Send us a message

Interested in being a part of the team? Get in touch with us today.
Nov 182013

On Tuesday the US Men’s National team will face off against Austria. It will be their final game before breaking for the winter and re-grouping in January. By that time World Cup qualifying will be complete and we’ll have seen the draw and be fully aware of the group that awaits in Brazil come June.

The US enjoyed a very successful qualifying campaign and finished atop “The Hex” with 22 points and a perfect 5-0-0 record at home. The team appears to be coming together under Jurgen Klinsmann and expectations for the World Cup are high, even if their outlook for the group stage draw seems daunting at this point. We’re starting to get an idea of who will be called upon to start come June’s group stage. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say the starting XI will look something like this…


Evans – Gonzalez – Besler – Beasley

Jones – Bradley

Donovan – Dempsey – E. Johnson


There will always be debate, but this is probably what most Americans would consider the “best XI” based upon the last couple months of qualifying/friendlies. I take issue with several of these spots, but there’s one in particular I want to focus on: that lone striker up top.

Jozy Altidore seems to be the consensus No.1 for this role. He scored four goals in five qualifier starts in 2013 after notching 23 goals during the 2012/13 Eredivisie season in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar. However, he has struggled to find the back of the net ever since joining Sunderland over the summer. So far this season he has no goals in league play and just 13 shots total in 10 starts.

Enter Aron Johannsson.

The American-born Icelandic striker joined AZ Alkmaar in January of 2013 and he pretty much became Altidore’s replacement at the Dutch club. Since arriving in the Netherlands, Johannsson has 12 goals in 18 appearances. After earning his first cap with the US in August (after getting approval from FIFA for a one time switch from Iceland) Johannsson tallied his first goal in October’s qualifying finale against Panama. His goal came late in the game proved to be the winner that sank Panama’s hopes and sent Mexico through to a two leg playoff with New Zealand. That is the last impression we have from the US’s last “competitive” game.

Then came last week’s friendly in Scotland. Jozy Altidore started up top and Aron Johannsson eventually came on to play alongside him; a move that Jurgen Klinsmann had to make at some point just to see if the two could co-exist. They did, for the most part, but ultimately the game ended in a 0-0 draw and now here we are heading into Tuesday’s game with Austria.

Altidore still seems to be the consensus No.1, but should that be the case? If you simply look at the numbers, both Altidore and Johannsson have pretty similar payloads. Altidore tore it up at AZ Alkmaar, stayed hot with the US, but has since cooled off at Sunderland. Johannsson has stepped in and matched Altidore’s goal scoring pace at the Dutch club and is now on the board with the US. The two would appear, on paper, to be in a dead heat for that starting striker spot, despite the fact that Altidore is several years older and has more caps with the US.

So how do we separate the two?

The answer to that depends on how you want to view the “problem”. There’s no doubt Altidore is the better athlete, but Johannsson may have more technical ability. Such a “comparison” is at the very center of a debate that still rages on to this day about the best way to develop great American soccer players. Many would have us believe that we need our biggest, strongest, fastest athletes to start playing soccer; big, bruising machines like Altidore who are capable of overpowering defenders. Still some say we need to produce more well-rounded, complete soccer players. We need players who understand the flow of the game. I side with the latter philosophy.

We’ve had much more time to watch Jozy Altidore play than Aron Johannsson, but we can already start to see how the two compare. When Altidore is leading the line, everything seems to slow down and the flow of a given offensive push tends to stall when the ball winds up at his feet. That’s ultimately what people love to rave about his game: “look at how good his “hold up play” is!” And to be fair, there’s value in a player who can play with his back to the goal and distribute to other teammates. But then comes the disclaimer with Jozy: “He needs help.” He requires service from the players around him in order to be successful. And to be fair, every great striker needs such help. Unless your name is Luis Suarez, you’ll have a hard time beating two or three defenders all by yourself and scoring on a regular basis. But at the end of the day, your job as a striker is to create something when your surrounding circumstances are less than ideal. The great ones don’t make excuses; they find ways to score. I have a lot more faith in Johannsson to pull a goal out of his hat when the US is in trouble than Altidore because Johannsson’s game is less reliant upon others.

Aron Johannsson may not be as big or as strong as Altidore, but after only a couple appearances with the US it’s clear he has more technical ability than Altidore. For all the praise Altidore gets as a true “No.9″, his passing ability is average and his first touch continues to let him down at the worst possible moments. He’s so busy chasing the ball as far back as the halfway line, that he forgets to simply be patient and make smart runs in and out of the opposing team’s back line. Johannsson has no such weakness. He is a cerebral player who reads the game well and whose first touch is perhaps his greatest weapon.

Johannsson is several years younger than Altidore, but that shouldn’t stop him from taking the No.1 striker spot between now and June. If he has a good showing in Brazil, there’s no reason he can’t be “the future” at the striker position for the US. Just like Jozy, Aron won’t stay in the Netherlands for long. Someone will pay good money to see if “the Iceman” can get it done at the next level. I think his skill set lends itself to said next level better than Altidore. We’re seeing the real Altidore at Sunderland. His is a game that is too dependent on others. Johannsson can read the game and pick his spots much better than Altidore.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but perhaps we’ll look back on these few months between the World Cup draw and the start of group play as the moment when a new, unexpected goalscorer rose up and seized the title of “No.1 Striker” for the US Men’s National team. It may even be a turning point for American soccer as a whole; to see the more complete soccer player usurp the better athlete.

Time will tell.

Aug 042013

Note: In case you missed it, here’s Part 1

Logo GoldCup2 Running Gold Cup Diary:Part II 

3:40PM: After having wandered around the stadium for a little bit, I have finally found my way into the press box. Having spent most of my soccer watching life going to RFK Stadium (home of the raccoons, feral cats, and D.C. United,) it was nice being in a stadium that had functional toilets, clean seats, and pleasant ushers. Also it is reassuring to know that when the fans are going crazy that the stadium will not crumble.

As I was walking through the stadium, I noticed just how many Honduran and El Salvadorean fans were there. Being on the inside of the stadium and looking at all of the fans coming in through the gates, at least 85 percent of the fans are wearing a blue jersey (either El Salvador or Honduras,) and the rest are smattering of U.S., Costa Rica, and non-affiliated jerseys. Although I love seeing people supporting their favorite team, wear a jersey for one of the teams that are playing!

The other thing that struck me while going through the stadium was how loud the music was in the background. Although I hate piped-in music during sporting events (it kills the crowd and supports Queen,) hearing Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like I Do” over the loud speakers was stirring. It gave me goosebumps, and pumped me up for the match. I could see why Baltimore Ravens fans get so excited for their game before kickoff. The in-game experience at M&T is electric.

The press box itself is interesting because there is always something going. Different writers are mingling with one another, talking about the game, talking about other games, and just having general small talk.

At first I did not know where to sit so I kind of wandered around. Having an awful four o’clock shadow, sun burnt, and having sweat a ton I am sure I was probably the most haggard looking journalist. But luckily, I did receive some assistance in finding my seat. Front row, next to writers from ESPN Deportes and the Bundesliga. More on this later.

While I expected just a chair and some pens, I was surprised to see my name on a placard with the Global Football Today logo. Just that alone would have made my day. But I also received a composition book emblazoned with the Gold Cup logo and statistic sheets for the game. Even at my day job I do not have my name with my title and that pays much more than my soccer work. Having just started writing 7 months ago, it was pretty cool to see how far everything has come.

I gave my parents a call and told them that I was sitting in the press box and that I had received a Gold Cup book. I am not sure what made them more excited: the fact that I was sitting in the Press Box of a major international tournament or that I would be in an air-conditioned building. I think the latter.

3:58PM: There is nothing better than hearing the National Anthem. On both sides, you could hear the fans singing their national team’s respective songs. What was interesting was seeing some of the fans of the other team’s singing along to the American national anthem. One of the things that I have always noticed when talking to immigrants is that they do still have high regard for where they were born, they love living in and being American. They just happen to root for a different team.

I always enjoy being in Baltimore and hearing the fans emphasize the “O” during the third stanza. As someone who has been to many Orioles games, it comes as second nature to this Marylander when singing the National Anthem.

4:00: Game On!

4:09: El Salvador has definitely come out of the gate with more energy. You can tell that they want to score quick and gain the advantage on the United States. The crowd is completely behind the Salvadoreans, cheering them on at every possession and booing the bejesus out of every American play. If the United States can weather the first few minutes then they should be fine. Experienced squads take their time, assess their opponent, and go forward. So far, mostly the U.S.  is trying to set up their game plan in the midfield.

4:14 The U.S. is giving El Salvador  fits on the left and ride sides of the pitch. In the midfield, Mixx Diskerud looks incredibly comfortable as the facilitator in the midfielder. The U.S. is running a very simple square strategy in the midfield, where three players are moving the ball North and South of the field, slowly gaining advantage in position pass-by-pass. It is a basic program that every Parks and Recreation league team runs, but it is a highly effective tool.

4:16: The Salvadorean fans are very angry that a handball that was not called on by Michael Parkhurst. It did not look intentional, but the fans are very pissed about it. From my vantage point, it looked like a good call. But El Salvador is pressing the United States. Their finishing is kind of suspect though.

4:18: A crazy scissor kick stop by El Salvador. The U.S. has had many more opportunities than El Salvador, but El Salvador has shown themselves to have some attacking ability. More and more, the U.S. is imposing their will on El Salvador and I would bet that it is only time before they score a goal.

4:26: Goal USA! Michael Parkhurst finishes off a corner kick with a splendid header to the right corner. Landon Donovan looked to be offside, but got the benefit of the call. This was Parkhurst’s second goal of the Gold Cup.

4:31: A fantastic chest trap from El Salvador leads to an amazing shot and two excellent saves from Nick Rimando. Not to toot my own horn, but if you want to learn more about Mr. Rimando check out my article on his club Real Salt Lake. He is one of the best Goalkeepers in Major League Soccer history and one of the more undervalued keepers in U.S. Soccer today.  

4:34: Goal U.S.A.! Joe Corona scores a fantastic goal, with a crisp assist from Landon Donovan. Having had the opportunity to watch Joe Corona play for Tijuana in Liga MX, he seems to be growing with every appearance and will be a fixture in the U.S. National Team for years.

One of the really interesting things while sitting in the press box is the response to journalists after a big event like a goal or foul. While I expected everyone to be silent and judging each individual aspect of the play, people were getting excited and clapping. I am not sure if it is a partisan thing because you hear as much cheering from the Latin American press members as you do from the American press corps. There is also a lot of Monday Morning Quarterbacking. Press members are calling out plays. I am doing what I always do when reviewing tape for a match. I have yelled out “trap” (which means hold possession,) and “box” (which means passing it back) at least five times.

There is also some good back and forth between the different journalists. As a newcomer, I am still kind of awestruck by the situation. My first thought is to just focus on the match. My second thought is to do some networking. Perhaps it was the heat, but I am kind of at a loss for words. I have been on the go for a few hours and now that I am here, I just want to make sure that I am focusing on the match and getting as many details as possible.

4:37: What is killing El Salvador is their inability to cope with the United States midfield. The U.S. is running north and south in the midfield, with four players using a very simple scheme that requires three players passing to one another in a box shape. The box is created by the one player who is not involved in the pass and receiving connection moving to an open spot of equal distance from the other two. Gains from this style are small, but over the game they are significant. El Salvador has severe disadvantages in speed and physical strength. If the U.S.A can build off of these possessions, then this game may be over quickly.

My fellow journalists from Germany are not really sure why the Americans are doing this. I explain to them that this is something that all American players are taught at a very young level. The intention of the play is to wear down the defense by forcing them to run the length of the pitch. It feels kind of cool to explain to someone the American style. I sometimes feel like people from assume that the American style is just a simple rehash of English, German, Italian, Mexican, and Argentinian styles of play. Sometimes the world powers can be wrong.

4:42:  El Salvador Goalkeeper Portillo Gamero makes an absolutely tremendous save, keeping this game within striking distance. The goalkeeping in this game and in this tournament has been tremendous. I hope that some of these keepers are getting some looks in the transfer market.

4:44: A very poor elbow in the box by Michael Parkhurst leads to a penalty and a goal for Rodolfo Zelaya and El Salvador. There is no excuse for the United States on this goal. It was completely irrational and could have been avoided.

The roar after the goal in the stands is unlike anything I have ever heard. There is so much excitement in the crowd right now. You see friends and family members giving each other high fives, grown men crying, beers being cheered. There is some dread on the faces of the American players. It seems like this was unexpected. Part of the problem of bringing in a “C” side is that they are not used to playing in games like this. But this is part of the maturation process for this group of players. To win in soccer, you must be able to win in difficult circumstances.

4:47: Halftime! So far the man of the match is the Goalkeeper Portillo for El Salvador he has made some amazing saves and has kept this game from being a rout. The United States is definitely in control of this game. However, El Salvador has shown enough to keep themselves in this match.

As I head back to my seat from having a serviceable CONCACAF-provided meal, I run into the President of CONCACAF Jeffery Webb. I try to avoid asking him about the massive corruption in FIFA and instead just say hello. He has some very large, intimidating security people and I do not feel like going to Baltimore jail.

While sitting at my desk waiting for the game to begin, I see that D.C. United runs a short promotional video on the big screen at the stadium. Considering that Baltimore has been wooing D.C. United for years, I find this funny that they take this opportunity; to get Baltimoreans to go to their games. What other teams would show highlights to a city that is looking for a franchise and is only 40 miles away. To steal line from Bill Simmons, Ladies and Gentleman Your 2013 D.C. United!

5:12: The match has just begun and El Salvador is pressing the U.S. They did this in the first half as well, but it seems like they are just missing that last bit of creativity to create consistent scoring chances. As the game is going on, the U.S. midfield is building off of their dominant midfield, slowly choking out El Salvadorean possession’s in the center of the field.

I have always been impressed with the chemistry between DeMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan. I explain to one of the Spanish press members from ESPN Deportes that these guys have been playing with one another since they were teenagers and that they are able to read what one another wants to do. One of the local reporters hears me and says, “Yeah! They are like Trent Dilfer and Qadry Ismail [former players of the Baltimore Ravens.]” I am not sure if this is supposed to be a compliment; both players were pretty terrible outside of the 2000 season where they won the Super Bowl.

5:34: I start talking more directly with the gentleman from ESPN Deportes about player motivation and scoring chances. When one of the players for El Salvador breaks through the midfield and is on a 3-2 with the U.S., he opts for a shot that is kind of off-balance. When I mention that he should have passed the ball to the right my colleague to the right of me says that there is no way that he should have done this. “You don’t understand. He made that opportunity, he has to take that shot. If he passes the ball, he will be seen as a weak player in his teammates eyes,” the reporter says to me. This blew my mind. I had always assumed that players did have an ego, but I thought that this would be overcome by the ultimate goal of scoring a goal.  I had never really thought that a simple shot would be such an issue between teammates. Especially in a game against a team that is much more experienced.

5:49: After two additional goals by Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson, this game is very clearly done. The United States has taken over all aspects of this game, and the Salvadoreans have resorted to hacking and fouling.

While the game is getting quite ugly, the stands are getting much worse. Most of the Honduran fans are starting to toss beer and trash at the Salvadoreans. Also, the Salvadoreans are beginning to get upset. In the past ten minutes, I have seen five fights and at least 6-7 beers being tossed from the top of the stands. While the American Outlaws seem to be more than prepared for whatever the stands might bring, the casual American fans seem a little scared. There is an older couple in front of me who are very clearly unaligned who are frightened by the fighting and the drinking. Throughout the match they have been constantly defending their seats from people who are trying to move in their area.

My friends ESPN Deportes tell me that the United States do not know how good of a player Brek Shea really is. They say that he is a really nice guy, and that he just needs to get the right opportunity. They wanted to more about the relationship between Landon Donovan and DeMarcus Beasley and the U.S. Midfield strategy. While I had been listening all throughout the match to these guys telling me what they know, it was kind of cool to provide some insight. I felt like a reporter.

5:59: After the United States beats El Salvador 5-1,most of the reporters start heading down to the Press Conference room to hear both coaches speak. I need a cup of coffee and some time to snag all of my Gold Cup stuff.

Overall, I found the other journalists to be very friendly, kind, engaging people. They helped me point out where I needed to go and were open to discussion about anything going on in professional soccer. I learned more about the psyche of footballers than I thought I would ever know.

6:05: Downstairs in the Press Room, I am sitting next some of the best soccer journalists in the country. I am sitting next to Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, The Washington Post Steve Goff, and Soccer By Ives writer Ives Galarcep. There is something about sitting in a room with some of the best writers in the game that makes me very nervous. Not going to lie, I never thought I would be here 7 months ago.

The manager of El Salvador comes out first. Most of the questions come from the Spanish media and so I am trying to follow what they are saying as much as possible. The Salvadorean manager seems to be very humbled by the outpouring of respect by the fans in this game. He seemed to be very hopeful about his team’s future.

6:15: As I am waiting for Jurgen Klinsmann to come in, FIFA Executive Sunil Gulati walks by me with his son. I thought it was funny that his son is wearing a jersey with the last name “Gulati” on it. I guess since his dad runs the entire operation he cannot be partial to any one player. Though judging by the way he favored his left side as he pushed through people, I am willing to bet that he is a Clint Dempsey fan.

I have never seen a room stop like it did when Mr. Gulati entered the room. Cameras stopped, people turned off of their phones, and jovial conversations between colleagues ceased.

6:16: Klinsmann enters the room and immediately everyone focuses their attention at the podium.

He spoke quite eloquently about the team’s performance, and stressed that this is only a step in the larger goal of qualifying for the World Cup. He spent some considerable time praising the work of DIskerud, Corona, and Rimando.

I did try and ask a question. Most of the time it seems just trying to get the attention of the press official. My mind was racing as I was raising my hand. I had a few questions to ask, but in this moment they seemed to have been lost to me. I resolved to ask a question about the crowd, and how he thought this players would react going into the match to a difficult environment and what his final assessment was. Unfortunately, I did not get chosen.  It seems to me that the most senior members of the media get the first questions in, and if there is any time the rest of the bullpen will get their shot.

6:30:  As I walk out of the press room, I notice a large contingent of the press corps surrounding one player. It is Landon Donovan. Although I need to head out soon, I don’t think I could live with myself if I do not go over there and at least listen in. He is a very quiet person, who seems unfazed by all of the bright lights and questions. It is pretty amazing to be around this guy. Though we are only about 4 years apart, I have a great deal of admiration for his character and for what he has done as a member of the U.S. National Team. It cannot be understated the influence he has on the American game.

6:45 At this point, I have to head back to the Greyhound station so that I can get home at a decent hour. Given that soccer journalism does not pay, and I do have a day job I have to make sure I get some sleep and collect my thoughts. As I am walking back to the station, my parents call me and ask how everything is going. I explain to them everything that has gone on and they seem generally stunned. We have a laugh about the uneasy American fans, but I cut them off because the Greyhound station is confusing and I want to make sure that I get on the right bus and not Grand Rapids, MI.

When I started writing about the beautiful game 7 months, I never thought I would have one person read my work. So the thought of being in a press box with people that I consider to be some of the best writers in the game was amazing. To be considered an equal in conversation with them is truly humbling. This was a heck of en experience and hopefully I can do it again soon.

Oct 172012

usacelebrate 300x235 Deuce For Deuce Beats Guatemala

What started out as a shock turned into a domination that American fans should be proud of as the United States came away from the final third round World Cup Qualifier with a 3-1 in over Guatemala at Livestrong Sporting Park.

Carlos Ruiz, who announced his retirement from international play in the media zone after the game, played the offside line perfectly as he was able to slip past the back line of the US to put the ball past Tim Howard and give the Guatemalan fan presence hope that they could get through to the hexagonal round of qualifying.

The response of the American side was excellent. They showed a spine that will be needed when the fixtures for the fourth stage, ‘The Hex’, gets underway.

The equalizer came from USMNT captain Carlos Bocanegra’s header off a corner shortly after the Ruiz goal. The zone defense by Guatemala was easy prey, but it was a lovely goal from Bocanegra with an assist from Clint Dempsey.

Dempsey proceeded to make the first half his own. He scored the go-ahead goal from short range off an Eddie Johnson cross.

Before the first half ended Michael Bradley chipped the ball over a Guatemalan defender and the goalkeeper for Dempsey to knock home to make it 3-1 and give Clint his second of the night.

Into the second half the United States was happy with the score line as it was and kept the ball to themselves. They did not allow any clear-cut chances for their opposition as they were able to coast through the second half to victory and a top spot in their group. Now they wait for CONCACAF to make the fixture decision for the fourth round matches.

While there is the question of when and where they will play all 10 remaining World Cup Qualifiers, American fans can take pride in the fact that their team dominated and that they are in an excellent position to progress even more with a friendly against Russia looming in the November FIFA date window.

Sep 102012

A few hours ago I engaged a couple friends in a healthy debate about Crew Stadium’s place in history and whether or not it would be a suitable home for the US Men’s National Team.

Now, I am an ardent Crew supporter but I need to be honest (aka objective) with all of you for a moment. Crew Stadium was the first soccer specific stadium for an MLS franchise. Many people will try to tell you that Crew Stadium is an important part of American soccer folklore/history. They will tell you that without Crew Stadium, there would be no Home Depot Center/PPL Park/BBVA Compass Stadium.

This is simply not true.

Am I supposed to believe that without Crew Stadium, the New York Red Bulls NEVER would’ve wound up with their own facility. Does Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois REALLY exist because of what happened in Columbus? No. Crew Stadium itself is quite simple. It’s four sides of mostly cheap, metal bleachers on a former county fairground parking lot. Only recently did the organization pull enough teeth to remove the central stands at the north end of the stadium and insert a concert stage to help bring in more events to generate more revenue. Outside of that, the stadium has remained largely untouched since it originally opened in 1999. The front office continues to search for a sponsor to sign a long term naming rights deal, but they haven’t really come close in the stadium’s 13 year existence. Meanwhile, pretty much every soccer specific stadium that has come along since then has a lucrative (some more than others) naming rights deal that was completed fairly close to each one’s debut. Some even had naming rights done BEFORE the inaugural game.

So yes, Crew Stadium was the first of its kind and represents a significant footnote in American soccer history. But it’s nothing more than that: a footnote. The facility continues to wither away under the harsh sands of time.

Enter the US Men’s National Team.

The USMNT has never lost a World Cup qualifier inside the confines of Crew Stadium. In fact, the qualifying campaigns for Italy 2006 and South Africa 2010 both featured significant victories by the US over hated CONCACAF rivals Mexico inside Columbus Ohio’s favorite soccer stadium. I was in attendance for the original “Dos a Cero” match when the US clinched its spot in the 2006 World Cup with a resounding 2-0 victory over Mexico in September of 2005.

It was by far the most festive atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at a sporting event. And this was in 2005! The American Outlaws were still in their infant stages. US soccer supporters hadn’t even remotely begun to mobilize at that point in time. The US also won its home qualifying fixture over Mexico in Columbus in 2009 leading up to the 2010 World Cup. Columbus has become a fortress for the Stars And Stripes, especially when it matters most during qualifying. Not only that, but Columbus is ideally located in the heart of America’s Midwest; the home of the middle class. Tuesday night’s sellout crowd will feature fans from Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, as well as the rest of the state of Ohio. You could not ask for a more central focal point from to draw fans from surrounding cities/states. It is truly a melting pot when the USMNT comes to the capital of Ohio.

Are there bigger cities than Columbus who feel they deserve a shot? Absolutely. But I seem to recall a match at Chicago’s Soldier Field several years ago in which the US played Honduras and the crowd was overwhelmingly Blue And White. The immigrants put the natives to shame. The same thing happened the last time the US hosted Argentina at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The 2011 Gold Cup Final showed us the true colors of Southern California. Places like Portland, Seattle, Kansas City, and Washington DC will also cry out for their voice to be heard. But with the exception of DC, all of those places have solid stadiums already in place. They are no longer in need of a modern home.

If the US Soccer Federation declared Crew Stadium the official home of the USMNT for World Cup qualifying it would create a true sense of urgency to upgrade the archaic facility. The grounds crew regularly receives national awards for its pristine upkeep of the natural grass playing surface itself, but beyond that the stadium is in desperate need of renovations. It must become a modern stadium like so many of its MLS counterparts. A little nudge from the USSF would make all the difference in the world. It would allow things to come full circle and let Crew Stadium leave behind the days of being old and outdated while sleek new stadiums spring up around the country. A wide open parking lot around the stadium leaves plenty of room for tailgating and pregame festivities, but it will take more than that to make Columbus the official home of America’s Team.

When you’re watching the match against Jamaica on Tuesday night, pay close attention to the crowd. See just how skilled Columbus is at hosting  American soccer supporters. Listen to the sounds of AO Columbus and the rest of the Midwestern chapters of America’s best supporters group who traveled to this “cathedral of American soccer”. Then close your eyes and imagine if the stadium had actual chairs and legitimate VIP suites courtesy of a lucrative naming rights deal. Imagine the country’s first soccer specific stadium as the official home of the US Men’s National Team.

Now that would be truly MASSIVE…



Jun 152012
itsnotornever dl Now or Never... Part Two: Galaxy Face Tough Task of Turning Season Around(Again)

The mini-vacation afforded to MLS sides as a result of the international break is coming to a close this weekend, and the LA Galaxy will play their first match since May 26 when they square off against the Portland Timbers at home on Sunday. As the Galaxy players come together for training leading up to a match once again and continue to spout the same tired mantra we’ve heard a large part of the season – “got to start getting wins and not drop anymore points” – another sporting cliche comes to mind leading up to Sunday: It’s now or never.

Mired in a stretch of seven games without a win, including losing five of those seven, LA and coach Bruce Arena have had three weeks to assess their recent shortcomings and make good on their promise to “get wins.” And while you’d hope the time off might be just what the doctor ordered for a team suffering from one of the worst cases of championship hangover ever seen, the last time the Galaxy had an extended break between games and the opportunity to atone for past disappointments, they played one of their poorest matches at home losing 3-1 to the New England Revolution.

So what’s it going to be for the Galaxy in the sequel to “now or never”: déjà vu or redemption?

Coming to the Home Depot Center oddly enough is the team LA recorded their last home win against. When the Portland Timbers visited LA on April 14, the Galaxy were still reeling from the home loss to the Revolution followed by a disappointing showing away to then league-leading Sporting KC. In response, the team played one of their better matches of the season downing the Timbers by a scoreline of 3-1. Sadly, it has now been over two months since that last time the Galaxy earned all three points at home.

Another bright note for the Galaxy will be the return of their captain, Landon Donovan, after taking part in three friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers with the U.S. national team. Donovan silenced many of his doubters in his first match back with the national team but proved less effective as his recent stint of international duty carried on. Having played big minutes in the five matches with Jürgen Klinsmann’s side, Arena will have to weigh the benefits of fielding a tired Donovan in his return to Galaxy action. But with the situation his team finds themselves in, including added pressure being heaped upon Arena himself, it would be surprising for Donovan to not take part in Sunday’s match from the start.

11154661 large Now or Never... Part Two: Galaxy Face Tough Task of Turning Season Around(Again)
Danny Mwanga #10 in training with his new team (Motoya Nakamura/ The Oregonian)

On the Timbers’ side, Portland comes into the match having made a big trade during the break to boost what has been a disappointing attack to start the season. With only 12 goals in as many matches, a swap was made for promising Philadelphia forward, and former Oregon St. player, Danny Mwanga. Having a disappointing season to date, the Timbers are hopeful a return to Pacific Northwest will rejuvenate the former Beavers striker, and he could start against a Galaxy backline still seeking their first shutout of the season.

After 13 games last season, the Galaxy were in the beginning stages of a 14-game unbeaten run. The team that put an end to that streak was the Timbers with a 3-0 victory in Portland. With LA now in the midst of a very different streak, can the Galaxy reverse another extended run of results against the Timbers?

Whatever happens, team’s rarely get a second shot to restart the season like the Galaxy do this Sunday. If LA can’t get the needed result, don’t expect a “now or never” part three to come around this season.

Posted by: Vincent La Rosa, GFT/LA Galaxy writer

The Inscrutable Red Bulls Take 3 From L.A.

 Posted by on October 5, 2011 at 12:39 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 052011

If there is anyone out there who tells you they can give you spot on, solid analysis of the New York Red Bulls, they’re lying.  No one in their right mind can honestly claim they have this team figured out.  The team that went into a “must win” situation in Toronto with a little bit of momentum and laid an egg in a draw, is somehow the same team that came home to take on L.A. in the Hurricane Irene make up game and put in a fairly dominating performance where they defeated the likely Supporters Shield winners.

Who is this team?

After winning three points last night, the Red Bulls actually have the opportunity to go into Kansas City, and with a win, reclaim first place in the Eastern Conference.  Allow me to repeat, the Red Bulls are playing for first place October 15th (status quo pending).  It really is unfortunate that match is a week and a half away.  I imagine the squad would like to keep this momentum going.

The fact is the Red Bulls played lights out against the Galaxy.  They actually looked like a team.  It would be fascinating if the dreary stretch of soccer was bookended by the two stellar Galaxy matches.  It wasn’t just one guy last night who had a match for the ages, it was many.  It’s performances like that, which could carry this team on a mighty playoff run.  Onto the ratings:

Frank Rost GK: 7.5
With his backline stabilizing in front of him, Rost has been nothing short of spectacular between the sticks.  The man is making a case to have his time in New York extended.

Roy Miller LB: 6
Had a brutal turnover in the second half that could have been costly, but was otherwise pretty dogged in his defense and was solid in the attack.

Tim Ream CB: 7.5
Mr. Klinsmann, are you watching?  It’s performances like these that got people all giddy about Ream last season.  One has to wonder if he’s earned himself some playing time for the USMNT in the upcoming friendlies with his recent form.

Stephen Keel CB: 7.5
Another dogged performance by the Red Bulls’ Rudy Ruettiger.  It ain’t pretty, but Keel does the necessary dirty work.

Jan Gunnar Solli RB: 7
His strength remains offense, on which he was a terror.  But he had a fine night on defense along with the rest of the backline.

Joel Lindpere LM: 6.5
Won a few battles in the midfield, was solid in support of the attack.  One corner led to the first Red Bull goal.

Rafa Marquez CM: 6
The good news with his ok performance, Marquez should no longer be the story.  He did look like he was trying out there though he still had a horrific pass at the end of the first half, that was, however, offset by his beautiful ball to Henry on goal #2.  Would still like to see more from the DP.

Teemu Tainio CM: 8
The man was an absolute terror in the CDM role harassing any Galaxy player who decided to challenge the middle of the pitch.  Easily the Man of the Match in my books.

Dane Richards RM: 6.5
Ever dangerous, had a few close calls that nearly resulted in more goals for the Red Bulls.

Luke Rodgers F: 7
It is no coincidence that the team’s resurgence has coincided with Rodgers’ return.  A very aware goal by the Englishman, followed by a near miss that in replays seemed have to do with his losing his footing.

Thierry Henry F: 7
A sweet goal by Henry to ice the game.  Did a nice job all around commanding the squad.  Probably should have had a brace, but why nitpick.


Dax McCarty CM: N/A
Came on for Marquez late.  Helped ice the game.

Medhi Ballouchy RM: N/A
Ballouchy’s new role appears to be time wasting sub as he often comes on in stoppage time.  He performs this job well.

Perhaps Hans Backe read the article by Dave Martinez over at Empire of Soccer claiming that he’s lost the team and he himself got motivated.  Well, whatever the coach did last night he needs to keep doing it.  This was the best performance by this squad since it’s May draw against the very same team.  The team last night could challenge for the MLS Cup.

Things I Think I’ve Thought:
A few months ago the Red Bulls decided to forego the U.S. Open Cup to focus on the regular season.  I agreed with this decision as the Open Cup is not televised and poorly attended.  However, last night when I realized the Chicago Fire were playing in the final, I realized maybe the team should take the Cup a little more seriously as the Fire had no business being in a place where they could qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League.  Again, I merely say MAYBE.  That being said, congratulations to the Sounders.  At least you guys deserve it.

We Was Robbed! Klinsmann Snubs Galaxy in Their Own Home.

 Posted by on August 31, 2011 at 12:36 am  Uncategorized
Aug 312011

Thoughts and prayers go out to those in the wake of Hurricane Irene. While many claim the potential for disaster was overhyped, it’s likely much of the “overhyping” helped save many lives, as a majority of people actually acknowledged evacuation instructions leading up to the hurricanes arrival.

Irene also gave a very fixture-congested LA Galaxy team the chance for a much needed break, as their match at the NY Red Bulls postponed until Oct. 4. And with a FIFA scheduled international break this weekend (a break the entire MLS will more or less will be observing as well), your LA Galaxy will not be in action two straight weekends (they will face Sporting KC on Monday, however).
But while the Galaxy get a few extra days of rest, three members will be representing their national sides during said international break. Chris Birchall, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan will be away on national team duty with Trinidad and Tobago, Republic of Ireland, and the United States national teams, respectively. While we’ll be cheering equally for all our national team representatives, the most intriguing international match is likely to be the US Men’s National Team against Costa Rica at our own ground in Carson, the Home Depot Center.
Of course, Donovan is a perennial call-up to the USMNT, and a worthy call-up at that! But Galaxy supporters planning on being in attendance at the HDC will be disappointed to see Donovan as the only Galaxy representative suiting up for the USMNT on Friday night. With the match being on the Galaxy’s pitch and fans eager to see how new coach Jurgen Klinsmann shapes his side, many would have hoped for a few more inclusions from the team atop MLS and their CONCACAF Champions League group. Here’s a look at three possible (and deserving to varying degrees) Galaxy inclusions to the USMNT squad set to take on Costa Rica at the Home Depot Center Friday, Sept. 2 at 8 pm PST on ESPN2 (no, ESPN does not pay me for that plug, but they should!):

Dunivant has become “Mr. Reliable” for LA this season starting all 26 matches so far at left back. While he isn’t a flashy player, he is a more than capable passer and exhibits a high work rate. Rarely caught out of position, it’s no wonder with Dunivant on the field for every match this season the Galaxy have conceded a joint-league low of 20 goals on the season. At 30 years of age, he isn’t likely to be the future of the US setup for years to come, but with the heavy rotation the US has seen at left back over the years his consistency merited a look.

Franklin’s been a favorite here at the blog, but that takes nothing away from his well-deserved praise this season. Named to his first MLS All-Star Starting XI, the speedy right back has recently been pushed farther forward by coach Bruce Arena in an attempt to match Donovan’s speed from the opposite flank. Make no mistake though, moving Franklin into midfield says more about his ability going forward than any deficiencies in defense. Strong in the tackle and very good 1v1, Franklin can mark any attacker out a match. And recently, he has even found his scoring boots, notching the first two goals of his career this season. Franklin’s my pick for Klinsmann’s biggest snub from the Galaxy team, but it seems a majority of fans feel another defender has been even more deserving….

The heart of the Galaxy defense, Gonzalez, a towering 6foot5 defender, is the quintessential modern center back. Great in the air, dangerous on set-pieces, physical but able to play the ball out from the back, the 23-year old from Texas has all the right attributes. Building on a Rookie of the Year performance in 2009, Gonzalez has been named to the MLS All-Star First XI two years running. An excellent man-marker, Gonzalez reads the game well and serves as clean up for the Galaxy defense with many well-timed tackles. The center back positions are a bit of a question mark recently for the US, and it’s a shame Gonzalez, now back to full fitness after a broken nose forced him to wear the phantom of the opera-esque face mask, isn’t getting the call when the NY Red Bull’s error-prone Tim Ream is. Galaxy fans are none too happy about this one, but as already stated with the Galaxy top of MLS and their CCL group, Jurgen can only ignore Omar for so long.

Match Preview: Top of the Table Clash Could Decide Supporter’s Shield

 Posted by on August 5, 2011 at 11:01 pm  Uncategorized
Aug 052011

The last time these two teams met it was dubbed “The Fiasco in Frisco,” referring to inclement weather marring a match that was the Galaxy’s last loss until the poor performance in Portland Wednesday night. Heading into that match against FC Dallas back on May 1st, the biggest story was David Beckham’s attendance at the Royal Wedding just days before; this time around, the focus will be squarely on the league’s top spot.

When the Galaxy meet FC Dallas Saturday night at the Home Depot Center, they will do so only three points clear of their rivals from Frisco. And with only nine games remaining after Saturday’s match (10 for FC Dallas, who have a game in hand), its no stretch of the imagination to think the winner of this contest will be the team atop the MLS standings at the end of the regular season.
For the Galaxy, the match is a chance at redemption. Not only did FCD hand the Galaxy one of their season’s three losses back on May 1, but after being shut out 3 – 0 in Portland midweek, and being soundly outplayed in all facets of the match, the team will be looking to regain the form that’s kept them top of the league for a vast majority of the season.
The three goals allowed against Portland aside, the Galaxy’s major concern will once again be goal scoring. Wednesday’s match was more of an anomaly than the norm for a back line that had only given up three goals or more once before the match. And while Landon Donovan sits tied for the league lead in goals with 11, the mystery that is Juan Pablo Angel is still very much a burning question for the Galaxy. For his part, coach Bruce Arena has stuck by his Colombian forward, whose three goals on the year hardly validates his Designated Player status, but fans have become more than restless with chants of “we want Buddle”(referring to recently recalled U.S. Men’s National Team striker Edson Buddle, who left the Galaxy last season for second division soccer in Germany) being heard at times in the team’s last match at home. It will be interesting to see if Arena continues to stick with the struggling forward in his starting XI or attempts to ease some of the pressure on Angel by bringing him off the bench. Either way, Angel’s salary is much to high for the Galaxy to make the high-profile signing many of the fans have clamored for.
FC Dallas is a team that is strong through the center of the pitch with pace and creativity up top and wide. Attacker Brek Shea and full back Zach Loyd were both recent call-ups to Jurgen Klinsmann’s National Team squad, and the team hasn’t missed a beat after losing last year’s league MVP, David Ferreira. While the Galaxy’s back line is more than adept at holding the FC Dallas attack at bay, they will need more help than was given to them by the midfield last match. If LA’s midfield can provide outlets to its back four and control the tempo of the match, dictating the midfield through possession, they’ll likely be much more successful come Saturday.
Arena should opt for Donovan to be a free runner through the midfield, where is willingness to start and finish dangerous counterattacks and late-breaking runs have been the Galaxy’s most effect weapons all season. But again it all depends on Angel. The striker’s inability to make his mark on matches through scoring, or even hold-up play, has forced Arena to push Donovan forward into a supporting role to assist the Galaxy’s dismal forward corps, and as shown last match, without Donovan’s influence in midfield the attack becomes isolated, while the midfield is overran.
Whichever way Arena decides to play it, this match is going to be a statement heading into the season’s homestretch. The Portland loss was shambolic, but if it served as a wake up call to the Galaxy, it can be forgiven. A win Saturday would likely galvanize the team, and as a confidence builder, could lead to the reeling off of quite a few wins to end the regular season. Historically, teams that are the hottest heading into the playoffs are routinely the most successful in the MLS Cup playoffs.
No doubt, Arena and his team will be well aware of this heading into Saturday.
Kickoff is 7:30 pm PST Saturday. See you at the HDC!