Friday Night Rewind: USA vs. Slovenia

Some quick pointers picked up upon re-watching. I’ll add in start with some comments I made in the last post:

1st Half

• Findley – Altidore “action” up top.

Both Tuesday and I commented on this going into the game. The US needed creativity motion from their strikers up top. Didn’t happen in the first frame, but also hard to because long balls were so vertical over the top.

• Was it the game plan or the execution in the 1st half?

Here’s my comment I made in the last post section.

Wanted: Someone to show for us in possession, must slot into openings, must return ball and find space again shortly...

The game plan was possession and linking and I thought it was the wrong one early on. Slovenian did essentially what Trinidad & Tobago did in the 1-0 win down away in qualifying. They put three guys near the ball in the middle with one of their strikers drifting back.

Thus Donovan and Dempsey were useless for the most part on the wings because Torres and Bradley couldn’t move the ball, making them sitting ducks for a tackle unless they want to go backwards.

Two follow-ups:

(1) The US did move the ball okay early on, for the first 10 minutes. And then it seemed like the team abandoned the game plan. Altidore, Findley, Donovan all showed centrally for the ball early.

However, through the middle stretch of the half (10 minutes to 35 minutes) the Yanks abandoned this with Donovan and Dempsey staying out wide and neither Findley or Altidore showing for the ball.

I say execution. No help for Torres and Bradley.

(2) The Yanks probably should have moved the ball wide quickly. Both Torres and Bradley–once no one showed for the ball–kept forcing passes that weren’t there vertically with the top four (Donovan, Dempsey, Altidore, Findley) also pushed up the field, that shape both didn’t work and continually created counterattack opportunities. One that ended in the 2nd goal.

This pointer *is on Bradley and Torres for not taking the leading and explicitly instructing their receivers ahead of them.

It wasn't just this free kick where Landon had wisdom

Better things the Yanks could have done? a) Take a page from Barca program and stay a lot closer to the guy with the ball b) Move the ball outside and follow it to support c) Be a lot more patient in possession…

The Yanks do those three things (and eliminate the two goal mistakes were about to talk about) and they’re looking a lot pretty going into the half.

• The first goal is on the central defender

We wrote that maybe Donovan was supposed to drift in or Cherundolo or Bocanegra were supposed to track Birsa on the 1st strike for Slovenia. Looks simply like Onyewu is supposed to step up there. Making it worse, Onyewu shield an off-his-line Howard and ducked on the shot.

The second was a classic counterattack without enough countering defensive precision from the States. Whether Howard was screaming for Onyewu to move up is unknown.

2nd Half.

• In possession

Moved the ball outside, predominantly to all the way near the touchline on the right flank. Michael Bradley followed for support. Feilhaber and Dempsey cut in from the left in the middle of the pitch. Altidore dragged to created space.

Gorgeous offense.

Much better movement in the 2nd half.

• 70th minute slick free kick

After another foul on Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan lined up for a free kick and conversed with Clint Dempsey.

You are that good. Keep showing it and don't get frustrated.

Donovan instructed Dempsey to move to the left-facing side of the wall and then depart in the moment before he approached and struck. A low liner that Altidore ended up eventually feebly putting on goal, but a really clever move by orchestrated by Donovan.

• Bradley’s goal celebration

A few remarked that the US should immediately ran back on the field.

To me, any goal celebration that celebrates your teammates more so than the goal scorer is alright by me. I loved it.

• Ratings revision

Revised my ratings piece

Upward: Bocanegra, DeMerit

Downward: Edu

….and that’s all I got for you today….

52 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by s44 on 2010/06/18 at 11:33 PM

    Torres moved the ball wide more slowly than I’ve ever seen a ball move.


  2. Posted by Eric ATL on 2010/06/19 at 3:21 AM

    Bradley only ran to stop a play in the 88th minute because on the 2nd Slovenia goal he did not run at all.


  3. Posted by Zo on 2010/06/19 at 5:10 AM

    Couldn’t agree more with the goal celebration comment… first class.


    • How could anyone begrudge that celebration? The joy and elation at clawing back from two down, I probably wouldn’ve celebrated the length of the entire pitch if it were me. The entire US Team piling on each other shows how close-knit this group is.


  4. Posted by dikranovich on 2010/06/19 at 5:15 AM

    torres really needs to get to the mls if he wants to improve his mens team chances. this game, along with the costa rica game in saprissa lead me to believe torres can not start again for the usa. junior bradley is a machine and he is the usa best player and he has the best understanding of the game, by a long shot. its good thing too, because he is only 22.

    please riddle me this, why does coach bradley insist on using feilhaber on the wings? is his best position not in the middle of the pitch with defensive mid partner, or maybe two. why not play slovenia from a 4-5-1, with two defensive mids behind three attacking mids. this is the formation we need to employ, to best stop our defensive leaks, isnt that obvious? torres might have done alright if he had bradley and edu, or bradley and clrk behind him. the first goal was really on torres because he was marking nobody, and he was trotting round like it was warm ups.


    • Posted by Dennis on 2010/06/19 at 5:55 AM

      You guys overreact to everything. Torres should never start again based on one half where he played no worse than anyone else? Please. It was one half where the entire US team was sub-par outside of 10 minutes towards the end (which I suppose happened in spite of Torres). Did you not read all of the explanations posted here and elsewhere for why it didn’t work so well? Torres and Bradley were by themselves with no options for the majority of the half.

      If that is how the US was going to come out and play, then yeah, TSG was right in suggesting that Clark should have started and Torres should have been a 2nd half sub. Clark, who offers nothing but hustle, would have been a perfect choice to run around in the middle of the pitch by himself.

      And why would Torres moving to a worse league possibly help him? The Mexican league is still way better than the MLS.


      • Torres pass up the middle launched the attack where Donovan came close and couldn’t quite finish Dempsey’s cross. I agree, Torres really wasn’t that bad. What he didn’t do was set a high tempo in possession but Matt is absolutely right to put that on a lack of movement further forward and few good passing options.


    • Posted by s44 on 2010/06/19 at 7:18 AM

      Michael isn’t our best player (the post-Donovan era will be a rocky one, whenever it comes), but he is definitely the backbone and spirit of our team: physical and tireless, he might screw up at times but will never, never give up and has a surprising amount of class near goal. The haters will cry when he becomes our next captain.

      MLS may not be the best option, but yeah — Torres would get a lot from testing himself in a more fast, physical pressing league, not just to adapt himself to that opposition but to learn how to make his game work when playing with 10 other guys who have that style.


      • Posted by Dennis on 2010/06/19 at 8:51 AM

        My only point is that no one was saying Torres needed to change leagues to adapt to a different playing style after the Turkey friendly. Maybe he would be better off moving to Europe, but in any event you don’t get better based on the league style of play, you get better by training with great players.

        This Torres backlash is ridiculous, and I think many people lack perspective in their comments. Torres and Edu are simply better players than Clark, and that’s why everyone was clamoring for one of the two to play over him. That situation hasn’t changed.


        • Posted by s44 on 2010/06/19 at 9:53 AM

          I’m just making a distinction between getting “better” generally (and I know Torres is already quite good) and getting “better” in a way that improves the US national team.

          It’s true that a few inches on his FK would have made Torres effective within his current style, but to have a central role with the team in the next cycle he needs to be able to flip over at times to his teammates’ faster un-Mexican style of play.


        • Posted by dikranovich on 2010/06/19 at 10:06 AM

          dennis, think bout what you are saying. ricardo clark is playing in the bundas league and he has an imressive winning percentage as a player and starter for the mens team. let alone his club achievments. rico and edu are both above torres, and so are feilhaber and holden. not for nothing, but kljestan missed the boat to europe last year and it cost him this year. the best of sacha or the best of torres, my money would be on kljestan.


        • Posted by Kevin on 2010/06/19 at 2:56 PM

          I still hold my beliefs that Torres, Clark, and Edu all bring different things to the table. Edu is more organized, but Clark will hustle and win balls till the final whistle. Torres should be obvious as to why he is a tactical choice. Really though, if we were going to start someone for possession in the middle why not someone with a bit more experience in Holden or a lot more experience in Feilhaber?.


    • Posted by Jeremiah on 2010/06/20 at 1:17 PM

      Torres did not seize his chance. But Torres was not the principal culprit in the Slovenians’ goals.

      The guilty party? Onyewu.

      On the first goal, it is Onyewu who should have followed Birsa as he checked back to receive the ball. Note that both Torres and Bradley are facing the ball. Demerit has already been sucked outside. That leaves Onyewu to pick up Birsa and/or comminucate to the midfield.

      Here’s Slovene goal #1:

      The second Slovene goal? The guy would have been a mile off-sides if Gooch held the line. Look how far out of synch Onyewu is with the other guys on the back line:


  5. Posted by Jon on 2010/06/19 at 5:51 AM

    Was it just me or did Gooch give the ball away way too esily and way too often? Simply booting hopeful balls into the teeth of the defense, but all too often giving up possesion. I swear I saw him turn the ball over even when he was taken off. Update, this just in. He just gave it away again.

    About Torres, his distribution seemed mainly backward….then to Gooch to cough it up like a fur-ball.

    Findley missing Wednesday game, not the end of the world. Maybe a blessing, wrapped in a gift. At this point, just slide Dempsy up top with Jozy and slide in Holden and watch his hair do the talking. Duece’s new tattoo will read: I heart Stu. Nothing says love like distribution!


  6. Posted by Johninho on 2010/06/19 at 6:25 AM

    We haven’t seen Stu on the pitch, ever, this World Cup – and I think that’s a mistake. I can’t believe he’s the 22nd player.


  7. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2010/06/19 at 6:35 AM

    “Both Tuesday and I commented on this going into the game. The US needed creativity motion from their strikers up top. Didn’t happen in the first frame, but also hard to because long balls were so vertical over the top.”

    Should read “did not happen because Altidore needs 17 touches to get the ball under control”.


    • Posted by kaya on 2010/06/19 at 9:16 AM

      Ha. That’s 17 less than Heskey. Hi George! Hope you’re having fun despite the no-so-great game yesterday!


    • Good to hear from you George. Sorry your three kitties aren’t playing well. Should make for an interesting final day though.


  8. Posted by dikranovich on 2010/06/19 at 6:41 AM

    dennis, it is not one game, it has been several games and it is not about what torres can do with his game, it is more about what he cant do. he cant defend. he plays for great club team, no doubt about it, but his style is not fitting in with the us system. maybe you want to change the system to suit the players, that is an option, i guess.

    to me torres does play with more of a mexican style. his short, soft passes, that is the mexico game and torres needs to learn to adjust that if he wants to have a good future with the us team. torres defensive style does not mesh well with the us style of defense. adus defensive style does not work well with the us game either, because if someone should be in south africa between adu and torres, well, it is adu, at least based on talent alone, forget bout which each player has done what for his country. just on talent, adu is all over torres and they both stink on defense and torres does not understand positioning, not in the usa system.


    • Posted by Richard on 2010/06/19 at 9:15 AM

      What are you talking about?

      How do you explain the Turkey game?


    • Posted by CJ on 2010/06/19 at 10:39 AM

      Torres hater anyone? There’s a lot of speculative argument there and not a lot of fact. Torres is nasty. His on the ball skills are superb. He’s calm (like Holden calm), when not playing for his first time in a World Cup, inside a new USA strategy (with a rusty CB) and a paired CM whose role is muddied by the 4-4-2 Sweats has us in. Imagine playing your first game in the playoffs of any sport… make it overtime… got nerves? Now think WORLD FRIGGING CUP! I agree with what MatthewsSF had to say about that somewhere else.

      Torres shouldn’t have had his first minutes they way he did. One of the few times Coach miscalculated personnel and their readiness. Hard to tell until looking back though.

      Forgot to mention Torres’ sweet set piece ability, our best left footer. He just needs a little time. We still got more games to come and he’ll be ready for his next assignment.


      • Posted by dikranovich on 2010/06/19 at 1:22 PM

        torres is not the best left footer in the usa, that is probably freddy adu, who is also better on the ball than torres. dont you want usa to do well? and you want to put faith in a guy who did well in friendly with turkey. come on now

        people think torres is better for the usa because he did well in warm up, over ricardo clark, a guy who actually started some big victories for usa. you want to start torres why? because you think he shows composure on the ball. get real, and get the fing ball to donovan or dempsey, guys tht actully know what to do with the ball torres to the bench, next to bornstein and the third keeper whats his face from a villa.


  9. Posted by Bob on 2010/06/19 at 7:17 AM

    Here is an interesting perspective on Edu’s goal. The author, a former ref, says that Boca committed a foul b4 the kick and it was right in front of the Mali ref who called it immediately. Not saying he is right, but it would explain a lot if this was the case.


  10. Posted by dikranovich on 2010/06/19 at 7:55 AM

    i dont believe the official called the foul on boca, who was in a head lock and engaged with the opposition. instead, the ref may have called the foul on dempsey for pushing off on his man, who was probably grabbing onto deuce. and it was deuce that was right behind edu ready to pounce if edu had not been there.

    deuces problem on this play was the fact that he did indeed beat his defender and that from the officials view forced him to call the foul on dempsey. if dempsey does not break free of his defender the offiicial probably eats the whistle. twenty years go a guy like wynalda did not have the ability to break free of a defender like this and thus was drawn into getting a red card and thats probabably why he has the point of view that he does.


  11. Posted by kaya on 2010/06/19 at 8:58 AM

    While I was pretty depressed about the US’s ridiculous defending, we luckily have France to remind us how much worse off we could be. Anelka still sounds like an a-hole amongst a-holes.


    • Posted by John on 2010/06/19 at 9:09 AM

      Its a bit hard to call anyone a jerk for yelling at Domenech.


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

        Whatever… you don’t agree to come to a WC and tell the coach to go eff himself up the rear when he tells you you’re playing too far back. Out of all the players, Anelka has about the least license to yell at Domenech. You’re there to represent your country and taking that hot mess of an asignment, the least he could do is keep his mouth shut for 3 games and try.


  12. Posted by s44 on 2010/06/19 at 9:04 AM

    No threads on the morning matches?

    Ghana’s got issues on D, and a 10-man Australia should probably have beaten them. Looks like the Serbs have the inside track on advancing as D2.


    • Posted by s44 on 2010/06/19 at 9:08 AM

      Forgot to note — poor Kewell. Only Torsten Frings is allowed to do that.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2010/06/19 at 9:12 AM

      Sorry guys — I think Shaun (and I) needed a breather.
      You should be impressed that we’re focused on Algeria already on the ref. :>


      • Posted by MJ on 2010/06/19 at 12:42 PM

        Sorry to bother Matthew because you guys have been doing a ton of work, but any thoughts on why Bradley/USSF & co. announced (ESPN) that they are not pursuing clarification on the goal? I understand that it is essentially futile but I’d think we’d at least ask at a level higher than the ref on the scene. FIFA doing an accelerated review of Coulibaly and his likely dismissal from the rest of the tournament seems like an acknowledgment of something going wrong without wanting to actually admit it.

        Also, several outlets are reporting Bocanegra had the foul which I haven’t heard anywhere from the ESPN commentators.

        It’s an AP article being picked up by different papers, I just grabbed the first link I found but this is the same text that showed in my small local paper too.


        • Posted by MJ on 2010/06/19 at 12:46 PM

          Okay, I missed that Haydon article was brought up above so sorry for the repeat but I guess I’m curious about why USSF/BB doesn’t actually ask anything of FIFA. Would doing so cause any real harm or discomfort? Afraid of irritating them or something?


        • Posted by Mark T on 2010/06/19 at 5:04 PM


          My guess is that Bradley is doing it for the team. He wants the players to move on from on so they can be ready for Wednesday. Since the result will stand, no reason to keep the issue alive as a distraction for the team.

          As a fan, I want answers, but I think Bobbo is doing what is best for the squad.


  13. Posted by kaya on 2010/06/19 at 9:17 AM

    Matt… I’m just reposting this because I think it got lost on the last post (once again added while you were posting a new piece.) Maybe after the WC or during a break between one of the stages?
    @ Matthew:
    I was wondering if you might find time to write about the viewership numbers. Actual versus projected, 2010 vs 2006, US vs Mexico games, etc.
    I’m a little dumbfounded lately to hear comments from non-sports types asking if they were the only person not watching the WC. In 2002, it felt like I was the only one [american] who cared… and to hear complaints that the tables have been turned is music to my ears.
    P.S. Any good “Ratings Numbers for Dummies” info out there? I recall seeing the viewing numbers for the top 10 US metro markets after the US/England game and saw San Diego was first with “11.something” closely followed by SF with “11.something else”. I was surprised to not see LA and NY anywhere on the list. These numbers must have a per capita component, I assume?


  14. Posted by robbie on 2010/06/19 at 12:57 PM

    I don’t think people are bashing Findley enough. What is Bob thinking putting him in there? He has loads of speed but can’t do anything when he gets open. He’s also not making very many smart cuts off the ball that open up space.

    If Bob doesn’t trust Buddle then Dempsey has to start. Gomez is the obvious super-sub and is perfect in that role. I think you’ll see Buddle. And remember game three of the Confed Cup was anoter strikers coming out party.


    • Posted by Dennis on 2010/06/19 at 2:54 PM

      As i’ve said before, for better or worse, Gomez has the super sub label. The worse part of that of course being that Gomez is better than Findley and Buddle.

      It seems like the reason he chooses Findley over Buddle is because his speed and simple pass ability is better suited as a partner for Jozy than Buddle’s meandering. However, I was much higher on Findley before the Cup as his final pass ability has been less than stellar – – BUT he did play a good ball in the build up to the near tap in by Donovan. Buddle didn’t do anything in his limited minutes against England, and with how lazy Jozy can be at times I just don’t think the two can play together. Essentially he is choosing between two pintos compared to Charlie Davies.

      Seeing as how he pulled Torres in his first start, I wonder if Bradley would take a similar chance again and give another player their first Cup start. If Bradley is feeling adventurous and wants to give Gomez a shot at 90, I say go for it. Similarly, I also like the idea of starting Dempsey behind Jozy and giving Holden his shot in this game. Either way, If the USA can manage to advance that will give our second round opponent three different potential lineups to prepare for.

      Central midfield is anyone’s guess, but I think that Torres should get another start (surprise). Onyewu is obviously not fit, and I wonder if Bradley would be so bold as to insert Edu back there. If not, Goodsen is certainly serviceable, and then you have to think that Edu may have earned a start at CM. I know TSG had some negative things to say about Bocanegra, but his play didn’t stick out as being especially poor to me (besides needing cover because he is so slow). Regardless, it will be interesting to see if Spector gets a shot as well.

      Just a side note: how great is it that we are actually having these debates? The national team pool has reached the point where we actually have some quality depth.


      • Posted by robbie on 2010/06/20 at 7:14 AM

        I think that the only reason I view Gomez as a supersub is because I can’t ever see Bradley starting him. Along those same lines I also kind of agree with that decission. It is about two weeks too late to experiment and while he may light the world on fire he is much more likely to be mediocre.

        Buddle has at least proved himself in an international game, albeit one (lol).

        I agree about Torres getting another shot as I think Edu’s passing ability right now is terrible.

        It is great however that we are playing a team that is going to be pressing for a huge win (they’ll need to win by 2 if they want to go through along with an England win) rather than a team who advances with just a tie.


  15. Posted by kaya on 2010/06/19 at 1:37 PM

    To go back to the reffing….
    I heard Germany v Serbia was worse but just had a chance to watch part of that match. I only watched up to the 2nd yc so far… but have to take issue with people saying that was worse. For the first card, as the commentators said, it was more about the accumulation of previous fouls. As for the 2nd… well, Klose is a striker and everyone on the field knew what that ref was up to. If it were me, I wouldn’t get close enough to defending to breathe on the guy let alone trying to tackle from behind. But what gets me is that he could’ve gotten the 2nd yellow several minutes before that. He was called for an offsides and kept playing well after everyone was clearly aware the whistle had been blown.


    • Posted by KMac on 2010/06/19 at 3:54 PM

      I have taken vacation, and watched every match, and some twice.
      Overall, I have to say the officiating has been good this Cup. 2 or three out of over 20 games have been suspect with the others pretty good.
      In the case of Klose, the first yellow was weak and the second not flagrant either. He gave 9 yellows in total on the day, and brought them out early with little use of other match management techniques for hard challenges. IMHO he painted himself in a corner, and worse was then inconsistent later in the match which made matters.
      Look, after Torsten Frings handball vs. us in 2002, the phantom penatly against Gooch (Merck, a German ref) in 2006 against Ghana, and the Mali-aise call phantom foul two days ago – no one hates bad calls worse than me. However, I am willing to let the German team taste a bit of it’s own medicine, so to speak.
      On an unemotional note, we are luck that Mali wonder ddn’t straight red Deuce in the first 5 min for his “elbow shiver”. Doesn’t excuse the goal, thus my previous post: “Red, Whte, and Screwed”.


  16. Posted by kaya on 2010/06/19 at 6:09 PM

    I understand the ref was bad… but my question was if Undiano was worse than Coulibaly =)
    I would contend that at least he was consistently over-bearing (even though he did clearly back off in the end.) My point is, at least Klose could see a pattern and could’ve gotten a 2nd yellow even beforehand.
    The reffing in the US Slovenia game was really all over the place and all manner of american football style tackling was being allowed while non-existent fouls were called. The decisions followed no pattern and were unpredictable. Towards the end, it simply seemed like the whistle indicated there was a chance the Americans might score.


    • Posted by s44 on 2010/06/19 at 9:08 PM

      “Towards the end, it simply seemed like the whistle indicated there was a chance the Americans might score.”

      Ha! Of course, as US fans this should come as no surprise.

      The upside is that the big un-refuted stink about this call may help keep the refs from shafting us in later game(s).


    • Posted by KMac on 2010/06/20 at 12:31 AM

      I see, sorry for my misunderstanding – totally agree, kaya


  17. Posted by Zardoz on 2010/06/20 at 10:35 AM

    Having rewatched the game, on the 1st goal Birsa definitely slid across the midfield from behind Donovan, who was not marking anyone. Everyone on the backline besides Gooch had already marked a player. Once Birsa in got the ball, moving to the front of Gooch’s area, Jr ran at him, then slowed down, just watching him shoot, Gooch sits still, screens Howard, then ducks out of the way of the shot. Well struck ball, but a terrible defensive breakdown (with lots of blame to go around), no way Birsa should have that much time and space in such a dangerous area. Not really sure if Donovan should have marked Birsa, or if Gooch should have stepped up to close down the space, or both.

    The second goal starts with Donovan losing possession (bad pass maybe? cant tell b/c they were cutting back from a replay) in the midfield, Jr runs past the ball, and just keeps going in the wrong direction for some reason, totally taking himself out of the play. Gooch is a yard or 2 behind the others on the back line, keeping Ljubijankic onsides for the final pass.

    Novakovic also gets free from Gooch on several occasions, not good. Demerit, on the other hand, appeared even more solid on 2nd viewing. Its too bad the chemistry is so bad between Demerit and Goodson. It is hard to imagine Goodson playing nearly as poorly, individually, as Gooch in that game. I think Findley, though fast, is just not that fast with the ball, taking away what could be a very dangerous element of his game. He doesn’t dribble past people (unless he’s taking the ball out of bounds). Edu looked shaky at times, but I still like him over Rico paired with Jr in the middle. Didn’t think Torres was awful; he didn’t do much going forward, but also did not have much to work with in terms of passing options.

    Missed the first few minutes of the game on Friday. Deuce was lucky to not get a card in the first minute of the game, easily could’ve been a red. What the deuce was he thinking? Great job by the team creating chances against a stingy Slovene defense in the 2nd half. Excellent finishing on both goals. Shoulda been 3 goals and 3 points.


    • Someone could make a a film of every aerial challenge since the “Deuce” incident and very few of them would look any different. The fact is, the Slovenian player went to ground holding his face (why do they not teach referees this is a sign of simulation) and made a meal of it trying to get Dempsey sent off before being ready to play 2 seconds later.

      Even a yellow card would’ve been harsh, considering that almost every aerial challenge looks like this – both players arms went out, Dempsey simply out-jumped him, and there was minimal contact. Ruud Gullit was frankly being disingenuous to say it was a red-card. Would he say that if it were Van Bommel? Think not.


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