Archive for September, 2008

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Sunday Stuff: Dempsey Rumors and More

September 28, 2008
Will work for...work?

Will work for...work?

In more fun with new gossip and flighty rumors, News of the World reports today that Clint Dempsey may be planning an escape from Fulham:

“…Clint Dempsey is looking to leave Craven Cottage after being frozen out of the first team by Roy Hodgson.”

COULD IT BE TRUE?! WHAT!? Who the hell knows, at this point publishing a rumor like this is hardly groundbreaking.  Every USMNT fan is wondering about Dempsey’s future at Fulham and his inability to see the pitch under Roy Hodgson.  Not to mention, it doesn’t help his case that the Cottagers haven’t had a horrible start without him in the lineup.  It could very well be true that Dempsey is not in the plans of Hodgson this season, and it’s only natural that Clint would want to find a home where he COULD feature (he’s not one to be satisfied with a sub role).

My Thoughts: Much too early to tell.  In my opinion, this rumor has probably just been stirred up by Dempsey’s camp to see what kind of interest is out there.  Unfortunately, I’m not convinced Clint would garner much attention from other quality EPL clubs, so a move abroad could materialize (I don’t think he’d join a Prem club fighting relegation, but who knows).  Despite it all, it’s important to remember that Dempsey is certainly not one to give up, and he is sure to continue fighting for a first team spot.  If he can continue to produce for the USMNT in upcoming qualifiers, I don’t think Hodgson will be able to ignore him.

Ah well, what do you all think? Will Dempsey earn back a regular role for Fulham? Is it time for him to move on? Chime in and let’s hear it. Also, check back later today and we can see if Freddy make’s the Monaco squad!

UPDATE:

Freddy Adu came on as a 79 minute substitution in the midfield as Monaco fell 2-0 to Lille.  Another disappointing result and more meager minutes for Adu. I think Adu touched ball about once after he came on, which isn’t exactly his fault.  The Monaco link up play is atrocious.  Bottom line: Adu needs to see major minutes if he’s gonna impact the game and help rescue Monaco.  He could provide the midfield to forward link up play that they desperately need.  Also worth notin, Park played another 90 minutes, and failed to produce.

Neither Maurice Edu and Damarcus Beasley even made the bench today in the Rangers 3-0 win over Hibernian.  No reason to be worried about it yet.  If they don’t make the bench again next weekend, then we can think about worrying.

–psc

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Saturday Action: Bradley Hits The Bench

September 27, 2008
A Settling Jewel

Michael Bradley: A Settling Jewel

M’gladbach fell further in the league table today, dropping a 1-0 result to Hamburg SV (they now are second to last in the table).  Michael Bradley was an unused substitute, and you have to wonder what the manager is thinking.  Gladbach is disastrous in possession and also has shown really poor tackling in the midfield, so it seems that Bradley would be a perfect injection of quality.  As I did some internet digging, I found this article, which after some translation, consoled me a little:

…But because of Patrick Paauwe’s injury [Bradley] was tested again on Tuesday in the German cup second-round game against Energie Cottbus, after his unplanned Bundesliga debut against Hertha BSC Berlin (0:1) last Saturday.

The son of US national team coach Bob Bradley couldn’t help the Borussians with his already enormous strength in on on one situations and his astonishing maturity yet, but coach Jos Luhukay first wants to give his new jewel time to settle in anyway. “Michael tried. For a first game that was ok” – the coach attests at least that he had a good debut. But the threshold for Bradley is much higher – as he wants to take the next step in his already meteoric career.

So hopefully there is some truth to Luhukay’s implied desire to let Bradley settle in slowly.  But to be honest, can M’gladbach afford to do so?  They need help, and fast, before they find themselves even more mired in the relegation swamp.

Ah well, at the end of all this speculation, only one thing will ACTUALLY get Bradley into the lineup, and that’s performances in training.  So let’s cross our fingers that Mikey can adjust to the German air and seem settled enough to feature next week.  God knows M’gladbach needs him.

In other Saturday developments, Dempsey was an unused sub in Fulham’s loss to West Ham.  Not too surprising there, as he went 90 in midweek Carling Cup action.  Later on today Villarreal will take on Sporting de Gijon, but early word is that Jozy is left out of the squad (now that Rossi and Nihat are back, I don’t think we’ll see Jozy until Copa del Rey kicks up).

How’s Saturday going for everyone?

Remember to head to Watch Soccer Online for all your Yanks Abroad weekend highlights.

–psc

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Ricardo Gomes on Freddy Adu

September 25, 2008

In the wake of Freddy Adu’s sparse playing time at Monaco, SI.com grabbed a quote from Ricardo Gomes.  It seems that Freddy is starting to gain some points in the manager’s eyes:

“For two weeks, I’ve looked at him in practice and noticed a change in his rhythm. He’s making more runs, he’s moving quicker and he understands the team better. In his finishing, he’s also having a lot of success.”

This article came out yesterday, before Adu started and went 70 minutes for Monaco in their 1-0 loss to PSG.  As mentioned in yesterday’s recap, Adu looked strong in the game and hopefully Gomes agrees.  In any case, it’s good to hear some positive feedback regarding Freddy in training, and it seems like he’s doing all the right things.  That’s all we can really ask of him.  Hopefully Freddy can create or score a few goals in his next couple appearances, because that would definitely help his place at Monaco (they are lacking a consistent goal scorer).

Ah well, we’ll keep our ear to the ground if anything else pops up!

–psc

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More Cup Action: Adu starts for Monaco

September 24, 2008

Freddy got a start today and went 69 minutes for Monaco as they lost 1-0 to PSG in the French League Cup.  He played as a striker and by all accounts looked strong in attack.  He made sharp runs in the offensive third that unfortunately often went unrewarded by his teammates, as he was caught offsides a few times due to late passes.  The announcers also seemed impressed with his contributions and we can only hope that Gomes felt the same way.  Park replaced him up top as Monaco searched for the equalizing goal, but he could not provide any scoring either.  I’d be curious to see Park and Freddy up top together and see if they can combine for anythng promising.  Hopefully can still feature this weekend for Monaco, and let’s pray that Gomes sees the promise that we all do in the American youngster.

In other Tuesday developments, Villarreal will take on Racing Santandar today, but Altidore did not make the bench.  Both Nihat and Rossi are back from injury, so Jozy has been pushed further down the chart.  I’m curious if Villarreal will keep him simply for the Copa del Rey or if they will more seriously consider loaning him out.  It’s a little frightening to think Jozy might not see any first team action until January, but at least he is still training with the best.

Rennes and Carlos are in French League Cup action later today, so we’ll talk about that later on!  Also, the Rangers play today in a Cup game, so hopefully Edu and Beasley will see some time.  This could be an important game for Maurice to prove his stuff if he can get on the pitch.  Last but not least, Howard and Everton line up against Blackburn in Carling Cup play.  Also in CC today is Aston Villa, and maybe even Guzan will get to play?

UPDATE:

Carling Cup

ASTON VILLA 0 QPR 1

Brad Guzan started in net for Villa, but ultimately he was the one to blame after a poor clearance resulted in the only goal of the match. Guzan was called into action on only a few occasions, but did make a some nice saves.

Scottish Co-operative Insurance Cup

RANGERS 2 PARTICK 1

Beasley came on in the 70th minute and assisted on the gamewinner in Extra Time.  Edu was on the bench for the match, but did not see the pitch and will hope to play a part this weekend.  Beasley still looked a bit rusty, but he did provide a spark and I have a feeling he’ll stay as a super sub for the Rangers for the forseeable future.

–psc

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Dominic Cervi to Celtic?

September 24, 2008
When I see Dominic, I see Bat Boy.

When I see Dominic, I see Bat Boy.

News out of Scotland today is reporting that American 22 year old Dominic Cervi will sign with Celtic in the next 48 hours.  The Scottish Sun writes:

“The 6ft 6in ace then hopes to clinch a three-year deal by gaining the Italian passport he needs to meet UK visa requirements.

Cervi was put through his paces at Lennoxtown before watching the Co-op Cup clash with Livingston.

He is expected to challenge Mark Brown in a battle to be back-up to Artur Boruc, but Hoops boss Gordon Strachan sees him as a future No1 if the Polish keeper if sold.”

My Thoughts: Celtic must have a pretty high estimation of him if they already can see him as the future #1. Dominic has all the physical gifts to be a successful goalkeeper, but in past performances he has lacked some focus and still needs work on his decision making.  In any case, it’s never a bad thing to have a player get some much needed training from a big club like Celtic.  But this doesn’t change that Tim Howard is our man for 2010, with Guzan in line behind him.  I hope it all works out for Cervi, who’s been trying to find a contract for some time now.  Hopefully his work permit is easily sorted out.

What do you think?

–psc

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Carling Cup Tuesday: Dempsey goes 90

September 23, 2008

Carling Cup

FULHAM 0 BURNLEY 1

Dempsey had his chance today, going a full 90 minutes for Fulham as they fell to Burnley behind a late goal from Jay Rodriguez.  Despite the disappointing result, Dempsey looked strong in attack, and was praised mightily by Fulham’s Official Match Report:

“Clint Dempsey tried his luck on 41 minutes as Fulham attempted to force their way up the pitch. Dempsey, who had been looking good in possession and had played some wonderful one-touch passes, shot from 25 yards but pulled his effort wide…

…a strong run from Clint Dempsey on 55 minutes drove Fulham forward, the American striker ghosted past a couple of players before playing the ball out wide, the pass was returned but Dempsey’s shot was deflected wide.

The American attacker, who had put on a good show in the first half was becoming more of a central figure in Fulham’s attacks.

My Thoughts: A bad result for the team, but a strong showing for Dempsey. By all accounts, Clint played very well, but the result still stands and hopefully Hodgson saw enough in the American to keep including him. Fulham face West Ham this weekend and while I’m not confident Clint will feature after just playing a full match, hopefully this is the start of an upturn in form for the Texan.

CARDIFF CITY 0 SWANSEA 1

This might just be my last coverage of Eddie Johnson.  He started and played the first 45 minutes and put simply, he was atrocious.  I watched his minutes and nearly every time he touched the ball, he played a poor layoff pass that was oftentimes intercepted.  He never looked threatening and he always looked unsure of himself.  I was embarrassed for him as the announcers kept commenting on how poor he was performing.  I don’t think it will be long until we see EJ back in the MLS, because today I think he has played himself deeper onto the bench for Cardiff.  The Tale of Eddie Johnson will be a sad story some day.

German Cup

BORUSSIA M’GLADBACH 0 COTTBUS 3

Wow. Michael Bradley did not play today in a match that saw Energie Cottbus score 3 times from the Penalty Spot.  Now Gladbach is out of the DFB Cup and also firmly in the bottom 3 of the Bundesliga. What has Michael Bradley walked into? At this point it may be too early to say “what was his agent thinking sending him here?” but to be honest, I’m already thinking it.

Any other insights on these games today?

–psc

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Yanked Around USMNT Player Power Rankings

September 23, 2008
Step forward, be ranked.

Step forward, be ranked.

In a new Yanked Around installment, we’re going to start doing some Player Power Rankings of guys in US pool.  These will probably happen bi-monthly and come from careful analysis of both club and country play.  So without further Freddy Adu, let’s see where the guys stand.

NOTE: This is not to suggest that these are the 18 players who should “make the roster now!” just a ranking of our guys based on current performances.

1. Landon Donovan

A hat trick against DC United this week saw Donovan take his goal tally to 19 goals in 20 games for the Galaxy this season (he also has 8 assists).  Match that with his sturdy play in our recent Qualifiers and that takes Landon to the top of this, our first installment in USMNT Player Power Rankings.

2. Oguchi Onyewu

Gooch holds down our #2 spot behind strong play in the CL, UEFA Cup, and WCQ’s.  After a heartbreaking loss to Liverpool in which Onyewu featured very strongly, the American has kept Liege at the top of the Juliper League and also helped his team to a draw at Goodison Park in the UEFA Cup.  He has also been instrumental thus far in helping our USMNT keep clean sheets in each of our WCQ’s, and has even threatened to get on the scoresheet himself.

3. Tim Howard

#3 may be a little high for Timmy considering he and Everton have had a difficult start to the Premier League season.  The Toffees defense has let in 11 goals in just 5 league games.  While that can’t be all placed on Howard (it’s no secret there are some big defensive holes at Everton), those goals against don’t help his case here.  The upside is, that Tim has kept 3 clean sheets in WCQ, and he made a few stunning saves in those tough road matches.

4. Carlos Bocanegra

This is probably as high as Carlos could get on our list, but scoring the gamewinner in Rennes’ UEFA Cup victory last week has propelled him to number 4.  He also grabbed the lone goal at Guatemala and has played his part in our 3 WCQ cleansheets. His performances say it all.

5. Michael Bradley

Michael Bradley messes with the mind of every USMNT fan.  On one hand, we have his outstanding season with Heerenveen last term, scoring loads of big goals at a high level like no other USMNT player has ever done.  Then on the other hand, we have loads of lackluster National Team performances while playing the most minutes of any player in the US pool.  In any case, that’s the makings of another column, so here lets just say: Bradley has been more than solid in our last 3 WCQ’s. The reason he makes it to #5 is based on his tireless tackling (if at times sloppy execution late in games) and the great play he showed against T&T.  His sharp long passing in that game is something that the USMNT desperately needs.

6. Clint Dempsey

Dempsey is lucky to be at #6, and I was just about ready to throw Heath and Cherundolo before him. A pair of well-taken goals in our WCQ’s are the main reason he’s here, and also the fact that Dempsey has made a strong name for himself despite playing out of his favored position.  The truth is: Dempsey isn’t a striker, and he isn’t a winger either.  That said, he has worked hard and adapted through that to still become a vital contributor to our MNT.  If his club struggles continue (and things don’t look good), Dempsey could fall further down this list, but as long as he can produce for his country he’ll always be in the mix.

7. Steve Cherundolo

One of the most underrated players on the USMNT, Cherundolo has consistently shown himself the best US right back since before WC 06.  He is a constant fixture for his club and he is a true example of a defender who does “the little things” (his positioning is excellent).  It isn’t abnormal for him to grab assists regularly for Hannover, and I think that is one of Bob Bradley’s challenges: How to get Stevie C involved in the attack.

8. Heath Pearce

It hasn’t been an easy road for Pearce.  He’s had to fight through rumors of an “attitude problem” and let his play speak for itself, but he is finally starting to place a firm grip on the US left back spot.  I think he still has some mental lapses, but he showed some great 1v1 defending in our WCQ’s, and if he can get his club situation sorted out, he’ll further distance himself from other left back competitors.  I’d love to see Pearce in the Eredivisie where he could develop as an attacking back.

9. Maurice Edu

After a good showing at the Olympics, you could make a case for Edu being higher than #9, but I think this is where he belongs.  However, there is no where for Edu to go but up, pending that he can step into a strong contributing role at Rangers.  He has showed flashes for the USMNT of being a great partner for Bradley in the middle, thinking creatively in attack but still being able to track back on defense.  His consistency is still a bit lacking, but if he can get rolling in Scotland, the other central midfield position is his to claim.

10. Damarcus Beasley

Beas is a player who in a good run of form, could be #1 on our list. However he has looked FAR from classic Damarcus in our WCQ’s and has been playing poorly for his club as well.  His touch is rusty and he is missing that killer instinct in the final third that would really make him a threat on goal.  He bungled a beautiful Edu through ball last weekend for Rangers, and had trouble this week as well.  Here’s hoping he can get his business sorted out.

11. Sacha Kljestan

Sacha could be higher on this list too, but he needs to settle.  He was equal parts exciting and frustrating in the Olympics and he played smartly in his minutes versus Trinidad and Tobago.  Unfortunately, in the long run I think Sacha Kljestan will fall into the “there’s not enough room in midfield” category.  But for now, his strong play keeps him in competition with Maurice Edu.  However, unless he can get to Europe fast, I think Edu will distance himself from the Chivas USA man.

12. Kenny Cooper

WHAT? KENNY COOPER? Yes. Kenny Cooper.  Even before Freddy and Jozy.  While only at a club level, he has been producing consistently.  Plus he has been scoring difficult and blistering goals, not just 6 yard box tap ins.  Sure Freddy and Jozy haven’t been given much of a chance, but I can’t place them higher just on faith alone.  Kenny was denied a move to Europe in August, but still stayed composed enough to keep delivering goals for FC Dallas.  Bob Bradley will call up Kenny Cooper.

13. Jozy Altidore

After Jozy’s La Liga debut with Villarreal, you could argue that he deserves to be higher.  But the facts are he hasn’t had enough minutes to truly prove himself and earn a higher spot.  Sure, like all other US fans, I am 100% sure that he is ready to start contributing to our USMNT as a starting striker, but he still has yet to do so.  After a dissappointing Olympics marred by lack of PT (thanks Piotr), Jozy needs to get back in the USMNT mix, and getting him there is Bob Bradley’s responsibility.

14. Freddy Adu

Like Jozy, Freddy is currently suffering from lack of opportunity.  He is scrapping for minutes at Monaco, and he NEEDS to be playing regularly.  Obviously, I know that he has boundless potential, but it’s not being realized.  We see it in flashes, but in the Olympics we also saw him disappear for large stretches.  Freddy needs to see game time, because at his best he is the most creative player the USMNT has at it’s disposal.

15. Eddie Lewis

Eddie Lewis is consistent.  You always know what you’re going to get from him: 65 minutes of hard work and a few crosses, maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll even see a nice 1v1 move.  But it’s time for Eddie Lewis to be phased out of the USMNT.  He doesn’t bring anything that our younger players can’t also deliver (besides “experience” perhaps, but c’mon…), and his lack of pace really bogs down our midfield play.  A solid roleplayer who shows grit.

16. Marvell Wynne

Wynne is another player who is screaming with potential.  We saw his blistering speed in the Olympics on a few lengthy runs, but he just lacked the quality on his final touch.  If Marvell can work on his technical skills and composure, he could be an instant challenger to Cherundolo.  I expect to see Wynne get called up in the next few qualifiers, especially as he could be hoping for a move to Europe in the winter.

17. Brian Ching

Sigh. Brian Ching.  The endless argument about Ching is the “he doesn’t belong on the team” versus “but he holds the ball up well!”  The truth is, sure he can hold the ball up, but he is hardly an exceptional Post-Up striker. His touch is too poor. He can use his body decently, but he doesn’t really have the technical skill or vision to really lay the ball off inspiringly. He hustles and he can grab the occasonial poaching goal, but alot of times he seems to just be running around like a chicken with his head cut off.  You can’t look me in the eye and tell me that his assist to Dempsey versus Cuba was truly supposed to be a pass and not a trap.

18. Frankie Hejduk

Hey, to be honest, Frankie didn’t look bad in his WCQ appearances, and he DID score a cute little goal for Columbus last week.  Sure, he blew alot of great crossing opportunities against Cuba, but his tackling was strong and you can always count on him to hustle.  The fact of the matter, he just doesn’t really offer anything to the team.  You stick him in the lineup because you know you can count on him to “not mess up.”

PLAYERS ON THE CUSP

Chad Marshall, Stuart Holden, Charlie Davies, Jeremiah White, Eddie Johnson, Robbie Rogers, Danny Szetela, Michael Orozco, Sal Zizzo, Michael Parkhurst, Charles Renken (just kidding).

Disagree with me? Think someone’s rated too high? Let’s hear it!

Check back after the next batch of WCQ’s for some updated Player Power Rankings!

–psc