Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

USA working through the process

With the Browns being, well, the Browns, and a mountain to move at work, we’ve been a bit behind in talking about the other football in our life.

So let’s get caught up on the beautiful game, shall we?

The U.S. Men’s National Team finally found its scoring touch, putting in three goals in the first half against Slovenia in an international friendly win on Tuesday. It was their first win in Europe since beating Poland in March 2008, going 0-5 since then.

Edson Buddle got the Americans on the board early, while favorite Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore scored within two-minutes of each other late in the half. Dempsey’s goal was his 24th for the national team, tying him with Joe-Max Moore for fourth place on the all-time scoring list.

The U.S. had been outscored 5-2 in going 1-4-1 since Jurgen Klinsmann took over for Bob Bradley this past summer.

“It looked much better,” Klinsmann said in published reports. “It’s a process, and that process, besides results, is going really well.”

A process, huh? Maybe Browns fans should take notes.

It wasn’t all good times, however, as Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl says the defense still needs work:

For a 10-minute period in the second half the U.S.’ defense was a complete shambles, failing to clear the ball out of danger and allowing Slovenia back into the game. The blame was evenly distributed, but Kyle Beckerman did look particularly slow-footed as the U.S. gave up Slovenia’s second goal. Does he have the speed necessary to play at this level? Aside from that, the U.S. is playing a much higher back line under Klinsmann, and while that caused Slovenia to be offside numerous times, it also put serious pressure on the U.S. defenders to keep that line. Timmy Chandler didn’t do that on the passing sequence that led to Slovenia’s first goal and kept scorer Tim Matavz onside

The U.S. finished the year 6-8-3, their worst showing since 1994, when they were 7-9-11. They have also dropped to 34th in FIFA’s world rankings.

But the U.S. has plenty of time to get this worked out.

They don’t start qualifying for the 2014 World Cup until next June and they were drawn into what should be an easy group.

On June 8, they take on Antigua and Barbuda, followed by a June 12 game at Guatemala. They have a home-and-home with Jamaica Sept. 7 and Sept. 11, are at Antigua on Oct. 12 and close group play against Guatemala on Oct. 16

The top two teams from each of three groups advance to the 2013 regional finals in North and Central America and the Caribbean. The first three teams will qualify for the 2014 tournament in Brazil, and the fourth-place team goes to a home-and-home playoff against the Oceania champion – expected to be New Zealand – for another berth.

***

With the MLS Cup on Sunday, Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers rolled out the cliched old white guy argument that “no one cares about soccer” (somewhere Greg Brinda is shaking his head in agreement) and took some cheap shots at Galaxy star David Beckham.

We’ve talked about this before. If you don’t like soccer, fine. But why do you feel the need to showcase your ignorance for the world to see?

(h/t to MLS Talk)

***

Finally, Portugal, Croatia, Ireland and the Czech Republic closed out victories in their two-leg playoffs Tuesday to claim the final four places in next summer’s European Championship.

The tournament will run June 8 to July 1 in Poland and Ukraine. The teams were seeded on Wednesday with the draw into group play scheduled for Dec. 2.

The pots are:

Pot 1: Spain, Holland, Poland, Ukraine

Pot 2: Germany, Italy, England, Russia.

Pot 3: Croatia, Greece, Portugal, Sweden.

Pot 4: Denmark, France, Czech Republic, Republic of Ireland

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