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Weekend Preview: March 9-11

Back in my Chinese football hooligan days. They'll rip you apart!! My wife took this picture, so please stop harping on it, Missy, there's your credit, thanks.



By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood | Only Love Soccer

I love doing the world weekend previews, though I don’t always have time for them. But anyway, I’ll try and do them when I can. All times Pacific, as usual.

Today (Friday)

Tijuana vs. America/Morelia vs. Toluca. (Mexico,  6:10 p.m.) These two clashes feature four of the Top 8 teams in Mexico. Morelia and America have been steamrolling everyone, more or less (though Morelia did lose at home to Monterrey in the Champions League earlier in the week). Tijuana is much-improved after a rough first half of the year in the Primera and have the best club crest in the top division. Toluca are a bit uneven, but they do feature the league’s top scorer in Ivan Alonso (9 goals). In fact, all four of the league’s top scorers are playing in these two matches: Alonso, Miguel Sabah (Morelia), Christian Benitez (America) and Jose Sand. (Tijuana). Predictions: Tijuana 1, America 1; Morelia 3, Toluca 1


Bolton Wanderers vs. Queens Park Rangers/Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Blackburn Rovers (England, 5:45 and 8 a.m.) One of the big pluses of many world leagues is relegation, which makes what is often the inevitable (Real Madrid/Barcelona winning La Liga; Manchester United winning the EPL) a little more interesting. And here’s why, for the unitiated: In the top leagues of Europe, three teams are typically relegated to the second division. So that creates a whole new competition at the end of the season, which is often much more interesting than the title battles. Fairly big teams such as Deportivo La Coruna in Spain, River Plate in Argentina and Newcastle and Leeds in England have been taken down a notch in recent years. These four teams don’t really qualify as “big teams” per se, though Blackburn did win the league in the ’90s, but nonetheless, the matches have great potential to be back-and-forth goalfests, especially since Wigan isn’t playing. Prediction: Bolton 3-1; Wolves 2, Blackburn 2

Malaga vs. Levante (Spain, 10 a.m.). This match features two teams that aren’t in the title hunt (of course not; this is Spain), but they are competing for the fourth and final Champions League spot – Valencia is well on pace to finish third. Malaga are the new money team, bankrolled by millionaires, that are currently in sixth, a point back, but have largely been disappointing this year. Can they start to push on the second half of the season? Levante are the big shock team, nearly going out of business last year for failure to pay player salaries and operating at a fraction of the budget of the Real Madrids, Barcelonas and Malagas of the world, and then spending the first few weeks in first before their inevitable drop down the table. They’re unlikely to keep pushing for a Champions League spot, but it sure would be neat if they did.  Prediction: Malaga 3-0

Shanghai Shenhua vs. Jiangsu Shuntian. (China, 4:35 a.m.) That’s right, my boys in blue (Jiangsu Shuntian) are taking on … the other boys in blue (in China, there are about four color combos, mostly blue and white, and pretty much every team wears white on the road), who have just signed French striker (and former Chelsea/Arsenal/Liverpool/Real Madrid player) Nicolas Anelka. Shanghai had a bad year last year, but optimism is renewed with the Anelka signing. As for Shuntian, they surprised everyone by finishing just out of a Champions League slot, and they signed former star and Chinese national team member Deng Zhouxiang. Yes, I’m going to occasionally highlight the Chinese league on here. Prediction: Shanghai 3-2.


Not much of note going on Sunday, unless you feel particularly interested in matches like Manchester United vs. West Brom (England), Schalke vs. Hamburg (Germany), Genoa vs. Juventus (Italy) or Racing Santander vs. Barcelona (Spain). I will pass – this is MLS opening weekend, after all.

Klinsmann announces first call-ups for U.S. national team

And they are … OK? Interesting? Not sure. Some surprises, though. He did pick a few young players with little to no experience with the national team (Bill Hamid – I called it, Michael Orozco Fiscal), some players Bob Bradley hadn’t called up in a while (Jose Francisco Torres, Ricardo Clark) as well as some old-timers that we all thought had surely seen the last of the national team (Edson Buddle, DaMarcus Beasley).

Overall, not a bad group, though he didn’t include Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore – presumably so they could rest. I was hoping for a bit more youth in the team, though it’s nice to see Brek Shea get called up, since he deserves it.

The complete roster:

Goalkeepers: Bill Hamid (D.C.United), Tim Howard (Everton)

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra (St. Etienne), Edgar Castillo (Club América), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Michael Orozco Fiscal (San Luis), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (Red Bulls)

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Jermaine Jones (Schalke 04), Brek Shea (Dallas), José Torres (Pachuca)

Forwards: Freddy Adu (Benfica), Juan Agudelo (Red Bulls), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Edson Buddle (Ingolstadt), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy)

Who should the U.S. call up for upcoming friendlies?

So just for fun, I made up this list. I might’ve forgot someone, so if anyone feels there are players who should be on the team, but aren’t, comment away. I post this with the knowledge that more than likely Bob Bradley will call up more first-team regulars than you see here, but why not be hopeful that when it comes to three friendlies, that the U.S. would seek to give some playing time to young talent?

Anyway, here’s the list. You might see some as surprises if you read the blog regularly. I picked DC United’s Bill Hamid because, though he has given up a lot of goals this season, his play has been improved lately, and he’s the kind of athletic keeper we don’t really have coming through the pipeline. As for Justin Braun, he’s occasionally terrible, but he has two hat tricks this season and deserves it.

I did include some veterans, because we don’t want to put a complete B team out against Mexico, even if it’s just a friendly. Thoughts?

Tim Howard, Everton -  GK
Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake – GK
Bill Hamid, DC United – GK
Carlos Bocanegra, Saint Ettiene – DF
Tim Ream, New York – DF
Omar Gonzalez, Los Angeles – DF
Eric Lichaj, Aston Villa – DF
Timothy Chandler, Nurnberg – DF
AJ DeLaGarza, Los Angeles – DF
Zach Loyd, Dallas – DF
George John, Dallas – DF
Michael Bradley, Moenchengladbach – MF
Maurice Edu, Glasgow Rangers – MF
Alejandro Bedoya, Orebro – MF
Mix Diskerud, Stabaek – MF
Jack Jewsbury, Portland – MF
Brek Shea, Dallas – MF
Stuart Holden, Bolton – MF
Nick LaBrocca, Chivas USA – MF
CJ Sapong, Kansas City – F
Juan Agudelo, New York – F
Freddy Adu, Benfica – F
Justin Braun, Chivas USA – F

Player Ratings: Gold Cup Final: Mexico 4, USA 2

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

The U.S. jumps out to a two-goal lead early in the first half, then is run off the pitch for the remainder of the match. Big questions about Bob Bradley after this game, I would think – the U.S. struggled all tournament, but had no answer for Mexico’s attackers, and Bradley made no effort to change that with substitutions or tactical shifts.

Goals: U.S. — Bradley (9), Donovan (22); Mexico — Barrera (28), Guardado (35), Barrera (49), Dos Santos (76)


Tim Howard, GK — 6.5; Often left stranded by poor decision-making by the U.S. in defense or bad passing from the U.S. Couldn’t do much about any of the goals, though it might’ve been a rash decision to come out for Dos Santos’ goal, though few players would’ve scored on that play.
Steve Cherundulo, RB – NR; Some will argue that his leaving the game through injury was the key point in the game that swung it in Mexico’s favor. I don’t know if that’s true, but he certainly would’ve been better than the Lichaj/Bornstein switch that helped Mexico score all three goals.
Carlos Bocanegra, D – 6; Played reasonably well in defense but was let down by U.S. full backs getting beat repeatedly by the speed of Guardado, Barrera and Dos Santos.
Clarence Goodson, D – 6; Fairly anonymous in defense like most of the U.S. But did a reasonable enough job of keeping Chicharito from scoring.
Eric Lichaj, LB – 4; Did OK when dealing with Barrera early, but wasn’t able to cope with the trickier Guardado after switching to right back with Cherundulo’s injury. Helped the ball into Guardado’s path for the equalizer.
Jermaine Jones, MF – 6; Fought gamely in midfield, but you get the impression that he isn’t sure whether he’s supposed to be a box-to-box midfielder or a defensive midfielder when he plays for the U.S.
Michael Bradley, MF – 5.5; Gave the U.S. an early lead with a header, but was nonexistent besides and passed poorly. Not match fit or match sharp and probably shouldn’t be starting a game of this magnitude after making three appearances in club football since January. Helps when your dad is coach, I guess.
Alejandro Bedoya, MF – 5; Got forward a lot in the first half, disappeared once Mexico scored. A little too eager to get into the goal area when he should be helping guys out on the wings a bit. Wasteful with his passing.
Landon Donovan, LW – 5.5; Scored to put the U.S. 2-up, but the only thing he contributed besides that was a dumb foul that eventually led to Rafa Marquez leaving the game through injury. Desperately needed to help Bornstein on the left, but didn’t, part of the reason Mexico were so rampant.
Freddy Adu, RW – 7; Strangely, along with Jozy Altidore, was probably the player of the tournament for the U.S. Assisted on Bradley’s goal and seemed to be the only U.S. player who could hang onto the ball.
Clint Dempsey, F – 5.5; Set up Donovan’s goal, but had little impact on the match, especially once Mexico took control. The U.S. missed having Altidore’s hold up play in this game.
Jonathan Bornstein, SUB – 4; Once he entered the match, the momentum switched to Mexico. Couldn’t deal with Barrera (who scored twice with Bornstein defending him) on the right, or Guardado when he switched. Simply not good enough at this level, though he too seems to be a Bradley favorite.
Juan Agudelo, SUB – 5; No impact on the game. Great potential, but considering that he gets more playing time for the U.S. national team than his club team, you could argue he shouldn’t be playing.
Sacha Kljestan, SUB – NR; Didn’t affect the match after coming in for Adu.
Bob Bradley, Coach – 4; Bradley has been in charge for what, five years? I think it’s time to bring new blood into the U.S. coaching ranks. Made questionable substitutions; brought players in who arguably weren’t match fit and gave them starting roles; aside from the Gold Cup win in 2007 and the spirited run in the 2009 Confederations Cup, hasn’t won much of anything with the U.S. team. It’s time for a change.


Alfredo Talavera, GK – 7; Couldn’t do much about the two goals, though he got a hand to Bradley’s. The U.S. just couldn’t find a way around him.
Carlos Salcido, LB – 5.5; Struggled with Adu before being replaced with an injury.
Rafa Marquez, D – 5.5; Like the rest of Mexico, seemed caught off-guard with the U.S. goals to start the match. Left with injury.
Hector Moreno, D – 7; More than capable in defense. Helped shut down Dempsey.
Efrain Juarez, RB – 6.5; Struggled a bit early with Donovan putting the U.S. ahead 2-0, but recovered well and had little to do in the second half.
Gerardo Torrado, MF – 6.5; Caught in possession a lot early, but moved the ball well to Mexico’s wingers in the second half and helped snuff out any American threat.
Israel Castro, MF – 6.5; See Torrado.
Andres Guardado, LW – 7,.5; After slow start, terrorized Lichaj and the U.S. defense. His equalizer caused a noticeable drop in the U.S. attacking play.
Giovanni Dos Santos, AMF – 8; Scored an amazing goal, ran the Mexico’s offense, probably could’ve scored several more goals. The U.S. had no one who could stop him.
Pablo Barrera, RW – 8; Like Guardado, ran around, past and by Bornstein and the U.S. defense. Scored twice.
Javier Hernandez, FW – 6.5; Didn’t score, but did a good job moving the ball around well and holding the ball up.
Hector Reynoso, SUB – 7.5; Very solid in defense after coming in for Marquez, and considering how important the occasion, that was quite impressive.
Jose Torres de Nilo, SUB – 7; Also did well after coming in for Salcido.
Jesus Zavala, SUB – NR; Didn’t really have an effect on the match after entering, but that was OK because Mexico were in control by that point.
Jose Manuel de la Torre – Coach – 9; Did what no one has for Mexico in a long time – beat a full-strength U.S. team in a match that matters. Substitutions helped win the match – and the entire tournament for Mexico.

Gold Cup Day 4: Mexico routs Cuba, Costa Rica snatches draw

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

Today’s matches

Costa Rica 1 El Salvador 1. A bit of a surprise result as Randall Breñes’ goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time gives a subpar Costa Rica team a point against El Salvador. Rodolfo Zelaya gave El Salvador with a very nice goal kick that was actually named one of the plays of the game by Sportscenter, surprisingly enough. You can watch highlights here. Costa Rica dominated the second half, and even though they didn’t win, I don’t think there is any way they don’t advance to the second round. As for El Salvador, likely if they beat Cuba, they will advance to the second round as well.

Cuba 0 Mexico 5. Another dominant performance by Mexico with four second-half goals (they had five second half goals against El Salvador), despite the news that six of their players (if you count Ricardo Osorio, who already left the team to be with family) were suspended for doping. Luckily for them, none of the players suspended were named Javier Hernandez (2 goals, 5 on the tournament), Giovanni Dos Santos (2 goals), Aldo De Nigris (goal – 2 on the tournament), Andres Guardado or Pablo Barrera. Cuba had some decent chances to score but failed to make them pay. They will just try to earn a bit of respect with their match against El Salvador, though they’ll probably lose that too.

Today’s matches

Jamaica v Guatemala, 4 p.m. A pretty good match between two teams that will be hoping to advance to the second round. With a routine victory over Grenada, a draw with Guatemala should be good enough for Jamaica to move on, but they’ll be hoping to stamp themselves as the dominant team in this group. Should be a fun one. Prediction: Jamaica 2-1

Grenada v Honduras, 6 p.m. Grenada were beaten badly by Jamaica, and they’re taking on Honduras, who failed to break down Guatemala despite having a two-man advantage for a decent portion of the match. Unfortunately for Grenada, unless Honduras completely lays an egg in this match, they’re likely to give up a few goals and get eliminated from the tournament. Honduras pretty much has to win if they have designs of progressing to the second round. Prediction: Honduras 2-0

Gold Cup: Five Mexico players reportedly test positive for controlled substance

By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood

According to ESPN Soccernet and other sources, five members of the Mexican football squad have tested positive for Clenbuterol, which is often used to cover up other drugs in the system.

These are the players named: Francisco Javier Rodriguez, Antonio Naelson, Christian Bermudez, Edgar Duenas, and Guillermo Ochoa

This could have a drastic effect on not only the Gold Cup, but also the club teams that all these guys play for – it could result in 1-year bans, and Ochoa has been rumored to be moving to Paris St. Germain this summer.


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