Ladies and gentlemen, Thierry Henry haters of all ages, please allow me to introduce myself, I am PUCK. I like to consider myself a man of all things sports. Growing up in Western New York, I am a long tortured Buffalo Bills/Sabres (Adios Dicky Boy) fan, and an unapologetic New York Yankees and Blackchester…err Manchester City enthusiast. I have never blogged before, so hopefully you and I can get through this in one piece. As a roommate and friend of the contributors for The Yanks Are Coming, I am usually present during endless hours of sports debate. More often than not, I’m 10 beers deep arguing with the boys just for the sake of it. Simply put, I love causing trouble. That being said, I have been playing soccer since I could walk. Although I traded my soccer cleats in for a pair of rugby boots at the collegiate level, I still have a few opinions to offer. So without further Freddy Adu, I will attempt to sober up a bit (clearly a white lie as I am currently drinking PBR as I type) and attempt to put these thoughts down on paper.
1) Our gaping hole at left back is a complete liability.
I know the majority of the boys here at The Yanks Are Coming have mentioned this before, but I choose to include it in my post to emphasize the seriousness of the problem. We all seem to agree the Jon Bornstein is not the answer. While he may perform in the MLS, the international game is a totally different landscape. This is not an attack on the MLS itself. In my view, the league is roughly the sixth most competitive in the world from top to bottom behind the top dogs. The pace of the game is much faster and Bornstein is continually caught a step behind the world’s elite strikers. Many people, including myself, have discussed the merits of converting one of our very talented right backs to a left back position. However, the opportunity to have a naturally left footed back in that position cannot be overlooked. In my opinion, this makes Edgar (thank God he is finally going to get an opportunity to play) Castillo the best possible option at left back. Castillo possesses the ideal pace, patience, and genuine goal scoring potential from the left back position as anyone in the teams player pool. A solid start against Denmark tomorrow could pave the way for his name to be penciled in as a regular starter.
2) Where is JFT and why is he not playing?
When I first heard that my boy, JFT, had jumped on a plane to suit up for the Denmark man, I was ecstatic. It appears that I am the single biggest fan of JFT in The Yanks Are Coming family and possibly the country. JFT must be on the field all the time. He is the creative presence that the US needs in the midfield. Imagine how disappointed I was to hear that he left training the evening before the Denmark match due to “personal reasons.” Coach Bradley’s strategy heading into 2010 seems to be going 0-0-3 in group play, maybe score a couple goals and limit the amount of goals we give up. Playing two defensive midfielders in the center of the field says to me that Bradley would rather not play to win, and instead try not to lose.
At this point Raf would give me a lecture on how excellent his boys Sacha Kljestan has been playing in the MLS. My response – what have you done for me lately? Since the Olympics Kljestan’s play at the international level has been marginal at best. The moment he cut his hair, his level of play plummeted. Until he grows his hair back to a truly kick ass level, I don’t see him returning to his former dominance. Hopefully he will prove me wrong.
Having JFT, or any attacking presence for that matter, in the center of the field gives the US offense the spark it needs. JFT has the speed, distribution and ball skill through the midfield that can put opposing defenses on their heels. The only downside of JFT’s play is his total attack style. He has not yet learned how to take control of the middle of the field and slow down the tempo of the game when needed. Even with this whole in his game, I would rather lose trying to get a win rather than get beat by not trying to lose.
As the available time to integrate both Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu into the fold begins to shrink, Bradley may need to look at JFT for some much needed offense.
3) Clint Dempsey is the single most important player for the team’s run in 2010.
No disrespect to “Landbro,” but Clint must be at the top of his game for the US to have any shot of having a formidable showing in South Africa. Landon has been having one of the best years of his career. His expected transfer back to Europe after the MLS playoffs is proof. There are no signs of Donovan taking a step back before the World Cup begins.
This is what makes Clint the most important player for the teams’ success. During the Confederations Cup, Clint was dominant; attacking defenders from the flank, making shredding runs through the defense, and most importantly scoring goals at critical times. Without his performance the US would never have had an opportunity to fall apart against Brazil in the second half of the final. The US needs this Clint Dempsey.
If you get the chance to see Clint play for Fulham in the EPL, you can see this type of play on a regular basis. Last year he even earned the club’s coveted player of the year award. My analogy for Clint is the Clark Kent/Superman disguise but in reverse. When playing for Fulham, Clint is Superman, faster than a speeding bullet. Throughout the second leg of qualifying Clint has been Clark Kent, boring, slow, and overall average. If there was any way to let Dempsey wear a Fulham kit underneath his US gear he would continue his dominant performances. Without Clint Dempsey at the top of his game, the US will have a hard road during their time in South Africa.
That’s all the thoughts I have for today. I hope it wasn’t too painful for you. I know I got a little buzz going on.