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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.