Freddy Adu, Your Bandwagon Is Waiting

Sierra Mist must be pleasedI’ve watched it a few times now, both online and on the DVR. The online copies were all a bit too grainy to actually capture the detail of the move he pulled, though once you know it’s there, it’s easier to pick out. The DVR does it a ton more justice.

I’m talking about the USA U-20s’ second goal (also the winner) against Brazil on Friday, a goal that Freddy Adu didn’t score (he set it up) but which may have been the most exicting piece of skill we’ll see from a United States player this year. Say what we will about the overblown Freddy Adu hype machine, the outsized expectations, and the occasional whinging from the kid who was annointed the Chosen One at age 14 — what he did against Brazil the other night stands on its own. Never mind that he had scored three goals against Poland earlier in the week or that it was his defensive work that created the USA’s first goal against Brazil. That’s all well and good and it suggests very good things for his future as a player. I’m fixated on the trick he pulled to win the game.

Said trick: Adu receives throw-in from Zizzo just yards from the right Brazilian corner flag, drawing the attention of two Brazilian defenders, who immediately crowd him from behind. Instead of just settling the ball on the ground, Freddy pops it into the air with the bottom of his foot (a trick that’s very doable on the Field Turf) and then juggles it toward the corner flag (with defenders in tow). With a defender on each shoulder (as he’s juggling), Adu loops the ball over his own head, wiggles between the defenders, and begins running at the goal (!!!!!!). Another defender approaches; Adu slaloms to his left, finds a little bit of space and snaps off a left-footed shot. The shot is deflected to a waiting Altidore who maturely thumps it into the net.

Maybe the first goal against Poland was a better highlight (because Adu scored on that one). Maybe. But I’ve just never seen an American player pull a trick like that (the overhead flick), much less pull it TO SET UP THE MATCH-WINNER AGAINST BRAZIL.

Freddy Adu, your bandwagon is waiting. Someone get me a Sierra Mist!

The videos:
The Winner Against Brazil
Fancy Goal Against Poland
Fan Video of Poland match

First the Anaheim Ducks win the Stanley Cup…

Sorry, Canadia!Sure looks like Canadia got hosed last night, eh?

Whilst I think that the U.S. looked like the better team for most of last night’s Gold Cup semifinal against Canada (though not always by much), there is absolutely no way Canada’s injury-time equalizer (Did I just type “injury-time equalizer”? Yes I did.) should have been disallowed. Sure, it was a poorly officiated match throughout (the card that Landycakes got for diving was ridiculous, and the cards for Bradley and Hejduk were a little harsh, but understandable…also, the debacle with the indications for extra time was straight out of an Serie B relegation match), but that was a goal at the end of the game. No one was offside.

Sigh. Looks like the Maple Leafs will need to head home and console themselves by clubbing some baby seals; don’t forget to bring your passport!

Quick hits on the game:

The defense was terrible: we wouldn’t be talking about Canada getting jobbed had GOOCH NOT INEXPLICABLY HEADED THE BALL TO HUTCHINSON’S FEET! DEAR GOD MAN! WHAT ARE YOU DOING! The guys in the back (with the exception of HeyDude — more on that in a moment) were bad to the point of embarrassing all night. Their touch was just awful: I lost count of the number of balls that they fumbled out of bounds or coughed up directly to the opposition; like a U-12 game, I was happy when they just booted the ball upfield. Is this really the best we have? Our national team back line can’t trap the ball? I thought Bornstein looked over his head. Nice kid, but, um, I hope we can do better. Also, Gooch and Bocanegra weren’t in sync, and they certainly weren’t on the same page with Keller.

Speaking of Keller: that may have been the worst game I’ve ever seen Kasey Keller play. He made a ton of mental errors back there. I hope we see Tim Howard in the final.

Max Bretos speaks the truth: I have to say that I found Max Bretos’ outright homerism in the booth to be vaguely refreshing. The non-stop apologies for bad plays (that’s a “one in a thousand miss for Donovan”) and questionable calls (“that may not have been offsides, but shouldn’t stoppage time have been over?”) were just fantastic. America, f*ck yeah!

HeyDude can be my wingman any day: I’ll admit that I’ve talked some smack about the talents of Frankie Hejduk in the past. I officially take back every disparaging word I’ve ever spoken about him. He was the surest tackler on the backline, the most comfortable on the ball, AND he scored a goal. I might also add that he seemed to want to win more than any other player in white. He will be very very missed in the final (I don’t fault him for the card — he got punked, and it would have been next to impossible not to get in trouble for that).

Landycakes remains our best player, which is good but not great: he’s our most dangerous guy, and I liked that he was trying to beat people off the dribble last night (even if he was failing). Means he’s trying to win the game. Also, he looked like a clown fanning on that pass from Beasley, but Beasley should have taken on the keeper himself there. Too cute.

Eddie Johnson/ The Striker Position: so when is Altidore ready for his chance with the Big Boy team? Please don’t make me watch any more Eddie Johnson.

Michael Bradley? Really?: I expected to be hating on Bradley, but I thought he was excellent all things considered. His workrate was awesome, his touch was solid, and he tended to be in the right spots on the field. He needs some polish still and he needs to get more comfrotable striking the ball, but hey, he’s 19. This is a good thing for the future. The card was stupid and unnecessary, though. We’ll miss him in the final, but I don’t hate seeing Feilhaber get a shot in a big game.

And now for the Bad Guys in the final (!). I hope we crush them in a matter akin to Stalin!

Link:
Canada gets ripped off at the 2007 Gold Cup [YouTube]

Which isn’t actually such a big deal since he can’t drink anyway

shaqadu.jpgErr, exactly what the hell does MLS think it’s doing with this Freddy Adu-to-Real Salt Lake nonsense?

Fresh off his two-week trial/ marketing tour of Manchester United, alleged American soccer savior Freddy Adu got shipped from D.C. United to Real Salt Lake, as in Utah? As in, the nation’s capital (and MLS’s most decorated team, inasmuch as MLS teams are decorated at all) to the team with the curbic zirconium name in the nation’s 50th largest metro area — ahead of Raleigh-Cary, NC (51) but behind Rochester, NY (49). Nike has got to be thrilled! And Pepsi too!

There’s no reason this should happen. The Adu thing has been managed from the get-go — with minimal complaints. If the Freddy Adu thing is at least part-marketing stunt, um, why allow this to happen? With two teams in LA? And one in New York? Even Chicago. Come on, folks — let’s keep our eye on the ball here.

(What an odd week for American soccer. Seriously.)

Matt Taylor for three/ (Timmy!)

Crazy goal in the Pompey – Everton game this afternoon. Pompey’s Matt Taylor caught Tim Howard off his line from about 40 yards out and one-timed a complete howitzer of a shot that froze Timmy solid in a state of bafflement, disbelief, and shame. In Timmy’s defense, Matt Taylor was pretty far away (though apparently he’s done this before — go figure). Geez, I hope Bob Bradley wasn’t watching!

Also, you can now pre-emptively blame Matt Taylor for the ridiculous forty-yard attempt I mishit into the parking lot in my rec-league soccer game this week.

Link:
The other time Matt Taylor hit from downtown.

Bradley (Sigh), Yes (Sigh).

bobbradley.jpgDude, after six months the best these guys can come up with is a freakin interim coach?

An interim coach?

I mean, I don’t want to get down on Bob Bradley (ignore previous comments in re: “retread MLS coaches”), but this just isn’t terribly inspirational from U.S. Soccer. It isn’t even like they picked the best retread MLS coach. They just picked the…I don’t even know.

I guess it’s semi-charming that I might run into Mr. Bradley at The Meetings (meaning he has a chance to see the Camena crest in person!) and that he was the coach at my alma mater while I was there. That’s kind of neat. But I’m more interested in “U.S. Soccer winning games” than I am “chugging beers with him at the P-Rade.”

(Sigh.)

Link:
Bradley to be named interim U.S. coach

Klinsmann, No?

I'm out!Err, so I guess he’s not coming after all? Oops. Cheers to all the media who got this one wrong — way to confirm your second-class citizenship in the already downmarket U.S. footy press. Great work with all that. Note: editors at ESPN and SI are not exempt from said criticism either.

I was actually pretty pumped up for Klinsmann; he seemed like an appropriate change of pace from Il Bruce, and had a certain soccer-meets-Moneyball feel about him, what with his controversial training methods and whatnot. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Sigh.

So now we’re looking at Jose Pekerman? If we’re lucky? Keep your fingers crossed that we don’t sign up some MLS retread. I think we already had the best one of those.

Somewhere, Bruce Arena is nursing a Bud Light and smiling.

Link:
Klinsmann withdraws candidacy as U.S. coach

“Not To Put Too Fine A Point On It, But I Was Awesome”

I mean, I was pretty awesomeIn case you missed it, former USMNT manager (and current New York Red Bulls headman) Bruce Arena isn’t above airing some dirty laundry in the wake of his departure from the national team. In a “candid” and “wide-ranging” interview with Sports Illustrated (those are the right cliches, right?), Il Bruce takes the “everyone at US Soccer is a loser and an idiot but me ” angle, and lays into both the administration and his former players. Some gems:

Arena: I wasn’t convinced I would come back if they wanted me back. It couldn’t go on the way it was going. There’s too many people who want to be technical directors and soccer experts that aren’t. They’re micromanagers. U.S. Soccer needs a real thorough technical direction in terms of how you go about doing business in this sport every day, and it’s not there. The national training center [at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.] is a joke in terms of a national training center. It’s an amusement park. That has to be the foundation of that organization, which it won’t be.

And:

SI.com: You care about the U.S. team, don’t you?

Arena: Oh yeah. They’re going to win the next World Cup, from what I’m told. So I wish them the best. Because we did so poorly over the last eight years, I’m sure they’re going to win the next World Cup.

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Finally, the money quote:

“Do you think I want to show them something?” Arena says. “What am I going to show them? I’ve probably showed them the finest eight years of the national team they’re going to see for a long time. I don’t need to prove anything to them.”

Never mind that Bruce seemed a little checked out even before the World Cup started or that he actually didn’t do a terribly good job getting his team ready to play. This just all seems a little bitchy, and a little unnecessary. You think Bruce Arena is actually psyched about coaching in New York? You don’t think he thought he would get a shot at a European club? If you’re really such a genius, then get the Red Bulls into the playoffs and beat someone while you’re there. Until then, maybe zip it; even T.O. doesn’t talk shiznit like this.

Link:
Entering a new Arena [cnnsi.com]

And That About Wraps It Up For Bruce Arena

Kansas City Wizards, here I come!We’re going to miss you, Bruce. And not just for your smug sense of humor.

Bruce Arena stepped down as coach of the United States Men’s National Team today, a move that was surprising only in its timing. That is, it was a little sooner than I thought it would be, and on the same day as the Italian “Sports Court” announced the fates of the folks involved in the Serie A scandal(s). Oh. Right. No one in the U.S. cares about that, and no one in the rest of the football world cares about Bruce Arena. My bad.

Bruce Arena will be remembered as the best soccer coach the United States has ever produced. While it isn’t as though he was John Wooden or Joe DiMaggio (in terms of unassailable records), he did win a ton of games for the USMNT, maintained a strong record against Mexico, and won an elimination game at the World Cup finals. That’s pretty impressive, and the lameness of the U.S.’s most recent performances shouldn’t overshadow what he’s been able to accomplish. The USA certainly still has a way to go in world football, but we’re undeniably better (in terms of talent, results, and soccer IQ) than we were before Bruce took over — he was an excellent steward for American soccer at an important moment in its development.

Though we don’t have much official comment on the topic, it actually sounds like Klinsmann might be the guy. At least Landycakes seems to think so. Even better — where will Bruce land next? Will he get his shot with a European club? Or did the boys blow it for him in Germany?

Links:
Bruce Arena’s Eight-Year Tenure As U.S. National Team Head Coach Ends [US Soccer]
A change at the top [Soccernet]

Arena Rocked

ArenaLed by former US MNTer Eric Wynalda, and including former US MNTer Marcelo Balboa, the ESPN crew is absolutely hammering Arena, and calling for his head (or for him to at least step aside) in the wake of the current US MNT’s disappointing World Cup finish.

For his part, in his post-game press conference Arena did his best to pawn off responsibility to the ref for calling the penalty and to FIFA for the draw that the US ended up with (both of which certainly did impact the team’s ultimate result – I am still pissed that we ended up in this group and Mexico had a relatively soft group).