Archive for the ‘Olympics’ Category

So Much For "Country First"

October 3, 2009

While we never really had a chance to land the 2016 Olympics in Chicago (since we just had the 2002 Winter Games and South America has never held one), its astonishing to see how giddy the conservatives are that the Windy City was the first one voted out.

Whatever happened to that slogan from the McCain campaign; Country First?

Check out how this group, Americans For Prosperity (one of the main organizing groups behind the tea party protests) reacted to the news that Chicago was out of the running:

Is it just me or does it seem that a certain group of Americans only loves this country when they are in control of it?

Great Recap Of the USA-Netherlands Match

August 12, 2008

Great recap of the USA-Netherlands match from my friend Bob Wagman. You can read it here.

Feilhaber: Still A Chance At Derby

August 9, 2008

A few weeks ago, we reported that Benny Feilhaber was on the auction block at Derby shortly before he was named to the US Olympic squad. Now, it seems he may still have a place in the club’s side, but just barely. After his meteoric rise from Hamburg and the US national team to last summer’s transfer to Derby, Feilhaber seemed to be the next big thing. But he fell on black days, riding the bench after Paul Jewell took the reins at Pride Park. But, he kept his head down, continued training, and waited for a break which never came.

Last week, the new numbers were passed out at Derby and Feilhaber went from being #22 to being #31, the last number passed out by the club. Its usually a good sign when a coach assigns a number (and a bad one when they don’t), but being #31 is a clear sign that the American midfielder in the man on the bubble. There is, of course, always a chance he be sold before the August 31st transfer deadline.

As the English Championship season started today, Derby lost 1-0 to Championship newcomer Doncaster Rovers sans Feilhaber and Australian Ruben Zadkovich, also in Beijing to compete in the Olympics. That makes it 25 straight losses for Jewell, who has yet to win a game at Derby. Since he did not get a result today after starting seven of his new signings, the door may be creaking open for Feilhaber.

The question remains whether Feilhaber can prove himself now by starting and making a good showing at the Olympics. But that is already proving to be a difficult task. With so many quality players competing for a starting spot, it is easy to be outshined by the others – coach Piotr Novak only used Feilhaber as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Japan.

If Feilhaber can break out of his rusty cage and prove his worth, he needs to do it quickly. If Team USA has a chance to steal a point from a powerful Netherlands squad tomorrow, a resurgent Benny Feilhaber may be just what they need. Given Derby’s form, he may be just what they need as well.

Oh, Did We Get Lucky!

August 7, 2008

If you are surfing to this blog, you probably saw the USA squeak by Japan 1-0 to open up the Olympic tournament for the Stars and Stripes. A fair result could have been 2-1 for Japan, which created more dangerous chances than our boys and demonstrated more fluid passing and coherent defense.

A few quick bits:

Brian McBride – Battled hard as always but there was seldom anyone available for the second ball.

Freddy Adu – Held the ball way too long and was too easily muscled off the ball. Always seems not to notice the drop man when receiving a pass and surrounded by 2-3 defenders. Gave up possession too easily.

Michael Bradley – A virtual ghost for most of the match offensively but held his own defensively. The offensive terror of the Eredivisie seemed to be MIA today. Try him at playmaker vice young Freddy.

Maurice Edu – Earned his spurs today in a position he is not accustomed to playing. The near -penalty at the end can be attributed to defending like a midfielder in the open field (his natural habitat), not a defender in the penalty area.

Marvell Wynne – Stout performance, defended his turf like it belonged to his family. Phenomenal run to set up the US goal.

Stuart Holden – Solid match, well taken shot on goal but often left Orozco stranded.

Heath Pearce – Why could you not be on this team? Instead, the left back position became an open gate on the Honda highway.

Michael Orozco – Had a few bright spots early but the rest of the match seemed to zig when the Japanese zagged (see entry for Pearce, Heath). Needs to stay on his feet more.

Robbie Rogers – Reminded me of the old never-say-die Bennie Olsen on the wing. One of the few American players to show any imagination.

While a win is a win, I’m not very optimistic on the USA’s chances against the Netherlands. They looked like 11 individuals and urgently need to get into a team rhythm if they want to have any chance of advancing. Michael Bradley should be used like the playmaker he is but he also needs to step up his game. He could blow his chance at that fat contract in England if he doesn’t.

Olympic Soccer: US Women Drop Opener to Norway 2-0

August 6, 2008

The 2008 Olympic Women’s Soccer Tournament got off to a start today with Canada beating Argentina 2-1, Japan and New Zealand drawing 2-2, and Gold medal contenders Germany and Brazil ending in a scoreless draw 0-0.

The USA women got behind 2-0 early against Norway and despite a strong second half, could not score a goal. They have a chance to work their way back into contention Saturday against Japan but they’ll need to collect all three points. Ironically, Norway lost to the US Women 2-0 in the 2000 Olympics but still managed to win the gold medal.

Host China threw down their marker for the gold early with a 2-1 win over Sweden while South Korea beat Nigeria 1-0.

Altidore Sees First Action For Villarreal

July 22, 2008

Villarreal got a good look at its four new signings, including American Jozy Altidore in a Sunday friendly against third division side Navata. The match turned out to be a 12-0 romp for the primera side and the club’s faithful got its first look at Altidore before he departs to participate in the Olympics for the USA.

Yellow Submarine coach Manuel Pellegrini has indicated that Altidore will remain with the first team until at least January due to an injury to veteran forward Nihat Kahveci. Kahveci suffered a thigh injury during the Euro 2008 tourney while playing for Turkey and eventually required surgery, keeping him out of action for the first half of the Spanish season.

So, Altidore will have a chance to prove his worth as Villarreal faces a tough run of Spanish league and Champions’s League matches during the fall. Regardless of how well he does at the Olympics, he’ll need to work extra hard to integrate into his new club team after missing so many weeks of preseason training. Opportunity is knocking – will he be ready to answer?

The Evolution of US Soccer Players in Europe: Part I

July 18, 2008

While players are now reporting to their European clubs’ preseason training camps, we’re all still following the movement of American players between various clubs. This got me thinking that after 20 years of following the fortunes of US players in Europe (9 of them as a reporter), its hard not to notice the evolution of the American presence in the European game. So, let’s take a look back and see where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and what progress is yet to be made.

1980s: The Trailblazers

The NASL went defunct in 1984 so young American players wanting to play at a higher level had a choice; go to a college team, play in a US semi-pro league, or try heading to Europe. But heading to Europe was no easy task since few clubs were interested in experimenting with unknown quantities, especially from a country without a soccer culture. For the time, it was comparable to an English youngster wanting to try out with a major league baseball team.

But some young Americans were starting to get noticed since US players became much more visible in the 1980s. The US played in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic soccer competitions as well as the 1987 Pan-American Games, in addition to a number of lesser international tournaments. In 1986, Bundesliga side Hamburger SV took notice of Paul Caligiuri and brought him to the team where he never managed to break into the lineup. Later, in 1988, he was transferred to Second Bundesliga side SV Meppen where he played for the next two seasons.

Around the same time, Brent Goulet, the 1987 US Player of the Year, moved to English lower division side AFC Bournemouth and later to Crew Alexandra where he scored three goals in 1988. Goulet later moved to Germany where he played on several second and third division teams for the next decade. While other US players received interest from European clubs, few teams seemed willing to make the investment.

Post-1990: Establishing A Toehold

Thanks to a wonder-strike by Caligiuri, the US qualified for its first World Cup in 40 years in 1990 and while the US team did not win a game, scouts at Italia 1990 took notice of several players. What they found were players with decent skills and a good work ethic available at bargain basement prices. Tab Ramos was signed by Spanish second division side Figueras and later moved to Real Betis while John Doyle went to Sweden to play for Örgryte IS. Hugo Perez ended up at Red Star Paris and later joined Doyle at Örgryte IS – the first European squad to have two Americans on its roster.

Among the higher profile US players of the era, John Harkes signed on with English second division side Sheffield Wednesday and helped the team to win the 1991 League Cup Final where they defeated Manchester United 1-0. In 1992, a young keeper named Kasey Keller started a four-year stint at another English side, Milwall, where he earned praise from the club’s faithful and opponents alike.

At the same time, Cobi Jones was struggling to get playing time at Coventry City but still managed to score nine goals in 28 appearances from 1992-1995. The South African-born Roy Wegerle became an American citizen in 1991 while playing for first division side Queen’s Park Rangers where he scored 29 goals in 65 appearances from 1990-1992. He later played for Blackburn Rovers and Coventry City, as well as the US national team.

Overall, most of these players went to second division sides but the biggest impact was felt in Germany where a few American players made their mark. By 1991, Caligiuri had moved to FC Hansa Rostock in eastern Germany, a team he would help to win the final East German championship before the league was disbanded . A year later, Kaiserslautern’s star midfielder Tom Dooley become an American citizen – further raising the profile of American players in Germany. All the while, Chad Deering spent three years, from 1990-1993, in the Werder Bremen system before moving to Schalke 04.

The one American player that made the Germans sit up and take notice was Eric Wynalda who was loaned by the US Soccer to FC Saarbrucken, a Bundesliga club. He made an immediate impact scoring nine goals in his first 10 games before opposing defenders started marking him more closely. In 1994, young Americans Brian McBride and Mike Lapper signed with the Second Bundesliga’s VFL Wolfsburg.

Around the same time, the US Men’s Team started not just showing well but actually beating a few major teams including a 2-0 home win over England in 1993. Instead of ignoring the US as a source of potential talent, some in Europe started to take a closer look. Fluke or no fluke, there must have been something going on in US Soccer. Thus, a toehold was established in the European game but few , mostly the naturalized Americans, were with top-flight teams and not all legionaires across the Atlantic were seeing regular playing time.

Coming This Week: Part II: Post-1994 World Cup: Breaking Into First Division Soccer

Comments, Questions, Ideas?

Copyright Chris Courtney 2008

AS Monaco: Still Interested in American Duo

July 17, 2008

According to the Nice Matin, AS Monaco is still leaning toward bringing in Americans Michael Bradley and Freddy Adu but under different arrangements. Benfica’s young American appears to be close to a deal to be loaned to Monaco with an option to buy. Initially, Benfica had upped his price to €4 million after there was also interest from Bologna and Genoa.

Heerenveen midfielder Michael Bradley had been in ASM’s cross hairs recently with reports of an offer in the neighborhood of €8.5 million. Bradley is also being pursued by Middelsbrough, Bayer Leverkusen, and perhaps other clubs working behind the scenes. Monaco remains interested in Bradley but is indicating that his price would need to come down before they will buy him (which means Heerenven are asking for more than Monaco has already offered). Any transaction for Bradley or Adu will need to happen before the August 17th French League transfer deadline and even then, Monaco would need to wait until after the Olympics before either one showed up to Stade Louis II. Personally, I think only one of these two will ever pull on a Monaco jersey (and his name isn’t Bradley).

Ronaldinho: Getting His Mojo Back

July 13, 2008

Over a year ago in a column for Soccer Times, I recall noting that the great players like Ronaldinho were starting to burn out due to a non-stop season of club, European, and international matches – not to mention the promotional tours that reduce any off time to recharge. In Ronnie’s case, we watched him degrade over time until it reached a point where some said he had “fallen out of love with football.”

This summer, he apprears to be getting his mojo (and fitness) back under the supervision of Brazilian national team fitness coach Paulo Paixao. This week, Paixao spoke about the superstar who is currently working to get ready to play in the Olympics – something his club (Barcelona) is not happy about.

“He is very happy and motivated.” “He has rediscovered his joy, and is once again the Ronaldinho we all knew.”

“He has been very cooperative in the work we are doing to improve his physical form, and take him back to his best.”

Ronaldinho is aiming to represent Brazil in the Olympics (as an overage player), motivated it seems to prove something to both Barcelona and Brazil boss Dunga who has left him off the national team roster. If Ronnie plays in the Olympics, it means he’ll miss club’s Champions League qualifiers at a time when Lionel Messi will also be unavailable to the Catalan side.

All the while, speculation continues about whether Ronaldihno will transfer to AC Milan, Manchester City, or remain at Barcelona. Regarless, a Brazil side led by a healthy and motivated Ronaldihno will be sure to make the Olympic soccer tournament more enjoyable for fans, but less so for opposing teams.

Giuseppe Rossi on Italian Olympic Roster

July 5, 2008

New Jersey-born striker Giuseppe Rossi has been selected to play for Italy in Beijing next month. The team will gather next week to start training at Coverciano, the Italian Soccer Academy near Florence. Meanwhile, his new Villareal teammate, American Jozy Altidore, is still waiting to learn if he will be able to play for the US Olympic team. It remains to be seen how happy Yellow Submarine coach Manuel Pellegrini will be having two of his young strikers off on Olympic duty during the preseason training which starts on July 14th. Villareal’s first preseason match is July 30th against Liverpool while the Olympic men’s soccer tourney runs from August 8th-24th.

The rest of the Azzurrini (Baby Azzurris) are:

Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Robert Acquafresca (Cagliari), Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa), Antonio Cadreva (Udinese), Luca Cigarini (Parma), Andrea Coda (Udinese), Andrea Consigli (Atalanta), Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Paolo De Ceglie (Juventus), Lorenzo De Silvestri (Lazio), Daniele Dessena (Parma), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Marco Motta (Udinese), Antonio Nocerino (Palermo), Andrea Ranocchia (Arezzo), Tommaso Rocchi (Lazio), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal), Andrea Russotto (Treviso), Salvatore Sirigiu (Citta di Castello), Emiliano Viviano (Brescia)