Chat with Scott French
An Orange County native, French has been writing about soccer for more than 30 years for dozens of publications and Web sites. He was senior editor at Soccer America and was managing editor of MajorLeagueSoccer Magazine from April 2007 until last summer. He has covered three World Cups for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and Los Angeles Daily News, two Women's World Cups for Soccer America, the Olympic Games, European Championship, eight MLS Cups and all four professional women's championships.
Send your questions now and join French Friday at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT!
Scott French (3:01 PM)
Hi, everyone. I'll be here for an hour. I've got Spain-Chile on over my left shoulder, and like everyone out there, I'm anxious for tomorrow's U.S.-Ghana game.Throw out your questions, thoughts, etc., and I'll get to as many as I can.Thanks!
win lose or draw the usa played with good sportsmanship and gave it there beast shut and i for onewill like them always.your thughts.
Scott French (3:02 PM)
Throw out the first 20 minutes or so against England and the first half against Slovenia, and this has been a very good World Cup for the U.S. There still are problems in the back, which we knew before the tournament, and it would be nice to have greater depth, but when this team puts it into gear, they're thrilling to watch. The comeback against Slovenia, even with the bad call at the end, was sensational, and their dominance of Algeria was finally rewarded at almost the last possible moment.
thierry kodsi (irvine)
Will the US reach the semi's?
Scott French (3:05 PM)
I think the U.S. is capable of getting to the semifinals, but that's true of everyone in that upper-left quadrant of the bracket. We can't overlook Ghana certainly, and either Uruguay or South Korea would be a good quarterfinal test. If I have to pick a semifinalist from our quadrant, I'd probably go with Uruguay. But it all comes down to what you do on the day, and the semis are definitely a possibility for the U.S.
Scott, why doesn't the US put the match details on its jersey (under the crest) like all other nations do?
Scott French (3:05 PM)
That's a good question. I've never considered it. I'll send an email to the folks at U.S. Soccer right now and see if I get a reply before we're done here.
Scott French (3:07 PM)
OK, just sent an email to three of the USSF communications guys in South Africa. I'll check every 10 mins. or so to see if they reply.
I feel like the interest in soccer is gaining a lot of ground in the states. If it keeps increasing do you think America will be the early leader for hosting the 2016 Cup?
Scott French (3:10 PM)
We're bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The feeling seems to be that Europe will get the 2018 Cup, because otherwise it would be three tournaments (2010, 2014 in Brazil and 2018) away from Europe. England was the frontrunner, but the comments of the former FA chief might harm that bid -- we'll see. I think we'd be the choice in 2022, although there will be other strong bids. I just think it will be tough to ignore the success of 1994, the growth of the game here, and the array of new stadiums across the U.S.
I understand and respect Giuseppe Rossi's desire to play for the Azzurri, but wouldn't he have been the perfect complement to Altidore up top?
Scott French (3:11 PM)
It sure would be nice to have Rossi up top with Altidore. That would be a fantastic duo. I think Italy wasn't well served by the decision to leave Rossi out -- they needed some speed and some youth in that team. I understand where Rossi is coming from, too, it's just too bad we couldn't have him. That goes for Subotic, too.
What are the U.S. chances tomorrow morning? 50-50? What Ghana's biggest weapon?
Scott French (3:14 PM)
Hard to put it into numbers, but I suppose 50/50 is fair. I think we have a much better attack than they do, and that we are a more dynamic team when we play with great intensity, which we'll have to do for 90 minutes tomorrow. (And maybe 120!) Ghana has surprised me with how good they've been. I thought losing Essien would be a major blow. But they've got great speed and amazing athleticism, and those will be their advantages tomorrow. And Asamoah Gyan has been very impressive up front. He's the likely goalscorer for them, but we just need to play really solid team defense, not leave any holes and not get beat where we shouldn't.
Do you think the wiped away goal versus Slovenia was a good thing for US soccer? Sure it could have been a disaster without Donovan's late goal against Algeria, but it seemed to get the casual fans and the non-fans interested in what was going on at the World Cup. Ratings were huge for the Algeria game.
Scott French (3:17 PM)
I agree completely. I think Coulibaly's bad call made casual fans and non-fans care about this team -- WE had been robbed, and once you take identity in and ownership of the national team, it matters so much more. Then the way the Algeria game went, with the U.S. attacking throughout (playing a totally positive game), coming so close so many times, having another good goal disallowed ... and then for Donovan to score as time was dying, what a finish. I think this has been massive for soccer in America.
Mr. French, I am more of a soccer novice, however, I have really enjoyed this World Cup. Having said that, I am not familiar with the world rankings of the teams in this tournament, but I have watched a lot of the games. It seems like I have heard a lot, before the tournament, about how the U.S. didn't really stack up on an international scale. But, in watching these games, it seems like we do have a pretty good team, to my novice eye. How do we stack up?
Scott French (3:22 PM)
I've never put much stock in FIFA's rankings. They're either obvious (Brazil No. 1, Spain No. 2) or completely off base (we were once in the top 10), and it's all computerized and depends on who you play and where and so many factors that can't be figured out by a computer. We're in the mid-teens, generally, in the FIFA rankings, and that's fair. We can beat anybody on any given day, but we also can be beaten. And the differences between the best and the second- and third-tier teams are disappearing all the time. That North Korea held Brazil to 2-1, or that New Zealand tied all three of its group opponents, those are amazing results. But when we're done, it will probably be someone who's won before (Brazil, Argentina, Germany), and the best bets among those who haven't are Spain and the Netherlands.
Everyone keeps talking about how Ghana knocked us out in the last World Cup. But I would assume both teams look very different than four years ago, no? Would our chances be better than last go round?
Scott French (3:24 PM)
Very different teams. And I think our chances are much better. Two big differences: Landon Donovan is dialed in. He had a very disappointing tournament four years ago. (The only Americans who I thought really acquitted themselves well in Germany were Clint Dempsey and Jimmy Conrad, and many Brian McBride.) Ghana is missing Michael Essien, one of the world's best central midfielders. And this Ghana team isn't as experienced as the team four years ago. That team four years ago was very, very good.
Scott, how do you assess Team USA right now? Strengths? Weaknesses?
Scott French (3:27 PM)
The biggest strengths are belief and unity. They believe they can win, and their chemistry is fantastic, which is no surprise -- that's at the core of what Bob Bradley brings as a coach. He really understands how important that is. We have a very good goalkeeper (Tim Howard) and in Landon Donovan and, to a lesser extent, Clint Dempsey players who can win a game on their own. Our other big strength is Michael Bradley in central midfield -- he has a terrific understanding of the game, and he keeps growing as a player with every match it seems. He's fierce, but he's also creative. A big-time player.
Scott French (3:28 PM)
Our weakness, I think, is that we lose focus on defense and make silly errors. We can beat ourselves.
Scott, if you're going to make a list of the top three things that need to happen for the U.S. to pull out a win tomorrow, what are they?
Scott French (3:29 PM)
1. We must be solid defensively. No stupid errors, no positional mistakes.2. We must play with energy and intensity from start to finish.3. We must take care of our chances. If we miss as many great opportunities as we did against Algeria, we will not beat Ghana. Ghana is much better than Algeria is.
I'm pumped for USA tomorrow!!!!! We heard about the favorites coming into the World Cup -- brazil, spain, etc. -- how do you think they've been doing? Who's the favorite having seen everyone play?
Scott French (3:32 PM)
The so-called favorites have been hit and miss. But that's not abnormal -- those teams know it's how you're playing in the knockout phase and at the end than in group play. They've done what they needed to do to get through, and now they must show improvement.Brazil and Spain remain the favorites, in my eyes, although I think Argentina could beat either of them, too. I'd probably put those three a notch above Holland.
Have the last two weeks been nirvana for soccer geeks like you and me, or what Scott?!?? 3-4 days a day, every day for two straight weeks! This has been fantastic, don't you think?
Scott French (3:33 PM)
Oh, yeah, definitely. Soccer all day, and replays all night, and I really have enjoyed ESPN's wrap shows. It's been fun to get out to pubs and courtyards and so forth to watch games with fans -- the Koreans here in L.A. have been amazing fans. I'll go watch their game with Uruguay tomorrow in Koreatown. I must say I am so happy the 4:30 games are behind us. I was struggling with sleep for a week or so there.
do you think the us will win aginst ghana
Scott French (3:34 PM)
I think it's a tossup. And I will be making a prediction in my Saturday Previews later today, so check the blog at ESPN Los Angeles this evening. By then I should have made my choice.
That Brazil-portugal match was kind of disappointing this morning, wasn't it scott? I was hoping for more, but it seemed like both were willing to concede a tie.
Scott French (3:36 PM)
It wasn't much of a game, but what can you expect? They did exactly what they needed to -- Brazil to win the group, Portugal to qualify -- and they did what they could to protect yellow-carded players, etc.
Chris V (Little Silver NJ)
Hi Scott Any thoughts on Michael Bradley's future professional soccer carrer? How long does he stay in Germany and do you see an EPL tenure in his near future? Thanks!!!
Scott French (3:38 PM)
I think he could be one of the greats. And I think his performance here will boost interest in him, so a move to the EPL wouldn't be a surprise. But I could also see him with a continental giant: Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid, one of the big Italian clubs. He's got quite a future.
Izzy (Austin, TX)
I heard a lot during hte first week of the tournament how teams played a little tentative. I agreed. However, I would have to say that it must have been nerves or something, because in these last games of the first round, it seems like the teams have stepped up the play a little bit, no?
Scott French (3:40 PM)
So many teams looked tentative in their first games. And nerves are part of it, but so is chemistry -- these teams are put together just before the World Cup, and it takes some time to get the connections down and on-field relationships going. And I think everybody saw that the teams that went after it in the first games -- the South Americans, South Korea and Japan -- were rewarded for their effort. I think all of that plays into better performances.
I've been following Team USA over the years at the World Cup and I have to say there is one glaring difference between their teams over the years and you can see it if you were to just line up the teams side-by-side....we just have more athletes on the team than in years past. The guys just look more athletic, play more athletic. I mean, Jozy Altidore? Guchi? They're monsters. Even guys like Donovan, shorter, quicker type players. I think that has helped the U.S. raise its game on the world stage.
Scott French (3:42 PM)
We do have better athletes, and we have better players. There's more skill on this team than on previous teams. There's better understanding -- we're maturing as a soccer country and as a national team. And that has to do with a lot of things: the players in Europe, more athletes, better preparartion, improvements developing players, more players with individual ability. And think how good we'd be with three more players: Rossi, Subotic and a healthy John O'Brien.
Scott, I find it strange that Spain has never won the World Cup. When I think of them, I automatically think of a player on the international soccer stage. Hard to imagine they've never won. Why is that?
Scott French (3:46 PM)
There's lots of debate on that, and the two theories I've heard most are that the national culture in Spain -- with so many disparate groups, with the Basque separatism and Catalan autonomy movements, regional rivalries and so foerth -- has never valued the national team as it is valued in, say, England or Germany or France. And that the clubs, and what they represent (Barcelona = Catalan; Real Madrid = establishment) have been more important to the fans and to the players. Add to this the feeling that Spain always underachieves, and it becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. This generation of Spanish players has pushed on beyond all of that, and it's terrifically talented. They were my pick to win the tournament, and I think we'll see their best as we move on.
Scott, do you think U.S. has a shot in the world cup?
Scott French (3:48 PM)
You never know what will happen in a game, and our quadrant does give us a real chance to reach the semifinals. Get there, and who knows? So, yes, we have a chance. But I'd be very surprised to see us win the trophy. I think it's still there for the big countries: Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Holland and maybe Germany.
Why is it that the U.S. has been allowing those early match goals?
Scott French (3:50 PM)
They haven't come out with the intensity that they need to play their game. They've sat back and let the game come to them. The backline is the iffiest part of the U.S. team, and their opponents have taken advantage of errors. They need to tighten things at the back and play with intensity to succeed.
How many of our USA players could become stars or really solid players on some of these other countries' teams?
Scott French (3:53 PM)
So much of that is about how you fit in, how what you bring to the game adds to the mix or the vision of the head coach. Some players can play for one team but maybe not another. And that's not always about how good those teams are. The players who definitely could play for other national teams in this World Cup: Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Howard. Altidore could play for some teams. Everyone else, I would think, it would be all about roles.
Stylin' Steve (LA)
Arenas or Bradley? Which coach has done better with Team USA?
Scott French (3:54 PM)
I don't think we can answer that question yet. Bruce Arena took the 2002 team to the quarterfinals. And his 2006 team should have finished last in that group -- we were the weakest team in a monster group. The U.S. made massive strides during Arena's tenure. The jury is still out on Bradley.
How does FIFA come up with this schedule? Group A & B winners dont have to ply until Sunday and Monday while USA and England have the quick turn around and play Saturday and Sunday?
Scott French (3:56 PM)
Group A's winner, Uruguay, plays the game before US-Ghana. Group B plays on Sunday. It's all about spacing through the final round -- the G and H teams started much later than the A and B teams, will play more games in less time. So it's a way of evening things out.
Scott, who do you think has been the most valuable player for the U.S. this world cup besides Donovan?
Scott French (3:57 PM)
Tim Howard has been outstanding -- without him, we lose big to England. And Michael Bradley has been outstanding in midfield, very influential. I'd nominate them, but also give high marks to Altidore, Dempsey and Jay DeMerit.
How encourage can we as fans be by the draw the U.S. has in their part of the bracket moving forward? I don't want to get ahead of myself, but it appears we could really make a deep run here.
Scott French (3:58 PM)
It's a nice quartet to be among. We can beat any of these teams. But any of these teams can beat us, too. That's why we have to be on -- we have to play with intensity and energy. When we do, good things happen.
We all get excited about this year's team, but moving forward, what's the makeup of the U.S. squad? Do we have a bunch of young players to form a core group for the next couple of World Cups? Or is this a group that needs to make a push now, because it might not be together much longer? I'd hate for all of the excitement around this year's team get squandered if we fail to move out of group play in four years.
Scott French (4:03 PM)
We're producing more and more very good players every year, and there are some really talented youngsters coming up. How they develop over the next few years will be crucial. A lot of our best players will be in their early 30s in 2014, and some of them might not make it back. There always seems to be a larger than expected number of players who make their big World Cup impact when they are 24. So we'll need new players, and some of our young guys now -- Altidore, especially -- will need to become more influential. Every World Cup is different, and we're not at the point where we're guaranteed a round-of-16 berth. (Even those that are, like Italy, don't always get through, as we saw yesterday.) We have to fight to get through every World Cup.
Scott French (4:06 PM)
I had a question here about Freddy Adu, and I think I accidentally deleted it. Freddy has shown again and again that when he plays against players his age, he's a superstar. He's been fantastic for the U.S. in under-age competitions. He needs to mature -- he's not very big or physical -- and he needs to be in a situation where he can grow and get sufficient playing time. He hasn't had that yet. There was way too much pressure put on his shoulders at too young an age, and it was only this month that he turned 21. He could be an important player over the next 10 years for the U.S., but we'll see.
Scott French (4:07 PM)
No answer from the folks at U.S. Soccer on not having the match on the jersey. Sorry.
Hey Scott,So, after all the pool stage games... I determine the biggest blight on FIFA is not the scoring at all, but the reffing. Why don't they put a 2nd field ref on the pitch? No possible way, one ref can see the fouls that are going on 30 yards away like this.... which is why the diving works, and the actual fouls are often uncalled.
Scott French (4:09 PM)
That's part of the charm of the game. Mistakes are made, and sometimes you get robbed. ... My take has always been that soccer has "laws" rather than "rules" because it's supposed to mirror the real world. There are laws, they're broken every day, and more often than not people get away with them. Sometimes they're little things (getting up to 80 on the freeway) and sometimes big things (robbery, murder, etc.) The punishment doesn't always fit the crime. And there's not always justice. And that's soccer.
Scott French (4:10 PM)
Thanks everybody for joining in. It's been fun. Make sure you tune in tomorrow for USA-Ghana. That's gonna be a big one!
Nice metaphor! Appreciate it, but would enjoy improvement... in both realms!