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Saturday, June 30, 2012

U.S. Women Vs. Canada, 2nd Half Live Blog

Four halftime subs for the U.S.: Mitts for LePeilbet, O'Reilly for Heath, Lloyd for Boxx and Sauerbrunn for Rampone.

51st minute-Scary stuff for the U.S. and their fans as Morgan goes down with a knee injury. She gets subbed out but walks off on her own so hopefully it's not too bad. She sits on the bench with ice around her knee. Rodriguez came in for Morgan.

57th minute-Christie Sinclair finds Melissa Tancredi with a pretty through ball with the outside of her foot. Tancredi blasts it off the crossbar and past Solo (1-1).

60th minute-Rodriguez lays a nice pass across the goal mouth but Wambach just misses it.

61st minute-Wambach fights off multiple defenders and pulls it back for Rodriguez who shoots wide from outside the box.

70th minute-the U.S. has its second corner of the half (6th of the game) but nothing.

72nd minute-Jesus, Wambach went for a header and ran into the post with her back. Might want to take her out now Pia, wonder if she knows this game means nothing?

75th minute-Sydney Leroux subs in for O'Hara and the U.S. switches to a 3-4-3, I like it.

This proves how valuable Morgan is to the U.S., they haven't been nearly the same team since she departed. Granted, a bunch of other players were also subbed out. The U.S. only has one shutout in its last eight matches which is surprising. Their defense is the biggest issue heading into the 2012 London Olympics.

84th minute-Cheney shoots over from long range. Kyle Martino calls it a "great effort." Not sure I'd term a shot that isn't on net "great."

85th minute-Of course after I bashed her on Twitter, Rodriguez scores what will probably stand up as the game-winner. Rapinoe crossed it into traffic, Wambach deflected it and tried a backheel but Rodriguez was there for the rebound. Canada wanted an offside call but you can't be offside on a rebound ladies. Sorry. 25th international goal for A-Rod.

87th minute-Leroux gets taken down on a long pass. She has game-breaking speed, she's the only player on the U.S. Olympic team that wasn't on the 2011 World Cup team. A star in the making.

89th minute-Another U.S. corner kick (7-0).

4 minutes of added time. The Mormons are getting their money's worth today, haha seven minutes combined of added time in a friendly. Unheard of.

91st minute-Leroux is a beast, she fought off a defender then almost scored. Nice save by McCloud for a U.S. corner. If only the U.S. produced half as many world-class defenders as they do forwards and attacking players. Haha it's so uneven at this point.

Final: U.S. 2, Canada 1
Some shaky moments there but Rodriguez saved what would have been a lame way to be sent off to the Olympics. Fair result for the U.S.; they dominated in the first half, Canada woke up in the second half but the U.S. made enough plays to get it done. Onto London! Let's hope Morgan is alright, their first match is July 25 vs. France.

U.S. Women Vs. Canada, 1st Half Live Blog

Sandy, Utah gets the honor of seeing the U.S. women's national team compete in their last match before they head to London for the 2012 Olympics in a few weeks.

Haha in four years, the U.S. women are 81-6-10 for Pia Sundhage. Decent record. This is a rematch of the 2008 World Cup quarterfinals. The U.S. is 42-3-5 against Canada all-time and they beat them 4-0 in January. Canada hasn't beaten the U.S. in 11 years.

U.S. starters: Solo; LePeilbet, Rampone (c), Buehler, O’Hara; Rapinoe, Boxx, Cheney, Heath; Morgan, Wambach

Canada has the same jerseys as their men's national team, the blank basic shirt with a maple leaf. Must have taken a while to come up with that design.

5th minute-first U.S. corner by Rapinoe misses Wambach's head but it was touched out by Canada for another corner.

7th minute-Wambach steps on a Canadian player's foot then lands on her back. Haha not what you want to happen.

8th minute-Cheney wins a free kick outside the Canada 18-yard box. Rapinoe hit a perfect ball to Wambach, who has a diving header go inches wide (20 goals in last 22 games for her). That was a great chance, it would have been a beautiful goal.

10th minute-Wambach went down in the box but it rightfully wasn't a penalty, not much contact there.

14th minute-Great run by Rapinoe who kept the ball in down the sideline then fed Morgan but it was knocked out for another U.S. corner.

15th minute-Haha Rapinoe swung a corner in and a Canadian defender (Carmelina Moscato) deflected it in for a U.S. goal (1-0 U.S.). It would have been an easy save, terrible mistake by Canada.

21st minute-U.S. is getting tons of pressure, Rapinoe nutmegged a defender on the line but they couldn't get a good shot on goal.

27th minute-Canada's goalkeeper McCloud has made a couple nice grabs out of mid-air.

28th minute-Rapinoe wins a questionable free kick on the right side beyond the box.

29th minute-Sesselman goes down after O'Hara booted her in the thigh, picking up a yellow. Serves her right, traitor. Haha she's from Wisconsin, went to Purdue but became a Canadian in 2010 (her father is from Canada).

31st minute-Rampone gets taken out with a late tackle so Boxx retaliates with a dirty slide tackle. She received a yellow card.

36th minute-4th U.S. corner, time to cash in. Rapinoe almost scores again, she danced past a few players and Canada nearly put another cross in their own net.

39th minute-Solo just played a back pass, it's the only action she's had all half. Canada doesn't have any shots or pressure, possession is probably 80%-20% for the U.S.

40th minute-Rapinoe draws another free kick, Canada can't see to figure out the cutback move she makes every time. Wow, McCloud whiffed on the punch attempt but Wambach was too far past the post and wasn't able to put it on goal.

44th minute-Nice shot by O'Hara, low and hard but smothered by McCloud. I like that type of confidence, the U.S. should take more shots from distance.

3 minutes of extra time.

47th minute-Solo makes an unreal save after a shot was deflected and she had to go from one end of the goal to another. She's still the best goalkeeper in the world.

48th minute-Morgan nearly makes it 2-0 with a sweet move that got 2 Canadian defenders out of the way but her shot was cleared off the line by another defender.

Halftime: U.S. 1, Canada 0

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Gareth Bale Signs A 4-Year Extension With Tottenham

Great news for Tottenham and English Premier League fans today as Welsh midfielder Gareth Bale signed a four-year extension to stay at White Hart Lane until 2016.

The 22-year-old (who turns 23 in July) had been rumored to be coveted by Barcelona but in the end, he stayed loyal to the club he's played at for the last five years of his life.

"I've been here for five years now and I've enjoyed every minute. The fans have been great to me and I'd love to re-pay them and do the very best for them. The club is progressing and I want to be a part of that, so it was great to get the deal done.

"I love the club and the fans and I want to play my part in trying to get us back into the Champions League - where we belong. We've a good, young squad and we need to work together to get back on the biggest stage again.

"Everyone gets along and we've got the potential to challenge right at the top of the Premier League. It's exciting times at the club and I'm enjoying it. I don't see any reason to leave.

"I just know I'm improving, I know I'm getting better and my aim is to be as good as I can be. I'm still young, 22, still learning and this is the right place for me to keep progressing as a player. This is the perfect place to do that. Last season I was getting double and treble-marked on the wing, so I was able to come inside and score a few goals in more central areas. Now it's a case of mixing it all up and putting my whole game together.

"Hopefully I'll score more goals next season. I did quite well with my assists last season but I'd like to improve that as well. I'm looking at my all-round game, trying new things and trying to be the best player I can be."

Last season, he had nine goals and 10 assists in 36 Premier League games for Tottenham. He added two goals and four assists in five FA Cup games along with a goal in one Europa game.

He's easily one of my favorite players to watch since he's nothing short of electric when he goes bombing down usually the left side (since he's left footed). I have no problem with La Liga or Barcelona but I'm happy that he'll stay in the EPL since that's the European league that I follow and have the most knowledge about.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

U.S. Men Vs. Mexico In Mexico City On August 15

We already knew that the U.S. men were playing Mexico on August 15 but the plot thickened the other day when it was announced the site: Mexico City.

It's the first time the two rivals have faced each other in an exhibition in Mexico for almost 28 years. Don't ask me how that's remotely possible.

No worries, the U.S. has never won in Mexico dating back to 1934. Mexico is 23-0-1 against the United States on its home turf. Mexico won 2-1 in 2005 and 2-1 in 2009 during World Cup qualifying. Overall, the U.S. is 15-32-12 against Mexico.

The last time the U.S. played a friendly (an oxymoron) in Mexico, they lost 2-1 on October 17, 1984.

Needless to say this will be a great test for Jurgen Klinsmann's team before they start up World Cup qualifying again in September. They won't find a tougher environment than Azteca Stadium in Mexico City and like it or not, Mexico is one of the top teams in the world these days. I don't usually advocate ties but if the U.S. could gain a draw in Mexico, it would be a very impressive result since they've struggled there in such monumental fashion.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Step Right Up Folks, Plenty Of Room On The U.S. Women's Bandwagon Before The Olympics Start

It was only a friendly, so I won't start writing love letters and planning the parade route just yet but still you can't be anything but really impressed with the U.S. women's 4-1 thrashing of Japan at the Volvo Winners Cup this morning in Halmstad, Sweden. Pia Sundhage's squad improved to 13-1-1 in 2012.

Not only had Japan beaten the U.S. in the 2011 World Cup Final but they were also riding a three-game win streak over the Americans. That is basically unheard of save for a run by Norway in the late 1990s and early 2000s (they beat the U.S. four times in a row).

The main reason that the U.S. will be favored to win gold medals in the 2012 London Olympics is because their two strikers-Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach-are playing on another level. It sounds weird to say since Morgan is at the beginning of what looks like a spectacular career for her country while Wambach probably should be slowing down but for whatever reason, they are both crushing it right now.

Morgan scored twice (6th time in 2012 that she's had multiple goals), giving her a team-leading 17 goals in 2012 and 27 in just 41 career CAPs. Wambach inched closer to Mia Hamm with the 137th and 138th goals of her highly-decorated U.S. career. She's only 20 goals behind Mia.

The U.S. didn't wait long to jump on top as Tobin Heath found Morgan in the 3rd minute with a through ball and the former Cal Bear did the rest as she roofed the left-footed shot into the far upper corner. It was a beautiful goal as you'll see in the above video (courtesy of

Wambach also got off to a fast start as she tallied her first strike in the 10th minute after a cross from Megan Rapinoe. Wambach was right in front of Japan's goal so all she had to do was redirect it.

Japan's offense could never really find a rhythm-they had seven corner kicks but only two shots on goal all game-but their one goal was highlight reel worthy. Aya Miyama crossed the ball to Yuki Nagasato in the 28th minute and she connected with a diving header past U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Morgan and Wambach each had wonderful chances to bag their second goals of the game in the 30th minute. Morgan's shot was deflected by Japan's goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori and it went off the post. Wambach was there to side-volley the rebound but she hit it right into Kaihori's stomach.

No worries though as Morgan was able to earn her second in the 61st minute. It was basically the opposite of her first goal as she carried it alone down the right side then hit a shot with her right foot that was on the ground and into the lower left corner.

Solo was lucky to have a shot go off the crossbar but she also made a great diving save to keep the U.S. safely in front.

Wambach's goal in the 92nd minute (not sure why she was still in there?) wasn't pretty but it showed the workrate of a superstar that is never lazy. Heather O'Reilly crossed it and Wambach was able to partially head/shoulder it despite the fact that it bounced off the ground first.

After coming home from Sweden, the U.S. women will get some time off before they face Canada on June 30 in Sandy, Utah (2 p.m., NBC). That match serves as a proper send off for the Americans in front of their home fans before they head to London to get ready for the Olympics. We all remember what a great ride they took us on last summer with the thrilling run to the World Cup Final; with the U.S. men home for the Olympics, there really is no logical excuse not to go all in on this extremely likable group as they go for a three-peat of Gold at the Olympics.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

U.S. Women Pick Up Impressive 3-1 Win In Sweden

There is a little less than one month left before the 2012 Olympics begin in London and the U.S. women appear to be in the right form.

They beat Sweden 3-1 this afternoon in Halmstad, Sweden. It was an important victory for the top-ranked women's team (who improved to 12-1-1 in 2012) as they beat the No. 4 team in the world on their home turf, a squad that they could very well see in London.

Abby Wambach scored an unbelievable goal in the 8th minute. She caught the Swedish goalkeeper too far off her line and beat her with a dipping shot that was from 35 yards away. It was Wambach's 136th of her career. She's only 22 behind the all-time U.S. leader-Mia Hamm.

Alex Morgan showed that she can score goals in many ways as she simply outworked a Swedish defender in the 22nd minute for her team-leading 15th of the year. She used her body to shield away the defender then coolly slotted it home.

Sweden's star striker Lotta Schelin scored on a pretty strike of her own in the 35th minute. She took advantage of a U.S. defender that slipped and ran onto the ball that had been one-touched into space. With U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo coming out of the net, Schelin chipped it in with the outside of her right foot.

The U.S. nearly added to its lead in the dying seconds of the first half as Megan Rapinoe found Morgan in front with a cross but Morgan uncharacteristically hit it over. In the beginning of the second half, Heather Mitts headed the ball off the crossbar.

Substitute Tobin Heath was the unlikely goal-scorer in the 56th minute for the Americans as she headed in Wambach's cross for a 3-1 lead.

The U.S. women meet their biggest threat-No. 3 Japan-on Monday morning (7 a.m. on; 10 a.m. tape delayed on Universal Sports Network) in Sweden.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

U.S. Men Settle For 1-1 Tie In Guatemala

The best thing to come out of tonight is that I didn't waste $30 on the U.S. men's World Cup qualifying match in Guatemala that was only shown Stateside on Pay Per View. I probably could have found a free version online but I was too lazy and content with simply watching Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Looks like I didn't miss much as the U.S. tied Guatemala 1-1 in Guatemala City.

Clint Dempsey scored in the 40th minute after a great move helped him elude two defenders then beat the goalkeeper. Fabian Johnson had the assist on Dempsey's second in two games. It was also his 28th this season between U.S. and Fulham; 27th international goal, three behind Brian McBride for third place in U.S. history.

Substitute Jozy Altidore appeared to score in the 78th minute but it was called back for a controversial foul.

Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa took advantage of a free kick in the 84th minute as Guatemala (ranked 85th) tied the U.S. (28th) on a wonderful strike that completely fooled American goalkeeper Tim Howard.

On Twitter, all the U.S. soccer honks and former players said it was an acceptable result since it's so hard to win on the road, blah blah but I guess they forgot this was a team that had never made the World Cup. Oh and the United States has an 18-match unbeaten streak dating back to 1988 against said squad.

I guess this was more impressive than Friday's uneven 3-1 victory against Antigua and Barbuda since that was in Tampa Bay but at the same time, it's hard to say a tie is ever better than a two-goal win.

After two games, the U.S. is in first-place out of four teams in its qualifying group. They have four points (+2 goal differential), Jamaica has four points (worse goal differential), Guatemala and Antigua and Barbuda both have one point each.

The U.S. men's next World Cup qualifier is Friday, September 7 in Jamaica. That will most likely determine who comes in first place of the group if either gets the three points. After five games (2 World Cup qualifiers) in 2.5 weeks, the best thing for the players is to get some rest. They have to be exhausted (at least that's how they played) after all the training and travelling, which happened right after the club seasons ended.

Monday, June 11, 2012

U.S. Striker Terrence Boyd Is Headed To Austria

The day before the U.S. men's vital World Cup qualifying match in Guatemala, one of their top young talents got some exciting news regarding his budding club soccer career.

21-year-old striker Terrence Boyd reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with Austria's Rapid Vienna. No word on how much the transfer fee cost as he shifts over from Germany's Borussia Dortmund.

It's an interesting move since Boyd scored 20 goals and had five assists for Dortmund's reserve squad last season. Common sense dictates that he would get a real shot to make the team next season (especially if he plays well for the U.S.) but I can't fault a guy for going somewhere else in Europe where he know he'll be a starter from day one.

Dortmund youth coordinator Lars Ricken says: "Today he's playing for the U.S. national team. It's further proof that you can have excellent prospects through hard work with our second team."

This follows a similar path taken by fellow U.S. striker Jozy Altidore who bounced from MLS (Red Bulls) to La Liga (Villareal) followed by loans to Hull City (EPL) and Bursaspor (Turkey) before finally finding a home in Holland with AZ Alkmaar. Altidore had to take a step back professionally-going from a Champions League team to a Europa League team but it proved to be the right decision. He rediscovered his confidence and game last season, finishing as Alkmaar's leading goal-scorer with 15 league goals, four in Europa League.

I hate comparing players since everybody is different but from the limited amount of times I've seen Boyd, he seems to possess similar traits to Altidore. He's big, athletic and a good finisher around the net. His journey to Austria should prove to be rewarding if he puts in the time and effort on the training pitch.

The son of an American serviceman and German mother, Boyd made his international debut for Jurgen Klinsmann on February 29, 2012 in the friendly vs. Italy and he's officially CAP tied now after appearing against Antigua and Barbuda on Friday in the U.S.' 3-1 World Cup qualifying win.

Friday, June 8, 2012

U.S. Men Beat Antigua & Barbuda 3-1 In World Cup Qualifying Opener

For the second game in a row, the U.S. men's soccer team played awful against an overmatched opponent. I'm ignoring the 4-1 loss to Brazil since they weren't all that bad in that match given the talent they faced but tonight's very uneven 3-1 win vs. Antigua and Barbuda left fans with many questions and concerns.

Yes, the bottom line is that the U.S. was able to start off this phase of World Cup qualifying with three points in front of a soaked pro-American crowd in Jacksonville, FL. However, playing like this against most other teams will likely result in a loss or at best a tie.

U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra scored his 13th international goal (tying Marcelo Balboa's record for American defenders) in the eighth minute following Landon Donovan's corner kick and Herculez Gomez's header that Antigua and Barbuda goalkeeper Molvin James left right at Boca's feet.

The small Caribbean island nation of 88,000 people that's just happy to be here (they've never made it this far) almost reached halftime only down 1-0 but Donovan was violently tackled on the edge of the box in the 44th minute. Clint Dempsey stepped up and scored on the penalty kick, his 26th for the U.S, as they took a more secure 2-0 lead.

Antigua and Barbuda's only real chance of the half was blocked in the box by U.S. defender Clarance Goodson's sliding challenge.

The troubling aspect of this match was that the U.S. showed no real ability to put away a team that they should beat by five goals every day of the week. I guess a long training camp and a bunch of games in a short amount of time (coupled with some injuries) has left them drained. It probably didn't help that this game was delayed by rain and it continued to pour all night.

Jose Torres went down with an ankle injury in the 54th minute and that's when the bad vibes really permeated for the U.S. With Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo both unavailable (due to injuries of their own), Torres had to start at left back. Once he was subbed out, Bocanegra had to shift over there while Oguchi Onyewu entered the action. I've long made my disdain for Gooch known so all I can hope is that his woeful defending which allowed Antigua and Barbuda sub Peter Byers to score in the 65th minute serves as the final nail in Gooch's USMNT coffin. I don't know how many more times he can continue to make critical mistakes before the U.S. finally pulls the plug on this failed experiment.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, a guy that had zero expectations when he made the World Cup roster in 2010 continues to see his performance level rise. Gomez scored his fourth international goal in the 72nd minute, the result of good old fashioned effort and hard work. After two U.S. shots were blocked by Antigua and Barbuda defenders, the ball bounced to Gomez who calmly dribble around James and finished, 3-1 U.S.

The U.S. found a reserve of energy as they pressed for more. Bocanegra pulled it back to Gomez and his shot went off the crossbar. Then Michael Bradley's cross was nearly deflected in the net. Ultimately, 3-1 is probably what the U.S. deserved. They dominated possession in the first half but were more loose in the second half. Still they had many more scoring opportunities (19-7 shots) and a 14-2 advantage in corner kicks (9-0 first half).

For their troubles, Jurgen Klinsmann's team gets one last trip before a welcome break from their national team duties: they travel to Guatemala on Tuesday night (10 p.m., Pay Per View). Guatemala lost 2-1 at Jamaica tonight so they'll be desperate to salvage any kind of point(s). Getting zero in their first two games could be fatal. The U.S. will have their hands full, playing away in these CONCACAF matches can be dicey since many of the stadiums/field conditions are less than second-rate. They need to find a way to put forth a more complete effort against another team that they should normally have no problem beating.

UPDATE 6/9: Torres' x-rays were negative, he was diagnosed with a bone bruise and is receiving treatment. Exhale!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Clint Dempsey Voted Fulham's Player Of The Season For Second Straight Year

Midfielder Clint Dempsey finished off the best season ever for an American in Europe by picking up his second straight Fulham Player of the Season award (voted on by Fulham fans).

2011/12 was unquestionably Dempsey's best season ever as a professional soccer player. He put up an insane 23 goals in 45 games (in all competitions) which is better than an average of half a goal per game, including a pair of hat tricks (which he'd never done before). He also scored a goal off a free kick for the first time. His game really expanded as this wonderful highlight video of all 23 goals put together by Fulham shows all the ways he can score: creating for himself, running onto passes, heading the ball, free kicks, penalty kicks, even chesting it in.

This season, Dempsey also broke significant records. He now has more career goals in the English Premier League than Brian McBride did (the previous American record holder) and he also set the new single-season goal total for Fulham (breaking Louis Saha's record).

Showing how far he and by extension American soccer has come, he was fourth in voting for the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year award. The three players that were ahead of him-Arsenal's Robin van Persie, Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes-are some of the true global icons of the beautiful game.

Here is the excellent video of all 23 Dempsey goals from this past season. Ironically 23 is his jersey number as well. I'm not sure who the song is by but it's money, perfect fit.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

U.S. Men Walk In Quick Sand, Settle For Scoreless Draw With Canada

It's a good thing that tonight's game essentially meant nothing since the result made me want to sip some Gatorade laced with bleach.

The U.S. men's national team settled for a 0-0 draw against Canada in Toronto. It was the last friendly before World Cup qualifying starts and truthfully, the U.S. was quite lucky not to fall to a team that they hadn't lost to in 14 straight matches.

Making their first appearance in Canada in 15 years (how's that possible?), the U.S. men lacked the energy and skill that they showed against Scotland last Saturday (5-1 win) and even the 4-1 loss to Brazil on Wednesday. Maybe the combination of three games in eight days and two practices a day the last few weeks left the U.S. overly tired. Who knows? More likely, they were looking past this contest.

No excuses though, Canada is a team that they should always dominate because Canada hasn't made it to the World Cup since 1986. They actually had the two best chances: midfielder Nikolas Ledgerwood scored in the first half but the play was blown dead on a phantom foul call on Canada. That was a big break for the U.S. Not much else happened in the entire match until the final few moments.

The U.S. remained unbeaten against Canada in its last 15 matches (8-0-7) dating back to 1985 while also notching a shutout for the fourth time in its last six games (4-1-1).

Canadian forward Simeon Jackson showed the type of finishing ability you'd expect from a striker on Canada when he blew an easy tap in after a cross from Dwayne De Rosario in added time.

It should tell you how badly the U.S. played that their two best chances were from Edgar Castillo and Clarence Goodson. A last minute addition to the lineup after Fabian Johnson was hurt in warmups, Castillo nearly scored on an incredible dipping volley in the first half. Goodson's header off a corner in added time would have given the U.S. a win it didn't really deserve. Canadian goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld palmed the sharp header over the crossbar.

Tim Howard got the clean sheet for the U.S. but it was a strange one since he only made a few harder than average stops. Bottom line, the U.S. will need more from its stars when they start World Cup qualifying. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were both invisible except for the one combination play they had that almost resulted in a goal by Dempsey in the first half.

All of this nonsense will be erased and/or forgiven if Jurgen Klinsmann's squad shows up on Friday against Antigua and Barbuda (7:00 p.m., ESPN & The match in Tampa Bay, FL is the first of six World Cup qualifying games in the CONCACAF third round for the U.S. this year.

They have home and homes with Antigua and Barbuda, Guatemala and Jamaica. If that isn't the easiest group in the history of sports, I haven't heard it. The U.S. should beat all of those teams; yes I understand it's harder to win on the road, even against those scrubs, but come on. America will never be taken seriously when they continue to have poor showings against nobodies.

Mexico beat Brazil 2-0 in a friendly this afternoon in Dallas, further proof of how much better Mexico is than the U.S. at this moment. I'm going to guess that Mexico wouldn't have tied Canada 0-0 under any circumstances. Something to keep in mind.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Liverpool Hires Brendan Rogers To Be Their New Manager

After rightfully blasting Liverpool a few weeks ago, I have to give its owners John Henry and Tom Werner credit today: they hired Swansea's Brendan Rogers as their new manager and I think it could be a great move.

I'll be honest that I didn't know much about Rogers but reading more about his background, it sounds like he's the right guy for the monumental task of turning Liverpool around. Rogers beat out Wigan's Roberto Martinez for the job despite only coaching one season in the English Premier League.

I like the move because Rogers is young (39), he wasn't a top player and he sounds open to new ideas and styles. It's clear that clinging to the past with a former legendary player like Dalglish wasn't helping Liverpool become one of the top teams in England.

That year, however, proved to be a highly successful one, with Swansea finishing 11th in its first season in the Premier League and earning plenty of admirers because of the Welsh team's attractive, possession-based style of play.

Liverpool chairman Tom Werner said Rodgers was a "forward-thinking coach at the forefront of a generation of young managers and will bring to Liverpool attacking, relentless football."

The Northern Irishman had a limited player career at home before embarking on a coaching career, becoming manager of the Reading academy at just 22.
"I was never the big player ... I had to go down a different route which was on the coaching field and earning my respect that way," Rodgers said.

"Hopefully over time I'll earn ... respect (at Liverpool)," he added.

Rodgers will be charged with improving Liverpool's fortunes in the league after a disappointing eighth-place finish that was sealed by a 1-0 loss to Swansea on the final day of the season.

The 18-time English champions' lowest league placing in 18 years saw them finish 17 points shy of qualifying for a Champions League spot, the minimum goal of the club's American owners.

That led to the firing of club great Kenny Dalglish, who won the League Cup to end a six-year trophy drought at Anfield.

Fenway Sports Group targeted the hiring of a young manager to replace Dalglish and also held talks with Martinez. But it decided on Rodgers, who was once a youth-team manager at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho and has also managed second-tier clubs Watford and Reading.

"My pathway as a young coach has been different to most managers," Rodgers said. "I have actually been coaching and working in football for 20 years. At Chelsea I had experience of working with big players. I look at Kenny Dalglish, he was the manager (of Liverpool in 1985) at 34 and resigned at 39. I arrive here at 39."
Rodgers said his soccer philosophy "has been a fusion between the British and the European."

"The single biggest influence would be Jose Mourinho, purely because he gave me the opportunity," he said. "I learned many things from Jose. He is a great man and the biggest thing he did for me is give me an opportunity and show belief in me, and give me that chance to work with top players."

There are few clubs in European soccer with more history of winning than Liverpool but other than an incredible run to the Champions League Final in 2005, they hadn't done much of note in the last two decades when it really matters.

Qualifying Liverpool for the Champions League will be Rodgers' first task, with the ultimate aim being a 19th English title to match the record haul of bitter rival Manchester United.

"It's an aim for every manager at a top club," he said. "That's the holy grail, but also, in time, we want to be challenging for the title. For me, and it's not going to be straight away because that's not realistic, winning the title is something we want to achieve. It's not just aiming for fourth place.
"The Champions League is fantastic and that's where this club wants to be. ... I'm very much a realist. It's certainly going to be a few years in relation to where the team is at now. It will need some investment and it will need time for me to work."

Liverpool ruled English soccer in the 1970s and 1980s, but hasn't won a league title since 1990. It remains one of the world's most famous and successful clubs, having won the European Cup/Champions League five times - behind only Real Madrid (9) and AC Milan (5).

"This is a club that's based on fast, attacking, offensive football," Rodgers said. "But I'll repeat, it's very important to have tactical discipline within that. Your philosophy and your principles will always be governed by the players.

"There is a fantastic squad here, some terrific players, but there is no doubt I'll need to make maybe two, three or four additions to try and get that flow - and it will take time to put that in place."

Liverpool will have to pay compensation to Swansea - reported to be in the region of 4 million pounds ($6.2 million) - because Rodgers had three years left on his contract.

If Liverpool falters next season, it will be interesting to see how long Fenway Sports Group sticks with Rogers. Being a no-name guy, it would be easier to dump him. He is an underdog so even though I'm not a huge fan of the Red Sox/Liverpool owners at all, I appreciate Rogers' story and I wish him the best of luck in this very difficult new position.

Real Madrid Vs. AC Milan This August At Yankee Stadium

I am a pretty big fan of European soccer clubs doing summer tours in the United States, it gives newer soccer fans a taste of what the top teams around the world look like; even more so when they play in historic, non-traditional venues like Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium.

This August 8, Real Madrid will face AC Milan. That's right, Real Madrid head coach and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo will be in the Big Apple as the Spanish giant travels across the U.S to play one of Italy's top teams.

Real Madrid is slated to play at the Los Angeles Galaxy on August 2, against Juventus in Las Vegas, NV (which could be brutal given the desert heat) on August 5 and they wrap things up in Philadelphia, PA with an exhibition against Celtic on August 11. This will be the third straight summer that Real Madrid has used a preseason tour of the U.S. prepare for its grueling La Liga regular season.

AC Milan will play Chelsea on July 28 in Miami and they have another match in Pittsburgh, PA on August 4 against an opponent to be determined.

If you're wondering, there has never been a soccer game at Yankee Stadium (which opened in 2009). Chelsea faces Paris Saint-Germain on July 22 in what will be the first soccer game there, a prelude to Real Madrid vs. AC Milan. Over the last few years, there have been college football games-(Notre Dame vs. Army) and the Pinstripe Bowl-in the Bronx but this should bring a much more diverse and lively crowd since they'll be drawing from the biggest city in the U.S. that is chock full of every nationality you can think of.