USMNT: Rudderless, but Victorious, in T&T

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Gosh, so many places to start on this one.

Quickly, for those new to this publication, I’m generally an optimistic commentator. I favor technical analysis and like to look for the unsung heroes of a match.

All I could say when this game was over was one word: bizarre.

Bizarre from Donovan and Dempsey talking righteously about “going to there to win” in the days leading up to the contest and then not rallying the troops throughout.

Bizarre from the calypso U.S. national anthem through the announced American starters.

Clark: Deciding the game

Clark: Deciding the game

Bizarre from a swerver from Ricardo Clark from outside the 18′, deposited in the right center netting…for the game winner and only goal.

Bizarre through the US sitting tight and again staving off an onslaught from an inferior team to preserve a win.

The best analogy I can come up with on short notice here, is if you asked your kids to bake a cake. You lay out all the ingredients–break the eggs, measure the flour, preheat the oven. You come back one hour later and the cake is cooling. Great!

Only the cake is cooling…on the floor and barely edible, the kitchen is in shambles, your son/daughter is covered in melted chocolate chips and batter, the mixer is broken, the spatula got chewed up by the garbage disposal, and….you get the picture.

You’ve got your cake–they baked a cake, but all you can mutter is “Oh my, look at the mess you’ve made of this.”

Well, that’s how I feel about the U.S. performance and about my critique of Bob Bradley. And remember, I’ve had Bob’s back.

(Note, I don’t have a kid but I can gaurantee you if he’s from my gene pool the kitchen will be a disaster.)

Let’s just start at the beginning and work our way through.

The Line-Up.

The message all week from the players and coach was playing to win, Herm Edwards-style–so the line-up selection is completely bizarre to me.

- A return of Ricardo Clark to the starting line-up which only created midfield confusion.

- No Brian Ching. I’m not favoring him to start. However, if you’re game strategy is punt the ball over the middle of the field–he’s your best target man.

- No Benny Fielhaber. Obviously gave way to Rico, but wasn’t our offense revved up in Salt Lake City?

Game Strategy

Bizarre. What was it?

Countless times, you had Davies dumping the ball to….hello anyone home? You had a ball to space made by Clint…only no one filled it.

Here’s a key moment that is indicative of the US troubles all day: 47th minute (right after a halftime lecture?), Mike Bradley is on the left side in the offensive half. He has possession and four white shirts are standing around in traffic ahead of him. He dribbles laterally and then loses the ball with no options. Huh?

And, perhaps the biggest bullet point here, what is Ricardo Clark doing all the way up the pitch initiating offense–did I miss some transformation? I know I didn’t because he was a turnover machine today. Shouldn’t that at least be Mike B’s role out of the two?

No one was on the same page in the front six.

Intensity?

I only need to write about one thing here. 35th minute, Howard is saved by the limbo bar. The US, shocked into action, goes on a 45 second tear where Altidore and Davies, in the T&T right corner, press on defense after a torrid offensive possession. Then that intensity was gone.

Leadership?

While questioning Bradley–which I honestly don’t usually feel is productive–I’ll bring up a point I made in the Haiti game of the Gold Cup.

Who’s the field marshall? Beyond Howard, who is the leader on the pitch, the communicator on the field? Who’s the guy that maintains possession to calm an offensive onslaught by the other team? The guy who people look to for direction when they’re not sure where to position themselves? The guy who hollers at people the simple instructions to slow the pace and get things back on track?

That guy–and Donovan and Boca are leaders, but not vocal ones–didn’t do his job today or worse, wasn’t named by Bob Bradley.  Is there one…because the Yanks sorely missed that presence today.

Okay, onto the rest of the review. Remember two things as we continue. The Yanks still got their cake and the US struggled primarily from poor team play and leadership–not individual efforts.


Awards

Howard: Yet again, the difference maker

Howard: Yet again, the difference maker

Best Play of the Game: (Tim Howard) I’m going to go with Tim Howard’s acrobatic save on the first T&T free kick in the 1st half. As a goalie, you’re not supposed to save the one that the wall is there to protect. I’ll discount wall positioning here as the kick was tremendous. Howard was more than it’s equal.

Most Unheralded Play of the Game: (Clint Dempsey):  My brother sent me this note: “I really don’t want to award anything to Clint, but at the 80:10 mark Clint makes a crucial play.” Clint hustled to block a ball that was going to gift a possession to T&T just short of the offensive 18′. I’ll add in that Clint flat-0ut kicked it up a gear on a counterattack by the Soca Warriors at the 12 minutes gone in the game–just adding the extra defender to that rally snuffed the attack.

Golden Shinguard: (Tim Howard) Without Big T, this is a draw or a tie. It’s as simple a selection as that this time.


Preview Follow-up

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

Uh, yes, we go Clint again…but this time it’s a Bob Bradley decision.

The Clint saga continues. Dempsey, and rightfully so, will be much maligned after this game. He was disinterested, complained, fouled out of frustration, passed to no one on multiple occasions–not to mention trying some circus moves to get past back defenders–how do you nutmeg a guy whose feet are moving and is running with you, Clint? Probability of success, very low.

However beyond this Deuce is a vet and the body language he exhibited, in my opinion, was detrimental to the team. Look, I know he’s not the most emotional guy, but his demeanor brought me down as a fan. Take a look at Dempsey’s possession in the 66th minute. He lays the ball of into space expecting Ricardo Clark to join the attack in that space. Clark fails to recognize and CD has a beyond-frustrated look on his face–not a veteran play.

More Bob Bradley:  How do I get Stu in there earlier?

While other publications are slowly getting on the Stu bandwagon that we assembled from scratch way back when, we’re way ahead on getting him more playing. Yes, he’s phenomenal off the bench, but his heady, dynamic, confident play should command more pitch time now. There is no doubt. Start him Bob.

Discounting Davies injury, does Altidore pair Ching or Davies up top?

I covered this above, but Davies and Altidore certainly showed flashes of a brilliant partnership. I know I’m going to get raked over the coals here, but don’t they remind you of Anelka and Drogba? C’mon, just a little. With a few near misses today, you should be excited about that combo for a very long time.

As mentioned above if you are going to boom it up the pitch, you need to consider Ching.

Speaking of the backline Bob, how does this head scratcher end up: Boca? Bornstein, Cherundolo? …even Agoos?!

I liked the backline selection by Bob. While I think Chad Marshall will be an impact player in 2010, there was merit to sitting him on the road against the aerial attack of T&T.

Bob, got the backline right for the game in my opinion–though the individual performances were suboptimal in some cases.

Player Ratings

C: Bob Bradley – 3

Bob, I gave you a 7.5 in the loss to Mexico. I’m giving you a three today and it’s not because of your sloppy attire. On that attire, though, the common expression goes “act as if”–act as if your beyond successful, act as if your team is number one…etc.etc. Let’s lose the sweats.

Nothing worked. Yes, the USMNT won, but let’s not kid ourselves–they looked the equal of the last team in the group and this could have easily been a loss. Man U (Van Der Saar), Chelsea (Cech), Liverpool (Reina) resort to the abilities of their goalies to win games, they don’t rely on them as the USMNT does with Howard.

Worse, the USMNT played with no intensity. Even if the game plan is not working and there is no way to adapt fast enough–the US has to play with more of a killer instinct. The Yanks were the more talented team on the pitch in Port-Au-Spain, they didn’t act as if or play as if.

That falls to the coach.

And not to belabor the point, but what is Ricardo Clark doing up the pitch generating the offense. He wasn’t comfortable in that role, nor did he excel. Sure, he scored the game winner, but answer this follow-up: Nine times out of 10 is Clark the man you want taking that shot?

C: Tim Howard – 8

A few game-winning saves are now commonplace for the US netminder. Choose his positioning well every time. Some challenges on outlets today, but the tradeoff is more than worth it.

Bornstein: Earning his pic in the ratings section

Bornstein: Earning his pic in the ratings section

LB: Jonathan Bornstein – 7

Think this is too high a rating? Consider the following. T&T went right at Bornstein to start the game and he acquitted himself well on foreign soil. He covered some miscues on the right to end the first half. Deflected a dangerous corner after the half. He got up on attack and tracked back quickly.

Not enough? After no success in the first half against JB, T&T challenged almost exclusively down the right–Spector’s–flank in the 2nd.

The best of the back four on the day and that’s not hyperbole.

CB: Carlos Bocanegra – 5.5

As TSG mentioned in the preview, Boca is the hands-down best mental player, but the Warriors gave him fits all day in the air and on the ground. Got rounded twice. Tough day for Boca. Not terrible, but tough.

CB:  Oguchi Onyewu – 6.5

With Boca’s left boot, Gooch moved over to the right central and had a good game. Battled Kenwyne Jones (and the refs) all day long and stepped up when called for. Some challenges with communication with Spector, but those are out of lack of reps.

CB:  Jonathan Spector – 5

Key the bizarre theme here. Struggled with the speedy Edwards, but won the battle.  His play was highly inconsistent. I noted the following in the opening minutes of the 2nd half:

46th minute: Spector–in the middle of the pitch–fails to close down a very capable attacker who shoots the ball wide.

Could have been a big play the wrong way.

51st minute: Spector stands up Edwards on a drive to the corner.

Could have been a big play the wrong way.

Not a factor on offense and fell asleep on the looping volley that stung the crossbar in the 1st. A mixed bag and opening for Cherundolo now.

RM:  Clint Dempsey – 4

Disinterested most of the day. Carried himself poorly. Improved when allowed free reign, but not enough to get the rating here up any higher.

CM:  Mike Bradley – 5

I’m chalking up Mike’s turnovers to the lack of direction on who goes where when in the game planning. Looked good in the first half. Was he on the pitch in the 2nd?

CM:  Ricardo Clark – 5

This rating would have been lower if not for the game winner and the fact that someone pushed him all the way up the pitch. Consistently lost possession and looked confused on where to attack and create space on offense.

Thankfully in the 61st minute, Rico got to sing his redemption song down in the islands (I’ve been waiting to use that atrocious joke the entire column)

LM:  Landon Donovan – 6.5

Not as good a game as he is capable of, but he was not the worry of BB or the Yanks. Struggled on set pieces.

ST: Jozy and Davies – 6.5

I’m putting these guys together, because their play was nearly identical. Varying degrees of intensity all game long, but neither showed any fear and both were aggressive when getting service and attacking. Both looked hungry in the first half and fatigued in the second.

Oh, one more note on Davies. The commentators took Charlie to task for shooting in the 72nd minute on a feed from Benny instead of putting up a service to his teammates in the box.  What I saw was Davies inside the box driving to knock one home instead of chipping (a tough angle) a service among the trees of T&T defending their goal. Thought it was a good decision on Charlie’s part.

Subs

Benny Feilhaber – 6.5 (coulda, woulda, shoulda)

Don’t get me started here. Did you see how narrow the Soca Warriors were on both offense and defense in the middle of the pitch. On offense, their mids were just a short distance from their counterparts to link passes. On defense, they closed down the US mids many times with more than one defender. Why? Because they knew the US midfield couldn’t link together passes in the midfield effectively. You know who would have helped that.

Stu Holden – Inc.

Brought excitement and drove yet another perfect cross on a rope into the box. I’ve seen enough; he needs 90.

Brian Ching – Inc.

Ill-timed yellow card to TSG right here. We left Ching out upon our original publishing of the piece. Courtesy of commentor Dylan who pointed this out, I’ll include his commentary here:

“I know he wasn’t in long. and as someone who is set in opposition of Ching’s playing time, he did come in and played his roll well. If anything he is a guy I want brought in in games near the end that we are winning, because he win balls sent up field and lay them off nicely, and though that’s about it.”

—-

All in all a discomforting performance for the US though they got their cake and sit atop the group leaderboard.

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40 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jon C on 2009/09/10 at 6:43 AM

    Just a few quick hits. Bornstein had a strong game and recovered very well. It was clear to see he had help on the wing. Which leads to my next point. Spector was on a friggen island. Nice help Dempsey….NOT. Notice the contrast when Benny came in, Spector was suddenly no longer on an island and it showed. In part, Spector’s low grade ties directly to Dempsey being disinterested and really invisible if not for his wave of unforced, circus trick turnover shenanigans better served for a Sunday beer league. Do the Globe Trotters have a soccer team yet? Clint, I don’t get it? It appears you have NO desire to play midfield.

    That ‘fair play’ moment was just plain awkward.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/10 at 6:49 AM

      Good point on Dempsey-Spector. I did think that Dempsey tracked back more than he did in the past few games. Was that enough? No, you’re probably right there.

      Agreed on the Benny sub to. I mean to mention 68th minute. Benny tracks back in support, wins a ball and complete sells a foul (it was a foul though) to slow down the play.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Kevin U. on 2009/09/10 at 7:51 AM

    Benny came in 62 minutes too late…he came in and all of a sudden we had a midfield…sorry dempsey but your lack of effort and heart is gonna lead you to the bench and you can work your way back to the starting XI

    Reply

  3. Posted by Berg on 2009/09/10 at 8:05 AM

    Please, please no more references to Herm Edwards. As a Chiefs fan the Herm era is far too painful to revisit.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Mark T on 2009/09/10 at 8:38 AM

    Re-watched the game early this morning…I think I deserve some kind of award for sitting through that again.

    • The wing-backs defended better than I gave them credit for last night, but far too many mistakes for my liking. As a result I have lowered my expectations for Spector and Bornstein after Match Day #7 and #8.

    • Gooch was sluggish…period. Jogging way too much in the first half which directly led to him being out of position on the header off the woodwork

    • Seems like Bradley / Clark decided that since possession is neither of their strength they’d just wing it out there with each taking turns. The problem is that they didn’t keep track of each other and left holes. Case in point…they were playing played flat in the 63rd minute and got caught up-field allowing for Edwards to get off his stinger that Howard could only block away

    • Don’t understand why Bob changed his mind on the Holden for (presumably) Rico sub. While Benny did help to gain possession, they put him out wide

    • I am confident that if Davies / Altidore had more opportunities they would have put something together as a number of exchanges were a half-step off. Let’s not forget the Altidore bomb right after T&T hit the woodwork…too bad it was right at the Ince

    • As much as Benny helped with possession after getting on the pitch, he was limited from having a bigger impact by playing on the outside (first right, then left) which is why him coming in for Altidore with Dempsey flipping up top is curious to me. Yes, Bradley got someone more committed on the right side, but if that was the case, why not sub for Clint straightaway?

    • Couldn’t T&T afford 2 more square feet of turf at the corners?

    • And, yes, I fast forwarded through the Bradley “Sweatpants” frames

    Reply

  5. Posted by garbogas on 2009/09/10 at 9:27 AM

    Lot of good comments from the game. One I’ll add regards the ‘Game Strategy’ Matt touched on above. It wasn’t just in the 47th minute that a US player would find himself with few or no options to pass the ball. It was most of the game.

    I was astounded at watching the midfielders, especially Bradley and Clark, just stand around when the US had the ball in their own half or around midfield. Mike and Rico, you’re playing central midfield. Hence, the ball should flow through you, not around you. I don’t know if neither is confident enough in their possession ability that they don’t want the ball in tight spaces, or they just don’t realize how difficult theyr’e making it on their teammates. Either way, please get Benny back in, take Dempsey out/put him up front, and put Holden on the wing.

    Oh, and come on Jermaine Jones.

    Reply

  6. Posted by garbogas on 2009/09/10 at 9:31 AM

    One more thing. If I hadn’t watched a USMNT game before last night, my reaction would be that Bornstein is our most solid wingback and Spector is very shaky. Could have said the exact opposite after watching other recent USMNT games.

    What I take from this is that none of our wingback options are locks. Some days will be better and others worse. I think it’s time to give Cherundolo another look (savvy vet) to see if he can bring more consistency.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/10 at 9:50 AM

      I wish I could find that Fight Club quote on line…it’s perfect. “I’ve got that couch covered….”

      Anyway, I think Bradley is “set” at RB between Cherundolo and Spector. The next step is to see who wins the starting job.

      On the left, I think he’s at a loss (Maurice Edu!…). Seriously though, I think he hasn’t found the answer, but Bornstein has at least dealt himself into the back-up role.

      And for the Castillo fans out there, consider this. Castillo is offensive, but suspect defensively. Bob Bradley favors defense above all. Also, how are you going to use that offense if you don’t maintain possession.

      Castillo is obviously worth a look, but nothing should be bestowed on him right now.

      I’m still adamant about one of our holding mids taking a spin back there.

      Reply

      • Posted by garbogas on 2009/09/10 at 10:01 AM

        I wasn’t initially willing to consider this, but what about Rico taking a spin at left back? I don’t know how it would work out, but here’s the argument I could make:

        Rico is great defensively in the midfield – covers a lot of ground, solid albeit reckless at times tackler, physical and quick player. Rico is atrocious offensively in the midfield. His first touch just isn’t good enough for him to successfully operate in the tight spaces and rapid close-down defense in the center of the pitch. I know you have to balance the two against one another, but I’m starting to think Rico is so bad offensively in the center mid (last night’s goal an aberration) that he can’t do enough defensively to justify his inclusion.

        So what happens if you put Rico at left back? Hopefully, you maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. Defensively, the big question is if his speed, tackling ability and defensive instincts will transition from the center of the field to left back. I’d like to hear other people’s opinions on that question. Offensively, I think Rico could actually flourish at left back. Left backs don’t play under as much pressure as center mids, so Rico’s first touch won’t be as big an issue. Also, Rico does have a good leg which he could use to whip left-footed crosses in.

        Obviously a lot of ifs and maybes here but worth a thought I think. Reactions?

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/10 at 10:10 AM

          Here was our original assessment for those that may have missed it: http://theshinguardian.com/2009/08/25/usmnt-common-sense-in-defense/

          I think I’d be willing to consider any number of athletic players with solid defensive skill. In terms of Rico, I think BB needs to set his center midfield first. No need to strengthen the wingback at the expense of the middle.

          If you rule out Rico in the midfield, then absolutely. He’s a great candidate for that position.
          Rico came in 2nd in our fan voting which you can check out here: http://theshinguardian.com/tsg-usmnt-fan-stats/

          Reply

        • Posted by Dylan on 2009/09/10 at 10:18 AM

          Not a bad idea. I like it. Also it nice to have a defender who can step up to a loose ball bouncing out of the box and take a rip at goal, which Clark can do, i.e. last night. almost Terry-esque? let me know if I’m reaching to far on that one. Doubt it will happen but I’ll call BB and see what I can do.

          Reply

        • Posted by Mark T on 2009/09/10 at 10:24 AM

          Unfortunately, Bradley’s quotes after last night’s match suggest Clark only sat versus El Salvador to give him some rest.

          With the US unable to possess against (allegedly) middling CONCACAF teams, I think Bob is setting up a pack-it-in and counter strategy for ZA assuming the Yanks get there, like you saw in the Confed Cup. As much as Bradley / Clark doesn’t seem to be the my / our answer in the middle, it may be Bradley’s.

          Reply

        • Posted by Kevin on 2009/09/10 at 6:11 PM

          ok first of all people overlook the too important aspect of player styles. I mean Rico is an absolute atrocious choice for the left because he DOES NOT like to stay on one side of the midfield. As both a Dynamo and USMNT fan I see a lot in him and a lot of him. Rico roams TOO MUCH to even consider as an option for LB. Plus offensively he would be in shamble because he’s not that fast, nor is he too creative. his passing would still be a worry and his left foot is probably the worst thing about him, so the crossing is not a good idea either. Lastly just because you move someone to a different position, do they suddenly develop a good first touch because he DOES NOT have that either. He may sound like a bad player now, but it’s his defensive play in the midfield that earns him caps.

          Reply

  7. Posted by Dylan on 2009/09/10 at 10:26 AM

    I’m not sure if I’m ready for the Iceman to be starting yet. but I really think he needs to be subbed in long before the 80th minute. I think around the 65th is perfect. It gives him time to get in a groove and really make a big impact on the last part of the game.

    I’m assuming that Ching was an INC. for the ratings? I know he wasn’t in long. and as someone who is set in opposition of Ching’s playing time, he did come in and played his roll well. If anything he is a guy I want brought in in games near the end that we are winning, because the only thing IMO that he does well is win balls sent up field and lay them off nicely, and that’s it.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/10 at 10:28 AM

      Oh my, thanks for the Ching catch — I finished up at 2am last evening (no excuses, play like a champion).

      Adding it in now….I deserve some sort of hall of shame for that omission.

      Reply

  8. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/10 at 10:27 AM

    I saw that on the BB giving Rico rest….and it’s very concerning.

    Time to rev-up the propaganda machine again:

    http://www.zazzle.com/the_shin_guardian_free_benny_official_shirt_tshirt-235922751422511018

    Whether you counterattack or not, you can’t continue to swallow volley after volley from team after team…..

    Reply

  9. Posted by garbogas on 2009/09/10 at 10:29 AM

    Mark, I think you and I really hope you’re wrong, but I’m afraid you’ll be right.

    A couple of things that give me hope.
    1) Jermaine Jones – he’s like Ricardo Clark on HGH, the cream and the clear all put together. Perhaps he’ll come in and take Rico’s spot in the center mid not only strengthening the midfield but also freeing up Clark for left back.
    2) Clint Dempsey – only indirectly. That’s because, as mentioned above, hopefully Clint’s recent performance will force Bradley to push him up top and replace him with Holden, a more possession oriented player.

    Ideally, the addition of Jones and Holden could turn the US into a better possession team, especially if Feilhaber comes in for Bradley (not likely). Nonetheless, this is my best case scenario right now.

    Reply

  10. Posted by ChrisR on 2009/09/10 at 10:33 AM

    Guys – just want to give you some props for providing ‘analysis’ on what was one of the most boring sporting exhibitions ever. The word disinterested was used to describe CD, but man, the entire US team looked like it hit South Beach way too hard before hopping the flight to T&T.

    Tell me how we get Holden, Benny and Donovan on the field at the same time (preferably with Jozy & Charlie Davies). I can’t handle much more of the midfield mess.

    Last point, Matt you mention that Castillo is more of an offensive left back than a defensive stopper, but couldn’t that be just what this team needs? Someone to bomb up the field and link up to our attacking options? Hell, maybe he Bakary Sagna sans the dreads and the brutal crosses? Oh wait, I guess we would need a new coach to actually put people on the field that can link up / attack vs. build a bunker and fire balls 50 yards down field.

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/10 at 10:40 AM

      Good comments Chris.

      By the way, this is the Chris from the Messi post if you haven’t read it.

      In terms of the Holden, Benny, Donovan trifecta….you’re going to have to go John Gotti or Tonya Harding to make that one happen I think.

      I think you answered your own question on Castillo. If the US is going to resort to a fire drill counter attack, the play will be long gone before the wingback gets involved. You need the tempo/right pace to make that overlap effective (see: Ashley Cole, Chelsea…sorry about the analogy I know you’re an Arsenal fan).

      Dempsey and Donovan continually spun around like hockey players waiting for the drop pass last evening. Until you get a center midfield that doesn’t think they’re playing hot potato or “I’m not touching that thing” the overlap, imo, will not be as effective.

      Reply

      • Posted by Mark T on 2009/09/10 at 10:52 AM

        They line-up I’d like to see at some point, but doubt we will.

        Donovan (LM) – Feilhaber (AM) – Bradley (HM) – Holden (RM)

        What would be the reasoning against trying Donovan at AM?

        Reply

        • Posted by garbogas on 2009/09/10 at 10:56 AM

          Replace Bradley with Jones and I’m with you.

          Best realistic lineup I could see:

          Donovan (LM) – Jones (AM/HM) – Bradley (AM/HM) – Holden (RM)

          Altidore-Davies (Dempsey as sub)

          Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/10 at 10:58 AM

          Donovan: Played there before and was a shadow of his impact now. US needs his defensive presence, plus he’s often the catalyst of the counterattack from his d.

          I’d like to see that line-up too however I’d like to get Jones over here. I’m not convinced on Bradley. He’s almost like a tweener in basketball. He’s not your clean-up defender and his offensive skills are average to slightly above at best.

          Let’s try Landy, Benny!, Jones, Holden

          By the way, I’ve decided I’m using an exclamation point after Benny’s name until I stop doing that.

          Oh, and one note (and I’ll probably get castrated here as I tease a forthcoming post), can we get just one more peak at Kljestan. Wait!, Please don’t throw a wrench at me…

          Reply

        • Posted by Mark T on 2009/09/10 at 11:02 AM

          Jones would be ideal, but I have decided I am not considering Jones (or Castillo) until they take the pitch with a US crest on their chest.

          Matt…good point on Donovan’s defense. He does too much to be relegated to a purely attacking role. Considering he is playing at his highest level at LM, I wasn’t suggesting we move him to AM, just wondering what I was missing…thanks.

          Reply

        • Posted by Kevin on 2009/09/10 at 8:23 PM

          @garbogas Bradley and Jones are not AM’s because well on Bradley he couldn’t help attack if his life depended on it, and for Jones he’s too valuable as a HM/DM due to his defensive skills. What I like the most about Jones is essentially when you have him in the line up he is a DM, but tends to push forward a lot more than we’ve seen lately and seems like he can dictate the play a little bit more. However I’m also not going to include Jones in any of my “realistic lineups” because realistically he isn’t approved yet, nor is he match fit yet.
          @Mark T I’ve previously thought about placing Donovan in that role, but quickly discarded it because he has too good of vision and is just plain out too good to waste his defensive and counter attacking skill. Ask yourself this. “How many times have I seen Donovan quickly make something out of nothing out of the back?”

          Reply

    • Posted by Kevin on 2009/09/10 at 8:12 PM

      I’ll tell you how to get Holden, Benny, and Donovan on the field at the same time. First of all you go with the 4-1-2-1-2 that we used against El Salvador. Then BF starts in the attacking midfield, Donovan on the left, Holden on the right. Bradley of course plays his usual position. All together you have…

      Howard
      The backline is a whole other post all together.
      MIDFIELD
      Bradley
      Donovan
      Holden
      Feilhaber
      Altidore and Davies who btw need a nickname for the both of them.

      Reply

      • Posted by garbogas on 2009/09/10 at 10:38 PM

        Kevin, I don’t consider either Jones nor Bradley to be an AM. It’s simply that if both were on the field at the same time one would have to get forward. Since I don’t see baby BB coming off the field anytime soon, if Jones does work his way into the lineup, I see it being him and baby BB in the middle. I agree with you and Mark though that it is a bit unrealistic to include Jones in any potential lineup at this point.

        So, I agree with the midfield you have posted above. I’ve professed my love for Benny on this site, and he’s the guy I most want in the central midfield (it pains me to watch Rico with the ball goal from T&T aside). I also said above that it’s time to get Holden in for Duece.

        I guess what I’m really saying is this: I hope we go forward with the midfield you mentioned above, but the ceiling of our midfield would rise if we could integrate a fit Jones into the mid swapping him with baby BB.

        Reply

  11. Posted by ChrisR on 2009/09/10 at 11:17 AM

    re: jones > Furthermore, Jermaine Jones will not be available on Sunday. The midfielder has only just returned to training after a spell on the sidelines due to injury and is not yet fit enough to get playing time on Sunday.

    at least he is training i guess though I agree with Mark, until these guys actually play why bother considering them.

    maybe someone like Maurice Edu can dominate the middle? >> Edu is still recovering from knee surgery he underwent at the end of last season and is expected to be fit later this month.

    Reply

  12. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/10 at 11:32 AM

    I can easily see the rationale not to consider Jones (or Castillo) until they are practicing with the team.

    Keep this name in the back of your head: Bryan Arguez

    He’s out of Bradenton Academics and just called up to the U-20 squad. He’s also signed to German first team Hertha Berlin (though he hasn’t featured)

    Probably not a name for 2010, but then again Theo Walcott made the Queen’s squad at what 16 just a few years ago.

    Again, 1% shot at this point, but remember the name.

    Reply

  13. Posted by ChrisR on 2009/09/10 at 11:43 AM

    Given the fact that Charlie Davies went from not even getting named in the squad to someone that we follow on twitter to see if his leg is OK, it seems like anything is possible RE: new faces popping up out of nowhere.

    I know Bradley is the coach and we can probably call out with a lot of confidence the starting team for South Africa, but I was wondering this morning how many players that featured last night would not see the field in SA due to new players stepping up via international switches (Jones, Castillo), improved play (Torres, Adu – i know i know), healed injuries (see Jones again and Edu)…if nothing else, it keeps from thinking about last nights performance.

    Reply

    • Posted by garbogas on 2009/09/10 at 11:54 AM

      Chris, that is my great hope (many players seeing the field last night don’t in SA).

      I’ll ask one question: What is the SA ceiling of the team put on the field last night? If we get an easy group, convert the few counter-attack chances we have, Timmy continues his impersonation of a brick wall, and we have a little luck, I’d say we could make the second-round.

      Now I’ll ask another question: What is the SA ceiling of a team that trots out Donovan-Benny!-Jones-Holden in it’s midfield along with Altidore-Davies up top and potentially Edu or Clark at LB? Well, I don’t want to get carried away, but IF a lot of things go right (and I mean a lot of things), I can see that team reaching the semis.

      Again, a LOT of ifs regarding the second option, but I’ll take an unpredictable team with a high ceiling over the depressingly predictable team we’ve been watching lately.

      Reply

  14. Matt
    I thought your analysis was pretty close. My opinion is that all of the problems the US is having stem from the lack of a recognized distributor in the midfield and lack of movement off the ball. Almost every player on the pitch looked for short pass first but because there was a severe lack of movement (or proper movement) off the ball they were forced into long lobs forward all game. One of the things that would help this is a central mid who can shield the ball long enough to find the right pass. I would like to see Benny start with Bradley with maybe Torres as a sub for Benny. BTW Does anyone have any idea why Dempsey has become so despondent in games for the US. He always looks exhausted and lethargic. There has to be something going on we aren’t hearing about. The guy is class on his day but he’s a different player here than at Fulham.
    J

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/09/10 at 12:11 PM

      Good point, Jarrod. There seems to be bias towards pushing-on immediately versus holding that one extra (half) second for the greater good of the possession.

      Two instances I can remember from last night where patience paid off were 1) Jozy setting up Donovan inside the box for a great chance in first half stoppage time and 2) Feilhaber and Bradley executing a textbook give-and-go late in the second half.

      Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/09/10 at 12:12 PM

      Thanks for the comments Jarrod.

      I think the front 6 was not on the same page–whether it was moving without the ball, playing a square pass vs. a lead pass or whatever. No one seemed to know what they were supposed to do and then no one took control. You would think at halftime, for example, Clint might go over to Rico and say something like, “Ok when the midfield opens on a run of mine, I’m going to slide the ball into open space instead of playing it back to your feet.”

      I think the first issue was not everyone adhering to, buying in, or executing the strategy–whatever it was. After that, we can certainly debate what the strategy should be.

      Re: Patience….hmm…see our “Paging Bob Bradley column”

      Reply

  15. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/09/10 at 12:35 PM

    Damn it Deuce, why are you so good with your club but so shitty for the national team? Come on man!!

    Reply

  16. Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/09/10 at 8:01 PM

    haha. “sloppy attire.” good one. he looked like a total square. whatever happened to a dress shirt, tie, and slacks. and what was up with those new balances he was rocking? big 5 much?

    and if Rico can nail that shot 9 times out of 10 i’d sure as hell want him taking that “boombosa” at least he was on target(unlike baby BB in recent performances)

    Reply

  17. Posted by Kevin on 2009/09/10 at 8:42 PM

    I read it somewhere, but I can’t find it anymore. something about Clark missing that shot 9 times out of 10? Well watching as much of Rico Clark as I do I can honestly tell you he actually makes that shot 7 or 8 times out of 10. And Rico with club is more offensive than he is with USMNT, so it didn’t surprise me too much to see him pushing forward a little bit, but it did surprise me as far as the face that normally Bradley does that more than Clark.

    Reply

  18. Posted by Wilson on 2009/09/11 at 7:10 PM

    WE NEED JERMAINE JONES NOW!!!!!! BB needs to put a good short passing team. That does exclude Altidore. Davies and Ching with Donavon, Feilhaber, Jones, Bornstein, Cheurndolo, Boca CB along as Gooch plays. and Kljestein was one of these guys. Holden I prefer as a super sub, and Torres plays a great first touch as well. All the names are the good first touch players. exclude Altidore and Gooch

    Reply

  19. [...] press, TSG has always backed the skilled but inconsistent defender…here are some examples: 1 (player rating), 2, 3 If you couldn’t see Bornstein’s class on the day, like we said [...]

    Reply

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