Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Yahtzee!

In the first installment of the futbol version of Explosion Ultimato, this Yahtzee! segment dives headlong into a soccer-passerby's guide to the US Men's National Soccer Team (USMNT).

As the Stars and Stripes take the pitch this June/July in Germany one must consider the man at the back to be the strong point of the team. Whether or not this pans out to be the case as one Brad Friedel did in 2002, Kasey Keller is the man the Czech Rep., Italy and Ghana will have to figure out. He impresses with shutouts (albeit in the weak region we have for World Cup Qualifying (CONCACAF)) and has been Senor Consistent for quite awhile now. Personally, I would have picked Keller to retire from National Team duty before Friedel, but I think we all were surprised at how well Friedel stepped up in 2002. He played the man on fire (opposite the contrast of Jeff Agoos...ugh, if you don't remember, don't ask...) blocking shots of all kinds, one on ones and even penalties (!). Kasey will need to play the games of his life to live up to Friedel's statement in Korea 4 years ago, but even in his mid 30's, he has the talent to do so. Heck, he conceeded only 2 goals out of 5 games in the US Gold Cup last summer. Also, he's from Lacey (somewhat close to Seattle but in our state at least), so you gotta support the hometown dude.
Into the defense, the names to watch for are Eddie Lewis (used to be a midfielder), Carlos Bocanegra, Eddie Pope, and Steve Cherundolo. Lewis plays for Leeds United (English First Division), Carlos is in the English Premiership with Fulham, Pope plays for Real Salt Lake (yeah, we in the States have copied yet another big name (Real Madrid) to try to fit in with the rest of the world...sigh). Steve suits up for Hannover 96 in the German Bundesliga.

Now, what makes these guys good? A lot is to be guessed at here. Lewis is a converted midfielder with a strong left foot. If he can connect with Brian McBride on some crosses as he floats forward on some runs, that would be awesome. Not sure if Lewis will start, though, and hopefully he's hardened up as a defender in the First Division (AAA level for all you beisbol lovers out there).

Bocanegra is a bruiser and to survive in the Premiership as a defender, you must be. I haven't seen much of his play, but I have no recollection of his mistakes, which unfortunately is most often the only impression one gets from a defender. As one compadre was explaining to me the other day, the US must assert their position at this Cup physically. This begins with our backline and with our "group of death" (jury is still out on that designation), they will be tested again and again.

So Eddie Pope plays in the MLS, which I must confess is a count against him. He played a few of our dismal games in the '98 debacle that was the US trying to play soccer (or some version of it) at the World Cup that year, but by no means am I calling out Pope for that. Just saying he's seen a lot of soccer with the national team. He's a steady presence, according to teammates, so his leadership will be called upon often.

Finally, Steve Cherundolo plays in the same league as Keller, the German top division. How often do you hear about this league? Well, I confess I follow English and Spanish teams more often than German, but the flippin' Scottish league made up of Celtic and Rangers and some other teams that will never have the money to win that league are followed more closely than the Bundesliga- at least in the news sources I follow. Any good leads on a news site/blog/etc. for the German league, please send them my way. So all this to say, I'm going out on a foolish sports writing limb and suppose that his time in Germany will transfer to 50-75 "experience points (XP)" to help him perform well at the Cup. Just don't think about the fact that probably 5%-10% of all the players in the Cup play in the Bundesliga (or less...for all you engineers out there that was a WAG). And club ball is always different than national team play. I can't explain it, but will try to at some point. It's not as bad as the difference between the NBA and college basketball (a great lead into a Gavin tirade), but I think it's similar.

Look forward to a midfield and forwards breakdown in the next few days. Or next week. Or whenever...just wait in semi-impatient anticipation.

posted by El Jefe @ 9:30 PM  2 comments

2 Comments:

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Gavin said...

Nice Work Jeff!

Personally, I see Keller as the reason we could make it out of the first round.

 
At 5:42 PM, Blogger El Jefe said...

I agree about Keller. He's going to have to work hard, but if he plays like we're used to seeing him play, the US should do well.

 

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