Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jurgen Klinsmann is Your Next USA Soccer Coach

It is pretty clear that Washington Post's Soccer Insider Steven Goff doesn't love this hiring--"[Klinsmann] energized a stumbling German national team program leading to the 2006 World Cup, but much of the credit for the technical improvements were attributed to top assistant Joachim Low. Germany, the host team, advanced to the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Italy in an epic extra-time match in Dortmund."

Fair point, if I knew who was doing the attribution to Joachim Low.  Goff doesn't say who did that.  Klinsmann may not be a brilliant tactical guy.  I'm not sure that's what the US needs right now.  What US Soccer needs is a coach who can evaluate talent, particularly developing potential elite talent.  I don't know if I (or anyone) wants to think what Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore might be right now, if they had had the advice of Klinsmann on the training pitch for the past four years.

Goff may be dubious on Klinsmann, but let's make something clear--this isn't is The Talisman hire that Argentina did with Maradona, or Mexico with Hugo Chavez.  Klinsmann will bring more professioanl experience, international experience, World Cup experience to the table than any previous USA Coach.  At the very least, I think, US fans can rest assured the best possible Starting Eleven will be on the pitch for the US going forward.  And that hasn't happened in years.  Not just under Bradley, I should add.  Bruce Arena had a soft spot for David Regis, which never, ever worked out well for the US.

Klinsmann brings a ruthless appraising eye to the US Roster--no one gets on the squad based on kick-ass MLS stats, I'm guessing.  Robbie Findlay, for example, should probably get used to not being on the US squad.  Klinsmann will put people in a position to succeed.  He also brings decades of knowledge of what a World Class player looks like.  He was on the pitch with them, he was one of them, and he has coached several.  He'll have things to teach to his offensive players.  That's a new wrinkle in the US program.  When it came to the tricks of the trade of being a striker, what did Bradley, or Arena, or Steve Sampson have to tell Jozy Altidore that he didn't already know?  Klinsmann will teach him some shit. That alone is worth making the switch.  And you know..maybe he can teach this:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Old School Thursday: Chubb Rock

Bob Bradley Fired--Who's Next? And Who Shouldn't Be?

As you may have heard, US Soccer Coach Bob Bradley has been fired.  I've put out my reasons for why I think it happened.  I don't want to toot my own horn, but I found my reasoning to be brilliant and compelling.

There is talk of what and who will follow.  And one of those names is obviously Jurgen Klinsmann.  There's where it will begin and end for many US followers--I think most true-blue US fans know the story--Klinsmann could have had the job, chafed at the level of control that he would have, and the parties went their separate ways.  The US hired Bob Bradley, and Klinsmann napped comfortably on his pile of money.  How did that work out?

So, everyone is probably assuming that Klinsmann is about to tapped, and like, soon (like maybe tomorrow).  But that hasn't stopped folks from putting out suggestions that include other coaches besides Klinsmann.  Which is of course fine and well and to the good.  There are a lot of good coaches out there.

But, if you will indulge me, let me demonstrate one horrible list.  And to be fair, ESPN's Scott French makes it clear that his desired choice would be Guus Hiddink, which is a fantastic choice.  But, in his article, French states, "but U.S. Soccer could do far worse that staying stateside."

Really?  They could?  At the top of the French's list is Bruce Arena; at the bottom, Jurgen Klinsmann.  Klinsmann is just technically "stateside"--sure he lives in the US, but his claim to fame is playing internationally and coaching Germany pretty effectively in 2006.  Arena, I don't think, will ever come back, and I don't think he should.  I loved him, but I think one of the things the US needs to do is stop hiring laterally.  And let's face it--after Arena got canned, he didn't get a shitload of offers to coach other international teams, or a big professional team in Europe.  He's in the MLS.

In fact, the number of MLS coaches listed in these "Who's Next" articles shocks me.  Sigi Schmid?  Dominic Kinnear?  Jason Fucking Kreis?  In that NY Times list, Jack Bell asks, "Is experience playing at the elite level a prerequisite? Should it be?"

To me, that question is meaningless.  The question is--"Have they succeeded in a real coaching challenge?"  And US College Soccer and the MLS do not count.  Jason Kreis was a US Soccer player who never went abroad and succeeded; he never latched onto the US Team.  He's now a coach who hasn't done anything outside of the MLS (a place where Kreis' reasonable talent and ridiculous work rate made him a star).  MLS coaches know work rate and reasonable talent.  They wouldn't know how to develop a star if their lives depended on it.  They've never seen one!  European coaches have.  Here's what Jason Kreis needs to do before anyone considers him a Head Coach of the USA program--go to Europe, and win there.  Coach in the First Division in England, and get that team to the Premiership.  That's coaching.  Winning in the MLS?  C'mon.

And that point may lead into the generational-long rabbit hole of Youth Soccer Development in the US, and how that has hamstrung the National Team.  I don't buy that shit, by the by.  We almost beat Germany eight years ago, and our youth development wasn't any better then.  And Germany was pretty damn good that year, too.  What the US National Team needs is a true head coach--one who is free to pick his players, and to recall players for any match that he sees fit (apparently, that's the kind of principle that Klinsmann turned down the job over) to mold his team into a team and make it solid.

What we absolutely don't need is another lateral move.  Arena was a great US Soccer Coach.  Prior to him, Steve Sampson was a terrible one.  Bradley falls in the middle.  They all have the same damn pedigree.  Great  college coaches (Sampson and Arena met in an NCAA Final), each managing MLS teams.  Each coaching the US in succession. Each succeeding the other.  It is time to break that chain.  It is time for a US Coach who didn't cut his teeth in the NCAA or MLS, or learned everything he knows from Sampson, Arena, or Bradley.  How about a coach who has coached in the UEFA or even Europa Championships?  Or in the Premiership, or Bundesliga, or La Liga?  How about, as crazy as this sounds, a top-flight coach?

Why Bob Bradley Was Fired

For those of you who have taken a moment away from the NFL Free Agency Madness, you may have noticed that the US Soccer Coach that everyone loved to hate (me, too!) has been canned, following the Gold Cup meltdown against Mexico this past June.  And a meltdown it was, as the US was up 2-0 in the early minutes of that game, only to lose 4-2.  I don't put that on Bradley (or, I wouldn't, if it were the first time a Bob Bradley team had collapsed with a two goal lead in a tournament final.  foreshadowing!).  That's a US team that was outclassed by a superior team, and couldn't handle the gift the Mexicans had given them.

I thought Bradley should have been fired after the World Cup, mostly for his inability to use his talent correctly.  He may have had fine tactics, and a decent sense of tweaking line-ups to improve at halftime, but there were clear examples of Bradley not evaluating his talent properly, and using an often inexplicable Starting Eleven (Rico Clark!).  So, you know, I thought this was a long time coming, despite whatever successes Bradley claimed.

And the mainstream press is quick to give Bradley his due, because his accomplishments don't look too bad, as long as you don't look at them too carefully.  Here's Steve Goff, of the NY Times, who absolutely knows his soccer, on Bradley's accomplishments:

Bradley went about the job in his low-key, cerebral way, and the results were mostly positive: first place ahead of England in the 2010 World Cup group stage in South Africa, a stunning upset of Spain in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup semifinals and the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship in 2007.

What I mean by saying "not looking too closely" is that all of those accomplishments are undeniably good things.  But maybe some of those aren't quite as impressive as they sound?  The US finished ahead of England, yes.  But England was a tad overrated (certainly Germany's almost dismissive destruction of them proved that?).  We tied England because of horrible botch by England's keeper Robert Green.  There were just 8 minutes left in the game when the US managed to score one more time to draw Slovenia.  And let's never, ever forget that in a must-win game against an inferior opponent, the US needed more than 90 minutes and a miracle from Landon Donovan to beat Algeria.  So yes, we finished ahead of England (on goal differential) but we barely escaped finishing third (or fourth) in a group that featured Algeria and Slovenia, for heaven's sake.  Speaking as someone who knows a little bit about soccer, the way we advanced was just a little bit embarrassing, though the way we lost to Ghana would soon top that.

The Spain upset was undeniably wonderful; the following humbling by Brazil, less so.  I don't feel that a US Coach who wins a Gold Cup should consider that a massive accomplishment.  A trip to the Final Game should be expected just about every tournament.  So, anyway--accomplishments, yes, to a degree.  But not the kind that make you think, "They couldn't possibly find a replacement for this guy."

Of those games I mentioned, there is another aspect of Bradley-led teams that needs to be mentioned--the penchant for giving up early goals.  It was such a pervasive sickness that some of the blame has to be on the coach.  In the 2010 World Cup, the US surrendered their first goals in four and thirteen minutes, respectively, against England and Slovenia.  In their knockout game against Ghana, they gave up a goal five minutes into regular time and after clawing their back way to tie in regulation, three minutes into extra time.

Collapses like this summer's Gold Cup Final against Mexico are also not new.  The Confederations Cup of 2009, where the US beat Spain in the semi-final, did in fact have a final, and the US took a 2-0 lead into the half against Brazil.  They lost 3-2.  (Brazil scored their first goal in the first minute of the second half).

So, weigh those facts against Goff's above.  Under Bob Bradley, the team has had a history of questionable personnel decisions (Rico Clark starting; asking Clint Dempsey to play any sort of defense), a history of staking teams to early leads, and a history of dropping big leads in Final Games.  That's Bob Bradley's résumé  to me.  And when stated that way, it makes it much more clear that Bradley wasn't fired for the one travesty of letting Mexico beat the US (they are, on paper, the superior team, after all).  The US Soccer Federation saw the same pattern that I laid out, and it was time to get out from under it, before the World Cup rolls around again.  The next coach needs to be the coach for qualifying, which starts sooner than you would believe.

Other people thoughts*:
Rumors & Rants--"Somewhere, Jonathan Bornstein is Uncontrollably Crying"
That's On Point--"Bye, Bob"

Next post:  Who Should Succeed Bob?  Better Yet--Who Shouldn't?

*I lambasted Bradley's personnel decisions without once mentioning Jonathan Bornstein.  I regret the error.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Free Agency: Chase the Dragon

The Washington football team started the belated 2011 free agent feeding frenzy by re-signing their leading receiver (Moss) and adding two more journeymen WRs, Jabbar Gaffney and Donte Manslaughterworth.

They also junked former starting QB Donovan McNabb, shipping him off to Minnesota for a 6th round pick where he will undoubtedly lead a resurgence of his own career while steering the Vikes to just miss the playoffs.

The team also picked up another 4-3 linemen who they'll try to force into NT or DE in their jury-rigged 3-4. And they're pinning all our hopes on the young Mormon Eagle Scout QB who's been waiting for a chance since he was drafted.

Adding pieces to the defense is fun, and NT & OLB remain vacant, but the real need of this team is ... offensive line, duh. When DC picks up a good C/G/RT, then I'll start my hopes.

Yes, this writing doesn't have much snap or urgency. There's a lot of chaos right now, with a slew of signings expected over the weekend. I don't feel like I have to pay close attention. I'll need a couple weeks to assimilate my feelings about the UnLockout 2011.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Heat Check in Texas (the balls were warm) 7-26-11

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Newest Hot NFL News!

Fuck You!

I swear, I'm working on some good stuff for a last-minute throwdown of Dr. Badcock's Elastic Evaluating Natatorium ... but I'm also pissed. I could have been spreading my opinions slathered six inches thick (atop real hearty kaiser rolls) across these last six months. Instead, I gotta chew & swallow NFL 2011, and be happy for the privilege?

No doubt, I'll gag it down, with a few witty asides per aperitif. And love it, by the end. Unless it's Packers v. Steelers again, in which case (see bold above).

We'll just have to see what happens by Monday's vote ... it's like Santa comes to town, and if you're a good person you get a pair of your own dirty underpants back. Thanks?
And yet, I've been ready for an opportunity like this since my youth.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Old School Thursday: MC Hammer

In celebration of the NFL lockout maybe ending?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Old School Thursday (belated): Def Jef

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hottest NFL News!

Gay magazine layout lockout strikebreaker billionaires-versus-millionaires Denny's fight, dass racist easy chumps, white forest brown ground and if the pot ain't bubbling you better stir it, devil jackass DUI, free agency swampland, Pacman did what now?

Meanwhile, dragonflies have stolen panties from the damsels. Free lard ordained to the masses, the angels did cry. With chubby cheeks.

So they were fighting over 5% of 9 billion dollars. The players will lose that 5%. Shocking.

NFL 2011 will be stained like iced-tea dentures. Or real iced-tea teeth. How's your dental plan, asshole?

I believe I have been bitten on the ass without good reason, as a football fan. Fuck you? Go Redskins?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Famous Sports Person With a Gay Relative Likes Gays

When my cousin came to DC for the first time, she came with her partner and their children.  It was 1987, and they had come to see the AIDS Quilt on the National Mall.  And they were both ladies, and at age thirteen, I quickly realized that I had gay people in my family, and that they were pretty awesome people, and pretty awesome parents.

At Macalester College, once named the Most Godless School in America, you might not be surprised I ran into a lot of gay people, and many of them turned out to be pretty normal.  Some were awesome, some sucked, and in general were a lot like straight people.  The more gay people you are around, the more you realize, "Holy Shit, these people are people."  It's an earth-shattering idea, truly.

So, you'll pardon me if I'm not shocked that Michael Irvin supports his dead gay brother, and will support the first NFL active player who comes out of the closet.  The most difficult part of the whole thing for me is that Michael Irvin is a Goddamn Cowboy.  Couldn't Clinton Portis be on the cover of Out magazine first?  That guy spent two years being the Cher of the NFL, and he didn't get on Out first?  Bullshit!

It feels weird to agree with Michael Irvin, but it doesn't feel weird to shrug my shoulders at the press who finds this news some intriguing and potentially dangerous.

In particular, I find this post from ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio kind of hilarious, particularly this line:  "In many respects, football teams have been immune to the societal advances of the last 50 years. Other than racial equality (which still may not completely exist), misogyny and homophobia are alive and well, making it impossible for any player to come out of the closet while still in the locker room."

I don't know in what country Mike Florio is living in, where racial equality is the status quo, and misogyny and homophobia are a thing of a past, but I'd like to go to there.  They are alive and well in America, and the NFL locker room, I'm sure, is no different.  But, still--when that anti-gay marriage movement brought out their big NFL gun, it was David Tyree, and the pro-gay marriage movement has active players like Scott Fujita and retirees like Michael Irvin.  MICHAEL IRVIN, for fuck's sake.

But at the same time, I find Florio's assertion--that it is "impossible" for a gay player to come out an unnecessary and dangerous assertion.   It is not impossible.  Saying that it is, in a nationally read publication, might actually make it a bit harder.

Here's what I believe, with very little evidence to support it, but all the same--there isn't a gay player in the NFL who, when he does come out, will surprise all of his teammates.  There are roughly 1700 players in the NFL--let's assume that 100 of them are gay.  That's a little bit on the low side, if we can believe the estimates, and we can.  I will bet that not one of those players hasn't confided in at least one teammate.  It could be that in some situations, the whole team knows, but has agreed to not leak the news to the press.

"Out", as any gay person could tell you, means different things.  You can be "Out" to your friends, but not your family.  You can be "out" to friends and family, but not co-workers.  I've known gay men who were out to friends and work, but not family.  Will the first out gay man in the NFL face some repercussions?  Certainly.  But this scenario that Florio posits:  "Teams won’t cut Pro Bowlers who don’t want homosexual players in the locker room, period."  Well, no, they won't cut a Pro Bowler who don't want homosexual players in the locker room, period.  They will tell that player, "We are paying you a lot of money, you've played with this guy for a few years--deal with it."  And that player will deal with it.

Positing, as Florio seems to, that the NFL is one of the last places that Homophobia resides is a disservice.  And making it seem like it is a uniform problem isn't fair either.  It will certainly take some courage from that gay NFL player out there to come out, but when he does, I bet he'll find that most of his teammates shrug their shoulders and say, "Just make your block, faggot!", and there will be giggling and shit.  If the US military can deal with it, so can the NFL.  And once a gay man announces he's there and contributing in the NFL, he'll find company, real quick.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

I'm Here to Praise Carl Pavano

Let me start with what should be an obvious qualifier--for the first two months of baseball, the Twins were one of the worst teams in the league.  Injuries, new players, a (still) shaky bullpen--all of those things combined with some pretty bad starting pitching led them to be 16 games behind first place in the American Central when June kicked off.

At the beginning of July, they've finally clawed their way to a home record just over .500, and have cut the lead in half.

I've never been a huge believer in Carl Pavano, but what he has done with his last ten starts shows that while he may not be the ace (there's some debate as to who might be, if anyone, but it is probably Scotty Baker, as long as his elbow injury isn't too serious).  And to be clear--this isn't a fulminating blast against whoever for Pavano not being in the All Star Game.  Nothing of the sort--Pavano's season hasn't been great; his past month and a half has been.  I'm just saying--hey, take a look at his last 10 starts--the guy has been pretty amazingly consistent.

Tonight would be the tenth start of that run, and it was pretty similar to everything else he has done in the past 6 weeks or so.  Seven solid innings, giving up 6 hits, 2 walks, 2 runs (WHIP 1.29).  That was his seventh quality (6 innings, 3 ER) start in the last ten games.  He's only 4-2 over that span, which might be why he hasn't gotten much notice nationally.

But in those 10 starts combined (starting with a win against Oakland on May 18) he's pitched 75.2 innings of the 93 innings played in those games, or over 80%.  When you have a bullpen like Minnesota's, it's hugely important to have a veteran inning eater.  And he's certainly done that--he went over 120 innings pitched on the season tonight.

During this ten game stretch, Pavano has issued less than one walk a game, and that includes a 3-walk game on June 15 (in which Pavano went nine innings and gave up one run).  Pavano's WHIP will probably never be much more than average, even though he walks batters so rarely, simply because he does have a tendency to give up hits (just as important--those hits tend to be the "scattered" variety).

On May 13, the game before this stretch started, Pavano had an ERA of 5.89.  During this 10 game stretch, it was 2.99 (and now hovering around 4.00 for the year going into the All-Star Break).

A lot of folks* questioned what the Twins were doing when they re-signed Pavano in the offseason for a two year deal.  It was opined in the local press that the Twins were paying foolishly for 2010 Pavano, and 2011 Pavano was anyone's guess.  And for the first couple months of the season, they looked right.  But it appears that Pavano has turned a corner, and can be that reliable, productive innings eater the Twins need him to be.

*not so much from the statistician crowd, it should be noted.

Old School Thursday: Definition of Sound

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Collection of Greatness: NBA Drunk Contest 1992

I'm not sure you can sum up 1992 pop culture better than this crowd shot, reacting to a semifinal round dunk from Cedric Ceballos.  Amidst the trees of Georgetown, some genuine Hollywood celebrity of the early 90's is visible.  Alfonso Ribeiro, Will Smith, MC Hammer, and Evander Holyfield.  Thanks, NBA TV.  Oh, and Donny Nelson is in there, too.

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