Monday, June 25, 2007

So Benny Feilhaber Is Pretty Good, Eh?

Just finished watching the USA-Mexico Gold Cup Final and I've got some musings...

About 10-15 minutes before Feilhaber's winner there was a searing half-volley from just outside the box by a Mexican player who plays professionally in Greece (Castillo?) which prompted the color commentator to call it a "European" volley. And that got me thinking, WTF is a European volley? Does that mean it was a volley with such a high degree of technique and skill that only a player playing professionally in Europe could hit? Then I though of the quality of play in the MLS and decided the commentator had a point, albeit a bit poorly articulated. And then up steps Benny Feilhaber with a very well-taken dipping volley of the "European" variety as he plys his trade with Hamburg in Germany.

Point is the USMNT needs more guys like Feilhaber and less like Brian Ching. Ching's miss after rounding Sanchez was inexcusable and smacked of MLS quality finishing. Ignore the bombastic, attention-seeking comments of Alexei Lalas; the MLS is not on the same level as the English Premier League. They're more on a level somewhere between the Coca-Cola Championship (Div 2) and League One (Div 3). Look at the other standout performers on the day and throughout the tournament: Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Beasley, and Dempsey all playing in Europe. Sure Donovan plays in L.A. but that's only because he's pussy-whipped into not playing abroad where he belongs (I guess you can't blame him). Anyway I'm actually not really sure what my point is, I'm just frustrated at the gulf in class and technique between European-based guys like Feilhaber and born and bred MLS guys like Ching. It shouldn't be that way. I read an article today in World Soccer magazine about the extensive youth setup at Arsenal and Chelsea with players from all over including Cyprus, Mexico, Belgium, and more and couldn't help but notice that there weren't any Americans. I can't take watching MLS guys like Ching and Twellman up front anymore, for all their heart and effort they just aren't good enough. Freddy Adu should've gone to Europe, not D.C. United, and more Americans youngsters need to start developing their game in the superior youth academies across the pond. Then they can come back and better serve both (MLS) club and country.

Sidenote, Beasley does play in Europe and he had a miss that was even more embarassing than Ching's. So what gives? you ask. Well the explanation for that is Beasley just isn't that good, really. Ask Man City fans.

As Donovan tied Eric Wynalda for most international goals for USA, I realized that Donovan is only 24-25 and he's already beaten a record that took Wynalda a full career to tally up. Just an observation. Says a lot about the rapid improvement in US players over the years.

Twellman, though obviously lacking in quality when taken from the small ponds of the MLS to the international stage, has a helluva a lot of fight in him. From the second he came on as a sub he was flying around and harrying defenders, tracking back and flying in for tackles to help out the team whatever way he could. A great example of heart and determination that other USMNT guys should look to emulate.

Copa America squad selection debate: Bradley's decision to put out a stronger squad for the Gold Cup has been vindicated, regardless of what happens in Venezuela. Gold Cup victory means a Confederations Cup place and $1 million dollar reward. USMNT doesn't have a chance of winning the Copa America no matter what squad they bring. The most they can hope for is a respectable showing. That is still possible, and with young and unproven (read: hungry, chip on shoulder, underdog, underestimated, prematurely written off...) squad maybe Bradley is trying to recreate a USA Hockey at Lake Placid scenario. Do you believe in miracles??

And worse come to worse (Argentina have this guy, I don't know if you've heard of him, named Lionel Messi (1:18 is my favorite)? Yea, he's supposed to be pretty good) we can at least say we didn't have our strongest squad out there. Which is cop-out but whatever. We're the US, we do what we want! Well, at least that's the president's philosophy...

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