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08 September 6:45 am

We’ve seen plenty of CONCACAF matches just like that USMNT loss in Jamaica on Friday night: physical, scrappy, disjointed rough-and-tumble affairs.

And those are the games where you need the magical play. Those are the scrums where you need the player who can stand out and make something out of nothing.

Right now the US doesn’t have that go-to guy. Especially when Landon Donovan is not on the field (he’s missing out on the Jamaica home-and-home due to a hamstring injury). Donnie Moore's phonebook-tearing techniques can only take you so far.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT was exposed in Kingston for what it really is: a collection of solid role players who ply their trade in Europe and Mexico. Good overall pros who are not even the undisputed stars of their own club teams. Each does some things better than others, but there’s not one field player who excels at a single facet of the game. No one without gloves who can decide a match with a dominant skill.

Who’s the expert dribbler on the team? Who’s the explosive speedster who can at least draw a foul when he can’t run by someone? Who’s the master free-kick taker? Who’s the head-ball specialist feared by opposing defenders? A passing maestro anyone? How about a pinpoint crosser of the ball?

The USMNT needed someone to pull a rabbit out of a hat against Jamaica becase the team game just wasn’t there. The passing and the movement were not synced up. It wasn’t happening. And they had no one to turn to. The man in which the USA usually confides in moments of despair was watching from home. 

Maybe we have taken him for granted. Maybe we thought the golden boy would always be a boy. But injuries are slowly eating away at Landon Donovan’s career. The passing of the years have eroded his exuberant presence on the field. Even Donovan has hinted at it: A future without LD is closer than you think.

Despite their glaring deficiency, the USMNT and Klinsmann will keep on truckin'. Their heart and optimism, courage and fight, is praised around the world. They’ll show that never-say-die spirit even when the scoreline is unforgiving (see Brazil). They’ll punch above their weight sometimes and gut out a win (see Italy). They’ll hammer the inferior teams (see Scotland).

But all the other stuff in the middle – those evenly matched mucks – will continue to produce results like Kingston, Jamaica every so often. It’s just the reality when you don’t have the one player who can tip the balance of a match.

However, that sold-out Columbus Crew Stadium crowd on Tuesday – that might just be enough to take the stars-and-stripes over the top in the scrappy rematch that ensues. More importantly, home field could be enough to sway a key referee call or even win a penalty kick that decides the match.

All is not lost. Even without a superstar.

07 September 9:02 pm

I said, quite a while back, that I was concerned about the US' ability to advance to the hexagonal. Obviously tonight's result in Kingston is a data point that shows I was within my rights to be concerned.

To put it into context: The US had not lost a qualifier that mattered to a Caribbean team since 1969 (credit to US soccer journalist emeritus Michael Lewis for that nugget). We hadn't walked on the moon yet. There was no such thing as "ESPN," let alone "beIn Sport." Jurgen Klinsmann was five years old.

This was a big deal. It doesn't mean the US is out, but it does mean we've got trouble.

If you can't possess, you shouldn't play narrow

And if you play narrow, you have to possess.

Klinsmann was handed the US job with the specific task of instituting a new, possession-oriented style. And for the most part, people have left him alone, taking a "wait and see" attitude as he tries to implement a transformation.

The main issue I have with this is that the results, thus far, have been unimpressive. Yeah, the US got those 1-0 wins at Italy and Mexico, but those wins had waaaay more to do with great goalkeeping and a few timely interventions than they did with keeping the ball. Even against Antigua & Barbuda, which was as unimpressive as a 3-1 win could be, the US were hardly dominant in stringing together long series of passes.

So the question is twofold: Does Klinsmann have the team to play a possession game? And if so, is he lining them up to do just that?

I'd say the answer to the second is "yes", but the answer to the first, with this squad, anyway, is "no." A US team that omits the most skillful midfielders in favor of multiple d-mids is not designed to hold the ball.

And, unfortunately, with the narrowness of the formation, they weren't designed to hit on the break, either. It's not a catch-22, it's just the wrong players.

Speaking of...

I still can't figure out what Jermaine Jones brings to the table

No one on the pitch was worse than him. No one.

Jones doesn't connect passes particularly well going forward, and he's not disciplined enough to play as a true d-mid. He's also poor in traffic, which means he's a turnover machine when two men run at him. Playing him as a true No. 8 (where he was played vs. Jamaica) is slow suicide.

The only thing Jones really adds is a fair share of simulation (blech) and effort tracking back in transition. But there are plenty of guys in the pool - younger, more skillful, more disciplined - who offer effort, as well.

Clint Dempsey is not a distributor

Deuce is one of the four most talented US field players in our history, but if you're relying on him to ignite the offense you're probably in trouble. He's a 9 1/2, not a No. 10, and that means he needs good service and someone to combine with right off his shoulder.

Playing him behind two true forwards can be done, but not if there's zero width and not if none of the three d-mids behind him can get him the ball where he needs it. This was ugly as sin.

And Tuesday is suddenly a must-win affair. Gird your loins.

07 September 3:26 pm

And now he's got his own show.

Yep, news today is that KICKTV will be bringing you bald eagles and the beautiful game with the launch of Jimmy Conrad's American Soccer Spectacular.

JC crushed the Euros this summer, and with autumn on the way, he's going to tackle some of the domestic game's greatest debates, with some monster trucks and hot dogs thrown in for good measure. 

First episode is set to drop next Thursday, featuring a name that's been thrown around plenty on the Twittersphere of late. That's the only hint for now.

The official preview is below, hit the Play button and have a happy weekend. Peace. 

07 September 11:06 am

Ça y est, c’est le grand jour. Alors que les éliminatoires de la Coupe du monde commencent en Europe, chez nous, on entre dans une phase cruciale de l’avant-dernier tour. Après mardi, il ne restera que deux rencontres aux douze prétendants pour ravir une des deux premières places de leur groupe.

Actuellement deuxième après un quatre sur six, le Canada accueillera ce soir le Panama, auteur d’un sans-faute jusqu’à présent. Avec un but en deux rencontres, les Canadiens doivent améliorer leur production offensive. Ce n’est pourtant pas la confiance qui manque aux attaquants, mais ils se doivent d’être efficaces en équipe nationale. Meilleur buteur de Montréal, Patrice Bernier est clair à ce sujet : « Je suis un milieu de terrain, mon rôle n’est pas de marquer. »

Quelle configuration offensive choisira Stephen Hart ? Nous en avons parlé avec Olivier Occean dans l’émission Coup Franc, durant laquelle nous avons aussi présenté les principales forces du Panama dont Blas Pérez, une des rares satisfactions d’un FC Dallas en regain de forme. Bonne nouvelle pour les téléspectateurs francophones : ce match, l’un des plus importants du Canada depuis des lustres, sera diffusé sur TVA Sports à partir de 19h00 (coup d’envoi 19h45).

Les États-Unis se déplaceront pour leur part en Jamaïque, où le moral est au beau fixe. Jürgen Klinsmann voit d’un bon œil le fait que ses joueurs évoluent dans des clubs de plus en plus prestigieux, mais compte aussi sur des talents restés au pays comme Kyle Beckerman. On retrouve également de nombreux joueurs de MLS chez les Reggae Boyz.

Ceux de Houston auront le sourire quand ils croiseront Nick Rimando, un des quatre gardiens américains, qui a causé la perte de Salt Lake à Houston hier soir en championnat. Notez enfin que ce samedi, Seattle recevra Chivas USA.

07 September 8:58 am

In our continued efforts to raise awareness and funds for cancer research and treatment, MLS W.O.R.K.S. has created "Soccer Kicks Cancer" - a League-wide initiative focused on providing strength and hope in the fight against cancers affecting men, women and children.

Find out what the MLS clubs are doing to support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Houston Dynamo, Dynamo Charities launch 2012 Bald is Beautiful campaign

Dynamo players shave their heads for cancer research

Colorado's Mastroeni supports Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Stay tuned for more updates from our clubs and help us kick cancer!

06 September 4:06 pm

Avant de parler équipes nationales, bref retour sur les rencontres de championnat qui se sont jouées hier. Alors que Colorado a pris sa revanche de la défaite encourue la semaine dernière contre Portland, la mauvaise opération du jour a été effectuée par Columbus, dont la belle série sans défaite a pris fin à New England. Ce soir, Houston compte en profiter contre Salt Lake mais sera privé de plusieurs internationaux.

Et pour cause ! Presque partout sur la planète, ces vendredi et mardi seront consacrés aux éliminatoires de la Coupe du monde 2014. Preuve des progrès de la Major League Soccer : 47 joueurs y évoluant ont été convoqués par leur équipe nationale respective (voir la liste). On est loin de se limiter aux États-Unis et au Canada… puisque la MLS est représentée dans 17 sélections, auxquelles il faut en ajouter deux qui se limitent à un match amical !

Voilà leur programme pour ce vendredi, continent par continent :
Toutes les heures HE (heure de New York et Montréal)

CONCACAF
15h00 : Cuba - Honduras
19h45 : Canada - Panama
20h00 : Jamaïque - États-Unis
21h30 : Salvador - Guyana
22h05 : Costa Rica - Mexique
AMÉRIQUE DU SUD
16h30 : Colombie - Uruguay
17h00 : Équateur - Bolivie
EUROPE
12h00 : Kazakhstan - Irlande
14h00 : Estonie - Roumanie
14h00 : Malte - Arménie
14h30 : Albanie - Chypre
Samedi 10h00 : Écosse - Serbie
OCÉANIE
03h00 : Nouvelle-Calédonie - Nouvelle-Zélande

06 September 1:34 pm

Doubtless, you've read about German-born American right back Timmy Chandler turning down yet another call from Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of the qualifiers against Jamaica. Doubtless, you've got some questions about where the young man's head and heart are.

According to Chandler himself, they're still in Nürnberg with his club team. That's according to this article from Franco Panizo:

"I wanted to show that Nürnberg is one of the bigger teams of the Bundesliga and it was a decision of the heart," Chandler told Panizo. "I wanted to show Nurnberg that I'm thankful for what I've achieved in my time with the team so far."

He goes on to explain that he's repeatedly turned down calls from Klinsmann – who he's in contact with on a regular basis – because he doesn't like the travel. But that he'd maybe play in October if Klinsmann called him for those qualifiers. And that he won't rule out playing for Germany. Who still haven't shown any interest in capping him (and aren't going to unless about five other guys fall off the face of the earth).

What's it mean for the US right now? Not a lot – hopefully they're locked in on the Reggae Boyz. But it's got to be at least a little bit galling to some of the guys in the hunt for a regular role that Klinsmann is so fixated on a player who keeps rebuffing him at every chance. These aren't friendlies, after all: These are must-win World Cup qualifiers. Hard to believe Chandler cares about the guys in the training room and/or the uniform he's wearing if he can't make time for that.

It also forces some (more) serious questions about the continued omission of Eric Lichaj, and the snail's-pace integration of guys like Steven Beitashour and Chance Myers. Chandler isn't a great enough talent to put everyone else on hold, after all. If he was, pretty clearly he'd already be representing Germany.

05 September 3:44 pm

Il souffle actuellement un vent du Nord sur la MLS. Le LA Galaxy vient d’engager l’international suédois Christian Wilhelmsson. Pour l’avoir suivi de près lorsqu’il évoluait à Anderlecht, je me souviens de sa vitesse et de ses qualités techniques. Son récent passage en Arabie Saoudite n’a pas trop altéré ses aptitudes. Il m’a laissé une très bonne impression lors du dernier Euro et je pense que si Wilhelmsson n’avait pas été cantonné à un rôle de remplaçant de luxe, la Suède aurait franchi le premier tour.

Un autre Scandinave pourrait le rejoindre bientôt dans notre compétition : Eidur Gudjohnsen, le membre le plus célèbre de cette grande famille de soccer en Islande, s’entraîne actuellement à Seattle.

Il y aura de l’action sur les terrains de MLS ce soir. L’intérêt sportif pour Colorado - Portland (21h00) est plus limité, par contre Columbus espère prolonger sa belle série à New England (20h00). De retour chez lui demain à 20h30, Houston veillera aux détails pour ne pas se faire surprendre par Salt Lake, où Justin Braun ne semble guère connaître plus de succès qu’à Montréal.

Les deux équipes seront privées de plusieurs titulaires, convoqués par leur équipe nationale. Qui sera le plus déforcé ? Nous en avons discuté dans la dernière émission Coup Franc. Je vous parlerai davantage des éliminatoires de la Coupe du monde dans les prochains jours. En attendant, les équipes se préparent à leur façon : pour les Américains, c’est avec du basket-ball et des annuaires téléphoniques.

Classement général
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

05 September 2:55 pm

Jurgen Klinsmann has had some pretty good luck importing dual-nationality Yanks from around the globe. Save for the occasional Timmy Chandler swing-and-a-miss, his main squad-building technique seems to be roping in as many "possibly maybes" as he can.

And now he'll have a new target:

Johannsson's a big guy, standing just a shade over 6-foot, but is actually more of a winger than a center forward. And he looks a lot like Kevin Bacon. Google him if you dare.