USA Recap - Screwed the Gooch

First of all, let's remember that there are no walkovers in modern international futbol, Guatemala was one of the final 6 in CONCACAF qualifying for 2006, and we only managed a nil-nil with them just a few months ago. That said, this performance was not good enough. If this is Copa America and you're throwing the young kids in with the sharks to sink or swim (or get eaten), that's one thing. But this is supposedly the "A" team, and Guatemala is hardly a shark. Maybe a tuna - a large, nasty tuna with an attitude problem that clocks you when you're not looking and collapses in my-soul's-being-eaten-by-the-Dark-Lord-Gr'nachinar agony if you so much as look at them funny.

Talking Point #1: Fullbacks in possession
When facing bunker-ball, not only do the fullbacks have to join in the attack for added numbers and width, but they actually have to use the ball well. This is where Cherundolo stands out as our top fullback. I have a lot of hope that Bornstein, given time and experience, can provide this on the left as well, but he's just not there yet. He's proven that he can be this type of player in MLS, now he needs to translate that to international play.

Beyond those two, what do you have? Hejduk? Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick NO - he's a void where attacks go to die (or at least get crossed high up into the stands). Of the younger prospects, Wynne is in much the same vein - he's got metric assloads of raw physical talent, but he needs to become a soccer player first. I'd like to see the other fullbacks in camp, Simek and Spector, get a shot tomorrow to see if they can provide more and better service.

Talking Point #2: Finishers
The numbers say that Johnson and Twellman are the best finishers in MLS. Could have fooled me! Johnson didn't even look to shoot and the golden chance and couple of half-chances that fell to Twellman were squandered. If he finishes that header in the first half, we might be having a different discussion here. Unless things get better in this tournament, the search for new blood needs to intensify. We've got a few promising prospects coming through the youth ranks and we may need them sooner rather than later.

Talking Point #3: Sixes and Sevens
The defense that is. Some of the defending was rank amateur stuff out there. If Boca-Gooch is our central defense going into qualifying, we're in trouble. Bocanegra was OK. I still have issues with him both for the Nats and for Fulham. At times, he just doesn't seem to close down quickly enough, at others he's a wrecking ball that takes ball, man, ref, half of the subs warming up on the sidelines, two sections of supporters . . . you get the picture. Similarly, there are times when he puts the ball into row Z when there are better options on, and yet others where he tries to dribble or pass out of no-win situations. I guess what it comes down to is decision making.

That said, he's miles better than Gooch. Has he progressed at all since his first cap? I had issues with the "phantom yellow" he picked up when Ruiz fouled him, but come on - he's got to be smarter, not only in how and when to use his body, but positionally as well. I'm beginning to relegate him in my mind to a guy we use against the likes of Crouch, Luca Toni, or Drogba - situations where his big body won't be so much of a liability.

I wonder if another reason the defense often looked so exposed, lost, clueless, abjectly miserable, insert your own adjective here - is that we didn't have a Mastroeni or Armas sitting in front of them. I guess in the current midfield, both Feilhaber and Bradley are supposed to be box-to-box players with Bradley having a bit more defensive responsibility, but often he was haring off in pursuit of opponents that could have been left to the wide midfielders rather than cutting off supply to "Flopsy" Ruiz. I don't really mind not playing with the designated destroyer midfielder going forward, but with the current state of our back line, maybe we need that kind of reinforcement.

Talking Point #4: No dead balls for Donovan
He had what, one dangerous corner? The rest, in vintage Donovan circa the last year or so, were gifted to the first or second defender. Why is he still taking the free kicks? I think we saw what happens when Captain Crybaby is away in the China friendly. The mice finally got to play and we got two goals off of dead ball situations. What does it take to get him to stop taking the free kicks? I'm having my Khan moment here. . .


Ugh. Of the two tournaments this summer, Bradley has said that this is the one he's gunning for. If last night's performance is an indication of what this team is going to bring to the table, I don't think we'll even get to the final. The one solace here is that Guatemala is, and has proven in the recent past to be, a very difficult team to play against. Let's see what Saturday brings. If we don't murder an under-strength TnT, then I'll start to get really worried.

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