Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Puck’s Happy Hour. Hopefully the Holiday Season is treating you well with your family, friends, and, of course, cocktails filling the calendar. After spending some time in Upstate New York with the family, I am back at the TYAC home office taking some much needed time to work on my golf game. While not on the links I, like many other writers, have taken some time to look back at the year that was, as well as to ponder the possibilities of 2012. Last year I made several BOLD PREDICTIONS regarding the beautiful game. Sure, I may have gone 0 for 3 last year, but such is the nature of Bold Predictions. I clearly got a little overzealous regarding the captains armband, but it’s time to be honest. Bocanegra will be 35 by the time in the World Cup in Brazil rolls around, and there is no 35-year-old, including Fab Cannavaro (you all saw that disaster) in the world who can keep up with the youth and talent present at the World Cup. Klinsmann needs to move the armband sooner rather than later. The USMNT did lose the Gold Cup this year, and in no small part because of the play of Javier Hernandez, but he was not the straw that broke the camel’s back. That honor goes to Steve Cherundolo’s gimpy leg. Finally, my boy Kyle Martino did not make a return to excellence with the USMNT, but he did continue to dominate in the broadcasting booth and got married to goddess that is Eva Amurri.
Before making some Bold Predictions for 2012, a small matter of business. Readers of the “the most influential media outlet in recorded history” are familiar with our annual Yanks Are Coming Awards were we acknowledge the best, and the worst that US Soccer had to offer over the last calendar year. While we introduced a few new awards this year, recent events have inspired me to create a final award: The Wayne Rooney Honorary Jackleg of The Year. This year’s winner, in a complete landslide is the insignificant clown Preston Zimmerman. Check out his Twitter Account for details of his jackleg status, but most educated American soccer fans know the details by now. Zimmerman spent some quality Holiday time accusing the head coach of the USMNT of using “Fake Americans” who “can’t speak English”, among other things. I think Jermaine Jones’ Gold Cup salute ought to be enough of a retort– there was a limited English speaking German-American scoring at the Gold Cup and saluting his Dad, who has spent a lifetime defending the red, white and blue. But more should be said, because this type of critique by Zimmerman is the type of xenophobic shit you expect to hear on FOX News, and has no place in our footballing community. Preston, do yourself a favor and shut your mouth. You have not had a sniff of US duty since 2007, and at this point, you certainly won’t ever again. This whole rant of yours would carry a whole lot more weight if it came from someone I actually respected, not some jackwagon bouncing around the German 3rd Division. Go on complaining to your wet nurse, because you will not find any sympathy from me.
With the calendar soon to roll over into January, it is time to take make some bold predictions for 2012.
The USMNT U-23 Squad will medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London
Sure, maybe I am reaching here, but the Under-23 USMNT has a special place in the hearts of the founding fathers of TYAC. The talent of this young squad is impressive. Sprinkle in the three designated players and I think this team has a real shot to make up for the disappointment of 2008, and, yes, even challenge for a medal. Coach Caleb Porter is just the man for the job. Since accepting the head coaching position at Akron in 2006, he has taken a marginal program and turned them into a perennial powerhouse. The true challenge in the coming months will be on Coach Porter who needs to choose the best 23 man squad for the qualifying tournament this March. Expect more coverage on the journey of the Under-23’s for everyone here at TYAC. Needless to say we think that the sky is the limit, particularly if the man on the left, Joe Gyau, has the type of tournament he’s absolutely capable of having along with wing counterpart Brek Shea.
The Liability that is the USMNT backline will be solved with Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Tim Chandler, and Eric Lichaj.
Let’s be clear, the USMNT will struggle in qualifying if the backline problems are not sorted out. Dolo and Boca are both getting too old to be reliable during international play. Klinsmann has recognized this and tried to bring in young athletic defenders to grown during the next World Cup cycle. It appears that the left back spot will now have to be yanked away from the cold dead hands of Tim Chandler. This young stud is going nowhere. I could get used to his menacing, overlapping runs down the left flank. On the other side of the pitch, Dolo is the most overlooked and underrated USMNT player of the last decade, but is nonetheless at the tail end of his brilliant club and international career. Had Eric Lichaj not been out with a couple knocks over the last round of friendlies, I have to believe that the Aston Villa youngster would be holding down the right flank. The problems with the USMNT defense get more complicated when we look at the center back pairing. So far, Klinsmann has used several different combinations, with little success. New York Red Bulls starter and Bolton target Tim Ream has looked lost at times. Yes, his passing out of the back has been superb, despite his positioning having been suspect and his one-on-one defending being a problem. A move to England might cure that ill, or at least be positive in removing him from Rafa Marquez’s venomous criticism. Stay or go, I fully expect that Tim gets it together during the MLS offseason and comes back a different player in 2012. It is impossible for someone with that much talent to look that bad for such a long period of time; unless of course, Ream is the MLS version of Ryan Leaf.
The last and most critical part of this prediction is the inclusion LA Galaxy Star, and MLS defender of the year Omar Gonzalez. To this point, Gonzalez has not been able to get a sniff of USMNT duty under Klinsmann. For the life of me, I can’t understand why. If bonehead Michael Orozco-Fiscal is going to get a shot, why is Gonzalez left out in the cold. In 2012 Klinsmann, who has shown promise by calling Gonzo into “Camp Cupcake”, will take his head out of his ass and bring in Gonzalez to stabilize the troubled American back four.
Germany will win EURO 2012
I just have a feeling about this one. Yes, Spain has a ridiculous amount of talent in the midfield, but the loss of David Villa to a broken tibia is huge. Many reports say he will be out for only six months, but returning to full fitness and form will be difficult. At the same time, you never know what you’re going to get from striker Fernando Torres, who has been a shell of his former self since moving to Chelsea. The German squad looks to be the same as the 2010 World Cup team that finished third missing the title game with a 1-0 loss to Spain. The Germans have the perfect blend of youth and veteran experience to lift the trophy this summer. And Mesut Ozil WILL win the Golden Ball, as the tournament’s finest player. History is also on my side, as Germany is undefeated in Poland (too soon?).
PUCK’S FREE ADVICE
The New Year is here, which means it is time for celebration. Occasions like this call for something out of the ordinary. For many that may be an expensive bottle of wine or champagne. In my case, it calls for a fine cigar. If you are in the mood, grab one yourself. However, don’t be that guy that refuses to light the cigar with anything but matches. Unless you are smoking a Cuban, it does not matter what you light it with. Fire it up, enjoy a few cocktails, and have a grand time–the New Year is about to begin.
Time to pick up the suit from the Dry Cleaners; it is going to be one classy night.
Sorry for Partying, and Happy New Year.
Puck is the Pop Culture Guy For The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at email@example.com and you should follow him on Twitter at @PuckLovesPBR.
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