One nation under Jurgen Klinsmann with dreams of goals for all



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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nightcap To A Spectacular Day: U.S. Under-23 Men's Team Blanks Mexico 2-0


I honestly can't remember a full day quite like this one for U.S. soccer in my lifetime. Between the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2012 announcement, the U.S. women's 5-0 triumph over Denmark at the Algrave Cup and of course, the U.S. men's 1-0 shocking upset of Italy, who could ask for anything more?

Well the U.S. Under-23 men's team aka what will be most of the Olympic team this summer, capped off this memorable leap day with a 2-0 victory over Mexico.

The friendly was played in Frisco, Texas so there was a pretty even distribution of fans. What makes the win so impressive for the Americans is that they controlled play basically from start to finish. Mexico's Under-23 team is one of the best in the world but they looked frazzled the entire match.

Mexico is the U.S.' biggest rival and at any level, I honestly can never remember a performance like that. Usually the script is the complete opposite with the U.S. men forced to stem the non-stop Mexican attack.

The U.S. scored both of its goals during a wild two-minute span in the first half. Juan Agudelo (rocking a Neymar-esque blonde mohawk) headed in a corner kick from Mix Diskerud for a 1-0 U.S. lead in 35th minute. Less than a minute later, Freddy Adu's hard shot from outside the box was tipped in by Diskerud.

American goalkeeper Bill Hamid took a queue from Hope Solo and Tim Howard before him as he also posted a clean sheet. Collectively, the U.S. teams outscored their opposition 8-0 today between the three matches.

Tonight served as a mere tuneup for CONCACAF Olympic qualifying which begins on March 22. Even though it was broadcast on Telefutura, I was able to brush up on my spanish skills while the U.S. dominated. It was beautiful.

You'll want to pay attention to this squad since it figures to contain many of the United States' brightest young stars (Adu, Diskerud, Agudelo, Hamid, Shea, Bunbury, etc.). This game should serve notice that they are worth watching and paying attention to this summer for what should be an exciting tournament in London (I'm assuming they'll get there).





A Special Day: U.S. Men Defeat Italy For The First Time Ever


Today was a historic day for U.S. soccer as the men's national team knocked off Italy, 1-0 in Genoa, Italy.

It was the first time in 11 games (previously 0-7-3, outscored 32-4) that the Americans had beaten Italy, one of international soccer's true superpowers. It also marked the first time in 20 matches that the U.S. men beat a former World Cup champ (Uruguay, 2002).

Jurgen Klinsmann's team has now won four straight and they picked up by far the most meaningful result of his brief tenure.

Yes this was a friendly and as we say when things don't go well in those, results aren't that important. I'll stick to that idea but come on, victories like this have been few and far between for the U.S.

While Italy controlled play (61%-39% time of possession), took way more shots (7-2 on goal) and had four times as many corner kicks (8-2), I'm not going to say it was luck that the U.S. won. Rather, they played basically the perfect road game against a more talented and technically skilled opponent.

When the U.S. got its one great chance in the 55th minute, they made the most of it as Jozy Altidore laid it back for Clint Dempsey. The Fulham star kept his spectacular play going as he blasted a low but hard shot past Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Italy had plenty of chances but I wouldn't say that Tim Howard stole this one like Kasey Keller in 1999 vs. Brazil (1-0 in the Gold Cup). Howard made some very solid saves but nothing extraordinary or the kind that he doesn't routinely make.

Before the game, I said that the U.S.' best players would need to assert themselves and that proved prophetic. Dempsey was great, he also crushed a free kick in the first half that was punched out by Buffon. Altidore picked up his pace in the second half and was rewarded with a nice assist. The man of the match though for the Red, White and Blue in their new hideous Nike road uniforms was Michael Bradley.

Perhaps its fitting that the only American that plays for an Italian club (Chievo Verona) performed so well against opponents that mostly compete with him in Italy. Bradley was all over the field, making multiple runs back on defense that broke up possible scoring bids. He was also tough and strong on his feet and he didn't get nervous when Italy turned up the pressure late for the tying goal.

Other notable developments for the U.S. included the reemergence of Maurice Edu in the midfield and Fabian Johnson actually played well at left back (which has been a black hole for the U.S. the last few years).

What this result means is twofold: for the U.S. players, it shows them what Jurgen Klinsmann (5-4-1) can help them achieve if they buy into his team-building and roster selections. Outside of the team, this win earns the U.S. respect around the globe. Everyone outside the United States loves to knock the U.S. which is understandable when they beat up on bad CONCACAF teams then need favorable draws to make it out of the group stage in World Cups. However, when you win in Italy that proves that you're not frauds by any means.

The best news is that this was all done without Landon Donovan, Stuart Holden, Jermaine Jones, Jose Torres and Timmy Chandler. Those are all players that Klinsmann loves that will be a big part of his plans going forward. If the U.S. can keep developing and then add those guys, well then they'll really be onto something.

Their next match will be May 26 vs. Scotland, another friendly this time in Landover, MD.





U.S. Women Smoke Denmark 5-0 In 2012 Algrave Cup Opener


A couple hours before the U.S. men shocked Italy, the U.S. women blew out Denmark 5-0 in Lagos, Portugal, site of the 2012 Algrave Cup.

The U.S. women scored twice in the first half then added three more goals in the final 15 minutes to wrap it up.

Abby Morgan led the way with two goals and an assist (she now has eight in 2012) while Abby Wambach, Carli Lloyd and Sydney Leroux had the other goals. Heather O'Reilly, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath and Stephanie Cox had assists.

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo did her best Tim Howard impression (or was he doing a Hope Solo impression?) as she recorded a clean sheet.

Morgan opened the scoring with a goal in the 21st minute, assisted by O'Reilly. Morgan's shot went off the post and in. The U.S. kept the pressure on and scored a backbreaking goal in the 44th minute as Morgan found a sliding Wambach (132nd career goal).

Cheney hit the post in the 76th minute but Lloyd was there to clean up the rebound. Morgan scored her second in the 84th minute (her 18th international goal) on a shot in traffic. Leroux redirected Lindsey's shot from a tough angle, for her sixth goal in six appearances. She's the youngest player on the team (21) but she looks like the next U.S. star.

Japan defeated Norway 2-1 in the other Group B match. The U.S. will meet Norway on Friday at 10 a.m. ET. You can keep track of the action on ussoccer.com's matchtracker and by following @ussoccer_wnt on Twitter.





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



No substitutes for either team at halftime.

Giovinco (twice) and Matri (once) have already been called offsides making it eight total so far for Italy. That's just dumb and lazy by the Italians and like I said before, the U.S. can't keep relying on that tactic. Eventually, it won't work.

Edu draws a foul which gives the U.S. defense a rest after the first nine minutes or so have mostly been spent in their end.

Goal U.S. in the 56th minute! Altidore settled a cross at his feet (with his back to the goal) then laid it off for Dempsey, who seemed to stun Buffon and the Italian defense. Totally against the run of play but who cares, the U.S. leads 1-0. 25th career international goal for Dempsey which puts him fourth all-time (ahead of Joe Max-Moore).

After another offsides call on Matri, the first Italian substitutes: Pazzini in for Motta, Borini in for Matri.

Altidore wins a free kick and more importantly, Chiellini gets a yellow card for hauling him down.

Bocanegra gets a yellow for chopping down Pazzini.

Bradley did a great job tracking back and stealing the ball from Giovinco.

More subs for Italy. Kljestan in for Shea, the first U.S. sub.

Two Italy corner kicks but they don't do anything with them.

Italy is starting to settle for shots from distance that don't have a prayer.

Johnson out for Jonathan Spector. Johnson played well for the second game in a row. Maybe the U.S. finally found a left back.

The U.S. is starting to hang on now with Italy turning up the pressure. Bocanegra is lucky he didn't get an own goal as he deflects it out for a corner then Spector blocked a shot.

Altidore out for Boyd, making his U.S. debut.

Another good block by Spector on Marini, that makes two.

Montolivo goes off for a moment with a nose bleed.

Great work by Bradley, winning the ball in traffic in the middle of the field and clearing it out with some quick 1-2 passes.

Italy is really turning it up now, Spector made another block and Italy to nobody's surprise is flopping all over the field and crying to the referees for non-existent calls.

Another Italy corner but Pielini heads it over the net. The U.S. looks tired and out of energy which I can totally understand.

Only once under Klinsmann-vs. Slovenia-has the U.S. allowed more than one goal.

Four minutes of added time.

This is a similar performance from the 2009 Confederation's Cup when the U.S. shocked Spain. They have blocked so many shots, like a hockey team.

Montolivo with a hard shot from outside the box but it goes just wide.

Buddle in for Dempsey to waste more time on the clock.

And it's all over, the U.S. beats Italy 1-0 for the first time ever (in its 11th try). It's only a friendly but you can't ask for a better result by the U.S. They've also won four in a row overall, this should build some great momentum heading into a busy summer and World Cup 2014 qualifying plus the 2012 Olympics.





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

The USMNT starting XI: Howard; Cherundolo, Goodson, Bocanegra (c), Johnson; Bradley, Edu; Williams, Dempsey, Shea; Altidore

USA subs: Rimando, Cameron, Parkhurst, Spector, Kljestan, Boyd, Buddle. (Guzan not in uniform.)

Italy lineup: Buffon; Maggio, Barzagli, Ogbonna, Criscito; Nocerino, Pirlo, Marchisio; Motta; Giovinco, Matri.

Two things I don't like about this game before it even started: the U.S. is wearing the horrid new away jerseys that were leaked online yesterday and Taylor Twellman is commentating along with the incomparable Ian Darke.

We're underway and Italy nearly scores in the 1st minute as Matri gets behind the U.S. defense but Howard wins the ball before Matri can touch it past him.

Howard made a nice kick save on a close chance by Giovinco.

10 of the 11 U.S. starters tonight play in Europe. Brek Shea is the only MLS starter (Donovan would have been another) and he's also the only guy to play in every game under Klinsmann.

Good passing sequence and patience by the U.S. leads to a U.S. corner, the first for either team.

Giovinco almost gets a breakaway on Howard but the Parma player loses it out of bounds off his feet.

Fabian Johnson makes a nice fun forward and he lays it off for Shea who hits it well wide. That was a good setup, Shea should have done better since he had space and it was on his favored left foot.

Bocanegra breaks up a cross but Italy gets its first corner kick.

Altidore gets called for a bogus foul when an Italian defender impedes his progress on the sideline then falls down. Alright then.

Six substitutes allowed for each team because it is a friendly.

Bradley targets Altidore on a long ball but Buffon cuts it off.

Pirlo drops a sick pass but it's offsides by a hair.

Giovinco with a decent shot but he had no angle and Howard snagged it out of the air.

Giovinco finds Matri but he's offsides. The U.S. is living dangerously since these last two calls went their way but they were very close.

Edu does his best Shea impression by hitting a shot from outside of the box nowhere near the Italian net. I like the aggressiveness but yikes, tighten it up.

Giovinco is offsides again (maybe) after Pirlo chips it to him.

Another U.S. corner goes for naught.

The U.S. had numbers going forward and Dempsey looked for Altidore but he fell down. He needs to be stronger on his feet, he's a big, powerful guy.

The fourth Italian offsides in 25 minutes is recorded. Haha, they're not adjusting well thus far.

Edu played a nice ball to Shea but his first touch killed him as he hit it too hard and Buffon grabbed it.

Jozy just walked off the field holding his wrist, hope he's alright. Good news, he's back on a minute later.

Goodson knocks Giovinco's cross out for an Italy corner kick.

Williams goes forward but gets called for a foul when he bowls over an Italian defender.

Altidore and Shea with a nice combination play until Shea gives it right to Italy on a telegraphed pass.

Italy corner kick. Motta played for Brazil in a past Gold Cup. Haha what? Explain that one to my FIFA.

Howard makes an easy save on a long shot that had no chance to go in.

Altidore win a free kick from 20 yards or so, right outside the top of the box. Italy's wall isn't 10 yards back so they are forced to move. Dempsey hits it well in terms of power but it's right at Buffon and he punches it out.

Dempsey wins another free kick, a little further from the goal compared to the last one. Bradley chips it forward but Buffon hits it out of danger.

Pirlo crosses it right to Howard.

Wow, great tackle by Edu to win the ball back after a miserable square pass from Williams.

Motta hits one well on a volley that dropped to him but it was right at Howard.

Halftime: U.S. 0, Italy 0
Very solid first 45 mintues by the U.S. The defense and Howard look strong, they just need to create more chances if they hope to break through and score a goal.





Voters Do The Right Thing: Elect Claudio Reyna & Tony Meola To U.S. Soccer Hall Of Fame


This afternoon, former U.S. men's national team captain Claudio Reyna and three-time World Cup goalkeeper Tony Meola were elected to the National Hall of Fame class of 2012 via the player ballot.

In addition, former men's player Desmond Armstrong (veteran's ballot) and legendary former women's national team head coach Tony DiCicco (builder ballot) were also part of the Class of 2012.

The ceremony will take place at a time and location to be announced this summer. Before or at halftime of the U.S. men vs. Scotland friendly in May in Landover, MD makes sense but stay tuned for those details.

From ussoccer.com
Reyna, who currently serves as U.S. Soccer’s Youth Technical Director, played for the U.S. National Team for 13 straight years from 1994-2006 and was a member of four FIFA World Cup teams. He earned 112 caps while scoring eight goals and recording 19 career assists. Reyna also had a 13-year career in Europe, playing for Premier League sides Manchester City and Sunderland and the Scottish Premier League’s Glasgow Rangers.

“It’s an incredible honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” said Reyna. “Soccer has been my life from the moment I could walk. You don’t think or play for these type of recognitions but it is a tremendous honor and I want to thank my former teammates, former coaches and everybody else close to me, especially my family, who supported me – from those who drove me all over as a youth player to my wife and children who have been here my whole career. From a player’s standpoint, it kind of caps things off for me, so it’s definitely an honor and something that I’m proud of.”

Meola was a member of three U.S. World Cup squads, serving as the team’s No. 1 goalkeeper for the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups and then as a reserve in 2002. In 12 years, between 1988 and 2006, Meola earned 100 caps and 32 shutouts (second all-time behind Kasey Keller), while recording 37 victories. Meola was one of the top goalkeepers in Major League Soccer, highlighted by his 2000 campaign with the Kansas City Wizards that included an MLS Cup, MLS MVP, MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and MLS Cup MVP accolades.

“It’s certainly the greatest honor you can have in your chosen profession, to be mentioned in the same breath as the great people that were before you and one day the great ones that will come after you,” Meola said. “I’m certainly humbled and I’m honored, and I’m thrilled to think that somebody actually thought I was worthy of it.”

Armstrong garnered 81 caps in 73 starts in his eight years with the National Team from 1987-1994. His 2,128 minutes in 1993 rank second all-time for one year behind only fellow 1993 defender Mike Lapper (2,205). He played in all three matches during the USA’s trip to the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

DiCicco set an unprecedented standard, posting a Women’s National Team-record 103 victories in 119 matches during his head coaching tenure from 1994-1999. DiCicco memorably led his squad to the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup championship against China on July 10 in front of a sellout crowd of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.


I won't complain since they still got an overwhelming majority of the vote but I have no clue how Reyna (96.08%) and Meola (90.20%) didn't get 100%. I realize that's impossible with human beings but nobody had more influence on U.S. men's soccer in the 1990s than these two and they deserved that further honor. Oh well.

2012 Player Ballot Results
Claudio Reyna 96.08 %
Tony Meola 90.20
Marco Etcheverry 58.82
Joe-Max Moore 57.84
Shannon MacMillan 49.02
Carlos Valderrama 43.14
Cindy Parlow 36.27
Peter Vermes 35.29
Chris Armas 34.31
Jason Kreis 30.39
* Only includes top 10 in votes received

2012 Veteran Ballot Results
Desmond Armstrong 53.66 %
Teofilo Cubillas 51.22
John Doyle 51.22
Glenn Myernick 48.78
Linda Hamilton 43.90
Shep Messing 39.02
Mike Sorber 39.02
George Best 31.71
Brian Quinn 26.83
Bill McPherson 14.63
Steve Trittschuh 14.63

2012 Builder Ballot Results
Tony DiCicco 61.22 %
Francisco Marcos 48.98
Chuck Blazer 44.90
Bob Bradley 40.82
Don Garber 40.82
Sigi Schmid 38.78
Fritz Marth 20.41
Dr. Robert Contiguglia 16.33


Congratulations to the Class of 2012!





Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Breaking Down Italy's Squad For Tomorrow's Friendly Vs. The U.S.


I will be the first to admit that I can't stomach watching Serie A because of all its constant flopping, whining and lack of goals so I'm not nearly as up to date on Italian club soccer as I am on the English Premier League. Still, the Champions League proves year after year that Italian teams like AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, Roma etc. are always some of the top ones in Europe.

What follows is Italy's roster for tomorrow's match vs. the United States tomorrow at 2:45 ET (ESPN 2, ESPN3.com).

Italy squad
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St Germain)
Defenders: Emiliano Viviano (Palermo; Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Davide Astori (Cagliari), Federico Balzaretti (Palermo), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Domenico Criscito (Zenit St Petersburg), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino)
Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Thiago Motta (Inter Milan), Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
Forwards: Fabio Borini (Roma), Sebastian Giovinco (Parma), Alessandro Matri (Juventus), Giampaolo Pazzini (Inter Milan).


You'll notice that Mario Balotelli-Italy's talented striker-isn't on the roster which is good news for U.S. fans. The Manchester City star is one of the best goal-scorers in the world but he's also the biggest clown in professional soccer. He recently served a four-game suspension in the EPL for stepping on an opposing player and reports say that Italian coach Cesare Prandelli sent Balotelli on his way after breaking a team rule in training camp.

The other familiar name for U.S. soccer fans that you won't see on the field tomorrow for Italy is Giuseppe Rossi. The talented striker that was born in New Jersey and plays for Villareal but chose to compete for Italy rather than the United States. He's out with an injury.

Italy has always favored the 4-4-2 formation (four defenders, four midfielders, two strikers) so I expect them to roll that out tomorrow in Genoa. The main reason that they have been so routinely good is that they have a system and they stick to it. They're always one of if not the best defensive national team and their midfielders are excellent at possessing and distributing to talented guys up front.

Buffon is getting up their in age (34) but he's generally regarded as the top goalkeeper in the world. If the U.S. can put a goal or dare I say two, they'll be in great shape. De Rossi is emerging as Italy's next great midfielder while Pirlo is one of my favorite midfielders to watch based on his workrate and sublime crosses.

By far, this will the U.S.' toughest test thus far in the up and down Jurgen Klinsmann era (4-4-1 overall, 7 goals scored, 7 goals allowed). The good news for American fans is that all the pressure will be on Italy since they're at home and they're more highly regarded than the U.S. It's all about getting off to a solid start; if Italy scores a goal or two in the first half, the U.S. will probably have no chance to recover. Conversely, if it's scoreless at the half or if somehow the U.S. finds themselves leading at the break, anything is possible.

Missing Donovan and Jones will definitely hurt the U.S. while Torres and Chandler at this point are much more replaceable. Donovan is one of their best players and Jones has become an interesting option in the middle of the field. To make up for those absences, the U.S.' best players like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra and Jozy Altidore all need to play well in Genoa. If one or more of them have less than decent performances, it will be tough for the U.S. to overcome that.





Thursday, February 23, 2012

Less Than A Week Away From U.S. Men Vs. Italy, Klinsmann Names His 21-Man Roster


After not playing a good team for months and not fielding a full squad for the same period, the U.S. men's national team will look much more like itself next week as they meet Italy on Wednesday, February 29 in Genoa.

Today, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named his 21-man roster and I'm happy to say that it's full of all the big guns (Howard, Dempsey, Donovan, Bocanegra, Altidore, Bradley, etc).

The match will be at 2:45 EST and it will be available on ESPN2, ESPN3.com and Galavision so you have no excuse not to watch it or at least set your DVR for later. This will be the first time the U.S. has played the four-time World Cup champions in Italy since 2002.

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION - DETAILED ROSTER
GOALKEEPERS (3) : Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (7) : Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Timmy Chandler (N├╝rnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)
MIDFIELDERS (6) : Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim)
FORWARDS (5) : Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Edson Buddle (LA Galaxy), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)

The players that stick out to me the most are Rimando, Cameron, Parkhurst, Johnson, Torres, Williams and Boyd. These are all younger guys that have obviously caught Klinsmann's attention in earlier camps and national team matches when the stars weren't available. Boyd is the only guy on the roster trying to earn his first CAP. He originally was on the U-23 team but since he's based in Germany, he deserves a shot with more talented players around him. Plus, I'm sure he'll be a center piece of the U.S. Olympic team this summer.

From USSoccer.com
“We’re looking forward to having all the European-based players back in the roster and picking up where we left off with them from the Slovenia game,” said Klinsmann, who is on a three-match winning streak dating back to the 3-2 victory on Nov. 15, 2011, against Slovenia. “I’m excited about getting everybody together and challenging a world-class team like former World Cup winner Italy on their home soil. I think we have put a very competitive roster together. This roster was co-developed with the U-23 team because we wanted them to have a great preparation game before they go into Olympic qualifying in March. Our roster is highly competitive and ready to give them a real fight.”

Bradley has some extra incentive to play well for the U.S. since he's the only American currently plying his trade in Italy. In fact, he's started 22 straight games at Chievo (Serie A, transferred there last summer) and was named man of the match in a 1-0 win over Genoa last weekend.

Showing how far U.S. men's soccer has come, nine leagues in eight different countries are represented by these 21 players. I'm not sure of the record (if such things are kept track of) but that has to be near the most variety ever for the United States. Good stuff.

By winning three games against lesser competition (Slovenia, Venezuela and Panama), the U.S. has hopefully built up some confidence that will only continue to grow and flourish when they have a full lineup and extended training camps. Love them or hate them (and I speak for most non-Italians) when I say I despise them, Italy is always one of the top teams in the world. This should be a great test, probably the stiffest one so far in Klinsmann's short tenure. As a friendly, it's more about performance than result but a tie or win on Italian soil would be something great to build off of before the U.S. begins its busy summer schedule.

UPDATE 2/25: Jones is out with a right calf strain suffered earlier this week. With players arriving tomorrow in Genoa, Klinsmann said that he won't bring in another guy to take Jones' place. That means the U.S. will only dress 20 for the Italy match.

It's unfortunate to lose Jones, who captained the team in the Panama and Venezuela matches. He is the physical enforcer from the midfield position and you know he would have been good for a nice tackle or two of some greasy Italians.

Tonight, Torres hurt himself in a match for Pachuca. Pseudo experts on Twitter made it seem like he'll be out on Wednesday with a muscle strain so expect Klinsmann to call in somebody since that leaves him missing two midfielders that would have played. Sacha Kljestan has to be the most likely call up candidate if Torres can't play.

UPDATE 2/26: This is getting silly, Chandler has been ruled out after getting hurt in Germany for Nuremberg in a 1-0 win over Werder Bremen on Saturday. Apparently, it's a gluteal muscle injury that will keep him out of U.S. vs. Italy and two weeks of action with his club.

UPDATE 2/27: Donovan is out with bronchitis so Klismann called in Kljestan and Brek Shea to make up for his absence, not to mention Torres, Chandler and Jones.




Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Onyewu Is Hurt Once Again, This Time At Sporting Lisbon


If I ever believed in Oguchi Onyewu or counted on him to be a cornerstone of the U.S. men's national team, I would have gone insane many years ago.

The talented but injury-prone defender is hurt again, this time at his latest club-Sporting Lisbon. According to Soccer By Ives, Gooch will miss two months after suffering a torn ligament and meniscus in his right knee.

Onyewu suffered the injury in Sporting's victory over Pacos de Ferreira over the weekend, needing to be substituted off after 27 minutes. He had been enjoying a resurgence at Sporting after a failed and injury-altered stint at AC Milan and a loan spell at FC Twente in recent years. In addition to rediscovering his defensive form, Onyewu had recaptured his athleticism and scored five goals this season, emerging as a top aerial threat off set pieces.

This is relevant to Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. since they play a friendly in Italy a week from tomorrow. The U.S.' central defense is already a mess so this setback only hinders them further. Not to mention the more important business of World Cup 2014 qualifiers which start in June. Who knows in Onyewu will be healthy, fit and ready to play by then?





Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Everton's Player Of The Month For January: Landon Donovan


Sadly, Landon Donovan's second loan at Everton will come to an end on Saturday as Everton faces Blackpool in a fifth-round FA Cup match.

Still, there has been much to celebrate after Donovan has delivered the goods once again for a solid club in the English Premier League. On Tuesday, he was rewarded with the Everton player of the month award for January.

It's the second time in three years that the Los Angeles Galaxy and U.S. midfielder won the Everton player of the month for January. Donovan assisted on five of Everton's eight goals in January and he added another one last weekend.

"It feels good," Donovan told Everton TV. "I think there was a point in January where no one was too happy with the way things were going, but the last few weeks have been a welcome change and a lot better, and it's been a lot more fun to be a part of, for sure."

Highlights included a 1-0 Premier League victory over first-place Manchester City.

"Any time you can beat the leaders it's a pretty special night," Donovan said, "and my dad was there that night, so it made it a little extra special for me."

Two years ago, Donovan scored two goals in 13 games during his first loan to Everton.

"It has a lot of similarities, the way it feels, to the first time," the 29-year-old told Everton TV. "I don't think anything will replicate that first trip here, but I've really enjoyed it. It's been a little easier in a way because I know the people, I know the roads, I know the area."


Thierry Henry couldn't go out on a high note today as Arsenal got whacked 4-0 by AC Milan in a Champions League round of 16 first leg. Let's hope that Donovan can have a little more memorable departure from England. He deserves it after his stellar play for the Toffees once again.





Saturday, February 11, 2012

Another Spectacular Day For U.S. Soccer


There have been more and more of them lately but today was truly a great day to be a fan of U.S. soccer.

A quick run through to the highlights all from the past 24 hours:

1) The U.S. women beat New Zealand 2-1 in a friendly at FC Dallas Stadium. My girl Alex Morgan (who's going to be in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue that drops this week!) saved the U.S. from a shocking defeat as she scored on a header in the 88th minute and another header in stoppage time. She has four goals in her past two games. The U.S. will next play on Feb. 29 (same day as U.S. men vs. Italy) against Denmark in the Algrave Cup held in Portugal.

2) It was another big performance by Everton teammates Landon Donovan and Tim Howard as the Toffees beat Chelsea 2-0. Donovan picked up an assist on Denis Stracqualursi's goal that made it 2-0 in the 71st minute. Howard notched the clean sheet.

3) Clint Dempsey scored in Fulham's 2-0 win over Stoke. It was credited as an own goal which is curious since Dempsey's blast went off Stoke goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen's hands, the crossbar, his back then in. It was all Dempsey as far as I'm concerned, he smoked the ball from well outside the box and it dipped at Sorensen, causing it to eat him up (in baseball fielding terms).

4) Charlie Davies made his return to French soccer after nearly 2.5 years out with injuries and playing in MLS. He came on as a sub in the 78th minute for Sochaux. On loan at D.C. United last season, he scored 11 goals in 26 games.

5) In likely his last EPL game ever, Thierry Henry added to his legend by scoring the game-winner in stoppage time for Arsenal, who beat Sunderland 2-1. It was a huge win too since it put Arsenal ahead of Chelsea and into fourth place (the cut off spot for Champions League).

Henry's final game on loan from the New York Red Bulls to the Gunners will be on Wednesday vs. AC Milan in a Champions League Round of 16 match. I wouldn't put it past him to get one more goal to the three he's already bagged. Furthermore, I have to give him and MLS credit; I guess he's not washed up and MLS might not be so bad if Donovan, Henry and Robbie Keane have all made an immediate impact in their returns to England.

Here's Morgan's second goal, sweet assist from Abby Wambach to head the ball to her. The crazy thing is I read both goals were headers and they both went off the post and in. Talk about being on fire.






Friday, February 10, 2012

I Don't Even Like Manchester United But I Will Still Salute Ryan Giggs' Longevity


Everybody knows that I hate Manchester United but in all sports, I'm always fascinated by players that can last for 15+ years.

Today, Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs signed a one-year extension, which will commit him to the EPL giant for a 23rd straight season.

The only player to score in every Premier League season he played, the 38-year-old Giggs made his first-team debut in March 1991 and has never played for another club.

He beat Bobby Charlton's long-standing appearance record in the 2008 Champions League final and has played 898 matches for United, 140 more than Charlton.

United manager Alex Ferguson says "he has constantly reinvented himself, adapted to the changing nature of the game and retained that desire and hunger for success."

The Welsh living legend isn't a novelty either; if you've watched any of the Red Devils' games the last few seasons you've noticed that while Giggs isn't the same player he once was, he is still more than capable of giving them a lift off the bench.

He's an inspiration to soccer players around the globe that shows you don't have to be wildly talented or athletically gifted to forge an incredible career. Giggs' best characteristics are toughness, intelligence, adaptability and a high level of fitness.

Congrats Ryan, here's to many more years of success with Manchester United.





Thursday, February 9, 2012

U.S. Women Will Play Japan & Brazil In April Tournament, In Japan


What a day for U.S. soccer. On the heels of the U.S. men's date with Brazil being officially announced this afternoon, I just found out that the U.S. women will face not only Japan but also Brazil in a three day span in April.

For Pia Sundhage's team, it's all part of the Women's Kirin Challenge Cup which will take place in Japan. The U.S. will get tasty rematches from the 2011 World Cup against the team they lost to in the final (Japan) in penalty kicks and the team they beat in the quarterfinals (Brazil) that featured one of the best endings I've ever seen in a soccer game.

The U.S. women will play Japan on April 1 at Yurtec Stadium in Sendai and Brazil on April 3 at Fukuda Denshi Arena in Chiba.

For the U.S. soccer press release:
In the newly created three-nation tournament, named the Women’s Kirin Challenge Cup, Japan will also face Brazil April 5 at Homes Stadium in Kobe. The three-team competition features three of the top four teams in the current FIFA Women’s World Rankings.

“This trip is fantastic,” said U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage. “Playing two of the world’s best teams almost back-to-back will be a tremendous challenge for our entire roster. Obviously, we are very familiar with both Japan and Brazil, and we have the ultimate respect for their coaches, their players and the technical and tactical abilities of both teams. There are no better games to prepare you for Olympic competition than facing this caliber of teams away from home.”

The match in Sendai will be the second meeting between the two Women’s World Cup finalists since that tournament, as the teams will also meet on March 5 during group play at the Algarve Cup in Portugal.

Sendai, located on the east coast of northern Japan, suffered catastrophic damage from the magnitude 9.0 offshore earthquake on March 11, 2011 (just nine days after the USA had played Japan in the 2011 Algarve Cup), which triggered a massive, destructive tsunami. Yurtec Stadium, which was built in 1997 and seats 20,000, was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami.

Chiba, which is a large suburb of Tokyo, is located near the east coast of central Japan. Fukuda Denshi Arena, which was completed in 2005, seats 18,500.

Of course, the USA’s most recent meeting with Brazil was one for the ages. The USA weathered a controversial ejection and played more than an hour of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinal with 10 players before dramatically tying the score in the 122nd minute on Abby Wambach’s now famous header goal, the latest ever scored in a World Cup.


The U.S. women will play New Zealand next Saturday (Feb. 11) at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. That game will be streamed live on ussoccer.com at 4 EST. That's the start of a busy couple weeks for Sundhage and Co. as they'll head to Portugal for the annual Algrave Cup. The U.S. will play Denmark (Feb. 29), Norway (March 2) and Japan (March 5) in Group B play.

So yeah, get ready to see plenty of the U.S. men and women's national teams as the weather starts to get better and spring is in the air which means one thing to me: time for some high level soccer for both of our squads.





Bring On Brazil! (Ducks Bicycle Kick)


After nearly a month of breathlessly waiting (guilty as charged), the U.S. men's game vs. Brazil was formally set today with the international friendly to be held on May 30 in Landover, MD (at the home of the Washington Redskins).

Regardless of where it is, I'm obviously psyched to see the Americans match up with one of the world's true superpowers but I have to say that I'm disappointed I won't be able to attend it. The rumors were that Gillette Stadium and Landover were the finalists so it's a shame that we won't have this great game in our backyards. Oh well.

Brazil, a five-time World Cup champion, will be playing the Americans for the fourth time in four years. Brazil has won all three in that span - twice at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa and a 2-0 exhibition win at East Rutherford, N.J., in August 2010.

The U.S. is 1-15 against Brazil, winning in 1998 at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
"When you talk about Brazil, you are speaking of one of the most gifted football playing nations in the world,'' U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "It is our goal to be able to match up against teams like Brazil on a consistent basis, so this is an amazing opportunity.''

Before World Cup qualifying begins, the Americans play at Italy on Feb. 29, then plan to host Scotland on May 26. They play at Canada on June 3 before opening qualifying at home against Antigua and Barbuda on June 8.

Host of the 2014 World Cup, Brazil will play Mexico on June 3 at Arlington, Texas, and Argentina on June 9 at East Rutherford.


You'll remember that the 1-0 win in the '98 Gold Cup was when U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller absolutely stole it by playing one of the best games I've ever seen.

As I keep saying, over and over, this summer is going to be incredible if you have even a passing interest in soccer. The U.S. will play some intriguing friendlies before beginning their World Cup 2014 journey. Plus, Brazil will be stateside for a trio of juicy meetings. Brazil vs. Mexico and Brazil vs. Argentina is something you would see in a World Cup quarterfinal or semifinal, a really high-level match that should attract monster crowds and media attention.

It seems that the location of the Scotland match is TBA so let's keep our fingers crossed that maybe the U.S. men's national team will come to Foxborough for the start (Saturday) of Memorial Day weekend. What a treat that would be!

UPDATE 2/15: Once again, my wish doesn't come true as the U.S. men will face Scotland in Jacksonville. Wait, what? Ugh, crappy choice. Hope there's plenty of Scots in snowbird country.

The U.S. men's first World Cup 2014 qualifier on June 8 against Antigua and Barbuda will be held in Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium (home of the Buccaneers).





Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Only In England: Fabio Capello Resigns A Mere Four Months Before Euro 2012


It's times like these that I wish I was still studying abroad in London for a semester.

The England national team is a constant source of drama and gossip but today it was bombarded with some wild news as head coach Fabio Capello resigned.

Apparently, he was upset with England taking John Terry's captaincy. Really Fabio? Please tell me there was more to it than this. Whatever the case may be, England is left without a manager only four months before Euro 2012 starts. Gee, do you think they'll do well in that?

The good news for English fans is that it sounds like Tottenham's Harry Redknapp is the frontrunner to get the position; not to sound xenophobic but why did they overthink it so much the last two times (Capello, Sven-Goran Eriksson) by not hiring an Englishman?

One of my main beliefs for national teams is that if you're a power, you should hire one of your own. Be that a former star player or a coach in your domestic league. So while it makes perfect sense for a place like the United States to reach out to somebody above its weight class (Jurgen Klinsmann), countries like England, Brazil, Spain, Italy, etc. should keep it simple and get somebody that understands the culture, speaks the language fluently and most importantly, can relate to the players.

Capello left England with a 28-8-6 record with the Three Lions. That looks great until you quickly remember that he didn't win any trophies and those numbers are padded from playing the dredge of Europe and losing to most worthy opposition.

As always, covering English soccer has to be one of the greatest writing jobs in the soccer world. You could devote a blog just to their national team and all the stuff that happens with them off the field.





Friday, February 3, 2012

John Terry Is Still A Piece Of Trash


In case you forgot, John Terry would like to remind you that he is one of the biggest scumbags in all of professional soccer.

The Chelsea defender and mainstay of England's national team was stripped of his captaincy today with his country due to allegations of racism against Queens Park defender Anton Ferdinand.

I used to love Chelsea and Terry was my favorite player along with Frank Lampard but I have a hard time rooting for them and him while he's still a Blue.

England head coach Fabio Capello will reportedly try a rotation of captains, including Steven Gerrard of Liverpool, Lampard, Manchester City's Gareth Barry, Liverpool's Glen Johnson and Tottenham's Scott Parker.

The source says the Italian tactician will implement a system of rotating captains for England's games leading up to Euro2012. He will start with the current vice-captain, Gerrard, when England plays the Netherlands on Feb. 29.

"An England squad will be selected next week and is sure to include Steven Gerrard, which means he is most likely to be named captain for that game but, of course, there is no guarantee that he will be fit at the end of the month when the game is played," the report says.

Gerrard has played 89 times for England, and served as its captain at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He has been left out of the England squad since Nov. 2010, as he battled injuries for much of the next 13 months.

Capello re-installed Terry as captain in March 2011 -- he had been stripped of the role in Feb. 2010 after his alleged affair with a teammate's made headlines -- to lead England through Euro2012 qualification.


As we said when the first drama with Terry sprung up in 2010, before the World Cup, nobody does soap operas like England. The team is always supremely talented but either through bad management, chemistry or poor performance, they routinely come up short in international competitions. I expect Euro 2012 to be no different with the Three Lions doing down in flames well before the final.





Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hey Canada, Get Ready For Another Beating


It was announced this evening that the U.S. men's national team will take on Canada on June 4 at Toronto's BMO Field in an international friendly.

This will be the first U.S. match in Canada since 1997 and as such it will be given the proper stage: a 7 p.m. kickoff and live broadcast on NBC Sports Network.

Part of the Centenary celebrations for the Canada Soccer Association, the match will be the final tune-up for both teams before the start of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying. The U.S. opens play June 8 at home against Antigua and Barbuda in Group A, while Canada travels to face Cuba in Group C.

“First of all, we are honored to be chosen to be part of Canada’s Centenary Celebration,” said Klinsmann. “This is exactly the type of challenge we are looking for as we grow the team and get ready for the start of World Cup qualifying. There is a great history in the rivalry, and Canada is a team we could see in the final round of qualifying. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

The U.S. has a 3-6-1 lifetime record in matches in Canada in the series dating back to 1925 but has won the last two times out. The most recent visit came in the final round of qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup on Nov. 9, 1997, when an early goal by Claudio Reyna and two from Roy Wegerle delivered the U.S. a 3-0 victory that clinched the USA’s ticket to France.

Overall, the United States has done exceptionally well against Canada for the past two decades. The U.S. is in the midst of a 14-game unbeaten streak (8-0-6) since dropping a 2-0 decision to Canada on April 2, 1985, in Vancouver. The lifetime series record stands at 13-8-9 in the USA’s favor.


I can't think of a better way for the U.S. men to get ready for World Cup qualifying than by throwing a serious beating on Canada, just like the U.S. women did last weekend. The Canadian men's national team is a joke so I don't expect much push back from all their failed hockey players.

On Twitter, along with the news of this game, I saw more information about other friendlies for the U.S. men this summer. It looks like they'll face Brazil in Washington, D.C. and not Gillette Stadium (keeping my fingers crossed until I hear otherwise, officially). Plus (and this was new information), they reportedly will face Scotland as well.

Clearly, both of those matches are much more intriguing to me. Stay tuned as we find out the exact details.





Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Clint Dempsey Continues To Find The Back Of The Net For Fulham Football Club

Transfer day came and went yesterday in European soccer and Clint Dempsey stayed at Fulham despite some rumors that he might be going to a bigger, more iconic club.

Dempsey is on fire with Fulham right now. He scored the lone goal for the home team today as Fulham tied West Brom 1-1 at Craven Cottage in an English Premier League match.

I wish I could give you a better highlight but all I could get was this post from Deadspin.

The goal came in the 69th minute and it gave Fulham a temporary 1-0 lead. West Bromwich tied it in the 82nd minute. It was Dempsey's seventh goal in his last three matches at Craven Cottage; he fell off his hat trick pace (of the last two games) but he still managed to find the scoresheet.

By no means was it Dempsey's most electrifying strike, I would argue that the through ball was better, but it was still a coolly placed finish from one of the world's top goal-scorers.

Your move Donovan.

PS. I'm loving the back and forth between these two American stars in England. It seems like every game brings a new gift from either of these guys. Just imagine if they can play like this together under Jurgen Klinsmann. Now that is an exciting thought.