Archive for May, 2013

USA vs. Germany Preview: Fingerspitzengefühl!

"Okay, how does that work again Jogi?"

“Okay, how does that work again Jogi?”

Can we all agree that friendlies are friendlies?

Like single game player observations, goals scored and more, “friendlies” in soccer are cruel hangover-inducing hallucinogenics often for fans.

And when you talk about friendlies involving the national team–a team that averages less than 25 observations per year and a rotating cast of players, opponents and stadiums–those friendlies can be downright mind…messing.

At this time last year, the US was whupping Scotland… in a friendly; 5-0 the tune in a game where Landon Donovan questioned his desire beforehand and then proceeded to pocket a hat trick.

Donovan, of couse, looked disinterested in nearly every game after that for Jurgen Klinsmann and is only now rekindling his affinity for wearing the badge.

Changed haircut; changed player. (Both better.)

Changed haircut; changed player. (Both better.)

More than four years ago, a hat trick got fans percolating–it was Sacha Kljestan’s footwork that turned that one and had fans salivating at the prospect of a Bradley-Kljestan or Kljestan-Feilhaber pairing in central midfield for years to come. This past Wednesday marked Kljestan’s first start for the US under the new regime.

Likewise Wednesday’s results–Germany’s 20-minute thrashing of Ecuador who looked like they couldn’t wait to take their lack of talents back to South Beach and the US’s 4-2 defensive undressing at the hands of Belgium–can’t really be looked at in terms of team measurement gauges.

The success of this friendly series will be measured by the Yanks’ point total following the US’s battles with Jamaica, Panama and Honduras in the June games that count.

And should the States get run by Germany on Sunday–a plausible possibility–the result should be only viewed in through the lens of the entire June series.

Heading into the Sunday’s game, the States should really focus its onfield investigation on: (1) continuing to try and solve their inability to find chances from the run of play (more on this in a bit) and (2) getting reps in for their would-be central back pairing–the unfamiliarity as well as uncomplementary nature of Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson was evident from the moment the team sheet was made public against Belgium.

In Germany, the US will face a “B +” team with a fistful of players with something to prove. It will still be contending with class players, like Podolski, Klose and Kruse, but the first eleven will obviously not be the humming mannschaft that a team gearing up for three critical qualifiers should be the equal of.

Without further Freddy Adu, we go to our customary preview.

As usual, it goes:

About The Opponent: Germany

TSG: What Are We Looking For

11 At The Whistle

(Germany 4 – Ecuador 2, from Wednesday)

About the Opponent: Germany

Under Joachim Löw, Germany is executing a subtle identity change that likely has Jurgen Klinsmann drooling with envy. Die Mannshaft bolted through Euro 2012 until they banged up against Italy’s Azzurri.

Jogi-Master. Jogi-San.

Jogi-Master. Jogi-San.

It was that match–a 2-1 defeat at the feet of Mario Balotelli–that toggled the lightswitch for Löw. In the 2010 World Cup and for the predominance of this tournament, Germany sat deep against teams and ignited vicious counterattacks. In this match the lack of forward pressure meant Italian maestro Andres Pirlo could ping passes forward and the sitting deep failed to put the correct pressure on Antonio Cassano who made himself available between the lines.

Low, who had largely been aggressive–some thought borderline arrogant–in his player selection and tactics was faced with the realization that he wasn’t squeezing all that was possible out of his club by merely playing defend and counter.

Before the next competitive match in September of 2012, here was Low’s sentiments on the UEFA web site:

“We will have to completely change our tactics – which used to be, ‘if we have the ball we are active, if not we drop back’.”

“Our aim in the next months will be to play a high pressing game, even against attacking sides. We have to be more active when defending without the ball.

Obviously this may sound familiar to US fans as well.

Since that time, the goals have been plentiful for Germany though the back, as expected with a higher line and new tactics, has also conceded a shade more. Against Ecuador on Wednesday–a disinterested Ecuador–Germany did just that as Lukas Podolski notched the first goal for the adidas men just nine seconds into the match with pressure on Ecuador’s centerbacks.

The US will likely see more of the same on Saturday. High pressure from the Germans. Further, Löw’s team has gotten so good at that high pressure and teams so worried to protect the middle that Germany is largely outmanning their opponents on the flanks–and that’s where the bulk of their scoring opportunities have come from.

La Tri was constantly outnumbered from the hashmarks out in the attacking third on Wednesday as they refused to vacate the middle to contend with German’s quick and precise passing. Twenty-two minutes later, four goals was the tally as Germany either authored crosses or penetrating balls from their flanks in the three goals after Podolski’s pick-pocket.

Where can the US take advantage?

It’s with their own forward pressure.

German will muster a back five of Rene Adler between the sticks with Benedik Höwedes, Per Mertesacker, Heiko Westermann and Marcell Jansen across the back. The back four are resolute defenders, but none are world beaters in the mode of Badstuber or Lahm. If you can have a howler in a 4-2 friendly drubbing,  Höwedes work on the right flank attempted that on Wednesday. The US will need to get aggressive off-ball movement going and it would seem after the left flank combinations played against Belgium that they can attack the Höwedes-Mertesacker in Germany’s right rear guard.

The front six will likely change in complexion and configuration from the Ecuador match. Podolski will undoubtedly start up top with MaxKruse, both pistoning depending upon the flow behind them

The midfield quartet of Julian Draxler, Lars Bender, Roman Neustädter, and Sidney Sam will likely see one or two of these players sacrificed. What’s interesting is that Löw used Sam and Draxler on their weaker fooks on the flank at the outset against La Tri–perhaps hoping to collapse La Tri’s middle with incutting. Draxler–all 19 years of him–will could give way for the man who broke England’s heart, Aaron Hunt, on one wing.

Depending on the US selection, a midfield pairing of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley would be superior to the Bender-Neustädter pairing for the Germans. Even just one of these veterans for the US should enable the States to at least battle for control of that central midfield.

Defensively, the States back four will have to track runners expertly–something they failed to do against the Red Devils and be wary of trailers as Germany likes to flood centrally for cutbacks to Bender particularly.

A possible German runout:

G: Adler

DEF: Höwedes, Mertesacker, Westermann, Jansen

MF: Sam, Bender, Neustädter, Hunt

FW: Podolski, Kruse (though the ancient one, Miraslav Klose might get a ceremonial runout, no?)

TSG: What We’re Looking For

• “Maybe I pushed him too hard…”

For matches and years, TSG has called into question the focus of Jozy Altidore.

No Kwame. No Kwame. No Kwame. STOP! (Read on...)

No Kwame. No Kwame. No Kwame. STOP! (Read on…)

The burly striker appeared to turn a corner last year when he started hitting the back of the net with consistency in the Eredivisie.

Altidore talked of maturing as a player and it seemed that the stable hand of former USMNTer Ernie Stewart in AZ Alkmaar’s front office turned the knob on Altidore’s career from “potential” to “realized.”.

Yet, for the States, the inverse happened. Jurgen Klinsmann was dissatisfied with Altidore’s national team product in 2012, and rightfully so.

Following a lackluster and awful performance from Altidore where the US drop it’s first game in Jamaica in qualifying ever, Altidore was banished, returning against Russia late last year with a very public challenge–and soft vote of confidence–from the coach.

Yet 2013 has not led the US to it’s Altidore Moment. A poor performance on the road against Honduras was followed up by somewhat strong work in the snow against Costa Rica in the Denver highlands only to see Altidore again be silent days later against El Tri at the Azteca.

While it’s clear that Klinsmann’s US system operates like a white blood cell, gobbling up “free” and “radical” scoring chances at the expense of protecting the overall defensive health, Altidore’s ability to be a difference maker in 2014 seems to be teetering in the balance right now.

The system surely doesn’t fit. Altidore can’t grasp his offensive responsibilities and his defensive work and commitment is still wanting.

Additionally the Jozy-Jurgen relationship seems to be one ebbing dangerously closer to the Michael Jordan-Kwame Brown end of coach-player spectrum rather than the Harbaugh-Kapernick end.

Klinsmann seems to be unduly hard on Altidore while pushing him to excel at a role where he’s just not a fit. Altidore’s continually questioned fitness and aforementioned unfocused game play only revs the vicious frustration cycle.

Will Altidore start on Saturday with an away game against Jamaica–the very match he underwhelmed in last round–just a few days later or will Klinsman audition Herculez Gomez, Eddie Johnson or Terrence Boyd with an eye on the next few games?

• About The Offensive Offense…

The problems of course with bucketing chances extend well beyond the Altidore-Klinsmann relationship.

Continue reading

USA vs. Belgium Mini-Preview: Tune-Up Saison

Will the Belgium champ do damage against his league's vacationing natties? It's a bigger moment than that for Sacha.

Will the Belgium champ do damage against his league’s vacationing natties? It’s a bigger moment than that for Sacha.

The United States hopes to get thuggish, ruggish and to the bone as it takes on Belgium in a high-powered of friendly of sorts in Cleveland, Ohio a few days before the first of da month and the first of three critical World Cup Qualifiers.

The series is not unlike last year when the US easily faced down Scotland and then stumbled over Brazil and Canada in a friendly tune-up series on its way to a 1-0-1 record in the earlier round of qualifying against Antigua & Barbuda and Guatemala.

For the United States, little questions in terms of overall planning will likely be solved in Wednesday’s match-up. Michael Bradley is still on his way from Rome while occasional starters Maurice Edu and Brek Shea have been ruled out. Add in the trio to a roster that already didn’t include the names of Steve Cherundolo, Timothy Chandler and Kyle Beckerman for various reasons and the US is probably looking at its match-up against the Red Devils as a kick the tires on a few players and gauging point for others.

That said, beyond the individual evaluations it is getting pretty close to the time that the US must figure out how to create some good scoring chances, less even finding the frame.

The US has three shots on goal through the first three games of qualifying–two resulting in goals. That’s simply not good enough as the US begins to take on better competition and hopes that it can make a run in South America about a year from now.

Bob Bradley’s system might have called on his defenders to make emergency defending rote in the hopes of keeping a clean sheet, but at least Bradley’s high paced vertical tempo afforded the US some easy looks on goal. Jurgen Klinsmann’s system–while providing more pragmatic and, yes, better defensive protection–has demanded defensive positioning loyalty which in term has neutered any attack and made the US impotent in the final third.

The US, under the direction one of the best German strikers of all-time, has picked its spots to “drop shape” and attempt to sneak chances. Faced with high-caliber attacks or with a single defensive miscue, the US will likely struggle to find an equalizer or winner going forward against quality competition. This should keep Klinsmann and Martin Vasquez up at nights.

An improvement in forward movement and chance creation is a must Wednesday–or at least an attempt at it–if the US wants to continue to grow into a 2014 group stage challenger.

The States will face a diversely talented Belgium team where any one player has the ability to surgically force the US defense to provide cover and neglect attacking. The States–friendly or not–need to be better than that.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to our mini-preview:

It goes:

About the Opponent: Belgium

What Are We Looking For

11 At The Whistle

About the Opponent: Belgium

Play  roulette with a deck of previews and the odds are still heavy that the general theme will be, “Belgium is a massively talented team–a candidate to be the next Spain–that just can’t seem to have the sum of its parts equal or exceed its whole.”

And that very much is a good narrative heading into that one. A good parallel for Belgium at this stage would be US CONCACAF nemesis Mexico. Like Mexico, Belgium is flush with youthful talent. And like El Tri, the Red Devils seem to be fumbling a bit over player selection and definite role definition in getting out their way and moving forward to international glory.

That said, unlike Mexico, Belgium is still scoring and whereas Mexico has two goals in the Hex, both on Chicharito headers and neither in the run of play–the US of course, sits on two tallies as well. Belgium hasn’t been shutout since 2011 and one look at their roster clearly shows why.

This time Fellaini looks to play the foil....

This time Fellaini looks to play the foil….

The front six reads like a Daily Mail’s columnist transfer season link bait dream roster. Names like Benteke, Lukakua, De Bruyne, Mirallas, Mertins, Hazard and more line the score sheet. Each player capable of beating his man in possession and finding netting. Aft of the front four grouping are service providers in Marounne Fellaini, Moussa Dembele and Nurnberg’s Timothy Simons deputizing for Zenit St. Pete’s Alex Witsel whose in Russia.

Behind the front six, manager Marc Wilmots (playing nickname: “Warpig”) has four near-World Class centerbacks to choose from. He’ll deploy two–Vincent Kompany of Manchester City and captain Daniel Van Buyten of Bayern Munich in the middle. Forward wandering Arsenal man Thomas Vertongen–who never met a 20-yarder he didn’t want to try and find the top corner with–will move wide to left. Incredulously, Tottenham Hotspur standout Jan Vertongen may find himself on the bench at the start of this one. US fans would froth at the opportunity to get the mobile Vertongen anywhere in the US backline. Split out right will likely be Ajax’s Toby Alderweireld, another flanker who challenged the States defense in 2012.

Belgium clearly possesses more on ball skill and robust resumes at nearly every position. However as the section opener alluded, the Red Devils haven’t been able to spin all that talent into results gold. What Belgium need to do–it would appear–is turn the keys over to a single midfielder and a single forward as the go-to guys. Too often Belgium’s game looks like three baseball players converging on a simple foul ball that’s well within reach, only to see it fall–harmfully–in between them all. All are terrific at catching the ball, yet all are not assertive enough to not defer.

The keys for the US to go for a win here–which may not be the metric Klinsmann is looking for–nevertheless go as follows:

» Belgium can be wont to go for stretches of lackluster play. The US must seize these pockets of opportunity and convert chances. Even at home, it’s a good chance that the US may not possess the ball for long stretches. The stretches where they do need to be productive.

» Manage the back flanks. Belgium will look to get their fullbacks into attacking positions after their wingers have drawn the US FBs to them. Organization in the middle (Besler, Jones being the likely quarterbacks of their respective lines) is imperative on Red Devil forward rushes.

» Frustrate Fellaini. Don’t allow Dembele to break down the defense centrally. Easier said then done here but physical play and continue harassment has seen the Everton man sometimes disappear from games. That’s the recipe for the US on the Moroccan. As for Dembele–he’s dangerous when he’s getting forward and carrying the ball into open pockets. Simply face-up defending is the tonic here.

Likely Belgium starters:

G: Mignolet

DEF: Alderweireld, Kompany, Van Buyten, Vertongen

CM-Bucket: Simons, Dembele

MF: Mertins, Fellaini, De Bruyne (De Bruyne ended the year for Werder on a tear)

STR: Benteke

What Are We Are Looking For:

• “I’m looking at the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways….”

The genius of Michael Jackson dropping our first point question of knowledge here and it’s a simple one. A quick  look at Belgium and the US is staring at a side that plays a lot like the US wants to play in terms of its tactical roll out and attacking game play. Belgium leads with a single striker up top, flanked by two would-be piercing wingers and then has a three-man midfield posse backed by two forward-pushing fullbacks.

In short, this friendly is a man-up battle of execution–which team merely outplay its counterpart. The US has struggled in these affairs. They have played superiorly at home, imposing their might on weaker opponents, while looking to stay defensively compact on the road and ride out draws.

The US is at home against a like opponent with better overall talent–can the States control the game?

Confounded by the configurations.

Jurgen Klinsmann took a play out of the Euro and South America playbook when he named at least three starters in a new conference on Tuesday. Let’s start there.

Sacha Kljestan–oh fair Belgium be as patsy as Sweden–and Jermaine Jones will man the middle. If deployed correctly here–Kljestan as the deep-lying player maker, Jones as the forward destroyer with more box-to-box and ball-winning responsibilities–this pairing may be successful. However, States fans have seen Klinsman defer to the German Jones in situations like these to command more of the ball and distribute deeper.

Given Jones erratic play–and the necessity to keep a marauding Dembele in check–this may not be the wisest of choices. The US will likely start out as such though.

Will the Klinsmann start Clint Dempsey? If so, it says here that Graham Zusi tucking in from a wing should be the better “#10 option” while Dempsey works off of Jozy Altidore or Terrence Boyd ahead of him. Dempsey though likely starts in the  playmaker role–one that any coach or fan can see Dempsey is capable of playing though it cannibalizes his true forward strengths. Regardless of role, this is a friendly and the US’s attacking play demands that focus–through tactical means or player selection means–should be put on creating chances.

RB or CB?

RB or CB?

What is Geoff Cameron really giving you? This publication has long been a proponent of Cameron in central defense–with a Besler pairing–despite the Stoke City man’s lack of reps centrally for the Potters. Cameron sees the ball well in the middle and is much better at maintaining possession or carrying the ball forward if the defense dictates such than he is gallivanting up the wing. With Cherundolo going Bavarians and brats though, Klinsmann has entrusted in the right fullback role to Cameron.

It’s a role he playsat Stoke–however Stoke demand and more prudent, homeboand player in that role. How is Klinsmann positioning Cameron for a role going forward and will he use Cameron as more of a stay at home guy on the right with the uncertainty around Steve Cherundolo and Tim Chandler.

• Miscellaneous

» Will Terrence Boyd make an impact this cycle? Domestically, both Chivas USA & the New England Revolution have flourished with Juan Agudelo in the target role. It’s time for Klinsmann to find out if Boyd’s 17 goals for Rapid Vienna will translate.

» Why is a player who went deep in Champion’s League and had a tough Bundesliga campaign–Jermaine Jones–starting in this one? It was a year ago that US players ran out of gas in the second half in Guatemala leading to a draw in previous qualifying round. And Jones is over the 30-year-old hump too.

11 At The Whistle:

The skinny: Fitness gauging for vets? Probably. Runouts for a few players who can maybe make a final qualifying round push? Definitely. That’s the extent of the player evaluation likely on Wednesday.

G: Tim Howard

The skinny: Klinsmann will likely give Howard the start–if he wants to signal as he has in the media–that Howard is his  number. Says here that it should be an open competition with Brad Guzan now.

You get no trophy for 100 caps, DMB...but at least your career isn't heading into an urn anymore...

You get no trophy for 100 caps, DMB…but at least your career isn’t heading into an urn anymore…

DEF: Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley

The skinny: Beasley gets his 100th cap just hop from his Fort Wayne, Indiana hometown. Cameron will have to prove the equal–defensively–of Cherundolo and Chandler by shutting down De Bruyne or Mertins. The centerback will be tested by likely summer transfer man Benteke.

CM: Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan

The skinny: Will Kljestan actually get the license to show his passing prowess? Good question. Will the announcers attempt to force comparisons between Jermaine Jones’s afro and Maroune Fellaini’s far superior quaff? Yes, and it will get old.

CAM: Clint Dempsey

The skinny: Stay forward young man. Dropping deep will only confuse the German and give the Red Devils less space to defend. Dempsey needs, should work off the target man more.

RW, LW: Graham Zusi, Stu Holden

The skinny: Zusi should pull narrow while Klinsmann gives Holden the shot. Originally had Fab Johnson here, my bad).

STR: Jozy Altidore

The skinny: The Eredivisie goal leader has never been a favorite of this publication or been cast correctly in the Klinsmann system. In fact, the right role–support and wide-pulling forward–in Klinsmann’s system for Altidore doesn’t exist. It’s a continued audition for Altidore to prove his holdout player and dedication to defense.

Stu Holden! Klinsmann’s Roster For Belgium & Germany

Holden ... no more looking at the past!

Holden … no more looking at the past!

And there it is. Jurgen Klinsmann going wide and expansive with his camp roster next week. The roster dominated by the return of golden boy Stu Holden and no place for Steve Cherundolo (or Carlos Bocanegra).

GOALKEEPERS (6) : Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8) : DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg)

MIDFIELDERS (10) : Michael Bradley (Roma), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Stoke City), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (5) : Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC)

Still in recovery according the USSF release.

Still in recovery according the USSF release.

The skinny:

» Perplexing selections based solely on fitness. Cherundolo, no; but he’s been playing since April. Matt Besler injured, but called in.

»Klinsmann calls five keepers and I think it’s a good decision. He’s going to rotate them into camp so that he respects the impact the keepers–all MLS based–have on their team’s success.

Comparing The Incomparable: On Sir Alex Ferguson & MLS Ranks

Time to hit the road...

Time to hit the road…

Will Parchman takes a look at which MLS coaches got Ferg in them.

Alex Ferguson retired. Newsflash, Rick Reilly-style!.

Another bit for the ticker: Word is he was a good manager.

Sickly good.

There are the 38 trophies in 26 years at Manchester United–as crickets chirp at the Emirates–and his record both in Europe and in domestic competitions stands head and shoulders above any club manager in European history. But why?

It seems paradoxical at first that a single aging man should have such an otherworldly impact on a game that does not directly involve him, doesn’t it? Draw up all the tactical blueprints you like, but in the end the man on the touchline has nothing to do with their physical implementation. Sir Alex hasn’t scored a goal in a competitive game in 39 years. It’s clear that certain coaches are better than others, but logically, why is Fergie is far an outlier from the standard deviation?

And yet there is obviously something special about Ferguson and the small guild of elite coaches he heads. Four key traits came to define Ferguson’s coaching career, which MLS coaches best emblematize them?

Disclaimer: There are multiple right answers here. These are merely mine.

Without further ado, the four idiosyncrasies that undergirded Fergie’s unbelievable coaching career, which is burning toward its glorious conclusion.

Eccentric disciplinarian

The best coaches are odd birds. They stamp into losing press conferences and push fire out of their nostrils. I’ve interviewed them. They are not pleasant. At other times they clop into winning press conferences and walk that minuscule tightrope swinging over the pit of restlessness that swallows up their free thoughts. I’ve been in the room for those interviews, too. The coach’s temporary satisfaction is quickly subsumed by distraction. The chalk is already flying into furious motion even as his striker bundles in a goal for a 4-0 lead with 20 minutes left. The next game is already a topic of discussion.

What I’m saying is the best coaches are not like you and I. We don’t really understand them. They say odd things to the press, spewing forth an indignant, righteous anger based on vague, often entirely invented slights. I’m not sure anyone was a better, more successful eccentric than Sir Alex. He was unlike a horde of others in the disciplinarian mold in this respect because he was always approachable. Meet him out of his black sideline peacoat when the gum wasn’t squished between his molars and the visage is distinctly pedestrian slightly more reverent perhaps.

But he’s not. He lambasted players who weren’t in shape. Early in his career, he developed the nickname “Furious Fergie.” He kicked over tea urns when his teams were losing. He manipulated the press for his own gains. He once swung through on a cleat that hit David Beckham just above the eyebrow in the Manchester United locker room. He petulantly recalled loans, criticized match officials and still holds a grudge against Gordon Strachan two decades after he snubbed Aberdeen for Cologne. Again, this is not a normal man. In some respects, he’s not a well-adjusted man either. Perhaps retirement and guarding his lawn suits him.

"I swear to g*d I'll headbutt you..."

“I swear to g*d I’ll headbutt you…”

But for our purposes here, this is a good thing. These eccentricities federated him with his players. The ones who didn’t acquiesce were either eventually folded into the system or jettisoned. An endless rotation of willing bodies was then put in their place (many of whom came from the scouting network he so meticulously pruned). Alex Ferguson is many things, but he is a man endlessly sure of what he wanted, what works and how to meet those ends.

MLS’ closest facsimile? Jason Kreis.

The RSL head man is perhaps a bit less lyrical than Fergie, but his iron jaw, excellent eye for talent and unwavering resolve make him MLS’s most accomplished eccentric disciplinarian. His terse press conferences and inability to appear satisfied are hallmarks. I pity the fool who dogs it on Kreis’s watch.

Continuity and Simplicity

Jose Mourinho has often been hailed as the best manager in the world over the past decade. By at least some metrics, those folks may well be correct.

But how settled can you be as a player when your manager has an eye on the door before he arrives? Mourinho and those like him are compelled by the challenge of the thing. When the challenge pales, the chariot awaits. This has kneecapped more than one club. Inter Milan are still figuring out a way forward.

The effect is more than just psychological.

Continue reading

Manchester United: Sir Alex Ferguson Hangs ‘Em Up

It's been real...

It’s been real…

Raise your hand if you had Ryan Giggs retiring before Sir Alex Ferguson?

The iconic Red Devil manager confirms that he is retiring at the end of this Premiership campaign. That darn Nani red card.

Manchester United announces that they will name his successor within the next 48 hours. Davie Moyes in pole position.


Analytics: Want To Win? Here’s How

Thanks to a discussion on Twitter this morning amongst Steve Fenn, Lee Mooney and myself, I was sent this interactive visual below. The visual is the handiwork of Mooney.

As always, click on the link for the interactive version.

.. Click link below for interactive version ...

.. Click link below for interactive version …

Click here for interactive version

While not a whole lot of direct or even indirect conclusions can be made in isolation here, the date–to me on a cursory review–speaks to the importance of crosses, goalie play & where you play your defensive line.

Interesting stuff and I’ll try to get more information on the source data here.

Stu Holden: Back in USMNT Camp–From Radar To Roster

Holden rocks the mesh against Haiti, Summer 2009

Holden rocks the mesh against Haiti, Summer 2009

Late last night in a release on US Soccer, Jurgen Klinsmann threw (fixed!) gasoline on Stu Holden’s slow nearly three year burn to rejoin the USMNT senior squad in a meaningful capacity.

After Bolton handled him this year–appropriately–with kid gloves and Holden excelled in a short stint at Sheffield United, Klinsmann stated that Holden will be back in full effect this summer.

The former Dynamo player will be called in for the May-June USMNT WCQ camp as well as for the Gold Cup with no limits put on his participation.

What’s more, Klinsmann stated that Holden was being called in for his resolve and intangibles. Back in 2009, after Holden was a leader on the 2009 Gold Cup squad, TSG christened him a future captain. Holden’s a unique player; the type of guy on a bench that brings the skills, but also raises the lockeroom.