Drilling down on, US Open Cup: Seattle 1, at San Jose 0

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SAN FRANCISCO

Man of the Match: When a game’s being played at an 87-year-old municipal venue, you don’t always get the luxury of instant replays. So even after Cordell Cato had given Seattle the lead, it was unclear how he’d done it. Did the ball, shot from a very sharp angle to the right of goal, go through the goalkeeper’s legs? Or did the goalkeeper really give some room between himself and the goal line? When the ball hit the side netting, there was too much surprise to recount the minutia. By the time the crowd had collected itself, San Jose was kicking off after the game’s only goal.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • The U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal gave San Jose a rare opportunity to play in San Francisco. Old Kezar Stadium, located in Golden Gate Park, used to be he home of John Brodie’s San Francisco 49ers and (for one year) the Oakland Raiders. Now, it’s better known as a running track and the site of occasional high profile high school football games.
  • The game also gave San Francisco, a traditionally strong television market for major soccer events, a chance to take in some Major League Soccer action. San Jose and Seattle was the only all-MLS match of the day, and although the Earthquakes’ supporters were expected to travel well, there was going to be enough tickets for curious San Franciscans to see two of the Western Conference’s better teams.
  • In the hours before the game, it looked like San Francisco might have had better things to do. There was no fan presence outside the stadium, and the bars around the grounds were relatively empty. As kickoff approached, Earthquakes fans arrived and filled the saloons, but at kickoff, one official placed the crowd at an estimated 3500-4000 people.
  • Thankfully, that number rose dramatically after kick off. Twenty-five minutes into the game, the crowd appeared to have doubled.
  • By that time, San Jose had an ineffective control on the match. They were playing a side of regulars while Seattle, arriving on one day’s rest, played a second-choice team.
  • Cato’s goal gave Seattle a halftime lead, after which San Jose really took control. Continuously pumping balls into the area, the Earthquakes were able to create a number of scares for goalkeeper Andrew Weber, though he was never called upon to make a huge save.
  • Except for the goal, same could be said for David Bingham. Seattle played well at the back, but going forward, all they had waas Cato on the right, meaning a lot of work for Ike Opara and Justin Morrow. Opara still looks shaky – nowhere near his rookie self. Against an attack he could have handled, he was inconsistent.
  • After Frank Yallop brought on Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart, Seattle went into survival mode. They mounted some good counters but had little sustained possession. Most of their efforts were spent clearing crosses.
  • Three points of officiating controversy had San Jose fans shaking their heads as they left the stadium:
    • Tressor Moreno, who overall had a very bad game (giving the ball away ahead of the only goal), was taking down two yards into the area in the second half. Referee Yader Reyes awarded the foul but outside the area, and while this kind of ham-handed solution is becoming more common, this was a particularly egregious abuse.
    • A late volley off an attempted clearance of a corner seemed to hit a Seattle player’s arm, but Reyes demurred. He was immediately surrounded by four San Jose players pleading the team’s case.
    • After a number of ugly confrontations between the teams, including one that saw Alan Gordon red carded, six minutes of extra time was supposed to be played. Watches and clocks within the press box said the whistle blew less than five minutes into added time.
  • The confrontations got uglier after the final whistle, with Sounder Eddie Johnson having to be restrained while the San Jose players responded to Jason Hernandez Jed Zayner (who did not play) lying on his back, kicking his left leg as if in pain. The teams reacted as if there’d been a physical altercation. The officials were escorted from the field by security, and Seattle stayed on the pitch until all of the San Jose players had gone down the tunnel.
  • The ugliness wasn’t restricted to the field. There was an uncommon amount of profanity-laced chants, particularly from the San Jose supporters’ section. Perhaps this was a show of frustration at the score. Perhaps it was in response to a small but vocal group of Sounder fans who (also periodically engaging in crude chants) regularly out-yelled their more numerous adversaries.
    • I’m not oblivious to the fact that supporters sections regularly show poor judgment with their chants, but Tuesday night’s game was not at Buck Shaw Stadium, where perhaps the citizenry of San Jose may know what to expect in showing up. It was at an alterate venue and was likely to attract a number of semi-neutrals – people likely to have young children. And just like any other major sporting event, the stands feature a number of kids so young that it’s best to assume their parents would want to be able to exercise discretion over the language to which they’re exposed.
    • You can argue that people should know that profanity is going to be chanted at a soccer game, but they don’t. Most people we (as a community) want coming to MLS games are naive to what’s going on. That’s what being a growing league’s about.
    • This is a difficult subject for me because I happen to be very pro-profanity; however, you don’t see me using it in these posts. It’s a matter of respecting the likely views of my readers. There’s a time and place, and while I would like those times and places to be more frequent, I know that ProSoccerTalk isn’t the venue. I also know most adults don’t want me yelling profane words near their children, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want me and 999 of my friends chanting them.
    • Major League Soccer fans are more emotionally tied to their league’s success than any other U.S. sports fan, and as such, they’ve become an extension of the product. That product is not represented well when, during one of the league’s rare appearances in a place like San Francisco, fans are undermining the idea MLS is a family product.
    • Right now, the league and its teams look the other way at this kind of behavior. I presume they don’t want to temper the enthusiasm of their most loyal clients; however, this kind of behavior is not acceptable. Teams should be more proactive about working with the leadership of supporters’ groups to educate membership about acceptable behavior.
  • Despite all the night’s negatives, it was a huge win for Seattle. Winless in seven, the Sounders’ reserves came up bit, keeping Seattle in line for a fourth-straight U.S. Open Cup.
  • They move on to face Chivas USA while Philadelphia will play Sporting KC, with all lower division clubs seen out of the competition on Tuesday.

Vidal rips Ronaldo ahead of Confederations Cup semifinal

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Chile hopes to make a statement on Wednesday when it faces EURO 2016 champions Portugal and Ballon d’Or champion Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 2015 and 2016 Copa America champions can lay claim to another inter-confederation title with two more wins in the 2017 Confederations Cup, beginning with the semifinal in Kazan.

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Chile finished behind Germany in Group B but didn’t lose a match and only allowed two goals. That’ll be tested by Portugal and its seven goals in three matches.

Two of those goals came from Ronaldo, but don’t tell that to Arturo Vidal. Chile’s hard-edged midfielder doesn’t like him much.

From Goal.com:

“Cristiano is a smart ass,” he told reporters. “For me he does not exist.

“I have already told my Bayern Munich team-mate Joshua Kimmich that we will meet again in the final.”

Germany will have to take care of Mexico to make that happen, though we have a feeling a certain smart ass will have a thing or two to say before it’s all said and done.

Vidal has spoken loudly of his desire to get Chilean teammate Alexis Sanchez, a former Barcelona man, at his club Bayern Munich. If Ronaldo is on the market, this isn’t a great recruiting tool. Ah, jokes.

Trio of Crew players in Ghana roster to face USMNT, Mexico

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Ghana’s team to face the United States men’s national team on Saturday in East Hartford will look somewhat familiar to fans of Major League Soccer.

Columbus Crew players Harrison Afful, Mohammed Abu and Jonathan Mensah join David Accam of the Chicago Fire, and Gershon Koffie of the New England Revolution on a unit with Kwadwo Poku of the NASL’s Kwadwo Poku.

John Boye, Asamoah Gyan, and Mensah are the only three players from the loss to the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup.

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Like the U.S., this is a less than full-strength squad. Missing are a number of Black Stars standouts, with Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Afriyie Acquah, Daniel Amartey, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Christian Atsu, Jeff Schlupp, and Baba Rahman not with the team.

Saturday’s match is the last USMNT outing before the Gold Cup begins on July 8 in Nashville against Panama.

Goalkeepers: Addo Joseph (Aduana Stars), Richard Ofori (Wa All Stars)

Defenders: Lumor Agbenyenu (Munich 1860), Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew),  Nicholas Opoku (Berekum Chelsea), Jerry Akaminko (Eskiserhispor),  John Boye (Sivasspor), Rashid Sumalia (Al Gharafa), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Samuel Sarfo (Liberty)

Midfielders: Mohammed Abu (Columbus Crew, Isaac Sackey (Alanyaspor), Ofori Ebenezer (Stuttgart), Kwadwo Poku (FC Miami), Winful Kwaku Cobbinah (Hearts of Oak), Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht), Thomas Agyepong (NAC Breda), Gershon Koffie (New England Revolution)

Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Alhi), Raphael Dwamena (FC Zurich), Majeed Abdul Waris (Lorient FC), David Accam (Chicago Fire)

Timo Werner abused in Germany but key to World Cup defense

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) The abuse has followed Timo Werner for months, gathering pace as rapidly as the striker has amassed goals.

No German player was more prolific in the Bundesliga last season. No player was as ostracized.

But Werner is now a full-blown Germany international, scoring his first goals at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, and he could hold the key to the World Cup defense next year.

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That could require Germany supporters to forgive a player they jeered at during his first competitive game for Joachim Loew’s team earlier this month.

“Kobe Bryant has also been booed everywhere and he always been the best,” Werner reflected ahead of Germany’s Confederations Cup semifinal against Mexico on Thursday, seeing a kindred spirit in the basketball great. “I do not want to say that I am the best like him, but (the abuse) is a bit of an incentive.”

If playing for the ascendant but deeply unpopular Leipzig wasn’t bad enough, a dive in December by Werner provided a focal point for the animosity – jealousy, perhaps – toward the Red Bull-funded team.

The insults have even been hurled far from Germany, far from soccer stadiums. The dive won a penalty against Schalke, and provided Werner with one of the 21 goals that helped to propel Leipzig into second place and a Champions League debut next season.

“There was a dive, he made a mistake and he admitted it,” Loew said, “but he is very, very young player.”

And a potentially very important one for Loew at the World Cup in Russia next year. Germany’s striking options are being assessed at the eight-team Confederations Cup as Loew still seeks a long-term successor to Miroslav Klose as target man for the world champions.

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Werner opened his account for Germany on his fourth appearance, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Cameroon on Sunday in Sochi.

“Werner put in a lot of legwork,” Loew said. “He showed how dangerous he is and that he’s got a great nose for goal. Both of his efforts were very well taken.”

Werner’s rivals for a place in the squad next year include fellow squad newcomers Lars Stindl and Sandro Wagner. They are both close to 30, while the 21-year-old Werner has youth, strength and speed on his side. Even Wagner said he has “never seen such a good striker at that age.”

That’s a result of Werner fusing his pace with intelligence on the ball, mastering dribbling at high speed first with Stuttgart and then at Leipzig.

“There’s no recipe for it,” Werner said. “The quickest players just know how to do it automatically. I like to knock the ball three or four meters ahead of me when I’m on the counter or have space in front of me, that way I can increase the distance between a defender and myself.”

Such proficiency should help Werner win over fans beyond Leipzig. Time, he hopes, will heal the fractures, and there’s certainly support from his new international teammates.

“I wish him well because of the issues he has had to endure,” captain Julian Draxler told Germany’s ARD television.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup

USMNT Gold Cup 23-man roster leaves some questions

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We have Bruce Arena’s 23-man United States men’s national roster for the Gold Cup, and there are more than a few surprises left out of the bunch.

Often a chance to experiment, those who thought this year’s Gold Cup roster would be one aimed at reclaiming glory with authority may be surprised to see the status quo.

Jurgen Klinsmann brought most of his big guns to the 2015 party — which didn’t go well for Brad Guzan and Co. — but Arena will roll into this summer’s tournament without most of his big names. There’s no Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Michael Bradley, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, nor Jozy Altidore.

Those aren’t huge surprises, though who Arena neglected from his original 40-man short list is a bit of a shock to the system (Players can be called into the mix after the group stage, which is a fairly simple affair for the USMNT to navigate versus Panama, Martinique, and Nicagarua).

Arena is going with Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson, and Bill Hamid in a trio that fails to impress. Hamid does have a big crowd of fans who’d like to see him get a chance to assert himself as the future, and hopefully either Johnson or Hamid finds time between the sticks against a serious opponent like Panama. No surprise that Tim Howard and Joe Bendik didn’t leap into the trio (EDIT: This post initially questioned the omission of Jesse Gonzalez, but his one-time switch from Mexico to the USMNT has yet to go through).

We’ll ignore the omission of Danny Williams for the most part considering he was absent from the 40-man list, but he must have said something seriously awful to Arena or someone at U.S. soccer.

The group of forwards leaves little to complain about, as Juan Agudelo and Dom Dwyer very much deserve their chances to compete for playing time with Sounders star Jordan Morris, but the midfield provides some head-scratching. Gyasi Zardes may be a longtime Arena favorite, but the Galaxy man has been ice cold in MLS. The 25-year-old has a single assist in almost 1000 minutes of play this season, and that came back on April 8. Tommy McNamara has not lighting the league on fire and Chris Pontius and his six assists are 30 years old, so much of the grief should be directed at the 40-man again, but Zardes has to embrace this opportunity. And maybe it’s a way to help the Galaxy and Zardes get a little mojo.

As an aside, Wil Trapp is among leaders in several MLS passing stats, which leads me to believe Arena is going to play Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta a ton and doesn’t see much of a need for Trapp in this tournament, not ever.

Defenders Steve Birnbaum and Jonathan Spector were not rewarded with looks, though Graham Zusi was included in what must be an arm reaching out for USMNT experience. Birnbaum is leading MLS in aerials won per game and Spector is by far Orlando’s top rated player since returning from England. Yes, Spector is 31 but this is about still qualifying for next summer’s World Cup, not the 2022 cycle. Spare a thought for Matt Polster, who has been decent since returning from a knee strain. This is nothing against Zusi, a consummate professional who won’t kill the team by any means and will be an tremendous asset in leadership.

What about you? Any other gripes? Or do you love the bunch?