The United States eeked out a 1-0 win over Guadeloupe Tuesday at Livestrong Park to move on to the Gold Cup knockout rounds and face Jamaica in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
Tuesday’s game was a tale of a fatigued squad–two fatigued squads–with the States having more talent than their opponent, enough to subsist for the win.
Some quick snap judgements:
• Cause-and-effect: When the Yanks move off the ball they’re universes better than when they don’t. (Thank you John Harkes.)
Not sure how to highlight this point further. But it’s starkly black-and-white.
When the United States made runs off the ball in the match, they created chances. Good chances.
When they didn’t, those chances were hard to come by and passes were forced.
It’s really that simple.
Countless times a Yank had the ball in the possession and a circumference of players around him were stagnant, the lot maybe drained from the wear-and-tear of the match and looking for the simple “rest” pass.
(You know the position where you make yourself available for the safe, possession-keeping outlet pass, but it does nothing to improve the attack.)
There is a certain measure of fatigue that played into the game, but a good team would acknowledge that by players making runs in spurts–as Alejandro Bedoya did when he entered.
For example: “Okay, Dempsey’s tired, I’ll makes some runs.”
It was really quite a terrible display at many times and if the States do that in the second round…that is stagnate…they’ll be given their walking papers early.
• Jozy Altidore should cancel his membership to the Lebron James School of Development
Jozy Altidore’s first half strike was a “Whoa, where did that come from moment.”
US fans have seen Altidore uncork some shots either on the run or facing up outside the box before, rounding Jamie Carragher at World Cup 2010 and a near miss from the left hash extended in a friendly against the Netherlands come to mind.
Tonight, Jozy Altidore showcase the wide range of his talents, but just not enough.
The offense was at its best when Altidore was moving off the ball. Only he did this on just three out of 10 possessions.
Altidore bodied up a few players–a moment in the 47th minute when he earned a foul on a drag run was satisfying, but too often he didn’t initiate contact.
And there was the aforementioned Altidore strike. Fans will be pleading for Altidore to wind up more often.
Consistency game in and game out has proven too difficult for Altidore to achieve over his 37 caps, but Altidore needs to improve his fitness and desire in more frequents spurts during the duration of the game.
He’s that integral right now to the US attack and should be.
• The old guard and new guard owned the corners
Steve Cherundolo quietly goes about his business, shutting down would-be attackers on his flank and being useful and dangerous on the attack.
Tonight, Cherundolo–on his third game in eight days–owned his domain.
Likewise, Eric Lichaj, wrong-footed on the left flank, was just as effective if not more so because the Yanks have not seen their leftback get forward in this tournament. In fact, the 43rd minute of Game 3 was the first time the Yanks switched field to an advanced leftback in the tournament to date!
Lichaj was dangerous in the attack, having the discipline to challenge wide on his worse foot rather than continually cutback on this strong one. That takes mental discipline and desire to adhere to the game plan.
In defense, Lichaj held his line well and used his low center of body to ride his attacker off the ball.
And, a huge credit to Lichaj–and something Cherundolo does well–for continuing to pursue a play before an offsides call was about to be made. That’s fundamentals and those efforts do not go unnoticed by a coaching staff.
• A troubling lack of getting stuck-in from the States.
As good as Lichaj was at using his frame and being physical–at one point absorbing a foul and playing on while everyone else on the pitch stood still–the rest of the US team sorely lacked in this operational category.
Beyond Lichaj, Cherundolo and Jermaine Jones, the US showed an amazing lack of challenging for possession and making hard tackles.
Again, perhaps they were tired. Perhaps they were worried about fouls.
Or perhaps Bob Bradley drilled maintaining shape and containment into their persons so much that going for the tackle wasn’t worth it.
Whatever the reason, the US lost most of the physical battles this evening and that’s troubling considering Jamaica–a team made of nails–and perhaps a Panama rematch may be on the docket next.
• Michael Bradley exhibited thorough soccer best practices on the evenings, at one point continuing a run into the box that most would have broken off. He earned a bonus possession when the ball fell to him. However, Bradley, still should not be the main distributor for the Yanks.
• I’ve never seen Landon Donovan walk so much during a match. He didn’t take on players after a few early spurts and his service was again erratic. I’ve got to believe something’s up.
• Carlos Bocanegra should be commended on his backline management and positioning this evening. It was excellent.
• Alejandro Bedoya played his second impassioned, aggressive game of the tournament….while Robbie Rogers watched from somewhere in the stands. Stain on Bradley here. Bedoya is and was not redundant to a Benny Feilhaber and should have been on the roster from the beginning. He’s precisely the spark off the corner the team needs.
• And yes, finishing, was atrocious, but I do chalk that one up to fatigue unless we see that pathetic of an effort again.