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Your September Questions Answered (Part 5)

OguchiOnyewu (Reuters)

For those of you wondering when you would see the rest of the September Q&A questions answered, here is the newest installment of Your Questions Answered.

This batch of questions is dominated by U.S. national team questions, with Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones among the subjects covered.

I will be posting a USA-Honduras Preview soon so keep an eye out for that. For now, here are some more of your questions answered:


MICHAEL F– If Gooch continues to sit on the bench for the next 8 or 9 months at AC Milan, does he still start in WC?

IVES– Whether you play or not isn’t the issue, it’s whether you are good enough, and for some players not playing inevitably leads to a dip in form that leaves you below the standard to be a starter. In Onyewu’s case, he’s so much better than the other options I’m not sure how he doesn’t start even if he’s a bench-warmer for AC Milan.

Also, you could also ask whether training regularly with a club like AC Milan is so much worse than say playing regularly in MLS. Obviously playing is better, but Onyewu could be riding the bench in worse places than Milan. Bob Bradley raised these very points on Thursday and stated that he has confidence in Onyewu's ability and experience, which leads me to believe Onyewu will continue to be a first-choice defender.

Do I see Onyewu not playing much between now and the World Cup? I think he's progressed enough as a player to get playing time, be it at Milan or another club via loan.


THEO– Assuming Jermaine Jones is awarded the starting job at defensive center mid, what are your thoughts on sliding Dempsey in the middle as the attacking center mid (due to Dempsey's lack of tracking back and playing defense)? This move would open up an outside midfield spot and move Michael Bradley to the bench.

IVES– Jones won’t be playing for a while, but if and when he does, I would say a Bradley-Jones partnership in central midfield would be pretty formidable. Not sure why you want to bench Bradley in order to free up a right wing spot when there just aren’t any established options there. Stuart Holden is a very promising player, and we just might see against Honduras if he can handle starting, but for right now,


MEMROOK-I've always been curious about the demographics of my fellow readers/followers of your website and soccer in general. But, not so much about sex or ethnicity or age; more about their soccer-related background: ex-players (even just as kids), new fans (last 10 years or so), fans for life, professionals??? See where I'm going with this? I guess I'd like to know what kind of people care about soccer as much as I do, enough to read a daily blog about it and give our own opinions. Me? I play soccer here in Memphis in an adult rec league, started following MLS about 8 years ago and the national team maybe 12 years ago. Ever thought of taking some kind of poll as to your readers' particulars? I'm not talking a geographic one, but a soccer-affiliation one.

IVES– I would definitely like to have a detailed survey, but that will take some time. I have plenty of email addresses to work with from past reader roll calls, but much like the roll calls, it will be tough finding the time to tabulate the results. I would need to hire someone to do it for me. It’s definitely on the Things to Do list.


OPTIMIST PRIMER– Hey Ives, I'm an American living in England. I've tried to explain to people out here the structure of MLS's single entity, and I've realized… I have no idea myself! Can you think of a good analogy that makes it clear?

And #2 I am in NO way an MLS, USMNT, or Bob Bradley hater. I think a lot of people need to get a grip! We are where we are and we have the players and the coaches that we have; I support them faithfully. My question: in light of our recent "struggles" with Qualifying, how much can be attributed to CONCACAF as a whole improving? I do think, yes, we have the talent to be the giant of the region, but nobody ever seems to give our opponents any credit when we have a tough stretch of matches.

As always, thanks for your (and your team's) work and insight. I tell all my English friends to check your site as proof that Yanks know their stuff when it comes to football.

IVES– I agree completely. It’s is if the U.S. national team was a World Cup-winning giant that has since slumped and dropped down the rankings. The reality is that CONCACAF teams are improving and road games have always been tough to play in places like Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras and El Salvador. This isn’t new, yet some people get enraged when the U.S. doesn’t dominate. I do understand that it’s a bit of a concern when there are also incomplete performances at home, like we saw vs. Honduras in Chicago and vs. El Salvador in Utah. There’s nothing wrong with being unsatisfied with how the team is playing, but at some point some credit needs to be given to the opponents.


DAVID– Perhaps this question is premature but do you see Boca still being the US Nats Captain when the World Cup roles around next year? I honestly am beginning to think he is no longer a fit for the starting 11. While he had a pretty good Confed Cup at left back it is fairly obvious he doesn't have the speed on the international level to hold down that position if another option becomes available. The goals in Mexico can be directly linked to him and the one of the crossbar in T&T as well. I don't see him at centerback again if Demerit is healthy. Am I wrong? Should he hand over the armband to Donovan and gracefully give Bradley the option not to always have him in the starting 11?

IVES– I’m not at all in the DeMerit is better than Bocanegra camp. I think DeMerit had some very good games this summer, while Bocanegra struggled against some top attacking players while at the left back position. The Cornell Glen turn and shot off the crossbar wasn’t a great sequence for Bocanegra as a centerback, but I also think Bocanegra was the only stable defender vs. El Salvador.

DeMerit gets credit for a great game vs. Spain, but I seem to recall Bocanegra playing well at center back against Spain a year earlier. I also seem to recall DeMerit struggling in the second half of the Confederations Cup final.

The bottom line is the Onyewu-Bocanegra is a battle-tested and proven center back combo, so I can’t see a scenario where Bocanegra is suddenly no longer starting. I just don’t see that one. Obviously DeMerit’s eye injury has rendered it a moot point, but when he does return I just don’t see him unseating Bocanegra.


JOSH– Ives, as the ESPN insider that you are, any idea if their Premiership coverage will come to ESPN360?

Trying to cut the cable…

Thanks, and keep up the great work!

IVES– My ESPN360 contact told me that internet rights simply weren’t part of the deal struck for Premier League matches by ESPN. Not sure if ESPN will go for it in 2010/2011, but it won’t be happening this season from what I can tell.


ARKJAYBACK– How far off base are people that believe anyone who has signed on for a team in Europe are better than any national teamers in MLS?

People have been dying for Marcus Tracy to get a callup, but he can't get on the field for Aalborg. A lot of people, you and me included, wanted Jemal Johnson to get a look, but people think he is the answer on the wing and he can't get out of League One. Some fans think Orozco should be on the roster because he is playing in the Mexican league.

Meanwhile, guys like Marshall and Holden have been criticized and bashed by fans mainly because they have chosen to stay in MLS and/or haven't gotten the opportunity quite yet, but have performed well for the nats.

IVES– I think that phenomenon stems largely from people wanting to see new faces, and hoping to find the next big thing. That is why someone like Marcus Tracy sparks interest when he goes from college to playing in UEFA Cup matches last year. I do get the sense that some folks will overrate someone they’ve never seen over someone they’ve seen several times, or overrate someone who has played a few good games, over someone who has been performing for years but has had a bad stretch of a few months.

That being said, there is something to be said for young Americans heading to Europe and establishing themselves. They shouldn't be written off if they don't get to play right away, but should get credit if they manage to get minutes and develop a career in Europe. We all know it isn't easy making it over there.


JAY LYONS– 1.) Do you feel as though Michael Bradley is a strong enough player to never be taken out of the starting line-up? I think he is a very strong player but now that he's not playing for his club is he totally deserving of an automatic spot?

2.) Why do you think Coach Bradley is so reluctant to try Spector at LB? He starts there for West Ham which seems to be an upgrade from the starting LB @ Chivas USA.

3.) What are your thoughts on how we typically play 2 defensive minded CM's? I know Bradley likes to get forward but I wouldn't say he fits in the creative attacking MF category.


Jay from San Diego

IVES– As long as he is the best option in central midfield he will start, and he has already regained his starting job in Germany (playing the past three matches, including a German Cup match).

As for Spector at left back, I’m just not sure how reliable Spector is at the position. A lot of people jump on the fact that Spector played left back for West Ham to start the season, but the reality is he was a stop-gap option on the left and has since returned to the bench.

Spector is a decent defender, but his best attribute at fullback has been his service. That service ceases to be a factor when he’s on the left. If he won’t give you good crosses playing left back then you have to ask yourself whether or not his defensive abilities are better than Jonathan Bornstein. The answer was a clear and loud “yes” after Bornstein’s shocker vs. El Salvador, but he did better vs. Trinidad & Tobago and Bornstein is also faster than Spector and arguably better-equipped to deal with speedy wingers.

All this said, Cherundolo’s strong form for Hannover 96, and Spector’s lack of time at West Ham, will likely mean that Cherundolo starts vs. Honduras. I’m not sure Bob Bradley would start Spector over Bornstein, who is playing regularly for Chivas USA.


TEDHILL– Do you like the CONCACAF qualification system for the World Cup. I like the Hex, but good teams like Jamaica and Canada were eliminated early. Plus in a six team group, half the teams qualify, which is too much I think. I might like something like an 8 team group, or maybe two 5 team groups. Thoughts? And is there any chance of a change for 2014?

IVES– I think CONCACAF absolutely needs to come up with some sort of seeding system when establishing the groups for the third round because it was a crime to have Honduras, Mexico, Canada and Jamaica in one group while Costa Rica and El Salvador got a group with Haiti and Suriname. It’s a shame really because I think Canada could easily be doing well in this Hexagonal group.

The six-team Hexagonal is fine and usually does create good drama, but the process to come to that six-team group needs to be tweaked.


DAN– What's a good place to not get spoon feed team news on each of the MLS teams? Like fan blogs or some independent news source specific to each team? I get tired of reading spoon feed stuff from each of the teams' team blogs. I'm looking for some less "team line" talk.

IVES– You can check SBI’s list of media blogs for quality coverage throughout MLS. Most MLS teams have at least one writer who covers the team pretty well so you definitely don’t need to rely on the MLS website for your league info.


ALEX– Everyone is dying to know when Fifa will approve Jermaine Jones's new status, becoming a USMNT player. It was said somewhere over the internet that FIFA is waiting for the German soccer staff to answer some questions to complete the switch. What are these questions and why is he considered a "special case" for Fifa unlike Castillo? Thank you.

IVES– It wasn’t a FIFA thing as much of a Germany thing from what I understand. His application is in the works now, but it is obviously not as pressing an issue now given the fact that he’s facing a long recovery from his latest surgery. Castillo’s application wasn’t a special case, it just worked out that his application went in just as FIFA was set to hear the case (though I wouldn’t doubt if Sunil Gulati helped push Castillo’s application up).


DAVID– I saw a recent article in the Star-Ledger that implied John harkes could be a candidate for the Red Bulls coaching job. Any input on that?

My personal reaction is say it isn't so. After listening to his comments on the Nats he sounds pretty close to the most negative person on the planet and would probably use all his subs by half-time as he has no patience for any bad touches or give-aways, unless of course it is Landon Donovan…

IVES– I doubt pretty highly that the Red Bulls will hire Harkes as head coach. Harkes pro head coaching experience is limited to one year as an assistant with the Red Bulls, which I don’t see being nearly enough for the Red Bulls to consider. Richie Williams will be hired well before Harkes.

Harkes is far from being a negative person or coach. I’ve heard that he can actually be a bit of a player’s coach, with his playing days not having been that long ago. Someone with his playing resume should be getting more consideration for coaching jobs, and I know that he’s itching to get back into coaching, but he needs to pay his dues as an assistant first. I’m not sure where that opportunity will come for him though.


THE DUDE– When are you going to do an update to the layout of this site? The actual articles barely take up half the screen width wise

IVES– The articles take up more space than they used to on the old SBI and nobody really complained about the layout on the old site. Believe me when I say I want to re-design, but that move will be tied into some things I have in the works. There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes and hopefully in the next month or so I will be able to reveal some of the things going on.


S. BRENDAN CONNOR– Love the site. If you could play for any national team, which one would it be? Personally I would want to be a Midfielder for England.

IVES– Excluding the two countries I would actually be eligible for (USA and Peru), if I were a skillfull soccer player I think playing for Spain would be pretty fun, and who wouldn’t want to play for Brazil? (Okay, maybe someone from Argentina).


JIM– Ives, any insight into Michael Bradley's standing with his club team in Germany? Reason for him being yanked after 45 min, then not dressing for the following game?

IVES– From what was reported, Bradley had a falling out with the head coach, and wound up in the doghouse because of it. He sat a handful of games, but has since worked his way back into the mix. Bradley has shown in his young career that when things are tough, and he’s not getting playing time, he works hard and pushes his way into the mix. He forced his way in at Heerenveen, he played his way into the lineup last year after arriving late at the start of the season with Moenchengladbach, and now he’s fighting successfully to get back into the mix. Bradley may have a temper, but he also has an impressive work ethic that has brought him quite a bit of success at an early age.


KYLE– How much does success in the World Cup in 2010 South Africa depend on the group draw?

IVES– The draw is huge, and it’s usually major for all but a handful of teams. Consider the draws for the 2006 World Cup of the USA and of Mexico. USA was clearly in a stronger group and suffered because of it, while Mexico waltzed through a cupcake group before putting on an impressive performance against Argentina.

I also point to the order of the games in 2006. I’ve long believed that if those games were in a different order, with Ghana first and the Czech Republic last, the USA would have had a much better chance of advancing. Why? The Czechs were an old bunch, and one that was always going to wear down during the tournament. They had their best punch in the first game, and they delivered it to the USA. Conversely, Ghana was a young team that needed time to jell, and they did that after two games. If the USA had played them first, they would have had a much better chance of winning that match (as long as Markus Merk wasn’t the ref).

Back to the original point, the draw will vital to the U.S. team’s chances of progressing.


MIKE CARAMBA– I understand the importance of first-team experience, but do you think the Adu situation has been blown out of proportion? What were most American internationals doing at age 20? I'd guess that they weren't playing for top-tier European clubs…most probably weren't starting in MLS yet. I'm all for greater expectations for our most talented players, but claims that his career is over really confuse me.

IVES– Expectations for him have always been overboard and continue to be so. The kid is talented, but needs to be allowed to just work at his career without constant reminders that he’s not where he was expected to be at this point in his career. He’s still just 20, this is true, but he’s also at a serious crossroads in his career because if he can’t make his loan deal at Belenenses work I’m not sure where he goes from there.


OMAR VIZQUEL– Is there a more boring interview in world soccer than Bob Bradley?

IVES– Bill Belichik. Seriously though, Bradley isn’t that boring an interview when you get him one-on-one, but it can be said that he plays it very close to the vest when it comes to discussing his players. He’s not a coach who will ever throw his players under the bus in public (well, save for one time with Clint Mathis during his time with the MetroStars). Bradley measures his word carefully, which can lead to bland answers at times.


SAMUEL-Michael Bradley starts and plays all 90 min of every game for the MNT, yet barely sees the field for his club. With all the problems we've had lately with possession in the middle of the field, is it time to give someone else a look there? Does he deserve to always and unquestionably be a member of the starting XI?

IVES– ‘Barely sees the field for his club.” Seriously, do you believe this or do you tend to exaggerate for effect? Bradley had a falling out with his coach, got suspended and subsequently benched for it, but has now worked his way back, starting a German Cup match, playing 45 minutes in a league match and then starting and going 90 in the team’s last league match before the break. Bradley has started half of all Moenchengladbach’s matches, league and cup, and last year he was a fixture in the team’s drive to avoid relegation.

Is he playing as well now as he was back in February and March? No, but that doesn’t mean he still isn’t the best option in the pool. When games still matter as a coach you play your best players and I’m not sure how anyone can say unequivocally that players such as Jose Torres and Benny Feilhaber are better options than Bradley. They’re different options, not necessarily better.


LOT 8– How do you explain Sacha Kljestan's total collapse in the past 8 months? Do you think with the emergence of Stuart Holden that Kljestan's playing time with the National team is over?

IVES– I wouldn’t call it a total collapse, but he certainly saw his stock tumble. I spoke to Kljestan about that a month ago and he acknowledged that he let the hype get to him, and he also got distracted by the potential move to Celtic that failed to materialize. Preki blamed media and fan expectations and hype for putting too much pressure on Kljestan.

What I would say is that he’s far too young and talented to start talking about his playing time for the national team being over. He’s looking like a long-shot for the next World Cup, but he’s still young and has plenty of time and room to grow.


What did you think of these answers? Were there any you particularly agreed or disagreed with?


  1. revising CONCACAF would be great. the Hex would be so much more entertaining if Jamaica and Canada were playing. imagine a US-CAN game in Chicago or Seattle in early spring and then again in BMO.

    good answers too.

  2. Canada only got 2 points in that group. They would be where T&T is right now if they had advanced. They suck.

    (SBI-They’re better than you give them credit for my friend.)

  3. Good comments on Spector at LB, Ives.

    I remember reading the first game they put him in there for, was an absolute shocker. He seems to have improved a bit, but it is not his intended position, but rather desperation with so many injuries on the back line.

  4. On Google Docs (I believe) there is a poll option. You could EASILY get compile data on readership by setting up the questions and providing the link on the page. I think they even let you export the data as a chart in the Google version of Excel.

  5. What’s the story behind the Markus Merk reference?

    Posted by: Frank | October 09, 2009 at 04:15 PM
    Penalty call on Onyewu in the 2006 World Cup game against Ghana.

  6. I agree that people overreact to poor performances on the road, but the high expectations don’t come from nowhere–they come from the standard the USMNT has set over the past 3 decades. Before our second stringers lost a meaningless qualifier to T&T, we hadn’t lost an away qualifier outside of Costa Rica or Mexico since 1980 (A decade before we became World Cup regulars). While some people claim the sky is falling every time we show the slightest lack of composure on the road, there are clearly some others that occupy the opposite end of the spectrum–they use our opponents’ home-field advantage as an excuse for any and all performances, no matter how bad. Surely there’s some reasonable middle ground here. (To be clear, I’m not suggesting you deny the existence of this middle ground.)

  7. Anyone have the Bob Bradley quote or article where he calls out Clint Mathis? Come on Ives, post the link, you probably wrote the article.

    (SBI-The quote was six years ago so I don’t have it exactly, but to sum it up, it was basically something like this: “You know, we’ve tried a few different players up front and they’ve all managed to score some goals. “Player X played there, and he scored some goals, player Y got a chance and he was able to score some goals. Player Z got his chance and even got a few. Clint keeps playing and he’s just not giving us any goals.” It was toward the end of the 2003 season when Mathis essentially mailed in the second half of the season because he was heading to Europe. There’s another story regarding that match, with an unnamed player actually going after Mathis in the locker room. Needless to say, Bradley had grown fed up with Mathis.)

  8. Don’t feed the trolls!

    I personally wouldn’t bash a USNT player who scored two goals against Mexico this year.

    Any other Americans score two goals in a World Cup Qualifier against Mexico? Ever?

    Didn’t think so trolls.

  9. yo ives- check out survey monkey if you are thinking about running the survey mentioned above. easy survey creation and they compile the results for you- could be what you are looking for.

  10. First off, I’m so sick of all the comments about Bradley only playing because Bob is the coach.

    Second, I think Kljestan could come back. He was my favorite of all the Olympians. It’s all because he cut that hair off.

  11. When your dad is the coach, it is pretty easy to get 90 minutes. When his dad isn’t the coach… not so much…

    (SBI-I didn’t realize Bob Bradley coached Heerenveen two years ago, or Moenchengladbach last year. He’s a busy guy.)

  12. To answer my own question (from the LA Times:

    On Thursday, Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of AEG, which owns the Galaxy, said the Major League Soccer team would be “honored” to loan Beckham to AC Milan once again next year. Speaking at a soccer conference in London, Leiweke said he wanted the deal finalized in the next few weeks so that the Galaxy could concentrate on the MLS playoffs without any distractions.

    Leiweke said the same thing applied to Galaxy forward Landon Donovan, likely to be offered a new long-term contract.

  13. DJ Barnett: I think on the can too, but I try not to put that picture in others’ heads.

    I wonder if LD gets out on loan this winter. I hope so.

  14. ives, that was a darn good evasive politician type response about your site redesign, lol. Talk about BB playing things close to the chest. . . maybe, per MemRook’s insight, it just kind of rubs off on ya . . .

    Seriously, I know you are doing what you can and we will just be in the dark until something happens. Probably about the same time Windows Mobile 7 appears. 🙂 In the mean time, I will continue scrolling down and clicking “Next” . . . it’s worth it.

  15. Do you think that Vince McMahon will ever start an extreme soccer league? It could be fun. Less cards and the goals will move up and down the endlines.

  16. As I was sitting in my bathroom the other day i totally thought the same thing as Ives did. If the USA had the same draw in 2006 but just a different order moving on would have been easier. I though that with the U20 world cup. Play the weaker teams first and hope the powerhouse of the group has already qualified before yopu meet them in the last game. It is sad though that a refere and a non-sporting componenet like the draw can have such an impact on a teams chances.

  17. When will we see ‘Part 4 of 4’ of the July questions?

    (SBI-I already said more than once that there would be no Part 4 for July. Not enough good questions left to do one.)


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