Kicking It Off: Parker, Sturridge, Frimpong, More


• Apology #1: Completely flubbed the Borussia Dortmund preview over the weekend and as such we’re not fit to comment on their shellacking of Bayern Munich with a starting team that averages 22.8 years of age.

Hey! You owe me an apology...yes, yes we do....

• Apology #2: Daniel Sturridge. We were wrong. You are good. And you’re actually making that Fernando Torres purchase (wouldn’t Chelsea rather have someone like Ashley Young creating some width?) look pretty short-sighted.

• Apology #3: Scotty Parker with one of the best goals–easily–of 2011. Parker with a crafty little give and go received a pass back on the wrong foot and toe poked the ball in. Ho-hum you say? That toe poke was passed Pepe Reina and clinked the inside of the left post….oh and it was near the 18′!

• Junior….Junior:

We mused it on Saturday. Kind of hard to put Michael Bradley in as a starter against Argentina unless he starts getting some games in our opinion….if only because Stu Holden and Maurice Edu are playing so masterfully. Then there’s Jermaine Jones.

Will be very interesting to see Bob Bradley does unless MB90 starts going 90.

• Shilling for Foreign Cash

Had this sentiment for a while and just not keen on a whole column on it. Added bonus of a reserve league and the increased talent level seeing the pitches in MLS these days?

How about bringing in foreign dollars on players sales (not consequential yet, I know), in other words using foreign investment to fund the domestic league.

Hiccup here: Probably a bit easier if the transfer seasons matched, you know?

• Milan v. Napoli

Cooly playing well...

A methodical Milan squad today (excepting Robinho here who is quietly having a wonderful season) versus the frenetic chaos that is the Napoli attack.

If Milan wins they build on their Serie A lead, if Napoli wins, they co-habitate that top spot with the Rossoneri in the race for the big cannoli.

The game is on and FSC at 11:45 PT.

• Buddle’s Bundle

Edson Buddle scores (on Luis Robles) in FC Ingolstadt 04 4-1 win over  Karlsruher.

By my recollection, that’s six games (only three as a starter?), two goals, and 1 assist for the US striker who came in straight from an offseason regimen and plays for one of the poorer Bundesliga 2 sides currently (read: “not great service”).

Yeah, he probably doesn’t have the chops.

• U-17, but not playing like it.

The US youngsters captured the CONCACAF U-17 title for the Yanks last night. Nathan Smith with the exclamation point boombosa in extra time.

Arshavin-esque?  Name it!

• Africa: The rich getting richer?

Ghana, the only African nation to make it to the Round of 16 at World Cup 2010.

Now, word out of London (courtesy DTH in the TSG commentary section), that super Arsenal starlet Emmanuel Frimpong–who had donned the Three Lions garb at the U-17 level–will likely play for the Black Stars.

• Mind Your Wicket

Speaking of Arsenal, the Carling Cup runner-ups, who somewhat incredulously allowed an Obafemi Martens open-netter in the waning minutes of regulation, Professor Arsene Emirates and his troops will need to hold the fort in a hurry.

Leyton Orient, who surprised Arsenal, at the end of regulation just two Saturday’s ago, pays a visit in the race for the next piece of silverware, the FA Cup. How will Arsene deploy in this one?

I feel for Arsenal fans–and got some stick on Twitter for some jokes–but Arsenal is cursed at keeper. Like the clichéd business axiom (“insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”), Arsene Wenger still believes he can “skimp” on a keeper and develop one with all the skills over time.

It just doesn’t work like that. Good keepers are imported (Van Der Saar, Cech, Reina, Howard to name a few).

Just to break the spell, you have to get one. Who cares if every team holds you ransom? It’s a known weakness. Just bring in Hugo Lloris already.

44 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dth on 2011/02/28 at 10:32 AM

    Two comments:

    re: transfer markets. You’d think the MLS would be eager to vacuum foreign money, but what is the last big-money transfer from MLS? Jozy Altidore? Who’s the last big-money defensive transfer from MLS? Edu? Bocanegra? MLS has proven itself very willing to allow its best talents to leave on a free: recently Holden, Findley, Buddle, and Movsisyan have left, and been pretty successful on the whole–conservatively, a 50% hit rate. Most clubs would kill for that kind of record. How much money should the four of them cumulatively garnered–$8 million? $10 million?

    re: US u-17s. I thought it was a bit of an ugly game yesterday–golazos excepting–and a lot of people have been complaining about it, not without justification. Context adds a lot to that performance: for one, the U.S. was missing three of its best players from earlier in the tournament (Pina GK, Acosta LB–and a good one too, Guido #10–probably the best player for the U.S. overall), and I’ve heard that Kellen Gulley, who’s been out for a while rehabbing his knee, is the best forward for the U.S. The pitch was incredibly awful and the ref allowed the play to become very physical, which was unfortunate.

    Probably my favorite player on the team is Marc Pelosi out of the Bay Area. In response to the inevitable question: he plays on the left.


  2. Posted by matthewsf on 2011/02/28 at 10:45 AM

    Brad Guzan back to Aston Villa from his stint at Hull City. Interesting.


    • Posted by John on 2011/02/28 at 11:07 AM

      In reading the Hull Fans… they didn’t rate him that highly. Most said that he wasn’t as good as their other options at keeper.

      I think there is the possibility at some point we are going to find that the “Howard era” at keeper has encapsulated the entirety of Guzan’s major international career and when it ends… we will be onto the next man between the pipes.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/02/28 at 11:23 AM

        I “fear” (don’t know if that’s the right word) you are correct here John.

        With Guzan not seemingly pushing for top time anywhere and other top teams not seeking him out in appears, there is bevy of solid keepers waiting in the wings it appears: Puffy, Cody Cropper, Hamid, Cervi, etc.


  3. Posted by EFG on 2011/02/28 at 10:51 AM

    I’m going to have to say Milan beats Napoli this afternoon. Napoli hasn’t shown me that they have the mentality to compete with the Milan teams this season.


  4. The give-and-go play has to be one of the most basic in soccer and many other sports, but it never seems to lose it’s value when executed correctly. I’ll have to think of Scott Parker during my rec-league basketball game later today.

    I’m starting to come around to the idea of Bradley not making the starting XI against Argentina. Too early to make the call for the Gold Cup, but at this point, I’d still take him over Holden, Edu, or Jones, given his experience and integration with the USA. It will be interesting to see how the next few months play out for him, however, and if he continues to be benched and others continue to put in strong, consistent appearances, my position now may be difficult to justify.

    What a goal from Nathan Smith! Eclipsed only by the awesome mullet of Canada’s Lepenna (the Canadian ejected at the end of the match). Not sure which one is burned into my mind more strongly. Actually, I am. Definitely the mullet.


    • Posted by Idaho Vandal on 2011/02/28 at 2:27 PM

      That mullet was amazing. I actually laughed out loud.


    • Reply to: “I’d still take him (MB) over Holden, Edu, or Jones, given his experience and integration with the USA.”

      This reasoning (if BB uses it to keep MB in the starting XI) could paint us into a corner come Gold Cup time and slow down the renovation of the team. Yes MB has loads of experience in the system but so do Holden & Edu (not so much Jones). In a few weeks an argument may be made that the upcoming friendlies are to get our starting lineup accustomed to each other in a cohesive way. It may be said that we can’t change MB out because there isn’t time (before the Gold Cup) to get 2 new CM’s (Jones and Holden) ready to play together. The problem is that Jones and Bradley do not have that much familiarity. (1 match side by side and 1 match in a 3 man setup with Edu). Also if it is better for the overall team then by the late rounds of the Gold Cup this change could mean the difference between beating Mexico and not.

      Most of the entirety of last cycle was about constant tweaking by BB. Now is probably the best time to make a wholesale revision of the midfield setup and trial Holden & Jones pairing, with Demps in the withdrawn position and Donovan at RM or LM. Making the most of every match opportunity to test your current best options is important. If we wait till after the gold cup to try Holden and Jones then when will it happen? By this summer will we already be 1 year into the cycle.

      The continual inclusion of MB cries less to me of nepotism by BB, then it does a stoic determination to stick with a game-plan of 2 defensive CMs. In the past BB was trying to maximize the players he had available. Now that the equation is changing, it is time to see if BB will change his gameplan with it or become obstinate.

      I understand what you are saying to wait and see. Just wanted to get these thoughts out there. Also loved the mullet comment. That french-canadian player was pissed at his ejection. Hats off to the Canadian U-17 team and the US side.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/02/28 at 3:07 PM

        If the reasoning for sticking with MB is 2 DCM then Holden’s form and fitness pretty much win the day (if Jones is your other obvious choice).
        Holden is a MUCH better on the ball defender at this point IMO and does so many small things well and better suited to the role ie winning balls TO someone instead of willy nilly and close control in traffic to name a few. I don’t hate Bradley but this is a golden opp to start looking at who else can contribute here with some new CDM combos available.
        Good problems in the MF.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/02/28 at 3:24 PM

          With your lack of options up top, and limited options at CB, wouldn’t you want to have the safety of a double-pivot at the base of you midfield? I can see Mr Bradley going for a Jones-Bradley tandem. Personally, I’d play Holden in a slightly advanced role, and leave Dempsey and Donovan as the wide men, and Altidore up top.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/02/28 at 3:36 PM

            George I think you and I both love Holden in the advanced CDM role. Problem is that’s kind of MB’s role (for whatever reason that he outright owns it).

            As I mentioned on Saturday, Holden has never player interiorly for the US on the “A” team. All of his appearances have come, I believe, exclusively at RM. I was surprised in the game that he got DeJonged that Bradley didn’t opt for Holden centrally instead of Jose Torres. So that says a lot to me. (If you’re not updated, Torres barely gets off the bench these days.)

            I like Donovan and Dempsey in their roles. I can’t see moving Donovan off the wing despite that he doesn’t cross it. That’s sort of the Cherundolo overlap there (which Lichaj can do).

            Dempsey, more flexibility, though I love him trailing in off the left flank. And Jozy (since Teal is not ready) up top.

            Back to the middie situation, so you have Holden and Bradley inhabiting similar roles (which is my guess why BB has groomed Stu outside).

            That leaves Jones and Edu.

            Edu is good as a straight CDM…not a ton of distribution, but he’ll Macherano himself all over the field.

            Jones is a more interesting conundrum. BB used him as the ball distributor in the two games he played and he and Bradley were tripping over one another. Jones has a lot of class, but he’s not the main creator in my opinion, plus he’s often injured and getting older.

            So who plays? Well if Bradley sticks with his defensive 4-4-2 (and remember Bradley is defense first) then it’s going to be Jones and Bradley in the middle.

            What would I do? I would try (not saying this for ARG but in one of the friendlies). I would try two different things:

            1) I would a 3-2-1 with Jones, Bradley, Holden…Dempsey and Donovan and Jozy. Then you get Jones on his more natural foot protecting the left back.

            2) I would try Holden-Jones with Jones as the Muamba to Holden’s well Holden (Bolton reference). Jones would play it out of the back and be available and Stu would press up the pitch.

            No definitives just worth a try.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/02/28 at 3:55 PM

          But one of Bradley’s strengths, arriving late in the box from deep, won’t be diminished – he just has to be intelligent when he chooses to go forward – and it could be more effective as it can be difficult to track. I’d go for a 4-2-3-1 / 4-1-4-1 hybrid, but that middle trio being Jones, Holden and Bradley.

          I personally like Holden more advanced because he can see and make *that* pass… The upside of having Holden playing this role over Bradley is greater. Others will disagree, but that is what I would do.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/02/28 at 4:16 PM

          I am glad nobody has suggested playing Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo up top with Altidore in a 4-4-2. Let them get some more games in MLS first…


        • Posted by dth on 2011/02/28 at 4:21 PM

          I think Bradley and Holden can coexist together in a 4-4-2 a la Everton, if they have a good enough understanding.

          A lineup I’d like to see looks something like this:
          Howard; Bornstein, Bocanegra, Ream, Cherundolo; Holden, Bradley; Donovan, Dempsey, Diskerud; Altidore.

          No guarantees this works as intended, but I think it could do well.

          @GeorgeCross: I see Teal and Agudelo being nice off the bench options for the Gold Cup.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/02/28 at 4:46 PM

          My Teal Bunbury / Juan Agudelo comment was more about showing some patience and grooming them properly, and not putting too much pressure on them too soon.


  5. Posted by John Henry on 2011/02/28 at 12:10 PM

    I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say Edu has been playing masterfully, his latest stoppage-time goal notwithstanding. At least, from what I’ve been hearing & reading, the Gers fans haven’t rated his recent form that highly. Jones has been decent, and Holden’s been great, but the hype has died down a bit. I’d say Bradley still has good reason to start, but it’s definitely a much closer race than in the past.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/02/28 at 12:18 PM

      I don’t know John. I’ve watched a number of their games recently and I think Edu is playing well in the league and obviously better in Europe.

      I think the real problem with Gers right now is once they sold Kenny Miller they literally have virtually no firepower up top. Diouf is okay…is he’s your 3rd guy, in my opinion.

      Consequently they’re not stretching the field or holding up the ball and both their offense and defense is suffering.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/02/28 at 12:39 PM

      I agree. Edu is very much the fourth man in the holding/linking role in midfield. Edu plays well in the SPL, but aside from Rangers and Celtic, the rest of the league is worse than the MLS. He does not play as well against better opposition.


  6. Posted by Mark on 2011/02/28 at 12:12 PM

    It’s really hard to read the Shin Guardian when entire articles consist of sentence fragments like “Nathan Smith with the exclamation point boombosa in extra time.” or “Hiccup here: Probably a bit easier if the transfer seasons matched, you know?” Complete sentences and paragraphs would make this much more readable.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/02/28 at 12:17 PM

      Thanks for the feedback, appreciate it. We’ll take it into consideration. We’ve received–and rightfully so–a lot of stick for poor grammar or spelling, but is the first this issue came up.



      • Posted by Andy_4Lakes on 2011/02/28 at 2:15 PM

        Ah, the standards one must now accomodate when your site goes main-stream and visitors now demand a highly professional appearance (on a volunteer website no less).

        Well Matthew, if your site is becoming an industry mainstay, I suppose “sacrifices” must be made.

        Can’t remember when I first logged-in here, but it’s been a while now, and the growth of this site and its followers has been impressive. This growth is quite apparent to me, even without any internal metrics. I love your site, and visit multiple times a day. If things need to be more “professional” in appearance, so be it! Just keep the posts coming so I can learn more about the technical aspects of this great sport. I need all the help I can get!

        Keep up the good work.


    • Yes, succinct full sentences would be great. However, I can understand the plight of getting content up quickly rather than waiting for editing. Also there is a coziness to the informal nature of bullet fragments.
      Don’t mind the sentence fragments if it gets the point across. (I am fully aware of the irony of that sentence.)
      Keep up the good work.


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/02/28 at 2:56 PM

      Enough please with the grammar police. Go to a different site if it bothers you. The readers and posters who have come here for years do so for the content, insight and relevance. Great “volunteer” site. Just don’t come here if you’re panties get bunched by incomplete sentences.
      Rock on TSG boys.


      • Posted by Dave on 2011/02/28 at 8:32 PM

        Not a grammar point, but up above someone said José Torres was barely getting off the bench for Pachuca. He has in fact started and gone 90 the last 4 games of Clausura 2011.
        I rarely watch Pachuca, so I’ll leave it to others to comment on his play, but I have noticed that he has been out of favor at his club and worked his way back into the starting lineup more than once, which at least says something good about his character and work ethic(and maybe something bad about Villarreal B loan Facundo Coria in the same regard).
        Independently of whether he gets another chance to contribute to the USMNT, I would like to see him improve his defending, and just once I would like to see him get a yellow for a professional foul–the few times I’ve watched him play he has been booked for complaining, or for a bad and late tackle.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/02/28 at 9:01 PM

          Thanks Dave. That was me. I had actually not seen his last 3 games. So that’s good to know. However, I believe the point still holds from above.


  7. Posted by Crow on 2011/02/28 at 12:12 PM

    I remember the day that Leander article on Edson Buddle came out on ESPN. I posted the link immediately in the comment section because I knew Matthew would enjoy it. LOL. Leander is a fool- I’m sure there are many more capable writers who can have his job.


    • Posted by Jake C on 2011/02/28 at 3:49 PM

      I’ll never forgive him for his “USA should start diving” piece. Ridiculous.


  8. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/02/28 at 2:42 PM

    Within the space of a few months, England have ‘lost’ Frimpong and Clarke.


  9. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/02/28 at 2:54 PM

    Carlos Vela has scored again!! [although it did look suspiciously offside]. Two goals in two substitute appearances. When do the US play Mexico? With Hernandez scoring too, I can see the US back four having trouble with these two, because let’s face it, none of your CBs are particularly quick.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/02/28 at 2:55 PM

      Vela nearly scored the winner in injury time – he perhaps should have to be fair.


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/02/28 at 3:02 PM

      Agreed that our urine tossing friends from the South have much improved potency in the attack but still need quality midfield supply and with Blanco gone )))…service could be a bit iffy. And defending isn’t exactly their strong suit either.


      • Posted by dth on 2011/02/28 at 3:21 PM

        Yeah, there aren’t many central midfielders for Mexico that impress me. I think if U.S.-Mexico happened tomorrow, the U.S. would dominate midfield and thereby give it a good shot at winning the game.

        The thing about Hernandez and Vela is they don’t generally create goals; they finish them.


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/02/28 at 3:30 PM

          But isn’t that the beauty of these derby games? Even though on paper one team [at this time, USA] is stronger, it sort of goes out the window? You know that both set of players [and fans] will be pumped up for it. And I’d say it’s safe to say that the USA has taken the mantle of being top dog from Mexico, and have generally been the better team since 2002, right? It’s going to mean so much to them to put one over you.


        • Posted by dth on 2011/02/28 at 4:16 PM

          No…I think U.S. and Mexico have been pretty equal since 2002. Yeah, U.S. got to the QF of the World Cup over them, but Mexico’s been to the knockout rounds every time this millennium. U.S. has a 3-2 advantage in Gold Cups this decade, but Mexico can quite reasonably point out that all of the Gold Cups have been in the U.S. In World Cup qualies, the U.S. wins at home and Mexico wins at Azteca.

          And I believe the teams are pretty much equal going into the Gold Cup too. I was just noting the central midfield advantage because USMNT fans are naturally pessimists and have been going on and on about the advantage their forwards will have over our defenders…well, we’ll have a nice advantage over their central midfield. And who knows what happens in Mexico’s third of the field–Mexican defenders are generally midgets but the forward pool hasn’t exactly distinguished itself yet.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/02/28 at 3:39 PM

      The US will certainly has problems. Ironically Gio Dos Santos in the more tucked in attacking fw role gives them more of a problem.

      That said, Mexico is best in the open field and ask someone else pointed out, their midfield is a little weaker than normal.

      I think is the US packs it in Vela specifically would be neutralized and Little Pea at least would be slowed down.


      • Posted by Jake C on 2011/02/28 at 3:55 PM

        Mexico excel at open games regardless of (perhaps because of) their midfield shortcomings. Don’t think anyone would disagree with me, but I’d love to see the matchup nowadays.


  10. Posted by dth on 2011/02/28 at 4:26 PM

    By the way, let’s take a moment to celebrate how masterful Dortmund have been. They’re so incredibly young yet play with such poise, and such willingness to adapt to different situations. If you want a picture of how the same basic situation can not work out optimally, look at Arsenal…


  11. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/02/28 at 7:04 PM

    Any predictions for the Chelsea v Man Utd game tomorrow?


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/01 at 10:29 AM

      Sadly, I think the Chelsea train has left the station. I suggested a week or so ago for a “whatever happened to..” diagnosis from last years EPL champs.
      I look forward to your analysis and discussion of Man U v Chelsea of course couched in poor sentence construction and bad grammar))


  12. Posted by Nelson on 2011/03/01 at 12:23 AM

    Man U. They’re starting to pick up steam and Chelsea is too old IMO.


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