PREVIEW: Duel in the Desert Between USMNT and Mexico

Michael Bradley (right) looks to lead the USMNT to a victory over rival Mexico on Wednesday night in Glendale, Ariz.

The United States and Mexican national teams are set for a duel in the desert on Wednesday night in Glendale, Ariz.

The CONCACAF rivalry will be renewed once more before both sides make their final World Cup preparations. Both coaches value the opportunity to evaluate their squads in a competitive environment. USMNT head coach Jürgen Klinsmann will have one last chance to evaluate his North American talent ahead of the May 12 deadline when World Cup rosters must be announced.

Wednesday night will also be the highly-anticipated debut of Bayern Munich’s Julian Green for the USMNT. The 18-year-old phenom made his one-time change of association on March 18. The new recruit has the chance to bolster a traditionally lackluster American attack. Supporters will have their first glimpse of the talent in something other than a YouTube video. Green won’t be the only player trying to book a ticket to Brazil.

After a calf injury earlier this month, Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans was removed from the roster. Real Salt Lake right back Tony Beltran will make the trip to Arizona in place of the injured Evans. Beltran and others on Wednesday’s roster will have their last chance to impress the coaching staff. Players like Michael Orozco, DeAndre Yedlin, Maurice Edu and Brad Davis are all fighting for World Cup roster spots. Time is running out for them to make their case.

Puebla defenders DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco have been denied the chance to play for the USMNT by their Liga MX club Puebla. In a statement released Monday, Jürgen Klinsmann said that he was “disappointed in the decision by Puebla.”

Once Klinsmann and his staff establish the final 23-man roster for Brazil in May, the USMNT will play three matches on American soil to prepare for the so-called ‘Group of Death’. The Stars and Stripes will take on Azerbaijan (May 27), Turkey (June 1) and Nigeria (June 7) before they begin their World Cup campaign against Ghana on June 16.

The last time the North American rivals met, the USMNT defeated the Mexican side 2-0 in Columbus, Ohio with goals from Landon Donovan and Eddie Johnson.

Wednesday night’s match will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. with the kickoff set at 10 p.m. EDT.

 

 

Nothing Like March and Basketball

Dozens of journalists from around the country collide for a week of intense basketball.

Dozens of journalists from around the country collide for a week of intense basketball.

“Dayton’s up with minute to go.” I overheard a fellow member of the media as I was checking my email in the media workroom at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. I went to ESPN.com and sure enough, the Dayton Flyers were seconds away from pulling another upset, this time on powerhouse Syracuse. I looked up to see if one of the wall-mounted televisions had the game on. To the surprise of many, including myself, none of the monitors was showing this nail-biter of a game. Not wanting to miss the exciting finish, I logged on to the NCAA website to watch the game online. I put the game on full screen and immediately was captivated by the situation. Dayton had already defeated in-state rival Ohio State two days ago and were on their way to make themselves the Cinderella of the tournament. Slowly, more and more people started to gather around my 13-inch laptop. “Turn it up,” one of them told me. With about six seconds to go, Dayton was at the line to extend their lead. Making the first and missing the second, Syracuse still had a lifeline. Everyone around me braced themselves for the final seconds. Syracuse brought up the ball and took a jumper that came off the rim. A collective “Oh man!” from everyone added to the excitement of the day. Dayton won 55-53.

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A friend of mine is a sports reporter/anchor in Detroit and needed some help covering the Michigan Wolverines in Milwaukee, where part of the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament were to be held. Unemployed, I happily accepted the opportunity to head back to Milwaukee and participate in the tournament. Journalists representing eight states were all there to cover Texas, Wofford (South Carolina), Wisconsin, Oregon, Arizona State, American (Washington D.C.), Brigham Young (Utah) and Michigan. The buzz in the air was unlike anything I had ever experience. To be quite honest, I don’t think there is anything quite like the first round of the NCAA tournament for journalists anywhere else. Other events (Super Bowl, World Cup, etc.) are bigger in magnitude, but the sheer number of media all fixed on one spot for one weekend is incredible at the NCAA tournament. From buzzer-beaters to Buzz Williams leaving Marquette, there was not moment too dull. At the center of all the attention were the teams themselves. I’ve been at events with professional athletes and found it somewhat funny that college athletes stood up when interviewed. Pro athletes are always sitting down when surrounded by the media.

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Sitting court-side, I had a phenomenal view of the action. During my first game, Michigan looked to easily take care of business and get past the Wofford Terriers. The Wofford fan section was directly behind me and when the Terriers got out to a four-nothing lead, they went nuts. The feel of the game, the fact that it was win or go home, brought a different vibe to the experience. Michigan eventually took control of the game and went on to the next round to take on Texas.

The Longhorns were outpaced by the Wolverines and Michigan advanced to the Sweet 16. I stayed for the Wisconsin-Oregon game. What came next was incredible. As a Marquette student that attended four seasons of basketball, I can only recall a handful of games where the Bradley Center was as loud as it was for the Wisconsin game.

The Badger faithful had filled any seat that was not and Oregon, Texas or Michigan seat. The sea of red was a sight I’ll never forget. I once attended a Badger football game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisc. and remembered just how loud Wisconsin fans could be.

After blowing out American University, I expected Wisconsin to use the crowd to easily put the Oregon Ducks away. To everyone’s surprise, the Ducks entered halftime with a lead. In the second half, the Badgers mounted a fierce rally to make it a ballgame. Oregon did not blink once despite the intensity in the Bradley Center. 95 percent of the arena was against them and the Ducks went toe-to-toe with the Badgers, trading punches every possession.

Eventually, the Badgers were the better team and moved on to the Sweet 16.

I don’t know when the next time I’ll get to experience a game like that will be but I look forward to it. Overall, the experience of the entire week was amazing and something I hope I get to do again in the future.

Long-awaited Launch of ‘Project X’

Ezra Klein’s mysterious ‘Project X’ is now known as Vox.com.

As part of the Vox Media family, Vox.com doesn’t want to distribute traditional news to its readers; instead, their main goal is to ‘explain the news’.

I heard of this project a while ago when Klein and others got together and stated their goal of establishing a site that would be different from traditional news media in better informing readers of news events.

In my opinion, much of the ‘explaining’ will be in the mixing of history and news. That is how most news can be explained. The current instability in the Crimean region was not a snap of an event. Rather, an eruption from a long history of turbulence and building up to what is happening now.

I’m looking forward to see what Vox.com has to offer. But like so many youthful upstarts that try to change the game of journalism, I worry that a lack of resources may hinder their performance and end up leaving them on the sidelines.

USMNT vs. Ukraine Recap

LARNACA, CYPRUS - MARCH 05: Brek Shea (top) of the USA and Artem Fedets'Kyy of the Ukraine in action during the Ukraine v USA International Friendly at Antonis Papadopoulos stadium on March 5, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Image.
LARNACA, CYPRUS – MARCH 05: Brek Shea (top) of the USA and Artem Fedets’Kyy of the Ukraine in action during the Ukraine v USA International Friendly at Antonis Papadopoulos stadium on March 5, 2014 in Larnaca, Cyprus. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Image.

Despite the turbulence and turmoil that occurred in the capital of Kiev in the past month and the current international conflict in the Crimean peninsula, the Ukrainian National Team put out a strong effort against the United States Men’s National Team that gave the European side a 2-0 victory.

Having to move the game out of their own country, then rumors of possible cancellation and news of a car bomb in Cyprus, there was concern about the condition of the Ukrainian National Team entering Wednesday. However, minutes into the match in Lenarca, Cyprus, it was clear that this was not a half-hearted effort.

While the home team established a well-balanced attack from the start, the USMNT’s performance was lackluster. The starting back four that consisted of Geoff Cameron, Oguchi Onyewu, John Anthony Brooks and Edgar Castillo was sub-par from the beginning of the match.

Ukraine’s first goal came in the 12th minute when a ball was played from the midfield over the top of the central defenders. Brooks attempted to catch the Ukrainian attack with an offside trap but ended up chasing Denis Garmash who had a one-on-one opportunity with Tim Howard. The USMNT goalkeeper managed to block the initial shot, giving his defense a chance to come back and help. The rebound, however, ended up at the feet of Andriy Yarmolenko who easily put the ball at the back of an empty net.

From there, a series of attacks from the Ukraine exploited the defense several times. The USMNT’s best chances came when the ball was played wide to give the wingers opportunities for swift crosses. One of the better plays came in the 51st minute when Sacha Kljestan connected with Alejandro Bedoya for a volley that went wide of the goal.

The second goal in the 67th minute was a mirror image of the first. A ball over the top split the USMNT defense which led to a one-on-one with Howard where he again deflected a shot only to be scored on by Marko Devic.

So what did Jürgen Klinsmann and USMNT supporters learn from Wednesday’s match?

Defensive Woes

The good news is that Klinsmann’s actual back four will consist of Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler and Demarcus Beasley, none of which played against the Ukraine. The bad news is that Klinsmann still has spots to fill in the final 23-man World Cup roster.

Castillo, Onyewu and Brooks did not improve their stock. Castillo was slow on the left side and was beaten several times down the line by Yarmolenko. Cameron was nothing spectacular but kept the right side under control.

Brooks may as well have seen his ticket to Brazil torn up in front of him. Onyewu has never been able to recover his form from years past and his age seems to have caught up with him. Castillo had a poor game but might be able to earn a spot in Brazil.

Midfield/Attack Ineffectiveness

Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore disappointed in the match. Dempsey tried to play under Altidore and Eddie Johnson but that role seems to be better suited for Michael Bradley who can better manage the field and create triangles that lead to successful plays. The Altidore saga continues for Klinsmann and USMNT supporters. Jozy was able to produce when it counted during World Cup qualifiers last year but could not establish himself in the attacking third in Cyprus.

Looking Forward

With the North American players set to play Mexico in April, Klinsmann still has time to fill his roster. With his best team out there, the defense and midfield can hold attacks. The concern will be the attack. Bradley’s role is critical in creating plays and distribution for the attack.

It should be noted that the USMNT were facing off against the highest-ranking FIFA team that did not qualify for the World Cup. The Ukrainian side they faced on Wednesday was no push over. Klinsmann should be content that he faced serious competition in order to get a solid temperature check on his European-based players.

The USMNT next and final friendly before the World Cup will be against Mexico in Glendale, Ariz. on April 2.

USMNT v Ukraine Friendly Preview

After having to relocate the match and then rumors of having the friendly cancelled only days prior, the United States Men’s National Team boarded a plane from Frankfurt, Germany to Larnaca, Cyprus to square off against Ukraine on Wednesday.

U.S. Soccer announced that the match will be played as scheduled despite the president of the Ukrainian Football Federation claiming that the Ukrainian National Team would not travel to Cyprus because of the international conflict developing in the region.

Now, head coach Jürgen Klinsmann can focus on evaluating his European-based talent before committing to his final selection before the World Cup training camp. The March 5 date is the last international opening and therefore the last opportunity Klinsmann will have to look at the Americans abroad.

Clint Dempsey and Edgar Castillo are the only non-European based players on the roster. The USMNT will take on rival Mexico on April 2 in Phoenix, Ariz. but Klinsmann will only be able to add domestic players to his roster.

Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud and Tim Ream were taken off the roster for various reasons with Birmingham City’s Jonathan Spector joining the USMNT to make the most of the opportunity and try to earn a spot on the World Cup roster. This is Spector’s first cap since a 1-0 victory over Italy in 2012.

These two final matches are critical for Klinsmann and the coaching staff to solidify a winning formula as they head into Brazil in June.

The USMNT will also be wearing their new World Cup home uniforms that were released on Monday.

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. ET (9 p.m. local time) at Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca, Cyprus.

USMNT Roster vs. Ukraine

Goalkeepers

Cody Cropper (Southampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)

Defenders

John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Oguchi Onyewu (Sheffield Wednesday), Will Packwood (Birmingham City), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham City)

Midfielders

Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Brek Shea (Barnsley), Danny Williams (Reading)

Forwards

Juan Agudelo (Utrecht), Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar)

Red Bulls GM Resigns Ahead of Season Opener

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls.

The New York Red Bulls announced in a press release Monday that Jérôme de Bontin resigned from his general manager position with the club, five days prior to the start of the 2014 season.

The former AS Monaco president cited personal reasons for his resignation. De Bontin joined the club in October 2012 and during the 2013 season, the Red Bulls were the Supporters’ Shield winners for having the best regular-season record

“I wish the club and staff success in the upcoming season and future,” de Bontin said.

The club announced that a search for a replacement is underway.

The Red Bulls begin their 2014 campaign in Vancouver as they take on the Whitecaps at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Check out my writing HERE and Football.com work HERE.

March 1- Unemployment Day 45

charlesduhigg.com

charlesduhigg.com

Unemployment is not fun.

Other than looking for a job, there is not much to do other than chores and looking for more jobs. The situation is made worse by what is one of the coldest winter’s in Chicago’s history. There is little opportunity to get out and breathe fresh air. Instead, I do my best to fill my time with exercise, movies and reading, the latter of which I have done little.

Fortunately, today I had the opportunity to use a coupon for Barnes and Noble that came in the mail last week. I walked in the store not knowing what I wanted to bring back home. At first, I spent a good half hour searching for a book on Google Analytics. I found one on the general subject of web analytics but after weighing the costs, decided that I would learn Google Analytics online rather than through a heavy, dense book that I may never get through. The reason I wanted a book on that particular subject was because many social media jobs I had come across required that the applicant have a well-rounded knowledge of Google/web analytics.

Exploring the other parts of the bookstore, I wandered aimlessly, no knowing what would satisfy my appetite. Finally, I came across a book that I had seen on the Colbert Report a few weeks back. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg explores how habits dominate our lives without us knowing. I picked this book for the plain reason that I have been in a funk lately, one that has concerned my parents. The truth is I’m not my usual self; I’m lethargic, unmotivated and stuck in a perpetual winter (literally and figuratively). I have gotten in a routine. One that has developed poor habits.

So, with this book which is off to a very good start, I hope to change up my routine and refresh. I believe better exercise, eating habits and reading more often will make better use of my time and take my mind off of the stress of job-seeking.

I have always told myself that the body, mind and spirit are terrible things to waste. Now I’ll do my best to get back on track and put all three to good use.