One nation under Jurgen Klinsmann with dreams of goals for all

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

U.S. Men's Roster For Venezuela And Panama Features Distinct MLS Flavor

With European-based American players in the middle of their club seasons in January, U.S. men's soccer coach Jurgen Klinsmann made the right choice to call in a mostly MLS 20-man roster for the team's friendlies against Venezuela and Panama.

All but two play in Major League Soccer, and more than half of the players announced Thursday have two or fewer appearances with the senior national team.

"They are the next in line behind the established players, and this is a chance to prove themselves," Klinsmann said. "We will spend the next few weeks introducing them to our ideas on how we want to play and what it means to be a part of the national team. Ultimately, it will create more depth for us, which you need at this level."

MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez got his first call-up under Klinsmann, as did the league's Rookie of the Year, C.J. Sapong. Gonzalez, who made his U.S. debut against Brazil in August 2010, was a key part of the defense for the MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy, who tied a league record with 17 regular-season shutouts and allowed just 38 goals. Sapong, a forward, led all MLS rookies with five goals and five assists.

Dallas midfielder Brek Shea, one of only three players to appear in all seven matches since Klinsmann was hired in July, is on the training camp roster. So is Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who has made five starts and six appearances under Klinsmann. Klinsmann also called up Ricardo Clark, who has not played for the U.S. since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"The European-based players and the Mexican-based players aren't available, so this is their shot," Klinsmann said. "Their goal has to be to move ahead of the guy in front of him in their position, and the only way they can do that is to show how good they are."

This camp will take place between January 3-26 in the United States and Panama. The U.S. takes on Venezuela on January 21 in Phoenix before wrapping up with a match in Panama on January 25. Two friendlies against teams that they should be competitive with, even though most of the big names won't take part.

The roster
Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago), Nick Rimando (Salt Lake)

Defenders: Geoff Cameron (Houston), A.J. DeLaGarza (Los Angeles), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles), George John (Dallas), Zach Loyd (Dallas), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland, Denmark), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA)

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Salt Lake), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Benny Feilhaber (New England), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorad), Brek Shea (Dallas), Graham Zusi (Kansas City)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York), Teal Bunbury (Kansas City), C.J. Sapong (Kansas City), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose).

Not being an MLS fan at all, I'm interested to see the Johnsons, Camerons, DeLaGarzas, etc that I honestly have never heard of, let alone seen compete on a soccer field. There has to be a couple promising prospects in this group of mostly new names.

It'll also be worth watching to see how former Revolution star Michael Parkhurst is doing these days, not to mention see what form Ricardo Clark is in after his disastrous last appearance for the U.S. when they got bounced from the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals (losing to Ghana 2-1).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Abby Wambach Named Associated Press Female Athlete Of The Year, Hope Solo Finishes Second

With the year end awards and wrap ups in full swing, it's only proper that the U.S. women's national team gets more recognition.

Today, U.S. women's star striker Abby Wambach was named the 2011 Female Athlete of the Year in the United States by the Associated Press.

She received 65 of 214 of the votes cast with teammate Hope Solo (38) second and UConn basketball standout Maya Moore (35) third overall.

What makes this particularly cool for Wambach and U.S. soccer fans is that she is the first man or woman to win one of the AP's annual awards, which began in 1931.

"We, as a team, did something that no team since Mia Hamm was able to do,'' Wambach told the AP. "Even the team that won the (Olympic) gold medal in 2008 wasn't able to inspire and get people excited about women's soccer. It goes to show you the impact drama can bring.''

Wambach's four goals in Germany give her 13 in three World Cup appearances. That's the most by an American, topping Michelle Akers by one, and puts her third on the all-time World Cup scoring list behind Brazil forward Marta and Germany striker Birgit Prinz. The 31-year-old American ranks third on the U.S. career scoring list with 125 goals, trailing only Mia Hamm (158) and Kristine Lilly (130).

"When she's on top of her game,'' United States coach Pia Sundhage said, "she's one of the best in the world.''

Wambach was certainly at her best at the World Cup, leading the Americans to the final, where they lost to Japan on penalty kicks.

Wambach was also named Sportswoman of the Year by the Women's Sports Foundation, and the victory over Brazil was named the top sports accomplishment of the year in a Marist poll. The Women's World Cup ranked 10th in the voting for AP sports story of the year.

"I'm not a person who cares much about (individual) awards, but I really appreciate you guys recognizing this team,'' Wambach said. "It helps keep this sport alive, and it's really important.''

Wambach takes her role as ambassador for the game seriously, recognizing that time in the spotlight is still rare for women's soccer and it must be taken advantage of. She is as accommodating a star athlete as there is, happy to sign autographs, pose for pictures or do interviews. This is how the game is grown, and that, not the goals or the scoring records, is what she hopes her legacy will be.

"Hopefully when I'm long gone, this team is so good that people don't even talk about (me),'' she said. "Truthfully.''

Not that Wambach is going anywhere.

The Americans are the defending Olympic champions, and Wambach and her teammates are currently training for next month's regional qualifying tournament. She hopes to be healthy enough to play at the 2015 World Cup in Canada, and fill that last gap in a resume as dazzling as anyone who's ever worn the U.S. uniform.

"I have to say, of all people, I think she is one of the best role models: interacting with fans, saying good things about the game, saying good things about this country, saying good things about her teammates,'' Sundhage said. "I'm very proud of the fact I've had the chance to coach her for so many years. It will be a highlight of my career.''

This validates soccer in a big way that even an old established thing like the AP can't ignore it anymore. People are watching it, talking about it, kids all play it and many more people are starting to care about it more. These are all great things that we should all celebrate as 2011 ends.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

U.S. Men's Soccer Team Hires An Assistant Coach With An Impressive Resume

The U.S. men's national team is improving its coaching staff even more as they hired former Austrian star Andreas Herzog to be an assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann. Details of his new U.S. deal were unavailable.

Herzog was a midfielder for Austria and he scored 26 goals in 103 international matches between 1998-2003. That impressive goal total for a midfielder is the most ever among all Austrian players.

Most recently, he was Austria's under-21 coach. He left that position on Friday according to the Austrian federation.

Herzog and Klinsmann should have natural chemistry since they were teammates with Bayern Munich when the German club captured the UEFA Cup in 1996.

"Jurgen Klinsmann and I have been close friends for many years now. I face this new challenge with great confidence," Herzog said in the Austrian federation's statement.

Herzog played for Rapid Vienna, Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich, before coming to the United States and MLS with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2004. He was an assistant to Austria coaches Josef Hickersberger and Karel Brueckner before taking over the under-21 team in March 2009.

His first match as an assistant to Klinsmann will be a January 21 friendly against Venezuela, followed closely by a friendly against Panama on January 25.

Like I said when the U.S. hired Klinsmann, the more foreigners the better for the U.S. men's national team (in terms of naturalized players and coaches). We've seen how far U.S. born coaches can take us, we need more experienced guys internationally that can overhaul our youth programs and change our playing style. It's the only hope we have to ever get over the hump and be a serious World Cup contender in our lifetimes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

2011-12 UEFA Champions League Draw Held For Round Of 16 Which Begins February 14

It's been hard to keep up with the UEFA Champions League but with today's draw for the round of 16 (which begins with the first legs on February 14), things are starting to get clearer and easier to focus on.

The knockout pairings with the group winners listed first:
Arsenal vs. AC Milan
Chelsea vs. Napoli
Barcelona (defending champions) vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Real Madrid vs. CSKA Moscow
Bayern Munich vs. FC Basel
APOEL Nicosia (no clue who that is) vs. Lyon
Benfica vs. Zenit St. Petersburg
Inter Milan vs. Marseille

For my money, the most tasty matchups are Arsenal vs. AC Milan, Chelsea vs. Napoli and Barcelona vs. Bayer Leverkusen. You'll note that Manchester United is nowhere to be seen there since mighty FC Basel eliminated them in the last round.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, there's a 25% chance that no English club (there's only 2 left) reach the quarterfinals. If that happens, it would be the first time since 1995-96 that no English teams were in the final eight. Something to pay attention to when these games start up again.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Barcelona's David Villa Breaks His Leg During Club World Cup Match

Injuries are always around the corner in professional sports but that doesn't make them any easier to accept no matter how many times they occur.

I woke up this morning and checked Twitter, like I always do, and was disheartened to find the news that Barcelona and Spanish star striker David Villa broke his leg.

It happened today while he was playing with Barcelona in a Club World Cup semifinal match against Al-Sadd.


Villa, 30, was carried off on a stretcher six minutes before half-time at International Stadium Yokohama after appearing to land awkwardly and was taken to hospital for tests.

Barcelona confirmed that Spain's all-time record scorer had "suffered a fracture to the tibia in his left leg" and is likely to miss the majority of Barca's Primera Division and Champions League campaigns, but could be available to world and European champions Spain for Euro 2012, which begins in June.

A statement from Barcelona read: "In the coming hours, Villa will return to Barcelona, via Frankfurt, to be operated on. He will be accompanied by doctor Ricard Pruna and Manel Estiarte. The approximate time he will be sidelined is between four and five months.''

Head coach Pep Guardiola said after the match: "He will now travel to Barcelona as soon as possible. He will be greatly missed as a colleague and as a player. I hope everything goes well.

"He will be a long time. It's a big blow to the team. We just hope that he can play again as soon as possible.

"David is very dear to us. The injury has saddened us all. Everyone can put themselves in his place and know how they would suffer if it happened to them. They feel for him. We must accept it and encourage him in his recovery.''

Guardiola insisted now was not the time to discuss January reinforcements in the light of Villa's absence.

"Let us have compassion and respect,'' he said. "Let's give it time. Now is not the time to talk about it.''

The blow follows a report on Wednesday in Marca that claimed Villa could leave Barca in the January transfer window as the striker has started only half of his side's La Liga matches this season.

Guardiola moved to reject the rumour, branding it as a "lie", and defended his decision to leave Villa on the bench for their El Clasico victory over Real Madrid at the weekend.

Villa has scored five times in 15 league matches this season, following on from his 18 goals in 34 games as Barca won the league title last term. He has made 75 appearances for the club in all competitions, scoring 32 goals.
Villa is projected to miss four or five months, meaning the rest of La Liga (Barcelona is tied with Real Madried at the top) and Champions League campaign (Barce is the defending champ in that too) is likely over for one of the world's greatest goal-scorers.

It is never fun to see a good player in any sport you enjoy pick up a serious injury. Let's all hope that Villa heals properly and is back doing his thing for his country in June at Euro 2012.

Landon Donovan Returns On Loan To Everton

Great news today for U.S. men's soccer team fans as it was announced that Landon Donovan will return to Everton in January for a two-month loan with the Toffees.

His Major League soccer team, the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy, broke the news which will give Everton some attacking help as they try to improve on a particularly slow start in the English Premier League.

The Toffees are currently in 12th place (out of 20) in the EPL and if anything, they're lucky to be even that high since they've scored a measly 15 goals in 14 matches.

Donovan will be eligible to play starting January 4 as Everton hosts Bolton. He will be there for nine matches (8 EPL, 1 FA Cup), through a farewell game on February 25 at Liverpool.

Unfortunately, in that time frame Everton won't play Fulham and Donovan's U.S. teammate Clint Dempsey but they have notable matches Jan. 11 at Tottenham, Feb. 1 they host Manchester City and Feb. 11 they host Chelsea.

Tim Howard is still Everton's No. 1 goalkeeper so Donovan will be reunited with him. You probably remember that the first time around (January-March 2010) that Donovan scored two goals in 13 matches for the Toffees but most importantly, he won over the fickle English fans who understandably doubted his abilities.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

U.S. Men Set To Dominate in 2012 Olympic Qualifying Next Spring In Nashville

Let's be honest, the path to the 2012 Olympics in London is pretty easy for the U.S. men's team.

It was announced yesterday, the U.S. men's under-23 team (aka the Olympic squad) will face Canada, Cuba and El Salvador next spring in Nashville, TN for regional qualifying. They are coached by Caleb Porter, also the head coach at the highly successful University of Akron.

I'm not predicting 5-0 wins in each game but come on, the U.S. should roll over each of those garbage teams. Sorry, this isn't hockey (Canada) or baseball (Cuba). El Salvador isn't known for anything else, they just blow.

These games should serve as a sort of a warmup for the Olympics not to mention the World Cup qualifiers that some of the more talented team members will also participate in.

Striker Juan Agudelo is on the U-23 team and other guys eligible include goalkeeper Bill Hamid, defender Timothy Chandler, defender Alfredo Morales, midfielder Danny Williams, midfielder Freddy Adu, midfielder Brek Shea and striker Jozy Altidore. They have all been invited to the senior national team's camps and in some cases, they are already some of their top players.

The team can also call in three overage players for the Olympics, something to keep in mind as next summer approaches. As I said last week with the Euro 2012 draw, next summer is going to rule. Between Euro 2012, London Olympics, Champions League and World Cup qualifying, there is going to be plenty of world-class soccer around every corner.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chicarito Out For A Month With Ankle Injury

Big news for Manchester United and Mexico fans not to mention those of us that despise both of those teams: striker Javier "Chicarito" Hernandez will likely miss a month of action with torn ligaments in his ankle.

On Saturday, in the first half of Man U's 1-0 win at Aston Villa, Hernandez was taken off on a stretcher.

The Red Devils had a Champions League match tomorrow afternoon against Basel and they also have seven games in the next four weeks. A busy stretch of the season for the defending EPL champs and Champions League runner-up.

"I think it is torn ligaments in the ankle and he'll be out for four weeks," Sir Alex Ferguson said. "We are having a bad time with injuries at the moment but that is why we have a strong squad."

The injury to Hernandez compounds Ferguson's selection headaches. He is already without midfielders Tom Cleverly and Anderson. In recent weeks, he has used forward Wayne Rooney in the midfield. Danny Welbeck is the only available first-team striker that has seen significant playing time in recent months. Ferguson plans to take a patch-work approach to the attack in the coming weeks.

"Danny Welbeck is fit again and fortunately he got 15 minutes (against Villa) which is good, so he is an option for Wednesday," Ferguson said. "He has not had a lot of football recently which is something I have to consider.

"But Nani did alright through the middle and Antonio Valencia did very well for us when he came on, he was excellent. So I have some options up-front. We may have Berbatov fit for Wednesday also, but we are getting our fair share of injuries at the moment."

I'm sure scummy Mexican fans (some of the worst on the planet) would cheer if U.S. men's national team stars like Landon Donovan, Tim Howard or Clint Dempsey got hurt but I'm going to take the high road here. Mostly because I love soccer and whenever a great player like Chicarito misses time, we all lose.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Clint Dempsey Is Setting Records, Winning Games At Fulham

U.S. soccer fans were treated to an excellent (minus a bogus red card) Fulham vs. Liverpool match on ESPN2 this afternoon.

It was particularly notable to U.S. fans since one of our country's greatest ever exports-Clint Dempsey-broke Brian McBride's English Premier League record with 37 career goals abroad. Oh and by the way, it was the game's lone goal as Fulham got a big 1-0 victory at Craven Cottage.

I missed the game since my cable went out (not happy at all) but let's read Soccer By Ives' account (an excellent soccer blog): Clint Dempsey's legend at Fulham continues to grow with every goal he scores.

The Texas native did it again on Monday, scoring an 85th-minute winner for Fulham in a 1-0 victory over Liverpool. Minutes after hitting the crossbar with a bending effort from the top of the area, Dempsey found himself in perfect position to slot home a spilled rebound by Pepe Reina from close range.

With the goal, Dempsey set a new standard for Americans in the Premier League. He entered the match tied with Brian McBride with 36 Premiership goals but now owns that record for his own.

I tried to find a highlight of the goal, a rebound from right on the goalmouth but the YouTube police were out in full force taking them down. My best advice is to watch Fox Soccer Channel or maybe they'll show it on Sportscenter.

Messi, Ronaldo & Xavi Named Three Finalists For FIFA's Top Award

The greatest rivalry going in club soccer has extended to year-end award shows as well. Barcelona stars Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez along with Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo were named finalists for FIFA's Ballon d'Or after outlasting 20 other nominees.

Messi also won the award two years ago when France Football magazine chose the best player in Europe. The Ballon d'Or is now merged with FIFA's player of the year award to create one trophy.

"As I've always said, it's great to win individual awards, especially the prestigious ones, but what comes first for me is winning matches and titles,'' Messi said.
Messi and Ronaldo have already scored 17 league goals this season. They face each other in the Spanish league on Saturday.

"It's great to be again nominated as one of the FIFA Ballon d'Or final 3 contenders,'' Ronaldo said on his Twitter account.

Ronaldo won the Golden Ball award in 2008, and his quest to overtake Messi as the world's top player has seen the Portuguese star playing probably the best football of his career over the past year.

He broke the Spanish league scoring record with 40 goals last season, including 11 in his last four games.

Messi scored fewer - 31 league goals - but set up more than Ronaldo. He also walked away with the Champions League and Spanish league titles, while Ronaldo only won the Copa del Rey, or Spanish Cup, scoring with a bullet header in the final against Barcelona.

The winner will be announced on Jan. 9 in Zurich, Switzerland.

If Messi wins the award for the third time, he will join former France midfielder Michel Platini, and former Netherlands greats Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten as three-time Golden Ball winners.

The 24-year-old Messi scored in the 3-1 win over Manchester United in last season's Champions League final.

Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho, Manchester United's Alex Ferguson and Barcelona's Pep Guardiola are in the running for best coach.

Messi hailed Guardiola's influence and the way he has modernized the club.
"His leadership is so important to us, not just in the day-to-day but in the way he prepares games and keeps us motivated,'' Messi said on FIFA's website. "His attention to detail also makes a huge difference. When he came in, for example, he decided that we should start having lunch at the club and that the doctors and our (physiotherapist) should keep a closer eye on us.''

Madrid currently leads the Spanish league ahead of Barcelona, but last season Mourinho was powerless to stop the Catalans from dominating Europe. Barcelona beat Madrid 3-1 over two legs in the Champions League semifinals, with Messi scoring twice in Madrid. Ronaldo failed to score and cut a downcast figure as he was totally outshone by Messi.

Messi, Neymar and Wayne Rooney are shortlisted for the best goal award.

My money is on Messi to win since he's the best player on the best team. Plus, he's coming off the best season. Ronaldo and Xavi (in that order) are worthy choices too but it just feels like Messi's resume is better and it's his time to win, again.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Euro 2012 Draw Is Complete, This Is Going To Be A Great Tournament

I spent a decent amount of time this afternoon watching Fox Soccer Channel, in anticipation of the Euro 2012 draw. It was tedious but in the end, holy crap. This is going to be an excellent tournament starting next June 8 in Poland with the hosts facing Greece at 1:00 ET and Russia facing the Czech Republic at 3:45 ET.

The Polish got a gift as Group A appears on first blush to be the easiest of the four. Along with Greece, they have Russia and the Czech Republic. None of those teams are great by any means, they all could win it.

Group B is the Group of Death, which is a staple in every major soccer tournament. Poor Denmark is stuck with Portugal, Germany and Netherlands. Good luck with that Danes. That means in group play alone, we will be treated to Portugal vs. Germany and Portugal vs. Netherlands. You won't find many juicier international matches than those.

The defending World Cup and European champions Spain lead Group C and it looks like the Spanish have a relatively easy road to the knockout stage. Ireland, Italy and Croatia make up the rest of that group. You could make a case for any of those three coming in second so that should be an interesting race to watch.

Group D features another one of the great opening round matches pitting France vs. England. Ukraine and Sweden make up the rest of that group which clearly is wide open and could be topped by any of those four teams.

Is it too early to be pumped for next summer? Between Champions League play in the spring, the London Olympics in the summer and Euro 2012, it promises to be an unbelievable time to be a soccer fan. Nothing is better than a big-time international soccer tournament. I can only hope that I get to Vegas before then or at least earn enough scratch to get on Bodog and throw some money down. Haha gambling makes everything more exciting damn it!

Must see games:
Saturday, June 9-Germany vs. Portugal, 3:45 ET
Sunday, June 10-Spain vs. Italy, 1:00 ET
Monday, June 11-France vs. England, 1:00 ET
Wednesday, June 13-Netherlands vs. Germany, 3:45 ET
Thursday, June 14-Spain vs. Ireland, 3:45 ET
Sunday, June 17-Portugal vs. Netherlands, 3:45 ET
Monday, June 18-Spain vs. Croatia, 3:45 ET
Monday, June 18-Italy vs. Ireland, 3:45 ET

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

John Harkes Replaced By Another Bozo American (Taylor Twellman) For MLS & U.S. National Team Coverage

One of the biggest problems surrounding coverage of U.S. men's national team games in the United States is the parade of clowns that cover them: Alexi Lalas, John Harkes, Marcelo Balboa and Taylor Twellman have all gotten their shots and proven that besides Eric Wynalda (snatched up by Fox Soccer Channel), they're all useless.

Still, I applaud ESPN for dumping Harkes (who was told his contract wouldn't be renewed) in favor of Twellman, the former New England Revolution legend. Harkes' rambling, egocentric announcing style has been nothing but distracting since he was paired with the excellent Ian Darke.

Sadly the 1994 U.S. men's team are totally delusional. I respect what they achieved and I loved it at the time but they think they invented soccer stateside. For some reason they all believe they were Messi or Ronaldo (thanks to my buddy Casey for that superb line) and not the scrappy overachievers they are truly were.

Twellman is a know it all douchebag who has been doing studio coverage on ESPN and Philadelphia Union games in MLS but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he's younger than Harkes so maybe there is some hope he'll improve. Also on his side, he couldn't be worse than Harkes.

The best news is that Darke will continue in his capacity as ESPN's lead announcer for U.S. national team games, the English Premier League, Euro 2012 and select MLS games. That dunce Lalas will be stuck in the studio while Adrian Healey (fine backup) will do the MLS games that Darke can't make.

May I also suggest that Julie Foudy and Tommy Smyth get more gigs too. Foudy is better than any of her American male counterparts. She brings experience, a good sense of humor and timing for the game. More than anything, she doesn't take herself too seriously unlike all the dopey guys. I'm not sure what's happened to Smyth who was basically ESPN's go to Euro before Darke showed up. Maybe his age is the hindrance, who knows? It's ESPN so there's probably some scandal behind the demotion.

U.S. Women's Head Coach Pia Sundhage Wants To Return To Sweden, Next Year

I'm not going to bash her too much since she seems like a nice enough lady but is U.S. women's head coach Pia Sundhage kidding me with her latest comments?

On Saturday, after her current team-the United States-had a friendly against Sweden, she said that she wants to return to her homeland (Sweden) and coach their national team once her contract expires with the U.S. in 2012.

I realize that she was a star for Sweden and she clearly misses her family and friends. There's always been an obvious language barrier and who knows if she's ever really acclimated herself to the U.S. culture?

I have no problem with her wanting to take that job which is at the same level as the U.S., one of the top teams in the world. My only issue is that who does this? Who says something this damning when her current team has another big competition coming up-namely the 2012 Summer Olympics in London?

Under her direction, the U.S. won the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics and came in second at the 2011 World Cup, losing to Japan in penalty kicks. My feeling with the U.S. women's team is completely different from the U.S. men. Since the U.S. women have been one of the best teams in the world pretty much forever, we don't need people from other countries to help us out by coaching.

The U.S. men are another story; they have never been great and they need new ideas that come solely from more accomplished guys (cough Jurgen Klinsmann) from other more soccer-centric lands.

I know there's probably no chance of it happening before then but I would have no problem with the U.S. canning Sundhage before the 2012 Olympics. If she's so motivated to get back to Sweden (she's been away for six years) and Sweden's coach Thomas Dennerby's contract ends next year too, why not speed up the process?

Who's to say she'll be able to fully focus on the task at hand if she's already spouting off with nonsense like this.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Looking Ahead To The U.S. Men's World Cup Qualifiers In 2012

With 2011 wrapped up as far as the U.S. men's national team is concerned, their 2012 World Cup qualifier schedule was announced today so let's look ahead.

On the surface, these six games all basically appear to be eminently winnable. The U.S. is grouped with Antigua, Guatemala and Jamaica. Even for CONCACAF, one of the worst regions in FIFA, that's a pathetic group of teams.

The U.S. begins by hosting Antigua on Friday, June 8 at a location to be announced. On June 12, Jurgen Klinsmann's guys travel to Guatemala. After the middle of the summer break-which is sure to be filled with training and some friendlies-the Americans are back at it in September.

They go to Jamaica on Friday, September 7 and then host Jamaica in a tricky home-and-home set on September 11 (they should make try to get it at Red Bull Arena, in honor of 9/11).

October is the last two games: Friday, October 12 in Antigua and then the U.S. concludes by hosting Guatemala on October 16 back in the States.

No excuses; Antigua and Guatemala have already surprised just to get this far but there is absolutely no reason that the U.S. can't win (or at least tie) all of these matches. Furthermore, they need to be in first after these six matches. Jamaica is the only semi-threat in this group.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

U.S. Men vs. Slovenia 2nd Half Live Blog

Haha would you believe that the Black Eyed Peas "Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night" is blasting in Slovenia? It's probably their No. 1 hit.

No changes for the U.S. at halftime.

Yikes, a mistake by Goodson leads to a wide open chance from Slovenia yards away. Luckily, some bum puts it into the side netting.

This is the first time since 1997 that the U.S. has lost more games than its won. Yuck, they'll be happy to say goodbye to 2011.

Matavz tries to beat like four defenders but Bocanegra deflects his shot out for a corner. Geez, another failed U.S. clears gives Slovenia the ball in the box but they hit a terrible shot well wide. The U.S. can't keep doing that.

Good buildup by the U.S. but Buddle is the last one to touch it as he tries to spin and shoot. The type of move he couldn't complete even in his wildest dreams.

Slovenia with a nice cross but nobody can touch it. The U.S. defense is off to a terrible start in the second half.

Beckerman is the only MLS player (no Donovan) in the starting lineup.

Last time the U.S. scored 3 in a half was 2009 World Cup qualifier vs. Honduras. Last time they did it in a first half was a 2008 World Cup qualifier vs. Barbados.

Dempsey with a clear foul, clipping a Slovenia player's feet. Johnson had a shot in the box but it was blocked and cleared out.

The U.S. had a nice counterattack but Dempsey's shot went off a Slovenia player's hand/face. A foul was eventually called on Buddle. Wow, replay shows that was a clear handball.

Slovenia wins a corner kick but it's a bad one.

Another corner for Slovenia after Kirm split two U.S. defenders.

Great cross by Slovenia and touch by Shuler, should have been a goal. It just bounced wide. Slovenia is buzzing now, they won another corner. The ball goes off crossbar and Howard cleared it off the line. No idea how that wasn't a goal.

Slovenia just hit the post. Haha good lord, they're making Slovenia look like Brazil. Seconds later, Slovenia rightfully scores. Matavz cuts it to 3-2 in the 61st minute. He got the 1-2 ball and beat Beckerman.

Johnson out for Brek Shea, first U.S. substitute.

The U.S. had a break with numbers but Chandler's terrible pass messes it all up. What a waste.

Slovenia corner almost curls in. That would have been enough to make me jump off a bridge, thankfully it didn't happen.

Dempsey is called for a foul on a minor push.

First Slovenia substitute: Vrsic in for Kirm.

Dempsey makes a nice move to beat a few defenders but gives it to Shea who plays a terrible pass right to Slovenia's goalkeeper.

Cherundolo gives Buddle a great ball but he loses the handle and dribbles it off his feet. That's about right, guess the greatest half of his life is long over.

Altidore won a free kick but Chandler forces a pass and turns it over. The U.S. has been awful this half, they're lucky to still be ahead. All of the positive stuff in the first half seems like a distant memory.

Chanlder just did a good job dribbling up the sideline but he got fouled by one guy and another landed on his head. Ouch babe.

Maurice Edu in for Buddle. Big game for Buddle, showing that he's getting better.

Two more substitutes for Slovenia: Matavz out for Dedic and Ljubijankic out for Pecnik. No idea why they took Matavz (who's scored both goals out). He's by far they're best offensive threat.

The U.S. seems content to just try and bleed the clock. Unfortunately, there's ten minutes of regulation plus injury time left so it's far too early for that tactic.

Danny Williams on for Chandler, hope he's OK after that rough challenge.

Free kick by Slovenia goes out of bounds, it didn't miss by much.

Another corner for Slovenia, the U.S. is hanging on for dear life to this lead. Not liking their odds to win. Almost looked like a handball in the box by the U.S. (yikes, it was) but no call. Slovenia gets a free kick at midfield.

Harkes explained the U.S. is tired because they competed so hard against France the other day. I guess I missed that one. Come on man, be objective.

Slovenia corner and it appeared to go off an American head but it's a goal kick. What an ugly second half but I think the U.S. will hold on (not that they really deserve it).

Haha Darke says Shea needs to break to the corner which he promptly doesn't do, turning into traffic and giving it up.

Dempsey fouled by some Slovenian bum, who gets a yellow card despite walking away.

Jermaine Jones on for Beckerman. Don't ask me why the latter starts over the former.

Four minutes of stoppage time.

Edu with a shot from the top of the box, deflected out for a corner.

Slovenia wins a free kick on the edge of the box after Bocanegra jumped on a guy's back. He received a yellow card on it too.

Bradley out for Robbie Rogers. Smart move by Bradley as he takes forever to come off. He was superb in his return to the starting lineup. There should not be a question about his inclusion in future lineups.

And Slovenia kicks it over the night, goodnight fellas. That was your last chance.

The U.S. has won in Europe for the first time in three years. They broke a seven-game losing streak, the last win was 2008 against Poland.

A tale of two halves: the first was excellent and the second was awful. Whatever. This is the result Klinsmann and this team desperately needed. Now let's all get some rest and hope they come back stronger in 2012 with more training together.

Final: U.S. 3, Slovenia 2

U.S. Men vs. Slovenia 1st Half Live Blog

Here we go, the last U.S. men's friendly in 2011: at Slovenia. It's a rematch of the memorable 2-2 tie in the 2010 World Cup.

The U.S. begins World Cup 2014 qualifying next summer against Jamaica, Antigua.

Edson Buddle with a shot in the first minute, tipped over the bar by Slovenia's goalkeeper. U.S. gets a corner kick by Michael Bradley but they can't do anything with it.

Slovenia has a breakaway but their player completely blows it as he slows down and the U.S. is able to recover and knock it out for a corner. Slovenia gets a header off the corner but Howard stops it.

Another chance for Buddle, who shoots over from a tough angle. Bradley fed him with a nice ball.

What a mess, you can barely see the field at the moment. Not helping matters is that Slovenia is wearing white jerseys. It is so foggy, stupid Slovenia weather. Slovenia called offside.

Apparently Slovenia has a new head coach.

Clint Dempsey with a decent pass into Jozy Altidore, who gets taken down with an elbow but no foul is called.

The 4-4-2 has already made a difference in the early going for the U.S. Buddle won a free kick outside the box as he was taken down hard. Bocanegra's header is deflected out (12 goals in 100 CAPs). U.S. corner kick No. 2. The U.S. won possession and Buddle hit a nice cross but Slovenia's goalkeeper got to it first.

Gooch trained last night but he's still not well enough to even sit on the bench.

Wow, Buddle is having the game of his life! He just took the ball from a Slovenian defender and one-timed it off the post from outside the box. 3rd goal for Buddle in his 10th CAP. His last goal was vs. Australia right before the 2010 World Cup. 1-0 U.S. in the 9th minute.

That was only the third goal for the U.S. under Klinsmann, this is his seventh game.

Should have been 2-0. Bradley gave Altidore a perfect ball but somehow he put it over from like two feet in front of Slovenia's goal. Got bury that, come on Jozy.

Haha love Harkes stating the obvious that the U.S. should beat a team like this, "they're not Spain." Classic analysis.

Terrible giveaway by the U.S. defense as Bocanegra hits it right to Slovenia but their shot from outside the box is nto a good one.

The U.S. looks so much better in the first 15 minutes of this match. Dempsey just hit a shot wide after a couple nice, unselfish passes.

Fabian Johnson (making his first career start) just made a great run from the midfield and earned a corner kick (No. 3). It was flicked through but the U.S. couldn't get the second touch.

As if you wanted to visit Slovenia any less, this abysmal weather isn't helping matters for this tiny country. Ugh.

Haha Ian Darke said Slovenia is about the same size as Houston and smaller than New Jersey.

Matavz with a decent header for Slovenia but you'll never beat Howard from the top of the box on a header.

I don't understand why Bradley has seemingly been on the outs with Klinsmann. I hope it's just that he's a known commodity so they want to look at some new faces. He is easily one of their best midfielders.

Slovenia is called way offside but they proceed to go in on Howard and shoot it past him. Cool dude.

Altidore called offside nullifies a 2 on 1 with Dempsey.

Another offside by Slovenia, they might want to make an adjustment here before they set a new record in one game.

Nice header by Clarence Goodson to break up a long pass but Kyle Beckerman gives it right back. Remind me again, why this dreadlocked goon is on the team? He is so mediocre.

Shaky U.S. foul puts an end to a possible chance.

Matavz scores in the 26th minute on what looks like an obvious offside call. Nice finish high over Howard's shoulder. Way too much space by the U.S. defense but we'll have to see more replays of that. Six goals in 12 matches for Matavz (who's 22). 1-1 in the 28th minute.

Well Slovenia and their pathetic home crowd (what else is going on at 6 pm on a Tuesday night?) is alive. They curled another shot wide of Howard and the goal.

The U.S. uses good transition to get a shot, Buddle crosses to Dempsey, but it's headed on top of the net.

That 2-2 tie in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup is the only time these two countries have met.

Oh ok, there's a local fan protest about rising ticket prices. That's why this tiny stadium (16,000) looks so empty.

Well Buddle almost scored his second goal but it wouldn't have counted. He was offside by a few steps. Regardless, great cross from Bradley and nice header by Buddle. They've been the two U.S. standouts thus far.

Dempsey with a nice diving header following great buildup and a cross by Steve Cherundolo. That just went wide, the U.S. has responded after Slovenia tied it up.

Dempsey's next goal will give him 24 for the U.S., tying him all-time with Joe-Max Moore (another former Revolution great), fourth in U.S. history.

U.S. foul outside the box, dangerous Slovenia free kick. They caught the U.S. asleep with a simple run but the shot skips inches wide. Yikes. Too many players thinking shot in and around the wall.

U.S. free kick leads to a corner. There we go, Dempsey heads it in from Bradley. 2-1 U.S. in the 41st minute. The Slovenian defender went for a high kick but he had no chance. Two goals, I might have a heart attack. So the U.S. matched its goal total in its previous six games under Klinsmann in 41 minutes.

Chandler wiggles free in the box and gets taken down to earn a penalty kick. Jozy steps up and scores his first goal under Klinsmann. 3-1 U.S. in the 43rd minute, this looks like a completely different team. I understand that Slovenia is not very good but they nearly beat the U.S. in the World Cup. This is the type of performance we've all been waiting for.

First time in 25 games (since Australia before the World Cup) that the U.S. has scored three goals.

Halftime: U.S. 3, Slovenia 1

Friday, November 11, 2011

U.S. Men Vs. France 2nd Half Live Blog

No changes for either team at halftime even though they are allowed six substitutions each.

Edu with a foul on a 50/50 ball. He had to go for it since Williams gave him a bad ball. France chooses to shoot it directly on net (from way outside the box) but it went well wide.

USA chants are quickly extinguished by French boos.

Beckerman takes a long shot from way outside the box that doesn't challenge the French goalkeeper. Maybe it's because I refuse to watch MLS but I've never understood how Beckerman keeps getting CAPs. He is the definition of an average player.

Dempsey draws a foul by using his unique dribbling skills that none of his teammates possess.

Another France offside call. As far as I can tell, the U.S. isn't trapping them or anything but France repeatedly gets caught well behind the last defender. I don't get it, no adjustments.

French corner kick. A header by Benzema goes off the corner of the crossbar. Big break for the U.S., another great chance for France.

Ribery wins a free kick basically for being a star. Howard makes an incredible save, keeping the ball out despite his body falling into the side netting.

The ball bounces around the U.S. box and France takes a bunch of shots but they all get blocked and the final one is shot over the net.

Altidore is working hard up front but he doesn't seem to have any help.

First 3 subs for France.

France has taken it up a notch but the U.S. is lagging behind right now. They're lucky that it's still scoreless, France has owned the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half after an even first half.

Nice passing sequence by the U.S. Beckerman gave it to Chandler on the left wing. He played it into Dempsey but he couldn't do much with it.

Ribery flops in the box. Jozy is getting no love from the refs today, another easy foul call goes uncalled.

Two more French subs, Ribery is out. France has made five changes before the U.S. has made one. Looks like Jermaine Jones is the first sub for Beckerman, yes!

Possession is all in favor of the French in this half. The U.S. is chasing the ball all over the field.

Howard with a big save, the rebound goes to France but Giroud hits it over from a few yards out.

Shea is out from Beasley. Good tactical move, they need the ball and DeMarcus is one of their few guys that can do something with it.

And the inevitable happens, France scores. Remy takes a long ball, beats Goodson and finishes well. 1-0 France in the 72nd minute. You could feel that coming for a while, France has been the better team by far this half.

Dempsey wins a free kick outside the box.

Buddle on for Edu. Dempsey had a partial breakaway but he was taken down. Altidore started it with a backheel. Dempsey crushed the free kick from outside the box but it was high and wide.

Hey ESPN2 cameraman, no closeups of Ribery's grizzly face. I'd like to eat dinner soon after this game. Thanks.

Bocanegra with a foul outside the U.S. box. France free kick doesn't go anywhere. Dempsey gets tackled hard, France gets a yellow card. Reckless challenge as he clipped Dempsey while he was in the air.

Love Harkes' honk tendencies coming out as he argues that should have been a red card. Ok dude.

U.S. corner kick results in nothing.

Beasley with a decent cross in (with his right foot). Dempsey fed it to Altidore with a header but he probably should have put it on goal himself.

Buddle with a nice move beats a few defenders but he's Edson Buddle so he can't be counted on to do that consistently.

Altidore with a lazy foul, he's gotta be tired.

Haha what did I say? Buddle had a chance to give a nice cross but his effort was terrible. Soft and on the ground.

Jones goes down after taking the ball off his face. He goes off for a second but comes back on (I hate that).

Credit to Cherundolo for making a run forward but his offensive limitations cause him to lose the ball. The U.S. has woken up since the goal but it looks like time will run out.

France corner kick, Jones made a nice recovery run to knock the cross out. Another France corner. France is taking their time and just bleeding the clock.

Four minutes of added time. Harkes says there's still time for the U.S. to push for the equalizer, he must be drunk or high.

Jones turns the ball over leading to a France 2-on-0 but Giroud smacks it into the side netting. Nice try bro.

Almost another goal for France, off the outside of the post but it goes out of bounds.

Jozy called for offside when it looked like he was fouled. Tough call. France would have earned a yellow or even red.

Final: France 1, U.S. 0
The U.S. falls to 1-4-1 under Jurgen Klinsmann but even worse, they've only scored two goals for him. This is becoming a major issue. Their defense and Howard are fine but they'll never beat anyone with this lack of scoring.

U.S. is at Slovenia on Tuesday, 12 p.m. on ESPN2. They need to get a better effort in their final game of 2011.

U.S. Men Vs. France 1st Half Live Blog

Back and forth opening few minutes. Maurice Edu and Steve Cherundolo both make good plays to step up and steal the ball.

Ribery looks in top form for France, I assume he's having a nice season with Bayern Munich. Love his game, he's relentless.

Ugh two goals in five games under Jurgen Klinsmann. The U.S. is 1-3-1 overall in those five matches.

Not a fan of the France jerseys, they look like rugby jerseys with the stupid collar. Benzema looks offside (since he waited for a ball to come to him, behind the U.S. defense) but he bungles it out of bounds.

Altidore was wide open but Williams put it way over his head and out for a throw in.

Chandler with a decent ball near France's goalkeeper but nobody could run onto it.

I know I say this every time I see him but will Shea ever cut his hair? He'll never be taken seriously looking like that.

Haha France with an obvious offside nullifies a slight break they had with numbers.

Pretty back heel by Benzema leads to a bozo teammate taking a dumb shot from outside the box.

Altidore with a move in the box, gets taken down but no call given. It was a flop, no way it gets called for a PK.

On second view, Altidore got tossed down after putting it through a defender's legs. That actually could have been a foul.

The U.S. is lacking good passes and touch in the attacking third-a constant them with this group.

France with a nice cross but Howard grabs it before they can connect.

Williams draws a clear foul in the middle of the field. A bunch of the U.S. and France players are all tatted up-a nod to its NBA brethren that are locked out.

Shea is showing more defensive ability than I knew he possessed.

France draws a foul on Chandler that was a bit of a flop. French free kick on the edge of the box gets cleared out of danger.

Ribery with France's best chance thus far. He backheeled a cross, just wide.

Great hair on some French clown, a dyed blonde mohawk. Everybody knows France is one of the fashion capitals of the world.

Cherundolo wins a corner kick; Edu heads it down but no teammates are there to pounce on it.

France counterattack but the U.S. gets back and Goodson blocks the shot with his chest. Ouch, that always hurts.

The announcers (Darke and Harkes) are debating whether Landon Donovan should be here. In my mind it doesn't matter: a friendly or the MLS Cup. Neither are that important, sorry three MLS fans.

Jozy with a nice turn in the box but he shoots it wide. 12 U.S. goals for Altidore, who's still only 22. Donovan is the only U.S. player with more goals at that young an age.

Williams has been in position for many plays but he keeps falling down and looking for calls. Gotta be stronger on his feet.

Should have been a goal for France: Ribery pulled it back and Menez fired it over from inside the box.

Dangerous ball into the U.S. area but France can't go get it.

Chandler looked like somebody in my men's league. He ran right at the defender but forgot to make a move and got taken down hard (cleanly). Chandler goes off the field for a second but returns after the U.S. throws the ball back to France.

Halftime: 0-0. The U.S. acquitted themselves pretty well in the first half although would it kill them to make more of an effort to try and score some goals? I'm starting to get convinced that they believe they can win 0-0.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

U.S. Men's Roster Announced For France & Slovenia Friendlies

As usual, the U.S. men's national team friendlies are sneaking up on us. Did you know it's a little over a week before the U.S. faces France? Likewise, they'll meet Slovenia is less than two weeks.

Today, U.S. men's head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named the 22 players (2 goalkeepers, 7 defenders, 10 midfielders and 3 forwards) that will make the trip across the pond to face two decent European teams.

These matches represent the last games of 2011 for the U.S.; two more chances to impress Klinsmann and his coaching staff. Time is running out before things get really serious as far as World Cup qualifying next year and figuring out who will be on the field for the U.S. in the 2014 World Cup (in Brazil).

There are mostly familiar names, albeit with a backup goalkeeper (Bill Hamid) that we still don't know anything about, a German-American midfielder (Fabian Johnson) that was going to play in the last couple friendlies but was pulled at the last second due to injury/fatigue and a German-American defender (Alfredo Morales) that plays for Hertha Berlin (Bundesliga). All three should get their first U.S. caps during one of these two matches.

Here's the U.S. men's roster for November 11 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN 2, UNIVISION, in France and November 15 (12 p.m. ET, ESPN 2, UNIVISION, in Slovenia.

Goalkeepers: Tim Howard (Everton), Bill Hamid (D.C. United).

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hanover), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis).

Midfielders: DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim).

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Edson Buddle (Ingolstadt), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy).

Players on MLS teams that are still alive in the MLS Cup will report back to the States after the France match. On a sidenote, Shea will train with Arsenal for a month after the friendlies while Hamid is currently training with West Brom. These will also be Klinsmann's first games with Donovan at his disposal. The U.S. stalwart missed the U.S. games this summer and fall since he needed a break between all the MLS and international contests he had in the past year.

UPDATE 11/7: Donovan is out for these two friendlies since his club team-the Los Angeles Galaxy-is in the MLS Cup.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

3 U.S. Women's Players Nominated For 2011 FIFA Women's World Player Of The Year

2011 has been a great year for U.S. women's soccer. Despite falling in absurdly epic fashion to Japan in penalty kicks during the 2011 Women's World Cup Final, you have to admit that the team is back at the forefront for women's sports in this country after spending a few years on the backburner.

For the most part, they're young, beautiful, athletic, have personalities and they are interesting. A pretty good combination any way that you slice it. Their success on the field and appeal off of it has surely sparked another resurgence in soccer around the U.S. for kids, particularly in girls.

Yesterday, goalkeeper Hope Solo (current star of ABC's Dancing With The Stars) along with forwards Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan were part of the 10 player list nominated for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Player of the Year award.

Five-time winner Marta of Brazil headlines the other nominees which also include Japan's Homare Sawa (the World Cup's leading scorer and top player) and Aya Mayama. Marta helped lead the Western New York Flash to the Women's Professional Soccer title but she also choked along with her teammates in the quarterfinals to the U.S. in the World Cup. Mostly for that reason and because I like to see different deserving people win awards, I say that Marta should not win this for the sixth time in a row (come on!).

The list was chosen by FIFA officials and journalists selected by France Football magazine so it should come as no surprise that France shamelessly put up its playmaker Louisa Necib for the award.

U.S. women's head coach Pia Sundhage and Japan's head coach Norio Sasaki are 10 nominees (10, really?) for best coach of a women's team in 2011. Sasaki is one of seven men on that list.

The final three candidates will be unveiled on December 5. In addition, stay tuned as next Tuesday FIFA will announce 10 candidates for the best men's player and coach. All of the winners will be feted January 9 by FIFA in Zurich, Switzerland. National team coaches plus captains and journalists vote for these honors.

Put me down for saying that Sawa and Sasaki should win although I fully expect FIFA to bungle it and go for Marta and some no-name coach.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This Just In: Spain Is Good At Soccer

When you get down to it, what is the purpose of the monthly FIFA rankings? It has to be more than just to tease and remind U.S. soccer fans how far our team has to go before anybody really respects it. Sadly, that seems to be all I think about when I view the latest depressing rankings.

The top five is predictable: Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Uruguay and Brazil. 6-10 are more surprising: Italy, England, Greece and Portugal are tied for eighth, Argentina and Denmark are tied for tenth. The Greeks and Danes were propelled by winning their group stages in Euro 2012 qualifying.

Mexico is the top CONCACAF squad at No. 22 while the U.S. slots in at 34. Ugh terrible but totally deserved. Former U.S. head coach Bob Bradley and his new team Egypt are up seven places to No. 29.

Japan leads all Asian countries (17) while Ivory Coast is the top African squad (19).

Other notable teams include Montenegro (39), who reached the Euro 2012 playoffs, and Estonia (59) which is the lowest ranked of the eight playoff teams.

Wales won two Euro 2012 matches and had the biggest jump, 45 places up to No. 45. Iraq moved up to No. 91 (16 spots higher) after a win in World Cup qualifying over China. Qatar, the controversial 2022 World Cup host moved up to 92 while Oceania's best team-New Zealand-fell to No. 104 (dropping 16 spots) despite not playing last month.

U.S. Men's National Team Set For A Short European Vacation In November

After months of rumors, the U.S. men's national team has finally set its final two exhibitions of 2011 in Europe: November 11 against France in Saint-Denis (outside of Paris) and November 15 against Slovenia in Ljubljana (which apparently is a real place) at Stozice Stadium.

Both matches have some intrigue since the U.S. and Slovenia were in the same group in the 2010 World Cup. Who could ever forget that improbable U.S. tie (2-2)? It was capped off by Landon Donovan's biggest goal of his career. The stakes will be much lower this time but it does mark the first U.S. trip to Slovenia so expect plenty of hype over there; I mean really, what else is going on in Slovenia, ever?

France formerly used to be one of Europe's strongest teams but with the 2010 World Cup serving as the boiling point, they've devolved into a complete mess. Still, they must be taken seriously with extremely talented players like Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka and Bayern Munich midfielder Franck Ribery.

The U.S. needs to win at least one of those games and start improving on Jurgen Klinsmann's (1-3-1) less than impressive start to his U.S. head coaching career.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Javier Hernandez aka Chicharito Gets Five More Years At Manchester United

Any U.S. men's national team fan can tell you that Mexican striker Javier Hernandez aka Chicharito is one of the world's best strikers these days. As such, he's one of the reasons that Mexico will likely always be at a level above the U.S. for as long as he laces up his cleats with his buddy Giovani Dos Santos.

Likewise, the 23-year-old made an immediate impact for the world's second best club team-Manchester United-last season with 20 goals in all competitions. Today, he was rewarded with a five-year extension with the English Premier League's top team.

I hate Man U but watching Chicharito and Wayne Rooney work together is beautiful, they're easily one of the top striker duos right now. Just lethal with Hernandez providing the speed and Rooney the power. Some evidence of that will surely be on display Saturday morning as Liverpool faces Manchester United in a huge early season showdown.

His representative Eduardo Hernandez told ESPN Deportes: "The initial contract was good for Manchester and for Javier because it enabled them both to see if they could fit together and if he could achieve what was expected of him. Both sides have met their expectations and United were happy to reward Javier after his very good performances last season.

"I will not talk about numbers, but it is a five-year contract. It is a fixed salary with incentives based on the team's success in each of the different tournaments.

"Javier was not badly paid with his initial contract, but it was his first contract and, with respect, not comparable with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Nani. But today I can say that the contract has just been signed and everyone is satisfied."

The agent also played down recent speculation linking his client with Spanish giants Real Madrid, saying: "It was never likely that Javier would leave.

"Talks began some time ago and United came up with a very good offer and I have nothing but praise for the way they have recognised Javier's performances."

He's been battling injuries this season so he's off to a slow start (2 goals, 7 shots in 6 games) but expect Hernandez to pick it up now that his contract status is all sealed and his health has improved.

Wayne Rooney To Miss All Three Games In Euro 2012 Group Stage

England has qualified for Euro 2012 but they'll be without their best player for the group stage (3 matches) since striker Wayne Rooney was suspended for a sloppy challenge (red card) he committed against Montenegro last week.

Rooney won't be available until the quarterfinals of Euro 2012, should his country advance that far without him.

England have three days to appeal the decision, which seems a formality given the severity of the punishment.

A statement from UEFA read: "The UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body has today handed down a three-match suspension to England forward Wayne Rooney following his dismissal during the UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier in Montenegro last Friday, 7 October.

"Today's decision was taken in relation to the red card shown to Rooney for assault after 74 minutes of England's final Group G game, the 2-2 draw with Montenegro in Podgorica. The striker will now be suspended from playing in his country's next three UEFA national competition matches for which he would be eligible.

"An appeal may be lodged against the verdict of the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body within three days of the dispatch of the reasoned decision."

The FA say they will look at the full reasons behind the UEFA decision before deciding whether to appeal.

An FA statement said: "Further to UEFA's decision to impose a three-match suspension on Wayne Rooney following his sending off against Montenegro, the FA await the full reasons from the disciplinary committee, and will give full consideration to the decision internally, before deciding on any response to UEFA or making any further public comment.''

England head coach Fabio Capello said that Rooney will not start any of England friendlies in the run-up to Euro 2012 as he tries to find a system that works without the Man U superstar. Still, if the three-match ban stands he may have to reconsider his place in the squad.

The draw for the Euro 2012 finals is on December 2.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

U.S. vs. Ecuador 2nd half live blog

Bradley and Beasley (95th CAP but still only 29-years-old) are on to start the second half for the U.S. I wholeheartedly approve of that. Spector and Agudelo are also on. Edu, Shea, Altidore and Cherunodlo all off.

Ecuador wins the first corner of the second half but can't do much with it.

Howard makes an easy stop on Arroyo.

Agudelo wins the U.S.' first corner kick in the second half.

Dempsey almost gets sprung for a good chance but he can't get the shot off.

Beasley's pass gets deflected out for a corner. Dempsey gets blocked in the box. Beasley has brought some energy early in the second half since coming on. He won a free kick right outside of the box. Bradley curls it wide and over.

Dempsey drops back into the box and blocks a shot out for an Ecuador corner. Jefferson Montero shoots wide for Ecuador, their best shot so far. It just skipped wide by a few feet.

First sub for Ecuador, Montero out for Jamie Ayovi.

Beckerman with a terrible giveaway leads to Bocanegra being forced to take down an Ecuador's Benitez, he gets the yellow card he deserves.

Second Ecuador substitution, Christian Suarez on for Antonio Valenica.

Edson Buddle in for Williams. I liked what I saw from Williams in his second appearance for the U.S.

Begging for the U.S. to take some shots and Beasley obliges by hitting one way wide with his right foot. Now I see why he never uses it. Minutes later, he has a better shot with his favored left. Beasley hasn't scored for the U.S in three years.

Last U.S. sub with Tim Ream on for Bocanegra. Thierry Henry was shown at the game with a hooded sweatshirt on and more interested with his phone than the action in front of him.

Chandler with a nice run down the left side, he wins a free kick outside the box. Bradley with a perfect ball in, deflected out by Ecuador for a U.S. corner (sixth of the game). Haha it drops to Onyewu who turns (good) but shoots it about as badly as you'd expect.

Ream gets beaten to a header by Jaime Ayovi (from his brother Walter) who puts it in for Ecuador. He was right on top of Howard so he had not chance to stop it. 1-0 Ecuador in the 79th minute.

Two U.S. corners lead to a nice save on Spector's redirect and a header out of bounds.

Wasteful cross by the U.S. goes over the net. 2 goals in previous 4 games under Klinsmann. John Harkes rightly points out that when Dempsey gets the ball right now, nobody is giving him a target or making a run.

Another Ecuador sub: Paredes on for Arroyo.

Pathetic dive by Ecuador, Onyewu goes up for a 50/50 ball, bumps the other guy and gets a yellow card. Ecuador's player was holding his head (which wasn't touched) even before he hit the ground. Ugh.

Four minutes of stoppage time. The U.S. wins a corner but Bradley hits it too long for Dempsey.

In 2011, the U.S. is 5-6-3 with 13 goals in 14 games. Not so good.

Gooch plays a nice ball to Dempsey, his shot is deflected into the side netting. Gotta be the last U.S. corner. Dempsey crosses it but it's no trouble to Banguera, that should do it.

Final: Ecuador 1, U.S. 0

Klinsmann falls to 1-3-1 but the U.S. played well, especially in the first half. One glaring defensive mistake cost them dearly and they still are really struggling to find a way to score goals. Onyewu and Beasley were pleasant surprises. Ecuador is a good team too, no shame losing to them.

U.S. vs Ecuador 1st half live blog

It's been four years since the U.S. has beaten a South American country so what better time than to do it against the same team (Ecuador) that they did it last time? This friendly takes place at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ, home of MLS' New York Red Bulls.

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann (1-2-1) goes for his second straight win after his squad beat Honduras 1-0 on Saturday night in Miami.

Here's your starting 11 for the US:
Tim Howard in goal
Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and Timmy Chandler in the back
Kyle Beckerman, Danny Williams, Maurice Edu and Brek Shea in the midfield
Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore up top

The U.S. subs tonight include Rimando, Spector, Ream, Bradley, Beasley, Buddle and Agudelo.

Williams makes a nice run and move before getting it to Shea. Long hard shot knocked out for a U.S. corner. Ecuador's goalkeeper punches it out and Beckerman kicks it way wide.

U.S. free kick from outside the box, hit right into the Ecuador wall.

Ecuador's first good chance as Jefferson Montero beats Cherundolo and his shot is tipped wide by Howard.

Classic Gooch: he intercepts a bad through pass and then hits an ever worse ball that's easily picked off by Ecuador. Story of his career.

Dempsey finds Shea on the flank, he takes on a Ecuador defender and wins another corner kick. The U.S. hits a good ball but it's knocked away by a defender. The Ecuador goalkeeper Maximo Banguera (who's wearing a DirectTV HD hat, really) runs into a U.S. shoulder and fakes an injury for a few moments.

Landon Donovan and Stuart Holden get their first mentions of the night. Wish that the U.S. had either of those guys available tonight.

Can someone please cut Brek Shea's hair? He's becoming a good player, he can ditch the JV hairstyle now. It makes him look like a goof.

Ecuador doesn't have Brazil in its World Cup qualifying group, giving them a much better chance to advance to Brazil 2014.

Antonio Valencia is one of Ecuador's top players and also a member of Manchester United. He's a right back.

The U.S. gets some good pressure on a cross into the box but Williams' shot is blocked by a defender.

Ecuador counterattacks and wins their first corner kick.

As expected, tons of Ecuador fans in the NY/NJ area and at the game tonight. Let's be honest though, what else is there to do in Ecuador?

Great passing by the U.S., one touch from Shea, to Dempsey but Edu blows it by hitting it right to Benguera.

Altidore hit Williams with a nice pass but he slipped before he could get into the Ecuador box.

Bocanegra shields an Ecuador attacker and allows Howard to get to a 50/50 ball first.

So Jurgen has Chandler and Williams, any other German players that have shaky connections to the U.S. that we can exploit? Haha, it's for the good of our country.

Altidore gets poked in the eye on the edge of the box but no foul call. Jozy has three goals in eight league matches so far this season with his club team in Holland.

Oh nice, Ernie Stewart works for the team AZ Alkmaar that Altidore currently plays for. Stewart was one of the most underrated U.S. men's players in the 1990s.

Third U.S. corner after Dempsey just mistimes a header.

Dempsey with a volley that goes over, it didn't miss by that much. If anyone on the U.S. is taking that shot, you want it to be Clint.

Altidore gets in the face of Ecuador's Arroyo after the latter hacked him from behind to give the U.S. a free kick. Nice to see some emotion and toughness from Jozy as he got right in his face.

Shea called for shaky foul in Ecuador's box, he would have had a nice chance otherwise to cross it or hit a shot on goal.

Edu had a tricky ball bounce to him at the top of Ecuador's box but he completely whiffed. And that's why you're Maurice Edu, you'll never be known for your goal-scoring prowess.

Two minutes of added time.

Klinsmann looks like he's been playing with some balloons, haha his hair is standing up.

Halftime: U.S. 0, Ecuador 0

One of the best halves under Klinsmann for the U.S. They owned possession and seemed to be in Ecuador's end for most of the first 45+ minutes. They need to make more of their chances offensively but that's been true with the U.S. forever. A win against a quality opponent like this would be a nice development.

Everton's Goalkeeper Coach Joins U.S. Staff

Tim Howard is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world and as far as I know, there's nobody in the U.S. men's national team system that is pushing to take playing time away from him anytime soon.

That's why it makes perfect sense that U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann added Chris Woods to his staff. Who is Chris Woods you ask? He's been Everton's goalkeeper coach for the past 13 seasons which just so happens to be the club that Howard plays for in the English Premier League.

I don't think goalkeeper coaches do much, especially at that level, but I'm all in favor of doing anything that keeps Howard happy and performing at the level he's been at for years now. It's clear that he must have a close relationship with Woods at Everton so why not bring him to the U.S. for his international matches?

This hire doesn't require much creative thought but I'll venture a guess that the former Bruce Arena regime failed to think outside the box on a simple concept like this.

PS. The U.S. men meet Ecuador tonight at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ (7 p.m. on ESPN2). Stop by here because I'll be doing a live blog as Klinsmann tries to get his second straight win with the United States.