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Tuesday morning links roundup
   October 21, 2014 (12:24 AM) by Matt Benson     Email This Post Email This Post

A bunch of links from the last couple of days.

The rumored USMNT friendly against Croatia at Craven Cottage for November (that their federation announced) looks to be no mas.  That said, US Soccer looks to be talking to Colombia about filling that void and still playing at Craven Cottage.  But if you remember, Colombia was the team that US Soccer tried to schedule for September for the second friendly and that fell through.  Basically nothing is official until US Soccer announces something.

This was the weekend of players returning to the field.  Geoff Cameron came off the bench and played 29 minutes (completing 15-of-15 passes) in Stoke City’s 2-1 win over Swansea City.  Stoke City’s website got a couple post-game quotes from Cameron.

Terrence Boyd made his return this weekend, coming off the bench and playing 29 minutes in RB Leipzig’s 1-0 loss to Nurnberg.  Here is a photo of Boyd in action.

Aron Johannsson played in his first game since the World Cup.  It was with AZ Alkmaar’s reserve team on Monday, but he scored from the penalty spot (highlights).

While he didn’t come back from injury, John Brooks appears to be out of the dog house as he came off the bench for Hertha Berlin in a 2-0 loss to Schalke.

And while we had those players coming back, we did have a couple Americans pick up injuries this weekend.

Joe Corona broke his foot in Tijuana’s 2-1 win on Friday and he will be out four weeks.

Mix Diskerud had to be subbed off after 36 minutes over the weekend due to a leg injury, but it doesn’t appear to be too serious.

Joe Gyau had successful knee surgery last Thursday.

Fresh off his goal with the US on Tuesday, Jozy Altidore didn’t even make Sunderland’s bench this weekend.  It was probably a good thing as Southampton trashed the Black Cats 8-0.

Brek Shea was sent on loan to Birmingham City to get playing time, just probably not with their U-21 team like he did on Monday.

Sticking with Birmingham City, Shea, Jonathan Spector and Will Packwood will have a new manager as Lee Clark has been fired.

If you missed Howie’s post yesterday, Juan Agudelo is still without a job as Wolverhampton decided to pass on him after his trial.

Also from the weekend, Will talked to Quentin Westberg about the weird situation at Luzenac and his possible future.

We had some goals over the weekend.  Cesar Romero has now scored in six straight games.  Andrew Stadler scored a game-tying goal in the 87th minute.  Devante Parker scored his first goal at the U-23 level for 2014-15.  And Christian Eissele scored his 17th goal of the 2014 calendar year.

Jake Keegan and Galway FC beat Shelbourne 2-0 in the first leg of the Irish Premier Division promotion playoffs.  The second leg will be on Friday.  For more on Keegan, take a look back at RJ’s interview with him from last week.

Staying in Ireland, Yanks Abroad’s Kenya Brown talked to Pat McCann.

Also over the weekend, Dembakwi Yomba scored a goal with Atlético Madrid’s Juvenil División de Honor team.  Here is also a Google-translated interview with Yomba.

In the battle of American goalkeepers, Tim Howard (photo) and Everton defeated Brad Guzan (photo) and Aston Villa.  It was Howard’s 350th career Premier League appearance, trailing only Brad Friedel (450) for the most all-time by an American.

Alfredo Morales showed off some skills this weekend.

FC Utrecht manager Robby Alflen has been impressed with Rubio Rubin.

And finally, Stabæk’s fans had some fun signs for Bob Bradley this past weekend.

Categories: Alfredo Morales, Andrew Stadler, Aron Johannsson, Bob Bradley, Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan, Brek Shea, Cesar Romero, Christian Eissele, Dembakwi Yomba, Devante Parker, Geoff Cameron, Jake Keegan, Joe Corona, Joe Gyau, John Brooks, Jonathan Spector, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Mix Diskerud, Pat McCann, Quentin Westberg, Rubio Rubin, Terrence Boyd, Tim Howard, US Men's National Team, Will Packwood
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Juan Agudelo will continue to add to the unemployment rate
   October 20, 2014 (6:31 AM) by Howie Michaels     Email This Post Email This Post

As has been said a few times, Juan Agudelo, out of contract since June 30 and lacking any matches since the Eredivisie ended in May. Unable to secure a work permit, he was released by Stoke City after a few months on loan with Utrecht. He has supposedly had interest from a number of clubs, but he has yet to sign anywhere.

Most recently, he was apparently pursuing EU citizenship via a not-at-all-sketchy-sounding avenue in Cyprus in hopes of getting that work permit in order to sign with Wolverhampton. Alas, Wolverhampton, currently one point out of a promotion playoff spot, will be moving in another direction:

“Juan is not a player that are going to pursue,” Jackett confirmed.

“He has been here on trial and we thank him for coming here and training and hope he enjoyed his time with us.

“But both parties will now move on.

“We felt that match fitness was the key for Juan.

“To get him up to Championship standard he would need to play games and it is hard to go from nothing straight into the Championship.

Kind of hard to believe that a player who hasn’t played in five months wouldn’t have the best level of match fitness (sarcasm). There have been rumors of MLS interest (New England holds his rights, but people have linked a lot of players to New York City FC without any stated interest from players) but even that would still be another five months away.

Categories: Juan Agudelo

Landskrona vs. Assyriska Highlights
   October 19, 2014 (1:52 PM) by Matt Benson     Email This Post Email This Post

Andrew Stadler and Paul Torres both went the full 90 minutes with Stadler scoring the game-tying goal in the 87th minute in this 1-1 draw.  Here are some highlights.

Categories: Andrew Stadler, Highlights, Paul Torres
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Mainz II vs. Wehen Wiesbaden Highlights
   October 19, 2014 (8:25 AM) by Matt Benson     Email This Post Email This Post

Devante Parker got the start and scored his “first” goal of the season on Saturday in Mainz II’s 2-1 win over Wehen Wiesbaden in German 3. Liga action.  While he does have two goals with the U-19 team, this was his first goal with either the senior or U-23 team.  Here are some highlights with Parker’s goal coming at the 1:15 mark.

Categories: Devante Parker, Highlights
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Pyunik vs. Alashkert Highlights
   October 19, 2014 (7:10 AM) by Matt Benson     Email This Post Email This Post

Cesar Romero has been on a tear as of late and scored two goals in Pyunik’s 3-3 draw to Alashkert in Armenia on Saturday.  Pyunik were down 3-0 and scored the final three goals over the last 17 minutes of the game with Romero scoring the final two goals.  With the brace, Romero now has 10 goals on the season across all competitions, including at least one goal in each of his last six games.  Here are some highlights with his goals coming at the 2:45 and 3:20 marks.

Categories: Cesar Romero, Highlights
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Quentin Westberg Interview
   October 18, 2014 (6:35 AM) by Will Reno     Email This Post Email This Post

Quentin Westberg is a French-American goalkeeper who represented the US with the U17, U20 and U23 youth national teams. Last season his club Luzenac earned promotion into Ligue 2 but were awkwardly rejected admittance into the second division. Westberg talks about his ties to both America and France, what was happening behind the scenes at Luzenac, and where he is now in the search for a new club. For more about how Westberg ended up in a city with a population of just 650, read Michael Yokihn’s fantastic piece on Westberg.

Why move to France to play? From a US national team fan’s perspective, there’s the worry that you’ll fall off the radar going overseas. You could have stayed close here in the US, near the National Team coaches, and work your way to MLS.

I was born and raised in France. So France is where I discovered soccer, really. I always played there apart from the US youth national teams, although I always felt more American as an athlete. Early on in my career, I had the opportunity to come to MLS but I chose to stay in Europe, despite being really interested, because I felt Europe was where the best soccer was played at the time. I know from an American standpoint France L1 is a lower league compared to the EPL, for example, but the league is very tough and usually players who stands out there does very well in England or Spain, such as Benzema, Ribery, Drogba, and Hazard.

Can you expand on feeling more “American as an athlete”? I assume you mean you wanted to play for America but still rooted for both them and France in the last World Cup?

I grew up in France with an American dad and a French mom. I am very proud of both my cultures. I have been and still often asked here in France why I chose to play for the U.S. at such a young age, instead of taking a shot at French national youth teams like I could have when I was 16. It was clear to me, even before I had to make a choice, that I wanted to play for the U.S. because playing sports in America is way different than it is here. Or anywhere else I know. I was lucky to experience four promotions with professional clubs here in France but my best soccer memories were with the US national team.

Luzenac’s situation was confusing to say the least. Luzenac earned promotion, then it was denied, it went to hearings and courts but continued to hit a wall again and again. So without beating a dead horse, what’s an aspect about this that isn’t getting out to the public? Surely it wasn’t just that Luzenac didn’t have the financial stability and appropriate stadium to move up, right?

Confusing for sure… A complete joke, if you ask me. The club was denied access to Ligue 2 for a lot of reason but no particular one in the end except being a small and ambitious club that represented a whole region and not one big town. First it was money problems, then a stadium problem but it turned out there were no big enough problems to deny our promotion. It just took until September 10th to prove all of that and that’s when a judge considered it was too late to place us in any league.

It’s a huge disappointment for everybody that followed the club. And it’s a wrong message to send to people that love promotion/relegation, proving it’s not as simple as it seems. From a player’s point of view, it’s kind of hard to accept that even after a great year filled with success, you can still be left out of a League you deserved to play in.

What are Luzenac’s plans moving forward? I saw they released all the first team players but I haven’t seen anything about where, or if, they club will be placed for next season.

The club now only exists at the level its reserve team used to play, in French 7th division. That level, not being professional. All the player’s contracts where annulled in early September, when all the leagues had been playing for at least five weeks. Luzenac went from being a professional club, whose general manager was Fabien Barthez (a former World Cup winner and a couple of times best goalkeeper in the world) to a random club team like one of the hundreds in France.

You’re one of the few players left that hasn’t signed with another club. Are you talking with any clubs at the moment?

I have been in contact with a few clubs since being officially out of contract on September 10th. Even when our promotion got denied, Fabien Barthez asked me to stay with them to fight for promotion all over again, but the club didn’t even stay in that division and its professional side was dissolved. I had an offer from a Portuguese 1st division club early in August, but at the time the club [Luzenac] was really confident everything would fall into place. Since September 10th I’ve had quite a few contacts, mostly with French sides, but since it’s so late into the season, all the clubs had already all of their roster’s need for goalkeepers. We are not like forwards where you can afford having five or six. Most professional clubs have three, and in 95% of cases, all 3 goalkeepers are signed by pre-season.

I have always wanted to play in MLS at some point in my career. Over these past 8-10 years, I have had the opportunity a few times but it never worked out, mostly for calendar reasons. I would love to have this opportunity again sooner or later. Maybe now is the time, maybe I will discover another European league. Regardless, I still practice six times a week with my goalkeeper coach so I am ready for whatever challenge comes up for me next.

Quentin recently posted highlights, covering games over the past four years.

Categories: Quentin Westberg
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Grantland – The Finish Line: Landon Donovan | Episode 1: Soaking It In
   October 17, 2014 (6:45 AM) by Matt Benson     Email This Post Email This Post

In the first episode of the Grantland Features series chronicling the twilight of Landon Donovan’s career, Grantland follow the American legend during his farewell game as a member of the U.S. men’s national team while he discusses the most memorable moments from playing for his country.

Categories: Landon Donovan
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A few links for Thursday
   October 16, 2014 (12:13 AM) by Matt Benson     Email This Post Email This Post

The US is now unbeaten in its last 19 home games after Tuesday’s draw to Honduras.  Here are the highlights and here are some photos.  And I found this stat to be interesting from Matthew Doyle about Michael Bradley playing behind two true forwards.

While Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando seem to have the #1/#2 spots locked up over the next year, Will took a look at the depth behind them and gave some other options aside from Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson.  He also went USMNT hipster on us and gave us some other options at the U-23 level.

While Joe Gyau is out until January with his meniscus injury, takes a look closer at Gyau’s career.

Julian Green and Fabian Johnson are both back at their respective German clubs and training again despite their recent injuries.

It looks like Sunderland will listen to offers for Jozy Alitdore come January.  And I guess there was a Burnley rumor this week, but Jozy said it was news to him.

Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Kenny Jackett has confirmed that Juan Agudelo is at the club on trial for another week.

MLS commissioner Don Garber doesn’t agree with Jurgen Klinsmann on some things.

Joe Prince-Wright has a longform piece on Bob Bradley that is worth checking out.

According to this report, Reading decided to pass on signing Oguchi Onyewu.

Bolton and Tim Ream have a new manager and it is Neil Lennon.  He has spent the last five seasons at Celtic.

After his latest injury, Jon-Paul Pittman is back in training with Grimsby Town.

Jonathan Spector did a video for Birmingham City’s Youtube channel on his international career.

I posted some US U-23 highlights earlier this week of their 3-0 loss to Brazil, but here is a video from before the game where we learn that Emerson Hyndman is slowly becoming Brad Friedel.

Laura Greene wonders if maybe Zak Whitbread will get a look by Jurgen Klinsmann during next month’s friendlies in Europe.

And finally, don’t forget to check out RJ’s interview with Galway FC’s Jake Keegan.

Categories: Bob Bradley, Emerson Hyndman, Fabian Johnson, Jake Keegan, Joe Gyau, Jon-Paul Pittman, Jonathan Spector, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Julian Green, Michael Bradley, Oguchi Onyewu, Tim Ream, US Men's National Team, US U-23 National Team, Zak Whitbread
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Greuther Fürth II vs. Nürnberg II Highlights
   October 15, 2014 (2:12 PM) by Matt Benson     Email This Post Email This Post

Jann George scored his 12th goal of the season over the weekend in Greuther Fürth II’s 3-0 win over Nürnberg II.  Here are some highlights with George’s goal coming at the 1:23 mark.

Categories: Highlights, Jann George
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USMNT Goalkeeper Outlook
   October 15, 2014 (8:21 AM) by Will Reno     Email This Post Email This Post

As the new cycle begins, we’re all expecting young talent to make some national team appearances. Bill Hamid almost made the last World Cup roster this last go-around and both Sean Johnson and Cody Cropper have received call-ups within the last year. It brings up the question, how much does potential play into receiving a call-up? Where is the floor for players’ current ability? On top of that, why is Rimando still in the picture? He’s 35 now and will be 39 by the next World Cup. Surely, he is on the downside of his career.

Players always mention the honor in playing for the US National Team. But the honor in a call-up must be based off of current merit, not promise. You don’t reward someone for what they’re going to do. The focus right now should be on the Gold Cup in nine months, not the 2018 World Cup. Rimando is still in the picture because he’s one of three best goalkeeping options for the US and will help the team next summer. With that in mind, struggling goalkeepers do not need to be called into camp. Sean Johnson is still experiencing growing pains with Chicago and Cody Cropper had a rough outing against Brazil on Monday (his first touch led to a goal). If Klinsmann wants to get a closer look at a goalie, he can visit a practice or attend a game but it’s a waste of a call-up to call-in a struggling goalkeeper when there are veterans who are at the peak of their games. The senior national team is not a developing program. Clubs develop players, not national teams. Reward those that are ready now and encourage the ones who will be there one day.

That said, here are three viable options Klinsmann needs to take a look at that can assist the US in their next run in the 2015 Gold Cup, if not beyond.

1. Steve Clark – Clark has a familiar late bloomer story for American soccer fans. Undrafted coming out of Oakland University, he bounced around in the US’s lower leagues before going abroad. Finally landing with Hønefoss, he was a big reason why they earned promotion into the Tippeligaen, Norway’s premier league. After a disappointing finish in 2013 (Hønefoss finished with 34 goals scored in 30 games) Clark came back to play in MLS. He displayed a superb spring and quickness but also a DIY-technique he had learned and was the definition of “raw”. Columbus goalkeeper coach, and two time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Pat Onstad has honed Clark to a great final product. He’s playing angles well, his hands are in smart positions, and he still maintained his lateral reach.

Recently, Clark was runner-up in MLS’s save of the week… to himself. He’s the best goalkeeper in MLS at the moment and getting better. Look for Columbus to win the five seed in the East and for Clark to give their playoff opponent fits at the end of October.

2. Luis Robles – The only goalkeeper on this list that has a cap although Robles hasn’t been with the US team since his appearance in the summer of 2009. Out of the all the keepers on the list, Robles is the most consistent. He plays smart and knows exactly of what he’s capable of. He’s been crucial in helping New York clinch the playoffs despite being on one of the worst defenses in the league, sitting third in allowing shots against.

The main downside to Robles is that he doesn’t necessarily stand out in any one category. He’s not as explosive Hamid or Clark, he’s not that iconic outside the New York crowd, and he’s hasn’t been in the spotlight like heralded prodigies that go overseas, despite actually going overseas. For whatever reason, Robles has remained largely unnoticed in the depth pool. However he has the presence that would translate well to the international game.

3. Joe Bendik – Bendik and Clark share several similarities. He wasn’t drafted coming out of college and ended up in Norway. Bendik signed with Sogndal and also gained promotion, although Bendik wasn’t as involved with his club as Clark was. He returned to MLS and eventually found his way to Toronto. At the end of this season he’ll have one and a half seasons as a starter under his belt. (He spent time as a backup to loanee Julio Cesar.)

Bendik’s season has been about what one would expect from a twenty-five year old. Mostly solid play with the occasion conceded goal centered around lack of experience, not a lack of skill. An odd situation where the ball takes a weird bounce, a forgotten backside runner, a delayed thought to recognize the through ball… Bendik has all the tools to be an elite starter within MLS but he still has some growing to do. As for now, he’s still good enough to start and the kind of player you want to build your team around.

Since we’re on the subject, the USYNTs are notorious for staying with their two goalkeepers and not bringing in new competition. (Although to be fare Charlie Horton was called into the last U23 game, a name that was far from the radar for most fans.) This next Olympic cycle will likely feature Cody Cropper as the number one and Santiago Castaño as the number two. Here are three more goalkeepers that deserve a look or, at the very least, allow you to say you knew about them first.

1. Jon Kempin – Kempin made a splash in Kansas City this year with his penalty heroics. Look for Kansas City to make some room for Kempin next year as he’s currently sitting number three.

2. Alex Bono – The starter for Syracuse University, who are 11-1 and sitting number four in the nation. Bono and Syracuse take on North Carolina State on ESPN 3, October 25th.

3. Paul Blanchette – At 6’3″, 200 pounds, Blanchette has more the frame of a college tight end than your typical goalkeeper. The starter for Loyola Marymount University is a little harder to catch on TV but his highlight reel doesn’t disappoint.

For more information about the depth pool on American goalkeepers and some analysis on Bill Hamid’s strengths and weaknesses, feel free to skim the latest edition of Top 100 American Goalkeepers.

Categories: Alex Bono, Joe Bendik, Jon Kempin, Luis Robles, Paul Blanchette, Steve Clark, US Men's National Team, US U-23 National Team

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