Tag Archives: usa soccer

World Cup – USA Needs To Get Hard

9 Sep

Soccer-lite. That sums up the US men’s national team performance against Jamaica yesterday. As if the players had been sinking Bud Light while the Jamaicans were hitting the hooch. The US performance was thin and weak. And it is time for coach Jurgen Klinsmann to flush it away before it is too late.

A few months ago, Klinsmann called for his players to get nasty – to get stuck in. There was none of that on display in the 2-1 loss in Kingston. The Reggaeboyz sensed from the outset that the Americans were playing shallow. The Jamaicans bit. Too many Americans were falling down looking surprised that Jamaica was not some collegiate side born from American suburbia.

Well, gentlemen, (emphasis on gentle), to win in World Cup world soccer you have to stick the boot in now and again. Sure, Michael Bradley was missing from the midfield due to injury. He would never have allowed such timidity to be playing around him, at least without having a word with his teammates. And Landon Donovan’s piercing stride was also sorely missed. But it has to be asked – does the next wave of US players have the punch?

Klinsmann should be looking for players who can mess with the opponent’s heads – extroverts, not idling brooders. Think of the great Brian McBride and his rattle; Alexi Lalas giving it the large one to opponents who considered US soccer a joke; Claudio Reyna and his hot foot; Jay De Merit coming up fighting from obscurity to mark Wayne Rooney out of the US v England game at the last World Cup. Where are those types of players to be found in the national team?

If Klinsmann is trying to include MLS players in his team, then why is the lethargic Kyle Beckerman playing in the squad when San Jose’s Steven Lenhart is never considered. Lenhart won’t play shallow. He’ll bite the opponents. He’ll make chances by showing defenders that they are in for a rough ride. Yes, niggle the defender, nudge him in the back off the ball, say something not too pretty about his face. Make his pissed off. Eventually, he’ll make mistakes.

Klinsmann has to forget about this project nonsense. As if he can design a team like an engineer in a BMW factory, paying attention to the latest interior software. It’s hardware we need now.

The chance to prove the above rant wrong comes around this Tuesday when Jamaica comes to Ohio for the return leg. Dump that Bud Light rubbish and hit the Jamaicans hard – make that Red Stripe on Old Glory shine.


Landon Calling

7 Jul

Last week, I caught up with all-time leading USA goal scorer, Landon Donovan – a short profile and some thoughts on how American soccer should pursue its own style and method.

Landon Donovan was in the Bay Area last Saturday scoring for Los Angeles Galaxy in his team’s 4-3 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes before a sell-out crowd at Stanford. Is he the best US player of his generation? Cue the stats – all-time leading scorer for the national team with forty-nine goals, the leader in assists, a career spanning over a decade with one hundred and forty three appearances for the country. He is the public face of American soccer internationally. And he’s earned respect by demonstrating purpose and leading by example.

Now a veteran, he offers advice to the next generation of US soccer players. “As a young player you can tend to get caught up in one good game or one bad game, one good moment or one bad moment or one good team or one bad team. If you are in it for the long haul, there are lots of ups and downs,” he said last week when I caught up with him by phone. “The players I have most respect for are those who play year after year and have been very consistent and that is the hardest thing to do.”

Soccer’s rigors are intense. A few years ago, I watched Donovan train in Los Angeles. He was tireless, outpacing his teammates in challenges, firing shots at the goalie with an intensity equal to the force expected during a match. How does he prepare mentally for games?

“I do different sorts of, I guess you’d call it, meditation,” he says. “At this point in my career, I have played quite a few games. So it is not that I am going to come to a match and have some kind of realization. I do think about the specific opponent that I am dealing with and I try to be positive with myself and envision doing positive things in the game.” Strike that as a California attitude.

Donovan’s colors rose on scoring key goals for the USA. His strikes in the 2002 World Cup run to the quarterfinals helped bounce interest in the domestic game at a time when there were doubts to its survivability. And his famous last minute winning goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup unleashed a wave of patriotism that carried soccer’s message to all stars in the Union – this foreign game has an American stamp.

Last Saturday’s match at Stanford was a thrill beyond the norm. Ninety minutes of rollercoaster game action, a noisy spectacle bookended by a salute to the armed forces and fireworks celebrating the Fourth of July. Look at the contrasting styles between this match and the prize games of the recently concluded Euro 2012. At Stanford, we enjoyed an adventurous game of openness and space, goal loaded and wild. At Euro 2012, a taxing economy of European soccer obsessed with possession and control. For sure, the better odds of victory in international match ups lie with technically superior teams with powerful club traditions. But emerging US soccer has its own flavor and should not be afraid to develop its own methods. Flying down the field and heading for goal is the portrait Landon Donovan can hang in the soccer Hall of Fame. Call it the American game – willing and ready to bang.

Jesus 3 USA 2

28 Jun

Jesus on the Ball

(left- Jesus robs the ball and takes off)

Nifty work by the television director of today’s big soccer game between Brazil and the United States. The Brazilians came ready with I Love Jesus t-shirts, and some quickly pulled them on, after their nail-biting victory over strong American boots. The camera cutaways from players bearing The Message were fast footed, and decisive. No doubt Christians will be cross.

Increasingly, players look to the heavens during the game, usually after scoring a goal. It seems Jesus is getting his kit on, keen to come down, and be part of the action. What will be the response if Brazil win the World Cup next year, and their team captain raises the trophy, not with his nation’s colors underneath the gold, but old Jesus on his cross on a t-shirt?

Maybe this is the way things are heading. Nations melting away, religions rising up from the flood. How about a New World Order soccer tournament? The Faith World Cup. Eleven Christians against Eleven Moslems. Eleven Jews against Eleven Buddhists. Eleven Zoroastrians against Eleven Druids. Eleven atheists against them all.

Watch for soccer’s governing body, FIFA, making a decision soon, on whether players can wear religious messages on shirts, after the final whistle. FIFA, with its headquarters close to its Swiss bank account in Zurich, are more concerned with global branding than injury prone Jesus getting a medal. Every media outlet around the globe publishes the World Cup winner on the front page. Is your religious symbol the one staring out at the world, your version as world champions? Try selling that in losing churches.

As for the football, in this tournament, the USA showed that they are capable of beating the best on the day. But not this day. But it’s still a boost in confidence for the national team. Bring on the World Cup Finals, a year away. I’d rather see the stars and stripes on the chest than the ache of a man hanging by nails.