Still, the US were the better side throughout, though when the Swedes threw on some kids and started to press the issue, things started to unravel a bit for what has to charitably go down as a pretty lame back line trying to hang onto the lead. Wynne (big future, defensive ability consists entirely of recovery speed) + Califf (bull in china shop) + Ihemelu (WTF? Seriously?) + Wingert (you have absolutely got to be kidding me, right?) = trouble. To the talking points!
* Kljestan "planted his spear" in Hudson-speak. The free kick, the desire to take the PK, the passing, the clever little touches to create space . . . the ground he covered! Count me as more than a little surprised at that last bit. I've never really seen him as a 2-way mid, but whether it was by virtue of the fact that he was naturally roaming in search of the ball, or just through sheer desire, he was popping up everywhere in attack and even put in a reasonable showing in defense. Sure, his defense, in true playmaking dandy style, consisted of poking a toe in here and there, but it got the job done. And he was a little more convincing challenging for headers. But it wasn't just the goals that marked him as the best player on the park. The big question is: are there "emo-chicks" in Glasgow?
* Chinger is frustrating the living crap out of me! Despite his ability to hold and play the quick one-touch game beautifully at times, his limitations become all too obvious when he doesn't have a defender draped all over him. Case in point--Chinger leading the breakaway with Robbie Rogers tearing into space at a great angle and Davies wide right with the retreating defenders shading towards him. Chinger dishes to Davies and a nation (okay, the thousand or so of you who watched this game) groaned (excepting Bretos, who chose, mysteriously or predictably?, to praise the decision). But then the Chingster will pull off a slick little give and go, or the magical bit of control and layoff that created Kljestan's third. And he just plain works his socks off. It's just a shame there isn't that little bit more that would take him from good, reliable player to quality international capable of getting it done against opposition better than the standard CONCACAF and Scandanavian B-side. As it stands, we're just treading water up top until a true solution presents itself . . .
* Who impressed? Besides the obvious choice of Kljestan, I thought that Rico Clark had a decent game, though he's also frustrating in that you want to rein him in a bit, tell him to play a more patient, less direct passing game like Carroll, or maybe not go in quite so hard when he doesn't need to, but you know if you do it, you'll kill that dynamic part of his game that makes him such an interesting player. Parkhurst was his usual smart self, cleaning up messes and playing simple balls in ways that you fail to notice until some blundering incompetent like Ihemelu gets handed the keys to the joint.
* What about the ho-hums? Thorrington. I wasn't happy to see him starting, but he didn't shoot himself in the foot like some others did. What impressed me was his first touch, which stood out in comparison to some of the lead feet on display. That said, he didn't look to get forward nearly enough for my liking, and he didn't have the pace or guile to do any damage when he did. B-team depth at best. Wynne. Yes, he's athletic as hell and looks good getting forward, but he certainly can't be mistaken for a defender yet. Sure he can get back and snuff out chances, but often those chances come from his own poor positioning and reading of the game. the promise is there though. Now if someone will just talk him through the importance of closing down wingers before they have a chance to cross (both Sweden goals!).
* Losers? Rogers. Most of his match was an abject failure, but his corners were decent and he did have a spell early in the second half when there were flashes of what he can really do when given space. Still, you've got to rate most of his first cap as pretty dour. Cooper. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing--as usual. Ihemelu + Wingert. The door's over there, don't let it hit you on the ass. Perkins. As a United fan, I wanted to see him do well, but he is what he is--an average keeper. He doesn't make the big play to save the defense's bacon. And his distribution was questionable at best, often bordering on shameful. Sorry, Troy. Davies. Did he do anything of note beyond that one little dash and pull-back cross?
Most of the rest fell somewhere in the middling range. It was often hard to evaluate players when the game often descended into Danny Califf Long Ball Madness territory (though Chinger made it look pretty good on that final goal, didn't he?) and patches of scrappy ping-pong play. The slippery field also didn't do the speedsters any favors. So did we learn anything? I suppose. I'll leave you with my top three take-away messages . . .
(1) Kljestan is ready. He proved tonight that he needs to be in the picture when the big boys play. He roamed, he wanted the ball, he wanted to make things happen, and he did. Here's hoping he doesn't ride the pine at Celtic and poison all of that promise. I'm reminded here of Dempsey's transfer to Fulham. He was lighting up MLS and full of flash and vigor for the Nats, but his confidence took a hit when he wasn't playing regularly for his club. He's getting it back now, but still . . . I'm not saying we need a confident Kljestan for qualifying, but it sure would be nice.
(2) We're stuck with Chinger. Jozy will arrive someday. Cooper might even make the jump. We've got promising forwards in the pipeline, but I don't think (sadly) that any of them are ready to displace Ching quite yet. Which sucks, because he's a good player, but not the level of forward we need to compete in major international competitions (eg. outside CONCACRAP and the Scandanavian Scrub Challenge).
(3) Wide depth needs work. Okay, let's play a little game here. Name your starting wide players for the national team (RM - Dempsey, RB - Cherundolo, LM - Beasley?, LB - Pearce?). The right looks okay, but the left is decidedly questionable. Now do the backups. Trust any of them in a World Cup setting?
So what did you think? Anybody/anything stand out for you? Think the Annual Scandanavian Scrub Challenge has any value? Worried about some of Bob's choices for this camp?