Tuesday, October 11, 2011

USA 1, Honduras 0; Some Quick Thoughts

The United States got their first win of the Jurgen Klinsmann era Saturday night at SunLife Stadium in Miami.  A Clint Dempsey bit of magic in the first half was enough to see the US through, in a match that should've finished at least 2-0 (were we not playing in the CONCACAF confederation where the refs are several sandwiches short of a picnic) and easily could've been 4-0 had Brek Shea and Oguchi Onyewu not flubbed chances with the goal mouth beckoning.  All that aside, one thing is clear: the US is making clear progress under Klinsmann's system.  Now, assuming that against Ecuador we get to see players who deserve to be on the field (aka not Kyle Beckerman or Michael Orozco-Fiscal), then the US faces an Ecuador side who is easily beatable.  They've just had to travel some 3,000 miles from their last match, a 2-0 win against Venezuela in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying. 

But lets talk quickly about what we saw on Saturday night, having watched the match twice now, I'll give some quick player ratings and later today we'll preview the Ecuador match.

Tim Howard (9)- Howard got back to his old self in this one.  His stop early on Bengston was world class.  An always calming presence in the back.

Steve Cherundolo (6)- A sturdy night from the savvy veteran.  Didn't get forward as often as US fans may be used to.  Had some great set piece delivery as well.

Michael Orozco-Fiscal (3.5)- He continues to underwhelm at the international level.  Have to think that all the faith that Klinsmann has in him is withering away with each poor performance.

Carlos Bocanegra (5)- An unsteady performance from Captain America.  Was that because he was paired with a dismal partner for 45 minutes? Maybe, but he had some poor turnovers in the second half that led to chances for Honduras.

Timothy Chandler (6.5)- Pretty well cemented the left back spot until Steve Cherundolo retires/Eric Lichaj returns from injury.  He combined well with Brek Shea and that relationship led to numerous chances created for the US.

Kyle Beckerman (4)-His stats are particularly woeful: 6 tackles, winning possession back on 2 of them, lost possession on 4 of them, conceding 3 fouls in the process.  Was tackled himself 4 times, losing possession each time.  That says everything I need to know. 

Maurice Edu (6)- Strong play from Edu for most of the night.  Tough in the tackle and decent in his distribution. Deserves another start vs. Ecuador.

Daniel Williams (6.5)- For his first ever camp, to earn his first ever start, that says a whole lot about him, and he rewarded Klinsmann's trust with a strong performance.  Perhaps should've scored on at least one occasion.

Clint Dempsey (8)- Would've been a 9 if not for some poor turnovers that led to chances for Honduras in the first half, but past those, Dempsey had a magical night in the #10 jersey.  I think we've finally found his proper spot.  

Brek Shea (6.5)- Was all over the field, invading down the left but his assist came from the right side.  He has semi-arrived on the international level, lets all remember that was a Honduras B team last night. Let's see what he offers against a full strength Ecuador side.

Jozy Altidore (7)- Jozy is oozing confidence right now and it's just great to see, he's still just 21 and fans are so quick to forget that sort of thing. 


Oguchi Onyewu (6.5)- Instant upgrade over Orozco-Fiscal.  If he doesn't get the start tonight against Ecuador, it will be shocking.

Michael Bradley (6.5)- Completed every single pass once he entered, he deserves the start against Ecuador.

DaMarcus Beasley (6)- Showed the speed on the flank that we all so desperately missed.  I think he has a place in this squad if he continues to do well in Mexico.

Jonathan Spector (6)- Spector is the John O'Shea if the USMNT.  Played well enough in his 20 minutes, and showed that when he's given the time, he can serve a deadly cross.  Was robbed of an assist.  

Juan Agudelo (5.5)- Only on the pitch for 10 minutes, but he was effective running at the backline and in hold up play. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Klinsmann Names 22 man roster for Honduras and Ecuador Friendly

Jurgen Klinsmann named his latest roster for the upcoming international break.  For anyone who hasn't seen, here it is:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bill Hamid (D.C.United), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (7): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim)
FORWARDS (5): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)

Here goes:

Starting at keeper, am I the only person worried about the sudden lack of depth here??? Tim Howard won’t be around forever and Brad Guzan desperately needs a transfer away from Aston Villa. Rimando is far too small to really be a top keeper on the international level. Hamid looks a fantastic prospect, but he still hasn’t even played an international match at any level, and that’s as green as it gets.

So happy to see Gooch back in the fold. All he has done since battering in the door on Sportings starting line-up is win five consecutive games, and his headed goal was a display of physical authority. Bocanegra is self-explantory. Tim Ream and Michael Orozco Fiscal are obvious head-scratchers, they’ve both been massively underwhelming at the club level this season, despite consistent playing time. I’m not sure what Omar Gonzalez, George John, Geoff Cameron, Michael Parkhurst or AJ Soares have to do to earn callups. When Zak Whitbread returns from injury he deserves a look as well imo.

At outside back, Chandler looks set to be the left back for the next several friendlies, until the return from injury of Fabian Johnson/Eric Lichaj or until Edgar Castillo proves more at the club level. Cherundolo will likely retire from international play during this cycle (along with Bocanegra I might add) so we’re suddenly a bit skinny along the back line. Spector is the John O’Shea of the USMNT.

This midfield has two players who have no hope of making the 2014 World Cup. Why call in Beckerman and Larentowicz? Both are fine MLS caliber players, but lets be honest, if either make the WC2014 roster, something has gone horribly wrong. I could understand these callups if these games meant something as you want you’re best possible and mostly known quantities for competitive matches, but for friendlies, there is a need for experimentation. Why no Bedoya, Diskerud, or Feilhaber, who stand a shot at making the squad for the WC? Really excited to see Daniel Williams and what he can bring to the team. Let me add that if someone could please go to Jonny Evans’ house in Manchester and shoot him in the knee caps with a 12-gauge, I’d appreciate it. I was so looking forward to a Bradley-Holden midfield combo and now it wont be until next summer until we can potentially see it.

As far as the “forwards” go, Im ok with these selections. Glad to see Beasley back in the mix, he’s doing himself well in the Primera. Arguments could be made for Edson Buddle, Hurculez Gomez, Charlie Davies and even (dare I say) Robbie Findley. But I think this is the right group for the time being. Jozy is a one man Europa League nightmare.
OK done

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ninety Plus' 23 for World Cup Qualifying

Haven't had one of these features for several months, but with World Cup Qualifying right around the corner (only some nine months off), it's becoming close to time that Klinsmann get a solid core of players to build around.  This will be a simple post where I'll just drop the 23 players I would call on if World Cup Qualifying started tomorrow.  This group bars all injuries and has no regard for club playing time.  Here we go.

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard (Everton FC), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa FC), Bill Hamid (DC United)

Defenders: Timothy Chandler (FC Nurnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Zak Whitbread (Norwich City), Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa FC)

Midfielders: Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Bradley (Chievo), Jermaine Jones (FC Schalke), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca), Alejandro Bedoya (Rangers), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

Forwards: Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls)

So there you have it, what does everyone think?

US International Break Review - One Day at a Time

Jurgen Klinsmann is forty days in to his reign as manager of the United States men's national team.  Thus far it looks an underwhelming start, with a 0-2-1 record through the first three matches.  Through the 270 minutes, the U.S. has had moments of sheer dominance.  Think the second half against Mexico, and the first thirty minutes of Costa Rica.  The U.S. held possession well and created opportunities and when they lost the ball they recovered it quickly.  Even the first thirty minutes against Belgium saw the United States applying the more pressure than their European counterparts.

Holding possession is something the United States is not used to, so implementing this style will take more than three games, or even five games.  Especially when you consider that Klinsmann has been sans a full and fit US roster and will likely be without one for the foreseeable future.  With potential left-back savior Eric Lichaj ruled out until at least the March 2012 friendlies, the left back spot is one which it seems will never be claimed for longer than a few months at a time.  Edgar Castillo was given a two-match run out, and while he wasn't downright awful, it's pretty clear that he's not the answer for the Yanks on the left flank.  Timothy Chandler was given a chance to show his worth on the left side vs. Belgium and acquitted himself fairly enough.  But it's clear that Chandler is the heir apparent to Steve Cherundolo on the right hand side.  Lichaj looked to have locked down that left back spot during his run in the 2011 Gold Cup, until his recent injury. 

However, getting back to the whole possession aspect of the new U.S. team, I refuse to pass judgement on Jurgen Klinsmann until we get to see the full U.S. team in an extended camp.  Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan have yet to be in the same camp together under Klinsmann and players like Lichaj, Stuart Holden, Mikkel Diskerud, Joshua Gatt, Alejandro Bedoya, and Zak Whitbread have yet to get a look at all under Klinsmann for various reasons.  Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones both have only had one look under Klinsmann and that was a couple days of training before the Mexico match. 

My point is, we're in a period where results don't matter.  What we need to be judging here are the players and how they fit in to this attack minded style that Klinsmann is attempting to implement.  When can we begin to clamor for results you ask?  I would even go so far to say as that the upcoming October friendlies vs. Honduras and Ecuador don't really matter in the grand scheme of things.  Do you want to get positive results?  Of course you do.  However, what you want to start seeing most is when in possession that the U.S. be a dangerous and positive side with many chances created.  This was the rant of former U.S. international Taylor Twellman following the Belgium match.  Chance creation.  To create chances but not finish them is one thing, but to hold possession but create no chances is completely another.  It's of utmost importance that the U.S. start creating more chances, to prove to the fans that strides are being made. 

Do that, and the U.S. has an exciting 2012 to look forward to, do it not and it won't be long until fans start calling for Klinsmann's head, along with that of Sunil Gulati's. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

US vs. Costa Rica Preview

Tomorrow night the United States takes on CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica in Carson, California at the Home Depot Center in the first of an international friendly double-header for the United States.  Jurgen Klinsmann welcomed 22 players to the training ground this week however only 20 of those players will be available for selection for the first match vs. Costa Rica.  Clint Dempsey, Kyle Beckerman, and Steve Cherundolo will only be available for the Belgium game on Tuesday and newcomer Fabian Johnson isn't available as he has filed his one-time FIFA switch. 

Since I haven't posted it yet, here is the Costa Rica team set to take on the United States:

Costa Rica Roster by Position
GOALKEEPERS (3): Keylor Navas (Levante), Leonel Moreira (Herediano), Danny Carvajal (A.D. San Carlos).

DEFENDERS (8):Christopher Meneses (Alajuelense), Carlos Johnson (Cartaginés), José Salvatierra (Alajuelense), Michael Umaña (Chivas USA), José Mena (Saprissa), Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls), Roy Smith (Orión FC), Johnny Acosta (Alajuelense).

MIDFIELDERS (8): Randall Azofeifa (Genclerbirligui), Michael Barrantes (Aalesund), Allen Guevara (Alajuelense), Kareem Mclean (Limón FC), David Guzmán (Saprissa), Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers), Cristian Bolaños (FC Copenhagen), Álvaro Sánchez (A.D. San Carlos).

FORWARDS (5): Daniel Colíndres (Santos de Guápiles), Randall Brenes (Cartaginés), Josué Martínez (Saprissa), Álvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake), Winston Parks (FK Baki).

Clearly, this isn't Costa Rica's first choice team.  The side included veterans like Alvaro Saborio and Michael Umana, but missing are GK Esteban Alvarado (AZ Alkmaar), DF Bryan Oviedo (FC Copenhagen), Junior Diaz (Wisla Krakow), DF Gilberto Martinez (Sampdoria), DF Christian Gamboa (FC Copenhagen), MD Christian Bolanos (FC Copenhagan), FW Bryan Ruiz (Fulham FC), Marco Urena (Kuban Krasnodar), and Joel Campbell (Arsenal FC).  As you can see, lots of talent left out for the Ticos.  Tons of youth called in for Jorge Luis Pinto, who will look to build on their quarterfinal appearance in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. 

As for the United States, here is how I see Klinsmann lining up:

First lets discuss the midfield.  This formation gives Maurice Edu and Jonathan Spector proper shots in the holding midfield roles with the absence of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.  The United States has had depth in central midfield for years but with Bradley on the move to Serie A with Chievo Verona and Jones unable to find consistent pitch time for Schalke, Edu, who is cemented as a starter for Rangers and Spector, who has found a starting job in Birmingham City's midfield following his summer transfer there, are set for their chance to impress Klinsmann.  Ahead of them will be Jose Torres who wasn't deployed in a position to succeed against Mexico to start the game, but after halftime when he was shifted to the middle from the left flank was really able to link up from the midfielders to the wingers and forward.  Torres gets his chance in the play-maker role for me.  Your wingers/attacking midfielders are Landon Donovan and Sacha Kljestan.  Donovan is spearheading MLS leading LA Galaxy through both the domestic league and the CONCACAF Champions League.  No hard decision to start Donovan in front of his hometown fans.  Sacha Kljestan has nailed down a starting role in the attacking third for Belgian powerhouse Anderlecht, who this season find themselves in the Europa League.  Kljestan is in a good run of form and deserves the start based on that.  I'm ordinarily a Kljestan knocker, however for my money, I'm willing to give him a chance in the same stadium where he scored a hat trick for the US back in January 2008 vs. Sweden. 

The back-line is pretty straight forward.  Timothy Chandler is your right-back starter, has to be, no excuses.  Clarence Goodson and Carlos Bocanegra renew their acquaintances in the center of the back after a pretty successful run during the Gold Cup this past June.  Edgar Castillo gets a second consecutive run-out on the left hand side, where this time I expect we'll actually get to see him bomb forward up the pitch against a lesser opponent, all the while not having to worry about covering Pablo Barrera.  Chandler and Castillo will be expected to provide the width for the US attack.  They both have pace for days and crossing ability to match. 

Up top is the reborn Jozy Altidore.  Jozy has scored five goals in five games played for AZ Alkmaar so far.  All this following his two goals in three and a half games played in the Gold Cup.  Jozy is in form right now, and the best part is watching how he is scoring.  He's making intelligent, timely runs.  He's playing with confidence and I expect that to transfer to the Costa Rica match in particular against what will likely be a relatively inexperienced back-line.

There you have it, now it's time to simply play the waiting game until tomorrow nights match, which is set for 8pm Pacific time and you can watch on ESPN2, ESPN3.com, or Galavision.  COME ON YOU YANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!