I've got some time now to reflect a bit on the US-El Salvador match. Overall, the US fell flat on their faces for 72 minutes, then got back into the game when El Salvador let them into the game.
There are a few ways to look at this I suppose, the good and the bad. On one hand, the United States played terrible soccer for most of the game, were out-worked, out-muscled, out-everything-ed for more than 70 minutes, fell behind by a pair of goals and still came away with a point. Even at their worst, the US needed just 15 minutes to come from behind and nearly won it.
On the other hand, a more experienced team would have put the US away, may have even scored a third goal, and would have sent a message to the supposed superior team. The US seemed disinterested, lost out there. It may be a bit alarming that the US couldn't muster up the effort and energy to put forth a strong performance on the road from the first minute, and had to wait until the very end of the game to get their acts together.
I think it's somewhere in between. The US did do well to get a point but it is a bit troubling that the Americans were so flawed for large stretches of time, against a team many expect to finish last in the Hexagonal.
Individual performances mostly fell in the terrible category, so I'll highlight the few particularly bad ones.
THE FEW PARTICULARLY BAD ONES
Brad Guzan. It's not that he was necessarily at fault on the goals - and he did come up with a strong save that could have buried the Americans. But Guzan had the deer-in-headlights look we've seen from time to time. He wasn't confident and that lack of confidence spilled over into the defense. When Guzan is confident, makes himself a presence in goal, the defenders play off of that energy. That wasn't the case at all on Saturday.
Sacha Kljestan. We're still waiting for his potential to pay off. He had a good game against Sweden but that kind of performance is needed in games that matter, particularly road games. Kljestan had little impact on the game. His touch was off and his one open shot from distance was awful. Here's hoping Bob Bradley opts for Jose Francisco Torres on Wednesday.
Central Defense. Yikes. I've been critical of Oguchi Onyewu in the past but there is no better way to prove someone's worth than a poor perforamnce in his absence. Carlos Bocanegra made a monumentally horrendous decision to try and clear a ball with a slide tackle that instead went to a player he should have been marking, which resulted in a goal. It was an unbelievably bad decision by the US captain. Danny Califf didn't offer much in the area of support. And why was Frankie Hejduk left alone in the middle of the box to try and clear a cross that came in from the US' left side?
Frankie Hejduk. Yes, he was at fault for the second goal. But his central defense partners left him out to dry a bit. But Hejduk did well to not quit, not give up, continue working hard. He assisted on the first goal with a well-place cross, then buried a header to level terms. Hejduk is and will be a key part of this team during qualifying, no matter how old he is. I dare anyone to criticize his game and his value to the team.
Jozy Altidore. Remember that other forward who scored his first qualifying goal at El Salvador? Let's hope this one turns out to be more useful than the other one. Altidore was in good position to bury a cross, did well to put it in the back of the net. Although that shot looked simple enough, it's a play that a young player like Altidore may have easily pushed over the crossbar. Altidore hasn't been playing much, has never played in a game of this magnitude with the senior team, yet there he was showing maturity and composure while several of his teammates wilted.