Teofilo Gutierrez

‘Defending’ Klinsmann and questioning offside: An alternate take on the USMNT’s 2-1 loss to Colombia

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No one’s going to wake up this morning and say, “Gee, on second thought I’m glad Jurgen Klinsmann’s US team again fell apart in a match’s final frame.”

But after an evening and morning of reading massive Klinsmann-devouring vitriol regarding Colombia’s 2-1 comeback win against the Yanks at Craven Cottage on Friday, I was left wondering whether there are alternate explanations for calling the German-born coach a loser.

[ USMNT: PST’s match recap LIVE from Craven Cottage ]

After all, so many of those comments continue to bring up Landon Donovan’s name as if his World Cup roster omission somehow set in play a series of events that will not only keep the US from ever winning again but forced its players to lose to Colombia on purpose in order to shame Klinsmann.

So what if we debate a few more topics that perhaps shift the blame back to realistic circumstance:

1) The equalizer was an awkward at-best play and not a sign of mass failure

Analyst Taylor Twellman said that Teofilo Gutierrez did not play the ball, which is a little cringe-worthy for me. Teo doesn’t touch the ball, knowing he was offside, but advances toward it enough that Brad Guzan had no choice but to respect the chance that:

A) he might’ve been onside, or

B) he may’ve been offside but it won’t be called.

This allows enough of a deviation in aggression from the keeper that Carlos Bacca is able to more easily round him. Was it a banner moment for the US? No, but it sent a Colombia-heavy Craven Cottage into an uproar that set the stage for the late winner.

2) Klinsmann is finding his team. He won’t make five second-half subs in any game that matters

Colombia ties the match in the 60th minute. Let’s say this is a Copa America Centenario knockout round. Do you think Klinsmann’s first subs are two inexperienced 2.Bundesliga players? Nope. They could end up still being Bobby Wood and Alfredo Morales (doubtful), but they will be those two players with the experience of playing Colombia at Craven Cottage.

[ RELATED: Did Jones, Brooks partnership work? ]

You could easily argue that the only substitute Klinsmann made on Friday that he would’ve tactically made in a game that mattered was DaMarcus Beasley for Greg Garza (both of whom looked fine). If you think he’s bringing in Julian Green, whose mark scored the match-winner, for DeAndre Yedlin with four minutes to play in a big game, then you’ve got a deathwish for Klinsmann. Perhaps he brings on more offense when the team is on the front foot, but the States were having trouble with their retreating line and had Geoff Cameron, Timmy Chandler and Matt Besler available. The Green move was for experience.

So, yeah, by the time subs came in this game was not about winning. He has a little over a week to see combinations he wants. This was one of those opportunities.

3) A strong lineup from No. 3 in the world Colombia had a home-ish crowd against the tinkered-with U.S.

source: AP
Neutral site

If your argument was that you wanted a full-strength USMNT to make a statement against Colombia, you were in a bad spot right from the jump. Tim Howard’s on sabbatical, Michael Bradley’s recuperating from injury, Clint Dempsey’s exhausted and prepping for the MLS Cup semis and Omar Gonzalez is hanging back in L.A. for a similar reason.

Colombia was without Radamel Falcao, but they were without him for the World Cup in a run that could’ve easily lasted past their loss to Brazil. Juan Zuniga was missed, for sure, and Fredy Guarin is a talent, but Colombia managed a far better side than what the States could put out there.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned ]

Frankly, the States held their own against a motivated, nearly-full-strength Colombia. They did this with starting an 18-year-old forward, subbing on four guys with zero experience and playing young Mix Diskerud in a role that took on the responsibility of both Dempsey and Bradley considering Kyle Beckerman’s relative lack of offensive flair.

So, yeah. I’m pretty calm about the whole deal. Those who like the job Klinsmann is doing will pull enough from this match to defend him. Those who think he’s ruining American soccer will talk about his poor lineup decisions and late-match collapses. Those in the middle will likely think he and his team could’ve done better but were playing the No. 3 team in the world without many first-choice players.

Lose to Ireland, though?

P.S. Nothing against Guzan, but I think Howard stops the game-winner.

Revisiting our Top 100; Who are the Top 100 knockout round players?

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I love getting yelled at, and you guys sure gave it to me over the course of ProSoccerTalk’s four-part “Top 100 players of the World Cup” series before the tournament began. How could we possibly have Bastian Schweinsteiger, a guy who ended up starting one group stage game for Germany and played 20 minutes in another, at No. 77? Just absurd!

Oh, you mean you were saying that was too low? Oh, okay.

Anyway, we wanted to take a look at who remained. And I’m a glutton for punishment, so I figured I’d fill in the back end with players who are still active in the World Cup’s knockout rounds.

[ RELATED: Top five US performers during Group G play ]

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from USA-Germany ]

[ RELATED: Convinced? Klinsmann’s personnel moves keyed US advance ]

A remarkable 45 players have been either eliminated or injured, so we’ll bump all our pre-rankings forward and add in 45 newcomers.

100. Jasper Cillessen, Netherlands

99. Fabian Johnson, United States

98. Joel Campbell, Costa Rica

97. Ogenyi Onazi, Nigeria

96. Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria

95. Dimitris Salpingidis, Greece

94. Hector Herrara, Mexico

source: AP

93. Olivier Giroud, France

92. Teofilo Gutierrez, Colombia

91. Islam Slimani, Algeria

90. Ahmed Musa, Nigeria

89. Sofiane Feghouli, Algeria

88. Sergio Romero, Argentina

87. Stefan De Vrij, Netherlands

86. Gary Medel, Chile

85. Marcelo, Brazil

84. Pablo Armero, Colombia

83. Granit Xhaka, Switzerland

82. Andres Guardado, Mexico

81. Daniel van Buyten, Belgium

80. Gonzalo Jara, Chile

79. Kevin de Bruyne, Belgium

78. Mathieu Valbuena, France

77. Matt Besler, United States

76. David Ospina, Colombia

75. Jan Vertonghen, Belgium

74. Fred, Brazil

73. Fernando Gago, Argentina

72. Chares Aranguiz, Chile

71. Eduardo Vargas, Chile

source: AP70. Dries Mertens, Belgium

69. Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria

68.  Javier Mascherano, Argentina

67. Mamadou Sakho, France

66. Yeltsin Tejeda, Costa Rica

65. Juan Cuadrado, Colombia

64. Memphis Depay, Netherlands

63. Claudio Bravo, Chile

62. Jermaine Jones, United States

61. Giorgos Karagounis, Greece

60. Yeltsin Tejeda, Costa Rica

59. Angel Di Maria, Argentina

58. Mats Hummels, Germany

57. Daley Blind, Netherlands

56. Guillermo Ochoa, Mexico

————————————-

55. Rafa Marquez, Mexico

54. Diego Benaglio, Switzerland

source: AP53. Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica

52. Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Greece

51. Madjid Bougherra, Algeria

50. Emmanuel Emenike, Nigeria

49. Clint Dempsey, United States

48. Ezekial Lavezzi, Argentina

47. Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland

46. John Obi Mikel, Nigeria

45. Fabio Coentrao, Portugal

44. Thomas Muller, Germany

43. Diego Forlan, Uruguay

42. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany

41. Diego Godin, Uruguay

40. Vasilis Torosidis, Greece

39. Jackson Martinez, Colombia

38. Stephan Lichsteiner, Switzerland

37. Blaise Matuidi, France

36. Thibault Courtois, Belgium

35. Gokhan Inler, Switzerland

source: AP34. Oribe Peralta, Mexico

33. Michael Bradley, United States

32. Mario Gotze, Germany

31. Dirk Kuyt, Netherlands

30. James Rodriguez, Colombia

29. Paul Pogba, France

28. Marco Reus, Germany

27. Gonzalo Higuain, Argentina

26. Tim Howard, United States

25. Hugo Lloris, France

24. Oscar, Brazil

23. Javier Hernandez, Mexico

22. Per Mertesacker, Germany

21. Romelu Lukaku, Belgium

20. Dani Alves, Brazil

19. Alexis Sanchez, Chile

18. Karim Benzema, France

17. David Luiz, Brazil

16. Pablo Zabaleta, Argentina

source: Getty Images15. Neymar, Brazil

14. Radamel Falcao, Colombia

13. Toni Kroos, Germany

12. Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands

11. Mesut Ozil, Germany

10. Arturo Vidal, Chile

9. Thiago Silva, Brazil

8. Manuel Neuer, Germany

7. Edinson Cavani, Uruguay

6. Philipp Lahm, Germany

5. Vincent Kompany, Belgium

4. Arjen Robben, Netherlands

3. Eden Hazard, Belgium

2. Robin van Persie, Netherlands

1. Lionel Messi, Argentina

 

Colombia has little trouble seeing Greece off, 3-0

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It wasn’t as thrilling as Netherlands’ 5-1 victory over Spain, and it wasn’t quite as pretty as Chile beating Australia 3-1, but watching Colombia beat Greece 3-0 on Saturday was still quite fun. Colombia’s back line will likely not be able to stop the top teams at the World Cup, but their offense certainly had no trouble slicing through Greece’s vaunted defense.

In the pre-match press conference, Fernando Santos insisted that defending was not the most important element of the Greece national team. Good thing, too, because after just five minutes, Colombia had taken the lead.

Juan Cuadrado, showing all the pace that prompted Fiorentina fans to dub the winger “Vespa”, zipped up the right to latch on to a through-ball. Cuadrao then sent a low cross into the area, looking, it seemed, for James Rodríguez. But the midfielder pulled off the perfect dummy, confusing the Greek defenders and, possibly his own teammate Pablo Armero. Armero got a touch to the ball, but had little power behind it. No matter – it deflected off Kostas Manolas and began rolling toward the back of the net. Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis could only watch in horror as the ball crossed the line.

Greece had no choice but to get forward in defiance of all stereotypes thrown at them since 2004. To almost everyone’s surprise, they very nearly equalized immediately – possibly because Colombia were still pondering the choreography of the full-squad dance party they’d hosted after the goal. But Georgios Samaras sent his shot wide, and Colombia escaped.

As Colombia slowed down, taking for granted that they had control of the match, Greece pushed harder and harder. But despite being able to slip easily enough behind the cafeteros defense, Greece just couldn’t put their shots on target. The best shot of the half came just before the whistle, when Panagiotis Kone pounced on a loose ball to put in a sharp shot. David Ospina pushed it aside, however, and Colombia went into the second half up 1-0.

After the restart, the Pirate Ship continued its leisurely path toward goal, but were soon undone once more by Colombia. In the 58th minute, James whipped in a corner, and Abel Aguilar got a touch. Teófilo Gutiérrez, totally unmarked, got a toe on it, chipping the ball over Karnezis to put Colombia up 2-0.

Greece had a terrific chance to equalize five minutes later, with Colombia’s defense completely caught out. Giannis Fetfatzidis, whose fresh legs replaced the aging limbs of Dimitris Salpingidis shortly before Colombia’s second goal, was free at the far post. He headed on to Theofanis Gekas who, despite being less than twenty feet out, smacked his header against the crossbar.

Gekas reward was to be replaced moments later by Kostas Mitroglou.

The changes mattered little for Greece, however. Instead, Colombia put in an insurance goal just before the final whistle – and a lovely one at that. James slipped easily through two Greek defenders to get on the end of a backheeled pass. Karnezis got a hand to it, but could only help it along into the back of the net.

Should Ivory Coast and Japan make even greater fools of Greece, that extra goal could come in handy for determining Group C’s rankings come the end of this round.

[ MORE: Soccerly covers the World Cup ]

LINEUPS

Columbia: Ospina; Zuniga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero (Arias 73); Sanchez, Aguilar; Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Ibarbo; Gutierrez (Martinez 75)

Goals: Armero 5′; Gutierrez 58′; Rodriguez 90′

Greece: Kamezis; Manolas, Torosidis, Papastathopolous, Holebas; Maniatis, Kone (Karagounis 78), Katsouranis; Salpingidis (Fetfatzidis 57), Gekas (Mitroglou 63), Samaras

Will a South American team win the World Cup?

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Will a South American team win the 2014 World Cup? The short answer: yes.

The long answer? Yes.

Ok, it’s not a certainty that a team from South America will wind up hoisting the trophy. There are no certainties when it comes to international soccer, except for the fact that when Brazil is involved, commentators will inevitably mention “samba.” But the continent has hosted the World Cup four times, with a South American country winning each time. South American nations have also won all three tournaments played in North America.

Of course, it can also be argued that this sort of split is sure to disappear with time. In the past, players weren’t used to such extensive travel. It was difficult to adjust to foreign conditions, foreign foods, foreign temperatures. But now that the vast majority of the world’s best players are hopping planes every couple weeks, and many associations have the means to begin preparations early in custom-built training camps, the home-continent advantage might soon be a thing of the past.

Still, the chances of this Cup going to a South American team are still rather high. Of FIFA’s top ten teams, four of them are from the continent. The rankings system may be a bit flawed, but the talent is still evident.

Ecuador
La Tri may have beaten Uruguay to the final automatic qualification spot, but they’re still the weakest side on the continent. Oh, and in Switzerland and France, they’ve got two very tough sides to beat should they want to make it out of Group E (they can probably make it past Honduras, however). Their strength lies in their wingers – Jefferson Montero and Antonio Valencia – but wide play alone isn’t going to cause Ecuador to make a deep run.

Uruguay
Wait, are Uruguay really the fifth-worst side in South America? Perhaps not. But they head to this tournament with fifteen of the same players that went to South Africa, and their age is starting to show. If Luis Suárez isn’t fully fit, it’s difficult to see the 35-year-old Diego Forlán shouldering much of the scoring burden. They’ve still got Edinson Cavani, but the forward had a rather poor season at PSG. Basically, they’re relying on dramatic goals from Suárez to gloss over a lack of shininess elsewhere.

Chile
Attacking, free-flowing, fun-loving soccer. This Chile side also features two world-class players, in Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and Barcelona forward Alexis Sánchez.  This side has its own weaknesses in defense, but it’s certainly capable of pipping Netherlands to second place in Group B. In fact, their style could even catch the heavily-favored Spain off guard. They’re not one of the most talked-about teams on the continent, but they should be.

Colombia
Colombia’s odds of lifting the World Cup diminished significantly with the news that Radamel Falcao wouldn’t be making the trip to Brazil. But to count out los cafeteros would be foolish. They’ve still got an incredibly talented creator in Monaco’s James Rodríguez, and Teófilo Gutiérrez, of River Plate, is rather good at scoring. Colombia should still be tipped to make it out of the group, and could very well find themselves in the quarter-finals.

Argentina
Argentina have a shaky defense and a goalkeeper that made all of three appearances for Monaco this season. Why are they being named as one of the sides most likely to win the tournament? Here are four reasons: Ángel di María, Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín and Lionel Messi. Coach Alejandro Sabella has Messi playing the best he ever has for the albiceleste, putting to rest the worry that Messi would never be good for his country. And when the Barcelona man combines with the rest of that attack…well, who needs a defense?

Brazil
Don’t underestimate home-field advantage. The host team has won the tournament six times: Uruguay ’30, Italy ’34, England ’66, West Germany ’74, Argentina ’78, France ’98. And Brazil have lifted the Cup five times: ’58, ’62, ’70, ’94, ’02. Put those two together and you have an easy equation for predicting that Brazil will win in 2014. Plus, the Seleção have an incredibly talented squad, one that’s ready to attack without mercy. If Neymar’s at his best, it’s likely Brazil will be unstoppable.

Then again, the last time the World Cup came to town, in 1950, Brazil needed only a draw to emerge as World Champions. They ended up losing to Uruguay.

Reports: Falcao out for the summer’s World Cup; Casts doubt on Traore loan to Everton

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The Telegraph is among the outlets reporting that Colombia’s fears are true: the doubtful status of Radamel Falcao for the 2014 World Cup has been downgraded. He’s out for the tournament in Brazil.

Falcao injured his knee in a Cup match against a fourth-tier side and his absence from the tournament will be not just a major blow for Colombia, but a disappointment for soccer lovers in general.

The 27-year-old striker has starred across several countries and continents — Monaco, Atletico Madrid, Porto, River Plate — also notching 20 goals in 51 caps for Colombia. He was particularly dangerous for the Mattress Makers, where he scored 70 times in 91 appearances. Falcao has scored 10 times through 16 matches during his first season in France.

The injury also casts a pall on Everton’s hopes of securing Lacina Traore now that Monaco’s forward depth is in question. Once assumed to be headed on loan to West Ham, the 6-foot-8 Traore has been reported as close to a loan with the Toffees instead.

As for Colombia, could this open a spot for Fredy Montero? River Plate’s Teofilo Gutierrez and Porto’s Jackson Martinez will likely feature in their strike force, but could Montero nose his way alongside Carlos Bacca and Luis Muriel.