USA Recap - When the Blind Run the Line

Seriously, that linesman for the US in the first half was awful. If he doesn't make some of those bogus calls, who knows what the score would have ended up being? Regardless - a better performance from the US second team as Bradley rotated the entire lineup save for Feilhaber (who would have been rotated as well if not for Mastroeni serving the final game of his suspension). It was still a little distressing for the US to show so well for portions of the game, but then they seemed to sink to the level of their competition on far too many occasions and struggled to put the result beyond doubt.

Two moments of class made the difference. The first was really Mapp's goal as Spector sent him through and the Chicago winger outpaced the TnT defense to the end line and used Ching as a wall to bank the ball in. With the form Ching is in, is it any wonder that he almost managed to pass up the chance? Johnson took his goal in much more assured fashion, though again, the goal was made by another player - in this case Donovan, who proves once again that he's deadly when he has lots of space to play with on the counter.

Overall, an improved performance turned in by the second team. So what effect does this have on who starts Tuesday? Well, for one I hope that Simek-Spector start at the fullback positions as I thought they were miles better than Hejduk-Bornstein. The ability of the fullbacks in possession was one of my major criticisms of the US against Guatemala, but there was definite improvement by the England-based pair. As for the central pairing, I think you've got to go with Bocanegra-DeMerit. Parkhurst's positioning wasn't bad in this game, but he was muscled off the ball too easily, didn't win enough headers, and his distribution was terrible. Speaking of terrible, Keller's judgement had to be questioned on multiple occasions - I think Timmy's between the sticks Tuesday.

So that fills out our defense, what about the midfield? Feilhaber has been the most impressive so far and I think that Clark showed better than Bradley, but Tuesday should see the return of Mastroeni from his 3-game ban. Pairing Mastroeni with Feilhaber will give the later more freedom to get forward and create. Beasley-Mapp is a crapshoot on the left as they've both played relatively well. Mapp seems to disappear for far to much of the match to start though, so I give Beasley the nod with an eye to bringing Mapp on in the second half.

While Ralston played well against TnT, I think Bradley will go back to Donovan on the right against El Salvador. I'd imagine that we saw Bob's intentions for the right midfield spot in the freedom that Ralston had to get forward, come inside, and even pop up on the forward line. I'd like to see Donovan operating more in this sort of a "free role" offensively, interchanging with Dempsey as the two alternate between midfield and attack.

Running alongside Dempsey up top will probably be Twellman. Of the three "pure forwards" in the US camp, he's the only one yet to score, but he's also the only one who really looks to be playing well. Ching just doesn't seem confident and Johnson is once again playing with the frustrating tentativeness that's been dogging him with the national team for over a year. Of the three, only Twellman seems to be combining with the rest of the attack effectively.

So now that the team is all sorted out, what about those idiots at FSC? I know I go off on ESPN a lot, but FSC managed to make them look like the golden child. Paul Caliguri should have a restraining order issued to prevent him from coming within 500 yards of a broadcast booth. And the camera work? Did we ever even get a replay of Ching's missed chance or Keller's blunder that we heard the audio from, but were too busy being subjected to "highlights" to have seen? The best camera work of the whole match was the 5-10 minute period at the start of the second half where technical difficulties restricted them to one camera. Oh, and I'm well past complaining about Christian Miles because the man is an idiot who I can't waste any more brain cells railing against, but is it just me or does he look like Dave Foley's "Hecubus" from Kids in the Hall? Poor Dave Johnson.

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