Saturday, June 27, 2009
Getting there is another story however, as standing in their way are the same team that clocked the US 3-0, the defending champions, the undisputed kings of football historically having won five World Cups, Brazil. This team however does have weaknesses, as South Africa showed during the other semi-final match, which took a brilliant Daniel Alves free kick late in regulation to see them through. Skill won't win this game, pretty play won't win this game...the desire to win must come from the heart. The courage to stand up to a technically and tactically superior opponent. The will to battle on when things go wrong. This team has shown it can compete with and beat the best teams in the world when they stick together and stick to their tasks. I don't expect much line-up swaping from the last game with ofcourse the one exception due to Bradley's ridiculous red card (that "foul" isnt even a foul in the Bundesliga). But here are my starting 11 against Brazil:
This line-up gives the US the speed and power to attack Brazil on the counter, where like Spain, the outside backs love to get forward, leaving the flanks open to penetrating runs from Donovan, Dempsey, and Davies. Feilhaber's ability to see the whole field and his immaculate touch will be able to split the defense wide open and allow the US to attack the goal this time. With those four guys able to run off of Altidore, who is making a name for himself in this tournament, and Clark able to clean up any mistakes, the back four should be in for an easier day than what we saw against Brazil last week. Gameplan should be the same as it was against Spain, tight and organized in the middle of the field, and shut down the flanks quickly. Physical play can throw the Brazilians off of their usual scheme of "dancing with the ball and passing it into the net". Onyewu and DeMerit need to assert themselves early on Luis Fabiano and Robinho, and Clark and Feilhaber need to attempt to limit Kaka's touches on the ball. Do that and the US can win.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
In a record haul of players in the summer transfer window, Real Madrid have signed arguably two of the the best players in the world right now...ok so they are the best, with Messi right there with them. Portuguese talisman Christiano Ronaldo and Brazilian wonder boy Kaka have signed in two straight record setting deals with Real Madrid. Kaka signed a 6-year, 65 million Euro deal and a couple weeks later, Ronaldo agreed to a 94 million Euro deal. But the haul isn't over yet. From Valencia comes a 15 million Euro signing in Spanish international defender Raul Albiol. Other potential signings are Franck Ribery from Bayern Munich, David Villa from Valencia, Karim Benzema from Lyon, Sergio Aguero from Atletico Madrid. Out the door is Fabio Cannavaro on a free to Juventus, and supposedly all the Dutch stars on Real Madrid's roster are for sale, including Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder, Klass Jan Huntelaar, Rafael Van der Vaart, and Royston Drenthe.
Another team making a haul in this window are Manchester City, this is a carry over from the last one in which they signed Robinho, Vincent Kompany, Shuan Wright-Phillips, Craig Bellamy, Shay Given, and Nigel de Jong. So far in this window, they have signed Paraguay international Roque Santa Cruz for 17.5 million pounds from Blackburn, and paid 12 million pounds for England international Gareth Barry from Aston Villa. The club are reportedly in the lead for Carlos Tevez's signature from Manchester United, and Samuel Eto'o from Barcalona.
Check back later for updates on the continuing drama of the transfer window.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tim Howard (9)- Simply put, he didn't do anything wrong all night. Rivals the Argentina game in terms of sheer brilliance.
Jonathan Spector (7)- Best game of the tournament for Spector, was active defensively and fought bravely all 94 minutes. Cherundolo will be hard pressed to win back this spot.
Jay DeMerit (9)- He and Onyewu have formed this impentreble wall througout the tournament, and I just may believe that this back four is one for the present and future.
Oguchi Onyewu (9)- Master of the sky's and dominant on the ground as well, he also had his best performance of the tournament. Shutting down Torres and Villa for 90+ is no simple task by any means.
Carlos Bocanegra (6.5)- Got beat a couple times, but after the first 20 minutes he settled in and aided in frustrating the machine that WAS Spains attack.
Clint Dempsey (7.5)- Clint's best game of the tournament, he was physical, determined, and dangerous from the opening stanza. The goal came through sheer determination and really put the US in a commanding position.
Michael Bradley (7)- He loses points for the harsh red card, but Bradley Jr. was a monster in the middle of the park all game, he and Clark should start from here on out. Against Xavi, he stripped the ball several times helped contain Torres and Villa.
Ricardo Clark (8)- Clark's best performance of the tournament. Easily has won the starting role next to Bradley and will be hard pressed to relinquish it. He flew around the pitch making tackle after tackle and never looked out of place.
Landon Donovan (8)- Donovan is finally showing up for the big games, he led the counterattacks effectively and his passing was great. Really stepped up his game tonight, very impressive tournament.
Jozy Altidore (7)- Still needs to work on his touch, but he was much improved tonight and his goal was a demonstration in sheer physical strength. Gave Puyol and Pique fits all game.
Charlie Davies (7)- Again, nothing but hustle, grit, heart, and determination. Had the great link-up play with Dempsey prior to Altidore's goal.
Benny Feilhaber (7.5)- Super-sub galore! Bennys run through the Spain defense led to Dempsey's goal. Even after that, he was back defending.
Conor Casey- (6)- Brought on to provide possesion and pressure, and he did an ok job.
The US is in the finals of a major international competetion for the first time ever (other than the Gold Cup), and in stunning fashion by outscoring Egypt (who scored three on Brazil, and beat Italy) and Spain 5-0. The US will play in the final on June 28, probably vs Brazil. We all know how that went last time, but look, this is an entirely different US side and will surely want to show Brazil how they can really play.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
As the United States prepares for its stiffest test yet in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, the performance against Egypt will certainly have to carry in to tomorrow's match. The Spanish side are currently on a 15 game winning streak, and haven't lost in 36 straight matches, both records. US fans will remember last summer when the USA played Spain to a tight 1-0 defeat in Santander. That game, which was a friendly, did not feature Spain's full compliment of players (Villa did not play and Torres was nursing a sprained ankle and only played the first half). Only Xavi's knifing run through the US defense earned Spain the win, after the US defense had tired. In this tournament, Spain has out-scored its opponents 8-0, though it must be said that they were put in to a less than impressive group, but never-the-less the US cannot afford to relax in this one. Spain's first choice group is a lesson in international superstars at every position. Here is a likely starting 11 for Spain:
There is little doubt that Spain will control much of the possession, as that's just their game. Pass the life outta the ball does Spain, often to a point of sheer boredom, but then at that moment when a defense becomes lax, Spain attacks space, and guys like Xavi, Fabregas, and Silva can play through balls with the best of them, and Torres and Villa are arguably the best starting striker combination in the world and will finish with authority.
So what can the US do to stop this deadly attack? Well its quite easy to say honestly...stay disciplined. Cutting off Spain's passing lanes is the key to disrupting their attack. If the centerbacks (Onyewu and Bocanegra if fit, or DeMerit) can stay physical on Torres and Villa, then the US may just be in with a shot. I don't see much reason to change much as far as the US line-up is concerned. Here are my starting 11:
If Bocanegra passes his fitness test, he should get the start in front of DeMerit, who is having a solid tournament, but it was Bocanegra and Onyewu who helped the US to such a strong performance last summer. Davies gets the nod again because of the speed, energy and hustle he can bring. Altidore, who didn't play in last years match up, gets the nod at the target forward slot with Davies, Donovan (who didn't play either last year), and Dempsey running off of him. Donovan proved to be very dangerous running at the Egyptian back line, and could easily do it again, because Spain are vulnerable on the counter-attack because Ramos and Capdevila love going forward, leaving the flanks vulnerable. If Donovan and Dempsey can provide good service and Spector and Bornstein can close down space on the wings better, the US is definitely in with a chance tomorrow. If we play with heart, like we did against Egypt, anything is possible.
Gold Cup rosters from all countries are in, of course these include more than 23 players and will be whittled down:
Great feature from ussoccer.com, on the Egypt match:
Monday, June 22, 2009
With a busy week ahead (2 more USMNT matches, also launching my MLS coverage, and official unveiling set for July 1), here are some tidbits to get you back on your feet after a long day at work.
ESPN snaps up EPL and La Liga TV Rights
ESPN has signed for the rights to show some 46 games in the EPL and some 20 in La Liga, sure not much, but better than having to pay extra to watch the games on FSC, GOLTV, or Setanta.
Getting on to later tonight, look for a USA-Spain preview.
I see this as a good, smart move for Onyewu, who probably wasn't guaranteed playing time in England where newly promoted teams such as Wolverhampton and Birmingham City were in the mix, as was this years surprise EPL team, Fulham. Also probably wasn't guaranteed PT with any of the French outfits looking at him (Marsielle, Lyon, and PSG all were rumored). At Fenerbahce Onyewu can immediately step in to a starting role in a largely underestimated league in my opinion. He will be playing with the likes of Dani Guiza, Roberto Carlos, and several stars from Turkeys run in Euro 2008. They finished a disappointing fourth this year, which qualified them for the Europa League, but this team has aspirations of much better.
The fans in Turkey are also some of the most vivacious in the world, and the Fenerbahce-Galatasaray derby is certainly sure to please.
UPDATE: Gooch's agent was quick to denounce the headlines, saying that while talks are being held, nothing is set in stone at the moment. Look for more later.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
In the meantime here's a run down of how the US qualified for the semi-finals:
USA Goal - Charlie Davies - 21st minute: Scramble in the box goes in.
Brazil Goal - Luis Fabiano - 37th minute: Fabiano beats the trap on a through ball from Maicon.
Brazil Goal - Fabiano - 43rd minute: Goal on the counter attack.
Brazil Goal - Italy own goal - 45th minute: Robinho plays in a low cross and Dossena puts it in his own net.
USA Goal - Michael Bradley - 63rd minute: Great counter attack and Donovan with the assist.
USA Goal - Clint Dempsey - 71st minute: Spector whips in a cross and Dempsey, who was just moved to forward, heads it in.
Here are my player ratings for the game:
Brad Guzan (7): Didn't have anything too difficult to deal with, except for a lot of crosses, which he handled well. Gave me a bit of a scare when he came out on a couple occasions and didn't fully clear the ball, but nothing happened, so congrats on the shut-out.
Jonathan Spector (7): The West Ham man continues his impressive run with the full team in Cherundolo's absence. Got forward often and delivered the inch perfect cross onto the head of Dempsey. His defending was stout, though I'd like to see less crosses coming in.
Jay DeMerit (8): Solid, just incredible performance from him today. Dominant in the air, read the game well, and came in with solid tackles to clear danger. Definitely pushing for more playing time in the coming Gold Cup and WCQ's.
Oguchi Onyewu (8): The beast that is Onyewu continues to bolster his chances for a big team to come and pick him up on a free. Absolutely controlled the air and showed quick feet again to stop attacks from developing.
Jonathan Bornstein (6.5): A steady performance from Bornstein today, but was caught out of position a couple times and allowed to many crosses to come in, needs to close down space a little quicker. He wasn't punished for it, so ill let off.
Clint Dempsey (6.5): A marketed improvement from Clint today, was good in possession and attacking down the middle and on the flanks. Still a couple times when he gave the ball away very cheaply in his own end, and teams like Italy and Brazil will capitalize, luckily it seemed Egypt were just off their game tonight. Great positioning and contact on the ball for the goal, gave the keeper no chance.
Michael Bradley (7.5): Showed a side of himself today that needs to be seen every game. He and Ricardo Clark controlled the midfield and worked extremely well with each other. He made dangerous runs in the attacking third and made crunching tackles in the defending third. He is developing into the box-to-box midfielder that the US needs so badly. Oh, and the goal wasn't bad either. Happy Father's Day Bob!!
Ricardo Clark (7.5): Rico controlled midfield and played that holding central midfield role ever so well. His heart truly showed in the performance, and even got dangerous in the attack on occasion. Solidified his spot next to Bradley for the time being.
Landon Donovan (8): Landon has been the shining star for the US attack all tournament long and showed just why he is so dangerous with his weaving runs and speed causing the Egyptian defense problems all game long. His opportunity in the first half should have been a shot instead of a pass, but made up for it with his 37th international assist to Bradley.
Charlie Davies (8): Man I love the way this guy plays. He has this knack for finding an opportunity and capitalizing on them. His scrappy play on the first goal was just the breakthrough that the US needed, showed the heart and determination that was sorely lacking from the US in the Brazil game.
Jozy Altidore (7): Made himself big all night and his touch was finally on and was giving the Egypt central defenders nightmares. He held the ball up well and distributed accordingly. It was his teasing ball to the near post that allowed Davies to scrap it home.
Benny Feilhaber (8): Love the heart showed by Benny, he really gave us a different part of his game tonight as he was in making crunching tackles on the wing and showed his natural control and touch on the ball.
Conor Casey (6): Gave a lot better work defensively tonight than compared to last game for the final 10 minutes or so, but also showed why he's a late game sub and not starting.
Again, an incredible series of events that lead to the USA now advancing to take on Spain on Wednesday at 2:25 PM EST on ESPN. You remember earlier in the week when a certain American netted twice after snubbing his homeland? The universe has a way of setting itself straight Mr. Rossi. You were warned, and now look at what has transpired, the US finish ahead of Italy in a major international tournament, and you aren't apart of it. Congrats on your now meaningless brace.
Spain preview later this week folks, for now, just enjoy the rest of the day. Cheers!!