USA Match Reaction: Dos a Cero Redux

Times change, but the song remains the same. Bradley Jr. gets to be the hero, and, once again, it's Marquez and Sanchez who lay claim to the goat horns. The opening ten minutes looked a little dicey, with Mexico applying pressure and working hard, creating an early golden opportunity that went for naught. In fact, both halves started with early chances for El Tri, but a combination of poor finishing and Super Timmy kept them out (as usual). To the talking points!

* Don't you hate it when cliches come home to roost? You know, that old footballing maxim about the most important, game-changing portion of the match being the five minutes on either side of halftime? Bradley gets a goal off a set play, and Mexico has a golden chance to do the same on the other side of the break, but fails to do so.

* How often have we seen this pattern? Mexico looks comfortable on the ball, pinging it around and approaching the final third carrying a whiff of danger. But then, as soon as they get within sight of goal--poof!--nada. It looked for a while there as if the quick forwards would be a problem. Actually, it looked that way for much of the match, with some moments of slack defending requiring last-ditch interventions and scrambled clearances.

* My early notes were complaining that Beasley looked a step behind--like a player who wasn't fully fit and getting regular minutes--but as the game wore on, he started to become more influential. He even beat a defender on the dribble to launch a cross. I don't remember how long it's been since I've seen him do that. Promising signs. Here's hoping for more minutes at Rangers or a summer move to someplace he can flourish.

* I'll give Bob credit for one thing. I love the way he has Dempsey and Beasley pinching in beneath the forwards, creating room for the overlapping fullbacks to rampage down the wings. Gods do I hope the United FO was paying attention! Actually, I have to give him credit for two things. The quick, one-touch stuff was generally good to watch.

* Pearce really solidified himself at left back. I still have a few issues, most notably his often-negative first touch. It was maddening to have him work into advanced positions, only to pull the ball back rather than taking on the defender or looking for the ball forward. Except, of course, in the final five minutes, when he made ill-advised dashes forward and pinged balls into hopeless thickets of players. Still, for the most part he did the job.

* Super Timmy! 'Nuff said.

* Yes, Donovan did play a major part in both goals, but I though that he saw far to much of the ball with his back to goal, a position that doesn't suit him and doesn't maximize his strengths for us. Or maybe the voodoo dolls worked?

* Mexico's early high pressure and lack of jawing at the ref were worrying. Both had me wondering if the streak might be about to die. But they couldn't maintain the pressure over 90 minutes, and when they backed off, the time and space allowed the US to settle into the game. Predictably, they also managed at least that one moment of madness. Stay classy, Rafa!

* I don't mind bringing in Rico Clark when he has a chance to settle into the game, but with only five minutes left, he never got up to the speed of the game and lost the ball several times in bad positions. While I thought the Jozy sub for Chinger was timed about right (Ching was looking gassed and Jozy's speed opens things up, particularly against tired defenders playing a man down), I think I might have either left Kljestan on or brought Clark in a little earlier, when the Mexicans weren't closing down so hard and desperate for the equalizer.

* Tell me which was supposed to feel better--Bradley netting the late second to bring back our familiar 2-0 friend, or watching Sanchez' reaction after the ball slipped under him? I guess the "F$%K YES!" scrawled over my note page says I favor the former for its immediacy, but I think I'll savor Sanchez' shame over time.

* Castillo going off early after a blow from the Bum Hammy Hammer was helpful, but I can't help but wonder if his uncanny resemblance to Claudio Reyna will curse him injury-wise. Ah well, it could be worse. At least he doesn't look so much like John O'Brien!

So, in the final analysis, it was a victory well-earned, but one that could have gone the other way, given a surer finishing touch on that early Mexico chance and a Marquez that can resist taking cheap shots in the air. Step one is out of the way, and it was one that we needed to get the Hex off to a solid start. I'm still worried about both fullback positions (natch!), and wouldn't mind some options to present themselves up top before next summer rolls around, but Bob has the qualification ship pointed in the right direction. I have no doubts he'll get us to the big dance. The question is: what does he do when we get there?


  1. Totally agree with your analysis.

    Howard was our Gibraltar. Nice to see the ref give Marquez the red when he tried to hurt him since the clothesline on Landon's head or the whack at his ankles didn't get any attention.

    The center backs had an off night. They whiffed on or badly fouled off a few clearances in the box. The marking in the box on set pieces was also poor. A young Borgetti would have punished us on those but since none of the crop of forwards thrown at us can use their head, we got off lucky. Maybe -- with Vela, it would be a different story.

    The wingbacks played well. They shut down the flanks, won balls up the field and interacted well with the mids. No decent crosses though.

    Mids were okay. Bradley gave us two Bradley goals (nothing pretty but right place,right time and in the net - Gio wasn't able to do that despite the ball bouncing to him twice with a wide open goal). Dempsey and Beasley were solid. I liked the way they switched back and forth with each other somewhat seamlessly. Klejstan seemed a little lost - but maybe I just didn't notice him as much without the hair.

    Forwards were fine. I'm beginning to appreciate Ching a lot more for all the effort he puts in and all the selfless things he does with and without the ball. If only he could score every once in a while.

    Landon was fine but I wish that Mexican asst coach had slapped him before the game instead of Frankie after; then maybe he would have had more of an imprint on the game.

    Still - a great victory to open the year!y

  2. Ching's a tough one. He's what I would term a "good" international player in a US side that is looking to transition from "good" to "great". Not world-class or even excellent, but great. As the player pool gets deeper, players like Ching will transition to spot duty, emergencies, and specialist sub roles--at least in my opinion. How long it takes us to get to that day is anyone's guess.

    As for Donovan . . . As I said in the post, I'm not sure we get the most bang for our buck from him when he's playing up top with his back to goal. Not enough touches. Not enough space. Not enough time to get his head up.

    This is where the points collide. A forward with pace and range that is able to create dangerous situations on his own (not Ching's forte) should allow Donovan more of a free role between midfield and the forward line, a position where I think he has the most potential to do damage.

    Of course we could also get the same effect by having two advanced wide-ish midfielders in support of two forwards, with Donovan being one of the wide players, but then you have to drop one of Dempsey or Beasley in favor of a second forward. What two forwards (excepting Donovan) in our current pool bring more to the team than Beasley or Dempsey?

    Conundrums wrapped in dilemmas tied up in Gordian knots!