You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Sports’ category.

CJ Mahaney offers his tips on how to watch the Super Bowl, including how to be discerning as you watch the game, as well as offering a prediction.

I didn’t get to watch the entire match. I saw the majority of the 2nd half and highlights (if you can call them that) from the first half. The US continues to lethargically march through the final round of World Cup qualifying, and unless there is a dramatic turnaround in both philosophy and energy over the next month, the US could find itself in significant trouble in their next two qualifying matches versus Honduras and Costa Rica. In fact, the only saving grace for the US is that Costa Rica is actually playing worse than the US right now. After leading the group heading into September, Costa Rica now finds itself in the precarious fourth position, staring down a home and home match with the 5th place team from South America, which right now is Argentina!

The play of the US last night is simply inexplicable. Read the rest of this entry »

The United States came into tonight’s match desperately needing three points as they attempted to keep a clean slate on home soil. They entered the match sitting in third place in CONCACAF with 10 pts behind Costa Rica (12 pts), Honduras (10 pts w/+ 2 goal differential), and only 1 pt ahead of Mexico after last months 2-1 loss at Azteca Stadium.  With Mexico playing at Costa Rica and Honduras hosting Trinidad & Tobago, the US could ill-afford to tie or loss tonight in Utah. El Salvador came into the match needing three points to keep their fading World Cup hopes alive.

The US started the match by controlling the possession, but it became apparent early on that they would significantly miss the presence of Oguchi Onyewu, who was unavailable due a yellow card accumulation suspension, and Jay DeMerit, who injured his groin during training this week. Their absence cause Coach Bob Bradley to move Carlos Bocanegra back to central defender and Jonathan Bornstein at left back. Chad Marshall also earned the start beside Bocanegra after a strong Gold Cup.

A poor clearance by Bornstein and passive defending by Bocanegra, Marshall and Michael Bradley led to the US conceding the first goal around the 32′ minute of the first half. Unfortunately, neither the defenders, Michael Bradley or Clint Dempsey learned from this mistake as the US repeatedly gave away the ball in very dangerous places on the pitch. If this continues, even if the US advances to South Africa, it won’t matter because they won’t get out of their group unless they get the easiest draw of the tournament. As a matter of fact, if the US doesn’t begin to play better they will be fortunate to qualify for the World Cup at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Today the United States missed out on a golden opportunity to end their 0-22-1 winless streak in Azteca Stadium in Mexico. When Charlie Davies nailed home a punishing goal on a beautiful assist from Landon Donovan, it looked like the time for the United States to win in Mexico, and at the same time severely cripple Mexico’s chances of making the 2010 World Cup. However, the reality is that overall, Mexico dominated this match. The midfield quartet of Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark was completely dominated by their Mexican counterparts. The truth is that this game was lost for the United States in the midfield. And the most discouraging aspect about this is that the midfield is where the United States is supposed to possess the most talent. But it wasn’t until Coach Bob Bradley inserted Stuart Holden and Benny Feilhaber that the midfield began to show any signs of life.

Bob Bradley’s decision to start Brian Ching really isn’t as surprising as much as it is revealing. Jozy Altidore didn’t arrive in camp until yesterday from England, so not starting Altidore made some sense. The problem isn’t that Altidore didn’t start and subsequently only played about 19 minutes. The problem is the lack of viable options behind Altidore and Davies. Brian Ching, as he demonstrated today, is not the answer. And neither is Conor Casey. I’m puzzled why he even made the roster. Ching brought almost nothing to the match today.

The match also revealed what a liability Ricardo Clark is offensively. He has ability to track all over the field, and offered a handful of good tackles, but his touch killed multiple attacking opportunities. He doesn’t compliment Michael Bradley well, who while a workhorse in his own right, has to make up for his lack of creativity with hustle and effort. The problem is that Michael Bradley isn’t going to leave the starting 11. And I am not necessarily suggesting that he should. He is one of the US’ best players. But Bradley isn’t a defensive center midfielder, nor is he quite good enough to be an attacking midfielder. You have to put 2 players in the midfield who compliment one another. Unfortunately, Clark and Bradley are too similar in their style and ability.

What should Bob Bradley do? Consider using his son as a substitute, insert Benny Feilhaber or Jose Francisco Torres, and see what Jermaine Jones can do come October. Jones is more of a defensive midfielder, but with better ball skills than Ricardo Clark. Clark can be a valuable asset against lesser quality teams, but his lack of touch makes it difficult for the US to possess in the midfield. And both Feilhaber and Torres are not only more creative than Clark or Bradley, but they are also better on the ball.

The central defenders (Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit) played very well. DeMerit was unlucky on the winning goal, as he made a valiant tackle that, in most cases, dribbles harmlessly out of bounds. Onyewu was the best player on the pitch, with Charlie Davies not far behind. The outside defenders (Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra) were abused throughout the day and neither had a particularly good match. I suspect that Cherundolo will have a difficult time holding off Jonathan Spector, who played brilliantly at the Confederations Cup (though I do understand why Bradley went with experience here). I am not sure that Bocanegra is the answer at LB, but neither is Jonathan Bornstein, so I am not sure where Coach Bradley looks from here.

The officiating was, by far, some of the worst I’ve ever seen in FIFA. The referee’s judgment with cards was questionable and his foul recognition even worse. But this game wasn’t decided by poor officiating (even though it clearly favored Mexico). This game was won by the better team today. The truth is that this game was more critical for Mexico than it was the US. The next two qualifying matches for the US are at home vs. El Salvador and at Trinidad and Tobago. They should be favored in both matches, and will likely win. 16 points will probably secure the US a spot in the 2010 World Cup.

While this match was more critical for Mexico, it was a match where the US should have seized the opportunity to take a giant leap forward towards respectability. The US has taken leads against Italy, Spain, Brazil and Mexico, and yet the US is only 1-3 in those matches. The US has to do a better job of putting quality opponents away when taking the lead. Once again, just like in the Confederations Cup, the US showed it still has a long way to go in becoming an elite team in the world of futbol.

In the meantime Coach Bob Bradley needs to find a reliable third striker to go with Altidore and Davies. Clint Dempsey could be the answer, even though he was noticeably absent in this match. Another option would be to give Michael Bradley a look at striker. The US also needs to settle on outside defenders. Jonathan Spector should be the starter at RB. But right now LB is going to be a weak link, and in all likelihood, unless Jay DeMerit self-destructs, Bocanegra is going to stay there. If this happens the US will remain vulnerable to teams with speed on the flanks. Given the fact that the US was completely dominated in possession against Spain, Brazil and Mexico, trying a different combination at central midfield might not be a bad idea. The US needs someone who can hold possession, and right now only Benny Feilhaber and Jose Francisco Torres fit that description. Bradley would do well to stop punishing Torres for his play against Costa Rica (which wasn’t even bad) and give him another shot versus El Salvador and/or Trinidad and Tobago.

Player Rankings vs. Mexico:

Tim Howard: 8  Did everything that was asked of him. Kept the US in the match.

Steve Cherundolo: 3  Did not have a good match and was abused most of the day.

Oguchi Onyewu: 8 Man of the match.

Jay DeMerit: 6  Played well. Unlucky on game-winning goal.

Carlos Bocanegra: 3  Forgettable match. Too slow for fast wingers. Could have closed space better on Mexico’s equalizer.

Landon Donovan: 5  Brilliant pass to Davies. Held ball too long on certain occasions. Fatigued from 70min on and largely non-existent. Blizted on winning goal.

Ricardo Clark: 4  Several good defensive stops. Showed no ability to possess.

Michael Bradley: 4  Largely ineffective and outplayed.

Clint Dempsey: 3  Where was he?

Charlie Davies: 7  Great effort. Fantastic finish to put US up 1-0. Should have done more with Stuart Holden’s beautiful cross in 71 min.

Brian Ching: 3  I am pretty sure that only thing I saw him do with consistency was head the ball out of play

Substitutions:

Stuart Holden: 6  Impact substitution. Good effort defensively and offensively. Could be a long-term solution off the bench because of versatility.

Benny Feilhaber: 5  Brought some composure to midfield.

Jozy Altidore: No Ranking. Didn’t play enough.

A solid punch to the gut. That’s what Brazil’s thrilling come from behind win was to the US Men’s National team on Sunday. The US had the opportunity to win its first FIFA tournament ever, jumping out to a stunning 2-0 lead by the 27th minute, and then finally succumbing to a second half onslaught by the talented Brazilians, who demonstrated why they are one of the best international clubs in the world. The US played a terrific game, but as the first half came to a close it became clear that it was going to be difficult for the US to hold their unlikely lead over the Brazilians. The US began to allow the Brazilians more and more possession, gathering fewer and fewer counter attacks for themselves, while bunkering down in the defensive third hoping to withstand a Brazilian rally.

Ultimately there were two turning points in the match. The first was conceding an early goal in the 46th minute. Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano shot was terrific, and a bit lucky, barely sneaking under the outstretched leg of US defender Jay DeMerit. DeMerit’s defense was adequate, but Fabiano’s turn and release was lightening quick and GK Tim Howard stood no chance of making the save. Had the US been able to hold off the Brazilians until the 70th minute or so, the Brazilians would have likely started to press, increasing the chances that it would be the US holding the golden trophy at the end of the day. As it was, the goal ignited Brazil’s rally, shook the US’ confidence, and effectively ended any hopes of a US victory.

The second turning point came before the match even began. The suspension of Michael Bradley for a dubious ejection by referee Jorge Larriondo (name sound familiar? Yep, he’s the same referee who sent off Pablo Maestroeni and Eddie Pope in the 2006 World Cup match against Italy) revealed the frightening lack of depth on the US bench. Bradley’s absence meant that Coach Bob Bradley had to start Benny Feilhaber, who had proven to be an effective substitute off the bench in the tournament. Since Coach Bradley has shown no confidence in either Freddy Adu or Jose Francisco Torres (why were they even on the roster if you refuse to use them), Bradley’s only options off the bench in the midfield were the unreliable Sasha Kleijstan, who was ejected against Brazil previously, DaMarcus Beasley (thank you, Coach Bradley, for keeping him on the bench), and Jonathan Bornstein. Brazilian Coach Dunga’s substitutions were effective and immediately made Brazil better, while Coach Bradley’s substitions actually weakened the struggling US side.  One of the main reasons Brazil won this match is not only that they were tactically a better team, but is because the talent on their roster is superior to the US side. The US had no one on their bench to counter Brazil’s super-subs.

In spite of the loss there are a lot of positives for the US to build on from this tournament: Read the rest of this entry »

The United States’ victory over #1 ranked Spain, a team on a 35 match winning streak, is one of the most significant victories for the US in their soccer history. It can’t be counted as among the best overall victories simply because it didn’t take place on the biggest stage (the World Cup). But it is, without a doubt, one of the most important victories.

The US came into the Confederations Cup hoping to see how it measured up against the world’s best. After 3 consecutive concerning outings in World Cup qualifying, Sam’s Army was ready to hit the panic button after consecutive demoralizing defeats to Italy and Brazil. It was the performance against Brazil that was especially troubling. While the US might be able to blame the result against Italy on a game-changing call by the referee to send off Ricardo Clark in the 34th minute, no one could argue that the US looked timid, poorly organized and played with a lack of heart against Brazil. There were serious reasons to believe that the US’ hopes in the 2010 World Cup were doomed to repeat the failure of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. As a matter of fact, it appeared that the US team was getting worse rather than better. Read the rest of this entry »

Things looked bleak for the United States Men’s National team this Father’s Day in the Confederation’s Cup. They had their backs against the wall, with virtually no chance to advance to the semifinals, and now had to face a very difficult Egypt team that had barely lost to Brazil 4-3 and just defeated Italy (1-0), the defending world champions. The Egyptians only needed to defeat or tie the US and they themselves would have advanced to the semifinals to face #1 ranked Spain. But somehow the US not only defeated this underrated Egyptian squad, but they beat them soundly 3-0. And the score could have been worse if not for an inexcusable no call ( handling) by the referee on Jose Altidore’s shot and the US showing themselves to be either too unselfish (both Landon Donovan and Altidore passed up easy opportunities) or too selfish (if Charles Davies slots the ball to Altidore late in the 2nd half he has a tap-in) inside the 18. With the rout of the Egyptians and a little help from Brazil’s 3-0 lashing of the Italians, the US finds themselves in the semifinals this Wednesday (2:25 EST, ESPN).

Almost everything went right for the US. Coach Bob Bradley made a handful of changes to his line up, though nothing surprising, and they worked like a charm. Read the rest of this entry »

Let me begin by stating that there is absolutely no shame in losing to Italy and Brazil. They are two of the premier soccer powers in the world. The US played valiantly against Italy despite Ricardo Clark needless ejection, forcing them to play down a man for 60 minutes. But today’s performance against Brazil confirms what is a troubling trend for the US National team. In 4 of the past 5 matches they have conceded at least 1 goal in the first 20 minutes. This is a trend that has to stop. The US team doesn’t not possess the kind of offensive firepower to consistently bounce back from being down a goal early.

But the other troubling trend is Coach Bob Bradley’s insistence upon putting certain players on the pitch over and over, especially when they are not fit, in form, or producing. Read the rest of this entry »

South Africa US Italy Confed Cup Soccer

Last night the US National team played reigning world champion Italy in the Confederations Cup in South Africa, host of the 2010 World Cup. Before I add my commentary about the game, I have to say the disparity in the draws for this tournament is absolutely ridiculous. In Group A you have: Italy, Brazil, United States and an underrated Egypt. In Group B you have: Spain, Iraq, South Africa, and New Zealand. Sure looks like the draw was set up to make sure South Africa advanced, doesn’t it?

The past several World Cup qualifiers the US has played have been far from impressive. They needed two late goals to draw with El Salvador 2-2, got absolutely smashed by Costa Rica 3-1 (and it wasn’t as close as the score indicates), and eeked out a win at home against a gutsy Honduran team 2-1.  Each time the US has been exploited by playing weak defense, giving up early goals, and lack of creativity on the ball in the attacking third of the field. Needless to say, I didn’t have very high expectations last night.

But overall, the US played very well last night. Here are my thoughts: Read the rest of this entry »

howardDwight Howard, superstar center/power-forward for the Orlando Magic, lives in a fish bowl, just like every other professional athlete in the world.  His every word, action and deed are scrutinized by media outlets in all of their forms. Howard’s celebrity status presents significant opportunities to boast in the flesh. Many professional athletes use the media for self-glory, self-advertisment and self-promotion. And at times they also use their platform to air grievances and complaints that should remain in the locker room.

Dwight Howard, by his own admission, isn’t like every other athlete. Howard is a confessing believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. This means that what might be acceptable in the professional sports culture isn’t necessarily acceptable for Dwight Howard (or any other professing believer) because Howard, by the very nature of his confession of faith, is living for Another’s glory, not his own.  This is what makes Howard’s public chiding of Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy so disappointing.

Sure, what Howard said may be true, and it wasn’t even the worst kind of public neutering of a coach’s leadership that I’ve ever seen in the media. But were they appropriate? Read the rest of this entry »