Some quick takes courtesy the TSG DVR and laptop. Oh and for all those that slammed: Missed only one on the starters, JFT instead of Terrence Boyd.
10• Winning the numbers game. Thankfully.
Our USA-Jamaica Game One review called out the Klinsmann coaching staff for failing to put the right numbers and configuration in the US midfield in Kingston. It was a more-than-fair assessment.
Klinsmann’s side rectified that on Tuesday with at least five players assigned to battle three in the Jamaican midfield.
However it was even more numbers on many occasions and how they materialized was the key.
Klinsmann–as we asked the question of “how far he would go” in the Game 1 Jamaican preview–sent Fabian Johnson and Steve Cherundolo forward on their square or diagonal passes into Torres, Dempsey and Zusi respectfully. That was the license and it was the fullback motion that pinned backed Jamaica’s fullbacks from helping further open the space ahead of them.
Michael Bradley must’ve been smiling some from Roma where the strategy was very similar to the one his club team employs.
9• Foot-No Gas Syndrome
TSG contributor Alex Olshansky adds:
Before the goal: USA was 410/467 passing (88%), JAM was 77/137 (56%)
After the goal: USA was 144/186 (77%) and JAM was 129/170 (76%). US also went from 7.5 passes complete a minute to 4.1.
Jamaica might have had cause to now push the game after the States score, but the US needed to keep the urgency.
I can just imagine a scene in the locker room afterward where US equipment director Jesse Bignami is inventorying the kits and Ryan Johnson falls out of Geoff Cameron’s shorts’s change pocket. (Yes, I know there are no change pockets in anyone’s shorts, save RVP’s or maybe Tevez’s, but whatever.)
Geoff Cameron flat-out dominated Johnson in this one.
Johnson went for headers and Cameron out-leapt him. Johnson looked to receive a ball over-the-top and Cameron swallowed. Johnson got frustrated, fouled and lost focus–and the two players set to run off his hold up play (Luton Shelton and Omar Cummings) suffered from it, failing to sniff the box almost all night.
If your Stoke City–and with the acquisitions of Maurice Edu, Steven N’Zonzi and Charlie Adam–don’t you have to just sneak a look at Cameron at centerback? Johnson may not be as skilled but he is a hulking 6’1”, 175lbs or so.
7• Who in the name of Yann M’Vila was playing in the central holding smack down role?
It’s amazing what a little familiarity and comfort does.
Danny Williams probably doesn’t speak a lot of English. And up until the last scraps of Jamaica Williams had been asked to be deployed in more of a shuttler and cover protector role. In fact this was our commentary on Williams in advance of the USA-Mexico friendly:
Welcome back into the fold Danny Williams. Once again, you’ve got the soccer role version of “clean the latrine!” See Castillo behind you? He needs cover, so you get to play out of position and have US fans scorn your abilities despite never being played in your natural role.
Enjoy the Azteca, try not to get a urine shower. At least, you don’t speak Spanish so you can’t understand what they’re saying about your mom.
Not today TSG!
Williams looked downright cozy in the holding role with the major team advantage of allowing Steve Cherundolo and especially Fabian Johnson to gallop forward. With the US pressing it was Williams with only Cameron or Bocanegra behind him on many occasions.
Johnson’s stat line: 8 recoveries, 3 interceptions, 66 of 69 passes completed (yowzas!) and perhaps most importantly….some swagger.
Williams looked the part, often demanding the ball with a hand raised from his teammates and, after getting smacked in the head by an errant Je-Vaughn Watson elbow late in the game (and without the command of the English language) still sent some body language Watson’s way.
A drop of nasty. Might there be more in store down the line? That’s the first time US fans have seen Danny Williams personality shine through.
6• Look, just a few wet blankets, okay?
An astounding effort by the States and the vital home win. The end justifies the means.
That said a shaper team. A team with more discipline in executing would seemed like instructions to press more in the second half perhaps closes the night with a draw on some of the Yanks’ lack of focus.
There were also a few areas of housekeeping that need attending. The first being the most pressing.
» The States are vulnerable on quick restarts or turnovers.
Jamaica was well-schooled Rodolph Austin gathered a loose ball and took a quick shot on Tim Howard that had to be parried and as the minutes waned Jamaica’s final two corner kicks were knocked-on before the States had a chance to gather itself. Luckily the States had resolve, but a sharper team would have punished them.
» Jermaine Jones needs to end the simulation and face-grabbing.
There was a moment at the end of the second half where Jones was legitimately fouled–and he was a number of times on the evening–however Jones incessant complaining to the refs as well as his penchant to stay down on the play goes a step beyond–it would seem–Klinsmann’s mantra after the Brazil game to dirty-up the game within the game. Jones should have gotten that call, but he likely didn’t because the ref was just tired of dealing with him.
5• Herculez Gomez is here ________________________ the rest of the depth chart is here.
Gomez leading the line ahead of Dempsey.
With the US playing a near Roma style attack, it was the right configuration up top and it worked because Herculez Gomez understands the match.
Beyond his tremendous set piece delivery tonight and of course, the game winner, it was Gomez’s engine that again manufactured chances.
(Note: It should be annotated that Herc’s best goal scoring season ever–17 with the Los Angeles Galaxy in–saw a majority of his goals scored from outside the box. (Herc loves to remind us of that one and I reminded him of it tonight.)
Gomez was consistently showing up in the right places through effort on Tuesday. In fact, late in the second half after he and Jermaine Jones were arguing a call, Jones trotted back to his position, Gomez damn near sprinted. And this was a Gomez who battling illness all week.
Gomez–right now–is, consider this, may be, pound-for-pound the best poacher in CONCACAF? (Yes Chicharito scored one tonight to get off the snide, yes the Little Pea plays at Manchester United., but Gomez–like he did in tying Chicharito for the Clausura scoring title in 2010 before the World Cup–may be on as good form right now.)
[Insert typical TSG-Gomez disclaimer here.]
4• No soup for you
If there any player more frustrating, infuriating than
Freddy Adu Jozy Altidore? When the line-up was announced–and before the DVR delayed review–my very first thought in terms of “those missing” was, “Oh thank goodness, all eleven players are going to play defense.”
I don’t care that Jozy Altidore missed a back heal; I don’t care all that much that he gave away the ball in the corner when the States’ were trying to ice the game.
But I very much do care that Altidore lacked a lot of hustle on both his own turnovers and on closedowns as a fresh sub.
If you look at Altidore’s club goals they’re often with a player clearing space around him. On this US team, Altidore will not be the focal point some time and must play defense. The perennial question, will he ever step up the defensive part of his game?
3• Clint Dempsey bailed the States boat tonight as good as Landon Donovan….(and he’s a superb false #9)
Clint Dempsey was not at his best tonight. In fact, far from it. There was nearly another Honduras in Chicago turnover again. (We’ll spare the YouTube link-up).
But Dempsey was necessity in taking people on, in maintaining possession and in, frankly, leading the US when Jamaica tried to rough up the game.
With Dempsey’s ability and his me-against-the-world-“he tries stuff” mentality, the US needed to follow someones’s direction and bravado in puffing out their chest. That was Dempsey, though not at his best.
2• Itching Questions
This was the best effort from Jose Torres tonight, but he still lost the ball seven times in possession and missed some passes. It came in a game where there was a lot of support for the midfield.
Is it enough from Torres? Is he just spot-starter or will he, should he, continued to be crammed into the line-up regularly?
At the opposite end of the spectrum (or not), Graham Zusi, of course, has now mountain-climbed up the depth chart. Here’s what TSG wrote about Zusi after the January game vs. Venezuela when he played for the USMNT “B” team:
Differing opinions on Graham Zusi, but the Sporting KC man was adept at one thing. Two-touching and moving the ball quickly. Zusi’s rate of play was good. Many will say he missed passes tonight, but the opinion here is that he was proactive and making passes where his more reactive teammates *should have been*.
He’ll get a look with the senior team and some point this year if he continues his maturation and it will be an important one.
1• Steve Cherundolo’s Killer Crossover
There was a pretty good basketball player in the 1990’s named Tim Hardaway, a point guard for the Golden State Warriors and the Miami Heat. Hardaway was a point guard who broke down defenses and could score if need be–all it took was a quick switch of the dribble from one hand to the next (and sometimes back) and the a little hip movement from his defender was all that he needed to make a massive incision in the defense.
That’s Steve Cherundolo.
No player was more instrumental than Steve Cherundolo in this one. Dolo was a marauding flanker. He was an extra hand in the midfield and, most of all, he was the most trusted man in possession that often opened up the attack and staved off any semblance of Reggae Boyz pressure.
A play in the 71st minute was subtle yet emphatically stated ‘Dolo’s value.
Geoff Cameron, under slight duress, feeds the ball to Steve Cherundolo with one and maybe two defenders set to collapse. Dolo fakes toward the ball holding the defense, steps back and now receives it with space, fakes forward slowing the primary face-up attacker, and then he flicks a pass up the line to an awaiting Danny Williams.
That was Cherundolo.
The game plan got the ball to Cherundolo early and he set the tone on the flank. The threat of driving up the line opened up a simple yet extremely effective dribble in Dolo’s arsenal. That crossover. The memory of Dolo combining with Zusi and peeling up the line in the opening minutes still fresh, Dolo would now fake up the line and then pull the back.
Jamaica’s defenders would react negatively, dropping of instead of closing down and the space would open a pocket for Zusi to slot back in, Jones to appear or Dempsey to drop back into to initiate the attack.
Can’t underestimate Dolo’s importance this evening.