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USA 1 Cuba 0: Trudging Through WCQ

September 9, 2008
This one's for you Mr. Hodgson.

This one's for you Mr. Hodgson

Well, it wasn’t pretty, but we ground out another win on the road and this time around I think there were a few more positives trickled through the match.  Sure, our lineup still lacked the youth and excitement that so many of us dream of (Jozy, Cooper, Adu), but there were some strong performances on Saturday. Let’s have a look:

DEFENDERS

Overall, another solid performance in the back.  Although I prefer the excitment of Wynne, I’ll be the first to admit that Hejduk played more than adequately in Cherundolo’s absence.  He managed to get forward on a number of occassions and get a few crosses in the box.  I also can’t fault his defensive work rate, which is top notch.  On the other side, Pearce rebounded from a poor showing in Guatemala to play quite well against Cuba.  He prevailed in a number of 1 on 1 situations, stifling the Cuba attack, and also did his best to get forward when possible.  A much cleaner performance from the Rostock man.

In central defense, Bocanegra was solid and forgettable; something that you can’t really fault in a center defender.  He played consistently and steered clear of any large mistakes.  Onyewu on the other hand, did have some lapses in concentration and touch on which a better opponent would have certainly capitalized.  By no means did Gooch have a poor game, but he did lose the ball a few times in our defensive third when almost under zero pressure.  If he wants to make the jump to the world’s elite defensive pool, he needs to improve his focus.

Oh yea, Tim Howard played great, as he usually does.  Enough said.

MIDFIELDERS

Kudos to Bradley for finally recognizing that Dempsey as a striker is just not effective.  I foreshadowed this move in my Match Preview, and like I suggested, Bradley switched Donovan and Dempsey.  Dempsey is a player who needs the ball at his feet to make things happen; making runs off the ball just isn’t his strong suit.  Deploying him on the wing, gave him the opportunity to run at Cuban defenders, and we saw his success in this a handful of times as he beat white shirts down the wing.  It was also interesting to see Dempsey floating into the center of the pitch on a number of occassions during our attack.  This allowed space for Hejduk to push forward and hold down the right wing while we stacked numbers in the box.  This is also how the US produced Dempseys goal.  As Dempsey, Ching, and Donovan loaded the box, Onyewu’s long ball was knocked down, and Dempsey provided a crisp finish.  Overall, much better stuff from Clint and hopefully he can continue improving.

In the central midfield, Maurice and Michael paired nicely with Edu playing a more offensive role and Bradley sitting back.  On the whole, I think Edu had an inconsistent game, but there were a few stretches in the first half where I really appreciated his effort getting involved in the attack.  He provided some great link play between our midfield and strikers, (something that we OFTEN lack) playing some smart 1-2 passes with our wings and strikers.  Unfortunately, Edu had a forgettable second half that was marred by some poor turnovers.  Consistency will be key for Edu as he continues to get minutes, because if we can have his help in creating offense for a full 90, we’ll create so many more attacking opportunities.

Last and not least, Beasley also had a relatively strong showing (I know alot of people think he was horrible).  He did lack some quality in his final touch, most notably his miss on a wide open net, but I think his touch will return with some more consisten playing time.  The positive’s I see in his performance come from his ability to get into threatening positions.  Yes he blew some great chances, but he did show good movement to get in those places.  He still has the left wing spot locked up in my opinion, and his pace gives us a good threat on the wing.  Defensively I thought he brought the same tenacity that we often see from him in man marking and tackling and his defensive workrate is a great compliment to his game.

FORWARDS

It was nice seeing Landon up top, and I think he is much more effective as a striker than as a wide player.  I think the issue of where he truly “fits” still remains, because I can’t see him as a long term option at striker, but he really is too good of a player to keep out of the lineup.  I’m interested to see a Donovan/Altidore pairing at some point and seeing if they can create some true chemistry.  Brian Ching, man, I’m really tired of seeing him in a USA uniform, but he did play better this game.  His touch is still atrocious and he blew a GREAT chance in the 28th minute.  We all know he isn’t the answer to our striking trouble, so what else is there to say?

LOOKING FORWARD TO T&T

I imagine we will see a fairly unchanged lineup tomorrow night.  Cherundolo will most likely step back in for Hejduk, but I’m sure Ching will still stay up front.  Bradley was quoted as saying he’s liking what EJ is doing in training, so perhaps we’ll see Eddie come on for Brian in this match, especially as its the second game this week.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kljestan come on for Dempsey again as well, considering Clint still isn’t getting many match minutes at Fulham.

I just hope we can score more than 1 goal, and I think this will be possible since I don’t think T&T will be playing 90 minutes of defense.  I expect them to come out trying to sneak a point off of us, so that should open up opportunities for the USA in counterattack. Not to mention we’ll have some home field advantage.

What’d you think of the game?  Think I’m way off base?

–psc

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4 comments

  1. I think your commentary is a little bias but I would rather see positive comments rather than those who dwell on the negative.

    Beasley was pretty horrible in my opinion, he looked uncomfortable the entire match. Kept changing his boots even.

    Other than that good insight, keep it coming. I enjoy your site.

    -Nate


  2. bias how? i’d love to hear your thoughts because god knows, i think i’m just as negative and pessimistic as most people!

    i know what you mean about beasley, but he also hasn’t played 90 minutes in awhile, so i expected him to be rusty.


  3. Well, I would disagree. I should clip everytime Beasley got the ball in the Czech game last world cup (he was not rusty then) and his touch is just not that great, it never has been.

    I think Donovan has to play out wide, he stretches the field and frees up the middle for Edu and Bradley to work. Plus he can actually cross a good ball, unlike Dempsey. Dempsey is nice up top because he is very versatile up front, being able to bring the ball down well, play with his back to goal, go at players, head the ball, etc.

    I agree Donovan can play in the middle, but I think he serves the team best out wide, although I would love to see what a Adu/Donovan forward tandem would look like.

    I think the USA did two things that made the game look awful. 1) they decided to (for most of the game) hit the ball to the top instead of playing through midfield (particularly the CMs) 2) When they hit the ball up front, they kept over kicking Ching, the point man

    So I don’t agree completely, but I like to see more so keep it coming


  4. I for the most part agree with your commentary, with a few exceptions:
    -Hejduk’s crossing was terrible.
    -I thought Beasely never got into a groove. Made some nice runs, and was dangerous at times, but his touch and passing was below par for him.
    -Ching actually looked decent. I’m not a fan either, but his hold-up play was quite good. Obviously, he blew a golden opportunity.

    Other comment:
    -Edu seemed to lose concentration from about the 35th minute to close to the end of the game; he was not taking care of the ball enough for a defensive-minded CM. His passing was a bit off too. His first 35 minutes were spectacular though. I think if he can put 90 minutes together, he will be world class.

    Good insight on Dempsey pinching in, to allow Hejduk space to move forward.



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