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Thursday Bits And Bobs

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Whatever news there is, it pretty much isn't good.

-Steven Gerrard hobbled off as a "precaution" to a hamstring he was starting to feel during yesterday's England friendly. I usually don't get too worked up about the club v country rows. I understand that these one-off friendlies are just about the only time a manager has to tinker with things and get looks at new players before matches that count for real. On the other side, I have no idea what a match marooned my months on either side before and after any meaningful international is played really does. New players brought in could have radically different form before a qualifier in the next month or a competition in the summer. Whatever chemistry and cohesion is built in just two days of training can't be all that much, and surely must be quickly lost once everyone returns to their clubs for the next few weeks. I get either side.

But after playing 120 minutes on Sunday, and having a season of iffy health as it is, Gerrard should have come up with Ferguson-itis and pulled out, or at least a note should have been passed along to say he shouldn't start. Maybe they were only going to play him for a half anyway and he just didn't make it, which I wouldn't have been troubled by.

But let's ask this: If Liverpool had a meaningful game on Wednesday, with Arsenal to follow on Saturday, do you think Kenny would have started Gerrard after Sunday's excursions?

-Oh good, more racism controversies! You've probably seen that Pepe Reina did some ad for a Spanish Insurance Company, and while it's hard to figure out what went on in the ad when people are trying to be so careful, I guess there's some African Tribal Lord picking "Reina" as his queen or something, as that's what reina means in Spanish. Anyway, some people kicked some dirt up about depictions of blacks and gays, and the ad was pulled. I don't think that has much to do with Reina himself, and more to do with tapped writers trying to make an ad about an insurance company funny, which isn't easy. Maybe they overshot the mark.

Whatever, the Spanish have a goofy sense of humor anyway. And now that should cue my upcoming racism row!

-Let's talk about some football, shall we? As a Yank, I want to start off with the U.S.'s win over Italy in Genoa. While it is a landmark with for the Yanks under Kilnsmann, I can't really ignore wondering what the score might have been if Italian strikers Matri and Giovinco hadn't gone to the Pippo Inzaghi school of forward play, which meant being offsides 138 times. Maybe that's discipline from the US defense, as well as some beneficial officiating, and maybe it's luck. Maybe it's all of it. Whatever.

It's funny. I was just about to start grumbling to myself about how Jozy Altidore's recent scoring binge in Holland hadn't improved his prison cellmate like touch or that Clint Dempsey had returned to his lazy ways as he sometimes does in the red, white and blue, when Jozy expertly brought down Fabian Johnson's cross and left a delicate lay-off for Deuce to smash home. My abilities strike again.

Other than that, I thought Johnson showed promise, and playing in Italy has done wonders for Michael Bradley. In the first half the US did put together some delightful counter-attacking moves with some deft passing, something that's been beyond them before. That obviously faded in the 2nd half as Italy poured forward and desperate defending was called for. But it's at least encouraging. And in the right direction.

-As for England, I know the scoreline says only 3-2 but I can't help but feel they were outclassed most of the match. They seemingly barely had the ball, their midfield was cut through time and time again (because Gareth Barry sucks, y'see), and nowhere in sight was the inspiration that Robben and Schneijder provide on the other side. And why would you let Robben on to his left foot? Twice?

Have fun with this lot, Harry.