Posts tagged clint dempsey
The US was able to secure three points out of two back to back games against Jamaica to exit the international break atop their semifinal round World Cup Qualifying group. Assuming the rest of the qualifying cycle goes according to plan, no one will think again of the week where ostensibly rational, functioning adult US fans forgot all of their history, lost track of reality, and started to internalize the proposition that we were bound to watch Brazil 2014 without a team to root for.
The Yanks went down to Kingston with a point on their mind. They planned to sit back and break up Jamaica’s forward thrusts with a narrow, destructive midfield. But Dempsey’s early goal gave them an excuse to get passive; and while they defended very well (Jamaica didn’t really create a legitimate scoring opportunity beyond their set pieces), they simply couldn’t get anything going forward with such a defensive lineup. A couple of fouls around the area resulted in direct free kick goals from Jamaica, and the US left without a point to show for their poor effort, despite having taken an early lead.
The US fanbase and media took this in stride, understanding that playing a decent team at home with two of our best players (Bradley, Donovan) out injured and the third (Dempsey) well out of form following a transfer dispute with his club is not always going to result in a quality performance.
I’ve said before that qualifying out of our CONCACAF region is full of tense moments. This upcoming set of games, back to back vs. Jamaica (at their place on 9/7, and at home in Columbus on 9/11), is an early example of how a few breaks can lead to sticky situations in what should have been a straightforward path out of our semifinal group.
Klinsmann has had to test his depth with this roster, and there are a few things worth pondering as the team prepares for the most crucial two games of his tenure.
Muscle Strains Depth
Two of our best three players are missing due to leg strains. Landon Donovan tweaked his hammy in the win down in Mexico and hasn’t played since in MLS, while Bradley’s been sidelined with a bum thigh for AS Roma since a so-so first start in their season opener. Donovan’s leadership, decision-making, workrate and ability to make that one perfect play that wins the game will obviously be missed. But Bradley’s absence is arguably more painful. The team counts on his two-way ability and he provides punch on both sides of the ball as well as a knack for coming up with big goals. With his backup options, you either lose passing and possession, or defensive bite. It is difficult to overstate the void left by the absence of these two and the experience they would have brought.
In addition, Josh Gatt, the Norway-based speed merchant looking for his first cap, had to turn down Klinsmann’s call due to….a strained hamstring.
It Ain’t Pretty, But It’s All We Needed
The US had a predictably disjointed first set of qualifiers, beating an organized Antigua & Barbuda side at home, and surviving a typically sketchy road trip to Guatemala.
We said all along that the only thing that matters here is getting results. Style points don’t count in qualifying – which is a good thing because they typically are nowhere to be found. People who think we should waltz into Central America and dominate haven’t been watching CONCACAF soccer for long. A draw does just fine, thank you very much. And it sets us up nicely for a home and home set against Jamaica in early September, which will go a long way towards determining if we can book our ticket to the Hex early or if we’ll have to sweat out the final couple of matches.
So what about the performances?
It’s been awhile since the US Men’s National Team used an excellent performance (and a bit of luck) to knock off Italy on their home soil, and a lot has happened since that breakthrough win. The U-23′s failed to qualify for the Olympics in heartbreaking fashion, shifting more focus towards the start of World Cup Qualifying. And several key members of the squad finished good seasons abroad, highlighted by Clint Dempsey’s magnificent goal scoring record at Fulham. Finally, Tim Chandler has informed us that he’s not so sure he wants to play international football – which sounds to most US fans like the still untied player is just working both sides of the fence in case Germany ever comes calling.
A lot of soccer-savvy people say results don’t matter in friendlies. It’s all about the quality of the play and the individual performances – worry about results when something’s on the line. But for the US team, something’s always on the line – respect. The under-appreciated bunch has played pretty in plenty of losses under Klinsmann; but in finally putting together a string of positive results has perhaps found its foundation in a staunchly organized structure and a pragmatically opportunistic attacking mentality.
My favorite moment of 2011 was quickly obscured by a terrible collapse. Foolishly, I believed that Landon Donovan’s smart finish of a Dempsey feed in the first half of the Gold Cup Final against Mexico would hold up and that the US was on the way to another regional title and another Confederations Cup berth. It was a great moment, celebrating loudly in a crowded bar with fellow fans. But it turned sour as the game quickly turned the other way and we were outclassed the rest of the match – losing 4-2. The result sparked the end of Bob Bradley’s tenure and paved the way for the hiring of Jurgen Klinsmann as the new boss. The result was a fitting end to a run that had seen Bradley’s team become progressively less organized and disciplined.
First up, the Vancouver Whitecaps show a great sense of humo(u)r with this photograph they Tweeted as a response to advertisements featuring a rival in his skivvies popping up in their city. But really, it’s the kind of funny you would expect from Canadians.
We love when MLS teams go retro (as with Portland’s third kit this season), and MLSSoccer.com gives us a look at the San Jose Earthquakes’ season tickets for 2012, featuring photographs of Quakes teams from different eras going back to the NASL days of the 1970′s.
KCKRS introduces us to buckminsterfullerene, outer space molecules whose shape looks an awful like the truncated icosahedron of the Adidas Telstar soccer ball made famous by the World Cups of the seventies.
Finally, four members of the USA squad just called up today to face Italy next week participated in a photo shoot for Pepsi Max, and they posted the behind the scenes video today. Gorgeousness abounds.
Everyone’s buzzing about Landon Donovan and Everton going up against Clint Dempsey and Fulham today in an FA Cup match. There’s a #LDvCD Twitter hashtag, Fox Soccer has scored the rights to air the game, and the MLS website is stoking the debate as to who is better. But no one is asking the key question we pose to you now:
A few photos to help you out after the jump… read more…