USA vs. Poland
Welcome to Kaiserslauten Germany, Fritzwalter Stadion (Boulder, Colorado actually). 100 days until the US plays the Czech Republic in their first match of the World Cup, and this guy couldn't be more excited.
Dave O'Brien and Marcello Balboa bringing this match to us live (For the record: Balboa is my boy. For real. We both coach at the Boulder County Force soccer club... I coach the U-16 boys team, he coaches the U-17 boys team. We often run practices together, combining teams. I like to think he is one of the founders of "Team Long Hair/Beard", which is becoming quite popular in American soccer. You can find them on almost any college campus where there is a male soccer team. Anyway, Balboa is my boy, and is one of the 10 best American soccer players of all time).
The U.S. is missing my two favorite players, John O'Brien and Claudio Reyna, both of whom are out with injuries. The U.S. is playing in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, as expected. Starting lineup - Eddie Johnson and Taylor Twellman up front, Donovan and Kerry Zavagnin in the center of midfield, with Dempsey and Beasley on the outsides. In the back, Oguchi Onyewu, Greg Berhalter, Steve Cherundolo, and Eddie Lewis. Casey Keller is in net.
It's balls cold. 28 degrees with a chance of snow, and the field is hard. Brian McBride isn't starting, which is interesting (turns out that his ankle is a little knicked up). The U.S. brought 19 players, 8 that play in the MLS, 11 in Europe. People who REALLY need to play well today - Taylor Twellman needs to show he can ball up front, Greg Berhalter has to prove that he's not a total dog, the Eddie Lewis experiment at left back will be fun to watch, and Kerry Zavagnin has to have a big game.
A thought on equipment - I like the new US soccer jerseys. They look old school, but sharp at the same time. The new Nike ball? I HATE it. It's all white with a little puke yellow on the outside. It reminds me of a golfball you find in the water that's been in there for a couple years. It's white on the top, but where it was under water is all slimey and nasty looking. Me no rikee.
Also, the game is taking place close to the Rammstein airforce base, where 50,000 Americans are stationed. Du.... du hast.... du hast mich!!!!!
(If you plan on watching the game and don't want to know the score, don't read past here)
First Half Thoughts
Clint Dempsey a nice triple stepover in the first minute... poor quality cross, but it's nice to see us getting creative early.
I like Eddie Lewis at left-back. Even though this is an experiment, I could see him there.
It's obvious early that the US wants to use Beasley and Dempsey on the outside... they're both very fast, have great footskills, and can change a game.
First 10 minutes - US is controlling play.
I'm impressed with both Cherundolo and Lewis getting out of the back. I'm sure Das Bruce (what we should call him in Germany) wants to get them involved in the attack as much as possible.
Casey Keller with a great save off of a cross. Do you realize that we have one of the top 3 goalies in the world? And also probably 5 of the top 20 (Keller, Friedel, Hahneman, Howard, Hartman). We're just informed that Casey Keller lives in a 1000 year old CASTLE in Germany. What a stud. And the castle has a moat... hahaha, that's fantastic! I didn't even know moats existed.
Steve Cherundolo said after meeting some of the injured troops at the airforce base "They're the ones wearing the real uniforms." America.... fuck yeah!
Poor offside call on Beasley. He was GONE, and it seemed that he was a yard or two onside... I'm not whining though.
GREAT freekick by Cherundolo that goes millimeters wide, he had Dudek beat.
Greg Berhalter looks VERY shaky. He has whiffed on a few balls, looks a step slow, and has made poor decisions. I don't feel confident with him back there.
Poor movement out of the U.S. up front. We haven't looked dangerous, and Eddie Johnson and Taylor Twellman don't seem to play well together.
Poland is owning us in the midfield. Without a Reyna/O'Brien/Mastroeni we're weak. I'd still like to see us move Donovan outside. Poland played better in the first half, but still 0-0.
Second Half Thoughts
Carlos Bocanegra on for Berhalter (thank God) and Tim Howard on for Casey Keller. I'm fine with Howard, as long as he doesn't start swearing uncontrollably.
Bocanegra needs to tuck in his jersey. Total Noob.
GOOOOOOAL!!!!!!! Clint Dempsey finds himself at the right place at the right time to head in a ball on the doorstep. Great cross from Eddie Lewis (who is playing very well I might add), Taylor Twellman does his best Brian McBride impression and knocks the ball loose, and Dempsey knocks it in. That's what Twellman can do, he can be a shocker for 89 minutes, but do one spectacular thing that turns the game around. A pretty blue-collar goal, but the US is a blue collar team. (They also saluted the troops when they scored, classy).
Cherundolo with an excellent run out of the back, cut a defender, and found a wide open Eddie Johnson in the box. Poor job by Johnson as he knocked the ball out of bounds. Not one of Eddie's best games so far.
Just found out that Twellman has 4 goals and 3 assists in the last 4 games. Pack your bags son, you're going to Germany.
Pablo Mastroeni comes on for Kerry Zavagnin. I love this move. Mastroeni gives us a rock solid guy in the middle of the field, and Zavagnin has been running around aimlessly for the first 60 minutes.
Woo hoo, Beasley just turned 2 guys and carried the ball 70 yards down the sideline. In case you didn't know, DMB is F-A-S-T. He may weigh only like 130 pounds, but he can absolutely burn. Such a dangerous weapon to have.
Meanwhile Italy is up 2-0 on Germany in the first half. At least they're not in our group for the World Cup (they are? shit).
Landon Donovan again does a great job of switching fields. He has looked great when he's played the ball simply and quickly. When he holds onto the ball too long, and tries to be fancy in the midfield, he gets owned. This is glaringly obvious.
YES!!! You know America must be playing a soccer game when you see somebody wearing a Dallas Cowboys starter jacket circa 1995 in the stands. God bless America.
Tim Howard with a great save off Polands free kick. Our goalies are straight cash homies.
Pablo Mastroeni shows why he belongs on the roster of 23. After making 3 solid defensive plays in the midfield in the last 10 minutes, he just singlehandedly killed a Polish attack and won a throw-in for us. I'm not saying he should start, but if we're up 1-0 with 15 minutes to play, I'm fnie with putting him into the midfield and playing a 4-5-1.
"If the polish players are wearing caps, you know it's cold." Thanks, Dave.
Das Bruce's favorite player Bobby Convey on for Demarcus Beasley. DMB has played well, and should feel good about himself after this performance.
It's starting to snow. Hard. Like you can't even see the other side of the field it's snowing so hard.
Josh Wolff on for Eddie Johnson. To be fair, Eddie hasn't done anything this game. This scares me, as he's one of my favorite players.
Wow, it's really snowing hard. They just brought on the yellow ball so players could see it, and the crowd erupted. Anything to stay warm I guess.
Bobby Convey with a couple of good runs with the ball at his feet. The jury is still our on Convey for me. Obviously he's played well in England, but he has a tendency to shit the bed when playing for the U.S. I really like the cutting runs he's making though, definitely a threat to defenders.
FIN. USA 1 - Poland 0.
Final Thoughts On The Game
We deserved to win. Totally outclassed Poland in the second half. I think this is great for the USA to get a win on European soil, where we have historically struggled. Our confidence should be up, and we should show no fear entering the "Group of Death" in 100 days.
Sierra Mist Man Of The Match: Eddie Lewis
SEL's Man Of The Match: Oguchi Onyewu.
Eddie Lewis played very well, and his cross gave us the goal... it's nice to see that we have a left back who can play. However, I thought the Gooch played excellently. The man is a TANK. He's 6'4", 210, can run fast, is smart, can win balls in the air, can win tackles on the ground, and can jump higher than anyone else on the pitch. I thought that he should be credited with the shutout today, and his play kept the very good Polish offense off the scoreboard.
Players who played well - Onyewu, Lewis, Keller, Beasley, Dempsey, Cherundolo.
Players who played poorly - Berhalter (a shocker), Bocanegra, Zavagnin, Johnson.
The USA remains undefeated in 2006.