Some quick thoughts on the US’s 1-0 loss to a stingy Paraguay side in advance of Jay Bell’s game review.
• The US may not have scored, but multiple parts had good performances
The end results wasn’t there for the States. However, this wasn’t the “A” team.
This was a team of different parts that was patched together after the squad played a very focal point opponent in Argentina.
The Yanks certainly lagged in putting together consistent attacks and cohesion.
However, different parts–Tim Ream, Timothy Chandler, Clint Dempsey cutting inside–showed they had different aspects to their game. A greater oleo of skill sets if you will.
Coupled with this, you cannot argue that the team doesn’t play extremely hard for Bob Bradley and adhere to the game plan.
The execution wasn’t fully there tonight, but the buy-in was.
• The central midfield, excellent individually, was miscast for the task.
First of all, Paraguay’s Gerard Martino is no mug. The guy took an arguably under-talented side all the way to quarterfinals of the World Cup in 2010.
After being abused against Mexico, Martino changed nearly his whole side and decided to batten up the hatches.
Martino’s men pressured in two ways that he knew would disrupt the States:
First when the central midfielders were receiving the ball at the top of their offensive third and 2nd collapsing at the top of their defensive third to stymie the creation of Donovan and Dempsey.
I’ve taken a look around this evening at some other publications and I’m seeing very high marks for Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu. Okay, fine both played well. Michael Bradley in fact played excellently given that he’s had less than 200 minutes of play time in 2011.
But they didn’t “do” anything and that’s what the game play dictated they needed to accomplish tonight.
Countless times Bradley was asked to “create” out of the back.
It’s one thing to play a safe pass it’s another to go pick up the ball, move it, get it back, move it again.
The US’s strategy demanded a “creative” hub deep in the midfield, Bradley was very strong in making the safe pass, not the unlocking one.
This is not about Michael Bradley, but he’s not the guy tonight there. Edu less so.
A few different moments in the 1st half highlighted Bradley’s creative limitation.
First, he consistently dribbled backwards when he wasn’t under pressure, allowing the other team to reset their defense because they weren’t being pressured for the moment.
Second, around the 33rd minute, Timmy Chandler made a clearing run up the right flank. He drew two defenders with him.
Bradley played him a looping ball over the top–with two defenders closing and no support and no means of going forward. What was Chandler to do with that ball? What could he do?
Around the 43rd minute, Landon Donovan was on the left flank working out of a jam. Jonathan Bornstein had made a run before him, but was covered. Donovan desperately needed somebody, anybody, Bianca?!, to come to his aid, but no central midfielder made himself available.
In fairness to Bob Bradley, I’m not sure he felt that he had that guy on his roster, but then why did he bring in Sacha Kljestan? Was Jermaine Jones in the doghouse after Saturday night? Or why not pull in Jose Torres for the friendlies.
To reiterate, safety first Bradley did, but the US doesn’t play the Spain game and just ping it back and forth with players coming back and showing and moving.
Paraguay’s defense was begging to be abused by a player in the position who could find the right ball.
Don’t think this bullet’s on target? Try this, Bradley inserts Jermaine Jones for Mo Edu at halftime. I presume Jones is going to man the hub. Bradley keeps M. Bradley there for another 10 minutes.
Then he switches the two (or makes them more complementary) and things are start flowing a little better.
• The mature striker is not the one with the most caps.
I swear I remember reading it somewhere: the comparison made that “Eddie Johnson had seven goals in his first six World Cup qualifiers too” followed by something along the lines of comparing Juan Agudelo’s first matches in the Stars & Stripes.
Honestly, that sentiment needs to end now. Pay attention to the game.
Here’s the thing on Juan Agudelo. If he doesn’t get there, he’s still starting from a better foundation than any other striker, save perhaps Charlie Davies, in the US system since Brian McBride.
Agudelo shows a feel for the game–I won’t say he’s beyond his years. It’s a feel that he was brought up playing soccer somewhere in South America or Europe.
He understands the game. He thinks ahead. He makes valuable plays.
He makes valuable plays – say that again.
Scoring is a by-product of this. Make the smart runs, goals will follow. Seal off a defender as a target and turn him, goals will follow.
Comparisons to strikers such as Jeff Cunningham, Eddie Johnson and Robbie Findley (if there are any) are ludicrous. Eddie Johnson and Jeff Cunningham scored goals because someone played them in and their speed put them in position to finish.
In Juan Agudelo, US fans witnessed a striker who came back to find the ball in midfield and made himself available. One who knew when to use flair.
Frankly, I don’t care if Juan Agudelo scores another goal for his next, I don’t know seven US games, because he does everything a striker is supposed to and I know at some point when he returns to form, given his education of the game, he’ll start scoring again.
On to Jozy Altidore….
Might we remember March 29, 2011 as the inflection point after a reflection moment acknowledged by Jozy on Twitter Tuesday evening.
Key words “Need to improve” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Altidore acknowledge that.
Did it take the wondrous work of Juan Agudelo supplanting Jozy’s spot at the top of the striker pecking order for the realization to kick in?
Or was it–and you could see it on the edge of your TV screen–that Jozy really was confounded on where to move all night when he wasn’t getting the ball.
Conversely to young Juan, Jozy didn’t know hot to make himself available and valuable.
• You really are witnessing a different Clint
Clint Demspey found the game Tuesday night, it didn’t find him.
Dempsey looked masterful in possession, continually challenging the defense for Paraguay. It’s what makes players of his ilk: Dennis Bergkamp, Dirk Kuyt, even a Herculez Gomez so valuable.
You can’t typecast their game, they just morph into what’s needed.
Dempsey still needs to work a little bit on keeping it intact when he’s frustrated, but whereas this may have been a game for Landon to be sprung for a counterattack, the Deuce was able to create out of nothing and he can do it against many different defenses.
And that is a very valuable skill in the game of soccer.
• Glimpses of backline potential
Tim Ream, cool and calm on the ball. Revelatory as a potential major cog going forward.
Tim Chandler and Eric Lichaj–speed. Especially for the Nurnburg man.
(Oh and I can’t ignore. Might Bobby Convey have helped tonight…okay going to hide under the bed now.)