Category Archives: World Cup 2014

Reactions to USA-Portugal

ImageThe United States Men’s National Team just completed a tie to Portugal that should be celebrated on most days, and should be celebrated today.  However, when the U.S. led for the last fifteen minutes of the match, until the last kick of the game, you feel upset and ripped off.  Nevertheless, there are things to celebrate and things to hold your breath on.  Here’s the good, bad, and the ugly going forward.

The Good

Clint Dempsey is Texas tough.  The man scored his second goal of the World Cup to put the United States up 2-1 in the 81st minute.  He did it all with a broken nose, too, making it more difficult for him to breathe than it already was in the humid Manuas stadium.  He fought through that and a Portuguese defense that was focused on him.  While he seemed to get shut down for the majority of the second half, especially as the lone forward up top for the U.S., he stepped up when he needed to most.Image

Graham Zusi is the hero late in games.  Twice now, he has delivered fantastic balls for lead-taking goals (I think he should get credit for an assist on Jermaine Jones’ goal as well).  He was shaky in the first half with a couple of midfield turnovers, and maybe that was due to nerves over his first World Cup start.  But the second half he had key pass after key pass, and the wherewithal to find Dempsey for the late goal instead of shooting the ball himself shows incredible vision.  He also played some great defense tracking all the way back to his own 18 yard box to stop a Portuguese attack.

Jurgen Klinsmann is a great coach, and every bit the coach America needs.  He has his players fit and molded to his system now.  It says a lot that even after losing the lone striker (Jozy Altidore) this team had better attacks today than last week against Ghana.  He knows his guys and Klinsmann is ready to act at all times.  Key subs like Zusi and John Brooks against Ghana, and DeAndre Yedlin against Portugal (Yedlin sparked the play that led to Dempsey’s goal), add energy and sparks that change the game from the time these guys step on the pitch.

The Bad

This is one game Geoff Cameron will want to forget as he had key roles in both of Portugal’s goals.  He mishit a clearance that ran right to Nani for the first goal of the game.  Then it was his man that got behind everyone to finish Ronaldo’s cross to tie the game in the 95th minute; especially after the U.S. made subs to put three center backs back there for that purpose, Varela should not be able to get to that cross.  The defense as a unit seemed out of position most of the game: DaMarcus Beasley got beat more often than not by Ronaldo and Nani.  Beasley and Fabian Johnson also seemed to be attacking up the wings at the same times leaving Cameron and Matt Besler to stop a lot of Portuguese counter-attacks.  They did do well with that part.

The Ugly

The USMNT now has three days to recover from the most humid and hot atmosphere, and travel to Recife to play Germany.  The schedule always seemed to be the toughest, but now after hearing and seeing the conditions of tonight’s game in the Amazon, the task seems a lot more difficult.  Germany had today to rest after a 2-2 draw with Ghana yesterday and they should be ready to go.  Jurgen Klinsmann criticized FIFA tonight after the game, saying they set up the tournament so the more well-known teams could advance easier.  “We have one less day [than Germany] to recover. They played yesterday. We played today. We played in the Amazon. They played in place where you don’t have to travel so much. Things are set up for the big teams to move on.”  Klinsmann will do everything in his power to have his guys ready to go on Thursday at 11:00.  He is already setting up bulletin board material, so the team will come out ready to take down his former team.



3 Days: They’ve Arrived

USMNT Arrives in Sau Paulo
Matt Besler and Clint Dempsey step off the plane in Sau Paulo, Brazil.

The U.S. Team has arrived in Brazil with a new FIFA ranking (13th in the world) and seven days to get acclimated to the new scenery before kicking off against Ghana on June 16th at 6 PM EST.  The team comes off an exciting 2-1 win over Nigeria on Saturday and they will have one more chance to gel on June 12 in a closed door friendly vs. Belgium, a dark horse in this year’s World Cup.  Finally we are on the start week for the World Cup and one week away from the first U.S. game, so as that time comes, here’s the good, bad, and the ugly.

The Good

Tim Howard earned his 100 Cap against Nigeria.  This man is a rock at the goalkeeper position and he does not get enough credit for the work that he does.  He is a top 3 goalkeeper in the world that just needs some better defenders around him, at both the club and country level.

Jozy scored!  Jozy Altidore scored twice against Nigeria, finally ending a six month drought without scoring.  They say, “when it rains, it pours,” and I sure hope it that means Altidore can be a prominent player for the USMNT for the next 3-plus games.  He has been due for a while, and he is still due, so I can’t wait to see what comes next for him and the squad.

The Bad

For the second straight game, the squad surrendered a penalty kick goal in the closing minutes.  The defense has been mostly solid up to this point, despite not having a solid four man foundation.  But the fact that these teams cannot close out and finish a game is concerning.  They get lazy and get beat and then commit fouls, fouls that would probably incite red cards if the games were actually meaningful.  I know they were friendlies, but that becomes habit over time.

The Ugly

Jurgen Klinnsman switched formations prior to the Nigerian game.  While the results were a better showing and better chemistry it is alarming that Klinnsman is still trying to decipher which look he wants to use more. He has been at the helm for two years and he picked a 23 man roster that should have worked to fit his system, but now he is wavering between a 4-5-1 looking scheme (which is the one that seemed to work), and a regular 4-4-2 formation with a diamond in the midfield, but that seems to leave Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones confused on when and where to attack.  It also seems to get Dempsey up too high for my liking, where he can’t create in his usual manner going forward.

30 Days: 30 Names

And just like that, we are down to one month until the first kick in Brazil.  With that being said, today the United State’s Men’s National Team Coach named his preliminary roster of 30 guys who will be reporting to camp on Thursday to start the final World Cup Tune up.  While this number may or may not be a good thing, countries like Brazil and Mexico have already named their finalized 23 man rosters, these 30 men report to camp with the most pressure of any U.S. team, maybe, ever.  I wish the number was smaller so that the team could get a better representation of who they would be playing with, but at the same time I like that there is still uncertainty for the sake of heated competition everyday.

30 Names

The goalkeepers include Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, and Nick Rimando.

The Defenders look like this (11): DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Fabian Johnson, Michael Parkhurst, Deandre Yedlin, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler, Clarence Goodson, and Brad Evans.

The Midfielders (10): Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi, Joe Corona, Mix Diskerud, Julian Green, Brad Davis, and Alejandro Bedoya.

The Forwards (6): Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Terrence Boyd, Chris Wondolowski, and Aron Johannsson.

Jurgen Klinsmann only brings back nine guys who played in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.  In the last year, more than 50 players have played for the U.S. squad and performed in front of Klinsmann.  The squad Klinsmann puts on the pitch each night is demanded to attack and attack fast.  Which leaves me scared for our defense.  I still do not believe we have a solid right back, or a left back for that matter.  Beasley and Johnson do good jobs getting in the attack and sparking runs, but their defense is subpar, leaving a lot of pressure on our center backs, whom I presume to be Besler and Gonzalez, possibly Goodson.

3 Omitted Names

Eddie Johnson (forward) is the name that is most recognized and the name that seems to be the most surprising, especially since he had 17 appearances last year and scored the eventual goal that clinched World Cup berth for the United States.  However, he has not scored in his first 8 games with his club team this year and is in a major funk right now.

Sacha Kljestan (midfielder) is another guy who I thought would get a call in because he is a great bench player who embraces his role and really provides a spark of energy in the 25-30 minutes he gets at the end of games.  But he has not played in the last six games with his club team in Belgium.  It is hard to get a call, when you are not getting any playing time to show off for the manager back home.

Benny Feilhaber (midfielder) is playing out of his mind right now, really ever since November he has been on a roll.  He plays a great holding midfielder spot with great slotted balls to set up attacks.  While I am a homer, and wanted to see another Sporting player go to camp, I understand he does not quite fit in with Klinsmann’s attacking style.

Klinsmann has until June 2 to pick his 23 man roster.

The Next Step

These 30 players will fly out to Palo Alto and train at Stanford for close to two weeks before playing a friendly in San Francisco on May 27 against Azerbaijan and then fly to New York for a friendly against Turkey on June 1.  The next day, Klinsmann will have to turn in his 23 man roster to FIFA and then fly to Florida.  The finalized World Cup squad will play one more friendly in Jacksonville against Nigeria on June 7.  Then the squad will fly to Brazil and prepare for their first game on June 16 against Ghana.

Nike does it again

Nike soccer did it again.  They make the best commercials. This one engulfing the Brazilian National Team and all their passionate fans that follow their team, relentlessly.  Check out the video here:  

The video does a great job showing how much Brazilians love the game of “futbol” and how easy it is to create a small game anywhere.  Clearly, some of it was exaggerated, but you get the picture; you can make a goal anywhere and start kicking around with new friends.  Understandable why the game is so popular across the world.  Nike just does a great job researching and including important pieces of culture and facts in all their pieces.

Also, recently released was Nike’s Risk Everything Commercial.  The main advertisement for Nike’s new boots for the World Cup will run through July.  Again, showing the wealth of Nike and their players who have signed on with them, but also how each kid now signs up for a player to replicate when they step on the pitch and how they aspire to be the next big name.

78 Days

Brazil – A beautiful country. Home to the beautiful game, not just this year, but all the time. But the beauty of the festival this year could be lost, or at least hidden, from because of outside forces causing problems in Brazil.  Lots of things go into making a trip successful, or just having an enjoyable city to live in.  Think about it?  You want roads that are easy to travel, both easy to access and smooth to drive on.  You want buildings that you feel comfortable walking into.   You want to be able to maneuver through streets or buildings easily to get to work or to lunch, not having to wiggle and squirm between hundreds of people to get to each place.  Brazil seems to be struggling to fulfill every one of these categories right now.

Photo taken in November, before the crane collapse

Maybe you have heard the mess that describes the stadium situation in Brazil.  We are three months away from the day Brazil kicks off against Croatia and there is exactly three stadiums that are ready for play right now.  The rush is on to get the other 9 stadiums up and operative in the next three months.  But you hope it is done carefully and securely, so you can feel safe walking in there.  The stadium in Sau Paulo, the one set to host the first game of the tournament, suffered a major setback when a crane fell and damaged the stadium, also killing three workers back in November.

Other reports from finished stadiums have complaints, as well.  People complained about leaky bathrooms or long concession lines because of lack of concession stands.  One other claimed he bought seats that weren’t installed in the stadium.

The other problem is the workers; many of whom have gone on strike at some point in this process, and could go on strike again at any minute.  If that is the case, the project comes to an immediate halt and could possibly not resume again in time to finish the stadium in jeopardy.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has blasted Brazil, more than once, for not being prepared for the upcoming World Cup.  “For having so much time to prepare (7 years), no country has been so far behind in its preparations since I have been with FIFA,” Blatter said to a Swiss newspaper, 24 Heures.

All the stadiums are coming together, and I think they will finish on time, but there will be some long days here in the next few months. And all the stadiums are coming in over budget, which doesn’t please many people in Brazil.  The estimated cost for all 12 stadiums in 2010 was around 2.2 billion dollars.  Now the total is tallying more than $3.8 billion.  For a country in turmoil, those numbers are not fun to look at.


99 Days: World Cup 2014

We’ve made it! Down to the double digit day countdown.  99 days until the first kick in Sao Paulo, Brazil come June 12.

With this shortened countdown, I will be blogging (hopefully every week or so) about the important things coming into the 2014 World Cup.  I’ll share what I think about each draw over the next 99 days.  The ball will be discussed, it’s basically a celebrity in itself.  My favorite story lines will be the country itself, Brazil seems split with how much it wants the World Cup.  Now, there is no denying that they want to host, and no country deserves to host this spectacle more than Brazil, but the riots that happened last year fussing about where the money was going from the World Cup, and how more money was being pumped into new stadiums, but not to the promised new roads, or schools, or other important needs in Brazil.  And the stadiums! That will be a fun topic when that day comes, as about half the stadiums are behind schedule for completion.

Nike unveiled new all-white uniforms for the men’s and women’s national teams for the 2014-15 year.

I look forward to researching more and more from across the globe and I’m excited already about the World Cup and we have 99 days to go before that ball gets rolling.  Like typical American fashion, I’ll start by staying focused on the United States and looking at the American…fashion.   Yesterday, Nike unveiled the new United States uniforms for the next year for both the men’s and women’s national teams.  It is a big change from the old home uniforms, which had our players dressed like candy canes in 2012/2013.  Then last year, the team switched to a retro look that was similar to the first jerseys worn by the U.S., in homage of the 100 year anniversary of U.S. Soccer.

It seems like the team, and Nike, went even further back in time with this year’s choice.  These are just as appealing to the eye, if not more.  I love the same color scheme from top to bottom.  The two-button neck and the collar are a different story.  This was big in 1998, and on it’s way out in 2002 for good reason.  Nike messed up with this portion, a collar just does not seem right on a slim-cut dri-fit jersey, flapping around in the wind on the necks of Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, and Jozy Altidore.

All-in-all, this has been the most pleased I have been with a new unveiling as close to the day it was released.  The pageant-crowned sash jerseys won me over about two months later.  The candy canes got me about six months later.  The centennial jerseys, I liked because they were not red and white striped.  These jerseys are clean.  Up and down, across the board, the team looks good to the naked eye, before narrowing the lense.  It’s bold but not flashy.  I think the jersey represents the team: they’re coming in with a clean slate, not making any major statements before hand, as they are underdogs in their group, at least in the eyes of most analysts.