Once More, LD

Tonight at 6:00 CST on ESPN, Landon Donovan will suit up for the US Men’s National Team a final time.  This match against Ecuador in Hartford, CT, will feature mostly younger, fringe-type players due to MLS’s proximity to the play-offs.  But Landon will be there, for about 30 minutes or so, according to the media.

Don’t be surprised if he scores or assists in that time.  He may be about to retire, but at 32 he still has a lot to offer – among the MLS leaders for assists this season – still capable of that burst of speed or game-changing play.  And as the USA’s career goal scoring and assists leader, as the face of the sport in this country as MLS has grown to legitimacy and more Americans have embrace soccer, you’re going to hear a lot of gushing on the broadcast, ESPN, and elsewhere.

For a lot of folks in my peer group, Landon’s career has coincided with our fandom.  He was the up-and-comer after the 1998 World Cup, on the big stage in Korea, and the guy at the top of the other team’s clipboard for the next twelve years.  We wanted him in Brazil this summer, and I still believe we could have done better down there with LD in the 10 shirt. 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: 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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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

Pentagram: Return of the Freddy

The US Soccer Team defeated Panama 1-0 in Houston last night to advance to the Gold Cup final in Pasadena.  There they will find Mexico and the matchup everyone envisioned for this regional championship.  Last night’s match was no beauty pageant as both sides fatigue from the last two weeks showed prominently.  But Coach Bob Bradley pulled the strings again with a solid 4-5-1 gameplan, again bringing Landon Donovan off the bench to save his legs, and this time it was a familiar face, a guy lost in the wilderness and absent for two years who finally unhinged the stingy Panamanian defense.  That’s right:  Freddy Adu.

The Return of the Freddy comes after Adu’s two plus ineffectual years of bouncing around in Europe (earning a nice paycheck) without much playing time.  He went on loan to a second division side in Turkey this past Spring and started playing again – and playing well.  Coach Stoneface called him for the Gold Cup (minor controversy) and some of us wondered if he’d even make the 18 man gameday roster, let alone the field.  But by all accounts he’s practiced hard, run hard, and adopted the team mentality so prized by Bradley and his staff.  And thus…

Yeah, that’s the Fred on the setup ball.  Five points in the Pentagram…

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Happy Birthday, LD!

We had a family birthday earlier this week in Beemsville, and today is also Landon Donovan’s birthday.  LD is the greatest player to lace ’em up for Team America, the best player in MLS, and we’ve truly enjoyed watching him over the years.  At 29, he’s the Captain, leading all-time scorer with 45 goals, and he still has another World Cup Cycle (at least) before he’s through.  Like any athlete he’s had some ups and downs, but leads the Red, White, and Blue with class and skill.

And so, in the best youtubery tradition, we bring you all 45 Donovan goals.  Happy Birthday, LD!

Enjoy…

 

Send-off and Vids

Happy Memorial Day to you and yours.  Just take a moment at some point during your picnics, family fun, and war movie marathons to reflect…

The U.S. Soccer team is now in South Africa, having hopped the 18-hour flights yesterday afternoon.  They received a stylish send-off in Philly with more than 55,000 pro-U.S. fans in the house to witness the 2-1 comeback against Turkey.

A quick analysis of the game:  Jose Torres and Robbie Findley made big differences in the second half.  Torres with his ability to control the ball under pressure (something Ricardo Clark could not do) and pass, and Findley with his speed and tenacity.  Steve Cherundolo looks like the best option at right back as well.  In the first half, Turkey controlled the play and the U.S. looked out of rhythm with their zone marking and their passing.  How much of this was playing to avoid injury and how much was rust?  We probably won’t know until June 12, but both must be better against England.

The final installment of the One Goal: Road to South Africa documentary, details the final stop on the road to qualification – the 2-2 tie to Costa Rica at RFK Stadium in D.C.  This turned out to be a costly 48 hours or so, as Charlie Davies was in that fateful car accident and Gooch Onyewu blew out his knee in the game.  The core group of U.S. fans are awesome, though, as this clearly illustrates.  Also I love the radio feed from the Honduras announcers when Bornstein heads in that goal in stoppage time.  Jonny B. sent them to their first World Cup in 28 years…

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