Blog Archives

Why Always Man U?

Referee assists Chelsea in squandering three-goal lead

It was basically sickening on Sunday.  As soon as Rooney predictably rammed home his second PK of the afternoon I knew the match would end in a draw.  Even though Chelsea still led 3-2 at that point, I’ve been around the soccer block too many times to think that the Blues would actually be able to hold off Manchester United for the rest of the match.  I was right.  Javier Hernandez, that little Man U rascal who is incomprehensibly allowed to wear his cutesy nickname on the back of his jersey rather than his real name, tied the game with a wickedly timed run and header.  I hate that I’ve turned into a Chelsea version of a Chicago Cubs fan this season, but Chelsea has choked a few too many times this campaign to retain much optimism in big games (or little ones actually).

What makes last Sunday’s 3-3 draw all the more painful is that for the first hour or so things were falling into place so beautifully!  Sturridge showing some speedy signs of life and scoring the opening goal (so what if it was officially a Red Devil own goal?).  Then Juan Mata’s hair-raising volley smash on the end of Torres’ cross to kick off the second half!  Then David Luiz’s well-timed header goal just moments later!  It was all too good to be true.

About those PKs against Chelsea…  the first one was probably deserved.  Sturridge got a little over-zealous.  But the second one against Ivanovic a few minutes later was a ridiculous call!  It wasn’t a penalty.  Normally I think Howard Webb is one of the world’s better refs.  And I don’t envy anyone who has to attempt to officiate matches as big as this one.  But Webb had a very off day.  Besides the penalty decisions he was wildly inconsistent all afternoon, toward both sides.  Top-flight soccer simply must have instant replay for calls inside the penalty box.

I saw the Man U game as a last opportunity to rescue Chelsea’s dismal season – that maybe a victory would spark some life into the sputtering squad and help ensure they at least retain a Champions League spot for next season.  Now, the forecast is still very uncertain.  They will have to scrap for every remaining point.

Adding to the on-field woes is the recent chatter about locker room disharmony and players having issues with AVB.  Piled on top of that are the rather ridiculous rumors (or are they?) of Jose Mourinho wanting to return to Chelsea.  What a mess!  It would be a mistake to dismiss AVB this early.  He’s made some iffy calls along the way, but it’s not his fault the season has gone so poorly (just like Carlo Ancelotti shouldn’t have been blamed for last season’s shortcomings).  I don’t know that Mourinho would be able to turn things around any more effectively.  Chelsea needs stability right now.  They should give AVB two more seasons before reassessing.

What do you think about Andre Villas-Boas’ management this season?  Should he be given more time?  Feel free to weigh in below…

Post-Gold Cup Debriefing

Changes needed before US can book 2014 trip to Brazil

Unfortunately, if the Gold Cup is any indication, US qualification for World Cup 2014 is not a forgone conclusion.  It should be.  I still expect them to make it, but we’ve got to tighten the belts and get to work to be certain.  Here is a handy to-do list:

1)  The US needs a defensive overhaul immediately if not sooner.  Fast counterattacks from the opposition should not be a surprise, yet fans hold their breath every time the US faces one because it’s inevitably a shaky moment.

Cherundolo’s the man, and Bocanegra has a lot of guts.  However, they’re not getting any younger and who knows where they’ll be in their careers three years from now.  Goodson and Lichaj have potential, but I’m not convinced they’re up to World Cup standards.  Maybe they will be by 2014, but in the mean time, we need to have a massive nationwide search for the best and the brightest.  Uncle Sam Wants You… to play some airtight D!

2)  The US needs someone to accelerate into space with the ball and attack the goal.  The best teams always seem to have a player or two who can move the ball solo when necessary, creating panic in the opposing defense and scoring opportunities (just look at Dos Santos and Hernandez in the Gold Cup final).  The US doesn’t have anyone like that right now.  Dempsey, currently the best all-around US player, is more confident and poised on the ball than he’s ever been.  But he doesn’t have the kind of open-field speed with the ball that the team needs.

Anyone who remembers the US teams of the 90s knows we’ve come a very long way in our possession game.  Now we just need to ratchet up the tempo multiple notches.

3)  Figure out our best roster and stick to it.  Teams need time to gel.  If we’re still tinkering by spring 2014, it will not be a good sign.  Give Maurice Edu some minutes (I don’t know why he spent most of the Gold Cup on the bench).  Kljestan surprised me in his limited appearances.  He’s worth another look.  Time-wise, the most proportionally impressive US player during the Gold Cup was actually Freddy Adu.  He needs to figure prominently in qualifying plans.

I’m not writing off Altidore yet because he’s young and could still develop into a great player, however, he’s had more than his fair share of chances the past few years and hasn’t produced nearly enough.  It’s time to look at some other striker options.  By the way, Agudelo and Wondolowski aren’t the answers.  I don’t like this strategy of cherry-picking whoever’s hot in MLS at tournament time.  Not that MLS can’t provide some excellent talent – it can – but the MLS picks for South Africa and the Gold Cup did not pan out.

4)  It’s time for a new coach.  I like Bob Bradley.  I didn’t at first.  After giving him a chance and reading more about him (Filip Bondy’s book Chasing the Game has a great section on Bradley), what I initially perceived to be arrogance I came to see more as dignity and wisdom.  He represented the country honorably and I admire that.  However, it’s time for a fresh start.  We need someone like Guus Hiddink or Jurgen Klinsmann.  Maybe someone with professional playing experience.  It seems counter-intuitive for Americans to pick a foreigner to coach our national team, but we could really benefit from the different perspective and experience a foreigner would provide.  Now is the best time to make a coaching change before World Cup qualifying gets fully under way.

What do you think – should Coach Bradley stay or go?  What else does the US need to address ahead of World Cup 2014?