Archive for the ‘Gold Cup '09’ Category

USA vs. Honduras review: Business as usual

Get used to Stu Holden celebrating

Get used to Stu Holden celebrating

Chances are if you watched today’s USMNT game at Soldier Field in Chicago it won’t rank high on your list of memorable USMNT games.

There was little flair though, yes, a very positive performance. 2-0 for the good guys.

However for those of us who report on the USMNT, Gold Cup and US progression in hemispheric and global soccer, this game was about one thing really: reinforcement

I’ll save one major reinforcement observation for a column on Friday, but here’s what was reinforced today if you partook in the viewing:

– This is clearly Stu Holden’s last Gold Cup as a proving ground. Holden was clearly dominant. He was so sure of his play that he allowed things to develop and rarely made a mistake.

– Robbie Rogers has it, but needs time to develop. Rogers was again hurried, but this time aggressive. His crosses were excellent. He took a knock on the head in the mid 2nd half and wasn’t the same, but Rogers will be on display for awhile.

– U.S. strikers (more on this tomorrow) need to play a more active and creative game.

– Logan Pause, Jay Heaps, Davy Arnaud are skilled players, however may not be worthy of advancing for their country passed Gold Cup level.

– And Brian Ching in one play showed his true potential if he could develop more deft touches with the ball.

Beyond these observations, the US played a solid if unspectacular game.

Now, let’s get into the analysis.

As usual, we go: Summary – Preview Follow-up – Ratings

Best Play of the Game: (Troy Perkins) While the Yank’s Holden-to-Goodson corner for the first score was textbook, it was Troy Perkins who made the play, and save, of the game coming out in the 85th minute to thwart a Honduran run up the middle. Jay Heaps, cleaned up the mess, but Perkins was clinical in closing down the threat and keeping the score 1-0. Well done.

Most Unheralded Play of the Game: (Clarence Goodson) This is the second game in a row that the emergency center defender earned this. After earning the start, it was in the 75th minute that a well-played cross was played into open space in the US back third, Goodson–once again showing the technical acumen TSG applauded him for in the Panama game–took a specific and perfect angle in stopping Carlos Costly from turning him and having an unimpeded path to goal. Goodson’s body angle and positioning, shear perfection. Well played.

Golden Shinguard: (Stu Holden) If this award went to Chad Marshall, Clarence Goodson, Troy Perkins or Brian Ching I’m not sure anyone would dispute it, but Stu Holden was simply an all-star among pros. There is no better way to phrase it.

Preview Follow-up:

Here’s what TSG was looking for prior to the game:

Will Parkhurst (who we figure to start) and Marshall clamp down on Carlos Costly? We say yes

The answer is an emphatic yes, with a slight exception. BB tabbed Clarence Goodson to start and despite being a little soft as the game drew to a close, both Goodson and Marshall proved that the center back position is a U.S. strength.heading into South Africa

Davy Arnaud – we want you to test the Honduran final curtain with your speed and quickness

Arnaud, in short, disappointed. He did not link up well at all with the midfield and frankly looked gas. Whether it was the physical beating he took against Panama or not, he just didn’t produce today.

Robbie Rogers to come out fired up and really challenge down the left flank and track back on D

Not a direct yes or no here. Rogers really reminds me of young Clint Dempsey or even Justin Mapp before the injuries. He’s going to impress — he’s just not there yet. Did a great job of creating chances, including baiting a backfield cross in the 1st half that nearly led to a score, but didn’t finish. He’ll get there; bet on it.


C: Bob Bradley – 5

Noticing a pattern? Basically, with no more than a “6” ranking from TSG yet, we’re seeing Bob Bradley as your average coach. Despite recalling Michael Parkhurst, Bradley made a keen decision to start Clarence Goodson and was rewarded with a killer performance from him. However, again the U.S. attack was mundane. Finally, Bradley, who’s shown a penchant to be too loyal to some favorites, left Robbie Rogers in too long after a blow to the head (anyone could tell Rogers was not himself afterward), leaving the middie in for almost ten minutes as Rogers eyes looked glassy on each camera shot. Bradley waited too long to bring in Kenny Cooper as well (84min) when Arnaud clearly was not pushing the play. Bob, you need to do better.

G: Troy Perkins – 8

Challenged twice and game up big twice — that’s all you can ask for. Parried a solid opportunity in the 1st half over the limbo bar on a wicked shot and came out to defend an errant Carlos Costly late in the 2nd. Perkins shows an uncanny ability to known when to stay at home and when to come out and challenge. Additionally, seems to have great communication with his backline.

D: Jay Heaps – 6.5

If I was grading Jay Heaps to his ability I would give him a 9.5 for the game. The reality is: he’s not your national team’s first choice defender. Was absolutely stellar in defense on a wider pitch, however showed absolutely zero ability to threaten in the attack.

D: Clarence Goodson – 8

Quickly dealing himself into discussion in the US’s now crowded center back pecking order. Absolutely unfailing in his technical game, Goodson showed himself a threat on set pieces by scoring the first goal on a Stu Holden cross to end the 1st half. Dare I say the U.S. is best served sending Boca out wide with the depth we now have in the middle.

D: Chad Marshall – 7.5

Solid, solid, solid. Didn’t see him get beat once and again controlled the distribution excellently from the back. You didn’t notice him, like an offensive tackle in football who shuts down a pass rushes and gets no penalties.

D: Heath Pearce – 7

Had to deal with the speed of Honduran striker Marvin Chavez and did so adequately; helped out on the attack.

M: Robbie Rogers – 6.5

Comments were made earlier — has the stuff, just not sure how and when to deploy it yet.

M: Logan Pause – 4.5

A non-factor. Seemed it was always Kyle Beckerman who was forward and Pause merely holding behind him. Did track down some countering offenders. He’s not USMNT material with the U.S. loaded defensive midfield.

M: Kyle Beckerman – 7

Great in possession and moved the ball well. Was always in the play on both offense and defense. Played smartly and made the right pass. Really, a pleasure to watch.

M: Stu Holden – 8.5

Well, he solved the set pieces today. Beyond the service to Goodson for the first goal, had an outswinger to Ching that narely missed. Played some great one and two touch with the midfield. For Holden, the game appeared to be moving in slow motion. His performance is all the more impressive in that Jay Heaps did not help him threaten down the right flank.  Holden, who factored in both scores, is quickly playing his way into the first team minutes dicussion.

F: Brian Ching – 6.5

Worked tirelessly all day on the up-and-over ball and he usually does. Had a clever backheal to Holden that led to a score. However, Ching is one-dimensional–he can really be a difference maker is he can add at least another skill.

F: Davy Arnaud – 4.5

Not his day; we covered him above.

Sub: M: Santino Quaranta – (inc.)

Came on at the 76th, didn’t make an impression, but didn’t make any mistakes.

Sub: F: Kenny Cooper – 7.5

That’s 4 goals in 6 appearances for Kenny Cooper. The chorus for more playing time will continue. Cannot for the life of me figure out why BB didn’t bring him on sooner. Showed range in his game, by beating defenders on the wing, moving the ball and then tiptoeing the offsides line for the 2nd US score. If there is knock on Cooper’s 7 minutes, it’s that he jogged a bit too much. Coops, you’re in for 7 minutes, run your cleats off.

One off the noggin…

One off the heel…

More on US strikers tomorrow and we’ll see you on Sunday.

D: Chad Marshall – 7.5

Central Back, August 12th? Jay DeMerit (63%)

Jay DeMerit, your choice

Jay DeMerit, your choice

The–indisputable–results are in for your choice for center back partnership with Gooch on August 12th at the Azteca.

You want Jay DeMerit to partner Oneywu with a resounding 235 votes out of 373.

Let’s hope Bob takes the queue.

TSG Fan Chris May says, “No question Demerit, but only so that Boca can play LB.”

Fan sfinke1 says, “Demerit in the middle with Gooch…and have Spector and Boca on the outsides….that is the strongest d line we have”

See all the commentary here.

Quick Preview: Thursday: US vs. Honduras

Will Carlos prove (wa, wa, wa...) Costly?

Will Carlos prove (wa, wa, wa...) Costly? Maybe, but this is Carlos Pavon. (Thanks, Don.)

We’re getting a quick preview up a day early here for all of those like us who find it too long between national team


Here’s what we are looking for at TSG from the U.S. Team:

  • Will Parkhurst (who we figure to start) and Marshall clamp down on Carlos Costly? We say yes
  • Davy Arnaud – we want you to test the Honduran final curtain with your speed and quickness
  • Robbie Rogers to come out fired up and really challenge down the left flank and track back on D

“11” at the Whistle:

Much more likely that the actual Carlos Costly will prove...err...costly.

Much more likely that the actual Carlos Costly will prove...err...costly.

G: Troy Perkins

D: Heath Pearce, Michael Parkhurst, Chad Marshall, Jay Heaps

M: Robbie Rogers, Sam Cronin, Kyle Beckerman, Stu Holden

S: Brian Ching, Davy Arnaud


  • Logan Pause to supplant Sam Cronin in the midfield.
    Pause is more veteran player, but is also coming off a long arduous game against Panama
    Likelihood: 75% Pause starts
  • Santino Quaranta to play vet over Robbie Rogers
    We don’t see this one either, but it wouldn’t surprise us given Quaranta’s goal in the earlier game against Honduras
    Likelihood: A coin flip
  • Kenny Cooper to pair Brian Ching up top
    If Bob Bradley wants a look-see, here’s the time to do it. However, we don’t see it.
    Likelihood: 25%

What do you think? Let’s hear it. (We’ve been wrong before).

Your Neighborhood Sushi Place

Americans love their sushi.

Americans love their sushi.

It seems to me that sushi lovers always have two favorite places in their home city; the Incredible Place and the Good Place.

The Incredible Place typically has a trendy interior, is packed with good looking people and requires your “going out shirt.” At the Incredible Place the fish melts in your mouth and the sushi chefs put together ingredients into rolls that don’t exist anywhere else. However, the Incredible Place is expensive and you don’t go there too often.

Then there is the Good Place. It is typically located in a strip mall five minutes from your home with a “great” happy hour. The fish is solid if unspectacular and the sushi chefs make all the traditional roles with a couple of standouts here and there. Overall, the Place is a good value and your find yourself there a couple of times a month and often with friends.

Yesterday, we all went to the Good Place; not for sushi, but for good American Soccer. There were highs and lows, much like any place and the ingredients weren’t of the highest quality. But, ultimately, the US Men’s National Team didn’t disappoint and we even received the “happy hour” specials in the form of delightful play by the US in the first extra 15-minute session. (Okay, it was a “happy quarter-hour.”) I enjoyed the game, but the play didn’t “wow” me outside of the Holden-Ching hook-up in the 8th minute.

Throughout the game, the Yanks played solid, if unspectacular soccer. They didn’t overcome the biggest issue for the US as a program – lack of quality touches inside the offensive eighteen – but kept the pressure on to wear down an evenly matched opponent for the first ninety minutes. Although I have been critical of Bob Bradley recently, he must get some credit for turning eleven guys into a team that learned how to play with each other over the course of the day.

But, like every Good Place, there were some standout rolls, some standby ones and a couple that you wouldn’t order again.

We Have to Order the…

Ching: Played like an “A” team regular. Worked tirelessly against a physical (borderline flagrant) Panamanian back line

Holden: Solid on the ball. His only real opportunity to unload the cannon on a half-volley was blocked, but provided decent service from the right side

Marshall: Patrolled the defensive zone and locked-down the Panamanian attack in the 2nd Half. (did have a poor touch on the Panamian goal)

Beckerman: Makes the obvious play; consistently confident and calm on the ball

Conrad: Fearless (glad to hear he’s going to be okay)

Can’t Go Wrong with the…

Arnaud: Increased his involvement as the game wore on; excellent contribution on the Beckerman goal

Cooper: Came in like a freight train, missed some very good chances, but came through in a big way in the end

Pearce: Good job defending, good awareness to push forward into the attack when the opportunity was there

Conrad: Fearless (glad to hear he’s going to be okay) [Edit: forgot about the early, stupid yellow card]

I’d Try the…

Perkins: Wasn’t tested all that much, didn’t make any mistakes

Pause: An unmemorable performance

Goodson: Late first half sub that contributed to a good second half by the US defense

Probably Wouldn’t Order the…

Rogers: Turnover machine; had tons of chances but struggled in beating anyone “one v. one” and providing adequate service into the box (outside of the far-post moon ball that led to the Beckerman goal)

Heaps: The desire and intelligence is there, but seemed a half-step slow (except on his devastating should barge)\

With this team, I’d be fine going to the Good Place again on Thursday and next Saturday, but I’ll be ironing my “going-out-shirt” shirt in case Bradley and the boys want to head out to the Incredible Place.

USA vs. Panama – Narrow pitch escapades

I remember watching the U.S. play China at Spartan Stadium in 2007.  The U.S. struggled mightily in the early going to contend with a pitch where you could read the t-shirts of the spectators on the other side of the field.

While the U.S. won 4-1 that day it wasn’t without struggling to maintain and move the ball with what little space they had. This was Bradley’s 5th game as head coach and I’m reminded of one telling parallel and one major difference from the squad that took the field in Libertyville yesterday and the tactics they employed.

The U.S. loan goal allowed that day–against an overmatched Chinese team–was yet again a cross that the U.S. team failed to contend with. The difference? The U.S. used a 4-3-2-1 formula to contend with the lack of space on wings. That served to initiate runs from the likes of Benny Feilhaber and DeMarcus Beasley, with Beasley being pulled down rounding the corner for a penalty kick and the first U.S. goal.  One other interesting note that day, it was Charlie Davies first cap for the U.S. team.

Saturday showed a U.S. team that collectively may not have grown from that point in 2007. This is not a knock on the team as they fought hard and more importantly worked hard to fatigue the Panamanians and find space in the middle of the field that led to control throughout the latter parts of the 2nd half and eventually the goal by Kenny Cooper to win it.

However, the U.S. has shown a remarkable ability not to adapt to conditions and teams they are playing against. Too often on Saturday, beyond the first touches of again, Stuart Holden, the U.S. maintained the 4-4-2 they came out and tried to go up and over to Brian Ching and, increduduously, Davy Arnaud. The former lacks the touch; the latter lacks the physicality and height. This was the extent of their offense. Too often they gave possession away. And too often they failed to make the necessary corner and looping runs that the 2007 team did at Spartan Stadium to create the space for opportunities.

It wasn’t until Robbie Rogers started drifting back into the lower left flank with Heath Pearce making runs that the game started to open on that flank. Similarly on the right it was Holden, with little room to maneveur, maintaining possession, but more importantly continuing to reverse the ball on his foot that had to create the space.

I’m not  a fan of the U.S. employing other tactics than the 4-4-2. That being said, the coach and team have to adapt midstream to the what they are seeing on the field. Perhaps lack of 1st team experience and, yes, they eventually got there Saturday as Panama tired, but let’s see some notion of that earlier in the game from the U.S. going forward.

The runs that Kenny Cooper made late in the game–though not the ideal forward for it–would have been nicer to see early on as well as the notion of spacing for the whole midfield and team.

Finally, before our summaries and player ratings, Brian Ching, Jimmy Conrad– yes you worked hard, but you are veterans of the U.S. pitch. By picking up chippy worthless fouls, deserved or undeserved in the early going, you set the stage for the ref to call the game 50/50 all day long. Bad move.

Summary – Preview Follow-up – Ratings

Best play of the game: (Davy Arnaud) Arnaud had a surpringingly good game with little to room to work. His layoff to Kyle Beckerman for the first goal shocased vision, composure and a deft touch after calmly receiving a looping cross in the box.

Most unheralded play of the game: (Clarence Goodson) Facing a defensive test on a counter in the 68th min, replacement central defender Clarence Goodson, had the diligence to chase down Panmananian winger Jose Garces on an overplayed corner while the back was disorganized. Goodson not only chased him down but displayed a shocking display of footwork to close down Garces and force the poor pass backwards.  Just one of many excellent plays by Goodson throughout the day.

Golden Shinguard: Heath Pearce (by a hair over Kyle Beckerman)

Preview Follow-up

We were looking for the following:

– Let’s see if vet Jay Heaps bounces back with a standout performance at wingback

Yes and no. Heaps played a solid if unspectacular game in the back. Aided by the narrow field there wasn’t much opportunity for Heaps to be left on an island.

– Chad Marshall to be solid at managing the back and to soar for header on a cross

Marshall played a very solid game. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time on the lone Panama goal, but communicated very well with both Conrad and then Goodson. Stellar in one-on-one play and good on outlets. Let’s see him get more time with the regulars.

– Stu Holden to be strong for a 3rd straight game cementing his ticket on Air South Africa

Holden proved that outside of Feilhaber he is the U.S. best man for maintaining possession. Continually worked the little space he had. His crosses were better, but not great. He’s earned his spot.

– Same with Robbie Rogers on the left wing — both beating his man and successfully laying off the ball as he pulls around the corner

Robbie had a tough game, but not a bad game, by any stretch. He lost the ball many times on the wing but his tenacity it attempting to beat his man was what the U.S. needed given how little spacing they worked out. Rogers needs more experience and more playing time not less.


C: Bob Bradley  – 6

Bradley had a stronger game then certainly his last. Bradley’s hand was forced early and perhaps Clarence Goodson was all he had, but playing Goodson after Conrad’s nasty collision was a huge difference in limiting Panama to a single goal. Showed a lack of tactics early on by continually going over the top with the offense to Ching for 50/50 balls. The substitution of Kenny Coops for Davy Arnaud was well-timed and a better selection than removing Ching who continued to press. As well, the selection of Holden on the wing to move the ball with Logan Pearce working in the middle tired the Panamanians and led to later chances. Game management for Bradley an A….tactics, let’s hope for a bit better next time.

G: Troy Perkins – 6.5

A solid day for Perkins with little to contend with. Managed the backline well and was not blame for the 1st goal. Gained possession or a boot on every ball he came out the 18 on. Well played.

D: Jay Heaps- 5.5

Rebounded from a poor performance, but didn’t really contribute to the attack. When he did, tried to do to much. Was solid on the corner, but at 32 he’s probably not going to progress to the next level. I’ll change that tune with a strong performance against a more aggressive Honduran team.

D: Jimmy Conrad – (Inc), leaning towards a 5

Conrad had a better game than at Foxboro, playing stellar in the center. Received a vicious–and late–hit on the jaw that saw him dazed and walked from the field in the final mins of the first half. I have two gripes with Conrad given that he’s a veteran, his emotion and picking up the yellow. While the yellow was not warranted that he received for a small push in the Panamanian box, he nevertheless put himself in that position. Secondly, Conrad was extremely emotional — which is better if you are playing in the corner less valuable if you were marshaling the defense. His fire may warrant a sub role in a year though.

D: Chad Marshall – 7

Was in the wrong place at the wrong time on the lone goal as mentioned above — nevertheless he got in front of his offender to the ball.  He was extremely decisive in the middle, communicated well with Perkins and played excellent possession vs. outlet soccer on the takeaways. I’m continually impressed by his game, specifically his positioning.

D: Heath Pearce – 8

Played a superb game all around — from funneling men, to knowing when to overlap to stonewalling his corner. He of course, was helped by having again that narrow field, but Pearce moved exceedingly well and confidently. His movement in the second half with Rogers in front of him really opened up the field and he narrowly missed a goal on a feed from Beckerman in the 2nd half.

M: Stu Holden – 7.5

Holden played another excellent game, once again showing his class and his supreme ability with the first touch. Was masterful in distributing the ball–it would not an exaggeration to say he was Claude Makeleleian in distribution. Continually tracked back on opposite side runs. His service was better, but still slightly erratic and he tried to control the ball instead of booting it out on the opposite side goal, but those were mistakes of execution not education. Well played again Stu.

M: Logan Pause – 6.5

Tireless work ethic in the middle in running the Panamanians ragged and played extremely well coming back to the ball, but his skill was a notch below Sam Cronin’s. A poor man’s Ricardo Clark his workrate was very high, but his role is a bit redundant for the U.S. Let’s see what Wednesday brings.

M: Kyle Beckerman – 7.5

This is a tough one. Beckerman was clearly at his best once the pace slowed. His second half earned him a rating of 8.5. His vision–as I commented last week–is his strength. Whether the U.S. weren’t making runs in the first half or he couldn’t fine them, Beckerman needed the pinball to move just a tad slower to be effective. Came back well, but tackling was average. Has the potential to be even more of a difference maker.

M: Robbie Rogers – 6.5

Some will give Rogers low marks for the game. What I saw was a player who is not quite there trying to make runs that reminded me of a young Clint Dempsey. Rogers had very little space to work with and tried to link up some plays. Was dispossessed often, but he helped to open up the field with his threat. Dropped back and adjusted with Pearce in the second half an opened up space. I was pleased with his play.

S: Davy Arnaud – 7

Arnaud played a very solid game in a game that didn’t play to his strengths. Competed in the air for balls played over the top (though he lost a fair amount) and tried as well to adjust to the game throughout. Was responsible for the play of the game in getting the U.S. on the board early. Well done.

S: Brian Ching – 7

Ching played like a tight end virtually all day long–continually throwing around his body and attempting to win the service. Narrowly missed a goal on a gorgeous Stu Holden in-swinger.  Similarly to Conrad, I’d like to see more veteran play from Ching. First, he needs to work on his first touch. Sure he’s getting roughed around, but that’s a skill you can work on — he can mirror of Emile Heskey if we accomplishes that. Secondly, he needs to stop fouling or be more discreet. Had he maintained composure a bit more — the refs would have snowballed calls in his favor. As it happenedhe only earned about 60% of the calls.


D: Clarence Goodson – 7.5

A revelation. I must admit I didn’t know much about his until after the game. However what I saw I was more than impressed with. Got beat on the cross for the goal upon entering, however beyond that, extraordinary. Extremely technical on positioning in one-on-one situations and choose well when to come up from the backline and meet an offender. I’d like to see him put on a little bit more weight on his 6’4” frame, but I can see the U.S. graduating to a Marshall-Goodson backline in 2014.

S: Kenny Cooper – 7

Cooper finally showed a little bit of what the U.S. fan support has been augering for–a tenacity to strike. One problem, he could have and should have showed a sliver more. Absolutely relentless going forward and made a good attempt to run to space instead of just try and receive service. Was versatile with his footwork and made an outstanding run to earn the penalty kick. More impressively, he stepped up instantaneously like a focused striker and demanded to take the kick–his game winner showed experience. Experience at what it takes to be a hitman. However, with more balls swung into him he was not proficient in the air. If he can execute on that part of his game, watchout because his size makes him dangerous.  Again, let’s see Cooper for more than a cameo. Let’s see him step out there in the Honduran game.

Overall for the U.S., a little work on the first touch and midfield linking and the team will bring home the Cup later this week. Till then…

U.S. vs Panama – quick preview

Here’s what The Shin Guardian is looking for tonight at the U.S. and Panama near kickoff in the land of cream cheese:

– Let’s see if vet Jay Heaps bounces back with a standout performance at wingback

– ChadMarshall to be solid at managing the back and to soar for header on a cross

– Stu Holden to be strong for a 3rd straight game cementing his ticket on Air South Africa

– Same with Robbie Rogers on the left wing — both beating his man and successfully laying off the ball as he pulls around the corner

See you with the review in 90.

Very surprising and poignant comments from Stu Holden

Maybe this is now old, but I just read Stu Holden’s commentary on the Haiti game this past Saturday. There has been some talk that Holden could be a great spokesman for U.S. soccer. His writing only seeks to affirm that.

This article, it’s sincerity and honesty, was something you might expect from a gracious ambassador for U.S. soccer, specifically his feelings immediately upon scoring the equalizer.


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