Sunday Rewind: USA vs. England

If you missed our official review piece, go here.

ESPN3, greatest invention since running water.

Finally, got a chance to sit down and rewatch the “Sprint At Rustenburg.” I believe our review yesterday hit on most of the key points, but here’s some other nuggets we pulled out of the tape review.


• No dropping the rating for Mr. Steve Cherundolo

Once Wright Phillips came on for a loping James Milner, Bob Bradley knew his speed flank wouldn’t be able to get loose quite as easily on Dolo’s side. Bradley switched Donovan to the left for most of the rest of the game and left Cherundolo to fend for himself against SWP and Ashley Cole. Clint Dempsey–who put in a fine track-back performance–was also pulled to the middle frequently leaving Dolo’s flank further exposed.

• The Yanks will rue–and need to do better–on their set pieces

Is there a better player right now on serving up set pieces than Landon Donovan. In the world. This is a US-based publication, but I don’t think that hyperbole. Donovan’s service on the day was perfectly angled and weighted…but the Yanks wasted some surefire opportunities.

• If I’m Matjaž Kek, Slovenia’s head coach, I’m politely walking over to Friday’s referee and letting him know about Jay DeMerit’s grab-and-grope jobs. DeMerit needs to rein in the reach-out just a little bit. And he’s already got a yellow citation as well.


• Jozy Is Teetering….

I think I was right in expecting more out of Altidore in yesterday’s write-up. That said–and I’m not talking about Jozy wave-goodbye move on Jamie Carragher–Altidore was called on for many if not all throw-in plays  in the offensive end. If he can do more in those tight situations, watch out.

• …but the States’ strikers need more creativity

A lot of straight corner runs for the Yanks strikers–Altidore threw a fade in there on one–but if Findley and Altidore can be a little more creative with their movement off the opponent’s backline, you’ll see more free opportunities for Dempsey and Donovan.

And speaking of strikers, how about Edson Buddle gaining possession and going for glory at the 85th min. Had Terry not blocked that shot it would have tested Robert Green.

• Four Lions

Terry, Emile Heskey, Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard were the States’ best opponents today. Of the lot, Glen Johnson’s act–defensively deficient only once by my count was the most surprising.

• Central midfield buddies

Upon rewind I was even more impressed with Michael Bradley’s performance. He got juked once each by both Gerrard and Lampard, but Bradley actually did the work of two. Rico Clark was almost exclusively assigned to Wayne Rooney and Bradley policed even more pitch than he usually does.

On Clark’s Roo-ins assignment, check out the 72nd minute of the game. Lampard is about to go vertical with the ball right beyond the halfline. Clark looks to him, takes a step, then remembers that #10 for the Lions is his special assignment and quickly tracks back to Rooney.

Speaking of Clark’s 4.5 rating yesterday, it remains unchanged. There is only one camera angle on ESPN3 and I caught at least four other opportunities, to the earlyier gaffe, by Clark of ball watching–or clipping his nails–or whatever he was doing rather than getting on the play. (19, 25, 34, 84 minutes)

Oh and more on Bradley’s attention to every detail. Many time in this game the Yanks staggered their midfield line. I’m not talking a 4-2-2, I’m talking about once England had possession and was attempting to attack. Often Clark or Bradley would be set deep in the middle. This did two things: 1) it sucked in the Lions and made the space they needed to exploit smaller and 2) by dropping Rico or Bradley it put one of the two Yanks top central defenders closer to helping out the flanks. Good move.

Heskey, a giant sized nuisance on the day...

• So this Capello fellow is a world beater?

Stubbornly slow to attack, react, and adapt. That’s how I would explain England on the day. Three areas of weakness in the US defense were evident, see our preview, before the game. It took until the…

….71st minute or so for Capello to start thrusting his outside fullbacks up the pitch continuously to generate offense.

….79th minute for Peter Crouch to arrive on the scene and test the DeMerit-Cherundolo aerial show.

….82nd minute to draw out Oguchi Onyewu–who had a lot of trouble coming forward and play off Gooch’s challenge’s in one-on-one play in isolation. Aaron Lennon served in Emile Heskey earlier in the half, but it wasn’t until there was five minutes left that Wayne Rooney kept planting himself right in the middle right in front of Gooch and looking for opportunities.

Onyewu acquitted himself well on the evening but multiple times he gave up breaks when up the pitch in the run of play.

-Oh, and I think Joe Cole could have helped out the bad guys on the day too.

• Mini-bullets

» Robbie Findley was fouled on his breakaway in the 70th minute. If you re-watch, you’ll see Carragher move immediately to the right–and not in a direct line to the ball as is required–to bang into Findley. I think if Findley runs through that instead of his mini-flop, he might have got the call.

I just thought it would be fun to include a pic of AJ.

» What, no Adam Johnson? I’ve read a lot of game reviews today and I’m surprised that the media darling that is Adam Johnson wasn’t brought up…anywhere. Why? 75th minute Shaun Wright Phillips is played in on the left flank by Wayne Rooney. That is Shaun “Wright Footed” Phillips. Airmail delivered directly to Tim Howard on that attempt. Not a lefty like Adam Johnson in that situation. (Okay this one’s a little out there…and yes I know SWP is considered to have “two feet,” but I’ve never seen him take a free kick with his left.)

• Miscellaneous

» If I’m Adidas, I’m putting in a little note to FIFA on the US-broadcast and reminded them the dollars I forked over to be the sponsor. How many “in the moment” shots of players with Nike cleats do we need to see fixing their boots. Shameless.

» The US was claimed to be the “home” side for the affair because more tickets were purchased for the match in the States than in England. Uhm, a lot of English ex-pats currently residing in South Africa these days.

On to Slovenia…..we’ll update you on Tim Howard’s injury when any news is out.

28 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Antonio H. on 2010/06/13 at 11:40 PM

    Could you Imagine if that was Tshababallin’ instead of SWP latching on to Wayne’s pass? Probably would’ve ripped off Tim’s Right hand with that boomboosa.

    And is Adam Johnson still in the squad? I thought he was cut along with Walcott? Like I said earlier, Capello lost England 2 points. Questionable line-up choices, tactics, and subs


    • Posted by kaya on 2010/06/14 at 12:00 AM

      He’s surprised the press aren’t lamenting his exclusion? Idk, that confused me, too. I wasn’t aware he was a media darling…


  2. Posted by MJ on 2010/06/14 at 12:56 AM

    I heard the announcer say we scored more goals during qualifying than any other team at the cup, 42, is that true? If so that’s pretty impressive though I think we must take into account some of the leaky D we encounter in our region. Also I loved that when asked about his injury on the ussoccer’s post-game quote sheet he responds with “maybe it’ll get me out of training” just like a kid looking for an excuse to play some video games.

    And I think Dolo was certifiably amazing. Just look at this picture!


  3. Posted by Michael on 2010/06/14 at 4:15 AM

    Matt, great analysis, as always. A few thoughts:
    I was really impressed with Findley’s touch and ability to receive a long ball. We’ve seen this before from him but this game was even better. My only worry is that he never looked for his shot, always immediately looking to pass — I hope he isn’t gun-shy after the Australia misses.

    Central midfield buddies: My biggest issue with Clark (besides getting distracted by butterflies) is his woeful possession for a central midfielder. File this under the “offense is the new defense is the new black” tab. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Clark receives a ball in the middle, takes a heavy touch backwards, loses 10 yards, the opposition backline moves up 10 yards, he passes back to the centerbacks, they pass to Howard, long ball over the top, lost possession. That field position stuff adds up over the course of the game. In other words, “Rico: Where Patient Build-Ups Go To Die.”

    Gooch doesn’t look light on his feet. And as you alluded to, he has a tendency to go walkabout up the pitch, leaving the back exposed (e.g., the goal and Heskey’s breakaway). It’s not a bad tactic because he wins a lot of balls upfield with his head that we would otherwise wouldn’t, but given the slowness of JDM and Boca if he loses out we’re vulnerable.

    USA was staying v. compact horizontally to defend, but even in possession there was very little width. Might have tried to stretch the backline a bit more.

    Bob will earn his money in the next two games. Can he be flexible enough to get 6 points against weaker competition? The US needs to score some goals, it’s that simple.


    • Michael,
      Your comments about Clark’s passes moving our team in reverse are right on. I have no problem with drops back but with Clark, passes are always going back or going to Boca, who then passes it back to Clark. This is the tipping point that I think shows why Edu (in defensive line-ups) makes our whole team more dynamic. Our attack just fizzles out with Clark in there. Yes Edu isn’t the best distributor but he is way more confident and calm on the ball and will find some good passes going forward.
      To give credit where it is due, I have to say as a person who is upset with BB’s reluctance to start Edu, I can see BB’s line of reasoning “I need a fast CM in there to track Rooney while still pairing with MB.” If his use of Clark is mainly for this reason I see where he is coming from but all in all I think even in this game Edu would have balanced our team out better and provided better positioning to still make the defensive scheme work.


      • Posted by Michael on 2010/06/14 at 11:22 AM

        I didn’t have a problem with Clark in there versus England. He covers a lot of ground defensively and the plan was clearly to concede possession and try to hit back on the break, on set pieces and on less-frequent build-ups. I have the utmost respect for that strategy from Bob — we got a point against the seeded team in our group, right?

        I’m eager to see what happens in the next two games, when we’ll need to create more scoring chances to hopefully get two wins. It will be interesting to see if he tries to employ different tactics with the same players (telling MB to push higher into the attack? bringing the fullbacks forward more often?) or if he uses a different lineup (Edu/Torres for Clark, e.g.).

        Can’t wait for Friday (and looking forward to hearing the views of the knowledgeable people at TSG!)……..


  4. Posted by DanPA on 2010/06/14 at 6:04 AM

    A comment on the English tactics:

    How much of the lack of attacking conviction from the English outside backs was due to a healthy respect for the US’s counter-attack? Did Capello order Johnson and Lennon to be cautious with their running forward?

    I really expected the English to relentlessly press forward down the wings, especially with Lampard & Gerrard in the middle. There really weren’t too many times when the English midfielders+backs attacked together.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/14 at 6:22 AM


      Agree–I think England was cognizant of the US counterattack for sure. But also, if Rooney is going to drop back to the midfield and Gerrard and Lampard (especially) are going to trail the attack more than initiate, you have plenty of cover if your outside backs are going to run forward. But you’re right.

      And I think your next comment is spot-on as well in terms of attacking together. I think that was part and parcel (and I should added this) to the Gerrard-Lampard pairing issue. They couldn’t move well of one another.


    • Posted by DanPA on 2010/06/14 at 8:11 AM

      Another viewpoint is the Capello was just plain arrogant and thought that attacking with a single wide player at a time would be enough to beat us…

      either way, Fabio comes out not looking so sharp.


      • Posted by uncle dude on 2010/06/14 at 8:27 AM

        “Fabio comes out not looking so sharp”

        Agreed. Negotiating his contract while in South Africa after forbidding players from engaging in discussions of their club futures. Saying he wouldn’t name anyone to his squad unless they were 100% healthy and then naming King and starting Milner. Waiting until 2 hours before kick to name his keeper. No Joe Cole(thank goodness). Carragher over Upson. And playing Lampard and Gerard together.

        BUT if Robert Green doesn’t spill that ball then he’s hailed as a genius and all is well.


        • Posted by DanPA on 2010/06/14 at 11:12 AM

          Even if Green holds on and England won 1-0, Capello would still be under the microscope for not winning comfortably and because of all the other questionable things that Matt highlighted in his analysis.


  5. I love how England’s press total focus on Green’s goal-keeping gaff prevents any examination of the fact that Bradley just out-managed Capello and England could only manage one goal against a side that someone as reasonable as GeorgeCross expected to concede 4 goals.

    Now that I’ve regained consciousness from Saturday, I need to go back and rewatch with a clearer head before offering too much. I just find the reaction humorous. I mean, Green messed up but England had another 50 minutes to do something about it and couldn’t.

    I still insist, this US side is a lot better than folks think they are… Now if we could just sort out the back line.

    The goal was a 3 player chain reaction – Onyewu steps out into midfield because of the Roo threat. Boca needs to tuck in from the LB slot and slide over in the space Onyewu has vacated. He doesn’t do this. Gerrard’s hesitation on his run is because he can’t believe that Boca is staying out there to worry about Lennon when there’s a gaping hole in the center of his defense. Clark does fail to track his run but that space simply should not be there as Boca should close it down. If this was basketball, that would be a “missed defensive rotation”. Not the first time Boca has failed to PROTECT THE DANGER AREA!


    • Posted by sfshwebb on 2010/06/14 at 9:19 AM

      Tuesday – I know you love the English press is against us bit but you should check out the other guardian who say just that…twice…A lot of the English media before and after the match knew that this would be a tough game etc… etc…


      So who should come on for Boca?


      • I’m not talking about the broadsheets, just the tabloids… I don’t care what the English press say about us really. It’s all so predictable.

        The reality is that the gap between these two teams isn’t all that much – and I can’t help but feel that 3 points were there for the taking. But a 1-1 draw, trading a defensive error for a goalkeeper error was about the right result. The gap of a handful of FIFA ranking spots seems about right. England aren’t in the top tier, they’re in the top of the second tier just as the USA look ready to start knocking on the top ten. Let’s just do the business in our group against the two teams we should beat and send England to face Germany in the knock-out round.

        No one should come on for Boca – he played well, generally. However, as a player that has done well at CB, he should know better when he needs to tuck-in to protect the danger area. He made the same hesitation at Azteca in the qualifiers. We just need some more team-defensive savvy back here – it’s pretty fundamental stuff.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/16 at 12:21 AM

      Greetings from Cape Town. Mrs Cross is at the Spa, so I thought I would sneak on.


      If you asked most USA fans before the game whether you would take a score-draw, I bet they would have snapped your arm off.

      And why did the USA celebrate as if they had just won the World Cup if ” reality is that the gap between these two teams isn’t all that much??”

      Be honest, what went through your mind when Gerrard scored in the 4th minute?

      And the two errors that are in question, are hardly inter-changeable. You’re losing your marbles to suggest that they are…


  6. Posted by scweeb on 2010/06/14 at 10:23 AM

    So whats your guys thoughts on going forward? Cause we are really in a great spot to come out 1st in this group stage. All we need to do is win the next two and out score England. Cause i for one after watching that Germany game do not want to face them right out of the group stage.


    • Yeah avoiding Germany would be great but this next game against Slovenia is going to be tough. I think the US can win both of these games but we have to play a consistent pressuring game from the first to the last whistle. I think England will win both of these games and I don’t see us out scoring them. England just finishes better (on the whole). BB will probably start Torres against Slovenia but the real questions of how we are going to do will come down to the what Matt mentioned above:

      1) If Onyewu can improve his play each game
      2) If Altidore can get hungry. He seems a step slow and lacking a little grit and passion
      3) Who pairs up top and how well they play together. Buddle/Findley anyone? Buddle/Jozy?

      Matt is coming out with a piece on Slovenia tomorrow so that is when the discussion will get going on all of this.


    • Posted by Brad on 2010/06/14 at 10:54 AM

      I like that we play Algeria last because it gives us a chance to come from behind in the goal differential if necessary, and coming from behind is what we do best, it seems. We’ll have the bonus of having an extra game to get our own crap together in preparation for one goal-ful defense. I expect both us and England to beat Slovenia but perhaps only by one, maybe two at best. But Algeria we could both beat by up to five, seriously. I’d love if England was a point or two ahead in GD going into that final morning, then we start peppering the Algerian goal while word comes in about England hitting the Slovenia wall and only managing 1-0! And then Germany licks its chops for some fried lion.


      • Posted by s44 on 2010/06/14 at 1:28 PM

        Of course, Germany plays *its* last game after we do, so perhaps they might choose to avoid England…


  7. Matt,
    Another great analysis. Thanks for putting up with all the frustration that all of us unleashed about BB’s substitution decisions and the situation in the last post game post. I appreciate your attempt to look at things as objectively as possible and not get too frustrated when the responses to game analyses turn in to personal venting.
    On your point abiove about MB, I think you are right that he had a stellar, solid performance. In addition to what you mentioned above it impressed me during the first half when MB kept possession of the ball and dribbled it in to find a short pass instead of unleashing an ill-advised longer pass. MB really is our best CM. Let’s hope he stays focus going forward and doesn’t go to ground too much. I don’t want any more yellows picked up. As far as Demerit I have my fingers crossed for the next game.


    • Posted by DanPA on 2010/06/14 at 11:09 AM

      I hope that sweatpants and his assistants saw what you did… and realize that mb90 can do that when he is advanced/the other central midfielder is dropped behind him. He is so much better when he can get into the flow of the game, rather than trying to dictate the flow from a deeper position.

      I think that we are all hoping that Coach sweatpants starts Torres against Slovenia, but I have a feeling that is unlikely. I think that realistically, the best scenario is that Edu starts and most likely, Clark starts and gets replaced at 60-70 minutes if we need goals.


  8. Posted by John on 2010/06/14 at 11:16 AM

    The “Heat Map” on the ESPN game cast for the game is kinda interesting. You can compare the territory covered by Clark vs Gerrard vs Lampard vs Bradley.


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