6/30 US Open Cup Live Blog

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 | View Comments
It's Tuesday, I need to relax with some soccer, and it just so happens that the third round of the US Open Cup starts tonight. So I've decided to do a little live blog, which is up both here and at Epic Footy. I'll be watching the games at USL Live; I highly suggest you sign up there for a free account and join in the live blog.

Terrible Tuesday

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 | View Comments
David Beckham is still popular at the LA Galaxy even if it is only a cardboard cut out! LA

Tuesdays are just terrible, terrible days. I would much rather be here, updating and commentating on the news of the day with you good people, but that's not what my job pays me to do.

Hence, this little afternoon shout is all about the work of others, because I don't want you to think I'm neglecting you.

Go read the excerpt released for Grant Wahl's upcoming book on David Beckham. It's intriguing stuff. I hope to have both a commentary on the except selection tonight and a commentary on the full version in the near future. There's plenty to talk about with MLS, the Galaxy, and all of the relevant parties. It should make for an interesting summer in LA (and leads me to a conclusion on Donovan, but that's for later).

There's word the CONCACAF is pulling their clubs out of the Copa Sudamericana. I haven't really had a chance to think about what this means, but it's obviously a move by Blazer & Co. to give Mexican clubs more incentive to care about the CONCACAF Champions League. The note about the confederation meeting in November to review CONCACAF (meaning Mexico because they're the only ones involved right now) clubs' participating in the Copa Libertadores is very interesting.

Goff has updated the TV numbers for the Confed Cup final, and they're just a little different than what we heard yesterday. I still don't think it completely represents the audience that watched that game. Here's a Seattle Times Sounders blog post on how those numbers stack up in American soccer TV history.

One last note before I go: Am I the only one that wonders why we haven't heard even one Donovan transfer rumor? Either MLS has the guy on complete lockdown and the whole world knows it, or the clubs interested have managed to keep it quiet. Maybe there's just no interest.

Americans On the Move Update

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 | View Comments
Charlie Davies

It's called the "silly season" for a reason; clubs scramble, tripping over themselves in the process, to throw money at talent they believe will help them win in the upcoming European season.

Americans are a focus of the silly season more than ever before and in greater numbers; although I recently posted an attempt to sum up the rumors, the mill never stops, so there are updates to make.

Quick and easy, which each player and his rumored destinations with links to back it all up:

Oguchi Onyewu

Gooch is on a free transfer with his Standard Liege contract expired, and which a strong Confed Cup on his resume, is the subject of more rumors than any American I can recall in recent history.

Rumored Clubs: Fiorentina, Fulham, Birmingham City, Wolves, Fenerbahce, Sivasspor, Paris St. Germain, unnamed Spanish club, several other Turkish clubs

Ricardo Clark

It might surprise some people that Clark has generated European interest, but it seems he acquitted himself well enough in South Africa to garner attention; now there's just that pesky business of MLS and their valuation...

Rumored Clubs: Rennes

Michael Bradley

Bradley has been on a fast track since his move from the Red Bulls to Heerenveen, with new rumors surrounding him during every transfer window. This summer is no different, with English clubs rumored to be on the hunt for the 'Gladbach man.

Rumored Clubs: Everton, Aston Villa

Charlie Davies

Perhaps the player that increased his stock the most during the Confed Cup, Davies is poised to make a significant jump from Swedish club Hammarby

Rumored Clubs: Unnamed clubs in Holland, France and Germany

Jozy Altidore

Young, raw, and in desperate need of playing time, Jozy has stated that he doesn't want to return to Xerez on loan if he's not going to play; rumors are swirling around the striker now, with Greek, English, and Spanish clubs reportedly in the mix.

Rumored Clubs: Olympiakos, Fulham

USA-Brazil TV Ratings

Monday, June 29, 2009 | View Comments

Goff at Soccer Insider has posted the ESPN ratings for the Confederations Cup final, and they're predictably pretty good.

2.74 overall, which per my basic match, means that 3.1 million homes were tuned to the match. That sounds pretty good, but I can't shake that feeling that it seems a little low. I've heard nothing but anecdotal stories about Americans watching the match yesterday, from both inside and outside the soccer community, and that would lead me to believe that 3.1 million doesn't quite represent the total number of TVs tuned to the game. Maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part.

Remember, this number is only for ESPN and does not include the Univision Spanish-language TV numbers; I would expect that Univision number will more than double the total households that watched the match.

I also don't off hand have anything to compare this to; my guess is that the number is inline with many regular-season games from baseball or basketball, and well behind even the lowest rated NFL game.

Check Goff's blog for an interesting list of the cities that watched the game in the greatest numbers (or perhaps its percentage, I'm not really sure).

Anyone have insight on this number? Do you share my feeling that it might not represent the total ESPN audience?

SOCCER: JUN 28 Confederations Cup Final - USA v Brazil

If you stuck with ESPN during the post-match festivities yesterday, perhaps in a mild catatonic state of shock as I was, you might have noticed that Clint Dempsey received the "Bronze Ball", the award given the third best player in the tournament as voted by the journalists covering the Confederations Cup.

Dempsey had a fair tournament, and put a few very nice goals, including the most important of any the US scored, the third against Egypt. But no only was he not the third best player in the tournament over all, he wasn't even the best player on his own team.

That distinction, and while I don't expect it to be unanimous because it is of course a subjective evaluation, belongs to Landon Donovan.

I have yet to speak with someone since the Americans ended their down-and-up Confed Cup who does not believe that Donovan is the clear choice for best US player. He was all over the pitch throughout his time in South Africa, starting attacks, clearing balls in defense, harrying opposing players in the midfield, and leading by example; if asked, I'm sure that even Clint himself would agree that Donovan played better than him throughout the competition.

So why then, did Dempsey receive an award and Donovan did not? To be fair, I'm doubtful that Donovan was too broken up about being left out of the ceremony, especially in light of the disappointing loss to the Brazilians; a trophy, bronze or otherwise, would be little consolation to a player who so desperately wanted to win.

But for us, the fans and observers of the team and the tourney, who while admittedly biased can often be harsh in our assessment, Dempsey over Donovan for a meaningless trophy is worth talking about.

My thought today, as I sift through the event of the last two weeks and attempt to put everything in the proper perspective (and I'm still working on it, no matter my earlier post), I'm struck by what I believe to be a fairly reasonable thought: Dempsey trumped Donovan for the award because Clint Dempsey plays in a "real" football league and Landon Donovan plays in Major League Soccer.

Sorry about the bold there. Just want to be sure you didn't miss it.

This isn't some grand conspiracy theory, or groundshaking pronouncement; but it is a stark reminder of the bias that both our players and our league face in the wider footballing world. It would have been almost impossible for the writers to leave an American off the podium after the run they put in to close out the tournament, and while both Dempsey and Donovan were in the running, it's clear that Dempsey's Premier League pedigree won out. If we are to assume that the collection of writers in South Africa, and I know nothing about the makeup of that group but I think it's reasonable to guess, are reasonably intelligent and well-heeled in the sport, then it's difficult for me to conceive of them missing the fact that Donovan was better than Dempsey.

Congrats to Clint. It probably shouldn't have been you.

Your thoughts? Am I crazy and just delirious for a tiring weekend and a terrible Monday at work?

Courtesy of USSoccerPlayers.com comes word that Edgar Castillo, one of the ones that "got away" would consider taking advantage of the newly passed FIFA rule and switching from Mexico to the United States.

Castillo has indicated that he has yet to be contacted by US Soccer, and will wait until he has spoken with them before filing a request to switch nations.

While not necessarily surprising, because, well, it is US Soccer, it's disheartening to hear that Castillo has yet to receive a phone call. Perhaps Bradley does not rate Castillo, but that's beside the point; as I and others have repeatedly stated, the American talent pool is not so deep that the USSF can afford to waste time in getting potential players into the fold.

If Castillo is willing to play for the US after being set against it only a few years ago, the someone should be calling him right now.

SOCCER: JUN 24 Confederations Cup - USA v Spain

It's the morning after the United States came up just short against giants Brazil in the Confederations Cup final. It's the morning after the end of a tournament that saw the Americans go from depressingly poor performances to the heights of knocking of the best team in the world and taking the most storied team in history down to the final minutes. It's the morning after some perceived shift has taken place for the fortunes for the Unites States Men's National Team, and I feel it important to try and put the last few weeks in perspective.

Before it began, we all attempted to keep our expectations in check. The US was drawn into a ridiculous group, with two of the top five teams in the world and a generally underrated Egyptian side, so advancement to the semi-final rounds was a remote possibility of which most (if not all) of us could not conceive. I stated that two points from the group stage would satisfy me, as it would indicate a team with enough wherewithal and ability to earn two draws against a collection of three good teams. Perhaps those expectations were low, but Bob Bradley's team had not given us any reason to hope that they were capable of anything more; less-than-stellar play against Costa Rica and Honduras left many of us wondering if the Americans would get even a point in South Africa.

When the Yanks fell flat against Italy in the second half of their opening match (keeping in mind that they were a man down, of course) and were then throttled by a Brazil side scoring for fun, many of us threw in the towel on the 2009 Confederations Cup. Oh well, we thought, at least they received a wake up call about what it takes to compete at the highest levels of the internationals stage. Headin into the final group stage match with Egypt, we saw little hope of progressing, much less running roughshod over the African champions after they had just stunned Italy; yet, that's exactly what they did, and aided by a rampant Brazil and a terrible Italy in the other match of the day, squeaked through to the semi-finals. Zero points became three points, and while that exceeded my expectations, it came through one competitive match rather than two as I was hoping; believing it was possible that the US could beat Spain never even entered my mind. I assumed, like so many, that they would take their three points, lose to Spain, and head home.

And then they beat Spain. Impossible.

The performance against the European champions fulfilled all of the promise that so many of us thought this team held. Bob Bradley restored our faith, to a point, that he could get out of his boys something greater than the previous month had shown. Organized and committed, they played just as American teams must if they're going to have any shot against sides with superior talent; man for man Spain was vastly superior to the Americans by any reasonable measure, but as a team, the Yanks won out. The Yanks also proved that inferior talent doesn't mean lack of it, and several players stood out as stars. Watershed moment? Perhaps, but for most of us it was more about having our belief rewarded and our dissatisfaction with previous results justified. The Americans can play, and the victory over Spain proved it.

Whether or not it was a matter of a one-off fluke or an indication of the US turning a corner was another matter. After the shocking win over Spain, we barely had a chance to catch our breath before the tournament final on Sunday. Again, the odds were stacked against the Americans, and while a few more might have believed them capable of beating Brazil thanks to the Spain result, most had them crashing back to earth. The Brazilians thumped the US 3-0 in the group stage, and although the Yanks might have turned into a different team between that first meeting and the final, superior talent will usually win out.

In the end, that's exactly what happened. For one half in a FIFA tournament final, the United States once again played with the best in the world and bettered them, leading 2-0 at the break. The storm was gathering as soon as the second half kicked off, though, and Brazil took the game over completely. Ragged, tired, and simply spent after the effort of the past week, the American couldn't keep up with a motivated Brazil in the second half, and succumbed 2-3.

The loss was disappointing. Leading by two goals only to have the trophy snatched away hurts, no matter the excitement we feel even getting there. I, and I'm sure many other, are of two minds: we're over-the-top ecstatic that the team pulled themselves together and gave us a magical week that we could have never expected - but we're also, as passionate fans with an emotional investment, capable of analyzing the final in a way that leads to criticism. No one gets, or should get, a pass simply because the run to the final was unprecendented; call it unrealistic expectations if you must, but the nature of passion leads to calls for continued improvement. The United States is not as good as Brazil. Fine. But if the team is going to continue to improve, continue to reach the levels it did this week and do so in the World Cup, then complacency should never be allowed.


Proud and heartened doesn't begin to describe the way USMNT fans should feel today. We should be thrilled to have a team that is suddenly and unexpectedly coming together in a way that seemed impossible such a short time ago. We should be proud and heartened that so many of the young Americans on the field this week are now the focus of rampant transfer speculation. We should be proud and heartened that a team made up of middling European league players, Major League Soccer stars, and youngsters with no recent club playing time, not only defeated the number one ranked team in the world, but threatened to steal a trophy that so many believed they had no real chance of winning.

Hell of a week.

The future is tricky now. Expectations will be raised. Casual observers will now see any failure as proof that the team got lucky in South Africa, and that they're still not more than a big fish in a small pond masquerading as a decent soccer team. Those that wish to cut down either the USMNT or American soccer in general will look for any reason to suck away our belief, to steal away our excitement, and to kill our buzz.

It's a delicate balance. Expecting good consistent performances is one thing; suddenly believing that they are World Cup contenders or even shoe-ins for the knockout stages is another. Finding that perfect point, where demand that they play to their full abilities meets recognizing that it might not always be enough, is difficult.

I'm still trying to grasp it myself.

Now it's onto the Gold Cup, with only a few holdovers from the Confed Cup "A" team. It will seem like an utter letdown after the excitement of South Africa, but it is an important part of the program's evolution. The future of the team, and players that may fill in gaps on next year's World Cup squad, will be on display around the country.

But it's Azteca that we're truly focused on, as that's the game that will show if past week as just an ephemeral hot streak or a true indication of improvement. If ever the Americans had a chance to go to Mexico City and beat El Tri on their soil in a World Cup qualifier, it would seem that this would be the year.

And now I believe it can happen. I'm trying to maintain that perspective, and we have never won in Mexico City...

But Mexico? Who are they? WE BEAT SPAIN!

On this week's Match Fit USA Soccer Show, it's all about the US National Team. Zach and Jason eat some crow on Bob Bradley after the shocking American turnaround, discuss the Yanks that made a name for themselves at the Confederations Cup, talk about the team and the future with Noah Davis of Goal.com, and continue with Noah to ponder that "effect" of the week as well as the mainstream media response.

The Match Fit USA Soccer Show, part of the Champions Soccer Radio Network.

LISTEN in the CSRN Media Player (up midday Monday)

DOWNLOAD the show

You can get the show in iTunes by searching "Match Fit USA", clicking here, or by subscribing to the CSRN iTunes feed (search "CSRN"), which includes the Match Fit USA Soccer Show, Winning Ugly Radio, the Glory Glory Leeds Show with Twiggster, and Over to England with Lord Gadsby.

*Just a note: Apparently, I said "Michael Orozco" when talking about players with dual-citizenship rather than "Edgar Castillo", which is obviously who I meant. Wish I had gotten it right the first time around, especially in light of this news today.

Jozy Altidore

In the midst of post-Confederations Cup disappointment after a hard-fought loss to Brazil in the final, Jozy Altidore has stated clearly that he wants to move on from Spanish side Villarreal.

It's about playing time, of course, and it appears that Jozy doesn't think it's going to come with the Yellow Submarine.
“I think it’s important that we know wherever we’re going, whatever environment we’re in that we get playing time,” Altidore told Goal.com. “You can’t have guys coming in who haven’t played, like myself. We have to be ready to play. That was a bit tough towards the end of the tournament.”

Jozy's fitness has been an issue with the National Team, a condition resulting from his lack of games during the recent Spanish season.
“In my mind, I don’t really want to go back there,” he said. “I want to go play somewhere else.”

Bold words from a young player, but he seems to have no faith that he'll see the field for Villarreal next year.
“I want to find a team where I’m going to play—simple,” he said. “I won’t go back to the Segundo division. I’m just looking for somewhere to play the whole year.”

One would think that a strong showing at the Confederations Cup on a big international stage would serve Altidore well if he does want out of Villarreal. The club should be able to sell him on at a profit, as the striker is still only nineteen and has recently done well against superior competition.

Rumors are swirling around Altidore, with several clubs mentioned as possible destinations; those rumors are invariably in regards to a loan rather than a transfer, so it will be interesting to see what Villarreal choose to do with their suddenly-hot property.

Luis Fabiano

I think we're all wallowing in disappointment right now. Not only were the United States in the final of a FIFA tournament, they had shocked the world to get there. The first half didn't help, of course, as the US jumped out to a 2-0 lead after forty-five minutes.

They lifted us up and gave us hope, only to let us crash back down to earth when the final whistle blew and the scoreline read 3-2.

But it was one hell of a ride. They greatest victory in the modern history of the United States as a soccer nation took place in this tournament, and that alone should give us solace.

So we're not quite there yet. S0 we don't have the horses to finish it out, especially against a team as skilled as Brazil. But what we've clearly shown is that the future is bright for American soccer, Confederations Cup in our trophy case or not. A new bar has been set for the national team, and while that means a new set of expectations, it's also a significant step on the road to becoming a player on the world stage. If this is what the United States is after only twenty years of significant commitment to the game, then we're really not doing too badly.

Today is a day to be frustrated, crestfallen, and yes, perhaps even a little angry. It's difficult to celebrate the overall effort immediately after a loss, especially when victory was so tantalizingly close. Maybe that will come tomorrow.

Perspective is better found from a distance. We have none yet.

Brazil 3, United States 2, damn it all to hell.

And now I have to somehow get myself ready to record the new podcast.

USA-Brazil Live Blog

Sunday, June 28, 2009 | View Comments
I, along with the all-star roster of contributors to the newly formed Epic Footy live blog depot, will be live blogging the USA-Brazil Confed Cup final today. Start time is 2:15 Eastern.

SOCCER: JUN 24 Confederations Cup - USA v Spain

There's nothing like writing something that will be dated in only four hours, but a thought crossed my mind this morning that I would to share.

I'm wondering what will be the best possible outcome for today's USA-Brazil Confederations Cup final. Now, I know that some of you are thinking, "What do you mean 'best possible outcome'? The best possible outcome is an American victory, of course!"

And you're right, although that's not really what I mean. Of course as fans, we don't care how a victory comes; be it a 1-0 snoozefest, a 4-3 barn-burner, an extra time stunner, or a penalty shootout win. We just want the win and the trophy, no matter how it comes and now matter what it takes to get there. For us, the type of victory doesn't matter.

But my pondering has more to do with the possible long term ramifications of an American victory today; specifically, I'm wondering if some types of win will go farther than others in putting soccer more into the mainstream.

A dominating and total throttling would score the team more points with the skeptical European observers, but would it make a dent here in the States? I suppose if enough well-respected soccer minds were to label a US win as such, the non-soccer journos would have to take it at their word. If that's the case, any of the ignorant that choose to write pieces on the match and the American victory would be with a dominating victory at the base. That would be good for soccer if only because we live in a nation of bandwagon jumpers; all of those that flock to whatever winner is the flavor dujour, might join the cause, throwing their fandom behind a team that deserves more attention. While some of those fair-weather fans would inevitably fall off during the tough times (and there are bound to be some), at least a few would have caught the bug enough to stick around.

That's obviously an unlikely scenario. The chances of the American dominating the Brazilians are slim to none; if the Yanks are to win, it's probably going to be thanks to a tight, hard fought battle that comes down to end.

And if that is the case, what better way to catch the attention of a largely disinterested American public than through the dreaded penalty shootout? While you and would be in significant danger of keeling over clutching our chests if is does go to spot kicks, the drama and tension of one would immediately gain national attention. An American victory today will be remembered, by fans and some of the unconverted alike, for a very long time; but nothing stands the test of time and reaches the heights of "iconic" status like a game decided in a that sports "sudden-death" fashion. Multiple overtimes and extra innings, especially when a championship is on the line, bring with them a sense that the game is more than just a sporting competition. That's what a US penalty shootout victory might mean. It's heady stuff.

As a selfish fan first and foremost, I want a victory today. I won't care how it's achieved. Own goal, bad penalty, horrible defending by the Brazilians: If it leads to the scoreboard showing more goals for the United States than it does for Brazil, I will be a happy man. More than happy. Ecstatic.

But as a good soldier in the battle to make soccer relevant in the US, I wonder if it might not be better to have this one come out in the most dramatic way possible. Soccer needs more than just a USMNT win over the number one ranked team to get some real mainstream attention. It needs "one for the ages".

Bad for my heart, good for American soccer.

Hopefully, I've not treaded on any "jinx" territory here; I've been stopping after every sentence to knock on wood, and I have my pre-game lucky routine planned out. I kindly ask those in charge of the fortunes of my team to forgive my talking about a win before it happens.

Bradley to Everton?

Sunday, June 28, 2009 | View Comments
Michael Bradley

The US might be playing the biggest match in team history today, but that doesn't mean that the silly season transfer rumors stop. In fact, the recent play of the team has led to a dramatic increase in whispers around the club futures of American players.

Today it's a rumor linking Michael Bradley to Everton. Bradley has already been mentioned as a potential target for Aston Villa, so it would seem (if the rumors of interest are true) that Bradley is making an impression on Premier League managers.

I expect we'll see many more rumors in the coming days leading up to the opening of the transfer window, especially if the US is able to shock the world and win the Confederations Cup later today.

USA-Brazil Match Day

Sunday, June 28, 2009 | View Comments
SOCCER: JUN 24 Confederations Cup - USA v Spain

Here we are, only a few hours ahead of the United States Men's National Team's first shot to win a trophy in a FIFA tournament. My head is still a little foggy, so I probably won't have any profound statements or biting insight; but what I do have, and in abundance, are butterflies.

The backlash has already begun, with the old guard of American sportswriters lashing out against a sport they don't understand. While I think it's easy to overstate the impact a victory today might have on the relevancy of soccer in the United States, it's clear that there has already been an effect. Making the final of a competition that includes Brazil is enough to raise the eyebrows of many.

As for the match, I've promised myself that I won't make a prediction. I don't want to color my expectations of the match with any preconceived notions of what might happen. I simply want to watch the game, root hard, and let the result be what it is. No punditry today, because nothing I could come up with will be any more original or insightful than what anyone and everyone else says. The talking points, the things the Americans must do if they're to have a chance to win, are well known at this point; I won't bore you or stress my brain by rehashing them.

So. Only hours away now, and the American soccer community is just beginning to really get itself worked up. Twitter is abuzz with comments about the game, discussions on the treatment it's getting by the traditional media, and exhortations of exciting and anticipation. Whether this will be a tipping point for soccer in America is a discussion for another day; today is just a day to be a fan, to revel in the Americans making a final in a world tournament for the first time, and to do everything in our power (lucky shirt anyone?) to help our boys get another shocking victory.

Live Blog Central

Saturday, June 27, 2009 | View Comments
A new site is up and running, a one-stop shop for all your live blog needs. If there's soccer going on, there's a good chance someone will be running a live blog for it, so help get it off the ground and spread the word.

Epic Footy Live

Live blogs will be taking place for the MLS and Superliga action tonight (first one is already in progress).

There's a solid lineup of soccer bloggers participating, and all everyone is welcome to come and join in the discussion.

For all of you that look for National Team and the occasional MLS live blog here, don't worry, they'll still be on Match Fit USA, while also showing up at Epic Footy.

Anxious USMNT Fans Unite

Saturday, June 27, 2009 | View Comments
Bob Bradley

The word "anxious" doesn't begin to describe how I, and so many other USMNT fans, feel today, twenty four hours ahead of the Confederations Cup final in Johannesburg. I can't remember the last time I wanted a weekend to go by faster, rather than creep along.

What a victory over Brazil tomorrow might mean for soccer in the United States is debatable, and we can't really know for sure if it would make a significant difference in the way most of Americans views the sport. What's not debatable is the satisfaction all of us who live and die with our national team will feel if our Yankee Boys* are able to finish off what has been one of the most shocking weeks in our international footballing history.

The turnaround from the low brought on by flailing mightily against Italy and Brazil has not only restored our faith that this nation can compete with the best soccer playing countries in the world, not to mention lessened the heat on Bob Bradley from the soccer community, it has also brought the question of the game's "mainstream" potential back into play. Many wouldn't imagine it possible that soccer could even be a topic of conversation in many of the places that it showed up this week outside of a World Cup year. So many Americans simply ignore the sport unless it's being played on the grandest stage.

The Confederations Cup is certainly not the grandest stage. But with several international powerhouses including the number one team in the world participating, and with their full strength squads called up, it's not exactly a series of international friendlies, either. Spain, Italy, and Brazil didn't bring along their stars just warm up for qualifiers; they brought them because the intended to win the competition.

I find myself angry with Europeans or American Eurosnobs who imply that the US is in the final because Spain didn't really care. Watching the match, it seemed obvious that the Spanish were putting into the match everything they had, and were simply unable to break through on a resilient American team. Whether or not Spain is far and away the better side means nothing when the scoreline doesn't reflect it. Say what you want about the American style of play and whether or not it will lead to future success; the point of sports it to win, no matter what it takes to do so.

Even if the USMNT doesn't gain international respect from their performance in the tournament, a victory tomorrow will make a mark here greater than anything we've seen since the World Cup quarterfinal appearance in 2002.

I know I'm rambling without a point here, but I just had to get some thoughts out. We're all on pins and needles, hopeful and full of trepidation at the same time. I guess that's what happens when you suddenly look up to see your national team in a FIFA tournament final against the most storied soccer country in the world.

So if you're feeling anxious as well, feel free to use the comments of this post to commiserate with your fellow fans; less than twenty four hours to go now.

*Sorry about the crap nickname; I'm one of those who thinks the USMNT needs one, and with the "Eagles" already taken by the national rugby team, I thought I'd try something out. Why not? Besides, "Yankee Boys" is better than "Yankees", and fits with "Samba Boys" and "Reggae Boys".

I'm not sure there could be any two shows more different than last week's and this coming week's. The USMNT total turnaround will be the focus of the entire show, as Ginge and I attempt to shake the heat we received for our strong words last week.

We'll recap the groundbreaking victory over Spain, talk about what it means for soccer in the US, review the tournament final after it happens (who says we don't learn from our mistakes?), and bring in Noah Davis of Goal.com to get his insight on where the USMNT stands after the first part of a busy summer.

Look for the new show coming Monday.

The Match Fit USA Soccer Show, part of the Champions Soccer Radio Network.

There's also a new way to listen to the show, by dialing into a phone number set up through Podlinez.com. If you find yourself unable to download the show or stream it online but still want to get it the moment it comes out, dial (641)453-0073 to listen to it in its entirety over the phone.

MLS Daily Column 6/26

Friday, June 26, 2009 | View Comments

My latest MLS Daily column is up, and as always, I kindly ask you check it out.

MLS Must Capitalize On Increased USMNT Interest

It Had to Be Brazil

Friday, June 26, 2009 | View Comments
Landon Donovan, Andre Santos

A beautifully hit free kick goal by second half substitute Dani Alves helped Brazil defeat hosts South Africa 1-0 in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup yesterday. The Brazilians will now go on to face the high flying Americans in Sunday's tournament final.

For the USMNT, its fans, and the profile of soccer in the United States, it was the best possible outcome.

For me, there were two distinct ways to look at the Confederations Cup final as a USMNT fan. Either you hoped for South Africa to pull off a massive upset, setting up a USA-South Africa final, and while playing in Johnannesburg would make Bafana Bafana tougher than usual, the US would have a better chance to win, bringing them their first ever FIFA trophy. Or you hoped for a Brazil win, the expected result, because it would both give the US a chance at redemption against the Samba Boys, as well as test them with the strongest challenge possible. Beating Brazil in the final would only make the Confederations Cup triumph that much sweeter.

That was the goal before the tournament, right? To run the side through a gauntlet? The competition was talked up as a test of the squad as it is currently constituted, and as a chance for Bradley and his staff to gain a sense of their readiness ahead of next year's World Cup. Brazil, a team that ran roughshod over the Americans in the second game of the tournament, is simply a better measuring stick than the South Africans.

The win over Spain, win or lose against Brazil, will remain the USMNT's watershed moment for 2009 (even a victory at Azteca won't measure up); so for a team whose biggest achievement is behind them, what else is there? Beating Brazil and hoisting the Confederations Cup, of course.

If it was South Africa, no matter how difficult it might be to play them in front of a partisan crowd in Johannesburg, it just wouldn't live up to the standard of intensity the Americans have reached.

The Americans thumped the Egyptians when they had to and sneaked into the semi-finals. They rose up as one and played a near-perfect game against the top team in the world when no one thought they stood a chance. How fitting would it be to finish their streak by beating the team that made them look so bad in the group stage? How better to announce to the world "We here and we're good, so don't take us lightly"?

It had to be Brazil.

Adu Tweets a Hint, Sort Of

Thursday, June 25, 2009 | View Comments

It seems that once you start doing something, you have to follow through with it.

And so I present to you Freddy Adu's latest hint about his club future:

FreddyAdu11 as of now im going to preseason with benfica unless something changes.could be spain,holland, a different country or staying at Benfica.

There's absolutely nothing I can glean from this, other than to suppose that Adu is making contact with clubs in the countries he mentioned. Spain and Holland would be fine places for him to play, but without specific club names to go on, there's really no way to know for sure.

Digest this news as you will.

Altidore Transfer Rumors

Thursday, June 25, 2009 | View Comments
Jozy Altidore, Joan Capdevila

When I wrote up my piece on potential transfers for Americans who are on the Confederations Cup squad, I left out Jozy Altidore for several reasons. His name hadn't been mentioned in any specific rumors that I was aware of, and it didn't seem to me that a move away from Villareal (or another loan for that matter) was a hot topic of conversation. In fact, I suppose I just simply assumed that Villareal would hold on to Altidore, perhaps even giving him the chance he deserves to play with their first team. Jozy's had a fairly strong tournament, and with the rumored return of Giuseppe Rossi to Manchester United, it would make sense for the Spanish club to use Altidore.

Recent news has proven me short-sighted though, as Jozy's name has come up in two specific rumors.

First, and this is a few days old now, Jozy was proposed as a possible loan target for Roy Hodgson's Fulham. The exploits of Americans are well known at the West London club, and Altidore would find himself playing alongside USMNT teammate Clint Dempsey. I was tempted to post this rumor when I first came across the Daily Mail link, but I hesitated as it was both entirely too brief for comfort and had no real corraboration. It's hit the American blogosphere at this point, so no reason to hold back now.

Jozy at Fulham is a intriguing idea; provided he gets playing time (which is always the biggest question), he should do well in the physical English environment. It would also give us in the States a chance to see him play on a semi-regular basis.

Before we could even digest the idea of him playing in a Fulham kit next year came another rumor, this time linking Altidore to Greek power Olympiakos. Now I'm not sure if that deal would be loan or transfer, so I'm not sure how to really feel about it. I simply don't know enough about the quality of the Greek league (as with the Turkish league in reference to Onyewu) to make a judgement on whether or not it would be good for the young striker.

Unless one of these rumors become reality in the very near future, I expect we'll hear Alitdore's name linked to other clubs; it should be an interesting summer all around for American players from this groundbreaking Confed Cup team.

The Real US Gold Cup Roster

Thursday, June 25, 2009 | View Comments

The actual US Gold Cup 23-man roster was released this morning, and it only bears a passing resemblance to the preliminary roster that I and so many others posted last week.

Here's the list:

Goalkeepers: Perkins, Robles, Busch

Defenders: Pearce, Goodson, Marshall, Cherundolo, Conrad, Parkhurst, Heaps

Midfielders: Beckerman, Rogers, Pause, Holden, Colin Clark, Cronin, Evans, Arnaud

Forwards: Davies, Ching, Cooper, Adu, Quaranta

It looks like Adu should actually see the field in this tournament, unlike the Confederations Cup, and he desperately needs the time. Interesting to see Conrad's name on the list; his rumored "fallout" with Bob Bradley is apparently finally mended.

I'm happy to see Parkhurst, Goodson, Quaranta (who we knew about thanks to Goff), and Cooper in the squad.

I'm not really sure why Jay Heaps is on this team, but as I'm not putting too much into the Gold Cup from a fan perspective and only really want to see the younger guys play, it doesn't bother me too much.

The surprise of the group for me might be Sam Cronin; I know he's good, and that's he's played well for Toronto, I'm just surprised to see him brought into a US camp at this point.

Your thoughts?

Donovan Turns Opinion

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | View Comments
SOCCER: JUN 24 Confederations Cup - USA v Spain

In the aftermath of the still stunning US victory over Spain, I'm struck by the sudden about-face that so many are doing in regards to American soccer's designated whipping boy, Landon Donovan.

Donovan takes more than his share of abuse from American soccer fans, and does so for a variety of reasons. His seeming lack of ambition, his somewhat frequent diving, his kissy-hand routine before penalty kicks: it all conspires to make him an easy target, despite his clear and abundant talent.

But Landon has clearly won over some of his critics with his tireless efforts to get the United States into the Confederations Cup final. Donovan has been a thorn in the side of opponents throughout the tournament, running himself ragged all over the pitch, working to win balls on defense and keying attacks on offense.

While the "Landycakes" moniker will probably never completely disappear, it seems that some have questioned themselves when it comes to its use.

David Wilson at Soccer Tickets Online says about Donovan: "I have criticized LandyCakes for not showing up when it counts in big games for the U.S., but Donovan has been terrific all during the tournament."

Bill Archer of Big Soccer "fame" entitled a post "Landycakes No More", before the Spain match.

Randall at Soccer Tickets Online weighed in with his thoughts on "Landycakes" after the Italy match, saying: "I am guilty of making fun of Landon Donovan on occasion. Well, on many occasions, actually. But, after today’s performance, I think it’s time for myself (and everyone else) to just stop spewing hate and ridicule on our only real attacking player. Our team leader. So, I will never call him 'Landycakes' again. I am retiring the nickname for good, and I hope everyone else will do the same."

There's bound to be many undocumented examples as well, people who have long held disdain for Donovan that have been swayed by his rising-to-the-moment performances in South Africa. While haters will continue to hate, and Donovan will never change the mind of many that hate him simply because it fills an empty void in the souls to do so, it's interesting to see some reversal.

More than likely, it will take a move to Europe (a successful one that includes playing time and goals) and a equally as impressive return to South Africa next year to remove most of the criticism that Donovan receives. Even then, not all will back down from their "Landycakes" attitude; as the saying goes "You can't please all of the people all of the time".

So here's the question to you, MFUSA readers who may have been in the "Landon sucks" camp; has his performance in the Confederations Cup over the past two week changed your perception of him at all?

Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies

Today's stunning American victory over the number one ranked team in the world deserves more than a piddly recantation of my earlier call for Bob Bradley to resign.

It deserves an opus, a glowing ode, a flowing, flowery, over-the-top missive extolling the virtues of every player that contributed, the direction of Bob Bradley, and the collective will of a team that refused to be cowed by conventional wisdom.

But that's not what I'm going to write today.

Instead, I'm going to attempt to frame today's victory in terms that might sometimes tilt towards hyperbole, but which will always be based on a desire to be level-headed. The win is being trumpeted as a seminal moment in the history of American soccer, and it certainly is; but what it means on the larger scale, the one that includes soccer as a relevant sport in the United States, is tough to determine. Americans always seem to struggle with fully embracing the beautiful game en masse, and there's no reason think that this victory, no matter how impressive, will change that in any noticeable way.

But onto to happier thoughts. Who cares about those people that don't get it anyway? What they missed today is not only what makes soccer such a great game, but what makes following your national team passionately such a worthwhile endeavor. We're all exultant today, one community of Americans who understand just what it means for a bunch of American players to beat a full-strength top-ranked team in the world. It's not just about rooting for the underdog, though that's certainly a component; it's also about supporting a team that represents what America is about. Varied and diverse in both background and origin, the United States National Soccer Team is a collection of men more like the makeup of our country than any other that wears the colors of our flag.

Bob Bradley, the man whose leadership abilities I questioned just a few days ago, masterfully positioned and inspired his team today. Questions about Bradley's ability to lead the US to success in the World Cup next year shouldn't stop based on only two games, and I think it healthy that they continue; but after today, there is little reason to believe that Bradley can't get the job done. Why his side played so poorly for two matches, then so well for two, is a mystery that may be beyond our abilities to solve. Give Bradley credit, however, for turning things around when they looked the most bleak. While so many of us were calling for his head, asking him to resign, or decrying his decisions, Bradley stuck to his guns and led his team to one of the more important wins in this nation's international soccer history.

Sunday's final against Brazil (probably, though today illustrates that nothing is a foregone conclusion) is almost an afterthought now, a game that if won, will bring the US its first ever senior international trophy of any real significance, but if lost (barring a completely and utterly embarrassing performance) won't really do any damage to the massive high that the program and the fans are on today. The team will end the Confederations Cup riding an incredible wave of confidence, something that can only serve them well when the "A" reassembles for the World Cup qualifying match against Mexico at Azteca in August. If that confidence can be leveraged into a first ever victory in smoggy Mexico City, then we might be able to say that the team has turned a corner, is headed in the right direction, and could realistically be called "dangerous" ahead of next year's World Cup.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Today's win redefines the word "big" for the USMNT, and perhaps we should leave it at that. Whether it helps the sport penetrate the stubborn American sports culture, or whether it means that the team is now reaching the potential we all believed they had, still remains to be seen. For now, and for at least the next few days, story after story and blog post after blog post will be written on the victory, with some perhaps even showing up in the "mainstream" non-soccer media. For me, that's enough. For now.

I'm exhausted. Wake me up for the final.

I'm ready for my crow. I've got my "I Was Wrong" bib on, my plate is set, and my fork is at the ready.

Let me show you how it's done.

I was wrong.

That's it, and that's everything. I thought Bob Bradley had lost his team. I thought they had tuned him out. I thought he was incapable of getting them to play to their full potential.

About all of that, I was wrong. My call for Bob to step down is officially rescinded. No matter my feelings on his ultimate ability to put together and direct a successful World Cup team, there's no chance that Bob is going anywhere now. He has a free pass through the summer of 2010, and rightly so.

I followed along at work the best I could, getting an assist by the live blog that Kevin McCauley ran here.

So I'm off to watch the game. I'll be loving every minute, and snacking on crow the whole time.

I'll be back as soon as I can with post-match thoughts, Bradley-thoughts, what-does-it-mean thoughts, and why-the-hell-didn't-we-play-like-that-in-the-first-two-matches thoughts.

USA-Spain Commentary

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | View Comments
Apparently I can't drum up enough interest to merit a dedicated live blog, so I'm putting up a post just for your comments on todays USA-Spain match.

As I've mentioned, it will be extremely difficult for me to see much of the match live, so I'll be depending on you that can see it to provide real-time updates.

I'm not quite sure how the Disqus comment system will handle this, but you know know unless you try, right?

Anything and everything goes in this thread, so go ahead and kick it off with score and lineup predictions.


Here's your lineup for the Americans:

Spector---Onyewu---DeMerit---Bocanegra (C)


Kevin McCauley from All Things Footy is looking for a place to park his live blog, so I'm giving him MFUSA for the match.

Clint Dempsey, Jonathan Spector

As we creep towards zero hour, towards the United States National Team's biggest test in a somewhat meaningful competition in years, I'm getting that "hopeful yet scared shitless" feeling comes with supporting a massive underdog.

The sliver of hope that the Americans can pull off the gargantuan upset is just large enough that I'm a nervous wreck; I'm not so convinced of a Spanish victory that I can just let myself relax and simply hope for a encouraging performance from my team. Blame it on Egypt, blame it on Bob, or blame it on the players who showed so well on Sunday that we as fans have managed to work ourselves up to the belief that they can beat the unbeatable.

I'm fairly certain that we're the only ones that can even conceive, no matter how remote a possibility we recognize it to be, of a US victory today. In fact, I know we are.

A quick scan of odds for the US-Spain match today (and imagine my shock when the site wasn't blocked at my office) shows the Americans as 12/1 (I think; I'm not enough of a gambler to be comfortable with my understanding, but that's not stopping me from forging ahead) to win. Meanwhile, the Spanish are 1.28 to win, meaning they just a hair over even money. Those aren't encouraging odds, even as we keep in mind that they're set in such a way as to drive betting on each side, making money for the bookies either way, and that bettors outside of the United States are likely to have little respect for the Americans (hence the enticement of long odds).

Nevermind the actual odds, the simple way to put it is to say that the Americans have a snowball's chance in hell of beating the top ranked team in the world. It's going to take a perfectly played game, a herculean type of effort, and the match of a lifetime from more than one individual to keep the Spaniards from scoring more than the Yanks. Weapons abound for La Roja, and it's difficult to even pick out one Spanish player that is more dangerous than any other, simply because they are that talented.

But the Americans are dead in the water if they come out scared. If they play like massive underdogs, if they run and chase and do the football equivalent of curling into the fetal position, it will be over before it starts. If they're to have any chance, they have to assert themselves immediately, letting the Spanish know that it's not going to be a walkover, but a hard fought battle. Pushing up and pressuring Spain's back line while doing their best to defend away from their own goal seems somewhat counter-intuitive against a side as offensively adept as Spain; but if the Americans sit back and attempt to absorb attack after attack, they're likely to concede and find themselves without even that small sliver of hope we believe they have.

Don't play like underdogs, play like equals. Easier said than done, I know, but it's the only chance they have.

We'll know, within the first fifteen minutes, if our boys have a shot. If the Spanish feel no pressure, completely dominate, or score, there's not likely to be much to look forward to for the remaining seventy-five minutes.

If Bob Bradley is a better manager than I have given him credit for, if the victory of Egypt represents a turning point in the evolution of the USMNT, and if the quality of play is at a higher level than in the first two games of the tournament, then the Americans really do have a shot. But if that last match was just a blip, was just a aberration aided by hookers and Egyptian fatigue, then we have no shot. Determining which is real and which is a mirage is the difficult part; either way, I hope the players truly believe it's the former and not the latter.

Here's to hoping that I'm eating a healthy helping of crow served by Mr. Bradley come, 4:30 Eastern Time today.

I'm still trying to decide if I should run a liveblog today; since I'm unable to really watch the game and I am supposed to be working, I won't be able to run it properly. If you are a regular, would like to help, and will be able to watch the game, let me know if you want me to run a liveblog; you guys can run it yourselves while I attempt to follow the match and chime in when possible.

Leave your name and email in the comments, or send me an email directly.

matchfitusa at gmail dot com

I just can't help myself. The last time I pulled out the "Fun With Translation" post, I promised that it wouldn't come back until the Americans head to Azteca in August.

But tomorrow's Confederations Cup semi-final match with Spain provides a just-too-perfect opportunity to pull it out again; the Spanish press is bound to have stories on the match, and it's always fun to see what a foreign nation's media has to say about our cute little national team.

Most of the stories I've come across present it as a foregone conclusion that Spain will meet Brazil in the final if they are able to take out the Americans. This El País story is no exception, and it also includes a few interesting statements. Of interest is a comment on how the inclusion of European-based players has "strengthened" the American team, while at the same time the story notes that the US offense is improved but that the "defense is still weak".

I've seen this piece in several places, so it would appear that it's a wire story; "The Honor of Bradley" gives a bit of background on the American head man, while framing it with some of the typical filler on the condition of soccer in the United States. The final two sentences of the story echo the sentiments of our first translation: "Back are very vulnerable. A bargain for Villa and Torres".

El País also has a nice writeup of Jozy Altidore, calling him (among other things) "strong as a bull", "very American", and "contour of (her?!?!) neck reminiscent of a defense in the NFL rather than a soccer player". Also included in the article is a mention of the infamous poorly phrased Spanish text message Jozy sent to Joan Capdevila, something fairly ironic considering the poor translations I'm linking to here.

Another profile, this time of Michael Bradley, also from El País, notes the massive amount of ground covered by Bradley, Dempsey and Donovan. The followup to that note is the (mostly correct) statement that the Americans "have trouble controlling the game". I would point out to the El País writer that the Americans have faced two of the better possession teams in the world, but it doesn't subtract from the truth of his statement. The glowing review of Bradley is nice, and even includes a reference to the midfielder being compared to Michael Ballack.

Nothing really of note in this story, another that I believe to be a wire piece, except for the projected lineup; while Guzan started against Egypt, I think it's been fairly evident that Howard is the US number one keeper. The Spanish press seems not to have gotten that memo, and looks to have just rolled over the Egypt lineup to tomorrow's game.

Either I'm looking in the wrong places, or the Spanish press is entirely too nice when it comes to the USMNT. Color me just a little disappointed.

Trinidad and Tobago v United States FIFA 2010 World Cup Qualifier

By Jason Kuenle

As I wrote in my last article, I believe that Bob Bradley has caused a storm in the US national team by experimenting during a string of matches against good to great competition (Trinidad and Tobago notwithstanding). His decisions since the El Salvador game lead me to believe that the US is moving from a 4-4-1-1 formation to a 4-4-2. And while this transition and other formation experimentation has been occurring with all its ups and downs, so too have a number of changes to the depth chart.

After the Costa Rica game, I stated two areas of ongoing concern: the lack of a depth in the backline and the missing midfield general. In the six games since the chaos began, the US has allowed 10 goals, yet the backline picture has begun to clear up. While back in March no one knew who the third right back, the third center back, or the top left back were, I’m now fairly confident in those positions and a few others. Onyewu, Bocanegra, and DeMerit are the top three center backs. Spector is at least the number three right back and also the number one or two left back. Beasley is no longer on the chart at left back, replaced by Bornstein at one or two with Spector, then Pearce at three. The top of the right side is still likely Cherundolo and Hejduk. But with the injuries to Cherundolo, Hejduk, and Bocanegra, its hard to know exactly where people fall, though Bradley now seems to have a core of eight defenders that he trusts.

However, most of the goals given up were not the fault of the backline, but the fault of the midfield. From the space given the Italians on their long distance goals, to red cards by Clark and Kljestan, to the inept tackling in Costa Rica, the midfield has been a defensive disaster. Michael Bradley will continue to be a staple of the central midfield, and it is becoming clear that Bob intends to pair him with a defensive midfielder. In the five experimentation games that Michael has played, he’s been paired with Mastroeni twice, Clark twice, and Kljestan once when there were no defensive mids available.

Many will cringe at what they see as a midfield with two holding midfielders. But while Michael is capable of playing defensive midfielder, he’s not an overly effective one, nor does his play when paired with a defensive midfielder echo that position. Michael was the defensive midfielder when early goals were given up to El Salvador and Brazil. His positioning when paired with Clark or Mastroeni has been similar to his games with ‘Gladbach playing the attacking mid in their 4-2-3-1 or his games with Heerenveen when he scored 16 goals in 30 games. Michael has the defensive ability to track back and help shut down attacks and the ability to go for goal; whether he has the ability to orchestrate the attack and be a true midfield general remains to be seen, but it appears that Bob is determined to find out.

For the Confederations Cup, Bradley named a team that, given the current injuries to the US team, looked like a reasonable roster. No Mastroeni and the inclusion of Torres, Feilhaber, Davies, and Adu balanced the continued inclusion of Beasley and the absence of Cooper. Yet through three games, neither Torres nor Adu have been used, making some wonder why they were even called. Especially when in two of the three games, we’ve even finished with an unused sub.

While Adu has been capped 13 times and Torres 5 times, neither has ever played a full match for the US. There inclusion in the Confed Cup roster and the Gold Cup camp roster makes me believe that they will both be fixtures throughout the Gold Cup run, likely with Torres in the Michael Bradley role and Adu on the wing. Bob Bradley learned in the Copa America what happens when a team goes into a tournament without any experience playing together. Judging by the camp roster, he will put a lot more experience on the field then he did in 2007. The US may end up making the Confederation Cup Semis and the Gold Cup finals, something few believed possible with the team spread so thin. Moreover, it will make the Gold Cup much more fun to watch, and Adu’s transfer hopes could get a boost with a stellar tournament.

Now that Bob has answered the question marks at outside back and center midfield to his liking, the search should be on for the midfield and striker backups. Who fills in for Donovan or Dempsey and who is behind Altidore up top? These are all questions that can be answered in the Gold Cup. Getting Torres and Adu training time with the “A” team and field experience leading what is beginning to look like a “B+“ or even “A-“ team will put them in a position to be full contributors in the fall qualifiers if Bradley needs them because of injuries or poor form of other players.

A lot has happened in six games. Altidore has gone from occasional sub to starter. Mastroeni has fallen to the “B” team where he will likely be joined by Beasley. The formation looks like it is being shifted. The depth questions in the back have been answered. And the direction of the midfield looks more defined. Perhaps these changes should have been made long ago. With the exception of the last three months, Bob has shown that he favors stability in formation and lineup. I would not be at all surprised if Bradley’s experiments are close to being over, if his predictable lineups return, and if the storm that is the USMNT's inconsistency dissipates.

How much cleanup there is to do remains to be seen.

Charlie Davies is being applauded as a major factor in the US victory over Egypt on Sunday, and the accolades have me wondering about his club future. It wouldn't be a stretch to think that Davies might be on the radar of more than a few teams after his performance, especially as he was already rumored to be a target of both French and German clubs during the January transfer window.

But Davies might not be the only American for whom the Confederations Cup spotlight is a boon; Landon Donovan has been singled out as one of the lone consistent performers for the USMNT in the tournament, so perhaps the international stage is doing him some good as well. If Europe comes calling again, I'd like to hope that MLS will be reasonable in their asking price and allow Donovan to renew his aspirations abroad.

For Oguchi Onyewu, it's no longer a matter of "if" but "where". The center back is a free agent, and will have his choice of clubs. The most recent rumor has him moving to Fenerbahce in Turkey, and although the Confederations Cup is probably not strengthening his bargaining position significantly, he's played well enough that he might be able to squeeze a few extra nickels out of whichever club finally signs him.

For a few of the younger Americans, the Confederations Cup has been nothing but a trip to South Africa and some intense training sessions. That hasn't stopped speculation about their futures though, with Freddy Adu tweeting about his, and Jose Francisco Torres' being linked to La Liga.

Just a year removed from his last move from Dutch side Heerenveen to Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach, Michael Bradley is once again the subject of transfer rumors, with whispers of a potential move to Aston Villa hitting the internet just in the last few days. It's specifically mentioned that Villa manager Martin O'Neill has been impressed with the American midfielder's play in the Confederations Cup, proof that the world's eyes, no matter the ultimate significance of the tournament, are turned to South Africa.

In spit of the terrible start to the tournament that the Americans had as a group, it seems at least a few are benefiting from the stage; it might even be argued that Davies sticks out from the pack because he played so well against Egypt while being largely unsoiled by the stench of the first two group matches. Adu and Torres have not yet seen the field, so they remain the only potential transfers that have not had a chance to increase their stock in the competition (or perhaps hurt it). The only player not yet mentioned that could be a transfer target is Sacha Kjlestan, perhaps the only one on the list that has featured for the US but played so poorly that he might have done damage this his value.

Fill in the gaps if I'm missing anyone, or if you have heard transfer rumors that I don't have hear.

SOCCER: JUN 17 Confederation Cup - Iraq v Spain

When the United States lines up against Spain tomorrow in the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup, American fans will be internally conflicted.

On the one hand, they'll want to believe that the Yanks have a shot against the Spanish, and that if the boys play well they just might squeak out an unlikely win. Victory, or even a full time tie that leads to extra soccer, is not expected; but it would be against their nature as fans not to have even a small belief that there's a chance.

The conflict arises from the realistic recognition that Spain is far and away the better team. More than likely, they will crush the American, remove their souls with crisp passing, intricate attacks, and superior skill, finishing the job as they've done so many times before. The Spaniards have not lost a match since 2006, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that an inconsistent American team will break that streak. The only questions that seem relevant are, how many will Spain score, because score they will, and will the Americans score, because that it's not a foregone conclusion that they will.

And so American fans will watch, in the middle of the day on a Wednesday and in numbers that would shock the anti-soccer crowd, hoping for the best but fearing the worst.

One-nil to the Americans, and the fans will lose their minds, become suddenly boisterous and exuberant, and lineup ready to crow about Yank chances at next year's World Cup. All of that criticism that Bob Bradley has taken, all of those calls for his head and for him to replaced immediately? Gone in a moment, as soon as the final whistle blows and the Americans have taken down the number one team in the world. It's a scenario we almost don't want to let ourselves conceive of, if only because it is so small a possibility. But it's out there, the idea that another miracle can happen, and fans would be fans, supporters wouldn't be supporters, if the notion didn't cross their mind.

Just imagine what it would mean.

Three-nil to the Spaniards, and life as a United States Men's National Team fan goes on as before. A loss to Spain would not only be predictable, it would be easily swept away, easily excused because there's really no reason to expect any other result. Losing to Spain isn't exactly the preferred outcome of Wednesday's match, but it will barely register on the disappointment radar. It would take a thumping of epic proportions, something on the order of four or five to nil to really get fans worked up; Bradley and his team essentially get a free pass, with Sunday's heroics still fresh.

"Just happy to be there" might be the wrong way to put it, but you can't really blame the Americans if that's the way they feel.

As for my prediction, I expect the Nats to play hard and give the Spanish a fight, but ultimately lose 2-0.

And we'll probably be happy with that.

While most of us are still understandably focused on the Confederations Cup and the stunning advancement of the US National Team, the CONCACAF Gold Cup is right around the corner.

A few days ago, I posted a 30-man roster that was posted to the CONCACAF website; there was some talk that it was only a preliminary list and did not reflect the players that would actually be called in for the tournament. Confirmation seems to have come today through Steven Goff, who is reporting that DC United attacker Santino Quaranta will be named to the Gold Cup team. Quaranta was not on the list I (and many others) posted, so I think it's safe to say you can ignore it completely.

While Quaranta's addition is big news for United fans and those USMNT supporters who were calling for his inclusion (and I know there are a few of you that read this blog), it also brings up a litany of questions.

First, which of the names on the original list will not be included in the final roster to be released Thursday? Is there any chance that Kenny Cooper gets snubbed again? What about Davy Arnaud?

There's also hope now that the final roster won't include a couple of names that some fans were just a little unhappy to see; namely, Pablo Mastroeni, who may have played himself out of the US squad for good, and possibly Marcus Hahnemann, who, while still competent as a keeper, is a little old to be included in a team that is supposed to be filled with younger players.

Also look for those players that were on the CONCACAF website list, played on the Confederations Cup team, and are currently in-season with their clubs to be dropped; this would include Conor Casey, Jonathan Bornstein, Charlie Davies, and Ricardo Clark. It's difficult to know if Bradley will leave those players on the roster that are on the Confed Cup team but aren't in season; for some, it might be a good opportunity to get playing time they desperately need (think Altidore and Adu).

by Jason Kuenle

For the last few months, we as US soccer fans have seen the effects of a storm. I’m of the opinion that this storm is within the US national team and is Bob Bradley’s doing. Regardless of your view of Bob Bradley, regardless of how much you might want him fired, regardless of how poor you think his coaching decisions are, you must believe that Bob Bradley has always had a plan. You may disagree with his plan, but the USSF would not keep him around if he didn’t even have one. I’m not a Bradley apologist, though I have been accused of being one. I don’t know everything that Bradley knows; but I think Bob Bradley’s plan changed on March 28, 2009 causing chaos around the national team, the effects of which we are still feeling today.

During the early qualifying rounds, Bradley did little tinkering with his lineups. Whenever playing with the “A” team, Bradley employed a 4-4-1-1. In January of this year, the formation and 9 spots in the starting lineup seemed secure. The only questions seemed who was the left back and who would play with little Bradley in the center. Fans questioned the inclusion of Brian Ching in every lineup and began to note that Beasley was looking a step slow, but you pretty much knew what you were going to get every time the national team took the field. Bradley’s philosophy at the time seemed to be "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it".

Then the El Salvador game happened. Bradley again started the 4-4-1-1, going down the depth chart to replace the injured Cherundolo and Onyewu and the suspended Howard. Pearce got the call at left back, Kljestan in the middle. The lineup surprised nobody. An early goal led Bradley to make tactical substitutions that resulted in allowing another goal before scoring two of our own to come out with the draw. It was the first game that the “A” team had not won since drawing Argentina the summer before. The El Salvador result was an opening to do more than simple position for positions substitutions. Bradley could have done nothing, satisfied with a draw on the road in CONCACAF or he could change his tactics. Bradley decided to change his tactics. After that game, all predictability went out the window.

Had he done nothing and continued with the 4-4-1-1, the US likely would have beaten T&T, played a respectable game in Costa Rica that would have resulted in a draw or close loss, beaten Honduras, played a tighter game against Italy, lost to Brazil, and drawn or beaten Egypt narrowly and gotten 2 or 3 points and been done after three games content with gaining experience and playing competitively.

But he didn’t. The next six games did not feature the same formation in successive games. Altidore’s display in relief earned him a start against T&T. To accommodate him and Ching in the same lineup, Bradley went to a 4-4-2, moved Donovan to the wing and dropped Beasley to the left back position. The stated formation for Costa Rica was a 4-3-3, but played more like a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield sliding Dempsey up to replace the injured Ching and slotting Torres into the vacant midfield slot. The Honduras game returned to the T&T 4-4-2 with replacements down the depth chart for the injured Ching, Cherundolo, and Hejduk and the suspended Bradley.

The Confederations Cup began playing Italy with Bradley’s old standby the 4-4-1-1. Against Brazil a 4-5-1 with Altidore alone up top and Dempsey shifted inside. And finally, against Egypt returning again to the T&T 4-4-2. If your keeping track that’s a 3-0 record with 8 goals scored (1 on penalty) and 1 conceded for the 4-4-2 and a record of 0-3 with two goals scored (both on penalties) and nine conceded in the other three formations. While these results are skewed by the quality of the opponents in the games, separating the games by formation yields a surprising trend.

The US has looked more dangerous in the 4-4-2 than it ever did in the 4-4-1-1. Bradley’s experiments along the way have made the US look absolutely foolish at times. But the result looks like it may be a step in the right direction. Hopefully, we will see this formation against Spain to see what it looks like against a world class team.

The man that would know, Steven Goff of the Washington Post, is reporting that there may be a new player in the DC United stadium saga. United has already struck out in Prince George's County, and both Montgomery County, Maryland and Loudoun County, Virginia have been mentioned as possible locations; because of all of those exes dotting the DC metropolitan area map (colloquially known as the "DMV" these days), Goff speculates that perhaps the new suitor is Fairfax County, Virginia.

If that's true, and there's nothing in Goff's post to back it up, it's just his best guess, then I would be completely and utterly stunned.

Back when I did my United stadium location round up, I discounted Fairfax County as a potential home for the club. I based this on several factors, not the least of which is a county government most view as ill-suited to the passage of a major stadium construction bill.

But if Goff is right, and if Fairfax County is indeed interested in becoming the permanent home of DC United, then we can look at the development in a few different ways. Part of the good/bad designation of this news is dependent on where in Fairfax County the stadium would be located. For those unfamiliar with the geography of the area, the DC metro is broken down most simply by the designations "inside the beltway" and "outside the beltway". Anything inside the beltway is going to be closer to the city proper, but much more accessible by public transportation, and more than likely be characterized by an urban setting. Any location outside the beltway tends to be more suburban and less easily accessible to those not driving, though this rule is far from hard and fast.

Fairfax County straddles the beltway, and spans the spectrum of "urban" and "suburban". If the DC United stadium was to be located inside or directly adjacent to the beltway, than it would be an incredible boon to the club. But if Fairfax County is eying land farther west on which to build, the same issues that plague potential sits in Loudoun and Montgomery counties may come to bear.

Again, it's only speculation on the part of Goff, and nothing has been officially announced by the team or the county. Even if the site is located in the western part of Fairfax, it's probably preferable to the other possibilities mentioned to this point; DC's subway system, the Metro, is planning massive expansion farther west, and that eventually benefit the team in their new facility.

Fairfax County is an odd mix of the well-off and the not-so-rich, with a broad range of ethnic groups inhabiting the area. The county has a significant Latino population, from which the club already draws a substantial portion of their fan base; add to that the "soccer mom" crowd that infects the more affluent areas of the county, and it makes sense for United to be located there.

I am just a little concerned about what part of the county might be targeted, but until we find out whether or not Goff's supposition is correct, it remains a moot point.

Just as an aside, it was interesting to see in Goff's post that the city remains in play, as the Poplar Point project remains on the table.

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