Blog Migration!

With all apologies to Blogger, I find the interface too difficult to manipulate. I am especially frustrated with the narrow postings and therefore have moved the blog to IFischi.Wordpress.com.


Messi wins 2009 Ballon d'Or

In a break with the regular theme of this blog, here is some breaking news...Lionel Messi has won the 2009 Ballon d'Or award. The most prestigious award in all of football and soocer...combined!!! He garnered an unprecedented 473 of 480 total points from the 96 jurors (a collection of worldwide soccer journalists, 52 European based/44 based elsewhere). In second was deservedly Cristiano Ronaldo who likely missed out due to Man Utds lack of silverware when compared with Barca.

France Football has complete coverage, in French.

Some English detail from the France Football website.

Lionel's reaction courtesy of Goal.com

Surprisingly he is the first ever Argentinian winner and will be officially honored at what will surely be some extravagant gala event on Sunday evening. This is likely due to the fact that until 1995, only European players at European clubs were eligible for the award. The Liberian George Weah, was the first non-European to win it that same year. In 2007 the rules were again altered and now players from any club team in the world are eligible; prior to '07 it was only players from European clubs.

In honor of the diminuitive Argentine and now official best footballer on the planet....an epic highlight video approaching 10 minutes in length...enjoy...

Randoms: Classico/GolTV/Q & A/US Bits


Some unforeseen circumstances prevented me from watching El Classico live on Sunday afternoon but I was able to spend an unusually lovely early Monday morning catching up.

Definitely a big win for Barca to move them back to the top of La Liga, but playing at home this is a game they must take all 3 points from.

Barcelona didn't look as sharp as their midweek encounter against Inter but I would argue that this Real Madrid team is much stronger. The inclusion of Ibrahimovic around the 50' seemed to turn things in Barca's favor slightly and he was able to finish their best chance of the match, further enhancing the genius of Pep. The ball from Dani Alves also must be praised, perfectly weighted and right out of Xavi's bag; more often than you would like his crosses seem to sail but when he delivers accurately, they are so dangerous. As predicted, Ibra seems to be slightly more suited to Barca's possession game of short, accurate passing than Eto'o was. Phil Schoen (the American GolTV announcer) noted that Barca is still adjusting to him but it seems a more natural fit in my opinion.

Carles Puyol was definitely deserving of man of the match accolades as he made at least two huge tackles in the second to prevent clear, point blank shots. Victor Valdes also made a huge save on CR9 early on in the game preventing RM from taking an early lead.

Speaking of CR9, in case anyone forgot he is as good as any footballer in the world when completely healthy. Based on last years body of work, Lionel Messi will probably win this year's Ballon d'or but the difference between the two at this point is almost negligible and will certainly make El Classico the biggest club game on the planet for the foreseeable future.

Barcelona v Real Madrid 11/29/09 Highlights....courtesy of ESPN Deportes via Youtube


For better or worse, while watching any soccer on GolTV you cannot help but take note of the announcing tandem of Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson. Schoen plays the part of the calm play-by-play man while Hudson gets to wax poetic about the brilliance of Lionel Messi.

It is a fascinating tandem and a year ago I would have told you that I didn't like Schoen (rhymes with Spain) or Hudson. However, GolTV's penchant to show such a wide variety of La Liga matches seems to have served Schoen well. He posseses a broad knowledge of both the world game and specifically the Spanish league which (I would imagine this stretches to the Brazilian and German leagues which he also must commentate on a weekly basis) allows him to provide some excellent insights into the game which enhance the viewing experience.

Ray Hudson is a character, an english language announcer who has no parallel as no other network would allow for such an animated and opinionated commentator. He is over the top but his passion for the game is constantly on display and despite consistent exaggerations (Ibra 2x the player that Eto'o is? really?!) he makes the broadcasts enjoyable and flavorful. He has also spawned a series of YouTube greatest hits videos....

Zen and the art of watching football commentated by Ray Hudson....


In light of the recent UEFA investigation rooted in Germany; an excellent Q&A from the NYTimes goal blog on match fixing with the journalistic authority.

I am not sure I completely agree with all points he makes but I am always a fan of the alternative/challenging point of view; another Q&A with Simon Kuper, the author of the recently released "Soccernomics"

America!!! - FUCK YEA!

Due to injury, Clint Dempsey got moved up front for Fulham last week v Blackburn and immediately paid dividends....twice motherfuckers.

Original Video - More videos at TinyPic

Please BB, tell me you were paying attention to this! Please.

In other USMNT news, the
No Short Corners blog reports that the US will be playing another friendly in the Netherlands on March 3rd. An excellent tune up for South Africa.

Also, can't forget that Friday at Noon is the draw for next summer. A huge day in the international soccer community as it lays the blueprint for what will be 4 weeks of joy beginning on June 11, 2010.

I might try to live blog it, but a) I have to be "working and b) I am not sure anyone will pay attention. We'll see though.


Reaction: US v Denmark 11/18/09 + Randoms

Wednesday's friendly between the US and Denmark so far down the list of important soccer happenings from this last week that I feel a little stupid even mentioning it. However, we love the USMNT here so I will provide a few notes.

Besides the goal which was gifted to Jeff Cunningham, there were almost 0 positives to take from this. The goal was nicely finished and while Cunningham did seem to be the most likely to score, too often he was muscled off the ball and seems too undersized to participate at that level. I think he would be useful in CONCACAF qualifying but the defensive quality is just too high at the World Cup level for him to be effective.

His partner, Jozy Altidore, seems to be out of form lately and hopefully Phil Brown keeps his faith in him at Hull and he can discover some form and more importantly some ball control over the next few months. Form can change in a flash but touch must be developed.

Spector looked lost in the back and so did Hejduk.

Seems that Castillo was brought on in a left midfield role, a pretty crowded position for the US so not sure that's his best fit but at least he's now an "American" for good.

Feilhaber and Bradley both looked good. Benny seems to overthink it sometimes and his teammates aren't always on the same page but he's always thinking positively and creatively.

And now moving on...


Everyone probably has some idea of Wednesday's major news item; Thierry Henry's blatant handball led directly to the winning goal in the France/Ireland playoff for one of the final UEFA WC spots.

The reaction has been massive and wide-ranging. Absurd suggestions like boycotting all of the companies who Henry endorses or asking him to compensate the FAI for the income they have lost by not qualifying seemed to be the first response. Since then, there has been time for those with a little more credibility to react and personally I think that is where we should look. A quick digest of my favorites...

The famously inflamatory Italian coach of the Irish national team, Giovanni Trappatoni, takes a very well adjust view of it.

Jack Bell of the NYTimes thinks it lends credibility to the 5 referee system currently being tested in the Europa League.

Ireland cited a previous example of FIFA granting a replay of a match between Bahrain and Uzbekistan for much less than a blatant handball.

FIFA issued a brief statement yesterday AM refusing the request and it seems that France's disagreement with the request was the reason.

An Irish contributor to EPLTalk.com, and Arsenal fan, gives his well rounded view.

A breakdown of Arsene Wenger's response to the whole thing, also from EPLTalk.com.

The former Ireland star, Roy Keane, believes it was karma for the FAI to be denied a replay. More humorous and personal than anything though.

Personally, I think things like this are part of the game. Is it a bit of a negative on Henry's resume, sure, but he will be remembered for much more than this. The situation seems to unfold slowly now b/c all the replays are in slow motion but the games move so fast that its hard to believe that it was anything more than the quickest of reactions. He is obviously not proud of it and would prefer to have gone through in a more honorable way but les bleus will be there next summer and Ireland will not.

Having only 3 referees out there make the chance that they will miss something fairly likely. It is hard to blame the referee as the request for them to catch everything, especially at the speed of today's game, is extremely heavy. Look at the NFL where there are the same amount of players on a similar sized field but 7 total referees. Video replay is very difficult in a sport that prides itself on flow and while it might be the best solution, I think the 5 referee system of the UEFA league has to be the next step. A referee behind the touch line would provide more points of view on play in the box (where most of the controversy occurs) and therefore provide a more accurate decision.

If FIFA is not going to force a replay then they would ensure 5 referees at all games next summer in South Africa or there is the chance that much bigger games will be tainted.

Some US notes...

The mens national team has fallen in the FIFA world rankings. These rankings are pretty irrelevant but it should be noted that Mexico has risen and is now considered, fairly I think, on par with the US.

There is still a chance to get tickets associated with the US Team for the World Cup in South Africa next summer. You have to join some sort of supporters club as part of some effort for US Soccer to raise money but to have another chance at team specific tickets is huge if you plan on going next summer. Definitely worth it.


Wrote this on Saturday morning while watching Liverpool/Man City on ESPN2. Getting these games in HD is awesome.

Liverpool definitely has some problems in the back and is now gotta be focusing on just squeezing into that 4th spot and not losing the extra income that comes with Champions League qualification.

I was impressed by David N'Gog though. Filling Fernando Torres shoes is virtually impossible but he seems to be playing more relaxed now and some excellent solo play in the box directly resulted in their quick equilizer.

Alas, a chance to move into 4th was lost and they continue to battle with Man City, Tottenham, and Aston Villa for that final CL spot.

Costa Rica lost their bid to become CONCACAF's 4th team in South Africa losing 2-1 on aggregate to Uruguay. They gave up a valuable away goal in a 1-0 loss to Uruguay but could only muster a 1-1 tie on their trip to Uruguay, not enough to move on. When combined with Jonathan Borenstein's last gasp equalizer in DC last month, it was a crushing way to miss the tournament for the Ticos.

That's all for now, I will probably chime in with some thoughts on El Classico next weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Reaction (Brief): US v Slovakia 11/14/09

It was a rather timid affair that saw the USMNT fall to Slovakia 1-0 on Saturday AM.

The only real surprise was Jonathan Spector getting the central defensive start alongside Carlos Bocanegra. He never looked overmatched and did a much better job of feeding the ball into the midfield than Onyewu usually does. He is not the physical presence that the AC Milan center back is but he seems to be much more comfortable with the ball at his feet and helping the US establish possession.

Due to the nature of the player pool, it was not a huge surprise that BB went with the, up to this point ineffective, midfield pairing of Bradley Jr and Feilhaber. Whereas in the past they seemed to have trouble establishing an understanding, this necessary component of a successful midfield seems to be developing with time. Hopefully BB gives them at least another half together against Denmark.

Individually, Feilhaber displayed some needed (albeit occasionally too much) aggressiveness, and displayed the quality distribution we have come to expect.

Bradley Jr. also looked excellent, producing numerous quality runs forward and winning the ball nicely.

If they aren't going to employ a traditional defensive midfielder it is important that these are able to pick up that aggressive nature and effective tackling skill.

Robbie Rogers always looked dangerous on the left hand side and provided some excellent service into the middle. My opinion is that he is still too focused on flank and doesn't venture into the middle enough, but hopefully that comes as he establishes a bit more experience.

Up front, the 4 forwards who got in didn't impress much. They have do a little more with the ball once they got at their feet or in the air. Jeff Cunningham probably looked the most positive but it's hard to gather much in a <10 minute appearance

The two outside defenders were polar opposites. Steve Cherundolo showed that he has the experience and skill to provide quality defending on that right side along with a willingness to get forward when appropriate. Jonathan Borenstein on the other hand loves to get forward but got absolutely abused in the back. His touch often deserts him as well and leaves his team rushing back after giving up possession in the offensive half of the field. He did provide some quality service into the box, which is lacking across the board for the US but that LB position is still only a massive ? for this team.

Speaking of which, BB announced his 23 for Denmark on Wednesday and included was the recent Mexican defection....Edgar Castillo. The question now is, does he start?

The 2 other new additions are Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark who saw the Houston Dynamo crash in the MLS semi-finals on Friday night.

WTWF tomorrow....hopefully.


WTWF: US v Slovakia 11/14/09

The USMNT opens up a 2 game European swing tomorrow Morning in Bratislava, Slovakia at 10AM on Fox Soccer Channel.

A few things to watch along with your breakfast tomorrow AM...

Brad Guzan should get the start in net with Tim Howard choosing to remain in the UK. The 25 year old has impressed in limited club duty at Aston Villa and is seemingly the net minder of the future for the states. Would love to see him take control of a back line that needs to find a cohesiveness fast.

The LB and RB positions are obviously up for grabs. Jonathan Spector has found a solid spot in the West Ham defense which should help him improve immensely over the remainder of the season, can he make that RB position on the USMNT his as well? Steve Cherundolo has the experience though and deals with faster players a little better, I would imagine each one gets a start over the next two weeks.

Who slots in next to Carlos Bocanegra in the middle....Chad Marshall will probably get the nod after a successful Gold Cup this summer but how he holds up against European competition will be a solid test of his mettle. There is the possibility that Onyewu will not be back at full fitness by next Summer so the US needs to make sure they are comfortable with other options. It is also worth watching if Bocanegra is able to take charge and provide the leadership that backline needs.

Sacha Kljestan started 2009 with a lot of hype following his hat trick v Sweden. After falling out of favor with BB, he has been called up again. Does he get and shot and if so, does he prove himself to be the offensive mind that the US needs in the midfield.

Dax McCarty, a talented young forward from the FC Dallas seeks his first cap and hopefully BB is able to get him in there to see how he performs against international competition.

Benny Feilhaber seemed to lose his way over the final two qualifiers, seeming to overthink the game when he had the ball. His instincts and touch are unrivaled on the team and it will be interesting to see if he can gain some international confidence with a solid performance...even as a sub.

Robbie Rogers will probably get the start on the left side of the midfield with Donovan staying in LA. Other than Bradley Jr., Donovan, and Dempsey, the midfield slots for next summer are up for grabs. As with McCarty and Kljestan, a spot on that team can come a little closer if someone like Rogers steps up with a quality performance over the next two games. His pace his dangerous but to just get the ball and bolt down the wing is not what a quality winger is made of. Smart passes, creativity, and a directness are all key qualities to look out for in the midfield tomorrow.

Michael Bradley has been on good form for his club side recently and in a change of roles, he's actually one of the more experienced midfielders in this squad. As always seems to be the case with him, he must keep his composure and remember that this is just a friendly. His intensity is a huge quality but he must harness it.

One must think that Conor Casey and Jozy will start up front but you would have to think that either Jeff Cunningham or Eddie Johnson gets a shot as a sub; probably only 1 makes the 18 for the bench though. Both bring a pace to the field that neither Jozy or Casey can match, so it will be interesting to see if they can harness that into a solid striker performance. A couple quality efforts on net would be a positive sign, along with some good team work with whoever else is left out there. Personally, I still think Dempsey is the best option next summer but let's not beat a dead horse and let BB experiment some as this is the time to do that.

If I had to predict something, which I hate doing, I would say 2-1 Slovakia with a Jozy goal. But how the hell can anyone really expect to say something like with any shred of credibility, it's a shot in the dark...I have as good a shot as your sister at predicting the outcome.

Anywho, watch.


Game week

With the USMNT back in action this weekend @ Slovakia in their first warm-up match since qualifying last month, I thought it would be a good time to get writing again.

First and foremost...the game is this Saturday, 11/14 @ 10 AM EST on Fox Soccer Channel.

It would be a surprise to see this team come out with a win for a few reasons. Slovakia was the automatic qualifier from their group and while most of their players aren't recognizable to most American soccer fans, they have an excellent showing within the Bundesliga and scattered throughout other Eastern European leagues.

BB has also not brought in his A team, which is understandable and probably for the better. The major omissions include probably the two most valuable national team pieces in Landon Donovan and Tim Howard.

Unfortunately, despite last week's call up, Edgar Castillo will not make is USMNT debut against Slovakia. Hopefully we will get a chance to see him against Denmark on the 18th.

With Jay Demerit and Oguchi Onyewu still sidelined, it will be interesting to see how the defense reacts.

In light of Charlie Davies' accident there is a chance for Jeff Cunningham and/or Eddie Johnson to make a splash upon their return to the national team. Both have to be seen as having a chance at spot but will have to earn it. A little disappointed not to see Kenny Cooper on the list but once again, that makes it more likely he'll get time against Denmark.

I will have a more complete breakdown later this week; seriously this time.

Back to Charlie Davies and his status. Based on some of his teammates tweets in the twitter-verse, and the traditional outlets, he seems to be doing better and is on what will probably be a long road to recovery.

US Soccer has to feel as if there is no shot he participates next summer and they must figure out how to compensate. Personally, I think the best option is pairing Jozy Altidore upfront with Clint Dempsey. Dempsey has shown an eye for goal and his creativity can get a little lost on the wing. He doesn't have the pace to beat most defenders with pure speed, so why not make him the 2nd striker. His creativity would probably serve Altidore well and Dempsey's inclination to shoot from outside the area also has to be appreciated. His control is also probably the best of the bunch and that can go a long way in winning penalties, see Fulham v Wigan, 11/8/09.

This was my point of view even before Davies went down so I think it is the logical progression.

There is also enough depth on that right hand side to move Dempsey forward. Pace? Stuart Holden. Control/creativity? Feilhaber.

Random Note...

The original topic for this blog, Marcus Tracy, scored his first goal of the Danish season in a rare start on Saturday. It was his team's only goal and secured them much needed 3 pts.

With the lack of attacking options for the US, is there a single good reason why he shouldn't be in the 22 for the Denmark friendly?


Reactions: US v Costa Rica 10/14/09 & WCQ

It's been almost 48 hours since the US's improbable tie against Costa Rica and in a concerted effort to let it stew for a while before providing some reflection, here it is. (Ha, really just being lazy)

In the realm of qualifying for South Africa, the only real implication it had was this....

Awesome video and a great moment for Honduras; congrats on your first visit to the dance since 1982, courtesy of...Jonathan Borenstein.

In the realm of how the US team qualified, and in light of recent events, it was an excellent result and well deserved.

The team was clearly a little shook from the get go, with the only real spark coming from Jozy Altidore, who clearly wanted to score and honor his boy Charlie Davies. He provided a gilt edged chance to Game 9 hero, Conor Casey, in the infamous 9th minute but Casey could not deliver. From then on Altidore was busting his ass to get in position to score and came close a few times but just seemed unable to gain any composure when it came time. That performance showed again why he is considered such a promising young American though and he is my American Man of the Match.

The combination of size and speed and vision is unseen in an American Striker. Hopefully he can gain some playing time at Hull City and refine some of the finer points of his game moving towards next summer. Phil Brown thinks he will get his chances as the EPL unfolds.

The pressure on Altidore only intensifies with Davies likely to miss the WC now. Hopefully he can gain some inspiration from Davies, as he seemed to do on Wednesday night. There is also the question of who takes Davies spot, I will try to address in the next few days.

Moving to his strike partner, Conor Casey did not take his chances as effectively on Wednesday as he did last Saturday. It's unfortunate b/c that is how he is effective. Every now and then he will provide a random nice flick but if he's not finishing when the opportunities present himself, he isn't the solution for BB. His touch and his finishing were both lacking in DC and it was nice to see Bradley give Kenny Cooper a chance in the 72', although I would have like to see it a few minutes earlier.

Cooper will get a chance to refine his form this winter though as he seems to have a solid role at Bundesliga.2 club 1860 Munich. I think he deserves to get chances during the warm up friendlies and, barring a disaster, probably a squad spot in SA.

BB's sub which was probably the difference maker was the introduction of Jose Francisco Torres in the 62'. He hasn't gotten many chances since the early rounds of the hex but he finally got some time and made the most of it. He looks very comfortable on the ball, at multiple speeds and has great long range passing vision/accuracy. Something that is sorely lacking from many of the US midfielders. He also puts great pace on his crosses and that corner kick for Borenstein was perfectly placed.

He replaced Benny Feilhaber, who underwhelmed against Costa Rica. I am as big a fan of his style of play as you will find but sometimes he seems to try to do too much...call it Dempsey syndrome...and he ends up giving it away. I love his vision and calm nature on the ball though, maybe he can be flexed to the RM role much more effectively than Torres.

I thought Michael Bradley played well once again and love his forward thinking play. He also distributes the ball pretty well and isn't afraid to get into the fray. His eye for goal is also key as we haven't seen goals come from the CM role for the US in a long while....John Harkes anyone?

Donovan once again proved to be dangerous with the ball although sometimes his touch deserts him. This can be brutal when playing the highest level teams who will make the US earn all their possession and make as much out of each one as possible. He also seems to have only one playing speed....full steam ahead, he's gotta develop that intermediate role and look to spray the ball a little further.

Stuart Holden looked okay and I thought Robbie Rogers introduction in the 68' was a definite spark. His pace late in the game is enough to make any LB a little nervous after the 70'.

What seems to be lacking for the US is quality service though. Crosses drift over the cross bar or are floated in there way too often. Opposing GKs have a field day with them and its a total waste of possession.

In the defensive third, the Onyewu injury will hurt, especially if he can't find time to get back into match fitness/form before South Africa. What looked to be a promising year for the American Center Back has now turned into a trying 3-4 month recovery period. He did get absolutely abused on that first CR goal though.

Bocanegra was solid but seems to have problems closing on the ball and often gives up these long range bombs that leave Howard out to dry. That first goal was a beauty but someones got to be in his face as soon before he even looks tempted to shoot. How the central of defense adjusts to his absence will be interesting to watch as the US starts playing these warm up friendlies (the first one against also-qualified Denmark on 11/18 in Aarhus).

Borenstein showed some real heart in the LB role and that goal was an awesome way to cap it all off. He likes to get into the mix too and is aggressive going forward but lacks that final ball into the box.

On the other side, Cherundolo was decent but nothing worth noting other than the fact that he got beat with pace a bunch. The two wide fullback roles are still major ?s.

More on the squad moving forward coming up next....


WTWF: USA v Costa Rica - 10/13/09

UPDATE: This blog is providing excellent status updates.

It is with a suddenly emotional match tomorrow night in Washington DC that the US finishes their qualifying campaign for the 2010 WC.

Taking into account the fact that they have secured qualification and today's frightening development, let's keep tomorrow's game in perspective. While finishing the CONCACAF qualifying hexagon in first would be a great finish to what has to be considered a successful summer of preparation and would probably carry some weight in Dec 4th's draw, this team will have larger questions weighing on their mind.

This is not to say that they will roll over. It is a chance for a player, or a few, to take a leadership role and decide how the team will respond.

I am not going to get into specifics now but watch how they respond as a team.

Keep Charlie Davies in your positive thoughts for the next few days.

He's getting crazy love in the twitter-verse.

This AP link from the top will probably give the most reliable status updates as fast as anything.


Lock it in: South Africa, June 2010

It's a good thing I didn't write that final preview for the US v Honduras game as it definitely would not have come close to foreshadowing that type of result. Overall it seemed more like Honduras were intimidated at home and the US was able to capitalize when opportunities presented themselves.

I though the inclusion of Stuart Holden worked out pretty well, as he showed flashes down the right hand side and defended pretty. His handball late could have been disastrous but he got lucky. Hopefully he this valuable experience helps him to keep improving. His service from the right is more often than not, exceptional.

Speaking of which, a great ball into Charlie Davies midway through the first half really should have been finished. Improving as a striker means those are the chances that must be taken calmly. Davies didn't seem to be a threat at any other time although his pace clearly makes opposing defenders nervous.

His striker partner, the surprising inclusion, Conor Casey is the headline stealer as the US secured their 6th World Cup birth in a row. Never a threat with the ball at his feet but who can argue with two goals. The first one is the type I hate as it reinforces that kick and pray type of soccer which is so often associated with Americans. It is rarely effective and Casey got lucky that the Honduran GK was indecisive enough to allow him to get there first. The second goal was the product of a great ball from Donovan but did require a clinical finish; never underestimate the importance of clinical finishing from a striker and this is was Casey brings to the game. He will not create chances on his own but give him a chance and he is excellent at finishing.

Speaking of Landon Donovan, the Man of the Match IMO, for the US. He is the energy and vision going forward and he seems to be embracing the role of offensive leader for this team. As Donovan goes, so goes the US. His free kick, which turned out to be the game winner, was a blast but benefited slightly from more suspect Honduran GK'ing. His celebrations could also use some work, maybe talk to Davies and Altidore about that buddy. Will he get a shot to make a move to Europe in Jan? Does he want to? It might serve him well going into next summer but his form is so good right now that I am not sure you want to make such a drastic move.

Michael Bradley wasn't present for much of the game but did make some very good runs going forward. He also has a wicked right foot and isn't afraid to take his chances from outside the box, something you have to like to see.

Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Borenstein both provided some quality going forward, an important part of helping cohesive forward progress, but were definitely suspect in the back. I like the potential that Spector brings but his final ball never seems to be on the mark or direct enough. Borenstein sometimes seems to get lost out there and while I like his desire, he still has a way to go before being a threat.

In the center, Carlos Bocanegra was a beast. He was in position and came up with multiple key blocks. Maybe his role for the US is in the center but only if BB can find a valid solution on the left I think. Edgar Castillo, donde esta?

Oguchi Onyewu didn't seem to be at his best. From an early turnover followed immediately by a bad foul, his lack of playing time in Milan seems to be hurting. He did get in during Milan's latest CL debacle so hopefully that is a sign of things to come. His form going into next summer is as important as anyone in the back.

Overall it was an excellent way to guarantee a place next summer and avoided the must-win scenario that wouldn't be fun for anyone on Wednesday. The next step is putting together a win on Wednesday in DC, guaranteeing first place in the CONCACAF hexagonal stage, and making their case for being in one of the top 2 pools for the WC draw.

For those of you who didn't get to see any of the game....

US vs Honduras Highlights - 10/10/09


US @ Honduras Midweek Update

Yo man, I think BB reads my fcking blog!!!! Yea right, lets not get out of hand here...but in a twist of events, Clint Dempsey has been ruled out with a Shoulder and taking his spot is USMNT classic/I Fischi favorite, Mr. Frankie Hejduk.

Personally, in Honduras, I think Hejduk should get the starting nod at RB. How can age trump experience, fitness, and the leadership he brings? Spector may be the future but this game requires points so BB should put forth the team that gives him the best chance.

Dempsey being out raises and interesting question about who will take his spot in the midfield. Personally, I think it immediately opens the door for Stuart Holden.

He has had a great summer and seems to be the sole beneficiary of the US's Gold Cup run. BB has taken a liking to him and gave him an oppt in the last two qualifiers.

Also the chance that he opens up with Feilhaber on the right side, although I think he is more natural in the center, or Jose Torres, although he hasn't proven too much lately.

Something useful beyond a roster release has come out of USSoccer.com, a CONCACAF hexagonal scenario generator. What it comes down to is that the US needs to get at least a point in Honduras. Costa Rica has to beat T&T if they want a shot at auto qualification and that should be fairly simple. If the US gets beat on Saturday night, it will make the final game next Wed. way more nervous than anyone wants.

Check back later this week for final pre-game thoughts.


Coming Back -> etc

After a prolonged absence from posting, here is an attempt at a return post.

If you weren't able to tell, September of the year before a World Cup is a crazy time in the world of soccer. From all the continental leagues starting, to World Cup qualifying breaks, to CL Group stages kicking off, to the U20 World Cup beginning; it's a monster month for the sport and impossible to keep up with unless you have the luxury of doing this for a living. It is with that in mind that I am making a bit of a change to this blog.

The focus of I Fischi from here on out will be the US Men's National Team; it is the team that I am most passionate about/which I feel I am most knowledgeable about and can therefore contribute the most. As they do not play that often, there will be bits and pieces about any other Soccer I feel like writing about. That's it.

US WCQ Update
Moving on, the US resumes qualifying a week from tomorrow in San Pedro Sula, Honduras against...naturally...Honduras. The full 22 man roster was released yesterday and can be found here, this also applies to the final qualifying match against Costa Rica on 10/14 in DC.

It seems that Stuart Holden has taken over Freddy Adu's bench spot. An interesting turn of events for one of America's all time overhyped athletes, although the kid does a great job of keeping his head on straight and working hard....at least his Twitter makes it seem like that. Ha.

No major surprise inclusions although it should be noted that Jay Demerit was left out due to a recent eye injury which has developed into an infection. He has been replaced by the 6'4'' Clarence Goodson.

There is still no sign of Frankie Hejduk since his 87' game saving goal in El Salvador. A little unfortunate considering the energy and veteran leadership he brings to this team. Not to mention the shaky situation in the back.

I am also dissapointed that BB didn't choose this opportunity to at least bring the recently defected Edgar Castillo into camp.

A quick note....Edgar Castillo is a 22 y/o Mexican left back who has taken advantage of a recently changed FIFA ruling that loosens the restrictions on switching Nat'l Team affiliations. Since he never been capped for the Mexican Sr side, he was allowed to file paper work and become a member of the American squad regardless of his age. Previously the cutoff to declare was 21 y/o. Having been born in Las Cruces, NM to Mexican parental units, he is a natural American. Jermaine Jones is in a similar situation but in the midst of an extended injury absence.

Castillo provides another possible solution at Left Back for the US and you can naturally see why BB wouldn't at least include him in camp to see how he would mesh with the rest of the squad. Come on BB, Edgar could be the best LB on the roster by next summer and with meaningful competition nearing its end, he should have at least been brought to camp.

Now that most of the American's are well into their European campaigns, it will be interesting to see how they all come together for this key matchup. As we have seen, these Central American countries are very difficult places to play on the road. Adding to that, Honduras is currently in the 3rd and final guaranteed spot in CONCACAF having 13 pts from 8 matches, only 1 ahead of Costa Rica. Being the 4th place team means a home and home with the 5th place team from South America, a spot which could very well be an Argentinian squad which no one wants to face, no matter how badly they are struggling. Of the top 4 teams, in order, US, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica....none are in danger of missing out entirely but one of them will be forced to play for that final spot. With a W, the US rule that out...with an L, they are very much in the mix going into the final game against Costa Rica.

Every road trip the US has taken in this qualifying campaign has seen them put forth a poor performance. Whether it was a 1 goal victory against lowly T&T, a terrible performance at that Saprissa in CR, or a luckily salvaged tie in El Salvador this team has consistently failed to be at their best on the road. Whether its a lack of a vocal veteran presence or the pack the back and kick it forward coaching tactics which BB and co seem to resort to on the road, they need to put in a better performance next week. A tie would be acceptable, albeit not ideal, but a loss would put way too much pressure on themselves.

Some more commentary on the match itself coming later next week.

On another note, apparently this match will only be on closed circuit TV in the US. SeriouslY?! WTF? SUM? ESPN? GOLTV? FSC? Whoever dropped the ball clearly shit the bed here. Are we in 1983? this is absurd. For a list of locations (read: bars) showing the US v Honduras World Cup Qualifier on 10/10/09, click here. Apparently there is also a viewing party at the Play by Play bar inside MSG here in NYC, tickets are $20 (prior to stupid TicketMaster surchage) and are currently onsale. Details.

US U20
A few brief notes on the US Men's U20 World Cup campaign in Egypt. I didn't watch much besides the South Korea match today but the results are very schizo. Apparently they were totally outclassed by the Germans in the opener which was followed up by an excellent 4-1 win against Cameron and then today's 3-0 defeat to S Korea. All is not lost as apparently a few of the top 3rd place group teams make the knockout round but they will have to wait till group play wraps up tomorrow to find out for sure.

In years past, players like Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore have impressed the world and shown that at this level at least the US can compete with the world. No one in this class seems to have stepped up yet, although you never know what might happen. + I hear some good things about this kid Dilly Duka out of Montville, NJ.

Overall I think there are some issues with the talent development model in this country but that can be saved for another post.

This Weekend & Randoms
Not a great weekend in the EPL but Sunday morning brings us a delicious Liverpool v Chelsea matchup at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea started on fire but lost at Wigan last week while Liverpool took some time to get on track but have been firing away in the EPL the last few weeks. Both are coming off subpar midweek CL results, a L/absolute drubbing in Florence for the Reds and a measley 1-0 win in Romania (i think) for the Blues. Liverpool is the team which ended Chelsea's 80-something home match unbeaten streak last season and has the confidence to know they can win. Can the recover from their poor midweek showing against a Chelsea team eager to get back to winning league games? 11 AM, Sunday AM, FSC. Watch.

A sickkkkkkk goal scored by a HS kid from Westport, CT. Credit to his coach, my friend and burgeoning mentor, Dan Woog.


WTWF: US v El Salvador (9/5/09)

The USMNT resumes their qualifying bid Saturday (read: tonight) at 8PM on ESPN Classic vs El Salvador.

The men find themselves tied for 3rd place with Honduras on 10 pts with 4 games left to play. Not a terrible situation but they lead Mexico by only 1 spot. Being that the top 3 qualify automatically, while the 4th has to play a home and home playoff against the number 5 team from South America, the US can not afford any slip ups the next two qualifiers.

At home outside of Salt Lake City, the US has no reason not to win this game and do so handily. El Salvador sits in 5th out of 6, on only 5 pts from 6 games. Click here for a complete table and results/schedule.

BB knows they today is a must win and an inexcusable game to lose and I think you'll see him put forth what he considers his top squad.

Personally, I hope and think this "top squad" should contain Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore at the striker pairing. They both have been getting time immediately with their new teams and have impressed at Sochaux and Hull. It's up to them to transfer that form to their national side and put away a goal or 2.

In the midfield, I think you will see Dempsey, Clark, Bradley, and Donovan. Clint Dempsey needs to step up and perform, too often do you not know what kind of performance he will bring and he has to solidify himself as a performer regardless of the opposition or stage. I think Benny Feilhaber could spell him and you would see virtually no drop off.

Defensively: Spector, Onyewu, Demerit, Bocanegra. I expect a clean sheet and tidy performances from all of them. They will probably not be tested often so it is up to them to maintain their focus and composure even when not called into action for large stretches.

Overall, hopefully the US does a good job of maintaining possession, attacking effectively throughout the game, and establishing themselves as the superior team w/o question. If they are as good as we all thought before the Mexico game, they must win this and make sure it is no contest. Then they must do it all over again on Wednesday night at Trinidad and Tobago.

Do work.


FC Barcelona on ESPN + Weekend of Randoms

This weekend set up very well for me to watch a lot of excellent soccer and in an attempt to make up for my lack of recent blogging, I figured I would share some thoughts.

Most importantly; Tomorrow aka Monday 8/31 at 2:55 EST on ESPN here in the States, FC Barcelona begins their La Liga title defense against the Asturian side Sporting Gijon.

Gijon, whose narrow escape of relegation was considered a success, should not present much of a challenge. The onus, however, is on Barcelona to not overlook them and recover from their Friday, extra time 1-0 UEFA Supercup victory over Shaktar Donetsk. 2 quick trophies down....the fight for the next 4 is going to be a lot longer.

The defending champions will be with out Messi as he has received special exemption to join the Argentinian National team early in advance of their massive Sept 5th qualifier against Brazil. He will probably be replaced by Friday's supersub, Pedro.

Iniesta continues to recover from last season's muscle tear as well and will be out. The pressure on the big money man, Ibrahimovic, is growing as he looks to get on the chart with his new club after a relatively dissapointing (read: goalless) pre-season.

Anyway, if you aren't working 9-5 at a desk set an alarm...if you're in a cube, DVR that shit!

Also, Monday AM saw the return of my favorite English language La Liga columnist, Phil Ball.

US National Squad
Last Thursday BB and co released the 24 man roster for the upcoming WCQ; Saturday 9/5 vs El Salvador in Salt Lake City (8PM EST on ESPN Classic) and Wednesday 9/9 vs Trinidad & Tobago in Port of Spain (7PM EST on ESPN Classic).

I'll take a further look at the games and the implications as it all approaches.

U-20 coach, Thomas Rongen, has named the 21 players he will take to Egypt in late September for the U-20 World Cup. Apparently, continuing on this summer's theme, ESPN will broadcast all the games in some capacity so I will make an effort to give it some coverage here.

Man Utd/Arsenal
Arsenal continues to look impressive as Arsene Wenger's faith in this oft-criticized squad seems to be paying off. On the attacking front, Andrei Arshavin seems to be as dangerous as any attacker in the league right now and has a brilliant sense of the goal.

Alas, ManU pulled out a win in a way that only they can, while Wayne Rooney continued his goal a game pace this campaign. For attacking purposes, he must stay healthy for England going into next summer.

Abou Diaby's awful own goal will surely haunt him for many a night but this is a long season and an early season encounter at Old Trafford isn't the worst place to give away 3 goals. His overall performance was quite positive and he must put the gaffe behind him.

Even with out Fabregas out there, Wenger's men seem to be playing the type of football he wants and continue to be the most entertaining EPL team to watch.

In what will probably be Fabregas's last season at the Emirates, a title challenge would be a joy to watch. The return of Theo Walcott and, eventually, Samir Nasri will make their attacking options almost alarmingly broad and exciting. Also, it's only a matter of time before Jack Wilshire goes all Federico Macheda on us and instantly endears himself to the Gunner faithful.

After paying vague attention to the first half of the Derby della Madonnina (Inter v AC Milan) but not being at all surprised by the 4-0 final, I took off till this morning's Everton v Wigan matchup on FSC which was followed by my first chance to catch Juventus this season.

It was good to see Everton get some deserved points this season against a Wigan side that seemed more interested in fouls than anything else (defending, attacking, maintaining possession). I am in favor of defensive soccer but when it takes on the form of constant fouling is when it becomes anti-football. Wigan paid dearly when a well called penalty was won by Jo in the 93' and finished by Leighton Baines. Gotta shout out Timmy Howard as well, who came up with a massive kick save early in injury time to keep the game 1-1.

The final game of the weekend turned out to be the best one. Juve's highly anticipated summer signing, the Brazilian Diego, formerly of Werder Bremen, scored his first 2 goals of the season. Both were very well created by himself, finished superbly and showed first hand why the Torino squad wasted no time in signing him after last season. He provides the creativity, playmaking, and finishing that they were missing last season.

Felipe Melo also impressed in his defensive midfield role along with the central defensive pairing of a seemingly reinvigorated Fabio Cannavaro and a much improvied Giorgio Chiellini. No doubt they are both benefiting from Ciro Ferrara's installment at the helm last June.

Amauri and Vincenzo Iaquinta are playing with a lot of energy up front and are probably inspired by the lack of any sort of structure in the Italian National Team's forward situation and the subsequent opportunity to win a spot with the Azzuri for next summer's African trip.

Real Madrid Fire Sale
In an attempt to make some money before the transfer period closes, Real Madrid's sold multiple players at a loss late last week, both who impressed immediately.

Real sold Wesley Sneijder to Inter Milan late last week for 12 Million Euros less than they bought him for only 2 years prior. He was immediately given the no. 10 shirt and slotted into the starting lineup for this weekend's Derby. Seijder is what Mourinho was looking for this summer and should be what Inter needed to move beyond Italian dominance and make a European run. If he stays healthy, his creativity and strength in the attacking midfield role will be appreciated by the new strike force; Diego Milito and Eto'o.

Real also went and sold Arjen Robben to Bayern Munich late last week for 2 Million Euros less than they paid for him. The addition of Robben probably gives Bayern the most explosive attacking winger pair in all of Europe and it paid more immediate returns than Seijder, as the half-time substitute scored twice en route to a 3-0 victory. Both have had a history of injury issues but as their "understanding" contributed to both those goals, this signing is huge for a Bayern team who has had trouble finding their way lately.

A dissapointing Bundesliga finish last year and a Barcelona smoking could have resulted in more summer movement but they seem to have faith in their youth products (not always a bad thing). They started roughly this season as well and had trouble finding the net with Ribery not taking part till this weekend. I hope this convinces him to stay in Munich rather than join the Whites in Madrid, because this should make Munich as difficult to defend as anyone in Germany and possibly Europe (and extremely fun to watch...www.goltv.tv).

American - VIDEOS!!!

Can't forget...the Americans.

Jozy Altidore's first Hull City goal in the Carling Cup midweek clash against Southend United:

Charlie Davies draws the penalty which results in the only goal of Sochaux's 1-0 win against Monaco on Saturday:

If you want the full rundown, the "official USMNT blog" has a good one.

Cup of the World Video Special
Someone's excellent compilation of the top 50 WC goals of all time video as well...courtesy of Sacha Klejstan's Twitter page:

Interesting choice for number 1 but I guess this compilator values the team work of the Brazilians over the individual brilliance of Maradona.


Randoms: 8/24/09

For the few of you out there who read this on any sort of a regular basis...I apologize but the kind of work they pay me for has been taking priority. A few noteworthy soccer events involving American's happened this weekend and I had to share.

First and foremost...congrats to Jozy Altidore on making his EPL debut for Hull City and, impressively, contributing directly to the winner. Here's the video w/his debut at 3:15:

It's a great, creative thought/ball from Jozy to set up the winning goal, a side of his game which is there but which Jozy can only benefit from improving further; the thought is only half the battle, the skill to execute is just as vital and more impressive.

Check out 4:50 for a near miss from Altidore as well and 5:55 for another great chance.

A great debut, all the credit in the world to Jozy and most importantly congratulations.

Looking forward to the Aston Villa v Liverpool game this afternoon on ESPN2 in the states, 3PM EST. Liverpool has had two very different showings so far while Villa lost to an impressive Wigan side to start this season after an impressive 08/09 campaign. Anfield will be a tough place for them to get points but they have the offensive firepower to find the net once or twice. Word is that Yossi Benayoun is relishing his starting role and the energy he brings for 90' is unrivaled, 'Pool is at their best with him on the field.


Reaction: US v Mexico 8/12/09

Not going to spend too much time discussing what happened earlier today but just a few quick thoughts for now.

Overall, I think the US looked ok, they came out playing well and took the game right too Mexico. They kept the midfield battle pretty even and looked up to the task for the first 10'. Davies' goal was very well taken off a very nice move in the midfield from Donovan; great touch and a perfect ball. Davies took it in stride and finished calmly and clinically.

Thats about where the positives ended as right after the goal the US basically decided to pack the back and attempt to hold off Mexico. When the US has gotten up against some of these teams they aren't supposed to beat, this has been a popular style this summer and they have had trouble with the lead in these games. They must work on improving if they plan on using it further.

Some people are opposed to this style and while it frustruating to watch a team you are rooting for play against this style, it can be an effective way to win the game. See, Chelsea v Barcelona Champions League 2010 Knockout Round, or, 2006 World Cup Champion Italy.

It worked against Spain b/c they were able to play as a team and didn't get solely defensive until 75'. Against Brazil, they tried to do it for 60' and gave up 3 2nd half goals. Against Mexico, they seemed to try it for almost 80' after the goal. They didn't get more offensive even after Mexico tied it, saying basically..."we would be satisfied with a tie."

They lost their midfield form when BB pulled Bradley and Clark way deep and parked them directly in front of the CBs. They were totally taken from any possession role either as any time a defender found themselves with the ball it was usually sent almost aimlessly upfield, trying to find a fwd. Even when a fwd was able to win the ball up front they had very little support.

In order to pack the back effectively, you must have players closing down the ball immediately and your CMs should be trying to avoid letting the opposition get close to the box, rather than being parked directly at the top of the semi circle. A series of quick, accurate, and sometimes long passes can result in dangerous attacking chances.

Davies, Altidore, Donovan...have the speed and attacking style to be effective offensive players for this style, Brian Ching does not. Even when he does get up in the air and win a ball, his distribution was off and he had no one coming up to support him.

The introduction of Feilhaber and Holden helped spark some offensive work but BB still had Michael Bradley playing too deep, basically positioning him out of the ability to make any contribution. That ball from Holden which Davies came so close to putting away was brilliant. Their other chances were limited to a few corner kicks.

There were some instances when they were able to push up field, using quality/under control play from the backline but, even then, the proposed solution seemed to be a final long ball into the box. The US was caught standing around too often and had no sense of attacking purpose or form for almost the entire remaining 80'.

The final goal was well taken by Miguel Sabah but the only one with a chance at it was Tim Howard. From that range, it would have been a brilliant albeit not impossible save; it's tough to say, but thats what you sign up for 'keep.

We now see why the US is 0-23-1 in the Azteca. It is a difficult and hostile place to play, but the US was in great position early on. They gave it a great effort but unfortunately couldn't pull out the point they would have been satisfied with.

As I said prior though, this kind of result should not invoke too much hostility towards the team or their progress this summer and prospect moving forward. They have improved and have been in position twice to come up with massive wins. Use the lessons learned to continue that improvement for the next 10.5 months. Also...make sure you qualify.

Others thoughts...


WTWF: US v Mexico 8/12/09

Overall it's important to remember that this isn't the most important match of the year for the US National team. They are in excellent shape in the final stage of qualifying, needing only 2 wins from the final 5 games. Mexico on the other hand, is holding onto the only playoff spot by a single point over El Salvador; a W here is integral to solidifying their spot.

That being said, it will provide an excellent measure, in a summer full of them, of where US Soccer stands in the region and the world right now.

Win and they cap off a summer full of positive results in historical fashion. More importantly it would put them on the verge of qualification and in position to win the hexagonal stage.

A tie would be respectable and proof that Mexico isn't really 5-0 better than the US.

A loss...esp another one of even multiple goals and, well, I shouldn't even "publish" that option.....but I try not to be superstitious about these things.

Into the good stuff...

Starting XI:

This is very close to the best 20 the US can put on a plane right now. Of those, I believe the best 11 includes Dempsey as the 2nd striker and Feilhaber as the wide attacking midfielder, however I doubt Bradley goes that route, especially to start. He will probably stick with what worked late in the Confed Cup, although I would like to see him put Davies up front from the get go.

Davies and Altidore from the start would put a lot more pressure on Mexico and forcing the issue would be smart of BB. Mexico absolutely needs to win this game and therefore will be pushing forward from the outset. This should open things up for the US's dangerous counterattack; an attack that is much more dangerous in that capacity with Davies and Altidore instead of Ching.

This could be more of a 4222 (and is probably more effective that way) but I think BB will start pretty conservatively and ask Dempsey to not get lost up front, letting Donovan be the primary MF->FW connector. This starting option also gives him the ability to bring Feilhaber in early in the 2nd half and push Dempsey forward, especially if they are trailing. Despite my hope that Davies starts, I think Ching will get the nod because of experience and probably gives way between 45' and 60' to Davies and his pace that everyone slurps.


In getting down to 17 players, I think BB will leave Holden, Casey, and Bornstein to watch from sidelines.

Who to Watch:

Landon Donovan asserted himself as the leader of this team in the Confederations Cup and needs to use his experience to help the kids stay within themselves tomorrow. Dumb fouls, giveaways, kick and chase, etc will all be detrimental to the team. They must play the game they prepared to play and it will be on Donovan to ensure this happens, at least from the midfield forward.

Donovan should have a chance to shine with his play as well. The counterattack should be in full effect for the US and he is integral to their ability to break in the other direction.

Tim Howard has had a fabulous summer thus far and can cap it off tomorrow. The Mexican attack is very dangerous and Howard will undoubtedly be tested early and often. It will be up to him to ensure that the back line maintains their shape/discipline throughout, and come up with some big saves.

Jay Demerit seems to have helped the US find a LB solution in Carlos Bocanegra by proving himself in the Confed Cup. The time is now for him to make that CB position his for the next year.

Michael Bradley, a CM in the mold of Claudio Reyna, has a ton of talent and potential but the only thing holding him back is his temper. His quality this summer has so far been marred by letting it get the better of him too often. Tomorrow's atmosphere will be the most hostile he has ever seen, staying on the field is key to both the US's chances and his personal development.

Jozy Altidore/Charlie Davies...the chances for the US will probably by outnumbered by Mexico, so it will be that much more important to finish those that come up. These two, if healthy, should form the strike pair for the US next summer and this will be a good test for them.

In closing, the US has the quality and form to pull out a win tomorrow. Once the whistle blows though, everything goes out the window and its up to those 11 on the field to play as a unit. Azteca Stadium is one of the most difficult places in the world and this Mexican team is coming together, but the US has the quality and ability to play with anyone in the world for 90 minutes. Do it.

A few others....
US v Mexico TV Station Update:

A brief note on the TV situation for this game. CONCACAF WCQ TV rights are held by domestic broadcasters of the home team, Telemundo in this case. They couldn't come to an agreement to sell the rights to ESPN in the US, so it will be broadcast in Spanish on Telemundo and in english on Mun2. NBCUniversal announced that Mun2, which is regularly available in only 31 Million Homes nationwide, will be available free to twice that many homes tomorrow, including the following providers; ATT U-Verse TV, Charter, Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, and Time Warner Cable. Channels are in parenthesis...

Time Warner (Southern Manhattan) - Telemundo (47), Telemundo HD (747), Mun2 (126)
Cablevision (Southern Westchester) - Telemundo (16), Mun2 (197/227), Telemundo HD (714)

Anywhere else, I am apologize for leaving you out but TVGuide.com is real easy to use. www.TVGuide.com

Also, the WWL (affectionately known as ESPN) is broadcasting their own pre-game show from outside Azteca at 3:30 PM with Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas. A move that is utilized for most major American sporting events they don't broadcast but this will be the first time they have ever done it with a soccer game which isn't on their network.

Squad Picks: US v Mexico 8/12 - OFFICIAL

BB and co. have announced their squad for a short training camp before travelling to Mexico on Tuesday. In all its glorious nature....

GKs: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan
Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein, Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Chad Marshall, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector
Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Clint Dempsey, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Jose Francisco Torres
Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Conor Casey, Brian Ching, Charlie Davies, Landon Donovan

Quick Thoughts:

This will mark many the first trip to the Azteca for a few of the key players out there and how the veterans are able to lead and the young ones cope with the atmosphere will tell a lot about how far this team has really come this summer.

Bocanegra, Onyewu, Donovan, and Dempsey will be counted on to lead while keep an eye on DeMerit, Bradley, Clark, Torres, Altidore and Davies to see how they respond to an atmosphere unlike any other.

The only real surprise inclusion is Chad Marshall, who BB must have liked enough during the Gold Cup to move up to the A squad. It also probably means that Bocanegra will be utilized as the LB and therefore another pure CB was needed. I like this.

It will be key for Michael Bradley to keep his cool in what will surely be the most hostile of environments. He is famous for his temper and will have all his tackles watched closely. He will be integral to the US's success/failure though and absolutely needs to stay on the field.

Glad to see Holden get a call up and even if he doesn't get in the game, it will be good experience to train and travel to the Azteca.

With Guzan's impressive performances during Aston Villa's preseason, I think everyone can be confident in the GK situation for a long time.

Not sure why BB needs both Conor Casey and Brian Ching as they are basically exactly the same player. Big and slow but willing to work hard. I don't think either has the pedigree to make an impact in the interational game though. Ching specifically brings WCQ experience but not the necessary skill.

The US is very thin up front, throughout the entire national team system, and will have trouble filling either Davies/Altidore's shoes should one or both go down with an injury. Even those two are still very very raw and will need to polish themselves in the coming year. Their performance here will be fascinating to watch but shouldn't torn apart.

I was going to put in my starting 11 + some of my own thoughts here but that can wait until next week when the game is upon us...along with some what to watch fors and maybe a prediction. Stay tuned and get pumped.

Happy Friday!


The World Wide Leader and their obligatory brief call out...

Randoms: 8/7/09

A few random soccer related internets finds...


Pretty cool to see Mr Dempsey get some FIFA recognition and the beginning of the video contains some sweet video of historic USMNT moments. He has received his fair share of criticism on this blog but only b/c I have come to expect a lot of him.

He has good field vision and a creative style that is not very American, along with a knack for coming up with big goals. However, he still can get caught up trying to do too much w/the ball which can lead to crucial errors (see US v Honduras 6/6/09).

Hoping the addition of European football to Fulham's schedule this year helps him hit that proverbial next level that I think he has in him.

On another note, the always fun to watch, Andres Iniesta has come out with a few interesting comments in the past few days.

A statue might be a bit much but its an interesting comment on how much Eto'o meant to Barcelona's success the past few years. More importantly....

Absolutely one of the most refreshing views on money/contracts that an athlete has ever verbalized. The large majority of major athletes out there, esp in the US, (whether on their own or b/c of their agent) hold out or request more money based on some sort of contribution to the team.

This man scored the biggest goal of the season for Barcelona but is so content with his compensation and what the club has afforded him that he doesn't feel it necessary to ask for anything.

I think it is a reflection on the club and the type of players they produce. They treat their players as family and in return they rarely end up with self important superstars.

It's almost unbelievable...


American on the move....Jozy Altidore

As the transfer period enters its final month with a flurry of movement, albeit not of the galacticos variety, there are a few Americans still looking for the right team.

Jozy Altidore seems to have settled his.

Via his Twitter feed and the standard soccer press, it seems as if Premier League side, Hull City, will sign Altidore on a 1 year loan from Villareal.

The move is still subject to a work permit.

I think it is a good move for the young American for a few reasons. Hull City is with out a clear number 1 striker at this time so this move will hopefully provide the consistent first team football which he needs. The Premier League is (arguably) the best in the world so to get the opportunity to go up against the likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, etc on a week in, week out basis is invaluable and should help his game improve greatly over the next few months.

High risk signing for Hull but, potentially high reward. In his current form Altidore is probably not going to score 15 goals in the EPL, but he definitely has the potential to approach that number. In order for him to get into double digits he will have to improve and mature as a player. He wanted to be on the field and now he will have the burden of responsibility that comes with being a striker. Be about it.

Having survived their first season in the top flight, barely, lets hope that Hull City + Jozy Altidore can improve on last seasons 17th place finish. Their season kicks off on 8/15 against Chelsea.

God speed Jozy...we'll be watching on FSC...

Apparently Kenny Cooper has joined 2.Bundesliga side 1860 Munich as well. A second division team but playing throughout the winter should at least help his chances at being included in next summers roster, that is, if he can stay in good form.

Now if only Freddy Adu could nail something down....