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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The world's most famous soccer player to appear on Late Night's most average show

Another day and another appearance on television for David Beckham.

Where does he squeeze soccer practice and games into his non-stop media blitz? Haha, makes you wonder. Plus, his agent and PR people must be the most busy handlers in the industry.

Becks will be on Jimmy Kimmel Live tonight starting at 12:05 a.m. EST on ABC. Other guests include Wes Craven (director of Scream 4) and Sum 41.

So yeah, it's a show that would have been a lot better five years ago. I look forward to Beckham pretending he cares about MLS, the Los Angeles Galaxy or anything else in our country not involving his big money contracts.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Paraguay holds off U.S. 1-0 in friendly

I won't sugarcoat it, last night's U.S. men's national team friendly against Paraguay was a JV effort all around.

From coverage by Fox Soccer Channel (not ESPN or ESPN2), the commentators (the blacklisted JP Dellacamera and Kyle Martino), no Tim Howard and the setting (Nashville).

Predictably, after such a great match against Argentina on Saturday (a 1-1 draw at the New Meadowlands), the U.S. were due for a letdown as they fell 1-0.

However, if you went into last night's friendly with low expectations (like me), you had to be pleasantly surprised by a couple developments.

First and foremost, Juan Agudelo got his first career start in his third national team appearance and it's already clear that the kid belongs. I'm not a prisoner of the moment enough to say that he's better than Jozy Altidore but it's not crazy to think he's that far off. Agudelo took on defenders time and time again, earning free kicks and proving to be the most dangerous U.S. player (other than Clint Dempsey) with the ball on his foot.

Also, German-born defender Tim Chandler (who turned 21 yesterday) got the start (for Oguchi Onyewu) and again, a young guy stepped up. Chandler made a bunch of attacking runs upfield from his right back position and sent a couple nice crosses into the box. He also won a corner kick or two. He seems like a very pleasant surprise and like Agudelo, they both earned a return trip for the Gold Cup.

Bigger picture, this game didn't mean anything (hence Friendly) but it was a decent test against a 2010 World Cup team that advance to the knockout stage. Paraguay got its goal in the 18th minute as striker Oscar Cardozo had the ball find him in the box (off a corner) and he blasted it past U.S. goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who had no chance.

In my completely bias opinion, I thought the U.S. carried play, particularly in the second half. They seemed low on energy in the first half but in the second half, the vocal crowd got into it and the U.S. had a bunch of chances.

Jay DeMerit had the United States' best opportunity in the first half, heading Landon Donovan's free kick just over Paraguay's goal. Unfortunately, the extremely likable defender left right after that sequence with a strained groin.

Agudelo actually could have earned a penalty kick early in the second half but the referees weren't having it. Clint Dempsey was a tireless worker as always and as I remember saying during the 2010 World Cup, he takes a ton of physical abuse on hard challenges. Hope his body holds up.

Dempsey could have tied it up when he volleyed Eric Lichaj's cross over the bar. Speaking of guys who should have scored, Donovan had a goal sitting right in his boots off a rebound but he blasted it into the side netting.

It was surprising that the U.S. didn't tie it up late as Michael Bradley ripped an absolute scorcher from outside the box that was tipped over.

In the last few seconds before the final whistle, Jermaine Jones had a hard shot (right at Paraguay's goalkeeper) that was also stopped.

It goes down as a loss but as a U.S. fan, I was very happy with the way they played. They'll be back in action next on June 7 as they begin the Gold Cup with a meeting against neighbor Canada. Then they play Panama on June 11 and Guadeloupe on June 14. The United States have won the Gold Cup four times and been runner-up three times, they're currently riding a three-time streak in the final.

Needless to say, a U.S. vs. Mexico Gold Cup final is what I'll be hoping and wishing for from now until the summer.

Another German-born U.S. player-David Yelldell-made his debut for Bob Bradley when he started the second half. He didn't have to do anything although Paraguay almost scored on a ridiculous bending shot from well outside the box late in the match.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Another chapter in the we're getting old novel: Cobi Jones, Eddie Pope and Ernie Stewart elected to National Soccer Hall of Fame

To keep your ego in check, I find it's always helpful to make note of when athletes you idolized as a kid either retire or get elected to a Hall of Fame.

When this inevitably happens, all you can think is "Damn, I'm getting old."

Tonight was a special night if you were a soccer fan growing up in the 1990s in the United States as Cobi Jones, Eddie Pope and Ernie Stewart were all elected into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Truly, these three guys were all part of the teams that myself and all of my friends fell in love with as we just started to get into soccer.

Who didn't want to be Cobi Jones with his spectacular dreadlocks and laid-back California style?

Eddie Pope was the silent assassin, a rock-solid central defender that never seemed to talk and had no personality whatsoever but was great at what he did.

As a kid I probably couldn't appreciate Ernie Stewart as much then as I do now since he was one of those tireless midfielders who makes every good team flow.

Jones spent his entire 12-year MLS career with the LA Galaxy, helping his team win two MLS Cups, two Supporters' Shields, the 2000 CONCACAF Champions' Cup and two US Open Cups. The former midfielder is also the all-time leader in caps for the US national team and participated in three World Cups.

Pope, also a veteran of three World Cups, was a three-time MLS Cup champion with D.C. United. The former central defender was also named MLS Defender of the Year in 1997. He retired with Real Salt Lake at the end of the 2007 season.

Joining Jones and Pope is longtime US teammate Earnie Stewart, a Dutch-born American who won an MLS Cup in 2004, the first of his two seasons with DC.

Elected on the builder ballot was Bob Gansler (at right), coach of the US' 1990 World Cup team and longtime manager of the former Kansas City Wizards. Gansler coached KC to the 2000 MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield double and took home MLS Coach of the Year in the process.

Bruce Murray, the fifth all-time leading scorer for the US with 21 goals, was chosen on the veteran ballot.

Jones was named on 87 percent of the ballots while Pope earned a spot on 74 percent of the ballots and Stewart on 71 percent. Murray and Gansler were both named on 58 percent of their respective ballots.

To be eligible for the Hall of Fame as a player, an individual must have been retired for at least three full calendar years but no more than 10 years, and either 1) played at least 20 full international games for the United States, or 2) played at least five seasons in an American first-division professional league and was selected as a league All-Star at least once.

The selection committee for the player election includes all current and former coaches of the US men’s and women’s national teams, active MLS and WPS coaches with a minimum of four years tenure, select soccer administrators, designated members of the media and all Hall of Famers.

Manchester United coming back to the U.S. this summer

This summer, the most bandwagon soccer team on the planet will be making an appearance in Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Why I'm talking about Manchester United of course. Sir Alex Ferguson's team will play the New England Revolution on July 13 at Gillette Stadium and at Red Bull Arena on July 27 as they take on the MLS All-Stars.

Man. U came over last summer to play the MLS All-Stars and the English superpower won 5-2 at Houston's Reliant Stadium. It's a great draw for the MLS to get connected with the most popular team in world.

They'll also play the Seattle Sounders (July 20), Chicago Fire (July 23) and the main event-Barcelona-wraps up their U.S. tour on July 30 in Washington DC.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

U.S. draw 1-1 with Argentina at New Meadowlands

Before tonight, I can honestly say I had no idea who Juan Agudelo was. He had scored his first goal for the U.S. men's national team in November against South Africa but that totally slipped my mind.

Only time will tell if he can ever develop into a superstar but for one night, he can claim that he scored a goal in a game that Lionel Messi-the best player in the world-was held off the scoresheet.

The U.S. men's national team played a great second half and Agudelo-an 18-year-old striker that plays for the New York Red Bulls-had the equalizer as the Americans came away with a very satisfying 1-1 tie with Argentina.

Argentina came to the New Meadowlands tonight for an international friendly vs. the United States and for the first 45 minutes, I think Bob Bradley's team touched the ball about five times total (that might be a slight exaggeration). Still, Argentina didn't find the back of the net until Esteban Cambiasso scored in the 42nd minute.

Tim Howard made the initial save but Cambiasso was the first one to collect the rebound and blast it top shelf.

Agudelo will rightfully be remembered as the Man of the Match for the U.S. but anybody who watched the game can easily make the case that Howard had the best game of anybody on either team. For all the frustrating aspects of the U.S. team: coaching style, lack of attacking talent, creativity, etc., we can always bank on the fact that we have one of the greatest goalkeepers in the world.

Messi had a few great chances but each time, Howard stuffed him, he shot wide or over. It's so rare to see a team as talented as Argentina on our shores and that's why this had a great atmosphere with a sold-out crowd of 78,936 enjoying what seemed more like a World Cup match.

After looking so overmatched in the first half by the possession and composure of Argentina (two things they lacked against Germany in last summer's World Cup exit), the U.S. responded with an outstanding final 45 minutes.

I absolutely despise having Jozy Altidore play as the lone striker but I understand, there's not many options to partner with him. Still, Bob Bradley has to realize that Jozy doesn't have the holding ability to wait for teammates to pass to. Too often tonight, he tried to take on multiple Argentine defenders with predictable results (turnovers).

Agudelo started the second half and right away, he seemed to get into the flow of the game. His goal came in the 59th minute off a Landon Donovan free kick from way outside the box. Donovan served a perfect ball (a rarity), Carlos Bocanegra flicked it on, forcing Mariano Andujar to make a save. The ball popped loose and Agudelo was there to clean it up and put it in. Truly a special moment for such a young guy, in front of many of his home fans in only his third cap for the U.S.

No goals for Messi but he was a force as always. He started the Argentine goal by keeping the ball alive along the goal-line before laying it in front. As Ian Drake said during the game, if you like soccer you could watch Messi play all day. He's that good, just a special talent that has otherworldly foot skills and feel for the game.

The U.S. will face Paraguay (who lost 3-1 to Mexico today in Oakland) on Tuesday night in Nashville. That game will no doubt lack the atmosphere and buzz of the Argentina so expect a letdown of some sort.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Oh my my my

If you live within a short flight or drive from New England and you enjoy the game of soccer, you have absolutely no excuse not to be at Gillette Stadium on June 4.

You might ask why, well the World Cup champions from Spain will be in town as they take on the U.S. men's national team. Did I mention you have to be there?

It's a Saturday, the weather is sure to be excellent, guarantee a bunch of Spanish smokeshows come out of the woodwork (only to disappear just as quickly), what else do you need? The sangria and Sam Adams will be flowing, bottom line it's sure to be a great day to be alive for American soccer fans. It's not every day that the best national team in the world plays in your back yard.

It will be the first meeting since the U.S. knocked off Spain in 2009 in the Confederations Cup (2-0 on goals by Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore).

This friendly takes place just three days before the U.S. starts play in the Gold Cup, soccer's championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

It will be just the fifth ever meeting between the teams, and first in the United States, with Spain winning all but one of their previous games.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ahead of the big Argentina friendly, U.S. men's national team unveils a sweet red jersey

I am constantly reminded why it's so great to be on Twitter (plan to get a Twitter account set up for Red, White and Blue Army sometime soon) and last night was no exception.

The U.S. men's national team strategically tweeted at midnight pictures of their newest jersey. It's just a red version of the blue and white jerseys that they alternated at the 2010 World Cup. Now, not only do I need one of the blue or white versions but I really need a red one. I mean look at it, so sweet.

It's all about marketing and the U.S. plans to wear the new red kits on Saturday as they host Argentina at the New Meadowlands in one of the biggest friendlies in U.S. soccer history. No doubt, while you watch Lionel Messi making guys look silly, you will also think hey I like those new U.S. jerseys. It's a genius move and sure to be a huge seller this summer what with the Gold Cup and these marquee friendlies (Paraguay next Tuesday in Nashville).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Best right back in the world will reside at Barcelona until at least 2015

Many people around soccer refer to Barcelona defender Dani Alves as the best right back in the world. Today, the Brazilian with the lofty title inked a deal to remain with Barcelona through 2015.

Brazil full-back Alves, 27, has been in discussions over a deal for some time as his current agreement was set to expire at the end of next season.

Manchester City have been repeatedly linked with the player, and Johan Cruyff gave credence to the rumours in January when he said it may be in Barca's best interests to allow Alves to move on to Eastlands.

However, a statement on the club's official website on Tuesday read: "FC Barcelona is pleased to announce an agreement with Dani Alves to extend his contract with the club for another three seasons, until June 30, 2015.

"The document will be signed on Wednesday at around 19.00. There will then be a photograph session open to the media by the doors to the FC Barcelona offices. "

Club president Sandro Rosell wrote on Twitter: "Very good news for Barca. Dani Alves has renewed his contract."

Alves joined Barcelona from Sevilla in 2008.

You can see him in action on GolTV on weekends with Ray Hudson on the mic and also in the Champions League, quarterfinal games begin on April 5. Barcelona meets Shakhtar Donetsk (a Russian club that has made a Cinderella run so far) on April 6 in the first leg.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Charlie Davies makes a memorable MLS debut

If you're like me, you probably missed it over the weekend as you were caught in the wonders of March Madness.

Thanks to the magic of the interwebs and Deadspin-one of my all-time favorite sites-I was able to see Charlie Davies' awesome debut with DC United from Saturday night against Columbus.

As you can see, the former Boston College star put in two goals (a penalty kick and a sweet shot in the run of play) and punctuated them with his favorite celebration (the stanky leg).

Like always, I could honestly care less about MLS but if Davies can continue to find his game, I will definitely start to tune in. That's a promise. If you're a U.S. fan and/or a New Englander, you can't help but root for this local guy.

FYI: Davies also launched a new website Check it out, looks pretty slick (and no he didn't pay me to plug it or say that).

Another injury for Stuart Holden

I happened to catch part of Bolton vs. Manchester United on Saturday and I couldn't have picked a worse time to pay attention for a few moments.

Bolton midfielder and U.S. men's national team budding star Stuart Holden got taken down by a nasty challenge by United's Jonny Evans. It resulted in a large gash on his knee which required 26 stitches and the bottom line is that after today's surgery, he'll be out for six months.

After breaking his leg last season in a friendly against Netherlands, Holden recovered in time to play a crucial role in South Africa for Bob Bradley and the U.S. team. Since then, he's been having a superb season with Bolton. Don't believe me and think I'm just an American honk? Listen to Bolton manager Owen Coyle.

"Stuart has been outstanding for me this season and he has shown in his performances that he is one of the best midfielders in the Barclays Premier League. He has such desire, strength of character and a winning mentality, and he will draw on all those attributes in his rehabilitation."

Holden will miss this June's Gold Cup with the U.S. team.

Holden wrote on his Twitter account: "I can promise you all I will come back stronger and better than before. Have had bad luck in the past and will continue to beat it."