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Jeff Maurer's Soccer Blog
Monday, 7 June 2010
Thoughts on the Australia Match
Topic: US National Team

Can the Robbie Findley expectations please come back to Earth now? The internet is only good at two things: porn and overreaction. So, of course, when Robbie Findley makes one nice play against Turkey, internet message boards called for him to start versus England (and others called for him to start doing porn…but that’s a story for a different blog). Hopefully, the Australia match helped people see Findley for what every MLS fan knows he is: a hard-working, speedy striker who lacks a bit of touch and skill. He might be a top-tier player some day, but not right now. Everybody’s talking about his two horrible misses, but at least as bad was a sequence late in the second half when he was unable to play Landon in. See @ 3:54 on these highlights. I think he might be good as a late sub, but that’s about his ceiling at the moment.

 

Do we have to wait until the England match for the Edson Buddle expectations to come back to Earth? He’s playing well right now. He’s a viable option. But I still feel that the best eleven includes Holden on the wing and either Dempsey or Donovan (I’d prefer Dempsey) up top. Choose the system that fits the players, not vice-versa.

 

That being said: there’s nothing wrong with Altidore & Buddle. One argument I hear against using Buddle is that he and Altidore are too similar. That is moronic. That is some Phil Brown, shit-for-brains thinking right there. Coaches use this “logic” all the time: “we can’t play two big guys or two fast guys!” they think. “We have to do little and large!” Well, if your big guy is slow and your fast guy is small, then yes: you might want to pair that player with a player who offsets his weakness. But if you have two guys who are both big and fast, then there’s nothing wrong with playing them both. If Altidore was slow and Buddle was 5’ 4”, nobody would be saying this.

 

Gooch has to get thrown in the deep end sooner or later. I keep hearing this: “You can’t possibly play Gooch for 90 minutes because he hasn’t played 90 since October!” Well, if that’s true, then you’re either going to waste a sub on a central defender (I can’t remember the last time I saw that happen), or you’re going to commit to not playing Gooch through the entire tournament. He has to make the jump some time; have it be against England.

 

Is Jay Demerit’s vision okay? Several players had trouble judging the flight of the ball. That’s largely a result of the altitude and the new ball, but no-one seemed to have more trouble than Demerit. He says that the vision is 80 percent in his right eye…is he telling the truth? Is his depth perception okay? I guess we have no real way of knowing.

 

Get ready for some horrible refereeing. Much like the NBA finals, the World Cup is usually the site of some inexplicably awful refereeing. Maybe that’s because our expectations for a sport’s marquee event are justifiably high, but it’s still shockingly bad. The referees on Saturday gave us a sneak preview: the Dempsey goal should have stood (Findley was not involved in the play). This serves as a good time for the USMNT to remember the main lesson of the Confederations Cup: if you breathe on anyone, it WILL be a red card.

 

Does Bradley really think that Ricardo Clark is his second best central midfielder? I thought Rico played pretty well this game, but come on, Bob: Edu and Torres are both better.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 5:47 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
How Do You Say Shadenfreude in Italian
Topic: US National Team

Italy has dropped Giuseppe Rossi. Good. I don't want to see him scoring goals and celebrating in another country's shirt. Maybe this makes me a petty person, but it's the way that I feel.

I don't like Rossi - it was not cool the way he snubbed the US for Italy. Same with Nevin Subotic - I wish only bad things (soccer-wise) for him and Serbia. Here's the thing: if you have lived predominantly in one country, then you should play for that country. Unless - and this is important - UNLESS your home country isn't calling you. Then, play for whoever you want - you can't fault a guy for taking whatever opportunity he's offered to play international soccer.

Let's apply this rule - here's how I feel about each guy who has had this decision recently for the US.

Giuseppe Rossi: not cool. He lived in the US until he was 12 and only moved to Italy for soccer reasons (this makes a difference. If your family moves to a country and that takes you in, then you are more of a citizen of that country than if you're only living in that country to play soccer). The US started calling him very early (in his teens), but he held out for Italy. It's his decision - I guess he feels more Italian than American - but it seems strange to me that a person's identity would hinge more on their genetic makeup than on their community. Personally, I don't feel very German.

Nevin Subotic: not cool. Had he played for Germany (which was his first choice), I would have been fine with that. He lived in Germany for about a decade - roughly the same amount of time he was in the US. But to play for Serbia - where he doesn't speak the language and hasn't lived since he was a baby - is just a finger in the eye to the country who took his family in and brought him through their youth program.

Edgar Castillo: okay (both times). Though he's more American than Mexican (he grew up in New Mexico), it's okay that he first went to play for Mexico: the US wasn't calling him. Like I said: if someone offers a guy a chance, you can't fault him for taking it. And when he switched to the US, that was okay, too: he only switched because Mexico had stopped calling him.

Stuart Holden: okay. Could have gone either way - he was born in Scotland, but moved here for non-soccer reasons when he was about 10. The big difference is this: Scotland wasn't calling him, we were. So he went with the US (and I'm glad that he did).

Jermaine Jones: okay. Clearly feels German, is German, and strongly prefers to play for Germany. But Germany wasn't calling him, so he switched. Jones would be in a different category than Feilhaber, Holden, Adu, and Mastreoni: those guys all moved here for non-soccer reasons, lived here for years, and have strong ties to the US. They are real Americans. Jones - let's be honest - would only be an American for soccer purposes, like Thomas Dooley and David Regis. I'd still like him to play for the team (he's just that good), but I would feel just a little bit guilty having him on the field.

Freddy Adu: okay. Moved at a young age for non-soccer reasons - probably still feels kind of Ghanian, but has stronger ties to the US. Developed through the US youth program and we started calling him very early, hence: American.

Bakary Soumare: okay. Mali called him, we didn't. Hence: Malian.

Jose Francisco Torres: okay. A legitimate dual citizen, but was born here and spent more time in the US. We called him before Mexico did, so that must have made the decision much easier for him.

Shalrie Joseph: definitely okay, but I just have to bring this up while we're on the topic. Took a call for Grenada at a very young age even though he moved to the US during high school. So, in a way: good for him. He stayed true to his roots. Plus he was nowhere near getting called for the US at the time. But, damn it: he would have been a sure-fire starter for the US in 2006 and 2010. I wonder who regrets his decision more: Josephy or Bob Bradley.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 12:36 PM EDT
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England Roster Cuts
Topic: US National Team
England has cut Theo Walcott. Was my blog from Friday responsible? Probably. It was a withering critique.

Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 11:54 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 1 June 2010
What We Learned from the Turkey Match
Topic: US National Team

We didn’t really learn so much as confirm what we already knew (or at least I confirmed what I thought I already knew…I’m very good at discarding information that doesn’t conform to my pre-existing opinions). So, let’s review…

 

Steve Cherundolo > Jonathan Spector. I’ve felt this way for a while; I’m glad to see more people coming over to my side. I actually didn’t think that Spector played that poorly; the goal wasn’t his fault, and he spent a fair amount of time pinching in to cover for an uncharacteristically poor Jay Demerit (Demerit was back to his old self in the second half). That being said, I could see Spector lining up against Engald; his size might match up better against Heskey.

 

Ricardo Clark is not that good. I said it in my post a few days ago: Clark is only serviceable…servicable! And I think that characterization is apt…apt! He really didn’t impress me: he didn’t hold the ball or pass well, and his work rate was mediocre. Also, when we pair him with Bradley we have two midfields who like to sit very deep and don’t tend to carry the ball forward. It should be Edu for defense or Torres for offense.

 

Torres is a legitimate option in the middle. Torres has won me over (it wasn’t just this game…he’s been playing well for Pachucha). He’s sharp on the ball and an excellent passer. The only other player who offers that particular skillset in the midfield is Feilhaber. But, as we saw yesterday, Torres is better.

 

Gooch is fine. After the Czech Republic game, people were freaking out about Gooch. Everyone was alarmed by his supposed limp (what limp? I didn’t see one) and complaining that he got out-jumped on the first goal. In fact, the problem on the first goal wasn’t his jumping, it was his positioning; the Czech guy got there first and got on Gooch’s shoulder. We’ve seen Gooch play twice now, and I don’t think there’s anything there: he’s fine, he’s totally fine. He’s healed, he’s not limping, he can jump. He’s getting his match fitness back. He’s fine.   

 

Jonathan Bornstein is for emergencies only. Holy shit, he played poorly. And I like him – he seems like a good guy, puts in a good effort every time. But he is not international caliber, period.

 

People are overreacting to the Charlie Findley phenomenon. A week ago, the blogosphere hated Charlie Findley. Suddenly, everyone loves him. Look: he played pretty well. He was active and made a nice chip to Donovan on the first goal. But he also made a few poor decisions and was 0-for-3 at getting crosses in from the wing. I understand that Bradley wants him on the team for his speed…okay, fine, I get that. I still think he’s one of our weaker players.

 

If you really feel the need to have a speedy forward up top, then how about this:

 

------------------Altidore---------------Donovan-----------------------

 

Dempsey------------Edu/Torres----------Bradley-------------Holden

 

Bocanegra------------Gooch-------------Demerit----------Cherundolo

 

---------------------------------Howard------------------------------------

 

This basically puts Holden in for Findley. Why? Because Holden is a better player than Findley. This is our best 11 Bob: make them fit. You’re doing it on the back line, and it’s working. Do it on the whole field.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 12:05 PM EDT
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Saturday, 29 May 2010
USA vs. Turkey Preview
Topic: US National Team

Here's what I'm hoping to see when the US plays Turkey tomorrow.

1. No injuries. Duh.

2. Holding the ball in the midfield. We're more of a counterattacking side - we don't do this extremely well. I'm not saying we need to be Mexico or Argentina, but I'd like to see us establish a rhythm and take some pressure off the defense.

3. Creativity in attack/ability to break down a compact defense.Turkey are coached by Gus Hiddink, so you know they'll be well-organized. In 2006, we showed a disturbing inability to break down Morocco and Latvia in the send-off series, which carried over to the World Cup. When we needed two goals in the second half against Ghana, we weren't able to break through.

4. Beasley: all in or fold. I don't think he'll start (see below), but I think he'll see significant minutes. I hope he either plays well enough to make me believe that the old (and I mean OLD...like 2004) Damarcus Beasley is back, or he plays poorly enough that Bradley leaves him out of the 11 during the Cup. I am a Beasley pessimist - it's been a long, long time since he showed good form for any significant amount of time.

Which brings us to...

My preferred lineup:

-----------------Altidore---------Dempsey-------------- 

Donovan----------Edu---------Bradley---------Holden 

Bocanegra-------Gooch-------Demerit------Cherundolo

---------------------------Howard------------------------

 The lineup I think we'll see: 

-----------------Altidore---------Gomez-------------- 

Dempsey----------Edu---------Bradley---------Donovan 

Bocanegra---------Gooch--------Demerit--------Spector

---------------------------Howard------------------------ 


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 12:44 AM EDT
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Friday, 28 May 2010
Advice for England
Topic: US National Team

Gabriele Marcotti of SI.com has five questions for England. As an American and a Premiereship fan, I'd like to offer some answers.

1. What happens if Gareth Barry isn't fit? The options are Scott Parker, Tom Huddlestone, and Michael Carrick.

Go with Carrick. One can't overemphasize the importance - not to mention the sheer aesthetic majesty - of a well-played square ball. And Carrick is the Michaelangelo of square balls. Always remember: everything Manchester United does is always right, and anything they do is superior to anything any other club does. Which reminds me: why didn't Michael Owen make the squad?

2. Who's between the sticks? It's either James, Hart, or Green.

Since Scott Carson is not an option (I guess Capello needs to prove he's his own man...give it up, Fabio - you'll never escape Steve McClaren's shadow), I recommend Green. You don't want James - he had that one bad game against Denmark in 2005. And you don't want Hart - he barely handled a ball this year. Now, Green...he's had shots flying at him practically non-stop all year. And he got half a fingertip or maybe part of a knee on many of them! I've been watching the West Ham defense all year...Green is definitely the way to go.

3. Who Leads the Line? Rooney and Gerrard will play in attack, and the options to line up alongside them are Heskey, Bent, Defoe, and Crouch.

Just because Crouch has scored every time he's touched a ball for England in the last four years is no reason to think that he's any good. I mean, look at him. Dork. Looks like Stephen Merchant. Please. Defoe and Bent are speedy, but our defenders are really awesome at coping with speed. Jonathan Spector could mark either one right out of the game. You know what our defenders really struggle with, though? Lumbering, low-scoring strikers who don't play much. I shudder to think of the damage Emile Heskey might do.

4. How many fragile central defenders can you afford to bring? Ferdinand and Ledley King are both coming off of injuries, meaning that Carragher, Dawson, or Upson might be pressed into service.

Whichever option maximizes the odds that Matthew Upson will see the field is the right play here. Just imagine: Upson and Green, the linchpins of that stingy West Ham defense, reunited for England! Hell, I'd be willing to let Jonathan Spector switch nationalities just to see that combo weave their magic one more time!

5. Who completes the front four? The options are Cole, Lennon, Walcott, Wright-Phillips, and Milner.

Well, it can't be Milner, since various articles I've read already have him penciled in at left back, center mid, goalkeeper, and third base. Lennon and Wright-Phillips are similar players - how do you break the news to the one left out without hurting his feelings? Leave them both out. Cole already had one good World Cup - he doesn't need another. Go with Walcott. Why? Because I love "tantric soccer" - all buildup, no finish. And Walcott is an expert. What good is an amazing run down the wing if you immediately overshadow it with a powerful strike or a well-placed pass? Much better to trip over your own feet and let the ball roll harmlessly out of bounds. That way, we learn to find enjoyment in the buildup instead of seeking the immediate gratification of a finish.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 10:52 AM EDT
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Thursday, 27 May 2010
Robbie Findley is Dick Cheney
Topic: US National Team

When Bush 43 was president, every liberal fantasized about him getting impeached. We imagined a Nixon-esque shame-filled walk to a helicopter, broadcast on every network. The nation would howl at the reviled president, his legacy forever tarnished. We pictured the helicopter taking off and growing smaller in the distance, thus removing Bush and his policies from our lives forever. We’d flash a self-satisfied smile, breathe a sigh of relief that a dark era in presidential history was finally ending, and then welcome the new president…

 

Dick Cheney.

 

That’ll jolt you back to reality in a fucking hurry.

 

Brian Ching haters: Robbie Findley is Dick Cheney.

 

If you read yesterday’s post, you can guess that I’m not thrilled that Bradley took Findley over Ching. But it’s not really the fact that Bradley took Findley over CHING that bothers me. What bothers me is the fact that Bradley took Findley over Bedoya. I don’t like what that probably means for the starting 11. Here’s my thinking…

 

Do you play your best 11, regardless of position? Or do you play the best player at each position? It’s an old debate. I generally believe in playing your best 11 (within reason). The Findley pick – along with both Gomez AND Buddle being included – makes me think that Bradley plans on putting one of these three in our starting 11. That worries me.

 

In my mind, the best attacking formation is definitely Altidore and Dempsey up top, Donovan and Holden on the wings. If you slide Dempsey back to midfield, then you essentially replace Holden with your underwhelming striker of choice: Buddle, Gomez, or Findley. The fact that Bradley picked a forward over a midfielder makes me think that’s exactly what he plans to do. And if that’s NOT what he plans to do, then why take what amounts to five strikers?

 

We’ll learn a lot about Bradley's plans from the game against Turkey on Saturday. And hey, I’ll be 100 percent behind whatever guys we put on the field. I hope that Findley fulfills his promise and that Buddle and Gomez take their recent success to the World Cup. But I think the percentage play is to start Holden.

 

One thing to consider: it seems that Ching might still be carrying a hamstring injury. Here’s what Bradley said yesterday:

 

"Plain and simple, Edson and Herculez have had real good stretches, scored a lot of goals. Brian has been such an important player but it's tough when you have an injury at an inopportune time."

 

So, there’s that to factor in. I’m inclined to give Bob the benefit of the doubt: he’s the one watching training every day, he’s the one getting reports from the trainers. I hope he made the right call.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 12:51 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 26 May 2010
The US Roster: Who Should Make It, Who Should Be Cut, and Who Should Be Put to Death?
Topic: US National Team

Ramping the soccer blog back up in anticipation of the World Cup. I hope to write a post every day, and since I will be: 1) going on vacation next week, and 2) seriously half-assing my job for the duration of the Cup, it might actually happen.

Last night we saw the US scrubs lose 4-2 to the Czech scrubs - I'm sorry..."szcrubs". Bob Bradley will name the US 23 at 1PM today. The loss to the Czechs confirmed what I've been feeling for a long time: this team doesn't have a lot of depth. My level of confidence really plummets once you get outside the core group of guys.

I don't want to get into the Gomez vs. Buddle/Beasley vs. Bedoya debates. Those are depressing. You know how on "Lost" they kept saying "once you talk to the smoke monster, it's already too late"? In the World Cup, once you start contemplating that Edson Buddle might be your best option, it's already too late. So, instead of simply naming my preferred 23, here are my feelings on all 30 guys.

I'm feeling good. Jozy, Dempsey, Landon, Bradley, Holden, Bocanegra, Gooch, Demerit, Cherundolo, Howard.

These are the core guys - this is our best team. Yes, I rate Cherundolo above Spector, though I know that Bob Bradley has them the other way around. And yes, I like Holden a lot; I think he's going to break out in 2010 the way Dempsey did in 2006.

Please, Bob: take this list and make a lineup out of it. I know that means putting Dempsey up top (nothing wrong with that) and sliding Bocanegra left (not ideal, but not bad), but just do it.  There are ten of these guys, but not to worry: there are still decent options before the talent level falls off a cliff.

*Also feeling good: Guzan and Hahnemann. I like them both. If this were club soccer, I'd be on the phone with England about a trade. But we're unlikely to see either of them, so I'll keep them in a separate category from the field players.

I like those odds. Spector, Edu, Torres.

These guys are usually pretty good...usually. Each has a glitch in his game. Edu's passing can get sloppy. Torres, who plays in Mexico, sometimes succumbs to the curse of Mexican soccer: he forgets that you get points for GOALS, not for stringing together meaningless passes. Spector plays every game the same: 89 solid minutes, good passing, a few enterprising runs up the flank, one catastrophic mistake. Still, I'd feel pretty good about seeing any of these guys on the field.

At this point, we're at 13 guys (plus the two extra goalkeepers). You can make a lineup out of these 13, inserting Edu for more defense or Torres for offense. Spector can slide in wherever you need him in the back, meaning you can afford to lose one guy. But outside of these 13, the talent level really starts to drop off.

Serviceable subs: all is not lost. Ching, Clark, Feilhaber, Goodson.

It's true: I am not a Ricardo Clark fan. I think he's serviceable...nothing more. Also true: I am a Brian Ching apologist. I, unlike many US fans, am not filled with dread when he takes the field. And I think that Clarence Goodson might be the Jimmy Conrad of 2010. Here's how to best describe my feelings about these guys: if they come in when we have a LEAD, I'll feel okay. They can play - I don't expect them to come in and suck. But if they come in when we're behind or tied - i.e., we're relying on them to provide a spark, or they represent our best option - then I won't be feeling very good.

I've got a bad feeling about this. Gomez, Buddle, Bornstein, Beasley, Bedoya, Rodgers.

Remember the Ghana game in 2006? Remember when Reyna got stripped for Ghana's first goal, hurt his knee, and Ben Olsen came in to replace him? Now, I'm a DC United fan; Ben Olsen is my favorite player, and I was pumped to see him come in. Everyone at the Arlington Drafthouse, where I was watching, applauded. But I know the rest of the nation had...well...a somewhat different reaction. Sort of a nation-wide sinking feeling. A collective "so, it's come to this, has it?" That's the way I'll feel if any of these guys get on the field. It's not that they can't play - on any given day, any of these guys can be pretty good. And I'll be praying that they come up big. But I won't like our chances.

About Beasley, Buddle, and Gomez: past performance does not necessarily predict future results. I am so sick of hearing about Beasley's World Cup experience. He had experience in 2006, and that didn't keep him from sucking. He's also been getting Freddy Adu-level minutes in Scotland. Buddle and Gomez are both riding hot streaks, and both have some impressive tools (Buddle's pace and size, Gomez's shot from distance). But both also have many, many years of MLS mediocrity on their resumes. As a baseball fan, I need to see more before I'll be convinced that either are experiencing anything more than a temporary spike in form.

Please God, no. Kljestan, Marshall, Findley.

My days as a Sacha Kljestan apologist are over. He just turns the ball over too much; I thought it might go away, but it hasn't. I like Marshall when he's healthy, but he's clearly not healthy. Findley is Eddie Johnson Junior: his speed makes everyone ignore the fact that he hasn't yet shown that he's any good at soccer.

Put him in a rocket, shoot it into space, turn off the tracking equipment. Heath Pearce, Eddie Johnson.

The second and third Czech goals were bittersweet: I wasn't happy that they scored, but they DID both contribute to hopefully keeping Heath Pearce off the plane. I'm sorry: he's just not national team caliber. He only plays one position, and he doesn't play it well. Leave him at home, take seven defenders, and use Edu at center back if you absolutely have to. Eddie Johnson is still riding that hat trick he scored against Panama in 2004. Eddie Johnson, Smashing Pumpkins, Margaret Cho: they haven't been good for a long time. Give up the ghost.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 10:28 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 26 May 2010 12:02 PM EDT
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Friday, 4 December 2009
FIFA Screwed Us! Already! Again!

***Note: I am writing this immediately BEFORE the World Cup draw***

 

FIFA is a patently corrupt organization. What other organization would make a habit of announcing the rules for a competition DURING that competition, which is exactly what FIFA does by determining the rules for the World Cup draw AFTER the qualified teams have been determined.

 

The draw happens in about an hour, and US fans are patiently awaiting our quadrennial screwing. But US fans should know: the screwing has already begun! And I can prove it with statistics! Here’s my logic…

 

It not only matters which names get drawn out of the pot – it matters into which pot you are placed. A quick primer for the uninitiated:

 

-         There are eight groups in the World Cup, each with four teams. Those four teams are determined by drawing one ball each from four “pots”. Long story short: you will play one team from each of the other three pots, and you will play none of the teams from your own pot.

 

The first pot contains what FIFA determines (after the fact…sorry, France!) to be the best eight teams in the tournament. The US isn’t in that pot, and we don’t deserve to be. The fourth pot is the rest of the European teams. That leaves two pots for North America, South America (minus Brazil and Argentina), Africa (minus South Africa), Asia, and New Zealand.

 

Let’s use FIFA’s October rankings (which are notoriously weird, but are frankly as good as any other ranking system out there) to determine the relative strength of each federation. Please note: these are the same rankings that FIFA used to determine the seeded teams. It turns out that North America, South America, and Africa are virtually equally good:

 

North American teams’ average ranking: 22.3

South American teams’ average ranking (minus Brazil and Argentina, who are seeded): 22.0

African teams’ average ranking (minus South Africa, who are seeded): 22.8

 

The weak sister in the group is clearly Asia: the average ranking of the Asian teams is 50. New Zealand is ranked #77, and after watching the Confederations Cup and the playoff with Bahrain, I can’t believe that they’re ranked that high.

 

So, whichever team gets thrown in the same pot with the weaker Asian teams is at a huge disadvantage. It could have been any of the three equally strong federations, but it was us. Why is this a screw job? Because it was us last time, too.

 

Yes, CONCACAF (minus Mexico, who were seeded even though the US had a higher FIFA ranking) was also in the Asian pot in 2006. I’d say that it’s somebody else’s turn.

 

But wait! The screwing’s not quite over! FIFA also made out pot Pot 2. Why is this a screw job? Because it means that we will play the seeded team in our group first. You always want to play the seeded team in your group third: there is a good chance that the seeded team will have already qualified by the third game, at which point they will be playing second-stringers, and those second-stringers will be playing half-assed (mathematically, that’s one-fourth of the strength of the original squad). Being in Pot 2, we won’t have that opportunity. Shennanigans, I say!

 

Enough whining – I’m off to watch the draw. For the record, here’s how I rank each Pot:

 

Pot 1:

1 – Brazil

2 – Spain

3 – Germany

4 – England

5 – Netherlands

6 – Italy

7 – Argentina

8 – South Africa

 

Pot 2:

1 – US

2 – Mexico

3 – Australia

4 – South Korea

5 – Japan

6 – Honduras

7 – North Korea

8 – New Zealand

 

Pot 3:

1 – Ivory Coast

2 – Paraguay

3 – Chile

4 – Ghana

5 – Cameroon

6 – Nigeria

7 – Uruguay

8 – Nigeria

 

Pot 4:

1 – France

2 – Portugal

3 – Serbia

4 – Denmark

5 – Greece

6 – Switzerland

7 – Slovakia

8 – Slovenia

 

After the draw, I’m going to add up the rankings of each team. An average draw for the US would be a total of 13.5 (impossible, but you get the idea). Anything higher than that is a good draw; anything lower than that is a bad draw. Frankly, as long as we avoid France, Portugal, and Ivory Coast, I’ll be pretty happy.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 11:40 AM EST
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Wednesday, 4 June 2008
Looking Back at England, Forward to Spain
Topic: US National Team

  Friendly number 2 of 3 against quality opponents is today. The first one, against England, went badly. My post last week covered seven things I'd like to see against England, so I'd like to revisit those seven things:

 

1. Eddie Johnson on the bench. Nope - he played 90 minutes, and, to be fair, I thought he played better than normal. Which is to say: he still did not play very well.

2. A decent scoreline. This was probably the big victory, if there was one. 3-0 or maybe even 4-0 would have also been fair scorelines.

3. A good game for Bocanegra. Actually, I thought that he - and the entire back line, actually, played pretty well; they were just under pressure the entire game. The one criticism I have is that they didn't play the ball forward extremely well, which contributed to them being under pressure the entire game. Bocanegra probably didn't help himself much in the eyes of most Premiership managers, but he probably didn't hurt himself much, either.

4. A good game for Freddy Adu. I thought he was fine, but it's not like he made an irrefutable case for more playing time to Benfica's new manager. I think he'll get a shot today against Spain; with Donovan out, a creative option is sorely needed, and he's the only other name on the roster who fits that description.

5. A good game for Beckham. Yep, pretty good. Better than Gareth Barry, in my opinion. Now that I'm seeing Beckham play on a regular basis, my opinion of Beckham is this: without his right foot, Beckham is a good player. Not a great player by any stretch, but a solid, quality player with good technique and a decent work rate. But his right foot is absolutely atomic. It bumps him up from good to world class. I can't think of any player who can strike the ball as accurately and with as much pace as consistently as Beckham. Roberto Carlos has a laser beam free kick, but he can't play the bending ball that Beckham plays all the time. Juninho and Nakamura are probably Beckham's equivalent as far as scoring from free kicks is concerned, but Beckham is probably the better crosser both from dead balls and the run of play. If Beckham got hurt and could only take free kicks, it would probably make sense for the Galaxy to just play with 10 and then trot him out there for each dead ball. He's that good.

6. A good game from Michael Bradley. Nope - I thought he was pretty poor. He tackled well and didn't draw a red card, but that's about all. He really didn't play the ball forward well. He did poorly in tight spots. He didn't link up with the forwards, and didn't get forward much himself. Not an impressive showing. I think he'll be paired with Mastreoni today; maybe that will allow him to focus on offense a little bit more.

7. Minutes for Kenny Cooper. Okay, I really blew it on this one: Cooper wasn't on the roster. But I'm a comedian writing about soccer; I don't think it's reasonable to expect me to have even the vaguest idea what I'm talking about. 

 

Other thoughts from the England match, Larry King News & Notes style:

- I've felt this way for a long time: the national team really needs Landon Donovan. That doesn't bode well for today's match versus Spain, which Donovan will also sit out.

- Dempsey had a howler.

- I've never liked Josh Wolff much as a striker (he can't finish), and was not surprised when 1860 Munich started playing him on the right wing. I though that's where Bradley was going to put him against England, with Dempsey up top.

- The US striker pool is pathetic. When you can make a convincing argument why Nate Jaqua should be starting - and I think that you can - you've officially fallen on hard times.

- It's only a friendly, where you want to test out promising young players, and we still put Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Lewis, and Josh Wolff on the field. Nothing against those guys, but the fact that we can't replace them at the moment is a very bad sign.  

 

 Now on to today's game against Spain. I think we'll get a better performance based on the fact that our guys want to atone for the England match, but I really worry about the team that we'll be putting on the fied. For starters, we still have no strikers. Eddie Johnson is like a koala bear: the koala survived because it had no predators, and Eddie Johnson keeps getting minutes because there's no-one there to displace him. That being the case, here's the line that I think we'll see versus Spain, which also happens to be the lineup that I hope we'll see:

 

-------------------------Johnson----------

--------------Adu---------------------------

Beasley-------------------------Dempsey

---------Bradley------Mastreoni---------

Pearce---Boca-----Onyewu-------Dolo

----------------Howard--------------------

 

Yes, that's right: I am advocating a starting lineup that contains Eddie Johnson. Ugh. It's come to that. As I mentioned, a good argument can be made for Jaqua instead of Johnson, but I think that we'll have to defend and counter against Spain, and Jaqua isn't built for the counter attack.

Of course, the real solution to the striker problem should be obvious by now: Jozy Altidore must be sent into deep space, where he will age at a faster rate, a-la Planet of the Apes. He needs to be 22 now. World Cup qualifying starts in a few weeks; if we can't get Altidore on the field somehow, then somebody better get Brian McBride on the phone.



Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 1:05 PM EDT
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