All posts by Ryno Montgomery

(c/o whaun.com)

A Guide to the World Cup, Part Eight

The US Men’s National Team was undefeated in its send-off series against Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Nigeria. The team has found its identity and developed a defensive-minded playing style that allows for quick counters and fast moving attacks in transition. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann angered many fans with his assertion that the US “can’t win the World Cup this year”, but I would advise taking his comments with a grain of salt. Klinsmann is undeniably German, and his demeanor is that of the stereotypical German, calculating and methodical. By propagating the notion that America is the underdog, he is playing right into our sensibilities as American sports fans, and he is riling up a fan base in preparation for the biggest sporting event in the world.

The US start their World Cup campaign against arch nemesis and two-time spoiler, Ghana. The match will take place on Monday the 16th at 5PM and will be broadcast on ESPN. This match will be followed Sunday the 22nd as the US take on Portugal (also broadcast on ESPN at 5PM), and the US will finish up Group play against Germany on June 26th at Noon on ESPN. The US beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final send off match, and that Nigerian team beat out Ghana for the African Cup of Nations. Klinsmann (and the players) have iterated many times that the Ghana match is the most important and statistics bear that out.  Sports Illustrated broke it down and here is what they came up with.

Since the ’98 World Cup (the first World Cup with 32 teams competing):

  • Only 4 of the 46 teams that lost their first match in the World Cup, went on to get out of their group. That comes out to 9%.
  • Look at that in contrast to a team that gets a draw. A team getting a draw in the first match of the World Cup has gotten out of the group 56% of the time (20 out of 36).
  • A win in the first match of the World Cup, statistically, is a HUGE boost to the hopes of reaching the knockout round. With 40 of the 46 teams that won their first World Cup match advancing to the round of 16, that puts the percentage at 87%.

 

The Group of Death could not be set up any better for the US to escape and fight on into the knockout round. The team that we have the most animosity for, is the team we take on first. WHEN we get a win against Ghana, we’ll be in the driver seat. Portugal won’t likely beat Germany, so they’ll be reeling in the second match against the US. If they somehow upset Germany, they’ll likely be flying high, and they’ll be ripe for an upset at the hands of the Red, White, and Blue. Taking on Germany in the final group stage match will be the toughest test of our players and strategy, but if anyone can unlock the Germans, it is OUR German. He laid the foundation for the team they enjoy today, and he knows how to pick them apart.

This is a time that comes along only once every four years, and it’s the time when being a soccer fan isn’t all that strange. It’s time to get behind the US. It’s time to cheer for the country we love so much. This is OUR time. This is our NEW American Dream. This summer, we are all American Outlaws.

#IBelieve #1N1T

 

140523 MNTvAZE XI

A Guide to the World Cup, Part Seven

Jurgen Klinsmann promised change and growth for US Soccer, but no one saw his biggest change coming. Klinsmann has made a habit out of cutting ties with players that he doesn’t see in his vision of where he wants his team to go, but his exclusion of Landon Donovan sent a shock wave through US fans and beyond. Donovan has been the face of US Soccer for as long as some fans have been paying attention. His contributions to the team are numerous, and he is arguably one of the greatest players the US has ever produced. He was the soccer player that went on late night talk shows and carried the weight of US Soccer’s expectations on his shoulders, but Klinsmann felt his skill set wasn’t needed this time around.

After the initial shock wore off, many fans have settled down and accept that it MIGHT be for the best. Donovan didn’t help his cause with comments that he isn’t in the same place he was in 2010, but after the snub he changed his tune. Other players that were cut from the original 30 man roster have come out against Klinsmann’s choices, but the decisions have been made. It is now time to get behind the team and cheer for the Stars and Stripes.

23 Man Roster (c/o US Soccer)

23 Man Roster (c/o US Soccer)

These 23 men will represent the US against Ghana, Portugal, and Germany in the Group of Death at the World Cup. Six of these guys have been to the World Cup before and DeMarcus Beasley will be making his 4th trip. The “spine” of this team is comprised of Goalkeeper Tim Howard, Midfielder Michael Bradley, and Forward Clint Dempsey(all of which have previous World Cup experience), but some of the new faces have already made an impact.

The US took on Azerbaijan in the first of their 3 warm-up matches in a windy Candlestick Park last night, and US fans saw goals from the “Two Vikings” of the team, Mix Diskerud and Aron Johannsson. Both players had the opportunity to play for other countries because of dual-citizenship, but chose to play for the US. Diskerud hailed from Norway by way of Arizona, and Johannsson(a.k.a. “Aron Bacon” due to his resemblance to actor Kevin Bacon) lived most of his life in Iceland after being born in Mobile, Alabama.  The team looked a bit tired, but that is almost to be expected after two weeks of two-a-days during training camp. Clint Dempsey was a late scratch from the line-up as a precautionary measure, while he recovers from a mild groin injury, and the loss of his creativity was evident. Luckily, his recovery should be short and Dempsey should be available for the next match.

The US will face Turkey in their 2nd warm-up match on Sunday, June 1st at 1PM on ESPN2 and will finish up the send-off series against Nigeria on June 7th at 5PM on ESPN. The US will also have a closed-door training session with Belgium in Brazil on June 12th, before either team begins their World Cup campaign.

Be on the lookout for the final edition of the Guide to the World Cup(available here!), and if there is anything you’d like to know about, leave a comment below. I’ll try to answer any and all questions in Part Eight!

#WeAreGoingToBrazil #IBelieve #1N1T

usa-soccer-wallpaper

A Guide to the World Cup, Part Six

The NFL is by every estimation and measurement the #1 sports league in the US, and the NFL’s athletes are some of the most recognizable figures in modern sport. For that reason, I’ve chosen the NFL as the league from which to draw comparisons. I will attempt to draw a correlation between NFL stars and players from the teams in the Group of Death. You can click on the name of the player to get a look at their skills/goals.

Ghana – “The Black Stars”GhanaTeamCrest

Ghana are much like the Seahawks of Seattle. They are an upstart team compared to the others, but since they’ve come onto the scene, they have enjoyed success at all levels of competition. They are brash and fast-paced, and they have an avid fan-base with an affinity for loud colors.

  • Kevin-Prince Boateng is Ghana’s Richard Sherman. He is a strong presence across the field and isn’t afraid to mouth off. Although Sherman is a defensive player and Boateng is an offensive minded player, both share a love for flair and a penchant for hotheadedness.
  • Asamoah Gyan is Ghana’s version of Percy Harvin. Gyan has blazing speed and amazing positional awareness. His quick movement make him a headache for defenders trying to keep track of him and shut him down.
  • Michael Essien is the Ghanaian Russell Wilson. He offers stout leadership behind his line and makes decisions in a split second that drive the team forward. He wasn’t expected to even make this team due to age and has been underestimated at times, much like Russell Wilson.
  • James Kwesi Appiah would be Ghana’s Pete Carroll. He is a new but proven coach that has brought a new approach to his team and their identity. Unlike Carroll, Appiah played for his team before coaching it, but both men have gained traction in the locker room by winning.

 

Portugal –  “A Selecção”Portugal Team Crest

Portugal are a a top-notch team with plenty of talent, but they feature a leader that stands head and shoulders above most competition. The whole organization is run by a former player with experience on the biggest stage, and they are perennially in contention with the best.  Portugal sounds an awful lot like the Denver Broncos with Peyton Manning.

  • Christiano Ronaldo is Portugal’s version of Peyton Manning. They both stand head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of talent, and they are both the main focus of the offense. Unlike Peyton Manning’s “down home” nature and humble attitude, Christiano is pompous to the point that he opened a museum…for himself. Manning will likely find his way to the NFL Hall of Fame, but CR7 couldn’t wait to get enshrined.
  • Nani is the Portuguese  Wes Welker. They both love to find open space, and they both use their smaller stature to find wrinkles in a defense that they can exploit.
  • Pepe is Portugal’s Von Miller. Pepe’s defensive play is key to allowing Ronaldo and Nani the chances to attack, much like Von Miller helping to get Manning and Welker back on the field. Both men also have a tendency to play a bit dirty and have been vocal that they won’t change how they play.
  • Paulo Bento is to Portugal what John Elway is to the Broncos. They are both former players that have experience in the trenches and have the adoration of their fans and players. Bento faced the US in the 2002 World Cup in Korea, with the US coming out on top 3-2.

 

Germany – “NationalmannschaftGermanyTeamCrest

Germany is the closest thing to a sure bet you can get when it comes to making a deep run in the World Cup. The Patriots rarely miss out on post-season play and have made it to 7 Super Bowls since 2000 (winning 3 of them). Germany have made it to the knock out round in every World Cup they’ve been a part of and have won it 3 times. Neither team have won it all recently, but they are both always a dangerous team to face with real talent and excellent coaching.

  • Miroslav Klose is the German Tom Brady. Both he and Brady came onto the scene and have broken records no one ever thought they would even touch. Like Brady, Klose came into a game as a substitution and went on to take over the starting job. The rest is, as they say, history.
  • Bastian Schwienstieger is Germany’s version of Stephen Gostkowski. He is as consistent as you could possibly hope for and has the propensity to come through in the clutch. Much like a kicker, Schwienstieger doesn’t always get the acclaim for his role on the team, but he has proven to be one of the best at what he does.
  • Marco Reus, Germany’s Robb Gronkowski. Both Reus and Gronk put up offensive numbers at an impressive rate thanks to amazing talent around them, but both men still have a competitiveness that drives them to have breakout games on top of already great numbers.  Both men also have notoriously odd senses of humor and exemplify the “bro” attitude and way of life, with polarizing effects.
  • Jogi Loew is a German variation of Bill Belicheck. Both men are enigmatic and sometimes coy with the media, but they have the utmost respect from their players. They expect excellence and reward their players with loyalty and honesty. Both men are brilliant tacticians that aren’t afraid to step on toes in order to win.

The next part of the Guide to the World Cup(Coming Soon!) will focus on the US Team and the key players that you are going to see take the field against the stiff competition mentioned above. It will include videos of the players skills/goals and maybe even some interviews. You’ll also get more information on the series of “warm-up” matches that will lead up to the World Cup!

Don't Tread (c/o Nike Soccer) #IBlieve #1N1T
Don’t Tread (c/o Nike Soccer) #IBelieve #1N1T
Dempsey is ready. Are you?

A Guide to the World Cup, Part Five

US Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann released his preliminary 30-man roster this afternoon. These 30 guys will compete for the 23 roster spots that we be available for the World Cup tournament. Klinsmann has said that he will release his 23-man roster after the warm-up match against Turkey on June 1st.

The 30 men are listed by position and the list includes the club team for which they currently play.

GOALKEEPERS :

Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa),  Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS:

DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City),  Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Nürnberg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy),  Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Michael Parkhurst (Columbus Crew), Clarence Goodson (San Jose Earthquakes), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

MIDFIELDERS:

Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg),  Jermaine Jones (Besiktas), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia Union), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana)

FORWARDS :

Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna)

 

Only 9 of these players were on the roster for the 2010 World Cup:  Jozy Altidore, DeMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu, Clarence Goodson, Brad Guzan, and Tim Howard. Of these 9 players, Maurice Edu and Clarence Goodson have the most to prove at World Cup Training Camp if they hope to return to the World’s biggest stage. The training camp begins May 14th.

USMNT 30-Man Roster (c/o: US Soccer)
USMNT 30-Man Roster (c/o US Soccer) #IBelieve

In the next edition of this Guide to the World Cup(Part 6), you will get a breakdown of the rosters for the 3 teams we will face in the Group of Death.

USMNTCrest

A Guide to the World Cup, Part Four

In this edition of Guide to the World Cup, you’ll get a quick look at the teams competing in this year’s World Cup. The US will likely field more players that ply their trade in MLS than any previous World Cup, and MLS has really ratcheted up the content available to fans with the introduction of KickTV,  a YouTube channel that produces daily video content  covering many aspects of the beautiful game in the US and abroad. In the run up to Brazil, they are putting out a series called “World Cup Crash Course” with the help of the soccer magazine, Howler.  Just click the name of a country and you will get a quick “Crash Course” on that country’s soccer team. (This list will be updated as more videos are released.)

Group A:
Brazil
Croatia 
Mexico
Cameroon

Group B:
Spain
Netherlands
Chile
Australia

Group C:
Columbia
Greece
Ivory Coast
Japan

Group D:
Uruguay
Costa Rica
England
Italy

Group E:
Switzerland
Ecuador
France
Honduras

Group F:
Argentina
Bosnia Herzegovina
Iran
Nigeria

Group G:
Germany
Portugal
Ghana
USA (Jimmy Conrad is not the greatest US Player ever, but he does pretty much run KickTV)

Group H:
Belgium
Algeria
Russia
South Korea

In the next installment(Part 5 is Here!) of the Guide to the World Cup, you will get a look at Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s preliminary 30-man roster that will begin camp May 13th at Stanford in California. These 30 players will be cut down to a 23-man roster to take on the World’s best in the Group of Death at the World Cup in Brazil. 

Brazil2014
FIFA World Cup in Brazil 2014 #IBelieveThatWeWillWin
Gov Phil Bryant during a meeting at MEMA.

Gov. Phil Bryant on Head to Head

Governor Phil Bryant took a few minutes out of a busy day to detail what he’s seen as he travels around the state, assessing damage and helping in the recovery and relief efforts for those hit hardest by the storms yesterday.  The thoughts and prayers of Head to Head and Supertalk are with those that have been affected. For more information on how you can help the relief effort, check out www.supertalk.fm/help.

#IBelieveThatWeWillWin (Creative Commons)

A Guide to the World Cup, Part Three

There are 49 days left before the World Cup gets underway, so that gives me 48 days(and some odd hours) to tell you the truth about soccer. I’m not a soccer elitist that insists the game be called “football”. I’m a soccer realist. Soccer may never overtake the NFL, but it’s already catching up to the NBA and MLB. A surging NHL is also seeing a growth in viewership, while MLS continues to add teams, seemingly every year. There are changes happening in the landscape of sports enthusiasm, and it’s partially due to the growth of youth athletics. More kids have the opportunity to play soccer and hockey now than baseball and basketball. That statement isn’t valid everywhere, of course, but it is surprising how true it really is. 

I had the opportunity to play soccer at a young age(like many kids have in the last few generations), but soccer has been around in America since at least 1914. It was obviously played in America before 1914, but 100 years is a nice round number to use as our start to the Soccer timeline. 1914 saw the introduction of the 8-hour workday and $5 minimum wage, Babe Ruth taking the field for the first time for the Boston Red Sox, Wrigley Field hosting their first baseball game, and the foundation of the US Soccer Federation. You could say soccer has had its chance to become a major sport. It even had a 6 year head start on the NFL, but the sport sputtered and choked along the way, without much change in public perception. Soccer became viewed as a kind of on-and-off trend or fad. It wasn’t until 1994 that soccer got a real foothold and has been climbing(albeit slowly) ever since, but you may still have a hard time understanding why anyone would watch the sport. 

Soccer can be frenetic from the first whistle, much like a hockey match, but it can also slow to a systematic crawl, like a pitching duel in baseball. It’s appeal lies in the intangibles:

All these quantifiable, intangible factors contribute to what is known as “the beautiful game”, and if you give it half a chance, you might find you enjoy it. 

ESPN is betting big that you will give soccer a chance. The “Worldwide Leader in Sports” paid over $100 million for the broadcast rights of the 2010 and 2014 World Cup. They aren’t just putting it all on red and letting it ride. ESPN has seen appreciable growth in viewership for each World Cup since 2002, and they are selling ads at a much faster rate for this World Cup, than the 2010 iteration. The demand is ripe for a company like ESPN to invest in the World Cup, if only because Americans love to watch big events. The World Cup is the biggest sporting event on Earth, and ESPN has bought in. What are you waiting for? Grab a pint and lets catch a match! 

#IBelieveThatWeWillWin (Creative Commons)
#IBelieveThatWeWillWin (Creative Commons)
Deuce-ception

A Guide to the World Cup, Part Two

The World Cup is a competition consisting of 32 teams from around the globe, and these teams battle their way through qualification in each country’s respective region, coming away with the chance to show their talent and skill on the world’s stage. When the US hosted the World Cup in 1994, the tournament consisted of only 24 teams (the total attendance record from the that World Cup stands to this day), and the bracket was expanded to the current 32 team format for France ’98. Each of these teams have their country’s support, many even more so than during the Olympics. A recent survey showed that Only 1/3 of Americans plan to follow the World Cup, but another way to look at that is roughly 100 million Americans plan to watch the World Cup. Soccer might not be a big deal to some, but it’s a spectacle of sport that only comes around every 4 years.

The competition consists of two stages. The first stage or “Group Stage” is a round-robin style tournament featuring 8 groups with 4 teams in each. This stage determines the seeding for the second stage, known as the “Knockout Round”. The “Knockout Round” is a single-elimination tournament that pits these 16 teams against each other until only one remains(Like the Sweet 16, but instead of frat boy pranks between old rivals, opponents might have had family that fought on opposite sides of a World War).

Only 8 teams have ever won the World Cup. Host nation Brazil has won it the most, hoisting the trophy 5 times. When the US hosted the World Cup in ’94, they faced the eventual World Cup winners Brazil in the Knockout Round. In ’02 the US team made it to the Quarterfinals(the equivalent of the Elite 8, and the farthest the US has progressed at the World Cup since 1930) knocking off star-studded Portugal and arch rival Mexico, before falling to Germany 1-0 after a questionable no-call on a handball and a hard fought match.

4 years ago, the US team was in a group with Slovenia, Algeria, and our former-oppressor-turned-best-friend England. After a wild ride through the group stage, the US emerged victorious. We won our group for the first time in history and went into the knockout round as a #1 seed. The good times were fleeting as the US fell at the hands of Ghana for the second World Cup in a row.

This time around, the US is in Group G with Germany(the #2 team in the world and perennial World Cup contenders), Portugal(the #3 team in the world and home team of arguably the world’s best player, Cristiano Ronaldo) and our old nemesis Ghana.  It would seem fate is funny that way, and she has US set up for feast or famine. Our group is referred to as the “Group of Death”, but these are precisely the teams head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was hired to face and defeat in the World Cup. US fans aren’t too worried, because we relish the underdog role. Let the rest of the world sell US short. It’s the “Group of Death” for the likes of Ghana, Portugal, and Germany because of US.

Deuce-ception
Deuce holding the “Deuce Face” Fathead

If you missed Part One, you can check it out here!

Scarves Up!

A Guide to the World Cup, Part One

The FIFA World Cup in Brazil will get under way on June 12th in the largest “city proper” south of the Equator, São Paulo, Brazil. The match will feature host nation Brazil (competing in their 20th World Cup) and Croatia (competing in their 4th).  Those numbers mean something to a fan of soccer, but to the uninitiated, they may seem trivial. To put them in perspective, there have only ever been 20 World Cups…ever, and Brazil has competed in every single one of them.

The World Cup started in 1930 and that tournament saw the U.S. team compete and place third overall. That remains the farthest the U.S. team has ever advanced in the tournament, and is a reminder that soccer has been around in America for a long time. The World Cup wasn’t played in ’42 and ’46 due to the global instability caused by WWII, so out of the possible 22 iterations, the world has only had the chance to witness 20 of these awe-inspiring tournaments.

Let’s put that number in a different light. If you were born in say, August 1970, and you live to be 80, you will only have the chance to bear witness to the World Cup 20 times in your entire life. There aren’t many sporting events for which the same can be said, and the rarity of the experience is only one of the reasons you should give it a chance, if you aren’t already a fan of the “beautiful game”.

In the lead up, you will hear more and more about the World Cup as the world’s eyes turn to Brazil and one of the greatest spectacles of sport, and if you give it half-a-chance, you might feel the patriotic pull of passion that has swelled the ranks of soccer fans across this great nation. The United States dominates the sports world and racks up medals at the Olympics. We invented sports that are popular around the globe. Our superstars are the world’s superstars, but we’ve never lifted the World Cup. Who knows…this year might be the year.

You can check out Part 2 here.

Scarves Up!
#IBelieveThatWeWillWin

ESPN Commercial for World Cup 2014