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Posts Tagged ‘US Soccer’

Sometimes row Z is best

June 25, 2014 2 comments

Michael Bradley and the US had a nightmare against Ghana in the opening game for USMNT in World Cup 2014.

We gave the ball away again and again, and seemed too scared to hold onto the ball. Hey. It happens. I was a little worried that this World Cup was picking up where 2010 left off for us, but was also hopeful it was just a one-off. We certainly had been playing some good soccer leading up the World Cup Finals.

Cameron slices to Nani

Cameron slices to Nani

The game against Portugal started well for the US. Except for the early screw-up, we actually started playing soccer. Bradley’s combinations with Dempsey in the first half were particularly impressive. As the game wore on, Bradley’s influence waned. Jermaine Jones stepped forward as the heart and soul of the USMNT — the one whose performance the team could rally around.

As the US applied pressure trying to equalize, there were multiple times our midfield received the ball from one side of the pitch, that, if we had realized we were not under pressure, could have easily switched play. Instead, we almost always one-touched the ball back to the same side of the pitch where it came from, back into traffic. I felt that Bradley, as one of our leaders and top players, was too guilty of this.

Tellingly, it was Jones that took the shot for the equalizing goal. It was also Jones that made the defense-splitting pass that sprung Yedlin that led to the USMNT’s second goal. Thank goodness the Portuguese haven’t heard of keeping up with the Joneses.

And what of the end of the game? We had the ball at our feet with 58 seconds to play. Yedlin had it in the corner. Klinsmann was pleading with the team to move back and get in a defensive position with less than a minute to go. But instead, with 45 seconds to play, we have three players, including one of our central midfielders, applying pressure near the Portuguese penalty area. Why?

We had the ball again, at Michael Bradley’s feet, with 37 seconds left to play. Can someone let me know what he was thinking when he tried to dribble out of trouble? Was he trying to beat all three of those Portuguese midfielders at once? A coach of mine once yelled, when I tried to dribble out of trouble and lost the ball, “what, does everyone think they are Beckenbauer?”  That’s what went through my mind when Bradley tried to take that ball down and dribble out of trouble. Bad decision.

Geoff Cameron wasn’t ready at the beginning of the game to make a simple clearance that led to Portugal’s opening goal. And at the end of the game, after Bradley lost the ball with 35 seconds to play, you can watch Cameron make his way back to goal. He looks back up the field at the Portuguese players, but he doesn’t look behind him. Not. Once. There was a Portuguese forward lurking behind his shoulder, but he was unaware — he didn’t look around to see where everyone was. Ever. Bad decision.

You can see, as Ronaldo’s cross comes in, Cameron doesn’t know that Portugal’s Varela is behind him. He is surprised as their forward beats him to the ball for the game tying goal. Cameron actually kicks Varela (accidentally) as he is scoring because he didn’t know Varela was there.

Sometimes in soccer it’s your first touch that counts. And sometimes it’s your decision making.

And sometimes “row Z” is the appropriate place to play the ball.

Bradley did it in the waning minutes vs. Ghana. He made the decision to dribble the ball into the midfield rather than the corner flag, and he gave the ball away. Ghana was able to launch one more attack while we were hanging on for dear life. The British announcer was stunned. He said any experienced player would have taken it to the corner flag to salt away the game.

Bradley with ball 35 seconds to play

Bradley with ball, 39 seconds to play

 

 

And now today. Ball at our feet with less than a minute to play and a decision to make: do I bring it down in traffic and try to dribble out of trouble, or should I just kick the ball out of bounds to row Z and get our defense organized for the final 30 seconds of the game?

 

 

 

Well, the decisions to trap and dribble the ball out of trouble in the midfield in the dying moments have failed in both of our group games so far. (Ahem, Michael.)

To all young American soccer players everywhere: Sometimes Row Z is the best option! You might not look the best doing it, but you also have to think: what is going to get us the win?

 

 

Boo birds for bitter Barca babies

April 28, 2011 3 comments
It’s pretty clear that FC Barcelona  is a better team than Real Madrid. I mean, they can keep the ball in the tightest spaces, and even a top club like Real were having a hard time keeping the ball on those rare occasions that they had it. As evidence, just look at Xavi Alonzo’s day. He was a mainstay in the Prem for Liverpool and he’s a Champion’s League winner, and he was having a hard time keeping up.

But why the simulation? Why does Pedro go to ground holding his face? Why does Busquets still get to writhe around in pain and stay on the pitch? He did the same last year and got a guy sent off vs Inter Milan. Inter had to play the rest of the game with 10 men and somehow held on. The behaviour by the Barcelona players is a disgrace and a shame on the game. I understand why football and basketball loving Americans seeing stuff like this and realize that this type of soccer is a total joke. Those of us that love soccer need to figure out a way to make it change. Even other European soccer stars can’t believe the way Barcelona’s players are behaving and what they are getting away with.

This year Dani Alvez gets a guy sent off by writhing around in pain, while most of the rest of Barca’s players crowd around the ref demanding a red card. Yet, no contact was made with Alvez’s foot (look on Real Madrid’s official site for video evidence of no contact.) Barca’s players are some of the most talented attackers on the planet (Messi, Villa, Xavi, etc.) but I can’t stand to watch them cuz of the cheating, the remonstrating against the refs when something goes against them, and the con-jobs they want the ref to believe when the shoe is on the other foot.

Here are some new rules I propose:

1. If you writhe around in pain, and then come back on and can fully sprint and participate in the game, you get a yellow card.

2. If video evidence shows (even after the fact!) that you got hit on your arm (like Pedro did) or your mid-section (like Busquets did), and you writhe around on the ground holding your face (like both Pedro and Busquets did), then YOU should get ejected from the game because you are trying to fool the ref and get someone else sent off.

3.Finally, if you come and crowd around the ref demanding a card for an opposing player, you should receive a caution.

It’s a disgrace. I don’t want Man U to get another european title. I don’t want Man U to get another European title. I don’t want Man U to get another European title……but I am thinking it would be better than this group of simulators and cheaters and crybabies. Of which Messi is not one. That guy gets slammed around and is pure class. His dribbling thru 5 Madrid defenders was amazing to see.

The ref will make the complete difference in the Champs League Final. It certainly did in the semi final yesterday.
Thoughts?

The first soccer game that made me cry

May 25, 2010 12 comments

The first soccer game I cried over wasn’t one I was playing in. It’s somehow different when you are in the game. Different emotions are involved. When you are playing, you are more engaged in the battle. And if the game is close, as a player you never give up hope. But if you are watching a game, involved as a spectator, you are trapped. Your emotions rise and fall with every missed opportunity, close call, and bad referee decision. It’s a completely different experience, and it can twist you into knots, sometimes making you unable to watch what happens next.

The 1986 World Cup was the first World Cup I watched. My brother and I were insatiable. For the opening rounds, our family was in Canada for the 1986 World Fair in Vancouver, but we couldn’t be bothered.

Mom and Dad “We are going to see the Expo now, c’mon boys”
My brother and I “Aw, but Spain is about to play Denmark!”

I seriously think my father was considering throwing the hotel TV out the window.

I had grown up listening to Alan Fountain commentate the TV show Soccer Made in Germany. This show would broadcast 50 minutes of a 90 minute match, with 10 minutes of “this is how life is in Germany” to round out the hour. While other kids were following the Dallas Cowboys, I followed teams like Schalke 04, 1. FC Köln, and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Sure I followed the NFL too – I am an American after all – but since I actually played soccer, it was somehow better. And since I have ancestors of Prussian extraction, plus the TV show, I grew up a fan of Germany’s national soccer team. Now I could have chosen to follow my long-lost relatives from Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Denmark, England, or Sweden – but there were no shows called “soccer made in Switzerland” that I knew of. I knew the German players from watching them each week, and so the die was cast.

The 1986 World Cup Final was West Germany vs. Argentina. For the record, Argentina won, and I think Toni Schumacher (Germany’s goalkeeper) forgot to eat his Wheaties that day. He couldn’t save a goal to save his life, and he was at fault for at least one of the goals, maybe more. His performance that day still makes me angry.

(Getty Images)

By early second half, Argentina was winning 2-0, and it appeared they were going to easily win. Argentina was bossing the game, and had taken advantage of Schumacher’s mistakes to build their lead. At this point I was bummed, but tears were not even on the horizon. If it’s not a close game, and no tragedy or near miss had befallen your team yet, there’s no chance of tears.

By the time the Final was played, we had returned from Canada. My family was sharing a Sunday dinner at my Grandmother’s with other relatives. I’m not sure how many of them had heard of the World Cup, but my brother and I risked the wrath of our Mother to skip dinner and go to the cramped TV room to watch the Final. Then – finally! – Germany scored their first goal, late in the 2nd half. I let out an extra loud WAHOO! Aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and parents filtered into the tiny room. Could Germany complete the comeback and tie the game? We all held our collective breath as Germany poured forward, looking for the equalizer. Only 6 minutes later, they had done it! Germany had scored the equalizing goal! We were jumping, hugging, hollering, and yahooing as if we were actually from Munich. Just one more goal and the comeback would be complete!

You know how sometimes you get so wrapped up in what you are doing that you forget about other people around you? Maybe you are so into a project that you don’t hear that it’s time for dinner, or you are reading a great book and can’t hear your daughter crying in the other room? I think that’s what happened to Germany. They were so interested in going forward in search of goals that they forgot about Diego Maradona, the best player in the tournament.

Well, there was one more goal all right, but it was for Argentina. The little wizard beat 5 German players with one pass, and took advantage of Schumacher’s horrible day yet again. The game ended. The trophy was lifted by Argentina.

Now, if Argentina had just won 2-0, or even 3-0, I would have been fine. No tears. We all would have made our way back to the roast beef and mashed potatoes muttering things like “well that’s too bad”, or “it just wasn’t Germany’s day.”

But the fact that Germany had come back from the dead, and scored two goals to tie the game with 10 minutes left, somehow changed the equation. I was full of hope. The sun was brighter. I wasn’t hungry. Maybe, just maybe, my Saturday afternoon heroes like Klaus Allofs, Olaf Thon, and Lothar Matthäus could win the trophy and become the best team in the world.

1986 W Germany Team (Getty Images)

Everyone left, and I sat there, alone in the TV room at my Grandparents’ house. I cried. I admit it was a little embarrassing, but I couldn’t help it. I had witnessed the effort, the urgency, the frustration all play out in 100+ degree heat with no time-outs, no huddles, no coaching strategy sessions to call a final play. Just 11 men working together as a team, carrying the hopes and dreams of their entire country. And witnessing their struggle – it drew me in.

That’s why I love the World Cup. There is EVERYTHING to play for. Personal Pride. National Pride. Sporting Glory, Sporting History, and Sporting Immortality
. It is the greatest sporting event of the greatest sport in the world, watched by more people than any other event on earth. It might take a game or two to warm up, or it might explode from the beginning. If you watch the games, you will be drawn in. But be careful. You may laugh. You may exult. Your team may become Champions of the World. But you also may shed a tear or two.

And after all these years, Congrats to Argentina. There, I said it.

Personally Pleased for Landon Donovan

March 10, 2010 3 comments

I’m really glad that Landon Donovan has settled in the blue side of Liverpool. My friends and I have discussed Landon Donovan a lot over the years, and many people point to his 3 failed attempts to jump to the German Bundesliga as evidence that he is not a top-flight player. My argument all along has been that he has not been in a situation to “settle” well, but it doesn’t have to do with his playing ability. It might have been a coaching situation, a team dynamic, locker-room issues, etc. Or any combination of the above.

My experience is that when you change to a new coach, or a new system, it’s not always easy to find your footing. I played under 4 different coaches between my years at Oregon State University and in the USL. Each had a different system and philosophy the players had to get used to. With apologies to anyone who doesn’t understand the NFL, a similar example is Darren Sharper of the New Orleans Saints. He was a pro-bowl caliber safety early in his career. Then his team changed (or he changed teams, I don’t actually know) to a different kind of defensive scheme, I think called Cover-2, where he was expected to perform different types of defensive duties. He basically sucked. For years. People thought he was washed up. But behold: he moves to New Orleans, back into a non-Cover-2 situation, and he’s back into pro-bowl form again, leading his team in take-aways and to a Super Bowl victory. Not a coincidence.

And here is Landon Donovan, who has finally “settled” in Europe, and not just anywhere in Europe. He is helping Everton, the only English top-flight team never to have been relegated from the top division, zoom up the standings. In Everton’s last 9 games with Landon involved, they have posted a 6-2-1 record — that’s one loss for the uninitiated. They have beaten some of the best teams in Europe, including Chelsea and Manchester United. He has been scoring goals, providing assists, and basically running riot over there. He even has the Everton faithful singing chants like “Sign Him Up” and “USA! USA!”. Pretty amazing for a guy that “can’t cut it in Europe” and “isn’t a top-flight player.”

Donovan confuses 2 Man United players (Andrew Yates / Getty Images)

Just like with every other sport, a player’s mental state and confidence are paramount to success. I kept claiming that Donovan wasn’t settling in Germany due to the dynamic within those teams – and it (finally!) appears to be right. I mean — Bayern Munich is not your best example of a settled club. They’ve been thru 4 coaches in the past 5 years. Super-stars from Italy and other countries are engineering their way out of the club. German national player Podolski hated his time at the club, and left. Luca Toni from the Italian national team got fed-up and left. I’m sure the Bayern faithful can tell me of even more players going thru the revolving door at the club. And we’re supposed to believe it’s Landon Donovan’s playing ability that has kept him from settling at Bayern? I’m not buying it.

The best evidence of Landon Donovan’s playing ability is before our eyes at Goodison Park. Read it and weep all doubters.

http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/usa/story/030810-galarcep-donovans-lasting-impression-at-goodison

Now I know that he goes on “walk-about” from time to time during US National Team games. I have no rebuttal for that. But so does every other attacking player from time to time. (Defensive players don’t have that luxury!) Even Wayne Rooney gets subbed when he’s having an off day, just to make the point. But take a look at the goal Donovan scored against mighty, mighty Brazil in the Confed Cup last year (Here), and tell me he’s not one of the United States’ best 2 attacking options heading into World Cup 2010. Go ahead. I dare you.