Transfer Rumors: Michael Bradley Is Not Going To Blackpool

No way, no how does Michael Bradley go to Blackpool. Yes a rumor has floated through the British papers that Blackpool is interested. If I were a Blackpool fan this rumor would make me worried about the intelligence of the management. Michael Bradley is 22, he just stared at the World Cup, while the fact that he is an American will for some reason likely lesson his value – he is still worth around 10 million dollars/euros/pounds. Do Blackpool have the money to spend that on a Premier League newbee? The answer is almost assuredly no.

Furthermore, a move to Blackpool makes no sense. Blackpool are almost assuredly going to be sent down to the Championship. At the very least they are going to be fighting relegation until the final day of the season, and most likely they are going to be playing very negative defensive football. Granted Bradley’s current club are no guarantee to avoid the drop, but they are a club that is in a stronger position in the Bundesliga. While the quality of the Premier League is slightly higher, moving to a team that is likely going to be there for just a year makes no sense.
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Starting the Jurgen Klinsmann campaign for US national team coach

This post is the first in a series of five recommendations for USSF President Sunil Gulati

Klinsmann is the right man to coach the US

Bob Bradley has had a successful run, but it’s time for him to move on to a new challenge and for US soccer to bring in a new coach to take soccer in America to the next level. There is really only one man for the job: Jurgen Klinsmann.  The former star striker and German national team coach is obviously a big name in world soccer, but after two good summers in a row US soccer no longer needs to prioritize borrowing other nation’s big names to be considered a serious soccer nation. There are four main reasons he should become the next US national team coach: he takes a holistic approach to building national team system from the playgrounds to the World Cup, he would develop a recognizable American style of play, he knows US soccer intimately and has thought about what it would take to transform the sport in America, and he is one of the best strikers of all time and would be a fantastic mentor to the future of US soccer, Jozy Altidore.

Let’s not forget to pay Bob Bradley his due. He took over in very difficult circumstances after a disastrous 2006 World Cup and an unsettled coaching search and not only righted the ship quickly, but won the Gold Cup in his first year, orchestrated a dazzling deep run in the Confederations Cup, won Concacaf World Cup qualifying, and won Group C at the Finals in South Africa. But despite those successes it wasn’t all roses. Bradley struggled to adapt his favored system to his personnel and was prone to play favorites rather than the best players. And while he fostered a remarkable resiliency within his team that produced too many comebacks to count, it is also true that his team found itself in need to come back far too often for it to not be partly down to poor match preparation and tactics. A four-year cycle is the right time to move on and that may be to Fulham if the rumors are believed. Continue reading

Bob Ryan Captures What US World Cup Run Meant – It Made America Sad

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe is one of the classic American sports journalists. He is also a bit old school. He came of age before soccer was anything in this country and confesses to know little about the game. But Ryan unlike many of the sports writers of his generation, doesn’t approach soccer was some preconceived ideological disdain. Instead, he pays attention when the game makes him pay attention and respects the sport as it is. In 2002, he penned a magnificent column that essentially called it his fellow writers, such as Tony Kornheiser, who were resistant to embracing the US team in the World Cup merely out of a preconceived disdain for soccer. Ryan said if they couldn’t get into this team and this competition then they simply weren’t sports fans. You gotta love when a non-soccer guy and one of the most respected American sports writers took on the soccer hate directly.
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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.
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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!
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The Right Man For The Last Cycle – Bradley Built A Team

In a few weeks time Sunil Gulati the head of US Soccer will have to make a decision whether Bob Bradley should keep his job. The answer should probably be no, depending on who is available. But this conclusion is not based on a negative assessment of Bradley. No, in fact, it is largely due to the fact that Bradley has succeeded tremendously in building a really solid and deep team that in the biggest of games exemplified the never-say-die attitude so ingrained into the mythical notions of American character.

Back in 2006, when Bob Bradley was named coach after US fans were clamoring for Juergen Klinnsman or any other big named foreign coach the disappointment was palpable. Almost no one wanted Bradley. But the reality was Bradley was exactly the right man for the job – much more so than a foreign coach.

US soccer was undergoing a difficult transition after 06. A generation of players that included Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride, John O’Brien, and Eddie Pope had all retired, forcing Bradley to replace the spine of his squad. While other countries go through similar transitions after tournaments, rebuilding the squad in the US is a different animal than in other more developed soccer powers. For instance, in countries like Spain, England, Germany the national team coach usually plays little role in actually developing players – that is the clubs job. Instead, the national team coach selects the players that are playing the best and builds a squad to his liking. The coach’s job is therefore one of selection and one of getting these players to play well. In the US however, there is another element. The coach plays a critical role in identify and developing young talent – often before these players have really emerged. Indeed, while Europe immediately shifts gears to qualifying for the European Championships, by contrast first couple years of the World Cup cycle for the US will be about scouting new young talent and working to integrate them into the squad.
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Assessing US World Cup Performance

The US had a successful if disappointing World Cup

The US showed some great strengths and glaring weaknesses in its four games at the 2010 World Cup, but overall this team is in position to continue its improvement before the next World Cup in Brazil in 2014. The top players performed well, young players had solid tournaments, and coach Bob Bradley showed admirable flexibility and courage. By far the most impressive feature of this US team was its ability to create scoring chances. Not only did it put in five goals but it created numerous excellent opportunities to get more.

The flip side of all those chances is the failure to convert many of them into goals, a real weakness that must be rectified if the US is going get to the next level. Of equal concern is the frailty at the back, which is a combination of lack of skill and consistency. That inconsistency plagued the whole team at times, and solving that problem will be key to stepping up to the next level. And Bradley needed to be flexible and courageous because he often got the original team selection wrong. Continue reading

USA-Ghana Post Mortem

After a tournament filled with dramatic comebacks, the US couldn’t muster that second goal that would have either won the match or sent it to penalties in extra time. Alas the US didn’t get it done. While the US had achieved its stated goal – to get out of the group – the loss to Ghana without a doubt should leave US fans unsatisfied, as the US had a real shot at making a run to the semifinals.

Overall this was a tournament that affirmed what US soccer fans had known – the USA is a nation to be taken seriously in world football. But it also demonstrated where the US must improve in order to reach the next level. Under Bradley the US fully adopted a resilient never say die attitude, but the basic fact is that in and of itself was never going to be enough to make a deep run in the World Cup. The US was going to have to show something that they have so often failed to show – consistency. Instead, once again the US failed to put together a solid 90 minute performance.

The US showed once again against Ghana that it is an incredibly resilient team, as the second half performance left Ghana rattled and left the US as looking like the likely winners. But after conceding in the extra time, the US just looked exhausted and out of ideas. They had already spent most of regulation time chasing the game, and having to chase it in extra time was just too much to ask. If the US was going to win this game, it needed to do so in the second half when it was on top. Hats should go off to Ghana. They put the US under constant pressure, created turnovers, defended strongly and looked bright going forward.
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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

USA v Ghana: Jozy Altidore needs to score

Altidore needs to score against Ghahan

Here we go, the business end of the World Cup begins today. As we have discussed repeatedly, the US has a favorable draw but none of that matters unless it performs well and wins games. The Ghanaians are a quick side that play two holding midfielders that help clog up the middle and stiffle their opponents. The US needs to be sharp in defense and be sure to communicate and keep track of Ghana’s deep runners. The key for the US team, however, is for Jozy Altidore to turn his solid performances in the last couple of games into goals. Donovan, Dempsey, and Michael Bradley are having excellent tournaments, but for the US team to make some real noise today and beyond, Altidore must start putting the ball in the back of the net.

There are a lot of fascinating matchups in the second round – the Iberian clash of Spain v Portugal, another big European rivalry with Germany v England, a tantalizing match with lots of attacking flair in Argentina v Mexico. Don’t count out the USA v Ghana as one of the games of the round as the Ghanaians are playing for the entire continent and the Americans have provided virtually all of the drama of the group stage. American fans, lets be sure to enjoy this. We do want to win, of course, and our big players will have to show up and lead us into the quarterfinals. Continue reading