Copa America – US Men’s National Team Ready to Swim with the Sharks

The United States Men’s National team has always had a regional dilemma.  On one hand, affiliation with the CONCACAF qualifying region has allowed the USMNT to take advantage of inferior opponents and advance to six consecutive World Cups.  On the other, the US really only has one quality rival – Mexico – and the overall level of competition doesn’t adequately prepare the team to compete against the world’s best.

Recent news suggests the United States is making progress towards a logical solution – taking advantage of the super competitive neighbors to the south.  Reports state the United States is in discussions to host CONMEBOL’s 2016 Copa America Centenario – a special 100 year anniversary celebration of South America’s premier international competition.  Negotiations are ongoing, but the proposal itself (briefly reported as “finalized”) is exciting. [Read more…]

Final Thoughts – International Break – US Men’s National Team

Club soccer returned this weekend after last week’s break for World Cup qualifying.  Rather than focus too much on the action in MLS and abroad, let’s wrap things up with the US Men’s National Team as it enters a four-month hiatus before the final round of CONCACAF qualifying begins this winter.

The biggest story in American soccer two weeks ago was the omission of Jozy Altidore from roster for the United States’ final two games in the third round of CONCACAF qualifying – games in which the USMNT needed a result to advance.  Jurgen Klinsmann’s decision was widely criticized within the US Soccer community (media, supporters) for a couple reasons.  First, Altidore has been a fixture on the team for years, so it was simply strange to see a roster without his name on it.  Secondly, despite poor showings in recent international appearances, Altidore’s form has been excellent in the early portion of this club season.  Playing for the Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, Altidore opened the season with eight goals in as many games, compared to fifteen goals all of last season.  Klinsmann, who has espoused a philosophy of club form influencing national team selection, was not persuaded by Altidore’s production.  Furthermore, Klinsmann opted to pass over Chris Wondolowksi, far and away the top scorer in Major League Soccer. [Read more…]

That’ll Do, Klins: USA defeats Guatemala 3-1, Advances to Hex

Never a doubt.  After a lot of hand wringing last week about Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster decisions, specifically the omission of Jozy Altidore, USA took six points from six and advanced to the fourth and final round of qualifying for World Cup 2014.  After defeating Antigua and Barbuda on Friday night, Klinsmann’s team only needed a draw at home against Guatemala to advance.  What they got instead was a 3-1 victory, and an attacking performance that should inspire confidence going forward.

There was a sense of calm heading into this game despite the United States needing a result to advance.  If disaster was going to strike, Friday felt like the night.  Battling the worst team in the group, away, in a driving storm on a muddy field, USA needed an injury time winner from Eddie Johnson to secure three points.  Disaster averted; Klinsmann’s experimental attacking unit came through.  Barely.  All they had to do tonight was play to a draw against an inferior opponent, on a pristine field in front of American fans.  And for about five minutes everything went according to plan. [Read more…]

The Biggest Game in Town – MLS All Star Week and the Harrison Soccer Courts

Afzalul karim Nirvick’s flickr

 

Two weeks ago 26,760 fans filled Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey for the 16th MLS All Star Game.  Despite considerable hype, the game was unremarkable, which wasn’t particularly surprising to any seasoned American sports fan.  All Star games, more pageant than athletic contest, are rarely compelling.  The hook for Major League Soccer is that the MLS All Star game is an opportunity to showcase American soccer against the best in the world, while briefly enticing additional eyeballs with a sexy date.  Manchester United accepted the invitation for a second straight year, and forgot their manners again dropping the All Star hosts 4-0.  The score left soccer pundits and fans asking whether or not these exhibitions are good for MLS or the growth of the game domestically.  The answer is “yes” of course (any press is good press), but if the mission of All Star week was to grow the game in America, the main event was only part of the battle.  On Monday night of All Star week, in the same town as the state of the art Red Bull Arena, a celebration of US Soccer history provided an example for the future. [Read more…]