Heading into Antigua match the US was without Fabian Johnson (flu) Edgar Castillo (foot), Landon Donovan (knee), Brek Shea (abdominal strain) and Jose Torres (foot). Plus Klinsmann did not pick Jozy Altidore. The SI Soccer Roundtable panel on 10/11 discussed these issues, with Grant Wahl feeling that now is not the time to be sending messages to players, rather now is the time to qualify for the next round.
Jeff Carlisle looked at Altidore’s omission for ESPN FC, with Klinsmann being clear to the media that he has not been happy with Jozy’s performances during his tenure. I agree. I’ve been saying since his introduction to the team that his first touch is poor and his link up play with his teammates is very spotty, all aspects that Carlisle, Klinsmann, Altidore and others identify. Carlisle also mentions that despite his poor play for the National Team, he should still be in the squad, stating “That’s not to say Altidore should be starting, but omitting him entirely seems a step too far.”
Due to a poker party at my house (read poor planning) I missed the game against Antigua and Barbuda. I was planning to stay away from the score and watch the replay Saturday night, but finally said screw it. Eddie Johnson made his mark on his return to the team, validating Klinsmann’s decision to not call in Jozy. The US secured three points with a 2-1 win on the road in less than perfect conditions and now just require a draw on Tuesday against Guatemala.
Ridge Mahoney of Soccer America did player ratings after the match, with rough scores for Gomez and the center back paring of Goodson and Cameron. Grant Wahl also shared his thoughts on the game for SI.com. Johnson saved the proverbial bacon but Grant stated that the US should do better against CONCACAF opposition and that there may be possible regression under Klinsmann. He did make mention of the impact made by MLS players on the match, including Johnson, Gordon and Zusi.
Looking to South America, I watched highlights from Argentina/Uruguay and Colombia/Paraguay.
Argentina won 3-0 with goals of exceptional quality. The second was the result of incisive interplay which left Aguero wide open to tap in. The third was just wrong. After several blistering free kicks against Real Madrid in the opening weeks of the season, Messi hit a grass cutter that put the game beyond reach.
Colombia kicked Paraguay to the curb 2-0 as Falcao broke a defender’s ankle for the first and schooled a stretched defense for the second. The result keeps Colombians third but gives them some breathing room above Uruguay
Tim Vickery recapped Friday’s matches for the BBC while looking ahead to Tuesday. Venezuela could take a big step towards qualifying for their first World Cup if they can get a result in Ecuador. Meanwhile, early leaders Chile and Uruguay are in free fall.
Circling back to Europe, Andy Brassell saw Capello’s men strike early and frustrate Portugal for ESPN FC, citing that control did not equal creation and Nani did not do enough with his time on the ball. Plus there is problem up top as Postiga is probably not the player to lead the line. For the hosts, they were well organized and look to make strides under their Italian coach after a disappointing Euros.
Graham Hunter examined the absence of Mata from the Spanish squad ahead of the two qualifiers. Like Altidore for the US, it seems strange that the player is not even in the squad. Mata has been sparkling for Chelsea and surely should be included as an impact sub if things got tricky. I will be interesting to see his status next spring. If he remains out in the cold, the situation may become very tense. (Then Spain go out and spank Belarus 4-0.)
Articles and Podcasts
A fellow soccer player in my area, Peter Alegi, wrote a post about the rise of the bookzine for the blog Football is Coming Home. Examples would be the Blizzard, XI Quarterly and Howler. When Jonathan Wilson started promoting the Blizzard on World Football Phone In and the Guardian and other outlets, I was like, Of course. This medium provides depth and substance to subjects without the pressure of deadlines or the demands of writing an entire book. Peter’s quote from Matthew Taylor noting the “literaturization of soccer” is spot on. Wilson’s Inverting the Pyramid is perfect example of this, as Wilson examined tactics and how that aspect of soccer influence culture and vice versa in a way that goes beyond the typical soccer magazine or blog.
I have read snippets for XI Quarterly and Howler and have been impressed. As soon as I get through my current pile of books (Barca, La Roja, and Bloody Confused), I plan to order the issues and get caught up. By the way, the books Peter mentions are fantastic reads and I would highly recommend those and (shameless plug) those listed on my Recommend Reading page.
In the same vein, Aaron Stollar had Howler Magazine’s Mark Kirby and XI Quarterly’s David Keyes on The Big Question podcast to chat about their genesis of each project, influences on their publications and the future of soccer coverage in this country. Great listen as this country develops its own way of looking at the game.
Rediscovered the site True Colours Football Kits in my travels around the web this week. John Devlin posted his Football Kit Five Point Plan, which is filled with common sense, meaning that there is no way it will be instituted. His suggestions including making the life of the jersey at least two years and wearing the home kit as much as possible. Good read.
Another article I came across was teams sticking to a one dimensional tactic. James Sanderson spent some time for Football Speak exploring whether a team should devote itself to one style of playing whether that be long ball/route one or the tika taka of FC Barcelona and Spain. He used the example of Barca in the last two Champions League semis in which they were defeated—Inter in 2010 and Chelsea in 2012. Desperately needing a goal, the Blaugrana were met by organized buses that thwarted their progression. Surely they should have a plan B, but they didn’t and still don’t. James does mention the quandary, If you try to integrate a plan B, you may seriously weaken the fantastic play A. He also spends some time playing pretend manager—would you rather play against a flexible team, using both current Manchester teams as examples, or an one trick pony? Does make you think.
Finally, legendary soccer writer Brian Glanville was on the United We Stand pod to talk about Manchester United past, present and future. Great stories about the Busby Babes were shared as well as comments on Sir Alex, the Glazer’s and the fan experience at Old Trafford.