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.

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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.

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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!

wrong side XI: offensive center mid

this is part IX in the “wrong side XI” series, where i’ll be selecting my very own starting eleven, assuming of course that i could choose any player from any team in the world. you can read the rules i’ll be following to make my team selection, and what formation i’ll be squeezing them into, on the first post in the series.

this collection of mighty mites will do battle for the honor of my starting offensive midfield spot.

Off all the positional choices for the wrong side XI series that I compiled since the beginning of the summer, my offensive mid selection has probably fluctuated more than any of the others. Of the five “lucky” men that managed to make this shortlist, all of them have occupied the top spot at least once or twice since I began work on this project. So as you might have guessed, making my final selection has been very, very difficult.

Complicating the issue is that all five of these players has been in phenomenal form over the last 18 months. They’re often one of the first names on their respective club’s teamsheets each match day, and are by far some of the most visible players on the field during those matches. Each is the central creative force for their club, and their play often dictates the fate of the outcome of the matches in which they take part.

Part of me wishes I could just pick them all. Hell, if I were to abandon the game plan I lined out in the first post in this series, and instead replaced it with a system akin to Barcelona’s interchangeable top four, I almost could have.

Unfortunately for no one but me, that’s not how I want to run my imaginary team. so we’ll have to narrow this down to just one midfield wizard… follow my thought process after the jump.

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wrong side XI: goalkeeper

this is part II in the “wrong side XI” series, where i’ll be selecting my very own starting eleven, assuming of course that i could choose any player from any team in the world. you can read the rules i’ll be following to make my team selection, and what formation i’ll be squeezing them into, on the first post in the series.

reina, casillas, hart, lloris and howard all make my shortlist.

There was a position that I didn’t address in my first post, but let’s be honest… it’s the only position on the pitch that is never really affected by formation changes. I’m talking about the man at the back guarding the sticks: the goalkeeper.

When I first started the project of picking my first XI, I thought that picking a goalkeeper would be one of the hardest spots in my line up to fill.  It’s not like picking for your marking backs, where if you like two players about the same, you can pretty much start them both. After all, only one keeper plays at a time.

On top of the difficult task of selecting a single man to fill this spot, you also have to be cognizant of the reliability and mental strength of the player you end up selecting. Keepers face monumental amounts of pressure, often facing complete blame for conceded goals that should rightly be blamed on the poor defending in front of them. And while everyone makes mistakes from time to time (england will forgive you, Robert Green), your goalie should be able to bounce back from his mistakes and learn from them.

So who makes the cut? Listed below are the candidates that i considered to fill my number one.

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inside the mind of a footballer

Nobody should want to be inside the mind of a footballer, you hear me?. In all likelihood, most players’ minds are sick, dark and twisted places. Or maybe you would: who knows what type of freak you are.

who knows what’s going on in wayne rooney’s head.

I’d imagine stepping inside Ashley Cole’s mind would be equivalent to stepping into the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Nevada. It would be full to the brim with skanks and whores who would just love to receive sexted pictures of your junk, and your wife would never ever find out about it (or perhaps would even be accepting?). Nicklas Bendtner’s mind, meanwhile, would be full of golden statues… of himself. Didier Drogba’s would be a full out debate between a serial killer and Napoleon. American Tim Howard’s mind is probably full of swear words all trying to squeeze their way out of his mouth at random intervals. And once inside the mind of Maradona, you could expect to find one of two things: either absolutely nothing, or a giant ball of yarn being played with by a kitten. To quote Rick James, “Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.”

But if we were to peer inside the mind of Wayne Rooney right now, I’m not sure what we would find.

The last five months have been tough on the former Toffee. He’s gone from being one of the most in-form, feared strikers on the planet, to an unused substitute full of discontent. Basically, he’s become a rich man’s version of Bébé — at the start of the season I never would have thought I would make that comparison. But that’s most likely because I didn’t even know who Bébé was, but I digress…

At first we thought he had just happened upon a poor vein in form at the World Cup. Then we thought his poor form was the result of feeling the mounting pressure concerning his soon to be revealed personal life. Then Sir Alex convinced us he was injured, a move that was quickly — and stupidly — rejected by the Roo himself.

Then rooney gave us several more reasons: he wasn’t happy with the initial contract offers from the club, he wasn’t happy with Old Red Nose, and he wasn’t happy at Manchester United. Of course all of that was quickly (and surprisingly) put to bed when Wayne signed a new five year deal with the club he had just spent a week saying didn’t match his ambition. Which of those reasons was the most true, if any, we’ll likely never know.

Regardless of the real issue, many will label him as being a selfish, confused little boy. And they might be true.

But it also might not.

Putting aside his current bad form, Rooney is still one of the few truly world class strikers on the planet. Everyone has a dip from time to time, and his is even more understandable considering the shit storm that is his life at the moment. He’ll rediscover it before long.

And as one of a select few of elite players in the world, it would be more than fair for Wayne to assume he should be paid like one. It has to be hard to see a great player like Yaya Toure getting over £200k a week at Citeh, yet United wouldn’t dare break their wage structure for their lone talisman.

You also have to wonder whether or not the club can actually meet his ambition any longer due to the crippling debt the Glazers have placed on it. In the past, the best players in the world wouldn’t have batted an eye at an offer from United, mostly because they paid better than everyone else. But with many now considering optoins like Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester City instead of United, you would have to imagine the Red Devils have lost a little of their buying power. Ronaldo left. They wouldn’t pony up to hang on to Tévez. All worrying signs, to me at least.

Regardless of what assurances the Gazers gave Rooney before he signed his new deal, it would be silly to think that those thoughts are still dancing in the back of Wayne’s pea-sized brain. Either way, we don’t have to worry about his departure any longer. But I do still wonder what’s going on in his head right now.

Is he secure in his decision? Is he planning on seeing out this entire new contract? Is he fantasizing of a romp with a luxurious lady of the night that costs more than my weekly salary?

Who knows… but i’m certainly not taking a trip inside his mind to find out.