10:41 AM 0 comments

A Breathless Loss at the Azteca

The U.S. MNT should stick to this line when explaining yesterday's 2-1 loss to El Tri in Mexico City:

"The altitude and the smog sapped our energy and affected our play in the second half. In and ideal world, we would have 14 days to train and acclimate. But we didn't have that luxury."

Maybe this is just a fantasy explanation for the U.S. MNT's collapse yesterday. In reality, our boys just played defense and seemed listless throughout 60 minutes of play. In the beginning few minutes, they played their counter attack with swagger and speed. Charlie Davies' shot past Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa was a beauty, and demonstrated another reason why this New Englander will make it big in Europe. But after that, it seemed our boys just sat back and decided to simply defend against the incessant stream of attacks from a more spirited El Tri. The stunning (and really lucky) goal from Macias Castro (19') could have been prevented if they put more pressure.

Castro's goal reminded me of Giuseppe Rossi's strike during the Confederations Cup. Both players were given a lot of space to take a chance, and their shots paid off.

In the end, the U.S. seemed flat-footed. They couldn't maintain possession offensively and kept turning the ball over. In the end, it's no surprise that Mexico found a hole in the U.S. defense and exploited it.

A message to Team USA: Consistency. Please!
5:22 PM 0 comments

Barca's Training Session in SF

I got a chance to watch Barca's training session today at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. It was $10 and it was a really cool experience. These guys play at such a high level. Fascinating to watch the types of drills used to sharpen their dexterity. Enjoy.







6:42 PM 0 comments

Barcelona Practice Tomorrow in SF! But...

I've been following a number of posts in the Blogosphere and the Twitterverse about a practice that FC Barcelona will hold the morning of Friday August 8 at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. I'm almost 100% sure they will practice there tomorrow, based on this online invite posted by the San Francisco Parks Trust. The only problem is that it's an exclusive event limited to 200 people at a price of at least $150 a ticket.

There's another rumor floating around the blogosphere that Barca fans will be able to attend the session for a $10 admission fee, according to this post from Soccer Training Info (thanks to @CaptainArsenal for posting on Twitter).

Now the real question: should I stay or should I go? Might be worth a shot, given I'm going to miss Barca's match against Chivas on Saturday. Worst case scenario I'll catch a glimpse of the bus while freezing my tail off in the fog of Golden Gate Park.

If anybody has any details, feel free to comment.
9:41 PM 0 comments

Becks Is Still A Stud

Watching the LA Galaxy face off against Barcelona on Saturday at the Rose Bowl was a treat for soccer fans. Barcelona played almost every player (Iniesta warmed up but didn't play) and put on a clinic for the 93,000 fans in attendance. It's one thing to watch Barcelona's free-flowing style on TV, it's another to watch the speed and precision in person.

But I digress. The real spectacle that night was the man everyone loves to hate. David Beckham proved to the drowning boos and rants that the dude still has his groove. His passes were creative and accurate. One second he's delivering the ball up from goal, the next second he's launching passes to his strikers on the other end. His sense of field presence is uncanny. He delivered pin-point passes in stride to his teammates, most of them seeming not knowing what to do with the ball. He was a man among boys.

Beckham's free kick created an interesting effect. I've never heard such a deafening sound of stunned silence when his free kick bulged the net. From my vantage point to the right of goal, the arc of his shot was a sight to watch as it curled into the upper corner past Pinto. The fans that were once booing him looked around with eyes bulging and began to clap. Check out the clip:



Now I can sympathize with Becks's desire to return to Milan. Wouldn't you? At Milan he's surrounded by players who are moving at his rhythm. They're playing at his level. With the exception of the speedy Landon Donovan, the rest of the Galaxy aren't up to snuff.
7:50 AM 0 comments

Welcome to America, Barca

U.S. football fans have been spoiled all summer. It began with the U.S.'s improbable run to the Confederations Cup final; then the powerhouses of Chelsea, Inter, AC Milan, and Club America faced off around the country; and of course the loyalists of El Tri were tickled green to watch Mexico dismantle the Yanks in the Gold Cup. Now for the good part: Barcelona and Real Madrid are coming.

On Saturday, I'll be driving down to LA with my cousin to watch Barca take on David Beckham and the LA Galaxy. In 2006 we joined 92,000 fans (including Kobe Bryant, who was sitting a few rows behind us) at the LA Coliseum to watch Barca battle Chivas de Guadalajara. Unfortunately, I'll miss the same match-up when the two teams play in San Francisco on August 8 (wedding). But at least I'll get my fill at the Rose Bowl this weekend.

Fan site Barcaloco has posted the 26-man roster making the trip over here:

The 26 players are:
Valdés, Jorquera, Jorquera, Puyol, Alves, Sánchez, Piqué, Márquez, Henrique, Abidal, Maxwell, Xavi, Touré, Keita, Busquets, Gudjohnsen, Iniesta, Henry, Pedro, Messi, Bojan, Ibrahimovic (injured), Muniesa, Fontàs, Jonathan dos Santos and Jeffren.

The blaugrana will also make an appearance at the Nike store in Hollywood this Thursday June 30. Barcaloco also noted that the team will train at UCLA.

If anyone knows where Barca will be training in the SF Bay Area, give me a shout!
8:22 AM 0 comments

Inter Milan v Club America at Stanford

Went to the Inter Milan vs. Club America friendly at Stanford on Sunday. Great time to watch some of the world's best players warming up for their next campaign. America played well, and showed off their mid-season form by winning the game in penalty kicks (thanks to Patrick Viera missing the frame). It was also a treat being around Mexican fans, who were as passionate and festive as always. Enjoy the pics.


video
Club America fans before the game outside the stadium


Inter warming up


A view from the Club America section

Second half kick-off
1:14 PM 1 comments

Pour Salt on That Wound, Why Don't You?


According to MSNBC: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva presents a soccer jersey signed by the Brazilian national team to President Obama during the G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy, on July 9. During the exchange, Lula teased Obama about the U.S. soccer team's recent narrow loss to Brazil in the Confederations Cup.

So much for diplomacy. Headline in tomorrow's papers: "U.S. Imposes Strict Sanctions on All Brazilian Imports".
9:13 AM 1 comments

Goal.com: Villa Signs with Barca

According to Goal.com:

Barcelona and Valencia have reached a deal that will see David Villa move to Camp Nou and are expected to make an announcement soon, Goal.com has learned.

A source close to Camp Nou has revealed exclusively to this website that the Spanish international striker has had his wish granted and he will join the European champions this summer.

Negotiations have been ongoing between Barça and Valencia and the Catalan club's president Joan Laporta even revealed that a bid had been made during a television interview on Wednesday evening.

Now Goal.com has been told that a deal has been struck and that Villa will be a Barcelona player, although no details of the fee or any of the Blaugrana's squad going in the other direction was divulged.

Laporta suggested that a offer of over €40million had been made and that, allied with los Che's new chief Vicente Soriano's promise to let the player go this year, has meant the treble winners have their man.

The arrival of Villa could speed up the departure of Samuel Eto'o, with both Manchester United and Manchester City linked with the Cameroonian striker, who was Barca's top league scorer last term.

Real Madrid opted not to pursue Villa after being told that he was not for sale and instead forked out a fee of up to €41million to sign Karim Benzema from Olympique Lyonnais.

Steve Michaels, Goal.com
10:55 PM 1 comments

Thoughts About USA-Honduras

The USMNT deserved its 2-0 victory today over Honduras. Two great goals by Santino Quaranta and Brian Ching-- as well as some beautiful plays from Benny Feilhaber, Charlie Davies and Steve Cherundolo-- demonstrated solid teamwork and creativity. Feilhaber in particular had a few nice touches that set the wheels of the offense in motion. Also a shout out to Freddy Adu for some fancy footwork and unselfish play.

All in all, I'm happy with the win. Only blemish was the first half when the team looked rusty and uncoordinated. No control in the midfield and sporadic drives down the side. Feilhaber's substitution changed the tempo of the game, as did the entry of Davies (where did this guy come from?!), and all of a sudden plays seemed to come together.

For me, the Gold Cup is a display of the next generation. Can these kids win big games? Will they provide a glimpse of how U.S. soccer is evolving? So far they seem rusty. But those few peeks of brilliance, most notably the Quaranta goal, give hope.

Here are the highlights (en espanol):

9:39 PM 3 comments

Gooch to Milan!

Wow, this is huge. AC Milan announced today that U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu signed a three-year deal to mend the team's aging defense. On one level I think this is a huge win for U.S. soccer's standing on the world stage, especially if Gooch gets playing time. But history has shown that for some reason our guys achieve limited success, with the exception of our goalies, when given the chance to prove themselves across the pond. Jozy Altidore can't find time with Villarreal, and neither has Freddy Adu shown his potential with Benfica. Clint Dempsey has fared well at Fulham, but he's not a star.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy. I hope Gooch will prove doubters wrong about the caliber of our players on European club teams. I'm cautiously optimistic.
10:36 PM 3 comments

Cristiano Ronaldo and His Itchy Crotch


Check out the video clip of Ronaldo's big introduction at the Bernabeu earlier today. Apparently the shorts were a bit snug. You figure he would've used some baby powder before the biggest day of his career. Courtesy of Marca.com. Enjoy.
10:30 AM 0 comments

New Players from Abroad

The USMNT blog on Thursday posted excerpts from coach Bob Bradley's conference call with reporters. During the call he talked about two names that are getting considerable attention among the USMNT faithful: Jose Francisco Torres and Jermaine Jones. Both are players that could add new depth to the US midfield, given their natural talent and experience abroad.

Torres grew up in Texas and was recruited by Mexican club Pachuca. Last October he announced he wanted to represent the red, white and blue at the international level, and has since seen some time during World Cup qualifiers. He didn't play during the Confederations Cup, much to the ire of fans critical of Bradley's roster choices during the tournament.

Jermaine Jones is the son of an American serviceman and a German mother. Most recently he played a key role in midfield for German Bundesliga squad Schalke, which made it into the Champions League elimination round during the 07-08 season. During yesterday's conference call, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said Jones could be eligible to play as early as August 2. Jermaine declared his desire to play for the U.S. after FIFA changed its eligibility rules for international players. If a player has dual citizenship, he/she can switch nations as long as the player didn't appear in official games. So, playing in a friendly is OK for switching.

Speaking of these new rules, another player in Mexico declared his desire to play for Team USA. Edgar Castillo, a left back at Tigres, was born in Las Cruces, NM and up until recently wanted to represent Mexico. Then he got wind of the FIFA changes and pledged his allegiance to the USMNT. More on Castillo in this NY Times article.

Part of me feels critical. Just because of some rule change, players who left for other opportunities abroad are now begging for playing time with the USMNT. But most of me applauds these developments. Our second half dismantling by Brazil last week reveled a lack of depth in our roster, so more talent and greater competition for playing time will make our team stronger.
7:16 AM 0 comments

Top 10 Funny Footballing Nicknames

Courtesy of Goal.com.

I don't know why I like this. For what it's worth:

Top 10 Funny Footballing Nicknames

10) Arjen Robben – The Man Of Glass
Widely regarded as one of the world's most talented and skilful players, Robben’s feats for Holland, PSV, Chelsea and Real Madrid have sometimes been overshadowed by his regular spells on the sidelines. The winger’s injury proneness has seen his earn the nickname ‘The Man of Glass’ due to his ability to break rather easily.

9) Nicolas Anelka – The Incredible Sulk
Anelka has been around for so long, it is almost impossible to think that he is still only 30. During his 12 or so years starring for various European teams such as Arsenal, Real Madrid and Chelsea, you can probably count on one hand the number of times the Frenchman has smiled. His uneasy relationships with coaches and team-mates has seen him tagged ‘Le Incredible Sulk’.

8) Davie Dodds – The Elephant Man
Dodds was a star striker for the Dundee United team who won the Scottish League in 1983, and a year later were desperately close to making the European Cup Final as they lost 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-final to Roma. Despite these heroics, Dodds is best remembered for his uncanny resemblance to ‘The Elephant Man’

7) Peter Beardsley – Quasimodo
Another forward whose looks did not match up to his impressive football skills. Beardsley had a fine career for Newcastle, Liverpool, Everton, and of course England, who he won 59 caps for. The Geordie was often teased in the press about his appearance, and his generally hunchbacked exterior earned him the nickname ‘Quasimodo’ after the fictional character in the novel and film Notre Dame de Paris.

6) Pele – The Jinx
Also known as ‘The King’, in recent years Pele has become as famous for his legendary playing career as for his truly disastrous football predictions. For a few examples, read our Top 10 Wrong Pele Predictions from last week. All these incorrect forecasts have led to Pele light-heartedly being portrayed as a curse – 'The Jinx'.

5) Naohiro Takahara – The Sushi Bomber
Arguably the funniest nickname on the Asian continent, Takahara has been one of Japan’s best players this decade, scoring 23 goals in 57 games for his country, and also playing for German sides Hamburg and Eintracht Frankfurt. While in Germany, the forward was dubbed ‘The Sushi Bomber’.

4) Antonio Cassano – Peter Pan
Arguably the most gifted player of his generation in Italy, the 27-year-old has won just 15 caps for his country and seems destined for an unfulfilled career. Cassano’s wild, and sometimes insane, personality is often explained as the reason why the fantasista has never really had the chance on the biggest stage. His childish character means he really is the real-life Peter Pan - the boy who never grew up.

3) Yaar Duran – The Bucket
Turkey may have made the semi-finals of both World Cup 2002 and Euro 2008, but 25 years ago they were considered as one of the whipping boys of Europe. Often on the receiving end of heavy scorelines, national goalkeeper Yasar Duran was labelled ‘The Bucket’ following Turkey’s biggest ever defeat in November 1984 – an 8-0 thrashing at the hands of England in Istanbul.

2) Tony Adams – The Donkey
Adams is undoubtedly one of Arsenal’s greatest ever defenders after winning trophies galore with the Gunners during a one-club 19-year career. The centre back did have his critics, though, and after scoring an own goal against Manchester United before being torn apart by Holland’s Marco Van Basten at Euro 88, Adams was nicknamed by sections of the British press as ‘The Donkey’ due to his sometimes inelegant style.

1) Adriano Galliani – Uncle Fester
It could only be the Milan transfer guru at No.1. Galliani is undoubtedly one of the most colourful characters in world football, and certainly the one who talks the most. In Italy he is known as ‘Zio Fester’ (Uncle Fester) due to his hilarious resemblance to the member of the Addams Family. Fester had a peculiar ability to conduct electricity, and based on the picture below it seems Galliani can also.


Carlo Garganese, Goal.com
Go to Goal.com for the world’s most comprehensive soccer coverage.
8:08 AM 0 comments

Ouch


Despite the outcome, I'm still proud of our guys for taking us on this roller coaster ride to the Confederations Cup finals. They showed the passion, grit and determination that all of us fans were dying to watch. Thank you.

But that doesn't take away the pain. I watched the game yesterday at The Old Pro, a great sports bar in Palo Alto, CA. The place was packed. Not an open seat by 10 minutes into the game. And to go from standing on my bar stool after Donovan's goal to burying my head after Lucio's game winner was brutal. During the second half everyone just felt the game slipping away as Brazil regained its confidence and then shut the game down.

Why did Brazil win? Because they realized they're Brazil. The fact that Pato never played and Dani Alves spent half the tournament on the bench speaks volumes about Brazil's depth and level of professionalism. The U.S. was brilliant setting the game's initial momentum and exploiting 2 goals. But we couldn't figure out how to slow down Brazil's relentless attack.

Well, thanks for the memories, boys.

Next up: the Gold Cup and then a qualifier against Mexico at Azteca. Delicious. The Gold Cup will be interesting because we'll have a chance to watch up-and-comers like Adu and Torres. Let's see whether our next generation has the skill and guts to one day defeat Brazil.
10:57 PM 0 comments

Get Ready for USA-Brazil!!

A week ago, U.S. fans were calling for coach Bob Bradley's head. If our boys pull off another stunning upset by beating Brazil in the Confederations Cup final, Bradley will break the world record for fastest transition from zero to hero. That's the crazy thing about these tournaments. One day you're on the verge of elimination, the next day you're in the finals (see France 2006).

So that brings us to tomorrow's rematch between the U.S. and Brazil. Last time they met Brazil beat the snot out of them. The U.S. played like a high school team and got steamrolled by Brazil's speed, skill and strength. While the odds are stacked a mile high against us, after Wednesday's Spanish Soccer Shocker we should bite our predictive tongues until the final whistle is blown.

Here are the 3 things I'll watch when the U.S. takes the field against Brazil for all the marbles:

1. U.S. Starting XI
The key to a successful match will be coach Bradley's choice at midfield. Fans have criticized Bradley for his questionable starting rosters. His dependence on DeMarcus Beasley as a defensive midfielder or left back was been disastrous, as evidenced when Beasley's mishandling of a pass from corner resulted in a swift counter attack that set up a Robinho goal. Bradley has since come to his senses. But the U.S. is now faced with another hole in his lineup since his the coach's son Michael will be suspended for the final after receiving a red card against Spain. Bradley's absence is a big loss because he brings a toughness to the midfield and has a knack for breaking up opposing team rhythm. Coach Bradley is left with two more attack-minded midfielders in Sacha Kljestan and Benny Feilhaber (for some reason he refuses to play Jose Torres or Freddy Adu). Let's see how their roles adapt against Brazil's quickness.

2. Kaka, Robinho and Fabiano
Brazil's attacking front has been spectacular this tournament, and not just for their skill and scoring prowess. They've muscled their way to goals. Against Italy, Kaka face-planted Giuseppe Rossi (what sweet redemption) and then flew down the left sideline to set up a goal for Fabiano. Against the U.S., cameras caught Robinho single handedly throwing aside defender Jonathan Bornstein. I have no clue how the U.S. can stop these guys. They're too damn fast and too damn good. Divine intervention anyone?

3. D-Fence
The back four plus Tim Howard were the stars of the game against Spain. Gooch's history of inconsistent play seemed like an afterthought, and Jay Demerit suddenly raised eyebrows among European club scouts. Howard, of course, was an absolute stud in goal, fending off most of the 29 shots launched his way, including a couple that he stuffed point blank. But it wasn't just those five players that held fortified the U.S. It was the collective attitude of the team. Watching Donovan and Ricardo Clark dive in front of shots and crosses was a sight for sore eyes, and it was the pressure in the midfield that disrupted Xavi's plan of attack. I hope our boys are even hungrier and more fearless tomorrow. The glory of last week's upset will disappear if guys are thinking about their spread in People Magazine http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20287633,00.html.

Well, it's all or nothing. I'm proud of our guys... no matter the outcome.
9:40 AM 0 comments

Spain Reacts



Two great articles about yesterday's game from the Spanish perspective. Eduardo Alvarez's piece in ESPN is particularly interesting because it gives a cultural angle to how Spaniards viewed the game. The New York Times's Goal Blog has a great re-cap of the Spanish media's take on the loss. Much of the sentiment can be categorized as "Shit happens," or "We were bound to lose." Spanish media also quoted players giving a lot of respect for the U.S.'s defense, which in my view was the key to our victory yesterday. "Twenty nine shots on goal. That says it all," observed midfielder Xabi Alonso. "They were a wall," he said, referring the U.S. back line.

ESPN:
Spain relapse in Bloemfontein

New York Times:
The Reaction in Spain Deals Mostly With Pain


UPDATE:
Just read some comments from Fernando Torres about yesterday's loss via FIFA.com. What a class act:

"I wanted us to win even more games. We didn't feel any extra pressure just because we were winning game after game. Something like that can only give you confidence. At the end of the day the USA took their chances up front, kept it tight at the back and deserved to win. You've got to congratulate them on that."

"The most important thing now is that we keep on showing the same down-to-earth approach as we did when we went all that time unbeaten," added the former Atletico Madrid prodigy. "I don't think anyone can say we ever showed a lack of respect to our opponents in that time. USA were the better side because they coped with the pressure we put on them and scored the goals. We'll try to take something out of the game and improve, just as we've been doing up to today."
2:06 PM 0 comments

Don't Tread On Me



The headline on Marca.com, Web site of Spain's top sports paper described it best: "Los yanquis nos bajan de la nube". Translation: "The Yankees bring us down to Earth".

For USMNT fans such as myself, we're in cloud 9.

This was the greatest game in USMNT history, in my opinion. Maybe beating Brazil 1-0 in the Gold Cup was equally significant. But out of all the games that I've watched, I'd rank this at the top. It fulfilled everything I hoped for our team and sent shockwaves around the world. We've planted a flag on the world stage and it reads: "Don't Tread On Me."

Earlier today I pointed out three things to watch during the game. Here's the result of these points:

1. Comandante Xavi
Xavi was effective, but he nor his midfield compatriots were able to establish a lock on the game's rhythm. What I hoped would happen ended up happening. Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark and Landon Donovan pressured Spain's midfield throughout the entire game, forcing Xavi to rush bad passes that resulted in turnovers rather than chances.

Here's an article about Bradley's anti-Xavi strategy.

2. Will the real Landon Donovan please stand up?
The reason why everyone is so hard on Donovan is because fans have put so much hope on his shoulders. Tonight he didn't let us down. He played with the authority, elegance, aggressiveness and speed as the 20-year old at the 2002 World Cup. I got flashbacks of 2006 vs. Ghana as he raced down the left side of the box with a clear line of sight to Casillas's goal, then passing it into the middle instead of taking it himself. Luckily Sergio Ramos got sloppy, Clint Dempsey got scrappy and the score turned to 2-0. Donovan was everywhere on both sides of the field. He made key defensive plays, and found open space to drive the ball upfield during breakaways. He displayed the leadership that everyone expects of him. I'm honored to have witnessed one of the best games he's played in a USA uniform.

3. The Gooch and Jay Show
Surpassed expectations by a country mile. In fact, let me expand my praise to the entire US defense, including the return of captain Carlos Bocanegra on the left, Jonathan Spector on the right and Tim Howard in goal. But Gooch and Jay stood out for me. Big play after big play the stifled Fernando Torres and David Villa, disrupted crosses, headed out passes into the box, and even drove the ball up a few times to set up the offense. They were the true heroes tonight.
7:44 AM 0 comments

3 Things to Watch During USA-Spain

Well, today's the big day. Team USA will face Spain, the world's number one-ranked soccer team and the Euro 2008 champion, in the semi-finals at the Confederations Cup. I love team Spain almost as much as I love our USMNT. They play a beautiful, multi-dimensional game with varying depths in their passes dictated by obsessive ball control at midfield. Get them in their rhythm and teams are limited to playing the counter-attack, which may be the strategy that will best break their rhythm. A quick counter-strike in the first 10 minutes of the game could change everything (see Costa Rica, El Salvador and Brazil).

I hope our boys come out guns blazing. I want them to play with swagger. With arrogance. With a disciplined toughness. And most of all... I hope they play with patience and keep their cool. Breaking Spain's possession will be difficult and the last thing we need is another red card.

Here are 3 things to pay attention to today:

1. Comandante Xavi
Gotta love the diminutive Barcelonito's expertise in marshaling the offense. All plays go through Xavi, and if he plays unimpeded we're up for a long night. He led all players in passes completed during the group phase with 229, according to FIFA. I want to see Michael Bradley doing what he does best: disrupting plays and throwing a monkey wrench in the opponent's offensive machinery. Here's a great quote from Sir Alex Ferguson on Xavi and his teammate Andres Iniesta:

“I don’t think Iniesta and Xavi have ever given up the ball in their lives,” Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, said in appreciation and exasperation. “They get you on that carousel and they can leave you dizzy.”

2. Will the real Landon Donovan please stand up?
I hope the Egyptian Landon Donovan, not the Brazilian Landon Donovan, steps onto the field tomorrow. Against Egypt, Donovan was everywhere on the field. He was taking shots, jumping on chances, unselfishly dishing off to other shooters, and disrupting plays, to name a few. As a player who sometimes disappears during big games, I hope he walks out cool and comfortable. At his best, he's so much fun to watch. At his worst, he's stroke-inducing.

3. The Gooch and Jay Show
I hope our central defenders got a good night's sleep because they will be busting their asses trying to slow down Fernando Torres and David Villa. I fear Gooch will do something regretful in the box if Xavi connects his trademark through-pass to a striker, or if Ramos crosses one high near the post. He always seems to be one bad tackle away from a red card.

Well, I'll be easing off the Tweets today because a) I'll be parked in front of a flat screen at St. Stephen's Green in downtown Mountain View, and b) I don't have a smart phone. So for all those who are reading-- Go USA!!!

Some articles:
Xavi Is Spain’s Maestro of the Midfield

Spain Press Notes

U.S. team undaunted at facing Spain
8:53 PM 0 comments

Muchos Cojones

Throughout the blogosphere the sentiment towards team USA is largely "Great win... but..." Well, as one of the skeptics (see previous post), I am thrilled to have been proved wrong in a huge way. Our boys today played like lions-- full of heart and fierce on the attack. They played with balls.

What happened? Maybe the team had nothing to lose. Maybe they were sick of all the complaints from home. Or perhaps they just slept well while some of the Egyptians were conjuring up their "robbery story" (new details here). Who knows, who cares? As a devout fan, I want to see this team walk on the field every game, whether it's against Haiti or Spain. Whatever bloggers or the media say about the team, the fact is we all want to see this level of determination and confidence. During the Brazil game we saw a bunch of children. Tonight, we saw true American manly grit. A message to the team: please bring it to Spain. Even if you lose, lose with fire (like the 4-2 loss to Brazil that I watched in Chicago in 2007).

Michael Bradley en fuego
Our boys had a few words to the doubters and cynics Stateside. Loved this quote from Michael Bradley via the NY Times

“At the end of the night, you walk into the locker room, and to be able to experience a feeling like that with your teammates, coaches and trainers, that’s why you play, to do something special like that. When everything is against you, everybody wants to say how bad you are, everybody wants to write you off.” To leave those distractions outside the locker room, he said, “and to be committed as a team to leaving everything on the field, to running for each other, to fighting for each other, that’s what we did.” He added: “All those experts in America, everybody who thinks they know about soccer, can all look at that score tonight and let’s see what they have to say now.”

Hell yea Michael. Now pour out that fire into Iker Casillas's goal!

ESPN's take on tonight's victory:

11:21 PM 0 comments

No Cojones

What happened to the U.S.? What happened to the team in 2002 that dismantled Portugal, silenced Mexico and outplayed Germany? I remember watching the Portugal game, waking up at an ungodly hour one humid morning and watching the red, white and blue reveal Portugal to be a squad of prima donas. I thought the only way was up for U.S. Soccer. During today's game against Brazil we looked like a bunch of foosball pieces. The lowest point was watching Robinho—skinny little Robinho—swat away Jonathan Bornstein. Men against boys.

Guys… are you going to take this??

I hope the U.S. national team learned something by watching Egypt upset Italy at the Confederations Cup on Thursday. Our soccer boys might find some inspiration to rethink their approach to the game. Here's a clue-- it's all about balls and perseverance. The Egyptians stuck it to the Italians by matching blows and opportunistically pushing forward with grit. Sure, having a goalie like Essam El Hadary put on the performance of a lifetime helps. What mattered more was that Egypt played boldly—both on offense and defense. They had Brazil on the ropes by punching back with a quick goal after Kaka's initial strike, and then tied it up in the second half despite being down 3-1. Balls. Perseverance.



Some good analysis:

US National Team: Chronicling the downfall

Cold reality TV: Americans just aren't ready for prime time

Brazil 3, USA 0. (Enough said.)

U.S. team taught a painful lesson by Brazil
12:34 PM 1 comments

Barca Coming to San Francisco

Barca is playing Chivas de Guadalajara in San Francisco on Sunday, August 9!!! San Fran is the third and final stop on Barca's U.S. tour, after playing the L.A. Galaxy at the Rose Bowl, and the Seattle Sounders at Qwest Field. More details here on the FC Barca Web site.

The last time I saw Barca play in the States was in 2006 when they played Chivas at the L.A. Coliseum to a crowd estimated at 92,000. When Ronaldinho walked out during half time, thousands of camera flashes went off as he strolled to the sideline. I even saw Kobe Bryant a dozen rows behind me.

The big question: who will go with me? My cousin, who is my usual partner in crime, will be out of the country. Sigh. I'm expect myself to be bouncing off the walls the day before, only to the stoic, confused expressions of my friends and family. I can predict the dialogue:

Me: Wow, I'm going to see Messi, Xavi, Puyol, Alves and Iniesta at the same time!!!
Friend: Will Ronaldo be there?
Me: No.
Friend: He was awesome when Brazil won the World Cup.
Me: (Pause) Well there are two Ronaldos. One is a fat Brazilian. The other nailed Paris Hilton after he was poached by Real Madrid. No, neither Ronaldos will be there.
Friend: What about the guy who head butted that other guy?
Me: No, he won't be there either. Wanna go anyway?
Friend: Might be dangerous.
Me: Why?
Friend: You know, all those Mexican fans.
Me: (Silence)
9:20 PM 0 comments

Strip Rossi's U.S. Citizenship!



I'm being over-dramatic. To be honest I'm just bitter Giuseppe Rossi doesn't play for the U.S. national team. Born and raised in Clifton, NJ, his father (who's Italian) decided to ship him over to the Old World to realize his soccer dreams. Today he's a star with Spanish club Villarreal, and his light continues to shine brighter with the Azzurri. Coach Marcello Lippi described Rossi as "a little champion" and added that "much of our future is focused on him."

But did he have to bury two goals against his home country? His parents still live in New Jersey. He considers himself Italian-American. He says he roots for the U.S. all the time (not sure what that means). And he refuses to play for the U.S. team, citing "dream" to play for Italy.

Who can blame him? I wouldn't pass up the opportunity to be on the same field with soccer geniuses like Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and Gianluigi Buffon and learn to operate in Italy's system. I just wish the U.S. national team could add a few studs to the roster who can keep up with the rest of the world superpowers. I'm sick of watching us get out-muscled and outplayed. And since most of our athletes are playing football, baseball, basketball and hockey, we're going to watch our nation toil in the second tier with a steady diet of Caribbean banana republics.

Giuseppe, I'm heartbroken.
8:34 AM 0 comments

Furia Roja

It's unfair. FIFA's number one ranked team against the 82nd. A team that hadn't lost in 32 international matches versus a team that has recorded only one World Cup qualification in 1982.

Still, you can't help admire the multi-dimensional game of "The Red Fury". Fernando Torres's hat trick in less than 17 minutes was a marvel to watch, especially since his goals mixed accuracy (goal 1), quickness (goal 2) and power (goal 3).

Now take your Tivo remote and watch the lead-up to those goals, and you will gain a greater appreciation for the well oiled Spanish system. My favorite was Torres's second at 14'. It started with Alonso, the midfield anchor, as he twisted to the backfield and passed it to a defender (Puyol?). The ball made its way to Capdevila who dumped it off to Riera by the left sideline. Riera hesitated, then broke towards the middle, passed behind a defender to a sprinting Villa a couple years ahead. Villa cut back and darted the ball into the awaiting foot of Torres. Passes, runs and delays working in sync.

Of course, put them against Italy and it won't look as beautiful. But when the system is working, its pace brings a harmony to the game.

12:00 AM 0 comments

The Lonely American

It's hard being a soccer fan in America. I love watching soccer (I can't get myself to call it football yet). I've been to the world cup. I travel around the country to watch European teams play friendlies. I'm a devout follower of the U.S. national team. I'm at the bar at noon sitting quietly with other lonely American soccer fans watching Champions League games. I exist in two worlds and belong to none. Can you feel my pain?

I got into soccer in 1994 when the World Cup came to the States. I remember watching the finals during a humid evening in Harvard Square standing outside a sports bar after working my shift at a local cafe. I was walking to the T when I stumbled into a crowd of people starting into the bar, faces and fists clenched. I squeezed my way to the railing and didn't move for the next hour. I remember the gut-wrenching tension as Italian star Roberto Baggio (loved the mullet) lined up penalty kick, and then the screams of horror and amazement when he launched his shot over the cross bar. That moment, I felt like I was part of the world.

Throughout the years my passion for watching soccer has grown to the point where it has surpassed my interest in other pro sports. And yet, I can only count a couple people in my life who come close to understanding why I'm on pins and needles before the U.S. faced off against Honduras. My fiancee tolerates it. My friends find it entertaining.

I started this blog for a couple of reasons. First, I need an outlet. Second, I'm looking to connect with other lonely American soccer fans looking for an outlet. Third, if this blog become popular I hope it will fund a trip to South Africa in 2010 (hey, at least I'm being honest). In closing, my fellow Americans, come join me on my journey to South Africa. The world awaits.