U.S.A. 4 - 0 El Salvador: Rounding Into Form?

Or did we just happen to match well with El Salvador?

I'm making the case here for the title. Quite simply, this was the best American performance so far - and that had less to do with the score than the way we played. More to the point, the way we played produced the score. Some quick observations:

- My man of the match: Clint Dempsey. He didn't score - though he almost did late - but he did a million, myriad little, crucial things that kept possession in the Salvadoran half, nearly all his passes connected (not least on the really impressive fourth goal), and he was simply the most troublesome, complicated player on the field.
- Apart from a twenty, twenty-five minute spell, we owned this game. Even when we didn't own it, we had things under control. The MAJOR difference between tonight's game and the two that preceded it: instead of having half a player in the right position defensively, we had a whole player plus support to keep the Salvadorans in front of the defense and away from our goal.
- Better still, through our sustained possession, we didn't just kill this game, we murdered it. No, scratch that: we murthered it.
- Another big shout-out: Michael Parkhurst. Nope, this wasn't Italy (or, more appropriately, the Czech Republic...still stings), but Parkhurst showed what makes him so effective. I swear that guy knows every inch of his body, whether it's how to squeeze it around a forward trying to shield the ball for a timely deflection, or what to do after he has lost the fight for a header. The thing to remember with Parkhurst: he's a young player; his game ought to improve.
- Our worst player tonight - and it feels churlish to even note this - was Michael Bradley. A few errant passes meets some sloppy tackles and, voila, you have some give-aways, some lost possession. Still, nothing fatal came of it.
- Finally, credit the Salvadorans for coming out to pla-ay. Even in the first half, when they played most their team behind ball, they did well enough to keep the game open and half-decent to watch. When they raised their energy level and pushed some players forward in the second, they tested us a bit...thankfully, we passed.
- 4-3-2-1: This is what happens when soccer dorks think too hard. It didn't look remotely like this on the field - and thank God. We generally moved pieces around as needed on top of a back four...and that's a good thing.
- Bottom line: we had fun out there. You could see it. And that's why we won like we did.

Well, knowing I could go on all night, let's turn things over to player ratings, with a 5.0 serving as the perfectly neutral score...

Tim Howard, 5.0: Didn't need to do much did he?

Jonathan Spector, 5.5: Some nice runs forward made up for a slip or two on defense.

Oguchi Onyewu, 5.0: I'm mostly pissed about the yellow, but he also did well enough...though not well enough to make him an automatic first-choice starter; his play overall his reopened that question.

Michael Parkhurst, 7.5: I won't lie: I love this kid. So freakin' composed. Only modesty keeps me from rating him higher.

Jonathan Bornstein, 6.5: Got beat badly once, but otherwise contributed a good deal on both sides of the ball.

Landon Donovan, 7.0: The lad done good; he keeps doing good. I still don't know what happened on the PK, but didn't think much of either attempt. And I'd appreciate it if someone could report the whereabouts of his missing left foot. But he had a typically good game.

Pablo Mastroeni, 6.0: Again, dumb, dumb yellow. Mastroeni needs to find the off-switch for these occasions. But I love him as a player, seriously. He brings so much upside that his hard-fouling downside doesn't bother me.

Benny Feilhaber, 6.0: I finally get it. Feilhaber can make some fantastic passes, but he also gave away a fair number through cheek. But I have finally seen his future and it is good.

Michael Bradley, 5.5: Whoops. Pegged Howard's number lower. Call him our worst field player, but that's like coming 50th in Miss USA - e.g. you're still pretty hot. Anyway, I griped about his shortcomings above.

DaMarcus Beasley, 8.0: Two goals - and good ones at that - are plenty swell, but Beasley turned in a great, great game...second only to...

Clint Dempsey, 8.5: Quite simply did almost everything right. If he scored a goal, I'd be forced to give him a flatly ridiculous rating...so count yer blessings.

And the subs....

Taylor Twellman, 6.0: Saved by his goal, which was pretty nice. He gave away his share of passes too - especially that groaner that could very well have resulted in a Salvadoran goal. But he's just so dang industrious that I can't fault him much. In that tough 25 minute stretch, Twellman was our upfield pressure.

Brian Ching, 6.5: My only complaint: Ching should never play wide...just doesn't suit him. Great ball to Twellman for the third goal, though.

Frank Simek, 6.0: Didn't get much of a crack. Still, I want to see more of him...as proven by the fact I almost rated him at 6.5.

OK, all for now. Time to go to bed happy.

Whoops. In other news, Guatemala tied Trinibago (still so angry that I can't use the "and symbol." That should get them to four points and second in Group B...so, hello Canada in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, that means we should get Guadeloupe (right?).


Tolik, Maryland said...

If I may add my 2 cents.

Tim Howard
definitely deserves a higher rating. There was a striking contrast with Keller's play in another not very busy for a goalkeeper match. Howard's distribution was almost perfect: mostly throwing to somebody open on a side. Even that few times he kicked the ball out, it was more targeted. Maybe I just so pissed at Keller who squandered possession repeatedly and forced the teammates to expend more energy to get the ball back. For somebody so experienced its inexcusable. Its time to fill 2nd and 3rd goalkeeper position with somebody else.

Oguchi Onyewu - his size does a disservice for him. He plays dumb when somebody smaller would be forced to play smart. Plus, he already has a reputation of a dirty player and officials (human as they are) give him cards when somebody else would get nothing. I think he should be used against big powerful attackers when his size will be a plus and sit out against smaller speedy guys.

Benny Feilhaber - just a few negative comments: I understand when players get greedy and want to strike the goal by themselves. If they are successful at least sometimes, you can get an excuse. For now, I see no excuse for Benny trying to hit a goal from a distance when other opportunities were available, and he was consistently off the mark.

I've seen a positive development for Taylor Twellman and Brian Ching. They connected well and played to each other. Its a good sign.

And the last note about commentators. Dave was horrible but Christopher Sullivan, I think, is a rising star - he does know his stuff, not surprisingly, and can express it well. I want more of him out there.

Again, thanks for a good blog - its my first stop now.

The Manly Ferry said...

Now that you mention it, Howard's distribution should earn him a bump in the ratings; he was both fast and productive on that score. Duly conceded.

And I agree on Christopher Sullivan as well; he really wowed me with the level of detail with which he watched the officiating in the Guatemala game - and last night was just as good. The trick is finding him a decent play-by-play guy. I like Dave Johnson all right, but find him a little vanilla. I love Max Bretos, not because he's good at what he does, but because I find him highly entertaining...kind of like listening in on a meth-head talking to himself over a game.

First stop, huh...feeling pressure now.... (Seriously, glad you like it.)

Braden said...

Really liked the ratings and your justifications, but, being unfortunately blessed with an argumentative streak, I thought I would just pose the following question:

Would you have rated the back-line the same if they had made their errors against Messi and Tevez? For example, Bornstein attempted some silly tackles that left the right side exposed to some dangerous crosses. Not a problem if your opponent is an average El Salvadoran because you can recover. However, against Messi or Tevez it would likely lead to a perfectly placed cross.

On the other hand, my complaint with Spector's defending was that he was overly cautious in shutting down Cerritos. However, with a Messi that would be entirely appropriate, because the last thing you want is to let the player get by you. I think the problem with Spector and Onyewu is that they are still in a premiership mindset (risk-averse). Against CONCACAF opposition this leads to questionable fouls and unnecessary clearances. Against, Copa America competition it leads to survival.

SO, not disagreeing with your ratings... just arguing (which is my curse!):)

The Manly Ferry said...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with arguing...especially when done politely and properly.

To answer your question, though, absolutely: the ratings would change. To be honest, I'm kind of finding my feet with how I want to handle such things; I pulled the 5.0 baseline straight outta my ass. But, since you raised the concept, I strongly suspect my ratings will always be fundamentally relative to the competition...and Messi or Teves would/will rip the holy shit out of Bornstein if he goes in on them.

On a related note, what you said about Spector versus Cerritos got me thinking. I was pretty impressed with Cerritos last night, an odd thing for a long-time observer of MLS. I thought he was their best player through the first half - and that was both under and without pressure. But I have to confess I didn't watch him in terms of Spector's defending. Something else to think about, I supppose.

Thanks for popping by. Arguing is always welcome.

The Manly Ferry said...

Addendum: Arguing is always welcome so long as the blows land above the belt and away from the kidneys.