USA World Cup Scrub

Yedlin = the Future

A couple of days since the USA Soccer team exited the World Cup – beat by a better team in Belgium, but defiant and unbroken in the end.  Everyone has acknowledged the brilliance of Tim Howard, the heart and drive of the field players, as well as their lack of possession and  finishing.  As much as the Team America was outplayed on the ball by Beligum, had Wondolowski and Dempsey scored on a couple of key chances, we could well be talking about one more game against Messi and Argentina.  SI.com’s Grant Wahl summed up the match very nicely (as usual).

Meanwhile, as mass attention begins to drift away from the team, the die hard American fans have begun the debate on strategy and tactics.  We made it out of the Group of Death – unexpected by most.  But we did so playing typically gritty, defensive-minded and opportunistic soccer.  This is not how Jurgen Klinsmann said we would play.  Did we make it to the knock-out rounds because of the coaching staff’s approach and preparations, or in spite of their tactics and roster selections?   Continue reading

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Our 23 vs. Klinsi’s

Since Jurgen Klinsmann cut Landon Donovan while trimming his World Cup roster to 23 players this past week, Beemsville has run the reaction gamut:  disbelief, anger, sadness…  But mostly disbelief.  Veteran soccer commentators like Alexi Lalas and Grant Wahl will tell us an emotional reaction is to be expected (and it’s a good thing for U.S. Soccer); after all, Landon has been the face of the National Team for going on a decade.  He’s the greatest player our country has ever produced, scored more goals, had more assists, and come up clutch in big moments throughout his career.  Has he slowed down a step?  Sure.  But since he was quicker than virtually everyone else to begin with…  And since his game is also based on intelligence, technique, timing…  Well, we still can’t believe Jurgen made this call.

Still can’t believe we’re going to line up against Ghana in less than a month, and Number 10 won’t be on the pitch (or at least on the bench).  We’ve listened to a few podcasts, read a ton of articles, and from Taylor Twellman to Brian Sciaretta, we can’t find one person who thinks this was the right call.

What does this say about Jurgen?  He’s certainly a man with a plan.  He’s certainly said all kinds of stuff about earning it, competing, etc., but as Alexi Lalas said, it comes down to personal preference.  And that preference seems to favor the young, and untested.  The problem we have here, is it once again throws the coaching staff’s judgement into question.  Is Jurgen trying to win now or is this part of his construction plan for the next cycle?  Is this to make the World Cup more about him?   Because as of right now, every match played is a referendum on the Landon cut.

So let’s have a look at the Klinsmann 23 and compare it to the final Beemsville 23 from earlier this month:

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Pentagram – USA v. Mex in the Desert

The General celebrates new shirts and a goal

Say this for the new away kit:  It looked a lot better in action than it does on the promo material…  And along with the new bomb-pop shirt, Jurgen trotted out a diamond midfield – something the EA Sports FIFA Soccer series tells us is always a good idea (offensively, at least).  Recently heralded German-American, Julian Green – all of 18 years old – debuted and showed some flashes.  And as good as the American midfield looked in the first half, the Mexicans adjusted and controlled the first portion of the second half.

So even though a brutally bad offisides call robbed Eddie Johnson of a clinical goal in the final ten minutes of the game, which would have given the U.S. the win, we’ll take a 2-2 tie.  We’ll also take note of who’s ready and who’s not, because the naming of the World Cup preliminary roster is only a month away.

Five points in this USA-Mexico pentagram from Arizona…

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Pentagram: Stayin’ Gold

Jurgen, Landon, and the boys have brought the Gold Cup back to U.S. Soccer. It’s our region’s championship (flawed as it is), which we equate directly to winning your conference or division championship in other sports. The goal is to win it, but it’s not the ultimate or final goal.  Still, in terms of a barometer (or benchmark, as Jurgen would say), this is a competition you want to win as a building block for Brazil 2014.

Champs

The 1-0 victory in Chicago’s final had a few surprises.  First, that so many fans who likely initially bought tickets to cheer for Mexico showed up to support the U.S.  Yes, we are a county of divided loyalties among a large segment of our fandom, but this is still a sign of progress.  Second, that the USA was unable to score more goals on Panama (EJ should have had a second), although the Panamanians are looking tough and should be on track to qualify for the World Cup.

Probably the most positive and welcome surprise is the first point in our post-Gold Cup Pentagram…

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Pentagram: Utility Wins for the USA

US Soccer can see Brazil on the horizon.  Thanks to two wins in the last week, last Friday’s 2-1 victory in Jamaica and Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat of Panama in Seattle, Jurgen Klinsmann and co. are top of the Hex in World Cup Qualifying.  The team has 10 points from five games over this first stretch that included three road games.  16 points has guaranteed qualification in past cycles, and with a majority of home games remaining, a win next Tues. over Honduras and the team can shift emphasis a bit.  It will be more about building the team and less worrying about getting to Brazil next summer.

The team also looks much, much better.  A number of factors contribute here:  time together, diminished quality of opponents, and a likely change in some coaching/communication methods.  The key component has been the emergence of important utility players, who have stepped into new or less familiar roles.  This can be a tricky proposition; oftentimes when you play guys outside their natural or familiar club position, they’re tentative or ineffective.  But Jurgen seems to have pushed the right buttons in this case, and his plug-and-play lineups have succeeded – at least against these regional opponents.

Five points for your two World Cup Qualifier utility wins…  Continue reading

Pentagram: Schooled in Cleveland

The U.S. Soccer Team found out what facing a World Cup Quality opponent will be like with this current roster.  The result, a 4-2 loss to Belgium in Cleveland, pointed out the obvious flaws – mostly in the back and up front.  Team America, without three of its best players in Michael Bradley, Fabian Johnson, and Landon Donovan, couldn’t generate much in the offensive third.  Meanwhile, that backline still hasn’t developed any kind of consistency, with Coach Jurgen Klinsmann trotting out the sixth different defensive combination in the past six games.

Geoff Cameron learning on the job

It doesn’t get any easier for the U.S. on Sunday, as they play Ze Germans at RFK in D.C. – a celebration of the centennial of U.S. Soccer that could get ugly.  Then next Friday, it’s a step down in weight class but a step up on pressure as they take on the Jamaicans in a World Cup Qualifier in Kingston.  We understand why you want to play a team like Belgium at this time – you learn more from a good opponent than watching another draw with Canada or beating down some lesser team.  But that didn’t make watching last night’s schooling any more enjoyable.

Five points in your Cleveland Pentagram…

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Point Made, Jurgen

Jurgen can’t dance

USA Soccer enters a busy summer with a late May – early June stretch that includes three World Cup Qualifiers and a couple of high profile (money grab) friendlies.  Those vital qualifiers feature matches at Jamaica (June 7), then a pair of home games against Panama (June 11) and Honduras (June 18).  Team America should be angling toward a couple of wins and a tie in June, which would essentially qualify the team for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.  If they stumble badly, though, qualification could be in doubt.

Seems like a pretty important stretch.  Seems like you’d want your full-strength squad.  So why has head coach Jurgen Klinsmann left Landon Donovan off the roster?

Here’s the squad:

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)

No room for the greatest American men’s soccer player?  You mean to tell us, Jurgen, you believe these 15 forwards and midfielders in camp are better than Landon Donovan?   Continue reading