A lot can happen in a few months.
It seems just like just yesterday, in fact it was March, that the Yanks headed south to face the Custalecos on their home turf. It turned out be an extremely disappointing game for the team and a frustrating one for fans to watch. I felt extremely deflated watching that match until the final 25 minutes.
El Salvador commandeered a 1-0 lead at halftime and then a 2-0 lead rounding the 70th minute as Frankie Hedjuk got beat badly on a header. Immediately thereafter the hosts went into, “Oh, my knee. Oh my back. Oh my knee and my back” mode. Watching the torturous fouls–like a wisp of litter touching their shoulder–that were inflicted upon the Azul was downright painful–for the USMNT and the fans, not the El Salvadorians.
Thankfully the US awoke from their stupor in the 77th minute that saw the vindication of Frankie Hedjuk on a pretty one-two-three-cross play (Dempsey, Ching, Hedjuk….wait for it….Altidore) for the first goal–JZA heading it in. Then in the 87th further payback from Hedjuk as he literally pushed the new pride of Hull City out of the way to send home a header on a Deuce cross. We’re going to find a close-up of that video for you.
Stoppage time saw a shot at a victory eclipsed as Altidore stood up his defender, possessed the ball and slid a pass to a rounding Ching who unfortunately readied, aimed and shot right at the goaltender. Game over, 2-2. A game in which the US looked sloppy and disorganized for the first 75 minutes.
What else do we remember that game for?
Well, first of course, Altidore’s first away goal for USMNT and as you recall he followed that up with the triple against T&T.
Jose Francisco Torres actually saw the pitch in relief of an ineffective Heath Pearce. That of course slid DaMarcus Beasley back to the rear left guard position (where he summarily got rounded for the cross that earned a 2-0 lead) and started his own precipitous slide down the depth chart.
Maurice Edu made a cameo–for Michael Bradley who picked up his customary yellow.
No Howard or Gooch, the former out with discipline, the latter out with a sprain. Captain Boca and Danny Califf–eventually managed to right their ship after a shaky first half but still did not inspire confidence at any point.
Kljestan, Dempsey and Donovan had difficult games in the middle where the US could have clearly exploited the El Salvadorians.
Oh and perhaps the funniest note from that game came from the other side. Starting Azul keeper Miguel Montes acting like he got shot with a .45 in the leg and summarily taking what felt like a whole Seinfeld episode to leave the pitch in an effort to stall time. Of course, his back-up would come in and unexpectedly give up the US 1-down and the equalizer. Funny stuff.
Like we said though, clearly not the best result, but it does present opportunities for the Americans come this Saturday who really should completely dominate this game.
And one note, let’s not forget there that the Americans turn around in a little over 72 hours and face a much more physical game against T&T.
As usual we’ll follow the TSG preview format:
TSG “What We’re Looking For”
11 at the Whistle
On we go…
TSG ” What We’re Looking For”
- You knew we were going to go here first: What will the central defense look like in the absence of the Gooch man?
First, we reserve the right to amend this one up until game time. TSG originally had thought you’d see Marshall out here in central defense. But we’re going to revise that assumption and say that Boca pairs in the middle in this one. Why? A number of reasons–he partnered Danny Califf there in the game March 29th so he’s familiar with interior players for the opponents. Second, beyond 6’1” Julio Martinez, your talking about speedsters up top for El Salvador as oppose to let’s say Jan Koller–essentially Gooch’s height will be missed, but not as much as it would be again T&T.
- Is Michael Bradley progressing or regressing….or regressing quite quickly?
Much has been made this past week of the younger Bradley showing a petulant streak and being fit, but left of his club team’s squad last outing. Couple that with a series of poor performances and Michael Bradley’s got to show us what he’s got. I think you’ll see Bradley re-invigorated back on US soil and this is the perfect game for him to do it.
- On the left side, who defends Rodolfo Zelaya who lit up Heath Pearce like it was 4th of July in March?
The 21-year-old Club Leon star is set to come marching, pardon me, blazing down the flanks–mostly the left. Will he be met by Jonathan Spector or Bornstein on the left….or even Boca. You’ll learn a lot about the US’s challenges with speedy strikers by how Zelaya fares on Saturday.
- Jose Francisco Torres to relieve early and make the case on how soon or how much later Robbie Rogers will factor.
This is the perfect game for the Pachuco man to showcase his chops. Torres played effectively in March against the team. His game of quick touch and managing possession will be perfectly suited for the take-one-shot-at-a-leg-swipe swing and miss defense of the Custalecos. After a series of injuries and paying his dues, Torres should see the light of day here.
It’s effectively between Torres and Rogers for back-up time on the port side. The former here with quick staccato-like elusive moves the later with longer more loping offensive play. Bet on a Torres cameo for this one.
- Which Clint shows up?
If you remember, the Mexican game was a big litmus test for Clint Dempsey in our eyes. We thought he would come through with flying colors. Clint has no excuses this time. He’s playing in the States (admittedly at some altitude). He’s been playing inspired club ball. And, in another somewhat paradoxical point, he’s been playing inspired club ball for a team that has much the same challenges as the USMNT on offense. My eyes are on you Deuce.
11 at the Whistle
G: Tim Howard
D: Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit*, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein
M: Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Clint Dempsey
S: Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies
* If DeMerit is injured Chad Marshall starts
Bench: (in order of expected appearance)
G: Brad Guzan / Tim Howard
D: Chad Marshall, Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson
M: Jose Francisco Torres, Stu Holden, Ricardo Clark, Kyle Beckerman, Robbie Rogers
F: Brian Ching, Robbie Findley, Conor Casey
- Cherundolo, Spector on the corners; Bornstein to relieve
In all honesty, this is the likely scenario here. Dolo and Spector are arguably the best USMNT outside backs at present. Given the speed of El Salvador and the age of Cherundolo–I’d like to see Bornstein given the start here. Not likely though.
- Probability: 90%
- Guzan trying to keep the sheet clean
- Howard has been an ironman the past few weeks and Guzan for his part has looked sharp to start the season. Actually before the season, as he stewarded Villa to a Peace Cup win with absolutely remarkable play. Just last Thursday Guzan looked extremely capable again for the Villians in the Europa Cup. If the qualifying group wasn’t so tight, it would be a great game for Guzan. However with the standings the way they are and Gooch absent in defense you may not see it. A coin flip.
- Probability: 50% 45% and dropping 15%
(My brother is probably right in suggesting that Howard’s the starter here in a game of this magnitude. I just feel 1) Howard needs a break (what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?) and should be fresh for the T&T game and 2) Guzan faced them admirably before and 3) We haven’t been beaten at home in 8 years.)
Update 2: I must have had a brain cramp when I was writing. Guzan is not worth the risk of starting. I am dropping that “surprise” probability way down now.
- Ricardo Clark sticking in the central midfield
- Obviously Bradley-Rico has been Bob’s pairing here for many moons. That being said beyond track-down-ability, Clark has been offering nothing since his lead pass to Donovan to start “The Counter Attack Heard Around the World”–you know “Donovan-Davies-Donovan.” It’s time to get some offense in there, especially with Jermaine Jones lurking around the corner. So we see Benny there, but the old guard wouldn’t surprise us.
- Probability: 45%
- Chad Marshall partners Jay DeMerit, Boca out to the left.
- Chalk this one up to the attacking triumvirate of El Salvador, speedy, but not soaring. Boca and DeMerit can more than handle them in the air. Let’s get on our way to the “W” early and get Marshall some experience in mop-up.
- Probability: 35%
- Benny Feilhaber to start out wide for Dempsey.
- We’ve seen some nice work on the pitch from Feilhaber occasionally on the wing. Here’s a way to keep some offense if BB wants to rest the Deuceman early. We like Benny for the central role though.
- Probability: 2%
- Jose Francisco Torres to start out wide for Dempsey.
- The much deserved shot for “Gringo” (we need a better nickname, I mean, isn’t that one obvious and almost a little demeaning). Torres played capably in March in the 2nd half.
- Probability: 1%
Some video, as promised above, from the March game:
(Blow it up to fullscreen and watch at the 4:30 mark how Frankie H shoves Altidore and knocks the ball in.)