TSG decided to take in last night’s game from the edge of the American Outlaws Supporter section 137.
If you’re unfamiliar with the American Outlaws, they are a USMNT supporter group that started in 2007 and for last night’s friendly probably had close to 150 people eating up rows in the far corner. The American Outlaws were kind enough this past summer to reach out to The Shin Guardian saying they loved our writing (A big “Thank You!” back) and wanted to offer it via links to their constituents.
Thanks AO. We enjoyed the camaraderie and it’s a great group you’ve created to support the United States. Thanks for a memorable experience off the field!
My brother drove past the Home Depot Center earlier in the day before yesterday’s 3-1 Honduras answer to San Pedro Sula and commented, rather snidely, “They didn’t even have the game up on the broadcast board.”
Well, that might have been just as well.
In a game where the U.S. wasn’t looking for a result so much as looking at the result of a few weeks of work, a 17th min sending off of World Cupper Jimmy Conrad changed what could have been a competitive fun trial of players into a struggle for quick and precise ball movement on a narrow Home Depot Center field.
Conrad was booked for a debatable but understandable yellow on a break in the opening minutes. However his 17th minute sending off was, in this writer’s opinion, clearly not warranted without a warning. Forget that this was a friendly, a lay off pass to Carlos Pavon saw the offender’s head down as he drove a ball over the top of the crossbar…were Pavon to play the ball across the goal face or were he to even look up to make a pass….or were the tug on Jerry Palacios a clear and direct action to the Honduran stumbling…maybe a yellow would have been warranted. Not a yellow, and this writer’s analysis is not colored.
You make the call on Conrad’s yellow… did the tug warrant a yellow? Was it after the play? Check the :40 mark here:
As Bob Bradley more aptly put it afterward, the States “were forced to chase the game.”
Upon Conrad’s sending off, Carlos Pavon converted two penalties–the first called back by a line violation–and La H were up 1-0 on the way to a victory that saw them continually squirt through a now-weakened US central defense. With Conrad presumably watching from the lockeroom, the US went with a back 3.5 so to speak as Robbie Rogers often drifted back to the rear guard and did a decent job foiling the Honduran wingers.
With the back line reconstructed, the US got popped again right before halftime. Pavon streaked down the States’ left flank beyond Rogers and as Bornstein gave chase lifted a beautiful curling cross to Palacios (Wilson’s younger brother). For those of us with a great view, it was disappointing as an audible Troy Perkins called out the play and Chad Marshall, with at least a few inches on Palacios, failed to get so much as a hip on the barreling Honduran. 2-0.
Before we get to our customary review structure, let’s make a few points what we saw in the spirit of evaluation.
♦ Bob Bradley came our with a rather odd line-up and set of tactics to start this one out.
»Robbie Findley and Jeff Cunningham paired up top. While this was a coupling that many USMNT fans clamored for, it left the United States without chemistry on lead runs up top.
» In a strategy that is becoming more of the Yanks’s homemark, Bob Bradley–in a nod I’m sure to Coach USA’s fanatical focus on defense–drew Sasha Kljestan and Robbie Rogers in and pushed the fullbacks up the field. Not a bad tactic, with the exception of it left Marvell Wynne as really the only player making runs up the wing on the evening. That too would have been fine….if he wasn’t crossing it to Robbie Findley (5’9”) and Jeff Cunningham (5’8”), both of whom were outmuscle and outclassed in the air all day.
What the aforementioned strategy also did was congest the midfield, with many times both Robbie Rogers and Benny Feilhaber in possession having to go sideways or force the pass through…didn’t work.
♦ On the positive side, upon Jimmy Conrad’s absence, Jonathan Bornstein did yeoman work covering the middle and the left flank when attackers would squeak through. Sure it was not top competition–but if you can’t see Bornstein’s maturation as a player over the past year…well then you’re not watching.
♦ Something that the U.S. did extremely well was not overrun and move fluidly between position and position. Findley and Cunningham could be found on opposite sides of their lead foots to limit overrunning. Kljestan and Bedoya–a late time sub– could be found wandering appropriately around the field with other’s covering their space. Some decent team movement, if not offensive movement or ball movement, for the USMNT.
Now our customary awards and follow-up:
• Best Play of the Game: (Brad Davis to Clarence Goodson) In a game where there were few standout plays, Clarence Goodson was nothing short of an animal in not being denied on Davis’s 2nd half cross and subsequent score. Goodson went at it hard, clean and high and nailed a “Get-Off-Of-Me!” header.
• Most Unheralded Play of the Game: (Jonathan Bornstein) While there were more than a handful unheralded plays in this game, nearly all of them were made by Jonathan Bornstein. In the 35th minute with the US still struggling to find their footing after the sending off, Bornstein chased an errant defender and slid, tackled and stopped what would have surely been a solid threat on the US goal. Bornstein’s slide was like pulling up for a long three on a fast break in basketball…as you could almost here the undercurrent in the stand’s of “No No No….Yes!” Just like the three, only good if you nail it. Bornstein did.
At the 74th minute, Bornstein, calmly came up on a looping clearance, was surrounded by three Honduras, deftly received the ball on his chest, controlled and squeaked a pass up to Alexander Bedoya. That one could have been trouble again.
• Golden Shinguard: (Jonathan Bornstein) While many have castigated Bornstein in the press, TSG has always backed the skilled but inconsistent defender. If you couldn’t see Bornstein’s class on the day, like we said before, you were blind.
With the quarterback of the defense Conrad knocked out by red, Bornstein stepped into the communication role and could be seen chattering incessantly in the back moving his teammates into position. Bornstein also shifted comfortably between moving to the wing and staying in the center while managing the defense. That’s like asking a CEO of say Toyota, to drop down the factory floor and improve the assembly line…it’s hard to balance responsibilities.
Despite all the defensive focus, it was Bornstein at the 84th minute or so getting up the field to try to make a play on a cross on offense.
You had to like his game on the day.
With TSG focusing on potential World Cup rostered players in the game, Bornstein made one errant angle on a cross in the first 10 minutes and then at the 42nd failed to come out (with an offender on his hip though) to take away a straight on shot (and miss). Other than that, we say flawless for the Chivas man.
TSG: What We Were Looking For:
» On the forefront of everyone’s mind: Robbie Findley v. Jeff Cunningham. Who’s got Charlie-In-A-Bottle?
With both players in the starting 11, this was an opportunity for one to rise above the other in the pecking order for RSA. Both players showed their lack of international experience and while neither distinguished themselves, it was Findley who went the distance and played some admirable defense as well.
TSG says Bob Bradley is thinking, “I know what I’ve got with Cunningham…I’ll give a lot more playing time here to the younger, stronger Findley and see how he progresses before I make my choice.”
So it’s Findley’s spot to earn in our opinion.
» Eyes on the central defense pairing for both 2010 and 2014 and
» Back to the midfield, can Eddie Gaven impress the USMNT fan base?
Didn’t learn much on the first or and obviously, with Gaven inactive for the game, didn’t learn anything on the second.
Conrad was the signal caller and partnered Chad Marshall to start. What we watched after Conrad’s dismissal was Clarence Goodson warm up for the remaing 20 minutes of the 1st half and then finally enter as Cunningham gave way to begin the 2nd.
What we saw out of central defense, beyond Conrad’s 17-pack of minutes, was Chad Marshall and Clarence Goodson looking very Gold Cup Final 2009. Both wilted in the face of strong seasoned strikers. Whereas in the Gold Cup it was Vela and Dos Santos for Mexico, yesterday it was Pavon, whose cross victimized Marshall in the 1st and Espinoza in the 2nd half who befuddled Goodson.
Game ready for 2010? In a pinch for Marshall.
2014…enter Omar Gonzalez who didn’t make it out there…but we’ll leave that call open.
» There’s an opening here for the wingfulls with experience: Heath Pearce and Marvell Wynne stand up and be counted.
There was an opening….that is now likely closed. Both Wynne and Peace (in his short time) appeared to be indecisive and pressing. Wynne played the entire game and looked somewhat confident going forward and creating opportunities that he would then give back and more through his defense.
Speaking of Wynne’s defense or lack thereof, the Toronto man was unsure of himself on headers–continually it appeared he wrestled with whether to come up and challenge or let the offender receive and stay off him. Numerous times one-on-one moves or one-two’s beat him down the right flank.
That’s a problem. It’s understandable being a little hesitant and conscious of team positioning. However, on one-on-one plays when it was just Wynne against his man? Well, we’re betting Marvell is hoping the coaching staff lost the tape.
Pearce for his part, played a scant 10 minutes at the end of the game, and seemed to have the demeanor of exasperation of not getting on the pitch until that time. Pearce flubbed a cross trying to make something happen and then on a forward run at the end, through up his hands in exasperation as Brad Davis missed him with a pass.
Neither showed well on the day…but alas one observation with their squad at 10-men.
» The pace, the moves, the 1-on-1 ability….any chance Alejandro Bedoya is the name we’re talking about after this one.
And here’s your bright spot folks. While Bedoya had a few near giveaways in the middle of the field, the youngster from Sweden was constantly chattering on the pitch, looking for opportunities to press the issue. Bedoya also showed surprising strength in bump-and-dribble situations and created a few chances down the right flank.
Deserves another look.
- Summary: Compromised at the beginning by the sending off, the USMNT first half squad struggled with slow ball movement and poor spacing in doing virtually nothing in the offensive end. In the second half, as the score was upped by the Hondurans and the Coach Bob introduced subs, the energy and play by the home side rose and chances that led to one goal and few balls around the posts and crossbar seemed to come more easily.
C: Bob Bradley – 4.5
The story will likely not change on Bob Bradley. Good preparation and teams that play together with an understanding of their schemes–those are Bob’s strengths. The negative, either a line-up that didn’t work or the set of tactics accompanying that line-up didn’t work.
Why pull Sasha Kljestan in on the right where he needs to be very involved in the run of play to make anything happen? Sacha who didn’t play strong might have been more of a casualty of the system he was in.
Why play Robbie Findley and Jeff Cunningham off of one another?…Why not set them up with Conor Casey whose presence was felt when he came in?
GK: Troy Perkins – 5
Tough to give as high of a rating as a 5 for a player that gave up three goals. To be fair, only possibly the 3rd could have been prevented with a different play on the ball by Perkins. Communicated as best as possible with his defense.
Oh…where are the Tim Howard-comes-out-too-often folks out there. Perkins could…we say could have come out and perhaps prevented or disrupted two of the goals. Howard surely would have come out on the 3rd. One strategy is not better than other, but it’s worth pointing out potential hypocrisies of the critics.
LB/CB Jonathan Bornstein – 7.5
Pressed into an unexpected situation, Bornstein in one word, shined. The Golden Shinguard outright.
CB: Jimmy Conrad – Inc.
Let’s be honest. The very direct Conrad has battled boneheaded plays his whole career. His first yellow was borderline warning vs. card in quality. The second, a bit difficult.
Being it a friendly, Conrad should have been more careful after the 1st…but it’s hard to fault him as well.
CB: Chad Marshall: 2.5
We should expect more of Marshall at this stage and we’ve said a several times he needs to play against better competition. Because when he does play against high-level competition on the national team level, he’s shaky. Marshall’s play yesterday seemed to scream something like, “They’re not going to make that play” in regards to the precision of the Honduran offense. Well, the Hondurans did.
Failing to get at least a hip on the streaking Palacios after Perkins pointed him out? Somewhere between “not cool” to inexcusable.
RB: Marvell Wynne: 1.5
Marvell gets 1.49 of that rating for his offense, because his defense was despicable. Whether he had not faced hardcore attacking in awhile is not the issue, Wynne got beat every which way and constantly put his fellow defenders in harm’s way. Not a good showing.
LM: Robbie Rogers: 5
One of the few offenders that tried to generate opportunities out of nothing on multiple occasions. Had just a gnarly dipping, and right footed we might add, shot from beyond the 18 that had the post screaming, “No mas!” as the marble clanged off.
Got beat a few times down the left, but was up for the rearguard help. That was a positive.
DM: Kyle Beckerman: 4.5
An average one for the RSL man. Created nothing on offense and didn’t destroy the middle on defense. Played a step slow against “B” level competition. Showed for outlet passes and didn’t make dumb mistakes though.
AM: Benny Feilhaber: 4.5
Feilhaber did well to possess the ball in the middle for the Yanks. However his passing was off. Forced to move laterally on many offensive situations, Feilhaber accomplished little in getting his teammates involved.
Twice on defense Feilhaber went at the offender to stop a run or for a jump ball. Came out on the wrong end both times.
RM: Sacha Kljestan: 3
This is not a horrible rating for Kljestan, but Kljestan’s game just didn’t mesh with the offensive strategy of the home side. Kljestan, by my count, made one run down the line all game. Now maybe Bob told him to stay central, but Kljestan only attempted to get involved sporadically and created maybe one opportunity at best.
Lost his man on defense twice as well. Not a good move.
STR: Robbie Findley: 4
Just couldn’t get off. Didn’t have the service, but also didn’t create it all the times. Got eaten up by the Honduran defense on many over-the-top balls. Had a few smart runs–we think–that was on the opposite side of the field in the 1st half.
STR: Jeff Cunningham: 3.5
I think Bob Bradley knows what we has here and it’s not a first resort for South Africa. Cunningham beyond being knocked off the ball again was a little too cute in possession. Didn’t look like that same FC Dallas player that shredded defenses in 2009.
A null in the personal positive-minus game as his questionable defense led to the 3rd goal. Goodson made up for it with that “Get-Off-Of-Me!” header afterward. Did win a number of over the top balls.
Alejandro Bedoya – 5
In limited action, created a number of chances. Proved deft in one-on-one runs, passed effectively. If he didn’t have two near-death giveaways in the middle of the field, this rating is higher.
Heath Pearce – 4
We mentioned Pearce’s play above.
Brad Davis – 5
The Dynamo leftie played well in his brief time. Cracked a serious attempt on a free kick and had the gorgeous service that led to the lone USMNT goal. Created some opportunities with movement off-the-ball and on-the-ball.
Dax McCarty – 5
Did his role as the hub of the offense. MOVED THE BALL QUICKLY. Apologies, we just had to write that in caps on a day when the US squad suffered from poor, slow, and off-target passing.
Got knocked around a little, but also handled some of those physical tackles better than expected.
Conor Casey – 5 4.5 (revised)
CC lived up to all of his stereotypes tonight. His lack of dribbling prowess hurt him as he tracked back to factor in the offense, yet he also ate up more than one defender on many occasions in the center.
Should have nailed the 2nd goal for the U.S. on a pretty service from Davis I believe, but duffed it wide, like 9th minute salute wide. You got to start hitting more of those Casey.
Some other attendance notes on this one:
• The announced attendance of this one? 18,000. If that was the case, then there are 27 people currently living in my bedroom. Not the case–maybe 12,000? The crowd was somewhere between 2/3 to 3/4 Honduran of which the fans were vibrant, loud, and gracious in winning. If the United States is going to share it’s “home” field with anyone, the Hondurans are a good choice. Class.
• Are ethnic dishes for the visiting team customary? Very impressed that a full concession was devoted to “authentic” (I can’t tell…apologies) Honduran food. Very nice Home Depot Center.
• For $30 for the US Supporters Club, fans after the game go to go on the field….and that is all. Hmmmm.
• FSC had a booth set-up for promotion of the Champion’s League in HD. They were giving away bag tags to South Africa, but they had no other news–I asked–on the HD channel. The guys there said they only got budget for the bagtags…just odd.