Initial Reaction to USMNT Loss to Brazil

I’m not going to say “Back to reality for the Nats.”  I’m not going to say, “The result was unfair.”  I’m not going to say “Brazil was on form.”  I’m just going to get into some player ratings.

Tim Howard was solid in goal but was strung out to dry by his defense.

Carlos Bocanegra was decent in tonight’s game.  He didn’t make any spectacular last ditch tackles but wasn’t exposed.

The same cannot be said for Oguchi Onyewu.  I am a big fan of Onyewu but he was out of his depth tonight.  He was called for the handball that led to Neymar’s penalty goal, he was one of four American players who failed to pick up Marcelo on his goal, and he kept Pato onside on his goal.  His recovery to pre-knee injury form does not seem to be as far as we had hope.

Fabian Johnson impressed against Brazil.  He was consistently a threat attacking down the left side, set up Gomez’s late first half goal, and was as good in the back as anyone in a U.S. shirt.

Steve Cherundolo didn’t make many mistakes defensively and combined well going forward.  He managed to laugh off Marcelo’s annoying antics in the second half.

Maurice Edu made some important tackles but was not crisp with his passing.

Jermaine Jones made a few lung busting runs this game and had a delightful tackle on Neymar that the referee thought was worthy of a yellow card (I politely disagree).  Jones has proven himself to be a solid force in the midfield for the U.S.

Michael Bradley is the passing maestro for the U.S. in the midfield.  He played a great ball through for Johnson to run onto in the build up to the team’s goal.  He not only has the ability to see a pass but is not afraid to get dirty and make a strong tackle.

José Torres was involved in attacking movements for the U.S. but did not make much of an impression before getting substituted.

Landon Donovan showed today that when he is not firing, the U.S. lacks production up top.  He routinely failed to get by Marcelo but continued to take him head-on.  He did play several dangerous corners into the area in the second half.

Herculez Gomez showed what a center forward needs to do in Klinsmann’s 4-3-3.  He played tremendously with his back to goal, drew several fouls from Brazil’s central defenders, was active in attacking sequences, and spread the ball out well when passes were played into him.  His first touch let him down and had that been better, the team might have had a couple more goals tonight.

Clint Dempsey subbed in for Torres and made a few chances in his time on the field.  He had a wonderful opportunity when Gomez headed down for him on a short cross from Johnson and put a header just wide from a Donovan corner.

Terrence Boyd had a poor shot attempt wide and hit his rebound from Gomez’s chance right at Brazil’s keeper Rafael.  He desperately needs more match experience to develop his raw forward ability.

Michael Parkhurst replaced Cherundolo and didn’t do too poorly.  He did get embarrassed by Neymar on one play down the left, but what defender hasn’t?

Kyle Beckerman didn’t make much of a positive impact on the game as a late substitute, but he did manage to prevent making a negative impact.

Edgar Castillo faced a challenge coming on for the most dynamic American player tonight.; Johnson.  He didn’t make many mistakes in his ten minutes except for allowing Pato space on Brazil’s fourth goal, even though he thought he was pulling the A.C. Milan forward offside.

At least we know the match against Canada will be a much easier test than this Brazil side.

Looking Ahead for the Top Three Teams in USL-Pro

In the aftermath of the third round U.S. Open Cup disaster, let’s look ahead to the middle of the USL-Pro season so we can feel good again.  Oddly enough all three of the top teams in the league lost in their Tuesday night cup matches.  As of today, May 30, the current USL-Pro standings see Orlando in first, Rochester in second, and Charleston rounding out the top three.

At this point in the season Orlando and Rochester have each played 9 games and Charleston has played 7.  Of their matches, Orlando has only dropped 4 points (2 draws), the Rhinos have dropped 7 (2 draws, 1 loss), and Charleston have dropped 6 points (2 losses).  In the USL-Pro season each team plays 24 games, so the third round of the Open Cup comes about a third through the season.

So far this season, the Rhinos have played back to back games twice; first on May 11 and 12 in Charlotte and Charleston, and then on May 25 and 26 in Harrisburg and Dayton.  Between Friday May 18 and Tuesday May 29, the Rhinos played 5 matches.  The Rhinos also already flew to Los Angeles and don’t have to make the trip down to Antigua.  Fortunately Rochester doesn’t have anymore back-to-back games, but does have two occasions of playing a second game after only one full day of rest (Friday 15 June and Sunday 17 June, Thursday 12 July and Saturday 14 July). Continue reading

Trying to Accept the Rhinos 3-0 Defeat to Philadelphia

In the process of coping and accepting Rochester Rhinos’ 3-0 loss to Philadelphia in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night, I need to blame something.  At first I couldn’t believe what I was watching; the early goal off a corner, the weather, the mistouches and poor passes.  Then I was angry, very angry about everything, especially the fact that the city of Philadelphia exists.  Then my girlfriend heard me pleading and justifying that the Rhinos were after all just a division 3 team playing away to an MLS side, what more could I ask for than a solid effort?  After that she had to put up with me moping around the house for a few hours.  Before I can fully accept what happened last night, I need to get something off my chest first.  I want to blame USL scheduling.

I am of the opinion that the determining factors in the Rochester Rhinos match against the Philadelphia Union were the respective scheduling of each team prior to the game and the belief of the Union players that this competition was the only thing worth left fighting for since MLS play-off qualification is a far-cry given their current position.  The Rhinos couldn’t do anything about the mentality of their opponents going into the match, but they should have been able to re-schedule one or both of their matches the weekend before they traveled to PPL Park.

I mentioned a month ago that scheduling could trip the team up and Devo posted on Friday about the league’s crazy scheduling.  First let’s thoroughly establish that playing without rest exposes players to more injuries and can decrease performance.  Dr David Geier is a sports medicine blogger, head team physician for Charleston Battery and all around great dude.  He posted this article last month about injuries from a lack of rest. Continue reading

My Immediate Post-game Thoughts, Rhinos Lose 3-0 in Philadelphia

I’ll post a more in-depth analysis of the game tomorrow, but right now I want to let out my initial frustrations with the team.

Going into tonight’s set of Third Round U.S. Open Cup matches, almost everyone had Rhinos-Union circled as a potential upset.  The Rhinos were a defensively solid team in second place in the USL-Pro and the Union were winless in their last five games and had recently solidified themselves as the second worst team in MLS after losing to the worst team.  Unfortunately most of the bookmakers (including myself) were wrong about the game in PPL Park.

The Rhinos were undone by a corner kick in the 5th minute.  A team that had an American soccer record 6 shutout wins to start the 2012 season looked more like a Sunday recreation team than a professional outfit.  Freddy Adu sent the ball in near the penalty spot and two Rhinos defenders perked up and started moving.  George Kyriazis was backing up preparing to make contact on the ball and Jack Traynor was stepping forward to do the same.  However both players stopped and let the ball hit the ground inside the area.  The ball bounced past a floundering Traynor and fell to Josue Martinez who made no mistake from close range.  Kristian Nicht had no chance on the shot to his right side and the Philadelphia Union took the lead early.

After the rain delay, the game was more of the same with the Union pressing hard and exploiting Jack Traynor down the right side.  In the 29th minute Josue Martinez beat Tyler Rosenlund to the goal line to chip a cross back to the penalty spot.  His ball in found Freddy Adu who had ghosted into the area undetected by a jumbled Rochester defense.  The 5’8″ attacker jumped to head down past Kristian Nicht.

Towards the end of the first half the Rhinos were stringing some positive passes together and generating a few chances of their own.  They couldn’t finish any of their rushes and Graciano Brito exited the few without contributing anything to the game.  Tyler Rosenlund didn’t make an impact either, well, not a positive one.  The Canadian routinely snuffed out Rhinos’ attacks by taking too many touches or waiting too long to pull the trigger on a pass or shot.

In addition to Traynor’s troubles all game, Quavas Kirk started to tire halfway through the second half.  This fatigue caused Kirk to get caught a step behind the Philadelphia players running at him.  In the 73rd minute Kirk got turned by Michael Farfan outside the box and while tracking the Union attacker into the box fouled him from behind.  Freddy Adu stepped up to take the penalty and converted from the spot.  Kristian Nicht dove the right way, but the shot was too high for the 6’4″ German to reach.

The positives for the Rhinos were few and far between but J.C. Banks, Danny Earls, and Tam McManus showed flashes of their skill that has led the team in the league this season.  However, a weakness in the middle of the field between Drew Cost and Tyler Rosenlund caused Earls to drop in centrally to receive the ball from Roberts and Kyriazis. This led to a lop sided and predictable attack going forward, as Earls consistently sought Banks on the opposite side.

Rochester Rhinos will look to put this poor performance behind them when they host the Richmond Kickers on Saturday, June 2.  Richmond pushed D.C. United of MLS to extra time before falling 3-2 at home tonight.

Belated Review of the USMNT Destruction of Scotland

Scotland’s lineup (4-5-1): Allan McGregor; Andy Webster, Gary Caldwell, Charlie Mulgrew, Phillip Bardsley; James McArthur, Scott Brown, Shaun Maloney, Matthew Phillips, Barry Bannan; Kenny Miller

United States lineup (4-3-3): Tim Howard; Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson; Maurice Edu, Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley; Jose Francisco Torres, Landon Donovan, Terrence Boyd

Oguchi Onyewu for Bocanegra, 63
Kyler Beckerman for Edu, 64
Herculez Gomez for Boyd, 64
Joe Corona for José Torres, 68
Brad Guzan for Tim Howard, 71
Edgar Castillo for Fabian Johnson, 73
Bradley drove forward and laid the ball off to Jones who poked the play forward before falling to the ground. The ball rolled to Donovan near the PK spot who turned on his right foot to take a quick shot on his left foot. His first effort was blocked but he was the first to the rebound and roofed his second shot past 3 scottish defenders on the goalline.  1-0 to the U.S.A. in the third minute.

In just the eleventh minute, the U.S. doubled their advantage.  Donovan played a ball centrally to Jermaine Jones, who laid off a pass to Michael Bradley from over 25 yards out.  Bradley tries an audacious volley from range but strikes through the ball with beautiful form and fires his shot into the upper ninety.  2-0 U.S.A. on what has been called the best strike in recent memory for the Nats.  See the shot for yourself (and also Jurgen Klinsmann’s priceless reaction) Continue reading

FC Buffalo – AFC Cleveland Match Report

On Sunday afternoon I attended my first FC Buffalo match, the teams’s third game of the 10 game season and their second meeting against AFC Cleveland, a Rust Belt Derby rival.  While much of the first half was a boring physical contest, the second half lit up and the four goal game did not disappoint.

FC Buffalo’s starting lineup was (4-4-2): Eric DeHond; Kendell McFayden, Josh Hall, Josiah Snelgrove, Jake Rinow; Gary Boughton, Matt Stedman, Josh Faga, Mike Reidy; Andy Tiedt, Alexander Rouse.

The team had 3 players who were busy graduating college during the last match in McFayden, Rouse and Hall, who didn’t make the trip to Cleveland for the club’s 4-2 loss last weekend.  This week’s rematch featured all three players as starters and the team improved to a draw. Continue reading

Philadelphia Union’s Strengths, Weaknesses, & Players to Watch with Scott Kessler

The following was written by Scott Kessler of The Brotherly Game, a Philadelphia Union blog on SB Nation.  I exchanged a few points of the strengths, weaknesses, players to watch and external storylines coming into tonight’s Third Round U.S. Open Cup Match at PPL Park.  You can read my take on the Rochester Rhinos by going to The Brotherly Game post here.

Strengths: Right now the Union’s main strength is in goal. Who plays against the Rhinos as Philadelphia’s goalkeeper is up in the air, since Zac MacMath and Chase Harrison were both out on Saturday and Chris Konopka played in Toronto, but if one of the other two is healthy then the Union will most likely revert back to him. Since MacMath’s first missed game due to concussion symptoms, Harrison and Konopka have stepped into the starting goalkeeper role amiably, performing well versus FC Shackle 04 (German Bundesliga), FC Dallas and Toronto FC. Considering how well MacMath was doing prior to his injuries, it’s been very lucky for the Union in regards to how well their back ups have played when called into action, with only two goals given up in three games (one friendly, two MLS play). Otherwise, it’s somewhat bleak for the Union.

Weaknesses: Offense and some of the overall defensive play. The Union have struggled to score this season and the team looks worse offensively than it did during the Carlos Ruiz-phase in 2011, which left many fans hungry for a more explosive and threatening attack. After trading star striker Sebastien Le Toux to the Vancouver Whitecaps for allocation money, the Union have managed to score only eight goals, tied with Toronto for the lowest amount in MLS. Last year the Union got away with an animic offense due to a stellar defense, but this year, between injuries, trades and poor tactical decisions, Philadelphia has looked up-and-down in the back. While the team’s goalkeepers have performed when ask, as previously mentioned, the defense hasn’t been up to par recently. The team is tied for fifth in goals given up, which would typically be good for any team if not for the fact that recent defensive lapses have caused the Union to squander mutiple opportunities for points, with the latest mistake culminating in Toronto’s first win and points of the 2012 MLS season. The Rhinos will most likely see a backline of Raymon Gaddis (though he is sick, so Michael Lahoud or Michael Farfan may play instead) at right back, Sheanon Williams and Porfirio Lopez (Carlos Valdes is suspended due to a red card last year against DC United) at center back and Gabriel Farfan at left back. With Lopez in the lineup and Valdes out of the gameday 18, there is only one natural defender left in the squad – Chris Albright.

Players to watch: Josue Martinez – I think the former Costa Rican international striker, still only 22, has the chance to start this game after playing well in his last two substitution appearances. He hasn’t started a game since the beginning of the season, but Martinez is quick, fast and brings a lot to the Union offense that typically isn’t there this year. He has still yet to score in a Union jersey, but at some point the poor form that followed him from Deportivo Saprissa will go away.

Michael Farfan – The former University of North Carolina All-American (two times) has excelled for the Union since he was drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Though he was taken out of his comfort zone, right midfield, at the start of the season, Farfan has done his job when asked by head coach Peter Nowak to cover in the back or otherwise. The problem for him this year has been that he’s smothered offensively when asked to play centrally or at full back, but when he makes runs forward his skill is clear to anyone that watches him. Once Farfan is given full reins again at right midfield or right wing, he’ll regain the form that put him into the group of finalists for last year’s MLS Rooke of the Year award.

Storyline: Nowak is on his heels in terms of fan opinion and though he is suspended, due to an ejection from last year’s loss to DCU, his plans and tactics are in place for this game. A loss to the Rhinos at home would be devastating for a team that is not on track to make the playoffs in MLS and doesn’t appear to have a chance at any other trophy at the moment. For Nowak a loss could mean public opinion turns so negatively toward his decisions this season that the Union ownership has to seriously discuss removing him and Nick Sakiewicz, among others, from their soccer positions. A win would mean some pressure is removed and the Union can go into a two week break with their heads high, before hosting DCU on June 16. Also, this is the first USOC home game ever for the Union.