Archive for July, 2009

Kenny Cooper to…Bundesliga 2

Beer and football, perfect together

Beer and football, perfect together

News out of Dallas this morning is that USMNT member and South Africa ’10 hopeful, Kenny Cooper is headed to 1860 Munich of the Bundesliga 2.

My brother refers to Cooper as “my boy,” but the reality is that I just like that he is a true striker. And Mark, everyone knows that Benny Feilhaber…well that adoration piece is coming shortly.

Cooper, for his part,  wants the ball and he wants ownership of the goal scoring responsibility. In contrast, Landon Donovan has much more skill (and plays in a different way), but really has never taken that onus until the Confederation Cup this year.

I think the Bundesliga is going to be an excellent and crucial fit for Cooper. While the exposure is not the same as some of the other European leagues, the Bundesliga boasts a very high level of technical soccer. Further, the cross–see: Michael Ballack–and header is just as big in that league as it is in the English leagues.

Is Coops a Carew in hiding?

Is Coops a Carew in hiding?

Speaking of the English leagues, while Cooper was unable to hack it at Manchester United where he had a trial out of college, I’m curious why none of the team (maybe they did?) pursued him.

If Kenny can improve his technical proficiency, I think there are correlaries to such noted EPL strikers as John Carew and to a lesser extent, Peter Crouch.

Not speculating: You choose Spector (63%)

"I rule the right flank"

"I rule the right flank"

With 135 out of a possible 212 votes, you vote for John Spector to be your starting right back for the USMNT right now.

TSG thought the victory would be a bit of landslide for Spector after his strong showing in the Confederation’s Cup, including his cross to Clint Dempsey that got the U.S. started against Brazil and on the way to winning the 1st half at least.

However, we didn’t expect second choice Frankie Hedjuk to command nearly 27% of the vote with 58 votes for the RB nod.

Fan Larry says, “Frankie until Kevin Alston is ready and available”

Fan Mark says, “Frankie gets the nod due to his tremendous work rate and his leadership qualities.”

And Fan B.T. goes so far as to add, “Frankie is an emotional leader. Hiw will to win is unmatched. Any team that has the chance to play him and does not, will have regrets.”

Bringing up the rear was Steve Cherundolo with 18 votes and 8% of the vote.  Others receiving votes were: Heath Pearce, Danny Califf, hyped youngster Kevin Alston and Dallas standout Drew Moor.

Finally, there was a lone vote for “Your Mama.” We’ve never seen her play, but let’s trot her out there is you think she can hang.

See all the commentary here.

Turning Back the Clock on US Soccer

I got a little history lesson today when I started exploring US Soccer. I was hoping to refresh my recent history and for some “blast from the past” names of former national team members (Joe-Max Moore!), but then just kept going.

I like the game of soccer, have followed the US team (at varying levels of interest) since my childhood, been to the National Soccer Hall of Fame (when I was too young to care to read) and even attended the 1994 World Cup game versus Romania at a sweltering Rose Bowl. However, I can’t say I knew much about the US National Team’s earlier history outside of the 1950 upset of England.

The most interesting thing I learned so far was that the first hat trick in World Cup history was achieved by an American, Bert Patenaude, in the 1930 World Cup in Uruguay. This feat, however, was not officially recognized by FIFA until 2006 due to a disputed second goal in the contest. (Based on stats alone, Patenaude was a prolific player, scoring 121 goals in 125 club games over 3years.)

The 1930 World Cup Team from the United States (Bert Patenaude is thrid from the left in the bottom row.)

The 1930 World Cup Team from the United States (Bert Patenaude is third from the left in the bottom row.)

My interest has been piqued and I am looking forward to exploring more about the history of the US Soccer team; a history that goes back to 1885.  If you have any recommendations for books, sites or videos, please send them my way.

(By the way, the US keeper in the 1930 World Cup wore a “newsboy” cap in goal…how cool is that?)

Go For the Gold (Cup)…Sometimes

Looking back at my post after the Haiti draw, I realized that I was only half right in my criticism of the contest. I am still not fond of the seeming lack of focus going into and during the contest. However, some of the criticism was misplaced at that time as I didn’t really agree with US Soccer’s decision to make this a developmental tournament for the US program. That opinion has changed.

The international stages of the Confederations Cup and World Cup (qualifying) are much more important for the quality of US Soccer if not necessarily for its perception in America than the Gold Cup. Furthermore, the confluence of the deep run in the Confederations Cup, the MLS season, and club training made participation in the Gold Cup a little too much to ask for most of the starting eleven in light of World Cup qualifying (and particularly, August 12th).

Big Ass Trophy

Big Ass Trophy

In general, the Gold Cup itself is not held in the same regard as  the European Championship (or even  Copa America) by the world soccer community around the globe in part due to the quality of play and its occurrence every two years. In fact, even fans of CONCACAF nations have lamented its bi-annual format as opposed to a four-year model that could make it a “bigger deal.” Given the money it brings in, I doubt that will change, but that isn’t a bad thing.

On the contrary, I think the US should use the bi-annual format to its advantage as it has this past cycle. Play the “A” team  the summer after each World Cup in hopes of getting into the Confederations Cup and then purposefully make it a developmental tournament the summer prior to the next World Cup. While I am not suggesting that as long as the US regulars show-up they will win (thereby securing a birth the next Confederations Cup), I think we can safely assume that they will be one of the two favorites (with Mexico) for the foreseeable future. (A by-product of this approach would be that the Gold Cup the years after the WC would be a “bigger deal.”)

Aside from the “psychological” boost (if there even was one) and a big ass trophy, what did Mexico gain by being crowned the champion? With neither side at full strength, the win will get them two weeks of good press and bragging rights until the “real game” on August 12th. So kudos to US Soccer for being smarter than me and figuring this out well in advance.

Catch the last 3 minutes of DC’s game last night?

I happened to glimpse the very ending of the CONCACAF Champions League (isn’t that a little bit of an oxymoron like “jumbo shrimp”) of the DC United – Luis Angel Firpo 1-1 tie this evening–pardon the put-down I’m just at a loss for calling it the Champions League here in North America just yet.

What I was trying to do was watch the beginning of the Pachuca game in order to spend more time observing  Jose Francisco Torres chops. Alas, he never made it on the field in the nightcap for Pachuca.

Though I only witnessed about the last five minutes of the DC United game–so I can’t give you a review–I wanted to comment an extremely great play all around in the final 2 minutes. At TSG, each game we call attention the “Most Unheralded Play of the Game.” This is play that usually blends into the background a bit, but if one of the participants didn’t make such a quality movement, action, kick, etc., it might have led to giving up a goal or not scoring a goal. Well this was the play in the game this evening.

Avery John for DC United got booked about 10 yards shy of his 18 setting up an extremely worrisome free kick just off-center of the goal for Firpo. Now you’ll forgive me if I didn’t know all the players that contributed to this play, but the United wall lined up per usual.

As Firpo’s Christian Alexander Sanchez set himself in motion towards the ball, a Firpo offender–in a clearly premeditated and agreed upon manner–cut low into the left side of the wall and attempted to buckle Luciano Emilio who was on the left edge of the wall. Emilio fought off the disruption working hard to maintain his positi0n and the integrity of the wall.

Emilio’s commitment to his position led to him defending the strike by seeing it knock off his outside right thigh. Had Emilio not been committed or had the buckle been just a half a second earlier and a little harder, the rocket sent on goal might have struck pay dirt.

It was really a picture perfect play to see all around with everyone “doing their job.”

However, I might have missed it, if the replay crew was asleep at the controls, which they were not.

I probably would have even appreciated the commentary too, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately since the replay was very well done) I was watching on Galavision and the Spanish was a little too rapido for my consumption.

Great job by all involved, including Galavision.

The Beautiful Game: A Ball Can Save the World

Much like last week’s post on Soccer in America, we will also explore the power of The Beautiful Game to make a difference around the world.

One of the reasons I love soccer, much like running, is that it is a simple activity that can be played virtually anywhere with just one piece of “equipment.” Seventy yards of grass, two frames and some chalk are nice, but not necessary. Eleven on a side can produce an elegant symphony of movement, but so can “one v. one” and a spot on a wall. Beyond its simplicity, soccer combines the important attributes of creativity, teamwork and structure that transcend the game on the pitch (or vacant lot) and can impact lives.

I was reminded of these sentiments when I came across an article on the Street Soccer USA tournament coming up next week. For those not familiar, Street Soccer USA is an American organization whose mission is soccer for social change. From the SSUSA’s website: “Through our 16-city league we aim to get homeless men, women, and youth off the streets, ‘scoring goals on the field, and achieving their goals in life.”

I first learned of the existence and impact of “homeless soccer” a couple of years ago through the ESPN documentary Kicking It. This well crafted film follows a number of homeless individuals from different countries on their road to the 2006 Homeless World Cup in South Africa. (If you haven’t see it, track it down; below is the trailer.) Street Soccer USA is the US partner of the Homeless World Cup, an annual international football tournament that provides the opportunity for people who are homeless “to represent their country and change their lives forever.”

The “homeless soccer” movement has now reached over 60 countries where it impacts countless lives. Such is the power of soccer.

At its most fundamental level, soccer is the beautiful game, and it has nothing to do with style on the pitch.

Follow-up: U.S. potential strike force abroad

We mentioned Cody Arnoux, Gabriel Ferrari and Marcus Tracy among others in our Manchester City-New York Yankees column earlier this week.

If you haven’t seen these guys, here’s a little bit of American pride coming at you courtesy of YouTube.

Marcus Tracy uses his head wisely.

Jemal Johnson a little over 2 years ago for MK Dons. Wicked!

And a little compilation set of multiple Americans overseas

(Turn down the sound unless you want to feel like your in a Volkswagen commercial)