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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Women's Olympic Soccer Tournament 2012 Draw Unveiled

The Women's Olympic Soccer Tournament 2012 Draw was held today and as you can see below, the U.S. women are in Group G.

They will unquestionably be the favorite in that Group over France, Colombia and South Korea. What's more, all they have to do is finish second to move on and even the top two third-place teams (out of three groups) will move on too. It's hard not to advance to the quarterfinals since eight of 12 teams overall will at least make it that far.

The U.S. women open against France on July 25 at Hampden Park. They follow that up by facing Colombia on July 28 at Hampden Park then close group play against North Korea on July 31 at Old Trafford (home of Manchester United).

What I'm saying is that you can assume that they'll get to the quarterfinals on August 3. If they win there, they'll advance to the semifinals on August 6 at either Wembley Stadium or Old Trafford. The Gold Medal match is August 9 at Wembley. If for no other reason than history, it would be pretty sweet to see the U.S. women compete in two of the most famous soccer stadiums in the world.

This should be a fun tournament especially since the U.S. will be one of the top teams barring something crazy. You have to like their position at least now, a few months away.

Now, for the U.S. men's draw..........oh right.





Group E
July 25, 4.00pm BST; Millennium Stadium: Great Britain v New Zealand
July 25, 6.45pm BST; Millennium Stadium: Cameroon v Brazil

July 28, 2.30pm BST; Millennium Stadium: New Zealand v Brazil
July 28: 5.15pm BST; Millennium Stadium: Great Britain v Cameroon

July 31, 7.45pm BST; Ricoh Arena: New Zealand v Cameroon
July 31, 7.45pm BST; Millennium Stadium: Great Britain v Brazil

Group F

July 25, 5.00pm BST; Ricoh Arena: Japan v Canada
July 25, 7.45pm BST; Ricoh Arena: Sweden v South Africa

July 28, 12.00pm BST; Ricoh Arena: Canada v South Africa
July 28: 2.45pm BST; Ricoh Arena: Japan v Sweden

July 31, 2.30pm BST; Millennium Stadium: Canada v Sweden
July 31, 2.30pm BST; St James' Park: Japan v South Africa

Group G

July 25, 5.00pm BST; Hampden Park: United States v France
July 25, 7.45pm BST; Hampden Park: Colombia v North Korea

July 28, 5.00pm BST; Hampden Park: France v North Korea
July 28: 7.45pm BST; Hampden Park: United States v Colombia

July 31, 5.15pm BST; St James' Park: France v Colombia
July 31, 5.15pm BST; Old Trafford: United States v North Korea

Top two teams and two best third placed sides go through to the quarter-finals


August 3, 12.00pm BST; Hampden Park: Winner of F v Runner-up G
August 3, 2.30pm BST; St James' Park: Winner of G v Third Place E or F
August 3, 5.00pm BST; Millennium Stadium: Runner-up of E v Runner-up of F
August 3, 7.30pm BST; Ricoh Arena: Winner of E v Third Place F or G


August 6, 5.00pm BST; Wembley Stadium: Winner of QF 1 v Winner of QF 3
August 6, 7.45pm BST; Old Trafford: Winner of QF 2 v Winner of QF 4


August 9, 1.00pm BST; Ricoh Arena


August 9, 7.45pm BST; Wembley Stadium

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

U.S. Women Will Meet Sweden And Japan In June

It seems like every other month, the U.S. women's national team faces Japan and that's a good thing since the 2011 World Cup champions have quickly morphed into their biggest rival over the past calendar year.

It was announced today by U.S soccer that those teams will renew acquaintances in June while the U.S. will also meet Sweden in the aptly titled Swedish Invitational. The U.S. plays head coach Pia Sundhage's homeland on June 16 in Halmstad, Sweden. They follow that up by playing Japan on June 20 in Goteborg, Sweden.

Both matches will serve as more than just juicy friendlies. The U.S. women will be defending their Olympic gold medal at the London Games beginning in late July. You won't find much better preparation for those matches than by meeting Sweden (on their home turf) and Japan, unquestionably the top women's team in the world at the moment. Plus, Japan is the only team that should be favored over the U.S. women at any time now. Sweden isn't the superpower they once were in women's soccer but there still one of the top European countries.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

U.S. Men's & Women's National Teams Unveil Underwhelming New Home Jersey

For the first time in U.S. soccer history, the U.S. men's and women's national teams will wear the same home jersey designed by Nike.

They were unveiled yesterday to much hype and although I like the concept of having one jersey for both squads, the execution leaves something to be desired. I would describe these jerseys as Celtic (Scottish club) with red instead of green. I like Celtic's jerseys but these U.S. ones seem rushed and somewhat lame. They are too basic and lack any creative touch or flair.

Don't get me wrong, I realize that this is all about marketing and making money while both of these teams are more popular than they've ever been before. If there's one thing European teams do right, they find a million different ways to make money off their gullible, honk fans. I'm not sure that Americans will be as quick to pick up these new jerseys since they're bound to get unflattering publicity ("they look like Where's Waldo," said Tony Kornheiser on Pardon The Interruption).

Both teams will debut their new home kits (European term for jerseys) in May. The U.S. men will wear them May 26 vs. Scotland at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. The U.S. women will debut their female version the next day as they host China on May 26 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

Along with the jerseys, they'll wear blue shorts with white socks that have a blue stripe at the top. No word on when the new road jerseys will come out but being the geniuses that they are, I'm sure Nike will make it an event when the U.S. teams hit the road.

Monday, April 9, 2012

10 Goals In His Last 12 English Premier League Matches For Clint Dempsey At Fulham

Clint Dempsey has shown no signs of slowing down his incredible goal-scoring binge at Fulham in the 2011-12 campaign.

This afternoon, he helped his club rally from a bogus 1-0 deficit as they tied Chelsea 1-1 at Craven Cottage.

His header in the 82nd minute was off a corner and it tied the game at 1. Fulham earned two corners in a row and they didn't go to waste as Dempsey was able to free himself from John Terry and place it in the corner of the net away from Peter Cech.

It was Dempsey's 10th goal in his 1ast 12 English Premier League matches. He has a club-record 16 for Fulham this season (22 in all competitions).

The victory meant Chelsea (16-8-9) fell two points behind Tottenham and Newcastle, who are both tied in fourth place with 59 points. Instead, they're currently in sixth place with 57 points. Fulham (11-12-10) was able to move up to ninth place with 43 points.

The Blues benefited from a gift penalty kick in the last minute of the first half as Frank Lampard scored following Danny Murphy's phantom-challenge on Salomon Kalou.

Fulham can reach as high as seventh in the EPL this season and they still get to face the two teams closest to them: Everton-7th with 47 points and Liverpool-8th with 43 points in the upcoming fixtures.

Up next, Fulham hosts Wigan on Saturday, April 21 (10 a.m. EST kickoff).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Clint Dempsey Continues His Remarkable Season At Fulham

I have truly run out of compliments to say about Clint Dempsey this season at Fulham.

The American midfielder scored two more goals this afternoon as Fulham won 3-0 at Bolton. For the season, he has a career-high 21 goals in all competitions including 15 for Fulham (a club record).

If you missed the match, check Fox Soccer Channel for the highlights since both of Dempsey's goals were awesome and they showed off the versatility of his game.

In the 30th minute, he made it 1-0 Fulham when he placed a free kick over the Bolton wall and in the right corner of the net. It was hit with some pace too since it came from well outside the box.

He capped off a great first half for the road team as he headed in a Damien Duff cross in the 45th minute. It was a beautiful counterattack by Fulham as they took control of the ball and worked it down the flank before putting it in the box where they had numbers.

Stuck in the middle (10th place in the English Premier League), Fulham can neither advance to the Champions League (Top 4) or Europa League (No. 5) next season nor worry about relegation (18th-20th place). So they're basically playing out the string on a decent but not great season. With basically a month left (last match on May 13) and six matches remaining (3 home/3 away), it's time to savor the meaningful ones.

There's none bigger at Craven Cottage (their home) than on Monday as Fulham hosts Chelsea at 3 p.m. EST on ESPN2. Other games to watch for include Fulham at Everton on April 28: Dempsey vs. Tim Howard; Fulham at Liverpool on May 1 and Fulham at Tottenham on May 13. The other opponents are vs. Wigan April 21 (who's facing relegation) and vs. Sunderland May 6 (who's tied with Fulham). The Chelsea and Tottenham matches are the most interesting since those clubs are in the mix for the Champions League but in theory, all the remaining matches carry deep meaning in one way or another to Fulham so pay attention.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Brazil Needs Some Work On Its Set Piece Defense

The U.S. women's national team took care of business this morning in Japan as they beat Brazil 3-0 in the second and final game of the Kirin Challenge Cup.

Brazil was very shorthanded as the iconic Marta sat out (why I don't know). They didn't help themselves as they gave up two early goals in the first half then the U.S. tacked on another in the second half for a comfortable win.

All three U.S. goals came on set pieces, although only one was clean. In the 18th minute, Christie Rampone sent a free kick into the box that was deflected off Rachel Buehler's heel right to Carli Lloyd. She's not usually accurate when she shoots but Lloyd didn't miss on that one.

Five minutes later, Lauren Cheney hit a cross off a free kick that Shannon Boxx headed in.

Substitute Amy Rodriguez scored in the 83rd minute on a similar play to the Lloyd strike. Cheney's free kick was knocked down by Abby Wambach then Rodriguez pounced on the rebound which took a deflection off a Brazilian defender.

American goalkeeper Hope Solo had a quiet game as she only had to make one save for the shutout.

The U.S.' next game is Saturday, May 27 (Memorial Day weekend) against China in Chester, PA. It's a friendly but against more top-level competition.

Pia Sundhage's team improved to 10-1-1 in 2012 as they beat Brazil in their first meeting since last summer's memorable World Cup encounter. Nine Brazilians and 13 Americans saw the field today that also appeared in that one.

This margin of defeat was the largest for the U.S. against Brazil in 10 games (5-1 in 2004). Unlike their male counterparts, the U.S. women first of all will appear in the 2012 London Olympics plus they will undoubtedly be considered one of the favorites.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I'll Buy Anything That Clint Dempsey Is Selling (Within Reason)

Take it from me, somebody who hates advertisements on television as much as anyone I've ever met. I do anything I can (DVR, changing channels) to avoid wasting any time watching ads on TV. That is until now.

As seen above, U.S. men's national team superstar and Fulham's Clint Dempsey stars in a brief ad for his new Nike cleat (called "mercurial") that I'm sure will be rolled out any day now on ESPN's family of networks, Fox Soccer Channel, GolTV, etc.

In it, Dempsey walks into an empty locker room while talking in his crazy Texas accent then puts on his U.S. uniform and these bright red cleats. I'm no Don Draper but I'm shocked that Dempsey hasn't had more ads since his career has blown up in England.

If anything, he should be all over the place (literally and figuratively) as the U.S. men play some high profile friendlies in the States before they begin World Cup 2014 qualifying later this summer. This ad makes me want to run out (or hop online as it were) and purchase these cleats along with any other Dempsey approved gear I can get my hands on.

I can only imagine what effect this spot would have if I was younger and still playing competitive soccer more often. Kids love Dempsey, any smart marketer would figure that out quickly and take advantage.

U.S. Women Salvage A Tie Against Their Toughest Rival-Japan-In Kirin Challenge Cup

Well the U.S. women's national team have more than met their match in Japan. The U.S. is 0-2-1 in its last three contests against the 2011 Women's World Cup winners.

At least yesterday in the first game of the Kirin Challenge Cup in Sendai, Japan, the U.S. was able to tie Japan, 1-1. That sure beats a loss, especially because the U.S. rallied in the second half from a 1-0 deficit.

Japan went up 1-0 in the 32nd minute thanks to a defensive breakdown by the U.S. and a nice passing sequence by the hosts. Yukari Kinga got a chipped through ball and her first shot was saved by U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo. However, Kinga was able to get to the rebound before a few American defenders and she made it 1-0.

Alex Morgan scored her sixth goal in eight games (12th in 2012 and 10th since she became a starter vs. Canada in January) to tie it at 1 in the 73rd minute. It was controversial since at first, the refs called it off but then in true bush league fashion they ruled it was good seconds later. Weird stuff but they made the right call which is what matters.

Carli Lloyd had the ball taken away from her-so it wasn't a pass-plus it went off a Japan defender to Morgan. Finally, Morgan wasn't offside anyways.

The U.S. women will get a crack at their other biggest rival tomorrow as they face Brazil at 7 a.m. EST on ESPN2 and in Chiba, Japan in another Kirin Challenge Cup game. Fans can also follow along on's matchtracker and on their Twitter account: @ussoccer_wnt

Yesterday was the first draw of 2012 for the Americans who are 9-1-1. Both the loss and tie have come against Japan. The USA has now failed to beat Japan in three consecutive games, a rare feat for a U.S. opponent, but one Japan accomplished in three consecutive meetings with the USA between 2000-2004 when the teams tied three times.

The meeting on Tuesday with Brazil will be the first between the teams since the historic quarterfinal at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in which Abby Wambach scored the latest goal in World Cup history to tie the score and the Americans went on to win in a dramatic penalty kick shootout.