US v. Panama: (Damn) TV and Line-Ups

Some blogger out there discovered that his satellite package picked up Telefutura; sadly, I can't say the same thing, which is why I'm only able to speak to the U.S. v. Panama quarterfinal. I figure that's enough given where I'm writing...though I'm a bit cross about having nothing intelligent to say about the Panamanians...

There are a few preview pieces out there, though the Panama-specific commentary reads a bit thin. For instance, I first got wind of Panama being a couple players short courtesy of red-card suspensions in Jeff Carlisle's (pretty solid) recap of where the U.S. squad has been and where it's headed: he names midfielder Rolando Escobar and defender Ramon Torres as the unwilling absentees. Ridge Mahoney adds a third player in his preview - Gabriel Gomez - but having not seen the current Panama squad play, I'm having trouble judging what the Panamanians will be missing. Another Soccer America article, this one by Paul Kennedy, adds some other players to watch - Felipe Baloy, Ricardo Phillips (at least for shooting off the post against Mexico), "and their forwards, Jose Luis Garces and Blas Perez" (who looks usefully menacing in the picture at the top of the piece) - but, again, I'm really wishing I had caught a Panama game. Put another way, I'm hoping those names mean something to someone, 'cause they're not saying anything to me that I can understand.

What I do understand, however, is this: Panama did pretty well in the group stage, beating eventual first-place squad Honduras in their opener, tying (and, reportedly, almost beating) Cuba, before making Mexico sweat in the final game. So, like everyone else, I'm expecting our hardest game yet...and that's a good thing...

All that's left now is talking about the team I know well: the Yanquis. And the rest of the online world has gotten off to a good start on this. Ives Galarcep turned in a nice study of our progress for ESPN, as well as playing the "roster game" on his blog. And my urge to join in the fun tells me I'm excited about this game.

If I was Yanqui coach Bob Bradley, here's the line-up I'd field:

------------------ Howard ----------------
-- Simek - DeMerit - Onyewu - Bocanegra --

-- Donovan - Feilhaber - Mastroeni - Mapp -

------- Dempsey --------- Ching ------

Basically, screw all the Christmas-business. Also, that's not my typical first-choice central defensive set-up, but I'm going with it because Galarcep tells me we need big bodies to contain Panama's forwards, whom he describes as "great in the air and very dangerous." That detail and my near-total ignorance of the Panamanian team keeps me from going with Michael Parkhurst...and I'm still tempted. Starting Bocanegra at left back over Bornstein is another weird call, but that goes back to the size issue; the notion of having Boca stay at home often as not is what leaves me feeling comfortable about playing Mapp on the right. The central idea in all this is playing a little conservative in the back - to begin at least - and counting on five-to-six-to-if-things-break-well-early-seven players to carry the attack. But it's that foundation of five players - the four defenders plus Mastroeni - that I'd have us lean on to give the offense time and space to get rolling.

As such, I view Mastroeni as the only "must-start." The Feilhaber/Bradely combo is probably smarter, but, if we're in a dogfight, I want a true terrier in there scrapping - hence Pablo. And I'm going with Feilhaber over Bradley because we've got to have some offense. With Donovan, the weight of the commentary I'm seeing has me thinking I'm the only one who has liked him on the right, but I think that has worked well enough. And I bought into the Dempsey as a forward thing before the tournament started (see?) and I think his play in that role has supported that call.

Finally, the Revs fan in me is feeling a little guilt about favoring Ching over Twellman. But even before nodding along with Galarcep's point that Ching is a better passer than both Twellman or Johnson (that's in his "study" piece, by the way), the fact is I couldn't erase Twellman's several wretched give-aways against El Salvador, one of which was almost comically bad. Johnson, who I'm nearly certain will start for some damn reason, doesn't get his head up enough in general for me to pick him; as a sub, however, give the man a half-hour at least.

Hmmm....can't say I'm making much sense, even to myself. Hope the above reads better than gibberish. I blame the new allergy medication.....

Happy viewing this weekend, y'all.



Demarcus Beasley said...

"------------------ Howard ----------------
-- Simek - DeMerit - Onyewu - Bocanegra --

-- Donovan - Feilhaber - Mastroeni - Mapp -

------- Dempsey --------- Ching ------"

The hell?

The Manly Ferry said...

Look, Demarcus, I'm sorry I didn't give you the nod. It's just a gut thing..., go hit the gym you string-bean.