Tag Archives: USA

2014 World Cup Draw Set

6 Dec

Yeah, I know, it’s been forever and a day since I actually posted anything, but the World Cup makes a person want to blog again, if only to complain about how rough the US has it.  Anyway, the ridiculously drawn out official draw was today and while yeah, the US has it rough, spare a thought for the Aussies, who have an even tougher go.  And while almost everyone can complain about the groups right now, in the end it’s all about what happens on the field.  Anything can happen on any given day and that’s one of the things that makes the World Cup (and sports in general) so awesome.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy

Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea

I’ll admit that my initial thoughts were that the USA was on the receiving end of a brutal draw (In fact I think my exact words were ‘holy shit’).  But after thinking about it a little bit, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it could’ve been.  I think it’s great that the US will open against Ghana.  It’s going to be huge for the Yanks to start the tournament well and if they can do so against a team that’s knocked them out of the last two World Cups, so much the better.  There’s no doubt they’ll have the motivation to take down Ghana.  Portugal is tough, even if they only qualified through the strength of one Mr. Ronaldo, but I do think they are beatable if the US can play an entire 90 minutes.  I believe that Germany is the top team in the group and probably one of the favorites for the tournament.  That will be interesting if only for the storyline of Klinsmann taking on his home country.  I’ll chalk that one up for a German victory.

As I’ve said in the past, the key to US success on the big stage is putting together a solid 90 minutes. They can’t afford to have lapses and give up early goals like they did against England, Slovenia, Ghana x2 last time around.  Coming from behind to win/draw is not a sustainable model for success. The US has been playing well in the past year and I think Klinsmann’s system is finally starting to click.  It’s just a matter of whether they can show up when it really counts and play consistent football.

Now for the extremely premature predictions.  Of course a team’s chances could go to hell in a handbasket pretty quick with a couple key injuries and we all know that there is a lot of football to be played before we get to Brazil.  But based on how things stand currently, this is what my gut says:

Advance to second round (1st, 2nd)

Group A: Brazil, Croatia

Group B: Spain, Chile

Group C: Colombia, Japan

Group D: Italy, England

Group E: France, Honduras

Group F: Argentina, Nigeria

Group G: Germany, USA

Group H: Belgium, South Korea

Knockout

A1 vs. B2: Brazil vs. Chile – Brazil

A2 vs. B1: Spain vs. Croatia – Spain

C1 vs. D2: Colombia vs. England – Colombia

C2 vs. D1: Japan vs. Italy – Italy

E1 vs. F2: France vs. Nigeria – France

E2 vs. F1: Honduras vs. Argentina – Argentina

G1 vs. H2: Germany vs. South Korea – Germany

G2 vs. H1: USA vs. Belgium – Belgium

Round of 8

Brazil vs. Colombia – Brazil

France vs. Germany – Germany

Spain vs. Italy – Spain

Argentina vs. Belgium – Argentina

Semifinals

Brazil vs. Germany – Brazil

Spain vs. Argentina – Spain

Final

Brazil vs. Spain – Brazil

Going with the home country in this one.  France was the last team to lift the World Cup in their home country, but I think Brazil has the talent to get it done.  Spain’s got the experience though and Brazil will be under mountains of pressure, so I anticipate this final going down to the last minutes.

USA gains valuable point in draw with Mexico

27 Mar

It wasn’t pretty, but the US managed a 0-0 draw with Mexico in a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.  The Azteca is an notoriously difficult place to play and the Yanks have seen little success there.  In fact, this draw was only the second point the U.S. has ever earned at the Azteca in World Cup qualification.

With a win and a draw in its last two matches, the U.S. now sits in third place in CONCACAF with four points with seven matches to go.  Mexico, meanwhile, is in fifth with three.  There’s still a lot of football to be played and this whole qualification process is guaranteed to get interesting before things wind down.  The top three teams advance to the World Cup in Brazil while the fourth place team has a play-off against Oceania champ New Zealand.

Thoughts and observations on the game in no particular order:

  • Brad Guzan has shown that he is more than capable of replacing Tim Howard in net.  Two shutouts in two starts this campaign, including one away to Mexico?  Not too shabby.  With some question marks still surrounding the defensive unit, it’s nice to have someone reliable between the sticks.
  • Definitely think that was a penalty on Maurice Edu when he took out Javier Aquino late in the game.  Despite massive protests by the Mexican players, it wasn’t called.  It’s surprising to see the U.S. get the benefit of the doubt on a call like that on the road.
  • The U.S. has to do a better job maintaining possession and creating chances.  The Yanks were lucky that poor touches and off-target passing in the midfield didn’t result in a Mexico goal.  They can’t afford to give the ball away so much.  That said, it’s near impossible to create any decent opportunities when you can’t hang onto the ball.  The U.S. only managed one shot and didn’t force Ochoa to make a single save or big play.  The off-ball movement going forward was lacking and often midfielders didn’t have much of an passing option.
  • I was surprised to see Javier Hernandez miss a couple golden opportunities in front of the net.  Those are the kind of goals he regularly scores for Manchester United and it was odd to see him go so off target from three yards out.
  • The U.S. defense bent, but didn’t break.  Despite coming under significant pressure towards the end of the match, the U.S. defense managed to keep Mexico at bay.  For an inexperienced back line (with the except of Beasley), this was a huge performance.  To come into a place like the Azteca and earn a shutout will definitely give them confidence going forward.  Omar Gonzalez is looking much more confident and Matt Besler did a decent job in place of the injured Clarence Goodson.  Beasley looked a step too slow against Aquino down the flank, but Mexico was never able to take advantage.

What did you think?

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).

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.

Time for friendlies

9 Feb

It’s that wonderful time again…that’s right, it’s time for meaningless international friendlies. Woo. The U.S. was supposed to play Egypt in Cairo today, but the game was cancelled last week amongst the political turmoil happening over there.  While it would have been a good match for the U.S., it was clearly the correct decision to cancel.  There’s more important things to worry about than football sometimes (shocking as that may be). 

One of the day’s best matchups should be Lionel Messi’s Argentina vs. Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.  The duo shares top spot on the La Liga leaderboard with 24 goals each.  Will either of them play enough to really make an impact?  We shall have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, Frankie Lampard will captain England against Denmark as both Rio Ferdinand and Steven Gerrard are missing out with injuries (don’t worry LFC fans, Stevie G will be back for the weekend’s game).

The nice thing about this international date is that it is only a midweek thing, which means we will be back to the fun of league matches this weekend – none of this two weeks without real games crap.

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?