Yanks In England: Weekend Preview

There are no Americans involved in it, but we’re going to go ahead and start with tomorrow morning’s Chelsea-Manchester City clash—for the obvious reasons, and because the game’s incredible subtext could have an impact on the U.S-England game on June 12.

Wayne Bridge’s decision this week to remove himself from consideration for the England World Cup team—in the wake of John Terry turning Bridge’s life into an episode of Dream Team—combined with Ashley Cole’s recent ankle injury, means coach Fabio Capello will be selecting his third-choice left back for England’s friendly with Egypt next week. And depending on how things shake out, Capello could be in a similar situation come June 12.

As for tomorrow’s game, ya think there’ll be a little tension in the air? Sheesh. Will Bridge even look at Terry? Will one of his teammates pack a little bone-crunching extra effort into a tackle on Terry? One Backpost reader wondered about this, considering the fact that Bridge’s Man City teammates all donned “Team Bridge” t-shirts in support of Bridge after news of the scandal broke.

Tabloid subtext aside, the game is important for first-place Chelsea, which hopes to go four points clear of Manchester United again, as well as for fifth-place Man City, which is in a tight race with Tottenham and Liverpool for the final Champions League place.

You can watch it all unfold on ESPN2 at 7:45 a.m. EST.

As for Americans in action, two of them could go head-to-head tomorrow, as winger Stuart Holden and Bolton host Wolverhampton and U.S. keeper Marcus Hahnemann. Holden started and played 90 minutes in Wanderers’ midweek FA Cup loss to Tottenham, and he’s listed in the matchday squad as of now, so perhaps he’ll see the field tomorrow.

On Sunday, Tim Howard, Landon Donovan and eighth-place Everton travel to White Hart Lane to face fourth-place Tottenham. Both teams are in good form, as Everton has won five of its last six, and Spurs are unbeaten in four of their last six.

Ninth-place Fulham and the injured Clint Dempsey visit 14th-place Sunderland, which has three draws and three losses in its last six, and hasn’t booked three points in 13 games. Fulham has three wins and a tie in its last six. On the bright side for the Black Cats, though, Fulham has only one away win all season.

Saturday’s other games have Birmingham City hosting Wigan, Portsmouth traveling to Burnley for a meeting of the league’s bottom two (Burnley is actually tied with Bolton for second-to-last place), and Stoke City hosts Arsenal.

There’s only one other game on Sunday—Liverpool vs Blackburn at Anfield.

Here is the U.S. TV schedule, all times EST:

Saturday Feb 27, 2010

CHELSEA v MANCHESTER CITY, ESPN2, 7:45 am.

BOLTON v WOLVERHAMPTON, Setanta Sports, 9:30 am.

BIRMINGHAM CITY v WIGAN, Fox Soccer Channel, 10:00 am.

STOKE CITY v ARSENAL, Fox Soccer Channel, 12:30 pm.

Sunday, Feb. 28. 2010

TOTTENHAM v EVERTON, Setanta Sports, 7:55 am.

LIVERPOOL v BLACKBURN, Fox Soccer Channel, 10:00 am.

SUNDERLAND v FULHAM, Fox Soccer Channel, (delay) 12:00 p.m.

Our Men in Amsterdam: More Thoughts on Next Wednesday’s Roster

Yesterday, we touched on Freddy Adu’s exclusion from the roster for the March 3 friendly against the Netherlands. He’s scored a couple of goals and seems to have settled in well for Aris, but Bradley passed him over for this last-chance game.

Now let’s go to Freddy’s twitter page, where he first says he’s “fighting a sore hammy” but is “not one to complain about injuries” so he’s “working through it,” then says “lol, I’m not injured, I just said my hammy is sore”—and proceeds to talk about getting ready for Aris’s “big game this weekend.”

Hard to parse this precisely—and Freddy never mentions the U.S. call-ups, which included his Aris teammate Eddie Johnson—but it’s possible that Bradley decided not to uproot him from his club side while he’s carrying a slight knock. The U.S. coach may have figured Freddy’s better off staying put and continuing to make his case with good performances at Aris, or … he’s not in the coach’s plans for South Africa.

Sacha Kljestan didn’t get the call despite scoring the stoppage-time winner against El Salvador on Wednesday, a play Bradley singled out in his postgame comments. Perhaps Bradley is satisfied with Kljestan’s status, and simply wants to have a look at other midfielders.

We’re not surprised to see Rangers midfielders DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu called in for this one. They’ve both returned from injury and have played recently for the Glasgow side, with Beasley, especially, looking like resuming his excellent pre-injury form. If both stay healthy and get regular playing time this spring, they’ll not only make the final 23, but could be starting versus England on June 12.

The timing of this game is great for Bolton winger Stuart Holden, who finally saw the field for Wanderers on Wednesday, going a full 90 in their FA Cup loss to Tottenham. Despite the 4-0 thrashing, Holden showed well, and this game is teed up for him to state his case (if not cinch it) to be on the plane to South Africa.

The same could be said for midfielder Jose Francisco Torres, who, despite a recent hamstring strain, has been playing and scoring goals for Pachuca of late. But the apparent knock on him is that he has a high-finesse, low-grit game, and to do well against an elite European team like the Netherlands, he’ll need some grit to go with his skill. At any rate, it’s fair to say that Torres hasn’t gotten a clear crack at it for the U.S., so this is a big game for him.

In the backline, the most notable absence is that of towering Columbus Crew defender Chad Marshall, who last summer appeared to have an edge over Clarence Goodson for a spot in central defense. Now, Goodson is going to Amsterdam while Marshall didn’t get off the bench versus El Salvador this past Wednesday. That seems pretty clear.

Here is our predicted starting lineup for next Wednesday:

——————–Howard—————

Spector—Bocanegra—DeMerit—Bornstein

Donovan—Bradley—Edu—Beasley

 ——Altidore—–Findley

We’d like to see both Torres and Holden get significant time, though, and it would also be interesting to see Heath Pearce, flush from a good game against El Salvador, test himself against the Netherlands.

Will Alejandro Bedoya get a shot? He could be an intriguing option on the left wing. And forgotten-man right back Frank Simek has been starting regularly for Sheffield Wednesday this season. Will he see the field in a U.S. shirt for the first time since 2007?

Speaking of the U.S. shirt, the Amerks just got a new kit, which they will wear at South Africa 2010. Take a look:

(We’re partial to the red.)

U.S. Roster:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolves), Tim Howard (Everton)


DEFENDERS (7): Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Frank Simek (Sheffield Wednesday), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS (7): DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Landon Donovan (Everton), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), José Torres (Pachuca)


FORWARDS (3): Jozy Altidore (Hull City), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Eddie Johnson (Aris Thessaloniki)

MLS Players to Continue Working—For Now

The Major League Soccer Players Union issued a statement this evening concerning its ongoing labor negotiations with league, saying the current collective bargaining agreement will expire at midnight tonight, but that there will be no strike … yet. Click here for the complete statement.

Major League Soccer responded, saying the Union would not agree to a further extension of the current CBA, but that the league would not lock out the players. Here is that statement

Apparently, there will be further negotiations, though no sessions have been set yet. The league will go forward, and further into limbo, with the season’s opening day four weeks away.

Bradley Calls 20 for Netherlands Friendly

Eddie, but no Freddy.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley has announced his roster for next Wednesday’s friendly against the Netherlands in Amsterdam, and there are a few surprises. Foremost of these, to us anyway, were the selection of striker Robbie Findley and the exclusion of Brian Ching, who shined in last night’s game against El Salvador.

Perhaps Bradley is satisfied that Ching is his best option for a target forward and wants to give Findley, who would fill a role running off of a target forward, another shot to make his case. He also needed room for Eddie Johnson, who’s been getting regular time with his new club Aris of the Greek Super League, and definitely merits a chance before Bradley picks the final roster.

Speaking of Aris, Johnson’s teammate at the club, Freddy Adu, was not called, despite scoring in two recent outings.

Another mild surprise is the inclusion of young winger Alejandro Bedoya, who’s about to start his second season for Swedish club Orebro. Bedoya showed some flashes in a brief appearance against Honduras last month. It will be interesting to see what he can do against a tough Dutch squad.

Heath Pearce, after his strong showing at left back last night, got the call as well.

Here is the complete roster, which includes 17 foreign-based players and three MLSers:

Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tim Howard (Everton)

Defenders (7): Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Frank Simek (Sheffield Wednesday), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

Midfielders (7): DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Alejandro Bedoya (Orebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Landon Donovan (Everton), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), José Torres (Pachuca)

Strikers (3): Jozy Altidore (Hull City), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Eddie Johnson (Aris Thessaloniki)

U.S. vs El Salvador: Player Grades

With a goal and an assist in 45 minutes of action, Brian Ching is the clear leader here, and probably earned himself a call-up to next Wednesday’s friendly against the Netherlands in Amsterdam.

In a close second was Heath Pearce, who vaulted from World Cup long-shot to contender with an assist and a fine performance on the left side. 

Sacha Kljestan kept his case for South Africa alive with some good attacking play and a last-gasp, game-winning goal.

Here are our grades for the entire team:

Nick Rimando; Not much to do, but did it competently. No chance on the goal. B-

Brad Evans: His attempt at a headed backpass created El Salvador’s goal, but he did well otherwise, both defensively and offensively, getting his head on a few balls in the box. C-

Jonathan Bornstein: Playing centrally, he wasn’t all that busy. His case for South Africa remains pretty solid. B-

Clarence Goodson: Anchored the backline, won tackles, got forward on set pieces. Probably a better-than-even bet to make the World Cup roster. B

Heath Pearce: Excellent cross on Ching’s goal; played a few others, too, and solid defensively. B+

Robbie Rogers: Didn’t quite deliver in what should have been a good opportunity to boost his stock. Hit the woodwork with one long-range effort, but too many miscues in the final third. C

Kyle Beckerman: Spread some decent balls around in the middle of the park; solid but nothing spectacular. B-

Sacha Kljestan: Tested Salvadoran keeper several times; late goal salvaged win, and his World Cup dreams. B

Brad Davis: A handful at times for Los Cuscatlecos in the first half; left with hamstring tightness. C

Robbie Findley: Unable to unleash his blinding speed; haven’t seen him truly do so at the international level yet. C

Conor Casey: He looked lumbering, but surprised with his ability to hold the ball up and find teammates with passes. Still, he lacks Ching’s dynamism. C+

Subs:

Eddie Gaven: Excellent game; sparked the U.S. attack in the second half. Not going to South Africa, but he’s still only 23 (he’s been in MLS since he was 16). Good candidate for the next cycle. B+

Brian Ching: Made his case as the best target forward in the U.S. pool. Goal, assist, and several shots on frame. A-

Jeff Cunningham: Showed fairly well in 22 minutes of action. C+

Dax McCarty: A tidy ten minutes from the FC Dallas midfielder. Incomplete.

Geoff Cameron: Hey, we got our wish, as Cameron entered the game in the late—very late—going. Still, he thumped a shot that just missed the target in stoppage time. Incomplete.

U.S. Snatches Late Winner to Down El Salvador 2-1

The Americans dominated El Salvador for most of the game in Tampa last night, outshooting Los Cuscatlecos 18-3, but a combination of poor finishing, great goalkeeping by El Salvador’s Miguel Montes, and an error by U.S. right back Brad Evans had them trailing 1-0 with just 15 minutes to play.

In the 59th minute, Evans, who plays in central midfield for his club, Seattle Sounders FC, headed a Salvadoran long ball back into the U.S. box, leaving Rudis Corrales with an easy chance against U.S. keeper Nick Rimando, and the Salvadoran took it. Apart from this gaffe, though, Evans had a decent outing.

Brian Ching and Eddie Gaven had injected new life into the U.S. attack since coming on after the break, and it was Ching who equalized in the 75th minute, powering in a header after an excellent cross from left back Heath Pearce, who had a strong game.

The match entered stoppage time and appeared headed for a 1-1 draw when Montes sent a pass to defender Marvin Gonzalez about 35 yards out from the Salvadoran goal. Gonzalez seemed unaware of any U.S. pressure around him, and Yank midfielder Sacha Kljestan closed in and dispossessed him easily, then played the ball to Ching, took Ching’s return pass into the box and buried the ball in the far corner from seven yards.

You can watch the highlights here.

Players ratings to follow.

Feb. 24, 2010; Raymond James Stadium, Tampa.

U.S. 2, El Salvador 1.

Goals: Corrales 59; Ching 75, Kljestan 90.

United States: Rimando, Evans, Bornstein, Goodson, Pearce, Rogers (Cameron, 87), Kljestan, Beckerman (McCarty, 79), Davis (Gaven, 46), Findley (Cunningham, 68), Casey (Ching, 46).


El Salvador: Montes, Escobar, Gonzalez, Flores, Sanchez, Romero (Alas, 71), A.Alvarez, Corrales, Salazar, Umanzor, Moscoso.

Stuart Holden Finally Debuts for Bolton

It took a month, but U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden has gotten on the field in a competitive game for Bolton’s first team, starting in Wanderers’ FA Cup fifth-round replay with Tottenham today.

According to the club website, Holden looked “comfortable in possession” and played a part in a first-half chance for Bolton midfielder Matt Taylor, but, unfortunately, his presence was not enough to stop Tottenham from taking a 2-0 lead into the break. Roman Pavlyuchenko and Jermain Defoe, both of whom scored in Tottenham’s 3-0 takedown of Wigan over the weekend, did the damage, bagging goals in the 23rd and 29th minutes, respectively.

Things got worse in the second half for Bolton as defender Andy O’Brien put the ball into his own net two minutes after the break, and Pavlyuchenko scored again two minutes before the final whistle, ending Wanderers’ FA Cup run.

On the bright side, Holden played the full 90, created chances, and put a header on goal. He was dispossessed in the sequence that led to Tottenham’s fourth goal, but all in all, a solid debut for the American.

Read the full match report here.