Day Late Review: U.S. Tops T + T

U.S. 2 - 0 Trinidad + Tobago

I’ll begin by leveling with anyone who may read this. I watched this game while: first doing a bit of a home work-out, followed by a brief yoga routine - that also involved the further distraction of teaching one of my daughters a few poses. So...we’re not talking undivided attention.

With that in mind, here goes:

- Speaking of “undivided attention” - or, more appropriately - speaking of attention spans, what the hell is our collective problem? The U.S. Men are showing the concentration of three-year-olds on a Cocoa Puffs bender. The parade of defensive breakdowns with which the first half closed, not to mention how poorly we’re managing games/possession - again - don’t speak well of our chances of retaining the title.

- This was, after all, Trinidad + Tobago.

- No, scratch that. This was T + T’s B-team.

- For all that, I never got the sense the U.S. would lose this game, scrappy as it got.

- The coolest thing about that: we essentially fielded a second-team of our own. That we can do that in an international game of any kind is just flat-out great. Sure, the defense looked shaky from time to time and, sure, we had some trouble with possession. But we were still able to field a team that may not beat anyone on the world stage, but it wouldn’t get embarrassed either. That’s depth, baby.

- Turning to specifics, I’m not sold on Benny Feilhaber. What he did show against T + T is that, if you give him time on the ball - and T + T undoubtedly and stupidly did so - he will hurt you. He certainly has the playing skills for that. But, as with the Guatemala game, he gets pushed around when the going gets ugly. The way to stop Feilhaber is to get someone on him right away - and make sure that someone lets him know they’re there.

- Hell, Justin Mapp looked tougher. Moreover, for every time Mapp got caught on the dribble, he played the ball quickly and effectively.

- Brian Ching just seems to be the kind of forward who takes four chances to score one. As such, it’s just a matter of him positioning himself to get those five chances. It’s not ideal, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

- We all bitch about Landon Donovan, but, for my money, he showed how effective he can be. And it’s the little things, like checking his run just that little bit on the counter for the second U.S. goal. Like it or not, and his maddening ability to get occasionally overwhelmed aside, he's our best offensive player...period.

- You know who’s really on my mind, though? Eddie Johnson - and, specifically, what is lacking in his game. Here’s a short list: he doesn’t play the ball quickly enough; when he gets the ball in a forward position, he never gets his head up and looks forward, but instead seems to think about whether to run with the ball before dishing it backwards. More plays went to EJ to die yesterday than I can count.

- I like Jay DeMerit. I trust Jay DeMerit to keep the U.S. goal safe.

- Apart from some shaky moments, Michael Parkhurst showed a little of what makes him effective in defense; it’s kind of a judo thing. On the other hand, his lack of size certainly does show on occasion.

- Jonathan Spector was all right, but Frank Simeks’ side of the field felt safer.

- I know Ricardo Clark played, but can’t remember anything remarkable.

- All in all, I got to the disturbing piece of this game above: if we can’t manage the game better - e.g. blunt the opposition attack with some spells of game-throttling possession - we’re not going to improve much on the Bruce Arena era.

- The officiating wasn’t the best, but it was better than the Guatemala game. The worst thing? How many offside calls did the officiating crew blow in the first half? I remember three - and good job on the replays FSC.

- Finally, we won and that’s the important thing. We’ll probably beat El Salvador as well and win the group with a perfect record. So....why don’t I feel confident about what follows?

And, as everyone knows, the other Group B result of the day surprised no one: Guatemala beat El Salvador 1-0.


bfos said...

EJ -

He didn't have a great game, but it wasn't as bad as you're making it seem.

In fact, he had some of the best vision and touch on some great passes and he was doing it from the forward position. He didn't do a lot of it in the first half, but his second half was very good.

Tolik, Maryland said...

Kasey Keller's distribution amazes me. He is a world class goalkeeper. How come he continued with stupid "hit it somewhere, may be they will pick up" goal kicks. You are right when talking about lack of possession and not keeping the ball. I lost count how many times we just gave away possession with Keller's atrocious distribution.

Love your blog. Thanks for the good work.

The Manly Ferry said...

On the second comment, why, thanks.

On the first, that gets at one of the things I like about the game; two people can see different things in the same game, same moment, and same player. Makes talking about this stuff worthwhile.

Anonymous said...

I know you posted this on Saturday before the group C fixtures, but I think we can be a bit more confident about our national team than Saturday's match initially suggested. Mexico's loss shows us all that we are still at the top of CONCACAF.

Furthermore, to me, the game against T and T showed a strong American side not knowing what to do against far inferior competition. The Trinidadians played 85 minutes of horrible soccer, but there were moments when one of them would do something that one would expect of a good player. This confounding situation is common when good teams play bad teams: the good team doesn't know when to play at their higher level, and so the bad team can sometimes take advantage of their own ineptitude. I think this is what caused Sweden and England problems last summer and I think it is what caused us problems on the weekend.

As for Mexico, I don't think Honduras was the inferior team. The Mexicans just played horribly. I don't understand that nation: a population the size of Argentina, with nearly the same wealth and history of football, but their national team always performs abysmally. I'm glad I'm not from there, because there really is no excuse for them to underperform (except that they reside in CONCACAF, rather than CONMEBOL or UEFA).

The Manly Ferry said...

I'll grant you this: this year's Gold Cup is one tricky tournament. With, literally, one or two exceptions, I'm not comfortable counting out anyone.

As for the U.S., I am suddenly feeling simultaneously better and worse: yeah, we're the only team in the tournament with a perfect record after two games; but I'd also count more than five minutes of good play from Trinibago (I'm going with that for Trinidad and Tobago now that Blogger has stopped me from using the "and" symbol...bastards) and still find that, as well as Guatemala's good spell, cause for concern going forward.

Against that, though, some article or another (featuring Steve Ralston heavily) talked about how little time Saturday's team had together; given that clicking on offense comes last, maybe we didn't do so badly. Still, we need to work on possession almost as much as scoring.

All that, however, is a quibble. You make a fair point, anonymous.