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A Tale of Two Halves

Last night’s US performance against Spain is difficult to classify but after all that’s what happens in friendlies when you are experimenting. On one hand I was more disappointed with the performance last night than against England because the team has now been together for almost ten days and seemed to fall into the age old American pattern of relying on counter attacking to stimulate any offense. However, the shape of the US at the back and the organization and spacing of the U.S. midfield was as good in the first half last night than anytime since the Gold Cup last year. Coach Bob Bradley mentioned that he was pleased with the passing in the first half but felt the movement of players to support the ball stopped in the 2nd half which led to gaps between the midfield and defense which was exploited by the Spanish.

One thing that must be considered is that Spain looked far from the top of their game. The technical ability of the Spanish side is among the best on the planet but let’s be honest: Spain has a history of under performing in major tournaments and based on yesterday’s performance and the amount of trouble they had breaking down an organized but not a very technical American back line you have to imagine those troubles will only magnify in the European Championships.

Spain’s Cesc Fabergas was the best player on the pitch last night, but Freddy Adu’s first half was outstanding. He provided the critical linkup play between the midfield and attackers that has now been lacking for the U.S. for almost a year. Maurice Edu showed far more technique in winning the ball and better distribution than Rico Clark did last week playing the same holding midfield position against England, and Carlos Bocanegra the captain bounced back with a nice match in tandem with his central defense partner Oguchi Onyewu. What was worrying though is for all the hype around young players in the US system, the two best Americans in the second half were as they were last week against Wembley, 33 year old Frankie Hejduk and 34 year old Eddie Lewis. “It is always important to look for the right time to move young players into the national team. But there is great value in some of the more experienced players. We consider that of big importance heading into World Cup qualifying. If a player continues to play well, then that helps everyone,” Coach Bradley stated in reference to Hejduk and Lewis.

My feeling is that Michael Bradley was again poor in this match. He made some nice passes and got forward to support the attack every now and then but by and large he was responsible for more bad giveaways than the other 10 field players combined and he was often clumsy and reckless in his challenges. Other poor performers last night were DaMarcus Beasley coming off and injury and Clint Dempsey who after a second straight grueling relegation fight with Fulham has little to give the national team for the time being. Dempsey needs to be given the rest of the summer off.


Tim Howard 6

Made one very nice save but otherwise had less than to do than it appeared

Brad Guzan  6

Solid, and finally looking like an international level keeper

Steve Cherdundolo 5

Bounced back from the poor performance against England with some very nice challenges and good distribution from the back but still lost his mark too often.

Oguchi Onyewu 5

Why Onyewu gets wrongly blamed for most of the US’ defensive breakdowns is beyond me. He had another solid match, but was caught looking on the Spain goal.

Carlos Bocanegra 5

After a horror show against England he bounced back nicely and dealt with the danger well until the last 25 minutes when bad clearances led to increased Spanish pressure.

Heath Pearce 7

Pearce has solidified his spot as the US left back and his experience of a rough season in Germany has translated into the grit needed to play well for his national team

Frankie Hejduk 7

Hejduk, a golden oldie showed the understanding and initiative in the second half that Cherdundolo did not in the first. Much like the England match, Hejduk was much better than Cherundolo.

Michael Bradley 3

Bradley has talent no doubt, but he is too naive almost to play at this level. His distribution is mixed at best and his tackles are clumsy and reckless all too often.

Mo Edu 5

Showed a great deal of composure but also contributed a number of bad giveaways in the second half that allowed Spain to pile on the pressure.

Clint Dempsey 3

As referenced above Dempsey needs some time off. He always gives a 100% plus effort but his body right now is failing him.

DaMarcus Beasley 2

Beasley was brought back for these friendlies far too soon.

Eddie Lewis 7

Once again the grey beard of the American team was over the entire match one of the best US players. Lewis still has the wheels to get down the left flank and has the savvy and understanding of the match to create more scoring opportunities than any other American wide player.

Freddy Adu 8

He may be in the doghouse at Benfica but Adu is clearly much more skilled and attacking oriented than the other players currently in the player pool. Why he was subbed out after 45 minutes remains a mystery since Coach Bradley didn’t address the issue in his post match press conference.

Eddie Johnson 5

I’ve seen Johnson absolutely ripped on other sites all over the internet. As someone who felt EJ should never have been brought back to the National Team, his play yesterday was passable. Johnson showed an understanding of what Freddy Adu was trying to do and played better than any American striker recently with his back to the goal trying to hold up play. His finishing is still obviously poor and he needs another pure striker to play off of, but based on last night he needs more looks and more work.

Josh Wolff 2

A farewell for a job well done over a ten year period for the national team.

Pablo Mastroeni NR

A late cameo for a player who still has so much to give this national team if he Bradley doesn’t forget about him.

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  1. john

    June 6, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Just curious…where is Jozy Altidore? He seems to have good scoring potential, especially with the pool of players we have now.

  2. NJ

    June 6, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I also was impressed by Freddy’s performance, and though I hate seeing Eddie Johnson up top, Adu made him look servicable. He created opportunities that we didn’t see in the England game. I hope his injury whatever it was, wasn’t serious and he’ll get more time against Argentina.

    For those out there who worry about his age, if age is so important, how does Messi find his way into a far more talented side. Lets let Adu play the Attacking midfield position and create chances. We lack creativity overall, except with Adu and DOnovan (Dempsey tries to show some but in the wrong spots) and if we want to score goals we need to show some.

  3. kartik

    June 6, 2008 at 6:16 am

    Derrick, you and I are singing from the same song sheet. I think our coaches who seem to emulate a very English model simply don’t appreciate technical skill or flair. They in many cases are frightened by it. DD and I have implied this in the past and we have now for 15 years subscribed to a philosophy of gaining “moral victories.” Germany and Brazil don’t play for moral victories and for some reason the US is able to beat them regularly at the youth level but we ween the technical skill out of our guys between 17 and 21 and the tactics of our managers is simply appauling.

  4. derrickinSF

    June 6, 2008 at 2:08 am

    Freddy Adu was light years ahead of all of out other all out other guys. But the way the U.S. plays is not going to win anything. Bradley picks a certain style of player. Ones that are not technical. American coaches don’t know how to deal with players that are technical and have any flair or attacking skill. Their tactics go no further then defend and counter.

    And sorry but at some point you have to play goal scorers. That’s a problem with soccer in this country. English football has infected us with an attitude that trying real hard but not scoring is good enough.

    The manager needs to say score goals or you’re benched. but we won’t because for this country now it’s good enough. sorry EJ’s touch was poor and he misses sitters and can’t shoot on target. I’m tired of talking about this team. if they win it will be inspite of the leadership not because of it.

  5. JRT

    June 5, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    M. Bradley was awful.

  6. kartik

    June 5, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    Wow spirited debate.

    I don’t think we are irrelevant in CONCACAF just yet, however right now several sides in the region can beat us on a given day which was NOT the case a few years ago.

    BTW, I’ll have more on this tomorrow, but beginning tomorrow the American Soccer Show is now twice a week, and will run on Tue and Fri, with a special edition tomorrow recapping Spain/USA and taking a look at TFC.

  7. Kiwi Yank

    June 5, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    All of them.

    Every two years we talk about how our young guys tore up the U-20s beat Argentina, Brazil, blah blah, blah.

    Yet we are constantly in the position of our guys not developing.

    We blame MLS but guys get worse more often than not when they go to Europe.

    We have a problem from the top down with soccer in the states, thanks to the elitism and aloofness of the USSF. Makes me glad I am no longer stateside and involved in the game.

    We are close to becoming irrelevent even within CONCACAF. Seriously we are.

  8. Michael

    June 5, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Which young players are you referring to?

    The US has a bright future. Did you watch the U-20 World Cup last summer? The players I mentioned in my first comment are all quality, quality youngsters and should feature in the senior team very soon. I have a place on my team any day for guys like Szetela, Rogers, Seitz, Zizzo, Adu, Altidore, and Igwe.

    Trust me, our youngsters don’t “suck”. It comes down to Bradley and the higher-ups if they want to start using these players more and more and bringing them into the senior fold.

    Concerning Bradley, I tend to agree with you, I think the US has gone as far as they can go under an American coach. I said after Arena’s departure that a foreign coach should be hired, and if we don’t do well in 2010, I’ll be screaming for a foreign hire even more.

  9. Kiwi Yank

    June 5, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Besides the only two Americans who made the “all Gold Cup team” were Hedjuk and Pablo both long in the tooth!

    Besides Adu, our young players suck and that’s the fault of Bradley and the USSF.

  10. Michael

    June 5, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    The Gold Cup, big deal!! It’s on American soil, we should win it every time.

  11. Berlin

    June 5, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    BB did win the Gold Cup and the team has been reasonably good, so I’m not ready to leap from the Bradley band wagon just yet, but if we continue to stagnate he’s got to go soon. Another drubbing by Argentina and he’s on the hot seat, if not fired.

  12. POED

    June 5, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    This performance if anything was worse than the match against england when you consider we have been in camp for two weeks and we had to seemingly play better than we did before but we did not.

    Eddie Lewis and Frankie Hejduk are not going to be around in 2010 so the fact that they are better than everyone we have in their twenties tells us about Bradley’s tactics and ability as a manager.

    Take them out of the team and we look even worse if that is possible.

    Pearce and Edu are onlt decent by the low standard established in the Bradley years. In 2002 they would have been nowhere near our World Cup team but now they are some of our best players.

    What does that tell everyone?

  13. Lou the wizard

    June 5, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I don’t think the US team is moving forward and it really needs a change at the helm. This guy is just interested in wathcing his son make useless tackles and bad passes. If the US wants to elevate their game they need someone to lead them there and Bradley is not. The team is moving backwards. PLEASE CHANGE THE COACH BEFORE WE FAIL TO QUALIFY FOR THE NEXT WORLD CUP

  14. painteater

    June 5, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Adu played well and look forward to seeing him develop. He`s not in the dog house at Benfica. He is one of the fans favortie players. Rui Costa, the new team director really likes him and expects great things. The problem is they are in the middle of reconstructing their team and can afford no misteps. He is going to be loaned to another Portuguese League team next season where he will be starting and playing many minutes in hopes to provide him with more confidence and European experience. Benfica really believes in him and Di Maria as the future of their team.

  15. Michael

    June 5, 2008 at 10:24 am

    As my brother and I both have been saying since the U-20 World Cup last summer, Michael Bradley isn’t good enough to play for the senior national team. He looked extremely out of place in Canada last year against some of the world’s best young players, so he definitely has no business playing against some of the world’s best players of all ages. He scored a ton of goals in Holland this year, but he doesn’t even play that position for the national team.

    I’m glad to see people finally coming around on Bradley. I’ve heard so much hype surrounding this kid and praise from people who think he’s a very good player, but I just didn’t see it and I still don’t see it. He was outplayed on the U-20 team by Zizzo, Szetela, Altidore, Adu, Rogers, and even McCarty.

  16. Joe

    June 5, 2008 at 8:06 am

    I’m not sure I would give Eddie Johnson so many compliments.

    However, your other ratings are on the mark. No doubt can be now attributed that Michael Bradley continues to play because of his dad being the manager.

    The reality is Bradley is perenially out of position, gives the ball away all too easily in the midfield and is as you noted clumsy.

    Why Freddy Adu has to fight and prove himself every match to be called in but Bradley can have one bad match after another and continue to start is painfully obvious.

    In fact I believe your rating of Bradley may be generous. I would give him a 1 if it were my ratings.

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