The Third Half 4: Post Gold Cup Reaction

27 July 2009

The Third Half returns after the conclusion of the Gold Cup to discuss all things US National Team. Are US fans delusional in their expectations? What exactly has Bob Bradley learned from this competition? Why this 5-0 result should matter, regardless of who is on the squad?

Join me and Kartik Krishnaiyer of Major League Soccer Talk, The Kartik Report, and Man City Blog fame as we answer those questions and plenty more. We even get into a little Manchester City talk at the end.

Don't forget to sign up to directly get the podcast on iTunes or directly download here. You can always leave feedback here or at thethirdhalf@thethirdhalf.org.

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USA 0 Mexico 5: 45 Minutes of Hell

26 July 2009

Delusional fans of the United States need not read this, the brunt honesty will hurt too much. If you can take a dose of reality, I encourage you to continue reading past this point.

In truth, I didn't even want to write on this Gold Cup. It just seemed a meaningless exercise between the smaller nation's 'A' sides and the bigger nations 'B' or 'C' sides. I pretty much figured the US or Mexico would be helped along the way to the final and from there the best side would win. When it was all said and done, Mexico was clearly that side. In a 45 minute footballing masterclass, the US scrubs were taken behind the wood shed and beaten 5-0 in what will no doubt be the moment Mexico turns things around.

The first surprise was the ultra pro Mexico crowd that was at Giants Stadium. I expected a few more US fans, but it truly was Azteca north. The second thing that surprised me was the pitch. The grass looked like it was quickly and poorly laid, but the size was as close to 70 yards as I can remember it in a long time, if ever. The final thing that surprised me was how the first half ended up playing out.

The first half was pretty tame, not much to write home about. Mexico controlled the opening exchanges while the United States got their grounding in the match. After that, the United States took firm control of the match. However with that control, their final ball severely failed them. Stuart Holden did well with deliveries in, but no one could direct them goal bound. Kyle Beckerman's attempts at being a goal scorer on the day were just comical at best. Mexico did about as well as could be expected with the pressure, looking for the moment that they could turn the screw. That moment came in the forty-fourth minute. While Medina was unable to do anything with the excellent service, it gave Mexico the proof the United States could be broken on the counter. It was confirmed when Dos Santos countered off a US free kick in stoppage time that Medina put just wide. Javier Aguirre had his half time team talk written by the final 4 minutes of the first half.

The measure of a good manager, regardless of level, is how well you make adjustments at halftime. At halftime, Bob Bradley must have thought controlling the majority of the play would be good enough as he made no changes. Aguirre saw that the US could be broken down with ease and brought in his most dangerous weapon into the match; Carlos Vela. While the second half started much like the first; once Vela got grounded in the game, it was over as a competitive contest for the United States.

While it seems everyone is pointing to the fifty-sixth minute as the moment the game changed, I severely disagree with that statement. The fact the US could not put a goal in while on the front foot, plus the two counter attacking chances at the end of the first half was where this game changed. I am pretty confident had Medina not had those two chances on goal, Carlos Vela does not come on to start the second half. Looking at the penalty decision, it was a perfect ball in by Vela to Dos Santos and Jay Heaps was just stupid. Any amount of shirt pulling is grounds for a foul and Dos Santos took full advantage of it. As for this 'elbow' I don't see it as a deliberate elbow. Dos Santos was simply trying to keep his balance. Letter of the law Campbell was correct in calling for the penalty and Torrado had no doubt on the finish. Before everyone cries that I am not calling Campbell out for the decision not to penalize Mexico for the same offense in the first half off a corner, Mexico should have been called for a penalty on the shirt pull on Clarence Goodson inside fifteen minutes. It was more obvious than the Heaps tug.

From there, the US ran out of gas and the goals that came were just more and more difficult to watch. The US tried to run a high line defensively as they tried in vain to get back in the match. Jay Heaps sending off was just a matter of time. As Mexico was running out the clock they added a fifth, showing Brian Ching's message after the fourth goal didn't get across. I was just happy to see full time as surely it couldn't get any worse.

So what has the US learned and what should the fans be looking at? Let's take a look below.
1) All the talk about the gap between MLS and the FMF being close needs to stop and stop pronto. A side mostly made up from Mexico's top flight (yes Vela and Dos Santos play in Europe) took a bunch of MLS players to school today. Yes it is wise to blood let US players, but it needs to be in friendlies against top notch opposition.

2) The depth Bob Bradley has at his disposal for this squad is pretty thin. Maybe it is time for us to apologize over the 'same old same' policy Bob Bradley has had in calling squads in. He found out what a special talent Charlie Davies is during the Confederations Cup. Only two players out of this competition should get looks with the full national team; those players are Stuart Holden and Kyle Beckerman. Yes Beckerman had a bad game today, but based on the whole competition, he has to get a look. Santino Quaranta should also get a look, but I don't see him in any other role than as a super sub.

3) Bob Bradley has got to learn how to make halftime tactical adjustments and quit being afraid to pull the trigger when it's needed the most. Then again, we should be use to that already. Until he can, it will continue to hold us back. Then again, we should be use to that already.

While this is a bit tough to take, it will be tougher to take next month. I do not think the US has any shot at all in winning down at Azteca and think we will lose 3-0. Is this the game that could turn around Mexico's fortunes? I believe it is; however, they still have some work to do in order to guarantee qualification for the 2010 World Cup. The US needs to quickly forget this loss and look toward the 'A' squad to get them back on track. Sadly, I think it will be after a second consecutive loss to Mexico next month.

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Setanta Ireland Announces Prem Fixtures, A Glimpse of What is to Come Stateside?

21 July 2009

Every year when Setanta Ireland announces it's traditional kickoff TV schedule, I look closely. Reason being is the fixture list is almost identical to the games we see on Setanta US in the same time slot. With that said, could these be the games we see on Saturday mornings at 10 am on Setanta Sports?

Aug 15: Blackburn Rovers v Manchester City

Aug 22: Wigan Athletic v Manchester United

Aug 29: Bolton Wanderers v Liverpool

Sept 12: Liverpool v Burnley

Sept 19: Arsenal v Wigan Athletic

Sept 26: Stoke City v Manchester United

Oct 3: Bolton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur

Oct 17: Bolton Wanderers v Tottenham Hotspur

Oct 24: Manchester City v Fulham

Oct 31: Fulham v Liverpool

Nov 7: Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland

Nov 21: Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Nov 28: Portsmouth v Manchester United

Please note this is not a concrete schedule and until FSC finalizes it's live selection (as of this writing, they have only August games on their schedule), this is only pure speculation to what Setanta US will be offering.

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Football Hodgepodge: Premier League Thoughts and World Cup Plans in America

19 July 2009

There really hasn't been much lately for me to just write on one topic, so tonight I'm going to hit on a bunch of unrelated topics.

* I feel for those affected by the tragedy in Indonesia, but with the bombings that took place Friday morning, I am confident in saying that Indonesia won't be seeing a major touring team come through anytime in the next five years. I get why Manchester United does these tours of Southeast Asia, but I think they will be thinking of better venues to travel to next summer. To have the hotel you were going to stay in be bombed tends to make changes to future plans.

* So Ray Stubbs is leaving the safe confines of the BBC to take over the main presenters job at ESPN UK. I don't see it. Stubbs is not that great of a presenter and I'm sure the BBC secretly celebrated this move. While I wasn't fond of the guy who did the Setatna Sports coverage, he would have been a MUCH BETTER choice than Stubbs, and I can't even remember his name. It also looks like Rebecca Lowe will be his number two while Jon Champion is in the lead to be the main play by play guy. I wonder if he moves the Commontweeter gimmick over to ESPN?

* I was tempted to just write a blog on this, but I can say it much more concisely here. Watching ESPN2's four hour football block yesterday was an interesting contrast. I am not the biggest Alexi Lalas fan in the world, but his color with Rob Stone on the Toronto/Houston match was pretty decent. In fact the pairing of Stone/Lalas was damn good. On the other hand, having to put up with JP Dellacamera and John Harkes was just pure torture. They have completely given up as broadcasters and need to be replaced. When a team doing their first match together after plucked out of the halftime booth do a much better job than you, it's time to consider how professional you intend to be, because it's obvious you aren't.

* Chelsea/Seattle was a pretty good caliber of football. For Chelsea's first run out under Carlo Ancelotti, there were a few issues that needed to be addressed. The back four look in total disarray and I think that is based on the fact John Terry is being a punk. He simply needs to make up his mind and let the world know if he wants to stay at Chelsea or not. The media speculation is not helping him at all. Secondly, Petr Cech is just Petr Cech now and I don't think that's a good thing. I know he's a big name keeper, but his decision making is just mind boggling at times. I thought Sturridge was decent, but the link play could have been better. The only thing I felt bad about was Seattle not scoring, they deserved at least one.

* So for now, Adebayor is the highest paid Premier League player? I wonder if that changes anytime soon?

* So Barry Ferguson has reunited with Alex McLeish. To go from Rangers to Birmingham City shows exactly how unwanted he was after flashing the V for Scotland. I hope he enjoys life in the Championship this time next season.

* Gareth Barry is not doing a good enough job convincing us his move to Manchester City was not based on money. Look ambition only gets a club so far, and the money hasn't exactly brought in real big names. Frankly Gareth, you aren't that big of a name. As long as Mark Hughes is still manager of this outfit, City will be lucky to qualify for the European second division of bitches (aka the Europa League).

* Only one tie stands out to me in the third round of Champions League non-champions qualification. Sorry Celtic fans, it isn't your lot. That tie: Sporting Clube de Portugal v FC Twente. McClaren just can't catch a break in the Champions League. If he gets past this round, it only gets worse for the fourth round. As for Fulham, looks like Roy Hodgeson will get a trip back to Finland for their first venture into Europe.

* Thanks to chief editor Jeff Hash for these nuggets via Multichannel News about the 2010 World Cup. ESPN will be airing the World Cup draw live on December 4th, but hasn't decided what channel it will air on. The draw will be available on ESPN360. A big bonus for those masses that will be getting ESPN360 by the 2010 World Cup is they will be airing games in multiple languages outside of the usual English and Spanish. ESPN is also looking to add non-US friendlies to their schedule in the run up to the event. Another thing is Univision will be streaming all matches online. They are also going to be showing all games in HD and are working on finalizing on-demand plans. While Fox Soccer Channel can't show World Cup highlights during the 2010 World Cup, they will be doing a mini-series on the history of the world cup that will air in 2010. They will also be doing a series of previews titled 'Passport to South Africa' and after each match day, a show discussing the action titled 'Ticket to South Africa'. GolTV will have a crew on site in South Africa and the 2010 Report will be making a nightly appearance during the competition.

I will be releasing my next podcast post Gold Cup and from there, it will be a race to the start of the Bundesliga and Premier League seasons. I'm already working on my previews for the upcoming season in the Premier League. It is more likely I will devote a podcast to previewing the Bundesliga season.

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David Beckham: Is Manchester City Next?

14 July 2009

Cue the bloody obvious: David Beckham would consider a return to the Premier League even if it meant not playing at Manchester United.

That has to be the world's worst kept secret. However, David Beckham is concerned about two things and two things only; playing in next year's World Cup and seeing his pay packet grow. He has to know deep down that no club in Spain or Italy will give him a chance at the end of this current MLS season, and you can forget Beckham playing in Germany, France, or Holland. That, logically, only left one choice for Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment group to consider; the Premier League.

As for David Beckham's pay packet, I don't see many clubs in Europe willing to offer the massive contract the Los Angeles Galaxy did three short years ago. Looking at the logical suitors in the Premier League: Arsenal won't pay him the wages required, Chelsea's midfield is already stacked with big names, Liverpool wouldn't suit Beckham as the flanks have better field players, and there's no way Beckham goes to Manchester United as long as Sir Alex Ferguson is still there.

Enter the new boys on the block, Manchester City. Besides Real Madrid, Manchester City have been attempting to splash the cash at every opportunity. 32 million for Carlos Tevez? Check. A nearly done deal that would cost 25 million for Emmanuel Adebayor? Check. Twelve million on Gareth Barry? Check. A potential 40 million for John Terry and 20 million for Joleon Lescott? Check. An attempted 25 million to secure Samuel Eto'o from Barcelona? Check.

Considering Manchester City's modus operandi, David Beckham fits the mold of player Manchester City would go after. He's one of the biggest names the world over and will need to find a club to keep match fit before the World Cup. Manchester City will have to continue to overspend on players and I could see them doing so for Beckham. A major plus for the blue side of Manchester is the fact he will be on a free transfer, meaning they will be able to spend a little more on potential wages.

Yes, I get this is the silly season and I know this sounds completely outrageous. However, considering how outrageous Manchester City have been in their attempts to spend cash, this isn't out of the realm of possibility. If it does happen, it won't be me saying I told you so. Those honors will go to my chief editor.

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John Terry: One Man, Two Billionaire Egos

06 July 2009

While not on the same level of the transfer talk last summer of Cristiano Ronaldo, all this John Terry to Manchester City talk has the same feeling we all had over the Gareth Barry to Liverpool debate. In other words, MAKE ALL THIS NONSENSE STOP AND MAKE IT STOP NOW!

Manchester City have already spent this summer getting rid of a very competent striker, giving their midfield that LA rush hour traffic feel, all while neglecting their back line. Sure Shay Given is an exceptionally under rated keeper, but he can't do much with the Swiss cheese he has in front of him. Naturally, only 'big' names will do for these wealthy Arab owners, and they have put a bulls eye on the bad back of John Terry.

On the other hand, we have Roman Abramovich, the man who ushered in this era of big money spending in the Premier League. With over the top transfer fees and weekly wages that will permanently keep Chelsea operating at a loss, Roman has done everything he can to keep Chelsea at the top. Part of that operation has been paying England National Team captain John Terry 135,000 pounds a week; and putting provisions in his contract to keep him as the highest paid Chelsea player and to give him a coaching role at the club should he retire. That is despite the fact he has had back problems and has lost a step or two of pace.

So we first hear Chelsea reject a thirty million pound offer saying that John Terry is not for sale. Then we hear the rumors that Manchester City are prepared to launch a 35 million pound bid to Chelsea and off Terry a contract close to 300,000 pounds a week. That is then countered by reports saying City are ready to offer 45 million for the player, but the contract would be around 180,000 pounds. Carlo Ancelotti on Monday said that Terry would be captain at Chelsea. That still won't stop Manchester City from making that 45 million pound bid though; and with the wages reportedly offered, it would be difficult for John Terry to outright say no. It also doesn't help that John Terry and Mark Hughes were spotted at the same hotel last week.

I will continue to preach that Chelsea need to overhaul their roster, and injury prone players like John Terry need to go. Yes it is hard for me to keep my Chelsea bias out of this, but quite frankly I've grown sick and tired of Terry's act. His screaming like a little baby if things don't go his way, his 'motivation' that looks more of in-fighting, and his thinking he is above the team. If Manchester City are stupid enough to offer Roman 45 million for the player, I'm taking the money and laughing my way to the bank.

On the whole however, I see this now as nothing more than a ploy by John Terry and his agent to get a substantial pay raise at Chelsea. A pay raise that will make him the most uncontrollable player in England. Carlo Ancelotti may want to keep John Terry at Chelsea, but at what price to the squad? At what price will Ancelotti go to have complete control of the dressing room if Terry gets his way and stays at Chelsea?

In the end, it maybe John Terry who has the biggest ego of the bunch; the biggest ego of all.

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Owen to United Shows Hard Lesson for the Premier League Elite

02 July 2009

Not much in football surprises me. Reading reports that Michael Owen is set to complete a move to Manchester United, however, did.

For Michael Owen, this is a great move. At 29, this was his last chance to make an impact in any top flight. It also gives him an opportunity to prove to Fabio Capello that he is still worthy of the Three Lions shirt. With Rooney at the club, it would be a good way to show that the partnership can work. My guess would be Owen up top with Rooney in behind. To make matters better for Owen, it ends all the talk of him going to either Stoke City or Hull City. While Aston Villa and Everton had a shout of picking up the player, I don't think the pay packet would still have suited Owen (despite the pay cut he's taking to play at Manchester United).

For Manchester United, this move almost reads of desperation. Not 48 hours ago, they were linked to Karim Benzema. Today they are picking apart the dead carcass of Newcastle United. Granted Michael Owen is still a highly competent player, but the time spent out injured of late has to raise some red flag. Yes when healthy, Owen still scores on average every other game. That's the problem though; there is no recent history that shows that Michael Owen can stay healthy over the course of the season. Make no mistakes about it, despite the relatively small price tag (free transfer and reportedly incentive based contract), this is a gamble of the highest sorts.

On a whole however, this should send a loud and clear message to the Premier League elite. That message: just because it's England and just because it's the Premier League, don't expect to see too many elite players sign this summer and for many more summers to come. Yes, I know that is a bitter pill to swallow for many who follow the English game, but it's the frank truth. While the economy is bad everywhere, the final nail in the coffin happened earlier this year when the British House of Commons, in effect, cut footballer's salaries in half. It's what has Arshavin unhappy with Arsenal. It's also going to make it very difficult for players to make England a first choice destination for top foreign talent.

Let's face it, while these are very talented players, their wage packet nowadays comes first. When you can keep more of your money in Germany, Italy, or Spain, you are going to move their first. The allure of the Premier League has been destroyed over the past couple years with the articles about foreign players complaining about the horrible weather and even worse food. On the footballing front, England is one of the least technical leagues amongst the big leagues in the world. While the last point doesn't bother me, I know it has to bother some players who go to training and see bad training practices day in and day out. I wouldn't be surprised if, when it's all said and done, we see a mass exodus of foreign players next summer.

If the last forty-eight hours haven't shown those who follow the Premier League is in for a bumpy ride, then I would love to take a visit to your never never land when I need a break from reality. While it maybe a good move for Michael Owen, it's a sure sign the Premier League could be in for some lean times ahead.

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The Third Half 3: Confederations Cup Recap

01 July 2009

The latest edition of The Third Half Podcast is now available.

We start this Confederations Cup recap with Chris Oakley from Some People Are On The Pitch for a more general overview of the competition and how South Africa did both as a host nation but also how the South African National Team performed.

Kartik Krishnaiyer then joins us to give the US perspective on the competition, and what expectations should be going into the Gold Cup.

The podcast is now available on iTunes so subscribe now! You can also download the show directly from here. Comments are welcome not only here, but at thethirdhalf@thethirdhalf.org.

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About This Blog

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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