“Behind the Scenes” of the U.S. U-23s’ Friendly vs Mexico

From coach Caleb Porter’s pregame team talk—which had us fired up to go out and play—to the field-level view of the action, to Juan Agudelo’s centurion hairdo, there’s a lot to like in this you-are-there glimpse of the U.S. U-23’s 2-0 win over Mexico last month.

Take a look:

We also appreciated Freddy Adu’s on- and off-field leadership. He was a vocal leader in the locker room and the tunnel, and he backed it up on the field—on both sides of the ball.

Is he on the verge of a breakout year in Philadelphia?

Time will tell—starting at 9:30 ET on Monday, when the Union take on the Portland Timbers in their 2012 opener (ESPN2).

Philadelphia 4, New England 4: Revs Collapse Like Cartoon Soufflé

New England took a 3-0 lead on Philadelphia after 25 minutes last night at PPL Park—and a 4-1 lead into the halftime break. But as they demonstrated in coughing up a two-goal second-half advantage over New York last month, no lead is safe with the 2011 Revolution.

After the Union’s Freddy Adu scored his first MLS goal since 2007 to make it 4-2 in the 54th minute, you started to get a certain feeling….

Sure enough, Sebastien Le Toux buried a penalty in the 80th minute and then, two minutes into stoppage time, struck a fantastic equalizer to make it 4-4.

This game was a crazy-quilt of highlights and errors.

In addition to his goal, Adu completed 93% of his passes (according to Opta Sports), new Revs signing and potential Name Hall of Famer Moncef Zerka opened his MLS account with a skillful header, Benny Feilhaber and Roger Torres scored sweet goals from just outside the box, and the Revs’ defense, as ESPN commentator Adrian Healey tweeted, was bagel soft.

Beyond all that—and unfortunately not included in the highlights below—both teams created golden chances to win it deep into stoppage time, after Le Toux’s equalizer, but neither could finish.

Here’s the clip:

It was an incredible fight-back by Philly, but they are still winless in seven games, with a big one coming up on Saturday against playoff contenders Portland. New England, whose playoff hopes are all but gone, return home to host FC Dallas on Saturday night.

Union Man: Freddy Adu to Sign with Philadelphia

Following days of reports suggesting that U.S. midfielder Freddy Adu would return to Major League Soccer as a member of Chivas USA, several sources reported yesterday that the 22-year-old is indeed coming back to the league that launched his career in 2004—but not to Chivas. The new reports say Adu has worked  out a deal with the Philadelphia Union.

An announcement from the club is expected today. Adu had been on track to join Robin Fraser’s Chivas side, but apparently the club’s owner Jorge Vergara squashed the deal at the 11th hour.

The Union recently lost striker Carlos Ruiz and are looking to add firepower as they battle for the top spot in the Eastern Conference down the stretch.

The deal may raise some eyebrows among those who remember Adu’s spell under Philly coach Peter Nowak when Nowak was boss at DC United at the start of Adu’s career. It was anything but smooth. But the pair have reportedly mended the fences and worked together on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team.

No word yet on the length of the deal or on whether Adu has been signed as a Designated Player.

Freddy Adu Reportedly Headed to Chivas USA

Various reports today are linking onetime U.S. soccer wünderkind Freddy Adu with a move back to MLS, the site of his historic professional debut as a 14-year-old in 2004.

Chivas USA, whose coach, Robin Fraser, was an assistant at Real Salt Lake when Adu was with that club in 2007, is interested in acquiring the 22-year-old attacking midfielder. The Goats also hold the top spot in the MLS allocation order, so they’d get first crack at the player if/when he becomes available.

Adu is with the U.S. national team in Philadelphia for tonight’s friendly against Mexico, and hopes to resolve his club status within the next two weeks. He is in the final year of his contract with Portugese side Benfica, which is reportedly looking to ship him out, possibly on a free transfer.

If he’s looking to get solidly back into the national-team picture, Adu, who would likely command Designated Player status in MLS,  could do worse than landing at Chivas USA.

He’d almost certainly get a lot of playing time with the Goats, and their stadium, the Home Depot Center, is  the American team’s base in Southern California and just miles away from new U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s doorstep.

Adu (That’s Right, Adu), Donovan, and Dempsey Link Up to Power U.S. into Gold Cup Final

The U.S. advanced to the final of the 2011 Gold Cup last night, edging Panama 1-0 in a scrappy semifinal in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The Yanks will take on Mexico—2-0 extra-time winners over Honduras in the other semifinal—in the final in the Rose Bowl on Saturday night (9:00 ET, Fox Soccer Channel).

The big pregame talking point was the benching of the team’s alltime leader in goals and assists, Landon Donovan. The postgame talking points also involved Donovan—who came on after halftime—and amazingly, Freddy Adu, the onetime prodigy who signed a pro contract with D.C. United at the age of 14 and hadn’t played for the Nats since 2009.

Adu entered the game in the 66th minute and 10 minutes later, he sprung Donovan on the right wing with a perfectly lofted (and weighted) pass from the center of the pitch. Donovan then found Clint Dempsey at the far post with a pinpoint diagonal ball for the matchwinner.

Highlights at bottom, but first, a clip of Dempsey channeling how great U.S. fans and players felt to see Adu back contributing to the USMNT after years of wandering in the wilderness of hype and too-much-too-soon.

Deuce videobombed Adu’s postgame interview with Fox Soccer:

The only thing missing was the pie to the face.

Match highlights here:

Apparently, the benching did not hurt LD’s game, and, given his substandard Gold Cup performances so far, may have helped.

And Adu played well overall, beyond his role in the decisive goal. A few minutes after Dempsey’s strike, Adu made a great run away from three defenders on the right flank, beat a fourth with a stepover move, and cut the ball back for Michael Bradley in the box.

Bradley chose to pass instead of shoot (and his pass went awry) but that could have been a second goal for the U.S.

Finally, coach Bob Bradley is headed down the road to vindication—yet again. He’s got his team to the Gold Cup final, where they were expected to be, and he made some gutsy calls along the way: benching Donovan and starting Kljestan and Bedoya versus Jamaica; holding LD out again last night, and rolling the dice on Adu.

Imagine if Adu had underperformed and the U.S. had lost—there would have been a tsunami of backlash, maybe enough to sweep Bradley out of his job.

As it happened, though, Adu did just the opposite, the U.S. won, and Bradley looked like a coach well in tune with his players’ form—and psyches.

Now, if he can get them to beat the in-form Chicharito and Mexico, in what will essentially be an away game at the Rose Bowl, his critics will have to clam up—once again.

Adu, Rogers, Wondolowski Lead Surprising U.S. Gold Cup Selection

What, you'd given up on him?

Those three above, along with Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, were the surprising inclusions to U.S. coach Bob Bradley’s Gold Cup team. The omissions that raised eyebrows were Nurnberg defender/midfielder Timothy Chandler, Sporting Kansas City striker Teal Bunbury and to some extent, Orebro midfielder Alejandro Bedoya.

Rimando is a surprise inclusion not because of his ability or form (both excellent) but because he’ll be backing up Tim Howard and it was not expected that Bradley would lift him from the RSL roster for six weeks just to be an understudy.

In any event, some puzzling choices, especially in the case of Wondolowski. He’s an excellent MLS striker, but he’s 28 and you’d think Bunbury has much more upside, ie., is a guy you’d want to start blooding for World Cup 2014 over a player who will be 32 when that tournament rolls around.

Also: Freddy’s back! We were thisclose to writing him off entirely.

The complete roster:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne), Jonathan Bornstein (UANL Tigres), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Eric Lichaj (Leeds), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Freddy Adu (Rizespor), Michael Bradley (Aston Villa), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (New England Revolution), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)

FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

What do you think of the choices? Let us know in the comments.

Besiktas Fans: “We Are All Pluto”

Last week, The New Yorker ran a feature on rabid Turkish soccer fans (just about the only kind, apparently), and while we usually dislike “look at the crazy soccer hooligans” stories in American media, this one delivers some golden nuggets.

Jozy Altidore’s Bursaspor features in the article (even if he and fellow American-in-Turkey Freddy Adu both go unmentioned), but the focus is on Besiktas and its rivalries with the other two big clubs in Istanbul—Galatasaray and Fenerbahce.

If you had to choose one of those three to support, we would strongly suggest the “underdog,”’ “working-class” Besiktas. The main reason being this:

“‘We Are All Black,’ proclaimed one banner, after rival fans had made reference to the race of the French-Senegalese Besiktas star Pascal Nouma. When Fenerbahce disparaged a Besiktas manager whose father had been a janitor, there were banners saying ‘We Are All Janitors.’ And when an international committee of astronomers removed Pluto from the list of planets [supporters group] Carsi took up the cause: ‘We Are All Pluto.’ ”

That sealed it for us. As long as Altidore’s Bursaspor (and Adu’s second-flight Rizespor) are not involved, we’re pulling for Besiktas.

The piece, by Elif Batuman (a brave woman: she ventured into the terraces solo), contains multiple other high points. Such as:

“During the course of the Rapid Wien game, the covered stands recited several anti-Fenerbahce chants, a staple of the repertoire no matter what team Besiktas is actually playing. The most famous anti-Fener chant, sung to the tune of ‘Those Were the Days,’ consists of three lines pledging an end to swearing in soccer, followed by the chorus ‘But one last time, suck my d***, Fener.’”

And:

[A handful of old-timers from the supporters group, Carsi, discussing the turf wars that raged when the three Istanbul clubs were forced to share Besiktas’s Inönü Stadium]

“There would be news of a fight. Five hundred people would head straight there, some with guns. Have you seen the movie ‘Braveheart’? It was exactly like that.”

There’s a lot more good stuff in the story, including Carsi members joking [?] that they should kidnap Batuman, the supporters’ obsession with donating blood, and one fan’s assertion that he doesn’t care about extraterrestrials because, “Even if they exist, they’re hardly going to be Besikstasli.”

Check out the complete article in the March 7 edition of The New Yorker or read it right here if you have a subscription.