The Yanks went to Brussels Tuesday and failed to flex against the home Red Devils from Belgium, falling 1-0 in a sloppy match in Seattle-like conditions. The States again controlled the run of play early and relinquished it and with it the lead as the match progressed.
Jurgen Klinsmann went to work today with a more Euro-ready squad than Friday as the US attempted to diffuse Belgium’s lethal wingers while managing possession.
The first half saw the fat guy on the see-saw start out on the Yanks side with chances from Altidore and Shea, but as the half wore on Belgium’s possession proficiency wore down the Yanks and made Tim Howard a busy man. It took two moments of brilliance by the Everton keeper to delicately preserve the goose egg on the scoreboard.
The second half tottered mostly in Belgium’s favor though the Yanks managed to spritz chances at the Belgium backline, failing to convert though, including one oh-so-close Maurice Edu header that rippled the nets as Juan Agudelo was called offside.
The lone tally was for the home side; a banana rifled off the foot of Red Devil left back and surging national team player Nicolas Lombaerts who zipped the ball under the left armpit of Howard who could not drop to the ground fast enough.
• Dealt With!
Steve Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler on the wings did an outstanding job against Belgium’s all star wide attacking rotation of Alex Witsel, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertins.
Cherundolo tired as the game wore on and just barely avoided a car in or near the box, but he held up.
Chandler played out of position at leftback and–though a friendly–shut down the last LigueOne player of the year in Hazard. That accomplishment should only be slightly discounted by the stakes of the game.
That’s not an easy job for a newly integrated player.
Carlos Bocanegra helped out admirably on the left…
…and so did the midfield…leading to…
• Robbing Peter to pay Paul
As TSG wrote in the preview, “the best defense may be a good offense.”
While it was encouraging to see the US gain more possession and in turn continue use a single holder to cover the backline in the first half, the US have failed to generate solid chances to despite arguably playing a more attack side further up the pitch.
Some of that is of course due to unfamiliarity, but today it was mostly due to protection needed for the backline. C
lint Dempsey and Jose Torres often found themselves neck-deep in defending and when an opportunity came to break or a link upfield needed to be found, there were none or it was Jozy Altidore just about visible somewhere on the horizon.
There were some calls for a 4-4-2 in the media, but all that would have done is stranded two strikers up top, none of who have blazing “beat-the-line” speed. Even if they did, the Red Devils kept their back four tethered so diagonal runs would not have been as effective. (Perhaps more effective might have been Dempsey ahead of Torres, but that’s just splitting hairs.)
• Triple gainers and plungers on the Klinsmann Depth Chart
The goal of these friendlies of course is to evaluate talent and with Klinsmann making a diverse set of call-ins, a few cursory insights can now be made:
» Maurice Edu spent over 180 minutes over seven time zones being nearly the only holder in the US midfield.
Reportedly out of form early on in the campaign for his club team Rangers, Edu’s work Tuesday was both impassioned and calming.
In fact if not for Edu the US probably would have given up goals much earlier in the contest. (Yes, his failed clearance led to the sequence to the goal, but that was more unfortunate than mistake.)
That niggling though you have stuck in the back of your head is, “Where was Edu during the Gold Cup?”
Um, right down the end of the bench.
» Brek Shea equity just went up today. The FC Dallas man playing a day after the face of FC Dallas, Bobby Rhine, passed away, showed more attacking chops than another other North American league player on the evening.
Shea continually used the threat of his speed to maintain possession on transition and attacked the goal from the flank.
Even as the 84th minute wore on a still-charging Shea closed on a defender and made a leaping stab with his cleat in an attempt to block a forward pass from the Belgium backline.
ESPN’s Rob Stone commented that Shea–according to his agent–will be a hot commodity in the January transfer window. Continental Europe saw a glimpse of his potential today.
» Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard? Both a full step ahead of their teammates.
» Robbie Rogers made an effort, but it wasn’t enough. Rogers–like Edu–was coming off serious minutes on Friday against Costa Rica. However the Columbus Crew winger looked a step slow early on and–worse–never really adjusted to the game speed.
Late in the first half, Rogers could be seen pulling a Bornstein-esque two-handed grab on Alex Witsel–it was a microcosm of his game.
» Watch your back Jozy Altidore. Wouldn’t be surprised if Altidore remained with his club for the October friendlies and Juan Agudelo got one or more starts.
Is any potential US player in need of a better club playing situation now more than Agudelo?
» Is it me or is Tim Howard hollering less in games under Klinsmann?
While others take stock in Howard snapping at his defenders, the great Trinidadian keeper Shaka Hislop once commented that visibly berating your defenders encourages the opponent to attack that much more and put a target on the offending defender. Positive or negative, time will tell.
» How best to deploy US heavyweights Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan going forward? Dempsey started today in the same spot than Donovan did on Friday and struggled to find opportunities in the center of the pitch. Again, like Donovan, Dempsey seemed to catch more fire when he could survey the field from the flanks.
Best best going forward? Klinsmann will keep Torres in his CM role and alternate Donovan and Dempsey inside and out as the situation dictates. Robbie Rogers will go to purgatory on the bench while Brek Shea will be given more opportunities to show off his left foot.
Tim Howard: 7.5
Tim Chandler: 7.5
Carlos Bocanegra: 6
Clarence Goodson: 5.5
Steve Cherundolo: 7
Maurice Edu: 6.5
Jose Torres: 5.5
Clint Dempsey: 5.5 (on a curve)
Brek Shea: 6
Robbie Rogers: 3.5
Jozy Altidore: 4.5
Juan Agudelo: 6
Kyle Beckerman: 6
Jeff Larentowitz: N/A