US National Team
En ce milieu de semaine, tant le Canada que les États-Unis voient leurs meilleurs clubs et joueurs se battre pour gagner ou conserver leur place sur la scène internationale.
Ainsi, Vancouver et Montréal s’affronteront ce soir (22h00 HE, direct Sportsnet et TVA Sports) en finale retour du Championnat canadien Amway (aller 0-0) avec pour enjeux la Coupe des Voyageurs et la place canadienne en Ligue des champions, ce qui serait une double première pour la formation basée en Colombie-Britannique. Elle partira avec l’avantage du terrain et mise sur ses joueurs expérimentés pour hausser son niveau. Les visiteurs ne comptent pas jouer avec le frein à main, sachant que le fameux but à l’extérieur pourrait être dévastateur pour leurs hôtes. Une longue partie de l'émission Coup Franc de cette semaine est consacrée à ce duel.
Pendant qu’on en est à l’apothéose au Canada, les États-Unis ne sont qu’aux prémices de l’édition 2013 de leur coupe nationale. Le stade des seizièmes de finale (3e tour) voit l’entrée en lice des clubs de MLS : Colorado et San José sont tombés hier, et d’autres seront en péril ce soir.
Mais les yeux des amateurs de soccer américains seront surtout rivés sur leur équipe nationale, qui accueille la Belgique en match amical (20h11 HE, ESPN). Les deux formations préparent d’importantes échéances en éliminatoires de la Coupe du monde. Les Américains s’attendent à un affrontement difficile, avec une défense qui aura fort à faire contre un des adversaires les plus redoutables qu’ils ont affronté ces derniers temps. Les Diables Rouges prennent ce match au sérieux et veulent montrer que leur voyage de ce côté de l’Atlantique n’est pas une colonie de vacances en battant « une équipe qui est en train de grandir ».
Hier, c’était le Costa Rica qui préparait ses rendez-vous qualificatifs pour le Brésil. Il s’est imposé 0-1 à Edmonton contre une jeune équipe canadienne qui n’a toujours pas gagné cette année mais n’éprouve aucune anxiété particulière à quelques semaines de la Gold Cup.
Jurgen Klinsmann dropped an intriguing tweet into the Twitter timelines of US soccer fans on Tuesday morning, announcing that he had made the 6,000-plus-mile journey from Southern California to São Paulo, Brazil.
The US national team boss flew south to catch Tuesday's pivotal Copa Libertadores match between Palmeiras and reigning Mexican champions Club Tijuana (9 pm ET, Fox Deportes), where US internationals Joe Corona and Edgar Castillo are likely to feature for Los Xolos as they seek to advance to the quarterfinals of South America's most prestigious club tournament.
— Jürgen Klinsmann (@J_Klinsmann) May 14, 2013
With Tijuana facing an uphill battle far from home thanks to last month's 0-0 first-leg stalemate in Mexico, the big match at Estádio Pacaembú should provide Klinsmann with a useful perspective on the gringo duo's form and mentality as he prepares his roster for the USA's upcoming slate of friendlies and World Cup qualifiers.
Yet that's surely not the only reason the German-American coach has made the draining voyage across five time zones and many, many miles.
The USMNT's place in World Cup 2014 is far from assured and their destinations will not be known until next year's draw. But Klinsmann is a meticulous planner and he is probably taking this opportunity to scout the lay of the land where his team will – should their ship stay on course in the next few months – spend a month or more next summer.
São Paulo is one of 12 host cities for next summer's tournament, with both group-round and knockout matches scheduled to take place at the new Arena Corinthians, the future home of Palmeiras' cross-town rivals Corinthians, which is scheduled for completion later this year.
With the sprawling metropolis located in relative proximity to fellow host cities Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre, it would offer a decent home base for the Yanks should they receive a southern Brazilian posting from FIFA. However, Brazil's somewhat controversial decision to make World Cup venues out of several distant northern and interior destinations means that it's likely too early to start reserving hotels and training grounds just yet.
São Paulo sits just far enough from the Atlantic Ocean for Klinsmann to miss out on the nation's famous beach culture on this trip. The chopper pilot-in-training might have been tempted to take his flight log with him, though – because epic density and congestion has made it one of the most helicopter-friendly cities on earth, with many well-to-do Paulistas avoiding horrendous traffic jams by commuting via rotary-wing aircraft.
ESPN may have finally exhausted its full allotment of Barclays Premier League television broadcasting rights – they'll relinquish that hold to the NBC Sports Group in the fall – and the broadcasting behemoth may only have one more World Cup to televise before FOX Sports takes over in 2018, but that doesn't mean the Worldwide Leader is looking to get out of the soccer business anytime soon.
ESPN announced on Tuesday morning that the network will launch a brand new, highlights-driven soccer studio show called "ESPN FC" later this year, set to hit cable boxes on August 11. The 30-minute show, which will air Sunday through Friday each week, will be shown primarily on ESPN2 six days a week, with the Sunday edition spanning an hour. ESPN FC's daily scheduling has not yet been announced, but soccer fans around the United States will be hoping for a prime, mid-morning or early evening time slot.
ESPN recently rebranded its online soccer coverage with a change from the old ESPN Soccernet to the new ESPN FC iteration, and the broadcast side will focus primarily on the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Spain's La Liga, the US and Mexican national teams and, of course, Major League Soccer.
Some of the regular contributors to ESPN's digital and television soccer coverage – and potential on-air personalities for ESPN FC – include the likes of Derek Rae, Tommy Smyth, Shaka Hislop, Gabriele Marcotti and Janus Michalik. ESPN also boasts a stable of MLS-centric commentators and analysts such as Adrian Healey and former MLS-ers Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman. With Premier League and World Cup rights going the way of other broadcasting companies, MLS could be in a position to move closer to the forefront of ESPN's soccer coverage, both on television and digitally.
ESPN and ESPN2 have been a longtime official television broadcast partner of Major League Soccer since the league's inaugural season in 1996. The current broadcast agreement between MLS and ESPN runs until the end of 2014, with the network carrying 20 2013 regular-season games.
Stay tuned for further news regarding ESPN FC in the coming weeks and months. Who would you like to see spearhead this new venture for ESPN?
UPDATE: SI.com's Grant Wahl on a potential time slot...
Hearing ESPN's daily soccer show starting in August will not be a wee-hours broadcast and will be shown at an easy-to-view time.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 14, 2013
We already know the British tabloids can be over the top and insensitive when it comes to issues they don't understand, but perhaps no one in the American soccer community knows that better than US national team and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard.
The World Cup veteran and national team fixture since 2007 has gone from being called "disabled" and "retarded" by the British press when he moved to Manchester United in 2003 to something of a club legend and cult hero for current club Everton, all in the space of a decade.
Not only has Howard learned to cope with the Tourette's syndrome that accompanied him his entire life, but he's now raising awareness among children. The message? Tourette's hasn't defined Howard, and nor should it define them.
In the April-May issue of Neurology Now, Howard spoke at length about his life with Tourette's from his childhood struggles to life in the spotlight as a Manchester United and Everton star.
Said Howard of being a little boy with TS: “From the age of 9 to 15, it was just this chaos of different tics, and they were pretty strong. I would just begin to figure out how a tic worked with my body, and, bam, six months or a year later, a new tic would come.”
“On the field I wasn't Tim who had TS or Tim who had tics. I was Tim who scored goals or scored baskets or hit home runs.”
These days, Howard keep the goals out, but you can't help but admire him for pressing on and passing his message onto others with similar challenges.
Howard isn't the only professional athlete who thrived despite the sometimes nasty disorder. Former Major League Baseball player Jim Eisenreich had a 15-year career in the big leagues, while former NBA player Chris Jackson, who Howard himself cites as a role model in his early years with TS, was a first-round draft pick in 1990 and enjoyed a 15-year career in America, Europe and Asia.
Is the quest for a place in the UEFA Champions League comparable to liberating a faraway kingdom from a terrible dragon?
That might be a good question for Tottenham and US national team star Clint Dempsey, who is one of many English Premier League players taking part in “Premier League Reading Stars,” a commendable project intended to develop and encourage reading skills among children in the United Kingdom.
Deuce's favorite book? J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy classic The Hobbit, which he enthusiastically describes as “a good read” and “a story about personal growth” in a video for the project.
“It's being able to go outside the comforts of your own home, and go out into the real world and see what's out there,” said the Texan as he explained why he loves the 75-year-old tale. “And even though it's going to be tough, and it's going to be ups and downs, it's about the adventure that you would've never got if you'd never left home. Without putting yourself outside your comfort zone, you don't know what you're capable of doing.”
As Dempsey narrates the harrowing adventures of Bilbo Baggins and his colleagues, it's not hard to see parallels with Dempsey's own professional journey from an unheralded rookie with the New England Revolution to USMNT captain and standout performer in one of the world's toughest leagues.
“He was able to find that he had a lot of strength inside himself and that there were a lot of things he could accomplish,” said Dempsey of Baggins. “I think it's a great story about how you find strength from within, and strength from putting yourself in uncomfortable situations sometimes and being able to prevail.”
Though he's since moved on to become Toronto FC's head coach, Ryan Nelsen is also featured in “Premier League Reading Stars” with footage recorded during his final season as a player with Queens Park Rangers.
Nelsen picked a slightly different book, one from his five-year-old son's current rotation: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
“It just has a good buzz and wording to it, you can kind of sing it or you can read it,” said Nelsen. “My son absolutely loves it."
Consider it their very own Columbus Crew Stadium.
The Costa Rican soccer federation is set to decide on Wednesday whether to stage the Sept. 6 World Cup qualifier against the US national team at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, where the USMNT has never won, or at the newly constructed Estadio Nacional, which opened its doors in March 2011.
The artificial turf and the proximity of fans to the field and lockers have made the Estadio Saprissa a nightmare venue for the USMNT, living up to its nickname the "Monster's Cave." And the Costa Ricans know it.
The new Estadio Nacional, where Costa Rica have played their recent matches, was a gift by the Chinese government and features a pristine grass surface.
"I only want to confirm what I've been saying: Both stadiums are useful to the national team," said Costa Rica manager Jorge Luis Pinto in November 2012. "When we believe it's convenient, we'll use Saprissa or the National Stadium."
Especially in light of the SnowClasico victory by the USMNT — Costa Rica's protest of the match was struck down by FIFA — the Ticos want to do their best to exact some serious revenge on Jurgen Klinsmann & Co.
There's one hitch: Apparently the state of the artificial turf at Estadio Saprissa is such that it's not even clear that the Costa Rican national team players want to play on it.
USMNT at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa (last six matches)
Dec. 1, 1996 -- Costa Rica 2, USA 1
March 23, 1997 -- Costa Rica 3, USA 2
July 23, 2000 - Costa Rica 2, USA 1
Sept. 5, 2001 -- Costa Rica 2, USA 0
Oct. 8, 2005 -- Costa Rica 3, USA 0
June 3, 2009 -- Costa Rica 3, USA 1
On Tuesday night Seattle fans were directing "Sounders Reject" chants at USMNT forward Herculez Gomez in the first half, only to get their comeuppance after he scored the game-winner for Mexican side Santos Laguna in their Champions League semifinal first leg.
Gomez was loaned out to the Sounders in their USL days while he was still an LA Galaxy player.
“I love it. Being called a Sounders’ reject – any kind of reject – digs deep. It fuels fire,” Gomez said after the match. “I didn’t have the easiest go at the beginning of my career, so any chance I can get to definitely redeem myself is a good chance.”
So now what happens when the USMNT comes to town to face Panama in a June 11 World Cup qualifier at the same stadium? Will those same Seattle fans taunting Gomez on Tuesday cheer him on vs. Panama?
How do you feel about Seattle fans mocking a USMNT player during a club match?
Share your thoughts below.
— herculez gomez (@herculezg) April 3, 2013
Gotta say @herculezg was a good sport. We started chanting "Sounders reject" at him and he gestured for us to do it louder.
— Jeremy(@ArmOfCrass) April 3, 2013
Damn. I want to not like @herculezg but he is kind of awesome. Please score next time you're in Seattle, and if you put it top corner again
— Josh Larkin (@JLark21) April 3, 2013
On a serious note, Seattle fans are pretty classy. Much appreciated applause on my way out to the tunnel. Very proud to represent! #USMNT
— herculez gomez (@herculezg) April 3, 2013
Quels pays de la Concacaf iront à la Coupe du monde au Brésil l’an prochain ? Impossible à dire actuellement tant les six équipes se tiennent de près dans le dernier tour des éliminatoires.
Les deux favoris s’affrontaient hier au stade Azteca, et il n’y eut pas de but lors de ce Mexique - États-Unis qui a vu les Américains prendre le deuxième point de leur histoire chez leur voisin en match officiel, le premier datant de 1997.
S’ils ont tenu le coup, ils doivent une fière chandelle à leur gardien Brad Guzan, mais aussi à la paire de défenseurs centraux composée de Matt Besler et Omar Gonzalez, les deux derniers Défenseurs de l’année de la MLS. À l’arbitre aussi, ajoutent les Mexicains qui prétendent avoir été privés d’un penalty à deux reprises.
Leader avant les rencontres d’hier soir, le Honduras a été battu 2-0 au Panama où Blas Perez s’est illustré tant par son but que par sa célébration. Du coup, ce sont les Panaméens qui s’emparent de la tête du groupe avec 5 points, devant trois équipes qui en comptent 4 : leurs victimes du jour, les États-Unis et le Costa Rica, vainqueur 2-0 de la Jamaïque, qui ferme la marche avec 2 unités juste derrière le Mexique (3 pts).
Pendant que d’autres joueurs de MLS se produisaient ailleurs sur la planète, le champion en titre, le LA Galaxy, était reçu à la Maison-Blanche et retrouvait Landon Donovan. Par ailleurs, DC United, qui peine déjà offensivement, sera privé de Nick DeLeon pendant six semaines.
S’il oppose les deux ténors de la moitié nord du continent américain, le duel qui se jouera ce soir au stade Azteca est a priori déséquilibré tant les Mexicains sont forts chez eux en match officiel et les États-Unis peinent chez leur voisin du sud. Toutefois, ils s’y sont imposés l’an dernier et ne considèrent plus la tâche impossible. Les Mexicains prendront garde de ne pas les sous-estimer. Si ce match vous passionne, lisez les nombreux articles de MLSsoccer.com qui vous en offre une couverture exhaustive.
Les deux autres rencontres de la zone Concacaf, où le classement est très serré, promettent d’être captivantes. Leader, le Honduras, emmené par Roger Espinoza et Jerry Bengtson, disputera son premier match en déplacement au Panama, toujours invaincu. Le Costa Rica tentera de se remettre de son cauchemar enneigé (dont le résultat a été validé par la Fifa) face à la Jamaïque, qui reste sur deux nuls en autant de duels.
On suivra aussi les nombreux autres joueurs de MLS en action à travers le monde. Roy Keane, blessé au mollet, sera au repos et on ne connaît pas la durée de son indisponibilité. Mauvaise nouvelle pour le LA Galaxy. Ailleurs en MLS, notons la finalisation de l’échange Adu - Kleberson et le fait que Martin Rennie préfère que la critique ne sorte pas du vestiaire, même si elle est constructive. Enfin, le Canada a été battu 2-0 par le Belarus hier en match amical.
Are you a US national team fan? Are you getting more and more amped as the hours tick down towards the next round of World Cup qualifiers on Friday night?
Jimmy Conrad the the rest of the crew over at KICKTV are right there with you. They've just dropped the latest episode of “The Hex,” KICKTV's video series on the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
“Hexagonal 101” delivers a fast-paced refresher course on the long, global road to the World Cup, the structure of the competition and the many challenges that the USMNT and their five regional counterparts must overcome in order to book a place in Brazil 2014.
Sporting the USA's brand-new centennial jersey, which the Yanks will debut against Costa Rica at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., on Friday, Conrad reminds us how difficult the two-and-a-half-year-long process can be, a lesson he's learned through firsthand experience.
This is a great way to start the final countdown to the big games – and an excellent primer if you've got friends or family who could use a bit of Hex background.