TnT 2 USA 1, The Kids Aren’t Ready?

October 16, 2008
"Can I have a taste of beer, dad?"

"Can I have a taste of beer, dad?"

Somewhere out there Bob Bradley is smiling, thinking of all the US fans who clamored for Jozy and Freddy to be instant starters and he’s saying, “I told you so.”  After all, Jozy and Freddy couldn’t lead the US attack versus TnT, right?  Us slobbering fans better just chill the eff out, right?  Maybe, but I think the actuality is that last night we witnessed what happens when our US players don’t get playing time for their clubs: They don’t play very well.


Let’s start with Guzan.  He just looked rusty.  He made a few nice saves, but I kept feeling that he seemed a bit jittery.  In any case, I wouldn’t fault him for any of the goal but I DO hate how he always seems to take SO MUCH TIME with the ball at his feet.  Just pass the ball already Brad! Okay, moving on. Franke Hejduk, he is the worker bee of the USMNT.  He did a nice job getting forward throughout the first half but he could not deliver a quality cross to save his life, and when you can’t do that, it pretty much voids all your offensive work.  He was fine on the defensive end up until his intercepted pass led to the first TnT goal.  In all, I think we are seeing the last days of Hejduk and hopefuly Wynne will start to see some minutes. In the centre, Califf and Orozco were a mess, most notably on set piece defending.  Califf was also left out to dry on the goal, no where near Latapy.  Neither of them did any favors for their further inclusion in the USMNT pool and they just seemed to lack a general sense of orientation and organization.  I think Orozco comes out looking better than Califf after this game, but he’s still just a fringe bench player.  Pearce was quiet in the first half, but after the interval he started to get forward much more and beat his man on the flank a number of times.  Scotland gave him fits on the left side, but Pearce was able to neutralize the threat pretty effectively.


Yikes, I’m not sure there are many positives to take away from our midfield play last night.  Kljestan was nightmarish compared to how he has been playing in earlier WCQ’s and Maurice Edu’s first touch was horrible for the majority of the game. Torres didn’t have a HORRIBLE game, but he did disappear for stretches and seemed a bit lost out there.  It felt like the midfield roles weren’t clear enough, like there were too many cooks in the kitchen.  They tried to put together small passes in the midfield but their efforts never amounted to anything.  I also don’t think that Kljestan is effective on the wing.  He doesn’t have the pace to beat players down the flank and he has a tendency to pinch inside, crowding Edu and Torres.  I can’t remember one instance where Kljestan actually delivered a cross from the wing.  We need that width, and he didn’t provide it.  As for Beasley, he just seemed frustrated the whole match.  He couldn’t get anything going and I think it goes to show that he is a player who needs quality around him to excel.  He can’t stand alone.  He delivered a few nice set pieces, but never really got into a rhythm.


Freddy Adu, where are’t thou?  Freddy had some nice moments in keeping possession but on the whole he couldn’t make anything happen.  Freddy is at his best when he’s running at the defense, and we didn’t see that tonight.  Most times he’d drop deep for the ball, show some nice skill to keep possession and then lay off to a midfielder.  He had trouble turning his marker, and often just played long balls over the top for Jozy which weren’t effective.  Also, where was Adu in the second half?  His involvement disappeared.  As for Altidore, he looked dead tired after about 35 minutes.  Someone needs to get this kid into shape. He never really seemed sharp on the ball, and spent most of the first half chasing down impossible long balls. He did play a nice through ball for Beasley and he deserves credit on creating the goal, but that’s about it.  I think that Jozy needs to play with another striker alongside him to truly succeed, I don’t think he excels in a 4-5-1.


Which brings us to the Charlie Davies.  Davies insertion breathed instant life into the side, and you know why? Because he played as an actual second striker.  He didn’t drop deep to grab the ball and leave Jozy alone, but instead made penetrating runs toward the goal, drawing defenders and freeing up space for Altidore in the middle.  He finished cleanly on Jozy’s assist and that should make Freddy Adu nervous because Davies actually looked threatening for those final 20 minutes.

I was glad to see Szetela come on, but I think he should’ve come about 30 minutes earlier.  He’s been getting regular playing time for Brescia and I think he could have brought a good spark to our midfield if brought in for Edu.  In any case, I hope he gets more looks because until Edu establishes himself at Rangers, he shouldn’t be starting for the USMNT.

I will not comment on Chris Rolfe.

My Thoughts: I’m not upset that we lost.  I’m glad that our young guys got a full game to give it a go, and I think that’s exactly what they needed.  That said, if these boys want to continue to develop at a good rate, they NEED to start getting matches at their clubs.  If Freddy Adu keeps up his role as an 80th minute sub at Monaco, he will not grow into an effective Int’l player.  In that vein, I’m also not convinced that Adu fits into the USMNT as a deep-lying striker.  I think he needs to play wide so he can have space to run at defenders and cut inside.  But who does he replace? Dempsey or Beasley? He isn’t ready for that.  Bob Bradley has some tough decisions ahead of him.

So what needs to happen? Edu needs to fight into the Rangers mix, Jozy needs to excel in Copa del Rey and maybe head out on loan, and Adu needs to take advantage of every chance he can to prove his worth in France. Easy, right? Sigh.


Before I forget.  Kenny Cooper, what have you done? After missing this game, Kenny has just fallen further down the depth chart because Davies took advantage of his chance.  Cooper would have probably started this game for the USMNT but instead he chose to stay home.  At the international level, you can’t take these opportunities for granted because you can never be sure when the team will call your number again.  Kenny’s gonna need to keep scoring blistering goals for FC Dallas if he wants to get back in the US mix and next time, he’s gonna be sitting on the bench.

What did you guys think of the match? Any insights? Think I’m way off base?




  1. You were on point in everything you said. I agree Freddy had a very underwhelming game, and Torres was not great but not bad either. If Szetela is healthy, I would hope for him to start against Guatemala (as well as Adu and Altidore).

  2. good analysis. i agree about altidore playing better as one of two true strikers. he is not a holding striker a la brian mcbride. maybe its finally time for us to play two true strikers up top and actually try to score goals in the run of play. davies looked sharp last night and i would still love to see what kind of damage kenny cooper could do. defending against either combination (the size and speed of altidore and davies or the strength and size of altidore and cooper) would be a daunting task for any defense.

    also i agree that adu was basically ineffective last night, but im not sure he should necessarily be relegated to one of the wings. i just cant get the image of him shredding through the midfields of argentina and spain a few months ago. he has the talent and the creativity to be an attacking central midfielder. it will be interesting to see how bradley bridges the gap between the old guard (who dont get enough love) and the young guys (who dont get enough shots)

  3. I thought Torres did better than most people are giving him credit for. No other midfielder possessed and distributed the ball better than him (which isn’t saying much, but still).

  4. Pierce was the worst player watching the game yesterday, and I wached with guys that are pretty bad. Torres played Mikey’s position way better than Michael ever has and MO Edu has proven in his last few appearences he is not ready for this stage.

  5. wow, I definitely don’t think Pearce was the worst player.

  6. The points are good but here is the problem. You build your team from the back forward – not the other way around. And the reality is I don’t think (nor do I think BB thinks) that the MNT is capable of playing in either a 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 which would allow for dual strikers. Sure we can play a 4-4-2 straight up with our first team squad against these CONCACAF minnows, but insert us into the WC against Spain, England, Argentina, Italy – we don’t have a chance to advancing past the quarterfinals. We just don’t have that kind of depth and strength in the midfield. We might in another 6 years – but not in 2. So as a result it appears he is trying to solidify the back line and reinforce the midfield and find a way to create a couple opportunities with build up and counterattacking play – which means, we play with a single striker.

  7. I actually think you make a pretty good point, Daisy. However I think that if we go into South Africa playing a 4-5-1 (which you’re right, is very possible), we will find it very difficult to advance past the group stage. At least, I don’t think Jozy is effective in a 4-5-1 and I DO NOT want to try and change him into a Brian McBride hold-up striker.

    If you look at Jozy’s play with the Red Bulls, he always played in a dual striker formation and was often the lesser marked striker (playing alongside Angel allowed that). I don’t think it’s the right idea to turn Jozy into a target man.

  8. Good analysis. I pretty much agree with everything you said, except for Orozco. I thought he had a much better game. He cleared a couple dangerous balls in the box and also blocked a couple of chances. With his lack of physical stature, I think he was able to position himself well. He won’t get the nod ahead of Gooch or Boca, but he’s not a fringe bench player either.

  9. Well think of it this way. In 2006 – we conceded 6 goals playing a 4-4-2 and scored 2 – really only scoring one. So we played with 2 strikers and couldn’t get it done – but sure gave up a bunch of goals and did not maintain posession for great stretches of time. So you think it is better to roll the dice because we don’t have ANY outnought single strikers and play with two up top to hope we catch a break with a couple goals meanwhile leaving our midfield and backline to invite the heat like we did before? Or is it better to stuff the defensive and neutral thirds to solidify draws or a chance at 1-0 victories? I’m more of a calculated risk taker myself and would prefer to squeeze another team in the hopes we make good on the couple of opportunities we create for ourselves in the match versus exposing ourselves and making bad decisions. Part of coaching is understanding your strengths and weaknesses and then countering to them. And I don’t ever create a lineup because my first focus is what my strikers can or cannot do. I start with what the skill sets of my players are, create my formation and then solidify the back and move up. Give you an example – i once played a state cup match against the 3rd best team in the state. My girls were quite a bit farther down that pole however. I was under no illusion how this match was going to go – just that I needed to not make an embarrassement of ourselves. I played a 5-4-1 and kept the game to 0-0 to the half. They finally broke us down in the last 15 minutes of play – but I had parents and players that were proud of the result at the end of the match. if I had stayed in the formation we were typically used to playing – it would have probably been a 10-0 or more game. So regardless of whether Jozy or Charlie or Ching or any other striker we have is not considered a “true” target man – that is not how you approach your formation and lineup. Instead you have to create situations that will allow those players to understand how they can be effective with the formation and players that will surround them. As a coach I would tell my striker – rise to the occasion. These boys have 2 years to figure out how to make it work.

    Besides – if we play with two strikers – then I have to listen to everyone gripe about how much My Michael Bradley sucks and how the strikers aren’t getting any service as to why they aren’t successful. Blah blah blah.

  10. It is shortsighted to say that playing with a 4-4-2 will expose our midfield and defense. The entire game changes if we try to attack and take it to the other team instead of relying upon set pieces to get a lucky goal. Maybe if we have two forwards and actually pose an offensive threat, opposing teams will be forced to deal with that instead of throwing everything at us the entire game without having to be concerned with defensive responsibilities.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: