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A Tale of Two Halves

Last night’s US performance against Spain is difficult to classify but after all that’s what happens in friendlies when you are experimenting. On one hand I was more disappointed with the performance last night than against England because the team has now been together for almost ten days and seemed to fall into the age old American pattern of relying on counter attacking to stimulate any offense. However, the shape of the US at the back and the organization and spacing of the U.S. midfield was as good in the first half last night than anytime since the Gold Cup last year. Coach Bob Bradley mentioned that he was pleased with the passing in the first half but felt the movement of players to support the ball stopped in the 2nd half which led to gaps between the midfield and defense which was exploited by the Spanish.

One thing that must be considered is that Spain looked far from the top of their game. The technical ability of the Spanish side is among the best on the planet but let’s be honest: Spain has a history of under performing in major tournaments and based on yesterday’s performance and the amount of trouble they had breaking down an organized but not a very technical American back line you have to imagine those troubles will only magnify in the European Championships.

Spain’s Cesc Fabergas was the best player on the pitch last night, but Freddy Adu’s first half was outstanding. He provided the critical linkup play between the midfield and attackers that has now been lacking for the U.S. for almost a year. Maurice Edu showed far more technique in winning the ball and better distribution than Rico Clark did last week playing the same holding midfield position against England, and Carlos Bocanegra the captain bounced back with a nice match in tandem with his central defense partner Oguchi Onyewu. What was worrying though is for all the hype around young players in the US system, the two best Americans in the second half were as they were last week against Wembley, 33 year old Frankie Hejduk and 34 year old Eddie Lewis. “It is always important to look for the right time to move young players into the national team. But there is great value in some of the more experienced players. We consider that of big importance heading into World Cup qualifying. If a player continues to play well, then that helps everyone,” Coach Bradley stated in reference to Hejduk and Lewis.

My feeling is that Michael Bradley was again poor in this match. He made some nice passes and got forward to support the attack every now and then but by and large he was responsible for more bad giveaways than the other 10 field players combined and he was often clumsy and reckless in his challenges. Other poor performers last night were DaMarcus Beasley coming off and injury and Clint Dempsey who after a second straight grueling relegation fight with Fulham has little to give the national team for the time being. Dempsey needs to be given the rest of the summer off.

PLAYER RATINGS:

Tim Howard 6

Made one very nice save but otherwise had less than to do than it appeared

Brad Guzan  6

Solid, and finally looking like an international level keeper

Steve Cherdundolo 5

Bounced back from the poor performance against England with some very nice challenges and good distribution from the back but still lost his mark too often.

Oguchi Onyewu 5

Why Onyewu gets wrongly blamed for most of the US’ defensive breakdowns is beyond me. He had another solid match, but was caught looking on the Spain goal.

Carlos Bocanegra 5

After a horror show against England he bounced back nicely and dealt with the danger well until the last 25 minutes when bad clearances led to increased Spanish pressure.

Heath Pearce 7

Pearce has solidified his spot as the US left back and his experience of a rough season in Germany has translated into the grit needed to play well for his national team

Frankie Hejduk 7

Hejduk, a golden oldie showed the understanding and initiative in the second half that Cherdundolo did not in the first. Much like the England match, Hejduk was much better than Cherundolo.

Michael Bradley 3

Bradley has talent no doubt, but he is too naive almost to play at this level. His distribution is mixed at best and his tackles are clumsy and reckless all too often.

Mo Edu 5

Showed a great deal of composure but also contributed a number of bad giveaways in the second half that allowed Spain to pile on the pressure.

Clint Dempsey 3

As referenced above Dempsey needs some time off. He always gives a 100% plus effort but his body right now is failing him.

DaMarcus Beasley 2

Beasley was brought back for these friendlies far too soon.

Eddie Lewis 7

Once again the grey beard of the American team was over the entire match one of the best US players. Lewis still has the wheels to get down the left flank and has the savvy and understanding of the match to create more scoring opportunities than any other American wide player.

Freddy Adu 8

He may be in the doghouse at Benfica but Adu is clearly much more skilled and attacking oriented than the other players currently in the player pool. Why he was subbed out after 45 minutes remains a mystery since Coach Bradley didn’t address the issue in his post match press conference.

Eddie Johnson 5

I’ve seen Johnson absolutely ripped on other sites all over the internet. As someone who felt EJ should never have been brought back to the National Team, his play yesterday was passable. Johnson showed an understanding of what Freddy Adu was trying to do and played better than any American striker recently with his back to the goal trying to hold up play. His finishing is still obviously poor and he needs another pure striker to play off of, but based on last night he needs more looks and more work.

Josh Wolff 2

A farewell for a job well done over a ten year period for the national team.

Pablo Mastroeni NR

A late cameo for a player who still has so much to give this national team if he Bradley doesn’t forget about him.


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About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
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