USA Recap + Copa Dope = Disappointing

Despite all of the possession, all of the chances created, and a generally impressive outing from the "B" squad, the US manages to lose again by a significant margin. And why? Because we seem to have a squad-wide case of finishing-itis, with Ricardo Clark being the only one seemingly immune to the disease. With the loss, the US is all but guaranteed another three-and-out in a major tournament as they will have to absolutely punish Colombia by a big margin (unlikely given the state of US shooting) and hope for favorable results elsewhere in order to advance. After the third and probably final match, I'll do a summer-tourney roundup spectacular, but for now, just a few thoughts from last night's match.

  • Drew Moor unexpectedly vaulted himself into serious contention for the right back spot. Who saw that one coming? Though his first cap was marred by "filling his pants" on a wide open header late in the match (hey, at least he got it on frame!), Moor looked poised and confident with an assured first touch, the ability to actually play and pass his way out of danger, and even contributed to the US attack by sending in dangerous through balls and first time crosses. Going back to the Gold Cup, this lack of ability in possession has been one of my major issues with the US fullbacks and I certainly didn't see Moor as being a potential contributor. I'll be watching Dallas a little more closely now to see how I missed his emergence as a potential national team player.
  • Jonathan Bornstein looked to have stepped up his game and actually seemed to belong on the pitch in the Argentina match and the first hour or so of this match, but then he went and handed the game to Paraguay on a silver platter with an awful pass back to Keller. I hope it doesn't kill the kid's confidence as he does seem to have potential, but I think we need to have a serious look at Pearce in the Colombia match and at this point I'd give the starting left back berth to another Jonathan - Spector.
  • Kasey Keller has been a major part of the USMNT for over a decade, but his time is done. Whatever it was that made him an outstanding keeper is gone. He's still decent and in a pinch would still be a nice veteran presence to have in some of the nastier venues we'll travel to in qualifying if Howard can't go, but he no longer has the ability to turn a match on its head like he used to. The starting job is Howard's to lose, with the likes of Cannon, Reis, and Hahnemann competing for the backup job. Guzan has been in sparkling form for Chivas and is pretty much the only reason they've been the league's second meanest defense, so it's time for him to get a shot on the big stage.
  • Danny Califf can go back to the WWF or wherever he's plying his trade these days.
  • Ricardo Clark has just completed his vault over Little Bradley and Mastroeni for the starting spot alongside Feilhaber. He's been building to this over the last year or so with Houston and the thing that has always impressed me during that run is his willingness to have a go from distance. The majority of US players - and not just the midfielders mind you - when confronted with an opening from range, will look for the pass or to get just a little bit closer. Clark just lets it fly. That "damn the torpedoes" mindset and ability to contribute to the attack, combined with the restraint not to dive into tackles like Bradley and Mastroeni do, and sensible, quick choices in distribution make Clark a first-choice player.
  • Justin Mapp is not a 90 minute player, but can be effective off of the bench, when his ability to run at tired defenders becomes a valuable asset.
  • Kljestan and Olsen look like they will be solid contributors to the midfield in qualifying - maybe not starters, but solid contributors nonetheless. Kljestan still needs a bit of seasoning and he did miss a golden opportunity to give the US the lead early, but his eye for "dagger balls" and quick, one-touch play make him a choice that Bradley won't be afraid to make. Olsen provides the grit and drive that an increasingly technical midfield needs to be effective. I don't think it's a coincidence that the US midfield has seemed to deflate a bit during the last two matches when he leaves the field.
  • The forward line is on serious life support. While you can't fault Taylor Twellman for effort, he just hasn't been able to transition from MLS to the international stage. I thought he played really well last night, throwing himself into the thick of the fray - taking the hard fouls, holding the ball up, and playing quickly and effectively. But he's there to bag goals, and that's just not happening - it's time to move on. EJ looks to be growing in confidence, but he was nowhere near deserving of the absolute fellating he was receiving from Ray Hudson every time he so much as drifted into view on the television. He was more positive and his touch was better, but there's a hesitation there that a predator just can't have.
So things don't look good for the US with regards to advancing. Nevertheless, bar the finishing and a few lapses in concentration at the back, they've put in a couple of creditable performances at the Copa against two very good sides. It's still disappointing to lose by such margins as they have, but that disappointment is tempered by the fact that some players are emerging as probable key cogs in the qualifying campaign to come.

One such key cog is the midfield tandem of Feilhaber-Clark. They have demonstrated that they can perform more than adequately at the highest level now, and yet they still have three years to grow together. Feilhaber's summer has pretty much turned the heads of the Hamburg staff and it looks like he'll be part of the first team rather than being shipped out on loan or sold to the highest bidder. In fact, I'd be surprised if there weren't some bidders coming in for Clark given his performances in the Gold Cup final and thus far in the Copa America.


  1. I agree that Moor and Bornstein have shown well, though people are down on them for their mistakes. Thing is, on a stage like the Copa America, versus sides like Argentina and Paraguay, even little mistakes are lethal. Let's hope Bob Bradley can beat it out of them.

    And yeah, I agree about Keller. He's fried.

    Here's where I have a problem: Clark over Bradley? You're sure? I couldn't pick between the two. Feilhaber works great with them both. I'd say Bradley is more technical and has a more cultured touch. The only reason I'd start Clark over Bradley is that for all his beautiful service up front, Bradley has no real target to pass to, and Clark is showing a real nose for goal. Otherwise I find it dead even between the two.

    Why do you think Feilhaber's staying in Hamburg? I thought he was getting offers elsewhere.

  2. Apparently the coach at Hamburg had a change of heart and wants to keep Benny now. As for Clark v. Bradley - I think that Bradley is better than Mastroeni as he's not just a pure destroyer, but he sometimes makes mind-numbingly stupid passes and dives into tackles way too much - particularly for playing in CONCACAF where the red cards will be poised and waiting for him.

    I think Clark's passing and touch are on par with Bradley and his decision making is better. Bradley is probably a long term starter once he gets the tackling under control and plays a bit smarter. In fact, I'd almost be tempted to play with Clark and Bradley playing holding roles behind Feilhaber in a midfield three, lessening the defensive responsibilities on the wide attackers and allowing the likes of Donovan, Beasley, Dempsey, Mapp, Convey, et al the freedom to roam and poke holes in the defense.

    Ah, alas for Ajax of days gone by, how I loved thee in thy prime.