The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

The South Africa 23

We now know the identities of the 23 men the United States of America (FUCK YEAH!) will be sending to this year’s World Cup in South Africa. Sure, this is just one more opinion in an Internet full of them, but this is one topic that will always get me to shake off my blogging torpor (What can I say about the Canadiens’ run that everyone else hasn’t said already? Oh yeah, DIE IN A FUCKING FIRE, ROMAN HAMRLIK…IF YOU ARE AN NHL DEFENSEMAN, I’M THE BLEEDING QUEEN OF ENGLAND. That should cover it). Given that I don’t watch a lot of MLS, I won’t be able to talk intelligently about some of the fringe players in the squad – other than that late-term abortion of a 4-2 loss to the Czech Republic, that is. Without further ado:

GOALKEEPERS: Tim Howard (Everton) and Two Other Guys, Only Because FIFA Rules Mandate Carrying Three Keepers For Some Reason.

OK, OK, that’s a bit harsh.

GOALKEEPERS: Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa) and Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

So, three lads plying their trade in the English Premier League, then…or, I should say two lads plying their trade and also Brad Guzan, who arse-warms the bench for Villa. Of course, there’s little shame in backing up Brad Friedel, who we all remember for his heroics in the 2002 World Cup (as well as the absolutely mystifying decision to not play him in 1998 by Steve Sampson…Kasey Keller was a fine keeper who never, on his motherfucking best day, could carry Friedel’s jockstrap). Look, there’s no mystery here whatsoever. TIMMAY is going to play every minute of every game barring any unforseen amputation of limbs…and even then we might overlook a missing arm or two. Without question, Howard is one of the 20 best keepers on the planet at this moment in time, and there is a strong argument for him being in the top 15. Any claim beyond that gets a bit dodgy, but still, when was the last time an American soccer player was top-15 in the world in his position? Don’t rack your brains too hard – the answer is that there never has been until now. He is incredibly athletic, an ungodly shot-stopper and reasonably good at dealing with crosses and set pieces (which opening-match opponents England will of course bring in force). If our boys are going to accomplish anything in this tournament, a substantial burden will be on Howard’s shoulders to come up with match-winning saves. Anyone who saw the 0-0 friendly draw with Argentina last summer will testify that such a thing is not only reasonable, it’s likely. Still, there’s some things that even a world-class keeper can do little about, and patchwork defenses are one of them (ZOMG FORESHADOWING!). The Everton defense was also a bit ropey at times this season, and you could almost play a drinking game based on how often – and how vociferously – Howard raged at his defenders after conceding a goal. The good news there is that he’s used to it – the bad news is that our defense is shit, and will in all likelihood get ripped apart by the first real team we play (please note: “real team” does not include England).

Speaking of…

DEFENDERS: The Crocked Version of Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan Reserves), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Steve Cherundolo – Yes, STILL! (Hannover 96), and Four Fucking Clowns (Barnum & Bailey’s Circus).

Ahh…there I go again. My bad.

DEFENDERS: Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Carlos Bocanegra (Stade Rennais), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA)

I’m not even going to mince words – this lot is a fucking shitshow at the moment, and if the worst-case scenario happens, it will squarely be at the feet of these men. Let’s start with the positives – DeMerit is a solid center back who is just about serviceable at this level. Cherundolo is highly experienced and a decent option at right back, and Goodson wasn’t the worst player on the field against the Czechs. Yep, that’s it. That’s the list.

Onyewu is big, strong and talented…but he’s also recovering from knee surgery and was well-beaten in the air for one of the Czech goals. Even worse, it wasn’t exactly Jan Koller who beat him to the header – it looked like the dude was my height. Carlos Bocanegra is the type of guy (as far as World Cup level goes) where your assistant in Football Manager 2010 would say something like “Bocanegra should only be signed as a last resort, and isn’t getting any younger”. Oh, and he’s recovering from hernia surgery! Still, a mediocre defender out of position is still our best option on the left. Yep. A country of 300 million, and NOT ONE FUCKING PERSON CAN PLAY LEFT BACK. His deputy will be Bornstein, who makes the plane for South Africa because Heath Pearce is still smoking from being torched roughly 938,271,281,191 times in his 45-minute stint against the Czechs. Goodson is just a guy – it speaks volumes that he spends his time in the Norwegian league. Spector is frustrating because he has shown flashes of competence, but any connoisseur of the Premier League can recall how often the top players made him look like a buffoon. He also plays in Cherundolo’s position, which leads me to wonder if it’d be worth it to stick one of them on the left and hope for the best. It doesn’t matter, though…whatever way you arrange the puzzle pieces, there’s still a few missing. You know, like the Neven Subotic-shaped one (Thanks, Thomas Rongen…you fucking incompetent nitwit).

MIDFIELDERS: Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Jose Francisco Torres (Pachuca), Benny Feilhaber (AGF Aarhus)

If ever the United States of America (FUCK YEAH!) had a strength, it is here in the middle of the park and out on the wings. This is where Bob Bradley has the most options, and this is the power source of the athletic, counter-attacking style that we play at our best. At first glance, Bradley will probably go with his kid in the central holding role (not to say it’s a nepotistic choice – Bradley is the best we’ve got there by miles) with Dempsey and Holden on the wings and Donovan in the hole behind the strikers. Then again, Donovan and/or Dempsey may end up playing up top at points (perhaps flanking Jozy Altidore in a 4-3-3 if we’re losing), and we are sure to see Torres and Edu at some point…especially as impact subs. If Donovan is up top, then that will likely be the chance for Beasley to get into the lineup – if he isn’t drafted into emergency left back duty like he was in the qualifiers, that is. As you can see, there’s a ton of options and few of them are bad. There’s also genuine depth here, as Torres and Edu can both do a job in the center of the park, and while I don’t think Feilhaber will get any minutes, he has shown before that he can score in big games (Mexico, anyone?).

Don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a collection of players that will have Germany or Spain or Brazil quaking in their Adidas. But, it’s a solid group that should be able to execute the American gameplan and prevent most matches from becoming laughers. Given the shocking state of our defense though, it may come to pass that Bradley has to play an anchor man in front of the back four to help them out. In that case, you may see more of Clark, or it could be Bradley back there as well. The worry though is that both have seen red in international matches before, and given our fine nation’s history of getting red cards at World Cups, a smart man will put in a cheeky fiver (or tenner) on at least one American getting an early shower sometime in this tournament.

FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Villareal), HERCULEZ~! Gomez (Pachuca), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake)

A lot here will depend on the formation that Bradley goes with. If he does the 4-5-1 that flows into a 4-3-3, it’ll be the aforementioned scenario of Altidore leading the line with Donovan and Dempsey supporting high up from the wings (assuming they don’t have to spend the whole game in our end covering for our shite fullbacks, that is). Otherwise, one of the other three guys is actually going to get to play. Gomez looked good – even bagged a goal – against the Czechs, while all I can tell you about Buddle is that:

1. He has a fantastic name. Not as fantastic as HERCULEZ~!, but it’s a close second.
2. He has 9 goals for the Galaxy so far this season. All that tells me right now is that he’s Conor Casey with hair.
3. In previous versions of Football Manager, he would have a finishing rating of at least 16 and he WOULD STILL NEVER FUCKING SCORE.

As for Robbie Findley, I could not pick the man out of a police lineup.

Still, the upshot of all of this is that Brian Ching will not make the trip to South Africa. I say this with the greatest possible respect for him as a human being, and with all sympathies to the horrible disappointment of being in all likelihood the final cut from the roster:

Ready?

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

With that out of the way, you will recall that our group-stage opponents are England, Slovenia and Algeria. The latter is absolute fucking shite – they qualified by the slimmest of margins against a distracted and shockingly-poor Egyptian side (who later decimated them 4-0 in the semifinal of the African Cup of Nations), and they have essentially no quality players worth mentioning. They were last seen getting mauled at home 3-0 by Serbia. So, there really should be no worries here. On the other hand, as badly as England have played lately and as many question marks as they possess, they are a horrific matchup for the United States of America (FUCK YEAH!). We make our living victimizing quick, skill-based teams off the counter. We let them have 60-70% of the possession, try and muck up the midfield as much as possible, and then let Donovan and Dempsey interplay with Altidore on long balls up the field in the spaces left behind by the opposing fullbacks and central midfielders. England kind of do the same thing, except they have better players and will have more of the ball besides. Sure, Peter Crouch is kind of a mediocre player, but a half-fit Onyewu is our only hope of stopping him. And seriously, who in the blue hell is getting a shadow on Wayne Rooney? The only hope there is that Howard has one of the all-time great games and steals it, but the more that time goes on, the less I can see even that being enough to get a point against Eng-ger-land.

With that, it leaves the game against Slovenia as an absolute must-win. I fear that a draw won’ t be enough as I have a suspicion that the English are going to give us the sort of rogering that we gave them in Yorktown (OH SNAP!), and we won’t beat Algeria by as much as Slovenia will. I keep telling everyone I talk to that Slovenia are a useful outfit and will not roll over for anyone. While Howard is still the best goalkeeper in the group, Samir Handinovic is not that far away (and he’s better than anyone England will put between the sticks). They defend well and they’ll punish mistakes, as Russia discovered in the qualifying playoff. Still, I do think that there is enough quality up top and in the midfield for Slovenia to be overcome…but, that will be it as far as our progression goes. Should we finish second in the group, we play the winner of Group D, which is Germany-Serbia-Ghana-Australia. While it isn’t a mortal lock, you still have to think Germany tops the group and goes on to beat us in a World Cup eliminator…again.

That said, if it’s someone like Australia or even Ghana, perhaps we may sneak that before inevitably falling in the quarterfinals (where Argentina should be lurking if the form book holds).

OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Humiliating 5-0 loss to Germany in the Round of 16.

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May 26, 2010 - Posted by | Other Soccer

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