MLS Newsstand - June 21, 2011
(This sampling of coverage is a service provided to members of the media by MLS Communications)
MLS Newsstand – June 21, 2011
1. Rapids to visit Obama, White House to show off MLS Cup (Denver Post)
2. Soehn's tactics pay dividends in Caps win (Vancouver Sun)
3. Portland Timbers break losing streak against New York, but earn frustrating draw with Red Bulls (The Oregonian)
4. Qwest Field undergoes name change (Seattle Times)
5. Union defender visits Indian Lane (Delco Times)
6. Collen Warner hasn't stepped up his game yet (Deseret News)
7. Penalty burned Real (Ogden Standard-Examiner)
8. D.C. United finalizes midfielder Fred’s transfer to Melbourne Heart in Australia (Washington Post)
9. FC Dallas pays visit to Permian Basin again (Odessa American)
10. Former Victory star Fred to join Heart (The Australian Associated Press)
11. Crew rookie Anor earns MLS Player of the Week (Sports Network)
12. Brown, RSL's top-ranked defense meet Fire (ESPNChicago.com)
13. Berhalter endures, scores for reserves (ESPNLosAngeles.com)
14. Are regional standouts on their way to MLS? (MLSsoccer.com)
15. Jacobson turning into bargain pick-up (MLSsoccer.com)
16. Q&A: Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle (MLSsoccer.com)
CONCACAF Gold Cup
17. Calm by the green, crazed by the pitch (Washington Post)
18. U.S. has the Big Mo on its side (ESPN.com)
19. United States head coach Bob Bradley's decision to have a five-man midfield pays off (Goal.com)
20. U.S. coach Bob Bradley was pleased with the way Juan Agudelo stepped up in place of the injured Jozy Altidore (Goal.com)
(Additional articles for consideration can be submitted directly to Lauren Brophy of MLS Communications at Lauren.Brophy@MLSsoccer.com.)
1. Rapids to visit Obama, White House to show off MLS Cup
Denver Post – June 21, 2011
The Rapids' upcoming road trip to Columbus just got a whole lot more interesting.
The White House announced today that the Rapids will be honored by President Barack Obama next Monday for the MLS Cup they won last November.
They also will hold a soccer clinic for children of military families on the South Lawn. The Rapids play at Columbus on Sunday.
The team was recently fitted for suits for the occasion.
The Rapids won the MLS title in November with a 2-1 overtime victory over FC Dallas.
The Rapids are the second Colorado team to visit the White House recently, after Obama awarded the 2010 Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the Air Force football team in April after the Falcons won the season series involving the major military academies.
2. Soehn's tactics pay dividends in Caps win
Quick passing carves up one of the league's top defences
By Russell Berrisford
Vancouver Sun – June 21, 2011
It may have all become a little too tense during the final 10 minutes but in the end the Vancouver Whitecaps held on to beat the Philadelphia Union 1-0 on Saturday at Empire Field.
This wasn't just their first win in MLS since opening day, it was also the first win under new coach Tom Soehn and he will have been pleased to see that most, but not all, of his tactics paid off.
Perhaps the most obvious change was that Soehn seemed to have instructed his team to build from the back rather than make use of the more direct style of play favoured by previous coach Teitur Thordarson.
In the early minutes it was noticeable that the back line were perfectly content to keep the ball between themselves, happy to maintain possession rather than rush a pass that would almost certainly give the ball away -- this approach paid spectacular dividends as early as the 12th minute.
A seven-pass move that ends with a goal may not be anything special for the likes of Barcelona but it may be indicative of something new for the Whitecaps. The play began with the ball being passed from left to right across Vancouver's own penalty area before being moved forward to allow Davide Chiumiento the chance to run at the Union defence. A quick give and go with Eric Hassli then allowed Chiumiento the time and space to set up Alain Rochat to hit a fantastic curling shot into the far corner of the goal.
The Whitecaps had unlocked one of the best defences in the league with a short passing game and produced another "Goal of the Week" contender in the process.
Perhaps with greater confidence they would have gone on to win the game comfortably from that position, but they still looked the more dangerous of the two teams until the final 10 minutes when, maybe due to tiredness, or maybe due to the inevitable edginess that infects a side that hasn't won for some time, they began to sit back too deeply and allow their opponents the opportunity to create a number of chances that their play didn't deserve.
Not everything was perfect of course; many of the defensive lapses once again emanated from a midfield that remains careless with its passing. Terry Dunfield was immediately substituted following one particularly bad example -- and the 4-4-1-1 system means that Eric Hassli is too often isolated when he receives the ball. Shea Salinas had his best game for some time. The defence is starting to look more and more solid with every game.
Most fans would have taken a win, any win, against Philadelphia but a win that also involved some genuinely pleasing football is an even bigger step in the right direction.
The task now is to maintain that momentum for the foreseeable future.
3. Portland Timbers break losing streak against New York, but earn frustrating draw with Red Bulls
By Geoffrey C. Arnold
The Oregonian – June 21, 2011
As evidenced by the June 19 match between the Portland Timbers and the New York Red Bulls at JELD-WEN Field, soccer can be a cruel game indeed. Quite often in sports momentum changes, events unfurl quickly, and sometimes the best team doesn’t earn their due result. After a lackluster first half, the teams exploded in a second half littered with goals from unexpected sources, extremely physical play, a surprise ejection during stoppage time, a missed penalty kick, boiling frustrations on both sides, and an unfortunate mistake that led to the leveling goal.
With the switch on the backline from injured defender Mamadou Danso to David Horst alongside Eric Brunner in the central defense, the remaining starters for the Timbers were familiar names: Troy Perkins in goal, Hall and Rodney Wallace as the defensive backs, Darlington Nagbe and Kalif Alhassan on the midfield wings, Jack Jewsbury and Diego Chara in central midfield, and Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza up top. I felt the team was extremely focused during warm-ups even with missing Coach John Spencer, so my inclination was they were going to be keyed up and ready when the whistle blew. Unfortunately, their start was sluggish and famed French forward Thierry Henry made them pay within the first five minutes. He quickly tapped a few passes to his teammates in the midfield, eventually finding midfielder Dwayne De Rosario in space. De Rosario found an unmarked Red Bull midfielder Austin De Luz on side at the penalty spot, and before Perkins or the defense could stop him, De Luz tapped the ball in goal to put the visitors on top.
The Timbers tried to regain their composure and regain the attack by swinging the ball wide on the left or right to use their speed advantage. New York countered by clogging the middle once the ball was passed inside, further frustrating the Timbers offense. While there were a couple of attacks on Perkins of note and one point blank shot at New York goalkeeper Greg Sutton that resulted in a save, the first half was a test of patience for the players and fans. Sutton didn’t help his cause with a physical tackle of Horst in the New York box that resulted in a stoppage of play but no foul call. From my vantage point, I didn’t feel Sutton went after the ball at all, instead using every trick in the book to knock Horst to the turf without drawing a call. While Horst ended up finishing the half, he couldn’t continue after the halftime break and was replaced by Kevin Goldthwaite, who hadn’t appeared in a Timbers first team match since starting against Toronto FC back in March.
Whatever was said to the Timbers at the half paid dramatic results early, as the team that was tentative in the first half immediately went on the attack. Jewsbury pounced on a poorly clearance from the Red Bull defense at the 47th minute and slotted the ball past Sutton to break the Timbers’ scoreless streak, setting the Timbers Army into a frenzy. Moments later, Jewsbury was at it again, finding Brunner unmarked on an attacking run in the box, and he headed the ball towards Goldthwaite who was also forward. The veteran defender backheeled the ball past Sutton and within minutes, the Timbers were up 2 to 1 setting up an unusual moment in Timbers history for Timber Joey. He hadn’t made his way to the ceremonial log yet to cut the first slab, so he was able to complete double duty in slicing up consecutive slabs.
The Timbers continued to press, as Perlaza suddenly was able to move at will against the defense and put Sutton under duress. Dividends paid off in the 68th minute when Perlaza got loose with the ball and drew Sutton off the goal line. His shot from the right slid under Sutton and was crossed into the box, but struck Keel instead and bounced into the Timbers goal for an own goal and gave the Timbers a 3 to 1 lead. Speaking as a defender who has suffered the humiliation of an own goal, it’s one of the most frustrating experiences to do everything possible to defend but accidentally knock the ball into your own goal. At this point, JELD-WEN was rocking, and the Timbers appeared on their way to a well-deserved win.
New York showed their veteran presence however, and Henry was the catalyst. De Luz and Henry attacked the Timbers defense in the 73rd minute, and Henry was able to shoot the ball past Perkins to bring the Red Bulls within one. Cautions were given to Wallace and Red Bull midfielder Joel Lindpere right after the goal because of an altercation in the Timbers net, and Sutton earned a yellow card moments later for bringing Perlaza down in the New York penalty box with hard contact. As with his efforts against Horst, it didn’t appear he was going after the ball, but it’s hard to prove intent in a fast moving match. Portland was awarded a penalty kick, but Jewsbury bounced it off the right goalpost and the match remained at 3 to 2.
Tempers flared for the remainder of the match, and finally hit a boiling point when Henry and substitute defender Adam Moffat tangled just after stoppage time. With Goldthwaite joining the match, the Timbers had no extra defenders to substitute and so Moffat was called upon to replace a tiring Hall and he apparently drew Henry’s ire about something. The mercurial striker was ejected from the match for his conduct causing New York officials to question the officiating, while Moffat drew a caution for retaliation. With four announced minutes of stoppage time and this incident taking much time to sort out, it appeared that New York would run out of time to catch the Timbers. But then, they were given a ray of hope.
Goldthwaite tried to clear a shot in the box, but instead made a poor clearance that De Rosario collected on the right. De Rosario sent a cross back into the box that struck Wallace in the forearm while the Timbers defender was within the penalty area, and center official Ricardo Salazar made the call awarding the Red Bulls a penalty kick. De Rosario stepped up to take the kick targeting it left, and while Perkins guessed the right direction, he couldn’t tip the ball wide and it struck the net to give the visitors their third goal. As the Timbers restarted to try and earn the winning goal, the whistle blew, leaving the hosts frustrated and angry by giving up a two goal lead and lose out on full points.
In my mind, Perlaza was the man of the match, as he constantly put the Red Bulls defense under pressure with his speed and attacking ability. Jewsbury was responsible for two goals and had his usual steady match, while Chara did his level best to slow the New York offense all night. However, the Red Bulls found space in the Timbers defense and never gave up, and while Henry admitted his team didn’t exactly deserve the result, they aren’t exactly going to give up the point they earned. The Timbers need to regroup for their next fixture, as they travel to Dallas to play FC Dallas on June 25, a club that is looking for some payback after losing a contentious match in Portland back in April.
4. Qwest Field undergoes name change
By Eric D. Williams
Seattle Times – June 21, 2011
The home of the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders FC will get a shiny new sign this week.
Peter McLoughlin, president of both teams, announced on Monday that Qwest Field will officially be renamed CenturyLink Field and CenturyLink Event Center.
CenturyLink purchased Qwest in April.
McLoughlin will hold a press conference at the stadium on Thursday to reveal the new logo.
“Although the name of this facility will change; the history, tradition and spirit of the 12th Man and the Sounders FC supporters will never change,” McLoughlin said in a statement. “We are excited about our partnership with CenturyLink and our on-going commitment to positively impact the fans of the Pacific Northwest.”
Opened as Seahawks Stadium in 2002, the team sold the naming rights for the stadium to the telecommunications company in 2004. The initial agreement with Qwest called for the company to pay about $75 million over 15 years, with a five-year renewal option available after 10 years in 2014.
The Seattle Mariners’ home stadium, Safeco Field, has remained under the same name since the stadium opened in 1999. Safeco Insurance signed a 20-year deal worth a reported $40 million for the naming rights, and kept the name the same even though Liberty Mutual Group took over the insurance company in 2008.
The University of Washington’s basketball facility also experienced a name change this year. The former Bank of America Arena was renamed Alaska Airlines Arena once the naming rights deal with the university lapsed.
5. Union defender visits Indian Lane
By Bette Alburger
Delco Times—June 21, 2011
MIDDLETOWN — Indian Lane Elementary School students got a real kick out of having a special visitor come to their school recently to read to them.
Philadelphia Union soccer player Danny Califf read “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf to more than 400 students in kindergarten through grade 5. The reading took place during an all-school assembly that kicked off the county’s 2011 Summer Reading Program, which takes place throughout its 28 member libraries through the middle of August.
Califf, 30, said the book is one of his favorites, noting his grandmother used to read it to him and, before that, to his father. His father read it to him and now he reads it to his three children. Two of them — first-grader Paige, 7, and kindergartner Blake, 6 — attend Indian Lane and play soccer in a Nether Providence league.
He and his wife, Erin, who live in the Rose Tree Media School District, also are the parents of 2-year-old Jude.
The Indian Lane students listened with rapt attention and giggled with delight as they heard about the gentle bull who liked to sit under a cork tree and smell the flowers, rather than fight the matador in the bullring in Madrid, Spain.
Califf, at 6-foot-2, is a center back with the Union, which plays Major League Soccer at PPL Park on the Chester waterfront. A California native, he began his soccer career as a youth, playing for the Canyon Hills Soccer Association in Anaheim. He went on to excel in the sport, winning the 2002 MLS Cup playing with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
When he signed with the Union in January 2010, he brought leadership and experience to the team.
The assembly program, arranged by school librarian Tracy Hatton, included another special guest: Jack Whelan, chairman of Delaware County Council. Whelan called Califf “one of the great players with the Union” and presented him with his own library card.
Califf said he was honored to get the card and planned to take advantage, with his children, of “all the tremendous things” offered by libraries in Delaware County.
“Reading is one of my most favorite things to do,” he told the students. Whalen asked them, “One of the most important things you can do this summer is what?” “Read!” they all shouted in unison.
The youngsters had a chance to win lots of Union-themed gear in a drawing conducted by Califf. David Belanger, director of the Delaware County Library System, handed out prizes to the lucky winners, such as a logo backpack that went to fifth-grader Mina Sanders.
Fourth-graders C.J. Reach and Connor Bonebreak were even luckier. Because they read more than 400 books in the 100 Book Challenge during the school year, they were eligible for a special drawing. They each won four tickets to the Aug. 6 soccer match between the Union and the Houston Dynamo, plus a parking pass.
In addition, every student received a celebrity “Read” poster, featuring Califf and “The Story of Ferdinand.”
Califf’s visit to the school was sponsored by the Delaware County Library System and co-hosted by Middletown Free Library and its children’s librarian, Juliann Kutchen
The theme of this year’s Summer Reading Program is “One World, Many Stories.” Readers of all ages — from preschoolers through young adults — will travel the globe through stories, crafts, music, dance and other activities. They’ll explore other countries, cultures and customs without ever leaving home. No passport is needed, just a library card.
Last year, more than 9,000 Delaware County children and youth took part in various special programs, story hours and reading clubs at their local libraries. In all, they read more than 298,000 books or spent 384,542 minutes of reading time during the Summer Reading Program.
Parents and educators agree that the program is a great way to keep kids mentally active and motivated during summer recess. And there’s no charge to join the fun.
6. Collen Warner hasn't stepped up his game yet
By James Edward
Deseret News—June 21, 2011
SANDY — Sometimes a coach can say more by saying nothing.
That was indeed the case with Jason Kreis in last Saturday's postgame press conference following Real Salt Lake's frustrating 1-1 tie with D.C. United.
When asked to comment on what midfielder Collen Warner can do to become more involved and avoid disappearing for long periods of a match, RSL's coach simply said, "No comment."
It was a strange answer from a coach who almost always puts a positive spin on questions that are critical of his players.
Two weeks ago following RSL's 2-0 home win at Vancouver, a match in which Warner was average at best, Kreis emphasized Warner's willingness to get into a few tackles when asked to assess Warner's performance. He made no mention of his contributions with the ball.
That's becoming a trend for Warner. In his four starts since Javier Morales' injury, Warner has zero goals and zero assists.
He missed a golden opportunity on a breakaway against D.C. United when a heavy touch got away from him and trickled easily to the charging keeper.
Real Salt Lake has always been high on Warner's abilities, a big reason it drafted him in the first round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. Throughout RSL's busy schedule last fall while juggling Champions League qualification, Warner was given random starts and for the most part held his own.
The opportunities have been much more regular since Morales broke his ankle in early May, and Kreis' "No comment" seems to confirm he isn't pleased with how Warner is handling the increased responsibility.
All four of Warner's starts since the Morales injury have been at attacking midfield, and he's the first to admit it's been tough. He believes he's gotten better each game, but he's struggling to keep up with the demands of the position.
"It's pretty tough to be involved every play, but it's something that's necessary in my position so it's definitely something I'm trying to work on for sure," said Warner.
RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy said Warner is a player with tremendous talents, but said he's definitely in a tough spot.
"I think Collen's doing OK in there. It's just a tough situation because whoever plays in there is going to give us a very different look than Javier gives us," said Grabavoy. "He's just a different player. I think people are going to get caught up in comparing to what Javier does."
Perhaps the comparisons need to start being made to teenager Luis Gil.
Following Warner's first start at attacking mid against Houston on May 15, Kreis assessed his performance by saying, "He didn't put the flag in the ground and say this position is mine, that's for sure."
Four games later, Warner still hasn't put the flag in the ground. If he doesn't claim the spot soon, perhaps RSL might be better off seeing how the 17-year-old Gil handles extended minutes.
Regarded as one of the best young players in the U.S., Gil has great upside. He's been training with RSL for over a year and is fairly comfortable with the demands placed on the midfielders.
7. Penalty burned Real
By Justin Johnson
Ogden Standard-Examiner – June 21, 2011
Having been around the sporting world for many years now, one thing I've learned is that bad calls, just like good ones, are just part of the game.
It doesn't make them any easier to digest, but it does keep things in perspective.
Was referee Terry Vaughn in error in awarding a penalty for D.C. United in the final minutes of its match with Real Salt Lake on Saturday night?
Will any amount of whining or complaining change it?
Replays clearly show absolutely no contact between the two players. In fact, when United forward Charlie Davies began falling forward, there was more than a foot of space between him and RSL defender Chris Wingert when he artfully dove forward onto the turf.
Vaughn didn't hesitate and quickly pointed to the spot, where Davies successfully took the penalty to level the match at 1-1.
Wingert didn't shy away from discussing it post-match.
"It's almost laughable," said the 29-year-old defenseman. "I don't know what to say. Charlie is a friend of mine ... we roomed together in national team camp. He even looked at me, kind of smiling. He knew. It's a shame we lost two points on that play because it really wasn't even close."
RSL boss Jason Kreis served up a "no comment" when asked about the play during his post-match press conference, biting his tongue no doubt after regarding that Portland coach Jon Spencer was suspended from his team's match this weekend after criticizing the officials last weekend.
Kries instead chose to lay the blame on his own team, where it honestly belonged.
"We can talk all we want about the penalty, but I'd rather talk about how it gets there," Kreis said. "You don't want to open yourself up to a counterattack when you have a 1-0 lead off a dead ball that's yours and be at the mercy of the referee's decision."
The play in question occurred deep inside the attacking third, with RSL leading 1-0 after a penalty kick of its own after a handball in the opening half.
Andy Williams took a free kick from 35 yards out that went to the center of the box and was cleared out by D.C.
RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy had the first chance to make the play on the ball, but instead of trapping it, knocked it out of his own reach as United grabbed it and streaked down the field to set up the play.
"It's frustrating; it stings a little bit," said midfielder Kyle Beckerman. "When you have a lead and give up the lead, it feels like a loss. The game was there for us to win and we didn't put it away."
Kreis and the players correctly realize that nothing is going to change the play. It happened, and it is a final, standing result, so they are focusing on moving on.
8. D.C. United finalizes midfielder Fred’s transfer to Melbourne Heart in Australia
By Steven Goff
Washington Post—June 21, 2011
D.C. United has finalized Brazilian midfielder Fred’s free transfer to Melbourne Heart in Australia, the MLS club announced Monday night. As the Insider reported last week, he will remain with United until the international transfer window opens in mid-July.
“When we reacquired Fred earlier this year, we agreed in [principle] that we would let him go if he had an opportunity to sign abroad for a better contract,” General Manager Dave Kasper said in a written statement. “Fred has been nothing but a professional throughout his time at D.C. United and we have granted his request. The move will also free up significant salary as we look to improve our team during the upcoming transfer window.”
It will be Fred’s second tour in Melbourne, having played for Victory in 2006-07 before signing with United. He spent three years in Washington and was dealt to the Philadelphia Union before the 2010 season. Fred returned this spring and made 12 league appearances (five starts, one assist).
Fred’s younger brother, Junior Carreiro, is a reserve midfielder for United.
9. FC Dallas pays visit to Permian Basin again
By Joel A. Erickson
Odessa American – June 21, 2011
For the third consecutive season, FC Dallas is making a trip out to West Texas to take on the West Texas United Sockers.
FC Dallas’s profile has been altered a bit in a year. Ranked second in the league and coming off of a heartbreaking MLS Cup loss to Colorado in extra time last season, FC Dallas has become one of the top teams in Major League Soccer.
Reeling after two losses in Premier Development League play over the weekend to run their losing streak to four, the Sockers will be looking to make an impression at 7:30 tonight against an FC Dallas team mostly made up of reserves and promising youngsters.
Make no mistake about the level of competition, though.
FC Dallas will be bringing plenty of talent to Grande Communications Stadium.
“Every player we have is playing for a chance to be at that level,” West Texas United coach Warren Cottle said. “The ultimate goal of the Premier Development League has been to move players on to the highest level, and that’s who we will be playing.”
Injuries to Ben Everson and Dominic Furness — the only Sockers who have spent time training with an MLS team — will leave a couple of tough spots to fill in the starting lineup. Coupled with injuries to Ramon Martinez and Isaias Miramontes, the Sockers will be operating without much of the depth they’ve been building all season long.
But the Sockers will be more than a little amped to play FC Dallas.
“What we’ll be playing is a lot of the reserves,” Cottle said. “It’s a chance for our guys to prove they belong in one of those programs. The purpose of this program is to push players on. That’s the ultimate goal, to get one of our guys to that level.”
Following a brief hiatus, the MLS Reserve Division was started back up this season to give teams a chance to develop young talent without throwing their athletes into the fire of professional competition right away.
Building a solid base of talent at the lower levels isn’t easy.
But the Sockers are hoping to change all of that. Building off of a partnership that has already yielded three friendlies in two seasons — FC Dallas swept West Texas United in two 2009 games, but the Sockers picked up a 2-1 victory at Grande last season — the Sockers have already started preliminary talks with FC Dallas about taking the affiliation even further.
“FC Dallas has been able to extend their brand,” RockHounds general manager Monty Hoppel said. “One of the youth teams in the area, West Texas United, is already working on an agreement, I believe, to wear the FC Dallas colors and support their name. We think we can fit another niche.”
Hoppel expects to meet with FC Dallas representatives later this summer to figure out exactly what kind of partnership the two teams can form.
Premier Development League teams have not functioned as minor-league clubs for an MLS team yet.
What Hoppel and the rest of the Sockers staff envision looks a little different.
“We think that we can fit a niche between their reserve system and their youth programs,” Hoppel said. “FC Dallas has been a great team to work with. What we want to do is talk about whether or not there can be a fit, even a soft affiliation that could be good for both us.”
FC DALLAS PLAYERS TO WATCH
Maykel Galindo, forward: A Cuban defector who came to the U.S. in 2005, Galindo made his MLS debut with Chivas USA in 2007. Galindo promptly led Chivas USA with 12 goals in the 2007 season, but injuries have hampered him since that season.
Chris Seitz, goalkeeper: Picked fourth overall by Real Salt Lake in the 2007 MLS Draft after leading Maryland to the NCAA championship, Seitz became the second-youngest player to start an MLS match at 20 years, 49 days. A starter with both Real Salt Lake and Philadelphia, this is Seitz’s first season in Dallas.
Bobby Warshaw, defender: Drafted 17th overall by FC Dallas out of Stanford in the 2011 MLS Draft, Warshaw is coming off of a collegiate career that featured three All Pac-10 First Team honors and is being groomed as either a center back or holding midfielder of the future.
10. Former Victory star Fred to join Heart
By Sam Lienert
The Australian Associated Press – June 21, 2011
Five seasons after starring in Melbourne Victory's maiden A-League championship, Brazilian midfielder Fred believes he can again shine in Australia, this time with Melbourne Heart.
Having played US Major League Soccer (MLS) since helping the Victory to the 2006-07 title, the 31-year-old attacking midfielder was confident he had lost nothing in skill or athleticism.
"I think after (turning) 30 years old I tried to take care of myself a lot, eat good, everything physical. So I think I can (play) very similar to when I was 26, 27 years old," the Heart's signing for the next two years told reporters on Tuesday, via videolink from Washington.
While he played just one season with Victory, his 17 games were integral to their championship win and made him a fan favourite.
Fred was the main provider as star striker Archie Thompson scored five goals in the 2007 grand final 6-0 thrashing of Adelaide United, before being snapped up by MLS team DC United.
His only A-League appearances since were a three-game stint as a Wellington Phoenix guest player in 2008, cut short from a planned six games by the death of his father.
Fred said his father's death also contributed to his eventual decision to return to Melbourne, as it made enjoying life a greater priority.
"After a lot of talk with my family, we said 'Let's go back to Australia and have fun again," he said.
One of four ex-Victory players now in Heart's squad, along with Mate Dugandzic, Kristian Sarkies and Aziz Behich, Fred was the one to make the biggest impression with Victory.
But he said representing their arch-rivals against players he shared a championship with would not be difficult.
"Everyone's professional, everyone wants to win the game, I think this is no different for me," he said.
"When you start the game it's all professional and after we can be very good friends."
Coach John van `t Schip said Heart had been interested in the midfielder since their inception.
"He is a very athletic and skilful player who can change a match with his vision and running," van `t Schip said.
11. Crew rookie Anor earns MLS Player of the Week
By Sports Network--June 20, 2011
New York, NY - Columbus Crew rookie Bernardo Anor earned the Major League Soccer Player of the Week for Week 14, it was announced on Monday.
The 23-year-old midfielder, making his first MLS start, assisted on his team's first goal and scored the second as the Crew defeated the Houston Dynamo, 2-0, on Saturday.
Anor was selected 48th overall in the 2011 SuperDraft out of the University of South Florida by Crew manager Robert Warzycha.
The MLS Player of the Week award is selected each week by the North American Soccer Reporters. The group consists of members of online, print, television, radio media. More information can be found at soccerreporters.com.
2011 MLS Player of the Week winners:
Week 1: Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City)
Week 2: Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake)
Week 3: Camilo (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)
Week 4: David Ferreira (FC Dallas)
Week 5: Luke Rodgers (Red Bull New York)
Week 6: Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)
Week 7: Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo)
Week 8: Joao Plata (Toronto FC)
Week 9: Justin Braun (Chivas USA)
Week 10: Jeff Parke (Seattle Sounders FC)
Week 11: Justin Mapp (Philadelphia Union)
Week 12: Jean Alexandre (Real Salt Lake)
Week 13: Steven Lenhart (San Jose Earthquakes)
Week 14: Bernardo Anor (Columbus Crew)
12. Brown, RSL's top-ranked defense meet Fire
By Charlie Corr
ESPNChicago.com—June 20, 2011
The path leading up to former Chicago Fire defender C.J. Brown's MLS coaching debut came together quickly.
Following his retirement announcement toward the end of the 2010 season, Brown made it clear that he wanted to move on to the coaching side. Within a matter of months, he became an assistant coach for Real Salt Lake -- the team that ousted Chicago from the 2009 playoffs and went on to win its first MLS Cup under head coach Jason Kreis.
"This team has already been going in the right direction," said Brown, whose RSL team faces the Fire this Wednesday at Toyota Park. "By me coming in, I'm not making them better. It's my job to keep something flowing. Jason and the entire program have done it the right way. Our back line is a pretty comfortable group, working with each other."
Brown attended the MLS Combine earlier this year, and his intentions were to possibly start his coaching career alongside former Fire goalkeeper coach Daryl Shore, the head coach of the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League.
Plans changed in a flash.
"I was going to go there and look at the [Fort Lauderdale] program because Daryl was looking for an assistant," Brown said. "I attended the combine and ran into the Real Salt Lake coaching staff, and they asked what I was doing there."
Brown and the RSL folks started talking, and they flew him in for the 2011 MLS SuperDraft.
"A week and a half later, they called me with an offer," Brown said.
Since joining Salt Lake (6-3-4) in mid-January, Brown has helped guide an RSL defense that has allowed fewer goals than any MLS team (8). Salt Lake's plus-7 goal differential ranks third heading into this week. And the spotlight also shone on Salt Lake for the better part of two months as RSL's CONCACAF Champions League run moved all the way to the final against Monterrey.
"These guys were working for this for the last year, building themselves for this," Brown said. "I popped into the end of it and walked into a great role. They worked hard in the offseason -- the best shape I've ever seen."
Brown spent all 13 of his MLS seasons with the Fire, and moving into the coaching realm has given him a different perspective.
"I'm so used to, as a player, going out and trying to make it happen myself," Brown said. "As a coach, I tell the guys what will happen, how I can help, give information on how everything works. When you see it on the field, you know how it's going to happen and adapt to the situation. As a player, you react to the flow of things. As a coach, I can think things through, so it's different."
While Brown has only been at RSL for a short time, the deep MLS backgrounds of Kreis and Brown are something that the Salt Lake players can latch onto during the rigors of an expanded season.
"In some sense, I'm asked how I feel about situations and how to play against certain players," Brown said. "You appreciate that. For me, these guys are here for a reason. They're good players who work hard, are good defenders, and I serve as a reminder for them to stay sharp."
Heading into Wednesday's match against the Fire (2-4-9), Brown notices some significant differences from his final season with Chicago in 2010.
"There is a lot of energy on that team," Brown said. "They have great pace and like to counter attack. They get after it really quick. They're more of a team [than last year's squad]. They're fighting for each other. That is not to say that we didn't do that last year, but you see more of it now."
13. Berhalter endures, scores for reserves
By Scott French
ESPNLosAngeles.com--June, 20, 2011
It's been a difficult campaign for veteran defender Gregg Berhalter, who sees his playing career nearing its end and wishes he could spend more of the remaining time on the field rather than the trainer's room.
The center back, who will be 38 in August, missed the second half of preseason and most of the first three months with a knee injury and didn't make play in a league game until the final minutes of the Galaxy's victory Saturday night at Colorado.
On Monday, he saw 90 minutes for the third successive MLS Reserve League game and, even better, scored the first goal in a 2-1 triumph over the Vancouver Whitecaps on L.A.'s training field outside Home Depot Center's main stadium, volleying home Paolo Cardozo's 27th-minute feed.
“It's been very disappointing [this year],” Berhalter said afterward. “The knee injury took a lot longer than I thought. The preseason was going great, and it's part of it. At some point, you think, listen, you're getting toward the end and you want it to go like a storybook, you know? But it's not always going to happen. You have to deal with what's given to you, and that's what I'm doing right now.”
Berhalter has been a major contributor to the Galaxy since signing with MLS in 2009 following 15 seasons in Holland, England and Germany. But he was sidelined with an unexplained injury or virus last August and saw only incremental action at the end of the regular season and in the MLS playoffs.
He was added to Bruce Arena's coaching staff during the offseason, so he's had had plenty of work to do while rehabbing his knee and preparing to step in when called upon.
“That's been the positive side, that I was still able to help the team in a certain way, so I'm thankful for that,” he said. “But personally, not being on the field, I've thought about that. I played my first 10 minutes in 18 games [on Saturday]. It's disappointing for me, personally, but you still try to stay positive and work hard, and hopefully things will come.”
Berhalter's presence in the reserve games is critical. The reserve team, and MLS's league, exists to provide games for young players trying to work their way into the first team, for those returning from injury and for players who are on the bench in the MLS games.
Berhalter is able to coach on the field, and it's not just his fellow center backs -- Kyle Davies and Dustin McCarty against Vancouver -- who will benefit.
“It's a great vantage point to actually apply your coaching,” Berhalter said, “because you're in the heat of the battle with the guys, and you're doing it alongside them. So you can see little things that maybe when you're on the sidelines you don't notice.”
He's discovered coaching agrees with him and enjoys it “more than I hoped. I had no idea how it was going to go. I didn't know how the [altered] relationship with Bruce was going to be. But it's been more than I imagined.”
14. Are regional standouts on their way to MLS?
El Salvador's Zelaya, Jamaica's Daley both hoping to join league
By Charles Boehm
MLSsoccer.com—June 20, 2011
WASHINGTON — The Gold Cup determines the region’s top team and, in every other edition, decides who will represent CONCACAF in the Confederations Cup. But as its profile grows, the tournament has also become something of a showcase for up-and-coming talents from lesser-known locales — many of whom are setting their sights on Major League Soccer as a place to advance their careers.
With four goals, El Salvador's Rodolfo Zelaya presently sits in second place on the 2011 Gold Cup scoring chart. Despite the heartbreak of missing a penalty kick in the first half of his team’s quarterfinal loss to Panama here on Sunday, the Salvadoran standout won his second Man of the Match award of the tournament.
Afterward, the 22-year-old made no secret of his — and his teammates’ — desire to earn an opportunity in the league where his countrymen have been plying their trade since its inception in 1996.
“We all hope to get out of El Salvador,” he said through an interpreter. “We all try to demonstrate on the field that we have the ability to get out of our country — that’s what all of us want, to come here and play in MLS.”
An spritely attacker most comfortable as a second striker, Zelaya was part of a trio of Salvadorans — including former D.C. United signing Christian Castillo — brought in by Mexican second-division side Club León in 2009. But he was soon loaned back to Alianza FC in his homeland, due in part to the Mexican league’s roster limits on foreign players. He’s since been the subject of transfer rumors in other nations and may find himself on the radar of MLS clubs looking to add inventiveness to their front line.
Jamaican midfielder Keammar Daley is in a similar situation. The 23-year-old rapidly rose through his country’s youth program and has contributed to successful campaigns at the Under-20 international level as well as at his club, Tivoli Gardens FC, which won top spot in Jamaica’s National Premier League this season. He provided a creative spark for the Reggae Boyz in Gold Cup play, starting one match and coming off the bench in their other three games.
“Definitely, this is a main objective, to get something overseas,” he told MLSsoccer.com after Jamaica’s 2-0 quarterfinal loss to the United States on Sunday. “We had a good tournament ... in the end, we came here to get results. A few of the players [are] looking for contracts. I think there are a few clubs interested, so I’m just looking forward and staying fit.”
Daley sounded bullish about the prospect of following in the footsteps of his eight teammates presently playing for MLS clubs, though he noted that Jamaican internationals have lately been welcomed in some Scandinavian leagues as well.
“MLS is the place right now, it’s getting higher and higher and other players are looking to MLS,” he said. “Elsewhere is always an option, because it’s not a direct thing, you know? You can go elsewhere and start, but the play in MLS, it’s getting world-class level now. A lot of players from Europe are coming into MLS also, so it’s improving and I would love to get a start there.
“A few other [Jamaican] players are in MLS and a lot more of us would love to join them, also.”
15. Jacobson turning into bargain pick-up
Four assists lead Dallas; Academy products shine in U-17 WCup
By Robert Casner
MLSsoccer.com – June 21, 2011
FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas were back on the training pitch on Monday just two days after escaping the Home Depot Center and Chivas USA with three points thanks in part to an instinctive play by late substitute Jackson Gonçalves.
The Brazilian nodded in the game-winner five minutes from time after a miscommunication by the home side. While that was the big story, there were several more around the club as they went back to work:
Jacobson notches two assists Saturday night against Chivas USA
One of the side plots from the 2-1 win in Carson, Calif., was the two-assist performance from Andrew Jacobson.
“The second one was probably a bit of luck,” said Jacobson of his chip into the penalty area that was misplayed by the Rojiblancos defense. “I don’t think I put it on a platter for Jackson, but I’ll take it for sure.”
Jacobson was acquired from the Philadelphia Union in February for a second round pick in the 2013 SuperDraft and currently leads the team with four assists.
“The more we see him, the more we like him,” said FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman, who had particular praise for Jacobson’s first assist on the night. “That was a brilliant ball that he gave to Brek [Shea]. He does a lot of things people don’t see so we got quite a steal there but we know he has talent.”
Sánchez, Acosta shine for Under-17 teams
FC Dallas were well-represented as the FIFA U-17 World Cup kicked off this past weekend in Mexico.
The club’s latest Academy signee, goalkeeper Richard Sanchez, played 90 minutes in helping the host nation to a 3-1 defeat of North Korea in Group A play.
“It’s great that he’s starting at home,” Hyndman said. “It’s his dream, his family’s dream. The first shot they had they scored, but he kept his composure. He showed great recovery and I thought he had a good performance for Mexico.”
Also representing FC Dallas was academy player Kellyn Acosta, who suited up for the USA at left back and played the full 90 against the Czech Republic in a 3-0 win.
“He’s a young player that’s been in residency but came through the FCD Academy,” said Hyndman. “He’s another player that we are really proud of.”
Chávez thrilled for Honduras
In late May, as CONCACAF teams were announcing their rosters for the Gold Cup, Honduran Marvin Chávez declined the invitation to join los Catrachos for the regional tournament, citing FCD’s injury crisis in the attacking corps.
When Honduras advanced to the semifinals on Saturday after outlasting Costa Rica on penalties, Chávez couldn’t have been happier for his countrymen.
“It was an enormous win,” Chávez told MLSsoccer.com on Monday morning. “The national team had a great game. It was a very complicated game. We knew that Costa Rica was going to be a tough opponent, but Honduras was up for the challenge.”
Honduras’ best finish in the Gold Cup came in 1991 when they advanced to the final. They will have to beat a tough Mexico side on Wednesday evening in Houston if they are to match that accomplishment.
16. Q&A: Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle
EPL boss offers his take on recruiting Holden, progression of MLS
By Darrell Lovell
MLSsoccer.com—June 20, 2011
A month ahead of the Houston Dynamo’s first-ever matchup against an English Premier League opponent, MLSsoccer.com caught up with Bolton Wanderers head coach Owen Coyle about his impressions of the Dynamo, the scouting of former Dynamo star Stuart Holden and his impressions of Major League Soccer.
MLSsoccer.com: What benefits do coming to the United States for the preseason present for an EPL club?
Coyle: This will be my fourth time coming to the US, and it’s a perfect workout to prepare for the EPL season. The facilities are first class, there’re no language issues and the food and hygiene are also first-class.
I also love the people in the US because they’re so friendly and they seem to be enjoying the football, [which is] getting better year by year in the US. So for us, it’s a win-win situation.
MLSsoccer.com: What were your impressions of the Dynamo when you scouted Stuart Holden?
Coyle: I signed Stuart mostly from watching games from the Dynamo. I watched most of his games and everything I saw they looked an absolute standard. Stuart was a young, hungry player for the Dynamo, and I felt if we brought him over that he’d be good in the EPL and he’d continue to get better, and he’s done that.
He’s had two horrendous injuries with the club but he’s shown when he’s played that he’s one of the top players in midfield in a league with world-class players.
MLSsoccer.com: What has Stuart told you about what to expect from the city of Houston itself and the Dynamo?
Coyle: Stuart talks endlessly about Houston and the Dynamo because he’s loves what the club did for him and he loved his time there. For me, I personally love the heat, and it’s one of the reasons for us to come there because I think it's perfect conditions for our players to work hard so we start the season proper.
You start the season proper because of the workout and preparation of playing some terrific teams, and the Dynamo are certainly one of them. But we’re also looking to make affiliation, make friends, and that’ll serve us well for years to come.
MLSsoccer.com: What’s your impression of MLS?
Coyle: I watch the games every week and I think the league itself and teams are getting better every year. I’ve always said that I feel that in the not too distant future the US will have a major say in the World Cup because of how the game’s progressing at both the grassroots and professional level with MLS. It’s a terrific league filled with fantastic players and great young players coming into the teams.
I watched the Seattle versus Vancouver match and there were some terrific goals. I love watching the matches because they’re real entertaining for the fans. We’re the same in the EPL. We have the best league in the world because we’re entertaining for the fans and they’re the crux of the sport. I think the MLS [teams] are doing the same.
MLSsoccer.com: If you could tell the fans something about Bolton, what would it be?
Coyle: What you’ll find is a team that’s built as a family, so I think you’ll find a group of players that will interact and while yes, they’re some of the best in the world, they’re very grounded and humble. I think they’ll see a club with tremendous history and tradition who loves winning football games and loves to attack. We recognize it’ll be a tough game because Houston is fit, and that’s what we’re looking forward to.
17. Calm by the green, crazed by the pitch
By Rick Maese
Washington Post – June 19, 2011
On Sunday afternoon at Congressional Country Club, a 22-year-old wunderkind with dark hair sprouting from beneath his cap planted his feet in the manicured grass and exhaled. Though thousands of eyes were focused on Rory McIlroy, the only audible sound was his three-wood cutting through the air and — thwack! — violently finding its target.
The circus was 13 miles around the Beltway, where no one got the memo that the world should remain silent during a golfer’s backswing.
.“Look at this! Look at this!” yelled D.J. Garrillero.
In the preceding hour or so, a blister had taken up residence on his index finger, the result of a full day of passionate drumming. Garrillero arrived at RFK Stadium more than seven hours before the soccer match between his beloved El Salvador and Panama. One day earlier, he had visited a music store and plopped down $250 for a used bass drum.
“It’s only for today. That’s it,” said the 29-year-old from Hyattsville. “Just to have fun today.”
There was no time for lessons, and what he lacked in artistry, he made up for in fervor.
“We just make noise, bro,” he said.
On the surface, they’re very different sporting events. But they collided in the Washington area Sunday, each drawing more than 45,000 fans through their gates. The U.S. Open, one of golf’s premier tournaments, was being staged in Bethesda for the first time since 1997, while the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals were being held at RFK with a pair of matches; the United States played Jamaica before the El Salvador match.
Both were big-time events dropped into the area on a Sunday in June — one televised nationally by NBC, the other internationally by Univision. Different patches on the same quilt, one staged at a country club that requires more than $150,000 to join and the other at an aging stadium that has seen better days.
Two cultures were on display, both the genteel and the raucous — entirely different, yet very much the same.
While the parking lots around RFK began filling up hours before the first match, at 3 p.m., the golf course had been bustling since dawn. Hal Ellis arrived before 7 to stake out a spot near the 18th green. He wanted a good view of McIlroy’s expected coronation 12 hours later. The 52-year-old Ellis surveyed the crowd around the first tee box, a cigar between his lips.
“The one thing everyone has in common is probably manners,” he said. “There’s an etiquette.”
The grass was still wet with morning dew and his cigar was already half-smoked. No worries, though, because he had two more in a clear plastic bag that hung around his neck.
Midmorning, outside of RFK, 29-year-old Christopher Bristow, an ardent fan of the U.S. soccer team, was munching on a cigar, too, carefully studying his canvas. The bare torso of Ryan Hines was already painted blue from waist to neck. Bristow was trying to decide where to apply white stars.
“What about here?” said Hines, 20, pointing to his stomach.
“Here, here and here,” decided Bristow, who’d driven from Winston-Salem, N.C., the night before. He settled on stars over both nipples, the bellybutton and both shoulders.
“This is my first game,” Hines said. “I’m pretty excited.”
For many others, not attending Sunday’s matches wasn’t an option. Soccer is a matter of national pride, not a weekend distraction, which is why Francisco Medrano, 62, was in the parking lot, rotating sausage, beef and lamb on a grill for nearly 40 Salvadoran friends and family. Nearby, a two-on-two soccer game broke out on a tiny patch of grass.
“We would not miss this,” Medrano said. “Not for anything.”
After the Americans dispatched the Jamaicans and the El Salvador match began, the capacity crowd belted out the Salvadoran national anthem. It erupted at the conclusion, and the old stadium seemed to sway.
Earlier in the day, all around RFK, grills were decorated with charred flesh and pupusas. Fans of every nation had at least one thing in common, though the brand — Miller Lite, Corona, Sam Adams — varied. There was a woman wearing a tutu and a man standing on his head. Merengue music blared from car speakers, and seemingly every other person blasted an air horn, usually within a couple of inches of your eardrum. They wore flags as capes, bandannas, shorts, socks, shirts and headbands.
At the country club, however, the excitement was more internal. Fans filed into a 36,000-square-foot merchandising tent and loaded up on overpriced visors, sunglasses, umbrellas and golf balls — stuff to prove to friends that they were here. More than 430,000 items were for sale, all stamped with the U.S. Open’s logo, read a sign out front.
Perhaps it was separation anxiety from their BlackBerrys — rules force attendees to leave them home — but if fans dared to “whoo” too loudly, they drew stares and tsk-tsks. The do’s and don’ts of the U.S. Open are unofficial guidelines but almost universally agreed upon. Golf fans wore plaids, stripes and loud patterns. On the course, pastels are particularly in this year — and every other year, for that matter.
“Cool pants!” someone said to Joey Harrison and Alec Gard near the driving range. “Real funky.”
Joey, 15, and Alec, 16, bought the pants online for $90 a pair. Joey’s were black with perfect rows of brightly colored polka dots. Alec’s featured a fiery floral print on white, a pattern fit for a Grateful Dead show, perhaps.
“There’s just something about golf that draws me in more than any other sport,” Alec said.
Much like polo shirts, the appreciation and excitement here was tucked in, almost by rule. There were no enemies, and there was no booing. It seemed like no one was rooting for failure.
“They can run this thing with zero police,” Chad Bennett, 31-year-old fan from Chesapeake, Va., said while watching Phil Mickelson approach the third tee box.
As golf has jumped from country clubs to public courses, its audience has diversified. Sure, many are older, white and rich. But walking around Congressional the past week, they came in all shapes and sizes. Like Nate Deal and Mandy Rezac, who flew from Lincoln, Neb., to take in their first golf tournament. He wore shorts and a T-shirt, and she wore a sundress, so it was impossible to miss the colorful tattoos of flowers and birds that decorated their arms and legs.
Deal, 37, is a tattoo artist who long ago lost count of how many tattoos he has. Rezac, 30, a hairdresser, had her bleached blond locks bundled atop her head. She has about 15 tats, including a thorny vine wrapping around her right leg and a giant red ruby nestled between her shoulder blades.
“This is a blast,” she said. They’d met plenty of people, she said, and all were friendly.
Similarly, at RFK, there were no strangers. Garrillero, the blistery, blustery drummer, waved his blue flag and barked at fellow El Salvador fans as they pulled into the parking lot. Most of the crowd wore blue and, not unlike the golf tournament, the culture of the sport had inspired a strong sense of community.
“It’s like a reunion,” Garrillero said. “You see people you haven’t seen for 10 years, and you’ll see them here.
Panama would defeat El Salvador on a controversial late goal, and the boisterous fans in blue were none too pleased. They showered the field with litter. Some charged it, and others exited the stadium in handcuffs.
At Congressional, as the sun fell, the stoicism slipped away. McIlroy walked down the 18th fairway, steps away from becoming champion of the 111th U.S. Open by virtue of a record-setting performance — and thousands stood in unison. As he approached the final green, they screamed, whooped and chanted.
“Let’s go, Ro-ry!” they bellowed.
So, are these fans different? Are they the same? Or do they simply look and sound different?
After all, take away the plaid shorts, wash off the body paint — they all paid money, battled parking, overpaid for beer at the concession stand. They brought sons and daughters, friends from work and buddies from down the street. They planned months in advance, arrived early and stayed until the very end.
And whether it was a country club or a stadium, they did it for the same reason: to see something spectacular that doesn’t happen every day in Washington.
18. U.S. has the Big Mo on its side
By Leander Schaerlaeckens
ESPN.com—June 20, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- When Bob Bradley starts cracking jokes, there's change afoot.
There's either been a cosmic shift altering the fundamental physics of time and space, or the U.S. men's national team has suddenly and spectacularly bettered its fortunes.
Before beating a strong Jamaica side with astounding ease in the Gold Cup quarterfinals on Sunday -- remember, the Reggae Boyz were one of only two perfect teams in the group stage and the only one not to concede a goal -- the U.S. had underperformed. It put together a forgettable 2-0 victory over Canada, lost to Panama 2-1 and scrounged a goal from a dreadful Guadeloupe side for a 1-0 win. And that's not to mention the Americans' 4-0 spanking suffered at the hands of Spain in a friendly before the Gold Cup began.
The day before playing Jamaica, Bradley had looked weary. He answered questions from the press with even more caution than usual, aware as he must have been of the growing chorus of doubters speculating about how soon he'd be out of a job if he lost to Jamaica. After the game on Sunday, he was a different man. The normally stoic Bradley opened the post-match news conference with an uncharacteristic joke, starting off his analysis in German as a nod to German-American U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones, who had given his post-man of the match award interview in German. Not long after, a reporter asked if Bradley was worried about being second-guessed after granting star wingers Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan each four days away from the team to attend their respective sisters' weddings. "I never get second-guessed," the forever-second-guessed Bradley cracked with a smile, the sarcasm dripping from his face.
If Bradley was a different man, it's because this was a different U.S. team -- at least on the day. Even though they faced their best opponent yet in the tournament, the Americans had no trouble neutralizing their opponent's strengths of speed, width and the through ball by keeping possession for long stretches, outmaneuvering the other team tactically and creating their own chances. At no point this summer had the U.S. managed to do all of those things at once, and the result was striking. The U.S. dominated, played with a newfound swagger and flair that has been so rare in Bradley's tenure.
It was, in short, a vastly improved effort.
The expression "rounding into form" aptly describes the ethereal concept, because the acquisition of form is seldom linear. There's usually fits and false starts as it arcs along, regardless of the amount of planning and practice before each match. But the U.S., at long last, appears to be hitting its stride for the knockout stage of the Gold Cup.
"In these tournaments you have to grow as you move through it," Bradley said. "Group play -- [we had] tough games where things didn't come easily for us. I think that the training that comes at times between these games, I see it getting sharper. I think we had our best training session so far on Friday. Very sharp, good energy, good with the ball -- [the] ball was moving quick that day. So you see that and think, 'OK, good sign.' And that came out today. We're making progress. You can see the team getting sharper."
The team's indefatigable midfielder, Michael Bradley, sees a similar progression. "Normally, the teams that are holding up the trophies at the end of tournaments are the ones that keep themselves going, can battle through the tough moments and get stronger in each game," he said.
In retrospect, the U.S.'s slow start to the summer perhaps isn't all that surprising. Aside from the odd friendly, this is the first time the national team's players -- those who compete abroad as well as those in Major League Soccer -- have had a chance to practice and play alongside each other for a concerted period of time, giving them a chance to get in sync with each other.
"The longer you are with a team, and I think it's around three weeks now, the more you get to know each other not only as people but also on the field," said veteran right back Steve Cherundolo, who plays his club football with German side Hannover 96. "We're always going to need time again to find each other. I think we're back to a very strong unit and our play is getting better minute to minute."
This is a sentiment shared throughout the team. "I feel like we've turned a small corner," said midfielder Sacha Kljestan. "You look at Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010 [eventual champions of the World Cups in those years], how they got better as the tournament went on. Spain lost a group game in the World Cup and then nobody could stop them after that. They just kept getting better, and for us, I feel like we're getting better as the tournament is going on."
The Americans are rounding into form -- slowly, steadily -- and not a moment too soon, as they face the team that beat them in the Gold Cup group stage, Panama, Wednesday night in Houston in the semifinals. We'll see if it'll be another occasion for Bob Bradley to crack wise.
19. United States head coach Bob Bradley's decision to have a five-man midfield pays off
The coach turned to Sacha Kljestan to spearhead his midfield and the team responded with a top performance. The 25-year-old credits his time at Anderlecht for his improvement.
By Alex Labidou
Goal.com—June 20, 2011
WASHINGTON - It has been a struggle for United States men’s national team head coach Bob Bradley to find a proper combination of forwards to fit his favored 4-4-2 formation.
After seeing various pairings up top have mixed results, the 53-year-old tinkered with his lineup to have a five-man midfield in an effort to spark the U.S. offense.
Bradley has been criticized for some of his decisions throughout the Gold Cup but yesterday afternoon, his gamble paid off. The U.S. responded with one of its most fluid offensive performances in years against Jamaica in a 2-0 quarterfinal victory.
Adding Sacha Kljestan as an advanced playmaker behind the team’s lone striker displayed some immediate results. His instinct to provide properly placed killer balls gave the U.S. a creativity that it has sorely lacked and alleviated pressure on Michael Bradley to be the team’s sole distributor of the ball. Michael Bradley admitted that he could see the impact of changing the team’s formation.
“From the first minute, we made a real point today of playing, moving and trying to find each other in tough spots,” explained Michael Bradley to Goal.com. “We felt that over 90 minutes that was really going to wear them down. If we did that, our chances were going to come.”
He added, “On that end, the performance was really good.”
Due to starting forward Jozy Altidore being forced to leave the match in the 10th minute with a hamstring injury and Landon Donovan starting the game off the bench due to arriving to D.C. late after his sister’s wedding, it is still too early to determine whether or not the new formation for the U.S. will be a permanent one. Still, there was a lot to appreciate about what the U.S. showed in its win over the Reggae Boyz at RFK stadium.
The team dominated possession to the point where Jamaica couldn’t test its usually overworked defense. U.S. starting goalkeeper Tim Howard typically has to make several saves just to keep the Stars and Stripes in games, but yesterday he was only tested by two shots on target. Overall, Jamaica had six attempts, most of them long-range efforts.
Midfield catalyst Kljestan agreed when asked whether or not the strong effort by the midfield impacted the U.S. defense.
“We had a lot of possession and we didn’t give them any 100 percent scoring chances, so I thought on that end, we did good,” said Kljestan.
After briefly falling out of the U.S. national team picture, Kljestan finally appears to be delivering on his potential as a playmaker that the team has lacked since Claudio Reyna retired from the national team scene in 2006. He has had three strong substitute appearances and showed in his start that he can excel over 90 minutes.
He credits his move to Belgian side Anderlecht as the reason why he has put it all together.
“I think over the course of a season at Anderlecht, I’ve become more of a complete player overall,” said Kljestan to Goal.com. “My consistency and confidence has grown a lot since going over there. Right now, I feel like I’m at the height of my game.”
While in MLS with Chivas USA, Kljestan's desire to move on to bigger and better things in Europe was no secret. The league turned down bids from several clubs, including Scottish powerhouse Celtic, and it appeared as if he wouldn’t be able to go aboard. Finally, with 12 months left on his contract, the league caved in accepted a reported two million dollar bid for him.
Kljestan admits throughout the past few years in MLS, it was difficult for him to focus and it stagnated the level of his performances.
“I think when I was younger and in MLS, I’d take breaks in the game,” said Kljestan. “Maybe I’d try a really difficult pass and lose the ball pretty easily."
The 25-year-old says going to Europe forced him to improve those aspects of his game and that has manifested itself in his performances for the national team.
“At Anderlecht, we stress keeping the ball a lot,” said Kjlestan. “Possession is a huge thing for the team and lately with the national team, we are trying to play that way as well. Not so much run and gun [anymore] and especially today against Jamaica, we did a good job of keeping the ball and personally for me, I think that part of my game has gotten good.”
If Kljestan can continue to improve, Bob Bradley’s men might have an advantage in the middle of the pitch that no other team in the tournament can claim including Mexico.
20. U.S. coach Bob Bradley was pleased with the way Juan Agudelo stepped up in place of the injured Jozy Altidore
The 18-year-old striker, who was a member of the U.S. national youth teams just a year ago, assisted on his team's second goal in the Gold Cup quarterfinals.
By Mike Slane
Goal.com—June 20, 2011
WASHINGTON - While the U.S. national team competes in the Under-17 World Cup, senior team coach Bob Bradley spoke about the talent that has come from the youth program, most notably Juan Agudelo.
“Last year in the beginning of the season he was still training with the academy team,” Bradley said of the 18-year-old striker. “The season goes on, he starts training with the first team, has a little bit of success and we feel that this initial period with us has been positive.”
Agudelo, who is a three-semester alumnus of the U.S. Under-17 Residency Program, came in as an injury replacement for Jozy Altidore against Jamaica Sunday in the quarterfinals. The 18-year-old assisted on the second goal in the 2-0 victory.
“Jozy goes down I think 10 minutes in and Juan comes on the field with confidence in terms of holding the ball and in terms of confidence when he has a chance to make plays,” Bradley said. “Those are good signs.”
Altidore will undergo an MRI exam Tuesday to determine the extent of a hamstring injury suffered when he attempted to make a play on the ball nine minutes into the game. If he cannot go in the team’s semifinal matchup against Panama Wednesday in Houston, Agudelo will likely take his place.
Agudelo, who started the first two games of the tournament, looked comfortable as the lone striker in the U.S. team’s formation against Jamaica. Known as a goalscorer, he showed his passing ability when he found a wide-open Clint Dempsey for a goal in the 80th minute to lockdown a date in Houston, where the U.S. will once again play Panama.
“As soon as I passed it I was hoping that he would be able to put it in,” Agudelo said. “It’s a great feeling watching it go in the back of the net because I felt secure. I felt like we were going on to the semifinal.”