Noah Davis

Bruce Arena: “Players on the national team should be American.”

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Jozy Altidore knows some things about some things

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Jozy Altidore showed up on Jimmy Conrad’s Super Awesome American Soccer YouTube Show (actual name: JC’s American Soccer Spectacular) and chatted with the host about his remarkable season at AZ and his future with the United States national team.

It’s another impressive interview from the rising star filled with a number of interesting nuggets that show his development as a player and a person.

  • On his success this year: “Just trying to get in front of the goal as much as possible. And trying to be aware of my teammates.” (That meshes nicely with what Earnie Stewart told me was the reason for Altidore’s success.)
  • On dealing with racism: He agrees with Thierry Henry’s statements that teams should lose points if their fans act in racist ways.
  • On Jurgen Klinsmann’s non-call: “Sometimes your number’s called and when it is you have to give your all and when it’s not, you have to support your guys.”
  • On beating Mexico in Azteca: “Definitely possible”

    But my favorite answer was to one of the last questions Conrad asked the forward. What do you like best: scoring with your head, scoring with your right foot, or scoring with your left foot?

    “I’ll take any of them.” That’s the reply of a grown ass man.

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1TYU6ANXXg&w=560&h=315%5D

  • The delicate balance between training and fatigue

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    So the United States men’s national team is set to play Belgium, then Germany, then three vital World Cup qualifiers between May 29 and June 18. And, if that wasn’t enough, there are rumors floating around that the Americans will play another friendly as well.

    Does anyone think this is a good idea? Well, anyone except Jurgen Klinsmann that is.

    I get his thinking: The U.S. team comes together so infrequently that it has to maximize the time spent together. Playing six high-quality games against opposition that ranges from the best in the world to some very difficult CONCACAF road tests is a big challenge — and a big opportunity — for the Americans. It’s the type of thing that can benefit the future of the program.

    But does it come at the expense of the present? Even if the U.S. doesn’t play another friendly, the team will still battle Belgium and Germany in relatively meaningless games before traveling to Jamaica and hosting Panama and Honduras in qualifying. That’s a tall task and a lot of games in a short stretch with the more important fixtures on the back end.

    Klinsmann loves to create these “tournament-type settings” but remember how the U.S. looked in the final two matches of the 2012 one? They struggled to find their form against Antigua and Barbuda before eventually putting the match away, then conceded a late goal to let Guatemala earn a 1-1 draw. (Not to mention the heavy-legged abomination that was the 0-0 draw with Canada in the third game of the five.)

    The Stars and Stripes cannot afford similarly tired bodies and minds against the CONCACAF opposition. At best, Klinsmann and the crew will have six points, more likely three, after three Hexagonal games. They desperately need to win the home games against Panama and Honduras and a result in Jamaica would help calm the masses and avenge the loss in the last round.

    It’s certainly a possibility, but it grows more remote as the lead up gets more difficult.

    The Maracanã, now with more flooding

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    The Atlantic is the latest publication to publish a “Will Brazil be ready?” story. The piece, written by Chris Feliciano Arnold, focuses on the centerpiece of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, the Maracanã.

    The famous stadium is in the middle of a massive refurbishment that will bring it up to FIFA’s exacting standards of style, safety, and seats for chubby people. It’s not exactly going so well.

    “We’re not worried, we’re just a bit anxious,” FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke said after a visit on March 7. “All we are concerned about is doing a good job. We don’t have a Plan B.”

    A 5,500-person crew(!) is working night and day to get the place ready for the Confederations Cup, which begins in less than 100 days. The smaller tournament will give Brazilian officials an opportunity to work out all the kinks in the system, supposedly.

    Now, about those delays: It’s always fun to place blame on the ones doing the work, but part of the issue isn’t their fault. To the e-pages of the Atlantic:

    The project suffered major delays in 2011 when structural weakness in the stadium’s iconic concrete dome forced engineers back to the drawing board to design a membrane roof structure. The new design, featuring solar panels and a wastewater draining system, pushed back the original December 2012 deadline to February—and now again to May. While the World Cup is still more than a year away, FIFA has repeatedly warned Brazil that it needs the Maracanã delivered no later than May 28th, in time for test events necessary to work out the kinks that can only be solved during live matches. There is no further room for error.

    And look, we’ve been over this before. Big events like the World Cup are always behind schedule. They always have issues with the labor unions, so when the Heavy Construction Workers Union strikes and demands more money, it’s not a surprise.

    But this does seem like we are getting down to it, no? A few weeks ago, work was hampered by flooding. Flooding! And while I don’t really believe FIFA absolutely needs the Maracanã to be done by May 28th and I don’t believe Mr. Valcke that there is no Plan B, it is a little concerning to keep reading stories like this that seem to be getting worse rather than better. I’m sure it will all come together okay in the end, but it’s not going to be pretty.

    LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo owner AEG won’t be sold after all

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    In a shocking turn of events, the Anschutz Company took AEG — the conglormorate that owns the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Houston Dynamo, the Los Angeles Kings, the Staples Center, LA Live, and a whole bunch of other properties — off the market. Reclusive billionaire Philip Anschutz, who had planned to retire, will take a more active role in the company.

    This is massive news for the sports world at large, but for our purposes here, it’s relevant because Tim Leiweke, the man who had perhaps the biggest role in bringing David Beckham to MLS, is out. Dan Beckerman will become president and chief executive officer of AEG.

    From the release: “Tim Leiweke, who has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of AEG since 1996, will be leaving the Company by mutual agreement. ‘We appreciate the role Tim has played in the development of AEG, and thank him for the many contributions he has made to the Company. We wish him well in his new endeavors’ said Mr. Anschutz.”

    The juicy details will surely come out — it seems as though Leiweke lost a power struggle — but that’s not what’s important right now. What is important is that MLS lost a powerful executive and advocate who very much changed the face of the league. AEG will continue in the soccer business, but the influence of the outgoing executive will be missed.