WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 9

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 9

Just because we’re in the middle of yet another international break that’s forced another short sabbatical of the European club game, there was still ample subject matter for Jeremy and D.J. to discuss to warrant another edition of the WSOTP Podcast. So what’s on deck for this week’s episode? The guys spend considerable time chatting about Landon Donovan’s penultimate match for the US national team and the legacy he’ll leave behind. Furthermore, it’s not like MLS went on hiatus. So the guys made room to cover the steadily intensifying MLS Playoff races, including the Crew’s dramatic comeback win against Philadelphia. Speaking of the Crew, some time to was also devoted to Columbus’ #NewCrew logo reveal and D.J.’s experience covering the unveiling event last week — which you can read more about here. Plus, we announced the winning reader/listener-selected design for the first ever WSOTP scarf!

As always, remember to send us your topics and questions for next week’s podcast. If you have something for us, send us an email at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com, tweet it to us, or even write it on our Facebook wall using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

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WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 5

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 5

After taking off last week for the most pointless international break ever and with another full weekend of European club football now under our belts, there was a lot to talk about on Episode 5 of the podcast. So prepare yourself — this will be a long one.

Though we weren’t fans of the break, we did cover the USMNT’s first match of the new World Cup cycle as well as discussed some of the more interesting news that filtered out during the rest of the international break. The Premier League’s return this past weekend also required plenty of discussion, with hardly a dud among the nine matches that took place before we recorded. We also made room for our newest segment, a once-a-fortnight Bundesliga-centric update from our German football correspondent Chris Wieland (@TheSpareWheel). And let’s not forget our regular Winners and Wankers and Jeremy’s Fulham Watch segments, as those were in there too.

As always, if you have any questions or topics you want us to cover on future podcasts, drop us a line at contact[at]wrongsideofthepond[dot]com or tweet us using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

every cat only has nine lives

Featured

Fulham v Stoke City - Premier LeagueMaking the jump to Europe and finding success is no easy feat to pull off. Countless Americans have tried, and many of them faltered.

A limited number of players have left our shores and departed for the greener pastures — and paychecks — of the European game and been able to make a good name for themselves. Think Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundulo and Tim Howard, all of whom had great on field success.

For some, however, they see their bright starts fizzle away to obscurity. The first name that comes to mind is a guy like Maurice Edu, who had some monstrous performances for Rangers before devolving into a reserve at Stoke. Others like Adam Lichaj, Clarence Goodson and Jonathan Spector make for similar examples of promising prospects that developed into average careers at best.

Still others oscillate between successes and failures, such as Jozy Altidore is finding out after failing to impress in his time at Villareal, then finding his feet at AZ, and now struggling again at Sunderland.

But for many, it never really clicked in the first place. The best instance of this is Eddie Johnson’s disastrous spell at Fulham.

The margin for whether an American player — and all players moving abroad, for that matter — will end up a flop or a hit is razor thin. The variables that determine that are innumerable. It can range from the situation of the club he is acquired by to the manager(s) he plays under, the culture of the country or even the player’s mental strength. It’s a toss up, really. And a lot of things have to go perfectly for it all to pop off.

So when it was announced this week that Brek Shea would be leaving Stoke City on yet another loan after unsuccessfully securing any meaningful playing time for the Potters, I feared that he might be steadily on his way to joining the long list of American failures in Europe.

And if I’m being completely honest, I was actually concerned Shea might turn out this way back when he first moved to Europe in January of 2013.

However, before we get into why that was a concern, let’s chart his career trajectory a bit. Back in 2011, Shea had just logged an impressive 11 goal, 5 assist campaign for FC Dallas in his fourth season in MLS. He had broken into Klinsmann’s US side and had shown flashes of creativity and excitement in attack. Many were touting him as the brightest light of the new crop of players being ushered into the program. And it was around that time when the European clubs began to circle like vultures. Which made sense given that Shea possesses the exceedingly rare “Three S’s” of size, speed and strength. Ultimately he settled on a trial/training stint with Arsenal, which inspired me to write this piece on how big of a chance it could have proven for him. Things seemed very, very bright for the Texas native.

Unfortunately, no permanent move materialized and he followed that all up with a pretty lackluster — albeit injury-riddled — 2012 back in Dallas. But though his performances slagged, his off field celebrity remained large and social media following continued to ballooned. Some questioned whether all of that contributed to him being a bit distracted and was more concerned with maintaining his image. Yet despite all of that, Stoke City still came calling in January 2013.

And that’s where I started to question whether Brek might be making the wrong move at the wrong time.

Having surgery to remove a bone in his foot and coming off an under performing season in MLS, it might have made more sense to stick it out in Dallas for a bit longer. Doing so might have helped him to regain his fitness and rebuild his confidence. Besides, joining European sides midway through the season is always a difficult task.

At the time, Stoke City were in a bit of a stutter themselves and only picked up a point during the entire month of January under Tony Pulis. Too, Pulis’ Stoke weren’t exactly renown for their attacking acumen. And for both reasons, the manager found himself under increasing pressure from both the fans and boardroom that eventually lead to his departure.

was moving to stoke the wisest of moves for brek?

was moving to stoke the wisest of moves for brek?

As an attacking player whose skills and tactical awareness still needed further honing, Shea’s moving to Stoke to play under Pulis just didn’t make much sense. Furthermore, choosing to go play under a manager who didn’t look like he would be in the job much longer seemed naive — though you could argue he might have thought the club’s poor run of form would give him a chance to break into the side.

The attack-minded Mark Hughes’ arrival at the Britannia Stadium in March might have seemed like a boost to Shea’s chances of success. But given that Hughes has only chosen him twice in the 18 months since then, it’s probably fair to say the Welshman doesn’t exactly fancy what he has to offer.

That said, Hughes hasn’t completely shut him out in the cold. The lanky winger was farmed out at the beginning of the year to Barnsley with the aim of getting him some matches. Although you could also see the move as means of placing Shea in the shop window too. And though he impressed on his debut for Tykes and made eight appearances for them, his loan was cut short and he was sent back to Stoke after a bust up with supporters. Predictably, Hughes didn’t give him a runout once he returned either.

Since, things have remained rather stagnant for Mr. Shea. Without much on-pitch time to sharpen his game since the move to England — and after failing to impress in his appearances in the pre-tournament tune ups — Klinsmann wisely skipped over him for the US’ World Cup squad. A lackluster appearance in the last friendly against the Czech Republic only served to reinforce that decision.

And now he’s gone out on loan again, this time to Championship side Birmingham City. Hughes even went so far as to say he didn’t see the American in his plans for the Potters, though perhaps impressing while on loan might be a way to change the manager’s mind.

But you get the feeling that if he disappoints at St. Andrew’s, Shea’s days in England might just be numbered.

Of course, this might be a bit premature. He’s never quite regained full fitness since moving abroad, and a consistent run of games has helped many a player to find form before. Maybe he’ll find his feet in Birmingham, and use it as a launch pad to greater success across the pond.

You hate to say that Brek Shea is a cat that’s used up eight of his nine lives in just a year and a half playing overseas. But his showings of late haven’t exactly been the kind that would convince you otherwise, and his manager at Stoke isn’t exactly the type to give players bonus chances.

And if that’s the case, he’ll be the latest in a long line of American players that just couldn’t cut the mustard abroad.

WSOTP pod: season 2 episode 4

WSOTP Podcast - Season 2 Episode 4As we ease into the most needless international break of all time — seriously, we’re just three weeks into the European season and a month and a half out from the World Cup — there’s still a mountain of news to talk about from the world of football. And on Episode 4 of this season’s podcast, the guys try to scale it. You’ll find D.J. and Jeremy providing the normal rundown on all the weekend’s EPL action, take a gander at the trashfire that is Toronto FC, and preview the US men’s friendly against the Czech Republic. And they would be remiss to not talk about the closing of the Transfer Window. As such, the guys will assess the major movements around Europe and the Premier League, picking the winners and losers of this latest “silly season”. We’ll also have our weekly Winners and Wankers to pick too.

So grab your favorite headphones and dial yourself in for the latest edition of the Wrong Side of the Pond Podcast.

 

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

i need to get this off my chest

Landon DonovanLet me start this off by saying that, without a doubt, few people have had a more profound impact on the American soccer landscape than Landon Timothy Donovan.

Well before Freddy Adu ever graced the cover of Sports Illustrated or had his face splashed all over ESPN, Landon was this country’s first soccer prodigy. No other American player has garnered more success. Too, few other footballers from the United States have attained his level of fame and fortune.

And because of all of that, he’s also been the sport’s biggest target for criticism — particularly from this corner of the internet.

But with Donovan announcing yesterday that he’ll be hanging up his boots for good at the end of the 2014 Major League Soccer season, I felt it necessary to explain myself and my thoughts and criticisms a bit further.

Continue reading

surveying american soccer fandom

After a sizable break during the European close season this summer, save a few special edition live recordings down on Fountain Square for the World Cup, the WSOTP Podcast will be back in action here in a few week’s time. And with a sizable bump in the number of followers we’ve acquired due to the game finally catching a gust of wind here in the States, we thought it would be a good time to figure out just how everyone supports the sport of soccer here in the U, S and A.

As such, my podcast co-host and producer, Jeremy Lance, put together a short survey to give us a good look at the American soccer fan. But for us to really get a clear picture, we need as many of you as possible to fill the thing out. Whether a long-time fan or a relative n00b, we want — no, need — you to fill this thing out.

It shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes to complete, and it’s completely anonymous. And we’ll be sharing the results on the first episode of the second season of the podcast, which will be available for your listening pleasure the week before the Premier League season kicks off at the end of August.

So hit the link below, and thanks in advance for your data!

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE “AMERICAN SOCCER FANDOM” SURVEY

ten words or less #93

DC United's RFK Stadium

after taking a week off for vacation, i’m diving back into the blog with the latest stop on the WSOTP stadium guide tour: DC’s RFK stadium.

Ah vacation… you were much needed. After a month of World Cup to digest, my brain and Twitter feed certainly needed the rest. So after spending a week with my family on an isolated lake in South Carolina, I’m now back and ready to dip my foot into the pools of world football once again.

But instead of just easing back into things, I’m kicking things off with a bang. Tonight I’ll be making my next WSOTP MLS Stadium Guide stop by the above pictured RFK stadium in our nation’s capital to watch the Eastern Conference leading DC United take on a surprise Chivas USA side that’s punching well above expectations. You can expect a full detailed write-up to visiting the league’s oldest — and possibly most historic — stadium later this week.

In the mean time, here are a collection of some of my favorite links from the last few weeks to tide you over.

The greatest match of soccer you’ve never heard of. – medium.com

MLS All-Stars to face Bayern is very USMNT-heavy. – mlssoccer.com

Things are getting pretty bad in Ukraine. – mirror.co.uk

When no space for a pitch… make one. – theoriginalwinger.com

Brazil won’t be winning any fans back with this choice. – espnfc.com

RSL adding a new affiliate — and stadium — in Salt Lake? – sltrib.com

If it ain’t broke… – estaticos.sport.es

Wonder who Klinsmann will take to Russia? Start here. – sbnation.com

Everybody hates Jack Wilshire. – sportsmole.co.uk

This pub played the odds during Brazil-Germany… and lost. – bbc.com

WSOTP pod: live world cup special #3

we recorded our third and final live podcast on fountain before, during and after the usa v belgium game.

we recorded our third and final live podcast on fountain before, during and after the usa v belgium game.

Well, it wasn’t the result we had all hoped for, but the US loss to Belgium in the Round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup still managed to provide a great backdrop for our third and final live podcast recorded down on Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. Jeremy returned to rejoin D.J. after being out of action the last time out, and he also takes the reigns for the in-studio portions of the pod answering questions and talking about how fans new to the game can pick a team to follow for the upcoming Premier League season. On the live portion, we also get to hear Cincinnati Saints president and CEO David Satterwhite rejoin us on the podcast to talk about the events on the Square. And two other added bonuses: the audio this time around is at least marginally better and there were no hecklers this time either… hooray!

On a personal note, it was an absolute thrill to get to talk soccer in front of crowds of 4000 to 8000 at each of the events down on Fountain Square. Many thanks to the Cincinnati Saints, Hoist and 3CDC for allowing us the opportunity to MC the events and spread the word about the podcast.

If you’re new to the podcast, we’ll be back again weekly in just a few weeks’ time before the European seasons get rolling. So be sure to hit the links below to subscribe to the podcast on your computer or mobile device to listen in when we return on a regular basis.

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!

get off his back

US midfielder Michael Bradley

Like most US soccer fans, I can still feel the sting of yesterday’s 2-1 knockout round loss to Belgium.

Despite clearly being the inferior side in a technical sense, the match was there for the taking. Tim Howard’s incredible performance in goal and a clever tactical plan laid out by coach Jurgen Klinsmann made that possible. Though when I close my eyes, I can still see Chris Wondolowski skying the ball over Thibaut Courtois’s gaping goal from the edge of the goal box in the dying seconds of regular time. And while it was a valiant performance from our boys, that result was inevitable if we were going to concede so many chances to an extremely talented Belgian side.

And in the disappointment, we’ve been subjected to a glut of articles raining criticism down on the players, the manager and the US soccer federation from both professionals and armchair pundits alike. Some complaints have merit. But quite a few are downright absurd.

One of the most common — and accurate — critiques levied against the US team deals with what this side was really capable of in the first place: were we even deserving of the quarterfinal spot that was denied to us?

From a technical standpoint: hardly.

It’s clear that the US national team still has a long way to go when it comes to producing the talent to compete at the next level. Our opponents yesterday featured a side rich with world-class talent. We might have two players that can be classified in that way. When Belgian manager Marc Wilmots decided Belgium needed to make a change up front, he was able to bring on the $37-million-rated, 21-year-old Romelu Lukaku — a player coveted by many of the top sides in Europe. However, when Klinsmann decided he needed to make a similar change, he had to make do with $2-million-rated, 31-year-old Chris Wondolowski — a man coveted at best by a few MLS clubs.

But there’s another popular theory about the US’s performances during the World Cup that doesn’t make any sense yet seems to be pouring out of every corner of the internet. That theory: Michael Bradley had a bad World Cup.

And I’m here to pour cold water all over that claim.

Before I get started, I’ll first concede that Bradley was not at his best offensively. For a guy that we’ve seen dominate in the Bundesliga, Serie A and at the international level, he didn’t exactly dictate produce in the way we all hoped he might. And against Ghana and Portugal in the first two Group G matches, he certainly made some critical mistakes.

But even in those first matches, it wasn’t as if he had bad games. They just weren’t what we’ve come to expect of him.

That said, there are quite a few important factors to keep in mind when evaluating his performances that many lambasting Michael are either ignoring or aren’t considering.

First and foremost, he’s being played out of position. While playing in the hole behind the single striker is something he’s capable of, Bradley is much better playing a deeper role. When he was at his best in Italy and Germany, he was deployed as a deep lying playmaker. Instead, he was stationed in an offensive midfield position that — while potentially beneficial to the US — didn’t exactly play to his strengths.

On that same point, he was posted up behind a player for a majority of the tournament that was himself being played out of position. Clint Dempsey, like Bradley, is capable of playing up top by himself, but is actually much better in the role that Michael was forced to play. And as such, he wasn’t as used to playing it the way that someone like Jozy Altidore would be more used to working. As such, it left Bradley to try and hold up play a bit more than someone would be asked to do when playing in the apex of the three-man midfield. Bob’s kid was left with few outlets to play to, with Bedoya and Zusi often pinched in and expected to track back on the opposing wingers.

Secondly, for an offensive midfielder, Bradley was expected to and needed to put in a lot of defensive effort. While he might have been sloppier in his distribution than we’re used to, he was expending a lot more of his energy covering ground defensively than should be expected of an offensive center mid. In fact, no player in the tournament has run as far as he has. And that will absolutely take its toll on his ability to make decisions and play precise passes..

As for those who needs stats to lean on, why not compare other players who have played similar roles. I’ve picked four players below who that have not only made it as far as the US did this World Cup, but have actually helped their teams reach the next round too. Influential players, much like Bradley. What you’ll find might actually surprise you.

Statistic Michael Bradley Oscar (BRA) Juan Cuadrado (COL) Eden Hazard (BEL)
Minutes 390 367 306 293
Passes (Accuracy) 252 (86.1%) 137 (73.3%) 97 (87.4%) 142 (83.8%)
% Pass Forward 34.9% 31.4% 18.0% 19.7%
% Pass Back/Side 65.1% 68.6% 82.0% 80.3%
Pass % Opp Half  76.6% 70.6% 87.5% 83.9%
Pass % Def Half 96.6% 82.9% 87.0% 83.3%
Chances Created 4 6 7 12
Tackles Won (%) 6 (75%) 16 (76.2%) 4 (66.7%) 3 (100%)
Interceptions 3 5 5 0
Distance Covered 54.7 km 40.4 km 33.8 km 33.9 km

The two stats that really stand out here are distance covered and passes/pass accuracy. Despite being burdened with the need to run more, he still managed to complete more passes than all of his counterparts. Not only that, but Bradley completed his passes at a better rate and more passes forward than the rest of them as well.

When you consider that Bradley was one of two players that opposing sides absolutely prepared for ahead of facing us — alongside Dempsey — those stats become even more impressive. The Toronto FC midfielder nearly always had two men pressuring him when he received the ball, meaning he had to be precise if he didn’t want to cough it up.

Now, I know he did cough it up at times when we hoped he might not. But I’m not going to skewer a guy for a few mistakes. While he wasn’t the second coming of Andrea Pirlo, Michael was far from being the next Jermaine Jenas.

But we do need to all consider what kind of expectations we placed on him. If you expected to see Bradley lift the trophy this summer, you’re probably on the wrong bandwagon.

The he helped us get out of the Group of Death should be enough for everyone, but many still aren’t satisfied. And they never will be.

But I am, Michael. You’ve done more than enough for me.

 

WSOTP pod: live world cup special #2

WSOTP Podcast - Live World Cup Special #1

better late than never: our second live podcast on fountain square before and during the US-portugal game.

Our second “World Cup Special” podcast was recorded way back before and during the US v Portugal match. I know, nearly a week ago, and another match has transpired since then. So what gives? Well, my computer crashed and I thought the file had been lost into the abyss. Luckily, I had a back up that I’d forgotten about. Furthermore, we weren’t able to record during the Germany game, so the layoff doubled in length. We’re sorry — but better late than never right?

As with last time, our audio situation wasn’t the greatest. But the plus side to that: you won’t be able to hear the hecklers. I’m also joined by Jeremy Lance-lookalike, Eddie Driver, as my normal recording partner was indisposed this time around. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a pod worth listening to. Eddie and I dished not only on the Portugal game, but also talked over some of the World Cup’s highlights, and we had a chance to chat with some of the lovely Lady Saints to get their outlooks on the game. You’ll find some crowd reactions to the goals, and my post match analysis — including thoughts on the Germany match and the lead up to the Belgium round of 16 thriller that awaits us today.

For those who have asked: yes, we will be recording another podcast before and during today’s pivotal knockout match. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get it before next week.

Subscribe to the WSOTP Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or search for “Wrong Side of the Pond” in your favorite podcasting app to listen to us on your mobile device!