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.
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