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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Jozy, you can’t be serious

photo by: Scott Dungan

photo by: Scott Dungan

I looked in horror to see that Jozy had not even made the bench. I was about to write a post saying how flippin crazy Phil Brown must be, when I found the reason Jozy didn’t make the bench: he was late to the game. And Phil Brown is not – repeat not – a happy camper.

This is from the Sky Sports story:

Brown called the United States international’s behaviour ‘unacceptable’ and acknowledged Altidore would be hit in the pocket.

He said: “It’s going to cost him a lot of money, unfortunately.

“That for me is information that stays in house. The reason he wasn’t on the bench was our business.

“Jozy was on the bench until 2.10 when I decided to change it.

“It’s unacceptable behaviour, full stop.

“You prepare all week for a match day, mentally and physically. To ask a player to arrive an hour and a half before a game is not too much to ask is it?”

Not good Jozy – he is definitely going to have to work hard to get him out of the dog house. The big fear is that the fans begin to turn on him a bit. After that first game he has yet to set the team a light – but to be fair to him, most of his appearances have been off the bench and Hull are just flat out bad.

Thoughts on Fulham vs. Hull, Clint vs. Jozy

Clint Dempsey got the start while Jozy started on the bench. Clint went the full 90 and demonstrated his class and skill. While US fans should be concerned about Jozy not starting, the fact is that he played 95 minutes on Wednesday and it is understandable that he did not get the start. That said there are some reasons for US fans to be concerned about Jozy’s situation.

First, on Dempsey.
Missing the last two games gave Holden and Torres a chance to challenge his place on the national team. Both solidified their position on the national team and have demonstrated their are real options, but I don’t think either came close to displacing Dempsey. While US fans were ready to throw the book at Dempsey, he is clearly class. Duff got a lot of the press attention in this game, but Dempsey to me excelled. His control, passing, and movement with the ball got Fulham into dangerous areas of the field. And he was unlucky not to score. Dempsey basically pushed up as a third striker at times. Granted he did not have to do a lot defensively, but since we are likely to play with two holding midfielders Dempsey should start out wide as opposed to up top.
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Head scratcher: who replaces Davies?

Grahame Jones at the LA Times has a great piece on the lack of any suitable replacement for Charlie Davies. Over the last year the US team was looking increasingly settled, Donovan emerging as a creative midfield force on the left and Davies making the pacy second striker role his own. With the two on the field we were explosive and dangerous on counterattacks and Davies tendency to pull wide left enabled Donovan to frequently over lap on the inside of him. We have suddenly lost a huge threat on the counter and a ton of energy and pace and Bradley has a very tough choice over who to partner with Jozy. Who can provide that? Maybe no one. However, due to Jozy’s versatility – he has the size and strength to be a target man, as well as the pace and skill to run at people and get behind defenses – Bradley has a number of options. Here are some possible options and some players that could emerge as potential replacements.
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Jones setback – But what about Edu?

While U.S. fans have been keenly tuned into the injury comeback and setbacks for Jermaine Jones – a new report indicates he will be out additional six weeks after needing another surgery on his broken leg – but there has been very little ink spilled in the U.S. on Maurice Edu whose return after surgery four months ago still looks far away. I think some of this focus is misplaced. We essentially may be renting Jones for just one tournament, while Edu may be their for the next three world cups. For the long-term sake of the US program getting Edu fit and playing is essential and should be getting a bit more attention.
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Association Football is in Madrid

We will be taking a few days off from regular posting as our day jobs are taking us to Madrid for a conference (I swear, its for work). We’ll be back next week and normal service will be resumed. In the meantime, did you see Liverpool yesterday? Yikes.

Weekend Rewind

Some thoughts on this weekends action.

First, the Manchester derby lived up to the hype. There have been a lot of detailed explanations for the two extra minutes. Yes, Bellamy celebrated a goal just as the board went up and there was also a substitution. But there is a reason managers make substitutions at the very end of games – it is to waste time! It’s a common tactic that works and officials rarely take that time into account – if they did why would they care if players stall while going off the field and furthermore why would players stall! I am not saying that slack time keeping is a good thing, but match officials are almost never that eagle-eye about added time. Hence the suspicious letter of the law interpretation. The Guardian in a great piece of investigative sports journalism concludes – yes, Man U. do get more stoppage time.

Additionally, British commentators show at times a maddening level of pro-English bias. A common refrain now heard is that Carlos Tevez runs around like a “headless chicken.” Hmm… His work rate caused a Ben Foster mistake and a city goal. Could you just imagine the praise that would descend down if that were Wayne Rooney.

Second, Spurs lost to a better Chelsea side, but definitely didn’t get any breaks. Tottenham had a bright start but didn’t convert despite many chances. Continue reading

Why Bob Bradley Deserves Praise (part 2)

usThis is part two of a series on Bob Bradley. Read Part 1. Deconstructing the Bob Bradley Hate

U.S. fans have been highly critical of Bob Bradley since he took over after the 06 World Cup. As I said last week, we thought they were going to date the hot foreign exchange student in Jurgen Klinnsman, but ended up with the girl next door. The disappointment was palpable. While Bradley deserves some criticism – as all coaches do – he has not gotten enough credit for transforming a program that was entering a new World Cup cycle in real flux, into one that looks settled and strong a year before the World Cup. Additionally, U.S. soccer has never been more respected internationally than it is now, leading to more and more Americans playing at the highest levels abroad. Bradley deserves credit and recognition for being a solid manager and a good steward of the US program.

What Bradley has done right:
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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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Hull signs Jan Vennegoor Hesserlink – Jozy impact

Hull has officially announced the signing of Jan “greatest name ever” Vennegoor of Hesselink (formerly of Celtic). He was a free agent so he could sign outside the transfer window. Hull currently have 5 strikers. Jozy, Caleb Folan, Craig Fagan, and Daniel Cousin. While this signing will create more competition, Jozy still looks set to figure prominently. Cousin is on the outs after comments attacking Phil Brown, Craig Fagan has some experience but is not that much of a threat, and Folan is a big target man which is not really Jozy’s best role.

We know Jozy is the most talented of the five, but he has to show that he is also the best striker right now. Brown will likely use Jozy off the bench in EPL games in the near future, until he clearly proves he has adjusted to the EPL and is fully fit to go 90. Hopefully Jozy will establish himself as the first choice striker and Brown will decide to pair him with Hesselink or Gillas. Overall, I think this signing improves Hull overall and gives Brown the option to play an aggressive 4-4-2, with Jozy and Hesserlink, Hunt on the left, Gillas on the right, and perhaps Giovanni and Boateng in the middle. Not that bad of a side and one that could indeed avoid relegation.