Boom Goes The Dynamite: DEN 3, USA 1

Jeff Cunningham flew into the line-up and produced the USMNT's lone goal.

A quick note on the title…”boom goes the dynamite” is a reference to one of the all-time best YouTube clips. The classic line comes at the 2:29 mark.

No “W” for the USMNT and not even a “D” as a listless second half saw a 1-0 US lead go by the wayside in the span of about 7 minutes for a 3-1 win by the Danish Dynamite.

Since it is a friendly and everyone knows about the USMNT absences due to injury, MLS playoffs and other things (Cherundolo / Dempsey), there is not much to glean at a team level other than the fact that the USMNT doesn’t look all that deep.

Perhaps one observation of note is that the US seemed to struggle in the one area where they fielded the most regulars, the mid-field. This shouldn’t be that surprising since the Junior-Rico combo out there today has struggled for some time.

Overall, it was a forgettable performance that saw the US on its heels most of the game with short stretches of possession that rarely crossed into the offensive-third of the pitch.

(Note: In the unlikely event you want to watch a replay, it is available on ESPN360.)

Awards

Best Play of the Game — Jeff Cunningham’s goal: Sure it was gift pass from the Danish keeper that set-up the chance, but Cunningham kept his composure and buried it with his left foot! (He’s a righty.) Given that the 33-year-old’s strike was the only goal in 180+ minutes of play on this European vacation, he’s deserves some recognition.

Most Unheralded Play Jonathan Bornstein getting a boot on the ball to stop the Danish counter in the first half: After a turnover in the mid-field the Danes tried to feed an outlet pass to their right winger. Bornstein managed to get his left boot on the ball and control. If the outlet pass had gotten through, the Dynamite winger had acres of real estate in front of him to set-up a great chance on goal.

The Golden Shin Guard Benny Feilhaber: Played inspired ball in-front of his hometown fans. Benny made smart passes (including a beautifully slotted ball to Cunningham), drew fouls, took a few shots and limited the turnovers as he went the full 90.

Preview Follow-up

Edgar Castillo.

Frankie's last hurrah?

As expected, Señor Castillo collected his first cap for his country of origin. Castillo entered in the 61st minute at left-mid (with Feilhaber shifting inside). The lack of any semblance of possession or rhythm down the stretch severely limited his touches, although he did have one nice feed into Altidore that set-up a shot for Rogers at the top of the area.

As a projected left fullback by most (except TSG Matthew) it was certainly interesting to see Castillo play in the mid-field in his debut. Only time will tell if that is Bob-O’s long-term plan for Castillo.

Okay, what’s going on now with the RB situation? Or should we call it the Specs situation?

TSG assumed Spector would man the right side, however he stayed in central defense with Frankie Hedjuk getting the starting nod. While Hedjuk is a fan favorite in part for his frenetic style, today’s start may have been his swan song for the national team as he looked over-matched all day and was borderline reckless at times. If Hedjuk’s 85th cap is his last, consider the captain’s arm band given to him when Boca subbed-off kind of like the gold watch at his retirement party.

While there is no additional clarity at the top of the RB depth chart with Cherundolo and Spector sitting 1-2 in some order, it should be noted that Heath Pearce didn’t even make it on the bench for either friendly.

Will a woeful attack see a new strategy…..

Bob-O did switch up the strategy today which was both a product of the personnel he deployed and the 4-3-3 Danish formation. Bradley and Rico formed a holding tandem in the mid-field and the US generally attempted to push the ball wide to take advantage of playmakers Stu Holden and Benny Feilhaber on the wings.  You also saw the central backs spread a little wider and work to get more involved in the attack to take advantage of Spector’s service abilities.

….or a new entrant?

Looks like the preview piece should have read “and / or” as both the strategy was changed and a new striker was deployed. The aforementioned Jeff Cunningham was awarded the start while Conor Casey didn’t even make the bench. Aside from the goal and brilliant hold-and-cross, Cunningham’s day was rather uninspiring although the lack of a cohesive attack plagued his chances.

Well done, Benny!

Player Ratings

C: Bob Bradley – 5.5
Probably closer to a 5 here, but I am being generous because he trotted out something different just to see what would happen. Different, however, doesn’t mean better

GK: Brad Guzan – 4.5
Beat three times, but didn’t necessarily give up a bad goal. A positive was that he was more vocal, but a negative was the couple of clearances out of bounds including one off a goal kick that led to the second Danish goal

DEF: Jonathan Spector – 4.5
Certainly not as strong as Saturday, but was decisive even if he came up empty on the challenge that led to goal #2. Still looks like he could man middle in a pinch or for longer stetches if given more time to get comfortable at the position.

DEF: Carlos Bocanegra – 4
Not the best game for Captain Carlos. Got caught looking on the third goal

DEF: Frankie Hedjuk – 3.5
It’d be easy to pile on Frankie here, but in deference to his years of service we’ll just say we expected more both as player and representative of the US. The communication was lacking with Spector and some rough challenges led to a stern warning by the official late in the first half

DEF: Jonathan Bornstein – 4
With the Danish attacking focused at Hedjuk, Jonny B didn’t get a tremendous amount of action right at him in the defensive third. He seemed out of position on some long diagonals in the first half to the Danish wingers, but didn’t give up much when he caught up to the play

MID: Benny Feilhaber – 5.5
Benny was jacked up playing at NRGi Park which led to him being all over the place in the early going. The man of the match acquitted himself well, but should expect a lot of grief from his Danish mates when he’s back in the AGF locker room

MID: Michael Bradley – 4.5
Up-and-down game with some deft touches and head-scratching plays. But get this…Junior actually didn’t go the full 90…first time in a while

MID: Ricardo Clark – 4.5
Played with a lot of energy, but unless he was instructed to insert himself into the attack consistently, got caught up-field too much

MID: Stu Holden – 5
Has Holden had a bad game since he’s been called up to play with the big boys? He was not spectacular against Costa Rica last month, but wasn’t bad either. Today he played well on the wing and gave maximum effort all over the pitch. Iceman also had a sweet pull-back maneuver near the end-line that shook his defender and then he fed Clark for a great chance that sailed high.

ST: Jozy Altidore – 4 / Incomplete
It is entirely possible that Jozy was eating a danish (the food, not the people) in the offensive third most of the game. That’s how little we saw of him.

ST: Jeff Cunningham – 5
Stays in the discussion at striker by virtue of a near-gift wrapped goal and not making too many mistakes. (That makes me sad.)

SUB (61): Eddie Johnson – INC
Touched the ball somewhere between one and three times in 29 minutes on the field. However, that is more a reflection on the (non)attack of the US then his personal performance

SUB (61): Robbie Rogers – INC-plus
Made a positive impact and showed some nifty footwork with the ball. (Hey Matthew!…I am slowly coming around on Mr. Rogers…slowly.)

SUB (61): Edgar Castillo – INC
He was on the field…that’s about it.

SUB (70): Jimmy Conrad – INC
Nice haircut…looked sharp.

SUB (70): Clarence Goodson – INC
He was the tall one, right?

SUB (80): Dax McCarty INC
And that’s cap #2 for the youngster.

I hope the USMNT at least got to enjoy some cake since the product on the field wasn't all that appetizing.

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13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/18 at 5:01 PM

    Cunningham Goal:

    Reply

  2. Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/11/18 at 9:17 PM

    Cunningham’s goal was actually was of the better finishes that I’ve seen out of a U.S. forward in a long while. He stretched the keeper and put it on target, what more could you ask for?

    Reply

    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/11/18 at 9:18 PM

      Of course besides CD9 in Mexico, that was just pure class.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/19 at 9:37 AM

        Took it left-footed — he is right footed and (something not enough strikers do) SHOT LOW!

        How many – COUGH MICHAEL BRADLEY — times do we see a US shot on goal fly into the parking lot?

        Reply

  3. Again, I’m left feeling empty by this performance. The US hung tough in the first half and got a gift-wrapped goal (taken well by Cunningham), then came out and laid an egg in the second. This is the kind of sophomoric, up and down play I was hoping we’d be past by now. We can hand-wring all we want about the key absences for this match but Denmark didn’t field their best XI either. While we’ve all played those games against teams that are better than you and don’t allow you to play your game, I was hoping that the USMNT was different and would find a way to at least string some forward possession together at some points and attempt to look dangerous. Sadly, this game proves that our ‘Nats are human after all.

    Oh well, time to look forward to the WC Draw and what next year may bring.

    Reply

  4. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/19 at 8:43 AM

    I wasn’t really hoping for a win — more a look at the players.

    To be honest I was ecstatic in the first half, but once the 4-3-3 started pressuring Frankie’s side in the 2nd half, it completely shut us down. I don’t know how many times we choose (or didn’t choose) to come out on the right and the triumvirate of Holden, MB, and Frankie couldn’t move or reverse the ball.

    Reply

  5. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/19 at 8:46 AM

    Also, Mark mentioned it above but one very major tactical change for the U.S.

    And that our centerbacks, Boca and Spector getting extremely wide when he did have possession and wingfulls moving of the pitch.

    I actually loved this move by Coach USA (with the exception that Boca is not a dynamic passer)….it forced the wingfulls up…the middies slotted in for coverage on a bad pass and we looked to move the ball up thewing wide against the 4-3-3.

    I thought that was good coaching and with Benny! and Stu outside Bob Bradley was essentially saying two things:

    1) I trust my outisde mids, not my inside mids
    2) (and this is still a stretch) we’re going to play up wide in South Africa and keep two defensive mids…if you see more Rico, Mike B in the middle this *may be the root — caution, a single observation.

    Reply

  6. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/11/19 at 8:47 AM

    Mark, a 3.5 for Frankie, relative to the other rating points is extremely high in my book.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/19 at 8:59 AM

      In retrospect, you are correct. It probably was at most a 3. I probably gave him an extra point or half-point in deference to Frankie being the official unofficial spokesman of Dan’s Free Beer Movement.

      We may finally need to standardize our rating system with some pithy explanation of each number.

      Reply

  7. […] TSG Glossary « Boom Goes The Dynamite: DEN 3, USA 1 […]

    Reply

  8. I can’t remember the last time I felt so helpless and outclassed while watching the USMNT. It seemed like after the 3rd goal, every time we gave the ball over to the Danes, we had to wait a full minute to get it back. Their possession was just so much better than ours it was scary. I’ve got to say that I didn’t think there was a single US player who deserved the Golden Shinguard in this one. Maybe Cunningham because out of the 1 real chance he had to put a shot on goal, he made it count. The service to the forwards was pitiful and the midfield lost the ball so often that I just started to expect a quick give-away. Our players gave the Danes a lot of space, whereas they were right on top of us every time we touched the ball. I am hoping this was just an off-game and that the additions of Donovan, Dempsey, Cherundolo, etc will help us to hold the ball better and stretch the opposing defense. Altidore looked gassed after 60 minutes… probably because he had to spend so much time chasing the ball between the Danish defenders and got zero help from the midfield to pressure. I’d like to forget this game… not just because of the result, but because we learned nothing from it other than Hejduk is finished. There were no positive take-aways from this one.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/11/19 at 4:12 PM

      The award probably should have been renamed the Leaden Shinguard yesterday.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think it was an off-game, the US just doesn’t have the horses to compete when their best playmaker (Donovan) doesn’t make it on the pitch. I am not so sure that the game would have been much different with Dempsey there.

      Reply

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