Next! | a USA Match Reaction

This was supposed to be an audition, right? A chance for the domestic crew and the Scandinavian brigade to make their claim that they should still be in the discussion for spots in Bob's 23. Well... NEXT!

Now, I understand that the guys haven't played competitively for a while. And I know Bob's Big Book of Tactics is missing a few pages (more on that later), but there was an almighty stench of awfulness coming from more than a few players. So let's dish some blame...

To the talking points!

* Away date? It's not so bad to drop a 3-1 result when we're playing in Central America, right? We always struggle down there. Oh... yeah. Well, I guess the big positive you take from playing an away game in your backyard is that you get the added bonus of an audition in hostile circumstances. So, how do you play in that situation? Get the ball down, slow the play, take the crowd out of it, then start to impose your game. But there's a few problems with that approach if you've already maimed yourself prior to the start of play...

* Bob's Big Book of Tactics, Part I. Okay, let's review. If you're going to play direct to the forwards (and there were precious few out there who know anything else--ahem, Marvell Wynne), you need at least one forward capable of settling a ball with his back to goal and holding long enough for the midfield to advance or his strike partner to run off him. In lieu of that, you need one of them dropping deep to turn and run at defenders. So why did Bob put out two burners looking to play on the shoulder of the last defender?

* Kljestan. Useless at just about everything but knocking our own guys over. Had two great opportunities in the first half to play guys in and knocked both of them out of play. Terrible. Must be nice to be one of Bob's guys so you can keep piling up the caps, regardless of how much suck you bring to the table. Speaking of Bob's pets...

* Bob's Big Book of Tactics, Part II. In the modern international game, at least when it's played at a relatively high level, the players that inevitably end up with the most time and space are the fullbacks. So it's imperitive that you possess guys in those spots who can play with the ball at their feet and are smart and positive in possession. Does that sound like Ironfoot Wynne and his 40-yard balls of doom? Does that sound like Johnny "look at all that space in front of me, better cut it back and play inside" Bornstein? Sigh.

* Jimmy Conrad's last cap. You think? Dude was struggling to keep up at times in MLS last year, so about the only thing he's got going for him now are his veteran smarts, which, apparently, somehow got left at the baggage claim or in his hotel room or something. I'm sure we'll hear some hue and cry about that ball being out of play, and how you can't, just can't call a PK in that case, and blah, blah, blah. You're on a freakin' yellow! You don't do crap like that. Congratulations, Clarence Goodson. Even if your elbow cleaned out the Honduran keeper and your goal probably wouldn't have stood 7 times out of 10 (save in England or northern Europe), you've now leapfrogged Conrad on the center back depth chart. Of course, even going down to 10 wouldn't have been so bad if not for...

* Bob's Big Book of Tactics, Part III. Now let me get this straight. First, you fail to slow things down and build your way into the game when the crowd is against you, your opponents are flying, and you can't connect a pass to save your life. Then you go down a man and a goal with over three-quarters of the match to go, but have a raft of subs available since this is a friendly. Do you (A) leave one up top, slow things way down, and look to settle your nerves and keep things tight until you can work your way back into the game, conserving energy for the 70 minutes ahead all the while? Or do you (B) leave two up top, neither of whom can hold the ball, while continuing to fly about the field like you need to get the goal back IMMEDIATELY or the world will come to a shuddering halt? We should have been down four at the break for that level of tactical naivete.

* Next! But what about those guys who looked like they had been making a case for themselves to sneak into the 23? Rogers? Tried too damn hard, though that bomb early in the second half would have been worth the price of admission and more had it gone in. He was hampered by the fact that he pretty much had to control the entire left flank on his own after Conrad saw red, but even before that, he wasn't getting the job done. Beckerman? Looked out-of-season more than most with tentative, slow passes. Findley and/or Cunningham? Shallow-ass forward pool, ain't it?

Look, when all is said and done, better this happen in a friendly than the real deal. And very few of these players will be ones we're going to be relying on come June. We've known for some time now that our Euro-brigade takes this party to a whole other level, and we're just not the same team without a certain Landon Donovan in the lineup.

But (and isn't there always a but?)... my faith in Bob's tactical accumen and player selection is approaching an all-time low. Guillotined poutry attack? Pressing for an equalizer with 10 men and 70 minutes to go? Marvell Wynne? Kljestan? This was an audition for the players, not the coach, but he managed to fail as badly as they did.



  1. Frankly the reason for the game was lost when Conrad was ejected. We needed to evaluate players in particular roles and positions and couldn't do that with Conrad out. What stupidity! He is definitely finished. So is Jeff "I'll just jog a little here and there Cunningham". What laziness!

    Most of the rest will go home too but I imagine that Bornstein and Feilhaber are still headed for the 23 and that Marshall has a good chance of cracking it too.

    Wouldn't mind seeing a little more of Davis, Goodson and Findlay against El Salvador.

    Don't know what to make of Beckerman and Bedoya.

    Troy still has a shot at the squad but I'd probably take Hahneman this point.

  2. The best part of the game was that Pontius did not make the 18. If he is not providing what Bob Bradley wants then I have hope for his future.

    I think I have finally figured out why Bradley continues to play Wynne, Bornstein and Kljestan, they have a similar tactical and positional knowledge to Bob. That would be a complete absence of tactical and positional knowledge. Almost every time Honduras attacked two of the three was out of position, lunging unwisely for the ball and/or getting easily beat, unless all three were. They pass when they should carry the ball, kick it long when they should play short, dive in for a challenge when they should contain, contain when they should close down to prevent a cross, and are just horrible soccer players.

  3. If any one of us was the coach of the team, then that definitely would have been Jimmy Conrad's last cap ever. But Bob Bradley doesn't roll that way! Bradley would never let a little thing like consistently poor performance stop him from calling in one of his regulars. That's why Wynne and Kljestan will continue to accumulate caps regardless of their total mediocrity. Damarcus Beasley remained in Bradley's starting lineup for months after he lost all ability of making positive plays.

  4. Mysterious Anon said... "Frankly the reason for the game was lost when Conrad was ejected."

    How so? Even if player evaluation took somewhat of a backseat (though I'd argue maybe you understand a player better when you've seen what he brings to the table playing short-sided from behind), there was an opportunity here for Bob to fine-tune his tactics should we encounter a similar situation in South Africa.

    Based on the evidence of last night, we'd better hope that's a bridge that never needs to be crossed...

  5. You have a point Fullback; but we've had the chance of evaluating our guys when they have to play a man down pretty regularly with Bradley, Clark and Onyewu in the lineup (they are red card magnets). These games are to figure out who the backups will be. If we need to learn tactics, maybe we can hire Mourinho. He claims he can win with seven guys. He certainly can with nine!