Thursday, February 12, 2009

US players: the good and the bad

Some thoughts on some of the US players and how I felt they performed in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Mexico:


Michael Bradley: He scored both goals so of course he did well. But more than just the goals themselves were the positions he put himself in to score those goals. The first goal, he did well to find room amidst a crowd and did equally as well to finish the ball. It wasn't an easy tap-in as he had to elevate his foot to get to the ball. Oswaldo Sanchez made a gaffe on the second goal, but Bradley had the presence of mind to lay into a long-range shot and did well to get it off. He did his usual grunt work in the midfield as well.

Brian Ching: He didn't score a goal and wasn't involved in the goals but he was far from inactive on the night. He was a physical presence that the Mexican defense couldn't easily deal with. He drew some key fouls early on and helped set up some early chances for the US.

Landon Donovan: Mexico did well to stifle Donovan for most of the game, but Donovan still was a key part of both goals. He had the presence of mind to drift to the far post, underneath a ball that appeared to have been sailing far out of anyone's reach. He beat a pair of defenders to the ball and sent it right to Oguchi Onyewu, whose header and subsequent rebound led to the first goal. Donovan assisted on the second goal as well, and he drew three defenders towards him moments he passed the ball off to Bradley. Coupled with Mexico's red card, the move helped create the space Bradley needed to settle the ball and unleash his shot on goal.

Tim Howard: He came up big several times. He was in perfect position to stop Giovani Dos Santos' close-range shot in the opening minutes and he was in a good spot for much of the game. He took the brunt of the damage from Rafael Marquez's cleats and did not seem rattled by it.

DaMarcus Beasley: Beasley showed why he's a first-choice player. His speed is lethal out there, as he was very active on the flanks. His touch inside the area might need some improvement but that's never been a big part of his game. He's most dangerous when he makes runs and puts himself and teammates in position to do damage, which he did a lot on Wednesday.

Frankie Hejduk: Anyone still doubt Hejduk's ability to perform and contribute at this level? The guy does not stop working, and he plays as hard and as all-out in 2009 as he did in 1998.


Oguchi Onyewu: Yes, he played a key role in the game's first goal but too often Onyewu was in bad spots on the field and gave away several bad fouls. The knock on Onyewu before was his penchant for giving away silly fouls in inopportune spots and that was what we saw a lot of yesterday. I'm still not convinced that Onyewu is the beast of a central defender seemingly everyone makes him out to be.

Clint Dempsey: He spent as much time diving as he did trying to get into the game. I can't remember... when was the last great game he had while playing for the US? He had a terrible game against Cuba a year ago but still got the game-winning goal in the game down in Havana, so I wouldn't necessarily call his last great game. I expected more from him and also expected Bob Bradley to have replaced him with Jozy Altidore, but neither happened.

Heath Pearce: It's not that he played a terrible game - I thought he did well at times to play the ball out of danger - but some of his crosses were gawdawful. I guess you could say I'm back on the Bornstein Bandwagon.

Sacha Kljestan: Again, not a completely terrible game but his contributions offensively were nil. He had what could have been a chance for about a 25-yard shot in the first half but the ball bounced way off his foot and got away from him. "Kleckstein" - as the Univision announcers called him - would have been hard-pressed to have a good game though. It was his first game against Mexico, and coupled with it being a World Cup qualifier, well, nerves possibly got to him.


JkR said...

I think you are opverly harsh on Onyewu, but otherwise spot on. Dempsey is a mystery. He has actually found his form for his club but was awful again for country, bordering on embarrassing with his hitting the ground.

In the replays, watch 1 Tri player, (Salcido?) fling himself first into Jozy, then Donovan, well after the ball was gone leading to the final goal. El Tri's poor sportsmanship again rear's it's ugly head.

Is Sven gone yet?

Anonymous said...

Though, I thought frankie had a good game, was he the one that drew that uncalled penalty against Gio? We sure lucked out cause that would change the out come.

Anonymous said...

I disagree on Dempsey. Watch the first half and you'll see that he has probably the best touch in tight spaces of the players out there. In the second half he fades because he's been playing the most of all of the players other than Howard, Gooch, and Bocanegra. He hasn't been rested since mid October. I would also say that he made very good decisions in the first half to keep possession. But as I said he faded badly in the second half, and didn't make the same good decisions. I'm just saying this because I think you shouldn't be as harsh on him.

drew_brown said...

I haven't watched the replay, but I thought Dempsey did a fantastic job with his somewhat limited athleticism. He always gets out of impossible situations and makes something of nothing. With the way the Mexicans were going in on tackles and the way the referee randomly made up calls based on who knows what Dempsey falling on the ground was the only way he was going to get a call without losing his knees and ankles for life.

He did a lot of nice things for the team to get them out of tight spots. The same with Klejstan who was constantly in position to help Bradley and Gooch or Boca move the ball out wide. The play between all the midfielders and Donovan/Ching was fantastic. Some of the best combination play I've seen the US do in a long time.

The thing I was disappointed with was the way Beasely and/or Hejduk would get wide with the ball on the wing and chuck the ball into Marquez(Pearce did it a few times too). At the end of the game you saw Donovan hold up the play several times and even Beasely in order to maintain possession and allow the rest of the midfield to join the attack. I think the decision making in some of those situations could have been better.

Overall though the decision making by this veteran lineup was marvelous. It's so great to have so many players who've been through the trenches before. Who understand what it takes to win.

Jozy showed his lack of experience at the end when he wouldn't sell out his body to win balls. He lacked the understanding the he had to brace against a foul that wasn't going to get called. Fortunately some good things came of time in the game.

Anonymous said...

What was up with Dempsey, I have never seen him dive so much. Did he pick that in Fulham?

Anonymous said...

I think the Dempsey rating is pretty deserving. Dempsey is a hell of an asset on the field when he wants to be. Last night was more about diving than domination. There is a time and place for trying to draw a foul, just not EVERY time!

just another one of you said...

Hey Luis,

Can you speak to the potential of the lineup Bob picked? Do you think they have a ceiling close to what we saw on Wednesday? I know you think Clint and Sacha didn't perfom up to speed, but I'd love to get your thoughts on what you would tweak throughout future qualifiers, given that this is most likely the team we'll see in Azteca (outside of the fullback options)