Who Says DaMarcus Beasley Is Done with the USMNT?

Not DaMarcus Beasley. Check out the first (and second) touch he uses to destroy Jaguares de Chiapas’s right back and score Puebla’s goal in a 1-0 triumph in Mexican top-flight action on Saturday:

We agree with the announcer: Golazo.

We’ll also add, again, that Beasley is only 29, and almost three months younger than Landon Donovan, who won the Golden Ball to Beasley’s Silver at the 1999 U-17 World Cup.

The former will most certainly be a part of the United States side for World Cup qualifying in June. If he keeps this up, so may the latter.

BPFL: Family Derby Day

Here is co-commissioner Our Man at the Valley with the Gameweek 22 wrap, including his long-anticipated head-to-head battle with his brother, top of the table coloradokeeper:

 

I’ve had this Gameweek circled on my calendar for a while now. It was my one chance this season to go up against the runaway BPFL leader, coloradokeeper, who also happens to be my brother.

Even though I’ve scraped my way up to 8th place, there’s too much distance to overcome to entertain thoughts of winning it all. As just about every EPL manager with nothing to play for has said at one point or another, I was treating this as my Cup Final.

Given that the January wildcard expires at the beginning of the subsequent Gameweek, there was little question that we each would make use of it now.

The fixture list threw up some interesting matchups for the EPL’s top teams, notably Manchester City v. Spurs and Arsenal v. Manchester United. Hence it was as good a time as any to get rid of Rafael Van Der Vaart, Gareth Bale, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Wayne Rooney (there’s an argument to be made that I should have gotten rid of Rooney a month ago). I held on to Johnny Evans but kept him on the bench.

I brought in three Chelsea players as they had an easier looking trip to Norwich, though I kept Gary Cahill on the bench in case he was only given a cursory runout on debut. I picked up David Silva despite the solid Spurs defense, and kept Robin Van Persie because, well, he’s Robin Van Persie. I opted for Juan Mata, who I installed as my captain, instead of Frank Lampard because Lamps was another player who could have only appeared for the last 10 minutes.

The ’Keeper’s pre-Gameweek thoughts were as follows: “I decided to use my wild card this week. I could have waited another week, but I was missing Emanuel Abdebayor, and was heavy on Tottenham heading into the weekend, and RVDV hasn’t been doing much. Also, I had Tim Howard and didn’t like their match up, so thought it was a good chance to get him out. So I started there—got rid of Howard and brought in the Newcastle keeper. As I looked at midfielders and forwards, I kept thinking about my success so far this year with middle priced forwards, aside from RVP. So I dumped Adebayor, and went with Steven Fletcher of Wolves. That was good value, and set me up for stocking up on a solid midfield. Matt Jarvis was then expendable since there’s no need for two Wolves players. (When I win this thing, I’ll be sure to give Jarvis a bit of the winner’s share, like the Triple A guy who gets some World Series money cause he was brought up for two weeks in mid July.) I didn’t mind the middle priced forwards—Steve Morison has been a stud, and Wayne Rooney might have made sense here, but I don’t like Rooney.”

All of my players that the ‘Keeper didn’t also have were in action early on Saturday, while he had six guys playing Saturday evening and Sunday that I didn’t have. Thus, I needed a big lead by Saturday at 445pm to have any hope of victory.

Lampard left injured after 35 minutes, which only proved me correct in choosing someone other than Lampard as captain. Mata himself didn’t do much in a 0-0 draw.

One of my new signings, Heidar Helguson, converted a penalty after 30 minutes. As goals kept flying past the Newcastle defense I started thinking that I had a shot at victory.

However, in the blink of an eye in the second half, everything changed with a big 13 point swing in the ‘Keeper’s favor. Two of my players, Jonathan Walters and Helguson, missed penalties within a minute of each other. Instead of gaining 9 points I lost 4 and a shot at some bonus points for Helguson.

I led by 15 or so after the early games but was in trouble. Bolton’s three goals helped me since the ’Keeper had two Liverpool defenders. After a scoreless first half between Man City and Spurs left me worrying about loads of clean sheet points for his guys, the scoring started and kept going. David Silva assisted on the first goal and Gareth Bale scored the fourth. That left me narrowly in front; Nani’s appearance points plus a clean sheet would have tied it up but the RVP goal left me a point ahead heading to the bonus points. And though I don’t really understand the bonus point system, I’m pretty sure missed penalties aren’t looked at too favorably.

As it was, my opponent clawed back the point he was missing and we ended 46-46. As the ’Keeper said, “It’s like kissing your brother.”

Performance of the Week: Herk City pulled down a massive 75 points, getting 28 from his captain, Stephane Sessegnon, and another 20 from hat-trick hero Clint Dempsey.

Unlucky Loser: Fluffy Bunnies took the dubious honors this week, losing 63­49 to Bryan 04 Leverkusen. The Bunnies’ total would have topped 36 other teams.

Cup: Three more teams were knocked out of the Cup, leaving Herk City, El Nino and Giorgio Chinaglia as our sole representatives in what I figure is the round of 65,536.

Thanks OMATV. FA Cup matches are currently on the slate—including today’s Everton–Fulham matchup featuring Yanks Tim Howard, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. The EPL Gameweek 23 starts on Tues, Jan 31.

Bruce Arena: The Most Sensible Man in U.S. Soccer?

Former U.S. national team and three-time MLS Cup champion coach Bruce Arena appeared on Major League Soccer’s ExtraTime Radio podcast yesterday, and he opened up a can of … refreshing candor and common sense.

As co-host Greg Lalas told us, “He’s at a stage in his career now where he can just speak his mind.” Speak his mind he did. Some of the highlights:

On current U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s statements that American players have too much time off:

“I would say this: the only reason players around the world play 10-and-a-half months is because those clubs have to schedule that for revenue purposes. I think every club around the world would probably tell you, ‘Our players are run into the ground. They need more rest, and their time off is invaluable.’

“Let’s look at the top two clubs in the world: Barcelona and Real Madrid. Do you think that the best thing for Lionel Messi to do is just continue to play and play and play in the offseason? Those players are taxed to their limits. They’re being pushed as hard as you can push them, and the time off is valuable. [But] listen: there’s no question that a player in MLS who stops playing in October and doesn’t resume training until late August [he said August, but we’re pretty certain he meant January.—Ed.] that’s a little too long. However, there’s nothing wrong with players having six to eight weeks off. Your body needs time to recover and have a reasonable preseason—there’s nothing wrong with that.

“I agree with some of Jurgen’s comments that the MLS players could have an extended season, but on the other hand, looking at the other way, players around the world are run into the ground and they need the proper rest of the offseason. So, it’s give-and-take in both area.”

Heads were nodding in agreement at the Backpost World HQ while Arena said the above. When Klinsmann made his statements about wanting guys to play 11 months a year, we were reminded of some old comments by NBA legend Bill Walton, who said that pro basketball players actually had to “get out of shape” to properly recover from the pounding of an NBA season. Sounded reasonable to us, and perfectly applicable to soccer players. Your body needs downtime to recover. Your mind does too.

On the search for the “American style” that Klinsmann has frequently mentioned:

“Well the American style is what we always said it is. And it hasn’t changed. It’s always been that, and there was this kind of rumor that we were all of a sudden going to have a team with a great flavor of Hispanic players and Mexican-Americans and all of that. Do you see any of those on the field right now?”

No. No, we don’t. We did see defenders Michael Orozco Fiscal and Edgar Castillo on the field not too long ago, but … it didn’t work out for either of them.

But hey, Tab Ramos and Claudio Reyna are both on the U.S. Soccer staff now and … Junior Flores is a bona fide U-17 star. So… that elusive “American style” could yet emerge.

On Clint Dempsey’s current form and the clamor for him to go to a bigger club:

 “Clint has obviously grown tremendously as a player. He’s a guy I had with the national team, and if you can excuse my French, we used to say all the time, ‘He tries s-h-*-t.’ So he has the courage to try things on the field and be an aggressive attacking player. And that’s very rare for American players, and Clint has always had that kind of confidence and uniqueness to himself. I think he’s at a club that’s very good for him. And I’m just hopeful that—there’s a lot of speculation that he’s going to move on—and I think that has to be balanced properly, because one thing he can be assured of at Fulham is that he’s going to be on the field. That’s a nice match right now. To alter that, I hope it isn’t a move that may impact his ability to continue to play on a consistent basis.”

You can listen to the rest of the interview, along with an appearance from Seattle winger Steve Zakuani, right here.

Appearing on ETR a week ago, Sports Illustrated writer Grant Wahl was asked about David Beckham’s recent decision to stay in Los Angeles. In addition to the reasons commonly cited—lifestyle, family’s happiness, growing the game here—Wahl, who wrote a book about Beckham and the Galaxy in 2009, mentioned Arena, saying he thinks Beckham came to realize “that Bruce Arena is an amazing coach. Who has completely turned around what was one of the most dysfunctional teams [the 2008 Galaxy] we’ve ever seen in Major League Soccer.”

Hopefully, Arena won’t be needed to perform a similar 180 in a second stint with the USMNT any time soon—but it’s nice to know he’s there.

U.S. 1, Panama 0: Highlights and Positives (Yes, There Were Positives)

The U.S. got a ninth-minute goal from Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi, then hung on after a 51st-minute red card to Houston defender Geoff Cameron for a 1-0 win over Panama in an international friendly last night in Panama City.

It was not a match that anyone will point to as an example of the Beautiful Game, and the U.S. looked completely lost during the last 15-20 minutes of the first half, but they responded well after going down to 10 men and can take some encouragement home from Central America.

More on that after the highlights:

The primary benefit of last night’s match was that it gave the U.S. team—as well as the Yank coaching staff—a taste of what World Cup qualifying will be like on the road in CONCACAF.

As Alexi Lalas tweeted soon after Cameron’s debatable red card: “That’s exactly type of red card that we’ll see in qualifying.”

Down to 10 men in an unfamiliar (if not exactly hostile) environment, the U.S. made some adjustments and concentrated on killing the game with extended spells of possession. And they succeeded. They held on, knocked the ball around very well at times, and saw out the 1-0 result.

“The way we executed in the last half-hour, especially technically, was very good,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in the postgame press conference. “The red card changes the strategy and prevents us from bringing on another forward and continuing to push forward, but overall, I think the team adapted well.”

Captain Jermaine Jones seconded Klinsmann’s notion: “It’s a young team and I think we can really learn from these types of games. They can learn how to go the right speed, how to slow it down. These are tough games and I think it really helps to get the feel.”

One observer said something to the effect of, “Sure it’s a lesson for CONCACAF qualifying, but how many of the guys in last night’s game will actually take part in CONCACAF qualifying?”

Seems like a fair question, but it’s hollow for at least three reasons:

1. Last night’s game and the one against Venezuela were about deepening the U.S. player pool, and adding depth and competition for places to the side, not about, Who can make the team?

2. That said, several players from last night are likely to be in WCQ, such as Jones, Brek Shea, and Heath Pearce. And several more should be standing by, at the very least, including Michael Parkhurst, Geoff Cameron, Teal Bunbury, Chris Wondolowski, CJ Sapong and Nick Rimando.

3. The experience benefited the coaches, none of whom have taken part in CONCACAF qualifying before, as much as the players.

As for the bubble players mentioned above, let’s start from the back:

• Nick Rimando showed he’s a viable option in a tough spot. If Tim Howard and/or Brad Guzan picked up an injury during qualifying, we’d feel confident that Rimando would step in capably. He had a great first half before giving way to Sean Johnson and his James Earl Jones voice.

• The U.S. centerback situation is far from settled, and the current first-choice guys are all aging. They may be in the mix for early qualifying, but if they’re the starters come Brazil 2014, then the U.S. is in trouble. Ergo, Klinsmann needs to blood guys coming up behind them. Cameron didn’t play as well last night as he did against Venezuela, but he needs to be in the mix. Parkhurst is not physically imposing, but he’s a steady central defender, even if his performance dropped off slightly last night, too.

Pearce could win the perennially problematic left back spot by default.

(Related: Why was Zach Loyd subbed out in the 41st minute? Was he hurt? If it was because he got beat several times (and carded) in the first half, then…ouch. By not waiting four minutes till halftime, Klinsmann sent a message. An embarrassing one.)

• Up top, Wondolowski continues to be snakebit: Panama keeper Luis Mejia denied his header with a spectacular save, the second straight game Wondo’s been robbed of a goal.

Bunbury was mostly useless—a fact that only threw into sharp relief the solid cameo by Sapong. The reigning MLS Rookie of the Year came on for the last 15 minutes and did exactly what was needed: We counted three occasions when he held the ball under heavy pressure, using his skill and athleticism to keep possession for the U.S. in crucial spots. We’d say he earned another look (at least) from Klinsmann, and why not with the first-choice team?

US 1, Venezuela 0: Highlights and Quick Hits

The United States squeaked out a 1-0 win over Venezuela on Saturday night, thanks to Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Ricardo Clark’s 97th-minute header off a Jermaine Jones corner kick.

The two midfielders involved in the goal were the only non-MLS players in the U.S. lineup, which featured four players making their international debuts, and eight guys with fewer than 10 caps.

Venezuela, which is currently tied for first in COMNEBOL World Cup qualifying, also sent a second-choice squad, and the U.S. B team clearly dominated the game, creating multiple chances while giving up very few. The Americans’ 21-year-old keeper, Bill Hamid, was hardly tested in his international debut, while his counterpart, Jose Morales, was arguably the man of the match.

Highlights:

Four quick hits:

• As Bob Bradley noted late in his term as U.S. coach, Chris Wondolowski always gets in good spots. He hasn’t finished one yet, but he’s had several golden opportunities in his U.S. appearances, most of them due to his own wiles in the box. Against Venezuela he flashed a header just wide, had one brilliantly saved off the line by Morales, and did well to create a volley for himself, which Morales also stopped. Look for him to break his duck on Wednesday night against Panama, and redeem his missed sitter against Los Canaleros in last summer’s Gold Cup.

Geoff Cameron could stick at centerback. As many observers pointed out before the game, Cameron’s combination of athleticism, size and skill on the ball seemed a good fit for Jurgen Klinsmann’s system, which calls for a central defender who can pass out of the back with skill and confidence. All of the Houston Dynamo man’s qualities were on display against Venezuela, and he looked like an experienced international, not a man picking up his first U.S. start and second cap.

Jermaine Jones is not all he was cracked up to be. In the long wait for German-American Jones to complete both his U.S.-eligibility paperwork and his recovery from a long-term leg injury, American fanatics were already penciling him into the starting XI, essentially sight unseen. Now that he’s made 15 appearances for the U.S., our reaction is … eh. Against Venezuela, he actually had one of his better games, yet to us, he’s full of energy but light on purpose and skill. He’s also a hothead, as his current eight-game suspension from the Bundesliga attests. He stomped on an opponent’s leg in Germany, and Saturday night, after getting the captain’s armband from Klinsmann (odd decision, that), he looked determined to hurt someone out there.

•  Brek Shea needs to translate his flashes into flourishes. The rangy 21-year-old winger had a breakout season in 2011, contending for the MLS MVP award and establishing himself on the national team. On Saturday, he squandered a great chance after being sent in beautifully by Benny Feilhaber, and had a header well saved by Morales. We’ll know he’s at the next level when those chances start going in.

Who Will Get the Starting Nod Vs. Venezuela?

The U.S. national team takes on Venezuela in Glendale, Ariz., on Saturday night (9:00 ET, Galavision/ESPN3), and with an MLS-heavy roster on hand, coach Jurgen Klinsmann has some interesting player-selection options.

The German legend could give a first cap to no fewer than five players from his January training camp, as CJ Sapong, Graham Zusi, AJ DeLaGarza, Bill Hamid and Jeff Parke all have never appeard for the U.S. before. It’s a green group over all as well: More than half of the 20 players called in have two caps or fewer for the full national team.

While there could be some lineup surprises, circumstances have pretty much forced Klinsmann’s hand when it comes to central defense. The departures of George John (West Ham) and Omar Gonzalez (FC Nuremberg, where he tore his ACL in his very first training session) for European loan stints have left him with only three pure centerbacks: Parke, Geoff Cameron and Michael Parkhurst.

We’re betting he goes with Cameron and Parkhurst over the uncapped Parke.

DeLaGarza filled in at centerback for LA this past season, but he seems more suited to the wing, especially at the international level. Look for him at right back, unless Klinsmann decides to go with Zach Loyd‘s athleticism there. Pearce has also played in the middle, but as a rare left-footed player in camp, he’ll almost certainly get the nod at left back.

Among the midfielders, Kyle Beckerman is reportedly questionable with an injury, so we could see German-American Jermaine Jones starting in the middle. Jones, a Schalke 04 midfielder who is currently serving an eight-game suspension for stomping on an opponent’s leg, is one of just three European-based players in the mix. We’d say one of the others, Ricardo Clark of Eintracht Frankfurt, gets the nod alongside Jones, and a chance to make an impression on Klinsmann.

Brek Shea, who had a breakout 2011 and has looked good in camp, will almost certainly start at left midfield. Filling out the rest of the midfield could be Benny Feilhaber and/or Graham Zusi.

Up top, well, Klinsmann only called in four forwards, and one of them, Juan Agudelo, is nursing an ankle injury. Look for the veteran Chris Wondolowski to be given an opportunity to make up for his missed sitter against Panama in last summer’s Gold Cup.

If Klinsmann goes with four midfielders, Teal Bunbury, who has a handful of caps to CJ Sapong‘s zero, seems likely to start up top alongside Wondo. But we’ll be waiting for Sapong to come on as a sub to see how well his vast potential translates to the international level.

Of all the new, or relatively new, players in camp, we’re most eager to see Sapong and Cameron. We would not be surprised to see their stock rise highest by the time this January session wraps up with a friendly in Panama on the 25th.

BPFL: Lildweaver Rising, MGlo Sinking, Family Derby Approaching

Co-commissioner MGlo has the BPFL Gameweek 21 recap—and his fortunes are plummeting faster than, well, you’ll see:

Well, my team is sinking fast. Out of the Cup a week ago thanks to Manchester United defender Phil Jones’ own goal and losing in the league this past week thanks to Blackburn striker Yakubu’s sending off coupled with Spurs marksman Emmanuel Adebayor’s called back goal. I have now dropped down into 13th place. It could only be worse if I had Francesco Schettino as my captain!

But enough about me. Let’s look at the top of the table. Everything remains the same from last week as all but one of the Top 10 teams was victorious. First-place coloradokeeper returned to his winning ways, as did second-place Dynasty FC of Hammer. Four points separate the two squads, but they have moved farther ahead of Herk City, who occupy the third spot. City were the only team in the Top 10 not to win. Their defeat allowed El nino to pull level on points, but the latter remain fourth on point difference. Giorgio Chinaglia stay fifth with sixth-place Ahmad Haziq Hashim right on the Cosmos legend’s heels.

Seventh-place Lildweaver have won seven straight to move within 4 points of third place, while eighth-place DisgruntledNumpties are narrowly ahead of The Xerex’s Team, holding an edge on point difference.

The Numpties may be disgruntled, but they have won seven of their last eight, while Xerex have won eight of their last nine. New to the Top 10 is Sunshine FC, who have won four in a row.

Performance of The Week: Lildweaver was our team of the week thanks to a very strong defense which earned four clean sheets. Captain Joe Hart led the way between the posts with 14 points, while Newcastle’s Ryan Taylor added 12 thanks to an assist and 3 Bonus points. Liverpool’s Jose Enrique also earned 3 Bonus points while Chelsea defender John Terry hauled in 6 regular points. Gareth Bale of Tottenham added an assist for 5 points, while Wayne Rooney, despite missing a penalty, added two assists. Norwich’s Steve Morison chipped in with a goal and 1 Bonus point as Lildweaver pulled in 68 total points.

Unlucky Loser: Team Fortress 4 were once again the recipient of this award as their 54 points were good enough to beat 31 other teams—but not Sleeping Giant, which eked out a win with 56 points.

Cup: Four more teams were knocked out of the Cup last week, leaving coloradokeeper, Herk City, El nino, Giorgio Chinaglia, The Xerex’s Team and Sunshine FC to lead the Backpost charge.

Matches of the Week: Two matches stand out in the coming week. One is the brotherly derby between first-place coloradokeeper and eighth-place DisgruntledNumpties. The keeper fired the first broadside when we caught up with him during training. “I heard the Numpties were once good at this pool”, said the manager. No word yet from the Numpties camp as they prepare for a tough battle.

The other match of note is between Sleeping Giant and I Am Liverpool. In Gameweek 21, The Giant made his first change in over a month, and ended a five-game losing streak. The team is excited and feel this just might be the kick start they need. At their press conference, the Giant manager exclaimed “We’re on our way! Second-half surge, here we come.” Liverpool, despite the youth of their leadership, should prove a tough challenge.

Thanks Commish. Huge—or, as Mike Francesa would say if he paid attention to soccer, yoooooooge weekend coming up, with Man City v Tottenham and Arsenal v Man United. Don’t forget to set your lineups Friday night.