USA Reaction - Meek & Mild

Alright, so let me consult the notes I jotted down whilst (when virtually in London . . .) watching the game last night and attempt to assemble some talking points . . .

* I love Dempsey's daring, and I don't want to see it get hammered out of him, but what is he playing at in the defensive third? He's trying tricks and little dink passes that inevitably end up with a loss of possession and usually a foul for a free kick in a dangerous position. Solution? Play him higher up the pitch. Like I said, you don't want to lose the creative, daring spark when it's such a valuable commodity in US Soccer.

* Our forwards suck. EJ looked moderately better than he has in recent outings. His control was better and he was actually challenging for balls in the air (the English influence, perhaps?), but he still seems to lock up when he gets into the box and forgets that he's supposed to be menacing the opposition goal, rather than meekly giving the ball away or dribbling off tepid shots. If only that volley to start the second half had gone in! Maybe his confidence would have returned. As for Wolff--goodbye and good riddance. The dude was completely MIA and has no business being in the shirt. Jacqua? On the national team? Riiiiigght. Check please! Freddy looked lively in limited minutes, and I still think he'll become a valuable member of this team. Remember, the kid's still a teenager. So, what are the answers here? Let's get Jozy and Cooper into the picture at the very least.

* We were overrun in midfield, though that shouldn't be a surprise. The England midfield is arguably one of the strongest in world futbol, even if Fat Frank Lampard is still getting undeserved minutes. That said, we did have some moments of nice passing, but it all led to naught in the final third. I was particularly impressed with Ricardo Clark's fearlessness and aggressiveness despite the opposition and the setting. That bodes well for his future in big matches. Unfortunately, neither he nor Bradley Jr. were able to truly do what Hargreaves did for England so effectively--sit back and break things up. Of course, trying to force them to do so limits their effectiveness as two-way players, which is what they both are. England's midfield was making dynamic runs that we just didn't track very well (see: Gerrard's goal).

* So, who gets the nod going forward? I think Pearce may have done enough to hang onto the left back spot for now (though he'll need more regular playing time at the club level). Eddie Lewis showed in limited minutes that he can still be a valuable contributor. I mentioned Clark's performance a bit earlier, and I was glad to see Beasley back on the field and looking relatively lively. Guzan also looked pretty reliable in net.

* So who sucked more than the average suckitude on display? Wolff isn't up to snuff. Jacqua never was. Bradley Jr. looked a step off. Dempsey flashed some tricks but wasn't dangerous (should have started him up top and slightly underneath EJ--put Beas on the right and Lewis on the left--just saying). Onyewu still doesn't look like he can quite control that monstrous frame--how the hell did he let Dafoe look like a freakin' target forward bringing in long balls from the back?

* And while we're on the subject of long balls--this was another HUGE difference between the sides. The England balls over distance were pinged hard and at low trajectory, while the US was lofting lazy, floated balls. When you've got pace but not size up top, the floated ball is a complete waste--it gives defenders time to take up position and use their aerial advantage.

So, what's the take overall? Meek and mild performance by the boys. Would Donovan have made a difference? Probably not--it was European soil they were playing on after all ;-). We need better forward play and more creativity in attack. Considering the amount of possession and free kicks we conceded and the quality of the opposition, I don't think that the defense did too poorly. Better possession and an attack that forced their midfield onto the back foot a little more may have gone some way to achieving a more positive result. Color me just a shade nervous about the sort of hiding we might expect at the hands of Spain and Argentina, but I'm glad that US Soccer had the stones to schedule matches against opposition of this caliber. We're never going to progress beyond middling second-tier soccer nation playing the same set of usual second- and third-tier suspects.

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