RealSaltLake.com is excited to introduce its new World Cup blog contributor, Andy Larsen. Andy will be travelling to Brazil with the American Outlaws, the official supporters group of the United States Men’s National Team, and chronicling his adventures for our Dispatch from Brazil series. All of Andy’s Dispatch from Brazil pieces will be posted on RealSaltLake.com’s The Sovereign and World Cup page.
We look forward to having Andy provide a glimpse into one of the greatest sporting events in the world!
First a little about Andy:
After years with a love for soccer as an RSL season ticket holder, Andy Larsen signed up with the American Outlaws to follow the USMNT around Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. As a writer, Andy is best known for his basketball work as the managing editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN Truehoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. In addition to being the only credentialed Utah Jazz blog, Andy and his team of writers at Salt City Hoops also host a podcast and are featured guests each week on ESPN700.
Before Andy jets off to Brazil this week, he tackled U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s controversial decision to exclude American stalwart Landon Donovan. Check out his first contribution below.
Will Landon Donovan’s absence from the World Cup haunt the U.S. in Brazil?
Last weekend, I attended one of Salt Lake’s fine Brazilian barbecue restaurants (or churrascarias). Naturally, having stacks of fine meat brought to me was delicious, and the experience was a treat.
Then, an irony hit me: in just 2 days, I’ll be visiting actual churrascarias, you know, in Brazil. Meanwhile, Landon Donovan won’t be, left off the 23-man roster to Brazil barring injury. How did this happen?
Let’s look at Donovan’s credentials: He’s MLS’s all-time leading goal-scorer (and impressively, primarily from a midfield position) in both regular season and playoffs. He ranks second in assists. He’s been on MLS’ Best XI 6 times, and he’s captured MVP, Golden Boot, Silver Boot, and Goal of the Year; essentially winning nearly every award there is to win. Importantly, he’s got the team hardware, too: In America’s domestic league, he’s won MLS Cup five times, Supporters’ Shield twice (runner up three times), and the US Open Cup.
Oh, imaginary contrarian, so his MLS resume isn’t enough? Let’s look at what he’s done for the USMNT: he’s the US’s all-time leading goalscorer and assistman, coming in second in appearances. He’s won Gold Cup four times, led the Confederations Cup run in 2009, was the 2002’s World Cup Young Player of the Tournament, and probably single-handedly saved the US from a group-stage exit in 2010 with his goals against Slovenia and Algeria.
In short, as Andres Cantor said after the most famous goal in US soccer history, “Landon Donovan es el major jugador en la historia de los Estados Unidos”.
And lest you think he’s over the hill, his 2013 performance proved otherwise: he was CONCACAF’s MVP for the USMNT’s Gold Cup win, scoring 8 goals in 11 appearances in 2013. That’s the very best yearly strike rate of his career (well, save for his 1-for-1 performance in 2000). And days after being snubbed from Klinsmann’s final roster three weeks ago, Donovan went on to break the MLS all-time goal record, scoring twice against the Philadelphia Union to give him 136 goals. Donovan added another one a week later, scoring against Chicago Fire.
Manager Jurgen Klinsmann has his own impressive resume, and the USMNT’s 12-game winning streak through 2012-2013 reveals that his tactical style works just as well in America as it did in Germany. But two weeks ago, Klinsmann decided that his vision for the club didn’t include Donovan; reports have suggested that the two haven’t seen eye-to-eye since Donovan’s call to Bayern Munich in 2009.
As a result, what could have been a synergistic relationship between two great international legends working together for US soccer glory has instead transformed into a referendum on Klinsmann’s managerial talents. Now that he’s made himself the unquestioned lead story, Klinsmann fairly will receive the blame should the US struggle in 2014 without Donovan.
Obviously, despite the decision, the World Cup goes on. The USMNT heads to Brazil for its most challenging test ever, and wherever the USMNT goes, so do the American Outlaws, the official supporter group of the team. I’ll be following along with them.
How did this happen? As a longtime RSL season ticket holder and soccer fan, I’d known for a long time I had to find a way to see soccer’s biggest event at some point in my lifetime. In 2012, I decided to start saving money for a trip to Brazil, and that year I put my name down on the already-full waiting list for the American Outlaws all-inclusive package. In January of this year, I got an email saying that a spot was open! I jumped at the chance, sent in my payment, and locked in to follow the USMNT wherever they ended up in the group stages of Brazil.
And what an itinerary! For most of the two weeks of the group stages, the home base of American Outlaws and therefore myself will be Natal: a relatively small Brazilian city in the northeast, famous for its beaches and sand dunes. Naturally, we’ll be there, loud and proud, for the US’s first game with Ghana. Then under a week later, we’ll take a chartered plane to the Amazon jungle to the city of Manaus, witnessing the USMNT battle Cristiano Ronaldo and his 10 Portuguese teammates. Finally, we’ll take a bus to Recife, and watch the US battle Germany, almost certainly for our nation’s World Cup life.
Along the way, I’ll be experiencing the thrill of the World Cup and Brazil – trying out a new language; visiting beautiful beaches, lakes, rainforests, and jungles; interacting with the citizens of Brazil and every other nation imaginable; and of course, trying out the local cuisine, including those famous churrascarias.
It’s just too bad Landon Donovan won’t be along for the ride.
U.S. Soccer recently released a great series of videos highlighting each American player in the final World Cup squad. Each video gives a glimpse into what each player is like on and off the field. Below are RSL's Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando's stories, but make sure to watch the whole series and get to know something about the entire team. Great job by US Soccer to build a connection between players and fans before Brazil.
Here's Kyle's piece:
Real Salt Lake veteran GK Nick Rimando sat down with Brian Dunseth to discuss being named the U.S.'s final World Cup roster. The soon to be 35-year-old will be going to a World Cup for the first time in his extensive and impressive career. Rimando gives some great insight into what it will be like fulfilling his childhood dream. Check out the great interview above.
And if you missed Bill Riley's exclusive World Cup interview with Kyle Beckerman, you can watch that here.
The U.S. begins World Cup play on Monday, June 16 when it takes on Ghana in its first group stage match. The game will kick at 4:00 p.m. MT and will be broadcast live on ESPN.
The USMNT take on Nigeria tomorrow in the final match of its World Cup "Send-Off Series." The Americans have two victories under its belt, defeating Azerbaijan and Turkey in its previous friendlies. Despite the wins, the Stars-and-Stripes are still looking to put in a complete performance. RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman made appearance last weekend against Turkey, subbing on at the start of the second half for midfielder Jermaine Jones, while RSL 'keeper Nick Rimando remained on the bench. Let's hope both players get a look on Saturday in what will be one of the last chances to impress U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann. A preview from MLSsoccer.com can be found here.
And check out MLSsoccer.com's video preview with Andrew Wiebe and Greg Lalas above.
Match kicks at 4:00 p.m. MT on ESPN2.
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman sat down with ABC4's Bill Riley prior to being named to the U.S.'s final 23-man World Cup roster. The RSL veteran discusses his journey to the USMNT and fulfilling his childhood dream of representing the U.S. in a World Cup. As if you needed any more excitement leading up to Brazil, check out the great interview above.
Real Salt Lake Captain Kyle Beckerman did not feature in the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Azerbaijan on Tuesday night, with U.S. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann opting to play Jermaine Jones all 90 minutes at the base of the USMNT’s midfield diamond.
Klinsmann seemed to think highly of Jones’ performance in the U.S.’s rather listless win, praising the German-American midfielder in his postgame press conference.
“Jermaine has played throughout years different roles, maybe as an eight, meaning a little bit higher up, similar to Michael Bradley today,” Klinsmann said. “If we play a diamond like we did then it’s really important that he stays there and protects our two center backs, builds a triangle with them.”
“With his passing technique he can open up and switch a game right away, though today it was very difficult because he couldn’t hit any high balls [due to the wind]. But he understood that role. He said ‘Oh, I’ve played that I don’t know how many times, it’s not a big deal.’ And the way he recovers balls and is physical with the opponent is just one of his strengths that we hopefully see in Brazil, as well.”
Beckerman, of course, knows the base of the diamond position better than anyone on the U.S. roster, spending the last eight seasons playing the holding role for Real Salt Lake. He played as the holder in a diamond midfield for the U.S. in its 2-2 draw against Mexico on April 2, a role that seemed to allow Michael Bradley to advance further up the field than he did on Tuesday night while playing with Jones.
We’ll see if Beckerman gets a chance to start in any of the U.S.’s remaining tune-up matches ahead of the World Cup. The Americans will play three friendlies before opening Group G action against Ghana on June 16, taking on Turkey in New York on Sunday, facing Nigeria in Jacksonville on June 7 and playing Belgium in a closed-door match in Brazil on June 12.
What you might not know is that Beckerman’s and Rimando’s call-ups mark the third-straight time that RSL has put at least one player on the U.S. Men’s National Team’s World Cup squad. That’s right: RSL has put a player on the USMNT’s World Cup squad in all three World Cups that the club has existed for.
In 2006, RSL sent defender Eddie Pope to Germany with the U.S. In 2010, it was forward Robbie Findley that made the trip, heading to South Africa for the Americans’ run to the Round of 16. Both players featured for the U.S. at the World Cup, with Pope starting two of the U.S.’s three games in 2006 and Findley getting the nod in three of the U.S.’s four contests in 2010.
RSL is one of just two clubs to put a player on the U.S. team for each of the last three World Cups. The only other? LA Galaxy, which has sent a player to the USMNT in each of the five World Cups it has been around for.
RSL is one of just three teams to put a player on the USMNT’s World Cup roster for every World Cup of the club’s existence, joining LA and the defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny, which put a player on the 1998 U.S. World Cup roster before folding after the 2001 MLS season.
Video: Beckerman and Rimando featured in first look at ESPN's "Inside: U.S. Soccer's March to Brazil"
As part of its coverage of this summer’s World Cup, ESPN will be airing a six-part documentary series called “Inside: U.S. Soccer’s March to Brazil.” The series will take an all-access look at the USMNT as it prepares for Brazil, giving viewers a behind the scenes look with Jurgen Klinsmann and the full squad in the months and weeks leading up to the tournament.
Directed by Jonathan Hock – the man behind the well-done “MLS Insider” series – and Roger Bennett – ESPNFC writer, Men in Blazers podcaster and noted fan of Kyle Beckerman – the first episode of the series will air next Tuesday and will run for five consecutive weeks.
ESPN released a preview of the series yesterday, and we’ve taken the liberty of embedding it above. Beckerman and RSL teammate Nick Rimando are featured in the preview, and we promise that it’s well worth a watch. Check it out up top.
The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team lost 2-0 in the 2014 Dallas Cup Final to Argentine side River Plate at the Cotton Bowl on Sunday. The two sides had met previously in their opening match of the tournament, which saw a different outcome with the Americans coming out on top 3-2.
River Plate’s Lucas Boye proved unstoppable, as he scored both goals – one in each half – for the Argentine side. The U.S. looked to be out of gas after having played five games in seven days. A match recap can be found here.
The U.S. U-20’s went undefeated up until the Final, defeating River Plate 3-2, shutting out German side Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0, beating Mexican club Tigres UANL 1-0 and defeating Brazilian club Fluminense 3-2 in the semifinals.
Two RSL players, midfielder Jordan Allen and forward Benji Lopez, featured heavily for the Americans throughout the tournament. Allen notched two assists and earned the game-winning penalty in the semifinal match against Fluminense. Lopez recorded one goal, notching the first in the Americans’ 3-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Both Allen and Lopez will return to Salt Lake City today.