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Monday, May 31, 2010

Who knew Paraguay had so many studs?

We're still a little more than a week away from our official predictions for the 2010 World Cup but I'll tip my hand a little bit here for Group F: I like Paraguay.

Other than Italy and Paraguay, Group F is rounded out by New Zealand and Slovakia, two of the weaker teams in the whole 32-team field.

As Paraguay unveiled their final 23-man roster today, they are headlined by the Premier League quartet of Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City), Antolin Alcaraz (Wigan), Cristian Riveros (Sunderland) and Paulo Da Silva (Sunderland).

Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino announced that the four players are part of the squad after reducing the 30-man initial party to the official 23 which will travel to South Africa. Martino told reporters that it was not an easy choice to make.

He said: "Building the list is always hard, because you feel you are taking out a very important part of each player. Some of the players already knew in their heart that they were going to be excluded. Some others didn't.''

Argentina-based quartet Eduardo Ledesma (Lanus), Marcos Caceres (Racing Club), Marcelo Estigarribia and Jorge Achucarro (both Newell's Old Boys) have been cut from the squad, as have Libertad midfielder Sergio Aquino, Osvaldo Martinez of Mexican club Monterrey and Olimpia defender Julio Manzur.

Manzur, who played in the 2006 World Cup for Paraguay, was an expected exclusion as he has been struggling with a thigh injury, even though Martino had named him in the preliminary squad.

Full Paraguay squad: Justo Villar (Real Valladolid, Spain), Aldo Bobadilla Independiente Medellin, Colombia), Diego Barreto (Cerro Porteno); Denis Caniza (Leon, Mexico), Dario Veron (Pumas, Mexico), Julio Caceres (Atletico Mineiro, Brazil), Paulo Da Silva (Sunderland, England), Claudio Morel Rodriguez (Boca Juniors, Argentina), Antolin Alcaraz (Wigan, Eng), Carlos Bonet (Olimpia), Aureliano Torres (San Lorenzo, Argentina); Cristian Riveros (Sunderland, England), Enrique Vera (LDU Quito, Ecuador), Edgar Barreto (Atalanta, Italy), Jonathan Santana (Wolfsburg, Germany), Victor Caceres (Libertad), Nestor Ortigoza (Argentinos Juniors, Argentina); Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City, England), Nelson Haedo Valdez (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Oscar Cardozo (Benfica, Portugal), Edgar Benitez (Pachuca, Mexico), Lucas Barrios (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Rodolfo Gamarra (Libertad).

If you're going to be in Las Vegas the next few weeks, put some money down on Paraguay to make it out of Group F. I was just in Vegas for a bachelor party last weekend and while I put money down on Argentina, Portugal and the US to win it all at the MGM Grand sportsbook, I'm kicking myself for not becoming a complete degenerate and making about 20 more bets. Oh well, hopefully you'll learn from my gambling mistakes.

Lars Lagerback doesn't mess around

Good luck finding a more badass or stereotypical name than Lars Lagerback, the Swede in charge of Nigeria.

Lars picked his final 23 today for Nigeria and there were a couple big name cuts.

Strikers Ike Uche and Victor Anichebe were the most notable names to miss out on Nigeria's final 23-man squad for the World Cup finals.

Nigeria boss Lars Lagerback dropped seven players in his final cut with Peter Utaka, Onyekachi Apam, Brown Ideye, Bassey Akpan and Terna Suswan also missing out.

Real Zaragoza striker Uche had been struggling with a knee injury while Everton's Anichebe was overlooked in favour of fellow England-based strikers Yakubu Aiyegbeni, Nwankwo Kanu and John Utaka. Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi was included despite missing the end of the season with a knee injury.

Squad: Vincent Enyeama (Hapoel Tel Aviv), Dele Aiyenugba (Bnei Yehuda), Austin Ejide (Hapoel Petach Tikvah); Taye Taiwo (Marseille), Elderson Echiejile (Rennes), Chidi Odiah (CSKA Moscow), Joseph Yobo (Everton), Ayodele Adeleye (Sparta Rotterdam), Rabiu Afolabi (Salzburg), Danny Shittu (Bolton); Kalu Uche (Almeria), Dickson Etuhu (Fulham), John Mikel Obi (Chelsea), Sani Kaita (Alaniya), Haruna Lukman (Monaco), Yusuf Ayila (Dynamo Kiev); Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Everton), Nwankwo Kanu (Portsmouth), Obafemi Martins (Wolfsburg), John Utaka (Portsmouth), Victor Obinna Nsofor (Malaga), Osaze Odemwingie (Lokomotiv Moscow), Chinedu Ogbuke Obasi (Hoffenheim).

Like the US, Nigeria has their toughest Group (B) match to start off the 2010 World Cup: against Argentina on June 12. Things should get easier as they play Greece and South Korea, two defensive teams without much scoring punch. And when you look at the clubs some of the Nigerians play for, you realize why they're always a good bet to make some noise in any competition.

Dos Santos gets the summer off, to get a haircut or something

There is no question about who is the U.S. men's team's most bitter rival: it's gotta be Mexico.

I hate everything about them (and I don't throw that word around loosely): their fans, their disgusting stadium, their players, etc. Still, they are always a quality opponent and some of the United States' best matches have historically been against the Mexicans.

Of course, you need to keep tabs on your enemies and that's why I'd like to pass along Mexico's final 23 which they named today.

Barcelona midfielder Jonathan Dos Santos is one of three players to miss out on Mexico's final 23-man squad for the World Cup finals.

Jonathan was overlooked by coach Javier Aguirre despite playing the full 90 minutes of Mexico's 5-1 friendly win over Gambia on Sunday. Defensive duo Juan Carlos Valenzuela (America) and Adrian Aldrete (Morelia) were the other two players to miss out.

"The Mexican Football Federation is grateful to Jonathan Dos Santos Ramirez for his dedication, discipline, professionalism and commitment shown during the preparations with the national team,'' a statement on the governing body's official website read.

While Jonathan missed out there was better news for his brother, Giovani, who was included after spending last season on loan at Galatasaray under his former Barca boss Frank Rijkaard. Manchester United-bound striker Javier Hernandez was included following his double in the friendly against Gambia in Germany.

Squad: Oscar Perez (Chiapas), Guillermo Ochoa (America), Luis Ernesto Michel (Guadalajara); Rafael Marquez (Barcelona), Ricardo Osorio (Stuttgart), Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Salcido (both PSV Eindhoven), Hector Moreno (AZ Alkmaar), Paul Aguilar (Pachuca), Efrain Juarez (Pumas UNAM), Jonny Magallon (Guadalajara), Jorge Torres Nilo (Atlas); Andres Guardado (Deportivo La Coruna), Gerardo Torrado (Cruz Azul), Israel Castro (Pumas UNAM), Giovani dos Santos (Galatasaray, on loan from Tottenham); Pablo Barrera (Pumas UNAM), Adolfo Bautista, Alberto Medina (both Guadalajara), Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Veracruz), Carlos Vela (Arsenal), Javier Hernandez (Manchester United), Guillermo Franco (West Ham).

Mexico is in Group A with host South Africa, France and Uruguay. The Mexicans also have the honor of playing in the opening game against South Africa (next Friday, 10 a.m. EST).

Step right up if you'd like to make a prediction about Group A. I think it's the toughest to figure out. France is the frontrunner but they're young and inexperienced for the most part, not to mention the French have a tendancy to shit the bed on a big stage from time to time. South Africa is not very good but as the host that gives them a big advantage. It almost guarantees they'll get out of the group stage. As for Uruguay, they're the longshot but honestly do you know anything about them cause I sure don't.

Checking in from Philly

Alan e-mailed us last night with a post that he wrote for Slate magazine. Don't bother asking me why I don't run that magazine yet, I seem like a shoe in no?

Anyhow, he was at the US-Turkey friendly in Philly on Saturday which neither Shimer or I could go to. So without further ado, Alan's recap of the 2-1 American win.

Hope you caught at least the highlights of the game or maybe like me, you watched the whole thing last night at 1am like the hopeless soccer junkie I've become once again. The US came out really slow in the first half and Turkey struck first although they should have been up 3-0 at the half.

It was a completely different story in the second half as the field tilted towards the Turks. As Alan pointed out, Landon Donovan was all over the field and he had pretty assists on both goals: by Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey.

Jonathan Bornstein did his best to blow it by getting absolutely abused on a crossing attempt by Turkey but the US was able to hold on for the nail-biting (well at least as friendlies go) 2-1 victory.

As I write this, the US has arrived in South Africa. They have one more exhibition: on Saturday (8:30 a.m. EST) against Australia before the 2010 World Cup begins on June 11. US-England is June 12 at 1:30 p.m. EST.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's a good thing Shimer is dancing on tables at a wedding right now

Even though I'm a sportswriter in real life, I'm not naturally one to panic or jump to conclusions. Crazy, I know!

I bring this up today because another name was added to Germany's lengthy injury list: Schalke defender Heiko Westermann will not be able to play in South Africa because of a broken bone in his left foot.

Of the five German players that have already been ruled out, only Michael Ballack is a real "star" or household name. However, as Shimer rightly pointed out, it's Bastian Schweinsteiger's team anyway not Ballack's.

Take it from me, a Chelsea fan, Ballack isn't nearly the player that you think he is anymore. He's slow and often commits lazy fouls because he can't keep pace with the EPL's top midfielders and also his scoring touch has almost completely deserted him. He's tough and he usually shows up in big games but the 2010 Ballack is most certainly not the same dynamic force that he was four or five years ago.

Westermann broke the bone on Saturday in Germany's 3-0 win over Hungary in Budapest.

My favorite one word Portuguese defender is healthy

My second favorite team-since it's part of my heritage-Portugal, received some good news today as Real Madrid defender Pepe has been cleared to play in the 2010 World Cup.

The center back, whose full name is Kleper Laveran Lima Ferreira, was cleared by Madrid medical staff following a lengthy recovery from knee surgery. Pepe hasn't played since December after coming down awkwardly and twisting his right knee during a Spanish league game.

The 27-year-old Pepe is a naturalized Brazilian who has been a regular for Portugal since joining Madrid from FC Porto in 2007.

Portugal opens Group G play against Ivory Coast on June 15.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A glimpse of what's to come

Tomorrow the U.S. will take off for South Africa, today at 2 p.m. on ESPN 2 the world will get the chance to see what will likely be most of the starting 11 in Philadelphia against Turkey.

The anticipated starting 11: Altidore and Dempsey up front - Donovan, Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, and Stuart Holden in the midfield - Cherundolo, Onyewu, Clarence Goodson, and Bornstein in the back.

As this terrific preview from stipulates, what you see up front in the match from the U.S. will likely be what you see in South Africa.

But with injuries to Jay DeMerit and Carlos Bocanegra, the back-line will likely be an area of change. Bornstein simply put cannot start in the World Cup, he is too much of a trouble point and a weakness that would be exposed brutally by any winger with pace or superior skill. Goodson has shown to be a strong central defender, especially in the air, but if DeMerit is healthy the position is his after a stellar showing in the Confederations Cup last summer where he may have been the U.S.'s best player.

I think one thing to look at today is how many minutes Bradley plays his starters because I think he still has to figure who some of his top players will be off the bench. Winning this match would be nice as Turkey are a terrific country having beaten the Czech Republic last week 2-1 - a team that beat the U.S. Wednesday 4-2 - despite neither team making it to the World Cup.

I think we will see Herculez Gomez in there at some point as well as Edson Buddle. I think DaMarcus Beasley will see action and hopefully DeMerit will see the pitch for the first time since returning to the MNT for training camp following the end of the English Championship league season.

News and notes

Just some quick up-dates. I think again we were right on the money about when we told you it would be a long shot for Ghana star midfielder Michael Essien to make the World Cup after he sustained a knee that required two surgeries post-initial operation to clean out an infection.

Well unfortunately for Ghana, the Black Stars, and the World Cup we will not see the Chelsea midfielder play in South Africa. The news came out two days ago that a medical exam showed he was not making enough progress and now the worst fears have come to fruition, Essien is out.

We've mentioned many times before, it's tough not to over-state, but Essien is one of the most underrated players in the world and probably a top-10 talent. Without Essien, Chelsea struggled mightily in the Champions League and after building up a big lead in the first half of the English Premier League campaign nearly blew it in the second half with Manchester United biting at their heels.

Essien is a rare midfielder with the ability to be dominant in every phase of the game tracking back defensively and often drawing teams most lethal midfielding talent, and at the same with the capability to unleash thunderous strikes from 35-plus yards out. He will be missed...

Neither to me is a big surprise. Lahm has been a steadfast contributor to Der Meinschaft dating back to the 2002 World Cup when der Deuschland made it to the final and was an obvious choice to replace injured captain Michael Ballack as the captain at the World Cup.

Neuer was really the best option for Germany once Rene Adler went out with an injury.
I had been meaning to throw this in here for a while, so I will mention it now, the 2010 German team - which I love by the way - is going to be Bastian Schweinsteiger's team. If you saw the way he played at Bayern Munich for much of the season, you would know and understand that he really was going to be the creative midfielding role that Ballack played for Germany in past World Cups.

To me he would have been the better choice as a captain because he is a year younger and probably has to be Germany's best and most vocal player on the pitch for the Black Eagles to succeed.

Schweinsteiger, who has played primarily the outside wing role for Germany, was now ready to move inside just like he did at Munich when the arrival of Arjen Robben complimented Franck Ribery. Germany have plenty of outside middy candidates in Marko Marin, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Piotr Trochowski, and a few others.

Yes Ballack would have gone forward and been a threat on set pieces, but his primary role at Chelsea for the past couple of season has been to as a holding midfielder playing behind Frank Lampard. He was not as unreplaceable as some people in the German camp have said because of Schweinsteiger.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mourinho can't get out of Italy fast enough

It only took four days after winning the Champions League final with Inter Milan for Jose Mourinho to pick up his stuff and say: peace out suckers.

It's all going to be finalized on Monday with the Special One signing on with Real Madrid.

Pairing him with Cristiano Ronaldo, one of the World's top 3 players, should make for fascinating stuff.

Madrid sacked Manuel Pellegrini on Wednesday and outlined their intention to replace him with Mourinho once both they and the Portuguese had negotiated his release from Inter.

The two clubs had been struggling to reach a compromise as Inter were insisting they must be paid the full €16 million due to them under the terms of Mourinho's contract.

However, an agreement, reported to be worth €8 million, has been reached after a meeting between Real president Florentino Perez and his Inter counterpart Massimo Moratti in Milan.

A statement from the Italian club read: "The president Massimo Moratti and Florentino Perez met this afternoon.

"In light of the excellent and constructive relations of friendship that exist between the two clubs, an agreement was reached on the contractual clause that binds Jose Mourinho to FC Internazionale. The time and the manner by which the agreement will be honoured has been defined.

"Massimo Moratti thanks Florentino Perez for his willingness to join him in Milan and for his courtesy, which confirms, once again, the strong link between the two prestigious club.''

Real director general Jorge Valdano said earlier on Friday that the reason for Pellegrini's sacking was that the board believed the Chilean's record in Real's key games was not good enough.

"Pellegrini created a very good working environment, avoiding dressing room conflicts and he had an impeccable record in the league," Valdano said. "But in the most important games of the season he was not able to succeed and so we decided to dismiss him.''

Valdano was also adamant striker Gonzalo Higuain would not be leaving the Bernabeu despite speculation in England linking him with big-spending Manchester City.

Higuain was Madrid's leading scorer in the Primera Division with 27 goals in 32 appearances in the recently-completed season and his fellow Argentinian insists he is not for sale.

Valdano said: "Higuain is under contract for three more years. He has been a benchmark for others and is not available for transfer.''

And as Shimer said on Sunday when we saw the first reports of this, Italian football is not for Mourinho. Their boring, defensive style is not what he favors and putting him in Spain should allow him to continue to flourish playing an exciting, attacking brand of football.

Carragher going to South Africa

England's final 23 hasn't come out yet but sources say that Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher will be making the trip.

His appearance against Mexico in the friendly the other day was his first national team appearance since 2007.

Soccernet understands Jamie Carragher is certain to be named in England's final 23-man World Cup squad and it is now accepted that he is first choice cover at right back.

Although Carragher came on in the centre of defence for the second half against Mexico, he will be included in Fabio Capello's final squad for South Africa because he is the best choice to be understudy to Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson.

"Jamie Carragher was called back into the 30 with the intention of taking him in the 23 and nothing much has changed," a source close to the England camp told Soccernet.

"The reason is simple: we need two right backs and I don't see another right back other than Glen Johnson in the squad.

"It is true that James Milner or even Shaun Wright-Phillips would play there in an emergency, but the idea is for Jamie Carragher to deputise as right back."

Carragher can, obviously, also cover the centre-back position, and for that reason Capello is more inclined to take the risk of selecting Ledley King despite his persistent knee injuries.

The FA insider told Soccernet: "It looks increasingly like Ledley King will make it to South Africa. He has to have his usual routines and rest after matches without training, but yes he has the qualities and has proved himself with his club playing in successive games at the end of the season."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bob Bradley and co. select the US 23

First of all, props to Shimer for correctly predicting five of the seven cuts that Bob Bradley and his coaching staff would make as their team shrunk from 30 to 23 players.

He was on the money about defenders Chad Marshall and Heath Pearce; midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan and Robbie Rogers.

The two selections that he got wrong are ones that I think we can both totally agree on still deserved a spot: Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez will each travel to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup.

Instead of Eddie Johnson and Brian Ching-two of Bradley's boys, he went out on a limb with two lesser known talents that nevertheless are playing much better at the moment than Johnson or Ching.

Midfielders Donovan and Beasley, and defender Steve Cherundolo earned their third World Cup trips. Beasley's selection capped a comeback from nine months of national team exile that ended in March.

Seventeen of the 23 players are based in Europe, with just four from Major League Soccer and two from Mexican clubs. Of the European group, eight play in England, three in Germany, two in Scotland, and one each in Denmark, France, Italy and Norway.

Both Buddle and Gomez are forwards, and Bradley said they "both have been in great form, scored a lot of goals this year."

Buddle was a nonenity for the U.S. during World Cup qualifying. But he's scored nine times this season for the Los Angeles Galaxy to lead the MLS, and he made his first start for the national team in Tuesday night's 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic.

The 29-year-old Buddle didn't quite believe it when Bradley congratulated him at 2 a.m. Wednesday.

"I thought he was messing around. I didn't know. It was too late," he said.

Gomez might have faced even longer odds to make the squad after his contract was not renewed last year by Kansas City in MLS. But he went to Puebla of the Mexican league and tied for the scoring lead with 10 goals in 14 appearances.

"I wasn't good enough for the Wizards last year, so to be where I am today is amazing," Gomez said.

Bradley praised Buddle, Gomez and Beasley for taking advantage of their opportunities.

"One player that I felt fits into that category is Herculez Gomez," Bradley said. "He's worked hard to get to this point.

"DaMarcus obviously had fallen out of it a bit and he needed to make a renewed commitment to the team and doing things as a player that makes his team better. And we've seen that.

"When you make tough decision you try to factor in everything," Bradley added. "You take into account where they are in their season and certainly to this point Edson is one of the best players in MLS. That type of form needed to really count."

A total of 92 players made at least one appearance under Bradley during the four-year World Cup cycle as the team went 35-19-6. He used 43 players during qualifying; 19 of them made the final roster. Those players accounted for 29 of 42 goals scored in qualifying, including Altidore's team-leading six goals.

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa, England), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton, England), Tim Howard (Everton, England).

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes, France), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover, Germany), Jay DeMerit (Watford, England), Clarence Goodson (IK Start, Norway), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan, Italy), Jonathan Spector (West Ham, England).

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Clint Dempsey (Fulham, England), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus, Denmark), Stuart Holden (Bolton, England), Jose Torres (Pachuca, Mexico).

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Hull, England), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles), Robbie Findley (Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Puebla, Mexico).

All in all, I think Bradley did a fine job of constructing a team based on what he had and who was healthy and in form.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Eddie Johnson might be receiving a Christmas card from me this year

Shimer and I have taken plenty of shots at Eddie Johnson since we got this blog but the guy earned a lot of my respect tonight as he stood and answered questions for eight plus minutes while many of his teammates rushed off to their bus.

End of training camp

"Worked really hard at Princeton, we knew we'd be tired. Get the hardwork and jitters out of us before we go to South Africa."

Bouncing around Europe

"Good experience to play in Europe. Sometimes it takes players a long time, for me it's taken some time. I'm enjoying it, still loving my football. I like Europe and Greece has a good league."

What makes this World Cup different?
"Since we were young, we always heard 2010 was going to be our year."

Being back in the US national team mix

"I feel very fortunate to be part of the camp, whatever decision coach makes, I'm enjoying my soccer and happy to be a part of the US team again."

Getting back out there after a recent injury

"It was good to get a run for 45 minutes. Nursing strained calf, good to get out and get another CAP under my belt. It's not a one man sport, it's a team sport. Hopefully everything falls into place."

Playing with new teammates

"We've all played with each other at some point. We were able to get two goals, learning process."

Buddle and him

"I thought at times, Buddle and I were making the same runs and I think that was because we hadn't played together too much."

Prediction time, my seven cuts

There are a few without-a-doubters that should be an easy cut in my mind entering tomorrow's decision day for Bob Bradley with the 23-man roster.

Heath Pearce certainly has played himself out of a spot on the U.S. team as he was to blame in large capacity for two of the Czech's goals in the second half - he's out.

Sacha Kljestan again was unimpressive for me and was largely to blame after a bad give-away on the fourth goal. In his area of the field the U.S. are very deep, so although he's been a Bradley favorite of the past there is no room for him on this U.S. team.

Robbie Findley was not good earlier this year when he was called into action and did not play tonight despite being on the sub list - he's out.

Same goes for Chad Marshal, unimpressive earlier this year in friendlies, didn't play tonight despite being on the sub list - he's out.

I think Alejandro Bedoya could be a very good player down the road for the U.S. He is of the same mold as Charlie Davies - a top talent from Boston College that went over to the Swedish league straight out of college. But for now he has not shown enough ability in friendly action - he's out.

Now we come to the tricky part, how many do you need of each position.

I think Robbie Rogers is on the brink at outside mid because DaMarcus Beasley has really looked rejuvenated lately and Stuart Holden may just be this team's starting right mid come the World Cup.

Benny Feilhaber has been injured lately and was not on the active list tonight, but he is another of Bradley's boys. I think he is safe, but if Bradley feels he won't be fit soon he certainly will have no problem axing the center middy as he did with Davies - which had to be a much tougher call considering Davies didn't even get a chance to compete in the 30-man preliminary camp.

Eddie Johnson has to feel uncomfortable as well. Although he was somewhat resurgent moving to Aris in Greece from Fulham in England in January scoring five goals in his stay, he has failed to find the net for nearly two years for the U.S. and looks more like a fluke than anything else for the MNT.

Certainly Edson Buddle is on the hot-seat. He only had one cap entering the Czech Republic game and although he is the MLS's leading scorer, Bradley has shown an affinity for European-based players, and Brian Ching as an MLS player will certainly be on this team.

Lastly I think Jonathan Bornstein played himself onto the bubble. Bornstein has been given every chance to earn a spot and has been largely disappointing. The Netherlands picked on him in early March as did the Czechs tonight. I know Bradley needs cover for Carlos Bocanegra on the left side, but for me Bornstein is not that player.

If I was making the cuts it would be Bornstein and Johnson. I think you need to give Buddle the opportunity to play alongside Jozy Altidore just once and see if they can develop chemistry, plus he is in form with nine goals in two months, and lastly he looked active tonight so he beats out the spot for me in front of Eddie. I also have just been disgusted with Bornstein's play, he just doesn't do it for me.

But going with my gut feeling I would think Buddle and Rogers will get axed.

I don't think the U.S. is still fully confident with Oguchi Onyewu at this point. The Czechs scored two goals after he left when Maurice Edu had to move to center back, and I think Bocanegra would be their first choice guy to fill in the middle if Guch went down. That then means the U.S. team would be slightly exposed on the left side where Bocanegra plays.

I also think they want guys with more experience than Buddle has and that will cost him.

So to finalize my predictions here they are: Buddle, Rogers, Bedoya, Findley, Pearce, Kljestan, and Marshall.

Bob Bradley unplugged

After tonight's US-Czech Republic game, we went to US head coach Bob Bradley's press conference. The man went to Princeton so he's got a few things to say. Here's most of his 14 plus minutes.

Last game before cutting 30 players to 23

"It's a night when they come off the field, the emotion. We're at a point where some tough decisions have to be made. Still a respect we have for what they put into the camp, the game. As a player, coming into camp to make a team and go into the World Cup is a special thing. As it gets closer, those emotions come out.
On a night when the result doesn't go our way, pay tribute to these guys and all the hard work they've put in."

How do you make the final cuts?

"I have so many things flying through my head right now. We'll talk as a staff, pull out the DVD and look at certain things. Lot of energy, a little bit crazy. Collective effort, didn't always do well enough on final side. At times we left ourselves wide open."

The substitutes

"Tonight was about looking at guys, sizing up different possibilities. The subs that we used tonight were all geared towards looking at people. Guys at camps before, played through this cycle. Thoughts about what they bring to the team in terms of chemistry and mentality."

Beasley and Gomez

"It's been a good camp for DeMarcus. He's showed his teammates again that there's a renewed committment there and that's what showed. Herculez played his way into camp. He scored a goal tonight that's very important in this whole thing. Here's a guy that was totally out of the picture. He'll certainly be discussed."


"We've seen improvement in camp. Overall reactions to the game were good, on the ball passing was solid. All those things move up a few more notches. The ability to size things up. Get good position on players."

Will they decide the 23 tonight or tomorrow morning?

"Team meeting while we're eating as a coaching staff, we'll see how far we are. Tell the players either late tonight or early tomorrow morning, depends where we are on some things. Typically what we do is look at DVD to remember plays that we saw and have it exactly right."

International game

"When you go to the World Cup, the challenges, demands, speed of the game, athleticism is incredibly high. YOu want to make sure that players that are going in the 23 are where they need to be as well as everything else. In the midst of everything else tonight, reactions and movements and seeing where guys are. There's time to keep working on that but you can only make up so much."

What do you say to the guys you cut?

"We'll have a discussion with each person we're letting go, thank them, tell them how much we appereciate them putting into it. It's usually not a long discussion, usually when you're on the receiving end of bad news you don't want to have a long conversation. We try with the way we go about things to be clear and upfront. The kind of mutual respect in terms of what we do together."

The forwards

"Across the board with the forwards, how they'll adjust to international game which goes faster. One thing I've said, when you get into a international game or top club match, the window for plays is small and it shuts quickly. If you're used to it being bigger, staying open longer it doesn't work that way. You wait to see if there's too many times where a play comes in their direction and a defender is able to step in front and take it away the attacking player isn't thinking fast enough."

Here's the story that will appear in the Newburyport Daily News tomorrow: Who is Charlie Davies replacement?

EAST HARTFORD | United States fans have shorter attention spans perhaps more than any other country – they want to see goals.

A day before the U.S. coach Bob Bradley announces his final 23-man World Cup roster when the U.S. lost to the Czech Republic, 4-2, one of the biggest question marks the second winningiest coach in U.S. history will have to answer remains, who will partner Jozy Altidore – the leading Men’s National Team (MNT) goal-scorer with six during World Cup qualifying – up front?

The list is a lengthy one – Houston Dynamo’s Brian Ching, Los Angels Galaxy’s Edson Buddle, Pachuca’s (Mexican league) Herculez Gomez, Real Salt Lake’s Robbie Findley, and Aris Thessaloniki’s (Greek league) Eddie Johnson. Even outside winger Clint Dempsey, who plays at Fulham in the English Premier League, has been mentioned as possible option.

Before the horrific and tragic, fatal car accident in October (killed the driver Ashley Roberta) that left Boston College product Charlie Davies badly injured (broken femur, broken tibia, dislocated elbow, lacerated bladder, bleeding from the brain) to the extent that he has not even seen the pitch in game action since – Davies was the obvious choice.

Davies, who was born in Manchester, NH and played high school soccer at Brooks School in North Andover, burst onto the national team scene at the Confederations Cup last summer where he scored a goal in the team’s 3-0 win over 2010 African Cup of Nations champions Egypt.

In his absence in 2010, the U.S. has struggled to find a reliable second option as the MNT have been mostly unconvincing going forward in a 3-1 loss to Honduras in January, a poor 2-1 win against El Salvador in February, and another lackadaisical 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in early March.

In fact only one forward has scored a goal for the U.S. in 2010 – Ching.

Clearly there is a debate; does Bradley go with experience or with whose hot?

Johnson (12 goals in 40 appearances) and Ching (11 goals in 44 appearances) are without a doubt the two most experienced guys. Johnson has not scored since 2008 for the U.S. and has really fizzled since scoring five goals in his opening year with the team in 2004. Ching has probably been the U.S.’s most reliable forward this year with much of the roster away in Europe earlier in the year, but he seems to disappear in big games.

Buddle meanwhile only has one career cap for the U.S. back in 2003 and after recently turning 29 the time is now or never because he currently leads Major League Soccer in scoring with nine goals, and it is no small component that he plays well with Landon Donovan one of the key U.S. players.

Gomez was the first U.S. forward to lead another country’s top domestic league in scoring enjoying a resurgent season with Puebla in Mexico by scoring 10 goals. The 28-year-old is finally recovering after missing nearly a year after an ACL tear in September in 2007. He too is virtually uncapped with just two in 2007, two years after his breakout season in 2005 with the Galaxy where he scored 18 goals.

But after scoring one of the MNT’s two goals on the evening a beautifully executed corner, Gomez has to be considered a front-runner now with the form he has been in to make this squad.

“It was fun, it was hard, it was a great feeling to be out there with those guys,” said Gomez, who came on as a substitute in the second half. “You build those friendships during camp, you kind of get throw in some turmoil with all the fitness and it brings the guys together – they really area a great group of guys and being out there was a lot of fun.

“I haven’t spoken to (coach Bradley), but I’m a big boy, I know what I have to do, I knew coming into this I was going to have to show more than just being able to put the ball in the back of the net,” Gomez followed up. “I felt I gave (the Czechs) a few headaches, got them on their toes, but they are a great team. Peter Cech (the Czech Republic goalie) is a great goalkeeper, he’s not just anybody, so it was a good test. I’m just glad I survived the 45 minutes. It’s out of my hands now.”

Ching, who also came on as a second half sub, felt like all the forwards showed quality in defeat to the Czechs, who have beaten the U.S. all three times they have played each other.

“You just try to go out and score goals,” Ching said. “Good for Herculez, he scored a good goal. I thought we had some good combination play. I though the forwards all played well in my eyes, so hopefully it’s a tough decision for the coach.”

A few thoughts from Brian Ching, while he's macking on some hot broad

One of the funniest thing of the night that I saw without a doubt was Brian Ching chatting up some hot ass reporter and getting her business card with her cell number - believe it was one of those gushy, "here's my number, call me, we'll meet up for an 'interview'" kind of moments.

Anyway he clearly he was not altogether happy with how he played because he didn't score and the team didn't win, but he still gave some politically correct responses.

"Just try to go out there and score goals, unfortunately, good for herculez, he scored a good goal i thought we had some good combination playoverall i thought the forwards all played pretty well in my eyes anyway. hopefully it's a tough decision for the coach.

"Yea I hope so, I did get a little tired at the end there and faded a little bit, so a little disappointed in that but i felt good at the beginning of the half and I thought we really combined and played some good stuff, so disappointing result but i thought a lot of guys had heavy legs."

On his back-heal pass that resulted in a Gomez shot on net, low into Peter Cech's hands:

"No I just saw him, he was in a good position and I looked over my shoulder before the ball was played and I just kind of played it in the hopes that he would make the run and he made the run and unlucky on the finish."

Press conferences here we come

Czech Republic wins 4-2. A good effort by the US but some bad breakdowns, most notably for the last two goals sealed the loss.

Catch them in Philly on Saturday as they take on Turkey in their last friendly before they head to South Africa. They'll play Australia on June 5 in South Africa before it gets real with England (June 12).

Gomez shares his thoughts with Red, White, and Blue Army

Coming on as a second half sub, Herculez Gomez was certainly a bright spot for the U.S. tonight scoring a goal in the final 4-2 result. he was not flashy, but certainly on a stage like this to score a goal is impressive because he was in the right place and delivered. Here are some of his thoughts:

"It was fun it was hard, it was a great feeling to be out there witht hose guys. You build those friendships during camp, you kind of get thrown in some turmoil with all the fitness and it brings the guys together. They really are a great group of guys and being out there was a lot of fun.

"I haven’t spoken to (Bob Bradley), but I'm a big boy I know what I have to do. I knew coming into this I was going to have to show more than just being able to put the ball into the back of the net. It's been a tough camp, we’ve all worked very hard. It’s out of my hands now, we’ll see what happens. Regardless its been a good experience.

"I felt I gave them a few headaches got them on their toes a bit, but they are a great team. Peter Cech is a great goal keeper, he’s just not anybody, so it was a good test. I'm just glad I survived the 45 minutes."

Goodnight Prague, you've been great

Tomas Necid just ended it with a goal in stoppage time to put the Czechs up 4-2.

4-2 final

Tomas Necid sealed it for the Czechs after a bad give-away in the midfield by Kjlestan, 4-2. Bad way to end it.

Tonight's attendance

36,218 tonight in East Hartford record for a soccer event here...

Pathetic defense

Heath Pearce just waved at air on a slide tackle on a play on the ride side allowing Libor Sionko to send in an easy cross in the box. Tomas Necid never latched onto the ball but with two wide open options in the box it eventually went to Fenin, who tucked the ball inside the crossbar. Yuck, big time yuck especially after some lively play.

Pearce just lost his spot in South Africa

Some sloppy US defending led to another Czech goal.

Heath Pearce once again was the goat as Libor Sionko blew by him around the corner and crossed to Martin Fenin. There were multiple US defenders in the right spots but Goodson and co. couldn't do anything to stop a roofed snipe by Fenin.

The Czech press' reaction "yoooooooooooooooooo!"

Uh ok.
Brian Ching just showed why I don't like him after a fabulous release ball on the counter his lack of pace or creative ability 1-v-1 failed him in the late part of the field. He took a long range shot that deflected for a corner, but realistically that is where the U.S. needs Davies, Buddle, or another forward with pace to counter quick because that is what they will have to succeed offensively.

That's Herculez with a Z

Gotta feel good for US striker Herculez Gomez.

He just tied it up in the 66th minute with a header off a corner kick and another header by teammate Clarence Goodson.

For a guy just trying to get a roster spot (with the final 23 announced tomorrow), Gomez can't do much more than that. The timing was ironic too since he had another chance just moments earlier: Ching backheeled it to him and he was wide open but hit it right to Cech's chest.

Last sub

Bedoya by the way is now on for Onyewu. Edu is now moving back to central defense, Holden is in the middle and Bedoya is out wide right.

Ching producing, Gomez levels

Gomez just fired in a nice low shot that Cech was able to handle after a beaut of a flick by Ching. So far I have to say Ching has been the most active and intriguing forward I have seen tonight, and that's saying something because I dislike Ching quite a bit in case you haven't read this blog much.

Gomez now just leveled on a terrific corner kick that was sent to the back post by Holden whipped to the back post and headed back across the face of goal by Clarence Goodson for Gomez to head home. Marvelous, magnificent, beautiful.

Blown assignments by Ching and Pearce lead to Czech goal

The US subs have not acquitted themselves well thus far.

Brian Ching whiffed on a deflection out front and on the next possession downfield, David Lafata served a through ball to Jan Polak, who raced past defender Heath Pearce and put it by a helpless Brad Guzan.

2-1 Czech Republic in the 58th minute.

2-1 bad guys

Ching is making things happen. On a quick counter his flick put Robbie Rogers in motion, who should have then released Gomez. But Rogers dribbled for too long and Gomez went offsides.

However, Jan Polak just put the Czechs up 2-1 after a great cross by David Lafata unlocked the U.S. defense.

Wake-up time

Sivok nearly just buried his second on a terrific volley but two of his teammates were in an offsides position affecting how Guzan read the action. No goal still 1-1.

By the way 5 subs

Ching in for Eddie Johnson, Kljestan for Torres, Pearce for Bornstein, Gomez for Buddle, and Rogers in for Beasley.

Back for the second half

We're back underway and my home-boy Ching nearly opened his account tonight. I hate Ching but he will probably be on this team

5 US subs to start the second half

To start the second half, the US subbed Brian Ching for Eddie Johnson, Sacha Kljestan for Jose Torres, Heath Pearce for Jonathan Bornstein, Robbie Rogers for DeMarcus Beasley and Herculez Gomez for Edson Buddle.

Sacha is the first sub to do something as he sends in a good cross that Cech deflects into traffic in front of the goal.

Streaker enters pitch before halftime

In case you were wondering a streaker just entered the field and almost got away, but when he tried to get back in the crowd he was wrestled down....

By the way its 1-1 at the half, that goal was a little deflating it will be interesting to see how react in the second half and what players will be used in the six subs allotted to the U.S.

1-1 at the half

Well I might be sitting next to the only people that were happy by the latest developments. A large contingent of the Czech press is right up in my grill piece so needless to say, they're long trip to Connecticut was worth it.

The Czechs tied it in the 44th minute with a goal off a free kick from the side of the box, just like the US. Defender Tomas Sivok outleaped Gooch and finished off midfielder Jaroslav Plasil's perfect free kick. The header curled around Guzan and just inside the far post.

1-1 and we're headed to halftime. The last minute was exciting as a fan ran out onto the field and almost made it back into the stands (with a leap that would make Spider Man proud) before a group of CT state troopers and security did their best UConn linebacker impression.


Well Guch was just beaten in the air as Tomas Sivok just out-leaped Onyewu on a soft-free kick that Plasil then delivered nicely spinning away from the U.S. keeper Brad Guzan to the back post and then headed back to the near post.

Yellow card for Rajnoch

Czech defender Jan Rajnoch received a yellow card for basically getting the way of Stuart Holden, who was about to run by him.

Brad Guzan is better than Peter Cech, for one fleeting moment

Jaroslav Plasil tested US goalkeeper Brad Guzan with a tough cross off a free kick but the Aston Villa man did well to deflect it out for the corner.

With starter Tim Howard, Guzan and third goalie Marcus Hahnemann, can I submit that the US has the best goalkeeping trio in the World Cup?

Bornstein wake-up plesae

After Bornstein made a horrific challenge tackling a player on the right flank after he was completely beaten - more on him later - Plasil the Czech's slick central midfielder delivered a delicious cross in which Guzan had to tip wide. A good play for the keeper and his biggest test of the day.

Bornstein is playing pretty bad at the moment, and a guy to my left recently pondered "can he play his way off the team?" I think so, his passes have been horrific rarely finding their mark, he gets beaten too easily too often and then fouls like he did moments ago, and he is clearly the weak link in the defense.

That also begs the question though who would be Bocanegra's replacement or cover should he go down with an injury? Maybe Spector or Cherundolo would shift out to the left side. But I have never been a fan of Bornstein with the U.S., he was terribly exposed by the Dutch and doesn't look good tonight.

Should be level, Fenin just choked on a great chance

The Czechs just had their best rush forward as defender Ondrej Kusnir turned the corner and laid off a perfect back pass to an onrushing Martin Fenin in the 27th minute.

The forward barely missed putting it in the far post, past US goalkeeper Brad Guzan. Is it too easy to say that Milan Baros would have buried it?
Martin Fenin just blew a completely lovely ball from Kusnir. Delivered on a platter all he had to do was hit the target on a great ball back from the endline to the middle of the box, however he swiffled his shot wide left.

Guchi looks good thus far

Love the way Guch is handling the defense right now. He is very much in control, looks strong, and is taking command which is important after his long layoff from the knee tendon tear.
Guzan just received his first test of the night but was fouled by Polak on the challenge.

Maurice Edu is having a great time, thanks for asking

As soon as I published the last post, the US made me look like a fool as Maurice Edu scored in the 17th minute.

Stuart Holden had a free kick to the side of the box and he served it into the box where Czech goalkeeper Peter Cech whiffed on it. Edson Buddle stuck his nose in traffic and hit it along while Edu was able to throw himself at the ball and put it in the vacated net.

1-0 US.

That's 15 minutes of your life you'll never get back

Can't say the action has been too thrilling for the first 15 minutes of the US-Czech Republic in East Hartford.

Both teams appear to be feeling each other out and about the only interesting parts thus far have been the abundance of orange cleats for the Americans and seeing Gooch take a hard challenge.

U.S. on the board, 1-0

After earning a free kick on the left side, Stuart Holden just whipped in a great cross that Peter Cech came out to try to parry away, however, he could only get as far as his defender, which allowed Maurice Edu to head it home. A well-deserved 1-0 start. Love how they are playing right now they look strong.

Edu has been one of the best players on the pitch so far for the U.S. in the middle winning balls and distributing even before he scored.

Pro-U.S. crowd

By the way this is a near capacity crowd and clearly finally a home field advantage for the U.S. against the Eastern European team. We'll let you know when we hear the announced attendance, but it should be a great atmosphere if you can't tell on TV.
Buddle nearly stole an errant back pass from the Czechs right back, however, he could not catch up to the ball.

Good start

The Americans look strong so far controlling possession in the early minutes of the game. Already Beasley and Bornstein have sent in crosses to test Cech in the box. Buddle has looked good on the ball and Torres has made several key intercepts in the midfield.

About to kick-off in E. Hartford

The US won the toss; Buddle and Eddie Johnson get us underway.

LIVE BLOG: U.S. vs. Czech Republic live from East Hartford

We're here in East Hartford and the U.S. team just unveiled their home white kits for the first time. Enjoy folks as both Slate and myself post updates all night...

Line-ups are in

For the U.S. the starting 11 looks like this:
Goal: Brad Guzan
Defense from right to left: , Steve Cherundolo (captain), Clarence Goodson, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Bornstein
Midfield from right to left: Stuart Holden, Jose Torres, Maurice Edu, DaMarcus Beasley
Forward: Eddie Johnson and Edson Buddle

subs: defense - Jonathan Spector, Heath Pearce, Chad Marshall; midfield - Ricardo Clark, Sacha Klestan, Robbie Roggers, Alejandro Bedoya; forwards - Brian Ching, Robbie Findley, Herculez Gomez; goalie - Marcus Hahnemann

For the Czech Republic the starting 11 looks like this:
Goalie: Peter Cech
Defense: Ondrej Kusnir, Jan Rajnoch, Tomas Sivok
Midfield: Libor Sionko, Jan Polak, Daniel Pudil, Jaroslav Plasil, Tomas Hubschman
Forwards: Martin Fenin and David Lafata

subs: defense - David Limbersky; midfield - Milan Cerny, Mario Holek, Rudolf Skacel, Jan Morvavek, Jaroslav Cerny; forwards - Tomas Necid, Tomas Pekhart; goalies - Jan Lastuvka, Michal Danek

I love the line-up the U.S. is going with. This if finally the opportunity for Eddie Johnson to show his true colors. Too often in the past he has tried to coast on ability and against better competition he looks like a fraud because he has failed to live up to his first year with the national team when he scored five goals in 10 games. So I will be intently watching his performance.

I am also very keen to see how Buddle produces in only his second ever cap for the senior squad.

Torres, Goodson, Edu, and Beasley are also all on the bubble and it will be see how they perform against a World Cup quality side.

Not even your sweet German beers can save you

In terms of relevance, it's not on the same planet as Michael Ballack's ankle injury or Rene Alder but it's still worth noting that Germany has lost backup defender Christian Traesch for the 2010 World Cup after injuring his ankle against a local Italian club.

"Christian Traesch won't be available for the World Cup and we regret this very much," assistant coach Hans-Dieter Flick told a news conference Tuesday at Germany's training camp in northern Italy.

Traesch twisted his ankle without contact with another player and will need at least a four-week rest.

Germany won 4-0 against a local selection from South Tirol, a German-speaking area in northern Italy. The game was played in two 30-minute halves on Monday.

Germany coach Joachim Loew has two extra players on his squad who will have to be cut before the June 1 deadline. He also has to select his captain for the World Cup after Ballack's injury.

The seven players from Bayern Munich, which lost the Champions League final 2-0 against Inter Milan on Saturday, were scheduled to join the squad Tuesday and Wednesday.

Germany plays in Hungary on Saturday, then hosts Bosnia-Herzegovina on June 3 in its last two warm-up games before traveling to the World Cup.

Algerian midfielder won't be checking in anytime soon

Other than LeBron James' impending free agency (oh you didn't hear?) the biggest story in sports the last few weeks has been Algeria's World Cup roster.

Wait, what? That might be a slight exaggeration but I wouldn't be doing my self-appointed job if I didn't tell you that your boy Algerian midfielder Mourad Meghni won't be playing in South Africa in a few weeks.

The 26-year-old hadn't recovered enough from a left knee injury so the Algerian soccer federation decided that he needed surgery.

Meghni was one of several players in coach Rabah Saadane's preliminary squad with dual nationality who played youth internationals for France but switched allegiance after FIFA removed the age restriction last year.

Algeria is in Group C with England, Slovenia and the United States. Algeria faces the U.S. on June 23.

Good day mate

Australia trimmed its roster from 31 to 28 today and Middlesbrough striker Scott McDonald was the biggest name on the fateful list.

McDonald scored tons of goals in Scotland before moving to England but he has yet to score in 16 games for Australia.

In Group D with Germany, Ghana and Serbia, the Australians are a decent play to advance out of the group stage (in second obviously). I like Ghana but who knows how healthy Essien is and Serbia is a solid but unspectacular European team.

Crystal Palace midfielder Nick Carle and Norway-based defender Jade North also were cut on Tuesday.

Belgian-based Nikita Rukavytsya and Josh Kennedy will be the backups to Galatasaray forward Harry Kewell.

Australia coach Pim Verbeek said McDonald struggled in the Socceroos' preferred lone striker system.

"Scotty is a typical two-striker player, and that's where he feels happy also," Verbeek said. "But we don't play with two strikers. We play with one striker up top and wingers, so Scotty doesn't fit in this system. He knows it, and he tried everything."

The core of Australia's squad is made up of veterans of the 2006 World Cup, headed by Kewell, clubmate Lucas Neill, Everton's Tim Cahill, Palermo's Mark Bresciano and Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

Verbeek said players who did not make his final 23-man roster, which must be submitted to FIFA on June 1, will be kept on in South Africa for the duration of the World Cup. Youngsters Tommy Oar and James Holland are unlikely to make the final 23 but have been chosen to gain experience.

Australia leaves on Wednesday for a pre-World Cup training camp in Johannesburg. The team will play exhibitions against Denmark on June 1 and the United States on June 5 ahead of its World Cup opener against Germany on June 13.

Goalkeepers: Adam Federici (Reading, England), Eugene Galekovic (Adelaide United). Brad Jones (Middlesbrough, England), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham, England)

Defenders: Michael Beauchamp (Melbourne Heart), David Carney (Twente, Netherlands), Scott Chipperfield (Basel, Switzerland), Shane Lowry (Aston Villam England), Mark Milligan (JEF United, Japan), Craig Moore (no club), Lucas Neill (Galatasaray, Turkey), Luke Wilkshire (Dynamo Moscow, Russia), Rhys Williams (Middlesbrough, England)

Midfielders: Mark Bresciano (Palermo, Italy), Tim Cahill (Everton, England), Jason Culina (Gold Coast), Brett Emerton (Blackburn, England), Richard Garcia (Hull, England), Vince Grella (Blackburn, England), James Holland (Alkmaar, Netherlands), Brett Holman (Alkmaar, Netherlands), Mile Jedinak (Antalyaspor, Turkey), Tommy Oar (Utrecht, Netherlands), Carl Valeri (Sassuolo, Italy), Dario Vidosic (Nuremberg, Germany)

Forwards: Josh Kennedy (Nagoya Grampus, Japan), Harry Kewell (Galatasaray, Turkey), Nikita Rukavytsya (Twente, Netherlands)

We're here to bring you live updates from Rentschler Field: the U.S. vs. Czech Republic

EAST HARTFORD | So this is my first date-line for a U.S. game, and in case you didn't know what a date-line is, it means I am here live at the game to bring you updates all night.

Tonight will be a monumental performance for the Red, White, and Blue - it has been announced that tomorrow Bob Bradley will announced tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. his 23-man World Cup roster. That means this will likely be the last opportunity for many fringe players on the initial 30-man preliminary roster to make an impact with game experience.

I would imagine there are probably 18-20 real solid locks on this roster already, guys like Donovan and Howard and Dempsey and Altidore and Onyewu - but for guys like Sacha Kljestan, Robbie Rogers, Jose Torres, Eddie Johnson, Edson Buddle (pictured above), Alejandro Bedoya, Herculez Gomez, and a few others this is it. They've had their shot through the brief U.S. camp, they've shown what they can do on the pitch for their domestic teams, it's now or never.

Anyway we will bring you live updates all night, quotes from the early press conferences, perhaps a feature interview with some of the foremost U.S. analysts if we can swing, and obviously a live blog at the game with our own insights all night.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A little project on the side

Gentlemen I know you will enjoy this. I've recently applied for an internship to write for Bleacher Report for the World Cup and they've thrown me a couple of stories they wanted me to publish as a trial process.

Well the latest and greatest story pitch they had me do was compile a slide-show of the hottest women in Brazil including celebrities, WAGs, actresses, models, and general folk. Needless to say this may have been the easiest assignment I've ever had because Brazilian women are for my money the hottest and most exotic in the world.

They said they wanted 15-20 slides, I threw up 42 because you can't short change these gorgeous ladies. Check out the link here on bleacher report, I think you'll enjoy it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Remember these?

Well I've meaning to put up a post about these old school commercials from past World Cups just because they were sick. From Edgar Davids to Denilson to Eric Cantona, Patrick Kluivert, Paolo Maldini, Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos and others it is great to reminisce about some of the guys that used to be the real stars of the game.

I have to say the "Au Revoir" Cantona commercial was one of the first vivid memories I have getting excited about a soccer commercial. I definitely also bought the t-shirt and it was probably my favorite shirt for like 2 years before I eventually ruined it at soccer practices.

And I bring up this point because Nike just unveiled a sick new ad for the upcoming Cup, check it out as well as these other ads:

2 of the biggest squads set to go

Well I can go ahead and say now it's not a big surprise, but thank goodness Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres have been included in Spain's 23-man roster despite their current injuries that are keeping them out of training camp.

Spain are loaded and looking better and better than ever, and clearly coach Vincente del Bosque must feel comfortable enough about Fabregas because he cut a player in Marcos Senna that played a major role in the team's win at Euro 2008. Sevilla striker Alvaro Negrado - who had a fabulous season - and Villareal star Santi Cazorla were the other two names of note cut from Spain's final roster, but truth be told neither will be missed.

Torres, David Villa, and Pedro of Barcelona should be more than enough to score plenty of goals up front. In the midfield Xavi will be pulling the strings surrounded by Andres Iniesta as long as he is healthy, Fabregas if he is healthy, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and David Silva. I think it's likely that one of those players drops back to take up a role on defense with Puyol, Pique and Sergio Ramos.

But anyway here is the full contingent:

Goalkeepers: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Jose Reina (Liverpool), Victor Valdes (Barcelona).

Defenders: Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Joan Capdevila (Villarreal), Carlos Marchena (Valencia), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid).

Midfielders: Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), David Silva (Valencia), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona).

Forwards: Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Juan Manuel Mata (Valencia), Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), Fernando Torres (Liverpool), David Villa (Barcelona).

Diego Maradona also announced Argentina's 23-man roster today, and really there weren't a lot of surprises save for one 30-year-old defender. Most of the real shocks came when Maradona made his initial 30-man roster and excluded two terrific veteran Inter Milan midfielders - Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso. Newcastle defender Fabrico Coloccini and Napoli forward Ezequiel Lavezzi were the two biggest names cut.

Argentina are loaded up front so it's no surprise Lavezzi did not make the final cut. Just look at the names that will be scoring goals in South Africa for the famous white-and-blue stripes - Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Milito, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero.

I think a couple of those players will have to should be moved out to the wings so that Argentina can get their full bang for the buck. Messi for one traditionally plays right wing for Barcelona, but Maradona and past Argentina coaches had been more than play him there instead putting him at forward where he has not been as effective. Tevez is another player I could see being pushed out wide because he is such a work-horse unafraid to go back and defend even when he plays up front. Higuain and Milito are more traditional front-running forwards and Aguero is kind of the young new kid on the block, but we'll have to see.

Here is Argentina's full contingent:

Full Argentina squad: Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar), Mariano Andujar (Catania), Diego Pozo (Colon); Nicolas Burdisso (Roma), Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich), Walter Samuel (Inter Milan), Gabriel Heinze (Marseille), Nicolas Otamendi (Velez Sarsfield), Clemente Rodriguez (Estudiantes), Ariel Garca (Colon); Javier Mascherano (Liverpool), Juan Sebastian Veron (Estudiantes), Maximiliano Rodriguez (Liverpool), Mario Bolatti (Fiorentina), Angel Di Maria (Benfica), Jonas Gutierrez (Newcastle), Javier Pastore (Palermo); Sergio Aguero (Atl├ętico Madrid), Diego Milito (Internazionale), Martin Palermo (Boca Juniors), Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid), Lionel Messi (Barcelona).

We're a day late on this story: Villa to Barcelona

I have often said I have never understood what people see in Zlatan Ibrahimovic. No doubt the big Swede or "the magnificent nose" as Ray Hudson calls him, has plenty of talent to spare, but he never shows up for the big occasion.

Well it seems Barcelona have rectified last summer's poor buy of Ibra by signing one of the deadliest goal-scorers in the world, former Valencia striker David Villa. The Blaugrana have reportedly swung the first big coup of the summer for a transfer fee of £34.2 million and an annual wage of £7 million for Villa.

Villa, who will turn 29 later in the year, is just a superbly clinical finisher and I love the move the for Barca. He is the type of front-running forward that scores goals, not setting them up which is what makes Ibra a strong forward.

For me Spain are the best national team in the world despite their early exit from the Confederations Cup last summer at the hands of the U.S. If I were a betting man they are the team I would pick to pull off the first European Championship/World Cup championship in successive tournament since France did so in reverse fashion in 1998 with the World Cup and 2000 with the Euro championship. And the reason I bring this up is that he joins six other Spain internationals - Puyol, Iniesta, Sergio, Pedro, Pique, and Xavi - and potentially Cesc Fabregas could be on the way as well. Scary when you think about it

I would also have to say Villa is also a class act. After making the switch, a move that was really necessary for Valencia, who are in rough shape financially despite returning to the Champions League this year finishing third in La Liga, Villa wrote a letter to the fans saying Los Che felt like home for the last five years that he played there.

"I get a lot of feelings, leaving many friends, but knowing that it is good for the club,'' Villa said. "At Valencia I have grown as a player and as a person. At Valencia I have felt at home from day one and nobody will doubt it to be that way forever.

"I want everyone to know that it has been a great source of pride for me to wear this shirt. It has given me so much and I will always carry it in my heart.''

Villa helped Valencia win the 2008 Copa del Rey and will move on having fired the club to a third-place finish in La Liga in 2009-10 to return the club to the Champions League.

"I leave with the satisfaction that the club has returned to where it deserves to be every year - fighting among the best in Europe in the Champions League.

"I would like to send a big hug to all the fans who have always given so much love, from the day of my presentation until the last match at the Mestalla.

"Also to all my colleagues who have helped me to improve, to all the technical staff I have worked with and to the leaders, especially (Valencia president) Manuel Llorente, and employees, with whom I have worked side by side."

The other interesting side-note is that David Silva - not to be confused with David Villa and who had made up the other half of Valencia's fabulous one-two punch - may now also be on his way out the door. Silva, who to is a Spain international, is being highly sought after by Real Madrid.

Silva nearly left last summer for Manchester United, but it appears now that the Royal Whites have their man and Valencia after selling Villa are also willing to sell their second most prized asset.

Following the completion of the £34.2 million deal that took Villa to Barcelona, Valencia president Manuel Llorente said on Wednesday: "I do not discount further exits."