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Copa America

Not All is Lost

Obviously the performance of Team USA thus far at Copa America has been disheartening in many ways. Taking a virtual “B” side into the competition (By any definition this squad could be classified as a “B” side despite having eight holdovers from the Gold Cup. The next time England plays a designated “B” match look at the squad. At least 10 of the players are typically regulars from England’s “A” side.) not much was expected of Team USA. But the play of the inexperienced yanks has been far better than expected which makes the lopsided results that have unrepresentative of the level or flow of play in either match thus far so difficult to accept.

The finishing by the US has been downright comical thus far in the competition. I do not know how many more cracks at the wheel Taylor Twellman and Eddie Johnson need before it becomes proven beyond a reasonable doubt that neither can hack it at this level, especially when they are forced to play together. Both players have strong points and could be a supporting attacker, but neither represents the threat as a target player or striker that former US forwards such as Brian McBride, Eric Wynalda or Joe Max-Moore presented.

The youngish midfielders on this squad including Sacha Klejstan and Justin Mapp are just not seasoned enough to provide adequete and timely service to the attackers and additionally showed some horrific finishing themselves. Klejstan was served up a sitter by Benny Olsen early in the match and he made a mess of it. Justin Mapp brought energy to the match late but showed an immaturity in understanding the situation in front of him and made several mistakes on and off the ball.

A bright spot tonight was the instant impact much touted midfielder Lee Nguyen had upon entering the match. Nguyen who is going to be competing for playing time at PSV Eindhoven this upcoming season played three very good balls forward to create scoring opportunities that were squandered by the attackers. Nguyen is someone who is going to be counted on by the national team in 2010 and beyond. It was very important to see him excel in a game of this magnitude. In addition, despite his mishit header late in the match, Drew Moor who recieved his first cap tonight seemed to be well positioned playing right back. Considering Frankie Hedjuk turns 33 next month, and Frankie Simek is still developing the play of Moor and Marvell Wynne ion this tournament has added much needed depth on the backline going forward. Jay DeMerit has shown his grit once again, but he seems a step slow for the international game. Jimmy Conrad also has made many mistakes, most notably the inexplicable back pass today that probably cost the US a chance to advance out of the group stage at this competition.

Benny Olsen is still a titan of American Soccer. Whether it was the instant impact he made as a rookie helping to lead DC United to the InterAmerican Cup title, or the versatility he has shown throughout his national team career, Olsen despite a career full of injuries is still a must have player for any serious competition the US plays in. Olsen has been hands down the best US player in Copa America, and his early exit from both matches has signaled the end of the strong possession style game the US was playing and the beginning of a more uneven and undisciplined style attack.

Finally a word on Kasey Keller. I’ve been watching Keller since the early 1990s, and I have to say his instincts have rapidly deteriorated in the past year. Beginning with two major errors in the opening round loss to the Czech Republic at Germany 2006, Keller seems to be less and less decisive with every passing match. I believe US Soccer should honor Keller by arranging a friendly early next year as a send off match and drop him from further national team consideration at that point. By then, a healthy Marcus Hannehman at 35 will finally getv his chance to compete for the starting goalkeeper spot on the national team. Matt Reis and Joe Cannon also need to get another look to provide depth in the player pool. At this point I believe all of the aforementioned keepers would do a better job than Keller.

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  1. Anonymous

    July 4, 2007 at 11:07 am

    After yesterday’s match Adu has already proven he is our best finisher. He and Szetela need to be called up for the tour of Europe in the fall.

  2. USA2010

    July 4, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Twellman didn’t seem to have any trouble scoring in the lead-up to WC 2006……

    What was the point of taking Ching if he wasn’t even used?

    The fact is Twellman can create his own chances unlike Ching who relies on good service. That would have been helpful when USA needed a goal against Ghana.

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for Altidore or Smith on the senior team. Like Adu, USSF is very protective of the young players claiming they don’t want to “rush” them. God forbid they should have to work through any failures in their coddled careers.

  3. Josiah of Footy Fame

    July 3, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    I’m just saying it is unfair to pile on our attackers when they are forced to play with guys like Mapp whose maturity and ball skills are totally lacking. If they flop when Landon, Beasley and Dempsey are around well then that is a different matter.

  4. Anonymous

    July 3, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Blaming Keller for a leaky back line and the decision of Bradley and the USSF to insult this great event by sending a “B” team is simply out of line.

    Regarding Twellman he is lacking confidence. Once he knocks in a big goal, he’ll score in bunches.

    Your comment about Olsen is flat out idiotic. You believe Olsen should be on every US roster? What position is he capable of starting at? Would you take him over Feilhaber, Clark, Bradley or Nguyen?

  5. bruce arena for 2010

    July 3, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    Oh and also those of you on this website who criticzed Arena for not taking Twellman to Germany, ought to come clean and apologize. I’m angry at Bradley for even taking him to Copa. Charlie Davies would be more effective than him!

  6. Bruce Arena for 2010

    July 3, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    I quite honestly believe Kartik is too lenient with Twellman. If I were the coach of the national team I would NEVER call him back to the senior squad. Just accept it. He’s a player who excels at the MLS/club level but has nothing in the way of quality when you step up the speed of a game and level of play. Quite honestly, guys like Esky, Casey, Buddle, Cunningham and Martino would be as effective as Twellman on the national team and that isn’t saying a whole lot. Right now our attackers are a joke. We deluded ourselves with the Gold Cup win forgetting how all of the offense had to come from Donovan, Beasley and Dempsey, three midfielders! Our forwards have stunk for years besides McBride. So many of you wanted to blame Arena for playing the 4-5-1 but the truth is we didn’t have a second forward to play at the international level. Bradley realized the same in the Gold Cup and had to push Beasley or Dempsey forward because without McBride we don’t even have one striker who can play int’l soccer.

    After the U-20 WC is over Jozy Altidore and Johann Smith need to get called up to the senior side. The way I view it they can’t do any worse than the guys we have out there now.

  7. USA2010

    July 3, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    What is fair is the number of chances Twellman and Johnson have had regardless of what you feel is inadequate service.

    Keller’s quote about Paraguay that “when you give a good team and good players, easy chances, they are going to beat you” is rather telling about the U.S. team.

  8. Josiah of Footy Fame

    July 3, 2007 at 11:32 am

    Critism of Twellman and EJ is warrented, however you have to consider the midfielders they are being paired with. No Donovan, Beasley or Dempsey. To judge either guy based on this tournament when the midfielders aren’t providing adequete service or runs isn’t at all fair.

  9. Anonymous

    July 3, 2007 at 8:47 am

    Blaming Keller just doesn’t cut it. He is still one of the top keepers anywhere. It’s not his fault that the backline is disorganized and constantly leaving him in situations where he has to hesitate and make rash decisions.

  10. DC United Fan

    July 3, 2007 at 8:31 am

    I completely concur with your view of Olsen but I believe Bradley has pulled him in the first two matches in order to experiment with younger players. That’s why everyone on the squad except Heath Pearce and Brad Guzan seem to have gotten a look thus far.

  11. Anonymous

    July 3, 2007 at 7:17 am

    What’s the point in accepting an invite to Copa if this is the type of squad we decided to send? This has been a total disgrace. Yeah the guys have played hard but you can’t play top “A” sides with a clear B or even C team.

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