Soccer

Big Balls van Gaal

“van Gaal simply didn’t want to work with me, he treats players like interchangeable objects,” said Toni. “The coach wanted to make clear to us that he can drop any player, it was all the same to him because, as he said, he had the balls,” said Toni. “He demonstrated this literally (by dropping his trousers). I have never experienced anything like it, it was totally crazy. Luckily I didn’t see a lot, because I wasn’t in the front row.”

-Luca Toni, 2011

Louis van Gaal figuratively whipped his balls out on the biggest stage of the world, making out of left field substitution and it paid off brilliantly. It deserves special praise that go beyond 140 characters on Twitter, so it’s time to fire up the blog. Most of what you can read about the shootout is little more than “Krul rattled them.” He did, but how? By van Gaal–and Krul–giving his team some big advantages.

Marginal advantages can be the difference between winning and losing. Everybody loves an underdog but at the World Cup the best team almost always wins, in part because the have more than a few advantages over the weaker side.

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What to make of Timothy Chandler

When New Jersey born and raised (’til he was 14) Giuseppe Rossi turned down a spot on the US team so he could play for Italy (where his parents were born and he moved to when he was 14) he was labeled a traitor. It was stupid and illogical, Rossi clearly was never going to play for America. He turned Bruce Arena down for a World Cup spot in 2006 and had played for the Azzurri at every youth level. Poetically it was against the US in the Confederations Cup that he made his competitive international debut, permanently tying him to Italy. To the dismay of every American fan, he scored two goals and put the US into a corner in the tournament. But hating Rossi for his decision was a waste of time, he was always aiming to play for Italy.

Also apparently a waste of time has been Timothy Chandler’s appearance in a USMNT kit. (more…)

USA vs Italy: Let’s Calm Down

Good game. Very good game. But great game? Not so fast. Italy did not have a first choice line up on the field. Neither did the US, but the former was by choice, the latter was not. And of course it was a friendly. It’s hard for me to get amped up about a game without first choice lineups that don’t matter. They played well on the road against a better team that could have played better. It was a good performance, a confidence boosting one, but let’s not act like this was a monumental win. Historic in that they had never beat Italy and that Italy has never lost in Genoa, but historic and monumental aren’t the same thing.

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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.

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: