Landon Linked With Everton

It is being widely reported in the British press – everywhere from the Guardian and Telegraph to tabloids like the Sun – that Everton’s David Moises is keen on signing Landon Donovan on loan in January. The story – while being reported by the British pressmakes sense. Everton is desperate to bring in players but doesn’t have the cash to make a real splash. Donovan would fit their needs, as would a loan.

But more importantly this would make sense for Donovan. His loan last winter to Bayern Munich was seen as a flop, largely because they didn’t resign him, but I think this assessment misses the mark on a couple of levels. First, Donovan actually played pretty well and had a number of near misses in front of goal – those find the back of the net it’s a different story. Second, Klinnsman who brought in Donovan was on his way out and Donovan was Klinnsman’s boy so the people upstairs were not that keen on signing him to a long term deal. Finally, and most importantly his Munich move was NOT a flop, because it made Donovan a much better player. Coming back from his stint abroad Donovan looked sharper, more technical, more in tuned to the game. He shed his tendency to float in and out of games that winter and emerged as the true leader and captain of the US team, as well as the Galaxy.
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English Press Fail

The English press are certainly not renowned for their accuracy – particularly when it comes to football. So this “exclusive” from the Mirror shouldn’t come as much of a surprise: USA set to steal England’s preferred World Cup training base due to Fabio Capello’s indecision. The BBC Gossip page picked it up as well. The Mirror goes on to say:

England boss Fabio Capello loved the facilities on a visit last week. But he was unhappy with the grass on the training pitches and wants another look in the New Year. His indecision means the FA has failed to complete the £1million deal for the 82-room complex from June 4 to July 12 next year. And now we are in danger of being gazumped by the Yanks, who are also said to be keen on the venue. Bafokeng spokesman Martin Bekker told the Mirror the base – which also offers valuable altitude training at 1,500m above sea level – was a “very attractive option” to other nations in England’s group, especially the USA, for whom money is no object.

Funny – I thought I had read this story on Soccernet last Summer, saying the US already had booked their facility. This would be a great story – if it were true, especially the part of the cash-strapped US soccer federation being money is no object.

The Americans grabbed the coveted training site the Italians are using at this tournament for next year’s World Cup. Southdowns College in Irene is on the outskirts of Pretoria, 30 miles from Johannesburg. The highly rated facility contains three full soccer fields, with six more planned. There is also a gym and pool. “U.S. Soccer followed all of the procedures for securing a base camp as required by FIFA, and based on the time of our request we have our first option and we have FIFA’s confirmation on this,” U.S. Soccer spokesman Michael Kammarman told The Associated Press on Sunday. “Of course, this is subject to qualifying for the World Cup.”

I guess those Brits have never heard of the google which can be used to find stuff located in a series of tubes.

Jason Davis at MatchFit makes the great point in comments that the US has also been talking about how close all the games are to their base camp.

World Cup 2010: Most important game for USA in Group C is Algeria v Slovenia

All attention on the redcoats but Algeria v Slovenia more meaningful for US qaulification; Photo by Axel

Every American soccer fan I have talked to in the last few days has nothing else on their minds other than the opening matchup in Group C against England. A great deal more than 3 points will be on the line when the English line up against the Yanks in Rustenberg on June 12th. But it’s actually another Group C match the following day between Algeria and Slovenia that will likely have more impact on the American’s qualification hopes.

Getting England in Group C is massively important for the growth of soccer in America. Most American soccer fans follow the Premier League and know a great deal about the England team. Fox Soccer Channel has built its entire network on showing English league games and the common language makes the English game even more accessible for US fans. Continue reading

Does Bob have the most to gain in the World Cup?

Following each of the last two World Cups, Bruce Arena had hoped to draw European interest for his coaching services, specifically from clubs in England. Unfortunately for Arena the poor performance in the 06 World Cup basically ended any chance of that happening. While many US fans don’t think all that highly of Bob Bradley, he perhaps has the most to gain out of an impressive World Cup showing. A win against England, followed by an impressive showing in the tournament, would likely see Bradley draw some interest from European clubs.

Here me out, as I can feel the Bob Bradley haters getting ready to blast this idea. I have previously sought to debunk the Bob Bradley haters here and here. In my view Bradley is a good, but not great, coach. On the negative side, the US often has performed a bit unevenly – we often don’t know what US team will show up – some of his in game substitution choices often come too late, and some of his favorite players – Ching, Bornstein – strike me as players that are just not good enough. But even the best managers at the best clubs make head scratching decisions (see Ken on Benitez). But beyond this nitpicking, I think the international soccer community tends to see the larger positives. The US has maintained the upward trajectory highlighted by the performance in the Confederations Cup. The victory against Spain was a tactical masterpiece by Bradley who keyed on Xavi and clogged the middle of the field. The US has shown the fortitude to come from behind and win critical games and once again won their World Cup qualifying group. So in other words, Bradley already has a good solid rep abroad.
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Spurs, Redknapp, blow it

Tottenham looked like the Spurs of old against Everton yesterday. Two-goals up and totally cruising Spurs became wasteful in front of goal and lacked the solidity to hold onto the lead. The game was there to be put away and instead Spurs slipped on that banana-peel of a lead. While Everton showed great spirit, poor defending from substitute Gareth Bale, as well as great attacking play by newbie Everton right back Seamus Coleman Enabled Everton to level. After all that, however, Defoe had the chance to put Spurs into third in the league, yet his tepid penalty in extra time – lets hope Howard’s save is an omen for the US – condemned Spurs to what felt like a defeat. Spurs blew a huge opportunity against a weakened Everton. This was definitely two huge points lost for Tottenham.

Some takeaways from the game:

Redknapp was tactically indecisive and botched his substitutions. Harry Redknapp has not gotten much criticism at Spurs and for good reason. He has totally turned the club around. But in this case he was tactically indecisive and that ended up costing Tottenham. While Gareth Bale demonstrated his fragility defensively, Redknapp I think made a fairly wise move taking off Assou-Ekotto at half time. Having received a yellow and scuffling with Tim Cahill, Ekotto could have easily gotten a second yellow. Additionally Bale adds more offensively and Spurs had failed to hit the back of the net at that point.
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Why did Benitez buy Aquilani?

Benitez blundered in buying Aquilani if he's not going to play him; photo by A. Mieszczak

As regular readers of this blog know, I have preached relative patience with Manager Rafa Benitez even as Liverpool’s struggles continued to mount. Cruel fate has intervened and all of Liverpool’s woes can’t be placed at Benitez’s feet. But that doesn’t immunize him from criticism of the moves that he has made or the things he hasn’t done that could affect Liverpool’s chances of moving up the table. And that brings us to the 0-0 draw at Blackburn Saturday and the fundamental question of why did Benitez spend £20 million on Alberto Aquilani if he isn’t going to play him?

While the departure of Xabi Alonso was not totally unforeseen, it certainly threw a wrench in Benitez’s summer transfer plans. Funds that he was expecting were not forthcoming, further hampering Benitez’s attempts to position the side for a title run. Once the season began, injuries wreaked havoc on the side, knocking out the two most important players and keeping Aquilani on the sidelines for longer than expected. And then there’s the beach ball incident… Continue reading

World Cup draw also kind to USA beyond group stage

World Cup bracket sets up well for the US; photo by Pho Sun

After years of being put in some very tough groups, the FIFA gods were finally kind to the United States. We landed it Group C with England, Algeria, and Slovenia, and while it will surely be challenging, there is no question that this is the best group the United States has been in since it was seeded as the host of the 1994 tournament. Over the coming days, weeks, and months – can’t believe kickoff is still six months away – we’ll have a great deal to say about Group D. But the draw didn’t just set the first round, it put together the bracket for the whole tournament. And there is more good news here: if the US advances out of its group, we will have to play some very tough teams, but we can’t face any of the top contenders for the championship until the semifinal stage. Continue reading

Conspiracy Theory of the Day… Nike and Fifa

So a few weeks ago Association Football got confirmation that the images of the new US jersey floating around the intertubes would in fact be the jersey the US would wear in the World Cup. Interesting though, the uniforms had a throwback element – a sash to commemorate the 1950 victory of England. What a coincidence for Nike that the US ends up drawing England in the first game (not to mention France pulling the South Africa group after mysteriously not being seeded). I am personally not one for conspiracy theories – people, in my experience, are usually just not competent, creative and organized enough to pull them off. But when it comes to Fifa that can sort of be thrown out as transparency and the “integrity of the process” definitely don’t come to mind. I am not saying the draw was rigged to avoid a true group of death, or to make it up to France, or to help build the hype with ESPN or Nike. I am not saying that. I’m just sayin…

1950 World Cup

2010 World Cup

World Cup draw: Is there a Group of Death?

Did these guys miss out on the World Cup this year?

With a fair slice of luck, the United States dodged the Group of Death in yesterday’s World Cup draw. Mexico too managed to get into a very manageable group by being drawn with the hosts, Uruguay, and France. So with by far the two best teams from the draw’s weakest pot out of the running, is there really a Group of Death in this year’s tournament?

My criteria for the Group of Death are that it must have both three teams thought of as legitimate quarterfinal contenders and four teams that could reasonably qualify for the second round. That may be a pretty high bar, but we’re talking about The Group of Death here, not just a tough group. Some argue that the only requirement is that there be more strong contenders than there are qualifying places. But that doesn’t seem to me to be tough enough because the nature of group play is that there is often a real competition for the two places. Continue reading

How they view US – a scan of the UK papers

There is definitely some bulletin board material in the UK papers this morning but far far less than one would have expected just a few years ago. There is in general a mild respect for the US now in England and a recognition that we should be England’s toughest test in the group stage. In general, the British press’ instinctively dismissive view of US soccer has appeared to fade and we are now viewed more or less correctly, as a team on par with “Sweden” or an international version of “Fulham.” That’s about right and signals some significant advancement in improving America’s international reputation. One thing is clear the confederations cup was huge.

The Sun – “The Best England Group Since the Beatles” – eat that Oasis.

Terry Venables – former England manager: Similar to Sweden

“The US game will be tough because they’ll be very well organised and they’ll be fit. They won’t out-play us, but they could out-strength us, but they’ll be similar to the Sweden sides we’ve met at tournaments in the past: they’ll be solid. There won’t be too many players to out-skill us or shock us, but they’ll be strong. But we could still have hand-picked that group and been satisfied. Look at one or two of the other groups, Spain, Brazil … we’d have been saying ‘Oh dear’ if we’d got those groups.”

Martin Samuel – Daily Mail: We are Fulham.

The United States are the Fulham of international football, organised and awkward, but no more. If England cannot beat them in the opening group game on Saturday, June 12, another two years, not to mention the odd £10m, has been wasted.

Roy Hodgson – Fulham manager: “It’ll be like a Premier League game”

The US are well organised and well drilled, athletically very good and with players with a lot of experience playing in England or Germany, but that could be a like-versus-like contest… That could actually be quite good for England. It’ll be like a Premier League game, with two teams with a similar style. They’ll know how England play, but we won’t be surprised with what they’re going to come with. And I think that England have just got far too much quality for the US.”

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