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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USA 2, Ghana 1 – Pentagram

What a game!  What a weird, wonderful, and at times frightening game!  Some will claim the USA turned back the clock about 30 years with a gritty, ugly, gut-check win.  Some will note that Juergen’s tactics and substitutions pretty much worked to a T.  And down at the Dublin Pub, with most of our YMCA U8 Soccer Team looking on (occasionally), we were starting to get a very bad feeling when Ghana continued to whip in crosses and come closer with their outside blasts.  The tying goal seemed inevitable…   And then Graham Zusi to John Brooks…

 

Juergen’s success with his subs continues…  With Germany’s pasting of Portugal, the Group of Death suddenly seems navigable – even with the injuries.  So on to five points about this opening World Cup Win…

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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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23 For Brazil – May

Next week Jurgen Klinsmann will name the 30 man Camp Cali roster, from which (presumably) the final 23 will emerge.  That makes this the final ’23 for Brazil’ post before the World Cup.  We are just over a month before that opening game against Ghana in Natal, so get your vacation days requested and your viewing plans made.

Some of the guys are scoring goals and playing well lately (Dempsey, Boyd, Besler, Wondo); some guys are not.  Fortunately, (knock on digi-wood) the team is pretty healthy at this point.  Big questions remain about the defense and the last few forward-line spots, with only the midfield looking solid.

So we bring you the final Beemsville 23:  Our picks (not who we think Jurgen will take) to the World Cup.  As a bonus, we’ll also include the other seven guys we’d invite to our training camp.  Kind of beside the point since we’re naming the roster, but here we go… Continue reading

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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Group of Megadeath

If you examined the way FIFA organized the World Cup Draw, you knew this was a strong possibility.  The draw for the 32 team field occurred yesterday and the US Soccer team are in the group of Megadeath.  Why?  Because FIFA doesn’t respect or value teams from North and Central America, Asia, and Africa…  Because FIFA always seems to clear a path deep into the tournament for the host nation (as if Brazil needs favors on home soil)…  Because FIFA needs to modernize its tourney setup.

So we land in Group G:

That, folks, is one of the toughest groups ever.  You have Germany, arguably the best team in Europe, who qualified nearly flawlessly.  You have Ghana, the one of the top qualifiers from Africa and arguable the best team from that region.  Portugal nearly did not qualify, but they have one of the world’s best players and loads of talent.  And there’s Team America, who topped CONCACAF qualification and are the best team from the region.

If you go by FIFA’s admittedly flawed world rankings, you have Germany #2, Portugal #5, USA #14, and Ghana #24.  Other groups are top heavy (Spain and Holland in  B; Italy and Uruguay in Group D), but none is tougher than G.  Meanwhile, Argentina and hosts Brazil received remarkably easy and favorable groups…  Almost as if FIFA wants the South Americans to advance.

At any rate, if you seeded the teams from 1 to 32, NCAA tournament style, you would never come up with something like this.  In that scenario the USA would still match up with Germany, but the other two teams would be Bosnia and Cameroon.  Yeah, we’d definitely favor that scenario.  Now FIFA’s not likely to every go to something like straight seeding, but at least they could organize the four drawing pots by seed in ranking.  In that scenario the USA would have been in Pot B, as the equivalent of a #2 seed (along with Portugal) instead of Pot D, which was essentially a #4 seed.  Yes, we really got hosed yesterday.

 

 

De Nada, Neighbor

If you aren’t lucky or obsessive enough to have BeIN Sports or Galavision, you missed a unique bit of sports drama that only rolls around every four years or so.  Tuesday night, the final games of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying occurred – all games starting at the same time to avoid any shenanigans.  The USA qualified a month ago and were only playing for the shirt and microscopic hopes of being seed in Brazil next summer.  Costa Rica – already qualified; but for Honduras, Panama, and Mexico, these matches were win or go home.

Honduras dispatched Jamaica without much trouble, leaving Mexico (playing at Costa Rica) and Panama (playing  at home against the US) left to duke it out for the chance to play New Zealand in a home and home series for the final slot in the World Cup.  Panama and Mexico were only a point apart in the standings, meaning all Mexico needed to do was tie or win.  Panama, playing a US team made up almost entirely of younger, B-squad players, needed to win and hope El Tri lost.

The USA didn’t play all that well for most of the match, and Panama took the lead in the first half.  Minutes later, the stadium erupted as news came across that Costa Rica had taken the lead over Mexico.  Not long after, Mexico equalized, and the stadium was eerily quiet.  The US played better in the second half and looked likely to score. Sure enough, Michael Orozco scored on a set piece and the Mexicans were celebrating.  They were double safe with the U.S. tying Panama and themselves tied with Costa Rica.  Ah, but Costa Rica scored again about 10 minutes later.  Again, in Panama, you could feel the electricity, and sure enough Luis Tejada jumped on a loose ball in the box and slammed it home in the 83rd minute.  Unbelievable scene.  Panama was ahead again, 2-1, and through. Continue reading