Amsterdamned: Yanks Cue Attack Too Late

Robben 1, Donovan 0 today...

You may now call him King Jonathan of Holland.

In a game that could have used a little bit of Red Bull to push the excitement, the States succumbed, 2-1, to a Dutch squad that was allowed to dictate the tempo and run of play as they saw fit for nearly the entire competition.

While the Yanks did keep shape well, it came at the expense of creating any sort of attack as the front line for the Yanks was starved of capable service until around the 76th minute. The Yanks played to many of their stereotypes.

Kuyt, playing the roll of Dr. Evil....

A first half that saw the Dutch own possession and consistently threaten the US flanks was deadlocked through the first 40 clockturns, however in a blink of an eye a blown defensive assignment had Jonathan Bornstein reaching for an answer on defense and finding Arjen Robben’s Wesley Sneijder’s jersey as the wrong one. Penalty kick awarded, States down one heading into the break.

The 2nd half started out much the same for the Yanks only now it was Klaas Von Huntelaar playing the role of Robin Van Persie and causing havoc as a hub in the Yank’s defensive kitchen. A failure to close the Milan man down by sub Maurice Edu and Mike Bradley led to an errant Huntelaar shot….that unfortunately redirected off the star-crossed Bornstein. States, two-nil for the worse.

At this point, Bradley abandoned his Findley experiment up top and introduced Alejandro Bedoya for the RSL star. The entrance of Bedoya reconfigured the States to somewhat of a 4-4-1-1 with Donovan pushed to the role of CAM. With Beasley and Bedoya able to turn their men on the wing and Donovan able to make smart passes with Mike Bradley who joined the attack party from midfield, the Yanks sprung to life and displayed some of the offensive aptitude that you knew was lurking.

After a foul on a very active DaMarcus Beasley in the 88th minute, the Rangers winger bent in for Boca and found Captain USA unmarked and in flight toward the goal. Paydirt located, one clawed back and initiative rewarded for the Yanks, 2-1.

The States piled on pressure for the remaining five minutes of the game, but failed to crack the seal again going away. A snoozer of a game given a little lipstick at the end by Team Bradley.

Holden left unprotected by the refs and down for the count by DeJong.

Let it be said here for the last time in this review, the US suffered from a quick seemingly-”home” whistle throughout, except when one of their own, Stu Holden, was stomped on early by Man City’s Nigel DeJong. Hopefully, the Yanks are not dealing with another hole in their line-up.

Before we jump in to our review, a curious statement from Bob Bradley as the mics grabbed him leaving the field. Bradley said, “They (the players) need to start attacking early in the game.”

Was the lack of attack a prescription from Bradley or did the team not follow Bob’s blueprint? Either way, curious statement there.

Game rating for the States? TSG gives it a solid 6.5, just passing. The States, again, held shape and played well as a defensive unit, but they forgot they needed to score to have a chance at winning until too late.

Now, speaking of stereotypes, which ones were acknowledged?

• MLS play does not prepare a USMNTer for world class level national team play

Is it telling that the two Yanks’ starters on the pitch that currently hail from MLS were arguably the two most disappointing and least prepared participants for the nature of a European friendly against a class opponent? I think it is.

Jonathan Bornstein gifted the first Dutch goal through a fleeting, inconsequential and poorly-timed shirt tug. A penalty that comes almost automatically against a player of that stature on their home field.

Not Findley's finest hour...or less..skied by Nigel De Jong here.

Robbie Findley played tentatively and for the third game in a row failed to acknowledge that he needed to be more physical and play faster.

Conversely two Scottish Premier brethren–DaMarcus Beasley and Maurice Edu–showed they were more than game for the challenge as did two Nordic players, Clarence Goodson and Alejandro Bedoya.

• As expected, the US is devoid of capable options and creativity at the striker level to complement Big Jeezy.

On locating the Robin to Jeezy’s Batman, #fail.

Robbie Findley’s main fault is lack of experience while Eddie Johnson continues to show that he can’t multi-task with the ball.

On creativity? Sure the service was poor, but the runs and movement after that ball went up  the field until the 75th min lacked know-how and sophistication.

Today’s Yanks sorely missed Clint Dempsey possessing and creating up the pitch.

Commendably, Bob Bradley did introduce a wrinkle here in response that we will discuss in a moment.

• Jonathan Bornstein in the eleven equals one quality scoring opportunity for the opponent.

TSG has egg on our face right now, the yolk is on us. (Sorry for that one).

Whether it be an over-the-head kick attempt in September against El Salvador, a poor angle on Vladimir Weiss in Bratislava or now a quick clip of Arjen Robben’s Wesley Sneijder’s jersey, Jonathan Bornstein undid his progressions to a capable option on the flank.

At this point, you can’t make the mistakes Bornstein made–not counting a non-call on a handball in the box–and Captain Carlos gave Borny an earful to let him know that in real time.

If you’re Bob Bradley right now it’s a pattern, a very negative one, and it can’t be ignored. Jonathan Bornstein’s Conraditis shows that he can’t be trusted and that is to the United States detriment on the corner. Damn.

—–

What are some other takeaways?

• Michael Bradley is a more effective player going forward

It is no coincidence that Michael Bradley’s game improved with the introduction of Maurice Edu in more of a destroyer role after Junior had to play off Jose Torres and share defensive workload in the 1st.

We’ll discuss Bradley’s full body of work in player ratings, but Bradley clearly was one of the catalyts in the US offensive surgence (can’t really be considered “resurgence” right) in the 2nd half.

Continually….

• Bradley tips his hand a bit and sneaks in some 4-3-2-1 (or 4-4-1-1 if you prefer)

Donovan, spotted here on the pitch...

With Maurice Edu playing more of that aforementioned destroyer role and DaMarcus Beasley and Alejandro Bedoya crashing in from the wings, the US moved Mike Bradley up the pitch and Landon Donovan to the center upon Bedoya’s insertion for Findley. Cue that offense.

With Bradley continuing possession and Donovan using the threat of a strike and his passing skills the US started to sift through the Netherlands defense for openings for the next 13 minutes.

Donovan gave way to EJ in the 76th minute who could later be found all over the pitch.

You can’t fault Bob Bradley for trying this formation and you have to be at least intrigued with the tactics as both Findley and EJ struggled to prove they can make the 4-4-2 effective for spurts, much less consistently. Let it be said that a 4-5-1 would have been a crowded disaster here today with DeJong and Snjeider’s centerfield shutdown and Torres and Bradley not providing good linking early on.

• The USMNT has a pretty good, though not full proof, bend-don’t-break defensive scheme

The States defense should be commended today. Taking on three strikers who play for top clubs as a whole the unit was able to contain the damage.

Sure Elero Elia and Arjen Robben made the corners look silly from time to time, but Howard was left to fend off attackers on acute mental miscues, not faulty tactics.

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Awards

» Best Play of the Game: With apologies to the customary goal-saving play from Tim Howard–this time in the 81st minute–and with apologies, in fact, to the Beasley-to-Boca header for the single US tally because Boca was unmarked, TSG is going with the coordinated chance that went something like, well, we’ll just borrow Shaun’s description from the running commentary:

65:00 – As the game was beginning to become a snooze fest, Bradley runs at the Dutch defense and sends a pass to Beasley who sends a dribbling ball across the face of goal, Altidore coming in late shoots the ball into the side netting. Good attacking play by the US…shame the first one had to come 2/3’s into the game.

It was a moment where the US remembered their offense prowess and realized their capabilities.

JDM: Defense, the necessary way...

» Most Unheralded Play: (Jay DeMerit 30th min, 54th min, 69th min)

Jay DeMerit may not have had a perfect game, but he was Defender-On-The-Spot on numerous occasions, controlling errant box traffic and more importantly communicating where he was redirecting the ball to.

Any one of the clearances, by head, my shin, and by foot can win this award for JDM. Well played, pride of Watford.

» Golden Shinguard: (Jozy Altidore)

A truly tough call here as no player was exceptional. We’re going to give honorable mentions here to Jay DeMerit and DaMarcus Beasley.

Jozy Altidore did as much as he could with as little as he had. For the first time in his USMNT career, Jozy kept working the entire game long, making smart containment runs on defense and doing his darndest to generate offense, typically surrounded by two or three white shirts.

We even saw the spectrum of skills that Altidore possesses in the 2nd half as he blindly nutmegged a Dutch defender to make a run on the box (though the layoff to Robbie Findley was poor) and then viciously detonated a concaving shot earned a tough save near the end.

Beas, a little better on that first free kick...

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Player Ratings

Tim Howard – 7

Stereotypical Big T today. One goal saving dive. Solid play between the pipes. Lacking just a pinch in marshaling the defense.

Jonathan Spector – 5.5

I hope Theo Walcott and Aaron Lennon weren’t watching today as Elero Elia torched Specs on both foots through his time on the pitch. To Spector’s credit, he continually changed his tactics on Elia, crowding him then backing off, shading him to the left and then to the right.

Spec’s play improved when covering Babel (who he has covered in defense at West Ham) which tells me next time he comes up against Elia, he’ll give it a better go.

Off on his crosses–hey bud, that’s supposed to be your hallmark.

Jay DeMerit – 7.5

DeMerit Cannavaro’d himself all over the pitch today. Had a gaffe on a run in the 2nd half, but made up space and tackled goal-bound Huntelaar to end the threat. Fiery, but not reckless in the middle, DeMerit had could have passed out of the back better, but we’ll take the defense.

Boca, mostly solid on the day...

Carlos Bocanegra – 6.5

Boca’s centerback positioning again cost the United States both on the early breakaway that led to Bornstein’s gaffe and then on runs from Elia and Huntelaar later in the game.

Other than that, Boca was strong and acted like the captain today, reprimanding teammates and heading in the single States’ score.

Jonathan Bornstein – 3

An enigma in the mold now of Sacha Kljestan. While the performance will likely not impact Bornstein’s roster stature–will it?–you can’t hide today Mr. Honduras.

We’ll avoid the obvious here as we discussed the mental lapses above, at issue here is Bornstein’s ability to play fearlessly. Fear likely led to the shirt tug and after that foul, Bornstein played like a dog with its tail between its legs the rest of the day, seemingly hung up on his costly error.

Stu Holden – 6.5

If you can’t see that Stu Holden is a special player, then you need a new television and a trip to the optometrist.

Personally speaking, I can’t see Holden’s ceiling. Holden’s time in the EPL has shown he understands the contact nature of the European game. He adapted his play to what the Yanks need and continually worked out of tight jams in possession on the defensive third in his 32 minutes.

Bob, you need to make sure Stu starts when Dempsey gets back. TSG will accept nothing less.

Michael Bradley – 6.5

I know I’m going to take some heat for the next comments, but I stand by them. In short, if Bob Bradley is going to rely on defensive expertise from his central midfield, than Junior needs to improve in a hurry.

Michael Bradley was impressive attacking the 2nd string Dutch defense in the 2nd half. However, that does not excuse him from extremely poor angles and poor tackling that has become his tendency on the USMNT.

I counted at least 8 times in the game that Bradley either failed to effectively pass an offender (verbally or by playing the passing angle) to his central defense, failed to close down on a shooter, or merely failed to make a tackle.

Too often Bradley was just standing around, looking to receive the ball or just watching the play.

Bradley gets a 7.5 on the day for his offense. He gets a 4 for his defense based solely on hustle. I’m inviting debate here and I hope I’m ready for it.

Jose Torres – 4.5

On his biggest day in a US kit, Torres was, as a friend of mine put it, annonymous when not making errors. Torres is supposed to be able to slip passes, but today he slipped them right to the other team.

Provided some linking in midfield and a solid effort on frame, but on the whole more was expected.

Landon Donovan – 4.5

Perhaps a harsh rating here for Lanverton, however as the star of the team, in the absence of Clint Dempsey, you need to find a way to shine for your team. Landon struggled and, unless he picked up another virus, he should have played healthier.

I expect more from our captain when the game doesn’t come to him. He’s got to go grab the game.

Jozy Altidore – 7.5

Conversely to Donovan’s rating here, you may consider this too generous. However, chew on this: Altidore worked the entire 94 minutes of the game, often times with one or two defenders draped all over him. He had enough to still be a contributor against fresh legs for the final 15 minutes.

Well done Jozy.

Robbie Findley – 3.5

Blown off the ball on multiple occasions, Findley wasn’t up to today’s tasks. It’s that simple. He lacks the experience and the know-how and it’s hard to see him guzzling enough Charlie-In-A-Bottle to make a difference in South Africa.

Subs:

Maurice Edu – 6.5

Introduced after halftime, Edu’s presence foremostly allowed Mike Bradley to wander up the field and be effective. Edu also showed his SPL roots with some hard tackling and tracking.

Right now, without current observations of Ricardo Clark, I’d rather have Edu patrolling the deep center of the field. He showed me enough today. Welcome back.

DaMarcus Beasley – 7.5

Someone replaced his firebombed Beamer with a Delorean and DMB channeled 2002.

Strong on the ball and often leading the pack as the US plunged into the attack after the 80th minute. Grab ticket. Punch. South Africa.

Alejandro Bedoya – 7

Again too high? I don’t think so. By the end of the game, Bedoya was the most creative Yank on the field. He consistently made extremely smart offense runs and put himself in position to recieve a pass or draw the defense. However, he also hustled back for his defensive responsibilities.

Began a give-and-go and sold a foul at the edge of the box for a scoring chance.

You need to find room in the plane for this guy too, Coach Bradley.

Eddie Johnson – 4

Gave us an Eddie Johnson effort….which is now known as a few flashes of brilliance in an otherwise malaise-ful display. Thanks for playing EJ.

Heath Pearce – INC.

Didn’t see much of you out there Pearce except a few runs up the pitch.

Clarence Goodson – INC.

Clarence Goodson wants to be Peter Crouch or something. Notice Goodson going strong for the header than Boca put in? How about Goodson’s attempt at an over-the-shoulder kick on corner ball that rattled around. Well done, Goody.

—–

It’s a long wait till May for more national team observations unfortunately.

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47 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Shana on 2010/03/03 at 6:26 PM

    The one thing that irritated me this game (besides the obvious you’ve mentioned) is how EJ would get the ball, and actually stop and look around, put his hands up, and give a confused look. Jozy has made huge strides over the last year and really impressed me today, and I think was let down by both Findley and EJ. I’m hoping that Gooch returns soon, so we can have a Specs/Dolo – Demerit – Gooch – Boca backline. I would take Boca over Bornstein at LB at this point, even if he is a bit slower.

    Reply

  2. No way about BJ EJ. He hasn’t looked like scoring since 2005.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Joe on 2010/03/03 at 7:18 PM

    Agree with most of the rankings.. but you guys failed to mention Bradley won a lot of 50/50 balls in the midfield

    i thought he brought the intensity just fine, although he is prone to some defensive lapses

    Reply

  4. Posted by Ryan R. on 2010/03/03 at 7:24 PM

    I think you’re being very harsh on little Bradley. His defense improved in the second half when he only had to cover half of the center as opposed to dozens of yards in the center because Torres proved to be very adept at watching. While his angles were not great, he was usually scrambling to get back from very far away because Torres gave him no defensive support. I also think that you cannot discount the several times when he was in perfect position to help on the winger who cut inside after being either of our outside backs. It was efficient defending, but considering he was essentially all by his lonesome in the first half, I think it was rather effective because there were multiple times that the ball was quickly played wide by the Dutch after Bradley made them uncomfortable.

    In the second half, with Edu taking over the destroyer role, Bradley was just asked to be active and force Holland to move the ball quickly. While I agree that his angles were poor at times, I blame it more on the poor play next to him by Torres and what Papa Bradley was asking him to do than I do his mistakes. You say that he needs to get better if Papa Bradley is going to continue asking him to do what he has, but what Papa is asking him to do is something that only a handful of central midfielders in the world can do because either 1) They’re not experienced to read the game expertly (a category I think MB falls into) or 2) They’re older and don’t have the legs anymore. Because of that, I don’t really blame Mikey, but look to Papa and ask if he is putting some of his players in the best position to succeed.

    Rambling and poorly organized thoughts over.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Paul on 2010/03/03 at 7:37 PM

    Glad everyone listened to the Cassandra (yours truly)

    http://theshinguardian.com/2010/02/28/march-boarding-delayed-cue-the-odds/#comments:

    Odds that we see Bornstein do something like this (from the Slovakia friendly; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FV1L5yEf2I&feature=related) against the Dutch: 4:1

    3:1: What should be the odds, in an ideal world, that Steve Cherundolo gets in a game at World Cup 2010 before Jonathan Bornstein. As long as Steve can get heal up, I wouldn’t start Bornstein; Boca and Spector should start before Bornstein. He just hasn’t looked good against superior competition, yet everyone has inked him in for a ticket to South Africa.

    3:1 The odds of US fans ruing the fact that Bob did not examine our other defensive talent (i.e. Castillo, Orozco, Gonzalez, ect.) for the World Cup.
    ****

    Forgive me that I did not increase the odds for the Bornstein gaffe. Being severe ruing the fact that Bob did not examine other defensive talent for the World Cup. I have five players who we know can play at the international level–Gooch, DeMerit, ‘Dolo, Boca, Spector; two who have been proclaimed locks but really aren’t–Bornstein and Pearce. Goodson is nice on set pieces, but still does not inspire confidence or fill the holes on flanks. (Bob has not tried out as many defenders as he has mids–http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Us_men%27s_national_soccer_team. Look at that list of midfielders and the list of defensivemen–you see a great assortment of mids, and defensivement that we know have major problems with their games.) So Reyna’s recent comment about depth is applicable for the defense.

    Although the play of the defense has not, in general, been a problem for the team (again, except for when those outside the five play.) There are three issues, nearly repeated every US loss, that sink the usually stellar play of the defense: 1. poor midield play; 2. an inability to keep possession; 3. the over use of the long ball. If we got these issues solved, I would take the “favored five” defensivemen–without any other backups–and advance out of the first round.

    Reply

  6. i agree with everything, although you are way too harsh on Mikey. the kid plays hard, he’s intense. he’s at no fault whatsoever in defensive lapses. He’s there when he’s needed and worry about offense when he’s not.

    couple other thoughts to add:
    Beasley is on the plane AND on the pitch in SA if he can continue this form.
    Same goes (pretty much) for Edu. Less brilliant but still pretty stout.
    Bedoya performed too. haven’t seen much of him so he’s not provenf. but real good showing.
    Bornstein SUCKS (but thanks for 1st in CONCACAF)

    I know you covered that last one pretty well but, really, Borny can’t be on the pitch for us anymore.

    Reply

  7. Posted by i like tuesday on 2010/03/03 at 7:53 PM

    Bornstein pulled Sneijder down, not Robben. Particularly stupid considering he’d already made a good recovering run. Pearce looked far more assured at LB. Then Bradley puts him as CB? What is the weird Bornstein obsession? He has potential but he’s just not ready for this level now. You can rest assured the deflected goal would have been blocked by a real CB.

    Reply

  8. Posted by MichaelN on 2010/03/03 at 7:54 PM

    Hold on now….to be fair – the MLS’ers are off-season and haven’t played competitive club games since October, so we can’t completely disregard that as a reason they looked so terrible today. That being said, they were awful – both Findley and Bornstein drove me crazy. Just saying this might be a bad time to bring up the “quality of MLS” debate

    Reply

    • Posted by MichaelN on 2010/03/03 at 8:01 PM

      To counter myself – I guess the fact that Goodson and Bedoya played fairly well kinda takes the bite out of my point

      Reply

  9. Posted by Kevin U. on 2010/03/03 at 8:14 PM

    The one thing that has really gotten to me over the years of watching soccer is the amount of dives and flopping that some of these European teams do, I’m not talking about when Bornstein grabbed Sneijder but when beasley was tracking down Jong he was barely touched and fell down and beasley would of had a 1on1 with the goalie but those home refs again were quick with the whistle whenever a Dutch player went to the ground

    Reply

    • Posted by chris on 2010/03/03 at 8:20 PM

      Diving is part of the game now, but it’s not the players fault…Since the refs barely ever give yellow cards for diving, players are going to continue to do it. And hey, Jozy is most likely going to be a stud, but he falls over sometimes if someone just looks at him…

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/03 at 9:13 PM

        I don’t necessarily like either, but there’s a big difference between diving (no contact) and then going down after you’ve been “fouled”. Unfortunately, “playing” for a penalty by making sure your trailing leg gets caught in the defensive player’s leg is part of the game today, and IMO, it’s naive to think otherwise. There are times when I think to myself “why didn’t you go down, because if the shoe was on the other foot, you know that they would??” Sad, but true.

        Reply

  10. Posted by KMac on 2010/03/03 at 8:32 PM

    OK – I had to “work” at home on a call while watching the game. I want to see the replay on DVR to confirm my distracted observations. In reading a lot of highly critical comments, I feel a lot of fans wanted a Spain/1st Half of Brazil second time around performance. This team is missing key players and has not been together for a long time. With that said they kept the game respectable. Take away US gifts to the Dutch (shirt pulls and deflections with backs turned, brutal foul on Holden, and our dead ball goal, and it was a 0-0 result.

    So for kicks I will re-post my pre-game analysis comments from Monday 3/1/2010 again (since it got caught in the Shins’spam filter and probably posted too late for anybody to read – my fault for putting in a URL website link for a quote

    That post is in quotes “” after the words “The Older Post”. It is followed by my post match comments and player ratings.

    THE OLDER POST PREGAME:
    “In anticipation of Wednesday’s event, and pieces like this one ( which is excellent Matthew by the way), I did a little intel on our Orange friends. As a tangent of my “SWOT” analysis approach mentioned in other posts, I will present my key points. In reviewing the Dutch 2010 WC qualifcation highlights on YouTube and rifling through as much google-data as I could read, I agree with many of your points.

    1. Threats/Weaknesses: I saw three main tactics demonstrated in the WC qual games of the Oranje.
    First, in addition to the width of play, I would add the threat of “depth”of play, or pushing the attack deep outside with two consequences – Robben et al seem to push wide as well as deep superbly, stretching defensive shape for the cross.
    The second consequence of the wide and deep play was keeping the opposing wing backs “honest” with the wide deep threat, and subsequently cutting into channels as an alternative to going wide and deep. Keeps a defender guessing, eh? This tactic also tended to create open field above the 18 yard mark for the ball to be pulled back to Van der Vaart/Van Bommel/Sneijder et all if given more than a yard or two of space to collect and strike, or strike first time, for a shot.

    The third troubling area looked to be good dead ball service (corners and free kicks) and successful arial header attacks. We all know about the speed/positioning issues in the back 4 on our side, so they will need to keep shape and not get caught exposed. It will be interesting to see how some of our players who are prone to early yellow/red cards will play against this challenge. We all know how it is to play a man down at least one too many times.

    Strengths/Opportunities: beyond relying only the quick counter, I am looking for a breakout game from Michael Bradely and Edu in the middle of the park, and counting on LD and Iceman to frustrate, press, and counter the Dutch wingers/wide mids on “D” and link with Jozy and Forward x (EJ? Findley) in smart ways. How well we fight for and control the ball will be the simple harbinger of what kind of a day we are in for on Wed.

    X-Factors – The Netherlands last three “friendlies” were all 0-0 ties with Paraguay, Italy, and Australia. Hmmm. However, in qualifiers they scored at least 2-4 goals at home v competition (albeit the 4 was v Macedonia). It will be interesting to see how they approach this, as a “friendly”, or more qualifier-like! And we are playing at Amsterdam. Can the US play above the typical performances away in Europe now that a majority of our guys are all playing in these types environments? That’s all for now, and probably too much. : )

    It will be interesting to see how the offensive/defensive dynamic of both squads will interact over the run of play.
    Initially (1st 5 -15 minuntes), will they (NED) sit back initially and counter, or hold the ball and test us for openings over time? Or attack out of the gate.
    Interesting comments by Ooijer on fifa’s site – “expect compact defense…looking for ways to win, even when not playing well”

    [deleted url that put me in SPAMLAND on ShinGuardian documenting quote, available upon request]

    I think a lot will depend which face and attitude our guys show (Confed Cup ala Egypt/Spain/Brazil games – strong, smart pressure with fair to good possession, or, the more passive Confed Cup half one look[ala first Brazil and Italy games).
    So, at a minimum I hope for (1. No early goals, or worse Reds or double yellows. 2. hustle and some possession, along with some attacking mentality 3. Hold the shape in the back four. 4. Close space in the defensive third for the inevitable shots from the top of the 18-25yrds out.
    END OF OLDER POST

    Post Match Comments and Player Ratings:
    Threats/Weaknesses post evaluation:
    1. Factor – Netherlands skilled width and depth of play. Held to a dull roar, compared to qualifier opponents. Not bad, but still exploited.
    2. Using wing play to keep defenders honest and cut to channels in the interior. Stars and stripes did an ok job not getting burned here (exception Bornstein and the shirt tug).
    3. Dead ball service. We contained the Oranje on this one – well done.
    Strengths/Opportunities:
    -Quick counter did not happen often (man, I miss Chuck D! – Get well soon, my man!)
    -Break out game from Bradley and Edu in the middle of the park – not quite how it worked out, but solid performances from both, doing the ugly things that untrained eyes don’t see. Did any make plays like Sneijder? – hell no, different skill set completely. Jr. had to cover in a defensive role paired with Torres in the first half. I like Torres, but he is not everything all the posters swear he would be on offense, albeit the only good shot in th first half. Defensively, not so good.
    Like when Edu came on – changed the complexion.

    Holden looked good until he got prison raped. Donovan must still have the flu. Or, perhaps, like Dempsey, once getting a taste of the Premiership style of play from 10 other players, has trouble linking with a quite different brand of side in the USMNT? Just my theory, but it might be frustrating – but he should have shown more unless this was Swine Flu II like Azteca. He has amazed me (I have seen every Everton game but Sporting Lis). I hope he is saving it for the CUP!
    X-factors:
    Point 1 – In general, I thought the team held shape pretty well, evaded the previously ubiquitous early goal and bad cards (yellows and reds!),
    Point 2 – Hustle and possesion and attacking mentality. I’d give us a 6, a 6, and 4 out of ten on those for the first 80 or so. 7′s for the last 10 minutes. Can we do better than that with the team we had today?
    Point 3 – hold the shape of the back 4 – I’ve seen worse efforts by the red white and blue on many occasions – that isn’t what lost us the game. Nice work here in general
    Point 4 – Close the space above the 18 to limit the shots…not bad here either…

    My Review of the stats and commnets:
    USA/NED
    Shots: 8 / 10 – not a very big delta here (take away the penalty and deflection by JB and we’re at a draw)
    Shots on Goal: 3 / 6 – clearly this separated the two teams a bit
    Saves: 4 / 2 – go Timmy
    Corner Kicks: 4 / 3 – run of play more even than accounts by this metric
    Fouls: 17 / 17
    Offside: 1 / 4

    Reply

  11. Posted by Hercules on 2010/03/03 at 9:02 PM

    Ok. after watching this game and the last two against Honduras and El Salvador, this is what I currently want to see for the WC.

    Altidore
    Dempsey
    Donovan Holden/Beasley
    Bradley Edu
    Boca/Pearce Demerit Gooch/Boca Spector/’Dolo
    Howard

    Subs: Beasley/Holden, Ching, Bedoya, Clark, Guzan, ‘Dolo/Specter/Pearce

    The Rest: Pearce/’Dolo/Adu, Hahnemann, Johnson, Bornstein, Goodson, Davies/Johnson/Gaven

    Explaination of the “/” : Listed in order of preference, dependent on injury/form/opponent. For example, I would prefer Holden on the flank vs. Beasley, but Beasley is the first alternate depending on how bad Holden’s injury is. And in case Gooch does not make it back 100%, then slide Boca inside and put Pearce on the wing. The order that they are listed in the subs/the rest is of no significance. I’m sure that I missed someone. Comments wanted! :)

    Reply

  12. Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/03 at 9:22 PM

    Well without going into great detail, I know who what I want in SA.

    Howard
    Specs-JD-Gooch-Boca
    Holden-Edu-Donovan-Beasley
    Deuce-JZA

    Now I repeat this is not going into great detail, but I want to explain a bit. I ditched my diamond midfield because I think it will work itself out better like this. Player tendencies will take over and it will be more natural.

    I was assuming… Nothing serious with Holden,Gooch and Deuce recover, CD9 doesn’t.

    I don’t know why I assumed those though because CD9 is farther along than gooch.

    Reply

  13. Posted by Bob on 2010/03/03 at 9:23 PM

    After watching some highlights and a little bit of replay, I have 3 thoughts that stand out:
    1. DeMerit just looks like a bad ass when protecting Timmy. He just has that tough guy look that says don’t mess with my goal keeper.
    2. Howard’s new kit is one of the best I’ve seen for a goal keeper. So much better than Big Bird yellow or Oscar lime green. He definitely looked cool back there.
    3. Donovan looks tired. I think the EPL season plus the 2 Europa games have taken a toll. He seems ready to head back to Manhattan Beach (?) and take in the sun, and waves, and girls.

    Although I was pretty angry with our effort earlier in the day, I have to remind myself that we were down 6 players before the game began. We are not that bad obviously and guys like Davies (yes, I do think he will be back), Gooch, and Dempsey makes us a very dangerous team.

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  14. Posted by Mark T on 2010/03/03 at 10:24 PM

    Jozy’s nutmeg and blast that got turned aside.

    Reply

  15. Ok, got a chance to watch the match after work without knowing the score, and as a whole I really can’t be too unhappy. I don’t want to restate too much that’s already been well said, so just a few points.

    Findley isn’t ready – I havent seen anything from him recently that showed me he was ready for a USMNT role and this match really confirmed it. I thought he looked lost against El Salvador and he looked about the same here. He’s still young and has shown he can score in MLS, I’d love to see him move to Europe next season and start to develop more as a player.

    Torres isn’t ready – I’ve been a fan of what Torres has done in other matches but he really didn’t have an impact here and we looked much better in central midfield when Edu came in. I think he’s a future star but he’s just not ready yet.

    We need another striker option – Donovan moving into the center of the pitch really changed our game, even as a withdrawn striker he gave us a totally different feel going forward (also helped by the surprisingly stong play of Bedoya). I’d like to see Ching up there with Jozy, at this point I think he’s the best option we have. He plays well off another striker and I think he and Jozy could create a lot of chances for each other and those around them. Ching also gives us added possession in the offensive third. But bottom line, c’mon Charlie!

    Holden is class – if Dempsey and CD9 are match fit then I don’t know where Stu slots in, but we’ve got to get him on the pitch. He’s maturing immensely as a player and he’ll be one of our stars in 2014, and he can definitely have an impact at least as a supersub this time around.

    Reply

  16. Posted by Swa on 2010/03/03 at 11:22 PM

    I think the rating are very fair but something that’s been overlooked a lot (based on Findley’s inability to latch on to them) was Jozy’s hold-up play. I can count more than a handful of times when he was able to slow it down and dish off for Findley, who was blown offsides twice and got beat to the ball by a backliner another time. I really think that Charlie or Deuce would have created a legitimate scoring chance off of one or more of those passes but Findley just wasn’t up to the task. Then a few times when nobody was able to support him with a run Jozy received a pass, took a hit from a defender, sold it a little and got us a free kick. I believe one of these led to the goal and another was the Bradley free kick from 20 yards out.

    Piggybacking on some Holden comments I think if he takes both of the 20 yard freekicks he puts one of them in the back of the net. Almost a certainty. As for his injury, if any American player against any opponent in any stadium in any tournament or situation in the world makes that tackle they are sent off in a heartbeat. I don’t see how that was any cleaner than any of the three reds we received in the Confed Cup. Personally I saw legitimate intent to injure. I really hope he’s ok because as it’s been said right here, he is a serious asset.

    My final thoughts go to the ‘Gers. Once Beasley got into the flow of the match and got over his heavy foot he showed obviously that he deserves another shot. His pace created the problems that Charlie’s does and Findley’s should. Visions of DaBeasKnees and CD9 on the same side of the pitch cris-crossing and overlapping and making defenders’ heads spin are going to keep me up at night. Even if it’s just for the final 30 minutes. And Edu is exactly what we need in midfield. Always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Made strong tackles, released Bradley to engage in the offense and was right there when a ball squirted out of a scrum to rip a shot that looked to be just blocked by a desperation lunge. Much like his Old Firm winner…Right place, right time.

    Reply

  17. Posted by Gino on 2010/03/03 at 11:35 PM

    I nodded off a couple of times watching the game but to be fair, I think a few too many Firehouse beers last night had something to do with it. I’m glad Bornstein got exposed by the Dutch today. Maybe Bob will finally consider either Spector or Bocanegra at LB (assuming Gooch fully recovers). DMB looked like a younger version of himself. Maybe he makes the squad after all. I’m starting to see why TSG is so enamored of Bedoya. He just seems to make things happen. Rogers should be worried about his plane ticket. Don’t give up on Torres just yet, particularly if Benny’s ankle doesn’t heal in time. If Holden’s injury isn’t severe, I’d like to see him start at RM and push Dempsey or maybe even Donovan further up the pitch. We need their skills and flair to give Jozy some support. All talk of Findley and Johnson as World Cup options should finally be put to a rest.

    Reply

  18. Posted by Dave on 2010/03/03 at 11:54 PM

    Finally got to watch my recording. My observations: Paco Torres just may not have the physical goods to play against top teams. I think a lot of his defensive weakness came simply because he doesn’t have the speed to cover the amount of ground necessary at this level.
    Maurice Edu was better on the ball than I expected, covered a lot of ground defensively. I think this game might have been different had he started.
    Landon Donovan was marked out of the game.
    Stu Holden looked very good.
    Spector generally did a good job defensively at right back. But, I can’t understand why there was no viable RB sub available.
    Jozy has improved a lot, getting some games sure helps. Still seems tired at times.
    Bedoya a pleasant surprise.
    Moving Bornstein to central defender with Goodson on the bench may be the most inexplicable tactical move I’ve ever seen. The only complaint I would have had about Coach Bradley before is that he’s sometimes too slow to pull the trigger on subs.
    Long balls out of the back: think about the players we have in the back. Do you really want those guys to make a lot of short passes back there? Better to lose the ball in our attacking third. That said, the team did seem a little better in that department early on, particularly Demerit, Holden, Spector and Bradley combining.
    Harkes complaining about clearly deserved fouls called on US players may drive me back to Univisión networks. That said, the ref bought too many dives and was too reluctant to show cards.

    Reply

    • Posted by Mark T on 2010/03/04 at 12:35 AM

      Dave, the issue I saw with the long balls was that the midfielders and defense seemed to think the US had a Ching or Casey as they launched balls towards Findley and Altidore. Jozy’s target forward abilities have improved but he still is more suited to receive and hold off shorter (lower) passes and not jump balls.

      Reply

  19. Posted by kaya on 2010/03/04 at 12:20 AM

    I think espn360 deserves some sort of award for putting all the friendlies online. Maybe the golden shinguard could motivate them to provide more such coverage?
    I haven’t gotten around to checking out the england/egypt game yet, but I watched the spain vs france game. (stick to the first half of that one, btw.) Jeez was that game a different animal. As I watched Evra calmly head a speculative pass away from Villa’s slashing run, nodding it into his own path and turning it into a high-percentage pass that resulted in a nice offensive setup, I thought to myself “gee, I wish we had a left back that could do that.”

    Reply

  20. Posted by Swa on 2010/03/04 at 1:15 AM

    I think everyone will enjoy this tidbit from the espn player ratings for tonight courtesy of our favorite columnist, Leander Shaerlaeckens:

    “M, Michael Bradley, 6.5 — Bradley really played two games. Defensively, he was instrumental in controlling the center of the field and keeping Sneijder from getting into a rhythm. Offensively, he had an off day, with pass after pass finding nothing but an opponent. ”

    Additionally over at goal.com Sneijder received a 9 and MotM, so something tells me he was in some sort of rhythm.

    Were we all watching the same game?

    Reply

  21. Posted by Jim from NC on 2010/03/04 at 5:18 AM

    What’s the rating for coach sweatpants? I know you quoted Bradley about “They need to start attacking early in the game”, but the strategy I saw was boot it long to Jozy of Robbie. We completely skipped the midfield. I know we expected more from Donovan, but look at the number of balls played to him. Most of the time the defense cleared the ball long or never even looked to the midfield before bashing it up route 1. I applaud sweatpants for giving Torres a try but if the strategy is to bypass him then why bother. I am huge fan of Benny also but I am glad he was not here today because he would have been bypassed also and made to look bad. I would give the coach a 4 for poor startegyin the first half. This strategy happens too, occuring in most road games even in CONCACAF.

    Reply

  22. Stu out 6 weeks broken fibula :(

    Reply

  23. Posted by Eric on 2010/03/04 at 6:49 AM

    This team is CD9 short of making a good run. He needs to get heal up and get on the pitch. Bornstien just needs to move to Honduras. Its hard to believe that we have no other options on D. Every time I see him or Marvel in the starting 11 I cringe. The Stu news really sucks. We cannot seem to get a break in the last 6 months.

    Reply

  24. Posted by Scott on 2010/03/04 at 7:29 AM

    Due to some undeserved gift from God, my sound went off on cable during the game so was spared Harkes’….whatever Harkes does and JP’s inciteful observations. I got to just watch the game w/o that confused look on my face.
    Observations: The Dutch don’t look like they have players to execute their plan. Roles looked unclear and overall not an impressive effort. As usual, massive amount of paper talent but they just don’t seem to play together well.
    Liked:
    Altidore- tremendously improved holdup play over just last summer. Can tell he really gets his role now. He looks dangerous on 75% of his touches. Was severely handicapped by Findley’s inability to perform at this level. A Davies type of intelligent runner really cnaoes make this team dangerous.
    Donovan- Saw comments that he looked bad/tired. Disagree. They forced the ball away from him much of the game and he only had 1 fwd to play with plus the lack of distribution from Torres/MB left him watching but did a lot of chasing.
    Dis:
    Coach- you have 5 subs in a friendly unless I’m wrong. Use them wisely.
    US: Bradley-I’ve taken time to watch MB’s Bundes games over the last month or so because I don’t understand what his old man keeps seeing that I/we don’t. And was amazed to find that: 1) he plays lazy D especially after 60 mins in every game he plays 2) he gives up significant unforced turnovers 3) he’s more engaged when he’s in the mid to last 3rd of the field. Less TO’s, sharper passes and more energy.
    Although he flashes well offensively his constant turnovers most often negate those flashes and his tendency to Ole defend in critical areas is mind boggling for someone in that role. Watch the Huntelaar/Bornstein goal again slowly and you’ll recognize the pattern. He gets beat and turns and watches (WATCHES!) Huntelaar receive the ball, settle it and then shoot. He’s less than 3 yds away and just kind of watches. We’ve seen that on at least 5-10 USMNT goals over the last few years. He exposes the defenders instead of covering them. But that’s the guy in our Reyna role for the WC!
    How many of you have had that thought over the last month or so…Claudio Claudio wherefore art thou Claudio…
    Bornstein: How many of you had shocked looks on your faces that he committed a dumb soccer play in a key area of the field. Really how many? I understand that they are thin at LB but he has been that same player in every outing I’ve seen him in. Doesn’t play like he understands the game around him. Great point in other posting that the “coach” has failed his team by not looking at more LB candidates in qualifying. Bornstein just doesn’t have the soccer sense for this level.
    It’s scary to think that based on yesterdays showing we are putting any and all hope to even compete at this WC on Davies, Demps and Gooch returning and contributing at a similar level to Confed Cup. That’s a lot of wishing and hoping.

    Reply

  25. Posted by Sam on 2010/03/04 at 7:46 AM

    Torres seemed to be playing talk-to-the-referee instead of soccer.

    However he has to be the most traditionally CONCACAF player on our squad. Disrupting the game, getting yellow cards for cussing out the ref. Aside from taking the first free kick of the game way too quickly he had a good match for his playing style. His time in the Mexican league showed and he was truly a wildcard for better or worse.

    There are a lot of things that irk me about other countries in our conference. And there are lots of things that irk me about the European teams play. However, when we do them it’s funny how I don’t seem to mind so much.

    Reply

  26. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 9:18 AM

    For England, it is hard too draw too many conclusions from a team that is missing 3 starters. But the one thing that is blindingly obvious is you have to pray for is that Davies and Dempsey get fit – the replacements just aren’t good enough. This is evidenced by the fact that you only got behind the Dutch once and (I think) you failed to register an attempt on target until Bocanegra scored – really late on. JFT had a good attempt from distance though.

    The other thing I thought was that the USA were far too slow to get going, and were too static to begin with – Collectively, I felt that you stood off them too much and gave them too much time on the ball. I understand the Dutch are a good passing team, but if you are a USA fan, that must’ve been pretty worrying and traumatic to watch. I was actually quite surprised that it took the Dutch so long to score to be honest. Howard was solid and assured as usual. I didn’t see too many plus points for the USA’s performance – if one didn’t watch the game and saw the scoreline, they’d probably think that it wasn’t that bad, losing to the 3rd ranked team in the world, but the reality was the the Dutch beat you at a canter. One thing I didn’t understand is Bradley’s decision to change formation from 4 to 3 in midfield when you were getting overrun. Very confusing, and I would like to hear his rationale for that one. Maybe I missed something? Perhaps a TSG commentator could explain?

    A lot has been said about Bornstein’s performance, so I won’t go into that. But what I will say is that he obviously won’t be on the plane to South Africa. So, the question remains, who starts at left back for USA? Bocanegra seems the sensible, and perhaps, the only realistic candidate. From an England point of view this is good news – mainly because he plays centre back for Rennes, so he has to switch his mindset positionally – nevermind that he is not the quickest of players: I cannot see him bombing up your left wing to support the offense, or overlap the midfield, which is good because Brown is a liability at right back (see previous comment about a centre back playing as full back).

    Reply

    • Posted by Matt B on 2010/03/04 at 9:51 AM

      Bocanegra actually plays left back at Rennes, but your points about his weaknesses there are definitely valid. That is why I would like to see Spector on the left at some point, with Cherundolo on the right

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 10:08 AM

        Really? I stand corrected – I didn’t know that… thanks for the correction.

        I would be inclined to leave Spector on the right. He is naturally right footed, no? I think he has a decent delievery into the box… possibly more important now since Holden is injured.

        Reply

    • Posted by Dylan on 2010/03/04 at 10:06 AM

      Well if we are going to use your logic that you can’t draw conclusions about England when they are missing 3 starters, than its safe to say you can’t draw conclusions about the U.S. while they are missing 4. But I think you can make alot of conclusions about both. Bornstien has played his way out of the starting line-up at least. If not off of the plane. Bedoya really made his case, and now with Holden hurt he really steps in as a real option. Beasley back on the plane and neither EJ or Findley did anything to help themselves in face I thought EJ played terrible. Goodson has won me over, he can come. But Demerit Gooch is the pairing we should see. Edu played great, and should have taken over the DM role.

      Reply

      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 10:10 AM

        Dylan, I was talking about the USA’s performance from my (English) point of view. I never talked about the England game because this isn’t the right post. Wow. you’re really defensive, aren’t you?!

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 10:14 AM

          “Bornstien has played his way out of the starting line-up at least. If not off of the plane.”

          I would like to add that it is a blessing in disguise, IMO. Just imagine if he had a decent game and Bradley picked him on 12th June and then gave *that* performance?

          So in a perverted sort of way, it is a positive!

          Reply

        • Posted by Dylan on 2010/03/04 at 10:30 AM

          It’s tough not to be defensive after that sort of game, sorry for the confusion. But your right, its absolutely a blessing but not so much in disguise, Bornstien really played badly and its not the first time, I think alot of people were hoping he would solidify the LB spot but alas its best to let this one go.

          Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 10:41 AM

          (Twisting my ‘tache and stroking my lap cat) I was hoping he had a solid game so that Bradley would pick him and Lennon / Walcott or SWP could terrorise him!! Sorry…

          Reply

        • Unfortunately George, Bornstein has had a number of these kind of games but he still got the start last night. He’ll probably start against England. I mean, Bob still trusted him enough to slide him into CB! Insane really.

          Reply

  27. Posted by DanPA on 2010/03/04 at 9:41 AM

    I want to echo and expand on some of the comments on M. Bradley’s performance: His biggest negative was the volume of standing around he did, especially in the defensive – middle parts of the field.

    Defensively, I think he generally reacts very well to loose balls and when the other teams attacker is dribbling at him, this game included. But turns into a ball-watcher when the attack is coming from quick passes (see his non-reaction on the Huntleear goal and when he + Torres got caught watching Sneijder run around them to receive the ball on the penalty).

    Offensively, he brought adequate distribution from deeper positions, but was at his best closer the goal. However, the biggest negative I saw out of him offensively, was how much he stood around when our defenders or the other central midfielder had the ball in our half or middle of the field. He was, too often, not an option to keep possession. He should be moving into a good position to receive a pass and help link the defenders to our outside midfielders and strikers. He really didn’t do much distributing unless he tracked back to the defenders collected the ball as the deeper positioned central mid.

    My impression of M. Bradley from his USMNT games (I have not seen him play for M’bach) is that he reacts very well, but has very limited vision to get into the right position unless the play comes to him.

    Is this nitpicky? Maybe, but I think he should be held to higher expectations because he has been one of the few ‘untouchables’ in Pop’s 1st team roster.

    Reply

    • Posted by Scott on 2010/03/04 at 11:02 AM

      Spot on. He seems to play like a striker in that role ie choosing your runs and losing interest when the ball isn’t near him. I was shocked at how little he effort he makes to be available for the ball in a similar role w M Gbach.

      I think that Reyna is the benchmark for the CAM role in US MNT and internationally: 1) Ball winner 2) possession holder 3) attack starter providing quick, incisive passes to initiate counterattack 4) offensive complement. That Guy needs to have those attributes in order to drive this system. My concern, and the concern of many USMNT fans, is that he doesn’t possess enough of those skills to have been gifted with the job.

      Reply

  28. Posted by Doug on 2010/03/05 at 11:04 AM

    Great call on Jozy: I thought he was the only one who showed real confidence on the ball. To do as much as he did with so little help earns the MotM nod. He was holding well, turning well, creating his own shot, and went 90+ without fading.
    I think Jr Sweatpants closes the channels well and attacks when he gets a sniff of 50/50, but doesn’t mark threatening runs at all. He passes them off to a D which is fine around the center circle, but not around your box. Then once play is behind him he seems to take a moment to see if the fans behind the goal are enjoying the game as much as he is before he steps back in.
    Torres was unlucky to be called into his role. He was never going to see the ball in his preferred manner (running at goal with the threat of the pass). Poor guy was so at sea on D that he looked more like Captain Stubing than the El Gringo were all waiting to see.
    Had Bobbo swapped Edu in (at LDM) for FINDLEY and pushed Torres forward (into CAM or withdrawn forward) we might have held a familiar shape around the mid and given Torres something to do on the ball. At least he can keep his head up in traffic unlike Eddie “what-do-I-do-now” Johnson.

    Reply

  29. [...] In a game where the United States’ offense sat dormant for nearly 70 minutes, Altidore’s work rate was impressive as at least one and many times two defenders were draped on Jozy as he was receiving service or attempting to create an opportunity. Big Jeezy earns TSG’s Golden Shinguard for best performance. [...]

    Reply

  30. [...] Bob Bradley–as we discussed in our game review March 3rd–employed an effective 4-2-3-1 formation–using Landon (of all players) in the middle hub [...]

    Reply

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