US Has Great Success Building Into The World Cup Part Of Shane Stay's Four Year Review From The 2016 Copa America By Shane Stay Paraguay As this Four Year Review rolls on, the US took on Paraguay for the last game in their group. A good result was needed to advance into the playoff round, and that’s where things got interesting. Previously, the US lost to Colombia, 0-2. Then the US defeated Costa Rica, 4-0. On the night of the third game, Colombia, the number three team in the world, lost to Costa Rica, causing them to get second in the group. Against Paraguay, the US won 1-0 despite playing down a man. Dempsey scored the goal, Yedlin received two yellow cards, Brooks had a great defensive game and the team as a whole came together to hold off the Paraguayan attacks. With the win, the US moved onto play in the quarterfinal against Ecuador, which was held in the loud setting of Seattle. With home field advantage, the US was showing the tournament they were one of the top teams there. This generation of US players has benefited from the creation of the MLS in 1995. All of the players from the generation before 1995 were good athletes and players, but they lacked the experience provided by an outdoor league. While fielding competitive teams, they couldn’t get beyond a certain level. Practically everyone in the world looked down on the American soccer program, which affected the team’s performance. Furthermore, the players back then were good defenders, as they are today. While defenders like Brooks played well, I still believe the team needed to take a chance with more skillful defenders on the offensive side of the ball. This would push the team forward with long term success, which comes from a sound groundwork of creative possession that has gotten better over the years. Paraguay had a good team going into the game. Traditionally, they’ve been competitive, but they’ve never stood out as a major threat in a tournament like this, or the World Cup. At this point in the tournament Brazil, who has been a leader in the game since the 1950s and who was expected to win their group, was sent home because of not getting through the playoff round. Though it wasn’t a huge surprise that the US won their group, with Brazil gone, the feeling was that anything could happen. Ecuador The US stood up to the challenge of playing in the quarterfinal against Ecuador, in Seattle. It could be said that home field advantage was playing a significant role in the success of the team during the tournament, considering what a terrible year they had in 2015. However, was the team playing well? Were they getting results? Did they advance in a large tournament? Yes, yes and yes. The bigger issue here is how to get the team past that certain point. The team can get better with adjustments. Change the culture of play in defense, by developing more offensive-minded defenders who control possession in a skillful way, and you will have a better team which will have consistent success. To push us over the top, like Sylvester Stallone from his underrated "Citizen Kane of an arm wrestling movie," it’s about creative possession from the defense. The team needs to adjust the defense to get into the deeper rounds of the World Cup. They look good now, but this team can’t win the World Cup. They’ll turn some heads, like in 2010, but they won’t push it to the limit. We need more “skateboarders,” such as Neymar’s debut game for Brazil in 2010 against the US. No one had ever heard of him, in the US anyway. He was about 17 or 18. During the national anthem the camera panned over this kid, with a mohawk, looking like a puny, skinny, scrawny little punk-rock skateboarder. At that moment, in line with Pato (who’s gotten a bad rap), Gonso (who’s been looked over) and Robinho, most people realized he was going to be a good player. And for his debut, Neymar scored a goal and dribbled with confidence as a veteran would. (Gonso, also in his debut game for Brazil, played phenomenally, casually leading the attack with beautiful passes.) That’s what the US needs: more scrawny, skateboard punks who can really dribble. Why did Brazil exit the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Copa America so disgracefully? They didn’t have the classic creative dribblers and playmakers that they’re known for. They need to get back to what they do well, and the US needs to get into what Brazil should return to. After losing the first game to Colombia, the US made great strides getting into the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America. A little surprised, yes and no. It turns out that Paraguay and Costa Rica weren't as good as people thought, and the US got out of the group. Yet, considering home field advantage, particularly in the quarterfinal with Ecuador in Seattle, it made sense. The argument I'm putting together for the future of the team is that making the semifinals for this tournament "isn't there yet," considering the US made the semi's in this tournament in 1995. Also, Brazil didn't advance out of their group, which was really weird. Another surprise was Mexico, who was thought to be one of the best teams in the tournament, losing 7-0 to Chile. Argentina From the outset, the US and Argentina were looking to be interesting. Yet again, with home field advantage there was a glimmer of hope that the US men could find a victory in Houston and leave Texas for the championship match. But Argentina proved that South American competition is a world away from the leaders of CONCACAF. In the end, the US lost 4-0, playing the number one team in the world. The majority of US analysts constantly serve as a reminder as to how we Americans approach the game: It’s like an executive boardroom, ala Glengarry Glen Ross, with high expectations and unrealistic goals. “Did you score a goal?” “No.” “Well, you didn’t do your job. We have to replace you.” The key issue is that we are not supplying the players with the right approach to “scoring goals.” There’s no use in expecting them to score if the approach is wrong, particularly against an opponent like Argentina, who was doing everything we needed to be doing (which is not asking too much, which is the paradox). Dribbling must be a priority. The two-man game within crowded areas on the field must be a priority. When Argentina possesses the ball in the middle of the field, with artistic short passing and dribbling, it becomes clear why they have more quality scoring chances. That’s where all the scoring begins. The question for the future is simple. Can the USMNT figure it out by the next World Cup? It’s possible. There’s still a lot of time to wait and see. Shane Stay is the author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet, Meyer & Meyer 2014. Shane Stay is a former professional soccer player, writer, comedian, producer and founder of Leaf Dressing. In 2008, Stay bottled Leaf Dressing, co-authored a print book, published a magazine story, worked clubs as a comedian, played restaurateur and received a Masters of Arts. Stay has a Bachelor of Arts from Sonoma State University and a Master of Arts from Southern Illinois University. This blog post is brought to you by CPG News & Information Services.
SUMMER PARTY APPETIZERS - IN A FLASH!! Laura Theodore’s Vegan-Ease: An Easy Guide to Enjoying a Plant-Based Diet, offers more than 130 delicious, vegan recipes that are quick and easy to prepare, each complete with nutritional analysis. Enhanced by over 200, full-color photographs, each recipe is ranked with an Ease-Factor to make it easy to choose recipes that fit into any busy schedule. Summertime presents the perfect time to share outdoor meals and casual get-togethers with loved-ones. An easy-to-prepare appetizer is always at the top of my menu agenda, and this delightful offering is one of my go-to dishes all summer long. Mini-Sweet Peppers with Hummus feature store-bought hummus, enhanced by the welcome crunch of the tiny sweet peppers, making this dish a colorful and ease-y dish to add to your recipe box. Simple to prepare, but a real crowd pleaser, and these colorful and tasty snacks instantly disappear the moment you serve them. Better make a double-batch! Mini-Sweet Peppers with Hummus Makes 8 to 10 “small bite” servings 8 to 10 mini-sweet peppers, various colors 1 container (7 to 8 ounces) store-bought “red pepper” flavored hummus (see note) 16 to 20 tiny whole basil leaves or parsley sprigs, for garnish Seed and split the peppers. Fill each mini-pepper half with a generous spoonful of the hummus. Top each pepper with a bit of the red pepper mixture from the top of the store-bought hummus. (see note). Garnish each pepper with a tiny basil leaf or parsley sprig. Arrange the peppers on a pretty platter and serve! Chef’s Note: If you are using another flavor of hummus, or your own homemade hummus, mince one of the mini-red peppers to use as a garnish! Photos courtesy of Laura Theodore Have you tried Laura's Strawberry Pie recipe? You can get it here. Laura Theodore is an award-winning public television personality and host of the Jazzy Vegetarian, presently available in 88% of US households. She is a vegan chef, radio host, jazz singer, and the author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics and Jazzy Vegetarian. In 2014, Laura was honored with a “Special Achievement Taste-Award” along with the likes of Martha Stewart and Emeril; she has also been recognized byVegNews magazine with a “Totally Tubular Veggie Award.” Laura hosts the popular podcast radio show, Jazzy Vegetarian Radio, now in its 7th year, and has appeared on every major TV network. She writes a weekly food column for Mother Earth Living and has been featured in many highly respected news, food and lifestyle-related journals. A critically acclaimed jazz singer and songwriter her CD, Tonight’s the Night, received a “Musician Magazine Award.” Laura has appeared in many plays and musicals, including the Off Broadway hit show Beehive, earning her a coveted “Backstage Bistro Award” and was honored with the Denver Critics Drama Circle Award as “Best Actress in a Musical” for her starring role as Janis Joplin in the world premiere production of Love, Janis. This blog is brought to you by CPG News & Information Services
2016 Copa America US vs. Costa Rica By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet This was basically a must win game for the US. In all likelihood, a defeat would have sent them out of the tournament. Considering the opening loss to Colombia, if the US tied there might be some hope to move into the next round. Within CONCACAF, the three tops teams were the US, Mexico and Costa Rica. So it was fitting that the US would face an old conference rival. To that point, Costa Rica might have been the best of the group, however, that would be hard to argue with considering how well Mexico was playing in the past year. Soldier Field in Chicago was the location with 39,642 in attendance. Immediately, a penalty kick was awarded, putting the US up a goal, and from there they never looked back. Costa Rica attempted a comeback, but had no answer. The US put in four by the end of the game. It was a surprise because this Costa Rican team was highly regarded and many people were expecting a more difficult game. When goals are scored, everything seems right. Good combination play and accurate through passes helped the US outplay their opponent. The Costa Ricans were constantly looking for chances to break through the defense, hitting the post at one point, but it just wasn’t their night. The win brought a new energy to the upcoming Paraguay game in which the US could have moved into the next round with a good performance. Regardless of how the Copa America ended up, this win secured Klinsmann his job through the next World Cup. Speculation was that if the US had lost again, Klinsmann might be on his way out. But with a four to nothing victory there’s no disputing that he would continue as the leader into Russia. Shane Stay is a former professional soccer player, writer, comedian, producer and founder of Leaf Dressing. In 2008, Stay bottled Leaf Dressing, co-authored a print book, published a magazine story, worked clubs as a comedian, played restaurateur and received a Masters of Arts. Stay has a Bachelor of Arts from Sonoma State University and a Master of Arts from Southern Illinois University. This blog has been brought to you by CPG News & Information Services
2016 Copa America: US vs. Colombia By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet, Meyer & Meyer Sport 2014 In the opening match of the 2016 Copa America, sponsored by Sprint, the US lost to Colombia 2-0. Despite the result, the US played well. It’s not condescending to say they didn’t play as well as Colombia. They didn’t. But they played well. Both sides had good, strong tackles. It was a lively game. The problem was that, as a team, Colombia started to reveal their superior touch, vision, professionalism and experience which came about in high-paced possession, accurate flicks, little chips, good through balls, along with very good, well-trained and very aggressive defense. They were ranked number three in the world, and they played like it. Ranked 31st, the US played well, but they were lacking in the most important part of the game: highly skilled defensive possession. With a subtle change in that regard, the US could have rightfully been ranked in the top fifteen and likely would have gotten a better result in a game like this. The first half was the better showing for the US. Colombia was good as well, benefiting from two goals, one of which was a controversial handball call, leading to an interesting debate. Was it a handball? The US player in question, Yedlin, turned his back to a cross, leaving his arm slightly outstretched, which made contact with the ball. The letter of the law states that because he made himself bigger, by leaving his arm outstretched, it was called a penalty kick. James put it away, and that was the end score. Predictably, the US had a challenge on its hands for the next two games. The issue was the same for the US. The defenders were lacking offensive character. They are usually good defenders, there’s no disputing that, but they’re not the best in possession. The problem is, surprise, surprise, the defenders have the majority of possession, in every game. The way they distribute the ball to the other so-called “creative players” affects how the flow of the game goes. In effect, with the majority of possession, the defenders are the “creative players.” It never changes. It’s a little like David Brent questioning his employee Keith, who asks, “What are the options?” “They’re always the same.” Everything on offense starts with the defense. Media commentators suggested many ideas for the lineup, including the benching of Bradley. But rather than be benched, Bradley would be better used as a fullback. Despite some players not being on the team, the best four defenders would have been Yedlin, Bradley, Ream (or Cameron) and Brek Shea (or an idea outside the box would be to use a forward like a healthy Edson Buddle). With that backline, there would have been no more wondering why the USMNT can’t win the big tournaments. It starts with the defenders. With all the talk of lineup changes, a center midfielder is needed to lead the defense. The US should have taken a chance – months ago – with Bradley as a center fullback, preferably with Ream (or Bradley with Cameron or Besler or Brooks). The upside was that, in general, the US team had a good presence and with a better skilled backline they could defeat top teams. There was still hope, and Klinsmann was correct in his assessment after the game, noting that it was a good game, and it would serve well for the future of the team, whether moving on in this tournament or taking that confidence into the next World Cup. Shane Stay is a writer, former professional soccer player, comedian, producer and founder of Leaf Dressing. In 2008, Stay bottled Leaf Dressing, co-authored a print book, published a magazine story, worked clubs as a comedian, played restaurateur, received a Master of Arts and played professional soccer. In 1999, Stay founded the first online Current Events game, CE Game. Stay has a Bachelor of Arts from Sonoma State University and a Master of Arts from Southern Illinois University. He was born in Carbondale, Illinois, to parents Jim and Carol Hanson, an author and school teacher. This blog post has been brought to you by CPG News & Information Services