Archive for September, 2011

TSG: Bulleting The USMNT October Roster

Out and about yesterday.

Here, our sentiments on the 22 players that Jurgen Klinsmann is bringing in to USMNT camp.

The big man sheds the "too old, too injured" label...

• Merit to the CB Madness?

Perhaps the player who generated the most buzz yesterday with his selection was Michael Orozco Fiscal. Jokes, sneers, jeers and some plaudits for the bringing the centerback who has not precisely failed on the job for the USMNT in his few games under Klinsmann, but has not also shone.

There is, of course, merit to the selection of Orozco Fiscal. He’s got handles and he’s got speed. Honduras boasts “RoRo” Olimpia forward Roger Rojas who can easily get behind a backline while Ecuador has june bug Cristiano Benitez  who is like a bad YouTube mash-up of Charlie Davies and Jeff Cunnigham.

However, why no other speed-distribution types at centerback, specifically Geoff Cameron who faces off against Honduran Carlo Costly each day in practice or Michael Parkhurst–not as fleet of course but perhaps the most positionally sound US centerback abroad.

Why bring in Gooch? Are you going to pair his distribution with Carlos Bocanegra’s? That hasn’t been a successful recipe previously.

• The “core” is decided already? Really?

Here’s what we know about Jurgen Klinsmann at a high level previous to his USMNT job. He probably spent some time casually watching much of the US senior roster. He was a consultant for Toronto FC immediately preceding this role. He hasn’t coached since 2009.

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Klinsmann Tabs 22 For October Friendlies

Dempsey...on the approach...

Via the iPhone.

Gk: Tim Howard, Bill Hamid, Nick Rimando

Def: Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Tim Chandler, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Orozco, Tim Ream, Jonathan Spector

Mid: Clint Dempsey, Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, Jeff Larentowicz, Danny Williams, Brek Shea, DaMarcus Beasley

Fw: Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury

Note: Clarence Goodson was originally included on the roster. He has not been called.

Serie A: Big Weekend For The Big Four

Eric Giardini peeks in on the big games in Bootsville this weekend.

It’s not just Michael Bradley and Chievo. The Serie A season is just starting heat-up.


Inter v Napoli

Inter Team News

The weekend kicks off with a bang in Italy as Napoli travel to Milan to take on a resurgent Inter side. After Claudio Ranieri took the reins following the sacking of Gian Piero Gasperini last week, Inter is a perfect two for two and new life has been breathed into the club. In classic Ranieri style, he has brought tactical stability to the lineup and has Inter back to playing with four at the back – something that Gasperini would not budge on and what ultimately led to his demise.

Everyone at the club seems to be in love with Ranieri and have credited the revival primarily to him. President Massimo Moratti earlier stated “Ranieri started well, really above and beyond all expectations” and, according to Japanese defender Yuto Nagatomo, the reason is simple. “He’s a good man and a great coach. We all like him.” This general sentiment wasn’t felt about Gasperini and is what may have attributed to the Inter players not buying into his system or playing hard for him. Unfortunately for Ranieri, the knock against him has never been that he wasn’t a pleasure to be around. The biggest complaint was that he would get you to second place and never get you beyond that (See Chelsea, Juventus, Roma). Inter striker Giampaolo Pazzini is a major doubt to face Napoli after spraining his ankle in Inter’s 3-2 win over CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.

Napoli Team News

For Napoli, things could not be better at the club. They see themselves fourth in the league table and are flying high after their 2-0 home victory over Villarreal on Tuesday which puts them second in their Champions League “Group of Death.” Unfortunately, star attacker, and club leading scorer, Edinson Cavani picked up an ankle injury that looks to keep him out of Saturday’s match. Cavani’s replacement if he can’t go could be Goran Pandev, the on loan man from Inter.

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2011 Closure: The Legit State Of Women’s Soccer

This is Part II and the conclusion of Maura Gladys’s take on the USWNT as the dust begins to settle in 2011.

What will the USWNT's Golden Moment breed?

For fans of the 2011 U.S. Women’s National team, talk of destiny and fate that clouded heads has faded, the pain of losing has healed, and some distance and perspective has been gained on this summer’s tournament. Not that distance or perspective makes what happened this summer any less amazing. But it’s important to use this summer’s Women’s World Cup in a healthy way, a way that grows the game and doesn’t leave a gigantic shadow a la the 1999 World Cup.

So what’s happened since Frankfurt? The WPS set a new attendance record, spiking crowd attendance at least for a brief period. The league saw it’s most exciting and dramatic final in league history, while still battling financial woes, changing personnel and a lawsuit. And the names of Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Hope Solo, while no longer buzzwords, have become recognizable and popular names in the public lexicon. Each of these events is significant, both for the positives that have come out of the Women’s World Cup, and the enormous strides that are still needed in order to make women’s soccer a legitimate business venture in the United States.

Women’s soccer in the U.S. is in a unique position, in that its domestic league depends on success from the national team to spark popularity. The NBA’s survival didn’t depend on the success on the redeem team in 2008, but the WPS will only thrive (at least for the time being) if the U.S. Women’s National Team wins and entertains fans.

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Klinsmann’s Campers, October 2011 Preview

Picking names....again....

It’s that time again.

The moment to toss out a couple of standards and a couple of surprises for who may make the next USMNT roster.

This is the first set of friendlies that–at least that we know–were made with Klinsmann involved in the decision making. (Note: It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Costa Rica and Belgium were scheduled with the new manager’s advance knowledge.)

We dissected much of what we learned from Klinsmann recently here, in our overarching “Depth Chart” piece.

So what might we expect and look for this time around as Herr Yankee culls his mix?

• Not running the 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 would be a departure from Klinsmann’s current course

Agudelo has been impressive, but needs to show more by his lonesome...

So far, Klinsmann’s personnel has jived perfectly with his favored system of using a hub striker with two flankers running off him and then using three linking players (with different strengths) ahead of four in the backline.

Edson Buddle, Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo, all with some physical size have manned the pseudo target role in the middle of the field.

Names like Herculez Gomez and Charlie Davies haven’t been called as they wouldn’t be great fits for that system. Neither is a traditional winger or a traditional target forward.

Expect to see more of the same like-for-like player selections from Klinsmann this time around.

• Does Klinsmann respect the MLS schedule?

It will be interesting to see if Klinsmann gives pause to the candidacy of any players from the 11 or so teams that may still be in the MLS playoff race.

He wouldn’t call, say, Sheanon Williams if the Union were somehow fighting for a spot? What about Bill Hamid?

Will he call players from any MLS favorites heading into the playoffs? What about Brek Shea who broke down after his last fly-a-thon with the States?

• Youth or experience?

Much like his predecessor, Jurgen has seen fit to make sure there are a core group of players to ably “command” positions so that others may be tested out. Edgar Castillo played next to captain Carlos Bocanegra while Tim Ream sat watching the veteran. Tim Howard giving advice to Hamid.

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It’s Departure Time Again For MLS Scheduling

Canadian author James Grossi writes for The Blizzard and at his blog, Partially Obstructed View.

As MLS grows towards its twentieth club in the coming years there is a risk of losing the balanced schedule. Comments by Commissioner Don Garber intimated that perhaps such a pure form would have to be set aside in order to accommodate the expanded league.

The Schedule: The perennial balancing act in MLS

The balanced schedule is perhaps the core principle of a competitive sport.

A quick look at other North American sports and the disparity that plagues divisions is at times laughable – currently in MLB three of the top four sides contesting the American League Wild Card race are from the AL East, the only division with more than two sides current playing winning baseball (they have four). This sort of inequality can virtually kill a market; in Toronto, Blue Jays fans are well aware at the start of every season that progression is essentially impossible, thus rendering the season pointless, decreasing ticket sales, ensuring the endless downward spiral of the organization.

Any club placed in a division with say New York or Los Angeles would automatically have a decreased chance of a successful season. The balanced schedule reinforces the parity of the league by spreading out the powerbases, not allowing strong teams to pick on the weaker one repeatedly to maximize their points haul.

Whether parity is to be encouraged or avoided is another debate, but even in the most uneven leagues – Spain, Scotland (at least until the split) and England – they have maintained the balanced schedule as the right way to run a league. Of course one could argue that the single-table most-points-wins form of championship is different from the playoff route, but to ruin one in the name of the other would be silly.

The playoff structure is flawed. In a perfect league, there would be no East-West crossover whatsoever, regardless of power-balance, perhaps there would be no conferences at all with the best eight or ten moving on to the postseason, perhaps no postseason at all would be best. But to recreate the league to emphasize the playoffs by distorting the positioning in that league which creates the playoff standings is backward logic.

The suggestion of regional divisions is a valid hypothesis as well, but the abandonment of the balanced schedule in the near future, due largely to travel requirements is premature.

That's a lot of frequent flying (table courtesy

The central problem to an expanded fixture list in the massive amount of travel that occurs in North American leagues; crossing time zones simply does not occur in league play for most European nations. The long journeys have proven challenging obstacles, as very few teams have managed positive results when crisscrossing the continent. (Table at left provided by

There are a number of systemic inefficiencies that plague the schedule, which with some long hours of calculation and consideration could easily be corrected. The prime obstacle to schedule-makers in the past has been that most teams were tenants at another’s home, thus requiring accommodation of a host of other dates.

Perhaps the change in this limitation has been overlooked in the efforts to design the schedule as almost every side now has or will soon have control of their own venues.

What if a rule was put in place to engineer the schedule such that any cross-conference trip could only occur on a weekend following a clear midweek schedule after a home match? Meaning that a club would play a match at home, have a full week off to travel, train, rest before an excursion across the continent. Too often there have been distant road trips just to return directly home for a match two or three days later.

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USWNT: Deconstructing Pia

Maura Gladys returns with Part I of II on the USWNT moving forward

Out with the old, in with the new? Yeah, um, not so much....

It’s tough to derive meaning from last week’s U.S. Women’s Soccer Celebration Series in an on-field context. With nothing at stake, and with the purpose of the two game series against Canada clearly stated as a celebration, the squad was under no obligation other than to entertain fans.  USA-Brazil it was not. Pia Sundhage made sure that every member of the team saw the field, and tried out a new formation, with mixed results. But the games did give us a glimpse at who could feature prominently for the USWNT in Olympic qualifiers and (if everything goes to plan) London 2012 next summer.

Sundhage trotted out a shiny new 4-2-3-1 formation in both games, a departure from her usual 4-4-2. It relies on outside midfielders and backs to push the attack forward, good for the U.S. who has one of the most potent right side duos in the world in Ali Krieger and Heather O’Reilly. But the new formation also means that Sundhage needs to solidify an already muddled central midfield, that never quite hit it’s stride in Germany.

O'Reilly, still the USWNT's Jason Bourne

Carli Lloyd, Lauren Cheney, Shannon Boxx and Lori Lindsey played in the two “possession” midfielder slots over the course of the series, with all four doing well. Shannon Boxx made her defensive presence known, and Carli Lloyd looked more comfortable in this playmaking role than the goal-scoring one she was charged with in Germany. But that doesn’t mean that either’s spot is guaranteed for the future. Lori Lindsey passed well and was the catalyst for several U.S. attacks, and Cheney is morphing into a superb utility player, providing whatever is needed wherever she plays. Although she did better when moved a bit closer to goal, she still maintained play as a deep-lying playmaker.

Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe and Amy Rodriguez started both games access the midfield, with A-Rod running the left wing and Rapinoe playing beneath Abby Wambach. The real revelations from the series were subs Tobin Heath and Kelley O’Hara. Heath dazzled in Game 1 with her tight ball skills and eye for creativity. The one knock against her is her lack of physicality, and her lanky stature often sees her pushed off the ball too easily. But Heath is the future of the U.S. attacking midfield. With Alex Morgan up top and HAO and Rapinoe out on the wings, Heath will have an arsenal of weapons to spray choose from.

But this is Abby Wambach’s team for the foreseeable future. She again demonstrated her ability to seize games by the throat with her hustle and athleticism when she netted two goals on Thursday night, the first one a spinning, one-touch perfect strike to the top corner of the net, and the second one a trademark header that sent her and the ball flying into the goal. She also set up several teammates with wonderfully-placed crosses.

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