Misleading Scoreline of the Week: Brazil 4, U.S. 1

Onyewu is still 6-4; it’s just that Edu and Howard are on their toes, Prison Mike tells us.

There it was, on the left of the screen, in SportsCenter’s upcoming-stories list this morning: “Brazilian Blowout.”

Yes, Brazil topped the United States 4-1 in Landover, Md., last night, and yes, that scoreline, beamed out to the world over the AP and Reuters, looks very much like a blowout.

But the scoreline does the U.S. a bit of a disservice. They were in this game for long stretches and they created a good number of chances against the mighty Brazilians. Oguchi Onyewu hit the crossbar. Herculez Gomez and Terrence Boyd were denied, in quick succession, by great saves from Brazilian keeper Rafael. Gomez bounced a header toward the gaping Brazilian net that Clint Dempsey nearly bundled in—only to see his attempt cleared off the line.

Then there was Brazil’s first goal, on a dubious penalty, that put the U.S. in a hole just 12 minutes in. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann also disputed the fourth strike, saying Alexandre Pato was offside (in real time he looked off; on replay, it looked like Onyewu kept him on), and argued that Gomez should have been awarded a penalty when he was taken down in the box in the second half.

To those grumblings we would add that Neymar was offside on his overlapping run that led to Goal No. 3.

Yet we also have to add that Michael Bradley neglected to mark Marcelo on that play, that Brazil generally made that game extremely difficult for the Americans with their unrelenting pressure on the ball and their speed and possession. (In closeup shots of U.S. midfielders Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, and Bradley, you could see how much chasing they were doing by the fatigued looks on their faces.)

Brazil deserved to win and were the better team on the night, but that 4-1 … well, 3-2 or 3-1 would’ve told the story more accurately for those who didn’t watch.

In any case, on to the highlights:

Some more takeaways for the U.S. side:

• Gomez had an excellent game, and should certainly be part of Klinsmann’s mix going forward. He scored (reacting very well to a deflected cross in front of goal), put pressure on Brazil’s backline, and created opportunities for others.

• Michael Bradley may be the best U.S. player right now. He’s so poised on the ball, rarely gives it away, and is showing new flashes of skill.

Fabian Johnson has won the left back job. Is there any doubt now? He’s athletic, skilled, dangerous going forward and solid defensively. He also faked out the entire stadium with a move on the  left in the second half, before sending in a dangerous cross.

• Canada better be ready Sunday. After competing hard against one of the best teams in the world—and being visibly ticked off about falling short—the Americans should be primed to take out their frustrations on the Canucks at Toronto’s BMO Field (NBCSN, 7:00 pm).

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Is the U.S. Poised to Beat Brazil Tonight?

Michael Bradley is playing the best soccer of his life. Landon Donovan followed up comments about his “hunger” for the game possibly waning by blasting three goals and helping set up two others in a 5-1 thrashing of Scotland (LD also hit the post in the game). Fabian Johnson looks very much like the solution to the long-running problem at left back. Jose Torres is coming off his best game ever in a U.S. shirt.

With all those cylinders firing, the U.S. tore apart the Scots on Saturday night in Jacksonville. Take a look:

And tonight, the Americans can add Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore to the mix.

Of course, Brazil is about as distant from Scotland as a soccer opponent as Rio is from Edinburgh (geographically, culturally, and meteorologically). They’ll be bringing the likes of Neymar (Santos), Hulk (Porto), and Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), and even though most of the players lining up in yellow tonight (8:00 ESPN2) are U-23 Olympic hopefuls, Brazil will have over-23 stars Thiago Silva (AC Milan) and Marcelo (Real Madrid) joining Hulk in the starting lineup.

A win will be a tall order for the Yanks, who have played Brazil 16 times and lost 15, but it’s not out of the question. Of those 16 matches, 11 were decided by one goal, and this roster is by far the most talented group Klinsmann has had at his disposal during his U.S. stewardship. Tonight’s as good a time as any to match the Yanks’ 1-0 win in the 1998 Gold Cup.

The most intriguing questions concern how Klinsmann—who has tinkered continuously with the U.S. lineup and formation since taking over the team—will line up his side, who he’ll put out there, and what style they’ll attempt to play. It seems doubtful that they’ll try to take the game to Brazil as they did Scotland, but sitting back too much could put Brazil in their comfort zone, from which they can unlock any defense in the world. Klinsmann has hinted (see below) that the U.S. will try to dictate the game at times.

Another question mark facing the U.S. will be the play of the backline, particularly the central defenders, who were not heavily taxed versus Scotland. Will Geoff Cameron get to test himself against mighty Brazil? If the experienced duo of Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu get the call, will the U.S. have enough speed at the back?

On the other side, apart from the youth spread throughout the team, there appears to be only one potential soft spot, and that’s between the pipes, where 22-year-old Santos keeper Rafael will be making his full national team debut. (Well, that and their atrocious new teal unis.)

Here’s the U.S. camp, previewing the match:

Alan Gordon Scores Third Straight Late Goal, Prompts ‘Goonies’ Reference from Steven Lenhart

San Jose’s reserve striker Alan Gordon took advantage of some slack defending by his former team, the LA Galaxy, to nod in a dramatic, 94th-minute goal and lift the Earthquakes to a come-from-behind 3-2 win at the Home Depot Center last night.

The Galaxy took a 2-0 lead on goals by Hector Jiminez and Mike Magee, and held that advantage into the 75th minute, despite being down a man after Jiminez was red-carded at the hour mark for a studs up challenge on San Jose defender Steven Beitashour.

But in the 76th, San Jose turned the tide.

Highlights here:

In his previous two games, Gordon bagged tying goals in the 88th and 90th minutes. This latest last-gasper marks the fifth time this year that the Quakes have scored in the 88th minute or later, with four of those games ending in either a win or a tie.

As Lenhart told Soccer by Ives:

“We just like to make the game exciting. Goonies never say die. I think we are prepared this year. We have put in the work in training and we like each other, we show up every day and we all know we are committing to the 90 minutes, to play together and work for each other. It may not look that pretty but we know we are going to get the most out of our guys at the end of the day.”

We appreciate that Goonies reference:

Wonder if he and Jimmy Conrad have discussed this before.

In any event, the Quakes, who were missing U.S. national teamer Chris Wondolowski, roll on with the win, taking over sole possession of first place in the West with an 8-2-3 record.

For LA, which fielded a reserve-heavy lineup in this one (Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane are both with their respective national teams), things can hardly get worse: The Galaxy drop to 3-7-2 with the defeat and continue to prop up the Western Conference table.

They’ve officially entered crisis mode.

The USOC Third Round is Set, and It Includes Eric Wynalda’s Amateur Side, Cal FC

He has coveted an MLS coaching job for years now, only to be repeatedly denied by league execs presumably wary of his, um, shoot-from-the-hip style.

Now, outspoken former U.S. national team striker Eric Wynalda will get a chance to coach head-to-head against an MLS side—one that just so happens to be owned by an exec, Merritt Paulson, who called Wynalda “a frickin Twitter trainwreck” this past February.

Wynalda’s Cal FC—an amateur team from the USASA, the fifth tier of the U.S. Soccer pyramid—trounced the Wilmington Hammerheads 4-0 last night in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup. They will now face Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers in the third round.

The Hammerheads are a professional team from Wilmington, North Carolina; they were founded in 1996 and play in the third-tier USL Pro circuit. Cal FC’s Danny Barrera—a former standout at UCSB who also played for the U.S. U-17s and U-18s—scored two goals in the drubbing.

Two other amateur sides made it to the third round, as fourth-tier PDL teams the Michigan Bucks and Ventura County Fusion (not an alt-country band, it turns out) both advanced.

Below are all the matchups (along with a chart of the US Soccer pyramid):

US OPEN CUP THIRD ROUND

Tuesday, May 29
7 pm ET: D.C. United at Richmond Kickers (USL PRO) — Richmond City Stadium; Richmond, Va.

7 pm ET: NE Revolution at Harrisburg City Islanders (USL PRO) — Skyline Sports Complex; Harrisburg, Pa.

7 pm ET: LA Galaxy at Carolina RailHawks (NASL) — WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.

7:30 pm ET: Chicago Fire at Michigan Bucks (PDL) — Ultimate Soccer; Pontiac, Mich.

7:30 pm ET: Colorado Rapids at Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) — Al Lang Stadium; St. Petersburg, Fla.

7:30 pm ET: Dayton Dutch Lions (USL PRO) at Columbus Crew — Columbus Crew Stadium; Columbus, Ohio

7:30 pm ET: New York Red Bulls at Charleston Battery (USL PRO) — Blackbaud Stadium; Charleston, S.C.

7:30 pm ET: Rochester Rhinos (USL PRO) at Philadelphia Union — PPL Park; Chester, Pa.

8:30 pm ET: Charlotte Eagles (USL PRO) at FC Dallas — FC Dallas Stadium; Frisco, Texas

8:30 pm ET: Houston Dynamo at San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) — Heroes Stadium; San Antonio, Texas

8:30 pm ET: Orlando City (USL PRO) at Sporting KC — LIVESTRONG Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan.

9 pm ET: Minnesota Stars FC (NASL) at Real Salt Lake — Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, Utah

10 pm ET: Chivas USA at Ventura County Fusion (PDL) — Ventura College; Ventura, Calif.

10:30 pm ET: Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) at SJ Earthquakes — Cagan Stadium; Stanford, Calif.

Wednesday, May 30
10 pm ET: Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) at Seattle Sounders — Starfire Sports Complex; Tukwila, Wash.

10:30 pm ET: Cal FC (USASA) at Portland Timbers — JELD-WEN Field; Portland, Ore.

U.S. Soccer Pyramid:

Tier 1: Major League Soccer (MLS)

Tier 2: North American Soccer League (NASL)

Tier 3: United Soccer Leagues Professional Division (USL Pro)

Tier 4: United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL) AND National Premier Soccer League (NPSL)

Tier 5: United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) AND U.S. Club Soccer (USCS)

Brek Shea Is Having A Rough Week

Maybe the lanky Dallas winger had already been informed of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans not to include him in this week’s national-team camp when he lashed out in frustration like this last Saturday:

But either way, the outburst (good stiff-upper-lip reaction from the linesman, btw) earned Shea a three-game suspension from Major League Soccer. Incredibly, he wasn’t even carded for it during the game (way to get your linesman’s back, ref), but the league’s new Disciplinary Committee stepped in on Thursday and gave Shea a three-game break.

And you know what? Maybe that’s just what he needs. He’s been run ragged after more than a year of FC Dallas games, US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League matches, national-team appearances and commitments to the U.S. U-23s. It seems like he still hasn’t recovered, as his MLS form has dipped noticeably this season.

Some time off may be just what the doctor ordered, and hopefully will return Shea to the form he found last season, when he did things like this:

Four Quick Hits on Klinsmann’s May Roster

U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has called in 27 players for a training camp in Orlando, Florida, ahead of the team’s three friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers in the next three weeks.

While there was arguably only one surprise selection—that of Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi—there were a few surprising omissions and one player who unexpectedly declined Klinsmann’s invite. (See entire roster at bottom.)

Here are four thoughts on the roster:

It’s time to jettison Timmy Chandler. The 22-year-old Nuremberg defender said “Thanks, but no thanks” to Klinsmann’s offer, turning down the U.S. for the second time in two years. He did have a busy season, but clearly, he’s still holding out hope for a call-up from Germany. (Appearing in a WC qualifier would have tied him to the U.S. forever.) But just like Germany has other options at outside back, so does the U.S. The rock-solid veteran Steve Cherundolo is not done yet, and two guys who are on this roster, Danny Williams and Fabian Johnson, can fill the role as capably as Chandler—or better, in the case of Johnson. Also: Edgar Castillo had a tremendous season at Club Tijuana this year, and Eric Lichaj, who was (somewhat surprisingly) not called in for this camp, came on strong for Aston Villa at the end of the season. Other possibilities include Birmingham City’s Jonathan Spector, and up-and-coming Molde defender/winger Josh Gatt. Chandler showed fairly well in his friendly appearances for the U.S., but it’s time to move on.

They need to play with two forwards—and those forwards’ names should be Dempsey and Altidore. Ever since Klinsmann took over, there’s been much talk about instituting a 4-3-3, with many observers claiming to have spotted that formation in action for the U.S. We are not in that group. We’ve only ever seen a 4-5-1 (or a 4-2-3-1) or a 4-4-2 in the Klinsmann era. Frankly, the team has looked best in a 4-4-2, which is essentially their native formation. It’s more sound defensively, as it allows for two defensive-minded midfielders, it creates more possession, and perhaps most important, it doesn’t leave a lone forward stranded up top, struggling to hold possession and combine with teammates. Dempsey (23 goals for Fulham) and Altidore (19 for AZ Alkmaar) are both coming off career years. It’s time to see what they can do up top together.

Which uninvited player was dealt the biggest snub? The quick answer here is Sacha Kljestan, the midfielder fresh from a championship season at Anderlecht. But Kljestan is competing against a deep and talented midfield and he doesn’t bring anything new to the table, while lacking some of the attributes of his competition (speed, for starters). So we say it’s a tie between Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj. Shea was a part of every single previous Klinsmann setup, and Lichaj plays a position (outside back) that needs to be re-stocked for the future. (There’s depth there, as we said, and it’s time to start tapping it.)

Goal poachers Gomez and Wondolowski need to make the most of deserved call-ups. Gomez has been lighting it up in Mexico the past two seasons, and won a championship with Santos Laguna this year. Wondolowski leads MLS in scoring with 11 goals in 12 games. They’ve been properly rewarded by Klinsmann, but can they do it at the international level? Gomez had some success in the U.S. shirt in the run-up to South Africa 2010, but Wondo has yet to score in seven appearances for the Yanks. It’s Gomez’s first chance under Klinsmann, but it could be the last for both.

The team will be whittled to 23 players on Friday, May 25, and that group will take on Scotland in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday May 26 (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), before traveling to Landover, MD, to meet Brazil on Wednesday May 30 (8:00, ESPN2).

On June 3, they’ll meet Canada at Toronto’s BMO Field (7:00, NBCSN), and then they’ll open the 2014 World Cup qualifying tournament with a match against Antigua & Barbuda on June 8 in Tampa (7:00, ESPN). Following that one comes the first true test of the Klinsmann era, a World Cup qualifier in the unwelcoming climes of Guatemala City (10:00 p.m., only on pay-per-view).

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Oguchi Onyewu (Sporting Lisbon), Michael Parkhurst (Nordsjaelland)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Chievo Verona), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Jose Torres (Pachuca), Danny Williams (Hoffenheim), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS (7): Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Jozy Altidore (AZ Alkmaar), Terrence Boyd (Borussia Dortmund), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Santos), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

BPFL Week 38: Down to the wire!

Co-commissioner MGlo wraps up the tense title chase that came down to the final week of the inaugural Backpost Fantasy League season:

What an exciting end to a season! An amazing battle at the top of the table to determine who would win the trophy on the last day of the campaign! A parade that brought out all the fans to celebrate a wonderful victory!

No we’re not talking about the English Premier League. We’re talking Backpost Fantasy League and the battle between Dynasty of FC Hammer and coloradokeeper. Going into the last day of the season, the keeper had a 1-point lead over Hammer, with 3rd placed Herk City a further point behind. City’s extra transfer cost them -3 points, and their 1-point loss against Joakimovo stado meant their title hopes had disappeared. I can sympathize with City, who finished the season with two straight defeats after winning 10 in a row. I did the same thing with the same player (Gael Clichy) and it cost me a Top 10 finish as we both had bench players who would have lifted us to victories. Herk’s loss meant the title would come down to the Top 2 clubs.

Dynasty, who had been written off by my esteemed colleague back in week 33 (“ His chances of winning the league have evaporated…”), had won 4 straight, their last loss coming against my Old27m club. The keeper, meanwhile, had won just once in his last three matches. Form held true as FC Hammer eased past The Xerex’s Team 49-39, while the colorado based platoon was trounced by Abes Army 57-40. The Army’s tactical use of their wildcard sealed the fate of the one time table topping team. So Congratulations to Dynasty of FC Hammer and their title winning squad. The Gooner Australian will be whooping it up in Sydney or Brisbane or wherever he hails from as he looks forward to defending his title next season.

Performance of The Week: Useful Shot, That was our first winner of this award and also our last. His team racked up a massive 72 points on the back of Captain Wayne Rooney’s 18 and Jonathan Walters 14. The overall winner of this gong goes to Herk City, who was top performer four times during the season. A nice addition to his Backpost Cup win. Congratulations, HC.

Unlucky Loser: Herk City’s 51 points were better than 31 other clubs, but not enough to beat his final round opponent, Joakimovo stado. City took this award three and a half times this season, and twice in the last two weeks, but they were bested by Afrikan Letsatsi, who won it four and a half times. I’m not sure Congratulations are really in order for this one, though there is an award, if we can locate the AL manager.

So we’ve come to the end of the season, and I for one am looking forward to a break. I can now enjoy my Friday afternoons without the stress of making transfers. I can also enjoy my weekends without the distractions of what’s happening with my team. I wish all a very happy summer and look forward to seeing everyone again in August. Enjoy the Euros!

Thanks MGlo, and thanks to everyone who participated.