Yes, yes--we won and played some pretty decent stuff as the first half wore on. Yes, the young 'uns got to taste victory on South African soil to whet their appetites for 2010. Yes, Bradley is blooding the kids in advance of qualifying. Yes, we were playing at altitude.
None of that is an excuse for that abomination of a second half!
So what do I take from this match?
- Bench rust - So Feilhaber is rotting on the bench as Derby sink to the depths of the Prem. It showed. He was a step slow and his brain didn't quite seem up to the pace of the game, which is lethal for a player of his particular skill set. That said, Freddy hasn't exactly been logging huge minutes for Benfica, yet he came to play and seemed to have little trouble making a bit of an impact on the game with some good running and a nice through ball that Beasley at least managed to keep on frame.
- You say Adu, I say Edu - While Freddy had his moments, I though that "Some people call me" Maurice Edu was the one who really proved that he's in this team to stay. He was breaking up attacks, playing quick and smart futbol, and delivered the ball that Cherundolo proceeded to roof for the US goal, despite Max Bretos attempting to give the credit to Freddy. While we're on that topic, Bretos wasn't quite as annoying as he usually is. That's not to say he wasn't annoying at all, but maybe I'm giving him a pass because he made my wife and daughter laugh with that pathetic "you've got to be fast to have a name like 'Zuma'" comment.
- No depth at the back - Speaking of the aforementioned Zuma--how did he not see a card for that ankle-breaker on Cherundolo at the end of the first half? One of many things that the ref missed, though a few were in our favor, particularly the penalty shouts that could well have been answered on another day. Regardless, the injury to Cherundolo forced him out of the second half. I'm not sure if Cheatin' Bob was going to sub out Stevie and Boca at the half anyway as a favor to their club sides, but we all witnessed the frightening lack of depth on the US back line once they were gone. Zuma and McCarthy are no slouches, and for all the grief I lob in their direction, Boca and Gooch were shutting them down while Pearce and Cherundolo were doing fairly well in preventing service from the wings. In the second half, Spector (probably also rusty due to lack of playing time for West Ham) and Califf failed to live up to the standards of the starting crew. Spector I still have hope for, but can we please send Califf back to Denmark and just leave him there?
- Jury is still out up top - The long awaited for messiah finally got his shot as Bradley gave Altidore his chance. Unfortunately, we really didn't get any opportunity to see what he could do as the miserable second half performance robbed him of the service he needs to demonstrate his ability at this level. He had a few nice touches, but for the most part, he became the McBride-type target forward that we're trying to shoehorn Dempsey into. I'm not convinced that we really need this type of player any more. Sure Ching and probably Cooper could fill the role, but with the increase in technical skill of our midfield, does launching balls onto the head of a big man up top still need to be one of the top options in attack? Positional tomfoolery aside, there was one damning piece of evidence that maybe Altidore should have contributed more . . .
- More Kljestan please! He's been doing it all year for Chivas, he showed quite a bit in the summer friendlies and the Copa America, and in limited time off the bench, he demonstrated that he deserves more playing time today. It's no coincidence that the US seemed to wake from its slumber when he hit the field. He's constantly looking forward and likes to play on the break--something we were desperately missing without our Fast-Breaker in Chief, Landon Donovan. I think if you bring him on a little earlier, we may even have grabbed a second on the counter.