No need to panic about Gooch

AC Milan Onyewu SoccerGooch did not make the subs bench in Milan’s Champions League debut against Marseille. He has yet to make an appearance yet for Milan and he did not dress for their last Serie A game against Livorno. There is reason to be concerned, but no reason to panic. And there is certainly no reason to blame Gooch as Jason Davis at Match Fit argues.

Why not panic?

First, Milan is going to play a lot of games. With league, champions league, and domestic cup competitions he will get his time to prove himself. The other defenders are almost all in their 30s (with the exception of Silva) and as the season wears on injuries are almost a certainty along that backline with Nesta 34, Kahka Kaladze 31, and a series of other players in their 30s, Gooch should by seasons end received plenty of playing time.
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Champions League a big test for FSC

fscAmerican television coverage of top level European club soccer has transformed over the summer. ESPN has entered the market with English Premier League and Spanish La Liga games broadcast live in HD – a huge shift that has major implications for the growth of the sport in America.

Another significant change has been Fox Soccer Channel taking over broadcast of the Champion’s League from ESPN. Now, in stead of the one game per day available on ESPN, soccer fans will get one live and up to three additional day-of matches and most of the games shown over the course of the week. That is just a massive amount of soccer coverage and should be a boon for the game.

While this is a tremendous opportunity for FSC, it is also a big test of the network’s ability to produce high-quality programming to match the play on the field. ESPN has easily developed a studio show around its games that puts the rather poor Fox Soccer Match Day broadcast to shame. ESPN’s quality isn’t surprising—after all, it produces about a million hours of SportsCenter everyday, if it couldn’t do a good studio show it would be a surprise. But it is a reminder that FSC needs to up its game. Continue reading

Thoughts on Spurs vs. Man U

palacios scholes
The game has been reported as Spurs gaining a lesson in championship class. Perhaps, but Man U fans should still have reason to be nervous. Overall I thought there was little difference in quality between the two teams, but Man U simply played a little better and converted their chances. Spurs looked a little lost at times having had little time to figure out how to replace their best player – Modric – with 9 of their 11 starters off on international duty. Despite not looking all that in sync Spurs in the second half hit the crossbar and forced Foster to make a magnificent save.
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Breaking down Liverpool v Burnley

In the Yossi-Benayoun-0014-0 dismantling of a plucky Burnley side that has already beaten Man U and Everton, Liverpool displayed exactly the kind of tactical flexibility that was so sorely lacking last year when dropped too many points against inferior sides. Much commentary about Liverpool’s title chances focused on their seven home draws—two against newly promoted sides like Burnley—four points that cost Liverpool the title.

It is understandable why most of the plaudits will go to Yossi Benayoun for his richly deserved hat-trick. But little attention is being paid to why Liverpool accomplished so easily what eluded them last year. Two key differences from last season’s approach point the way and give hope to Liverpool fans that this might yet still be the year. First, both full backs consistently got forward into the attack, adding more offensive weapons and creating space for Benayoun et al. Second, and even more significant, moving Steven Gerrard into the Xabi Alonso role brought an attacking dimension to Liverpool’s standard 4-2-3-1. Continue reading

Deconstructing the Bob Bradley Hate (part 1)


This is part one of a two part series. Part 2 on Why Bob Deserves Praise will follow shortly

It seems the only way to be a committed follower of the USMNT online is to hate on Bob Bradley. It’s understandable. The disappointment was palpable when The USSF settled on Bradley after Klinsmann turned us down. U.S. fans thought they were about to date the hot foreign exchange student in school and ended up with the girl next door. I get it. I have plenty of tactical quibbles with Bradley. But this happens with every manager in every sport, no matter how good they are. Managers should be criticized, but the incessant calling for Bradley’s head is not reflective of any deep knowledge or understanding of the game – but of a general child-like impatience and fantasy-manager mindset that believes there are quick fixes to making the U.S. a great world power. There aren’t.

In general, US fans have not given the guy enough credit for managing the team and turning this World Cup cycle from one that once clearly seemed about rebuilding, to one about competing. Here are five arguments why hating Bob Bradley is wrong.
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Premiership Preview (Part V)

premier-league-trophyWe’re finally here, the last of my Premiership Preview columns. Previously, I have examined Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, and Everton and Villa. Today, we predict the progress of two clubs that really could break into the top four. Will either Spurs or Man City knock one or two of the Big Four off their perch? Or will they fall back into the pack just like many of the other pretenders before them. You’ll just have to read it and find out.


2008-09 Finish: 8th

Major Transactions: Ins: Peter Crouch and Nico Kranjcar (Portsmouth), Sebastien Bassong (Newcastle); Outs: Darren Bent (Sunderland), Didier Zokora (Sevilla), Pascal Chimbonda (Blackburn), Jamie O’Hara (Portsmouth – loan)

Manager Harry Redknapp rescued Tottenham from what looked like a coming relegation battle after taking only two points from their first eight games last season and were stuck four points adrift at the foot of the table. The turnaround under Redknapp was remarkable, moving all the way up the table to just miss out on a Europa Cup place. But to be realistic, Tottenham were a much better side than their early season form. They suffered from poor management and a disastrous transfer policy that sold their two best strikers and tried to squeeze an extra few million pounds out of Manchester United for Dimitar Berbatov without leaving sufficient time to find a quality replacement.

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US v T&T: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

clark_T&T_200The United States eeked out a win on the road in World Cup qualifying, vaulted to the top of our qualifying group, and because other results went our way, we stand on the verge of qualifying for South Africa. For all the good to come of the result, however, the actually playing of the game was cause for serious concern as US coach Bob Bradley prepares for the last two qualifying games and the road to South Africa. The old adage of world football is that it’s a hallmark of a great team to play poorly and still get a critical win. We got the goal we needed—and it was a great goal after our best move of the game—but we were extremely fortunate to still be level and should count ourselves lucky that we were playing the group’s bottom team.

The Good

Goalkeeper Tim Howard was excellent. He made a fantastic save on a first-half free kick and commanded the penalty area with confidence and consistency. If he doesn’t make that save from Trent Noel’s shot over the wall, the US may have gone down to defeat. He made another crucial save on a Kenwyne Jones header from close range that looked easy but only because his positional play was spot on. Without Howard’s impressive performance, the US would have been sunk.

Ricardo Clark’s winner was a stunning strike that came after the US’s best move of the game to that point. Clark’s first touch was perfect and his swerving shot was unstoppable. The US had picked up their play in the second half, but still didn’t really look like scoring until Clark lit up the night. It was no accident that the goal came from a patient move that strung a dozen passes together to create the space first for Donovan on the left and then for Clark to blast home. Continue reading

Quote of the Day: Maradona


“We’ve qualified via play-offs in the past and nobody died” – Diego Maradona. We shall see

US wins ugly

ricardo clark
Well that performance epitomized winning ugly. The difference between good teams and mediocre teams, is that good teams have the quality to put the ball in the net even when they are playing badly. The U.S. has quality players on the field, and quality players in a 90 minute game can do quality things. And Ricardo Clark took his chance with a fantastic strike. In general, a big athletic team like Trinidad was bound to give us more trouble and be more dangerous then many anticipated. That said the performance was really poor. Most worrying was the team’s total lack of urgency.

First the few bright spots:
1. Howard – I think he was the man of the match for the U.S. Nothing all that spectacular but was sure handed.

2. Feilhaber – Perhaps it was more the goal right before he came on, but the game changed with him on the field. He worked hard defensively and possessed and distributed the ball well. We looked much more in control with him in the game.

3. Altidore, Davies, Donovan –
I thought they all looked very dangerous when they got the ball. The problem was they didn’t get much of the ball. The guys over at MLS talk thought Davies had a poor game – sure some of the decisions could have been better, but he was still lively. A quick thought on Donovan – I think the big disadvantage of him in MLS is that he never became that natural Michael Owen-esque finisher that he probably would have become had played in Europe, since in Europe he would have played as a striker not all over the pitch. He had a couple great chances that he didn’t put away.

4. Clark’s strike –
Clark had a poor first half like most others, but his strike was cooly done and showed that he has class. In Copa America Clark also showed his ability to hit the ball (unfortunately that one didn’t find the back of the net). After the goal, Bradley was right to keep him in, as he helped close out the game.

The stains:

1. Dempsey – Talk about dogging it. His performance will be scrutinized in another post. But lets just say it was the worst, most infuriating performance I have ever seen from him and was a big reason for the overall dreadful first half performance from the team. No work rate and wasteful in possession. Only looked interested when he was in the box.

2. The central midfield –
Bradley rivaled Dempsey for the worst first half performance. His touch was truly awful and was anonymous for long segments. He played better in the second half and had a few could interchanges, but he really is not looking good right now. Clark was also wasteful in possession.

3. Bocanegra. In the first half he reminded me why he used to make me so nervous. He was turned on the throw in and could have been called for a penalty after first letting the ball bounce in the box and then wiffing on the clearance.

4. Effort and intensity.
The lack of defensive effort, the failure of wide players to trackback, and to close down Trinidad in the midfield allowed them to pour crosses in to Jones at will. There was no intensity from the U.S., which is shocking considering a win was absolutely vital. Bob Bradley deserves some fault for not lighting a fire under them and I thought he should have made a change at half time by taking off Dempsey, Bradley, or Clark. But in the end he was right to close out the game the way he did after the goal.

Worst tactical mistake came from Trinidad. Putting Carlos Edwards on the left – instead of his usual right – to go at Spector instead of Bornstein was boneheaded. Spector is an EPL player – maybe the coach saw Aaron Lennon torch him a few times, but Edwards is no Lennon. Bornstein had a decent game, but he was also given a reprieve by the Trinidad coach.

What I’ll be watching for against T&T

The US doesn’t have to win tonight against T&T to qualify, but a loss or a tie sure would make the last two games a lot more difficult than necessary. But beyond the result, this game will be a great test for the US team as it builds towards South Africa 2010. What will I be watching for outside of the result?

1. Confidence

This is a game the United States should win. T&T are no pushovers at home, beating El Salvador 1-0 and tying Honduras 1-1. Even so, if the United States is going to take the next step contend at major tournaments, they have to win games like this, and more importantly, they have to play like they know they can win from the start. This team has shown that it has the psychological strength to come back from going down even on the road. But what it has yet to demonstrate is that it can take the game by the scruff of the neck and just dominate the play for 90 minutes. The US should get on top and stay on top.

2.    Possession

International football is a game of possession, possession, possession. That’s why I rate the play of passing midfielders like Benny Feilhaber more highly than others and worry about Clint Dempsey’s sloppiness. I would like to see Feilhaber get a good run in the team but recognize that he’s not going to replace Bradley and agree that those two do get caught ahead of the play too often for comfort. If Feilhaber doesn’t play, then it place more of a burden on Donovan to get a lot of the ball and other US attacking players not to waste possession cheaply. Its hard to control the game if you keep turning the ball over and that’s what I want to see the US eliminate from its game: cheap turnovers.

3.   Defensive Composure

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