Mish Mash: last U.S.-France match, Olympic Qualifying updates and more

The year was 1979. Carter was president. Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ was the U.S.’s #1 song. Something called Arnie Mausser was the U.S.’s number 1 goalkeeper. And France absolutely bossed the US in a set of home-and-home friendlies, 6-o in the U.S. and 3-0 on the return leg. Big credit to the NYT’s Jack Bell for tracking down some highlights from the latter and posting them in his post for the Goal blog today.

Look at all that space! Look at that (not) shape! France could have passed the Palace at Versailles through the gaps in that U.S. defense, amirite?

::left hanging for high five::

Uh, yeah, so, anyway, U.S. vs. France, 2 p.m. CST tomorrow at Stade de France. I don’t have any grand thoughts, so if  you’re in search of a preview, well, here’s your dead end sign. Turn around and head over to The Shin Guardian, which, not unsurprisingly, published its customary fantastically comprehensive preview.

I expect a plucky performance from the U.S., as some of the younger players have to see this as a chance to impress in front of an international audience and, likely, international scouts. I’m thinking Brek Shea in particular, coming off his first spell of respite since March, will produce a few moments of jaw-dropping Gareth Bale-ness. Let’s guess one of those flashes leads to a goal that isn’t enough as the U.S. loses 2-1 in an otherwise encouraging performance. France goals to Loic Remy and Franck Ribery. Do me a favor and don’t take that to the bank. You can just leave it right here, actually, if you don’t mind.

The host venues for CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying are set. And, surprise!, the U.S. will host the eight-team playoff next March 22 – April 22. Group play will be hosted in Nashville and Los Angeles (each venue will host all games for one group apiece) and the semifinals and final will be played in heaven at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City. The top two teams from each group will advance to the semifinals, and the two semifinal winners secure an Olympic bid.

35 age-eligible U.S. players (remember the Olympics are U-23 for the men) are camping in Germany as we speak, and there will be subsequent camps in each month leading up to qualifying. If I were to assemble a starting XI from the pool right now, assuming everyone is healthy and available for selection, it would look like this:

Bill Hamid (1)

Zarek Valentin (2) – Perry Kitchen (3) – John Anthony Brooks (4) – Timmy Chandler (5)

Amobi Okugo (6)

Will Packwood (8) – Mixx Diskerud (10)

Josh Gatt (7) – Jozy Altidore (9) – Brek Shea (11)

Hamid, Chandler, Altidore and Shea are all near locks – barring injury – to start at the positions above. I have a little baby hunch Perry Kitchen will slot into defensive midfield as the Olympic coach, Caleb Porter, played Kitchen in a holding role when the DC United man was at Akron.

This lineup was made, of course, without the inclusion of any overage player – each team is granted three. I won’t speculate as to who will go where, but I think the positions those players are most likely to fill are right back, holding midfield and central midfield.

Tim Ream might be going on trial with West Brom. Maybe. This according to British rag The Metro. I never really know what to make of stories like this, as foreign publications seem to publish any whisper of a rumor involving American players because they know how obsessive we are about this stuff. The story, as you’ll note, includes mention of no sources and quotes only Ream’s words to MLSSoccer.com earlier this week.

If the article in question guessed correctly ends up being accurate, Ream will be the third young American to secure offseason plans, as Bill Hamid (West Brom) and Brek Shea (Arsenal) will train with EPL clubs next month, and Sean Johnson could still potentially be headed on a trip to Manchester to train with the Red Devils. Should this Ream link bear real fruit, he would be the first to be on an official trial, though. I’ll be rocking a backwards skeptic hat until something else becomes of this.

All that said, Ream took a ton of shit for his play this season with Red Bull – not all of it deserved. Yes, he had an alarming number of gaffes that directly resulted in goals, but what he offers his team in possession is much more difficult to quantify. And it didn’t help he was paired with Rafa Marquez, a similarly styled read-the-game-and-stay-at-home type, for much of the season. Marquez’s move to midfield and ball-hawking Stephen Keel’s insertion beside Ream boosted the 24-year old’s play from where I stood. I thought he was pretty damned brilliant in the LA series – particularly in leg two when he twice stoned goal-smelling Robbie Keane. Ask MLS Best XI Selection Jamison Olave – that ain’t so easy.

I’m still up on his future.

Remember that awesome come back in the World Cup last year? Yeaaaaah, me to. That was aweseome.

Anyway, the U.S. rematch the side they bombed back against that day in Johannesburg on Tuesday in Slovenia. Let’s just watch the highlights from that game.

Sorry I couldn’t find anything with Ian Darke’s calls dubbed over by really intense music. But hey, wasn’t that fun? Yeah, that was fun. Wanna do it again? Okay.

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