Friday, July 6, 2007

Thomas Rongen Should Be Proud: US U-20's 2-1 Brazil

What a thrilling match. Fantastic. As a soccer fan, I am thoroughly enjoying myself. With this win, the US is one of the strongest contenders for U-20 World Cup glory. I predict an amazing run towards the final.

Let's get right into it. In no particular order:

Outstanding players in the first half

-Sal Zizzo did a really impressive job at right wing and his drives toward goal were one of the US' most consistently dangerous threats throughout the match. Ives: "Is that really UCLA's Zizzo schooling Real Madrid's Marcelo?"

-Robbie Rogers did a great job over on the left wing. Rogers seems to appreciate that sometimes it's better to dribble towards the center for a good look or a wicked shot instead of constantly pounding the wing for a blind cross. Good stuff.

-Altidore maintained a physical presence and exhibited world-class composure to burn the ball past Brazil keeper Cassio. I'm already dreaming about the Olympics next year.

-Anthony Wallace (played left back for the US) is relatively unknown and unheralded in the US soccer community, but he looked amazingly calm versus Pato et. al. Fancy footwork didn't faze him. If Bornstein can't sort himself out by 2010, I have a strange feeling this kid will overtake his spot on the squad.

-See my comments below about Seitz in the second half.

-Jo was a terror.

-Pato showed great creativity to work the ball in the box, but his bane is his finishing touch. Understatement of the year: he's decent for a 17 year-old.

Outstanding players in the second half

- Michael Bradley will probably get a pat on the back for his performance tonight and not much else. I'm here to make it known that he did a great job keeping the Brazilians from running amok straight through our defense. I'll be the first to say that he's not suited for the holding midfielder role (on the US senior squad he's got much more creative license), but because he's one of the most physically mature players in the U-20 tournament, he's automatically qualified to knock opponents off the ball. Furthermore, he's got a great touch for dispersing pressure, knowing who to send the ball to and in which direction; none of this, "I have the ball under direct pressure, let me stand up straight and attempt to clear it across the field" nonsense I've seen way too much from our U20's and seniors alike. Bradley plays it one time on the ground to a player who can pass it forward or comfortably clear to safety. If you never score in this tournament, Bradley, that's okay: I've been watching.

- Adu stayed in magical form. He's got a certain strategy I'm starting to appreciate: in the first half he puts in an honest effort orchestrating the attack and formulating offensive plays from the hole; in the second half, when it seems like the whole world's tired but him, Adu slips up top next to Jozy and has his way with the opponent's defense. I thought for a time that his size and build were too slight for him to work past taller, stronger opponents, but I was wrong. Adu has a great touch and a great eye to match. Adu was another of our most consistent threats throughout the game.

- Altidore never lost composure or physicality, sometimes working with his back towards goal a la Ching and other times having a dribble against defenders a la Twellman. Great stuff.

- Seitz: Man of the Match. A Perkins-esque, Guzan-like performance made him truly stand out among a pitch full of rising stars. I am extremely worried about his right leg; he stopped taking kicks and laid down straight away after the whistle blew. If he goes down for the quarterfinals, the US' chances of taking the title are halved.

- Jo and Leandro Lima never let down, constantly pressing forward. They are deft passers and downright filthy dribblers. Amazing. Lima didn't deserve to score and tie the game; Pato did. Pato's chip should never have hit the side netting.


Beltran had an absolutely horrible game. He was completely outclassed. That's not to say he wasn't putting for the effort: I saw the sweat dripping from his brow. Despite his good effort, he was a defensive hazard and an offensive woe. I was honestly surprised it took so long for Rongen to throw Ward in for Beltran. Better luck next time, kid.


I'm starting to wonder if something is wrong with Ferrari.


I'll say it again: with this win, the US is one of the top contenders for the U-20 title. This game proves they know how to score and are capable of winning 70, 80, even 90 minutes into a match. Thomas Rongen should be proud.

Lets hope the players get ample regeneration time to be fresh against whoever in the quarterfinals. I'll be thrilled to watch it, whenever it is.


Query: In Brazil they tout young stars as 'the next Ronaldinho' and in France, 'the next Zidane.' Does that make Adu the next Donovan? What does that make Altidore? The next Wynalda? In my opinion, young American stars make a name for themselves very early on.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

USA Dips Out: Colombia 1-0 US

I've already said enough about the US and the B team coming to Copa. I'm skipping that.

And I've already put in my two cents about the past couple months overall, how it's been a great learning experience and such. So none of that.

And for some real match analysis, go to Ives or something.

I'm in a bad mood and I snoozed most of the way through the USA match. I don't have much to say.

Here's what I got:

- Tim Howard is our number one keeper without a doubt. Brad Guzan deserves serious consideration as our number two. Hahnemann didn't impress me as much when I witnessed his performances for the Nats. Guzan did extremely well, considering that this was a team playing through the sendoff match of a campaign in its death throes. My depth chart: 1) Tim Howard 2) Brad Guzan 3) Marcus Hahnemann 4) Chris Seitz (no, I'm not kidding) 5) Perkins/Reis/etc.

- Bobby Boswell had a respectable performance. He had no Wynne-like glitches, at least. I thought he looked better than both Califf and Pearce.

- Davies also had a respectable performance, and played like he had something to prove (which he did). It's unfortunate he couldn't produce, but he had more passion about the game than either Hercules Gomez or Eddie Johnson. Why he didn't get more Copa minutes than 20-something out of 270 is beyond me.

- I know he has detractors aplenty, but Nguyen is great. I love that kid. He woke me up. He plays with drive, tenacity, and creativity -- the kind of stuff the US needs to win a game, you know? Nguyen is almost like Mapp, only better. With Beasley as a young veteran and Nguyen as a young talent, Bradley has to like his situation out on the left wing. My only problem is, with all his quickness, I don't think he was quite match fit. It seemed like he only had fifteen minutes of fire and then he jogged his way through the rest. I've got a feeling that he is still working his way back from that shoulder surgery from awhile ago. Anyways, I've got high hopes for this kid. I hear he's got plenty of suitors who want him on loan from PSV. He's in a good place right now and he's got nowhere to go but up.

Chelsea Signs The Duck?

Finally I get to post about my Chelsea. I was waiting for some good news (Robben leaving is not good news, and Lampard isn't any better) and this news seems good enough:

Chelsea may have signed young Brazilian standout Pato, depending on whether are making educated guesses or not. Consensus is that Chelsea are the frontrunners in the race to sign this kid; whether terms were accepted is yet unclear.

Pato is currently on national duty with the Brazil U-20's in Canada, who face a resurgent US squad on Friday, July 6th. I hear he's got quite an ego about himself.

This is good. This is great. My problem is, compared to Torres and Anderson and Nani, all of whom could actually make an impact on the club in the coming season, I'm not sure Pato will be helping anyone lift a trophy until he's at least 19. But this gives me hope; between Kalou, Mikel, Sahar, and The Duck, Chelsea in the 2010-11 season will be amazing.

In other Chelsea news, Robben is still probably going to leave, Lampard is still probably going to sulk, Chelsea might sign Chimbonda because Alves is too expensive, Alex is coming home, and everyone still considers Chelsea a juggernaut with the ability to take home another Premiership title. I'm still probably going to pray for Euro glory, however.

Some dude named Dalby might play in England next season.

I have no idea how I heard about this, but apparently Preston North End of the English Championship is close to signing former US U-20 captain Greg Dalby. North End, which came narrowly close to earning promotion to the EPL last season, is waiting to sign Dalby pending the Home Office granting a work permit. I'm not holding my breath.

Why have I never heard of this kid? He's 21 and apparently he's an "exceptional young talent." Why didn't he come to the MLS or anything? Has he been hiding in Europe for the last few years? I checked the Yanks Abroad database for some further information and they don't have anyone listed under that name, though they do have someone named "Dallman" who was also born in 1985.

What the hell?

The Fallout With CONMEBOL

In case you haven't read the newspaper yet, there's an AP report circulating around summarizing how CONMEBOL is upset that the USSF sent its B team to the Copa.

Brian over at An American's View tells us why CONMEBOL can shove it. Sharp as a tack, that Brian. His points about CONMEBOL's scheduling are especially interesting.

Furthermore, Tim Froh rebuffs the naysayers both domestic and abroad for criticizing the US' roster selection and explains exactly what an American fan can take away from the tournament. I'm becoming more and more enamored of Froh's writing.

Good articles, the two of them.

(As a side note, I'm thrilled that DCU's next three matches will be aired on Comcast, and save for the three SuperLiga matches after the All-Star break, the rest of the season's matches will be aired on Comcast as well. Brilliant.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Emiligol Strikes Again, DCU 1-0 KC

Happy Independence Day, folks.

In the hot, hot heat of Kansas City, DC United stole a win to overtake New York and New England and assume first place in the MLS East standings.

There's only one complaint I can lodge with some semblance of justification: Simms had a horrible game as right wingback today. Poor guy, I know he was giving it everything and he doesn't want to pass up these opportunities to impress the coaches, but today he was a true liability at the back. He was good coming across the center line, but back on defense he was a hole waiting to happen.

Otherwise, there were some defensive slips from Erpe- I mean, Vanney (tempting, isn't it?), which I'll excuse because this was his first outing for DC, and there were also some blunders from Gros, though not as many and not as glaring. Vanney's corners look wonderful and I'm sure McTavish is learning a few things from this guy.

I felt that Addlery couldn't quite figure out the KC back line and Carroll was almost a disaster waiting to happen. Mediate really didn't make an impression on me one way or another and Dyachenko wasn't in long enough to have an impact.

McTavish gets my Man of the Match bid. The kid was just awesome, saving United at clutch moments and really doing his best to sustain the defense for those boiling-hot ninety minutes. He positioned himself correctly throughout the game and was really our most solid defender, despite his rookie status. Almost reminds me of another great rookie defender.

Speaking of, once Boswell comes back, I hope McTavish can perform just as well at right back as he is in the center. And Boswell had better find his good form fast because if McTavish keeps this up I really feel that Boswell's starting spot is in contention. Actually, that's probably an exaggeration, but McTavish has improved a great deal and has proved to me that he is a viable option at center back.

Now to the offense: It was obvious to me that KC still regards Gomez as our primary offensive threat, Zavagnin molesting him and all. Thing is, what with Addlery proving himself to be a solid target man, Moose pounding the wings, Emilio assuming the role of withdrawn forward in Jaime's absence, and Fred working voodoo magic all over the damn field, Gomez can't be regarded as our primary offensive threat. Shutting down Gomez does not shut down our offense. It's the truth, and it's a wonderful thing: we have such a comprehensive attack that defenses have no idea who to mark and who to tackle in order to prevent a play from happening. I have a feeling that once Jaime returns, the chemistry will revive and Gomez will once again assume a playmaking role, but right now our offense has to be one of the most terrifying in the league, if only because defenses have no idea how we're going to approach the goal.

Case in point: Fred hooking up with Emiligol in the box, each one showing a fantastic understanding of how the KC defense would react, and we put it away in style. A truly amazing goal. My Goal of the Week for sure.

Player ratings:

Perkins: 7
(Yeah, he came up clutch, but there were times there where he just looked unsure of himself. He was phenomenal coming off his line, though.)

Simms: 3

McTavish: 8

Vanney: 6

Gros: 6

Moose: 7

Gomez: 7

Fred: 8

Addlery: 6

Emilio: 7.5

Subs: Mediate 6, deRoux 6, Dyachenko 5.

Goad win away from RFK, good winning streak in the making, and a good three points to be snatching up for the standings. Keep it going, DCU.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Freddy Adu Revives the Hype: US 6-1 Poland

Well, Freddy and the boys are at it again:

They dismantled Poland with six world-class goals.

The highlights speak for themselves.

Adu wasn't the only starlet to shine: Szetela had a brace on the day and Altidore got his name in lights, as well.

The game seemed so surreal: everyone was clicking, everyone making runs, beautiful shots. Everything added up -- meaning the young Americans were in unusually fine form today.

Julian Valentin caught a nasty elbow to the face and left the game bleeding. Ofori Sarkodie came on as a replacement. We'll hear updates, I'm sure.

So how much does this speak for the talent of the US squad and the quality of the program? Volumes? Paperbacks? Last December's DogFancy? Here's what I make of it: Poland, being battle weary from their Brazil match still, were always slow and never truly inspired. They nabbed one at the beginning but it was clear from that point on that they didn't possess the resources to keep the lead. Bradley was an unsung hero, doing all the dirty work while his teammates fished for glory -- but does he really need to shine? He's in a good situation in Europe and the MNT already has him well in their sights. It's good that Adu and Szetela lived up to their reputations for a change. Their performance today did wonders to justify our belief that they will grow into outstanding footballers very soon.

But I'm not answering the question. How much does this say about the squad? Not a whole lot. It confirmed our convictions about Adu and Szetela, and everyone looked great on the pitch, but they certainly can't expect the same kind of lackadaisical midfield play and mushy, forgiving defense from Brazil, who are still looking to humiliate an opponent with their traditional class and style. The US stands atop the group as of now; whether we don't slip to second by the next round I can't say. I have a good feeling we'll progress to the next round, but I couldn't tell you how soon we're leaving. One game does not a tournament make.

One thing's for sure: we looked damn good on that green stuff today.

People Seem to Have Forgotten...

... but C. Ronaldo is 22 and Wayne Rooney is 21. Twenty-two and twenty-one. In years of age. Christ...

Ronaldo has 50 goals in 190 appearances, Rooney has 41 in 100. Appearances, I mean. Appearances for Manchester United. A hundred appearances for Manchester United.


Szetela -- Future Yank Abroad?

In the midst of the US' dismal performance vs. Korea, young U-20 national Danny Szetela is enjoying attention from quite a few international clubs -- Parma, Galatasaray, and Rangers among them, says Ives.

While I think Parma would help develop Szetela's raw talent into priceless techinical skill, I would love Rangers to sign the kid.

I'm really building a healthy respect for my favorite team in Glasgow, as they obviously have a healthy respect for American footballing talent. And you know what? With Beattie gone and Naka walking out the door over at Celtic, Rangers could be on the verge of a rennaisance in Scotland this year. If they don't, I'll chalk it up to those slave-trading bastards over at Bordeaux, who apparently gave Faubert an ultimatum of playing for West Ham or not playing at all. Faubert will be playing for West Ham in the fall. Score one for Eggert Magnusson's money.

Rangers' new transfer target? Alan Smith.

(Actually, I'm going back and thinking about it: Galatasaray? Goddamn, how would Szetela handle the rivalry pressure? I'm scared already.)

Update: Szetela has shaved his mohawk. This is unfortunate; Rangers were counting on his hairstyle for inspiration and entertainment, as was I. Way to drop the ball, Szetela.

"If You Can't Finish, You Can't Win:" US 1 - 3 Paraguay

A quote for the ages.

I'll have a full match summary up tonight, once I get ahold of my notes.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Update: Soehn on the Vanney-Erpen Trade

Courtesy Goff:

"One of the attractive things about Greg is his experience and his ability to organize. We've lacked a little bit of that -- a veteran guy in the back that is going to make our shape better. If you look at the chances we've given away, a lot of it is our shape and I think he's going to help Bobby in a lot of respects and teach him and Bobby can emulate some of the things he does. We wanted to make sure we had a backline that was experienced, because we haven't had that in a while."

Told ya. Neener neener.

Casal Released

It turns out the BigSoccer rumors were true: Kasali Yinka Casal has been released from DC United. (Kudos to Max J. @ The Offside: DC United for the tip.)

Goff has the rundown.

This is a bit of a setback for DC United: Casal was a very promising prospect for the future. However, the allure of European football (he's a Fulham prospect, mind) has always been strong in him and I'm not sure if we would have been able to keep him here past the age of 20 anyways. At least if he stayed, DCU would see a bit of a profit. As it is, if he finds greener pastures across the pond, DCU will get nothing.

I'm starting to wonder whether or not his rejection from the Nigerian U-20 side has anything to do with this. Casal might happen to feel (as most young international prospects do; see my piece a couple posts down about Juan Toja) that playing in the MLS for any amount of time will hurt his ambitions for playing on the national team.

Anyways, good luck, Casal. Hope you hit the big time, son.

Update: there's a small little thought at the end of this DCenters post that strikes me as tremenously true -- "...if United raises the Cup in DC these moves will be a crucial part of that story."

If we win it, these moves will have won the Cup. It's the truth.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

US U-20 vs. Korea: What Went Wrong

As you can see, the Koreans were having a field day. Over the top every time, and they had the speed to back it up. Combine this with quick passes, through balls, and one-twos on the ground and our defense looked like crap.

Sorry guys, but I gotta call you out.

I'm a DCU fan, I swear...

... but this is an excellent article. Juan Toja is a young Colombian phenom playing with the Hoops, FC Dallas, in Texas. He's on loan from Colombian side Santa Fe and is contemplating his future after the championship this year.

Great insight into the young player's mind, about his hopes as a young boy and his maturity when those changed. Good read. (Shout out to du Nord for their 'Recommended Reading' list; I always browse that for a good read.)