With Hurricane Ike bearing down on Cuba and the U.S. visiting and playing in Cuba for the first time in 61 years, the U.S. Men's National Team grabbed another three points to leap to the top of the group in World Cup Qualyfing. A U.S. midfilelder or striker finally scored with the lone goal coming from Clint Dempsey in the 40th minute.
Here was teh U.S. line up, a surprising 4-5-1 by Bob Bradley.
The Road Win. The win over the Cubans gives the U.S. six points after two road games. Given that the U.S. has played arguably their most difficult road game in Guatamala. I think the U.S. probably hoped to finish these two games with four points. Getting two wins on the road and three of the last four games in the group at home, the U.S. clearly has to be in the driver's seat for the group.
Possession. The U.S. had it in spades in the second half. But this is as much a result of the Cubans simply being worn down by the fitness of the U.S. Cuba had made their three subs by the 60th minute and the U.S. made one sub in the 75th mninute or so. The U.S. had lots of good combinations and move the ball around well. Toward the end of the match it looked more like a training session for the U.S. and that will be covered in a bit.
Howard, Bocanegra and Onyewu. The U.S. defense looked great. Good positioning, great coverage as Hejduk and Pearce reguarly went forward. Granted, the Cuban 5-4-1 didn't look like they would challenge much, but they did get a few chances. Howard made two key saves in teh second half, including one off a deflection from Bocanegra that was clearly going in the net.
Attacking players too deep. There was not a great deal of testing done on teh U.S. Defense, so I am not sure that I was that impressed with how teh U.S. handled their work in the midfield. I would like to have seen more from the Donovan,Ching, Dempsey, Beasley combination, but both Donovan and Beasley were coming back too deep to collect the ball instead of letting Bradley and Edu do the dirty work and feed them.
Beasely. It was good to see DaMarcus Beasley get 90 minutes. I don't know what was going on with his boots but he changed them at half-time (not that unusual) but also changed them during teh second half. Beasley was getting forward and got caught offside a couple of times (1 was just barely offside, but he was off). Beasley blew a chance when he beat the Cuban keeper who was way out of position and all Beasley needed to do after he cut back was to slot a simple, side of the foot shot into the near post but he bungled it wide to the far post.
Donovan. For the man who is supposed to be a creative force in the midfield, he was absent for long stretches of the match. there were a couple of great combinations with Dempsey and Hejduk in the first half and couple with Ching in the second half. But if bob Bradley is going to use Donovan as a creative force, he needs to be doing more with the ball and off the ball, making himself available. I am not seeing it and I am not happy.
Bob Bradley. I like the fact that he put in a 4-5-1 with a three attacking midfiled. I think Ching is a good target man, not a great one, but his workrate was impressive. With this formation, putting Dempsey out wide is a better use of his skill and the combination of Beasely, Donovan and Dempsey have the capacity for creativity. Bradley did well with getting his team in a position to hold the ball well. I still want to see a true target man like Kenny Cooper up top and I want to see Freddy Adu in the midfield to create more.
Lack of Killer instinct. The U.S. probably had 75% of the possession in the second half and clearly had control of the game, but I want to see the U.S. attack. I blame Bob Bradley for this as i am sure that he instructed his squad to hold the ball, even if it means sacrificing attacking opportunities. This style of play is not going to win in the hexagonal or in the World Cup. The possession, attack minded sides are going to shred the U.S. unless we start taking opportunities and making opportunities for goals. Yes, the U.S. had a few opportunities but with the amount of possession there needed to be more.
Holding Midfielders. I know that Michael Bradley and Mo Edu are young and I can understand the pairing. They both offer great speed, decent ability to read the game and intense work rate. However, they need to improve their ability to actually hold and distribute the ball. Both of them were dispossesed far to frequently. I think their fialings to hold and distribute the ball is what causes Donovan to come back to deep. Beasley does it as a matter of routine, but he shouldn't need to. If Bob Bradley is going to use this dual holding midfielder role, Michael Bradley and Mo Edu are going to have to really work at their first touch and distribution skills.
Next Up. Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview (Chicago), Illinois.