Thursday, May 26, 2011

US Soccer Jersey History Pt 2

(5/16/12 - Updated chronological pictorial jersey history can be found here: US Soccer Jersey History)

Last year before the World Cup, I posted a history of US jerseys from 1990 on.  Since the US released a 3rd version of last year's World Cup kit earlier this year, this time in red, I decided to add on to that pictorial history with some others old school ones I've found.  Maybe with next year's release, I'll compile both parts chronologically.  I tried to only show players in action with these kits last year, but this time it was impossible.  Review: US Soccer Jersey Pic History, Pt 1.

2010-12 3rd Kit - released 2011 (Juan Agudelo)
This red kit has been fairly popular among diehards, since the US supporter sections prefer to wear red at games.  It looks great, but in general I personally prefer the blue as the standard away color.  For this particular kit, Nike fortunately decided to use a blue sash instead of the beauty pageantish white sash - good call.  3.5 out of 5.

2010-12 Home (Landon Donovan)
This is obviously another nod to the classic 1950s kit.  While I prefer the white tops to be paired with blue shorts, FIFA's rules don't always allow it, which is why Landon scored the Algeria goal in the all-whites.  The light gray sash seems to me to be an indecisive touch by Nike - on television, it is hardly noticeable at all.  Go big or go home.  It should have been the navy blue or perhaps two toned - red and blue.  Also, the sash should have been thinner and slightly more horizontal so that it doesn't run shoulder to hip - and therefore less pageant-like.  3 out of 5.

2010-12 Away (Clint Dempsey)
US wore the away blues for the first 2 matches of the WC.  As much as I did not really prefer the white sash, the entire look did grow on me, especially when Dempsey, Landon and Bradley scored giant goals in 'em.  It is essentially the reverse of the whites, except that the white sash is now very prominent.  Again, a red stripe inside or alongside the white would be an improvement.  I have yet to mention the strange stripe on the socks for all versions - it is horizontal across the shin but goes down behind the calf.  Just weird.  3 out of 5.

Historical: Some are vintage jerseys and some are recent retro throwbacks.  Either way, we get a sense of the evolution of the US kit.

1930 White
I believe this is a picture of the US team who participated in the first ever World Cup in 1930.  Its a simple, white long-sleeve v-neck with a US flag themed shield centered on the chest.  The shield is the founding father, if you will, to our current crest, which showed up in 1995.  No matter what changes will occur to the crest in the future, I hope we never lose the shield look.  This shield has no letters on it, letting the stars and stripes do all the talking.  Unfortunately, without the shield, this jersey could pass for underwear.  2 out of 5.

1930s Blue
Who knows if this is actually the shade of blue we wore back in the '30s (or whether we wore this in 1930 or 1934 - perhaps both?) but I would have preferred a darker, navy blue.  The crest is also a little too wide and round for my tastes, as if it couldn't decide if it wanted to be a circle or not. 1.5 out of 5.

1950 Home
Obviously a reproduction of the 1950 kit, this design is the next evolutionary step to the '30s look.  They added USA letters to the improved shape of the crest and added the famous diagonal red stripe, of which they are continuing to base throwback variations to this day.  4.5 out of 5.

1959 Home - Pan America Games
Interestingly enough, a new crest was used possibly just once for the Pan Am Games.  No word on why they thought the USA included North, Central and South Americas.  Another addition was the strange lace-up collar, which is essentially a feminine look nowadays.  Lastly, the diagonal stripe turned into a 3 stripe design, which was originally the bold colors of our flag, not the faded version you see here.  All in all, just not that great.  1.5 out of 5.

1975 Away
It looks like a child's pajama top, this time in a vibrant red (the pic inaccurately shows a faded red) with just awful USA lettering in place of a crest.  A forgettable effort during the dark ages of US Soccer.  0.5 out of 5.

1984 Home
A very 80's look by Adidas - I do prefer the blue to the red version.  The USA font however looks ridiculous.  They would have been better off with solid white letters. 2 out of 5.

 1984 Away
 This is starting to look more and more like a goalkeeper kit to me.  1.5 out of 5.

1988 Home
For our first successful WC qualifying campaign in 40 years, Adidas put out a solid classic clean look.  The only feature that sticks out is the blue stripe on top of the shoulder, slightly American football-ish.  Also, a new circular crest has appeared for the first time.  There is actually the traditional US shield inside the ring.  The crest looks better up close but it appears too busy from a distance.  3 out of 5.

1988 Away
This actually has a very distinct V-shaped thread pattern (which almost makes it look like a soft blanket).  As opposed to the home, it loses the collar and opts for a V-neck.  Also, the crest is darkened for this away version and looks even busier, if that is possible.  Actually, it reminds me of a US military crest.  Overall, a solid effort.  3.5 out of 5.

1990 Away
This is the first design that would see WC action since 1950.  Basically a reverse of the home look, Adidas made an emphasis of the over-the-shoulder stripe look from the '88 home which they would then continue until the infamous 1994 set.  I like it slightly better than the white, which isn't saying much.  2.1 out of 5.

1995 Third
Nike's first US soccer jersey looked much better in white and navy blue.  This light blue one just looks dull and very.... blah.  2 out of 5.

1996 Third
I honestly had not seen this one before but apparently it was used during the Gold Cup in '96.   The dark horizontal stripes, perhaps a predecessor to the '08 release, combined with the dark trim gives it a very sharp look.  I also like the red number font.  4 out of 5.

2003 Third
Another obvious 1950 throwback was released with a blue sash instead of the original red.  4.5 out of 5.

1988 Home?

This needs more confirmation.  One site lists this as the 1986 home.  Another says that it was the 91-92 edition.  I'm not sure either is right.  Is this the kit in which Caligiuri scored the "shot heard round the world" back in 1989?  It certainly looks similar.  (Harkes below celebrating after the Trinidad game.)  Hmm...

1996 Third Blue?

No idea if this is legit or not.  But it seems to be the exact inverse of the 1996 Third white version.

Monday, May 23, 2011

2011 US Gold Cup Roster

Announced today:

Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Nick Rimando

- No problem with the GKs.  Howard is our #1 through Brazil 2014.  Brad Guzan is taking the summer off for his wedding, while the elder statesman, Hahnemann, was brought in again as the experienced backup.

Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Tim Ream, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj, Jonathan Bornstein

- The biggest omission on the entire roster is the German-based youngster, Timothy Chandler.  He looked to be the RB of our future and his recent performances were superior to anything we've seen at fullback in the last few years.  The initial report is that Chandler declined the call-up, but no injury was disclosed. (His explanation about needing rest after a long season seems fishy - he better not be trying to jump back to Deutschland).  For a young player who should be trying to make a name for himself at the international level, he should be jumping at the opportunity, especially since Dolo will probably get most of the minutes anyway and Chandler could just rest and learn on the bench.

- The fact that Bornstein keeps getting called in is just astounding.  Even if he was starting at his club in Mexico (which he isn't), I wouldn't call him.  He is clearly a coach's favorite.

Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber (replaced by Alejandro Bedoya 5/29), Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan, Freddy Adu

- Welcome back Freddy.  While he's laboring away in some lower level league in Turkey and not starring for a world class club that the US hype machine assumed he would be by now, at least he's laboring - ie PLAYING.  I'm not sure if he'll see much of the field this June, but as long as he's learned some humility (and team defense) the past few years, its good to see him back in the fold.

- A little surprised to see a consistently underwhelming Rogers here and not the in-form Bedoya.  (Feilhaber's ankle injury in the closing minutes of the Galaxy-Revs match last weekend made room for the snubbed Bedoya.  It seems that he's played much of his club minutes at CM where's he's scored 5 goals for top level Swedish club, Orebro.  So in retrospect, perhaps Bradley's surprising decision was Freddy over Bedoya.)  And my preference is to bring in Diskerud instead of Kljestan.

- The first six names will probably see all the game time - which is fine by me.  Holden would likely be a starter but unfortunately, a major leg injury keeps him off the field for the 2nd straight international tournament.

Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Chris Wondolowski

- Only calling 3 forwards seems to indicate that Bradley may not be over his 5 midfielder experiment - 4-5-1 - as it were, even though the US seemed much more comfortable in its traditional 4-4-2 in the most recent friendlies vs Argentina and Paraguay.

- That said, perhaps he has plans to use Dempsey up top, or maybe even Adu is certain situations.  A Jozy - Adu combination may still be a possibility in the future!

- Wondolowski?  Who?  Why is he on the squad for such an important tourney?  I'll probably look back at this in July after he's been our top goal-scorer and laugh.

Possible Starting Line-up

Bocanegra-Ream-Gooch -Cherundolo

- Truth is, our main starters will probably look a lot like the 2010 World Cup lineup.  We can expect much more turnover, especially defensively, by 2014 due to age, but the importance of this Gold Cup dictates that Bradley deploys the same core.

- Defensively, Gooch seems to still be a Bradley stalwart while Boca will still get slotted in at LB in the absence of any other option.  I think Ream has shown enough to warrant a start but the experienced Goodson might edge him out.

- Michael Bradley's an automatic starter so its really between Jones and Edu for the other central midfield spot.  I hope Bradley's experiment with all 3 guys in the middle of a 4-5-1 is completely over.  Again, an attack-minded playmaker/scorer should be the 3rd CM (ideally Holden, but could be Adu, Dempsey, Feilhaber, Kljestan, Diskerud or even Donovan) if this formation is used.

- I slotted in Agudelo, but he could be deployed as a 2nd half sub.  That could mean the 5th starting midfielder or it could mean that Dempsey starts as forward.  Man, having Holden would've solved everything.

June 25th, Gold Cup Final at the Rose Bowl - I'll be there if we make it.  Hopefully Mexico won't.  I'm not looking forward to being outnumbered 70K to 5K.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Meeting Kaepernick

I read that as part of the NFL Rookie Premier event this year, the newest 49ers QB (and several other rookies) would be at a West LA Best Buy for an autograph session on Friday.  Since it was just a mile down the street and during lunchtime, I thought it would be worth dropping by.

Surprisingly, there were only about 20-30 fans there and the wait time was minimal.  They've got to do a much better job of promoting this.  Several names - such as these 4 top 10 picks: Von Miller, AJ Green, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert - that have dominated the sports landscape for much of April during the NFL draft hype were there, but not many fans showed.

Perhaps this goes to show what schmucks LA sports fans are.  Here they love them some Lakers, but couldn't care less when the King of all sport, the National Football League, rolls into town.  I meet natives here who don't vote, don't know where the state of Ohio is, don't watch NFL and probably hate hamburgers and golden retrievers.  So un-American, these people.  I digress.

Cam Newton wasn't here but the other rookies besides Green, Miller, Gabbert and Locker were Shane Vereen, Jordan Todman, DeMarco Murray, Kendall Hunter, Ryan Williams and of course, Colin Kaepernick.  To be honest, they didn't actually announce who would be there outside of the top 4 names (listed above) so like a stalker geek, I googled Kaepernicks' twitter.  15 minutes before 1pm, he said he was off to Best Buy.  Sweet.

Anyway, the event didn't allow you to bring your own items in to have signed, which was fine with me since I had nothing anyway, but they provided photo cards that the rookies would sign for you.  All fans went through the line and got autos from all the players, but I really only cared about meeting what I hope to be the future SB winning QB of the 49ers.  They let me skip ahead.  I didn't even stop by Kendall Hunter, the 4th rd RB 49ers pick, but I kinda regret that now.  I also regret forgetting to bring a camera.  Again, I think a picture with an athlete is more meaningful than just his auto.

I will admit that I donned a 49ers cap so Colin knew where I was coming from.  And I will say this - he  comes across as one of the coolest and nicest athletes you will ever meet.  He looks you in the eye, he speaks coherently, he smiles widely and just seems genuine.

After a few minutes of small talk and procuring a couple auto photo cards addressed to my 2 sons, I left a satisfied fan.  One day down the road, when they're old enough to care (and read), I'll pull out the 3 time SB MVP's auto to them.

Now if one of those other guys like AJ Green or Von Miller becomes the All-Pros that they're projected to be, I might regret not meeting them.  But who really cares, pro athletes come and go - 49er QBs are legend.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

AT&T Park, the Giants, and my son's first pro game

Being up in Norcal last week, I took the opportunity to take my oldest to his first Giants game.  It also marked his first professional game of any kind although he's been to many UCLA basketball games and even a UCLA baseball game just a few weeks ago.  All in all, it was a great excuse to go see the current World Series Champion Giants and it couldn't have worked out any better.

For me, it was only my 2nd Giants game at AT&T Park, the first being in 2007 during the Barry Bonds HR record chase (he didn't hit the record-breaker that day).  Interestingly, my first experience at AT&T Park (SBC Park at the time) was actually a US Soccer game in Feb 2006 vs Japan, in their lead-up to the 2006 WC.  Landon and Dempsey both scored, if I remember correctly.

Anyway, since taking him to the UCLA game, we brought out his little glove, taught him "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and brainwashed him to root, root-root for the Giiiii-aaants.  Hey, I'm just fulfilling my proper duties as a responsible dad.

Though he's born and raised in LA, who wants to be a Dodger fan anyway?  In recent years, its become the most dangerous ballpark in America, its brand has fallen into disrepute and its ownership into MLB's control.  (And with the Lakers completely embarrassing themselves in the sweep while becoming cheap shot artists - AND Kobe being denied a 2nd three-peat AND Osama bin Laden getting whacked by our SEALS - its been a great month.)

So, I found a real cheap pair of tix on ebay - lower level near 1st base - and it was on.  We didn't even pay for the $30 parking - the last spot on the street a few blocks away worked out nicely.  There was even a lady selling peanuts and Cracker Jack for a buck just outside.

Fortunately, 2-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum was pitching (there isn't a pitcher in all of baseball I'd rather see live than him) and he had a no-hitter through 6 innings, finishing with 8 shutout innings and 9 strikeouts.

Better still, Brian Wilson, probably the 2nd most well-known Giant, came in to close the game out.  The Beard also got the win as the Giants finished in typical and symbolic torturous fashion: Bottom 9th, scoreless game, Buster Posey walks, Darren Ford effortlessly steals, Cody Ross singles down 3rd baseline for a walk-off win, 1-0.

(I should mention that Buster also threw out a 1 out base-stealer at 2nd in the 9th inning in a huge play to help preserve the scoreless draw).

My 2 year old sat through the whole game, ate his cracker jacks, sang during the 7th inning stretch and posed for pics while the players celebrated on the field behind us.  It was perfect.