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