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DC United
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US National Team
Jeff Maurer's Soccer Blog
Friday, 11 June 2010
US vs. England preview
Topic: US National Team

My prediction: 2-1 US. Complete hometown call. Total hometown call. Realistically, I'd say the US has a 20% shot at a draw and a 20% shot at a win. How does that add up to a 2-1 prediction? It doesn't. But I'm going with it.

Things I'm thinking about...

Fitness. This could be a real advantage for us. Almost all US players have played many games at altitude, including the games at the Confederations Cup last year. We know what to expect. I'm not sure if many or even any English players have ever played at altitude (Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland would have been an opportunity, but we all know how that went).

Counterattacking is in style. Brazil is now - against all odds - a counterattacking team. South Africa got one on the counter against Mexico today (and almost got another). Chelsea were lethal on the counter this year. It's a good style to play, and we play it. I think it could work.

Psychology. You've surely heard this at some point this week: "England always start slow." Whether or not that's true, English players might have this in their mind. The second part of that maxim is: "...but they always advance." If it's 1-1 in the 80th minute, England might not press as much as they would in the second or third game.

Holding the ball in the midfield. England doesn't build the play; they hoof and hope (a bit...I don't want to over-generalize). We have the centerbacks to cope with the hoof-and-hope approach. What we can't do is give the ball away cheaply and allow them to counter. We really need to hold the ball. Which brings me to...

The lineup that I'd like to see:





I had been putting Edu in Torres' spot until about a week ago for defensive purposes. But the more I thought about it - and the more I thought about the second half of the Brazil game in the Confederations Cup last year - the more I thought that the best defense might be to deny England the ball. Hence: Torres instead of Edu. Also, I am still an advocate of playing your best 11 (within reason), which is why Holden is in for Buddle. I also really like what Holden brings to the table on set pieces.

We also need to realize this about Dempsey: he IS playing up top. You can pencil him in at left mid, but he's going to play up top. So you might as well have that be his official role.

The lineup I think we'll see:





I am okay with this lineup; I could see us winning with this lineup. If Buddle really is in peak form (small sample size, blah blah blah), then this could work out very well. I am fine with Edu or Torres; I don't think Clark is the best option.

Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 5:34 PM EDT
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Topic: US National Team

Kickoff is 30 minutes away. Prediction time. These predictions are influenced by the following factors:

1. The home team always plays way better than they should.

2. The home team, in this instance, is not all that good.

3. When the Cup is in Europe, a European team always wins (except for Brazil in Sweden '58). When the Cup is anywhere else, a non-European (i.e. South American) team always wins. Weird.

4. Home field advantage is primarily psychological, not geographic, and having the World Cup in Africa for the first time is a huge deal. Therefore, I am factoring in a "home continent advantage" for African teams in spite of the significant geographic distance.

5. Team adversity is overrated (see: Italy 2006). "Us vs. the coach" can be a motivating factor, too. Translation: don't count out France.

6. Diego Maradona is as bad of a coach as he was a great player.

7. I don't tend to pick a lot of upsets (I have a background in statistics - it's all probability and expected value for me. Also, I don't like fun).


Group A:

1st: Mexico

2nd: France


Group B:

1st: Argentina

2nd: Nigeria


Group C:

1st: England

2nd: USA


Group D:

1st: Germany

2nd: Serbia


Group E:

1st: Netherlands

2nd: Cameroon


Group F:

1st: Italy

2nd: Paraguay


Group G:

1st: Brazil

2nd: Portugal


Group H:

1st: Spain

2nd: Paraguay


Round of 16:

Nigeria beats Mexico

England beats Serbia

France beats Argentina

US beats Germany (okay: home town call here. But we owe them one from 2002)

Netherlands beats Paraguay

Brazil beats Chile

Cameroon beats Italy

Spain beats Portugal


Round of 8:

England beats Nigeria

France beats USA

Brazil beats Netherlands

Spain beats Cameroon



Brazil beats England

Spain beats France


Champion: Brazil

Golden boot: David Villa

Golden ball: Xavi

Yashin award: Julio Caesar

Best young player: Jozy

Most entertaining team: Netherlands

Dark horse: France. (Do they count as a dark horse? No? Okay: Serbia)




Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 10:06 AM EDT
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Thursday, 10 June 2010
World Cup Video Awesomeness
Topic: US National Team

Two days away...promotion for the Cup is in full swing. No more "coming this summer..." in the ads; we have dates. Times - both Eastern and Central - are being tossed around. Soccer Christmas is here.

One thing that has to make you optimistic about soccer's growing status in the US is the fact that ESPN and Nike are throwing their substantial marketing power behind it. With that, here are some of the best promotional videos for this year's Cup.

As usual, Nike has made the best commercial. Not quite as good as "Take It To The Next Level", but still pretty bad-ass. The down-on-his-luck Wayne Rooney part has been cut out of the TV version, which sucks; that's by far the best part.

ESPN's main commercial is pretty great, too. Bono lends credibility to any project (he's the white Morgan Freeman), and they capture the unparalelled global scope of the World Cup in this ad.

Also two ESPN ads featuring US National Team-ers. I think they're both pretty funny.



This "I Scored a Goal" series from ESPN is pretty amazing: it gives the stories of all 35 living people who have scored a goal in a World Cup final. Great for people who don't know a lot about the history of the World Cup.

ESPN: I Scored a Goal

Pretty much everything on US Soccer's multimedia page (especially the Studio 90 segments) is worth a look. They do a great job of getting access to the players; I can't imagine the players from any other country (save maybe Australia) being willing to participate in this type of thing. When soccer is big in the US in 50 years, we'll miss the days when our national team players were pretty much just a normal bunch of guys.

US Soccer video page

The World Cup has an official anthem. It's by K'naan, a Somali-Canadian (tough break, Phil Collins: I'm sure you assumed that you would be writing the anthem for the first World Cup in Africa. But they decided to go with an actual African). When I heard "official World Cup anthem", I was prepared to hate it. But I don't hate this, not even a little. 

Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 11:40 PM EDT
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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:










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 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:





 The lineup I think we'll see: 





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 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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