Brave New World for US Soccer

•June 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Conventional wisdom says the Miracle on Ice was a massive upset of epic proportions but if the US Men’s National Soccer team beats Brazil for the 2009 Confederations Cup Final Sunday, it will be a far bigger win on many fronts.

The Olympic hockey team that beat the Soviet Union might not have matched up against their opponents on paper but they had something our men’s soccer team has never had – a nation that backed them up and rooted for them. Teams love to invoke the us against the world but Coach Bob Bradley and his squad will fight Brazil on the field and apathy, and antagonism from soccer haters back in the States. 

Folowing the historic win against world ranked number one, Spain the argument was that it was nice but it changed nothing. Soccer was and will continue to be a nothing sport in America. Sports fans have it beaten into their heads. Don’t believe your lying eyes when you see 90 minutes of riveting action soccer action as the Spaniards were denied by Tim Howard and his wall of defenders. Charlatans like Jim Rome who spew venom towards soccer curiously hated NASCAR on the same level as until his marketing people took him aside telling him massive numbers of race car fans had grown tired of their sport being ridiculed as “Neckcar”. Rome, ever the media whore suddenly had a revelation, discovering how cool the sport was.

US Soccer will emerge from this tournament with new found respect simply by beating Spain and avoiding a major beating by Brazil. If the US follows the same game plan that beat Spain, Brazil will be hard pressed to replicate the 3-0 win over the US in group play. Landon Donavan and Clint Dempsey did a splendid job taking up deep defensive positions on the wings cutting off most of Spain’s service to forwards Fernando Torres and David Villa. Michael Bradley will miss the final after his late red card but Benny Feilhaber is a capable deputy.

The key will be for the US to not concede a cheap early goal and stay in the game until Brazil’s defense can be exploited. Nor can they foul deep in their half as South Africa discovered. It will take tons of hard work and more than a little luck. Brazil can be scored on as Egypt proved by posting a three spot on them in the opener.

Winning won’t turn America into a soccer nation overnight but I strongly suspect the main reason soccer doesn’t get more respect is that the men’s program hasn’t produced a team capable of winning on the big stage. Ninety minutes in South Africa could go a long way to changing that. 

Robert Woodard is the author of Black People Don’t Play Soccer?: Unlocking American Soccer’s Secret Weapon, a visionary look at the future of American soccer. BPDPS is a compelling analysis of African-Americans and soccer with the bonus of historical accounts of soccer’s development in the US and an encyclopedia of players of African descent around the world. Take a look inside the book at www.blackpeopledontplaysoccer.com

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USA USA USA! Down Goes Spain!

•June 25, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Yesterday I outlined how US Coach Bob Bradley could take a page out of history and use the Rope A Dope to shock the world with a major upset in Africa 35 years after Muhammed Ali stunned George Foreman to win the world heavyweight title. Bradley’s men didn’t win the world title but they took a huge step towards earning respect when the US Men’s National Team ranked 14th in the world by FIFA defied the odds in the Confederations Cup semifinal beating the world’s top ranked team, Spain 2-0 in one of the biggest upsets in US Soccer history. 

Spain was the invincible force beating 15 straight opponents and not losing for a total of 35 games. For the US to win two things needed to happen, score and keep Spain at bay for 90 minutes. The downfall for the US in many of their big games has been the midfield not keeping a sound defensive shape and winning the ball. Today, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey tracked attackers into the corners making it difficult to go to the flanks and draw out the central defenders, Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit.  Carlos Bocanegra returned to the lineup playing the left back position that has been a problem spot for years, a development made possible by the solid work of DeMerit during Bocanegra’s recuperation from a hamstring injury. 

As predicted, Spain held the ball for the majority of the game making tons of beautiful passes around the perimeter of the US defense but when they tried to penetrate, there was always a body in the way closing out any chances. On the few times when they got past the wall of defenders, Tim Howard showed why he is the undisputed number one goalkeeper for the US with several good saves. The most important was a kick save on a Fernando Torres shot just before the half.

Jozy Altidore leads the US over Spain

Jozy Altidore leads the US over Spain

The US went into the dressing room at the half up 1-0 on the strength of a Jozy Altidore goal coming from a quick turn sealing off Capdevila, Altidore’s Villareal teammate in Spain. Altidore calmly spun on Capdevila and wrong footed goalkeeper, Iker Casillias overpowering him with a shot that glanced off the post and into the goal.

Spain applied pressure in the second half but could not break through. Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley controlled the center of the field forcing everything wide keeping Spain’s midfield in check.

The US effectively put the game out of reach in the 74th minute when they counterattacked and Landon Donovan’s cross deflected off two Spanish defenders, arriving at the feet of Clint Dempsey who buried his shot from point blank range.

The only remaining drama was the seemingly mandatory red card going to Michael Bradley four minutes from time.

The reaction from Spain put the lie to bed that this was a tournament that Spain took lightly. The disappointment and anguish on the faces of Spain’s players was clearly evident. Their emotions were matched by the excitement of the US players who fought for each other and their coach who took tremendous abuse just a week ago after losses the Italy and Brazil.

Hopefully, the players learned how patience, keeping a solid defensive shape and finishing off chances that came their way can do for a team like the US. Maybe against Italy and Brazil, the idea that they could take the attack to those teams backfired creating openings at the back that were exploited. A lesson that could come in handy Sunday if as expected a rematch against Brazil materializes.

Robert Woodard is the author of Black People Don’t Play Soccer?: Unlocking American Soccer’s Secret Weapon, a visionary look at the future of American soccer. BPDPS is a compelling analysis of African-Americans and soccer with the bonus of historical accounts of soccer’s development in the US and an encyclopedia of players of African descent around the world. Take a look inside the book at www.blackpeopledontplaysoccer.com

How to Beat Spain

•June 24, 2009 • Leave a Comment

U.S. versus Spain preview – U.S. Soccer – ESPN Soccernet.

ESPN’s Brent Latham previews the Confederations Cup with an eye on a US upset but doesn’t provide the details. If Bob Bradley called me up to take a red eye to South Africa to help him get a historic win over the number one team in the world, here’s what I’d tell him to do.

First, take a page out of history. Ali vs. Foreman-The Rumble in the Jungle. For those too young to know about it or too old to remember October of 1974, George Foreman was a monster of epic proportion. He didn’t beat opposing boxers, he destroyed them. He pummeled Smokin Joe Frazier in Jamaica, dropping the champ six times in two rounds. Incidentally that fight brought us the immortal phrase “Down goes Frazier!!”  Muhammed Ali didn’t have a prayer according to the experts. They said he could run but he couldn’t hide from Foreman. What Ali had though was a plan know known as the Rope A Dope. Ali didn’t run and he didn’t hide. He sat back on the ropes and defended magnificantly. Foreman rained blows on Ali’s arms and side but he could never land the knockout blow. I remember the night vividly, listening to the fight on a small radio as there was no live feed. The announcers wailed and moaned about how stupid Ali was and how doomed to failure by not attacking. What everyone wanted was a show and Ali lying on the ropes, soaking up the pressure wasn’t what they wanted to see. Ali didn’t care what anyone said about him-he wanted to win. Foreman eventually punched himself out and  Ali counterattacked and putting a physically and mentally drained Foreman on the canvas to reclaim his title.

Realistically, the US doesn’t have a prayer against the mighty Spain but whatever small chances they have come from not losing their heads and playing a game Spain can exploit. Do like Ali and throw vanity out the window along with any nationalistic pride that demands Americans attack and prove we can play with Spain. 

That’s the grand plan plain and simple. To win, the US must focus on NOT trying to win. The secret to winning is to survive regulation and extra time and get to penalty kicks where anyone can win. Does it work? Ask Tim Howard how Everton did against Manchester United in the FA Cup Semi Final this year.

The US can keep Spain from scoring by control what can be controlled. Deny space in front of the goal, put pressure on anyone near the goal creating a kill zone.  To get the job done there has to be massive improvement defensively from the wide midfielders leaving Onyewu and DeMerit to stay central and cut out the crosses. Keeping the pair in place will go a long way in stopping Fernando Torres who is a top notch goal scorer with either foot or head so he alwas has to be accounted for as does David Villa.

Spain will posess the ball most of the game no matter what the US tries so chasing after the ball in the middle of the field plays right into their hands. It will take tremendous patience and discipline to sit back and wait but that’s what has to happen. Sweden almost pulled it off last summer in the European Cup but eventually pushed players up and allowed Spain to beat them over the top with a long ball. 

Spain - The World's Best Team

Spain - The World's Best Team

The longer the game remains scoreless the more frustrated Spain will become. They’ll start diving all over the park and the refs will buy into it so defensive organization and execution on free kicks is crucial. Certain US players (Bradley, Clark) can’t dive in recklessly but the pressure on the ball inside 30 yards has to be relentless. Eventually Spain will resort to hopeful long range balls and shots that Tim Howard and his defense need to be alert for rebounds and half chances.

On the offensive end, play Altidore and Donovan high up top and leave them up around midfield on their own. If they maintain a high line and stay separated, Spain has to choose whether they’ll mark them one on one or keep an extra defender for cover. As tempting as it might be, the US has to restrain itself from blindly rushing up the field evry chance they get. First, I can’t see anyone racing through the Spanish defense and beating Iker Casillias. The strategy should be just like penalty killing in hockey. Take the ball and make the most with minimal attackers, never giving up the defensive shape and setting up a Spanish counterattack. Its ust not a good idea to get into a track meet with Spain. The midfield will a) race up the field with visions of glory, b) lose the ball and c) jog back as the Spanish Armanda launches a deadly attack (yes you Landy and Clint).

Sadly, I can’t see the US having the temperment and discipline to stick with the plan for the 90 minutes of regulation and another 30 of overtime to get to their best chance to win which is penalty kicks. It’s really not their fault. The American players all grew up playing on the best clubs and college teams where “parking the bus” was something the outmanned opposition did. That phrase is only used as a form of derision in America and never gets the slightest respect as a strategy. Maybe if our players saw a few US Open Cup games where a tiny local club earned a trip to New York to play the Red Bulls and made a million dollars in the process, they’d understand. 

So back to reality, the best anyone can realistically hope for is a miracle. A tight game, a cautious game and a late goal, maybe on a controversial call that will open the door for Landon Donavan to do what he does best, hit a penalty kick followed by a few nervous minutes for a US win. Unless that magical sequence develops, Spain will do to the US what it has done 35 straight games. it will hold the ball and wait for a mistake and punish the US with a pair of goals. If the US can hang in against Spain and make them work for the spot in the finals, it would be a wonderful thing but not as nearly great as upsetting the world’s best.

Robert Woodard is the author of Black People Don’t Play Soccer?: Unlocking American Soccer’s Secret Weapon, a visionary look at the future of American soccer. BPDPS is a compelling analysis of African-Americans and soccer with the bonus of historical accounts of soccer’s development in the US and an encyclopedia of players of African descent around the world. Take a look inside the book at www.blackpeopledontplaysoccer.com

Fox Soccer says U.S. fans should be disgusted after Brazil debacle – What did you expect???

•June 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

 

Sacha Kljestan second US player to see red at Confederations Cup

Sacha Kljestan second US player to see red at Confederations Cup

U.S. fans should be disgusted after Brazil debacle – FOX Sports on MSN.

Here is Jamie Trecker’s take on today’s US 3-0 loss to Brazil in the Confederations Cup. He throws a lot of people under the bus from Bob Bradley to the equipment manager. But seriously who in their right mind expected anything different when the tournament bracket came out with the US opening up with the last two World Cup winners? I mean Italy and Brazil have combined for NINE World Cups.

The guys cut from the rosters of those two countries would be odds on favorites to make it into the US Soccer Hall of Fame so losing to them isn’t the end of the world most American soccer commentators and fans make it out to be.

Lets put this into perspective borrowing the NCAA Basketball phrase mid-major to describe the US Men’s National Team. We aren’t in the big boys club with Brazil, Italy, Spain, Argentina, England, Germany, Holland, France, and Holland. But we aren’t at the bottom of the pond with San Marino or the Faroe Islands either. We get into the World Cup regularly and every odd tournament, we make a little noise. A little reminder of recent history; 1990 out in group stage, 1994 second round, 1998 out in group stage, 2002 quarterfinals, 2006 out in group stage. So in 2010, we’re due for a good run. Its not like we will win the cup in 2010 or make it to the Final Four but there is a chance to get out of the first round, sneak up on someone important with an upset and get a little love from the bandwagon jumping American public.  

The problem is that we look shaky enough to keep from getting enough respect to get a number two seed in group play. The US always ends up no better than the third best team in a difficult group like in 2006 when we faced Italy, the Czech Republic, and Ghana, the strongest African nation. We never get the kind of luck Spain  got in this tournament. How different would things be if we could have started out with a win over New Zealand or South Africa instead of crushing losses to Italy and Brazil.

There will be turnover from the players on national teams around the world in the next year. Injuries, suspensions, retirements will cost some a spot. Others will rise up and become part of the picture while some will fall by the wayside. Some countries will hire and fire two or three coaches in a years time.

It will be no different for America’s players. Freddy Adu might decide playing every week in Norway is better than riding the bench in France, same with Jozy Altidore. Bob Bradley might have a job and then again maybe he’ll be coaching in college again. What has to happen is that someone takes a hard look at what we want to see versus what we can realistically put together in a year’s time.

I know that there are legions of fans and armchair coaches that have visions of glory with US players playing possession soccer with magical touches and goals manufactured from a string of 20 passes culminating in a tap in between the legs of the opposing goalkeeper. It would be a great thing to see but is it realistic or desirable to chase after that right now?  First things first. If you don’t let the other team score the worse that can happen is a draw. If you do that and score a single goal you win. Some of the most compelling games I’ve ever seen were FA Cup games with rather ordinary men who were massive underdogs get a result by sheer determination, hard work and a lot of luck. Is it pretty – hell no but it is inspiring at least to me. Even the best teams in the world know and apply that simple logic. Only fans and players blinded by the need for looking good don’t get that message.

It’s one thing to have a mix of style players and grinders, if, and that’s a big if, the style players have the ability to impose themselves in big games. So far pretty boys like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Damarcus Beasley, and Sacha Kljestan haven’t proven they can be successful against a quality defense. There are far too many unforced errors, balls passed into no-win situations and dribbling ino double teams. They each have proven to be huge liabilities on the defensive end by losing the ball in front of Tim Howard and then failing to put adequate pressure on attacking players.

I don’t see enough hard work from some of the current US team. The midfielders in particular save their energy for running with the ball and precious little in trying to win it back or stop penetration by the Brazil’s Italy’s and Costa Rico’s facing us.  

Since everyone else has a theory on what the US needs, here’s my two cents. Keep the show ponies on the bench. Find 11 angry men that won’t give up 6 goals in 2 games and then we can talk. Scrap the idea of playing with Brazil on their terms. the hell with midfielders. Things couldn’t get worse if we played a 4-4-2 with two banks of defenders blanketing the box and banging the ball up to the two front runners and hope for a miracle. Oops, that sort of what we do now but instead of dedicated hard working players closing the ball down we have  a cast of lazy front runners waiting to get the ball and dribble till they drop and sit back and watch the show- I mean the other teams goal celebrations.

Sunday will bring a merciful end to the US Confederations Cup unless Brazil hammers Italy by 4 or 5 goals and the US beats Egypt by enough to make up a -5 goal differential. It would be a major accomplishment for this unloved US team to upset Egypt, the reigning African champions coming off a stunning 1-0 victory over Italy. Losing to Egypt will assure the US of a last place finish in the eight team field and provide ample justification for seeding the US as a third or fourth level team for next sumer’s tournament.

What will Bob Bradley do? Will we see Freddy Adu and Charlie Davies get significant playing time? Will the US show signs of life or has Bradley reached the end of the line. Players have a funny way of rising up to play inspired ball for a coach they love or playing out the string for a coach they know is on his way out. 

Robert Woodard is the author of Black People Don’t Play Soccer?: Unlocking American Soccer’s Secret Weapon, a visionary look at the future of American soccer. BPDPS is a compelling analysis of African-Americans and soccer with the bonus of historical accounts of soccer’s development in the US and an encyclopedia of players of African descent around the world. Take a look inside the book at www.blackpeopledontplaysoccer.com

US Loses Heartbreaker Against Italy

•June 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment
Giuseppe Rossi Fires Past Tim Howard

Giuseppe Rossi Fires Past Tim Howard

The scoreline seems to say it all – Italy 3 USA 1. Italy blew out the US  in their 2009 Confederations Cup opener as expected. 

Not so fast my friend. The US actually led 1-0 at halftime despite playing a man down after a very suspect red card given to Houston Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark in the 32nd minute.

New Jersey born Giuseppe Rossi led a second half comeback against his birth country with a pair of goals sandwiched around a Daniele de Rossi score.

If you share my position that the Confederations Cup is is a dress rehearsal for World Cup, then this game should be seen as a glass half full. Ricardo Clark played with energy and toughness until he took down Italian hitman Gennaro Gattuso in the 32nd minute with a love tap to the shin that was no straight red card. Certainly had the tables been turned, a respected hardman like Gattuso would have received a yellow card Clark’s progress as an international player has been held back by incidents like this and this might signal the end of the trail for him. Prior to Clark’s sending off, the US looked good. They didn’t give up too much spaces or opportunities and had their fair share of play.

Jozy Altidore, as the single attacker made the best of a bad situation where he faced two and three defenders with his back to the goal chasing down long hopeful passes. His cutback move turned defender Giorgio Chiellini inside out forcing him to kick and pull Altidore down for the PK.  

The game turned in the second half with the US clinging to the lead. Benny Feilhaber continues to defy description. His pass to Jozy Altidore setting up the lone US goal was a masterpiece. But he was the culprit on the first Rossi goal getting caught in possession in the center of the field and not recovering to apply pressure on the shot.

Feilhaber’s partner in midfield, Michael Bradley was equally responsible for reacting slowly to the play, watching Rossi take off with the ball and jogging back only to have a perfect view of the goal.

Yes there are still areas of serious concern like Jonathan Bornstein, the flavor of the month at left back. Bornstein looked absolutely lost and confused by the Italian attack and scored an own goal that was negated by a close offside call.  

Clint Dempsey still doesn’t resemble the player that earned a regular spot for Fulham in the English Premier League. Dempsey doesn’t connect well with his partners in attack and midfield, frequently going one one one against a well organized Italian defense and losing the ball. Dempsey has to be more involved in a constructive way to generate some offense but its been awhile since we’ve seen this.

Landon Donovan played a respectable game offensively but being a man down severely impacted his ability to go forward as the game wore on. He also failed miserably is in his responsibilities of taking free kicks. Going back in my memory I can recall a few goals he created with good service but no shots that beat a goalkeeper. So in a game like today with most of the chances, his efforts from distance were horrible. His one redeeming moment was the PK where Gianluigi Buffon guessed wrong and Donovan rolled it into the opposite corner. He was also an accomplice on the last two goals by ball watching instead of pressuring the ball before it was too late.

The back four with the exception of Bornstein did a credible job made harder by the lack of pressure by the US midfielders. They were exposed on several long shots where the Italians teed off without anyone blocking the direct route to goal leading to the first two goals.

Jay Demerit and Oguchi Onyewu showed signs they could be an effective partnership if they had some cover in front of them and Jonathan Spector had a solid game despite being outnumbered for most of the game. 

Tim Howard didn’t have his best game although it would have taken a superhuman effort to stop any of the goals. He did come up big with a pair of huge saves late in the game to keep the score from being worse.

The bottom line is whether the US learns anything from this. Imagine if Italy went a man down but had a goal lead at halftime. They would block off the goal and kill the game off, holding the line in their third of the field but unlike the US defense that was scattered and disorganized, they would stay compact and attack the ball with a vengeance. 

Lots of American fans like to complain that the USMNT can’t play a beautiful style like the glamour teams of the world but I’d settle for a grimly bus parking defensive effort that yielded a win in a big game.  No one would complain about style points next summer, if we took out a Brazil, Spain, Italy or Argentina by getting a goal and playing smart hard pressure defense. That was the difference today as evidenced by the Italians as a man were always first to the ball and played with a confidence that we still don’t quite understand.

Robert Woodard is the author of Black People Don’t Play Soccer?: Unlocking American Soccer’s Secret Weapon, a visionary look at the future of American soccer. BPDPS is a compelling analysis of African-Americans and soccer with the bonus of historical accounts of soccer’s development in the US and an encyclopedia of players of African descent around the world. Take a look inside the book at www.blackpeopledontplaysoccer.com

Confederations Cup Opens – US Ready to Face Italy

•June 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment
 

The 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup is the dress rehearsal for World Cup 2010 South Africa. The two-week long tournament featuring the 2006 World Cup winner, Italy, host nation South Africa and the champions of FIFA’s six continental federations (Spain-Europe, New Zealand-Oceania, Brazil-South America, Iraq-Asia, Egypt-Africa and the United States-North America/Central America/Caribbean.  

The tournament opened up in Johannesburg with South Africa hosting Iraq with the traditional fanfare of a major sporting event. South African fans filled the stadium with the pulsating beat of tribal drums and the incessant blaring of the traditional horns known as the vuvuzela.

Unfortunately, the fanfare and pageantry far exceeded the energy on the field as the two Group A underdogs battled to a scoreless draw. Neither side threatened for the majority of the game until South Africa started to pressure Iraq’s defense in the final 15 minutes.  Striker Bernard Parker tested Kassid, Iraq’s goalkeeper with a 360˚ spin and shot from point blank range but the shot went straight into the keeper’s hands for an easy save.

 Parker’s fate is to be remembered for a bizarre incident late in the game. He and fellow striker Kagisho Dikgacoi went high into the air with Kassid for a cross; the ball flew over Parker stranding Kassid who couldn’t get his hands on it. Dikgacoi headed the ball past Kassid for an apparent goal but Parker lost sight of the ball and couldn’t get his leg out of the way blocking a sure goal for South Africa.

In the other game of the day, tournament favorite Spain took the lead in Group A as expected with a 5-0 demolition of New Zealand. Fernando Torres set a tournament record scoring a hat trick in 11 minutes with a shot from the edge of the penalty area, a header, and a tap in. New Zealand never seriously scored and Spain if so inclined could have piled on several more.     

The results are a mere formality to the inevitable conclusion of Group A- Spain will advance to meet the runner of Group B in the semifinals. That team is unlikely to be the United States who the soccer gods have again cursed with a draw from hell. The US opens up Monday against Italy followed by Brazil on Thursday. By the time they face Egypt in the final group game next Sunday, odds are that the US hopes of advancing will be long gone.

The U.S. qualified for the Confederations Cup beating Mexico in June 2007 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. It’s hard to imagine the same team that struggled so mightily against Costa Rico last month could avoid humiliation at the hands of two of the world’s best teams. The defense is shorthanded with the two first choices at right back Steve Cherundolo and Frankie Hejduk at home with injuries and no one rising up to claim the left back spot.

The slim US hopes lie on the narrow shoulders of one Landon Donovan. The Donovan the US needs is the dynamic force of the 2002 World Cup, not the timid soul who cowered against opponents in the 2006 World Cup. He has the speed and skill to challenge defenders but too often can be intimidated by tough marking and disappears. US Hopes Ride on Landon Donovan

 

The most interesting player for US fans will be Jozy Altidore. Altidore will have an opportunity to showcase his skills against the best competition he’s faced provided Coach Bob Bradley can figure out a way to get him the ball.

The US opponent in their opener, Italy has its own injury problems in defense. Captain Fabio Cannavaro and Nicola Legrottaglie are doubtful with a pair of inexperienced center backs in Alessandro Gamberini and Giorgio Chiellini standing in. But, the Italian mentality and discipline are such that they are always a threat to win a tournament through sheer determination, tenacity, and guile, qualities that the US is sorely lacking right now. 

2006 Worl Cup Champions Italy

2006 Worl Cup Champions Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brazil’s coach Dunga is at the center of controversy for not being a practitioner of  “The Beautiful Game”. The former World Cup winner as a tough defensive midfielder hasn’t pleased Brazilian fans with his pragmatic style of coaching. He has made some unpopular choices namely leaving former FIFA Player of the Year Ronaldhino off the roster. Still Brazil brings stars like another former FIFA Player of the Year, Real Madrid’s Kaka, and Luis Fabiano; they have more than enough firepower to win it all.           

Kaka

Kaka

 

 

 

 

The final US opponent is Egypt, the best shot of a US win. Coach Hassan Shehata elected to base his team on home based Egyptian players leaving off more celebrated players like Mido, currently playing for Wigan Athletic. Shehata’s key player is Mohamed Zidane, the Borussia Dortmund striker who made a big impression at last year’s African Cup of Nations.

Realistically, the best-case scenario for the US would be to scratch out a draw against Italy, only lose to Brazil by a single goal, beat Egypt and hope Brazil beats Italy badly enough to advance the US on goal differential. More importantly, the US needs to show more than they have on the road in past years and be more competitive. That means not giving up early goals as seen in their recent World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rico and Honduras. Showing the ability to maintain possession of the ball won’t be easy against Italy of Brazil but building an attack instead of depending on defense and counterattacks would be remarkable progress for this team.

US Confederations Team Named

•June 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Coach Bob Bradley released the names of the 23 man roster for the US Men’s National Team for the Confederation Cup today in advance of the team’s Monday departure for South Africa.

The US will face a stiff test as it opens up against defending World Cup champions Italy in Pretoria at Loftus Versfeld

Loftus Versfeld Stadium

Loftus Versfeld Stadium

 Stadium June 15 (ESPN 2:25PM Eastern), their next opponent is the 2002 World Cup champion, Brazil, June 18 at Loftus Versfeld (ESPN2 9:55AM Eastern) and they wrap up first round action against current African champion Egypt in Rustenburg at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium (ESPN2 2:25PM Eastern) 

Royal Bafokeng Stadium

Royal Bafokeng Stadium

Bradley will be taking a wealth of experience with him led by goalkeeper Tim Howard who took his club Everton to the FA Cup Final and fifth place in the English Premier League. In front of Howard will be Oguchi Onyewu whose defensive efforts were instrumental in Standard Liege winning the Belgium Jupiter League. His partner in central defense throughout qualifying, Carlos Bocanegra suffered a hamstring injury and will be fighting to regain fitness before the tournament begins. If he can’t go, Jay Demerit and Danny Caliif will battle for a starting role.

The midfield is stocked with experienced players including the leading scorer in US Soccer history Landon Donovan. Donovan is arguably the best player ever produced in America and can be a dynamic player that has the speed and skill to be a game breaker. The downside is that Donovan doesn’t always step up in big games and can easily be put off his game by teams applying pressure defense. Playing the opposite side is Clint Dempsey who tallied seven goals for Fulham in the EPL. Dempsey possesses similar qualities as Donovan and the same liabilities. Michael Bradley is a big factor in central midfield coming off a good season in Germany with Borussia Mönchengladbach.    Bob Bradley has a number of options in midfield including Sacha Kljestan, Freddy Adu, Ricardo Clark, Benny Feilhaber and Damarcus Beasley.

Jozy Altidore is the focal of the strike force since Coach Bob Bradley only brought the relatively inexperienced Charlie Davies and Conor Casey to play alongside Altidore. Part of his rationale is that against Italy and Brazil, the US could be forced to play a single forward formation to shore up the defense.

.S. Men’s National Team Roster
2009 FIFA Confederations Cup
June 14-28, 2009 – South Africa

No. Player Name  Pos.  Ht.  Wt.  Birthdate  Hometown  Club  Caps/G 
1 Howard, Tim GK 6-3 210 03/06/1979 North Brunswick, N.J. Everton FC (England) 39/0
2 Bornstein, Jonathan D 5-9 145 11/07/1984 Los Alamitos, Calif. Chivas USA  15/1
3 Bocanegra, Carlos D 6-0 170 05/25/1979 Alta Loma, Calif. Stade Rennais (France) 67/11
4 Casey, Conor F 6-1 170 07/25/1981 Denver, Colo. Colorado Rapids (MLS) 10/0
5 Onyewu, Oguchi D 6-4 210 05/13/1982 Olney, Md. Standard de Liege
(Belgium)
42/5
6 Pearce, Heath D 5-10 175 08/13/1984 Modesto, Calif. Hansa Rostock
(Germany)
23/0
7 Beasley, DaMarcus M 5-8 145 05/24/1982 Ft. Wayne, Ind. Glasgow Rangers
(Scotland)
87/17
8 Dempsey, Clint F 6-1 170 03/09/1983 Nacogdoches, Texas Fulham FC (England) 51/13
9 Davies, Charlie F 5-10 160 06/25/1986 Manchester, N.H. Hammarby IF (Sweden) 6/1
10 Donovan, Landon F 5-8 150 03/04/1982 Redlands, Calif. Los Angeles Galaxy  110/39
11 Wynne, Marvell D 5-9 170 05/08/1986 Poway, Calif. Toronto FC  3/0
12 Bradley, Michael M 6-2 175 07/31/1987 Manhattan Beach, Calif. Borussia M’gladbach (Germany) 29/5
13 Clark, Ricardo M 5-10 150 05/10/1983 Jonesboro, Ga. Houston Dynamo (MLS) 19/1
14 Califf, Danny D 6-1 175 03/17/1980 Orange, Calif FC Midtjylland (Denmark) 23/1
15 DeMerit, Jay D 6-0 185 12/04/1979 Green Bay, Wis. Watford FC (England) 10/0
16 Kljestan, Sacha M 6-1 150 09/09/1985 Huntington Beach, Calif. Chivas USA 17/3
17 Altidore, Jozy F 6-1 175 11/06/1989 Boca Raton, Fla. Xerez C.D. (Spain) 11/6
18 Guzan, Brad GK 6-4 210 09/09/1984 Homer Glen, Ill. Aston Villa FC (England) 12/0
19 Adu, Freddy M 5-8 140 06/02/1989 Potomac, Md. AS Monaco (France) 13/1
20 Torres, José Francisco M 5-7 135 10/29/1987 Longview, Texas C.D. Pachuca (Mexico) 5/0
21 Spector, Jonathan D 6-0 180 03/01/1986 Arlington Heights, Ill. West Ham United (England) 13/0
22 Feilhaber, Benny M 5-9 150 01/19/1985 Irvine, Calif. AGF Aarhus (Denmark) 17/2
23 Robles, Luis GK 6-1 180 05/11/1984 Fort Huachuca, Ariz. FC Kaiserslautern
(Germany)
0/0

U.S. ROSTER BY POSITION
GOALKEEPERS (3):Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Luis Robles (Kaiserslautern)
DEFENDERS (8):Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Danny Califf (Midtjylland ), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Freddy Adu (AS Monaco), DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca)
FORWARDS (5):Jozy Altidore (Xerez), Conor Casey (Colorado Rapids), Charlie Davies (Hammarby), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy) 

Robert Woodard is the author of Black People Don’t Play Soccer?: Unlocking American Soccer’s Secret Weapon, a visionary look at the future of American soccer. BPDPS is a compelling analysis of African-Americans and soccer with the bonus of historical accounts of soccer’s development in the US and an encyclopedia of players of African descent around the world. Take a look inside the book at www.blackpeopledontplaysoccer.com