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US Soccer Team Needs To Make Big Improvements to Advance in World Cup

(Front L-R) United States' Herculez Gomez, Jozy Altidore, Steve Cherundolo, Landon Donovan, Jonathan Bornstein, (rear L-R) Clint Dempsey, Maurice Edu, goalkeeper Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMerit and Michael Bradley pose for a team photo ahead of a 2010 World Cup Group C soccer match against Algeria at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria June 23, 2010. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)

Now that the deserved hoopla has calmed down about the United States beating Algeria and making it to the second round of the World Cup, it’s time for a reality check. That is that the United States, while playing very well in the first round, are currently not good enough to make it far in this tournament.

That is, if they continue playing the way they’ve been doing.

Against Algeria, lest we not forget, the United States was incredibly fortunate that Algeria missed their clearcut chances to win the game. They were incredibly dangerous on the counter attack and had several chances to score after getting past the US defense with relative ease.

The United States team in midfield, with Michael Bradley in a commandeering role, have few weaknesses.

But up front for the United States is a different story. Despite how hard he tries, Jozy Altidore still seems unable to tap into the composure he needs in front of goal to slot the ball away. Contrast that with Landon Donovan who, under incredible pressure, took a deep breath and calmly slotted the winner against Algeria into the back of the net. Altidore tries so hard but unfortunately comes up empty.

Edson Buddle, who finally got a chance to show the World Cup what talent he has when he came on as a substitute against Algeria, lacks match practice. He created immediate chances for the United States but he needs an opportunity to start a game so he can settle down and earn his stripes.

Benny Feilhaber has been a game changer for the United States in both the Slovenia and Algeria games when he has come on to the field. This is a soccer player with incredible experience and composure on the ball who is able to carve holes in defenses while also providing the United States with a strong ability to break up plays from the opposition.

While Oguchi Onyewu’s fitness levels remain questionable, there are still plenty of questions in defense. Jonathan Bornstein had a poor game against Algeria and wasn’t the solution Bob Bradley was looking for. Carlos Bocanegra’s form is still questionable. But what options are available to Bradley? The answer is not too many.

For the United States to beat Ghana on Saturday will require a much greater performance than those against Algeria and Slovenia. It’s time for the United States to win a game by a comfortable margin and not pin its hopes on hoping that a controversial decision will go their way. Yes, the US should have been given two more goals in the first round of World Cup games, but the team’s future hangs too much in the balance of close games that rely on good refereeing decisions. Judging by the lack of quality of FIFA referees, that’s a dangerous game to play.

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  1. joejoe

    June 26, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    You can’t win them all on defense and counter attack. We need to work on ball skills. Hold and control the ball for long periods. The vertical game is too tiring on short tournaments. This team needs a new philosophy and a different coach.

  2. jcr

    June 25, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    I think you are stretching here. Watch so many of the other teams at this world cup and the U.S. has played as well or better than so many. Look at how many goals Spain missed in their second game. Does this website still feel that the 1994, 1998 and even the 1990 team compares? Making comparisons with players like Wynalda, John Harkes, Marcelo Balboa and Alexi Lalas for goodness sake with the players on this team. Harkes and Lalas were only signed to their European teams as curiosities and maybe to get eyeballs from the U.S. soccer fans onto their teams. In 1994, we had to make some last minute imports just to field a respectable team. You should pull up your article from a couple of months ago. This team is better than 2002. if you look at 2006, we weren’t as bad as some people describe it (1998 was bad). Bad game against Czech, but we tied Italy with 9 men and only lost to Ghana on a dive by one of their players that led to a penalty kick and the second half being consumed by bad refereeing and Ghana’s players eating the clock with fake injuries. This team includes Altidore who is just 20 years old (think about that) and Michael Bradley is just 22.

  3. Patrick

    June 25, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    I think I’ve had enough of this website. Boring…. boring…over critical… then more boring. Hey Gaffer, what is it that you Gaff anyway. Done bye. The boys at world football daily are a hell of a lot more fun.

    • The Gaffer

      June 25, 2010 at 9:33 pm

      Patrick, sorry if you can’t take the criticism.

      The Gaffer

  4. Jason Gatties

    June 25, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Gaffer should stick to worrying about England.

  5. Jack in TX

    June 25, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Buddle needs to get his chance to start. My review of Altidore was mived. He frustrates me when he tries to take on a defender 1 v 1. He doesn’t have the dribbling skills or speed at this level. On the other hand, he made some excellent runs wide in the 2nd half v ALG and played the ball into the danger zone well. That’s where he shined to me. He posts well and delivers from the sides/channels.

    Unfortunately the US defense is shaky no matter who is in the match. If it weren’t for Howard, the US would be done now. I hope Bradley figures something out, but I don’t see a solution.

    • James

      June 25, 2010 at 3:00 pm

      Again, what games are you watching.

      Altidore is clearly the most skilled US striker when the ball is at his feet. Edson Buddle’s or Gomez’s foot skills have nothing on Jozy. He’s been excellent in receiving the ball, holding up play, creating width, passing and crossing. He has also had some good runs on the ball. He has yet to score, but he created chances, including the would-be-winner against Slovenia (he earned that kick) and the game winner against Algeria. There is no way Bradley will sit him. It would be crazy. His ability to be strong on the ball is something we’ve yet to see consistently from Buddle or Gomez. Sure, they haven’t gotten as much playing time, but there’s a reason for that.

      • Jack in TX

        June 25, 2010 at 3:41 pm

        We’re going to have to agree to disagree then. I have not been impressed by Altidore at the int’l level. He is a good player, yes. But has not performed to the level that would classify him as even a grrat American player.

        He has size and strength. He posts up well and sets people up like his assist to Bradley v SVN and his feed to Dempsey v ALG that led to Donovan’s goal. But he is not a finisher IMHO. Buddle is. I think Altidore and Buddle should be starting and not Altidore and Findley.

        • james

          June 25, 2010 at 5:04 pm

          Findley should not be starting.

          I’m not sure anyone said he was a great player, he’s just the best American striker. He creates more opportunities and is a better finisher than Buddle. Buddle is a poacher. This works in the MLS, but is much more difficult at a higher level where dribbling and passing play a larger role than just simple positioning. I’ve yet to see Buddle display anywhere near the quality that Altidore’s goal against Spain in the Confed Cup exhibited. Buddle had a fair share of looks in the Algeria game and came up empty. He’s also almost completely untested internationally. I’d rather have Clint or Benny up front.

          • Matt

            June 25, 2010 at 11:14 pm

            Findley shouldn’t even be there. He just seems lost all the time. He was all by himself at the 18 and just looked up and froze. Haven’t seen that at the international level from a striker since, well, ever. Sure, he’s fast. But that’s pretty much it. I understand that Bradley Sr. is looking for a Davies Altidore-esque combo because it was absolutely devastating when they were there together. But he’s just not cutting it.

            And I desperately want him to prove me wrong, but there’s no sign of that thus far…

  6. Charles

    June 25, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Gomez and Buddle ?
    Altidore has played well, but he missed the opportunity that almost put us out.
    Tough decisions.

    It is nice to be in a position where your team is going to have to step it up, 1998 and 2006 there wasn’t a need to step it up.

  7. Logan

    June 25, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Any chance the US sits Jozy for Buddle against Ghana? Or, is it too impossible/ impractical to have both Jozy and Buddle start?

    • Jack in TX

      June 25, 2010 at 2:28 pm

      I’d like to Buddle and Altidore start together, for one. Certainly not Findley. His speed is of little use without something on the ball to go with it and I haven’t seen it.

      • James

        June 25, 2010 at 2:55 pm

        Buddle could start alongside Jozy, but all of this “sit Jozy for Buddle BS” is just that, BS. Jozy is head and shoulders above Buddle in terms of skill. This isn’t to say Buddle is bad, but Jozy has shown time and again how good he is. He will get his goals. So far he’s worked hard to set up several.

        • Logan

          June 25, 2010 at 3:03 pm

          What do you think the actual chances are of both Buddle and Altidore starting, tho? It seems Bradley is sold on the Findley/ Altidore combo.

          I just liked watching Buddle in the friendlies and liked how there was an immediate spark when he came into the game on Wednesday. I also think Buddle probably is heads and tails smarter and more mature than Findley. I’m already tired of watching Findley unable to figure out what to do with the ball and ultimately end up walking the ball out of bounds.

          • Logan

            June 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm

            And just to clarify, I want both Buddle and Altidore starting. I just get the impression that Bradley views them as too similar a player and won’t give it a shot.

          • james

            June 25, 2010 at 4:59 pm

            I would be surprised if Findley starts. I really don’t think he should after the way he played in the first two games.

  8. Matt

    June 25, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I am agreeing with all the other comments regarding Bornstein’s play on Wednesday. When i saw the lineup I thought we were doomed before the match even began. He had a very solid performance considering, well, that he is Jonathan Bornstein.

    I have loved Bradley’s decisions as the Cup has gone along, but I cannot understand why he wouldn’t start Spector out there instead. I really fancy a Spector Boca DeMerit Dolo back line. i dont see why Bradley doesnt agree

  9. erp

    June 25, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I will agree that Bornstein isn’t a top flight defender. But if we’re talking about out and out mistakes in the game against Algeria, there were none bigger than DeMerit’s header whiff at 7 minutes, that saw Djebbor rip one from 12 yards only to be denied by the crossbar. He whiffed another header again several minutes later but recovered. He overcommits, and it will cost us.

    As for Jozy, I think it is frustrating that he hasn’t been able to finish, but he has been a part of several critical plays, not the least of which was a superb cross to Clint Dempsey which directly resulted in the *match winning goal* against Algeria. Look at a guy like Messi – the most raw talent of anyone on the planet, tons of opportunities (19 shots as of today) and is yet to score. He creates opportunities and his mere presence on the field creates space for other players. I’d love to see him get a goal as much as anyone else, but I am in no way troubled by his performance so far.

    • erp

      June 25, 2010 at 12:56 pm

      One more thought on Jozy – he has been fouled nearly twice as many times as any other player on our side (12 times) almost all of which have been in the final third. That says a lot about the effect he has on defenses, IMO.

      This brings up another point I hadn’t considered til now, which is our poorly executed set plays. When was the last time Dempsey got a ball on target on a free kick? Maybe we should leave those opportunities to Donovan.

  10. James

    June 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    The two disallowed goals, especially Dempsey’s, cannot really be considered “controversial” in the sense that they were clear goals. Two goals would be the difference between many teams’ fortunes in this WC and while we cannot discount the fact that we need to create as many chances as possible, it is hard to believe we’ll have another two clear goals disallowed.

  11. RayO

    June 25, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Up front the U.S. is missing Charlie Davies. I am surprised how little this is being talked about at the moment. Davies is no Drogba or Torres but he is far better than Findley, Buddle, and Gomez.

    Jozy is a very, very young striker and to this point in the tournament he has performed as one would expect. If and this is a big if, he can continue to develop when the next world cup rolls around in four years he should be much more of a force. It took Donovan a long time to develop to what he is today.

    The U.S. midfield is young as well and has tons of potential. Bradley, Holden, Edu, Torres and Clark should all continue to improve. Dempsey and Donovan will provide senior leadership for this group over the next four years.

    The defense is a mess and with Spector seemingly regressing instead of improving, the U.S. needs immediate help and I don’t see where that is coming from anytime soon…regardless of Gooch’s fitness level.

    Overall though, the game does not lie. Of the final 16 teams how many of them are without flaws?? Maybe Brazil and Spain. This group of U.S. players is light years ahead of where the last generation was. The future is very, very bright regardless of what happens from here on out.

  12. Rex

    June 25, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Just remember we cant judge bornstien to world class standards. He is was he is. With that being said, from a Bornstein standard, he had a solid game.

    M.Bradley still worries me a little bit. I sometime see his head a little out of it and he can chase the game. Should the US go down, I still would like to see a more offensive Feilhaber or Torres subbed for MB.

    • Mark

      June 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm

      there’s zero chance Bradley will be subbed unless he’s injured. He’s simply our best two way midfielder. He can score from distance, push the attack, but can also drop back and be the destroyer, especially if he’s playing with Feilhaber in the center.

    • jiggs

      June 25, 2010 at 1:51 pm

      I’m with Rex on ‘the Bornstein question’, though what a disappointment for Gooch to be sidelined in this Ghana rematch, four years in the making. Ive revisited the YouTube clip of that terrible PK call more than once since ’06, and it pisses me off every time. Can’t imagine what kind of shoulder-chip it must’ve created for Onyewu. What a crying shame FIFA can’t see the crying need for some video ref refrom.

      And maybe it was just me, but it sure seemed like the Algerians knew very well who the weak man in the US backline was.

      JB has had a wealth of generous opportunities to bring his game up to a world-class standard. All through qualifying. Being grateful he rose to the occasion v Algeria is very different from saying he belongs in the lineup. There’s no more room for error, or learning curves, not for JB or anyone else. It’s Go Big or Go Home time.

  13. jose

    June 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

    project 2010. destiny.

  14. lloyd

    June 25, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Hey Gaffer
    You are dead on about leaving the game to the refs and how thats a dangerous game to be played. Of course we can always do better but I just would like to see us have better starts to the game.
    Also I think Bornstein had a decent game and I was happy that he started. Jozy is progressing and I see him better and better as the game goes on. He does get a little over zealous with ball at times.

  15. Justin Brightbill

    June 25, 2010 at 7:53 am

    What constitutes a “poor” game by Bornstein? I have been unimpressed with him in the past, but he looked fine if not spectacular.

    I smell haterism.

    • The Gaffer

      June 25, 2010 at 9:38 am

      Why do you smell haterism? Because I make one criticism? Sheesh.

      Regarding Bornstein, I saw him make too many mistakes. Plus, his shooting skills are horrible.

      The Gaffer

      • Justin

        June 25, 2010 at 12:21 pm

        Have to agree with the other Justin on this one. I am not a fan of Bornstein, but I can recognize when he does well (which is rare)… In the end, Algeria scored 0, which is better than when Gooch is in there so you can expect the same backline vs. Ghana… unfortunately we are even slower without him in there.

        and im less concerned about Bornstein’s shooting ability as I am about Jozy’s…naturally.

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