Monday, June 09, 2008

U.S. 0:0 Argentina

Of the three international friendlies the U.S. has taken part in in the last three weeks or so, last night's match against the World #1 Argentina looked the best. The U.S. looked solid in the back (not great but solid), they held the ball well in the midfield and seemed to create chances, at least that is what the last 30 minutes looked like to me.

A power outage quite literally 30 minutes before kickoff meant that I missed the entire first half and the first 15 minuets of the second half. But even the result has to be one in which the United States could be proud. I don't know when, or if, I will get to see a replay of this match.

Here are some quick impressions based on what I saw.

First, Bob Bradley tried a different line-up on teh U.S. back line. Carlos Bocanegra did not play, instead Bradley put Danny Califf in teh middle with Oguchi Onyewu. Califf acquitted himself well and it looks like Heath Pearce and Steve Cherundolo have put a pretty solid lock on the outisde backs. Still, I am not sure of Onyewu. He is big and he is great on corner kicks (he put one off the crossbar late in the second half), but defensively he looks too easily beaten and that worries me. Sure, he can dish out the physical, but I am not sure that is all we need. I would liked to have seen how Califf and Onyewu worked together. Just as i was getting the game back with power on, Watford's Jay DeMerit came on for Onyewu. I don't know if it was his fresh legs or a desire to impress Bradley, but DeMerit looked good, he was anticipating the play well and seemed prepared to take on teh best Argentina threw at him. I would liked to have seen DeMerit and Lionel Messi one on one, but in my book DeMerit has earned an opportunity to play in the middle again.

Second, there is a reason why Tim Howard is the U.S. number one keeper and will be for a few more years barring injury. It is too bad he had a problem with Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, because in my opinion, Howard would have been playing there for a long time. I saw the highlights of his seven (7) saves against Argentina in the first half and he deservesd. He was named Man of the Match and rightfully so.

For the past three games, the U.S. big weakness has been in the attack, and more specifically in the midfield. But the last thirty minutes of the match, it looked like there was a lot of creativity going on. To be sure, having Donovan in the match for his 100th cap is always a boost. Maurice Edu, Freddy Adu, Sacha Klejstan and to a lesser extent DeMarcus Beasley looked like they were collecting themselves, and working well together. There were opportunities aplenty and they didn't look rushed. Toward the end of the match, a combination of Adu, Donovan and Klejstan looked like it would result in a goal and the U.S. nicking a win at the last second. Klejstan should have two touched it to teh near post, but he cut back for a left foot shot at the back post only to have it deflected. But the patience in the lead up was important.

Eddie Lewis, despite his age, has earned his place in the line-up. I would prefer to see him coming off the bench since I don't think he can keep his pace going for 90 minutes, but 25-30 minutes a shot will no doubt contribute. His performance over the past three games has been the most consistent (outside of Howard's).

Of the midfield/strikers only Donovan and Adu look completely comfortable on the ball. Each has no fear of any defender and will go right at them no matter who they are. Klejstan looked like he might fall in this category, but I am not sure yet.

My problem right now is what to do about Clint Dempsey. Dempsey's work ethic is probably only paralleled by Frankie Hejduk, but he has not been as creative as the U.S. needs and his first touch has been horrid of late.

Goff has player rankings. I wish I had seen more of the game to make ratings, but Goff is usually pretty well on.

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