TOMMY D JUST BLOGGING ABOUT SOCCER!

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A BRIGHT FUTURE & FAREWELL TO A GLORIOUS PAST

by Tom DeNigris

November 15, 2017


Yesterday, in Portugal, the United States Men's National Team, under the direction of interim coach Dave Sarachan (a very good man, by the way), began, well, a new beginning. Just weeks from experiencing an embarrassing loss to Trinidad & Tobago, thus knocking them out of the World Cup, Sarachan's crew took on the world's third-ranked Portugal team in a friendly. Albeit a 1-1 draw, the game was entertaining.

More iportantly, and glory, glory hallelujah, we fans did not have to sit through another game watching the unwatchable Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, et al. No sir. Coach Sarachan called in what should be the next generation and if so, you know, these kids are alright! All right!

To name just a few --

• Uncapped Tyler Adams, 18 years old, and a member of the New York Red Bulls. Excellent performance against Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portguese.

• Uncapped Weston McKennie, 19, and a starting 11 member of German power Schalke. He scored the game's first and USA's only, goal.

• Uncapped Cameron Carter-Vickers, 19, came on as a sub and played well.

• Lynden Gooch, 21, came on as a sub, and he is a creative sort. You know, he's got mad skills, skills not possessed by those above-mentioned unwatchables.

•Goalkeeper Ethan Horvath, 22. Poor kid. Gave up one of those "can I please have that back/did anybody see that" type goals with the ball going through the wickets, through the 5-hole, into the net for Portugal's only goal. Still, he's a keeper, pun intended.

• In all, of the 17 U.S. players who got on the pitch, 10 were 24 or younger.

The future looks bright indeed.

As for the past, well, I speak of my beloved Azzurri, another squad that will be spending the summer watching the World Cup matches. Italy not only lost their 2-leg playoff to Sweden (see blog below), several of the men who have given us so much over the years, have decided to end their international careers.

Leading the way -- the world's greatest Goalkeeper (IMHO -- the Greatest GK ever!), Gianluigi Buffon. At 40, he was still a presence between the pipes.

And then defender Andrea Barzagli, 36, intimated this was it for him, too. Daniele DeRossi, 34, who for some reason only the dim bulb Coach Ventura knows, did not appear in the second leg, will probably not play another match for Italy. More will follow, probably defender Giorgio Chiellini, 33.

Perhaps a youth movement is on in Italy and perhaps it will be as bright -- probably brighter -- as that of the USA.

But as a fan of the Azzurri I say farewell. Godspeed to those greats who made watching soccer so much fun.

NOW WHO?

by Tom DeNigris

November 14, 2017


First, the United States Men's National Team lost to Trinidad & Tobago and were thereby knocked out of next summer's World Cup in Russia. A big deal. sure, for me. Obviously I was rooting incredibly hard for the USA. Then again, since I was not surprised by the loss (more on why later), I still had rooting interest in the World Cup. After all, my beloved Azzurri, ITALY, was sure to get to its 19th consecutive World Cup finals. Indeed, my Azzurri, had only missed out on the World Cup twice. The first time being at the first World Cup in 1930 in Uruguay; the last the year I was born, 1958.

Ah, but Italy was in a qualifying group with Spain. And not surprisingly finished behind the Spaniards and thus had to play a home-and-away two-leg playoff vs. Sweden. Surely, we can beat the Swedes. Surely. Definitely. C'mon. No competition. Make plans for next summer's WOrld Cup. I'm rooting for my beloved Azzurri.

Yeah, not so much.

After an incredibly dismal performance in the first leg, a 1-0 setback that set back soccer about a hundred years (shame on both teams for displaying such boring play!), we were all still confident going into the second leg. For sure, a 2-0 final was in the works. Home game. Surely, we would change our tactics. Surely we knew Sweden would park its bus, a couple of trains and planes and build President Trump's wall in front of its goal. No matter. We'd build from the back. Control the midfield. Work the ball into the box. Score two or three goals and win and qualify on aggregate.

Yeah, not so much.

A dreaded nil-nil draw.

Sweden in.

Italy out!

GEEZ!

NOW WHO?

What team do I now root for in next summer's Cup.

Spain? Surely you jest. France? Get lost. Germany? LOL! Brazil? No way, they have enough championships! Argentina? Well, Messi needs one to lay claim to being the greatest of all time. But I'd probably root for Brazil before I'd root for Argentina and I am not rooting for Brazil. Mexico? Well, they are entertaining to watch. But no thanks.  

Maybe I won't watch.

Stefano Cantalupi of Italy's Gazetta dello Sport, after Italy's loss to Sweden, wrote: "We will not be with you and you will not be with us. A love so great must be reserved for other things. Italy will not participate at the World Cup. It is time to start thinking about what else we can do in June and July: concerts, cinema, village festivals."

I'll go play golf. A lot.

"Anything," Cantalupi continued, "but watching Sweden play at the World Cup. That would be too painful."

Indeed!

TOP 10 FOOTBALLERS OF ALL TIME > MY VERSION

by Tom DeNigris

September 14, 2017

Several months ago a website called New Arena posted a story by Jason Fray titled "The 25 Greatest Soccer Players Ever". After reading the piece, which was, in all honesty, well written, I came to the conclusion that the writer is either clueless in regards to the sport or is about 12 years old and plays on a travel team.

For example, I knew right off the bat this was going to be a ridiculous list based on the headline. "Soccer" players? Yeah, I know, we're in America. Still, you want to talk the talk, then call them footballers! Secondly -- and this is when I really knew this was going to be trouble -- at number 25, Zlatan Ibrahimovic? I mean are you freakin' kidding me? I can probably name 20 players better than him who are currently playing!

Still, I continued down the list and was happy to see that there were very few current players and most of the stars from yesteryear were included.

And then I got to the Top 10. New Arena's Top 10:

10. Paolo Maldini

9. Alfredo DiStefano

8. Cristiano Ronaldo

7. Ronaldo

6. Franz Beckenbauer

5. Johan Cruyff

4. Zinedine Zidane

3. Maradona

2. Lionel Messi

1. Pele

My problem with this list. Lionel Messi #2. This is why I think Jason Fray is a 12-year-old travel soccer player who shows up to practice wearing his Barca jersey. Lionel Messi -- he of doing nothing and winning nothing for Argentina. Top 10? Yes, based on what he has done for his club team. Number 2? No way.

Franz Beckenbauer at #6. Seriously? This guy changed the way centerbacks play this game. If you use a forumula that takes into account technical ability, tactical saavy, international victories, attacking talent, and defensive ability, I can make a case that Der Kaiser is the greatest footballer of all time. Alas, he's almost there in my Top 10, coming up shortly.

Zidane Zinedine does not belong in the top 10, let alone at #4. Top 30, maybe top 20. #4? No way.

OK, so obviously I don't agree with this list but give props to the author because such lists make for good debates and good reading.

Toward that end, here is my Top 10 Footballers of All Time:

10. (tie) Lionel Messi

10. (tie) Fabio Cannevaro

9. Cristiano Ronaldo (comes up big in the big games unlike Messi!)

8. George Best

7. Eusebio

6. Carlos Alberto

5. Paolo Maldini

4. Maradona

3. Johan Cruyff

2. Franz Beckenbauer

1. Pele (not only a technical genius but the greatest ambassador the game has ever had!)

Just missing out but capable of cracking this list:

Sir Bobby Charlton, Stanley Matthews, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Romario, Dino Zoff.

Any USA player? Surely, you jest! Maybe Landon Donovan cracks the Top 100. Maybe Claudio Reyna cracks the Top 150. Maybe Tim Howard or Kasey Keller or Brad Friedel crack the Top 100...Goalkeepers of All-Time.

The New Mandates and the Havoc They've Caused

by Tom DeNigris

September 8, 2017

Sensing a critical need to tweak the Player Development model, US Soccer last summer issued new mandates for youth soccer. Originally, these mandates were to become officially implemented in the Fall of 2017 but with the suggestion that to start them earlier would probably be a good idea.

Well, most youth leagues took that advice and implemented these many changes this Fall.

Good? Bad? Effective? Useless?

Probably a little of all.

Let's take a look at just some of the changes at the youth level:

• Small-Sided Formats

> Thumbs Way Up on this one

Under-8s playing in a 4v4 game format is an outstanding and very effective change as it will help develop better players. In 4v4, a weak player cannot hide while the very good player still can dominate. And having no Goalkeeper is another effective change as it should ensure better goal-scoring opportunities and if you have watched our Men's National Team over the past few years you have seen that we lack a depth in goal scorers/finishers.

My only question regarding Small-Sided is why do we have youth soccer club levels at Under-6 and Under-7. Five, Six and Seven year olds playing competitive soccer is ridiculous.

I like the formats for U-9s and U-10s playing 7v7, and U-10s and U-11s playing 9v9. Although I do wish we had even less players on the pitch in a match for both. I would prefer U9s and U10s playing 6v6 (5 with a Goalkeeper) and U11s and U12s playing 8v8 (7 with a Keeper).

I also like the "Build-Out" Lines  for the 7v7 game. Wonderful idea that should go a long way in teaching youth players had to build the attack out of the back. Of course, this means many, many coaches have to forego their philosophy/system of play of Route 1 Soccer! -- Boot it. Chase it. Boot it again.

All in all, Small-Sided Soccer is GOOD and EFFECTIVE.

•Birth Year Mandate

> Thumbs Down

This is the mandate that wreaked havoc throughout the land of youth soccer as so many teams were broken up. I, for one, do not see the need for this one. The better-than-average player still has options to showcase their talent. For instance, the good player can try out for any of the myriad Select teams, or the Olympic Development Program, both of which use the Birth Year process as opposed to the School Year process which has been in effect since forever.

Although the Birth-Year Mandate is really only an inconvenience for one season (this current one!), I still don't see this as an effective method to further improve Player Development. There are a lot of coaches who did what I have done with my Howell United Soccer Club Rebels. Under the old format, we were U-16s last year and whould have been U17s this season. Unfortunately, I had many girls born in 1999 (too old for U17 under the new mandate), many more born in 2000 (the actual age of U17s under the new mandate) and a few born in 2001 (playing up). Rather than say goodbye to those 1999ers, I decided to just skip the U17 flight and move the entire squad to the U18 flight so that now all the 2000s and 2001s are playing up while the 1999ers are at the right flight.

All in all, Birth Year Mandate is, well, can't say it's bad, so let's leave it at NOT GOOD and a bit USELESS.

But that's just my opinion. WHat do  I know. I've only been coaching for 25 years!


Shoulda-Woulda-Coulda...And Lessons Learned

by Tom DeNigris

March 13, 2017

      I don't enage in the old "Should-Woulda-Coulda" excuses in a loss. Yesterday, needing a win or draw to qualify for the Next Level Soccer Academy College Showcase Girls' Under-16 Final, my Howell United Rebels fell 2-nil. And out we went.

     After a very successful first day, winning 3-2 and then 2-0 my Rebels sat in second place with 12 points, one point behind the host Next Level Soccer Academy Storm (3 points for each win, one point for each goal scored and one point for a shutout).

     A win or draw against a very good Pennsylvania team, which had lost 6-0 to the team we beat 2-0, was all that stood in the way of reaching the final.

     Didn't happen. And hopefully we learned our lesson.

     Indeed. A classic case of S-W-C. BD!

     Yes, I humbly but sincerely admit, we "Shoulda" won. But we didn't. Hats off to those Upper Dublin girls who scored two minutes into the match. Fact is, my Rebels started too slow and our opponents scored two minutes in. We never were able to recover.

     And yes, I humbly and sincerely admit, we "Woulda" won if perhaps I had prepared those girls better prior to the start, but I didn't and that is my fault (those girls truly deserved better than what I had to offer pre-game...Damn!).

     And yes, we "Coulda" won with some better finishing and a tad more focus early on in the game. But we didn't. 

     Who knows what would have happened had we won and qualified for the final against the host team, as it turned out (the host Next Level Soccer Academt won the title).

     We "coulda" beaten them. 

U.S. Soccer 2015 -- The Year of the Women!

by Tom DeNigris

As we bid farewell to the year of 2015 it is easy to say that we - and I mean all of us fans of soccer -- can look forward to another year; one that will hopefully be a bit more successful for the men of U.S. Soccer (although those who are frequent visitors to this space know that I do not think that will be accomplsihed as long as you know who is running the national team).

As for the women...well, this is also easy to say -- the future is as brigh as ever and that is simply because the year of 2015 belonged to the women. Not only our World Cup winning Women's National Team (more on them in a few) but several other women who worked behind the scene. 

So in their honor, allow me to honor the following:

Carli Lloyd

You go Jersey girl! A hat trick in the World Cup final. In the biggest game Carli Lloyd turned in one of the best performances ever in a World Cup (and yes, tha tincludes the men dammit!)

Abby Wambach

We will all miss you. Abby has decided to hang up the cleats but she will never be forgotten. What a player!

Jill Ellis

Full disclosure -- I wasn't jumping for joy when US Soccer appointed her as the women's coach and had some doubts early on in her first few games. But she clearly won me over and certainly seems as though she has the players behind her. Methinks our men's coach should stop by a women's team practice and perhaps pick up a few ideas on how to coach attacking soccer!

Loretta Lynch

The Attorney General for the United States proved to be one tough lady, taking down so many of the bad boys of FIFA, perhaps the most corrupt organization in the world. And she's apparently not finished yet. You keep going girl!

Vanessa Allard

Perhaps this is someone many of you have not heard of but she is an attorney who did the dirty work in helping to take down UEFA President and FIFA-President wannabe Michel Platini, who, like his FIFA counterpart Sepp Blatter, was suspend from soccer for 8 years. Platini allegedly took a $2 million payment from FIFA.

Lynn Berling-Manuel

This is a personal honor choice but nonetheless deserving of notice. Lynn Berling-Manuel was the former publisher of the bible of soccer, Soccer America magazine. She was currently appointed as the CEO of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), a coaching organization that I have been a member of since 1998. We members are in good hands.

The 2015 World Cup Champion U.S. Women's National Team

Here's a little joke -- there is an Over/Under number of 8 listed in Las Vegas. That is, how many more stars signifying World Cup Championships will the US Women get sewn on their jersey before the US Men get one. I'm taking the Over!

Just sayin....

USSF MANDATES: EXCELLENT IN THEORY...POOR IN PRACTICE

by Tom DeNigris

Recently the U.S. Soccer handed down a new mandate on how youth soccer in this country should be conducted. And as usual with anything comingout out of the US Soccer office, the new mandate is something that was really needed. But this was needed about 30 years ago. The incompetent boobs at US Soccer -- the dingbats that run soccer in the USA -- would find a way to screw up boiling water for a cup of tea.

The main mandate that is drawing the ire of parents everywhere is the movement in age-group determination from the current school-year format (August to July) to a birth-year format (Januarry to December. And this is to start Fall of 2016. This change will wreak havoc among clubs throughout the country and will have an incredibly negtive effect on small-town clubs. But that is the way of US Soccer. The incompetent way. Boobs all. Stinking dingbats.

Now, in all honesty, this age-group mandate is pretty much the way it is done around the world. And let's be honest here: this country needs to adapt to the way foreign countries conduct youth soccer, at least with males. Have you watched the US Men's National Team recently? Zzzzzzzzzzzz! This team has not progressed under Jurgen Klinsmann's direction. That is not the fault of Klinsmann alone. US Soccer has to take some -- a lot? - of the responsibiity, too, since we are not producing enough world-class players despite having perhaps the largest pool of players to pick from. Our women's program continues to excel even though more and more foreign national teams are beginning to catch up to us.

When the US won the 1999 World Cup with Mia Hamm and crew leading the way, there were only two or three countries able to compete with that talented crew. This past summer's World Cup Champion USA squad had at least a dozen foreign national squads capable of winning the tournament.

So the women's game is getting better and better. While the rest of the world's women's teams improve, so does the women's program in the United States.

But why not our men?

 There is a current riddle going on in soccer circles: an Over/Under number of 8 -- how many more stars will our women's national team put above their US Soccer logo on their jersey signifying World Cup Championships before the men get one? I'll take the Over right now!

Can we dream of a World Cup Championship on the men's side?

Why not?

Is it realistic?

No, not really.

Not yet, anyway. 

So let's give US Soccer some credit for attempting to improve the youth soccer scene in the USA albeit about 30 years too late!. The new mandates include a lot of small-sided soccer -- 4v4s, 5v5s, 7v7s on smaller fields with smaller goals. Yahoo! About time. But to mandate the age-group changes beginning next Fall is wrong. Really wrong!

There is one simple solution: Beginning next Fall all teams at the Under-10 age and younger should adhere to the new mandate. Simply speaking -- we start at the young ages and begin to build from there. Under-11s and older stay put and continue to play as is but they must adhere to the mandates on field size and game play.

The mandates on field size and the game formats of small-sided should be obeyed. Small-sided soccer on smaller fields is a good thing.

Crystal Ball Says: USA Over Host Canada in Women's World Cup


by Tom DeNigris


Lots of news coming from that corrupt organization that runs the Beautiful Game. This will be the last time I list the name of that slimy organization known as FIFA (Freakin' Idiots Football Association). From here on, it is simply -- the 2015 Women's World Cup and it should be a beauty of a competition. All the games will be televised.

So why not take a shot at predicting the outcome. What the heck. Here goes:

GROUP A has the hosts, Canada (ranked 8th in the world), Netherlands (12), China (16) and New Zealand (17). Canada wins the group with my sleeper, the Dutch women grabbing second place and thus a trip into the Sweet 16. And China will edge New Zealand and grab one of the four third-place qualifiers for the Round of 16.

GROUP B has number-one ranked Germany, Norway (11), Thailand (29) and the lowest-ranked qualifier Iveroy Coast (67). Germany will be the only squad winning all 3 group games, thus grabbing first. Norway's only loss will be to Germany and takes second.

GROUP C has Japan (4), Switzerland (19), Ecuador (48) and Cameroon (53). Japan takes first with the Swiss easing into second.

GROUP D is the so-called Group of Death with our USA women (#2 in the world), Sweden (5, and coached by former USA Coach Pia Sundhage), Australia (10) and Nigeria (33). No easy games here for our girls; nevertheless, a win over Sweden in game 2 of the group round sets the stage for a first-place finish. Watch as Nigeria parks the bus in the front of their goal against the USA in the third and final group round match. Australia is a tough out and will give Sweden a run for second but alas, will settle for third and a spot in the Sweet 16.

GROUP E should be one of the most competitive groups with  Brazil (7) leading the way, followed by e uprising Spain (14), the exciting South Korea team (9) and Costa Rica (37). Brazil takes the top spot with Spain edging South Korea on tie breakers for second. South Korea grabs one of the third-place qualifier spots.

GROUP F will be won somewhat easily by France (3). I'm looking at an upset here as Mexico (25) takes second place ahead of England (6). Colombia (28) is a promising squad but will have trouble here. England nails down the final third-place qualifier.

ROUND OF 16 will see the USA (beating ENgland), Germany, Netherlands, Brazil, France, Canada, Norway and Japan make it to the quarter-finals.

QUARTER-FINALS action will have France staging an incredible upset, knocking off top-seeded Germany. USA will romp over the Dutch. Brazil and Japan will go to overtime with Marta leading her Brazilian mates to the semis. And Canada will slip by Norway.

SEMI-FINALS causes my hopes to die. I wanted a USA-France final, but alas, the two meet here in the semis and our girls are too deep in talent to lose at this point and to the finals they go! Meanwhile, in what will turn out ot be the best game of the World Cup, the host Canadians will defeat the favored Brazilians setting up an all North-American final.

THE FINAL

It's been 16 years but finally the great Abby Wambach achieves the lone prize she has yet to earn as the USA defeats Canada 2-1. Wambach plays well but it is Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd who net the goals to pace the Red, White & Blue. 

SOME CHANGE WOULD BE GOOD

by Tom DeNigris


I've been watching a lot of this great game. I mean more than usual. And while many of the matches have been well played, I just can't seem to get around how the game of soccer can use some changes to get it more into the public's -- or should I say, the media -- eyes. As much good as there is with the game, there is as much, if not more, bad. To wit:

1) DIVING

This is one of the biggest problems in the game and it is way too prevelant in the men's game. You watch these guys barely get clipped and their arms go flailing in the air, their face registers a look of pain as if they've been hit with a sniper's bullet, then they fall to the ground and flop like fish out of water almost always ending with a grab of their shin guards. Referees are supposed to be aware of diving but are so reluctant to call a player on it.

THE CHANGE

All the major leagues in the world should have a committee that reviews every game. Slow motion camera work can easily determine if a player is diving or was actually fouled. If a player is indeed deemed to have dived, whack him in the wallet because that's where it hurts most. Double the fines for each dive afterwards. (Some players might have to file for bankruptcy!)

2) TIME DELAYING

The team is ahead and a player gets tackled and decides to milk this as much as possible. No big deal. The ref will add minutes to stoppage time. The team is ahead so the coach decides to substitute. So the player getting subbed out casually strolls off the pitch. No biggie, the ref will add some time at the end. 

While both situations are indeed a part of the game -- some call it gamesmanship -- it just adds to the frustration.

THE CHANGE

Very simple: stop the clock for injuries and substitutions like they do in all the other sports.

3) OFFSIDE

No doubt the most misunderstood law in soccer. Although I think officials do a pretty good job calling the rule, I would rather they err on the side of offense.

THE CHANGE

Use the old North American Soccer League (NASL) 35-yard-line offside rule. This would open up the game and probably increase scoring.

4) THE MEDIA

As a former sports writer who covered soccer, it would be great see better coverage of the sport from the major media outlets. Newspapers and national sport magazines do, at best, an adequate job. Thank goodness for Fox Sports (although I really miss the Fox Soccer Channel). Thank goodness for shows like "Men in Blazers" (if you have never seen this show, you don't know what you're missing as these two guys are so much fun to watch -- and of course, they are not your typical American-type TV sports guys who gush over athletes), and ESPN's ESPNFC. 

There still way too many writers and announcers in the US who, in a single breath, will tell you that a 1-0 soccer game (that takes all of two hours to play with no commercials interrupting play in either half) is boring but a 1-0 baseball game (that takes more than three hours to play with constant breaks where nothing ishappening) is exciting. And that hurts me to say that because I am such a huge baseball fan (you go, my beloved San Franciso Giants!).

THE CHANGE

More coverage -- but especially of the women. Does anybody have an idea of who is playing in the women's professional league. Again, thank goodness for Fox Sports which covers our women's national team, who by the way, are so much better to watch than our men's national team -- the players are, pound-for-pound, better and the coach, Jill Ellis, does a better job than you know who!


THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY -- USA in the WORLD CUP

June 7, 2014

by Tom DeNigris


Questions abound in regards to the performance of the United States Men's National Team in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Opinions seemed to be split in terms of USMNT Coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Has he improved the squad? Has he improved the overall picture of soccer in the USA? Klinsmann promised progress but the facts indicate that he has failed in that aspect. The US got through the group stage, a group deemed the Group of Death and lost again in the round of 16 as they have done in the past. But the fact remains that the US did not play well in any of its four games, beating only Ghana.

Klinsmann has another four years on his contract but the feeling here is that he should be allowed only half that to show that there is indeed improvement in the future. He certainly has the backing of amajority of media folks, most notably everybody at ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Sunil Gulati, the head of US Soccer has been riding Klinsmann's coattails forever so chances of Klinsmann getting fired before the 2018 World Cup in Russia are slim.

With that said, here is one man's opinion on "The Good, The Bad, & and The Ugly" USA in the World Cup Style.

THE GOOD

There are certainly some outstanding young players in the USA squad, most notably DeAndre Yedlin (who is certainly on his way to a top European League) and Julian Green. The best players in the four US games were Right Back Fabian Johnson and Midfielder Jermaine Jones. Johnson has solidified the outside right back postiion for the next decade. Yedlin, too, can play in the back but could also man an outside/wide midfield spot. Jones will probably be too old for the 2018 Cup.

"The Good" honor is to be shared by Johnson and Jones.

THE BAD

Prior to the World Cup, if you asked most folks who were the two best field players on the roster, no doubt Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey would secure the top spots. Neither one played up to the billing, although in their defense, both ere played out of position. Bradley serves best as a box-to-box midfielder and not as an attacking mid, which he played in all four games. Dempsey is just not a forward and certainly not a target striker/single forward, which he had to play in Klinsmann's 4-2-3-1 system once Jozy Altidore got hurt in the opening match. Dempsey is at his best when playing as an attacking mid behind one or two forwards.

 Would Landon Donovan have made a difference? It's easy to say "yes" but that is so 20/20 Hindsight. Donovan should have been in the squad. A midfield of Bradley, Jones, Dempsey and Donovan would have provided a few more scoring chances.

Would Eddie Johnson have been a capable backup to Altidore? Again, 20/20 Hindsight, but he is in my opinion a better player than Chris Wondolowski.

Thus, "The Bad" honor goes to Klinsmann for his lineup and system choices.

He promised a more attractive style of soccer. He has not yet delivered that with any consistency.

THE UGLY

Way too many hamstring pulls in the squad which makes you wonder if perhaps Klinsmann and his staff overworked the lads coming into and during the World Cup. Oh my, "The Ugly" honor goes to Klinsmann but he should share this one with his conditioning/fitness coaches.

THE ABSOLUTE BEST

Tim Howard!

Had to put in another honor here specifically for the only World Class player wearing the USA kit. 

THE FUTURE

Klinsmann needs to spend the next year searching (and NOT JUST IN GERMANY!) for 2 things:

1) A true number 10; someone who can hold the ball in midfield; someone who can distribute the ball;

2) A dynamic forward; someone who can finish when the opportunity presents itself.

Hopefully, Klinsmann will get over his dislike of Major League Soccer and his over-the-top reliance on German league players. He needs to begin accepting more and more latin style players; boys who can play with the ball a little.

If he does, then the ceiling is high for the USA. 

If Klinsmann remains in this utterly boring status quo then once again the US will get through a group stage and lose in the Round of 16.

QUESTIONS ABOUND AS USA PREPS FOR WORLD CUP

May 15, 2014

by Tom DeNigris

U.S. National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann recnetly announced his 30-man roster in preparation for the 2014 WOrld Cup in Brazil. Klinsmann must cut the roster down to the official 23-man limit by June 2. While most of the players named to the pre-Cup camp were predictable, there were some omissions that surprised many of us, most notably Midfielder/Forward Eddie Johnson.

And despite the predictability of the roster, many questions remain.

Frequent visitors to this space know that yours truly is not  a big fan of Klinsmann. I will remain as such until he proves his worth...that is, getting the U.S. beyond the first round of group play. And I don't want to hear the excuses of our boys being in the Group of Death with Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Tough! We can -- and should -- beat Ghana. We can beat Portugal. Germany, well, that's a big ask. Yes, I know, the US beat Germany in a friendly. But let's be honest, that wasn't even Germany's junior varsity squad.

As for the questions obout the 30-man roster:

Question #1 -- Why Timmy Chandler over Edgar Castillo on defense. Chandler's last game in the USA kit was February of 2013 against Honduras and he was an absolute disaster. Meanwhile, Castillo has been a regular for USA and a solid performer in Mexico for Tijuana.

Answer to Question #1 -- Chandler plays in Germany. Castillo doesn't.

Question #2 -- Why 18-year-old Julian Green in midfield over Eddie Johnson who scored the all-important goal to qualify the USA for the World Cup. No doubt Green looks to be a phenom in waiting. But we've seen this before. Remember Freddy Adu? How about Juan Agudelo. Green had a chance to claim Germany as his national team but Klinsmann, to his credit, swooped in and gave Green a chance and from interviews, it seems as though Green wanted to wear the USA kit all along. Can he be more of an impact on attack than EJ? Only time will tell. He has talent. Loads of it. He's creative with the ball. He's fast. He seems to be a good kid, too, and says all the right things. But there is little doubt that his inclusion eliminated Johnson.

Answer to Question #2 -- Green plied his trade in Germany. Johnson plays in the MLS.

Whoa! Danger Will Robinson. Am I accusing Klinsmann of a bias. You betcha.

Advice to any young male with aspirations of playing for the Red, While and Blue: As long as Klinsmann is coaching the national team, you'd be best to play in Germany and definitely not in MLS.

Question #3 -- Why not include Tim Ream on defense? Ream was just recently named the Bolton Wanderers Player of the Year. Granted, he is not a great weapon on set pieces but he passes out of the back better than any defender in the squad.

Answer to Question #3 -- Uh, well, perhaps because he doesn't play in Germany!

Question #4 -- What is Klinsmann's philosophy in picking players?

Answer to Question #4 -- Most of the time he talks about current form. Who is playing best at the time? At least that is what he has been saying. But that's not entirely true. Because if it was true, if form really matters, then why in the heck is Jozy Altidore in the squad? He has been miserable at Sunderland while Johnson has been terrific in MLS.

There is no doubt that Klinnsman, like any coach, has his favorites. Certainly Altidore fits that mold. As does Jermain "Who Can I Foul" Jones.

It will be interesting to see which 7 players get tickets home. In all honesty, Klinsmann has a lot of work ahead of him. It won't be easy. Fans are running out of patience. Playing well and not advancing will not be tolerated. From this corner, if the US fails to advance, Klinsmann needs to get his ticket home and we will have to start all over. Again.

QUICK TIPS ON COACHING YOUTH PLAYERS


March 31, 2014

by Tom DeNigris


There are no really tried ad true principles to becoming a successful coach for several reasons:

1) Everyone has their own idea and philosophy on how to coach.

2) It all depends on what you use as a measuring stick to determine coaching success.

Reason #2 is perhaps the most important reason on why there are no definitive principles to coaching success.

If, for example, winning games and trophies is your measuring stick then stop right here. Stop reading and go practice patting yourself on your back so you are ready for that next victory.

If you measure success on how much fun your players are having at practice and in games and how much you can actually seem them learning new things, then stay put and read on.


Following are the Total Soccer Fitness & Training's FIVE Coaching Prinicples:


1. ENCOURAGE your players. Rather than nitpicking every single mistake, take as much time to pick out the good things they do and be sure that they know you are pleased with their effort.

2. PATIENCE. Every player has their own time element -- some players can learn quickly. Others require more time.

3. CHALLENGE your players. Although it is a good idea to run drills or games that are understood by all your players, challenge them with advanced techniques.

4. ENTHUSIASM. In addition to all the needed field equipment -- balls, cones, scrimmage vests, etc. -- bring enthusiasm to each and every one of your practice sessions. Show your players you love the game. Enthusiasm, much like confidence, is contagious. So is lack of enthusiasm. And confidence!

5. CREATIVITY. This is one of the most important concepts in soccer. Allow your players to be creative. Let them try new moves without fear of failure.

March 25, 2014

by Tom DeNigris


COACHING YOUR OWN KID -- REVISTED!

A few years ago in this space, this author penned an article regarding coaching your own child. The idea for the article came to me via a question posed to me by a very, very close friend. The question? "Would your daughter have been a better (soccer) player had she been coached by someone else?"

A little background information is needed here:

• I had indeed coached both my kids -- daughter and son -- in pretty much every sport they played from soccer to basketball to baseball/softball at both the recreation and travel/club level. My coaching career began with coaching y daughter in soccer, a post (is that the correct word here?) I held for her entire career -- pre-school through high school. Our travel team was quite successful and my daughter was a solid player, one who started as a freshman in high school. Fortunately, at both the Middle School and High School levels she was coached by other men, two very fine coaches I may add; two men whom I had and still have tremendous respect for. But the question -- would she have been even better, had someone else coached her, struck hard.

So hard that I couldn't honestly answer. When I asked my daughter she had the reply every parent who is coaching their child would want to hear: 'I don't think so."

Still I wondered, And still wonder to this day.

However, if I were able to go back I wouldn't change a thing. I still would be her coach and I would still coach my son's teams. I love coaching. Which is why I started my own training company, Total Soccer Fitness & Training. Even after both kids stopped playing, I continued training and coaching.

I bring this all up because recently, a man I know asked me about getting involved in his daughter's athletic career, mainly, soccer. He wanted to know if he should coach her team. Should he be involved? Or should he "just be a sideline parent?"

My answer was swift -- "Yes!" Get involved. And more important, stay involved. He knows the game and I know he will be fair to all the kids on the team, as I think I was. I don't think I ever favored my daughter at the expense of another child. Perhaps I had it easier since she was one of the team's best players. Still, I tried to be fair.

But I do understand the hesitancy about getting involved in your child's athletic affairs. It takes up a lot of your free time. When I coached my daughter's or son's teams I was a volunteer. But I didn't want it any other way. I grew up playing every sport and loved it when my Dad got involved. I wanted to treat my kids the way he treated me when he coached my baseball team one game. No favoritism.

Perhaps you, fine reader, are wondering whether or not to get involved. I say yes. But that's me. I never understood those parents who complained that they had to attend a game their child was playing in. 

It's been quite a long time since I've seen either of my kids play. I miss those days. I miss coaching them, although I do try on occasion to offer life advice (to no freakin avail!). Not the same. I do know, though, that I did a decent enough job as coach that they still enjoy sports -- watching and attending baseball or soccer games.

And although nothing will replace being with them in the heat of competition, being with them watching my beloved Arsenal or the United States national teams on television or live at a stadium, or in person watching my beloved San Francisco Giants getting hammered in Yankee Stadium by my daughter's beloved Yankees (where the heck did I go wrong there -- she's a stinking Yankees fan! Dammit!) is the next best thing.

Go ahead. Go coach your kid.


November 18, 2013

by Tom DeNigris


NEED TO FIND A BETTER WAY TO DECIDE GAMES


...It's the bottom of the ninth inning. Seventh game of the World Series. My beloved San Francisco Giants against, um. Let's see. My second favorite team in baseball is whoever is playing the New York Yankees. So yeah. Game seven. World Series. Yankees vs. Giants. Tie score. 2-2. Giants at bat. Alas, no runs and as the Yanks run off the diamond and the Giants run on, the home plate umpire holds up his right hand, two fingers extended, indicating that there will be two extra innings...

...two innings and, as is the current pace of major league baseball, two hours later, the score is still tied. Another inning? Nope. Home Run Derby to decide the world champion.

Preposterous you say...

--Game Seven. National Basketball Association Finals. Four quarters of play with the usual NBA style of very litle defense and just a lot of dunking and "Look at me" highlights, the score is tied 145-145. First overtime period. Score still tied. Defense still not being played. 170-170. Another overtime period. More defense not being played. Score still tied. Another OT. Nope. Free Throws to decide the championship.

Preposterous say the 36 fans who really care about the NBA.

OK. Let's get to the point here. Baseball goes extra innings. As many as possible to decide the winner. Basketball goes overtime periods. As many as possible to decide the winner.

SO WHY IN THE HECK DOES SOCCER DECIDE TIE GAMES WITH FRICKIN' PENALTY KICKS!!!!!

What a way to decide a winner. This past weekend, my Under-18 Comets were in a huge youth tournament and there were several age bracket championships that were decided on penalty kicks in the same fashion that a World Cup or Champions League match would be decided.

Fair? Not in any way. But that is what it is. FIFA rules. Professional teams play 90 minutes of regulation time and then two 15-minute overtime periods to crown a champion. And if a team scores in the first OT, the other team still has the rest of that period and the entire second OT period to tie. Both teams can end up scoring 5 goals each. Doesn't matter. The winner is the one who scores more goals than the opponent. But if the score is still tied after the 30 minutes. Penalty Kicks.

PENALTY KICKS!!!

Exciting for fans. Painful for players.

I hate this. With a passion. I watched one of those youth championships decided on penalty kicks and watched the losing team's Goalkeeper drop to his knees after being unable to save or knock away the winning kick. It took most of his mates, including the two boys who missed their kicks, to console him.

Yes, I felt bad for the youngster. He was inches away from getting to that ball and becoming, for a short moment, a hero.

But no! The ball hit the back of the net and this GK no doubt felt as if he had let his entire team down, in a momen't notice going, in his mind no doubt, from hero to zero.

But he shouldn't feel that way. There were teammates who failed to score whent it was their turn to take a kick.

So what can we do?

As a coach you can practice penalty kicks, having your players line up and shoot at your Keepers. But how do you add real-life pressure in this situation? How can you possibly include the kind of pressure the kickers and keepers will face in a real PK situation? You really can't. But...

...How about either of these two suggestions:

(1) Play to Golden Goal in the overtimes. If a team scores in overtime, game over! In America, we call that process, Sudden Death. A bit harsh, yes, but we get the point, so to speak. Score. Game over. Drive home safely!

OR...

(2) Play 8-10 minute OT periods with Golden Goal, but after each OT, if neither team scores, each team has to remove one player. So we'd go from 11v11 to 10v10 to 9v9 and perhaps all the way to a 5v5. Trust me. Someone will score and the game will be decided on the pitch during actual game play, by the players. Let the players decide the game. All the players. The team!


July 1, 2013

by Tom DeNigris


TROUBLE FOR SPANISH FUTBOL


First came the Champions League semi-finals with German powers Bayern and Borussia romping over Spanish powers Barcelona and Real Madrid. Then came yesterday's demolishing of the Spanish National Team by the oh-so entertaining Brazilians in the Confederations Cup final.

Is this the end of Tiki-take? Is the end of the Spanish dominance of international soccer?

Not likely. Still, it's good for soccer.

The Champions League matches should not have come as a major surprise to any soccer fan but the way the Germans dismantled Barca and Real was a tactical thing to watch. And if that wasn't worthy of watching then certainly yesterday's Confederations Cup final was.

The Brazlians, back under the excellent direction of Luiz Felipe "Big Phil" Scolari, were near-perfect tactically. But unlike what ESPN play-by-play man Ian Darke commented, it was not brilliant game planning by Scolari that undid Spain's famous Tiki-taki possession game. It was the Italians in the Confed Cup semis who implemented a high-pressure game that first exposed the Spanish attack and defense.

Brazil just took it a step farther. First off, unlike the Italians, Brazil was able to find the back of the Spanish net. Spain could have walked off the pitch in the semi-finals and it would have taken Italy about 20 minutes to score! Brazil had no problem finding the back of the net. They pressured Spain's back line, exposing Spain's lack of speed in the back. They turned over the ball numerous times as they stopped Spain from building its attack from the back and when SPain managed to get the ball into midfield. Brazil did a wonderful job delaying the quick forward attack of Spain, again causing quick transition, something Spain was not able to counter.

Of course, there will be many questioning Spain manager Vincente del Bosque starting XI. Why he put Fernando "Can't Scorez" Torres up top with Juan Mata will be questioned. Why not David Villa, clearly a better front-runner than Torres. Why not Jesus Navas, a player with a ton of pace? How about Cesc Fabregas? Oh yeah, whenever his team needs him most he's usually unavailable due to injury which is why all of us Arsenal fans didn't exactly cry when he left. He spent more time on the bench then he did on the pitch in North London.

Anyway, there is no doubt that come next summer, Spain will be a favorite to defend their World Cup title. But certainly, Brazil has put themselves in the conversation, unless, of course, you go by stupid FIFA's world rankings which had Brazil at #22 prior to the Confederations Cup.

Spain will be there. Perhaps without its vaulted Tiki-taka. But they'll be there. As will Brazil. And Germany. And Italy. And USA? OK, a guy can dream, no?

May 24, 2013

by Tom DeNIgris

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PREDICTION & A LETTER TO CLAUDIO REYNA

I have no rooting interest, per se, in tomorrow's Champions League Final between German powers Bayern Munich and Borussion Dortmund. I am rooing for an entertaining match and I am pretty sure that will occur.

Certainly, Bayern has the more noteworthy squad with such stars as Franck Ribery, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Muller and Arjen Robben.

But it is hard not to pull just a tad for the boys from Dortmund led by their energetic and brilliant coach Jurgen Klopp. All you need do is check out the March 2013 edition of FourFourTwo magazine for a reason to root for this team. On the cover is Klopp with four of his boys. It looks like a coach with some college kids looking for a match.

Basically tomorrow's championship comes down to this: the historical, storied franchise (Bayern) against the upstart, fun-loving, throw-caution-to-the-wind team (Dortmund).

That's it. I'm rooting for Dortmund.

Prediction: Dortmund 2-nil!


A LETTER TO CLAUDIO REYNA

Dear Claudio:

Big fan here. In fact, in my honest and humble opinion, you are the greatest American player. Ever.

And now that that is out of the way, here is my honest and humble opinion about your leaving U.S. Soccer to take on the job at the new New York Football Club franchise:

Thanks for very little!

Yeah, yeah, nice job putting together the new U.S. Soccer curriculum which stresses development over winning. But how about hanging around a little longer to make sure the curriculum is adhered to by club coaches throughout the country. No, not you. Like many others of your ilk, you are strictly a mercenary, moving to wherever the money is greater. Now I don't begrudge anyone looking to advance themselves and make more money, but you had begun to establish yourself in youth soccer in this country.

We badly needed guidance and you seemed to be the right choice back in April 2010 when useless US Soccer head honcho Sunil Gulati named you Youth Technical Director. You set out right away in establishing that great plan -- Development over Winning. 

Alas, I would guess that more than 50 percent of all youth coaches have never heard of the curriculum let alone read it. We could have used a little more publicity about it from you or Gulati, but he's too busy trying to shine Sepp Blatter's shoes at FIFA and you, obviously, were too busy looking to get out and get a job with a franchise owned by your former employer Manchester City and the New York Yankees. Too bad the Boss, George Steinbrenner, isn't around anymore. One slip up by you and you'd be out the door.

Enough said. Good luck in your  new job.

Sincerely (Disappointed)

Tommy D

HEY, THERE'S A WOMEN'S LEAGUE OUT THERE! HELLO?

As a longtime fan of women's soccer I thank the soccer gods that there is social media outlets; otherwise, I'd never get information on the National Women's Soccer League. The what? The National Women's Soccer League. What a shame these outstanding players don't get their due diligence from the national media.

Here is a fact: on April 21, the Portland Thorns, featuring the incredible Alex Morgan, played host to the Seattle Reign (how can you not love that name!), in what the was the opening match for both squads. Attendance? How about 16,479!

The league features eight teams, each filled with stars from the national teams of Mexico and Canada and of course the United States.

Locally (for you Jerseyites), Sky Blue FC is led by the ageless Christie Rampone. USA star Kelley O'Hara and Candian standout Sophie Schmidt are also in the squad. The Western New York Flash features USA favorite Abby Wambach and former Rutgers star Carli Lloyd.

The Boston Breakers have my all-time favorite central defender Catherine "Cat" Whitehill, along with East Brunswick's Heather O'Reilly and the up-and-coming USA scoring phenom Sydney Leroux. USA Goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart heads the FC Kansas City roster, which includes USA teammates Lauren Cheney and Becky Sauerbrunn.

Lori Lindsey and Ali Krieger, also members of the US National team, lead the Washington Spirit, while the tough, physical Shannon Boxx and Lori Chalupny lead the Chicago Red Stars.

Out west, the Seattle Reign have the ever-so popular Megan Rapinoe as well as high-scoring Amy Rodriguez and the greatest female goalkeeper in history, Hope Solo.

Finally, there are the Portland Thorn, where Alex Morgan and Canadian sensation Christine SInclair reside. Morgan leads the league the shots, shots on goal and, alas, offside calls. She remains the closest thing to Mia Hamm the women's game has seen in years.

So many stars, yet so little attention.


THIS 'N THAT & MY BELOVED GUNNERS

I recently read a piece about naming the All-Time United States Men's National Team XI. Some good choices but here is mine (it's a 4-4-2 system):

GOALKEEPER (3)

Brad Friedel

Toughest of all positions to pick as far as who would get the starting nod. Easy pickings naming the top 3 -- Friedel Kasey Keller and Tim Howard.

CENTER BACKS

Eddie Pope and Thomas Dooley

OUTSIDE BACKS

Steve Cherundelo and Carlos Bocanegra

MIDFIELD

Tab Ramos, Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones and Earnie Stewart

FORWARDS

Clint Dempsey and Erik Wynalda


Speaking of Donovan, the latest reports are that he will not be added to the US roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers since he has only been playing for the last few weeks after taking a winter-long sabbatical from soccer. Advice to Coach Jurgen -- put Donovan in the squad because even at 85 percent he is better than all your other midfielders save for Michael Bradley!


Lastly, on my beloved Arsenal Gunners, impressive 4-1 winners over FA Cup Champions and yet still relegated Wigan Athletic. Another season. No doubt another fourth place finish. Another season with no trophies. Another off-season, waiting for the new season which will feature, of course, another trip to the Champions League where we will not make it past the quarterfinals. Same old Gunner song and dance. When will the owners of this otherwise financially successful franchise step up to the plate and give Arsene Wenger his walking papers. It's time for a change. 


Some Bold (and not-so-bold) Predictions

February 26, 2013

By Tom DeNigris


My Beloved Red Bulls

They will not regret elevating assistant coach Mike Petke to head coach. Petke, a marginal player in his time in the MLS, will bring a rough-tough style to the Red Bulls who have made numerous changes to the squad. Look out for Tim Cahill. He will be one of the MLS Best X! and the Red Bulls will win the MLS East (yeah, I know, you've heard that here before!). We will miss Joel Lindpere, though. And keep an eye on Connor Lade, one of the MLS' top rookies last season.

My Beloved Arsenal

Manager Arsene Wenger recently commented that second place in the EPL is not out of the question. I'm guessing he was speaking for Manchester City or Chelsea because he certainly wasn't speaking about my Gunners. My U-17 girls will finish in second place in the EPL this season before Arsenal will. Once again, all of us Gunner fanatics will be happy to get back in to the Champions League courtesy of our usual fourth place finish.

The US Men's National Team

So far, not so good for Coach Klinsmann. Pressure is getting more intense on him and his coaching ways. Losing to Honduras in the opening match of World Cup qualifying was bad enough. The way the team played was just downright embarassing. And incredibly boring. This team needs Landon Donovan and Klinsmann needs to get on his knees and beg Donovan to return to the squad. Here's the BOLD prediction: the US will not qualify for the World Cup in Brazil and that, folks will set soccer back in this country.

The US Women's National Team

I was not rejoicing when the USSF announced Tom Sermanni as the new coach to replace Pia Sundhage. Nothing against the Scottish Sermanni, but I was hoping that we would go to an American coach such as Randy Waldrum of Notre Dame or even bring back Tony DiCicco. At the recent NSCAA Convention in Indianapolis, I attended a field session conducted by Sermanni and within a few minutes I was sold. Big time! This guy is good and this guy will keep our women at the top of the class. In fact, book it now -- the US Women will win the 2015 World Cup. Easily.

Youth Soccer

The numbers of youths playing soccer continues to grow and the USSF did youth a solid by naming Claudio Reyna as Youth Soccer Technical Director. His curriculum of emphasizing player development over winning is a must read for all coaches, players and parents. This country continues to do things wrong as far as developing players is concerned. We have academies that do not identify the best players but rather the best players whose parents can afford the training for their offsprings. Fortunately, there are academies like the Red Bulls that do not charge fees and thus are able to identify the best players. In addition, the recent ruling where academy male players are not permitted to play high school soccer (a topic that has been discussed in this space numerous times), is not helping. And there are rumors that this rule will infiltrate females in the very near future. Bad idea. So are tournaments that require teams to sometimes play three games in one day or two games within a few hours. We have clubs that host Under-7 teams. Imagine, 6-year-olds playing competitive soccer games. Ridiculous. Hopefully, clubs and club directors will heed Reyna's advice and begin making soccer a fun AND learning experience.


Club vs. High School Soccer Revisited (Again, for the Umpteenth Time!)  

September 24, 2012

By Tom DeNigris


I really don't know why this bothers me as much as it does but it does. The US Soccer's decision to tell male athletes not to play high school soccer if they are members of an academy team is just wrong.


They give reasons, such as wanting the best of the best to train 10 months in a year, thereby eliminating the high school season but these folks who came up with this decision -- step to the front Jurgen Klinsmann, Sunil Gulati and Claudio Reyna -- should have been directly honest and just said "we don't trust high school coaches to develop our teenage boys!" It is that simple.


Then, to make matters even more ridiculous, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) -- an organization of which I am a member -- partners up with the New York Red Bulls, one of the four academies in the state of New Jersey. What's so ridiculous about this? The NSCAA is made up of thousands of high school and youth coaches. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me.


One father of an academy kid that I know personally, has told me that the decision to not play high school soccer was incredibly difficult on his son and the only reason he decided not to play was fear of losing his spot on the academy team. Granted there are tons of talented players out there and surely the US Men's National Team needs all the help it can get but is the right way to go about it?


Klinsmann spends half his free time scouting Americans in Germany anyway. And he rolls out pretty much the same lineup game after game. He falls in love with certain players like Jermaine Jones and Jozy Altidore and Kyle Beckerman. He doesn't take chances on some of the young players in Major League Soccer. I think he is sending out confusing signals to potential national team players.


As for Gulati, well I still think he should have been fired years ago. He certainly couldn't care less about the women's program. Still don't know what he's done for soccer in this country but he's got the mainstream media on his side.

As does Reyna. I've always wondered what Reyna would have done in this situation since he was STAR at St. Benedict's High School. Hmmm! 


Terrible Day for U.S. Soccer

March 27, 2012 

By Tom DeNigris


The great Herb Brooks, in his pre-game speech to his young and nervous USA Hockey Team back in the 1980 Olympics, who were anxiously awaiting their turn on ice against the powerful Soviet Union, said: "Great moments are born from great opportunities." His boys seized the opportunity and created perhaps the greatest moment in sports history by beating the Soviet Union and then moving on to win the Gold Medal.


Thirty-two years later, the U.S. Men's Under-23 soccer team, under the inept direction of Coach Caleb Porter, had an opportunity to move thismuchcloser to a berth in the 2012 Olympic games. OK, not exactly a "great" opportunity to create a "great" moment; still, qualifying for the Olympics should have been an easy ride. Winning a Gold Medal? 

Certainly obtainable. Silver Medal? Bronze Medal? Definitely.


Yeah. Not so much.


U.S. fans will not be able to see the red, white and blues in the Olympic Games this summer. At least not on the men's side. 


Nope. Once again, the men have disappointed. Last night, the U.S. were tied in stoppage time by El Salvador, 3-3, which knocked out the USA and catapulted El Salvador into the semifinals. And their previous game, the U.S. lost to Canada. Let's repeat this: the U.S. couldn't beat Canada and couldn't beat El Salvador. Combined, those two countries have a player pool the size of Trenton.


Simply, they were terrible. Simply, they were poorly coached. Simply, the United States Soccer Federation needs to rethink its path on the men's side. First up, goodbye Coach Porter. In this Olympic Qualifying tourney, the U.S. defense was incredibly unorganized and the goalkeeping, at best, was mediocre. Tim Howard has nothing to fear about losing his spot as our top Keeper. Nothing!


Against El Salvador, number-one GK Bill Hamid injured his ankle in the first half and was replaced in the 39th minute by Sean Johnson, but not before he yielded two goals which gave El Salvador a 2-1 lead. Why did Porter wait so long to replace Hamid? Only he knows. The U.S. stormed back, despite displaying sloppy possession, and gained a 3-2 lead. All they needed to do was hold on to this lead and they would be in the semifinals. What followed was a total lack of patience and organization (that goes to the coach as much as the players). And sure enough, with time already past the alloted extra four minutes, El Salvador did what they needed to do -- tie the game. A tie or win would send them in. And they got it. A shot that a U-16 goalie would have snagged, slipped through Johnson's hands into the back of the net.


Now it would be so easy to lay all of this on Johnson. But that wouldn't be right. While he certainly deserves some of the blame because he really should have caught the ball or at least knocked it away, the fact remains that his back four and his midfield should never have allowed the shot, which came from just outside the 18-yard box, to be taken. Organization would have prevented the shot.


Talk all you want about the USA's 6-0 victory over Cuba in the opening game but any academy team in the U.S. could beat Cuba.


Not qualifying for the Olympic Games is a huge disappointment. The USSF, the U-23 players and coaching staff, and Senior Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, should all be ashamed of this.


Thank God for the U.S. Women! 


Right Man, Right Ideas 

August 1, 2011

By Tom DeNigris


Jurgen Klinsmann! 


Finally, US Soccer's Sunil Gulati finally gets something right...well, two things right - 1) firing Boring Bob Bradley; 2) hiring Klinsmann as the new coach of the United States Men's National Team.


Now, we USMNT fans must be patient and allow Klinsmann to work some magic because he will need all the support possible. He's saying all the right things, including expressing a desire to get to the roots of soccer in the USA -- youth soccer. He said he will work closely with USSF technical director Claudio Reyna, who, in my opinion, is doing a spectacular job in his so far short term. Klinsmann said he'll talk with college coaches, too. He would like to have an assistant coach based in Europe so that he doesn't have to fly overseas often. Good idea. He said he will take his time naming permanent assistant coaches. Good idea. And he said he will bring an active brand of soccer --an attacking mentality -- to the team. Great idea. And Good Luck with that!


If Klinsmann is true to his word there are some current National teamers who should be worried, since Boring Bob Bradley perferred strength, speed and athleticism to soccer talent.


If Klinsmann is true to his word does it mean Freddy Adu will finally be given a full-fledged chance to showcase his skills? How about Jose Torres? Will Landon Donovan, a Klinsmann favorite by the way (he actually said we need more Landon Donovans!!), shine in this system?


Get the films of the 2006 World Cup when Germany, with Klinsmann at the helm, played perhaps the most entertaining brand of soccer. That's what he wants to bring to the USA, where he has lived for more than a decade.

Jurgen Klinsmann!


Great news for US soccer. 


Final Grades For -- And the Truth About -- US Women's Soccer 

July 18, 2011 

By Tom DeNigris 


Unlike the men's team, the U.S. Women's National Team seems to have a bright future with some good young players who will ply their skills on the pitch at the next Women's World Cup.


Yes, the loss to Japan in the 2011 World Cup Final was disappointing and, in truth, should not have happened. No doubt, the USA women snatched defeat from the mouth of victory. Did they choke? Geez, that is such a rough word, but, what other word could describe the performance in the last minutes of regulation, the last minutes of overtime, and the first three kicks taken in the game-deciding Penalty Kick phase. If you have another word, let me know.


That being said, here is one man's opinion of the performances of the women, who are rated on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being perfect and 5 being average.

GK Hope Solo: 8. Solidified her place as the USA's best female Goalkeeper.

D Amy LePeilbet: 3. Was terrible in the Group Stage and only managed to get her grade up with an average performance vs. France.

D Ali Krieger: 5. Scored the decisive PK vs. Brazil but was getting beat on the flank too often and did not contribute enough on the attack.

CB Christie Rampone: 6. Was solid -- and at times spectacular -- on defense but was well below average on her distribution to the attack.

CB Rachel Buehler 5. Rough and tough but her clearing attempt led to Japan's first goal and this was a terrible decision on her part.  

MF Shannon Boxx: 6. Very good in the final. Kept midfield organized.

MF Carli Lloyd: 5. Inconsistent throughout. Good at times. Awful at times. Very good at times. Likes to shoot. Would have been good if her shots at least were on frame! 

MF Megan Rapinoe: 7. Prior to the Final, she was the USA's Super Sub, coming on the in second half and sparking the attack. Got a deserved start vs. Japan but was subbed out in the second half. 

MF Heather O'Reilly: 5. Full disclosure -- she's a favorite of mine but she struggled in the Group Stage. Expected more from her throughout.

MF Lauren Chaney: 7.5. USA's do-it-all. A spectacular player with a bright, bright future.

F Abby Wambach: 9. She is the heart and soul of the team, the emotional leader. The cliche sticks -- she willed this team to its victories. And she is a class act!

F Amy Rodrigues: 3. Wow, talk about underachieving. Started every game up to the final and then never got in the most important game of all.

F Alex Morgan: 8.5. Should have started throughout. She is the face of US Women's soccer from this point forward.

MF Tobin Heath: 5. Not fair to criticize her for her terrible PK on Sunday since she played so little during the tourney and was a second half sub vs. Japan. But, she never should have been one of the 5 to take kicks. Bad decision by Coach Pia Sundhage.

D Stephanie Cox: 5. Played one game and was her usual self. Nothing bad. Nothing spectacular. Should have been the starting Left Back instead of LePeilbet. Another bad decision by Sundhage.

D Becky Sauerbraun: 5. Got one start when Buehler had to sit due to red card. Should have seen more action.

Kelly O'Hara & Lori Lindsey: INC. Didn't play enough to get a fair grade.

GK Nicole Barnhardt, Jill Loyden & Heather Mitts: DNP. No grades. 

Coach Pia Sundhage: 6. Her substitution patterns make you scratch your head at times but she has brought back some of the swagger. She's a good person and seems to have the team believing in her. Still, like many soccer coaches, she is way too set in her ways. Why Shannon Boxx and Tobin Heath in the Penalty Kick phase vs. Japan? Where was Alex Morgan in the PK phase? Why didn't Wambach take the first kick to set the tone? Why start Rapinoe when she was so effective as a sub? Why not start Morgan at forward and leave Cheney in the MF? Lots of questions, none of which would have been asked had the US beaten Japan. Unlike her male counterpart Bob Bradley, Sundhage deserves to remain as coach.

 

 

 

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