The 1-0 Slovakia win was not the most exciting match and the lack of fans, dreary weather and field conditions made the game seem entirely unimportant. With injuries, MLS playoffs and roster decisions it was a toss-up heading into the game whether the US would really learn anything in Bratislava. It ended up being what we didn’t see that was the most telling.
We didn’t see:
…the US disorganized as a result of the patchwork line-up…however, as the second half progressed and subs came on the attack came apart a bit
…Altidore and Casey get involved in the first half…a direct result of lack of Lando?
…the ball go in the back of the net for the Yanks…with Davies and Donovan it was challenging at times…without them it was a constant struggle
…the backline in disarray without Gooch…and surprise central defense starter Spector added a different dimension as the ball was played back to him routinely
…Rogers give the ball away all day like he did during the Gold Cup..nice to see the maturation process continue
…Dempsey checking his watch to see how much time was left…Clint did some work today, but still expect more
…Guzan channel his PK heroics from last week to stop the Marek Hamšík effort in the first half
…One second of stoppage time…in fact the first half came in under 45 minutes on FSC’s game clock
Coach Bradley’s strategy was clear. Play the best players you have and let the newcomers and re-comers sub in late. The first half saw the US play more down the right side with Rogers getting off some good crosses, the best of which came in the 2nd minute. The duo of Junior and Feilhaber played well for about the first 50 minutes or so and the US was able to maintain a sizeable possession advantage for the duration of the game.
Again, however, it was the USMNT’s inability to find the back of the net despite a number of chances was glaring. (At TSG that is now referred to as USMNTitis.)
Best Play of the Game — Guzan’s point blank stop in the 74th minute: Coming off a free kick for Slovakia, Dax McCarty’s poor clearance led to strike on goal that was deflected right to a waiting Satislav Sestak about 10 yards from goal. Sestak walked in on Guzan who challenged and then made a terrific kick save with his left boot.
Most Unheralded Play — Cherundolo’s hustle in the 60th minute: Only Dolo’s hustle prevented a certain breakaway after a US set piece deep in Slovak territory. The ball was kicked out to a sprinting attacker, but Dolo got there just in time to poke it over to Johnny B.
The Golden Shin Guard — Jonathan Spector: Playing out of position at center back, the recently shaky Spector seemed confident and provided great support to the front six
♦ Mr. Robbie Rogers, please report to the starting line-up. Claim your ticket to South Africa now.
Rogers is clearly a Bradley favorite at this point and added a strong game to his resume for South Africa. He provided good service including a moon ball from the deep right corner on a set piece that dropped right at the back post and the 6-yard line
♦ Eddie Johnson vs. Cunningham: Let’s get it on.
Eddie Johnson came on for Casey at the start of the second half. The US changed tactics slightly to see if he could be a Charlie Davies-light by serving up a few longer balls to Altidore and hoping EJ could run off him. The US found a little more room to work in the offensive zone when EJ came in and Johnson even got a few shots, but overall his speed was neutralized by the soggy turf.
Cuningham entered late for Casey and you could immediately see why he’ll remain a long shot for the World Cup roster. Unfortunately, Cunningham’s slight frame allows him to get knocked off the ball with a pinkie-check. Eight minutes in Bratislava may be all the run Cunningham gets.
♦ Can the Bradley-Benny! pairing recapture Gold Cup (’07) magic?
Wonder of wonders, the US was able to play up the middle for the first time since in well…let’s just say its been a long time. Bradley and Benny seemed more comfortable with each other and seemed to remember where each other was on the pitch this time which helped to make some room in the middle and not leave the back line exposed. We didn’t see a dynamic duo in the middle, but the pairing made progress today.
♦ Does Clint Dempsey shine or sputter in Donovan’s absence?
There was much more shine than sputter for Deuce today including a cracker of shot on goal from thirty yards out on a free kick. Some of Dempsey’s creativity was on display and he seemed more active overall. But as Matthew mentioned in game observations Dempsey seemed a little visibly frustrated at times when he didn’t think the right play was made by his teammates.
♦ Make us believe Conor Casey
We are closer to believing…that Casey may have been a one-game wonder in Honduras. He had more opportunities than Altidore with the ball, but didn’t really do anything with them. Came off at the half, but that was probably planned to give EJ and JC some run in the second half.