One nation under Jurgen Klinsmann with dreams of goals for all

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Brad Friedel Is My Hero, Now And Forever

He might not be the starting goalkeeper anymore but American Brad Friedel is obviously doing something right at his current club-Tottenham. Today, he signed a new contract extension through the 2013-14 season with the English Premier League power.

If you're keeping track at home, Friedel is 41-years-old (!). He's been at Tottenham since June 2011 but he lost his starting spot in October to Hugo Lloris. Tottenham blanked Aston Villa 4-0 this afternoon but Friedel sat on the bench the entire time. His last start was on December 6, a 3-1 win over Panathinaikos in a Europa League match. Friedel's last EPL match was November 11, a 2-1 loss at Manchester City.

The funny part is that Friedel hasn't played for the U.S. men's national team for years, despite the fact that he would still be the best backup goalkeeper behind Tim Howard. In his career, he has 82 CAPs for the U.S. He has progressed from the Columbus Crew (MLS) to Galatasaray (Turkey) and Brondby (Denmark) before moving to England in 1997 to play for Liverpool. He was at Blackburn for eight years and Aston Villa for three years before becoming a Toffee.

I have no idea if he would be interested in coaching after he retires but U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann should definitely look into it. What a great resource Friedel would be for young American goalkeepers to have around. It might be a romantic notion on my part but I'd love to see Friedel get to one more World Cup with the U.S. as a third goalkeeper or something. I'd say that at this point, he's more than earned that courtesy and curtain call on his professional career (even though he retired from international soccer a while back).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

For Tom Sermanni's Debut, U.S. Women Will Play Two Games Against Scotland In February

I'm not sure if it's just a happy coincidence or that they planned it that way but for Tom Sermanni's first two games as the U.S. women's national team's head coach, he'll face the county of his birth: Scotland. You know that the U.S. will probably take on Australia (his previous team) at some point in the next year too if I had to guess.

They also represent the first matches of 2013 for the U.S. as they'll meet Scotland on Saturday, February 9 at EverBank Field (home of the Jaguars) in Jacksonville, Florida followed by Wednesday, February 13 at LP Field (home of the Titans) in Nashville, Tennessee. It will be the fourth time overall that the U.S. women have played in Tennessee and first time since 2004 (Canada). The game in Jacksonville begins at 5 p.m. and the broadcasting information for both matches will come out at a later time.

The U.S. has only faced Scotland once before, an 8-2 win by the Americans in September 2002 that included a hat trick by Abby Wambach (first of her career) and Mia Hamm (last of her career). Speaking of Wambach and Hamm, Abby is only six goals shy of Mia's record for most goals in the history of international soccer (158).

You can expect a similar scoreline this time around since the U.S. is the top team in the world while Scotland couldn't qualify for the 2012 European Championships-they fell to Spain in a two-game playoff. The Americans finished 28-1-3 in a wildly successful 2012 that included a gold medal at the London Olympics and simultaneously revenge against Japan who had beaten them at the 2011 World Cup.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Michael Parkhurst's European Adventure Continues

Michael Parkhurst's whole professional career has been about beating the odds so it only makes sense that his good fortune continues to this day. This morning, the U.S. men's national team defender (15 CAPs) went on a free transfer to Augsburg (Germany) from FC Nordsjaelland (Denmark). He signed a three-year deal with Augsburg, which begins in January 2013 and ends in June 2015.

Coming from the smallest state in the country (Rhode Island), Parkhurst was great at Wake Forest and after being drafted by his hometown MLS team-the New England Revolution-he carved out a nice four years in Foxborough. He's spent the last four seasons in Denmark's Superliga. No disrespect to Denmark but I don't think anyone would argue that the Superliga is a superior league to Germany's Bundesliga.

For me, the Bundesliga is a very close third behind England's Premier League and Spain's La Liga. The only bad news with this move is that Augsburg is currently tied for last place in the Bundesliga with SpVgg Greuther Furth (haha who?). The last two teams in the 18-team Bundesliga get relegated and the 16th-place team has a relegation playoff with a club from the lower division.

For Parkhurst's sake (he turns 29 in January), let's hope that his first taste of Germany isn't spent on a last-place team that gets dumped out of the Bundesliga in his first season there. With a record of 1-10-6 in its first 17 matches in 2012-13, things can only get better for Augsburg.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Who's Pumped For U.S. Men Vs. Canada? (Crickets)

What better way to tune up for matches that actually mean something than by having the U.S. men's national team beat up on Canada for fun? The first official game of 2013 for Jurgen Klinsmann's squad was announced today as the U.S. will host Canada on January 29 at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium (where the U.S. women recently played China on Dec. 12).

Even though it is a friendly, it will be a meaningful match for the United States since the final round of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup begins on February 6 vs. Honduras in San Pedro Sula.

Don't let the scoreless draw on June 3-their most recent meeting-fool you, the U.S. completely owns Canada in the last nearly three decades. The U.S. is in the midst of a 15-game unbeaten streak (8-0-7) since losing 2-0 to Canada on April 2, 1985, in Vancouver. The series record is 13-8-10 in the USA's favor, including a 10-1-8 record on their home turf.

"The match against Canada will come at the end of an important training camp as we get players ready for the World Cup qualifier against Honduras, and also get a good look at some up and coming players in the National Team pool,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "Obviously we have a great history with Canada, and they were unlucky not to qualify for the final round. The stadium in Houston is awesome and the fans have been incredibly supportive there, so for us it’s a great way to start off the centennial year of U.S. Soccer."

BBVA Compass Stadium just opened up last year and it's the home of the Houston Dynamo, the 2012 MLS Cup finalists. In their brief history there, the U.S. men's national team is unbeaten (1-0-2) in Houston, with a pair of ties against Mexico and a 1-0 victory over Panama in the 2011 Gold Cup semifinals.

The game will be at 7 p.m. ET but at the moment, the broadcast information is yet to be determined. Stay tuned for that along with who Klinsmann will call into training camp in January ahead of this match plus the World Cup qualifying matches. Needless to say that 2012 will be a pivotal year for the U.S. men's national team in terms of establishing who they are on a regional stage and eventually (we hope) the world stage.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The U.S. Women Wrapped Up An Unreal 2012 (28-1-3) With 4-1 Win Vs. China

The U.S. women had an incredible 2012 so it's only fitting that their last match of the year was another one-sided beating. They rolled 4-1 over China at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. It was the 10th and final match of their Fan Tribute Tour and they went 28-1-3 in 2012.

For the second game in a row against China, Abby Wambach scored twice. Those two headers gave her 152 career international goals which moved her within six of Mia Hamm's record. Props to Wambach though for honesty as she admitted afterwards in her postgame interview on NBC Sports that Alex Morgan (assist) will probably shatter her record in no time after she retires. Her openness was refreshing, when have you ever heard a professional athlete say something like that?

Speaking of Morgan, she combined with Wambach for 55 goals this year (28 for Morgan), tying a U.S. record from 1991 with Michelle Akers and Carin Jennings. Morgan also finished with 22 assists this year, second all-time behind Hamm (23).

Sydney Leroux also set a team record, scoring her 14th goal of 2012 (all as a reserve). Megan Rapinoe had the other goal. China went down hard for the third game in a row (10-1 aggregate for the U.S.) but at least this time they got on the board-something they hadn't done before. Hen Peng cut it to 2-1 in the 45th minute after a nice move and shot into the side netting past Hope Solo.

Wambach made it 1-0 in the 18th minute after Morgan's looping cross. Rapinoe took advantage of China's goalkeeper getting caught way outside of the goal as she chipped one into the vacated net from about 40 yards out in the 36th minute. Rapinoe assisted Wambach's second powerful header, in the 64th minute. Finally, Leroux had a sparkling header of her own in the 87th minute thanks to Heather Mitts's cross.

When we next see the U.S. women-February 9 vs. Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida-Tom Sermanni will have fully taken over as the head coach. Interim head coach Jill Ellis went 5-0-2 during the tour which has to count for something.

Happy Holidays ladies, enjoy the time off. You have more than earned it after a spectacular tour and year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Abby Wambach Scores Twice As U.S. Women Roll 4-0 Over China

It was business as usual for the U.S. women's national team during their highly successful Fan Tribute Tour. In the second to last match of the nationwide victory parade, they thrashed China 4-0 tonight at Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium.

Abby Wambach scored twice (her 149th and 150th career goals, which put her 8 behind Mia Hamm for the all-time U.S. lead), Heather O'Reilly had three assists, Carli Lloyd and Amy Rodriguez scored with Megan Rapinoe recording the one other point on an assist. Hope Solo and Nicole Barnhart "earned" the shutout although technically neither had to make a save as they played the first half and second half respectively.

Wambach's first strike was a header off a perfect cross from O'Reilly in the 20th minute. China only trailed 1-0 at halftime and it wasn't until the 62nd minute when the U.S. really took over for good. Lloyd scored on a header thanks to a great corner kick from Megan Rapinoe. That's when the wheels came off for China as Wambach added her second tally in the next minute. After receiving a pass from O'Reilly, she cut back into the box and took a shot that deflected off a defender's cleat.

Rodriguez came on in the 75th minute and it only took her 10 minutes to cash in on some rare playing time. Once again, O'Reilly made the play happen by hustling along the sideline around a Chinese player then hitting a tough angle shot on goal before she went out on the touch line. China's goalkeeper spilled it right to Rodriguez who didn't hesitate to bury it.

The U.S. women wrap up 2012 and this unbeaten tour (7-0-2) on Saturday night (7 p.m., NBC Sports Network) with one more match against China, at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. Expect another one-sided result as this team finally gets a much deserved break for the holidays. Haha I'm not sure that this tour had to be 10 matches long but what do I know?