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USA 6, Cuba 1: All Systems Go

October 15, 2008
"I'm not anorexic, I promise"

"I'm not anorexic, I promise"

Well well well.  As a USMNT fan, is it possible to be up set with the 6-1 victory of Cuba on Saturday?  Is there really any way you can walk away from watching that game and have a sour taste in your mouth? HOW COULD THAT BE?!

Alright, enough with the melodrama. All in all, Saturday’s game was a bright spot for the USMNT that saw alot of very positive attacking play and solid defending.  Damarcus Beasley grabbed his first international goals in almost a year and half of play, and that has to make Walter Smith happy.  On the flip side, we have to remind ourselves that most CONCACAF opponents are horrible.  We SHOULD be beating Cuba 6-1.  Okay, Let’s check it out by position.

DEFENDERS

No big surprises here.  Cuba couldn’t really test our back four, and the one goal they DID grab, was a fluke-ish and lucky strike.  Gooch and Boca played well in the middle, and did a relatively good job building up play from the back.  There were even some instances where Onyewu played some slicing passes into the feet of Donovan and Ching.  I love seeing that from defenders, because that kind of accurate passing to link with our offensive players can be really priceless.  Dolo played well, if relatively quietly, and didn’t see too much action on the right side.  I think the brightest spot in our back four tonight was Heath; he did an excellent job of pushing forward and getting involved in the attack, delivering a slew of great crosses (one resulting in Landon’s goal).  He also had some clutch tackles up and down the left side.  However,  I think that Pearce does lack one vital wingback trait, and that’s PACE.  When the USMNT faces tougher opposition I don’t think Pearce really has the skill or speed to really beat other world class wing players.  But time will tell I suppose.

Oh yes, and let’s not forget Gooch’s 90 minute goal, a great header.  Although the star of that goal might’ve been Freddy Adu (no offense Gooch).

MIDFIELD

There you are Beasley!!  So Damarcus finally is getting some finishing done.  We can’t fault him for two strong goals, and this is the execution that we certainly NEED from him.  Because besides his goals, I don’t think Beasley looked that special out there.  He certainly has the pace to beat defenders, but he doesn’t have the trickery to really put his marker off balance.  The majority of his 1v1 ability seems to be “push it past and hope,” but this isn’t going to work when you weigh 90 pounds.  Beasley’s strength is using his speed to get the behind the defense and latch onto through balls, which is exactly what led to his goals today.

Next up, I think Kljestan featured very well today, and he’s making a strong case for himself as a partner to Michael Bradley.  They seem to play well together, as Sacha focuses on going forward and creating offense with Mikey sitting back and tackling, crashing the box when necessary.  I thought Kljestan orchestrated well, grabbing two assists, and he was unlucky to not have a goal on his excellent header (which Ching ended up scoring).  If Kljestan can keep improving his protection of the ball and lower his turnovers, I think he could be our starting center midfielder through the hexagonal.

Bradley Jr and Dempsey had pretty quiet games.  I was happy to see Michael getting forward on occassion and he had one or two good chances from the top of the 18 yard box.  If he can find some finishing prowess, it would be great to have someone who can strike some nice long shots from outside the box (but it might be a little wishful to expect this from Mikey B).  Dempsey didn’t let anyone down, and should’ve had a goal in the opening minutes.  He attacked strongly and by my estimation is still playing well for the US, hopefully Hodgson gets him in this weekend.

FORWARDS

Landon is the hero of the day.  Yes, the opposition has been inferior, but I finally see Donovan imposing himself on the match, and I think he did an excellent job of staying on the ball tonight.  The biggest problem we’ve seen from Donovan in the past, is his tendency to disappear for long stretches.  Against Cuba he came back deep for the ball and seemed to always be involved in the offensive buildup.  This is crucial if we are going to build a cohesive attack.  He grabbed a well deserved assist and goal, and his pace provided real problems for the Cuban defense.

Okay, Brian Ching played well tonight.  His holdup play and subsequent distribution to Heath Pearce which led to Landon’s goal was EXCELLENT.  I am a little resentful to see Ching get on the scoresheet, because it was a true poachers goal and pretty much stolen off the goal line from Kljestan.  But hey, that’s how Ching scores, and a goal IS a goal.  This was a good game from Brian but let’s be honest, we all saw Jozy come on, and we all KNOW that the future is Jozy and Landon (with maybe some Kenny Cooper sprinkled in, right).

SUBS

Jozy Altidore came on the 68th minute and USMNT fans everywhere tried to contain their elation.  He made an impact right away, and nearly scored within three minutes of being on the pitch.  His ability to use his body is amazing and shows such maturity for someone only 19 years old.  He can just shrug off defenders and create space for himself with great ease, and this is so important for a striker when trying to get a shot off.  His goal in the 87th was well earned and finished, and if he plays a good number of minutes against TnT (which I expect), I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more goals from the man I will now dub as “The Future.”

Torres also came on in the 68th for his first cap. Hurrah Jose.  While he didn’t really do anything noteworthy, he definitely seemed to fit in right away, maintaining our offensive flow and finding the right pass.  I’m excited to see him against TnT and hopefully he’ll be given some more freedom to dictate the pace of our attack. I think this kid has alot of potential.

Last but not least, Freddy Adu came on the 74th and was relatively quiet for the final minutes.  Of course, he did very well to beat his defender and deliver and excellent cross in the dying moments for Gooch to head home, so that is certainly a positive.  Not too much to critique though, hopefully he gets some more time against Trinidad, and I think he will.

DISCLAIMER: for as happy as we all are with this victory, lets remember that Cuba played the majority of the game with 10 men and had a depleted squad because of defectors.  Not that I want to rain on anybody’s parade, but let’s just remember that and hope that the US squad does too.

In all, a great result and I can’t wait for Wednesday’s match.  Bring it on Soca Warriors.  Hopefully the ESPN feed isn’t shitty.

–psc

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