Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Simply put, U.S. needs better competition

Lots going on this week in non-Cleveland Browns style of football, starting with the U.S. Men’s National Team, which took on Ecuador Tuesday night in an international friendly.

The U.S. lost, 1-0, on a goal by Jaime Ayoví in the 79th minute. The Americans have now gone 23 games without scoring more than two goals, since beating Australia 3-1 in their last warmup before the 2010 World Cup.

“We created chances in the first half and really didn’t allow Ecuador anything,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in published reports. “They never really had a real threat until their goal.”

And the Titanic was a nice voyage until that whole iceberg thing.

Obviously that is a bit extreme, but the team is just 1-3-1 since Klinsmann took over for Bob Bradley. By comparison, Bradley was 10-0-1 to start his tenure with the team.

“Part of the attraction, obviously, is (Klinsmann’s) an innovative guy and wants to try things, not necessarily only things that have a 50-year track record of success, but some new things,” USSF president Sunil Gulati said in published reports. “So that always takes a little time for everyone — staff, coaching staff, players, leadership — and everyone’s adjusting.”

The good news is this is the time for the team to try some of these “innovative” things. The U.S. doesn’t play a match that matters until next summer when they resume qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. So things are not as dire as some would have you believe.

What the U.S. really needs is a higher level of competition. Not to bag too hard on CONCACAF, but Aruba, Turks and Caicos, and Belize don’t really offer the level of talent the U.S. needs to reach the next level internationally.

Certainly having Mexico be the only other viable team in the confederation makes it easier to qualify for the World Cup, but the soft schedule hurts once the World Cup starts.

What the United States needs is to play in a tournament like Euro 2012. Spain, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands and England are among the teams that have already qualified for next summer’s tournament in Ukraine and Poland.

Qualifying is so tough, that Portugal, Euro 2004 runners-up, find themselves having to earn a spot via a playoff.

Unfortunately, unless the U.S. is ready to become a British colony again, or they get the governing bodies to agree to some creative geography, it ain’t going to happen.

Which means Klinsmann better have some creative tricks up his sleeve come 2014 in Brazil.

***

Speaking of Euro 2012, The New York Times had a good article this week about the challenges England coach Fabio Capello faces in dealing with talented – and hot-headed – striker Wayne Rooney.

Rooney has been the talk of English soccer since age 9, eventually joining Everton’s academy. At age 16, he scored for Everton against Arsenal, which at the time was riding a 30-game unbeaten streak in league play.

Two years later, Manchester United paid Everton about $47 million to gain Rooney’s services, the highest transfer fee every for an 18-year-old.

And while Rooney is by far England’s best player, he can easily loose his cool on the field – he, along with David Beckham, are the only England players sent off twice during international play – and the fate of the Three Lions next summer rests on his stocky shoulders.

“I cannot enter the head of Wayne Rooney when he plays,” Capello said. “I can speak before, I can substitute him, I can find different solutions, but …

“Rooney is a really good player, a really important player. For a long time, he has been the best player of the national team. But the player is difficult to understand. He can do something fantastic, and he can make a silly mistake.”

***

Just a few days shy of the one-year anniversary of their purchase of Liverpool, The Guardian has a two-part behind-the-scenes look at the John Henry and Fenway Sports Group, who also own the Boston Red Sox.

Henry is part of a group of Americans who are now owners of five of the English game’s most prestigious clubs: Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa and Sunderland.

One of the more interesting parts of the article is Henry’s admission that he is worried about a backlash from fans at both clubs, who may accuse the owners of concentrating too much on the other (sound familiar, Browns fans?)

“There was a lot of criticism in Boston that we weren’t going to spend money on the Red Sox after we did the Liverpool transaction,” Henry said. “Then there was the fear we wouldn’t spend in Liverpool. Hopefully the fans of both clubs will eventually see what we see clearly – that there is nothing to fear from the existence of the other club.”

Hear that, Browns fans?

Part two runs on Thursday.

***

Finally, from the always strong EPL Talk, comes a take on why Liverpool’s plan to sell their own overseas TV rights will never happen.

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