Wednesday, April 28, 2010

USA, World Cup Readings

Before getting to the Champions League Final pairing of Bayern Munich and Inter Milan at another date, here are some links and discussion of some reading on the US team and the World Cup to be found on ESPN Soccernet and elsewhere.

They’ve been running a series of features, one series called “World Cup 101 – 101 features in 101 days.”

ESPN’s been using a lot of statistical analysis in its pieces, such as today’s piece on the percentage likelihood of each team’s advancement from the USA-England group.

Maybe what surprised me the most from the article was finding out that according to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index (SPI), the US has the 9th rated attack, whereas only the 34th rated defense. I’m pretty sure it would take you all of 1.2 seconds to name 10 teams with better attacks than the US. I don't even need to list them.

The weaker defense however actually shouldn’t be too surprising. Aside from goalie, the left back spot is always shaky, while injuries and inconsistency among the center back pairings haven’t helped either.

Still, some of the statistical analyses can be interesting, such as an examination of how the goals per game in the European leagues the year of a World Cup predict an increase or decrease in goals per game during the World Cup from previous years. (This year… look for more goal scoring than in past low years, but nothing close to historical highs. Old school defending just not exactly high quality.) Other articles range from highlighting players that could see a post-World Cup boost in transfer value, and why the cooler weather could lead to a more exciting Cup.

Another interesting series of reads has been a best XI of position players. Always fodder to argue who the top 11 attacking or defensive midfielders have been.

Lastly, as time is running out for players to make their way onto the World Cup, there are a few questionable spots left on the potential US roster and there have been a variety of articles from experts on those who are in or out. Unfortunately there aren’t many forwards worthy of being in.

If there was something close to a consensus on the roster, it would look like this:

Goalkeeper (3): Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Guzan
Defense (8): Jonathan Spector, Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Bornstein , Heath Pearce
Midfield (9): Clint Dempsey, Stuart Holden, Michael Bradley, Ricardo Clark, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber Landon Donovan, Jose Torres, Alejandro Bedoya
Forwards (3): Jozy Altidore and two of Brian Ching, Herculez Gomes, Charlie Davies or Edson Buddle

As you can see, picking Bedoya as the midfield wild card over DaMarcus Beasley is the only non-forward tough choice, and even then that spot is available only because Robbie Rogers hasn’t improved and there’s room for an extra midfielder because Dempsey and Donovan can play up top. I won’t presume between picking the forwards because there’s still a lot to be seen in terms of Ching’s and Davies’ injury recoveries.

Also, I’d like to remind everyone clamoring for Gomez, who was joint top scoring in the Mexican first division, that he was the top scorer in the Mexican first division, not exactly the Serie A of tactical defenses. Nonetheless I’d still take him because he’s on form and confident, something in short supply in the US camp. Here’s where I start praying that Davies can return to a semblance of his former self…

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