Soccer

America’s Quest for the Cup

The Four Year Review: America's Quest for the Cup First Part of the Hex, US Struggles by Shane Stay On November 11, 2016, in front of a sold out stadium, the Hexagonal began. The second part of the Road to Russia was under way. Dos a Cero was the big talk going into the game, meaning 2-0. To date, Michael Bradley has been the only player to score two goals in a Dos a Cero victory over Mexico. Meanwhile, coach Klinsmann was saying the team was taking it one game at a time. But nothing could emphasis how important this match was. Columbus had served as a great “fortress” for the US team. Before this date, they had not lost a game there. A disadvantage on this night would be the many injured US players. Unable to play were Dempsey, Wondolowski, Zardes and Cameron, to name a few. On the other side, Mexico was rearing to go with regulars, Dos Santos, Chicharito, Guardado, the new talent Corona, the veteran Marquez, with the passing-guidance in the middle from Herrara, arguably the best passer of the ball in CONCACAF. The reliable hand of Tim Howard was in goal, at thirty-seven years old. Early in the first half, Mexico possessed the calmer passing. The US was pressed, frequently clearing the ball back to their opponent. Mexico nearly scored first, hitting the post. Then, off a broken tackle, one of the Mexican players took a shot from outside the top of the box, sending it on the ground, without much power, into the corner, past the outreached arm of Howard. Following that, Mexico hit the crossbar. From there, they continued with strong possession, overwhelming the defensive-minded US side with too many savvy offensive-minded ball handlers. Then Howard – of the Colorado Rapids – went down after taking a goal kick. Brad Guzan warmed up on the sideline, but Howard stayed in…a few moments later, he made a routine save, got up, rolled the ball out of bounds, made a gesture to exit the game and Guzan came in to replace him. As halftime arrived, the Fox Sports panel – led by Rob Stone – had a lively discussion trying to figure out how the US – who lacked discipline – could move forward. Early in the second half, the US players showed a lot more energy, asserting themselves into the flow of the game. Altidore connected on a short pass to Wood on the top of the box, who made his way through the last defenders and tapped the ball past the goalie for the equalizer. Toward the end of the game, Mexico scored off a head ball from Marquez, putting them ahead by one goal. The referee had a hard time with the pushing and shoving throughout the game, as it escalated sporadically toward the end. The final score was a tightly contested loss for the US. It was only the first game of the Hexagonal, with more time to make up for it. Next on the Road to Russia would be Costa Rica a few days later, on November 15, 2016. It wasn't dire straits, but it was clear the US needed a victory to get back on track. With that said, the US went into Costa Rica and took a 4-0 loss. It was a tough defeat, as the USMNT created a potential comeback story that will be one for the ages as they push forward on "America's Quest for the Cup" on the Road to Russia.   Shane Stay is the author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet (2014, Meyer & Meyer Sport). He is a former professional soccer player in addition to being a writer, comedian, producer, and founder of Leaf Dressing. To see  more of Shane's insight in American soccer, where it falls short and can improve, pick up your copy of his book today. You can follow Shane on Twitter @shanestay or like him on Facebook.


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Abby Wambach and the National Teams

Abby Wambach and the National Teams by Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet Categorized recently for her disparaging words against Jurgen Klinsmann and foreign-born USMNT players, which caused feud-like comments on social media from Alejandro Bedoya and Jozy Altidore, Abby Wambach came at an interesting time in the history of the USWNT. She arrived during the transition from an era shrouded in success thanks to the golden generation of Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy and other gifted players on the 1999 team, which won the World Cup in dramatic fashion against an amazingly talented Chinese side. Since then, the USWNT continued with success in their field along with a little more resistance as the women's game had substantially gained in popularity and quality around the world in the 2000s. The immediate concern was: Who would take over the team once Hamm and others filtered out? Great players came and went – including the technical talents of Aly Wagner – but during the 2000s the preeminent leader of the cause was Wambach, who held up the attack as a taller player, gifted in the air, eventually scoring 184 goals for the national team. As time went on, and World Cup titles that would otherwise belong to the USWNT were going to other teams – including Germany and Japan – some people started to wonder when the glory of 1999 would return. Was the world catching up to the US – who had World Cup titles from 1991 and 1999 – or was the US relying too much on a crossing attack thanks to the aerial supremacy of Wambach? For the latter, it could be said that such an approach was stifling a "better" possession-based attack. Maybe she was scoring too many goals, which kept others out of focus. Whatever the case, at the end of her career, Wambach – to her credit – accepted a demotion to the bench for the 2015 World Cup title in which the team found its creative spark midway in the tournament. For perspective on her 184 goals, Pele didn't break 100 for Brazil. An argument can be made that the women's side lacks "across the board" competitive teams that exist in the men's game. Regardless how that argument ends up, it is after all 184 goals, which leads all men and women for national team play. Considering how the US consistently dominates the Olympics, it's hard to imagine that the men haven't caught up with soccer. Wambach took away two gold medals during her time. The titles for the men should arrive, someday. Comparing the USMNT and the USWNT gets tricky. Post late 1970s, men's and women's soccer picked up drastically in popularity. The women's side became dominant when the rest of the world was playing less, while the men's side struggled to gain leverage within a world of teams that had close to a hundred year head start. Everyone is waiting for the USMNT to overcome the last American athletic frontier and make history in Russia, while the USWNT look to repeat as world champions.   Shane Stay is a former professional soccer player, writer, comedian, producer and founder of Leaf Dressing. In 2008, Stay 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. Stay has a Bachelor of Arts from Sonoma State University and a Master of Arts from Southern Illinois University. Follow Shane on Twitter @shanestay and Facebook (Shane Stay).  


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US Has Great Success Building into the World Cup

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.   


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US vs. Costa Rica

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


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Copa America: US vs Colombia

  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


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Getting Ready for the World Cup

By Shane Stay The USMNT is getting ready for the World Cup in Russia. First, they must qualify and learn from 2015. The US men’s team squandered the 2015 Gold Cup, took an embarrassing 4-1 defeat with Brazil last month, lost the huge match with Mexico this past Saturday (missing the opportunity to play in the 2017 Confederations Cup) and took a defeat on October 13, 2015 against rival Costa Rica. On top of that, Klinsmann sent home the very player he called the “best outside right back” in the last World Cup. Everything was falling apart. Summing up these events, on October 13, 2015, commentators said, “Where’s the creativity going to come from?” and “Change has to happen,” according to Taylor Twellman on ESPN. Referring to this moment in defeat, Bob Ley, also of ESPN, said it’s “…As large a crisis as we’ve seen in US history.” When asked by his commentating partner, “What creativity?” Twellman did not divulge a detailed answer. But he, along with any passing observer, could easily attest that something was off: a USMNT crisis in 2015. Fans have buckled down at the bar, drinking this expensive cocktail, combining trepidation with hope and optimism for over twenty years, leaning on Donovan – who brought a different attitude, exuding the confidence that screamed with a laid back LA accent “we can beat anyone, anytime” – with Dempsey later coming to his side, saddling up, creating a partnership, and, more importantly, acting as the clear replacement to Donovan whenever he would leave the team, which had recently come to fruition. Both players, whether you liked them or not, had a “knack” – that ability to add a dangerous pass which other players cannot deliver just the right way. In the most recent 3-2 Mexico loss, Dempsey was absent much of the game, however, his few deft passes were effective, leading to near scores. He’s the leader, adding that extra element for his teammates. Every team has one. Messi, C. Ronaldo, Herrera and Guardado, Ramos and Preki, as well as Zidane and Platini in past years. If Dempsey, who is already battling injuries, goes down with another more serious injury, it would be very grim for the team’s immediate future. What bothers people is the lack of any obvious protégé waiting in the wings. You can’t mention Freddy Adu without someone checking your temperature, and then you’re accused of heresy. Yet, the same formula has been tried over and over, and look where it’s gotten us. The larger point is that it’s not about Adu or Dempsey carrying the team on their back. It’s about fielding a group of players in their likeness. There have always been guys like them, and there always will be. They’re out there. The idea is to corral them at the same time. My book illustrates the answers to all these questions and dilemmas revolving around creativity – it illuminates how dribbling, passing within the two-man game, playing across the field, adding style and attacking with defenders will put the US on a different platform altogether. The beauty of the American fan is they will see this through, much like how Cub fans have stood by their team through two world wars, a moon landing and the introduction of the iPhone. At this point, with the same mental approach, with the same lineup malfunctions, the team might be heading down a dark path, very far away from seizing the ultimate destination: A World Cup title. With the right approach and lineup, I believe winning the World Cup could happen in 2018, with US players standing next to the trophy. As crazy as that sounds. But it’s up to the President and coaching staff – who have operated in a vacuum for years – to approach things with a drastically new vision. The Copa America 2016 will be a great opportunity for the USMNT to prove they belong at the top.   Shane Stay is the author of Why American Soccer Isn’t There Yet Brought to you by CPG News & Information Services.


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How Did the US Lose?

By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet 7-25-15 - US vs. Panama - Third Place 2-3 Penalty Kicks During a reported 110 degree day in Philadelphia, the US lost in penalty kicks to a bitter and determined Panama, led by their number eleven, Cooper, who plays second division in Germany, who was the star of the day. How did the US lose the last match to Jamaica, and this one to Panama? Lineup is the key word. “Back four” to be more specific… Chandler-Gonzalez-Brooks-Ream. There are a million things that can be analyzed, and should, but at this moment, the lineup stands above anything. To this point, Klinsmann, with all his wisdom, passion, and IQ, has made great efforts to successfully instill a swagger in the team (despite outright predicting there was no chance the US team could win World Cup Brazil). This was an odd choice for the back four, to say the least. The US loses with new faces, a new look. This back lineup won’t win a World Cup, much less get into the Second Round. The outside backs are too gawky, the inside backs aren’t skilled enough to lead the attack. My ideas go out of fashion – five minutes ago, if you ask me – when we win the World Cup; at that point I’ll quietly take credit or get shunned. Either way, I hope we can aggressively change things with a new look that will work. We’ve won every other competition in the world, literally. Soccer is our last athletic frontier. We’re not going to branch out and expand successfully – Manifest Destiny – with a back line like this. Defeat is inevitable. Klinsmann has taken this team to new heights, utilizing many arguments I’ve made in my book. He’s used Shea and Yedlin – two pure attackers – as outside backs, yet it oscillates back and forth. Shea-Bradley-Ream-Yedlin This is a “World Cup winning” back four. This skillful back four would, could and should win it all. (Soccer fans need to wake up and see that Bradley is the best center defender the US has never had. Implement him.) With one important condition: They must be encouraged to attack, particularly with Bradley acting as the Beckenbauer role, moving up and down as the Queen in chess, presenting a passing and dribbling option for his teammates, getting shots on goal for his teammates and for himself. Likewise, Shea and Yedlin would attack ala Cafu, Jorginho, Alves. Ream is imperative. He is, without question, the most skilled center back we have, outside of Bradley (our soon to be center back). His skill, touch, anticipation, technique, vision is by far superior to any other. Ream is an outright keeper; do not bench him. He, Bradley, Yedlin and Shea will take possession from the back four to the highest standard the US has ever known, raising everyone else to the highest level possible. Whoever’s in front of this back four is practically superfluous. Klinsmann, of all people, should embrace this. Bradley/Beckenbauer, Zusi/Breitner, Dempsey/Voller, Diskerud/Hessler-ish. I think Zusi has some Breitner in him; let it loose. So does Zardes; unleash the dribble. They’ll get it done. With Yedlin and Shea coasting down their flank it will be a lot of fun trying. At this point, losing the Gold Cup, showing the same result in World Cup competition for three tries, it’s all we’ve got…a little fun. And, bring back Freddy Adu. Just mentioning it has become a joke. I, for one, don’t think it’s very funny. Sure, he was just playing in Finland and Serbia. And hey, that’s cool. No problem here. We’re the underdog. Embrace the role. If you would like more great posts from Shane, follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook, and go to his website at http://www.shanestay.com/


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Line Up, Line Up, Line Up…

Gold Cup 2015 -  Semi Finals -  US vs. Jamaica 7-22-15, by Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet Line up, line up, line up…What else can be said?  Howard/Guzan Yedlin              Tim Ream        Bradley            Shea Zardes             Diskerud         M. Adu              Zusi                         Dempsey         F. Adu A variation of this line up was displayed by Klinsmann earlier this year and it was a rock solid group, ready for a World Cup title run. I’m not sure what’s been going on with the defensive line lately. There seems to have been a lot of changes; new looks; new outside backs; different inside backs. If you want the US to win, face reality and accept that Bradley is a perfect central defender, ala Beckenbauer, as the Queen on the chessboard who is allowed – and encouraged – to drift upward, joining the attack, stringing together the attack. He starts from that deep anyway; he’s a good defender; he’s six feet tall; he’s the guy. And, yes, I think bringing back Freddy Adu is the right move. He’s only “nineteen.” There’s a lot of room for growth, the potential is there, just give it a chance. Jamaica, throughout their whole history with their passion for soccer, should be better than they are. They go through cycles. With them, you have to catch the right generation with the right talent, at the right moment, a little like the 1954 magical ride of Bobby Plump, AKA Jimmy Chitwood and Hoosiers. Yet, they remain a relatively flat team, with enough potential to beat anyone from CONCACAF, Africa, Asia and some South American sides. So many people assume since the US and Jamaica dominate the 100 yard dash in world competitions, they should be able to transcend that expertise to soccer. But, as most should know: Fast doesn’t always make the best team. So many coaches have said over the years, “I’ll take technically sound over fast any day.” Pure speed isn’t the key to winning the Gold Cup, Confederations Cup or World Cup. It helps. But you must first have the skill and technical ability. On this night neither team in the first half dominated the skill. It was an all out battle for midfield with high tempo at virtually every moment. The first goal came from a backwards header off a long throw that tinkered off the far post, lingering over the line before hitting the “other” post, trickling in. Guzan may have been caught out of position but it was a weird goal that was practically meant to go in, on some level. For the second Jamaican goal, Guzan was penalized for a play that occurs regularly…when goalies punt the ball they tend to cross the goal-box line. It never gets called. In this case, Guzan crossed the goal-box line with a throw, not a punt. The free kick at the edge of the box was brilliantly slotted in from Jamaica as they celebrated like mad. Back in 1990, when the US made the World Cup for the first time in forty years, Meola and company were considered the “Hoosiers underdog.” Now, with twenty years gone, we’ve crept past that stigma, lurching closer and closer to elite status, as we’re currently a solid medium-grade team. For the moment, Jamaica is going for their first Gold Cup title, seeking out that big victory which has eluded them for so long. They were lucky in the second half, giving up an early goal. For the remainder of the match they played terrible defense – not marking, looking lazy, reacting not anticipating, lunging. You name it. They were fortunate to win 2-1, advancing to the finals to play Mexico (who, in turn, was lucky to get past Costa Rica and Panama).  The World Cup qualifiers begin shortly in the fall. The US will have a lot to think about until then, with plenty to reflect on. First, they can look forward to the Third Place match with Panama this weekend. (To see more on the outlandish, out of control Semi Final between Panama and Mexico, click here.) You can follow Shane on Twitter and like him on Facebook.       To get great updates from Cardinal Publishers Group, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook, we can also be found on Linked In and Pinterest.    


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US Quarterfinal Match Against Cuba

Gold Cup US vs. Cuba - July 18, 2015 By Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet A strange thing happened a day before the US quarterfinal match against Cuba: Five Cuban players defected. That’s right; they disappeared from their hotel, to be seen…no more. Just like that, they were gone. On the eve of playing the US, in the US, they defected to the US. No formal announcement, no letter; just gone and out of sight, leaving their teammates with an uphill battle against the heavily favored US side. Baltimore, Maryland was extremely hot, somewhere around ninety-five degrees. There was even a water break in the first half, a measure implemented by FIFA to ensure safety. They base the need for a water break on temperature, humidity, angle of the sun, wind speed and cloud cover. The water break tactic was utilized in Brazil last summer during some of the hotter matches around the Amazon. It only lasts a minute or so and then everything picks up again. By the time the close of the first half came around, the US was in the lead by four goals. Even with relations improving between the US and Cuba in the past few months, the defectors threw a monkey wrench into the chemistry of their team, leaving them vulnerable to multiple attacks at goal, with few chances of their own. Although, the Cubans were crafty, showing good possession, they were heavily outmatched by the more experienced Americans. Dempsey scored a hat trick, on his quest to passing Donovan for the all-time US leader in goals. He’s looking more and more like Rudy Voller, the West German forward, a former teammate of Klinsmann. Voller was never fast, but fast enough. He wasn’t the quickest, but quick enough. He was crafty, always with an eye for goal. That’s a knack you can’t teach. Dempsey is the same in many regards. He has a knack for goal and he’s never been the fastest or the quickest, but he has enough of both. Years ago, he started out playing more in the style of Cristiano Ronaldo, on the wing, using moves, showing some flair. Nowadays he still has the flair of Ronaldo combined with the guile of Voller – that pesky sense around net that puts pressure on other teams. Cuba sat back with no answer and a befuddled goalie. The US hopes to bring the same tempo to the semifinals this week. The result may not be 6-0 but they are looking poised to make a good showing on route to the finals. You can follow Shane on Twitter or like him on Facebook. You can also visit his website: http://www.shanestay.com/


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US Moves on to the Next Round

Gold Cup 2015 Game 3: US vs. Panama Panama had an uphill struggle trying to beat the US in order to qualify for the next round. It was a must win. The US, on the other hand, was already clear into the next phase of the tournament, and US moves on to the next round, on route for the final destination: the final game, and hopefully the Confederations Cup in 2017. There's something about CONCACAF uniforms that keep getting better and better. Panama is sponsored by New Balance. Who is sponsored by New Balance? I think it's the coolest thing in the world, just as Reebok sponsoring NFL teams is awesome. It's so nice to see teams wearing something other than the traditional monopoly of Adidas, Nike and Puma (to a lessor extent). Why not bust out some Diadora sponsorship, or maybe Lotto? Possibly, Saucony? The US home uniform is looking as good as it can get. All white, simple, classy. However, there's a slight discrepancy with the buttons on the collar. Some players button all the way up, looking as though they're gasping for air, while others leave the top button undone. It looks awkward to have the stark difference. Follow France's route: they have the top button naturally undone, leaving all the players looking the same. Onward with Panama!     The first half looked like absolute rubbish from the US; looking like days of old, with passes not connecting, no harmony and "bad tempo" as Brad Freidel pointed out. Panama got their much needed one goal lead but in the second half the US changed the lineup a bit, handing over a much better performance, taking it to the Panamanians in the sweltering ninety degree Kansas City heat; a stifling nighttime humidity that can be beautiful and annoying at the same time. There was never a moment of "No mas" from the Panama side, even when the US tied the game in the second half and it became clear that they were on the way out.     Prior to the game, the Panamanian side complained of a previous referee and insisted on having a new one, which came to fruition at the last moment, unbeknownst to the US. The Mexican ref did a good job, letting the game flow, allowing the players to bump and grind, calling things fairly with the exception of a horrible oversight on a Bedoya breakaway as his heel was clearly clipped from behind. Yet, no foul was called, giving Panama a clear pass. Guzan was strong in goal, making a case to stay on board instead of the experienced Tim Howard. As the lineup continues to be tinkered with, Klinsmann and staff are finding "the way" the best they can, discovering many things along the journey.  ~ Shane Stay, author of Why American Soccer Isn't There Yet Follow Shane on Twitter and like him on Facebook http://www.shanestay.com/


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