Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Round 1 WFHCB; The dream begins

The Round of 32 was a great start to the first ever WFHCB.  Like any great first round, there were statement wins by some of the top competitors, nail bitters that weren’t decided until the final seconds, and shocking upsets, putting a Cinderella Story into the eyes of a select few. 

Busted Gut Region
Mike Munchak vs. Rex Ryan
-Mike Munchak’s herculean frame doesn’t phase Rex Ryan.  He refuses to “kiss his rings” and guarantees victory.  The super heavyweight, Ryan, is fueled by brash confidence and his patented, “Ground-and-Pound” technique.  Munchak, although undersized (at least in this affair), has superior strength and weight management methods.  Over confident, and armed in his classic black sweater vest, Ryan spends too much time observing Munchak’s bare feet and is quickly dispatched.  Winner: Munchak 

Sean Payton vs. Norv Turner
Payton announces that had he been given a body like Turner he would have been a two-time WFHCB champ by now.  Winner: Payton

Marvin Lewis vs. Tony Sparano
The first fan vote of Round 1. Winner: Lewis

Pat Shurmur vs. Tom Coughlin
Tom Coughlin threw the red flag with respect to his impossible odds, but in a rare occasion, lost.  He is actually that fossiliferous and should be seeded as such.  Shurmur, who played offensive line and linebacker his freshman year at MSU, eventually winning All-Big 10 honors for his play at center, unleashed a furry of jabs, indicating his obvious frustration with trainer, Heyton Pillis, who decided not to help him although he was certainly capable of doing so. “My tummy hurts,” Pillis told the media prior to the bout.  Winner: Shurmur 

Updated Bracket:

Ass Kickin’ Region
Jim Harbaugh vs. John Fox
Harbaugh, the poster child for the WFHCB, is still angry about a previous super market encounter in which he snatched the final Hungry Man and proceeded to cart-check the guy who had it swiped from his hands.  Fox has poor vision and constantly squints in strange directions.  This one ended quickly.  Winner: Jim Harbaugh  

Pete Carroll vs. Jim Schwartz
United in their disdain for front-man Jim Harbaugh, these two yippy ankle-bitters leave it all in the ring.  Schwartz uses his signature Arm-to-the-side-body-rush while Carroll utilizes his somewhat pacifist approach as he attempts to “What’s you’re deal” Schwartz into submission.  Things don’t look too good for the winner of this one in the Sweet 16. Winner: Schwartz 

Leslie Frazier vs. Hue Jackson
Something about Hue, maybe it’s his name, makes him look like he belongs in this battle more than his frame/age would indicate.  Leslie is a girl’s name. Winner: Jackson

Gary Kubiak vs. Bill Belichick
Armed with an almost illegal degree of preparation, Belichick, who entered sporting a highly questionable mullet, had to wipe the blood of Kubiak off his sordid hoodie.  In his postgame conference, Belichick explains to reporters that, “I did some things good today, but was for the most part terrible.”  Kubiak just can’t seem to win… ever. Winner: Belichick

Updated Bracket:

Bone Saw Region
John Harbaugh vs. Jim Caldwell
Harbaugh’s high seed was actually an error.  The committee confused John for Jim, claiming to the reporters, “We did not realize our error until Ray Lewis began to speak publicly about the training John was receiving in preparation for killing Caldwell.”  Caldwell, who’s 400 to 1 odds were considered by many too generous, said nothing regarding the fight.  In Round One’s biggest upset, Caldwell literally ripped Harbaugh in half, employing super-human strength that nobody saw coming.  Winner: Caldwell  

Ken Whisenhunt vs. Lovie Smith
Anyone with the name Lovie can never win a fist fight.  Winner: Whisenhunt

Jack Del Rio vs. Andy Reid
Del Rio, in an out of character moment, found success in the film room.  The formula to defeat Reid was already created.  Winner: Del Rio

Raheem Morris vs. Mike McCarthy
Raaaa-Heeeeem Morris is athletic.  Winner: Morris

Updated Bracket:

Jersey Shore Ron Region
Mike Tomlin vs. Chan Gailey
Tomlin looks like he should be a professional running back (call him Mike Tomlinson).  Gailey looks like he should be librarian.  Winner: Tomlin

Todd Haley vs. Mike Smith
In an unfortunate turn of events, Todd Haley broke every bone in his body before the fight.  Winner: Smith

Steve Spagnuolo vs. Jason Garrett
Spagnuolo, a disciple of the infinity-to-1-odds Tom Coughlin, is pitted against Jason Garret, a disciple of a man who would have certainly been given infinity-times-two-odds at victory.  The two engage in the most competitive game of Round 1. Winner: Garrett. 

Ron Rivera vs. Mike Shanahan
River, who played with defeated Leslie Frazier on the 1985 Chicago Bears, matches up against Shanahan, who notoriously always selects the wrong boxing gloves.  Winner: Rivera

Updated Bracket:

Round Summary:

Without a question, the headline for Round 1 has got to be Jim Caldwell’s unprecedented (although everything that happens this year will be without precedent) shredding of John Harbaugh, who many pegged to go to the regional final.  Next on Caldwell’s list is Whisenhunt. 

The other top seeds look deserving of their rank, with Munchak, Jim Harbaugh, and Mike Tomlin(son) all easily dispatching their opposition.  With the exception of the aforementioned Jim Harbaugh, the Ass-Kickin’ Region saw a furry of upsets and it looks to be the most unpredictable section.  Schwartz will take on Harbaugh in Round 2, which, for obvious reasons, has been elevated to the primetime slot. 

I think the clear favorite at this point remains overall number 1 seed, Mike Munchak.  If I had to pick a dark horse, I’d go with the 6 seed, Hue Jackson, coming out of, you guessed it, the Ass-Kickin’ Region. 

Although there was your standard share of seed complaints, everything went relatively smoothly and Round 2 should be a great one. 


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Transcribing Tweets and Texts; New Game

Recapping a weekend of football can be difficult to manage.  This week I have turned towards my hundreds of texts, tweets, and Yahoo stat-tracker conversations as a means to faciledite (facilitate + expedite = faciledite) the process. 

This was certainly the most entertaining Sunday afternoon for the 2011 season.  Seven of the eleven games were decided by a touchdown or less. 

In this weekend’s most exciting matchup, at least for me personally, the New York Giants were subjected to one less catastrophe then the Buffalo Bills.  Bills vs. Giants is, of course, legendary to the 30 and older generation because of the Scott Norwide conclusion to Super Bowl 25 but in my house, it stands for more then that. 

Me: I hope today doesn’t end in divorce – 1:03 PM.
Mom: If we could survive the Super Bowl I think we will be ok – 1:05 PM.    

My mom, bless her soul, is a Buffalonian woman who still doesn’t play Mahjong.  My dad reps the Giants (my Jets support is for another article).

Big plays were certainly the standard for this game.  Jackson’s 80 yard touchdown run has to rank among the best of the season and his tightrope directional change at about the 15 yard line was especially pretty.  As for the Roosevelt 60 yard reception…

Mom: I’m all chocked up, that was Roosevelt’s first touchdown – 1:38 PM
Me: Did you know him? – 1:38 PM
Mom: No. – 1:39 PM

Some people just aren’t cut out to be football fans.  Crying over a guy scoring his first touchdown?  I’ve always wished I had a 6 foot 5, 275 pound frame and could be a defensive end – really, if I could be any position that would be the one – but I don’t think my mom would have been able to go a season without an emotional breakdown. 

“I’m all chocked up, that was his first play… I’m all chocked up, that was his first tackle… Bill, I need some Prozac, that was his first sack.”

Here’s an interesting poll question.  What is the most painful NY football team to support right now?  The Bills are looking good, but, come on now, their fans should know better than to feel good about the season.  Everyone else might be on the band wagon but Buffalo fans know better than that, right? 

Me: Do you think the Bills are going to make the playoffs?
Mom: Is this for your blog?
Me: No! Can’t I just talk to you without it being about my blog!? Do you think the Bills are going to make the playoffs?
Mom: I am too much of a pessimistic to think that, but I always hope so

As expected.  Dad?

Dad: That last drive that began with a run was so Coughlin.  And then another run on first and twenty!  It is tough being a Giants fan.

I think my dad would be the medical term known as a “Self Loathing Blue.”  He winces at every Coughlinian decision, Jacobs fumble, Eli shoulder-smash, and Cruz drop.  He has something to complain about on every play… My housemates know what having someone who’s pessimistic and frustrated with everything is like.  After the Jets had a kickoff bounce off the legs of their up-man, I confidently proclaimed:

Game over. 

Within the first 5 game minutes I had already sent out the following:

Schotty must go.  I’ve been saying this since the days of Manidiot.
The D has too much pressure.  They’re on the field 45 minutes a game.
They can’t run or pass.  God, this shit is just gonna kill me one day. 

And I believed it too.  Clearly I forgot the most important fact about this game, The Dolphins are downright horrendous.  The 1-15 squad would crush this year’s installment.  I saw more dropped passes then in a Braylon Edwards best-of video.  They managed to make me laugh more than did Gruden, which was never done before.  Matt Moore looked like a high school player (a very bad one).
If I had any type of computer design skills I'd turn that into 
a Miami Dolphins Uni.  
Luckily for them, Andrew “Everyone’s Best Ever Scouted Player” Luck is just waiting to take his talents to South Beach.  Somehow, they are a good quarterback away from being one of the 10 best teams in the NFL.  I honestly can’t wait to see what happens if they land the college standout.  Brandon Marshall would return as an elite wide receiver, Reggie Bush could fill back into his rookie season role of game-changing, mix-up guy, the Jets would be in major trouble.

Going into Monday night I was pretty sure the 5 worst teams in football were, in order:

28. Miami
29. St. Louis
30. Denver
31. Jasonville
32. Indy

Peyton Manning 4 MVP 2k11!!!!!!!

Actually, though, the ineptness of his Colts have to move him to the head of the class of the best quarterback conversation.  This team won 10 games last season!  Has there ever been such a sharp turn around from a single injury?  When Brady went down in week one in the 2008-2009 season the Pats still won 11 games!  Forget the talk of whether or not the Colts should waive Manning’s contract, he should leave them!  It doesn’t need to be about them, he could make it about him.  “My back just can’t recover when I need to carry you… It literally hurts me to watch you flounder… I will never be part of an organization defeated by the Texans.”

Anyways, here’s the updates list after MNF.

28. Colts
29. Miami
30. Miami
31. Miami
32. Miami. 

In my preseason prediction I said the Packers would go undefeated.  That looks like the most solid prediction I’ve ever made.  Rodgers is playing on a whole different level right now than anyone else.  Tell me the last time someone posted a 110 plus QB rating in each of their first 6 games.  Just to put this in perspective, in Brady’s much-deserved unanimous MVP season last year, he eclipsed the 110 mark nine times the entire season and twice through the first 6 games.  The guy is straight up ruthless and I think he actually gets better every time Brett Favre opens his mouth.  The Pack still have 6 more games against teams that are currently over .500, but I have seen nothing to make me think they will lose any of them. 

Looking ahead, the game of the year might be the Thanksgiving matchup against the Lions, which would mark the first time a Lions Thanksgiving game has meant anything since Barry Sanders peaced out.  See how I transitioned to the Lions?

Unless you’ve been brought back from the dead within the last day, you probably know there was a scuffle at the conclusion of the San Francisco – Detroit game.  The ensuing controversy has been a polarizing issue. 

Is there any doubt that San Francisco gets Hard Knocks in 2012?

What the hell is the big deal? 

Imagine that you have spent your entire life around football.  For the last decade you have been trying to make the transition from ex-player to successful coach – one that is too daunting for countless all-time great players (see Mike Singletary).  You are certainly not an “all time great” but were an effective pro, attempting to obtain the “all time great” tag directing the X’s and O’s.  In your first season as a professional football head coach you have led one of last year’s most sorry organizations to a 4 and 1 record and then, in the most important game of your entire coaching career, you hand a 5 and 0 squad their first loss (in their stadium!) after a grueling, 4 hour, come-from-behind victory that wasn’t wrapped up until the clock hit triple zero.  Wouldn’t you be a little bit emotional? 

Now flip the scenario.  You’re 5 and 0 and have your team relevant for the first time in ever.  You’re team is at the center of the American economic recession and as much as you know sports are not going to save anyone’s life or job, it would be nice if you gave the city something, anything to cheer about (those Tigers couldn’t get the job done).  You are trying to go to 6 and 0 and somehow stay tied with one of the NFL’s all-time great franchises and defending Super Bowl champs.  You had the lead but it slipped away and now you have to do the terrible, painful charade of shaking the other coaches hand, after not being on the losing side of things since December 5 of a year ago.  The other guy is pumped; he just beat you and he let’s you know it with what is probably not the most affectionate hand shake you’ve ever received.  Not to mention, some of your players just saw the thing go down and probably don’t want their coach to just take shit from the head of the guys who just defeated them.  Now, wouldn’t you be a little bit emotional?

So maybe Harbaugh should have just taken a deep breath and said, “Good game, best of luck for the rest of the season.”  He didn’t; I don’t know if I could have done that either and nobody is in a position to say how they would have handled it except for Jim Harbaugh.  Schwartz needed to call him on the rude gesture, even if it wasn’t a premeditated attack on him or his football team.  What would people his team think of their coach if Schwartz just took it?  It wasn’t like he retaliated!  He got in Harbaugh’s face and said, “What the hell?”  There was no punch, no shove, no anything that should get a fine.  In fact, there really wasn’t anything that should even deserve this amount of lines of a blog devoted to it, but there have been so many incorrect, muckraker voices on the matter that I am obliged to take a stand to save the integrity of the game I love and bring an end to the vehement, idiotic grenades of oppression bombarding the two organizations and the NFL for its appropriately lineate stance (maybe I got a little carried away).

Nobody did anything wrong.  There wasn’t a “bad example” set.  Everyone knows you should shake the other guy’s hand in a way that reflects proper decorum, but everyone gets emotional and neither coach is thinking about the issue any more. 

But… I still am.  I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if the fight escalated.  Who would have won that battle?  This got me thinking and when I get thinking strange things happen. 

The year is 2020.  NFL football games have been replaced by NFL head coach fist fights.  Mike Tyson, Manny Pacquiao, George Foreman, George Foreman, George Foreman, George Foreman, George Foreman, and George Foreman are former boxers and sons of boxers who attempt to get money in illegal boxing matches between head coaches to pay their debts to loan sharks.  By film’s – I mean, year’s – end, they have managed to attract a WFHCB (World Football Head Coach Boxing) rep and are now the official trainers of many legitimate head coaches. 

Obviously, it would take exactly 9 years for such an event to occur.  But, in the meantime, it would be fun to see exactly how a boxing battle would go down with the current installment of NFL head men. 

This will become the newest ongoing installment of Late Night Thoughts and each post will conclude with the most recent fight results.

Even in 2020, gambling is a huge part of the game.  In this edition of WFHCB, each coach’s odds at last man standing will be presented.  The format is simple: single elimination, bracket of 32.  If you would like to place a bet on the outcome, please contact THIS GUY ALL PARTICIPANTS MUST BE 21 YEARS OR OLDER, EXCEPT FOR RESIDENTS OF Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and North Dakota

2011 WFHCB Odds:

1. Mike Munchak … 5 to 2
2. Jim Harbaugh… 5 to 2
3. John Harbaugh… 7 to 2
4. Mike Tomlin… 10 to 1
5. Pat Shurmur… 15 to 1
6. Gary Kubiak… 20 to 1
7. Raheem Morris… 20 to 1
8. Steve Spagnuolo… 25 to 1 

9. Marvin Lewis… 25 to 1
10. Leslie Frazier… 30 to 1
11. Jack Del Rio… 30 to 1
12. Ron Rivera… 35 to 1
13. Sean Payton… 40 to 1
14. Pete Carroll… 40 to 1
15. Ken Whisenhunt… 45 to 1
16. Todd Haley… 50 to 1
17. Norv Turner… 50 to 1
18. Lovie Smith… 60 to 1
19. Mike Smith… 75 to 1
20. Jason Garrett… 75 to 1
21. Jim Schwartz… 80 to 1
22. Mike McCarthy… 80 to 1
23. Rex Ryan… 100 to 1
24. Mike Shanahan… 170 to 1
25. Andy Reid… 200 to 1
26. Tony Sparano… 200 to 1
27. Bill Belichick… 250 to 1
28. John Fox… 350 to 1
29. Jim Caldwell… 400 to 1
30. Hue Jackson… 400 to 1
31. Chan Gailey… 1000 to 1
32. Tom Coughlin… Infinity to 1

Note: Fan input is encouraged and may impact future performance.


Friday, October 14, 2011

October Friendlies

Why do something yourself when someone else can do it for you?  With that mantra, I am proud to introduce the second ever writer for Late Night Thoughts.

In creating this article, I was trapped between three different introductory strategies: (1) The Banal, Informative Hello – Banal means boring, (2) The Resume – only worthy if impressive, (3) The Chuck-Norris/Most-Interesting-Man-in-the-World-Style – Funny, maybe.  Overdone, definitely

I decided to just do them all.

(1) It is my pleasure to introduce my good friend and fellow sports enthusiast, Joseph Dammann.  His columns will most frequently revolve around soccer.
(2) The newest contributor to Late Night Thoughts is Joe Dammann.  Joe is a classics major at Union College and the current secretary of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.  Over the past year Joe studied abroad in Greece and conducted research for a Union Prof over the summer.  Once a talented soccer, basketball, and lacrosse player in high school, the current senior has taken his talents to the intramural field – also known as essentially no where.  Joe is a Patriot’s fan, thus, will not be given pertinent information to the construction of this website since everyone knows these people can never be trusted. 

(3) Joe Dammann wrote a blog once, but reading it was too pleasurable to remain legal.  He doesn’t read text books, because he wrote them all.  Sometimes, instead of going to the super market, he decides to kill and butcher Schenectady’s wild chickens by himself.  Nobody ever cautions him about “dropping the ball” because they know his balls will never drop.  He is… the most gripping wordsmith in the world…

Here we go.


US Men’s National Team, October Friendlies:  Yes, These Matter

The soccer world is a confusing place for those not in the know.  Part of my objective in this column is to continually educate about those intricacies that are most confounding.  Case and point: the international friendly.  Any conversation surrounding an international friendly usually goes like this:

“The US team is playing tonight against Spain.”
“Is this to qualify for the World Cup?”
“No, it’s just a friendly.”
“Oh…then why should I care?”

The American sports landscape has no place for an exhibition match that has significance in any way (see the continual backlash and bitching about the MLB All-Star Game), so the idea that these technically inconsequential games could have an impact on the future of the team is often a difficult concept to sell.  But the truth is, these games do matter, a lot. 

It has to do with the nature of international soccer.  The level of play is just on a different platform, and the learning curve can be steep.  Young promising players rarely make a splash instantly with their national squads.  They have to be eased in, given a chance to adjust to the higher speed of play and improved caliber of internationals.  That’s where the friendly comes in: they provide the situational experience of a high-intensity international match without the dire ramifications of losing.   These friendlies are especially important for the United States, which is a young team in transition that needs more games to develop a clear playing style.  The final outcome of the game isn’t so important as the individual performances of new players brought into the team.  So, forget that these games don’t count towards anything and enjoy some free-flowing football. 

Unfortunately, that’s something that Jurgen Klinsmann, recently appointed head coach of the US Men’s National Team, couldn’t afford to do.  Every game for him is a matter of life and death.  Even in the perpetually uninterested USA, the head coach of the national team is always a hot seat.  Coming into these two games, the Klinsmann era hadn’t started well: 0 wins, 2 losses, 1 tie.  He needed a win.  Badly.  Klinsmann had two bites at the apple with a friendly on October 8 against Honduras, and then another friendly against Ecuador four days later.  Both of these teams are fairly tricky opponents, but are a good representation of the sort of squads that the United States will play during World Cup qualification: quick, fast, agile players with a good amount of skill and dangerous counterattacking tactics.  Both should be beaten…on paper.  But the American team had its own set of issues; among them a string of injuries to key players has decimated the midfield.  What was once the strength of the national team would be a glaring hole for these matches.  However, a group of young, exciting players, such as 18 year-old striker Juan Agudelo and 21 year-old winger Brek Shea, offer a certain dynamism that had been missing from the national team of late.  This was the backdrop for the match against Honduras in rain-soaked Miami:

Match Analysis: USA 1, Honduras 0

Ok, so maybe this wasn’t the free-flowing soccer that I promised above, but it was an entertaining and cagey game that the Americans pulled out courtesy of a fine bit of Clint Dempsey skill.  Perhaps it was the weather or the intensely pro-Honduran crowd in Miami, but it took about thirty minutes for the US attack to really start applying pressure on the Honduran backline.  A good spell of crosses and dangerous moves through the middle resulted in a goal close to halftime.  A low driven cross from the right foot of the aforementioned Brek Shea (who suffers from a truly tragic hairstyle found its wall through the box to the feet of Dempsey, whose neat footwork and precise finish put the Americans in front.  The second half was filled with more attacking combinations and chances for Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad, but in the end they were unable to add to their lead.  The US really should have beaten this team by two or three goals, and the chronic lack of finishing is worrisome, but the overall effort from the team was encouraging.  The offence looked much more composed and played with more of that patented flowing style which Klinsmann is trying so hard to implement.  The depleted midfield had issues connecting with the strikers and there were certainly some issues in the back, but a decent result and, more importantly perhaps, the first win for Jurgen as the head coach of the Yanks.

Player Ratings (1 being repulsively bad, 10 being god-like):

G – Tim Howard – Not much to say here other than that he is consistently the best player on the field.  Made a couple of clutch saves to foil some troublesome Honduran counterattacks.  You’re only as good as your goalkeeper.  In Timmy we trust! – 8/10

D – Steve Cherundolo – The right back is yet another vision of consistency: his motoring runs up the flank should be copyrighted.  Directly involved in the build-up to the only goal.  Solid defensively, although a speedy winger can cause him some trouble.  7/10

D – Michael Orozco Fiscal – It’s truly difficult to get below a three in these player ratings, but I was seriously tempted here.  This kid just doesn’t cut it at the international level.  Beaten over the top multiple times, as well as being physically manhandled by Honduras’ rhino-like striker Carlo Costly.  Jurgen, take him behind the shed and end his suffering…please. – 3/10

D – Carlos Bocanegra (Captain) – The talismanic centerback had a solid game, although he wasn’t done any favors by the performance of Orozco Fiscal.  Covered for his partner’s mistakes very well and was a commanding presence in the air.  Need to find him a decent partnership in the back. – 6.5/10

D – Timmy Chandler – The first of several German-Americans brought into the team by Herr Klinsmann, Chandler had a delightful game, combining dangerously with Shea down the left flank and defending admirably.  That left back spot, which has been a problematic position for so long, looks like it belongs to Chandler now.  – 6.5/10

M – Danny Williams – This was the debut for Williams, another of Klinsmann’s hidden stash of Germans.  International debuts can be difficult to judge.  You don’t want to be too harsh given the steep learning curve, but he also needs to show enough to warrant another look in the team.  For me, he definitely earned another call-up.  He has a touch of flair about him and a nose for getting in dangerous positions in the box.  It’s impossible to have too many Germans on your team. – 5.5/10

M – Kyle Beckerman – Was fairly dreadful going forward into the offensive third and struggled to connect more than one or two passes together, but he can do a job defensively.  My issues are his lack of pace and tendency to be overzealous on a tackle.  Unless he improves markedly in the future, he’ll only be a mediocre defensive midfielder for this team. – 5/10

M – Maurice Edu – I was slightly confused by this selection.  Edu and Beckerman essentially fill the same roll.  Playing them both seems very defensive to me against an ostensibly weaker opponent.  I could copy and paste many of my same criticisms from Beckerman here, although Edu does have a knack for scoring on set pieces and is markedly more athletic than his dreaded companion in midfield. – 5.5/10

M – Brek Shea – I want to avoid overhyping this kid, but his is breathtaking to watch.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a combination of size and speed wearing the Stars and Stripes.  His marauding runs to the end-line created at least five chances in the first half, including a nice assist on Dempsey’s goal.  The only blemish was a squandered opportunity to double the lead.  Seriously, go youtube this guy.  Funny name.  Funny haircut.  Real talent.  – 7/10

F – Clint Dempsey – Difficult to determine whether he was deployed as an out and out striker or as an attacking midfielder, but the formation didn’t seem to affect his play much.  Excellent game from Clint.  One beautifully taken goal in the first half and another goal disallowed in the second half on a dubious foul call.  Dempsey is easily the most offensively gifted player on the field – perhaps one of the best Americans ever.  His position needs to be solidified though.  – 7.5/10

F –Jozy Altidore – A really nice game from Jozy, his recent club transfer to the Netherlands has clearly added polish to his game.  Specifically, the way he holds the ball up is done with more purpose and insight then in the past.  Should’ve had at least one assist on the night.  However, an athlete as special as Jozy should use his strength to be a bit stronger on the ball rather than constantly hit the turf looking for the foul…this annoys me to no end.   – 6.5/10


D – Jonathan Spector – Not much to discuss, pretty quiet few minutes from him other than a nice cross on the disallowed Dempsey goal. – NA

D – Oguchi Onyewu – The most effective of the subs, Gooch is coming back from a horrific knee injury and it’s really encouraging to see him back to full speed.  Could be the logical answer for the second centerback spot. – 6/10

M – DeMarcus Beasley – After being left out of the national team for a few years, Beasley played pretty well.  The closest thing the US has to a true winger, his pace and trickiness (when in-form) can cause all sorts of problems for defenders. – 6/10

M – Michael Bradley – His first appearance since his father was fired from the head coaching position.  Didn’t do a ton to distinguish himself in his brief appearance.  – 5/10

F – Juan Agudelo – Another one for the future, and this kid might have more raw talent than Shea.  At 18, he’s the definition of a man-child.  Good energy and hold-up play during his time in the game and had a hand in the disallowed goal from Dempsey. – 6/10

Match Analysis: United States 0, Ecuador 1

A quick three-day turnaround for the Red, White, and Blue saw them play and lose to a decidedly more difficult Ecuador team at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.  Many of the familiar problems of the Klinsmann era reared their ugly heads in this one: lack of creating and finishing chances, costly mistakes in the back, and ineffective substitutes being the main culprits.  Which is too bad really, because the Americans came sprinting out of the gate.  The first 5-10 minutes were a constant bombardment of the Ecuadorian penalty area, but the US couldn’t manufacture a goal.  In an almost complete reverse of the Honduras game, the first half an hour was easily their best period of the game, but after that there was little to speak of in the way of scoring opportunities.  The Ecuador goal came with about 10 minutes left to play from a speculative ball into the box.  Tim Ream was caught sleeping and allowed his man to sneak inside and head it past Tim Howard.  A really disappointing performance from the Americans, but there were some bright spots to take away from the game. 

Player Ratings:

G – Tim Howard – Similar to the Honduras match, hard to argue that there is a better player on the field.  Didn’t have much of a chance on the goal and made several other game-saving saves.  – 7/10

D – Steve Cherundolo – For all of his veteran guile, savvy, and skill, his lack of pace was seriously demonstrated by Ecuador.  It’s and issue that can be ignored against weaker teams, but any team with speed on the flanks will be licking their lips – 5.5/10

D – Carlos Bocanegra (Captain) – An oddly poor game from the captain tonight, very uncharacteristic.  However, it was good for him and Gooch to get some more game time together.  That looks to be the centerback pairing going forward. – 5/10

D – Oguchi Onyewu – Easily the brightest spot for the US tonight.  His lateral quickness looks great and the backline desperately missed his menacing physical presence.  – 7/10

D – Timmy Chandler – Another solid performance from the German-American, that left back slot looks like it’s his unless he gets injured.  Offers some interesting thoughts going forward down that left flank, which is looking increasing dangerous between him and Shea. -6/10

M – Danny Williams – A nice night for the other Deutsche-lander.  He was involved in a good amount of the chances in that dynamic first half.  From what I’ve seen in these two games, he’ll be receiving another call-up very soon.  – 6.5/10

M – Kyle Beckerman – Similarly ambivalent performance from Beckerman as against Honduras.  Perhaps even worse with his distribution and possession tonight.  Still, his defensive qualities means that he may stick around with this team for a little while longer. – 5/10

M – Maurice Edu – Seems to have been pushed slightly forward in the midfield, which is encouraging, but did little with what offensive opportunities were given to him.  This team seriously lacks creativity and playmaking in the middle of the pitch. – 5/10

M – Brek Shea - Continues to impress me.  He’ll be playing in Europe for a big club sooner rather than later.  Just seems to have that extra bit of speed at just the right time.  Did look rather fatigued by halftime though, which is probably a function of playing 90 minutes in a hurricane three days before.  6/10

F – Clint Dempsey – Seemed to sit a bit deeper behind Jozy.  Maybe the only player who wanted to take the game on his back, heavily involved throughout the game.  Shows great heart and desire, but isn’t a true playmaker in the middle who can really stimulate the offense.  – 7/10

F – Jozy Altidore – Continues to show good hold up and passing skills, especially on a fantastic play to spring Williams on a breakaway early in the first half.  Shows glimmers of talent that could make him a very special player in the future.  Everyone forgets, but the kid is only 21.  – 6.5/10


D – Jonathan Spector – Fairly anonymous appearance from him.  Not sure if he has a future with this team with the likes of Chandler and Cherundolo playing well.  – 4/10

D – Tim Ream – Though game for Tim, who usually looks so promising and solid at the back.  His poor marking in the box led directly to the Ecuadorian goal.  Although he had a bad game, he’s young and will surely receive more chances in the future. – 3/10.

M – DeMarcus Beasley – One of the only bright spots in the second half: looked very lively and energetic.  Seems to be benefitting from his improved club situation just like Jozy. -6/10

M – Michael Bradley – Looked far more active than in his brief cameo against Honduras.  His freekicks into the box were especially dangerous.  For me, he should be starting alongside either Beckerman or Edu in the midfield since he offers a more complete game. – 6/10

F – Juan Agudelo – Very quiet up top after halftime, although that can be blamed on a lack of service and offensive congruity.  Still, showed a high workrate, something that I believe is invaluable in a striker.  – 5/10

F – Edson Buddle – Brief cameo late in the second half. - NA


It’s always difficult to drawn definitive conclusions from these games, but there are some clear areas where the US needs to improve and improve quickly.  There seems to be little offensive cohesion and the midfield looks bereft of ideas in the offensive end.  The lack of goals so far in the Klinsmann regime (2 whole goals through 6 games) is very concerning, especially given the attractive, attacking football that he’s supposed to be implementing.  As far as individuals go, the most important revelation is the return of Oguchi Onyewu to full fitness.  The back line looks infinitely more formidable with him alongside Bocanegra.  The emergence of Timmy Chandler as the answer to the riddle at left back further strengthens the defense.  Brek Shea is truly a world-class talent and will be a fixture in the national team for another decade barring injury.  Yet just as important as finding players who fit into the team is the removal of those who just cannot compete at the international level.  I’m looking at you, Michael Orozco Fiscal.  And probably you, Kyle Beckerman. 

The US Men’s National Team will play further friendlies in November, January, and probably March before beginning World Cup qualifying during the summer of 2012.  But until then, I’ll continue to dissect and analyze these games whose results don’t mean anything at all.  Such is the manner of the international friendly.   


Friday, October 7, 2011

Optimism No More

My sports life is in shambles.  That crab-armed-executioner monster from 300 has taken it by the midsection and ripped it into little bits. 

Two weeks ago I was feeling great.  The Jets were 2-0.  The Yanks clinched home field while the Red Sox were starring down the inevitable end of the greatest collapse everyone saw coming from since September 1.  The Jersey Shore wasn’t a nauseating Snooki cry-fest.  I had both my testicles. 

One of those has stayed the same.

Last night the Yankees essentially had bases loaded with 4 outs.  Result: 0 hits, 0 sac-flys, 1 walk RBI (in a questionably called at-bat).  They scored 2 runs, 1 fewer then the number of starting pitchers they used during the game. 

I spent the first 6 innings of the game blaming the pitching decisions of Girardi.  “A starting pitcher can’t just pitch in a relief situation!  He’s used to taking an inning to get into a rhythm… What’s the point of building this game up for Sabathia if he goes less then an inning?... He’s gonna need to answer a lot of questions.”  But by the game’s end it was clear that Girardi was not the one that will need to answer the most questions about this loss. 

The Yankees had the best lineup in baseball.  Brett Gardner is the only player in last night’s starting order to never appear in an all-star game… and he performed better then anyone during this ALDS.  New York had the 2, 3, and 4 hitters at the plate in the bottom of the ninth; you can’t ask for anything better.  It is inexcusable for the Yankees to produce 2 runs, on just 1 RBI hit, with their season on the line.  They have been in the postseason 14 of 15 years.  The goal is not to make it to the playoffs, it’s to go to the World Series.  Us Yankee fans are certainly spoiled, but this season is a failure. 

As for their same-citied group of frustration and failure, the Jets have me thinking a double digit, or even a winning season is slipping away.  It’s only week 4!  What are you saying!

The Jets should be 1-3.  They should be thanking whatever it is that they thank that Tony Romo is more of a knucklehead (Barkley intonation) than the Sanchize. 

Although they have seen some lofty numbers put up against them, I really think this defensive unit will be as good, if not better then in previous years.  Wilkerson has looked good during the first 4 games of his rookie year.  The pass rush has been fantastic.  The struggles of Nnamdi in Oakland has cemented what all Jets fans have known for years; Revis is miles ahead of the next best cornerback.  Their performance in the Sunday Night Two-Girls-One-Cup Vom-Fest against Baltimore was perhaps the best the defense has played ever

Of course, that game also showed that the Jets are in some major trouble offensively.  Mangold’s absence cannot excuse everything we saw. 

The last 2 games have proved that the Jets offense is as predictable as Robert California’s response to everything.  How many times have we seen this?

First Down: Play action, bootleg right, over the head of a slant-right Dustin Keller

(Ugh, we can’t run it now; it’s second and long.  What can we call that Sanchez can handle, the simple roll out has already failed. )

Second Down: Wide receiver screen!  Deflected at line/Holmes side steps past corner and engulfed immediately by nickelback or safety. 

(Okay, third and 8.  How do we pick up 8 yards?)   

Third Down: Six yard pattern! 

I honestly don’t see from where this offense will come.  Sanchez looks downright terrible.  He steps too far into his line to avoid the pass rush.  The only thing he does more then overthrow receivers is throw the ball at their feet.  He still has no clue how to protect the football. 

The running game is horrendous.  They are currently number 30 in the league for total yards and yards/attempt.  30! They’ve rushed it the 28th most times.  28th!    Shonn Green is struggling, LT is worse. 

Panic mode is at it’s all time high for the Rex Ryan era.  They have New England this week and I don’t know how they can pull it off.  Belichick knows all about this struggling offense and it’s predictability.  The Jets are in trouble in this division. 

It’s like I always said about the Monday Night Football theme song: Unless someone ignorantly and convolutedly compares the president of the United States to Adolf Hitler, I don’t see a way this will ever change.