XI: The Weekend of June 1st

-The USMNT continued its build-up to the World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Turkey in front of a sold-out crowd at Red Bull Arena. Fabian Johnson made a stellar run up from right back to score the first goal, and Clint Dempsey capitalized on defending mistakes to add the second. Jozy Altidore, though he still hasn’t scored since December, had a solid game up top and the team’s attacking prowess as a whole was more convincing than against Azerbaijan. At the other end of the pitch, Turkey got a number of good chances, and the U.S. is perhaps lucky that they only scored once.

-Klinsmann experimented with the defense during this match, and the backside often looked shaky. Fabian Johnson, goal included, did a good job at right back, but Timmy Chandler often looked out of place at left back, and his mistake led to the penalty that gave Turkey late hope. Chandler is right-footed (Johnson, for what it’s worth, prefers his left), and as a result left too much space to his outside throughout the match. He looked more dangerous going forward than Damarcus Beasley did against Azerbaijan, but I’m not sure that’s a trade worth making.

-The defense as a whole may have been uncomfortable, but individually there were good performances. Deandre Yedlin and John Brooks were both good (Brooks especially so) after coming on in the second half. Jermaine Jones fell into a third center-back role during the first half, and in that role he provided key stops. The problem appeared to be more tactical; when Kyle Beckerman replaced Jones at half-time, the U.S. shifted to a flat midfield, and this reduced some of the space Turkey were finding in the center of the field.

-The U.S. escaped their second of three preparation friendlies without injury, but unfortunately the same couldn’t be said elsewhere. Luis Montes suffered a horrible broken leg in Mexico’s friendly against Ecuador, and Ricardo Montolivo saw his Italian World Cup dreams dashed as well. Franck Ribery raised doubts over his World Cup fitness when he missed France’s friendly against Paraguay with lower back pain. Injuries at this stage of the process are particularly painful to watch, because the knowledge is always there that this might be a plyer’s best chance at World Cup glory.

-Seattle put an exclamation point on their best record in Major League Soccer with a 4-0 win over second-best Real Salt Lake. The visitors entered the match undefeated, but they were without the services of Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, who are with the USMNT, and Alvaro Saborio, who was injured in Costa Rica’s World Cup preparation. Seattle didn’t seem to mind the absence of Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin. A soft penalty provided only a one-goal edge at halftime, but the floodgates opened in the second half. Obafemi Martins netted yet another goal before the match ended. It is still early in the season, but the Sounders ruthless attack makes it tempting to label them favorites for the Supporters’ Shield.

-Cascadia is goal country. Portland hosted Seattle to a 4-4 draw earlier in the year, the Sounders and Whitecaps split four goals last week, and on Sunday night Vancouver went into Portland and won 4-3. It’s a satisfying win for the Whitecaps, not just because it’s their first over Portland in MLS, but because they have so often seen their attack not result in three points. But even then: Vancouver led this match 4-1; it should not have been as nervous as it was in the end. Will Johnson’s 86th minute goal to bring Portland within 1 was a thing of beauty set up by Fanendo Adi, but indicative of a recurring theme for the Whitecps.

-It took 92 minutes, but Toronto finally got the lead against Columbus on Saturday. Jermain Defoe provided two equalizers, but it was Doneil Henry who scored the stoppage-time winner off of a corner kick. TFC moved above the Crew into 5th place in the Eastern Conference with the win, despite playing the fewest matches in the league. The Reds have at least three games in hand on every team above them in the East.

-Life proved difficult for those on top of the east. The New England Revolution had their five-game winning streak shattered at last-place Montreal. The Impact scored in the third minute, and continued to provide the majority of the chances in the first half. The Revs didn’t truly show up until after half-time, but even then couldn’t put many shots on goal. Meanwhile, Sporting Kansas City ceded second place to DC United. SKC had the majority of the game’s chances, and Fabian Espindola’s goal was something of a fluke, but with just two points in their last five matches, Sporting will find that to be of little comfort.

-New York City FC didn’t play this past weekend, but they made the biggest waves in MLS. Earlier in the week, they unveiled ticket prices for their inaugural season at Yankee Stadium (including some exorbitantly priced club seats). Then they gave fans reason to buy them. Reports have MLS’s 20th club claiming both David Villa and Frank Lampard. Villa, 32, is heading to the World Cup with Spain and will come from cash-strapped Atletico Madrid. Lampard is also World Cup bound, but at 35 bringing him in may have as much to do with ticket sales as football. This is where NYCFC has the potential to shine; there are few clubs in MLS who could afford these salaries and transfer fees.

-The Times finally put evidence to the long-held assumption that the 2022 World Cup was awarded to Qatar as a result of bribery. Allegedly Mohamed bin Hamman provided over $5 million in bribes to ensure that the tournament was brought to his home country. Qatar has already distanced itself bin Hamman, who was banned from FIFA in 2012, but their claims don’t mesh with the facts. The question increasingly looks to be: what will FIFA do with this evidence?

-FIFA’s Vice President voiced support for a re-vote of the host for 2022. Assuming, perhaps wrongly, that Qatar would not win a re-vote, this would make the U.S. a clear front-runner to host the tournament, with only Australia providing significant opposition. The US could easily provide a World Cup on 8 years notice, or 8 months notice, for that matter.


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