Like Watching The Paint Dry…And Dry…

Perhaps Colombia should have brought the other product with them.


This pic sort of says it all...


TSG writer Tuesday will be along with our review of the last night’s paint-drying match between USA and Colombia. Sorry Tuesday, I’m sure you’re struggling right now.

In the meantime, some random observations for yours truly–whose SF Black Sox notched ten more than the natties on the evening–on a match that looked at times like a bunch of 3rd graders gyrating to the ball, screaming “Give it to me!”

The bullets:

• “Germany Jones?!”

You’re kidding me, right? That can’t be his nickname, can it? I’ve never heard that. I’ll take Indy Jones for Jermaine over Germany because he’s a little more adventurous. Okay, that’s bad too. It’s not as bad as “Germany Jones.”

Seriously, I will be championing Jeff Cunningham for another runout for the national team before you hear me utter that moniker.


• Just a dreadful time on offense for the Yanks in the 1st half and well into the 2nd. A few sub-hitters on this one:

» You could tell that those who through the American development program (or nearly the entire team except Jermaine Jones) were highly challenged in adapting to new teammates and their roles in what sorted out to be a 4-1-4-1 in the first half.

Both Stu Holden and Brek Shea moving very centrally to locate the ball. That would be mildly acceptable if the fullbacks were overlapping, which they were not.

» In the absence of an on-the-ball beat-your-man creator (Clint) in the 1st half, the Yanks struggled to find any offense and rather then get patient or, more simply, overload a side with crossing runs, overlapping runs or hitches, the Yanks forced the play, specifically Michael Bradley.

I don’t really fault Junior as he was trying to make something happen, but let’s also say Junior should have the Chris Paul or Jason Kidd’s keys to the attack so to speak.

» As a note, part of that frustration was acceptable as Colombia rarely looked to push their own attack and sat back, disciplined and absorbed the Yanks “pressure.” I use that word lightly.

Hopefully, U.S. Soccer won’t fawn over their first clean sheet since Algeria in this one. The Coffee Growers’ attack was more anemic than the Yanks.

» Ironically the club tandem of Brek Shea and Heath Pearce looked they had just met. Pearce, as we tweeted, has a really poor habit–which we commented on from January camp practice this year–of squaring his hips to the center of the field and hugging the touchline.

On the former it is darn near impossible to make an accurate pass down the line in a swift manner.

How are you supposed to advance the ball on your strong foot if you have to open your hips, move the ball and watch for a defender from your stance.

On the latter, must like they teach wide receivers in football, give yourself some space so in case the pass coming to you is not precise. That space obviously puts less stress on reception.

And one more thing on Pearce: How quickly his look changed from a questionable character hanging around outside elementary schools to an American princess Giovanni Dos Santos. Just saying.

Despite not being able to contain a gnat on the right flank, Jonathan Spector had better body positioning for the few passes he made.

• Felt confident with Guzan between the sticks. Just saying. If he was tested beyond once…


More Jones...


• Is it me or is this team already deferring to Jermaine Jones as the midfield quarterback. A statement on the Yanks’ youth in central midfield as much as Jones’ quality.

• Speaking of central midfield…

Look Spain doesn’t play Cesc, unfortunately, in the midfield with Xavi and Iniesta. Decidedly more defensive, three central midfielders that are all used to having the same responsibility is probably not going to work. Applause again to Coach Sweats for trying.

• Jozy Altidore again struggled. For me, the worst part was Jozy’s body language when he didn’t get a call or didn’t get service delivered properly.

Look at someone like Fernando Torres (and this I love about the Spanish striker): if someone makes a bad pass to Fernando, he doesn’t sulk. He usually points to himself for being in the wrong position (which isn’t true) or he just smiles.

A striker–whether they are the captain or team’s leader on the pitch–helps to set the tone with his or her mannerisms and the way they carry themselves on the pitch.

I’ll say it again. I could care less if Altidore scores, I just want metered improvement and focus from Jozy. The focus will come with reps and aging; the improvement is all Jozy.

• It’s funny because I haven’t seen it written anywhere (except now here), but this game–with Colombia’s defensive posture and not-super-stern challenges and tackling–screamed for Jose Torres to man the midfield hub and, gulp, Robbie Findley (can’t go Davies right now) to sprint up and down like a chicken with its head cut off. It needed unlocking and stretching.


Lichaj: A bright spot on the evening...begs the question why he couldn't make a March 3rd roster in the Netherlands when EJ made that one.


• An lest we don’t add: a solid if uneventful debut for Eric Lichaj. Very good balance and tenaciousness. Thought it was “funny” that Lichaj–who seemed pumped for his first cap–was paired on the right with Benny Feilhaber–who looked like he couldn’t wait to don his Skull Candy and jump on the Greyhound. Anyone else see a little visibly off chemistry there?

Might have been nice to throw out Bedoya’s attacking on the right there with Lichaj who darted in well.

• “A lot of Red Sox fans are hoping they’ll see more Liverpool games at Fenway.” Ladies and gentleman, former American star midfielder John Harkes adds one to his Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Do you think ESPN prays it’s a close game or an up-and-down one so that Harkes doesn’t start riffing? Can you imagine the looks in the studio as Harkes starts meandering: “Oh no, here goes John again. Hurry up, send Foudy out to the hot dog stand to get some fan reaction. Oh good, she found Sunil.”

• Eddie Johnson. On the pitch at the 45 minute mark walking around the pitch bewildered by 75 minutes. I’m not a fan of over-running (Conor Casey). I’m a fan of something at least above a stroll.

• Even the refs acted like they didn’t want to be here for this one.

• The official tally has 4 shots on goal for the Yanks. Did I miss something?


Oh and some foreshadowing: TSG sent the Ansel Adams of the East Coast, Matt Mathai to the game. If you remember, Matt did up some killer shots of the USA-Brazil match.

One to whet your appetite. Mathai does add, “PPL Park is dark as a freaking tomb.” Somehow, I think Matt will still come out on top here.


Holden off Colombia...


29 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by bq on 2010/10/13 at 4:27 AM

    I happened to hit CNN after the game and watched the Chilean miners being pulled up to the surface through a small pod-like shuttle that was pulled the 1/2 mile up the hole with a cable. It was laborious and plodding, taking almost 15 minutes to bring each man to the surface. However, as tedious as the event was, it was still far more exciting than the event I saw played at PPL park last night. It was so bad on so many levels.


  2. Posted by TJ on 2010/10/13 at 5:36 AM

    One of the things I was most disappointed about in this game was how often jozy gave up on balls. It seemed that whenever a ball missed him, or the defender won it from him, he gave up and didn’t chase no matter the distance from him the ball ended up falling. And there were several occassions the defender the ball ended up falling to was only a few feet away.

    Midfield needs more spacing too, it was so frustrating to watch three or four of our guys bunched up and losing the ball to one or two colombians. There were moments that reminded me of the maggot ball i used to play in elementary school.


    • Posted by zlionsfan on 2010/10/13 at 9:29 AM

      Not only my thoughts, but when I described that to a friend via chat (I used a Harry Potter reference), that was exactly how she described it back to me, magnet ball … as if the combined power of three midfielders about a yard apart would be greater than a single midfielder.

      At times I wonder if Bradley has the midfielders practice on a shuffleboard court.


  3. Posted by SteveM11 on 2010/10/13 at 5:37 AM

    Good analysis. I’m not a Liverpool fan, but as a Boston area resident, I’m hoping that the Liverpool deal might mean a better summer game than crap Celtic v. Crap from Lisbon.

    Not defending Harkes. He’s pants in the booth. Just pointing out he wasn’t totally wrong.


  4. Posted by KMac on 2010/10/13 at 5:37 AM

    Some quick thoughts. I have to say that was a frustrating match to watch from an attacking standpoint.
    – Bright spot, no early goal given up – and a clean sheet, but with some painful giveaways (that Columbia did not punish us with).
    – 3 similar D mids often within the same 10-20 yards of space kept thee transition to attack quite manageable for Columbia, especially in conjunction with the lack of width from Stewie and Shea. This is a first rep of a formation. Jozy was stranded back to goal or out alone in the corners on many runs.
    – Decent moments of passing and possession – esp with Jones. I thought Junior struggled to when he pressed the game forward too hard and forced things – part of that is related to the previous point on space and position
    – Dempsey clearly changed the complexion of the attack, and the switch to 442 did not hurt either.
    – (I’ll get killed for this, but…) I thought EJ played his first 15 or so minutes with better positional sense, control on his first touch, and even positive passing attack. He was not Messi or Torres, but he wasn’t as bad as I have seen since his dirth after the Panama hat trick. He helped Jozy get some space to turn toward goal on a few occasions. After the hip check he took he faded.
    Jozy was clearly frustrated as Matt pointed out. Time to grow up, put your head down, and put that energy into making something happen – not jawboning. Don’t get me wrong, I am a Jozy fan – I see a lot of potential, but I don’t want to be saying, “well, he’s just 25…” in 4 years.


    • Posted by John on 2010/10/13 at 7:39 AM

      If someone 5 years from now writes a comparison column of Fredy Adu and Jozy Altidore… I won’t be the LEAST bit shocked.


  5. Posted by Erik the Orange on 2010/10/13 at 5:41 AM

    Thanks for the pre-write up. This game was so bad, I spent the majority of it trying to better my score on Angry Birds while texting a couple of USMNT fan buddies of mine (one Columbian) about the dearth of anything positive from the Natties. I understand that BB is trying new things, and I was very happy to see Lichaj and Shea get some clock, but I don’t think you sacrifice an opportunity to build some confidence/consistency/anything with a friendly like this. Fielding 3 defensive mids (MB90, Edu, JJ) seemed to result in about 85% of all passes through the midfield going backwards or sideways. I think that 4-3-3 was in name only… –aside– Nickname for Jermaine Jones, “JJ” or “DYNO-MITE”. Meh.


  6. My biggest rant on the evening was directed towards our midfielders: “there’s three of you who do similar things, I’m pretty sure big Bob didn’t tell you all to go stand in the same place, figure it out!” Sadly this didn’t change in the second half with the introduction of Benny! and Deuce in the second half. I don’t know how many times I cocked an eyebrow while we had 6 players in a 30-yard swath of grass.

    Also another groaner from the venerable John Harkes last night; “Allyson(Ally-sahn in the Karate Kid dialect, possibly?) McCoist” was someone John enjoyed spending time with over the summer. Really…I know that as someone who talks for a living, you’re bound to make your share of mistakes, but correct yourself. If Ally McCoist’s real name is Allyson, then he can be slightly forgiven, but most everyone who knows of Ally McCoist knows him by Ally.


  7. Posted by mbw on 2010/10/13 at 6:31 AM

    (1) I thought Goodson and Parkhurst were quite good (against weak competition). Heath Pearce and Jonathan Spector should get the Apollo Theater hook. Lichaj looked very promising. It’s too bad he plays the same position as the Mayor of Hannover — the one spot other than goalkeeper that’s really locked down, at least for the next few years.

    (2) I would amend Erik’s calculation that 85% of all passes through the midfield went backwards or sideways to account for the 45 percent of midfield passes that went directly to Colombians.

    (3) What is going to happen if the US ever has to play a meaningful game without Landon Donovan?

    (4) Bright side: No matter how bad the performance on the field, it will always be better than Harkes’s commentary.


    • Posted by Jake on 2010/10/13 at 9:24 AM

      in response to #4…

      My “favorite” Harkes moment was when Jones clearly clipped the Colombian attacker in our defensive third and drew an appropriate yellow card. Harkes, while watching the replay, was sure there was not even a foul. much less a yellow card…


  8. Posted by maxq on 2010/10/13 at 6:32 AM

    My favorite part of the match – I think it was about the 37th minute – was Stu trading words with Yepes after the two tangled chasing a ball past the byline. Classic.


  9. I realized in the 2nd half that this was the first time I had heard Eric Lichaj’s name said aloud. I had been saying it like “Lishay”… had no idea it was pronounced like “Lehigh”. At any rate, he brought a lot of energy and a fair amount of skill. I like him as a backup to Cherundolo, and I like his chances to be the successor there. Heath Pearce continues to not be the answer at left back… he looks very uncomfortable in possession (as opposed to Lichaj who seemed to relish it). I’m not sure whether it was Dempsey or the 4-4-2 that changed the complexion of the attack, but Dempsey sure looked good in the playmaker role. He was a little more tidy with the ball than usual, and I liked that… it’s just hard to break open a defense when they are sitting with 10 players back for most of the game.


  10. Posted by Freegle on 2010/10/13 at 7:13 AM

    I recognize that he doesnt regularly play against the top level opponents but I am more comfortable with Clay Goodsen than any of our other CBs right now. He is confident, plays posession well out of the back and is great in the air. When was the last time you thought “wow, that goal was on Goodsen.”?

    Also, in 45 minutes, I’m sold on Lichaj. He’s the back up for Stevie now. Send Spector over to CB to get some reps.


  11. Yes, I will be along with a piece. I swear you knew something.


    • Posted by FutbolAmerica on 2010/10/13 at 8:47 AM

      Make sure you include the Harkes classic “Release the kracken!” in there to lighten up the mood of a bad night overall.


  12. Posted by Pat on 2010/10/13 at 7:47 AM

    The 4-1-4-1 sucked. Not sure what else to say about it. I hope, though, that it means Bradley is willing to experiment a bit going into next year with formation. Seeing a true 4-3-3 with Altidore, Dempsey and Donovan up top, and Holden sliding back in place of Edu would be interesting.

    I hate Heath Pearce. Not his fault, just sick of watching him square up, play the ball back and not run by people in the offensive zone. He’s completely out of his depth.


  13. Lichaj’s fairly promising debut would make me think (hope) that he soon gets some looks at left back. We’ve got Dolo and Spector (on his good days, which yesterday was not) at right back vs musical chairs at left back, I’d love to be able to lock down that spot for the next ten years.


  14. Posted by DC Lyfe on 2010/10/13 at 9:02 AM

    There’s a real important point in this posting that only pops up towards the end: This was a game that “screamed for Jose Torres to man the midfield hub.”

    None of Jones, Edu, and Bradley have quite the vision we need to organize an offense. And while Torres is not a fantasy #10. The kid can deliver something we are sorely in need of: clever and varied passing through the center of the field.

    Going forward, what would be nice to see is some combination of two more defensive or ball-winning central midfielders and someone — like Torres — who vary the range of passing intelligently.

    Another observation: Next to Jones, we see how limited Bradley is.

    This observation prompts a what-if:

    Suppose the manager was some thoughtful European (Klinsmann or your favorite alternative). Do you think the odds of Michael Bradley beginning a game or two on the bench would go up?


    • Posted by FutbolAmerica on 2010/10/13 at 9:17 AM

      I think when you put in two other defensive mids in Jones and Edu it limits what Bradley does best when Dempsey and Donovan are on the wings, and that is win the ball and wear the opposing midfield players down. While technically not the most gifted player on the field you can’t question his work rate. He works harder than anyone else on the team in and, in ‘Gladbach, if you ever watch him play there, that’s what he brings to the table.


    • Posted by Mingjai on 2010/10/13 at 9:43 AM

      I agree with DC Lyfe on Torres. If the US is going to try out a classic 4-3-3, then the midfield has to pass the ball better in close quarters (and the striker and wings have to stay high). I think the US’s ideal midfield with the 4-3-3 would look like this:




      I think a midfield trio of Jones, Torres, and Holden would provide a good combination of defensive acumen and passing skill.

      As for keeping wings high enough, I think part of it is that BB has ingrained tracking back into the midfielders minds so much that when they play more forward roles, they’re still thinking defense first. That combined with the fact that the Jones-Bradley-Edu weren’t getting the ball up to the forwards in wings, made them feel like they had to come back deeper to get the ball. In this lineup, if Torres and Holden can do their job linking forward, then Dempsey and Donovan would be able to stay high and create decent pressure.


      • Posted by dth on 2010/10/13 at 10:29 AM

        That tracking back comment is very apt. The lineup was listed everywhere as a 4-3-3 but played in practice as a 4-1-4-1 because Shea and Holden were eager to keep back (and pinch in, etc.). The mentality of the team last night, except for Jones and Lichaj, was all wrong. (And while Jones’s mentality was one of the best, his execution wasn’t: he wasn’t nearly as excellent as people have made him out to be.)


  15. Posted by John on 2010/10/13 at 9:15 AM

    I heard that “Germany Jones” went over to the bandanna clad “Sam’s Army” to talk about Allyson McCoist.


  16. Posted by chazcar2 on 2010/10/13 at 10:54 AM

    I haven’t had a chance to watch the games so thanks for the commentary to everyone. All I can think of when I do get a chance to watch the US play is how poor everyone’s touch is. In the Brazil friendly when a player recieved the ball it would pop up off the turf. Are we still having that problem? If so I don’t ever see us being able to play a controlled passing game.

    Anyway this is my though on future formations

    A couple thoughts into this is Jones replaced with either Bradley or Edu, Bedoya replaced with Donavon and Davies or ? replacing him at striker or maybe Bedoya replaced with Bradley, Feilhaber or Torres replacing Shea. The Back line could be just whoever is actually playing best.

    Other thought is

    Altidore just isn’t ever going to have enough will to be the lone striker against a strong defense.


  17. […] yelled at himself. That’s the kind of stuff that makes you wonder if Altidore will ever get it. Matt over at The Shin Guardian noted this body language failure too, and added that he should be careful with the sulking because strikers often set the tone with their […]


  18. Posted by Tim on 2010/10/13 at 11:29 AM

    Free Landon!
    And will Harkes ever mention the American Outlaws! I always here him make reference to Sam’s Army, but in fact it is the AO section driving the US support! Com’on Man!


    • Posted by Crow on 2010/10/13 at 11:46 AM

      Exactly!!! I like any American supporters group but Sam’s Army hasn’t even been at the last two games!!!! AO is completely carrying the weight right now- especially considering if AO wasn’t there, there might have been 100 American fans total at the match.


  19. Posted by Crow on 2010/10/13 at 11:45 AM

    4-1-4-1??? I was at the game (disclaimer- I was in the AO section behind the play so I didn’t have the best view) and it looked like a 4-3-2-1. ESPN says it was a 4-3-3. Whatever it was, I don’t ever want to see it again. It appeared like Edu was the central holding mid (his distribution was terrible), but Bradley and Jones were so tight it was tough so see what was going on. One of Jr.’s worst games. Jermaine did not play that well either. Brek Shea- wow what else can be said. That was one of the worst performances I have ever seen by a Yank. What happened to his confident/arrogant manner? He looked terrified and I don’t know if he had one good touch the entire night. Other than simply giving away the ball immediately, his telegraphed, molasses slow switches across the field (which were intercepted every time) to Stu made me want to scream. Jozy had a horrible game, the fullbacks offered NOTHING (1st half). What has happened to Spector?!!! The 1st half was probably the worst half I have ever seen the Yanks play offensively.

    Do you know that quip Andy Gray makes at halftime on FIFA 11 when you play a drab 0-0 1st half: “I don’t know Martin, It looks like they are both playing for a draw, and I don’t understand….” After the first half, I could hear him saying it.

    2nd half- EJ did nothing. Jozy couldn’t score on the header and even worse- after the yellow card they got that nice turnover and he had a 3 on 2 and instead of moving up and shooting he just forced a “pass” into the middle of the field. Someone asked me- what was he trying to do? I responded: Do you know when a beginner is playing FIFA and you just hit pass or cross blindly hoping it reaches a target? That’s what Jozy was doing.

    Basically, there were only two positive things on the night. The supporters section was decent and remained loud despite the boring game- although we need new songs. It was cool being front-and-center with my AO full hoody and scarf on ESPN2 for the 2nd straight game!

    AND more importantly- Eric Lichaj!!!!!! He was really good. You may have missed it on TV, but he made 4 really good runs down the flank before Deuce fed him just before his awesome cross that Jozy should have scored on. On a number of occasions, EJ or someone else could not find him even though he was wide open. He was very solid in defense, and the one mistake he made, he immediately sprinted to the center to cover for Parkhurst or Goodson (I forget) who was marking his man on the flank. He then headed the cross out of danger. That was Lichaj’s defining moment I think.

    Other observations- horrendous crowd. 1/3 to 1/2 of the stadium was empty. There MAY have been a few hundred American fans there (other than the River End which was full- 3,000 American Outlaws members). Pathetic.

    I don’t know if you saw but Gooch got hit with a bottle during a throw-in. The Colombia fans cheered the guy who did it. Stay classy Colombia.

    Does Sam’s Army exist anymore?

    The guy beside me got Deuce’s jersey.😦

    Bob Bradley seemed amused/surprised by all the cheering he received coming off. Maybe he was expecting to get booed.

    PPL Park is dark as a tomb and is located in a VERY depressing area. I am a Philly Union fan by the way.

    Why did the game start late?


  20. Posted by Tim on 2010/10/13 at 12:39 PM

    Crow, thanks for being there and leading the support! Game started late due to TV$


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