Tag Archives: As It Happened

As It Happened: World Cup Final: Germany vs. Argentina

First of all, I want to say that I’m sorry for not doing anything at all for the last 36 years (rough estimate). I really try to do more, but it’s not as easy as it looks, especially for me.

Second of all, I want to apologize for apologizing at the beginning of almost every one of these. It’s annoying, so I’ll give the stock explanation right now, and hope that you remember this for later: I’m not a professional journalist. I’m an amateur writer (not even really a “sports writer,” just a “writer”) and soccer fan, who likes to analyze soccer and put the best of his analysis on his blog. Sometimes I pretend I’m a journalist, intentionally or more likely unintentionally, but I am not a journalist. I’m supplemental. I’m here to give an extra opinion after you’ve already read/watched/heard the opinions of people who get paid to do this.

Also, this is all free of charge to everyone. You aren’t paying any money to see this (you never will have to), and I’m not receiving any money to make this (as of yet). If you’ve came in with expectations of a long article a day, that’s (switch to Jürgen Klinsmann voice) unrealistic. I’m not at that next level. It’s a working progress.

(Switch back to American voice.)

IT’S THE WORLD CUP FINAL!!! So I kind of have to do something. Despite the combination of my laziness and the fact that I have a violent case of writer’s block, the World Cup Final is a special occasion. Not only will I do an “As It Happened” for this, but I’ll do one for the Seattle-Portland game later today (10 eastern, on ESPN2 nationally here in the US). Oh, and shortly I’m going to do a good bit of “World Cup Review” stuff, plus I will begin my weekly MLS article, and my European previews won’t be long as well, plus I will have some special features as well that will be good to see. That’s a lot of stuff.

 

Enough talk. Let’s do this!

The Argentine national anthem may or may not have words. Earlier they made a list of the 4 countries that have national anthems without lyrics, and Argentina wasn’t on the list. The point is, they never sing the words. The Argentine fans just say “oooo” as if about to engage in Mexican profanity, except they’re doing it to the music, and they’re about to engage in a World Cup final. This might just be me, but it just seems like a scenario to slip away into a daydream. I wonder what Messi is daydreaming about.

1’ – The game has begun.

4’ – Free kick for Germany. Half the German population gathers around the free kick. They do their prepared routine, and it doesn’t really work out. Argentina send a shot narrowly wide on the counter-attack.

7’ – Germany seem to clearly be the better team, but that means little in this sport. Especially when the weaker team has Messi.

9’ – Argentina seem to be fine letting Germany pass around, and then pressuring in the final third, and then going on the counter-attack, as they did just then. Messi made Hummels look as slow as me, but Germany defend as a team; Schweinsteiger with the clearance.

16’ – The Argentines have identified that Germany’s left side is their weakness. Their left-midfielder is Mesut Özil, who isn’t quite fond of defending, while their left-back is Benedikt Höwedes, who is out of position; he’s really a center-back.

18’ – Cristoph Kramer, who came on as an injury replacement himself for Sami Khedira, just went down with a head injury. They will obviously disregard things like “player safety” and bring him back on, because FIFA.

21’ – That is a horrific defensive header by Toni Kroos, Higuaín ALL ALONE!!! WHAT A MISS!!!!! He was one-on-one with the goalkeeper! This proves that even the best miss sometimes, people-who-have-overly-criticized-Chris-Wondolowski.

29’ – Yellow card for Bastian Schweinsteiger. He took down Lavezzi. This means that he’ll have to be careful, which is worrying considering that as a defensive midfielder he patrols a well-trafficked area.

30’ – Messi, to Lavezzi out wide in space, TO HIGUAÍN, GOOOAAALLL!!! NO! Gonzalo Higuaín makes the perfect finish, but he’s unnecessarily offside! Still scoreless in Rio.

31’ – Kramer is coming off with that head injury. They should’ve never let him back on.

33’ – Höwedes yellow. That might should’ve been a red!

36’ – Messi with the ball, and he tries to thread it through for Higuaín in space, but Schweinsteiger with the clearance!

37’ – Schürrle with the shot, incredible save from Sergio Romero!

40’ – Messi goes forward and Argentina almost score, but Jerome Boateng clears the ball away. Germany just stuffs the attack.

43’ – Nifty move by Özil to keep the ball and set up Toni Kroos, but Kroos sends the shot right to Romero.

45+2’ – Corner by Kroos, Höwedes GETS IT, G–NO?!? How does he miss that? It goes off the crossbar. He’ll be thinking about that at half-time.

45+2’ – End of the first half. That was a quality half. Both teams looked fairly close to scoring on multiple occasions. I have less idea of who will win, and I had no idea beforehand. I’m not sure how that’s possible; which is fitting, because this World Cup has been about impossible-type things.

46’ – The second half has begun! Argentina have added Sergio Aguero for Lavezzi. Aguero is great when healthy, although is he healthy? Either way, it’s an attacking sub and if it works it will open up space for Messi, and it will add another player near the goal for rebounds and crosses and such.

47’ – Messi with the ball! Shoots! Just wide!

50’ – Aguero heads it down for Higuaín, but the Napoli man couldn’t make good enough contact on the volley.

51’ – Jerome Boateng has done well. Huh, he’s in the World Cup final, doing great, while his brother Kevin-Prince, who chose to play for Ghana instead of Germany, got exiled by a team that finished last in their group.

56’ – Neuer comes in to punch the ball, and Higuaín, who comes to get the ball as well, gets knocked down in the process. I don’t think it’s a foul by either, but it’s certainly not a foul by Higuaín. They call it a foul by Higuaín. Now, Higuaín looks hurt. Oh, it’s another head injury. And of course they let him play on, because FIFA.

61’ – Someone is about to win the World Cup.

62’ – Ian Darke: “If you’ve been enjoying the World Cup, you’ll like MLS” unless you’re a shameless Eurosnob. MLS on DSE. If you’re American, read it, or I will eliminate your US citizenship.

62’ – Back to the game, a promising attack for Germany becomes nothing due to a somewhat poor choice of pass by Andre Schürrle.

65’ – I think that’s what you call a “forward’s tackle.” Yellow to Aguero.

70’ – Not sure what Höwedes was trying to do with that cross. Benedikt Höwedes: the German Space Program.

72’ – I’m sitting on my sofa, with my laptop literally on my lap. It almost fell down. That means someone is going to score in the next 5 minutes.

75’ – Nifty build-up play by Argentina and Messi. Messi couldn’t get the shot on target.

78’ – Rodrigo Palacio comes on for Higuaín. Apparently I was wrong about the “scoring in the next 5 minutes” thing.

80’ – Benedikt Höwedes can’t get the shot off in the box. He’s read the script; he knows that him scoring the winner wouldn’t be as good of a story. (This will look really stupid if Höwedes ends up scoring the winner…yeah, I think I’m willing to take that risk.)

86’ – Fernando Gago comes on for Perez. This is Argentina’s final sub.

88’ – Here comes Mario Götze for Miroslav Klose. The 36-year-old Klose has scored more goals in the World Cup than anyone else. This most likely marks the end of one of the best World Cup careers ever. Germany has one substitution left. Götze should be able to mix it up a bit as Die Mannschaft goes for the winner.

90’ – The board announces 3 minutes of added time. Either we go to extra time, or someone becomes a legend.

90+3’ – End of full time! 0-0! We go to extra time! 30 more minutes of the World Cup final! Will someone get the winner? Will we go to…penalties?

91’ – Well, that’s amazing how extra time started. Andre Schürrle almost scored! Nice save by Romero. They go on the counter, but Jerome Boateng stops the attack.

97’ – Palacio receives the ball with his chest, and attempts to chip it over Neuer, but it’s off target.

104’ – Javier Mascherano is indeed doing well in this World Cup.

105’ – Intermission. 15 minutes to make history. Or more, if it goes to…penalties.

106’ – Second period of extra time has started.

112’ – Aguero collides with Schweinsteiger, and Schweinsteiger begins to bleed. He’s back on now.

113’ – Schürrle, the cross, chest control by Mario Götze, SHOT, GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAALLLLL!!!!!!!!! MARIO GÖTZE, THE 22-YEAR-OLD SUBSTITUTE FROM BAYERN MUNICH, WITH THE BIGGEST GOAL OF HIS LIFE!!!!

116’ – That was a horrific pass by Biglia to Messi. It didn’t even stay in play. You can’t blame Argentina’s failure to win on Messi. He’s by far Argentina’s best midfielder and best forward, and he certainly can’t do both against Germany’s defense. Especially when his teammates are mostly terrible. Messi hasn’t been at Maradona-level this tournament, but his attacking teammates have been mediocre at best the entire tournament.

120+2’ – Messi taken down by Schweinsteiger. Free kick for Argentina. Messi to take it, it seems. He takes it, and misses. Not even Maradona can be expected to make a free kick from that range. Remember my picture earlier that depicted Messi’s teammates as 6-year-olds? That is so accurate.

120+4’ – The Germans want them to blow the whistle…THEY’VE BLOWN THE WHISTLE! GERMANY HAVE WON THE 2014 WORLD CUP!!!

 

More to come in the following days, here on Daniel’s Soccer Emporium.

World Cup 2014: Part 9: USA-Nigeria Review

CONCACAF Champions the USA. African Champions Nigeria. Jacksonville, Florida.

US of Bradley Lineup: Tim Howard; DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson; Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones; Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya; Jozy Altidore

This formation is insane. Two D-mids? Bradley as #10? Deuce on the wing? Tim Howard’s 100th cap. More experimentation for Klinsmann. I’m not too fond of all this tinkering, considering how little time the team has and that teamwork is vital, but whatever.

Nigel “Nige” Geria Lineup: Vincent Enyema; Juwon Oshaniwa, Godfrey Oboabona, Joseph Yobo, Efe Ambrose; Ramon Azeez, John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi; Peter Odemwingie, Victor Moses; Shola Ameobi

Albert “Al” Geria’s brother Nige is in what you could call a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1.

1’ – The game has begun.

6’ – Shaky defensing by Besler and Cameron. This back 4 still doesn’t have an understanding of each other.

7’ – Beasley to Bradley to Bedoya, corner kick.

17’ – Sorry for not updating for 10 minutes. Oh well. I’m not sure if Bradley is in a box-to-box role, a #10 role, a winger, or what. But he seems to be the focal point of the team.

19’ – Dempsey to Beasley on the over-lap, but he can’t get the cross to Altidore.

23’ – Bedoya to Jones to Dempsey, nice lay-off from Deuce to Bradley, Bradley dribbles, shoots! Save! Terrific play by the US. Attacks need to work like that with great regularity for the US to get out of the group.

26’ – Efe Ambrose seems hurt. The handiwork of Jermaine Jones, right there. He’s okay, though.

31’ – USA bench seating order, as if that mattered: Guzan, Rimando, Omar, Zusi, Davis, Wondo, Brooks, Green, Yedlin, Chandler, Jóhannsson, Diskerud. With the exception of Yedlin in with the Germans (?) it’s MLS guys with each other, Germericans with each other, and Scandinaviamericans (that’s probably the longest word I’ve invented) with each other as well.

31’ – Cameron to Jones, Jones forward for Bedoya down the flank, Bedoya in to FJ on the under-lap, JOHNSON TO ALTIDORE, GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

32’ – That’s Altidore’s first goal since December. In recent games he’s been doing everything else well, and now that he’s scored it could open the floodgates. He’s a streaky player; last year he scored 8 goals for the US in about as many games, and for the two years before that he only had 1 goal, a penalty kick. Even though his goal was just a tap-in, it’s still valuable for a striker to see the ball hit the back of the net.

35’ – Jermaine Jones has been moving around much more freely with Beckerman.

44’ – I wish that people would stop criticizing zonal marking. As I’ve said before, I think that hybrids are best. And if I have to choose one or the other it’s man marking. But zonal marking to some degree totally has a place. See, no one would use any type of zonal marking if there was no value to it.

45+1’ – Terrific pass over the Nigerian defense by Altidore to Dempsey, and the Seattle forward gets off a long shot.

45+1’ – End of the first half. We’ve seen solid defending, counter-attacking, and a Jozy goal. This is exciting, man! I’m excited! COME ON, GHANA! WE’RE READY! Well…I hope.

46’ – Beginning of the second half. Nigeria had 58% possession in the first half. That’s a good thing. As I believe I’ve said before, possession is not a measure of how good a team is playing, but rather a measure of playing style. If a team is comfortable with the ball, they’re going to play a possession style. Good teams are normally talented, and talented players are normally comfortable with the ball, so therefore good teams generally have lots of possession, but I think that when two teams are at a similar level, the team playing the counter-attacking style has a better chance to score.

53’ – Dempsey gets the ball, runs forward, finds Bedoya in space, but the Nantes midfielder can’t hit Dempsey on the return pass.

59’ – Clint Dempsey is taken out by Oboabona. The trainer comes on. I hope he’s okay.

60’ – Graham Zusi is coming on for Alejandro Bedoya. Deuce is okay.

61’ – US substitute predictions: Davis, Jóhannsson, Diskerud, Yedlin, and Wondo. Not necessarily in that order. Klinsmann wants to keep his back 4 together, he wants to test his key subs (the Iceman, Mix, and to a lesser extent Davis and Wondo), and he’ll put on Yedlin for 10 minutes to rest FJ.

62’ – Nifty attack by the US. I don’t think that the Group G teams will be as messy as Nigeria is being in possession. And I mean “messy,” not “Messi.”

65’ – Johnson to Dempsey, to Bradley, to Dempsey in tons of space, Dempsey shoots! Saved! Altidore was open, but Dempsey is one of the top all-time USMNT goal-scorers.  So he can take shots if he wants to. Jozy’s already gotten his goal anyways.

68’ – Wonderful ball by Bradley to Altidore, Altidore controls the ball well around the defender, SHOOTS, GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAALLLLL!!!!! BRACE BY JOZY ALTIDORE!!!!!

69’ – Who said that the flood-gates would be open? M to the E, me! That call was live, by the way, not added in later. I’m a GENIUS.

72’ – Mix Diskerud comes on for Kyle Beckerman. Bradley slots into a more reserved role, with Mix as the #10, both tactically and on his jersey.

75’ – Here comes Timmy Chandler for DaMarcus Beasley. Well, there goes my sub predictions. I was thinking that because Chandler played all 90 last game, plus 45 in the first game, while all Beasley has gotten was 45 in game one, that Klinsmann would let Beasley go 90. I guess I was wrong.

80’ – Here comes Omar Gonzalez for Jozy Altidore. You can retract the “genius” bit from 10 minutes ago. And you can hear the applause for Altidore.

81’ – My initial reaction was that Gonzalez would slot in at right center-back, Cameron would move to right-back, while Fabian Johnson moves to left-wing and Dempsey moves to striker, but no, it’s a 3-man central defense with Besler, Gonzalez, and Cameron, with FJ and Chandler at wing-back. Interesting.

83’ – Terrific save by Tim Howard on Emmanuel Emineke. More poor defending, though.

85’ – Matt Besler commits a foul in the box!!! PENALTY!!! Poor defending on the team in that one. You can’t really blame Besler, but people certainly will.

86’ – PK: Victor Moses to take…GOAL!!! SUPER EAGLES!!!

87’ – You know what? The 3-man/5-man backline apparently doesn’t work. Wondolowski on for Dempsey.

90+4’ – Final whistle! The US beats Nigeria 2-0 with a 4-man backline, and then Nigeria wins 1-0 when the US switched to a 5-man backline. Hmmm…

The team looked better than in the last game. But they weren’t tested in defense as much as they will be in the World Cup, while they also got more chances than they will get in the World Cup.

I’ll get further in to what formation they were playing later (was it a diamond? a 4-2-3-1? I really don’t know), along with other takeaways.

Player Ratings

Legend:

0-2: Hide the women and children (horrifying).

2-4: Open the windows (bad).

4-6: Average.

6-8: You get a cookie (good)!

8-10: You get a whole cake (superb)!

Note: 5 is the averagest of them all, as I’ve discarded the traditional method of 6 as the average.

(Disclaimer: I have no idea what the heck I’m talking about. That can kind of be applied to my whole blog. And life.)

6.0 Tim Howard – he almost got a clean sheet in his 100th cap, but didn’t. He made a few good saves, and the late penalty, which was no fault of his own, was the only goal he let in.

5.5 Matt Besler – the SKC captain has been widely criticized for his weak play in these friendlies, and while he did better in this game the penalty will certainly increase the worries, even though it wasn’t really his fault.

5.5 Geoff Cameron – I thought he did well. All of the US defenders struggled when Klinsmann switched to a 5-man backline. Nigeria didn’t test the defense as much as I would’ve wanted to see, though.

7.0 Fabian Johnson – yeah, he’s not necessarily the best the US has defensively, but there aren’t many who are better. And he’s elite in the attack, as he proved with an assist to Jozy Altidore.

7.0 DaMarcus Beasley – I’ve got to say, he’s done a really good job at left-back. Amazing considering that he’s played his entire career–including 3 World Cups–at left-midfielder.

7.0 Kyle Beckerman – he never does anything that makes people go “wow,” but it’s the little things that he does, the simple passes to retain possession, the perfect position to force the attackers to go a different way, all that stuff, that makes him very useful. Other players play better when he’s on the team. He’s been the best player for RSL, and he allows the USMNT’s stars to shine brighter.

8.0 Jermaine Jones – quality game in his best position: destroyer. He’s a destruction machine, and that’s very helpful to the US. But he can’t go around wreaking havoc when he’s supposed to be the #6, so when he does that in a 4-2-3-1 alongside Bradley, Bradley ends up having to be the #6, staying in a stable position and defending, as opposed to going back and forth. But, with Beckerman as #6, both Jones and Bradley were given freedom to roam. And boy, did it pay dividends. Great send-off series, overall, by Jones.

9.0 Michael Bradley – another very good game from THE GENERAL. And yes, it does have to be all-caps. As I’ve said, he’s the best non-goalkeeper player the US has and the closest thing to Yaya Toure on the team. He can defend, pass from deep, create chances, and even score from deep runs if the game allows him to (he got 15 goals in the Dutch league once). Him doing those first three things (the fourth would be a nice bonus, I guess) is crucial for the US to get out of the group. He’s figuring out to play in the #10 position in a way that suits him best. He’s had a better performance than the last in each send-off-series game, and so has the team as a whole. Coincidence? Absolutely not. The team goes as Michael Bradley goes.

6.5 Alejandro Bedoya – if there were any weaknesses in the team vs. Nigeria, it was in attack or in defense. But they were as solid as can be in midfield. While Bedoya was a bit shaky going forward, he put in solid work. That’s crucial playing on the right side of the diamond, or at right-midfield in any formation in the Group of Certain Death (there are three groups of death–B, D, and G–but Group G is the only one with four really good teams).

5.5 Clint Dempsey – it wasn’t really the Clint Dempsey we want to see–scoring goals, making the right decisions, etc. –but he did give the Nigeria defense a few problems. Hopefully he’ll be a little sharper by the Ghana game, because a flubbed chance by the US in that game means we’re all dead.

8.5 Jozy Altidore – he’s been doing everything but score for the last couple of games, and now we’re seeing the finishing product. Strikers play good or bad, but their goal-scoring, which isn’t necessarily connected to how good they play, is streaky. Jozy Altidore especially has streaky goal-scoring. When he’s playing well, which he has been for the US as I said, he might still be in a bad streak as far as goal-scoring, but a brace is towards the top of the list for opening the floodgates exactly like he did last summer.

Subs:

I won’t rate the subs. I’m too lazy busy for things like that.

A Few Takeaways

I used to call it “5 or so Takeaways,” but then I determined that I’d rarely make it to 4, much less 5. Here we go:

What formation was that?

Depending on what time of the game it was, it looked like one of these things:

US What Formation

It’s interesting how there could be so many different conclusions for a formation from the same game, but it’s true. How can that be? Well, watching on TV you can’t see all the action all the time. Also, the formation changed.

Formations generally change slightly throughout the game, but this one is built to be flexible. It has many moving parts that are all different. Whatever the players “position” was, you couldn’t argue against the fact that there were defined roles for all the non-defenders:

Altidore: target forward.

Dempsey: second forward who sometimes goes down the left.

Bradley: box-to-box playmaker.

Bedoya: tucked in, two-way right winger.

Jones: destroyer.

Beckerman: calm, stable, central defensive midfielder who, as always, didn’t seem to do much himself but in reality opened up the game for Bradley and Jones to dominate.

See? They may not have stayed in one positional role, and it wasn’t a pure diamond or Christmas tree or 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 or anything like that, but they did have set jobs. It was a Squishy Diamond. It looked like this:

Squishy Diamond

What the heck is that? It’s Klinsmann’s creation. He’s a mad scientist. In this case, his project seems promising.

The US cannot play with a 5-man backline

Late in the game, Jürgen Klinsmann took off Jozy Altidore for Omar Gonzalez.

That cost the team a goal.

The super-tall Galaxy defender is one of the best defenders the US has when he’s on the top of his game. He was MLS defender of the year not too long ago, and the best player when the US played Mexico at the Estadio Azteca last year. That seems like a very distant past.

See, in recent months for club and country, Omar Gonzalez has been shaky at best in defense. He’s rightly lost his starting spot. I’m not sure if it was because of his new DP contract or his marriage, or just a bad slump, but he’s been poor for the US, and it showed vs. Nigeria, even though he only played about 10 minutes.

But it goes deeper than that. Klinsmann did a lot of experimentation. If I had more time (i.e. was better at not wasting time) I would list all the little things he did, but it was a lot. And even though I’m not too fond of the idea of experimentation, you know, right before a World Cup next week, the soccer nerd in me (i.e. me) salivates at that.

(Note: I used “i.e.” twice in that paragraph. What does that say about me?)

One of Klinsmann’s experiments was when he added Gonzalez, the extra defender. The team switched from the Squishy Diamond to this:

USMNT 5-4-1

The diamond is still squishy, with Bradley having moved to the Beckerman role and Diskerud in the Bradley role (note: this is a fire-drill by Klinsmann; we will see Beckerman out for Diskerud if the US needs a goal–a likely scenario to occur at least once in this group), but the three central defenders is what makes it so much different, and why the US got crushed in the last 10 minutes.

An overlooked aspect of defending, and why it’s far different than attacking, is that players need experience with each other.

It all stems from the basic difference of defenders and attackers: a defender can be great for 89 minutes and bad for 1 minute and they did bad, while an attacker can be bad for 89 minutes and good for 1 minute and they did good. Understand that and you understand all the differences between those two position groups.

Including why teamwork matters much more to defenders. You need to learn your teammates, so that you know what you need to do to play to their strengths and avoid their weaknesses. A new attacking player runs in the wrong direction because of a miscommunication with his teammate and doesn’t receive the pass? No big deal, it’s just a chance for a chance wasted. Happens all the time. A new defending player doesn’t know he’s supposed to mark a specific player? We’re all dead.

A defender needs to be comfortable with the teammates and comfortable with the system. This is why Timmy Chandler has been underwhelming, and why the back-5 failed.

True, the 5-man backline may not be needed at the World Cup, but how many ways are there for the US to park the bus if ahead? Add another D-mid? If both Jones and Beckerman are playing, there are no more D-mids except Cameron, who is starting at center-back. So the only way to move Cameron to D-mid would include 1) playing Omar Gonzalez and 2) changing the defensive personnel. If you’ve read this section at all, you know how bad both of those things would be.

So what does the US do to seal a victory? I don’t know. And in the group that the US has, we may not have to find out.

Jozy Altidore is opening the floodgates

On June 14th, 2011, Jozy Altidore scored the lone National Team goal against Guadeloupe. Bob Bradley was the coach back then. It took Jozy two almost two years, June 2nd, 2013 vs. Germany, to score another goal from open play (he scored a penalty kick in late 2011 against Slovenia).

Starting with that goal against Germany, he scored 7 goals in a 5-game span.

Jozy Altidore is a streaky player. In these friendlies, he’s played quite well (you can write off his mediocre performance vs. Azerbaijan to the facts that: 1) everyone was mediocre and 2) he was playing with an unfamiliar strike partner in Chris Wondolowski). But already-widespread criticism was growing louder when he failed to score vs. Azerbaijan and Turkey. Now he’s added two goals to his nifty play in what is basically World Cup preseason, and he could very well be starting another streak at the best possible time.

See, Altidore did poorly at Sunderland, a situation that few players could’ve done well in. An American playing for a bad team in the best league in the world. A very, very hard scenario to succeed in. And he didn’t. Not that any other US player would succeed there (Aron Jóhannsson, who many people falsely thought should supplant Altidore–wouldn’t work, different styles of play–has been doing well in the Dutch Eredivisie, but that’s exactly what Altidore did the year before).

With Altidore more than anyone else, Alexi Lalas’s words ring true: form is fallacy. In that almost two year span where he didn’t score a goal in open play for the USMNT, do you know what he did at club level? Scored 39 goals in 67 games (that’s very good) for AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands. My point is that his club form and national team form rarely ever correlate at all. So getting freaked out over him doing poorly in the EPL is ridiculous.

Now, I’m not saying that he will score a bunch of goals in the World Cup. I’m not even saying he needs to. But a double is certainly a good start.

Kyle Beckerman is the key to the US making it out of the group stage

Read my “player ratings” on Beckerman, Bradley, and Jones again. Having Michael Bradley in his full Michael Bradley-ness alongside a destroyer is very useful, but it only works with Beckerman. Being in the middle of the field, the midfield is enormously important. If Klinsmann has cracked the midfield code with this one, the team’s chances to advance will certainly be boosted, especially if Altidore can keep scoring. That defense, though…

 

Unless I splurge and do something else (no promises) this is my last post before I set off for…right exactly where I am right now. And talk more about the World Cup itself, as opposed to just friendlies. Look for my next post to drop on Wednesday, it’s a preview of Group A, Brazil-Croatia, and the first edition of the Totally Inaccurate World Cup Power Rankings. After that I’ll be doing a World Cup report each and every day. Stay tuned, and tell your friends. You’ve been warned.

World Cup 2014: Part 7: Mexico-Portugal As It Happened

Patriots Stadium in Wherever, Massachusetts. Mexico. CR7-less Portugal. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

L-Tree Lineup: Jesus Corona; Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Rafa Marquez, Maza Rodriguez, Paul Aguilar; Andres Guardado, Jose Juan Vazquez, Hector Herrera; Gio Dos Santos, Oribe “El Cepillo” (The Brush) Peralta

Corona’s healthy. So is 65-year-old Rafa Marquez. Gio-Brush up top.

They misspelled Hector Moreno’s name as “Morena,” confusing considering how their color commentator’s name is Alejandro Moreno.

WENEEDRONALDOHEALTHY!!!!! FC Lineup: Eduardo; Fabio Coentrao, Bruno Alves, Luis Neto, Joao Pereira; Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Vieirinha, Nani; Andre Almeida, Eder

Andre Almeida is apparently listed as a defender, but he’s playing as a forward, according to their map. What? Do they really mean Hugo Almeida? Probably not. Let’s see.

As I’ve mentioned before, Cristiano Ronaldo is injured; so is his club teammate Pepe and former Chelsea player Raul Meireles.

1’ – The game has begun.

5’ – I just realized that it’s the fifth minute and I haven’t given any updates. It’s still scoreless. I’m trying to find out how Portugal are playing. Fabio Coentrao is playing as a central midfielder, and it’s freaking me out.

7’ – Nifty long pass into space for Layun, although his cross doesn’t do much good. Having the ability to find those smart long passes into space is very useful to unlock defenses. Not just booting it up-field, but finding an unmarked runner.

10’ – Andre Almeida is playing as the left-back, and Coentrao as a central midfielder in a 4-3-3. They recently went on an attack where Nani, at left-mid, neatly flicked it on to Almeida.

Tactical Map
Tacky Formations Map. It’s legible if you 1) squint and 2) use your imagination. I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it until it isn’t true: I’m not making money from this, so you can’t expect too much.

11’ – They just mentioned that the Portuguese are surprised that Giovani Dos Santos isn’t considered one of Mexico’s best by the Mexican media. So, wait, does that mean that Gio is the Mexican Chris Wondolowski? With Wondo, his play outdoes his reputation, while Gio is the other way around.

14’ – Vieirinha just cut in past Miguel Layun and got a shot on target. Portugal is playing quite interesting, tactically.

15’ – Paul Aguilar received the ball down the right, and he sends in a dangerous cross, TACKLE! Luis Neto! Peralta is apparently offside, but that was a nice cross, and an even better tackle.

20’ – Eder with the header, after the cross by left-back Almeida. Again, not sure why they listed Andre Almeida as a forward. Eder is playing as the lone striker.

21’ – Still scoreless, but not for a lack of trying. Mexico with another cross cleared by Portugal.

22’ – Coentrao passes to Almeida, runs into space, gets the return ball, sends in a through ball to Eder, WHO SHOOTS! SAVE! Very good build-up play, and a very good save by Corona.

23’ – Moutinho with a long through-ball to Eder, but the goalkeeper comes out and clears it.

24’ – Hector Moreno should sign with an NFL team. Great tackle to bring down Moutinho. Foul.

24’ – Nani free kick, it’s Corona’s ball.

27’ – I think that against Cameroon, Mexico should try to possess, with Gio in behind the striker play-making (similar role to Clint Dempsey for the US or perhaps Wayne Rooney for England) and then against Brazil play a “Please don’t hurt us!” 5-3-0-2, with 3 D-mids in front of the defenders. Against Croatia? Figure that out based on prior games and what result is needed.

31’ – DID THAT ALMOST SCORE!?!?!?! MIGUAL LAYUN!!!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM?!? WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD SHOOT FROM THAT FAR OUT?!?

32’ – Or was it a cross? I don’t know. But Miguel Layun certainly does have that club in his bag. The WHATDIDHEJUSTDO?!? club, that is.

38’ – Nice turn by Eder, but the shot goes wide. Portugal have had several good attacks, but they’ve failed to score.

39’ – Joao Pereira with the cross, Eder wins the header (I love rhyming “Eder” with “header”), but it goes wide. He’s been active, but he hasn’t scored. That will be looked at as either “promising” or “frustrating,” depending on the result and/or how he does.

43’ – Guardado! Just misses! Poor clearance by Bruno Alves but the Mexican misses the shot.

44’ – Portugal seem to be better than Mexico when they want to be. It’s been pretty back-and-forth, but Mexico have gotten caught out. They’ve shown a replay where wing-back Miguel Layun tucks in to cover the winger, but then the full-back overlaps so that a center-back needs to emergency defend the problem away. This is a disadvantage of the 5-3-2: you’re oftentimes outnumbered 2-to-1 on the wings, so an overlapping full-back is lethal. Brazil, in Mexico’s group, have a couple overlapping full-backs in Dani Alves (Layun’s side) and Marcelo (Aguilar’s side).

45+1’ – End of the first half.

46’ – Second half to commence. Keeper swap for Mexico. On comes Guillermo Ochoa for Jesús Corona.

46’ – Cameroon, you see, is a must-win for El Tri. If they only pick up one or zero points against what I think is the weakest team in their group, they’ll need to either get a result against Brazil, and/or beat Croatia. They kind of need to beat Croatia anyways, but it becomes super-necessary if they can’t beat Cameroon–if Cameroon gets a result against Mexico and Mandzukic-less Croatia gets a result against Brazil, it’s already desperation mode for Mexico.

48’ – Insane attack by Mexico. Several half-chances, all eventually wasted. You know, very few times have they gotten the ball to their striker, Oribe Peralta, in the box. That’s how they’ll score, and in their group they have a team slightly worse than Portugal (Croatia) and a team considerably better than Portugal (Brazil), and even if they get out of their group they’ll need to face another team considerably better than Portugal (Spain, or whoever beats Spain).

51’ – Nifty turn by Herrera followed shortly by a Gio nutmeg.

55’ – Whoa, I just spaced out there. Andres Guardado almost scored, Hector Herrera is good, the score is still 0-0, Cristiano is still injured, disco is still dead, and I still like pizza.

56’ – That was hard-hitting analysis by me. Are you reading this, ESPN?

58’ – Chicharito is coming on for Giovani Dos Santos. Let’s see if he can get confidence, and we’ll also see how Mexico can do with two pure strikers. Silvestre Varela just came on for Vieirinha as well. How will this change Portugal’s attack? Looks like Nani is now on the right, with Varela on the left.

61’ – Wonderful job by Chicharito. I’m telling you, at his best he’s one of the best players in CONCACAF. Nice run, skillful hold-up-type-play, nice cross to Herrera, but the shot is saved. Both of these players will probably have to play well if Mexico is going to advance, along with Peralta and Dos Santos and, well, several others.

64’ – Helder Postiga comes on for Eder. Different dimension to the Portuguese attack brought by the veteran.

65’ – Honest question: are all the Portuguese fans really Portuguese? Or are some of them just Cristiano Ronaldo fans? I know that there are a lot of Portuguese people in the Boston area, but you can’t fill a suburban NFL stadium without at least some bandwagoners, right?

74’ – Foul on Miguel Layun, just on the line of the penalty box. I’m not sure if that’s a PK or not, but it’s called as a free kick just outside the line.

75’ – Rafa Marquez to take, deflected, Herrera, TO SPACE!!

76’ – Coentrao comes off for 21-year-old Rafa Silva.

78’ – Alan Pulido, who scored a hat-trick in his first ever international game, comes on for Oribe Peralta, while Marco Fabian comes on for Andres Guardado.

80’ – Joao Pereira comes off for Ruben Amorim.

83’ – As I’ve said, the young Hector Herrera has been good, but he stupidly gave away the ball, and was forced to commit a foul at the expense of a yellow card and a dangerous free kick.

86’ – Here comes Javier Aquino for Hector Herrera.

87’ – Nifty work by Nani, but the cross only finds Ochoa.

89’ – Wonderful pass by Aquino to Chicharito, and the Manchester United striker does a good job to set up Aquino, who is muffled by Eduardo. Chicharito has done quite well, I think. He should definitely be starting, even if it means that Dos Santos or even Peralta have to fall to the bench.

90+2’ – I read “H. Postiga” on the back of Helder Postiga’s shirt, and I thought it said “Hipster.” It’s getting late.

90+3’ – Free kick by Joao Moutinho, Maza Rodriguez loses Bruno Alves, WHO WINS THE HEADER, GOOOOOOOOAAAALLL!!!!! BRUNO ALVES!!!! CR7-LESS PORTUGAAAAAAAAALLLL!!!!!!!

90+4’ – There’s the final whistle. Only one goal, but there were tons of chances for both teams.

Final score: 1-0 to Portugal.

A few takeaways:

-Oribe Peralta didn’t get a shot off.

This is not good for Mexico. They need their strikers getting the ball in dangerous areas. It feels very 2013-ish from Mexico.

-Portugal are not as good without Cristiano Ronaldo.

-I know a lot more about El Tri than I thought.

If you multiply people’s knowledge of the Mexican National team with how white they are, I’d be #2 in the world behind Miguel Layun.

USA-Nigeria preview and then review to come. And then I’ll do more World Cup coverage for the next month, right here on DSE.

Any thoughts about the Mexico-Portugal game? That’s what the comments section is for, everyone.

 

World Cup 2014: Part 3: USA-Azerbaijan As It Happened, Player Ratings, 5 or so Takeaways

USA. Azerbaijan. San Francisco. Read my preview if you haven’t yet.

Klinsmann FC Lineup: Howard; Beasley, Besler, Cameron, Johnson; Jones; Bedoya, Bradley, Zusi; Dempsey, Wondolowski*, Altidore

4-1-2-1-2, or “diamond” if you want to simplify it and like shapes. Besler-Cam at center-back, FJ at right-back, Bedoya at left-midfield. I like it.

Dempsey strained his groin. I hope he’s okay. Wondo is in.
If Dempsey can’t go to the World Cup, do you know who is most likely to replace him in the roster? I won’t say it in order not to jinx it, but his name rhymes with “Bandon Bonovan.” That would be nice (and awkward) but does it have to be Dempsey who goes out? It’s all pure conjecture, anyways.

Berti Vogts United Lineup: Agayev; Yunuszada, Budak, Shukurov, Ramaldanov; Dadashov, Abatsiyev, Abisov, Qarayev; Aliyev, Cavadov

Yeah, I don’t know any of these guys. Dadashov is the best they have, I hear. He’s been struggling for time in the German second division. Oh look, it’s a bird outside.

1’ – The game has begun!
2’ – The US has yet to have a serious chance at a serious chance. If the game doesn’t end as a multi-goal win, riots will break out.
3’ – FJ fouled. Wondo with the pass. Free kick.
4’ – Zusi…WONDO!…denied! Agayev! Wondo may have been just off-side, but it was close. Wonderful ball in by the SKC winger, a nice header, and a great save. Do I sound too positive? The marking was atrocious.
6’ – By the way, as expected, Mix Diskerud is in the #10 shirt. After Donovan’s departure, I thought that it would’ve been best to not give it to anyone, but Mix is likable and no one can blame him for taking Donovan’s spot. Oh, and they kind of have to, because FIFA hates numbers 24 and higher.
7’ – Matt Besler with a key pass–to the bad guys. Fortunately the Azerbaijani’s shot was saved by Howard, but he cannot do that against Ronaldo or Asamoah or, say, the entire German team. The corner kick is botched, but it doesn’t matter. Matt Besler with a mistake.
10’ – Zusi with another not-bad delivery. Cleared away by the bad guys.
12’ – Shukurov! The free kick, just off the post.
14’ – Ball sent into the six by Zusi; Bradley with the first pass. Michael Bradley is the architect of both the attack and the defense.
15’ – Zusi, short corner, Bedoya, cross, WONDO!!!! SAVE!!! Agayev AGAIN!
15’ – By the way, Chris Wondolowski has had the two best chances for the US so far.
16’ – Bedoya with a screaming run down the left, taken down outside of the box. Now Zusi has a great free kick opportunity. Bedoya at LM; Klinsmann has struck gold.
17’ – Jones with a first-time shot from about 20. Easy save.
19’ – Jermaine Jones miscontrols the ball, Besler back-passes to Howard weakly, Howard has to clear. All of this while being pressured by the Azerbaijanis. If they make simple defending look that horrifying at the World Cup, I will go insane by the Germany game.
22’ – Fabian Johnson horrendously miscontrols it, sending it like a rocket off of the field. He needs to show more composure in the World Cup.
25’ – Apparently Clint Dempsey’s injury was just a precaution. I hope so. There are many players I’d take out for Donovan. Dempsey is not one of them.
28’ – Oh look, an own-half turnover by Jones. There’s that bird outside again.
28’ – Beasley, Jones, long pass, nifty touch by Bedoya, Altidore, Wondo open, PASS, HANDBALL!!! NOT CALLED!!! Was it deliberate? Not sure. If so, it would’ve been a PK!
31’ – Collision between Bedoya and a bad guy! Bedoya’s okay, but if he was hurt can you guess who would be a likely call-up?
33’ – Bradley! Deflection! Corner!
33’ – The corner doesn’t come to much.
33’ – BenchCam. Green, Brooks, and Davis hanging out. The latter two are laughing. Green looks like he would think it was funny but…he has other things on his mind.
37’ – Bedoya and Zusi seem to have switched wings.
40’ – Good attack by the US. Nice hold-up play by Jozy, good attacking play by Bradley, corner won. The corner leads to Matt Besler giving Agayev the ball. Nice. Oh look, the bird outside has a friend.
41’ – I know it’s annoying for me to comment on the commentary, but Taylor Twellman just said something a bit off. See, there is a BIG difference between a Messi-like “false 9” and a non-goal-scoring hold-up play center-forward.
44’ – I’m surprised that the US hasn’t scored yet. Maybe they can alleviate that before half-time.
44’ – The anarchist in me says that players should be allowed to argue with the refs, but they aren’t and Jones needs to be careful.
45+1’ – End of the first half.
46’ – Second half. Davis in for Zusi. Gonzalez in for Cameron. Chandler in for Beasley. All like-for-like changes.
48’ – That was a penalty, but it wasn’t called! Chandler to Davis, Davis taken down. Free kick, although it was in the box so it should’ve been a PK.
49’ – Bradley! Over the crossbar. Again, it should’ve been a PK.
52’ – Nifty work in tight spaces by Fabian Johnson.
57’ – Bad guys in the box. The US still hasn’t scored. I think the bird is writing a match report on my match report. He’s making a face that looks like he just made a cultural reference.
57’ – Bradley TO SPACE!!! Davis has done well, and Bedoya-FJ on the same side seems promising.
61’ – Double-sub. Wondo out (he kind of deserved a goal, but he’s been getting so many already) Jóhannsson in, FJ out (he’ll be key in the World Cup) young DeAndre Yedlin in.
64’ – Jóhannsson with a nifty lay-off pass…to no one.
66’ – Giveaway and then foul by Yedlin. Michael Parkhurst once went an entire season with only 5 fouls. Just saying.
69’ – No, Taylor Twellman. DeAndre Yedlin is not a good option off the bench. Aron Jóhannsson, Chris Wondolowski, Mix Diskerud, and whoever doesn’t start of Bedoya/Davis/Zusi are all better attacking options.
71’ – Here comes Mix Diskerud for Alejandro Bedoya; the last US sub. Mix, as I said earlier, is #10. He seems to slot in at RM.
73’ – DeAndre Yedlin just flattened that guy. Where did he go in the NFL draft again?
75’ – Bradley with the shot! Blocked! DISKERUD! GOOOOOAALLL!!!! U-S-AAAAA!!!! MIX!!!! MIXMIXMIXMIXMIXMIXMIXMIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIX!!!!! GUSJOHNSONNOISESAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!
76’ – Apologies.
76’ – In 2010, Benny Feilhaber was either the first or joint first non-injury sub to come on the bench in three of the four US games, when the team was looking for a result. That is Diskerud this year. He, Jóhannsson, and Wondo are the main substitutes to chase the game. Beckerman is the defensive sub in my eyes; the closer.
81’ – Unruly ball in the corner, Davis sends it in, KEVIN BACON!!!! Ahem, ARON JÓHANNSSON!!!! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAALL!!!!!
82’ – How do you say two-nil in Azerbaijani? I’ll just keep it Spanish: DOS A CERO!!!
83’ – Again, though, a 2-0 win isn’t that great vs. Azerbaijan. I mean, the Sealand National Team beat them 3-0! (Not really, I just wanted to mention the Sealand National Team.)
86’ – Chandler sends in the cross, corner. Davis…’keeper saves.
87’ – Jermain Jones went down, but he’s okay. You know, if he were to get hurt he’d probably be replaced by…Maurice Edu.
90+2’ – The final whistle.
The USMNT seemed a bit a bit dull. As if they were devoid of energy because they have been running around for a long time for the last couple of weeks. Why? Because they have!

Player Ratings

Everyone was mediocre. Hence the short blurbs:

(Note: the ratings aren’t as bad as they look. I like to use all the numbers 0-10, so 5 is average. Most people seem to only use 4-8.)

5.0 Tim Howard – he didn’t do much, but he made a couple saves and got a clean sheet.

4.5 Matt Besler – he wasn’t tested much, but he looked nervy in the first half. Hopefully he shakes that off.

5.0 Geoff Cameron – he wasn’t tested at all, really.

5.5 Fabian Johnson – he was active, but, again, the whole team was dull.

5.0 DeMarcus Beasley – he was only on for a half, and wasn’t tested much.

5.5 Jermaine Jones – yeah, okay, he didn’t do much memorable outside of general Jermaine Jones WHAT IS HE TRYING TO DO?!?!?! stuff, but he stayed solid in the #6 role, and that will be very helpful in the World Cup.

5.5 Alejandro Bedoya – yeah, the whole team was dull. And Bedoya didn’t do much outside of the first 30 minutes, and even then he was no Messi. But I’m feeling generous today.

5.0 Graham Zusi – he only played one half, and he did a few good things on set pieces. But he wasn’t really Cristiano Ronaldo.

5.0 Michael Bradley – playing Bradley as a #10 is like a band playing their drummer as a piano player. Sure, the diamond is great, but 4-2-3-1 Klinsmann. Bradley is better when he is sitting back and he can playmake when the opportunities arise, and where he can also defend and set the pace of the game Pirlo-style, as opposed to pressing him forward where he is forced to do #10 stuff all the time.

5.5 Chris Wondolowski – he did well! Sure, he could’ve taken those chances a bit better, but I’ve seen players miss worse, and those were good saves. Plus, not many other players were getting in positions like that. It’s what he does, he gets in position.

5.0 Jozy Altidore – some people are too critical on Altidore. The US needs a target forward, whose job isn’t really to score goals, but to hold the ball up and bring other players into play (the team will need to defend, like, a lot, so when they get the ball back, the other players will need time to get forward). The player who can play this role best in this squad is by far Altidore. Stop acting like he’s the worst ever just because he doesn’t always score.

Subs:

5.5 Brad Davis – he came in and changed the game. The only drawbacks are that he’s slow, and as good with his right foot as I am with my tail. I don’t have a tail. But his left foot is insane, and he continues the tradition of people from St. Louis going to the World Cup.

5.0 Omar Gonzalez – he was barely tested at all.

5.0 Timothy Chandler – he wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great.

5.5 Aron Jóhannsson – the Iceman didn’t have much time to do things, but he scored. And even though he had 16.3 acres of space in the box (I measured it) a goal is a goal is a goal.

5.0 DeAndre Yedlin – didn’t do much for me to move it away from the average of 5.

6.0 Mix Diskerud – he gets an extra half point for the interview afterwards, where he was asked about wearing the number 10 and he said something like “it’s not about what’s on the back of the jersey but what’s on the front of it” while pointing to the US crest. This guy’s great!

5 or so Takeaways

1. Super Subs
Both goals were scored by substitutes. A lot of the best plays (PK, assist) were by Brad Davis, another sub. I can’t really comment about the defensive subs, because no one did any defending! The three subs not in the back 4 were the most effective players in that second half.

Substitutions will be very important. And no, DeAndre Yedlin isn’t an attacking sub. Because he’s a defender (in theory, at least). This is how I see the midfield and attack in the starting XI:

……………..…Altidore……………
…Bedoya…Dempsey…Zusi…
…………Bradley…Jones………..

I’ve got Fabian Johnson as a full-back.

Attacking/midfield players not in that 11: Jóhannsson, Wondo, Davis, Diskerud, Green, and Beckerman.

Klinsmann has several options. He can only add 3 subs a game. I think that they all have different uses:

Jóhannsson: put him on for the worst playing attacker to get a goal in the last 30 minutes. Role: all-use Super-Sub.

Diskerud: you need a creative player to unlock stingy defenses. Role: creative sub.

Wondo: you need someone to finish chances and score a goal in the last 10 or 15 minutes or so. Role: kitchen sink sub for finishing.

Davis: another creative player is needed and you’ve used Mix. Role: kitchen sink sub for creativity.

Green: you’re down 3-0 to Germany in the 85th and whatever. Role: throw-in-the-towel sub.

Beckerman: you’re up and you need to kill the game. Role: John Obi-Mikiller.

Substitutions are powerful. They can change games for the better. Overall, how a coach uses the bench can be the difference between winning and losing. Klinsmann has 9 subs in the group stage (3 per game). 9 chances to either unlock the defense with fresh legs, or just waste another opportunity.

In a group that’s so hard to get out of, everything will need to go right. All the decisions, all the breaks, everything. Including substitutions, because they matter. Which was kind of the only thing this game taught us.

2. Everyone was mediocre.
I only have 2 takeaways in my “5 or so takeaways” segment. It took me an extra day and a half to finish my review. This is partially because I’m an amateur blogger and thus quality is about 7th on my priorities, even behind making Bruce Arena jokes. But it’s mainly because the team was as dull as Bruce Arena if he isn’t allowed to complain about stuff and is a little worn out because he was just in a rap battle with Mike Petke.

Yes. It happens. What goes on in scouting combine stays in scouting combine.

Anyways, it was dull. The subs generated some nice play in the last 30 minutes or so, and some of the starters (Wondo, Bedoya) generated some nice play in the first 30 minutes or so, but overall it was super-dull. It was like each player was in an election campaign to become the Mayor of Dull City. Like each player was auditioning for a starring role in The Dull Show. Like each player was, uh, well…it was dull.

I mean, if the US would’ve played Germany, Portugal, or Ghana like that (a few bad defensive plays here, lackluster attacking there, the second goal coming from legendarily horrific marking, etc.) the final score would’ve been something like 4-0 against the US.

Hopefully the Turkey and Nigeria games will be better.