Perhaps there was only one thing more surreal than watching the USMNT chase a yellow ball around a snow-covered field in Denver last night, and that was being there in person. Brian and I made the pilgrimage for FourFiveTwo, to what started out as a winnable but crucial, need-three-points-now match against the Ticos, and ended up being an Instant Classic/Stuff of Legends game which many more USMNT fans (including the rest of the FourFiveTwo staff) will claim they witnessed live, compared to the nearly 20,000 who were actually there.
In honor of the hex, here are the six moments of the trip that stand out most for me:
About seven weeks ago, during a podcast in which we broke down the many layers of English Football, our attention turned to the Spartan South Midlands Football League — and its Division One team Cockfosters. Cockfosters is a North London team whose name is most associated with the tube stop — namely, the northern terminus of the Picadilly Line, which, according to infallible Wikipedia, has 210 million riders a year.
Since making Cockfosters our own, they’ve been performing well and outlasting all comers, riding a seven-game surge in which they’ve gotten results and left their fans satisfied each and every match, with their goal differential of +67 indicating a complete package of lots of scoring up front and keeping things nice and tight in the back.
So, USMNT vs. Canada tonight. Within relatively easy driving distance of two of the FourFiveTwo faithful. Phil/Soccer Apologist here, with allergies lighting my face on fire.
Pregame: I think they just said “best players in the U.S.” and then showed a close-up of Beckerman. And the dreads.
Our lineup: S. Johnson; Morrow, Besler, Gonzalez, Beltran; Davis, Beckerman, Zusi; Wondolowksi, E. Johnson. Nope, not worried.
The dirty Canadians: Thomas; Morgan, Jakovic, Attakora, Ledgerwood; Teibert, Dunfield, Bekker, Beaulieu-Bourgualt, Ricketts; De Rosario. (Yep, that’s a 4-5-1.)
More after the jump …
MLS Cup’s happening tomorrow. Galaxy-Dynamo rematch, blah blah blah. David Beckham’s last game before he goes to Monaco, because certainly playing for that particular second-level French league team is as appealing as other Ligue 2 destinations like Metz (17th in the league this past year, but also the namesake of a really good new Canadian indie band), or Guingamp, a team with a stadium that holds 18,000 in a commune (as French hamlets are called) with a population of 8,000. Certainly, this has nothing to do with the awesomeness of Monaco. Also, Landon Donovan’s last club match (perhaps), because he’s so tired (maybe), or because he’s looking for another January loan to Everton (more likely).
Here’s what you need to know about the MLS Cup, though: there’s an anthem. And not just any anthem. It is:
1. A wee bit reminiscent of the UEFA Champions League theme;
2. In Latin, so they could be singing about anything, really — even, “It’d be great to get more than an 0.8 rating, or at the very least not get doubled up by a Chelsea-Liverpool EPL replay;”
3. Created by Audiobrain, a company that specializes in creating music for sports.
It may be a preordained MLS Cup — I have a horrible vision of Landycakes and Golden Balls scoring en route to something along the lines of 2-0 or 3-1 over the Dynamo. Yet, as one-sided and disappointed as the game might be, the anthem won’t disappoint. (Or, you know, it probably will — to the thousands who see it.)
It’s the Interlull! Club soccer goes on holiday this week — even MLS club soccer — and Fox Soccer Channel goes into a Being: Liverpool marathon (no, seriously, they are), so the 120something-odd teams left in contention (from a starting field of over 200) can do their qualifying thing. Even though the U.S. is doing its best, losing-in-Kingston act to make CONCACAF mildly dramatic, intrigue is hard to come by. Sure, there’s the question of whether Belgium can get it together to qualify (with players Chelsea either has, wants, or could conceivably raid from the likes of Zenit and Werder Bremen), and there are a couple of teams on the World Cup bubble who will face some engaging battles to get in. This is not the week in which this will happen. In fact, there’s a whole lot of mismatchiness and bottom feedery happening. Here’s a look — all games Friday the 12th unless noted otherwise. Some of these games are probably not being televised at all anywhere in the world, honestly:
Hey, there’s not much club football being played this weekend, but there’s plenty of international fixtures to feast on. Some of them are even meaningful, like USA’s away qualifier against Jamaica tonight. Won’t you please come down from your ivory tower into the comments and bless us with your pearls of wisdom? Oh, and if you’ve got beIN Sport USA at your house, post your address so we can all come over. We’ll bring the beer. Promise.
Semi-not-at-all-complete fixture list after the jump. Continue reading
With everyone trying to cure their hangovers from last night’s historic win at Azteca, it is time for me to rain on ya’lls parade. I can say with dead certainty that JK will not bring an attractive and attacking style of soccer to the USMNT, even if he keeps the job through 2018.
The single biggest reason JK will not succeed in his quest is because national team managers do not change the style of players on the pitch. For the USMNT ‘A’ team, he gets maybe 20 – 25 days of practice during the entire year. That contrasts with 20-25 practices per month with a club team. Klinsmann simply doesn’t have enough time to turn players into attacking threats. At most he can try to get his ideas across, but trying to get players to radically change their style of play after 20 years is difficult at best, impossible at worst.
It is almost 2 years to the day until World Cup 2014 kicks off in Brazil, and it is time for the USMNT to kick off their journey towards qualification with what should be an easy win against Antigua and Barbuda. In celebration of the start of qualifying, I’ll be with you tonight for a liveblog of the action from a rainy Raymond James Stadium. Lineups are below, and commentary after the jump. I also promise Euro 2012 racist jokes are on hold until tomorrow.
If you are new to the qualification game, the U.S. plays 2 matches against 3 group opponents. The top 2 in this group will advance to the final qualifying round, or hexagonal as it is known in CONCACAF. There are 2 other groups which means the US will play 5 other teams 2 times in the final round. The top 3 teams in the hexagonal will automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the 4th place team will go into a playoff with the winner from Oceania. For our expectations during qualifying, read our article here.
US XI: Howard, Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Goodson, Torres, Edu, Jones, Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, Gomez
US Bench: Guzan, Parkhurst, Cameron, Onyewu, Beckerman, Altidore, Boyd
A&B XI: James; McCoy, Joseph, Dublin, Leigertwood, Murtagh, Griffith, Burton, Robinson; Thomas, Blackstock
A&B Bench: Honestly who cares
The USMNT gets another tune-up tonight before beginning their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup.
After dismantling Scotland 5-1 in Jacksonville on Saturday, Jurgen Klinsmann’s men welcome the hosts of that next tournament, Brazil, to FedEx Field in Landover, MD.
While it was nice to see the USA romp over an opponent for once, this game should give us a better barometer of where the squad is at.
Qualifying for WC 2014 should be no issue (though finishing on top of CONCACAF is a real priority) so it is these matchups against the teams that you might encounter in the finals, hopefully in the knockout rounds, that should really excite fans of the USMNT.
You can catch the game on ESPN2, Telefutura if you prefer lengthier goal exclamations, or online at ESPN3.
Whichever your viewing pleasure, join me back here before kickoff at 8:00 PM ET.
Full lineups (when available) and my ever witty, insightful commentary after the jump!