Posts Tagged ‘World Cup Qualifying’

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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.

DEFENDERS

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.

MIDFIELDERS

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.

FORWARDS

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.

SUBS

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.

OH.

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?

–psc

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Some Questions and Updates Before Cuba

October 9, 2008

The USMNT has been hitting the training field hard this week in preparation for Saturdays match against Cuba.  After the first day of training, new man Torres had this to say:

“The first day was good. I was really nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. Everyone has treated me really well. I started to feel very comfortable, and after the first day of training I’m feeling better and better.”

Also, Michael Bradley took the time to chime in about the coaching change at BMG:

“Ziege is the sporting director and everyone has a relationship with him… He is around every day, he sits on the bench at the games, he is out at training quite a bit. I think it will be a good thing for me because, at the end of the day, he was the one who really, really pushed hard to bring me to the club… I think he has confidence in me and he likes the qualities that I can bring to a team.”

So that sounds like good news for the young Bradley and hopefully he’ll start to feature more strongly for the German side.

Back to US training camp, you can see a few video highlights of training here:

So what do we thinkg about Cuba? Well first off, sadly I think Brian Ching is a lock to start up top.  That will probably bring a frown to the faces of some Yanked Around readers, but in any case Ching is a veteran and seems to be in good graces with the coaching staff.  We all know how the USMNT loves “experience.”  I think there is a small chance Jozy could start, but the more realistic notion is that Donovan would start up top and then Jozy would come on in the second half to spell one of the forwards.  Another interesting question remains regarding Torres: Even though this is his first camp, does Bradley throw him in the game to cap-tie him to us?  I think Torres is pretty committed to the US program, so I don’t think it’ll be disastrous if we DON’T cap him, but it is still something to consider.  I think we will see the same starting lineup we’ve seen in the past:

Howard

Dolo, Gooch, Boca, Pearce

Dempsey, Bradley, Kljestan, Beas

Donovan, Ching

The least certain starter is Sacha, but I do think he’ll get the nod over Edu, who hasn’t seen enough playing time with Rangers yet.  I think the back four is immovable, and given Dempsey’s strong play for Fulham last week as a forward, we COULD see him up top, but I think he belongs in the midfield for the Nats.

The more interesting hopes arise when we consider what subs might see the pitch.  With a bench of Jozy, Adu, Davies, and Torres, you have to hope we grab a few goals early in the first half so we can see some fresh blood as soon as possible.

What do you think about our lineup for Saturday? Any different ideas about our starting lineup?  Think we’ll crush Cuba?

–psc

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US Roster: Some Wishes Come True, Some Don’t

October 3, 2008

The US Roster has now been released, and the good news? It includes Jozy, Freddy, Szetela, and Davies! The bad news? Still no Cooper.  But oh well, we can’t win all our battles, can we? Check out the team:

GOALKEEPERS

Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Troy Perkins (Valerenga).

DEFENDERS

Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Danny Califf (Midtjylland), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus Crew), Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege), Michael Orozco (San Luis), Heath Pearce (Hansa Rostock).

MIDFIELDERS

Freddy Adu (Monaco), DaMarcus Beasley (Glasgow Rangers), Michael Bradley (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Maurice Edu (Glasgow Rangers), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Danny Szetela (Brescia), José Francisco Torres (Pachuca).

FORWARDS

Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Brian Ching (Houston), Charlie Davies (Hammarby) Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy).

My Thoughts: Yes I still want to see Kenny up top for us, but hey, Thank God EJ isn’t in the squad.  I’m really happy with the team, especially the midfield, because I think the nucleus of bradley, edu, kljestan, adu, and beasley will be the long term midfield force for the USMNT.  If Szetela can keep growing, he will join those ranks too, and it’ll only strengthen our core.  I still find it interesting that Bradley lists Dempsey as a Forward, but whatever, that’s just semantics.

The next test for this promising roster, is WHO STARTS, for the Cuba game?  I expect that unfortunately we won’t see Adu and Jozy leap right into the starting lineup for the 11th (Jozy has a better chance of cracking the XI).  Ching and Donovan starting up top is what we probably will see, with Jozy coming on for Ching at some point.  I hope Torres can see the pitch at some point, but I wonder: at whose expense will that opportunity come?  Our listed midfield is full of amazing youth and I have to figure that Beasley-Bradley-Kljestan-Dempsey will start.  Szetela could even start in the central midfield because he has been getting ample playing time for Brescia.  I don’t think Edu will pair Bradley in the middle to start, simply because he hasn’t been getting alot of games for Rangers yet.  The most interesting choice for Bob, will be WHERE to deploy Adu, if he chooses to do use him.  Will Bradley use Adu as a forward sub? A midfield sub? Will Adu get in the game at all?  Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be surprised if Adu stayed on the bench for the duration.

What do you think of the lineup? You’ve gotta be happy with it, yes?

–psc

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USA 3 TnT 0: Finally GOALS!

September 12, 2008
Machine of the Deuce.

Machine of the Deuce.

What a relief to see a USMNT game with multiple goals.  A good showing at home, and now that we have 9 points in 3 games, I hope that Bob calls in some younger players.  But before we get into that, let’s talk about T&T.

MIDFIELDERS

Huzzah for Michael Bradley!  Finally an all around strong game from the 21 year old and hopefully he can continue improving.  The major change I noticed in Michael’s game today was his eagerness to play many more sharp long passes from deep in midfield.  He provided a number of key switches and passes that helped to put the T&T defense on their heels.  Granted, T&T played the lowest pressure defense that is humanly possible, so whether Michael can continue passing with composure when faced with some REAL midfield opposition remains to be seen.  His goal in the 9th minute was well taken, and I’m curious if he’ll take part in this weekends ‘Gladbach game.

(NOTE: to be fair, I’ve got to mention Bradley’s horrible turnover in the 59th minute which led to a T&T goal [which ended up being offsides].  Gotta eliminate mistakes like that.)

Speaking of central midfield, I thought that Sacha paired well with Bradley, and while he still has a ways to go, I think he does bring a nice dimension to our offensive creation.  I think in the long run, Maurice Edu has more upside along Bradley, but Kljestan does create well and was important in the buildup to Dempsey’s 18th minute goal.  If he can improve on his tendency to give up stupid turnovers, Kljestan could become an even more attractive midfield prospect.

On to Dempsey, I feel comfortable in asserting that he undoubtedly belongs on the right wing.  Sure, he can play up top, and he could potentially play in central attacking role (although I have doubts about his vision and passing in this position), but wing gives him the perfect opportunity to take defenders on and also slice through and attack goal.  Kudos to Beasley for assisting on Dempsey’s goal, completing a neat 1-2 combination.

But Beasley… Blah.  Hats off to Lawrence and company who were harsh on Beasley after my recap of last match.  Beasley definitely did not look sharp today.  He showed zero 1v1 ability in situations where all he had to do was beat one defender to be in on goal.  He needs to add some more tricks to his repetoire besides “push the ball left and hope my first step is fast enough.”  That can work if you weigh more than your defender, but since Beasley weighs 90 pounds, he’s cake to push off the ball.  I still think Beasley at his peak is a great winger, but he undoubtedly is covered in rust right now (I hope that’s all it is).

FORWARDS

Okay okay, Brian Ching scored a goal.  But I DON’T CARE.  I’ll admit, he is a serviceable forward.  He isn’t horrible at holding the ball, and he looked miles better than EJ (who looked lost the minute he touched the pitch). Ching still blew a golden opportunity in the 28th minute off a perfect pass from Landon.  I still assert that Ching is in no way acceptable as a starting forward option, and I would argue that he wouldn’t even be a valuable substitute.  I can’t see Ching coming on in the late stages of a game to galvanize the offense.  He’s just filling a role for now. (As I reread this paragraph, it seems a little harsh, but oh well, I am not a fan of Ching’s game).

Solid game from Landon up top.  Landon is arguably our best player and it’s strange that we really don’t have a locked down spot for him in the lineup.  Some want to see him on the wing (I think he gets too lost out here) and some even think he should partner Michael Bradley in the middle.  Wherever he ends up, I think that at this moment, he belongs as a starting striker.  His speed on and off the ball is really useful as a forward and I’m excited at the possibility of him playing off another threatening striker (Altidore/Cooper).

DEFENDERS

Not much to say about our back four, as T&T never really posed a real threat.  I thought Pearce was solid and Cherundolo did well to get forward on a number of occassions (although his crossing was poor).  Gooch and Boca played well, and it’s great that we got another clean sheet under our belt.  I’m curious if in these next few games we’ll see Marvell Wynne get some minutes, or any other young defenders.  For the forseeable future however, I think our defensive spots are locked down (Pearce has won the left back spot, in my opinion).

In all, this was a game that finally left a pleasant taste in the mouth of US fans.  Hell, we could field a team of 11 Taylor Twellmans and if we scored 3 goals people like me would still be happy. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration.  The point is, we produced, and Thank God.  Now we turn our heads to the weekend and hope that some of our gents can take their WCQ form to their respective clubs.  Dempsey specifically.

What’d you think of the game?

–psc

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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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USA 1 Guatecrap 0, and a rant.

August 22, 2008
Damarcus Beasley - Loco for Golazos

Damarcus Beasley - Loco for Golazos

Alright, lets begin by giving full credit where it’s due; YES, we did win.  Which at the end of the day, is arguably the most important thing.  And it goes without saying, that Guatemala is one of the dirtiest and trashiest teams in CONCACAF, if not the World.  But as we limp home to the US with a win under our belts, I’m filled with much more frustration than elation.

So let’s rant.

I am really getting tired of our USMNT, and the lineups we put out. I’m generally pleased with our defense after last night, Gooch and Boca especially looked strong, and Howard’s exceptional quality is obvious.  Sure Pearce and Cherundolo didn’t have strong games, but I think that they do show consistency on the whole (Dolo moreso than Pearce, but I do think Pearce still has great potential if he get forward more). But the fact remains, I am getting SICK of seeing our attacking strategy fail again and again without any tinkering.

It really felt like we played this whole match tonight without any forwards at all.  Dempsey never really got involved (you could argue that Dempsey has been tepid over the course of ’08 thus far), and Ching just lacks the quality to stay involved in a positive way. Not that it’s entirely their fault they couldn’t impose themselves on the match, but where the hell was the midfield to forward link play??

It seems to me that so often we pass and wait, pass and wait, pass and wait.  When in my arrogant opinion, one of the best ways to create dynamic attacking options is to have SOMEONE run at defenders with the ball. That way, the dribbler can get a defender to commit, make a quick pass, and then continue to penetrate and look for the 1-2 return pass, or at least get the opposing defense to shuffle around. We don’t seem to have positive movement with the ball in offensive third. This is something where Freddy Adu is so strong; dribbling with the ball, drawing defenders, and then finding the open man once the defender has committed. That gets the defense on their heels allows our offense to dictate the attack.

I also hate to say it, but the play of Michael Bradley is slowly grating on me as well. Yes, I know, he on fire for Heerenveen last term, but time and time again starting in our central midfield, he is unable to create plays, or make anything positive on the offensive end. I would even go as far as to say his tackling is adequate but not exceptional. So what exactly is he doing for us? you might say “but patrick! He sets the pace, and controls the midfield!” and i would argue that he doesn’t even do that extremely well. “Controlling the midfield” is a pretty ambiguous and unquantifiable trait, but if we’re going to TRY and quantify it, we should start with ascertaining if Michael Bradley is DOMINATING the midfield (domination and control would seem to go hand in hand).  And my friends, you can not look me in the eye, and say he dominates the midfield.  I would much rather have someone creative in the center of the pitch (even kljestan comes to mind, and I KNOW that he is not the answer, but I DO think he creates better than michael bradley, at least in the USMNT setup). Also, I’m curious how Maurice Edu would perform in the offensive minded central midfield role.  Freddy Adu is a consensus hope for this spot, but we all seem to agree that his lack of defense would hurt our central midfield as much as it would help it.  And we all know that with Bob Bradleys conservative tactics, he would never take the risk.

This team just really lacks a playmaker, and although Donovan has shown us great flashes of creation and penetration, we can’t expect him to spearhead our offense from the right flank. (but I don’t think he belongs up top, or in the central midfield either, although the notion of him in the center of the park excites me). And yes, I think Freddy Adu at his best, is the strongest playmaker we have, but Bob Bradley doesn’t seem to think he is ready to be handed the car keys yet. And I agree that Adu is still developing, but I think its time to give him lots of playing time with our Senior Team and give him a chance to run the offense. I know we’ve seen him in a strong sub role, but even in those cases, he’s seemed kind of a foreign entity to the full Men’s Squad.

I won’t even get started on Kenny Cooper, but Bob Bradley needs to wake up and include him. especially given his current form, and our meager striker pool.

I know this next statement will draw some but I’m gonna say it anyway: Part of me (take note: PART of me) almost wishes Bob Bradley wasn’t the coach of our USMNT, because he pretty much has kept playing the same style we played under Bruce Arena. I wish we had hired a European coach who could’ve come in and given us some fresh tactics and strategy, and totally shaken things up. Not that THAT would make us “omg all the sudden winning like crazy” but just to give our system and psyche a SHAKE, because I think we need to remind our organization that there are lots of different ways to play successful attacking football. (Thomas Rongen is a great example of this, he deployed the 4-3-3 for us awesomely in the u20 WC).

So there. That’s my daily rant for now.  I’m done vomiting on the page.  That is, until I see the starting lineup for our next match and poop my pants at a starting strikeforce of Eddie Johnson and Chris Rolfe. Kill me now.

-psc