Friday, September 12, 2008

USA vs. T&T: Sanford's Match Report

It was a breath of fresh air (literally) to be back in Chicago on Wednesday. After months of humidity in the Southeast, the cool and dry air of the Windy City offered a welcome respite. Since there is no viable public transport from downtown to Bridgeview, we were forced to battle the rush-hour traffic out to the stadium. Upon arrival, my mates and I quickly set up camp outside Toyota Park. It’s fantastic that there is a soccer-specific stadium in town, and that the Fire have their own home to generate some income, but tailgating in the lot outside The Yoda is a far cry from lakeside at Soldier Field. Nonetheless, as the Old Style flowed and the sausage grilled, those concerns were forgotten and I began to focus on the match.

Thanks to Bobbie’s ticket allocation scheme, we had some fine seats. For some reason, they switched the team benches and they were on the far side of the pitch, but otherwise all was well with our position slightly north of midfield.

It was a joy to see Bocanegra lead the side out, and to have Beasley, Bob Bradley and Peter Nowak all in the mix. Ten years on from the Fire’s inaugural season, the MLS side’s impact on the national team is obvious.

Bob started with Ching up front, Lando supporting, and Deuce and The Kid on the wings. Kljestan and miniBradley were in the middle, and the backline consisted of Boca, Gooch, Cherundolo and Pearce.

The U.S. quickly established control of the match and had the opener within 10 minutes. Landycakes took a free-kick and miniBradley finished with a deft flick off the outside of his boot to get the Yanks off the mark. The goal did little to change T&T’s play, however, and they sat way back in their half and allowed miniBradley and Beasley to have loads of time on the ball. miniBradley set the tempo, pulling the strings from up top and making crucial interceptions on the rare occasions the U.S. lost possession. Some nice interplay between Deuce and Beasley led to another goal, and even Brian Ching couldn’t miss when presented with his chance around the 60 minute mark to kill the game off. The Soca Warriors enjoyed a decent spell at the beginning of the second half but the result of the match was never in doubt.

Overall, it was the performance the team needed and the fans expected. Speaking of fans, allow me to digress and voice my utter disappointment at the turnout. The announced attendance for the match was under 12,000. That’s just sad. I understand it was a 7pm kick-off on a Wednesday but 12,000 fans for a national team world cup qualifying game? It's not like it was a friendly or anything. And the opposition shouldn't matter -- the guys should have more support. It’s really poor and to make matters worse Bobbie pointed out that the Fire usually draw more. I for one found my trip to see the lads in the flesh for the first time since their loss to Ghana in Nürnburg more than worthwhile, and I had to take a flight! I know there are plenty of fans in the Chicagoland area. So where were they?

Back to the team. Brian Ching is a poor-man’s Brian McBride but his presence can be useful. He is big and physical and opens things up for his teammates. I just can’t see him making the squad for 2010, not with guys like Altidore and Cooper waiting in the wings. Eddie Johnson came off the bench was a pathetic. I have no idea why Bob keeps picking this guy. Let him prove he can do the business in Cardiff and then invite him back. In the meantime, his international career needs to be put on hold.

Our defense looked pretty damn solid. The Onyewu/Bocanegra pairing is good and Cherundolo’s massive experience is a boon on the wing. I’m still not convinced by Heath Pearce, but he didn’t make too many glaring errors in this contest. And I know Landon is less effective on the wing, but he is one of the best crossers on the team, and fed some lovely balls into the area from the wide position. Until we find a true wide man for the right side, he and Deuce should continue to share that role. Finally, it was a real pleasure to see Beasley in action. He seemed to have a bit of that spark back, and I’m hopeful he can keep his injury problems in the closet for the coming campaign with Rangers. When he’s in the mood he can be a game changer, and we need more players to take the pressure off Donovan in terms of on-field playmaking.

It was a fantastic 24 hours in the Windy City. I’m not sure when I’ll see the Nats again, but when I do, I hope I’ll see Altidore and Adu.

AIG Better Watch Out If Premiership Jinx Continues

It's long been observed that the companies that sponsor American sports stadiums tend to soon fall on hard times. It looks like the sponsors of British soccer clubs, who get their names plastered on uniforms, may be suffering that same fate.


England: EPL Previews & Predictions

Manchester United's trip to Anfield is the top fixure (Torres & Gerrard are fit) while the clash between Manchester City and Chelsea is also of great interest. Thank God the international break is over...

Premier League Back With A Bang

General Preview

Team News

Nick Webster's Predictions

Lawro's Predictions

Italy: Serie A Preview

Inter, Juventus, Milan and Roma are all still looking for their first victory of the campaign...


Spain: La Liga Weekend Preview

Numancia try to upset Real Madrid after knocking off Barcelona...


The Joy of Six: Big Money Debuts

With Robinho and Dimitar Berbatov set to play for their new clubs this weekend, here are six starts to remember.

2010 World Cup Qualifying: USA 3 - 0 Trinidad & Tobago

Jeff Carlisle:
U.S. Discovers Offensive Touch

Ives Galarcep:
Five Things to Note

Jeff Carlisle:
Beasley Looks Like His Old Self

Martin Rogers:

American Youth Must Be Served

Thursday, September 11, 2008

2010 World Cup Qualifying: Croatia 1 - 4 England

John Brewin:
England's win bears the hallmarks of classic Capello

Beckham and broken stud led to goal spree

Richard Williams:
Fabio Capello's faith in Theo Walcott transformed England's weather-beaten canvas into a lustrous work of art.

Unhappy Argentina seem to be stuck in a rut

Argentina's talent-laden team remained inexplicably stuck in a rut after Wednesday's 1-1 stalemate in Peru, their fourth successive World Cup qualifying draw and their fifth match without a win.

Dunga's head back on the block after new flop

Devoid of ideas and creativity, Brazil were held to a goalless World Cup qualifying draw at home to a 10-man Bolivia team which had shipped 16 goals in losing their previous four away games.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sanford in Chicago

I'll be in Chicago tonight for the U.S versus T&T match. As a result, I won't be posting tomorrow but will be back on Friday with a match report and regular service. -Sanford

2010 World Cup Qualifying: U.S. looks to take advantage of home setting

Who: US v. Trinidad and Tobago
What: World Cup 2010 qualifying, CONCACAF semifinal round, Group A
When: 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview Ill.
TV: ESPN 2 and Galavision

Jeff Carlisle:
Home may be where heart resides, but when the U.S. men's national team hosts Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2), the Yanks will be hoping it's where a few other things can be found as well. Like some goals, not to mention more consistency in attack, and, oh yeah, their third consecutive World Cup qualifying win in this semifinal round.

Stadium delay puts Liverpool on dead-end street

Failure to begin building in Stanley Park hurts residents of run-down Anfield as well as damaging top-four hopes.

Still just a dream...

CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Group Previews

Costa Rica coach Hernan Medford looks set to lead his team to a third straight win, against Haiti, practically putting the Ticos into the next round. Meanwhile, Honduras and Jamaica look to get their qualifying campaign back on track.

2010 World Cup Qualifying: Ghosts of past haunt France and England

Memories of England's sole triumph are sepia-tinted in going back to 1966 - but at least they picked up three points, albeit at the expense of little Andorra, in their opening game, while a directionless France were capitulating 3-1 in Austria.


Phil McNulty: Capello at Home in Hostile Zagreb

Zagreb's Maksimir Stadium is 96 years old and looks its age - an unwelcoming hotch-potch of concrete, glass and rust that exudes hostility even when it is almost deserted.

Croatians Taunt English Opposition

Croatian stars Stipe Pletikosa and Vedran Corluka have spoken ahead of the visit of England on Wednesday evening, saying that the Vatreni will capitalise on the Three Lions' fear...

"The Premier League is supposed to be the best league in the world but none of the players show that when they pull on an England shirt. They are not together."

World War II Bomb Causes Serie B Postponement

This weekend’s Serie B game between Salernitana and Frosinone has been postponed following the discovery of an unexploded World War II bomb.

2010 World Cup Qualifying: Argentina in danger of slipping behind leading pair

Argentina could slip behind Paraguay and Brazil in this week’s South American World Cup qualifiers after a tricky visit to Peru. Paraguay and Brazil have straightforward ties at home to Venezuela and Bolivia respectively while Argentina, without a win in their last four qualifiers, have been hit by suspensions, injuries and a possible crisis of confidence.

Derby Anxious To Avoid Unwanted Milestone

Derby County, currently propping up the Championship table with a solitary point from four games, are fast approaching an unwanted anniversary

God is not listening to Ned...

The Joy of Six: Bogey Teams

As England prepare for another defeat to Croatia, here are half a dozen teams that really got under the skin of others.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Soul of Aston Villa in 50 Moments

They were there when it all began and are still blazing a claret and blue trail 134 years later. Richard Whitehead selects 50 men and moments in the life story of Aston Villa.

33 Founding the Football League

True fact – football would be dead now if it were not for the Villa. The game would have gone the way of other fleetingly popular pastimes like shove ha’penny or hopscotch if a Villa man had not taken a hand. William McGregor, a Scot on the Villa committee, could see that, while fans still flocked to FA Cup games, they were becoming tired of the friendlies that filled the majority of Saturdays. McGregor thought it would be better if the leading clubs met each other regularly on a home and away basis and the Football League, formed in 1888, was his brilliant brainchild. Like so many ideas born in Victorian Britain, it was copied all over the world and still forms the bedrock of the game. And it’s all thanks to the Villa.

Injured Essien faces long lay-off

Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien has been ruled out for "several months" after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, the club has announced.

Furious Mourinho Drops South American Quartet

Inter boss Jose Mourinho is absolutely enraged over the international commitments of his South American players and, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport, is refusing to play any of them in the weekend’s Serie A clash against Catania.

Hyypia shocked after Champions League snub

Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia has admitted he faces an uncertain future at Anfield after being left out of the club's 25-man Champions League squad.

Top Twenty Transfers Of The Summer - Final

Now that the transfer window has well and truly closed, will list of the final, definitive, absolute top twenty transfers of the summer. In this edition, we consider all moves officially concluded by the start of Monday, 8 September 2008...

20. Andriy Shevchenko
(Chelsea to AC Milan)
Last Week: 18

After two seasons of mediocrity at Chelsea, the Ukrainian is back at his spiritual home. Nonetheless this is a considerable gamble for the rossoneri: with a full complement of fit strikers, a Shevchenko who cannot hit form may warm the bench. On the other hand his return - even as a 30-year-old - could signal a goalscoring comeback unseen in Serie A since... well, since Andriy Shevchenko.

Jonathan Wilson in Romania

Coach Victor Piturca is suddenly under pressure after his depleted side's humiliation in Cluj at the weekend.

Lithuania drubbing exposes Romanian discord.

Jozy Finds Net Three Times In Debut

In an extremely impressive debut, 18-year old American striker Jozy Altidore scored a hat-trick for Villarreal in their friendly with San Rafael at the weekend.

West Ham trim their shortlist down to Zola

Zola has emerged as the London club's preferred candidate ahead of the former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni and, with personal terms having effectively been agreed, confirmation of his appointment as West Ham's first foreign manager could be made later today.

Norman Hubbard: Curbishley and Keegan must shoulder some blame

It is the board's fault. It is the director of football's fault. It is the players' fault. Now, it appears, when a manager departs, everyone is to blame bar the exiting boss himself. It is enough to induce feelings of nostalgia for the more innocent times when one man could be the scapegoat. In the cases of Alan Curbishley and Kevin Keegan, the unholy trinity of overpaid footballers, meddling directors and interfering executives with newly-created positions have played their part. But so have Keegan and Curbishley themselves.

Richard Williams on Joe Cole

Persistent failure to value Cole leaves England short-changed.

Midfielder has never been fully appreciated by club or country.

Monday, September 08, 2008

United game 'too soon' for Gerrard's Liverpool return

"Over the last couple of years we've gone into games against United and Chelsea very organised tactically - defensive if you like - and still lost 1-0. Have the same sound defence and show more bollocks going forward, and it could be 1-0 to us.

Tim Vickery in South America

What's wrong with Argentina?

Absolutely nothing...

Sid Lowe in Spain

The Euro 2008 win means Spain's fans aren't panicking despite Vicente del Bosque's unimpressive competitive debut as manager.

Spain's slow start draws few complaints.

Richard Williams: Walcott makes right-wing statement

The sense of adventure Theo Walcott brought to the England team was in marked contrast to the general stodginess.

Barton receives 12-match ban for Dabo assault

Newcastle United midfielder Joey Barton has been banned for 12 games, six of them suspended, for attacking a team mate while at former club Manchester City.

Barton received his punishment, which takes immediate effect, at a Football Association disciplinary hearing on Friday after admitting a charge of violent conduct against Ousmane Dabo. He was also fined 25,000 pounds.

2010 World Cup Qualifying Wrap: Euro Powers Flat

Unconvincing wins for Italy, England, Spain and Portugal were all overshadowed Saturday when France started its attempt to qualify for the 2010 World Cup with a humbling 3-1 defeat at Austria.

Heinze and Tevez in the doghouse after comedy of errors

Carlos Tevez and his former Manchester United team mate Gabriel Heinze were both in the doghouse on Sunday after a comedy of errors in the first half of Argentina’s 1-1 draw at home to Paraguay.

French soccer has the blues after 3-1 loss

The pressure is building on France coach Raymond Domenech after a humiliating 3-1 loss to Austria gave Les Bleus a dismal start in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

Brazil beat Chile to ease pressure on Dunga

Brazil gave beleaguered coach Dunga some much-needed respite by making light of a Ronaldinho penalty miss to beat Chile 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Sunday.

Well, hello there, Brazilian fans...

U.S. grinds out solid road win against Cuba

If it wasn't an overly impressive performance from the Yanks, it was a thoroughly professional and effective one. Most importantly, it gave the U.S. its second straight road win to open the tricky semifinal stage of CONCACAF qualifying.

Cuba 0 - 1 U.S.

Dempsey goal is the difference