Thursday, September 10, 2009

Points are Points

Let's just get this out of the way right now:

I'm an idiot.

That's all I need to say and encompasses both my lack of posts and the general sense you should have while reading here. Honestly, I could not be more of a moron if I started Marvell Wynne in a road qualifier.

Regardless, I'm back! I'm sure you are underwhelmed. right now, you're thinking I'm the soccer blogger equivalent of Clint Dempsey: bored, unproductive, lazy. Which is all true. But I can also pop up at opportune moments and make a big play. When I'm not back-heeling the ball to an opponent in midfield.


My thoughts on the last three US qualifiers are the same as yours. Not impressed, except in the team's ability to put themselves in position to get the points. This can't be understated. No, you don't look at the games and think, "Wow!" In fact, if you're like me, you spent most of the 270+ minutes ready to heave (a friend IM'd me prior to the Mexico game, "No live blog?" I could no more live blog that game than I could play 90 in Azteca. I could barely fucking breathe). But at the end of time, the Nats banked six points (out of what I thought was a realistic seven).

Something to be said for getting the result.

However, they've left us plenty to chew on. Not much of it is positive.

I hated the collective "pull back" after the Charlie Davies goal in Mexico. It seemed like the team immediately went into a defensive shell. Immediately. When they'd been dangerous right from the opening whistle. I understand being disciplined and keeping your shape in the back, but if you stop attacking--completely--then you don't cause any problems for your opponents, specifically the outside backs and holding mids, who can then pour forward without impunity. This problem was no doubt exacerbated by the absolutely dismal distribution from the back. A dozen times (or more), we won the ball and mis-placed a pass that would have either started a counter or, at least, gave us some possession.

Where have you gone Michael Bradley? With Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones healing (filing paperwork) in the wings, his days are numbered if he doesn't improve his form, right? Right? I've never bought the nepotism angle and considering Dad's oft-repeated "Players need to get games" philosophy, Junior certainly can't stake a certain claim while sitting on Gladbach's bench. Wasn't it just a few short months ago that we were teeming with defensive midfielders?

Stuart Holden. I told y'all, didn't I? Not only does he have skills, but he's the scrappiest player on the field when he comes on. All our guys used to be scrappy. Now it looks like they're playing in slow-motion at times. The T&T match resembled a 1998 MLS match for large stretches.

Whatever this says about me, I don't care: I follow these guys on Twitter:

Charlie Davies
Stuart Holden
Freddy Adu

Stanky Leg? C'mon guys, you can do better than that. That song sucks.

In my trip around teh internets this morning, I was praying to see Ricardo Clark's massive strike commemorated with a "Rico Suave" headline. I was disappointed. Gerardo is not fully appreciated as an artist.


So, a win in Honduras clinches a spot. Hard to see that happening, which means at least a draw at home to Costa Rica in the last game (look out below, the Ticos are in free-fall). Then again, we've shown we can get a result in pressure situations. Be nice to relax during that final fixture.

Monday, July 13, 2009


It's that time of year in my desert hamlet, where the temperature soars to triple-digits and my A/C gets a work out. Last summer, I played in a men's league in lovely Fontana, CA (aka Fontucky, the Methamphetamine Capital of the Southwest), which was once home to Sonny Barger's Hells Angels and is now somewhat of a bedroom community, though it retains the rough edge of its outlaw past, all of which acccurately describes the pitches we played on. They are Field Turf, which is not as difficult to play on as you might think. The ball rolls true and it's not fast, like astroturf, but you do get a lot of extra english on bent balls, which check up like on a golf green. The worst part is the field is cushioned by ground up tires, black rubber, so the pitch retains heat in the summer. It's like playing on a hot griddle.

So we quit that league. It wasn't just the pitch. The crooked referees played a big part. As the only non-Latino team in the league, we were consistently screwed by gamesmanship and an inability to plead our case in spanish to the referees, who were continually sympathetic to our opponents. league, actual breeze, lovely grass pitch, English-speaking man in the center. Only negatives on the day were the draw, a 2-2 game we led twice and should have won by three goals, and the soreness in my legs from not having played in six weeks. Plus, we only had 12. Anybody near Chino Hills and over-30 need a team?


US into the quarters of the Gold Cup as expected. We're sure a diffferent team when Davies and Feilhaber are present. That first goal against Honduras was as nice a build-up as we've ever seen from the Nats. Didn't see the Haiti game, but caught Holden's equaliser. What a hit, son. What. A. Hit.

The only Frine Players who seem to have done themselves any favors are Holden, Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers. Marshall's had a mostly good tourney. He and Parkhurst got split quite a few times by Honduras, but I'll chalk that up to unfamiliarity and the fact Parkhurst has been middling, at best. Marshall marshalled (ha!) Carlos Costly pretty well.

I love Holden. He's got confidence. He demands the ball. More Dempsey than Donovan, the latter of whom too often waits for the game to come to him. Holden can play anywhere in the midfield, too. Versatility is nice. He's in the conversation for 2010, I think.

Rogers has looked very good, but the level of opposition is cause for optimism. Wait and see attitude.

On the subject of one Brian Ching, it has been patently obvious that he's nothing but insurance and should not be starting any meaningful games for the US team. Even his "goal" against Honduras was a nearly whiffed-header that went in off the defender's shoulder.

The other past starter, Steve Cherundolo, has looked fine. I would not consider it egregious if he started next month in Azteca in favor of Spector. Going forward, of course, I prefer Spector, but I don't see that he's blocked any longer by Coach Bradley's obstinance.

Up next for the US is Panama, who tied Mexico in that game which featured El Tri's manager kicking the Panamanian player while the ball was still in--or very close to being still in--play. Javier Aguirre got a three-game suspension for that little act of Roy Riegles/Woody Hayes-esque petulance, which is minor and akin to a pitcher, working on four days rest, getting a four-game suspension. He was never going to get a ban that endangered his being on the sideline for the qualifier against the US next month. Of course, Mexico still need to get by Haiti on Sunday, which is no gimme.


Davies to Socheaux...know nothing about them except that their top striker from last term inked a deal with PSG. Hope it works out for him. Good league for his talents, I think, and a definite step up from Hammarby, though I love Stockholm.

Cheers to him.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Weekend Report

Spent the weekend in the swelter of Palm Springs, where I tried to find a sports bar showing the US-Greneda match on Saturday night. Suffice to say, they don't grow very good sports bars in Palm Springs. It's my own fault, because I stupidly overlooked the solution: A Mexican restaurant. Even the busboys know which channel is showing the futbol match.

So, I got to watch the second half. Not much to report there. A professional effort over a hopelessly out-classed team, spaces as wide as the Serengeti. When Kyle Beckerman is flawlessly pulling the strings, you know this is not exactly top-flight competition. Good result, though. Onward and upward.


The big news today is Oguchi Onyewu signing with AC Milan. Excellent choice. With two aging and injury-prone centre backs, Gooch should get plenty of run. He gets to stay in Champions League football. And he's well-suited for the more plodding style of play in Serie A. I expect him to succeed there and would consider it an upset if he couldn't crack the starting XI with regularity.


I had not heard about Michael Bradley "confronting" the official who sent him off against Spain. How stupid is that? We should start calling such behavior "pulling a Drogba." The four-game suspension is not an issue, since he's serving it during the Gold Cup, where he's not even on the roster. The more troubling aspect is the six-month "probation." If he sees red again during the period, he's subject to an even longer ban and I think we all know this results in one of two outcomes: The ban or a hesitant central midfielder. Not a good thing with the second round of the hexagonal set to start next month in the Azteca. Might want to expedite that Jermaine Jones application, fellas.


My busy summer and all the US team action has prevented me from keeping too close tabs on the European transfer market, save for the New Galacticos of Real Madrid. That will be interesting to watch. I'm amused that Chelsea is so adamant about hanging onto John Terry, who's clearly lost a step, while, at the same time, allowing Ricardo Carvalho to seek suitors. The latter, to me, was far more effective last season and his injury was a big key to the Blues falling back to third.

On the Liverpool front, Yossi Benayoun inked a new deal, which is right and necessary. The Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano twin sagas appear likely to drag on for a few weeks and it is becoming increasingly unlikely the Reds will be able to retain both players. I'd put my faith in Alonso if it came down to a choice between the two, but either way, this portends more playing time for Lucas, which is bad news for the club. The Brazilian must be the best training ground player ever, because he shows nothing on game day.


Personally, I will return to the pitch this Sunday, after my club's two-month hiatus, precepitated by crooked referees in our previous league. Seriously...the worst ever. EVER! Also, that league played on Field Turf, which is brutal in the summer. If reflects heat and it's that time of year where our Sunday afternoons run triple digits. It's like playing on a griddle.

The new league is further away for me, which is a bummer, but we're back on God's green grass (or dirt, in some instances). You'll not likely get much reportage on this old aging man's league. Unless your favorite, rampaging left back bangs one in. Or if we win the Santa Barbara tournament next month. Which we might.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Say It Ain't So, O!

Lost so far in the frenzy of Nats-related news and action is the fact I've yet to state my favorite club side. It's Liverpool. Two people are to blame for that: Kevin Keegan and Steve McManaman. The former, because I wore his boots as a kid (though I never latched onto Hamburg) and the latter because the first time I saw him play I loved him. When Macca and Robbie Fowler ascended to the senior team, we just started getting regular Premier League (orwhateverthefucktheycalleditthen) games in the U.S. and I was instantly smitten. It helps that I'm built like Macca, tall and reed thin, and we shared the same number, 17.

In that vein, the news that Michael Owen is undergoing a physical at Manchester United makes me gag on my uvula. Owen was a hero, as well, and I nearly named my son after him (would have if I could have gotten the former Mrs. to agree, but she's a Swede and "Owen" allegedly "sounds gay in Swedish").

Owen's exploits and injury history are well known, and I have little interest in seeing him return to Anfield, but to go to Old Trafford? Regardless of what he has left in the tank (little, says I), to see him in that shirt will kill a part of me. 

Perhaps the uvula.

Going for the Gold Cup

I think my post-Confederations Cup hangover has finally abated. Metaphoricaly-speaking, it was a two-week Epic Bender, beginning with shots of bitter tequila, the quality reminiscient of a homemade batch I once imbibed out of a milk carton during a Tijuana wedding celebration, followed by five halves worth of creamy, imperious Chimay and that final 45 minutes, which had to be something forlorn and sour, whiskey or amaretto.

Having suffered the DTs for the better part of a week, I'm happy to note the CONCACAF Gold Cup is starting this Saturday, starring the US 'B' Team (let's call 'em the "Fringe Team"), which is looking to secure the nation's third straight title. Call this tournament a Bloody Mary. A sweet, sweet bloody mary.

There is no Confederations Cup berth, or any other extended benefit, on the line this time around, which has led to many teams leaving some of their brightest players off the roster. Players in MLS and the Scandinavian leagues are opting to stay with their clubs (Canada and Toronto FC's Dwayne DeRosario, for example) and others need the break after long domestic seasons and numerous World Cup qualifiers. The result is a watered down series of exhibitions, that nonetheless offer an opportunity for a handful of US players to make their cases for a roster spot for the remaining qualifiers and for South Africa 2010.

Only three US players from the South Africa roster are staying with the team: Charlie Davies, Freddy Adu and goalkeeper Luis Robles. Adu, in particular, should see plenty of action. Let me amend that: He'd BETTER see plenty of action. Poor Freddy really is a mystery, owing mostly to the fact he never plays. Anywhere. Since his introduction to the sporting public, a literal throw into the deep end, he's slowly faded from sight. He's clearly not showing enough on the training ground to impress Coach Bob Bradley (not that I'm in awe of Bradley's ability to spot a "baller") or any of his (three, four, five) Gaffers in Europe. He's a surprise package.

Looking over the entire roster, which is not actually set yet, as CONCACAF has given the team permission to add seven more players due to...well...who knows why (*see note at bottom), one doesn't see anybody crying out for inclusion in the top tier of the player pool. These guys are fighting for the final roster spots. Still, there is some intrigue.

In the back, Steve Cerundolo returns from a long injury hiatus. Wasn't so long ago he was the automatic choise at right back, but the injury, his age and the maturation of Jonathan Spector argue against him regaining that spot. It's unlikely he'll be able to play a full 90 at this point, but he will get a chance to knock off the rust.

The centre backs will probably be Chad Marshall and Michael Parkhurst, both capable and in the mix as cover for Onyewu-DeMerit-Bocanegra. Marshall was MLS Defender of the Year with Columbus in '08 and Parkhurst, now in Denmark after a number of years with New England, is solid and has impressed in previous call-ups.

In the midfield, the man to watch is Houston's Stuart Holden. Holden stepped into the playmaker role for the Dynamo this year, taking over from the mercurial DeRosario, and, after a middling start, has raised his profile considerably. I was really looking forward to seeing the Scottish-born midfielder this past January when the Fringe Team took on Sweden at Home Depot Center. Unfortunately, he was injured in training and Sacha Kljestan got the start instead. Kljestan scored a hat trick that night, so, I guess we can blame Holden for inflicting Sacha on us in recent games (okay, I've been WAY too hard on Kljestan; he's a useful player, but he's not ready for international games. Not even close. He's a frightened bunny at that level, hat trick against Sweden's 'C' team notwithstanding).

Anyways...Holden. He's slight, but plays with a chip on his shoulder, which I'm gong to attribute to his Scottish roots. Holds the ball well and makes those daring passes that so many of the US midfielders shy from. Though Coach Bradley seems intent on playing two holding midfielders, rather than one holding and one playmaker, Holden might be the only guy in the player pool who gives him pause.

Up top, Brian Ching returns from a hamstring injury, which caused him to miss the Confederations Cup. Thank God for that. He'll most assuredly start alongside Davies or Adu. I've never been too critical of Ching. He maximizes his ability and plays smart football (and my girlfriend thinks he's hot). But Jorginho said it best, "When this team no longer employs Brian Ching, then you know the US has taken a step forward in talent." I think the recent performances of Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies put an exclamation point on that thought. For the last 12 years, the US has always employed the target striker, first Brian McBride and now Ching. Well, Altidore is a target striker with the added bonus of skill and pace. That's better, right?

To my mind, Ching is finished as a first team selection. I'm not entirely sure Bradley agrees.

First up for the Nats is mighty Greneda, which is only slightly larger than my high school, on Saturday at 6 p.m. PST at Seattle's Qwest Field. Their next two group matches are Wednesday, June 8 at RFK in Washington D.C. against Honduras and Saturday July 11 in Foxborough against Haiti. The top two advance out of the group, with the best two third place teams completing the quarterfinal round field. Yes, the group stages eliminate 4 of the 12 teams. It's like the NBA.

Enjoy your bloody marys, watered down though they may be.


The 23-man roster named by Bradley last week:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jon Busch (Chicago Fire), Troy Perkins (IK Start), Luis Robles (FC Kaiserslautern)

DEFENDERS (7): Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Jay Heaps (New England Revolution), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Davy Arnaud (Kansas City Wizards), Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Colin Clark (Colorado Rapids), Sam Cronin (Toronto FC), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Stuart Holden (Houston Dynamo), Logan Pause (Chicago Fire), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)

FORWARDS (5): Freddy Adu (AS Monaco), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Kenny Cooper (FC Dallas), Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Santino Quaranta (D.C. United)

*The seven additional roster spots have been announced and, heh, it's the Cavalry. Altidore, Conor Casey, Benny Feilhaber, Kljestan, Ricardo Clark, Brad Guzan and Jonathan Bornstein. Though the US can only suit up 18 players for every match, they can draw from the entire pool, so I'm guessing we'll see some of the big guns in the knockout rounds after they rest up a bit.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


You imaginary readers out there in the ether may be tempted to accuse me of slacking right off the bat in the blog here, but you would be mistaken. I have a job, you know.

Not that I was working the past week. I had a long-planned trip that rose up right smack dab in the middle of the Confederations Cup, which was probably just as well, as I didn't spend Thursday through Sunday afternoon obsessing over the Brazil-US final. We camped at the beach, my son, my girlfriend and her family (and friends, nearly 80 people in all). Had ourselves a shit-ton of sun, beer and good times. I got back home on Sunday, right about halftime of the Final. Thanks to TiVo, I started at the opening whistle.


So, by now, you all know what happened. What follows is less a re-hash of the game and my feelings about it (bitterly disappointed, devastated, wallowing in Clint Dempsey's tears), than what we now know about this US team, its coach and what it all means going forward.


I was amused by Michael Bradley's outburst after the Egypt game. As a father myself, I'd like to hope my own son would come to my defense--or his teammate's defense--with similar passion. But Bradley the Younger was woefully misguided in his comments, the most vitriolic of which was,

"All the f------ experts in America, everybody who thinks they know everything about soccer, they can all look at the score tonight, and let's see what they have to say now, all right?"

Well Mike, congratulations on your historic win. Congratulations on hitting to that inside straight and advancing out of the group despite incredible odds. However, that performance against Egypt does not excuse the one against Brazil (in the group) or at Costa Rica or against Honduras or at El Salvador. Those of us who "think we know" about soccer didn't have to look very hard to see how awful the side played for large chunks of those three games. Are you trying to tell us that the US team put their best feet forward in those matches? That your Dad ran out the best XI players (seriously, Marvell Wynne played in one of those games)? That the wrong-headed 4-3-3 formation in Saprissa Stadium didn't completely fall apart less than two minutes into the game?

All those criticisms were entirely warranted, Mike, a fact which you prove with your outburst, which your teammates proved with their inspired effort the remainder of the Confederations Cup. A team capable of that level of play and committment should be rightfully ashamed of mailing in qualifiers. If Bradley feels the recent qualifiers were above reproach, he's misguided. He should watch game film and notice the team's complete turnaround.

What I have to "say now" is, "Awesome. That's how we, your fans, thought the team could play. We're happy to see it. I can't tell you how exciting the last week was. Now show some consistency and eliminate those tentative, naive performances."


While I'm happy to give Coach Bradley credit for beating Spain, I'm still not completely confident in his stewardship of the team, mostly due to his team selection (and that ghastly lineup in Costa Rica, which I have to assume, lest I go completely insane, was a one-off, never to be repeated). Yes, he found the right mix in the Egypt game. Bocanegra getting fit allowed us to put out our Best XI in the Spain semi-final. But how did he get there? And why did it take him so long?

My belief is that he was desperate. His tactics, his players were not getting it done. The Costa Rica blowout, the squeaker at home against Honduras, the dismal effort in El Salvador. He knew he had to do something. He was going to lose his job on the backs of DaMarcus Beasley and Jonathan Bornstein and Sacha Kljestan and Danny Califf.

Sure, we look at that list of players now and laugh. But had those guys gotten results--despite all available evidence that they couldn't--we'd still be looking at them as big players in the National pool. Fortunately for all involved, they played to their level. Which is low.

Coach Bradley's desperation can be encapsulated in a single player: Benny Feilhaber. Two summers ago, Feilhaber's game-winning rocket against Mexico won the Gold Cup (which got the US into the Confederations Cup, doncha know). He was a star on the rise, deft with the ball in midfield, an inate sense of the game and with some Brazilian flair flowing through his veins. Then he went to Derby County and couldn't get a game (for the worst-performing side in the history of the EPL). And he got hurt. But, most damining, accounts surfaced that he turned off the National Team set-up by being a prick. He was blacklisted.

Though he'd only played one 90-minute match for his new club, Aarhus (Denmark), after returning from injury, Bradley called him into camp after the Costa Rica debacle and inserted him into the second half of the Honduras game to great effect. It was a desperation move and though Feilhaber is clearly not as sharp as he will be with more playing time, he's a difference-maker, the team's most creative midfielder, a player who provides inspiration and invention in the offensive third.

Also in similar boats, Jonathan Spector and Jay DeMerit languished in the background of the team, mystifyingly so to some observers, including this one. Bradley ran through a who's who of options on the flanks--Heath Pearce, Bornstein, Wynne, even the ill-fated Beasley at left back experiment--before giving Spector a run-out in the Honduras game. All the West Ham player (who, it should be noted, has had a number of injuries as well) did was shine nearly every second he was on the pitch, minus a few missed assignments on set-pieces. One would expect he is now firmly entrenched at right back, but, considering my absence of faith in Bradley, I'll believe it when I see it in the Azteca on Aug. 12th.

Carlos Bocanegra's injury against Honduras might be the best thing that's ever happened to Jay DeMerit. That and Danny Califf's howler against Costa Rica. DeMerit, at the very least, cemented his spot as the third-choice center back. If Bocanegra continues to play out on the left--which he totally should Bob!--then DeMerit is an automatic selection. The big Watford centre back now has 15 caps, a paltry number considering he's been highly regarded in England for five years, one of those being in the EPL. Here again, we have an accomplished player whose chances for the National Team were begging until Bradley's desperation peaked, right about the time his head was on the chopping block.

Now, one can look at the team that rampaged through the African Champions, held the best team in the world at bay in a famous victory and battled Brazil for 90 tenacious minutes and say, those are our guys. We'll see in six weeks if Bradley agrees.


Landon, I take back everything bad I ever said about you. You still need to be more decisive in the box, but goddamn if you didn't play your ass off in South Africa, running at guys, being confident on the ball and basically making a menace of yourself. Please do this every game. And your post-Final quote, "We don't want respect, we want wins," was awesome.

Charlie, Welcome to the club, sir. You wonder why the one US striker with a sterling goal-scoring record in Europe would languish on the bench for so long, but (see above) we're glad to have you, even if you're not the prettiest player. What I like most is that you run with purpose and, boy oh boy, can you run.

Clint, For a while, you were turning into Landon. Disappointing. You still lost interest at times, but 3 goals in 5 games is a nice return on investment. I still think you get too easily annoyed when the service isn't inch-perfect, and you could stand to eliminate some of the more fancy shit from your arsenal, but when you're on, you're as dangerous as anyone alive.

Oguchi, enjoy your payday. Man of the tournament.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

With a Bang

My buddy Jorginho, who's Kind of a Big Deal, has been pestering me to start a soccer blog. Though we spend hours dissecting the minutiae of the US National Team, I'd resisted. I can no longer deny the siren's song, however. I love the game. I can write a bit. And I'm probably going to need a job here pretty soon, so I might as well have some learned analysis to show people so I can ascend to the heights of internet super-stardom.

Or, we'll just have fun with it.

What better way to kick off the blog than the highest-profile US match in years, the Confederations Cup semi-final against World #1 Spain. By any meansure, the match is a tough ask for the US. Spain have won 15 in a row, unbeaten in 35, reigning Euro '08 champions and a lineup brimming with world class footballers. The US has been up and down in recent months, looking tentative in some matches, capable in others and, in the case of the miraculous 3-0 drubbing of Egypt, downright mercurial. Let's break it down.

The case for Spain: Not difficult. In forwards Fernando Torres and David Villa, they possess the most lethal strike force in the game. Their pace and movement off the ball is trouble for any side, even more so against central defenders without a lot of speed, which describes Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit in the heart of the US back line. Spain's precision possession game will have th US chasing shadows in the midfield as the likes of Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi Alonso stroke the ball around looking for the killer pass. Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevila love to get forward from the back, putting even more pressure on the Nats outside backs.

All things being equal, a typical Spanish performance will result in a victory. Fortunately for US fans and this blog post, anything can happen in football.

The case for the US: Spain is vulnerable to set pieces, a strength of the US side. Considering the offfensive forays of Sergio Ramons and Capdevila, the US might be able to hit on the break, utilizing the speed of Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan and, especially, Charlie Davies, who has the best goal-scoring record of any US striker currently playing in Europe. The Nats can't start the game in fear or awe of the Spaniards, a trait they've adopted recently in games against Costa Rica and Brazil, matches where they gave up early goals and were, from that point on, never in it. You do not want to have to chase the game against Spain.


I expect the US to start the same side as against Egypt, though some changes are possible. Clint Dempsey had been having a pedestrian tournament until US Coach Bob Bradley moved him up top late in the Egypt game. He responded with the goal to put them through and more energy and commitment than he had shown in months. Dempsey could move to striker with Altidore, sending Davies to the bench and bringing on Jose Francisco Torres or Benny Feilhaber into the midfield. Those two would certainly help with possession, a necessity against the keep-ball tactics of EspaƱa.

The US can't allow Spain to have all of the ball. Sitting deep and trying to soak up all their pressure will result in nothing but 90 minutes of a cat playing with a dying mouse. Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark will need to disrupt the smooth flow of the Spanish passes and the team will need to work as a whole to minimize space. I expect the back four to play deep, which means the midfield will have to keep its shape, can't be static across the park.

A US win is highly unlikely. Even its most ardent fans can admit this. None of us expected them to beat Brazil, either. Rather, the emphasis today will be on the performance of the US team, specifically in the lineup and tactics of Coach Bradley. He's been abject in his team selection recently and clueless in the use of some of his personnel. He got it right v. Egypt. Let's hope he's figured that out.

I will be live-blogging the match from The Defensive Third HQ. Stay tuned.

0 min: US lineup: Howard-Spector-Onyewu-DeMerit-Bocanegra-Dempsey-Clark-Bradley-Donovan-Davies-Altidore

Carlos Bocanegra returns from a hamstring injury and is placed out wide left at the expense of Jonny Bornstein. Great substitution. Long-time National Team followers have begged for Boca to be moved to the left from the center of defense. DeMerit's performance alongside Onyewu in South Africa apparently (finally!) convinced Coach Bob Bradley to pull the trigger. Tim Howard in for Brad Guzan in goal.

This is the best possible lineup Bradley could have sent out. So far so good.

0 min: Spain lineup: Casillas-Sergio Ramos-Pique-Puyol-Capdevila-Xabi Alonso-Fabregas-Xavi-Riera-Villa-Torres.

An embarrassment of riches. No surprises there. I feel compelled to mention they put their shorts on one leg at a time, just live everyone else.

0 min: Jorginho told me to "Be More Funny." I replied that my live blogs are always hilarious, because I'm drunk when I do them. Though that's not the case today, I'll give it a shot.

Here's one: I have a new catch phrase: "I give it two years." It is said with bitterness, grunted almost, and refers to anything that sucks. It comes from my mother, of all people, who said it when informed that X got married last week. Honestly, if you could heard the way she said it, you'd know how funny it is.

0 min: And we're on the air! I typically watch US games with the sound off while listening to Elliott Smith, who makes me happier than the commentators, especially Tommy Smyth. Sound is on today, though, so I can make fun of insipid statemenst from John Harkes and JP Dellacamera.

0 min: I love Spain. Five Liverpool players on the roster, three in the Starting XI, including Fernando "El Nino" Torres upon whom I have the largest man-crush in the history of Bromances. It is not possible tove love a man you will never meet in a more heterosexual way than I love El Nino.

My kingdom for a tilda.

I love the way they play. I love the way they decimated Germany last summer. I love their uniforms. I love recalling the time my Spanish friend Sergio screamed at a TV in fractured english, "The referee! He is always against a-Spain!"

0 min: JP says "no pressure on the US today." Um...really? I stridently do not concur.

1 min: And away we go.

1 min: Gooch is wearing gloves. He is either taking a motorcycle ride right after the game of has a really bad case of psoriasis.

2 min: That is what the US can't do. Give away possession in their half and concede a free kick in a dangerous spot.

4 min: US corner comes to nothing. At least they didn't play it short to Beasley.

5 min: Great ball from Gooch to Davies. Casillas alert to cut out the danger. Davies was in alone.

6 min: 50-50 balls, 2nd balls, knock-downs...the US has to win them all.

6 min: Donovan's touch heavy there, but it appears the counters are on.

7 min: Wow. Davies bicycle kick a couple yards off the mark. US attacking with intent. Me likee!

8 min: US on top right now. Let me repeat that. US on top right now. Davies rampant. Donovan turning guys. Dempsey shoots just wide. Fantastic stuff.

10 min: It's difficult to rattle the confidence of the best team in the world, but the US forays into the Spanish end could make Sergio Ramos and Capdevila think twice about heading up the flanks with the regularity they usually do.

12 min: Torres goes close soon after a Clark give-away. Can't turn it over in our half, boys.

13 min: Spain not quite as crisp as we're used to seeing them. That can change in an instant, but the US is doing a good job of disrupting their flow. Playing higher up the pitch than I thought they would.

15 min: If Jozy's gonna wear those awful blue shoes, he'd better get a brace. At minimum.

17 min: Forgot to mention Donovan's yellow. He deserved it, but it's nice to see Lanny actually go in hard on someone. Usually, he just blows lightly in their ear.

18 min: Good start. Organized in the back. Confident on the ball. Got past that magic 15 minute mark without conceding.

18 min: Howard with a huge save, but Torres is offside. Torres was also wide open in the middle.

19 min: Somebody fucking shoot the ball!

21 min: Thank you, Lanny.

21 min: Clark really having a great start to this game.

22 min: Spain looking very dangerous now. Last pass is lacking. Not for long, I bet. End-to-end action. Good stuff.

23 min: US defending in numbers and then hoofing it up the pitch. Not a recipe for success.

26 min: Are we really only 25 min, in? I'm exhausted. US defends two corners in quick succession and clears to Davies who is mauled by Puyol in a somewhat homoerotic fashion.

27 min: Goal USA! Jozy! Turns Capdevila and wrong foots Casillas who gets a hand on it, but not enough.

Oh my goodness.

29 min: I'm not sure what to do with myself right now. Who's more stunned? Me or Spain?

30 min: I was starting to doubt whether this group of US players had any sack.

30 min: Abysmal touch from El Nino. Great defending by Spector. Sergio Ramos camped out in US offensive third. Corner Spain. Corner again Spain.

32 min: Great take by Donovan, Clark gives it up too easily (possible foul), Spain gets a lucky deflection to Villa in the box, but he shoots wide and over. He does not do that very often.

35 min: US clearing headers could use some work. We'll address that on the training ground.

36 min: El Nino caught offsides for the third time. Stoppages, even this early, good for the US. Spain play at such a high tempo. Pause for wind and disrupt the flow of the game.

36 min: Donovan's free kick just inches too high for Dempsey who deads wide. Clint up for it today. Nice to see.

38 min: Spain with another lightning-quick transition, but US gets back. Just.

39 min: Torres was very nearly in there. Again, Spain is just a fraction off with the final pass.

39 min: At this point, it's time to play for halftime. Take the lead into the locker room.

40 min: Xabi Alonso whacks down Jozy. Frustration setting in? Or maybe he hates those electric blue shoes as much as I do.

42 min: US living right. Spain gives away a chance on a free kick and Gooch clears one inside the 6-yard box with Sergio Ramos lurking.

43 min: Possession is all Spain's right now. Basically what we thought the game would look like beforehand. US a little panicky with halftime looming.

25 min: As I said...Torres abuses Bocanegra, twice, but Howard gets a leg down to stop the near-post effort.

C'mon halftime whistle.

45 min: Halftime.

Seriously, I need a break. My analysis is all up there. It was all Spain the last 15 minutes. Bradley will need to find an answer or two and make the right substitutions.

I can't believe we're discussing how to hold a lead against Spain.

46 min: Spain right back on attack. Howard saves from Villa.

50 min: This is going to be a 45-minute onslaught. US needs to keep its composure. And, I think, some subs pretty soon. They look gassed.

51 min: Spaces getting huge. You might say, gaping. Another corner for Spain. That's 3 this half already.

52 min: SI's Grant Wahl reports Jozy's strike is the first goal Spain have conceded in 451 minutes. That's 5 games, for the mathematically challenged.

55 min: That central ball into Xavi is too easy now. Need to cut that off.

56 min: Speaking of SI soccer writers, I wonder if Luis Bueno feels like an idiot? He should since his last column comparing US and Mexico performances in major tourneys was not only false (by omission, as in the relative strength of the sides' groups in the last world cup for instance), but now is rendered meaningless by the US performance since publication.

58 min: US conceding the flanks, which is fine, they have to concede something, but if you're going to clog the middle, clog the fucking middle. That central ball is still there and that's what the tactics are supposed to take away.

61 min: Better now from the US. Jozy and Davies need to find space on the wings. Both standing too centrally. Make Puyol and Pique chase them around some.

64 min: Sure, it's target practice right now, but the US has played with a ton of courage tonight.

65 min: I'm thinking subs, Bob. Feilhaber for Davies, push Dempsey up top.

65 min: US blocking shots like a hockey team.

67 min: Spain does the US a great favor with those long, searching balls.

68 min: Not the best game I've seen from Fabregas.

69 min: Attaboy Bob. You know how to get on my good side. Just do what I tell ya.

72 min: Eighteen minutes, plus stoppage, from a famous victory. Keep your head, boys.

73 min: Spain showing some fatigue now. They've not been at their best, but plenty sharp everywhere but the US box.

74 min: Goal US! Dempsey! 2-0! Terrible mistake by Sergio Ramos. Dawdles in his own 6-yard-box and Clint bangs it home.

Are you kidding me?

76 min: This is beyond belief. I'm beyond believing. Remember, Spain have won 15 straight, unbeaten in 35. 35! And they're gonna lose to the USA?

79 min: Not that I'm counting chickens or anything. Bad foul by Feilhaber and Spain with a free kick in a dangerous spot.

Howard saves a rather tame effort.

80 min: Onyewu huge tonight. Man of the match.

81 min: Spain's last los: Nov. 2006. US's last loss...a week ago.

Cue up the "We Want Brazil!" chants?

82 min: It is quite refreshing to see Dempsey working his ass off. Doesn't happen often enough.

84 min: Gooch again. He's won every header n the box it has seemed.

87 min: Unbelievable. Red for Michael Bradley. Had to happen sooner or later, I suppose.

Next game without one of our more accomplished players, though I think even a yellow there would have ruled him out.

88 min: Spain keeps serving those balls into the box and Gooch keeps heading them clear. He's a man.

89 min: I have no perspective at this point. None. I have no idea how to rate or encapsulate this game. It's quite literally beyond my comprehension.

90 min: Three minutes of stoppage time. Enough time for Man U, perhaps, but few else.

90+ min: You know, Conor, you've only been on the field for like 12 minutes, perhaps you could be bothered to run a little more, considering we have 10. Just a thought. Dick.

90+ min: Just a proud effort. Lofty effort.


The US just beat the best team in the world.

That simple sentence will have to suffice for now.