Tuesday, January 21, 2014

YANKS IN BRAZIL

"That won't cut it against Germany!"


The USMNT is in the midst of a World Cup "dry run" in Sao Paulo, as Jurgen Klinsmann assesses the depth of his player pool with a roster comprised almost entirely of MLS players. This camp will culminate with a friendly on February 1st in Carson, CA against the Republic of Korea.

Yesterday, Chris Wondolowski scored the only US goal in a 2-1 defeat to Sao Paulo FC in a closed-door scrimmage. Does Wondo have a chance to make Jurgen's World Cup 23? What other darkhorse candidates have a chance to impress the coaches and realize a lifelong dream? Leave your comments below.

Exclusive video content from Sao Paulo and LA coming SOON to ONE GOAL!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Party Poopers: The Two Halves of Thursday

Hello, this is a column that will run every week looking at two of the many stories going on in American soccer. Don't be mad after reading this, Friday is a day away. 

A professional performance from the USMNT broke Panama's hearts on Tuesday.


Ending the Party

As a US fan, you would be forgiven if you found it easier to cope with a loss on Tuesday night if you knew it eliminated Mexico. The same logic applies to the US players and coaches. Some bought into that logic – namely Eddie Johnson who stated that in a perfect world, Mexico would have been eliminated. Others including Jurgen Klinsmann and Kyle Beckerman did not. Beckerman bought into Klinsmann idea of World Cup spots being up for grabs when he talked about having to play hard despite the game not meaning anything.

"A couple of the guys were asking just to take it easy on them," Beckerman said after the game. "The USA is guaranteed to be in the World Cup but who's in it, nobody knows."

Landon Donovan also spoke about the competitive nature of this squad before the Jamaica game and how Klinsmann created an environment in which there are really no outfield players that are guaranteed a spot in Brazil if they stay healthy. Unfortunately for Panama, the byproduct of this environment was that the US pushed for an equalizer even if it would save Mexico from a catastrophic elimination.

All in all, it was a commendable performance by the US B-Team. The back four conceded twice but given the circumstances, most back lines will concede as it gets very difficult to hold off a desperate team at home in sloppy conditions. The midfield did not dominate the game but they weren't overran either. They used their numerical advantage as a way to to force Panama to go wide with their buildup.

Jozy Altidore put in a tireless but fruitless performance which allowed for Terrence Boyd and Aron Johannsson to finish the job against a worn-down backline. Boyd's short near post run allowed Graham Zusi space to get a free header while Johannsson took advantage of the Panamanian centerbacks not closing down on him to score the game winner.

We are seeing Klinsmann successfully infuse a European mentality into an American sporting ethos. The professionalism and pragmatism that Klinsmann's German footballing background is now being tied into the American's gritty resolve. In simpler terms, the US is still playing hard but now they are playing smart. The game in Panama was proof of that as they kept themselves in the game while waiting for the hosts to punch themselves out which they did shortly after retaking the lead seven minutes from time.

A professional performance under circumstances that would allow for some slipups. Exactly the opposite of what is going in Mexico.

Stinking it Up

Tuesday night was the second-worst scenario Mexico could have envisioned with the US having to save Mexico from themselves as El Tri faded in the second half for the fourth straight time since September.

Perhaps more comical than their performance was the FMF's reaction to Tuesday night's loss as reports from Mexico indicate that Victor Manuel Vucetich has been fired. Although Vucetich did not get Mexico into the top three, he got them into a winnable playoff against New Zealand which was the most straightforward and the most realistic scenario for Mexico coming into the final two World Cup Qualifiers.

Not good enough in the eyes of the club owners who are in charge of making these decisions for the FMF. The blame is solely on their shoulders for turning what a fiasco under Chepo de la Torre into the complete farce that it is right now. Miguel Herrera, Club America manager, looks set to be the one inheriting this mess but Herrera might be smart enough to have left himself an out by maintaining his role as America manager.

Perfect sense for Herrera since he does not deserve to be unemployed based on the incompetence of others. The FMF's club owners are capable of paying the salary of any manager they are interested in hiring. However, the FMF's egotism and incompetence makes them the type of boss that no manager would want to work for.

And no player would want to play for as well.

ONE GOAL Contributor
Christian Araos (@Christian_Araos) 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Victory Laps and Leaps of Faith: The Two Halves of Thursday

Hello, this is a column that will run every week looking at two of the many stories going on in American soccer. Don't be mad after reading this, Friday is a day away. 

The USMNT get to celebrate qualification again at home on Friday.


Victory Lap for the USMNT

Ignore Jurgen Klinsmann rhetoric, or at least take it with a grain of salt. The USMNT manager says Friday's game against Jamaica is the beginning of the team's plans to prepare for the World Cup. Right. 

Not to say that Klinsmann is a liar but rather a spinner in this case. It is not a bad thing either. It boils down to the fact this Friday is the last home game the US will play this year. 2013 was a very good year for the national team but laying an egg in Kansas City would put a bitter cherry on top of a sweet run of form. So to prevent that, Klinsmann needs to develop a message to sell fans and players on the importance of Friday's game–especially against a Jamaican team that must win to keep its faint qualification hopes alive.

With a World Cup seed basically out of the question and first place in the Hex probably not meaning much except a possible bonus for Klinsmann, a lackluster US performance is forgivable. With that in mind, we can acknowledge the fact that it is very difficult for the US to be as motivated as it was last game against Mexico. The stakes just are not as high. What do you do as a coach fully aware of this?

Create some stakes.

Manipulate the same asset that helped you qualify for the World Cup with two games in hand–the deep roster pool. Publicly state how you want to begin World Cup preparations, privately state that roster spots are there to be had and express to your players that their efforts to claim a spot on the World Cup Squad will be monitored beginning on Friday. 

Gives us a reason to watch.

Vucetich Takes a Leap of Faith

Victor Manuel Vucetich will be Mexico's third coach in as many games when he steps onto the pitch at the Estadio Azteca on Friday night. Vucetich will be coaching El Tri's most significant home World Cup Qualifier in recent memory and he will be who history remembers as either the manager who successfully avoided disaster or who will be on the sideline when Mexico's unthinkable elimination is confirmed.

Victor Manuel Vucetich will be relied upon to save El Tri
This is a fact Vucetich had to have been well-aware of when he took the managerial job for Mexico.

Vucetich was not helped out by Carlos Vela again refusing a call-up. Vela's perpetual refusal to Mexico's interest will be a long-term issue for Mexico but given their current situation, the long-term is insignificant. 

That is why Vucetich empathized calling in players who were in-form with their clubs. That is the reason Rafael Marquez and Jonny Magallón were recalled and it was the reason Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera were excluded. It also worth noting that Marquez and Magallón are 34 and 31, respectively while Guardado and Herrera are 27 and 22. It is a sign that Vucetich is going to value experience for Mexico's critical final two games. It's the conservative, myopic solution.

Going with the veterans as stopgaps may be enough for Vucetich to get through this two-game stretch but then there's likely another two-game stretch–the playoff with New Zealand. Is he going to use conservative stopgaps again or is he actually going to try to be progressive and solve Mexico's problems?

ONE GOAL Contributor
Christian Araos (@Christian_Araos) 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Prospect of a Prospect: The Two Halves of Thursday

Hello, this is a column that will run every week looking at two of the many stories going on in American soccer. Don't be mad after reading this, Friday is a day away. 

View the Luis Gil rumors with a grain of salt.
Photo Credit: ASN


Mexico Taps Gil? Not Really.

Luis Gil became the latest young, American MLS player to end up on Mexico's radar. That is according to Andrew Wiebe at MLS Soccer. Wiebe reports that Mexico are "seriously inquiring" about Gil's interest in filing a one-time switch to play for Mexico. These types of reports must be taken with a grain of salt for two reasons.

The principle reason is agenda. We in the media need scoops, it's what keeps the news cycle moving. That being said, scoops that come from sources cannot be the total core of a story because then we become middlemen between the source and the public. The greater issue with this is that there needs to be a middlemen because chances are the source is in a position where they cannot go public with the information themselves.

In this case, it would be wise to assume that this person is in either the Mexican camp or Gil's camp. If the source is with the FMF, then we should see it as someone who wants Gil to be quickly included as part of a new era for El Tri under Victor Manuel Vucetich. If it's someone in Gil's camp then we should see it as a way to just let the USSF and its fans know that there is another option if the US doesn't pay attention to him.

The other reason is the simple fact that if Mexico needs to turn to Luis Gil to assure themselves of a shot at going to the World Cup, then their situation is more dire than it looked at any point under Chepo de La Torre. No disrespect to Gil who will be a very good player but he should not be viewed as the answer to neither the USMNT's or El Tri's problems at this time.

ONE GOAL Contributor
Christian Araos (@Christian_Araos) 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dos a Cero Part Four: A Celebration of the American Game

The USMNT and a Couple Hundred of Their Fans Celebrate Qualification

I have been writing about soccer for a little over a year now but I can't recall ever putting down why I wanted to write about the sport. This is something I think every sports writer should do at some point in their careers for their own posterity. In my case, I decided to write about soccer because I loved the game enough to enjoy analyzing it on a regular basis.

That still holds true but I realized the true reason I love to write about the game and just why I love the game. Friendship.

I formed close bonds with people I discussed soccer over Facebook with. Enough of a bond to be one of the guys who kept, or at least tried to keep, this guy in the air at the American Outlaws party on Monday night. Yes I know him personally, no I won't name him. Still, he offered me a beer at the game despite the obvious fact that I had my credentials on and could not feel right chugging a beer.

Beer is the preferred beverage of almost every American soccer fan. It is so commonly appreciated amongst us that the Free Beer Movement was created just to celebrate the marriage beer and soccer have in this country. FBM also serves another purpose, growing the game of soccer in this country. Its method, friendship.

The premise is to buy to your friend a beer and watch some soccer with them. A few barley-induced laughs later, they want in. If they get in and stay in, the onus is now placed on them to also spread the game. Pay it forward.

Soccer does not seem to be going forward anymore. It is most definitely going forward and with gusto too. The crowds are louder and more passionate, drawing more and more outsiders who want to experience this live and in the flesh. It may be the only sport in the US that currently has the appeal. This appeal is truly organic and fans need not look far when trying to determine how that is.

The passionate experiences that happen at these national team games are the result of a truly organic movement based around its fans. They have formed communities with soccer and camaraderie as their pillars. Last night these communities came together with fans coming from 49 of the 50 states either as individuals or as members of larger supporter groups.

They all came together last night to create an atmosphere that was benevolently enjoyable for the Americans there and intimidating for the Mexican players who crumbled after seeing their first half attacks be repelled. And therein lies the successful endgame for the fans of US Soccer. An endgame that for years seemed improbable and utopian but came to fruition last night.

The successful, grassroots spreading of support for the US National Team based on the simplest of life principles. A successful organization of this support while maintaining that life principle to ultimately lead to a famous win enjoyed by each and every fan––and their friends.

ONE GOAL Contributor
Christian Araos (@Christian_Araos)