Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “World Cup”

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.

A Look Back at 2010

It was certainly interesting around here in 2010.

After earning the top seed in the playoffs for the second consecutive year, the Cavs became the first team in NBA history to post back-to-back 60-win seasons and not win an NBA title.

The early exit led to major changes, as owner Dan Gilbert fired coach Mike Brown and GM Danny Ferry decided not to remain with the team.

The biggest change, of course, was LeBron James’ decision to leave the team in free agency, which left the Cavs scrambling to decide how to rebuild the franchise.

The Indians have become the Indians of the 1970s again, and there seems to be little hope that they will be able to fix things.

The World Cup helped take our mind off the Cavs and filled in the gap until the Browns started training camp. Judging by the TV ratings, we weren’t the only ones entertained.

The U.S. team provided some great moments, starting with its opening tie against England, to its last-minute win on Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria. The fun came to an end, though, in extra time against Ghana. And Spain came through in the end, just as we predicted.

We learned Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard is the anti-LeBron and finally saw Tom Hicks and George Gillett exit Anfield, leaving the team in pieces.

Then there were the Browns.

Owner Randy Lerner finally put together a qualified management team in president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Eric Mangini. With all three having clearly defined roles, the team is finally set up for success.

After nailing their first draft, the Browns prepared for a season that would ultimately have them playing one of the toughest schedules in the NFL.

That schedule has certainly contributed to the team’s struggles this year, but clear progress has been made as wins against the Saints and Patriots show.

Now we’re just left to wait out stupid time until Holmgren makes the announcement that Mangini is obviously returning next season.

One more thing: we finally learned the real reason Brady Quinn failed as quarterback of the Browns.

Finally, we launched this site in 2010.

While we had to deal with a few bumps at first with some people who think the Internet is run like a playground and they can call “firsties,” things have gone pretty well.

The guys at Waiting for Next Year have been good to us, as has Cleveland Frowns. And we are grateful for that.

We’ve also had the opportunity to meet a few new fans online, including jimkanicki, chris from Two One Six Sports, Malcolm Mathers, Believelander and others who have all helped expand our knowledge base and made us think before we post.

We’re still working to find our voice and figure out exactly what we want to be as a site, but overall it has been a positive experience. We’re looking forward to what 2011 has in store for us and for Cleveland fans everywhere.

Happy New Year everyone.

Can Anyone Follow this Logic?

Earlier this year we talked about how older members of the media are scared that soccer will become popular in this country, with Chris Russo on Sirius leading the way by saying “no one cares” – meaning he doesn’t care – about the upcoming World Cup.

But, of course, TV ratings blew that idea out of the water with the final game between Spain and the Netherlands bringing in more than 15.5 million viewers.

Russo was back at it again this week, in response to an article in USA Today that compared the local TV ratings on Sunday to NFL games vs. Major League Baseball. Despite the NFL crushing baseball in the ratings, Russo said “it doesn’t matter” because the people he talks to “all want to talk about baseball.”

So let’s see if we can follow the logic here: TV ratings are high for the World Cup but people don’t care, even though they are watching; TV ratings are low for the baseball playoffs but everyone wants to talk about it even though they are not watching.

Glad we cleared that up. As Cleveland Frowns would say, “DERP!”

Odds & Ends

The more we think, read and talk about LeBron James’ decision to leave Cleveland for Miami, the more we wonder if we’re trying to make this into something bigger than it is.

Maybe this really is as simple as a 25-year-old basketball player wanting to play with his friends and hang out on the beach. He wouldn’t be the first to leave Cleveland in his mid-20s to take a job elsewhere, heck I did it after college. Of course, I didn’t have the option of staying here for more money.

There are two points that have come out over the past few days that shed a lot of light on his decision:

  • LeBron views Akron and Cleveland as two separate entities. W think he did enjoy playing 45 minutes north of where he grew up, but to him Akron is home; Cleveland was just where he went to work. We think he would have felt the same if the Cavs were located in Columbus, Cincinnati or Toledo; we all wanted to link Northeast Ohio into one large entity, while it’s apparent that LeBron never did.
  • LeBron is a follower; he’s never been, or wanted to be, a leader. Terry Pluto pointed out in his Sunday PD column that LeBron followed Dru Joyce III to St. V, not the other way around. Pluto reiterated that point today on Sirius’ Mad Dog Radio, pointing out that Dwyane Wade is the NBA equivalent of Joyce, he’s the leader and LeBron the follower. It appears that leading the Cavs as the main guy was just not in his nature.

For some other really good perspectives, visit Cleveland Frowns as well as the guys at Waiting For Next Year. They’ve put together some solid takes on the entire situation.

And if you’re really, really still upset, you can always buy one of these.


As for what’s next for the Cavs, the team has an opportunity to rebuild the team in a different way if they so choose. Rather than taking on players that they think they need short-term – i.e., Shaq, Antawn Jamison – they can go after players they want and build a team that can achieve long-term success.

Hopefully they see this as the prudent course of action. As much fun as Dan Gilbert’s letter was, the team can’t operate out of emotion; they’re not fans. And if that means they have to take a step or two back, then so be it.

The Cavs have assets with expiring contracts, draft picks and the $14.5 million trade exemption they received as part of the sign-and-trade with Miami. The important thing to remember is they don’t have to make any moves this week, or this season for that matter. They have a year to use the exception and the season doesn’t start for more than three months. There’s no need to rush.

One name tossed around has been Minnesota’s Al Jefferson, who is still recovering from a severe knee injury and is owed $42 million over the next three seasons. He’s only 25, though, which would help the team in its quest to get younger.

But remember, just because Jefferson may be the best player available, doesn’t mean he’s the best player. It may make more sense for the Cavs to acquire two $7 million players who can combine to match or exceed Jefferson’s numbers, rather than take on another team’s bad contract.

The important thing for the team to remember is they don’t have to rush into anything.


Finally, congratulations to Spain for capturing its first World Cup title, just as we predicted.

OK, picking Spain wasn’t exactly going out on a limb, and while we did get the opponent wrong, we were only four minutes away from getting the prediction right about La Furia Roja winning on penalty kicks.

Despite the claims of some that “no one cares” about soccer in America, TV ratings were up 41 percent in the U.S. over the 2006 World Cup.

And not only did Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas take home the World Cup, he got the girl as well.

Well played.

The Real Reason Brady Quinn Failed

We love the English media. Seriously, they are the best.

After The Three Lions were knocked out of the World Cup by Germany, the diagnosis began and everyone had a reason why the team lost. But The Daily Mail may have finally come up with the answer: man grooming.

Turns out striker Wayne Rooney waxed his chest, which may be the reason why he played so poorly in the World Cup.


So that got us thinking and we realized that there may be a connection between waxing and the real reason why Brady Quinn couldn’t make it work in Cleveland.

Look at this picture. Does that look like someone who could drive the Browns down the field against Baltimore in the closing minutes of a game in 10 degree weather on the lakefront?

Of course not.

So it wasn’t Eric Mangini’s horrendous “quarterback competition” or Brian Daboll’s amateur play calling that doomed Quinn. It was vanity.

And now we know.

A Major Howler

England thought they had seen the worst when Robert Green let an easy goal roll past him in the opening game vs. the U.S.

Well, the Three Lions saved their worst for last, losing 4-1 to Germany in their first game of the knockout stage. And it wasn’t even that close.

I enjoy watching the England team because I know the players from being a fan of the Premier League. So a day after the U.S. was dumped from the World Cup, it was disappointing to see England not only go down, but do so weakly. In addition, the team’s history of painful losses is familiar enough to Cleveland fans that they have a special place in my sporting heart.

Sunday’s game probably brings an end to the Golden Generation of English football, an era that was marked more by disappointment than joy. It’s very likely we’ve seen the last, or are nearing the end, of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, David Beckham, etc., that held so much promise nine years ago.

And the English are left to wonder, once again, why they can’t find a decent goalkeeper. It’s funny, the Americans are derided as being second-class citizens on the world stage, but they usually are backed by a top-notch goalkeeper.

England’s media is out in full force, with The Sun going with the headline “Franks for nothing – Fabio’s flops are battered in Bloemfontein.” The Mirror made a dig about Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal, with the headline “Three Lions Muller-ed by Germans … and the ref.” The Daily Mail went with the wordy “At least the sun’s still shining. Germany crush toothless England 4-1 (with a LOT of help from a short-sighted Uruguayan linesman).” Finally, The Times checks in with “Abject England crash out.”

Makes me wish the local papers were as clever with their coverage of the Indians, Browns & Cavs.

And while it may not have impacted the final outcome – but who knows, really? – Lampard’s disallowed goal, which was clearly over the line – as well as the missed offside on Argentina’s opening goal in the second game, leave FIFA with egg on its face and a lot of explaining to do. (Let’s not even get started on the refs in the USA games). Somebody needs to wake Sepp Blatter up and make him understand these kinds of mistakes are not entertaining to fans and don’t make for good sport.

“It is often the case that, even after slow-motion replay, 10 different experts will have 10 different opinions on what the decision should have been,” Blatter has said. “Fans love to debate any given incident in a game. It is part of the human nature of our sport.”

Sorry, Sepp, but that ain’t right.

You have to wonder how Jorge Larrionda was even on the field as an official, as this is not the first major error he’s made. He was suspended by his country’s Football Association for “irregularities in a match between Brazil and Columbia; in this year’s World Cup he failed to catch Tim Cahill’s handball for Australia which ended up keeping Serbia from advancing; and he has the highest red card per match ration in international matches.

In other words, this guy is no Jim Joyce.

Finally, if losing wasn’t bad enough, a French politician is blaming England for Les Blues’s exit in the group stage.

You gotta love the World Cup.

The World Fights Back

Well, that was disappointing.

The U.S. fell to Ghana in extra time and their World Cup has come to a close.

It’s hard to believe it’s over; after two weeks of exciting play, bad calls, comebacks and last-minute goals, it all ended today.

The U.S. fell back into their bad habit of conceding early goals, as Ghana got on the scoreboard less than 5 minutes into the game. Not only was it the first goal Tim Howard conceded in more than 135 minutes, it was the first goal Ghana scored in free play during the entire tournament.

Of course it was; the team just can’t lose, it has to lose in surprising, painful ways. As a Cleveland fan I should be used to it but it never gets easier. Maybe that’s why this team was so much fun to watch. Cleveland sports fans are used to rooting for underdogs and understand the sun doesn’t shine on the same dog’s rear every day – or any day in the case of Cleveland.

Maybe all the comebacks, the roller-coaster ride, the fighting against refs and a governing body that didn’t want them to advance finally became too much for the Americans to overcome. Maybe they finally ran into a team – Ghana did win the African Cup of Nations this year – that was their equal. Going four games without your forwards scoring a goal certainly didn’t help. Whatever the case, it’s over now.

“The finality of it is brutal,” Landon Donovan said in published reports. “When you realize how much you put into it, not only for the last four years but for your whole life. There’s no guarantee there’s another opportunity. It’s disappointing.”

And the US team is left to wonder what could have been, as the path to the semifinals may never be this easy again.

Hopefully the team can take both the good and the bad from this tournament and build on it. Hopefully this year’s performance was not an aberration, but the beginning of the norm. The faces will certainly change, as you have to wonder how much longer players such as Donovan, Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Carlos Bocanegra can continue in international duty.

We’ll find out in 2014 in Brazil.

I can’t wait.

Taking on the World

“People should know when they are conquered.”

“Would you Quintas? Would I?”

As the US waits for its Round of 16 game vs. Ghana on Saturday, the Americans face a favorable draw and a real chance to advance, not just past Ghana but into the final four.

“The USA never gives up,” Spain’s Cesc Fabregas said in published reports. “That’s why I believe they can go much further because they fight to the end and work so hard. So, I can see them reaching the semifinals, and then who knows what happens?”

The team’s last-minute win against Algeria revealed the squad’s true heart. The Americans had every opportunity to give up – they had never won the third game in group play (0-6-0 all-time), yet another bad call from the ref denied them a rightful goal, their shots kept finding the cross bar or the post, rather than the back of the net, and they were moments away from being eliminated in the group stage for the second World Cup in a row.

But they wouldn’t accept being conquered. That’s not the American way.

While Landon Donovan received much of the attention for scoring the game winning goal, the win vs. Algeria was truly a team effort. Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, among others, continued to pepper the goal with shots, while Tim Howard was a rock in goal for the Americans.

The World Cup’s motto is One Game Changes Everything, at that was certainly true for the US, as ESPN’s Chris Jones points out:

In those 12 seconds between Tim Howard’s throw and Landon Donovan’s finish, in those 12 seconds when the U.S. team managed to go from elimination to winning its group, a massive psychological shift occurred. That goal against Algeria changed everything. The Americans went from disappointments to heroes; Bob Bradley went from being the wrong man for the job to a strategic genius; Donovan himself saw stories about his missed potential erased and hastily rewritten, turned into stories that instead celebrated his gifts, his stone-cold ability to finish when his team, his country, needed him most.

Now the world’s biggest fear – the American team advancing through the knockout stages – is right there for the taking. The US has a chance Saturday to avenge the group stage loss to Ghana in 2006 that knocked them out of the tournament. Ghana hasn’t played well so far this year, their only goals have come on penalty kicks, they don’t have their best player, Michael Essien, and their keeper is the shaky Richard Kingson.

If the US can get past Ghana, they will most likely face Uruguay, who emerged from a weak group that included South Africa and the French. Not exactly something to keep the team up at night. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The Americans have to take care of business starting Saturday. If they play with the drive and pace they displayed against Algeria, there’s a very real chance they will advance.

The world is theirs for the taking. Whether the world likes it or not.

On Holiday

Red Right 88 is on holiday at the shore for a few more days. Regular activity will resume Tuesday.

In the meantime, a few quick thoughts:
  • Incredible comeback by the U.S. today against Slovenia. Never thought they could do it after falling behind 2-0 at halftime. The English are certainly doing their part to help.
  • Thank you Tom Izzo. You’ll be happier and the Cavs will be better off.
  • Dan Gilbert better be on the private plane to talk to Phil Jackson. Even if there is only a million-in-one shot he comes to Cleveland, you have to talk to him. If money is no object, and you were willing to give an unproven coach (reportedly) $6 million a year, then you must talk to Jackson.
  • Seven weeks until the Browns return for training camp.

A Solid Start

The U.S. worked England for a 1-1 tie in the opening game of their group at the World Cup. All in all a solid effort from the Americans and an OK result for both teams.

After Stevie G’s goal just four minutes into the game, the Americans could have lost some energy and composure, thinking they were in for a repeat of their opening game of the 2006 World Cup. But they held it together and kept battling, until Clint Dempsey sent a shot in on England keeper Robert Green, who saw the ball bounce off his hands and roll easily into the goal.

The U.S. kept the pressure on, with Jozy Altidore missing a great shot that bounced off Green and the left post. The Americans received solid goalkeeping from Tim Howard, who settled the defense down after Gerrard’s early goal and was the man of the match, holding up especially in the second half when Wayne Rooney got going.

Even though both teams walked away with a point, and if they both keep up the intensity they showed today you can easily see them winning out in the group and each finishing with seven points, the Americans clearly will look at this as a win, while the English will have to face the following from back home:

Well, you get the picture.

For a country with such outstanding talent, for some reason England just can’t seem to find a quality goalkeeper. And for a team that already seemed to have a fragile psyche because of expectations from back home, you have to wonder what kind of carry over affect this game will have. They have until Friday to figure it out before they take on Algeria in their next game.

The U.S. takes on Slovenia that same day.

The fun has just begun.

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