U-23s: Adu’s Second, an Artist’s Rendering

Here’s a little sketch I made of Freddy Adu’s second goal for the U.S. u-23s…and, yes, that’s Sacha Kljestan in the foreground celebrating with the big ol’ thumbs-up…and do note Canada’s Josh Wagenaar’s complete paralysis.

Anyway, I’ll be posting these throughout the year as a substitute for photos. In spite of making Adu’s jersey look like the Canadians…and Wagenaar’s somewhat stubby legs…um, there’s the absence of the crowd…um…I think that’s it…I find the likeness uncanny. Especially Klejstan. Yeah, he looks a little heavy, but you know what they say about the camera adding 20 lbs.

Having Watched My First U.S. U-23 Game…

…and knowing said game isn’t over, here’s a couple things that come to mind:

– Tell me we don’t usually play so fitfully. A couple players have “it” – and I’ll get to that below – but the general vibe I’m getting is damned sloppy. So, tell me this is fatigue. Because, if it’s not, I fear for our future (not literally; all these players will age and, most, improve, but this was ugly…mo-fugly in some places).

I know Breton is live-blogging as we speak, so I’ll keep this brief. I didn’t watch the whole game, but, of the parts I watched, I’ll list the players who stood out – for good or for ill – below…starting with “for ill”…because I’m a bastard.

For Ill
Chad Barrett: I want to like you. Really. But how can I with all those leaden touches, mis-hit passes, and, on the one good chance I saw, limp shooting?

Sacha Kljestan: I understand you were the high-point of the Cuba game, so don’t take this personal, but…you’re passing to the guys in white, son. White jerseys. I’m only saying because you didn’t seem to know that going in.

Dominic Cervi: Not really bad, but shaky moments are shaky moments and you’ve had a couple. Maybe your central defenders played a role?

Sal Zizzo: Either he is tired tonight or 1) he’s playing miles out of position, or 2) he’s just not very good. I’m betting this is an off-night…or rather hoping. Clumsy feet, too static, mental mistakes….I could go on. Suffice to say it wasn’t his best night.

For Good
Orozco (first name, please?): I like him. He’s looking a little more composed than Patrick Ianni and comes forward smartly. Seeing how he grows seems a worthwhile experiment.

Charlie Davies: This cat got ripped after the Cuba game for diving, but he looked the most dangerous U.S. forward tonight. Too few clear chances for my liking, but he’s good enough and fast enough to make his own openings. Why isn’t he being paired with Altidore in a two-forward set-up? I mean if he loses the diving. I think we could do worse than try that experiment.

Dax McCarty: Second half sub, I know, but he’s looked the most composed and intelligent in midfield of all the U.S. players; it’s the composure that really stands out because, had he kept his shit tighter, I’d be listing Eddie Gaven here; he’s having good moments, but he’s spazzing just as often.

Kamani Hill: Good general anticipation, decent forays forward. A solid night and, for tonight, that’s enough.

Stuart Holden: All right, I’ll list him. He’s everywhere, and that’s good, but he’s a little ragged. It’s a marginal call, but he sneaks in.

That’s it. And I acknowledge that the gaps in my viewing may have caused me to put someone in the wrong spot or to omit someone else from one category or another. But, for purposes of this post, anyone not listed neither impressed or disappointed in particular.

Getting My Head Around Olympic Qualifying

Yeah, about 75% of you covered this stuff a couple months back, when all this was announced, but I’m just getting to it now. For what it’s worth, I blame February. In spite of being the shortest month, there’s just something about it that takes forever. With any luck, though, I’ll help out a couple other people coming late to the party.

So, Olympic qualifying for the United States U-23s (aka, Lil’ Yanquis) starts this coming Tuesday. All Li’l Yanquis games will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel, as will both semifinals, the third-place game (what? who cares?), and the final. A quick list of games, the opposition, and kick-off time (Pacific Standard):

Tuesday, March 11, 5 p.m. v. Cuba
Thursday, March 13, 5 p.m. v. Panama
Saturday, March 15, 4 p.m. v. Honduras

With that, you have all the teams in our group, that is Group A. There’s just Group B besides, so, to put it all together: Continue reading

Ah, Next Week; Oh, Next Week…A Pre-Season of My Own

Fans of Major League Soccer (MLS) and the broader national team set-up are in for a double-edged treat next week – and one only has to go here (Fox Soccer Channel’s listings page) and pull up the pdf for next week’s schedule to see what I’m talking about. Yessiree Bob, next week soccer fans get Olympic qualifying (three games in five days? Pity the kids, people, pity the kids) and the kickoff of the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Even if one watches only games involving MLS clubs and the “Junior Americans,” that’s five games in four days. Ob-ser-eve (that’s fancy for “observe” and the times are for the live games on Pacific Standard Time listings):

Tuesday, Marcy 11: USA U-23s v. Cuba (5 p.m.)
Wednesday, March 12: Harbour View v. DC United (5 p.m.)
Wednesday, March 12: CD Municipal v. Houston Dynamo (7 p.m.)
Thursday, March 13: USA U-23s v. Panama (5 p.m.)
Saturdady, March 15: USA U-23s v. Honduras (4 p.m.)

Now, I know that sounds like an easy week for the average soccer-geek, but, for some of us, that’s enough to put strain on a marriage. Add in the other CONCACAF Champions Cup games (Montagua v. Pachuca, March 11, 8 p.m.; Saprissa v. Atlante, March 13, 8 p.m.) and I’m basically giving my wife cause to file. On a related note, this really feels like the season coming on even if it’s a month away. Now seems like a good a time as any to work on the diplomatic/marital skills my twin hobbies (e.g. watching/commenting on soccer) require; there’s a full summer ahead of negotiations, trade-offs, even summits to work in all these games. A one-week warm-up seems like just thing to get my mind limber…

MLS Daily Sweeper, 01.02.08: Trade Rumors to Dull the January Jones

Last night I told my wife I was happy to have an off-season from soccer, just a little time off from building my life around the domestic calendar’s schedule.  These are the little lies that sustain a marriage…

– …and I say that ’cause a wicked craving hit the second I checked the upcoming calendar on soccertv.com. What is the next game involving either a Yank club or the Yanquis proper?  The Pan-Pacific Tournament – a.k.a. the LA Galaxy’s latest whip-round for cash – doesn’t kick off till mid-late February – and that’s more like cut-rate codeine than methadone.  I suppose the U.S. Men’s National team get first crack with the January 19 game versus Sweden, but that’s also a friendly, just like the Mexico game in early February.  So, yeah, we’re a long way from competitive soccer featuring enough Yanks to kill my personal jones; we’re probably looking at Olympic qualifying before anything else….shit.

– Speaking of those friendlies – and I know I’m way behind on this – the U.S. men have a couple camps going on, one for the full national and one for the U-23s.  That Oursports Central site has a one-stop release (yeah, I know they lifted it, but it’s where I look) that lists players for both sides.  And, quickly, here’s who either “turns” my crank, “piques” my curiosity, or makes me “titter” for the full national side: Will Hesmer (titter; where’s Ray Burse?); Zach Wells (titter); Eddie Robinson (turns; make room on the damn bandwagon); Marvell Wynne (piques); Maurice Edu (turns); Brad Davis (turns); Josmer Altidore (piques); Jeremiah White (piques); Justin Mapp (turns); Eddie Johnson (titter).  The rest strike me as more of the same…and that’s not necessarily bad.

So, yeah, we’re all standing here just biding time and holding our most precious body parts as we do so…so let’s get to the big rumor floating around. Continue reading

MLS Daily Sweeper 12.19: Draws, Rules, Commentary…HUZZAH!

Here I am, bringing up the rear once again, but that makes some sense with the “sweeper” theme. A lot of the below is hours old, so here’s to hoping I’m bringing some fresh perspective to the discussion…even where I am transparently not…for instance, when I’m quoting others’ work.

– Let’s start with the easy thing: the powers-that-be conducted the draws for the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the 2008 Olympic qualifying rounds yesterday. Steve Goff’s Soccer Insider gave the most thorough presentation of both draws (e.g. he got to both of them – and first) while MLS Rumors provided the best layout for the CONCACAF draw. That noted, here’s what you, dear reader, need to know: the Houston Dynamo will face Guatemala’s Municipal while DC United drew Jamaica’s Harbour View FC. Turning to the Olympics, we’re part of an eight-team tourney and our specific group throws us in with Cuba, Honduras, and Panama; for the record, I think we done good. But the most important thing in all this? As you’ll immediately see upon looking at the schedules for both competitions, March is going to be a busy month.

– Turning now to more complicated matters, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced a couple rule changes yesterday; Steve Goff knocked out a good, lengthy post on the changes and their apparent and reported inspirations. My first reaction – posted as a comment on WVHooligan’s write-up – hasn’t changed much, even if I missed a fairly significant change in the first several readings. But, bottom line, there’s not a whole lot to see here, folks. While I am gladdened by the end the evil, player-hating rule about a given MLS club retaining the rights to a player they waived – that’s simple justice, man – even the change I missed doesn’t amount to much. That change? The “asset” status of the foreign player slots, which allows them to be traded. It sounds neat-o, but as Yahoo! News’ Martin Rogers pointed out, the big-picture economics deflate this change quite a bit (and Soccer By Ives fleshes it out a bit more): Continue reading