Thursday, September 11, 2008

U.S.A. 3:0 Trinidad & Tobago

The Americans scored two first half goals to continue their perfect record in the second round of World Cup Qualifying with a 3-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago in Chicago. The U.S. now stand with nine points in the group and are virtually assured to advance to the hexagonal next year. Next up is Cuba next month at RFK.

Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Brian Ching all scored. Bradley scored off a free kick from the left side by Landoon Donovan. Dempsey's second goal in as many games on a solid finish from the right side when DaMarcus Beasley threaded a pass forward past two defenders. In teh second half, DaMarcus Beasley lofted a free kick from the right side to teh back post, Oguchi Onyewu and the Trinidad keeper and the ball was last touched by the keeper and squirted to Brian Ching who has a wide open goal to head the ball into goal.

Bradley made one personnel change from the Cuba match line up, putting Sasha Kljestan into midfield for Maurice Edu.

The Good

The passing/possession game. The U.S. was looking very good moving the ball around, with lots of one touch and two touch play. The passes were largely crisp, but the biggest problem is that much of the passing was forward and back. So a pass forward was almost always matched with a pass backward. I don't mind this so much if it is creating a space for another player to move into and creating more movement, but that wasn't happening. Nor was the ball moved laterally enough. A pass forward and then a quick pass laterally can the be exploited quickly to move forward. At times, this seemed to be ready to happen, but it is like the the U.S. is hesitant to exploit that gaps they create with the quick movement.

Aside from that hiccup, the U.S. looked like it is starting to play with the quick speed, short passing game that can help them compete with eny team around and certainly to dominate the CONCACAF region.

Going for the jugular. The U.S. came to play and to score and to win. That much was obvious as they controlled the ball and attacked, looking to score. While the score line was 3-0, the U.S. made a number of opportunities that save for a some back luck or a pass behind an attacker, more goals were in the offering.

Another Clean Sheet. The U.S. have now gone 540+minutes without allowing a goal. The streak almost came to an end tonight on a sloppily conceded goal, but an offside call saved the streak for Tim Howard/Brad Guzan and the U.S. defense. While Howard was not really challenged in this match, his sharpness throughout the qualifying round has been solid.

Bocanegra and Onyewu. While the defense wasn't tested often, Gooch and Boca didn't just wait for the Trinidad attack to come to them, but stepped up frequently to snuff out attacks at midfield rather than simply waiting for the attack to come to them. In short they looked and acted like a third defensive midfielder. I don't know if this would work against a team with a more organized and talented midfield, but it certainly worked this time.

The Bad

The Bradley Bucket is killing us. Look a 3-0 win is good, but in three games, the U.S. has only five goals in those games including two dominating game performances. While I love seeing Dempsey score and Ching and Bradley getting goals, we are still not finding twine nearly enough to establish a scoring threat on a consistent basis. This is where the Bob Bradley Bucket 4-4-2 is killing us. Yes, we need a holding defensive midfielder, but we don't need two and Bradley is wedded to that concept and it is killing our striking ability. Brian Ching is a good forward, but he cannot work alone. We need to have an attacking central midfielder. The U.S. has the talent to use a formation aking to a 4-1-3-2 and use just one defensive midfielder.

Lack of Energy Created by Subs. Bob Bradley used all three substitutions last night, with Ricardo Clark coming in for Michael Bradley, Eddie Johnson for Brian Ching and later Eddie Lewis for Clint Dempsey. Johnson brought nothing (more on him in a minute), Clark added nothing, he was sloppy with his touch and passing and really didn't work well with Kljestan in the middle. Only steady Eddie Lewis brought energy in 34 year old legs, and contributed to the attack and tried to create some chances. Substitutions need to be strategic and tactical but most of all they need to infuse teh side with energy and that was not present after Bradley made his changes.

Eddie Johnson Should Never Be Called In Again Without Improving Greatly. Around the 85th minute, ESPN showed Eddie Johnson in a close-up and the man was sweating and I wondered why he was sweating. Aside from two blocked shots in the box (which right now I am glad he didn't score), Johnson did very little to earn that sweat. When other players had teh ball, he was not moving, or moved too late, or moved into an offside position. The role of a striker is not just to sit around and wait for service, but to create chances through his movement and he just wasn't moving. Time and time again, I would see Donovan, Beasley, Kljestan, Cherundolo, or Lewis brining the ball up and Johnson trotting around doing nothing as if wondering what he needs to do. Had Johnson scored either of those two blocked shots, he would have been guaranteed call-ups in the future and a spot for someone like Kenny Cooper, Charlie Davies or Edson Buddle, all guys with a real work ethic, would have been wasted on a void.

Player ratings

Tim Howard--6. Not tested a lot but really commanded his box, just like he should.
Steve Cherudolo--6. Also not tested, but made solid runs on attack and good crosses.
Carlos Bocanegra--6. Steadiness defined.
Oguchi Onyewu--6. Again steady, and I like the effort to stop attacks early.
Heath Pearce--6. I worry about his pace sometimes, but not last night.
DaMarcus Beasley--6. Another 90 minutes and you can see his touch and confidence return.
Micheal Bradley--7. Not as sloppy and combined well with Kljestan. Seems to be getting better at anticipating the play.
Sasha Klejstan--7. A breath of fresh air in the midfield. He was improperly used and should have been more of an attacking midfielder, but a good performance.
Clint Dempsey--7. Another player who looks to be getting his confidence back (two goals will do that for you). Still a little shaky sometimes on the first touch, but a good performance.
Landon Donovan--6. A bit more creative and a bit more active this game, but I need more.
Brian Ching--7. Say what you want about his pace (or lack thereof), right now there is no striker working harder and probably why he deserves his starting role.

Eddie Lewis--6. Reliable, energetic and active in his short appearance. While I wonder if he will be around in two years, I can't fault his effort.
Ricardo Clark--5. See above, needs a better first touch and less sloppiness on his play.
Eddie Johnson--3. See above.

All in all, a good performance before a crowd that never let the U.S. down, they were active and loud all game long. I wish it had been a sell out, but it is qualifying.

Next up, Cuba on October 11.

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