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

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

Asia Rising? Relative to the U.S. at least?

This is just a quicky, an idea I want to throw out there to see if I can’t kick up a discussion/round of speculation. For the record, watching Urawa Red Diamonds play AC Milan this morning inspired it.

Question: Is Japanese club football at a higher level than Major League Soccer (MLS)?

My answer: The way Urawa played against Milan makes me think yes. And it’s less that I think an MLS club couldn’t manage the same result than I suspect we would look at lot less polished and a lot more desperate in earning it. More to the point, whenever I watch Japanese, or even South Korean teams and players, I get the sense that they’re learning a more efficient and tactically sophisticated style of play. Add their insane fitness level and I’m to the point where I’d be less surprised at seeing Japan or South Korea win the World Cup than the United States National Team.

Fortunately, we’ll have something of a test on club side of the equation during this spring’s newly announced Pan-Pacific tournament, which will include two MLS clubs – the LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo – plus one from Australia’s A-League and one from Japan’s J-League. That won’t be the best of tests, mainly because MLS’s clubs will be in preseason – early preseason, no less – and, well, LA is LA, by which I mean they’re the distracted mess from 2007 as opposed to one of their earlier incarnations. But, if my theory holds true, the Japanese team should do well in the tourney.

Against the larger theory, though, are two factors. 1) Apart from having a larger population all told, we’re making more babies than the Japanese and will have a generally younger population going forward; this augurs better for our future; the growing Hispanic/Latino influence in that population growth hardly hurts, either. 2) On the international level, we’ve held our own and, if you trust a really small sample, things might be trending our way already.

This last point is based on something less than the most thorough research – in fact, I’d love it if someone who knows where to look up the United States’ all-time record against the rest of the world would tell me where to look. But it looks like we’ve split the all-time series with Japan, losing in 1993 (referred to in an article that mentions an upcoming friendly in 2003, but we played Venezuela on the date mentioned) and beating them in a close one ahead of the 2006 World Cup. Now, it’s possible we played the Japanese “B-team” – I don’t know Japanese players well enough to say one way or the other – but, against that, we definitely played our B-team.

So, that’s a theory, one possibly informed more by impatience than reality. In any case, have at it.

Switzerland 0-1 U.S.: Seen Through Others’ Eyes

Due to the necessity of negotiating for TV time in a one-TV household, I passed on the U.S. v. Switzerland in exchange for tonight’s LA Galaxy v. Red Bull game. Helping with my decision to forgo negotiations on this occasion was a personal belief that this game didn’t mean all that much. One, it was Switzerland, and, two, the need to win in Europe seemed the chief talking point going in, a detail about which I’m not particularly bothered. I mean if we’re obsessed winning in Europe, let’s just schedule friendlies against San Marino or Liechtenstein and let the good vibes come…whoops, let’s scratch that last one and make it Iceland

Given the trade-off, I had to make do with match reports – and, as always, the Web provided.

The relative quality of the game hung around as a major talking point and the very first item I read, an Associated Press feed ESPN picked up (yesterday afternoon), mentioned a lot of booing; such things make me think I didn’t miss all that much. It could be that our men’s team (hereafter, the Yanquis) offended the typically low-key Swiss, but, Soccer Source’s Mr. Baker, who reads German (hmm…part of a fifth column? get a tap on this cat), revealed that the Swiss team inspired much of the disgust.

The Yanqui media, while generally agreeing our team barely deserved the loving tap on their collective butts, found some welcome details to highlight. Jeff Carlisle, writing for ESPN, seemed most impressed with the defense, including the gaffe-plagued Oguchi Onyewu; elsewhere, Goal.com credited Freddy Adu for brightening a dreary, rainy affair. My Soccer Blog’s Mike H offered a vague echo of that, noting that the Yanqui adoption of a “sense of the unexpected” allowed the eventual break-through. Even the occasionally grumpy Ives Galarcep generally praised the effort, singling out Adu and Clint Dempsey on the plus side and Taylor Twellman on the negative. Topping the “happy talk” category, however, was USSoccerplayas.com – though that might have resulted from the decision to post the report from U.S. Soccer Communications…

Seeing as we won, the minus side of the ledger doesn’t show much. I’ve already mentioned Twellman, who few people seem eager to see in Yanqui blue (or white, or red, or exploding, denim stars) again. Fullback Files’ report of bulleted excellence doesn’t so much go negative as it ponders the kind of player the U.S. produces: “thuggish defenders” and “two-way central midfielders,” with the implication being that said production has its limitations. No, I think the sternest report came from American Soccer Daily, who, upon reviewing the evidence, opined that “neither side particularly deserved to win.” And yet, we did.

So, what did all y’all think? As noted above, all I know about this one came from what others’ told me. And, the best thing I read/saw all day was the snapshot of the team “frolicking” in the pool. There’s just this great “summer house in Greece” feel to the image. Thanks for that goes to The Beautiful Game.

DS, 10.16: US v. Swiss, Rosters and Previews; Onstad: Am I Crazy?; Ives Eyes Some Scalps

– Tomorrow’s friendly against Switzerland sucks up ever more copy and ether as we get closer to it. Among the highlights: Jeff Carlisle’s preview for ESPN, because it contains good stuff on the Swiss…of whom I’m more or less ignorant; USSoccerplayers.com answers the inevitable “Who’s that now?” about four new faces on the U.S. roster; and Ives Galarcep unrolled his regular post on who Bob Bradley should start…so, check out the (updated) roster and see what you think. Speaking for myself, I don’t care who we start so long as we field an experimental line-up; the obvious adjunct to that is that I don’t care so much if we lose either. I just want to sound our depth a little bit; we’ve got two years to mold a roster – and before you point out that World Cup qualifying starts well before then, let me me just say, dude, it’s CONCACAF and there are 3 1/2 spots up for grabs…we’ll make it.

– After posting an angry rant against all things Pat Onstad this morning, I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m the only one who saw what I saw. So, what did I see? Pat Onstad watching Yura Movsisyan out of one corner of his eye while RSL players cleared the area; when Movsisyan got close, Onstad stopped, stood in his way, and then collapsed when the Armenian shoved him; that’s when Onstad bolted up, eyed the ref, then flailed his arms wildly as two Houston players barged into Movsisyan. In other words, that’s all Onstad in my book. But here are excerpts on the incident from two Salt Lake City papers:

(Deseret News) “Two minutes later RSL was reduced to 10 men as well when Yura Movsisyan was sent off for apparently trying to take a swing at Houston keeper Pat Onstad.”

(Salt Lake Tribune) But Beckerman couldn’t convert the ensuing free kick – Houston’s Richard Mulrooney cleared it from the left post – and moments later, RSL’s Yura Movsisyan appeared to throw a punch at Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad after a scramble in front of the goal. At some point amid the pushing and shoving that ensued, Onstad was knocked to the ground, and an infuriated Movsisyan had to be restrained by his teammates.”

Now, I’ll grant that Movsisyan had to be restrained, but he was probably incensed about getting attacked by Houston players after Onstad played him as the chump. Well, I’ll have to review the video later today when I have a machine that groks MLSnet.com’s feed.

Whoops. One more thing: the pre-game ceremony for Jason Kreis and Eddie Pope was a really nice touch. Both men seem the decent sort to me and I wish ’em both the best.

– Getting back to Mr. Galarcep, he’s doing a little reputation busting over on Soccer by Ives, posing two career-defining questions in one day: 1) is Denilson a bust? 2) should Sigi Schmid keep his job? Answers:

1) Yes. The Brazilian suffers horrible from comparison to young American Arturo Alvarez, so, yeah, do the math and swap their salaries.

2) How long has Schmid been in Columbus? Two years. OK. While this is by no means an easy call, I’m with Ives: let Schmid stick around. I think they’re a better team to watch than in 2006 and expect more in 2007, now that I’ve decided to be a Crew fan…we’ll see how long that lasts.

An Initial 21 for Switzerland

Bradley released his initial roster to train in Europe for the October 17th friendly coming up against Switzerland. As expected, we get to see some new faces – whether or not they actually dress for the game is a different story.

Goalkeepers: Marcus Hahnemann (Reading [ENG]), Tally Hall (Esbjerg [NOR]), Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake)

Even Hahnemann’s recent 7 goal drubbing (in his defense, several of those goals were deflections and/or ridiculous) couldn’t keep him out. Despite his age, he deserves his shot and even though it might not have staying power, I am happy he’ll be in Switzerland. Expect him to be your number one with Seitz in back up. The 22 year old Tally Hall has yet to play at the senior level in Norway, but his inclusion doesn’t really surprise me. My question: if you’re going for youth, why not throw in Quentin Westberg who has shone in his chances with Troyes.

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham [ENG]), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover [GER]), Dan Califf (Aalborg [DEN]), Jay Demerit (Watford [ENG]), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege [BEL]), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock [GER]), Steve Purdy (1860 Munich [GER])

Heath Pearce is enjoying learning the hard way in the Bundesliga but has shown real well to have a good chance to get into this line up. You’ll probably still see ‘Dolo, Boca, Gooch, and Demerit start. Steve Purdy has been lining up for 1860 Munich’s second team and is a big defender (6’4″, 190) that most likely won’t see time, but his first training camp will be an eye opener.

Midfielders: Freddy Adu (Benfica [POR]), DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers [SCO]), Michael Bradley (Heerenveen [HOL]), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Hamburg SV [GER]), Eddie Lewis (Derby [ENG]), Danny Szetela (Racing Santander [ESP])

Eddie Lewis is back in there after making the jump from Leeds United to Derby County in the EPL with renewed vigor. Between Kenny Miller and Lewis, they’ve been Derby’s only lifelines. Feilhaber has found his way into the first team, playing in the 1-0 loss to Reading this past weekend. Maurice Edu’s presence in this roster has been a long-time coming as his play – though erratic at times – has NOT been typical of a rookie. I look forward to seeing him get a chance.

Forwards: Clint Dempsey (Fulham [ENG]), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Preston Zimmerman (Hamburg SV [GER]), Sal Zizzo (Hannover [GER]).

Clint Dempsey has become a fan favorite at Craven Cottage and not given back his starting position since Hamuer Bouazza’s busted shoulder a month and a half ago. Zimmerman keeps scoring goals for HSV’s second team and is hoping to eventually get his chance, but for those scared of a Kamani Hill-like outcome it seems like this kid is ready for a couple sub appearances. Zizzo has yet to break into the first team at Hannover, but ‘Dolo says his progress is coming along. Findley is everyone’s question-mark, but his speed could complement Dempsey up top – although I think you’ll find Adu in that position. Many wanted to see Altidore but Bradley was right to leave him off for MLS Playoff duties (which you’ll notice that every MLS player included is part of team already statistically eliminated from the playoff race).

Overall, it’ll be an interesting look at the breadth of American talent. See how far it runs deep. Biggest surprises? Possible line-ups?

Daily Sweeper, 09.10: My Issue with Women’s Game, Philly Looking Good, The Revs’ Problem, More U.S. v. Brazil (much more)

– To lead with my quibble against women’s soccer: Germany 11-0 Argentina. I have absolutely no problem with watching women’s soccer, but would prefer to watch a game as opposed to ritual slaughter.

– Wake Philly fans up when December comes?  It’s worth flagging the language people are using with regard to a potential stadium in Chester, PA (as well as who’s showing up to the events – e.g. MLS Commish Don Garber).  Everybody just seems so damn happy.

– Matt Reis speaks the truth – and his words apply not only to New England’s Sunday loss to DC United, but to the Revs in general:

“‘We didn’t keep possession, went straight to goal every time,’ Reis said. ‘With the formation (3-5-2), we had a numbers advantage in the midfield, but we ended up chasing the game, even with the lead.'”

I’ll go one better: I think this applies to U.S. soccer almost across the board.  A sense of urgency that borders on spazzing seems part of our game.

– Tucked toward the bottom of Ian Plenderleith’s wrap of Week 23‘s action, he touches on how the constituent members of this summer’s Argentine Invasion are coping with the change in soccer culture; it’s an interesting piece of anthropology, down to the stuff about Mauricio Taricco, who played in a totally separate time and place.

Contained in the same article is the unpleasant (for me) news that Week 24 starts on Wednesday.  Damn.  This totally throws my posting schedule.  At least that Wednesday game kinda sucks.

– Right.  Time to wrap up the day where it started – namely, with reactions to the U.S. Men’s loss to Brazil.  Why not start with the central take-away from the game delivered by Brazil’s Kaka (article):

“It was a tough game,” Kaka said. “They played well. I think they’re getting better.”

Me too, Kaka.  Me too.

Then again, opinion falls on both sides of that one.  Count Frank Dell’Appa the biggest dissenter from that view; I also think it’s fair to color Jen Chang unimpressed with everything but the U.S. Mens’ attitude.  Jon Burklo from the American Soccer Daily falls in among the mildest of dissenters – he comes closer to confusion and disappointment, though that’s mainly from a big-picture progress perspective.  On the happy side, you’ll find Ives Galarcep and Jonah Freedman, who leads with his own half-giddy disbelief.  Here’s the shocking thing: I think the best top-to-bottom report came through Sports Illustrated from the Associated Press. That’s always a little surprising.

After reading all that, I can’t say I’ve changed my mind much.  We did a little all right.  Nothing wrong with that.  I wasn’t expecting anything else.  More to the point, I wouldn’t have believed in a win had we secured one.