Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “Jurgen Klinsmann”

U.S. has night to forget against Honduras

130206_usa_soccer_loses.nbcsports-grid-8x2The less said about the United States’ Hexagonal-opening defeat to Honduras on Wednesday the better.

While losing the opening game isn’t the end of the world – Mexico certainly didn’t look any better in drawing at home with Jamaica – it does give the team a wake-up call that qualifying for Brazil 2014 isn’t going to be a walk in the park.

“Obviously, it’s not what we wanted,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann understated afterward. “We wanted to start with a positive result, and we have to fix that right away now against Costa Rica in Denver in March. But we knew it was going to be difficult. … There are no excuses. When you lose a game here, there are reasons for it. The reasons for it today were that too many players were underneath their usual performance. We made too many mistakes. … We gave them far too much space today.”

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Carragher one of the good ones

article-2274952-1767C008000005DC-794_634x400Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher announced on Thursday that after 16 seasons and more than 700 appearances with his hometown club, he will retire.

“I’m making this announcement now because I don’t want the manager or the club to be answering questions on my future when I’ve already decided what I am going to do,” Carragher said in a statement. “I will be fully committed between now and the end of the season to doing the very best for Liverpool, as I have done my entire career since joining aged just nine years old.

“It has been a privilege and an honour to represent this great club for as long as I have and I am immensely proud to have done so and thankful for all the support I have had. There are many memories I want to share and people to thank, but now is not the time for that.

“I won’t be making any further comment on this decision until the end of the season; all our focus and concentration should be on achieving the best possible finish in the league this season and trying to win the last remaining trophy we are competing in.”

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U.S. team finally breaks Azteca jinx

Sports is all about numbers.

And heading into Wednesday night’s friendly against Mexico, the U.S. Men’s National Team faced some pretty unpleasant numbers.

The U.S. team had never beaten the Mexican team in Mexico, despite trying for 75 years.

The U.S. was 0-23-1 against El Tri in those 75 years.

The U.S. was 0-19-1 at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, being outscored 81-14.

But that all changed Wednesday night, and now the only number that counts is the final score:

USA 1, Mexico 0.

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Year in Review – Second Quarter

As we enter the last few days of 2011, it’s time to take a look at the past year in sports.

While it was another year without a title from any of Cleveland’s teams, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting.

For the First Quarter, check here.

April brought the first full month of Tribe baseball, and the Indians got the season off on a nice start, especially the starting pitching. The month included a 9-2 stretch where the starters threw 74 innings and gave up just 15 earned runs – a 1.82 ERA.

The month also meant the best day for Browns fans each year – the NFL Draft.

Browns fans know, based on his previous work, that the team is in good hands with general manager Tom Heckert and fans were rewarded when Heckert selected three starters in the first two rounds – Phil Taylor, along with Jabaal Sheard and Greg Little.

We tried to warn people that the Madden Curse is real, but no one listened and Peyton Hillis was voted to the game’s cover.

And when it comes to Cleveland teams, we realized it is always good to have options.

May saw the Indians continue on their hot streak and turn into the team that Cleveland needed. The Tribe was led by its starting pitching, a bullpen that didn’t get any respect and a never-say-die attitude from the offense.

Unfortunately, by the end of the month cracks had started to show that would plague the team for the rest of the year.

The Cavs hit the jackpot in the NBA Draft lottery, taking home the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the upcoming draft.

And Jim Tressel paid for his years of lies by “resigning” as football coach at Ohio State.

June saw the Kent State men’s golf team on the verge of its second-consecutive Top 20 finish on the season and the baseball team just miss out on the first visit to the Super Regionals in school history.

The month was not kind to the Indians, who fell out of first on June 14. Leading the downfall was the continued decline of starting pitcher Fausto Carmona.

The rebuilding continued for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA draft, as the Cavs found coach Byron Scott his point guard in Duke’s Kyrie Irving at No. 1 and selected Texas power forward Tristan Thompson.

At the end of the month, the Cavs finally decided they had seen enough of the enigma that is J.J. Hickson, trading the third-year forward/center to Sacramento for small forward Omri Casspi.

And the U.S. Men’s National Team made it to the final of the Gold Cup, only to lose to Mexico 4-2 – after holding a 2-0 lead.

Coming Wednesday: The Tribe makes a major move, the U.S. Men’s National Team starts the Jurgen Klinsman era and the Browns open the 2011 NFL season in less than stellar fashion.

(Photo by Getty Images)

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

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.

Rollin’ with Jürgen

U.S. Soccer got its man on Friday, naming Jürgen Klinsmann as head coach of the national team.

“I am proud and honored to be named the head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team,” Klinsmann said. “I would like to thank the U.S. Soccer Federation for the opportunity, and I’m excited about the challenge ahead. I am looking forward to bringing the team together for our upcoming match against Mexico and starting on the road toward qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.”

Now we get to find out if a big-name European coach can turn the United States into a world soccer power.

Klinsmann’s greatest coaching success has come on the national level, he guided Germany to a 20-8-6 record and a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup, and left a solid foundation for continued success, including the core of the national team’s coaching staff and players.

He also spent a season coaching club team Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga. While the team had on-field success, reaching the quarterfinals of the Champions League, he was fired after less than one full season with the team.

Within those two stories lies the blueprint for Klinsmann’s potential success with the U.S. team.

As coach of the German national team, Klinsmann was able to develop a system that led the country’s club teams to invest more heavily in player development. Now, the Germans have some of the best young talent in the world.

Klinsmann needs to have that same level of influence in the U.S., especially with the MLS teams. Those squads have to get on board with player development to help not only themselves, but for the good of the national team.

The U.S. also has openings on both the Under-23 and Under-20 teams, so if Klinsmann and Claudio Reyna, the U.S. youth technical director, can work together to enhance the system from the ground up, the U.S. will be that much better off.

As for his struggles at Bayern Munich, we were a little troubled by that since it was his most recent coaching stint. But Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl came up with an interesting quote from Bayern president Uli Hoeness:

“I still think that Jürgen could be a good coach for a national team,” Hoeness told Wahl. “I’m not so sure anymore if he’s a good coach for a (club) football team. Jürgen is a free spirit who needs his time out, you know … In the national team you have your day off, your weeks off, your weekend, and that is for his character very important. With us I had the impression that was not the right thing for him. I could easily imagine if he’s taking (a national-team job) as he was with Germany, it was a super time. I still believe that could work.”

Just like some people are meant to be college coaches and some can succeed on the professional level, some are better working on the bigger picture and stage of a national team. That appears to be the case with Klinsmann, which would point to him being the right man for the right job.

One thing we definitely like is Klinsmann’s desire to develop an American style of play for the team.

“The U.S. is known worldwide as a melting pot,” Klinsmann told Wahl. “Soccer in a certain way transmits the culture of a country … You have the Latin influence (in the U.S.). You have the cultural backbone of your university system, which is completely different from the rest of the world. You have the fact that it’s mostly organized soccer, when we know that the best players in the world come out of unorganized events. I think it’s a fascinating topic.”

Klinsmann himself is a bit of a melting pot – while he is German, he has spent a large part of his post-playing career living in Southern California. That has provided him with the opportunity to observe both the MLS and the U.S. team up close, so there shouldn’t be as heavy of a learning curve as there would be if the U.S. was bringing in a foreign coach who had never even set foot in the country before he was hired.

This move comes at a good time. The senior team doesn’t have a single meaningful game until June, when the next cycle of World Cup qualifying games begins. That gives Klinsmann and everyone else involved in U.S. soccer time to evaluate where the team is and figure out where they are heading.

When the announcement came out that Klinsmann was the new man, friend of Red Right 88 Jim Kanicki asked us what we thought. We joked “ask again in three years.” While it is true that we won’t be able to fully evaluate the hiring until after the 2014 World Cup, this move has the potential to be much more.

Because if Klinsmann turns out to be everything his followers say he is, the U.S. team will be set up nicely for not only Brazil in 2014, but for many years after that.

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