Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review and Preview For the Final Match day

So we know now US will win the Hex for the 3rd World Cup cycle in a row.  This was secured by Costa Rica's 1-0 loss in Honduras combined with US's victory 2-0 over Jamaica Friday night.  This has led Jurgen Klinsmann to make a few changes.  Well actually more than a few. 

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (6): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), Michael Orozco (Puebla)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

 You will see Landon Donovan, Matt Besler, Tim Howard, and Jermaine Jones were released back to their respectable clubs.  Which leaves us all wondering what line up we will see Tuesday.  Brad Guzan is predicted to be between the sticks.  It should be interesting to see if Aron and Jozy are matched up.  Could Wondo see the pitch?  He specializes in goal poaching which might be the US's only way of getting a goal on what will be a fired up Panama side.

Panama has to win at home if it wants to be in Brazil next year. End of story.  It is possibly the biggest game ever for that country.  The question is how well can Panama bounce back from the crushing last minute loss in Azteca last Friday night?  If not for a potential goal of the Hex by Raul Jimenez to snatch the win Panama would have been going home with a 1-1 draw.  Now Panama has to play US knowing that even if they get the win they now must wait on the Mexico-Costa Rica result.  Ask Honduras how much fun that is as they had to do that in 2009.  Remember Honduras made the World Cup on goal differential because of last minute goal from Jonathan Bornstein in the US-Costa Rica 2-2 draw in 2009 on the final matchday(sending CR to the playoff against Uruguay).  Of course in this situation Panama would secure a 4th place spot and thus have to play a two leg series against New Zealand for a chance to go to Brazil.  That's much better than not going though.  I guarantee you Panamanians would take that in a heartbeat right now.

Mexico may have survived a scare in Azteca Friday night but they are definitely not out of the woods by any means.  They need a draw or win to secure their spot in 4th (possibly 3rd if Honduras were to slip up at Jamaica).  A loss at Costa Rica and El Tri could find themselves out of the World Cup.  Mexico really needs to pull a result out in this game because Panama will have a good chance at getting a win at home against a US squad featuring younger reserve players.  If both US-Pan and Mexico-CR are tied at 0-0 in the 70th minute there's gonna be some sweating and heart attacks for both Panama and Mexicans supporters.  Either way hearts are going to break for one of those two teams. 

Speaking of heart breakers I think we need to talk about Honduras a bit.  They now sit in 3rd quite comfortably heading into the final match day after getting a tough win against Costa Rica at home Friday night.  All Honduras must do is get a draw or win in Jamaica to secure its ticket for the World Cup for the second straight time.  I wonder how many Hondurans will be at Independence Park in Jamaica Tuesday?  They will no doubt want to do all they can to help their team into the World Cup even if that meant swimming there haha.  What Honduras can't do is lose in Jamaica and force its country to wait for the results of Mexico-Costa Rica.  Honduras had to sweat it out 4 years ago.  Now they have the chance to truly earn a spot for themselves and not need anyone's help.  If I know the Honduras team they will make sure they are in the World Cup and it won't make its country sweat it out.  Expect mass delays in the streets of Honduras Tuesday night.


US @ Panama-

US has now sent a bunch of their main players home and will be trying out prospects.  Panama will have its A team that will be absolutely gunning for a win behind its raucous home support.  Just how raucous you may ask?  Panama supporters party outside of the opposing team's hotel before the game so teams can't sleep.  Ask Canada.  Panama will be pushing for a blow out to help its chances of getting that 4th spot while the US will be content with a draw most likely.  I know Jurgen says we always go for the win but the line up tells me he's trying to experiment and learn about his younger players. 

Panama wins 2-0 or 3-1.  Fired up Panama team, crowd fueled by the belief they might actually make the World Cup, and young US team missing a bunch of starters.  I don't see US getting a result in this one.

Mexico @ Costa Rica-

Costa Rica wants to end undefeated at home and will want to put on a show for its fans.  Some Mexican fans think that's good because the game will open up but they may want to remember every team that went into that stadium came out with a L.  I think Mexico will too

Costa Rica wins 2-1.  I think Mexico collapses and gives up 2 goals before getting one late in a rally or Costa Rica steals a goal in the 2nd half after a half time tie.

Honduras @ Jamaica

 Honduras may win by more against a demoralized Jamaica squad but I think Honduras just wants to get a result and go home to celebrate a World Cup birth. They may choose to go for the kill but I think they will take a one goal win.  I think it depends on how much Jamaica comes at them.  I'm just not sure how much Jamaica has left.

Honduras wins 2-0 or 1-0

I believe Panama slips into the 4th spot while Honduras takes in the 3rd spot.  Panama will go onto play New Zealand in a two leg series to try to secure a spot in Brazil.  As far as Mexico I just don't think they'll make it.  I understand they have the advantage going into the final round but this is a team that slipped by Panama at home by the skin of their teeth (if that).  If not for a miracle Mexican supporters would have given up hope.  Costa Rica is different kind of animal and they aren't going to just let Mexico get a draw(or especially a win) without a major fight.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

20 announced for Jamaica and Panama

Jurgen has announced 20 players for the upcoming Hex matches

GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (6): DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City) Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sorry its been awhile. Here's my preview of upcoming HEX matches

First I want apologize for taking so long to update my blog.  Had lots of things going on which had to come before the blog.  Anyway if you haven't heard by now the US has clinched a spot in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  Their qualification was a secured by a Honduras- Panama 2-2 draw about a hour after the US once again defeated Mexico 2-0 (or Dos O Cero) in Columbus Crew Stadium.  Please note this is the 4th time US has defeated Mexico in Columbus 2-0.  And they say lightning doesn't strike twice.  Anyway,  there was one other country that clinched their spot as well thanks to the draw.  That would be Costa Rica (or Ticos).  So that leaves one spot to be filled.  So I think we will take a quick look at the standings to figure out who has the best chance of getting the 3rd spot or 4th spot (which would play New Zealand in a two leg playoff to try to get to Brazil).

USA - 16pts
Costa Rica- 15pts
Honduras -11 pts
Panama -8 pts
Mexico - 8pts
Jamaica- 4pts

         So we can see the US and Costa Rica now secure at the top and guaranteed to be in Brazil.

        Honduras sits in third with Costa Rica coming to town.  The question becomes whether CR will take this game as serious now that qualification has been secured or whether they will send some other players to get some experience.  Either way Honduras needs a result after not finishing the job at home against Panama.  Honduras ended up in a dramatic position last cycle because of a home loss to the US and had to rely on a last minute goal by the Yanks against the Ticos on the final matchday to slip into the 2010 WC on goal differential. You can bet the Honduran faithful don't want to go through that again.  Whether or not CR go hard in this match shouldn't matter to Honduras.  They just need to win in front of their fans because that country needs a lift after all the issues with riots,protests, and political unrest that's being going on there for years. (Some of us remember the security issues in 2010)  The fans have always been some of the nicest you'll meet in CONCACAF and the team needs to reward them with a ticket to Brazil.  Note they finish in Jamaica so there's a good chance they get a result in their final match even if The Office is a tough place to get wins.
        Panama sits in 4th with a huge match coming up against Mexico at Estadio Azteca.  To say this match is huge would be a bit of understatement.  Mexican fans are seeing their streak of going to the WC going up in smoke.  Panama sees a chance to knock off Mexico for the 3rd time in a couple of months and finally getting to the World Cup.  However, even if Panama can't secure the win at Mexico they get a home game against the US to finish the Hex.  The question coming to mind would be what kind of team the US will field for the final game. US Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann has already said he wants to field the best players and win the Hex but will he want to risk any of his main players getting injured?  He's already seen Michael Bradley go down with a injury recently.  He's got to ask himself whether winning the Hex is worth the risk of having players possibly get hurt and be gone for extended periods of time.  The US-Panama game will be curious to say the least.
       Now to Mexico.  Well let's see.  Two managers out the door in under a week, media going crazy,  Mexican fans about to throw up in their sombreros right now.  Yeah, it's panic time for El Tri.  Early on all you heard was that this team would get it together but now the sand in the hourglass is slowly trickling to the bottom grain by grain.  El Tri's next game against Panama might be the biggest in Mexico's history honestly.  This game is in Azteca.  The long time fortress of the Mexican national team. They have to have a win.  They need a good win to get some breathing space with Panama but the most important thing is they get a W.  Mexico does not want to have to go in Costa Rica not just desperate for a result but needing extra goals.  Believe me the Ticos aren't gonna let Mexico come into their stadium and knock them off.  While Mexico has a good history in CR they don't want to put that record to the test with everything on the line.  EL Tri needs to find its cajones before October 11th or it will be watching the World Cup at home.
       Jamaica.  I'll make this short.  Barring some serious miracle Jamaica is done.  Manager got canned halfway through the Hex and what started as such a promising campaign has just fallen apart.  Better luck in the next WC cycle guys.


       I think Honduras will take the 3rd spot.  I think they know they need this and Costa Rica might not be as fired up with qualification secured.  Expect Honduras to come out firing and get a early goal.  I expect a 1-0, 2-0, or 2-1 win.  My bet is on a 1-0.   I think Honduras final match against Jamaica will end in a draw but I wouldn't be surprised to see Honduras go all out and get the win.  Depending on other matches they may have no choice.  Now for the 4th spot.  One does not usually bet against Mexico but they are in serious trouble.  They can't seem to find a winning formula at Azteca.  Even worse they just suffered their 2nd loss ever in qualifying there.  You can bet the beat down at the hands of the US on the road right after didn't help either.  Panama is flying high with a draw in Honduras and 2 wins against Mexico in pro Mexican environments recently.  I think we see a draw between Mexico and Panama at Azteca.  I think Panama then gets a 1-0 or 2-1 win over the US in the final match.  Panama will need to push hard for goals in the final match against the US depending on what Honduras does and what happens in the match at Azteca if it hopes to get the 3rd spot.  Don't be surprised if we see a Panama win at Azteca.  Fortress or not Mexico is rattled and when teams gets rattled they make mistakes.  Even if Panama can't win against either Mexico has to make things happen to pass them for the 4th spot.  By make things happen I mean score some goals.  It can't be emphasized enough how big the match against Panama is for Mexico.  Draws are no longer a option.  It's win or go home basically.  I will say I don't know if Mexico is in the right mentality for a game like this.  They have yet to show it and there's no reason to believe they will have now unless the new manager works some magic.  I do believe Mexico will miss the World Cup.   Mexico's only hope is the the manager change will somehow breath some life and inspiration into that team because we all saw the Mexican team just sort of die against the US.  In every 2-0 loss Mexico had always fought to the very end.  We didn't see that with this team. They just sort of slumped over after Johnson's goal.  That's not the traits you see in a World Cup team.
        We saw the US, Costa Rica and Honduras have their backs against the wall early into qualification.  All have responded brilliantly.  I just think this Mexico team is done.  I think Panama will go on to play New Zealand and have a good shot at winning the playoff.

That's it for now.  Keep your eyes peeled for my US v Jamaica/Panama previews soon as well as some previews for friendlies coming up like Scotland!!!

PS-  How about that Gold Cup?!


Monday, February 4, 2013

USA- Honduras preview

By Shawn Lux

For those who have not seen the USMNT rosters for the World Cup qualifier in Honduras please check the bottom of this post.

U.S.-  When I look at this roster I see a interesting mix of youth and experience.  I'm happy to see Timmy Chandler finally committing to the U.S. (Not that there was any question he would but it was merely a matter of when).  Also nice to Jozy making the trip considering he had a great showing for his club lately. In case you haven't heard he's been tearing it up for Alkmaar including a recent hat trick.  If his club success could translate into national team success it would be a HUGE boost in qualifiers.  Great to see Omar get the call for this game.  Every American is hoping he'll be the answer for at least a few defensive answers.  We shall see Wednesday but I have confidence that he will show why he deserved a shot.   Good to also see Eddie Johnson back after his strong showings in the semis including his clutch performance against Antigua. I've definitely curious about Brad Davis being selected.  I would have expected a younger option unless Jurgen plans to utilize his free kicking ability.

We of course have the usual group of Dempsey, Bradley, Gomez, and Howard.  Let's not forget one of our upcoming stars in Zusi.  Mark my words he will do good things for the U.S. team.  I know you are probably reading this with a raised eye brow.  I'm telling you right now he will become a good player for the US (not a star player though).  Now I'm sure all of you noticed Brek Shea and Landon Donovan are not on the roster (Typical US fan reaction-No Donovan in a US qualifier= WTF?).  Well Shea is unfortunately still recovering from his injury and in the process of moving to Stoke (congrats to you sir).  Donovan is currently finding himself and trying to figure out his next move.  This isn't all doom and gloom for the US however.  The Stars and Stripes need find a way to win without Donovan carrying them.  They did in the Semis and they better dig deep again to do it once more. 

So at this point you are probably thinking ok so what is the strategy for a line up like this?  Simple- Possession.  This is a highly defensive/bunker type of team.  You will have to expect Zusi and Chandler making some runs because this group definitely lack width.  Honduras will be doing everything to take Dempsey away so offense will have to come from somewhere else.  Perhaps Gomez or Altidore?  I expect a lot of long shots because the US will be avoiding a potential counter.  This is where Honduras excels.  If the US gets caught in transition they will be in serious trouble.  Having said that with injuries hitting Honduras suddenly the chances of a positive result definitely increased for the Star and Stripes.  Andy Najar was just announced today out of the qualifer due to injury.  Meaning the U.S. won't deal with him until this summer in the return game.

I personally see a low scoring game.  I think both teams will be hesitant to take lots of chances in the 1st game, at least early on in the game.  Premium chances will be at a minimum.  If you get a chance you got to take advantage.  This game will be won by a goal in my opinion (Like 2-1 or 1-0).  I could see a draw as a strong possibility however.

US wins if:

-  Good Possession-  Not just possessing but finding creative ways of attacking.  Rattle Honduras with a early attack (A early goal would rattle the team and take the crowd partially out of the game) .  Keep in mind Honduran fans demand goals.  If Honduras doesn't score they will turn on their team even in a tied game.  0-0 in the 70th min actually favors the U.S.

-  Avoid costly turnovers- I can't emphasize this enough.  Honduras generates their attack from this. Especially near the middle field.

Stepping up-  The young players will need to make plays in this game.  The vets like Dempsey need to be leaders but the U.S. needs to know it's youth can handle these games.  Players like Omar and Chandler need to make plays.

Honduras wins if-

- Turnover the U.S. at mid field and early third.  U.S. might get away with this a few times but you give them multiple chances you will pay dearly.  It only takes one.

- Feed off the Honduran fans.  Honduras is not as great they once were but they are still good and this game is being played in the hot Honduran afternoon with 45,000 people in blue and white at your throat.  If Honduras can get a early score the Honduran fans will be all over the U.S. team.  If U.S. shuts Honduras down for 50+ mins the crowd will start to turn out of frustration.

-  Test the U.S. back line.  The backline of the US is a giant question mark.  The beginning of the Guatemala game was proof of that.  Put some balls over the U.S. and see if the backline can handle it.  The questions about the backline of the U.S. is probably why Jurgen is putting a lot of focus on defense with this roster.


Let us all remember Jurgen's comments heading into the qualifiers.  He said he expects 9 points.  That is a major demand when you consider U.S. plays at Honduras, Costa Rica, and at Mexico.  Talk about laying down the challenge.  Nice to see a U.S. coach demand the most of his team though.  Don't just hope for a result.  Believe you can get it.  That separates the good coaches from the average ones.

What- USMNT vs Honduras- Hex Round of 2014 World Cup qualification
When- Wednesday 4pm EST
Watch- Channel- BEIN Sport (requires package) or online stream
Where- San Pedro Sula (Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano)



Players Pos. Ht.
Altidore, Jozy F 6-1
AZ Alkmaar
Besler, Matt D 6-0
Sporting Kansas City
Bocanegra, Carlos D 6-0
Racing Santander
Bradley, Michael M 6-2
Cameron, Geoff D 6-3
Stoke City
Castillo, Edgar D 5-7
Club Tijuana
Chandler, Timothy D 6-1
Davis, Brad M 5-11
Houston Dynamo
Dempsey, Clint M 6-1
Tottenham Hotspur
Edu, Maurice M 6-0
Evans, Brad M 6-1
Seattle Sounders FC
Gomez, Herculez F 5-10
Santos Laguna
Gonzalez, Omar D 6-5
LA Galaxy
Guzan, Brad GK 6-4
Aston Villa
Howard, Tim GK 6-3
Johnson, Eddie F 6-0
Seattle Sounders FC
Johnson, Fabian D 6-0
Johnson, Sean GK 6-3
Chicago Fire
Jones, Jermaine M 6-0
Schalke 04
Kljestan, Sacha M 6-1
Parkhurst, Michael D 5-11
Torres, Jose M 5-7
Williams, Danny M 5-10
Zusi, Graham M 5-10
Sporting Kansas City

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

US-Canada Review

By Shawn Lux

          So anyone that managed to watch this entire game without dozing off (especially ones on the East Coast) should probably be given a medal of some sort.  Neither team really did much as far as attacking minus a few chances on either side.  U.S. dominated possession for the most part but they didn't really put any substantial attacks together.  There were some players worth mentioning however.  Josh Gatt was one of the few who really seemed to care about this game.   He was fired up and trying to make things happen.  He tried to take on the whole Canadian team a couple of times.  Given that doesn't usually work but you have to like the effort.  I have to mention Omar Gonzalez.  This is the man who American fans are hoping will become a solid defender for the U.S. for years to come.  He had a solid showing when he was challenged which honestly wasn't a lot since U.S. maintained about 70% of the possession for a fair amount of the game.  I do think he deserves a shot in a qualifier based what I saw from him.  Kyle Beckerman also had a much needed nice showing.  He shut down Canada's counters every time and cleaned up U.S. mistakes in their defensive zone.  This was a very good bounce back from him after the terrible showing in Jamaica during the previous World Cup qualifying stage.  Beckerman definitely seemed more comfortable with the role Jurgen gave him.  The question of whether he can be on the field against world class speed (AKA Jamaica) has yet to be answered however.  Another player who needs a mention is Chris Wondoloski.  The guy tries so hard to make a impact on the game it is frustrating as a fan to see him not get a goal.  The question is always asked whether a poacher has a place on the U.S. team.  Personally, I say yes.  However,  the U.S. team didn't create situations that allowed him to show that he deserves a spot.  Last night there was very little chances and basically no lose balls for him to get his foot on.  The only chances for him to score were headers in the box that were well defended. 
This game was just sad.  It made the MLS look bad considering how many MLS players were in this game.  Dwayne De Rosario looked good for Canada which should make DC United fans feel better about his return from injury.  Canada parked the bus to just get a draw and U.S. couldn't do anything with its huge possession advantage.  Let's keep in mind though that this U.S. team won't be starting against Honduras.  Only a few players from last night will be on the U.S. squad Feb 6th. Based on the last night I think you need to bring Gonzalez and Gatt to Honduras.  I'm not sure who else Jurgen would bring from last night's squad but definitely those two.

Next up

Who: Honduras
When: Feb 6th
Where: San Pedro Sula, Honduras
What: 2014 World Cup Qualifying- Hex Round
Round up:  U.S. has a tough road ahead.  @Honduras, Costa Rica at home, and then @Mexico

*Ideally U.S. needs to come up with 4 points out of the first 3 games.  3 points is no reason to panic though.  If the U.S. can get more than 4 points we are sitting pretty.  Jurgen said he expects 9 points but whether that is possible remains the question.  You never know in World Cup Qualifying though.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Stars and Stripes Soccer Blog is born!!

Hello US fans!!!

          I'm Shawn Lux.  I'm a long time sports fan.  I grew up in the DC area supporting the Redskins, Capitals, DC United, and yes even the Wizards(I know). I attended VCU for my B.S. in Criminal Justice.  I'm happy to say the university is still a big part of my life.  I became a season ticket holder for VCU basketball after graduating (Which I might add is doing pretty well in the A10 this year). I've always been proud of my country and the freedoms we were given.  The country of opportunity.  That's why I take such pride in our US soccer team.  Unlike our other sports they truly represent our country on a larger scale.  So I've always wanted to have a blog about our great white, red, and blue team.  US soccer has been growing over the years and in my opinion it will continue to do so.  It quite amazing how far US soccer has come over the years driven by World Cup success and the MLS.  Just the fact that MLS is the third most attended sport in the US for two years now is proof of soccer's growth.  As we sit here only about a week from the Hexagonal round of Concacaf 2014 World Cup Qualifying its amazing how far we've come. However, before we get to qualifying there is a friendly to talk about so let's get to it.
          US and Canada will be facing off tonight in Houston about a week before US travels to Honduras for it's opener in the Hex round of 2014 World Cup Qualifying. The game is on ESPN2 8pm CT from BBVA Compass Stadium(Houston Dynamo's home stadium for those that don't follow MLS). Now if you are expecting to see a bunch of our players that will be playing in the qualifer I'm sorry to say you will probably be disappointed.  This game will feature mainly players looking to get Jurgen's attention.  We will see young newcomers such as Will Bruin of the Houston Dynamo and Omar Gonzalez of La Galaxy.  We will also get to see promising prospects like Mix Diskerud who captured the hearts of US soccer fans everywhere with a late goal in Russia to give the US a improbable draw.  We will also see if Kyle Beckerman of Real Salt Lake can come back strong after costly mistakes during the previous round of qualifying caused him to be left off the roster lately.

         Canada comes into this game pretty beaten down.  After a disappointing end to their qualifying campaign they just got ripped a new one by Denmark a few days ago(4-0).  You may remember Canada's World Cup qualifying coming to a crashing end in Honduras by the final score of 8-1 on a hot afternoon. The positive is Dwayne De Rosario is back.  You may remember his injury suffered in the previous round of qualifying that left DC United and Canada in a tough spot.  Of course DC United did make the Eastern Conference Finals after his injury, however they went out after running into injuries as well as a tough Dynamo team.  Back to topic. Canada will simply be looking for something to get exicited about and a win tonight would make things just a little bit better.

Prediction:  US will have lots of young prospects and a couple of regulars out there.  It is interesting that this game is being played in BBVA Compass Stadium which has become known as The Oven.  Mainly because of the heat and humidity.  Perhaps Jurgen is preparing his team (or potential players) for the heat of Honduras?  Unfortunately Jurgen can't prepare his team for the Honduran fans which will be all over this US team hours before the game even starts.  As far as tonight goes I see this US team winning 2-0 or perhaps 4-1.  Canada's rough streak in the heat continues.

When: Tonight. 8pm CT

Where: BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston

Where to watch: ESPN2

Look for a recap/reaction to this game most likely tomorrow.  A preview of US-Honduras will be up a few days before the qualifer.  If I have time I'll try to put out a post giving a preview of the teams in the Hex

Teams that qualified for the Hexagonal:
United States
Costa Rica