Footballing from a lesser authority...
- Name: Zach
- Location: New York, New York
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Kasey Keller
First-choice goalkeeper for the USA, Kasey Keller has been with the national team for just about as long as the squad has been relevant on the world scene. He broke in with the squad in 1990, and was a member of that pioneering band of Yanks at the '90 World Cup. Following the World Cup, he took his game overseas, signing with English club Millwall FC. He played with Millwall until 1996, when he moved to the Premiership, signing with newly promoted Leicester City, where he won the League Cup in 1997.
In two seasons with Leicester, Keller was named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year twice, in 1997 and 1999. One of the few members of the disastrous 1998 U.S. World Cup campaign still with the Nats, Keller tried his hand in Spain in 1999, signing with Rayo Vallecano. He moved back to the Premier League in 2001, signing with Tottenham Hotspur, where he took over the starting goalkeeper spot for the next two seasons. Keller found himself relegated to Number Two status for the USA by 2002, and sat the bench while the U.S. rode to the World Cup quarterfinals with Brad Friedel in goal, and by 2004, his status with Tottenham had also diminished. He was loaned to Southampton FC at the end of 2004, where he stayed a month before joining German Bundelsiga side Borussia Monchengladbach, where he regained his first-choice status for both club and country. In 2005, he was once again named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year.
Even at age 36, Keller remains in prime physical condition, and is able to combine smart positioning with athleticism and durability. His quality goalkeeping has saved the U.S. on multiple occasions, and although U.S. soccer commentators like to hype him beyond reasonable expectations ("He's the best goalkeeper in the world, and he lives in a castle!"), he remains an outstanding goalkeeper who is underrated everywhere other than the U.S. Keller is one of the unquestioned leaders of the squad, and excels in keeping the back four organized in front of him. Barring injury, he will play every minute of the World Cup for the U.S.
1990: Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut. Makes pro debut with Millwall FC (England, Division One).
1995: Named to Copa America Best XI.
1996: Joins Leicester City (England, Premier League) from Millwall on a $1.5 million transfer.
1997: Wins League Cup with Leicester. Named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year.
1999: Named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year.
2000: Joins Rayo Vallecano (Spain, Primera Division) from Leicester on a free transfer.
2001: Joins Tottenham Hotspur (England, Premier League) from Rayo on a free transfer.
2002: Wins Gold Cup with USA. Advances to World Cup quarterfinals with USA (does not play), before elimination against Germany.
2004: Joins Southampton FC (England, Premier League) on loan from Tottenham.
2005: Joins Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany, 1. Bundesliga) from Tottenham on a nominal transfer. Wins Gold Cup with USA. Named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Gregg Berhalter
Gregg Berhalter is a U.S. soccer veteran, having made his pro debut in 1994 with Dutch side FC Zwolle. Since that time, he has bounced around Europe, seeing action with Sparta Rotterdam, Cambuur Leeuwarden, Crystal Palace, and, most recently, Energie Cottbus, where he became squad captain in 2004 and gained promotion to the 1. Bundesliga in 2006. It has recently been announced that he will play with 2. Bundesliga side 1860 Munich in the upcoming season.
Berhalter has been in the U.S. national picture since 1994, even seeing time as a starter during the USA's 2002 World Cup quarterfinals run. He is a tall central defender, capable of using his size and strength to overpower opponents in the air, or to muscle forwards off the ball. Although he makes smart decisions and positions himself well, he is more than a step slow, a factor which could keep him off the field in Germany. He is on the World Cup roster as an injury replacement for Cory Gibbs, who went down with a knee injury, and will be ready when called upon to fill in where necessary.
1994: Makes pro debut with FC Zwolle (Netherlands, Eerste Divisie). Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
1996: Joins Sparta Rotterdam (Netherlands, Eredivisie).
1998: Joins Cambuur Leeuwarden (Netherlands, Eerste Divisie).
2001: Joins Crystal Palace (England, Division One).
2002: Joins Energie Cottbus (Germany, 2. Bundesliga). Advances to quarterfinals of World Cup with USA, before elimination against Germany.
2004: Named captain of Energie Cottbus.
2006: Gains promotion to 1. Bundesliga with Energie Cottbus. Joins TSV 1860 Munich (Germany, 2. Bundesliga) from Energie Cottbus on a free transfer.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson is yet another former U.S. Youth Academy player to get into the U.S. Men's National Team. Only 22 years of age, Johnson is already a veteran of MLS, having made his debut with the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) in 2001. In 2004, he tied for the MLS goal-scoring title with Brian Ching (12 goals), becoming the youngest player to lead the league in goals, at age 20. Johnson made his U.S. debut the same year, and totaled seven goals in his first six World Cup qualifiers, endearing him to U.S. fans and securing an established place in the team. A foot injury kept him sidelined for much of 2005, and FC Dallas traded him to the Kansas City Wizards in 2006, not very long after his return from injury.
Johnson possesses outstanding speed, as well as decent size and strength. He plays as an out-and-out striker, using his pace to get by defenders to score goals. Despite his obvious talent, Johnson is known to coast through matches, a trait that has withheld his progress with the Nats to a certain extent. Nevertheless, he remains in contention for a starting spot, and will see plenty of action during the World Cup.
2001: Makes pro debut with the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas; USA, Major League Soccer).
2003: Receives Golden Boot (top goalscorer) at FIFA World Youth Championships.
2004: Ties for MLS goal-scoring title with Brian Ching (12 goals). Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
2005: Wins Gold Cup with USA.
2006: Traded to the Kansas City Wizards (USA, Major League Soccer) by FC Dallas for roster allocations.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
3/23: Morocco 1, USA 0
- Speaking of injury, let's hope Reyna's strained hamstring turns out to be minor. Much talk is often made Reyna's ability to "slow" the game down and "speed it up" (is he really the only guy on the team with this ability?), and while that sounds like a gross simplification of his game, there is no question that the U.S. is a better-organized team with him. Let's hope he bounces back.
- I'm not too sure I liked the pairing of Oguchi Onyewu and Eddie Pope in the back. They played ok, but Pope is not as quick as he used to be, and Onyewu, for all of his physical presence, seems to be more useful when paired with a quicker defender. Hopefully we'll see what he can do with Cory Gibbs later this week.
- I also didn't particularly like Gibbs at left-back, either. He did ok defensively, but seemed entirely uncomfortable in supporting the attack. His failure to provide service hurt the U.S. gameplan, and it is clear that he is more useful in central defense.
- O'Brien looked decent out there, although I don't think he did anything to show himself worthy of starting ahead of Pablo Mastroeni.
- Clint Dempsey should start, if only because Steve Cherundolo was asked to do too much. Cherundolo had to provide service from the right as well as backtrack defensively, and he'll get burned out in the World Cup playing that way.
- By the same token, Landon Donovan should play up top, rather than on the right. The U.S. forwards stuggled in making runs and getting off shots, and Donovan was the only effective attacker last night. Furthermore, he seemed much more comfortable drifting to the middle, rather than staying out right. Let's make him a forward.
- Finally, John Harkes got it partially right when he said that fitness contributed to Morocco's late goal. Cherundolo was tired all right, and that was a fresh Moroccan substitute on his back, but how could no one criticize him for failing to make the simple pass back to Kasey Keller? Cherundolo lost the game as soon as he tried to make the play for himself. U.S. commentators need to stop treating the squad with kid gloves. Cherundolo will bounce back though.
So we have Venezuela on Friday, which will probably give us a different mix of players to look at. Overall, a decent kick in the face from a lesser Morocco side is probably what the U.S. needed. If we can raise our level of intensity before heading out to Germany, it will help matters immensely. Is the U.S. a little overconfident? Probably, but I also think they will challenge each other to play better over these next two matches. As the team gets in synch, I think we'll see a more effective unit.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Tim Howard
Entering his peak years at age 27, Tim Howard's list of career achievements would be impressive for any goalkeeper, let alone an American. After making his pro debut in the USISL, Howard signed with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) in 1998, eventually becoming the team's first choice by 2001. His spectacular skill with the MetroStars enabled him to win the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2001, and he was named to the MLS Best XI for both 2001 and 2002.
What followed was perhaps the best season ever by any American; midway through the 2003 MLS season, Howard was snapped up by English champions Manchester United, and, during their 2004 run, he took over first-team goalkeeping duties from French legend Fabian Barthez. Howard turned in a spectacular performance that year, becoming the first-ever American to win the F.A. Cup, as well as the first American named to the PFA Best XI. In addition, he was named English Premier League Goalkeeper of the Year. Howard was now an American pioneer, the first to attain true stardom in Europe.
Howard's run at the top didn't last long, however. He followed up his amazing 2004 season with a disastrous 2005 campaign, where he found himself unable to hold on to his starting position. Manchester United, in a show of faith, renewed his contract until 2009 and released his goalkeeping competition, but then (unpleasantly) surprised Howard by signing Dutch star Edwin van der Sar to be their new Number One. Howard spent the 2006 season even more unhappily, riding the bench while van der Sar turned in stellar performances for United, and asked to be loaned out at season's end. Manchester United complied, and a loan deal was agreed upon with Everton FC, for whom Howard will man the nets in 2006-07.
Howard, who has lived with Tourette's Syndrome throughout his life, is an activist for children with Tourette's, and received the MLS Humanitarian of the Year award in 2001. He made his U.S. debut in 1999, and has long been considered the team's goalkeeper of the future. He will likely take over as the first-choice goalkeeper for the USA once the World Cup is over. He is a tall keeper with outstanding athleticism, and he plays an aggressive style (which occasionally gets him into trouble). He goes into the World Cup as the #2 keeper for the U.S., but will have to fight it out with Marcus Hahnemann to hold onto that spot. A good camp and possible World Cup action may be the lift Howard needs to rejuvenate his career.
1997: Makes pro debut with the North Jersey Imperials (USA, United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues).
1998: Signs with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (USA, Major League Soccer).
1999: Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
2001: Named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. Named to MLS Best XI. Named MLS Humanitarian of the Year.
2002: Named to MLS Best XI.
2003: Joins Manchester United (England, Premier League) from MLS on a $3 million transfer.
2004: Wins F.A. Cup with Manchester United. Named EPL Goalkeeper of the Year. Named to PFA Best XI.
2006: Joins Everton FC (England, Premier League) on loan from Manchester United.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Marcus Hahnemann
Marcus Hahnemann's journey to the 2006 FIFA World Cup has taken a variety of twists and turns since he began his pro career in the A-League in 1994. He made his USA debut the same year, playing in three matches for the Stars and Stripes, but he didn't suit up for the Nats again until 2003.
The years in between his U.S. appearances provided a series of professional changes. Hahnemann left the A-League in 1997, signing with the Colorado Rapids. He played two and a half seasons with Colorado before transferring to Fulham FC
(a seemingly popular destination for American players). He didn't see much playing time with Fulham, and was loaned to Rochdale AFC (who happen to play in the lowest professional level in England, League Two of The Football League).
Fortunately for Hahnemann, he didn't stay long, as Fulham loaned him out again the same year, this time to Reading FC. He eventually made a permanent switch to Reading, where he became the first-choice goalkeeper and finally began to achieve true professional success. In 2005-06, he teamed up with fellow U.S. international Bobby Convey, to lead Reading to its first-ever promotion to the English Premier League. In honor of his efforts, he was named to the PFA Championship Team of the Year.
Hahnemann is an intimidating, aggressive keeper who excels in organizing the defense in front of him. His recent re-appointment to the national team is a reflection of his strong play at Reading, and even though he is currently the third choice, he will push for the number two goalkeeping spot. Don't expect to see him play in Germany, unless he has a very strong camp and the U.S. team encounters serious injury problems in goal.
1994: Makes pro debut with the Seattle Sounders (USA, A-League). Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
1997: Signs with Colorado Rapids (USA, Major League Soccer).
1999: Joins Fulham FC (England, Division Two) from MLS on a $90,000 transfer. Gains promotion to Division One with Fulham.
2001: Loaned to Rochdale AFC (England, Football League, League Two) from Fulham. Loaned again to Reading FC (England, Division Two).
2002: Gains promotion to Division One with Reading.
2003: Earns first USA cap in nine years.
2005: Wins Gold Cup with USA.
2006: Gains promotion to Premier League with Reading. Is named to PFA Championship Team of the Season.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
The 116 Awards
The 116street Best XI
GK: Iker Casillas, Real Madrid - He did his absolute best to salvage a sinking ship this season, and he sparkled late-season against Barcelona. Without him, there's no way Los Galacticos (are we still allowed to call them that?) finish second.
RB: William Gallas, Chelsea - Gallas was probably top 3 in the world at any of the four defensive positions at which he played this season, but for the purpose of this squad, we'll use him at right back. Incredibly, he still wasn't even the best defender on his own team.
CB: Kolo Toure, Arsenal - It seems to me that when your defense goes ten straight without giving up a Champions League goal, you can probably sleep easy, knowing you've given your best. Toure commandeered a makeshift Arsenal back four, turning it into Europe's best, and he stood out down a man against Barcelona, keeping them off the scoreboard until late. We'll probably be seeing this guy on this list a few more times as the years go on.
CB: John Terry, Chelsea - He's the best defender in the world, and probably deserves England's captaincy over Beckham at the moment. Who would have thought there was a likeable Chelsea player?
LB: Gianluca Zambrotta, Juventus - Like Gallas, he's an incredibly versatile player, who can get up and down the field like no other. We'll make him our left-back, and let him make plenty of dangerous, over-lapping runs. Let's just hope he doesn't pay off the officials.
RW: Joe Cole, Chelsea - He took his game to a new level this year, and provided a measure of flair to Chelsea's otherwise robotic attack. He scored a great one to help knock Manchester United out of Premiership title contention.
CM: Steven Gerrard, Liverpool - He clutches victory from the jaws of defeat. He is a legend among men. He'll probably be a knight by age 29. He plays 11 positions at once, every game. He is Laura Bush's baby's father. He will bring about the new utopia...
CM: Michael Ballack, Bayern Munich - Front-runner du jour and Matt Damon look-alike, Ballack managed to captain Bayern to the Bundesliga title, all while telling anyone who would listen that he was going to leave for Chelsea. No one has ever made winning the Bundesliga seem like such a chore. Good luck with Jose, Herr Ballack, you'll need it.
LW: Ronaldinho, Barcelona - You may have heard of him once or twice.
ST: Thierry Henry, Arsenal - I have said it before, and I will say it again: Thierry Henry is the best player in the world, bar none.
ST: Luca Toni, Fiorentina - He was like Jason Voorhees to the Serie A this season, slowly killing all in his way. I fear for anyone who has to encounter him in the World Cup this summer.
The Ron Artest "Please Love Me" Award:
To Chelsea, who, despite wrapping up a second consecutive title, as well as wresting the Premier League balance of power away from Manchester United and Arsenal, have nothing but hatred and derision to show for it. Jose Mourinho's continuously poor sportsmanship aside, Chelsea's inabiliy to progress in European competition has done little to stem the Blues' inferiority complex. Now, they seek to insitute a new "Galactico" era, this time in England, signing Michael Ballack and making a move for Andriy Shevchenko. They may achieve the success and financial rewards of becoming a super-club, but it seems that they will never get the adulation they so desperately desire. As Jay-Z once so eloquently put it, "sensitive thugs, you all need hugs."
The Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea "Worst Time to Give an Inspirational Speech" Award:
To Thierry Henry, who gave an emotional pick-me-up to his Arsenal teammates while on a Champions League Final flight. Umm, Thierry, next time, you might want to give the speech before the game, rather than on the return flight after you just lost. I'm sure your teammates appreciated the sentiment though, and I think everyone's glad you're sticking around.
The Michael Jordan on the Wizards "Time to Give It Up" Award:
To Christian Vieri, Rivaldo, Fernando Morientes and Juan Sebastian Veron; you guys have done nothing to deserve a World Cup place. Nothing. Let the younger guys have their chance, and fall back gracefully.
116street Thank Yous:
To Lionel Messi, for completely ruining Asier Del Horno's season. One match versus Leo, and Del Horno might as well have been in a straightjacket, saying "Scarecrow" over and over for the rest of the year.
To Steven Gerrard, for refusing to allow his teammates to celebrate with him after tying the FA Cup Final. While I am normally against such jerk behavior in a team sport, Gerrard has to be sick and tired of constantly having to bail out the Reds time and time again. He'd already tied it once, and now he has to tie it again? I'm with you Stevie; #^*% your sorry-@$$ teammates, it's all about you. Let's get this knighthood thing started right now.
To the board of Juventus, for ensuring a U.S. upset over Italy in June. Can you guys get to working on some scandals in the Czech Republic and Ghana while there's still time?
Finally, to the good folks at Sky Sports, for bringing to my attention the existence of Hayley McQueen. Thank you, thank you, thank you. She's foxy.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Cory Gibbs
Cory Gibbs was once one of the most obscure Americans playing abroad, even though he began his career in the high-profile German Bundesliga, with FC St. Pauli, in 2001. Unfortunately for Gibbs and St. Pauli, the side was relegated to the 2. Bundesliga after the 2001-02 season, making his profile even more less-known. Despite his best efforts, the squad was relegated to an even lower division in 2003, and Gibbs set out to find a new club for the 2004-05 season.
Despite the poor form of his club, Gibbs did eventually get noticed by the U.S. Soccer brass, and he made his U.S. debut in 2003. After several negotiations fell through, Gibbs signed with the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) in 2004, and he became a regular starter. He only stayed a year though, signing with Dutch giants Feyenoord in 2005. Hardship befell him again, however, when a knee injury suffered during a friendly versus England caused a lengthy rehab. Upon returning from injury in 2006, Feyenoord loaned him to fellow Dutch side ADO Den Haag, where he completed his season. Feyenoord subsequently released him from his contract following the season. Gibbs, after spending a few months in professional limbo, eventually signed a pre-contract with English Premier League club Charlton Athletic, for whom he will begin play next season. In the meantime, he will be fighting for a starting spot with the Yanks.
For all of his professional misfortune, Gibbs is a very capable central defender, and is probably the fastest member of the USA defense. He is positionally sound, does a good job in the air, and like most national team members, keeps his mistakes to a minimum. He is likely to start a few matches for the U.S., and may become a regular starter if he does well in training camp. He has been tried at left back on occasion, and also has some experience at the club level in central midfield. He could be one of the unsung heroes of the U.S. Men in Germany.
2001: Makes pro debut with FC St. Pauli (Germany, 1. Bundesliga).
2002: Relegated to 2. Bundesliga with St. Pauli.
2003: Relegated to Regionalliga Nord with St. Pauli. Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
2004: Signs with Dallas Burn (USA, Major League Soccer).
2005: Joins Feyenoord (Netherlands, Eredivisie) on a transfer from MLS (fee undisclosed).
2006: Joins ADO Den Haag (Netherlands, Eredivisie) on loan from Feyenoord. Joins Charlton Athletic (England, Premier League) on a free transfer from Feyenoord.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
I'm Just Sayin'...
Know Your Yanks: Landon Donovan
Landon Donovan hit the scene in a big way in 1999, when he won the Golden Ball as the best player in the Under-17 World Championships. Pegged for greatness, he signed a contract with German side Bayer Leverkusen, and began his quest to become the American Zidane. All did not go according to plan, however, as he could not break into the Bayer first team. His unhappiness with playing time, as well as homesickness for the California sun, precipitated a lengthy public campaign for his freedom from the hostile Germans. Leverkusen eventually relented, sending him on loan to MLS, where he caught on with the San Jose Earthquakes.
Upon his return to the States, Donovan made his first appearance in a USA uniform in late 2000, and his appearances with the Nats increased throughout 2001; he was a regular starter by year's end. At the same time, he was dominating in MLS, leading the 'Quakes to the 2001 MLS Cup title. 2002 was Donovan's coming out party, however, as he was a key component in the U.S.' shocking run to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. His attacking exploits with the Americans were outstanding, leading FIFA in 2006 to retroactively name him Young Player of the 2002 World Cup.
Donovan had a career year in 2003, being named to the MLS Best XI, leading San Jose to another MLS Cup and being named MLS Cup MVP. For his efforts, he was named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year. Bayer Leverkusen, having taken notice of his skills, decided it was time to end his loan period, and in late 2004 he returned to Germany, taking with him a second consecutive U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award. Back with Leverkusen, Donovan struggled, playing infrequently, and scoring no goals. When he stated his desire to return to MLS, Bayer obliged, selling his rights to the league, where the Los Angeles Galaxy (San Jose's hated rival) traded for his allocation rights. With the Galaxy in 2005, Donovan returned to his old self, leading Los Angeles to the 2005 MLS Cup title, and becoming MLS' all-time leading playoff scorer, with 14 goals. After the season, in honor of the league's 10th anniversary, he was named to the league's All Time Best XI, and he became the U.S. Men's all-time assist leader in 2006, at only age 24.
Donovan has been a controversial figure in the world of American soccer. While no one can deny his prodigious talent, he has been known to coast in games of lesser importance, while dominating the big matches. His two exits from Germany have also been roundly criticized in certain circles, as some perceive him to have quit during hard times. In San Jose, he has been vilified, mostly for becoming a success with the rival Galaxy (now that the team has moved to Houston, some even blame his exit for the death of the franchise). He has also become the lightning rod for hatred of the U.S. team in Mexico, where he certainly hasn't helped matters by saying that Mexican players "suck" after the U.S. beat them in World Cup qualifying this past year. Some have even criticized Donovan for the perceived role of his fiancee in his career decisions. Donovan, to his credit, has tried to stay above the fray, often using humorous quotes of self-deprecation to diffuse his critics.
Donovan is the most skilled attacking player in U.S. history. He has a mix of speed, ball control, shooting, passing and creativity that is unrivaled by anyone on the U.S. team. His skill level allows him to play virtually anywhere in attack, although he is most often utilized in a central playmaking role, either in midfield behind two forwards or as a center forward behind one striker. He may also see time on the right side of midfield. He has a strong awareness of the game, enabling him to compile assists, but also to join the attack and score many goals. He does tend to fade out of less significant matches, but plays very well in big games. His leadership and influence within the U.S. team is growing, and he occasionally fills in as U.S. captain.
1999: Receives Golden Ball (Best Player) at FIFA Under-17 World Cup. Signs professional contract with Bayer Leverkusen (Germany, 1. Bundesliga).
2000: Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
2001: Joins the San Jose Earthquakes (USA, Major League Soccer) on loan from Bayer. Wins MLS Cup with San Jose.
2002: Wins Gold Cup with USA. Named to Gold Cup Best XI. Advances to quaterfinals of World Cup with USA, before being eliminated by Germany.
2003: Wins MLS Cup with San Jose. Named MLS Cup MVP. Named to MLS Best XI. Named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year.
2004: Named U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year for second consecutive season. Recalled from loan to Bayer Leverkusen.
2005: Joins the Los Angeles Galaxy (USA, Major League Soccer) on a transfer for Bayer (fee undisclosed). Wins MLS Cup with Los Angeles. Named to MLS All Time Best XI. Wins Gold Cup with USA. Named to Gold Cup Bext XI.
2006: Becomes U.S. Men's National Team all-time assist leader.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey battles haters both on the pitch and on wax. In addition to being the newest American soccer sensation, Dempsey is also an erstwhile rapper, even recording a (surprisingly listenable) song and video, with the late Houston rapper Big Hawk, for a recent Nike marketing campaign. A charismatic, demonstrative player, Dempsey has been credited as being the first American player to incorporate South American-style "flair" (flashy dribbling moves) into his game on a regular basis.
Dempsey's career began in 2004, with the New England Revolution, where he made an immediate impact as an attacking player and developed a reputation for playing through injury. His 2004 season ended with him receiving the MLS Rookie of the Year award, and he made his U.S. Men's debut the same year. In 2005, Dempsey's profile with the national team rose in a big way, and he featured prominently in the U.S.' run to the Gold Cup championship. His season ended with disappointment, however, when the Revolution lost the MLS Cup final to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Dempsey, whose natural position is as a central attacking midfielder, spends most of his national team time on the right side of midfield, where Coach Bruce Arena likes to utilize his superior footwork. Dempsey's bag of dribbling tricks, combined with his speed, make him a dangerous player. As a result, he draws a lot of fouls (usually very hard fouls, too, because he seldom dives). He is also good at getting forward, and scores a fair number of goals for a midfielder.
As any (every?) American soccer broadcaster will tell you, Dempsey hails from Nacogdoches, Texas (and yes Dave O'Brien, I know it is fun to say "Nacogdoches, Texas," but must you say it 5 times every single game?), and considers himself an ambassador of sorts to working-class youth who want to get into soccer. His confident (bordering on cocky) demeanor, and end-zone-dance-like goal celebrations have made him a fan favorite, of both the Revs and the U.S. Men. Even so, his starting position is not assured; to make an impact at the World Cup, he will have to continue to work hard.
2004: Makes pro debut with the New England Revolution (USA, Major League Soccer). Named MLS Rookie of the Year. Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
2005: Named to MLS Best XI. Wins Gold Cup with USA.
This could really turn into the sporting scandal of the year, especially if (as reported) this goes beyond the Serie A and into UEFA and the Champions League. Even the German match-fixing scandals of the past year didn't approach this; with the scudetto on the line, the scrutiny the referees will be under this weekend will be unprecedented. Not to mention that Juventus, which up to this point could very well have been considered a model organization in European football, now makes the Real Madrid asylum look first-class in comparison. Furthermore, with Lazio, Fiorentina and even possibly AC Milan now being implicated in match-fixing as well, it seems as though this story won't be going away anytime soon...
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
From a Lesser Authority...
Has Sven-Goran Eriksson really turned into Pookie from New Jack City? Is the selection of a 17-year-old, with no Premier League experience (or driver's license, for that matter), for the World Cup a sure sign of insanity? Has Sven really been replaced by a doppelganger? I think not. While the press in England freaks out over Sven's selection of Theo Walcott, I must stop to ask one simple question: have you watched any of England's strikers lately?
Anyone who thinks Jermain Defoe is going to light it up in Berlin, when he can barely get one against Birmingham, Bolton or Blackburn, is on some serious crack rock. And sure, everyone seems to like Darren Bent, but there's a guy over here, who I am not going to mention by name (his initials are T.T.), who he reminds me an awful lot of. If Michael Owen doesn't make it back healthy, do the English really think they would be any better off with a strike force of Defoe and Peter Crouch? We here on 116th street support Sven's decision: if Walcott is as good as everyone says he is, it will be a plus; if not, who is really that much better of an option?
As for Juventus, whose director general, Luciano Moggi, has been caught in a scandal involving secret dealings with both the Italian referees' association and the UEFA referees' commission, all I will say is this: if the allegations are true, how in the world did you allow your lead in the scudetto race to drop from ten points to three in less than a month? Did you eat at the same hotel as the Tottenham players? Were you worn out from chasing Cesc Fabregas around? Talk about earning your nicknames...
To Major League Soccer, who saw their stadium deal with Salt Lake City flop earlier this week, and can't seem to get anything going with the Wizards, all I can say is cheer up. Although sometimes you get what you ask for, and dealing with small-time locales such as Salt Lake City and Kansas City will guarantee you everything besides "major league" treatment, at least now you now not to trailblaze into desperate cities with no clue of how big-time entertainment operations work. Of course they want you to come to their city, of course they want to be seen as progressive, but don't be surprised when they flee at the first indicators of risk. That is the essence of the small-time mentality. If you truly want to be Major League, go for more Torontos, Philadelphias and Houstons, and fewer Salt Lakes, Kansas Cities and Columbuses.
Oh yeah, one more thing concerning Walcott: Theo, it's time for you to start saying no to a few of those photo shoots and interview requests. This is the World Cup you're getting ready for now, not a shirt unveiling, followed by a Saturday afternoon tilt with Leeds (that applies to you too, LanDo). That's all I'm saying...
Know Your Yanks: Bobby Convey
Bobby Convey was the original American child prodigy; in 2000, at age sixteen, he became a regular in the starting lineup of D.C. United, several years before Freddy Adu would do likewise. His years as a fixture in the D.C. lineup appeared to be at an end in 2003, when he agreed to a transfer to English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. Unfortunately for Convey, he was denied a work permit (international players must meet a criteria of national-team games to play in England), and returned to MLS.
In 2004, he transferred for real, this time to Reading FC, where he began play in the League Championship (England's 2nd-tier division). His 2004-05 season proved disastrous; as a player once pegged for stardom, he couldn't even break into Reading's first team, and his place with the U.S. team was slipping. To Convey's credit, however, he stuck it out and got himself ready for the 2005-06 season.
2005-06 proved to be Bobby Convey's breakout season; not only did he earn a starting position with Reading, he proved to be a major factor in their greatest-ever season, winning the League Championship and gaining promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the team's history. As a result of his stellar season, FourFourTwo magazine declared Convey England's 10th-best player not in the Premiership.
Convey was a member of the U.S. squad that finished fourth at the 1999 Under-17 World Cup, and made his U.S. Men's debut in 2000, at age 17. He has spent most of his U.S. career as a backup to DaMarcus Beasley, but his strong play of late has caused him to challenge for the top spot on the left wing. He can also play in the center of the midfield, and may do so regularly in the future. Convey possesses superb ball control and speed, and has worked hard on his game to become a superior crosser of the ball. He is also an inventive and effective passer, and does well enough defensively to occasionally be used at left-back. His shooting, once notoriously subpar, is much improved, to the point where he has become an effective free-kick taker. Considering that he is about to turn only 23, look for him to be a star for the Stars and Stripes for many years to come.
2000: Makes pro debut with D.C. United (USA, Major League Soccer). Becomes youngest-ever MLS player at age 16 (record since broken by D.C.'s Santino Quaranta, then again by D.C.'s Freddy Adu). Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
2003: Joins Tottenham Hotspur (England, Premier League) from MLS on a $2 million transfer, but has British work permit denied, and must return to D.C. United. Named Captain of U.S. Under-20 team at World Youth Championship.
2004: Joins Reading FC (England, League Championship) from MLS on a $1.5 million transfer.
2006: Wins League Championship with Reading. Gains promotion to Premier League with Reading.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Jimmy Conrad
When he isn't busy writing humorous notes of self-deprecation for ESPN.com, Jimmy Conrad spends his time working hard as a rugged center-back for the USA. Like Brian Ching, Conrad is a veteran of the A-League, spending a year there before signing with the San Jose Earthquakes in 1999. It was with the 'Quakes that he began his popular column for SI.com (he moved to ESPN in 2005), detailing the daily grind of the average MLS player.
A member of San Jose's MLS Championship team in 2001, Conrad was traded to the Kansas City Wizards in 2003, where he began to turn heads with his stellar play in defense. His 2004 season ended with him being named to the MLS Best XI, and in 2005 he won the MLS Defender of the Year award.
Conrad made his U.S. National Team debut during the 2005 Gold Cup, and his appearances for the Stars and Stripes steadily increased, culminating with his surprise inclusion in the World Cup squad. Conrad possesses decent speed, and brings physicality and toughness to a U.S. defense that already has plenty. He is good in the air, and occasionally gets forward on free kicks and corners. He makes good decisions and is rarely caught out of position, although his pace will be tested against the world's best forwards in Germany (well, that's if he even gets on the field for us).
Conrad is not expected to play much in the tournament; the U.S. already has several players ahead of him at central defense. He is on the team as much for his positive attitude as he is for his solid play. Nevertheless, the U.S. squad could do a lot worse for a backup option.
1998: Makes pro debut with the San Diego Flash (USA, A-League (United Soccer Leagues)).
1999: Signs with the San Jose Earthquakes (USA, Major League Soccer).
2001: Wins MLS Cup with San Jose.
2003: Traded to the Kansas City Wizards (USA, Major League Soccer) for a draft pick.
2004: Wins U.S. Open Cup with Kansas City. Named to MLS Best XI.
2005: Named MLS Defender of the Year. Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut. Wins Gold Cup with USA.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Brian Ching
Just when it looked like we'd be sending yet another little blond dude to the World Cup, USA Coach Bruce Arena surprisingly selected Brian Ching over Taylor Twellman for the squad's final forward spot. Ching, who debuted for the U.S. in 2003, is the first Hawaiian-born player to ever play for the USA, and will be a pioneer once again when he takes the field as the first Hawaiian to ever appear in a World Cup.
Ching began his professional career in 2001 with the Los Angeles Galaxy, but he appeared in only 8 games before L.A. released him in 2002. He spent the 2002 season toiling in the A-League, but his fortunes took a turn for the better when he was picked up by the San Jose Earthquakes in 2003. Ching turned into a monster for the 'Quakes in 2004, tying for the league lead in goals and taking home the Comeback Player of the Year award. Along the way, Ching made his U.S. National Team debut, serving as an understudy of sorts to Brian McBride, and scoring twice during the qualifying campaign. When the San Jose Earthquakes became Houston Dynamo in 2006, Ching moved to Houston as well, continuing his scoring ways (he currently leads MLS with 7 goals in 6 games) and becoming the face of the franchise.
The 6'1" Ching, much like McBride, plays as a prototypical target man. He uses his height and strength to gain a physical advantage over defenders, winning balls up front to sustain the U.S. attack. Around goal, his height enables him to get a fair number of headers, and his physicality enables him to get to loose balls, creating chances for himself and his teammates. At the international level, however, his finishing has been inconsistent (especially in light of his goal-scoring exploits in MLS).
His selection to the World Cup squad has not been without controversty either; when the similarly inconsistent Twellman started scoring goals for the U.S. a couple of months ago, fans began clamoring for his inclusion over Ching's, but Twellman eventually cooled for both club and country, while Ching was flourishing for the Dynamo. Ching's hot streak, combined with his more powerful physique, likely figured most prominently in his place on the team. Don't look for him to start in Germany, though; McBride, a more seasoned and effective player, will get the call as lead striker for the Americans. Ching is one for the future.
2001: Makes pro debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy (USA, Major League Soccer).
2002: Released by Los Angeles. Signs with the Seattle Sounders (USA, A-League (United Soccer Leagues)).
2003: Aquired by the San Jose Earthquakes (USA, Major League Soccer) in MLS Supplemental Draft. Wins MLS Cup with San Jose (missed final due to injury). Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
2004: Ties with Eddie Johnson for MLS lead in goals (12). Is named to MLS Best XI. Receives MLS Comeback Player of the Year Award.
2006: Becomes a member of Houston Dynamo (USA, Major League Soccer) when San Jose relocates to Houston.
Cry Me a River
Of course, RvN wasn't the biggest baby of the afternoon; that award goes to the men of Tottenham Hotspur, who, faced with the biggest match of the season, came up with food poisoning early yesterday morning, and subsequently used it as an excuse to go out like a bunch of beeyotches. Food poisoning is, of course, a pretty serious thing, but for Spurs to not only use it as a crutch, but also to allege conspiracy, is a straight up punk maneuver. And as we all know, punks jump up to get beat down, which Thierry Henry practically did by himself to Tottenham's Champions League hopes by scoring a hat trick against Wigan. Need I illustrate the difference between the good and the great once again, or should I purchase a year's supply of Pepto for Spurs instead?
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Steve Cherundolo
Steve Cherundolo was a member of the historic 2002 USA team that made the quarterfinals of the World Cup, but didn't see any action during the tournament. Barring injury, that won't be the case this year, as he is expected to be a regular starter on the right side of defense. Cherundolo began his pro career in Germany with Hannover 96, and has remained at the club ever since. He has come into his own over the years, and has eventually come to wear Hannover's captain's armband.
Cherundolo is a quick right-back who rarely makes bad decisions, and who also passes the ball well. He has had some injury problems in the past, but makes the U.S. team a more cohesive unit when he is in the lineup. He is also useful in taking free kicks when called upon, and is a consistent hard-worker and defender. His leadership abilities could make him a future U.S. captain.
1998: Makes pro debut for Hannover 96 (Germany, 2. Bundesliga).
1999: Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
2002: Gains promotion to 1. Bundesliga with Hannover. Reaches quarterfinals of World Cup with USA, before being eliminated by Germany.
2004: Named Vice-Captain of Hannover.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Chris Albright
Chris Albright is one of a contingent of Philadelphia-area natives assembled within the U.S. Men's National Team, and was named to the World Cup squad on May 3, as a replacement for the injured Frankie Hejduk (with whom he had lost a hotly contested duel for the backup right-back position in the months leading up to the tournament). Albright, a three-time MLS champion, began his career as a striker with D.C. United, but was moved to the right-back position by U.S. Coach Bruce Arena shortly after making his national team debut. Since moving to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2002, he has taken over that team's right-back position as well, helping them to two MLS Cups in the process.
Albright possesses unusual size for a player at his position, but retains decent speed, and he makes good decisions with the ball. He is capable of going forward to help jump-start the attack, but rarely gets caught out of position defensively. He is also one of the toughest players on the U.S. team. An added benefit to having Albright on the team is his striker's technique and heading ability in front of goal, which makes him a dangerous component up front in free-kick and corner-kick situations.
Albright is unlikely to start for the Nats, as there are doubts about whether he has enough speed to keep pace with world-class wingers and forwards. With that being said, expect him to get a lot of action as a substitute, where his fresh legs and heading ability may come in useful.
1999: Makes pro debut with D.C. United (USA, Major League Soccer). Wins MLS Cup with D.C. Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
2002: Traded by D.C. to the Los Angeles Galaxy (USA, Major League Soccer) for a draft pick. Wins MLS Cup with Los Angeles.
2005: Wins MLS Cup with Los Angeles.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Know Your Yanks: Carlos Bocanegra
Carlos Bocanegra broke into MLS with a splash in 2000, taking the league's Rookie of the Year award for his outstanding performances in the center of defense for the Chicago Fire. Blessed with good size, speed and decision-making skills, he was named MLS Defender of the Year in both 2002 and 2003, and appeared to be on his way to certain stardom with the U.S. National Team.
He transferred to English powerhouse of mediocrity Fulham in 2004, where he was used at both left-back and in the center of defense. This versatility allowed U.S. coach Bruce Arena to try him on the left (a trouble position for the U.S.) during the 2005 campaign, where Bocanegra met with mixed results. In the meantime, other U.S. defenders usurped his starting position in the center, then he subsequently lost his spot on the left to Eddie Lewis.
As a result of this misfortune, Bocanegra's role with the U.S. Men is unclear at the moment. He is not likely to start regularly in the World Cup, but he may get a look or two, and if he impresses, we may see more of him.
2000: Makes pro debut with the Chicago Fire (USA, Major League Soccer). Receives MLS Rookie of the Year. Wins U.S. Open Cup with Chicago.
2001: Makes U.S. Men's National Team Debut.
2002: Named MLS Defender of the Year. Named to MLS Best XI.
2003: Named MLS Defender of the Year. Named to MLS Best XI. Wins U.S. Open Cup with Chicago.
2004: Joins Fulham FC (England, Premier League) from MLS on a free transfer.
2005: Wins Gold Cup with USA.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Know Your Yanks: DaMarcus Beasley
At only 23 (24 when the World Cup begins), DaMarcus Beasley has already become one of the most accomplished American soccer players of all time. A member of back-to-back Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven, "Run DMB" was the first American to ever play in the semifinals of the Champions League, and will be a prominent figure in the U.S. attack.
Beasley, who started his pro career in MLS with the Chicago Fire, is likely to start out wide on the left side of the midfield, where his world-class speed enables him to slip past defenders and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. He also excels in finding open areas around the net, and scores a fair number of goals for a midfielder. He is an above-average dribbler, is improving in his crossing ability and gets back well to defend.
In addition to being notoriously fast, DaMarcus is also notoriously thin, and tends to get knocked around by defenders quite a bit. Needless to say, he's no stranger to injury problems, but at the same time, he is surprisingly resilient.
Beasley is immensely popular both with USA fans and PSV supporters, and has been noted for maintaining a positive outlook in the face of the anti-Americanism and blatant racism that exists in European soccer culture. Look for him to start regularly for the U.S. team in Germany, streaking up and down the left side of the pitch and giving defenders fits.
1999: Wins the Silver Ball (2nd best player) at FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
2000: Makes pro debut with Chicago Fire (USA, Major League Soccer). Wins U.S. Open Cup with Chicago.
2001: Makes U.S. Men's National Team debut.
2002: Wins Gold Cup with USA. Advances to World Cup quarterfinals with USA, before losing to Germany.
2003: Named to MLS Best XI. Wins U.S. Open Cup with Chicago.
2004: Joins PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands, Eredivisie) from MLS on a $2.5 million transfer.
2005: Wins Dutch Championship and Dutch Cup with PSV. Becomes first American to play in semifinals of UEFA Champions League with PSV, before being eliminated by AC Milan. Leads PSV in Champions League scoring with 4 goals in 12 games. Wins Gold Cup with USA, receives Golden Boot as top scorer in the tournament.
2006: Wins second straight Dutch Championship with PSV.