Monday, June 4, 2012

Nation portration

Hello there

Hope this blog finds you well. 

So, much of my focus over the last week or so has been on the USMNT (US Mens National Team); so I thought i'd continue that on my blog....... 

Despite the rather average performance against Canada (which ended goalless) last night on the NBC Sports Network, I still think there are plenty of positives to look at with this side. Yes at times they looked flat and perhaps far to deep, but when they get in their groove they are a joy to watch when on the attack. The one thing is find fascinating about this US side now is that there seems to be so many options; where as maybe five years a go the options where no were near as mouth watering. We all know the goal keeping situation is fine and for a US fan I think thats always been the case. Tim Howard is playing at the top level and performing as consistently as he ever has been. Brad Guzan is a solid number two, who in my opinion will one day take that number one jersey. More then anything, Guzan needs to find a club where he'll be playing regularly. Several teams around Norway, Sweden and Holland have been linked with the former Aston Villa stopper, but more interestingly (at least from our part) New York Red Bulls has been mentioned as a possible suitor for him. Young rookie Ryan Meara has had a fine start to his MLS career, but at the age of twenty one, you have to wonder if he'll be as consistent as many in New York City hope. I think Guzan would be a perfect fit for the Red Bulls. It'd certainly make it easier for Jurgen Klinsman to keep an eye on him AND he'd be playing at a level in MLS that is equal if not better then the likes of the Swedish Allsvenskan and Norwiegen Tippeligaen (both Premier divisions in their respected countries). Plus there's also the ever present Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake, who is undoubtedly one of the best keepers in MLS, he'll always be up for consideration. 

I think there are a few question marks within the USA back line. With Steve Cherundolo getting on a bit at the ripe old age of thirty three, a replacement is needed. Question marks were upon us when Tim Chandler decided to decline a call up to the national team a few weeks back I now think this gives several other players an opportunity in that right back position. We've seen Michael Parkhurst of FC Nordsjaelland (Denmark) come in over the last few games at right back and deliver steady performances. Perhaps Jurgen Klinsman needs to take a look closer to home within MLS? Maybe in a year or two Real Salt Lake's Tony Beltran (who's been very impressive so far in this campaign) could be up to the job? Or maybe even Sporting KC's Chance Myers, who's made the position his own his the mid way point of last season. The one area which I keep hearing that people are worried about is center back for the USMNT. For me, its not so much of an 'issue' because there are plenty of options; its just finding the right pairing. For me, its vital to get that partnership right. Usually in a center back situation (especially if the ball is in the air) one center back with go and attack the threat whilst the other will drop and cover. Most of the time this is accomplished by the pairing of a commanding physical defender and a speedy guy to cover up. I'm not so sure that 'speedy' option is available to the USA at the moment, but the physical option is most certainly out there.  Oguchi Onyewu had a solid season for Sporting CP in Portugal but has looked like he's lacked a little bit of sharpness over the last few national team games. Clarence Goodson of Bronby in Denmark nearly snatched a victory over Canada last night when he saw his thunderous header tipped over by Lars Hirschfield. He had a solid game as well and could definitely be an option to start next week vs Antigua & Barbuda in that World Cup qualifying game. Perhaps Geoff Cameron of Houston Dynamo could claim a fifth USA cap? Another player who is very highly thought of and was linked to both Newcastle United and Everton in recent weeks. Carlos Bocanegra has also looked slightly uncomfortable over the last couple of games. In my opinion, maybe he needs a move away from financially troubled Glasgow Rangers. We also need to mention former New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream (now at Bolton Wanderers in the Championship in England). Lets not forget that Klinsman has plenty of options for this 'problem' within MLS as well. The likes of Nat Borchers (Real Salt Lake), Danny Califf (Chivas USA), Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Jay Demerit (Vancouver Whitecaps) and maybe even George John (FC Dallas). With the exception of Demerit, the international experience there isn't great, but still, the options are out there. Plus, the future is looking bright as well with the likes of Perry Kitchen (DC United) and even Chicago Fire's Austin Berry all coming through I don't think this is a worrying time for US Soccer at the center back position. As I said earlier, its just finding the right pairing. 

The midfield intrigues me and once again there are so many options at the moment. Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04) will always pick up yellows in that holding role he plays. He's needed though! He gives Michael Bradley (Chievo) so much room to roam. Bradley needs to be given more of this time so he can produce what he has done in an excellent season in Serie A which has seen the likes of Inter Milan sniffing around his availability. With the likes of Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim) and Joe Corona (Club Tijuana) coming through as well, this US midfield is packed with bodies. 

Up top again I don't see there being an issue. Jozy Altidore looks to have finally found the form we'd all been expecting for years after a tremendous season in Holland with AZ Alkmaar (seventeen goals in forty six appearances in all competitions). Chris Wondolowski can't stop scoring (he just needs to find the net for the national team). He finished the last MLS campaign with sixteen goals and now with eleven goals in twelve starts this season, he'll always be an option over the coming year. Clint Dempsey offers something completely different to what else the USMNT has in the way he can play just off the main forward in a supporting role. That allows Jurgen Klinsman to tinker with all sort of different formations. Plus, with twenty three goals in all competitions and seventeen in the last EPL season, he was the most pro active 'forward' for the US this year. Hercules Gomez (Santos Laguna) has also recently emerged as an option and of course scored in that 4-1 defeat to Brazil. CJ Sapong and Teal Bunbury of Sporting KC always seem to be on the tip of many people's tongue's when talk of the national team crops up. Terrance Boyd is the one i'm looking forward to watching over the next few years. At the age of twenty one, he scored twenty goals in thirty two appearances for Borussia Dortmund's reserves alerting Rapid Vienna to take him on a season long loan. I'm very interested to see how this up and coming forward takes to a full season of fully fledged European football, but either way, he's one for the future most definitely. Before I wrap this up, let me through this out to you... I just wonder how long Jurgen Klinsman can ignore Kenny Cooper? Eleven goals in eleven starts for New York Red Bulls. The former Portland Timbers forward seems to have found his form of old, even without the still outstanding Thierry Henry along side him. Yes, some of his goals haven't been pleasing on the eye, but surely that doesn't matter. It doesn't even matter if he's not playing well, as a forward your job is to put the ball in the net. Cooper was given the 'target man' role in Portland and for whatever reason it didn't work. Under Hans Backe at New York, he's taken up much more of a free role (you'll even see him drift out wide from time to time). He's taken center stage in the big city and if he keeps this up, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he was back amongst the international ranks. 

There have been a few grumblings of unhappy US fans over the last week or so, my message to you is that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. We've learnt a lot about the national team in the last three games. They battered Scotland 5-1 and showed their class. The 4-1 defeat to Brazil was expected, but I actually thought the USA gave a good account of themselves and pushed Brazil back hard until Pato got the fourth which killed the game. A horrid spectacle against Canada proved to me that the USA can slug it out when they're not on top. This up coming game between Antigua and Barbuda should deliver a solid win for the USMNT and maybe Jurgen Klinsman can continue to experiment with several other options. 

Hope you've enjoyed the blog and the change of the usual Sporting KC talk. Due to the international break, once again no MLS duties for me this weekend, but I'm on 610 Sports Radio on Thursday evening from 6pm CT, talking once again about Sporting KC and the national team with a few guests as well. See you all there.