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Guzan Keeps Clean Sheet (Barely): US Advances

captd1190435c3a84eff8728bf17f6d81cabbarbados us  wcup soccer brb101 Guzan Keeps Clean Sheet (Barely): US Advances

 Eddie Lewis’ goal was the lone strike in the US victory/AP Photo

Flattering headline you ask-What else would you expect? The reality of today’s match versus Barbados is complicated but before complaints about the performance get out of hand I want to state something very openly on the record: I have said for sometime that I felt the US program was slipping fairly quickly and that simply advancing to World Cup 2010 in an improved CONCACAF is the maximum expectation I have for this current group of American internationals. Would I like to see more? Of course, I would. Am I unhappy with the current state of the National Team? You bet, and next week I will be writing a post looking back at the vision Carlos Querioz outlined for US Soccer in the Q-Report ten years ago and evaluating why our national program produced better internationals early this decade than we are now. But lets focus on the reality of the current situation rather than lamenting the recent slippage in quality of the overall US program.

Today’s disappointing performance did not surprise me. When today’s team sheet was released I saw only three names of seasoned internationals and only two that I would consider professionals who will always give a top class performance: those two, Eddie Lewis today’s captain, and goal scorer and Heath Pearce were solid. (The third DaMarcus Beasley was as is so often the case with him completely useless) Freddy Adu was outstanding. The rest of the team needs work, but we knew that already. I see message board threads across the internet and have fielded phone calls tonight professing shock at today’s fortunate 1-0 US win, in a match where Barbados can feel hard done not to have gotten at a minimum a draw. With an eight goal cushion was it really necessary for the US to overwhelm again in what was a largely meaningless exercise?

CONCACAF isn’t the cupcake confederation many commentators simply assume it is. Playing on the road is difficult and if you come out determined to simply experiment and knock the ball around as the US did, you are going to get burned. Emmerson Boyce, a player of some stature in the recent history of Crystal Palace Football Club (the favorite club of one of my cousins and another my uncles who lived in the UK for many years) was the best player on the pitch. When you face professionals you must give a full effort which the US did not give. Content to knock the ball around for much of the early minutes of the match as the US was allowed Barbados to look dangerous and comfortable in the match from the get go. Meanwhile the young core of the US team looked very uncomfortable. Particularly poor were Sacha Kljestan a player I love typically and Danny Szetela, a player whose club performances with Columbus, Racing and Brescia have done little to justify his continued presence in the full national team. Kljestan improved later in the match but Szetela did not and needs to return to the U-23 setup before being called back to a full national team again.
John Thorrington looked to add some class to the US attack when he entered the match for Beasley and perhaps he should get another, longer look. Chris Rolfe also had some nice attacking play once he entered the match Barbados on the other hand must be lamenting having beat Brad Guzan twice in the second half and yet not scoring an official goal. The early second half shot that bounced off the crossbar showed Guzan’s limitations, and his other decisions on whether to catch or punch several balls were suspect. A reason exists that while Guzan is a great developing prospect, many US fans want to see Matt Reis or Kasey Keller back up Tim Howard.

Playing young kids in friendlies on US soil, or in a Copa America where the results do not matter is one thing, but playing them in qualifiers we learned tonight is downright cruel. Does Bob Bradley deserve the blame for tonight’s squad selection? No, that blame must be placed squarely on Major League Soccer and its clubs whose decision to play right through CONCACAF qualifiers and in the case of teams participating in Superliga accelerate their schedule. Work left to be done for the US, but thankfully another few months to prepare for the next round of qualifiers. Some highly rated CONCACAF nations such as Panama who the US has struggled to beat in the last two Gold Cups have been eliminated from qualifying so while the performance Sunday wasn’t at a high level, advancing with the US in a malaise is all that can be expected and quite frankly all that is required at this point in time.

Player Ratings:

Brad Guzan 4

Not his best day. Seemed half asleep at times.

Heath Pearce 7

Good match going forward and creating chances for the attacking players. A bad miss in front of goal but in fairness it was struck with his weaker foot.

Jay DeMerit 6

Solid, and as usual unspectacular.

Danny Califf 6

Didn’t make many mistakes and anchored a solid backline.

Drew Moor 7

Made some nice runs going forward and delivered some great balls forward

Michael Bradley 6

Solid bounce back game for Bradley who hasn’t been great lately, but still gave the ball away a few too many times.

Danny Szetela 3

Bad giveaways and poor positioning characterized a player who was simply put outclassed at this level.

Sacha Kljestan 4

So so match. Looked uncomfortable on the wing but settled down as the game wore on. Still a great prospect going forward to add depth to the pool.

Eddie Lewis 8

Steady Eddie gave yet another fine performance in a man of the match performance

DaMarcus Beasley 3

Is either still injured or has simply lost it. Five poor to below average performances in a row should get a player dropped from the starting XI, shouldn’t it?

Freddy Adu 7

A creative force in the midfield.

Chris Rolfe 6

Had some nice moments

John Thorrington 7

Good performance off the bench looking lively down the wing.

Chad Barrett NR

A cameo.

This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, US National Team. Bookmark the permalink.

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.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

12 Responses to Guzan Keeps Clean Sheet (Barely): US Advances

  1. Fandom says:

    Szetela and Kljestan were particularly bad.

    Kartik, get off your high horse and stop lecturing us about knowing how bad this team is. It seems you are tired of these performances as well and since you have tired of writing the same post match review over and over again you know are defending the USSF and Bradley.

    Quite frankly I expected better of you.

    Back to Szetela. He showed little speed or initiative and it was apparent the Barbados players picked up within the first few minutes that he was our weak link.

    Kljestan was poor as well. Confused on positioning and demonstrating a bad knack for pushing far inside and literally pushing Adu out of his area.

    By the way what was with USL signage?

  2. POED says:

    KARTIK.

    STOP DRINKING THE KOOL AID.

    YOU DIDN’T HONESTLY BELIEVE WE’D LOOK THIS BAD WHEN YOU SAW THE TEAM SHEAT. THAT IS B/S.

    HOW COULD ANYONE POSSIBLY IMAGINE SUCH A BAD PERFORMANCE. THIS GAME HAD ME LONGING FOR THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF OUR WEMBLEY TRIP AND SPAIN TRIP.

    AT LEAST IN THOSE GAMES WE SHOWED FLASHES EVEN IF BRIEF. YESTERDAY WE WERE DOMINATED FOR ABOUT 50 MINUTES BY THE 121ST RANKED TEAM IN THE WORLD!

    BY THE WAY THE BARBADOS GOAL SHOULD HAVE STOOD! THE GUY WHO SCORED WAS CLEARLY ONSIDE. THE PLAYER OFFSIDES WAS AT MOST PASSIVELY INVOLVED IN THE PLAY.

    GUZAN ISN’T READY TO BE A KEEPER ON THIS LEVEL, BUT HIS BACK LINE WHO YOU GAVE SUCH STERLING RATINGS TO HUNG HIM OUT TO DRY SEVERAL TIMES.

    WE NEED TO GET JOZY INTEGRATED AND MAYBE FEILHABER BACK ON THE TEAM AS HE CAN ACTUALLY HOLD THE BALL UNLIKE THESE OTHER CLOWNS. SO HE ISN’T PLAYING CLUB FOOTBALL. HIS SKILL LEVEL IS SO MUCH HIGHER THAN BRADLEY, SZETELA, CLARK, MASTRO, ETC. SO MUCH HIGHER.

  3. Ian says:

    “in fairness it was struck with his weaker foot”

    WTF? Your analysis is generally quite good but the last few weeks for whatever reason you’ve become Heath Pearce’s personal PR machine excusing his poor play while ripping everyone else.

    I think the most alarming thing about this match was not the play of Kljestan, Szetela or Beasley: Throwing this team together late caused problems and that can be excused, though we need to certainly play much better in the next stage.

    The big problem was the poor reaction of Guzan when things broke down at the back and his lack of awareness and poor positioning on set pieces. I echo all the comments here and on other chat boards saying that despite being Bradley “chosen” keeper, he is simply not at the level we have come to expect from American stoppers: at least not yet.

    Guzan’s athleticism is outstanding but his reaction is slow and his positioning is very worrying. I’ve played keeper myself and have hardly ever found fault with Keller, Howard,Hahnehman, Friedel or even Reis, Cannon, J. Walker or Rimando’s play but I have now consistently found worrisome the performances of Guzan, with yesterday being probably the worst.

    Back to the rest of the team. The effort was not good, but the narrow pitch didn’t help and not having LD as you and Denholm mention ad nausea
    places the US far below the top teams in the region. We saw that yesterday. Fortunately when we go to Guatemala City Donovan will there. If for some reason he is not we will struggle to get points.

    We’ll advance thru the next group. No worries there. It the Hexaganol that keeps me awake at nights. That is going to be touch and go unless we have dramatic improvement.

  4. Soccer Guru says:

    The effort was appalling. Winning 1-0 isn’t the issue. That’s fine by me. It’s the effort.

    Our boys showed an appalling lack of respect for the opponent the game and ultimately themselves with the arrogant display of indifference they showed. Eddie Lewis as you mentioned is a true professional and Freddy Adu a gift from the heavens but other than those two individuals our starting XI showed no respect for the opposition or the experience and did not deserve a victory.

    Guzan in particular as noted above was terrible. But a theory here. He’s not usually this off. I think his constant traveling, flying back to play for Chivas and then playing in both qualifiers after playing Spain and England and fixing a trip to LA in the middle has taken its toll. He is exhausted mentally and physically and Bradley should have let him have the day off and called Reis in to the side instead.

  5. Kartik,

    I think that playing young players with little experience away from home and in an important match is not cruel. It is absolutely necessary. You yourself, in this space and on your radio show have blasted U.S. Soccer for not calling in younger players and over relying on older, Eurpopean based players. Well, Bradley finally called in these young players, some of whom were in camp for all of three days (Rolfe, Thorrington, Barrett and Szetela) or spent a fair amount traveling (Guzan, Klejstan) that they didn’t have time to really work together. Now you call Bradley and U.S. Soccer cruel for putting them into play.

    You can’t have it both ways. Either the U.S. plays these young players in overseas matches where there is some consequence to the game or they don’t and we get a aging squad who will get beat.

    I agree with some of your analysis, i.e. Lewis and Adu played well. I think the U.S. has found some outside backs in Pearce, Cherundolo and now Drew Moor. I think Guzan did not play well (but like the last commenter he has spent more time on a plane in the last month as he has on the pitch).

    However, I am glad Bradley did this and I hope he continues to give these young players a shot.

  6. Phillip says:

    *yawn*

    An eight goal lead going to Barbados… did you expect our guys to put out 100% effort?

    Seriously?

  7. Berlin says:

    The game was nearly unwatchable and there’s no excuse for only scoring once. If Donovan goes down do we just get back on the plane and forfeit? What’s up with Cervi being on the roster for qualifying? Are we afraid we’re going to lose him to another national team? I understand the caps issue, but we can’t afford to waste a roster spot on someone not worthy of the MNT at this point in his career just so we can ship him out to Europe. He passed on the MLS so he needs to accept the choice he made (and the salary cap forced him to make).

  8. Pingback: Barbados 0: 1 USA | ArrogantRant.com

  9. sjclash says:

    This game was a very valuable learning experience. Unfortunately it revealed how big of a joke B.Bradley is. The biggest problem we have is finding a striker and what does Bob do play almost an entire game without one even on the field! M.Bradley, Beasley, and Adu all playing out of position and the first time I have seen a stronger team play a 4-6-0 formation, I guess Bob is trying to make the empty bucket look aggressive when compared to this formation. It looks like he definately in over his head. Let’s not forget that Alvarez and Cooper were not called up yet he still got two players from Dallas with Shea and Moor, the wrong players and the wrong positions. I feel like I am going crazy every time I watch Bob work his magic and kill this team.

  10. Chop says:

    Kartik,

    I would like to echo the sentiments of most responding to your analysis. I think I smell a whiff of a “Chicken Little” vibe. Not only in this article but in your most recent radio shows as well.

    I’ve been a loyal listener to the American Soccer Show since it’s first episode and am very thankful to have your program on twice a week now. However, the past three or four weeks have been almost unlistenable in hearing yourself and Denholm spout off about the US and their lack of talent and having serious doubts about qualifying.

    For one thing, qualification is always difficult, even here in CONCACAF. They don’t award points or wins for quality of play or number of stunning movements across the field that lead to a goal. They award points for results and the US and Mexico are head and shoulders above any other team in CONCACAF now.

    That isn’t to say that teams like Costa Rica, Honduras, Canada, Guatemala and Jamaica won’t give the US/Mexico a difficult time, but at the end of the day, the depth and quality of those two squads will see them clear of any other challengers.

    Suazo, Ruiz, De Rosario, DeGuzman, Friend and Guevara may indeed be more talented than any of the US players on an individual basis, but in a 10 game Hexagonal, they don’t have enough talent to dethrone the rightful top dogs of CONCACAF.

    With all that being said, I do agree with you and Dave that Bob Bradley makes some puzzling decisions. His insistence on dual defensive midfielders is questionable. I too would like to see Adu or Donovan in the top of a diamond midfield but for whatever reason Bradley doesn’t see it as being an effective tool to advance through qualifying.

    At the end of the day, other teams in this region, while improving, still have difficulty breaking down the US. They struggle with our size and athleticism and if they happen to get through that, they have to beat any number of goalkeepers that are World Class. If you had to rank Goalkeeping Nations, the US is easily in the top 5 along with Italy, Germany and Spain. I don’t see any other CONCACAF nation that is even close to the US in that category and that alone my friend will see the US through to South Africa.

    Fear not and please try and be a little more positive. Keep up the good work on the radio show and tell Denholm that Adu is not better than Messi. I’m sorry, I love the kid and as a media member of DC United, I’ve been around him for years. He’s no Messi and he will tell you that as well.

  11. Soccer Guru says:

    It would have been nice to see Brek Shea.

    On the whole the performance was terrible and those here trying to defend it (including you Kartik) need to really think about the consequences of accepting the status quo.

  12. Pingback: 3 Below » Guzan Keeps Clean Sheet (Barely): US Advances

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