It wasn’t often pretty, but Team USA ended their World Cup losing streak against Ghana on Monday evening, thanks to substitute center back John Brooks’ unlikely 86th minute winning header goal off Graham Zusi’s corner kick. The U.S. limps away from the Ghana street fight battered and bloodied (literally), but with the vital three points that pundits have insisted for months is a prerequisite if the U.S. has a chance of advancing from Group G.
The U.S.’ dramatic win is tempered only by the slew of injuries they suffered: defender Matt Besler didn’t play the second half as a precaution because of a hamstring issue, Clint Dempsey likely broke his nose, Alejandro Bedoya left with a limp late in the second half, and most notably, Jozy Altidore’s hamstring strain which may sideline him for the rest of the tournament. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s on-the-fly adjustments worked out against Ghana, but additional changes to the starting 11 may be necessary for the U.S.’ clash against Portugal on Sunday.
John Brooks worked in a pinch (sliding in at halftime for Matt Besler), and his winning goal certainly can’t be overlooked, but Brooks had some shaky moments trying to withstand the Ghanaian barrage. If Besler isn’t fit to start the match against Portugal, Omar Gonzalez may be the more conservative pick to partner with Geoff Cameron in central defense. Gonzalez has been dealing with his own knee issues however, so if he isn’t completely ready, Brooks will get the nod, as the U.S. has no other center back alternatives.
Alejandro Bedoya has been surprisingly dynamic for the U.S. in the run up to this World Cup and he put in a hard-working shift against Ghana, but if he is unable to start against Portugal, the U.S. has several capable midfield wing options in Graham Zusi, Mix Diskerud, or Brad Davis. If Bedoya’s unavailable, Zusi seems most likely to start with his crossing ability and defensive backtracking know-how.
As for Dempsey’s apparent broken nose, he won’t get much sympathy from Klinsmann, who told reporters in his post-match press conference that he knows from breaking his own nose “three or four times” that Dempsey will be fine in a few days. Still, the injury seemed distracting to Dempsey who wasn’t the same threat post-injury that he demonstrated with his amazing first-minute goal against Ghana. A U.S. lineup without team captain Dempsey seems unthinkable; indeed, it will take more than a broken nose to keep Dempsey off the pitch.
Perhaps the biggest lineup conundrum for the U.S. then is how to move forward without striker Jozy Altidore. Aron Johansson is an exciting young player, who filled in capably when Altidore left the game, but Dempsey and Johansson were not tuned to the same frequency, and the U.S. doesn’t have another bench option at striker with physical strength comparable to Altidore’s. Certainly, Altidore’s injury makes the Landon Donovan omission all the more glaring. Chris Wondolowski may be a bit of a wildcard selection, but his superb movement and uncanny knack for being in the right spaces at the right time might prove a surprise foil for Portugal’s back line. While he is a very different striker than Altidore, Wondolowski is a pesky go-getter with a track record of scoring when Klinsmann calls on him.
It was an exciting win for the U.S., but one that definitely came at a price as the match took much more out of the team than is ideal from a World Cup opener. Fans saw a lot of scrappy character in this U.S. side against Ghana, but with the injury setbacks, we’ll really find out what they’re made of when they face a chastised Portuguese team this Sunday.
On a side note, don’t forget to check out my brand new book Dallas ‘Til I Cry: Learning to Love Major League Soccer which is now available on Amazon.com and on Amazon Europe sites!
Latest Chelsea rumors and realities
After a slow start to the traditional summer transfer craziness due to the Euro 2012 tourney, things are about to heat up. Now that the Euro 2012 Final is history (congrats to Spain!) clubs will be scrambling in July to assemble their rosters in time for the new season.
Here are some of the latest rumors involving current or potential Chelsea players. These are solely rumors, approximately 99.9 % of which are planted by players’ agents, so all must be taken with a large grain of salt:
The LA Galaxy might offer Frank Lampard a two-year deal to go Hollywood. Not sure how they would cram in another designated player when they’ve already got Keane, Beckham, and Donovan, but if any MLS team can finagle it, LA can. Lampard is such a Chelsea stalwart that I can’t imagine him leaving. If he had to go, it would be fun to see him in MLS, but I don’t want Lamps to leave Chelsea!
Chelsea has supposedly declined an offer from FC Copenhagen to acquire Romelu Lukaku on loan for the upcoming season. Hope this means Chelsea is going to work Lukaku into the lineup more next season. Looking forward to seeing what the Belgian has to offer.
I’ve read a couple rumors about Chelsea being interested in Arsenal’s Theo Walcott. I file this one under “unexciting”. Walcott hasn’t been a consistent starter for Arsenal and I feel like Chelsea already has a similar player in Daniel Sturridge. I’d rather keep Sturridge.
Chelsea seems quite interested in Wigan striker Victor Moses, but their initial offer was apparently laughed off by Wigan. Moses is semi-interesting, but I’d rather see Chelsea give Sturridge and Lukaku a chance to fulfill their potential.
Chelsea may try to get right back Maicon from Inter Milan. Don’t know much about him, but it might be a good idea as Chelsea ended up defensively short-handed late last season due to injuries.
Paris St. Germain may try to pry John Terry away from Chelsea. While Terry’s also a perennial Blue, I actually wouldn’t be too disappointed to see him go. For all his defensive prowess and leadership, he sure has made some boneheaded moves over the years. And there’s still the small matter of his pending racial abuse case involving his on-field clash with QPR’s Anton Ferdinand last season. I seriously doubt Chelsea will let Terry go though.
Finally, Chelsea is not renewing contracts for Salomon Kalou and Jose Bosingwa. Both are players I won’t miss very much. Their Chelsea seasons were a mixed bag of helpfulness and hurtfulness. Still, they’ll always be a part of Chelsea nostalgia for their contributions to the club’s first Champions League title.
Which of these are good ideas? Bad ideas? Feel free to weigh in below…
Wednesday’s “friendly” ended in 1 – 1 draw
The U.S./Mexico match in Philadelphia Wednesday night was noteworthy only because it was Jurgen Klinsmann’s first match as the U.S. men’s national team coach. Otherwise, it was a fairly sloppy game with lively patches few and far between. Here are my match notes:
-The US starting lineup was unexciting. Buddle over Brek Shea or Freddy Adu? I know Adu’s not necessarily a forward, but still. Buddle? I thought we’d see Klinsmann begin to reinvent the wheel, even in his first game, by naming a bigger ratio of newbies to veterans. Instead, the starting eleven was a pretty familiar bunch.
-17th min: Fluke Mexican goal, which ricocheted off a green-shirt via corner kick.
-Interesting, old school move by Klinsmann to remove names from the back of the US jerseys. It sends the signal that the team is rebooting. Some seem to think it’s an unnecessarily junior league thing to do. I kind of like it.
-The US was very drab in the first half, creating next to nothing. Zero shots!
-It was weird to see Jose Torres out there (for the US) because I’d almost forgotten about him! I thought he was pretty swell in World Cup 2010 so it was good to see him back. He had a quiet first half, but showed some promise in the second.
-At halftime, ESPN’s Alexi Lalas and Taylor Twellman were rightfully upset by the lack of American creativity in the first half. I agree with the frequently grumpy-seeming Lalas that there is far too much emphasis on the US somehow needing more Latin players to improve. At a recent FC Dallas game, I even overheard a dude ask his buddy whether or not he thought the booming Hispanic population in the US would mean we’ll win the World Cup soon. Degree of latin-ness has nothing to do with it. I’m pretty certain soccer skill has not been detected in the genetic code in any part of the world yet.
-57th min: Solid header by Bocanegra off a corner. Mexican GK had to make a great diving save. Should’ve been the equalizer!
-Overall, I expected to see a lot more US hustle since everyone is auditioning for Klinsmann.
-60th min: Brek Shea replaced Jermaine Jones. Juan Agudelo replaced Buddle. The US tempo almost immediately spiked.
-61st min: Youthful waste of a shot by Agudelo. Sorry, but I don’t see what all the excitement over Agudelo is about. He did make some decent passes before the night was over though.
-73rd min: Shea slid the ball through the box from the left side to Robbie Rogers (?!) who tapped it in! Game tied 1 – 1.
-Donovan finally woke up for the last 15 minutes. Not sure what took so long, but his late surge was a reminder that he’s still got skill to spare. Perhaps he’ll be unleashed to play with more freedom under Klinsmann.
-Robbie Rogers was a surprise. I’ve never been too impressed with him, but he demonstrated potential during his short stint.
-I was most excited to see Brek Shea get some quality time. He made the most of his trial. What I like so much about Shea is his hustle. He always works hard. I think we’ll be seeing him in Brazil in three years.
-It was a good first result for the US under Klinsmann. No one was expecting much since he’s only been on the job a couple weeks. Still, we got to see some new faces, and we didn’t lose, so overall, a positive night. It is refreshing and fun to see Klinsmann on the sideline. He will be good for US soccer.
What did you think of Klinsmann’s lineup choices? Feel free to share your thoughts below…
What’s Shea doing in Central America?
In their 4 – 0 loss to Manchester United last night, the MLS All-Stars were missing one of the most exciting and dangerous scoring threats in MLS this year. FC Dallas fans will know who was missing from the lineup: Brek Shea. To be certain, the 21-year-old forward/midfielder was voted onto the All-Star roster by MLS fans, but he missed the game for international duty of the club variety. Shea is in San Salvador with FC Dallas to kick off their first ever CONCACAF Champions League game against Alianza FC Thursday night. The match will air live on FOX Soccer at 9:00 PM (CT).
Shea is currently tied with Landon Donovan for second most goals scored (9) in MLS this season (Thierry Henry is in first with 11 goals). Shea has quickly established himself as a player to watch. Already a vital starter for FC Dallas, he got his first call-up to the U.S. National Team late last year (friendly against Colombia) and played 60 minutes for the U.S. against Chile in January of this year. With the U.S. team in need of some re-tooling after the Gold Cup, Shea would be a good place to start. If you’ve not seen Shea play, he is tall, physical, fast, and a scoring threat in the air and from distance.
I was surprised to read that Shea spent some time training with Bolton in 2007 – surprised because in thinking I’d like to see him loaned to an EPL club during the next MLS off-season, I thought Bolton might be a good fit. Another American, Stuart Holden, has thrived at Bolton. Shea could possibly earn some decent playing time there, especially if Daniel Sturridge remains at Chelsea (he was loaned to Bolton last season). Stoke, Wigan, or Wolves might be good matches for Shea as well. You heard it here first EPL teams (okay, probably not) – but just in case – do yourselves a favor and give this Brek guy a look. Just don’t get too attached. We want to keep him in Dallas as long as possible!
It’s a big honor for FC Dallas to be in the CONCACAF Champions League, earned by way of being MLS Cup Runners-Up in 2010. I haven’t tuned in to CONCACAF Champions League play in the past, admittedly due to my bias against CONCACAF teams in relation to the quality of UEFA’s Champions League competition. But now that FC Dallas is in the CCL, I am newly motivated to follow the tournament and cheer them on. FC Dallas is good enough to go far. It will be interesting to see how they perform in such a different environment. It won’t be like playing at Pizza Hut Park, that’s for sure. At least they’re already used to the heat. You can hear some of the players’ thoughts about the match here. Check back tomorrow to find out how Shea and FCD fared in their first Champions League adventure.
Should Brek Shea be a regular on the U.S. National Team? Which Premier League team would be a good fit for Shea if he were to go on loan this winter?