One nation under Jurgen Klinsmann with dreams of goals for all

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

U.S. Men Survive In Mexico To Get What They Need: A 0-0 Draw

Tonight's game at Estadio Azteca had many things that I hate about soccer (no goals, few scoring chances, tons of fouls, plenty of diving) that won't help it appeal to new audiences but I certainly can't complain about the final result: the U.S. men's national team tied Mexico 0-0. Coupled with Friday's 1-0 win over Costa Rica in the blizzard in Denver, four points in two matches is exactly what the Americans needed.

It was only the second time that the U.S. has earned a point in Mexico during World Cup qualifying, the last time was another scoreless draw on Nov. 2, 1997. The draw in the USA’s third of 10 matches in the final round of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying moved the Americans to 1-1-1 (4 points) in the Hexagonal and into a three-way tie for second place with Honduras and Costa Rica behind Panama (1-0-2, 5 points) at the top of the table. Mexico (0-0-3, 3 points) is in fifth place and Jamaica (0-1-2, 2 points) sits in sixth. The top three finishers qualify directly to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

In other results tonight Panama blanked Honduras 2-0 at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City and Costa Rica moved up from last place with a 2-0 victory against Jamaica at Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Mexico outshot the U.S. 17-1 and had 13 more corner kicks (15-2) as the Americans played in an Italian style defensive shell that for once, I totally understood and agreed with. Backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan picked up his second straight clean sheet with a few solid saves but truthfully, Mexico wasted all their chances including headers that somehow went over the net or wide from a few yards away.

Center backs Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler along with fullbacks Geoff Cameron and DeMarcus Beasley were the real stars as they did their best to stay composed despite the fact that they had to play defense basically the entire match. I can't remember one decent U.S. chance that didn't come off a set piece or corner kick.

Their next 2014 World Cup qualifying games are June 7 in Jamaica and then June 11 vs. Panama in Seattle. Hopefully by then, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra (maybe?), Steve Cherundolo, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson etc. are in form, healthy and in the lineup or at least on the U.S. bench. There are only so many games like this where you can get a result with the MLS All-Star team. Before that, Jurgen Kliinsmann's squad hosts two quality European teams: Belgium on May 29 in Cleveland and his home country-Germany-on June 2 in Washington DC.

Monday, March 18, 2013

U.S. Men's Roster Set For Costa Rica & Mexico, With A Couple Big Names Left Off

The U.S. men's next World Cup qualifiers are Friday against Costa Rica in Colorado and next Tuesday in Mexico City against Mexico. Today, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named his 23-man roster which is notable since Tim Howard (back), Steve Cherundolo (knee) and Timmy Chandler (hamstring) are among the eight regulars who were left off due to various injuries and illness.

Friday's match is at sold-out Dick's Sporting Good Park, it is the second game of the Hexagonal will be broadcast live on ESPN (10 p.m. EST). Tuesday (10:30 p.m. EST, ESPN) is at Estadio Azteca, a place where the U.S. has never won a World Cup qualifier although they finally grabbed a win there last summer.

“We know we have a big task ahead of us, and we are confident our group will get the job done,” said Klinsmann in a press release. “Obviously there are many players out with injuries, and that means the next person in line has a chance to step up. Getting points at home in World Cup qualifying is huge, and we are looking forward to having an awesome crowd supporting us in Denver on Friday night.”

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION (World Cup qualifying Caps/Goals)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa - 5/3 SO), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire – 0/0), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake – 0/0)
DEFENDERS (6): Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake – 0/0), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City – 0/0), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City – 6/0), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy – 1/0), Clarence Goodson (Brondby – 5/0), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes – 0/0)
MIDFIELDERS (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla – 26/6), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake – 2/0), Michael Bradley (Roma – 20/5), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana – 1/0), Maurice Edu (Bursaspor – 10/0), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04 – 6/0), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht – 13/0), Brek Shea (Stoke City – 2/0), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City – 4/0)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar – 18/6), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna – 2/0), Clint Dempsey (Tottenham Hotspur – 27/11), Herculez Gomez (Santos – 6/2), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC – 12/10)

The five other Americans that won't be there are Edgar Castillo (facial fractures), Fabian Johnson (hip), Jonathan Spector (ankle), Jose Torres (hamstring) and Danny Williams (illness). Klinsmann and his team won't make excuses, they have more than enough talent remaining to still get some positive results. Friday's game, since it is at home plus they are coming off the 2-1 loss to Honduras means that they need a win pretty badly. I don't expect them to win in Mexico, especially without Howard so it might be the first time in my life that I root for a draw. That would be a solid result for the U.S. First things first, they need to beat Costa Rica and get some confidence back after their awful showing in Honduras (February 6).

UPDATE 3/19: Midfielder Brad Davis was added to the roster.

UPDATE 3/20: With Carlos Bocanegra not on the roster, Klinsmann had to pick a new captain for these two qualifiers. His choice of Dempsey is fine by me, why not go with the best player who must have the respect of his teammates?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Oh Crap, Looks Like Tim Howard Will Miss Some World Cup Qualifiers

Facing two vital World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica (March 22 in Colorado) and Mexico (March 26 in Mexico City) in two weeks, the U.S. men's soccer team received some very bad news. Goalkeeper Tim Howard picked up two broken bones in his back playing for Everton so he's expected to be out for the rest of March.

That means that backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan would start in his first World Cup qualifiers in four years for the Americans. The good news is that Guzan has been the starter lately for Aston Villa so he should be ready.

Howard was hurt Feb. 26 in an FA Cup win over Oldham and missed last weekend's Premier League game against Reading. That ended his streak of consecutive league matches at 210, two shy of the Everton record set by goalkeeper Neville Southall from 1987-93.

Everton manager David Moyes said Howard will miss Saturday's FA Cup quarterfinal against Wigan and the March 16 match league match versus Manchester City, but could return March 30 against Stoke.

"We are not sure how long Tim will be out for because, obviously with a goalkeeper, he has to dive around and hit the ground," Moyes said Friday, according to the team's website. "If everything goes well, he misses next week's game, as well, and then because of the international break he might be close after the rest because that would be four weeks."

Howard is getting up there in age (34) although goalkeepers can play at a much higher level in later years than most field players. He is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world; he started all their games at the 2010 World Cup and the previous seven World Cup qualifiers for Brazil 2014.

"He has two fractures, but they are not bones that are supporting anything," Moyes said. "It is off the spine. They are not weight-bearing. It just needs a bit of healing time. It is not like a pure fracture where you need to wait to look at it. It is a question of whether he can cope with the pain. The bones will heal themselves, but it's not good."

Midfielder Landon Donovan won't start training with the LA Galaxy until later this month so he won't be ready for these upcoming matches. Midfielder Clint Dempsey has been out since February 21 at Tottenham dealing with a calf injury and fullback Steve Cherundolo could miss a month at Hannover (Germany) with a shoulder injury.

None of this makes me feel better, I was already expecting the U.S. to not win at Mexico. They really need a win vs. Costa Rica to get some confidence back after the 2-1 loss at Honduras in February to open this last round of qualifying (the Hexagonal).