USMNT newcomer Starikov eager to fit into U.S. system after first call-up

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BY ADAM SERRANO

CARSON, CALIF — Eugene Starikov's journey has been a winding road that is not typical among American soccer players. A search for soccer success that has taken him from the heat of Central Florida to the chill of Siberia and finally to the sunny fields of Carson, California. 

Starikov was called into camp by Bob Bradley ahead of the January 22nd match with Chile after an impressive showing with Russian Premier League club, Tom Tomsk a club based in Siberia. On loan from Zenit St. Petersburg for half of the 2010 season, Starikov made only a scant four appearances until scoring a goal on October 23rd.

After scoring, he rattled off five straight starts to close the Russian season. Despite only arriving on with the team last Thursday, Starikov  is eager to make an impact in his new surroundings. 

"Everyone here are top level players so training is very intense, but it's going good so far," said Starikov. "They're very cool guys who are really nice and they've done well welcoming me into the team."

Born in Odessa, in the former Soviet Union, which is now part of Ukraine, Starikov moved to the United States at a young age — making stops in Utah, Southern California and later Florida — and began to play soccer thanks to his father Lou, a former professional in the Soviet Union with Ukrainian club, FC Chornomorets Odessa. Starikov briefly attended Stetson University in Florida before catching the eye of Russia's top club, Zenit St. Petersburg in 2008. Starikov joined Tomsk after two years in the prestigious Zenit academy, which has been made famous for developing top talent like Arsenal midfielder Andrei Arshavin. 

While with Tomsk, diligently worked until he became a regular starter for the Siberian club, finishing the season with nine appearances. The success of Starikov — known as "Yevgeni" in the Russian media – at Tomsk was not lost on Bradley, who kept heavy tabs on the forward during the season. Through online videos and conversations with his former college coach at Stetson, Bradley saw enough in Starikov to warrant a call-up to the squad. With Starikov's in the States clearing up visa issues  before deciding his club future, Bradley felt it was the perfect time to call him up. 

"He's a young guy with some quickness who is technically decent and for a little guy, he's very good in the air, so there are some good starting points," said Bradley. "He's starting to make some inroads and it's not clear if he'll stay with that club, but January is good window for us to look a guy like that closely and see where it all fits."

Although, there had been thoughts that Starikov could have joined Russia or Ukraine, according to Starikov, he holds only American citizenship. Starikov joins a camp forward pool full of MLS talent like Chivas USA's Justin Braun and San Jose Earthquakes' Chris Wondolowski. With many players unfamiliar with one another, it may be the most appropriate time to call up a forward who is new to the national team set-up.

With less than a week in Bradley's setup, Starikov has impressed playing in a variety of positions from behind the forwards to up top during training sessions. A tenacious player, who appears good in the air despite standing at 5-foot-8. Although he hasn't spent a great deal of time with the team, Starikov has a positive review for Bob Bradley's coaching style and believes that he can thrive in his systemsystem.

"It's similar [to Russia] and I like that Coach Bradley is trying to play football, he's not playing long ball every time and wants to get forward, as an attacking player it's good for me," said Starikov. "He's always telling us to look forward and to attack. It's nice."

Starikov will only have two weeks to mesh with the national team as the U.S. takes on Chile on Janaury 22nd. After the friendly, Starikov will return to Russia to prepare for the start of the RRL season, which begins on March 12th. Despite his club situation currently being in flux, Starikov's focus is solely on the U.S. national team and becoming a fixture in Bradley's squad.

"I would just like to flow into the team and feel like I'm part of the group," said Starikov. I want to feel like the team needs me then we can go out and play comfortably as a team when we face Chile."

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58 Responses to USMNT newcomer Starikov eager to fit into U.S. system after first call-up

  1. jon says:

    Ives and others,
    I just want to say I absolutely love this extensive coverage on the USMNT, U-20’s, and the MLS Combine. I can count on you every day to give a unique story that carries me through the day. I especially enjoy these interviews as they offer a personal view into the players. Keep up the FABULOUS work!

  2. Jordan says:

    Agreed!

  3. shutupayouface says:

    agreed

  4. Der_Amerikanische_Kasier says:

    Buddle on front page of Kicker magazine..way to go Edsun und viel Gluck in Deutschland!

    link to kicker.de

  5. AdamTheRed says:

    Agree VEHEMENTLY!

  6. Nebraskacoog says:

    “We are coming in for a landing”, “I’ve got the ball!”

    Caption

  7. Nebraskacoog says:

    Better yet…

    Synchronized Soccer, the new rave in Russia!

  8. Kackac says:

    Agreed. There has been some especially great coverage lately. Loving the interviews as well. Thanks Ives and Co.!

  9. Second City says:

    “It’s similar [to Russia] and I like that Coach Bradley is trying to play football, he’s not playing long ball every time and wants to get forward” said Starikov

    ============

    Music to my ears (or eyes when reading)!

  10. K-Town says:

    “It’s similar [to Russia] and I like that Coach Bradley is trying to play football, he’s not playing long ball every time and wants to get forward, as an attacking player it’s good for me,” said Starikov. “He’s always telling us to look forward and to attack. It’s nice.”

    Interesting to hear what he has to say about Bob’s coaching.

  11. K-Town says:

    lol, you beat me to it. I was typing the same thing and then when I posted it I saw your comment.

    +1 obviously

  12. Tom says:

    Agreed, great jobs Ives!!!

  13. Laughable says:

    Bob Bradley is a first-class coach despite what most of the people here seem to want to believe. Players love him and universally respect him.

  14. Second City says:

    Not in the BB Fan Club by any stretch of imagination but I respect the hell out of him and probably would enjoy playing for him.

    He strikes me as a very honest, honorable and fair manager that’s, at times, perhaps too loyal but I think that’s why his players would run through a brickwall for him.

    Like him or not, he seems like a great leader of men.

  15. Second City says:

    Apparently that quote caught both of our eyes and I think for good reason.

    It certainly was great to read… (even if there’s a small possibility our new player was placating to his new manager)

  16. coachchar says:

    Eugene lived in huntington beach california for some years and played at Edison high school as well as ofr the irvine strikers club. I coached Eugene in high school and he scored 18 goals and had 6 assists in 20 games his freshman year. His sophmopre year he had 10 goals and 6 assists. He has a ton of talent and very big heart. He is able to out work many bigger players by sheer desire. I witnessed first hand Eugene take the game on his back and change the outcome of several games. I’m so happy and proud that a kid with that much promise has actually fulfilled his potential.

  17. Danielluebke@rocketmail.com says:

    I am no Bob Fan but my hats off to him for being thorough enough to find this guy.

  18. billq says:

    I just flew in from Russia and boy are my arms tired.

  19. LookingForTalent says:

    USSF should learn from you on how to cover the teams. Great job and keep up the fine work.

  20. This Guy says:

    Thanks for the first hand account. Too many times we hear legend of men that nobody has ever seen play………..Vicenzo Bernardo….so it’s nice to hear it from an eye witness. We all know he can play but a player’s personality tends to mean more than accomplishments.

  21. This Guy says:

    You sir have won the caption contest.

  22. Louis Z says:

    i hope he hasn’t trademarked it, I’m planing on using it on my FB page.

  23. wichin says:

    Hey Ives as you are there close to Rongen…anyword on Felix Garcia? Can’t he still play for the US under 20? He is in great shape and scored a whole lot this season. Any info would be appreciated. Sad the kid isn’t playing in all this…his speed and finishing ability is amazing.

  24. JohnC says:

    Who is he playing for?

  25. This Guy says:

    Planing? Oh I get it.

  26. Dan says:

    Thanks for the insight. Edison has some great programs. I live close by.

  27. Judging Amy says:

    “Players love him and universally respect him.”

    Can’t teach this. BB’s got it. IMO thats why the team is able to pull out those heroic efforts (Confed, WC 2010 comebacks) so often. Mental toughness and discipline always essential.

  28. Travis in the Minne-Apple says:

    Gut gesagt!

  29. Travis in the Minne-Apple says:

    Wow! I’ve been taking a massive break from the comments section of soccer blogs for awhile. The main reason is the (searching for adjective)senseless BB bashing. I’m pretty shocked at the positive comments in this thread regarding Bob…like it…but am shocked…

  30. tnnelson says:

    +1000. love it

  31. WileyJ says:

    Thank you Ives, solid work from you & your team. Been pouring over your site endlessly.

  32. b says:

    I’m sure they’re still around, they’re probably just sticking to other blogs where their ridiculous anti-BB comments will not be challenged by rational people.

  33. Josh D says:

    “He’s a young guy with some quickness who is technically decent and for a little guy, he’s very good in the air, so there are some good starting points..”

    Doesn’t sound like BB is very confident in him. That’s quite a poor description.. “Some quickness” and “technically decent” sounds like a college player not a starter for a Russian Premier team…

    From what I’ve read, he’s a bit better than decent and quicker than some but we’ll see in a week!

  34. Alex G says:

    Onyewu just got loan to Twenty

  35. afc says:

    Laredo Heat in the PDL……

  36. Tony in Quakeland says:

    I heard it was only Nineteen and a half

  37. Tony in Quakeland says:

    You’ve heard Bob speak before? That is practically an orgasm for him

  38. Josh D says:

    Still better than the average 6…

  39. Charles says:

    There is no other site even close.

    Ives, just go ahead, guarentee the Four-pete we all expect.

  40. Dainja says:

    “Jazz hands are becoming quite the rage, even in Russia” (not sure if the J in Russian is a soft J…like yogging)

  41. inkedAG says:

    I know. I was looking for the Bradley hate on this post.

  42. John Doe says:

    Just wanted to add the I appreciate the coverage as well. Keep up the good work!

  43. GW says:

    “Doesn’t sound like BB is very confident in him.”

    I remember similar sounding comments by BB about Gomez before the World Cup. Maybe that’s a good sign for Eugene.

    BB does his best to say nothing as inoffensively as possible. People like you complain about that but then maybe you prefer the Houllier style “Lichaj nightmare” comments. To each his own.

    It says much more about Starikov that he is playing in the 7th ranked league in Europe and is apparently doing well. BB didn’t have to bring him in but he did.

    Try evaluating BB in light of what he actually does instead of his usually media toned, empty comments. I see BB apparently taking advantage of a suddenly much more diverse, promising and interesting player pool which is developing rather quickly.

  44. Isaac says:

    “It’s similar [to Russia] and I like that Coach Bradley is trying to play football, he’s not playing long ball every time and wants to get forward, as an attacking player it’s good for me,” said Starikov. “He’s always telling us to look forward and to attack. It’s nice.”

    Wow. That’s a contradiction of what a lot of the haters say about Bob. I think Bob is great at recognizing the right teams and moments to push and attack against or to sit back and be organized against. Even when he’s down a goal, he doesn’t always push forward because he knows certain teams can take advantage of the space created in behind when you do. Going down a goal against Spain sucks because they can keep the ball and kill the game off, but if you push forward, they can release someone right behind your defense if you don’t press in the right way or with the right formation.

  45. GW says:

    Ives,

    Here’s what’s great about this particular piece:

    It has a dual national personally addressing his eligibility status. Great to clear that up.

    Good information about the player’s history by Serrano and why he was brought in by BB.

    A quote from BB about the player

    Good comments by the player about the USMNT setup, style of play and BB himself.

    I realize much of this is probably due to Starikov himself being so open and that may not always be the case but it serves as a good template.

    One small complaint, I’m tired of this business of people being good in the air “despite being only 5’8″”. Michael Owen and David Villa,just to name two examples, both about 5’9″, are excellent in the air. Peter Crouch and Kenny Cooper, both pretty tall, are not that good in the air.

    Heading the ball well is about timing, vision,and proper form., not just size.

  46. Primoone says:

    Thats laughable….

  47. Primoone says:

    Definitely a mistake…go back to your break.

  48. Primoone says:

    Yeah Isaac…and think of it. It only took him a WC cycle to figure out what everyone around him and including this blog were trying to tell him…2 yrs in.

    Just sayin…

  49. GW says:

    Of course the difference BB actually has to deal with all the players, games, schedules, media, etc.

    You and you expert bretheren just have to sit at home and second guess him with perfect hindsight.

    BB’s record is there for all to see while the record of “everyone around him and including this blog” is not so easy to look back at for accuracy and insight is it?

  50. Primoone says:

    Hind-sight is 20/20. He should have done this he should have done that and he would have delivered us the WC. Yeah, I get the whole arm-chair quarter-back phenomenom. I may have made a really black and white statement ignoring grey areas however, the delivery may have been bad but the message remains the same. He was not the right man for the job prior to him getting the interim tag removed and after the WC cycle was completed as demonstrated by Sunil’s attempt at hiring this first-choice candidate before and after the cycle. Throughout Bradley’s tenure, he has deomonstrated an inability to change or influence the complexity of a match through proper substitution patters in a given situation throughout the course of the game. I can give you examples of the exact matches however, Ives would delete my post. It’s a clear sign of inexperience at any level of football. There were an aweful lot of analyst as well as know-nothings like me in different parts of the world that shared in that same sentiment including the USSF. Coincidence? No one is discounting his effeorts because I have no doubt that the man gave it his all. He reached his footballing cieling at the national level and that is ok. He is a good coach and you cant take that away from him. With that said, there are many good coaches that bring what Bradley can bring. How does he differentiate himself from those coaches with stronger football acumen, playing experience as well as coaching experience? Those coaches out of the gate, will have a leg up on Bradley. I would take an experience coach over a virtual unknown any day of the week. I dont want to be associated with a US program that is Good-enough…and shouldnt want to be iether..

  51. GW says:

    Your criticism of BB is consistent with most of the criticism I’ve read here and elsewhere. Here is what I find problematic with it.

    1. Bradley has gotten just about as much out of these guys as anyone could from such a thin player pool.

    Dempsey and Donovan were/are the US’ best. They are the only proven international level players and scorers. The US was going to go as far as those two would take it and events have proven that. Everything good has revolved around them. Davies? He was there to stretch the field for you-know-who. After the Glimmer Twins everyone is pretty average to anonymous, a bunch of mostly converted midfielders and centerback types. I’m not talking about what they are doing as I write this, I’m talking about how good they were during the Confederations Cup, and the World Cup, the only two meaningful competitions during BB’s tenure.

    2. National team managers have comparatively little control of their talent pool.

    The managers certainly don’t develop them, the clubs do. The US plays anywhere from 14 to 24 games over the course of a given year. A good team in Europe, if it does reasonably well in Cup or European games can double that total. And unlike the US they usually have all their best their players (barring injury) for practices. And of course they can, budget willing, buy a left back if need be. BB can’t buy players.

    Roy Hodgson, for example, had Clint for 44 games during the 2009-10 season alone, not including practice sessions. Dempsey has 68 caps going back to 2004. BB has managed the US for a total of 70 games since he took over after the 2006 World Cup. You tell me who is much more influential in Clint’s professional life? When you look at the numbers you also realize that “tactical sophistication” has to be kept much simpler for national teams due to factors such as limited practice time, and a constantly rotating cast of characters not all of whom are as talented or sophisticated and savvy as Dempsey and Donovan.

    All of this means that the players Bradley, and most national team managers, get are more or less finished products. This notion that Bradley either ruins players or fails to develop them is ridiculous.

    BB certainly knows much more about tactics that you or I; However, implementing them in these circumstances with these players is another thing. You might have noticed that BB has suddenly gotten really “tactical” with the lineups now that he has an infusion of newer, potentially more polished and talent players. And if you go back to BB’s first two years he did the same thing until he found out what suited the players and circumstances best.

    “Throughout Bradley’s tenure, he has deomonstrated an inability to change or influence the complexity of a match through proper substitution patters in a given situation throughout the course of the game.”

    It should be clear to you that for a sub to “change or influence the complexity of a match” he has to be good enough to do so.

    Here is the lineup (and entire roster) for the Confederations Cup final.

    USA: 1-Howard; 12-Spector, 5- Onyewu, 15-DeMerit, 3- Bocanegra; 10-Donovan, 22- Feilhaber (2- Bornstein, 75), 13 – Clark (4- Casey, 88), 8- Dempsey; 9-Davies, 17-Altidore (16-Kljestan, 75)

    Subs not used: 6- Pearce , 7- Beasley, 11- Wynne, 18-Guzan, 19- Adu, 20-Torres, 23-Robles

    Not available: 12-Michael Bradley (suspension)

    The most effective sub in that tournament was Benny coming in at the half allowing Dempsey to move up. This wasn’t possible in the Brazil due to Michael’s red card.

    So I ask you, who should he have brought on that he did not? Who did not play in this game that later proved BB wrong not to play him? Who was left back in the US, healthy and chomping at the bit that could have made a difference? Look closely at this roster and tell me again that you honestly think that BB didn’t get just about everything anyone could have out of them.

    None of these guys would have made the Brazil 23.

    I won’t go into the World Cup except to say BB did the same thing got very good performances out of two stars and and bunch of journeymen. And the Ghana game was lost mostly on a lack of concentration by Tim Howard,supposedly one of the best keepers around. Clark lost the ball it’s true at the halfway line but Demerit then kindly escorted Boateng all the way to the penalty box where Jay then very kindly, partially screened Howard on a very average shot. Still it was on his near post and Timmy should have had that. You would have stopped it. He stops that and I think we win that game. But oh well, that’s what happens when your keeper falls asleep. In my view Howard leet us down inthat game not BB, an unpopular view I’m sure.

    There are better managers out there but until you actually convince one of these genuises to take what appears to be a very difficult job (there must be a reason they don’t, you know), you’ll probably have to live with the fact that until we start getting better players ( which may be happening), it will be the Landon and Clint show for the foreseeable future.

  52. Primoone says:

    GW…I agree with many of your points. Many of your points actually build a stronger case for my points. Bradley definitely got all he could out of our players (operative word being HE). You know, the U.S. may not be the most talented bunch of players outside of LD and Clint however, I’m not drinking that kool-aid about the major difference you claim that exists between our two best players and the other 9 players on the field. You win as a team and you lose as a team. Every team has its difference makes but for the most part, it is a team effort. That is what Bradley focused on because we were not that talented. That was a given when the job was his for the taking and quite frankly he did excel in that area at times however, the team wasnt able to sustain it. You choose to rate players performances and their shortcomings however, for as many blips those players had, they also turned in absolutely remarkable plays…plays that Bradley had absolutely no influence over such as LD’s goal or Howard making game saving stops to spite roster F-ups or mis-timed substitutions…and im not just referring to the WC. you can lump qualifying into that category as well. With all this being said, it sounds as if you are ok with Bradley and what he has done. When all you have to work with is (by your account) mediocre players and 2 stars and your only road to success is to get them playing as a team…then it doesnt look to good for Bradley at the moment. And that is judging him on his body of work. He did a good job. We qualified first…made it to the 2nd round of the WC thanks to a couple of once in a lifetime plays orquestrated by his 2 best players. You need a little luck in this game but frankly…Bradley needed quite a bit of luck to get out of that round. Again, Im not buying the “we didnt have good enough players” or he did what he could…that just sounds like excuses and quite frankly excuses are for losers who can’t accept the facts. Give me someone in here with the ability to do more instead of Bob Bradley’s best because everyone has seen it and we are not as easily impressed as you are.

  53. GW says:

    I don’t think you can have it both ways.

    You say, “You win as a team and you lose as a team. ” and then start point those instances where the individuals

    ” also turned in absolutely remarkable plays…plays that Bradley had absolutely no influence over” .

    It’s one way or the other. Teams take the good and the bad together. If the team is successful all of them, including Bradley, are responsible and if they fail the same thing applies.

    You say “Im not buying the “we didnt have good enough players” or he did what he could…that just sounds like excuses and quite frankly excuses are for losers who can’t accept the facts.” and “I’m not drinking that kool-aid about the major difference you claim that exists between our two best players and the other 9 players on the field.”

    Well here are some facts about that “major difference”. As you say, “excuses are for losers who can’t accept facts”.

    Dempsey has played 131 games in the EPL since 2007 and scored 27 goals. Since 2004 he has 68 caps and 19 goals, almost all of them important competitive goals, not just goals scored in friendlies.

    Donovan has 275 club games with 131 goals. Since 2000 he has 128 caps and 45 goals. While he has not gone abroad like Dempsey and McBride before him, at this point I think it’s safe to say he is pretty savvy and sophisticated when it comes to the game at the highest level, certainly as much as any US player.

    Go over the list of USMNT eligible players (outfield, not goalkeepers) over the last two years and tell me that there is anyone who even begins to approach what these two have done and still, it appears, are continuing to do.

    Let me make something else clear.

    The gulf between these two and the others is not so much about talent as it is about something Donovan himself pointed out. After the 2010 World Cup he said something to the effect that it wasn’t that US players weren’t talented or good enough, it was that they weren’t as savvy, as “street smart” about the game as their opponents. So in crucial close games, like the Ghana game, it was their undoing. I happen to agree with him.

    So how do you fix that? The only way I can think of is you play at the sort of level that Dempsey and Donovan have for years if not higher. But none of our guys plays at a top ten, top-flight club, not even the glimmer twins. None of them are regulars for a Champions league contender, the highest level of competition. Yet Brazil, Spain, Holland, etc, have rosters full of such players. It’s the best way to develop the savvy, the smarts, what ever you want to call it that can make a difference at the highest level. I don’t care of you bring in Hiddink and Mourinho together; they can’t give that knowledge to the players. The players have to learn it on their own. That is a fact you can’t ignore.

    ” Give me someone in here with the ability to do more instead of Bob Bradley’s best because everyone has seen it and we are not as easily impressed as you are.”

    You can’t separate a manager from his players. That’s like separating a pupil from a teacher. You haven’t seen Bradley’s best because the players will now be mostly different and, hopefully, better. Also, what you are forgetting and everyone does this, is that Bradley is developing as well not just the players. It’s a dynamic situation not a static one. Donovan was good enough for Leverkusen a few years ago. He might be now.

    Oh and I’m not easily impressed. It’s just that I’ve played and followed this game here and abroad for a very long time and seen a lot of teams come and go. And I know one thing, more than most sports, the results in soccer often have very little to do with how good the manager and how talented the players really are. So maybe I’m just a bit more realistic about making chicken soup out of chicken …..

  54. beachbum says:

    all of those words, and a whole bunch of nothing.

    give it up. no team in South Africa had to overcome the spectre of two honest goals disallowed…never mind any other bs administered by the whistles.

    none. Mexico turned to dust when faced with Argentina’s joke of a goal. It was BS, and it eliminated them. England? Ha! they got screwed, yes, and were eliminated by it. shall I go on?

    you just don’t understand this aspect of coaching, of the beautiful game. my opinion.

    you clearly don’t respect it. that’s just obvious.

  55. Primoone says:

    You can kick that same old can down the road all you want about players not being good enough however, what I said holds true. Bradley is not the man for the job. And by your assesment of what Bradley is doing? Learning on the fly? That just reinforces my original point. Thanks for the useless facts however, your view point is exactly what is wrong with what is happenning internally with the USSF. Mediocre and complacent with no real sense of direction.

    You can make chicken soup all you want…however, all I want is for it to taste good.

  56. Primoone says:

    Ok, you have made your off-base and ignorant point. I like, Bradley…I really do. So stop getting your feelings hurt everytime he is criticized. Look at it objectively. What if I said to you…yea, you know Bob Bradley is one of the best US coaches We have ever had based on his win/losses. In addition, I told you, he is the best tactician, the best ego handler, the best man to make our team play as a unit, the best we ever had…he is also the most experienced coach we employed and will go down as the greatest coach we ever had. He always makes the best substitutions and knows every player and the best position to play him in and probably is the best at doing so. You will most likely find enough to criticize him about just so to justify why he is not any of the above.

    What I dont repsect is someone who refuses to respond to any of my points and then goes off on a tangent regarding something that is a part of football. I mean F**k Beachbum at least GW made some good points however, you want to cry about officiating? Really ?

  57. GW says:

    “Thanks for the useless facts however, your view point is exactly what is wrong with what is happenning internally with the USSF. Mediocre and complacent with no real sense of direction. ”

    There is no such thing as a useless fact. Facts just are. There are only people who cannot make use of them.

    Now in terms of the USSF you are finally talking about something that makes sense.

    Research the USSF Board of Directors sometime and you will find there are 15 votes there.

    Sunil, even though he is nominally the President and the “big cheese”, actually has only one vote. Think about that if you can. Sunil really isn’t that influential. Which should be obvious since he very obviously wanted Klinsmann and thought he had the votes but was sadly mistaken and so clearly blindsided.

    So the next time you rant about Bradley or Sunil spare some hot air for the real power brokers in the USSF. They are the ones you need to talk to.