Thursday, September 10, 2009

More Questions than Answers for the USA

Working back to front, I have a few observations I want to throw out there after the USA beat Trinidad, all but putting them into the World Cup - and let's face it, even against Honduras and Costa Rica if the US can't get the necessary results with the World Cup on the line, well then heads ought to roll.

I think we can all agree Tim Howard is the man. Done.

Seeing Oguchi was a welcome return to the lineup. He was in the midst of a rich vein of form near the end of last season through this summer. He did what he needed to on Wed, though he wasn't spectacular. However, there was a return of the "he's much bigger than everyone else so it must be a foul" type of calls, something that had been cut out recently as he was learning to do things more smoothly. Let's hope he finds playing time with AC Milan. Unfortunately, Carlos Bocanegra did not look good at all. So if you had to name the starting central defensive pair, who would it be? I'm not sure who Gooch's partner would be - Bocanegra or DeMerit?

After banishing him from the national team in my mind, Jonathan Bornstein responded with one of his better defensive displays. My brother thinks that his value is in his consistency, to which I replied that my brother must be crazy. But his argument is still that you really know what to expect from Bornstein - you can't possibly play him against world class players, but against lower level opponents his relative quickness and skill allows him to be a suitable defender. I'm still not entirely sure I agree, but his theory is out there. Still, come the World Cup we agree he shouldn't play, but who should? Boca or Edgar Castillo, or someone as yet to be determined?

Of course, I previously said that Michael Bradley is very much the same way as my brother described Bornstein - you know what you're getting from him, though Bradley has a much much better upside when he has a great game. Neither Bradley nor Ricardo Clark thrilled me last night, but Clark of course salvaged the game. To me the key play that hasn't been mentioned wasn't actually Dempsey's hold up play or Donovan's cut back, it was Clark's first touch flicking the ball and setting up his shot. Donovan's pass was actually not that great - it didn't lead Clark and forced him to make a more difficult touch. The fact that Clark made the play is a credit to his skill. I said he doesn't offer as much going forward, which is true generally because Clark is not going to be unlocking defenses with his passing and pushing forward the way Donovan or Feilhaber can. However, Clark is pretty rangy and has always shown a good shot, so he certainly isn't bereft of attacking ability. Bradley also will never wow you with his passing vision, but he also can cover a lot of ground, usually makes the right play and has good timing with his runs into the box in support of attacking forays. Still, this area of the field remains a mystery. Can all the US center mids get healthy please?

I absolutely agree with bzimzim when he argues that Clint Dempsey should lose his place in the starting lineup after his past few performances. It's difficult because he keeps playing like crap, misses chances, but somehow scores a goal or gets involved with an assist. I agree he should be replaced, and his spot should be taken by one of the trio of Holden, Feilhaber, or Torres (can anyone get a read on Bob Bradley's intentions with this kid??). There's some time ahead of the final pair of games for players to make their case and for injuries to help or hurt the situation. Still, with every passing game I get more confused as to who I want to see starting in the midfield. I think right now with only the healthy players, I'd like Donovan-Clark-Feilhaber-Holden. Only I'm wary that Holden is best used as an energy sub. And when Dempsey is healthy and on form, it's hard to leave him out, but of course he's not on form... Ok, so Bob Bradley's job isn't that easy. Still, I think I could do much better with team tactics than he.

At forward, let's hope Bradley finally realized that no matter what, Altidore-Davies is the only true forward tandem that works. Davies had an off game, in particular his touch was very poor, but he still needs to start.

Coming soon... an update on the USA Player Power Rankings!

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