I Say Futbol, You Say Soccer

July 24, 2014

“Why the U.S. and Mexico should bid to co-host the 2026 World Cup. The ties between the United States and Mexico make up one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world today, with profound implications for the prosperity, well-being, and security of the people of both nations. Some in Mexico and the U.S. may not enjoy reading this, but there is one inescapable truth, one that has developed over time since the early 1990s and accelerated in the decade after NAFTA’s approval, and that could fundamentally alter the nature of our relationship and have a profound impact for North America and, dare I say, for the global community as well: Mexico and the United States are converging, as societies and as economies.” Fusion

How to Follow Soccer Now that the World Cup Is Over

July 22, 2014

“The World Cup is over, and the quadrennial outbreak of American soccer fever is slowly subsiding. In the aftermath of the most-popular soccer tournament in U.S. history, though, there are signs that some are sticking with the sport. There’s been a post–World Cup spike in Major League Soccer viewership, according to ESPN, and MLS streaming packages are reportedly up 300 percent. If you’re still feeling that soccer itch but don’t how to scratch it, here are the many ways to keep up on the sport between now and 2018. The obvious place to start is the already-underway MLS season. There are 15 American metropolises with teams, and new franchises are coming to Orlando and New York next season and to Atlanta in 2017.” Slate (Video)

Soccer The ‘World Cup Is Over, Now What?’ Guide to Soccer

July 18, 2014

“Just because the World Cup is over doesn’t mean soccer stops. Soccer never stops; that’s one of its biggest appeals. There are so many different teams, leagues, club competitions, and international tournaments that, if you want to, you can always find someone to cheer for or some team to root against. It can also be a bit daunting to wade into without any experience. Luckily, you have me, your Russian Premier League–watching, tactics board–chalking, Opta Stats–devouring Gandalf, to help you tailor your soccer-watching habits. And now I will answer some completely made-up questions to guide you along your soccer path.” Grantland

Why the United States Needs a Football Revolution

July 16, 2014

“It was great fun, wasn’t it? The determination, the refusal to quit, the passion, the belief that running until it was physically impossible to run anymore was easier than acceding to defeat. Oh, yes, the United States at this World Cup gave Americans a team to be proud of, but it did not deliver on Jurgen Klinsmann’s 2011 promise to play progressive, attack-minded football. While the U.S. had grit, it lacked a coherent national style. The development of a national playing style, or even general philosophy of how the game should be played, is an important moment in a country’s footballing history.” 8 by 8

State of the Union: An American’s Post-Mortem of the USMNT in Brazil

July 15, 2014

“The United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) has returned home from Brazil but the team does so having escaped a very difficult group and pushing Belgium to the very brink in the Round of 16. The buzz that surrounded the team was really unprecedented in the United States. ‘Watch parties’ across the country drew thousands of people, eager to see the Red, White, and Blue succeed at the World’s most prestigious sporting competition. World Cup games drew millions of viewers even beyond the USMNT’s games. People who never gave ‘soccer’ a shot before were now invested in the tournament. So with the 2014 edition of the World Cup being one that was seen as a success for the team and one that captured the imagination of the American public, it is now important to look forward to what this could mean not only for the USMNT but also for football in America in a broader sense.” Outside of the Boot

Attack-minded Belgium finds way through USA, defiant Tim Howard

July 3, 2014

“It looked chaotic at times, and playing an extra 30 minutes wasn’t in the plan, but Belgium’s 2-1 win over the United States on Tuesday went about as Belgian manager Marc Wilmots scripted it. Belgium still hasn’t scored a goal this World Cup before the 70th minute, but the Red Devils were still the best team across 120 minutes of play. Both teams fielded fairly attack-minded lineups, with the U.S. playing 4-1-4-1 for the first time in the tournament. Belgium stuck with its usual 4-3-3, and all 10 field players had their moments in attack, including center back Vincent Kompany, who dribbled the length of the pitch in the 90th minute and turned it into a scoring opportunity.” SI

Belgium 2-1 USA: Belgium dominate but take ages to make the breakthrough
“USA put up a brilliant fight in extra-time, but Belgium had been the superior side for the majority. Marc Wilmots selected Divock Origi upfront, rather than the underwhelming Romelu Lukaku. Jurgen Klinsmann brought Alejandro Bedoya back into the side, and made the surprising decision to select Geoff Cameron rather than Kyle Beckerman in midfield, supposedly because of his greater mobility. This was a tremendously entertaining game, but Belgium should have put it to bed much earlier – only a tremendous goalkeeping display from Tim Howard kept USA in it.” Zonal Marking

World Cup Tactical Analysis | Belgium 2-1 USA: Sudden shift proves costly
“Although these two teams’ pre-tournament expectations were widely conflicting, both now found themselves facing off in what was being touted as a fairly balanced encounter. Belgium were expected to deliver and did with three wins and just 1 goal conceded (from the spot). The US on the other hand were expected to bow out early, but emerged ahead of Portugal & Ghana (so nearly Germany too). In a 5th round of 16 game that went into extra-time, Belgium emerged victorious, possibly deservedly, but the US could have so easily forced penalties.” Outside of the Boot

USA 1:2 Belgium – The What If Game
“In the end, it was a deserving result. The universe or fate or the soccer gods or whatever didn’t mess up and wrong the United States Men’s National Team. We didn’t play better than the other team, simple as that. And yet, how do you explain that feeling in the pit of every U.S. fans’ stomach? That sick, awful feeling that things could have been different. Soccer is a funny game. You can be clearly inferior for the entire match and still somehow win. If your defense holds and you capitalize on your lone scoring chance, then you can knock off a better side. This almost happened last night. In stoppage time of regulation, Chris Wondolowski had the ball on his foot six yards from the goal line. If he puts it in the back of the net, the United States are through to the World Cup quarterfinals. Belgium wouldn’t have deserved that, but to quote Will Munny: ‘Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it’.” Soccer Pro

Hooray for Losers
“Americans are learning how to lose, and soccer is teaching them how to do it. For the longest time, second place in any competition, domestic or international, has been regarded in the USA as a disaster of unmitigated proportions. (Third was not even worth acknowledging.) While other countries celebrated their silver or bronze medals with parties and parades, American commentators thrust microphones into the faces of the ‘losers’ and asked, sotto voce and with unconcealed disappointment, ‘What happened?’ or ‘What went wrong?’” The Paris Review – Jonathan Wilson

Hail to the Alamo: Team U.S.A. Goes Down Fighting

July 2, 2014

APTOPIX Brazil Soccer WCup Belgium US
“In the very end—after the comeback goal from Julian Green, a nineteen-year-old World Cup débutant; after the close-range miss from Clint Dempsey that almost levelled it; after the final whistle that sent Team U.S.A. home; after the expressions of pride from Alexi Lalas in the ESPN studio on Copacabana Beach; after all the grandstanding tweets from politicians praising the U.S. team for displaying great valor—after it had all gone down, there was Tim Howard, the American stopper who had made an incredible sixteen saves to keep the United States in the game, a feat of goalkeeping prowess with no equals in World Cup history.” New Yorker

World Cup Pass & Move: The Boys of Summer
“For the last two weeks, the United States men’s national team has had your neighbor talking about 4-3-3 formations, the lady on the bus wearing a Clint Dempsey–riding-Falkor T-shirt, and has probably been the reason dozens of babies will be named John Anthony in nine months. The American players helped inspire a palpable passion around the game in this country, unlike anything we’ve felt before. And they helped make this truly extraordinary World Cup one that none of us will ever forget. With the United States’s exit from the tournament at the hands of Belgium, a few Grantland writers — Brian Phillips, Chris Ryan, Mike L. Goodman, Noah Davis, Ryan O’Hanlon, and Bill Barnwell — wanted to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the players that gave us so much this summer.” Grantland

Wild Ride by U.S. Comes to End, but Soccer Is the Winner
“It felt as if Tim Howard would never go down. As if the United States would never go down, standing there, taking shots like an undersize fighter clinging desperately to a puncher’s chance. Howard saved with his hands. His feet. His legs. His knees. At one point, Howard even had a shot bounce off the crest over his heart. Trying to figure out where soccer fits into the fabric of America is a popular topic but, for one afternoon at least, there was this unexpected truth: All around the country, from coast to coast and through the nation’s belly, sports fans of every kind were inspired by the performance of a soccer goalkeeper. In a loss. The ending was cruel, but then so is the game.” NY Times

World Cup: USA dream shattered by Belgium
“No guts no glory, or so the saying goes. But perhaps the vanquished United States soccer team can rest in the knowledge that if the World Cup was decided on guts, it would surely be lifting the trophy in Brazil. For 120 minutes of Tuesday’s ultimately unsuccessful last-16 clash with Belgium, each one of Jurgen Klinsmann’s men left everything on the field in Salvador. From the second the Americans went 2-0 down in extra time thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, the rearguard action started. Substitute Julian Green’s goal offered the nation a lifeline and energized its fatigued players with a quarter of an hour to play. And you could almost hear the sigh of despair from New York to Nevada as late chances for Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey were agonizingly spurned. The final whistle signaled tumult at either end of the emotional spectrum as Belgium advanced to a quarterfinal with Argentina on Saturday and the U.S. departed. Beaten, yes, but not bowed.” CNN

A Eulogy for the Most Intoxicating USMNT of all Time
“There was a point during the end of the Belgium game, when Lukaku roofed that second goal, and we could see the end was nigh, that I stopped being stressed out, and started to just feel proud. The score didn’t matter, I told myself. This team has given every last iota of whatever nutritional substance is fueling their bodies. I will be fine with whatever happens. And then—of course—Julian Green comes on and buries a volley in the Belgian net to create the most frenzied final six minutes in US soccer history.” New Republic

Variation on a Theme of Jacques Brel

July 2, 2014

“The United States plays Belgium today in the round of sixteen, with the winner moving on to the quarterfinals of this 2014 World Cup. It’s an accomplishment the U.S. has only managed once before, in 2002, by beating Mexico, before losing a tightly contested match to Germany, the eventual tournament runners-up. Belgium has gone further—they arrived as far as the semifinals in 1986 before succumbing to two Diego Maradona goals and then losing to France 4-2 in extra time in the consolatory third-place game. That was an extraordinary Belgian side: Enzo Scifo, Eric Gerets, Jean-Marie Pfaff in goal, Jan Ceulemans. Since then, Belgium has fared no better in the World Cup than the U.S. has—three exits at this very same round of sixteen, one exit at the group stage, and, in 2006 and 2010, a failure even to qualify for the tournament. The U.S. hasn’t missed a World Cup since, coincidentally, 1986.” The Paris Review

8 Books to Guide You Through the World Cup

July 2, 2014

Golazo!: The Beautiful Game from the Aztecs to the World Cup: The Complete History of How Soccer Shaped Latin America by Andrea Campomar
“The world is divided into two groups of people: those who look forward to the World Cup every four years, and those who don’t realize they’re soccer fans until the World Cup starts. For the latter, those recent converts to the soccer religion, here is a reading list you’ll want to page through before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, so you too can become a soccer expert.” Fusion

A Definitive Reading Guide To The 2014 World Cup
“In Brilliant Orange, the English writer David Winner’s celebrated study of Dutch soccer culture, he quotes voetbal-loving artist Jeroen Henneman on the subject of the Brazilian game: ‘I was so disappointed when I went to Brazil,’ he tells Winner, describing his first trip to the country that will host this summer’s World Cup. ‘I’d thought: finally I will see the great Brazilian football! I expected to see a very ‘roomy’ football. But they play in the most boring way, on technique, only to show off… So slow! They go forward, they go back. Some do little tricks, nice little things. But it is not football.’ It is not football.” Huffingtonpost

Babylon on the Beach

June 28, 2014

“There have been other parties on this beach. Not just the annual Carnival bacchanal or the New Year’s fireworks, which are massive and can run ragged (as a friend here told me, ‘you watch the fireworks and then run home so nothing bad happens to you’). Copacabana beach, the ‘billion dollar crescent’, as the New York Times called this strand fifty years ago, has hosted everyone from the Rolling Stones to Pharrell. Three million people showed up on its shore for Pope Francis last year, even more than that came for Rod Stewart a decade earlier. Five years ago, 100,000 people turned out just to celebrate the announcing of Rio as 2016 Olympic host—a party to celebrate a future party. But it’s still worth appreciating the unique wilding that is Copacabana this month during the World Cup. The Argentines are camping, the Chileans are chanting, the Costa Ricans are weeping, the Brazilians are hustling, and everywhere are the Americans, baying and bro-ing. Kiosks sell Ruffles and Lucky Strikes and Prudence condoms while sidewalk touts shove apitos and off-label FIFA tchotchkes in your face. Beach cruiser bikes weave around clusters of flagthumpers on the swirled stone promenade. A Uruguayan takes off running to the west for no apparent reason. A naval warship lingers just offshore; police helicopters buzz the beach. The atmosphere is somewhere between Spring Break and the Fall of Saigon.” Roads and Kingdoms

Is This Soccer’s Moment in America?

June 28, 2014

“The World Cup is enjoying a surge in TV ratings thanks to excitement surrounding the U.S. team’s strong performance, putting the tournament among the elite telecasts in all of sports. But can soccer sustain its burst in popularity in the U.S. The evidence suggests that some skepticism is in order The U.S. lost 1-0 on Thursday to Germany, but still advanced to the knockout stage of the tournament, having survived this year’s Group of Death The surprising run has made for captivating television. Ratings for the Germany match weren’t available on Thursday, but it is clear already that this year’s telecasts are setting records. The U.S. match versus Portugal on Sunday wasn’t just the highest-rated soccer game ever in the U.S. The combined viewership of the game was 24.7 million between ESPN and Univision, making it the most-viewed sporting event of the year so far, excluding American football, a perennial ratings juggernaut.” WSJ

I Was Wrong About Klinsmann

June 28, 2014

“Three weeks ago, I wrote in this space that Jurgen Klinsmann had to deliver now. Wins in friendlies and the Gold Cup and CONCACAF qualifiers are great (and, at this point, expected), but his job was to get the U.S. national team into the knockout rounds. I went further and said that he hadn’t been the best candidate for the job when he was hired in 2011 because his coaching resume was thin. Klinsmann’s main achievement was bringing a German team, playing at home, to the 2006 World Cup semifinals. But German teams have made the final four in nine out of 13 tournaments since the World Cup resumed after World War II in 1950. It didn’t seem like a big deal.” Fusion

World Cup As a Bandwagon Fills, a Team Fails Forward

June 27, 2014

“The United States soccer players seemed to pass the ball to Germany more often than they did to their own teammates. Late in the game, two Americans — Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya — were left splayed on the field after running into each other and knocking heads. Jones had also hit the turf earlier when he ran at full speed into the referee. No matter. After their World Cup match here on Thursday, a 1-0 loss, the American players hugged, high-fived and pumped their fists, while their coach flashed a goofy grin. Their fans, soggy from the torrential rain, chanted: ‘U-S-A, U-S-A.’ Weird thing, this World Cup. It generously laid a giant red, white and blue welcome mat at the back door. The United States escaped the Group of Death by enduring a lot of self-inflicted wounds but never fully losing its pulse. As if by miracle, even in defeat, the United States will advance to the Round of 16, and it is scheduled to play Belgium on Tuesday.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis: USA 0-1 Germany | Germany expose and dominate wide areas
“On the last day of the group phase, one of the most exciting groups, Group G, drew to an exciting close. All 4 teams were in with a shot of going through to the next round. There was a lot of tension in the air in the build up to this game as a draw was enough to take both sides through, and many had doubts after Germany’s performance against Austria in the 1982 World Cup. That aside though, this was also set to be a very tough game as two very evenly matched sides very going up against one another. Coach Jogi Low, who was assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann during the latter’s time in charge of Die Manschaft went up against his former colleague as well, to add some more spice to the occasion.” Outside of the Boot

U.S. Moves On With Assist From Portugal
“This time, there was no moment. No tingle in the spine, no shiver in the neck, no blood rush to the ears. There was no memory that will live on in hearts and minds and YouTube videos forever. This time, there was only this: About 10 minutes before the end of the United States national team’s World Cup game against Germany on Thursday, a U.S. Soccer staff member sidled up to one of Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistants and informed him that Portugal, playing simultaneously about 1,200 miles away in Brasília, had taken a one-goal lead against Ghana. The assistant, Andi Herzog, then turned to his left on the bench and tapped Klinsmann on the arm.” NY Times

U.S. needs possession to continue run
“The emotional ups and downs the U.S. went through in surviving Group G required a year’s supply of Dramamine. The Americans withstood withering pressure to beat Ghana 2-1, played brilliantly before coughing up a late equalizer against Portugal and finally concluded group play with a 1-0 defeat to Germany. Omar Gonzalez summed up the experience perfectly when he said, ‘Last game’s draw felt like a loss, and today’s loss felt like a win. It’s pretty weird.’ Taking the big picture view, the Americans had every reason to feel joyful. The U.S. had emerged from arguably one of the two toughest groups in the tournament, a magnificent achievement that many observers thought was beyond this side.” ESPN

Group G – ESPN

June 27, 2014
Group G Overall
1 Germany 7 5 3 2 1 0 7 2
2 United States 4 0 3 1 1 1 4 4
3 Portugal 4 -3 3 1 1 1 4 7
4 Ghana 1 -2 3 0 1 2 4 6

A Cruel Match in an Unforgiving Jungle

June 24, 2014

“The US team was in a stadium in the middle of a city in the middle of a jungle, getting ready to take the field to play Portugal. The sun had dropped behind the arena and it was getting darker. And hotter. Manaus was built into the Amazon. Fly in on a plane or go out on a boat and you get a sense of the enormity of the uninhabited world surrounding it. Unlike other parts of Brazil, where the natural landscape—the stunning beaches, the looming mountains—seems as much a part of the city as the buildings, Manaus is a clearing in a forest. It feels like an intrusion on nature. The jungle hangs all around city, stifling heat and huge bugs reclaiming its streets and the people living in a place they don’t belong.” 8By8

Heartbroken, but Hardly Hopeless
“Forget about that last goal. Pretend it never happened, as if that soccer ball never ricocheted off the head of a perfectly positioned Portuguese player and into the United States’ net. Do not dwell on those last 30 seconds of that game on Sunday night in the Amazon that stomped on the throat of an otherwise sublime night. Emotions are hard to temper at a time like this — when a surprising American victory seemed all but guaranteed, until that header suddenly proved that it wasn’t — but the broader picture is not at all bleak. Even after tying Portugal, 2-2, the United States remains on a trajector.” NY Times

In Time Warp of Soccer, It Ain’t Over Till … Who Knows?
“… Such situations would be unthinkable in other sports, but vagaries of time are the norm in soccer. Games do not end when a clock expires, but only when the referee decides they are over. In a world where quantities as varied as footsteps and mouse clicks can be measured with scientific precision, soccer is a land where time remains a mirage. The most recent example came in the World Cup game here Sunday night, when the United States scored to take the lead in the 81st minute of a 90-minute match only to see the advantage slip away when Portugal scored — wait for it — 14 minutes later.” NY Times

World Cup Pass & Move: I Can’t Believe That We Did Draw!

June 23, 2014

“Looks like we picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue! That was a pretty turbulent soccer match on Sunday. To try to make sense of it all, we’ve got a bunch of Grantland writers on hand to talk it out. This is a safe space! Blame Game. Bill Barnwell: When the clock struck 94:00, DeAndre Yedlin had the ball in the opposite corner of the pitch while trying to shield it from Portuguese defenders. At 94:24, the ball was up for grabs in the Portuguese half of the field. Eight seconds later, at 94:32, a bullet header from substitute Portuguese striker Silvestre Varela hit the back of the net. Given that the final whistle blew almost immediately after the ensuing kickoff, had the United States managed to hold the ball for another 10 seconds, it would have come away from Manaus with three points. It’s a bitter blow.” Grantland (Video)

USA eyes bigger picture after letting World Cup chance slip vs. Portugal
“They were 30 seconds away — half a minute from clinching a spot in the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup after only two games, an achievement few could have expected prior to the tournament. ‘It’s the Group of Death,’ goalkeeper Tim Howard said. ‘Most people counted us out.’ They were 30 seconds away from writing a new chapter in U.S. soccer history. Never before had the U.S. men advanced beyond the first round in consecutive World Cups. Only 30 seconds separated the Americans from a seminal victory over a European power that would have opened the eyes of millions around the world and galvanized an increasingly engaged public back home. Thirty seconds proved too long.” SI (Video)

Late Shock Interrupts U.S. Party
“The ball was barely past United States goalkeeper Tim Howard, and already he had put his hands to his head. On the bench, Jurgen Klinsmann spun away as if he had seen a ghost. Up the field, not far from where he lost the ball, Michael Bradley could only stare. This was what shock looked like. The Americans had advanced, hadn’t they? Hadn’t they? The celebration had been epic after Clint Dempsey, the captain, the man with the black eye and the broken nose and the swollen cheek, scored just nine minutes from the end to put the Americans in front and surely — surely — into the knockout round of the World Cup. It was bedlam. It was overwhelming. It was historic.” NY Times

World Cup Tactical Analysis | USA 2 – 2 Portugal: The Americans exploit down the right
“The two sides came into this game with contrasting opening fixtures. While the Americans were lacking expectations at the World Cup, they managed a positive result against Ghana, while the Portuguese disappointed with a 4-0 loss to Germany (though a victory was never likely). In what was the last late game of the World Cup, both teams certainly left it late. Although they shared the points, the US certainly were the more impressive side and looked deserving of all three points, while the Portuguese can count themselves extremely lucky for not having been knocked out of the tournament already.” Outside of the Boot

How the Portugal Draw Boosts the U.S.’s World Cup Advancement Odds
“The United States was seconds away from defeating Portugal on Sunday when Michael Bradley, normally one of the steadiest American players, mishandled a ball in midfield and gave Portugal a last opportunity. Silvestre Varela took advantage, scoring on a header. But the 2-2 draw was a result the U.S. might have been happy with before the match began. It improved the Americans’ odds of advancing to the knockout round of the World Cup. Those chances are up to 76 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast, an improvement from 65 percent before Sunday’s match.” fivethirtyeight

The Anchor on an Evolving Team

June 22, 2014

“Tim Howard did not always like what Jurgen Klinsmann was doing to Howard’s closest friends. He actually hated it. One by one, all of the veteran players on the United States national team had their moments with Klinsmann, the coach from Germany, who had made clear since the moment he was hired in 2011 that history and past performance meant nothing to him. Klinsmann dropped Carlos Bocanegra, the former captain. He benched Michael Bradley. He denigrated Clint Dempsey. With Landon Donovan, he pretty much did all three. All the while, Howard, the longtime goalkeeper, played the role of supportive teammate and steady hand.” NY Times

The Reducer: World Cup Winners and Losers

June 21, 2014

“Can I interest you in March Madness spiked with second chances? Because that’s what we’ve got on our hands. After a little more than a week of World Cup action, we’ve seen the defending champions go crashing out, the hosts wobble, new stars rise, and established stars cement their place in soccer boot ads for years to come. We’ve seen a German-born defender become an American hero, a Brazilian-born striker be partially blamed for Spain’s early exit, and Mexico’s manager turned into an anime character.” Grantland

The End of Ghana’s Golden Generation

June 17, 2014

“As exhilarating as Monday’s 2-1 World Cup victory was for United States supporters, it must have been equally as heartbreaking for Ghana supporters. Having clawed back to tie the match 1-1, and appearing to secure a minimum of a point after allowing a first-minute opener to Clint Dempsey, the Ghanaian team now face an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages of this World Cup. FiveThirtyEight suggests that Ghana’s loss dropped their chances of making it through Group G down to just 11.0 percent. (The United States, meanwhile, now have a 67.2 percent chance of advancing [the number has been updated since Nate Silver's post yesterday].) Even worse, if Ghana are eliminated, it will likely bring the run of their golden generation to an end. It will take a while for a Ghanaian team this good to make it into the World Cup again.” Grantland

John Brooks and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very American Win
“Imagine if I told you before this match that America’s best pure striker and main offensive target would leave with a leg injury 20 minutes in. And that one of our best centerbacks would also be forced out with an injury at halftime. And that our most dangerous player would have his nose broken and not be able to breathe well out of it for the rest of the hot, humid game. And that our all-around best player would turn in a horrible performance. And that our passing style would for the most part resemble that of a co-ed adult league team, lower intermediate division. Knowing all that, you’d probably be OK with a 2-1 win against the best team in Africa in one of the most important matches in United States World Cup history, right?” New Republic

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Ghana 1-2 USA
“Coming into the World Cup, all the talk for the US National Team was the exclusion of all-time leading World Cup scorer, Landon Donovan. Many felt that even if he weren’t going to be awarded a starting berth, his experience off the bench and in training would be effective on getting the best out of the players, in what would be his last ever World Cup. For Ghana, it was a case of avenging their quarter-final defeat from the previous edition. They would have to start off against the Americans who they’ve defeated twice in the last two World Cups, knocking them out of the competition. Expectations were high for both sides, and given Portugal’s defeat earlier to Germany, these two sides knew they could take a massive step at progress from the first-round with a win at Estadio das Dunas.” Outside of the Boot

USA vs. Ghana in GIFs
“Revenge, at last. The U.S. faced a must-win situation in its first match against old nemesis Ghana, who eliminated the Yankes from the last two world Cups. Jurgen Klinsmann and his men had to deliver. And they did, in the most dramatic of fashion. Here are some unforgettable GIFs.” Fusion

National Defense

June 11, 2014

“On June 12th, the United States men’s national soccer team faces England, in Rustenburg, South Africa, in a match that is expected to draw one of the largest audiences in the history of televised sports. The last time the U.S. met England in a World Cup was sixty years ago, in June, 1950, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The American team, cobbled together so hastily that many players had just met one another, included a dishwasher, a mail carrier, a meat packer, and a hearse driver. A reporter from Belfast called them a ‘band of no-hopers” and “surely the strangest team ever to be seen at a World Cup.’ No one gave the Americans the slightest chance. Their coach, Bill Jeffrey, described his squad before the game as ‘sheep ready to be slaughtered.'” New Yorker

USA: a diamond midfield

June 10, 2014

“While 4-2-3-1 remains the dominant formation, there’s a decent amount of tactical variety on show at this World Cup. The United States are expected to add to this variety by using a diamond midfield, which might be unique among the 32 teams. Jurgen Klinsmann has spent recent weeks telling the press that the formation doesn’t matter, but the switch to the diamond in April’s 2-2 friendly draw against Mexico was a significant move, and was designed to bring the best out of the USA’s outstanding player, Michael Bradley.” Zonal Marking

Terry Gilliam, Guy Ritchie & Alejandro González Iñárritu Direct Soccer Ads for Nike

June 10, 2014

“Even if you don’t hail from one of the world’s many soccer-loving countries (you know, the ones that don’t call it ‘soccer’) surely you can get on board for the World Cup. Here in the United States, I often hear ‘I just watch it for the ads’ said about the Super Bowl. And if that game’s breaks showcase some pretty cool spots, then its non-American football equivalent offers an even higher level of promotional spectacle. Last year, we featured Brazil and 12 Monkeys auteur Terry Gilliam’s two ventures into the form of the World Cup commercial, ‘The Secret Tournament’ and ‘The Rematch,’ the first of which you can watch at the top of the post.” Open Culture (Video)

Watching the World’s Game, in the World’s City

June 9, 2014

“On a gloriously sunny afternoon recently, Lunasa, an East Village pub, was packed seven deep at the bar, as three TVs showed the day’s big games. Soccer games, that is, in Germany, Portugal and England. Just wait until the World Cup starts on June 12. Outside Brazil, there is no better place to experience the world’s sport than the world’s city. Passion for soccer runs deep in New York, among Ghana fans in the Bronx, who expect yet another victory over the United States team; among the Japanese faithful in a discreet Kips Bay lounge; and bursting from 900 Bosnians around Astoria preparing for their nation’s first ‘Svjetski Kup.’ There are 32 teams, in eight groups; we have chosen one nation from each group and provided a local prism to view the games through.” NY Times

Where to Watch the World Cup in New York

Do U.S. Soccer Fans Steal Europe’s Customs? Damn Right We Do!

June 7, 2014

“It’s disappointing, though not terribly surprising, that this is how Jonathan Clegg begins his jeremiad against American soccer fans, published in the Wall Street Journal Thursday night: ‘Growing up as a soccer fan in England…’ Here we go. To lend credibility to the screed that follows, Clegg reminds us that his English upbringing allows him to understand the sport in a way that Americans never will: ‘I’ve witnessed my fair share of horrors. I’ve seen shocking acts of violence, overheard hundreds of abusive chants and watched Pelé retire to sell erectile dysfunction pills.’ He’s seen things. Clegg’s nod to his nationality also gives away his real reason for writing, the familiar hipster lament: he liked soccer (football) before it was cool, and now these neophytes are ruining everything.” New Republic

How a New York bar brought boots and pints to North America.

June 6, 2014

“Jack Keane is recalling the days when he’d be threatened with physical violence for televising football in New York City. How dare you show that shit? shouted an instigator, some drunk East Village punk who was offended at the sight of the game. Don’t you know where you fucking are? ‘He grabbed me by the collar over the bar,’ Keane remembers. ‘He didn’t like me much, I’ll tell you that.’ This was the mid-’90s, when Manhattan’s East Village still had an extra layer of Giuliani-era grit to it and Nevada Smiths, the bar on Third Avenue that Keane ran, was the only place in town showing European football. ‘It was a completely different neighborhood,’ he says. ‘Filled with fucking crazy people. Cars being broken into, drug deals on the streets. It was a different era.’” 8 of 8

Jürgen Klinsmann’s Soccer Mandate

June 5, 2014

“If you talk with Germans about Jürgen Klinsmann’s ill-fated stint as the coach of F.C. Bayern Munich, it’s only a matter of time until they bring up the matter of the Buddha statues. After arriving in July of 2008 at Bayern—the free-spending New York Yankees-style hegemon of the German soccer league—Klinsmann’s first intervention was to personally oversee an overhaul of the team’s training center. The local press openly wondered whether the movie theatre, the so-called ‘quiet room,’ and the high-end d.j. console that he installed had much, if anything, to do with soccer, but they seemed willing to give Klinsmann the benefit of the doubt.” New Yorker

World Cup 2014: Guide to Germany’s Group G

June 2, 2014

“Style & formation: Blessed with far more flair than many Germany sides of the past, their fluid 4-2-3-1 is underpinned by Bastian Schweinsteiger and the currently injured Sami Khedira anchoring the side from the base of midfield. Ahead of them lies creative fulcrum Mesut Ozil, who is usually flanked by the dangerous Marco Reus and Thomas Muller.” BBC – Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA

The 10 Most Significant Goals In U.S. Soccer History

June 2, 2014

“1. THE ‘SHOT’ THAT STARTED IT ALL. In November 1989, the week-long training camp before the most important U.S. soccer game in 40 years was the usual no-frills affair. In the days before cell phones and the Internet, the U.S. players slept two to a dorm room in Cocoa Beach, Fla., and shared a single pay phone among all of them to call home. But they did have basic televisions in each small unit, and one night defender Paul Caligiuri was sitting on the floor when his roommate, goalkeeper Tony Meola, commandeered the couch and started flipping through channels looking for a show to watch. Their talk turned to the game they would play two days later in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, a World Cup qualifier that bore the highest of stakes. To clinch the U.S.’s first World Cup berth since 1950, the Americans had to win on the road against a team that had not lost at home during the qualifying campaign. If the U.S. tied or lost, tiny T&T would end up grabbing the first World Cup spot in the nation’s history.” SI

Soccer in Solitude

May 28, 2014

“I’ve drunk too much coffee. I do this every time. It’s forty-five minutes to kickoff and I’ve got nothing to do with my hands, and so I drink another cup. I’ve got nowhere to put my body. I am not at a bar. I am certainly not at the stadium. I’m not even with my friends. I am sitting, and now standing, and now pacing, and now sitting again, in my apartment. It is a half-hour to kickoff. I am chewing the inside of my cheek. Fifteen minutes. I wish someone would bring me a beer. They’re playing the national anthems. Time to shut the window, set the phone to silent. Someone, somehow, please grant me some other passion. This one is wearing me out. Quiet, please. I am a soccer fan.” Roads and Kingdoms

The Landon Donovan Decision

May 24, 2014

“So Landon Donovan is not going to the World Cup. We’ve had a night to reflect. Does it make sense yet? No. Yes. No, because he’s Landon Donovan. Yes, because he’s Jurgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann had always seemed to regard Donovan’s much-publicized sabbatical from the game with barely tolerant bemusement. The player himself may have believed he was back in the fold, after a typically Donovanesque Gold Cup, and his return to the team during late-stage World Cup qualifiers, but Klinsmann always maintained an equivocal cool. It was as if he were mulling over when, and how, to use the entire Donovan episode as a teachable moment. He chose the eve of the World Cup.” Grantland

The Fight For 23: Crowded U.S. midfield makes for heated World Cup roster competition

May 22, 2014

“In the fight to make the 23-man U.S. World Cup squad, any discussion about the midfielders has to begin with Michael Bradley. The rock of the central midfield is at the height of his powers at age 26, and he knows exactly how the U.S. should look on the field in Brazil when the Americans are playing at their best. How can you tell when that’s the case? When, as Bradley puts it, ‘tactically we’re organized, and defensively every guy is committed to closing down and being aggressive and pressing and making the game hard on the other team. It means that when we win balls we’re mobile and dynamic and showing how athletic we are and how quickly we can go forward.’” SI

The (Midfield) Engine That Could

May 22, 2014

“There are eleven positions on a soccer team, each with its own character. None is more glamorous than the striker, whose job is to score the goals in a game that has so few of them. None is more romantic than the goalkeeper, who stands alone as the team’s last line of defense, the only player who can use his hands in a sport that depends on the use of the feet, the head, and every part of the body but the hands. None is more celebrated than the Number 10, known sometimes as the fantasista, the team’s playmaking superstar who’s asked to supply the creativity that can undo the most rehearsed and structured defense. Yet despite the spotlight that shines on those players, the midfield position situated just in front of the team’s defensive backline is perhaps the most critical of all. ” The Paris Review

Borderball with Club Tijuana

May 6, 2014

“About a decade ago, a T-shirt became popular in American malls. In retro graphics featuring a 1970s-style monorail swooshing by, the shirt read: ‘Tijuana: City of Tomorrow.’ Its message was sarcastic and disparaging. A border city in a distant corner of the continent, Tijuana had a seedy reputation as an “adult playground” and as a haven for all sorts of criminality. For many Americans, the short hop across the border to Tijuana still carries connotations of murky vice and sleaze. Times have changed. Every week, Americans make the journey to Tijuana for an irreproachable reason: they cross into Mexico to watch their beloved soccer team, Club Tijuana. It may be located in another country, but the Mexican league side has become the de facto hometown team for San Diego.” Road and Kingdoms

Tactician’s Corner: On best options for Michael Bradley and the USA’s diamond MF

April 7, 2014

“The United States’s 2-2 draw with Mexico Wednesday night included an overwhelming start that gave way to a blown lead, but add in a new formation and Julian Green’s highly anticipated debut, and it was worth staying up late to watch. For the first time in Jürgen Klinsmann’s time as head coach, the U.S. trotted out a diamond midfield, anchored by Real Salt Lake holding midfielder Kyle Beckerman, who plays the same role for his club team. Brad Davis and Graham Zusi, usually wingers, had more withdrawn starting positions, and Michael Bradley floated freely in the middle.” SI

Burn, destroy, wreck, kill

April 2, 2014

Sounders Win in Stoppage Time
“In 1859, an American farmer in the Northwest shot and killed a pig that was on his land. The pig belonged to an Irishman, who demanded $100 in repayment. Instead, the two men feuded for years, a squabble that escalated into an international conflict that eventually led to both American and British soldiers being called in to duty. No one fired a shot, and after a decade of periodic military huffing and puffing, the two sides resolved the issue. The absurd incident became known as The Pig War. A similar war has been ignited in the Cascadia region of the Pacific Northwest between the cities of Portland and Seattle. The battlefield is green turf with painted white lines. No pigs have been killed, but every week the armies suit up without ever stepping foot on the field that separates them.” SB Nation, Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers

For Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley, Mexico friendly offers chance to re-establish chemistry

April 2, 2014

“Exhibitions between the U.S. and Mexico already are pretty unfriendly. They attract large, divided crowds (more than 55,000 tickets have been sold for Wednesday night’s tilt here at University of Phoenix Stadium), and there’s an abundance of history and animosity on which to draw. Conversation this week has ranged from U.S. coach Jurge Klinsmann’s annoyance at Puebla FC’s refusal to release defenders DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco to Mexico manager Miguel Herrera’s claim that El Tri doesn’t owe its World Cup qualification to the Americans. In fact, he said, the U.S. owes Mexico for taking California.” SI

Failed Auditions: Three thoughts on the USA’s 2-0 loss to Ukraine

March 7, 2014

“In an exhibition played under unprecedented circumstances, a U.S. national team comprised of players hoping to make their World Cup case was outplayed Wednesday by a Ukrainian side motivated by a whole lot more. There were only a handful of fans in attendance at Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca, Cyprus, but their blue-and-yellow flags and banners calling for Ukrainian unity set the stage. The ‘hosts’ were in gear early in the first half and eased to a 2-0 triumph over the Americans behind goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and substitute Marko Devic.” SI

Don’t Take Julian Green to the World Cup

March 5, 2014

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that Julian Green is a special soccer player. The 18-year-old winger already made his first-team debut for Pep Guardiola’s world-destroying Bayern Munich, and has scored nearly a goal a game for its reserve team this season. Born in Tampa, Green has lived in Germany since he was 2. He is, at worst, an exceptionally promising prospect. At best? Who knows; projecting the future of a teenage soccer phenom is an exercise in cloudy crystal-ball reading under the simplest circumstances, and Green’s situation is far from simple. He’s not Lionel Messi, but he’s closer to him than he is to Freddy Adu. Let’s just say he’s the type of player who, in the right situation, could dramatically improve the fortunes of the United States national team this summer in Brazil.” Grantland

Responding to Klinsmann, U.S. players say it’s opportunities they lack – not belief

February 23, 2014

“If it can be measured or tested, Jurgen Klinsmann has measured and tested it. From strength and agility to VO2 max, pattern recognition, sleep and caloric intake, U.S. national team players have been subjected to an unprecedented amount of quantitative analysis under their thorough and ambitious coach. As Klinsmann has claimed repeatedly over the past two-plus years, it’s all designed to help forge players who can compete at soccer’s highest level.” SI

Does Wondolowski have a realistic shot at Brazil?

February 2, 2014

“Even before the final whistle sounded, it was the question on everybody’s mind. Can striker Chris Wondolowski, who scored both goals for the U.S. national team in Saturday’s 2-0 friendly win here against South Korea, somehow grab one of the final spots on the Americans’ World Cup roster when coach Jurgen Klinsmann names his 23-man squad in May? The answer may actually lie in another question: Will Klinsmann take four forwards to this summer’s tournament in Brazil?” ESPN

The top 13 stories from American soccer’s unforgettable 2013

January 2, 2014

“The year in American soccer was bracketed by bitter cold, which brought out the best in those who rose to the occasion and helped shape the sport in 2013. Way back in January, Jozy Altidore exuded dignity and determination during a Dutch Eredivisie game that featured snowballs and racial abuse cascading from the stands. In March, a beleaguered U.S. national team began its dramatic climb to the top of CONCACAF in a fearsome Colorado blizzard. And in early December, Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake contested an unforgettable MLS Cup final that was hampered, yet somehow heightened, by a frozen field and record-low temperatures.” SI

U.S. draws incredibly difficult group, but one filled with opportunity

December 7, 2013

“The U.S. had drawn Germany, Portugal and Ghana, the hardest opening-round group the Americans have ever faced in a World Cup. Germany, a three-time world champion, could easily win the tournament. Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo, who may be about to win the Ballon d’Or as the world player of the year. And Ghana has been the destroyer of U.S. dreams at the last two World Cups, eliminating the Americans both times. Group G has easily the most difficult average FIFA ranking of any World Cup group: 11.25. Germany is No. 2, Portugal No. 5, the U.S. No. 14 and Ghana No. 24.” SI

USA’s 2014 World Cup group overflowing with history
“You wanted a World Cup group with some sumptuous storylines? You got one. The USA was drawn into a Group of Supreme Death with Germany, Portugal and Ghana, with Jurgen Klinsmann needing to gameplan for the likes of Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo while aiming to break the Ghana hex — just to reach the knockout stage. The amount of history that the USA has against its group opponents is staggering, too.” SI (Video)

United States likely to face a treacherous World Cup draw with loaded field

November 22, 2013

“Frustrated by the draw that placed his U.S. Olympic team alongside Argentina and Portugal back in 1996, coach Bruce Arena famously lashed out at the ‘nice Americans’ who “don’t cheat” and who are ‘too stupid to fix a draw.’ Arena took some heat for that little rant and sure enough, the host U.S. finished third in its quartet and was eliminated from Olympic competition. Still two years away from taking over the senior U.S. squad, Arena called soccer ‘the biggest cheating sport in the world,’ implying – likely with tongue in cheek — that manipulation of those all-important plastic balls is par for the course at the game’s highest level.” SI

Major League Soccer’s Stadium Revolution

November 20, 2013

“This weekend features the second leg of Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference Championship, a winner-take-all showdown between the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City. The series is great for fans, not only because of the talented teams involved, but also because it’s being contested in the league’s two newest stadiums, Kansas City’s Sporting Park and Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium. That may not initially seem significant, but when these two teams met in the Conference Final round just six years ago, they played in Houston’s Robertson Stadium, a decades-old football stadium that has since been demolished. That same year, Kansas City (then the Wizards) played home games at the Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium, far from the ideal home for an MLS team.” Forbes

Emotional end to CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers in images, videos and words

October 18, 2013

“North America is still buzzing following the unforgettable conclusion to CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying competition. Planet Fútbol has compiled the sights and sounds of the triumph and tragedy of Tuesday night’s results, as well as the poignant and pointed aftermath. Mexico, now a shadow of the juggernaut that claimed the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and the 2012 Olympic gold medal, was minutes from a historic and humiliating World Cup elimination. Then Brad Davis found Graham Zusi with a pinpoint cross, and with a flick of his head, the Sporting Kansas City midfielder altered the fate of two countries.” SI (Video)

EA Sports FIFA, US, and The Global Game

October 6, 2013

“In the United States, Saturdays and Sunday are reserved for one thing: football. Across the country, people neglect their chores, homework, jobs, and responsibilities to flock to sports bars, friend’s couches, and the biggest TV they can find to in order to watch college and professional football. Recently, however, American sports fans have been putting aside one kind of football in favor of another. American soccer, or football, as it’s known to the rest of the world, has seen a seismic shift in popularity during the last several years. According to Rich Luker, the brains behind the ESPN Sports Poll, soccer is America’s second most popular sport for those aged 18-24. How? What could be the source of this newfound fanfare? Perhaps it’s the increasingly global reach by the world’s most popular clubs? Soccer Politics

John O’Brien: all American hero

September 14, 2013

2002 World Cup in South Korea, John O’Brien
“John O’Brien was once lauded as the greatest American footballer of his generation. He successfully conquered Europe with his exploits at Ajax in Holland’s Eredivisie and drew many plaudits for his performances for the US national team at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. But for the Californian born soccer star, his career was left largely unfulfilled. Blighted by a history of chronic injuries, O’Brien never truly reached the level of performance that his potential promised, however, he did enjoy sustained success for a short time and his influence on football in the United States was no less important.” World Soccer

Player grades: U.S. versus Mexico

September 11, 2013

Mexico at USA
“The song remained the same for the U.S. men’s national team against Mexico at Crew Stadium. So did the score, as the Americans defeated their bitter rivals 2-0 on Tuesday night and are now on the brink of qualifying for the World Cup. Eddie Johnson broke a scoreless tie four minutes into the second half, heading home Landon Donovan’s corner kick. Donovan then added an insurance tally in the 78th minute, converting from close range after excellent work from substitute Mix Diskerud. A makeshift U.S. back line, with some considerable help from goalkeeper Tim Howard, performed solidly on the night and then was able to see out a critical victory.” ESPN (Video)

For Klinsmann’s U.S., competitive culture pays off in Mexico win
“The U.S. national team that will fly to Brazil for next summer’s World Cup will consist of 23 players. That limit is unfortunate, because it took a lot more than 23 to earn the trip. Clarence Goodson may not make it. The San Jose Earthquakes defender was an alternate on the current qualifying roster. He played in Tuesday’s clincher here at Crew Stadium only because of Matt Besler’s suspension. Mikkel Diskerud may not make it. He’s one of several players vying for minutes in a crowded and talented midfield. The same could be said for Alejandro Bedoya. Yet all three played an integral role in lifting the U.S. to another 2-0 win over Mexico and a seventh consecutive World Cup berth.” SI

U.S. Wins and Secures Spot in World Cup
“… Almost 30 minutes later, Landon Donovan tapped home the Americans’ second goal, extending a tradition at this stadium, against this opponent. The United States had defeated Mexico here, 2-0, in their three previous World Cup qualifying cycles: 2001, 2005 and 2009. And they did it again Tuesday night, weathering an early storm from a desperate Mexican squad before Johnson and Donovan delivered the killer blows to delight an announced crowd of 25,584.” NY Times (Video)

Make or break for World Cup hopefuls

September 5, 2013

“Scheduling pressure on international football from disgruntled clubs has one big positive for fans; the increasing presence of exciting and meaningful double-headers in the space of five days. This week’s raft of World Cup qualification doubles will go some way to deciding the line-up for Brazil next summer, with some new names on the brink of a first participation and some established ones facing the hour where it’s put up or shut up. Here are some of the major plot lines to look out for over the coming days.” ESPN (Video)

A Sardinian Summer: The Forgotten Story Of the Chicago Mustangs

August 25, 2013

“Cagliari Calcio are an altogether unremarkable football club. For much of their existence they have been a yo-yo team, alternating between promotion and relegation and oftentimes languishing in the rustic depths of the Serie C, the third tier of Italian football. In their 93 years of existence they have conquered just one piece of silverware, a lone Scudetto won in 1970. In those brief glory years they were led by the inspirational Gigi Riva, the all-time leading goalscorer of the Italian National team. Since their latest promotion to the top flight in 2004 they have managed to stave off relegation but have been in a perpetual state of purgatory; too far off the top to the table to harbor realistic European ambitions, yet too far from the bottom to risk a return to Serie B. Their record is, for the most part, unexceptional. Yet in a curious episode long forgotten in the annals of football history, for a brief period of time they were known as the Chicago Mustangs. For one fleeting summer, Cagliari Calcio, the team from the picturesque Mediterranean island of Sardinia, used Comiskey Park on the South Side of Chicago as their home ground. This is their story.” In Bed With Maradona


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