Posts Tagged ‘USMNT’

As Predicted, ESPN.com Misses The Mark

While Ives Garcalep (www.soccerbyives.net) filed a fair game report on the U.S. meltdown against Mexico, the same cannot be said for ESPN soccer editor Jen Chang.

While I generally feel that Chang’s commentary is right on (calling out BB’s strategy of two defensive midfielders, arguing for overseas players over MLS players), his commentary on yesterday’s game was just plain off.

Chang calls out the Americans for letting Mexico recover it’s swagger by not fielding a strong Gold Cup team. He further excoriates the U.S. depth and suggests that beyond Stu Holden and Troy Perkins, yesterday’s performances by Kyle Beckerman and Chad Marshall among others undid all the work they put in earlier in the tournament.

My first issue is that I did not hear from Chang the entire tournament. Maybe he was recovering–like nearly THE ENTIRE US FIRST TEAM–after a long arduous tournament against top competition in a different time zone. Really Jen, you wanted the U.S. to trot out it’s first team in a weak Gold Cup field where no team brought all their top talent after playing 5 games in 3 weeks just days before? Further, after many had been away from their club teams and the top level play we want them to get before 2010.

Also where was your analysis early on? The U.S. struggled against Haiti and even Panama at times. That they would struggle yesterday was more likely than the phenomenal 1st half display the team put on.

To suggest that players like Marshall and Beckerman did themselves a disservice is another egregious mistake without mentioning that a) their play was strong in the first half and b) Javier Aguirre was so concerned with his team’s first half play against a second rate U.S. squad that he brought in Carlos Vela to pair Giovani Dos Santos to start the half. That’s two, count’em, two EPL strikers to take on the U.S. jv team.

Further, it is play against quality competition that coach Bob Bradley can use to measure his arsenal of players. He just saw his “A” team against Spain and Brazil less than a month earlier. What did the “A” team have to prove in the Gold Cup? What player insights would be gained against mostly inferior competition for players that taken on 3 of the top 10 teams in the world?

A better angle if you wanted to call out the USMNT team would be to discuss the eerie parallel between Brazil piling on the U.S. in the 2nd half of the Confederation’s Cup final game with yesterday’s second half implosion. As this blog can well atest, I have been critical of Bob Bradley’s halftime adjustments and considerations in such situations and again yesterday we saw the U.S. come out not ready to handle an invigorated Mexican attack. While the manner of attack was flashy and the score finally obnoxious, the U.S. had a similar behavior against Haiti, giving up two goals in the course of ten minutes after half time in a decidedly different manner.

At least this time Bradley tried to change up the team (admittedly too late) with early insertions of Kenny Cooper and Santino Quaranta.

The story of yesterday is not the Yanks letting Mexico regain their confidence (if Mexico has to rally around beating the U.S. “B” team just a year before the World Cup that’s a bigger problem) or how certain players canceled out their entire tournament. It’s about measuring the Gold Cup team in aggregate (by achievement and by the next step of growth necessary) and a disturbing trend of coming out tactically unprepared in the 2nd half.

Yesterday’s post-game opinion saying ESPN would miss the mark

Did I Just Watch Wedding Crashers?…….. Mexico 5, USA 0

Rule #76: No excuses. Play like a champion!

I loved the first half of the movie Wedding Crashers. It was a comedic tour de force with quotable lines and great banter between the characters. Sixty minutes in you thought you were watching a potentially epic comedy. But then the movie took a drastic turn for the worse and never recovered. It went from funny and light to an obsessed John Beckwith getting beat up by Sack Lodge.

Such was the Gold Cup final for the US versus Mexico. Fifty minutes in you thought the US was playing well and a goal wasn’t too far off. Forty minutes later you were wondering how something something that started so well could end so badly.

The turning point in Wedding Crashers, much like Mexicos PK gaol.

The 54th minute of the Gold Cup final versus Mexico was akin to Jeremy Grey and John Beckwith walking down the road after they were confronted by the Cleary family. Things would never be the same after that.

I share Matt’s view of the first half –strong all-around play for the US only marred by the absence of finding the back of the net; good mix of aggression and patience while varying the method of attack. However, the penalty kick by Mexico early in the 2nd half let the air out of the US balloon. Actually, it pretty much popped the US balloon and the air came rushing out all at once (along with their fitness level?).

Was the PK the right call? In a word, NO, but I think the referee thought he had to call something with the mess of bodies in the box. From my view, Heaps stood his ground (with a little grabbing) and the Mexican player more or less launched himself through and over Heaps putting the onus on the official to make a call. It reminded my of a NBA player going strong to the rim, making contact with a bigger defender, and hoping the ref bails him out. While in basketball, its a “50/50 play,” the odds are decidedly against the defense in soccer.

After the PK it was open season for El Tri. The youth of the US squad caught up to them in a hurry as the game snowballed out of control. And, surprisingly, their fitness level came into quesiton; something I didn’t expect from a US side. Perkins did all he could, but the streaking runs of the Mexican strikers were relentless and it was only a matter of time before Mexico struck again. Simply, the US could not get organized during the run of play to stop the Mexican attack.

Hindsight is 20/20, but I’d be interested to hear what you thought Bradley could have done differently. (Kick a Mexican player? Try to convince the referee that timeouts were allowed in the Gold Cup?) I am guessing that most fans were like myself, hoping time would run out without further damage. Alas, the goals kept coming even as Mexico looked to kill the clock.

While the half was a disaster all-around, I must point out one thing, specifically, I didn’t like. In contrast to my brother, I thought the yellow cards taken by the US were horrible and embarrassing. Take a yellow to protect a teammate (re: Tim Howard’s head), but don’t pile up yellows merely out of the frustration of getting whooped, especially not one from the veteran on the field. Unnecessary fouls, be it bad tackles or finishing after the whistle, are emblematic of lack of discipline from Bob Bradley. One game would be an anomaly or even one tournament would be an anomaly, but this is back-to-back tournament with different players.

Best Play of the Game Troy Perkins point blank stop around the 60- minute mark.

Most Unheralded Play of the Game Brian Ching’s continuing to fight and steal the ball down 4-0 at the 85-minute mark.

Golden Shinguard Despite the late yellow, this one goes to Brian Ching as well. He truly was the one standout in the game who made his presence felt the full 90 minutes.

Ratings:

C: Bob Bradley – INCOMPLETE Took the same team from the semi-final and had them playing much better the first 50-minutes against Mexico. Bob’s job isn’t done, however. He’s got a room full of kids who just got their ass kicked. They need to hear the good, but I also hope he will directly tell the bad and what they can learn from the experience. Hence, he gets an incomplete.

G: Troy Perkins – 7 If ever a goalie could be impressive while giving up 5, that was today. Perkins stopped some point blank shots, but couldn’t win every one v. one situation he found himself in. Seemed to be in good position even on those. And the fifth goal was perfect placement by the Mexican player who squeezed the shot between two US defenders.

D: Back Four – 5 In this tale of two halves, it’s hard to give the each of the guys individual grades. So, I am taking the middle of the road on the defense as a whole. I thought Jay Heaps had some excellent challenges and clearances, but ended up with being sent off for two bad tackles. Clarence Goodson was all over the place winning headers and tracking down players, but clearly ran out of gas. Ditto for Chad Marshall along with a great tackle to stop a Mexican counter-attack deep in the area at the end of the first half. Heath Pearce again played aggressive on the overlap, but got caught pressing for goals when the US fell behind.

M: Robbie Rogers – 4 Seemed overmatched against a stronger Mexican squad. Knocked off the ball repeatedly and blasted an eight-yarder over the crossbar on the best opportunity of the day for the US.

M: Kyle Beckerman – 6 Worked tirelessly in the mid-field. Had more room to operate and create, but couldn’t get the ball on frame in three chances from just outside the area.

M: Logan Pause – 5 Seemed to be more involved than the past two games, but didn’t do much worth mentioning.

M: Stu Holden – 7 It’s nice to have a player on the squad that gets you excited when you see he is  about to take a shot, but he was wide on his one opportunity. Good service, set pieces and corners (despite having a bottle thrown at him by the “home crowd” on one of them.)

F: Brain Ching – 8 Chased down balls on long runs, tracked back inside the six to help out on defense and battled the whole way.

F: Davy Arnoud -5.5 Didn’t make the most of his chances again, but played better than in the semi-final. If the US had another game in this tournament I don’t think he would be starting.

SUB: Cooper, Quaranta and Cronin – INC

__________________

In the end, I don’t think it was as epic a loss as the announcers would have you believe, but I am disappointed by the way the US lost. This isn’t a step back for the US program as some might suggest, but they certainly missed an opportunity to step forward.

Notes at the half: USA – Mexico

The U.S. is playing a strong game today in East Rutherford as they take on Mexico for the right to host the Gold Cup trophy.

The word of the day for the USA: positioning (and this is also a pat on the back for Bob Bradley). From Brian Ching’s striker play to midfield o runs by Pause and Beckerman to Pearce overlapping the U.S. is playing a smart confident game.

Chad Marshall and Clarence Goodson have proven that their blanket defense against Honduras wasn’t an anomaly. Beyond one late half run, Mexico has struggle to mount anything more than counter attack offense.

Kyle Beckerman is controlling the midfield and Stu Holden again is creating on the wing. Even Davy Arnaud has gotten into the mix with some good if not yet fruitful runs off Ching.

For Mexico, Geovanni Dos Santos has dazzled with the ball but not yet leaked through for a shot.

Good first half boys!

Oh, one more note, Jamaican referee is calling an excellent game and clearly in charge of it. He may have been quick with some early yellow cards, but that’s how you keep a US-Mex game in check.

Gold Cup Game 3 Review: US 2 – Haiti 2

Holden, triumphant

Holden, triumphant

The USMNT took on Haiti Saturday night at Foxboro and by the end of the match they were just trying to keep their unbeaten streak alive as oppose to upping any score.

Summary – Preview follow-up – Ratings

Summary:

The U.S. came out disorganized due to a lineup that seemed to be pulled out of a hat by Bob Bradley. Maybe he just wanted to get everyone run. There were flashes of skill and teamwork, but mostly it was a team finding their way and eventually finding their way to a tie. That part was impressive. The U.S. suffered from lack of leadership on the field. Not because there were no leaders,  but because none of these players have led at the national level before (maybe Conrad, but that’s a stretch).

Best play of the game: (Stu Holden) His right footed 2nd half rifle shot showed authority, something the US needs more of.

Most unheralded play of the game: (Stu Holden) Again the Scot here, as he slid in when the Haitians were pressing for a 3rd goal early on in the 2nd half (55min). Holden knew the score, knew how critical it was to thwart any pass or shot, and made an aggressive all-or-nothing matter-of-fact tackle that the U.S. began–unsuccessfully–a counter with.

Golden Shinguard: Stu Holden

Preview follow-up

Here’s what I was looking for at the outset:

Cooper play a nice combo role of holding striker and hit man up front

Cooper showed a few flashes early upfront, but with the lack of consistent service he largely was unheard from. The jury is still out, but he didn’t help his case.

Parkhurst to show me something

Unfortunately, Michael had a difficult game. Not sure if it was conditioning, strength or an unfamiliar center partnership, but not one of his better games.

Stu Holden to really make an impression

Well, I think that one was answered….and then some…and then some. Holden was the closest player to taking control on the field by diligently maintaining possession through ball maintenance or passing. Defensively, Holden was consistent with the quietly masterful defensive play of the game described earlier. And then there were the shots, the 1st half blast that probably would have found netting if not for the ball skipping ever so slightly a shade before it was unleashed. And of course, the boomer at the end of the game.

Wake Forest alum Sam Cronin to show he’s got the chops. He certainly made the past few NCAA tourneys eventful.

Cronin looked the part and then some early on as the game went on he tired and we only saw glimpses but for the youngster (class of 2009) a very impressive opening cap.

Ratings – *Disclaimer, this was 11 men thrown together on the field for nearly the first time

C: Bob Bradley – 4

Bradley let it hang out by emptying the bench against Haiti. Whether he was testing the newcomers or not, Bradley left the team without a veteran leader in the middle field who could settle the team down. This might have been a good spot for Benny to step in for some veteran leadership. Bradley’s selection of Evans on the back right was bewildering.

But perhaps the biggest knock this game were the two Haitian goals early in the 2nd half, fresh of the Brazil game less than a month ago. You knew Haiti would come out trying to keep their tournament alive. You knew the U.S. had cohesive challenges at the back in the 1st half. Yet, check out the backend of the first goal. Sure Heap got beat on the outside, but his 3 remaining back mates–forget Robles positioning–didn’t glue themselves to their men. What was Bradley’s locker room counsel?

G: Luis Robles – 5

Some challenges for Robles in the game and remember the unfamiliar role of last man leader on the USMNT and the players in front of him didn’t help. Certainly showed some phenomenal reflexes in parrying some shots in both halves….also showed he needs some more play with his unsteady play to start the 2nd half.

D: Jay Heaps- 5

Had trouble with the wings rounding the corners. Pushed forward and tried to make some things happen. He’ll have to step it up to take it to the next level at this point in his career.

D: Michael Parkhurst – 4

Tough day for Michael, outmatched and unsure against one-on-one challenges. Could have earned a red card with his late tackle early in the 1st half.

D: Jimmy Conrad – 5

Good to have him back on the field making a return from injury. Showed some fire and went aggressively for some services in the opposite box. It was the 18 that he was protecting that could have used more diligence.

D: Brad Evans – Inc. (incomplete)

I’m giving Brad a pass on a rating. He was thrust into a new role with players that were unfamiliar around each other. I don’t think we learned anything except if BB is going to play his on the right wing, he needs more exposure there.

M: Colin Clark -5

The first shot of the game from the US and Colin was indicative of his day: having plenty of time to settle and shoot on, Clark took a bit too long, got bumped and the marble ended up in the stands. Wasn’t involved in most of the action the rest of the way.

M: Sam Cronin – 7

I’m breaking down Sam’s rating this way. 9 for the first 15 – 20 mins, 5 the rest of the way. Nets out at a 7. Good showing from the youngster though — give him 2 years and we should see that rating points higher.

M: Stu Holden – 9

Impressive; impressive. Showed a wonderful feel for the game and stepping into the role of settling the team down on O and D as if it was his. Consistently maintained possession and position. His two strikes of course and the assist on the first goal. The only knock on him on a day when he won the The Shin Guardian’s Golden Shinny was his lack of effective service from the corner.

M: Santino Quaranta – 5

I was looking for more from Wednesday’s hero. It was an opportunity for Quaranta to shine with younger, less mature players around him. I didn’t see it.

S: Davy Arnaud7

Largely a solid if unspectacular game…with the exception of his composure on the 1st goal. Tried to create (something you don’t always see out of U.S. strikers), but did not show a consistent ability to beat his man.

S: Kenny Cooper – 5

Seemed hurried and a bit lost in this game, perhaps due to lack of the ball being lifted or fed into him. I expected more from Kenny and would still like to see his shot come again.

S: Charlie Davies8

Did everything he was asked to do when he came in with the exception of scoring. Was both a nuisance and a presence for the U.S. team. Shear class with his footwork.

M: Kyle Beckerman – Inc.

I think BB put Kyle in for one thing – his passing vision up the pitch. Earned a yellow and played some chippy defense. Maybe the opportunity didn’t present itself, but I was still waiting for the pass.

S: Brian Ching – Inc.

Ching was there to generally cause a ruckus in the Box. He did that and almost had a goal in the 80th minute off a back heal from Davies. Got dispossessed in the final minute…but it led to Holden’s blast.

See you 5pm PST this Sat July 18th for El US vs. Panama.

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