Reflection: More Breakdown of USA v. Holland

In the hopes of spurring extremely fresh and real time commentary, TSG hustled our game review piece out yesterday.

Big dog....

....teeny weeny dog....

Also hustling it out because in the tiny Bundes Tinysanfranciscoliga last evening–as I promised my teammates I would do report today–the San Francisco Black Sox emerged victorious with a 2-1 championship win. The Golden Shinguard to Brown alum Derek Metzger for a bending free kick strike, while Stanford alum keeper Jon Kart was positively Tim Howardish in goal.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

With a moment of reflection here, we’re going to take a look at a few more bullets and pointers that emerged yesterday:

• On Bob Bradley straying from the tried and true 4-4-2….

Bob Bradley’s introduction of Alejandro Bedoya for Robbie Findley at the 65 minute mark was less about seeing what Landon Donovan could do in the CAM role and more about looking at a formation that supports Jozy Altidore and recognizes the lack of a World Cup-level striker on the United States.

That should and likely will be both Dempsey and perhaps some of Benny’s role if the United States decides to go that route in deployment.

• An applaud-able performance…

Coach USA was missing as many as four starters from our Confederation’s Cup games, though Ricardo Clark–pardon–comes at a discount. In the face of two days of training and questionable in game tactics, the States acquitted themselves “okay” in my book.

Tough day...

• Qualifier: Bornstein, Bornstein, Bornstein

TSG has, and frankly still is, somewhat a fan….but we’re probably a fan of Bornstein as many people were say a fan of Darko Milicic coming into the NBA. The reason for Bornstein’s continued selection? He’s got the all those tantalizing tools.

But much like Darko, you need to produce and that’s where Bornstein is not at the highest of levels.

We’ll go with TSG commenter GeorgeCross on where this leaves the USMNT’s leftback plight:

»So, the question remains, who starts at left back for USA? Bocanegra seems the sensible, and perhaps, the only realistic candidate. From an England point of view this is good news – he is not the quickest of players: I cannot see him bombing up your left wing to support the offense, or overlap the midfield, which is good because Brown is a liability at right back (see previous comment about a centre back playing as full back).

• Qualifier: Michael Bradley is poor defensively.

TSG commentor “DanPa” voiced some of our argument the best in this statement:

»Defensively, I think he generally reacts very well to loose balls and when the other teams attacker is dribbling at him, this game included. But turns into a ball-watcher when the attack is coming from quick passes (see his non-reaction on the Huntleear goal and when he + Torres got caught watching Sneijder run around them to receive the ball on the penalty).

That’s our qualifier. Bradley is a decent ball winner when the marble strays. However his team defense and one-on-one prowess is below average.

There are many other observations both from yesterday’s game, from the October Costa Rica game and others.

• Lost & Found: Left out those pesky ratings on Bob Bradley and the announcers.

We’ll start with the latter.

As my Black Sox teammate Nathaniel wrote to me on the commentators:

Announcers: 4.5

Nathaniel: John Harkes knows soccer.  But when Bradley makes a tactical switch, taking off a forward, bringing on Bedoya, moving him to the right flank, switching Beas to the left, and pushing Donovan up top, it is Harkes’ job to tell  us that.  It was a glaring omission and not the first time he’s missed this sort of thing.  Will somebody at ESPN please call John Motson.

Matthew, TSG: I tried not to pay too much attention to the announcers yesterday. Harkes did a decent job showcasing Elia and Bedoya (two players I like) so I was fine with that….however both guys were very late on the Stu Holden injury, treating the moment too lightly in my opinion.

Coach USA...

Bob Bradley: 5

I applaud Bob Bradley’s preparation for this game, his instilling of defensive focus and keeping-shape discipline, and his willingness to try a new set-up in the 2nd.

Steroetypical of Bradley, he’s late to make in game adjustments and his team lacks a cohesive offensive plan. The comment from yesterday where Bradley referred to his team as “they” still irks me. (see yesterday’s review piece)

Bob, did you instruct the team to attack in the first half or not? Was it a case of mutiny to the game plan or lack of execution?

Nothing in the post-match quote sheet illuminated this for me.

• Hartford scheduled: The Czech Republic, May 25th

The venue is now set.

Be well and speedy in return Stu Holden

We discussed Stu in today’s first piece. As well, the news broke that Holden’s contract was extended. So a hearty get well and congratulations are both ironically in order.

It’s worth noting that Bolton manager is using Coyle in the role that Stu inhabited in Houston, the CAMish role. Obviously for the nationals, Stu plays wing. We made a note in this piece a few weeks ago that we wanted David Beckham to provide just a little tutoring for Stu. It sure looks like Holden’s versatility and abilities are starting to resemble the former Manchester United stalwart.

High praise.

Weekend: Don’t forget Everton v. Hull coming this Sunday

25 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by todd on 2010/03/04 at 12:14 PM

    where is this info about Holden’s contract extension?


    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/04 at 2:58 PM

      I followed your link and they tried to say that Holden is 22 years-old. He turned 24 in 2009.


  2. Posted by Matt B on 2010/03/04 at 1:10 PM

    In a way, I see Bornstein’s game yesterday as a positive. Even though he had been playing reasonably well recently, I don’t think most of us felt comfortable with him starting at left back against top-tier opposition. But as a result of yesterday’s debacle, I can’t see Bob possibly playing him against England. With even a mediocre performance yesterday I’m guessing Bornstein locked up that job since he is a Bradley favorite. Now, not so much. We may actually get to see Spector or Boca (assuming Gooch is healthy) on the left instead, which many have been clamoring for. Heck, even Heath Pearce is back in the conversation now.


  3. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 1:28 PM

    Bornstein has secured a lot of (predictable) column inches on TSG today. But nobody has wriiten too much on Donovan – I thought he was totally ineffective against the Dutch and considering that he is your key player, he went missing for long periods (his impact was so non-existent, I actually forgot he was on the pitch at times). Do you think that Bradley should have put him on the right, where he has enjoyed some good form with Everton or do you think it was the correct tactical and strategic decision to play on the left because of Holden’s inclusion on the right? Any thoughts?


    • Posted by Swa on 2010/03/04 at 1:35 PM

      I’m hoping Donovan just had a bad day and still has the flu because that was pretty woeful. And I don’t think the side had anything to do with it because Holden was replaced by Beasley who took over the left side and Donovan still didn’t contribute much from what I saw. My worst fear at this point would be burnout after playing more games in the last 12 months than I imagine he ever has in that length of time, something that will not be helped by leaving Everton to return to MLS all the way up to the World Cup.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 1:45 PM

        The only reason I mentioned it was because I was looking forward to see how Donovan coped with (1) playing against a very good Dutch team, and (2) playing in a USA side where he is the main man and carries a lot of the country’s expectation / burden. He’s just too important for your team to have a ‘bad day at the office’. But I did concede before that you did have two (offensively) very important players missing.


        • Donovan in the past ghosted in and out of games regularly; I was in Columbus (and in the front row) in 2005 when we beat Mexico and I don’t remember him even touching the ball. His biggest problem last night was that the game wasn’t being brought to him and he didn’t go to the game (spot on quote by another commenter). The Dutch are all very smart players and when it was obvious Findley was not going to do a damn thing, they probably stepped up their marking on Donovan; though, we wouldn’t know because he wasn’t in the camera’s shot at all.

          While he is too important to go missing like that, but we were woeful when we had possession and bypassed the midfield on just about every play out of the back, so I’m not surprised.


    • Donovan hardly got any service and didn’t have any support when he did. Dono was marked very tightly by van der Wiel and quickly closed down by de Jong or van Bommel and frequently Sneijder as well whenever he received the ball. The poor performances of Findley, Torres and Bornstein on the left didn’t help matters. I wondered why Bradley didn’t swap Donovan and Beasley after Holden’s injury. I thought Beasley was quite poor on the right and it was only when he switched sides after Bedoya came on that he came into the match. Reminded me a bit of his PSV days where he’d seem altogether too static before suddenly coming into the game and contributing.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 2:32 PM

        I just hope that the England scout at the game was taking extensive notes…


        • That’s why Dempsey is so important – he’s much less the type of player you can mark out of the game because he’ll wander the pitch to find space to operate. Donovan has a habit of getting static when he’s denied space, running up and down the pitch with little inspiration. If stationed wide, Donovan needs someone who presents a danger when he gets behind the right back to make space. van der Wiel has more to worry about if Charlie Davies is running behind him. I mean, we make it sound like Davies is Ronaldo or something and he is certainly a good player but the key is that what he does makes the rest of our team so much better. For instance, helping us carve up Egypt 3-0 last summer.


    • Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/04 at 2:41 PM

      I have never considered Donovan to be our key player. People rave and rave about how good he is, but I don’t see it. With the exception of his chemistry with Davies (not his speed), Donovan has failed. Not only do I not believe there is a “key player”, I don’t think Donovan would be anywhere close to the right guy for the job.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 3:03 PM

        Like Tuesday said, the Dutch certainly thought so and paid him a lot of attention and marked / played him out of the game. I think he’s your key (outfield) player, especially now given your injury woes – but I also think the USA’s strength lies with your work rate and commitment.


        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/05 at 2:39 PM

          I’m not sure if you can call him our key outfield player either. Donovan is nothing special. On his good games, the forwards in front of him also “just happen” to have a good game as well or he received the ball 50 times. On his bad games, coincedentally he doesn’t have many touches and the forwards in front of him did not have a good game. He doesn’t have anything special that he brings to the team either (unless you count experience).


  4. Posted by MJ on 2010/03/04 at 1:34 PM

    Isn’t it Everton v. Hull this Sunday? They’ve got an article up about Donovan warning his teammates about Altidore. It’s his last home game before his final for the Blues against Birmingham on the 13th.


  5. Bornstein had this to say for himself:

    “He went down pretty easy,” Bornstein said about the penalty call. “But they called it.”

    Sorry Jonathan but there just aren’t many clearer-cut penalties than that.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 2:30 PM

      It may be wise for Jonathan Bornstein to read FIFA’s Law 14 (again?) before he laces up his boots for the next game…


    • Sneijder (sp?) did go down way too easily, show some pride and don’t let yourself get dragged down by some pimply-faced high schooler. But, it was the correct call because the intent was there and it was so blatant that Ray Charles could see it.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/03/04 at 2:53 PM

        Bornstein can’t have any complaints. It was naive of him to make contact like that – of course Sneijder is going to go down, it’s a stonewall penalty for his team – him staying on his feet would have been stupid, and we’re only talking about a friendly. Just think of the consequences of doing stupid shit like that in a tournament? Potential red card too.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/03/04 at 2:56 PM

          When I was in high school, I learned two things as a defender:

          – never go to ground in the box.
          – never reach away from your body to grab above the waist

          …and I had a terrible high school soccer coach.


        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/03/04 at 3:01 PM

          I was able to learn all that just by playing in the U-13’s REC LEAGUE with a BAD COACH.

          Bornstein…You deserve whatever you get.


  6. Posted by dude on 2010/03/04 at 2:39 PM

    I liked the 4-2-3-1. Thought it worked quite nicely, now that we seem to have an abundance of attacking midfield options: Dempsey, Donovan, Beasley, Torres, Holden, Bedoya. Hope we see all of them healthy at the world cup.

    Plus wouldn’t it be great to see Davies as a super sub? But that’s pushing it.


  7. Posted by DanPa on 2010/03/04 at 3:34 PM

    I’d be inclined to rate coach Bradley a bit better. His starting 11 seemed to reflect who has been really playing consistently for clubs recently. As in: Torres and Holden start over Edu and Beasley; I was pessimistically expecting Beas to start. Plus, he gave a Bedoya a good 30 minute look, when he usually seems so reluctant to give guys who are newish to his roster only 10-20 minutes at the end of games… and got most (all?) of the bench players in for at least 15 minutes.

    Thanks for the reference to my 1st post in the post. I’ve been reading your site for a few months now and really enjoy it – the posts and the commentary.


  8. Posted by CJ on 2010/03/04 at 11:43 PM

    HARTFORD, CT!!!!!!!! WOOHOO!!!! I’ll be there! Tix on sale March 11th @ 10 am. Time to grab the scarf, maybe a jersey?? and all my buddies we’re gonna get rowdy!!


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