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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

U.S. Women's Soccer Completes 3-0-0 Group Play With 1-0 Win Vs. North Korea

The U.S. women's soccer team beat North Korea 1-0 this afternoon at Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, in their third match of the 2012 London Olympics.

Pia Sundhage's squad finished 3-0-0 for the first time in their Olympic history and they'll meet New Zealand on Friday (9:30 a.m. EST) in the quarterfinals at Newcastle.

The final margin should have been much more as the Americans hit the post twice in the first half and also put countless great opportunities either wide of the net or over. Luckily, Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach were on top of their games as they created basically all the U.S. chances.

The moment of brilliance came in the 25th minute as midfielder Lauren Cheney dropped a long pass into the box for Morgan. As two North Korean defenders converged on her, she touched it to Wambach who blasted it in. It was Wambach's 141st career international goal, she is now only 17 behind Mia Hamm for No. 1 all-time in U.S. history.

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo didn't have to work hard, she only really made one above-average play: intercepting a cross by North Korea in the second half. Her defense looked strong although truth be told, the U.S. dominated possession and North Korea barely ever controlled the ball. Odds are she was probably blasting Brandi Chastain on Twitter some more since she had so much downtime during the match.

The mysterious opponents got increasingly frustrated in the second half which culminated in Choe Mi Gyong picking up her second yellow in the 81st minute. With 11 players, North Korea didn't have much of a chance but that flicker of hope was gone after Gyong's clumsy challenge on Cheney.

Both Morgan and Wambach nearly scored in the first half since each hit the post. Morgan received a pass from Wambach and turned with her favored left foot to strike a low shot that deflected off the far post. The script was flipped from Wambach when she took a ball from Morgan and tried to place a shot past the diving North Korean goalkeeper.

Substitute Tobin Heath almost made it 2-0 early in the second half but she lofted her shot high after she found herself wide open. Likewise, Carli Lloyd had a good chance on a rebound but as she usually does, she couldn't get her body over it and it went harmlessly over the bar.

The best news for the U.S. is that nobody got hurt and other than a yellow card for Cheney, they didn't pick up any cards (not sure how they carry over to the knockout rounds). They will be heavy favorites against New Zealand and assuming that they can start finishing more consistently and at a higher rate, there is no reason they should have much of a problem with them.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Another U.S. Men's National Team Player Heads To London: Geoff Cameron Signs With Stoke City

Another U.S. men's national team player is headed overseas as defender Geoff Cameron has agreed to a deal with Stoke City of Barclays Premier League.

Most recently, the University of Rhode Island graduate was on the Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer. After Jurgen Klinsmann came aboard for the U.S. men, Cameron started to get CAPs.

At 27, Cameron has versatility since he can play defense and in the midfield. He's made five appearances for the U.S. and he appears to be in the mix for World Cup 2014 qualifying (which starts up again in September).

Stoke City is currently on a preseason tour of the United States. They met the Columbus Crew on Tuesday (a 2-1 loss) then they play Orlando City (a USL team) on Saturday and Sporting Kansas City next Wednesday. That means it will be easy for Cameron to meet up with his new team and get acclimated before they cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Believe it or not, the EPL season begins three weeks from tomorrow. Stoke City opens on Saturday, August 18 at Reading then the following Sunday their home opener is against Arsenal. That should be a great introduction to England for Cameron, let's hope he gets some minutes in that match.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

U.S. Star Michael Bradley Tallies His 1st Goal For AS Roma As They Beat Liverpool 2-1 At Fenway

New AS Roma and U.S. men's national team midfielder Michael Bradley picked a good time to bag his first goal for the Italian side.

In the States for their preseason tour of Chicago, Boston and New York, Bob Bradley's son scored the first goal of the night as AS Roma beat Liverpool 2-1 tonight in Football at Fenway 2012.

There was plenty to like about his performance since he played the entire way and scored a highlight reel goal for Roma. After a back-and-forth scoreless first half, the attacking was turned up a notch on both sides in the second half.

Bradley was able to break the deadlock in the 63rd minute as he was first to a loose ball on the right side of Liverpool's defensive box. With goalkeeper Brad Jones coming out to cut down the angle, Bradley hit a low, hard shot that bounced off the inside of the post and into the goal. That set off a huge celebration with his teammates and separately, the legion of Roma fans in the crowd.

Roma added another goal six minutes later before Liverpool pulled one back in the 80th minute for the final margin. Make no mistake though, Roma was the better side this evening. They could have won by two or three goals easily.

AS Roma manager Zdenek Zeman, who is renown for his attacking style, praised the American. He said, "Bradley played well, he's a hard-working guy."

That sentiment was also echoed by Roma midfielder Alessandro Florenzi who subbed in during the second half and scored what turned out to be the game-winner. He called Bradley "a great person with proper conduct off the pitch that always gives his best effort." Florenzi also noted that he liked watching Bradley at Chievo Verona (his last club in Seria A).

If tonight was any indication, one of the United States' top players appearrs destined to become a star overseas in Italy. He did not look out of place at all tonight at Fenway Park against some of the world's top players like Liverpool's Jamie Carragher, Joe Cole, Martin Skrtel, etc. Like Clint Dempsey at Fulham (England), Bradley is set to make his mark on European football which in turn will earn more respect for U.S. men's soccer globally.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Brad Guzan: The Best Backup Goalkeeper That Money Can Buy

It takes a ton of confidence to accept your fate as a backup in professional sports. Doubly so when you do that for both club and country like American Brad Guzan.

Today, Tim Howard's backup inked a new three-year deal with Aston Villa-his English Premier League club.

Guzan will join his teammates on a preseason tour of the United States and he's expected to be at Villa until the end of the 2014-15 season. Irish goalkeeper Shay Given-one of the best at his position in the world-stands in front of Guzan and more substantial playing time in England. Guzan played in seven games last season including one FA Cup match when Given was hurt.

Some people will probably think that Guzan is crazy since at 27, he should be starting to reach his prime years as a pro yet he's going back to a place where he's played in eight EPL games over the last four years (all but one last season) and 10 overall (2 FA Cup matches).

It's hard to say how good he could be since he went from Chivas USA in MLS to Aston Villa in 2008 and he's basically been stapled to the bench since then. He also played on loan at Hull City for four months during the 2010-11 season where he made 16 starts for the Football League Championship squad. Apparently, the new manager of Aston Villa-Paul Lambert-has seen enough since he remarked that "I've watched Brad and some of his games when he was on the team last year and he was excellent."

Howard is 33 and Given is 36 so no matter what, Guzan is much younger than both of the guys he is stuck behind. However, unlike most field positions, players have a better chance to hang around (think Brad Friedel who is 41 on Tottenham) when they are goalkeepers since you don't have to run. For his sanity, let's hope that Guzan gets more of a chance to show what he can do in the next few years. Nobody deserves to sit that much, assuming they have some ability.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

After Way Too Long, U.S. Men's Midfielder Michael Bradley Finally Signs With AS Roma

I can't tell you how much time I've wasted in the last few weeks frantically checking Twitter, and for any news about Michael Bradley going to AS Roma.

I had begun to worry that the transfer of the U.S. men's national team's best midfielder might not take place for some reason when I didn't read any new developments for way too long. Thankfully, I returned to my semi-sanity today as I found that it's finally official: Bradley signed a four-year deal worth 3.75 million Euros.

At only 24-years-old, the son of former U.S. men's head coach Bob Bradley and New Jersey native, has become one of the best American players of his generation. This move shows what people in Europe think about him as he should step in and start right away for a team that's not far removed from regular trips to the Champions League.

After bouncing around from Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany) and a loan spell at Aston Villa (England), Bradley found a true home at Chievo Verona (Italy, Serie A) last season where he made 34 league starts. He was clearly ready to take the next step in his development so that meant finding a better Italian club. I believe he stayed in Italy since that style of game (long possessions, controlled by the midfield, many passes and free kicks) best suited his improving skill set.

As a U.S. fan foremost, I'm happy to see Bradley go to a very solid club in one of the better leagues in the world. That can only be a good thing as he continues to strive for his peak form.

On a personal level, I'm extremely happy that he's going to Roma specifically since they play Liverpool a week from Wednesday night at Fenway Park-home of the Boston Red Sox-in a friendly. It looks like I will be able to cover that game too so I'm psyched to see one of my favorite U.S. men's players in action in my backyard.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Charlie Davies Is Still Out There Working

In case you forgot, Charlie Davies is still playing professional soccer for a living. The former Boston College and U.S. men's national team striker was most recently at Sochaux in France but he spent most of last season on loan at DC United in MLS.

We don't have to review his horrific car accident in October 2009 that likely robbed him of millions in career earnings not to mention his playing ability because this story is still developing and most importantly, it has a happy ending for him.

Davies signed a two-year deal with the Danish club Randers and he was set to begin training with them today. Their club season starts in a few weeks.

Davies said on Randers' website that the deal "gives me a great chance to show I can be a success on European soil."

Randers club director Jacob Nielsen said the 26-year-old American will bring more speed to the lineup and that "he will fit in well with our current team of attackers."

The easiest thing to do is lament what he's lost and wonder what would have happened if he didn't nearly lose his life that fateful night. However, if he has the strength to move on and keep working on the comeback trail, the least we can do is support him throughout his journey. Not many people are as mentally and as physically tough as Davies, this much I know has to be true.

From following him on Twitter (@CharlieDavies9), I know that he recently got married. Give him a follow if you want to keep up with the latest news in his life, he is a truly inspirational guy.