Monday, January 25, 2010

CD9 on the Mend

For US fans, this update on Charlie Davies's miraculous on-going recovery from the injuries he sustained from that deadly car accident back in October is a must read.

I'm still not willing to consider him for a World Cup spot until I see him on the field because I know how much remains before he can get back on the field and how so many players suffer injury setbacks when trying to come back too soon. Yet when you read this report, it's pretty convincing that he'll be on the field for Sochaux in France with time to spare.

This is both amazingly encouraging and just a really good personal story.

Apparently all his broken bones and torn PCL are healed and he's been jogging. His accelerated timetable is remarkable, especially when you consider the mental struggle he's been through in light of the accident. Imagine living with the self-doubt after making such a poor decision that easily could have ended your life.

Of course, he's had plenty of physical struggles. I would like to highlight this line from the report in particular -- "a shorter haircut reveals the scar he has from ear to ear arcing over the top of his skull. That scar came after doctors peeled his face off down to his chin in order to repair the multiple fractures that left his facial bones a shattered mess." (My emphasis added -- good god!)

In light of Clint Dempsey's injury and the abysmal showing by the US reserves this weekend against Honduras, it's pretty clear that a miracle recovery is desperately needed. But I for one wouldn't have believed it could be answered.

(Update: here's more from the Davies interview that's not included in the ESPN article.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Scattershot View of the USA

If you've been following the news recently there's been a number of items of interest to USA fans. Unfortunately, some of that news portends badly for the US's World Cup hopes.

Starting with the latest injury news, midfield/striker Clint Dempsey suffered a possible PCL injury this weekend for Fulham. A serious knee ligament injury at this point of the year could throw his World Cup in doubt, and even if he returns, you couldn't expect Dempsey to be back to match fitness and sharpness.

This just piles on top of the injuries to Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu. Furthermore, potential USA man Jermaine Jones continues to suffer through setback after setback with his shin injury, as well as a possible rift with his coach at Schalke.

Further injuries have hit DaMarcus Beasley (shocking development that is).

Additionally, Jozy Altidore isn't playing much for Hull City, and he's certainly not scoring. It's unlikely Hull will pick up his loan as a permanent deal at the end of the season, while his continued lack of playing time and form will be problematic for US hopes of scoring goals.

Other players have found it difficult to find spots on the field. Carlos Bocanegra should be switching from Rennes to St. Etienne because he's been displaced at left back. Freddy Adu has moved again, not that his whereabouts should even matter at this point.

Lastly, Stuart Holden has been searching for a deal in Europe, which should be a no brainer for someone. A young, quick, versatile attacking midfielder with a UK passport. No problems right? Wrong. Aberdeen is no longer an option apparently, he had a trial with Bolton, only to pick up a slight knock and Bolton has failed to produce a contract offer. Seriously?? Bolton is only the second worst team in the EPL, and Owen Coyle thinks he has better options? Maybe this is a good thing for Holden, as unconfirmed reports have Sporting Braga in Portugal showing interest in the Scottish-born Holden. Still, another key US player stuck in limbo.

So, where is the good news you ask?

Well, before getting injured, Beasley was finally getting playing time. Despite reaching Bobby Convey-like levels purgatory with his form over the summer, Beasley is never far from the national team discussion. Even with a small semblence of form, he'll likely be on the plane to South Africa. And let's face it, he's pretty much still the best option as a true left winger (meaning anyone not named Landon Donovan). Robbie Rogers is nice, a very good CONCACAF player who could provide speed at the end of games against tired legs, but I'd rather have a healthy Beasley.

The other real positive development is Beasley's Rangers teammate Maurice Edu recovering from injury and playing again. He never fully entrenched himself on the full national team before getting injured because he was just making a name for himself at Rangers after his move from MLS, but his health and form could be a HUGE boon for the US at South Africa. Assuming Jones never dons the stars and stripes (and that's all I'm willing to assume at this point), Edu is the best option for the US in the center of the midfield. He's probably better than Michael Bradley, and I'd much rather have them paired together than Rico Clark with Bradley. Edu is a less reckless tackler, great athleticism/strength and much more skill than Clark.

Finally, Donovan has embarked on another European adventure, and this one already seems like it could end better than other trips. He's started and played twice for Everton, getting an assist in his first game, generally showing a lot of pace and posing a real threat to opposing defenses, while getting great reviews from across the Atlantic. Let's just hope they can figure out the technology to wrap Donovan in bubble wrap and still allow him the mobility to run at pace and succeed. With all the injuries going down recently, his health is the number 1a factor for success for the US, next to Tim Howard's 1b.

There has been other movement of US players and the possible early return to health of Oguchi, who I fully expect to be fine by the World Cup, if not at peak form. Despite the reports of Davies' accelerated rehab, I'm not expecting to see him at the World Cup, but if he does make it back in time, it will be a small miracle and wonderful bonus.

There's probably more to cover, and things will certainly change, not just in the months to come but even the days and hours ahead (Dempsey's knee scan still pending...). Unfortunately this will make the upcoming friendlies against Honduras (they owe us), El Salvador, and the Netherlands something less than a true peak at what the US will look like in Rustenburg in June. Maybe it makes those games all the more important. Maybe the next Beasley, Donovan, or Mastroeni will make a name for himself and make the World Cup roster after not being a big part of qualifying. Lord knows Bob Bradley needs the bodies.

Monday, January 11, 2010

World Cup in 3D

Earlier this month it was announced by ESPN that they were beginning a new venture -- 3D programming.

The the 3D channel will broadcast live events (85 for the first year), while remaining dark during all other times (no re-runs). Of note, up to 25 matches of the World Cup -- including the opening match, South Africa v. Mexico -- will be shown in 3D.

Of course 3D is currently all the rage, what with Avatar re-writing all the rules of cinema and a box office profits. As anyone who has seen the movie knows, Avatar signals a significant step forward in 3D viewing experience (and seeing Avatar in IMAX 3D is nothing short of an awesome experience).

Usually 3D is thought of as the chance for dinosaurs to pop out at you at the Smithsonian or having a spear or gun shot at you. It's a neat trick, with some better overall than others. In the past, such an application to a live sporting event would have been dubious -- watch out, Ronaldo is about to shoot the ball and it might hit you!

But now, I think such an experience will be entirely different. And I won't be missing out.

Certainly it won't meet Avatar standards (ESPN won't have four years to produce the live broadcast, and a 42' Sony is no IMAX), but I'm now intrigued by the possibility of bringing that true 'wow' experience of seeing a match up close, as if you were on the field itself, to home. The technology now seems capable of really immersing the viewer into the experience, into being where the action is, without the gimmicks constantly reminding you that you're watching 3D. Will it be crisp and clear when Messi goes from 0-60 in half a second or will the ball track well flying off Donovan's boot and past Calamity James or whoever sucks least for England in goal?

We're going to see. Or better yet, we're going to experience.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Roses Rivalry Upset

One of the more famous football rivalries was renewed today for the first time in nearly six years, with a major upset in the FA Cup. The Roses rivalry between Leeds United and Manchester United has long been contentious, and quite often was a battle among the top sides in England. Leeds famously overhauled Man U in the final season before the Premier League was created and Man U became the dominant force of the next two decades.

The bad blood and hooliganism between the pair is very well known, as are some famous transfers from one to the other (Eric Cantona, Rio Ferdinand to Man U, Gordon Strachan to Leeds). Just as well known is Leeds amazing fall from grace -- relegation, financial collapse and administration, and then further relegation to the third tier.

Well Leeds finally looks on the rise, leading League One by 8 points and looking a good bet to be promoted to the Championship, one step closer to the Premiership. In the meantime, battles like today's against Man U will remain rare, but they can still be special. With the visiting Leeds fans helping to make the Old Trafford atmosphere a lively one for an FA up third round tie, Leeds came away with a famous 1-0 victory.

Sir Alex will be concerned with the continued uneven performances of his squad, but for a day it's good to see an important, historic club regaining its foothold, with a complete re-emergence hopefully coming soon. There's really no way to equate the Leeds story line to anything in US sports without relegation, and in some way that's a great benefit of US sports. Some teams have come and gone, moved and been re-born (sticking with just recent history, the Zombie Sonics, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals) but it's not likely that a franchise with the equivalent proud history of Leeds would suffer such indignation (MLS is excluded from this, anything goes with MLS franchises, sad as that is. And no matter how much the NHL or NBA is struggling, the marquee teams aren't disappearing.)

On the flip side, it's also impossible to have a similar story of re-birth, nor is the sporting system set up to allow a low level professional team the opportunity to even play, let alone upset, the sport's reigning giants. Just another reason why it's the world's greatest game.