Saturday, January 28, 2012

Revere's Ride: Revs Open Pre-Season with a Win

According to the team's staff writer Jeff Lemieux's Twitter feed, the Revs opened their 2012 pre-season with a 2-1 win over FC Tucson, a semi-pro team based in Arizona.

Sainey Nyassi scored on a cross from rookie Kelyn Rowe in the 38th minute, and Kenny Mansally converted a penalty kick in the 89th minute.

- John C.L. Morgan

U.S. Women Qualify for London Olympics

Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan each scored a goal as the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Costa Rica 3-0 in the first semifinal of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament to earn a berth to the 2012 London Olympics.
- John C.L. Morgan

Friday, January 27, 2012

Vid of the Week: 2012 MLS SuperDraft

The New England Revolution were one of three teams (the Montreal Impact and Sporting Kansas City were the others) who shone in the spotlight in this behind-the-scenes look at the 2012 MLS SuperDraft. Parts 2, 3, and 4 are also available on

Related: Don't Get Too Attached: A Partisan's Look at the MLS SuperDraft (January 12, 2012)

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Road to Rio: Mediocre Yanks Edge Panama

The U.S. men's national team narrowly defeated Panama, 1-0, last night in Panama City.

Below are the ratings for the players, who squeaked out a win despite putting together a collection underwhelming individual performances. Below are the player ratings for the starting eleven players:

Player Ratings

(1=atrocious, 3=poor, 5=average, 7=good, 10=excellent)

(1) Nick Rimando: 7
Aside from a scary moment in the 15th minute when Rimando very nearly coughed up possession of the ball with a bad first touch in the box, the Real Salt Lake keeper commanded his box well, distributed the ball well, and made a couple big saves. Even though his play wasn't always pretty, Rimando took a shut-out into halftime, before he was presumably being subbed out because of a leg injury.

(2) A.J. DeLaGarza: 5
DeLaGarza wasn't as active in the U.S. attack against Panama as he had been a couple nights earlier against Venezuela. He therefore didn't have as many opportunities to demonstrate the timidness and the indecisiveness that was so annoying in that earlier game. Put simply, DeLaGarza was part of a back line that was pretty leaky, but not consequentially so.

(3) Zach Loyd: 4
Loyd's performance as a subsitute in the game against Venezuela was marked by sharpness and confidence on the ball. Last night, well, not so much. Loyd was often too loose in his marking (which accounts for his desperate yellow card in the 14th minute) and--with the exception of the excellent cross that led to the United States' goal in the 9th minute--his distribution was poor. In fact, it is only his assist on the goal that saves him from a poor rating; unfortunately, it didn't save him from an ignoble substitution in the 42nd minute.

(4) Michael Parkhurst: 5
If Saturday night's game against Venezuela was tailor-made for Parkhurst to emphasize his strengths, then last night's game was an unfortunate opportunity for him to display his weaknesses. The former Revolution defender had relatively few touches due to the pressure Panama's attackers consistently applied, so he was not able to circulate the ball as effectively as he's capable. And his lack of physicality in the face of consistent pressure contributed to a vulnerable back line that was saved more than once by stellar goalkeeping.

(5) Geoff Cameron: 4
As co-quarterback (with Parkhurst) of the backline, Cameron is also responsible for the porous defense that was lucky to escape with a clean sheet. Moreover, even if Cameron's red card in the 52nd minute seemed a little harsh, he was fortunate to not have a foul called on him in the penalty box right before halftime, when he nearly booted an opposing player in the head with a dangerous kick.

(6) Ricardo Clark: 5
Clark had an average game in that he avoided that costly mistake that puts his defending teammates in an awkward position of recovery. However, he just doesn't have much of a possessive presence in the midfield, and he's not the type of holding midfielder that excels at connecting players and changing the points of attack.

(7) Chris Wondolowski: 5
Wondolowski was robbed of a sure goal in the 30th minute, when he followed up on a Jermaine Jones rocket. Only the extraordinary efforts of Panama's goalkeeper, Luis Mejia, prevented his header from tickling the net. Unfortunately, that was the only time Wondolowski was involved in any sequence of consequence before he was replaced by Jeff Parke in the 55th minute. The substitution was part of tactical adjustment to Cameron's red card a couple minutes prior, but it's not like a lot of offensive firepower had to be removed from the field.

(8) Jermaine Jones: 6
If the U.S. attack had an engine, then I suppose it would've been Jones. As previously noted, the captain had a scorching shot in the 30th minute that tested Mejia and very nearly led to a goal for Wondolowski. And his through ball that sprung Brek Shea in the 79th minute should've led to another very good scoring chance for the Yanks. On the flip side, Jones is prone to commit bad turnovers and his consistent barking and chippy play make him vulnerable to team-harming cards.

(9) Teal Bunbury: 3
This obviously was a poor game played by Teal Bunbury. His stone-footed first touch killed numerous counter-attacks and attacks. And the Sporting Kansas City attacker's dreadful turnover after a corner kick by Panama in the 43th minute led to a scary moment in which Rimando had to sprawl to his side to cut down a cross from outside the 6-yard box. It was, unfortunately, the best scoring opportunity Bunbury was involved in until he was replaced by C.J. Sapong in the 76th minute.

(10) Graham Zusi: 5
Zusi scored his first international goal in the 9th minute on a scoring chance that would've been more remarkable had it been a miss. Other than that, Zusi's play was unremarkable until he was replaced by Brad Evans.

(11) Brek Shea: 3
Fortunately for Shea, Teal Bunbury's presence on the field ensured the former wasn't the worst American player on the field. The FC Dallas midfielder appeared sluggish throughout the game as though his legs just couldn't keep up with his mind. And though he had a nice one-two combination with Loyd in the 19th minute, Shea's possessions of the ball too often resulted in a turnover. The absolute worst play for Shea, though, was when his muffed first touch on a great through ball turned what should have a breakaway into a thwarted golden chance for the U.S.

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Recommended Reading: What the Hell Do These Player Ratings Mean, Anyway?

John Godfrey of the New York Times's soccer blog Goal has a good post on his philosophy regarding the ubiquitous 1-10 player ratings writers and viewers like to assign players after a game, as well as real-life examples of the ten possible results:
The Goal Blog publishes player ratings for most United States national team matches. Like most who do ratings, we use a 1-10 scale, and the volume of responses they produce shows these posts are both popular and a great tool for sparking conversation. But a Twitter conversation with the former U.S. national team defender Alexi Lalas, now an ESPN analyst, produced a bigger question: what do the numbers really mean? What’s the difference between, say, a rating of "5" and a rating of "7"? And is there any way to quantify or qualify the distinction?
- John C.L. Morgan

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Road to Rio: U.S. Sneaks by Venezuela in Friendly

(Editor's Note: The U.S. men's national soccer team kicks off its 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign in June, so this is the first installment of a new feature of the blog that will cover the Yanks as they seek to qualify for their seventh consecutive World Cup. The approach to each game will vary, but below I've graded the three players who played last night who are either current players for the Revolution or who are Revs alums.)

Player Ratings
(1=atrocious, 3=poor, 5=average, 7=good, 10=excellent)

Michael Parkhurst (2005-2008): 7

This game was tailor-made for Parkhurst to make a pretty good impression in his first national team appearance under Juergen Klinsmann. Venezuela's impotent attack didn't often put Parkhurst in a position to become overmatched physically, and The Burgundy's low pressure defense allowed the center back to do what he does best: Circulate the ball, maintain possession, and change the points of attack effectively.

To be fair to the F.C. Nordsjælland defender, though, Parkhurst acquitted himself well in the handful of aerial battles he had, and his game awareness enabled him to pretty much always be in the right spot at the right time. He seemed to work well with fellow center-back Geoff Cameron and the other defenders to hold a consistent line and account for their marks. Parkhurst was one of five players for the U.S. who played all 90 minutes.

Jeff Larentowicz (2005-2009): 6

Larentiwicz did what every coach wants his No. 6 to do: Give the attacking midfielder defensive cover, break up the other team's attack in the midfield, keep the ball moving, and maintain possession. By my count, Larentowicz completed 94% of his passes (31 of 33) in the sixty minutes he played (he was replaced by the eventual goal-scorer Ricardo Clark), though his cautious offensive play in the first half appeared to force Jermaine Jones to drop deep into the midfield and sometimes into the defensive third of the field to collect the ball and try to jumpstart the attack.

A poor game for a defensive midfielder occurs when he makes a glaring defensive mistake, a good game for a defensive midfielder is when he sprinkles a solid defensive performance with a few sparkling attacking plays, and an average performance for a defensive midfielder means he largely goes unnoticed. Hence Larentowicz's above-average--but not good--rating.

Benny Feilhaber (2011-present): 5

Cliche alert: Feilhaber was uneven. For every clever play (his slip pass to Brek Shea in the 20th minute, for instance), there are a couple ham-footed plays (the attempted backheel to Shea off a turnover in the 7th minute or the attempted chip to Jermaine Jones in the 27th minute). And for every decisive play (the one-touch pass in the defensive third of the field that sprung Heath Pearce for an unsuccessful counter-attack in the 25th minute) there's the moment he just...takes...too...damn...long (his third-minute shot off a turnover).

Overall, Feilhaber wasn't sharp enough to be the best playmaker for the U.S. and not physically stout enough to occasionally complement Teal Bunbury as the team's second striker. He was subbed after about sixty minutes.

(Update: Brian O'Connell of New England Soccer Today has a good piece on how Michael Parkhurst was joined at center back by a former youth club teammate from Rhode Island, Geoff Cameron.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Revere's Ride: Revs Touch Down in Arizona

According to Revolution players' Twitter accounts, the Revs have arrived in Arizona, where they will remain through Febuary 1.

This is the first of two pre-season trips the Revolution will make to the Grand Canyon State; they will be back in Arizona from February 20- March 5 to train and to compete against the L.A. Galaxy, the New York Red Bulls, and Real Salt Lake in the second annual FC Tucson Desert Cup.

- John C.L. Morgan

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dempsey Nets Another Hat Trick for Fulham

Video: Clint Dempsey is sensational

Revs alum Clint Dempsey scored his second hat trick of the month in Fulham's 5-2 win over Newcastle today. Dempsey, who scored twenty-five goals in his three seasons with the Revolution ('04-'06), has now scored fifty-two goals in the five years he's worn a Fulham uniform.

- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Clint Dempsey Sets American Scoring Record in EPL (December 6, 2011)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Revere's Ride: Revs Hire Nick Downing as New Conditioning Coach

Work remains the operative word for a Revolution side aiming to improve its fitness heading into 2012. Two telling statistics from last season display the need to bolster that particular department: The Revs finished 14th in goals conceded (23) and tied for last place in goals scored (12) during the final 30 minutes of matches in 2011. [Former Revs player Nick] Downing will lean on the experience he gained as a professional player and rely on the knowledge gathered during his work at Pure Performance Training in Needham, Mass., to address those concerns and prepare the Revs for the season-opener at San Jose on March 10.
- John C.L. Morgan

Subsidiary of Boston-Based New Balance Gets Liverpool Uniform Deal

Associated Press:
Warrior Sports, an athletic apparel company based in Warren, Michigan, said Thursday it signed a six-year agreement to design the Liverpool kit. Liverpool is owned by a group that owns the Boston Red Sox while Warrior sports is owned by Boston-based shoe company New Balance. "We are here to shake up the world of football and our partnership with one of the most successful club teams of all time is just the start," Warrior Sports general manager Richard Wright said in a statement.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Report: Liverpool FC to Play AS Roma at Fenway Park (January 16, 2012)

Vid of the Week: 8-2

Video: The Red Devils bring the fire!

Arsenal looks to avenge August's 8-2 loss to Manchester United this Sunday at 11a. The game, which will part of the FOX network's "Epic Sunday," will be the first Barclays Premier League game shown live on a U.S. network.

The Westbrook Soccer League has organized a Viewing Party for those in southern Maine who are interested in watching the game with fellow fans.
- John C.L. Morgan