Posts Tagged ‘USMNT’

Well, folks, it’s a new year.  Welcome to 2013!  The new year always brings with it the potential for excitement, for surprises, for new beginnings – the potential for anything to happen!  Well, almost anything.  In this time of flux, of chaos, of uncertainty, USMNT fans around the world can take solace in the one thing that’s for sure in 2013: Canada, who the USMNT will face in a friendly on January 29, will continue to suck at soccer.

People who are happy with Canada’s national soccer team are hard to come by these days.

OK, OK, maybe that’s a little harsh.  But there’s no question that Canada’s national team program is in a time of flux.  2012 had the potential to be an excellent year for our “Nanook of the North” neighbor, as Canada came into their final group-stage WCQ match against Honduras needing only a draw to assure advancement to the Hex.  A difficult task away to Honduras, to be sure, but by no means impossible.  The resulting bloodbath in San Pedro Sula saw Canada unceremoniously dumped out of qualifying via a lopsided 8-1 loss. Tears flowed from Canadian fans’ eyes like maple syrup from, uh, maple syrup trees. For you sadists out there, here’s the highlights – they ain’t pretty.

 

The loss to Honduras shook Canadian soccer to its core.  Head coach Stephan Hart handed in his resignation just two days later, despite a general consensus that coaching errors were not a factor in the loss, and despite that the fact that his win percentage with the team was the highest of any Canadian coach in history.  The coaching position still remains vacant today, though Colin Miller, the Scottish-born former Canadian international, was named interim boss early in 2013.

Canada comes into Tuesday’s friendly against the USA with a very young squad.  Ten of the 22 players Miller called in to camp have never previously featured for the senior national team, eight played for Canada’s U23’s in last summer’s CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, and only four participated in Canada’s ill-fated third round of World Cup Qualifying last year.  Colin Miller has stated that he hopes to use the camp to evaluate “the future” of Canadian soccer.

On January 26, this relatively inexperienced squad took the field against Denmark in a friendly in Tuscon, Arizona.  The result: a 4-0 loss to the Danes, and a forgettable game for Canadian fans.  I found a stream of the game and did a little scouting for Tuesday’s USMNT friendly.  While one 90-minute observation is hardly enough to make any conclusive evaluations, here’s the highlights, and a few things I saw while watching the game that may be relevant to the USAvCAN match later this week:


  • Overall, Canada looked every bit like a group of young, inexperienced players with very little time on the field together (as could be expected). Their defense was especially porous and uncoordinated, and Denmark was easily able to pick the defense apart with well-timed through balls and smart runs.  If the USA can play the pressing, probing style of soccer that Klinsi advocates, they should find ample gaps to exploit, and ample opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net.
  • Canada’s centerbacks in the Denmark fixture each had markedly different styles and abilities.  At RCB, Nana Attakora had heavy touches, loads of speed, and seemed anxious to get forward and help in the attack – sometimes leaving Canada exposed.  At LCB, veteran Nik Ledgerwood seemed to have good positioning instincts and excellent on-ball skills, with soft touches, good dribbling, and some nice passing vision.  He also seemed slow.  The USA should look to take advantage of Attakora’s ill-timed forward runs and/or Ledgerwood’s pace.
  • Midfielder Kyle Bekker, who garnered loads of attention at the recent MLS Combine and was subsequently taken as the number 3 overall pick by Toronto FC, had some errant passes and downright terrible corner-kick service.  But he also used his on-ball composure to hang on to the ball in sticky situations, and push Canada’s attack forward a bit in the second half.  With a little bit of space, Bekker looks like he could be dangerous, so the USA will want to close him down quickly.
  • Finally, veteran Tosaint Ricketts reminded me of Jozy Altidore on a bad day: heavy touches, zero vision, and constantly deciding to take defenders on 1v1 (unsuccessfully), rather than looking to hold the ball up or pass off to a teammate.  To be fair to Ricketts, Canada’s offense as a whole wasn’t giving him much help, and he did whip in a shot on goal from outside the box that was probably Canada’s best scoring chance of the second half.  The USA defense shouldn’t have problems with Ricketts provided he continues to play “bad Jozy” (as opposed to current “good Jozy”, tearing up the Eredivisie), and provided they can handle his physicality.

One match is hardly enough to judge a squad by, and it would be unfair to Canada to say that they don’t have a chance against the USMNT on Tuesday.  But I’m not really into fairness, so I’m going to say it anyways.  My prediction: 3-1 for the good guys, with Will Bruin bagging 2, Benny Feilhaber bursting back onto the national team scene with a long-range strike, and a Sean Johnson blunder leading to Canada’s lone goal.

Until next time – blame Canada, and GO USA!

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Get ready to bust out a victory cigar, because the USA U23’s open their Olympic qualifying campaign against Los Little Cubans on March 22.  Cuba has a long and storied history of being exceptionally bad at soccer, having failed to qualify for every single World Cup since 1930.  The lone exception: the 1938 World Cup, where Cuba qualified by default after every other CONCACAF nation withdrew.  Cuba registered their only win in a World Cup to date against European powerhouse Romania, before losing to Sweden 8-0.  Que triste, Cuba!

Elian Gonzalez

Previous encounters between Cuban youngsters and the USA have been one-sided affairs. Expect the same on March 22, minus the assault rifles.

As of now, Coach Caleb Porter has released a 19-man roster that reads like a who’s-who of up-and-coming American bad-asses.  Several of the players (Hamid, Shea, Agudelo, and Bunbury, among others) have made multiple appearances with the senior USMNT.  Although the roster won’t be finalized until March 20, I think it’s safe to say the level of talent on the field for the USA will make LP Field in Tennessee the most uncomfortable place for a Cuban to be since Monica Lewinsky’s…uh, never mind.

Here’s the breakdown:

Statistics sez: One word: dominance.  According to FIFA’s website, the USA has a 7-1-1 record against Cuba.  The one loss came in what FIFA calls a “friendly”.  I’m pretty skeptical that Cuba could ever have beat us in soccer, so I’m guessing the one loss is referring to the Bay of Pigs invasion.  While that fiasco certainly counted as a loss for the USA, I’m not sure if I’d describe it as “friendly”.  But I digress.

What I’m eating: With average wages of under $17 per month and chronic food-shortages, Cuba isn’t exactly well known for their cuisine.  If countless Che Guevara movies have taught me anything, however, it’s that they ARE well known for their fine cigars, which, being made from tobacco leaves, almost count as food.  So, to disparage our Cuban opponents during this match, I plan on smoking half a Marlboro Red (American bastardization of Cuban cigars) while devouring a full plate of food – any food (American bastardization of Cuban cuisine).  Take that, Cuba!

An empty plate.

The national dish of Cuba - an empty plate.

What I’m drinking: The national drink of Cuba?  I’m guessing tears.  But since I don’t like drinking those, a Google search of “beer in Cuba” quickly revealed a low-class lager with a high-class name: Cereveza Cristal.  Since I’m looking to be as insulting to Cuba as possible with my drink choice, I’ll go with the OTHER Cristal – the champagne I’m familiar with through my affinity for top-40 radio.  Nothing says, “F you, Cuba!”, like dropping several hundred dollars (a year’s worth of wages in Cuba) on an overpriced bottle of bubbly.  Capitalism at its finest!  (Editor’s note: due to the prohibitively high cost of Cristal, I’ll actually just be drinking Andre champagne.  But you get the idea.)

What I’m singing: “Cuba, Joke of CONCACAF”, sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”.

Cuba made the World Cup once, qualified by default
Never gonna go again, cause Cubans can’t play futbol
Cuba, joke of CONCACAF
Cuba, truly awful
Best to quit while you’re ahead, and stick to playing baseball

What to say to the Cuban fan next to you if, God forbid, they score: If you’re sitting next to a Cuban fan, that’s unfortunate – since you’re probably in Cuba.  How you got there is a mystery to me, but you better pray your USA passport doesn’t have “Havana” on it when you catch the first flight back here.

Frenemies: The Cuban national soccer team isn’t only known for being really, really bad at soccer.  They are also known for providing Cuban soccer players with the unique opportunity to defect from Cuba when playing in tournaments on foreign soil.  One such defector is Osvaldo Alonso, who said “Adios” to Cuba while in the US for the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup.  And a fun fact: Alonso now plays for the Seattle Sounders, who are set to face Mexican club Santos Laguna in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on March 14th.  So Alonso, once our Cuban enemy, is now waging war against Mexico on our behalf.  How’s that for coming full circle? (Editor’s note: Alonso and the Sounders were, er, soundly defeated 6-1 by Santos on March 14.  Herc Gomez, USA striker and international man of espionage (he’s spying on Mexico – don’t tell), scored two goals for Santos.  Double frenemies!)

KNOW THY ENEMY: LIL’ BABY MEXICO (U-23’s)

Ooo, how cute!  Lil’ Baby Mexico wants to play!  Uh-oh, nobody told them about the USA’s U-23 team.  Brek Shea, Bill Hamid, Teal Bunbury and the rest of the squad are grown-ass men.  Freddy Adu was doing Sierra Mist commercials with Pele when Mexico’s Miguel Angel Ponce was still in diapers (and still an American)  for Christ’s sake.  Taking candy from a baby is too easy.  This will be like, like…well, whatever is easier than doing that.

Mexico Baby Bib

Lil' Baby Mexico's adorable lil' away jerseys. In addition to wicking away perspiration, they'll soak up the inevitable tears and spit-up that will come as a result of being crushed by the USA U-23's.

Statistics sez: By my count, the USA is undefeated against the perpetually weaker Mexican national team.  We’ve crushed them by at least 6 goals in every single game, and hold an amazing 343-0-0 record over our inferior regional rivals.  The last time our U-23 team agreed to “play nice” with Lil’ Baby Mexico, we went up 17-0 at the half, let them score 1 goal after the break, then ended 15 minutes early because their players were just doing handstands and picking dandelions on the field anyways.  The USA U-23’s celebrated with scotch and cigars while Lil’ Baby Mexico enjoyed Gerber baby food and breast milk.  Anyone who disputes these statistics is lying.

What I’m eating: As much as I hate Mexico’s soccer teams, I cannot deny that their food is incredibly delicious and makes up a substantial portion of my weekly diet.  It pains me to do it, but I’ve resolved to fill my belly with Taco Bell every time the US plays Mexico, almost as if saying, “The US is so great we took your food and made it American – and now it’s better”.  Almost as if saying that, because actually saying that would be a lie.  Taco Bell is gross.  As far as this game goes, I won’t need a substantial meal, since I’ll be filling up on unlimited breadsticks at the Olive Garden earlier in the day, while watching the US senior team take on Italy.  So I’m going with a side of Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes, because it will truly be a fiesta when our U23’s beat Mexico’s, and because it’s just the grossest looking thing I see on the Taco Bell menu.

What I’m drinking: If I were a Mexico fan, this match would be the perfect excuse to finally buy those little tiny Coronita bottles.  Watching the smaller version of Mexico’s national team would be perfectly complemented by drinking a smaller version of a Mexican beer!  But I’m a US fan, so that won’t work.  Much like the “what I’m eating” section, I like to drink whatever American rip-off of a country’s drink exists while watching the US play that country.  I’ll go with Chelada, that glorious mixture of Budweiser, tomato juice, and clam broth, to be consumed out of a sippy-cup in honor of our baby opposition.

What I’m singing: “Baby Mexico”, sung to the tune of “Yankee Doodle”.

Lil’ Baby Mexico, came to play some soccer
Want to play pretend with us, they’re in for quite a shocker
Baby Mexico you’ll cry
When you get your lickin’
Should have traded in your baby food for tainted chicken

What to say to the Lil’ Baby Mexico fan next to you if, God forbid, they score: “Cute goal.  Bill Hamid just let that one go in to make [insert scorer’s name] feel better about peeing the hotel bed last night, though.”