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Monday, April 21, 2014

No love for Moyes at Manchester United

 Photo credit: Belfast Telegraph

It seemed inevitable, perhaps that this would happen. Reports are now calling for David Moyes to be ousted as manager of famed club Manchester United. Was this necessary?

The way the 2013-2014 campaign has gone for Manchester United is so far below the expected that it would seem unfair, to some extent, to continue with the same manager at the helm. Early exit from the FA Cup, no semifinal in the Champions League, not even a chance of a place in next year's continental tournament just scream one thing: Change.

What went so wrong for Moyes? Respect. Where Ferguson had the world as a fan, Moyes only had half a city and some dispersed fans, including Landon Donovan. His tactics were also much more defensive and non-inventive in nature, as was his desire for change within the club.

And where other new managers have thrived in their inheritance of great clubs, i.e. Guardiola with Barcelona, Moyes failed to deliver early on. This, perhaps, marked his eventual form throughout a tournament that saw high-flying Liverpool and a resurgent Arsenal (at least in the early half of the season).

What's next for Manchester United if Moyes's departure does transpire? Ryan Giggs might just be what the team needs. His interim status might be turned permanent if he is willing/able to bring some results to the table.

In the end it is a bit sad that Moyes could not continue Manchester United's long life as a perennial victor. It could have been the cruelty of statistics or the reality of personal inability. Either it was time for the legendary to club to fall from grace as Liverpool did a few years back or it simply wasn't Moyes's job to be the chosen one from the start.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Which forwards will Klinsmann take to World Cup 2014?

Photo credit: USA Today
Juergen Klinsmann has an interesting predicament: the stable of US National Team forwards is considerably deep. The coach will have to think long and hard about his core of players and it's fair to question the pros and cons of possible selections.

1. Altidore
Jozy is all but assured a place on the plane ride to Brazil. This in spite of a horrific year with Sunderland of the Premier League. Altidore has shown that he is a hold-up forward, a target forward, and a power forward. These traits are tough to match and no other striker in the US pool exists that has them all.

2. Aron Johannsson
Johannsson came into the race for a spot in Brazil relatively late. But he did so in style. The Mobile, Alabama-born Icelandian-American chose to represent the USA late last summer. He rewarded the Americans with speed and excellent timing and a goal versus Panama that gave the US another win of the Hexagonal in qualifying. Not to mention he has scored 20 goals in 25 goals in all competitions for AZ Alkmaar this season. Barring an injury, Klinsmann can hardly afford not to take him.

3. Eddie Johnson
The DC United man has lost his scoring touch lately and this might figure into his calling to training camp for the final 30. Still, Johnson was pivotal in the 2014 qualifying campaign and moments such as the goal versus Mexico in Columbus are not easy to forget. 

4. Chris Wondolowski
Wondolowski is a poacher. He has shown it time and again for San Jose and he has continued to show it for the national team. Wondo has scored 9 goals in his last 10 appearances for Team USA. Hard to argue against that. He is, at the moment, an ace in the hole, a supersub, a game changer.

5. Terrence Boyd
Boyd has been a bit of an enigma. While he has impressed during his time as a starter with Rapid Wien, his national team record is quite incomplete. Boyd just hasn't had enough chances in front of goal because he hasn't had enough chances to be on the pitch to begin with. The same can't be said for any other name on this page. The last trully exceptional moment he had was a pass that led to Michael Orozco's goal in a win versus Mexico at the Azteca. 22 goals in 54 games for Rapid is also impressive, but does that make him a worthy inclusion in the final 23 to Brazil?

Right now it's clear that, given this group, both Agudelo and Herculez Gomez would miss the cut. Agudelo has scored only two goals in a half season with Utrecht. Herculez has not recovered in form after his injury and can be all but counted out. Let's also remember that both Donovan and Dempsey, and to some extent even Julian Green could be classified and played as forwards. Where does that leave the final 3-4 striker selections?

Only four forwards will make it to Brazil. And that assumes Dempsey counted as a midfielder. Wondolowski and Johannsson are in form goalscorers, but they don't match up physically against Ghana or Germany. Altidore and Johnson are the best the US has when in form, athletic and inventive, but can we afford to start them given their lack of clarity in front of goal at the moment?

Klinsmann and the US forward pool is at a crossroads at the moment. This is not Bob Bradley's 4-4-2 squad with speed and strength at the forward flank. This team is about possession and holding the ball, and only one striker is needed for that. Right now it's still Altidore's job to lose, for better or worse. If we want to see Wondolowski and Johannsson deployed then the upcoming friendlies should give us a taste.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thanks, DCU fans

Today I had a true DC United experience. The fans were loud, the streets were clogged, the drinks were cold. And I realized the value of the 12th man in this city. From kids to grandparents, Barra Brava to the casual fan. Thanks for the memories and I hope to write more about the team in the future.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Observations following USA's tie versus Mexico in Phoenix

Photo credit: azcentral.com
Ian Darke put it well. At the half, Klinsmann's Team USA looked to be playing some of the best soccer under the current coach. They were sharp, they scored, they defended. Second half, however, was all Mexico. 2-2.

Bradley rules the midfield
Michael Bradley showed again why he was playing for Roma in the Serie A. He was fearless in defense and inventive and powerful in attack. He scored the first and assisted beautifully on the second goal. Without him Team USA will not stand a chance at the World Cup.

Wondolowski is our striker
For all the doubters of San Jose's great forward, today should have put a final seal on their arguments. Wondo can score internationally and he can do so well. He was active, even if with a lack of flair, but he was a poacher and scored the second goal. That's all that counts at the World Cup.

Back line not quite there yet
Do they need Evans and Cameron? Perhaps Fabian Johnson? And how does the best defender, and DP of the LA Galaxy leave Rafa Marquez alone in the box? Gonzalez left much to be desired today and not just on that play.

No Donovan, no problem
Injury or lack of form could make America's most talented soccer player a bench warmer. It happened today and what happened to the team? Nothing. In fact, they fared quite well, actually. Zusi picked up the slack and connected well with Beltran in the 4-4-2. But Donovan did inject an extra dimension when he came on board. So don't count him out yet. 

Yedlin in, Green not ready yet
Tonight was Julian Green's chance to make noise in the international scene and possibly book a trip to Brazil. He may yet, but only if the  U-23 team makes it to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Green was nervous tonight and made several mistakes. Rookie mistakes, yes. But he's no amazing prodigy for the news media to fall in love with. Not yet. Yedlin, however, was something else. He defended well and his darting runs forward undid the Mexican left flank several times. I would book Yedlin ahead of many others on the way to Brazil.

We need Europe
Finally, yes, our players abroad very much have a say in this team. While the first half may have made us pause with a razor-sharp game, the second half was flat and without answers to Mexico's changing tactics. This is where players like Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, Mix Diskerud, Geoff Cameron and Aaron Johannsson come in. They belong in this squad and make us better. Without them the group of death might as well be called the death sentence.