Oops!: US Fall 4-0 To Spain In Anything But A Thriller

The US's best scoring opportunity? Robbie Rogers is not going to get a call against Sergio Ramos. That has to be written in stone somewhere, no?

The worse thing you can lose as a team is belief. We’ve seen US players lose it before. Clint Dempsey being chiefly culapable of the regulars over the past few years.

As the first half was ending today in what would become a clinical 4-0 dissection of the United States by Spain, you saw a befuddled US team get frustrated with their first 45-minute performance and the game plan.

A fault of the coach and to a man being outclassed by La Furia Roja.

In the waning moments of the half….

Sasha Kljestan broke defensive responsibility and chased into the center of the pitch. Though a poor analogy, his chase almost reminscent of the Ronaldo ping-pong job when Real Madrid were getting belittled by Barcelona a few weeks ago.

Robbie Rogers had his head down, literally and figuratively.

Eric Lichaj, frustrated with the lack of movement in front of him, decided to try and start beating players with the ball.

When discipline with a unit breaks down, it’s because the belief in the plan has waned.

A player thinks, “What I’m doing ain’t working. I need to do something different whether it’s in the game plan or not.”

A tough day for the USMNT.

It’s probably irrational to be upset as US fan by a beatdown by Spain. They are the World Cup champions; they break the will of teams all the time. However, fans do have some reason to be upset by more than the scoreline:

• Like the scheduling of the match three days before a Gold Cup game.

Every signal from Bob Bradley–including the fact that the notoriously press-averting coach allowed cameras in the lockerroom–screamed that the US was going to treat this game as an exhibition. (Where were the Cosmos when you needed them?)

An exhibition is acceptable but it begs the question of whether US Soccer should have discounted ticket prices and why Spain still played quite a few of their normal starters.

Continually…

Mashed Potatoes Too? David Silva carved up the States today...

• Like the United States not deploying any of their proven midfielders against La Furia Roja who fielded three regulars or semi regulars in the middle of the pitch in Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso and David Silva–latter who flat-out carved up the States right midsection.

• Like the lack of even a minor in-first half adjustment by Bob Bradley when his team’s strategy to move the ball wasn’t working even a smidge–we’ll get to that in a moment.

• Like the same errors by the same players in the same positions.

Had the US won or drew Spain, the message from US Soccer and in the media would have unabashedly been positive.

With such a chasmic loss, it brings other questions to mine–that may or may not be fair but now will inevitably get some press.

Did Bob Bradley want this friendly? Was this just a money-making exercise by USSF? Will quality teams want to travel to the States now if the US opposition doesn’t take them seriously and trots out their “B” team?

And here’s a thought: All the talk of focusing on the Gold Cup and resting players seems a bit hollow…when you consider that Tim Howard stood ninety minutes in goal and that the US should be able to trump Canada and Panama missing one or two of their key parts if they had to.

Awkward!

Just plain awkward.

Let’s get to our TSG review. It goes:

* Observations

* Awards We’ll skip this one this time

* Player Ratings

(No comment)

Observations:

• Bob Bradley’s team selection and deployment was puzzling and left no advanced option in midfield to carry the attack.

By now in his second term, it is known that Bob Bradley plays not to concede in the 1st half. However he gave his team absolutely zero chance to attack in the first half today–not that they could have mustered possession mind you.

Spain played David Villa, one of the top strikers in the world up top. David Silva, a starter on Champion’s League-bound Manchester City, played an effective withdrawn forward on the left. Villarreal’s Santi Cazorla moved well off the ball. The attackers were backed by Spain’s first team holders in Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets.

Bob Bradley ran out fringe US players in Robbie Rogers and Sacha Kljestan on the wings.

The US defended deep with two bands of four which caused problems on both sides of the ball.

Tactically, the US coach countered with an extremely static 4-4-2 with the defense playing extremely deep for most of the first half. It was an understandable tactic by Bradley who must have counted on the short Foxborough pitch and staying compact as a way to defend the spine.

The result–however–was a lack of on ball pressure up the pitch that gave Spain ample time to pick out short and long passes that led to opportunities. Those passes killed a Yanks central midfield that was flatfooted and centerback pair that was either inept or lacking experience.

On the other side of the ball, the deep bands of four for the States left virtually no outlet upon a turnover as strikers Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo were stranded far up the pitch with two Spain defenders preventing a quick getaway.

Even if Agudelo and Altidore were hit with a pass over the top, a surplus Spain defender typically closed down faster than one of the States middies could make it up for support.

Bradley’s deployment and team selections–even taking the match as an exhibition–were puzzling.

Without Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey at the starting whistle, the States had to know that they would be challenged in transition and linking.

Yet Bradley went with Robbie Rogers and Sacha Kljestan bookending Edu and Jones–neither player a seasoned linker and one player who is an outright winger. Neither player, as well, drifted inward.

Further, after witnessing the enormous gap between the midfield and strikers, Bradley could have merely instructed Altidore or Agudelo to play as a false nine (think Wayne Rooney’s role at Manchester United this year) and meander back much deeper just to provide an outlet. This change never came either.

Bob Bradley failed to make a single adjustment to maintain possession in the first half. He could have went with Option 1 and set up his strikers vertically so one was free to come deep for an outlet. Or, he could have went with Option 2 and moved a wide midfielder centrally. Bradley seemed to acknowledge his folly in the 2nd half when he had Wondo and Agudelo up top and tasked Clint Dempsey with cutting in from the right and providing a target.

Come the second half, the US coach seemed to accept the error of his first half plan.

He inserted Clint Dempsey as a wide midfielder and had Chris Wondolowski and Juan Agudelo up top. Dempsey was tasked with cutting in from the his wide defensive position and holding up the ball–he did beautifully and the Yanks got some of the run of play in the second half.

"Oh, so now you love me...."

• Michael Bradley states his case in the midfield today for the Yanks*

*Actually that’s only partly true.

See when Michael Bradley plays, he has either Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey as an outlet in front of him. Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu? Not so much in front of them today or out wide today.

That said—defensively–Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu–Edu more so–were outmatched against Spain. Edu was continually off in positioning, but the main fault for both is there error in not trailing the play and staying with their marks–or finding a mark as a play broke down.

While the first and second goals may not have been able to prevented, at least both could have challenged by the pair tracking back.

Got an idea that this is what Tim Howard–among other things–was furious at in the first half.

The US has a real conundrum in midfield as Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley haven’t looked great when coupled together.

Do the Ricardo Clark jokes stop today? Moving on…

• The definition of insanity is expecting different results out of Jonathan Spector and Oguchi Onyewu

Maybe Bob Bradley was testing these players…again?

Maybe Jonathan Spector was merely in to rest Steve Cherundolo and with Timmy Chanlder out of the picture the only viable rightback back-up option?

Either way, I’m not sure what Bob Bradley is expecting here.

Jonathan Spector continues to have challenges in man-marking quick forwards. Heck, he doesn’t even play fullback for his club West Ham anymore. Just a few weeks ago, Spector was roasted multiple times by the forwards of Argentina. Today, it was just a different opponent. The script? Identical.

Did Bradley expect a different performance here?

More troubling is the play of the Yanks’ former stalwart on the interior.

Oguchi Onyewu was culpable in at least two of the goals, indecision on whether to help close down or stay with his attacker (Goal #1) and finding himself in no man’s land (Goal #3).

As we wrote previously, these are the same errors that continually torment Onyewu and the Yanks’ defense. Would Clarence Goodson have done better? Who knows, but it’s probably worth finding out. For all of Gooch’s might and experience, if you still make two mental mistakes per game that lead to goals, is the tradeoff worth it?

• Eric Lichaj held his own & Tim Ream stuck with it.

Tasked with the leftback role on the afternoon, Eric Lichaj, despite some gaffes, played an admirable flank defender. He was useful and got forward in the attack when possible and after an early missed assignment played bend-don’t-break the rest of the afternoon.

A positive for the States.

As for Tim Ream, he had a rough first half and got schooled by Sevilla’s number one striker. That said, it was impressive to see Ream keep his goal and continually battle in the second half–at one point he found himself on the left flank on an island with Iniesta and he did well to force a back pass.

• Clint Dempsey’s brief stint showed an extremely confident player

The game just seems to have slowed for Dempsey this year–that and he’s increased his focus. Dempsey was extremely calm on the ball for the States and showed some great handles on the day.

Tim was busy today.

Ratings:

G: Tim Howard: 6

Fed to the wolves by Bob Bradley–for some odd reason–and his defense. (Don’t goalkeepers need rest?)

Probably should have held his line on Spain’s “almost” first goal, but Howard has made a living on coming out to snuff those.

No one thinks Coke and New Coke taste the same...

RB: Jonathan Spector: 3

Smart player. Doesn’t have the foot speed. Gets caught out.

As we wrote above, West Ham moved him central midfield for a reason. Bob Bradley should, you know, consider it.

CB: Oguchi Onyewu: 2

It’s painful to see Onyewu out there these days. I made it a point to focus on “the big fella” this game. It wasn’t just the scoring plays, Onyewu just didn’t come up and mark players at all today. Frankly, it’s odd.

CB: Tim Ream: 5.5 (on a curve)

Abused in the first half with the over-the-top ball. It’s a weakness of Ream’s and it’s something that he needs to work on.

But he kept battling and improved in the second half against the number one team in the world. Credit to that.

RB: Eric Lichaj: 6

Sure he’s played some leftback, but he’s a natural rightback and a lot was asked of him today. Though the run of play didn’t often come his way, Lichaj was stout for the most part in defense, hustled when he was beat and did his best to get ahead in the attack, which actually happened a few times in the first half.

RM: Sacha Kljestan: 5

First, give the Huntington Beach man a little props. His defense has improved drastically with his time at Anderlecht.

That said, you could see Kljestan wrestling with the challenge of expressing his play and still remaining in Bob Bradley’s system.

There’s some glimmer of a solid two-way midfielder there. Saw some of it in the second, but he needed to actually be more aggressive today even after he made a few mistakes.

Had the opportunity to go for it in the second half, but tentatively–and incorrectly–deferred to Dempsey who’s effort rolled weakly wide.

CM: Maurice Edu: 4

Read the play wrong all day and seemed a step slow throughout his time in the first half. It’s the first time facing real action in over three weeks for Edu but he didn’t improve as the half went on. He looks to be Bradley’s defensive jack of all trades in the middle at this point and not a locked-in starter.

CM: Jermaine Jones: 5

The States needed more, much more,  of Jones key offensive skill set today. That is the ability to switch field with the ball. Didn’t do it enough and Jones, defensively, was probably culpable on the third Spain goal.

Jones needs to bring it for 90 minutes. Beyond his first game in a US shirt (US vs. Poland, October 2010), he hasn’t done that. If he does that, Michael Bradley could go back to being off ball.

CM: Robbie Rogers: 4

Out of his depth today.

STR: Jozy Altidore: N/A

Didn’t get many opportunities, needed better offball movement. Tracked back a few times into the box on defense when necessary. Hard to judge his game today, but it didn’t shine either.

STR: Juan Agudelo: 5

Admire his gumption today. His creativity didn’t work on his Spanish brethren today–they’ve seen many a player with what he has or much better.

SUBS:

RB: Steve Cherundolo: 6.5

Right into the rightback frying pan went the US elder statesman at the start of the second 45. Cherundolo was tasked with quieting his flank and providing offense. Did admirably as expected.

CM: Michael Bradley: 7

I can only imagine that Michael Bradley was chomping at the bit on the sideline waiting for his chance. Solid defensively and kept his head up offensively. Only backtracked three times in possession. That may or may not be a record.

Clint Dempsey: 8

Let it be said, that Clint Dempsey alone was all the Yanks offense today. Looked extremely comfortable and confident under pressure. Watch out Gold Cup opponents, Dempsey’s on and he’s got his focus.

Clarence Goodson: 6

Active and vocal. The Gold Cup should be his opportunity. And to those awaiting, it was Panama as the opponent in the Gold Cup 2009 that saw Goodson flash a little bit of what we’re seeing now.

Chris Wondolowski: 5.5

I’m expected a surprise or two from Wondo in the coming weeks. I think he’ll do well as a weak side trailing striker, a la Herculez Gomez’s role. The San Jose Earthquake man was earning less than $50,000 last year at this time. Today he was going up against Pique. Um, he’ll need a few more reps in an American shirt to acclimatize.

Ale Bedoya: 5

Poor first touch on what should have been a true scoring opportunity. Not much time or opportunity otherwise.

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77 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by MitchH on 2011/06/04 at 11:04 PM

    “The San Jose Earthquake man was earning less than $50,000 last year at this time. Today he was going up against Pique.”

    This pretty much summed up the sum of my attitude by the end of the match. After the shock of the lineup wore off, looking for small victories and admiring the Spanish side made for a pleasant viewing.

    Good writeup, as always.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Paul C on 2011/06/04 at 11:54 PM

    Here’s what I don’t get, and to be fair I saw tidbits in this in the comments above but this is my biggest concern:

    For the past what, six months, we have seen some real options in the youth that Bradley has brought through. Chandler, Mixx, shoot even Bedoya has started to show up. Good progress Mr. Bradley, you’re starting to win me back.

    Then the roster comes out and Adu, Rogers, Sacha et al show up.

    Then we start said Rogers and Sacha, and for the umpteenth time we are all reminded that they are nowhere near international quality. As in shouldn’t be on our radar. Credit to Sacha for improving his game, because he has, but he isn’t there.

    Post match, BB makes a comment that Adu was brought in to “assess where he was at”, and that he “wasn’t really going to see much playing time”. Mr. Bradley, you have officially sent me off the deep end. This isn’t camp. This isn’t patting your u-9 kids on the back and telling them ‘you’re playing well son, you’ll get em’ next time’. This is our major tournament. This is where we prove that we are a dominant team. This is where you take those few bright spots that still need to gain playing time in Chandler, Bedoya, and Mix, and put them out against Guadaloupe to do so.
    When else are we going to do it? In meaningless friendlies that are never the same sort of mentally and physically challenging as a tourny? When WC qualifying is on the line? Or in the next WC, when it’s too late?

    Why were Adu, Rogers, and Sacha brought in? When are they going to make an impact? Why do we all know the answers to these questions, but our fearful leader can’t seem to figure them out?

    I’m not mad that we lost, I’m not mad that we scheduled this smash and grab event 3 days prior to the Gold Cup, and I’m not mad that we played our B team. I’m absolutely infuriated that our B team consisted of players that embarrass us every time they put on that National team kit. We’ve seen them do it before, and they have and will continue to do so. Get over it Bob, move on, you gave them a shot and they failed. And in turn you failed. Miserably.

    (sorry for the double post, wasn’t sure which thread to put this in)

    Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/06 at 8:48 AM

      Yeah, Bob’s comments don’t make sense for this tournament. It has been made clear by US Soccer that winning the Gold Cup (and qualifying for Confed Cup) is the first of 3 priorities for Bob’s second term (Gold Cup, qualify for WC and advance out of group again). He’s taking a lot of risk for the first part of his second term by bringing in guys for evaluation.

      Reply

  3. As painful as it was to watch, I got some sort of (sadistic?) enjoyment watching us get picked apart by Spain today. Thank goodness it was just a friendly, though a strangely-timed one at that.

    A few thoughts: MB reclaimed his 90 status, with the USA, at least. Dempsey was his krunk self, but did anyone else think he should have tried to play a through ball for Wondo instead of taking the (weak) shot on his pull-back-dribble-and-shoot effort? Not that he can’t take those – Deuce of all USA players can take any shot he wants – but it looked like a big missed opportunity to me. Wondo and Agudelo looked decent given the circumstances too, and should fare much better against CONCACAF opponents.

    I agree with TSG’s assessment of Lichaj – made a few big mistakes but all in all played pretty well on the left. Still wondering if Lichaj shouldn’t replace Cherundolo on the right when the time comes, however, with Chandler ahead of him. That combo was deadly in the March friendlies.

    Gooch looks like he’s on his way out. Hope that Omar Gonzalez or another big, physical back can develop quickly to replace him.

    Lots of negatives (Edu, Rogers, etc) that weren’t big surprises. On surprises, though – Bob Bradley sure has fooled me over the last few weeks. Is he just messing with us? Calling in Freddy, leaving out Bedoya, then bringing in Bedoya, sitting several of our most crucial players against the world’s top team – can’t figure him out these days. Next thing we know he’ll be wearing a suit to the Canada game on Tuesday…

    Reply

  4. Posted by Carlos on 2011/06/05 at 12:34 AM

    Great write up.

    I’m not going to take this loss too hard, but I am disappointed in our allowing the same type of plays to beat us again & AGAIN. It’s either the route 1 ball over the top or us failing to pick up the trailing player.

    Any Ideas on why this happens to us over & over?

    Reply

  5. Posted by SteveM11 on 2011/06/05 at 3:46 AM

    A few week sago I said MB should sit on the bench and if he didn’t it was nepotism. Let me start by saying: I WAS HORRIBLY WRONG. MICHAEL BRADLEY, I TAKE IT ALL BACK. PLEASE FORGIVE ME.

    I’m totally serious.I was in the stands yesterday at the debacle that was USA v Spain, and it was as ugly as any game I’ve ever seen–unless you were pulling for Spain, who were real, and they were spectacular.

    Edu and Jones looked pretty bad the whole first half, but they were outclassed in looking bad by Sacha Kljestan. I never, ever want to see him put on a USMNT jersey again, unless it says DONOVAN or DEMPSEY on the back and he is wearing it to a local bar to catch a match. He looked either too overawed to do anything, or just plain lazy. While Agudelo was tracking back into the box to defend, and tried his young heart out to make something happen on offense, Kljestan, on that same side, just loped around and didn’t track back or get forward on the attack. In one case he literally seemed to stop and watch to see if Agudelo and Altidore cold put something together. I’m sure your a nice kid. Please don’t play for the USA again.

    Bob Bradley: you owe me money. You and Sunil. To rip off TSG’s twitter one-liner here: you charged me A+ prices for a C+ starting lineup. I’ve seen U12 matches that were more competitive. What could possibly be the point of putting a squad out there to get drummed right before a big tournament. If you just wanted to test the young guys, next time I would recommend Iceland or the Latvian Reserve squad. We got totally embarrassed.

    MB90, you have won me over. When Holden is back it should be you and him in the center. While he is away, it is you and whoever you want. You clearly showed you were the best of the 3 central mids on the pitch today. No hard feelings?

    Spain looked so good. From above, you could see clearly how they were picking us apart. On every possession they looked threatening. At one point I watched them intentionally pass to a man literally surrounded by 4 defenders and back out–and it looked effortless. On the last goal the US defenders were in a perfect line across, in front of the man with the ball (Siva?), and he passed it perfectly through to Torres making us look stupid. That last goal was was basically 5 on 2, and Spain still had the advantage.

    Last comment: Spain was beautiful, but that doesn’t excuse the hordes of US folk who decided to betray their national team by either wearing a Barcelona jersey or a Spain jersey to the match. I even heard several Spanish supporters say in Spanish (and English)how weird it was to see Americans wearing their strip for the match. I saw a kid form my son’s club team wearing a Barcelona top and I tried to convince him to go for a high nutmeg the next scrimmage. Way to betray your national team folks! Of course, BB made that easy with his lineup and his game plan.

    Reply

    • I wouldn’t say that Baby Sweats has completely come back from the wilderness. Let me just get this out of the way now – I am an admitted fence-sitter with Bradley; some days I can’t stand the sight of him and sometimes I want to get his dome tatooed on my ass (kidding of course).

      Today was Bradley at his best, thinking ahead of the play and knowing what he is going to do with the ball before it even gets to him. This is the type of play that made me realize he’s pretty good back in the 2007 Gold Cup. However, I don’t know why he played that well yesterday. Was it because Spain was pressuring him so much that he HAD to think ahead, which it didn’t really look like it? OR, did he just mentally get himself into the zone before stepping on the pitch? Either way, the big question here is whether he can keep this same focus when playing against Canada and Panama.

      This is the frustrating thing about MB, he plays like this and the Bradley fanatics start shouting from the roof-tops that he’s the greatest that’s ever been. However, if he can’t replicate this performance against Canada, Panama, and Gaudeloupe then what’s the point? I understand you get up for the big games, in the big tournaments, against the elite teams/players, but the good players are consistent no matter the opposition.

      Keep playing like this MB45 and I’ll gladly recant every negative thing I’ve said about you; however, keep up the inconsistent displays especially when we need you most and I will smugly, with a little bit of sadness, say I told everyone so.

      Reply

    • Posted by LarryMontanez on 2011/06/06 at 10:13 AM

      Because MB played well doesn’t mean you were wrong to say he should sit the bench. MB hasn’t been playing well, and sometimes starting on the bench can help light a fire in a player. No one on the USMNT should be an automatic starter. Maybe not starting Altidore for a couple games will actually help him realize he needs to learn something new, and maybe train a little harder; and maybe the same for Gooch.

      Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/06 at 10:36 AM

      One thing I think has to be said in defense of the Jones/Edu pairing compared to MB90’s performance is the change in personnel in addition to MB90 made a huge difference. Dempsey, Wondo (Altidore was that bad), Cherundolo and Goodson were all much better than the people they replaced.

      That’s not to take away from the solid job he did out there just to keep things in a bit of perspective.

      Reply

      • Completely agree. He had better options available, but his speed of thought regardless of who his options were is what impressed me most. He hasn’t been that sharp for that long since the ’07 Gold Cup.

        Granted he played well in South Africa, but it wasn’t his linking play and knowing where he was going before he got the ball that made him impressive there, it was his work rate.

        Reply

  6. Posted by Tux on 2011/06/05 at 4:30 AM

    Didn’t watch the game, and accidentally went onto Twitter when I got onto my computer last evening and saw the scoreline. Realized that there’s no way I wanted to watch that game, and instead spent the next three hours reading about how horribly we played. So this observation is coming pretty much blind, but this is what I said last week:
    “We just don’t have the horses. Of our three best players (which I think we can all agree are Timmy, Landon, and Deuce), they would make the eighteen for most of the top-five teams – and Timmy would be in contention to start for Argentina, Germany and Holland (remember, Cech’s gone), but I can’t think of a single reason for our two best outfield players to ever see the pitch! And the drop between Donovan and our worst starter (most likely whoever’s playing left back) is a far larger gap than for a team like Brasil.”

    Now, all we learned from this game (other reinforcing the fact that Tim Howard is probably a very, very angry man today) is that the difference in talent is magnified even more as you go down the depth chart between these two teams. We sit three players and our play goes to hell in a handbasket. Spain sits half of their starting lineup and still clicks on all cylinders.

    Bob, you have essentially 7 guys who CAN NOT sit. Otherwise, we can’t beat anybody, let alone give the world champs a game.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Nate on 2011/06/05 at 5:16 AM

    Fantastic write-up and analysis as always – thank you!

    I got to my TV just as the kickoff was starting and so I had missed the report of the starting lineups. As I saw each of the names come up (Rogers, Kljestan, Spector in defense, Lichaj) and no Donovan (ill – ok np there), no Dempsey, no Bradley, no Cherundolo, no Boca, I was very frankly stunned. I understand the need to rest guys for the Canada match, but why not play our A team in the first half and then trot out the reserves in the second? I was actually surprised Adu and Bornstein weren’t out there in that lineup somewhere…

    Robbie’s shot in the first half looked like a “Holy crap I’m free for a second, I’ll shoot it!” play, and he wasn’t even really facing the goal. Ouch.

    The US play in the second half was immensely better with Dolo, Goodson, Dempsey and Bradley. Huge difference. We still gave up a goal, but watching Deuce, MB90 and Dolo’s confidence on the ball was refreshing after the 1H. MB90 proved yesterday (again) that his placement on the team is not from nepotism.

    I appreciated Agudelo’s spunk as well – the kid wants it, but I think it’s time to have Wondo up top instead of Jozy. Maybe it was because we were that bad in the 1H so there was no way for Jozy to look good, but his work rate didn’t impress. It felt like Wondo gave us more options up front.

    Anyways – I’ll be heading to Detroit for the Canada match and am very much looking forward to seeing who Coach Bradley picks as his XI there. My guesses on top XI:

    GK: Timmy
    D: Dolo, Goodson, Ream, Boca
    M: Deuce, Donovan, Bradley, Edu
    F: Agudelo, Wondo

    Reply

  8. Posted by MrTuktoyaktuk on 2011/06/05 at 5:37 AM

    Bob Bradley utterly mishandled the Spain game, in every way imaginable. Our players got pimped by USSF in a revenue game just before a meaningful tournament. If this is a snapshot of where the program is right now, it is appalling.

    Reply

  9. Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/06/05 at 5:47 AM

    I saw something really different from a few players than TSG. Lichaj was horrible in defense when the play got too close to goal in the first half. He ran into Ream a couple times, was too far centeral and just seemed confused. That all makes sense given he is a right back, maybe with some more time he would improve. He did seem better in the second half. Spector the Midfielder was actually acceptable. I would like to see him play centerally to see if he fits next to bradley over edu or jones. Sasha the central middy seemed much more comfortable and capable.

    For the others players: Ream looked overmatched, but did improve. Please don’t start gooch again. Goodson still looked overmatched too, but didn’t drag down the whole defence like gooch.

    The problem I have with Jones and Edu is that they can’t play together. They just don’t fit together on the field. Edu (maybe spector) and Bradley should be our pairing until holden comes back. Jones is just a waste of playing time. He is going to be 31/32? by the next WC? Obviously he could be nice depth, but really shouldn’t be considered our next starter, he just isn’t THAT good. With Holden, Edu, Bradley, Spector? Sasha? Mix? we just don’t need Jones for 2014, which is funny because we could have used him a lot for 2010.

    Agudelo and Alitdore… This actually may be the biggest disappointment for me from this game. Agudelo and Altidore kept trying to play the same position. Agudelo is the upgrade over Altidore, but the USA still needs a better second striker option. Which brings me to Wondo. That guy was the best player for the US… if only he had more physical ability. He was consistantly in the right place at the right time, just needed to jump higher/have a better touch/etc. I think having him start against CONCACAF is going to produce a lot of goals.

    Finally, dempsey: PLEASE start him as a central attacking midfielder.

    Gold Cup formation: 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1
    dolo-goodson-ream-Boca
    Donavon-bradley-edu-Bedoya
    –Dempsey–Wondo–

    Future?:
    Lichaj-goodson-Ream-?????
    Chandler-Bradley-Edu
    Donavon-Agudelo-Dempsey.

    Reply

    • Posted by chazcar2 on 2011/06/05 at 5:49 AM

      Future formation should have holden not edu, sorry

      Reply

    • Posted by mbw on 2011/06/05 at 7:49 AM

      Lichaj is a tough call. He’s a great athlete with a strong skill set — definitely a player with a high ceiling. At the moment, though, he lacks Cherundolo’s positional sense, composure, experience, and ability to communicate effectively with the rest of the defense. The relevant comparison is to Bornstein, who has some of Lichaj’s physical abilities but also greater experience and natural left-footedness. I think Lichaj needs more games against top-level competition before he gets a run out at left back in an important game. Were the Gold Cup final tomorrow, I’d put Goodson and Bocanegra in the middle and Bornstein on the left.

      Reply

  10. Posted by Freegle on 2011/06/05 at 6:24 AM

    I am not even going to address performances on the field because it has already been covered in this review well. But I think the performance of USSoccer deserves some scrutiny.

    As a soccer fan, I was able to enjoy the match by appreciating the true genius and talent that Spain possess. They were terrific: talented and classy and the took the match seriously despite having no real reason to.

    However, there were many people who watched this match who were in it for the spectacle/hype. “Come see the USA’s best play against World Champion Spain!” In New England, we call these fans “pink hats,” a phenomenon that developed when the Red Sox started having some success and it became fashionable to go to Fenway and wear anything with a redsox “B” on it, regardless of color. For the most part, long time fans resent these people because they take up space, spend the entire game texting, and couldnt name the starting rotation. In short, they aren’t “real fans.” I happen to believe that in every pink hat, there is potential for true fandom if they can be coddled and educated in the correct manner. Especially in soccer, I am all for bringing them onto the bandwagon.

    This should have been the perfect game to introduce novice fans to the beautiful game. Non-soccer fans were genuinely interested in this match. I spent the weeks leading up educating friends on the talents of Donovan and Dempsey, leadership of Carlos Bocanegra, MB90’s work rate, how underrated Steve Cherundolo is, etc. Not one of them started (ugh). Instead, they got Robbie Rogers and Sacha Kljestan, selections I cant even defend with “he’s a young guy with a lot of potential and they are probably seeing if he can handle the moment.”

    Specifically in relation to attending the match, I’ve been to every game in Foxboro since Kasey Keller kicked the ball off Carlos Hermosillos head into his own net. I felt this one was the most pro-USA crowd I’ve seen there by far. You could feel the crowd aching for something positive to happen so it could erupt. But there was nothing to cheer about. From warmups when people were searching for Donovan on the field and then for an explanation on their phones, to the starting line-up, to the overall performance… the match was a disappointment.

    There was so much potential to grow the game with this match. We could have locked in a whole new collection of fans just before an important tournament and near the beginning of a new WC cycle; fans that could grow with this squad up to Brazil and be educated and passionate supporters by the time 2014 rolls around. Instead we have just another missed opportunity by USSF and an epic failure to grow the game domestically.

    From top to bottom and beginning to end, the performance in this match was shambolic and shameful for the US. I hope that somewhere along the lines, we get answers as to why exactly this match was scheduled and then why it was handled the way it was on the field… the entire display was embarrassing and made us look amatuerish.

    Reply

    • Posted by SteveM11 on 2011/06/05 at 6:31 AM

      Amen and amen.

      Reply

      • Thank you. Can we please get a rite up/inquiry into what the intended purpose for this game was by US Soccer? To quoute MrTuktoyaktuk above in another post, it felt like the team was pimped by the USSF just to raise money — in the short term. Don’t tell me it was for experience and to build momentum for new players because the experience of being molested on national television as a relatively/new player right before a major tournament is only demoralizing. Basically, the only good thing they personally can take away from this match into the next tournament is that it can’t be any worse. I’m not even really irked with the players, it’s not your fault the management screwed you.

        If it was a statement game meant to cause excitement for US soccer in general then why was it scheduled so close to the Gold Cup and against Spain? Swapping Spain and Panama would have been better, at least you wouldn’t be facing the best in the world right before a major tournament. But then why start so many new players/combinations of players? I’m almost hoping this was Sweats sticking it to the USSF and refusing to let his starters get hammered (regardless the result) by the WC champions before the tournament. When I have to hope for the coach to be sacrificing B/C players against a team that eats A teams for breakfast as a way of doing an end run around the association’s mismanagement — something’s wrong.

        All around it does sound like a smash and grab, a pimping of the team for short term marketing that will have ultimately negatively impact long term interest. I was there and actually getting text messages of sympathy from friends who I’ve cajoled into starting to support soccer and it didn’t sound like this exactly spurred my case. What would be best if for Sunil to come out and say it was the USSF’s fault for scheduling Spain and Bradley was appropriately resting the team, at least that takes some of the egg of the team’s face before the tournament (albeit at the expense of the younger players though they can’t have realistically expected much other from what they got). Suck it up Sunil. Otherwise, you just sacrificed the team for the federation and it really ought to be the other way around.

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        • *write up.

          And, depressing though it may be, how about an article on the state of the USSF and its competence? I don’t mean just yesterday’s fiasco, I mean in general or at least its most recent manifestation as a governing body under Sunil? Especially on the coat tails of our non-voice regarding the WC bidding process and what not with Qatar, USSF doesn’t seem to hot right now.

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          • Posted by Bryan JD on 2011/06/05 at 7:59 AM

            I completely agree about the cash-grab. I think it was nothing more. Seriously, if it was about giving guys minutes, I would’ve liked to see some of the “snubs” get on the roster and get some time. I want the players to succeed but when they keep getting on the pitch and prove they don’t belong on the National Team, it usually means you bring in newer people to test out. Rogers and Klestjan? Giving guys minutes that probably shouldn’t be on the National Team. Doesn’t seem proactive to me at all. If you are going to throw the young ones to the wolves throw Diskerud out there. Give someone else a shot.

            Like I said, I want the players to succeed but some of them have buried themselves. Bob has given them chances. The US team needs more continuity and they can’t keep giving some of these guys chances anymore. I hate to be pessimistic but I can’t keep this stuff inside anymore. Jozy is another guy that is teetering on the edge for me. He’s young, but he’s had so, so many opportunities and he has these moments where he just doesn’t seem like he cares. Bob loves the guy, though–and sometimes love is blind.

            As I state all of this, I’d love to be proved wrong by all of them. But again, I just think something is lacking across the board. Technical ability, perhaps? Too many long passes from the back? I didn’t see any TEAM WORK yesterday, either. It’s like the guys were cobbled together for the line-up yesterday, not knowing they were going to play together.

            Ugh….hope things look better for the GC and qualifying. Also, we should probably start playing friendlies in other countries now. Better get some of these younger guys experience outside of the country, too. Not to mention we couldn’t even get a win on home soil post WC2010.

            Reply

          • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/05 at 10:44 AM

            Freegle and donumdei,

            Very timely posts in light of the recent FIFA dog and pony show.

            I started following the USMNT in 1990 and I came to it having been a fan of the European game long before hand. When I make the rounds of the soccer blogs the impression I get of most of the posters is that, with all due respect, most of them have become fans very recently (within the last ten years or less) and most have little if any understanding of how the game is run elsewhere in the world; nor do they care.

            Saying FIFA is corrupt is like saying the Olympics are often bought. As Claude Raines said in Casablanca, “I’m shocked!!”. Why are you all so surprised?

            I mention all this because from my point of view I don’t know that the USSF is corrupt so much as it is not a dynamic, effective, visionary body.

            Sunil Gulati is just a figurehead and the real power seems to lie in the 14 other votes of the Governing body. My reading of how those votes are distributed is that this is probably a body composed of separate interest groups who have their own little empires to protect. I suspect their main focus is to perpetuate their own existence.

            Naturally, they would oppose a powerful person like Klinsman who might interfere with their little empire. Bradley is a company guy and won’t rock the boat. But all those big name guys, the Mourinhos, Hiddinks, et. al. no way they get the job.

            http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/chicago-fire-confidential/2011/01/have-your-say-1—shortpasses.html

            Given that many FA’s in many other countries are run in a very similar fashion, this should not be surprising. Ever wonder why African countries, with all those amazing players coming out of Africa, have yet to be as dominant as that talent suggests they should be? Their FA’s make the USSF look like a lean, mean fighting machine.

            I think US fans are used to thinking sporting bodies are like the NFL and have money and power. I don’t think the fans are used to what appears to me to basically be a mom and pop operation just trying to hang on. I’ll take a wild guess and bet you that their finances could be better.

            The point? It was made very clear by everyone prior to the Spain game that this was an exhibition all about money and all about focusing attention on the Gold Cup. Clint Dempsey himself made it very clear before the game that this was just an exhibition and would be treated as such. Why are any of you shocked at the result? And why are you shocked that the USSF doesn’t care? They have the monopoly on the USMNT. Where else are you going to go?

            Now to give credit where credit is due the USMNT has improved dramatically from 1990. But what most fans forget is that so have our opponents. Most US fans don’t seem to understand that the US talent pool is below average. From my perspective Arena and Bradley have been good managers for the US because they are organized, defense oriented and conservative. They foster a very strong team first ethic. And they have punched over their weight class for along time.

            Critics say they are unimaginative and this lack of ambition strangles talented players.

            My reply is that if that talent is good enough it will rise to the surface, if not at the USMNT then at the club level. I have yet to see that happen. The second part is, Bradley and Arena don’t develop that talent the youth system and the clubs do that.

            If we learned nothing else from last night we should have learned that Spain could probably have fielded their worst 11 players and beaten our best 11.

            Right now Spain is where Germany was in the 70’s; they have a successful national team based on the talented players of some very successful club teams; Bayern and Borussia Moenchengladbach in Germany and Barca and Real in Spain. This means many of their national team players get to play together all year long at the club level so of course they will cut up most other national teams. Every single Spanish player is more talented than their US counterparts and they have all, for the most part, played together or at least in a similar style/system, for years.

            US fans expect far too much from Bradley who is a good manager with a mediocre talent supply working for a less than stellar organization. My take is he is just trying to keep his head down and do the best job he can so he can get a good job outside of the insane asylum. Maybe none of you can relate to that but I sure can. If he wins the Gold Cup then no one will remember this game.

            Obviously the USSF keeps tight political control of the major soccer figures in this country which is why you don’t get any serious criticism of the USSF and it’s system voiced by guys like Lalas and Harkes who are probably under their influence. It’s ironic to hear guys like Harkes criticize players for lack of commitment when he had so much commitment to the US that he plunged his team into turmoil by his inability to keep his pants in place.

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            • Posted by Freegle on 2011/06/05 at 11:09 AM

              I can appreciate your position, and having had past business with USSF above the regional level, I can attest that you are correct about the different factions constantly in-fighting desperately trying to hold on to figurehead power. As with any governing body, it’s very “political.”

              What I dont agree with is that you seem to have accepted it as a part of the process (basically, “it happens in other federations, so we should not be surprised by it here”). You mention African countries with superior talent and the issues they have. The difference in those countries is that soccer power often translates to real political power. There is true influence to be had and therefore, people will make decisions based on their own best interests.

              We should be striving for better. There are no civil wars or social policies that USSF have to consider because soccer is not that important nationally. The USSF is a body that is designed to perform in the best interests of USSoccer. I don’t think it should be too much to expect them to act as such. Yesterday, they did not and they should be taken to task (or at least have to answer for) that mistake.

              The problems start at the top. I can’t be mad at Jonathan Bornstein for accepting a position he may not be the best option for (just my opinion, feel free to insert your favorite national team whipping boy for the sake of the point). The same goes for Bob Bradley accepting a coaching position he may not be the best option for. I can be upset with US Soccer for repeatedly and egregiously making decisions that don’t suit the best interests of the people they are supposed to represent, the game they reputedly love, and embarrass our fans, players, and themselves in the process.

            • I didn’t mean to make it an issue of corruption, I don’t think I ever said the word. And I understand that it is a money game and exhibition. What I am really questioning is placing it so close to the Gold Cup. It doesn’t even seem to make money sense since it seems to really deflate interest outside of the core fan base. Why not play Panama now and Spain earlier? Sure Argentina and Spain back to back would be tough, but at distance from a major tournament it would smack a lot more of a justified learning experience. I understand and appreciate all your points, I’m not even really arguing against any of them. My point is that scheduling such an exhibition now was incredibly poor timing and, beyond what is maybe to be expected, really seemed to place the money first and team second since it is so close to the Gold Cup. Make sense? I get that the USSF needs money but it needs it to fund a better program and so sacrificing the team, potential new fans/markets et al that you exist for (which would make you more money as well if they did well) seems stupid.

    • Posted by Charlie G. on 2011/06/05 at 9:40 AM

      This comment hits the nail right on the head. As a fan of US soccer and the USMNT since the early 70’s, I’m embarassed by the line-up Bob chose to put on the field yesterday. If he truely believed that their was a chance that this group could perform, then its time to seriously consider a coaching change. I can’t understand the intention behind this, I’m only glad I didn’t get my not-yet-so-warm-to-soccer friends together to watch this and have to explain – I guess Bob may get off easier than I would have. Lack of respect for fans, for the USMNT players, for the game and for the opponent. I could perhaps understand making certain subs after the half, but there is no conceivable reason to throw this mashup out there unless punishment was the intent – including the punishment of the fan base. If there was a discernable purpose, I wouldn’t mind, but I’m grasping for one – any help Bob ?

      Reply

      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/06/06 at 6:03 AM

        Anyone watch the replay of the 94 (post WC) friendly with England over the weekend? Although lacking the big names (Demps, Donovan) you could reasonably say that our talent pool has not grown one bit since then and may have regressed. Lalas in his prime was possibly the best CB we might ever see. Sounds strange but on rewatching he was very good.
        The Kearny NJ “youth system” probably produced more top level MNT talent than the youth program has on a whole (Tab Ramos, Harkes, Meola, etc).
        That to me is the failing of USSF. I don’t think that Bob has that many options to choose from.

        Reply

        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/06 at 7:14 AM

          I watched the first half. I hope your assessment of Lalas is incorrect. Seriously!

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          • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/06/06 at 8:51 AM

            I hope you got my point. Not taking one game but the whole body of work, he may be the best we’ll see considering what we’re looking at now and forward.
            (Pope, Bocanegra, Onyewu, Ream, Goodso et al). He was above avg in the air and a decent passer from the back. His goofy on air personality makes you forget that he was a very solid CB at one time and was part of a massive jump in quality for the USMNT from 90 onward. No Beckbauer or Cannivaro mind you. Oh or Tony Adams)))

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  11. Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/06/05 at 7:27 AM

    It was like watching a lop-sided college football game.

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  12. Posted by Sean on 2011/06/05 at 7:36 AM

    Great write up, as usual. Am I the only one who is curious as to how Spector would do in central mid? I was praying that BB would pull Kljestan for Bedoya and give Specs a run out with MB90. Have Mikey sit deep and let Specs loose. Having watched a handful of matches that he played in CM for West Ham, he looks like he can provide something there.

    People on other sites are claiming the Jones should be there in an attacking sense, but he is more possession oriented and should play as such.

    Reply

  13. Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/06/05 at 8:39 AM

    It seems that everyone is now on the same page regarding MB90.

    How about Bornstein? Is there anyone out there that doesn’t think that Dolo-Goodson-Boca-Bornstein isn’t at least worth considering as our best back 4 for the Gold Cup?

    Yes Bornstein is not good enough at LB. That said he is maybe the US 15 best player and much better than a number of people called in for the Gold Cup.

    Reply

    • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/05 at 9:24 AM

      Lichaj reminded me a lot of Bornstein, dribbling into blind alleys and losing the ball, Ream looked lost and Agudelo was just chasing the game the whole time without getting much done.

      All three looked like exactly what they are, talented prospects with very little experience at the higher levels of the game.

      But I notice that most of the critics have been fairly easy on these three. Maybe US fans are finally figuring out that this “soccer saviour- grass is always greener” business isn’t all its cracked up to be.

      Reply

      • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/06/05 at 9:59 AM

        I tend to be easy on those guys where we don’t have a better option.

        So Agudelo didn’t play well but I think he played better than Altidore. End result is that means that Agudelo made a step forward. Would I rather he played like Drogba or Rooney? Sure. But the US needs to play at least one forward so if there was a choice between Agudelo and Altidore I choose Agudelo.

        Ream played poorly but Gooch played worse.

        Lichaj did not impress me at LB. He convinced me he could play there in a pinch but that it really is Boca or Bornstein.

        Given the issues we had at CB my comment was generally that we should all be able to live with Bornstein at LB particularly if that means Boca moves inside.

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        • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/05 at 11:28 AM

          All in all hardly a rousing endorsement of Lichaj, Ream and Agudelo but they should get better. I would hope they would use the lessons from this game to hlep them improve.

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        • Posted by dth on 2011/06/05 at 11:39 AM

          Lichaj showed why you don’t want to play fullbacks on the wrong side–you could tell every time he’d take a second to shift to his strong foot.

          That said, I thought Lichaj did a pretty good job considering the circumstances and liked his drive to get forward. People have been criticizing his dribbling at players, and those same people wonder why the U.S. doesn’t have as many creative players as they’d like. Well, guess what: creative players dribble at people and often lose the ball. Countries that successfully integrate creative players are capable of figuring out how to work that out. Dani Alves loses the ball a ton, for example. But it seems like very few people in the U.S., from coaches to players to fans and commentators, are ready to accept the downsides as well as the upsides of creative play.

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          • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/06/05 at 12:32 PM

            Not worried about the ball losses. If i had to rate him probably a 4.5. My issue is that if we are going to play the weaker defensive guy he needs to get forward. Hard to tell from this game (because of the crap line-up) but Lichaj didn’t seem to give me enough going forward (he did look much better in the his first USMNT game though so I don’t want to be too judgmental about the long term prospects).

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            • Posted by dth on 2011/06/05 at 12:37 PM

              Don’t know if Lichaj’s all that weak defensively in general. He sucked today but then again everyone sucked today. Leeds United fans seem to think he did a good job for them at left back, and apparently they (Leeds management) would like him back. Bob Bradley actually diagnosed Lichaj pretty well post-game–said Lichaj was strong in duels but weak in the team defensive stuff. Frankly, that’s a better combination for an inexperienced player than the other way around–the team defensive stuff is mostly experience and coaching; the duels are athletic ability. That’s why Lichaj has a much higher ceiling than, say, Jonathan Spector.

            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/06 at 7:10 AM

              There is more to duels than athletic ability. What about positioning, reading of the game, tackling, staying calm under pressue, tackling and crossing? Concentrating on athletics such as stamina, work rate and and pace only gets you so far. See Jonathan Bornstein.

            • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/06 at 11:05 AM

              How was Lichaj supposed to give much going forward when Spain always had the ball? I think we just chalk this one up to Bob putting these guys in a terrible position. He hung a bunch of the second 11 out to dry in the first half with a makeshift lineup against B+ squad of the best team in the world.

              I still don’t think Bornstein should be on the field. I’d take Goodson and Ream inside with Boca at left back if it kept Bornstein off the field. He’s too much of a liability against even mediocre opposition while Ream looked poor against Spain.

            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/06 at 12:07 PM

              Wasn’t talking about Lichaj specifically. More commenting about full-back attributes.

              But for what it is worth, I would have given him less marks than TSG, mainly for his dreadful job in tracking runners. But like you said, he was up against the best team in the wolrd, perhaps even Evra or Cole would have struggled.

  14. Posted by dth on 2011/06/05 at 11:17 AM

    You know, I think the best central midfield pairing–for this particular roster–might just be Bradley and Kljestan. They’ve done it before; they’ve done it well before against Mexico in Feb. 2009. More to the point, Bradley’s game seems to have evolved to become a more deep-lying one, particularly since he moved to Aston Villa. That means the ideal Bradley partner is more of a box-to-box, roving player with an eye for an advanced pass. This describes Kljestan’s best-case scenario game pretty well. I think some of the rough edges have been sanded off since he made it to Anderlecht, so it might just be worth a try.

    (The strange Bob Bradley habit that someone really has to ask him about is why he insists on putting central players on the wing. Kljestan plays centrally. Bedoya plays centrally for his club. You could argue Dempsey should play centrally.)

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    • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/05 at 11:32 AM

      That tells me that the US lacks talent in that area.

      In my view that’s been true since Eddie Lewis and DMB left the scene.

      It’s also why Chandler has been fast tracked. He’s my real hope in terms of stretching and widening the field for the US attack.

      Does anyone know anything about Ryan Smith at Sporting KC?

      Reply

      • Posted by dth on 2011/06/05 at 11:35 AM

        No, I don’t think that’s it. This is on Bob Bradley’s predilections alone. Obviously you have Donovan and Dempsey as the main guys, but Feilhaber’s probably a better wide player than central. Calling up Robbie Rogers when wide players like Brad Davis and Chris Pontius have been playing better in the MLS is just being willfully goofy. Bob Bradley is sticking central players wide because, for some reason, he likes playing central players wide.

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        • Posted by Isaac on 2011/06/05 at 2:58 PM

          He sticks central players wide because then they provide creativity and ingenuity in the attack, so that he can have two defensive midfielders, often with one being the commanding presence defensively that offers solid running, and the other being a calming presence offensively that shows good positional sense.

          As far as Kljestan being the best partner for Bradley, I half-agree. If you’re looking for a box-to-box runner who has an eye for the cutting pass, then I think the right guy is Jermaine Jones for you.

          That being said Kljestan is the right model of player for that spot in front of a deep-lying Bradley, especially if his head is on right. I think the best thing about Sacha is the creativity, confidence, directness, and positivity he shows in his movement with and without the ball. Jones, in my opinion, may be the man to start next to/ in front of Bradley, but in a tournament like this where the matches are so close together, expect Sacha to get at least one start. I personally don’t think he was too bad yesterday, and definitely had some flashes of good ol’ Sacha.

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          • Posted by dth on 2011/06/05 at 3:14 PM

            Well, you can still have creativity from midfielders with two defensive midfielders. It’s a 4-2-3-1. Or a 4-3-1-2.

            I think Jermaine Jones isn’t a box-to-box guy. I think he and Bradley might be too similar to play on the field on the same time, and in particular I think they want to inhabit the same spaces. Of course, as you say, the matches are too close together to not rotate–there will have to be rotations, so a policy of giving Bradley one game and Jones the next might be a wise one.

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            • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/06/05 at 3:19 PM

              This balances off of a number of comments but Bradley has become more of a destroyer than a box to box midfielder. My question is that a maturing of game or is that the role he needed to play in Germany and/or that Bob wants him to play for the Nats? This is the same guy who had at a double digit goal scoring season in Europe. I really wish we had a MB90/Holden MF pairng.

            • Posted by dth on 2011/06/05 at 3:56 PM

              Actually, Bradley’s role wasn’t so much a pure destruction role but also included dictation-from-deep responsibilities. A hybrid type of a deal. That’s also similar to my memory from Bradley’s FA Cup game back against Man City.

              In Germany Bradley was a box-to-boxer.

              (While Bradley’s goal explosion for Heereenveen was appreciated, note that it came in the Eredivisie, a notoriously defense-optional league.)

            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/06/05 at 4:41 PM

              Bad example DTH! Bradley was chasing shadows against an ageing Viera in that FA Cup game. Not to mention giving the ball away.

            • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/06/05 at 5:21 PM

              I may have been using the term destroyer a little to loosely. I generally think about the two CM in a 4-4-2 as having one more offensive and one more defensive (why Lampard and Gerard together didn’t work).

              In the World Cup (and before) I thought Bradley played more of the offensive CM (albeit in a more defensive set put forth by Bob).

              Recently he has been much more the defensive CM. I am curious if that is a change or a tactic as he got fairly forward against Paraguay.

          • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/06/06 at 5:53 AM

            Sasha Klejstan just cannot compete consistently at this level. His brain doesn’t match his intermittent flashes of skill. and he “Berbatovs” it quite a bit defensively.

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  15. Posted by Dikranovich on 2011/06/05 at 11:55 AM

    What’s so hard to imagine about a game with Spain, right before the gold cup. Spain does give a good replication of what Mexico will bring. I’m sure us soccer scheduled this game with the idea of having its full complement of players. Spain understands the USA was short handed yesterday, they will not hold it against the USA, because they were happy to get the win. Copa America is not upset with the team USA brought. They did just invited costa rica , who is bringing an under 23 team. Go ticos.

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    • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/06 at 11:12 AM

      No one is saying that Spain was upset with that match. People are saying that the US fans are upset with the match. I’m sure Spain got a decent chunk of change for an appearance fee.

      Copa America is upset with the US about the squad they brought because the US didn’t approach them in the same manner as Mexico or Costa Rica this year. Costa Rica is only going because Japan pulled out so they were given more leeway and Mexico has been a repeated invitee so also given more leeway. The US showed up with at best a C team of never weres and young players.

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  16. Posted by Alex Song on 2011/06/05 at 12:29 PM

    Good analysis. I agree with most of your player ratings, although I thought Ream was pretty terrible. I think it’s time to sit him on the bench for a while and let him learn on RBNY’s dime. Boca and Goodson are both better right now. Some of our young prospects like Gonzalez, Kitchen, and Agbossoumonde look like they might have superior long term potential.

    I’m not going to read too much into this result. Spain has a wealth of world class players. We have zero. Our bench stinks. We’re not the same team when Donovan, Bradley, Dempsey, and Cherundolo aren’t out there. For the most part, I think our key players showed well in this game. Once we get our best 11 on the field at the same time, we should be fine.

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    • Posted by dth on 2011/06/05 at 12:34 PM

      I don’t think Gonzalez’s long-term ceiling is all that high, to be honest. Certainly no higher than Ream’s. Gonzalez is just so damn clumsy–like against DC United on Friday, he was struggling aerially against rookie Blake Brettschneider (almost certainly misspelled, but, you know whatever), got a yellow card flashed on him, and maybe could’ve gotten a second after he fell on top of Brettschneider and cleaned out Ethan White with a knee to the head. His passing has gotten better but for some reason he occasionally thinks he’s Simon Kjaer and starts trying to hit long balls that require a huge amount of skill to pull off.

      The guy who I rate much more highly than Gonzalez is George John, who’s been doing a fabulous job for FC Dallas. They’re the same height, but John is so much more fluid/better athlete.

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      • Posted by Alex Song on 2011/06/05 at 1:37 PM

        I won’t argue with any of that. I think height is overrated at the CB position. I think the most important physical quality is lateral quickness, which Gonzalez lacks.

        The reason I think Agbossoumonde is destined to become a starter for us is because he’s a big guy who’s also light on his feet.

        I mentioned Kitchen too even though he lacks the prototypical height of a CB because he’s pretty fluid laterally and he demonstrates the right mentality for the position, IMO.

        I would be open to giving John a chance too. Bob has done a pretty good job of getting new faces into the program since the WC, but I think we need to ramp it up once the GC is over.

        Reply

        • Posted by dth on 2011/06/05 at 1:56 PM

          Kitchen is an interesting case. At the moment he’s very inexperienced and it shows. I like his foot skills–those are a positive. That said, I’m not sure what kind of ceiling he’s got, particularly athletically–I’m not sure this is a guy who ends up as a starter for a team in a top five league. (Consider that a guy whom we think is fairly flawed–Carlos Bocanegra–has been starting in two top five leagues for years now. Just matching the Carlos Bocanegra level for 2014 will be a big challenge.)

          The guy who has the higher ceiling is Kitchen’s teammate, Ethan White. Absurd athlete, and while his distribution is oftentimes tragic, he sometimes surprises me with a pass (he had a real nice one to Pontius against LA). If he can do a Omar Gonzalez-esque learning curve he could really be something.

          Reply

      • Posted by Tux on 2011/06/05 at 8:29 PM

        Gonzalez is to US centrebacks what a guy like Hasheem Thabeet is to basketball centers. His size and length covered up for a lot of his deficiencies on the defensive end when he was at UConn, and he didn’t have to do much offensively. But put him in against faster and stronger players, and suddenly his only real skill – shot-blocking – isn’t enough to mask the fact that he’s a really awkward player with no ball skills to speak of.

        Now replace “shot-blocking” with “aerial defending,” and you’ve got Omar in a nutshell. You’ve also got Gooch, but that’s a completely different story.

        Reply

  17. […] addition, Sacha Kljestan, who played reasonably well yesterday, all things considered, gives Bradley flexibility—the young midfielder played a diverse number of positions for the […]

    Reply

  18. Posted by il canoniere on 2011/06/05 at 1:53 PM

    Am I alone in thinking that Jermaine Jones is the USMNT equivalent of a disappointing MLS DP? We are familiar with the work he has done for his past (and in this case present) club teams in Europe, in theory he should still have a decent amount of quality left in the tank, but when he puts on OUR colors he plays like an arrogant, apathetic has-been.

    Note, this is not coming from the xenophobic perspective. I am 100% behind Timmy Chandler and damn near every other duel citizen who wants to bleed red, white and blue. (And conversely, I don’t hate Rossi for playing for Italy… I hate Rossi because he’s from Clifton.)

    My problem with Jones is that I simply can’t imagine him being a part of a meaningful USA victory because I have yet to really see him give a damn. He does not play like a man fighting to earn his place in the starting 11. Unlike guys like Altidore, Dempsey or Donovan who get called out from time to time for not playing “like they mean it”, at least those three have a history, and earned a bit of a bond, with their teammates and with their supporters. Jones on the other hand (particularly since the Poland friendly) hasn’t done a meaningful thing.

    I keep hearing Jones described different ways:

    1. He is a destroyer
    2. He will bring composure to the central midfield
    3. He will supply the cutting offensive pass to unlock opposing defenses

    Save one pass against Poland I can’t recall Jones doing much in the way of unlocking defenses. His rep in Germany, and the reason he was brought to Blackburn, was as a defensive midfielder. This leaves the destroyer mantle, with a bit of (ooooh, European pedigree) composure. Here’s the thing about destroyers… I don’t feel like they are supposed to take games off.

    Keane, Gatusso, de Jong, heck, Michael Bradley… you get the feeling these guys would break a 5th grader’s leg if it meant preserving a win for their country. I just don’t see it with Jones. In fact, the only time I see him really busting his ass is when he personally has made a pass that leads to a turnover, which is great, but to me, it also speaks to an ego. It’s not enough for you to fix your own problems, sometimes you have to bail out your teammates too.

    I know he has only been with the squad a short time, and I know he is still getting to know our “system” and our players. I just can’t help but feel that he thinks he deserves something he just hasn’t earned yet.

    My best case scenario: Bob Bradley sits Jones against Canada (Bradley in the middle with Specs). US grinds out a win but Jones is furious. Bradley gives Jones a chance to prove him (and me) wrong. Jones is a beast alongside MB90 the rest of the Gold Cup. I photo of Jones kissing the Gold Cup becomes my new desktop wallpaper.

    My worst case scenario: Jones fails to pick up DeRo slashing into the box from the midfield and Canada beats the US 1-0. Harkes blames the goal on Tim Ream/Clarence Goodson/RBNY. Harkes is offered a contract extension through 2014.

    Reply

    • Posted by Isaac on 2011/06/05 at 4:18 PM

      Honestly, I don’t know what you’ve been watching then. Jones is one of the hardest working midfielders in the Bundesliga, and now the EPL, not to mention aggressive. He was poor yesterday, and he wasn’t much better against Argentina, but his work rate is something that definitely is not in question, in my opinion anyways.

      Reply

      • Posted by il canoniere on 2011/06/05 at 4:33 PM

        Sounds like I’ve been watching the same thing you have, Isaac. Jones is hard working and aggressive with his club team. He was Blackburn’s man of the match in at least one if not a couple games. His work rate is something that is definitely not in question with his club team. I want to know what it’s going to take to see that same work rate for his national team.

        Reply

        • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/05 at 8:50 PM

          “I want to know what it’s going to take to see that same work rate for his national team.”

          Time.

          He has played for fifteen games for Blackburn. How many practices has he had with them? Say two or three a week? That adds up to maybe forty five or so?

          Blackburn has been under threat of relegation his entire time there so all the players have presumably been really focused. In Jones’ case, he was on loan and therefore under pressure to impress to win a job either at Blackburn or elsewhere.

          Do you think it’s fair to say by the end of the season Jones was probably as comfortable as he could have been with his team mates, coaches and team tactics?

          Now contrast that with his time with the USMNT. He has played five exhibition games and had maybe ten practices with the US? BB isn’t about to drop him any time soon but hasn’t yet settled on exactly how he wants Jones to play or who he wants to play with him. So I’m pretty sure he Jones isn’t anywhere near as comfortable in a USMNT shirt yet as he is in a Blackburn shirt.

          “In fact, the only time I see him really busting his ass is when he personally has made a pass that leads to a turnover, which is great, but to me, it also speaks to an ego.”

          Unlike you, I see that, an instinct play, as telling me that is the only time when he is really sure about where to go and what to do.

          The USMNT is in transition and is rebuilding on the fly. veterans like Dempsey, Donovan and Bradley have all been through it before but I’ll bet Jones, who still is learning the language,is having a harder time adjusting than he lets on. Maybe you’ve never had to adapt to a new culture but I have and it’s a lot harder than you think. And Jones is transitioning to two new ones, England and the US, at the same time.

          So you say “but Chandler is doing well”. And he has but that is only two games and, to this point, he has basically been told to do exactly what he does in Germany. Donovan did say he still has a lot to learn about the intricacies of team defensive responsibilities and so on. Jones role will be a little more involved and, as I said before, I’m not sure Bradley has figured yet exactly what he wants Jones to do.

          I can see you think he is a lazy egotistical sort, the default reaction when one does not know what is going on with any athlete, but give the man a clearly defined role and let him do it for a while and then you should get your pound of flesh.

          Or not.

          Many times great club players never quite work out with their national teams. It turns out that the national team is somtimes a completely different enviroment (different players, coaches, etc.) than the environment in which they succeeded in the first place. Such failures should hardly be shocking; it should be clear by now that talent alone is not enough to succeed with a given team.

          Reply

          • Posted by il canoniere on 2011/06/05 at 11:48 PM

            Martin,

            Great reply. Much to chew on. Many thanks. You make a very good point re: Chandler’s role vs. Jones’s role and how the complexity of the ask in Jones’s will slow transition. I too have done the culture swap before but as a GK I forget sometimes how easy I have it relative playing the field. It’s also easy to forget how little these guys actually get to train together, and it’s not as though we have a single formation we are working from…

            I suppose deep down it just sticks in my craw a bit the notion of this guy showing up so late in the game. Where the hell was this guy in 2006? Right, still trying to make the cut for Germany because he declared for them as a youth. Can’t help feeling like the second choice. Jones will always feel a lot less like Mxx, Bunbury or Chandler and a lot more like David Regis.

            At least until he earns a few yellow cards against Mexico.

            Reply

            • Posted by Tux on 2011/06/06 at 9:05 AM

              I’m having a vision of Rafa Marquez lying in a heap on the field as Jones stands over him, sneering and swearing at him in German. I don’t care how long ago it was, you can’t get away with cleating our goalie.

              Maybe it’s the hockey player in me that wants this, I dunno.

    • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/06 at 11:26 AM

      I think there is a better chance of Jones shooting his mouth off to Bradley and getting booted of the team/quitting in a huff if he’s benched than him coming back strong. He’s been known to have run ins with coaches in the past which is why he’s at Blackburn now.

      Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2011/06/06 at 3:09 PM

        Jones can always get a new manger/club.

        Assuming Bradley stays it’s harder to get a new national team. He’s already out of options for switches

        Reply

  19. Posted by Isaac on 2011/06/05 at 2:06 PM

    I don’t doubt that Kljestan has improved defensively, but I really don’t think he was poor to begin with. On the contrary, I think he’s one of the better attacking midfielders we have in terms of defense, if that makes any sense.

    Reply

  20. Posted by Ufficio on 2011/06/05 at 3:18 PM

    Why no Bryan Ruiz for the Ticos? Not even in the 18.

    Reply

  21. […] Oops!: US Fall 4-0 To Spain In Anything But A Thriller The worse thing you can lose as a team is belief. We’ve seen US players lose it before. Clint Dempsey being […] […]

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  22. Posted by Jim S on 2011/06/05 at 5:59 PM

    Agree with most of the review except a few areas.

    I can presume Specs wanted to play LB as much as he wants to get kicked in the groin, but the reason he really suffered yesterday is Sacha never picked up the trailer. The first three goals were all because the mids never tracked by and picked up tplat railer. Overall as a slower outside back, Specs played within his abilitifor isolating his opponent to the outside 15 yard of the pitch, which leaves it up to the middle to prevent the crosses from being a threat. The middle of the pitch is where everything went to heck in a hand basket. You noticed a different Specs in the second half because he was in front of dolo and actually provided cover for his defender, actually making it seem like dolo secured the wing when in fact they played well together.

    Why on earth would Bob start the backups and then put in the starters when Spain put in the A-team to start the match. I don’t anyone would have minded a more mundane second half if both team started with their best lineups.

    Jones and Edu may have been up against superior middies, but that is no reason to sink so far back that they might have well have been central backs. You would have thought the epl would have taught jones that when overpowered , you just sit back and wait for them you have to put pressure on them and force mistakes. I’m sure they were told to take it easy yesterday, but why play if your just going to play dead.

    For once I actually think the announcers got it right. Why wouldn’t the b-team go out there, knowing they were mostly likely going to play a half and just put it all out there. For some these guys this the only minutes they are going to see for the next 2 weeks. How bad do these guys really want this?

    Anyways, great article as always, looking for the gold cup analysis the next couple of weeks. Go team Cupcake!

    Reply

  23. Posted by JT on 2011/06/05 at 8:10 PM

    All I have to say in response to this beautifully written post is Amen. Definitely will look forward to further post-ups.

    Reply

  24. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/06/06 at 5:39 AM

    Great points all around both in the article and the comments.
    Still struggling with how/what BB was looking to accomplish here.

    Re MB: I thought he was impressive and one of the true pros that showed up yesterday. I’m still very confused by how many here look at that performance and say that he is a destroyer and belongs in that role. I thought he was impressive and composed but he was mostly impressive in an attacking role and not a deep lying CDM (destroyer) role. The only nepotism cry you’ll ever hear from me is that his father doesn’t manage him well enough to force him up the field where his drive and athletic ability can be most useful.

    Jones looked like he saw the starting lineup and realized his coach didn’t care so why should he. 2 of the 3 goals were from him not bothering to track back into the “high slot” which the “destroyer” owns.

    Gosh Altidore just continues to come up smaller and smaller at this level. It’s getting pretty sad to watch. Agudelo on the other hands seems to want to rise to these moments which can only be a good thing.

    Agree with many that Lichaj suffered from playing RB in his mind due to lack of reps. Chased into his own players and defensive positions far too often

    Ream has to be given a pass here given that he had a statue as his CB partner, a LB learning the position and a RB that everyone knows cannot compete at the top level. Not to mention a CDM that was on defensive hiatus. You could excuse the guy for being out of position quite a bit considering the circumstances. I’d like to see he and Goodson get a run out with Stevie on the right and heck Boca/Bornstein. Then at least you’re only cheating to one side and Donovan will track and help.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jared on 2011/06/06 at 11:24 AM

      I agree with you re: the Bradleys seem to get in each other’s way. To me, MB90 would be better making more runs into the box but seems to be hamstrung by the double destroyer formation to hold back too often.

      Reply

    • Well, here’s an every-touch Michael Bradley video from Saturday. Bradley is mostly deep (and -er than his midfield partner, Kljestan):

      Now, the easy argument here–and you’ll hear no disagreement from me–is that Spain didn’t really care and these were just garbage-time points. Fair enough. But if you thought Bradley looked good against Spain and want more of the same, you want Bradley destroying and then dictating from deep.

      Re: Lichaj: he played almost exclusively LB late for Leeds. That’s how everyone got the idea that it’d be a decent idea to try out.

      Reply

  25. […] individual player ratings, etc: you can find plenty of that sort of detailed analysis over at The Shin Guardian or Soccer By Ives. I will give a few bullet point observations, […]

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  26. […] been slaking our thirst for footy action with mostly meaningless international matches–the 4-0 hiding the USMNT suffered against Spain last Saturday afternoon in Foxborough, followed up by a […]

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