US – El Salvador: What Did We Learn

The US in a sloppy and erratic way dominated a sloppy and erratic El Salvador team, yet the US suffered from the oh so classic problem of scoring. In the end they got two goals to win the game, but this should have been a rout. Instead, the US found themselves behind midway through the second half.

The US just plain and simple lacked class in the final third and El Salvador just lacked class, giving the ball away in their own half endlessly. Yes the El Salvadorean keeper had a good game, but the lack of finishing quality was downright maddening – with Robbie Rogers second half one-on-one shank the most obvious.

In the end, this game I think didn’t clarify all that much about the US World Cup squad. The decision over the final forward slots is still a question, with Conor Casey, Brian Ching, and Robbie Findley in some ways performing as expected. One would expect Bradley’s attention will turn to some European options next week in the form of Eddie Johnson and maybe Kenny Cooper. Bradley did confirm his love-affair with Jonathan Bornstein by bizarrely playing him in the center of defense and making him captain. Fortunately he had little to do, except of course for getting his wires crossed with Brad Evans on the lone El Salvador goal.
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USMNT Scheduling – Doing it Right

The USMNT has scheduled its two World Cup friendlies prior to the June tournament and I don’t think it could have done much better. US Soccer scheduled games against Turkey and the Czech Republic in May and both teams should provide a stern test and help sharpen the US team prior to facing England, Algeria and Slovakia.

These teams contrast greatly with the minnows that were scheduled in the run up to the 2006 World Cup. The US played Poland in Germany, followed by May games against Jamaica, Venezuela, and Morocco. Disturbingly the latter three games were against poor opposition that also didn’t reflect at all the sort of opposition the US would be facing at the World Cup, since the US would face two top-notch European clubs and arguably the best sub-Saharan African team. Some speculated at the time whether these games were intended to raise the confidence of the US team prior to the tournament – or to put it differently Arena didn’t want to schedule a friendly against a good Euro team that could end up squashing the confidence that the USMNT possessed going into the tournament. This clearly backfired. Not only did the US look shell-shocked facing the Czech’s but playing three weak teams gave Bruce Arena false confidence in some of his squad choices, most notably Eddie Lewis, who was exposed at left back against the Czechs.
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AF’s US World Cup Squad Updated

Just 4 months from today the US will face off against England. There have been some changes to the last AF World Cup squad.

Players dropped: Damarcus Beasley, Marvelle Wynne, and Chad Marshall. Players added: Charlie Davies, Jonathan Bornstein, and Clarence Goodson.

A couple of other developments.

First, Donovan’s performance in the midfield has given me more confidence in his defensive qualities, meaning that I moved him into the midfield as opposed to him playing up top.
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Donovan’s Most Complete Performance, Maybe Ever

Landon Donovan was sensational against Chelsea, save for Louis Saha’s two goals, Donovan I think was up for Man of the Match honors. Donovan won a penalty, hardly put a foot wrong, and was probably Everton’s most dangerous attacking outlet. He no doubt won more fans amongst the Evertonian crowd.

He was dangerous all night putting in dangerous cross after dangerous cross. His best ball of the night didn’t actually get enough credit from the announcing crew, since he won a penalty just seconds later. The play before Donovan sent in a pin point aerial through ball just over the head of Terry – a pass that should have been put away.
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Arsenal and Liverpool Yawn

The Arsenal-Liverpool game today was a big fat yawn. Both teams are very poor compared to the sides of previous years and both could conceivably drop out of the top 4 if City, Spurs, and Villa get their acts together.

The difference in this game was Jamie Carragher, or more accurately his forced absence due to injury and the presence of Philipp Degen. Degen seemed to think he was playing as a winger instead of a fullback and decided not to follow Diaby in the box on the goal. Carragher would have won the header. Also Fabregas should have been sent off in the final seconds for a blatant handball. No surprise it was Howard Webb officiating.

A couple thoughts on the two teams:

First, on Arsenal. For all their beautiful play they are dependent on a dominant #9 center forward. Any title hopes were quashed this season not with predictable defeats to United and Chelsea but when Van Persie went down. Van Persie gave them the thing they hadn’t had since Henry a guy who didn’t try and pass the ball into the net but someone who would just freaking shot. The Arsenal mentality was encapsulated when Bendtner break trhough one-on-one with the keeper and his shot went just over the bar – but there was Cesc Fabregas yelling at Bendtner to pass him but Cesc was A. in a worse shooting position and B. had a defender on his back. A pass would have been a waste, yet it described the Arsenal approach. They are just too predictable and both Chelsea and United exposed that. Liverpool did as well, but well…

And on to Liverpool. Despite styming the Gunners defensively, they just pack no offensive punch whatsoever. They effectively play with two players that simply should not be on a top 4 side. First Ngog, he may became a good player but right now he looks awkward as if he is in the midst of puberity. Bringing on Babel was a revelation and his physicality and speed, as well as his willingness to shoot, would seem to make him a better Torres replacement than Ngog. To be fair he did some decent things, but he is anything but threatening. Second, Lucas – he offers nothing. I don’t have much to offer on top of what Ken has said, but I just don’t understand why he is playing for Liverpool and not Portsmouth. I think Benitez has a clear record of success – something the British press don’t give him credit for but his refusal to use players that Liverpool has spent 20 million pounds on is really baffling.

The Contradictory Spin Of Jamie Trecker

If you want the sky is falling view of US Soccer, read and listen to Jamie Trecker of Fox Soccer. He was on Kartik Krishnaiyer’s podcast of MLS Talk and took a predictably dismal view of the state of the national team. While Trecker can provide an important corrective to more optimistic takes on the USMNT (ie this site), he often takes on the role of critic with the sort of message discipline that members of the Democratic party should pay attention to. He seems so intent to criticize that he contradicts himself and disregards important facts that distract from his central message (US Soccer sucks). He spins like a political hack.

Now I agree with much of what he says about many of the US players. But here is what I find galling:

1. Throughout his 17 minute interview in which assesses the USMNT performance against Honduras, he never mentions the most important fact of the game: we played 75 minutes with 10 men. I agree with him that the US looked very poor and that more players did more to hurt themselves than to improve their World Cup chances. But this game as an assessment tool was undercut by Jimmy Conrad’s dismissal.
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DC United’s Stadium Saga Not As Lifeless As It May Seem

There is reason to be optimistic about DC United’s stadium situation. While almost every interview that United gives about the stadium seems to say very little, there are some tidbits and some things that can be gleaned from reading between the lines.

Steve Goff at Soccer Insider has an interview revealing that while Will Chang, current owner of DC United, is fully committed, he is looking for additional local investors to bolster the finances of the team. Chang also expressed his strong desire to stay in DC, and while saying they couldn’t play in RFK forever, he wouldn’t put a deadline for how long. In other words, what that tells me is that Chang is in this for the long term and is willing to stick it out and take losses for the long term potential of the DC market. Kevin Payne the team’s President told Goff:

We have conversations on-going. Baltimore is studying the issue now with their consultants. We have a conversation on-going with a developer and others in Virginia and there is a conversation going in D.C. But I am not going to talk about any details at all. We think that, when the time is right and there is more to talk about and we can speak intelligently about any of these options, we will do so.” … “I am optimistic that we will have a long-term solution for a stadium, but I am not going to try to predict where it will be.”… “I think we will have clarity this year… 2010. … These are complex and sensitive conversations and it’s best not to talk a whole lot about them until there’s something definitive to talk about.”

What this suggests is that all options for a stadium are on the table, but all of these option will require additional private investors. Therefore the news that Chang is reaching out to local investors, combined with Payne’s comments that there will be clarity this year would seem to indicate:

1. Chang and United are really committed to staying in the DC area. You wouldn’t go out and get local investors if you wanted to leave, would you?

2. A stadium plan has to be in the works. Why if you were a local investor would you invest money in a money-losing club if there is no prospect for a stadium – that financially makes no sense. Investors would only invest if there was something to invest in, and that means there are likely some prospective deals, but each of these would require United to bring more money to the table. In other words, Fenty says you can build a stadium at Poplar, but the city will at most put up X, meaning you will have to get Y. So the team is out trying to get Y.
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This says it all about January Transfer window…

This January transfer window has been a real snoozer and is just further evidence that the financial crisis and resulting recession have taken a toll on all English clubs – not just those owned by Americans. There are likely to be a few interesting transactions as the English transfer window closes in a few minutes but there is nothing compared to previous years. BBC’s Simon Austin writes:

I’ve been to interview a sports consultant at Deloitte. They estimate only £21m has been spent in the January transfer window so far, compared to £170m last year and £150m in January 2008. There haven’t been any £10m signings this year and only one for £5m, which Spurs paid Portsmouth for Younes Kaboul. There were seven £10m signings last January – three were made by Manchester City (Nigel de Jong, Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bridge), three by Spurs (Wilson Palacios, Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane) and one by Arsenal (Andrey Arshavin).