Bratislava…More Like Bore-islava (SVK 1, US 0)

Marek Hamšík

Guzan guessed left, Marek Hamšík went right and that was the game.

The 1-0 Slovakia win was not the most exciting match and the lack of fans, dreary weather and field conditions made the game seem entirely unimportant. With injuries, MLS playoffs and roster decisions it was a toss-up heading into the game whether the US would really learn anything in Bratislava. It ended up being what we didn’t see that was the most telling.

We didn’t see:

…the US disorganized as a result of the patchwork line-up…however, as the second half progressed and subs came on the attack came apart a bit

…Altidore and Casey get involved in the first half…a direct result of lack of Lando?

…the ball go in the back of the net for the Yanks…with Davies and Donovan it was challenging at times…without them it was a constant struggle

…the backline in disarray without Gooch…and surprise central defense starter Spector added a different dimension as the ball was played back to him routinely

…Rogers give the ball away all day like he did during the Gold Cup..nice to see the maturation process continue

…Dempsey checking his watch to see how much time was left…Clint did some work today, but still expect more

…Guzan channel his PK heroics from last week to stop the Marek Hamšík effort in the first half

…One second of stoppage time…in fact the first half came in under 45 minutes on FSC’s game clock

Coach Bradley’s strategy was clear. Play the best players you have and let the newcomers and re-comers sub in late. The first half saw the US play more down the right side with Rogers getting off some good crosses, the best of which came in the 2nd minute. The duo of Junior and Feilhaber played well for about the first 50 minutes or so and the US was able to maintain a sizeable possession advantage for the duration of the game.

Again, however, it was the USMNT’s inability to find the back of the net despite a number of chances was glaring. (At TSG that is now referred to as USMNTitis.)

brad_guzan

In good hands with Guzan.

Awards

Best Play of the Game — Guzan’s point blank stop in the 74th minute: Coming off a free kick for Slovakia, Dax McCarty’s poor clearance led to strike on goal that was deflected right to a waiting Satislav Sestak about 10 yards from goal. Sestak walked in on Guzan who challenged and then made a terrific kick save with his left boot.

Most Unheralded Play Cherundolo’s hustle in the 60th minute: Only Dolo’s hustle prevented a certain breakaway after a US set piece deep in Slovak territory. The ball was kicked out to a sprinting attacker, but Dolo got there just in time to poke it over to Johnny B.

The Golden Shin Guard Jonathan Spector: Playing out of position at center back, the recently shaky Spector seemed confident and provided great support to the front six

Preview Follow-up

Mr. Robbie Rogers, please report to the starting line-up. Claim your ticket to South Africa now.

Rogers is clearly a Bradley favorite at this point and added a strong game to his resume for South Africa. He provided good service including a moon ball from the deep right corner on a set piece that dropped right at the back post and the 6-yard line

Eddie Johnson vs. Cunningham: Let’s get it on.

Eddie Johnson came on for Casey at the start of the second half. The US changed tactics slightly to see if he could be a Charlie Davies-light by serving up a few longer balls to Altidore and hoping EJ could run off him. The US found a little more room to work in the offensive zone when EJ came in and Johnson even got a few shots, but overall his speed was neutralized by the soggy turf.

Cuningham entered late for Casey and you could immediately see why he’ll remain a long shot for the World Cup roster. Unfortunately, Cunningham’s slight frame allows him to get knocked off the ball with a pinkie-check. Eight minutes in Bratislava may be all the run Cunningham gets.

Can the Bradley-Benny! pairing recapture Gold Cup (’07) magic?

Wonder of wonders, the US was able to play up the middle for the first time since in well…let’s just say its been a long time. Bradley and Benny seemed more comfortable with each other and seemed to remember where each other was on the pitch this time which helped to make some room in the middle and not leave the back line exposed. We didn’t see a dynamic duo in the middle, but the pairing made progress today.

Does Clint Dempsey shine or sputter in Donovan’s absence?

There was much more shine than sputter for Deuce today including a cracker of shot on goal from thirty yards out on a free kick. Some of Dempsey’s creativity was on display and he seemed more active overall. But as Matthew mentioned in game observations Dempsey seemed a little visibly frustrated at times when he didn’t think the right play was made by his teammates.

Conor Casey

Float like a rhino...stink like a...

Make us believe Conor Casey

We are closer to believing…that Casey may have been a one-game wonder in Honduras. He had more opportunities than Altidore with the ball, but didn’t really do anything with them. Came off at the half, but that was probably planned to give EJ and JC some run in the second half.

Player Ratings

C: Bob Bradley – 6
Bob-O did pretty well with a cobbled together line-up missing its spark-plug (Davies) and trigger man (Donovan). The Spector start in the middle was surprising, but can only be viewed as a success. All ten of the midfielders and strikers on the roster got into the mix including youngster Dax McCarty.

GK: Brad Guzan – 6.5
Played well as expected, but wasn’t tested too frequently as the US held possession. Was forced to make a few saves including the aforementioned kick save. Guessed the wrong way on the penalty kick.

DEF: Jonathan Spector – 6.5
Nice job, Specs! Held it down in the midfield, seemed comfortable with the ball (as usual) and communicated well across the back line. Didn’t see too much (if any) aerial work which has been a weakness.

DEF: Carlos Bocanegra – 6
Played the role of confident and calming veteran throughout the game. Smartly worked into the attack without getting caught too far upfield

DEF: Jonathan Bornstein – 4
Did his best Rico Clark impersonation by committing the foul in the box that led to the eventual game winning PK. Struggled with Weiss on the wing and was beaten a few times. However, he did get up the pitch some and generally played well in the offensive half. It continues to be a tale of two Bornsteins for the LB.

DEF: Steve Cherundolo – 5.5
Matthew suggested Steve should get graded by half as he wore down in the second after playing very solid first half. Played well coming up but was sometimes careless on the back right. Injured his knee late…hope it is not serious.

MID: Benny Feilhaber – 5
Worked better with Bradley for the first 72 minutes then shifted over to the left side. He had the ball a fair amount, but should have done better. Did get a header on frame and get close from 20-yards out on another shot. Perhaps he is just better coming off the bench when he has a chance to watch the game unfold from a distance first. (Oh yeah, he also crushed one right to the face of Skrtel from close range.)

MID: Michael Bradley – 6
Note Matthew’s in game comments that Bradley needs to improve his first touch as we missed a number of opportunities to go sideways with the ball instead of backwards. But Bradley pushed forward well today and forced at least one defender to commit to him in the middle of the pitch. Was tireless on defense as well; making it outside to shut down flank runs, but also recovering to the middle of the pitch. Sulked for a few minutes after he made a run at the 50th or so minute and didn’t get a foul call; he needs to knock that off.

MID: Robbie Rogers – 6
TSG’s opinion is split on Rogers as a vialbe option in the mid-field, but he acquitted himself well today in his first non-Gold Cup start for the big boys. In addition to his good service, he looked strong drawing in on the wing and letting the outside back make a run.

MID: Clint Dempsey – 5.5
A bounce game for Deuce, i.e. not strong enough to be called a bounce back game. Seemed interested in playing, but gets frustrated with the quality of those around him.

ST: Jozy Altidore – 4.5
It’s tempting to give Jozy an 82-minute Incomplete rating. He didn’t do much when he had the ball, but didn’t get much in the way of service from his mates.

ST: Conor Casey – 4
His utter lack of giddy-up at the international level will require the US to make a significant change to their attacking style if he is going to be the full-time starter.

SUB1: Eddie Johnson – 5
Showed some flashes in the second half, but needs to be more dangerous if he is going to merit serious consideration for South Africa.

SUB2: Dax McCarty – 5
Nice work by the youngster in earning his first cap. Quick movement off the ball and good positioning. Could have done a little better on the clearance that led to the point blank save by Guzan.

SUB3: Clarence Goodson – 4.5
Didn’t notice him much in his 28 minutes of work except when he let a Slovak attacker get behind him.

SUB4: Jeff Cunnigham – INC-minus
The MLS leading scorer did have some opportunities in the eight minutes he played, but didn’t do anything with them. His stature may just not hold up in the international game.

SUB5: Sascha Kljestan – INC-minus
Showed some of his skill on service in his limited time, but finished the game off by tagging the ref with the ball after the whistle. Mr. Victoria’s Secret’s time in the player pool may be coming to a close.

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29 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/14 at 12:28 PM

    Mark — absolutely agree with your selecting Specs for player of the game. The lone rushes came on JB/Boca’s side and Specs even helped out there.

    Not that SLK is particularly dangerous, but did you see a big chances on Specs side, nope! His first game there for the US mothership and he nailed.

    Certainly throws his name into the ring in central back. I think BB after watching Specs against Honduras and Costa Rica has legit questions about his speed…and the USMNT is only going to face faster players in RSA.

    Reply

    • Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/16 at 8:09 AM

      Agreed. Really like the way Specs played in the middle. And I like the right side of the D with Specs and Steveee C.

      Reply

  2. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/14 at 12:46 PM

    Oh, and it was definitely a PK–not a strong foul but if you are going to impede the offender with your upper body and your arms out — you’re going to get called.

    Yes, the offender embellished and yes it only slighly more than a nudge, but it was unfortunately a penalty.

    Ask yourself this question — if that is Altidore making the run and he gets knocked down by Cech is that a foul?

    Reply

  3. Posted by i like tuesday on 2009/11/14 at 3:05 PM

    The quality of attacking coming from our defenders and midfielders in the first half was very good. , In the second hafl the game lost coherence and the pitch was chewed up enough to make things a bit of a lottery. Rogers was good but floated corners are not going to trouble international defenders and goalkeepers. Those balls should be driven in. When will we learn? With Cunningham it’s not so much his size that’s the problem as he lacks the balance and low center of gravity that the best players of smaller stature seem to have. Eddie Johnson was probably the best of our strikers today.

    On the penalty, Bornstein got caught on the wrong side of the attacker and unfortunately there’s nothing the defender can do from that position but hope help comes from the center. Bornstein reached out ever so slightly and that was enough. It is true that you don’t always see that one called. When the attacker uses his arms to get across the defender like that it’s sometimes called the other way as well. Depends on the view of the referee.

    As for the defensive work overall, I think they did very well covering for one another with both fullbacks making runs forward. Spector made the back line much more mobile and less likely to be beaten around the flank on the counter. When possession was lost, there wasn’t a single time in the first half that they got caught defending with only 4 players. I felt like Bob had read some of my posts on defending immediately after losing posession. Defending the counter with 4 is a problem because the 1 player in midfield is beaten with one pass and then you’re running straight at the backs instead of slowing down the attack for other players to get back. It did happen a couple times in the second half which was the first time Slovakia created chances from open play.

    As for your rating I’d go a bit higher and give Spector a 7 and Dempsey a 6. They were the best players on the pitch for the 60 minutes of the match worth discussing. Dempsey’s apparent frustration could have been as much about a pitch that rendered many of his clever touches useless as with his team-mates. A lot of attacks flowed through Dempsey and he played both simple and clever touches without doing anything too stupid until his outside-of-the-foot chip on the free kick shortly before he was substituted.

    Kljestan was woeful. Nothing else to say there.

    Reply

    • Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/16 at 8:18 AM

      Everytime Kljestan touches the ball, he gives it away. Every frickin time. Go back to the Confed final against Brasil and you will see the same thing.

      Reply

  4. Posted by i like tuesday on 2009/11/14 at 5:38 PM

    I see most people are having far more exciting Saturday nights than I am, but I’m now settling in for some Robbie Findley scouting. Real Salt Lake, Eastern Conference Final? Seriously? Get a single table already MLS!

    Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/14 at 5:47 PM

      Tuesday — good additions in the comments — and I’ll be casually watching the evening night cap after dropping my chores during the day.

      At this point, and I’ve given Demps every shot — you have to question his veteran leadership. Whether it’s the pitch (which I don’t think it was) or his teammates that made him frustrated, you just don’t carry yourself that way. You don’t. I think Dempsey played a better game and did assume the midfield leadership role without Donovan there, but I would like to see him get past his pitch antics.

      And I know he can because I watch him at Fulham….it’s bizarre.

      Cunningham does not have the strength or balance of a Defoe who he’s spitting image of…

      Both you and my brother liked Eddie’s touches today. I think they were decent, but I also watched him try to break down a defender twice on the left flank and use the same move. Not too critical here, but I’ll be looking at other options.

      Dax McCarty moves the ball quick that is perhaps his best skillset — sometimes I think we move the ball entirely too slow. Dolo is guilty of this from time to time, but played excellently in the first half today.

      Reply

      • Posted by Kevin on 2009/11/15 at 11:29 AM

        By quick, do you mean quick passes without hesitation? If you are, that’s one of the things I like about Holden most of the time, but I’m a little confused on exactly what you mean by quick.

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/15 at 11:51 AM

          You’re right on Kevin.

          In fact I just played a game this morning and I remember one of my first soccer practices….in 1st grade. The coach told us all to line up across the field to sprint to the other side…when he said go, he kicked a ball to the other side and said, “See, not even the fastest person here is faster than the ball. A pass is better than a dribble.”

          Lost on most of us at that time of course. :>

          I liked that about Dax — change the complexion of the game quickly. Dolo holds it too long; I think BB probably hates that one part of his game. I’m sure Dax needed to develop that skill because he’s not exactly “big” in the middle of the field.

          I like this a lot about Holden’s game as well. Even Robbie Rogers showed a little bit of it Saturday.

          Reply

  5. Posted by kaya on 2009/11/14 at 6:37 PM

    I couldn’t wake up for this. I really needed the sleep and am glad I didn’t deprive myself in retrospect =)

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/14 at 6:41 PM

      The replay is on at 11:30pm EST on FSC.

      Here are the…umm…highlights???

      Reply

    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/14 at 9:46 PM

      You didn’t miss anything…save Spector showing skill in central defense and a group of stooge-y strikers.

      Reply

  6. Posted by i like tuesday on 2009/11/14 at 8:47 PM

    I was just thinking about penalties are a lot like sex when the announcers offered “for the first time tonight the ball feels what it’s like to be in the inside netting”. Does that fit with the PG-13 rating around here? Maybe I’ll wish this was deleted in the morning.

    Reply

    • Posted by i like tuesday on 2009/11/14 at 8:53 PM

      These ones have been bloody good, but they don’t always live up to expectations. That looks graphic looks like I’m watching pro bowling.

      BTW, Findley didn’t do much to impress me.

      Reply

  7. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/14 at 9:36 PM

    I’ve never seen a more revenge-seeking player than Will Johnson.

    Here’s the background if you don’t know about he and the Fire: http://www.sltrib.com/realsaltlake/ci_13783413

    Nailed a major penalty shot and then whooped it up in front of the crowd. I’m trying to think of comparable situations.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/11/14 at 10:25 PM

    I thought overall the match was a great showcase of the potential the US has. Slovakia didn’t play well, but the US didn’t deserve to lose– a draw would have been fair. I was really impressed with Cherundolo and Bornstein stretching the pitch, but was disappointed with Bornstein’s affinity for making poor challenges. Hopefully the kid will learn in friendlies and not bring that stuff to the World Cup. As much as people want to bash the US and say we are overrated, we can really play well when we bring our game (as evidenced today for most players, and we were missing a lot of starters!).

    Reply

    • Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/16 at 8:37 AM

      I am surprised not much has been said about Guzan. Although he was not tested a lot, the times he was tested he comes up huge. The guy is very consistent and consistently GOOD. He is also good with his feet and looks to distribute to our backs (to keep possession) more than Howard does. We certainly have 2 top keepers with 1) Howard and 1A) Guzan.

      Reply

      • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/16 at 8:40 AM

        The only reason I didn’t write more on Guzan is that we expect him to be this good at this point. He’s been excellent in for Villa when called upon and has acquitted himself well in spot national team duty over the past year.

        In that regard, he’s kind of like a good offensive lineman in American football, you only hear about them when they screw up.

        Reply

        • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/16 at 9:39 AM

          Tim — a fantastic point. I agree with my brother first in that he and I have watched Guzan come up big in knockout competitions for some time now.

          His field presence (aligning his defense) has improved as well — it’s gone from average to good as he was directing around the defense.

          Your point on ball distribution is not to be underestimated Keller won that nod in 2006 because he was mobile and could be used as an 11th outfielder at times….Friedel has huge challenges with that.

          One more point, Troy Perkins is excellent at coming out of the cage as well.

          Reply

  9. [...] Glossary « Bratislava…More Like Bore-islava (SVK 1, US 0) [...]

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  10. [...] by Mark T in Broadcasting. Tagged: Beach Soccer. Leave a Comment In the wake of the Bore-islava “classic” you may be thirsting for some face-paced soccer with lots of scoring and creativity. If so, head [...]

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  11. Posted by shane on 2009/11/16 at 11:16 AM

    I thought we played better soccer than i have seen since the confed cup…
    The back 4 and mid was excellent in my opinion.. We are lacking up front big time and that was obvious..

    Bradley and Feilhaber were in sync, Spector and boca were excellent and dolo/ JB were lighting up the flank..

    Robbie Rogers in my opinion showed great individual effort and failed to make mistakes which is good.. Questionable service on set pieces though..

    Even though Casey was bad, I thought that when he was subbed the game changed for the worst.. EJ showed that he hasnt got his confidence back playing with reserves.. JC didnt have time to make an impact but looked sloppy when he did touch the ball… And Jozy clearly misses Davies and it shows in his play for the Nats..

    Reply

    • Posted by Timmy on 2009/11/16 at 11:41 AM

      Shane, I agree with your comments completely.
      Wanted: “Forward for USMNT that will make an impact”

      Reply

    • Second that on the Casey substitution. He kept at least one of the centerbacks occupied and gave Jozy a chance to run off him. After Casey came off we had two forwards both of whom were trying to run into the channels but nobody to keep the centrebacks occupied. Without a central presence, they didn’t have to think twice about tracking the runner.

      Reply

      • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/16 at 12:09 PM

        I saw Altidore posting up a few times after Casey went out to allow EJ to run off of him…not that he had much success, even getting knocked off the ball easily on one occasion. You also so a few more long balls from the backline in the second half.

        It will be a tall order to ask Altidore to assume that role with any success in time for the World Cup, but if Casey’s best (and roughly only) attribute is occupying a defender the US has to look in a different direction.

        It is a shame that Donovan is missing these games as Bob tries to evaluate strikers, but such is life.

        Reply

  12. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/16 at 12:03 PM

    Damn…can’t you guys just wait 15 minutes for my Denmark preview piece….you’re killing me… wink. :>

    Reply

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