Posted on: January 4, 2012 6:21 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 12:00 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
How rarely do goalkeepers score in the Premier League? Entering this afternoon, of the more than 20,000 goals scored in the league since its 1992 formation, only three had been tallied by EPL keepers.
So if Everton (and U.S. national team) goalkeeper Tim Howard had wanted to celebrate with a little more enthusiasm after making that number four vs. Bolton Wednesday, we doubt anyone would have blamed him:
We'll chalk Howard's apparent indifference up to his acknowledgment of the gusting Merseyside wind's role in his goal -- it's not as if he was trying to score there -- or maybe he knew karma would repay his team for that stroke of good fortune; the Toffees conceded twice in the game's final 25 minutes to lose at home 2-1 to last-place Bolton.
Whatever the final result, though, Howard's unlikely appearance on the scoresheet will remain a point of pride for his American fans--between his tally and Brad Friedel's last-minute strike several years ago for Blackburn, half of those four keepers' goals belong to Americans. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Posted on: August 29, 2011 2:29 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 2:31 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
There's embarrassment, there's humiliation, and then somewhere far beyond either of those things there's whatever you want to call what Arsenal suffered against Manchester United Sunday. What had been one of the Premier League's most hotly contested rivalries in recent years devolved into a shocking mismatch as the Gunners conceded eight goals in a single league game for the first time in 115 years. (That's right: 115 years.)
But at least the club is doing what it can to help ease the pain of the unfortunate supporters who made the trip up from North London only to watch their team sink to its lowest point in years--they're offering them a refund.
As the club has posted on its website:
Arsenal Football Club has announced it will be writing to fans who travelled to Old Trafford on Sunday with an offer to cover the cost of a match ticket at a future Barclays Premier League away game.How much a refund would actually help after a result like Sunday's, we're not sure, particularly since the issues afflicting the Gunners -- a plague of injuries, the sale of several star players without the purchase of replacements, a lack of anything resembling defensive grit in the backline -- have already been simmering all summer, without any solutions yet in sight. But at least the club is trying, which is more than we can say for some American franchises we know.
For video of the Red Devils' eight-goal splurge -- and we do most definitely recommend checking out Ashley Young's precision strike to put United up 2-0 -- click below:
Posted on: August 4, 2011 3:12 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Beating even Barcelona's B-team is something to be proud of. Beating them in that kind of style, though, is something to savor, whether the result counts for something or doesn't.
Posted on: July 29, 2011 12:53 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2011 1:00 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After years of flirtation on both sides, the U.S. Soccer Federation has named Jurgen Klinsmann head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team. Klinsmann replaces the largely-unpopular Bob Bradley, fired yesterday after five up-and-down years at the helm.
Ask most fans of the USMNT and they'll tell you going from Bradley to "Klinsi" represents the biggest coaching upgrade since Lou Holtz replaced Gerry Faust at Notre Dame. That might seem like an overreaction for a coach with only two meaningful stints on his resume, one as the manager of his native Germany's national team for the 2006 World Cup cycle and another at the helm of Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
The prospect of hiring any coach with the immediate credibility that comes with being a national hero for one of the globe's great soccer nations -- not to mention guiding that nation to a stirring, surprising World Cup semifinal berth in 2006 -- would be enough to get U.S. fans salivating. Combine that with Klinsmann's understanding of the position and the U.S. roster, and it's not possible to draw up a more appealing candidate.
Which is why USSF head honcho Sunil Gulati and Klinsmann have had on-and-off back-table discussions regarding the USMNT job for years. Klinsmann has reportedly had serious reservations in the past about his level of control regarding U.S. player development and roster construction, with Gulati allegedly balking about some of Klinsmann's demands.
But with Bradley looking more and more unfit to coach another four-year World Cup cycle following the recent 4-2 capitulation to Mexico in the Gold Cup final (not to mention the inexplicabe 2-1 defeat to Panama in the tournament's group stage), Gulati and the USSF may have felt the time had come to meet Klinsmann's conditions.
Given Bradley's documented flaws and the rarity of national team coaches anywhere lasting through two World Cups, it's worth asking what took the USSF so long. But it's also worth applauding them for making the neccessary move now. For U.S. Soccer, it's hard to imagine that Klinnsmann's arrival won't be the very definition of "better late than never."
Posted on: July 28, 2011 3:15 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Galati made a rather unexpected announcement on Thursday that Bob Bradley has been relieved of his duties as head coach of the United States Men's National team.
“We want to thank Bob Bradley for his service and dedication to U.S. Soccer during the past five years,” said Gulati in a statement. “During his time as the head coach of our Men’s National Team he led the team to a number of accomplishments, but we felt now was the right time for us to make a change. It is always hard to make these decisions, especially when it involves someone we respect as much as Bob. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Bradley took the job after the United States' poor showing in the 2006 World Cup, and while he had some success with the team, his tenure was most memorable for the near-misses and for coming up just short. While Bradley was able to lead the men's team out of group play in the 2010 World Cup, a 2-1 loss to Ghana in the elimination round. Which served as a harsh reminder of when the U.S. team lost 2-1 to Ghana in the 2006 World Cup, a loss that kept the team from advancing to the knockout stage.
A loss that led to Bradley getting the job in the first place.
Bradley's latest teams struggled to advance in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which included a 1-0 loss to Panama, the first time the U.S. had lost in group play in the Gold Cup. The team would make it to the finals, but lose to Mexico 4-2 after taking a 2-0 lead.
No replacement has been named, but U.S. Soccer does have another announcement set for Friday, in which an interim manager may be announced.
Posted on: July 17, 2011 6:47 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
There were a lot of scripts for today's Women's World Cup final that ended in defeat for the U.S.A. against Japan. The one it followed had to have been the most far-fetched of all.
Because if there was one thing the U.S. knew they could rely on, one strength they could always fall back to, it was their ability to finish. No team was fitter. No team was more resilient. No team dealt better with pressure. Down a goal and a player in the 122nd minute to Brazil? No problem. Tied 1-1 with France with 15 minutes to play after an hour of French domination? We'll win by two.
So when the U.S. went up 1-0 thanks a brilliant Alex Morgan strike and took that lead into the 80th minute, you could have forgiven the watching nation for believing the Cup was within reach. But the crushing defensive lapses that had hamstrung the U.S. in group play reared its head again, two failed clearances from Rachel Buehler and Alex Krieger leaving Aya Miyama to stab home from close range. Cup: back out of reach.
OK, so it's extra time, but they're the U.S. No problem, right? It looked that way when the terrific Morgan turned her defender and lofted a pinpoint cross that Abby Wambach headed home with maximum authority. 2-1 up and with the clock ticking under five minutes to play, the Cup was within the U.S.'s reach. Again.
But with the American defense suddenly -- and surprisingly -- looking dead-legged, Japan mounted a last-minute surge and forced a corner. That corner fell to Homare Sawa, Japan's best player and the tournament's high scorer. 2-2. Cup gone. Again.
But they'd done it at the absolute death of overtime once already, right? And sure enough, with just seconds remaining, Heather O'Reilly somehow broke free on the right flank to cross to an unmarked Wambach just six yards from goal. Wambach, the U.S.'s certain closer, the U.S.'s cold-blooded assassin, their finisher of finishers. But the ball fall fell to her feet, rather than her head; the one-time shot skewed wildly over the bar.
But with Hope Solo in goal and the kind of precision on display in their 5-for-5 ouster of Brazil, surely a penalty kick shootout would belong to the U.S. Right? Please?
No. The U.S.'s first three penalty takers (Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, and Tobin Heath) went a stunning 0-for-3. It was over.
It was unthinkable. A loss? Not a shock. But like this? As not just the second-best team, but the second-most resilient team, the second-most clutch team?
It's the sort of defeat that -- like the U.S. men's loss to Ghana in the wake of Landon Donovan's heart-stopping goal against Algeria last year -- cannot help but take some of the shine off of the Brazil comeback that first seized the country's sporting attention the Sunday before. As amazing a moment as that remains, quarterfinals aren't finals. Goals scored in the 122nd minute don't count more than ones given up in the 117th. Losses from ahead are every bit as devastating as wins from behind. That's sports.
That's not to say the U.S.'s one shootout loss should overshadow what came before it. The USWNT took advantage of this tournament to re-establish themselves as one of the world's elite sides. They reminded the nation of the drama and power of the sport they play, just a year before they look to defend their Olympic title. They lost to a deserving champion, one who punished opponents' mistakes mercilessly throughout the tournament and did so again today. The U.S. should remain immensely proud of their accomplishments, and the nation should remain immensely appreciative of the giddy ride we've been taken on.
But assessing the Americans' entire tournament means also assessing the Final's last 10 minutes of regulation, that final 5 minutes of extra time, that dreadful shootout. And as brilliant as the U.S. was in Germany, there's no way that assessment can't conclude that the U.S. chose the worst possible time to close in the worst possible fashion.
It's not the script we expected. And after 12 long years, the U.S. must now wait four long more for their World Cup rewrite.
Posted on: July 17, 2011 1:38 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2011 1:40 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We speculated yesterday that after substitute Megan Rapinoe's heroics in the U.S.'s two elimination games and the continued struggles of starting forward Amy Rodriguez, head coach Pia Sundhage might promote Rapinoe to the starting lineup or drop Rodriguez to the subs' bench for today's Women's World Cup final.
As it turns out, Sundhage has elected to kill both of those birds with the same stone. Midfielder Lauren Cheney has been moved to striker, both opening up a position for Rapinoe on the wing and moving Rodriguez to the bench.
Cheney has plenty of experience at striker and proved her goalscoring chops in the semifinal against France, finishing cooly to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute. Her superior passing to Rodriguez's could also help what projects to be a substantial U.S. deficit in possession against the highly technical Japanese.
As expected, central defender Rachel Buehler has returned to the starting lineup after her red-card suspension against the French. Replacement Becky Sauerbrunn returns to the bench.
The full U.S. starting 11:
GK: Hope Solo
D (right to left): Aly Krieger, Rachel Buehler, Christie Rampone, Amy LePeilbet
M: Heather O'Reilly, Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe
F: Abby Wambach, Lauren Cheney
Posted on: July 16, 2011 10:25 pm
Edited on: July 17, 2011 2:00 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
We know they will run until their lungs burst. We know they will do anything and everything they can to get the ball to the head of Abby Wambach. We know Hope Solo will provide the steadiness in goal that comes with being the world's best female goalkeeper. We know, after their epic comeback against Brazil, that regardless of scoreline they will throw everything they've got at the Japanese for all 90 minutes. Or, if it comes to it, 120. Or 122.
But those things alone won't be enough. Here's five more the USWNT must do to win their first World Cup title since 1999:
Win the set-piece battle. This final matches up arguably the world's two most dangerous women's teams on free kicks, though each side creates that danger through very different means. Behind the precision shots of Aya Miyama, Japan is a substantial threat to score directly from a dead ball; Wambach, meanwhile, has used the tournament to again prove herself the greatest aerial target in the women's game. If the U.S.'s crosses to Wambach can cause more havoc for Japan than Miyama's free kicks can for the U.S, the edge could prove decisive for the Americans. (And given the huge physical advantage the towering Wambach has over Japan's size-challenged defenders, that's not unlikely.)
Keep pressing--but do it smartly. The U.S. is the soccer equivalent of Nolan Richardson's old "40 Minutes of Hell" Arkansas basketball teams, using their box-to-box pressing style both to 1. force turnovers and create scoring opportunities as well as 2. grind down opponents with their superior fitness and strength. But against France in Wednesday's semifinal, the U.S. became too aggressive at times, pushing five or even six players into the French side of midfield to pressure just four defenders. While this approach can pay huge dividends against the Colombias of the world, against the skilled French it more often resulted in a quick pass through or over the pressure--and a scramble in the American defense. And unfortunately for the U.S., Japan is much more France than Colombia when it comes to team skill.
Defensively, just don't make the killer mistake. U.S. fans should go ahead and accept that their team will lose the possession battle; tight, controlled passing is (as mentioned) the cornerstone of the Japanese game, while the Americans' direct approach often gives the ball up willingly in exchange for the chance of hitting a deep home run to Wambach or speedier forwards Amy Rodriguez and Alex Morgan.
Get the ball wide. Speaking of possession, central midfielders Carli Lloyd and Shannon Boxx struggled badly to maintain it against the French. But perhaps their even bigger sin was their failure to consistently get the ball to starting wingers Heather O'Reilly and Lauren Cheney. While Wambach is the finisher, it's the wide midfielders -- O'Reilly, Cheney, and in-form substitute Megan Rapinoe -- who provide the bulk of the U.S. attack's creativity and flow.
If all else fails, take it to penalty kicks. Between Solo and the penalty-taking clinic the U.S. put on in their shootout against Brazil, the Americans will be heavy favorites if the match reaches that stage. While the U.S. has never been the sort of squad to sit back and just let the clock peter out on a tie game, their likely advantage in this scenario suggests that once the clock hits the 110th or 115th minute, that might be the better strategy than risking a sudden breakdown at the back.
Tags: Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Amy Rodriguez, Arkansas, Aya Miyama, Aya Samashima, Brazil, Cali Lloyd, Colombia, France, Heather O'Reilly, Hedvig Lindal, Homare Sawa, Hope Solo, Lauren Cheney, Megan Rapinoe, Nolan Richardson, Shannon Boxx, Sweden, U.S. Women's National Team. Women's World Cup, USWNT, Yukari Kinga