Bob's batting a thousand in this round, even if both hits were little squibs that dribbled up the line and looked more like bunts. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Bob'll get us to South Africa, but it's what we do once we're there that worries me. Despite squeaking to a narrow 1-0 victory, I suppose we have to bear in mind that road teams haven't exactly fared well in the Hex. Any talking points?
* Faith repaid. I'm assuming that Bob picked Clark for this match because his physicality and energy were a better match for the opposition than Feilhaber's calm and technique. Who knows, maybe the climactic difference between Houston and Denmark played a role as well? I'm sure he wasn't thinking that Clark was the better option because he can strike them from range (something Feilhaber is fairly adept at himself--see the Gold Cup, circa 2007), but strike Rico did. Full credit also has to go to Donovan, who showed admirable patience to eschew the early crossing opportunity to wait for the better chance. Consider the number of crosses the T&T defense had absorbed with a smile and a "thank you sir, may I have another?" Weren't Livorno linked with this pair in the wake of the Confed Cup? Whatever the case, chalk one up in the "Clark" column when it comes to the battle royale for central midfield spots in South Africa. You've got to figure Junior is already on the list, but Clark and Feilhaber have both been regulars as well. And what happens when Jones gets the inevitable call after he recovers from injury? What about Mo Edu?
* The Dempsey Dilemma. He's clearly one of the most talented players in the pool, but Harkes was right...for once. Dempsey was dogging it. His defensive effort consisted mostly of jogging about and looking bored, while his attacking contribution was limited to ill-advised passes and cheap giveaways. In fact, it looked a lot like his pathetic play in the early Confed Cup losses. I even wondered if perhaps the Texas boy was wilting in the heat. But then Bob pushed him up top, and miracle of miracles, the effort was suddenly there. Does Dempsey just not like playing midfield for the Nats? Does he think he's too bright of a star to be shoved into midfield? Whatever the case, it's a worrying trend. One that has me wondering if we should try a right-sided midfield who helps out on defense and can hit a pretty decent cross to boot. Holden, anyone?
* Re-Bornstein? Despite some worrying moments in the early going that had me questioning Bob's sanity in playing the kid again, and few more late flubs, Bornstein wasn't the odd man out this time around. The defensive effort was better (though that can be said of the entire back line), and he offered a few glimpses going forward of where his real promise lies (as an attacking fullback). The question now becomes: is that enough to hold back Castillo (another attacking left back) when Bob decides to have a look at the kid? Ah, who am I kidding? Bornstein is one of Bob's "guys." His name is probably already inked on the South Africa team sheet, and Castillo won't even get a look in the annual "Scandanavian Scrub Challenge" in January.
* One of my big complaints against El Salvador was that we didn't value the ball when we had the lead in the late going. It was a much different story this time around, with keeping possession clearly the focus once we had the lead.
* Timmy may just be the biggest difference in boosting this team above mediocrity. Time and again, his excellent positioning meant he didn't need to make the spectacular save, though he did have that in his locker when called upon.
* We're lucky that T&T lacked sharpness in front of goal and on the final pass, or we could have been looking at an early hole of considerable size. As it stands, we're damned lucky as well that nobody in a red shirt but Cornell Glen and Carlos Edwards seemed to think they could win this game. I wonder if I even spotted a little frustration on the face of Edwards that his team weren't more committed.
* He's getting better, but there were still a couple of occasions when Davies put the blinders on and went for goal, regardless of whether there were better options.
* Despite his lack of speed, Ching is a good option to have when you're playing on the counter with a lead. He holds the ball well and combines effectively with quicker runners around him. I'm not saying I'd want him in as a starter, but he's got uses still.
So, six points from six on offer, and the pressure is somewhat off for the trip to Honduras. A draw from one of these matches would almost certainly have required a result in that match. Fortunately, we can now play with a little more freedom and less fear. Of course, I realize the irony in claiming this of a Bob Bradley team, but hope springs eternal, neh? Now I'm off to pull for a Honduras-Mexico draw and an El Salvador win over Costa Rica...