Jan 30, 2013

Five Talking Points--USMNT 0:0 Canada--Two Words UGGG---LLYYY

We have all had that morning after bad date experience right?  The morning after the beer goggle moment where it looks like you have found a sexy young thing to spend the night with but you wake up feeling not only violated, but lied to?  Where morning hideousness makes you wonder what the frak was I thinking?  Yeah--that was last night.

Like most US Soccer fans, I am prepared to suffer late nights to be coupled with early mornings, odd line-ups and tactical situations, crappy refereeing from Central American officiating crews, terrible television commentating (although I liked the half-time bit between Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas.  Those guys should be calling games together.  No offense to Adrian Healy or Arlo White).  I was prepared for a lesser standard of play from the USMNT last night simply because it was the January camp and most of the players are, frankly, B level players.  I was prepared for Canada to bunker 9, 10, or even 11 men behind the ball.  But I woke this morning with a serious case of beer goggle hangover.  And I am feeling violated.

Last's nights match was simply ugly with a capital U.

I know that not every match is going to be pretty, but aside from about 1.1 seconds of Sean Johnson save brilliance and a three pass sequence in the first half, I can't remember anything truly pretty about that game.

The match left me wondering why I stayed up to watch the whole thing and wondering if I should ask Comcast for a refund of my cable bill for last night.

I think my ability to do extra reps in my workout this morning can be attributed to anger at the performance last night.

It was Post-50 First Dates Adam Sandler movie bad.

It was wondering if I could get a ruffie to forget it bad.

It was 11:00 am dorm hall walk of shame with the not hot one night stand calling after you that you forgot your underwear bad.

So, now that little rant is over, on to the talking points, as there was a few things that can be gleaned from last night's soccer famine.

  1. Eddie Johnson--Grown Ass Man has grown up a lot.  Maybe it is the tutelage of Sigi Schmidt, maybe it is the humility that comes with age and experience, but Grown Ass Man looked like a pretty decent target striker last night.  He held the ball well and played well with his back to the goal.  But when GAM went wide, he really made trouble for the Canadian back line.  The problem, although not of Johnson's making, was that there was few opportunities for him and the USMNT to exploit the space he created.  I can see an Eddie Johnson/Jozy Altidore pairing up top in Honduras.
  2. Omar Gonzalez is the real deal.  A while back, I argued that A.J. De La Garza was actually the better defender from the long time tandem, and he may be the better defender.  But Gonzalez is the better soccer player.  Gonzalez was frequently up in the attack, not just on set plays, but starting attacks from the back with sharp passing.  If Gonzalez can keep that kind of play going, it would not surprise me in the least to see a Gonzalez/Geoff Cameron pairing in Brazil 2014.
  3. Oh, Michael, Michael, Wherefore art though Michael Bradley?  It was clear that the U.S. was missing a player like Bradley, a general who can dictate the pace of the match, spray the ball around and unlock a packed midfield.  To say that Brad Evans was better playing right back rather than the top of a midfield diamond is a minor understatement.   Benny Feilhaber was better than I have seen him during his limited appearance, but right now, I don't see any kind of competition for Michael Bradley for that midfield general role.
  4. Josh Gatt--Lightning Contained. I love his speed, I love his willingness to take on players, I love the fact that he is true winger.  But Josh Gatt cannot play against a five man midfield.  Wingers like to dribble, wingers like to run and if it is too stuffed in the midfield, there is nowhere to run.  You can make the argument that Gatt needs to find his own space to run, but ....
  5. Juan Agudelo--Super Sub?  The young Chivas USA striker did what substitutes are supposed to do, make an impact.  Agudelo was all over the place, picking up the ball, taking risks, taking shots, drawing fouls in dangerous spots.  He was energetic with the U.S. needed him to be.  Find the holes in the defense a little better and Agudelo will be a terror as a super sub.
We all know that Jurgen Klinsmann was looking for lessons in the friendly rather than a result.  The big lesson is that a young, MLS centric team does not have enough tactical skill to unlock a packed midfield.  

We have all had that experience, but last nights beer goggles were pretty bad and I for one want to put them back in the closet.

Jan 8, 2013

Five Talking Points--USMNT January Camp

Five talking points about the USMNT Roster for the January Camp.

Just as a quick reminder, here is the roster:
GOALKEEPERS- Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire)

DEFENDERS-Steven Beitashour (San Jose Earthquakes), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), A.J. DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Connor Lade (New York Red Bulls), Alfredo Morales (Hertha Berlin), Justin Morrow (San Jose Earthquakes), Jeff Parke (Philadelphia Union)

MIDFIELDERS- Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (out of contract), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Joshua Gatt (Molde), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

FORWARDS- Juan Agudelo (Chivas USA), Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Edson Buddle (Colorado Rapids), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

To the Points:  

1.  I can't remember the last time a USMNT roster featured two outside midfielders who could serve the ball with as much aplomb as Brad Davis and Graham Zusi.  Two set piece service maestros.  Seems to me like a match made in heaven--so that means we won't see them together.  Shame, that could be a lot of fun to watch them on the pitch together.

2.  Besler or Gonzalez?  If you accept the (semi-conventional) wisdom that Geoff Cameron has solidified a place in Klinsmann's back line corps, who between Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler has the chops to make the step up to partner with Cameron with the surely imminent departure of Carlos Bocanegra from the regular national team fold.  (on that point- is Bocanegra really on the outs?)

3.  Speaking of Gonzalez, can he and his L.A. Galaxy and Maryland Terrapin teammate A.J. De La Garza make an impact on the national team as they have in college and MLS?  The versatility of De La Garza to play either right or left back has to be give him the edge to start in this corps.  Truly has there ever been as consistent a pairing of players through all levels as these two?  I think not.

4.  Klinsmann has said that between 5 and 8 of these players will likely be held in camp for the Honduras World Cup Qualifier.  That list, I suspect will include, Hamid, Beckerman, Gonzalez, Zusi, Johnson and Wondolowski.  On the bubble will be Gatt and Besler.  

5.    It would be easy to look at this as Benny Feilhaber's final chance to impress Klinsmann for inclusion in World Cup Qualifying rosters, but I suspect that his inclusion is no throw-away.  Can Feilhaber capture that Gold Cup magic in a bottle (or in a volley) and catapault himself back into contention--particularly in light of the doubts surrounding Landon Donovan's future?  A strong camp will do that for him.

Projected Line-Up vs. Canada (4-1-3-2)


De La Garza---Gonzalez---Besler---Beitashour

Gatt --------------Zusi---------------Feilhaber----