Friday, November 30, 2007
Saturday, Jonathan Spector and West Ham United travel across London to Stamford Bridge where they will take on Chelsea in the Saturday lunchtime kickoff. That's lunchtime in England of course, and here that game will be on bright and early Saturday morning. Be sure to set your alarms for the 7:30 a.m. ET kickoff on Setanta.
Later on Saturday morning, Tim Howard minds the nets for Everton as his club travels to Fratton Park to take on Portsmouth. Both sides are in excellent form, with Portsmouth unbeaten in their last five matches, and Everton's only blemish coming from their 2-1 defeat in the Merseyside Derby. Kickoff is a 10:00 a.m. ET, and you can follow text updates here, or catch the delayed broadcast at 2:30 p.m. ET on Setanta.
At the same time, Reading travel to Middlesbrough and Derby County make the journey north to Sunderland. Both these games would seem to have significant implications for the relegation battle this season, as all four of these teams reside in the lower half of the standings. Derby, led by new manager Paul Jewell, will be looking to climb off the foot of the table against a Sunderland side that was thrashed by Everton last weekend. Benny Feilhaber will hope to make it two appearances in a row following his substitute cameo against Chelsea. For Reading, Bobby Convey tallied an assist in last weekends heartbreaking 2-1 defeat to Manchester City, and will likely retain his place in the starting 11 along with goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. Neither of these games are televised live, but the Reading game can be seen on FSC at 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The other big game on Saturday is in Portugal, where Freddy Adu and second place Benfica host first place FC Porto at the Estadio da Luz. Both clubs are undefeated in the Portuguese League, though Benfica are four points behind the leaders.
On Sunday, Heerenveen and Michael Bradley play away to NEC Nijmegen. Last time out, Heereveen lost for the first time in five matches against De Graafschap, but they still remain in fourth place in the table. To continue their pursuit for a UEFA Cup berth, they'll need to earn a win against an NEC side who have lifted themselves off the bottom of the table in recent weeks.
And finally, Monday afternoon action pits Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra and Fulham against Champions Manchester United. The game is televised live on Setanta, with coverage beginning at 2 pm ET. We'll have more for you throughout the weekend, so make sure to keep checking back here for the latest highlights and results...
Of Note: Hannover 96 is coming off of a tough loss against Schalke 04 last week and will look to get their charge for a European place back on track. Meanwhile Hansa Rostock have slipped down the table of late, but they are undefeated in their last five games at home. Cherundolo missed this past weekend's game due to lingering effects from an ankle injury sustained against South Africa, however he should return for today's game. On Sunday, Heath Pearce came on as a second half sub for Rostock who fell, 2-0, to Hamburg.
Up Next: The game kicks off at 2:30 pm ET. As we mentioned, its being shown live on Gol TV, and you can read a match preview here.
Of Note: AaB stormed out to a 2-0 lead, but were unable to hold out in the second half. Three goals from Tottenham in the second period condemned the Danish side to their first loss in the UEFA Cup.
Up Next: For the next match in the UEFA Cup, AaB host Getafe on December 6 at 2:45 pm ET. A result in that match is imperative for Califf and his club, who have only one point thus far in Group G.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Of Note: AaB drew their first and only match against Anderlecht, while Tottenham have won one and lost one thus far in Group G play. The two clubs have never met before in a UEFA tournament, and AaB will be looking to continue their improbable run through this year's competition. The Danish side were the unfashionable choice in the last round against Sampdoria, but after eliminating them, and tying Anderlecht in their opening match of the group stage, AaB see no reason to believe why their good form can't continue. Last time out for Tottenham, new manager Juande Ramos commandeered a 2-0 away win for Spurs over Hapoel Tel-Aviv in his first UEFA Cup match.
Up Next: The match kicks off at 2:45 pm ET, and you can read previews of it here and here. If you're unlucky enough to not be near a TV this afternoon, you can also follow along with live text updates at UEFA.com.
Of Note: Adu came off the bench in the 88th minute, but couldn't find the late game heroics his side needed to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the knockout stage. Benfica still retain hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Cup, but in order to achieve that feat, they'll have to beat Shakhtar Donetsk on the final day.
Up Next: Benfica face two massive games in quick succession, when they host league leaders Porto on Saturday before traveling to Ukraine on Tuesday to face Shakhtar.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Of Note: Benfica have yet to lose in the Portuguese league, where they currently sit in second place, but they haven't managed to transition domestic success to the bigger stage of the Champions League. With only one win from three games, Jose Antonio Camacho's side is rooted to the foot of the Group D table. Yet there is still a fair amount of hope, as the Eagles are only three points away from second place. Any kind of result against AC Milan tonight would set the tone for rest of Benfica's charge toward the second round. Freddy Adu scored during his club's 3-1 victory this weekend, and he'll hope to get on the field for tonight's big game.
Up Next: The match kicks off at 2:45 ET. You can read previews of the match here and here, and follow along live text updates at UEFA.com.
Of Note: The loss leaves Rangers on seven points, though they still remain in second place in the group. Lyon's tie with Barcelona puts them level on points with Rangers, however the French Champions' inferior goal differential puts them below the Glasgow side in the Group E table.
Up Next: The Matchday 6 showdown between Rangers and Lyon at Ibrox will determine who advances to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Rangers only need a draw to qualify, while Lyon have to win in order to reach the stage they've been to for the past four years. Rangers last qualified for the knockout round in the 2005-06 season. Manager Walter Smith has already conceded that Beasley will be out of action for that match.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Of Note: The German Champions, having not yet hit the heights of last year, are already eliminated from the Champions League, however Rangers still have all to play for in Group E. Currently on seven points, the Glasgow club could insure their passage to the next round with a win tonight and a loss by Lyon, who face Barcelona at the Stade Gerland. Rangers were victorious over the weekend, as were Stuttgart, and the sides sit at second and seventh in their respective domestic tables. Beasley had an assist in the win on Saturday against Falkirk, and he spoke to Rangers' website about the possibility of qualifying for the next round of the Champions League. Beas should be starting tonight, and he'll look to add to his tally of two goals thus far in the Champions League.
Up Next: Read previews of the match here: BBC, UEFA. The game kicks off at 2:45 ET, and you can follow along with live text updates at UEFA.com.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Benny Feilhaber made his fourth appearance of the season for Derby, coming on in the 83rd minute of a 2-0 loss to Chelsea. The result meant that Derby remained bottom of the table, and four points away from safety. Today, manager Billy Davies has been let go by the club, who will look to right the ship ahead of Saturday's six pointer with Sunderland.
Fulham and Clint Dempsey drew 2-2 at home to Blackburn. Though all the headlines have been about Fulham's propensity to concede late goals, a point against obstinate Blackburn can't be too discouraging. Carlos Bocanegra was an unused substitute for the game. In other news for the Cottagers, captain Brian McBride is nearing a return from injury.
Tim Howard and Everton administered a 7-1 thumping to Sunderland. With a 3-1 lead at half-time, the Toffees were never in danger of dropping points, and they'll take that positive momentum into next Saturday's match against surging Portsmouth. The two clubs have been a few of this season's surprises in the Premier League, and both will be looking for a win as they surge toward qualification for Europe.
Jonathan Spector made a late substitute cameo for West Ham United, who drew 1-1 with Tottenham Hotspur. The Hammers got out of jail when former player Jermain Defoe had a penalty saved by West Ham 'keeper Robert Green, to keep the draw and the point for West Ham.
Heerenveen and Michael Bradley were victims of a 3-2 loss against De Graafschap on Saturday. Heerenveen had previously won four games in a row in the Eredivisie, but were undone this weekend despite a late fight back. Having been eliminated from the Dutch Cup, Bradley's club now faces a week off, before returning to action on December 2 against NEC Nijmegen.
Oguchi Onyewu and Standard Liege had the weekend off, but they'll be in action on Friday in a top of the table clash in Belgium. Gooch and Standard will face first place side Anderlecht on Friday night. Standard Liege sit in second place, one point behind the leaders, and they'll attempt to maintain their unbeaten record in the Jupiler League.
Of Note: With Reading down 1-0, Convey squared a delicate ball across the top of the box for James Harper to first-time into the top corner. The score after 90 minutes of play remained 1-1, but in injury time Mancheter City midfielder Ireland hit a spectacular full volley past a helpless Marcus Hahnemann. The loss drops Reading to thirteenth place.
Up Next: Reading host Middlesbrough on Saturday the 12th. In the bottom end of the table, three points separate seven sides (these two included), so this weekend's match will be an important one for both sides.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Of Note: The goal is Adu's second in league play and fifth in all competitions since joining Benfica. The 18-year-old started on the bench, but came on in the 62nd minute for Nuno Gomes and hit a left-footed strike from the top of the box that just trickled in after going off the 'keepers glove and the right post. The victory keeps Benfica solidly in second place with 25 points, six ahead of Sporting Lisbon, but still a point behind leaders FC Porto, who also have a game in hand.
Up Next: Freddy and the rest of the boys will be looking to have a great week of training as they get set for a formidable task when they face AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday, Nov. 28.
Of Note: Beasley was in the starting lineup for the Glasgow side, and his corner kick picked out Carlos Cuellar for the opening goal after the 20 minutes. Rangers doubled their lead early in the second half, and though Falkirk did narrow the gap soon after, a third goal from Kris Boyd ensured the three points for Walter Smith’s team.
Up Next: Rangers travel to Germany on Tuesday where they will face off against VFB Stuttgart in the Champions League.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
But, as is well known, that’s not always the case for every holiday. Over the years, there have been many times where national teams (men, women and youth) have been on trips during holidays had to celebrate a special day among each other.
So, that got us thinking. WHAT IF there was a match overseas this week, instead of last, and the U.S. Men had to have their Thanksgiving feast together? What would that scene be like?
We could never know for sure, but discussing it was pretty entertaining. As we shared ideas, we realized if a Thanksgiving dinner with the MNT were to have happened, there’s no doubt the MNT Blog would have provided fans with a behind-the-scenes look. So, why not blog about our imaginary dinner?
We’ve broken it down by which players would be most likely doing what, from carving the turkey to just watching football. Here’s the way we see it going down:
An MNT Thanksgiving
There aren’t a ton of families that go out and actually CATCH their Thanksgiving turkey. Zipping down to the local grocery store and pulling one out of the freezer doesn’t count – even if you’re crazy Uncle Ted decides to throw it to you down the aisle. We’re talking about actually heading out into the woods in full hunter orange, tracking a wild turkey and then finally shooting the fowl (hopefully in one shot…poor guy).
Player: Marcus Hahnemann.
The Reading goalkeeper is known to be an avid hunter and knows how to handle a gun. No one wants to go hungry on Thanksgiving, and Marcus will make sure no one does.
(We also feel we must add that while one turkey’s life would be sacrificed for the hungry bellies of the MNT players, one would be saved as well. A week before the team would leave for the match, we see U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati pardoning a turkey in a ceremony held either at Soccer House or The Home Depot Center.)
Cooking the Turkey
To eat the turkey, someone has to cook the turkey. We imagined this fact being brought up to the team, and getting blank looks from players to staff. I mean, you think Landon Donovan or Oguchi Onyewu has cooked a turkey before? Who knows, maybe they have, but we’re thinking most of the players have a mom, sister, girlfriend or wife that has happily done the dirty work. Still, we have to pick somebody.
Player: Jimmy Conrad
Why Jimmy? He’s a giving kind of guy, willing to help out on and off the field. He wouldn’t mind wearing an apron; heck, he’d embrace it. An ultra-competitive guy, he’d make sure he did a great job. He’d be open and would listen to suggestions, say, if Brian Ching offered up the Hawaiian tradition of coffee-rubbed turkey. And most importantly, he’d have fun doing it. A happy cook will provide good food.
Carving the Turkey
Not a job everyone wants because it’s not as easy as it looks. Carving the turkey takes an experienced hand and a bit of skill. If you don’t do it right, you won’t preserve the flavor and texture of the meat, which will make everyone unhappy.
Player: Carlos Bocanegra
We could also see Bob Bradley carving the turkey, but knowing the coach he’d probably think it would be better coming from the captain. Makes sense too. Carlos has the experience, and this year has really shown his ability to be a leader at the highest level. A humble guy, he knows he couldn’t get to where he is without his teammates, so helping them out so they could get some good eating would be something he’d be up for.
Everyone family has a main table and the kiddies table at Thanksgiving. The MNT would be no different. So, who’s sitting at the kiddies table?
Player(s): Maurice Edu, Brad Guzan, Sacha Kljestan, Danny Szetela and plenty of others that could be on this list - so just fill in the other seats with your imagination. We had to chuckle thinking about all these guys sitting at the small, fold-up table off to the corner. They’re definitely part of the team, but they need a few more caps until they can sit at the adult table. Wonder who’s the most likely to start a food fight?
Possibly the biggest tradition after eating turkey is plopping down in front of the TV and taking in the two NFL games.
Player(s): Landon Donovan, Jay DeMerit, Taylor Twellman
We picked a couple of what would be many players taking in the games. So, why did we pick these three? Landon held a Super Bowl party at his house this year so we know he’s into the games, and DeMerit is from Green Bay and you CANNOT be a from Green Bay without loving the Pack and the NFL. As for Taylor, after seeing him going crazy at the World Series rooting for the Red Sox, you know he's all about all sports New England, which includes the Patriots who just don't know how to lose this season.
Looking Forward to the Dessert
There’s always someone who’s looking forward to the pies (apple, pumpkin, etc.) than the turkey.
Staff: Peter Nowak.
You might not know it, but Peter has a pretty good sweet tooth. We’re guessing he’d be all over the dessert.
Snapping the Wishbone
The tradition of snapping the dried turkey wishbone is supposed to bring grant a wish to the person who ends up with the bigger piece.
Players: The guys are competitive, but when they’re in camp they don’t want to talk too much trash about facing each other at the club level…well, OK, some. Without pitting guys head-to-head, we figured Tim Howard and DaMarcus Beasley could each take an end of the wishbone with each wishing their team good luck during their Cup competitions (Timmy in UEFA Cup and Beas in Champions League).
First to Take a Nap – On the road, guys normally like to nap on their downtime, so there’s no denying when the tryptophan hits somebody will be out quick.
Player: Bobby Convey.
We saw it in 2003 in the United Arab Emirates when we really did have Thanksgiving dinner as a team, and our guess is it would be the same. Known as one of the guys who likes to nap the most, there’d be no stopping Bobby’s eyes from slow…ly…clo…s…i..n..g.
Doing the Dishes
Someone has to clean up after the mess.
Player(s): No one really fit well into this spot. We could have done the play on words and went with a guy known for “getting dirty” or doing the “dirty work,” but that sounded lame. Or maybe the young guys are forced to get out the sponges. Again, not great. The truth is nobody would want to clean the dishes…so, we’re seeing them coming together and doing it as a team. (OK, so that’s a lame ending, too. Listen, we’re not telling one of the guys he has to clean the dishes. Especially not Gooch.)
So, there you have it – Our imaginary MNT Thanksgiving dinner. What do you think? Got any other thoughts? Let us know!
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
- The locker room was tiny. The benches were arranged in an oval shape, with just enough stalls for the players. We wound up with a makeshift coaches locker room and treatment room, and practically had to construct an ice bath for post-game.
- The pre-game scene at Ellis Park was truly remarkable. When the MNT blog arrived at the game more than four hours before kickoff, fans were already piling into the stands, and the signing and dancing had begun. These guys were some of the first people in the stands. How long do you think that you could play a fake guitar for? We bet it's not SIX hours straight, like this guy. Anyhow, about 90 minutes before kickoff the party really started. At each corner of the pitch, a small stage was set up, with DJs and dancers on each setup. An MC oversaw the whole operation, whipping the crowd into a frenzy as kickoff approached. Did we mention the dancers? Because at last count there were forty plus lining the outside of the field before kickoff. The teams came out to a rapturous applause, and it seemed as if everybody in the stands either waving a South African flag or blowing a horn.
- Ever notice that Beas is always chewing gum when he's playing? Tonight he forgot it, so the staff went scrambling to score him a piece literally right before the opening whistle.
- Bob's talk to the team at half time focused on keeping good communication, moving the lines together as a group, and being prepared for the pressure that would come from a home team starting the second half behind a goal. Tim Howard also wanted the backline to drop when their 'keeper got the ball, since his kicks upfield were consistently long. The three half time changes were planned from the night before.
- The spread in the media center was quite impressive. The half time meal was just as big as the what the federation served pre-game, and was clearly representative of the local cuisine. It was fajitas!
- The first group of players had to leave the hotel for the airport at 7:30 p.m. If you work backwards, you had a 4:06 p.m. kickoff, the match ending just after six, a post-match ceremony, a press conference and a 25-minute ride back to the hotel. Not much time to dawdle before hustling off.
- Almost every player exchanged jerseys tonight, which isn't always typical. South Africa was wearing new uniforms. Beas and Benni McCarthy had pre-arranged their swap.
- It's impossible to underestimate how much significance the people of South Africa placed on the match being associated with Nelson Mandela. When the trophy came off the bus, the hotel staff were literally in awe. Our team manager spent 30 extra minutes in the lobby so everyone could have their picture taken with the trophy.
- The second group departing sat in the hotel lounge watching the end of Scotland-Italy. A heartbreaker for Tartan's Army. Meantime, Israel pulls off a stunner at home beating Russia, 2-1, giving England a fighting chance to qualify for Euro 2008.
Major props to the people of Jo’Burg, because this game was an experience unlike any other. If this friendly is anything to go by, 2010 should be truly amazing.
Cherundolo Onyewu Bocanegra (capt.) Pearce
The lineup remains largely unchanged from the group that beat Switzerland in Basel last month. Tim howard returns to the net for his 26th game while back four stays intact, anchored by team captain Carlos Bocanegra. Michael Bradley, who scored the game-winner against the Swiss in th e86th minute, is once again paired in the middle with MLS Rookie of the Year Maurice Edu, while the flanks are patrolled by DaMarcus Beasley and Benny Feilhaber. Freddy Adu gets his first start with the full team, partnered with Clint Dempsey.
Friday, November 16, 2007
What they call 'rain with ice' here in Jo'Burg...
The team arrived at Ellis Park just before 4 p.m. local time for their final pre-match training session, and almost as soon as the balls were rolled out dark clouds started to hover over the stadium. The warm-up went on as planned despite a slow drizzle and a few flashes of lightning in the distance. But as the sky increasingly looked more ominous, Bob Bradley decided to pull the plug and have the group wait in the tunnel for the weather to pass.
And that's when the fun started.
First, the rain picked up. Then it looked like snow was falling, which seemed a little odd in a place where the temperature has been in the mid-80's everday. And that's when we heard the first thud off of a Gatorade cooler that had been left outside. To the amazement of the group, sheets of hail were pouring down in the stadium, some of the chunks bouncing 8-10 feet after hitting the concrete. Even more amazing was the fact that team equipment manager Tim Cook (seen here), decided to sprint out to the midfield circle and back (turns out it was based on a dare. Smart kid...). As the guys huddled in the hallway and swapped soccer-related weather horror stories, the storm remained unrelenting, covering the field in a blanket of white. And just as Clint Dempsey declared that the sky appeared to be clearing up, a massive thunder crash sent Deuce scrambling for cover. With the field unplayable and Zeus tossing thunderbolts, Bob called it quits and put everyone back on the bus.
Have to say, haven't seen a 'hail out' of a training session before. Que pasa lo que pasa.
So what’s on your playlist right now?
“Well, right now I’ve got the latest Kanye West album on. I like most of his stuff a lot. And I just finished up listening to the new Jay Z album, American Gangster, the one that was released alongside the movie. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’ve heard it’s pretty good.
So who’s your favorite hip hop artist?
“Right now, I’d probably say The Game, but he hasn’t had a new album in a bit. All time probably Dre. I’m really anxious for his new album to come out.
If it ever comes out…
“Yeah I suppose it has been like that for a few years now, huh?”
Obviously you’re traveling a lot during the season. How do you keep up with new music?
“It’s hard, but I manage. My brother helps out a lot. He sends me tons of stuff that he likes or he thinks I’ll like. That makes it easier.
So what else are you listening to?
“I like the Chili Peppers a lot. Their old stuff is classic, but their new stuff is good, too. I’m really into Stadium Arcadium. The Killers’ stuff I enjoy too. Both their albums I really like.
Do you get to go to live shows much?
“Not as much as I would like to, but I do make sure to see Hellogoodbye whenever they’re in town. I went to high school in Huntington Beach with those guys, and it’s great to see them doing really well.”
Thursday, November 15, 2007
ussoccer.com: What were you doing right before we grabbed you in the hallway at 10:15 at night?
Jonathan Spector: “Getting treatment on my quad. I managed to get two dead legs in the same quad on consecutive days.”
ussoccer.com: How’s it feeling?
JS: “A little better. I got the expert Bruce Snell massage [Bruce is one of two trainers on the trip]. Should be fine.”
ussoccer.com: You were involved in a controversial decision this past weekend where a shot you took kinda sorta went in off of Eddie Lewis. Some people thought you should be credited; others – including the official scorer – called it an own goal on Eddie. So what’s worse: Eddie getting stuck with an own goal or you not getting credit?
JS: “I think it’s a conspiracy against Americans to upset both of us! I did an interview with Match of the Day afterwards. They said ‘one American scored today – which one was it?’
ussoccer.com: Why do the English press and fans seem to hate England manager Steve McClaren so much?
JS: I don’t think it matters who the manager is, they are going to hate him. I don’t understand it. They love to criticize. Everyone over there is the “expert.”
ussoccer.com: What’s one of your indulgences you don’t like people to know about? (Which of course, they will now…)
JS: On the bus going to our games, it’s amazing the amount of chocolate bars we eat. Say we are going from London to Birmingham. It takes three hours to get there, mostly because we always leave at rush hour. Explain that! Anyway, when you’re bored you eat, and for some reason there are always chocolate bars around. The average player consumes 2-3 per bus ride. Fortunately I can hold myself to one a trip.”
ussoccer.com: Do you own any bling?
JS: “No, I don’t spend much money on jewelry. There is certainly a lot of it floating around this team though. I won’t say who, but I did see a diamond grill (shaking his head).”
ussoccer.com: Is bling an American phenomenon?
JS: In England it’s massive. American culture is so big there. It’s way worse on my club team than it is here.”
ussoccer.com: Do you know what the current exchange rate is between the British Pound and the U.S. Dollar?
JS: “2.06 to 1.”
ussoccer.com: Favorite or most often used movie quote?
JS: I do quote movies quite a bit, and I can’t think of one right now. Must be the altitude.
Coincidentally, I rented Goodbye Bafana a couple weeks. I didn’t know what it was about; I had just heard that it was a good movie. It’s all about the life of Nelson Mandela. Great film.”
ussoccer.com: What’s the craziest experience you’ve had at a game?
JS: We were playing at Fenerbache. It seemed like every other person in the stadium had a flare. The fans were whistling non-stop, this screeching whistle. I’ve never heard anything like it. My ears were ringing an hour after the game.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve done hundreds of interviews in your life. If you had the chance, what would you ask a reporter back?
JS: “That’s a good question.”
ussoccer.com: Thank you.
JS: I’d be interested to hear what their candid opinion is on the questions they are asking me. A lot of times what they are writing and they are thinking are two different things. For example, in England the press can be overly critical of their players. I’m curious if they think that is hurting or helping the sport in their country. I’d also be curious why they just flat out make up stories sometimes.”
ussoccer.com: Not that were searching for acceptance or anything, but what’s your favorite thing on ussoccer.com?
JS: “I have to be honest. I like Neil Buethe’s Studio 90 interviews. He just seems so happy to be there. You can tell that when he was a kid, he wanted to grow up and be a journalist. No matter how the interview is going, Neil never ceases to entertain.”
ussoccer.com: Are you a good typer?
JS: “Why, do you want me type the rest of this?”
ussoccer.com: Well, since you offered …
JS: I’d like to think I’m a good typer. I learned in computer class in sixth grade. I didn’t actually mind school. I’m not sure if that makes me un-cool or not.”
ussoccer.com: Speaking of school, you started playing pro at a very young age. Do you ever regret not continuing your education?
JS: “I certainly don’t regret it. The experiences I have had are amazing compared to most people my age. I would have liked to have the college experience. I was pretty close to going. I visited a bunch of schools: Boston College, Notre Dame, UVa, and Princeton. I was at Princeton right when A Beautiful Mind came out, so it was cool to see the campus. But I wouldn’t trade what I have done.”
ussoccer.com: Are you sorry you let us drag you in here?
JS: “I’ll tell you after I read it.”
To try and stump Amy, we've enlisted the same crew who puts together the Back Four quiz - including Panda! So here goes ...
There is one player on the roster who has the same first and last name.
Answers that conclude with a question mark will not be posted.
And to answer the first trivia question, it was indeed DaMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu who played against South Africa in the 4-0 win on December 16, 1998 in the Christchurch Cup.
So, we asked it when we started this entry and we'll end the same way - What are your plans for this Saturday?
The News: Danny Szetela picked up his first minutes with Racing Santander’s first team when he started against Málaga on Wednesday.
Of Note: The 20-year-old midfielder cracked the starting lineup and played 66 minutes in Racing Santander’s 0-0 draw in the fourth round of the Copa del Rey. Szetela helped keep Málaga off the board in the away leg of the home-and-home while making his debut for the first team.
Up Next: After the international break, Racing returns home to take on Valencia in La Liga. The team will be looking to get back on track after falling, 0-1, last weekend at Deportivo la Coruña. The second leg against Málaga will be at home on January 2, 2008.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
As far as I know, I’m the standard bearer for U.S. soccer fanaticism in South Africa. Perhaps that’s a small ambition, as my main competitor may be my own wife. Still, I have the week off, our team is here, and I am bent on getting the most out of it. So, I’ve organized a group to go to the game on Saturday. And I was fortunate to get to watch the team practice today.
It felt good to offer the team some welcoming encouragement as they got off the bus. Bob Bradley was first off the bus and came over to shake my hand, followed by Peter Nowak. I have been a fan of theirs since the first days of the Chicago Fire, when I was a season ticket holder. As practice started, I enjoyed listening to the press officer patiently inform the South African press about the team and its players. They were interested to know about various players, and wanted interviews with some of them after practice. They didn’t really know much about our team. Some were surprised to learn that Freddy Adu has only just started getting minutes with the senior team. I told one SA reporter to write that the U.S. allows all its fans to watch practices from the sidelines.
From yesterday’s blog report on the practice, you might think it was light-hearted. Guess that was just for the first day, as today was very much down to business. If, like me, you’ve never seen the team practice, you might be surprised how short it is. I was struck by how little time the team has to come together for the game. They played maybe 60 minutes of 9-on-9 (Mike Sorber filling the last spot). Considering they may have only three one-hour sessions of play, I would be amazed if a new guy like Jozy Altidore could get enough time to understand the finer points of his role. Surely, he’d need a more substantial “camp” before he’ll be ready for full game. I suspect that’s why the players rarely get more than a handful of minutes for the first games they’re called-up.
I couldn’t hear much, but got the sense that Bob Bradley was stressing quick passes and ball movement. With some of the newer players, he made a point of stressing positioning. I looked for clues on who might be in the starting line-up based on who played with whom, but the sides were mixed up evenly. For the red team it was Deuce, Adu, Feilhaber, Edu, Pearce, Gooch, Califf, Spector and Howard. For the blue team: Jozy, Beasley, Kljestan, Bradley, Bornstein, Boca, Sorber, Dolo and Guzan. Jozy scored the lone goal, heading a nice cross from Steve Cherundolo into the corner past Howard.
As practice wound down, I had a chance to tell the guys good luck, and that there would be some support in the stands. All the guys were friendly and approachable. I wouldn’t single anyone out, but I could tell Danny Califf has been interested in South Africa for a while, but that’s
all about the surfing.
I appreciated the time and opportunity to observe. I have a greater appreciation for how these guys can show up and play like they’ve been working together all year. In reality, they have very little time, and they get about it very professionally. They’re supported by a small group of coaches and staff that makes sure things run smoothly on and off the field.
So, that’s my impression from 90 minutes observing a practice. Have to admit, I was mostly just excited to have such a unique experience. But of course this is my small pond, and I may not have it to myself when the team comes back in 2009 and 2010.
To get the scoop on some of the goings on local soccer, we spoke to our liaison from the SAFA, Abram. The season is currently in session here, and in fact the big Jo’burg derby between the Kaizer Chiefs and the Orlando Pirates is coming up quite soon. “It’s huge,” said Abram, “definitely the biggest rivalry in the country, and maybe in most of Africa.” To coincide with the FIFA World Cup Preliminary Draw in Durban, the derby has been moved out of Jo’burg to Durban, where it will be played in front of a raucous crowd as part of the festivities surrounding the draw itself.
We also asked Abram about the South African team, and he told us some interesting things. The name Bafana Bafana, as the South African team is known, was actually created by the media in the 1990’s. After the team was reinstated to FIFA in 1992, the local media sought a new name to demarcate the beginning of the new era in South African soccer. As such, Bafana Bafana (which means “boys boys”) was born.
The Bafana Bafana reached a low point when the future hosts failed to qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Recently, however, things are looking up for the team. They’ve hired Carlos Parreira as their coach, who led Brazil to the 1994 World Cup, and optimism is running high as the team heads into the 2007 African Cup of Nations. Everybody we meet here is proud of their team, and they’re also quick to point out that the Bafana Bafana will play hard and give us a great game on Saturday. With a near capacity crowd expected and both teams playing under the banner of Nelson Mandela, it should be a fantastic day.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Armas will be remembered on the field for his relentlessness and determination, and off the field for his kindness and values. He had a huge impact on those that were fortunate to have coached or played along side him, and several of those fortunate few are currently here in South Africa. ussoccer.com spoke with former Fire members Bob Bradley, DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra and Peter Nowak about Chris Armas the player, and Chris Armas the man. Click on the name of the speaker to hear the full podcast:
"He's a great competitor. He did a lot of little things on the field that made other players better and helped the team win. He leads by example. He's not someone who is yelling all the time. He just does the right thing on and off the field almost every time. To have a player that comes in every day and is excited about the team and training, gets along with people, and just has such a positive way, it's special. On the field, it's just incredible to see a player who does the dirty work and makes the extra effort to always take care of plays, covers for other people, tackles, runs, makes the simple pass ... in all ways, his personality just rubs off on everyone."
U.S. National Team head coach Bob Bradley
"Chris is a great guy all around. On the field, he gave everything he had. He is one of those guys that goes unnoticed a lot of the time because he not in the stat books that much, but he did all the dirty work that mattered so much for the team. He put his heart and soul into every game. For me coming out of college, seeing his effort day in and day out was great to see. I remember him chasing down players and making their lives miserable all game long. He was great to have as a teammate."
U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra
"With Chris, you always knew what you were going to get from him. He was great captain, a great player and a great person. He meant a lot to me. He was my first-ever captain, and being able to learn under him was great for me being a young player. He is someone I look up to."
U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley
"As a player, Chris is a man not of words, but of action, and his actions spoke for themselves. When he took over as captain, he got the young kids going and kept the message going about continuing the tradition of the Chicago Fire. It was a privilege to work with him. It wasn't pleasurable to play against him! When we played against each other in practice, there was always a battle because he wanted to shut me down, and I wanted to show him that I was still better. That work made us both better, and there was always respect from both sides. I played with a lot of good players, and I would put Chris in the best category of guys who played behind me on the field. Even ahead of guys like Jens Jemeries from the German national team. I appreciate the work he did for the team. You never forget guys like that. He will be missed very much around the league."
U.S. Under-23 head coach Peter Nowak
The elevation in Johannesburg is 5,751 feet above sea level, which puts it 471 feet above the "Mile High" city of Denver. The players and coaching staff first started noticing the effects in warm-ups today, and will continue to acclimatize throughout the week. The weather may also be a factor, with temperatures in the afternoon reaching the mid-80's. With a 4 p.m. local time kickoff, the players may be working against a couple of other factors besides the Bafana Bafana.
We trained at Ellis Park (we'll have a longer post about the stadium tomorrow) and the pitch was in excellent condition. After about a half an hour of some technical drills, the guys finished with a large game of 11 v 2 keep away (featuring Peter Nowak to make up the numbers). Finally, the guys cooled down with some work on their own.
As expected, a game of horseshoes broke out, but we'd also like to report on an old game that has been recycled back into training. The object is to chip the ball off the cross bar and then finish the ensuing rebound out of the air with one touch. Various members of the coaching staff, plus Michael Bradley and Brad Guzan, took part in today's bitterly fought contest.
As you can see from the above pictures, Brad was ecstatic with what he thought was a well earned victory (top). However, his goal was ruled out, and overcome with emotion at what he perceived to be an injustice, he crushed a ball to the opposite end of the field (bottom).
Soon after, we were back in the bus to the hotel, where we settled into lunch as the remaining players arrived from the airport.
A bonus tidbit - Jeff Agoos earned his 100th cap against South Africa back in 2000, at that time becoming the fifth player in MNT history to hit the century mark.
Goalkeepers (2) – Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Tim Howard (Everton FC)
Defenders (7) –Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham FC), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Dan Califf (Aalborg BK), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)
Midfielders (6) – Freddy Adu (SL Benfica), DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers), Michael Bradley (SC Heerenveen), Maurice Edu (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Derby County), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA)
Forwards (2) – Josmer Altidore (New York Red Bulls), Clint Dempsey (Fulham FC)
Monday, November 12, 2007
But wipe those tears off, friends! As you may have noticed, the MNT Blog is firing back up as the guys are landing and getting acclimated to South Africa ahead of Saturday’s match in Johannesburg.
While you won’t hear from us at the Global Blog for a little while, we’ll definitely be spending our vacation by keeping up with all the happenings in the Southern Hemisphere, and we suggest you do the same. Goodbye for now!
Of Note: Howard kept Everton in the game with some superb goalkeeping, but it looked as if Didier Drogba’s header would be the difference in the closely contested match. However, that was until Everton’s Tim Cahill hit a bicycle kick to rival Taylor Twellman’s. The Australian international’s superb goal came in the final minute of play, and ensured that the points were shared between the two sides.
Up Next: The international break! Awesome! After that, Everton host Sunderland on November 24.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
A brief wrap up of the goings on for Saturday’s league games…
Fulham slipped to defeat against
Friday, November 9, 2007
Some interesting games on TV this weekend, in what will be the last few days of club soccer prior to the final international break of the year:
(All times ET)
Everton and Tim Howard made it six points from two games after last night’s UEFA Cup victory over Nürnberg. The Toffees left it a bit late, but goals from Mikel Arteta and Victor Anchibe handed the English club a deserved 2-0 victory. At the back, Tim Howard and the defense kept an important clean sheet that will undoubtedly boost confidence ahead of Sunday’s mammoth clash with
Dan Califf and Aalborg BK claimed a late draw against
As a side note, both Califf and Howard are part of Bob Bradley’s initial 17-man roster that will travel to
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Everton and Tim Howard travel to
Aalborg BK, led by American defender and club captain Dan Califf, plays its first group stage game tonight against Belgian side Anderlecht. AaB (as the Danish side is abbreviated) has already played nine European games this season, as they had to qualify for the UEFA Cup through the Intertoto Cup. Califf and AaB defeated the heavily favored Serie A side Sampdoria in the qualification round in order to be drawn into group G. As you may remember, the MNT Blog spoke to Califf about that victory over Samporia during the recent camp in
The News: DaMarcus Beasley was in the starting lineup for Rangers last night, but
Of Note: The result leaves Rangers in second place in Group D with seven points. Significantly,
Up Next: Rangers have no game at the weekend, which means they head into the international break a bit early. Their next match is against
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Manager Carlos Alberto Parreira has called together a strong team to face the
Other notable inclusions in the squad are Bradley Carnell, a defender with German side
Winger Steven Pienaar is a teammate of Tim Howard’s at Everton, and the 25-year old is making an impression on Merseyside this season, where he is on a season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund. He is also the subject of this tremendously-scored highlight video chronicling his time at
Parreira has brought in players from five different countries across Europe, including five from
Stay tuned for an upcoming roster release for the
The News: DaMarcus Beasley and Rangers travel to
And in case you haven’t seen it yet, we visited Beasley in the lead up to the Old Firm game in October. It is that kind of experience that Beasley and Rangers will have to draw on if they look to get something out of tonight’s game.
Of Note: Both clubs come into this match at the top of Group E after their draw at Ibrox two weeks ago. In that game, Beasley came off the bench for Rangers. However, after starting on the wing during his club’s victory this weekend, he’ll hope to reprise that role tonight in one of the world’s most famous stadiums.
Up Next: The match kicks off at 2:45 p.m. ET, so be sure to read the match preview here. The game will be shown live on ESPN Deportes, and re-aired on ESPN Classic at 5 p.m. ET. You can also follow live updates on UEFA.com.
The News: Freddy Adu was an unused substitute in Benfica’s 1-0 loss to Celtic last night.
Of Note: A lone Aidan McGeady goal was the difference between the two sides, as the
Up Next: Benfica will try to steady the ship win they face Boavista in the Portuguese League on Sunday. Adu and Benfica are yet to lose in the league this year, while Boavista, by contrast, are winless and hovering near the relegation zone. After the international break, Benfica will host AC Milan in a Champions League match where they must achieve a result.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
The News: Freddy Adu and Benfica take on Celtic today in a Champions League Group D match at
Of Note: The teams last met two weeks ago when Benfica defeated Celtic, 1-0, at the Estadio da Luz. Adu came on as a second half sub in that game, and was part of the passing build up which lead to Benfica’s late goal. With that victory, the Portuguese club reignited its hopes of qualification for the next round, and it now sits only three points behind joint-leaders AC Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk. Celtic could equally use a victory tonight, and they’ll rely on a rowdy home crowd to help them achieve a positive result. You can read previews for the match here and here, and can also follow live text updates at uefa.com.
Up Next: Kickoff is slated for 2:45 p.m. ET, and since the game isn’t on TV, we’ll be sure to link you to highlights as they come on the internet. How do you feel about Benfica’s chances to progress to the next round? They’ve got some tough games ahead….What about predictions for tonight’s fixture?
Monday, November 5, 2007
The News: A strained calf muscle has ruled Jay DeMerit out of action with
Of Note: DeMerit was stretchered off the field during Saturday’s loss to
Up Next: Rest and rehab for DeMerit, who will look to return to the field in December prior to
Sunday, November 4, 2007
With a 2-0 win on Saturday, DaMarcus Beasley and Rangers made it two victories in a row before they travel to Spain for their crunch Champions League match with Barcelona. Beasley retained his place in the starting eleven as Rangers hosted Inverness at Ibrox, and it took only seconds for the home side to gain the lead through Kris Boyd. With their early advantage, Rangers didn’t look back, and the result was put out of reach for the visitors with an additional goal in the second half.
Over on the Iberian Peninsula, Freddy Adu again came off the bench for Benfica, who needed more late heroics to earn a 2-1 win against Paços Ferreira. This time the goal came from Greek international Kostas Katsouranis, after he tapped in a rebound off a Rui Costa free kick in the 84th minute. Adu came off the bench in the 81st minute for his fourth consecutive appearance for Benfica, who will travel to Glasgow to face Celtic this week. Check out highlights of the game here.
Tim Howard and Everton made it four wins in a row with their 3-1 victory over Birmingham on Saturday. The Toffees were in danger of dropping points, after Birmingham’s Olivier Kapo tied the game for Steve Bruce’s side in the 80th minute. However, late goals from Lee Carsley and record-signing Yakubu stole victory for an Everton team that now sits at eighth in the table, just shy of a qualification spot for Europe. Speaking of Europe, David Moyes’ team will travel to Germany this week, where they’ll face FC Nürnberg on Thursday in the UEFA Cup. You can see highlights of this weekend’s game here.
Jonathan Spector again came off the bench for West Ham early in the second half, this time with the Hammers defending a 1-0 lead against Bolton. Unfortunately, however, a late stoppage time goal from Bolton's Kevin Nolan meant that the game finished in a draw and the points were shared. Full highlights of the game here.
Meanwhile, Derby County’s troubles are mounting, as they went down 2-0 to Aston Villa. Neither Eddie Lewis nor Benny Feilhaber appeared in the game.
In the Championship, Watford suffered their first loss of the season, crashing to a 3-0 defeat at home to West Bromich Albion. After only 10 minutes, Jay DeMerit collided with an opposing player and had to be stretchered off with what looked to be a calf injury. We’ll keep you updated as we hear the prognosis.
Also in the championship, Sheffield Wednesday earned a 2-1 victory over Plymouth, as Frank Simek made his return to the starting lineup after a brief layoff through injury. The win moves the Owls away from the relegation zone, and they’ll look to further climb the table when they host West Brom on Tuesday.
Michael Bradley and Heerenveen beat PSV 2-1 to move up to fifth in the table. Bradley was again in the starting lineup for Heerenveen, whose victory ended a bad week for the Eindhoven club: on Wednesday, manager Ronald Koeman departed the club to take over at Valencia.
Standard Liege and Oguchi Onyewu drew 0-0 on Saturday against Excelsior. Despite remaining undefeated on the season, the draw sees Gooch’s club fall to second place, one point behind Club Brugge.