Another quality moment from America’s leading soccer network…
It was a great weekend to be an American playing football abroad. Marcus Hahnemann helped Wolves secure only their second victory of the season in a shocker against Manchester City. It should be noted that of City’s 19 shots, only two were on goal – and one of those got past him. Either way, Hahnemann gets a victory no matter how many stops he made.
Now to Craven Cottage where the most in-form American can’t stop scoring. Clint Dempsey netted a brace in Fulham’s 2-0 over Wigan. He has now tallied four goals this season, and very much on pace to better his total of seven all of last season. I would imagine a number of Americans cringed at the sight of Dempsey’s embrace with Carlos Salcido. The Mexican international frustrated Wigan all game, wreaking havoc down the left side and setting up Dempsey’s first. For what it’s worth, this pair could be extremely menacing for opponents going forward. Highlights of both goals right this way.
One of the continent’s big matches took place in Belgium as league leaders Racing Genk hosted second place Anderlicht. And wouldn’t you know, Sacha Kljestan opened the scoring for the visitors with a poacher’s goal. Kljestan signed a four year deal with the Belgian champions and has scored twice in five appearances (the first came in his debut for the club). Sacha’s goal here.
MORE goals from Maurice Edu, and luckily not for the other team. The Rangers man put the home side up 1-0 against Inverness Caledonian Thistle (arguably the best name of any team on the planet). Edu showed great composure rifling the ball on the volley past the goalkeeper. Perhaps the best of all the American goals this weekend.
And although it was midweek, we should give Jozy Altidore a shout-out. The big striker who has struggled to impress anywhere in the past year finally scored for Villarreal in a Copa del Rey match. Playing time has been sparse for Altidore with his New Jersey counterpart Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar being the preferred strikers. Let’s hope this goal is the start of something good for him.
And while we are on the subject of American goals, remember when Landon scored that winner in the World Cup? This montage never gets old.
Charlie Davies recounts the moment he regained consciousness after his accident: "I’m in a hostel and they’re trying to steal my organs"27 Sep
The pictures speak for themselves. On October 13, 2009, Charlie Davies found himself in a horrific car crash, which claimed the life of one of the passengers. His injuries blow your mind and make you wonder how he is still alive: broken tibia and fibula, broken femer, lacerated bladder, fractured and dislocated left elbow, shattered nose, cheeks and forehead (for which they pulled down skin from the top of his head down to the chin to reconstruct). He probably has more metal in his body now than Wolverine.
Somehow, some way, Davies has recovered in a shockingly short time frame. He has already played a number of matches for the Sochaux reserve team and hopes to be back fully fit to play again for the United States in next year’s Gold Cup.
In an interview on World Football Daily last week, Charlie went into chilling detail about the very first moments when he regained consciousness after the accident:
“I woke up and I was in the hospital. I had no idea where I was, though. I thought I was actually in Honduras. And I looked down and the first thing I saw was all these staples down my stomach, and the first thought that ran through my head was ‘I’m in a hostel and they’re trying to steal my organs.’
So I started to take the staples out of my stomach, and I maybe got to the fifth one and said okay, I’m gonna try and make a run for it now. And as soon as I raised up a little a nurse saw me and sprinted over. She told me [I] was in a serious car accident and that I was in Washington DC. That’s when it all hit me.”
If that doesn’t make your spine tingle, I don’t know what else could.
Charlie Davies is an extremely lucky man to be with us today. Throughout the rest of the interview, he amazed me with his positive attitude and his fighting spirit. He understands the ramifications of his actions, and can only grow from the new outlook he has on life. Best wishes to Charlie for a speedy recovery.
And as for all you readers, a simple word of advice: while we grovel at the feet of our footballing heroes every weekend and make light of their social lives, a large majority of them are stupid and irresponsible. All too often we’ve seen cars ripped to shreds by footballers speeding home, some drunk. So do yourselves a favor. Wear a seat belt, don’t drink and drive, and aspire to be the complete opposite of every “too cool for school” footballer out there.
And to be fair and accurate – Davies was not driving nor was he under the influence of alcohol or any drug at the time.
Some are asking, what might have been. Caution trumps ambition. I couldn’t agree more with either of those reactions to Bob Bradley’s four year extension by US Soccer. On the first comment of what might have been, we saw the peak (although apparently not) of Bradley’s ability as manager. He took us to the final of the Confederations Cup, the farthest USA has advanced in any FIFA sanctioned tournament. We also won our World Cup group for the first time in history. Then we bowed out as swiftly as we entered. Bradley asked his players for everything, and received even more in return. But now it’s time for a change. It’s time to look forward to the next four years of American football and more importantly, to the next generation. A large number of players on the US squad will be well over 30 in 2014 and a complete overhaul of the system is needed.
We are no different than many countries throughout the world who are faltering as their golden generation depart. Has the US faltered in the past few years? Perhaps not, but we have surely reached the peak of expectations with the current squad and talent pool. A makeover is needed. So why not a fresh face? Why not a new guy with a vision and better understanding of the youth system in America? I have argued many times that Bradley doesn’t know his best starting XI, and it cost us dearly in the World Cup. With such lack of awareness with veterans and familiar faces at his disposal, there is no reason to believe he can mold together of group of players popping their cherry on the national stage.
Caution trumps ambition. For that we turn to US Soccer and its President, Sunil Gulati – a man with zero credentials and a terrible footballing sense. Heck he used to split his time at Columbia University where my good friend had clauses taught by him! With few legitimate candidates to choose from, Gulati balked and figured why not give Bradley another four years to continue his project. Gulati has essentially chosen the status quo, which is fine if you have no interest in evolution and improvement.
It is a frustrating day for football fans here. I have no doubt Bradley will continue to demand and receive hard work and determination from his players. But I just can’t see him getting the best ability out of them, while at the same time reconciling all the new talent and figuring out the best tactics to win games.
You never know, maybe it’s a buffer and in two years when a bigger name emerges, Gulati will pounce. Something tells me though, that we are in for another four years of the same old story.
Events over the past 2 days have clearly illustrated why MLS will never be a significant entity until changes are made. The mentality in this country is skewed as it’s become more and more apparent how much football has been Americanized into soccer. On the one hand there’s no choice. Everyone agrees this isn’t our sport and without tweaking it a bit to cater to the American public, it would never survive. However, this country still has a duty to respect the game, and quite frankly, we don’t.
I’ll get to the All Star game in a bit, but let’s start with the Los Angeles Galaxy – this year’s premiere team in MLS. They have dominated all competition so far winning 12, losing 2, and drawing 4. They’ve scored the most goals in the league and given up the fewest. Topping the Western Conference, they are still 9 points clear of second place Real Salt Lake and 6 points ahead of the Eastern Conference leader. You get the point – they ain’t too shabby. The Galaxy took all this talent into Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champions League qualifying match against the Puerto Rico Islanders who play in the USL – America’s second tier league. Puerto Rico soundly thumped them 4-1 in Los Angeles. 4-1!! What a disgrace. LA is the face of Major League Soccer captained by arguably the most noticeable player on the planet right now in Landon Donovan. There shouldn’t be any club team on the continent who comes close. Yet, in our Champions League, what should be the most prestigious tournament for club teams playing in CONCACAF, the Galaxy simply couldn’t care less.
This is a problem. It slaps this very sport in the face. Nobody outside of America gives any credit to the champion of the world’s “retirement league.” You need legitimacy and respect, and the only way you’re going to get that is by achieving continental success. Take Celtic and Rangers from Scotland in a league that rivals MLS for mediocrity. However, both those clubs compete yearly in the UEFA Champions League or Europa League and at times have made a significant run. The only reason you know about them (aside from playing in the United Kingdom) is that they’ve had historical success in Europe. The point I’m trying to make is that the Galaxy are this year’s Celtic/Rangers. But dominating at home means nothing. And yes, CONCACAF doesn’t have the Barcelonas or the Inter Milans or the Liverpools. But this is our continent’s premiere club tournament and once again, America only cares about themselves. They don’t understand what it means to respect a major tournament of some of the very best football clubs on this side of the Atlantic.
Think I’m out of line? The United States sent a C team to the Copa America in 2009 while Brazil and Argentina and the likes sent their very best. We have since been uninvited to the tournament. Why would we do such a thing? Because we were more worried about winning the terribly difficult Gold Cup to book a trip to the Confederations Cup in South Africa. (Remember when we beat Spain?) We were more worried about beating Haiti, Grenada, and Panama with our very best than going toe to toe with some of the world’s best in South America. Let’s go one step further. Bruce Arena and Landon Donovan, after being crushed on Tuesday, jumped on a late-night plane to fly to Houston for the annual…
MLS ALL-STAR GAME!! America’s signature gift to the world. Where we parade the very best of our top league to play against one of Europe’s popular teams. A pathetic spectacle of epic proportions. I will admit that there are logical reasons for doing so, most notably the money. Nobody can argue with MLS packing over 70,000 people into a stadium to watch a football game, especially when Manchester United features. But I am thoroughly pleased that the “all-stars” got their asses kicked last night by a bunch of kids who in their late teens and early twenties are better than 95% of the players MLS can offer. Why is this even necessary? Why must MLS interrupt it’s season and distract club teams all for TV ratings and money? Why on Earth was Landon Donovan on that field if only for the last 15 minutes a day after he played a full 90?!
The whole thing stinks. You don’t think Donovan got a call from someone telling him he had to show his face on the field in Houston? I would have said, “F**k off. My club team has a Champions League match and we are the only chance you have of an MLS side achieving credibility on the continent. Who cares about a silly exhibition?” Unfortunately, Landon is a bigger man than that and he knows his importance to the sport here. But the very fact that he most likely received such a message is the heart of the issue.
I can’t think of anything more embarrassing and damaging to the sport in this country than what happened last night.
Major League Soccer took a big hit this week. It couldn’t be any clearer. People across Europe will read about how United’s bench players ripped to shreds the very best America’s domestic league has to offer. People across North and Central America will read about how a petty island team from Puerto Rico walked into the home of MLS’ most dominant team and beat em’ like a bunch a school girls.
Hang your heads because there is nothing to be proud of today for fans of the sport here.
Happy July 4th everyone! Surely you’re all out and about drinking and making mistakes. But while I have a few minutes to rest my sprained ankle, I thought I’d pay homage to this great nation with some of the best we’ve had to offer in our footballing history.
Starting with, of course, Donovan’s winner. This montage will probably give me goosebumps until the day I die.
(Soccernet/Jim Brown/US Presswire)
Call me cynical for having always having my doubts. It’s been a roller coaster supporting the United States men’s national team leading up to and including the World Cup. The highs (and lows) of the Confederations Cup last summer, the comebacks against England and Slovenia after conceding early, the heart stopping finish against Algeria, and of course the finale versus Ghana. We are lucky to have a talented squad, oozing with mental toughness, class acts, hard workers, and potential. But all that amounts to nothing, however, if you can’t convert that into a complete winning mentality with goals and victories. The key word here is a complete winning mentality. Quite frankly, this team didn’t have it, nor the proper leadership to cultivate it.
It started at the Confederations Cup in South Africa last summer. After getting pummeled by a combined score of 6-1 to Brazil and Italy in the opening matches of the group stage, that never say die spirit ignited and we beat Egypt 3-0 to move through (surpassing Italy with the 2nd tie breaker of goals scored). And then the shock defeat of Spain – the best, and up to that point, unstoppable team on the planet. Yet it seems every high point this team reaches is almost instantaneously followed up by a let down…in this case shipping a 2 goal halftime lead against Brazil to ultimately lose 3-2 in the final.
Back to reality - CONCACAF World Cup qualifying which has been somewhat of a pushover for this team. Sure we drew 2 and lost 2 on the way, but it never seemed to be a real issue to overtake the likes of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Trinidad & Tobago. As a result, American fans were filled with that all too familiar feeling of potential. And let’s be fair here with how we as a nation approached this tournament and the past few World Cups – the level of potential has always been higher than expectations. Our dream run in 2002 was epic and raised the sport’s profile, but nobody really expected this team to challenge for a quarterfinals or semi-finals birth. We were expected to get out of the group and nothing more than that. We knew we had the pieces – just not a finished product. (To give you an idea of the complete opposite, see England — ludicrous expectations surpassing potential).
So why no finished product? Why did we show how good we really were 1 half at a time this tournament only to fuck up and piss away any chance at success the rest of the time. Why can we play like we did against Spain one day, and lost to Trinidad and Tobago in qualifying on another? We held a lead for a total of 3 minutes in this tournament (injury time at the end of the match against Algeria). We allowed a goal to be scored in the opening 13 minutes in 3 of the 4 games we played. That’s just unacceptable.
It might be cowardly to point fingers and place all the blame on one man – and I stopped myself from doing it after the Algeria match – but I really have no other option than to pick out Bob Bradley. To be fair certain things were out of his control. Our back line has always been suspect and it proved our undoing in the end. As for an out-and-out striker, well we just don’t have one. Jozy Altidore may only be 20 years old but he by no means is the answer up front. Not a single goal from any of our forwards in this tournament is a big problem – and it seems like there aren’t many strikers coming through the ranks.
But that’s all the slack I’m gonna cut him. I praised him endlessly for being able to see problems on the field and adjust with tactical substitutions. But you can’t always rely on doing that in the middle of a game when you’re already losing!! Starting Ricardo Clark instead of Edu, and then getting lucky with that yellow card as an excuse to sub him out after 31 minutes. That’s inexcusable. We were handcuffed with only 2 substitutions after that. And then who to pair up with Jozy – Buddle or Findley or Gomez or Feilhaber or why not Dempsey. You could even argue that maybe the real issue was Jozy himself – to what do we owe this 20 year old forward in the making who has warmed benches since 2008 and scored once in 34 appearances. 34 appearances in 2 years! Maybe the problem wasn’t who to pair up with him but who to replace him. Bradley let us down in this tournament because after 4 years at the helm, he still doesn’t know his best 11.
Finally there’s the issue (and this is the MOST important of all) of motivation. Those early goals we gave up say something about Bradley’s ability to frame a proper mindset in the locker room. Team talks, motivational speeches, hip hip hoorays – call em’ what you’d like. Bradley didn’t have any. Whatever he used didn’t work. If ESPN could do a better job garnering excitement for the England match than the American coach himself could do for his own squad, then something is truly wrong.
I think we learned that Bradley was the right hire in 2006 – he has made enormous strides with US soccer to bring us to where we are today. But we also learned that he isn’t the right man to take us to that next level of success. At no point EVER did I think he could motivate these players to progress in a World Cup. We’ve been plagued with inconsistent performances. With an aging squad which requires a number of changes before Brazil 2014, it’s time for someone else to take the reigns and begin the process of making this team a serious contender.
Keep your heads up. I don’t have a cure for how upset and unfulfilled you must be feeling after this elimination – there’s no worse a feeling. But be sure that this team, as we did so many times throughout this tournament, will fight back. We’ll recover from this loss and take away many positives. Let’s just hope there’s someone out there to put all these pieces together into that finished product we’ve been yearning for all these years.