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US Soccer Stadium Game

Wednesday, June 29, 2011 | View Comments
Think you know where MLS, NASL, and USL-Pro teams play? Well, prove it! I got bored during my lunch break and came up with this. It's also available in Facebook, if that's your thing.


- Jason Davis

I'm almost glad to see it, the smoldering heat of fiery disgust still emanating across the American soccer community. It means people care, and with everything we've been through in the last 25 years or so, that's a encouraging thing to note. If people didn't care, they wouldn't rant and rave, write 800 word missives on the listing USMNT ship, spew venom in the direction of Bob Bradley, Sunil Gulati, et al., or just generally grouse about things "not being good enough." It has become hackneyed to point it out, that the more people care the better (and the crushing number of "US SOCCER IS DOOMED!" pieces serve to indicate that growing interest), but that doesn't mean it's not still true. I'll happily repeat it, if only because it seems like someone has to say something positive.

-Ben McCormick

After a promising start, the US U-17 National Team is in a tough spot.  The Americans opened the 2011 U-17 World Cup with a satisfying 3-0 win against the Czech Republic before it was wiped out by an embarrassing 2-1 loss to Uzbekistan.  On June 25, the Americans squared off against New Zealand, needing a win to clinch the group earning themselves a date with Australia, a manageable task in pursuit of returning to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2005.

- Jason Davis

Who wants to hear Jared and I attempt to understand what happened on Saturday night while people jump in on the phones in to call for Bob Bradley's head? You, that's who.

It only seemed appropriate to take the show live immediately following the Gold Cup final, the better to capture the visceral feelings of the fans. When we made the decision to do a live post-game show in the middle of the week, we had hope that it would be a celebratory show where we could all bask in the glory of US victory over Mexico. Alas, it was not to be.

With the pain of the loss sharper thanks to letting a two goal slip away and then letting Gio Dos Santos - blech - throw salt in the would, the people were fired up to talk. We take our first call within minutes of starting the show, and everything rolls on from there.

The question of Bob Bradley's job is a running them, naturally, but we also hit on several other topics. It's impossible to deny that Steve Cherundolo's injury changed that game, and there's plenty of conversation on Bob's choice to insert Jonathan Bornstein.

It's mostly doom and gloom, as you might expect, but we try to look at a few silver linings. Freddy Adu seems to be one. There's a few minutes in there we were consider his revival.

As always, thanks for listening. Make sure you like and comment at the Facebook page and hit us up on Twitter via the AmSoc account and the CSRN network account.

Rating and comments in iTunes are always greatly, greatly appreciated. It just takes a few minutes and will help us climb the charts or something.

Visit the show website for other links of interest.

With the Gold Cup over and both Jared and I a bit spent from the extra shows and, dare I say, intensity of the tournament, we'll be back on our regular schedule, and to add topics to the discussion list (which has read "USMNT" and nothing else for some time now) next week.

You asked, we delivered. Another live midweek show to cover the Gold Cup happenings. Jared and I took to the UStream channel last night to talk about the USMNT's win over Panama and American chances against Mexico on Saturday.

The theme of the show: Three Questions.

1. Should Donovan start?
2. Is Mexico beatable?
3. Do you have faith that Bob Bradley will get it right on Saturday?

Jared and I spend the open talking about those questions and a few others, our thoughts on what happened against Panama, and what the personnel changes might mean for the game against Mexico.

Segment two is open lines, with callers coming fast furious and everyone answering the three questions we laid out at the top.

We close with a bit of opinion on the Revs supporters' dustup over the weekend.

Thanks for listening. Make sure you like and comment at the Facebook page and hit us up on Twitter via the AmSoc account and the much improved CSRN account.

Rating and comments in iTunes are always greatly, greatly appreciated. It just takes a few minutes.

Visit the show website for other links of interest.

Jared and I are getting together for another midweek Gold Cup show at 9 Eastern/6 Pacific. Check the live podcasts link at the top of the page.

USA Live Blog: U17s and USMNT

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 | View Comments
Join MFUSA for a full day of American soccer live blogging.

Starting at 3:45 ET, MFUSA US Youth National Team writer Ben McCormick will host a live blog of the US U17 World Cup team's match against Uzbekistan (ESPN3, kickoff at 4 ET).


Looks like Ben will be tied up until the 20th minute or so. If you want to step in for Ben until he arrives, shoot me an email at matchfitusa@gmail.com.

We'll roll on from there to the senior side's Gold Cup semifinal showdown with Panama (FSC 7 PM ET), where Jason will be in to provide commentary.

- Jason Davis

This post is poorly timed, seeing how Fathers' Day was yesterday and the best time to profess your appreciation for the man that both provided one half of your DNA and raised you is, naturally, on the day set aside for doing just that.

-Ben McCormick

Last night, the US U-17 national team did what they had failed to accomplish at the last two World Cups--win their opening match. Behind a 5th minute wonder-strike from Alejandro Guido, the U-17s cruised to a convincing 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic.

The USA managed to rebound from a distressing 1-0 win over Guadaloupe with an emphatic 2-0 win over Jamaica on Sunday afternoon at RFK. Jared and I took to UStream immediately after the match to give our impressions, get fan reaction, and consider what has changed since last week in Kansas City.

Thanks for listening. Make sure you like and comment at the Facebook page and hit us up on Twitter via the AmSoc account and the much improved CSRN account.

Rating and comments in iTunes are always greatly, greatly appreciated. It just takes a few minutes.

Visit the show website for other links of interest.

Also, share the hell out of the show if you don't mind. Thanks.

- Ethan Gomberg

SANDY, UT – A night of counter attacks and penalty kicks, probably overshadowed by DC United forward Charlie Davies and a controversial decision, ended in Utah tonight 1-1. The announced attendance of 16, 841 were on hand for important match for both teams.

Charlie Davies Takes a Dive

Sunday, June 19, 2011 | View Comments

- Jason Davis

Charlie Davies took a dive last night, and the referee bought it. It wasn't pretty, but not everyone agrees that it wasn't right. Charlie either shamed himself or saved a point for this club, depending on one's view point. I bet you can guess which group of fans make up the majority of those ascribing to the latter.

-Ben McCormick

The US U-17 national team plays its first match of the 2011 U-17 World Cup tomorrow against the Czech Republic. The US has qualified for every edition of the tournament since it began in 1985. Despite their sterling qualification record, the Americans have only reached the semi-finals once in 1999, with a squad featuring players like Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley. In more recent times, the US has been fairly mediocre, bowing out in the round of 16 in the last two tournaments. The last time the team reached the quarter-finals was 2005. This year's team, however, has the potential to get back to the semi-finals for the first time since that 1999 squad. Key plays like Alejandro Guido, Marc Pelosi and Mario Rodriguez lead the US team which was seeded for the draw alongside host nation Mexico, England, Brazil, Argentina and Germany, fine company to be in by most any standard.

The US Fan Base in Contrast

Thursday, June 16, 2011 | View Comments
By Jason Kuenle

In two weeks time, we’ve seen opposite ends of the US fan base. We saw this piece by Chris Ballard on this site while nearly simultaneously seeing an uptick in the usual twitter vitriol as the US has struggled in the Gold Cup. Perspective is a funny thing.

I’m not going to pontificate on changing perspectives. People believe what they believe because of the values that they hold shaped by what they have experienced. Changing values is an exercise in futility and no person has experienced what another has. But the contrast between two opposite viewpoints deserves a bit of attention.

Those who have followed US soccer over the last twenty years have really only seen two true tournament failures in the US’ ascent in the footballing world, the 1998 and 2006 World Cups. Both of these instances were followed by coaching changes that coincided with the US “getting back on track” on their inevitable rise toward the top. Or at least that’s the narrative that is often told. The struggles here and elsewhere in Bob Bradley’s tenure make it easy to make his departure the beginning of the next upswing of the USMNT.

That narrative influenced part by increasing US success in soccer and part by general success of the US in everything else is a powerful one that rings true for most American fans. There is a manifest destiny aspect to it all; with the right player selection, the right tactics, and the right manager the US would have…choose your expected level of international success.

Contrast that with this quote from Chris’ post: “I had been keeping an eye out just to see how she was doing, but even though so far she’s not reached the levels of achievement as some, I just find that I have more fun with her than I ever did with you [England]. I see great potential, and I’d like to be along for the ride.”

But commonality may also be found in Chris’ words, “Every two or three years you say that you’re going to change; that this time it will be different, that this time you’ll repay my faith in you, but each time I’m let down badly. I don’t really think this is your fault – I’m sure you genuinely believe that this time, things will be different – but I feel like I need to protect myself from the constant disappointment.” He, of course, was talking about England, but two see those words from a US fan would not be out of place.

Results often determine the narrative. Opportunities taken or lost determine results. In a game as fickle as soccer, drastic swings in narrative can come from an inch here or there. In my perspective, almost all US successes and failures can be attributed that way. Without the right scorelines in matches that the US wasn’t even involved in, the knockout round successes in the 2002 World Cup and the 2009 Confederations Cup don’t happen. By finishing routine chances in the Gold Cup, the US could have drawn Panama 2-2 and beaten Guadeloupe 3-0 or 4-0. When those inches fall our way, the US does well, when they don't, red flags rise.

Potential is a dangerous thing. It presumes the ability to do great things, but without the guarantee or even probability of success. For those who see the US' potential but are unsure of when or how it will be fulfill, the first quote from Chris is most fitting, but for those that expect US success now, Chris’ second quote rings truer. The choice between the two is one of perspective.

Jared and I have decided to take get together for a special edition of the American Soccer Show tonight at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT. There's a lot to talk about in the wake of the US performance against Guadaloupe, and we'll check the confidence of the fans ahead of Sunday's quarterfinal match with Jamaica.

The Middle Game

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 | View Comments
By Jason Kuenle

Oversimplifying soccer tactics, there are three basic ways to approach a match: 1) be an aggressor, 2) defend and counter, or 3) bunker and only defend. The US, under Bob Bradley, has established their game plans for dealing with 1) and 3). What remains is effectively dealing with teams that employ a defend and counter approach against the US. Looking at results from the past two years, the magnitude of this issue comes into focus. In many ways, the success that the US has had over the past ten years and more pointedly in the Confederations and World Cups, has influenced and will influence how teams play against the US. While top teams around the world will continue to bring the game to the US, the second tier of European countries, Ghana in the World Cup, and Panama this past weekend have highlighted the US struggles against counter-attacking teams.

First, I think there is some subtle distinction between 2) and 3) that often gets overlooked. Putting numbers behind the ball does not automatically equal bunkering. Bunkering is when there is not a tactical plan to attack from that defensive position. It is an approach marked by hopeful long balls and two to three players being involved in the counterattack. It is the tactic that the US used against top competition for years, though the US now rarely bunkers. Against top teams, the US now has what marks a defend and counter team, a tactical plan to come out of its defensive position and orchestrate organized counterattacks that exploit one-on-one matchups. It is this that separates defend and counter from bunker.

To understand the US weakness against the counterattack, a quick look at the tactics against the other two types of opponents is helpful. Against teams that come in as the aggressor, the US uses a defend and counter scheme. By playing a compact and organized 4-4-2, the US creates the typical 8 man defensive box that is effective in choking off most attacks. The finer tactical points that makes this system a counterattacking system and not a bunker is that Dempsey plays with slightly less defensively responsibilities than the other midfielders allowing him to play higher and join in the counter sooner. Donovan’s speed on the other side allows him to usually outpace his defender to also join the counter while still maintaining full defensive responsibilities. Finally, Bradley's job in this scheme is to provide the late support if the front four have managed to keep possession. These players combined with any two strikers create one-on-one situations in the counter. When a US player wins that one-on-one, it usually results in a goal scoring opportunity and often results in a goal (see Altidore versus Spain, Donovan and Dempsey versus Brazil, and Davies versus Mexico).

On the other side, against teams that bunker, the US brings players more permanently into the attack and has now brought on central defenders more capable of possession and in late game situations removing a defensive midfielder and bringing in Feilhaber or Kljestan. This game plan was played to perfection in the win over Canada. Bradley was brought more permanently into the attack, as were Cherundolo and Bocanegra while Ream and Goodson provided more incisive passing on the ground to midfielders in advanced positions. Canada’s counterattack was not well organized, in that it rarely created the one-on-one situations that the counterattack seeks to exploit. Because of the lack of consistent counterattack from Canada, the US could commit players forward and still not be overwhelmed defensively. Similarly, when teams that began a match playing a defend and counter style have taken the lead and choose to bunker or have reached a point in the match of playing for a draw, the US has been moderately successful in prying the defenses open and scoring late goals (see Clark versus Trinidad and Tobago, Bradley versus Costa Rica, Donovan and Bradley versus Slovenia, Donovan versus Algeria, Agudelo versus South Africa, Altidore and Dempsey versus Canada, Cherundolo being fouled to set up the free kick for Goodson’s goal versus Panama). In comparison to the list of goals against aggressive teams, these goals have a much greater tendency to involve players like Clark and Cherundolo in the build up and finish.

Defend and counter teams have given the US a lot of trouble in the past twenty-four months. Slovakia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Ghana, Poland, Paraguay, and Panama all took points from the US using this general approach. Unlike defending against an opponent who is bringing the game to you which requires disciplined team defending, the key to defending the counter is disciplined individual defending. Both of Panama’s goals were set up by losing individual defensive battles. While the yellow against Jones was probably unjustified, it was going to be called a foul giving Panama the set piece chance. Ream’s terrible decision to swing away lost his individual matchup and gave away the penalty.

Unfortunately, the US talent pool does not have many defenders that are complete packages defensively. In many ways the defender pool is the mirror image of the US attacking pool. As discussed above, the US attackers have the talent to win enough individual matchups on the counter to make it a usable strategy. In contrast, the US defenders are not so talented that they can keep the counterattack from being a usable strategy. Cherundolo and DeMerit are probably the most solid defenders, but both will soon lose enough pace to fall out of that category. Bocanegra has already lost a step; Ream and to a lesser extent Goodson can be beaten with strength or speed; Bornstein and Edu have positioning errors too regularly; Onyewu has not been effective when paired with the younger backs; Lichaj and Chandler are both great assets in the attack, but questions remain about their ability to defend; and Jones makes rash decisions in defending. For all of their individual flaws, the US performs very well with team defending (except when Onyewu is the organizer) which is a testament to the team’s organization and why the US defends better against aggressors (time to organize) and teams that bunker (numerical advantage).

When you look at the countries that can routinely beat good counterattacking sides, you generally see experienced players at the back with high level European experience. The US came closest to that from 2007 to 2009 with both Bocanegra and Onyewu at the peaks of their careers. Through that time, that combination recorded clean sheets against counterattacking countries including Switzerland, Poland, Guatemala, and Trinidad and Tobago. Since Bocanegra has been moved wide and Onyewu went out with his knee injury, the US has looked much more susceptible to counterattacking teams. At the same time, the changes at the back and elsewhere, made the US a better defend and counter team. So, while you see the US struggling more against defend and counter teams, you see the US simultaneously do better against aggressors. In my opinion, the US have become the second best defend and counter national team in the world behind Germany. Unfortunately, the number of teams that will play aggressively against the US from the opening whistle has dropped to a dozen or so.

With the growing reputation of the US, teams that may have played the aggressor five years ago will now be taking the defend and counter approach. The change in tactics required of this shift in opponent strategy is that “next step” that many keep calling the US to take. The US talent pool is too good at the defend and counter tactic to not make that its primary strategy. This works if the US finds that early goal and forces opponents into becoming aggressors.

The US has a recent history of giving up the first goal in matches and giving up that goal early. For the US against counterattacking teams, there is some advantage to getting off of a 0-0 scoreline relatively quickly. Ideally, that comes by scoring an early goal. In this situation, the US can revert to their preferred defend and counter strategy. Unfortunately, the goals have generally gone the other way. However, it does change the match to a style the US is more tactically suited to play though not nearly as well as defend and counter. The US has not given up late goals to opponents that have bunkered, meaning there is little risk to giving up the first goal if the all-out attack for the US is working well enough to grab two goals. Late goals that they have give up have been to either aggressors (Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Italy) or teams continuing to defend and counter (Poland, Ghana, Czech Republic, Denmark). Like the US, these countries rarely, if ever, bunker.

The question then becomes one of prioritizing strategies. The US best back four to help grab that early goal are not the best back four for the defend and counter style who are not the best back four at defending counterattacks. What we’ve seen is numerous mixes of these three extremes, none of which have worked out well. The Ream-Goodson partnership can be seen as shifting the balance of this equation. The combination gives the most support to grabbing that early goal, but it is vulnerable to the counter. However, because the US has already been vulnerable to the counter, this pairing is probably worth the gamble.

Playing a strategy that involves attempting to take the game at counterattacking teams in search of the first goal is a risky strategy, but one that makes sense given the strengths and weaknesses of the current US player pool. While the defend-counter scheme of the US has brought more success against top level teams, the strategy shift has also made the US more vulnerable against counterattacking teams. Wins against Spain and draws against England and Argentina do not outweigh consistent struggles against teams like Panama. If the US does not soon find a way to more consistently score the first goal against counterattacking teams, Bob Bradley’s time at the top may be running out.

- Jason Davis

Okay, I'll admit it: I was shamed into writing about the USMNT's depressing loss to Panama, nearly 48 hours after the gut shot landed. A follower on Twitter declared MFUSA dead. I could not allow that to stand. I have new and consuming responsibilities. That doesn't mean I can't spit something out.

- Jason Davis

Here I am, writing at MFUSA for the first time in what seems like a very long time. I don't think it actually has been that long, but when you've poured so much into a space for two and a half years, even a few days can seem like an eternity.

Decisions, Decisions

Tuesday, June 07, 2011 | View Comments
By Jason Kuenle

Over the weekend, Jason Davis and Jared DuBois discussed the merits of having the Spain match three days before the start of the Gold Cup on The American Soccer Show. In doing so, they inspired my Devil’s Advocate side. In reflecting on what Spain brought to the table and what possible benefit it could have on for a US team in preparation for the Gold Cup, I was left with this thought; more than anything, playing Spain was a test of decision making. In that view, the match is much more than the throw away friendly or, more cynically, money grab that many have claimed it to be.

First, two assumptions about Spain: 1) Spain is capable of playing as quickly as any team in the world and 2) after losing to the US in the Confederations Cup, Spain would be motivated to play at the caliber that they are capable of. Second, an assumption about the global game: having played regularly in one of the Big Four leagues exposes a player to the speed of play equivalent to playing against Spain. This is the list of players on Gold Cup roster who have not played regularly in the Big Four: Rimando, Onyewu, Ream, Goodson, Lichaj, Bornstein, Edu, Kljestan, Rogers, Bedoya, Adu, Agudelo, Wondolowski. To me, this looks a lot like what the US threw out against Spain. Especially because, if I remember correctly, Bornstein was a late scratch which moved Lichaj to left back and Spector into the lineup.

The US advantage over other members of CONCACAF is often reduced to the size, strength, and speed of its players. While physicality is an advantage, this oversimplifies the issue. With the exception of Mexico, the US “A” team can play at a higher speed of play than any other CONCACAF nation. That advantage; however, only extents through the “A” team. At the “B” team level that speed of play advantage disappears against nations like Costa Rica and Honduras, and even other MLS heavy countries like Jamaica and Canada. If speed of play has been a point of emphasis in the run up to the Gold Cup, then pushing that level with a match against a motivated Spanish side drives home that point. Not even the “B” team playing against the “A” team can simulate the speed at which Spain plays.

The speed of play from Spain fell in the second half and the introduction of US "A" team players brought the sides closer together in this regard. So, a couple of notes on the first half about the non-Big Four players and what I took away from the match about decision making.

Onyewu – I do not understand all of the abuse that Onyewu gets, especially the accusation that he’s had a huge drop in form. In my eyes, he is what he has always been, great in the air, good blocking shots, and a terrible organizer of a defense. It’s not a coincidence that Gooch’s best performances have come when paired with a centerback with demonstrated leadership skills. Pair him with a Bocanegra (US captain) or DeMerit (Watford and Vancouver captain) and he does fine. Make him the leader in the back and pair him with someone inexperienced and you get multiple sources of defensive breakdowns. On an individual level, Gooch makes good decisions, on a team level, he struggles.

Ream – I haven’t yet become a Tim Ream fan. Yes, he can pass better than any of our current centerbacks and yes, he’s comfortable with the ball at his feet, but his tackling and defensive positioning are only MLS quality and his decisions making can be a little slow and too often bad. I have a feeling he’ll grow out of it, especially with Marquez as a mentor, but his performance in this match did nothing to relieve my fears that his decision making make him not yet ready for international level play.

Lichaj – I really would have rather seen Lichaj at right back and Spector played on the left than what happened. It’s a bit hard to be fair when the player in question is out of his natural position. However, like Ream, he did not answer the question of whether he is capable of decision making at the speed of the Premier League and not the Championship. Though for most of the opponents in the Gold Cup, Championship speed is good enough.

Edu - I don't know how this is possible given the number of matches that I've seen of Edu's, but he still perplexes me. It seems that I've seen him play in three types of situations 1) in an attack minded position (in a sub role with the US when trailing or with Rangers with a 5 man back line in European competitions that pushed him higher up the field), 2) in a box-to-box role against mediocre competition (most Scottish league matches, US matches versus minnows), and 3) playing a defensive midfield or box-to-box position against decent competition (Paraguay, Spain). In the first two scenarios he seems to do well; however, in the third (the role he best fits for the US), he seems to struggle. I don't know if this is a sample size problem or if the length of his first European with substantial playing time has hurt his performances of late, but his defensive positioning in senior team matches has not impressed me.

Kljestan, Rogers, Altidore, Agudelo - everyone up front suffered from a lack of role responsibility, chemistry, and decent service. The odd thing about this group is that I can't say that anyone's decisions were wrong, just slow with some lack of execution.

So maybe there was something to be evaluated, though none of these observations are new, but maybe that's the point. Slow decisions in possession lead to turnovers and bad decisions in defense lead to goals against. If the US cruises through the first half of the Gold Cup, it will primarily be because of speed of play. We've seen that difference in speed of play already play a large role in Mexican, Costa Rican, and Jamaican blowouts in the first two days of the competition. For the US to win the competition, the advantage in speed of play and accuracy of decisions will have to run through our "B" team as well.

- Jason Davis

Saturday's performance was a disgusting display from a team ill-prepared and undermanned. So what does it mean? What was Bob thinking? What was US SOCCER thinking? Why was the United States playing Spain just a few days ahead of the start of the Gold Cup?

It's Not You, It's Me

Sunday, June 05, 2011 | View Comments
Dear England,

We’ve been together for a long time. You were my first love, and over the years we’ve had our ups and downs. Good times – I’m thinking of our time in Italy in 1990, the stay-at-home holiday in 1996, and that memorable weekend in Berlin in 2001 – and bad times (1988, 1992, 1994…well, basically every even-numbered year). More recently we’ve been having something of a long-distance relationship thanks to my decision to move to the States. At the time it never really crossed my mind that we’d hit any trouble together, despite the ocean between us.

Gatt Rising at Molde

Wednesday, June 01, 2011 | View Comments
- Ben McCormick

Last month during the US U-20 trip to France, American fans were treated to something of a blast from the past. American winger Josh Gattowned the left wing, constantly running at defenders, making French Ligue 1 prospects look like traffic cones. I rubbed my eyes to be sure it wasn't Landon Donovan circa 2002. The strange thing, though, is that kind of behavior from his spectators is nothing new to Gatt, the 19 year old Molde FK winger, whose meteoric rise from internet message board blurb to full national team contender is almost unbelievable. In a paltry 482 days, Gatt has gone from another college soccer prospect to potential contributor to the US national team.

    KKTC Bahis Siteleri, Online Bahis



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