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

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The Yanquis Got Poland…The Yanquis Need More.

So, I see we picked up an international friendly against Poland on March 26 – and that’s good so far as it goes. It wasn’t till I read My Soccer Blog’s post on the U.S. Men’s National Team’s (Yanquis) schedule for 2008 that I got to thinking we really need another couple games. At time of writing, the Yanquis have three friendlies scheduled this year before we begin World Cup qualifying. And that ain’t enough.

Part of it grows from my late (over-wrought) anxiety about the Yanquis stumbling at the first Caribbean hurdle. Intellectually, I understand that just about any plausible U.S. team will beat either Dominica (think I’ll pull for these guys) or Barbados – and probably like a gong at that. But that reality hardly makes a case for approaching this thing casually.

An article posted by “the editor” on USSoccerplayers.com gets at why, if only indirectly. Lamenting the practice of calling in long-shot players for the Yanquis current January training camp, “editor” (I think this is probably J Hutcherson, but I’m having fun) questions the value of mixing these players with more regular candidates – after all, how often will they take the field together again? I subscribe to the urgency of “editor’s” beef – e.g. the clock is ticking, people – but see value in ongoing experimentation. As “editor” ticks down the list of invitees, I see him taking some eye-catching things for granted. For example:

Tim Howard and Kasey Keller should feel little threat from the keepers currently in Carson.”

“Eddie Robinson, meanwhile, may not be contending with Carlos Bocanegra or Oguchi Onyewu for a regular starting spot, but he’s a fringe candidate to fill in when the going gets tough in World Cup qualifying.”

“Ed Johnson has proven he can score in meaningful games and should be in the conversation for the first choice strike partnership atop a 442 or 352.”

My first question is why I can’t make the bold font from the original article go away?

But other, more relevant questions (and answers) follow: Is Kasey Keller really still in the goalkeepers’ pool? (A: He mentions Brad Guzan for ‘keeper, and that’s a start, but I’m inclined to look to the future for ‘keeper. I’d keep looking.) Has the combination of Onyewu and Bocanegra inspired confidence? (A: Frankly, no. Too often, they’ve left me feeling more jittery than a wet cat hooked up to a 9-volt battery. I’d keep experimenting through April, then name the best available pair.) Johnson has shown he can score in the past, but how often? (A: Given our, um, situation at forward and given Johnson’s erratic form, I think the best you can say is he’s an option; that means keep looking.)

It should be pretty clear where I’m going with all this. I agree with “editor” that we’re to a point where we should cut out fringe players. But, for the plausible candidates – e.g. Michael Parkhurst, Eddie Robinson, anyone at forward – we need more games, preferably early in 2008, to gauge their abilities or, if nothing else, to push the guys we do have. We’re simply not strong enough in too many positions to call an end to Bradley’s experiments. That time is coming, but the bigger issue as I see it is getting these players games. Sterner tests would be nice, but I’d cast a wide net for friendlies….hell, the Caribbean seems a great place to start. What’s Grenada doing this year?

World Soccer Tidbits: Yanks Abroad Update

Busy weekend for the Yanks Abroad:

Danny Szetela dressed but didn’t play in Racing Santander’s 2-0 win over Osasuna.
Michael Bradley scored Heerenveen’s first goal in the Frisian’s 2-2 tie with FC Utrecht. It’s his seventh Eredivisie goal of the season. Damn.

Johann Smith didn’t dress for Bolton after returning from loan.

Gabriel Ferrari didn’t dress for Sampdoria’s 3-0 win over Palermo.

Brad Friedel should have had a shutout against Bolton if it weren’t for Kevin Nolan’s wonder strike. It was a 2-1 win.

Tim Howard managed a 1-0 shutout of strong side Manchester City.

West Ham’s Jonathan Spector started and played all 90 minutes in the Hammers’ 3-1 beating of Fulham. Clint Dempsey went the whole game for Fulham, while Carlos Bocanegra started but was taken off in the 14th minute with a mild head injury.

Jay DeMerit started and went all 90 in Watford’s 1-0 loss to Twellman-lovers Preston North End.

Andy Dorman (yes, he’s Welsh) played 20 minutes in St. Mirren’s 3-0 4th Scottish Cup win over Dumbarton.

Freddy Adu came on for Angel di Maria and played the last 10 minutes in Benfica’s 0-0 tie with Leixoes.

Clint Mathis‘ new squad? Ergotelis actually grabbed a win against Iraklis 1-0.

Eddie Lewis dressed but didn’t play in Derby’s 1-0 loss to Wigan. Benny Feilhaber didn’t dress.

Reading’s Marcus Hahnemann had 12 saves in a 3-1 loss to strong side loss to Aston Villa. Bobby Convey worked the last 20 minutes.

Millwall’s Zak Whitbread started and worked all 90 minutes in a 3-1 loss to Port Vale. The defender did sign a new 2 and 1/2 year contract recently, however.

Sydney FC’s Michael Enfield did not dress for their A-League match.

Jemal Johnson started and went all 90 for MK Dons in their 1-0 loss to Barnet.

EPL Weekend: Boca scores, United falls, Arsenal pushes forward

Saturday, December 29th, 2007 

Tottenham 6, Reading 4

You almost HAVE to start out with this one as weird results such as this one don’t come around to often in the EPL. Dimitar Berbatov had 4 of the 6 Spurs’ goals and reiterated after the game that he was poised to leave come the New Year because he still thought Tottenham (even with the new coach) had no chance at trophies. His four put him at 8 for the year and right into the thick of the scoring leaderboard. It was Reading, however, that went up 2-1 with almost a half to go but then all went to hell. There were 7 goals in the last 40 minutes. Robbie Keane was kept quiet on the day despite a PK chance that was snuffed by Marcus Hahnemann. Dave Kitson scored two for the Royals pushing his total to 8 as well, but it was still Reading’s 2nd lopsided drubbing of the campaign (remember that 7-4 loss to Portsmouth). Not a good habit to get into…Khalifa Cisse and Ivar Ingimarsson scored the first two goals for Reading, while Tottenham got a rocket from Steed Malbranque and a PK miss follow-up from Jermain Defoe to go with Berbatov’s 4 goal performance.  

West Ham 2, Manchester United 1

The hiccup that no one expected would happen, especially with the recent form of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo showed up to play yet again, scoring in the 14th minute to put the Devils up 1-0 and things seemed dandy. It was the Hammers that took control though, creating more chances, and giving Tomasz Kusczak some trouble in goal. They didn’t break through Rio and Vidic until the 77th minute when guess who? ANTON Ferdinand (Rio’s brother and West Ham’s central defender) headed one home. Matthew Upson then provided the winner aerially about 5 minutes later, bringing ManYoo crashing back down to Earth. What’s worse is it was Cristiano Ronaldo who could have effectively put the game away in the 68th with a Jonathan Spector PK gift, but he missed wide right proving he’s not a soccer God yet.

Fulham 1, Birmingham 1

The Cottagers looked like the home team and both Americans – Bocanegra and Dempsey had good days. Boca found the net early on with a near post run as he nodded it past the sprawling Maik Taylor putting Fulham up 1-0 and making new boss Roy Hodgson jump a bit for joy in the stands. They pressed forward again and again, but it was Sebastian Larsson’s Omozusi-deflected (poor kid yet again) long range blast that tied the game up. Dempsey really did look effective, but nothing of worrisome proportions to Taylor in net. Fulham will have to gear up for a tough second half of the season and expect some personnel changes to prepare for that…Michael Parkhurst anyone?

Chelsea 2, Newcastle 1

The Magpies falter yet again. Salomon Kalou’s 87th minute put-away amongst offside controversy put the death grip on Sam Allardyce’s job status. Either way, Newcastle managed only 2 shots on net, 1 of which hit its target. Michael Essien put away the first goal of the day in a penalty box-scrum, but ultimately he had one of his more forgetful performances of the season. Nicky Butt equalized on a well-executed counter attack that saw him start the play and end it, but after that, Newcastle went limp. Nothing to report except that Chelsea’s class took over and Allardyce was relegated to admitting defeat.

Arsenal 4, Everton 1

Tim Howard looked particularly helpless in goal but it certainly wasn’t as if received any real help from his back four. Eduardo – Arsenal’s Croatian Brazilian – picked apart Lescott and Yobo repeatedly for two goals cancelling out Tim Cahill’s opener at 19 minutes. Adebayor added his 11th of the year and Tomas Rosicky hit for a near-post screamer to add insult to injury. There were two sent off in this fixture and for about ten minutes, Everton had the upper hand as Nicklas Bendtner was ejected for a childish tackle. Mikel Arteta – a great deal older – threw a brutal looking elbow on Fabregas minutes later and was given his marching orders as well. A 4-1 win puts Wenger’s boys on top by two points and proved me stupid as only a couple days ago I had announced Everton’s “arrival”. Oh well.

Middlesbrough 1, Portsmouth 0

Southgate’s Boro grabbed a shock away win against an impotent Portsmouth squad. It was Pompey that provided most of the attacking flair but they were repeatedly tempered by a Woodgate-led back four. Pompey manager turned felon Harry Redknapp cited fatigue as the biggest factor in the loss, but whether it was fatigue-induced or not, the finishing was pretty much piss-poor. Why the Kranjcar/Muntari set-up was given a rest, with the African Nations Cup coming up and Muntari leaving, is beyond me…

Aston Villa 2, Wigan 1

Another hard fought Aston Villa win. Two late goals from Curtis Davies and Gabriel Agbonlahor sealed the deal at Wigan, ruining Titus Bramble’s first-ever goal celebration with the Latics. All-in-all, the game produced few real attacking efforts and if it came down to a defensive stand-off, I would bet my life on the Villans. The man of the day was Curtis Davies though as he looked like a guy worth keeping, something Martin O’Neill has been waiting for all season. Wigan still sits in the relegation zone with Liverpool looming and not making matters any easier.

Sunderland 3, Bolton 1

Roy Keane’s boys continued Bolton’s downward spiral, putting a three-spot on the lowly Wanderers. Former Man Utd winger Kieran Richardson hit first in the 13th with hot prospect Kenwyne Jones following suit twenty minutes later. It was a finishing clinic as there weren’t many chances in this one, nor were there expected to be many. El-Hadji Diouf tried to take matters in his own hands, pulling one back before half-time but the Black Cats held strong. Darryl Murphy provided the icing on the cake in injury time, but the real question after this result was: is Nicolas Anelka moving on?? Without Anelka, I can only see relegation for the Wanderers unless someone learns how to spend money over at Reebok Stadium. Sunderland aren’t in a great way either and sit – along with Bolton – right above the relegation zone.  

Sunday, December 30th 

Blackburn 2, Derby 1

Roque Santa Cruz scored his third goal in 2 games and this one ensured at least a point with lowly Derby County. The Paraguayan striker now has 10 on the year and is rapidly closing in on Cristiano Ronaldo at the top. It was David Bentley however, who also has had a great past couple games, that provided the gamewinner and the heroics for the Rovers. Matt Oakley opened the scoring for the Rams as they converted on their first real offensive drive but fizzled after that. The Rovers poured on shot after shot (a whopping 18 on goal), but the true turning point was Steve Howard’s botched penalty attempt. Brad Friedel guessed the right direction and kept Derby’s lead at only one. Then Santa Cruz and Bentley took over.

Liverpool 0, Manchester City 0

An exciting deadlock to say the least. Big men of the day were Man City’s Vedran Corluka and Irish veteran Richard Dunne. Not that Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher had a bad day or anything, but it was pretty quiet on Pepe Reina’s side of the field. Sven’s Citeh fought off a rather tame barrage and centre-back Dunne probably blocked at least 5 of those attempts himself and kept Torres at bay. Carragher on the other hand kept Elano quiet, snuffing any chance Man City had to move up in the standings. Dunne took the cake for best performance of the day with his acrobatic clearance off the line after a nifty Joe Hart save almost trickled into Man City’s goal.