Top 10 US soccer players

Saw a good post over the weekend about the top 10 US players. It was on this blog. I’ve reposted them below

10. Frank Simek, Sheffield Wednesday — Surprise right off the bat, right? Despite a mug that would place him front and center as a villain in an 80s high school movie, the former Arsenal trainee has been a model pro for the Owls. He’s coming off years of 45 and 44 appearances in the rough-and-tumble England League Championship, which says a lot.

9. Carlos Bocanegra, Fulham —
A first choice start at Craven Cottage and now wearing the captain’s armband. Can craftily get forward and contribute to the attack on set plays, yet far too often exposed defensively. Still, come a long way since moving to England in 2004 and has now racked up over 100 appearances.

8. Taylor Twellman, NE Revolution —
Take away his miserable showing in the US shirt, the “face” from New England is as steady a goalscorer as you’ll find in MLS. Factor in that the Revs are continually among the top teams in the league and his 92 goals in 169 appearances and it’s impossible to deny him. (Perhaps he can even help the Revs win their first trophy — ever — in tonight’s US Open Cup final.)

7. Michael Bradley, SC Heerenveen — From fringe, glorified practice player with the MetroStars to starter in the Dutch Eredivisie all inside of four seasons. Not bad for a guy that just turned 20.

6. Landon Donovan, LA Galaxy —
Obviously a lightning rod for any American soccer fan, yet it’s hard to dispute that he’s been the best player in MLS this century. Probably should dock ‘professionalism points’ for quitting Bayer Leverkausen, but that’s frankly become a moot point in my book. It was around three years ago, everyone should be able to move on by now.

5. Steve Cherundolo, Hannover 96 —
In a lot of ways, the anti-Donovan. He went to Germany in 1999 and instead of sulking, pining for the beach and locking himself in his room to play video games. Instead ‘Dolo took it upon himself to integrate into Der Motherland and learn the culture and language. (Granted he was 20 and had spend two years in college, while Donovan was 17.) 225 Bundesliga appearances and counting, plus the vice-captaincy and Cherundolo is in a lot of ways the model American ex-pat soccer pro.

4. Clint Dempsey, Fulham — Small body of work, but the Deuce has already made quite and impact at Craven Cottage. His goal last year v. Liverpool likely kept Fulham in the top division and so far this year he had a streak of three straight games with a goal. The biggest knock on the man from Nogadoches, Texas is he can absolutely drift and disappear from games. If I did this list in Sept. 2008, he’s the odds-on favorite for the No. 1 slot.

3. Brad Friedel, Blackburn Rovers — Without question the best American export of all time. Despite just 25 sporadic games, he’s the only first American to play for one Europe’s ‘glamor’ clubs in Liverpool (1997-2000). Since his move to Blackburn he’s probably been aside from perhaps Steven Gerrard and maybe Paul Scholes, the most important player to his club. Friedel has started nearly every game for the club and his command of the area got them through some dodgy times. It’s just a shame he retired from International play after the 2002 World Cup. It’s also a shame he speaks with a fake English accent. Then again, no one is perfect.

2. DaMarcus Beasley, Glasgow Rangers — Let’s throw out the lost season at Manchester City. Beasley, first at PSV and now at Rangers, is the best American in the UEFA Champions League — by a mile. He’s already scored six goals in the competition, which just might be six more than the rest of our country combined. He’s also the only American to reach the competition’s semifinals. When his head’s screwed on straight, the Beaz is probably the most technically sound Yank around. Again, the only knock is he moved to Rangers, but they are a moderately large club and are continually in the Champions League. (Commentor Fan’s Attic points out Jovan Kirovski scored for Borussia Dortmund in the mid 90s in the Champions League, though it’s unclear if he played enough games to garner a winner’s medal.)

1. Tim Howard, Everton — Voted by the PFA into the 2004 Best XI of the Premier League as a keeper, probably the highest non-MLS award ever for an American player. He won an FA Cup that season, too. Of course, this list isn’t about the past. What pushed Howard to the top of the list was how he transformed Everton from a middle of the pack team to a solid Top Four contender when he moved to Merseyside ahead of the 2006/07 season. Yes, he’s prone to the occasional blunder but still has the chance to be the most decorated American player over the next decade, as he’s only 28. Earlier this season Everton locked him up until the 2012/13 season. Can’t see any other American getting that kind of level of commitment.

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Seems like a pretty good list to me. Anyone else disagree?

David Beckham Comes to US League for 5 Years

I just read on ESPN (here) that David Beckham who plays for England’s National Team and Real Madrid has signed a 5 year contrack with the MLS for roughly $250 million. This is by far the biggest signing and the best player to ever hit the US league.

Why would he do it? Well for starters, he’s not nearly as good as he used to be. He was never the best dribbler or dominant in the midfield but he has always been an amazing crosser and was deadly on set pieces (free kicks). Now that’s gotten older (he’s 31), he’s become more of a liability on the wing as he’s not as fast as younger players. While this is a problem when you play on one of the best clubs in the world, it’s not that big of a deal in the MLS where he’ll definitely be able to hold his own.

Second, the US is the land of marketing, sponsorships and celebrity. Even more than a soccer player, David Beckham is a celebrity. He’s married to a pop star (Posh Spice) and frequently models. England’s national team coach has often said that his off-field activities get in the way of his game. In England, they’re not used to this behavior, but in the US it is almost encouraged. The US is a gold-mine for people like Beckham and Posh. I’m sure when he looked closely at his “career” he saw that he’s better off maximizing his celebrity at this point than trying to extend his soccer dreams.

I expect him and Posh to be regular fixtures in the entertainment gossip world and it’s only a matter of time before we start to see him popping up in crappy B-movies. But, being in crappy movies at age 35 is probably a lot better than what lots of other former soccer players are doing. And, it’s something that you can do for the rest of your career. I just hope the US is ready for the faux-hawks.

Top Phrases of 2006

Here are the top phrases – some ironic, some funny, and some just great in the way that your grandfather is great. Not because he’s cool, just because he is.

  1. A tie with “Double-True” and “I’m dropping Hamiltons like my name is Aaron Burr” from the best video of 2006, SNL’s Lazy Sunday. Which just goes to show that the internet is where it’s at. Remember these guys began on the internet doing funny stuff on thelonelyIsland.com, then got hired by SNL and made a kickass video which showed on TV where nobody watched it and then it only became famous when it want BACK on the internet. They came full-circle.
  2. It was very hot, I think that was the only explanation for the water. Or maybe it was because the beer I had last night.” -Floyd Landis in Cycling News which reminds me of another great quote: “Son, when you participate in sporting events, it’s not whether you win or lose: It’s how drunk you get.” – Homer Simpson
  3. Keep in mind Brian McBride is playing with titanium plates in his face.” John Harkes discussing McBride’s condition while the states were playing World Cup champion Italy.  McBride broke his face in the first game when the US lost a shocker to Poland and then with a lot of grit and heart they tied the eventual champs 1-1.
  4. Join Bode” from a huge marketing campaign from Nike for the 2006 Olympics. It fell flat on its face when Bode fell flat on his ass and didn’t win any metals.
  5. I think it’s better to buy real estate than say, a yellow and purple Corvette or an elephant that can speak sign language. My parents help me out a lot with that stuff. They don’t want to see me when I’m 30, dead broke, selling bootleg tapes of my snowboard movies on the side of the freeway.” — Olympic gold medalist Shaun White on how he spends his endorsement money. Unlike Bode, he won a few. My take on Snowboarding in the Olympics is here although this is helping me possibly change my mind.
  6. I enjoy Cocaine because it’s a fun thing to do.” – Representative Robert Wexler. Said on the Colbert Report in mid-July by the Boca Raton representative, who was running unopposed for reelection. He played along with Colbert’s “Say Anything, You Can’t Lose” game and jokingly expressed his fondness for cocaine, and it was genuinely hilarious. Colbert then came under attack from the morning shows and responds in typical Colbert fashion
    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbhLKgzep1w]
  7. I’m sick and tired of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane” said by Samuel L in Snakes on a Plane one of the most anticipated and ironic movies to come out in a long, long time.
  8. Little 8 lb 6 oz baby jesus, i’d like to thank you for….” – Ricky Bobby saying grace before dinner.
  9. I had one margarita (and) was starving because I had not eaten all day. Maybe I was speeding a little bit and I got pulled over. I was just really hungry and I wanted to have an In-N-Out Burger.” – Paris Hilton, establishing herself as a professional name-dropper.

Dartmouth Soccer Scores in Zimbabwe

Grass Roots SoccerI played with Methembe my freshman year at Dartmouth and beyond being one of the nicest guys ever, he was a truly amazing soccer player. Called as “the Mayor” on the field ever since his youth when he tore up the Zimbabwe youth league, he also become known as “Captain Hook” to Chris Pedrick and others who liked to watch. I never forget when Methembe rolled into preseason my freshman year and was marking me on defense. He pretty much dominated my every move and walking off the field one of the players mentioned to me that Methembe was a few days late to preseason because he was playing the World Cup qualifiers against Nigeria and i should be too upset that he crushed me on the field b/c just a few days later he was marking Amochaci and Kanu. Yeah, that’s quite a switch – world cup qualifier to Ivy League preseason. Anyway, i bring all this up b/c i wanted to post the latest of Methembe’s accomplishments in Zimbabwe and with Grass Roots Soccer which is a great program:

Former Dartmouth Soccer Star Scores Again

Methembe Ndlovu is arguably the best soccer player ever to pull on the Dartmouth green. He left Dartmouth to return to his homeland, Zimbabwe, where he earned the nations highest honor, captaining the national team. He made a brave decision to return to Zimbabwe last year to lead Grassroot Soccer’s HIV prevention efforts there. According to the WHO, Zimbabwe’s has the lowest life expectancy in the world and has dropped from 69 in 2000 to 35 in 2006. Everyone who can leave has left. Methembe returned.

zimbabwe1.jpg

Under his leadership the Grassroot Soccer Zimbabwe program has flourished, in large part due to a partnership with Highlanders, one the nations most popular teams. In return for Methembe’s coaching services, GRS has access to all the players (pro’s and Highlanders youth), the Highlanders games for graduation ceremonies (see attached photos) and their facilities for conducting the HIV education program. The partnership has paid off for Highlanders now too as 2 days ago Methembe became the youngest coach ever to win a Zimbabwe national title.

The Dartmouth-Highlanders/Zimbabwe connection is a strong one. Dartmouth graduates Andrew Shue, Jesse Bradley, Tommy Clark (CEO of grassroots soccer), Geoff Wheeler, Brian Wiese, Chris Mitchell and former coach Bobby Clark have been involved with the club.

Feel free to drop Methembe a note at: mndlovu at grassrootsoccer.org (note, very slow internet service in Zimbabwe so don’t expect a quick note back) or check out www.grassrootsoccer.org to find out more about this project.

Amazing Story of American Playing in England's Premiership

t1_demerit2.jpgThis is a great and inspiring story of an American who saved his cash and went to England to try to play soccer. After a few years of earning next to nothing, he’s now, through an amazing series of events, playing for Watford in the Premier League. Here’s the story in Sports Illustrated magazine:

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LONDON CALLING

They said Jay DeMerit, a kid from Green Bay, didn‘t have what it takes to play professional soccer in America. So he went to England. England? Yes, and he’s now a bloomin’ favorite

Three years ago, in Jay DeMerit’s previous life, Sir Elton John didn’t ask to shake his hand. Three years ago, before he scored one of the most lucrative goals in soccer history, yellow-clad Englishmen didn’t chant his name, didn’t wear his jersey, didn’t burst into tears of joy over his flying header into a rippling net. Three years ago Jay DeMerit, late of Green Bay, was a soccer vagabond in a foreign land, an MLS reject plying the fields of London’s city parks, a Sunday pub leaguer sharing a friend’s attic bedroom in a dodgy part of town and subsisting on $70 a week and a steady diet of beans on toast.

Now, of all places, he’s here: on the emerald grass of sold-out Vicarage Road, the cozy stadium of the English Premier League’s Watford FC, a small-market outfit like DeMerit’s beloved Green Bay Packers. It’s an early-autumn afternoon 15 miles north of London, and this time DeMerit’s foes aren’t a bunch of hungover blokes from the pub but rather the superstars of Manchester United, the world’s most famous team. The sight of the Red Devils should intimidate the Hornets defender (Welcome to the Premiership, Yank), but not today. Not after his journey from the sport’s lowest levels to a league with a global audience of 600 million.

Continue reading “Amazing Story of American Playing in England's Premiership”

Ideal US Soccer Team – With Non-Soccer Players

I’m a big supporter of US soccer. We’ve got consistently better over the past 20 years and are only going to continue to improve.

However, the US just got crushed by the rest of the world (Ghana and Czech) at the World Cup. It was sad. The other teams looked faster, better, and more experienced. Because of this, i began to think about what would happen if the best athletes in the United States actually played soccer instead of more popular (and lucrative) sports such as basketball, football, or baseball and what our team would actually look like.

I came to the conclusion that our team would be a standard 4-4-2 formation and would consist of mostly football and basketball players. I thought about non-team sport athletes and while i respect them, i couldn’t really find a spot for them on the roster. Here’s what we’ve got (click here for a larger image):

Up Front

Randy Moss (Oakland Raiders) and Richard Hamilton (Detroit Pistons). Moss would be a big target who could knock down long balls and lay it back to our incredibly quick midfield. He also would be just deadly in the air – dominating crosses. Just send it up high and let him bring it down with his chest or head. It would be great. Next to him is Richard Hamilton. Rip would also be big, but he’d rely on his great workrate to find the ball and create scoring chances. His non-stop unselfish runs to the corner and front-post would allow Moss to hang in the middle, and his back-tracking is a bonus. In addition to Rip being a workhorse, i also think he’d be a clinical finisher. Unlike Moss, he’d have a great shot from almost any distance yet be be quick enough to capitalize on mistakes in the box.

In the Middle

Our midfield is amazing. Down the flanks you have Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76’ers) on the right and Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers) on the left. Both can run all day, and both can take people on. I can envision both absolutely abusing other defenses with their pure speed and quickness. In the middle of the field, you have Dwayne Wade (Miami Heat) and LaDanian Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers). Both have the work rate and quickness to defend any other opposing midfielders, yet the aggressiveness to tackle and attack with pace and creativity. Wade would probably go forward more, while Tomlinson tracks the ball.

In the Back

On the outsides Champ Bailey (6’0” Denver Broncos) and Sean Taylor (6’2” Washington Redskins). Champ, playing on the left is a 6-time Pro-Bowler who can cover just about anybody. Nobody would get by him. On the right is Taylor who is a combination of strength, speed, and agility that made him the best safety in the league last year. No only would he shut down opposing forwards, but he’d get forward often to support Iverson.

In the middle you have Troy Palomalu (Pittsburgh Steelers) at center back in front of Vince Young. Palomalu, as we all know, is just a beast of a defender. Could you imagine anyone taking a lot of touches in the middle of the field? Imagine him and all his hair flying at you. Vince would play behind Troy and he has the height, speed, jumping ability and athleticism to dominate any opposing forward in the air and would be a wall of a man to get around on the ground. Also, as a quarterback, his distribution around the field would be great. He could launch a ball up to a posting-up Moss who could lay it to Rip or AI or Wade for a shot on goal. Ah, it’s a beautiful thing.

Keeper

At keeper, i’d like to see Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons). His height, quickness, freakish long-arms, and large vertical (did i mention long arms) would allow him to take down any cross and be a great shot-blocker.

There’s the team. I think we would absolutely dominate the world with this squad and with new players coming in each year (Reggie Bush), we would be a hell of an exciting team to watch.