In front of what must be regarded as one of the largest and most ruckus pro US crowds in sometime, the national team drew 0-0 with Argentina, who is currently ranked #1 by the odd formula that constitutes the FIFA World Ranking. After two successive matches where the performance was subpar to be charitable last night’s effort must be considered a step in the right direction. However, still much work needs to be done.

This match from my vantage point was more exciting than any match in the European Championships if for no other reason the lack of technical skill that the Americans posses save Landon Donovan and Freddy Adu creates bad giveaways and countless good scoring opportunities for the opposition. While the US played well, all eight teams that have played thus far in Euro 2008 have shown better technical skill and organization that the U.S. However, last night the US showed some of the flair going forward that has been missing for sometime, and more in the attack than all but two sides that have played in the Euros thus far.

The Bad:

  • While Michael Bradley did more to support the attack last night than in the previous two matches he also gave the ball away 8 times in the first half. Yes, eight times. That’s simply not acceptable.
  • Bob Bradley’s decision first not to start Freddy Adu and second not to bring him on until the 60th minute. How you can continue to leave your second best attacking player on the bench when you cannot score goals is beyond me.
  • Steve Cherundolo isn’t physical enough or at times quick enough to be effective at this level. It’s a shame because he is one of the very few Americans that respectable club in a top European league counts on game in and game out. But with Frankie Hejduk even approaching 34, still in such good shape I see no reason why Cherdundolo should play ahead of him right now.
  • I still don’t get the second yellow card for Pablo Mastroeni. The official game notes attribute the second booking as being for dissent. But Pablo said very little to the official after Mo Edu picked up his yellow. Given how light the ref was being at time on Javier Mascerano (who himself was sent off fifteen minutes later) the yellow card for Edu was at the very least inconsistent by the official.
  • Clint Dempsey needs time off. I’ve said it before and will say it again. Oh and Clint those fancy moves you try and make may work against Barbados but they will never work against Argentina or Mexico.
  • I don’t think Eddie Lewis has ever been comfortable with the idea of playing left back. Necessity has dictated the best US wide player play on the back line now in various points since 2005, but it seems like Lewis makes mistakes at the back he doesn’t make in the midfield and the bite he adds to the US attack crossing from a wide position also disappears with his defensive responsibilities.
  • DaMarcus Beasley is simply put not a starting wide player at this level. He continues to have no technique despite having played for PSV (he was probably too old when he went there to learn the “PSV” way) and makes some of the most baffling decisions on the ball. As far as I am concerned for country Eddie Lewis at 34 is still a much better winger. He can still get forward down the flank and center a great ball into the box. Beasley cannot due either with regularity. (I don’t want to argue Rangers vs Derby County: Beasley may be a better club player but Lewis is a better international right now)
  • ESPN in general. I love JP Dellecamara and am thankful he is finally the lead announcer for ESPN’s National Team Coverage. But the rest of the production is somewhat substandard and John Harkes is far more of a company man than he leads on, far less willing to criticize tactics and coaching decisions about players than Eric Wynalda or even Marcello Balboa was. Relegating Allan Hopkins to the work they used to give Heather Mitts is flat out insulting. Hopkins is one of the most knowledgeable people about the American game I have encountered and he is being absolutely wasted by the network. Stick him in the studio for heavens sake!

The Good:

  • Landon Donovan’s return makes all the difference in the appearance of the US attack. Donovan also is one of only two American players with the technical skill and quality to play against the likes of Argentina: Freddy Adu is the other. 100 caps could not be more deserved for the signature player of US Soccer.
  • Heath Pearce is turning into perhaps the best left back we’ve had, a position that has been a chronic problem for the US. Pearce gets ripped in other places but I am turning into a massive fan of his. He’s positioned well, is tough and simply put is getting the job done without much fanfare.
  • Freddy Adu may not play at Benfica right now but that is no longer an excuse to not start him. Lukas Podolski doesn’t exactly play every match for Bayern, yet he can score two goals in the European Championship opening match. Freddy Adu is right now the only thing standing between the US and almost certain embarrassment either before 2010 or in South Africa. Without Claudio Reyna and John O’Brien, Landon Donovan has nobody with technique and certain flair to play off of, if Adu doesn’t start.
  • Tim Howard: what more can you say?
  • Eddie Johnson continues to be a poor finisher but a good hold up player who find space and makes the right runs at the right times. So frustrating is Johnson because after continuously panning Bob Bradley for selecting him, I now see why, even if the bottom line hasn’t changed. Johnson has the smarts as far as space and holding the ball up to be useful but still lacks the technique and finishing to be successful.
  • Giants Stadium’s grass. Seriously, awesome job groundskeepers. Now get rid of the turf below it!

Player Ratings:

Tim Howard 9

Steve Cherundolo 4

Danny Califf 6

Oguchi Onyewu 6

Heath Pearce 8

Jay DeMerit 6

Frankie Hejduk NR

Eddie Lewis 6

Michael Bradley 3

Mo Edu 6

Pablo Mastroeni 7 (“Red Card” notwithstanding)

DaMarcus Beasley5

Clint Dempsey 3

Landon Donovan 8

Freddy Adu 8

Sacha Kljestan 6

Eddie Johnson 5