US National Team
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.
Ya se anunció que el 15 de agosto llegan los rivales de la selección mexicana, Estados Unidos, al Estadio Azteca para un juego amistoso, que de amistoso tiene muy poco, dada la rivalidad de estas selecciones.
Jurgen Klinsmann, director técnico de EE.UU, ha llevado su equipo a juegos amistosos este año ante Italia y Brasil. Dice el DT que quiere exponer sus jugadores a los mejores equipos del mundo.
“México ha demostrado ser unos de los mejores equipos del mundo, entonces para nosotros esta es una gran oportunidad”, dijo Klinsmann en el comunicado de prensa.
Espera, ¿que dijo el DT de las Barras y Las Estrellas? ¿Qué México es una de las mejores selecciones del mundo? ¡Wow, por fin alguien norte del Rio Grande lo admite! Aun no dice nada Landon Donovan al respeto, pero no se preocupen mexicanos, aun falta mucho tiempo para que el delantero diga algo que le prende fuego a la rivalidad.
La historia dice que estos equipos se han confrontado 60 veces en 43 partidos oficiales y 17 amistosos, donde 33 resultaron triunfos para El Tri y 15 para las Barras y Las Estrellas, y 12 empates.
¿Qué marcador podremos esperar de este próximo amistoso?
Charlas con Chicharito:
Por si no lo sabían, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez ya tiene Twitter oficial. En menos de 24 horas @CH14_ ya tiene 168, 922 seguidores. Bienvenido Chicharito al año 2006, ahora platícanos de la selección por favor.
Since this week is dedicated to numbers here at MLSsoccer.com, I figured I would pass on some of the raw data and illustrations collected over the past few weeks in the hunt for fresh Opta Spotlight* ideas.
*On Friday, I'll examine the magnificent season Columbus' Andy Gruenebaum has put together with Will Hesmer sidelined.
Below are the touch charts for Clint Dempsey in the quarterfinal and semifinal at last summer's Gold Cup as well as the most recent qualifier in Guatemala under Jurgen Klinsmann's direction. Duece scored in all three matches.
What do these illustrations say to you? Is Dempsey playing a different role under Klinsmann than he did under Bob Bradley? I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions in the comment section below.
vs. Jamaica (2-0 victory - June 19, 2011)
vs. Panama (1-0 victory - June 22, 2011)
at Guatemala (1-1 draw - June 13, 2012)
Glasgow Rangers formally announced on Thursday that the original club no longer exists — they are now known the world over as “The Rangers Football Club.” The question now for MLS fans is what's in store for the club's US contingent made up of Carlos Bocanegra, Maurice Edu and Alejandro Bedoya?
In the next week or so, the other 11 Scottish Premier League teams will meet to vote on whether Rangers can enter the SPL next season. The newly formed team, which is replacing the side which was formed in 1872, will have to win the vote by a majority of 8-4 in order to compete in Scotland’s top division. If not, they will likely be demoted to the bottom tier of Scottish professional soccer, the third division.
So will Bocanegra & Co. be lining up against the likes of Montrose, Elgin City and Peterhead next season? Or enjoying the Old Firm derby against archrivals Celtic FC at a packed Ibrox Stadium? Only time will tell, as the wait to find out their fate will be an anxious one for the US trio.
One report Thursday suggests that with the original Rangers Football Club ceasing to exist, no player is contractually obligated to play for the newly formed club. Hence, all three US players could end up as free agents and able to speak to whichever clubs they want.
Watch this space, this saga will rumble on long into the summer months. Let us know what you would like Rangers' American trio to do in the comments section below.
Last night a group of USA fans gathered at The Hill in Midtown Manhattan to watch the Yanks take on Guatemala in World Cup Qualifying courtesy of ExtraTime Radio.
With stomachs full of free sliders, mozzarella sticks and potato skins, the bar cheered as Landon Donovan drove up the flank and passed the ball to Fabian Johnson, who dished it to Clint Dempsey to score the opening goal. Enjoy the grainy reaction footage and tell us where you watched the US pick up the road point.