|by Tim Froh|
Contributing Writer - Climbing the Ladder
I'm feeling lazy today and my writing hasn't been up to snuff in weeks, so instead of my normal format I'll be offering some thoughts on general soccer happenings, here and abroad (hopefully I'll gather my bearings soon):
- U.S. roster for Sweden match - Bradley's roster selections have, since the very beginning of his tenure as national team coach, left some pundits scratching their heads. The Sweden roster is no exception. Jen Chang at Soccernet wondered why Sal Zizzo was selected ahead of Josmer Altidore and Freddy Adu, two of the most potent offensive players on that same US U-20 squad. Had Chang devoted it any serious thought though, he would have realized that both Altidore and Adu are in extremely important club situations right now. Altidore has only recently won back a starting spot up front alongside Juan Pablo Angel (his second goal against Toronto last Saturday was a thing of beauty), while Adu is only beginning to settle in with club team Benfica, trying to earn himself important first team minutes (more later). Zizzo on the other hand will not play against Sweden. And since it's clear that he will not be playing for Hannover 96's first team this season, Bradley is likely bringing him in to get acclimated to the senior team. Where exactly is the harm in this? Call up Altidore against Brazil (see #2) and, depending on his club situation, let Freddy have his chance against Switzerland in October.
- Holy Crap! U.S. to face Brazil! - It's actually something of a pity that the U.S. won't have the chance to face Mexico in Azteca (a game which would have given many of our young, untested players a chance to play there before World Cup Qualification), but I'll take Brazil any day (especially since I get to go the game - who do I have to thank for so many games in Chicago? Sunil? Oh. Er...thanks?). Not only will Brazil be bringing their "A" squad, but this will provide a stern test, but one more stylistic than psychological (as the team would have experienced in Mexico City). Hopefully, Bradley takes a chance on Altidore and even gives him some late game minutes. Should be fun.
- Is Superliga "super"? - The Houston - Pachuca match was a blinder, one of the most intense non-league matches an MLS team has ever played. Hats off to Dominic Kinnear, the other MLS clubs, and Pachuca for taking this tournament seriously. Moving forward though, there are a few things that MLS and MFL can do to make this even more successful. The first is to move to a true home and away format. Not only will this force Mexican fans to accept the tournament and view it more passionately, but it will also give the MLS clubs valuable experience away from the comfy confines of their home stadium. Other than this though, MLS has done a lot of things well. Television coverage has been good (but English-language coverage would make it better), the quality of the games have ranged from fair to superb, and the attendance and crowds have proved both passionate and monetarily beneficial to the clubs involved. Superliga isn't "super" yet, but that day will come sooner rather than later.
- Freddy's big debut - Freddy got his chance, and by all accounts, it looks like he still has a lot of work to do. While somewhat out of his element in Benfica's Champions League qualifying match against Danish side FC Copenhagen, Freddy acquited well for himself, showing occasional flashes of brilliance, a deft touch, and some nice defensive bite. However, he still needs to learn to slow things down and not try to do to much. If he learns to just control the tempo and play his game, he'll be an extremely valuable asset for the club, and a worth heir to midfield maestro Rui Costa. Time will tell, but it's nice to see that his coach already trusts him enough to give him plenty of minutes (Adu was subbed into the match in the 37th minute!) in a very important match.
- Jozy Altidore - All I can say is look at this video. Holy shit. This kid's gonna be good. And unlike previous wonder goalscorers Clint Mathis and Eddie Johnson, Altidore is actually a smart, sane, humble kid. Amazing.