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Deja Vu
The United States Mens National Team fell 2-1 to Ghana for the second time in as many World Cups, only this time around, they broke our hearts in extra time.  This time, they couldn’t blame the referee.  But this time can only blame one man, Coach Bob Bradley.
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Yep, I said it.  Just what the hell was he thinking starting Ricardo Clark?  If any of you read the site regularly (unlikely, but hey, I’m an optimist) you know that I downright despise Ricardo Clark.  Now can you see why?  When I saw his name on the team sheet, I turned to my fellow Americans and said, “Clark could lose us this game.”  His attempt to step past Anthony Annan, resulted in Kevin Prince-Boatengs goal from outside the area.  Granted, Tim Howard was poorly positioned, but he shouldn’t have been put in that position to begin with.

Gyan celebrates his fantastic strike in extra time.

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Four years of Football Fandom is out the window, because Bob Bradley tried to tamper with the winning formula.  Why?  What would compel you to change the side that beat Algeria, that tied Slovenia, that could have beat Ghana?  In the only game Edu and Bradley started next to each other, the Yanks not only didn’t allow an early goal, they kept a clean sheet!  The Robbie Findley inclusion didn’t flip my lid either, but experimenting up front is much different than experimenting in the middle, especially when we were finally clicking.  Bradley’s only saving grace was his humility.  He had the guts to say, “Ok, I was wrong” and put Edu into the game.  Immediately, the United States started clicking.
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Another thing, why the long ball tactics?  I thought after the first 30 tries at trying to play a long ball in, we would give up and try to outpass them.  Nope.  Just keep thumpin’ it in there.  Eventually, one of their center backs will just let us walk on in.  We clearly showed that when we built up from the back, we had some beautiful passing movements – notably at the beginning of the second half.  We flowed seamlessly into the Ghanaian third and really put them under pressure.  And I know they were tired.  Who wouldn’t be? Honestly.  I cannot fault them in the slightest for being tired.  But you know who I can?  Bob Bradley.  If he hadn’t started Clark, we wouldn’t have been down a goal and a substitution.  Ghana used their substitutions late and they ran us out of it eventually.  What if we could have put Holden in on the wing?  Onyewu in for the tired Bornstein?  It just hurts how much sense it makes and how little Bradley had with this game.
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If we had started the game with Maurice Edu in the middle and got shalacked, fine.  I’ll take that.  It’s just such a bitter pill to go out to the same team that ousted the United States in an identical score line 4 years ago, when we had such a great chance to win.  They didn’t even have Michael Essien and bossed the midfield.

A dejected United States fan's eyes say it all.

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The first half of the game was absolutely abysmal from the United States, and the biggest game changing substitution had to be Benny Feilhaber.  He’s quick, clever and a concise passer.  Almost immediately, he brought an edge to the game that was previously absent as he nearly got on the score sheet.  You only get a few chances like that a game, and, time and time again, you have to finish them.
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Parting shot, the Ghanaians really didn’t show great gamesmanship in their winner here just like they didn’t in 2006.  They flopped like fish out of water and dramatically called for a stretcher every time there was contact.  Look at Clint Dempsey!  He gets treated like he’s in The Octagon every time he’s on the field.  What does he do?  He spits out blood and goes for theirs.
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Be a man.  Get up, stand up, stay up.
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It’s hard to blame one man for the loss, so I’ll blame two.  Bob Bradley and Ricardo Clark…but mostly Bob.  He could have prevented the whole thing in thefirst place.  Clark not only shouldn’t be starting, he should not be on the roster.  Who should? Maybe Freddy Adu.
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There are a lot more things I would like to say.  But I won’t.  Because, if you’ve read this far, you can read between the lines too.  This hurts.  A lot.  My emotional output before, during and after the game could power a small country.
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Bob Bradley just cost me 4 years of football fandom.  Such is life.
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Until next time...

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The World Reacts to Landon Donovan’s Algeria Goal
June 25, 2010, 4:14 PM
Filed under: International, United States, World Cup | Tags: , , ,

If you haven’t seen it already, check it out.  Very, very cool video.



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Coin Flip For Saturday

The United States’s victory over Algeria was historic, and, if you are a United States fan, won’t be forgotten if you were watching it.  However, it is time for the Yanks faithful to snap out of it, because very shortly, they face a physical and dangerous Ghana side that would very much like to knock them out of the competition for the second World Cup running.

Bad blood will be flowing when the teams take the field on Saturday.  Their last meeting ended with a 2-1 Ghanian victory won off of a dubious penalty kick “committed” by Oguchi Onyewu.  Clint Dempsey scored the only goal by a United States player in Germany, and will be looking to find the scoresheet again as he typically does in big time games.  However, this time around, we are looking at a different Ghana side as well as a different United States side.

Brian McBride (L), Oguchi Onyweu (C) and Clint Dempsey (R) react to Ghana's penalty in Germany.

Six players from the United States will be present Saturday that were four years ago: Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo, Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and DaMarcus Beasley.  If Onyewu is fit, he should be a sure thing to start, despite the fact that the defense played well against Algeria without “Gooch’s” help.  And other than DaMarcus Beasley, every one of them should start on Saturday.

Returning for the Black Stars is Stephen Appiah (the man of the match in ’06), ‘keeper Richard Kingson and John Paintsil.  Kingson is usually very consistent for Ghana, as is Paintsil, and unlocking their defense will be quite the task for the Americans.

So what are the keys for beating Ghana?

1.  Win the midfield – Ghana plays a 4-5-1, which means that the midfield will be crowded for Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu/Jose Torres/Ricardo Clark.  They are physical and technically adept, so it won’t be a walk around for the coach’s son, who, so far, has been many peoples’ player of the tournament for the United States.  Also, Benny Feilhaber put in a good show as a substitute against Algeria and may feature on the left hand side, with Donovan on the right and Dempsey moving up top (but we reckon this will happen later in the game rather than from the get-go).  Bradley is key in snuffing out attacks and starting new ones, if he can find his feet early in the game, impose himself on Kevin Prince-Boateng and Kwadwo Asamoah, it could mean a win for the Yanks.

Asamoah Gyan will likely be a handful for the back line as he has been all tournament.

2. Steady Defense – Oguchi Onyewu may be key to the keeping another clean sheet against Ghana, even though he wasn’t even part of the back line that did against Algeria, don’t be entirely shocked if Bradley keeps the same back four.  However, you can count on “Gooch” wanting blood in this game, as it was he who allegedly fouled Pimpong for the spot kick in 2006.  Surprisingly, Jonathon Bornstein didn’t look too bad in the last game, but, if he plays, he will be faced with more adept opponents in Anthony Annan and Prince Tagoe, both of whom are capable of skinning the haphazard left back.  Jay Demerit was a veritable rock against Algeria, and he will be key to overcoming the threat of Asamoah Gyan, Ghana’s primary hitman.  If he and Onyewu can form a steady partnership, they can neutralize his potent attacking skill.  One option for Bradley, is playing Bocanegra in the middle of the back line, because he knows Gyan better than anybody on the American team, as they are team mates at Rennes.

3. Key Performances From Big Players – Notably Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan.  I know what you’re thinking.  Well, obviously they need to have big games in order to beat Ghana, but they are more key for this game than ever.  Jozy will have a very daunting task sizing up against the physically tough John Mensah, the heart of the Black Stars’ defense.  John Paintsil is no slouch either, as the Fulham man holds his own against most clever wingers and strikers than run at him.  He is fast and defensively resolute.  Clint Dempsey will likely be deployed on the right for the start of the game, and, depending on the situation, could be moved up front.  His opposite number could be Andre Ayew or Kevin Prince-Boateng, depending on how manager Milovan Rajevac chooses to line up.  Donovan is key, as always, as he is part

Clint Dempsey celebrates his equalizer against Ghana in 2006.

of nearly every move towards goal and it will be paramount that he has a great game if the United States wants to get on the score sheet.

It’s a sizable task, but both teams will walk onto the field Saturday confident of a win.  Despite the fact that Ghana is without their talisman Michael Essien, they still have a great deal of menace and will assuredly cause trouble going forward and snuffing out attacks.  The United States have nearly everybody fit, and the lineup on Saturday should include Maurice Edu, but the striker position is still a wild card as Bradley has toyed with his options quite a bit.

Either way, the game will have plenty of chances, drama and history.  This game is a coin flip. Question is: heads or tails?



Donovan’s Winner
June 23, 2010, 10:57 AM
Filed under: United States, World Cup | Tags: , ,


Drama Queens

England and the United States booked their tickets to the knockout round, and the latter did so in the most dramatic of circumstances.

The Tottenham man wheels away after netting the eventual winner.

England took the lead through Jermain Defoe who was playing in his first start at the World Cup for the Three Lions in the 22nd minute after James Milner whipped in a delicious cross that Defoe tucked away nicely.  England held on for the remainder of the game, as did Slovenia, who were content to let the 3 points go as it looked set that they would advance in the runners up spot.  However, the American Dream was realized with some late drama at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

The United States needed a win against Algeria, and it looked as if all their chances would go begging until, in the 92nd minute the talismanic Landon Donovan popped up to tuck in a rebound to seal all three points and a top spot in the next round.

The Yanks looked set to go behind early again after Rafik Djebbour got through 1-on-1 with Tim Howard only to see his superb volley crash off the crossbar.  Rattled, the USA finally found their composure and eased their way into the game after creating some great chances, that, in all fairness, should have been tucked away.

Herculez Gomez tested Rais M’Bohli with a good shot to the near post, and later was put through on goal where could only send his shot into the body of M’Bohli, however he sent a shot/pass to Clint Dempsey who was lurking on the far post.  Dempsey put it in the back of the net, but it was deja vu for the Yanks as it was unjustly called offside.

Dempsey watches his shot rattle the inside of the post and then sky the followup sitter.

The USA backline looked shaky at times, especially early on when Jay Demerit looked suspect, but they all came very much into their own as the game wore on and Demerit put in an outstanding display with captain Carlos Bocanegra have a flyer as well.

Algeria were not without their chances as well, however.  They were looking to play on the counter attack all game, and looked very dangerous nearly every time they came into the final third.  Karim Ziani had one of the chances of the Algerian’s game when, in the 69th minute, he was seemingly in the clear, but from the corner of the box sent his low driven effort wide of the post.

Nadir Belhadj was fairly effective bombing down the left side of the pitch, as his left foot sent in some rasping crosses that the Algerian front line couldn’t make anything of.

Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu looked like the most natural pairing in midfield, and, despite the fact that Edu still gave the ball away here and there, he compensated with his all around solid work in defense and in the build up.  Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley also combined notably on more than a few occasions as they both looked lethal exchanging passes and making clever runs.

Etched onto the players faces is the importance of Donovan's late goal. Seriously...look at Feilhaber's face. You can't find anybody happier on the planet.

Benny Feilhaber replaced Herculez Gomez at half time, and he was an excellent change as he held the ball well, penetrated the back line and played an overall smart game.  Edson Buddle came on for Maurice Edu in the 64th minute and also played a great role as his first touches were crisp and nearly scored with a headed effort five minutes after being introduced.  DeMarcus Beasley was the last substitute to be introduced, but he failed to make any significant impression on the game.  To be fair, he came on in the 81st minute and saw limited time on the ball.

The result means the United States top Group C and England will sit in the runners up spot.  Slovenia were on the brink of sneaking into the knockout round, but Landon Donovan’s goal crushed any hopes they had.  The Algerians played an interesting game, and began looking like they were playing for a draw; a result which would have brought them nothing in terms of reward other than personal satisfaction.



United States – Algeria Preview

Three points are there for whoever wants to take them.  Both teams are dying to advance from this group, as the United States has the expectations riding on their back and Algeria would relish the thought of an underdog victory.  Albeit, Algeria would need to defeat the United States by at least 2 goals to make it.  Still though, Algeria are a wounded animal and won’t be giving anything away without a fight.

United States vs. Algeria

Four years of World Cup qualifying comes down to 90 minutes in Pretoria tomorrow.  Every game played in the stadium thus far in the tournament has produced a victor, and both sides will be gunning hard for the spoils.  A victory for the United States sees them through to the next round, but in first or second spot remains to be decided by the England – Slovenia game.  Should the United States draw, only a Slovenian victory will still see them through to the next round.  Should the England game come to a draw, the difference will come to goals scored (which, right now, the United States has the edge in).

Bob Bradley’s team selection shouldn’t be too much of a mystery except for the two toss-up positions.  With Ricardo Clark

Ghezzal (right) will look to get on the scoresheet against the States.

finally being seen as less effective, he may very well be replaced by Maurice Edu who put in a decent show with Slovenia.  Edu would bring more composure and experience on a bigger stage than Torres would and is more of a box-to-box midfielder than Clark.

The other position is alongside Jozy Altidore, who has yet to get on the score sheet in South Africa.  Edson Buddle is tipped as the favorite, as Robbie Findley wasn’t particularly amazing against Slovenia and Buddle is still fresh in the memory with his two goals over Australia.  Buddle should hook up well with Jozy, however, it might be slightly concerning that they play a very similar style of play.  Still, there is no denying that Buddle has talent, and Bradley could well opt for him tomorrow.

However, as Group C has learned, Algeria aren’t the easiest of opponents.  They possess great pace and the technical ability to

Michael Bradley will size up against Karim Ziani tomorrow in what will be a crucial match up.

break on the counter, something which Slovenia exploited very well during their match against the States.  Also, there is the worrying fact that  Abdelkader Ghezzal is back from suspension.  Karim Matmour and Ghezzal are both players love to find the soft pockets between the midfield and back lines, something that was a weak spot for the Yanks against Slovenia.

Nadir Belhadj is an obvious man to mark as his pace and ball skills have been a joy to watch in the Group thus far and he could have his way with slower defenders like those in the United States back line.

Key Match Ups –

Michael Bradley vs. Karim Ziani

Steve Cherundolo vs. Nadir Belhadj

Prediction – The United States has the quality to take the Algerian side, but an early goal from the Desert Foxes could, once again, put the States in a hard place.  The first 20 minutes will be very key to the remainder of the game.

United States 2 – 0 Algeria