Monday, December 31, 2007
The one goal that stands out from the rest wasn't necessarily the most important goal Mexico scored in 2007, though it certainly is one of them.
Nery Castillo played his first national team game for Mexico in 2007 and he might play for a decade more and not score a goal like this one. The goal was set up by a nice cross from Juan Carlos Cacho but Castillo took care of the rest. A deft flick and a timely finish and Mexico was well on its way to beating Brazil by 2-0 in the Copa America opener.
That will keep Bornstein from playing for the US against Sweden on Jan. 19 at Home Depot Center and against Mexico on Feb. 6 in Houston.
With Bornstein out, Ramiro Corrales and Todd Dunivant have a chance to impress Bob Bradley at left back. Both have had a national team hiatus - with Corrales being out much longer than Dunny.
Jeremiah White gets his first call for the USMNT, coming in as one of the forwards from Scandinavia. Josmer Altidore, another forward, is the youngest player in camp. It's a measure of his improvement and importance that he's here instead of at the U-23 camp Peter Nowak is running.
In that vein, Maurice Edu is one of the exciting prospects in midfiield for the US, and joins Rico Clark, recovered from his offseason surgery, in that group.
The January camp is usually the longest national team camp of the year, which gives the coaches the chance not only to recondition players, but also to assess new talent and possibilities.
Jeremiah White, Zach Wells, Eddie Robinson, Matt Pickens, Will Hesmer, and Clarence Goodson have yet to earn their first caps, but it's a good bet some can reach that milestone with an impressive camp performance.
Any prophets want to name names? Who will earn a first cap? Any guesses among that bunch as to who might earn a start for that first cap?
I'm partial, however, to what is actually accomplished on the field, in addition to the off-field impact. I think I'd put Cuauhtemoc Blanco as king of the hill for 2007. He played well for three teams, Mexico's national squad, Club America for half the year, and the Chicago Fire for the final part of the MLS season. In my latest article, I cover some of the ways his arrival had an impact.
Beckham couldn't manage to do that because of his injuries.
Who else but Cuauh could generate production of the combo ClubAmerica/Fire jersey? Who else could get little Mexican soccer shops all over the U.S. to stock an MLS jersey? Beckham's isn't in half the ones I stop by, but Blanco's always is. A whole different set of people talked to me about MLS after Blanco signed than when Beckham signed. Most importantly, because Blanco played, they watched games, they came to games, and they started talking about the teams and the players themselves (even if it was to bemoan Chad Barrett's finishing -although, I remember one guy saying with a wink to his Central American friend, "Barrett al menos sera mejor que 'Chope") That's the sort of change in behavior that could never take place when people were dismissing MLS out of hand. Blanco triggered that.
I was still a bit skeptical of how real it was until I saw it first hand. For all their laidback reputation, LA sports crowds are fairly loyal - I've never seen a stadium erupt like the HDC did when Blanco scored for the Fire against Chivas USA.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Todd greeted Scott French, Llew Llewellyn and I with remarkable cheerfulness considering his club was dead last in the league. We soon found out that the ardent fanbase at BMO field goes a long way to warding off despair.
"They're incredible," Todd said. "They never give up on us. We've been through so much this year with injuries and changes. They've been there each step of the way and they keep cheering. I've never seen anything like it."
After what Todd said, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that they're even getting out the vote during the offseason.
Funny that Solo made this year-end Seattle list, but the new Seattle MLS team did not.
Solo also made this list.
And this one.
Hope also made the list in Australia, which surprised me until I realized there are a heck of a lot of Americans on their list - is no one doing anything dumb in the Outback?
There always has to be the sportswriter-who-doesn't-know-soccer-chiming-in list.
The "Finally, a non-standard answer!" list.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
"I could die at any moment!" has become a catchphrase for us now, and we'll say it mockingly before something mundane, such as when we're crossing the street.
The truth is that sometimes, death does come that quickly, even in the beautiful game.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The officials were announced for each game of InterLiga save the finals. Every year, it seems as if participating teams always find things to complain about and complaints about the officiating are often at the top of the list. To the participating teams, all of these officials will be no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing officials (okay, sorry there, got carried away Holes-style). Really, the officials are in a no-win situation. Some of these officials are decent MLS refs, some are terrible but to the Mexican teams an MLS ref is seemingly a terrible referee, regardless of who he is.
I will say that I hope the Cruz Azul-Pumas game here at HDC is not one that the official has a hand in deciding. That's the match (and the ref) that scares me.
Here are the details, straight from the press release.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Group B: Monterrey vs. Pumas (19:00) – Pizza Hut Park (Dallas, Texas)Referee – Ricardo Salazar
Group B: Cruz Azul vs. San Luis (21:30) – Pizza Hut Park (Dallas, Texas) Referee– Baldomero Toledo
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Group A: Toluca vs. Atlas (19:00) – Robertson Stadium (Houston, Texas)Referee– Terry W. Vaughn
Group A: Morelia vs. América (21:30) – Robertson Stadium (Houston, Texas) Referee– Arkadiusz Prus
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Group B: Cruz Azul vs. Monterrey (19:00) – Robertson Stadium (Houston, Texas) Referee- Jorge Gonzalez
Group B: San Luis vs Pumas (21:30) - Robertson Stadium (Houston, Texas)Referee – Jair Marrufo
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Group A: Club América vs. Toluca (16:00) – Pizza Hut Park (Dallas, Texas)Referee – Kevin Stott
Group A: Atlas vs. Morelia (18:30) - Pizza Hut Park (Dallas, Texas)Referee – Mark Geiger
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Group B: Monterrey vs. San Luis (18:00) - The Home Depot Center (Carson, California)Referee– Abiodun Okulaja
Group B: Pumas vs. Cruz Azul (20:15) - The Home Depot Center (Carson, California)Referee – Michael Kennedy
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Group A: Toluca vs. Morelia (18:00) - The Home Depot Center (Carson, California)Referee – Tim Weyland
Group A: Atlas vs. Club América (20:15) – The Home Depot Center (Carson, California) Referee – Brian Hall
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Anyway, as 2008 approaches, the inevitable "look back" impulse strikes. Luis and I started this blog almost exactly a year ago and there's no way we could have predicted half the things that ended up becoming topics here.
Hopefully, we've given readers a glimpse of what the soccer world looks like from our viewpoint, and I hope the perspective is an enlightening one.
Any suggestions for what the soccer story of the year was? I'm curious to see if there will be a range of opinions or an obvious consensus on this one.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Bradley had the courtesy to lead the Fire to a title first, but in some ways, his move was more wrenching because of that.
Chicago fans have to feel a bit like the local girl who is loyal to her guy, but gets dumped as soon as he does anything noteworthy and gets attention from the big-city floozie.
Ah well, the consolation Fire fans may take is that if history holds true, Osorio is in for nothing but pain and heartache with New York.
As for the Fire, a dream coaching candidate may not be on the immediate horizon. The club has to know that Denis Hamlett won't stay an assistant forever. I especially don't see him taking orders from another coach making that jump - meaning that if the Fire bring in Paul Mariner, I don't expect Hamlett to stay.
Apparently, Jesse Marsch's name has been connected to the opening, though there's no evidence of an interview yet. Marsch had a productive season with Chivas USA (gaining notoriety with this incident).
I've thought Marsch would make an excellent coach for some time, and he actually has more experience than one might think, because he's earned the USSF license. If Marsch takes the job, it won't be because he needs to give up his playing career, but that the Fire post is simply too good to pass up.
The most successful teams in MLS are usually noted for their continuity. The candidate who views Chicago as that special someone they'd love to stay with for a good while would be an ideal pick.
Instead of heading to Major League Soccer, Jared Borgetti joined Monterrey of the Mexican first division. Although Borgetti already said he hoped to lead the league in goals, he's well past his sell-by date. In 1998, when Borgetti's best days were in front of him perhaps he could have lived up to those lofty aspirations. But time has caught up to Borgetti quickly.
Monterrey's biggest offseason acquisition, however, is not Borgetti but rather Robert de Pinho, who used to play for Atlas... and about a dozen other clubs. De Pinho left Atlas for PSV Eindhoven, later went to Real Betis and moved to Al-Ittihad, which coincidentally was Borgetti's former club. With Humberto Suazo an option up top, I don't think Borgetti will even see the field much except as a late-game substitute.
There was some buzz about Borgetti joining MLS and either going to Kansas City or Colorado. That he did not is nobody's loss. Borgetti is a relic, not a capable player. He's a shadow of his old self, which frankly was not that great to begin with. Yes, he's scored a ton of goals but he's not limber and doesn't play defense. He relies heavily on service and doesn't create many chances on his own.
Worse, his surly attitude can be cancerous. I think the moment I lost some respect for Borgetti was when he was with Pachuca in 2005. Pachuca were playing Chivas in a Copa Libertadores match. It was the second round and Pachuca were at Chivas and needed a win in the second leg to advance to the quarterfinals. Pachuca had gotten Jose Cardozo as a reinforcement and that apparently did not sit well with Borgetti. It got even worse for him when Cardozo started over Borgetti, who sat on the bench and fumed. In the second half, coach Jose Luis Trejo was going to make a substitution and called for Borgetti who just walked slowly toward his boss. Trejo asked Borgetti if he would go in the game. Borgetti looked at the field with a spacey look in his eyes and shook his head and said no. Trejo immediately motioned for another player to go in and Borgetti went and sat back down.
While he's scored the most-ever goals for the Mexican national team, Borgetti is not exactly a player I'd want on my team. He's a nice enough guy - though he blew all the media off after Mexico's 1-1 tie with Italy in the 2002 World Cup - but nice doesn't translate into "quality soccer player," which Borgetti is most certainly not.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Also, Galaxy media dude David Beltran is leaving to take on a job with with the team's biggest fan, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Actually, he's not the Galaxy's biggest fan, despite what this picture shows.
Yes, I know. That's a shocking revelation.
But it represents more than just where the players hail from and their upbringing. It shows the average Mexican international and their lack of experience abroad, though it is something that is quickly changing.
Still, over the years Mexican internationals have played domestically in overwhelming numbers. Up until 18 months ago, the number of Mexicans abroad for several years was pretty much one - Rafael Marquez. After the 2006 World Cup, European clubs wised up and gave players contracts. Some worked out (Carlos Salcido), some didn't (Kikin Fonseca). But nonetheless the doors continued opening and now other players are crossing the Atlantic (most notably Andres Guardado).
While they are in their new lands, chances are the players will become bilingual. It just makes sense - if you are going to work in Germany and live in Germany, you may as well speak German. So now for every country save Spain where Mexicans go, perhaps they will pick up the local language.
Yet for all the inroads Mexicans have made, El Typical Tri player still hasn't gotten a shot at England. Perhaps Jared Borgetti ruined it for Mexicans, with his ill-fated stint with Bolton.
Now another Mexican comes along and finally has the chance to fix whatever mess Borgetti left. Nery Castillo is property of Manchester City now, albeit on a loan basis. How he'll do remains to be seen but my guess is he'll do just fine. Castillo isn't exactly your typical tri player, though. Hardly, actually. He was born in Mexico, moved to Uruguay when he was young, came up with a Uruguayan club and went off to Greece where he found success.
Now, I have no idea how many languages Castillo speaks. My guess is two - Spanish and Greek. Maybe somewhere along the line he picked up another language or three. But if English isn't one of them, perhaps in a year's time he'll speak English fluently.
He'd join some select company among his international teammates.
It used to be you could count on one hand the number of regular Mexican national team players who spoke English. A couple of reporter friends joked that at the 1998 World Cup they always chased down Luis Garcia because he spoke English. My buddies didn't know it then apparently but Francisco Palencia also speaks English fluently and has since he was young.
Gerardo Torrado speaks English, but he is pretty temperamental and many times won't answer in English. Incidentally, temperamental is a nice way of saying he's an asshole.
Rafael Marquez also speaks English and he tends to be pretty talkative.
Pavel Pardo speaks pretty good English. It's broken English, of course, but he strings together sentences just fine. I was impressed because I wouldn't have thought he knew the language.
Paco Palencia, though, probably speaks the language the best of all those minus Garcia. Haven't ever heard him talk. Moises Munoz of Morelia also speaks English pretty good. He lived here, in Redwood City, Calif., from fourth grade through middle school. But these last two probably have seen their last days with El Tri so it'll only do my English-speaking colleagues good to track them down during InterLiga.
There are probably some more Mexican internationals who could read this blog entry just fine that I don't know about. Potentially Nery Castillo could be among them.
So why is it important and significant if Nery Castillo speaks English? If he is able to communicate with the English-speaking media both here in the US and in England, more people would become familiar with him through reading stories on him or watching interviews with him. And with the rivalry that exists between the US and Mexico, it would be great if Mexico's best players spoke English.
The US's best player, Landon Donovan, speaks Spanish and he's hounded by Spanish-speaking media. If similar circumstances were reversed and English-speaking media in the US approached Castillo and Marquez with the same tenacity as their Spanish-speaking colleagues, there'd be much more intrigue and drama surrounding US-Mexico games than there already is.
Anyway, a source (an agent working for the club) told me that he was negotiating to bring the team to Los Angeles for a friendly, perhaps against Chivas USA.
He was discouraged, though, by the apathy toward the idea in general. It's true that friendlies in the U.S. have tended towards really big clubs like Chelsea, Real Madrid, Milan, or Barcelona, but Lyon is a quality club.
I wonder whether any of our readers would be excited to see Lyon in action here.
I wonder what team meal Hope missed? Breakfast? Dinner? Is every meal one that is accounted for by the team - no eating any meals with family, etc? I mean, pro teams have rules all the time that if you miss practice, or a team meeting, or are late, you get benched. If the same applies to a team meal, then Hope shouldn't have been surprised to be benched. On the other hand, Ryan himself says that one incident like that wouldn't get a player benched. Later on, though, he seems to imply that Hope stayed out late more than once. He doesn't mention curfew violations, though, so perhaps the team didn't have a curfew at all, or Ryan was told later by some players that Hope violated it without getting caught. Or perhaps her late nights were simple insomnia?
Just from watching the goalkeepers perform in practice for Pia, I am pretty astounded to read that Hope was ever letting in three times as many shots as Briana.
I find it a bit curious that Ryan mentions the youth of the team when one of my criticisms of his coaching would be that he underused many of the young players on the World Cup team. Wagner, I can understand perhaps, because of her injury, but to hardly play Tarpley, for example, seemed a poor choice.
Ryan does make a great point about his team's record, but I do think he overlooks how badly the World Cup made him look. I'm not sure this article improves that.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
By the time Zeigler talked to her, I think Hope had figured it out.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
But in March, we'll find out of the young Mexican national team will have the same appeal as the senior team. Mexico's Under-23 team will compete at Home Depot Center in March as El Tri will try and qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics. The group will also include Canada, Haiti and Guatemala. The top two teams will advance to the all-important semifinal round in Nashville, Tenn. and the semifinal winners will reach the Olympics.
El sub-23 Tri could feature Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela but it may not. Mexico officials have grumbled about the possible absences of these two Spanish-based players. Still, without the starpower Gio and Vela bring, the young Tri should have plenty of support.
Doubleheader dates at HDC will be on March 12, 14 and 16, a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Will they be sellouts? I doubt it, but I think there will some decent-sized crowds. I think the young Tri will draw more fans for each of their three games than the US senior side when it plays Sweden on Jan. 19. I know, I'm going out on a big limb there.
I thought about it for a while, and came up with a few observations.
Bob Bradley is all business. I've never seen or heard him crack a joke during practice. He's intense, and that filters down to his players. They focus because he always demands concentration. Funny has a place - off the field.
Bruce Arena had more of a jokester turn. He'd call out things to players, usually a humorous insult or observation of some kind. It would lighten things up a bit for players, and I think it also served as a sort of bonding ritual - to get razzed by Bruce. That seemed to encourage players to do that to each other as well. It seems to me that players walking off the field after training with Bruce were always kidding each other more than they are now.
I remember when Bob Holtzman, another reporter, was working on a Bradley story soon after Bob had gotten the interim post. He asked players to give an example of Bob telling a joke or funny story.
Every player he talked to said yes, Bob did have a sense of humor that he occasionally displayed, but not a single one could think of a joke he'd told.
Another quirk I remember about Bradley, something I don't recall Arena doing, is that Bradley stands in goal sometimes during scrimmages or shooting drills. No, he doesn't play goalkeeper. He stands in the goal, perhaps to watch the shooting form of players from there. I'm not sure if the viewing angle is different than standing safely behind the goal. Anyway, I never remember Arena doing that, though he in fact was once a goalkeeper.
In general, though, what I've observed about a lot of soccer practices is that no matter who is in charge, they run through a lot of the same stuff. Small-sided scrimmages, skill work, shooting drills, etc.
Overall, though, I think the Bradley Era may differ from the Arena one partly because of circumstance. Expectations have really grown for the national team. The 2006 World Cup was a disappointment because fans wanted so much more. The entire squad was going to have a higher level of pressure under Bradley, and consequently, a more serious tone, because of the feeling that people care about the team now, that results matter. So it wasn't just Bradley that contributed to a more somber tone.
Arena and his players rode the high of 2002 for a while (perhaps for far too long, considering how Arena clung to some instrumental players from that time, like Reyna and O'Brien).
What I've observed is that even good coaches have styles that sometimes mesh better with some players than with others. The spark that they bring to a national team, however, can settle into a routine after a while. Inspiration is a tricky thing - what worked once often won't work again, simply because it worked before. A type of ennui can set in.
I think Bruce stayed Bruce, but wasn't as effective doing exactly what had worked before as time went on. That's why I believe that Bob shouldn't stay on as national team coach even if the U.S. performs well in 2010. I hope he takes the initiative to move on of his own volition.
There are reasons why national teams around the world, including the most successful ones, change coaches so often. Clubs are different, obviously, with a number of leaders lasting for years and years. With a national team, though, one needs constant fresh ideas, tactics, evaluations and the ability to energize players quickly.
Friday, December 14, 2007
The reason I asked was that I'd been mulling potential offseason changes and it struck me that Joe and Chris would be attractive trade bait and that the Galaxy might be willing to make a deal on them for a few reasons.
1) Both are proven commodities, at or near the top of their position at the MLS level, so teams would have added incentive to actually deal something solid for those players.
2) Their salaries are large enough that unloading them would give the Galaxy salary cap wiggle room for new players.
3) Younger, cheaper players are already on the team who can play their position - if not as well, then adequately (Cronin for Cannon and Randolph or Klein for Albright).
With that in mind, I figured there was a good chance one or the other, or both, would be gone.
Landon looked a little pained at my question. Chris and Joe are both good friends of his. But he gave his honest answer (I'm saving it for if and when the trade goes through).
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Pretty much everybody involved with the team has something similar to prove at this point - that it's not empty hype - but they all have to wait till next year to prove it in meaningful competition.
What if, though, the media continue to make a fuss about the World Cup controversy? Will the public hold the incident against the team?
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
We talked a bit about how it seemed that women's soccer had become big news for a short while, but somehow, that hadn't lasted to generate much press interest on how the team was doing now.
I also talked briefly to the team's security officer. "It's nothing like the days of Mia - wow, the screaming in those days was incredible," he told me.
I'm sure that in some ways, the players might welcome a break from some of the negative publicity they received for a while, but there's a flip side to the media moving on to other stories.
Soccer and resort cities also don't often mix. If you take a trip to Acapulco, for instance, and want to see a first division soccer game, you're out of luck. That's been the case for years.
Except for now, you have options. Not only does Cancun feature top-flight futbol, their team is pretty good. Champions in fact.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Not only did Nkong earn playing time, he was an important part of the championship puzzle as Atlante won the league for the first time since 1993.
Mediotiempo.com looked at the champions, player by player, from the starters down to the bench players. Here's what they had to say about the former Rapids player.
Atlante had a lethal weapon who stepped onto the field when the battle was on its way toward culminating. The African Alain Nkong, a strong forward with exceptional speed and explosiveness and very persistent - he agreed to terms at nearly the final hour - but he wound up as an icon for the Cancun fans. He started eight games but his most important contributions were in the 13 games he appeared as a substitute in which he helped spark the Atlante offense as he took the ball with speed throughout the field. He scored four goals.
Though they aren't a headlining club, Atlante earned their championship and proved to be the best team in Mexico this season. Atlante knocked off a strong Cruz Azul club in the quarterfinals, beat one of the best defensive clubs in Chivas in the semifinals and finished off its successful playoff run by beating the hottest team in Mexico and the giant-slayers of Pumas, who had beaten top seed Santos and second-seeded Toluca in the first two rounds.
Atlante may have caught lightning in the bottle this season. Newcomer Giancarlo Maldonado was magnificent as he shredded opposing defenses and the club's newfound dedication to defense paid off. Also, the move to Cancun helped energize the club. Whether or not Atlante can sustain its high level of play in the Clausura 2008 season remains to be seen but for now the club is the reigning monarchs of Mexico.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Saturday, December 8, 2007
I think I’d have to say it was self-confidence. I think that was what was kind of lacking in the few years before. I think this year, I went in there and got the chance to start and I took advantage of it. I think that what helped me the most was that I was really confident. Every time I’d get the ball I’d go at people and know my strengths. Obviously, I worked hard and it paid off.
I also asked about his reputation as an outstanding practice player who would get hesitant in actual games, "What'd you do this season, pretend every game was really practice?"
I also asked about his reputation as an outstanding practice player who would get hesitant in actual games, "What'd you do this season, pretend every game was really practice?"
Pretty much. In practice, I would just go out there and have fun. I guess in that transition from practice to the games, for some reason I was scared to do the things that I could do and would just come naturally. But this past year, that just opened up and I’m looking forward to that opening up even more and hopefully next year I’ll have and even better year than this past year. Confidence is the most important thing for a soccer player. Obviously, the coaches and the other players, you’ve got to have a good friendship with them, but I think confidence is the main thing.
Starting U.S. lineup: Earl Edwards
Estanilao Arevalo Jared Watts Perry Kitchen
Joe Gyau Marlon Duran
Jack McInerney Carlos Martinez
In the first five minutes, the U.S. started well, but Brazil found their stride pretty quickly.
Ten minutes later, it's still mostly Brazil, but the U.S. has kept the South Americans off the board even while playing less than their best. Duran has been impressive. Charles Renken a bit jittery.
18- Joeseph Gyau to McInerney whose low shot is on target, but saved. He was sliding to put in the shot, and didn't get a lot of power from it.
28- GOAL! US. Gyau with a looping pass to Martinez and the little winger jumps for it, catching it on the side of his foot for a volley. Nice, nice.
32- The US is playing a man down as Arrevalo is out because of an injury. He took an knee in the head during a tackle.
35- Arrevalo is out again, this time stretchered off. Tyler Polak is coming in for him.
38- Matteaus of Brazil with a shot in the box that barely goes wide.
39- Now Brazil has a player down. Felipe.
45- FK for the U.S. Duran takes it, puts it wide.
Wilmer Cabrerra could really put an exclamation point on his start as U.S. U17 coach with a win over Brazil. The U.S. stared fast, then struggled a bit, then settled down to the back and forth physical play of the match. Renken looked overwhelmed at the start, but increased in confidence as the match went on.
47- This is a fast-paced match in the heat - the players are going to be knackered afterwards.
48- Cutinho of Brazil is simply awesome. He's created almost every chance for the Brazilians.
50- Gyau earns a free kick - it eventually leads to a shot opportunity for Renken - Brazil saves.
51- Renken is only 13 - I interviewed him for an article last year when he was twelve. He's the nicest guy, from Zambia and adopted by Americans.
53- Mauricio fouls Renken, coming down on Renken's ankle after the ball is already passed. Bad foul, gets a yellow, could have gotten a red. Renken stretchered off. He rolled the ankle pretty bad.
57- Renken, like Arevalo earlier, comes back in, but let's see if he lasts. He's on the ground, trying to stretch the ankle out right now. Edson Lemus is coming in for Renken, who looks to be cramping in addition to the ankle difficulty.
60- Watts thumps a long free kick to McInerney, who earns a free kick, but Brazil counter quickly and get a shot off that goes wide.
62- Wellington charges for a ball right into Edwards, who is remarkably calm holding the ball in the crash.
64- The U.S. is scrambling. Renken's possession skills are missed. The U.S. is havng trouble holding the ball.
66-Coutinho sets up another shot with an assist after losing a couple of defenders, but Edwards saves it. Martinez has dropped back to defend.
67- Another save from Edwards.
68- Shot of Bob Bradley and U20 coach Thomas Rongen watching the game - guess who was doing all the talking? If you picked Rongen, you'd be wrong.
70- Dogged defending from the U.S. is frustrating Brazil, but they may be wearing the Americans down.
71- Danilo with an outside shot. The U.S. will give up that shot all day - Edwards has time to save it.
73- McInerney goes off for Jaime Gutierrez.
75- Eran gets a yellow - Jerome fouled him, but Eran then shoved him.
76- Dangerous Brazil freekick. Fernando lines it up. He fired toward goal, but Edwards saves it. Edwards is so well positioned that it looks like every shot is being hit towards him - the benefit of early preparation.
80- PK! GOAL! Jerome battles near the corner of the box and Venesius goes down and ends up falling on the ball, handling it. Jerome slams it home. 2-0 U.S. lead.
82- Brazil is out of position on free throw. The ref blows the whistle on it and the Brazilian coach flips out about it. U.S. get possession. Brazil look upset, just like their coach. This isn't going to help their play.
84- Brazil has a freekick, Edwards claims the service.
86- Brazil tried to throw in from the sideline again. The ref whistles it again. It's true that a lot of teams cheat forward on throws, but Brazil is taking it even further. Carvalho twofoots Duran, who was quietly playing very solid. Shoving breaks out, even as the ref shows Carvalho a yellow. Matteaus is shown a red. I think he punched someone, but I'm not positive.
89- Duran is down for a while, stretchered off. The refs are trying to get Matteaus to leave the bench area. There really isn't a locker room for him to go to. The coach is arguing. Finally, Matteaus goes behind the bench. That's pretty silly of Brazil. An assistant coach could have walked him back to the players' tent. I'm sure they also know the FIFA red card rule is that you have to leave the field area completely.
90+ Andrew Craven on for Jerome. Everybody on the U.S. team defending. Oooh, a header from Brazil off a nice cross. It's wide.
Dangerous Brazil freekick - just outside the box. This is a test for Edwards. Jefferson takes it. It hists the wall. Watts regains his composure and clears. The finals whistle blows. Fans (and a lot of residency teammates) storm the field in celebration. A Brazilian player gets a late red card - I guess he pushed a U.S. player who was celebrating or something.
It's a big win for the U.S.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Coach Peter Nowak still hasn't decided on a captain for the squad, although he mentioned something I'd forgotten - Sacha Kljestan captained the U23 squad the last time the age group got together for a short trip to Japan.
But Nowak seemed impressed at the overseas experience of some of the players now on the squad, pointing out how the pressure of the soccer-obsessed atmosphere over there forced greater consistency in their performances. So he might end up picking someone like Charlie Davies.
It's scoreless in the first half right now. Sorry I'm late picking this up. USC's defense has held off the Bruins thus far.
UCLA is no doubt the favorite, and they're putting pressure on USC, but these teams always play close matches, even if UCLA has dominated the recent rivalry in terms of results.
15- Val Henderson out to grab a cross to kill a USC counter.
19- Shot from Lauren Cheney from distance - wide, but not by too much.
20- Corner for UCLA - Danesha Adams takes it, gets cleared for UCLA throw, bad pass by UCLA kills that attack.
21- Chance for USC, ball over the top for Amy Rodriguez gets headed by UCLA defender to Henderson but not far enough. Rodriguez nearly beats her defender to ball before Henderson grabs it. Rodriguez wants a penalty for defender grabbing her, but she's not going to get it.
23- UCLA on a counter serves up a ball for Kara Lang. She gets a header off, but nothing doing - it's wide.
25- USC takes off on a counter, UCLA seems to have trouble adjusting to that. They look so intent on offense that they seem a bit on their heels when they have to defend.
26- Kristina Larsen with an outside shot - on frame and low, giving the goalkeeper time to get down. Not sure UCLA should settle for outside shots.
27- Ball booted by Henderson over the endline. Service needs to be sharper to have a chance of penetrating USC's defense.
29- Lauren Wilmoth with a great cross to Danesha Adams in front of goal. Adams with a volleyed redirect misses the goal - ouch! Great chance lost.
30- Christina DiMartino with another outside shot for UCLA - it's wide. It wasn't a bad shot, but I think more runs need to be made closer to goal.
33- Just as I criticize UCLA, they have a great attacking sequence with tons of pressure on the USC defense. DiMartino jukes a defender in the box to get a shot off that Olsen dives to save.
35- Cheney gets the ball at top of box, turns and shoots, but it's straight to Olsen.
37- GOAL! Cheney doesn't make the same mistake twice. She gets the ball from Larsen, then turns against her defender, breaking into space, stutter steps to confuse another pair of defenders running to provide cover, heads into the box and cuts her shot into the corner away from Olsen. Great goal.
39- USC wins a FK - it has a decent chance, Kasey Johnson gets a head on it - Henderson is off her line, but makes an overhead catch to make the save.
42- UCLA has definitely taken their foot off the gas. They haven't shot the ball since the goal - oops, spoke too soon - Cheney just launched one from outside. High.
It was pretty much all UCLA, though USC looked dangerous in their counter opportunities. If USC had kept it scoreless to the half, I'd have given them the edge in the match anyway, despite the shot disparity for UCLA. The Bruins would have probably been really frustrated after so many chances came to nothing. The ghosts of the past College Cup failures would have probably made them jittery. Cheney actually scored on one of the most difficult chances in the entire match.
46- FK in the early going for SC, Sandoval is on target and Henderson just punches it over, the corner kick leads to a shot that knocks the wind out of Adams. The free throw leads to a redirected USC shot from a difficult angle that Henderson saves.
48- SC with great fighting spirit in the second half, showing that they can do more than defend. UCLA is getting manhandled, actually, and need to regain focus. They're getting beaten to the loose balls on pure hustle. USC is a really fit team.
49- Olsen out for a high ball against Adams as UCLA finally gets into USC territory this half.
51- UCLA with better rhythm, Cheney mishits the final pass.
55- Rodriguez spins free for a shot from a ways out, but it's wide.
57- Larsen lays ball back for Cheney, but it's not a great angle on the shot and Olsen saves it well.
58- USC with a free kick, hard and on target. Henderson can't catch it, so she tips it over for a corner. Sandoval takes - it clears everyone for a deep UCLA free throw.
60- Barnes steals from a USC player and hits a hard knuckler that Olsen barely puts over the bar. UCLA is called for a foul on the ensuing corner.
62- DiMartino is down, looks like an injury of some kind. Alma Playle comes into the match. Last week, I was at the Takashi Murakami exhibit at the Geffen Contemporary Museum here in LA and Alma was there checking out the show. I didn't talk to her, but it had to be her or her twin.
65- Corner for USC, but Henderson catches the service.
67- GOAL! USC. Sandoval with good service to Rodriguez, who beats her defender and slots it home low below a diving Henderson. A slight defensive gaffe by UCLA, and Rodriguez made them pay. UCLA was perhaps pushing a bit too hard to put the game away and got caught on an excellent counter. It's a new game now.
Game resumes after a timeout. I see this going to a golden goal. UCLA has won one of those already, but I'm not sure they have an advantage here. USC seems really fit. They're moving with a lot of confidence now. UCLA could be dealing with a few ghosts now.
69- USC content to let UCLA try to figure out how they're dealing with the situation now. They know their counter-game plan, and they're sticking to it. They're going to make it difficult for UCLA to score (the UCLA goal was harder-earned than USC's) and they're going to counter when they get their chances.
74- GOAL! USC. Off a corner, Johnson battles for it and then it drops for Rodriguez, who kicks a nice half-turn shot into the upper corner. No chance for Henderson.
76- UCLA freekick taken by Barnes, but Olsen catches it pretty easily.
77- Teams have a habit of breaking their duck against UCLA when it matters. Portland beat them for the first time in the final, now USC is looking to beat UCLA for the first time in over a decade here in the semifinal. UCLA looks tired. USC looks tough.
79- Cheney passes to Wilmoth for a chance, but Wilmoth puts it over the bar.
81- Oooh, close for UCLA, Cheney through-ball for Lang, but Olsen comes out to smother. Wow - Lang was in free on goal, but couldn't quite reach the ball before Olsen blocked it.
83- UCLA looks skittish now. USC is calm, giving up space to UCLA, but not chances.
87- Free kick for UCLA is in a good spot - Yikes - Cheney hits it way high. Bad.
89- Seconds left in the game USC looks good - it's almost over, USC in the corner. Clock ticks down! It's over. UCLA is out.
Wow, UCLA got a lead but let USC back into the game and that was that. Since Florida State won versus Notre Dame, the NCAA champion will be a first-time-ever champion.
Chris Klein, however, thought the transition would be hardest on Cobi.
"It’s different for us and it’s different for him. He probably has to make more of an adjustment than we do. We go out and we hang out with mostly the same guys as we did before, but now Cobi has to sit at the coaches' table and evaluate players from a different perspective. I’ve dealt with this type of thing before, being a veteran in this league and having players move into the coaching ranks. From what I’ve seen, I think the adjustment is a bit more difficult for the player turned coach than it is for the existing players."Chris Albright, though, pointed out that Cobi was getting help from someone who had been there - new coach Ruud Gullit.
"It’s going to be an interesting dynamic between him and the guys – having gone from being a player to now obviously the assistant coach. He’s handled it well. Coach Gullit has helped to make that transition easier on Cobi. He’s been very understanding of the dynamic between him and the players, bringing him along and helping him understand what he wants as a head coach. Cobi being the veteran that he is, and with Coach Gullit being as understanding as he is, the change has gone easier than maybe people would expect."
Yet he soldiered on playing the next match in Wellington. Now, of course, a broken rib isn't like playing on an injured ankle, but still painful.
Working on an article about the tour, I decided to check with the Galaxy about David's injury. Here's the response I got from the Galaxy's press officer via email: David did not suffer any broken ribs. He had an X-Ray but it turned out negative.
Who to believe? I decided to take the reference to the ribs out of my article, since I couldn't find any other verification of the report. A lot of articles mentioned the ribs, but they all seemed to be quoting bits of the same article, even though they didn't all credit it.
Becks says on his blog that he bruised his rib.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Certain players called into Sundhage's mini-camp probably expected to be in the NCAA College Cup right now. Tobin Heath, Yael Averbuch and Casey Nogueira of UNC, for example, won't be defending the title they won last year.
Angie Woznuk of Portland certainly did everything she could to keep Portland from going out versus UCLA in overtime, but to no avail.
All the World Cup goalkeepers are on the roster. Heather Mitts is back from her ACL injury. A number of veterans - such as Wambach, Boxx, Rampone and Markgraf return as well. Conspicuous by her absence is Kristine Lilly. I'm not sure if she's decided to retire, though. It could be Pia doesn't have to see her because she's such a known entitity.
Or she could have an excuse to miss the camp like Stephanie Lopez, who is getting married this month.
Chris Seitz is a big guy - he's 6'4. Incidently, this makes him taller than every forward in the U.S. national team pool. However, it only ties him with another young goalkeeper, Brad Guzan. Oguchi Onyewu is also the same height.
Mike Randolph, on the other hand, is the littlest guy in the current Olympic team camp. He's 5'7. I'm assuming Peter Nowak, who is the same size himself, won't hold that against him. Besides, Mike is fast.
So is Marvell Wynne. So is Robbie Findley.
I feel like I'm one of the few people who can actually recall Jozy Altidore being shorter than 6 feet. That was back in his U17 national team days, when he was fifteen. By the time he'd entered the MLS combine at sixteen, Jozy had hit six feet, though his player bio took a bit of time to update that fact. Now, at 18, Jozy is 6'1, but the biggest change I noted interviewing him this time was how much muscle he'd packed on since I last chatted with him. He's built like a tank. It probably helps him a lot battling for position near the box.
With the majority of the squad in camp at over six feet, and while there have always been athletic standouts in U.S. teams, I have to say that the trend is probably increasing. Bigger, stronger, faster.
But Nowak didn't emphasize any of those things when I talked to him about what he was looking for to impress him at the U23 camp. He spoke about skill instead.
"It’s how they play as a team. The way of soccer, the way of imagination, creativity."
Monday, December 3, 2007
My pick for the armband would be Sacha Kljestan. The Chivas USA midfielder has got all the requisite attributes of talent and the intangibles like leadership skills and common sense. He communicates well with his teammates and he knows the Bradley system backwards and forwards.
Though Jesse Marsch is not the captain of Chivas USA, he's mentored Kljestan in many ways, and a better role model for hard work, dedication and team play can't be found. Most of all, Marsch is a great example of someone who can be a coach's assistant on the field, leading by their actions.
I'm not saying Kljestan is a Marsch-mini (especially since in raw talent, he leaves his mentor behind), but he's picked up enough from him that I think his maturity reflects that.
Kljestan has senior team experience, played in college and with other youth national teams - there basically isn't anyone on the roster who can't relate to him in some way. That's important, because it's good for a captain to know where others are coming from.
Nowak made it clear, though, that this training camp will be where players will prove themselves. Sacha, or whoever is named captain, will have to earn it. The games are crucial too, because that's the real test of performance under pressure. I may think Sacha is the pick on paper, but someone else could step up to stake their own claim to that honor.
"Where are the photos of training, Andrea?" I can imagine our eager readers asking. I actually took my little camera to training, but I forgot the batteries.
And no, there won't be photos of training today, either. I've been working different hours, so I can't go to training in the mornings like I once did.
Can you name that country?
Hint: it's not England.
Pumas is among the more popular clubs in Mexico but they've not played like a top team until recently. Atlante, well, they are not a traditional power at all. Their last title was in 1993, when they were led by Ricardo Lavolpe.
I think Pumas will win their sixth league title. Atlante is solid defensively but Pumas is hot right now. And after surviving Sunday's game in Santos, a game they lost 4-2, their confidence should be sky high.
I suspect though, that part of the logic would be that Tab, in many ways, is still affiliated as being a true New York team guy. Bruce Arena might have the New Jersey accent, but his success came in Virginia and DC. Bob Bradley was a Chicago Fire pioneer. Even though it was often for worse than for better, Tab was New York from the start. That mattered to him, and it probably matters to some fans as well.
It also doesn't hurt that he was probably one of the most skillful U.S players in history. It was great to watch him play. Before I was old enough to develop a reporter's objectivity about game situations, I nursed a deep and abiding antipathy for Leonardo. The Brazilian player aimed a vicious elbow at Tab in the 1994 World Cup that should have earned a straight red. Ramos suffered a skull fracture.
During that match on Spanish television, the announcers were indignant. They'd been praising Tab all game long because he was displaying some inspired moves that day. They called him by his full name, "Tabare", emphasizing the third syllable with enthusiasm whenever he did well.
Unfortunately, that high point and the subsequent injury was an apt metaphor for much of Tab's career.
I found out from a Galaxy staffer prior to the trip that the traveling roster was so depleted by injuries, that new assistant coach Cobi had agreed to stand by if needed.
Even the possibility of such a move surprised Pete Vagenas.
"That’s the first I’ve heard of it," Pete told me when I mentioned the option. "But he’s out of shape now. At his age, if you’re not training every day, you’re in trouble."
It wasn't that Pete didn't think Cobi could still be effective.
"I started the whole 'One more year thing'", said Pete, (referring to the campaign for Cobi to stay on a little longer as a player. It fizzled when Cobi accepted the coaching position instead.)
Pete was happy for Cobi, but also admitted he was a little torn about losing the winger as a teammate. "I’m a grown man, but sometimes when I don’t know how to handle certain situations, he’s someone that to this day I confide in. I couldn’t possibly have any more respect for him."
It's a little sad, perhaps, that New Zealand fans probably had little understanding of the significance of Cobi stepping on to the field one last time. On the other hand, it seems only fitting that the guy who scrapped and hustled for the Galaxy year after year answered the call one more time when his team needed him.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Here are the highlights, where you'll see America give away many chances and Arsenal take advantage of three dead ball situations aided by America mistakes.