U.S. v. Guatemala: After Sleeping on It...

My relative silence on the subject of last night’s game between the U.S. and Guatemala has less to do with wanting to forget the whole thing as in trying to put it in some kind of useful context. My attempt to do that should appear shortly on Write On Sports - and I’ll link to it when it shows - but there’s a lot of detailed thinking bubbling underneath all that; that’s what I’d like to look at here.

Since the Write On effort drained me of all ability to think fluidly (it was so...damned...difficult...why?) I think I’ll rock the following, random player comments bullet-style:

- The Feilhaber Man-Crush: Here’s to hoping that last night cooled that a bit. And this has nothing to do with a personal belief he had a bad game; the point, though, is that he didn’t have a good one. Seeing as no one else did, that hardly makes him unique. That Michael Bradley, as I see it, outplayed him on the night gets me wondering whether Bradley wasn’t the decisive person against Ecuador as well. None of this is to say that Feilhaber doesn’t deserve more chances; he does, and many of them. But I’d like to see the Bradley/Feilhaber duo broken up so as to experiment with say, Feilhaber/Ricardo Clark or Bradley/Mastroeni. In other words, team the more-polished passer with an ankle-breaking bulldog and see what happens. The experiment I’m most eager to see is Clark/Feilhaber...so, yeah, it’s not that I don’t like the guy. It’s the hype that gets me.

- Landon Let-Down: I’ll be damned, but those Guatemalans had him figured. I think the only time I saw Landon was when he was picking himself up. He’s still our Landy-cakes and his numbers prove he’s the best offensive player this country has yet produced, but he’s also clearly stoppable. Kids/wife/dinner meant that I couldn’t answer this for sure, but did the Guatemalans just stick a player to Donovan? If I were only looking to kill his game, that’s certainly what I’d do. Whatever they did, though, it worked.

- Mapp’s "Almost" Day: There’s no question in my mind that Mapp posed the most persistent threat to the Guatemalan bunker. Though he never managed the final ball, his runs at least made the Guatemalans chase and lose shape from time to time; damn shame he never managed to crank in that final ball, or totally turn the corner. Still, call this an moderately encouraging outing to place on top of his earlier promising one against Denmark. I’d bump him up to a solid option behind Beasley; on those days you’re feeling cocky enough to play for a win from the outset, you could make him first choice by combining him with a stay-at-home left-back. But, yeah, I like him. He needs to improve to take some attention from Donovan.

- Frank Simek - Best of the new guys. Someone, somewhere detected a habit of Simek hoofing the ball upfield, but I didn’t catch it. What I did catch, was him playing himself smartly out of trouble once or twice, and a late-game surge down the right that looked threatening enough at the time. Credit to him for mixing it up.

- End EJ: For the love of God, can we end this fucking experiment? By my judgment, he didn’t even fight for half the balls lofted his way, which made him nothing as an aerial threat, and he didn’t offer much with the ball at his feet either. Let this guy focus on club ball and see if he can get “it” back - and I wish him luck with it.

- Dempsey: He showed he can play, but only here and there. By the end of the game, though, he was about the only U.S. player still chasing for a goal. Overall, though, he's not winning hearts and minds.

- DeMerit: I’m, frankly, pissed that we still don’t have much to work with around this guy. There simply wasn’t enough for him to do for us to figure.

- Conrad: This may or may not be a lonely position, but I thought he was our best defender on the day. Good at cleaning up and not giving anything away (though that was him on Ruiz’s best shot at the U.S. goal, wasn’t it?).

And finally....

- The Guatemalans: They suck for playing it, but, damn, was that game plan effective. And that leads to...

- The Fundamental Issue: Tedious as last night was, it’s not entirely fair to say the Yanquis don’t know how to break-down an opponent. That “almost-score” - the play that ended with Mapp picking up a smart feed from Dempsey only to send it wide - tells me we do know how. The question is how to do more of it, to train our guys to switch up tactics more comfortably and frequently during the game. Sure, there’s the game plan and there’s the way a player likes to receive the ball, but these cant’ be etched in stone if we’re going to improve as a team and as players. The play described above, which came a bit after the 60th minute, was a good example of that - and we almost caught ‘em out.

All in all, though, we looked awfully confused. And, the reality is, we simply do better against teams who come to play.

All for now...time to shift gears anyway.


D said...

I agree with most of your points, especially on being impressed with Sheffield Wednesday's finest.

I will say that this is the first time where I've seen Donovan marked out of a game, yet I still got the sense he didn't wuss out and just accept the fact that he was a non-factor, but instead he tried to fight through it. that's something.

The Manly Ferry said...

That's a really good addition on Donovan, actually. As hard a night as he had, he never dropped his head; I'd credit Dempsey on the same level, though I rated Donovan's performance higher as well. But, yeah, that's definitely something. I wasn't cross with the guy in the least 'cause he didn't have an inch to work with out there.