Look: the World Cup comes once every four years and, unlike that other quadrennial mega sporting event, never takes time out to talk to you about polar bears. When someone cries it's not because that's just what you do after you dismount but rather because they are experiencing a life-rending moment. I'm going to blog about the USMNT on the front page. If this annoys you, I cannot help it.
Extremely Tentative Starters
JOZY ALTIDORE, PEACE BE UPON HIM
The mantle of First Great American Field Player* was passed from Freddy Adu to Altidore sometime a couple years ago when he fetched an MLS-record transfer fee and Adu was unable to get playing time at a second-division Portuguese club. Altidore is now the It Kid. It's too bad his first season in a top-flight league was marked with the usual pitfalls whenever a hyped American hops the pond—erratic playing time and lack of production. Altidore threw in a headbutt that drew a three-game suspension for good measure, though he was very apologetic about it on Twitter afterwards.
Enjoy your starting position, especially in the absence of Brian Ching, the only semi-plausible player in the US pool who could have displaced him in a single-striker formation. Despite an ankle sprain that momentarily scared everyone pantsless when he was "hospitalized" and forced him out of the Australia game, Bradley says Altidore will start against England.
Alitdore's strength, speed, and ability to run at players is world-class but his first touch, passing, and activity are lacking. He's not a hold-up forward, and if the US is forced to go over the top with regularity they'll be giving the ball away most of the time. Of late he's been a nonfactor save for the one or two spectacular moves a game that promise a hellacious 2014 World Cup. A couple of examples from the Netherlands game:
He also provided the one bright spot in the USA's ugly first half against Turkey when he WOOPed his way through three defenders and crossed mere inches in front of Clint Dempsey's foot. He did score later in that game, but he had the simple task of not putting the ball over the net from two feet after Robbie Findley and Landon Donovan unlocked the Turkey defense.
*(Giuseppe Rossi is Italian. This will brook no discussion.)
Apparently. Buddle put in a productive 45 minutes against the Czechs, sat out the Turkey game, and put in ' target=_blank>two against the Aussies. He's fit, scoring loads of goals, and starting regularly at striker—something literally no one else on the 30-man roster, let alone the 23 who are in South Africa, can say. Welcome to the US forward pool.
Buddle is active and athletic, somewhere between Findley and Altidore in terms of speed and strength. He's been a teammate of Landon Donovan for years and should work well with the most important US player, and when given opportunities he's put them in the net. The goals he's been scoring are of a higher quality than those Herculez Gomez is putting in—more on that later—since they often involve shots from outside the box, volleys, excellent headers, and the occasional deft touch or two:
Also, a number of Buddle's goals involve runs from one Landon Donovan that Buddle calmly finishes. He's much more of an aerial threat than Findley—he can plausibly act as a target forward for Altidore to play off of—and is actually, you know, scoring. He's the man, man.
Potentially Useful Men, Perhaps Possibly (Probably Not)
HERCULEZ GOMEZ THE STRIKEZ
Form over career part II. Herculez Gomez was an MLS afterthought for years, a consistent starter in Los Angeles and Colorado but never a guy you'd single out as one of the better strikers in a pedestrian league. A move to Kansas City was a total disaster that saw Gomez score once, one time (once), in 34 appearances. After 2009 he became a free agent, signing with Mexican side Puebla in January of this year.
So of course he moves to a much tougher league and pours in ten goals to tie for the Golden Boot, the first time an American has ever done that in a foreign league*. Wha? Double wha: Puebla was not very good, finishing with a goal differential of –3. They were last in their six-team division and 13th in the league overall. Gomez was not the recipient of a ton of service he mostly flubbed. In fact, he's not the recipient of a ton of anything:
Used mainly as a second-half substitute in his 13 appearances this campaign, he is averaging a goal for every 75 minutes played. That's the kind of contribution that could be valuable if carried over to the international level.
You can judge the quality of his rampage for yourself. Here's with every goal Gomez put in for Puebla this year:
Honestly… eh. A lot of defensive mistakes and simple finishes. Some nice runs off the ball, a couple of shots from somewhat tight angles. The free kick should have been saved, though he gets points for making Mexico's goalie look like a fool. There's not a whole lot to overrule the rest of his career. Against teams that will actually mark him the smart bet is a return to the average MLS striker he's been for most of his career. At least he's finishing his chances, though, which makes him a step up from most of Eddie Johnson's career. If the two guys are indistinguishable, at least go with the guy who seems on form.
Gomez put in a goal against Australia on a finish that was tougher than it looked (but not that tough) and figures to be a guy the US calls on if they're looking for a late spark. He might have a tough time getting off the bench since Bradley has the option of moving Dempsey up top and bringing one of the USA's many plausible midfielders (Beasley, Holden, Feilhaber, Torres) in. His best bet might be a game in which Dempsey starts up top.
*(Mexico's Premiere division is the most confusing sporting setup I've ever tried to comprehend, and I once played with a Ukranian team in Football Manager. They actually play two seasons per year, the "Apertura" and "Clausura," following those with an eight-team playoff.)
Robbie Findley is very fast. He made a great pass to Landon Donovan to create Altidore's goal against Turkey, and pressured an Aussie defender into the turnover that Buddle converted into the USA's first goal on Saturday. Given Altidore's mandatory place in the 11 and the hot form of Buddle and Gomez for both club and country, he would be the obvious fourth forward and a late substitution at best except for the Charlie Davies theory. That theory, which is being pushed by several people with more soccer knowledge than I have, suggests that Findley's blistering speed is required for the US to play an effective game, that he opens up space for Donovan, Dempsey, Altidore, and others.
My counterpoint to that is Buddle isn't exactly Ching and has performed much better over the past eight months. Once England defenders tire, bringing Findley in as a shock to the system is a move with a potential payoff. But he's just Josh Wolff 2.0.
It had been tentatively announced that Red Berenson would return for the 2010 season, but buzz around the program was that it was likely to be his last. That is apparently not the case:
University of Michigan ice hockey head coach Gordon "Red" Berenson has accepted a three-year contract offer from athletic director Dave Brandon to direct the U-M program through the 2012-13 season.
This breaks Berenson's long history of rolling one-year contracts for the exact reasons you might expect:
"We've been doing a one-year contract of late and it seems like we're spending a lot of time talking about when I'm going to retire," Berenson said. "I think we can put that to bed for awhile and just focus on what we're doing. The situation at Michigan is a little clearer in terms of recruitment or leadership of the program or what my future is. It's pretty simple. I've thought about it a lot. I definitely was thinking about leaving earlier, but my passion has really been with this team and these players. They're making a commitment to the program and I want my commitment to be clear as well."
Signed stuff by the bucket. Note for memorabilia-seekers: The From The Heart charity auction is up and going and has a ton of stuff for the man with an empty basement. As per usual, proceed go to charity.
Bombed, but not enough. USC has gotten a severe punishment, with two-year bowl ban and serious scholarship penalties. Woo! Question, though: how does the basketball program get off with nothing more than the self-imposed penalties they've already taken when the USC compliance department explicitly told Tim Floyd to drop OJ Mayo because there was a 100% chance he was on the take. I think they got the football punishments about right—they should have voided all of USCs LOIs and dumped transfer restrictions for the duration of the probation—but their basketball program should have gotten the same treatment.
“As I read the decision by the NCAA, all I could get out of all of this was … I read between the lines and there was nothing but a lot of envy, and they wish they all were Trojans,” Garrett said to cheers Thursday night at the San Francisco Airport Marriott.
Comparing and contrasting USC's response with Michigan's is too obvious to even undertake. The NCAA should retroactively give them the death penalty, and then do it again. How much do you think it would cost to hire a private investigator to go after USC full-time? Surely there are enough people in the country willing to chip in that we could get this done for five bucks each, right?
And don't get me started on women's tennis.
UPDATE: It is officially open season on USC juniors and seniors:
Juniors and seniors to-be on the USC Trojans' football team, hit with a two-year postseason ban among other punishments, will be allowed to transfer to other FBS programs without having to sit out a season, the NCAA clarified to ESPN on Friday.
"The second school would have to submit a waiver asking to waive the year in residence, but NCAA rules allow for this waiver to be granted if a student-athlete's first school has a postseason ban in their sport," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said in an e-mail to ESPN's Joe Schad.
A glance at the roster reveals that four of USC's top five corners are eligible to GTFO. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'. We are down one corner, after all.
Izzout? After Tom Izzo spent 9.5 hours in Cleveland yesterday—far more time than anyone who is not Serious About Cleveland would spend—the tenor of the Izzo chatter in East Lansing is trending towards grim resignation. Jim Comparoni, the nut who runs Michigan State's Rivals site and in my experience has never once said anything remotely negative about anything related to State, says it is a "very bad sign" that Izzo's scheduled golf appearance has been canceled and that football coaches say it "doesn't look good." There may be a 4PM press conference coming up today. There may not.
At The Only Colors they're simultaneously convincing themselves that Izzo's statement is not bad news and evaluating the coaching tree for possible replacements. Insert your preferred Kubler-Ross interpretation here.
Don the tinfoil hats. If Dave Brandon is willing to bluntly state that he had nothing to do with Dorsey's failure to be admitted, I believe him:
"This is a decision that is owned by the admissions department, our admissions office," Brandon said. "It's always been owned by the admissions office. It is not unusual for a letter of intent to be signed with a prospective student-athlete where there's far more that needs to be done for the student-athlete to be admitted. It involves course work, it involves test scores, and a variety of criteria some of which is fact-based and where and how they went about improving their test scores."
You'd have to be foolhardy to make such a statement in a FOIA-laden environment, and Brandon doesn't seem foolhardy. As discussed yesterday, this had everything to do with grades.
Expansion-o-rama again. The to-date accurate Chip Brown has declared the interest level between Texas and A&M to be "NONE!!!!!!" which doesn't make a ton of sense given the very real benefits available to Texas and A&M if they were to join the CIC—financial benefits that dwarf the amount of money athletics makes, causing the Big Ten partisans in the expansion game to declare him a useful stooge for athletic directors wishing to get a message out, which kind of does make sense.
Meanwhile a report that OU is headed to the SEC has been quickly and widely repudiated. I guess we'll find out.
World Cup linkage. One: GOLAZO! More footie strategy at Zonal Marking, which has tackled the US side "good, but need tactical tweaks" the Slovenians, a typical hardworking, honest, boring 4-4-2, and the Algerians, who were mainly 3-5-2 but are apparently going 4-4-2 for the WC, possibly because of a run of poor recent results. The Algerian goaltender is described as "very, very dodgy," something that takes doing at the African Cup of Nations.
Michigan Men's Basketball Coach John Beilein sat down with the media yesterday, along with LaVall Jordan, the newest member of his staff. After the jump, check out what Beilein thinks of conference expansion.
Beilein on Jordan
- Beilein insists there was no tampering in the hiring of LaVall Jordan. From this point forward, any conversation with Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins will take place coach-to-coach. The two haven't yet spoken, and apparently there was some misunderstanding. Beilein has tried to get ahold of Hawkins, but hasn't been able to yet.
- Coach went through the process recently, and interviewed both Bacari Alexander and LaVall Jordan. Alexander ended up landing the previous opening because Beilein thought it was important to get a coach for the bigmen. When another position opened up, Jordan was the obvious choice. No other candidates were interviewed.
- Both new coaches have Michigan ties, which was an important part of the selection criteria.
- The coaching staff is entirely new since last summer. It's been good to have the new hires spaced out, so each guy got caught up to speed before the new guy was hired. It would have been tough to replace all three at once.
- Refusing to say whether his staff needed an overall after the last couple years, Beilein said "I really like this staff now. This is a good staff."
- The rest of Beilein's staff (non-coaching positions) will hopefully be filled promptly. He hopes to get started on it this weekend.
Jordan on Michigan
- When LaVall was growing up in Michigan, the Wolverines were a big deal. "With Glen Rice and Rumeal, and then moving forward, you know."
- Jordan coached one year with fellow assistant Jeff Meyer before, and had a lot of connections to all of Michigan's coaches, so it was a natural fit. "The people had a big part to do with my excitement."
- Jordan was not called by Beilein about the (second) staff opening. When he heard about the opportunity, he had a discussion with Coach Hawkins, and made a decision. "The one thing none of us can control is timing." Jordan was surprised there was an issue raised by Coach Hawkins.
- "I'm fired up. I know these guys; I know they're good guys. I believe in this program, in this University, and I'm excited. I know the guys on the roster, and the young talent, and what Michigan is capable of."
- When LaVall was an assistant at Iowa, he had the responsibility of scouting Michigan for the Hawkeyes. "Don't hold it against me. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
- Jordan recruited Michigan at both Butler and Iowa. He gained the commitment of Devyn Marble at Iowa. He also had opportunities to make connections in Indiana and throughout the midwest. Michigan will allow the opportunity to broaden, and recruit nationally.
The official release and John Beilein's thoughts on conference expansion can be found after the jump!
Ace from the Wolverine Blog has some gory details up about Demar Dorsey's transcripts and how they turned into his current GPA. I won't get into the exact numbers if only because I have the strong sense that doing that is a one of the few things you can actually do on a sports blog that could actually get you sued, but suffice it to say the reparations job done by LifeSkills is beyond the realm of the plausible.
I can confirm from a couple independent sources the broad outline of what Ace describes: Dorsey's application remains incomplete. As of the beginning of his senior year his path to qualification was so grim that making it automatically raises red flags about the validity of the new grades. Not that anyone was caught cheating, just that the alternative curriculum must necessarily have been less than rigorous, and the amount of improvement raises eyebrows when it's accomplished in a potentially unsupervised environment outside of a traditional high school. The facts in the post are, to my knowledge, accurate.
The decision not to admit him had nothing to do with tinfoil hat theories and everything to do with the fact that he shouldn't have been offered in the first place. In the parlance of an earlier post…
There are two ways to be qualified. One is to be qualified. The other is to be Michael Oher or Derrick Rose, in which case you are "qualified" via a string of correspondence classes and/or a sketchy test score. Michigan takes qualified guys, but when scare quotes get involved Michigan tends to go the other way. Ask new Bearcat Adrian Witty. Is Dorsey qualified or "qualified"? We don't know until he enrolls somewhere, whether it's Michigan or Florida State or a JUCO. Available evidence suggests the latter, in which case it's better if Michigan doesn't enroll him.
…Dorsey is "qualified." Michigan basically can't take him in good faith because they can't expect he will be able to keep up with the work.
Admissions is not the problem here. They are just doing what they have always been doing, except now they're dealing with some kids that previous Michigan coaches would not have tried to recruit. I did imply that in the UV and maybe by not fully rewriting a couple of sentences in the alliterative Dorsey post, which originally took a much more OUTRAGED position before I edited it, and that was incorrect. The problem here lies in more Michigan-Rodriguez culture clash stuff that would be a minor annoyance if the team had, you know, won any games.
Provost note. Ace spends a section of his post debunking the idea that Rodriguez got a sign-off on offering Dorsey from the "provost" mentioned. I think there's been a miscommunication due to an awkward sentence. The original paragraph:
This situation is the Draper/Labadie/compliance dysfunction all over again, with miscommunication between Rodriguez—who went to bat for Dorsey with a provost before signing day and got a signoff on him—and admissions replacing the lack of communication between the football administration and compliance. It's a different sclerotic artery, but the root cause is the same.
This has been taken to imply that Rodriguez had gotten some sort of sign off from admissions; unfortunately I was trying to express the opposite. When Rodriguez was clearing Dorsey with part of the university—something that did indeed happen, though it might not have been a "provost"—it was about his checkered past and not his checkered transcript. It was the failure of both parties not to explore the kid's academic background sufficiently, or of Rodriguez not to understand that Michigan is not West Virginia in these matters*, that left Dorsey and Michigan in the position they are today, where Michigan looks stupid coming and going and Dorsey's left to find a new home in the middle of June. That is essentially identical to the CARA form fiasco.
Everything in that post remains accurate except for the aforementioned shot at admissions, which basically had no choice when it came to their decision. Michigan should not have offered Dorsey, what happened to him was unfair, and it's another symptom of an athletic department that needs to operationalize some processes stat.
But who do we blame? As per usual, many people can take the hit. Rodriguez is one. Without knowledge of what he's been told is kosher and what he's been told is not—and how strenuously—how much is a guy working from assumptions built up after ten years at Clemson and WVU and how much is pure stubbornness from a guy who should know better isn't clear. If there is someone on the staff who is supposed to be in contact with admissions and know which guys are borderline and which are no way—and I honestly don't know if there is one—then it falls on that person. If there isn't then there should be, and I expect that there will be.
Even if it is all Rodriguez's fault, I don't think this is a major issue if Dorsey isn't a critically needed recruit who created a media circus. He's just another Quinton Woods, albeit one that Michigan should have known better than to take.
*(No moral superiority implied.)
i like this picture because he's about to shoot a planet-destroying laser out of his mouth
Some horse-holding may be in order in case anyone is printing up huge quantities of Pac-16 t-shirts. These reports come from a television station and a guy in Indianapolis radio and are about conference expansion should therefore be taken with a grain of salt large enough to have moons, but they appear to be independently-sourced claims that Texas and Texas A&M may be heading Midwest instead of just West.
High level sources in multiple conferences have told KCTV5 that Texas and Texas A&M are looking to move to the Big Ten Conference and have petitioned for membership, while the University of Oklahoma is planning on petitioning the Southeastern Conference to become a member of its conference.
Texas Tech can pound sand, according to KCTV.
Kent Sterling, the Indiana radio guy does have an extensive newsy background, FWIW, but his site's report is way fuzzier and it's posted by Pauly Balst, whose bio reads "Pauly Balst has a very solid reputation and track record in speculative journalism and for-profit amatuer [sic] athletics." This is not reassuring. Anyway:
College Station, Texas, based sources close to Texas A&M confirm the scenario of Texas A&M, Texas and Nebraska joining the Big 10, bringing the total to 14. … Sources also confirmed the rift with Texas Tech and Baylor is that “UT and A&M have joined together in this decision”. By adding this trio, UT does not “go to war alone in a new conference” when ongoing issues arise.
"Confirm the scenario"? What does that mean? That could be talking. It could be a D&D meeting. I'm not putting a ton of stock into that, but it's out there.
Meanwhile, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is sounding less imperial:
“I’d say that (having an 11-team conference) is a possibility,” Scott said.
He also said that no assurances and that no invitations have been issued to any other Big 12 schools, including Texas and Texas A&M, whose athletic directors met on Thursday in Austin to discuss their future.
“There are several different scenarios,” Scot siad. “There is no defined timetable” for further Pac-10 expansion.
Colorado snapping up the Pac-10 invite and thereby bouncing Baylor may have given the Big Ten the wedge it needs to crowbar Tech off the Texas schools everyone wants, in which case thanks Baylor.
This post's information value will self-destruct in ten seconds.
(HT: Aaron and Damon Lewis.)