In a game like this, the final scoreline is not the main thing to watch. US 2-4 Czech is not a big deal either way as nothing was at stake for the teams (though much was at stake for the individuals), and few starters played for the US squad. So, instead of looking at the scoreline, we are going to take a look at some of the players on the field for the US, and to a lesser extent, the Czech Republic.
Long Ball Languish
I hate the way the US team chooses to play half the time. The recurring trend of the first half was the following: DaMarcus Beasley gets fouled, plays it backward or conservatively on the free kick, defender boots it long for Eddie Johnson or Edson Buddle, turnover, Czech ball. It is aesthetically appalling, ineffective, and creates chances on a one-by-one basis rather than getting any kind of sustained pressure to wear down teams. Beasley actually looked dangerous and was drawing tons of fouls, but he also did not look likely to produce a goal. This method has really become the M.O. for the US side as they often choose to boot it instead of working it. Granted, guys like Altidore, Dempsey and Donovan did not play, all of whom can run under the long ball a bit and make things happen on the counterattack, but the style of play is just ugly and rarely works.
How the US Scores
The US is way too dependent on set pieces to get their goals. Whenever I watch them, it seems like they score on a cluster of people in the box and getting lucky, or off a well-executed corner or occasional free kick. They rarely score out of open play via passing or any other way; it is always from a set piece. This really needs to change at some point if the US wants to take the next step and be a team that is respected internationally above the country they are representing. Today, they scored off a free kick that Petr Cech/Kramer from Seinfeld did not correctly handle and was poked in, and a corner kick that was fantastically re-centered via header for the second goal. That is all good and well, but the US needs to find some passing and fluidity if they want to do anything of note in South Africa.
At the half. the following subs were made: Pearce for Bornstein, Ching for Johnson, Kljestan for Torres, Rogers for Beasley, Gomez for Buddle. All of a sudden, it was a new US team. There was passing, there were chances being created, there was a cohesiveness to the runs and passes being put together and it was actuallly genuinely good looking soccer. I think Kljestan deserves a lot of credit and should make the squad, but he has been inconsistent throughout his career and I would not blame manager Bob Bradley for leaving him off. I cannot find video of the passing that was going on, but you will have to believe me that it actually looked the like footy they play across the pond at the higher levels. Through-balls were unlocking the defense, the team was working together, and it kept Petr Cech, who is one of the best goalies in the world all Michael Richards jokes aside, on his toes. It was great to watch, and while it still did not result in any goals from open play, it created quality chances that the likes of Donovan and Dempsey might be able to put away.
One of the few starters who played tonight was the cog of the US defense, Oguchi Onyewu. However, it wasn’t good news from a soccer perspective. He did play 66 minutes, which is a good sign, but the first goal was singularly his fault, and it was because you couldn’t slide a piece of paper under his feet when he jumped. As far as I am concerned, that is a HORRIBLE sign for a guy coming off a knee injury. I am glad he was fit enough to last 66 minutes but if his jumping and athleticism has not returned, then he will likely allow more goals in South Africa when a guy like Peter Crouch tries to get up and head one past Tim Howard (who also did not play). Gooch had better get it back soon or he might be a cause for concern in South Africa. One comment I heard was that :Milan was still getting a raw deal” in reference to his decision to play for AC Milan for free. Ouch.
US Man of the Match
I am going to give it to Stuart Holden. He set up Maurice Edu on the opening goal, and was solid for most of the night for the Americans. He is one of a very small number of true midfielders I feel like I can trust on this team, and he showed it again tonight. There is not a ton of good that the US should take from this game, and although it was largely the C team out there, Stuart Holden was a bright spot.
1st Half Attsck: D
1st Half Defense: C
2nd Half Attack: B
2nd Half Defense: C
Overall: C- (from the backups, don’t freak out people)
A very brief note on the Czech team. They looked pretty good. They were creative, aggressive without being crazy, and pretty solid despite some hiccups. An American A Team probably beats them, but they are probably one of the better teams not in the field of 32.
Just to get you ready for June 11th: