Six Shooter, No Bullets | a USA Match Reaction

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.

Quick hits?

* 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...


  1. The US was lucky. I share your fear that, should we make the World Cup final, things may well go south.

    -DCU Curmudgeon

  2. I'd prefer a midfield pairing of one more defensively-inclined CM (Clark, Edu, Jones) and one more offensively-inclined CM (Bradley, Feilhaber), personally. Unfortunately Bradley seems to be undroppable (I think we are extremely fortunate that Clark scored, as Bob was about to pull him for Feilhaber, and the Bradley-Feilhaber combination just isn't that good, because Bradley's not a good DM).

    Harkes was more right than usual about Dempsey, but his constant riding of Dempsey is extremely annoying.

    We did do a much better job of looking to keep possession at the end than we did in the El Salvador game, but it was still frustrating to see us trying low-percentage through balls in stoppage time when all we needed to do was hold the ball for another minute and let the clock expire.

  3. It's tempting to look at the midfield situation and go hunting for the greener grasses, isn't it? I'm not so down on Junior as some folks, and I'd agree that he's better when he gets some freedom to go forward in support of the attack, though Mo Edu would be pretty much the same story in my mind (I don't see him as defensively-inclined; he likes to get forward too much). Given that Clark's enthusiasm sometimes means he's not disciplined enough in his positioning, it's mighty tempting to wonder about the possibilities that Jones can open up.

    As for Dempsey...somebody needs to ride his ass, and clearly Bob's not going to do it. I think it's time he befriended the pine for a bit to gain some perspective on the effort he needs to display in order to earn a spot on this team. But is that going to happen? Unlikely.

  4. Yeah, I don't want to sound like I dislike Bradley, because I think he's played some great games for us (against Mexico in Columbus, for instance, and not just for the goals) and will be a vital part of the team going forward. But I think his defensive instincts are suspect in a way that Clark's and Edu's (and presumably Jones, though I haven't really watched him play) aren't (watch him fail to body up on the El Salvador player who got the assist in Salt Lake, for instance). Seems like maybe you disagree about Clark, though.

    I do think Bradley's been out of form the last few games, though, and while he is, I'd really like to see Clark-Feilhaber. Is that shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic (a non-sinking, likely-qualifying-the-world-cup Titanic, so maybe that's not the best metaphor)? Maybe. I'll certainly grant that Bob knows more about soccer than I do.

  5. Yeah, for me, Clark gets the tackles in and runs a lot, but his positioning (tied to his reading of the game) seems suspect. I've not seen Edu play for Rangers, so I don't know if he's added better defense to his repertoire, so I'll withhold comment there, but in his time with TFC he seemed more of a box-to-box type than a holder or destroyer. Likewise, I haven't seen much from Jesus Jones (he's the midfield savior right?) beyond Bundesliga highlight shows.

    Your final point about Bradley is one that I've had on the back burner for a while and will probably be doing a post on sometime soon. I'll grant you that Bob watches an awful lot of soccer and can analyze the heck out of a game after the fact, but I think his biggest problem is that he doesn't have an intuitive feel for the flow of a game and how to influence it in a positive sense. He may be able to make reactionary changes that negate the ideas of others, but I wonder about his ability to make changes that force said others to adapt to the game he wants to play (and argument that might also be leveled at the American player in general, with a few exceptions), if indeed he has such firm idea. There's a lot more in this theory to be teased out, so I'm letting it simmer for now.