In a tune-up test where the USMNT succumbed 4-2 to the Czech Republic, this may have been the first affair where I didn’t mind the score or maybe the final tally didn’t register with me.
The USMNT came out with a “developmental” roster against their 2006 group stage foils and, as we mentioned in the preview, were looking to prove two things….either that they were fit (Gooch, Stu) or that they belonged (Goodson, Torres).
It was the customary US playbook as the Yanks’ thrust the attack up the right side when they had the momentum and covered over the left flank.
How major a focus was this?
At one point, for about 2 minutes (9th min or so) I watched DaMarcus Beasley run up-and-down the field…in the central midfield!
At the turn of the half and upon a 1-1 deadlock, the USMNT switched up the pieces and started to find some joy in the attack, but as players digressed to unfamiliar plots on the field–Edu to the central defense and Stu Holden inside–the US broke down and eventually found themselves without answers to Czech attacking questions.
Maurice Edu puts the Yanks ahead.
Let’s get to our customary review:
TSG: What We Were Looking For…
TSG: What We Were Looking For…
• How’s Gooch?
First, as per usual, we’ll invoke the now-famous TSG axiom: “You can’t look at observations in isolation. You have to look at the whole body of work.”
Well, none of us have seen Gooch’s body of work this year, limited as it may be.
Here’s a few telling things about this game. Bob Bradley put Onyewu on the left side, away from the pressure and away from where the US was generating that attack. In essence, since this was a friendly, Coach USA kept the kids gloves on.
Second, Gooch looked tentative attacking attackers and pursuing them as well. I think everyone saw this.
Third, the primary season you need the Milan big man in South Africa? Set pieces. Onyewu was beat for one that directly led to the 1st Czech goal and a 2nd that indirectly–a few bounces removed–led to the 3rd Czech goal.
The label on this game for Gooch is still out based upon how he performs against Turkey and Australia. If Gooch bounces back against Turkey, then the label on this games is “Just getting used to full speed.” If Onyewu shows weakly in the next two then the label is, “Not ready yet.”
Interlude: I’ve been having a spirited debate with our goalkeeper on our club team, who obviously as a goalie has a contrasting point-of-view on the first goal against the US that I’ll add in here:
“Watch the replay. I’m not saying Gooch made a great play. He didn’t, but it was a tough play.
He’s backpeddling, Sivok’s coming forward full speed, and he get’s beat. But it wasn’t exactly a brilliant strike
and Onyewu’s presence had something to do with that.
Watch #22 (Stu Holden). The ball goes over the top. He turns. Watches it sail by. Stands still.
Stands more. Watches. <Says something I’m not typing in here>
Then watches the ball scoot just inside the left post.
<In capital letters> The (expletive) post he should have gone to the second the ball switches field over his head.
My response: You’re a goalie. Isn’t that Guzan’s fault. Wasn’t he guarding someone?
Still valid contention.
• Who’s going where on the backline?
This is the question that I was left with this evening. First, I’ll address Heath Pearce’s play in the “Player Ratings” section.
As of this evening, I can see Bob Bradley–even with Onyewu et all still ailing–taking only seven true defenders in the back.
I think the reason you saw Jonathan Bornstein on the left side was to give him more reps. If you legitimately thought Heath Pearce had a shot, well then he would have been your starter this evening.
Right now, you’re looking at a core, fit group of Boca (we think), DeMerit (we think), Dolo, Spector, Goodson and, yes, Bornstein. Beyond that you’ve got Specs and Edu able to move to the middle in an emergency and maybe Rogers to the back left.
• Am I a winger, a central mid, both, or does it matter?
Well, it turns out this wasn’t the needed question. What did we learn in the midfield tonight?
» Stu Holden is class, but needs some reps to get all his fitness back
» Beasley flashed his speed…and will be flashing his passport.
» Edu is effective going forward in addition to his stout defense
» Torres has risen to the challenge; he’s on the plane.
» Sacha Kljestan most likely is not. Robbie Rogers I’ll reserve judgment on and Ale Bedoya didn’t get the chance we hoped for (is that good or bad?)
• The 4-4-2 might means you, Mr. Gomez….or you Mr. Buddle….but really probably means Robbie Findley.
The most fascinating game review tonight was, of course, up top. TSG’s main camp question of where Edson Buddle is thought to play was finally answered.
Buddle started up on the top right where the States’ kept stuffing the attack and performed very well. There was one particular moment at I believe the 14th minute where Buddle had the speed to challenge for a ball and the heft not to get knocked over by the better positioned wing defender. That play–even though the States lost the ball out of bounds was important to me.
Buddle was effective in movement and seemed to, well, remember his Bradley playbook as the half went on. Further, on at least two occasions and perhaps outside that playbook, Buddle tracked back and made two critical clearances of balls played into the defensive third.
Eddie Johnson didn’t fare nearly as well but in fairness he was on the little-used left side. The crowd did get treated to the customary “Oh no he’s offsides EJ call.”
In the 2nd, we saw a rejuvenated Brian Ching who with yet another precise pass–a cheeky backheel to Gomez–displayed his breadth of ability as a target man.
…and that brings us to Magic Gomez. Gomez carries himself the way every player you hope does. He’s passionate, invigorated and you can see the focus in his eyes. However, contrary to Alexi Lalas’ proclamations, two things I picked up on suggest he’s not a lock just yet.
1st, Gomez got knocked off the ball with his back to the goal. That’s okay since it’s not his forte, but you would have liked to see him show a little bit of strength there.
Second, in a one-on-one situation midway through the 2nd, Gomez lacked any sense of creativity and tried unsuccessfully to get some space on his dominant right foot.
I think he’s going to be a 3am decision Wednesday morning for Bob between Robbie Findley and Herculez Gomez for the speed striker role.
• Best Play Of The Game:
(Holden to Goodson to Gomez). On a Holden cross, I’ll let Shaun describe the rest:
66:00 – GOOOOOOAL GOMEZ – From a deep corner, Goodson gets up high and sends a header across the goal that Gomez easily heads in. That was a a nice of goal of another set piece. Czech Republic 2 – US 2
Thanks Shaun. A goal that lends itself to a little bit of background. Last year’s story, Stu Holden, puts it in play to the revelation of the Gold Cup, Clarence Goodson, who deposits it over the top to this year’s feel-good story, Herculez Gomez, who earns his keep. Well done.
• Most Unheralded Play Of The Game
(Clarence Goodson, 35th minute or so…)
Clarence Goodson may have been whistled on the play, but when a threatening ball was played deep into the left corner beyond an advanced Bornstein and a beaten Onyewu, it was the IK Start starter who galloped over from his left central home base to stand up the attacker on an island. Goodson got flagged, but clearly shouldn’t have on the play.
• Golden Shinguard
With lite apologies to Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez and heavy apologies to Maurice Edu and Steve Cherundolo, it was Clarence Goodson to was singled out by Bob Bradley immediately at the close of the game for stellar play.
You know what…I’ll just copy our game review from the match against Honduras last year in the Gold Cup on Goodson:
D: Clarence Goodson – 8
Quickly dealing himself into discussion in the US’s now crowded center back pecking order. Absolutely unfailing in his technical game, Goodson showed himself a threat on set pieces by scoring the first goal on a Stu Holden cross to end the 1st half. Dare I say the U.S. is best served sending Boca out wide with the depth we might have in the middle.
Sure, Goodson could have done a tad better on the third CR goal–and frankly scrums at this feet are known weakness of his–but behind that Goodson was stalwart in defense, proactively moving up the pitch when the offense was on his side as well as covering over the other half of the field and a true, non-hyperbolic monster in the box.
One fun fact that entered my mind in the game, take a look at Boca’s goal against Holland on March 3rd and right behind in the still frame as Boca exploded on the ball….is Clarence Goodson, waiting to do the same.
Brad Guzan – 6
I was surprised that Hahnemann didn’t get the start here today or even some relief in the 2nd half. If there is no Hahnemann appearance in Philly, well then #2 works for Guzan.
Guzan really couldn’t be blamed on any of the goals. Calmer than Howard, Guzan came out on a cross in the first to make a fabulous punch save, but in the 2nd maybe could have directed traffic in front of him a little bit better.
Steve Cherundolo – 7
Got beat once all day on a nifty nutmeg in the 2nd half. Cherundolo showed fresh legs in the first and was extremely active on offensive. In the 2nd Dolo–probably due to a little fatigue–was a little reluctant to come forward, but still had some solid forays.
Dolo was the captain of course and it’s great to see him in that role.
Clarence Goodson – 7.5
We discussed Goodson above. Technically sound and extremely strong going forward. While the experienced starters have some knocks and might be causing some headaches, Goodson seems more than capable to fill in and may merit factoring into the starter discussion.
Oguchi Onyewu – 4
Gooch’s strength was his weakness tonight. I’m not sure what I expected from Onyewu on the evening. Two more performances of getting beaten in the air and showing tentativeness in 1-on-1 defending and I’ll be worried. Let’s hope for a better showing Saturday.
Jonathan Bornstein – 5
Conversely, Jonathan Bornstein is as fit as a fiddle. Bornstein still seems to hesitate, more than slightly, in his decision-making and then he puts himself in the position of recovering instead of defending. Didn’t really have the opportunity to go forward in the 1st half–that would have been nice to see.
A back-up and back-up alone right now.
Stu Holden – 6
Stu’s class. And I’ll say this, I don’t think I’ve seen as calm an American on the ball since Claudio Reyna when he was on form. I am never, no matter where Holden is, worried when the ball is at his feet.
Holden’s going to play the role of tucked in right midfielder to the tee in South Africa. And his fitness will return shortly.
Maurice Edu – 7, Jose Franciso Torres 6.75
I’m coupling the starting midfielder ratings this evening.
Dare I say the Hartford duo looked “seasoned” together. Bob Bradley brought Edu up the pitch into the offense and allowed Torres to play weakside holder and distribution hub. Torres’ positioning was vastly improved from Holland and he is capable in defense.
Edu was energetic on offense and defense. And of course undeniable in the box I’ll say it again….wait hold this thought until….
DaMarcus Beasley – 6.5
….I love players out of the SPL. That’s a league where defense below the kneecaps is just nasty. It’s a tough league. And both Edu and Beasley are better for it.
Not much was asked of Beasley tonight, but he flashed some speed, some creativity, and even tracked back. I don’t think it was a coincidence that Beasley was used in the Landon Donovan role this evening. That’s his role in South Africa.
Edson Buddle – 6.75
I liked Buddle more than others. I think folks have to remember that Buddle plays a lone striker role with the Galaxy. He’s customary to roaming where he likes and not fitting into a two-striker set. Buddle’s was deployed in the holding role, but like we’ve said before, made himself available and moved to create space on the pitch. I liked his game a lot tonight.
Showed some toughness taking a knock to the lip on the 1st US goal and coming back and playing just as strong. He’s ready for John Terry….maybe…
Eddie Johnson – Inc
Herculez “Magic” Gomez – 6.75
I loved the way Gomez–who I had not seen in live action in some time–carried himself on the pitch.
He was energetic and positive (we’ll talk about the antithesis shortly) and moved on the free side very well. My two criticism above remain and that is taking a hit and one-on-one creativity. Other than that netted a goal and made himself available. Findley vs. Gomez to the wire?
Brian Ching – 6.5
World Cup experience to go with industry, distribution know-how and workmanship up top. Well played.
Sacha Kljestan – 3.5
Did not represent the US well tonight. Acted like the decision on his next game (@DC United) was already made. Lost his man who scored on the rebound on the 3rd goal.
Robbie Rogers – 5
Dear Mr. Rogers:
At the top level, you have a great first step, but not a great 2nd and 3rd. Dish the ball!
Everyone at TSG except Antonio
A typical Robbie Rogers game, blasted a shot that was well saved or just missed (see Honduras, HDC, January), had some good moves, but didn’t finish because he tried to do so much.
As of this evening though, and with leftback unsettled, he’s still in the mix until tomorrow.
Heath Pearce – 3
Now we saw the other side of Pearce. The Yanks’ king of inconsistency. A stellar El Sal performance was followed by average March mop-up duty in Amsterdamn and then a complete clunker tonight. Two horrendous mental mistakes on defense.
One of Bob Bradley’s favorite things to watch is how a player attempts to win back a ball after he’s lost it. I’m sure right after that on Bob Bradley’s observation points is how a player carries himself
Quite simpley, Pearce has terrible body language–and seems to get in his own head–when he’s not functioning well. He needs a mentor to help him through this middle part of his career.
He’s got the skill; he just needs a more bellyfire and positivity.
I don’t make these contentions lightly. I saw it firsthand from the stands behind him at HDC in January and here watch this clip at the 4.26 mark.
You just don’t know what you’re going to get with Pearce when he takes the pitch at the international level…
Alejandro Bedoya – Inc.
And unfortunately, we still don’t know what we have with Bedoya. I do know that every time he gets on the pitch for the Yanks, the energy level goes up as does the aggression. Maybe Bob was checking him out as the late game sparkplus tonight. I don’t know.