Podcast Update

30 June 2009

Just a quick note to say that I plan on releasing my Confederations Cup recap either tonight or late afternoon tomorrow. I had recorded a segment with Phil Schoen and Kartik that was over an hour and fifteen minutes long, only to find out the file was corrupted.

Hopefully I can get either Phil or Kartik to record a segment to go with the segment I recorded with Chris Oakley of Some People Are On The Pitch.

Thanks again for you continued support of the site!

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Brazil 3 USA 2: US Choke In First Major Final

28 June 2009

The US were forty-five minutes from an impossible double inside four days. Instead they leave the Confederations Cup asking themselves 'what if'? After Dempsey and Donovan gave the US the most improbable of leads, Luis Fabiano got Brazil back into the match before Lucio's header finished off the US.

Before I go any further, I should spell out my philosophy for the US National Team. I expect them to dominate inside CONCACAF and to win every Gold Cup that qualifies into the Confederations Cup. At competitions like the Confederations Cup, the World Cup, and even Copa America (if we ever get invited back), I expect them to play with purpose, heart and good tactical sense. From there, let the chips fall where they may. It's a philosophy that has made World Cup qualifying frustrating and turned the first two games of this Confederations Cup such a nightmare. But the US turned it around and made it to their first final... a final no one expected the US to be in.

The first half started nervously, but couldn't have gone more perfectly for the United States. Despite being stretched more than the US were during their ninety minutes against Spain, the two banks of four held their nerve. The US didn't attack much, but when they did it was with purpose. The opener was a bit lucky however. Spector's cross did find Dempsey perfectly, but the volley wasn't hit all that well. Cesar didn't see the shot until late, but it wouldn't have mattered. The US second goal was just a perfect counter attack led by Charlie Davies and Landon Donovan. Tactically, Brazil looked dead. They tried to break the US down the middle just like Spain did, and failed miserably in doing so.

The second half was a tragedy only William Shakespeare could write. It took less than forty seconds, but Luis Fabiano changed fortunes. Bob Bradley admitted in the post game press conference that was a body shot blow to US chances, and it was easy to see why. The ball was played up the middle quickly and with no help, DeMerit and Howard were left hanging out to dry. It was the first moment of serious doubt to the tactics the US were playing, and the first moment that showed Brazil had figured out how to break the US down.

That was only part one to Brazil's master plan. The second part was exposing the serious lack of width the US have. Carlos Bocanegra was spent by the 55th minute, and Bornstein should have come on for him there. With the US exposed wide, Brazil used the flanks to tear the spine of the US apart. Kaka's effort on the hour did cross the line, the referee, however, saw otherwise. Fifteen minutes later, Brazil equalized. The ball starts out wide through Kaka, the ball turned into Robinho who forced Howard into a great save... and right into the near post. Fabiano had an empty net to head into. It was the moment I knew this game was going to end inside ninety.

The game winner was, in truth, an easy set piece goal. Elano sent a perfect cross in from the corner kick and Lucio was the only one to leap for the ball, leaping over Clint Dempsey. Howard was caught out of position, and there was little Jonathan Bornstein could have done to stop it. To do so would have risked a red card.

Bob Bradley needs to be taken to task for one thing; his substitutions. As mentioned above, I agree with Bornstein coming in, but it should have been for Carlos Bocanegra and not Benny Feilhaber. Sasha Kljestan is being slotted into the role Brad Guzan was put in last summer (nothing more than getting caps to be transferred to a European league), but he is not an international player. Torres should have come on for Feilhaber; at least he had fresh legs. Jozy Altidore should have never been subbed out of this game. If anything, Conor Casey should have replaced Ricardo Clark about five minutes before Lucio broke US hearts.

When the tears dry up and the dust settles, the United States showed what they can be. They also showed how much further they have to go before they can consider themselves with the elite footballing nations. Going back to my expectation of the US National Team, today they played with heart and with passion. Their tactics showed we still have a way to go in terms of making critical adjustments at halftime and in game.

But most of all, these last two games have shown that you need depth to win major competitions. Bob Bradley has got to get out of his nepotistic ways and play guys that may not jive with what you want a footballer to be. Torres and Adu should not be on the fringes. Maurice Edu, when healthy, should play. Beasley and Kljestan should never see national team duty again.

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USA 2 Spain 0: US Shows Its Potential

24 June 2009

After advancing to the semi-finals in the most dramatic of fashions, the United States was playing with house money the rest of the way. After today, I think it's safe to say the house money the US is playing with is now the size of the pot the crew of Oceans Eleven stole.

Spain, the team everyone wanted to ram down our throats. The 'most' attractive team in all the world. The team with all the 'stars'. The team that was suppose to run roughshod over not only this Confederations Cup, but the World Cup next year as well. Oops I guess the media was wrong again, myself included.

Now granted I picked Spain to make the final only to lose to Brazil, their play in the group stages should have worried the trained eye. Spain played three teams that they were not interested in playing during group play. Unlike other sports, you just can't flip a switch and pick up your performances when you want in a competition of this manner. Believing the hype, Spain thought this game was nothing more than a formality in their quest to the final. Oops, they were wrong.

The US came out and played like they just didn't care. They didn't see Spain as a team they should be afraid of, they saw a team they could beat. The way the US attacked in the opening quarter hour was something Spain had only seen once during their winning streak (the match at home against Turkey in World Cup Qualifying). While Spain was moving forward, they did not have any legitimate open shot that Tim Howard was really threatened with.

Both goals can be attributed to both great US build and horrific Spanish defending. The opener is on both Capdeliva and on Casillas. With Capdeliva out of position, Jozy Altidore was able to muscle by him with ease. With Casillas leaning far post, Jozy did the smart thing and went near. The second goal was just on the entire Spanish defense. Again, the US did a great job suckering the entire Spanish back line into the run central. With Landon and Clint continuing their runs, all it took was picking out the right target to finish off Spain for good. In this instance, it was Donovan. Donovan was smart to just lay the ball across the six. Casillas wasn't expecting it, the rest of his back line wasn't in position to clear. All it took was Clint Dempsey getting the ball and his just reward was an empty net.

The US did an exceptional job closing down the Spanish defense. If there was any opponent that Ricardo Clark could thrive against, Spain was that opponent. After his red card against Italy, Ricardo Clark has played smarter. Yes Clark has stayed a bully, but he has left the reckless tackling behind.

One can't speak on this game without speaking about the partnership Jay DeMerit and Gooch formed today. Together they denied everything Spain threw into the box and were the main reason Spain didn't have a threatening shot all day.

When the dust settles from this fine US performance, what fans saw was what we can be, and what we need to be if we are to win against 'top notch opposition'. They have to be gritty, they have to be brave, but above all they have to play fearless. Once the United States gets rid of playing with fear, the possibilities are endless.

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Setanta UK Finished, Is America Next?

23 June 2009

Well the inevitable has finally happened; Setanta Sports UK is out of business. Soon after announcing Setanta UK had gone into administration, they were soon off the air. Less than three hours after first word leaked out that Setanta UK had gone into administration, all channels, with the exception of ESPN America and Racing UK, were taken off air.

So what does this mean? Understanding the Setanta Sports model, the company is broken into three separate sections; Setanta UK, Setanta Ireland/Northern Ireland, and Setanta International. While only Setanta UK is in administration, what it does mean is if needed, the other two sections of Setanta can be sold off to satisfy debts in the UK.

I can only go on gut feeling here, so here goes nothing. Unless a buyer is found within the next few weeks, Setanta Sports Ireland and Setanta Sports International will be out of business. Deloitte will want to move quickly to settle the debts left behind. With the massive amounts of debt Setanta UK is in (494.2 million US per Reuters), Setanta UK will end up being wound up when it's done. Setanta Ireland and Setanta International right now just became valuable pieces of property.

From every indication, both Setanta Ireland and Setanta International will be sold, and in short order. Thanks to the Irish Times, we have an idea on who could possibly be the front runner for Ireland; that company is Liberty Global. Now the name 'Liberty Global' may not ring a bell off the bat, but the companies they own are another story. In Ireland, Liberty Global are parent company of NTL. In the United States, Liberty Global own Direct TV.

Calling it a hunch, but if Liberty Global are going to purchase Setanta Ireland, they will also put a bid in for Setanta International. That would be good news all around. We would be able to keep our football coverage. Others would get to enjoy Aussie Rules, Rugby, and GAA the channel offers. Sure we lose Football Matters and the Friday Football Show, but it's a small price to pay to keep the sport we all love the most.

Now if they could only do something about that fifteen dollar a month price tag. I know I know, it's only wishful thinking.

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USA 3 Egypt 0: Third Time Lucky, Not Good

21 June 2009

Harry Houdini just rolled over in his grave.

The United States needed not just a minor miracle, but they needed the downright impossible to happen today. Let's ask ourselves this question right now... how many of you thought Brazil would beat Italy 3-0, and how many of you also thought at the same time the US would beat Egypt 3-0? I expect the answer would be not many, if any at all. Once I saw the lineup, I immediately got disgusted.

Again it was more of the same. No Freddy Adu, no Jose Francisco Torres, and the worst of all to me, Brad Guzan in goal. Yes I was glad to see Charlie Davies start up front, but that's where my praise of the lineup ended.

The US had three things going for them today; the first being the absence of Zidan, arguably Egypt's best player. The second being the fact Egypt from the start looked severely fatigued. It was as if Egypt has not played three games in seven days before and it didn't take long for their legs to go. That was further validated once Charlie Davies put the US in front. The final piece of the puzzle was when Egypt had to use all three subs due to injury and not anything tactical.

The second half started off in controversial fashion with Jozy Altidore's shot ending off off an arm and off the line. Replay confirmed the referee made the correct non-call as the shot hit the thigh of the defender before hitting the arm. Not long afterwards, the US had hope. Michael Bradley taught Altidore a lesson in continuing a run and his shot from Donovan's pass made it 2-0. Clint Dempsey's header eight minutes later gave the US the advantage it needed on goals scored.

Then the US did what I absolutely hate, they sat back and prayed, hoping 'just enough' would be enough to advance. Meanwhile, Julio Cesar was being peppered left right and center, doing a fabulous job preserving a 3-0 shut out. While I liked the sub of Conor Casey, I knew it wasn't going to be in an attacking sense. As the seconds ticked down, and the corner kicks added up, I was just expecting the inevitable to happen. Thankfully for US fans, that didn't happen.

Yes the US were lucky this afternoon to get through to the group stages on goals scored, but there in lies a major fundamental problem with the US National Team. Until the US National Team can get past using the back door to advance in MAJOR international competitions (and the Gold Cup is not), the US will always be in the middle to lower of the second tier of footballing nations... if not at the top of the third tier. US fans have got to grow up and realize that this is unacceptable behavior.

Look I completely understand the US is still a growing program, but how much longer can the US be 'a growing program'? Everything was building to World Cup 2010, and the US still looks like the same program we've grown frustrated with. Even during the post game show we got the same line we haven't heard in quite a long time 'this team played with heart'. I don't think it was heart, it was more salvaging personal pride than heart. I think the players knew what would have happened had they finished on less points than New Zealand.

When it's all said and done, it's difficult for me to congratulate the US for using the back door into the semi-finals. However, it's made less difficult when Italy choked big time in an eight minute span against Brazil. Yes this was a group of death, but the United States drew position two. Pretty, absolutely not. Daring, never. Did just enough to advance, what more do you expect. I just hope the US has learned it's lesson going forward; advancing based on other results cannot be the MO moving forward.

It's more likely to lead to heart break instead of joyous rapture.

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Fathers Day: A Letter To My Dad

With today being Father's Day in the United States, I am going to go off the beaten path here and do something a little different. As many of my regular readers know, my dad passed away on November 22nd of last year. So forgive me as I write this letter to my dad.

Dear Dad,

It's been a while, yet every passing day hasn't gotten easier. Despite the fact I knew the day was coming for the better part of two years, the grief still remains. The pain of things not said makes certain days more difficult than others. I know you'll never get the opportunity to read this letter, but I need to write this to you.

Our relationship was never the best. If we were both honest with ourselves, it was quite tense. There weren't many things we agreed on, yet we could always carry on a conversation. Your stories about your days as a moonshiner will go down as moments that made me laugh the loudest. The times we fought over what brand of beer to buy were funny as well. Sorry dad, but I'll never be able to drink Natural Light.

I know you never understood why I followed all the sports I did, but you always supported me. You had a small legion of fans in the chats I held about the time you knocked on my door scramble off for their own breakfast. You became an institution in those chats, even though no one ever saw you, only heard.

My biggest regret is not spending more time with you in your dying days. I made too many mistakes, to numerous to count. I shouldn't have tried to start a podcast when you were at your worst. I shouldn't have snapped at you when we disagreed on things. But most off all, I regret not saying 'I love you' whenever I had the chance.

Above all, thank you for being my dad. While things were never easy, we always figured out a way.

Your son,

Johnathan Starling

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Brazil 3 USA 0: A Dressing Room Lost

18 June 2009

You can't sugarcoat this US performance. It was awful from second one.

Watching Brazil's 3-0 thrashing of the US was like watching the end result of a multi-car wreck. You know you don't want to look, but you eventually give in to the temptation. If you are a fan of the red white and blue, it was a day of ultimate tragedy. From the opening kickoff, the US was never in this match competitively. In fact, there is nothing redeemable of value from this game for the United States.

Watching this team since the Costa Rica game, I have been embarrassed to consider myself a US Soccer fan. The players lack any sort of drive, Bob Bradley has absolutely no ability to make a legitimate tactical adjustment mid-game. For the first time that I can ever remember, the fans have now grown restless.

One question I would love to see the media ask not only Bob Bradley, but every player within the US player pool is a simple one. That question: 'Is this dressing room so far gone that it can't be fixed except with a new manager coming in?' Obviously we know Bob Bradley or the players wouldn't publicly throw each other under the bus. However, I would be willing to gander that about sixty percent of this team would say off the record that Bob Bradley has lost the dressing room.

Between Bob Bradley calling in his favorites from his coaching days in MLS (Sasha Kljestan, Jonathan Bornstein, his own son, DeMarcus Beasley), to setting blatant double standard with certain players playing while not getting first team club experience (why is Jozy or Beasley starting while not seeing any action at the club while the word is Freddy Adu isn't playing because he isn't playing), to the European players who have checked out on Bradley as a person (Dempsey, Howard, Adu, Gooch), I feel the US locker room has been completely lost. While I have no proof, I wouldn't be surprised if there is some serious in-fighting going on.

It's taken long enough, but I have grown numb to these performance of the US National Team. Until wholesale changes are made to the USSF, I will be expecting the worst out of this team. If it didn't take the six touch counter attack to make it 2-0 Brazil, or the brilliant off the ball run from Maicon that made it 3-0, then nothing will.

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USA 1 Italy 3: The No Lamentation Zone

15 June 2009

Let's get seven things clear right up front.

1) Ricardo Clark should have been sent off for his stupid tackle on Gatusso. For everyone crying it should have only been a yellow card, keep crying. Pablo Pozo got that decision spot on. You cannot just openly kick a man like that as he's blowing right by you.

2) Pablo Pozo was again spot on when he did not send Grosso off for what looked to be an elbow on Landon Donovan. I saw nothing in that elbow justifying a red card.

3) All credit to Jozy Altidore for winning that penalty that Donovan converted to put the US up 1-0.

4) The two points of contention that cost the US a shot at all three points today were a) the US pushing so hard for the second goal to the point they exposed themselves at the back, and b) the moment Giuseppe Rossi showed up on the park. Rossi was the only one who appeared to care for Italy about picking up all three points from this game.

5) While Tim Howard was to blame on the first Italian goal, Gooch is the sole man responsible for the second goal. The fact he was non committal to clearing De Rossi's shot is bad enough, but to screen out Tim Howard from even seeing the shot is unacceptable. DeMerit was playing his position and is not to blame. Could Howard have done something about the shot? It's possible, but I couldn't see what he could have done.

6) I was glad to see Davies come on the park for Altidore, but it should have been done at halftime. The fact Torres didn't see the park today again disgusted me. While I still think Adu should have started, I could understand why Bradley wouldn't have used him in the situation we were in.

7) Letter of the law, the US should have been awarded a penalty in the 80th minute. I can understand why Pozo didn't call the over the back on Donovan, however when you have called the game letter of the law until that point, you cannot abandon that train of thought in a critical moment.

I'm just getting warmed up. Today's US/Italy match up was a battle between a team that didn't care (Italy) and a team that played as eleven individuals and not one team (that would be the US). Watching this match early on, I was shocked at how laissez faire Italy looked. The US should have had two goals before the red card, and only their laissez faire attitude in front of goal kept them from putting this game out of reach for Italy.

What pains me about this game is it only confirmed in my mind what is going on with the US National Team. We have at least five factions on this team; the 'Bradley' buddies, those who have only played in MLS, those who are regulars in Europe, those who warm benches in Europe, and Landon Donovan. I get the impression every time I see this team play each faction can't stand each other. I'll take two examples from today. The first involves Michael Bradley's pathetic attempt at goal from a perfectly placed Landon Donovan pass and the second involves Altidore, again from a Landon Donovan pass. Both should have been finished with no trouble at all.

What also pains me is only one player for the US National team is a leader. That player is Frankie Hejduk. Whenever he's not near this squad, the team plays woefully. While Donovan was the best player on the park for the US today, he showed no leadership in pulling this team together after Rossi equalized. In fact, you could argue that Rossi goal was the moment the US gave up hope on getting anything from the match. Between dead legs and woeful substitutions, no one on the park cared to put this team on their shoulder.

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Confederations Cup Matchday 1: The Ellis Park Dull and Spain Proves Nothing

14 June 2009

The 2009 Confederations Cup got underway today with two results that I pretty much expected. South Africa and Iraq put us to sleep while Spain and New Zealand was train wreck TV; done and dusted inside of six minutes.

Ellis Park was a buzz as host nation South Africa took the park to host Iraq. Great crowd, great atmosphere, pathetic football. Joel Santana has asked the South African press to judge this side based on results in this tournament. Based on play today, I think the media may have the swords out to have their fun. While this isn't Rugby or Cricket, the two primary sports in South Africa, everyone in the nation wanted a respectable showing. Today wasn't such a performance.

Iraq can claim a moral victory in this one. Bora Milutinovic had a set game plan and stuck to it. Their back line and midfield stayed tight and compact, which is where the compliments end for Iraq. Their attack was only slightly better than the attack New Zealand had in game two. Khune wasn't even tested in ninety minutes between the pipes. Despite obvious fatigue late in the match, Iraq can consider themselves grateful for the major mistake Parker made in gifting them the point. It was a tragic wrong place at the wrong time.

If you expect me to be serious about Spain's 5-0 lambs to the slaughtering of New Zealand, I'm sorry I just can't do it. Had Spain taken this game seriously from minute one, we would have seen one of those classic Australia v Solomon Island scorelines. The fact remains there was a reason Australia bailed as fast as they could out of Oceania once they could qualify for world cups, not having to be stuck with the most embarrassing rag tag of footballing misfits. The only thing surprising to me was it took Torres 17 minutes to secure his hat trick.

So when it's all said and done in matchday one, the best way to describe it was a day that went right by the book. Hopefully for all of our sakes, this tourney isn't by the book from start to finish.

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Ronaldo to Real Madrid...I Just Don't Care

11 June 2009

So its finally happened. We had no summer long power struggle, no manager taking time out of his holiday to make a house call, no bitter back and fourths in the media. Actually when it was all said and done, this was pretty damn boring and straightforward. Cristiano Ronaldo is Real Madrid bound, and I have to be pretty frank; I just don't care.

Sure the transfer fee was eighty million quid, I don't care. With Kaka's transfer fee earlier in the week, I was already numb to another ridiculous transfer fee. I no longer care that this whole teenage girl drama has played out over the past twelve months. I'm just damn happy this bullshit is all over.

I don't care that Real Madrid are getting in some minds 'the best footballer in the world'. I totally disagree with that statement. Put a gun to my head, ask me who the best in the world is, and I'm shouting from the rafters Messi's name. Sorry folks, but I will never acknowledge any whiny diving little ball hog as the best in the world. If Ronaldo thinks he will get away with the antics he pulled at Manchester United at Real Madrid, Marca will flat out crucify him.

Manchester United have to be laughing all the way to the bank in more ways than one. For starters, Fergie gets rid of the biggest cancer he's ever had to deal with. For every good thing Ronaldo does, he does at least four things that make you question why anyone would give him the time of day. United also will collect a nice fat paycheck with unlimited possibilities. The Glazier's can pay down the debt if they want, use part of that transfer fee to go after Benzema if they so choose. Or if the Red Devils want, they can secure the long term future of players like Macheda and the Da Silva twins. That's just what I came up with off the top of my head in sixty seconds.

When it's all said and done, Manchester United will end up better off. Instead of having to deal with all the CR7 drama, the Red Devils will have an opportunity to flourish and play a complete team game. That was something they were never going to be able to do with Ronaldo on their squad.

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The Third Half 2: Atlanta FC, US National Team and Confederations Cup

08 June 2009

The Third Half is back with it's second episode. Today we speak with Jason Longshore, director of football operations with Atlanta FC before their match with the Charleston Battery in the US Open Cup. The conversation then transitions to my thoughts on the US National Team from last week's qualifiers. The show ends with my thoughts on the upcoming Confederations Cup.

The podcast is now available on iTunes so subscribe now! You can also download the show directly from here.


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Is Setanta Sports Finished?

07 June 2009

It's a simple question, yet the question does not have a simple answer.

For anyone who has lived under a rock for the past three months, let me sum this story up for you. First, Irish based network Setanta Sports lost one half of its Barclays Premier League TV contract. We quickly saw everyone question if Setanta Sports was going to be a viable network going forward with only one package of games to offer. Yes, they also had the FA Cup, England internationals, the SPL, and had won rights to English rugby. Along with their other football rights, their team specific channels, and their golf exclusive network, Setanta Sports seemed to have alot going for it... or did they?

Secondly, Setanta cut it way too close to making payments. In the case Setanta Sports FA Cup and SPL coverage, they didn't cut it close as they flat out missed the payments. Another problem for Setanta is the payment to the Premier League is due on the fifteenth and they don't look like they will be able to make payment on it. To add icing on the cake, based on reports from the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times, administrators are on standby and could be brought in by weeks end.

Make no bones about it, Setanta Sports are in serious trouble. Between missing their goals on subscribers, unstable ownership at the top, and investors getting cold feet in a down economy, Setanta Sports is in a fight just to stay in business. Three things look to have led to their downfall in my mind. First being over bidding for the FA Cup, England Internationals and Rugby rights, second being having too many channels (eleven) and not enough money/viewers to go around, and finally losing half of their Premier League rights gave people in a down economy a reason to go ahead and drop the channel. All of that came together to put Setanta in the position they are in now.

My guess is Setanta is in administration on Thursday morning, right after screening the highlights of England v Andorra. With administration, the fire sale of rights will begin. the BBC can get the FA Cup back at the price they probably bid 2 years ago. ITV has already made a backdoor deal on the England internationals. The only other rights that would be of an issue are the Premier League. This would be the perfect time for ESPN to walk in and pick up the rights.

The only question I have is how does this affect Setanta Sports in countries like the US, Canada, Australia, Ireland and in Africa? My speculation is these channels are also in trouble, but not to the degree Setanta UK is. My hunch is Setanta has set up different companies in each country, but I seriously do not know. Leagues will have seen these developments in the UK and will probably play hard ball with Setanta Sports with regards to TV rights, wanting money up front.

What does this do to the Premier League rights in the United States? It throws ESPN and GolTV into play when rights are announced. There have been some talks inside inner circles that had Setanta Sports not picked up the rights to the CONMEBOL qualifiers in the US, Setanta could have been out of business already in the US. All I know is this is a story that needs to be followed closely because it's ramifications to the US market are simply too big to not care about. Will we see games on PPV, it's possible. However less EPL games will leave us more opportunity to watch other leagues like the Bundesliga, Serie A and La Liga.

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USA 2 Honduras 1: Job Done but Same Old Story.

06 June 2009

The United States knew what they had to do tonight. One point was not an option. No points may have been the spark of whole sale changes to the US National Team (I will concede they would have had to wait until after the Mexico game at Azteca to make those changes). The US needed to respond big and get three points.

When it was all said and done, it wasn't pretty. It was just what the USA needed as Carlos Bocanegra headed the United States past Honduras at a very Honduras partisan Soldier Field.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear, this was not a pretty game. It was everything you expected from a CONCACAF qualifier. Physical from minute one, the US being pressured at every turn and giving the ball up with ease. The opener was a joke giveaway from Dempsey. The bigger joke was the fact Carlos Costly got the ball in perfect shooting position. It was the horrific start that I envisioned and seriously wondered if the US had it in them to respond.

I will admit I was wrong. The US shook off the early jitters and responded with a passion that should be expected in every match. Their touches, crisp. Their passing, accurate. Their final product, still leaving something to be desired. Two players who deserve credit for getting the US back into this match are Conor Casey and Jonathan Spector. Casey did well inside the box, Spector did well to get balls into the mixer.

The US equalizer was deserved. After taking control of the match, Mario Beata turned into a Gaelic Footballer with his dribble. Only problem is you can't use the hands and with it being inside the box it was a stone cold penalty. Donovan finished with ease and was the just reward needed for their pressure heading into halftime. The game winner for the US, set piece magic. Perfect free kick, perfect flick central and the perfect diving header by Carlos Bocanegra. The US had the precious lead, but could they hold on...

That is because not long after giving the US the lead, Bocanegra ends up off the park due to injury and Jay DeMerit called in. Frankly he was not even adequate. Honduras had their seam in the middle of the defense to exploit and boy did they do so with regularity. With Beasley's inclusion, Honduras then had two points on the park to exploit, and they did so well. If not for Gooch and Tim Howard in the final quarter hour, we aren't talking three points. However the US held on for the win, and with El Salvador's shock win tonight against Mexico 2-1, could already have one foot in the door for World Cup 2010.

When it's all said and done, the performance wasn't convincing. The US again failed to score from open play, and had to rely on a penalty and a set piece to score. At the Confederations Cup, the US won't be so fortunate to get spot kicks and you can be certain teams will defend set pieces much better than Honduras did tonight. If anything, it was the same old same from the United States. That alone should be major cause for concern heading forward.

Other Talking Points
1) I don't care that we won, Bob Bradley and everyone else associated with Soccer House and the USSF better have a damn good reason why Jose Francisco Torres and Freddy Adu weren't even in the starting 18 for tonight's game. Frankly, both should be in the starting 11 for every match. It is embarrassing that two of your best players aren't even playing.

2) If Jay DeMerit is our third option at center back, the US is in more trouble than I thought. Again, it's a damn pity that Bob Bradley doesn't rate Michael Parkhurst.

3) I hope this wasn't a one off from Benny Feilhaber, who in forty-five minutes tonight looked impressive. If he continues to play like this and keeps his super-ego in check, then we have a very reliable option in midfield.

4) Based on performance tonight, I'd rather have Conor Casey starting than Brian Ching. I'm sure I will probably be in the minority on that one.

What are your thoughts on this US performance tonight? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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Costa Rica 3 USA 1: Same Old Story at Saprissa

04 June 2009

If US fans are looking for a powder puff piece from notes given by USSF to it's only credentialed writer in San Jose, you've come to the wrong place. If you're a US fan who expects me to treat this game like the US is now a big shot footballing power, read on and be prepared to be severely angered. If you're a US fan looking for a place to blow off some steam, you've come to exactly the right place.

I quite frankly don't know where to start with this game, so I'll start with some of the comments I've seen on other blogs lately. You should know the types 'we will get something out of our trip to Costa Rica', 'we are the best team in CONCACAF and will wipe the floor clean with Costa Rica and then Mexico at Azteca', oh and the 'it's time for people to realize we will have no problems getting out of our group at the World Cup'. They simply make me laugh to the point of tears. Tonight's performance better wake a few people up to the realization we still have a long way to go and getting to this upcoming World Cup isn't as guaranteed as you first thought prior to the 10:06 kickoff.

I have to admit when I saw the lineup I was a little bit pleased. I was happy to see Torres and Altidore start, I was not happy the US played DeMarcus Beasley in the back. The lineup read of going all guns a blazing in only hope. Hope only sprung eternal for 80 seconds. When Mastroeni and Torres were beaten and Saborio took that 30 yard shot, I knew it was going to end up in the back of the net. It was a shot that no keeper in the world would have ever saved, a special goal goal. At least it was a special goal. Eleven minute later the US go down 2-0, and in all honesty it was a goal that should have been avoided. The entire backline was to blame for failing to clear a ball that should have easily been cleared.

The US was severely fractured for the rest of the first half with no flow to their play. Costa Rica should have had at least two more goals before halftime, except Tim Howard did his best to keep this squad in a match that never looked winable. The US made sure they didn't have a prayer to win with their sub of Jose Francisco Torres for Sasha Kljestan. To date, it could be Bob Bradley's worst substitution.

The US had their share of the ball in the second half, but couldn't do anything with it. Costa Rica added a third for good effect, while the United States saw Michael Bradley and then Sasha Kljestan get yellow cards that will see them out of the game against Honduras on Saturday. Landon Donovan's penalty conversion only helps their goal difference. Even sadder was their first shot on target was only a couple of minutes prior.

Alot of glaring things stand out to me. The first thing is DeMarcus Beasley needs to be as far away from this national team. He has completely regressed as a player and now Bob Bradley is inventing excuses for playing him at left back. Secondly, Freddy Adu and Jose Francisco Torres have to start in the same midfield. Bob Bradley will have no excuse against Honduras because his two personal pets won't be able to play. Thirdly, Jozy Altidore has to be the central striker. Playing him out wide was nothing more than a cop out getting him in the starting lineup. Besides Landon Donovan, Altidore was the only other player who looked like he cared.

The US may have played their best game down in Costa Rica since the green concrete was laid, but the red white and blue are no where near a side that can be taken seriously on the international level. If you think this performance was bad, wait until we get taken to the cleaners in Mexico City. US fans have got to be more realistic in their expectations. The game against Honduras and the road trip to Mexico will more than likely between them only lead to one point, three points at the most. At most, we will only get one point in the Confederation Cup, and if you want Cousin Jurgen as manager, then expect worse performances than we saw tonight.

Tonight's performance disgusted me. The only problem is it didn't disgust me as much as the comments I saw before kickoff.

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Carlo Ancelotti to Chelsea: Scolari v 2.0?

01 June 2009

The world's worst kept footballing secret was confirmed today as Carlo Ancelotti, not twenty-four hours after leaving AC Milan, was promptly snatched up as manager at one of the most unstable clubs in recent memory (that would be Chelsea). I will admit right here that this blog is going to be a difficult one for me to write, but while a fan of the club, looking at Chelsea objectively has always burned me with other Chelsea fans. That won't stop me from calling things as I see them.

Looking at Ancelotti's CV, two things quickly stand out. The first being his Champions League success and the second being his lack of domestic titles. In his ten seasons at Juventus and AC Milan, he has three trips to the Champions League final; winning two. In that same time frame, he has only won the Serie A title once. At AC Milan, he was runner up to the league title three times (note, two of those runner up places were wiped from the record due to the Calciopoli scandal).

This seems to fit Papa Roman's MO perfectly. While he may front that the Premier League title is very important, he's all about the Champions League now. As long as Chelsea say in the top three in the Premier League, which Ancelotti should be able to do, Chelsea's only priority will be achieving the elusive goal of winning the Champions League. If Papa Roman is willing to actually give Ancelotti time, at least three seasons worth of time, Roman may get what he wants.

But we all know Roman Abramovich's habits. The word patience is not in his vocabulary. Last year when Scolari was appointed manager, I stated on record that I didn't like the hiring and that I thought it would go terribly wrong. As we all know, Scolari didn't last the season. My first reactions to this hiring was a simple one. It was the same reaction I had when Scolari was hired.

Ancelotti has put up with plenty of hell the last two years. An aging squad at AC Milan, an owner that demanded more than realistically could be done. Missing out on the Champions League and then being eliminated from the UEFA Cup when they were considered by most the clear favorites. Now at Chelsea, he's putting up with yet another aging squad that needs to be turned over in the next two seasons if it wants to move forward. Carlo is also dealing with the same type of owner who wants results now and no excuses when those results happen. In short, it's the ultimate recipe for ultimate disaster.

In short, the best thing Ancelotti could have done is taken a year out of the game and recharge his batteries. Money aside, there is no logical reason he would leave one hell and walk right into another. Sure we have found out that Ancelotti helped Roman a little bit last season in recommending some talents for the Chelsea squad, but if Carlo thinks for one minute that Roman won't give him the same treatment he's given the rest (save Uncle Guus), then he's wrong.

I don't see this marriage working out at all. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if by the end of next season, Hiddink isn't back at Chelsea in some role. Then cue all the talk of Guus Hiddink finishing out his career at Chelsea as manager.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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