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.
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.
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)
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
By Jeremiah Paschke-Wood
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.
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
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.