Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On the Future of US Football....errr, Soccer

Correspomdents Ed and Scott weigh in on the fortunes of the USMNT after last night's crucial victory over regional "powerhouse" Guatemala :-/

Ed:  I watched the game last evening.  I liked our lineup better, though I still don’t understand a few things.  First of all, Guatemala is terrible; how we lost to them last week is beyond belief.  I would think a good U.S. college team could beat them.  Second, at least last night Jurgen Klinsman had people at their appropriate positions – except for Bradley, whom he insists on playing in a number 10 though Bradley can’t help himself and often fell back into the number 6 position in spite of Beckerman being there.  I still think we are a better team with Bradley at 6, Nagbe  at 8 and Nguyen (or your boy Benny Feilhaber, Scott, but for whatever reason he’s an enemy of the state) at 10, and Beckerman on the bench unless and until we need him.  I was glad to see Zusi again, though I’m not sure of Castillo – he’s like a taller, younger imitation brand of Beasley.
My conclusions were:  we still aren’t very good at the simple tasks of passing and receiving.  I don’t watch much US National Team but clearly these guys aren’t at BPL level as they miss a lot of passes and have some poor first touches.  While we dominated the game and score line, there were no style points for us like there are when an overmatched team in the BPL plays a lower level team, e.g., Spurs playing Sunderland.  Sunderland will have their shots but Spurs will dominate possession and the game and there will usually be chance after chance. 

Dempsey played well but he’s definitely not going to be there next world cup as the 30 thing is upon him.

Bobby Wood is okay.  Like Castillo, I find it surprising that we don’t have any better USA players at those positions considering the talent we sometimes see just in South Florida.
Whatever.  They won.  They were better.  Onward.
I should note that US Youth Soccer has dramatically increased the number of US Soccer Academies.  I don’t know if this is a Klinsman thing, but suspect it is.  In Germany he is credited in small part to the cleaning up of their malfunctioning and fractured system.  German soccer put a ton of money into training coaches to get a high number of highly qualified coaches throughout, and JK forced money into facilities for the same purpose. I  believe to be an academy you need both a highly licensed coach and a certain quantity of facilities.  I imagine this will be good for USA youth soccer in general and the development of better players than we currently have on our USA national team.  If JK’s legacy is this, then he may have earned his money as it’s probably the most important thing for USA to get better at the international game (that said, I don’t know much about all the new academies springing up).  The current players are better than he’s made them look, but they still just aren’t that good compared to their top European counterparts. 

Scott:  I agree with pretty much everything Ed said except we dominated the game so much (granted, I only watched the first half and then skimmed the second) that I’m not sure what more could have been expected.  Maybe another 2 goals but 4 is plenty.  I think we lacked style points because we simply lack the requisite number of players with deft touch.  So maybe I am agreeing with Ed on everything.  I certainly saw a lot of errant first touches – it was like watching a “highlight” reel of Fort Lauderdale over 45s.
Interesting point he made about more academies here and that perhaps that was Jurgen’s influence in Germany.  Maybe he’s really more a director of football than a coach.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Whose Perch is it?

photo by Alan Vernon.via PhotoRee

This article is genuinely funnier to read after the events of this past weekend, although I'm guessing that's not the case for Liverpool-loving Correspondent Scott, who wrote it:

When title hopes are long gone and domestic cups are snatched away early, there is always a special satisfaction in humbling an historic, acrimonious rival. Prior to Thursday night, it had been Liverpool regularly capitulating to Manchester United. But after a dominating display at Anfield last week, the good Reds weathered an early flurry by Martial & Co. to again show more verve going forward and more resolute defending. It was a deserved aggregate win for Liverpool as they will now progress in Europa and Manchester United are left with slim chances to save this lost season.   If I were ever to take the low road to schadenfreude, there was no better time than when the camera panned to Darth Ferguson in the stands (he of “knock them off their f-ing perch” infamy), smile wiped resoundingly from his ever-red face.  But I digress…

The Klopp effect is taking time to take root, especially without an influx of players chosen by him, but through the erratic play and results one can see a growing confidence and cohesion. No doubt the return of Sturridge and a healthy Coutinho is a big factor, each of them consistently befuddling defenders.  Coutinho’s deftly chipped finish past an amazingly in-form De Gea is Exhibit A as to why the Brazilian is our most important player and why he is making inroads on the Brazil national team.

Progress has been made in other areas as well.  A previously porous defense has turned particularly parsimonious, even when regulars are out injured.  Sakho has begun to impose and his partnership with Lovren, especially, has been solid.  Clyne has had an off day here and there but has been remarkably consistent and even the rampaging Spaniard, Moreno, has begun to show his defensive chips instead of only his ability to gallop forward.  Even Milner, when conscripted to left back out of necessity, holds the line when not wearing a path down the outside channel.