Dec 30, 2010

Top Goals of the Year by Complex

Well, they call them the 25 Most BadA** goals of 2010 and there are some beauties.  Oh, by the way, Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria in the World Cup--only 24th.

Who is number 1 you might ask?  Is it Rooney? Nope.  Messi? Nope. Cristiano Ronaldo? Sorry, nope.  Anyone for Spain?  Sorry, not even close.

Go check it out--you might be surprised, but the goal they chose as their #1 is a beauty.

Dec 28, 2010

Portland Timbers Advertising

Tip o' the Hat to

If the Portland Timbers play as good a brand of soccer as their advertising is, then watch MLS, cause you are in for a hurtin'.

Of course, if this is the quality of lumberjacks (lumberjanes?) in Oregon, I may have to consider moving.

Baltimore Site for Possible DC United Stadium?

The Baltimore Sun reported on the stadium feasibility study conducted for Charm City to place a 25,000 seat stadium in the complex south of M&T Bank Stadium, which also happens to be just south of Camden Yards. According to the Sun:
The proposed Westport stadium and an adjacent hotel would be part of a $1.5 billion mixed-use project being developed on the waterfront. The study determined the stadium could host 49 to 54 events annually, including 17 D.C. United games. Annual attendance is estimated to be 584,750 to 695,100 with total spending between $65.7 and $78 million each year. Total jobs are estimated at 780 to 940 with annual state tax revenues of approximately $3 million to $3.5 million. This project is expected to generate between $2.3 million to $2.8 million in annual city taxes.
If I am accurate in my understanding, the Westport development that appears to be the contingency for the stadium would be on both public transit lines and with immediate access to I-95 and a short distance from other developments in Baltimore.

The question will be what will the DC government and counties around DC do with this news. DC United is bordering on being the only team in MLS without their own stadium. New England and DC United are the only MLS Original Clubs still playing without a soccer specific stadium either built or in the works and DC United and New England are the oldest teams, being original clubs, who are still playing in non-dedicated facilities.

The fact is that DC United has been treated as the red-headed step child of the DC sports scene. Despite the success of the club, even relatively recent success such as the Supporter's Shield in 2006 and 2007 (although their playoff performance those years left much to be desired), the DC City Council and to a lesser extent Congress, have been reluctant to put any effort into negotiating a deal for a stadium site. Understandably, DC United is looking elsewhere.

With two strong supporters groups, the Screaming Eagles and the Barra Brava, and even attendances still getting close to 18,000 a game despite the poor performance of the last two years, getting season tickets won't be a problem. But I believe DC United is right to be looking for an urban location, close to the heart of a city, mass transit and a relatively central location. The Baltimore site gives that location, but nothing that DC government has even hinted at getting anything started, although sites like Poplar Point have been discussed.

Perhaps it is time to get the Football Supporter In Chief, President Barack Obama on board while he still occupies the White House. Much is made of the President's daughters playing the game and even regular press shots of the President on the touchlines with Secret Service in the background. Instead of just championing the World Cup for 2022 (President Obama is now 0 for 2 in pitching big events in the U.S., having failed to also get the Chicago Olympics), the President should apply a little pressure on the DC government to find a site for DC United.

In the end, it may be unlikely that DC United move to Baltimore any time soon. But with Baltimore making a play for the Black and Red, it will not be long before DC United are the only MLS Original club playing in a non-specific stadium. That is not only a major slight by the DC government and sport community, but also a tragedy for DC United Supporters and the game in the Nation's Capital.

Dec 24, 2010

My Favorite Soccer Memory of 2010

Although this blog is new, I have been writing regularly about soccer at my other blog Going to the Mat and last year I posted a story about my favorite soccer memory of 2009.  This year, being a World Cup year, was particularly soccer oriented for me.  As I sit back and look at 2010, I am thinking of the highs and lows of the year.

I am a DC United Fan and this year has been, at best a mixed year.  My heart sank every time DC United found another way to lose.  I was heartbroken when DC United set the record for the worst season ever.  I was angry at the front office for their apparent incompetence.  I was saddened by the "good enough" mentality and the back and forth about Ben Olsen being the head coach.  I was emotional about Jamie Moreno's departure and angry at how the front office handled that.

But at the same time, I was electrified by Andy Najar and Bill Hamid.  I was happy about the future of the club if these two young men were to be a part of it.  I was proud of the love that Moreno and Olsen showed for the club.  As are most fans, I want to be optimistic about the future and I hope for the best for the Black and Red.

As a referee, I had some good moments and some not so good moments.  I had to make calls that resulted in my having to be escorted to my car not once but twice this year (they were the right calls, but heartbreaking to the players).  I struggled with my own form and an injury, but had a good year.

But after it all, there was the Red, White and Blue.  Maddeningly frustrating at time by giving up cheap early goals, but proud to pull on my jersey and cheer on the US MNT because they never say die.  I wanted to nuke the entire referee population of Mali, just to make sure we didn't get screwed by a Malian referee again. I reveled in the headlines coming out of England after Robert Green fumbled Clint Dempsey's goal.  I cheered and then nearly vomited when Maurice Edu's goal against Slovenia was called back.

I know it is obvious and probably makes just about everyone's list, but my favorite moment of the year is just simply The Goal. First, here is the reaction:

Here is a video taken by someone at the game:

But for me it is the Ian Darke Commentary that still gives me a chill every single time. Here is a clip:

As Ian Darke said, "You could not write a script like this." "Go! Go! USA!"

Like I said, predictable, but really, how can you deny the emotion of the moment.

Dec 21, 2010

MLS and Youth Well Represented at USMNT January Camp

U.S. Soccer announced that US Men's National Team Coach Bob Bradley called in 24 players to the annual January Training camp. As expected, MLS players dominated, with only four foreign based players called in to camp. But youth is also well represented in this camp, with six players age-eligible for the 2012 Olympics (played by Under 23 players with three overage players allowed). As always there are some surprises, both in terms of inclusion and exclusion. But for me the biggest surprise is the size of the camp. Usually, Bradley has called in between 25 and 30 players, but this time around opted for a smaller group. Reports are that a couple of players declined to come due to nagging injuries that the player/their club/Bradley thought it better for them to sit this camp out, including San Jose's rookie defender Ike Opara and FC Dallas' steady centerback George John.

Here are the list and my reactions.

GOALKEEPERS (4): Dominic Cervi (Celtic), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Matt Pickens (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake) 

Rimando is the old man of the squad at the ripe old age of 31.  I have to think that Rimando is getting tired of getting called into these camps and then not getting any playing time with the A squad.  In many ways, Rimando is as good as Guzan and getting way more playing time than Guzan.  The inclusion of Dominic Cervi while Celtic are still in season is a clear indication that his time in Glasgow is done and Cervi will move on to another club.  Hey, Dom, maybe it is time to look for a job in MLS for a couple of years.  Pickens is a bit of a surprise for me, but with the demise of Troy Perkins' form over the past year (although not all Perkins' fault), this is not a bad move.  Pickens had a great year for Colorado and has earned a call up.  The inclusion of Sean Johnson is exciting for me.  Here was a guy who some people thought wouldn't make it as an MLS keeper and he has clearly shown them wrong.  I would think that Johnson is on the right path.

I had hoped that Bradley would take a chance and bring U-20 keeper Zac McMath into this camp (probably in place of Rimando) just to see how the young man works in a more professional environment (although University of Maryland training sessions are pretty professional in nature).  But then again, McMath is just 19 now and hasn't played professionally.  Let's see what he can do with a club and Bradley still has time to call him in.

DEFENDERS (9): A.J. DeLaGarza (Los Angeles Galaxy), Sean Franklin (Los Angeles Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (Los Angeles Galaxy), Ugo Ihemelu (FC Dallas), Zach Loyd (FC Dallas), Ryan Miller (Halmstads BK), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Anthony Wallace (Colorado Rapids), Marvell Wynne (Colorado Rapids) 

Hey Bob, where's Todd Dunivant?  You called the rest of the L.A. Galaxy back line in, what do you have against Bruce Arena's go-to left back?  Seriously, why not call in Dunivant?  Yes, DeLaGarza, Gonzalez and Franklin were going to get called in since they missed the last call-up in South Africa for the playoffs.  Tim Ream was another given for this youthful squad.  In the quest for a left back, Anthony Wallace has shown some promise.  Marvell Wynne is being given another chance, this time a centerback perhaps?  Wynne's renaissance as Colorado's center back put another opportunity in his lap.  In addition to that jaw dropping speed, he is a physical guy with a lot of strength, but I am not sure he is international caliber.  

The surprises for me are Ihemelu, Loyd and Miller.  Loyd just doesn't impress me much.  Yes, he can get up the wing from right back, but his crossing needs work and he is very suspect in my mind defensively.  When I think of FC Dallas' back line, I think of George John, not Ihemelu.  The only other time I have seen Ihemelu in a U.S. jersey, I was unimpressed.  As for Miller, I just don't know enough about him, but that is what the January camp is for, to look at players who haven't been part of the set up before.

Everyone is probably going to ask, what about Heath Pearce, Bobby Convey, Clarence Goodson and maybe Chad Marshall?  The short answer is that all four are known quantities.  For Pearce and Convey--Bradley can call on either of them at a moment's notice and know exactly what he can get and if Bradley is looking forward three years, why spend the time?  Both will be considered in teh future, both had great years and no one should look at this as a snub.  Goodson just completed a move to a new club and needs to get acclimated there.  Goodson, for me, is a first choice centerback right now and Bradley didn't call any other regular first teamers anywhere else.  Marshall is another known quantity and right now, that quantity is, in my mind, not good enough.  I would rate Gonzalez, DeLaGarza and George John as better MLS centerbacks right now than Marshall.

As noted earlier, George John and Ike Opara were injured.  Aside for Dunivant, I would like to have seen Gale Agboussomonde called in again, but I am not sure of his club commitments (if he has one).

MIDFIELDERS (7): Eric Alexander (FC Dallas), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Sam Cronin (San Jose Earthquakes), Mikkel Diskerud (Stabaek), Jeff Larentowicz (Colorado Rapids), Dax McCarty (D.C. United), Brek Shea (FC Dallas) 

The question going around is when was the last time a unused MLS Final sub was called into the January Camp.  I can't remember one, but that is what you get with Eric Alexander.  Here's a stat for you-23-year-old Alejandro Bedoya has the most caps on this roster--six (6).  I am really happy to see Jeff Larentowicz on this roster.  He was, in my mind, the Man of the Match in an otherwise dreadful MLS Cup final.  Larentowicz earned this call up.  It will be interesting if he can make an impact on the first team.  Dax McCarty has also played well and I can see working his way onto the first team.  It is good to see Sam Cronin on this list.  Cronin, who like Marvell Wynne, was a Toronto FC reject, found a good place and good club in San Jose where Frank Yallop really allowed him to develop.    Shea had a horrid game against South Africa and a not very good MLS Cup Final.  Maybe Bob Bradley can man manage away some of the nerves that seem to plague Shea in big games, because his club form is usually been pretty consistent this year.  Diskerud, is well, Diskerud.  He showed what he can do in South Africa as a sub, now it is time to see him as a starter--that has to be his goal.  

As for excluded players I would like to have seen, I have to start with Geoff Cameron.  Cameron came back from a tough injury to put some very good shifts in for Houston.  Cameron is versatile, comfortable pretty much anywhere is the center,  and maybe that versatility is what is hurting him now.  Would it have hurt to call Andy Najar in?  This is after all a training camp and there is no requirement that Najar even be named to the squad to face Chile.  But calling in Najar would have been a chance to expose him to the U.S. set up.  I know he is a couple of years away from his citizenship, but what would it have hurt.  I have never been impressed with Eddie Gaven, but Columbus' Robbie Rogers still has a case to make, so it is somewhat surprising that Rogers wasn't called in.  Yes, he is pretty well known to Bradley, but it is something of a surprise.

FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Justin Braun (Chivas USA), Teal Bunbury (Sporting Kansas City), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

What is interesting to me with this foursome is that none of them are real good a holding the ball up with their back to goal.  Braun is the closest to that Bob Bradley standard but I would think that even Edson Buddle is better at holding the ball than Braun.  Agudelo and Bunbury are quick, exciting and full of potential.  They have just enough (good) arrogance to make them good strikers and have some skill to go with that arrogance.  Of course, everyone jumped on the Agudelo bandwagon after he scored in South Africa, but that is hardly what caught my eye.  Agudelo kept looking for the goal and when he wasn't looking for the goal, he was looking for guys in front of the goal.  Bunbry also impressed in his short stint in South Africa.  Now it is time to see what they can do for 90 minutes.  They need to be aiming for the start.

We all knew Wondolowski was going to get called in, but while Wondolowski maybe a good MLS striker, I just don't see him doing it on the international level.  The same goes for Braun, but the thing in Braun's favor is that he is 23 and Wondolowski is 27.  I just don't see a 27 year-old, uncapped, player who until this year had never scored more than 10 goals in a season breaking into the U.S. Squad.  This was a nod to Wondolowski's achievements in MLS, but that is a poor reason to call him in.  I can see Bradley hoping to coach Braun in to a holding striker, in the mold of Brian Ching.  Braun has that burliness and strength in the air with a bit more pace than Ching.  But Braun is not there yet, but perhaps three weeks with Bradley will get him moving in that direction.

Half the players on this squad do not have a cap at all.  As noted, of the twelve who have a cap, Bedoya has the most with six.  McCarty, Rimando and Wynne have four each.  That is not a lot of international experience, but as Bradley noted, he is looking at youth.  Well he has it and can these players step up and make an impact for future call-ups for the Gold Cup?

What do you think, who is your biggest surprise and your biggest snub?

D.C. United signs Andy Najar to New Deal

D.C. United has signed MLS Rookie of the Year Andy Najar to a new multi-year contract according to the club. The first D.C. United Academy product signed by the club as a homegrown player, Najar made just shy of $60,000 last year according to the MLS Players Union. Allthough details of the contract were, as usual, kept confidential, Najar probably saw a $20-25K pay raise for this coming year plus some incentives for performance. I would also expect that there will be some other bonuses and compensation should Najar get transferred overseas.

Dec 17, 2010

DC United's Roster Shuffle

The names on the backs of jerseys next year for DC United will be a great deal different than the names that put up the worst season in club history last year.  Ben Olsen, Kevin Payne and Dave Kasper has been busy, not only with the various drafts, but signing a couple more homegrown players (well one last year and one this year). Olsen & Co. also grabbed a couple of veterans in the Re-Entry draft and have been wheeling and dealing.  The question is, will all the trading around help the club get better.  You would think it would have to, because, seriously, they can't get any worse.

With the SuperDraft (why do they call it a SUPER Draft--why not just call it a draft) just a couple of weeks away, here is that status of the DC United Roster

Steve Cronin and Bill Hamid.  Can't complain about this position and wasn't complaining when Troy Perkins name was listed there.  I would put Perkins and Cronin on roughly the same level but Cronin costs less.  I would be surprised to see another keeper here, but you never know with the Reserve League making a comeback this year.

Marc Burch, Dejan Jakovic, Julius James, Devon McTavish, Ethan White, Jed Zayner.
This position is a bit light on the depth.  Julius James emerged last year as a reliable, if not flashy defender, which was good because the injury bug was killing DC United last year.  Both Burch and McTavish are expected to be healthy at the start of the year.  If this was my only list of defenders to choose from, the back line would be Burch on the left, Jakovic and James in the middle and White on the right.  But to be honest, I am not sold on that idea.

With the draft coming up, I would expect DC United to be going in for a central defender, perhaps a center back like Akron's Zarek Valentin or Cal's A.J. Soares.  Valentin's appeal, if he comes out to the draft, is that as a Generation Addidas player, he would not count against the salary cap.  But Soares looks to be the best back in the draft with some comparisons' to NYRB's Tim Ream.  Given that defenders can usually make the jump from college to MLS a lot easier than other position players, DC is almost sure to use their only first round draft pick on a defender.

I would also expect that DC United will look for trades as well. United is a bit heavy with midfielders and is certainly on the prowl for more defensive help.  A foreign player is not out of the question as the number of senior international spots still sit open.

Branko Boskovic, Junior Carriero, Stephen King, Dax McCarty, Kurt Morsink, Andy Najar, Santino Quaranta, Conor Shanosky, Clyde Simms

There is talent here, but its record has been spotty.  Boskovic will need to really step up this year and start bossing things in the midfield, with Dax McCarty providing some box-to-box spark and Clyde Simms to do the dirty work at holding midfield, Boskovic might be able to do that which he has been more or less hired to do, play make.  Of this list, I would think Morsink is on the shakiest ground in terms of being left off the roster.  I would expect Najar and Quaranta to round out the midfield, which leaves a player like Junior Carriero on the outside looking in for mintues as an impact sub.  Najar is a winger, but I am not sure that Quaranta has that talent or speed.

Rumor is that DC might be shopping Clyde Simms around, which would make Stephen King next in line for that holding job, but that all depends on how Olsen sets the team up.

Adam Cristman, Pablo Hernandez, Joseph Ngwenya, Chris Pontius, Josh Wolff
Chris Pontius is trade bait and Cristman maybe waving good bye as well.  DC United has been hurting for goal scoring for a couple of years now and when your top goal scorers last year were an Australian who has left the club and a 17 year old midfielder, you know there are problems.  The addition of Wolff and Ngwenya brings some pace to the front line.  The problem is that Ngwenya has never scored more than 7 goals in season (and that in 2005) and has 17 goals in 102 games as a MLS player.  Not exactly someone you expect to find the back of the net regularly.  Ngwenya is not exactly an assist man either, with a staggering 8 in 102 games.  Wolff has in the past gotten a 10 goal season, most recently in 2009 for what is now Sporting KC.   He could, in theory do it again.

Here is the problem with both Wolff and Ngwenya--age.  They are 33 and 29 respectively.  While certainly not ready to be put out to pasture, there are some problems here.  Yes, Hernandez is young (24), but didn't exactly connect in his first season.  Perhaps now with an off season and training camp to settle in a bit better and find a role, Hernandez may make the step up.  I hope so because this position is still a bit shallow.

Could DC United use their second round draft pick on a striker?  Possible, this year's pool is heavy on midfielders and strikers, but I am thinking another international is more likely.

Right now, DC United have 22 First Team players, which means they have 8 slots including 6 developmental positions to fill.  With developmental players limited to 24 as the age cap, youth will come there and they will get regular minutes with the Reserve team.

With this roster though, Ben Olsen has a choice to make, does he go with a 3-5-2 like Tommy Soehn played, a more traditional 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1.  The latter two are the most likely, with a possible 4-4-1-1.

I could see a 4-4-2 like this:


But a 4-4-1-1 would look a bit different


But right now, I think, given the shakiness of DC United's back line last year, with this group of players, you will most likely see a 4-2-3-1


Tactically, you might see an asymmetric tilt to the left to give Najar some room to run and let Boskovic roam as he sees fit.  

The roster shuffle will continue until pre-season training, but right now, I am not happy with the movement.  The back line is still skaky, with only Ethan White adding some backbone.  While I think he can do it, I am not sure it is enough reinforcement.  Also, Olsen & Co. need to find a goal-scorer, even a basic fox in the box goal scorer will be helpful.  So far, I don't see DC United making a serious playoff push with this squad, although they almost certainly have to improve on last year's dismal failure.

United Send Perkins to Portland For Cronin

The roster reshuffle continues for DC United as they send Goalkeeper Troy Perkins to Portland in exchange for Goalkeeper Steve Cronin and some allocation money.

Cronin has appeared for the Black and Red before in 2009 on a loan from Portland and started two games, ending one with a shutout.  Cronin spent last year with Portland in USSF-2.

Last season for Portland, Cronin racked up a lot of shutouts and have a pretty small goals against average.  Perkins on the other hand struggled mightily.  But in Perkins defense, not everything was his fault as he was playing behind a pretty poor back line.  The entire DC United defense leaked goals like a rusty freighter, so it is difficult to hang the fault on Perkins.  But when he is carrying a guaranteed salary of $200,000 (and Cronin sure to be less), the writing may have been on the wall to ship Perkins to clear some cap space.

Perkins, who is still young for a keeper, may find a resurgence in Portland--I hope so, he is a quality goalkeeper who just had a bad year.

The test for Cronin will be a) having a season in MLS as strong as his last season in Portland and b) fending off a challenge for the starting slot from young Bill Hamid, who impressed many people last season.  Cronin was a quality starter for the L.A. Galaxy in the past and probably fell victim to the dominance that is Donovan Ricketts.  I am glad to see Cronin return to DC on a permanent basis.

Dec 9, 2010

Goff Talks DC United Roster

D.C. United's roster is a work in progress to say the least. With only two additions in Dax McCarty and Joseph Ngwenya and a host of losses over the close season, Ben Olsen, Dave Kaspar and Kevin Payne have a lot of work to do in the next six weeks before the opening of training camp.

There are two areas in which DC has to put some attention--defense, particularly in the fullback areas, and striker. With the loss of Jordon Graye (eh) and Rodney Wallace (ouch), the Black and Red don't have any real quality fullbacks. Devon McTavish and Marc Burch can do the job but I just don't see them as a long term solution. Can Olsen find a quality fullback in the draft? I hope so.

Looking at Ives Galarcep's Big Board 2.0 and DC United's 3rd pick in the first round, Akron's Kofi Sarkodie is the best choice, but will Sarkodie come out. If Akron wins the College Cup--probably. As an underclassman, Sarkodie would likely be a Generation Addidas Player and thus salary cap exempt. DC could also take another Akron defender and U-20 MNT player Zarek Valentin. Valentin is also likely to be a Generation Addidas player.

The challenging part is that DC United then don't have a draft pick until the 34th pick in the second round. Could they take a striker then? DC would almost have to, given the lack of striking talent on the roster, but they could look elsewhere. Is there another Andy Najar in the Academy team? I don't think so. So that means looking outside the organization.

As far as trades, I don't see much in the way of trade bait to get either higher draft picks or allocation money for the purpose of acquiring players.

Dec 7, 2010

The January Camp

December has barely begun, but the speculation machine is getting geared up for the January Men's National Team Camp.  Who will Bob Bradley call in?  Who will get snubbed?  Who, who, who?

Okay, if others are going to speculate, I might as well also.  Let me say who won't be called in:  Anyone whose club team is in season, in pre-season (Mexico) or injured.  What does that mean--MLS and Scandanavia for the most part, of course that is not that surprising.

The January camp is about the future and finding some depth for the USMNT bench.  Let's face it, unless your name is Landon Donovan or Brian Ching, the chances of an MLSer finding regular starts with the MNT is pretty remote.  So what Bob Bradley does with the MNT January Camp is find a few more players who might make the jump to the more normal national team pool. 

With a friendly scheduled against Chile--a team that is very attack minded--I think Bradley will focus on the midfield and strikers and play it pretty safe with the back line.  Bradley put together a very experimental squad for the Nelson Mandela Challenge last month.  I know I was worried about Bradley's willingness to experiment and the January camp will give us another opportunity to see if Bradley is going to be wed to his previous starters or if he is going to continue looking to the future.

Here is who I think gets called in and some possible alternates for each line:


This position will be like just four guys, but I could see some additional young players called in for training time, even if they won't see the playing pitch.
Nick Rimando--he may be the smallest goalkeeper in any professional league, but you can't escape the fact that he commands the box and is a quality shot stopper.
Jon Busch-- Another small keeper, I was shocked when he was let go by Chicago and happy for him when he won the starting nod in San Jose.  Busch is a quality keeper and a smart one too. 
Sean Johnson--Chicago's rookie keeper, I didn't expect to see him this year, but when he played he played well.  He is currently getting time with the Generation Addidas team in Spain.
Zach McMath--McMath will not be in college (U. of Maryland is closed in January) and won't be with the U-20s.  Do I expect McMath to get minutes?  Nope, but Bradley will look at him. 

Fringe Candidates:
Troy Perkins--after a horrific season and a forgettable 2009 Gold Cup Final, Perkins' confidence might need a boost.  He is a quality keeper in a bad patch of form and playing his club ball behind a shockingly poor back line. 
Matt Pickens--he came back to the MLS two years ago and has posted some quality numbers.  He is certainly on the radar and is young enough to be a contributor over the long haul.
Tyler Deric--the former Houston Dynamo academy product saw a couple of starts for the Dynamo and could be a young gun who is called in.  He has looked sharp and shaky at times.  Still a kid, he could be called in as a training partner if nothing else.

Chris Seitz--after being touted as a potential MNT keeper for the future, I just don't see his development right now as worthy of a call in.  Maybe Peter Nowak can bring him along better.
Kevin Hartman--this not a snub for poor form or being old and Hartman's season was certainly worthy of a call up, I could see Bradley not calling him in to allow Hartman's knee to heal.  I could also see Hartman declining for the same reason. 


Bradley is going to have a solid mix of veterans to provide leadership and up and coming MLSers to test. 

Jay DeMerit--since he hasn't played all season since Watford let him go and recently signing with Vancouver, look for the solid veteran to wear the captain's armband for Bradley.  Leadership, experience and strength are all upsides.
Clarence Goodson--I am calling Goodson the late bloomer.  He is one of the few experienced center backs for the U.S. who is as comfortable with the ball at his feet as he is winning the ball.  Great positioning, smart defending and a real scoring threat on set pieces.  Goodson has earned his spot through discipline and hard work.
Omar Gonzalez--could he be the future of the national team center defense.  A lot of people think so, but he is still prone to ghastly positioning mistakes.  Sure he is dominant in the air, both on offense and defense, but he will need a partner with solid positioning skills.
A.J. De La Garza--he could be the perfect partner for Gonzalez in the center, but I see De La Garza more at full back.  His flexibility at both centerback and fullback make him a valuable player.  He is not an attacking fullback though and that could be a hindrance for his MNT career.
Bobby Convey--in the search for a quality, attacking left back, the former national teamer could be the answer for Bradley.  Whether Convey can make his way back into the National Team pool remains to be seen, but with few options at left back, Bradley can't afford not to take Convey after the 2010 season Convey had.  A true attacking left back, Convey also showed that he can defend and play midfield if necessary.
Tim Ream-- another player like Clarence Goodson, great with the ball at his feet, and solid in the air.  My knock on Ream is pace and positioning.  Positioning will come with experience and Ream has shown that he learns from his mistakes.
Marvell Wynne--Wynne was on the radar a couple of years ago, but fell off due to poor MNT form.  With pace aplenty and a resurgence as a centerback, Wynne is definitely back on the radar.  He is a burly fellow with lots of strength to go with his speed, but doesn't display the same comfort on the ball as other candidates.  If he can improve his crossing, Wynne could be a dangerous right back.
George John--what a season this young man had, even the bad luck in the MLS Cup Final cannot detract from his steady play.  A smart defender who doesn't get caught ball watching like a lot of young defenders he could find his way onto the fringes of the MNT.  Not a full time starter, but certainly in the mix.
Kevin Alston--New England has another shocker of a season but Alston was one of the few bright spots for the Revolution.  I am not sure he is ready for the jump to the big time, but is worth a look.
Heath Pearce--the journeyman 26 year old was at one point Bob Bradley's go-to left back and could be again.  The only question is whether Pearce will be healthy enough to train and play--if so you will see Pearce at the camp.
Michael Parkhurst--veteran MLS player, solid positioning and not a great deal of drama from the former Revolution centerback.

Sean Franklin--the former MLS Rookie of the Year looks a good candidate at times and with the dearth of quality fullbacks, could see a call up.  Franklin just hasn't impressed me in the past two years the way he should if he is going to be a national team fixture. 
Nat Borchers--a solid center back, but with the depth that the U.S. has in that position, I don't see him breaking into regular rotation on the squad.  When Agboussomonde, Gooch, Bocanegra and potentially Jonathan Spector not included along with the guys listed above--I just don't see much room for Borchers.
Ike Opara--injuries keep him on the fringe list.  If healthy and ready to train, I could definitely see a call up, but that is a big if.
Zach Loyd--the FC Dallas rookie looked good at times and perhaps has the MNT potential.  A call up is not out of the question, but minutes on the pitch probably is at this point.

Chad Marshall--injuries and poor form plagued the two time MLS Defender of the year.  Given the other options at centerback for Bradley to explore, Marshall will be sitting at home in January.


Alejandor Bedoya--barring injury, he is a lock to spend some time in Southern Cali.  He is more or less a fixture for the regular squad and getting more time will help him.
Benny Feilhaber--Feilhaber needs to step up his game a little for Bob Bradley or find himself on the fringe list soon.  He has loads of potential, but just can't seem to tap into it.
Dax McCarty--the little ginger really grew into his own this year with FC Dallas-despite his clashes with Schellas Hyndman.  A fixture on youth national teams, another good year for McCarty could see his move to Europe soon.
Geoff Cameron--an unlucky injury early in the season saw him riding the pine a fair bit, but once he recovered, he put in very good time for U.S.  Given the depth at the defensive/holding midfielder position, Cameron might want to think about competing for centerback or improve his distribution skills to the point that Bradley can't ignore him for regular squad inclusion.
Jeff Lawrentowicz--in my mind, the Man of the Match for the MLS Cup Final.  Solid leadership, cool head, deadly on the tackle and good passing make MLS journeyman one to pick.
Mikkel Diskerud--Mix showed what he could do in South Africa.  Could Diskerud be the playmaker Bob Bradley needs?  Maybe, and he will get a chance to prove it.
Kyle Beckerman--Beckerman is coming to the end of his national team window.  He will get called in for experience and leadership, but while he is still a quality MLS holding midfielder--he won't make the leap to national team regular.
Robbie Rogers--a good wing midfielder, he will need to improve his defensive tracking back and his crossing if he wants to see any time. 
Brek Shea--for me Shea is the most frustrating pool player right now.  Flashes of brilliance followed by stretches of mediocrity.  While still young, Shea is in danger of becoming an Eddie Gaven, a young player with lots of promise at the youth level who never really lives up to the potential.
Eric Avila--lots of promise, lots of pace and good skills.  Is he a national teamer?  I am not sure, but he is worth a look.

Logan Pause--got called into South African squad--did okay, but with Beckerman, McCarty, Lawrentowicz, and Cameron available, he is just not good enough.
Brian Carroll--ditto on from Pause
Freddy Adu--not getting playing time, not getting a club, not getting any younger.  Could get called in so that if someone in the U.S. is willing to take a punt on him, they can look at him in camp.  Someone needs to smack him upside the head.
Eddie Gaven--never lived up to the early promise, but still a solid player.

Brad Evans--I like him, but he is not good enough.
Justin Mapp--despite a renaissance after his move to Philly, and his speed and workman like attitude, I don't think he showed enough to warrant a call up.
Santino Quaranta--I am enough of a DC United homer to want Tino called up--but he was mediocre at best last year, but then again, so was all of DC United save Andy Najar-who can't get a call up.


As much as I would like to say there will be surprises here, there won't be.

Conor Casey--a bruiser to be sure, but he can do something that most of the players on this list can't, hold the ball up, take a beating like Brian Ching, and play with his back to goal.  He never shows the skill of Brian McBride, but he does the dirty work--oh and he tracks back to defend.  If he could run faster and score more goals, he would be Bob Bradley's dream striker.
Juan Agudelo--how do you not call this kid up.  He is exciting to watch, but didn't do as well at the U-20 Tourney in Georgia as I would have liked.  He still has a lot to learn, but can be a real game changer with his nose for goal.
Teal Bunbury--showed some flair, showed some good off the ball movement and has skill.  Needs to work on that first touch to hold the ball a little better, but worth a look.
Justin Braun--top goal scorer for the second worst team in MLS last year.  A poacher and quite frankly we need a goal poacher who will sit in the penalty area and feed off the scraps.
Edson Buddle--yeah he has disappointed at the international level, but who else are you going to call.
Chris Wondolowski--how does Bob Bradley not call in the the MLS golden boot winner?  He can't, but that is probably the only reason Wondolowski is going to be there. 

Brian Ching--could the veteran take teh call from Bradley and have a last hurrah for the Gold Cup next year?  Maybe but not being taken to South Africa might sting for Ching.
Jack McInerney--true his is a project that Thomas Rongen didn't even call for the U-20 Tournament in Georgia--but he is something like Justin Braun--a kid with a nose for goal and the fearlessness to take the chances.
Chad Barrett--previously looked at by Bradley, but not sure if he is international quality--even on a B team level.
Tristen Bowen--the L.A. Galaxy forward could get a call up.  When Buddle was in South Africa, Bowen did a bang up job.  Got the call up to the U-20 tournament, not a great showing but not a bad one either.  Needs help on his first touch, but has the finishing skills.
Fuad Ibrahim--a U-20 player, the Toronto FC striker is young, pacy and been struggling in obscurity at BMO field. 

Robbie Findley--looked poor in South Africa at the World Cup and looked poor there last month.  Bob Bradley should put Findley last on his list and call him only if everyone else says no or gets injured.

So there it is.  Bradley's got a slightly better pool of potential players this year than in past camps.  As the quality of player in MLS improves and the MLS academy players begin making their way to the first team and even reserve games, the depth of the player pool will improve.  There is enough potential experimentation in this group of players that will make people like me happier, but there is enough veteran leadership and experience to help the young players along and give Bob Bradley some comfort.

Dec 3, 2010

Special 1 TV--Sven's apoplectic and Arsene Calls in to Gloat

Oh, and Mr. Alex calls in on his 4-0 loss, and the Special 1 congratulates him.

"You're damn right I called in to gloat!"

Dec 1, 2010

Tomorrow is World Cup Bid Day

The muckety-mucks at FIFA will announce tomorrow which countries will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. will probably be carrying the announcements live on stream and Fox Soccer Channel will have a special airing at 10 am Eastern with the announcements at 11:00 am.

The U.S. was initially competing for the hosting of the 2018 World Cup but withdrew to focus on the 2022 World Cup.  In the end, that is a smart move since the U.S. 2018 World Cup bid was at best a long shot with the competition likely to held in Europe.  Since 1998, the World Cup was held in Europe (France 1998) Asia (South Korea-Japan-2002),  Germany (2006), Africa (South Africa-2010) and to be held in South America (Brazil 2014).  So it probably really is Europe's turn again.  England, Spain-Portugal, Russia, and Belgium-Netherlands are the four bids for 2018.  This one is hard to call and there have been allegations from Russia of dirty-dealing by the English Bid Committee (I know--backroom deals in FIFA--Perish the thought.  These FIFA guys make the Mafia looks respectable sometimes).  In reality, I would think the bid is between Spain-Portugal and England.  If the World Cup 2018 is in either country--my family had better get used to the fact that vacation will be there.  I have never attended a World Cup game outside the U.S. and I so very want to do so.

The 2022 bidders are a weaker lot with the strongest being Australia.  The others are Qatar and South Korea.  Given the events of the past week between North and South Korea, you can pretty much bet that the South Korean bid is done for (plus the fact that they hosted the event just 8 years ago).  Qatar has almost zeor infrastructure to host a World Cup.  Even if their claim of building air conditioned stadiums can be done, there is also the need for 32 world class training facilities, much more transportation infrastructure, nowhere near the number of hotel rooms and then there is the problem of the heat.  It is in the freaking desert, a place where 120 degree (F) heat is the norm in the summer.  That creates a small problem for FIFA, who in recent World Cups has been pressing organizers for the creation of "fan zones," gathering spaces for fans of the coutnries to gather in the event they can't get tickets to the match.  Even if the stadiums are air conditioned, I am pretty sure that fan zones won't be.

I worry most about the Australia bid.  The Australians hosted a brilliant Olympic games in 2000 and they certainly know how to host a world event.  The World Cup has never been held in Oceania (and Australia is probably the only nation there that could host a World Cup.  The Aussies are a charming lot, it is a wonderful country and to be frank, I wouldn't mind going to Australia for a World Cup.  They would need some stadium  upgrades, but they have built some nice new stadiums recently.  It is a big country to get around in and might need to transportation upgrades, but not on the scale of Qatar even though Qatar is something like a tenth the size of Australia.  The weather wouldn't be too much of a concern, although it would be another Winter World Cup.  (Technically, much of the Brazil 2014 competition will be technically in winter, but it is pretty close to the Equator).

The fact is, there is probably only three nations--maybe four--that could host a World Cup on short notice and that is the United States, Germany, and England.  South Africa, having just hosted the event could probably do it as well.  Add to the fact that the U.S. can boast 20 World Cup Class stadiums right now without having to lay another brick.  Movement around the U.S. is easy, swift and relatively cheap.  Each city which could host a World Cup match can also host twice as many fans in hotel rooms in each site.  You want fan zones, we can put fan zones all over the place and it is safe, reasonably secure.

I am excited and I think the U.S. has to be in the driver's seat for 2022.

Maryland Men Continue March to College Cup

A superb strike from sophomore Taylor Kemp gets the late win over Penn State.