Thursday, May 31, 2012
It's a tough blow for him personally since he'd regained his starting spot at Chelsea during their run to the Champions League title. England will also miss his leadership and experience in the middle of the field.
At 33, you have to wonder how many big European and international competitions that Lampard will have left in his cleats. Let's hope that he doesn't go out like this though. Liverpool's Jordan Henderson has been called in to replace Lampard but since I've never even heard of him, I'm going to assume that Lampard is a better player even at this stage.
The injuries are starting to pile up for the Three Lions as Gareth Barry is also out and Scott Parker is banged up so his status is uncertain.
England's new manager Roy Hodgson had this to say about Chelsea's captain: “It’s a huge blow for the team, especially coming after the loss of another senior player in Gareth Barry. The fact that the doctor cannot guarantee Frank could take part in any of the group matches means we have to replace him in the central midfield area.
"Apart from it being a huge blow to me and the team, I’m especially disappointed for Frank himself. He has been in very good form and was looking forward to the tournament. He made a huge contribution towards us qualifying for the Euros so it is cruel to be forced out through injury just before the tournament.”
England is in Group D which on paper doesn't look too treacherous. They play France, Sweden and host Ukraine. Finishing in the Top-2 in that group shouldn't be that hard since they look like the best team of the four but I'm confident that England will find a way to screw it up. That's what they always do.
UPDATE 6/3: Chelsea defender Gary Cahill broke his jaw yesterday in England's 1-0 friendly win over Belgium. He's been replaced by Liverpool's Martin Kelly.
For the first 45 minutes against Brazil, the Americans mostly chased the ball and their superior opponents. However, in the second half the U.S. had more chances but they still were on the wrong end of a humbling 4-1 defeat at FedEx Field in Landover, MD.
As always with friendlies, the final result is much less meaningful than what your team can get out of it. In that sense, I'd say this was a a worthwhile time for Jurgen Klinsmann's team since they learned that they can play with Brazil (when they want to). They also realized how many things they have to tighten up in order to consistently compete at that level.
The match was basically lost in the first 26 minutes as Brazil put up two quick goals for a 2-0 lead. Oguchi Onyweu's hand ball resulted in a successful penalty kick by Neymar in the 12th minute.
Neymar was at it again 14 minutes later as his corner kick found Thiago Silva's head.
Despite rarely possessing the ball (an important concept in soccer), the U.S. pulled one back in the 45th minute when Herculez Gomez scored in his first start for the U.S. in almost two years. Michael Bradley made a nice run and hit Fabian Johnson with a through ball down the left flank. Johnson crossed it to the goalline and Gomez was there to run through it.
Brazil's latest budding superstar Neymar picked up his second assist in the 52nd minute by finding an unmarked Marcelo in the box, 3-1 Brazil.
Gomez nearly scored again in the 64th minute but his header from Johnson's cross was cleared off the line, Clint Dempsey had a chance to get it but he went to the ball with his wrong foot.
Neymar and Pato missed out on a carbon copy of Marcelo's goal in the 67th minute, Pato's shot beat Tim Howard but went off the post.
The U.S. buzzed Brazil's goal for about a 10-minute stretch there as Gomez's shot (from Dempsey) was saved and Cabral (Brazil's goalkeeper) made a nice stop on the rebound shot by Terrence Boyd. Off a U.S. corner, Bradley's header was tipped over the crossbar and Onyewu hit the bar with his header on Donovan's free kick.
Gooch's rough night was capped off by keeping Pato onside as the Brazilian forward made the most of his second chance, in the 87th minute, putting it low and hard into the side netting.
My takeaway from this game is that Gomez is playing the best soccer of his life, ditto for Bradley and Johnson has already solved the U.S.' black hole at left back. Nobody in their right mind expected the U.S. to beat Brazil and the long odds of that were compromised by the terrible start. Still, the U.S. didn't fold and they kept fighting. They also played much better in the second half and created many opportunities; I worry that finishing will continue to be an issue against the top-level squads like Brazil.
Only one more exhibition before the U.S. men begin 2014 World Cup qualifying a week from Friday against Antigua and Barbuda in Tampa Bay, FL. The U.S. will meet Canada on Sunday night (7 p.m., NBC Sports) in Toronto. It should be a fun way to prepare for the truly meaningful games. Win or lose, I can't get too worked up about friendlies.
Monday, May 28, 2012
The U.S. beat China 4-1 in a friendly tonight at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. The game wasn't on TV so I didn't catch it although it was streamed on ussoccer.com.
Morgan scored twice, China had an own goal and Abby Wambach closed it out. This was the second-to-last match in the United States (June 30 vs. Canada in Sandy, Utah) before the squad departs for the 2012 Olympics in London this summer.
China actually opened the scoring with a goal in the 22nd minute against the run of play. Morgan scored 12 minutes later with a left-footed shot. Wambach's pressure two minutes later following her header forced the own goal by a Chinese defender.
Morgan got her second of the game and 14th of the year (to lead the team) in the 50th minute after a long ball from Christie Rampone and another lethal blast off her impressive left foot. Wambach scored in the 83rd minute after a throw-in by Morgan and a nice spin move by Abby around her defender followed by a wicked shot.
Additional Match Notes:
The USA’s own goal was its first since July 10, 2011, against Brazil in the quarterfinal of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The USA upped its record to 11-1-1 on the year and will return to action next on June 16 against Sweden in Halmstad, Sweden. The USA also faces Japan on June 18 at the same venue.
Abby Wambach’s goal was the 135th of her international career. She sits only behind Mia Hamm (158) on the USA all-time scoring list.
Alex Morgan upped her career goal total to 24 in just 39 caps.
China had just one shot on goal during the match, and scored on it.
Sydney Leroux picked up the first yellow card of her career for a harsh tackle in the first minute of stoppage time.
Get used to seeing both the U.S. men's and women's team often this summer since they'll basically be on TV every time you turn it on. I know this makes me very happy and if you're reading this, you most likely feel the same way.
PS. That jersey looks a little better on Morgan. I'm still not a fan of it but seeing her in it is a much easier way to win me over with that lame combination of stripes.
The U.S. women have won the gold medal in the last two Olympics (2008, 2004) and they'll bring plenty of experience from those squads with midfielders Heather Mitts, Heather O'Reilly and Shannon Boxx (all playing on their third Olympic team) and U.S. captain and defender Christie Rampone who will be playing in her U.S. record fourth Olympics.
They will open Group G play at the Olympics with two matches at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland. The U.S. will first face France (12 p.m. ET) on July 25 – two days before the Olympic Opening Ceremonies – and then take on Colombia on July 28 (12 p.m. ET). The USA will finish group play against Korea DPR on July 31 (12:15 p.m. ET) at Old Trafford in Manchester, home to Manchester United.
The U.S. Women’s National Team has advanced to the gold medal game of every Olympic women’s soccer tournament. The USA won the inaugural gold medal in 1996 in Athens, Ga., won silver in 2000 in Sydney, Australia, and will be going for its third straight gold medal after standing atop the podium in Athens, Greece, in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.
U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team Roster by Position – Detailed Roster
GOALKEEPERS (2): Nicole Barnhart, Hope Solo
DEFENDERS (6): Rachel Buehler, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Kelley O’Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
MIDFIELDERS (6): Shannon Boxx, Lauren Cheney, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Megan Rapinoe
FORWARDS (4): Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, Abby Wambach
“As always, these players make it very difficult to select rosters, and for this Olympic team it was a long, productive and interesting process to cut the pool down to these 18,” said Sundhage. “The team is a mix of very experienced players and several new fresh faces. All the players are versatile, which is extremely important when you have just 16 field players on a roster. This is a group that is focused on some very high goals and it will be a pleasure to coach them in the Olympics.”
Sundhage also named four replacement players in midfielder Lori Lindsey and goalkeeper Jill Loyden – both members of the USA’s 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup team – twice-capped midfielder Meghan Klingenberg and forward Christen Press, who is uncapped but currently one of the top scorers in the Swedish First Division.
Sundhage will take the Olympic team plus the four alternates to Sweden for a two-week training camp that features matches against Sweden on June 16 and against Japan on June 18 as three of the world’s top women’s soccer nations continue their Olympic preparations. Both U.S. matches will be played in Halmstad, Sweden, about 90 miles south of Gothenburg.
U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team Roster Notes:
Six players make their first Olympic team – defenders Kelley O’Hara, Amy LePeilbet and Becky Sauerbrunn, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and forwards Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux.
Leroux is the only player on the 2012 Olympic team who was not a member of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup team.
Leroux, at age 22, is the youngest player on the roster. Rampone, at 36, is the oldest. Morgan is also 22, but will turn 23 in July.
Leroux is by far the least-capped player on the team, having appeared in just nine games for the USA, but has scored seven goals in those matches.
The average age of the U.S. Olympic team is just under 28 years old.
U.S. leading scorer Abby Wambach returns to the Olympics after missing 2008 with a broken leg. She scored the winning goal in the 2004 Olympic gold medal game in overtime against Brazil. Wambach has 134 career goals, second only in U.S. history to Mia Hamm.
Christie Rampone becomes the first U.S. player to be named to four Olympic teams.
Rampone is tied with four other U.S. players with 16 career Olympic matches played and should become the USA’s all-time leader in Olympic appearances this summer.
California leads all states with five members of the U.S. Olympic team calling the Golden State their home. Four players from New Jersey hail from the Garden State, meaning half the players on the team are from California or New Jersey.
Six players on the roster have been capped more than 100 times, led by Rampone who has played 256 times for the USA.
The average number of caps on the roster is an amazing 91.
Of the 16 field players on the roster, only defenders Sauerbrunn, O’Hara and LePeilbet have yet to score a full international goal.
All nominations for the U.S. Olympic Team are subject to USOC approval with the entire U.S. Olympic Team encompassing all sports to be officially named on July 9.
After last summer's great run to the World Cup Final but heartbreaking loss in penalty kicks to Japan, it's time for this particular group to leave their mark internationally in the form of a gold medal. The Olympics aren't quite the World Cup but it would be a nice start. I've also heard whispers that Sundhage is leaving the U.S. job after that tournament (which would be a welcome change in my opinion) so the team should be fired up to get it done and sending her out on a high note.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Well check that, I saw the highlights on TV and caught bits and pieces of the match between commercials during Celtics-Sixers and Red Sox-Rays but I won't be able to give my full thoughts until I get back to my DVR tomorrow night and can fully digest the game.
I felt like I had to write something though since it was such a positive result. Landon Donovan returned from an eight-month absence with the U.S. and he scored his first hat trick since 2007 (vs. El Salvador). It was his third career hat trick in international play, he also did it in 2003 vs. Cuba. It was a special night for Donovan who is up to 49 career goals for the U.S. and most impressively, he passed former defender Jeff Agos for most starts (125) in U.S. history.
Michael Bradley also scored one of the best U.S. goals in years and Jermaine Jones got on the scoresheet. Other than an own goal by Geoff Cameron, this was a complete romp by the U.S. over the hapless Scots who missed out on qualifying for Euro 2012.
It was the perfect way to kick off five games in 18 days (3 friendlies, 2 World Cup qualifiers) as the Americans won their fifth straight match following a 1-4-1 start under Jurgen Klinsmann. Nothing shows progress quite like changing to a more attacking 4-3-3 style while also giving Terrance Boyd his first career start and Joe Corona his first CAP. Perhaps the most positive aspect of this blowout was the fact that Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore didn't even suit up but they still hung five on Scotland.
Donovan scored in the third minute when he slammed home a rebound, in the 60th minute he scored off a pass from Jones and Bradley assisted Donovan's hat trick strike in the 65th minute.
Bradley's goal was a spectacular volley from outside the box in the 11th minute. Donovan passed it to him and Bradley one touched it into the upper right corner, truly a wonderful tally from a player who is really back with a vengeance after being left off the roster last summer.
Scotland didn't pressure Tim Howard much at all but he can't be faulted for Cameron's gaffe in the 15th minute when he chested down the ball right into the net.
Jones wrapped it up with his second goal for the U.S., a header in the 70th minute from who else but Donovan.
The U.S. won by four goals for the first time since beating Grenada 4-0 in the 2009 Gold Cup and the Americans scored five for the first time since routing Cuba 6-1 in a World Cup qualifier in 2008. The U.S. had not scored five goals against a European opponent since beating Norway 5-0 in 2006.
Things figure to get much more difficult on Wednesday as they host Brazil in Landover, MD. However, Dempsey and Altidore will likely be back on the field and most importantly, this win should give many of the younger more inexperienced players plenty of confidence moving forward. Jurgen's influence is really starting to show up in this team by how they play, both style wise and in results.
UPDATE 5/28: I watched the game tonight and all I can say is wow, what a romp. First of all, Scotland is complete trash. They honestly were lucky not to lose 7-0. Jose Torres hit the crossbar in the first half when he quickly took a free kick from outside the box then Donovan hit the post early in the second half (before he scored his second and third goals). Plus, they only had one decent chance: a cross that Howard punched away. They were lucky that Cameron gifted them an own goal because otherwise they wouldn't have scored in about 10 games playing like that.
What I loved most (besides Donovan's lethal finishing) was the midfield play of Bradley, Jones and Maurice Edu. They were superb and I have to say that I'm not big on needless flash but Torres is an unreal passer even if he needs to make the simple play a bit more from time to time. When you have a good midfield, that can possess the ball, you cover up other weaknesses on your squad. Fabian Johnson looks like a find, ditto for Terrence Boyd. If there are any other young German-Americans that Klinnsman can naturalize, by all means.
More than anything, it was beautiful to see the U.S. attack and counterattack the entire match. For a team that has played very defensively and conservatively for most of my life, it was a welcome change to see them have confidence in their abilities and not be afraid to take some risks when they could.
Finally, those new U.S. jerseys are terrible. Candy canes, Where's Waldo, whatever they remind you of is not a good connection. If they're going to become the power that they seemed destined to be, they can't be looking like a second-rate youth team with that ugly design. Try again Nike.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
They are training in Orlando, FL until May 25. Jurgen Klinsmann's team plays Scotland on Saturday (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network) in Jacksonville then goes to Landover, MD to play Brazil a week from Wednesday-May 30 (8 p.m., ESPN2). Today, Klinsmann announced his full 27-man roster, adding 11 to a group of 16 that was already selected. It will be reduced to 23 for the trio of friendlies. They're also playing Canada in Toronto on June 3 (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network) in the final match before World Cup qualifying begins in Tampa Bay on June 8 (7 p.m., ESPN) vs. mighty Antigua and Barbuda (which apparently is a real place).
UPDATED U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (7): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)
“We are excited now to get towards full numbers with the MLS guys and also the players from Europe who are coming in with great form,” said Klinsmann. “We want them to pick up the rhythm as fast as possible and make them understand that we are taking the next couple weeks very seriously. We will continue with our rhythm of two trainings a day and see where the players are really at before we make our final decisions on the 23-man roster for the upcoming games.”
ADDITIONAL ROSTER NOTES
Jozy Altidore finished his first season at AZ Alkmaar with 19 goals in all competitions, including 15 in league play and four in the Europa League.
Landon Donovan returns to the National Team for the first time since September of 2011. The USA’s all-time leading scorer also has the most appearances for any U.S. player in World Cup qualifying (35).
Chris Wondolowski is atop the MLS goalscoring chart, having tallied 11 goals in 12 matches for San Jose.
Oguchi Onyewu and Sporting Lisbon are playing in the Portuguese Cup final against Académica, seeking their 20th cup title.
With 19 goals in all competitions in the last year, Herculez Gomez could become the first U.S. player to win both an MLS Cup title and Mexican League title. Santos plays at home tonight against Monterrey in the second leg of the Liguilla final, having tied 1-1 in the first match.
Terrence Boyd finished with 20 goals for Borussia Dortmund’s second team, scoring a goal in the final that helped the team gain promotion to the Third Division.
Clarence Goodson captains Brondby today against Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjaelland. The visitors sit in second place in the league with two matches remaining, one point behind Copenhagen. If Nordsjaelland remain in the championship, Parkhurst will play the final match. If they are eliminated from winning the title, he reports tomorrow.
Juan Agudelo comes to camp just days after being traded to Chivas USA from the New York Red Bulls. Agudelo started in their 1-0 victory against the LA Galaxy last night.
Geoff Cameron and Graham Zusi both started the USA’s first two matches of 2012, consecutive 1-0 victories against Venezuela and Panama. Zusi scored the game-winner against Panama in only his second appearance for the United States.
The U.S. is riding a four-game win streak, including the memorable 1-0 win in Italy. A remarkable 42 players have earned caps since Klinsmann took over last summer. You'd have to say that with that type of review, he must have a pretty good feel for what the U.S. currently has in the pipeline in terms of national team caliber players.
These first three friendlies should all be interesting as the Americans compete against a European team that they rarely see (Scotland), the five-time world champions (Brazil) and one of their natural rivals (Canada).
The epic Champions League Final yesterday (Chelsea's improbable win at Bayern Munich) in penalty kicks was a perfect prelude to the summer of soccer: the U.S. men's and women's friendlies, Euro 2012, World Cup qualifying and 2012 Olympics will serve to not only distract us from boring baseball but remind us how good we have it right now in this country in terms of soccer options.
UPDATE 5/25: Morales, Williams, Zusi and Agudelo were the four players left off the final 23-man roster for the five games (3 friendlies, 2 World Cup qualifiers). I don't have a problem with any of those guys not playing although it is troubling that Agudelo's development has seemingly had a big rut.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Their solution in both cases has been to fire the manager: Red Sox manager Terry Francona was let go in October and today, they dumped Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish, who was in his second stint in charge of the club he was a star player for back in the day.
Liverpool ended a six-year trophy drought with a League Cup in February (giving them a Europa League berth) but they lost in the FA Cup to Chelsea a few weeks ago and were a mediocre 14-14-10, 17 points behind fourth-place Tottenham. Just as bad for Liverpool fans, their beloved team was behind Everton in the standings for the first time since 2005 and only the second time since 1987.
"Results in the Premier League have been disappointing and we believe to build on the progress that has already been made, we need to make a change," Liverpool chairman Tom Werner said.
That decision was taken after Dalglish flew to Boston this week for an end-of-season review with the Boston Red Sox ownership group, which owns Liverpool.
"Whilst I am obviously disappointed to be leaving the football club, I can say that the matter has been handled by the owners and all concerned in an honorable, respectful and dignified way and reflects on the quality of the people involved," Dalglish said.
"I said when first approached about coming back as manager that I would always be of help if I can at any time and that offer remains the same," he added.
Dalglish first left Liverpool in 1991 due to stress, less than a year after delivering the team's 18th -- and most recent -- top-flight title triumph in 1990.
He was brought back to Anfield after a 20-year absence to replace Roy Hodgson in January 2011, when the club was in danger of being relegated from the top flight after being bought by the Fenway Sports Group.
After lifting Liverpool from its perilous position to fifth place, Dalglish was given a three-year contract at the end of the season.
"Kenny came into the club as manager at our request at a time when Liverpool Football Club really needed him," Werner said. "He didn't ask to be manager; he was asked to assume the role. He did so because he knew the club needed him. He did more than anyone else to stabilize Liverpool over the past year and a half and to get us once again looking forward. We owe him a great debt of gratitude."
Owner John Henry also paid tribute to Dalglish.
"Kenny will always be more than a championship-winning manager, more than a championship-winning star player," Henry said. "He is in many ways the heart and soul of the club. He personifies everything that is good about Liverpool Football Club. He has always put the Club and its supporters first. Kenny will always be a part of the family at Anfield.
"Our job now is to identify and recruit the right person to take this club forward and build on the strong foundations put in place during the last 18 months."
The Red Sox and Liverpool have both faltered in part due to inattentive owners who split their time between these two very important franchises that deserve way more attention and energy. The fact that they flew Dalglish all the way across the world to Boston last week, only to fire him today shows a little glimpse of how inconsiderate Werner and Henry have become. If you're a fan of either of these teams, the only hope is that they sell off their shares in them. Sadly, that far-fetched dream is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
This morning, U.S. men's national team superstar Clint Dempsey scored a wonderful goal for Fulham (seen above). The free kick from outside the box was the opening goal as Fulham won 2-1 vs. Sunderland. It was Fulham's finale at Craven Cottage for 2011-12.
It was the 23rd goal of the season (and 50th EPL strike of his career) for Dempsey in all competitions and 17th in English Premier League matches as he continues to push the limits on his record-setting goal scoring pace. He has one more match with Fulham, they go to Tottenham next Saturday (10 a.m.). The match has plenty of meaning for Spurs since they are in a battle with Newcastle to the last fixture for the all-important fourth spot (and Champions League berth) in the EPL.
As Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl pointed out last week in a great article, it will be an interesting summer for Dempsey since he has proven himself more than enough at Fulham. The question is if he'll take his immense talents to a bigger club (Liverpool?) next season; that seems to be the only way he can have a shot at making the Champions League and therefore truly test himself at the top level for clubs.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Since Fabio Capello left in February, Tottenham's Harry Redknapp was the frontrunner so obviously England went in another direction by naming West Brom's Roy Hodgson as its new manager.
The 64-year-old Hodgson received a four-year deal with his home country and he'll manage West Brom in their final two English Premier League games before leaving the club and turning all his attention to England and Euro 2012. The Three Lions are in a tough Group D with Ukraine, France and Sweden. To prepare, they'll have friendlies with Norway and Belgium before Euro 2012 begins in June.
My general rule of thumb for national team coaches is that you're best served to hire a native, that is if you're from a country with at least a decent soccer history (Jurgen Klinsmann being a special exception for the U.S. men). In that way, England did nothing wrong by hiring Hodgson who also used to coach Liverpool. The part that worries me as a bandwagon England fan (from studying abroad there) is that his previous national team coaching experience came with Switzerland, Finland and United Arab Emirates. Not exactly three powerhouses that have ever done anything globally.
I want to see him succeed but like cheering for the Chicago Cubs, you know that eventually England will find a way to screw it up no matter what the circumstances. God speed Roy!