilhaber or Stuart Holden? It will be an attacking formation, regardless of personnel. So will Bradley Sr. get it right?

I’m relieved to have five more days to think about it, rather than staring at elimination.

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The Awesomeness of a Draw

June 15, 2010 by Danieldinho | No Comments | Filed in World Cup

Have been having a hard time explaining to my otherwise intelligent friends over on the poker-media side of the world how thrilling non-scoring can be … funny front page (and a great hedline!) … seen by me on Facebook via Mad & Homer:

nypost

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How the U.S. Can Win

June 10, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | 3 Comments | Filed in England National Team, United States Men's National Team, World Cup

We’re 48 hours away from U.S.-England and I’m about ready to shit myself. I haven’t been able to sleep in days, awakened by various nightmares of Aaron Lennon bearing down on Carlos Bocanegra and Clarence Goodson trying to track Wayne Rooney. It is my logical mind breaking through the veneer of fantasy I’ve been trying to construct.

That fantasy is that the U.S. can win this game. By any reasonable analysis, the Three Lions win by two goals. At least.

You didn’t come here for reason though, did you? Good. It’s often been said that one of the strengths of Yanks is their self-belief, even in the face of substantial odds. So let’s go ahead an perpetuate that stereotype. Here’s how the U.S. can win:

1. Pressure

It’s all on England. They are burdened by their history, agitated by their fans, preyed upon by the media. No bit of minutiae is left unexamined and the entire country has been in giddy anticipation since the Group draw was announced. Suffice to say, the pundits don’t see any cause for concern.

easy

The pressure has begun to assert itself. See Rooney’s yellow card against some South African pub team. Or Capello’s rants at both his players and photographers. Perhaps most damning, the England manager has restricted his side’s access to their notorious WAGs, allowing them only to see each other on the day after games, thus hindering a pleasurable way to release some steam (so to speak).

2. Injuries

Rio Ferdinand is out of the tournament and Gareth Barry is not available for the U.S. game, so Capello needs to find some solutions in the Engine Room. Either Ledley King or Jamie Carragher will start in defense for Ferdinand, but the picture is less clear regarding Barry’s replacement and if you’re a U.S. fan, you’re hoping that it’s Steven Gerrard.

Not because Gerrard is a downgrade, but because he’s never formed an effective partnership with Frank Lampard in the middle of the park. Gerrard is much more effective for the national team out wide or in the free position behind a lone striker (see Torres, Fernando at Liverpool). Together, Stevie and Lamps spend to much time staring at each other trying to figure out which is going forward (You? No, please be my guest. No, after you). If Capello prefers an out-of-form Michael Carrick in the destroyer role (or the inexperienced James Milner), the drop-off from Barry will be mitigated by a more fluid attack.

3. Possession

The U.S. most frequently gets into trouble when they are not able to release the pressure on their defense. Look, we all know they’ll play conservatively, will hunker down with eight men behind the ball and hope to counter. But a vital aspect of playing defensively is being able to move the ball out of the back and string a few passes together instead of just hoofing it long and re-setting.

The primary issue with this is Coach Bob Bradley’s insistence on playing two defensive-minded midfielders in the middle (he’d argue he doesn’t, but he’s wrong). Neither Michael Bradley or Rico Clark (the expected starters) are adept at selecting good outlet options (or even delivering a good pass). They will need to step up, get the ball wide to Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan to run into space, space which should be there as England sends Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson forward on the flanks. Aside from giving a breather to the back-line, a few jaunts up the pitch might limit the frequency of runs from the marauding English outside backs.

4. Moment of Brilliance

The U.S., collectively, faces a talent chasm roughly the size of the Mariana Trench. But the side does have individuals capable of world class play (see: Dempsey, Clint v. Juventus or Stoke). One unexpected strike could change the tenor of the game.

5. Calamity James

The one position where the U.S. does have an advantage is in goal. While David James has largely overcome his penchant for the odd howler, he will never truly shed the label. One gaffe can alter a team’s chances (see: Seaman, David v. Ronaldinho). I expect Bradley to insist the U.S. test James from any distance, put a few on frame early and see how he deals with the occasion, and the much-discussed new ball.

6. Underdogs

It’s a role the U.S. relishes and its World Cup history is pock-marked with the corpses of more talented teams. Portugal in ’02, Colombia in ’94, even the man-down draw with Italy four years ago. The club does not lack for fighting spirit or a confidence in each other, both of which will grow the longer the game remains in doubt. The first twenty minutes will be key as England will come out roaring and the Yanks will need some time to settle their nerves. If they can weather that storm, will the game into their kind of rhythm, avoid unnecessary cards and fouls in their defensive third, then it’s game on.

gazza

In the end, a loss by a single goal would be a good result for the U.S. in terms of getting out of the group, which is the primary goal, after all. But dang it’d be sweet to win. They’ve pulled these upsets before.

Maybe then, I could get some sleep.

Where to Watch Live Streaming 2010 World Cup Video Online for Free

June 7, 2010 by Danieldinho | No Comments | Filed in World Cup

A little more South Africa from Afar … here’s a list of places you’ll be able to watch matches over the internet via free streaming video:

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South Africa from Afar

June 7, 2010 by Danieldinho | No Comments | Filed in World Cup

Just starting to set up my bookmarks and twitter follows for the World Cup. Already friggin’ excited … just filled out my bracket, and I gotta say, I’m such a homer — I’ve got USA losing to Brazil in the semis.

Anyhow, the Washington Post is set to give us one new site, and one old one — both of which seem worthy of checking out (for now):

Steven Goff’s Soccer Insider here.

And the new Wapocup here.

Not so sure about this posterous site … plan seems to be for a group fan-blog chock-full of user-submitted content. Have seen that fail many times in many different genres before — especially with hedlines such as “Here we go!” — but maybe the power of the Washington Post combined with the World FRIGGIN Cup will be enough to give it at least a month’s worth of legs?

More click-worthy links TK for sure, as well as probably a few that turn out to be better suited for unbookmarking eventually.

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Soccerati/Wicked Chops World Cup Fantasy Bracket Contest

June 7, 2010 by Danieldinho | 2 Comments | Filed in World Cup

Check it out … Soccerati has partnered with the dudes at Wicked Chops for a joint World Cup fantasy bracket venture. Actual prizes will be in play. (What they are we don’t know yet, but @AlCantHang has offered to buy the winner a shot of SoCo … so we’ve got at least that much already to play for.)

Anyhow, here are the deets on getting in on the action. Sign up and forward to your friends — enourage them to play on ESPN in the Wicked Chops FC group:

First select which two teams will advance out of each the eight groups. The order you select them – 1st or 2nd – determines where they are placed in the 16-team bracket. Then predict the winner of the 15 bracket matches throughout the Finals. All picks lock with the first kickoff on Friday, June 11, 2010. Good luck!

Get in the action now:
http://games.espn.go.com/bpredictor/en-us/group?groupID=19078

Group: Wicked Chops FC
Password: wickedchops

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The Buddle System

June 6, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | 1 Comment | Filed in United States Men's National Team, World Cup

Are you prepared for a world where Edson Buddle is the Savior? No, me neither, but the U.S. striker’s two well-taken goals were the highlight of the Americans’ 3-1 win over Australia on Saturday.

More troubling were the continued defensive lapses–Jay DeMerit was particularly culpable–and the lingering mystery of Oguchi Onyewu’s health. Gooch only played the last half-hour, so questions must remain whether he will be able to withstand a full 90 minutes, let alone a full game in the heat of a World Cup. John Harkes and Martin Tyler, announcing the game for ESPN, repeatedly said the coaching staff decided to ease off on Gooch after riding him hard at training recently. If that is indeed the reason. Poppycock. I’m sure that’s the info the U.S. team is providing, but you don’t exhaust a guy in training when what he needs is match fitness. Unless you unintentionally exhaust him because he’s out of shape. Or because he still seems to walk/run with a discouraging limp.

I’d say the odds are high of a Clarence Goodson-DeMerit central pairing in the first game v. England, and judging by the gaps the two have left the past couple games, it’s a work in progress. Aussie striker Josh Kennedy missed two sitters, chances that Wayne Rooney will not fail to convert (though Emilie Heskey will).

buddle

As for Buddle, he and strike partner Robbie Findley were dangerous, though occasionally seemed confused about how to work together. Findley caused the turnover for the Nats’ first, Buddle lashing a shot past Mark Schwartzer after first trying to play Findley in (fortunately, that option wasn’t available, since Findley missed two open nets). Buddle’s second was also well-taken, thanks to an inch-perfect cross from Steve Cherundolo, who started and played all 90, further fueling the sense that ‘Dolo has won the right-back slot over a struggling Jonathan Spector.

As expected, Jozy Altidore was held out of the game with his injured ankle (though he participated in training today), so whether Buddle has seized a starting spot as Jozy’s partner, or remains a late-game sub, remains to be seen. Coach Bob Bradley can go a number of ways in the opener on Saturday. He’s long resisted a lone-striker set-up, but it’s my opinion a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 (with Dempsey or Jose Torres in the withdrawn striker role) is the Americans’ best option.

The team got out of the game without any new injury worries (though Dempsey was man-handled on a few occasions and Ricardo Clark limped out late, thanks to what was later called cramps) and what should be a decent amount of confidence offensively. On the defensive side, however, we’ve six days left to worry.

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Drogba and Ferdinand Injured; World Cup Hopes in Doubt

June 4, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | 3 Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

On the eve of the U.S. men’s last warm-up game before the start of the World Cup, sobering injury news for two huge names–Didier Drogba and Rio Ferdinand–and a reminder that what’s most important for the Nats against Australia tomorrow is to stay healthy.

The U.S. already has injury concerns, with Oguchi Onyewu’s ability to go a full 90 minutes still very much in question. And Jozy Altidore picked up a “mild” ankle sprain in training Wednesday. He’s been held out of practice since, is listed as day-to-day and is doubtful to play against the Socceroos.

Those concerns are minor compared to the worries of England and Ivory Coast, who appear to have lost talismanic players just days before the start of the tournament. England Captain Rio Ferdinand hobbled out of practice after a clash with Emile Heskey (who else could it be?) and was later seen leaving the hospital on crutches. Sources are saying Ferdinand is out of the tournament with a knee injury, though coach Fabio Capello has yet to confirm the dire diagnosis.

(UPDATED: Ferdinand is out. Capello announced, “It’s obviously bad news and everyone with the squad is very disappointed and sorry for Rio.” Tottenham defender Michael Dawson is on his way to South Africa as the allowed injury replacement and Steven Gerrard takes the captain’s arm band.)

That leaves the Three Lions with the choice of Ledley King or Matthew Upson to line up next to John Terry in central defense. That’s decent cover, for sure, but King’s legendary brittleness almost assures England won’t start the same defensive pair in all of their group games.

As for Drogba, there is no replacement for him. He’s truly a “destination” player, one whom even a casual observer tunes in to watch, along the lines of a Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney, and the World Cup will suffer if he’s unable to go. And all involved with Ivory Coast will be livid at the manner in which the injury–reportedly a fractured elbow–was sustained, a reckless karate kick from Japan defender Tulio Tanaka.

That’s just dirty and un-called for. A “fucking disgrace,” if you will. Nobody in the Ivory Coast camp has officially ruled out the striker and reports are currently all over the place, with Drogba claiming he was out, while coach Sven-Goran Eriksson says he still might play. Ivory Coast’s first game is in ten days against Portugal.

So, to repeat, U.S. of A. lads: watch out for flying Aussies. The game is on ESPN2 at 8:30 a.m. (EST).

Rossi Gutted; U.S. Rallies

June 2, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | No Comments | Filed in United States Men's National Team, World Cup

See what happens? I bail on polite society for a four-day bender Memorial Day weekend (at least two of my internal organs threatened to shut down) and all hell breaks loose in the Soccer Universe with big names left off World Cup rosters and the U.S. regaining a little bit of its mojo in a send-off win over Turkey.

I’m a little late, but let’s try to get to some of it, starting with Guiseppe Rossi.

The Jersey-born striker was cut from the Italian side, unleashing a torrent of schadenfreude from U.S. fans, still stung by Rossi’s decision to cast his lot with the Azzurri instead of the Red, White and Blue. The thing is, such criticism is unwarranted. Rossi never flip-flopped; his intentions were always clear. He represented Italy as far back as U-16s and politely declined when then-U.S. Coach Bruce Arena invited him to camp in 2006.

rossi

But that’s besides the point. You’re either with us or against us and after Rossi scored twice against the Nats last summer in the Confederations Cup, the hatred was cemented. Hell hath no fury like a fanbase scorned. The most talented U.S.-born striker in the world is not playing this summer and Americans will say it was his hubris–that he could crack the mighty Azzurri–that doomed him to that fate.

I’m not doing any celebrating over the news. Rossi has always spoke well of the U.S. team and he took the blow with class. However, there is perhaps some good news in this for U.S. fans beside a few hours of gloating. The U.S. youth teams have several promising kids with dual nationality possibilities–the Hoyos brothers, Sebastian Lletget and Joseph Gyau to name a few–and Rossi’s situation may have some of them thinking twice about trying to represent countries with deeper and more talented player pools.

Come to America! We suck! Guaranteed playing time! Wonder if we can get Nike to create us a slogan.

*

As for those poor souls who couldn’t dream of playing for Italy and toil for the current U.S. side, they had to be breathing easier after a 2-1 comeback win against Turkey last Saturday. It wasn’t an overwhelming performance by any means. The defense, including the midfield, looked completely disorganized in the first half. Even when they had eight back, there was plenty of space for the Turks as the Yanks chased the ball–notably Michael Bradley–lunging into late challenges and hitting only air, which I suppose is fortunate, since, more often, he lunges in and hits someone’s knee and gets a red card.

bradley1

The Turkey goal came from a counter when Jonathan Spector got caught in possession just outside the opposing box and nobody filled in behind him for cover, a missed assignment from the centerbacks and central midfielders. Yes, Spector was awful for all 45 minutes he played (and his replacement, Steve Cherundolo was excellent, so maybe the right back position is up for grabs), but the blame wasn’t his in this case.

In truth, better finishing could have had the Turks up three at the half, but to the Nats’ credit, they reversed momentum and took over the game in the second frame. Jose Torres was all class after coming on as a sub, not only pulling the strings in midfield, which we know he can do, but also showing some bite defensively, a long-criticized aspect of his game. Bradley stopped spraying passes all over the pitch and used his spastic energy to much better effect. And gasp! Robbie Findley was the one to unlock the Turkish defense with an exquisite chip to Landon Donovan.

That goal (Donovan squared it across to Jozy Altidore who tucked it into a wide-open net) showed how dangerous Donovan is, how dangerous other teams believe he is. When Findley received the ball, there were two Turkish defenders in the area, but both backed off Findley when Donovan made his run, giving the Real Salt Lake man time to settle and lift a perfect ball over the top.

Clint Dempsey’s game-winner was all quick-thinking (to settle a difficult pass) and Texas muscle. Oguchi Onyewu got 45 minutes in the second half and looked far more comfortable–and effective–than last week. And those of you who had 28 seconds in the “Length of Time Jonathan Bornstein is on the Pitch Before He Gets Skinned” Pool, collect your prize at Soccerati HQ.

And now that I spent all day catching up, I’m behind again. What happened today?

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U.S. Tries to Avoid Another Turkey

May 28, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | No Comments | Filed in United States Men's National Team

The U.S. faces Turkey tomorrow in Philadelphia in its penultimate friendly before the start of the World Cup. The Turks brought a strong team, one that didn’t qualify for South Africa but made the Euro 2008 semifinals, so this is a good test for the home side.

Expect to see a reasonable facsimile of the eleven that will take the pitch against England in just more than two weeks time (two weeks! Squeeeee!). A better result will be expected than the 4-2 loss to Czech Republic in a game that featured mostly back-ups (and guys who got sent home).

Barring injury, only two starting slots are up for grabs. Either Ricardo Clark or Maurice Edu will line up alongside Michael Bradley in the central midfield (I think Clark stats tomorrow after Edu went 90 minutes against the Czechs). And who among the pool of inexperienced forwards will pair with Jozy Altidore up top?

obamasoccer

The U.S team meets a bunch of suits at the White House.

So what will the U.S. team be looking to get out of the friendly? Cohesion, I suspect. Most national teams train together for such a short time that the learning curve is steep. In the team’s favor is their experience and familiarity with each other. We all saw how the team grew with each passing game in the Confederations Cup last summer. What will need to change is slow start the team had in that tournament.

Tactically, the game will be played without frills, partly because of that lack of training, but also to not unveil any surprises to the scouts of their World Cup opponents.

Since their runner-up performance in South Africa last summer, we haven’t seen the U.S. display that top-level form. Sure, they topped the qualifying group, but hardly looked like world-beaters in doing so. A good result against a solid Turkish side will give them the confidence they will need going forward.

And, you know, scoring a goal in the run of play would be nice, too.

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Essien Out and Other Injuries

May 27, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | No Comments | Filed in England National Team, United States Men's National Team, World Cup

Ghana captain Michael Essien has been ruled out of the World Cup as he has not recovered from a knee injury picked up in the African Cup of Nations in January. The absence of the Chelsea midfielder, Ghana’s most accomplished player, is a huge setback to the Black Stars and they must now be considered long-shots to get out of Group D, which includes Germany, Serbia and Australia.

essien

In other injury news, Spain’s Fernando Torres returned to full training with the Euro 2008 champions after six weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury, a certain boost to the co-favorites (with Brazil) and likely also to those clubs hoping to pry the striker away from Anfield later this summer. Torres recently rubbished his agent’s statements alluding to the star staying with Liverpool after a distasterous campaign, raising red flags all over Merseyside, and also at my house.

Closer to home (home, in this case being Group C), England gaffer Fabio Capello is not yet ready to rule out Gareth Barry, who continues to rehab an ankle injury suffered earlier this month. Barry, Capello’s preferred defensive midfielder, had scans on the ankle this week that were inconclusive. Considering the middling performances of James Milner and Michael Carrick against Mexico, it’s clear Capello will consider Barry until the last possible moment.

U.S. players with questionable health include the (many times) aforementioned Oguchi Onyewu. Some pundits claimed he looked about 60-70% against the Czechs, but I’d say that assessment is rather optimistic. Centreback Jay DeMerit, with his new cornea, appears recovered from a strained abdominal muscle, as does captain Carlos Bocanegra, who underwent a recent hernia operation. Though U.S. fans will breathe easier regarding those diagnoses if both take the field Saturday for the U.S. team’s final stateside friendly against Turkey in Philly.

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Ladies and Gentlemen…YOUR U.S. National Team

May 26, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | No Comments | Filed in United States Men's National Team, World Cup

Live! From ESPN HQ and my mother’s basement! It’s the 2010 U.S. Men’s National Team World Cup Selection Show brought to you buy several large advertisers and this bacon and egg sandwich I just made for myself.

Coach Bob Bradley is–in mere moments!–handing out 23 cherished tickets to South Africa and while the kleig lights lend the occasion a bit of pomp, the truth is there should be no surprises at this juncture. The only intrigue is the final two slots. Contenders are Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez on the front line and midfielders Alejandro Bedoya and Robbie Rogers. Bradley could elect to take both strikers, but it’s unlikely that both Bedoya and Rogers make the team.

Here we go:

It’s Bob Ley! The U.S. players are standing on a random field, looking uncomfortable and sweaty.

Goalkeepers- Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Guzan

Given. All three of our keepers are bald or balding. I’m glad I stopped playing goalie at 13, otherwise I might not have this magnificent head of hair.

Who was the last goalkeeper with great hair? Schumacher? Higuita?

Defenders — Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Bornstein

Nothing crazy here, but for the continuing scourge of Bornstein. He’s like herpes.

As mentioned in last night’s post, there’s a lot of versatility in this group should Gooch be physically unable to go (I spent a good half-hour last night trying to convince myself he was just rusty; didn’t take). Bocanegra can play in the middle or at left back. Spector has played right back from the U.S., but left back for West Ham (to middling results this past season). Maurice Edu is a capable centerback. And Jonathan Bornstein can go play in traffic.

Midfielders- Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden, Ricardo Clark, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres, DaMarcus Beasley

Bedoya out. That means an extra striker. Congrats Edson Buddle!

I am Michael Bradley! I will not look at the camera!

Most agree (and by “most,” I mean the people I brow-beat into agreeing with me) the U.S. is best served by starting Dempsey up top with Altidore and sliding Torres or Feilhaber or Holden into Deuce’s outside midfield slot. It gets your best players on the field. Of course, Dempsey has been most effective as a striker when moving there later in games, as opposed to starting there. And one also assumes he’ll see less of the ball on the forward line, a fact which has, in the past, caused his focus to wander.

We’ll get a better line on Coach Bradley’s thinking after seeing the lineups for the next two friendlies.

Forwards- Jozy Altidore, Robbie Findley, Edson Buddle, Herculez Gomez

Wow! A stunner! Ching out and Robbie Findley in. I’m officially speechless. Taking four forwards likely means Dempsey in the midfield. To start.

Alright boys. Get to work.

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U.S. Questions

May 26, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | No Comments | Filed in United States Men's National Team, World Cup

Alright, first let’s take a deep breath, chew some nicotine gum, munch some Valium, or whatever it is you, dear reader, do to take the edge off, and note that of the 17 U.S. players who trod the slippery pitch tonight a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic, a maximum of three of them will start against England on June 12 in the team’s World Cup opener.

Done? Everybody cool? Awesome. Now…panic. Because one of those players, Oguchi Onyewu, is quite clearly not fit. The stalwart in central defense, the man I considered Man of the Match in last summer’s upset of Spain, looked like a guy who hasn’t played since October. Which he is. He was badly beaten in the air for the first Czech goal and generally appeared to not trust his knee, tip-toeing around slowly and awkwardly, a marked contrast to his usual, powerful game. I think it’s apparent Coach Bob Bradley knows this as well, since he deployed Maurice Edu–normally a midfielder, but with some experience in central defense–in Onyewu’s spot after 65 minutes.

WCup Czech Republic US Soccer

Maurice Edu (19) celebrates his first international goal with teammates.

In addition to Edu, Clarence Goodson had a solid effort alongside Onyewu, showing good instincts and contributing to the U.S.’s second goal. And the U.S. back-line has a lot of versatility, a strength I’d hoped would relegate Jonathan Bornstein–another dismal showing; his finest skill seems to be grabbing at opposing players as they skip past him–to the sidelines.

Otherwise, Herculez Gomez and Brian Ching appeared to grab pole position for the available striker positions. Gomez scored the second and Ching was far more effective holding the ball and linking with teammates than the first-half pairing of Edson Buddle and Eddie Johnson. Johnson was horrid and Buddle worked hard, but lacked service. Since Ching has long been considered a lock, the fact Bradley sent Gomez out alongside him might be a clue to his thinking.

In the midfield, Stuart Holden and Jose Torres both had disappointing nights, though not poor enough to wedge them off the roster. Edu was composed in his time in the middle and DaMarcus Beasley cemented his spot with a lively performance.

Coach Bradley will announce his 23-man roster tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Here are the seven I expect to see left off the plane to South Africa:

Eddie Johnson — Because he can’t, you know, trap the ball
Heath Pearce — Blame for two of the Czech goals fall directly on his shoulders. Also, he’s fucking terrible.
Robbie Rogers — Played well this evening, but probably didn’t do enough to pass Alejandro Bedoya–a promising youngster who will be taken to his first World Cup for the experience factor–on the depth chart
Sacha Kljestan — Still too green on the international level
Chad Marshall — Injury didn’t help
Robbie Findley — Didn’t see the field tonight, which speaks volumes
Edson Buddle — Had the misfortune of being paired with EJ instead of the steadier Ching

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Czechs, Mate (Updated)

May 25, 2010 by JoeSpeaker | 1 Comment | Filed in United States Men's National Team, World Cup

The United States Men’s National Team begins its march to South Africa tonight in Hartford with a friendly against a Czech team that can be generously dubbed a ‘B’ side.

Coach Bob Bradley has said he will whittle the 30 players in camp down to the final World Cup roster of 23 after this game, so expect a lot of fringe faces in the Starting XI. One familiar name who should start is Oguchi Onyewu. Gooch will need substantial time in all three run-up games to achieve match fitness after not featuring in a games since his injury in October. Usual starters coming off long European seasons–Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, for example–are also likely to sit this one out (though I’ve not seen that reported elsewhere) as Bradley Sr. sorts through his options.

Players such as Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark, both recently returned from injury, should get the start, while others still nursing injury, like Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit, may watch from the sidelines and let their possible back-ups fight it out. My guess:

Tim Howard
Steve Cherundolo — Oguchi Onyewu — Clarence Goodson — Heath Pearce
Stuart Holden — Maurice Edu — Ricardo Clark — DaMarcus Beasley
Brian Ching — Herculez Gomez

ESPN has the game tonight with the broadcast starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Update: Lineups are out. I was close. Sorta. The Two Eds up top!

Guzan
Cherundolo –Goodson — Onyewu — Jonathan Bornstein
Holden — Edu — Jose Francisco Torres — Beasley
Edson Buddle — Eddie Johnson

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