The U.S. men's national team opened World Cup qualifying with a 3-1 victory over Antigua and Barbuda in rainy conditions in Tampa, Fla., and while the performance was not as dominant as most may have expected, the Americans will take the three points and look forward as the road to Brazil continues. Here are player ratings from the match (as always, based on a scaled of 0-10):
Three thoughts from the U.S. men's national team's 3-1 World Cup qualifying victory over Antigua and Barbuda:
My three thoughts ahead of the U.S.'s opening World Cup qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda in Tampa on Friday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN, Galavision, ESPN3.com):
After two promising attacking performances against Scotland and Brazil, the U.S. men's national team turned in a lackluster effort in Toronto, settling for a 0-0 draw against Canada at BMO Field.
Three thoughts on my mind heading into the U.S.'s friendly with Brazil in the Washington, D.C., area on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2/3, Telefutura):
There are ideal ways to kick off a five-game stretch, and then there is what the U.S. men's national team was able to accomplish in its 5-1 thumping of Scotland Saturday night. Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones led the way, which is reflected in the U.S. player ratings from the match:
My three thoughts heading into Saturday's U.S.-Scotland friendly in Jacksonville, Fla. (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Galavisión):
For the most part, another season is in the books for Americans playing abroad. Sure, some leagues around the world operate on a different schedule, and a couple will carry on throughout the summer, but with the UEFA Champions League final on tap this weekend and most major leagues involving Americans on break until next season, it's a good time to dole out a few superlatives from this season along with taking a look at the most pressing storylines involving Americans ahead of the summer transfer season:
Veteran goalkeeper Brad Friedel played his first club game as a professional in 1995. At the time, Andrew Wooten was 6, and Greg Garza was 4. Fast forward to 2012, and all three Americans can look back on this past weekend as a landmark in their careers, no matter how far along each one is.
On Dec. 19, 2010, Charlie Davies made his triumphant return to Sochaux's first team, a mere 14 months after the well-documented car accident that nearly took his life and claimed the life of another passenger. On the surface, it appeared to be a dream development, but in reality, the personnel decision was a symbolic gesture made by Sochaux's technical staff to award his progress. Davies knew he wasn't going to get on the field against Bordeaux that day, and so did his coaches.
The upset bug made its way around Europe over the weekend, with Mainz beating German power Bayern Munich and Getafe taming the all-mighty Barcelona, but for a few U.S. national team starters, their teams couldn't quite come up with the efforts necessary to stake claims to landmark Thanksgiving weekend victories against top competition.
When the U.S. meets France in a high-profile friendly on Friday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3.com, Univisión), it's probably a good thing that it'll take place in the Stade de France, the futuristic spaceship of a stadium outside Paris, instead of at the venerable Parc des Princes on the west side of town. U.S. fans have enough bad memories from the latter stadium, where Germany spanked the U.S. 2-0 in World Cup '98 and the final goal was scored by none other than current U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
U.S. player ratings Tuesday against Ecuador (scale of 1-10).
HARRISON, N.J. -- Three thoughts after the U.S.'s 1-0 loss against Ecuador in a friendly on Tuesday:
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Three thoughts after the U.S.'s 1-0 win in a friendly against Honduras on Saturday:
FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It's friendly time again for the U.S. men's national team, which meets Honduras on Saturday in Miami (6 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer, Univisión) and Ecuador this Tuesday in Harrison, N.J. (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Univisión, ESPN3.com). Here are four things on my mind heading into this week's games:
Anticipated debuts, goal-scoring forwards and a potential renaissance.
Jürgen Klinsmann's introduction as new national team coach lands as better news for some than others. Here's an early analysis of who stands to benefit most from this week's huge news -- along with a shortlist of those who might not fare as well -- as the freethinking German innovator prepares for his first match on the U.S. sidelines.
Maybe the big discussion from Saturday's clinic inside Gillette Stadium shouldn't be about starting lineups and the wisdom of U.S. coach Bob Bradley deploying a "B team" in a match that bumps up against an important tournament -- although there is certainly a hardy debate there.
Maurice Edu's up-and-down season ended with him standing on the winner's podium yet again.
The CONCACAF Gold Cup is vital for its ultimate reward, a berth in the 2013 Confederations Cup. It's darned serious business, not to be taken as some summery, playful distraction. Even if you don't think so, U.S. Soccer certainly does. Coach Bob Bradley and his staff have made the strategic choice that Gold Cup glory must be claimed.
Tuesday's friendly in Nashville comes with the usual roll call of unknowns: Who might play? Who will rise or shine? Which side can muster greater motivation, etc.?
Rating the U.S. team's performance against Argentina:
"Oguchi Onyewu, starting left back for FC Twente."
The winter transfer season is in full swing, and plenty of Americans have had their names tossed around in the daily rumor mill in one form or another, for better or for worse.
Lots to talk about in this week's 'Bag, so let's get it started ...
The U.S. national team depth chart is clearly in transition. It certainly is a tricky time to assign order as the value of "potential" is elevated slightly for the time being.
Here's the important thing to remember when it comes to experiments in soccer, or anywhere else for that matter: sometimes the results are gonna stink.
Tinkering and a desire to experiment is a good thing as another World Cup cycle commences, especially when it comes from a noted anti-tinkerer. United States coach Bob Bradley typically prefers his "something old" over his "something new" when it comes to the marriage of personnel and tactics. But the changes made Saturday in his team's 2-2 draw with Poland in Chicago do beg a vexing question: how much assessment and subsequent development can you really do around a tweaked formation when several players are out of their best positions? (Or, when a player or two just aren't up for the job in certain spots?)
For more evidence that the United States national team program marches inexorably forward, even if the results don't always bear it out, consider this little gem: Saturday's 18-man U.S. roster set to face Poland will consist entirely of players based abroad.
Even if you aren't a die-hard soccer fan, you can't deny these guys are gifted
Everyone can now exhale and breathe a moment after this Charlie Davies decision and the residual unpleasantness. But that doesn't mean tough choices aren't ahead.
And so it's begun. The past few days have seen various national team coaches commence the painstaking process of culling the candidates for their World Cup squads. We've already seen some minor surprises -- Germany's Joachim Low opting not to recall the in-form Kevin Kuranyi -- and some controversial choices such as Mexico's Javier Aguirre leaving out Nery Castillo. Which brings us, of course, to the U.S. team and the preliminary roster that Bob Bradley will name on May 11, which could be as many as 30 players, but is more likely to be in the 26-28 range. However, ultimately it's all about the final 23 for South Africa, so I'm going to pick the roster that I'd like to see chosen, which isn't necessarily the group I think Bradley will take.
Jozy Altidore wandered into a dangerous place last weekend.
Before the 2002 and '06 World Cups, training camp opened rather placidly for the United States with 22 players all breathing easy about their spots on the final roster.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The 'Bag is back, folks. During my days covering college basketball I would do a regular mailbag column in which I answered reader questions, shared nuggets that didn't make my magazine stories, engaged in various parlor games, tracked down "Where Are They Now" figures and even recommended a movie or two. Now that I'm covering soccer full-time, the 'Bag (that's me) is back on the case. I'll be happy to answer your questions on just about anything in the soccer world -- the smarter and/or funnier the better -- so send 'em in and let's get after it.
No team wins an MLS Cup without players cast off, dropped or ignored by other teams, and the 2009 champions are no exception. Several important contributors to Real Salt Lake's MLS Cup title arrived in Utah from other teams, and controversy accompanied a few of them -- most notably captain Kyle Beckerman, who was swapped by Colorado for Mehdi Ballouchy in July '07, not long after Jason Kreis had taken over the coaching duties at RSL from John Ellinger.
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Nov. 30. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer. "You play to win the game. Hello!" -- Former NFL coach Herm Edwards
CNN's Richard Roth reports on the rise in soccer in the United States and fans are looking forward to the World Cup 2010.
A few minutes after Conor Casey bullied in the U.S.' first goal against Honduras on Saturday night, after the cheering died down at the bar where I watched the game, someone shouted out: "Well done, but we still don't rate you!" A few chuckles rang out. Obviously, we weren't in Denver.
Mired in mediocrity, the U.S. nevertheless pushed to the brink of qualification for the 2010 World Cup when it posted critical wins over Hexagonal minnows El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago last month. Yet questions of selection, confidence and leadership persist.
SANDY, Utah -- So who has been the standout for U.S. Soccer this past year? That's the question I need to answer, as my ballot arrived just this past week for the Honda Player of Year, voted on annually by the American soccer media.
This week, the European continental competitions -- the Champions League and the newly re-christened Europa League -- kick off, and I keep thinking of Allen Iverson.
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- It's tough to feel a sense of urgency when you're sitting in a luxury hotel overlooking the Caribbean Sea on a glorious late-summer afternoon. But it's still possible, especially if you're Tim Howard, the goalkeeper whose U.S. national team needs a victory in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago (7 p.m. ET, ESPN Classic, TeleFutura) to feel good about its chances of reaching South Africa 2010.
U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati's statement at halftime of Saturday's U.S.-El Salvador game that Edgar Castillo had been cleared by FIFA to represent the United States at the senior national-team level was certainly coincidental.
Welcome to rock bottom. It couldn't possibly get worse, could it?
American defender Oguchi Onyewu talks to CNN's Patrick Snell about his move to Italian giants AC Milan.
Spend some time in the inner sanctum of AC Milan's high-security hotel floor, and you'll see soccer royalty up close and personal. Up walks Ronaldinho, the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year, with a smile and a "Bom día." Here comes Clarence Seedorf, the four-time Champions League winner, with a handshake and tales of meeting Nelson Mandela.
Get to know the hotties behind the United States's amazing win over Spain
On the eve of the United States' tough World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica (Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and Galavisión), reports surfaced of a legal action filed by American defender Oguchi Onyewu, who claims an opposing player used racial taunts during a Belgian league game.
ROME -- This might be apocryphal, but it's how I remember it. Sometime around the 1994 World Cup, then-U.S. head coach Bora Milutinovic was asked for the millionth time why the United States had never won the game's biggest trophy. He gave the usual spiel about our lack of a legitimate pro league, the lack of a soccer culture and all the usual things brought up by way of explanation.
The men's national team embarks on a very busy 2009 with a lot of players in contention for spots on the 2010 World Cup roster. There's a full slate of games on tap, but something less than a full plate of players.
Yes, you can call him "Gooch" again.
HOUSTON -- "All right," was the assessment of legendary Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos as he left his luxury box following Mexico's 2-2 tie with the U.S. on Wednesday. "Next time we'll win," he said, before cracking a smile and sticking his tongue out to reveal he wasn't so sure.
Five things we learned from a thoroughly entertaining 2-2 tie between the U.S. and Mexico in Houston on Wednesday night:
Who do you like in the Champions League final (ESPN2, Wednesday, 2 p.m. ET): Liverpool or AC Milan? -- Jon-Claud Nix, Hartford, Conn.
It was a watershed weekend for U.S. soccer players in England. By my count, 10 Americans played on Saturday in the Premier League, including three keepers -- Brad Friedel, Marcus Hahnemann, Tim Howard -- and starters at just about every other position.