Archive | June, 2011

U.S. outclassed in Gold Cup final

26 Jun

I’ll start by saying that Mexico fully deserved to win the Gold Cup final.  The U.S., particularly the back four, just couldn’t compete with their pace and passing.  

The U.S. actually started the game strong for once, going up 2-0 despite early pressure from Mexico.  For once, the team took advantage of the few opportunities they had with Michael Bradley scoring on a header from Freddy Adu and Landon Donovan scoring off a perfectly-placed ball from Clint Dempsey.  It was a dream start, but the way that Mexico was playing, you knew that it wasn’t going to last.  In fact, the 2-0 lead only lasted six minutes before a beautiful sequence of passing picked the U.S. defense apart.

One of the biggest problems that the U.S. faced was Steve Cherundolo’s injury in the 10th minute.  He’s been solid all tournament and losing him in such a big game was quite a blow, especially given all his experience.  And Bob Bradley’s substitute? Jonathan Bornstein. Bornstein’s entrance meant that Eric Lichaj made the switch to right back where he was clearly not 100% comfortable.  Lichaj’s played decently well since entering the lineup and it really didn’t make sense to switch him out of that position.  Why not put Jonathan Spector in at right back for Cherundolo since, ya know, he’s a right back too?  Putting in Bornstein was simply the wrong move.  Now even with Cherundolo in the game, I think the U.S. would have struggled defensively due to Mexico’s excellent off-ball movement, but it would’ve helped. 

Bornstein was smoked countless times (as were the rest of the defenders) and Mexico had all the space in the world to operate.  It was the worst I’ve seen the U.S. defense play in a long time.  There was miscommunication, missed marking and too much space given to the Mexican forwards.   Another issue is that the U.S. simply didn’t have the pace to keep up.  The Mexican team was simply faster and was able to take full advantage of that speed.

Props to Mexico for not giving up despite going down 2-0, but the U.S. needs to be able to learn how to control a game once they have a lead.  The same thing happened against Brazil in the Confederations Cup.  The U.S. never makes you feel like any lead is safe (even against Guadaloupe).

The loss  just goes to show that the U.S. truly does have a long way to go in terms of becoming a top soccer nation and competing for a World Cup title.  Even though the U.S. made the final, it was an ugly road to get there and didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the fan base (other than perhaps the resurgence of one Mr. Adu).  Things have got to change if the U.S. is going to make any noise in Brazil (or even make it to Brazil).

Liverpool is red, not blue

17 Jun

I got this email today and it made me wonder why is Liverpool’s third kit blue?!  I don’t understand.  Will someone please enlighten me?

2011-12 Premier League schedules released

17 Jun

The fixture lists for the 2011-12 Premier League season were released today.  Liverpool will open at home against Sunderland, Jordan Henderson’s former club.  Hopefully they can get off to a better start this season than they did last year (but let’s be honest, it couldn’t get much worse than it did at the beginning of last season).  Liverpool then takes on Arsenal away and concludes August home against Bolton.  February will be a tough month too with games against Tottenham (H), United (A) and Everton (H).  LFC concludes the season away to Swansea.

As per the Premier League’s archaic policies , you can check out Liverpool’s complete fixture list here and all the Premier League teams here, but not on this blog since apparently a schedule is not public information or copyrighted or some other such nonsense (and I would have to pay out the wazoo for the right to post it).  Because my little website will cause such a headache for the massive behemoth of the Premier League. Morons.  But I digress.  The bottom line is that Liverpool will have to play more consistent football in order to make a play for the top four.  They can’t just get up for games against the big guns, but have to get positive results against the Wigans and Swanseas of the world too.

Only 57 days til next season starts…

US needs to be better

15 Jun

So the U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup with a 1-0 win over the powerful French region of Guadaloupe. Woo freakin hoo.  Jozy Altidore scored on a rocket shot in the ninth minute and the U.S. basically coasted from that point on.  That is not good enough.

This was a team the U.S. should have beat by four or five goals, not one.  Who cares that it’s not Mexico?  Why can’t the U.S. get up for games against mid-level opponents?  There was no reason to take the foot off the gas against Guadaloupe and no reason to let them think they had a chance at earning a draw.  Why let a team hang around like that?

The epitome of the particularly lackadaisical second half effort was Clint Dempsey’s mind-boggling bungle of a wide-open tap-in late in the second half.  Check it out for yourself here:

That’s all laziness/showboating/being a jackass.  The U.S. can’t afford to play with an attitude like that.  Chances like that have to be buried in the back of the net.  Yeah, it didn’t matter for the end result in this one, but what happens when you do that against Jamaica Saturday?  The U.S. will get eliminated, that’s what.

It all stems from the team’s inability to play an entire 90 minutes of soccer, which has been an issue for what feels like forever.  The U.S. couldn’t play an entire game against Brazil in the Confederations Cup final or against England, Algeria, Slovenia or Ghana in the World Cup.  Same goes for all three group games in the Gold Cup.

Is that lack of intensity and preparation on the players or on Bob Bradley? The blame isn’t 100% on either party, but one has to look very strongly at Bradley as the main perpetrator.  He led the U.S. to the round of 16 at the World Cup, but I still say that’s not good enough when the team clearly had the ability to do better.  The players seem to have regressed even from last year’s so-so World Cup form.  There’s always a risk of things getting stale with the same coach for two World Cup cycles and it really looks like we are already there with Bradley.  But Bradley’s not the one on the field either and the players need to step it up too.

Will he be fired?  I doubt it unless there’s a completely abysmal performance (and elimination) against Jamaica Saturday.  But something’s got to change if the U.S. is ever consistently going to perform at a high level.  What do you think it needs to be?

U.S. set to open Gold Cup against Canada

6 Jun

As we all know, Spain is a rather phenomenal football team.  The U.S.? Not so much.  There’s nothing like a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the World Cup champs to get ready the Red, White and Blue for the Gold Cup this week.  Sure, you could say the U.S. wasn’t playing its best lineup, but then again, neither was Spain.  The real problem for the U.S. was the complete lack of passion and the inability to mark anyone in a white jersey in the penalty box.

Regardless of the reasons for the lackluster effort against the supremely talented Spanish, the U.S. has to regroup quickly as Gold Cup play opens Tuesday against Canada.  Winning this year’s Gold Cup is important to the U.S. because it would earn the team a spot in the next Confederations Cup in Brazil. And we all remember what happened at the 2009 Confederations Cup. (In case you forgot, the US advanced to the final after beating Spain and blew a 2-0 lead against Brazil in the final.)  Playing in the Confederations Cup would be extremely beneficial for the team going into a World Cup year as its a meaningful tournament and a good barometer of where the team is and what needs to improve.

Here are three keys to U.S. success in the Gold Cup:

1. Get the defense figured out – Let’s just say that the starters in Saturday’s game (Tim Ream, Oguchi Onyewu, Eric Lichaj and Jonathan Spector) failed to lock down any major minutes in the Gold Cup.  There was too much standing around and not enough guarding the opposing team.  Let’s hope that the likely top choice line of Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo,  along with two of the three following: Jonathan Bornstein or Clarence Goodson or Spector can put on a better, stronger and smarter performance.  If not, Tim Howard is going to have a coronary and/or get arrested for murder.

2. Take advantage of the opportunities – If there is no one between you and the net except the goalie, please shoot the ball.  The U.S. hasn’t exactly been a goal-scoring machine as of late, so it is important to take the chances when they are presented.  Going hand-in-hand with this sentiment is the play of the team’s strikers.  Jozy Altidore was ok at best against Spain and Juan Agudelo fell into the same category, although he actually hustled, which is always a plus.  The only other forward on the roster is Chris Wondolowski and I don’t see him being able to make much of an impact.  The trio, particularly Altidore, has to step it up and convert chances in this tournament.  I could see the U.S. moving Clint Dempsey up front if the strikers are struggling.

3. Fringe players need to step up – We all know what players like Landon Donovan and Carlos Bocanegra bring to the table.  In order for the U.S. to be successful both in this tournament and in the future, some of the other players need to show they can contribute – players like Agudelo, Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan and even Freddy Adu.  The U.S. can’t rely on the same small group of people all the time.  Other athletes need to show that they can be difference makers too and that they are willing to take advantage of their opportunities.