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The After Bar: USMNT 2 - Mexico 0

It couldn't really end any other way. Dos a cero. The year was different and so were the goal scorers, but the venue was a similar as the scoreline was as the United States men's national team waxed Mexico, 2-0 at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

A smashing Eddie Johnson header just past halftime and a backpost goal from Landon Donovan mid-way through the second half and the U.S. booked their ticket for Brazil next summer. El Tri sits in a precarious position, fifth place with eight points with only two games left to qualify for the World Cup.

The USMNT punched their Brazil 2014 tickets with two games to spare. Kansas City against Jamaica and at Panama will now provide a solid send-off for the U.S. and chance for Jurgen Klinsmann to get some good reps in for some fringe squad players.

Highlights:

 
Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:
 
Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated) - "Three thoughts on USA 2, Mexico 0"
 
 
 
 
Noah Davis (American Soccer Now) - "Lesson Learned in Costa Rica Leads U.S. to Win"
 
 
Mike Prindiville (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "Man of the Match: Eddie Johnson"
 
Player Ratings:

Greg Seltzer (MLSSoccer.com)

Blake Thomsen (American Soccer Now)

Jeff Carlisle (ESPN)

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

The After Bar: Costa Rica 3 - USMNT 1

Whelp. That one stung. The United States men's national team, looking for their first win ever in Costa Rica walked away empty handed, temporarily setting back the finalization of their World Cup qualifying. The Nats dropped an ugly one, 3-1, in San Jose.

Michael Bradley went off injured in pre-game training and the USMNT looked listless the entire match giving up two goals in the opening ten minutes. Captain Clint Dempsey's 100th cap and 43rd minute penalty kick goal was the lone bright spot in a wet, revenge-filled away match for the Ticos. Having Landon Donovan back in the starting 11 couldn't save the U.S.'s winnning streak either.

Next up, Mexico in "Dos a Cero-ville", Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday.

Highlights:

 

Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:

The Shin Guardian - "Costa Rica 3 – USA 1: Quick Thoughts"

Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated) - "Three thoughts on the U.S.'s World Cup qualifier loss to Costa Rica"

Matthew Doyle (MLSSoccer.com) - "Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned from a trip down Springfield Gorge"

Kyle Bonn (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "Three things we learned from USMNT 3-1 loss at Costa Rica"

Noah David (American Soccer Now) - "Lost Without Bradley, U.S. Falls to Costa Rica, 3-1"

Player Grades/ Ratings:

Jeff Carlisle (ESPN)

Greg Selzter (MLSSoccer.com)

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Blake Thomson (American Soccer Now)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

The Big Pitcher: Uncharted Waters Edition

It's a submarine. Get it? Depth!

Editor's Note: Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but It bends toward justice”. Sometimes we American soccer fans get wrapped up in the day-to-day, Monday morning quarterbacking (or centerbacking), knee-jerk reactions and miss out on the big picture. This weekly column will focus on picking out the larger themes and issues of Major League Soccer and the American game.

By Eric Betts / Senior Crystal Ball Correspondent

Strap on your floaties, sports fans. We’re about to pull a Michael "Squints" Palledorous and jump right into the deep end. Just ask Phil Schoen:

 

 

Now wipe the excess sarcasm from your eyes and consider the main point here: from the qualifiers to the Gold Cup right through to Sarajevo, the theme of the summer for the U.S. Men’s National Team has been depth. New players have emerged and experienced players have reclaimed their spots on top, bumping those who were doing perfectly serviceably in the interim down a peg.

On the offensive side, the combination of players who are good enough to hold onto spots past their primes, young veterans who were given time early and are coming into their roles, and a significantly broader geographic base for young talent to come from means the pool of talent has expanded. When choosing from among them, overall quality is just one of the factors to be considered. (Though of course there will be a segment of the population arguing to just pick the best four guys, which is a good way to get in a bar argument with Jonathan Wilson).

What’s interesting is the variety the coaching staff has to choose from. We aren’t just picking between the Big Guy and the Fast Guy (Wave hello, Misters Buddle and Findley.), instead we can select any from the following cast: Eddie Johnson as the Big and Fast Guy, Altidore as the mercurial “I hate you I hate you I hate you Ohh Sweet Jozy where have you been all my life”, Donovan as the playmaker who’s a threat to score, Dempsey as the scorer who can make plays, Zusi as the white-gloved shuttler and silver platter service man, Fabian Johnson as the incutting havoc-wreaker and Aron Johannsson as the Footloose Wild Thing capable of spelling any of our Few Good Men just before the End of the Line, sending Tremors right up the spines of Iceland’s Frosty Nixons.

That’s not even counting the Not Ready for Prime Time Players Boyd, Bedoya, Corona and possibly Johannsson; the still super-young Second City Regulars Agudelo, McInerney, Gatt, and possibly Johannsson; the teetering on the edge of Dr. Doolittle-dom Herculez Gomez and Chris Wondolowski and whatever the hell Brek Shea is (Best Case Scenario: Robert Downey Jr. Worst Case: Jim Belushi). Even if we assume a number of the first two groups flame out before stardom, that’s still a pretty diverse cast to work with.

This means one thing for Jurgen Klinsmann: Decisions. And for the rest of us, the Internet’s favorite pastime: anticipating and then second-guessing those decisions. Hell, we’re still not over the Great Rico Clark Debacle of 2010. Can you imagine the collective outrage if the team starts to struggle with some of those guys on the field? Even if you assume that Jozy, Dempsey and Donovan are automatic starts, who gets the fourth slot? Who gets called off the bench late when the team needs a goal? How does that particular group of four, whoever it is, adjust if the midfield is getting overrun?

Or take another example: nothing we saw last week changed the bottom line on John Anthony Brooks, but if we believe him to be further ahead of the likes of Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson, then we’ll have to address the fact that the two best centerbacks in the pool compliment each other stylistically except for the simple fact that they both play – and have pretty much exclusively played – on the same side of a central pairing. That’s a clear example of player quality running into tactical reality, unless we also plan to play a sign on the left-sided channel asking strikers to please redirect their attacks toward the two gentlemen to their right.

Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that the idea of having two semi-competent and fully functional centerbacks seemed a pipe dream. The presence of depth means rosters can be retooled, revamped, and recycled more rapidly. We’re beginning to rebuild the airplane in midflight at faster and faster speeds, though often enough the new parts don’t wind up filling the same holes as the old.

The notion of “We’re set at outside back for the next ten years” runs right into Timmy Chandler’s waffling and the minor detail that Fabian Johnson’s actually not that great at left back. “Can anyone other than Clint score,” gets drop-kicked by Jozy. The still-waters-run-deep pool of consistency in the center of midfield becomes Michael Bradley and Pray for Rain. What will we do without Landon → Who needs Landon → Ohh thank God, Landon’s back.

These are the kinds of problems where it’s much better to have them than the alternative. Even if we're not quite drowning in talent yet, we're not scraping the bottom of the kiddie pool either. Bring on the W-M.

About Eric

Eric Betts is a freelancer writer who lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and his dog Lando (yup). While attending Emory University he won "College Jeopardy".

Tags: Big Pitcher, Eric Betts, USMNT

The After Bar: USMNT 4 - Bosnia and Herzegovina 3

Jozy. That's all anyone needs to say. Jozy Altidore continues his amazing run of form carrying the United States men's national team to a 4-3 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo.

There were certainly other solid players on the field for the USMNT: Michael Bradley, of course, showing himself, as always to be the calm center of the universe; John Anthony Brooks looking like the future of the central defense; and Aron "Bacon" Johannsson putting in 27 minutes of creative attacking soccer. 

The first half, though mostly solid defense, put the U.S on both their back heels giving up quick strikes-off-of-silly-mistakes and down 2-0. The second half, with a few adjustments, would see Altidore own it, doing the hard work of settling Bradley's perfect over-the-top ball to nudge to Eddie Johnson. Altidore would then tally a hat-trick of goals in a diverse fashion: a left-sided blast, an amazing free kick, and hustle with a deft finish.

Heading into the home stretch of World Cup qualifying the Nats have all the momentum they need.

Next up on the road in Costa Rica on September 6 where the U.S has never won.

Highlights:

 
Reactions:
 
Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Player Ratings:
 
 

Greg Selzter (MLSSoccer.com)

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

A Brew for You… And You…. And You (USMNT vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Gold Cup champeeeeeee-ooooooonnnnsssss!

OK. I got that out of the way. Since then end of the Gold Cup  (which we one and Mexico didn't, by-the-way) there hasn't been a United States match to write about and gloat in.

Photo Credit: CraftBeerSocial.com
Photo Credit: FatCatKC.blogspot.com

What's done is done and now we, as U.S. fans, turn our eyes back toward World Cup Qualifying; with just this mid-August international friendly standing in the way. Thankfully it's not some mindless cash-grab game against Mexico (see you soon!) and a real European test after snacking on all those poor CONCACAF nations over the last month.

But seriously… didn't it feel good to go out and stop around a bit? When the last time we're seen the USMNT just go out and smash some opponents? Like 8-0 against Barbados in 2008?

Bosnia, though. Well. Bosnia AND Herzegovina actually. See they had to double up for the match because the Nats are on such a roll. They'll be good. FIFA (not that you can believe anything from them) say they're ranked 13th in the world so this is a real test. We're 19th and ahead of Mexico which is kind of like beating your little brother in a race for a spot in line for a roller coaster ride then realizing you're still behind all the older kids.

Lots of new faces in the U.S. camp: Icelandic Kevin Bacon Aron Jonhannnnnnsssssoon (pitman Jesse Bignami better count those letters carefully), John Anthony Brooks, Bobby Wood, Cody Cropper, and Tim Ream. Some will see time. Some we thought were dead. Most are just in for a good look in camp.

All will face the "Dragons" (Zmajevi) of Bosnia and Herzgovina. And we've got a pair of taking-down-the-dragon-knight-in-shining-armor beer recommendations, both variations on the stout style, for you this USMNT game day.

First, Middle Ages Brewing Company of Syracuse, New York and their "Dragon Slayer" Russian Imperial Stout. Described by the brewery as "strong, chocolatety and aggressively hopped with finest English hops." Yum.

Next up is New Holland Brewing Company of Holland, Michigan and their "Dragon's Milk" Bourbon Barrel Stout. Described as a "stout with roasty malt character intermingled with deep vanilla tones, all dancing in an oak bath." Taking the work of the "Slayer" and adding a bunch more boozy flavor to it.

Today's effort is going to take just that. A good performance and then kicking it up a notch. Eleven in-a-row, looking at twelve before resuming our quest for qualifying for Brazil. A win is another feather in coach Jurgen Klinsmann's cap. A loss one more lesson learned in Europe. A draw… sure why not?

The real test comes when we travel to Costa Rica and host Mexico in September. Everything else is just prep work.

Hopefully you're taking a "bisnass lunch to watch this one. What are you drinking today?

Tags: Beer, The Best of Both Worlds, USMNT

Local Soccer, Local Beer - Drinking and Divisions in Bosnia

Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium. Want to order a beer here? We've got you covered.

By Kirsten Schlewitz / Senior West Coast Beer Correspondent

If you’re taking the trouble to make a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, chances are you’re not doing it to quench your thirst for delicious, unusual, artisan craft beer. Bosnia is many things –ridiculously beautiful, insanely complicated, mysteriously captivating – but it is not an untapped outpost for those seeking the next great thing in beer. If you’re drinking beer in Bosnia, you’re almost certainly going to be presented with a choice of lager or lager. At a few bars, you’ll find dark beer on offer, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s a porter or a stout. It’ll be more like a dark lager, but give it a try, as it’s usually better than the pale stuff.

If you’re in Sarajevo, the majority of beer you’ll find will be Sarajevsko, from the brewery on one of the hills just above the old town. This Pivara has been in existence since 1864 but, although you may find its dark beer in a few places around town, it’s most likely you’ll be drinking the lager. It’s actually not bad, especially considering the price – usually around $1.20.

But if you travel around the country and keep your eyes reasonably open, you’ll notice something interesting. Along the way, you’ll cross an invisible line, and the green Sarajevsko umbrellas will vanish. In their place will be the white and red of Karlovačko or the golden yellow of Lav. If it’s Karlovačko, you’re in one of the Croatian areas of Bosnia. But if the beer on offer is Lav, you’ve come into the Republika Srpska, where the majority of the Serbian population lives.

The beer umbrellas are the best indicators of the ethnic divides that still permeate Bosnia today, nearly twenty years after the end of the destructive wars of the 1990s. And while it may seem strange to talk about ethnicity and politics in a post devoted to beer and soccer, they all tie together. You see, if you leave behind the land of Sarajevsko, you’re unlikely to find anyone supporting the Bosnia National Team – they’ll all be sporting Croatia kits or cheering on Serbia as they lose horribly to Colombia. When you consider the purpose of this website, bringing people together through soccer and beer, it’s sobering to realize that in BiH, these are two of most visible indicators of social divisions.

In Sarajevo, though, the population is almost entirely Bosniak, meaning that the majority of its people will be supporting the national team when they face the USMNT on Wednesday. Anyone lucky enough to be in the city will have their fill of places to drink before, during, and after the match. When I was there for Bosnia’s last World Cup qualifying match, people wearing blue and yellow – often the flag itself—filled the streets of Sarajevo, and the match was shown in every café and pub. The Bosniaks are justifiably proud of their national team, which is on the verge of qualifying for its first-ever World Cup, and aren’t shy about showing it.

The city and country may not be known for its beer specifically, but its café culture is hard to beat. Throw in a match and it’s pretty much heaven.

In the summertime, almost everyone sits outside, shaded under the aforementioned giant umbrellas. The cafes run together, sometimes making it difficult to decipher which tables belong to which menu, but it matters little as most offer the same ambience and service. The crisp lagers are actually pretty perfect for a hot summer day, but at some point, you’re going to need a pick-me-up. And what Bosnia lacks in beer skills it more than makes up for in coffee skills. The coffee is strong and dark, often being served Turkish-style in a copper pot with a tiny cup to pour into. For an authentically Bosnian experience, sip slowly, making your tiny cup last an hour or so, and keep a cigarette in one hand as you’re doing so.

I’m not sure how many Americans made the trip to see the USMNT in Sarajevo. But whoever did made a fantastic decision. The beer is cheap, the football is great, and they’ll almost all make at least one lifelong friend. But a little tip for those actually in Bosnia: if you bypass the beer and try the rakija, sip it and go slowly. Don’t be overconfident! These people will beat you at drinking their liquor (I think it’s something in the Balkan blood). And if it’s homemade rakjia, take care that you don’t find yourself sleeping in the middle of a cobblestone street, missing a shoe and wrapped in a Bosnian flag. You’ve been warned.

Some handy Bosnian football watching phrases:

Hello/goodbye: Cao

Thank you: Hvala

Gdje je WC?: Where is the bathroom (pronounced vey-say, more or less)

Izvolite?: This is your cue to respond with your drink order…

Two beers, please: Dvije pive, molim Vas

One dark beer: Jedno tamno pivo

Go on!: Hajde!

Learn to shoot!: Nauči da šutiraš!

He was born offside: Rodjen je u ofsajdu

Look at that blind man!: Vidi ovog slijepca!

About Kirsten

I may be a law student at Lewis and Clark, but soccer is my true love, with beer coming in a distant second. That's not to say I don't love beer--I've tasted over a thousand different brews, am a bit obsessed with my "33 Beers" notebooks, and love my Untappd app. Living in Portland, Oregon, I attend quite a few festivals and tastings, and am able to argue passionately about the merits of Cascade hops vs. Chinook.

As for the soccer, I'm the cofounder of SB Nation's Aston Villa site, 7500 to Holte, as well as the editor of SB Nation Italy. Want more? Follow me on Twitter!

Tags: Beer, Local Soccer Local Beer, USMNT

The Sitter: Kasey Keller on Soccer in America and Damn Good Whiskey

FBM's Dan trying to play "journalist" with Keller.

During the 2013 Major League Soccer All-Star game in Kansas City we had a chance to sit down with Kasey Keller who's soccer resume over his 17 year career is most impressive (USMNT, Portland Timbers, Milwall, Leiscester City, Rayo Vallecano, Tottenham, Borussia Monchengladbach, Fulham, and retiring with the Seattle Sounders). Nearly as impressive is his love and knowledge of whiskey.

Much thanks to Castrol USA for the opportunity to speak with Mr. Keller.

Free Beer Movement: You've obviously been a huge part of American soccer and American soccer history; a huge pioneer here and in Europe before many others. How do you feel like the sport has changed over your career?

Kasey Keller: For me I started youth national teams in he mid-80s. I was fortunately to go to two Youth World Cups in 87 and 89. I was a young goalkeeper first and then it was my time second. We were the first American team to reach the semi-finals of a FIFA tournament and I was the first American player to be recognize with a Silver Ball (for a tournaments second best player). To see that side early on and to see that things were moving the in the right direction. From there I moved on to the full national team and started traveling.

I remember trying to qualify for '90 (the 1990 World Cup) playing in St. Louis Soccer Park trying to get 5,000 fans to come to the game and try and get some sort of atmosphere that was going to help the team qualify. Going to '90 with a bunch of amateurs competing for a federation that hadn't been to a World Cup in 40 years...

It was a starting point where now you look at it and really can't believe where the team's progressed. It's an amazing progression over a very short period of time. Now it's the hard part. Now it's taking the next percentage steps to catch up with the countries that have predominant controlled the sport.

FBM: Talk about your experience helping out the National Team for the Gold Cup after Chris Woods departed (Woods, moved from Everton to Manchester United with manager David Moyes, and was temporarily unavailable for the Gold Cup). Does Jurgen just call up and ask if you have a spare few minutes?

KK: (Laughs). Yeah. It was a case where he called me before the Gold Cup started and asked if I could help out in the quarterfinals through the finals when Chris Woods moved to Man U. This time of year is really difficult. Even if he would've stay at Everton it would've been impossible to come and work this tournament. It's one of those tricky situations that Jurgen was happy to bring in a few new people. Sounders were fantastic in letting me miss a few games and be a part of the Gold Cup. It was fun to continue to see different things and do different things in this so-called retirement of mine.

FBM: You have a very active retirement!

KK: I do! Which is cool.

FBM: What's changed? What's different under Klinsmann?

KK: It's hard. When Jurgen came in there was this big fanfare. A much higher price tag for a U.S. manager than there had been in the past. There was some ideal that he was going to wave a magic wand and we were going to have 25 world-class players. It doesn't matter who comes into a national team you're still dependent on the players that have already been produced. What he's been implementing will take a little time and people will have to understand the field and the non-field side. He's giving the players and the team a field little things that will make a difference.

That's the tough thing. You can't make 40, 50 percent things. You're trying to improve five, three, two percent things that are the difference between a 1-0 loss to a 1-1 draw or maybe to a 1-0 win. Those are the kind of little fractions. But at the same time you still need the players to perform and do their job.

Jurgen has admitted himself there are things he's had to learn about CONCACAF compared to some of the scenarios that he's been in before.

Overall the national team is in a pretty healthy spot right now. Granted eleven wins in a row right now doesn't hurt.

FBM: You came back to Major League Soccer with the Seattle Sounders and their incredible atmosphere. Talk about what it was like to come to Seattle and be a part of that.

KK: For me it was the easiest transition possible. First of all I'm coming home after seventeen years. But also I was coming home to something that really, really mattered. It was on the radio shows it was on all the TVs. My wife and I were having a competition to see when we'd have a time when we'd go out to dinner and somebody wouldn't stop by the table and say something.

FBM: How long did that take?

KK: I think it's still running. Which... it's just cool. It shows you that things have really moved in a good direction. Coming from Europe and how the game's perceived there to come home and have complete anonymity would seem strange, but  there's a really good balance here.

It's unintrusive. It's how you'd hope pro sports should be. You have the Seahawks, the Mariners, and the Sounders are right there.

FBM: You're in the broadcast booth doing color commentary for the Sounders and also ESPN. Has that changed your perspective on the game at all?

KK: Not really. We'll see what happens four, five years down the road, but I still take it as a player. I still kind of approach it like being the captain of a team. Sometimes you have to be critical, but you try not to be over the top. I try not to "Well... when I played..."

I take it from the approach that I'm supposed to help you (the viewer) enjoy the game. You're not tuning in to listen to me. I'm supposed to help you enjoy the experience and not try and overbear on the experience. 

That's my approach and people have seemed to respond pretty well to it.

FBM: You're a whiskey guy. This is a beer and soccer website, but I'll allow it. What are your top three whiskies?

KK: My top three. Lagavulin is my number one whiskey. I'm more of a single malt guy then a blended. Then I'll go to Talisker. Then when I want to go to blend I'll go with Johnny Walker Blue Label.

But then I have a bottle in my house of 18-year-old Macallan that was distilled in 1969; the year that I was born, that I haven't opened yet. I'm still waiting for the right moment 

FBM: Is it when the U.S. men's national team wins the World Cup next year?

KK: (Laughs) That could possible be.... we're waiting to see what that moment will be.

The other hard part is I also want to open it up when I have people around that are truly scotch people that will appreciate what's going on there and not try and mix it with Coke. 

FBM: Well then don't invite me over. I've got a lot of learning to do on the whiskey side of things.

Kasey Keller thanks for your time.

KK: Thank you.

Keller and Alexi Lalas in the ESPN booth during the 2012 MLS Cup.

Tags: Six-Pack Interview Series, USMNT

A Brew for You…  And You… And You…. (USMNT vs. Panama - Gold Cup Final)

The Gold Cup Final. The Grand Finale. The Big Enchilada. OK... maybe not that last one... Mexico is out after all. (sad face)

The United States men's national team finds itself at the cusp of its fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup Final with only high-flying Panama standing in the way. Today's game will decide whether the consistent U.S. attack (partnered with a sometimes shaky backline) can breakdown the stiff defense of Los Canaleros and successfully hold off their offense led by FC Dallas' Blas Perez.

It comes down to this... as well as the U.S. is playing right now its success will be defined by whether or not they take this trophy home this afternoon. Win and the praise and accolades will continue to roll in and our World Cup qualifying confidence is buoyed heading back into the qualifiers. Lose and we tumble back into the darkness of the post-Honduras loss navel gazing.

Even though the USMNT is without Jurgen Klinsmann on the sidelines (and he SHOULD be with the American Outlaws on the endline!) this U.S. side knows the game plan and exactly what's expected of them.

We've got a little Gold Cup Final special for beer recommendations today. A trio of brews for you to hunt down if you're in Chicago or ever visiting... each with a soccer twist.

(Side Note: The brewery/restaurant chain Rock Bottom used to make a "Chicago" Golden Ale... how perfect of a beer rec would be!??!)

* Meet Finch's Beer Company's "Facist Pig" Red Ale - So maybe calling the CONCACAF disciplinary committee "facist" is a bit over the top, but it shouldn't take away from the fact that their decision to suspend Klinsmann for the final wasn't deeply flawed.

Celebrate the USMNT win over stupidity and Panama (note... two separate things) with this canned craft beer. If you can't find the "pig" try their IPA and/or stout; both highly rated.

* Meet Revolution Brewing Co. "Anti-Hero" IPA - Klinsmann's revolution is finally playing out to great success. Ten wins in a row and the U.S. game play is flowing like...err... wine. The engine for this revolution is not only Das Coach's tactics, but American soccer's anti-hero Landon Donovan. The role of "savior" he never wanted, but none-the-less had thrust upon him. Donovan will, of course, be the difference maker today.

* Meet Half Acre Beer Company "Daisy Cutter" Pale Ale - Jurgen's tactics have traded out the set-piece bombing squad (along with with the quick counter-attack) of the Bob Bradley era for the on-the-floor possession-based defend-and-distribute. If the pitch was full of daisies JK would have this Nats side mow them all down with their passes to get the ball in the back of the net. Will Klinsmann's daisy cutter tactics have the USMNT's Gold Cup hopes coming up roses?

What are you drinking for today's game?

 

Tags: A Brew For You, Beer, USMNT

The After Bar: USMNT 3 - Honduras 1 (Gold Cup)

Easy as one, two, three. Three goals from the United States men's national team and they're on their way to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final. A thoroughly dominating performance by the Nats, 3-1 over Honduras, means a date with surprise finalists Panama.

Eddie Johnson, freed by a great ball from Landon Donovan, broke away from the Panamanian defense to open the scoring in the 11th minute. Donovan would tally two goals of his own, a goalmouth tap-in at the 27th minute mark, and then a speedy response to Honduras' lone goal in the 53rd minute.

The USMNT is seeking it's fifth Gold Cup title and has reached the finals in nine of the 12 editions of the tournament. The win extended the Nats record-setting win streak to ten games as they improved to 11-2-2 in 2013.

The Final, televised nationally on main FOX, is at 3pm CT on Sunday from Soldier Field in Chicago.

Highlights:

 

Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:

Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated) - "American stars back in fine form boost U.S. at Gold Cup"

Matthew Doyle (MLSSoccer.com) - "Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned from Landon Donovan's domination at JerryWorld"

Richard Farley (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "Circling back on Klinsmann’s changes: What worked, what didn’t for the U.S. vs. Honduras"

Steve Davis (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "United States is streaking as a team – but not so spectacularly as Landon Donovan is individually"

Steve Davis (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "United States is rolling like never before in Gold Cup play"

Player Ratings: 

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Greg Selzter (MLSSoccer.com)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

A Brew for You… And You… And You…. (USMNT vs. Honduras - Gold Cup)

Win or go home. Thems the breaks in the elimination rounds of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Gone are the comforts of the group stage where a slip up could be made up. As the United States men's national team saw (at least until Eddie Johnson walked on the field) on Sunday against El Salvador that success is perilous and advancement not always guaranteed.

Despite the early and dominating advantage the game was only at 2-1 and El Salvador gaining confidence. Of course we know that the match ended extremely lopsided and we're sitting her today staring down Honduras for a place in the Finals against either Panama or Mexico.

In a flick of a switch the USMNT went from on the back heel to the front foot and slammed the Salvadoreans. This tournament has shown that this Nats side has the ability to just "drop the hammer".

Belize got the hammer. Cuba, despite a little early resistance, got the hammer. Costa Rica held firm until Landon Donovan dropped the hammer and a brilliant pass to Brek Shea. And, just last Sunday, El Salvador felt the hammer blow as well.

Twenty-two goals in their last five matches. In their record-setting nine match win streak the national team has scored 31 total goals.

Hammer time.

As the U.S. faces Honduras tonight, an opponent that was stingy in Salt Lake City during World Cup qualifying (and also beat us on their home turf) the question is whether the hammer will continue to fall against on opponents. Will it be a series of blows or one perfect strike? Will we finally see Gold Cup revenge against Mexico where we've been the victim of crush losses in the last two finals?

Tonight we recommend a local beer that, you guessed it, drops the hammer. Meet Peticolas Brewing Company's "Velvet Hammer" Imperial Red Ale. Malty, sweet, yet balanced with good hop character. Soft and heavy at the same time. This multidimensional beer is a great representation of the many ways the U.S. has come to dominate this Gold Cup tournament.

There is no one route to success for the U.S. today and that's is the key to their success so far this summer as well. Stu's soft creativity and Wondo(w)lowski's (or more recently EJ's) heavy headers have led the way as the U.S. hammers away at another chance for Gold Cup glory.

What are you drinking for tonight's match?

Tags: A Brew For You, Beer, USMNT

The After Bar: USMNT 1 - Costa Rica 0 (Gold Cup)

Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIPhotos.com

The weather, the setting, and the cast was different, but the result was the same as the United States men's national team beat Costa Rica 1-0 in Hartford, Conn on a late Brek Shea goal. 

A fantastic save from Sean Johnson led to a counter-attack break away by Landon Donovan on the right. He lofted the ball to Shea in stride down the center of the field and the Stoke City man collected the ball and fired the U.S. into the lead. It was Shea first international goal. 

The USMNT will face El Salvador in the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup on Sunday at 5pm ET. 

Highlights:

 
Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:
 
Brian Straus (Sports Illustrated) - "Three thoughts on the U.S.' late win over Costa Rica"

Steve Davis (NBC ProSoccerTalk) - "What we learned from the United States Gold Cup win over Costa Rica"

 
Player Ratings:

Jeff Carlisle (ESPNFC)

Jon Arnold (Americsn Soccer Now)

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

A Beer for You… And You… And You… (USMNT vs. Costa Rica)

The United States men's national team is looking awfully golden right now in the 2013 edition of the Gold Cup. They've easily dispatched Belize and Cuba, but tonight will face a much sterner test in Costa Rica. With a place in the quarterfinals in Baltimore already assured this game is about topping the group and bragging rights.

Costa Rica... THAT Costa Rica. Those Ticos that couldn't handle juuuuuust a tinsy-winsey bit of snow in Denver a few moths ago during World Cup qualifying.

Unless U.S. Soccer rented a snow machine the forecast is going to be much different than that frozen night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in March. Side note.... why DIDN'T U.S. Soccer rent a snow machine?!!?!?

Hartford is going to be hot! And that's going to be more familiar for the Costa Ricans, but unfortunately for our Central American counterparts... the Nats are hotter than ever.

What should you drink for tonight's match against the weather whiners? We're going to play another round of "six degrees of beer separation".

Hartford is in Connecticut. Connecticut is nicknamed the "Nutmeg State". In nearby Boston Harpoon Brewing Company brews a "Winter Warmer" with heavy hints of nutmeg. But it's most certainly not winter and to be honest the beer itself it pretty terrible.

Buuuut.... since it IS a hot summer day in New England we're recommended a great beer for tailgatin', porch sittin', and soccer watchin'.

Meet Harpoon's UFO White. Refreshing, summer-y, and sessionable. Have one again and again. Just like the USMNT is going to beat Costa Rica again and again. Sun or snow... it doesn't matter. In this wheat beer fruit or no fruit... it doesn't matter.

So grab yourself a nice, light, yet full-bodied, wit beer (Harpoon or otherwise) and watch the U.S. whip the Costa Ricans.

What are drinking for tonight's match?

Tags: A Brew For You, Beer, USMNT

The Best of Both Worlds - Meeting Nick Rimando and Rimando’s Wit

So far the "FBM World Tour" has taken us on stops to Denver, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Portland, and back to Salt Lake City. Beyond the great games (all USMNT wins!) we've also experienced the unique and delicious beer cultures of each of these cities.

A few months back we reported on the making of a tribute beer for U.S. national team and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando by a local brewery, Unsacred Brewing. We reached out to them and spoke with one of their co-owners, David Cole, about the collaboation between their brewery and Rimando, a noted craft beer enthusiast. 

When we first passed through SLC we weren't able to get our hands on the brew, but a second take in the city by the salt lake would do the trick. First off, we'd like to thank Real Salt Lake's Vice President of Broadcasting & Communications Trey Fitz-Gerald. It was going to relatively easy to snag a bottle in a store or grab some on tap at Rio Tinto Stadium, but Trey not only saved us a bottle in his office he arranged a brief meet-and-greet with Rimando. We waited patiently for Nick to do post-game interviews after leading the Nats to a 4-1 win over Cuba in their Gold Cup match.

Rimando chatted with us for a bit. We got to explain the Free Beer Movement idea and he talked about his love of craft beer (he's fond of Epic Brewing Company here in SLC) and graciously autographed our bottle. We were able to "scarf" him as well. There are, obviously, several team and supporter-specific beers, but Rimando has the honor of being the first, and still only, player with his own commercial beer... something we told him he should brag to his teammates about more.

Thanks against to Trey at RSL and, of course, Nick for taking the time for FBM. A real cool moment in our organization's history.

 

Tags: Beer, FBM In Action, Major League Soccer, The Best of Both Worlds, USMNT

The After Bar: USMNT 4 - Cuba 1

Despite an early scare from the visitors, the United States men's national team rebounded to defeat Cuba soundily, 4-1, in their second group match of the 2013 Gold Cup in Sandy, Utah. Red hot Chris Wondo(w)lowski powered the Nats with a brace, while Joe Coruna produced a stunning strike from outside the box, and Landon Donovan started the route with a late first half penalty kick.

The hosts were stunned by a 36th minute goal by Jose Ciprian Alfonso, but a stoppage time PK by Donovan (after Edgar Castillo was hauled down in the box) would level things before half. Coruna opened his national team scoring account in style with a curling shot from 20 yards out in the 57th minute before Wondo(w)lowski came in for clean up duty with a pair of goals in the 66th and 85th minutes.

Wondo(w)lowski now has five goals in two Cup matches (and six counting in the last three) becoming the first U.S. player to score five in this tournament. The win against Cuba was the USMNT's seventh straight win and equaled their longest streak ever (2007).

With a quarterfinal place assured in Baltimore the Nats face Costa Rica for Group C bragging rights on Tuesday at 8pm ET on Fox Soccer.

Highlights:

 

Reactions:

 

Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:

Matthew Doyle (MLSSoccer.com) - "Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned about adjustments, Brek & Wondow"

Brian Straus (Sports Illustrated) - "Three thoughts on USA's more challenging Gold Cup win over Cuba"

Joe Prince-Wright (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "Three things we learned from USA’s victory over Cuba"

Player Ratings:

Jeff Carlisle (ESPN)

Greg Seltzer (MLSSoccer.com)

Brian Sciaretta (New York Times)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

The Big Pitcher: Holden Out for a Hero

(Photo Credit: Orlando Ramirez Icon/SMI)

Editor's Note: Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but It bends toward justice”. Sometimes we American soccer fans get wrapped up in the day-to-day, Monday morning quarterbacking (or centerbacking), knee-jerk reactions and miss out on the big picture. This weekly column will focus on picking out the larger themes and issues of Major League Soccer and the American game.

By Eric Betts / Senior Crystal Ball Correspondent

Apologies for the title, which will now be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

I can’t think of Stuart Holden without thinking of Len Bias, the University of Maryland basketball standout drafted second overall in 1986 by the reigning NBA-champion Boston Celtics, who was supposed to bolster the team through the remainder of Larry Bird’s career and ease its transition into the era that would become dominated by Michael Jordan. Instead he died two days after the draft, the cause of death determined to be a cardiac arrhythmia caused by cocaine usage. The Celtics wouldn’t win another title until 2008.

What happened to each of them is obviously incomparable; no amount of freak injuries, just glance through this in case you’ve forgotten some of them, can ever equal a tragic loss of life. It’s the aftermath that we’ll look at here: what happens when someone’s potential remains potential indefinitely.

Bias’ death turned him into a lot of things: Totem for the War on Drugs and “One Mistake is All It Takes.” Cautionary tale for a generation. And, from a sporting perspective, a tabula rasa for an  audience raised to believe that potential was the equal of performance. Because the only way athletic potential ever dissipates is when it’s measured against the eventual proficiency of the athlete, Len Bias’ has remained undiminished for more than 25 years. Nobody knows what would have happened to him, and so everyone is free to assume the best, that he would have been the second coming of Jordan or the first coming of LeBron James.

What Holden shares with Bias is the sense not of wasted but of unrealized potential. Holden’s play had steadily improved every time he stayed on the field for a prolonged period of time, culminating in his 2010-2011 season at Bolton, where he was named the team’s player of the year despite missing the last two months of the season after Jonny Evans attempted to perform microfracture surgery on him with his boot.

That level of improvement made the gaps - practically three seasons worth in total – all the more frustrating, but because of them, there has always been the sense around Holden of a career interrupted. His ceiling has been harder to spot than that of say, Jose Francisco Torres or Sacha Kljestan. His passing would be a valuable asset to the team in any era, his stints on the flanks showcased his offensive ability, while the oft-cited tackles stat from the 2010-2011 season suggested the promise that he could put in the defensive work required to man the center.

Because of that, Holden’s been his own blank slate for U.S. fans for at least the last two years. He could be whatever we wanted. Shifting to a possession-oriented game? He’d be perfect for that. Central midfield trio playing too defensively? It’d be better if we had Holden in one of the slots. Just generally sick of Jermaine Jones? If only Stu hadn’t gotten hurt.

We don’t know how good Holden might have gotten if he hadn’t spent much of the least three years rehabbing from a series of increasingly unfortunate injuries, and so we were free to assume the best. In the minds of many U.S. fans, an alternate history of Holden’s career would look like this:

March 3, 2010 - Holden breaks Nigel de Jong’s leg in a friendly in Amsterdam.

June 12, 2010 - Holden, starting in place of Ricardo Clark, recognizes that Oguchi Onyewu has been sucked forward and follows Steven Gerrard’s run, intercepting Emile Heskey’s pass. USA 1-0 England.

June 26, 2010 - Holden takes his touch around Anthony Annan(?), instead of directly into him. USA beats Ghana 1-0, but loses to Uruguay on penalties after Luis Suarez stops a Stu Holden header on the line with his hands in the final moments of extra time.

June 25, 2011 - Holden interrupts Mexico’s Gold Cup Final comeback with a second-half hat trick and, for good measure, breaks Giovani dos Santos’ leg shortly after halftime. The US wins 5-3. 

December 12, 2011 - Holden, unencumbered by the burden of rehabilitation, discovers a cure for the avian flu.

May 13, 2012 - Bolton, powered by Holden, nip Tottenham to fourth place and are denied a Champions League spot only by Chelsea’s victory in the tournament. Ownerships loosens the purse strings, and the team signs Clint Dempsey during the summer.

May 19, 2013 - Bolton do the double. Holden appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the 49th time in three years, tying Michael Jordan’s then-record.

June/July 2013 - Stuart Holden secedes from the United States. The new nation of STU-S-A wins the 2013 Confederations Cup.

You may have noticed it didn’t exactly turn out that way, but because it didn’t, we’re still talking about Holden in terms of potential. Whether he’ll be ready to start in 2014, whether he’ll be good enough to start in 2014, whether even if he is both those things he’ll be considered as a complement to Michael Bradley rather than a replacement for him and offensive substitute. It’s a little odd to have so much uncertainty about a player who turns 28 next month, but then again when I read his birth date on Wikipedia I went to look it up on another source to make sure. Twenty-eight? Already?

If Holden stays healthy – knock on wood, salt over shoulder, spin three times, etc, or just have him play next season in a bubble – then eventually there will come a reckoning between that perceived, best-case scenario potential and the actual potential of someone who has played approximately a dozen meaningful games in the last two years. He’s making all the right noises about coming back better than ever, but the differences between Two good halves split between Guatemala and Belize would mean nearly nothing for 99 of the ASN 100. For Holden, it has people, including these guys, talking about whether he’ll be ready to start in Brazil.

Such talk is at the moment at least partially facetious, but only partially. It betrays a toned-down version of the same kind of optimism that would have had Holden earning a transfer to Bayern Munich and passing comprehensive immigration reform this summer if he had never gotten hurt.

These outsized expectations are Holden’s blessing and curse. We don’t expect him to live up to them, but we’ll always talk about how great it would have been if he had. No matter what he does for the rest of his career, the question will always hang over him: What if?

About Eric

Eric Betts is a freelancer writer who lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and his dog Lando (yup). He is a contributing writer for "The Other 87 Minutes", their brilliance featured every Tuesday on the Free Beer Movement in the form of "the Tuesday 10" or the "Tuesday XI". While attending Emory University he won "College Jeopardy"

Tags: Big Pitcher, Eric Betts, USMNT

The After Bar: USMNT 6 - Belize 1 (Gold Cup)

 

Photo Credit: Scott Olmos (USA Today)

Wonderful Wondo(w)lowski. The United States men's national team forward got his first goal for his country against Guatemala last Friday and decided he just wanted more. Three more in a 6-1 rout of Belize in front of 18,000+ at JELD-WEN Field in Portland, Oregon.

Patience was the practice for last night as Belize bunkered down and the U.S took their time to break down their defense. Wondo opened the evening's scoring in the 11th minute, bagged his second 25 minutes later, and had a hat trick before halftime. Stu Holden continued on the comeback trail, Michael Orozco Fiscal showed he could score somewhere else other than Azteca, and Landon Donovan finished the goal party with a late penalty kick. Donovan's assist on the Holden goal earned him the first spot in the USMNT "50 goal- 50 assist" club.

The Nats face Cuba on Saturday from Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah at 1:30pm MT on Fox Soccer and Univision.

American Outlaws/ AO: Portland / Timbers Army Tifo:

Chris Wondo(w)lowski (First Goal):

 
Chris Wondo(w)lowski (Second Goal):

Chris Wondo(w)lowski (Third Goal):

Stu Holden:

Michael Orozco Fiscal:

Landon Donovan PK:

 

Analysis from American soccer's best writers:

Grant Wahl (Sports Illustrated) - "Three thoughts on a dominent U.S. win vs. Belize"

Steve Davis (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "Takeaways from the United States’ win over Belize"

Will Parchman (Top Drawer Soccer) - "The USMNT gets the Gold Cup started with a 6-1 flyer"

Matthew Doyle (MLSSoccer.com) - "Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned from US rout of Belize"

Player Ratings:

Josh Deaver (American Soccer Now)

Steve Davis (NBC Pro Soccer Talk)

Greg Seltzer (MLSSoccer.com)

Jeff Carlisle (ESPNFC)

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

A Brew for You and You and You…. (USMNT vs. Belize)

If you've been following the run-up to the United States national team opening game against Belize tonight you may have stumbled across this quote:

“I call on our national team to not only beat the United States but to humiliate the United States.”
That gem came from Ruperto Vicente president of the Football Federation of Belize' speaking to a local newspaper in Portland.

BWHAHAHAHAHHAHA. (Deep breath) AHAHHAHAHAHA!

Perhaps this gentlemen has been imbibing a bit too much on all the fine beers that Rose City has to offer, but you've. got. to. be. kidding. me.

Last Friday's warm up match against Guatemala, like we called it, was an impressive "victory at sea". We destroyed a team that has actually been competitive in CONCACAF before and now Belize thinks they are going to come into one of the best soccer cities and stadiums in the country and "humiliate" us?

We say that sounds "un-Belize-able."

AMIRITE?

(crickets)

Moving past fake outrage and to what you all came here for... our beer of the match recommendation.

Portland calls itself "Soccer City USA", but the beer's not half bad either.

Duh.

Portland's beer scene offers so many choices. It has more breweries per capita than any other city in the country. Additionally, it's the epic center of the India Pale Ale (and it's bigger brother the double or imperial IPA) and "hop bomb" beers.

So many good choices and we're going to go against convention just a bit here.

Instead of hoppy we're going to pick another style that Portland is making a name for itself.

 Photo Credit: 99Pours.com

Meet Cascade Brewing Company and their "Vlad the Imp Aler" sour. The quality and craft of their beers is inversely proportional to their website's.

Not that we like to be a party pooper (OK we do), but we're a little more "sour" on Belize's chances against this well-stocked USMNT.

In fact the real Vlad the Impaler might watch this game and say "whoa guys... calm down a bit."

The beer. Yes. the beer. Cascade's "Vlad" is low on hops (6 IBUs) and big on alcohol (10.3%). It's most definitely for sipping and sharing, not slamming. And, of course, it's sour. Really sour.

Cascade describes the beer as such: "This strong north-west sour is a blend of strong blonde quads and tripels aged in oak and Bourbon barrels, then further blended with spiced blondes and left to condition for an additional five months."

That's beer with a lot of variety, loads of flavor, and aged well.

This Gold Cup squad could be described similarly.

What are you drinking tonight?

Tags: A Brew For You, Beer, USMNT

The After Bar: USMNT 6 - Guatemala

Landon Donovan is back. Times two. And a whole lot of other players, too, as the United States national team rolled over Guatemala, 6-0, in their Gold Cup warm up.

The USMNT opens up Gold Cup play against Belize from Portland, Oregon.

Herculez Gomez (42nd minute)

Landon Donovan (50th minute)

Chris Wondolowski (71st minute)

Landon Donovan (72nd minute)

Clarence Goodson (84th minute)

Alejandro Bedoya (88th minute)

 

Analysis from some of American soccer's best writers:

Matthew Doyle (MLSSoccer.com) - "Armchair Analyst: Three things we learned about staying classy in San Diego"

Steve Davis (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - "What we learned from Friday's win over Guatemala"

Steve Davis (NBC Pro Soccer Talk) - Player Ratings

Brian Sciaretta (New York Time) - Player Ratings

Tags: The After Bar, USMNT

A Brew For You and You and You… (USMNT vs. Guatemala)

The Gold Cup is back! Well... not quite. The run-up to the Gold Cup is back!

There. That's more like it.

Tonight's match from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego is, hopefully, a prologue to a victorious Gold Cup campaign. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said, despite not being in the upcoming tournament, he expects a "tricky" test from Guatemala.

What sort of things can one take away from a one-off warm up international friendly? Certainly Guatemala's side is going to be similar to what the USMNT will see from the other Central American and Caribbean sides, Belize, Cuba, and Costa Rica, the face in the group play.

More important is the return of Landon Donovan to the national team fold. Will he play his way into Klinsmann's heart and starting XI when World Cup qualifiers return in September?

As always the Gold Cup provides an exciting opportunity to see some of the future stars of the Nats. Josh Gatt is, again, questionable with an untimely injury, but other youngsters like Mix Diskerud and the return of Stu Holden should create plenty of excitement for U.S. fan.

This Gold Cup squad is about the future, but it is also about resurrection. Alongside Donovan and Holden is Oguchi Onyewu (gone so long I had to think hard about how to spell it name) in the "welcome back" column. None more surprising is the comeback of DaMarcus Beasley, named captain of this tournament team.

Our beer pick for tonight's game is going to be very straight forward. We're nothing if not consistent here at the Free Beer Movement (actually that's one word I would never use to describe us) and so we're doubling down (no, not the KFC sandwich) on the pick we made earlier this week in our interview with MLSSoccer.com.

Photo Credit: Brewed for Thought

Meet Ballast Point Brewing Company's "Victory at Sea" Imperial Porter. The San Diego brewery is probably best known for its "Sulpin" Double IPA (also highly recommended and now available in cans!), but don't overlook the incredible work on this porter. San Diego is one of the epic epicenters (epic-centers!?!?) of West Coast brewing (Portland and Seattle and Northern California included) and sports loads of great breweries including Karl Strauss, Green Flash, Mission, Pizza Port, AleSmith, and The Lost Abbey.

BP's "Victory" is just what you're going to want to get your hands on when setting down for this match in front of the TV. Especially since it's such a late match it's a heavy, yet smooth "night cap" to settling into a comfy spot on the couch.

And a "victory" is exactly what fans will want from this team playing by the sea in San Diego in order to get set for an important 2013 Gold Cup tournament.

What are you drinking tonight?

Tags: A Brew For You, Beer, USMNT

“The Hex” - Yanks Win Third Straight

Editor's Note: If you haven't been following along with Kick TV's "The Hex" series (filmed and produced by One Goal) then you're missing out on an incredible set of videos documenting the United States men's national team.

And we're not just saying that because Free Beer Movement's Dan has made several appearances...

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This episode follows the Nats to Sandy, Utah where they faced down Honduras 1-0 in the latest round of World Cup qualifying.

Watch and enjoy.

 

Tags: KickTV, USMNT, Video

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