blog

US National Team

02 March 2:15 de la tarde

By Greg Seltzer

GENOA, Italy — The aftermath of the US men's national team's first-ever win over Italy on Wednesday is proving almost as fun as the event, and most of the report cards reflect that.

It looked as though Azzurri ace Andrea Pirlo was getting around to giving the home side's "B+" side the lead, but the visitors made sure that never happened. The Yanks played confidently enough in their own right to allow red, white and blue-hot Clint Dempsey to fire up the victory celebration.

As a periodic reminder, "6" is the average mark. All ratings are relative to match time played, with a 90-minute "7" standing higher than one given for 15 minutes.

Tim Howard (7) - It was very unlike the Everton star to have a couple of early calamities dealing with both the bouncing ball and an Azzurri onrusher, but fortunately he got away with them. After those nervous opening moments, it was Howard business as usual.

Steve Cherundolo (7) - Back in his corner, 'Dolo kept things rather tidy. Offensively, the Hannover 96 skipper was hampered by having a defensive midfielder up his flank. Cherundolo managed to rush forward into great crossing position once, but over-hit it.

Clarence Goodson (6.5) - There were times when he needed help or good fortune (and got it) dealing with Pirlo's paintbrush. However, Goodson more often than not was clearing attacks (even when he looked in trouble).

Carlos Bocanegra (8.5) - The captain was in total command, so he deserves a salute. Nearly flawless on the night, Bocanegra even managed to make a couple of big plays when he'd initially been beaten.

Fabian Johnson (6.5) - I'll admit to grumbling and shaking my head when the line-up sheet was handed to me. But fair is fair, and Johnson was largely fair. He found plenty of time to press into attack, contributed to the winner and eventually settled in at the back as a disruptor. It's those repeated issues in his corner over the opening half hour and the fact that he'd rather wiggle into the area on the dribble than cross that keeps my mind made up he should be properly played on the wing. Not budging on that, would rather he not have to travel so far to get to the area.

Maurice Edu (7) - Mo has gotten smoother as a guided missile defensive midfielder almost every time out for months now, both with club and country. His ability to periodically dip into attack is less convincing, though.

Michael Bradley (8.5) - I'll guess that I've been in the stands to watch Mikey "clock in" about 30-35 times. He may have two or three better overall performances than he had on Wednesday. The fully apparent fun he was having bossing midfield in the second half, however, stands numero uno.

Daniel Williams (5.5) - It seems so unfair to grade him for playing out wide, but of course we'll go right ahead with it. Williams actually performed a couple of genuine offensive intent actions this time, but the best we can say is still that he's sure one fine track-back wing man.

Clint Dempsey (8) - Deuce was filled with intent if not terribly effective before the break. He was just softening them up. Gianluigi Buffon, who hardly stood a chance on Dempsey's shot from 18 yards out, might want to start checking underneath his bed for the American; he was a monster post halftime.

Brek Shea (5.5) - To be fair, he was probably up against the second-best Italy player on the night, Christian Maggio. Shea's still a work in progress, but this match will help his art form.

Jozy Altidore (7) - I keep telling everyone how his passing is so underrated. This striker feeds an easy pass to hit. Altidore also did the hold-up work, showing again that AZ was the right move.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (8) - As noted here, there are are still questions about his field placement for players. That unpleasantness out of the way, this team now plays out of the back until holding a 1-0 lead in the waning moments. This team now goes out on the Luigi Ferraris pitch and "plays football" like it expects to grab the game against an Italy, no matter who may be missing.

Yeah. You saw it. And you also saw why Klinsmann makes the big bucks.

Subs:

Sacha Kljestan (6) - I'm not exactly sure what he's supposed to do on left wing, other than help at the back. And there ya go.

Jonathan Spector (8) - There aren't many 13-minute shifts that practically seal victory, some don't even get a grade. Spector may need an exorcism because he was possessed in the final minutes. He blocked, poked away or shoulder-bumped silly anything that came near him as the hosts scrambled for an equalizer that never came.

Terrence Boyd (-) - After the match, he still looked in a daze walking to the team bus. That about sums up his cameo, but I have a new research project to find the last international player in the world to get his debut cap before appearing for a club first team - which likely explains the cameo.

Edson Buddle (-) The guy with the shortest shift did manage to kill a bit of time.

02 March 10:36 de la mañana

It was a boldface lie. Ferrell has turned around and shot a film entirely in Spanish … So what better place than Mexico vs. Colombia to promote the flick alongside stunning actress  Genesis Rodriguez? With Ferrell’s attendance at a Mexican national team match, we put his Spanish and his loyalty to the US colors to the test.

02 March 1:37 de la mañana

Do you know what I love more than ice cream and Sacha Kljestan's moustache? Eric Wynalda talking US Soccer. 

Sure, you or I may not agree with a lot of what he has to say but you can't argue that he's always entertaining. Hear what the US World Cup veteran had to say about the Yanks' big win over Italy yesterday on today's episode of Kick's The Mixer. Come for the Wynalda, stay for the Conrad.

29 February 8:21 de la tarde

Here in the US we're fed a steady diet of "don't get too worked up about friendly wins." And it's sound advice that goes all the way back to the 3-6-1 thrashing of Austria in the lead-up to the 1998 World Cup.

In Italy, though, they are a bit more... passionate. Or uncompromising. Or irrational.

However you want to put it, the Italian press is, in the wake of the US' 1-0 win over the Azzuri on Wednesday, showing the fight and engagement that both the players and fans in Genoa clearly lacked (the crowd, I think we can all agree, was terrible).

La Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian soccer bible, called the US win "A fiasco." And it gets more colorful from there.

Happy reading, folks.

29 February 7:50 de la tarde

While most of us where tuned in to the USMNT's (surprise?) win over Italy at a bar, online or on our couches, the MLS players that are here in Orlando for the Disney Pro Soccer Challenge took in the game from their hotel rooms.

While the scene played out at team hotels all over town, Kevin Ellis and Dom Dwyer's room might have been the only one with an MLS camera in it. Check out their predictions and first-half thoughts in the clip above. You'll also find out why Kevin Ellis is, also surprisingly, pro-Italia.

23 February 10:45 de la tarde

Expect to see more of this as we inch ever closer to the March 11th debut of MLS on NBC Sports. Arlo White, the former voice of the Sounders and the future voice of MLS on the peacock network, joined host Russ Thaler on NBC Sports Talk tonight to discuss some of the big storylines around the league heading into the 2012 season.

And you know what? He looked damn good doing it. Here's to more soccer talk on Sports Talk.

22 February 11:47 de la tarde

Former Houston Dynamo midfield ace Stuart Holden hasn't had the easiest time since joining England's Bolton Wanderers in January of 2010. Sidelined twice by serious injuries, a broken leg and an anterior cruciate ligament injury, Holden has unfortunately become just as familiar with the inside of the rehab room as he is with the pitch.

But, as the old saying goes, when life hands you lemons you make lemonade. Or a Youtube series. Welcome to No Holden Back.

22 February 7:50 de la tarde

According to the website of FC Nordsjælland, Michael Parkhurst has been called in to the US national team for next week's friendly against Italy. At least, I think that's what it says - I don't speak Danish, and Google Translate is only so helpful.

Anyway, Parkhurst being tabbed by Jurgen Klinsmann isn't much of a surprise, seeing as the one-time Rev put in two fairly strong showings against Panama and Venezuela last month, and the US is now paper-thin in central defense thanks to the Oguchi Onyewu injury.

Who else will join him? Here's my best guess:

GK: Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa)

D: Parkhurst, Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers), Carlos Bocanegra (Glasgow Rangers), Timothy Chandler (FC Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA)

MF: Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Danny Williams (1899 Hoffenheim), Fabian Johnson (1899 Hoffenheim), Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla)

F: Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Note that this isn't my roster, just the roster I think Klinsmann will call. Also bear in mind that injuries have plagued Kyle Beckerman (recently) and Zak Whitbread (forever), otherwise the first would be a lock and the second would get a look.

The two young American-born left backs in England - Danny Potts of West Ham and Adam Henley of Blackburn Rovers - are expected to be with the youth squads of England and Wales, respectively. And neither's really ready for a spot with any full national team, anyway. Pearce, meanwhile, was pretty solid last month, and needs another look at the spot.

Up top it was a coin flip between LA's Edson Buddle and Wondolowski for the third forward slot, so I ended up going with Wondo. Hush-hush reports out of camp say that Klinsmann's staff were very happy with the San Jose man's ability to create chances - though, like the rest of us, they're still waiting for him to finish a couple.

The big omissions for me are (and will be, unless things have changed) Sacha Kljestan and Benny Feilhaber. I've said all I have to say about that elsewhere, so we'll leave it at that.

21 February 3:47 de la tarde

Oguchi Onyewu just can't seem to catch a break.

The big central defender tore ligaments and the meniscus in his right knee in Sporting CP's win over Paços de Ferreira on the weekend. Sporting's official site says he needs surgery and will be out for at least two months.

Obviously, this rules him out for next week's showdown with Italy. But it also begs the question: How much can US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann rely on Gooch at this point in his career?

Onyewu's athleticism never really recovered after his horrible injury against Costa Rica two-and-a-half years ago, and rebuilding his other knee — at age 30 — suggests the road ahead will be bumpy. Expecting him to ever regain his 2007 to '09 form, when he was the best defender in Belgium and deservedly attracted the attention of clubs like AC Milan, seems like a fool's errand.

It was already imperative that guys like Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream and George John step up and claim roles with the national team by the end of the calendar year. The latest injury to Onyewu just crystalizes that need.

19 February 1:16 de la tarde

Landon Donovan's second loan stint at Everton may not have ended in storybook fashion – he missed his final game because of the flu – but that doesn't mean the LA Galaxy and US national team stalwart didn't cherish every moment he spent this winter in Toffee blue.

Donovan sat down with EvertonFC.com to talk about his month-and-a-half at Goodison Park and what the club means to him after two wildly successful loan spells at the Liverpool-based club.

And in regards to whether this is his last go-round at Everton? Donovan had this to say:

"I would approach it the same way I approach it each year when I get a call from the manager here. One, am I physically able to do it? Two, does the manager want me? Three, do I feel like I can contribute and benefit the club? I would not come back if it was just for me to have the experience, but where I couldn't benefit the team. That would do nobody any good. I have too much respect for the club, the manager and the players to do that. The expectation is very clear if I come back. If I feel I can deliver on that expectation and the club wants me I would absolutely do it. I know I will be back in the future. I just don't know if it will be as a player – I hope it is.”