ANTHONY MANNINO- Now that ample time has been given to recover from losing a two-goal lead, it is time look at one of the positives of the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup presents an opportunity for some younger players to shine playing in their first tournament with the USMNT. While a couple players failed to live up to the billing (Tim Ream), a few players were able to use this tournament to boast their stock.
First, Sacha Kljestan who improved his stock, but barley misses out in making it into the top three. A few bright moments from Kljestan will ensure that he will continue to be a part of Bob Bradley’s plans. (more…)
NOAH DAVIS – I have a piece up on MLSsoccer.com arguing that Clint Dempsey helped Landon Donovan get his mojo back Wednesday night in Houston. The Fulham midfielder scored, but the Los Angeles Galaxy star created the goal, and Dempsey’s celebration made sure he and the rest of the world knew it.
(There’s also a case to be made the Dempsey helped Freddy Adu cement his importance as a someone who can make a difference off the bench. Do we remember his perfect pass, a looping, left-footed ball that probably no one else on the roster makes, if the Texan doesn’t convert Donovan’s brilliant cross? But that’s a discussion for another time. )
Bob Bradley was not wrong to start Donovan on the bench against Panama, but he needs to bring back his star for the match against Mexico. It’s not even a choice.
The play is obvious. Take off Sacha Kljestan, who had a brutal night against the Panamanians just three days after shining versus Jamaica, and insert the United States’ all-time leading goalscorer. Push Clint Dempsey up top with Juan Agudelo, leave Alejandro Bedoya out on the wing, and call it a formation.
I think we’re done here. Your thoughts?
ANTHONY MANNINO in Houston- It must be the one of the most disappointing days in a soccer player’s career when their name is not part of their country’s World Cup roster. Last year Sacha Kljestan experienced that disappointment. However, Kljestan did not let missing the World Cup affect his play, and a few days later he signed with the most successful club in Belgium, Anderlecht. The move has paid off for Kljestan, and playing in the Champions League for a competitive club has helped the midfielder’s confidence.
“I feel more confidence from Bob. Obviously, I think like I said since I have been over at Anderlecht my consistency everyday, my mentality, my training, my confidence has gotten to an all time high,” Kljestan said. “So right now I feel really good about myself and my ways of helping the team, so I feel confident right now. I think my coaching staff has confidence in me, and I think most importantly above all my teammates have confidence in me, and finding in the game, and helping join the defense to the attack. So I think overall it has been good.” (more…)
ANTHONY MANNINO in Houston -The USMNT has several questions to answer heading into their semifinal match against Panama. However, these questions have changed from explaining their poor start during the group stages to what formation Bradley will use against Panama. Credit must be given to Bradley for making a few bold moves that paid off against Jamaica. These changes allowed the team to put in their strongest performance of the tournament.
The first question on everyone’s mind is, “will Bradley choose to use the same five-man midfield that was successful against Jamaica?” The change to a five-man midfield was unexpected considering how poorly the US team had previously played with five midfielders. The difference maker in the formation was Sacha Kljestan’s ability to spread the ball in the attack. Having a more attack minded midfielder opened up the game for the US, which led to a fast US attack. The speed of the US attack baffled the Jamaican defense and they were unable to respond. (more…)
ANTHONY MANNINO- Finally, after struggling during the group stages the USMNT put in their strongest performance of the Gold Cup with a 2-0 win over Jamiaca. No, the US play was not perfect, but this is the ideal time for the US to play their best if they want to win the Gold Cup. Bob Bradley deserves credit for making the tough decision to sit Landon Donovan and start Alejandro Bedoya. Whether it was because of form, sickness, or fatigue from traveling across America, the move to sit Donovan was necessary and a smart decision. This is the kind of decision making that Bradley has been lacking at times, and it is nice to know he can make the tough call.
Speaking of another great coaching decision, the shift from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 was a great call by Bradley. The key to the formation was Sacha Kljestan, who earned a starting spot after a few impressive appearances coming on as a sub. (more…)
ANTHONY MANNINO- The recent call-ups of Freddy Adu and Chris Wondolowski could mean that Bob Bradley’s formation will not be the usual 4-4-2. In the US national team’s last friendly, Bradley tried a five-man midfield against Argentina. The results were poor, and Jozy Altidore looked lonely up top. The Michael Bradley-Jermaine Jones-Maurice Edu central midfield combination struggled to get past the halfway line. Still, that was against Argentina, one of the best teams in the world… and putting Adu and Wondo on the roster means Bradley has more freedom to change the US formation to his liking. Although a 4-4-2 is still possible if Bradley starts Altidore and Juan Agudelo up top, I do not see the American manager starting the young Agudelo.
The first possible option is a five-man midfield that will look like a 4-5-1 or a 4-2-3-1. Personally, I hope that Bradley does not repeat his mistake and play Bradley, Jones, and Edu at the same time. It’s like trying to fit a circle into a square piece; three defensive minded midfielders cannot occupy the two defensive midfield spots. I know they are the US’ three best central midfielders with Holden injured, but Bradley, Jones, and Edu are too similar to play at the same time. (more…)
The weekend’s MLS playoff matches assured four teams will not be able to play conservatively in the return legs. Edson Buddle’s dipping strike from well beyond the box gave the a defensive but opportunistic Galaxy a 1-0 lead heading back to LA. Colorado and Dallas took care of business at home, while New York used a Joel Lindpere goal to give the Red Bulls the opportunity to advance to the Eastern Conference finals in the friendly confines of Red Bull Arena.
An interesting piece on some fairly simple ways to change the MLS playoffs for the better. Don Garber is considering it.
A number of Americans were on target over the weekend, including Clint Dempsey, who scored a brace as Fulham recorded their second victory of the season. Dempsey’s goals after the break:
NOAH DAVIS - Sacha Kljestan is only 25 years old. He’s playing on a side that’s contesting in the Europa League. He played a part in the United States’ World Cup qualifying campaign, although he didn’t make the final 23-man roster.
He is, by most accounts, a player on the rise. But where does he go from here?
Good question. His time on the US’s first team seems to be over, although maybe it’s not. If the former Chivas USA standout can harness his creativity, he might be the answer in the 4-3-3. A stretch? Sure. But let’s examine the possibility. (more…)
There isn’t much left to play for in the MLS regular season with all eight post-season births locked up. However, the Western Conference crown is still up for the taking, so Real Salt Lake will head to Colorado (Sat. 9:00 PM ET) looking for three points to make sure the pressure is LA when they host FC Dallas (Sun. 8:00 PM ET). Real sit one point behind LA heading into the final fixture of the regular season.
Tottenham v. Everton (Sat. 7:45 AM ET): Time Howard and Everton will look to continue there progress up the table when they head to White Hart Lane to face the Spurs and Gareth Bale, currently in scintillating form. 3:54 is a good place to start.
Chelsea v. Wolves (Sat. 10:00 AM ET): Like Barcelona, Chelsea’s scoring prowess might be required viewing at this point, especially against relegation battlers like Wolves. They may not have Messi or Xavi, but Drogba and Co. are fun to watch.
Sunderland v. Aston Villa (Sat. 10 AM ET): Stuart Holden and Clint Dempsey will also be in action for their respective clubs at 10:00 AM tomorrow morning, but perhaps the most interesting event may be USMNT defender Eric Lichaj making his Premier League debut. The 21-year-old may get the call with Villa defender Luke Young, who will be out for three weeks with a torn hamstring.
The United States’ Jozy Altidore was up and running, coming off the bench for the last nine minutes of Villareal’s 1-0 victory over PAOK Salonika. The win has Villareal leading Group D.
Another American, Sacha Kljestan, also made an impact, playing all 90 minutes of Anderlecht’s 3-0 defeat of AEK Athens. The match marked Kljestan’s first start in two months and the win makes Anderlecht second-best in Group G.
One American who did not suit up was Freddy Adu, who was left off Aris Salonika’s roster for the team’s 0-0 tie with Bayer Leverkusen.
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi appears as if he’ll stay put for awhile after Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola stated his terms. “If [Inter Milan president Massimo] Moratti give us €250 million and Leo wants to leave, then maybe we can talk,” Guardiola said. “But I seem to have understood that Messi doesn’t want to leave and a player’s opinion is decisive in football.”
MLS retirements and an Inter Milan injury after the jump (more…)