Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sounders - Herediano, CCL Running Blog

TFC pulled off the win over Tauro FC, so lets see what Seattle can do in their CONCACAF Champions League clash versus Herediano. It should be a tougher test. 

Sounders lineup: GK Keller, D Scott, D Ianni, D Hurtado, D Gonzalez, M Carrasco, M Sanyang, M Neagle, M Levesque, F Jaqua, F Noonan.  

Herediano: GK Cambronero, D Montero, D Sanchez, D Calvo, D Obando, D Salazar, M Cordero, M Arias, M Alvarado, F Barbosa, F Andrade

No cohost for FSC's Rogondino? Get Chris Henderson in there. Who cares if he's not impartial? At least he knows the game.

1 - Kickoff. My eyes! They're already bleeding at the sight of the Sounders' glowing neon uniforms.

3 - Rogo seems befuddled at the absence of a color man. He's giving a bunch of side info and ignoring the actual match.

4 - Herediano have a corner. It's played short and then fed in, but Keller catches it.

6 - Rogo's actually calling the game now. There's not much going on, to be fair, though Seattle are probing for chances.

7  - Foul on Neagle gives Seattle a FK. Herediano GK catches that.

9 - I gave up on Rogo. I'm watching the Spanish broadcast of the match. Suddenly it's much more exciting.

11 - Have I mentioned how much I hate artificial turf? It's hard to tell that the pro players are at a high level when the ball keeps rolling long on that stuff. Ruins the game.

13 - Not to say that chewed up grass is a better playing surface, but at least it looks terrible, so it's honest. Plastic grass is a weird cheat - it looks fine, especially from a distance or on television, but it just doesn't play right or true to the game.

14 - Off the post! What a weird play. The Sounders stood around like they expected a teammate to cover the run, and in the end, the ball was in the box and past Keller, but it came off the post. Barbosa with the chance.

16 - Neagle sees yellow for a clip from behind. I think the Herediano player is legitimately hurt - rug burn from his forced slide into the turf.

21 - Leo Gonzalez with a shot/cross - the game is picking up pace.

22 - Nate Jaqua shanks a ball from point-blank range. I'd be surprised, but I saw him do that plenty in person as a Galaxy player back in the day.

23 - Actually, Nate has a legit gripe - his shot appeared to deflect off a defender, but the ref missed it. Bad break.
25 - GOAL! Off a freekick, Herediano's Josemar Arias bends it perfectly into the corner. Nicely done. Seattle are stunned at home. CR teams are no joke. It's a little country, but they take their soccer very seriously. 0-1, Herediano leads.
 27 - What a difference a goal makes - Herediano passing the ball around better now, looking lively.
31 - Seattle appear out of sorts.
32 - Herediano players are falling over now. It's kind of early for the delaying tactic.
35 - Herediano's Cordero earns a yellow. Freekick for Seattle.
 38 - Seattle don't appear creative at all at this point.
42 - Corner for Herediano, but Seattle are able to clear.
45 - Herediano seriously look more likely to score again than the Sounders do to notch an equalizer.
46 - We're back and already Herediano have the first chance of the half. This result, if it stands, will really shake up the CCL group.
51 - Freekick for Herediano. Seattle defense deal with it just fine. They've looked solid, mostly. It's the attacking end that is a shambles at present.
53 - Seattle finally mount an attack, but Noonan isn't able to get a shot off.
54 - Seattle charge in again for a  bit of sustained pressure - oh, that didn't last.
56 - Here come Seattle's cavalry - Freddy Montero and Osvaldo Alonso.
65 - It seems too late for Seattle's supermen (aka, regular starters) to save the day. They haven't really been able to get anything going yet.
68 - Herediano holding on strong.
74 - Herediano even looking more likely to score. Oh, and Sammy Ochoa is the last sub for the Sounders. I miss his old curly hair style.
81 - A Montero shot leads to a Seattle corner.
82 - Which leads to a Jaqua header on goal, though it's saved.  Game might have a goal in in for the Sounders yet.
88 - Or not. After than flurry, nothing credible since.
89 - WOW - What a save to rob Ochoa of a Sounders goal. Ochoa pounded a header on goal, but the stop was made one-handed. Herediano's goalkeeper, Cambronero, was the hero there.
90 - He timewastes on the ensuing corner, though, wasting the goodwill he just built up with his play.
92 - Neagle shoots high from a corner - not a great try, but volleys are hard.
94 - Jaqua finally gets a decent cross, but hits the header high. 
95 - I love the announcer's sarcasm. "Well, we are playing on, due to added time from Cambonero's muscular problem, as he apparently had a problem with his muscles." Yeah, he was wasting time.
Final whistle! Sounders put forth a sorry starting lineup and paid for it. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A True Mugging In Morelia

 Thievery. Robbery. A mugging.

The crime rate is high in Morelia, and that doesn’t stop from extending onto the soccer fields there.

Estadio Morelos was site of one of the biggest non-violent crimes in Morelia’s recent history. On Tuesday, the Galaxy had a goal and a victory stolen from them.

With the match tied 1-1 in the 90th minute, Omar Gonzalez smashed a header on goal. Morelia’s Federico Vilar made the save but the ball remained on the goal line. Robbie Keane raced onto it, pushed it into the back of the net and appeared to have given the Galaxy the victory.

But somehow the goal did not stand. Honduran assistant referee Oscar Velasquez raised his flag just as Keane raced away from the goal to celebrate.

Absolute thievery. Total robbery. An atrocious mugging.

Moments later, Miguel Sabah scored the game-winner and the Galaxy walked away empty handed.

The replays show clearly that Keane was at least a yard onside when Gonzalez made contact. Keane passed the last defender sometime after the ball past him. When the ball fell on top of the goal line, Keane was already there.

But that’s because he’s quick and has great instincts, not because he was offside. Perhaps that’s the biggest problem. Velasquez referees the Honduran league, which is not a highly-regarded league in CONCACAF. Mexico is, of course. MLS is getting there. MLS does have top talents such as Keane and perhaps Velasquez is unable to decipher between what a talented goalscorer and what a player who is poaching offside looks like.

Whatever the case is, the Galaxy lost a game they should have won. Stolen from them. Taken right away from them.

It’s a shame really, not just that it happened to the Galaxy but that this happens all the time in this tournament. It’s almost like it’s a requirement to have things like this happen in the CONCACAF Champions League.

It seems that no matter what Champions League game you watch, you almost expect something bad to happen. You expect the game to go to hell in a matter of minutes. Bad calls are as much a part of the game as set pieces. So when the flag was raised and Keane’s goal was harshly called back, it really wasn’t a surprise to anybody.

Anger? Sure, but nobody was surprised.

And that’s the real shame.

Hating On Landon

Landon Donovan and Mexico go hand-in-hand like meat and rabid dogs. It seems that every time Donovan plays against Mexico, be it the national team or a Mexican club, Donovan seems to bring out some emotions from Mexican supporters.

He certainly has drawn some emotions out from the locals here in Morelia.

As the Galaxy began to go through their warm-ups in a mostly-empty and relatively quiet Estadio Morelos on Monday, a shout came down from above.
"Donovan! Fuck you motherfucker! Your ass is mine motherfucker!"

A small group of locals had gotten to a gate where at least part of the field was visible to them. Their villain, Public Enemy No. 1 'round these parts, was down below so why not serenade him?

I wrote a story on some of the issues that perturbs the fans. Donovan has long been a thorn in Mexico's side, having scored five goals against the national team, including the dagger in the 2002 World Cup win over El Tricolor.

Now, on Monday almost without looking for it, we found some pure Donovan hatred. A group of us went to a marketplace to look for soccer jerseys. We wound up talking to one of the vendors for about an hour on various things and the topic of our visit came up. As soon as he found out we were there for the Galaxy-Morelia match, he let loose about Donovan.

"Ask anybody here. Nobody likes him. I heard two guys walking past earlier and they were saying how they were going to go to the game just to talk shit to Donovan."
The vendor, Rafael, was adamant that Donovan did not like Mexicans. He asked several of the people around him "What was it that Donovan said about Mexico?" as if there was something that Donovan had actually said that would have inflamed Mexicans.

If you're talking about goals, that's a good enough reason to dislike Donovan I suppose. And pissing on the field in Estadio Jalisco is something so ridiculous that it's laughable. There's not a field in this planet that hasn't been pissed on.

But perhaps that's where this notion that Donovan does not like Mexicans stems from. At some point, perception certainly became reality and old habits die hard.

Maybe in the United States, Mexican supporters arent' quite as vicious in their attacks over Donovan as they are here. Perhaps since they have the chance to see him play more and, more importantly, they hear him do interviews in Spanish, they have seen for themselves that whatever supposedly racist ideas he carried were never really there.

But don't tell that to the Morelia faithful. If not all, many certainly seem to think he really does not like Mexicans. And you can rest assured that they will let him hear how much they dislike him the moment he takes the field for warm-ups in Estadio Morelos.

Primed For Success

When Galaxy coach Bruce Arena trotted out a different-looking lineup against Colorado, it wasn't just with Colorado in mind.

Sure, Chad Barrett and Paolo Cardozo did well against the Rapids but playing the likes of Barrett, Cardozo, Bryan Jordan and Donovan Ricketts allowed for the Galaxy to rest up some players for Tuesday's match against Morelia.

The Galaxy will face Morelia in a match that could set the club up well for the remainder of the group stage. If the Galaxy beat Morelia, they will have nine points and could be six points clear of the rest of the group of Motagua beat Alajuelense this week. The pressure would be off the Galaxy, not completely off but things would certainly be a bit less tense in Champions League.

Based on what I've seen in recent games and what Bruce Arena has shown, this is my best shot at a Galaxy Starting XI: Josh Saunders; Todd Dunivant, Omar Gonzalez, AJ De La Garza, Frankie Hejduk; Mike Magee, Landon Donovan, Chris Birchall, Sean Franklin; Adam Cristman, Robbie Keane.

That lineup would be a fresh one. Of the 11 players, five did not play on Friday - Saunders, Hejduk, Magee, Birchall, Cristman. A sixth - Keane - played 30 minutes. The rest - Donovan, Dunivant, Gonzalez, De La Garza, Franklin - are extremely fit.

Off the bench, Arena has some options for goals if it comes to it. Barrett made the trip; Cardozo and Miguel Lopez are here as well. The Galaxy are primed for a strong effort and some planning ahead on Arena's part has done the team well.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Galaxy Trip Down South

There are times when covering soccer is not all that fun. Ridiculously tight deadlines, dealing with uncooperative people, dull matches... been there, done that.

But there are also times when soccer is superb. Now is one of those times.

I'm writing this post from a hotel in Morelia, Mexico, where I've traveled to for the Galaxy's Champions League match against Morelia. On Tuesday, the Galaxy will face a tough Morelia side and will try and take control of Group A.

I don't often travel for soccer. I have, but it hasn't been often. In fact, this is my first trip to Galaxy away game, unless you count the Galaxy's game against Xolos in San Diego.

It's nice here in Morelia. My parents are from the state Morelia is in, Michoacan, and I've lived here in this state on two separate occasions. But this is my first visit to Michoacan for soccer and my second time coming to Mexico for soccer (US-Mexico in 09 was the other).

Watching the Galaxy play in a place like Estadio Morelos, a stadium I've seen on TV for years, will seem a bit surreal. Already, just walking into the stadium earlier on Monday for a training session was quite an experience. I can't imagine seeing the Galaxy play in this setting.

It will be a great game and it's already been a great experience.

As for the game, well, it's garnered a lot of attention. Now some of that was on David Beckham and his first-ever trip to Mexico. That didn't happen as Beckham did not make the trip. But Landon Donovan is still very much hated here.

I wrote a story for MLSsoccer.com/LAGalaxy.com on the topic and when it is published.

In the meantime I'm gonna soak up the atmosphere here in Morelia and enjoy this visit to a place I hold dearly.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Galaxy - Rapids: Running Blog

And down the stretch they come! As the playoffs get closer, games matter more. The LA Galaxy, leaders in the Supporters' Shield race, take on the reigning MLS Cup Champions - the Colorado Rapids. 

1 - Cardozo sizzles a shot wide - opportunistic, but off-target. 
3 - Kyle's Keys for the game don't include any inside dirt from his days as a Galaxy player. No fun, K-Mart.
5- Beckham dinks a pass forward to no one in particular. Donovan clips Mastroeni, but the freekick that ensues doesn't do much. Dunivant passes forward to Franklin - whose header on goal is easily caught by the goalkeeper. Tough for Franklin to get much on it, given that Colorado Rapids defender Earls was in his way. 
7 - Some discussion of OG as a centerback prospect. I'll lose respect for Klinsmann if he doesn't call Omar in soon. 
9 - I'm not at the stadium, in case anyone is wondering. Had a job interview today and couldn't fit a trip to the stadium in as well.  So I'm listening to J.P Dellacamera and KMart at home. 
10 - No disrespect to 9-11 intended, but the announcers seem to have forgotten about the game. The moment of silence is over, guys. 
11 - Corner kick for the Rapids. Wells Thompon takes it, loops it in, but the Galaxy clear. 
13 - Marvell Wynne cuts off a pass intended for Chad Barrett. 
15 - Rapids putting pressure on the Galaxy goal, mostly by Folan. 
16 Cardozo draws a foul from Brian Mullan. Beckham bends it to goal, but Pickens punches it out.  
18 - Cardozo looking good this match. LD a little quiet, but then he fizzes up the field and sets up Franklin, who can't quite control his shot.  
19 - Juninho from distance didn't get over the ball well, and he skies it. 
21 - LD sets up Cardozo beautifully, who fires high and wide, ignoring an open Becks a few feet away. 
22 - After breaking Steve Zakuani's leg, Brian Mullan may not get a call for the rest of the season. 
23 - Would Bob Bradley be a good coach for Santos Laguna? He would work hard, that's for sure.  
25 - Cardozo fires on target, but Pickens has time and catches it.  
26 - Dunivant with a nice low header, but Pickens comes up with a great save.
27 - Decent cross from Barrett, but no LA players connect with a shot attempt.
29 - Cardozo with a nifty near post attempt, forces Pickens to get a low hand on it and give up a corner. 
Corner comes to nothing. 
30 - Becks long pass to LD, but Wynne hangs with him and breaks it up. 
31 - Cardozo is exciting to watch - one of the young foreign hopefuls in the league that make the game fun to follow.  
33 - Lawrentowicz tees it up from outside, but the low shot is stopped by Ricketts. 
35 - LA have been a bit wasteful. Good play, but no goals to show for it.  
36 - Nice interplay of one-touch passes by the Galaxy players ends up with Franklin setting up LD, and LD doesn't waste the chance - one-timing a hard low shot past Pickens. 
37- Wynne goes it alone until he's fouled for a freekick.
38 - OG goes on a run, nearly sets up a Galaxy goal, but Cardozo underhit his cross to Barrett.
39 - Kandji comes off for Nyassi.
40 - The Rapids seem really tentative in the final third.
42 - Rapids making a late push now, though.
44 - Beckham playing far, far back - he's behind OG now.
45 - My halftime plans? Walking the dog. He's been waiting patiently.  The Galaxy earn a late corner, but the Rapids are able to hold them off.

46 - Game back on. Galaxy have been clinical in everything but the finish. Well, aside from Donovan's goal. It's a pretty slim margin over Colorado, though, considering how well LA has played. However, if there's anything the Rapids learned from their championship run last year - never, ever, give up.
48 - DeLaGarza makes a timely header to deny Nyassi a shot on goal.
49 - Becks goes down lightly from a Marshall foul.
50 - Nifty Galaxy passing goes awry when Becks overestimates Jordan's speed.
51 - LD with a poor pass. It happens.
56 - Ooh, Rapids nearly tie it up, but Thompson is offside.
57 - Cardozo with another shot on goal, but Pickens stops it.
60 - Keane coming in for Barrett. Keane gets a good cheer.
61 - Mullen's good cross is wasted. No Conor Casey available.
63 - KMart with a good observation that Becks' passes might be due to his bad back.
64 - Cardozo's wily play earns a freekick in a good spot. Becks doesn't clear the wall.
65 - Keane earns the Galaxy a corner - bounces free for another corner. Becks fires the second way over. Ugh. Cummings coming in for the Rapids.
67 - Keane called for offside. Cardozo comes off for Magee. Good night for the young guy.
68 - OG fires a long ball like Becks. That is, like Becks tonight. Too far for Franklin to catch.
70 - Rapids freekick. Galaxy clear, but the Rapids get it back and Ricketts saves from close on Cummings- oh, offside flag was up anyway.
73 - Juninho down with some injury. Mikey Stephens comes in.
75 - Keane with a neat backheel to LD whose cross is fine but cut off.
76 - Juninho's injury is apparently a left hamstring cramp.  Magee fires off an outside shot. He basically can't do anything for the rest of the season without the announcers mentioning his stint in goal.
78 - Nyassi's hopeful chip from outside drifts way wide of the Galaxy goal.
79 - Just for fun - former Galaxy players on the Rapids team: Tyrone Marshall, Brian Mullan, hm, I guess that's it.
80 - Becks is clutching at his back. Where's Jovan Kirovski? Maybe Arena doesn't want to make a late sub and just expects David to hang in there for ten minutes more.
82 - Corner kick for the Rapids. Nyassi takes it. It's a good one, but it bounces out to Mullan, and he shoots fast and high and wide.
86 - Galaxy and Becks are hanging on.
88 - Becks feeds LD from distance. Pickens makes the save. The ending of this game is picking up speed.
90 - Back and forth for a bit. A late goal is very possible.
93 - Galaxy staying cool, though, managing the game.  And the Rapids are in the Galaxy box again - but it's too late! Final whistle blows. The Galaxy clinch a playoff spot.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Three Games In

It's finally over. This two-game-in-five-day stretch for the US national team has come and gone, and the team now has a full three matches under Jurgen Klinsmann.

How far along has the team come under Klinsmann? What progress has been made?

Despite the less-than-stellar record - the U.S. is 0-2-1 under Klinsmann - progress has been made. New players have come in and done well while old players have been cast aside as the team is being molded in Klinsmann's image, to his liking.

This is a process that probably would have been much better to undertake right after the World Cup but that ship sailed, so Klinsmann is doing what he can now to sort things out.

Some off-the-cusp thoughts...

Gaping Hole: The biggest area of need is at left back. Edgar Castillo and Timothy Chandler played at left back and seem to be the two frontrunners for the position. Is one the answer? Who knows, but there is hope here with both. While the favorite among US supporters is clearly Chandler, Castillo has loads to offer. Castillo is as fit as any player on the squad and can run for days. This is not something to take lightly as Klinsmann's system demands high levels of fitness. Castillo plays in Mexico with one of the biggest clubs in the Western Hemisphere, also something noteworthy. There is pressure every day to succeed with Club America. These may not seem like much but they are factors in Castillo's favor. Also, since he plays in Mexico he is very familiar with not only the Mexican style of play but the style of play the US will see throughout World Cup qualifying.

Chandler has qualities of his own and will surely get more looks in the coming matches. In Castillo and Chandler, Klinsmann has two young players who could help stabilize the position for years to come. Throw Heath Pearce in the mix and the semblance of depth in a spot that has been a gaping hole is suddenly there.

Standouts: Jose Torres and Brek Shea aren't exactly unknowns but neither was a good fit in Bob Bradley's system. Torres was most certainly a square peg in Bradley's round hole and would not have been able to work his way into a starting spot. Shea had one chance to show his worth and who knows if he would have gotten a shot to claim a spot under Bradley. Now, the two are the focal points of the midfield and are players who Klinsmann will likely rely heavily on. This is a good thing.

Torres has great vision and a dangerous foot. Shea has the ability to take over games and is an influential player. The two will have plenty of time to hone their skills but it seems as if they are locks for future rosters.

Forward Movement? Guess there's no real standout forward on the US after all? Juan Agudelo is still quite young and could develop into a star while Jozy Altidore has shown promise with Dutch side AZ Alkmaar. Perhaps by the time World Cup qualifying starts these two will be more honed and will fill the nets with more regularity.

The lack of goals under Klinsmann is alarming, however. Actually, you can go back to the World Cup to realize just how poor the U.S. forwards have been. Now, I still hold firm that if Edson Buddle had played more in South Africa, things would have been different but he didn't and they're not. Nobody has replaced Charlie Davies, who burst onto the scene in 2009. Aside from his brief time as the team's forward stud, though, there hasn't been much to highlight with the unit.

Klinsmann has options though. Aside from Altidore and Agudelo, Klinsmann has Herculez Gomez who is playing well with Estudiantes Tecos and ready to help out the national team once more. Teal Bunbury is another prospect who needs some fine-tuning and perhaps some maturity to become productive. I'd also like to see Bunbury's club teammate, CJ Sapong, get a look with the national team.

Still, the biggest hope remains Altidore who if he continues to do well with AZ should hopefully translate that into success with the U.S.

Vets Still Carrying Load: For all the talk about youngsters and new players, some of the same old faces are still around doing their stuff - Carlos Bocanegra, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo, Tim Howard. These guys will all be older than 30 by late 2012 and who knows at what level they will be in come 2014 but they form the spine of the team both in terms of talent and leadership.

Perhaps having such a strong and talented group of players around gives Klinsmann the freedom to throw in players like Castillo and Torres and Shea to see what they can do.

Results Mean Jack: Don't be fooled by the results. No wins in three games would mean as much as three wins in three games. Of course nobody likes to lose but when it comes down to it, friendlies mean nothing. They really don't. What matters from friendlies is the chance to see players and how they perform at the next level.

Criticizing Klinsmann for lack of results right now is ludicrous. If the U.S. does not get victories come World Cup qualifying, fine, open season then but for now, results mean nothing.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

End of an Era

Grahame Jones has retired from the LA Times and sent a final email to the staff.  

I didn't have the privilege to work with Jones at the paper (the late, great Jim Murray did), but Grahame nevertheless always made me feel like a co-worker and fellow soccer writer the moment I stepped into the pressbox in 2004. He wasn't snobby like many "old media" folks who seemed to feel threatened by writers who worked for websites. Grahame knew well that it was corporate ownership that was killing newspapers. He bemoaned the Tribune ownership of the LA Times frequently, and so often predicted that he would be in the latest round of layoffs that his fellow LA soccer press friends finally stopped worrying that it would ever happen. 
Instead, we just enjoyed his wicked wit, cynical humor and encyclopedic knowledge of the game. I don't personally know of a single person who has attended more World Cup games than Grahame, and he's racked up so many experiences and can tell a number of interesting soccer stories. I really hope he writes a book on them now that he's retiring. 

Nothing was sacred to Grahame except for the sport itself - he'd take shots at over-sensitive and stuffy U.S. Soccer bureaucrats, fawning celebrity reporters who asked Beckham Tom Cruise questions, even blindly loyal fans who couldn't seem to realize the limitations of the teams they cheered for, or of the sport's actual growth versus their own optimistic conceptions. Grahame would also be the first to poke fun at himself, however. Frequently getting too lazy to trim his beard, he'd comment on his resemblance to Chuck Blazer or Father Christmas.

I admitted to Grahame once that I wanted his job as soccer writer at the Times once he retired.

"I wish they'd give you my job." He responded gloomily. "Once I'm gone, the cheap bastards at the Times now will probably never hire another writer to cover just soccer."

That's probably true.

Grahame had a knack for being right about things. I remember standing in the stadium tunnel of the HDC in 2005 after the LA Galaxy had lost their final regular-season match at home to their rivals, the San Jose Earthquakes, thereby falling to the last playoff spot. As the other reporters predicted that LA would flop similarly once the playoffs started, Grahame shook his head.

"No, what's going to happen is that the Galaxy will now win the first game of the playoffs, hold on to their advantage, win the next match away and then win MLS Cup. Landon is talented enough to drag the team through it, just as Ruiz once did. Then this incompetent coach (Grahame wasn't fond of Steve Sampson) will get to stay on for another year and really drag the team down. I'm predicting that's what will happen, right now. It'll be a mess, but they'll win the championship again."

Goodbye, Grahame. Your genius, heart and good humor will be missed. Best to you in your future plans.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Predicting The Unpredictable

On Friday, the US national team will play its first match in Southern California under Jurgen Klinsmann. It wasn't Klinsmann's idea to play this match here of course but it is a great chance for the locals to get familiar with their locally-based national team manager.

Klinsmann, who has long resided in nearby Orange County, will trot out a host of new players as the U.S. plays Costa Rica.

Wait... new players? Has the lineup been announced?

Hardly. I'm just taking a guess here. I know it's fun to try and sort out a lineup, whether you're a sports writer or a die-hard fan. You think you know what the manager should do and dammit, there's no convincing otherwise.

Well, the only thing I'm certain about the lineup we'll see on Friday is that it will be unpredictable. Probably what many think will happen won't. Probably some of the players we expect to see in the lineup won't be.

I've come to expect nothing but the unexpected from Klinsmann. Why? Because he's not like any coach the U.S. has had. It grew easier and easier to fill out Bob Bradley's lineups, and it was similarly the same with Bruce Arena. Sure, Bradley threw us an Adu-esque curve every now and then but any casual fan could guess his lineups and expect 70 percent accuracy, even in friendlies.

Klinsmann... I just don't see him as the guy who will field the same 11 match after match, at least on in friendlies and least of all now, for his second and third game as national team manager. He's going to want/need to see new players and going to want/need to see young players. The veterans he's seen but how will they mesh with each other under this new scheme?

Having said that, Klinsmann could start any player on the roster and make a valid reason why that guy should be starting. I suppose that speaks to how wide-open spots are right now. If Bradley would have started say Jose Torres or Brek Shea in the midfield, you knew they had no chance of playing with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones ahead of them in the pecking order.

There is no pecking order now. Yeah, you have Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and other strong talents on the squad (LD only for Costa Rica, Deuce only for Belgium) so those guys aren't going anywhere, but mostly there are spots up for grabs.

So predict away but just don't be disappointed if... *when* your prediction comes up wrong.

My wrong prediction...

Howard; Castillo, Bocanegra, Orozco Fiscal, Chandler; Rogers, Torres, Shea, Edu, Donovan; Altidore

I hate to use alignments as in this being a 4-5-1 because that's pretty rigid and I see this as fluid. Edu could serve in the holding midfielder role with Rogers and Donovan on the wings and Shea and Torres in the middle but I wouldn't be surprised to see all those given freedom to roam, to the point that where they go wouldn't really resemble whatever formation they came out in.

Anyway, that's what I've got. I like the backline because of the youth and versatility and overall there is a lot of youth. This is progression, folks. The kind of progression we should have seen right after the World Cup.