Archive for the ‘Match Recap’ Category

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Clint Dempsey: “I’m Back”

October 27, 2008

Clinton Dempsey scored the leveling goal today in a 1-1 draw with Portsmouth.  He came on in the 77th minute and found the back of the net 9 minutes later off of a Nevland cross.  Fuck Yea. It’s about time Clint is seeing the fruit of his hardwork pay off, and you could definitely sense relief after he scored.  He ran to the fans and was clearly saying “I’m Back!” repeatedly as he celebrated.

I hope he is back, and I hope that Hodgson sees that Dempsey can bring some valuable skill to the squad. Clint’s goal capped off an otherwise dissappointing weekend among American’s in Europe and beyond.  Adu didn’t get in the game for Monaco, and the French team failed to win yet again.  Jozy didn’t make the bench for Villarreal, but with the Copa del Rey about to start, I’m hoping he gets a strong chance at those matches.   Edu sadly didn’t make the bench for Rangers, but Beasley did go 73 minutes and had some really strong effort in attack; he kicked off the buildup that led to the ‘Ger’s second goal.

This is a double gameweek for England, so we’ll have another chance to check in on Dempsey on Wednesday.  And since AJ went 90 minutes today, who knows, Clint might even get the start.

–psc

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TnT 2 USA 1, The Kids Aren’t Ready?

October 16, 2008
"Can I have a taste of beer, dad?"

"Can I have a taste of beer, dad?"

Somewhere out there Bob Bradley is smiling, thinking of all the US fans who clamored for Jozy and Freddy to be instant starters and he’s saying, “I told you so.”  After all, Jozy and Freddy couldn’t lead the US attack versus TnT, right?  Us slobbering fans better just chill the eff out, right?  Maybe, but I think the actuality is that last night we witnessed what happens when our US players don’t get playing time for their clubs: They don’t play very well.

DEFENDERS

Let’s start with Guzan.  He just looked rusty.  He made a few nice saves, but I kept feeling that he seemed a bit jittery.  In any case, I wouldn’t fault him for any of the goal but I DO hate how he always seems to take SO MUCH TIME with the ball at his feet.  Just pass the ball already Brad! Okay, moving on. Franke Hejduk, he is the worker bee of the USMNT.  He did a nice job getting forward throughout the first half but he could not deliver a quality cross to save his life, and when you can’t do that, it pretty much voids all your offensive work.  He was fine on the defensive end up until his intercepted pass led to the first TnT goal.  In all, I think we are seeing the last days of Hejduk and hopefuly Wynne will start to see some minutes. In the centre, Califf and Orozco were a mess, most notably on set piece defending.  Califf was also left out to dry on the goal, no where near Latapy.  Neither of them did any favors for their further inclusion in the USMNT pool and they just seemed to lack a general sense of orientation and organization.  I think Orozco comes out looking better than Califf after this game, but he’s still just a fringe bench player.  Pearce was quiet in the first half, but after the interval he started to get forward much more and beat his man on the flank a number of times.  Scotland gave him fits on the left side, but Pearce was able to neutralize the threat pretty effectively.

MIDFIELDERS

Yikes, I’m not sure there are many positives to take away from our midfield play last night.  Kljestan was nightmarish compared to how he has been playing in earlier WCQ’s and Maurice Edu’s first touch was horrible for the majority of the game. Torres didn’t have a HORRIBLE game, but he did disappear for stretches and seemed a bit lost out there.  It felt like the midfield roles weren’t clear enough, like there were too many cooks in the kitchen.  They tried to put together small passes in the midfield but their efforts never amounted to anything.  I also don’t think that Kljestan is effective on the wing.  He doesn’t have the pace to beat players down the flank and he has a tendency to pinch inside, crowding Edu and Torres.  I can’t remember one instance where Kljestan actually delivered a cross from the wing.  We need that width, and he didn’t provide it.  As for Beasley, he just seemed frustrated the whole match.  He couldn’t get anything going and I think it goes to show that he is a player who needs quality around him to excel.  He can’t stand alone.  He delivered a few nice set pieces, but never really got into a rhythm.

FORWARDS

Freddy Adu, where are’t thou?  Freddy had some nice moments in keeping possession but on the whole he couldn’t make anything happen.  Freddy is at his best when he’s running at the defense, and we didn’t see that tonight.  Most times he’d drop deep for the ball, show some nice skill to keep possession and then lay off to a midfielder.  He had trouble turning his marker, and often just played long balls over the top for Jozy which weren’t effective.  Also, where was Adu in the second half?  His involvement disappeared.  As for Altidore, he looked dead tired after about 35 minutes.  Someone needs to get this kid into shape. He never really seemed sharp on the ball, and spent most of the first half chasing down impossible long balls. He did play a nice through ball for Beasley and he deserves credit on creating the goal, but that’s about it.  I think that Jozy needs to play with another striker alongside him to truly succeed, I don’t think he excels in a 4-5-1.

SUBS

Which brings us to the Charlie Davies.  Davies insertion breathed instant life into the side, and you know why? Because he played as an actual second striker.  He didn’t drop deep to grab the ball and leave Jozy alone, but instead made penetrating runs toward the goal, drawing defenders and freeing up space for Altidore in the middle.  He finished cleanly on Jozy’s assist and that should make Freddy Adu nervous because Davies actually looked threatening for those final 20 minutes.

I was glad to see Szetela come on, but I think he should’ve come about 30 minutes earlier.  He’s been getting regular playing time for Brescia and I think he could have brought a good spark to our midfield if brought in for Edu.  In any case, I hope he gets more looks because until Edu establishes himself at Rangers, he shouldn’t be starting for the USMNT.

I will not comment on Chris Rolfe.

My Thoughts: I’m not upset that we lost.  I’m glad that our young guys got a full game to give it a go, and I think that’s exactly what they needed.  That said, if these boys want to continue to develop at a good rate, they NEED to start getting matches at their clubs.  If Freddy Adu keeps up his role as an 80th minute sub at Monaco, he will not grow into an effective Int’l player.  In that vein, I’m also not convinced that Adu fits into the USMNT as a deep-lying striker.  I think he needs to play wide so he can have space to run at defenders and cut inside.  But who does he replace? Dempsey or Beasley? He isn’t ready for that.  Bob Bradley has some tough decisions ahead of him.

So what needs to happen? Edu needs to fight into the Rangers mix, Jozy needs to excel in Copa del Rey and maybe head out on loan, and Adu needs to take advantage of every chance he can to prove his worth in France. Easy, right? Sigh.

OH.

Before I forget.  Kenny Cooper, what have you done? After missing this game, Kenny has just fallen further down the depth chart because Davies took advantage of his chance.  Cooper would have probably started this game for the USMNT but instead he chose to stay home.  At the international level, you can’t take these opportunities for granted because you can never be sure when the team will call your number again.  Kenny’s gonna need to keep scoring blistering goals for FC Dallas if he wants to get back in the US mix and next time, he’s gonna be sitting on the bench.

What did you guys think of the match? Any insights? Think I’m way off base?

–psc

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Live Blogging USA vs TnT: Young’uns Lead the Charge

October 15, 2008

TnT 2 USA 1

There you have it.  Check back tomorrow for a little recap action.

91st minute – FULL TIME. TnT beat the USA. Hmmmm.

90th minute – I wish Szetela had come on sooner (even though as I’m typing this he plays a disastrous long ball).

87th minute – Rolfe on for Pearce.  I think we’re losing this one.

86th minute – Looks like Rolfe is coming on.  Time to kill myself. Will it be for a defender or for Jozy?

85th minute – Lazy play from Hejduk. US just looks tired at this point.  Edu has had a very poor game.

83rd minute – Yikes, near miss for US on a Beasley set piece.  Altidore should’ve done better there. Now Torres off, Szetela on.

82nd minute – Szetela is coming on for the last 8 minutes… Why?

TnT 2 USA 1

79th minute – GOAL TnT. Trinidad pull one back through a calm penalty from Dwight Yorke.  Do the young US players have anything else left?

79th minute – PENALTY to TnT. Jozy concedes a penalty, yanking on Hislops jersey on a TnT corner kick. Lame. That play shows us Jozy’s fatigue.

75th minute – The goal was great work from Altidore, but it was ONE touch away from being bad play from Altidore. You know what I mean? Jozy almost took too long on the ball, but it squirted out in his favor.

TnT 1 USA 1

74th minute – GOAL USA. Charlie Davies puts it in just like he does at Hammarby, by making sure his positioning is spot on.

68h minute – Davies in and right away he frees up some space with a nice run off the ball.  Too bad Jozy falls over before the ball gets to him.

67th minute – Davies gets ready to come on, and it seems it’ll be for Adu.  Looks like we’ll see a little more of a 4-4-2 from here out.

TnT 1 USA 0

60th minute – TnT GOAL. That’ll mix things up. Latapy volleys in off the post.  He is 40 years old.

58th minute – Pearce getting involved on the flank in this half, and he looks much better on offense than Hejduk.  US is still lacking that final quality though.

55th minute – Altidore looks tired.  When does Davies come on?

47th minute – Ball movement already looks better, but still too soon to tell.

HALFTIME – A rough half for the USMNT with not alot of positives to take away.  Hopefully a little coaching from BB in the locker room will get the boys back on track, because we aren’t lacking talent and skill.  Rather, we just need some direction.  If there WERE to be any changes at this point, I would expect Szetela to come into midfield for Edu or Torres (I’d pull Edu if it were my decision).  I don’t think Edu is getting it done. What do you guys think at this point?

42nd minute – A little bit of crowding between Adu and Altidore.  They don’t seem to be on the same page so far tonight.  We’ve fallen into the trap of “hit it forward and let Jozy run,” but Jozy is so much more than that.  We don’t need to play as if Jozy is EJ.

40th minute – Hard work from Hejduk up and down the right flank, but his crossing is not up to par.  That’s the same story we all know.

35th minute – Still lacking some direction and focus in attack.  We’ve started to possess a bit more, which is good, but we still can’t figure out how to create effective chances.

28th minute – Maurice Edu is definitely one of the leading offenders when it’s coming to “poor touches.” He’s given it away a number of times when he really should’ve done better.

25th minute – Maybe its the field, maybe it’s the heat, maybe its just the lack of all our starters, but we just don’t look that great.  Alot of poor first touches in the midfield, and it seems that we aren’t quite sure how we want to orchestrate our attack.

17th minute – Still some suspect defending from the US, especially on corner kicks.  We narrowly escape going down after a Soca Warrior whiffs a finish at the top of the 6.

13th minute – There we go, some strong passing from Torres and a nice dummy run from Adu opens up some space and Hejduk wins a corner.

11th minute – Adu draws a foul in the offensive third and Kljestan takes the freekick poorly.

8th minute – Trinidad is getting forward strongly here.  The US looks a little jittery, trying to force too much too early. I think we’re surprised at TnT’s start and are on our heels a bit.

4th minute – snap save from Guzan and cleared off the line by Torres. Yikes guys, lets get under control.

5:05 pm – Anthems and team formalities…  Let’s get to it! Any predictions before we start? I’m gonna be a cynic and say we only win by 1 or 2 goals… but buried deep in my heart I have dreams of a Jozy hat trick.

4:15pm – We’ve got a starting lineup!  I wasn’t too far off in my earlier predictions, here is how we’ll start off tonight:

Guzan

Hejduk Orozco Califf Pearce

Beasley Torres Edu Kljestan

Adu

Altidore

Oh boy, this is gonna be a fun one!!

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USA 6, Cuba 1: All Systems Go

October 15, 2008
"I'm not anorexic, I promise"

"I'm not anorexic, I promise"

Well well well.  As a USMNT fan, is it possible to be up set with the 6-1 victory of Cuba on Saturday?  Is there really any way you can walk away from watching that game and have a sour taste in your mouth? HOW COULD THAT BE?!

Alright, enough with the melodrama. All in all, Saturday’s game was a bright spot for the USMNT that saw alot of very positive attacking play and solid defending.  Damarcus Beasley grabbed his first international goals in almost a year and half of play, and that has to make Walter Smith happy.  On the flip side, we have to remind ourselves that most CONCACAF opponents are horrible.  We SHOULD be beating Cuba 6-1.  Okay, Let’s check it out by position.

DEFENDERS

No big surprises here.  Cuba couldn’t really test our back four, and the one goal they DID grab, was a fluke-ish and lucky strike.  Gooch and Boca played well in the middle, and did a relatively good job building up play from the back.  There were even some instances where Onyewu played some slicing passes into the feet of Donovan and Ching.  I love seeing that from defenders, because that kind of accurate passing to link with our offensive players can be really priceless.  Dolo played well, if relatively quietly, and didn’t see too much action on the right side.  I think the brightest spot in our back four tonight was Heath; he did an excellent job of pushing forward and getting involved in the attack, delivering a slew of great crosses (one resulting in Landon’s goal).  He also had some clutch tackles up and down the left side.  However,  I think that Pearce does lack one vital wingback trait, and that’s PACE.  When the USMNT faces tougher opposition I don’t think Pearce really has the skill or speed to really beat other world class wing players.  But time will tell I suppose.

Oh yes, and let’s not forget Gooch’s 90 minute goal, a great header.  Although the star of that goal might’ve been Freddy Adu (no offense Gooch).

MIDFIELD

There you are Beasley!!  So Damarcus finally is getting some finishing done.  We can’t fault him for two strong goals, and this is the execution that we certainly NEED from him.  Because besides his goals, I don’t think Beasley looked that special out there.  He certainly has the pace to beat defenders, but he doesn’t have the trickery to really put his marker off balance.  The majority of his 1v1 ability seems to be “push it past and hope,” but this isn’t going to work when you weigh 90 pounds.  Beasley’s strength is using his speed to get the behind the defense and latch onto through balls, which is exactly what led to his goals today.

Next up, I think Kljestan featured very well today, and he’s making a strong case for himself as a partner to Michael Bradley.  They seem to play well together, as Sacha focuses on going forward and creating offense with Mikey sitting back and tackling, crashing the box when necessary.  I thought Kljestan orchestrated well, grabbing two assists, and he was unlucky to not have a goal on his excellent header (which Ching ended up scoring).  If Kljestan can keep improving his protection of the ball and lower his turnovers, I think he could be our starting center midfielder through the hexagonal.

Bradley Jr and Dempsey had pretty quiet games.  I was happy to see Michael getting forward on occassion and he had one or two good chances from the top of the 18 yard box.  If he can find some finishing prowess, it would be great to have someone who can strike some nice long shots from outside the box (but it might be a little wishful to expect this from Mikey B).  Dempsey didn’t let anyone down, and should’ve had a goal in the opening minutes.  He attacked strongly and by my estimation is still playing well for the US, hopefully Hodgson gets him in this weekend.

FORWARDS

Landon is the hero of the day.  Yes, the opposition has been inferior, but I finally see Donovan imposing himself on the match, and I think he did an excellent job of staying on the ball tonight.  The biggest problem we’ve seen from Donovan in the past, is his tendency to disappear for long stretches.  Against Cuba he came back deep for the ball and seemed to always be involved in the offensive buildup.  This is crucial if we are going to build a cohesive attack.  He grabbed a well deserved assist and goal, and his pace provided real problems for the Cuban defense.

Okay, Brian Ching played well tonight.  His holdup play and subsequent distribution to Heath Pearce which led to Landon’s goal was EXCELLENT.  I am a little resentful to see Ching get on the scoresheet, because it was a true poachers goal and pretty much stolen off the goal line from Kljestan.  But hey, that’s how Ching scores, and a goal IS a goal.  This was a good game from Brian but let’s be honest, we all saw Jozy come on, and we all KNOW that the future is Jozy and Landon (with maybe some Kenny Cooper sprinkled in, right).

SUBS

Jozy Altidore came on the 68th minute and USMNT fans everywhere tried to contain their elation.  He made an impact right away, and nearly scored within three minutes of being on the pitch.  His ability to use his body is amazing and shows such maturity for someone only 19 years old.  He can just shrug off defenders and create space for himself with great ease, and this is so important for a striker when trying to get a shot off.  His goal in the 87th was well earned and finished, and if he plays a good number of minutes against TnT (which I expect), I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more goals from the man I will now dub as “The Future.”

Torres also came on in the 68th for his first cap. Hurrah Jose.  While he didn’t really do anything noteworthy, he definitely seemed to fit in right away, maintaining our offensive flow and finding the right pass.  I’m excited to see him against TnT and hopefully he’ll be given some more freedom to dictate the pace of our attack. I think this kid has alot of potential.

Last but not least, Freddy Adu came on the 74th and was relatively quiet for the final minutes.  Of course, he did very well to beat his defender and deliver and excellent cross in the dying moments for Gooch to head home, so that is certainly a positive.  Not too much to critique though, hopefully he gets some more time against Trinidad, and I think he will.

DISCLAIMER: for as happy as we all are with this victory, lets remember that Cuba played the majority of the game with 10 men and had a depleted squad because of defectors.  Not that I want to rain on anybody’s parade, but let’s just remember that and hope that the US squad does too.

In all, a great result and I can’t wait for Wednesday’s match.  Bring it on Soca Warriors.  Hopefully the ESPN feed isn’t shitty.

–psc

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UEFA Cup Thursday: Gooch and Liege onward!

October 2, 2008

Gooch put in a strong 90 minutes as Liege advanced to the UEFA Group Stage at the expense of Tim Howard and the Toffees.  The American matched up very strongly against Louis Saha and Yakubu and fought through a nose bleed in the final minutes to secure his teams win.

My Thoughts: Great result for Onyewu who needs all the Euro games he can get if he plans to make a move in the January window.  Hopefully Liege can get a nice draw for the next Stage, and Gooch can continue to assert himself as a top centre back.  I think it’s a lock that we’ll see him back in the states on the 11th for Cuba, so I look forward to that as well!  Sad news for Tim Howard and Everton, but I don’t think the UEFA exit will affect Tim’s game or international stock that much.  The main problem at Everton is pretty clearly the defense, not goalkeeping.

In other UEFA news, Carlos Bocanegra and Rennes were eliminated after losing 1-0 today to Twente.  Carlos took up his familiar spot at left back for the French side and a 67th minute goal for FC Twente gave them the away goals advantage.  Not great for Carlos.

–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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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