Archive | June, 2009

Brazil uses second half comeback to win Confederations Cup

28 Jun

The U.S. took a shock 2-0 lead into halftime against Brazil, but couldn’t hang on in the second.  Brazil scored three second half goals to clinch their second Confederations Cup title with a 3-2 win over the U.S.

The US got off to a fantastic start when Clint Dempsey scored his third of the tourney off an excellent ball from Jonathan Spector in the 10th minute.  The goal clearly caught Brazil off guard since they had enjoyed more possession and looked more of a threat to score.  The US added a second goal after Brazil misplayed a corner kick.  Landon Donovan sent an excellent long ball to Charlie Davies who sent a one-touch pass back to a streaking Donovan in the middle of the box.  Donovan took the ball around his defender and put the US up 2-0!!! On Brazil – holy crap!

The US played with confidence and poise against in the first half and took advantage of the few chances they had.  The second half, however, was a different story.  Fabiano scored for Brazil only 46 seconds into the half and you could tell that giving up the early goal really deflated the US.  Brazil seemed to remember who they were and the US did a lot of chasing in the second half.  After Fabiano equalised in the 74th minute, US coach Bob Bradley made a double substitution, bringing in Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Bornstein for Jozy Altidore and Benny Feilhaber.  

The subs didn’t really make much sense to me – Feilhaber especially was playing well and he’s got an excellent touch on the ball.  Kljestan looked rather out of his element and gave the ball away several times in the dying moments as the US was trying to mount a final attack.  Bornstein just didn’t add much at all.

Lucio headed home the game winner in the 84th minute off a corner kick, giving the US a punch right in the gut and completing an impressive comeback for Brazil.

Now I know it sucks to lose.  I hate losing.  I know the US hates losing, especially after such a wonderful first half.  However, in the final three games of this tournament, the US showed that they could play with (and beat) just about anyone.  They’ve got to take confidence in that.  The next World Cup qualifier for the US is at Mexico, where the US hasn’t ever won, but if they play with confidence and heart, this might be the year they break that streak.

A few notes:

  • I like this quote from Landon Donovan after the game: “We’re at the point where we don’t want respect, we want to win.”
  • The US plays so much better in a 4-4-2!  One striker does not cut it with this squad.
  • Onyewu is a beast when it comes to headers.
  • I can’t believe that Clint Dempsey received the Bronze Ball as the third best player of the tournament.  He was atrocious in all the group games, save for his goal against Egypt, albeit a crucial goal.  And yes, he scored a goal against Spain and a goal against Brazil, but he doesn’t deserve that award.  If anyone on the US team is getting that award, it should be Donovan (who had 2 goals and 2 assists) .  Donovan had a fantastic work rate throughout the tournament and the successful attacks ran through him.

Live Blog – USA vs. Brazil

28 Jun

USA vs. Brazil - Confederations Cup Final

U.S. stuns Spain; rematch with Brazil in final

25 Jun

The United States of America shocked Spain, 2-0, in the Confederations Cup semifinal on Wednesday.  Even though the game was yesterday, I’m still in shock about it.  What an amazing victory for the US, definitely one of the biggest soccer upsets ever.

Jozy Altidore scored the first goal for the US in the 27th minute after essentially boxing out his defender and sending a shot off the fingertips of goalie Iker Casillas.  After the goal, Spain took control of the match and was constantly putting pressure on the US defense.  The defense bent, but never broke – a stellar performance.

Spain came out in the second half and looked almost certain to score a goal, but again, the US defense stepped up and kept them off the board.  Pressure on the defense was relieved a bit when Clint Dempsey scored a second for the US in the 74th minute.  Defender Sergio Ramos got turned around and Dempsey was there to put the ball away.  The only blemish to the game was a cheap red card that Michael Bradley picked up in the 86th minute (that’s 3 reds in 4 games for the US, although this was another bad call).

Reasons the US won

  • They played with HEART. For the second game in a row, it was obvious that they believed in themselves and showed a lot of fight.  This is the kind of play I expect from the US.  They may not be the most talented team, but they will fight and scrap to the very end.
  • They played a smart tactical game. Bob Bradley hasn’t been the most loved figure lately (just look at a couple earlier blog posts), but he put together a very smart game plan against Spain.
  • They didn’t play scared. Against Brazil and Italy earlier in the tournament, they US looked scared and intimidated by their opponents.  That didn’t happen against Spain.  Spain is the more talented team, but the US didn’t let that affect their game this time.
  • They finished their chances. A recurring problem for the US has been scoring in the run of play.  The problems seem to be alleviated with excellent goals against both Egypt and Spain.

US advances to Confederations Cup semifinals (Thanks Brazil!)

21 Jun

The United States was a long shot to make it to the Confederations Cup semifinals especially after playing terribly against Italy and Brazil.  They needed to beat Egypt by at least three goals and they needed Brazil to do the same against Italy.  The way the US was playing, I thought there was no way that would happen.  Oh boy, did they prove me wrong. 

Not only did the US beat Egypt, 3-0, but Brazil blanked Italy by the same score, knocking the Italians out and sending the US into the semifinals.  The Americans played their best game of the tournament by far, most noticably, they played with HEART.  Don’t know where it came from, but I’m glad it’s back (and hopefully here to stay with Spain the next oppnent).  Charlie Davies put the US on the board first in a classic showcase of that never-give-up attitude off a ball deflected by the Egyptian keeper.  The buildup to midfielder Michael Bradley’s goal in the second half was sublime – the quick, accurate passing gave Bradley all the space in the world to slot the ball in from the middle of the box.  Clint Dempsey, who has been atrocious all tournament, finally did something right, heading in a beautiful cross from Jonathan Spector to give the US all the goals they needed.  It was a long final twenty minutes for the Americans, all the while hoping that Italy wasn’t able to put one in the net against Brazil.

It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, but it was a dramatically different team that stepped on the pitch tonight.  I realize that they weren’t playing a top 10 team like Brazil or Italy, but if they had played like they did tonight against either of those teams, they would’ve been much better games.  The passing was much better tonight and the US did a better job spacing the field.  The whole defense played very well with Brad Guzan in goal, who wasn’t tested too much.  Like I said before, the US team showed heart for the first time this tournament.  They were determined to put on a better performance and you could tell.  I’d still like to see Freddy Adu and Jose Torres get playing time, they are both very creative and the US will need that against the Spanish (especially if Dempsey continues to give the ball away so much).  The US team should do something nice for the Brazilians though since that scoreline helped them into the semifinals.

The US plays Spain on Wednesday at 2:25 p.m. ET on ESPN and Brazil plays host South Africa in the other semifinal on Thursday at 2:25 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Egypt defeats Italy at Confederations Cup

18 Jun

Egypt “stunned” Italy in the first round of the Confederations Cup, 1-0, thanks to a 40th minute header from Mohamed Homos.  Italy had several chances to tie it up, but great goalkeeping from Essam El Hadary (and the post) kept the world champs off the board.  You don’t hear much about Egyptian soccer, but they are definitely a very talented team that was more than capable of beating Italy. 

Amazingly enough, with Egypt’s victory, the US is technically still alive for a berth in the semifinals.  The Americans would have to beat Egypt (by at least 3 goals, i think) and hope that Brazil beats Italy.

Brazil dominates US at Confederations Cup

18 Jun

The US gave up an early goal to Brazil and the South American champs never looked back in a 3-0 victory in the opening round of the Confederations Cup.  Brazil has now punched their ticket to the semifinals, while the US has to hope for an Egypt win over Italy later today if they want any chance at advancing.

Brazil put three past Tim Howard in a win over the US.

Brazil put three past Tim Howard in a win over the US.

Why can’t the US play well for 90 minutes?  Brazil scored twice in the first 20 minutes with the first goal came off a set piece where a defender lost his mark and the second starting with a US corner kick when DaMarcus Beasley misplayed a short corner from Landon Donovan and Brazil was off to the races.  Jonathan Spector was the only defender trying to mark two speedy Brazilians.  It seemed like every time the US had even an glimmer of a chance to attack, someone had a bad first touch on the ball and gave it back to Brazil.  The basic technical ability of the US is just not up to par right now.  When the ball arrives at your feet, the first touch should not fail you the majority of the time.

The first half was all Brazil.  The US didn’t generate much in terms of offense, made lots of elementary mistakes and seemed to be clearing the ball out of their box a lot.  The beginning of the second half was a different story – the US looked relatively calm and collected and started putting together some solid passing.  The first touch was better and you could see that they had some confidence.  Well, at least until midfielder Sacha Kljestan went and earned himself an early shower.  That’s right, he got red carded for a late tackle.  Two red cards in two games, what is going on with this team?  It’s the young guys (Kljestan and Clark against Italy) that are making these mistakes and estentially squashing any chance the US had at a comeback.  There is a severe lack of displine in the squad when it comes to big time games.

One of the things that was a point of pride for the US team was that they played with hustle – all the time, regardless of the score.  That all out, all the time hustle is gone.  It seems like the heart has been taken out of the players and they are just going through the motions.  Things need to be shaken up.  Bob Bradley hasn’t been a bad coach of the US, but he’s not what the team needs if they are going to improve at all.  The US needs to bring in a coach with successful international experience.  In terms of the players, it’s definitely tough.  Playing in MLS doesn’t prepare them for the world stage and sitting on the bench overseas doesn’t do much good either.   You’ll notice that players that have put on a decent showing are generally the ones that play significant roles on their teams overseas (plus Donovan).  Players like Gooch and Bradley aren’t playing for huge clubs, but they are gaining valuable experience just being on the field on a regular basis.

The US has to find the passion and heart they’ve played with in the past.  Hell, just watch the tape of the World Cup game against Italy (yeah, there’s 2 red cards, but there’s also a determination that they wouldn’t give up – something the current squad lacks).  It’s going to be a very short and embarassing trip to South Africa next summer if they don’t get their act together.

2009/10 Liverpool Premier League Fixtures

17 Jun

The 2009/10 Premier League schedule came out today.  You can check out all the teams here.  Liverpool opens the season away at Tottenham and ends the season at Hull City.

LIVERPOOL FIXTURES
August 2009
15 – Tottenham (A)
19 – Stoke City (H)
22 – Aston Villa (H)
29 – Bolton (A)

September 2009
12 – Burnley (H)
19 – West Ham (A)
26 – Hull City (H)

October 2009

3 – Chelsea (A)
17 – Sunderland (A)
24 – Manchester United (H)
31 – Fulham (A)

November 2009
7 – Birmingham City (H)
21 – Manchester City (H)
28 – Everton (A)

December 2009
5 – Blackburn (A)
12 – Arsenal (H)
16 – Wigan (H)
19 – Portsmouth (A)
26 – Wolverhampton (H)
28 – Aston Villa (A)

January 2010
9 – Tottenham (H)
16 – Stoke City (A)
26 – Wolverhampton (A)
30 – Bolton (H)

February 2010
6 – Everton (H)
9 – Arsenal (A)
20 – Manchester City (A)
27 – Blackburn (H)

March 2010
6 – Wigan (A)
13 – Portsmouth (H)
20 – Manchester United (A)
27 – Sunderland (H)

April 2010
3 – Birmingham City (A)
10 – Fulham (H)
17 – West Ham (H)
24 – Burnley (A)

May 2010
1 – Chelsea (H)
9 – at Hull City (A)