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!
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.)
World Cup content ahoy. The below is a conversation with War Blog Eagle proprietor, guy who is basically dog blood comprised of 90% cocaine during the first round of the NCAA tournament, and gracious host for the MGoRoadtrip to Auburn-LSU Jerry Hinnen. If you're trolling for more WC content, Stars and Gripes remains highly recommended, and I'd add the Shin Guardian to that list despite the fact that more than one of their contributors advocates a Robbie Findley start on Saturday.
I'm in bold; Jerry is plaintext.
So I know that after this whole Demar Dorsey thing you're ready to think about something totally non-stressful and anti-depressing. Let's talk about the U.S. central defense! Do we battle Wayne Rooney with the guy who plays (regularly!) in Norway and spearheaded the defensive "effort" against Mexico in the 5-0 Gold Cup loss? Or the guy who hasn't played more than 45 minutes since October and runs like your grandfather?
Probably the guy who not only runs but looks like my grandfather, if my grandfather was Greg Oden. As soon as Onyewu sprouted that hellacious neckbeard it was like it had always been there. Bradley said he was ready to go 90, and while that might be a smokescreen the USA backline actually started clearing crosses before they hit the ground when he came in against the Aussies.
With England seemingly set to start Emile Heskey, strength will be at a premium over speed, and it's not like Goodson is that quick or agile anyway. I think you deploy two destroyers in front of the central D and hope.
What would you do? Leave a comment below!
Ives, I agree. If Slovenia or Algeria were the opening match, I'd advise playing it safe with Goodson and giving Onyewu another few days to get the beard up to "Eliminator" standards. But England is the damn-the-torpedoes, high-variance, all-or-nothing match. Onyewu's ceiling is so many thousands of miles higher than Goodson's.
Plus Demerit seems to not be suffering a prolonged seizure when Gooch is out there, too, plus plus thanks to B. Bradley's marathon training sessions--as in "let's be fit enough to run one"--we may be OK burning a sub in central defense if we have to. So that's one of the two big lineup questions. The other: who are your forwards?
No, seriously: send Bornstein home with a bruised ego and bring in Ching. Seriously. No foolies.
Do I hear a second? Sustained.
Failing that, I would go with Jozy and Dempsey because I'd rather have Holden on the field than Buddle. Given Buddle's ability to score goals when they are put on a plate, though, I'd be okay with having him start if you're dead set on having Dempsey in the midfield.
Findley: absolutely not. I will be stabby if he gets 90.
What, you're not interested in having his speed stretch the defense? But the defense! It'll be stretched! Because of his speed! That's far more important than his ability to, you know, score in an empty net from three yards.
To be fair, one of those was from like... eight yards.
You're right, I'm being too harsh on the guy who scored once in 12 MLS games this year. Me, I start Altidore and Buddle. Dempsey just seems so much more comfortable starting in midfield and moving up later, and for my money "how can we get the most out of Dempsey?" is a more important question than the Buddle/Holden dilemma. Besides, dude, Buddle was visited by some sort of magical goalscoring fairy last offseason.
I won't be mad if it's Buddle-Altidore. I will only be mad if Findley starts. I can see him as a 60th minute sub against an old and creaky English defense, but that's all. I mean, aren't Jozy and Buddle somewhat close to his speed?
Yes. They are not slow. I wonder if Bradley believes they are because they are not short.
You left out one positional debate: midfielder who is not Bradley.
Who should start next to Bradley? Leave your thoughts below!
We can discuss our choice for not-Bradley defensive midfielder, but I'll eat a raw egg if it's not Clark. Donovan said after the Aussie match B. Bradley had used it to get his guys used to playing 90 at altitude. That Clark played that 90 (until his weird hamstring/thigh injury that no one is allowed to talk about, ever, for some weird reason) tells me it's not even a matter of debate.
Does that bother you at all? Clark sucked against Turkey. Pulling him off for Torres turned that game around. Against Australia the midfield provided almost no resistance, leaving the back four exposed. He's supposed to be a destroyer but I don't remember one tackle from the friendlies. How effective can Clark be if he's not even picking up yellows? I don't even know if that's a joke.
He was balls against Turkey but I think you're selling him a little short against the Aussies; he wasn't great, but he had a handful of decent plays, and he played the cross-field ball to Cherundolo that set him up for the run-and-cross to Buddle.
I'd start Edu myself, but I don't think England is the right game for Torres. Because jobs No. 1, 1a, 1b, and 1c for whoever starts alongside Bradley are: Mark Frank Lampard. Possession is awful nice, we all know that, but taking Lampard out of the game and unshackling Bradley from that kind of dirty work might be even nicer. If you disrupt Lampard, maybe Gerrard has to come forward to try and get something going in the middle, maybe now we've got even more space on the counter for Bradley. I think Edu could manage that assignment and give us some ball control, but I'm all right with Clark.
I'm just leery of Clark because he's basically Onyewu. He has hardly played since the end of the last MLS season. The difference in the midfield is that the US has options. Edu's battled injury problems of his own but got some significant run for Rangers towards the end of the season and just looks more ready to play. I know some of the soccer insider folks have been suggesting he will start and Clark's friendly experience was an effort to get him fitness, fitness that Edu already has. I'm hoping that's the case.
I agree that the US will be playing to absorb pressure and will be thrilled with a draw, so Torres will not and should not start. If the US is behind at the half, I think he might be a quick sub, but that's only if things aren't going well.
Here's to hoping the insiders are right. I'm not losing sleep over Clark (not more than I'm already losing anyway), but there's loads more potential for a transcendent, England-beating performance with Edu.
There's seems to be a growing consensus out there that Torres needs to start against Slovenia and Algeria, though. We're part of that consensus, right? Is anyone not?
I am so on-board with that consensus. Going back to the "form" argument, Torres has logged a ton of time for Pachuca, way more than the other viable options. He takes pressure off a central defense that will feature Demerit and someone who is not Bocanegra. Bocanegra is pretty good with the ball at his feet and takes pressure off his central defense partner when he's in the middle; when he's not the US has hoofers. Having Torres drop back to pick up possession, relieve pressure, and release freakily accurate balls to attacking players makes the US way more likely to score from the run of play.
You and I are charter members of the Jose Torres fan club, though. At halftime of the Costa Rica game in CR we were ready to fly down there and scream at Bradley for yanking Torres at the half.
I don't know if I've ever been more confused by any coach I've followed, in any sport, than Bob Bradley. He makes so many decisions that make me think a ferret with a Ouija board could do better. But the results are there: 1st in the Hex. Confed Cup finalists. Even these two friendlies; 2-1 over Turkey and 3-1 over Australia (both of those teams something close to their respective A-sides) are light years ahead of what we saw in the '98, '06, and even '02 run-ups. I can't decide if I want to hug him or strangle him. Maybe start to hug him and turn it into a strangle.
In any case: no more ambivalence after Saturday, which is nice. You on the panic side or the 1776 all over again side?
I'm not expecting a win. That Onyewu injury is haunting. Right after everything with the Confed Cup that got him the Milan transfer, a meaningless game against Costa Rica, the injury... the total lack of field time... I mean, I think the US is a good bet to score against England but unless Timmah puts on a Spain-like show I think they're going down.
My personal prediction is a 2-2 draw with the U.S. going up 2-1 early in the second and just barely--like, batting cage-style bombardment on Howard's goal--hanging on for the point. I'm thinking we really need a point at least, though, because I've to the conclusion that Slovenia could be nightmarish. It's _so_ easy to see an early mental lapse in defense, a 1-0 deficit, and 80 minutes of useless pounding away at the same defense that did just that to Russia. (Russia as coached by Guus Hiddink, nonetheless.) Tell me why that won't happen. Please? I'm begging you. Seriously, I'm on my knees here.
Russia doesn't have Jose Torres.
No, just Andrei Arshavin.
I cannot tell you anything about Slovenia other than the vague overviews, but that's totally possible. The US is only 56% to advance according to Nate Silver's crazy computer, but the Slovenians are just going to sit back and hope, really. Their defense is fantastic; their offense is piddling. I think that's the game Torres comes in and maintains possession like a mofo.
That video does fill me with hope. Still, I think the most likely path to progression for U.S. remains England draw, Slovenia draw, Algeria win, five points is good for second. I do think progression is the most likely outcome, since Slovenia (despite my worries) and Algeria are still Slovenia and Algeria. But thanks to the defense, I'm still clutching my knees to my chest and singing Amazing Grace to myself twice daily.
What do you think of the U.S.'s chances of getting out of the group? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
I'd rather look at the broader picture with Slovenia: they had a weak group and bombed out of Euro '08. Algeria is widely regarded as the weakest team outside of the pure minnows (North Korea, New Zealand, and Honduras) and may be eliminated already. And England has a rich history of wobbly play. I do think Silver is about right and the US is only 60-40 to get out of the group, but 60-40 isn't bad.
But there is nothing that can possibly calm my nerves. What if they played college football once every four years and made the season 3-6 games? You would die, and nothing could prevent you from doing so. Thus the World Cup.
There is something both soul-crushingly horrible and soul-stirringly fantastic about being the kind of soccer fan--a species I'm going to hyperbolically claim is unique to the U.S., and which I believe represents the both of us--who love the sport, never attached themselves to a club side for geographic reasons, and root exclusively for the national side. Our team plays, essentially, three games that matter every four years. They mean absolutely everything. There is no next year, no fallback, no safety net of a club for our investment as fans. Defeat is unbearable. But victory a la 1994 or 2002 is ... it's hard to describe. I mean, remember the Portugal game? My dog could have been run over by the girl who wouldn't go out with me in seventh grade and I'd have written her a check for tire damage. Or something.
I do. That was the greatest day of soccer fandom ever for me, because I was in Ireland and the next game was the famous 1-1 draw with Germany that basically put the Irish through to the second round. May some day this month equal it.
At the same time Izzo is either going to Cleveland or not going to Cleveland (GO TO CLEVELAND, FOR GOD'S SAKE) another misinformation-rife story has either happened or not happened. This one is almost universally in the "happened" category, though, and there is actual FOIAed evidence of it:
Resolution regarding UNL athletic conference alignment.
If you want a meticulously-linked summary of the current state of affairs, Doctor Saturday has you covered. Suffice it to say that the evidence in the media is at the point that it should overwhelm the understandable skepticism given the many false alarms to date.
The Big 12 is "dead" according to expansion savant Chip Brown, with Nebraska's defection the fatal blow and the original Pac-16 (Colorado, no Baylor) the next step. Colorado's move to the Pac-something is the next domino, with Matt Hayes and the local paper both declaring the move a fait accompli:
The University of Colorado will announce at an 11 a.m. Friday press conference that the school will leave the Big 12 and join the Pac-10.
Multiple sources confirmed the deal to the Camera early Thursday, and league officials are scheduled to be in Boulder on Friday for the announcement.
The Big 12 is set to explode soon after, though the remaining members are gathering in Austin to see if they can work something out. Also Texas A&M has been talking with the SEC, because crazy needs to happen everywhere.
Big Ten Endgame
The Big Ten seems to have been undone by the "solidarity pledge" taken by Texas (woo!), A&M (all right), and Tech (guh) despite the widely-held opinion amongst Texas fans that UT would prefer the Big Ten and the CIC over the Pac-10 and nothing. If we're entering a world of 16-team super conferences that are logistically stupid, the Pac-10 has just eaten the Texas power pellet and will start chasing the Big Ten all over the map, all because they are willing to swallow things like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
If the Big 12 South minus Baylor does move to the Pac Something, where does that leave the Big Ten? Outmaneuvered, mostly. Letting Texas escape to another conference is a major blow. They'll be battering down Notre Dame's door by threatening to pick off enough Big East schools to destabilize ND's home for basketball and non-revenue sports. They could pick over the scattered remnants of the Big 12 to see if they want a Missouri, though the current environment suggests they won't.