US vs. Costa Rica: Charlie Davies Strong

Nice touch. A drained USMNT thanks it supporters...and Tim Howard in cowboy hat!)

Nice touch. A drained USMNT, with Big T in a cowboy hat, thanks it supporters

“Adversity is the first path to truth.” – Lord Byron

The above quote was considered when TSG was writing an email to Charlie Davies ( yesterday. Ultimately, CD9 received a different quote about “seizing fate by the throat”, but Lord Byron’s words proved to be excellent shorthand or even prophetic for last night’s match between the USMNT and Costa Rica.

These truths were revealed to USMNT fans last night:

Heart and courage are not in short supply for the USMNT

In a game that seemed to mean everything and nothing at the same time the USMNT exemplified what it will take for their injured mate to make his way back to the game he loves.

You want heart? A 95th minute equalizer with the US playing a man down by an oft-maligned left back…there you go.

The US was staring adversity straight in the face going into the game last night. No one would have blamed the US for whatever type of game they played given the events of the past 48 hours, especially  after putting themselves in a two-goal hole midway through the first half. But the Yanks fight to the whistle no matter how many goals they are down nor how many men they have on the field.

Jeers turned to cheers for Jonny with one knock of the noggin

Jeers turned to cheers for JB versus CR

The USMNT and Coach Bob Bradley play to win

Need proof? Bradley sent a clear message with his starting line-up. Eight of eleven starters, including iron man Tim Howard, carried over from Honduras. Only absent were Davies, Spector and Clark. The RB was most likely replaced by Cherundolo for performance while Feilhaber for Clark was an effort to control more possession at home.

More proof? After picking up an early yellow Jozy Altidore never left the pitch. Picking up a second would have led to a disqualification for the first WC match, but Bradley chose to remind Jozy of that (including telling him not to lift his shirt in celebration to reveal his “Davies” jersey) instead of replacing him. Bradley was rewarded for his choice as the youngster played a tremendous game.

Still not convinced? I’ll give you two final pieces of evidence. 1) Coach Bradley’s subs – offense, offense, offense. and 2) Late game hero Johnny Bornstein in his own words, “I don’t normally go up for corner kicks. Usually I stay back,but for that one, I was like, `I’m getting in there. This is a last-shot effort.’”

I think Bradley went convincingly for a win as a result being committed to win the region, out of respect for CONCACAF (and Honduras) and, if only a small motivation, Charlie Davies.

Struggles inside both boxes need to be addressed for the US have any hope in South Africa

In a game that saw the US hold a decisive advantage in possession and get a number of good, early scoring chances the US still found themselves down 0-2 as a result of two defensive lapses.

Not only could the US not find the back of the net in the opening stanza, they couldn’t even put the ball on frame consistently. Perhaps the most disheartening miss given the circumstance was Conor Casey’s wide-open look that would have crossed the goal line as the clock turned from 8:59 to 9:00. Casey’s effort sailed woefully over the frame and the “true poetry” of a goal at 9:00 (as USSF President Sunil Gulati would call it) was lost forever.

Time and time again, great chances were wasted by the US as a result of poor shooting and it was an epidemic. Casey, Donovan, Bradley, Holden

Ruizs first half brace put the US in a hole early.

Ruiz's first half brace put the US in a hole early.

and Altidore all should have and need to do better with their opportunities. Time for more shooting drills, Bob-O.

The defensive woes of the USMNT are well-known and well-chronicled. Last night was no different. After successfully defending out on the wing once around the 9:15 mark, Gooch couldn’t repeat his efforts on Costa Rica’s first goal. Gooch got dusted by Bryan Ruiz who avoided a desperation toe-poke from the Milan Man and then went 5-hole on Tim Howard as Boca couldn’t slide over in time.

Just three minutes later the US would be beaten again. A late defensive rotations on a terrific given-and-go off a throw-in by Costa Rica allowed Ruiz to get to the top of the box untouched. From there, Ruiz unleashed a net-bound rocket that bent away from Tim Howard and found the top left corner of the goal.

No defensive performances are perfect, but two goals against the run of play are just crushing to a team. The US will be playing with fire come South Africa if they don’t find a way to shore-up their leaky defense.

The US will continue to need unlikely heroes to step-up

In Trinidad and Tobago it was Ricardo Clark. In San Pedro Sula it was Conor Casey. Last night at RFK it was Robbie Rogers and Jonathan Bornstein. With Davies injury and the aforementioned shooting struggles, the US is going to need to find offensive production from unlikely sources.

Rogers was the shot in the arm the US needed last night. Playing with energy and fire stoked by having “grown up” soccer-wise with Davies, Rogers created a number of chances and assisted on the game winner via a great corner kick in the 95th minute. Meanwhile, the oft-maligned Jonathan Bornstein buried Roger’s kick to all but make the USMNT fans forget the fact he was picked on repeatedly in the first-half and remains a shaky option at LB.

While I’d be great to have a couple of players (paging Jozy Altidore) repeatedly make the score sheet, it does make it fun to wonder who is going to step-up in each successive contest.

Possession is a mirage if the ball stays at mid-field

Not getting it done.

Many USMNT fans, myself included, have been clamoring for the US to eschew the long ball strategy and play more of a possession game.  The Yanks were able to maintain possessions last night, but struggled with any kind of consistent probing build-up. Following the game, Bradley said the ball needed to move quicker, but I question whether the US had the creativity and skill on the pitch to make that happen. Similar to the El Salvador game, the Bradley / Feilhaber combo failed to produce and due to the consistent success down the right side, Donovan, the US best trigger man increasingly became a spectator as the game wore on.

Sure the US showed flashes of good possession in the offensive third like Casey’s post-up and pass to a streaking Holden that resulted in a great cross but poor finish by Altidore late in the 5th minute. And it was nice to see them switching fields, but players seemed to be holding too long last night (which is the exact opposite of the US recent struggles with possession).

The US isn’t done facing adversity

With just eight months to go before the start of the World Cup, the US finds itself down a speedy, skilful striker and, at least for the next three to four months, their defensive stalwart, Oguchi Onyewu. I think we all saw Gooch’s scary non-contact injury that tore his patellar and led to him immediate calling the training staff over. Sad, but he’ll be back.

Scary injury for Gooch. Get well, we need ya.

Surprisingly, this was a game the US learned a lot from and the performance was a microcosm of the type of team they have heading into the World Cup. In other words, last night was “the truth” for the USMNT—heart, effort, moments of beautiful soccer along with an inability to finish around the goal and defensive lapses that led to an early deficit.


Best Play of the Game: (Rogers to Bornstein, 95th Minute) That combo may not roll off the tongue as well as Donovan to Davies or Dempsey to Altidore, but I doubt anyone really cares. It was those two unlikely heroes that emerged absurdly late in a one-goal contest to propel the USMNT to a draw. A draw that had Tim Howard remarking that, “it felt like a big win…just the way the crowd was.”

Most Unheralded Play: This one goes to Bob Bradley for his decision to go with an offensive substitution after the first goal to press for another.

Well done, Jozy!

Well done, Jozy!

The Golden Shin Guard: (Jozy Altidore) Sure he was a little too jacked up with the ball at his feet and only the goalie between him and the stanky leg, but he played an excellent all-around game (minus the shooting, of course).  His best play was late in the first half when he created a great scoring chance through sheer will and determination. After the US gave away the ball, Jozy sprinted to pressure a defender deep in Honduran territory, tackled the ball away and then laid a great pass into a wide-open Donovan (who unfortunately blasted right at the on-rushing keeper).

Preview Follow-up

Does one Jose Francisco Torres get atonement, vindication and revenge…or even playing time?

All of the above. Torres earned the opportunity and didn’t disappoint. He became a missing link on offense and was heavily involved after being inserted for Feilhaber in the 62nd minute. Did you see when he instructed the younger Rogers to get in the box on his 83rd min (I believe) cross?

Backtracking, what is the USMNT strategy?: Major minutes for the second squad, a continued full-court press to South Africa or a hybrid of the two?

We answered this one in the second truth above. They played to win.

Does the Guz get a shot?

No he didn’t. Based on when we wrote our preview I would have been surprised, but for a lot of reasons you can understand why Bob Bradley kept Tim between the pipes.

Player Ratings

Not a lot of great indivual performances, but you can't help but love the team effort.

Not a lot of great indivual performances, but you can't help but love the team effort.

C: Bob Bradley – 7

He had a tough job getting the team ready to play after the Davies accident. No real quibbles with his starting eleven. The team’s game plan worked for the most part producing a number of chances and he kept the pedal to the metal with his subs. The ESPN cameras did a great job of picking up Bob right after the 1st goal. Bob looked enlightened and immediately glanced at the clock and called on the offensive support. Well done, Bob.

GK: Tim Howard – 6

Didn’t get tested all that much. Had terrific save on a point blank shot early (11th minute) and stopped another blast late. However, he did let in a pair. He had a chance on the first that went through his legs thought it was from five feet away, but was rendered helpless on the second which was expertly placed and carrying a lot heat. Remained a vocal leader. Demonstrative, yes, but well within the bounds of what his teammates expect from him.

DEF: Oguchi Onyewu – 5.5

Expected this type of performance versus Honduras, but certainly not last night after his strong game on Saturday. Seemed to stray for his central back role more than usual and was toasted on the first Ruiz goal. Late to react a few times. Terrible to see him go down in a heap trying to make a valiant effort to get his head on a poor Holden corner kick.

DEF: Carlos Bocanegra – 6

Played the game with intelligence, but his physical skills have eroded a little due to age. Case in point, he couldn’t get over in time to make a difference on CR’s first goal. Classy move by Captain Carlos to address the crowd…if only ESPN’s Bob Ley didn’t talk over him.

DEF: Jonathan Bornstein – 6.5

Really did get picked on in the first half, but played better as the game progressed. Got really deep in the offensive zone on a number of occasions. Thankfully, one of those was the equalizer at the death that sent America (and Honduras, see below) into a frenzy.

DEF: Steve Cherundolo – 6

Had good chemistry with both Holden and Rogers on the right flank and was on the ball a lot in the offensive half…perhaps too much as he was guilty of holding the ball for too long. With CR triggering what little attack they mustered on the left, didn’t see a helluva lot of action on defensive side.

MID: Benny Feilhaber – 5

TSG’s favorite son didn’t acquit himself well in the starting role, again, and turned the ball over numerous time which invariably led to his somewhat early exit. We have a couple of theories here with one being that Benny may be better suited as a sub which allows him to see the game from a distance first. The second theory is that with Bradley’s inconsistent box-to-box play Benny struggle to figure out where he fits in.

MID: Michael Bradley – 4

Another poor performance from Junior. He was all over the place, out of sync and still another player that couldn’t get the ball on frame inside the 18. His goal, thought timely was of the Johnny-on-the-spot variety and doesn’t help to elevate his overall grade. As one patron yelled out in the bar I was at, “Hey Coach Bradley, take out your daughter!” (Apologies to our female readers, but I did laugh.)

MID: Stu Holden – 5.5

Didn’t seem to bring his bag of magic crosses to RFK last night. He was active, but off target. He may have been pushing a little too hard (like Jozy) for his hospital-ridden roommate.

MID: Landon Donovan – 5.5

From airmailing a free kick to a number of missed opportunities on the offensive end, Landon played a level below where he’s been the last number of months. He did provide the blast that led to the rebound and first goal, but otherwise faded the second half. In our opinion, Donovan clearly suffered from not having Davies in front of him−stretching the defense with his speed or clearing out for a Donovan run. The two had developed quite a chemistry and Davies absence noticeably impact Donovan

ST: Jozy Altidore – 8

Jozy had a very good night that could have been a great one if he connected with the back of the net on any of his chances. Altidore was hustling, passing, posting and drawing fouls for the US; something he will have to do consistently in South Africa as the #1 striker. TSG really liked how he seemed to use his physical gifts first (strength and speed) before resort to fancy footwork to break players down. That was good awareness by a young player and hopefully Coach Brown was watching back in Hull City.

ST: Conor Casey – 4.5

His touch seemed to go leaden somewhere on the trip from San Pedro Sula to RFK. From his now infamous 9:00 miss to poor first touches on post-ups (save for the Holden pass) he evoked feelings of one-hit-wonder status.

SUB1: Jose Francisco Torres – 7

Made an immediate impact as an orchestrator in the offensive end. He certainly earned more playing time and I’m guessing we’ll see more of him versus Denmark on 11/18.

SUB2: Robbie Rogers – 7

If for only one night, took over the spark plug role vacated by Davies. After all, he was donning a number 9 jersey. Rogers brought great energy and service down the right flank. He was active and earned 3 attempts on goal in his short time on the pitch. And let’s not forget, the corner kick that led to the equalizer was class.

SUB3: Kenny Cooper – 6

It’d be easy to give him an incomplete due to playing just 18 or so minutes, but when I saw him galloping back on defense late in the game ahead of almost every other player, I knew I had to give him a shout-out. Subs are supposed to do that, but all too often they don’t. Some nifty footwork along the touch-line as well.

Bonus “Truth”: Hondurans love the USA! Listen to these announcers.

34 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/15 at 12:45 PM

    US – 17
    CR – 6

    ….on goal
    US – 5
    CR – 5

    Need to improve, however team was pressing.

    “Tuesday” was right with his comments in the salute thank you piece…the lack of cover on central in helping hurt last evening.

    Donovan was really lost without the matching speed of Davies in front of him to take off some pressure.


  2. Posted by sfshwebb on 2009/10/15 at 12:59 PM

    I think that Jozy’s brief time at Hull has helped him tremendously. At the confed cup, he played pretty well but wasn’t as industrious and “stuck in” as he is now. I think the fast pace and physicality of the premiership and the Hull City training ground has done a lot to shape the current Jozy. If he continues like this Phil Brown will play him.


  3. Spot on Mark, Davies running the left channel has definitely opened up more space for Donovan. He definitely had less space to operate last night. Without CD9, I’d like to see Jozy popping up in both channels rather than only on the right. Jozy was good definitely good last night and was gagging for it to start the match, but I think a striker must either score or create to merit an 8 rating. What I saw was a young player with all the physical attributes you could want with almost unlimited potential but still very much the unfinished article. Hopefully Coach Brown can make a positive contribution to his development with a lot of finishing work and Jozy is willing to do all the hard work Davies has done.

    Bradley Jr was indeed poor last night. I still think we need to see Feilhaber paired with Clark (or Edu or Jones when those guys get back on the pitch) because Bradley/Feilhaber is just not a complementary midfield pairing. Maybe he had a bad night but his technical level seems below the team average, his decision-making is a bit on the slow side. His defensive positioning isn’t that strong but he is a good tackler, ball winner and harrier though he tends towards being overly aggressive.

    Paco Torres is only 21 so there will be inconsistency and I don’t want to pressure the kid so I won’t crown him the new Reyna…yet. I agree he’s made a very strong case for more pitch time and now that we’ve secured qualification and move into the experimental phase of World Cup preparations, I think we’ll see more of him as well as some of the other uncapped players that deserve a look. His quickness with the ball is of a very high level – literally, it’s here, and ping! it’s gone with crispness, authority and well weighted. A pleasure to watch.

    I didn’t get a great look at Robbie Rogers as his work on the right was done at the far end of the pitch in the second half. I must say, Donovan’s touch lets him down more often than it should for a player aspiring to be world class.

    I’m reposting my earlier comments here:

    Anyways, some things about soccer you can’t see watching a match on television, only in person. For instance, you can only tell how quick a players feet are in person. I had a very good view of central midfield in the second half from just inside the half we were defending on the left flank. Paco Torres is the real deal gentlemen. He was the best player on the pitch in the 30 minutes he played. He is much much quicker with the ball than any other player (including LD) and makes good decisions, changed the point of attack and set the tempo. He is outrageously talented and should be starting as our midfield general in all seriousness. We do not score an equalizer at the death playing with 3 at the back without the Torres-induced stranglehold we had on the midfield in the final 30 minutes. I really hope that Bob Bradley saw how he completely changed the game.

    Other notes: Nice to see the US play out of the back and work at maintaining more possession with Howard playing the ball short throughout the match.
    Lots and lots of chances.
    We give the ball away deep in our own midfield far too often which means we will concede goals but Paco stopped the sloppy play in this area – Bob should take note.
    Defending the wings is a team problem just as much as the players at our disposal. Neither Costa Rica goal is scored if a midfielder is sacrificed for cover between the fullback and centre-back when the ball is in wide areas. Instead we have the outside midfielder joining the fullback all the way out on the wing where there’s little danger with no one protecting the channel – this is wrong.
    Too much time and space is a strikers worst enemy, ask Conor Casey about his chance in the 9th minute.
    Jozy Altidore really does have enormous potential, he’s very good in tight spaces, he just needs to learn to learn the game a bit more and take more of his chances.
    Donovan is just too good not to take more of his chances – he should’ve had 2 in the first.
    When he’s not let down by his first touch, Bornstein has decent technical ability and really gained confidence – his main problem seems to be his occasional indecision with the ball that leaves him without options and suspect defensive positioning that often goes unpunished because of his speed.
    Despite scoring, Bradley has very limited technical ability – the contrast between his speed of play and that of Torres was marked.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/15 at 1:29 PM

      Let’s hope Torres is more dynamic (but equally as good in possession (-Ghana) as Reyna). The funny thing about it is Torres and Feilhaber both stayed far back more on the pitch last night….much like Reyna used to.

      With Bradley all over the pitch (is it discipline or fitness) it seems, like mentioned above, BF and PT didn’t know where to go. I think it interesting that our best possession was not only when CR receded like the Red Sea, but when MB tired and was confined to a smaller area.

      Who is our next John O’Brien because that player is perfectly complimentary to BF or PT.

      On CC, like our high school coach used to say, “Keep your head down, keep your head down……KEEP YOUR HEAD DOWN!” — if the stands had cheered that at the 9 that would have helped. :>

      On JB, thankfully TSG is rewarded for supporting him. I think with more time together the back will solidify, but I’m not sure Gooch is the best communicator. He’s had issues with Dolo, Specs and last night with JB on the 2nd goal.


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/10/15 at 2:48 PM

      I Like Tuesday…I have to admit the CD impact on Donovan was Matthew’s observation. It made sense to me so in it went to the recap.

      As I alluded to in response to Pat below, it’s been a while since Bradley exhibited good chemistry with the other center-mid for the better part of 90 minutes. There were stretches with Benny at the end of the first half versus El Sal, likewise with Rico at the start of the second half in T&T (IIRC), some nice run in the second half versus HON this past Saturday and virtually nothing last night.

      I’d really like to see the Feilhaber – Clark pairing the in Denmark next month. Benny deserves on more chance to put it together as a starter, but with a different running mate.


  4. […] « Orange Wedges: USA – Costa Rica US vs. Costa Rica: Charlie Davies Strong […]


  5. Posted by kaya on 2009/10/15 at 1:52 PM

    Hmmmm. My comment taking exception to BB’s “daughter” is gone. Did the computer eat my homework or did you not like it? Thinking the former since it wasn’t bad.
    Anyway, what I wrote would sound childish (my specialty) since all the comments are all uh-nal-ississ and stuff.
    I don’t think I could add much to what’s been written, anyway. I’ll just repeat what I wrote in the previous post while you guys were slacking off/sleeping in…
    Despite Mike annoying me and Feilhaber losing the ball a lot, I was happier than I’ve been in a long time with the way the guys were playing even when we were down 0-2.
    Meme les francais are sending e-mails of support:)


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/15 at 2:33 PM


      Where was the comment, which post — in the whole history of TSG we’ve only not posted 2 comments, seriously — we’ve got a lot of stuff to put in the Hall of Fame.
      …but with an attitude like this…we might need to wait a few years on your induction. :>

      Where did you watch the game?


      • Posted by kaya on 2009/10/15 at 3:01 PM

        I posted it here… and I guessed the computer ate it, but it sure did seem like everything went fine when I hit the submit button.
        If I ever make HOF, I’m sure it will be something sarcastic (my other specialty.)
        I watched at home. It was a tad on the early side for me to make other arrangements.
        I’m sure my upstairs flatmates think (OK, know) I’m absolutely nuts….


  6. Great write-up! I watched the game twice, and I think you have the grades for Feilhaber and Bradley backwards. Bradley didn’t do anything pretty with the ball at his feet, but he won the ball more often than Feilhaber and produced more offensively. Feilhaber really didn’t get involved in that game at all, which I think is the main reason Bradley subbed him for Torres (who looked great). The goal was typical Michael Bradley… the guy finds the net, although 4 times out of 5, it’s a play like last night’s rather than a shot from outside or a beautiful header. There’s a lot to be said for a scrappy player who gets goals. Like I said before though, good read.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/15 at 2:30 PM

      @Pat – Matt here — thanks for writing.

      There is a small chance that we’re slighlty biased to BF here at TSG because we are big fans of the way he plays the game.

      Having said that we hold different players to different standards per past performances and roles on the team.

      In terms of Mike B, he’s looked at to be one of the stars of the team and frankly he’s not improving nor warranting an absolute selection evertime.

      That being said, on all things being equal basis their rating are probably pretty close one way or the other.

      thanks for writing.


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/10/15 at 2:34 PM

      Thanks for the kudos and comment, Pat.

      I’ll add on to Matt’s comment about the Benny love by also saying that I expect more from a player getting regular 90 on the squad then for a super-sub that gets a start now and again. Granted Benny was disappointing, but Bradley has struggled to find good chemistry with his mid-field mate for a number of games now which has forced the US to go over the top or exclusively out wide on the attack.


      • I hear that, and I’m typically a fan of Benny Feilhaber. He can create more offensively than any other center mid on our roster (or really anyone who we could even consider adding to the roster). I think he just had a rough game and will hopefully learn from it. I think it’s tough to say Michael Bradley shouldn’t be a starter though… you can’t really argue with production. His 5 goals in World Cup qualifying are second only to Jozy Altidore’s 6. I just think he’s a better defensive center mid than attacking center mid, and I don’t think he’s being used that way very often.


  7. Posted by Mark T on 2009/10/15 at 3:31 PM

    I left this out of the recap because I don’t like picking on injured players, especially ones who have produced at a high level in the past for the USMNT, so I’ll ask the question here:

    Do you think it is only a coincidence that the US played with more heart in back-to-back games than they have since June with Dempsey out of the line-up?


    • Posted by Kevin on 2009/10/15 at 4:34 PM

      Easy question no. By no I mean its not a coincidence, but I still think there is a place for him on the starting squad I just don’t know where. It’s a little tough to try to work someone in at a new position for the team, but I’ll try to figure it out.


  8. Posted by Mark T on 2009/10/15 at 5:30 PM

    Forgot where I read it, but one of the Honduran Presidents offered Jonathan Bornstein and all-expenses paid vacation to some island of off of Honduras.

    Make sure you check out this video for the USA chants by the Hondurans towards the end:


  9. Posted by Kevin on 2009/10/15 at 6:50 PM

    A few things I’d like to point out. First of all, Stu good game, but really lacked something any sort of spark. He had a few decent crosses but they weren’t quite up to par for his standards with those. Benny struggled to make things happen on offense, but I’m not going to blame it on anything right now. Bradley Jr. was what I expect from him now, and I honostly can’t wait for the return of Edu/ arrival of Jones. Torres was everything I expected to see. Not many people appreciated his skills, but personaly I never understood why BB chose to sit him out so long. He had a bad game against (I can’t even remember anymore), but that game and the game last night showed some of the same skills he had. Donovan had a very unexpected performance if you ask me. I’m not quite ready to say it was because he didn’t have Davies in front of him because he hasn’t been playing that long with Davies. The Confed cup, and about 4-5 qualifiers, but other than that not too many caps/starts together.


  10. Posted by Antonio H. on 2009/10/15 at 8:20 PM

    First and foremost I would like to congradulate Jonathan Bornstein on his buzzer-beater. Secondly, I would like to award my self with the “Call of the Day” award(can i do that?. . .and please dont sue me ESPN :/) on my predictions of BF, Paco, El Pistolero, and Kenny Cooper all making appearances in tonight’s match. Although i wasn’t exactly correct, I pretty much hit the nail on the (side of) the head. In [post name] i called: the BF start as well as his replacement with El Gringo; Robbie Rodgers came on(although not for Lando) and basically beasted all over la cancha; and Kenny Cooper had a cameo(i guess i was miles off with him starting) for the slow loris-like Conor Casey.


  11. Posted by LI Matt on 2009/10/16 at 6:42 AM

    From BigSoccer:

    Recognize the scarf…?😉


  12. Posted by Matthew N on 2009/10/16 at 8:09 AM

    Not sure why you guys thought Jozy played so well. He had a great amount of chances and failed to put any of them on frame. He is put on the field to finish, and he didn’t finish. I have no clue how he got the “Golden Shinguard.” I felt his game was far too emotional and unrestrained and he could have benefitted from more disciplined play. I also think you’re being incredibly unkind to Michael Bradley (oh and you aren’t being hard enough on TSG favorite Tim Howard, who made a very poor effort on the first goal– although if Onyewu had decided to play any defence AT ALL things would have been different). Other than that, great write up as always.


    • Posted by Brad on 2009/10/16 at 8:41 AM

      I think we all liked his physicality. He was basically throwing his defender around at will. Once the emotion of Charlie’s crash dies down, we all think that a cooler-headed Jozy plus the physicality = a real winner.


    • Posted by Mark T on 2009/10/16 at 9:01 AM

      With Davies out, Jozy is going to have to do a lot more than just finish and he showed he could do that on Wednesday. We would not have overlooked his poor shooting as much as we did under different circumstances, but he was clearly the best player on the field that went the full 90.

      Why do you think we are being unkind to Bradley? Until Paco came in the US had nothing going in the middle of the field which is an indictment of the Bradley-Feilhaber pairing.

      As for Howard, he certainly has some fault in the first goal, but watch the highlight (below). Boca gets caught in no-man’s land when he should have rotated to cover.


    • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/10/16 at 9:53 AM

      Well, you guys take physical strikers who play well and I’ll take the guys who finish. Jozy is doing nothing for Hull but warming the bench and I haven’t really seen anything that impresses me since the goal vs. Spain in the Confed Cup. I don’t mean to sound overly negative, but if he brings this kind of play to the World Cup, we are going to have a very quick exit.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/16 at 10:12 AM

        Some of your sentiments are correct. A few things to note:

        JZA is 19, when I was 19 I was figuring out how to get to writing class on time in college after a bowl of Fruit Loops — lot of room for growth

        I’m not sure who are better options for the USMNT. Yes he didn’t score, but if you look he had a goals-to-appearance rate of 46% in qualifying — that’s astounding. (I will discount my stats as he had a hat trick though).

        JZA also battles from inconsistent service and inconsistent play. In other words, he’s had to figure out everything in a single 90min appearance as his next start (at Hull or for Coach B) is not gauranteed.

        For this game, you constantly had 1 and even sometimes 2 defenders drifting over to help the Jozy’s defender. That’s quite a bit of respect for a player that hasn’t–as you correctly point out–netted consistently.

        If you removed JZA from the game, you would have had Conor and Ching or Conor and Cooper up top — those guys are categorically not drawing double teams, abusing defenders with their size in possession, or feared at all for their shot.

        Sometimes as a striker you can have such an impact as to open the game for others without scoring, usually that doesn’t make you the player of the game. In this case it did.

        You are also correct–and we’ll have a follow-up piece–that if the USMNT does not find more talent around the net, we’re in trouble in South Africa.


        • Posted by Matthew N on 2009/10/17 at 4:08 PM

          I didn’t mean to sound so combative. I like Jozy and I think he has a lot of potential. I just think he isn’t ready yet. He isn’t consistent enough to be relied on during the World Cup. I’m going to say something that many people may not agree with, but I think our entire World Cup future will rest on the shoulders of… Clint Dempsey. With Davies out, we need Clint up top. He is experienced and he will get the job done. I’m going to do a big write up about this, but I think Deuce can help a lot more up top. Jozy still has a lot to learn, and he can certainly play some matches or come in as a change of pace/more physical substitute, but I think we need veterans up top. Donovan and Dempsey are the keys to South Africa. Donovan will show up. The only question is whether Bradley will use Dempsey properly.


  13. […] Onyewu…As mentioned in our US-CR recap piece, Gooch is looking at three to four months on the shelf after shredding his patellar tendon. Great […]


  14. Posted by kaya on 2009/10/16 at 10:43 AM

    I saw the same thing as TSG with re: to Altidore and Bradley. Altidore did as well as a goaless striker could… there were so many chokes on the field, you can’t single out Jozy in the regard (OK, yes, he’s a striker.) I not only liked his hustle and muscle, but he had some really nice touches (and some that let him down.) He’s got a long way before he reliably has that awesome touch (and finishing) of Drogba, so out of pure superstition, I kinda wish you’d take down the nickname for now:)
    Mike Bradley, otoh, I think his touch has gotten worse… Not is his first touch poor, but often gets sulky and gives up when dispossessed. I saw that on at least a couple dangerous situations in the CR.
    His goal was scrappy…. and lucky.
    I don’t think the criticism of Timmy is fair. The guy had to cover near post and the possibility of a curling shot to far post. He couldn’t have done either with his legs together…


  15. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/16 at 11:10 AM

    I emailed Mark after the game on what Timmy was screaming down 2-0.

    You know what Timmy is yelling to the d after that 2nd goal, “Every F&*(ng Time” over and over.

    Why? Because on the 11th min cross that he stopped the point blank shot on, he scolded Boca appropriately for not staying with his man and drifting into who knows where.
    because Boca was covering the crossing pass as the video above shows on that first goal instead of going to the guy.

    Well what happened on the 2nd goal, Mikey B lost his guy, Bornstein was forced to decide between his man and the onrushed and Gooch didn’t react quick enough.

    Result: No one marked again, 2-0 Costa Rica

    The US, Bradley debriefed after this. Some challenges, not playing together enough, Boca is accustomed to the wing in every day play.

    But you need to assign responsibility where due.

    Goal 1: Gooch got beat wrongfooted (very bad fundmanetals), but it happens..

    Boca? You always go to the guy with the ball in the box, why? It’s easier to screw up two touches, pass, shot then one, shot.

    Not Timmy’s fault.

    Goal 2:

    A few things….one Lando…yes Lando…jogging back into the play. No you have Bradley alone in covering two guys.

    Bradley makes a poor decision to double team the inside offender who recognizes and passes to Bradley’s man, Ruiz, cutting into the lane. JB can’t get over (not really his fault), Gooch doesn’t react fast enough (needs more pitch time, and this has been an issue before)


    Bradley, most culpable and thus a 4 rating. He leaves his man — poor decision #1 and then worse (gosh I love the 360) doesn’t communicate for someone to pick him up.

    Okay…I’m done..sorry for the book.


    • Posted by kaya on 2009/10/16 at 1:12 PM

      No, thanks for summary. It takes time to go back and re-watch a game (though 360 makes it a helluva lot easier). As long as it stays up for a few more weeks, I’ll probably try to go back and refresh my memory when I have more time. I hope the Honduras game gets up on the internetz later given the replay, as well.
      Btw, isn’t it pretty tough to record Dish/DirecTV transmissions that you can copy?
      I watch TV through my computer and remember doing some research in 06 and finding you couldn’t get TV cards that could decode digital cable and satellite, and the propietary dvr storage is encrypted, etc… h4ck0rs!!!


  16. Posted by i_like_tuesday on 2009/10/16 at 4:54 PM

    I rewatched the game today and actually Onyewu was partially at fault for both goals. On the first one, Holden was back in the fullback position while Cherundolo was getting back. Just as he got back Dolo stepped out into midfield in an area of no danger leaving Gooch exposed on the wing.

    The second goal, Mike Bradley pressured an area of no danger on the wing instead of keeping shape, leaving the channel open to run into. Bornstein was actually in a good position and was simply beaten by a clever touch but Onyewu literally stood still and watched as the world class strike was rocketed goalwards.


  17. Posted by matthewsf on 2009/10/17 at 4:37 PM


    No worries on anything combatative. I think on your Dempsey comment, you’re not far off. The most likely person to step in will be Deuce up top — the question is how and where do you play him.

    We’re going to have a follow-up on striking in Davies absence early next week. We have 15 candidates and Deuce is one of the more likely players in that role.


  18. […] how to create space for the offender behind him. As we talked about in our Costa Rica review piece (see the LD section in player ratings), Donovan clearly suffered from Altidore, though strong on his own, and Casey not clearing or […]


  19. […] post that helped get it going is here. And you can find TSG’s match review here.) The 9th Minute Salute for Charlie […]


  20. […] 14th, 2009: Less than 48 hours after Charlie Davies’ car accident, Jozy Altidore plays an inspired 90+ minutes of soccer at Washington’s RFK in support of his fallen friend and strike partner. Big Jeezy wins the […]


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