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.


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

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





Poland~ 4-2-3-1






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:

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

Sports bar fun

I got funny looks from my girlfriend and I definitely creeped out the waitress, but the kid inside of me teamed up with the sports nut and took over. I was at their mercy.    

It was getting late Saturday night after the U.S. had been eliminated from the World Cup, and my girlfriend insisted I begin to cheer up (women, huh?). We decided to go out to eat. I made my way towards Red Lobster on Maple by the Boulevard, and somewhere between the indecisiveness of women, heavy traffic and my lack of patience…we ended up at Tully’s on Main and Transit.      

Clearly, I was aggravated by the time we got to our seats, and to make matters worse, the soccer game was being replayed on every other television. It was too hard to watch, and I ended up putting my head down on the table to get away from it all.      

And there they were, baseball cards in the table. How cool was that? It’s not that hard to do, but I liked what I saw and it took my mind off the game. I read off the names in front of me, and, making small talk, I asked my girlfriend who she had on her side. This table has some good players, I thought. I read off more names. This table has some great players.      

And just like that, I was gone. I was moving ketchup bottles and napkin holders to read off every card on that table. By the time I finished I was certain this table had to be the best table ever in the history of a restaurant.      

I took a Powerball card and pencil and wrote down my roster (side note– trying to find pictures… could Tully’s have a lamer website?):      

My starting rotation was solid.      

1. Nolan Ryan. No explanation needed. All-time MLB strikeout leader. Absolute flamethrower.  An video exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame the last time I went said that when Ryan was on his game, “hitters” would come back to the dugout (from striking out) and tell the on-deck batter, “Don’t go up there.”    

To the couple behind us, I’m sorry I interrupted your meal when I raised my voice, but my girlfriend told me she didn’t know who Nolan Ryan was. You can see where I’m coming from.      

2. Roger Clemens. Another pitcher who needs no introduction. I think he’s innocent on the steroids, but that’s another story. Seven Cy Youngs, third place all-time in strikeouts and ninth all-time in wins. Big game pitcher.      

3. Orel Hershiser. Baseball Tonight host, a career batting average above the Mendoza line, and he was born in Buffalo. In 1988 he won 23 games, the Cy Young award, a Gold Glove, and was named World Series MVP. What’s not to love?      

These cards were great. Not Honus Wagner T206 great, but pretty darn good. Note the age of the card; Pittsburgh didn't have an "h" at the end.

4. Dave Stewart. AL All-Star in 1989 who led the league in games started four consecutive seasons (’88-’91) and owns a post-season ERA of 2.77.      

5. Mike Moore. Number one overall draft pick in 1981 and was another member of the AL All-Star team in ’89.      

In relief, I can call on either Tug McGraw or Jesse Orosco. Orosco is the all-time games leader for pitchers, while McGraw owns a 3.14 lifetime ERA and was one of the best character people in the game.    

After my pitchers put goose eggs on the scoreboard, I’m going to need some run support. My lineup is just as deadly as my rotation.   

1. Leading off is Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs (3B). Led the league in on-base percentage six times and hit .328 for his career. Won two Gold Gloves and was a 12-time All-Star.   

2. Batting second is HOFer Tony Gwynn (OF). Led the league in batting average eight times and was a career .338 hitter. Not known for his power (135 HRs in 20 seasons), but struck out only 434 times in over 10,000 plate appearances.   

3. Third is HOFer and 10-time All-Star Ryne Sandberg (2B). Has over 1,000 career RBIs to go along with a .285 career batting average, and slugged over .500 four times. Also owns nine Gold Glove awards.   

4. Cleaning up is none other than Hank Aaron (OF). Don’t know what his card was doing in a table (must be a reprint), but he can hit cleanup for me any day. Still the all-time home run leader in my eyes with 755, Hammerin’ Hank was named to the All-Star team 21 times and is the MLB career leader in RBIs with 2,297.   

5. Batting fifth is Juan Gonzalez (OF), who led the league in homers twice and has over 1,400 career RBIs. If anybody is left on base after Henry bats, Juan will hit them in.  (Bonus points with me because my Sega Genesis game used to say “Juan Gon is long gone.” Sorta rhymes.)  

6. Catcher was the only position I didn’t have on the table, but Kevin Mitchell will have to do. We’re hoping to get him in 1989 form, the year he won the MVP after hitting 47 homers, slugging .635 and knocking in 125 runs.   

Hot Chili

7. No easy out in the order. Seventh is Wally Joyner (1B), who hit .280 or better 11 times in his 16-year career.   

8. Miguel Tejada (SS). Gives power and speed to the bottom of the order, and can get on base for when the top hitters come back up. Twice led the league in doubles and once reached 150 RBIs. Is a six-time All-Star and owner of a .289 career average.   

9. Pitcher.   

My bench players (or DHs) are Jose Offerman and Chili Davis. Offerman is a two-time All-Star who twice led the league in triples. He once stole 45 bases, so he could pinch run late in games too. Davis was a three-time All-Star… and who doesn’t love Chili Davis?     

So that’s my roster. No rhyme or reason for doing this, but it was fun and it killed time before my meal. Definitely took my mind off U.S. soccer losing, which I am very thankful for. I wonder if other tables have good players like this too. In the rare event that you read this and are going to Tully’s later, make your roster and comment it below. I mean, my team would kick your team’s behind with blindfolds on… but it would still be fun.   

Other thoughts on recent sports:   

One of Big Z's many outbursts

Stephen Strasburg is due for a Carlos Zambrano-sized fit if he doesn’t start getting more run support. One of these days he’s going to shut the other team out on the mound, then get on base and help himself out like he did against the Bisons. In his two wins, the Nationals have scored a combined 14 runs, but in his two losses? Zilch.   

Speaking of the Carlos Zambrano situation, I think the Cubbies need to take five and chill out. I’m fine with him going out to dinner with White Sox’s manager Ozzie Guillen hours after it happened. If anybody has experience with losing their temper, it’s Ozzie. I’m sure he had a pointer or two for Big Z about the course of action to take to make things better between him and his ball club. And what’s the worst that could happen? Ozzie woos Zambrano and he signs with the Sox? That would do the Cubs a huge favor, getting rid of a mediocre pitcher with a big salary.   

I’m slightly confused on the AP style for all time versus all-time, so I just kept it consistent. It reads “An all-time high, but the greatest runner of all time,” with no further explanation.    

So near, but yet so far

For a second, everything was perfect. It seemed like Ghana, who made it through by way of two penalty kicks, were going to get a taste of their own medicine. We were about to avenge a defeat at the hands of Ghana during the last World Cup. Landon Donovan had netted a PK to tie it for the USA, and we were pressing for more. But shortly during the first period of extra time, disaster struck. And then before we knew it, it was over.

First, there was disbelief. The entire room was stunned. It was a hands-on-your-head, blank stare, “that didn’t just happen” kind of moment as everyone looked up at the TV in silence. For some, glazed eyes turned to tears. Others too proud to cry found a chair and sulked for what seemed like an eternity. Head shaking replaced verbal communication, as if the dejection itself was enough to overburden a voice box. It is by no stretch of the imagination to say heartbreak had set it.

Anger soon followed, and for myself it was a widespread anger at that. I was mad at Ghana for winning. I was mad at Africa for owning Ghana. I was mad at Ghana’s players for wasting so much time and pretending to be injured, and I was mad at the referee for not doing anything about it. It’s depressing that we can’t even hope for next year, and who knows what I’ll be doing four years down the road. Olympic soccer is two years away, but it isn’t the same.

I was irate with Jozy Altidore for playing such a miserable game. I was mad at our defense for letting 80 minutes of decent soccer go to waste because of the first 10, for the third time in four games. I was livid that no one showed any killer instinct in the final third, and I will never understand the reasoning behind the short corner kick.

Another reason I’m furious with Ghana is that they are a great example of why people hate soccer. They showed that diving, wasting time and pretending you’re hurt are all successful tactics that can be used to help you win soccer games. The one guy on Ghana was down late holding his ankle in his own box, doing his best to look like he was on his deathbed. They brought the stretcher out for him, and the second they put it down on the sideline he hopped back up and started walking. It’s a miracle! It’s… exactly why soccer players catch a bad rap.

I guess the most upsetting thing of all was understanding where the anger was really coming from. Despite the waiting and suffering endured as a U.S. soccer fan, we still aren’t there yet. Ghana was the better team on the pitch. In what was arguably the most important game of their lives thus far for the majority of our roster, how many players can you name who really played well? For all 120 minutes? Tim Howard’s wife can count them on her Y chromosomes.

If being outplayed isn’t enough, it’s insult to injury to remember Ghana did so without their best player, Michael Essien. How many teams are the USA beating without Donovan? Realizing just how much work is still left to be done is another deep gash into the sides of American supporters.

Back at the bar, I started to find the strength to make my way back to the car. I unlocked the door, and then just sat in my seat and thought. I didn’t feel like driving just yet. As the time passed, a new thought came to mind. As depressed as I was about the elimination, something else was nagging me. It wasn’t just that we lost, but how we lost it. Not that it was in extra time, but the vague familiarity of it all. Watching Team USA today felt an awful lot like watching the Sabres in the playoffs.

You wanted so badly for your team to pull through, but somewhere in the back of your head there was that doubt that wouldn’t go away. Being dumbfounded as to why your team can’t get their butts in gear until the very last second definitely felt like being a Sabres fan, as did wondering where that extra effort was. How many times have we complained of a lack of desperation? The Sabres and Team USA look similar during the first 40 minutes. Pouring it on late and hoping it’s enough? That’s definitely a Buffalo thing.

How about a Tim Howard-Ryan Miller comparison? I’m sick of the goalie being the only one who wants to win during the first 90% of the game. If you wanted to be corny you could say Ghana was a “head” better, because we couldn’t win a head ball to save our lives, but this picture may be the most telling of all. There’s five Americans in the shot, and who wants it most? The only guy who doesn’t belong in the box for a corner kick. I’m sure Miller would park himself in front of the net on the power play if they’d let him.

So yes, I’m mad that we lost, I’m mad we’re not good enough, and I’m crushed that the dream is over. I’m extremely bothered by the fact that I have to be surrounded by teams like this, and I refuse to accept my team turning in half a performance and thinking it’s good enough.

So maybe my girl friend will never understand why I buried my head in my food at Tully’s to avoid seeing replays from the game, or why I can’t sleep at 6 a.m. after the night following the loss. But through all the tears and heartbreak, the stunned silences and minutes spent with your hands over your face, somewhere in there will all become true Buffalo sports fans. You can tell me I’m in the bargaining stage of grief right now if you want, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything. There are times like these where we stare at our computer screens at a complete loss for words, wishing we could just go to sleep and wake up from this nightmare; but at the same time, we know the suffering will make winning the big one that much sweeter when it finally happens.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but that’s the great part about sports, there’s always next time. Go States.

Couldn’t fit this in, but more thoughts on something I mentioned earlier, Ghana showing that diving equals wins. Perhaps America will always be behind the eight ball in soccer for one reason–pride. Think about it, if somebody hits you in the face, as an American, whats your reaction? You find the mother f—er who hit you and get him back twice as hard. But for the rest of the world, apparently the proper reaction to getting hit–or cleated, or pushed–is to lay on the ground like you just got shot. No shame. Can it be that Americans are too proud for that?