Tag Archives: Landon Donovan

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).

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.

Most memorable moments of 2010

31 Dec

Since my top players have now been sent their official Soccer Wall Player of the Year certificates, it’s time to move on to the most memorable moments of the year.  Of course the drama of the World Cup greatly influenced this selection.  In other exciting news, I close 2010 with my 500th blog post (wow!)

6. Barcelona defeats Real, 5-0 – Wow, just wow. This game on Nov. 29 was a master class by Barcelona, they picked Real apart with precision passes and smart movement.  Real did not stand a chance; it was mesmerizing to watch.

5. Qatar gets the 2022 World Cup – What the bleeping hell?  That’s all I have to say about that.

4. Spain wins first World Cup – Thanks to a late extra time goal from Andres Iniesta, Spain won its first-ever World Cup title with a 1-0 win over the Netherlands.  The Spanish side clearly deserved the win as the Netherlands resorted to dirty play early since they knew they couldn’t slow down the Spanish passing attack.

3. Suarez handball – With a spot in the semifinals on the line at the end of extra time, Uruguay’s  Luis Suarez clearly swatted away a certain score for Ghana off the goal line.  Asamoah Gyan stepped up to surely send Ghana to the semifinals and sent his shot off the crossbar.  The game went to penalties, Uruguay emerged victorious and there went the chance for the first African nation to go to the semifinals.

2. New owners for Liverpool – After many terrible months with the douchebag duo of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, Liverpool FC finally got some new owners in October.  NESV, the owners of the Boston Red Sox, took over the club and while things have not necessarily gone swimmingly for the team, there’s at least hope that things can improve in the near future.

1. Donovan’s goal vs. Algeria – The U.S. went from eliminated to top of group C with Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal against Algeria in the final game of group play (take that England!).  It was an incredibly emotional moment that actually ended up bringing me to tears.  Here’s the clip of the goal and the video of the reaction from around the country (which also made me cry).

What are your top moments?

Final thoughts on the 2010 World Cup

13 Jul

I am still slightly saddened by the fact that the most glorious month of football is over for another four years.  It all went by so fast.  I’m resigned to watching MLS and waiting on transfer rumours until the Premier League starts August 14.  Lame.  Anyways, I got the idea for this post from Sports Illustrated’s 50 observations story and figured it was a good way to do things since I have too many jumbled up thoughts in my head to actually write a coherent post.

My 27 thoughts on South Africa 2010 (in no particular order and which I’m sure to add to)

1. There was no better way to start the tournament than Siphiwe Tshabalala’s rocket shot.  An awesome start for the host nation.

2. I still can’t believe what a disaster the French team was.  Those players are going to be embarassed when they look back on this.

3. I lost track of the number of times I wished that Charlie Davies was healthy and able to play for the U.S. Robbie Findley’s inability to get a decent shot off was so damn frustrating.

4. The more replays I see of Nigel De Jong’s karate kick to Xabi Alonso’s chest, the more I’m amazed that he only ended up with a yellow card.

5. The emotion in this sport is phenomenal.  You can go from tears to cheers to outrage, all over the course of 90 minutes.  What a fantastic sport.

6. How awesome would it have been to be in Spain for the final on Sunday? 

7. Spain’s win emphasized the team over individual.  That team is full of all-stars, but they put their egos aside for their country.  Take note of that, England.

8. While entertaining, Diego Maradona is not fit for coaching.  Like I’ve said before, being a great player does not make you a good coach.

9. Germany was the most fun to watch (well, except against Spain).  The way they could move the ball up the pitch so quickly and finish so well was awesome. 

10. I still think refs needs to be held accountable for their decisions during a game.  There’s no real punishment if they screw up.

11. Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal against Algeria was one of the highlights of my U.S. soccer watching career.  Absolutely amazing.  It made me cry.

12. Who would have thought Uruguay would make it to the semifinals?  Diego Forlan was a complete stud throughout the tournament and rightly won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player.

13. Italy’s failure to advance out of the group stage was all about cockiness. They thought they could cakewalk through the group and that wasn’t the case.

14. I think the vuvuzela will stay a South African tradition.  I’m sure a few will pop up in other places, but there’s no way it’s going to replace a good old-fashioned yell.

15. Tim Howard was disappointing for team USA.  Yeah, he had a couple of good saves against England, but he was otherwise pedestrian.  I expected more from a top-class keeper.

16. Fernando Torres was clearly not 100% fit.  His touch was off and he couldn’t find the back of the net to save his life.  An apparent hamstring? groin? injury was just the crappy end he needed.  Well, at least he ended up with a winner’s medal as consolation.

17. I think there should be retroactive punishments for horrible diving.  Example: Ivory Coast’s Kader Keita’s dramatic “facial injury” after running into Kaka, which earned the Brazilian his second yellow of the game.  The game does not need that shizz.

18. How did Lionel Messi not score a goal?  He had some pretty wicked shots on goal and had some goalies make some terrific saves.

19. I have absolutely no problem with what Luis Suarez did in the Uruguay-Ghana game.  Was it illegal? Yes.  Did he get punished appropriately? Yes. It was such a big deal because Ghana was the last African team left, but I’m glad FIFA wasn’t jaded by that fact.  If things had gone the other way around, I’m sure the Ghana fans would’ve said it was worth it.

20. I would not want to be a national team manager, especially for a team like England.  Too many egos involved.  Props to those managers that put up with that crap on a regular basis.

21. My call for biggest upset: tie between Slovakia 3, Italy 2 and New Zealand 1, Italy 1.  I hate the Italian national team so these results were amazing.

22. The World Cup brought out some really good journalism.  It also brought out some total crap.  After Rick Reilly’s horrible WC column, I refuse to read anything he writes.

23. For the love of all that is holy, Bob Bradley, what the hell were you thinking with the lineup against Ghana?

24. The whole Paul the Octopus phenomenon really amused me.  It was crazy to see how seriously people were taking his predictions.  It’s an octopus, people!

25. Game of the tournament: Uruguay-Ghana, hands down.

26. I don’t think Robert Green will ever live down his howler against the United States.  He’s just lucky that draw didn’t cost England a spot in the knockout round or it could’ve gotten a lot uglier.

27. The supposed “stars” of this World Cup didn’t shine, but I’m ok with that.  It allowed players that are equally as awesome like Diego Forlan, Xavi, Asamoah Gyan and more to get their deserved chance in the spotlight.

My World Cup best XI

12 Jul

I’m sure everyone in Spain is drunk with glee, the Dutch are drunk with sorrow, but I’m sober and it’s time for my World Cup best XI.  Let me know what you think.

BEST XI

G – Iker Casillas, Spain – He didn’t win the Golden Glove for nothing.  The Real Madrid keeper posted four straight shutouts in the knockout round and came up huge when it counted, notably on two breakaways from Arjen Robben in the final.  He also saved a key penalty in the quarterfinal win over Paraguay.

D – Carles Puyol, Spain – He was a rock in the back and a leader for Spain throughout the tournament.  His flying header to send the team through to the final.   Puyol was part of a defense that only gave up two goals in seven games.

D – Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, Netherlands – The Dutch captain was crucial to their final run.  Playing in his final World Cup, Van Bronckhorst scored one of the goals of the tournament in the semifinal win over Uruguay, unleashing an absolute cracker from about 30 yards out.  The defender was aggressive, yet controlled throughout the tournament and helped keep David Villa off the score sheet in the final.

D – Sergio Ramos, Spain – Sorry for the multitude of Spanish players, but Ramos deserves to be here.  This guy probably ran more than anyone else in the tournament, thanks to his long runs into the attacking third.  He put on a solid defensive display, particularly in the final, and was also a threat to put the ball in the back of the net.

M – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany – He had a stellar World Cup.  Playing in the middle of the field, he was the lynchpin for Germany’s offense.  His field vision and calmness on the ball was excellent and he wasn’t afraid to mix it up in there either.  He’s clearly matured a lot since his first go-round in 2006.

M – Xavi, Spain – Spain’s passing game would not be nearly as fluent without Xavi.  He was a catalyst for the champions and plays his non-glamourous role with aplomb.  He also played a major role in shutting down key players like Wesley Sneijder and Schweinsteiger.

M – Thomas Mueller, Germany – The 20-year-old won the Golden Boot and was also named Young Player of the Tournament.  Not too shabby.  He finished with five goals (same as three others), but won the tiebreaker with three assists.  He made his presence known as part of the killer German counterattack and his dynamic play was sorely missed in the semifinal.

M – Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands – What a season for Sneijder.  He won the Champions League with Inter Milan and came oh-so-close to winning the World Cup.  Although his impact was minimal in the final, his five goals in the tournament helped propel the Dutch into the final.

M – Asamoah Gyan, Ghana – Although maybe best known for missing the penalty at the end of extra time against Uruguay, Gyan was a force for Ghana in its quarterfinal run.  He scored three goals, including the extra time winner against the U.S.  He also gained major respect (at least from me) for nailing Ghana’s first penalty in the shootout with Uruguay mere minutes after missing in extra time.

F – Diego Forlan, Uruguay – Forlan won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and rightly so.  Another five-goal man, Forlan was key to Uruguay’s surprise fourth place finish. (If you called Uruguay as the last remaining South American team, more power to you.)  He came up big when it mattered and was thisclose to sending the third place match into extra time after clanging a last second free kick off the crossbar.

F – David Villa, Spain – He continued to excel on the international stage, scoring five goals, including three game-winners.  He has shown that he can be a threat from anywhere on the field, including 50 yards out (goal against Chile).

BENCH

M – Landon Donovan, USA – Finally shed the big game choker label and scored the goal that sent the U.S. through to the knockout round.  Showed the ability to carry the team on his back.

D – Gerard Pique, Spain – Had a great tournament anchoring Spain’s defense, probably bled more than any other player.

D – Maicon, Brazil – So dangerous down the right flank.  Strong defender with an excellent touch on the ball (See: goal vs. North Korea)

F – Luis Suarez, Uruguay – Made up a fearsome  partnership with Forlan, not afraid to shoot from anywhere.

World Cup results – June 23

23 Jun

Clearly the big story of the day was the USA’s spectacularly dramatic 1-0 win over Algeria. However, I posted about that earlier so I won’t get into much detail here. Bottom line: Landon Donovan has erased that big game choker label after his 91st minute winner. I swear, this team is going to give me a heart attack. With the win, the U.S. topped the group for only the second time ever (previous being in 1930 so that hardly counts).

England took second in group C after a 1-0 win over Slovenia (U.S. was first on goals scored tiebreaker). It was England’s best performance of the tournament and they probably could have added another couple goals. Jermaine Defoe scored the winning goal, making Fabio Capello’s move to start him over Emile Heskey look brilliant. It’s unfortunate for Slovenia, who actually topped the group coming into today’s final game.

In group D, Australia made things interesting, jumping out to a 2-0 lead over Serbia at the same time that Germany had taken a 1-0 lead over Ghana. The 4-0 drubbing by Germany came back to haunt the Socceroos as they got a 2-1 win, but couldn’t make up the goal difference on Ghana. Germany’s Mesut Ozil scored the winning goal to send the team into the round of 16 for the 15th (!) straight World Cup.

Now the U.S. will take on Ghana Saturday and Germany will play England Saturday. The U.S. and Ghana met in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup with the African nation claiming a 2-1 victory. And of course, there’s very little animosity between Germany and England, so I’m sure that game is going to be very civil.

Group C results
USA 1 (Donovan 90+1)
Algeria 0

Slovenia 0
England 1 (Defoe 23)

Group D results
Ghana 0
Germany 1 (Ozil 60)

Australia 2 (Cahill 69, Holman 73)
Serbia 1 (Pantelic 84)

Group C final standings
USA – 5 (+1)
England – 5 (+1)
Slovenia – 4 (0)
Algeria – 1 (-2)

Group D final standings
Germany – 6 (+4)
Ghana – 4 (0)
Australia – 4 (-3)
Serbia – 3 (-1)

Round of 16 matchups
USA vs. Ghana
Germany vs. England

USA wins group C

23 Jun

Holy crap, that was amazing.  The U.S. left it incredibly late, but Landon Donovan finally scored the winner in the 91st minute (can’t believe Landon Donovan of all people made me cry).  The goal gave the U.S. a 1-0 win over Algeria and clinched top spot in group C.  Crazy to think that the U.S. went from a tie, which would’ve sent them home, to top of the group with one strike.  England took second with a 1-0 win over Slovenia. 

My heart is still pounding. That was one of the most dramatic endings I’ve ever seen. I know that technically New Zealand left it later against Slovakia, but with what was on the line, this one topped it.

The U.S. survived an early scare after Algeria put one off the post in the 7th minute, but from that point on, the U.S. appeared to control the game.  Clint Dempsey had a goal (wrongly) called back for offsides later in the half, which had me thinking that it’s just not fair that the U.S. could get hosed again on a goal.  Dempsey also was unlucky in the second half with a shot ricocheting off the post. 

Bob Bradley gambled a little bit going into this game, making three changes from the side that drew against Slovenia, including taking a clearly not 100% Oguchi Onyewu out of the lineup and inserting much-maligned Jonathan Bornstein (I think my reaction was, oh crap).  Carlos Bocanegra moved into the middle and Bornstein played on the left.  To his credit, Bornstein played a solid game.  He looked a little shaky early on, but calmed his nerves pretty quickly.  Maurice Edu started in place of Jose Torres in the midfield and Herculez Gomez got his first start in place of suspended Robbie Findley.  Overall, the changes were positive for the Yanks and Bob Bradley is looking like a pretty smart guy.

The U.S. definitely deserved the win.  They played a smart tactical game and put in their most complete effort of the tournament.  I started to feel ill around the 80th minute when the U.S. was still searching for a game-winner.  I also started to get a little tense with Slovenia, hoping they would equalize.  This was a gutsy performance and the team played with heart the whole way through.  Clint Dempsey and Jay DeMerit both needed stitches after the game, but they sucked it up and finished the game strong (take note, Italy). The team was able to stay relatively calm despite the urgency of needing a goal.  There were a few times they tried too hard, but as a whole, the team stayed composed trying to create chances.

The positive result has to give the U.S. confidence going into the round of 16, although it will be hard to let the emotion of today go. The next round opponent is still up in the air.  Heck, group D is still up in the air.  Both Ghana/Germany and Serbia/Australia are underway now, so the U.S. will find out soon who the opponent will be.