Mexico 2, USA 1: Progressions [Updated]

Davies...slick

Davies...slick

8:30pm (Pacific): Post has been updated with player ratings

“You measure this game by the next.”

Again…

“You measure this game by the next.”

While the U.S. lost a heart-breaking and hard-fought game in Mexico this afternoon, how successful you judge their play, and their coaching I might add, will be the quality of their play–and coaching–come September 5th against El Salvador.

If you didn’t watch the game, I’ll sum up the first half by a play in the 2nd half at the 3:05 mark. Landon Donovan is peeling down the right flank.

He outpaces everyone, throws his hands up (as is to say, “Where are you guys?), flips, to his dismay, a square/back pass to Michael Bradley, Bradley squares it to Clark, who has an errant touch to Boca coming up the left flank. Ball out of bounds.

Offensive chance closed, first half encapsulated.

The story of the first half is a familiar story for the U.S., tucked in their defensive third, absorbing combination after combination, and shot attempt after shot attempt, from the Mexicans in the hopes of preserving a clean sheet.

Once a possession was gained by the US defense, they’d launch an 80/20 ball (that’s 80 Mexico, 20 US) halfway up the pitch just to get it out of their end. Four out of five times, the ballstarted coming right back their way with the Mexicans on the attack

Why was this the case? Two defensive central midfielders.

Unable to maintain possession and waiting on Donovan and Dempsey to leave their rear guards (or unable to work the ball up the central field space), the U.S. had to relieve pressure with the longball.

Much was the same at the 3:10 mark of the 2nd half with Donovan having flashed up the line with the ball streaking out of the back instead of being worked through possession.

In fact, the next 14 minutes of the 2nd half, saw frustrated and tired defenders (Cherundolo at the 6-min mark, Gooch (or it may have been Boca) at the 8-min mark and Howard at the 17-min mark) just say forget it and punt the ball up the field to try and give them a breather.

I’m checking my watch at this point and seething, “Okay, let’s see the sideline shot of Benny….c’mon Bob.”

And then it happened, Benny up off the lumber…..and, wait, Holden right behind him. I was watching at Kell’s Pub in San Francisco, only downing ginger ales mind you, but I had to do a double take. Tie game, 1-1 in the 2nd half and we’ve got Benny AND STU coming in.

That was a moment of progression, I hope, for Bob Bradley. With a collapsed central midfield that was not helping out the pressure on the defense, Bradley stepped away from his conservative approach and said, “I’m going for it. We need it. We’re good enough.”

This was a good moment for US Soccer.

While the US went minus-one (-1) the rest of the way, that 20-min mark hopefully saw the introduction of even better things to come from US soccer in the coming year.

While Benny didn’t have his best game, he slowed the pace down. A simple back tap to Gooch found the team some working room out of the back. Then you had Holden, showing no fear, attempting some trickery in the Mexican half before literally flying down the right flank and launching perhaps the most gorgeous on-the-fly cross, I’ve seen from the Americans in awhile. A revelation and hopefully the future. (Now if only Charlie had a big head like my brother.)

If I’m Bob Bradley, here’s what else I learned today:

  • Stevie Cherundolo’s going to fight Jonathan Spector for the starting nod on the right. Calm and composed all day long, consistent and solid in possession and always providing cover, Cherundolo shined today.
  • I’ve got Clint Dempsey problems. Dempsey was virtually non-existent this game and whatever the opposite of crisp is (ruffled?). He was lacksadasical in possession and inconsistent in effort, maybe Holden’s entrance was a wake-up call. (More on Dempsey-Bradley in another post).
  • Oguchi Oneywu is irresponsible in central defense. Coming off his play in the Brazil game, Gooch needed to show consistent awareness of offenders. I’m sorry Gooch, the 2nd goal is nearly all yours, what were you doing?
  • Charlie Davies is the best I’ve got up top. He put forth an enormous effort elongating and pressuring upfield all day long. Calm and composed on the US lone goal. The best is ahead for Davies.
  • And the hallmark point, two holding midfields in the center puts way too much pressure on my defense. Can’t work, won’t work. Clark had a mildly bad game (solid in defense, charitable in offense), Bradley had a horrendous game. That being said, they don’t get upfield with consistency and leave the U.S. perilously weak in attack and thus weak in defense as well.


Awards

Best Play of the Game: (Donovan-to-Davies): I’m going with the obvious here. Less than 10 minutes in, Landon draws two defenders, slots the ball to Davies in the seam, Davies calmly makes sure the rest is history. That’s twice for this combination. Good chemistry; well-done.

The runner-up, Timmy Howard–nothing short of brilliant the whole day long–blocking a blind shot from the left flank in the first half at the 29-minute mark. Not only blocking it, but parrying it to the only place (top left of the box) where there were no offenders–did you see that?!

Most Unheralded Play of the Game: (Benny Feilhaber): Just a few weeks ago, after the US loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup, I said this team had fight. I then retold how the lowest point for me for the USMNT was Tim Howard’s head getting stepped on down in Guatemala. Flash forward to today at the 74 minute mark, Davies is getting jostled and chumped because Mexico wants to take a quick corner kick. Without hesitation Benny Feilhaber comes in and bowling balls them off him. You think the US team didn’t want to be there together at the Azteca Eric Wynalda–think again.

Golden Shinguard: (Tim Howard) A no-brainer. Saved the US again. Did you notice Howard hollered a bit less this game? He expected the US defense to get beat a few times in the altitude and heat and so he let a few go and choose his spots. Veteran. Speaking of veteran, short by the thickness of a dime, Stevie Cherundolo staked claim to the back right and displayed the savvy veteran play from the corner that the US needs. Well done Steve.


Preview Follow-up

Here’s what TSG was looking for as key differential points before the game:

  • Clint Dempsey to be active, enthused and present a threat. Didn’t happen and now the questions around his position and playing time will continue. Rightfully so, Clint looked lost out there. That would be okay if he was a rookie getting his feet wet, but you can’t have that on your senior staff. That can’t be the example set. Bob Bradley’s got some questions.
  • The US to show a veteran presence coming out of the locker room and that starts just after Tim Howard with Gooch and Jay DeMerit (and then correspondingly with the wingfulls) The U.S. played, let’s say, not the smartest in the central defense, but in fairness, they were being water-boarded for 45 minutes to start the match. Gooch, why did you pick up the ball and what was with the hand ball? I am more forgiving of DeMerit, played decent cover and I thought his foul on Dos Santos rounding the corner was okay. (My brother disagrees) Oh, and a note, hear a near-Brooklyn cheer for keeping the sheet clean for the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half–but thank Howard for his point blank stop of Dos Santos at the 15 minute mark.
  • Jonathan Bornstein will return to form and somehow factor in this game. Didn’t get in there. I’ll note this point on the player rating of my own commentary. Possibly due to the Davies sub, but it would have been good to have Bornstein back there as Boca tired after the 60 minute mark.
  • Speaking of which, Bob Bradley to use a quick hook, especially on Jozy Altidore if he’s in the clouds or whichever wingback is opening up the D. Bradley was aggressive at omnipotent in getting Davies in there to start the game. The wingfulls held their own for the most part. I’ll turn this observation around and say again, Stu and Benny–good recognition Bob.


Player Ratings

C: Bob Bradley – 7.5

Okay, I hate, and possibly everyone hates, two defensive central midfielders. Drum. Beaten. After that, Bradley did an excellent job of managing the game today. He choose Davies to start and was rewarded with effort and a goal. The Interwebs were crying for Spector, yet Bradley was on target with Cherundolo. Bradley focused on fitness and speed and it worked with his gameplan. After the first half of static US ball, Bradley went for the win in the 2nd half when the offense was beyond sputtering. Just two months ago, the chances of that were beyond remote.

However, let’s see what Bob does against El Salvador. If it’s the same line-up as today, I’m going to come back here and knock this rating down a few pegs.

G: Tim Howard – 9.5

Beyond his one scuffed ball that got a rise out of fans everywhere, Tim was perfect. Most impressively, understood the environment and how he needed to manage the game. Thank you Tim from US fans everywhere

D: Steve Cherundolo – 8.5

Took a few moments to get his footing and then was “on” the rest of the game. Knew which offenders to contain and which to attack. Was always in the right place at the right time. Managed possession. Spector-Cherundolo….let’s get to the weigh in. The purse, South Africa pitch time.

D: Jay DeMerit – 7

Was overly aggressive, but usually in the right place at the right time. Provided cover against the sneaky Dos Santos. Need to understand better how the game was being called which leads up to….

D: Oguchi Oneywu – 5

His play was, in one word, concerning. Fell asleep on offenders and picked up stupid fouls. Let his temper get the best of him. His athleticism saved him today. He needs to be, and should be, further along with his intelligence and discipline. Knock, Knock. Yes. It’s Chad Marshall.

D: Carlos Bocanegro – 5

Not the best game for the captain. Was shaky in positioning and certainly in possession. He wasn’t match fit–I’ll be concerned if El Salvador reveals the same issues.

M: Clint Dempsey – 2.5

We are now beating a dead horse — covered above.

M: Michael Bradley – 3

Erratic the entire day long. Was not thorough on tackles and looked like he was holding a field goal convention instead of playing the beautiful game. Did not threaten on offense at all (what was that 40 yard attempt in the 1st half?), so why was he constantly out of position.

M: Ricardo Clark – 4

Tireless on defense and consistently provided cover for Bradley and the flankers. His first touch though often left the ball at the Mexicans’ feet. You simply can’t have that.

M: Landon Donovan – 6.5

Couldn’t get his rhythm today and had to carry the ball all by himself a bit. Tracked back in defense, but got beaten on the second Mexican goal. He looked authoritative though and did a Betsy Ross of threading the needle on the beautiful assist to Davies. Not his greatest game or even close, but I liked his attitude.

F: Brian Ching – 6

My brother and I will differ here for sure. Beyond Davies, Ching was the only American to provide any respite of possession in the 1st half. Got called a few times, but that’s his job. He’s the bruiser. Tracked back on defense. Did his job in my mind.

F: Charlie Davies – 8

The new lead striker. Slotted in the lone US opportunity in the first half, Cool Hand Luke-style. Worked to attack defenders and track down the long balls. Got pulled down in the box because he mixed it up and that was good. Well done Charlie.

SUB: Benny Feilhaber – 6 (gets an extra 0.5 for the clear-out)

The TSG favorite was a little spotty on his touch today, but helped to settle down the midfield a bit when he took the pitch in the 57th minute. Great to see him mix it up when the Mexicans were jostling Davies. Don’t Tread On Me, indeed.

SUB: Stu Holden – 7.5

As mentioned in the previous post, TSG headquarters was going crazy as Stu stepped on the pitch behind Benny. Talk about gaining the confidence of the coach. Stu didn’t disappoint and wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment. An errant pass or two, but some good possession, high work rate and great cross made it a good showing for “Iceman” (Hey, it is currently leading the poll.)

SUB: Jozy Altidore – INC

A non-factor after coming in for Davies. Not sure if it was the altitude, but as a late (late) sub he should have had his track shoes on and been sprinting (not jogging) around.

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33 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/08/12 at 6:15 PM

    Player by player summary, just finished watching the match (had to record it because of work):

    Tim Howard: C — Howard played decent, just like he always does. The first goal should have been stopped. If he wasn’t so undersized compared to the premier keepers like Cech and Van der sarr, he knocks that ball out of play. On the second goal, the defence put him in a real tough spot but I think he should have gotten a hand on it.

    Cherundolo: C- — Cherundolo played mediocre. The entire defence of the US is god awful so I can’t really bash Cherundolo as much as I’d like to. All I have to say is that if Spector was in, there would be a lot better long balls coming out of the defensive backfield. Spector is a much more aggressive and offense oriented player. Cherundolo played okay but did nothing to distinguish himself. At least he isn’t as terrible as Bornstein or Wynne.

    Onyewu: B- — If Onyewu wasn’t on the US squad, we could probably count on getting beat 35-0 every match since the US plays some of the worst defence of any squad I’ve ever watched. The entire concept behind the US’s strategy is to put 10 guys inside the 18 and kick the ball as hard as you can in any direction if it comes to you. Most of the players swarm around the ball like a bunch of eight year olds who just learned how to play, but Onyewu does this less than most. Onyewu, as always, did an excellent job clearing entry passes, but he should have been in a much better position to defend against the second goal.

    Demerit: D — Demerit was nearly nonexistent this game other than the terrible foul he had in the first half. CONCACAF officiating is a fucking joke, but Demerit’s challenge was very sloppy and quite dangerous. In the Confed Cup, Demerit was almost as reliable as Onyewu but today he seemed to be lost in the crowd.

    Bocanegra: F — Bocanegra looked like he was very out of shape. Not only does he look like he gained a few pounds, but he was clearly winded entering the second half. We can whine and moan and make excuses, but the fact of the matter is that Bocanegra does not look in shape and he certainly did not play in it. If he didn’t have such a thick frame, I swear I could confuse his poor play for that of John Bornstein. Every time Bocanegra was on the screen he was either getting beat or playing a poor first touch on the ball. This is the first time I’ve ever been disappointed in Carlos.

    Dempsey: F — Seems like it is about time for Deuce to go the way of Damarcus Beasley. I don’t know what his deal is, but he seems like he doesn’t even want to be on the pitch most of the time. He always looks tired and he just simply isn’t creating the chances like he used to. I’m beginning to think Dempsey, who has always been one of my favorite players, is more of a liability on the field than a benefit. I hope he plays better in the EPL because I like rooting for every American in the Premiership. I think it is time to seriously consider using Dempsey as guy who can come off the bench or maybe even not at all.

    Ricardo Clark; F — I don’t like Ricardo Clark. I think he is one of the most overrated American footballers. He can’t play defence and he has a poor first touch. Part of the problem that the US can never maintain possession is because we put players like Clark at midfield. Guys like Holden, Feilhaber, and Donovan have great first touches and can dribble through traffic. Clark loses the ball nearly every time he touches it, gets some of the worst fouls of any player in the world, and doesn’t have some sort of redeeming factor like size or speed.

    Mike Bradley; C- — I honestly didn’t even realize Bradley was on the pitch until late in the match. He is usually very decent and helps to transition the ball out of the defensive third and into the midfield and the attacking third, but he didn’t really seem to be doing much other than helping out on defence. Once again, a lot of the reason many of these players are rated so poorly by me is because the US defense is so awful that it sucks all the midfielders back to defend and then they cannot perform their primary duty of moving the ball up the field in a controlled manner.

    Donovan; B — If the US were without Donovan and Onyewu, I don’t think we would even stand a chance in international play. Once again, Donovan is pretty much the only player getting quality touches on the ball outside of the defensive third of the field. I think he got a little winded towards the end of the game and I do hold him somewhat responsible for the second goal, but he definitely should have had some help him out anyways. If Landon Donovan could get Holden and Feilhaber around him for more than 15 minutes, this game could have been totally different (just imagine if Holden/Benny were on the pitch from the start when Landon was fresh). The midfield play of the US is just disgusting but a lot of it is due to how poor the back line played today.

    Davies: A- — Davies joins Donovan in the very small group of “Players That I Think Actually Tried Today.” Whether it was chasing down the 9000 long balls the US back line played upfield or chasing the ball around when Mexico switched fields, Davies was always willing to hustle for a chance. If the rest of the US players showed half as much effort as Davies, the result could have been much different. His goal was spectacular, and he put a fine finish on pretty much the only decent chance the offense created.

    Ching: F — I’m a big Ching fan and I was quick to defend him against all the people who were bashing Bradley’s choice to start him, but Brian just played awful today. Every time the ball came near him he got a foul (which is partly due to America-hating officials) and I can’t really remember any quality touches he put on the ball. He was pretty much an empty body for the entire time he was on the pitch.

    Altidore: C- — Didn’t do anything but didn’t really have any opportunities. I’d like to see a lot more hustle out of Jozy (more like Davies).

    Feilhaber: B- — He wasn’t the game-changing player he normally is, but he definitely brought some positives to US play. When Holden/Feilhaber came on, the US magically developed a (poor) midfield game. Feilhaber never leaves any doubts that his heart is in the game and showed it when he shoved a Mexican player off of Davies. I’ll go ahead and say I agree with John Harkes when I say that I am clueless as to why Bradley continues to use Feilhaber as a sub when the US clearly needs his play during the entire match.

    Holden: A — I honestly thought Holden would be pretty mediocre (and I honestly thought that there was no way in hell Bradley was actually smart enough to play him), but I was surprised. Holden played outstanding for the time he was out there. Everywhere the ball was, he was. Every time there was a great pass, it was Holden (or Feilhaber/Donovan). I have no doubt that Holden will be getting some serious time in during the World Cup.

    Mun2’s Coverage; F Fucking Minus — The announcers would not shut their mouths for two seconds it seemed like. Maybe they should lay off the coke before the game so that I can watch it without their diarrhea mouths giving me tons of useless commentary that I don’t care about. Also, Mun2 has, by far, the worst camera work/directing I’ve ever seen in a football match. Not showing in HD is a huge fail as well.

    Overall, the game was very poor from the US’s standpoint. Our defence is still awful. I honestly do not know how players of this caliber continue to fail to stop mediocre squads like Mexico. If our defence does not significantly improve by the World Cup, I would not be surprised if the US lost every match by embarrassing numbers. It seemed like the entire game was played in the US’s defensive third, and most of the time I was simply waiting for Mexican goals rather than hoping for US goals. Watching the US play defence is like watching someone play Russian roulette– every time the Mexicans pull the trigger you expect it to be a goal and if it isn’t then you know they’ll just keep getting chances until the finally get the chamber with a bullet in it.
    The midfield play has to improve as well. We can’t rely on the spectacular plays like the Donovan/Davies goal. We have to be able to manufacture chances as well as give ourselves the chance to get some set pieces in the attacking third. Unlike the defensive strategy (which I think can be practiced and perfected), I think the midfield play is poor due to player selection by Bradley. Holden, Feilhaber, and Donovan need more minutes (as well as anyone else that can POSSESS the ball).

    And one last thing, fuck CONCACAF and its America-hating officals. They can beat the white devils in Mexico City, but we will stomp a hole in their chest in the World Cup. See you in South Africa where they actually give people on the opposing squads cards.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/08/12 at 8:52 PM

      Matthew…great post…thanks for taking the time. I hope you are not a teacher, because you’re a tough grader. However, it’s hard to argue with a lot of what you and my brother wrote, although I stand with my brother on Howard.

      It’s hard to put everything on the defense when they are under pressure for so much of the game. As I said in the half-time post, the first Mexican strike came after roughly ten straight minutes of Mexican possession on the US side of the field. At some point there is going to be a breakdown which is what happened with Bradley.

      That being said, the long-ball-and-a-prayer has got to go, especially on days when the passing is off. I am not sure how many times Onyewu and others launched a diagonal to the sidelines that went out-of-bounds…that’s just poor skill.

      Reply

    • Posted by Rick on 2009/08/12 at 8:57 PM

      Yeah, really I don’t know where to begin. This was a great opportunity, and we basically just flushed it down the commode. Overall piss-poor performance by the majority of the players. Bocanegra was shockingly bad, Demerit shaky, Dempsey lame. Crap performances from key players in big games like this just isn’t OK.

      Biggest problems:

      1. Failure maintain possession. I don’t care how friggin tired you are, there’s no excuse for just booting the ball upfield when you have possession. Just send it backward, play the triangles, and build from the back. Or, at least TRY to do that. Shit.

      2. Attempts to dribble out of double- or triple-team pressure. WTF? If you’re covered by two or three guys, it means you have one or two teammates open. Trying to dribble through several players just isn’t smart, and these guys should know better. That’s kid stuff.

      3. The wooden touch and the ill-advised pass. Where was the skill? Where was the intelligent play? I can’t believe how many times we gave away the ball with stupid passes and poor touches. I guess these players need extra time practicing remedial passing, dribbling, shooting, and strategy–but how can that be???

      I’m not a Bob Bradley hater. There’s no disputing that there are *many* better coaches in this world, but for now Bradley and his staff will do. In my judgment, based on previous post-game comments from Bradley, the coaching staff is preparing the team in the right way–the players just aren’t performing. Today was case in point: I don’t care what strategy you use, you will NOT win with performances like that.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/12 at 9:10 PM

        I both agree and disagree with you Rick.

        However…

        Some players can possess the ball, some can’t–they just don’t have the ability. It’s a chain reaction sort of thing. If you’re going to put Ricardo Clark and Mike Bradley out there–and Bradley does have some footwork chops–you are going with a squad that is simply *not* the best at possession.

        I don’t blame the backfield one iota for booming the ball. No one was working it out of the back and they’re getting pressured.

        Take a moment and look at the 3rd minute of the 2nd half through the 17th minute. Three balls blasted from the back because the defense needed a break and couldn’t rely on carriage out of the back.

        The most telling? I believe it’s the 16th minute of the 2nd half. Howard has a ball coming to him that he clearly could have picked up. Instead, with time to spare, he lays a foot to it. He just didn’t trust he wouldn’t see that ball in a worse spot seconds later and didn’t want to pick it up.

        To me I’d like to see the U.S. with Benny and Stu on the field — I think there ability to possess takes pressure off the defense and opens up seams as I wrote in my “Paging Bob Bradley post.” I think you’ll see the whole team play better when there is a better offense to defense balance.

        To use a parallel to American football, no matter how good a defense you have (the Baltimore Ravens for example) unless your offense can give them a rest, they are going to tire and show the effects.

        Thanks for posting!

        Reply

  2. Posted by Thomas on 2009/08/12 at 7:48 PM

    TSG, I don’t agree that the second Mexico goal was Onyewu’s fault. He had his man marked and after Donovan was blown past Demerit had to leave his man to make a desperation slide to the end line. It was not the US’s day as the happenstance ball fell to the open striker with Onyewu scrambling to get in front of the shot. The fault of the goal should be the lack of defending from Donovan and Demerit’s easy to leave his feet.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/12 at 9:00 PM

      Thomas:

      Thanks for writing — we appreciate it. I was taking notes and all I remember seeing was Gooch with no angle and not covering the guy nearest to the ball, goal, or both — a no, no.

      Let me look at the replay and I’ll certainly correct the post if I have erred OR if there is are multiple ways to look at the play.

      That being said, I can point to multiple times during the game when Gooch–who I think should be used on all set pieces by the way–was out of position.

      Appreciate the commentary. Corrections are great.

      Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/08/12 at 9:06 PM

      Well, Thomas, half of TSG is going to agree with you. I’ll let Matthew weigh back in later. I just watched the goal again which was thoroughly unenjoyable.

      To me the goal just reinforces the notion that one breakdown in the defense can mean trouble. The blow-by was the breakdown.

      DeMerit came sliding in a half-second early and got the first touch which ricocheted off the Mexican’s leg. It is hard to fault him for leaving his feet early for two reasons: 1) you don’t want to leave your feet late in the box, especially with the way the game was being called and 2) the Mexican player was right at the doorstep. Had the player been at the six or further from the post, I think DeMerit stays on his feet.

      Gooch came in a half second late as he was marking his man around the 18. He was watching the play the whole way and hesitated for a second, perhaps because he thought DeMerit would surely get the ball out of imminent danger.

      It was a combination of poor initial defense and bad timing for the US and a good bounce and a confident blast for Mexico

      Reply

      • Posted by ChrisR on 2009/08/13 at 12:15 PM

        Guys – love to see the comments starting to flow a bit. Solid stuff.

        Bummer of a loss, but Mexico dominated. If we get lucky Chuck Davies reaches Holden’s cross or JD’s desperation tackle (very hard to fault anyone but Donovan on this and that is a little tough in my eyes as well, FWIW) results in a goal kick or a harmless corner we steal some points. But Mexico owned this game and deserved the result.

        What is a little more concerning to me is that Honduras smoked Costa Rica last night. You now have four teams within 3 points of one another with four games to play and the US still has @Honduras and Costa Rica at home.

        Two questions for you:

        Given the results yesterday, how confident are you of a US progression?

        This is a question I asked before…still curious: What is the deal with this Jones gentleman from Germany? In the spring he was going to be the defensive stopper that this team needs to anchor midfield…now I don’t know where he is.

        Again, Nice work Mark / Matt

        Reply

  3. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/08/13 at 5:27 AM

    While I may have sounded pretty negative in the first post, keep in mind that my opinion of how these players played is about this game only. Many of the defenders who were poorly rated actually performed quite well considering how often Mexico was inside the attacking third. The big thing we need from our players is big time performances. The best players play their best game when it is needed most, and we need to get those kind of performances out of Onyewu et. al when the midfield play is at its worst (which it was). Right now we are playing a very unsophisticated style of football and hopefully we get our act together before the World Cup (still a year away). I think a lot of quality play at midfield can be gained simply by changing up the starting XI a bit, but we are going to have to focus the entirety of our game on possession or else each game will end up being a repeat of the one before.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Thomas on 2009/08/13 at 9:16 AM

    Dear Mexican National Team,

    Thank you for a well played match yesterday. We commend you on a hard fought come from behind win, and a spectacular first goal. As you all know we as a national soccer team have much to learn from the history that is Mexican soccer.

    We would also like to show our appreciation to the hospitality you showed us. Landon was very touched that during the pre-game you brought in a witch doctor to see that he was in proper health. He also was also impressed, as we all were, with the respect he was shown as he was showered with [for lack of a better term] poor mans confetti, sponsored by Coke-a-Cola, while attempting a corner kick.

    Our training staff was also taken by the care your team showed to Charlie when he was hampered with a cramp. Most athletes take some time to stretch-out the muscle but our staff is in compliance with your players in that the best way to deal with such a pain is quickly walk it off and ignore it. On this same topic our team would like to apologize for the misunderstanding that took place when you were trying to help Charlie up. Please forgive us but it becomes a natural reaction when we witness two Hispanics surrounding one of our players as we assume the worst. We were pleased to see that no castration attempt was made on one of our players, as Alexi Lalas warned us about, and Tim was concerned about after our last meeting in February. So considering we don’t feel the choking of Benny was really that sever.

    Because of yesterdays match we are rethinking our national strategy. Forgoing the honor of playing such teams as Brazil, Spain, France, England, Germany, Czech Republic, and other honorable teams we feel taking a more thuggish approach might be more effective. Prior to next match we are scheduling some time in Salt Lake to mug and kick the crap out of the locals. We feel this will successfully dishonor our national team on and off the field similar to our neighbors to the south. The lone difficulty we are having is coming up with a way to infuse our fan base into other countries. Fans of the US who are willing to live in these various locations all the while despising there current surroundings and who still praise the United States, seem to be rather difficult to find. Please give us any suggestions you might have.

    Thank you again, and we sincerely believe that the 35th FIFA ranking does not account for the dishonorable nature found in your team.

    Sincerely,

    USMNT.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/08/13 at 10:02 AM

      Funny stuff, Thomas. Matt and I were debating starting a Comment Hall of Fame, but there is no debate anymore. This post may be the first inductee.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Rayment on 2009/08/13 at 10:41 AM

    Not Dempsey’s best showing fore sure. However, my thought is he is doing what Coach Bob Buffoon tells him….don’t go forward too much, stay back, don’t take the ball and run at a defender…..

    He d$^@#% sure does not play this way with club!!!!!

    Reply

  6. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/13 at 12:32 PM

    That’s a great point Rayment in two ways:

    1) Maybe Bob has Clint reined in and thus we can’t see, nor are treated to his skillset because of it.

    2) Still, even if you don’t like the style, you have to give maximum effort and do your job. I just haven’t seen that. You?

    Reply

    • Posted by Rayment on 2009/08/13 at 1:05 PM

      Can’t argue that point. I do honestly believe that Clint (and others) are totally frustrated with Bob Bradley.

      We has the team looked the best? Against Spain (yeah, looks like a fluke now) when they played with a purpose, going forward, getting a rhythm. Bradley’s 5311 is best suited for kickball. I have watched Clint play for years…he is best in a free-flowing style, not a bunker mentality.

      Reply

  7. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/13 at 12:36 PM

    @ Chris R

    Thanks for the feedback. We’ll work something up on US chances of progression.

    On Jones, he’s applied through Fifa and supposed to get his clearance to play any day. I think the US soccer governing body will move swiftly thereafter to get him and see what he can do (Bradley had some comments that he was excited about investigating Jones potential) .

    I don’t think you’ll see him on the bench September5th, but there will be talk he should be involved.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Mark T on 2009/08/13 at 12:51 PM

    @ Chris R

    I am not as confident as Matthew in the US progression. I’ll have more on that in a post over the weekend, but the short story is that I believe the US has plateaued with its current style. Couple that with a mid-field in flux (struggles in possession, but deeper player pool) and the next 12 months are going to be critical to the long-term success of the US program.

    Jones is out with an injury. He should be back to his club team in October, from what I have read. By the end of October it will be an even more crowded midfield with Lando, Feilhaber, Clark, Torres, Edu, Dempsey, Bradley, Jones and the emerging Holden. (I am starting to like Matt’s idea of trying to convince someone like Clark to take shot at LB.)

    http://www.soccerbyives.net/soccer_by_ives/2009/06/jermaine-jones-sidelined-with-hairline-leg-fracture.html

    Reply

  9. Posted by ChrisR on 2009/08/13 at 1:13 PM

    Good comments guys, thanks for that. Here’s another question for you:

    Could the US ever consider a 4-3-3?

    Dempsey (or Jozy if he ever puts it together) up top with Davies and Donovan on the wings.

    Benny and Bradley above this Jones guy or Edu.

    A back four that does not include bocanegra.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/13 at 3:41 PM

      I think when you think 4-3-3 you’re really talking about a very attack-minded formation.

      This is typically done, as you see with Robinho-Luis Fabiana-Kaka and a means of putting extreme pressure on the other team’s defense. You need the horses for it that forces the opposing defense to collapse, and then that allows you play an effective midfield with 3 across.

      The U.S. doesn’t have the offensive or defensive horses here. Additionally, they are just not familiar outside the 4-4-2.

      Continually, that puts a lot of pressure on the central defender and U.S. doesn’t have a Viera, Makelele (we could really use a Makelele, but who couldn’t) or Essien to who can do all that work.

      I hopefully think you’re going to see Bradley introduce a more offensive-minded central midfielder — let’s see what that does.

      You’re going to have to have a better ball handler than Jozy and a better striker than Clint to really make it work as well up top.

      Look at some of the more successful central guys in the “3” formation.

      Drogba.

      Van Persie.

      Rooney.

      Fabiana.

      Clint and Jozy just aren’t at that level yet.

      Reply

      • Posted by Rayment on 2009/08/13 at 4:21 PM

        Great points on Viera and Makelele! In some ways, I think US soccer has gone “speed” crazy (Beasley love). Niether Viera or Makelele are the fastest on the pitch but they sure help control the pace of the game and shut down Route !. Yes, speed is important but not at the expense of touch and understanding the game!

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/13 at 4:36 PM

          Cmon Rayment — we just met each other, but you know you want to say it with me..

          B….

          Ben….

          Benny Feilhaber, Benny Feilhaber.

          Keep the commentary coming on your side; you’re obviously educated on the game.

          Reply

  10. Posted by Kevin on 2009/08/13 at 7:41 PM

    As much as I would love to see this Jones guy play for us on the pitch, all it’s really gonna do tactically is kick clark off the squad and almost force Bradley to keep playing this 4-2-2-2 (because of his player preferences) I think to establish a much more controlling and efficient midfield you have to play a benny or Iceman on the pitch instead of two defensive midfielders like we currently have. and as to the performance of Dempsey he was very good at the confed cup, but he failed to produce anything against el tri. I didn’t get a chance to really take a look at the right side of Mexico because while watching the game i had too many distractions, but the poor offensive and defensive play on the left flank 1) surprised and disappointed me 2) makes me think maybe Mexico could have had this planned out by shutting that down and attacking it. they may have put an overwhelming amount of time and talent on their right side. I think dos santos was there and that may have been a key factor. all in all if it was just lack of performance there than you’ve got to look to give the start to someone else. who is more consistent because I’m a big fan of dempseys play, but this isn’t the first or last time he has proved to be inconsistant.

    against honduras I think (by the way I think bradley might think this out) the defense will be tweaked and he’ll stick with the same midfield throwing the lack of offense on the non scoring forward ching (one of my favorites, but will be the first to admit he should have done better) and instead give altidore the start. which might be a good thing because I may be a fan of ching but based on our current counter attackin play we need someone faster like davies and altidore that can get behind the defense not over it.

    Reply

  11. Posted by SO Cal Fan on 2009/08/13 at 7:54 PM

    I think the problem with Dempsey is that he isn’t a midfielder. His best work is on the receiving end of crosses near goal, not with the ball at his feet. So let’s put him in the mix with Jozy and Davies and have him compete for a spot up top. For that matter, Landon isn’t a mid either, but he is too talented (at times) to keep off the field.

    How about this for Salt Lake?

    Howard
    Spector DeMerit Bocanegra Bornstein

    Holden Feilhaber Bradley Torres

    Donavan Davies

    Reply

    • Posted by Kevin on 2009/08/13 at 8:48 PM

      I would disagree about the whole Donovan thing I think he’s better in the midfield cuz he can still score from there but he also creates more. I would go along the lines of this
      Howard
      Spector DeMerit Gooch Pearce
      Bradley
      Donovan Holden/Feilhaber
      Holden/Feilhaber
      Davies Altidore

      thats what I would like to see next game and I kinda kicked out my favorite striker ching over the fact I like the way Davies and Altidore play together better, but I think it may be too early to say that. Dempsey isn’t there but he does way better up top. As for having two spots that say Holden/Feilhaber that just kinda means that they both should play and one on each spot because they would both do great there. As for the questionable back for me my thoughts are that we should really go with a defense that attacks more from the back. So far i think Pearce and Spector have done the best jobs of that. my center D is pretty normal because there is really no doubt to me that a bad performance by gooch as we saw was a fluke. He’s a solid defender along with DeMerit. Playing more attacking soccer keeps our D from looking stupid and clearing it out every 2 seconds.
      now I’m gonna sit back and wait to see who wishes to argue my plans.

      btw TSG I love ur blog and I too am a big fan of players like Stu and Benny. close control, technique most of all great touch are the most important parts of a midfielder.

      Reply

      • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/08/14 at 5:06 AM

        Onyewu will miss the next game because of yellow cards I believe. I disagree with Bornstein… he has been playing awful lately (though I don’t really know who to put in his place unless Cherundolo or Spector can play the left side– left back is our weakest position too). Dempsey does need to be up top, but I’m really questioning whether or not he is worth a spot in the starting XI. I like So Cal Fan’s lineup, but that is a really really young roster. I’d prefer to stick with more proven talent that has experience in the international game. We are in good shape to qualify and I’d hate to lose an easy win because we experimented with the roster. Donovan is by far the US’s best player and it benefits us greatly to use him in a way where he can create the most chances possible, which is playing midfield. His field vision greatly exceeds that of any other US player and we have more than enough finishers (Davies, Ching, Altidore, etc. can all pu the ball on frame when given a chance).

        I really think the US needs to focus on playing a lot slower match with more controlled passing. I’d like to see us play a game like FC Barcelona where they possess the ball the entire game and create their own opportunities by moving the ball around efficiently rather than trying to catch lightning in a bottle with the “boom ball” and quick strike. This is a much more mature form of football and if the US is ever going to really compete for the WC, we need to move past our current philosophy.

        Reply

  12. Posted by Mark T on 2009/08/13 at 10:41 PM

    Not that it is an excuse, but according to Grant Wahl at SI.com, Landon has a touch of the H1N1…yep…swine flu. He believes he contracted in Miami and was diagnosed on Thursday.

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/grant_wahl/08/13/donovan.flu.ap/

    Reply

  13. Posted by Jon C on 2009/08/14 at 7:32 AM

    Shake it up time. I put all the names in a cocktail mixer and here is what came out on the rocks: (OK, not really, but I do need a drink) I call it Salt Lake 3 Point Special….gives you a great buzz in the media, but won’t give you a FIFA hangover.

    Howard-duh
    Cherundolo-speed we need
    Marshall-size/youth (until Gooch is back from volleyball camp)
    Boca-still lova ya brotha…but get ur ass in shape and away from the outside
    Spector-just need ya man!
    (Two factors to explore at back….Maurice Edu or Clark at LB)
    Bradley
    Donovan Feilhaber Holden
    Dempsey-last chance amigo Davies-locked

    Dempsy is a waste of space at Mid
    Love Beckerman’s touches and choices…..he’s getting close baby!

    Reply

  14. Posted by mantorp on 2009/08/14 at 10:22 AM

    Would have liked to have seen Benny and Altidore from the start instead of Clark and Ching. None of the midfielders were able to hold the ball and rarely put a string of more than 2 passes together. Ching was invisible. I thought Gooch did well, harsh to blame him for the second goal which is first off terrible defending by Landon followed by a lucky bounce.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/08/14 at 10:33 AM

      You know — someone else added the comment about Gooch on the 2nd goal.

      I watched the play again. And maybe I am being unduly harsh. But what I was taught and what I teach youngsters is on broken offensive plays in the box go to the nearest offender to the ball.

      If you look at Gooch — he’s in between offenders. Now, I’m certainly not saying he would have stopped anything, but he should have been on someone. So maybe the 2nd goal isn’t on him, but fundamental wise he made a mistake.

      Donovan got blown by — happens
      DeMerit tackle with errant ball — happens
      Someone has to pick up the closest mark afterward.

      I should add–maybe in a separate post– that we see that a lot with the mids and d’s — not following an offender. Maybe I’m being too critical. I’ll be sure to note those type of plays when I watch El Salvador.

      Reply

      • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/08/14 at 10:39 AM

        That is an excellent point, Matthew. I shied away from placing any blame on Onyewu for the second goal but I now believe you are right.

        Reply

  15. [...] skinny: Cherundolo always blew hot and cold (most, though not TSG, castigate his Azteca performance during the 2009 qualifier), but ‘Dolo was firing early on [...]

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  16. [...] Point: Cherundolo has his defenders on this front to be sure, but his performance against Mexico in the Azteca was poor, particularly after the Americans took [...]

    Reply

  17. [...] TSG’s review of the last US-Mexico game at the Azteca. TSG the only publication that thought Cherundolo did well. A lot of points here that became quite [...]

    Reply

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