Tuesday, November 25, 2008

FIFA bans Peru

Some interesting news I didn't get to touch on yesterday was FIFA's decision to ban Peru from all international competition. The ban comes as a result of the Peruvian government getting into a dispute with the Peru's soccer federation (FPF).

"The Peruvian Football Federation (FPF) will only return on the basis of negotiations with the president and the board of the FPF," said a statement.

The issue in question began when Peruvian President Alan Garcia choose not to accept the election of Manuel Burga as the FPF's president. This in turn has suspened all Peruvian teams from competing in international competitions ranging from youth tournaments, to club commitments and even World Cup qualifying. Peru currently sits last in the 10-team table and is a long shot at making it to South Africa 2010.

However this recent turn of events is just another blow to a once respected federation. Peru's national team, who was a promising side in the 70s and early 80s, has become a bottom feeder in the CONMEBOL.

Earlier this year they also suffered from an embarassing story as several key players stayed up past curfew, snuck women into the hotel and drank the night away just two days before a World Cup qualifer at Ecuador which they ended up losing 5-1. The players are still serving hefty suspensions for their disgraceful acts .

According to the statement, Peru has one month to sort out this mess or they could be expelled entirely.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Crew's Control: Columbus wins MLS Cup

The Columbus Crew have capped off their dream season with their first ever MLS Cup. Yesterday afternoon's 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls wasn't as decisive as the score might indicate but it was enough to finish the Crew's impressive season on a good note.

Guillermo Barros Schelotto wasn't the MVP of the league, and of the game, for no reason. He simply tore up the Red Bulls, tallying three assists in the process. His most impressive; a chip through ball that allowed for Crew defender Franke Hejduk to head the ball over an oncoming Danny Cepero. Schelotto's patience, creativity and touch were all on display on that single play.

The first half saw Juan Carlos Osorio's group attack more and looked poised to pull off yet another upset. But inaccuracy and sloppy defending prevented that as a timid Columbus Crew offense drew first blood with a goal in the 31st minute.

The second set of 45 minutes saw the Crew respond with a much stronger performance and the Red Bulls began to falter. Schelotto stepped up and took control of the game as he curled in a corner that led to Chad Marshall's 53rd minute response to John Wolyniec's equalising strike two minutes prior. And the Argentine midfielder sealed things off with a beautiful assist to Hejduk in the 82nd minute.

There were some negatives though. As I had claimed earlier in the playoffs, Red Bulls goalkeeper Danny Cepero, who was outstanding throughout the post-season, was too inexperienced to not make one costly mistake. He kept proving me wrong, but the inexperience showed on the Crew' first goal yesterday.

Schelotto released Alejandro Moreno down the right flank with a long distance pass. As the veteran forward received the pass he took a couple of steps and noticed that Cepero was cheating too much towards the near post. Moreno released a low shot to the far post that the Red Bulls goalkeeper got a piece of, but it still managed to find the side netting, which in turn set the tone for the Crew's first MLS title.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

MLS Cup Final: Columbus Crew v New York Red Bulls

We are less than an hour away from the 2008 MLS Cup Final between the Columbus Crew and the New York Red Bulls. Both teams will be making their first appearances in the MLS Championship but only one will prevail today.

The two teams paved their road to the championship game under completely different circumstances. The Crew were the top-seeded team in the East and ran over the Kansas City Wizards before finishing a come-from-behind victory against the Chicago Fire. Meanwhile in the West, the New York Red Bulls stunned the defending champion Houston Dynamo before blanking Real Salt Lake at the Rio Tinto Stadium.

Expect two South American stars to play big roles in determining who comes out on top tonight. Crew's Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who was named 2008 MLS MVP earlier this week, has played a huge role in Sigi Schmid's team.

But if anyone has been just as important to their team's playoff success, it's been Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel. The former Aston Villa forward constantly draws attention away from defenders allowing for his teammates to find space in the attack. Such has been evident by Dane Richards emergence during the Red Bulls dream playoff run.

One could argue that even with the star-studded Colombian on their roster, the Crew are clearly more talented, but Juan Carlos Osorio's Red Bulls have managed to up-end more talented teams before and the team that sneaked its way into the playoffs may have it in them to do it one more time.

With both teams one step away from MLS history, who will rise to the occasion and be crowned MLS Champion? The answer to that question starts at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC and Telefutura.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

U.S. drawn with Brazil, Italy and Egypt for Confederations Cup

Back in 2007 many United States fans were disappointed that Bob Bradley sent an "A" team to the Gold Cup as opposed to the tougher Copa America. But Bradley insisted that the focus lied on the CONCACAF trophy as it held a ticket to 2009's Confederations Cup. Bradley's side ended up winning the Gold Cup 2-1 by making a second half comeback against their number one nemesis Mexico.

Fast forward a year and a half later and the United States has been drawn into a difficult group that will surely test the team's ability and character. Earlier this morning, the Americans were drawn into Group B of the Confederations Cup, which will be played in South Africa next June, along side Copa America winner Brazil, reigning World Cup champion Italy and African champ Egypt.

Group A is much weaker as it consists of hosts South Africa, European Champs Spain, New Zealand and Iraq.

But each contest for the stars and stripes, even the one against low-profile Egypt, will present a different challenge to the Yanks and should make for an intriguing group. Don't forget that the confrontation against Brazil will be the United States' second under Bob Bradley, as the Americans displayed a valiant effort in a 4-2 loss in Chicago, Illinois back in September of 2007.

But the match most fans are looking forward to is the date with Italy. After the controversial, physical battle that ended in a 1-1 draw in 2006's World Cup, you can bet Americans like Landon Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu and Clint Dempsey want another go at the World Cup winners.

Could you imagine if Giuseppe Rossi gets called in to the Italian side? The American-born player who elected to play for Italy, would be in for the game of his life. Add in the fact that Bob Bradley has more young talent at his disposal than the 2006 side (with players like Freddy Adu, Josmer Altidore, Michael Bradley) and you've got yourself quite an entertaining game in a very entertaining group.

United States opens up Hexagonal against Mexico


What a better way to start out the Hexagonal stage of World Cup qualifying than with a clash between archrivals United States and Mexico. The two CONCACAF giants will open up the final stage of qualifying as they square off in the United States on February 11. The location for this match has yet to be determined, though if history tells us anything, it'll be hosted in Columbus, Ohio.

The match should prove to be very interesting as it will serve as Sven-Goran Erikkson's first game against Bob Bradley's men. The Mexican national team coach must be a little worried as his team barely managed to squeak out of the semifinal round of qualifying.

Here are all of the United States' qualifying matches:

  • vs Mexico on February 11th
  • at El Salvador on March 28th
  • vs Trinidad and Tobago on April 1
  • at Costa Rica on June 3
  • vs Honduras on June 6
  • at Mexico on August 12
  • vs El Salvador on September 5
  • at Trinidad and Tobago on September 9
  • at Honduras on October 10
  • vs Costa Rica on October 14

What's my take on the schedule? It's tough to start qualifying against Mexico, but being at home and with all of the tricolor's woes as of late, maybe this early fixture will benefit the Americans. Playing away at El Salvador right after should also be something Bob Bradley is smiling about.

Where it gets tough is on games 8 and 9. I could see the Americans having a difficult time earning points at T&T and at Honduras. However, finishing with a home match on October 14 against Costa Rica is a plus for the U.S.

2009 will surely be interesting and it's right around the corner.

U.S. sets friendly with Sweden

During Bob Bradley's tenure, the United States has played Sweden every year. 2009 will be no different.

The United States has scheduled to play the Swedes on January 24 in Carson, California to open up its jam-packed 2009 schedule that also includes 10 World Cup qualifiers, a challenging Confederations Cup and their title defense of the Gold Cup. The friendly between the two countries will be the third encounter in as many years.

2007's tilt saw the U.S. fall to Sweden 1-0 thanks in part to a 56th minute Kim Kallstrom strike. Earlier this year, Landon Donovan scored his record-breaking 35th goal and led the United States to a 2-0 victory.

According to the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF), Bradley will run a training camp from the first week of January until gameday, just as he did in early 2008.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Midday Scrimmage: Cooper on the move, Blanco loaned out and more

Cooper moving abroad?

According to Ives Galarcep, there were scouts from multiple teams in attendance during the U.S.-Guatemala bout this past Wednesday. What did the scouts have in common? They were on hand to witness Kenny Cooper.

Cooper, 24, received interest from Coca-Cola Championship sides this past winter but no deal worked itself out. Now however, it appears that MLS will seek to find a suitor interested as the FC Dallas forward heads into the final year of his current contract. With Cooper set to make more money than Dallas can afford, it seems evident that the former Manchester United protege will make a move.

According to the report, only German side Eintracht Frankfurt has been confirmed in showing interest.

Blanco loaned out

Cuauhtemoc Blanco can be added to the list of recent MLS stars to get himself a temporary loan during the MLS offseason.

According to reports, the Chicago Fire have come to an agreement with Mexican side Santos Laguna on a loan deal that will allow Blanco to aid them in their playoff run. The former Mexican national team player will make a brief spell in the Mexican First Division as he attempts to replace injured Ecuadorean Christian Benitez.

Schelotto wins MVP

Many fans believed this would be the year of Landon Donovan. They were wrong. Guillermo Barros Schelotto has been named the MLS MVP for the 2008 season.

The Columbus Crew player was awarded the accolade earlier this week by winning 54% of the votes. Donovan received 19% and Cuauhtemoc Blanco rounded out the top three with a meager 3%.

Now this may not come as news to some as a premature advertisement was released in this week's Sports Illustrated crowning Schelotto as the MVP, but this is still newsworthy.

Schelotto impressively tallied seven goals and 19 assists in his second MLS season. The Argentine midfielder helped the Columbus Crew win the Supporters' Shield by achieving the best record of the season and has also helped his team get to the MLS Finals for the first time in franchise history.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Well worth the wait

U.S. fans fantasized all year long of seeing the trio of Josmer Altidore, Freddy Adu and Kenny Cooper on the pitch simultaneously. Last night the supporters got their wish as the trifecta helped the United States cruise to a 2-0 victory over Guatemala.

Although the young attackers played significant roles in yesterday's match, the win was a collective effort as not only did the stars and stripes stifle a Guatemalan side that was playing for their qualifying lives, but the team looked good in the process.

"It's a good way for us to finish up this round. It caps a successful run and now we focus on the challenge ahead," stated head coach Bob Bradley. " There was an opportunity tonight to see some different players and, as always, there were some things that were positive and some things that need work. All in all it was a good night for us.”

The first half saw the U.S. retain possession well and midfielders Sacha Kljestan and Adu were busy spraying pass after pass, releasing players behind the defense, only for them to squander their opportunities.

The inability to score ceased in the second half as in the 55th minute Cooper got on the end of a Jozy Altidore pass and put one past goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez.

The play began as Altidore received the ball on the left wing. The Villarreal striker approached a pair of defenders before buying himself time and space with some clever stepovers just before releasing the pinpoint pass to Cooper.

The goal marked the 6-foot, 3-inch player's first goal in World Cup qualifying, but he gave all the credit to Altidore.

“Jozy did all the work. He took some players on, and put the ball on a dime for me far post," said the humble FC Dallas forward. "I just had to put it in.”

Fourteen minutes later, Bradley's men doubled their lead courtesy of a picture perfect Freddy Adu free kick. The set piece was awarded when a Kljestan through ball saw Altidore get behind the defense. But defender Yony Flores, who was awarded a yellow for the play, grabbed the former New York Red Bulls forward to stop him from springing free.

Adu convinced Kljestan to allow him to take the ensuing free kick, and you'll hear no complaints from the Chivas USA midfielder as Adu found the back of the net. His first international goal was from 20 yards out and was curled beautifully to the far post.

"It’s nice to get the first national team goal. It definitely helps your confidence," said Adu of his free kick. "Hopefully you build off of this, and even if you don’t score goals, you help the team in different ways.”

The 19-year-old, who has run into tough times with his club Monaco, enjoyed one of his best performances on the senior national team against Guatemala.

Adu amazed spectators all night as he placed precise passes to his teammates, shot accurately from distance and crossed in dangerously off set pieces.

Though this shutout victory wasn't all about the three young attackers, they were the focal point of the night. Fans are rejoicing as the wait for them to play together is finally over. All three proved their worth and each added a different element to the attack. Adu's creativy, Cooper's prowess and Altidore's nifty attack-minded play are all something the full squad could use, even if it's off the bench.

With the Hexagonal looming closer, Bradley will need to find a way to incorporate these youngsters into his full side as they appear to be ready for bigger challenges. This is one problem Bradley surely doesn't mind.

Player ratings (scale of 1-10)

GK, Brad Guzan, 6 -- Made saves when needed, but his distribution was poor. Needs to work on holding onto shots as he continues to fumble them.

D, John Thorrington, 6 -- For not being a natural right back, he sure was solid. Jumped into the attack effectively and almost earned the U.S a early penalty kick.

D, Clarence Goodson, 6 -- Was strong in the air and like Parkhurst, his distribution was sharp. Solid game for the unknown commodity that's plying his trade in Norway.

D, Michael Parkhurst, 6 -- Didn't notice him much, but when talking about defenders that isn't necessarily a bad thing. His distribution was impressive, but he lacks physicality and that can prove to be costly against more talented opponents.

D, Jonathan Bornstein, 4 -- Got forward efficiently, but that was all he did well. Not only did he continuously stumble, but he got beaten badly on two occasions. Thankfully for him, he had teammates around who picked up the pieces. Bornstein doesn't appear to be the answer at left back.

M, Pablo Mastroeni, 6 -- Showed off his experience tonight with a calm and cool performance. Impressively struck a ball from long distance that could've turned into a U.S. goal had Goodson reacted faster on the rebound. Committed a silly foul that earned him a yellow in the latter stages of the match.

M, Ricardo Clark, 6 -- Played well defensively and showed some impressive range on his long passes. A composed performance.

M, Freddy Adu, 8 -- This is the type of game U.S. fans have been clamoring for. Was active throughout the game and looked good passing, dribbling and shooting. Combined well with teammates but he needs to learn to defend better, though that's the only quibble one could have of his game tonight. Put forth some dangerous shots from distance and his free kick goal was picture perfect.

M, Sacha Kljestan, 7 -- Hustled up and down the field and made some nifty through passes that sprung fellow attackers. Almost scored a goal of his own had it not been for a wonder save by Guatemalan goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez. Closed out the year with another solid performance.

F, Kenny Cooper, 6 -- Tirelessly chased after the ball as if he was a defensive midfielder. Was also physical in his attempts to recooperate 50/50 balls. Made a good run behind his defender to get onto Altidore's pass for the first goal.

F, Jozy Altidore, 7 -- Had a quiet first half, but a much improved second. A clever stepover allowed him the time and space to released the pinpoint pass that led to Cooper's goal. Was hungry to get a goal of his own but his finishing was off.


F, Brian Ching, 6 -- Looked good shielding the ball away from defenders and immediately jumped into the attack.

F, Conor Casey, 5 -- The hometown boy didn't get much of anything going in his 15 minute appearance.

M, Davy Arnaud, NR -- Another cap to his name but did nothing noteworthy during his short stint on the field.

Donovan loaned to Bayern Munich

Landon Donovan will give Germany another go around.

Donovan, who has been training with Bayern Munich for the past week, has landed a loan deal similar to that of David Beckham's with AC Milan. According to the German club's website, the loan will start on January 1 and run through the middle of March, once MLS kicks off its 2009 season.

However, unlike Beckham's loan, if Donovan impresses, he can be outright bought by the German giants. If that happens you could expect Donovan, 26, to stay until the remainder of the season, if not longer.

"The goal will be to see if we can get him long term, at least until the end of the season," said head coach Juergen Klinsmann to the club's site.

This move will mark Donovan's third stint with a German club, as he had two unsuccesful attempts with Bayer Leverkusen in 2001 and 2004. Will it be third time's a charm, or will it be three strikes and out for the American? Donovan's confident it will be the former.

"As a person and a player, I am completely different now to how I was then, I have matured. I am ready. I believe I can keep up with all the other players, even if I am not the best player here."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Starting XI: Cooper to start

It appears that hard work and patience really do pay off. Well, as long as your name is Kenny Cooper they do. Bob Bradley's starting eleven has been announced on the U.S. MNT blog for tonight's encounter against Guatemala.

Cooper has been listed as one of those starters and that'll come as joyful news to many U.S. supporters who've been chiming for months that the FC Dallas forward should get some time with the national team.

Here are the rest of the starters:


It appears I was completely off base with my prediction as Bradley has thrown a curve ball and elected to let Brian Ching start this game on the bench. John Thorrington at right back is also an unforeseen decision. Another interesting tidbit, Adu playing on the left side. Can he handle that position? We'll see. Kickoff is in 15 minutes.