Wednesday, June 27, 2007

U.S. - Argentina Preview and Copa America Thoughts

By Tim Froh

Special to Climbing the Ladder

With the win over Mexico behind them and the daunting prospect of facing a stacked Argentine squad ahead of them, Bob Bradley’s U.S. Men’s National Team is set for what must certainly be the greatest test of Bradley’s short tenure as coach. It was this same Argentine squad that dismantled Serbia and Montenegro in last summer’s World Cup, 6-0. That was the same Serbia and Montenegro squad that conceded the fewest goals in UEFA World Cup Qualifying. Now imagine a U.S. backline of quick-but-positionally-unsound Jonathan Bornstein, even-faster-but-just-as-tactically-unsound Marvell Wynne, and a central combination of Jimmy Conrad and Jay DeMerit, all backed up by an aging Kasey Keller (or a green Brad Guzan) in goal. The challenge seems practically Herculean in proportion.

Still, one shouldn’t draw too many comparisons between last summer’s dismantling of Serbia and Montenegro (which featured perhaps the greatest goal of the entire tournament, here) and the challenge that awaits the U.S. youngsters tonight. It’s doubtful that the U.S. midfield and defense will give as much space to the Argentines as the Serbians did. And, despite their youth and the lack of quality finishers, the United States still boasts a more potent offense than did Serbia and Montenegro (despite his occasional laziness, Justin Mapp presents a much more technically gifted offensive presence than any one on that World Cup squad). All comparisons between the two end here though. If anything, the one lesson to draw from that game is to not bunker down. There are few national teams capable of breaking through an air-tight bunker, but Argentina, with its plethora of skillful passers and its immense talent on and off the ball, is one of them.

To go back to last Sunday’s victory over Mexico for a minute, the one element of that victory that stuck out was the United States’ unwillingness to sit back and bunker and the tenacity the team showed when down a goal (a quality rarely witnessed during Arena’s tenure). While the defensive lapses on Sunday never cost the United States the game, few would argue that Argentina is not capable of punishing those same mistakes, given that they possess an attacking force that features Tevez, Crespo, Messi, and Riquelme. Yet what Bradley’s strategy revealed was fearlessness, a total willingness to confront Mexico on its own terms. While his squad for tonight’s game may differ insofar as the relative strength of its talent, it still possesses enough skill (Clark, Feilhaber, Mapp, Johnson) to (occasionally) offensively test the Argentines. And what does Bradley learn from a bunker, other than that his players are either good or bad at executing it?

I suspect though that we’ll see very little daring in Bradley’s starting eleven. While I think he’ll ultimately go with a 4-4-2, an Arena-esque 4-5-1 may also be a possibility, a point I’ll get to later:






This line-up is probably the safest (and the most sane) that Bradley can make against what is surely going to be a very motivated Argentine squad. Allow me to reiterate that this is an estimation of what I think Bradley is going to do. While I’d feel safer with a more stay-at-home, more traditional left back in Pearce, I imagine that Bradley will once again give his favorite prodigy (from his Chivas U.S.A. days) Bornstein a chance at left back. On the right, other than Wynne the only real option is Drew Moor, a player who only moved to right defense this season with Dallas, and a position he is still in the process of learning.

Moving forward, I would be awfully surprised if Bradley did not give Ricardo Clark and Benny Feilhaber another chance together in midfield. After Clark came on for Pablo Mastroeni in Sunday’s game against Mexico, the whole dynamic of the game changed. His tireless work rate, passing, and communication with Feilhaber could at the very least mean that the U.S. isn’t spending the entire game in its own half of the field. The two midfielders’ ability to work together will be sorely tested against a possession-oriented opponent in Argentina.

On the wings, another Bradley prodigy, Sacha Kljestan will doubtless start on the right. The only other options available to Bradley are Eddie Gaven, Lee Nguyen, and Herculez Gomez. However, Gaven has failed to impress at Columbus this season, Nguyen is still green, and the Copa America is Gomez’s first U.S. camp. It’s unlikely that any of them would start ahead of Kljestan, a player with whom Bradley has great rapport and experience. On the left, Justin Mapp seems to be the only option. His passing and ability to beat players off the dribble will be useful, but he is also prone to laziness and lapses in defensive effort, always a danger against Argentina, against whom the defenders will not want to over-commit.

Johnson and Twellman are the most likely combination we will see tonight. Both had mediocre Gold Cups (perhaps worse in Twellman’s case because of the obvious lack of finishing ability he displayed), but each will be looking to solidify a place in Bradley’s squad as they are slowly pushed out of the picture. This tournament will provide each with what may be their last chance to truly establish a place in the squad. It’s imperative that Johnson use his speed and strength to break down the Argentine defense. If we see any hint of the laziness he displayed against Canada, it will be a long, long night for the U.S.

While the 4-4-2 above is the most likely formation that we’ll see tonight, it’s also possible that Bradley will lean towards a 4-5-1, throwing Ben Olsen or Kyle Beckerman into the center of the pitch as well to support Clark and Feilhaber and to clog up the Argentine passing lanes. This strategy though could make for one ugly game and even fewer offensive chances for the U.S. If anything, Arena’s use of the formation demonstrated that Johnson did not do very good work alone up top, even with superior players behind him (Donovan and Beasley, to name two).

While tonight’s game will be a supreme test for the squad, I’d like to see Bradley take more of an experimental tact in the final two group games against Columbia and Paraguay. In Columbia, the U.S. will find itself up against an opponent willing to attack and open up the game. However, against Paraguay (a very skilled team, but one prone to team defense and 1-0 scorelines) the U.S. will really need to emphasize creativity in the midfield and display a willingness to take defenders on one v. one. Against both squads, I’d actually like to see Bradley try a 4-3-3:







This line-up not only provides defensive cover, but it also gives Clark, Feilhaber, and Kljestan the opportunity to roam the midfield and exchange offensive and defensive roles and responsibilities (something similar to Clark’s role in Houston’s interchangeable diamond midfield). While up front it frees Gomez and Mapp from more strenuous defensive duties, allowing each to attack the goal, while also utilizing Johnson’s strength and speed to break down and stretch opposing defenses. However, soccer is a game that is played on the field and not on paper. No matter how much I may like the look of this line-up here, it’s doubtful that Bradley will replicate it against either Columbia or Paraguay. Still, Bradley needs to find a way to utilize Gomez and Mapp as offensive weapons rather than two-way wingers (which they are not).

The Copa America is going to provide Bradley and the U.S. with an immense test. Not only will Bradley’s pre-game and in-game tactics be even more scrutinized than they were in the Gold Cup, but the players themselves, without the on-field talents of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, or DaMarcus Beasley to surround them, will have to step up their game against top-level opposition. Rather than look at this as an embarrassment for U.S. soccer (as some fans have), they ought to embrace it as an opportunity to see Bradley’s adaptability as a coach and these players’ abilities to take their game to the next level.

Some Post-Gold Cup Thoughts:

  • I'm happy that Bob Bradley finally got beyond his rather infantile benching of Ricardo Clark. Just because you're embarassed that you traded him to San Jose only for him to become the league's premier two-way central midfielder, doesn't mean he shouldn't be starting. Clark absolutely transformed the midfield after he came on on Sunday. I still contend that one of Arena's biggest mistakes was never giving this kid a chance in the lead up to the World Cup. Who among us wouldn't have rather seen Clark lining up against Ghana than Ben Olsen?
  • Lost in all the discussion over whether Michael Bradley is good enough to be receiving call-ups and playing time, and whether his starts in the Gold Cup were the dubious product of nepotism, is the fact that this kid is only nineteen. His ceiling is very, very high. Let's just hope he gets some quality starting time with Heerenveen this season. (P.S. He played one hell of a game against Canada - minus the red card.)
  • I actually really hope Eddie Johnson can find motivation to become the talent we know he's capable of becoming. I say this not so much for Eddie's sake, but so that obnoxious U.S. fans will leave Josmer Altidore, Johann Smith, and Gabe Ferrari alone so that they can develop on their own time. Still, the lack of quality finishing from our forwards is troubling. I'm hoping someone will step up in the next few years, no matter who it is.
  • Simek and Spector look like quality prospects on the outside, but the U.S. is really starting to look thin in central defense. Jimmy Conrad, who may be our most consistent and solid center back (as an Earthquakes fan you cannot possibly imagine how astonishing it is every time to type that), turned 30 this year. He'd be 33 in 2010. Bocanegra, while solid against Mexico, is still prone to boneheaded mistakes and lapses in thought. And Onyewu...I'm really hoping he finds a solid club, gets his confidence back, and learns to really control his strength and size. If he can do that, he'll be a solid player.
  • Quietly, Landon Donovan had a very good Gold Cup tournament. No one gives this kid any respect or credit, but he's truly turned in some fabulous performances under Bradley so far. It seems that Bradley has finally found a spot that suits him just right (a hybrid position that alternates between withdrawn forward and right midfielder).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Most/Fewest Goalscorers/Players Used Records

Updating my posts on this subject from last August, it's time to take a look at which teams in MLS history hold these records and also which teams in 2007 have a chance of breaking the records.

Note: Counting MLS regular season games only.

Most Players Used in a Single Season

1 1996 New York 36
2 2006 Columbus 33
3 2006 Los Angeles 32
3 2005 Real Salt Lake 32
5 1999 Miami 31
6 2005 Colorado 30
6 1998 Miami 30
6 1997 New York 30
6 2002 New York 30
(3 teams tied)

There have been many trades this season in MLS, so this record is definitely vulnerable. However there are two fewer games this season which may make it hard to break. Currently, already there are five teams who have used at least 24 players. The league average all time is exactly 25 per season.

Current numbers:

2007 Chicago 24
2007 Chivas USA 18
2007 Colorado 21
2007 Columbus 24
2007 Dallas 19
2007 DC United 21
2007 Houston 21
2007 Kansas City 19
2007 Los Angeles 23
2007 New England 18
2007 New York 24
2007 Real Salt Lake 25
2007 Toronto 25

Toronto and LA seem like the best candidates to break the record. Toronto will have Todd Dunivant, Tyrone Marshall and Collin Samuel adding to their total soon, but their bench is weak and many of the lesser guys may never see action. The Galaxy meanwhile have added Carlos Pavon in addition to David Beckham, which would then leave them 11 short of the record. They'll have Alan Gordon coming back from injury, and it also seems likely that Steve Cronin will get a shot at some point. Given the trade-crazy attitudes of Mo Johnston and Alexi Lalas, there may be many more guys coming in (who knows).

1996 NY/NJ Metrostars

Baba, Barber, Brauchle, Caricola, da Silva, De Avila, Donadoni, Gillen, Harty, Hennessey, Hernandez, Hesse, Huseinovic, Johnson, Joseph, Ken-Kwofie, Knowles, Kydes, Lagos, Lembryk, Longenecker, Meola, Munnelly, Namazi, Ramos, Restrepo, Rinker, Rodriguez, Savarese, Silvera, Thornton, Unger, Vermes, Villegas, Wood, Zaun

Fewest Players Used in a Single Season

1 2002 San Jose 19
2 2006 Houston 20
2 1996 Tampa Bay 20
2 2000 Tampa Bay 20
(12 teams tied) 21

This record is in no danger as you can see above. The increased roster sizes make it easier to bench players or give them a rest. Frank Yallop and Dominic Kinnear have certainly liked to use few players, though.

2002 Earthquakes

Agoos, Barclay, Barrett, Cannon, Conrad, Conway, Corrales, Dayak, De Rosario, Donovan, Ekelund, Gonzalez, Graziani, Ibsen, Lagos, Mulrooney, Robinson, Roner, Russell

Most Goalscorers in a Single Season

1 2005 Chicago 17
1 1997 DC United 17
3 1997 Columbus 16
3 2003 Dallas 16
3 1999 San Jose 16
(11 teams tied)

The all time average is 12.0 per season. This is one that definitely could go down.

Current numbers:

2007 Chicago 7
2007 Chivas USA 6
2007 Colorado 6
2007 Columbus 11
2007 Dallas 9
2007 DC United 5
2007 Houston 8
2007 Kansas City 10
2007 Los Angeles 9
2007 New England 8
2007 New York 9
2007 Real Salt Lake 5
2007 Toronto 9

The Crew still has guys like Garey, Hejduk and Virtuoso yet to score, while the Galaxy has Klein, Pavon, Gordon, Beckham, etc. 17 is pretty hard to reach, but I feel it's more likely to be broken than the players used record.

2005 Fire goalscorers

Armas, Barrett, Caballero, Curtin, Gray, Guerrero, Herron, Jaqua, Johnson, Mapp, Marsch, Reiter, Rolfe, Segares, Stewart, Thiago, Thorrington

1997 United goalscorers

Agoos, Diaz Arce, Etcheverry, Gori, Harkes, Iroha, Kamler, Kelderman, Maessner, Marsch, Moreno, Peay, Pope, Rammel, Sanneh, Wegerle, Williams

Fewest Goalscorers in a Single Season

1 2002 Colorado 6
2 2001 Miami 7
3 2006 Chivas USA 8
3 2001 Colorado 8
3 2003 Colorado 8
3 1999 Kansas City 8
(8 teams tied) 9

Seems to be an almost impossible record to break. You would need a couple of very talented goalscorers who dominate your offense.

2002 Rapids goalscorers

Carrieri, Chung, Henderson, Kingsley, Spencer, Valderrama

Monday, June 25, 2007

MLS 2007 - Week 12 Goals (video)

Rapidshare-wmv (9 mb). Downloadable version doesn't have the url at the beginning. It's also slightly better quality-wise than Youtube (they convert videos to flash which makes them worse).

Timbaland f/Keri Hilson - "The Way I Are"

Notes: Lots of headers and corners this week. I've been trying to frontload the comps this year, my reasoning being that not everyone will watch the whole thing so you might as well show the best up front. And also, showing the best goals first might entice people to watch more and become more interested in MLS. I mean, last year I always tried to show the best goal first, but this year I'm trying to show almost all the good ones in the first half.

Also, if anyone has the HDnet highlights from last week (DC-CHI), please hook me up. Thanks.

Week 12 Results:

Columbus Crew 2:1 Kansas City Wizards
Houston Dynamo 4:0 CD Chivas USA
New England Revolution 3:0 Toronto FC
Real Salt Lake 2:1 DC United
Colorado Rapids 0:1 FC Dallas
Los Angeles Galaxy 2:3 Columbus Crew
Kansas City Wizards 0:1 Houston Dynamo

Goals: (in order shown)

Brian Mullan
Alejandro Moreno
Brad Davis
Robbie Findley
Stefani Miglioranzi
Pat Noonan
Brad Davis
Gavin Glinton
Ned Grabavoy
Juan Toja
Andy Dorman
Jack Jewsbury
Chad Marshall
Luciano Emilio
Patrick Ianni
Robbie Findley
Edson Buddle
Andy Dorman
Eddie Gaven
Brad Davis

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Relive Your 2006 World Cup Disappointment

Are you a new US soccer fan? Or are you a longtime fan who's finally recovered from that bitter taste in your mouth last June? Well now you can relieve the fan meltdown that occurred thanks to the team's poor performance, which of course was to due to (pick one or more) lack of talent/American coach/MLS/American culture/Landon Donovan/group of death/Giuseppe Rossi. Oh joy.

I saved the Bigsoccer chat logs from the Czech and Ghana matches, so if you want to know or remember what it was like to be an fan on those days, here you go. I'm "Razov equals god." The Ghana one is very entertaining, especially as the game ends and the US is eliminated.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Various Notes

1) Gold Cup semifinals are here. Planet World Cup's Peter Goldstein is doing an excellent job at recapping the action so far. He has the best coverage of the "lesser" confederations that I've found on the web. It's hard to see any other outcome other than a USA-Mexico final. They don't need to play their best to beat the other teams in CONCACAF. Just look at the USA in the 2005 edition. Canada is pretty good though. Based on their European talent, they really should do better in World Cup qualifying. With the new stadium and MLS team, I would expect them to make the hex at least.

Oh, and I just want to mention this: Guadeloupe is NOT like Puerto Rico, it's more like Hawaii. It's a department/region of France, part of the country and not a territory. Clear? That's why it can't, won't, and shouldn't be a FIFA member. So no World Cup for them.

2) Here's a World Cup statistic for you. Which non-champion country has defeated the most World Cup winners (out of the seven)? Of the non-winners, that would be be an honor shared by Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and Yugoslavia. All of those teams have beaten four of the World Cup winners.

3) Speaking of the World Cup, this is definitely an issue that's completely under the radar. When will the preliminary draws be done for World Cup qualifying? They were scheduled to happen in late May. This Bigsoccer thread alerted me to this issue. I'm not talking about the big draw in South Africa this November, where we'll learn the groups and pairings for every confederation. I'm talking about the draws for AFC (Asia) and CAF (Africa), where they will pit their weakest teams against each other to get to the number for the November draw. OFC already did their draw, at least.

It's also interesting that CAF is cutting down to 48 teams for the big draw. They will qualify 5 teams to the World Cup and 16 to the 2010 Nations Cup, using the same games. How does that work with 48 teams? Will South Africa be included, since they need to qualify for the Nations Cup?

4) Juan Pablo Angel has now scored in six consecutive games. I remember Carlos Ruiz's streak last year; a check on MLSnet reveals that he, Raul Diaz Arce, and Wolde Harris all share the league record with seven games in a row with a goal. Does anyone doubt that he'll tie it on June 30th at the Crew? He could break it on July 5th at Houston.

I also wanted to take a moment to highlight another streak, Roy Lassiter's in 1996. He scored in 11 straight games for the Mutiny; that includes the last six regular season games, the Open Cup quarterfinal against Rochester, and the first four playoff games. 99% sure that's an MLS record, and will be even harder to match.

Oh, I just thought of something. MLS doesn't count scoreless streaks over multiple seasons, we've already learned about that ridiculous policy. I wonder if they don't count goals scored streaks over two years as well? I'll have to check.

5) As a Fire fan, I'm so glad Dave Sarachan was fired. He totally deserved it, and it's funny to read the Washington insider-like rantings of Robert Wagman. Who cares how "approachable and honest with the media" he was. And apparently he was great "until the current front office arrived." I guess he's not counting the worst season in team history, 2004. I also noticed how he was defended by Stephen Goff on his blog, who immediately posted quotes from a call between the two. It really does remind me of how certain pundits, journalists, and politicians in Washington defend each other regardless of their beliefs. Chris Armas jumped to his defense as well.

I don't care how nice or media friendly he was, performance is what counts. Dave didn't get it done and his teams played boring soccer. John Guppy perhaps deserves to be fired as well, but Sarachan definitely hasn't done a good job. Now everybody sing the Dave Sarachan theme song!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Honoring Jack Edwards

Can you believe it's been five years now since the USA's run to the World Cup quarterfinals? I wanted to take a moment to salute the man who gave us so many memorable moments and catch phrases throughout that cup, and during his entire tenure as play-by-play announcer. He's also the source of this blog's title. That man is Jack Edwards.

If you're a new US soccer fan and aren't familiar, then boy did you miss out (be sure to check point #4 below). He may have seemed corny at the time, but I really believe that 50 years from now we'll be listening to "mine eyes have seen the glory" and getting wistful.

Looking back, it's funny to think about all the criticism of Edwards compared to Dave O'Brien. Everybody complained all the time about Edwards, but I think I and most other fans would rather have him than O'Brien (Ty Keough sucked though). Edwards was and is a hockey guy first and foremost (he's currently doing Boston Bruins games), but he was incredibly passionate about the game. His style of announcing reflected that, and we could forgive his strange and untraditional terminology because we felt like he was on our side. That's a good thing; a US announcer should be a US fan as well. When it comes to O'Brien, he made far more basic mistakes and was much more prone to saying nonsensical things about the actual play.

Edwards certainly talked a lot though, probably again due to the hockey background. So how did he really compare to O'Brien? It's hard to judge things like that...or at least it will be until I get done with my new project, which is obsessive even by my standards. I'm going to make a transcript of the first games of the 2002 and 2006 World Cup, documenting every word that Edwards/Keough and O'Brien/Balboa had to say. Maybe the 1994 opener too if I feel like it. I've already done the Portugal game, which probably took three times the actual 90 minutes to write out (don't worry, I would've just wasted that time watching tv or something) and ended up being 29 pages in Word. When I do the Czech Republic game, I'll post both transcripts here and analyze the differences. I still need to get a copy of that game. I have one already, but it's not the ESPN2 broadcast.

Let's talk some more Edwards. There's four things you need to see:

1) The Jack & Ty shrine from Bigsoccer. One of the first-threads post-crash, replacing an older version that is now lost. Still awesome today.

2) I mentioned that Jack is now calling Bruins games. So it's incredibly satisfying and hilarious to see this thread on a hockey message board from March 2007 talking about his commentary, with virtually the same praise and complaints that he received from soccer fans.
Choice quote from a Bruins fan:

"I'm not a huge fan of Edwards -- the odd catch-phrases, the way he uses that excited tone when the opposition scores, talking too much, a bit awkward. But what I do really like about him is how he's a fan of the game."
3) "They're ----ing Portugal!" Surely the most misunderstood and debated sentence in the history of soccer broadcasting in this country. I'm reminded of Dave Chappelle and the Good Times lyric. Looking up some old posts, each of the following is offered up as the missing word:


Listening to it over and over again, to me it appeared to be "throbbing." Now of course that doesn't make sense, but that's what it sounds like.

However, I'm here to tell you that according to the man himself, the word he actually said (or was trying to say) was drubbing. This was posted three years ago by wjarrettc on a Bigsoccer post that got surprisingly little attention. He had the chance to ask Edwards the question personally and that was his response.

4) Finally, I have to do this service for all the Edwards fans. I have extracted a bunch of his famous catchphrases, zipped and uploaded them to Rapidshare (1.5 mb), and now you can download them to enjoy for years to come. Included are:

"climbs the ladder"
"shock the world"
"speed move"
"that's why he's here"
"torpedo header"

and more. There's 15 clips, and one bonus Ty Keough clip (HAV-OCK!) The one big one I missed was "full international." I'll probably include it eventually. I also would've liked to get "climbing the ladder" instead of "climbs the ladder," but that'll do for now. Enjoy.

Monday, June 18, 2007

MLS 2007 - Week 11 Goals Video

Rapidshare-wmv (11mb). Downloadable version doesn't have the url at the beginning. It's also slightly better quality-wise than Youtube (they convert videos to flash which makes them worse).

Girls Aloud - "Wake Me Up (Tony Lemezma mix)"

Notes: Slightly choppy this week at parts, I apologize. DC-CHI goals missing due to HDnet only. If anybody has the goals and can cap them, please do so. Because I have every goal this season and I don't want to miss any.

Some absolutely horrible camera work this week. Just check out the full highlight for Buddle's goal on MLSnet, where the broadcast cuts to the fans in the middle of Xavier's long ball. There was one other one that was really bad that I can't recall right now.

I also notice that MLSnet is now editing the highlights themselves, in a way. Check out Carl Robinson's goal (on MLSnet, not the comp), where just before the cross the clock says 19'39" and then it goes to 20'10". They cut to the replay in the middle of the highlight, presumably so they won't have the ad at the bottom of the screen while the goal goes in. They also did this for a Ricardo Clark goal recently. Is this really necessary?

Week 11 Results:

Real Salt Lake 0:1 FC Dallas
New England Revolution 3:3 Columbus Crew
DC United 3:1 Chicago Fire
Red Bull New York 3:3 Kansas City Wizards
CD Chivas USA 2:0 Colorado Rapids
Toronto FC 4:0 FC Dallas
Los Angeles Galaxy 3:2 Real Salt Lake

Goals: (in order shown)

Maurice Edu
Maykel Galindo
Juan Pablo Angel
Chris Brown
Pat Noonan
Kerry Zavagnin
Danny Dichio
Guillermo Barros Schelotto
Dominic Oduro
own goal (Terry Cooke)
Clint Mathis
Adam Cristman
Jeff Cunningham
Yura Movsisyan
Edson Buddle
Juan Pablo Angel
Alejandro Moreno
Chris Brown
Robbie Rogers
Yura Movsisyan
Nate Jaqua
Carl Robinson
Adam Cristman
Cobi Jones

Missing: Rod Dyachenko, Luciano Emilio (x2), Jerson Monteiro

Sunday, June 17, 2007

OTFATT 2007: Update #4

4/19-90 players remaining
5/6-57 players remaining
5/21-41 players remaining

A third of the way through the season, there are now only 19 players who have played every minute of every MLS game.

The Gold Cup has certainly taken it's toll on the list, and now we're down to the real contenders. Three men here have gone a whole season playing every minute before (Cannon, Reis, Zavagnin). They certainly have to be among the favorites, although Copa America could take one of the keepers.

I would say Moor, Perkins, Hartman, and Heaps would be my picks at this stage. Cards are now a big factor; Kyle Beckerman is out this weekend due to five yellows. Segares and Larentowicz are one away from suspension. Zavagnin and Brennan are two away.

Remaining Candidates (19)

CHI Pickens, Segares
CHV Guzan, Marsch
CLB Gonzalez
COL Coundoul
DAL Moor
DC Namoff, Perkins
KC Arnaud, Hartman, Zavagnin
LA Cannon, Harden
NE Heaps, Larentowicz, Reis
RSL Klein
TOR Brennan

Order of teams being totally wiped out, with last surviving player:

1. NY-Todd Dunivant (5/24)
2. HOU-Eddie Robinson (6/10)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

2010 Seeding Formula: June 2007 Update

The latest FIFA rankings are out. Assuming all the highest ranked teams qualify, here's how the race for the 2010 seeds looks as of now. South Africa is guaranteed a seed as hosts. For more details on how the formula works, please see here.

Top Seven Teams Seeded

1 Italy 59.3 27.3 32
1 Brazil 59.3 29.3 30
1 Germany 59.3 30.3 29
4 France 54.3 23.3 31
5 England 51.3 26.3 25
5 Spain 51.3 25.3 26
7 Portugal 49.3 22.3 27

8 Argentina 49.0 21.0 28
9 Netherlands 38.7 14.7 24
10 Ukraine 36.7 16.7 20
11 Sweden 35.3 19.3 16
12 Mexico 32.3 19.3 13
13 Croatia 31.0 9.0 22
14 USA 30.7 13.7 17
15 Czech 29.0 6.0 23
16 Ghana 28.3 13.3 15
17 Cameroon 22.0 3.0 19
18 Romania 21.0 0.0 21
19 Japan 20.3 13.3 7
20 Cote d'Ivoire 20.0 6.0 14
21 Paraguay 19.7 11.7 8
22 Korea 18.7 15.7 3
23 Greece 18.0 0.0 18
24 Australia 15.3 11.3 4
25 Uruguay 14.7 2.7 12
26 Costa Rica 14.3 8.3 6
27 Nigeria 12.7 2.7 10
28 Colombia 11.0 0.0 11
29 Iran 10.3 5.3 5
30 Morocco 9.0 0.0 9
31 South Africa 5.0 3.0 2
32 Uzbekistan 1.0 0.0 1

As you can see, there are basically 8 teams fighting for the 7 seeds. Little has changed since the new cycle began, but things will be getting very exciting shortly. In November, the World Cup qualifying draws will be made. That will have an impact on these rankings, especially when it comes to the Euro teams. In addition, this December is the first of the three months (12/08, 11/09) that make up the final ranking. With all the tournaments going on this summer, we'll see lots of changes in the FIFA rankings before then.

That's especially good news for the USA, because the Gold Cup gives us a chance to move up. We moved up to 16th just based on the China, Guatemala, and Trinidad games. If we win the tournament, and get out of the group stage at the Copa America, we should definitely crack the top ten again.

It's extremely unlikely for us to end up being seeded in 2010, but with a top ten ranking and some luck with the other teams, it could happen. It would probably require 2 of the top 8 failing to qualify.

Mock Draw

Pot 1: Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, Spain
Pot 2: Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, Ukraine
Pot 3: Australia, Costa Rica, Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Mexico, USA, Uzbekistan
Pot 4: Argentina, Cameroon, Colombia, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, Paraguay, Uruguay

Group A: South Africa, Czech Republic, USA, Paraguay
Group B: Spain, Ukraine, Mexico, Nigeria
Group C: France, Iran, Cote d'Ivoire, Colombia
Group D: England, Croatia, Japan, Ghana
Group E: Brazil, Sweden, Uzbekistan, Morocco
Group F: Italy, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Argentina
Group G: Portugal, Romania, Korea Republic, Uruguay
Group H: Germany, Greece, Australia, Cameroon

Argentina not being seeded would certainly create the possibility of a monster group like shown here, much more than a top Euro team not being seeded. Of course I'm doubtful something like this would happen.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Dave Sarachan

Nick Sakiewicz

Landon Donovan

If you're not familiar with the whole lolcats phenomenon, check out this great site.

Monday, June 11, 2007

MLS 2007 - Week 10 Goals Video

Rapidshare-wmv (9 mb). Downloadable version doesn't have the url at the beginning. It's also slightly better quality-wise than Youtube (they convert videos to flash which makes them worse).

Linkin Park - "No More Sorrow"

Notes: (Edited 6/12) Youtube bastards deleted my video. That's the first time I've ever had a video removed for the song I've used, which is ridiculous. So anyway, the downloadable version still has the Linkin Park song, but the youtube one now has Oasis - "Turn Up The Sun."

Week 10 Results:

Toronto FC 1:2 Red Bull New York
Houston Dynamo 2:1 Colorado Rapids
FC Dallas 3:1 Los Angeles Galaxy
Chicago Fire 0:1 CD Chivas USA
DC United 4:2 Red Bull New York
Columbus Crew 1:2 Houston Dynamo

Goals: (in order shown)

Ben Olsen
Juan Toja
Luciano Emilio
Juan Pablo Angel
Joseph Ngwenya
Ben Olsen
Robbie Findlay
Jeff Cunningham
Alejandro Moreno
Jose Cancela
Paulo Nagamura
Juan Pablo Angel
Abe Thompson
Stuart Holden
Ben Olsen
Juan Pablo Angel
Dema Kovalenko
Joseph Ngwenya
own goal (Chad Marshall)
Drew Moor

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2007

Yes, it's that time again. The best teams from North America, Central American, and the Caribbean get together to determine the best team in the confederation via the Gold Cup, which starts today. Peter Goldstein at Planet World Cup has the best preview, while Ives gives it a go as well. The big news this time is that there are no longer any guest teams in the tournament. That's great news, as no longer can we be embarrassed by the likes of South Korea or Brazil's U-23 squad doing well in OUR continental championship. CONCACAF tournaments should develop CONCACAF teams. Of course, the USA and Mexico shouldn't be in the Copa America either, and we all know that a combined North/South American cup would be the best option.

Enough about that, let's not get sidetracked. This is Bob Bradley's first real test, and unfortunately for him success won't change many opinions; winning the tournament is expected. The only way he'll really prove something is if we play Mexico and beat them on the way to the title.

I expect to see the following lineup for the USA:

Howard, Bornstein, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Hejduk, Beasley, Clark, Mastroeni, Dempsey, Donovan, Johnson.

Howard was named the starter by Bradley. The center backs are obvious choices, while Bornstein has played well in friendlies. I have Hejduk starting because he seems to be the epitome of the mystical "veteran leadership" you always hear about. He's also probably a better offensive weapon than the other two (Spector/Simek), and with the weak opposition he can get forward a lot. But would he even be here if Chris Albright was healthy? Bradley and Feilhaber are very good young prospects. Having said that, our strongest central midfield pairing is currently Clark-Mastroeni, and Bradley likes it too (see the Mexico game). Johnson is too hot to sit, while Donovan will always be on the field.

I just read last night that Mastroeni is suspended for the first two games, stemming from his World Cup red card. Remember how he got banned for a couple additional games? I didn't. At least he can serve it here and not in World Cup qualifying. Fielhaber will probably step in.

Interesting notes:

1) The most interesting player to see (by far) will be Guadalupe's Jocelyn Angloma, a former French international who played for them in Euro 1996. Can he still play well at 41? He better, if they want to have any chance at all. Everyone also seems excited about Panama's Blas Perez, who just scored two goals against Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores. I'll be excited to see Amado Guevara back in action again, as well (you traitor).

2) Have you been wondering what Keyeno Thomas has been up to ever since his 2000 stint with the Colorado Rapids? Me neither. But he's here as part of Trinidad's squad, along with fellow middling ex-MLSer Gary Glasgow. The Soca Warriors will be fielding a very weak squad due to disputes with their World Cup veterans; all but one player is local. From the USA perspective, it's likely we'll see Keller and the rest of the reserves in the USA-TRI match.

MLSnet has a rundown of former players in the tournament here.

3) Despite the Trinidad situation, overall it seems like this tournament is being taken more seriously by all involved. No surprise since the 2005 version was in the middle of World Cup qualifying, and also since we don't have a second string Colombian side like usual. I talked about the lack of guest teams earlier. Interestingly, they only had a record of 16-16-12 in all editions of the tournament. So they didn't dominate the tournament, despite three finishing as runners up.

4) Last time, we saw the group format changed from 4 group of 3 teams to 3 groups of 4 teams. Now we have the elimination of guest teams. Two great decisions in a row. What's up at CONCACAF, is Jack Warner asleep or something? What's next, holding it every four years like it should be? Or having a real draw and not just placing teams in certain cities (Haiti = Miami)?

5) The golden boot winner, who will it be? I would say that this time an American should win it again, due to the weakness of our group compared to Mexico.

Previous winners

1991-Benjamin Galindo (MEX)
1993-Zaguinho (MEX)
1996-Eric Wynalda (USA)
1998-Luis Hernandez (MEX) & Paulo Wanchope (CR)
2000-Carlo Corazzin (CAN)
2002-Brian McBride (USA)
2003-Walter Centeno (CR) & Landon Donovan (USA)
2005-DaMarcus Beasley (USA)

For 2005, I believe for the first time they used assists as the tiebreaker (which FIFA started doing a few years ago). So that's why Beasley won it.

6) It's too easy to give predictions (USA vs MEX final anyone?), so here's how I feel the teams rank on paper:

1. Mexico
2. United States
3. Costa Rica
4. Honduras
5. Panama
6. Canada
7. Guatemala
8. Haiti
9. El Salvador
10. Trinidad & Tobago
11. Cuba
12. Guadalupe

Sunday, June 03, 2007

MLS 2007 - Week 9 Goals Video

Rapidshare-wmv (8 mb). Downloadable version doesn't have the url at the beginning. It's also slightly better quality-wise than Youtube (they convert videos to flash which makes them worse).

Chemical Brothers f/Ali Love - "Do It Again"

Notes: MLS video is choppy on the Oughton goal, check it out around the minute mark.

Week 9 Results:

Toronto FC 2:1 Colorado Rapids
New England Revolution 0:0 Real Salt Lake
Kansas City Wizards 3:2 Red Bull New York
Los Angeles Galaxy 0:0 DC United
Houston Dynamo 2:1 FC Dallas
Chicago Fire 3:2 Columbus Crew

Goals: (in order shown)

Herculez Gomez
Eddie Johnson
Chad Marshall
Juan Pablo Angel
Ricardo Clark
Eddie Johnson
Jeff Curtin
Duncan Oughton
Danny Dichio
Eddie Johnson
Dema Kovalenko
Willian Oliveira
Abe Thompson
Chad Barrett
Andrew Boyens
Joseph Ngwenya

Friday, June 01, 2007

I'm With Landon: Why Play In Both?

Luis Bueno reports that both Jonathan Bornstein and Brad Guzan will be on the Copa America roster, as part of 8-12 players who will play in both tournaments this Summer. Also, it's come to light that Bob Bradley wants Landon Donovan to play in the Copa America as well.

I really don't get what Bradley and the USSF are doing here. There's no reason any player should play in both tournaments. We have a big enough pool now, and players either need rest from their Euro season or shouldn't be away from their MLS team that long. That's why I didn't want us to go to the Copa America, regardless of how much more prestigious it is compared to the Gold Cup. Besides, is it really going to benefit Donovan that much by playing in both?

I thought it would be optimal to take our Euro players to the Gold Cup, since that's the more important (though easier) tournament. Also since it's close to the end of their season. That way, those guys could get a nice, long break for the rest of the summer. Bring along a few MLS guys to start at forward and to round out the squad. The MLS guys should play the Copa America, because they need to get tested more. Also, the MLS season should be disturbed as little as possible. So that's another reason all the MLS guys should be called up for only one tournament each.

Yes, there may be more total MLS players involved this way, but each only goes to one tournament. And it's very likely that the USA will less time in the Copa (where most of the stars would be going in this scenario) than in the Gold Cup.

Here's what I had in mind:

Gold Cup

(mls guys in bold)

G-Cannon, Guzan, Keller
D-Bocanegra, Burciaga, Califf, DeMerit, Hejduk, Onyewu, Pearce, Spector
M-Beasley, Bradley, Dempsey, Feilhaber, Gros, Kljestan, Olsen, Ralston
F-Ching, Hill, Johnson, Wolff

Copa America

(euros in bold)

G-Howard, Reis, Wells
D-Barrett, Bornstein, Boswell, Conrad, Namoff, Parkhurst, Robinson, Simek
M-Beckerman, Carroll, Clark, Davis, Donovan, Mapp, Mastroeni, Mullan, Noonan
F-Cooper, Rolfe, Twellman