USA 1, Mexico 1: Optimism, But Not Victory, Reigns Supreme

By Neil Blackmon

Calls for "Cleetus 2.0" just got louder.

For sixty minutes, the United States plodded along like a side still lost in the wilderness, no matter what name was spelled out in the press guide next to “Manager.”

There was little in the way of attack, save an early cross just past a leaping Edson Buddle’s head and a late arriving Jermaine Jones’ outsretched right leg.

There was sloppy ball movement, not simply in rare forays towards the Mexican half but in clearing distributions, where at least three or four passes by newly inserted fullback Edgar Castillo on the left found men in green jerseys in space and caused heads to shake and profanities to be uttered.

Mainstays like Steve Cherundolo and now the senior “Bradley” on the team, MB 90, were also shaky, the former in his normally outstanding distribution to the midfield and the latter in his decisiveness on the ball, a new development that seemed to echo the failings of six weeks ago in Pasadena.

There was zonal confusion, players too bunched together and the attendant lack of shape that results from those issues. With lack of shape comes lack of space, and since, as Rinus Michels once noted, “football is a game of space”, it was eye-opening to see how much more space El Tri had than the Americans. In short, even with the obvious disclaimer that this was an American side twelve days into a regime change with no more than three practices in a new system under its belt, the first hour of Wednesday night’s affair in Philadelphia had a bit of a “Meet the new boss…Same as the old Boss” feel.

Klinsmann took the game in stride...

And yet, despite all of this, there was Jurgen Klinsmann, finally manager of the US Men’s National Team, telling ESPN’s Monica Gonzalez at the half that he felt great, and that things were very positive, all while wearing a big grin.

Meet the new boss indeed.

Meet him and understand that despite the very obvious reservations one could have about the man charged to take the United States Men’s Soccer program to the next level, one can’t help but get sucked in by some overwhelming sense of optimism.

Optimism because a team can be thoroughly outplayed and find itself down 1-0 on a goal that was a bit fluky.

Optimism because a back four and a new left back (there’s that old demon of a position again) can have fits with his clearances, but enough of a defensive shape and ability to maintain responsibility can prevent more than one successful shot on goal despite a half where a world class opponent was camped out in the US half.

Optimism because a striker left alone in a game not coming to him didn’t let his isolation affect his movement and work rate—and yes, it is the little things.

Optimism because of a manger that seemed more calm than confused, one who smiled and looked like someone in awe of the job he had, not the job he had to do, even after his team did what the last manager’s teams too often did late in his tenure—fall behind before twenty minutes.

And optimism because of fan and, far more critically, player reaction after the game ended in a 1-1 draw, a reaction that suggested that the United States as a footballing nation can, and will, be better. “We’re not all world beaters,” Tim Howard suggested after the match. “But we can be better than what we are.” It was a game that captured the sentiment of Jared DuBois, co-host of the great American Soccer Show and guest columnist here at TSG earlier this week: Yes, we can…and should be optimistic, even amidst our fear of being too hopeful.

Here are two overarching final thoughts and perhaps reasons for that optimism with reservation, as well as player ratings from Wednesday night’s match.

First, you want optimism that for a moment allows American fans to feel a sense of swagger? And after only one friendly? How about the fact that for just around thirty minutes Wednesday night, the United States played as encouraging a brand of football as their fans have seen in well over a year.

And they did against a team that has had one of, if not the best summer, of anyone in international football. And they did it without their finest player.

Indeed, after Carlos Bocanegra’s wicked but misplaced header ricocheted off Guillermo Ochoa’s right leg, the Americans played like a team full of the new and quiet sense of belief their manager entered the job with.

Suddenly, the zonal confusion and lack of shape that so plagued the first half was gone, with the US utilizing width in ways it hasn’t in recent memory and substitutions Juan Agudelo, Brek Shea and Robbie Rogers menacing the Mexican defense with their movement, creativity, and pace.

Agudelo showed many why there’s so much promise for his future, dazzling with his work rate and his willingness to get back and involve himself in the match–Harkes be damned.

Outcome-wise, his willingness to track back to the edge of the US area contributed to the game’s most controversial and critical moment in the 88th minute. Agudelo closed in on a Mexican attacker along with Ricardo Clark, who won the ball impressively and then flicked it forward to himself and over a Mexican defender, playing a brilliant ball in space to a streaking Robbie Rogers.

Rogers, who looked every bit the player now playing for a manger he has a long relationship with and hitting the restart button on a disappointing career, took the ball and looked to be clear on goal. It was not to be. And yes, given Rogers’ history we have no sound reason to believe he would have finished his chance.

Still, it was shades of El Tri frustration past, as a terrified Gerrardo Torrado played the role of Eagles free safety at the Linc and dragged him to the ground, ending the chance and quite possibly preserving the draw. Jamaican referee Raymond Bogle, a ninety-minute advertisement for the inferiority of CONCACAF officiating, blew his second call in a fifteen minute span, issuing only a yellow to Torrado. But it was a compelling moment. And there were other promising things from Agudelo, including his movement off the ball and his willingness to take on defenders in constricted areas, a reminder of both his bright future and why he should stay in New York and continue to train with the great Thierry Henry, who his game resembles in bright moments.

Brek Shea, too, gives reason for belief. The cynics about his possible role on this team pointed, with some justification, to hot MLS players brought into the fold in the past.

The Conor Casey’s, Kenny Coopers and Chad Barretts of the world had let us down so many times before. But Brek Shea is but twenty-one, we can now retort. And his form and play last night denote a future that’s immense—and more critically, one that’s immense away from the center of midfield, which has become the hub of promising American player development. Shea was controlled on the ball and poised, able to make good decisions, reluctant to act too quickly but decisive enough to act when need be, and no more was this evident than on his timely cross to Rogers on the American equalizer, where he waited for support, strong enough to hold off two defenders just long enough for it to arrive.

There is plenty of time to debate whether or not Brek Shea is nearly ready to ply his trade overseas. This writer, at least, would caution against such a move, and point to Stu Holden, who established himself as a dominant multi-year force in MLS before departing for greener pastures with success. Those discussions, however, miss the point. The FC Dallas man having a breakout season appears poised to help Jurgen Klinsman establish a new American identity, and at twenty-one, has a long while to do just that. And all of those things are reasons to be tremendously encouraged.

Of course, we need to mention the reservations. There was the matter of the match’s first hour. Yes, the Americans played stirring football for half an hour (albeit most of it occurring one Rafa Marquez had departed from the Mexican backline). And yes, it’s also true that the team had very little time to implement a new system, and bumps in the road are to be expected. Thing is- those moments of brilliance don’t happen in a vacuum. The first hour showed just what type of job Jurgen Klinsmann does have in front of him. The aforementioned lack of shape and zonal confusion was made worse by the performance of Edgar Castillo, who looked outclassed most the evening, sloppy in his clearances, choppy in his first touch and outright panicky when the Mexicans threaded attacks up his wing. When he did advance, his offensive skill-set made him look a bit better, but it is clear that he is little more than a depth-guy at the international level.

Jose Torres was up and down as well—fine in his distributions and decisiveness, and save one dreadful moment in the corner where he lost the ball and spoiled one of the only American advances of the first half, fine on the ball– but at the end of the evening one couldn’t help but think he’s out of place on the flank. Jon Levy over at Yanks Are Coming offered a disclaimer about deploying Torres on the flank Tuesday in his match preview—and his fears that Torres’ would drift centrally and cause spacing problems were confirmed Wednesday night. A manager can correct that problem with Torres’ game. What can’t be corrected is his inability to defend, and that’s why he’s no more than a sub to chase a game with for the time being.

There were other concerns and questions as well: Where was Fredy Adu? Fans were doubtlessly clamoring to see if the Gold Cup resurgence was a fluke—how will his ego deal with winning over yet another manager? Was Michael Orozco truly steady enough to become a viable center back option, or was it a decent game against a side who he’s built to play against—one where his lack of size doesn’t matter as much because he’s reasonably calm on the ball and quick enough to not be overrun. What role will the men on Europa duty have on this side? Is Sacha Kljestan in Klinsmann’s plans? How will Klinsmann deploy the Americans finest player, Clint Dempsey? Will Omar Gonzalez get a look soon? This laundry list isn’t conclusive, but it is a warrant for why too much tactical analysis into last night’s result would be fodder for fools. In the end, the lesson is to be optimistic, and be excited that Jurgen Klinsmann seems to be so excited about his new job—because he’ll need that excitement given the challenges in front of him.

As the 2nd half wore on, the USMNT got an elbow up on the competition...

PLAYER RATINGS:

First, the GOLDEN SHINGUARD (sure to create controversy!!)

Landon Donovan, 8 – The mercurial marauder returned last night, you know the one—the guy that captivated hearts at Goodison and became a coffee-break name a summer ago throughout the United States. Donovan was Donovan at his best, torching Fulham marker Carlos Salcido throughout the dominating American third of the game and tracking back admirably to mark Salcido’s own forward thrusts throughout the first hour. Well over 10,000 meters—and that’s how he likes things—what was striking was that while he lined up on the right, he was given license to roam and find the game, a role David Moyes offered him with great success at Everton. When Clint Dempsey returns, the U.S. attack could move from average to somewhat menacing quickly, assuming Klinsy can find a role for them both.

THE REST:

Tim Howard, 5—A rather uneventful game for Howard given that the opponent was Mexico. Personally thought he was off his line on the goal, but the deflection was placed in a very difficult spot. Distribution decisions were fine throughout, and he seemed to communicate well with new face Orozco, which is important and perhaps overlooked.

Steve Cherundolo, 4.5—Not the finest performance from the Mayor of Hannover. Had a very nice throw in on the right flank that led to the American corner that truly marked the beginning of the American turnaround. Otherwise, he had little involvement in the attack, as his typically precision link-ups with Donovan and the midfield were off the mark. Fortunate not to pick up a silly card in a fracas as well.

Carlos Bocanegra, 7—A steady if not close to great night from Captain America. Nearly leveled the game for the Yanks with a vicious header, but he forgot to place it and knew it, shaking his head as he jogged away. Made at least three critical blocks on Mexican shots from distance, and closed space quickly and decisively as El Tri poured on pressure in the first half. His passes and clearances were easily the best of any American defender.

Michael Orozco Fiscal, 5.5—For a debut, it was a good night. Chalk up some early sloppy distribution errors to jitters, and you’d be pleased in his performance. Used his quickness and good body positioning to make it hard for El Tri to find a through ball during the first half, was tidy in his marking in the second session.

Edgar Castillo, 3.5—I won’t go as far as SI’s Steve Davis, who awarded him a disastrous 2, but it is hard to see much more of a future as a starter for Castillo, who is panicky in defense and lacks the touch necessary to rein in his formidable pace and ability to get forward. His pace is enticing and he made a promising pass or two in the second half—but so was a certain Honduran hero’s, so this is a trap player for Klinsmann.

Jermaine Jones, 4.5 – Was ragged in the first half, sloppy in forward distribution and taking poor angles in his marking and tackling. You almost sensed that he wasn’t used to the lone holding role, which he hasn’t been asked to man at Schalke, Blackburn or under Bob Bradley. Taken off after sixty minutes, but was better in the second 30 of his time on the pitch.

MB 90, 6—Klinsmann had, in the past, spoken highly of Bradley’s work at Heerenveenin the same advanced role he played last night, and that probably explains the deployment. He was indecisive early on the ball and it broke up a couple of rare American forays forward, but as the game went on he was sound in distribution and his constant movement allowed him to find space, where he at the very least attacked the area or slotted the ball out wide to Donovan. His substitution at seventy minutes got some cynical cheers—but if you think he’s not a Starting 11 mainstay still you’re sorely mistaken.

Jose Torres, 5—Drifted centrally too much, but as noted above that’s a product of who he is as a player and a problem the new Yank manager can fix. His defense negated his truly class passing ability—it is one thing to not be good at tackling, it’s quite another to be late in tracking back.

Beckerman, positioning, perfection.

Kyle Beckerman, 6—Steady Dready in the center, the Real Salt Lake man certainly has a role in the best 18 for a while after last evening. There are questions about his class at the international level—and this writer, at least, doesn’t understand them. He makes simple, quick and decisive passes. His tackles are smart and he is not a card risk. Sure, he tired as the game wore on, but the question isn’t whether he can start at this level, it is whether his consistency can be utilized when the Yanks protect leads. That question is surely answered yes.

Edson Buddle, 3.5/4—Like most the American pool at forward, he’s just not suited to be left alone up top. Unlike most the American pool at forward, when he’s isolated and the game doesn’t come his way, he gets back, defends and tries to involve himself. Mistimed his jump a bit on his only offensive chance in the first half, otherwise, the US may have been in business.

Substitutions

Brek Shea, 7—Mostly covered above, the FC Dallas man had a tremendous thirty minute audition and gives the Yanks a winger, something they’ve lacked for an entire World Cup cycle.

Juan Agudelo, 6—Utilizing him with the Sir Alex Ferguson “work them in slowly” mentality in mind is precisely what to do with the young Red Bulls man, who seems way more comfortable entering a game and providing energy than he does starting and finding a game. Played the ball to Shea that led to the cross and Rogers goal; was extremely involved with his movement and willingness to take on defenders otherwise.

Ricardo Clark, 5.5—Would have been a scintillating redemption moment if Torrado hadn’t decided to play the role of Brian Urlacher on Robbie Rogers in the 88th minute. Otherwise, not much involvement for Clark, but you wonder if inserting him into a US match for the first time since the Ghana debacle was more of a gesture of goodwill from the new US gaffer than anything else.

Robbie Rogers, 6.5—Most promising night in a US shirt. Expectations should remain minimal- but there’s something to be said for a player who can compete knowing his manager has long believed in his ability. American fans would accept ten to twenty minutes of Rogers quick bursting diagonal runs this cycle with a smile.

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99 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by daniel on 2011/08/11 at 9:40 AM

    MB has got to find himself a club. It’s a very delicate moment for his career, I think. His hesitance on the ball and reluctance to turn are shocking. Technically I don’t think he deserves a game, or at least not a start, in a US shirt for a while. There are too many central MFs available to us. That said, you have to keep playing him until he finds a club, otherwise he’ll be lost.

    Reply

  2. Posted by amh on 2011/08/11 at 9:41 AM

    Nice writing as usual Mr. Blackmon.
    However, if you saw the look (and encouraging words to go with it, I assume) Klinsmann gave Torres when he was subbed out, he’ll be more than a sub to chase a game.

    Reply

    • Posted by TJ on 2011/08/11 at 11:20 AM

      I agree. Torres brings finess and speed to the US team. He has the ability to keep the ball and make quick decisions while in possession of the ball. This is exactly what the US needs. Teach him positioning and defensive intelligence and he’ll be a starter for sure.

      Reply

      • I don’t think Torres is going to develop the needed international qualities by playing in Mexico. Defensive position and intelligence, the quicker pace and the pressing were all known problems from last year’s World Cup.

        He could be useful against teams when the US is dominating possession and/or need only one holding midfielder. And he did do that pretty well in the last cycle of World Cup finals qualifiers.

        Reply

        • Also, has Jose Torres been tested in a physical match, say against Nigel De Jong?

          Reply

          • Posted by Jared on 2011/08/11 at 2:37 PM

            How many players have survived a physical match against Nigel De Jong? I wouldn’t discount a player because he’s not as physical as that. Even one of our better tacklers (Holden based on last season’s stats at Bolton) couldn’t hold up to him. The guy’s a thug and luckily there aren’t many of them in the game.

            Reply

          • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/11 at 8:36 PM

            Torres played in the Holden-break-his-leg game. Torres did not do well.

            Reply

            • Posted by Jared on 2011/08/12 at 6:26 AM

              That was also a year and a half ago under a different coach. I’d like to see Torres get another shot.

    • Posted by Soccernst on 2011/08/11 at 11:00 PM

      Torres is also a useful threat on set pieces on the right side.

      Reply

  3. Posted by matthewsf on 2011/08/11 at 9:45 AM

    Great review Neil. Thanks.

    Thought Beckerman was better than a 6. But that’s probably splitting hairs. Pun intended? Not sure…

    Two points of emphasis from my side.

    One, the US looked to move the ball out of the back. They didn’t really do a great job at it, but they also didn’t hurt themselves. That’s pretty good for a 2-day camp in my opinion.

    Two, the chink of manu-et-manu defending from Bradley hasn’t been putty’d. Freak play last night, but caught not watching. Similar to many games before. I hope he recognizes this and improves it.

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/08/11 at 12:46 PM

      The Yanks are coming! To TSG and to conquer the entire soccer world!

      Reply

    • Posted by mathmatics on 2011/08/11 at 2:27 PM

      Apparently I’m in the minority re: Mr Beckerman. I appreciate how hard he works, and his positioning was sound for 90 minutes, but he was not tidy in possession. I lost count of how many times he (and torres for that matter) had the ball taken off his feet.

      I mean I guess he looks calm on the ball. He just looks calm for two beats too long, while a defender closes down and nicks it.

      That’s pretty much the cardinal sin for holding midfielders. Exhibit A: People of Ghana v Clark

      Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/11 at 8:45 PM

        That example is not exhibit A.

        Clark barely (if ever) had control of that ball in part because MB gave it to him in a very awkward position.

        And after Clark lost it ( or rather, Boateng swiped it) it was Jay Demerit who did an awful job of closing down Boateng, even though he had nearly half the field to do so, since Clark lost the ball near the center circle.

        And, to finish off the disaster, Howard fell asleep on the shot positioning himself poorly and letting a saveable shot in at the near post, a basic goalkeeping sin.

        That goal was a complete breakdown of the US defense, with lots of blame to spread around, but everyone blames Clark because it is the lazy, easy thing to do.

        Reply

        • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 1:34 PM

          It doesn’t help that Clark picked up an unnecessary yellow right after the goal. And while there were others to blame, I know that everyone that watched the game with me asked the same question before the game started: “Why the heck is Rico starting?”

          Reply

          • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/12 at 2:46 PM

            “I know that everyone that watched the game with me asked the same question before the game started: “Why the heck is Rico starting?””

            Well then I guess mob rule is always right.

            When Casey started that Honduras WC qualifier in 2009, had BB been in the bar where I watched the game, he would have been strung up. Then Casey went on to score two goals. The lesson is sometimes a manager knows more about the team than the mob.
            Not always but sometimes.

            I’ll bet your friends would not have started Beckerman against Mexico, this Wednesday either.

            Perhaps you would prefer an American Idol system where the lineup is decided by voting a few hours before game time? The USSF could earn money by having sponsor ship for the voting in events. I think it would do well.

            Reply

            • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 6:30 PM

              Easy, Martin, no need to be sarcastic and snide. I’m not saying that me and four other guys sitting on a couch know better than Coach Sweats did. There’s a reason he coached the team and I’m currently an unemployed college grad. In hindsight, its always easy to second guess, and if it’d worked out, then I would’ve been as thrilled as anyone.

              But the fact is that it didn’t. And while the pass may have been bad (I can’t find the clip on youtube, if you have a link that’d be great), Clark still mishandled the ball. Yes, there were others at fault, as you’ve emphatically mentioned – but Clark coughed up the rock. Maurice Edu was sitting on the bench, having played well in the past two games, and Clark hadn’t really acquitted himself in the tourney up to that point – if memory serves, Clark got beat by Stevie Gerrard for the goal in the England game (and yes, others were at fault as well, notably Gooch, but Clark let Gerrard wander away from him).

              To blame it solely on Clark is as you said, quite lazy. But to say that he should not have a lion’s share of the blame is, in my mind, a little bit biased. While I am (obviously) biased against him getting time with the national team, I’m trying to be objective here – and of the five goals we allowed in the tourney, Clark was directly involved in two of them, despite playing in about 120 minutes total. Could Howard have done better, could Demerit have stepped up quicker, could Bradley have made a better pass? Yes, any of these could have been enough to change the outcome of that short span…but if I remember correctly (and again, I don’t have a clip so I could be wrong), Clark received the ball, tried to turn upfield, and got plucked. If he had been on the receiving end of such a bad pass, as you suggest, why not play the ball back to a defender? You know that pressure could be coming, and that’s not a place on the field where you want to be turning the ball over.

              Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe Edu would’ve done the exact same thing. You wanna suggest that, it’s fine, but there’s no need to be condescending and snide. This forum’s really good about that, for the most part, so let’s try to be civil here.

            • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/12 at 10:07 PM

              Tux,

              Go to google and type in Ghana vs US 2010 World Cup.

              “And while the pass may have been bad (I can’t find the clip on youtube, if you have a link that’d be great), Clark still mishandled the ball. Yes, there were others at fault, as you’ve emphatically mentioned – but Clark coughed up the rock.”

              Yes, Clark did but he did not give up the goal.

              Your logic seems to be that as soon as Clark lost the ball the US was automatically one goal down. Boateng putting the ball in the net was then just a mere formality. Nothing could be further from the truth.

              Clark lost the ball in the center circle about 50 yards from goal .

              Demerit had a chance to pick up Clark and close down Boateng, He failed to do so.

              Howard had a chance to pick up Clark and Demerit and position himself to stop the shot , which was hardly unstoppable, and he failed to.

              That is two defenders who failed to do their job after Clark failed at his. How he gets the lion’s share is beyond me. It’s a team failure and they are all to blame but if you want to hand out lion’s shares then that belongs to Howard the last man in the chain who had the best shot at stopping the goal from happening.

              “Maurice Edu was sitting on the bench, having played well in the past two games, and Clark hadn’t really acquitted himself in the tourney up to that point – if memory serves, Clark got beat by Stevie Gerrard for the goal in the England game (and yes, others were at fault as well, notably Gooch, but Clark let Gerrard wander away from him). To blame it solely on Clark is as you said, quite lazy. But to say that he should not have a lion’s share of the blame is, in my mind, a little bit biased. While I am (obviously) biased against him getting time with the national team, I’m trying to be objective here – and of the five goals we allowed in the tourney, Clark was directly involved in two of them, despite playing in about 120 minutes total. Could Howard have done better, could Demerit have stepped up quicker, could Bradley have made a better pass? Yes, any of these could have been enough to change the outcome of that short span…but if I remember correctly (and again, I don’t have a clip so I could be wrong), Clark received the ball, tried to turn upfield, and got plucked. If he had been on the receiving end of such a bad pass, as you suggest, why not play the ball back to a defender? You know that pressure could be coming, and that’s not a place on the field where you want to be turning the ball over.”

              That is easy for you to say if you are not on the field. It is a little different when you are on the field. He did not have time to do as you say. Let me put it in NFL terms. Kyle Boller significantly shortened Todd Heap’s career by constantly hanging him out to dry, giving him passes to catch the almost always put Heap in a position to get creamed in a major way. They are called hospital passes because they put you in the hospital as soon as you catch it.

              “Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe Edu would’ve done the exact same thing. You wanna suggest that, it’s fine, but there’s no need to be condescending and snide. “

              I wasn’t being condescending and snide. This is what you wrote:
              “And while there were others to blame, I know that everyone that watched the game with me asked the same question before the game started: “Why the heck is Rico starting?”

              You validated your view that Rico should not have started by stating that everyone watching the game with you agreed with you. This is known as selecting a team by consensus. It’s not unprecedented. The England team was not selected by the manager until 1963 when Alf Ramsey took over. My American Idol selection process was a serious suggestion, one which I would have thought you and your friends would prefer. I’m not a believer in it but I am dead certain would be a big hit with US soccer fans.

              As for why Edu did not start, as far as I know Bradley, who may be the only person who really knows, has never given his reasons for starting Clark. I do know that one of Bradley’s biggest flaws was his complete lack of political sensibilty when it came to the fans. When you offer no explanation for your actions, that leaves room for speculation , no matter how unfounded and eventually, that speculation becomes the the “fact of the matter”.Bradley was his own worst enemy in that way.

            • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 11:06 PM

              If the American Idol comment was a serious one, then I apologize for assuming you were trying to be snide there. As for that method of selecting starters…well, as much as I’ve second-guessed BB, and while there have been many times where I’ve screamed at my TV because Johnny B is getting time or Jozy can’t finish, I can’t say I’d put my faith in the American public (I mean, we can’t even accurately select all-star teams correctly for baseball and basketball. How would we manage to do so for soccer, where the positions are far less static and the game is likely far more foreign to the average fan?). Would it be popular? Yes, but I’d rather not have anything close to the Yao Ming effect (where a player’s popularity with fans makes him voted a starter even though he hasn’t been healthy for three months).

              And to be fair, even putting it in the hands of a committee of experts (for which I would be nowhere near remotely qualified) makes me hesitate almost as much, but that’s mostly because I’ve watched Miracle (I’ve referenced it twice now in six hours. That’s gotta be a record) enough times to think that all it takes is a visionary coach and the right system to get world class results. Well, that and the fact that our USSF committee doesn’t exactly instill much confidence in me.

              As for the hospital passes – you’re completely right. If a receiver gets hung out by his quarterback and doesn’t hang on, that’s rarely ever put on the receiver. I managed to find the video, and looking at Bradley’s pass, yes, it leaves Clark too close to the defender, but he’s not unaware of the defender’s presence, and I’m confused as to why he tried to extend the pass by not cutting the ball off right away (though the only position I played regularly in organized soccer was keeper, so that may just be inexperience on my part). Again, this is a 20/20 hindsight thing, but it seems that Clark tried to run the ball out and then cut back on the defender to open up the middle. He got left on an island, and tried to force something instead of playing it safe and retreating with the ball to play it out wide left. Instead of a hospital pass, this seems to me to be the equivalent of throwing a bit behind a receiver on a slant route, forcing him to slow up and then having him try to turn upfield and get clobbered instead of letting his change in momentum carry him to the ground with the ball still in his hands.

              As for Jay…yes, he should’ve stepped up. It looks significantly worse because he got spun, and I think part of the reason for that is he was trying to contain the play until Clark caught up, rather than cleaning up the mess himself. If I’m Tim Howard, I’m livid at Clark and DeMerit. I don’t know if I’d be as pissed at Bradley, mostly because it’s hard to judge minimal changes in depth at midfield from your own endline and I wouldn’t know just how compromised he’d left Clark.

              And as for Howard himself…this was a well-slotted ball. Unless he was sitting on that post, which he wasn’t because the touch before was bringing Boateng towards the middle of the box, and he was a half-step late coming across. Bear in mind the man was playing with what were likely cracked ribs, and any sort of quick lateral movement makes that hurt like crazy. Could this have been saved? Yes, but I think (and this is an entire other debate all together) that we’re slightly spoiled by Tim Howard’s constant brilliance, and to think that he’s playing at a level any lower than that means that we need to throw him under the bus.

              Anyway, sorry for the multiple long responses, and for assuming that you were being jerkish.

            • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/13 at 7:18 AM

              Tux,

              As a keeper you can appreciate that Howard’s biggest failure on that goal was his failure to read the situation properly and then to position himself accordingly.

              The ball went in the near post, which is not supposed to happen. It seems clear to me Howard wasn’t sure if Boateng was going to cut inside or outside. Howard got caught in between and therefore did not properly reduce the shooting angle.

              I realize things happened very fast but what separates the great keepers from the nearly great is that instant recognition and reaction.

              Rib pain may have slowed him down physically but it should not affect his positioning. And if he was in such pain that his judgment was affected then should not have been out there.

              I’ve seen this sort of thing happen to Howard often enough that I never feel truly comfortable with him in goal in a meaningful game.

              Don’t apologize for your long posts; at least you outline your reasoning and make sense.

            • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/13 at 6:29 PM

              To be fair, I played keeper because I was the only person stupid enough to want to have the ball kicked at me (I also loved playing third base until my high school coach decided my lack of hitting ability was reason enough to move me into the outfield). My style was incredibly unrefined and aggressive, less about staying on my line and reacting to the play and more about forcing attackers to rush shots because I was diving for the ball at their feet. The play that Howard got jacked up on against England? Yeah, I would have tried to get to that ball first even if it’d been at the twelve, let alone the six. So my understanding of how to *properly* play goalie is tainted by poor coaching and an overaggressive defensive mentality. That said, thanks for the vote of confidence, but I probably don’t deserve it.

              It surprises me, though, that you aren’t confident in Howard. In my mind, he’s the best player we have and the only guy with an argument for being world-class, other than Dempsey. While he does occasionally do things that I question (and by that I mean every third or fourth game I wonder why he didn’t come out for a ball), he’s spent his entire national team career playing with a sub-standard back line and a bunkering play style that has a tendency to invite immense offense pressure. Does he have a flaw or two? Yeah, but honestly, I’m not sure what they are (to be fair, I’ve never really looked that hard for faults in Tim’s game since there are so many easier targets out there, so I’ll just take your word for it regarding the late recognition stuff), and compared to the rest of the team, his level of play is damn near otherworldly.

            • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/14 at 7:45 AM

              Tux,

              Klinsmann has more pressing concerns than goalkeeper. But he does need to find someone to put pressure on Howard.

              I may be in a large minority but I believe that Howard has grown just the slightest bit complacent since Kasey Keller hasn’t been a threat to his automatic status.

              All those acrobatic saves are great but whenever I see that from a keeper I wonder if better positioning in the first place would have allowed him to make a routine save instead of having to make up for a mental error with spectacular athleticism.

              When a QB and a receiver are in perfect harmony, he catches the ball in front of him, in stride and then is positioned to gain more yards after the catch. If they are not in harmony, then the receiver can still make the reception but he will have to make a wonderfully athletic dive to save the situation. The second case is actually a mistake but it looks spectacular and has everyone saying “what a great catch!”.

              Ninety five percent of the time when it comes to the USMNT Howard is just fine. And that is probably okay for the most part.

              But when it comes to the big time clutch games, such as Finals or the World Cup games, I believe Howard falls short of “great “ status.

              Was he responsible for the US losing the Gold Cup Final,Confederations Cup Finals and the Ghana game? Not exactly.

              There is a tendency for US fans to absolve Howard of blame by saying he played well but his defense let him down. There is something to that but as an established veteran, and last man in the chain, he is also a big part of organizing that defense (surely you notice all that yelling he does?) and he should share in its success and its failure.

              Howard cannot be blamed for “losing” the games I mentioned but he did not exactly stand on his head and come up with the unbelievable game that a top level keeper might have either. Given his sacred cow status I expect more and he does not deliver. Think of all those statistically great athletes who did not produce in the playoffs such as A-Rod.

              Maybe Howard will be better by 2014 if we get that far. But I hope Klinsmann finds someone to either take over or pressure him.

  4. Posted by Jake C. on 2011/08/11 at 10:09 AM

    Good write up Neil. A couple of things to add to your analysis:

    1) I resent the comparisons of Castillo to Bornstein. Castillo is much faster than Bornstein, and offensively I think he provides more. It’s his nerves that let him down last night, which is understandable given a) he hasn’t played left back for the US ever, and b) he’d only had 2 days with the senior team before a game against MEXICO. Overall, I’d agree with your rating of him, it’s just the comparison I’m disputing. This is also a response to Steve Davis, as I think his evaluation was ridiculous, but damned if I ever post anything in the ESPN forums.

    2) I think you rated Jones and Bradley too high. Both of them were slow and ineffective in their distribution, with Jones being the biggest culprit. I don’t think Jones belongs in that lineup. MB could well relearn the role that he was placed in last night, but I don’t recommend that to happen again until his club situation drastically improves. The pace was much improved after he left the field.

    Bottom line, I saw the US grow into this game. Tactics were better-implemented after they had about an hour of a game-situation to process what they’d been taught, and for a team to adjust that quickly is very promising. Can’t wait to see the next pair of friendlies.

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  5. Funny that Donovan was truly awful those first 45 minutes. Really very bad.

    Nice to see a different type of CB in Orozco Fiscal since all the usually suspects are of such similar qualities. Thought he did a very good job last night. Pace, quickness, good defending 1v1 and playing the ball out the back.

    In the first half, Torres spent far more of the first half tracking back to help Castillo than he did drifting centrally.

    Bradley is too slow with the ball and of thought to do that advanced midfield role better than Donovan. He’s too slow with the ball and his range of passing is too limited to do the deeper organizing role better than Torres. And he lacks the willingness and tactical awareness to do the deeper defensive role better than Beckerman. Yes, he was better than Jones but not by much.

    As central midfielders go, Bradley is a jack of all trades and a master of none. The team will no longer be built around him so I don’t think it’s right to assume he starts unless he finds a way to fit more clearly into Klinsmann’s vision. He’s not wanted by his current club and he didn’t catch on at Villa. It’s fair to ask what exactly is happening with him right now.

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    • Posted by LarryMontanez on 2011/08/11 at 10:45 AM

      Agree. MB is a good player, but unless he gets some first-team action at a strong club, i can see him continue to drop off. he was always playing a little above his talents because of his heart. when he’s on, he can be a nice DCM, but since he can’t turn and attack/escape pressure with pace with the ball at his feet, playing up high in the hole probably isn’t the right place for him.

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    • Very good discussion going on here, and I appreciate it. I take umbrance with a couple of notions from the great Mr. Tuesday and the other MB 90 detractors and Torres fans:

      1) Torres spent most his time tracking back to help Castillo and not drifting centrally. Didn’t see that when i watched the first half again. Well- correction: saw it, but was amazed how late Torres was in getting back to help. Meanwhile, DEF CON 1 (Castillo’s nickname b/c it was a national emergency every time Mexico worked that flank) relied heavily on MB 90 doing what he does- coming all the way back and over on multiple occasions to help.

      2) Michael was playing a position last night that he hadn’t played in a while. My rating was probably half a point too high, but I felt that he improved drastically as the game wore on- probably b/c he could actually stay involved offensively. I do NOT think he is a CDM; I think he is a CM capable of defending when he has to. His tackling is overrated because of his motor; his distribution and ability to make great runs is underrated b/c he was deployed by Dad as a dual destroyer for so long.

      3) He doesn’t have a club now. You’re right- that’s cause for concern (much more so than his being lost on a depth chart at Villa). But it’s also reason to understand why he might look rusty early in a game that had to be emotional for him.

      If he actually plays more like he did against Mexico in Pasadena than he did last night, I’d be concerned– but that’s not what I saw at all.

      As for Torres, I praised his passing and for good reason. I just don’t see a starting role for him unless it is centrally– and sorry– he doesn’t get Stu Holden’s spot. That leaves utilizing him to chase a game when his defense, which is a liability, isn’t a huge issue, because unless it’s a World Cup or goal differential matters, it doesn’t matter if you lose 4-1 or 2-1.

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      • The reason I think you rated MB too highly is because he didn’t play the role he was supposed to particularly well. He was too far away from the main striker which left him isolated.

        He did spray a couple of nice balls out wide, but to be fair, they weren’t that “creative” or difficult – even I could have played them. However, to be fair to the lad, when criticising his ability to play that role, the movement of other players wasn’t brilliant, especially in the first half.

        One other thought: in the first half, Mexico had a lot of possession [even though they didn't exactly create much / trouble Howard]. But we all saw Buddle struggle because he was isolated and many times it was 3 v 1. So, if there were 2 spare men at the back for Mexico, the US was obviously over-manned elsewhere on the pitch. So how was it that Mexico kept the ball as well as they did?

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    • Posted by Matt C in Tampa on 2011/08/11 at 1:42 PM

      Totally agree that Landycakes sucked the first half, and frankly right up until he was shifted to the middle, the suckiness continued. For much of the first half, he seemed disinterested. Actually looked like he didn’t want to be out there. Up until the subs, i would rate him a 4 at best.

      After the subs and he was shifted towards the middle and freed up to chase the game offensively, he was stellar. That is his role. He should be freed up from defensive duties unless he’s chasing the ball in the offensive half. After he was freed up i agree with the 8 rating.

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  6. Posted by SoccerFanCali on 2011/08/11 at 10:22 AM

    I hate to disagree on some of your comments but your claiming it was Torres, Castillo and other newly member of the MNT that were off and made mistakes, I agree mistakes were made but think that it was the veterans who were trying to play the same style as before, it was Bradley who allowed the goal and true be told, Mexico made changes when they were up and clearly winning, they tested new players and allowing the MNT to mount a comeback, the U.S also made changes and when Bradley left they truly let go of the old style and play something completly different and this lead to the great second half from the MNT. In fact, I would argue that had torres stayed in the game, we could have won this friendly

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  7. I think this was a brilliant start. What did people expect int he first 45-55 minutes? 3 days and a new coach, new faces…it was not going to be Spain. Wonderful beginning.

    I have griped a bunch about this, and after this I will let it go. Harkes was terrible. All night long. If I wasn’t watching it on ESPN3, and like Darke so much, I would have switched to Galavision or whatever.

    Highlight of his work was criticizing Agudelo as he sets up the goal.

    Harkes, “Aww, You see, again, he’s looking to get too many touches on the ball…”

    Ian Darke (actually watching game and breaking in), “Brek Shea!!”…

    Brilliant work, right up there with your captaincy in which you thought sleeping with a teammates wife was a good idea.

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  8. Posted by Fellaini's-Fro on 2011/08/11 at 10:46 AM

    Great analysis by you and the other posters. That’s why I come here rather than other blogs. Great soccer IQ here.

    I noticed the same thing about the Mexico side almost always having more spacing. Spread out, while at times there were pockets of Americans. very close to each other.

    With the more spacing I wonder if that is why most wayward balls seem to find someone on the Mexican side than the American side. I noticed this too against Spain. A ball is headed, kicked without a destination and it falls to someone other than another American player.

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  9. Posted by kneelb4zod on 2011/08/11 at 10:51 AM

    Michael Bradley was a disaster last night

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  10. Posted by Carli Lloyd's PK on 2011/08/11 at 10:53 AM

    The first half made me want to poop my pants like Arellano…the second half made me slightly less barfy. Freakin’ Brek Shea actually made me want the Yanks to win a game for the first time in about two years…

    ps-love steady dready. LOVE. He’s got the composure that the US badly needs in the middle.

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    • Posted by Crow on 2011/08/11 at 1:05 PM

      I “wish” Beckerman wasn’t 29. I’ve always liked the guy but its hard to see him being there for the World Cup. I agree that he seems to have better composure than anyone on the roster other than possibly Deuce now and maybe Stu Holden.

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  11. I certainly believe you gave Bradley far too much credit in this match, 6 is much too high for a player that showed no ability to be a creative force in the attacking third and consistently was caught on the ball. Lets not forget that his awkward and tree-like attempt at defense is what lead to the first goal, even if Peralta didn’t get a foot to it, where was that ball going to go? It could just as easily have been an own goal off MB’s ass.

    Also feel you give Torres far too little credit, though I am admittedly a Torres fanboy. His ability to open space with his turns and obvious superior passing ability should see him occupy the spot that Bradley floundered in all game.

    I agree with your assessments of Shea, Agudelo and Rogers, and its great to see some of the forgotten cast under BB shine. I’m still a bit worried by some fans, and most media outlets (besides of course Mr. Wynalda) inability to criticize Michael Bradley. Even John Harkes gave raving reviews to a player that seemed out of sorts the entire match, I mean, the guy tried to run THROUGH a defender on a 1 on 1!

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    • Posted by Fellaini's-Fro on 2011/08/11 at 11:06 AM

      As I was watching that MB90 1 v 1 run, at the top of the box no less, he seemed to have no clue what to do to beat his defender. Nutmeg, Cruyff, Maradona, Rivelino or even a Scissors move would have been preferably to running at the defender and letting him take the ball from him. Ughhh!!!

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      • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 11:17 PM

        It looked like Ray Allen trying to run an odd-man fast break. Minorly panicked and unsure of what to do. It seemed like he was trying to draw a foul, but he forgot to bring the ball into the crowd with him.

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      • Posted by Texas 1836 on 2011/08/13 at 11:18 AM

        He was attempting to channel Sacha “The Showstopper” Kljestan.

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    • A bunch of people have said the same thing in comparing Bradley to Torres. Bradley was slow and gave the ball away too much because he is not technical enough. Torres has great passing ability and keeps the ball through his technical ability. However, the stats from the game do not bare this out at all. According to Optajack on MLS (http://www.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2011-08-10-usa-vs-mexico/chalkboard) Torres had 20 successful passes, but 11 unsuccessful passes, while losing the ball 14 times. Losing the ball more than you have successful passes is not having a good game. On the other hand, Bradley had 18 successful passes, only 2 unsuccessful ones, and lost the ball four times. Now, by this I do not mean to say that Torres is a terrible player, and he is definitely not a winger, but this is not the game to say that he is a far better passer of the ball than Bradley.

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      • Posted by Neil W. Blackmon on 2011/08/13 at 5:45 PM

        Thank you for that. Bradley also covered far more distance- which speaks to the fundamental problem with Torres: he isn’t just bad at defense, he’s somewhat unwilling to try to play defense.

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  12. Posted by patrickod on 2011/08/11 at 10:58 AM

    Good article – I really enjoyed it. What, no mention about the referee? That dude was a bit of a mess last night (both sides to be clear), even for a friendly. I did not see the same things as the others who have opined on your article as it relates to Castillo – I thought he was definitely a level down (technically and mentally) from the talent on the field and particularly the talent he was defending. Also, I would have rated Beckerman a bit higher because he had to do a lot os chasing which catches up with any player as the game goes on – but he was smooth and decisive on the ball I thought. One last comment re: Cherundolo and Donovan, they too were chasing the ball for the first 40 minutes, so not many chances to show their stuff in the attack when there were very few attacks and I think having only one forward played a part in that problem. I too would have liked to see Freddie in the game – curious decision.

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    • Posted by Fellaini's-Fro on 2011/08/11 at 11:09 AM

      It was mentioned somewhere else that there might be a move for Freddy to another club and it was a precaution / favor not to play him before his tryout or physical.

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  13. Mexico did have more space but it was all conceded in areas were they had difficulty mounting a threat on goal. That’s exactly what you’d hope to see. They did not overrun the midfield, they did not get behind the back four. The USA was tight and tried to play with the ball at a faster pace in less space when they won it back. They found so many more passing lanes out of the back than I’ve ever seen.

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    • Agree with above re: Mexico’s space. Felt it was important to point out b/c it was jarring in the first half, and bunker defending won’t always turn the tide, particularly when you have as much zonal confusion as the US had in the 1st half and lack shape. Fortunately, that at least somewhat can be chalked up to a lack of practice time.

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  14. Posted by kaya on 2011/08/11 at 11:24 AM

    I think the score on MB is far too high. He doesn’t play good enough defense to play CDM and he’s useless when he finds himself alone with the ball up front. I know his poor form didn’t do him any favors last night… but that never stopped his dad from insisting he was our playmaker, so good riddance.
    What I really don’t care for with Kyle Beckerman is how poor he is to turn forward in either direction when facing his own goal… he seemed liberated from needing to do that, possibly from Michael Bradley being moved up the field and Bocanegra having a good game and Fiscal being a pretty decent backpass option, as well.
    Also, given his first half, I don’t see how Donovan merits an 8. I’ll give him a bit of a break because he did find the game once the substitutions came and Torres moved to the middle… but he was the Donovan no one wants to see (or no one can see?) for the first half.

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  15. Posted by Gregorio on 2011/08/11 at 11:24 AM

    Great Analysis, I concur with many of your sentiments. Although (me being the eternal pessimist wit grandiose delusions), I think we should be optimistic about the future but we also must not get too giddy. Mexico was missing some key weapons as were the USA. That being said, onto my ramblings, I believe the players in the 1st half reverted to type/role so thats why many seemed so out of sorts, like JFT who seemed a tad lost and until put back in his familar role, as well as MB who did have some decent moments but he still as someone on TSG put has the turning radius of an 18 wheeler. Jones seemed out of it fo some reason even though he does have the class for this level. The Insertion of Shea & Agudelo, added width and better hold up play and more importantly a closer resemblence to a 4-4-2 to which the team is more familar with.
    Castillo was ok but not good enough to back up his own smack.
    Buddle needed help, and I’m glad for Rogers & Rico, they need some hugs. Overall it was still a breath of fresh air, hope sprinsg eternal!!!

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    • Posted by Texas 1836 on 2011/08/13 at 11:26 AM

      Only randomly related to your post, but…I would really like to see the true US A-team play the true Mexico A-team.

      That hasn’t happened in far too long.

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  16. Posted by kimo on 2011/08/11 at 11:28 AM

    Some good points some not so good points…

    This was really a tale of 2 teams … pre and post substitutions …

    PRE Subs … The 5 midfielders were woefully placed. 3 defensive / holding midfielders in the center of the pitch was always going to be a disaster from a spacing and possession standpoint. In addition, Torres has NEVER been an effective winger. That was an experiment that went terribly wrong.

    POST Subs … Bringing in 2 legit wingers and allowing Landy and Torres to pair up in the middle w/ Beckerman as the only legit deep holding midfielder (simplified his responsibilities) opened up spacing and allowed the players to roam in a more natural surrounding and, more importantly, play and move more naturally. Torres played well in this role, but poorly as a winger. Beckerman played poorly pre sub, but looked much more comfortable post sub.

    To me, if Klinsmanm truly wants to promote attacking football, only 1 legit def / holding midfielder will play at a time…certainly not 3 like last night. At the end of the day, I think it will be Bradley, Edu and Jones fighting it out for this role.

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  17. Posted by dth on 2011/08/11 at 11:30 AM

    An underrated factor: I think a big part of the reason we looked better in the second half than the first was speed. We put much more of it on the field than previously.

    Your second half attackers: Rogers (very fast); Shea (very fast); Agudelo (merely fast); Donovan (fast)

    Your first half attackers: Buddle (medium pace), Torres (slow for a winger), Donovan, Bradley (below average)

    Your Gold Cup final attackers: Dempsey (below average), Adu (good burst, but breakaway speed poor), Bedoya (average), Donovan (fast).

    Any coincidence that the best we looked against Mexico was when we put a fast team together? Don’t think so–the speed pushed back Mexico’s defensive line, which gave everyone much more space and time to operate.

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    • Posted by John Henry on 2011/08/11 at 11:45 AM

      minor difference: I think Donovan, with the ball, is VERY fast. There were a couple times when he was able to shift it into 11th and accelerate away from two defenders while dribbling.

      Completely unrelated, but how funny (sad?) is it that the best MLS player in history is still nevertheless a (big) career disappointment. I’m maybe in the minority in this, but I think Donovan really could have made a big impact in Europe.

      He is a turd, though. It’s hard to actually like him.

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      • Posted by dth on 2011/08/11 at 12:03 PM

        You’re right–Donovan’s fast with the ball at his feet. It is somewhat sad he couldn’t stick with Leverkusen, but to me this goes to a theory Bruce Arena had. Someone asked him about Freddy Adu, and Arena said: “It’s nice, but we need one hundred Freddy Adus.” Once you start producing prospects in bulk some of the issues like Donovan being homesick or not as mentally tough as is ideal, or Freddy being not-quite-athletic enough, start to even out.

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      • Posted by Texas 1836 on 2011/08/13 at 11:29 AM

        If you don’t like Landon, you should go see 30 Minutes Or Less.

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    • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/08/11 at 5:44 PM

      I understand what you are saying about physical speed but more importantly in my mind is the speed of thought. When the “fast” guys came on we saw one touch and pass or one touch and move, what we didnt see was five touches while looking around the field or 3 touches and then a pass backwards (looking at you MB). While Duece is physically slow he thinks quickly. Its wasted if he is the only one doing that though.

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      • Posted by Fellaini's-Fro on 2011/08/11 at 11:06 PM

        As Bruce Arena said Deuce is willing to try sh*t that no one else thinks of. His physical attributes don’t rank up there with the world’s best. But his speed of thought, willingness to go at defenders without fear and his swagger sets him apart.

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      • Posted by dth on 2011/08/12 at 2:03 PM

        You’re right, of course. But think of it this way: given a certain speed of thought, it will become more effective the greater the speed of the player in question. Is–we’ll say–Brek Shea’s speed of thought all that much faster than Alejandro Bedoya’s? No, but he looked more effective in their respective stints against Mexico because Mexico backed off of him and gave him more space.

        Additionally, putting more speed on the field has an exponential effect–it reinforces itself and becomes a much more productive environment for everyone. I suspect if you parked Dempsey in the #10 spot in a formation with Agudelo, Shea and Donovan, he’d have an absolute blast destroying Mexico.

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        • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 2:13 PM

          If he’d come on in the 60th as a sub (which, if he was available and I was JK, is something I would’ve considered; we all know that Deuce has a job in the XI and the only question is where and how he’ll be deployed), that would’ve been amazing to watch, because as good as Robbie Rogers looked in limited time, I’d much rather take Dempsey playing out wide right for those twenty minutes, because while Rogers was stretching the field with speed, Dempsey would’ve been commanding multiple defenders to free up the speed demons even more…or exploiting the space freed up by the balls-to-the-walls speed of the rest of our attackers.

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        • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/08/12 at 9:30 PM

          My point exactly. Speed is necessary. Dempsey isn’t the fleetest of foot but he is our best player at one touch and do something….

          I guess speed of thought is not a great descriptive. By speed of thought I really mean the ability to play one touch and…. ball as opposed to slowing things down with multiple touches and then something…..

          Bedoya hasnt shown, in the games I have seen him in, that same one touch game we saw in the last 30 minutes of the Mexico game. He may have it in him but I haven’t seen it yet.

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          • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 11:14 PM

            I wouldn’t say the attack dies when Bedoya has the ball at his feet…but I think that he’s a little more deliberate with it than he should be.

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  18. I want to recognize Philly fans for being extra vocal and supportive of USMNT as a response to the “Embarrassment of Pasedena” last month. The nation was born there. It is fitting that America’s soccer’s new era was born there too last night.

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    • Posted by Alex on 2011/08/11 at 12:14 PM

      Agreed. Nice to see the “Punta” chants being matched by the “You Suck” ones. this match.

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    • Posted by Crow on 2011/08/11 at 12:45 PM

      Hey give credit to fans like me (I traveled cross country) who went through hell attending the game. It was one of the worst experiences of my life in many ways. It would have been nice to have more support but I understand why more people didn’t attend.

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      • I will watch and re-watch my chopped up DVR’d version of last night’s game (ESPN is goofy) just as many times as I did the Gold Cup Final surely, but the crowd seemed different last night. The one lasting and stinging impression from the early summer calamity in Pasadena was how much more the Mexico fans care for their team… Last night in Philly I did not have that same feeling. It may have to do with the different demographics in Philly, but I am not so sure.

        Last summer at the send-off series against Turkey there were plenty of more rabid Turks in the stands, but US was not to be outdone. As they cursed our mothers in Turkish (I understand a little Turkish) US fans were firing right back with boos, cheers and whatever else they could muster to let the USMNT players know they were with them for this game and the trip to South Africa. I felt a little bit of the same spirit last night.

        It could be that many of our diehards were in Pasadena too, but we were just outnumbered… and I’m glad they were there… and I’m glad they were in Philly again last night. However, when the USMNT needs a morale boost as they do right now they should focus on the cities which have their fan base most easily mobilized.

        At the end of last night’s game the USMNT players seemed to appreciate the brotherly love and made a point of genuinely applauding the fans. That is the part of my DVR that I look forward to seeing again. Timmy Howard looking happy and not in a tirade about too much Spanish…

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        • Posted by Crow on 2011/08/11 at 6:02 PM

          Thanks for the compliment about Philly fans. I’m one of them. Generally Philly fans are despised. There are some bad apples, but Philly fans shouldn’t be stereotyped in a negative light, and I think the Turkey game was the best support I’ve seen for the USMNT- other than maybe some of the games at RFK.

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        • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/11 at 8:58 PM

          Re that send off game against Turkey. It was in Philly( which has a sizeable Turkish community) and within driving distance (Paterson NJ, New York City and Northern Virginia)of some of the largest Turkish communities in the US.

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          • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/08/12 at 7:54 AM

            I’m a Philly lifer from birth and am frankly pretty embarrassed at the trailer park hooliganism that passes for fan behavior at too many events (Eagles/Flyers especially).
            Was at Turkey and Mex the other night and have to agree that the fans were fantastic. Very vocal and supportive even when things were going shite. MB did get an sarcastic earful when he left but hey…that’s a pretty clear message from the fan base IMO.

            Was at Arg in Meadowlands and the atmosphere was not nearly as positive. Althought it was cold as hey-ell…

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            • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 11:13 PM

              Cheering when Mike Irvin breaks his neck is taking it a little far (and this is coming from an Eagles fan). But if, say, someone on the team were to get Nigel de Jong back for snapping Stu’s leg? I’m not sure that I’d sit on my hands if that happened…and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

  19. Posted by Alex on 2011/08/11 at 11:33 AM

    You know, I was wholly unimpressed by that starting line-up. 4 deep-lying central mids? Really? I chalk that poor 1st half up to the incredibly uninspiring midfield.
    -Jones’ international play reads like a story with him climaxing at the US vs Jamaica game. I remember thinking how class he was that match, and have never seen him perform even close to that level lately. He was just so clunky, with poor distribution, and lacking defensive effort.
    -Torres is not an Attacking Mid by any means, so putting him on the wing was not intelligent. He and Beckerman were two players that seemed far to casual with the ball in our own half. I know they like to be deep distributors, but they’re thought process has to be quicker on the international level. He did look better centrally though. And Beckerman was quietly solid as a DMid.
    -Bradley wasn’t poor, wasn’t exceptional either. I don’t think he’s suited for that AM role. His distribution just wasn’t good enough. I still think he’s better suited for the 2 in a 4-2-3-1. A double pivot of him and Holden in the 2 is my dream.
    What really affected our distribution and attack in the 1st half though was the lack of outside speed. The only speed player in our front 6 was Landon (who definitely deserved the Golden Shinguard). The difference Shea and Rogers made was obvious.

    In our D, I thought Orozco Fiscal was quiet (ergo solid). He was shaky in distribution, but that was probably due to nerves. Decent outing for the kid. Cherundolo was, meh. I expected more but he is coming back from injuries. Makes me wish for Chandler even more though. Castillo was poor. For so much hype about being a technical wingback, the attacking part of his game was not good. And his whiffed clearance seemed to sap any confidence he had. After that, he was poor to show for the ball (like he was Indiana Jones and the ball was a snake). Luckily he had Shea over top of him to actually provide an attack on the left flank. Boca was Boca. Solid and strong in the middle, everything you’d expect from Cap. ‘Merica.

    Other than that, there were a few moments where the emphasis in 1 touch passing was put on display, as we had some spells of smooth passing possession in the offensive half. With more practices together and *cough cough* better/healthier players in, I hope that becomes a habit, and a more common occurence.

    Hopefully the “hold speed players on the bench for 2nd half supersub sparks” doesn’t become a trend of Klinsmann’s though. We lacked any danger men in the 1st half and our attack was toothless. 2nd half we were the better of the two. Can’t wait for the next 2 friendlies, but overall decent, slightly optimistic start to the Kaiser’s rule.

    Reply

    • Posted by Sean on 2011/08/11 at 12:11 PM

      Jones has played in two games since that Jamaica match. I think he needs to get his shit together, especially with the way Beckerman played. I think that he could excel in that role shielding the back 4. Clearly not the finished product, but definitely saw flashes of play that were exciting as a fan on the MNT.

      Reply

    • Posted by LarryMontanez on 2011/08/12 at 10:00 AM

      I’m hoping the slow midfield was Klinsi’s way of transitioning out of the Bradley style, and the move to speed in the 2nd half was his way of saying this will be my style going forward. I’m also hoping putting MB in as the CAM was his way of “making sure” he doesn’t belong in that role. CDM is better for him, but i wondering if we even need 2 CDMs. we don’t have enough speed to waste two MF spots on plodders with the ball, so maybe he battles it out with holden if holden ever comes back.

      Donovan is still the only player we have that can turn and put a lot of pressure on the defense by attacking with pace with the ball, so he should be playing in the hole, behind the strikers. call it CAM if you will.

      Reply

      • Posted by Gino on 2011/08/12 at 10:20 PM

        Include me as hopeful as well. I’ve been a proponent of the 4-2-3-1 for the past few years, but Klinsmann has been talking about incorporating a more attacking style for the Nats since taking over. Maybe that means having a Donovan, Torres, Adu or Holden playing as a more advanced CM with two forwards up top. Donovan looked far more dangerous late in the game playing centrally than he did earlier on the flank. The US seemed more dangerous when they played with more width. If Shea proves to be more than a one-trick pony and Rogers finally plays consistently, we can combine them with Bedoya and even Holden (most of his time with the US has been on the wing).

        Reply

  20. Posted by dth on 2011/08/11 at 11:35 AM

    Nowak and Adu, reunited again: http://www.soccerbyives.net/soccer_by_ives/2011/08/adu-signing-with-philadelphia-union.html#more

    Not sure how the heck this one is going to work out. Will Nowak play Adu as a #10? What does this mean for Philadelphia’s 1,000,000 forwards (approximate)?

    Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/08/11 at 12:36 PM

      I just saw this and am very happy. The last few days I have been saying that the Union should get Adu, and Adu would benefit from going there. This is exactly what the Union needs and I was wondering due to all the rumours of a “big transfer”.

      I actually have been irritated with Nowak lately. Not just the continuous Bob Bradley-esque fetish with certain players for no discernible reason- see Nakazawa, AND barely playing Danny Mwanga (WTH?). I was really upset when he “blamed” the fans (in a back-handed way) for the Carlos Ruiz fallout. The fans never booed Ruiz. Sure there were more cheers for Mwanga, Torres, and even McInerney (will he ever develop to be on the MNT?), but Ruiz was supported as well.

      Anyway, I think Nowak will be good for Adu, and Adu will give the Union what they have been missing the most this year- a creative link between the midfield and forwards.

      Reply

      • Posted by dth on 2011/08/11 at 6:36 PM

        Nowak’s decisions have been puzzling me all year. PARTICULARLY Nakazawa. I don’t understand why there isn’t a loud outcry and/or demands for an investigation. Other than pretty free kicks, he contributes nothing to the game. I don’t understand it at all. That particularly angers me as Nakazawa is stealing game reps from Amobi Okugo.

        Then there’s the Danny Mwanga situation. That’s also very strange…but in Nowak’s defense, Mwanga hasn’t been playing as well as he did in the period before his shoulder injury. Mwanga was unguardable during that period–sheer magic. With Mwanga–maybe it’s a catch-22 thing: he needs PT to look good, but he can’t get PT because he doesn’t look good.

        (re: McInerney: I like a lot of what he does, but I don’t think his ceiling is high enough to be a national team player. His misfortune was to be born in an era where there are a lot of high-ceiling forwards. Regardless of that assessment, it kind of makes me sad that he doesn’t take long-range shots anymore. He was a vicious long-range shooter in youth teams and doesn’t seem to take them at all anymore. This is the kind of thing I worry about for our scoring players–that their special qualities get beaten out of them a little bit. McInerney wouldn’t’ve been a national team player in any case, but still, it’s the principle of the thing.)

        Reply

  21. Your grade for Buddle is way too low. He has gotten MUCH better at holding up the ball, flicking it to teammates, etc. Those good balls were wasted because Buddle did not really have much support in the first half.

    Your grade for Torres is too high. He does have some ability on the ball, but he is way too slow in getting rid of the ball in the middle. As a result, Mexico got the ball away from him in the middle and ran it right back at the U.S. defense. I’d try him again against a lesser CONCAAF opponent and then try to build him up.

    Same deal with Castillo. Bad passing was one thing. But he was playing left back, and he tried to carry a ball past an opposing player with a cheeky chip. He was extremely lucky it hit the hand of the Mexican player, o/w could have been a disaster. I would not rule him out for the future, but that play shows, at a minimum, lack of maturity you need to play that position at the internaitonal level.

    Reply

  22. One caveat to my prior comment. I left to play our weekly game with about 25-30 minutes left to play in the 2nd half. But based on the descriptions of the remainder of that half and highlights, I don’t know that it affects the validity of what I said in the prior comments.

    I do agree with the rest of the write up.

    Reply

  23. I would simply point out, that the game changed as soon as the USMNT began to get the ball off their feet quicker. One and two touch passing led to a very discernible change in possession and field position. The goal came on a throw in and 5 combined touches from 3 players (agudelo -1, Shea 3 as he held off two defenders, and Rogers slam dunk). As soon as MB moved back and JFT moved centrally the ball movement increased tremendously. I too, believe JFT will see more time. BB just missed it with JFT.

    Reply

    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/08/11 at 12:57 PM

      And this is the issue that many have had with Bob and Mike regarding Torres and other CMF options. Mike’s weaknesses, well documented here and observed again last night, should not make him an automatic selection in the fulcrum CMF role. Am very encouraged that Klinsi played him in a forward AMF role even if it didn’t work well.

      Reply

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/08/11 at 1:08 PM

      Mike Bradley was a beast during the World Cup- but even when he is at his best- which he certainly has not been for awhile- he is never quick to get the ball off his feet. This has been repeated numerous times but I certainly agree and I think this is not only his biggest weakness but the entire teams’ biggest weakness. I really like @garybyrd’s comment because I think it highlights the most important area that the USMNT needs to improve in going forward.

      Reply

  24. Posted by Braden on 2011/08/11 at 12:18 PM

    I think Bradley playing as a CAM is as much about what he can give in the pressing role once the ball is turned over as what he can do going forward. It’s been a long time since he’s played that role, and I don’t know that he’s EVER played it with the USMNT.

    Klinnsman wants us taking chances but working hard to get the ball back the moment we lose it. Bradley and Holden are both well suited to be guys who can put pressure on a back line or DMs. It’s hard to see JFT or Adu being able to do that. I don’t know that Bradley’s future lies there for every match, but he can contribute there without having to be the lynchpin in attack. Bradley was not great last night, I’d probably give him a 5 myself. But I don’t think you can put a guy in a completely different role than he’s played for a couple years and then say he can’t hack it after one game.

    I’m much more concerned about the up and down form that Jermaine Jones consistently displays than I am Bradley. We know what Bradley is capable of – when his club situation is sorted out there’s no reason to think he won’t play at a high level again.

    Reply

  25. I think the Beckerman love is a little too high. He had a great game defensively, but he’s getting way too much credit for his passing, which if you go back and look at the game again was pretty shaky. And the thing I noticed the most was that while other players are able to settle a long or high pass with some level of ease, Beckerman was allowing some high bounces giving Mexico plenty of time to close in on him. He did a nice job and should be commended, but it’s not like this guy is a revelation at CM. He is certainly ahead of Rico Clark in the pecking order though, and he should be.

    Also, I disagree about MB90 as an attacking mid, at least in the formation that Klinsmann is using. He is not a guy who can control the ball in tight spaces and leak pinpoint passes out to teammates. That’s exactly what you need from the CAM in a 4-2-3-1 (or a 4-3-3). He needs to be a master of one-touch passes. Bradley is a better fit as one of the deeper lying CMs, although preferably not the last one in the line of defense. I like Torres for that CAM spot, and would like to see Freddy Adu there as well.

    Reply

  26. Posted by dth on 2011/08/11 at 1:19 PM

    I rewatched the second half from the 60th minute onward, and had a few impressions:

    1) Castillo was comically bad. I thought he was bad the first time around, but somehow he became even worse on the second viewing. Now, the lesson of Brek Shea dictates we take our time with these things but my my my Castillo was bad–in all facets of the game.

    2) Agudelo is very inconsistent within games still: he had a few brilliant plays (his passes to Shea and Rogers that created goal-scoring opportunities, or his nice run to set up an errant long shot) and just as many ignorant/naive plays (my least favorite came off of a sequence in which Brek Shea ripped a shot on goal–Ochoa parried it right into the path of a nonexistent striker baring down on the far post. Should’ve been you, Juan!)

    Reply

    • Posted by dth on 2011/08/11 at 1:26 PM

      To continue off of 2): to cure this issue, Agudelo needs reps, but he needs a specific kind–he needs the permission to express himself creatively and try sh*t out. This will mean some times where you wince that he’s trying to take three guys on at once, but that’s the price you have to pay as a manager to give yourself a chance of coaching greatness. Fortunately all the coaches in Agudelo’s life–whether it’s Rongen, Backe, Bradley or Klinsmann–seem committed to allowing himself his ideas. That’s a very good thing, and sadly too rare at the professional level.

      Reply

      • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/11 at 5:07 PM

        Bear in mind that the kid is still only 18. He’ll get the reps.

        He also had what would’ve been an excellent chance to give us the lead late in the second half (I think this was after the 85th minute), but Rico left the ball about twenty feet behind him as he crashed into the box. Agudelo still managed to trap it, but he had to basically fall down to get a foot on the ball. If it’s level or ahead of him, he’s getting a good rip; he had his defender on his hip there.

        Reply

  27. Posted by Antonio H. on 2011/08/11 at 7:03 PM

    Someone should make a film called “Jurgen Klinnsman presents: The return of the counter attack and the rise of tactfulness”

    Reply

    • Posted by Antonio H. on 2011/08/11 at 7:04 PM

      With special scenes from “The Liberation of Landon Donovan”

      Reply

      • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/08/11 at 7:42 PM

        I used to be hugely anti-Landon (even called for his benching on these boards during the GC). Last night I had an ah-ha moment…. Landon as right midfielder spending most of his time of defense is what I hate. I love Landon in the middle of the pitch running at people. Its not that Landon can’t or doesn’t want to do that it is that he was shackled by Coach Sweats.

        Please Klinsi, no more Landon at RMF spending more time on defense, let him roam free on offense… even put him in the hole with Dempsey on the right and Shea on the left. I am sure one of our other seemingly 100 MFs can play that role (Bedoya comes to mind).

        Reply

        • Posted by LarryMontanez on 2011/08/12 at 10:07 AM

          Totally agree! People always seem to think he should be out wide because of his speed, but he puts a lot more pressure on the defense when he’s running at them up the middle. If you put him out wide, he has a responsibility to defend. Klinsi said he wanted him to roam about, and playing CAM would allow him to do that. He’s our #10; let him play like it!

          Reply

    • +1. That’s the point that (seemingly) very few people have made.

      When we were beating Mexico, it was a combination of our tactical commitment to good defense and effective counter-attacking and Mexico being undisciplined. Mexico has improved, but that’ s only half the story. We have also changed tactics, trying to play with Mexico offensively and putting less emphasis on defense. While we have improved offensively from the early 2000’s, it is certainly not to a degree where we can outscore Mexico in 4-5 goal game. In order for us to win, we need to keep Mexico from scoring more than 1-2 goals.

      Reply

      • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/11 at 9:06 PM

        When reading these posts I’m struck by the certainty of the commentary. It was an encouraging start but people are reading way too much into this one game especially as it relates to the futures of any of these guys with the USMNT.

        Go the the USSF website and read the Post Game quotes by Klinsmann and others. JK is still being fairly transparent and Donovan is renowned for being an honest interview( see Grant Wahl) as athletes go.

        By the time the WC qualfiers roll around and all this is really matters,I suspect things will be very much more developed and different from what everyone thinks right now.

        Reply

  28. Very optimistic after the debut match. Certainly going to be good for the program from a media coverage perspective as Klinsmann is a popular figure in American and world football media. I fully expected Rogers to spray his goal strike over or wide of the goal. I also fully expected a red card when he was pulled down on the breakaway.

    Reply

  29. Posted by Roy on 2011/08/11 at 10:31 PM

    I think people are being too hard on castillo, I mean, it’s practicaly his first match with the U.S. … and again’t who?? Mexico… which he has an awkward relationship, and was obviously going to be nervous… give him some time, and i’m sure it’ll change, although i’m not saying he should or should not be the starter in that position…and giving buddle a 4?? deserves negative four maybe, he should never even be close to the national team, just like that other guy findley…. we have agudelo, altidore, and Herculez Gomez, which I think is clearly the best and most skilled of the forwards… and since they don’t trust him that much, at least sub him in… and for bradley.. i think he is a good player.. but should not be a starter, i mean feilhaber is better, especially on the offense, shea, rogers, and agudelo did good coming in….clark shouldn’t be there.. and Beckerman did o.k. , but I don’t see him with national team quality, and doesn’t make a big impact on the team, positively or negatively

    Reply

  30. Posted by MJ on 2011/08/12 at 1:49 AM

    Random. Can I just say I like this graphic more than our actual crest? Sheesh.

    http://www.ussoccerstore.com/us00m143111fd.html

    I can’t tell if that’s meant to be a soccer ball in the (facing) right talons but if it is, that’s awesome.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 1:43 PM

      Tried to post the link to the photo, guess that’s not gonna work. It’s a little ribbon with the words “El Tri” on the badge. Google image search “bp rivalry logo usmnt”.

      Reply

  31. Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 1:31 PM

    Maybe I’m crazy…but for all the talk about needing a CAM, isn’t that much of what Donovan is? There isn’t a single player on our team more dangerous and versatile with the ball at his feet, not even Deuce. Landon’s passing in attack is probably the best of our midfielders, he’s excellent on the counterattack, he’s best in the middle of the field, has shown the ability to get back and contribute on defense but is still fast enough to get forward in a hurry…really, I can’t think of a reason for him to be out wide. It’s not like his crossing service is anything special; I’d rather have Stevie C with the ball out by the touchline when there are noggins in the box.

    Reply

  32. Posted by dth on 2011/08/12 at 9:53 PM

    Some…hmm, how do I put this?…naive comments from Klinsmann here, I think: http://www.yanks-abroad.com/get.php?mode=content&id=8078

    Reply

    • Posted by Tux on 2011/08/12 at 11:09 PM

      I’d call that idealistic more than anything else. It seems that he wants to send a message to the old guard that if the next man up is more capable, he’s not going to play favorites. I’m interested to see if he actually means that, though.

      Reply

    • Posted by Martin on 2011/08/13 at 6:59 AM

      Naive?

      That is an interesting way to put it.

      Klinsmann is sending a message.

      No one individual is indispensable. He is reinforcing the idea that a player should really want to play for his country no matter what the obstacle. Hence his example of the South America stars in Europe who fly equally ridiculous distances to play for their countries.

      After all, Klinsmann is a guy who regularly flew from LA to Germany to manage their national team. He’s not asking these guys to do anything he wouldn’t have done, more or less. For some local color, he could also point to Beckham flying himself all over the world from LA to try and play for England.

      We know he isn’t afraid of using large numbers of MLS players. The big comeback in the Mexico game was triggered in great part by three MLS subs (though how long they stay is questionable, at least 2/3 of them, I know how contemptuous you are of RR). And of course his favorite best player is MLS based.

      This is hardly original. Maradona did something similar when he took over Argentina, though he probably overdid it. Various Brazilian managers have periodically gone through similar phases.

      After all the weeping and gnashing of teeth and the attendant lamentations over the Chandler affair, I would have thought most US fans would be glad to see the hard-line stance.

      I’ll be very curious to see who Klinsmann’s first “example” will be.

      Reply

  33. Posted by Josh on 2011/08/13 at 3:44 PM

    Interesting and informative analysis. Indeed, where was Freddy Our Gold Cup Redeemer? Unfortunately can’t assume anything about him after his already long up and down career.

    One thing I *really* liked about the match: it seemed the lads not only bought into what Klinsmann was selling, but they implemented it fairly well. They seemed to have each other’s back – players and coaches – implementing Klinsmann’s strategy.

    Most exciting of all, I felt a palpable sense of – the US is going to play how it chooses damned the consequences; be aggressive and spirited; play to win; showcase joy and ability. Obviously those are Klinsmann’s post-game talking points, and i was reading too much in before, during and after. But I feel like that’s what I actually saw, too.

    Rather exciting stuff.

    Reply

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