We’ve complained about the lack of character and urgency from the US team when compared to their predecessors. Previous US teams rose to the occasion against perceived world powers Italy and Brazil. This team did not.
But when facing a less formidable team in Egypt, this US team stepped up. The fighting spirit was special from the US today. The tactical change to bring in Charlie Davies was important, as was the fine work in midfield of the one and only Landon Donovan. The best player in US history can lift an otherwise journeyman bunch of players to great heights in a game like this. This is particularly true when Donovan is played in a central midfield role and is able to dictate play more like a traditional #10.
I do agree with the analysis of GOL TV’s Phil Schoen (on our podcast) and ESPN’s Adrian Healey, both keen observers of US soccer history as I try to be myself that this US team is among the weakest in the past 15-20 years. But Landon Donovan is probably the best field player the US has had and when he’s on his game he brings an element that the US has often lacked in the past. This team still has no comparable player to Claudio Reyna or Tab Ramos however, something we hope Benny Feilhaber, Freddy Adu or Jose Torres can develop into all though each of the three have their limiations.
Jozy Altidore has not been match fit but he was downright terrible today potentially costing the US a spot in the next round with his lazy runs and bad first touch. He did however turn well on the first goal to setup Charlie Davies scrappy finish. Otherwise Altidore was poor and Bradley needs to consider starting Davies up top with someone else against Spain.
The US were fortunate to face an Egypt team with nothing left in the tank. and without their best player Zidan. Zaki of course missed this tournament with an injury. Still Egypt pressed early and the US kept its shape well. Jay DeMerit’s insertion into the lineup for the injured and error prone Carlos Bocanegra has made a big difference in all three matches the US has played.
Brad Guzan was also outstanding today. I’ve previously chronicled my discomfort with the same keeper that gave away a silly PK (which he saved) against Colombia in the Copa America, handled the ball outside the box against Switzerland, was out of position twice against Barbados in a 1-0 win and got beat badly due to his positioning on El Salvador’s second goal in March. Today however, he gave perhaps the best performance from an American keeper in meaningful games since Kasey Keller against Italy in 2006. (Tim Howard’s lone extraordinary game for the US in the last three years was a friendly against Argentina)
The US will now play on both Wednesday and Sunday next week. Wednesday against Spain in the semifinal and Sunday in either the Final or the Third Place game.
The US shocked Egypt 3-0 in the final group game of the Confederations Cup and thanks to other results moved through to the semifinals of the second biggest FIFA event. Jamie Trecker from FOX Sports and Dave Denholm from 710 ESPN Radio in LA have all the analysis of the game. Included in the topics discussed, the savvy tactical move by Bob Bradley to insert Charlie Davies into the lineup at forward, the good play of Brad Guzan, but also the concern that this result could cloud the USSF’s perception of the obvious shortcomings of the national team program as we prepare for World Cup 2010.
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