Poland 0-3 U.S. – Um, wow.

Here’s the funny thing about last night: we won the game. By that I mean, we have won games in the past – e.g. by the means of scoring at least one more goal than the other team – but the remarkable thing about last night was that we won. And this was in Europe and against a decent team and we looked better, collectively, certainly, but also, in some places, on an individual level. Well, all right.

As you’ll gather below, I’m just in love with the U.S. Men’s National Team right now – or the Yanquis, as I like to call them. Rather than bore you with a blow-by-blow run-down, I’ll bore you with several quick, hopefully interesting observations:

– Was Landon Donovan man of the match? Tempting thought. If nothing else, the man actually delivered solid set-pieces, several of them – a “holy shit” kind of thing all by itself. And I don’t care what anyone says or thinks, he did damn well on that breakaway in spite of missing the goal.

– Speaking of set-pieces, I would be freakin’ the frank out if I was Polish, or just supported their national team; they were all over the place on set-pieces. And against the U.S.

– If you’re wondering about the odd use of the word “frank” above, that was inspired by the show about the ghost hunters from Rhode Island that broadcasts on the Sci Fi Channel. Freaked out and unable to say “fuck,” one of the guys said something like “that is so frankin’ weird.” I just liked the sound of it. Back to the game… Continue reading

MLS & Yanquis: The Day Ahead

Given that I have to record Poland v. United States and watch it later (much, much later, perhaps as in tomorrow later), I have to hide from soccer-related media starting around 1:30 p.m. PST.  That means no Daily Sweeper for today…which may or may not chap anyone’s ass…I don’t know such things.

Fair not, fear people! I still have a thing or two in the hopper for today, namely, Major League Soccer Conference previews.  Look for those later today…and for a recap on the Poland friendly much, much later.

That is all.

Actually, no, it isn’t.  Don’t know if anyone out there watched any or all of Frontline’s two-day documentary on 9/11 and the Iraq War.  If you didn’t I recommend it highly.  But that’s not why I’m jabbering about it and I won’t subject you to a recount of my views on the war.

The thing that caught me last night was a very brief moment in the documentary, a five-seconds-long clip in which I happened to see that rarest of things on television.  The clip showed a man – an insurgent, I believe – firing, or attempting to fire, an RPG.  I can’t tell you whether or not he actually got off his shot, but, whatever happened, he wound up on his can in the middle of the street.  As he’s sitting on the pavement, sparks flash on the street around him and little whisps of wind trace across his clothing.  Suddenly aware of his total vulnerability, the man turns to look and – this  was the harrowing part for me – you see it register, the comsuming immensity of his predicament.  Then, within the next second, he’s dead: bullets hit his leg and head almost simultaneously, he jerks to his back – and that’s it.  Scary, scary stuff.  That image played over and over in my head over the half hour it took to fall asleep.

MLS Daily Sweeper, 03.25: Temptation + Yanquis Chatter

– Damn the MLS Newsstand for linking to so many articles from Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal.  All those tempting articles, each boasting a teasing title more tempting than the last: “Leading the League’s Expansion Drive”; “Agent Business Evolves as Sport Grows”; “Talks to Start Soon on New Labor Deal.”  I gave up plenty of information – too much, in fact, and given how far I went, they probably already have it – before panicking at the fine print on Street & Smith’s (non-) privacy agreement (e.g. “We reserve the right to announce your browsing history to your mother on national television….and she will cry…”  and “Please forward your child’s name, a photograph, and a short list of things that will lure him/her into a car with strangers.”)  Anyway, those sound great…I’m sure I’ll cave later…damn them.

– I know all y’all know about tomorrow’s friendly between the U.S. Men’s National Team (Yanquis) and Poland.  But I thought I’d pass on what I counted as the most interesting items on that – for instance: Soccer America’s piece calling on Bob Bradley to seek alternatives to perennial automatic Landon Donovan; ESPN.com’s preview (from Jeff Carlisle) which features a public flaying of Benny Feilhaber’s attitude, courtesy of Mr. Bob Bradley (to which Feilhaber should retort, “Well, well…Donovan is your security blanket…so there!”); finally – and this only related because the main article is about the Yanqui roster for the Poland game – the draw for the Beijing ’08 Olympics is on April 20.  I didn’t know that till then…it’s possible I’m behind the curve.

– Lastly, but not leastly, did anyone else know Shalrie Joseph coulda/mighta played for our beloved Yanquis?  Thoughts on this less-than-relevant revelation?  Here’s mine: as much as I believe Joseph would be an upgrade as a deep-lying, central mid and as much as his physical presence would truly be something, we’re pretty stacked in that position.  So, yeah, I’d like him to be there, but it’s not the end of the world that he isn’t.  I just wish Dwayne DeRosario 1) was American instead of Canadian, or, 2) that he hated being Canadian and loved the U.S. of A.  Anyway, good luck in qualifiers, Shalrie.  I’m pulling for Grenada.

So…right…that’s it.  I mean, no one’s going to vote to call Seattle’s expanion team “Seattle Republic.”  Otherwise I’d have to say something about that.

Soccer on TV: How It’s Done and How Many Watch*

* OK, one game.  I’ll get to that below…no complaining; you see how I ordered these things in the title.

USSoccerplayers.com ran a nifty interview with a guy named Michael Cohen.  He’s the…let’s see…executive producer for Major League Soccer (MLS) and Soccer United Marketing (SUM) – basically, he coordinates what gets on the air soccer-wise.  Or something very much like that.

It’s an interesting piece, not least because it’s covers things that aren’t often noticed, but two items most interested me in that interview.  In no particular order…and these are both Cohen’s answers to questions:

“In a perfect situation, we’d have flexibility in our schedule.  Maybe that will come down the road when we have all the stadiums under our control.  Then, if we have something scheduled in September or October, then we can make that switch.”

Whew.  Thank god they’re thinking about that. Wasn’t always sure.  Hopefully, we get “down the road” fast; there’s nothing worse than watching two teams that have made the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season when you know there’s another, hotter game being played.  Next: Continue reading

U.S. 2-2 Mexico: Losing a Tie

I’ll start with the usual caveats: I watched this with a 3-year-old distracting me throughout with puzzles, demands to play with balloons, gigantic playground balls, etc.

That said, that was one lucky tie. The U.S. squandered possession, our midfield got slaughtered, our flanks overrun, and the chances we deliberately created could be counted on one hand – and Josmer Altidore got on the end of most of them. Fortunately, Mexico continued their tradition of mentally seizing up every time they got within 30 yards of the U.S. goal…so not all was lost.

It has been sometime since the temptation struck to say we simply don’t know how to play the game. But that’s not fair. Over a few, brief spells the evolution of U.S. soccer showed, but these fleeting moments came and went too often near the center stripe and, more often still, they played out in a kind of ragged, random vibe. Worse, our composed moments featured too many long balls forward and those came to players who appeared ill-suited to cope – again, Altidore and Clint Dempsey.

Against that, the Mexicans displayed – to borrow a “John Harkesism” – good “characteristics”on the ball’: between better movement and sharper passing, they simply outplayed the U.S. in every meaningful aspect of outfield play (thank god for goalkeeping, right?) The most striking sequence came in the second half when four Mexican players set up an impromptu game of keep-away in the U.S. half against up to eight U.S. players. But the Mexicans’ better moments came with the simplest stuff – finding the open man in space, too often just in front of the U.S. defense. This approximates the time when my heart shrunk into my stomach and my balls lifted toward my stomach…a kind of “Oh Shit” pinch designed, perhaps, with the intention of holding the crucial pieces together until the bad stuff passed. Continue reading

U.S. v. Mexico: Parting Shot

UNDERRATED: Tequila shots for every goal.”

That came from a clever over/under feature from Goal.com and my only response to that is, “Sir, yes sir! What brand, sir?!”

The same piece included the following, which I appreciate:

OVERRATED: Refusing to call this game a ‘friendly.'”

Tee, hee, hee…

Now, I know I’ve spent the past week doing my level, if unconscious, best to deflate the hype on tonight’s U.S. Mexico game (see: LINK, LINK, and LINK). Happily, the hype machine carried on over all that. In my defense, however, I’m not totally obtuse. I mean, I understand why U.S. soccer fans – simple partisanship/nationalism aside – get up for games against Mexico. And this was framed very nicely by that cat, Landon Donovan (at the bottom of the WaPo’s preview: Continue reading

U.S. v Mexico: Some Links + Another Game in Town

Is it just me or does the soccer world seem to be holding its collective breath for Wednesday? There are the usual rumors, of course (see MLS Rumors; I’ll catch up once a week and when they come together), and talk of Major League Soccer (MLS) releasing the 2008 regular season schedule on Thursday…at which time we can determine the precise size of the barrel over which Superliga and the CONCACAF Champions put MLS clubs. See what I mean? Waiting for Wednesday, waiting for Thursday…except on the scheduling stuff; I’ll putz around that issue a little more in a bit.

Before getting to the body of this post, here’s a theory: perhaps dragging players on the league’s best teams through those two late summer tournaments is just an indirect measure for enforcing parity. Think about it.

But, no, this post is all about my continuing effort to get up for tomorrow’s friendly pitting the U.S. Men’s National Team (Yanquis) against Mexico (ESPN2, 6 p.m. with plenty of soccer-porn included). With appearances pointing toward the Yanquis fielding an A-Team (otherwise, why bring them? Exactly! Don’t bring them.) – not what I had hoped to see after all – I’m still plenty excited about this game on at least one level: what else is there between tomorrow and the Pan-Pacific Tournament? A couple Mexican Primera games, a little of the Fulham survival saga, an ongoing quest to find when the UEFA Cup resumes (NOTE: I know where to find this, but, for whatever reason, I keep checking soccertv.com) – e.g. several convenient, emotionally-disengaged relationships I’ll kick the curb without remorse or even a box of chocolates come March 29. That ain’t love, people. It’s just sex….sex…sex…hmm…where am I now? Continue reading

Bob: Commence the Experiment

A couple people are posting the U.S. roster that was called in to play Mexico this Wednesday – and at least one person is playing “the roster game” (and having a couple bites at as he does it). On the other side of the affair, Sideline Views’ Luis Bueno listed Mexico’s traveling party and added some analysis for good measure. Much like Luis, I think the Mexican roster looks pretty solid – as in, a whole lot like an A-Team…or maybe that’s just what I think when I recognize many of the names on a Mexican roster.

So, to kill some time on a slow Sunday (the Super what now?), I thought I’d take some time on the question of who should we play against this bunch. Given my present state of, um, underwhelmedness regarding the significance of the result itself, I’m still advocating on-field experimentation. And, in the event we do lose, we can adopt the Mexican tactic of blaming the loss on such externals.

So, below, I’ll trot out the starting XI I’d like to Bradley trot out on Wednesday…and I do so knowing this is not the line-up we’ll see. Before naming names, I should confess I tend to favor 4-4-2’s for perhaps the dumbest reason: I’ve played as a defender in my share of 3-5-2’s and I just hate how exposed I feel back there…absolutely prejudiced me against that formation. What can I say? I view myself as a midfielder…in spite of the few seconds I’ve received on that opinion from the various coaches I’ve had.

Enough preliminaries…here it is: Continue reading

US v. Mexico: Of Jugglers, Knights..and amending earlier statements

As the hype builds around next Wednesday’s U.S./Mexico friendly (that’s February 6 on ESPN2), the underlying frustrations that produced the over-bold statement of a couple days ago comes into clearer focus. And, mea culpa, the wrong verb came to me in that one: it’s not so much that I “hope” the U.S. loses as I’m finding little value in playing what amounts to the same game – and one with less importance than most recent editions.

How to explain…what tortured analogy to employ? Ah! Think of a juggler. Imagine that, after getting the basic art down – e.g. juggling three balls of equal size and weight – she improves to where she can juggle, say, wet cats without picking up a scratch. A cool trick, yes, but imagine she then masters this act, finds a venue she likes working, a place that pays well enough without demanding anything more of her, and…that’s it. She keeps doing the same act, one everyone has seen an ever-growing number of times; even the cats would find a comfort zone after a while.

This is what yet another U.S./Mexico friendly feels like. A couple pieces out today try to breath some life into this latest edition by connecting this to past games: Soccer America’s Mike Woitalla talks about the power of wins over Mexico for establishing the reputations of past (and current) U.S. coaches; elsewhere, Jeff Bradley inverts his First XI into a “Last XI” by recapping the recent, lopsided history of the series. Both pieces come up short on sustaining the hype, at least for me. Last year’s win over Mexico established U.S. coach Bob Bradley coaching bona fides; pulled a little outside his thesis, Woitalla calls this the last serious test before upcoming World Cup qualifying. But, by listing the many games we’ve won, as well as the several on-field permutations U.S. coaches fielded to earn them, Bradley’s piece provides an inadvertent answer to that theory.

That we need a win on Wednesday to keep the Mexicans squirming under our “inferior soccer” and, therefore, our psychological thumb, doesn’t really compute. The fact that the U.S. can beat Mexico has been established…well, almost. And both authors, without making it central, point to what really should come next: Continue reading

Bored or Just a Bastard?

It feels like a slow news day, so I may as well get something off my chest.

Since reading Goal.com’s short, early primer for the February 6 game between U.S. and Mexico – a game I’m rather excited about, by the way – I have been hiding subversive feelings in the hopes that they would go away.  No longer:

I hope Mexico wins.  Really.  Would it kill us to have things switch up a little?

To expand on that a little, I think I’m just fed up with watching what looks a lot like the same game over and over and over and over: Mexico presses, presses, presses, the U.S. scores (jubilation!); Mexico chases, presses, presses, presses, the U.S. scores – again; the Mexicans dish a couple hard fouls, maybe pick up a card here, an ejection there, their coach and some proportion of their players bitch about how cravenly we played…the end.

Here’s something else deepening the ennui.  How many fucking friendlies do we have to play against the TriColores?  Yeah, they’re fun games, yeah, I’m looking forward to it…but, seriously, let’s mix it up.  Please?

Look, when qualification comes – or even a Gold Cup final – I’ll take as many 2-0 wins as we can crank out and paint my damn face.  But seeing as this is a friendly, let’s trot out the final experimental U.S. men’s roster of 2008 – e.g. let’s not bother with the Euro contingent – and let the chips fall where they fall.  A loss that reveals which of our bubble players are ready and which are not seems infinitely more valuable to me than another friggin’ 2-0 win earned by the usual suspects.