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Jeff Maurer's Soccer Blog
Thursday, 6 January 2011
Soccer blogs for Washington Post
Topic: US National Team

For a while now, I've been blogging about soccer for the Washington Post. The links are below, and I'll post them here from time to time, though you can always find them here: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/box-seats/jeff_maurer/

 

They're mostly about DC United (it's a Washington paper, after all), but there are some national team ones mixed in there. I particularly recommend the ones from France, Germany, and the Netherlands (mid-October); those were fun to write and are different from all the others.

 

Ignoring the burning wreckage, part 2: the defense, January 4, 2011 

Is United cheap?, December 21, 2010 

MLS re-entry draft, part 2: the Re-Re-Entrying, December 15, 2010 

The World Cup will not bring soccer to the Middle East, December 13, 2010 

MLS re-entry draft - who should United take?, December 8, 2010 

World Cup bid voting patterns make no sense, December 3, 2010 

Things to be thankful for as World Cup decision day nears, December 1, 2010

 

A parable about Ben Olsen, November 30, 2010
DC United vs. LA Galaxy Preview, September 18, 2010
Fw: DC United vs. Toronto FC Player Rankings, Box Seats blogger , September 15, 2010

DC United vs. Toronto FC Game Diary, Box Seats blogger , September 12, 2010 


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 5:49 PM EST
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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
US vs. Algeria Preview
Topic: US National Team

I did a Lexis-Nexis search today for "soccer or football" and "referees" and "world cup" and "crackdown or crack down" in English-language newspapers (which are like the internet, but made of wood) in the last six months. I got 70 results. That's a lot of hits for such a specific search.

FIFA are always cracking down on something. Every single World Cup, they're "cracking down on foul play", usually elbows, and two-footed tackles, and diving, but never actually diving.

The result? Well, that bullshit red card against Kaka was one of the results. Also the red against Behrami yesterday. I thought Gourcuff's red card today was harsh. In the World Cup, absolutely everything is a red card.

That was the main lesson of the Confederations Cup. The US drew three red cards in five games. We've done very well with avoiding cards in the first two games. I hope that trend continues tomorrow, but the looseness with which the cards have been flowing worries me. Dempsey started off the Slovenia match with a challenge that shouldn't have been a red card, but could have been. In the Olympics, Orozco got a red card in the third minute against Nigeria and we ended up a goal short. Bradley seems to have gotten the message across, but I hope everyone tomorrow remembers that they're not playing in England, Germany, or MLS.

Here's what I hope we'll see against Algeria:

----------------Altidore-----------Dempsey------------- 

Donovan--------Edu------------Bradley-------Holden

Bocanegra-----Onyewu--------Demerit----Cherundolo

-------------------------Howard--------------------------

 

Here's what I think we'll see: 

----------------Altidore-----------Buddle------------- 

Donovan--------Edu------------Bradley-------Dempsey

Bocanegra-----Onyewu--------Demerit----Cherundolo

-------------------------Howard-------------------------- 

 

A lot of people have been talking about Gooch. I think he's okay; sure, he's rusty, no question, but he's still one of our two best center backs (assuming you count Bocanegra as a left back). One thing I'm wondering, though, is if we could possibly see this at the back:

Spector---------Bocanegra------Demerit------Cherundolo

If there's a game to do it, this would be the game. You still have Bocanegra and Demerit for set plays, so you don't loose much in that regard. And Spector is better going forward than Bocanegra, which could be especially useful if Algeria play three at the back (as they sometimes do). I'm not saying I want to see this or think we will see this, but I think it's on the table. 


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 9:01 PM EDT
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Friday, 18 June 2010
US vs. Slovenia Recap
Topic: US National Team

Before we talk about the ref, let’s talk about that awful first half, because the ref didn’t cause the US to come sleepwalking out of the gate. Shortly before the first goal, I said to my wife that the US must be playing a ropa-a-dope strategy, trying to draw Slovenia out and build their confidence. Shortly after I said that, Martin Tyler said it on TV. We were both searching for an explanation – there just HAD to be a reason why the US looked so, incredibly, incontrovertibly, unenthusiastic about this game.

 

Then, as is our tradition, we conceded an early goal. What is wrong with this team? Why can’t we ever start a game on the right foot? I don’t think that anyone has the answer. My theory is that we’re so concerned about conceding an early goal, we play with extreme caution, which then leads to an early goal. Or maybe there’s no reason. I don’t know. Nobody knows, or if they do they’re not telling us.

 

Slovenia played us off the field in the first half. We were horrible. We were absolute shit. We were the worst team on the planet. Donovan was the only player who was any good. I had been calling for Torres, and he laid an egg. Slovenia played well and deserved the two goal lead.

 

This exchange between Tyler and John Harkes summed it up:

 

Martin Tyler: The US are giving Slovenia a lot of space to play in midfield.

 

John Harkes: You could play in the midfiled with the amount of space the US are giving.

 

The whole game should have looked like the second half. We’re the better team, and we showed it. Slovenia had an opportunity here and there, but we were on the front foot. Much, much, much better. As much as you have to hate this teams inability to get the blood pumping at the start of a match, you have to love their commitment once they get rolling.

 

I had a series of small strokes in the second half. I love following the national team, but I’m not sure how much I enjoy actually watching the games. The stress is unbelievable. When Bradley scored the second, my reaction was more relief than happiness.

 

Which brings us to the ref. Why must we always talk about the referee? The refereeing during the first week was OUTSTANDING. The only horrible call in the first week was the red card to Cahill, and it’s pretty hard to argue that that altered the course of the game. Game after game, they were spot on on just about every call. And then…

 

The referee got a bit whistle-happy in the France-Mexico match last night. He was calling it badly both ways, but he was inserting himself into the match where he didn’t belong. I said to my wife: “this is the first poorly-refereed match in the tournament.” In retrospect, that was the first crack in the dam. Shortly after that, Hernandez was pretty clearly offside when he scored the first goal. And, with that, the universe had course-corrected: referees were back to making horrible decisions that decide matches.

 

The Mexico-France match was bad, but the result was still arguably a fair one. The Germany-Serbia match was a disgrace. The worst kind of referee is the kind that kind keep his cards in his pocket and the whistle out of his mouth. Neither foul on Klose should have been a card. Complete horse shit. I have no affection for Germany; I would love to see them eliminated. But the referee was determined to play an active role in the game, and he did. He handed the game to Serbia.

 

And then Koman Coulibaly went and topped him. Horrible – just horrible. Bizarre, bizarre decisions. The yellow card on Findley (which actually made me happy – now he HAS to be on the bench): what the fuck was he looking at? Findley’s hands were down at his side, so even if the ball hits his hands – which it didn’t – it cannot be an intentional hand ball. Just what the fuck was he looking at? I kind of understand it when a ref misses a call; that happens. But to think you saw something that clearly didn’t happen…I have no idea what causes that. In MLS we call it the Jair Murrufo.

 

And, of course, he did it again and robbed us of three points. Was Bradley offside? No. He was kept onside by the guy who was fucking tackling him with both arms. But let’s give the benefit of the doubt and say that Bradley was: 1) Not fouled for PK and 2) Offside. Well, even if BOTH of those things were true (and neither were), Bradley was not involved in the play. Did the referee confuse Bradley with Edu? Maybe, but then again: Bradley is white and Edu is black.

 

So, for it to be offside, you have to believe that 1) Bradley was not fouled, 2) The man not fouling Bradley did, in fact, not exist, and 3) Maurice Edu is white.

 

I don’t think offside was the call – I think the referee called a foul. On whom? I have no idea. Edu? Nope. Bocanegra? I think this was the call, but nope. Dempsey? Nope. Gooch? No, not really anyone near him. It was a bullshit call, and the non-American press know it. From The Guardian blog:

 

Quite why the referee's whistle had gone is not clear - there was no offside and the only fouls being perpetrated were by Slovenians holding on to assorted American jerseys. Mystifying decision.

 

 

Indeed, it looked to me like they should have won, since I saw nothing wrong with the goal that was ruled out.

 

From The Guardian online:

 

Bob Bradley's team will feel that they should have had all three points after a late winner was ruled out.

 

And it looked like they had grabbed the winner when Maurice Edu smashed home Donovan's free-kick four minutes from time — only for the Malian referee, Koman Coulibaly, to rule it out, apparently [my emphasis] for an infringement in the box.

 

Should have been an historic 3-2 comeback. We were robbed. Then again, if we had played better, then we wouldn’t have put ourselves in a position to be robbed.

 

Player ratings:

 

Howard: 5.5. Not really too much for him to do. Certainly can’t blame him for either goal, and didn’t have any non-routine saves to make. He did well in the air, which is the weakest part of his game.

 

By the way: why can’t a US opponent ever seem to waste a chance early in the game? We give them way too many opportunities, but our opponents have an uncanny record of turning those opportunities into goals.

 

Cherundolo: 5.5. Good effort, but didn’t play his best game. His service from the wing was poor. Defended well, though, and got into the attack like he always does.

 

Demerit: 6. Kept his position well and tackled well. Didn’t have trouble reading the ball flight, as he had in previous matches. The center backs don’t seem to pass the ball too well with the central midfielders, but I can’t really tell whose fault that is.

 

Onyewu: 3. Worst game I have ever seen him play. Was at fault on both goals. I don’t think there’s a reason for it; I think he just stunk today.

 

Bocanegra: 5. Mediocre day. Didn’t do too much, good or bad. He’s a real threat on set pieces, though; there were a couple of times when I thought he might get on the end of one. Writing these reviews for the back four, I’m realizing that the US didn’t really have too much defensive work to do in this game. Even when Slovenia was bossing the game in the first half, they didn’t have too many opportunities outside of the two goals and a couple dangerous crosses.

 

Donovan: 7.5. He’s really matured – he’s stepping up his game when we need him most. He’s just quality; he always does something useful with the ball. Took his goal beautifully; cutting it back would have probably led to a corner kick.

 

Bradley: 5.5. Very good second half, but gave Slovenia way too much space on the ball in the first half. That’s weird; passivity usually isn’t his problem. Near the end of the game, I said to my wife that I was impressed by Bradley’s ability to keep his temper better than he’s shown previously; he didn’t make any stupid tackles, and he hasn’t picked up any cards. Then, he goes and yells at the ref after the game, which he did during the Confederations Cup and received a three match ban. I worry about him; he’s intense.

 

Outstanding finish on the goal.

 

Torres: 3.5. All of America agreed: Torres should start this game. Bob Bradley agreed. And Torres started, and he was bad. Didn’t position himself well defensively and didn’t do too much with the ball. He also took a few risky touches that (thankfully) weren’t punished. I wonder if we’ll see him again.

 

Dempsey: 5.5. Didn’t have his moment of brilliance, but played a solid game. Made good decisions; he passed the ball when he should have this game. I was stunned that he rolled that one across the goal for Donovan in the first half; I’m still not sure whether or not that was the right decision. He almost lost his mind when he got his elbows up going for a header on the first play of the game. Geez, Clint: you know that’s not a card, I know that’s not a card, but didn’t you watch the Germany-Serbia match? Be carful?

 

A horrible decision that has gone un-commented on in light of the referee’s other horrible decisions: Clint was fouled on Jozy’s shot off the free kick in the second half. Should have been a PK.

 

Findley: 4. I’m tired of writing the same stuff about Findley; he’s fast, he’s just not that good. Thankfully, he’s picked up two yellows, so we’ll be spared his poor first and second touches against Algeria.

 

Altidore: 6.5. He was dangerous just about every time he got the ball. The more he uses his size, the better; defenders just can’t hang with him when he’s on his game. He also won a few of those Brian McBride-type long ball headers, which is an improvement.

 

Subs:

 

Edu: 3.5. Man, maybe Ricardo Clark isn’t that bad after all. Edu looked scared; lots of bad touches, lots of unsure tackling. Now I’m not sure who our second best central midfielder is. Feilhaber? How’s Jermain Jones’ leg?

 

Feilhaber: 6. Played well, but also played the attacking midfield role in which he excels. He’s good in attack; not so much in defense. He’s also great at playing great passes, but mediocre at playing mediocre passes. At any rate, I thought he was good, and he put himself in the conversation in central midfield.

 

Gomez: 5.5. The ball didn’t ever fall for him, but he worked hard and made himself a nuisance. After seeing him do a couple interviews, you really have to root for the guy: he’s very humble, and he’s really had to earn absolutely everything that he has.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 2:12 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 18 June 2010 2:12 PM EDT
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US vs. Slovenia preview
Topic: US National Team

 

As far as I can tell, tomorrow will be the first time that the US have ever gone into a World Cup match as the favorite. The only possible candidates are vs. Iran in '98, vs. Poland in '02, or vs. Ghana in '06. Fun fact: we lost all three of those matches.

The good news is that Bradley and the players are saying all the right things. It seems that they didn’t get too high after the England match and realize that they have it all to do against Slovenia. I love quotes like this from Donovan:

Asked what it feels like to be, for a change, a favorite in a World Cup match: "Who says we are the favorites? It means nothing to me."

Also this:

We haven't always done well coming off a good result and continuing that, and so that was part of the feeling in the locker room that, 'Okay, that was a good start but it doesn't mean anything if we don't get through the group.' "

I know that athletes know what they’re supposed to say, but in this instance I think that they mean it. Surely, Bradley has drilled it into them; if nothing else, Bradley has demonstrated a remarkable ability to avoid irrational exuberance.

Now, let’s see if he can get the tactics right (in my snarky opinion). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want to see this:

----------------Dempsey------------ Altidore ---------------

Donovan----------Torres----------Bradley---------Holden

Bocanegra-------Onyewu-------Demerit-------Cherundolo

----------------------------Howard----------------------------

I really think this is the right lineup. Torres comes in for his ball possession and passing, which will be important in a game where we should be on the front foot. Also, the Slovenians are kinda big and really slow: Torres is small and quick. I think they’d end up fouling the hell out of him (and Donovan).

Which brings us to Holden: his set pieces are a cut above Donovan’s. He’s also a good possession player, and his defense is underrated. I think he’s ready to step up.

Dempsey is preferred to Findley for three reasons: 1) Dempsey is a much, much better player than Findley; 2) The Slovenians will play back and leave no room to get behind their defense. That takes away Findley’s primary asset. I think any US goals – especially the first goal – will be a scrappy, hockey playoff-type trash goal. Dempsey gets a lot of those. 3) Dempsey is excellent with his head, which is important because a goal off a set piece is also likely.

Of course, Bradley and I rarely see eye-to-eye on lineups, so I doubt we’ll see this. I’ll bet that we see Buddle instead of Holden, with Dempsey sliding to midfield. That would be okay. As long as there’s no Findley.

My impressions of Slovenia (after watching a grand total of two Slovenian matches) are the same as everyone else’s: not especially talented, but they’re organized and play well together. They’ve got some size, but are slow. They sit back and look to counter (which makes me a bit queasy – we’ve had some trouble stopping the counter). They’d be pretty happy with a point here, so I think they’ll REALLY sit back and look to counter. They did a great job against Algeria of keeping a deep line; I don’t think there’s going to be any room in behind their defense. Here’s a telling stat: Slovenia only allowed four goals in their 10 World Cup qualifying matches.

In my World Cup pool, I picked the US to win 3-0. But that’s the fan in me speaking. In reality, I would be thrilled with any win, no matter how scrappy. These games are always more difficult than I think they’ll be. 

 


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 12:58 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 18 June 2010 1:03 AM EDT
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Monday, 14 June 2010
Player Ratings for the England Match
Topic: US National Team

Howard: 8. Some girls - shallow ones - only have ugly friends. That way, the girl looks better by comparison. Did Howard really have such an outstanding game, or was it just the fact that he was standing across the field from Robert Green?

No - he was good. Although I think that Hahnemann and Guzan also would have made all of those saves. We're lucky - we have a lot of great goalkeeping options.

As good as Howard was, I'm a little annoyed by the fact that every match review I've read gushes over his performance. That's slightly insulting; they're making it sound like our goalie just had the game of his life. The reality is, England didn't create many quality chances, and two that they did create (Johnson and Heskey's chances in the second half) were capped by mediocre finishes. The fact that we only conceded one is a pretty fair reflection of the outfield play.  

Cherundolo: 8. Awesome, awesome game by The Mayor of Hannover (that's his real nickname...I'm not making that up). He has it between the ears - he always shows up for big games. Loved the way he wasn't afraid to attack - I wish our central midfield had shown a bit more of that. Watching Germany today, they almost run their offense through their right back (Lahm, who is great on the ball). Seems like a tactic worth considering.

Demerit: 5.5. Did what we expect him to do. Another guy who you never worry about mentally - he's a bulldog, and he leaves it all on the field. I'm still a little worried about his depth perception after eye surgery - there were a couple of times when he misjudged the ball flight, including the play that led to his yellow card.

Onyewu: 6. Passable first half, very good second half. Glad Bradley started him. If we make it to the knockout stages, then he will have played his way into match shape by then. I'm also thrilled that he didn't pick up a yellow; Gooch is a card magnet (mostly because of his size), and the odds of Gooch being eligible for the first round of 16 game (knock on wood) just went way up.

Bocanegra: 5.5. Another guy you never worry about - he always, always, always shows up. Got beat for pace a couple times, which is inevitable. That will be much less of a problem against SLOW-venia (burn!).  

As I listened to my wife detail the reasons why Carlos is rocketing up the guys-she-would-leave-me-for-in-a-nanosecond list (Carlos is now even with Eric Bana and closing in on Jon Hamm), it occurred to me: if the US makes a run in this tournament, Carlos could become a fairly big celebrity. He's personable, smart, and need-I-mention: the ladies love Carlos Bocanegra.

Donovan: 6.5. Quality game from Lando. Sparked the offense when needed, and it was needed often; he's one of the only guys we can count on to carry the ball into the opposing half. Played a very smart game. Did a lot of dirty work defensively in the second half, which was critical because England's main threat was from the wing. We've all been wondering which Landon was going to show up for this tournament, and early indications are that it's Everton Landon, not Leverkusen Landon.

Clark: 4.5. The goal was about 60% his fault (also 20% Demerit and 20% Gooch). Still, he recovered fairly well and was solid after that. Deserves a lot of the credit for keeping Rooney quiet. Won a few 50-50 balls in the midfield and didn't commit any stupid fouls. Still, I have serious problems with his distribution: he plays the ball back way too frequently. When he does play the ball forward, the results are mixed. You can argue that we needed his skillset for this particular game, so maybe Bradley made the right call in starting him. But if he starts against Slovenia, then I'll start to wonder what incriminating information he has on Bob Bradley.

Bradley: 6. Not the breakout game I was hoping for, but a good game. He's a battler; unlike some of the other midfielders, he avoided the temptation to collapse on top of the back four when England had a spell of possession. Didn't get forward very often, but that was probably by design. Played it safe, didn't give up any stupid fouls, and didn't get any cards.

Dempsey: 6. It can't be denied: the way Clint plays for the national team is different than the way he plays for Fulham. With the national team, he pushes higher - he obviously sees himself as a bigger part of the offense (and he's probably right). It's not that he's lazy; he just tends to push pretty high for a winger. He tracked back more in the second half, but in the first half he was practically a third striker. He also isn't overly interested in one-on-one defending; he'll contain, but that's about it. So, let's just yield to reality and play Clint at striker. Please, Bob, it makes sense. Do it.  

Jozy: 5.5. Newsflash: Jozy is big and fast and strong. All of the English fans seemed shocked by this (apparently nobody watches the bottom half of the Premiership - nobody seemed to know that Jozy is good but Green and Guillermo Franco suck). If they had watched more US matches, they would know that Jozy is extremely dangerous when he gets the ball in good positions. The problem is, he doesn't get into good positions often enough. I'd like to see him move more off the ball - a diagonal run or two would be nice. He doesn't try to get behind the defense often enough, and I'd like to see him attack balls in the penalty area with a little more aggression. Still, pretty good game, and probably a confidence builder for the 20-year-old.

Findley: 4. You know that part in Vertigo when Jimmy Stewart dresses the woman up to look like the woman who he thought had died? Memo to Bob Bradley: Robbie Findley is not Charlie Davies. Charlie is gone, Bob - let it go. Findley may have the right skill set to go with your system, but the quality is just not there. Holden is our 11th-best player; put him on the field. Even Buddle would be better.

subs:

Buddle: 4.5. Didn't do too much, but also didn't have many opportunities; we were in lockdown mode by the time he entered.

Holden: 5. Probably deserves a n/a given how little he played, but he had a few decent touches in his short time on the field. 

 


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 1:05 AM EDT
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Friday, 11 June 2010
US vs. England preview
Topic: US National Team

My prediction: 2-1 US. Complete hometown call. Total hometown call. Realistically, I'd say the US has a 20% shot at a draw and a 20% shot at a win. How does that add up to a 2-1 prediction? It doesn't. But I'm going with it.

Things I'm thinking about...

Fitness. This could be a real advantage for us. Almost all US players have played many games at altitude, including the games at the Confederations Cup last year. We know what to expect. I'm not sure if many or even any English players have ever played at altitude (Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland would have been an opportunity, but we all know how that went).

Counterattacking is in style. Brazil is now - against all odds - a counterattacking team. South Africa got one on the counter against Mexico today (and almost got another). Chelsea were lethal on the counter this year. It's a good style to play, and we play it. I think it could work.

Psychology. You've surely heard this at some point this week: "England always start slow." Whether or not that's true, English players might have this in their mind. The second part of that maxim is: "...but they always advance." If it's 1-1 in the 80th minute, England might not press as much as they would in the second or third game.

Holding the ball in the midfield. England doesn't build the play; they hoof and hope (a bit...I don't want to over-generalize). We have the centerbacks to cope with the hoof-and-hope approach. What we can't do is give the ball away cheaply and allow them to counter. We really need to hold the ball. Which brings me to...

The lineup that I'd like to see:

---------------Altidore---------------Dempsey-----------------

Donovan--------Torres----------Bradley--------------Holden

Bocanegra-------Onyewu-------Demerit----------Cherundolo

-----------------------------Howard------------------------------

I had been putting Edu in Torres' spot until about a week ago for defensive purposes. But the more I thought about it - and the more I thought about the second half of the Brazil game in the Confederations Cup last year - the more I thought that the best defense might be to deny England the ball. Hence: Torres instead of Edu. Also, I am still an advocate of playing your best 11 (within reason), which is why Holden is in for Buddle. I also really like what Holden brings to the table on set pieces.

We also need to realize this about Dempsey: he IS playing up top. You can pencil him in at left mid, but he's going to play up top. So you might as well have that be his official role.

The lineup I think we'll see:

---------------Altidore---------------Buddle-----------------

Dempsey--------Edu----------Bradley--------------Donovan

Bocanegra-------Onyewu-------Demerit----------Cherundolo

-----------------------------Howard------------------------------

I am okay with this lineup; I could see us winning with this lineup. If Buddle really is in peak form (small sample size, blah blah blah), then this could work out very well. I am fine with Edu or Torres; I don't think Clark is the best option.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 5:34 PM EDT
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Predictions
Topic: US National Team

Kickoff is 30 minutes away. Prediction time. These predictions are influenced by the following factors:

1. The home team always plays way better than they should.

2. The home team, in this instance, is not all that good.

3. When the Cup is in Europe, a European team always wins (except for Brazil in Sweden '58). When the Cup is anywhere else, a non-European (i.e. South American) team always wins. Weird.

4. Home field advantage is primarily psychological, not geographic, and having the World Cup in Africa for the first time is a huge deal. Therefore, I am factoring in a "home continent advantage" for African teams in spite of the significant geographic distance.

5. Team adversity is overrated (see: Italy 2006). "Us vs. the coach" can be a motivating factor, too. Translation: don't count out France.

6. Diego Maradona is as bad of a coach as he was a great player.

7. I don't tend to pick a lot of upsets (I have a background in statistics - it's all probability and expected value for me. Also, I don't like fun).

 

Group A:

1st: Mexico

2nd: France

 

Group B:

1st: Argentina

2nd: Nigeria

 

Group C:

1st: England

2nd: USA

 

Group D:

1st: Germany

2nd: Serbia

 

Group E:

1st: Netherlands

2nd: Cameroon

 

Group F:

1st: Italy

2nd: Paraguay

 

Group G:

1st: Brazil

2nd: Portugal

 

Group H:

1st: Spain

2nd: Paraguay

 

Round of 16:

Nigeria beats Mexico

England beats Serbia

France beats Argentina

US beats Germany (okay: home town call here. But we owe them one from 2002)

Netherlands beats Paraguay

Brazil beats Chile

Cameroon beats Italy

Spain beats Portugal

 

Round of 8:

England beats Nigeria

France beats USA

Brazil beats Netherlands

Spain beats Cameroon

 

Semifinal:

Brazil beats England

Spain beats France

 

Champion: Brazil

Golden boot: David Villa

Golden ball: Xavi

Yashin award: Julio Caesar

Best young player: Jozy

Most entertaining team: Netherlands

Dark horse: France. (Do they count as a dark horse? No? Okay: Serbia)

 

 

 


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 10:06 AM EDT
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Thursday, 10 June 2010
World Cup Video Awesomeness
Topic: US National Team

Two days away...promotion for the Cup is in full swing. No more "coming this summer..." in the ads; we have dates. Times - both Eastern and Central - are being tossed around. Soccer Christmas is here.

One thing that has to make you optimistic about soccer's growing status in the US is the fact that ESPN and Nike are throwing their substantial marketing power behind it. With that, here are some of the best promotional videos for this year's Cup.

As usual, Nike has made the best commercial. Not quite as good as "Take It To The Next Level", but still pretty bad-ass. The down-on-his-luck Wayne Rooney part has been cut out of the TV version, which sucks; that's by far the best part.

ESPN's main commercial is pretty great, too. Bono lends credibility to any project (he's the white Morgan Freeman), and they capture the unparalelled global scope of the World Cup in this ad.

Also two ESPN ads featuring US National Team-ers. I think they're both pretty funny.

 

 

This "I Scored a Goal" series from ESPN is pretty amazing: it gives the stories of all 35 living people who have scored a goal in a World Cup final. Great for people who don't know a lot about the history of the World Cup.

ESPN: I Scored a Goal

Pretty much everything on US Soccer's multimedia page (especially the Studio 90 segments) is worth a look. They do a great job of getting access to the players; I can't imagine the players from any other country (save maybe Australia) being willing to participate in this type of thing. When soccer is big in the US in 50 years, we'll miss the days when our national team players were pretty much just a normal bunch of guys.

US Soccer video page

The World Cup has an official anthem. It's by K'naan, a Somali-Canadian (tough break, Phil Collins: I'm sure you assumed that you would be writing the anthem for the first World Cup in Africa. But they decided to go with an actual African). When I heard "official World Cup anthem", I was prepared to hate it. But I don't hate this, not even a little. 


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 11:40 PM EDT
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Monday, 7 June 2010
Thoughts on the Australia Match
Topic: US National Team

Can the Robbie Findley expectations please come back to Earth now? The internet is only good at two things: porn and overreaction. So, of course, when Robbie Findley makes one nice play against Turkey, internet message boards called for him to start versus England (and others called for him to start doing porn…but that’s a story for a different blog). Hopefully, the Australia match helped people see Findley for what every MLS fan knows he is: a hard-working, speedy striker who lacks a bit of touch and skill. He might be a top-tier player some day, but not right now. Everybody’s talking about his two horrible misses, but at least as bad was a sequence late in the second half when he was unable to play Landon in. See @ 3:54 on these highlights. I think he might be good as a late sub, but that’s about his ceiling at the moment.

 

Do we have to wait until the England match for the Edson Buddle expectations to come back to Earth? He’s playing well right now. He’s a viable option. But I still feel that the best eleven includes Holden on the wing and either Dempsey or Donovan (I’d prefer Dempsey) up top. Choose the system that fits the players, not vice-versa.

 

That being said: there’s nothing wrong with Altidore & Buddle. One argument I hear against using Buddle is that he and Altidore are too similar. That is moronic. That is some Phil Brown, shit-for-brains thinking right there. Coaches use this “logic” all the time: “we can’t play two big guys or two fast guys!” they think. “We have to do little and large!” Well, if your big guy is slow and your fast guy is small, then yes: you might want to pair that player with a player who offsets his weakness. But if you have two guys who are both big and fast, then there’s nothing wrong with playing them both. If Altidore was slow and Buddle was 5’ 4”, nobody would be saying this.

 

Gooch has to get thrown in the deep end sooner or later. I keep hearing this: “You can’t possibly play Gooch for 90 minutes because he hasn’t played 90 since October!” Well, if that’s true, then you’re either going to waste a sub on a central defender (I can’t remember the last time I saw that happen), or you’re going to commit to not playing Gooch through the entire tournament. He has to make the jump some time; have it be against England.

 

Is Jay Demerit’s vision okay? Several players had trouble judging the flight of the ball. That’s largely a result of the altitude and the new ball, but no-one seemed to have more trouble than Demerit. He says that the vision is 80 percent in his right eye…is he telling the truth? Is his depth perception okay? I guess we have no real way of knowing.

 

Get ready for some horrible refereeing. Much like the NBA finals, the World Cup is usually the site of some inexplicably awful refereeing. Maybe that’s because our expectations for a sport’s marquee event are justifiably high, but it’s still shockingly bad. The referees on Saturday gave us a sneak preview: the Dempsey goal should have stood (Findley was not involved in the play). This serves as a good time for the USMNT to remember the main lesson of the Confederations Cup: if you breathe on anyone, it WILL be a red card.

 

Does Bradley really think that Ricardo Clark is his second best central midfielder? I thought Rico played pretty well this game, but come on, Bob: Edu and Torres are both better.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 5:47 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
How Do You Say Shadenfreude in Italian
Topic: US National Team

Italy has dropped Giuseppe Rossi. Good. I don't want to see him scoring goals and celebrating in another country's shirt. Maybe this makes me a petty person, but it's the way that I feel.

I don't like Rossi - it was not cool the way he snubbed the US for Italy. Same with Nevin Subotic - I wish only bad things (soccer-wise) for him and Serbia. Here's the thing: if you have lived predominantly in one country, then you should play for that country. Unless - and this is important - UNLESS your home country isn't calling you. Then, play for whoever you want - you can't fault a guy for taking whatever opportunity he's offered to play international soccer.

Let's apply this rule - here's how I feel about each guy who has had this decision recently for the US.

Giuseppe Rossi: not cool. He lived in the US until he was 12 and only moved to Italy for soccer reasons (this makes a difference. If your family moves to a country and that takes you in, then you are more of a citizen of that country than if you're only living in that country to play soccer). The US started calling him very early (in his teens), but he held out for Italy. It's his decision - I guess he feels more Italian than American - but it seems strange to me that a person's identity would hinge more on their genetic makeup than on their community. Personally, I don't feel very German.

Nevin Subotic: not cool. Had he played for Germany (which was his first choice), I would have been fine with that. He lived in Germany for about a decade - roughly the same amount of time he was in the US. But to play for Serbia - where he doesn't speak the language and hasn't lived since he was a baby - is just a finger in the eye to the country who took his family in and brought him through their youth program.

Edgar Castillo: okay (both times). Though he's more American than Mexican (he grew up in New Mexico), it's okay that he first went to play for Mexico: the US wasn't calling him. Like I said: if someone offers a guy a chance, you can't fault him for taking it. And when he switched to the US, that was okay, too: he only switched because Mexico had stopped calling him.

Stuart Holden: okay. Could have gone either way - he was born in Scotland, but moved here for non-soccer reasons when he was about 10. The big difference is this: Scotland wasn't calling him, we were. So he went with the US (and I'm glad that he did).

Jermaine Jones: okay. Clearly feels German, is German, and strongly prefers to play for Germany. But Germany wasn't calling him, so he switched. Jones would be in a different category than Feilhaber, Holden, Adu, and Mastreoni: those guys all moved here for non-soccer reasons, lived here for years, and have strong ties to the US. They are real Americans. Jones - let's be honest - would only be an American for soccer purposes, like Thomas Dooley and David Regis. I'd still like him to play for the team (he's just that good), but I would feel just a little bit guilty having him on the field.

Freddy Adu: okay. Moved at a young age for non-soccer reasons - probably still feels kind of Ghanian, but has stronger ties to the US. Developed through the US youth program and we started calling him very early, hence: American.

Bakary Soumare: okay. Mali called him, we didn't. Hence: Malian.

Jose Francisco Torres: okay. A legitimate dual citizen, but was born here and spent more time in the US. We called him before Mexico did, so that must have made the decision much easier for him.

Shalrie Joseph: definitely okay, but I just have to bring this up while we're on the topic. Took a call for Grenada at a very young age even though he moved to the US during high school. So, in a way: good for him. He stayed true to his roots. Plus he was nowhere near getting called for the US at the time. But, damn it: he would have been a sure-fire starter for the US in 2006 and 2010. I wonder who regrets his decision more: Josephy or Bob Bradley.


Posted by jeffmaurer1980 at 12:36 PM EDT
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