Random Thoughts on USA 2, El Salvador 1
The US did not play particularly well, but three points is three points. After the loss at Azteca, the most important thing the US needed to do was put a W up on the board, and they did that. There passing was poor, their link-up play was stilted, and their defense of the wings was a constant worry, but they got that vital win.
Landon Donovan looks fearsome. Beyond his two assists, Donovan unbalanced the El Salvador defense all game. His probbing runs, ball control, ability to reverse the angle of attack, and fantastic fitness caused problems for El Salvador all night. For years Donovan had the reputation as a great player who never played his best when it really mattered. You can’t make that argument with a straight face any more.
Are Dempsey’s goals obscuring poor performances? Clint Dempsey has gotten on the scorer’s sheet a bunch over the last three months. Some of them have been great poacher’s goals like the one against Spain. Others have been great timing runs like against Egypt and El Salvador. All of them have hidden the fact that, for long stretches, Clint’s passing and link-up play has been completely off. He has looked slow in possession and has tried to force a lot of passes that were never there. Nobody has given the ball away more cheaply lately than Dempsey. Clint really needs a good all-around game in T&T.
Michael Bradley looks run down. It is easy to forget that he just turned 22, but a full season in the Bundesliga, followed by the Confed Cup, followed by the trip to Azteca, followed by a new season in Germany, and all of the sudden Bradley looks like he is losing a little bit of sharpness. I was a little perplexed when I saw that Bradley did not even make the bench last week for Borussia Mönchengladbach after a dismal performance the week before. I have every confidence that he can get his engine back, but at the moment, he looks a step slower than before.
Jozy has a lot to learn, but….. boy, does he have potential to shine. Physically, there was nobody on El Salvador that could match up with him, his goal was like an absolute powerhouse, and his other goal (which was disallowed for reasons not yet explained) was a man against boy moment. He still seems to get tangled in his own feet and needs to learn how to hold up the ball and control it better in tight spaces, but his game has improved tremendously over the past year. His physical weapons are apparent for anyone to see, and he is beginning to learn how to deploy them to greater affect. Hopefully he will get enough minutes at Hull to be able to realize his massive potential.
Bornstein and Spector. Ugh. Bornstein looked out of his depth. His botched clearance led to the El Salvador goal, and he looked a step slow all night. Spector seemed unsure of where to go and what to do once he got there. Spector played well in South Africa this summer, so I will not make any global judgments based on this one game, but Bradley needs to give Edgar Castillo a long look at that left back position now that his FIFA papers are approved. Bornstein simply does not cut it at this level.
The US needs a road win. The US will now travel to T&T and try to do something they have not yet done in the Hex – win on the road. Their two losses and a draw away from home have not been reassuring for a team that is supposed to be the class of the region, and they will never have a better opportunity to get three on the road than Wednesday at Port of Spain. Three points on Wednesday will mean that they can almost purchase those non-refundable tickets to South Africa next summer.