US National Team
Well ... that was cathartic. Jurgen Klinsmann didn't do everything I'd have done, but he definitely got the formation and shape right. That's a big step in the right direction. Here are three things we learned from the US national team's first victory in Mexico in 75 years.
1. This is now Geoff Cameron's backline
We at MLSsoccer.com have been talking all week about how a generational shift in the center of defense has been needed.
Carlos Bocanegra has been a great captain and, at times, a great defender, but he's well past his prime. Oguchi Onyewu, meanwhile, simply hasn't ever recovered from that 2009 knee injury. We saw that much against Antigua and Barbuda. The other option recently has been Clarence Goodson, who is tissue-paper soft.
So that left first Bob Bradley, then Jurgen Klinsmann with the task of developing the next generation of central defenders, and to be honest, it didn't go as quickly as I'd have liked. I ripped Klinsmann in my column last Friday for sticking with the old guard for too long, and did the same to Bradley last summer after the Gold Cup disappointment.
The Antigua game, and the disappointing 1-1 draw with Guatemala that followed it, drove the point home, apparently. Klinsmann kicked "tried and true" to the curb in favor of Cameron and Maurice Edu, and was rewarded with one of the best defensive performances in years (this was miles better than the Italy game, in which the US were bailed out repeatedly by a flag-happy linesman).
Cameron was flawless for 80 minutes on the night, both in his distribution (expected) and positioning (a happy surprise). He'd struggled at times with Houston this year, playing more loosely than he should have. That was nowhere to be found against Mexico.
Edu was nearly as good, bar a couple of miscommunications in distribution. They both flagged down the final 10 minutes, but that's to be expected at the Azteca.
But man, was that a big step in the right direction.
The one concern now is that they both land with clubs that are only interested in playing them at midfield. Hopefully Stoke City and Valencia, or Ipswich Town, or whoever is going to sign Edu, watched this game and realized that these guys are defenders, not midfielders.
2. There may be no place to play Jose Torres against good competition
Look, he's gotten plenty of chances. On Wednesday he played 45 minutes with three defensive midfielders behind him, two pure attackers in front of him and a pair of fullbacks who could and would overlap if there was space. It was exactly what I asked for — a chance to see the guy playing his natural spot with plenty of support around him.
And Torres did nothing on either side of the ball. There is absolutely no reason to trust him against top competition at this point, especially if they're physical.
Would you want him out there against Jamaica next month when the games count?
Neither would I.
3. These aren't new tactics
When Klinsmann came aboard, he talked about playing a new, proactive style that would impose the game upon the opposition.
Those were his words. But his deeds have been the total opposite. His team stays deep, defends in numbers and punishes mistakes. They never hog the ball unless it happens to be against Scotland or the like.
That's been the recipe against top teams for 25 years (with a few exceptions). I recently rewatched the 0-0 draw from 1998 World Cup qualifying, and defensively it was pretty much a mirror image of this game.
So full credit to Klinsmann for realizing that, if he wants to write a new manual, he should at least master the old one first.
Michael Bradley wasn't called up to the US national team for Wednesday's match against Mexico because he's busy settling in at Italian Serie A club AS Roma.
Here's how it's going for him so far:
If you believe the reports, Clint Dempsey may very well land on Merseyside in England.
Just perhaps not in Liverpool FC colors.
The Daily Mail says that "Everton are considering rivaling Liverpool in the race to sign Clint Dempsey from Fulham."
David Moyes and Everton, big fans of American players over the years, have landed a windfall of cash after the transfer of Jack Rodwell to Manchester City and apparently are looking at potentially throwing some Clint's way as a replacement for Tim Cahill, who recently joined the New York Red Bulls.
It's probably not what the 29-year-old US national team star had in mind with one year remaining on his Fulham contract after making it abundantly clear he wanted to play in the UEFA Champions League.
The news out of England point to a disparity in Fulham's valuation on a transfer (reportedly $14 million) and what the likes of Liverpool and others are willing to offer (circa $7 million).
Dempsey was not called up by Jurgen Klinsmann for Wednesday night's US friendly in Mexico and he continues to train with Fulham's youth squad, apart from the first team.
According to the latest reports, the ex-New England Revolution player won't be there when Fulham opens the English Premier League season at home against Norwich City on Saturday.
"God with me partnerAin't no one for me to fearHindsight 20/20Future not as clear" (T.I.)
— Clint Dempsey (@clint_dempsey) August 14, 2012
Ce mercredi est principalement consacré aux équipes nationales, avec le match entre le Canada et Trinité-et-Tobago ainsi que le déplacement des États-Unis au Mexique. Ces deux duels amicaux servent à préparer la suite des éliminatoires de la Coupe du monde 2014, qui reprendront début septembre.
Avec un noyau on ne peut plus allégé, les Canadiens affronteront un adversaire réputé dans la Concacaf mais déjà hors-course pour le prochain Mondial. Pour les jeunes, il s’agira de se tailler une place dans l’effectif lorsque tout le monde sera là. Des joueurs aguerris comme Terry Dunfield et Patrice Bernier tenteront de convaincre leur sélectionneur Stephen Hart de les titulariser à l’avenir. L’échéance importante sera le Panama, avec un double duel les 7 et 11 septembre : malgré l’absence de nombreux titulaires, Bernier nous a expliqué dans le dernier numéro de Coup Franc l’utilité de ce match amical.
Les Américains tenteront de remporter leur première victoire au stade Azteca. Jürgen Klinsmann est très confiant et Chris Wondolowski compte profiter de brèches dans la défense mexicaine, en compagnie de Landon Donovan, dont l’avenir est incertain.
On jouera aussi en championnat ce soir… ce qui n’arrange pas tout le monde. Privé de leurs internationaux, Vancouver et Toronto recevront respectivement Dallas et Portland. Même épine dans le pied du LA Galaxy en déplacement à Columbus, où l’émotion sera à son comble pour le premier match depuis le décès de Kirk Urso.
19h00 : Canada - Trinité-et-Tobago
20h00 : Mexique - États-Unis
19h00 : Columbus - LA Galaxy
19h30 : Toronto - Portland
22h00 : Vancouver - Dallas
Toutes les heures HE (heure de New York et Montréal)
Rendez-vous ici pour la disponibilité des matchs sur MLS Live et les diffuseurs locaux
Hors États-Unis et Canada, vous pouvez voir des matchs de MLS via ces diffuseurs ou LiveSport.tv
You've probably heard by now that Maurice Edu is most likely going to get a start in central defense for the US against Mexico on Wednesday night.
Jurgen Klinsmann has his reasons. First and foremost is that none of the newcomers in the US central defensive player pool — including Geoff Cameron — have shown that they're ready to lock down a starting spot. So Klinsmann has to turn every card he can looking for an ace.
Secondly, though — and this is pure speculation on my part — this might be a chance for Valencia to see what Edu looks like on the backline against top competition.
Valencia have been the third-best team in Spain for about the past 15 years, meaning that their interest in Edu is a gigantic step up from Rangers, or whatever mid-table French side is pursuing him. And we know how Klinsmann feels about stepping up to the next level.
But there's virtually no chance that Edu can play in the midfield for a team of Valencia's caliber. He doesn't read the game well enough in 360 degrees, and is always more comfortable when things are playing out in front of him. We've also seen plenty of shanked 22-yard shots from him, enough to know that he's not going to add Michael Bradley-esque offense when pushing forward.
What Edu has the raw materials for, however, is the center of defense. I think Valencia see that much, and I also think that if he'd gone anywhere but Rangers he'd have been pushed into that spot after his great performance there in the 2008 Olympics.
So if you're a fan of both the US and La Liga, keep your fingers crossed that Edu has a blinder on Wednesday night. If he does, it could mean a move to the Mediterranean will soon follow.
Michael Bradley made his first appearance for Roma on Tuesday, but another American stole the show.
Terrence Boyd, who is starting his first season with Rapid Vienna, scored a spectacular bicycle kick from a save popped up by the Roma goalkeeper.
Just check out the video below. My words can't do it justice.
The final of the 2014 World Cup is two years from today. Amazing, huh? Seems like only yesterday, we were all huddled in soccer pubs and living rooms and tapas bars watching Spain beat the Netherlands in the final in Johannesburg.
But, in reality, that was a while ago. And now, everything is focused on 2014. Samba on the brain. Caipirinhas before dinner.
Seems like a good to look at what Jurgen Klinsmann's US national team needs to do to get to Rio.
Qualifying – "The Semifinals"
Technically, the current round of qualifying is called the Third Round. It's a group stage, and the US are in good shape after two matches. They beat Antigua and Barbuda 3-1 in Tampa on June 6 and then drew with Guatemala down in Central America four days later.
So at this point, the US are tied with Jamaica at the top of Group A, with four more matches to play.
That Guatemala away game would traditionally be the most difficult one of this round. But this cycle is a little different.
The trip down to Jamaica – who have improved greatly in the past few years – on September 7 will not be a Rastafarian walk in the park. It's made trickier because the two nations square off just four days later in Columbus. Klinsmann will have to manage his roster and squad smartly to avoid fatigue and any letdown in the second match.
Other than that is the away game in Antigua and Barbuda, on October 12, which will indeed be a walk in the park. The return match against Guatemala, at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City on October 16, won't be an easy three points, but the hope is that by then, the US won't need points. By then, they should've clinched a spot in the next round.
My guess is that the US will get nine more points – I think they'll struggle in Kingston – and move on without too many issues.
Qualifying – "The Hex"
Everyone's favorite game of Russian Roulette – the final round of qualifying for CONCACAF. Here are the most likely countries with bullets in the chamber:
Mexico: The Gold Cup champions are perfect in qualifying so far and will eventually cruise through.
Costa Rica: Los Ticos have been here before, and although they slipped up at home against El Salvador, they have enough firepower and experience (e.g. RSL's Alvaro Saborio) to make it.
Honduras: Loaded with familiar names, such as Sporting KC's Roger Espinoza and New England's Jerry Bengtson, los Catrachos are not the powerhouse they were a few years ago, but they still have enough to make the Hex.
Jamaica: This is the year for the Reggae Boyz – led by Colorado's Omar Cummings and Vancouver's Darren Mattocks – to make another serious run at a World Cup berth for the first time since 1998.
The sixth country is probably going to be either Panama or Canada.
Panama look very good through the first two matches, securing two wins, including a 2-0 shocker in Honduras. The other one, though, was a squeaker at home to unfancied Cuba. Still, Blas Pérez and the Panamanians are alone at the top of the Third Round Group C.
But Canada are nipping at their heels after battling for a win in Havana and then earning a draw at home against Honduras. They're in a good position, but will probably need to beat Panama at home and earn a result on the road against either Honduras or Panama.
No matter who makes it, the Hex will be rough road for the US, as it always has been. Klinsi got his first taste of life in CONCACAF when the US went to Guatemala. But the quality is better in the Hex. And the urgency, too.
The US has done well in the Hex recently, coming on top of the final six in each of the past two qualifying tournaments. But this is a different Mexican team than in the past – maybe the best Tri we've ever seen.
But the Yanks don't have to top the group. Just finish in the top three. Most likely, the cut-off for qualifying will be 16 points. That's what it was in 2010 and 2006. It was 17 in 2002, the last time the US qualified in the third spot.
Qualifying – Interconfederation Playoffs
What if the US stumble in the Hex and somehow finish out of the top three? Well, all is not lost. In fact, this year, the scheduling gods have smiled on CONCACAF: The fourth-place team in the Hex will still have a chance to get in through an inter-confederation playoff against the top qualifier from Oceania (a.k.a., New Zealand).
Last time out the playoff was between CONCACAF's fourth-place finisher and South America's fifth-place finisher. Costa Rica lost to Uruguay, as expected.
The hope for US fans, of course, is that it never gets to that point.
Remember that age-old mantra reminding you to be comfortable in your own skin? Well, a couple of US national teamers went a step further.
Men's captain Carlos Bocanegra and women's superstar Abby Wambach were not camera-shy when ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue came calling. Both Bocanegra and Wambach shed some skin – and some visual insight – into what the soccer bodies look like from two of America's best.
The body of a soccer player, like any athlete, is defined as much by its impressive and imposing physicality as it is its ability to withstand the daily beating it takes.
"When you play soccer, you are going to get cut, you are going to get bruised," explains Wambach. "If sitiches have to happen, if staples have to come, that's just part of the game – just take it."
Also included in the fourth annual publication are the NFL's Rob Gronkowski, the WNBA's Candace Parker and the NBA's Tyson Chandler, among others.
Brendan Rodgers has high hopes for Liverpool – and he's wasting no time trying to reinforce his squad for that pursuit.
The newly appointed manager is eager to make his first signing since taking over the Reds on June 1, and one of his first targets happens to be US international Clint Dempsey.
According to a report by the English newspaper The Mirror, Rodgers and the Liverpool front office are set to bid £7.5 million in an attempt to pry the English Premier League's fourth-leading scorer in 2011-12 away from Fulham's Craven Cottage and north to Anfield.
A deal could be completed as early as Wednesday, if you believe the report, as Liverpool hope to lock up Deuce before their trip to the United States next week.
If the transfer goes down, what do you think of the move?
After Sporting Kansas City's scoreless draw with Houston on Saturday, Carlos Bocanegra gave some insight into a situation still developing some 4,000 miles away in Glasgow, Scotland.
Like his Rangers teammates Maurice Edu and Alejandro Bedoya, Bocanegra faces a decision about his future at Rangers after the club went into administration and is on the verge of being forced into Scotland's lower divisions. Unlike his teammates, though, the US defender has been consistently linked with MLS and spoke to SKC play-by-play man Callum Williams about that very possibility.
Watch the video above to see what Bocanegra has to say and check out this report with more insight into his thoughts on the current state of the club and Scottish football.