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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Brad Friedel Is My Hero, Now And Forever

He might not be the starting goalkeeper anymore but American Brad Friedel is obviously doing something right at his current club-Tottenham. Today, he signed a new contract extension through the 2013-14 season with the English Premier League power.

If you're keeping track at home, Friedel is 41-years-old (!). He's been at Tottenham since June 2011 but he lost his starting spot in October to Hugo Lloris. Tottenham blanked Aston Villa 4-0 this afternoon but Friedel sat on the bench the entire time. His last start was on December 6, a 3-1 win over Panathinaikos in a Europa League match. Friedel's last EPL match was November 11, a 2-1 loss at Manchester City.

The funny part is that Friedel hasn't played for the U.S. men's national team for years, despite the fact that he would still be the best backup goalkeeper behind Tim Howard. In his career, he has 82 CAPs for the U.S. He has progressed from the Columbus Crew (MLS) to Galatasaray (Turkey) and Brondby (Denmark) before moving to England in 1997 to play for Liverpool. He was at Blackburn for eight years and Aston Villa for three years before becoming a Toffee.

I have no idea if he would be interested in coaching after he retires but U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann should definitely look into it. What a great resource Friedel would be for young American goalkeepers to have around. It might be a romantic notion on my part but I'd love to see Friedel get to one more World Cup with the U.S. as a third goalkeeper or something. I'd say that at this point, he's more than earned that courtesy and curtain call on his professional career (even though he retired from international soccer a while back).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

For Tom Sermanni's Debut, U.S. Women Will Play Two Games Against Scotland In February

I'm not sure if it's just a happy coincidence or that they planned it that way but for Tom Sermanni's first two games as the U.S. women's national team's head coach, he'll face the county of his birth: Scotland. You know that the U.S. will probably take on Australia (his previous team) at some point in the next year too if I had to guess.

They also represent the first matches of 2013 for the U.S. as they'll meet Scotland on Saturday, February 9 at EverBank Field (home of the Jaguars) in Jacksonville, Florida followed by Wednesday, February 13 at LP Field (home of the Titans) in Nashville, Tennessee. It will be the fourth time overall that the U.S. women have played in Tennessee and first time since 2004 (Canada). The game in Jacksonville begins at 5 p.m. and the broadcasting information for both matches will come out at a later time.

The U.S. has only faced Scotland once before, an 8-2 win by the Americans in September 2002 that included a hat trick by Abby Wambach (first of her career) and Mia Hamm (last of her career). Speaking of Wambach and Hamm, Abby is only six goals shy of Mia's record for most goals in the history of international soccer (158).

You can expect a similar scoreline this time around since the U.S. is the top team in the world while Scotland couldn't qualify for the 2012 European Championships-they fell to Spain in a two-game playoff. The Americans finished 28-1-3 in a wildly successful 2012 that included a gold medal at the London Olympics and simultaneously revenge against Japan who had beaten them at the 2011 World Cup.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Michael Parkhurst's European Adventure Continues

Michael Parkhurst's whole professional career has been about beating the odds so it only makes sense that his good fortune continues to this day. This morning, the U.S. men's national team defender (15 CAPs) went on a free transfer to Augsburg (Germany) from FC Nordsjaelland (Denmark). He signed a three-year deal with Augsburg, which begins in January 2013 and ends in June 2015.

Coming from the smallest state in the country (Rhode Island), Parkhurst was great at Wake Forest and after being drafted by his hometown MLS team-the New England Revolution-he carved out a nice four years in Foxborough. He's spent the last four seasons in Denmark's Superliga. No disrespect to Denmark but I don't think anyone would argue that the Superliga is a superior league to Germany's Bundesliga.

For me, the Bundesliga is a very close third behind England's Premier League and Spain's La Liga. The only bad news with this move is that Augsburg is currently tied for last place in the Bundesliga with SpVgg Greuther Furth (haha who?). The last two teams in the 18-team Bundesliga get relegated and the 16th-place team has a relegation playoff with a club from the lower division.

For Parkhurst's sake (he turns 29 in January), let's hope that his first taste of Germany isn't spent on a last-place team that gets dumped out of the Bundesliga in his first season there. With a record of 1-10-6 in its first 17 matches in 2012-13, things can only get better for Augsburg.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Who's Pumped For U.S. Men Vs. Canada? (Crickets)

What better way to tune up for matches that actually mean something than by having the U.S. men's national team beat up on Canada for fun? The first official game of 2013 for Jurgen Klinsmann's squad was announced today as the U.S. will host Canada on January 29 at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium (where the U.S. women recently played China on Dec. 12).

Even though it is a friendly, it will be a meaningful match for the United States since the final round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup begins on February 6 vs. Honduras in San Pedro Sula.

Don't let the scoreless draw on June 3-their most recent meeting-fool you, the U.S. completely owns Canada in the last nearly three decades. The U.S. is in the midst of a 15-game unbeaten streak (8-0-7) since losing 2-0 to Canada on April 2, 1985, in Vancouver. The series record is 13-8-10 in the USA's favor, including a 10-1-8 record on their home turf.

"The match against Canada will come at the end of an important training camp as we get players ready for the World Cup qualifier against Honduras, and also get a good look at some up and coming players in the National Team pool,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "Obviously we have a great history with Canada, and they were unlucky not to qualify for the final round. The stadium in Houston is awesome and the fans have been incredibly supportive there, so for us it’s a great way to start off the centennial year of U.S. Soccer."

BBVA Compass Stadium just opened up last year and it's the home of the Houston Dynamo, the 2012 MLS Cup finalists. In their brief history there, the U.S. men's national team is unbeaten (1-0-2) in Houston, with a pair of ties against Mexico and a 1-0 victory over Panama in the 2011 Gold Cup semifinals.

The game will be at 7 p.m. ET but at the moment, the broadcast information is yet to be determined. Stay tuned for that along with who Klinsmann will call into training camp in January ahead of this match plus the World Cup qualifying matches. Needless to say that 2012 will be a pivotal year for the U.S. men's national team in terms of establishing who they are on a regional stage and eventually (we hope) the world stage.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The U.S. Women Wrapped Up An Unreal 2012 (28-1-3) With 4-1 Win Vs. China

The U.S. women had an incredible 2012 so it's only fitting that their last match of the year was another one-sided beating. They rolled 4-1 over China at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. It was the 10th and final match of their Fan Tribute Tour and they went 28-1-3 in 2012.

For the second game in a row against China, Abby Wambach scored twice. Those two headers gave her 152 career international goals which moved her within six of Mia Hamm's record. Props to Wambach though for honesty as she admitted afterwards in her postgame interview on NBC Sports that Alex Morgan (assist) will probably shatter her record in no time after she retires. Her openness was refreshing, when have you ever heard a professional athlete say something like that?

Speaking of Morgan, she combined with Wambach for 55 goals this year (28 for Morgan), tying a U.S. record from 1991 with Michelle Akers and Carin Jennings. Morgan also finished with 22 assists this year, second all-time behind Hamm (23).

Sydney Leroux also set a team record, scoring her 14th goal of 2012 (all as a reserve). Megan Rapinoe had the other goal. China went down hard for the third game in a row (10-1 aggregate for the U.S.) but at least this time they got on the board-something they hadn't done before. Hen Peng cut it to 2-1 in the 45th minute after a nice move and shot into the side netting past Hope Solo.

Wambach made it 1-0 in the 18th minute after Morgan's looping cross. Rapinoe took advantage of China's goalkeeper getting caught way outside of the goal as she chipped one into the vacated net from about 40 yards out in the 36th minute. Rapinoe assisted Wambach's second powerful header, in the 64th minute. Finally, Leroux had a sparkling header of her own in the 87th minute thanks to Heather Mitts's cross.

When we next see the U.S. women-February 9 vs. Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida-Tom Sermanni will have fully taken over as the head coach. Interim head coach Jill Ellis went 5-0-2 during the tour which has to count for something.

Happy Holidays ladies, enjoy the time off. You have more than earned it after a spectacular tour and year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Abby Wambach Scores Twice As U.S. Women Roll 4-0 Over China

It was business as usual for the U.S. women's national team during their highly successful Fan Tribute Tour. In the second to last match of the nationwide victory parade, they thrashed China 4-0 tonight at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium.

Abby Wambach scored twice (her 149th and 150th career goals, which put her 8 behind Mia Hamm for the all-time U.S. lead), Heather O'Reilly had three assists, Carli Lloyd and Amy Rodriguez scored with Megan Rapinoe recording the one other point on an assist. Hope Solo and Nicole Barnhart "earned" the shutout although technically neither had to make a save as they played the first half and second half respectively.

Wambach's first strike was a header off a perfect cross from O'Reilly in the 20th minute. China only trailed 1-0 at halftime and it wasn't until the 62nd minute when the U.S. really took over for good. Lloyd scored on a header thanks to a great corner kick from Megan Rapinoe. That's when the wheels came off for China as Wambach added her second tally in the next minute. After receiving a pass from O'Reilly, she cut back into the box and took a shot that deflected off a defender's cleat.

Rodriguez came on in the 75th minute and it only took her 10 minutes to cash in on some rare playing time. Once again, O'Reilly made the play happen by hustling along the sideline around a Chinese player then hitting a tough angle shot on goal before she went out on the touch line. China's goalkeeper spilled it right to Rodriguez who didn't hesitate to bury it.

The U.S. women wrap up 2012 and this unbeaten tour (7-0-2) on Saturday night (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network) with one more match against China, at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. Expect another one-sided result as this team finally gets a much deserved break for the holidays. Haha I'm not sure that this tour had to be 10 matches long but what do I know?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Morgan & Wambach Nominated For Player Of The Year; Sundhage Up For Coach Of The Year

The good times continue to roll for the U.S. women's national team. They blew out Ireland 5-0 last night in Portland, Oregon and today (as expected), forwards Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan were nominated for the FIFA Women's Player of the Year. Also, former U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage was one of three finalists for World Coach of the Year for Women's Soccer.

In 2012, the lethal combination of Wambach and Morgan have totaled 50 goals and 26 assists which is insane. Brazil's Marta is the other nominee but honestly, she has no chance in winning the award this year. I'd say that Morgan (27 goals, 18 assists) is the heavy favorite with Wambach (23 goals, 8 assists) the solid second choice.

Just like last year, Sundhage is joined by France's Bruno Bini (haha great name) and Japan's Norio Sasaki (who won it last year after Japan captured the 2011 World Cup). The nominees were all chosen by the captains and head coaches of women's national teams around the world and the media.

“Obviously, any kind of individual awards are a product of what a team can do,” said Wambach to “But what a tremendous honor for all of us, and even more so to be recognized with Alex, someone who compliments me in almost every way on the field, and also with our coach who set us both up to succeed. We’ll be excited to go to Switzerland with the hearts of champions as this will always be about winning titles as a team and that’s something we are really proud of this year.”

The finalists for the Men’s World Player of the Year are Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Portugal, Lionel Messi of Barcelona and Argentina and Andrés Iniesta of Barcelona and Spain. The finalists for the World Coach of the Year for men’s soccer are Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque, former Barcelona head coach Pep Guardiola and Real Madrid head coach Jose Mourinho.

The winners of all of FIFA’s year-end awards will be revealed at the FIFA Ballon d’Or gala at the Zurich Kongresshaus on January 7, 2013, during which the Men’s World Player of the Year, the FIFA World XI and the FIFA Puskás Award for the most beautiful goal of the year will also be announced. The FIFA Presidential Award and the FIFA Fair Play Award will also be presented during the gala.

Sundhage finished third in the voting for the World Coach of the Year in 2008, the first year the award was given out, and finished second last year.

This is the second time Wambach has been in the final three for the award, finishing third last year. She finished fourth in the voting in 2004 and 2006, fifth in 2007, was one of the final 10 in 2009 and was fifth again in 2010. Wambach led the USA with five goals at the 2012 Olympics, scoring one goal in each of the first five matches. Her 23 goals this year (she also has eight assists) are the second most in a single year during her 12-year international career. With 148 career international goals, she is just eight behind tying Mia Hamm for the world’s all-time greatest goal scorer.

Morgan scored three times at the 2012 Olympics, which of course included the latest goal ever scored in a FIFA competition when she headed home the game-winner in the 123rd minute of the dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 victory against Canada in the semifinal. She was also tied for the team lead in assists at the Olympics, setting up four goals.

Morgan’s 27 goals this year are the third-most ever in a calendar year behind Abby Wambach’s 31 in 2004 and Michelle Akers’ record 39 in 1991. Morgan’s 18 assists in 2012 are also tied for the fourth best ever in a single year and are by far the most on the team this year. She has either scored or assisted on 41 percent of the USA’s 108 goals this year and scored her second career hat trick, with all three goals coming in a 20-minute span of the first half, on Nov. 28 in a 5-0 victory against Ireland on the Fan Tribute Tour, presented by Panasonic.

Sundhage led the USA to a 23-1-1 record in 2012, which of course included dramatic run to the Olympic gold medal, before she coached her last game for the USA in a 6-2 victory against Australia on Sept. 19 in Colorado. The USA scored 16 goals at the Olympics, the most of any team the tournament, and came from behind to win in two matches, against France in the opener and against Canada in the semifinal. The USA’s 6-0-0 record in England, which included three shutouts, marked the first-time a U.S. team had won all six games during an Olympic Games. Sundhage recently took over as the head coach for her native Sweden and will lead her team into the 2013 European Women’s Championships in Sweden next summer.

You can catch Morgan and Wambach in action on Saturday (9:30 p.m ET, Fox Soccer Channel) as they meet Ireland once again, this time in Glendale, Arizona. It would be pretty sweet to see the U.S. women's team sweep the two biggest FIFA awards and it seems like this could be the year to do it. Both players certainly deserve it and Sundhage earned one last sweet moment stemming from her very successful time in the States.

Ireland Women No Match For The U.S., Namely Alex Morgan & Sydney Leroux

Even when they don't play particularly well or it takes them a little while to get going, the U.S. women's national team still has no trouble with most teams. That's mainly because they have three of the best goal-scorers in the world: Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux (who doesn't even start).

Ireland saw first-hand tonight what that felt like as the U.S. rolled 5-0 at Portland Oregon's JELD-WEN Field. It was the sixth match of 10 in the Fan Tribute Tour and the Americans improved to 4-0-2 in that span. Morgan scored her second career hat trick while Leroux added a pair of goals off the bench in the second half.

It was chilly and more importantly, the squad hadn't been together in over a month so it was understandable that the U.S. started out not really looking like themselves. Morgan had the first two chances which were stopped by Ireland's goalkeeper Emma Byrne. Poor Emma wasn't so lucky in the 24th minute as Morgan dribbled across the top of the box then hit a sneaky shot that went off the post and in. Heather Mitts had the assist.

The second goal for Morgan was very easy as she got free in front of the Irish goal then waited for Lauren Cheney to find her in the 34th minute. Byrne didn't have a prayer to stop it. Fittingly for the hat trick, Morgan did something which you'll rarely see from her: she scored with her right foot in the 44th minute. A left-footed shot was blocked so she followed that up past the stunned goalkeeper.

Morgan now has 27 goals in 2012, the 3rd best calender year in U.S. women's history behind Abby Wambach (31 in 2004) and Michelle Akers (39 in 1991). Leroux's two goals give her 12 on the year which extends her record for most goals as a U.S. substitute.

Leroux scored her first strike in the 62nd minute on a header after a beautiful cross from Heather O'Reilly (another halftime substitute). The second goal, in the 81st minute, was a joke since Leroux's shot wasn't hard or tricky and yet Byrne let it go right through her arms and in. Talk about being psyched out.

With the victory under interim head coach Jill Ellis, the U.S. improved to 24-1-3 this year plus their unbeaten streak reached 19 matches. They play Ireland again on Saturday (9 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel) at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Carlos Bocanegra Out Six Weeks With Muscle Tear, Luckily The Next U.S. Game Is In February

For professional athletes, there is never a good time to pick up an injury. However, in the case of U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra, things could be much worse at this point.

He tore a muscle in his left leg in the 2-2 draw with Russia on November 14 and now he's expected to miss six weeks with his current club-Spain's Racing Santander. You'll remember that he's on loan there since his real club-Rangers-dropped down to the second division in Scotland after financial troubles.

The next U.S. men's game isn't until February 6, 2013 against Honduras in the hexagonal CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. If I'm American head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, I'm telling my best defender to take as much time as he needs to recover. No need to rush back or hurt it any further. The most important thing for him should be his country, not the club that he's only temporarily playing for.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

U.S. Men Escape Russia With A 2-2 Tie Thanks To Mix Diskerud's Stoppage Time Goal

I can't sit here and tell you that the U.S. men played particularly great this afternoon in Russia. Russia dominated for large portions of the international friendly and Tim Howard (6 saves) was forced to make his usual assortment of incredible saves. However, if you are a U.S. fan, you can't complain with the result: a 2-2 tie at Kuban Stadium in Krasnodar, Russia after rallying twice.

The last game in 2012 for the U.S. men was a particularly memorable one since it looked certain they would go down 2-1. That is until substitute Mix Diskerud (in his 3rd career game) scored in the 93rd minute when his shot was deflected by a Russian defender into the goal. Did I mention that it was his first international goal? Talk about wonderful timing.

In a way, all four goals were rather crazy. Russia got on the board first in the 9th minute as U.S. defender Danny Williams gave the ball away on a free kick in his own end. Russia's Fedor Smolov went in on a rush and blasted it by Howard.

The Americans didn't show much of an attack in the first half and rightfully trailed 1-0 at the break. Slowly, they turned things up a bit in the second half and were eventually rewarded in the 77th minute as Michael Bradley scored an incredible goal (his 11th for the U.S.). Substitute Juan Agudelo headed it back to Bradley, who volleyed it out of the air, off the post and in.

Carlos Bocanegra limped off in the first half with an injury and that reared its ugly head as the man who replaced him-Clarence Goodson-was called for a foul that resulted in a penalty kick. Roman Shirokov calmly converted it in the 84th minute and it looked like that would be it. The U.S.' winless streak vs. Russia (0-2-2) would continue.

Complaints of the U.S. not having some of their top players like Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan should be tempered with the fact that Russia likewise was without many of its best guys. Still, this was a team that's currently ranked ninth in the world and hadn't allowed a goal so far in World Cup qualifying. Any time you can earn a win or tie in Europe, against a quality opponent, you have to be content.

Jurgen Klinsmann's team finished with 9-2-3 record in 2012 and a .750 winning percentage which ties for best mark in national team history. Think of it this way: they won in Italy and Mexico while gaining a tie in Russia. We get caught up in the sluggish World Cup qualifiers but it's hard to argue with those results. They get back in action on February 6, 2013 when they resume 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying with a match in Honduras as the hexagonal begins.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Are You Ready For U.S. Men Vs. Russia? Me Neither But It's Almost Here

Since it is smack in the middle of European club seasons and at the end of MLS' postseason, there has understandably been very little talk about the U.S. men's friendly against Russia on Wednesday morning (10 a.m. ET, ESPN2, Still, make sure you set your DVR for what sound be an interesting game against the No. 9 team in the world.

This afternoon, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann unveiled his 20-man roster that is dotted with some new names and familiar faces. This team's players currently compete in 11 different countries, led by the German Bundesliga with five guys. They began arriving in Frankfurt, Germany yesterday where they trained twice earlier today. They'll depart for Krasnador, Russia (site of the match) tomorrow. It is the final U.S. match of 2012 but they've already at least tied their best calendar year in the modern era (9-3-2 in 2008). They are 9-2-2 (.769 winning percentage) in 2012 so a win or tie would have some extra special meaning.

“We ask for these games because they are big learning curves for us. Playing in Italy, in Mexico and in Russia – we are not the favorites there. For us, we can take a lot from the games no matter how the result ends up. But still we want to go there and beat Russia knowing that it’s one of the top teams in Europe at the moment. In World Cup qualifying they are 4-0, so that’s not going to be an easy task. We need to measure ourselves against the best teams out there and build even more confidence. We want to close the year in a very positive way and then go into a busy 2013 that includes World Cup qualifying, the Gold Cup and some exciting friendlies.”

There is not much of a rivalry between Russia and the United States since they've only faced each other four times, beginning with a 1-0 Russian win on February 13, 1993 in Orlando, Fla. The U.S. is 0-2-2 all-time against Russia so I don't want to get too ahead of ourselves but a victory would be a perfect way to close out an excellent year that saw them record their first ever win against Italy and their first ever win at Estadio Azteca in Mexico.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (6): Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nuremberg), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Michael Bradley (Roma), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Joshua Gatt (Molde), Joe Gyau (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Herculez Gomez (Santos Laguna)

Gatt and Gyau are making their first appearances in the senior camp after playing for the U.S. Under-23 squad together. Diskerud and Agudelo reunite after they combined for a goal against South Africa in 2010. It's also nice to see Jozy back in the fold while Klinsmann tries to get Chandler CAP tied with his squad rather than Germany.

“Calling in players like Mix Diskerud, Joe Gyau and Joshua Gatt is a clear signal to this generation of players that we are watching you, follow you, and want to help you get to the next level. This is a first taste for them and what it means to be with the senior National Team. They can train alongside guys like Timmy Howard, Jermaine Jones and Carlos Bocanegra and say ‘I want to get to this level.’ It’s also really an opportunity for them to come in, get accepted right away and show what they can do. Maybe they will even get some minutes in the game against Russia. It also means for them that they go back to their clubs with bigger expectations. We will tell them that now we expect you to become starters in your club team, break through there and get even hungrier. So it’s important that we give these guys the opportunity to join us.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Official Draw Held For CONCAF's Final Round Of 2014 World Cup Qualifying

You probably weren't aware of it but tonight was a big evening for the U.S. men's national team as CONCACAF held the draw in Miami for the Final Round of 2014 World Cup qualifying.

The U.S., Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico and Panama are the six teams that will battle in a 10-game round-robin format which begins on February 6, 2013 and concludes on October 15. The top three will advance to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil while the fourth-place team faces the Oceania region winner in a two-game playoff for the last spot.

“Usually, a team would like to have the first game at home, but if you don’t have the first game at home you make the best out of it,” said U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “We are looking forward to going to Honduras for the first game and then we’re going to take it one game at a time. I think it’s an exciting group and it will go all the way down to the last game to decide who is going to the World Cup. We are excited. Finally, we have our schedule and we can plan ahead like coaches want to plan, so it’s all good.”

The journey begins with a trip to Honduras on February 6. From there, the U.S. opens at home against Costa Rica on March 22 but goes back on the road for two more: at Mexico on March 26 and at Jamaica on June 7. The U.S. enjoys back-to-back home games on June 11 vs. Panama and June 18 vs. Honduras. They visit Costa Rica on September 6 and play Mexico in the U.S. on September 10. Their last game on home soil is October 11 vs. Jamaica then it ends on October 15 in Panama.

Some historical notes courtesy of
The U.S. has qualified for six consecutive FIFA World Cup tournaments, amassing an overall record of 63-34-31 overall in World Cup Qualifying, including a record of 40-6-12 all-time in qualifiers played on American soil. Against Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jamaica and Panama, the U.S. has an all-time record of 58-49-31 in all competitions.

They haven't decided the locations for the qualifiers in the United States yet so stay tuned for the details on those.

U.S. Men Jump 5 Places To No. 27 In Latest FIFA Rankings

Here is a little something to tide us over while we eagerly await the U.S. men's friendly in Russia next Wednesday (10 a.m., ESPN2 &, their last game of 2012. The latest FIFA rankings were released today and the Americans find themselves situated at No. 27, up five spots from the last time.

The top five are Spain, Germany, Argentina, Portugal and Italy. England, Netherlands, Colombia, Russia and Croatia round out the Top 10. Uruguay dropped four spots to No. 11 while 2014 World Cup host Brazil is No. 13.

CONCACAF rival Mexico is No. 14 while the top African team is Ivory Coast (15) and the top Asian squad is Japan (24). What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing but it's fun to see where all the top teams are at this quiet point in international soccer.

Just going by the rankings, the U.S. men should have their hands full in Krasnodar next week. Russia is one of the best European countries yet nobody seems to talk about them as an elite power. I guess we'll be able to decide for ourselves if they are legitimate or not.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

U.S. Women's National Team Names Tom Sermanni Its New Head Coach

After much deliberation and a search that reportedly included 30 male and female candidates, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati announced today that they had hired Tom Sermanni to be the seventh head coach of the U.S. women's national team.

Sermanni is 58, he's Scottish but he's been the head coach of Australia's women's national team for 11 years (including 3 World Cup appearances) total and most recently since 2004. He will officially start work on January 1, 2013 meaning that U.S. Soccer Women's Development Director Jill Ellis (who was the temporary head coach for the Germany matches earlier this month) will also be in charge for the last five matches of the Fan Tribute Tour. The U.S. meets Ireland in Portland, Oregon (Nov. 28) and in Glendale, Arizona (Dec. 1) then Sermanni will observe the last three matches of the calendar year which should be announced in the near future.

The biggest differences between him and Pia Sundhage-the women he replaced-is that he's a man. It's a new dynamic but one that shouldn't be that strange since many women's national teams are coached by men. The fact that he's a foreigner when I was hoping that they'd hire an American likely won't be much of an issue either. There won't be the same language barrier that there was with Pia except for the regional dialect he picked up in Scotland and Australia.

If we're being real, the only way we'll judge Sermanni is how he does in World Cups. Sundhage had a nice run including back-to-back gold medals at the Olympics but her team lost in penalty kicks in the only World Cup she appeared in (2011 vs. Japan). The U.S. women are the No. 1 team in the world and as such, they have higher expectations than anybody else. Australia is always competitive which is impressive given their location but clearly, this is a huge step up for Tom. He won't be judged on wins and losses, since you could probably put almost anyone on the bench and they'd rack up gaudy win totals. This is all about what he does in the 2015 Women's World Cup.

Judging by the instant reactions of some national team members on Twitter this afternoon, they seem enthusiastic about a fresh start.
"Really pumped about @TomSermanni being the new uswnt head coach!!! Welcome. #movingforward"-Abby Wambach (@abbywambach)
"Congrats to Tom Sermanni on being named our new #USWNT Head Coach!"-Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13)
I think by the end of Sundhage's reign, they were tired of the constant questions and speculation about when she was leaving to go home to Sweden. Now they've got a guy that is committed and won't be going anywhere anytime soon. This is a dream job if you're a women's soccer coach. Over time, we will figure out his style and tendencies but for now, it's an open book for the U.S. women's national team as they head into 2013 and beyond.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

U.S. Women Settle For Another Tie With Germany, 2-2 In Hartford This Time

If there is a team for the U.S. women's national team to fear in the near future, it's Germany who are loaded with young talent. For the second time in four days, the Germans tied the Americans on their home soil. Tonight, the U.S. blew another one-goal lead (twice) and had to settle for a 2-2 draw at rain-soaked Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT.

The U.S. moved to 23-1-3 this year and 6-0-4 all-time in games pitting the No. 1 and No. 2 FIFA-ranked teams. The U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 18 games and they are now 17-4-6 all-time against Germany.

There is no doubt that the pouring rain hampered play so for that reason and others (not really in form), the first half was largely forgettable. That is until Abby Wambach pulled to within 10 goals of Mia Hamm with her 148th career goal. After Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe worked the ball through the midfield, Alex Morgan's cross was deflected by a German defender but Wambach was right on the goal-line for the diving header in the 44th minute.

Want to know the next superstar in women's soccer (that's not American)? It has to be Germany's Dzenifer Marozsan. The 2012 MVP of the U-20 Women's World Cup scored not once but twice. In the 48th she received a gift as U.S. defender Christie Rampone whiffed on a pass attempt and fell down at midfield. That allowed Marozsan to walk in alone on Hope Solo and finish into the low corner.

Wambach had two chances for another strike but she failed both times. One-on-one with Germany's goalkeeper, her chip was terrible and later, a header went wide. Morgan once again was the catalyst with her 18th assist of the year (4th all-time for a year). She went to the end line then played it back in the middle to Lloyd. She couldn't connect but Tobin Heath of all people was there to blast in her seventh international goal in the 67th minute.

Solo made a bunch of diving saves and it looked like her team might escape with a 2-1 win but Marozsan had other plans. She scored an absolute highlight reel goal in the 85th minute with a left-foot blast from outside the box to the top corner. Solo had no chance to stop it.

Interestingly enough at halftime on NBC Sports Network, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati indicated that the next women's head coach could be named by November 1. I'm sure that date is fluid but there is little doubt that whomever that person is will make their national team debut November 28 (their next game) when the U.S. plays Ireland in Portland, Oregon. The Fan Tribute Tour (3-0-2 so far) continues with two games against Ireland, the other is December 1 in Glendale, Arizona.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

U.S. Men Beat Guatemala 3-1 To Advance To Final Qualifying Round For The 2014 World Cup

The U.S. men couldn't have gotten off to a worse start tonight in their semifinal round World Cup qualifying match against Guatemala at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City. A simple long ball from Jose Manuel Contreras found the ever dangerous Carlos Ruiz and the MLS star reached daylight behind the U.S. defense before tapping past Tim Howard five minutes in, 1-0 Guatemala.

Thankfully, things quickly turned from there as American defender Carlos Bocanegra tied it up in the 10th minute by redirecting Clint Dempsey's header off a corner kick. That was his 14th career goal for the U.S., the most by a defender. Dempsey wasn't done as he scored twice, in the 18th and 36th minute as Jurgen Klinsmann's team beat Guatemala 3-1 to win Group A with 13 points.

They advance to the final round of qualifying with five other CONCACAF squads: Jamaica (2nd in Group A), Honduras, Panama, Mexico and Costa Rica. That begins in March 2013 with the top three teams making World Cup 2014 in Brazil and the fourth-place squad going to a playoff vs. Oceania (probably New Zealand).

After a good deal of panic, it was nice that the U.S. was able to give their fans something to cheer about (after the nightmare start) and not more heart attacks. Dempsey became the fourth American to score 30 career goals (Landon Donovan, Brian McBride and Eric Wynalda). First, Eddie Johnson flew down the right side then crossed a low but firm pass that Dempsey ran onto and deflected enough to go in.

His other goal was similarly beautiful as Michael Bradley gave him a perfectly weighted pass and once again Dempsey was able to time his run at the exact right moment. Another tap in and some breathing room for the U.S.

Guatemala never really tested Tim Howard in the second half and most importantly, the U.S. was able to control the ball and work the clock down. Sporting KC's Graham Zusi played superbly in front of his home crowd while Herculez Gomez continued to lock down his roster spot going forward.

I couldn't get too excited about this result because while it is satisfying, I totally expected it but I also demand much more from the U.S. men. Beating Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda is one thing but the Americans will have to regroup and play at another level next year. Their biggest issue continues to be their backline which can't seem to find a cohesive unit or the right combination of players.

It still hasn't been confirmed yet by US Soccer but all signs point to one more game in 2012 for the men: November 14 at Russia which would be a quality friendly. Let's hope it happens. The more game situations this team can get, the better they should look. Tonight was only the middle part of what we hope is a long road to Brazil.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Eddie Johnson Rescues The U.S. Men's National Team With 2 Goals Vs. Antigua & Barbuda

Not being able to watch U.S. men's national team games that mean so much is torture, particularly when they play down to awful CONCACAF opponents that they should easily beat by like five goals every time. As I frantically checked the stattracker on and the U.S. men's twitter feed tonight, I was ecstatic when they pulled out an improbable victory.

Making his first appearance in two years, Eddie Johnson saved the U.S. with a pair of goals tonight as they beat Antigua and Barbuda 2-1 in North Sound, Antigua at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. It was the first time since 2004 (!) that he scored multiple goals for the national team (he had a hat trick in 2004 vs. Panama). Everyone (myself included) was up in arms about Jozy Altidore being left off the roster but at least this controversial move couldn't have worked out any better for Jurgen Klinsmann.

Guatemala's 2-1 win vs. Jamaica means that all the Americans have to do on Tuesday in Kansas City is beat or tie Guatemala and they'll advance to the semifinal round of 2014 World Cup qualifying. The U.S. and Guatemala are tied atop Group A with 10 points.

Johnson leads MLS in goals on headers (9 for the Seattle Sounders) so it's no surprise that he made it 1-0 in the 20th minute on a leaping header off Graham Zusi's looping lefty cross. After a defensive breakdown including Clarence Goodson falling down, Antigua and Barbuda quickly tied it in the 25th minute on Dexter Blackstock's tap in.

It looked like this was destined to be a tie after Michael Bradley's header was stopped in the 85th minute but Johnson and Alan Gordon (his first CAP for the U.S.) teamed up for an absolutely vital strike. Gordon crossed it to Johnson who somehow found an opening and connected with another powerful header.

I can't imagine the reaction if the U.S. hadn't won this match but thankfully, we don't have to think about that too much. Even better news is that we can all watch the game on Tuesday (7:00 p.m., ESPN2) and we don't have to pull our hair out sitting in front of our phones or computers. Other than the first half against Jamaica on September 11, the U.S. hasn't played well at all in this round of qualifying. A positive person would say they are due to put together a full effort. It's late and I'm tired so we'll just run with that.

UPDATE 10/14: Fabian Johnson is still sick so he won't join his teammates in Kansas City for Tuesday's game. No replacement will be added for him as the U.S. will face Guatemala with 19 healthy players (3 goalkeepers). Jermaine Jones is back with his club in Germany after picking up another yellow card on Friday therefore suspending him for Tuesday's match. Has he ever played a US game without picking up a card?

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's Official: Jurgen Klinsmann Hates Jozy Altidore

I try not to read too much into rosters for games, since U.S. men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been scouring every possible direction for anybody that can contribute to his team. Still, it was bizarre today when we found out that U.S. striker Jozy Altidore was left off the 24-man roster for the U.S.' next two important World Cup qualifiers: on Friday at Antigua and Barbuda then Tuesday in Kansas City against Guatemala.

Altidore has obviously never impressed Klinsmann since he has rarely gotten off the bench since the German took over last year. However, considering how well he is playing in the Netherlands this season and the fact that something named Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes) was named in his place makes this borderline mystifying. Gordon is a 30-year-old (31 next week) journeyman that is in MLS and this would be his first CAP.

The U.S. first faces the Benna Boyz on Oct. 12 in North Sound, Antigua. Kickoff for the USA’s first visit to the island is set for 7 p.m. ET and the match will be broadcast live on beIN SPORT. Four days later, the U.S. will close out the semifinal round at sold-out LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. That match will be broadcast live at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

“The mentality we are bringing into these two games is to get six points,” said Klinsmann. “It’s important that the players arriving into Miami prepare themselves for two ‘finals.’ We must have urgency within the group and a clear understanding that we need to deliver, which means each player has to bring a 100 percent effort. All our focus and energy for the next few days will be on getting the right preparation for the team so we can win the next two games.”

The U.S. is currently even with Guatemala at the top of Group A with seven points and matching totals in both goal differential and goals scored. Jamaica also has seven points but sits in third place due to a lower goal differential. With the three nations tied on points and jockeying for the top two spots, no team will be able to secure a place in the Final Round until the last group matches are played on Oct. 16.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Roma), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (5): Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Alan Gordon (San Jose Earthquakes), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders)

Bradley is back after missing the two matches against Jamaica in September. This also marks Johnson and Kljestan's return to the national team. The U.S. beat Antigua and Barbuda 3-1 on June 8 in their first ever World Cup qualifier against them. Bradley, Edu, Fabian Johnson, Jones and Zusi all carry yellow cards into Friday night's match meaning they would be suspended for one-game after another one.

The U.S. began training in Miami earlier today and they will head to the island of Antigua on Thursday. Luckily, like the match in Jamaica, we won't be able to watch the game for free on TV so we'll have to rely on Twitter and the few American journalists that are in attendance. CONCACAF!

UPDATE 10/9: Shea (abdominal strain) and Donovan (knee) are out with injuries for both qualifiers and according to U.S. Soccer, there will be no replacements for them.

UPDATE 10/10: Geez, now Johnson (flu) and Castillo (foot) are out for Friday. The team hopes that Johnson will recover in time for Tuesday. Johnson had been a starter with Castillo serving as his backup. Bocanegra and Parkhurst figure to be the left and right backs with Cameron and either Goodson or Edu in at center back. They are down to 20 healthy players (including 3 goalkeepers).

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ireland Will Be Another Team To Meet The U.S. Women's Freight Train

The fine ladies of Ireland don't know what's in store for them. Today, it was announced that they'll be the next sacrificial lamb-I mean opponent-of the U.S. women's national team on their Fan Tribute Tour in 2012.

They'll meet November 28 (10 p.m. ET) at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Oregon which is home of the Timbers (MLS). Then they play them again on December 1 (10:30 p.m. ET) at the University of Phoenix Field in Glendale, Arizona which is where the Cardinals (NFL) play.

The USA is 8-0-0 all-time against Ireland, with its most recent meeting resulting in a 2-0 win on Sept. 20, 2008, at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. Five of the USA’s previous matches against Ireland came on tours after winning Olympic gold medals – two games in 2004 and three in 2008. During the second match in 2004 played in Houston, the two teams were tied 0-0 at halftime before Abby Wambach scored five consecutive goals in the second half to tie a U.S. record for most goals in a game as the USA won 5-0.

Up next, the U.S. women will play a pair of matches against Germany (October 20 in Chicago and October 23 in Hartford). Of course what we're all wondering is when and if the new head coach will be in place by either then or against Ireland. Since Pia Sundhage left for Sweden last month, I haven't even heard any rumors (which is virtually impossible on Twitter) about any candidates or meetings. One can only assume that the U.S. soccer federation is doing plenty of work behind the scenes to make sure they come up with the perfect hire for the best national team on the planet.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

U.S. Women Send Pia Sundhage Off To Sweden With An Easy 6-2 Win Vs. Australia

Pia Sundhage's last match as head coach of the U.S. women's national team was certainly memorable as they rolled to a 6-2 win over Australia this evening at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado. It was the 14th straight win for the top women's side in the world.

Australia, who had lost to the U.S. 2-1 on Sunday in California, was actually up 2-1 in the first half but that lasted all of nine minutes as Alex Morgan scored her first of two goals right before halftime (43rd minute). From there, the Americans blitzed the Australians with four goals in the second half.

Now, Sundhage leaves for Sweden (her native country) with a four-year deal set to begin on December 1. It will be fascinating to see who the U.S. chooses as its next head coach. It's hard to argue with Sundhage's success since she took over in November 2007: 91-6-10 with two gold medals (2012, 2008), three Algarve Cups and runner-up in the 2011 World Cup.

The U.S.' next two matches are a month away against Germany: October 20 in Bridgeview, Illinois and October 23 in East Hartford, Connecticut. During this game, former national team member and ESPN2 commentator Julie Foudy speculated that the U.S. wanted to name a coach by Halloween but it is possible they won't have one in place by the Germany matches. In that case, an assistant would temporary hold the position.

Five different goal-scorers helped the U.S. improve to 22-0-2 all-time against Australia. In 2012, they are 23-1-1 (only loss to Japan) and they've outscored their opponents 100-17.

Morgan led the U.S. with two goals and two assists, Megan Rapinoe had two assists while Heather O'Reilly, Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Sydney Leroux all scored goals. Heather Mitts and Kelley O'Hara rounded out the scoring with assists.

O'Reilly opened the scoring with a deflected goal in the 25th minute. Morgan broke down the left flank but then passed it back to the top of the box. O'Reilly came from out of the picture and hit a low hard shot that nicked off an Australian defender.

Two defensive breakdowns in rapid succession gave Australia the brief 2-1 lead. Lisa de Vanna scored her second goal against the U.S. in as many games with a pretty toe poke past Hope Solo in the 32nd minute. Two minutes later, Sarah Walsh-who was playing her last match for Australia-found herself in alone on Solo and she deposited it into the net.

Morgan went to work in the 43rd minute with a top-notch goal, her 33rd in 51 international matches. O'Hara had the assist as Morgan placed the shot in the far corner with her preferred left foot. It was a big goal in terms of momentum since the U.S. nearly trailed at halftime. Instead, that must have pumped them up because they never looked back in the second half and Australia could do nothing to stop them.

Wambach was the recipient of a crazy bounce after she stuck her foot out and got a touch on Morgan's shot in the 53rd minute. It took a huge deflection and ended up in the goal. After that, the U.S. scored on three headers in a span of 19 minutes with each one more spectacular than the last.

Morgan bagged her second strike in the 63rd minute when she won a 50-50 cross from Mitts. It's easy to forget that Morgan is only 23-years-old. I'm having a hard time finding any holes in her game, she seems to do everything well: shoot, distribute, win headers, run off the ball. It is scary to think she'll most likely get even better the next few years.

Substitute Shannon Boxx got in on the action with a powerful header off Rapinoe's corner kick in the 69th minute. Leroux was the second sub to score a goal as she also connected on a cross from Rapinoe in the 82nd minute. What made Leroux's my favorite is that she dove toward the ground to head the ball rather than wait for it to come to her feet. At 22, the youngest player on the team, her skills are remarkable and she is definitely the most exciting prospect on the national team.

All that's left to do is wish Sundhage all the best and thank her for all her hard work over the years with the U.S. team. Good luck in Sweden Pia, haha except when you face the U.S.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

After A Fantastic 1st Half & Blah 2nd Half, U.S. Men Do Enough To Earn A 1-0 Win Vs. Jamaica

For the first 45 minutes tonight at Columbus Crew Stadium, the U.S. men's national team played some of its most dominant soccer that I've ever seen from them. They had a 79%-21% possession advantage over Jamaica but it was scoreless since they hit the post/crossbar three different times.

The second half was completely forgettable except for Herculez Gomez's goal in the 55th minute off a free kick. That turned out to be the game-winner as the U.S. held on for a 1-0 win in a 2014 World Cup qualifier that truthfully shouldn't have been that close. The three points are all that matters though since Jamaica beat them 2-1 on Friday in Kingston.

The U.S. improved to 7-2-2 this year and is now 11-1-8 all-time against Jamaica. The U.S. maintained its unbeaten record at Columbus Crew Stadium, moving to 6-0-3 all-time at the USA’s first soccer specific venue and they are 9-0-3 in home matches against Jamaica.

Now, the U.S. vaulted from third-place in Group A to a first-place tie with Guatemala (who beat Antigua and Barbuda 1-0 tonight as well). They each have seven points (2-1-1), along with Jamaica, but the U.S. and Guatemala have a better goal-differential at +2. There are two more matches in this round: U.S. at Antigua and Barbuda on October 12 and U.S. hosts Guatemala on October 16 in Kansas City. It looks like the latter match could have huge implications since the top two make it to the next round which means either the U.S., Guatemala or Jamaica will be eliminated.

Jurgen Klinsmann made five changes to his starting lineup and they paid immediate dividends. Graham Zusi, making his first appearance in a World Cup qualifier, was one of the U.S.' better players. In the 6th minute, his shot out of nowhere nearly went in but it hit the crossbar-something which became all too familiar.

Gomez also had a fine match, he almost was sent in on a breakaway when he chested down a long pass from Steve Cherundolo but he was knocked off the ball. Later, his free kick into the box was right where you want it but Jermaine Jones completely whiffed on a header that wasn't that difficult.

After Jones drew a yellow card on Lovel Palmer in the 17th minute for a wild tackle, Gomez's free kick was punched out by Dwayne Miller. By that point, the U.S. was buzzing as Cherundolo's rare shot was deflected off the post. Then Carlos Bocanegra headed a corner back to Zusi but his volley was high. For the third time in the opening 30 minutes, the U.S. hit the woodwork as Danny Williams' long-range shot beat Miller to the side but rattled off the post.

Gomez and the U.S. were rewarded for their stellar start in the 54th minute when he scored his fifth career international goal, second in World Cup qualifying. He hit the curling shot well but in reality, Miller made much better saves in the first half and I'm sure he'd like to have that one back since his hands were in position while he dove to the side. Regardless, the U.S. deserved that strike which isn't something I would often exclaim.

It would have been great to see the U.S. pop an insurance goal and put this out of reach but that's generally not how they operate. Klinsmann rolled the dice by taking out Zusi, Jose Torres and Gomez for Maurice Edu, Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore respectively. Not exactly your dream trio in terms of salting away a win. Oh well, it worked this time.

There were a couple nervy moments for Tim Howard as Jamaica finally looked to go forward in the second half but they either couldn't connect on crosses or shots went over the goal. This was an ugly win but on the road to a World Cup, you're bound to have matches like tonight when you have to slog through unforeseen circumstances (hitting the post three times). Credit to the U.S. for staying composed and knowing that their time would come. Let's hope Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan are healthy in October because they could sure use their talents in the midfield and attacking third.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Well I Hope The U.S. Men Enjoyed Their Trip To Jamaica

Once again, I guess I should consider it a blessing in disguise that I wasn't able to watch a U.S. men's national team World Cup qualifier live (hello Guatemala earlier this summer) because if I had, I might have smashed my television or the remote.

The U.S. lost 2-1 in Jamaica last night at Independence Park aka The Office (the U.S. is 0-1-4 there), marking the first time in 19 meetings (1-10-8) that the Americans had fallen to the Jamaicans. Jamaica is now in first place in Group A with seven points, the U.S. and Guatemala are tied with four points and the same goal-differential after Guatemala rallied for a 3-1 win at Antigua and Barbuda last night.

The weird part is that Clint Dempsey scored 35 seconds in (fastest goal in U.S. World Cup qualifying history) but after that the U.S. couldn't mount any sort of attack. No doubt missing midfielders Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan (both out with injuries) hurt them severely.

Maurice Edu played a through ball to Herculez Gomez, his shot was saved but Dempsey (making his first appearance in 3 months) was there for the rebound. It was his 28th international goal and he has scored in all three World Cup qualifiers in 2012.

Jamaica scored both of its goals off of dangerous free kicks from the top of the box. In the 23rd minute, after a foul by Kyle Beckerman, Rodolph Austin hit a shot that deflected off Beckerman's legs (he was in the wall) and past Tim Howard.

In the 62nd minute, after a foul by Edu, Jamaica's all-time leading scorer Luton Shelton extended his record with his 34th international goal. Howard had no chance as it curled low and inside the near post.

These teams meet again on Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio. Thankfully, that will be broadcast live in the States (ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET) so we can all watch it and don't have to rely on Twitter or sketchy gametrackers online. Needless to say, at worst the United States has to get a draw. A win would put them back in the right direction while a loss would further compound last night's disaster.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

U.S. Men Get Ready For A Double Dose Of Jamaica In World Cup Qualifiers

Fresh off their historic 1-0 win in Mexico on August 15 (albeit in a friendly), the U.S. men's national team gets back to business in terms of 2014 World Cup qualifying as they travel to Kingston, Jamaica on Friday night (8 p.m., not on TV here) to play Jamaica. Then the Reggae Boyz come to Columbus, Ohio for a rematch on September 11 (8 p.m., ESPN 2,

Today, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann selected 24 players to train for the vital pair of Group A matches. Keep in mind that midfielders Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan are both unavailable because of injuries. Interestingly enough, the U.S. has never won a World Cup qualifier in Jamaica, they have only settled for four ties.

GOALKEEPERS (4): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Racing Santander), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Maurice Edu (Stoke City), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Brek Shea (FC Dallas), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur), Herculez Gomez (Santos)

18 American players were part of the 3-1 win vs. Antigua and Barbuda on June 8 and the 1-1 tie vs. Guatemala on June 12. 20 of the Americans currently compete on a European club with five in the English Premier League. In total, they play in nine countries.

2012 has been very good to the U.S. men, they are 6-1-2 with five shutouts. Their signature moments have been their first-ever win (1-0) in Italy (February 29) and their inaugural victory in Mexico that I already referred to. Beating Jamaica on their home soil isn't at that level but it would still be a nice addition to this impressive resume. Jamaica is tied atop Group A with four points after two matches but the U.S. leads with a better goal differential.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pia Sundhage's Farewell Tour Starts Out With The U.S. Dropping 8 Goals On Costa Rica In Rochester

Perhaps you've heard that U.S. women's national team head coach Pia Sundhage is stepping down. I have heard some additional information that she'll be at the helm for two more games, Sunday, September 16 vs. Australia at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA and Wednesday, September 19 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO.

The farewell tour got off to the perfect start for Sundhage (who is reportedly in the works to be Sweden's head coach) as her team pinned an 8-0 loss on Costa Rica this afternoon at Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester, NY. It was the team's first match since winning the gold medal vs. Japan at the London Olympics.

Hometown hero Abby Wambach gave the people what they wanted as she scored twice, Megan Rapinoe had two goals while Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, Carli Lloyd and Heather O'Reilly bagged single tallies.

The U.S. was never challenged as they led 5-0 at halftime. Rapinoe opened the barrage with a goal off a free kick in the 13th minute, her shot just grazed the crossbar and went in.

Not surprisingly, Wambach had not one but two headers for goals (putting her at 145 international strikes). Rachel Buehler crossed to her in the 24th minute then Rapinoe's corner kick eight minutes later found what has to be the greatest aerial player in women's soccer history.

Alex Morgan got in on the action in the 38th minute after a touch from Wambach, Morgan's left-footed shot left the Costa Rican goalkeeper with no chance to stop the high riser.

Rapinoe's second goal-in the 45th minute-was a complete gift as her shot from the edge of the area trickled in off the goalkeeper's hands.

Supersub Leroux kickstarted the late scoring as she ran onto a pass from Morgan, overpowered her defender and finished in the far corner in the 77th minute.

Lloyd kept up her hot streak as she scored on a bending free kick in the 84th minute and O'Reilly tapped in Leroux's cross in garbage time (89th minute).

Some interesting notes courtesy of
In the 54th minute, goalkeeper Jill Loyden replaced starting goalkeeper Hope Solo, ending Solo’s consecutive minutes played streak at 1,163. That is a U.S. WNT goalkeeping record as Solo surpassed Briana Scurry’s previous mark of 990 minutes during the 2012 London Olympics.

The U.S. improved to 94-2-5 when Abby Wambach scores a goal.
The USA improved to 10-0-0 this year when Wambach and Alex Morgan both contribute at least one goal in the same match.

U.S. defender and team captain Christie Rampone played in her 267th career international match on Saturday. She now sits five behind third-place Julie Foudy (272) on the all-time list.

Pia Sundhage improved her USA coaching record to 89-6-10.

The next match against Australia will also be broadcast live on NBC like today's game. I gotta say that the new go-to announcer combination of ex-U.S. men's player Kyle Martino and Arlo White is great. Thank God they left Brandi Chastain and her needless yelling back in the UK or somewhere else far away from a microphone.

U.S. Women's Head Coach Pia Sundhage Steps Down, Returns To Sweden

What had been rumored for a long time, came to fruition this morning as U.S. women's national team head coach Pia Sundhage has stepped down and she is returning to her native Sweden.

Before the London Olympics, I had read multiple reports saying that she was done after that tournament so what better way (other than a World Cup title of course) to go out on top with the U.S.?

“After the Olympics we had discussions and early in the process it became clear that Pia was very interested in returning home to Sweden,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “It certainly wasn’t an easy decision for U.S. Soccer or Pia. She deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the amazing success the U.S. Women’s National Team had during the past five years. On behalf of U.S. Soccer, we sincerely appreciate Pia’s hard work, dedication and commitment to the organization. We wish her all the best in the future.”

Gulati and U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn will begin the search process for a new coach immediately, but there is no set timetable for when a decision will be determined.

“It was an honor to be able to coach these players for five years and I learned a tremendous amount from them,” said Sundhage. “I want to thank all the players and all of my assistant coaches for making me better. Before I took this job, I always admired the spirit and character of the U.S. team, but to experience that first-hand on the training field and from the bench as their coach was truly special and something I will treasure for the rest of my life. Although it is time to move on, I’d like to thank U.S. Soccer for this wonderful opportunity and I wish this team and the players all the best in the future.”

I don't want this to come out the wrong way but I've said for a while that Sundhage is a goof and the U.S. women would be better served with an American (don't ask me exactly who) in charge. My whole non-jingoistic thinking is that the U.S. men are middle of the road so they need a foreigner to show them what to do better. Conversely, the U.S. women are the best so why look elsewhere? There was an obvious language barrier with Pia and even though it was clear that the players enjoyed playing for her, who knows how much work she actually did in training and on gamedays? I'm going to assume that her assistants did more than most outside U.S. soccer actually know.

Give Sundhage her proper respect: in her nearly five years (she started in November 2007) on the job, her squad compiled an insane 88-6-10 record. She won 11 total tournament titles including three Algrave Cup titles, two Olympic qualifying tournaments and two Olympic gold medals. The big asterisk on her resume is the lack of a World Cup title. The U.S. famously lost to Japan in penalty kicks in the 2011 Women's World Cup final.

It'll be fascinating to see which way U.S. soccer goes this time: looking within the United States or once again, heading to Europe.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Clint Dempsey Seemed Destined For Liverpool, Until Tottenham Swooped In At The Last Minute

After months of rumors that Clint Dempsey was headed to Liverpool, it turns out that he went to Tottenham only a few hours before the end of today's transfer window for European soccer.

The American midfielder signed a three-year deal worth $9.5 million, ending his 6+ years at Fulham. Without a doubt, Dempsey's transfer represents the biggest move in terms of an American-born men's soccer player in Europe. That's what happens when you score 23 goals for an English Premier League club in one season (2011/12).

"I'm very excited and looking forward to the challenge," Dempsey told Tottenham's official website. "To play under this head coach and play for this club is a dream come true. I want to make the most of it and work as hard as I can to get onto the field and do well. There are a lot of great players here, I'm looking forward to training and playing with them and trying to fight for a spot in the team."

Apparently, Tottenham beat out Liverpool not to mention Sunderland and Aston Villa in their bid for the U.S. men's national team's top field player.

"Clint was a very influential player for Fulham over a number of seasons and the club thanks him for his contribution and wishes him well for the future," a statement on the Fulham website read.

Liverpool has spent much of the summer chasing Dempsey, sparking an angry reaction from Fulham manager Martin Jol after the player went on strike on the eve of the new season.

"A lot was said and written ahead of me leaving Fulham," Dempsey told Spurs' website. "It wasn't how it was portrayed, but that's in the past now and we move on. I want to thank the fans for everything, some of the best memories I've had in football and thank the chairman for giving me the opportunity to come from the MLS and compete over here. All I can say is thank you and now I'm looking forward to the next challenge."

At 29, he still has plenty of top-level soccer left in him since he only started playing for the New England Revolution (MLS) at age 21. Plus, he's durable and consistent, he scored 60 goals in 224 career appearances at Fulham. His objective of playing for a team that can compete in the Champions League should be fulfilled with the Hotspurs. They would have made the Champions League last season (they finished 4th) but were bounced out by Chelsea's improbable run to the title.

Don't be surprised to see Dempsey coming off the bench since Tottenham's midfield is already loaded with Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale and Rafael Van der Vaart not to mention forwards like Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor. After being the man the last few seasons for Fulham, it will be interesting to see how Dempsey adjusts to having an auxiliary role. Former US goalkeeper Brad Friedel (41 years old!) is Tottenham's starter so Dempsey at least has one close friend on the team.

Deuce wasn't the only American on the move as Maurice Edu officially completed his transfer to Stoke that I already wrote about. Carlos Bocanegra left Rangers for a season-long loan at Racing Santander, a Spanish club that was relegated from La Liga last season. Finally, Oguchi Onyewu (remember him?) was loaned from Sporting Lisbon to Malaga, a Spanish club that finished fourth in La Liga last season and by virtue of that, is in this year's Champions League.