Result. A point from the first match is fantastic, especially since the Slovenia-Algeria game was a crime against soccer. If the US wins against Slovenia, which they should, they are basically through. A tie is probably good enough going into a final game against a shambolic(!) and likely eliminated Algeria squad.
Timmah! Was where he needed to be, made the saves he could make, and did not spill a harmless ball into the net. He was fortunate that a number of English shots were directly at him, but he saved a couple sledgehammers without offering up a rebound that Rooney could have poached.
Steve Cherundolo. Essentially shut down the right side of the English attack and, as a bonus, drew two dangerous fouls on Milner, forcing Capello to take him off just a half-hour in. He coped with the speed of Wright-Phillips and Cole for most of the game; given Spector's recent troubles it's easy to envision the US conceding another goal or two if Cherundolo isn't on the field.
Dempsey & Donovan. Neither had a spectacular game. Both were still the USA's best and most dangerous players. Donovan set up most of the USA's dangerous chances and provided his usual quality set piece service; Dempsey obviously scored. Even if it was a howler by the goalie, score == good.
Jozy Altidore. Par for the course: one brilliant piece of individual skill and not a whole lot else. Created a golden opportunity that Green and the post conspired to deny. Also whiffed on Donovan's dangerous
Robbie Findley. Josh Wolff 2.0. Took some long balls down well and helped with possession. Still wasteful when he does get the ball in a dangerous position; even got caught on his breakaway because of sloppy footwork with the ball.
Michael Bradley. I'm not really sure. I'm just putting him here because I don't recall much good or bad from Bradley.
Central defense. Onyewu did get pulled out of position on the quick Gerrard goal but since as the game wore on it became clear that the game plan for dealing with Rooney was to have the central defense immediately step out on him no matter where he was, he can hardly be blamed for following the gameplan. Zonal Marking has a bunch of stills showing the various ways in which this strategy exposed various parts of the field to be exploited. Here's Onyewu stepping out on Rooney, getting beaten, sucking Bocanegra in, and setting up Lennon for a dangerous cross:
ZM sees this as Onyewu repeatedly committing errors, but from my perspective the US decided that Rooney would not beat them and they'd take their chances with Heskey and others, especially since the absence of Barry forced the ineffective deployment of Milner/SWP and the Nats' tucked in attacking midfielders largely neutralized the England fullbacks. The focus on Rooney put Heskey in for England's best chance of the second half. His shot went directly at Howard.
For the rest of the game, the central D pairing kept England out. Demerit was especially good at harrying Rooney, who had a minimal impact until late when everyone got tired and England finally started attempting to exploit the still-awkward Onyewu in some one-on-one situations.
The downside for the central D: both Heskey and Crouch had their way aerially, with Heskey knocking down ball after ball for his teammates and Crouch having some scary moments in the box. That's somewhat unavoidable—Heskey is a beast and Crouch is 6'7"—but a fully healthy Onyewu may have competed better.
Carlos Bocanegra. This was definitely going to happen, but it did: Aaron Lennon was too much for Bocanegra, providing most of the England offense in the second half. He'll cope better against less blazing wingers.
Ricardo Clark. The writing was on the wall when Clark went 90 against Australia, but why a guy with two appearances for his club since the end of the last MLS season got the nod over a comparable player with a lot more recent playing time under his belt (Edu) is still unclear. Clark let Gerrard loose less than five minutes into the game, and that's especially egregious since it was obvious that center-backs stepping out was part of the gameplan and that Clark is supposed to be the most defensive-minded player on the pitch other than Onyewu and Demerit.
I haven't reviewed the game yet but the first serious rewatch posts are rolling in and Clark does not do well in them:
There is one camera angle on ESPN3 and I caught at least four other opportunities to the early gaffe by Clark of ball watching–or clipping his nails–or whatever he was doing rather than getting on the play. (19, 25, 34, 84 minutes)
Defensive awareness is about the only thing Clark is supposed to bring to a game, and he's not really doing that after missing six months injured.
I'm with the rest of the internet: I expect we'll see Torres the next two matches as the US adopts a more aggressive posture based on possession.
Also South Africa. Vuvuzelas, incredible swathes of empty seats—I'm watching Japan-Cameroon and it looks like Crisler when Michigan plays Arkansas Pine-Bluff—a bunch of money spent on sports in an area of the world that has serious problems… way to go FIFA.
With the draw against England, I'm with Braves and Birds:
The weekend's results create a new goal for the Nats. Coming into the tournament, we all wanted them to make it out of the group my any means necessary. Now, with a draw against England and Germany looking like the best team in the tournament, there should be motivation for the Nats to do their best to win the group to avoid the Germans in the round of sixteen.
If the US and England both win on Friday, the final matchday will be a race to avoid Germany. Big if, though, against a Slovenia side that rarely concedes goals.
The Run of Play on the game.
Late this morning, Nebraska officials contacted the Big Ten office, informing the league of the decision. Nebraska will become the 12th member of the Big Ten.
Meanwhile, University of Texas regents will meet next week to decide whether the Longhorns will remain in the Big 12 or switch to another conference.
Big 12 D-Day is Tuesday.
UPDATE: MSU AD Mark Hollis is tweeting it, so that's basically official. No more "anonymous sources."
UPDATE II: Showing the backbone we associate with true leadership, Hollis has deleted that tweet.
UPDATE III: From the Michigan AD:
Statement from Athletic Director Dave Brandon
I can confirm that Nebraska has applied to the Big Ten Conference for membership. I can also confirm that the Big Ten has done its due diligence as it relates to Nebraska. I expect that an announcement will be forthcoming from the Big Ten in regard to Nebraska’s membership very soon.
Here's a hint as to the outcome: The BTN is going to televise Nebraska's 6PM EST press conference.
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!