U.S. Advances; Canada Grows 10 Feet

Against my usual practice, I read a thing or two about the game before sitting down to type this short post (what can I say? Didn’t feel like turning this over Saturday or Sunday). But one paragraph in the conclusion to Ives Galarcep’s analysis of the game provides the basic, crucial take-away:

“From the shaky moments on defense, to the wasted chances offensively, Saturday's win against Panama provided the U.S. team with plenty of the type of adversity Bob Bradley wants his team to deal with.”

In all honesty, you could do worse than to skip what follows and simply read Galarcep’s summary. It pretty reliably captures where things appear to be...though I’m thinking the title - “U.S. passes first real test with flying colors” - overdoes it, even disconnects from the article, a bit.

To add my two cents:

- I’ll start with our next opponents: by what voodoo do the Canadians suddenly seem like the 1998 edition of France. Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a straight comparison, but a perceptual thing. Normally, when I see Canada on the schedule, I add the three points to our standing total and start scouting the next opponent. Not this time.
- It probably has something to do with them beating Guatemala 3-0 (walking away, no less); the same Guatemalan side over whom we gutted out a 1-0 win.
- Then there are the myriad seams and gaps we’ve all seen in the U.S. defense over the past couple weeks.
- Strange thing about that, though: the holes have been there, but the goals haven’t followed. And if one looks at the one goal we did concede, it took a lucky bounce combined with some panicked defending for Blas Perez - a plenty good striker - to find space for that goal.
- The operational theory, however, must rely on the assumption that Canada’s players have sufficient talent to exploit the kind of opening Perez did - and several others before him almost did.

- Turning, now, to happy talk: are we creating chances or who?
- Sadly, too many of those chances go begging - and we’re all looking at you Taylor Twellman...and don’t you try to hide back there Landycakes (that’s Landon Donovan for people with normal lives/interests). In all honesty, though, Twellman has been the worst culprit, missing a number of opportunities of the bread-and-butter variety; worse, his passes haven't been the best in terms of advisability and accuracy. Is it possible, as Galarcep suggests, that Twellman is the best player available in that position? I don’t know. What I do know is that his misses so far warrant a benching.

- Returning to happy thoughts, does anyone else think Donovan should consider ceding free-kick duty to DaMarcus Beasley? (OK, our Justin Mapp; I won’t pretend I didn’t name Mapp over Beasley in my proposed starting line-up...something “demarcus beasley” didn’t like.) His service on the Bocanegra’s goal was pretty sharp and, if memory serves, he didn’t balloon his crosses as often Donovan does.
- Speaking of Donovan, is anyone else uneasy with the quality of his PKs? Had the Panamanian ‘keeper guessed right, he would have been lying on the ground several days before Donovan’s feeble shot rolled into his arms. Fortunately, it didn’t play out thattaway.
- In a related note, did anyone anywhere seriously doubt the PK was the correct call? That was a great ball in by (was it?) Bradley, good run by Donovan; we deserved something.
- The Oguchi Onyewu/Carlos Bocanegra central pairing looked good enough. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’d also be perfectly comfortable trying Jay DeMerit over Onyewu; Bocanegra, on the other hand, is nearly automatic right now. Speaking of changes, in spite of his considerable, useful industry on the right, I’d also try Frank Simek over Hejduk.
- On the other hand, I’m willing to raise my hand and admit that, yes, Jonathan Bornstein looks like the best option at left back...even if he did get burned once or twice.
- I’m not sold on the Michael Bradley/Pablo Mastroeni central midfield combo, but will gladly sign on to the Bradley/Mastroeni/Benny Feilhaber triangle Galarcep mentions in his analysis.
- Anyone know why Ching is gimpy?
- And, yes, I’m still neutral with regard to the left side of our midfield; but if you play Mapp out there, that dictates the kind of player the Yanquis field at left back. Is it fair to ask whether that’s more trouble than just starting DaMarcus and being done with it? Absolutely.

- Overall, I was actually pleased the Yanqui’s play on Saturday- just not to the extent of using “flying colors” to describe it like ESPN’s headline writer. In all honesty, though, it wasn’t till Perez scored that anything other than a respectable, even comfortable, win even occurred to me. That speaks pretty well of our day, I suppose. (And, it’s worth noting, we didn’t need the ref to drag our asses into the semis.)

- Looking very much forward to Thursday semifinal versus Canada. Expect a lot more obsessive geekiness between here and there.


Anonymous said...

Dempsey led in Donovan for the eventual PK.

Don't forget Jonathan Spector... at left (or right) back.

The Manly Ferry said...

100% correct on Dempsey playing in Donovan; I saw that a few times after posting this, but appreciate someone taking the time to correct the error in this space (I know...should be me...).

Right on Spector. I do forget him, but also don't count him a huge improvement except, 1) over Hejduk on offense, and, 2) over Bornstein on straight defending. But I'm plenty comfortable with him overall.

Mark in NRH said...

Canada game will be interesting. Their midfield is better at attacking and hooking up with the forwards than our group, but their back line is horrid. I expect a high scoring affair -- 3-2 or 3-3 at the end of regulation. We'll get plenty of chances ... just will Donovan be too unselfish and lay off to in inept Twellman instead of shooting himself? Will Dempsey put his 2 chances in the back of the net?

As for the formation ... we can't have Gooch and Mastro playing together. That's too many stupid fouls waiting to happen at the top of the arc. God love Mastro, but his time has come. I didn't agree that he should have been on the Gold Cup roster -- instead he should have been a senior anchor for a young team in Copa America.

Assuming Ching is healthy, I like this look ...

F -- Ching
F -- Dempsey
M -- Donovan
M -- Beasley
M -- Mapp
M -- Clark
D -- Simek
D -- Bocanegra
D -- Spector
D -- DeMerit
G -- Howard

We have stronger starting 11, but we need to rest some of these guys from time-to-time.

The Manly Ferry said...

Interesting line-up, Mark in nrh. And a decent case against Mastro to boot, especially with the "Gooch context" put in the picture. Hadn't thought of that, to be honest. I'd probably sneak in Parkhurst (there's a man-crush post, or stray comment in a larger post, down below somewhere) and I'd do more tinkering in other parts too, but that's neither here nor there. For all I know, your team would whoop mine. In any case, we'll get the team Bradley fields and sweat out the game as fans have to do. I just hope they win.