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Red, White, and Bruised: How Will the U.S. Adjust to Altidore’s Absence?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

The Things We Do for Love

How I almost missed the dramatic U.S. victory over Jamaica

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I received an email from Stampede Sports, the name of the indoor soccer facility where I’ve played on a team the past couple years. It was an invitation to come watch the US v. Jamaica World Cup qualifier in Stampede’s bar area, creatively dubbed “The Corral”.  The email made the event sound very exciting, including that it would be the first gathering of the Southlake chapter of the mighty American Outlaws (the US men’s national team supporters group).  I’m certainly not in the habit of watching my soccer matches in pubs or bars, primarily because I don’t drink.  But in this case I perked up since all of the US’ away qualifiers are only televised on the be In Sports channel, which I don’t get on my cable package.

So, right after I read the kids a goodnight story I threw on my US jersey from World Cup 2010 (the one with the beauty pageant sash) and headed for Stampede Sports in Southlake (about a 20 minute drive).

I arrived at “The Corral” at 8:30, just in time for kickoff, but there was no soccer on the single big screen TV hanging above the bar.  The few patrons seemed oblivious to any imminent World Cup qualifier.  There were no American Outlaws in sight.

I found a flight of stairs.  Aha!  I wasn’t aware that Stampede had an upper bar area.  The gathering must be upstairs.  I jogged up the stairs, afraid that I’d miss an early surprise goal by Clint Dempsey or more likely a squandered chance by Jozy Altidore.  Alas, no one was upstairs and the sole TV was turned off.

I jogged back downstairs.  The bartender changed the channel… to a Texas Rangers game.  I nearly broke into a cold sweat.  Did I dream up this qualifier?  It was June 7th, right?  I checked my watch to verify.

I suddenly remembered there were a couple party rooms at the far end of the arena.  Duh!  Why hadn’t I thought of those in the first place?  Surely the big watch party was there.  I jogged down to the rooms only to find them completely empty, lights turned off, doors locked.  This was not cool.

Ten minutes of the match were already gone.  I jogged to the front desk and asked where the game was being shown.  The teenaged girl manning the desk barely looked up as she replied (as if it were no big deal), “Oh yeah, we’re not showing it.  We don’t have that channel.”

“We don’t have that channel”?  Don’t have that channel?  But what about the email invitation?  What about the American Outlaws?  Why was I the only one that seemed to care that there was a crucial World Cup qualifier in progress?  I could feel my pulse in my temples.  This was turning into one of those dreams I periodically have where I’m running all over trying to find something or someone and never succeed.

I jogged back to my car without a plan.  Where could I possibly watch this game?  If I were in Europe or South America I’d probably just have to drive a couple blocks and look for a crowd spilling out of a shop or café broadcasting the game.  But not in Southlake, Texas – the ultimate suburban oasis.  If I wanted a designer latte, fancy ice cream, to see a movie, or purchase an Apple product, I’d be in business.  But finding a place to watch US v. Jamaica here on short notice?  I might as well be in the Australian outback.

I thought about calling my friend Kristian, but I was pretty sure he didn’t get be In Sports either, plus he lived in Arlington which would be another 30 minute hike from Southlake.  I thought about my friend Jim (the former professional mascot) but it was getting late, he’s working on his doctoral thesis, and his wife is pregnant with their second child, so I didn’t really want to bother him.

I hopped in my car, started driving, and dialed up the only fake person I could think to turn to:  Siri.  I asked her for Buffalo Wild Wings locations in Bedford.  I hadn’t been to a BWW in probably a decade, but I remembered they have lots of TVs.  Surely one of them was tuned to US/Jamaica.  Siri zapped me a map in a flash.

Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the strip mall parking lot where I thought the Buffalo Wild Wings used to be.  It was gone.  Had Siri led me astray?  I checked her map again.  No.  I was wrong – the restaurant moved in the decade since I’d been there and was now on the other side of the freeway.  I checked the time, disheartened.  It was nearly halftime already.

As I drove to the Buffalo Wild Wings I refreshed the match score on my phone… the US had scored!  I whipped into the parking lot and could already see multiple TVs tuned to the game.  Yes!

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I asked to be seated outside on the patio because the night air was unusually pleasant for north Texas in June.  I got a table and a menu just as the players left the field for halftime.  As soon as I sat down, the only other groups using tables on the patio finished up and left and I was suddenly sitting outside, in the darkness, all alone, in my US jersey.

Though I’d already had dinner and wasn’t hungry, I felt obligated to order something.  But my wife Trevlyn had me on the caveman diet, so a soda was forbidden.  I gritted my teeth and ordered an unsweet tea.  I hoped Trevlyn would forgive me for the chips and salsa I also ordered (chips aren’t caveman diet approved either).

The waitress asked me if I’d like to have the sound turned on outside.  I certainly did.  Soon, I was kicked back with my own snack, two high-def TVs, with surround sound, and a cool breeze blowing.  Did it make up for missing the entire first half?  Probably not, but it wasn’t a bad consolation.

Still, it wasn’t quite the same without any fellow fans to cheer on the US with.  I called my brother Dan, who has started his extreme busy season as a summer camp director, in the off chance that he was actually getting to watch the game live.  He’d just started watching the recording so we couldn’t discuss the action or gripe about players in real time.  He said he couldn’t stay on the phone long because he didn’t want to read any spoilers in my tone, but we started talking about Star Trek Into Darkness and ended up on the phone ten more minutes anyway.

Into darkness is exactly where I and all other true US soccer fans plunged when a victory that seemed relatively in hand disappeared with a Jamaican equalizer in the 89th minute.  I blamed Graham Zusi.  The Sporting KC midfielder lazily mistimed his jump for a header against a Jamaican player who won the ball and might have raced past Zusi had Zusi not tripped him and earned a yellow card.  The match commentators commended Zusi for a “smart” foul, but I’m not convinced the play would’ve been much of a threat had he not fouled.  Jamaica lined up the resulting free kick within easy distance of the US box.  Sure enough, the ball floated in and Jamaica’s Jermaine Beckford easily waltzed through and headed the ball into the goal past a frozen Tim Howard.

All my effort scrambling around suburbia like an obsessed treasure hunter suddenly seemed madness.  Why did the US team constantly break my heart so?  Why can’t they finish out games when they have the lead?  Why did I have to be on this wretched caveman diet when I’m not even a caveman?

As I stewed and pouted into stoppage time, the US pushed the ball up field with semi-urgency.  They earned a corner kick.  Michael Bradley played it short to Zusi, who wisely returned it to Bradley.  Bradley turned sharply toward the end line trying to beat his Jamaican marker.  Bradley looked covered but he struck a pass anyway.  Brad Evans received Bradley’s pass with his back to goal, spun and ripped a desperate shot that zipped into the upper right corner past Jamaica’s Hulk of a keeper Donovan Ricketts.

I was dumbfounded.  This.  Never.  Happens.  To.  The.  US.

I suddenly wanted Brad Evans posters for my office.  I even contemplated not cheering against him next time Dallas plays Seattle.

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Sure, a draw wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but the away win provided the US with some welcome breathing room.

I paid my bill and walked to my car.  The restaurant seemed unusually empty for a Friday night.  What a match!  The whole spectrum of sports fan emotion, dejection to elation, in under five minutes.  America doesn’t know what it’s missing.

Klinsmann v. Donovan

Landon unwisely left out in the cold for upcoming U.S. games

Landon Donovan

Last week, US Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann released his roster for this month’s friendlies and the World Cup qualifiers in June.  The big brouhaha is his failure to include Landon Donovan on the list.

Though the team’s overhaul hasn’t materialized quite the way I hoped it would by now under Klinsmann’s guidance, I continue to give him the benefit of the doubt.  The team is a work in progress of course, but it is precisely because it’s a work in progress that it seems crazy to leave out Landon Donovan.  The team needs him during the course of figuring out the best starting eleven mix for the 2014 World Cup (and even after that’s figured out, it’s hard to imagine Donovan not being one of those starters).

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Is anyone on this latest roster – besides Clint Dempsey or perhaps Michael Bradley – currently a stronger overall player than Landon Donovan?  It’s hard to imagine Argentina leaving out Messi, or Portugal leaving out Ronaldo.  Yes, Donovan’s older than those superstars, but his leadership, stature, and quality are of parallel importance to the U.S.

I’m not sure the tension and controversy created by omitting Donovan is the kind of division you want to have when you’re about to enter the heart of World Cup qualifying.  What would’ve been the harm in putting Donovan on the roster?  It doesn’t mean you have to play him if you don’t think he’s up to par.  It seems there’s much more to lose by leaving him out.

If Donovan doesn’t make the roster later this summer for the Gold Cup, and the US makes it to the semifinals of that tournament (for which I have a ticket), I’m going to be an extremely disgruntled camper – along with a lot of other US soccer fans.

What do you think about Donovan getting left out?

American Breathing Room

U.S. keeps World Cup Qualifying hopes alive with win over Guatemala

The first five minutes of tonight’s game were depressing.  The U.S. defense was AWOL and Guatemala scored an easy tap-in goal.  Fortunately, Clint Dempsey had his game face on and scored a pair of first half goals, which, along with Bocanegra’s goal, gave the U.S. a relatively comfy 3-1 lead by halftime.  Speaking of game faces, did anyone notice the hilarious giant placard cutout of Dempsey’s wild-eyed crazy face (that he made in the last game against Jamaica) in the stands?  Good times.

The U.S. shored up their defense in the second half and passed more calmly and efficiently.  They should’ve added a few more goals, but I was just relieved to see them keep Guatemala from climbing their way back into the match.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s Andre-Villas-Boas-like celebrations after each U.S. goal were undoubtedly echoed by U.S. fans around the country.  We can all breathe a sigh of relief for now.  There is a very long way to go of course, but the U.S. bought itself some more time with the win tonight.  Time to regroup, get healthy (Donovan!), and figure out how to play some stingy D before the next round of World Cup Qualifying kicks off in February!

What changes does the U.S. need to make to survive the next round of qualifying?

Not Cool, Mon

Jamaica puts U.S. in a dreadlock with 2-1 defeat

My thoughts exactly.

Clint Dempsey scored for the U.S. in the first minute of last night’s World Cup qualifying match in Kingston, Jamaica.  Looked like it was going to be a good night for the U.S.  But it wasn’t.  In unfortunately typical fashion, the U.S. flushed away their crucial road lead, this time by granting Jamaica two free kicks, which the Reggae Boyz converted to goals.

I don’t want to completely flog the U.S. team; after all, they’ve shown a lot of promise since Klinsmann took over and have enjoyed some good friendly wins this year.  But I do want to decry something that has bothered me for years about the U.S. men’s teams:  their lack of mental discipline in matches.  You’ve got to think out there.  For the full 90 minutes!  In the heat of battle it often seems this raw, brute force, overly aggressive American athletic instinct takes over that produces boneheaded fouls in dangerous areas and at inopportune times.  When will we learn?

And when will we learn that 1-0 leads aren’t enough in World Cup qualifiers away from home?  They usually aren’t enough in World Cup qualifiers at home either.  It may be enough of a lead for the Spains and Brazils of the world, but not for us!

One last vent… Kyle Beckerman – seriously?  I’m a Jurgen Klinsmann fan overall.  I like that he’s mixing things up personnel-wise, giving players like Brek Shea an opportunity.  But I don’t get what he sees in Beckerman.  I know we missed Donovan and Bradley in the lineup last night, but why not try Bocanegra in a holding midfield role, or start Shea?  Spector, Jose Torres, and Zusi were also on the bench and are each a better option than Beckerman.

The only silver lining here is that the U.S. doesn’t have to wait long to right the ship.  The return leg against Jamaica is this Tuesday in Columbus.  Here’s hoping the U.S. can rally with a big shutout before their World Cup qualifying picture really gets messy.

Need to vent about the U.S. loss to Jamaica?  Feel free to comment below…

Future Blues

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…

Scorin’ in the Rain

U.S. defeats Antigua & Barbuda in so-so fashion

The fact that fans are so critical of the U.S. national team is a positive indicator that U.S. Soccer is on the right track.  The team has made so much progress over the past twenty years that fans now hold the team to a higher standard.  I recall the days when a 3-1 victory like last night’s win over Antigua & Barbuda was a celebrated rarity.  Now we grumble that Antigua & Barbuda actually scored.

 

The U.S. wasn’t awful last night, just not as smooth as they were against Scotland a couple weeks ago.  Primarily, there was the defensive leak caused by Onyewu in the second half that granted A&B their goal.  Unfortunately, Onyewu just doesn’t seem up to the task right now.  He has a very long way to go to recover his starting spot.  Other issues included too many second half giveaways by the U.S., and a general concentration lapse in the last fifteen minutes that allowed A&B to press the U.S. goal.

It wasn’t a close match.  Most of the action took place in A&B’s half of the field.  But the U.S. couldn’t finish precisely enough to run up the score (which is important since goal differential matters in qualifying).  Granted, the monsoon weather conditions didn’t help.  A&B also had the box well clogged for most of the game.  The U.S. needs to shoot from outside the box more to draw out defenses, which in turn will sometimes open up space for those darting runs into the box that Donovan, Dempsey, and Gomez (last night) do so well.  Dempsey and Bradley tried a couple distance shots that proved tricky for the A&B goalkeeper.  The U.S. needs to increase outside shooting because most of their CONCACAF opposition will employ the same defensive strategy of stuffing the box.

On a positive note, Herculez Gomez has been such a breath of fresh air at forward instead of Altidore.  He works much harder – on and off the ball – than Altidore and will actually hustle back to pitch in on defense.  His hard work paid off with a goal last night.  I’ve been saying for a long time that Altidore has received far too many chances to prove himself, so it’s great to see Klinsmann open to trying Gomez instead.

It was great to open World Cup qualifying with a win, but the real test will come Tuesday night in Guatemala.  If the U.S. can improve their concentration and tighten up on defense, they should be fine.

How did you think the U.S. looked against Antigua & Barbuda?

Great Scot!

Thoughts on the United States’ 5-1 wallop of Scotland

Saturday night’s international friendly between the U.S. and Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from a U.S. side.  Seriously.  The peppermint-striped Americans looked nothing like the defensive, lone-striker, mistake-prone teams we’ve suffered with over the years.  Instead, this group was energetic, organized, fast, aggressive, and passing out of their minds!  What is going on here?

The Americans’ shooting and finishing was none too shabby either.  Landon Donovan began the scoring festivities (his first of three!), joined later by a long-distance, half-volley rocket from Michael Bradley, and a header goal by Jermaine Jones.  The U.S. absolutely swarmed Scotland, particularly in transition play where the U.S. had many more options than they usually do.  Michael Bradley was fantastic – I never thought I’d be saying this but he might be the third best American player at the moment behind Clint Dempsey (first) and Donovan (second).  Another standout U.S. midfielder last night was Jose Torres.  I hope Torres continues to get starting nods for the U.S.

The U.S. was defensively firm as well, though Scotland didn’t threaten very much.  Even Scotland’s goal was an own-goal, scored after Kenny Miller headed the ball off U.S. center back Geoff Cameron.  Granted, Scotland doesn’t have the urgency of impending World Cup qualifiers like the U.S. does, but it was still a surprisingly (and pleasingly) dominating all-around performance by the U.S.

The U.S. is in a good place right now personnel-wise.  When is the last time a U.S. coach had this many choices at each position?  The most exciting aspect of last night’s victory was the Americans’ purpose-driven possession.  The U.S. has rarely, if ever, moved the ball so quickly and accurately, with plenty of goals to show for the effort.  Last night’s match was evidence that Jurgen Klinsmann is making his mark on the team as he approaches his first anniversary as U.S. head coach.  It was exactly the kind of offensive performance we hoped he would bring to the table.  This new-look U.S. team will really be put to the test on Wednesday against Brazil in Landover, Maryland.

Speaking of new looks, I was on the fence about those new red/white horizontal striped, Kirk Douglas-in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea-inspired home jerseys for the U.S….

But after seeing the jerseys in action last night, I’m slipping on the negative side of the fence.  They just look a little too much like a costume for my taste.  The light-gray numbers don’t work for me – I’d rather seem them in blue.  While I appreciate the nod to the American flag, and while I’d like to see more red incorporated in the U.S. kit (which has traditionally been navy blue-dominant), I think Nike was trying a little too hard with this one.

What do you think of the new U.S. home kit?  Thoughts on the U.S. performance against Scotland?

USA v. Mexico

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…

Why Brek Shea Missed MLS All-Star Game

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?