Mason NEEDS this, Pistons, after all you've put him through
6/22/2006 - USA 1-2 Ghana - EO World Cup
I'm pissed. I'm pissed off about the penalty kick and I'm pissed at Bocanegra for not booting the ball out of bounds like every kid from six on up is taught to and I'm pissed at Claudio Reyna for giving away a goal and generally being useless and I'm pissed at just about everyone aside from Onyewu and Dempsey. But mostly I'm pissed about Bruce Arena.
This makes no sense, really. I still believe I've seen a dozen tackles in this very World Cup equivalent-or-worse to Mastroeni's fateful mistake that have been yellows or even no booking at all. Pope's first yellow was a joke -- the man he was marking pulled Pope on top of him -- and the incompetent Uruguayan had no idea Pope was carrying yellow when he booked him a second time. You can't really blame Arena for Claudio Reyna's horrendous gaffe or Marcus Merck's gift PK. And you can't blame him drawing into what turned out to be the tournament's real Group of Death. I still believe that this was a knockout-stage team hamstrung by things beyond its control. One less horrible PK and one slightly more accurate header from McBride or Onyewu and the USA emerges from its group and nobly falls to Brazil. Arena remains a genius. Tacos for everyone.
That did not happen, however, and thus we must confront harsh reality: Bruce Arena's tactical decisions were worthy of Isiah Thomas. Not once in this tournament did Arena deign to start a second striker next to Brian McBride, who is wonderful in the air but lacking service and support did very little with his time. At some point it the question morphed from "Did Eddie Johnson nail Arena's wife?" to "How many times did Eddie Johnson tie Arena up and force him to watch the Grown-Ass Man nail Arena's wife?" At a later date, the answer was revealed: eighty-five. Entering a game the US had to win to advance, Johnson was passed over in favor of yet another 4-5-1, this one featuring Demarcus Beasley even further out of position as a sort of holding midfielder. When Claudio Reyna -- no doubt suffering from acute soccer-pansyitis after gifting Ghana its first goal -- gimped his way off USMNT fields forever in the 40th minute, Ben Olsen came on with the US down a goal. Ben Olsen. This is a man eloquently described by commenter Andrew as a "combination of Ryan Mundy's tendency to be out of position and Jeremy LeSeur's tendency toward dumb penalties." He is a defensive midfielder. He looks and plays like a crazed third liner in hockey. He does not help you score goals. Johnson did not come on until minute sixty, by which point it was far too late.
Is it any wonder that the US managed just four shots on goal the entire tournament? Arena coached like he was planning on tying his way to the second round; not a bad idea with the particular strength of the US: counter-attacking. But that went out the window when Robocop blasted a ball past Keller in the fifth minute and Arena seemed utterly clueless when forced to adapt. Maybe the fault lies more at Donovan and Reyna and Beasley's feet than in Arena's head, but at this point I just want a Dutchman. Or Klinsmann. Or just anyone who doesn't remind me very strongly of Lloyd Carr with a two-touchdown lead.
No tacos. No tacos for anyone. Just mail.
Update: Sweet Fancy Moses:
Here's one to get the rumor mill working overtime. I was at WDR, German state television early this morning talking to Boris Inanici, their ace reporter who has in the past has been embedded with the national team. He told me that Jurgen Klinsmann, the German national team coach will quit after the World Cup regardless of whether the 'Mannschaft' wins the whole thing or not.
He then told me that Klinsmann has already been seen with the top brass of the US Soccer Federation and that there is a very good chance that he will take over the national program when Bruce Arena steps down, which Arena has said he will do.
Commit #7 is who-dat MI WR James Rogers, who -- much like Martell Webb before him -- went from no Rivals profile at all to Michigan commit in no time flat. Michigan fans still grumbling about WMU superstar Greg Jennings will be delighted to hear that directional Michigan schools were all over the 6'2"... er... 165 Rogers.
There are two ways to look at the commitment:
- The I'm 16, Bright And Bushy-Tailed: OMG this guy is BRAYLON EDWARDZ! We're obviously going to get Clemons and Hemingway and Washington, so for this guy to get an offer must mean that he is secretly OMG shirtlezz. Heh heh, I said lez. Cornholio.
- The "I've Seen Too Much of This Crap": I guess we aren't getting Clemons or Hemingway or Washington. WHY DID YOU PUNT ON THIRD AND FOUR? AAAARGH.
If you care to hear where I fall on that particular contimnuum, it's probably 60% towards the kids. Webb -- who is reputed to have gone Wayne Brady on bitches at camp, BTW -- plus Rogers likely means that the Clemons/Hemingway/Washington trifecta is out the window, but two of the three are still possible. That likely means Clemons and Washington, since their Michigan affection appears to be waxing while Hemingway's wanes. I'll take that WR class no problem.
Commit number eight may also stir similar "what about X" panic, as he is Texas cornerback Troy Woolfolk -- what about Allen and Johnson? -- but two facts may mitigate those concerns:
- He's former Michigan RB Butch Woolfolk's son.
- He runs a 10.4 hundred meters (w/ tailwind, but still).
Zounds. Woolfolk had offers from Nebraska and TCU before his Michigan camp and said he thought Texas "may be close" to one a couple weeks ago, though he was probably a Plan-B recruit for the 'Horns. A quote from Orangebloods:
"After some drills, the coach came up and said he liked what he saw and that he was happy that I came. So I think I did well. Two coaches came up to me and said that I did a good job," Woolfolk said. "I'm not sure what might happen. I may wait a few days and then call them to see."
Woolfolk is some sort of defensive back but is still sixteen and growing, so whether he ends up at corner or safety is yet to be determined.
I wouldn't worry about Woolfolk's commitment bothering Johnson, Allen, or any other high-profile defensive back who might decide to commit as he is fairly raw, a three-star-with-upside type like Johnny Sears. It does bode unwell for the guys at the bottom of the board, since Michigan is probably done offering defensive backs unless extremely unlikely disaster strikes and the Johnson/Allen combination ends up somewhere other than a winged helmet.
Ghana-US... later. PK was a travesty but ultimately irrelevant, since I have no doubt the second half would have played out in identical fashion with the Czechs down both a goal and a man. If Gooch or McBride puts in a header, it would have been a tragedy. As it was, it was just insult upon injury.
Let's go... er... red, white, and blue.
Northwestern-Indiana: Nationwide! Well, not really. But the Big Ten has renegotiated its television contract with ABC/ESPN/Disney/Satan. It's essentially more of the same save for one bit of information that should greatly please fans in outlying areas:
All regional afternoon football games aired on ABC will be aired by ESPN/ESPN2 in outer-markets, making these games nationally available.
Hopefully something reciprocal can be worked out with the Big 12 and Pac-10 so I can see Texas-Oklahoma before I die. And foofy no-D Pac-10 matchups, I guess.
Also, the rumored Big Ten Channel is official. Coming next summer, it will feature:
- 35-plus football games, with each school having at least two games aired (at least one of which will be a conference game);
- At least 105 regular-season men's basketball games;
- At least 55 regular-season women's basketball games;
- Big Ten championships and tournaments;
- 170 Olympic sporting events; and,
- Coverage from the conference's vast library of historic sporting events, including bowl games.
Ian wets himself in anticipation! In addition, "each school will have the right to provide 60 hours of its own content annually." Michigan's sixty hours: twenty editions of OSU-Michigan '97. OSU's sixty hours: twenty editions of OSU-Michigan '02.
The football games on the channel will likely be the dregs of the schedule, the kind of stuff previously relegated to ESPN+ syndication. That's good news for Michigan fans, as useless MSU games against Kent State will no longer obliterate national ABC games on Channel 7.
One disappointing omission: no hockey. It's a bit tricky since there is no actual Big Ten hockey conference -- the teams are spread across the CCHA and WCHA -- but since this channel is a Fox production and the current channels that actually broadcast college hockey are all regional Fox networks, you'd think they could work something out. Lord knows it would be appreciated more than crew or whatever.
Speaking of Pac-10 foof, Nike's assault on your eyesight continues apace with the new Oregon uniforms, which really must be seen to be disbelieved. Apparently inspired by truck beds and acid, I link indirectly in case there are any children or seizure-prone individuals in the audience.
You have been warned.
Vijay has a camp update up worth your time that summarizes everything publicly available: Mallet is Robocop, Danny "Boom" Herron has acquired an offer, so has awesome-burning-unquenchable- hatred-of-ND guy Dave Molk, and more!
Dujkovic said he rated the United States but was confident of beating them.
"I don't have a message for the U.S. team. They have to worry and they will suffer," he said. "The Ghana team is young and tough ... and played some of the best football in the World Cup so far."
He also has more pessimism about their suspended players and a report on another that may miss the match, defender Samuel Kuffour:
Ghana's Serb coach Ratomir Dujkovic said it would be difficult to replace either [suspended] player. He also announced that veteran defender Samuel Kuffour had a "high temperature" but gave no other details.
"It's very difficult to find another Sulley Muntari. He's exceptional. He defends, attacks and creates chances. We have to find someone who can play a role close to Sulley," the coach said.
Kuffour's mysterious fever should be regarded with some suspicion, as the second Italian goal in Ghana's opening 2-0 loss was caused by a horrendous Kuffour backpass. In any case, he's by far their most experienced defender and seems likely to remain on the bench.
The most unintentionally hilarious moment of the tournament came during the England-Trinidad & Tobago game when Dwight Yorke was violently rochambeaued by a missile shot from some England player or another. Yorke, temporarily stripped of all decorum by an intense personal pain, spent a good five minutes writhing on the field, hand down his shorts. Having experienced this intense personal pain, I am absolutely sure that Yorke was gingerly touching the abused area, desperately hoping that it had not fallen off or something equally tragic. I mean this five minutes thing literally.
Despite it being painfully clear to all what had happened, the intolerable Marcelo Balboa was mercifully silent on the subject for two of the five minutes of ball-handling before limping in with this after a replay that conclusively showed Yorke's manhood under seige:
Those stomach... lower stomach injuries can be very painful... knock the wind out of you.
This conclusively proves that the only time ESPN will acknowledge a penis on air is when Jason Whitlock is on the Sports Reporters. (ZING!)
The Univision Goal Guy is as advertised, but the best part of the whole thing comes before the little pulsating GOL! graphic or the actual GOOOOOOOOOOOOOL! call itself. It comes in the moment between the actual call and the increasingly fevered response to the buildup, as soon as the ball brushes the back of the net: a simple, matter-of-fact "gol." It cracks me up every time. Por ejemplo:
El portero salta... no puede aggararlo!
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOL! GOOOOL PARA SALAMANCA!
I think my attempt to convey this has probably failed, but if you catch a game on Univision, listen for it.
Ghana is minus both goalscorers from their game against the Czechs due to yellow card accumulation; the US is down both Eddie Pope and Pablo Mastroeni after the Italy referee's hair trigger. Advantage? I don't know. Without Cory Gibbs on the team, Jimmy Conrad is the next central defender in line. He is "likely" to replace Pope according to ESPN2. He has little international experience but couldn't possibly play worse than Pope did against Italy.
Mastroeni's situation is trickier. Arena did bring along a second midfield bulldog-type in Ben Olsen, a man who looks two months into a playoff beard at all times, but knowing a tie is guaranteed death Arena might pull Reyna back into a defensive midfielder role and bring Eddie Johnson in up top for a more offensive posture. The problem is that the Ghana's obvious strength is in midfielders Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah and a midfield featuring Bobby Convey, Claudio Reyna, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey is a lot like throwing five forwards out in hockey. One guy you probably won't see, at least at the start, is John O'Brien:
Arena hinted that MF John O'Brien isn't available to start. "I don't think John has felt comfortable over the last week or two," he said.
A note of hope form Grant Wahl's interview with the US assistant coach assigned to scouting Ghana:
In the African Nations Cup they didn't have their full team. Muntari, Essien and Gyan weren't even at the tournament. And you could see it. Ghana, in my opinion, when they have their starting 11, their top 11 are pretty darn good. But once they have to get into their bench, all of a sudden there's a drop-off. That's the case for a lot of teams. We feel that they've lost two players, we've lost two players. I tend to believe our roster is overall, 1 through 23, better than the Ghanaian roster. So they're going to be really hurt by those two guys who are suspended.
I expect a cross, corner, and set-piece heavy day from the US, as Ghana's goalie has come out and flapped uselessly at about every other dangerous ball sent into the box in their first two games, so I would expect DMB on the bench with Convey and Dempsey on the wings. Another possibility on the left, either at defense or in the midfield, is Eddie Lewis. All he does is cross.
9/19/2006 - Oilers 1-3 Carolina - Carolina wins Cup 4-3
Once again: damn. Hockey is a game that seems deliberately obtuse at times and last night was one of them. Stripped of the vim and vigor that obliteratd the 'Canes in game six, the Oilers floundered to a 3-1 loss that wasn't as close as the score line. In the first minute they were stunned by a goal by Aaron Ward of all people. Aaron, don't you know I run the finest Michigan blog west of the Pecos River? How could you? The alumni organization is going to hear of this.
But I'll refrain from quoting some despondent Smiths song as is my wont. The Oilers went beyond even the expectations of the wild-eye society rejects on Internet message boards about four games into the second round. There is indeed no shame in falling at the final hurdle.
Still, today I'm going to shave the playoff beard and I will not be putting it in a plastic baggie carefully labeled Playoff Beard 2006(!) WOO! GOILERS! WOO! In times of stress I will not remove the baggie from its secure location, gingerly open it, and stroke the hairs therein as Michigan plays Notre Dame or my sixth wife says she wants to divorce me because I watch too much football or someone close to me is gravely ill or Michigan plays Ohio State. I suppose the chances of that were remote in any case, but now they are zero. This is considered a loss.
I don't think this will happen again any time soon without something approximating the divine intervention that got the Oilers to this point in '06. An honest assessment of the team finds it with a bevy of good players but only one great one -- Pronger -- and a lot of decisions to make in free agency this offseason, starting with hometown favorite and leading scorer in the playoffs Fernando Pisani. With competent goaltending the Oilers are no longer a team that hovers around the 7-10 spots in the Western conference, but they aren't likely to be a destroy-all-comers team like Ottawa or Detroit -- and how many cups have they acquired recently?
No, this thing that happened seems like a one-off event more akin to Calgary's run to the final. I don't think they'll be back this way again. Even favorites in the NHL have a tough time getting through.