US Players that increased their stock

As the World Cup is slowly coming to an end, the summer transfer season is about to pick up. In past World Cups for the US, MLS based players gained significant attention and used the tournament to initiate moves to Europe. In 2002, Brian McBride and Damarcus Beasley and in 2006 Clint Dempsey drew Fulham’s eye. This time around it is a bit different situation.

With just three unknown MLS players (Robbie Findley, Edson Buddle, and Jonathan Bornstein) on the US squad and none of whom particularly impressed, it seems unlikely that these players did enough to attract European attention. Yet this does not mean that this summer’s transfer season will be uneventful. While 19 of the 23 US players on the squad play in Europe, only one – Oguchi Onyewu with AC Milan – plays for a big champions league club (although one could say Maurice Edu and Beasley with Glasgow Rangers qualify, since Rangers is in the Champions League). It is a sign of significant progress to have 19 players on the squad playing abroad, especially since just 12 played abroad in 06 and 02. However, the next step and what should be an objective for US soccer for 2014 is to get more players playing on big clubs against even better competition.

After this World Cup some US players significantly increased their stock, and may be able to make upward moves.
Continue reading


Jozy Is The Future

There has been a lot of talk about how no US strikers have scored in the last two World Cups. This is an uncomfortable stat and is a fairly solid thing to point to for why the US isn’t in the tournament. Strikers have to score and Altidore’s failure to do so is worth pointing out. But we shouldn’t go over board.

Jozy it seems to me is being treated as if he is a veteran in his prime, with the same expectations of a Donovan or a Dempsey. He is 20 years old. Repeat that. And then repeat that again.

Yes he didn’t score, but in my mind he had a very strong World Cup. he played the target role brilliantly, he scared the crap out of defenses and as a result opened up space for others to come in behind. He drew fouls, created chances, and ran at defenders. He hit the post against England, set up Bradley’s equalizer against Slovenia, and put the ball in to the box for the winning goal against Algeria. Against Ghana the importance of Altidore was evident when he was taken off before extra time. Without Jozy the US lost one of their main focal points in attack and his absence allowed the Ghanaians to focus more on Dempsey and Donovan.

It seems to have been forgotten that target strikers are often late bloomers. No one heard of Didier Drogba until he was about 25. Brian McBride didn’t settle into the premier league until his 30s. Jozy, while not scoring many goals at Hull City this year, started more games at striker than anyone else on the club and he did so as a lonely isolated holding player, where chances were few and far between. I heard some Englishmen remark that they had seen Jozy play and weren’t all that impressed – his touch would elude him, he would drift in and out of games, make the wrong run at times, or try to do too much on his own. But most of these commentators had no idea that Jozy is 20 years old. If Jozy were English, he would be hyped to be the next savior of England and would have a hugely expensive price tag. Think I am over doing it? Crap, marginal players English players like David Bentley even cost 20 million dollars!
Continue reading

Greatest soccer rant ever: Socialism. Satan. Sodomy. Soccer

This is pretty indescribable. So I wont describe it, other than to note that it does not appear to be a joke. (H/T Ginge Talks the Footy)

The World Cup: As Popular In The U.S. As The World Series?

World Cup viewership during day = World Series in primetime

Yesterday, Ken pointed out that more Americans are following the World Cup than live in the United Kingdom, a great stat to refute the notion that Americans don’t care about soccer. I’d like to add to that a fun little stat from the New York Times’ Sports Business column — as many Americans watched the USA v. Ghana Round of 16 match as watched the average game in the last World Series:

For the ESPN empire and Univision, any questions about the return on their investment in the World Cup are being answered by viewers. On Saturday, the United States’ loss to Ghana was seen by 14.9 million on ABC — an American record for the tournament — and an additional 4.5 million on Univision. That’s 19.4 million viewers for a Round of 16 game on a Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Eastern — the same number that Fox averaged over six prime-time games for last year’s World Series.

In fact, “through 52 games, ESPN’s average viewership is up 58 percent to 2.86 million; Univision’s is 2.1 million, up nearly 9 percent. Figure, then, that about five million are watching the games, comparable to the N.B.A. playoffs, excluding the finals, and the Stanley Cup finals.” The American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz submits that this means soccer’s time is here:

What intricate argument can be brought against these numbers? Tom Scocca blames Fox for making baseball boring to watch, but what they’ve done — playing games at night, have a lot of commercials, etc. — have been characteristic of baseball for a long time. If you care about baseball, you’re going to watch the World Series whether or not the games are long. Why not just admit it, soccer critics: Futbol is coming of age in America.

There’s little doubt in my mind that the World Series had been made (even more) mind-numbingly boring by the demands of television, which the structure of soccer tends to confound (no stoppages, so no commercials, for instance). In the localities for the teams involved, though, I’m willing to bet that the World Series isn’t lacking for viewers.

But still, this, combined with Ken’s point from yesterday, shows that there’s a sizable U.S. audience following the tournament, despite what the soccer haters say. And that’s a great thing for the future of the sport in America.

Size matters: More Americans following the World Cup than entire population of UK

21% in US = 65 mil; or more than entire pop of UK

Andrew Sullivan, a British transplant living here in America has done an admirable job tracking the following of the World Cup here in America from a British perspective. Usually that means narrow-minded dismissal of “soccer” ever taking hold here, but Sullivan has not succumbed to that lazy analysis. He does post today, however, the chart to the right as his “Chart of the Day” without any additional comment. Visually, it appears to present a significantly negative account of support for soccer in America, with just 7% of Americans responding that they are  following the World Cup “very closely” and just another 14% saying “somewhat closely”. Those figures are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the 79% that say “not closely” or “not at all”. But looking a little deeper, that 21% in a country of 310 million people like the United States equates to 65 million Americans that are following the World Cup either very or somewhat closely, or more than the entire population of the United Kingdom.

This can be seen in TV viewership too. The ratings are in and more Americans watched the USA v Ghana game than had ever watched a men’s World Cup game featuring any team ever before. An average of 19.5 million viewers (15 million on ABC and 4.5 million on Univision) watched the US go out of the tournament in extra time, eclipsing the 1994 World Cup Final between Brazil and Italy and is only second to the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final between the USA and China. USSF President Sunil Gulati is right to lament what kind of impact another game at those viewer levels – and the guarantee of two more had the US reached the semis – would have meant for soccer in America, but these numbers are reason to celebrate as they equal the number of Brits who watched England v Germany. Size matters, and obviously the level of overall interest in soccer in the US and the UK are vastly different, but in sheer quantity its remarkable that the same number of Yanks and Brits suffered through those second round defeats.

Continue reading

Congratulations to our boys for earning respect of soccer world

I know its hard in the midst of such disappointment to push away those feelings and recognize that the US team accomplished a great deal in this tournament. There will be plenty of time for analysis and recriminations. The bottom line is that this team earned the respect of the soccer world. I can’t tell you how many of my British friends sent messages of support and appreciation for what this US team brought to this tournament. Yes there were embarrassing lapses at the back and yes we repeatedly failed to finish our chances, but gone are the days when the US team is considered a pushover and a US win must be down to good fortune.

No phase of the US team escaped error, from each line of players to the coach, but no other team in this tournament displayed the resiliency, confidence, and toughness to fight through mistakes that would have sent other teams to the showers far earlier than our boys went out. We were, seriously, among the revelations of the tournament. Which other team has provided a quarter of the drama of the United States so far? I know that its more intense for a supporter, but even the nuetrals have been entranced by each of the four US games. Going behind early and storming back late is hard on the nerves but great for entertainment. The cardiac kids sure did open some minds about US soccer. Continue reading

Norway embraces Association Football setting up Scandinavian rivalry at AF

Norway loves AF! Your turn Sweden

Norway loves Association Football – the sport and the blog! The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation has run a story on Americans embracing soccer and watching the World Cup in record numbers. The piece, titled “Amerikanrnes VM-interesse tar av (The Americans Interest in the World Cup Takes Off)” picks up a quote of Max’s from today’s Agence-France Presse story about Americans embracing soccer and puts it together with a link to the AF post of videos of Americans celebrating the Donovan goal. This is a bit of a breakthrough of our own as America’s (and the world’s – go Jakarta Globe!) interest in Association Football is also taking off.

The entire AFP story is worth reading and the broad interest in the growth of soccer in America (and AF’s contribution to that analysis!) reinforces my view that the sport may be on the verge of a breakthrough. Nearly as many Americans watched the USA v England game (17 million) as did game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and Celtics (19 million). President Obama called the US team to congratulate them on winning the group and reported that the West Wing erupted in cheers when Donovan’s late winner went in, temporarily interrupting a meeting with General David Patraeus. President Clinton is in South Africa and has “fallen in love with soccer at my very advanced age.”

We love the love from the Norwegians, but it does set up a good spirited Scandinavian rivalry here at AF. Continue reading

Is this the breakthrough for soccer in America? Videos of reactions to Donovan winner

Max and I created this blog because we love soccer and we firmly believe that the growth of the sport in America is irreversible. More than most, we know that at times, just being a soccer fan in America is hard – you have to endure constant invectives about how it will never take hold in the US, about how its boring, how there are no goals, how we suck at it, and how its a European game. At times being a fan of American soccer is hard – hello finishing last in the World Cup in 98, or getting smoked by the Czechs in 06 in the opener, or getting laughed out of Copa America with our B team in 2007. And of course, there is the feeling among American soccer devotees that we constantly get screwed when we are so desperate to prove ourselves and earn some respect – that 02 game in the quarters against the Germans with the shocking no call on the line, the mystery penalty against Ghana (payback time) in 06, and the disallowed winner against Slovenia. For a very long time, our best soccer moments were near misses – losing to the 1-0 Germans in the quarters in 02, earning a hard-fought (literally) point against eventual champions Italy in 06, beating Spain and leading Brazil only to ship three in the second half and lose the 09 Confederations Cup.

I know it was only winning one game and topping the group, but it seems all of those moments were avenged yesterday. I know we had that run in 02, but we backed into the second round losing in our last game to Poland 3-1 only to squeak through as South Korea got a late goal against Portugal. And while we did win our Round of 16 game, it was against our old rival Mexico – no mean feat but it didn’t seem as significant because of our familiarity. Now, we’ve overcome adversity, deservedly won the group, and have a legitimate path deep into the tournament. And apparently, all of America was watching. More reactions to Donovan’s goal from around the country after the jump.

Continue reading

Winning Group C brings realistic path to semifinal

Winning Group C legitimately puts the semifinals in reach

With all the appropriate caveats about not getting ahead of ourselves and needing to focus on Algeria tomorrow, a win in that game gives the US a very good chance at topping the group and a realistic path to the semifinal. Second place in the group likely brings matchups against two of the tournament favorites. While no game in the knockout stage will be easy for the US, it’s not hard to pick which path is easier and if the US wins Group C, we can genuinely think about reaching the semis. 

I know we should move on, but because of Koman Coulibali’s shocker, the US is not in control of its own destiny to top the group. If Slovenia beat England, they are group winners. But any other result paired with a US win against Algeria will bring us bring us level on points with either the Slovenes or the English, meaning the group winner will be decided on goal difference. England look a shambles both on and off the pitch, but I still find it hard to believe that they will lose to Slovenia and place the top spot in the group out of the American’s reach. So a US win by two goals should see us top the group unless Fabio Capello’s men find it all of a sudden and hammer Slovenia. A win by one may even be enough, but we can beat Algeria by two goals. Continue reading

Assessing the US striker dilemma – Is there even a dilemma?

The constant search for US strikers was seemingly resolved last summer with Altidore, Charlie Davies, and even Kenny Cooper making promising summer moves. Alas, apart from Jozy – who, in my view, has more than solidified his place – no one else is a sure thing at all. One could easily say – in horror – we only have one striker!

But in fact we have three top quality striker options. Dempsey and Donovan can and do both play in this role. A major decision confronting Bradley is whether to count these players as strikers as midfielders.

If Bradley chooses to count them as frontmen that likely leaves only one striker slot available. This would also mean relying extensively on Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden (who is recovering from a broken leg and hasn’t yet played), and Jose Francisco Torres. This would also leave open the door for the inclusion of both Damarcus Beasley and Alejandro Bodoya.

This is really quite doable. The US would play with either Donovan and Dempsey up top with the other in the midfield. If Bradley wanted to change the game he could do so with the one striker he had in reserve, or by reshuffling players on the field. For instance, if he wanted more wide play and more attack, he could take off the holding midfielder (Clark/Edu) for a Torres/Bedoya/Beasley, pushing Donovan into a more central attacking role. This would also give Bradley the ability to change formations and tactics during the game without making substitutions. The downside of this approach is that this could limit Bradley’s options off the bench, it could also leave the US exposed if a striker went down or was suspended. However, I think this is a plausible option since both Dempsey and Altidore have shown an ability to play as target men with their back to the goal.

But I expect Bradley to hedge here and count either Dempsey or Donovan as a striker, but not both. This means, in my view, Bradley will likely look to take two other strikers.

What are the options:

Edson Buddle: Dude is in great form and is scoring goals. He has 9 goals in 6 games! Importantly, his goals have not just been goal scoring tap ins but have come from a variety of ways. He is showing center forward skills. While he has been off the radar for a long time, and at 28 is definitely not a young up and comer, the fact is that is not as much a flash in the pan as is being portrayed. Buddle has improved each of the last three years with LA. Last year he scored 15 goals in 26 games and the year and the year before had 5 goals in 10 games. Now much of this is due to the fact that he was playing with two of the best attacking threats in MLS those last two years – Donovan and Beckham – but that doesn’t change the fact that he has been consistently hitting the back of the net. At 28 Buddle has hit his prime and is confidently finishing chances. I don’t know what else you are looking for.
Continue reading