Saturday Redress: So What Results?

HDC Practice Pitch (Courtesy: US Soccer.com)

Some excellent points in the comments section in our previous review piece on Sunday…so we’ll republish them here and ignite more dialogue:

• TSG contributor Bob asks, “After watching the team practice in camp, were there any players that you believed should have played or should have been given more playing time?”

Well, here are a few:

» Contrary to some other words out there, Goodson paired Gonzalez in camp and Conrad paired Marshall. TSG should have seen the Marshall, Conrad pairing coming. We erred.

» Alejandro Bedoya who we thought played confidently–though sloppy on a few occasions–was part of the 1st team when we watched the scrimmage when Robbie Rogers was out. We probably should have picked up on that too. What we saw Saturday was a confident and stronger on the ball Bedoya. I also note that Bedoya was communicating a lot and even directing players–that is the mark of a player who knows his ability and is trying to create on the pitch.

Bedoya is on standby for South Africa at this point in our minds and may be–as we surmised beforehand–the short-term surprise of camp.

Cameron was a middie in camp, but didn't really distinguish himself....

» I know Geoff Cameron is a popular name, but with Cameron playing on the right midfield when we saw him, his touch and speed were off. Perhaps Bob had him in the wrong position. At best, we could have seen Cameron in the 18, but we’re not dismayed by him watching Saturday in street clothes.

» “Pearce looked a little clumsy in first touch reception on tougher passes and had, what they call at the NFL combines, ‘tight hips.'”

That was our comment from camp and it was appropriate. Heath Pearce’s playing time was just about right Saturda. He’s just not agile enough though his game is very smart. It’s a shame because he has a feel for the game, but his physical ability doesn’t necessarily match it. Case in point? A handball on a little bit difficult ball reception.

» Conor Casey–we’ll get back to him–looks the exact same in practice as he does on the field.

» In hindsight, we witnessed Sacha playing on the right wing. He didn’t establish himself in practice either.

» Nick Rimando clearly deserved to be the back-up from our brief look into camp.

» Brad Davis is one of those players that we though did everything well, but nothing great. Sort of like a Antawn Jamison.He was solid and without error in our reviews. Completely surprised by his impact on the game on Saturday. It was above and beyond. He had the right tempo in the game and was a major factor in creating late game chances. Probably not enough to fly standby right now, but certainly improved his standing with his game play.

Conor Casey, Conor Casey….what to think?

TSG is pretty sure Conor Casey is who he is. A beast of a body in the middle who can receive passes and sometimes distribute effectively. Occasionally, he’ll surprise with flair (Honduras, San Pedro Sula), but twice as many times his touch and straight-ahead speed will fail him (Honduras, Chicago…..Costa Rica, D.C.).

Casey: Strong in the post-up game. Too strong in the first touch game.

The reality is that Casey is on the plane. The USMNT beyond Jozy, does not have a big body to bang around in the middle. I’m not sure why Brian Ching isn’t still in the fold…given that Casey has really not outshined.

The USMNT, in our opinion, need a post-up guy beyond Jozy. Our best option is Casey. Any better ideas? From TSG, not at this time….unfortunately.

On Sacha Kljestan:

From Tuesday and Matt Mathai in the review piece:

Tuesday: “Sacha Kljestan is a player who is now very far from cutting it at any level higher than MLS. He is not in poor form, he just isn’t very good and never was. How many times does he have to prove it? The hat trick was one of those freak things that happens in footie sometimes. It won’t happen again. Let’s put it in some perspective: Sweden is not going to the world cup and has plummeted from being ranked in the low teens to the 40s over the last four years. Added to that, Sweden’s line-up was every bit as experimental as our 2009 Gold Cup Squad . Excepting that match, in 2009 we lost every match against non-CONCACAF opposition in which Kljestan appeared and were 1-1-1 within CONCACAF. In 2008, Kljestan had a 16 minute appearance in the 0-0 draw vs. Argentina but otherwise didn’t appear against non-CONCACAF opposition: his “run of form” came against the likes of Cuba, T&T, Barbados & Guatemala. The only wins against non-CONCACAF opposition in which Klejstan has appeared came against China, South Africa and Sweden (x2).”

Matt Mathai: Klejstan (sp?) was terrible. He had almost no influence on the game, besides a negative one. He did a lot of standing around, and a fair amount of aimless running into heavily defended areas. It was almost like he was trying to play his way off the team. I think he’ll have the rest of the friendlies to show he belongs. Things don’t look that good for him, but I’m guessing he gets taken along anyway.

Tuesday, I think there are some meritorious comments here for sure. That being said, we should use the Dempsey axiom on Kljestan in my opinion. Kljestan is not designed for the US system….he’s the exact inverse of Stu Holden. Kljestan is not a down the line and cross player on the wing and he’s not a motoring central midfielder who combines one touch passing with recovery defense.

He’s not made for the current USMNT system. Kljestan is at his best in the run of play in the midfield in an open game or trailing from behind on an attack. I can see him–and he’s not at that level–work best in a Tottenham like midfield. I.e a midfield that is used to mostly vertical movement on offense.

On Saturday, Sacha wasn’t the part on the right wing.

Kljestan: Mr. Invisible Saturday evening...

He’s tantalizing because he does have the tools in this writer’s perspective, but he’s not world class, yet…and may never be. His free kick attempt on Saturday was an abomination. Combine that with a system that doesn’t play to his skills and he’s going to have a hard time making it on the safari.

Following up on our Kljestan interview, Sacha was kind to the refs on Saturday, but he also wasn’t amped up and active in the game. So we are cautiously optimistic here on his pitch behavior heading further in 2010.

More on Bob Bradley

From Oliver in the last piece:  “The best word to describe how they looked is UNPREPARED. As usual, Bradley looks like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I still don’t expect the team to make it past the group stages in the World Cup, no matter who’s healthy.”

—-

TSG usually backs Bradley and of course he put in a difficult situation last evening, but you had to question both his starting eleven as well as his in-game adjustments. Bradley’s got great coaching decisions in Honduras (Casey, sticking with Spector, Holden out wide) and at the Azteca (insertion of Feilhaber and Holden concurrently). He also has had some stinkers: Trinidad & Tobago (Going over the top without Ching, lack of clarity on possession in the midfield).

From the 1st half it was clear the USMNT in their current configuration was not going to threaten with four across the middle. It was just too much of a traffic jam. Which reminds me, one time in the first half Kljestan and Feilhaber actually ran into one another.

So what does the USMNT start the second half with: 4-4-1. When did the US start threatening (sure the Honduran defenders were tired at this point)…when they went to more of a 4-3-2 with Casey and Findley up top?

TSG is not saying go for the win, but what was being evaluated in the 4-4-1 when Rogers was left in at lefthalf/leftback?

Also, you cannot…and we still maintain it was a dicey red–you cannot give the Captain’s armband to someone who leaves in the 17th minute. You just can’t do that. Worse, Conrad was your defensive quarterback…not Marshall.

The book on Bob Bradley like he said in our last piece will remain the same. Good tactician, good teamwork, good prepartion. Poor in-game adjustments.

So in short, we think Bradley is prepared, but he takes too long to make the right adjustment sometimes. Then again, this is a friendly….so give it that discount.

• More from Tuesday: With Beckerman, Conrad, Wynne, why does Bob think these guys keep deserving more chances to prove themselves? Don’t we know exactly what they offer at this point? Didn’t we answer all these questions already?

Could not agree more Tuesday. Beckerman and Conrad in the least should be practice field fillers, not friendly selections. Does Beckerman has a shot at South Africa? Not before last night and certainly not afterward. He’s just not on that level.

With Conrad, if you’re going to bring an elder defender for leadership, then he should be smarter than putting himself at risk of a sending off.

Why play them? Couldn’t agree more. While TSG is extolling the play of Bedoya, how would he have looked against a fresh group of Honduran defenders when the game was not in hand yet? We don’t know and we should.

—–

Mark will be along with a Jimmy Conrad interview this week as well as a look at the fan perspective on Saturday night.

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16 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/25 at 11:15 AM

    OK, so I was working late and I went back and watched the match again. (No, you don’t have to tell me I’m pathetic; I already know it.)

    I had originally put down the ineffective showing of Findley and Cunningham to them being too similar in style. I have revised my opinion to a degree. A lot of the problem came because Cunningham didn’t pull his weight. He jogged a lot, got dispossessed a lot, and didn’t try to make many incisive runs. If he can get bumped off the ball by Honduran defenders, he’s in for a wakeup call when he gets hip-checked by someone like John Terry or Jolean Lescott.

    i was disappointed by his apparent lack of commitment. I think Findley took a step forward and Cunningham took significant one back. The USMNT doesn’t need listless performances at this point, and I can’t point to much that Cunningham did effectively. I still am not thrilled with the pairing; I think both would have done better paired with Casey, and I fault Bradley for that.

    I continue to eat some crow; I was impressed by Bornstein’s hard work and composure this game. I’m not a fan of his, but he was our best player out there. He was the only one who raised his hand when Bradley asked the question “Who can show me he wants to go to South Africa?”

    Reply

  2. I’m a little bit surprised that Geoff Cameron was playing the middle. I mean, he’s good enough to start for most if not all MLS teams as a midfielder, but if he has international quality potential (and I believe he does) then it’s as a center back. Then again, he might have had some chance to show what he can do in the back and it wasn’t better than what the others showed in Bob Bradley’s eyes. After Conrad’s mishap, I think he’ll probably get another chance to prove himself next month.

    Reply

  3. Sounds like I had some extra zing this morning for breakfast…

    Kljestan is not the caliber of player to build a system around so if he’s badly suited to the system, he shouldn’t still be in consideration. International Matches against decent sides rarely “open up” in that way that club matches often do, especially in MLS, yet this is where you say Klj is best. Essentially your counterargument supports my point – he’s a good player at a lower level who’s not suited to the international level, especially played at World Cup level & intensity. File him there along with someone like Taylor Twellman and a lot of other guys.

    In terms of his potential role in the side, can you think of a substitute appearance in the last year where he’s made a positive impact? He’s always struck me as decidedly off the pace when appearing as a substitute. This should matter because this is the role he’s auditioning for. After Donovan, Dempsey, Holden, Bradley, Clark & Feilhaber there are only 2 or 3 more spots available in midfield. I’d say you’d choose from Torres, Edu, Bedoya, Rogers and McCarty before bringing Klj. I’d even take Beasley before him. We should consider having this guy’s dream badger (http://bit.ly/4DJtwR) play for us and slot in ahead of Klj on the midfield depth chart. I know I’m being harsh, but if we don’t make the knock-out stages out of our group it’s because of this kind of looking for lightning to strike twice sort of silliness. This is Bob’s tendency that really scares me.

    BTW, Watched a replay of Everton v. Man City on Friday and Landon has really learned how to deliver a corner but he apparently had a bit of a listless performance in the FA cup this week-end.

    Reply

  4. Forget Charlie in a bottle: http://ow.ly/10hBY

    Wow. Can’t help but feel it’s some kind of miracle, right?

    Reply

    • Posted by kaya on 2010/01/25 at 1:04 PM

      That’s bloody amazing. If anyone could do it, it’d be Charlie.
      I’m trying not to feel negative after what I’ve seen Saturday… this helps.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Free beer movement on 2010/01/25 at 12:53 PM

    Anyone want to entertain Frankie Hejduk in the backline for that game and the leadership they needed after JC’s sending off.

    I’m just saying…..

    Reply

    • I agree with Matt Mathai about Findley… in my comments to the previous game review post I said he never stopped running. I would like to see him paired with Altidore or Casey in the March friendly. I think he’s currently penciled into the last forward slot.

      The way I see it these guys are sorted:

      Forwards: Altidore, Casey, Davies(!)… 1 spot remaining
      Midfield: Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Clark, Feilhaber, Holden… 2-3 spots remaining
      Defenders: Onyewu, Demerit, Bocanegra, Spector, Cherundolo, Bornstein… 1-2 spots remaining.

      Given that 4 of the defenders can play CB and the poor performances of others who appear to be in the running, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Bradley select Hejduk and be done with it, then take 3 more midfielders – Edu, Torres & Rogers. I would be happy enough with our chances given that roster construction. It’s a bit slanted towards the attack so I think he’s more likely to be conservative and take 8 defenders and 8 midfielders. Those last 2 defender slots are still very much up for grabs.

      I think far more will be revealed about what Bradley’s thinking with the next friendly when he chooses from the full complement of players. This January camp was rendered less important than most have been by the number of our best players that are plying their trade overseas. Bradley at least looked visibly displeased with what was happening on the pitch on Saturday, hardly even reacting to the consolation goal. I’m hoping this friendly was the Gold Cup revisited – only a few of these players will be in the mix come Safari time.

      Reply

  6. I didn’t catch the entire match, but did watch roughly the last hour of it. I am not overly concerned about the results of USA ‘B’ v. a Honduras side featuring Carlos Pavon. The only relevant results were seeing how well some of the cover players performed a man down and with their backs to the wall. The win/lose aspect of this particular match is absolutely irrelevant and does not reflect the quality of the USA’s first team football. I don’t think any one of us should be overly concerned about the final score in this particular match. The primary focus of the Honduras friendly was to assess players who have had limited opportunities to audition for cover roles in the side.

    I liked what I saw from Bedoya. Findley looked reasonably good. Wynne impressed with his pace, but still needs more seasoning. Conrad has skill, but he isn’t getting any younger, and appears to lack the necessary discipline to be first choice for America. I thought Dax McCarty looked sharp in the late game, perhaps he deserved more minutes. Bornstein looked sharp. I was very impressed with Goodson, and not just because of the goal. I have always thought that Rogers should be cover (you could make a case he is good enough to start) at left wing, he has the skill and the pace. I wonder if Rogers shot goes in instead of off the post, perhaps the game would have been totally different. Brad Davis, as always, was very dangerous in dead ball situations, but I wonder if he brings enough to the table outside that to warrant selection to the World Cup Finals squad – He certainly appeared to earn a second look though, and I expect to see him vs. El Salvador in Tampa, FL. Casey has some skill…but he lumbers. Perhaps Ching is a better choice for cover at forward, as he has better pace and is arguably more versatile. About what I expected from Beckerman…he seems to be moving up on the depth chart, but maybe not fast enough for a trip to South Africa.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/01/25 at 6:04 PM

    What’s the big deal about Bedoya? I was at the match and he didn’t seem that special to me. I guess I’m the odd man out here so I’m going to rewatch the match for a second time.

    Reply

    • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/25 at 6:48 PM

      He was raw and pretty unpolished, but he showed composure, which I think is huge coming from a young player getting his forst cap – and getting it in a game where his teammates were MIA most of the match.

      I don’t think anyone thinks he was necessarily a big deal, just that what he showed earned him another look.

      Reply

      • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/01/25 at 6:59 PM

        I agree with Matt in that he maintained composure.

        Two other things that hugely impressed me were:

        1) He directed traffic on the field…he definitely figured out how to attack the Honduran defense and was telling his teammates where they should be.

        I only saw Benny and Bornstein do that among all the players out there. So that was impressive.

        2) Also it seems like the US is never blessed with players that combine power and finesse.
        Bedoya was raw as mentioned above, but I fully expected him to get knocked of the ball as he slithered through the defense and many times he just took the bumps and kept moving.

        Again, one observation…but it showed potential

        On the negative, he was very very careless with the ball in the middle of the pitch and twice narily missed turning it over as he awaiting a pass he could make. That certainly needs to improve.

        Reply

        • Posted by Matt Mathai on 2010/01/25 at 7:46 PM

          Re: the carelessness with the ball: At least some of that comes from the need to adjust to the speed of play. I would expect nerves and mistakes in his first outing, maybe in his first few outings. After all, this is the big time, and the stakes are really high.

          I’d never seen him before, even on video, so this was interesting. I hope he gets a runout in Tampa (selfishly, since I plan to be there.)

          Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2010/01/26 at 12:24 AM

      One thing I don’t believe we mentioned in our camp piece earlier this month is that on the 2nd day TSG was in attendance, Bedoya played offense for both sides of the ball in the same scrimmage. Not sure if the point was to get him more touches in creating offense or to improve the speed of his recognition and decision-making or something altogether different, but it was interesting none-the-less.

      Reply

  8. Posted by Bob on 2010/01/25 at 7:49 PM

    Awesome follow-up! Thank you for taking the time to post it so quickly!

    Reply

  9. Posted by jb on 2010/01/26 at 11:07 AM

    Have to disagree a little with comments about Beckerman. I felt he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise terrible match. His composure and touch kept it from being a blowout and provided the closest thing to possession the USMNT had. His athleticism is what keeps him from being a 1st teamer. The other bright spot was, surprisingly, Bornstein. Bornstein seemed to me like the only player we had that looked like he could hang in true international play. Can’t describe how disappointed I am in Conrad. I hope he mans up and admits he cost us a valuable chance to evaluate players for the final roster. Should not wear the armband again.

    Reply

  10. […] get started. For many fans, you came out of nowhere this year. TSG saw you in January camp and was wondering why this was the first time we caught you on the field in a US practice […]

    Reply

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