Tuesday, March 11, 2008

USA v Cuba afterthoughts

The United States came out strong with Freddy Adu seeing his shot blast off the post within the first minute. About thirty seconds later, he sent in a good ball that was poorly handled by Charlie Davies. These two solid offensive opportunities suggested a match in which the US would dominate. And they did, at least for the first fifteen or so minutes. At the fourteenth minute mark, Adu shot from around the top corner and saw his shot skim past Charlie Davies, the opposing keeper, and eventually netted itself in the bottom corner of the goal. The beautiful play and time of posession were great indicators, it looked like this was getting set to be a rout.

Unfortunately, after the Yanks went up, complacency and lethargic play took over. Rather than stick to their simple game, they started to play overly complicated balls and were focusing very heavily on the air. Slowly, the momentum changed, and just before the half the Cuban fans on hand had something to cheer about. Roberto Linares just eeked through the backline and slotted it home right in front of Chris Seitz. The half would end level.

The second half proved to be an improvement from the last half hour or so of the first, with the US coming out with a bit more fire. Jozy Altidore would move to the bench for Sacha Klejstan, a surprising move considering the shocking performance Charlie Davies had. There was nothing to note from either side, save the sending off of Cuba's goalscorer, Linares, after receiving a pretty weak yellow card.

This brings us to the next point, the referee. While he got some calls dead-on (Davies diving), he made some very poor, potentially game-changing decisions, including a handball early that would have given the US a great free kick opportunity and the Linares red card. Overall, it wasn't that bad of a game from the Guatemalan referee, but he did seem to favor Cuba in spots. I don't think it was as one-sided as we've seen some referees' performances, but it was certainly a frustrating game from the sidelines.

In closing, I hope that Nowak makes some changes A) in his preparation for the next game, B) his actual lineup against Panama, and C) make the proper call-ups (read my previous post) for the tournament itself...that is if we qualify.

Monday, March 10, 2008

US Olympic Qualifying Roster Announced

The United States Soccer Federation released the final roster for the Yank's Olympics qualifiers today. There weren't too many surprising decisions, other than Arturo Alvarez and Benny Feilhaber being dropped. I'd have to assume Feilhaber's lack of playing time, both with the Derby first team and reserves, ultimately led to being cut. Alvarez is a bit more of a shocker as he seemed to be one of the more talented players on the team, and is probably the best winger they've got. Look no further than his US Open Cup final stunner to see what I mean.


Dominic Cervi (unattached): I've never seen the kid play, so I can't really judge how good or bad of a decision this is. However, I am a bit curious as to why some players like Quentin Westberg, Brad Guzan (as an overage player), and Steve Cronin (again as an overage) were overlooked.

Chris Seitz (Real Salt Lake): A solid U-20 World Cup showing and his status as a bench player on Salt Lake made this an easy choice. It doesn't give any sour grapes between Salt Lake and Nowak's team, but gives a promising young keeper a shot at cementing his status as a future staple for the Nats.


Jonathan Spector (West Ham): This was probably one of the easiest selections for Nowak to make. Spector had not been called into training camp, and it was assumed he would get the call up. I wouldn't be surprised to see him captaining the squad. Though his international career isn't in jeopardy, a solid Olympic performance could warrant more playing time with the senior team.

Hunter Freeman (New York Red Bulls): Freeman was one of the few bright spots on a struggling New York defense last season. I don't think he'll have trouble adjusting to the international game, but I haven't seen how well he adapts to the higher pace that goes with donning the red, white and blue.

Kamani Hill (Vfl Wolfsburg): Many eyes will look towards how well Hill adapts to his defensive duties. Only recently has he converted from his natural forward position, but his height should give him a bit of a safety net. I'm pushing for the kid, but it's a pretty risky move.

Patrick Ianni (Houston Dynamo): Houston's defense was solid last year, amazing for the first half of the MLS season. Ianni should provide some strong defensive play and could be the "beast" in the back for the young US squad.

Michael Orozco (San Luis): As with Cervi, I know little to nothing about this player. Based on that fact alone, that I don't know who he is, I'm guessing he's an option off the bench.

Nathan Sturgis (Real Salt Lake): Sturgis had to deal with being a rookie on two atrocious squads last season. I think this will help provide the US squad with some determination. When the spirits are down, I expect Sturgis to give that extra bit of lift and confidence the squad might need. The only adversaties he'll have to overcome is beating out Spector and Wynne for the rightback slot.

Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC): Speedy and versatile, Wynne gives the backline the ability to change shape on the fly. His ability to play in practically every position gives him an almost definite spot in the starting XI.


Maurice Edu (Toronto FC): Though his international career is relatively young, he's been up and down for the US. His recent performances have been unimpressive to say the least, and this is a chance to adapt to the game much easier. Going from college, to MLS, to the US in one year is very hard to do successfully. This change in pace will certainly help him mature as a key player in the future.

Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew): I wanna see the kid succeed, I really do, but he's been the "it" kid for how long now? If he doesn't play well here, his shot at making the US team is more or less done until after the 2010 World Cup.

Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo): Of all the Dynamo's weapons, Holden is the one I feared the most in MLS Cup. People often underestimate his talent (though that's changing very fast) and he'll burn you if you do. He's not aggressive, but he definitely plays with a chip on his shoulder.

Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA): Easily my favorite young prospect for the US. His composure and creativity, as well as strong service make him one of the most deadly threats on the team. With the lack of wingers, I expect him to play almost the entire tournament, this is his "coming out" as a national team figure.

Dax McCarty (FC Dallas): This is a player I think has a good shot at cementing a spot in the future, but I don't know if he's ready quite yet. He had a solid season with Dallas, but I'm still unsure if he's all there. He's got a lot to prove to me, but as with Gaven, I'll be pushing for him to suceed.

Sal Zizzo (Hannover 96): Of all the players on the team, I'm most intrigued in how Zizzo plays. He had a good U-20 World Cup, and I want to see if he can take that success to a higher level. If so, welcome the US' newest prospect.

Freddy Adu (SL Benfica): It's Freddy, what else can I say? From what I've gathered, Benfica fans are pushing for more playing time, but the coach is holding him back (flashbacks of DC anyone?). I have no doubts in my mind he'll do well, and I hope he competes with Dos Santos as they did in the U-20 World Cup.


Jozy Altidore (New York Red Bulls): Coming off his first senior goal, the kid's confidence will be soaring. I can't wait to see Adu and Jozy on the same pitch, they're key to our future.

Chad Barrett (Chicago Fire): Why? Barrett has had his fair share of chances and blown them all. He's the second coming of Taylor Twellman, I doubt he'll ever be a staple for the national team. Experiment failed, move on.

Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF): I was so bummed when he ditched the Revs for Sweden, so it's only natural I have high hopes for him. I'd expect he and Jozy to partner up top, but let's hope that Nowak doesn't pull an Arena and suit up Barrett.

Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake): Jozy, Adu and Findley as out attacking combo could be deadly. All three have pace that could burn every team in the competition. I don't think Findley should start, but he's definitely going to be a great option off the bench.

Overall, I think the squad is strong, but there are a few players I would have chosen over who's in the current team.


Benny Feilhaber (Derby County): I think if he was at least playing for Derby's reserves he'd have a shot at the team, but I've got to assume a lack of match fitness and confidence led to him being cut from the final roster. I hope he gets out of Derby as soon as possible.

Neven Subotic (FSV Mainz 05): Praised as the best defender in Bundesliga 2 and rumored to be heading to England in the offseason, he's a given. However, his indecision of what national team to play for (Germany, Bosnia, Serbia or the USA) was probably the final catalyst in his decision. I heard rumors that he actually turned down the US call-up.

Adam Cristman (New England Revolution): Now I'm not saying who we called up top is bad, but I'd have taken Cristman over Barrett any day. Cristman was on a tear before he injured himself and lost fitness. His lack of play with the Revs in the pre-season seems to be playing a big part in this as well.

Michael Parkhurst (New Engand Revolution): He would have been taken as an overage player, someone who is over the 23 year old age limit, but Nowak didn't feel he was the right choice. He can't seem to get a call up anywhere, and the choice to convert Hill over calling up Parkhurst has got to be frustrating.

Danny Szetela (Brescia Calcio): He's not getting much playing time in Serie B, but he needs these kinds of games right now. It's not like we're playing a strong qualifying field, I'd say give the kid a shot.

Brad Guzan (Chivas USA): Again, he'd be an overage, but he's easily the best young keeper we've got. I don't understand why they wouldn't take this opportunity of more playing time and playing under large crowds, but I guess they're trying to develop the younger guys.

Michael Harrington (Kansas City Wizards): Harrington, Cristman and Edu were the best of the rookie class last season, so you'd have thought that they'd get a shot for the national team? Apparently Nowak disagrees, I'd have loved to see Harrington in this squad.

[EDIT] I've come to learn that overage players are not allowed in qualifying, but I would like to see the players mentioned in the final roster to Beijing (assuming we qualify).

Friday, February 1, 2008

It's Time For A Media Revolution!

The lack of media coverage for soccer in America, more specifically MLS, is astounding. Despite the cries from the loyalists for more coverage, news sources insist there isn't a large enough base to warrant such claims. It seems to me that their lack of effort in the situation is ultimately what has contributed to soccer's "underground" reputation for so long in this country.

Take for example the ongoing transfer saga of MLS and New England Revolution star Taylor Twellman. A third bid from Preston North End was rejected, and multiple news sources including the San Jose Mercury News, Washington Post and North Jersey Herald had beaten out the Boston Globe and Boston Herald to reporting the story. It wasn't a matter of minutes or hours, as in most news stories, but rather three days! I’ve been told that because the NFL franchise, New England Patriots, participation in the Super Bowl, coverage has shifted to almost exclusively football. Bullshit! There are two ways I see this; one being that they’re understaffed if they can’t do their job in releasing timely news articles, and two, the Patriots haven’t been in the Super Bowl for the past few years, what’s the excuse then?

In the last year or so, multiple personalities have emerged onto the American soccer news scene, mostly in the form of blogs and podcasts, and many of the reporters having backgrounds in journalism. There is an untold cause and effect relationship here that is clear as day if you take a second to look. Some of the most highly supported MLS markets (Toronto, Houston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles/Bay Area, and New York/New Jersey) have all had a major player in the blog scene. Glenn Davis of the Houston Chronicle, Steven Goff of the Washington Post, Ives Galarcep, formerly of the North Jersey Herald, and many others have been huge in giving the league’s fans the news we deserve. Going back to Twellman, Glenn Davis had featured Taylor on his radio show only about an hour after the third bid was rejected!

Now I wouldn't be so peeved if they had been making an solid effort up to this point, but the fact of the matter is that while major MLS market's local papers, as mentioned above, evolve and change, there are still areas (New England, Kansas City, and New York) that aren't accepting the sport as a legitimate outlet for stories and are falling behind.

So I encourage you, the MLS fan, to write to your local papers and suggest for more coverage. Demand that you, the reader, be taken more seriously and at least get an article out in a decent time frame. Hell, why rely on the newspapers and not create your own outlet for major MLS stories? Drastic change in the media's presentation of soccer needs to be made, and if they're not going to make the effort, we die-hards needs to put the same passion we show for our teams into the league. It's time we band together and show the elitists that frown upon us that we're here and demand attention!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Roundup and Rumors for January 24, 2008

Cristian Gomez situation finally settled?

The general consensus from the DC front (being led by super-blogger Steven Goff) is that Cristian Gomez will not be returning next year. Appaerantly he wanted DP money, and DC weren't willing to pay that (they used it on Marcelo Gallardo) for someone of his age and status. Seeing as that's the kind of money he's demanding, it looks like MLS could be losing one of it's best #10's.

DC have signed 22 year old Romanian international Banel Nicolita according to reports. He won't join until the Romanian season is over, but sounds like an excellent signing for United.

Aberdeen give Lapira a shot

Toronto draftee Joseph Lapira looks like he might have snagged up an opportunity overseas, as the 21 year old Irishman has earned a trial with Scottish club Aberdeen. Seems like Toronto's gamble won't be paying off, but props for rolling the dice and not playing the safe route.

Fredy Thompson to MLS?

Municipal and Guatemala captain Fred Thompson is being shopped around to several MLS clubs according to several rumors. San Jose and Real Salt Lake are the clubs interested it seems, and he would make a solid addition to MLS. As to what kind of money he expects, we'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, enjoy his website, I know I did.

The Mormons add a Saint

Real Salt Lake have acquired American Ian Joy from FC St. Pauli. Can't say much about him as I've never seen him play, but should be a solid acquisition for Salt Lake.

Addlery and Nolly to Vancouver

DC United reserves Jay Nolly and Nicholas Addlery have been acquired by Vancouver Whitecaps FC of the USL-1. The USL-1 powerhouses continue to build their squad, hopefully they can build a case for an MLS squad, I'd love to see a rivalry in the Northwest.

More exports?

Will John is on trial with Randers FC of Denmark, Bouna Coundoul is rumored to be gaining interest from a "European club", and Cristian Gomez is apparently done with MLS. Should make for some good drama in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Roundup and Rumors for January 23, 2008

Eddie Johnson to Fulham

We knew it was coming, now it's official. Fulhamerica continue their trend of signing MLS and American players under three managers....something's going on over there.

Pat Noonan joins Aalesunds FK

Noonan joins another ex-Rev, Adin Brown, in Norway. As a Revs fan I'm pretty upset with this move, and just adds to my list of reasons I hate my beloved Revs (intentional irony...get it?)

Colorado are greedy, egotistical bastards!

Word on the street (there's only one street in America if any foreigners are reading this) is that Colorado are asking too much in return for Pablo Mastroeni. Apparently (again, from the same street) Chivas USA and New England are interested, but both have withdrawn offers based on the CRapids estimated value for Pablo.

DC strengthen their squad

DC United have added Gonzalo Martinez and are apparently still looking to sign a few more South Americans. Take notes LA, this is how you (legally) build a team...

Marcelo Gallardo is rumored to be on his way within the next few days.

Fabrice Panracte รก le Feu?

New Fuego boss (that's two languages in under ten words!) Dennis Hamlett is looking at making his first major acquisition by signing Frenchman Fabrice Pancrate from Paris St. Germain. Pancrate is currently on loan at Sochaux and isn't seeing much first team action (should be a great pick-up...) but apparently he's done something to impress.

MLS teams to earn frequent flyer miles?

Ives Galarcep is reporting that MLS will allow all teams to use chartered jets to get to and from games now, meaning I can no longer stalk Taylor Twellman. He's so dreamy too....I need some alone time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Interview with Eric Brunner

Give us the story of your career thus far; what were key moments that led to you getting into the college game and eventually MLS? What advice would you give to anyone trying to get to this level?

I played competitively since I was around the age of 8. I didn't start to realize that I wanted to play college ball until I started to improve as a player. I did ODP (Olympic development program) which allowed me to further my ability, and ultimately get to a college program. I told myself that if I would improve more as a player than the professional game was an option. At an early age I had aspirations, but I didn't realize it until I was in college that is was attainable. Advice for people that want to get to the next level, whatever that may be, is just work hard and don't be contempt with how you're playing. Even at the professional level you can constantly learn as a player.

Walk us through the entire draft experience, from the end of the season, to the combine, and eventually the draft itself.

The end of the season fortunately enough for me ended with being in the national championship, though we didn't win, it gave me an advantage of still being match fit. As soon as that was over, I found my agent, and started working out for the combine. The combine itself was run by MLS and took place in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and comprised of 3 games over 4 days. It was definitely tough because you're playing for you future. I had a very good combine over I felt, and was fortunate enough to win MVP of it, which is something I'll cherish. The draft was crazy, the fans that were there were chanting the whole time, the whole scenario of I'm going to become a professional soccer player was unreal. I had my mother, father, and my cousin there for support and it was a great feeling once I heard my name called as the first pick for the New York Red Bulls.

How has communication with New York and MLS been so far? Have you met with any of the Red Bulls' coaching staff and/or players?

Communication with New York began before I even went to the combine. They contacted me to set up a meeting with them while I was at the combine. The meeting was basically just to figure me out as an individual off the field and see if I would fit in with their organization. Oddly enough, it was the most intense meeting I had, and from what others had said about it they thought the same thing. But I found out later that I was the first person that they interviewed. As for meeting with the coaching staff, I met with them at the combine, but also after I was drafted, the whole staff and my family went out to dinner to celebrate. It was a very fun meal, just picking the brain of them and as they did of me. I know a player already that plays for them and him and I are friends, so that's a plus. I talked with Renya while I was in Baltimore briefly so that was cool.

How difficult has it been making the jump to a professional league so far? Obviously you have yet to touch the field, but think more in terms of contract negotiations, finding an agent, etc. Is this something MLS helps out with or do you have to seek the help yourself?

I mean it's a process I've never encountered before. I had to find an agent that I completely trusted and knew would look out for me, as he did. As for contracts, he handles everything and goes over it with me. He's with a very well known agency so I know I'm in good hands. At the combine we had a Union meeting with the Players Union to figure out some things and also with the league, but mostly it's your agent that handles everything.

Prior to this year, had you known of any interest from other teams? Perhaps someone overseas or a USL team? Had anyone encouraged you to enter the draft early?

Entering the draft early is very tough because a few MLS coaches have to want you, and if that occurs the league will approach you. I had never heard anything about leaving early for the draft.

Had soccer not worked out for you, where would you be right now?

I would still be attending school at The Ohio State University, and would be looking for a job. Maybe pursuing a coaching career.

The Red Bulls defense was tied for the third worst in the league last season, Toronto and Los Angeles being the only teams to concede more goals. It's obvious Osorio drafted you, a tall defender with a solid left foot, to address this problem. Keeping this in mind, what are your expectations for this season?

I think most of all not give up as many goals. I think we have the firepower up top and they're doing their job up there, so for the defense we need to keep goals out.

I see that you've made personal trips to the UK to watch Premiership games. Has this experience been beneficial to your footballing mind in some way?

As soccer has grown here in America it's opened up opportunities for people to watch more European soccer, with FSC coming about. I think wactching the best players in the world can only help you as a player. You can learn a lot by watching and seeing how they handle certain scenarios. I think the one thing you can pick up is they do the simple things consistently and more often than trying to do the difficult thing.

Anything you'd like to add to the New York faithful?

Glad to be with the organization and hope that I can contribute in a positive manner!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Roundup and Rumors

-The draft concluded today, not much action outside of the draft other than Chris Albright being dealt to New England and Alecko Eskanderian to Chivas USA.

-The US are going to travel to Spain at a venue to be named for a friendly on June 4th.

-Eddie Johnson's deal should be done this weekend, his appeal seems to have been won and should be in a Fulham shirt by next match day (after tomorrow that is....)

-Fulham scouts will be at the US v Sweden friendly tomorrow to gather more info on Brad Guzan. You'd have thought that the American trend wouldn't have continued with three managers in under a year, but you'd be wrong.

-Columbus were apparently shopping Eddie Gaven around today, he'd be a player I'd love to have in New England.

-Columbus are also trying to free up some cap room for their "European DP". Okocha? Zurawski? During the draft today, Stone had said something about a Romanian player, no word on that yet.

-Paraguay great Jose Cardozo is headed off to Chivas USA, don't know why they want a 36 year old forward that hasn't played in over a year.

-Colorado are looking at "two South American players; a goal-scorer and a #10." No clue who they could be.