Thirteen competitive games in fifty three days: That’s what the USMNT faced in June and July. We had no friendlies this summer or practice games but deadly serious qualifiers and tournaments. Here is what we’ve learned:
Charlie Davies is the real deal.
Dave Denholm, my former co-host of the American Soccer Show on CSRN and myself had called for Davies inclusion on the first team since Spring of 2008. Yet, it took two horrible results in South Africa for Bob Bradley to finally take the training wheels off of Davies and let him loose. Better late than never though, as Davies made a strong impression and now must be considered one of the most feared players in our region.
The US Can Play With Anyone
The victory over Spain and the near miss against Brazil in the Confederations Cup final taught us the when the US is healthy, we have top of the line athletic and energetic players that can give the opposition fits
More Attacking Leads to Historic Blowouts
For all those fans who have wanted the US to play a more attacking and pressing style than in the past, three results from this summer standout. The loss to Italy was our worst to the Azzuri since 1934. The loss to Brazil in the group stage of the confederations cup was our worst ever to the five time world champions. And our Gold Cup defeat to Mexico is the worst competitive loss for the US since 1957 and the worst loss in any match since 1979.
Stuart Holden is Ready
The Gold Cup exposed the United States depth problem. The US was outplayed for large portions of matches against Haiti and Panama, being level with both after 90 minutes. But one field player stood out: Houston’s Stuart Holden. Holden is one of the few MLS players who I’d continue to call in and not require he move to Europe or Mexico to improve his career: why? Playing for Dom Kinnear (or Sigi Schmid) is not like playing for other MLS managers.
Holden is for sure ahead of Sacha Kljestan in the pecking order now. In fact, Holden’s emergence could give the US another left sided option even though he did not play out there in the Gold Cup.
Clint Dempsey plays better in center of midfield
Dempsey seems to get lost out wide. That’s a shame because the US has traditionally needed good flank play to be successful. But when Dempsey is on, he’s an assassin which is why Bob Bradley must fit the tactics to Deuce and not vise versa.
Jay DeMerit is better in central defense than Carlos Bocanegra
A few things stand out about DeMerit. His positioning sense is better than any American central defender since Eddie Pope, DeMerit also clears the ball with more intent than I have ever seen a Central Defender for the US show: this includes Alexi Lalas, Fernando Clavijo and Marcelo Balboa who had very sophisticated games despite limited talent.
American defenders have for years just played the ball out danger with a certain degree of desperation and quickness in big games without picking calmly picking a spot to play the ball. DeMerit doesn’t do this- he’s calm on the ball and his clearances and distribution from the back are first rate. The story “from PDL to Premiership” that has been much written about DeMerit still has a chapter or two about international football yet to be written.
DaMarcus Beasley Needs to Find Regular Playing Time
Has Beasley become the latest American to simply flame out at a youngish age? We saw it with John O’Brien, and it took our national team a few years to recover. Now in Beasley, we’ve quite possibly lost our best left sided midfielder ever. The Beasley we’ve seen for the last year in now way resembles the player who was so effective in the 2002 World Cup and in the Champions League for PSV. Perhaps physical British football and injuries has dented the smallish Beasley’s confidence? Or maybe he’s just done for?
Jonathan Spector > Steve Cherundolo
Dolo has been one of the most successful Americans ever in Europe. The longevity and success of his club career is only matched by Claudio Reyna, John O’Brien and Dutch born Earnie Stewart. But his future with the national team is as a backup while Spector’s versatility and tactical sense is of great benefit to the entire program.
Bob Bradley has become a great tactical mind before matches
Bradley outfoxed the likes of Marcello Lippi, Dunga and Javier Aguirre with his pre match tactical setup. He outdid Vincent Del Bosque all match long
Bradley still doesn’t get in game changes
When Lippi, Dunga and Aguirre all made critical tactical changes in the 2nd half: not just substitutions but actual formation changes, Bradley did not recognize the switches until at least one and sometimes two goals had been scored. Then Bradley made perplexing substitutions and sometimes bizarre tactical switches.
Obviously we learned more than just these points this summer, but this is a quick summary of my overall thoughts. On a personal note, this summer of US National Team madness has burned me out. I’m going to take the next two weeks to recharge my battery before we get ready for the showdown at Azteca.
This means more infrequent posting from me until August 8th, when the USMNT arrives in Miami for training. I will be working on two big pieces however, which many or may not be complete in the next two weeks: one on the US Development Academy setup and another on the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Of course, you can still count on the MLS Talk podcast which will have no interruption in its schedule.
I also will be serving as the color analyst for USL Live’s broadcast of Miami FC vs Montreal on August 1st. By that time we should know if the Saputo’s have had their expansion application approved to move the Impact to MLS in 2011 or 2012.