USMNT vs. Chile quick recap

Six players earned their first career cap Friday night at the Home Depot Center as a young Team USA drew with Chile, 1-1.

None of the 19 players who dressed for the match were part of the 23-man World Cup roster last summer.

Chris Wondolowski led the MLS with 18 goals last season.

Chile took the lead in the 54th minute on an athletic finish in the box from Esteban Parades. The States answered 20 minutes later when Teal Bunbury buried a penalty kick into the lower right corner (video here, awesome call from the announcer).

2010 MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski played 59 minutes in his first-ever game with the national team. According to US Soccer’s Twitter, Wondolowsi started the game as the lone striker for USA.

It listed Bob Bradley’s formation as a 4-2-3-1, but you wouldn’t have known by watching the game. Like the 4-3-3 he tried against Colombia, it ended it mushing into a 4-4-2, even with completely different players.

Twenty-year-old Brek Shea started his second straight game for the States. I don’t think he cracks the roster when Bradley has his pick of players, but he has showed some good things so far. If only he could take a decent picture.

The defensive unit showed its youth today and would have been exposed by a more talented opponent. There were a few breakdowns and some looks Chile should have finished.

It takes a while to get used to playing with new people, but the general feeling is that the United States should be able to beat Chile, no matter who is playing. It feels like yet another game that the soccer powers of the world would have found a way to win.

In the last four games on U.S. soil, the USMNT is 0-1-3.

Wondonlowski
Bedoya-Diskerud-Shea
Larentowicz-McCarty
Franklin-Ream-Gonzalez-Loyd
Rimando

Shots: Chile 9, USA 4
On target: Chile 3, USA 4
Corners: Chile 0, USA 2
Subs: Chile 2, USA 7
Yellow cards: Chile 2, USA 1
Red cards: None

Head on a swivel: Looking back at 2010 and forward at 2011

This play could just have well taken place in any Major League game last season, but we all know which one it’s from. In white is pitcher Armando Galarraga of the Tigers covering first, and in gray is Jason Donald, the Cleveland Indians’ ninth hitter.

Unfortunately, the only name that mattered here was Jim Joyce, the umpire who called Donald safe with two outs in the ninth, ruining Galarraga’s perfect game.

I don’t know why, but when I think back about 2010 sports, this play sticks out for me. There were a lot of great sports moments over the last year, but obviously I don’t have the time or space to hit them all.

Buffalo sports didn’t have a great 2010, but there were some good moments for fans over the last 12 months. And some not so good ones. Here’s a look back:

Highest highs

-Landon Donovan scoring against Algeria to send the U.S. through in the World Cup.
Have I mentioned how important that goal was? I still get chills watching the video (below). The scene inside Papa Jake’s at the FC Buffalo viewing party was just unreal.

-Sabres beating Boston in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
I partied in the plaza for this one, and it was absolutely insane.  Game 1 is back when we thought we were still a good hockey team, and winning that first one was huge. I miss that feeling…

-USA hockey beating Canada at the Olympics.
I flew home from school to watch this one. I jumped out of my seat after the first goal and I don’t think I sat back down until the first intermission. Beating Canada in Canada was awesome. Had we won the gold medal game, that would be an even better moment. Zach Parise tying the score at two with 20 seconds left was a great moment, too.

I wanted to have a “Lowest lows” section to counter the Highest highs, but I realized they were all when the three teams listed above finally lost. Losing to Ghana, Boston and Canada, respectively, were all pretty low moments for me as a sports fan. I did a lot of sulking and laying on the floor after those.

I might throw the Yankees losing to Texas in there as well. After 162 games, having your season end in the playoffs hurts a lot more.

Honorable mentions

John Isner and Nicolas Mahut played tennis for 11 hours and 5 minutes (!!!) before a winner was crowned.

-Watching Stephen Strasburg pitch.
-Seeing the Yankees play in Cleveland.
-Becoming the sports editor of a newspaper.
-Winning the league championship with my hockey team.
-Having the Bills season be somewhat enjoyable.
-Covering the MAAC basketball tournament.
-Canisius basketball beating Niagara in overtime.
-Winning my fantasy football league.
-Getting to play one of the games in between innings at a Bisons game.
-Witnessing the Winter Olympics and World Cup in the same year.

-Seeing Frank Turner be wrongfully ejected from the MAAC semifinals.
-Drafting C.J. Spiller (I was very upset).
-Having Sidney Crosby (of all people) score the goal to win the Olympics.
-Enduring the Sabres season thus far.
-Hearing people go on and on about Tiger Woods.
-Losing in my bar league softball playoffs.

There are many more I could mention for both categories, but for the sake of time I’ll stop here. If you and I had a great moment together and I left it out, don’t feel bad. I didn’t forget about you.

Champions

-2010 Stanley Cup winner: Chicago Blackhawks.
-2010 NBA Champion: Los Angeles Lakers.
-2010 World Series champion: San Francisco Giants.
-2010 Super Bowl winner: New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl in the year 2010, though it was for the 2009 season.

Look ahead

The Sabres will need something miraculous if they are to come back and make the playoffs, but they still have a better shot than the Bills do in 2011. Hopefully a good draft will change our tune. Baseball season is coming up, and that never ceases to be awesome. It looks like the Yankees could be in trouble this season, but we’ve heard that before. I’m pumped for another great year of covering sports, and I hope you are too. Thanks for reading.

==

One thing I wanted to make quick mention of is my idea for world-wide sporting events. 2010 featured the Winter Olympics and World Cup. That was awesome, but I would tweak things a little bit. We have the Winter and Summer Olympics, the World Cup, and the World Baseball Classic. Why not have a rotation so we can have one of these every year? I know that would be a while off due to contracts that are already signed (host cities already awarded), but it’s something to think about.

See you in Qatar

I still get chills watching this video. So the U.S. didn’t win the 2022 World Cup bid. It hurts, but I’m over it.

I can make any joke here about squeezing into a country roughly the size of Connecticut, but that won’t change anything. Don’t take your anger out on FIFA, but channel it towards American soccer moving forward and progressing through qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

It’s important to keep in mind this event is over a decade away, and by the time these games come around, the laptop I’m typing this post on will likely be left behind in oblivion. It’s impossible to stay mad for that long. What is possible is that none of the players on the current roster will be on the team making the trip to the Middle East.

America should worry about building on last summer’s performance and moving up in the FIFA rankings. I know Qatar is currently 113th and behind countries like Iceland, but we are just barely in the top-25.

The USMNT has a record of 5-5-3 in 2010 has scored three goals in a game only once in the last 12 months. I’m fully aware several of these games are played with a diluted lineup, but these are games the Spains and Brazils of the world put away in the first twenty minutes.

Instead of being mad at the system, let’s put that anger towards making something happen now. Let’s kick the you-know-what out of a few teams and make a statement. Develop an identity. The Unites States is pissed and you better look out because they want blood.

My thoughts for 2022? I hope we get drawn into the same group with Qatar. And by then, I want people to fear us. I’ll be satisfied when the residents of Qatar get a cold sweat when they find out they have to play the United States, because they know what they’re in for.

And besides, what’s the only thing more American than hosting the event and making incredible amounts of money off it? Going to someone else’s home turf and kicking the living crap out of them.

The men play next on Jan. 22 against Chile. I’m not expecting a decisive victory in this one, but some emotion, some tenacity would be nice.

It’s a process, but we can use this and build off it. If our eleven guys can get together behind a common goal, the world better look out.

(Is anyone else aware Clint Dempsey is 17th in the EPL in goals?)

Quick thoughts: USMNT friendlies agianst Colombia and Poland

The U.S. men’s soccer team played twice this week on home soil, against Poland on Saturday in Chicago and against Colombia on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Both friendlies ended in draws: 2-2 vs. Poland and 0-0 vs. Colombia.

The Poland match was the more exciting of the two, although it was frustrating to see the States give up the lead twice. I know playing while ahead is a new thing for this team (after they held the lead for about two minutes at the World Cup), but once you get up in a soccer game, especially at this level, you really need to be able to lock it down and come out with three points. That’s what separates the Spains and Brazils of the world from the rest of us.

Bob Bradley tried out some different things this week, namely putting new players on the field and trying out different formations.

After suiting up in three exhibitions for Germany, Jermaine Jones took advantage of a FIFA rule change and transferred to the American National Team. Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj (pronunciation sounds kind of like Lee-high; i.e. Av’s goalie Peter Budaj) both earned their first career caps with the national team. Born on 2/28/90, Shea becomes the first American born in the 90′s to suit up for the national team.

As for formations, we learned that Bradley never needs to try the 4-3-3 again. He started with it against Colombia and it was a flop–and it mushed into a 4-4.5-1.5 by the end of the game anyway.

The U.S. used a five midfielder set in the first game against Poland, and had more success with that (U.S. Soccer’s Twitter listed it as a 4-2-3-1). Playing with more midfielders seems to be advantageous for the U.S.; they have success when they play through the middle and let the central midfield players distribute the ball from there (plus, we just have a wealth of midfielders). Playing the 4-3-3 seemed to seriously limit options for the U.S. and led to several breakdowns that nearly resulted in goals.

Starting lineups (no Donovan in either match):

Colombia~ 4-3-3

Shea—Altidore—Holden

Bradley—Edu—Jones

Pearce—Goodsen—Onuewu—Spector

Guzan

Poland~ 4-2-3-1

Altidore

Holden–Dempsey–Feilhaber

Jones–Bradley

Cherundolo–Onyewu–Edu–Bocanegra

Howard

Up, down & even: The stock on three American players

UP- Jermaine Jones
Wasn’t perfect in the games, but can definitely help the American side. Provided a spark for the offense which is lost without Donovan and Dempsey. Jones’ father is African-American and his mother is German, and Jones holds dual citizenship with both nations. He doesn’t speak a word of English, but he plays a nice brand of football.

Honorable mentions- Stuart Holden and Brad Guzan

DOWN-Benny Feilhaber
Didn’t do much against Poland before being removed in the 63rd minute. Played slightly better against Colombia, but we need more. I like the guy, but he had a rough week.

(Dis)honorable mentions-Eddie Johnson, Jozy Altidore, the defense

Even- Michael Bradley
Even is a good word to describe his play. Did some good things, did some bad things. Would have liked to see Bradley build on his performance at the World Cup, but it was not to be. I have faith in the coach’s son, though. I plan on buying a USA soccer jersey (eventually), and Bradley is still my top choice of who to get.

You also may have heard them mention on the telecast the United States’ movement to win the bid to host an upcoming World Cup. More information can be found here: http://www.gousabid.com/city/local/philadelphia-pa/

Random stat I learned during research: Canada qualified for the 1986 World Cup.

Links and loose ends

Lots of thoughts floating around. Hold on to your hats. 

First off, I asked a few people this question and got some interesting answers. Figured I’d ask it here too:


——

Second, the Premier League is starting soon, and like fellow soccer lovers, I’ll be following. Whether you call it the English Premier League, Barclays Premier League, or just the EPL, it’s more fun when you pick a team to root for. Some squads have already been spoken for (for example here, here, and here), but as an owner of this ——>
I think I’m defaulted to Chelsea. They’re a team people love to hate, but they have a lot of high-profile players that I like/a.k.a. had fun playing with on FIFA for PS2.  

Their complete roster can be seen here. Notables include: goalkeeper Petr Cech; defenders John Terry, Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic; midfielders Michael Essien and Frank Lampard; and strikers Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.   

I have to be honest, the only reason I bought the jersey is because it was on sale. But in this day and age, that’s a perfectly acceptable reason to like a team. How many people picked a college team to root for because they bought a shirt at Steve & Barry’s? It’s legit.   

Chelsea are defending champions, although I think a repeat would be unlikely. They do, however, have a gorgeous stadium. They seem to be doing alright for themselves.   

The Blues open up Saturday vs. West Bromwich Albion, which will be aired on ESPN.   

If you need help picking a team to root for (as if this didn’t convince you), try here.
——    

 In another sports adventure, Ryan and I made the trip to Rochester this week for Bills Camp and a Rochester Red Wings game, using up the tickets that were originally for the Strasburg game that got rained out. Honestly, we caught one of the more boring practices, but it was still fun.   

The defense was on the field closest to the bleachers we were sitting on, and they did mostly skill drills. Got a good look at the DBs, though. Not much to report on that we don’t already know:   

-C.J. Spiller is fast. I didn’t see him do much from where I was sitting, but one play he caught a pass and really turned on the jets up the sideline. Look out. Optimists say, “Wow what a great burst of speed on that kid.” Pessimists say, “Trent would throw it to a running back.”   

Don't act like you're not impressed

-Ashton Youboty has a huge neck. He just looks silly out there. He’s number 26 if you want to look for him in tomorrow night’s preseason game in Washington.   

-Ryan Lindell warmed up with a couple 50-yard field goals. People cheered every time he hit one.   

-Roscoe Parrish seemed to be a favorite target near the end zone. Not bad for a guy who is 5’9″.   

-UB grad and Buffalo native Naaman Roosevelt had a few nice grabs as well. Every time someone says “he’s a longshot at making the team,” the television broadcaster from Invincible plays in my head. Cue the Vince Papale references.   

   

While I’m pulling for him to make the team, I think the Bills have too many other options at receiver to go with Naaman. Practice squad is a possibility.
——    

After a joyous stop at Five Guys, we went over to Frontier Field to see some baseball. The outcome of the game (which actually was a doubleheader… yay for free baseball!) didn’t really matter (Gwinnett won the first game, 6-0, and Rochester won the second, 10-3), but I noticed some interesting things:   

Halfway down each line and extending to the foul poles are grassy areas for sitting

-The food selection at that stadium is second-to-none. You could have anything from Dippin’ Dots to calamari. They would get five stars for cuisine, except we noticed our vendor know as “Conehead” was there selling beer. In Rochester. Cheating on Buffalo. I’m forced to downgrade the field to 4.8 stars.   

-At the ticket window I heard someone talking about “grass seats,” but I figured I must have misheard the man. I was wrong though (well, technically I was right), they actually have grass patches on both lines where you can throw down a blanket and watch the game from the grass. I love this idea. The Bisons could do this in center field if the hill was higher.   

-Peolple were getting nailed with foul balls. The lemonade vendor got hit twice. Their netting behind the plate only went straight up (as opposed to the Bisons where it connects with the upper deck and prevents balls from going into the seats behind home in the 100 level) and didn’t go as wide, but I don’t think it really would have mattered. Even balls farther down the line and higher up were scorched right at people.   

-Their outfield scoreboards were a mess. The Bisons’ Bigboard leaves more to be desired in terms of content and stats, but at least it’s in straightaway center field. Rochester had multiple boards all across the outfield, in no particular order.   

Redmond seemed to be tracking pitches on his clipboard

-I noticed this guy sitting right in front of us (we moved down). He turned out to be Braves pitcher Todd Redmond, who threw a no-hitter earlier this year. I’m not exactly sure why he was sitting here instead of on the bench or in the bullpen, but I got him to sign my ticket for me. If he ever makes it up to the bigs, he has a new number one fan, cowboy boots and all.
——    

Bucky Gleason had a column in the Buffalo News today about WNY native Adam Clendening, who is the next Buffalo boy in line to become an NHL star. I first heard of him a few years ago through friends of the family when he was living in Michigan to play hockey. If you want one simple stat about him, it’s this: He was a 16-year-old playing on the U.S. National under-18 team. He’s the real deal. If you can get his autograph now, hold on to it. It’ll be worth something some day.
——    

Pat Kane is coming to Buffalo tomorrow with the Stanley Cup. WGR has details of his schedule. Word is that when he comes to Great Skate, he won’t be signing any autographs. Guess he’s afraid that cab driver might come for him.   

That’s about all I have. Team USA soccer lost a friendly on Tuesday to Brazil, 2-0. I have it on DVR but I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet. Maybe someday. The Bills play a preseason game tomorrow though. It’ll be the first time we see Donovan McNabb in a Washington uniform. Should be interesting. Game time is 7:30 p.m.