Sunday, January 20, 2008

Obligatory USMNT Recap

We won.

And that's about the biggest takeaway.

How good was that Swedish team? No Ibrohimovic. No Kallstrom. No Mellberg. But Sweden manager Lars Lagerb├Ąck did note that, after their match against Costa Rica a few days prior, the squad had about 2/3 of the side that he would roll out for Euro 2008. So this wasn't the Swedish B-team.

Not bad considering by and large, the USMNT was B and maybe even B-minus in a couple of spots. And we got the result. It wasn't impressive. It wasn't ugly. But it's the kind of thing that separates countries that advance in major cup competitions and the US of recent past.

The three most obvious things worth singling out, they are all damned obvious:

1) Landycakes. How appropriate that Donovan's record tying or record setting goal (can we all get on the same page about the Denmark match?) came from a PK. If you're already the American that even the Americans love to hate, don't put on bright orange shoes that scream "I'm either gay or Dutch."

2) Guzan. Great, the one position we already didn't have to worry about, we can now worry about even less. Howard, Hahnemann, Guzan. While Howard is clearly the #1 right now, does any American soccer fan sweat it if we have to go to the pine? When the Swedes threatened to equalize late in the first half and seize momentum going into the break, Guzan was almost always in good position and he came up with the saves when they needed to be made. A clean sheet is a clean sheet. Get thee to Europe, my man.

3) Brad Davis. Not great but good enough on set pieces. Better than what Donovan's been giving the USMNT. Davis earned more time on the pitch. Now if we could just get some more dangerous strikers on the other end of the service.

As for the negatives. Bradley seems content to err on the side of a defensive midfield. That'll fly in CONCAF qualifying but it's never going to get us past the first round of the knockout stages in South Africa. Is it too much to ask this country to produce one Cesc Fabregas? If it is, we'll settle for, say, an Elano or even a couple of Tim Cahills.

Then there is Twellman. Enough already. The guy has been prolific in MLS but rather lackluster in the National Team kit. He's also going to be almost 30 by the time of the next World Cup. Why start him over Altidore? The second the Haitian Sensation was in the match, the Swedes had to account for his speed. His first touch produced a penalty and subsequent touches cost the Swedes yellow cards.

There seems to be a general hesitancy at US Soccer to throw youth into the fire. Bruce Arena was irritatingly consistent in this regard. It was almost like you had to be able to drink to get on the pitch under his reign. But Bradley seems peculiarly similar in his hesitancy to go young early (unless a player's surnmane just happens to be 'Bradley'). Can someone explain this? Is it a larger strategy coming out of the 'brain trust' in Chicago?

The previously mentioned Fabregas is all of 20. Messi was 19 during the last World Cup. And wasn't Michael Owen 18 or 19 when he emerged as a potential star for England during the 1998 Cup? Play Adu, play Alitdore. Play them now. You can't coach speed. Speed kills. Speed doesn't go into a slump. Etc. Etc.

And if they are the real deal, US Soccer will know they are in great shape up front for not one, but two and maybe three Cup qualifying cycles.

But again, we won. And won over a decent side.


badly drawn boykins said...

To be fair to Arena, both Donovan and Beasley got their first senior caps as teenagers and played the World Cup as 20-year-olds, Convey got his first cap at 17, and Spector would have made the World Cup squad in 2006 for sure if he weren't hurt.

Still, 21 seems to be the magic number - I have a feeling that college ball holds back the development for some, and they seem to want players to "graduate" out of the youth program.

I think we'll see more youth once the Olympics are over, and Bradley knows which veterans he's seen enough of.

All in all, a good win - full-strength team or not, the Swedes couldn't take advantage of the vast difference in height, and I want to see guys like Edu and Rico Clark getting more comfortable with the national team.

Ian said...


1) Everyone looks ugly against Sweden. The Swedes play some seriously unattractive football. It's like what Big Sam had them doing at Bolton. Set pieces, long balls, fucking huge strikers.

2) The fact that our B team can hold its own against the B team of a top tenish European side speaks to amount of depth that we have. Guys like Robinson and Davis aren't flashy, buy they are at least competant. I'm in favor of more minutes for Davis just so Landycakes doesn't waste all the free kicks.

3) Jozy is the real deal. I'm going to have to go to some Red Bulls games this summer.

4) I'm not sure about this destroyer tandem Bradley seems to like in the midfield. I'd only like to see one of Edu/Clark/Benny on the field at the same time. Hopefully young Bradley can be the attacking midfielder we all want.

The NY Kid said...

I own the trademark on "Haitian Sensation" (once used to describe me, while Jozy was still in diapers), so I expect my royalties any time it is used (other than on UF, of course).

badly drawn boykins said...

Personally, I'd like to see a central midfield of Adu and Bradley behind Jozy and Dempsey. I think Bradley can defend well enough that he can cover for Freddy.

Precious Roy said...

ny kid: I totally stole that from a deadspin commenter. If that was you, then I'll limit my usage to UF.

The NY Kid said...

It absolutely was me, but everyone on UF should feel free to use it so my countryman gets his props.