Could Michael Bradley thrive in the Premier League?

Posted by Roger Bennett

AP PhotoIs there a better Hollywood doppelganger for Bradley than Jason Statham?

Michael Bradley is the American Jason Statham.

A bald man who kicks ass, and in doing so makes all those around him feel both safe and full of hope. In the past, his physical commitment and mental tenacity have combined to make the midfielder a virtual security blanket simmering away at the heart of the U.S. national team.

Bradley was unshackled in the U.S. team's 2-2 draw with Mexico last Wednesday night, thriving in a more advanced, buccaneering role at the tip of the diamond. Continue Reading...

Do two halves really make a whole?

Posted by Roger Bennett

Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesSplit squads were a feature of Lalas' playing days.

The United States play Mexico on Wednesday night in Glendale, Ariz. (11:15 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN), in a warm-up game ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.

One month ago, a predominantly Europe-based squad was selected for a friendly vs. Ukraine but this latest friendly will feature an almost-exclusively MLS-based squad.

Roger Bennett spoke to former USMNT player and ESPN FC TV analyst Alexi Lalas about the difficulties of this split-squad approach.

Roger Bennett: The question came to me roughly 10 minutes into last month’s Ukraine game in Cyprus. Continue Reading...

Can MLS ever emerge from the shadow of European football?

Posted by Roger Bennett

Watching the spectacle of the Dodgers and Diamondbacks open their season on a cricket pitch in Sydney, attempting to take the struggling MLB brand global, my mind inevitably wandered back to soccer.

As the bemused Aussie crowd watched Yasiel Puig slug for the fences, I was reminded of a question I had recently been asked about America’s surging fascination with soccer: Is it inherently connected to a fascination with the exotic, cosmopolitan and foreign?

Matt King/Getty ImagesBaseball on a cricket pitch: America’s fascination with the cosmopolitan and foreign may be good news for the Premier League, but not Major League Soccer.

The question is one with massive ramifications for MLS, the domestic entity that is as American as Timber Joey. Continue Reading...

Now he has committed, Green must prove himself

Posted by Roger Bennett

AllsportGreen made his Bayern debut in November.

News today that Bayern Munich’s 18-year-old prospect Julian Green has elected to represent the USA may feel, for U.S. Soccer fans, like the equivalent of winning a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's factory.

While U.S. Soccer files a petition to FIFA for Green’s onetime allegiance switch, I turned to Alexi Lalas to discuss the implications for the player, U.S. Soccer, the 2014 World Cup and Jurgen Klinsmann’s long-term thinking.

Roger Bennett: The U. Continue Reading...

Toure talks ahead of his Barcelona reunion

Posted by Roger Bennett

AP Images/Manchester City FCSince signing for Man City in 2011, Toure has won the Premier League and FA Cup.

British author Simon Kuper once wrote that great football players are traditionally either warriors or artists. Manchester City’s Yaya Toure, however, defies categorization.

On the field the Ivorian has demonstrated the tactical discipline and physicality to repel opponents single-handedly. He also has unveiled the vision to create goals as well as score them, rumbling forwards like an untethered wardrobe on a downward slope, flattening all in its path.

When he swings through the door of the media room at Manchester City’s training ground, it is evident that Toure carries a rare mix of attributes off the field, too. Continue Reading...

Confident Kompany talks up Man City's chances

Posted by Roger Bennett

Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesKompany joined Man City from Hamburg in August 2008.

Vincent Kompany is very much the same man off the field he appears on it. Intelligent, fluent, imperturbable and above all, the leader of his club. Direct one minute, subtle the next, he is always ambassadorial. Part world-class defender, part a footballing George Mitchell.

We recently met at Manchester City's Carrington training ground on the kind of damp, frigid Manchester day that once made the northern region cotton’s king. The moment the 27-year-old enters the room, two things are immediately apparent. Continue Reading...

Barca boy Gasol talks soccer

Posted by Roger Bennett

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images29-year-old Gasol has played in the NBA for Memphis since 2008.

Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies is an NBA star who grew up a basketball player in a soccer world.

Having come of age in the Barcelona suburb of Sant Boi de Llobregat, the center remembers his early years in which he lived for “lunch breaks where everyone just rolled the ball and played soccer. It didn't take much,” he said, “just poles [as goalposts] and a ball to have a soccer game.”

Gasol was among the most avid of players. In a recent interview with Grantland’s Men in Blazers, he revealed his brother, Los Angeles Lakers star Pau, was not a football fan -- "he was always with the books, studying. Continue Reading...

Liverpool vs. Arsenal: Who will break first?

Posted by Roger Bennett

John Powell/Liverpool FC/Getty ImagesArsenal's defense has been superb this season, but stopping Luis Suarez and his strike partner Daniel Sturridge is another matter.

Physics dictates there is no such thing as an immovable object. As Sir Isaac Newton discovered, forces always come in pairs with an equal and opposite reaction. When Liverpool host Arsenal this Saturday, the most potent strike force in the Premier League will collide with its most in-form center-back pairing. Science itself will be tested.

As soon as the Liverpool faithful end their traditional rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge will attack Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny with the unsettling fury of howling banshees. Continue Reading...

Why aren't American players taken seriously in Europe?

Posted by Roger Bennett

Victor Decolongon/Getty ImagesUSMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann said it’s a “sign of reality” that European teams were not sniffing around his players because “the demand is not there."

At risk of crudely paraphrasing Charles Dickens, is this "the best of times [and] the worst of times" for American soccer?

While 2013 was the most successful year in United States men's national team history, the impression American players are making on the elite European game seems to be in reverse gear. After seasons of giddy promise in which Clint Dempsey plundered 23 goals in a Fulham jersey and the hard-charging Michael Bradley initially thrived in Serie A, a sensational reverse migration means we live a reality in which Stoke City's Geoff Cameron is the most successful U. Continue Reading...

Liverpool strike at the heart of Everton's season of hope

Posted by Roger Bennett

Steven GErrard first goal Liverpool vs Everton GettyImagesSteven Gerrard gave Liverpool the lead at Anfield.

LIVERPOOL -- For an Evertonian, watching the 222nd Derby at a crackling Anfield was akin to having your wisdom teeth extracted without anesthetic while being forced to watch the Grammys on a loop. In an intense, passionate gut check of a game, Liverpool were relentless, inventive and merciless as they toyed with their tired, shell shocked local rivals.

Juggling squads riddled with injuries, both managers had little choice but to field teams intended to eviscerate their opponents. Continue Reading...

Nerves prevalent ahead of the Merseyside derby

Posted by Roger Bennett

Alex Livesey/Getty ImagesMartinez and Rodgers meet again on Tuesday at Anfield.

LIVERPOOL -- I usually savor every second of any trip back to my hometown of Liverpool, wallowing in the chance to revisit the greasy fish and chip shops, public houses and vinyl record stores that collectively shaped my youth.

Yet as I drove around the city on this frigid Monday evening, I felt only a numbing sense of dread.

These are emotions common to many Everton fans (if they were to be honest with you) on the eve of any Anfield derby and are a conditioned response born of repeated disappointment, frustration and despair. Continue Reading...

Liverpool a National treasure for Dessner

Posted by Roger Bennett

Tha National's Aaron Dessner.GettyImagesTha National's Aaron Dessner.

Aaron Dessner, founding member of Brooklyn-based indie darlings, The National, is a man who has fallen hard and fast for the Premier League. “I’m probably more obsessed with football that I am with music,” he admitted unabashedly in a recent conversation on Grantland’s “Men In Blazers” podcast.

Anyone who listens to such haunting lyrics from the band’s single “Don’t Swallow the Cap” may find it unsurprising that the guitarist is a Liverpool fan:

I have only two emotions … Careful fear and dead devotion,
I can’t get the balance right … Throw my marbles in the fight