just drop it already

Landon Donovan

“Moving on, is a simple thing, what it leaves behind is hard.”
- David Mustaine

It’s been a pretty tough week for a considerable portion of the US Men’s National Team support and media. Many are incised with the implausible reality of marching into this World Cup without our most decorated war hero, Landon Donovan.

Left off the 23-man US roster that will be taken to Brazil — he is one of the seven alternates that could get called in should there be an injury, mind you — Donovan’s surprise exclusion has left many concerned about our chances this tournament. Members of the media have ranted against the decision, fans have taken to complaining on social media, and the announcers in the one US game since spent half the evening talking about him.

So why the big fuss?

The 32-year-old Landon is arguably the finest field player the US has ever produced. He’s our country’s all-time leading scorer with 57 goals, and has the second most appearances with 156. A veteran of three World Cups, he even scored the goal that clinched qualification for this World Cup against Mexico last September. He even became Major League Soccer’s all-time leading scorer over the weekend by notching his 135th and 136th gdfoals. And yet despite all of that, he’s still been left out in the cold by Jurgen Klinsmann.

Sacrilege, right? Not exactly. Continue reading

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revisiting “who is going to brazil?”

Predicting the 2014 World Cup USMNT RosterNot only has it been over seven months since the US qualified for the World Cup on yet another fateful night in Columbus, Ohio, but it’s also been about that long since I made my initial World Cup squad predictions shortly after. And with US Soccer revealing the 23-man squad that’s going to Brazil last night, it’s time to go back and see how accurate my predictions were — just as I did in 2010 for South Africa.

As for the squad as a whole, there were a number of surprises in the 23, and an even bigger surprise outside of it. The outrage pouring out of every corner of the internet with that particular big decision is palpable… if a little off base. With the US player pool far deeper than it’s ever been, Jurgen and his staff had a much harder job than any previous manager. And with many of the previous stars of the team getting on in years, the task became that much harder.

But let’s get on with the real reason behind my post, and see how poorly I did with those selections…

THE “BOOK YOUR TICKETS TODAY” GROUP (8 for 9)

1. CORRECT – Tim Howard (GK – Everton): I, along with others, thought Howard’s form had been slipping back in October. He hadn’t played that great for Everton, and had made some mistakes in a US shirt around that time too. But he really turned his season around, and along with Everton, soared to some pretty impeccable height. And if there was any question whether he was going to lose his #1 spot, nobody is questioning it now.

Continue reading

ten words or less #84

2010 World Cup Draw

the brazil 2014 world cup draw is one of just many events taking place this week in the world of football.

Well if anything’s for certain, we’re most definitely in the middle of what you might call a “busy stretch” in the world of soccer. Just have a look at the upcoming calendar for this week: the 2014 World Cup Draw is on Friday (more on that below), the MLS Cup Final is this Saturday (more on that below too), and there are two full rounds of matches for the Premier League to play out (with some of those kicking off as early as today)… not to mention the rest of the club fixtures to play out throughout the rest of the world (nothing here, as I’ve only got so much attention to spread around). Never mind all of the other holiday madness here in the states. To be honest, it’s almost too much to keep up with.

And just to crowd things up a bit more, today’s also one of those rare days where I’ll be posting twice: Episode 16 of the WSOTP Pod will be up later this afternoon. I’ve also got some new shirt designs dropping for the WSOTP Shop later this week, too. Just think of it as the opportunity to enjoy a late Thanksgiving feast of footie.

Watch MLS Cup with me; you might win a shirt! – wrongsideofthepond.com

Some teams are going to get SCREWED by the draw. – forbes.com

It appears that Thomas Gravesen is living the life. – yahoo.com

Why MLS should be looking to add more Eastern teams. – massivereport.com

Nike strikes gold yet again with their latest Brazil ad. – youtube.com

Donovan’s best commentating skill? Impressions. – kckrs.com

FIFA’s beautiful new app is as buggy as you’d expect. – play.google.com

A new USLPRO club in Colorado Springs? Not so fast… – csindy.com

The epic trailer for Bob’s upcoming PBS documentary. – theoffsiderules.com

I wish my child would be born Friday in Brazil. – theoriginalwinger.com

who is going to brazil?

Predicting the 2014 World Cup USMNT RosterHanging out in Crew Stadium a half an hour after the final whistle, I was there to witness as the US Men’s National Team celebrated officially booking their tickets to World Cup 2014 thanks to a 2-2 tie between Honduras and Panama. Of course, a fourth straight Dos a Cero over the Mexicans was still the highlight of the night. But that didn’t rob the moment of it’s joy or importance: the US would most definitively be going to Brazil.

Since then, the Yanks have managed to wrap up top spot in the CONCACAF Hexagonal and locked up an undefeated home record during qualifying, laying to rest several demons in the process. Tonight’s match against Panama will have no bearing on qualification, meaning it’s little more than a formality.

But for the players, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. With a handful of prominent players either not called in or sent home due to injuries, that means tonight’s match — along with the bevy of frendlies that will be scheduled between now and next June — provides fringe players with an opportunity to impress manager Jürgen Klinsmann. Perform admirably, and some players could look forward to earning themselves a coveted space in the 23-man roster that will represent our country in Brazil. Perform poorly, and it’s quite possible that all the player will have to look forward to is the bonus appearance check offered by USSF to national team call ups.

But the question remains: who will make the cut, and who won’t? And just as I did back in 2009 for the 2010 finals in South Africa, I want to take a stab at guessing the Jürgs’ final roster.

THE “BOOK YOUR TICKETS TODAY” GROUP
These are your guys that, barring death or disastrous injury, will undoubtedly be joining the team in South America next summer. Even if you have just a passing interest in the USMNT, you could probably guess this group.

1. Tim Howard (GK – Everton): His form has been shaky, and the calls for him to his number one shirt have been growing. But if we’ve learned anything from this World Cup Qualifying cycle, it’s that Timmy will likely be the starting keeper for the Yanks.

Continue reading

WSOTP pod: episode 5

WSOTP Pod “Dos a Cero Special”: Season 1 Episode 5

WSOTP Pod Dos a Cero Special (Episode 5)

or a few days at least, columbus served as the epicenter of US soccer.

If you went to bed on Tuesday night sad and confused as to why you didn’t get to listen to the newest edition of the WSOTP Pod, my deepest apologies. We didn’t mean to leave you hanging. We just thought it best to delay the recording so we could talk about the game in Columbus on Tuesday. You know, the one that ended with a scoreline that our visiting rivals might call “Dos a Cero”. And since Jeremy and I were both on hand for the lead up to and the match itself, we figured you would want to hear our thoughts on everything surrounding USAvMEX: the parties, the tailgates, the atmosphere and even some exclusive quotes from the players themselves!

ten words or less #69

Tottenham's Gareth Bale celebrates scoring against Arsenal

look at the joy and elation on every single face in this photograph. including the face of one gareth frank bale.

While I don’t want to gloat over Tottenham’s North London Derby victory on Sunday, I am going to bask in the glory of that victory for just a moment. I want to marvel at Gareth Bale — while we still have him, at least. Can I also shine a spotlight on André Villas-Boas, who so many had doubted, decried and dismissed for a recall of his predecessor before he had even had a chance to prove himself? And too, maybe I should take a second to apologize to Daniel Levy, the man I often attacked during Spurs inactivity during transfer windows. Because right now, sitting in third after a 12 game run that’s gone WTWWWTTTWWWW, I’m feeling pretty good about Spurs.

Though with a tricky trip to Anfield to face a surging Liverpoolside at the weekend — not to mention a Europa League match against our old friends Inter in the midweek — things could go off track quickly if Spurs get too far ahead of themselves. So if for no other reason than to get my mind out of the clouds, here are some of other links to keep me from daydreaming of greatness quite yet.

One reason why Bale is taking the world by storm. – guardian.co.uk

Soccer once had the mighty MLB shaking in it’s boots. – twitter.com/pothunting

This USMNT 2002 photo shoot will haunt your dreams. – nytimes.com

Stylish playmaker prints to hang on your wall. – behance.net

Commitment to a soccer publication can change your life. – inbedwithmaradona.com

Brian Phillips’ intriguing take on El Diego’s past and present. – grantland.com

Alexi discusses football corruption, simulation on the Colbert Report. – colbertnation.com

Berba’s talents are literally endless. – dirtytackle.net

Can’t complain about not being able to watch games anymore. – giltedgesoccer.com

Alright… who wants to get me this? – whoareyadesigns.com

ten words or less #66

Tottenham's Clint Dempsey celebrates scoring against Manchester United

deuce earned his stripes against united once again.

From this American fan’s perspective, the long holiday weekend that’s just passed us by was quite a good one.

Saturday’s fixtures were chock full of goals, averaging just over three and half per match. Then on  #EpicSunday2 (© Fox Soccer Channel) with an entertaining Gunners loss to Chelsea and a gutsy, come-from-behind draw for Spurs against Manchester United. And with a whole additional day to recover after spending Sunday at the pub watching it all go down — not to mention being able to squeeze in a few hours of skiing on Saturday night — I would be hard pressed to design a better weekend for myself.

So with some bigger things around the corner still needing some attention and final polish, this seems like the perfect time to share some of my favorite links from the last week.

The European Transfer Market: Visualized. – transferwindow.info

Greeting fans through your car sunroof isn’t the best idea. – theoriginalwinger.com

Il Fenomeno finally get’s his move to England. – guardian.co.uk

Well look who’s decided he wants to play this year. – lagalaxy.com

Footballer lowered into a well to save a little girl. – dailymail.co.uk

Ferguson has bigger issues than Zeki Fryers move to Spurs. – espnfc.com

Like Rapinoe, I wish more USWNT players would move abroad.
– prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com

Ronaldinho get’s his own, footie-themed Bollywood Space Jam. – indiaglitz.com

If MLB ran soccer teams… their kits could be AWESOME. – kckrs.com

Adu now looking for his 9th club in 9 years. – soccerbyives.com

a winter abroad

Two months. Eight weeks. Sixty days. It’s not a whole lot of time no matter how you look at it. But it seems to be the magic time span these days, at least for MLS players it seems.

aston villa's robbie keane and everton's landon donovan

by allowing its most prized possessions to go on loan each winter, is MLS playing with fire?

Whether urged on by Klinsmann’s pleas for American players to get more time in competitive playing environments, or spurred on by the past successes of the short-term moves of MLS-bigwigs, the growing fad in American soccer is to get yourself a two-month, winter loan to Europe.

There have been no shortage of temporary moves to Europe this MLS off-season. Of course there have been the hyped moves involving the loans of high-profile players like L.A. Galaxy duo Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane — who have moved to Everton and Aston Villa respectively — and Red Bull’s Thierry Henry return to Arsenal. But there have been lesser heralded moves too, such as West Ham’s move for F.C. Dallas defender George John and L.A.’s Omar Gonzalez heading to Nürnberg.

A number of other players are trialing or training with European sides to gain some experience, and hopefully attract a foreign bid or two. I’ve written a good deal about Brek Shea’s two months with Arsenal, but there have also been shorter training stints for at least fifteen MLS players. That’s included youngster Juan Agudelo at Stuttgart and Liverpool, Robbie Rogers and Kyle Beckermann at Kaiserslautern, and Tim Ream at Bolton and West Brom, just to name a few.

With the temporary moves coming for players all over the MLS spectrum — from established stars to up-and-comers — it’s promising that there appears to be a growing demand for the league’s improving talent pool. It’s a sign Europe’s elite sides are starting to at least consider that we’re a country capable of producing a decent amount of quality players worth having a look over.

However, I do have to wonder if all of these moves are the greatest thing for MLS.

For most of the young players, the moves will end up being nothing more than glamorous learning opportunities. Their goal will be to make the most of the time training with a different class of players, therefore raising their game or at least picking up the habits of higher level professionals. They’ll get the extra competitive football experience that the Jürgs says our country’s set up is lacking, and hopefully they’re return to their MLS clubs with a sharper knowledge of the game, and everyone will be happy.

But while MLS seems content to allow it’s shining gems to go out and grow themselves, it feels like they’re turning a blind eye to the fact that it’s also a great opportunity for the finest young talent in the league to showcase themselves to other, wealthier employers. I mean I can’t imagine a single one of those players not going into those trials/loans/trainings thinking: This is the chance I’ve been waiting for… I better not blow it!

This open door policy has already seen Robbie Rogers turn his brief spell in Germany into a transfer to Leeds United. Tim Ream’s time with Bolton also looks to have paid dividends, as the Wanderers look set to spend their Gary Cahill money on a transfer for the ginger-tinged Red Bulls defender. George John’s loan terms with West Ham have an option to buy if he manages to impress during his two months at Upton Park, so he could be off too.

They’ve got a name for this type of issue: talent drain. And with MLS seemingly giving its blessing for foreign sides to take a free look at their best players, it comes off as them accepting their place as a stepping stone league. This flies in the face of the Commish has stated on several occasions, which is to turn Major League Soccer into one of the preeminent tournaments in the world.

robbie rogers at leeds united

it seems that robbie roger's short term move to europe this winter has paid off... for now at least.

Now maybe MLS does a much better job reinvesting the millions in transfer money they rake in during these sales than I’m giving them credit for, and if that’s the case, I’ll happily eat my words. But in the mean time, I’m going to assume that it’s still a bit of a risky strategy.

And all of that only takes into account the youngsters. What about all of the veteran, star players tacking two months onto their seasons; how can their departures possibly hurt the league?

First, Klinsmann’s desire to see American players securing loans or training spells in Europe is centered on his belief that the MLS season is too short. That does hold true for many players who teams don’t make the playoffs, or exit them early. Problem is, all of the high-profile loans have involved players whose teams made deep playoff runs. Keane and Donovan were both directly involved in the MLS Cup game winning goal. Hell, Keane hasn’t really had a break from training since the beginning of the last European season when he was still with Spurs. So none of them are in a position where they’re lacking for matches or sharpness, especially when you consider that Donovan and Keane are also still logging serious minutes with their respective national teams.

Ultimately, star players being loaned out during the MLS close season does nothing but put extra miles on their valuable legs. And extra miles on (mostly) older legs usually end up leading to one of three outcomes: 1) increased susceptibility to injuries, 2) burnout or 3) both.

Don’t believe me? It’s already happened, twice.

The gigantic risk MLS exposes itself to is best embodied by David Beckham rupturing his Achilles tendon playing for Milan two winters ago. Beckham’s move was supposed to help him earn a place in the following summer’s England World Cup squad — something MLS considered of great benefit at the time — ended up costing the league dearly when he was forced out of the entire MLS season. Regardless of the size of potential media-exposure gains the league would have received from Beck’s participation in South Africa, it was likely dwarfed by the lack of match-day ticket revenue the league missed out on by not having him play.

For those saying “Well that was over two years ago,” this isn’t something that only occurs in the past. As it turns out, MLS has already suffered one winter-loan casualty so far this season. And ironically, it’s not even one of their big guns that’s gone down injured. Instead, it was L.A. Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez, a younger player who should have become a regular feature in the USMNT’s back line in 2012. But thanks to a collision with “American” teammate Timmy Chandler during his first training session after signing a 2-month loan with Nuremberg, the MLS Defender of the Year will now be out for at least the next seven months… a.k.a. most of the upcoming MLS season.

an injured beckham on loan to milan

losing beckham for a season apparently hasn't phased MLS at all. but, will lightening strike twice?

And though the loss of Gonzalez won’t really hit MLS in the pocketbook the way Beckham’s absence did, it will undoubtedly be a big hurdle to overcome in the Galaxy’s defense of their crown. But if MLS end up losing Donovan, Henry and/or Keane to injury during their loan spells, it will hurt them both on the field and off.

Let’s assume the trend of taking MLS players on loan continues to grow next season (I’d be willing to wager that it probably will), the amount of risk they’ll expose themselves to each off-season will go up exponentially. I’m not sure how great of a scenario the league could be getting themselves into unless the think about these types of moves in a bigger picture.

Look, these loans and trials are ultimately a good thing if they lead to the development of better American players. I’m all for them leading to more American players playing in more competitive leagues in Europe, and the added benefit we could see from the increased levels of experience. But I want to make sure that such moves aren’t undercutting MLS’s mission and efforts to develop better American players. We need to protect the investments we’ve made so far, and that protection requires a wide variety of issues to consider. Here’s hoping MLS and US Soccer did their homework before allowing this policy to become more common place.

In the mean time, we can’t do anything other than sit back and see how this season’s off-season MLS moves shift out. Obviously, I’m hoping that nothing but great news. Trust me when I say that there is nothing I want less than for me to look back in two months and say “I told you so.”

ten words or less #33

Aaron Biber and Tottenham's Peter Crouch

crouch visited and got his haircut by aaron biber. when biber's barbershop was trashed during the riots, the looters shockingly left the autographed crouch photo he's holding.

Welcome back, distinguished readers, and thanks for reading my latest article on wrong side of the pond. I am attempting to keep today’s posting very formal, proper, and short as this blog needs to get into in-season form for the start of this European campaign. So with that in mind, let’s skip the silliness today and get on to the sub-ten-word links below.

No word on whether he was red carded or not. – mirror.co.uk

WTF is that face, Landycakes?!?! – dirty tackle @ yahoo.com

Farewell to the best defender of his generation… after Maldini. – therunofplay.com

This took balls… brilliant work by adidas marketing. – kckrs.com

Sir Alex 1 : the Daily Mail’s Bob Cass 0 – whoateallthepies.tv
A tip of my hat to 2-time defending fantasy champion Lippadona for pointing out this link.

The new La Masia: now that’s an academy. – theoffside.com

Don’t care if everyone’s linked to it… brilliant. – arseblog.com

The Canadian MLS clubs always nail branding. – designfootball.com

the keys to the car

do you remember the first time you ever got to drive a car? i do. i remember feeling like i was a badass. “look at me, driving around with all of the other adults,” i recall thinking, despite the fact that i was just a naïve, pimply-faced 16 year old that was still struggling to control my pubescent hormones. but none of my character flaws (ADD, immortal, egotistic, etc.) mattered, because i was driving a freaking motorized vehicle like a grown up.

much like every other car-crazed 16 year old, i went flying about the streets of southwest ohio like a bat out of hell. seeing as how i was invincible at the time, i thought nothing of breaking speeding laws because i was an adult and i could handle it. blast the music and roll the windows down? sure… i could even handle four more distractions, so i’m going to pick up my friends now.

tim ream of the united states

ream took a beating last night, but also showed promise.

of course, this attitude eventually lead to trouble. six months into having a drivers license, i had rear ended two cars, a speeding ticket, and a trip to juvenile traffic court all resulted.

clearly, i was in over my head and i wasn’t ready for the responsibility of driving the car.

some might say that it’s my parents fault for giving me the keys to the car too early, as they failed to recognize that i wasn’t ready to handle the privilege of driving. but i disagree, and instead think my parents did the right thing. while i suspect they did recognize that i was probably too immature to step behind the wheel of the car aged just 16, they probably also knew that you have to let the chicks leave the nest at some point. it’s often said that learning by experience is the best way to learn, and while i often learned lessons the hard way (and still do), those early miscues eventually made me a better driver.

moral of the story: sometimes you have to let your kids to do things that they’re probably not ready for, just so they can learn a necessary lesson or two.

in last night’s gold cup tune-up against spain, USMNT coach robo-bob bradley did exactly that: he gave the keys to the car to the america’s next generation of footballers. and predictably, they crashed and burned like your average 16-year-old driver.

at this point, there’s little doubting that the americans are a nation on the rise on the international stage. we’ve had some respectable showings at recent world cups, made the final or the confederations cup, and have finally become a dominant force in our own region. but all of this success has come mainly on the backs of a core group of established veterans: donovan, dempsey, howard, onyewu, cherundulo, bocanegra, etc. and while these guys are all at or around their peak playing years, they’re all closer to the ends of their careers than the beginnings. we can’t continue to expect them to play every game from here until the end of time, so we’re going to need some young guys to step up and show they can contribute.

and honestly, what better way to test your youngsters than against the world’s indisputably best team who is looking for a bit of revenge for the defeat in the confederations cup two years ago? quite the trial by fire if you ask me.

in last night’s 0-4 drubbing, the US started nine players with less than 35 caps. of those, four were earning their fifth cap or less… two occupying spots in the american’s extremely leaky first half back line. two of the subs brought in during the second half had less 30 caps between them. so to say this was an inexperienced teamsheet tonight would be an understatement.

so with that in mind, maybe we should have expected an outcome like this. while i expected spain to come out winners, i also thought bob’s bhoys might keep the scoreline respectable. instead we received what can either be interpreted as a masterclass lesson in how not to play in the future, or a gigantic warning sign that the USMNT’s future isn’t quite as bright as we’ve quickly gotten used to during to.

for some players, last night was probably an excellent learning experience. tim ream was out worked by a physical álvaro negredo several times (especially on negredo’s off the bar chip), but i think last night’s bruises will taught the young big man an important lesson or two. and though juan agudelo didn’t live up to his hype, he showed some flashes against a very experienced and organized spanish defense. goodson showed well in the second half in the back, but was caught out for torres late ego-boosting goal. let’s just hope the fresh blood in the team took something from this moving forward, and will be better drivers moving forward for it.

robbie rogers takes on sergio ramos

rogers might not be able to cut it at this level.

unfortunately, i think this match also might have been the first nails in a few players’ coffins. jonathan spector, despite being a “veteran” with 31 caps, continued to show he can’t cut the mustard at the top of the game: he was too slow in decision making regardless of the position he played. robbie rogers again looked to be in way over his head when playing against the world’s elite. kljestan, another one of my favorite whipping boys, put in another indifferent performance. the 25 year-old would have needed to put in a massive performance to convince me to be impressed with him in the slightest. i’d like to be critical of altidore, but he rarely saw the ball… maybe because he didn’t work hard enough to find it?

either way, maybe there are some guys in bradley’s young contingent that don’t quite deserve to be the ones driving this team forward.

luckily, bob realized at half time that he needed to stop the bleeding and put in some of his big guns. the addition of dempsey, cherundolo and bradley certainly brought some calm to the side. but again, it took the addition of the old guard to make it a respectable match.

let’s be honest though too: the americans are not going to face a team like spain in the gold cup. that’s not to say that the won’t be facing any quality sides in the regional championship, but there should be enough talent in the squad to challenge the mexicans for the title, especially since bradley will have his best available for the tournament. but whether or not the young lads can shake off the ass kicking from the spanish in time for the first match against canada might be a more important thought to ponder at this point though.

who knows: maybe some of the youngsters will step up, showing they belong up here with all of the adults. but eventually, the next generation of yanks need to start carrying their weight and contributing, or all of the progress we’ve made in the last 12 years will be for nought.