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Bob The Builder

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We make a lot of fun of English media outlets around here - and then there is FourFourTwo magazine, which gets respect. The new issue ranks the current top 50 managers in the world, and hey whaddyaknow about that? The US of A has two coaches on the list, Bruce Arena at #46 and Bob Bradley all the way up at #24.

Well, isn't that special?

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- Greg Seltzer

Gringos at the Kicking + Screening Gate

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The rivalry between the Mexican and US national soccer teams is a roiling tornado, churning up popular sentiment from the ground and redistributing the molecules of culture and sport upwards into the atmosphere in a scrambled, often confused tempest. There are stories from families with split loyalties, friends who travel thousands of miles to bathe in the rivalry and cultural clashes that

Mini-On Tap

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Here is your somewhat frustrating USMNT line-up:Howard; Cherundolo, Onyewu, Bocanegra, Chandler; Beckerman; Williams, Edu, Shea; Dempsey, AltidoreHere is my Top 5 Debunked 4-3-3 Misconceptions list (even if ol' boy has momentarily sailed off in a slightly different direction).And here is the preview reel.

United States Men's National Team

Man, I hate penalties.

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The US Under-20 NT has just gone out of the World Cup following a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes and a crazy 6-5 penalty kick shootout loss to Serbia. Zach Steffen rescued the team from bowing out with huge saves after we has passed the initial five rounds of kicks. Ouch. And I really hate to make this remark after what just transpired with our Baby Nats, but.

A few thoughts ahead of Oranje

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Just a few quick shared observations from the hour and change of USMNT training I have been able to see this week. If what I've seen holds up, expect (right to left) Chandler, Alvarado, Brooks and Shea starting along the back line against the Netherlands. Those wide backs best get buckled in now, they are going to be put to work by Oranje.

Ostinato cello, sucka.

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I caught up with healing RB Leipzig/USMNT goal shark Terrence Boyd today, and as always, it was an interesting conversation. I like the way he views things. And if Klinsi absolutely must run a two-forward set, then I'd say just stuff the ceremony of experiments and go back to the empty bucket. Once healthy and back to regular business, it says here T-Boyd is the second-best support striker-type

Box (To Box) Recipe

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Good ol' NSC regular Rob Usry is going global. He was kind enough to put together an every-touch clip of Mikkel Diskerud's NYCFC bow against Orlando. When watching this, I want you to think about all those who say the USMNT is not yet capable of using possession to excel. Then, think about how Mix positions himself after releasing a pass: always safely available to get the ball back and with full

Here we go! (grabs popcorn)

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First of all, Ives killed this little interview with Klinsi, which will surely sting MLS and some of its most ardent backers. He beat it with a stick. But I also love Jurgen Klinsmann freely saying the stuff that he knows will not be popular. And then doing it again to MLSS the same day. Side note life tip: If/when you want to be popular, lie a lot.

The Chores Wheel

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Just to fill out some tactical responsibilities... first section is from the starting line-up only, the second section makes a priority order for the whole 23. Main set piece markers: Gonzalez, Brooks, Cameron, BradleyMain set piece targets: Brooks, Gonzalez, Altidore, Bradley Staying back on attack set pieces: Yedlin, Pelosi, Trapp--CK left: Gil, Diskerud, YedlinCK right: Pelosi, Gil,

So, yeah, let's discuss that.

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No, I'm not talking about the USMNT's gutsy, opportunistic, cleansing Group G victory over Ghana in the larger sense. I am talking specifically about the nearly universal backlash to my 5.5 rating for midfield cop Jermaine Jones. Of course, that grade is a shade below average, so I certainly did not hammer the guy.

Here we go again... (sigh)

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This has become exasperating. I mean, honestly. What on Earth is Klinsi talking about? He should have left the topic alone, because this stuff is just.... well, you decide. "I think there are pro and cons (to the 4-4-2 diamond), like with every system. But it doesn't really matter what shape we have or what system we have, it matters how we kind of connect with one another on the field.

As promised....

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Remember yesterday's small mention of a 'forthcoming' column about the proper way to experiment with the USMNT's ever-troublesome left back spot? It has now arrived. Go ahead, don't be shy; I readily accept all accusations of evil super genius-ery.- Greg Seltzer

One as requested, one definitely not

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As promised in the comments somewhere, here is my full scouting report on new Nat-to-be Aron Jóhannsson, as well as where an idea of where he might be able to fit in the latest edition of my own personal USMNT depth chart (coming soon to an NSC near you).Meanwhile, the Iceland FA has thrown a wee press release tantrum upon digesting the news.

If the US Soccer Tweet is any indication...

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I'm smelling the same overtly bad formation, and the same line-up except with Michael Parkhurst at left back and Carlos Bocanegra replacing Clarence Goodson in central defense. The latter is fine (it's what I wanted the last game), but the former is making me nervous. If this fear bears out when the game starts and we are actually rockin' that configuration at home, I will officially start

Don't forget to pack your galoshes...

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As we like to do, let's paddle aside my prattle and check in at USMNT camp as they get set to handle business.... erm, tackle these last two third round qualifiers. I have just one question, and it has nothing to do with left back or formation. When does Sacha Kljestan begin painting impressionist art?

England

Just happy little pigs in slop are we.

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I am referring, of course, to how us Americans get giddy rolling around in sports stats.What follows (to a large extent) are the top six in various stat categories among Americans Abroad. I parenthetically say large extent because there are a few holes in the count. I was unable to come up with the three defensive categories at the bottom for 2.

Wonder Twins activate! Form of... a stat nerd!

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Jozy Altidore got his first league start for Sunderland yesterday, and as is sometimes the case, I broke out the pen and pad to notch up a variety of stats.Let's just end the non-existent suspense and blurt out that Altidore rang up a grand total of zero in the following categories: shots/shots on target, area entries (via dribble or pass completed to teammate), shot assists, and most annoyingly

On days I feel like an alien...

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This is the angle that people (who I can only assume have conscious or unconscious leanings at play) are repeatedly offering, with a strange certainty this proves the Jozy Altidore call from yesterday was wrong - if not additionally an outright dive. Now setting aside the delightful fact that this camera view is about 80° and further in distance away than the linesman who called it, I do not

I, Referee

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The EPL has finally taken that goal-line tech plunge. How far behind can the other leagues be?- Greg Seltzer

Bloody 'ell.

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It's been a while since we checked in with England's Soccer AM, so let's get into the "year that was" festival with the best Showboat clips from 2012. Plus, the backing song is one of Steve Aoki's most focused and bumpin' mixes ever. After that, you can continue the instant nostalgia with my final Postcard From Europe of this crazy year, which naturally waxes on the most memorable deeds of our

Re: How rough it is to be a Spurs fan

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Some denizens of NSC-world are new to following Tottenham closely, what with Brad Friedel joining up last year and Clint Dempsey arriving this summer. Have you noticed that they've leaked 10 goals in the final 10 minutes of games, costing themselves right about nine points, enough to put themselves second?

APB: Mario Gilloolytelli

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I've had some troubles with them in the past and I understand what more troubles would entail, so I'm hyper-sensitive (read: furiously gangsta-tiger angry) when someone goes at my knees. For this hatchet attempt - which incredibly was not carded - I'm near to the point of wondering why Mario Balotelli isn't under police questioning.

Yes, I am kicking this back up.

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Directly from an EPL spokesman back in 2006:"As a rule, if the initial attempt is goal-bound, it is credited to the player making the goal attempt. However, if the deflection means that a wayward effort results in a goal then it is attributed to the player who had the last definitive touch of the ball.

So... who wants to argue?

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Doesn't that sound fun?!?!? Apparently, an esteemed panel of world soccer scribes (including a couple of NSC pals from England) thought so. They have combined to issue a ranking of the 100 best players on the rock.Before you go nose-dive into the link to check if some American or another made the list: nope, they didn't, zero.

Major League Soccer

Ain't it grand?

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Technology has been gettin' a load of soccer (and vice versa) lately, and tonight represents the next step into the future. Major League Soccer All-Star Game viewers will be able to follow along live with all the miCoach player readings on the system's Facebook page.- Greg Seltzer

MLS Roundup: Henry Injury Overshadows NY Victory

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Thierry Henry may miss up to a month of action after the Red Bulls forward pulled up with a right hamstring injury during the Red Bulls 1-0 victory over New England.

The mysterious injury dossiers of The Three

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Hard to swallow. I call Steve Zakuani, David Ferreira and Javier Morales The Three. I'm sure nobody else does this, categorizes them in this way, but then I'm strange. They are three players on three different teams with a seemingly nominal connection. Injuries. But they are intertwined, these three creative midfielders, in a way that's intrigued me since all three went out with major

the Netherlands

How do you like them oranges?

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As everyone races to confirm Barcelona as the best soccer side ever, Diego Maradona has some news for all: they couldn't touch the 1974 Dutch national team."I have not often fallen out of my chair, but that happened watching the Dutch team in 1974," Maradona told Sport 360. "They played quite monumentally then.

I'm quite the idiot.

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Really, I should have known the KNVB would use any opportunity to take every possible chunk out of Ajax. Here is the match ruling from last week's AZ cup match debacle, to go with the Esteban Alvarado red card removal already announced:- Entire game replayed on Jan. 19th- Played at empty ArenA (oh, and sorry, but no KNVB ticket refunds)- Expected security fine for Ajax- No sanction of any kind

I've turned NSC into a Dutch police scanner.

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While also announcing that the referee had acted properly, the KNVB rescinded Estaban Alvarado's red card. No word yet about the status of the suspended game.- Greg Seltzer

This just in...

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As if it couldn't get crazier, Ajax has filed a police report with the finding that last night's jerkface pitch invader should have never been allowed into the stadium. The 19-year old was already handed a stadium ban for prior trouble with stewards. As it turns out, this fantastically stupid person has set himself for criminal charges well beyond what I originally anticipated thanks to his

They said what? - Ajax v AZ Cup Kookiness Edition

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It's been a strange December for Ajax, to say the least. I could do a whole other post on a wackiness rundown, but let's gather focus and get back into the rubble from last night's suspended Ajax v AZ cup match.I had a few words to say and you've added in some of yours. Now, let's hear some morning after comments from the folks involved.

Oi vey.

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What else is there to say? If you don't know what I'm talking about, here it is from tonight's KNVB Cup match at Amsterdam ArenA: the hooligan field invasion that spawned the red card to AZ keeper Estaban Alvarado that made Gertjan pull his team off that saw this contest suspended with Ajax up 1-0 a few minutes before intermission.

The Rest

Gio-Sphere

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I'm not the biggest science geek ever, but you all know love me some nasty free kicks. Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco has received the Sport Science treatment, check it out. - Greg Seltzer

Head Meet Wall - Part 3,172

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I keep seeing it. Everywhere it seems. It has now replaced YOLO as the saying that makes me cringe. And for crying out loud, it doesn't have a single connection to Fake... erm, I mean Drake. Yeah. This saying is worse than Drake. Let that sink in. Formations don't matter. Big. Fat. Hairy. Ugh. There currently is a deluge of scribes at all publication levels writing long essays that are

Two Great Reads

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I have been busy the last few days with visitors, but not everyone with access to a keyboard has been slacking. First, we have yet another hallmark moment in an already legendary Mikkel Diskerud thread over at BigSoccer: today, former teammate and employer Inge André Olsen drops by to write a "recommendation letter" for Mix (as if he would need one) to clear up some incorrect rumors that once

OMG I Want One

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Hey moms and dads, Christmas/Chanukah/probably some other stuff is right around the corner...- Greg Seltzer

Is the Golden Era of Youth Academies Over?

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The bottomless pocketbooks of the big clubs have diffused the importance of the soccer academies, says writer Chaz Bing, but they are still needed to train the next generation of players.

The Lost Art of the Set Piece

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Set pieces have gone from awe-inspiring to agonizingly bland. Watching corner kicks is a lesson in futility, with many players inexplicably using the quick short pass and preferring to dribble out of the corner instead of curling the ball into the box.