Month: February 2012

USA vs Italy, Take 2

What a difference a weekend makes. Like that, four players went down: Jermaine Jones, Timmy Chandler and Jose Torres suffered injuries and Landon Donovan’s bronchitis didn’t get any better, so they’re all out. Called up in their place were Sacha Kljestan and Brek Shea with perhaps another player to be named. This of course dramatically changes the lineup. The good news is that we will probably get to see Fabian Johnson at LB, where he’s been playing for Hoffenheim. Maybe Jonathan Spector but I’d rather see what Johnson can do. Spector’s future is as a bench player. When Steve Churondolo is no longer the first team RB and Timmy Chandler is, then we’re back to the question of “who will play LB?” This is a chance for Johnson to make a case for himself. But that’s the only silver lining. We’re once again denied an opportunity to see Donovan and Dempsey together under Klinsmann, and of course now we’ll never know what exactly the line up would have looked like. Based on this Q & A with Klinsmann, it’s clear that Bradley was going to start regardless, Torres was certainly going to play which means he was going to start, Edson Buddle will get some playing time (straight 4-4-2?) and who knows who will with Bocanegra at CB. Maybe Goodson. So maybe this is the lineup we’ll see:

I can easily see Dempsey in Shea’s spot and Buddle alongside Altidore, who had two very nice goals this weekend for AZ. Of course we could also see both, starting in this formation and then a 2nd half switch if it’s not working, or vice versa. If Dempsey plays up front I would expect to see him playing behind Altidore and coming from the left. Nothing shocking there. As to who takes Donovan’s spot… who knows. Kljestan could work here, but Williams is one of Klinsmann’s guys and I think he’ll want to see him play. It’s not like he’s got a lot of options anyway. At first I had Cameron slated to start at CB but I think that with all the injuries and young players thrust into the lineup up front that Klinsmann would rather go with the guy he knows better in Goodson. It’s just a friendly though, so it doesn’t matter too much.

This game just got a lot less exciting but no less intriguing. Plenty of players will have a chance to make themselves seen and heard.

Thoughts on the Combine

The NFL Scouting Combine starts in Indy tommorow, more specifically the on-field drills do, the players have been in town since yesterday doing measuring and testing, and I have to admit: I like the combine. Started in 1982 when the league combined the three prominent scouting and testing services into one event, adding another word to the NFL lexicon that we pronounce slightly differently than in non-football usage along with “defense.” Since then it’s exploded into a national TV event (about 6 million people will watch it this weekend) and a major evaluation tool for crappy wannabe draftniks to use to make fearlessly wrong predictions about players. Or Al Davis, but he’s dead now.

Serious draftniks and actual talent evaluators know that the Combine is just another tool in the toolbox of player evaluations. It’s nothing more than that, but in today’s 24 hour news world too many people want it to be extremely valuable. Tape is the #1 evaluating tool a team has, but it doesn’t tell you quite everything. The Combine offers some answers to questions a team has about a player’s physical abilities. The Combine puts all participants on an equal playing field where their raw physical abilities can be displayed and graded. That’s it. Questions about a corner’s ability to turn his hips, a linebacker’s ability to move laterally or a guard’s footwork can be and are answered. Everyone knows that it doesn’t tell you anything about a player’s actual ability to play football, but that won’t stop people at Bleacher Report from saying it will.

The biggest thing the Combine is used for is actually the medical evaluations. Every participant is given a barrage of tests that are then given to all the teams. True experts like Andrew Brant and Michael Lombardi will be the first to tell you that, guys like Todd McShay won’t because they can’t make opinions on medical tests, and they get paid to make opinions that stick out.

Teams that move a guy up on their draft board because of their Combine performance are only asking to be disappointed. If anything you use it to move a guy down. As Michael Lombardi said on NFL Network yesterday: “the Combine is about elimination not evaluation.” Which brings me to why I like the Combine: I really enjoy watching the pros talk shop. With Mike Mayock, Michael Lombardi, Charley Casserly and Brian Billick on hand, there’s a lot of shop to be talked. That’s my Combine mini-rant. Take the Combine with more than a grain of salt, but don’t make a meal out of it.

Lombardi also had another great quote yesterday: “Never begin with the end in mind.” That’s good advice for life.

USMNT vs Italy

Jurgen Klinsmann announced his roster for next week’s friendly against Italy. Finally we get to see Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey in the lineup under Klinsmann after they hadn’t had the chance to play together due to health concerns and club commitments. That they are both listed as forwards is interesting to me, it could be nothing more than semantics, it could be indicative of the formation, or it could be a little bit of mind games by Jurgen against Cesare Prandelli, trying to make him think it’ll be a 4-3-3 but that he’ll roll out something else instead. Most likely it’s the middle choice, that we will see the attacking 4-3-3/defending 4-1-4-1 (which I’ll call a 4-3-3 for the purposes of this post because Klinsmann wants to attack) that Klinsmann’s been running since he took over. I think we might see this as the lineup: