Saturday, October 09, 2010

ATH: US v Poland Scouting Report

Go Stu Holden!!!

Scouting Report: Poland

By Clemente Lisi -- Taking advantage of two dates on the FIFA international calendar this month, the United States National Team has packed its October schedule with two friendlies. The Americans get the ball rolling Saturday when they take the field against Poland at Soldier Field in Chicago. The US faces Colombia on Tuesday at the Philadelphia Union’s new soccer-specific stadium, PPL Park, in Chester, just outside Philadelphia.

No European team has played the United States more times than Poland - 16 games dating back to 1924 – as the 2012 European Championship co-hosts (along with Ukraine) look to rebound following a string of poor results over the past few months. Back-to-black blowout defeats - a 6-0 loss to Spain on the eve of the World Cup and shutout 3-0 against Cameroon in August - have put the future of coach Franciszek Smuda in peril.

Making matters worse for Smuda, Poland could only muster a 1-1 draw against Ukraine last month, followed by a 2-1 loss to Australia. The off-field impact has been internal turmoil and the rapid decline of Poland on the monthly FIFA rankings list. On the September list, Poland was ranked No. 66 – it’s lowest ever since the system was put into place in 1993 – down 10 spots from the previous month.

Like the USA, however, Smuda will use the game to test players and tactics. With the Poles already qualified for Euro 2012, there is time to bring in younger players before having to play matches that really matter.

“I want them to play competitively. I want to bring Poland back to the level they played at in the 1970s and 1980s when they qualified for World Cups,” said Smuda, referring to Poland’s 3rd-place finish in 1974 and 1982.

But the turmoil that has seeped into the Polish camp was augmented recently by revelations that two players were kicked off the team following an alcohol-fueled fight that took place in a hotel after the loss to Australia. The players – midfielders Maciej Iwanski and Slawomir Peszko – were booted from the team after they were accused of hosting a party in their room. Both players had been slated for call-ups for Poland’s two-game North American swing before the incident took place.

“It was unfortunate, but the incident will not weaken me as coach,” said Smuda, a former defender who played for NASL sides Hartford Bicentennials, Oakland Stompers, Los Angeles Aztecs and San Jose Earthquakes. “It is part of the unpleasant experience that sometimes comes with building a new team.”

After Poland failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup (it had reached the finals in 2006 along with Euro 2008), the pressure is on Smuda to get results. Poland will get that chance against the USA and Ecuador, who it faces in a friendly next Tuesday in Montreal. Poland should feel right at home for either match since Chicago and Montreal both have large Polish communities.

The Poles are a young squad with only a handful of players who competed at the 2008 European Championship: goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, defender Michal Zewlakow and midfielders Dariusz Dudka and Rafal Murawski. The rest of the team is 23 or younger.
The all-time series between the United States and Poland is tied at 7-7-2. Since losing to Poland 3-1 at the 2002 World Cup, the Americans are unbeaten in the last four meetings (three wins and a draw). The most recent game, played in 2004, ended 1-1 after Carlos Bocanegra equalized in the 88th minute before 40,000 fans at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
As for the Americans, this is the first game since coach Bob Bradley had his contract extended through the next World Cup cycle. Although he has been vague as to which direction he hopes to go in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, Bradley has said he is up to the challenge.

“I think that around the coaching world, not only in soccer, the ability as a coach to continue every day, every year, to continue to challenge your players the right way, to know how in some moments to re-energize yourselves, refocus yourself and in some ways, re-invent yourself,” he told reporters during an August 31st conference call. “Obviously, it’s been noted at times where I’ve said I’ve been lucky to spend some time at Manchester United. And when I see someone like Sir Alex Ferguson, how he continues to know how to keep his environment fresh and sharp, I think that is what coaching is about.”

Bradley has said he wants to bring in new players, although his selections for the Poland game were hampered by the MLS playoffs. For the Poland and Colombia matches, Bradley recalled 13 of the 23 players who were on the World Cup roster. Among the new additions on his 20-man roster for this weekend are three uncapped players: defender Eric Lichaj and midfielders Jermaine Jones and Brek Shea. Jones has been eligible to play for the National Team since last year, taking advantage of new FIFA rules allowing a player to switch nationalities under certain circumstances, but has been sidelined with a shin injury.
“There are players out there we have watched and we do a thorough job of keeping track of players around the World as we go through games with the idea of looking for players who we believe can be moved into our program,” Bradley said.

What this means for the first-choice USA eleven is still a work in progress. It’s worth remembering that the United States wasn’t at first choice for the World Cup, with players missing through injury. Saturday begins a new cycle, with Bradley already preparing his club for their next big challenge – the 2011 Gold Cup this Summer and a shot at the Confederations Cup.

Thirteen Players from 2010 FIFA World Cup Roster to Head to Chicago and Chester, Pa.

Sep. 30, 2010

CHICAGO (Sept. 30, 2010) — U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Bob Bradley has named 20 players to the roster that will prepare for the upcoming friendlies against Poland and Colombia. The U.S. first takes on Poland at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Sat., Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. CT, with the match to be broadcast live on Fox Soccer Channel and Galavision. Three days later, the U.S. will host South American rivals Colombia on Oct. 12 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. Kickoff for the USA’s first match on the Chester waterfront is set for 8 p.m. ET, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and Galavision. Fans can follow both matches live online via’s MatchTracker and at

Thirteen players on the roster were part of the squad that led the U.S. to a first place finish in group play at the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 80 years, and six of those are 25 years old or younger.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to gather many of our players based in Europe and continue to build on the foundation we established during the last four years," said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. "We believe we have a strong nucleus of talented players, many of whom we are going to challenge to assume greater leadership roles during the next four-year cycle. We certainly have ideas on how we want to move forward, and these games will be the start of that process."

With the fixture dates falling during the heart of the MLS playoff race, Bradley elected to choose a largely European-based roster. The FC Dallas duo of Heath Pearce and Brek Shea will join the U.S. team in Philadelphia on Oct. 10 following their weekend league match.

“We understand this is a critical point in the season for teams in MLS,” said Bradley. “Given the circumstances, we felt it was important that the MLS players be given as much opportunity as possible to remain with their clubs and continue to make important contributions as the playoffs approach.”

Clint Dempsey returns to the national team for the first time since the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where his fearless run and shot forced the rebound that set up the game-winning goal against Algeria. Dempsey tallied his first career goal for the national team when he scored against England on May 28, 2005 at Soldier Field. He is one of seven players on the roster who ply their trade in the English Premier League. Tim Howard – whose shutout against Algeria is only the second for the United States in 22 World Cup matches dating back to 1950 - continues his long standing service as Everton’s first choice ‘keeper, while Stuart Holden has parlayed a starting role at Bolton into a new three-year contract.

Four players in the roster played every minute in South Africa this summer. Michael Bradley netted the game-tying goal in the 82nd minute of the 2-2 draw against Slovenia that salvaged the USA’s hopes for advancing in the tournament. Having recently been named captain at Hannover, Steve Cherundolo contributed perhaps his finest collection of performances in his national team career during the tournament.

Three players on the roster are playing on teams who currently lead their respective leagues. Carlos Bocanegra and Saint-Étienne are in first place in the French Ligue 1 after finishing in 17th place last season, going 5-1-1 to start the campaign. Maurice Edu has earned a regular starting role for defending Scottish Premier League champion Rangers – who are tied with rivals Celtic on points but ahead on goals scored - while Benny Feilhaber has scored five goals in his last three matches as AGF Aarhus hold the top spot in the Danish 1st Divisionen.

Villarreal striker Jozy Altidore has seen action in each of the club’s matches in the UEFA Europa League, starting three of four games. Villarreal are currently in second place in Spain’s La Liga behind Valencia and ahead of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

FC Schalke midfielder Jermaine Jones is making his first appearance on a U.S. roster since becoming eligible to play for the United States in August of 2009. Jones had been sidelined by a shin injury for nearly a year. Aston Villa defender Eric Lichaj has been named to the official roster for the full team for the first time, having participated in training in the team’s training camp in June prior to the USA’s final round qualifiers against Costa Rica and Honduras. Shea is the only other member for the squad seeking his first international cap.

Several members of the U.S. squad have ties to Chicago. Bocanegra played four years for the Chicago Fire, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and back-to-back MLS Defender of the Year awards in 2002 and 2003 before heading overseas. Brad Guzan (Homer Glen), Lichaj (Downers Grove), and Jonathan Spector (Arlington Heights) are native to the area, while Michael Bradley played youth club soccer for U.S. Soccer Development Academy side Chicago Sockers FC.

In addition, U.S. coach Bob Bradley earned his first professional head coaching job with the Chicago Fire in 1998, launching the expansion franchise and capturing the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup titles in their debut season.

The U.S. Men’s National Team will travel to South Africa to take on 2010 FIFA World Cup hosts South Africa on Nov. 17 at the magnificent Green Point Stadium in Cape Town. Coverage of the USA’s final match of the year begins at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2, and the match will also be broadcast live on Galavision. Fans can follow the match on’s MatchTracker or at The U.S. will be returning to South Africa for the first time since the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where they finished in first place in Group C ahead of England, Slovenia and Algeria before going out in the Round of 16.

GOALKEEPERS (2): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)
DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Étienne), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Eric Lichaj (Aston Villa), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Michael Parkhurst (FC Nordsjaelland), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton Wanderers), Jermaine Jones (FC Schalke), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)
FORWARDS (3): Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Eddie Johnson (Fulham)

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