Top 5, 07.03: Rookie of the Year; + Copa, Scheduling Moaning

Maybe Monday will be my big day from here on out....

- Seeing Michael Harrington's name on the score sheet for KC yet again has me thinking about Rookie of the Year for some reason. There's Harrington, New England's Adam Cristman, arguably Robbie Findley...and....and...I'm sure there are other candidates out there. Anyone want to enlighten a lazy man?

- I'm happy to see that the annual complaining about MLS scheduling didn't end with last week's post. Like this guy, I'm almost going to be thankful when the U.S. Men return home from the Copa early...and then Superliga will start and ruin it all...and the World Series of Football will take it a step farther and render it all very, very stupid. Seriously, there's too much going on, too many competitions squatting on top of one another. Clear out the summer, front-office: I vote for fewer regular season games and a big, happy gap in the middle.

- Well, shit. Seeing as we're still in the Copa, and seeing as I can't see the games, I'll do my bit by passing on the latest edition of Ives Galarcep's speculative Copa America roster. But this one comes with a bonus:

"There's something about seeing Johnson running at full speed through midfield that makes coaches powerless to drop him. A video montage of Johnson repeatedly stopping runs to deliver harmless back passes might help."

I am so pleased I'm not the only one who notices the piece in god, I thought I was losing my mind....

- Turning to this summer's other earlier tournament, scaryice posted an interesting table (as he's wont to do) on Climbing the Ladder that shows the all-time records of teams participating in the Gold Cup. The existence of the imbalance - i.e. the U.S. and Mexico's far superior records - doesn't surprise nearly as much as the degree of that imbalance. What is the Gold Cup? The Premiership?

- I posted this down below, but feel like it needs further highlighting: dude, Chicago is a mess right now.



Tolik, Maryland said...

I watched the game yesterday on cable - GOL TV. And decided to write something down for you before reading anybody else opinion (as you do).

3:1 score does not reflect the game but reflects the class. Our guys played mostly well, and that was quite even game. We dominated during some good stretches. Created so many opportunities to score, that it is a crime (as Ray Hudson said in his always colorful commentary during the game) not to put the game away with assurance. They did not. And this highlights the main weakness of the US Team lately: absence of forwards with a killer instinct.

We knew that this is an experimental lineup giving opportunities to fight and learn to a good group of players young and/or in need to prove themselves. I am happy to see the depth in some positions. Comparing to the Gold Cup, back line and midfield changed a lot. Ricardo Clark and Benny Feilhaber had only Ben Olsen who played a distractive role and they were left to create stuff on their own (without Landon, Beasley or Dempsey). They did create and most importantly from the point of this learning exercise they played better than I've seen them before (not saying much, I know, but anyway). Sacha Kljestan did not impress me, I like Justin Mapp way more.

In defense, Jimmy Conrad did not play to his full strength, but we know that he is capable of doing better. Bornstein continues to mix a few inspiring minutes with duds and outright mistakes. DeMerit was mostly solid, but was substituted grasping for air - I have no idea (and commentators neither) what happened. I never paid attention before to Drew Moor. I liked his vision and cool. He did not get much into a front 1/3 of the field, but was quite good in the remaining 2/3. He can be a credible contender for a right back. From the whole defense group he impressed me the most.

Kasey still has impressive reaction and did use it to make some very good saves. But he is so slow. Some years ago he would have been definitely on time to prevent the second (blunder) goal and would be on time for the clever, well placed but not very fast kick over the wall on third goal. And as I told you before, his distribution is atrocious. He forces our team to fight for each of his long kicks. They did win about 50% of them yesterday, but half was wasted and they had to expend the energy to chase the ball again. Wasting possession on a regular basis is a crime in my book. I applaud him for everything he did before, but he's got to go.

Forwards: nothing new. They can do many things well, but not producing goals when having chance after chance is a problem. Only goaltenders are judged harsher for their mistakes than forwards, its unfair, but is a part of the game. So, we have a confirmation that we have no international level forwards. Landon and Dempsey can play forward position, but they are not naturally born forwards neither. I hope you can tell me that I am full of it.

Game management. Somebody needs to be able to go on the field and understand that this is a "slow", "soft" field and you just need to kick a ball a bit harder. And the national level players should be able to adjust to this fact on their own as well. It was painful to see how they made the same mistake too many times: kicking the ball too soft for the field.

All-in-all: from a point of view of testing and learning, it was a good game. Argentina of course is in the class of its own. But Paraguay is considered to be the number three behind Argentina and Brazil for the last few cycles. Dominating them as we did at times and playing even at other is a good sign. When we mature to be able to manage the goal opportunities better, we'll get that qualitative leap we are waiting for.

(if you think this post should follow your other post, move it there). As always, thanks for a wonderful blog.

The Manly Ferry said...

Thanks for that; I'll be using it later.

For what it's worth, your commentary matches the general tone of what I've read so far...and that is what it is, I suppose.

Wish I could have seen the game...sounded interesting.

Gareth Sleger said...

Tolik, nice game analysis; it's indeed been a frustrating tournament. Everyone talks about this being an experimental squad—which it defiantly is—but I hope Bradley doesn’t use it as an excuse for not advancing in Copa. He knew that Argentina and Paraguay were going to bring their big guns (I think every country did but Brazil and USA), and it was a golden opportunity to prove that we can beat world class teams with our A-team. Before Copa, USA’s only real legit challenges were against Ecuador and the two games against Mexico.
And if Bradley truly wants to experiment, he should bring in Jozy Altidore to play up front (Jeff knows how I feel about Jozy’s potential). I think bringing in the "17-year-old" would push the way too comfortable/underperforming Johnson, Twellman and Ching.

Also, to enlighten you for MLS Rookie of the Year candidates, look no further than Juan Toja from FC Dallas. He’s the total package when it comes to MLS midfielders—a goal line to goal line player. I’m surprised Columbia didn’t use him for the Copa.

The Manly Ferry said...

Hey Gareth. If I thought he was eligible, I would have certainly added Toja to that list; when I think of the top foreign players brought in this season, Toja's the first in mind. I rate him higher than Juan Pablo Angel in terms of all he brings to his team...I just don't know that he's eligible for Rookie of the Year (he's already played professionally, which, I think, disqualifies him...yup).

And, yes, even if I'm not as high on Altidore as you are, I see no reason not to try him given the allergies to finishing among the current starters.

I'm cooking up a perspective post on this subject right about now. It'll be up shortly.