Sacha to the Rescue | a USA Match Reaction

Tough headline to write.

I confess. I wasn't hugely excited about this game. Which is probably why it slipped my attention that the game had been played until early this morning. Fortunately, the wonderful folks over at Hunt Park Insider came through in the clutch and enabled me to nip in after the fact for a full match viewing, which in turn allows me to present...

... the Talking Points!

* Lazarus Kljestan. Down to his fingernails clinging to the edge of the depth chart, stoppage time was good to Kljestan. Let's face it: were it not for being one of "Bob's guys" there's no way he would have been starting this game, much less going ninety. And yes, he did have flashes during the game of what makes him such an interesting player. That said, he did barf on the best chance of the first half and directed a fair few passes to the opposition. Still, you can't question the fact that, despite not being in season for Chivas, he was alert, determined, and composed enough to both rob the Salvadoran defender and then to cooly tuck home the winner. As opposed to say...

* Rogered! Ouch. Handful of decent free kicks, but I fail to see how he lasted 85 minutes. Brad Evans may have committed the ultimate facepalm to give up the goal, but for my money, Rogers probably did enough to edge the "goat of the game" award. After about the first five minutes, where he was roaming all over the attacking third, his game got more and more putrid. More passes to the opposition than Kljestan. Holding the ball for about 800 touches when two would have sufficed. Running at defenders in bad numbers situations but perversely stalling... stalling... stalling... and failing to attack them when he should have had the advantage. Breaking off promising runs just as passes were delivered. And worst of all: a terrible lack of composure in scoring positions. Any other coach leaves him home next week, because that looks to me an awful lot like a player being handed a chance and choking badly. Not ready for primetime. Does Bob make that same call? Well... he did leave him on for 85 minutes, so...

* Too many white guys on the dance floor. Do you remember that period in the first half where El Salvador were playing it around the back? Soft, slow, lulling you to sleeeeep... BAM! Then they were all over us for a couple of minutes. There's something there: a stronger understanding. Maybe it's just my imagination, but there's just a feel for the game that seems to be missing with the US. Like the game is talking to them, providing a solid rhythm that the players can feel. And when the moment is right? BAM! goes the energy, at least for the opposition. The US can have moments of slow, patient probing (minds out of gutters please), and they can have sustained periods of aggressive, attacking play. It's the transitions and the timing that never seem to quite be right. Too mechanical. Too studied. Not natural. Is it just me?

* Can we send Casey home yet? I'm not exactly enamored with the idea of Ching being on the World Cup roster, but he and Altidore are bangers-a-plenty. Do we really need another in Casey? My notes only go ALL CAPS in two places, and one is in response to Casey getting caught offside twice in quick succession. Lazy, lazy runs. Big shock that when Ching came on in the second half we actually had an outlet up top who could hold the ball, draw fouls, and get into dangerous positions when the crosses came whipping in.

* Quelle surprise! In games like these, you look for little surpises, like...

(1) Eddie Gaven was fantastic. Running at defenders with confidence. Cutting inside, head up, looking for the chance or a teammate. My favorite moment? Rogers lays another fetid brain-fart, going for goal when Gaven is steaming in unmarked at the far stick. A minute later, Gaven has the same scenario and tries to chip it to Rogers. True, he overhit the pass, but it was still a better decision than anything Rogers was in any danger of making.

(2) Bornstein didn't look terrible at center back. No, I don't want him there when it matters, but against lesser opposition only playing one up top? Passable. He won a fair few balls in the air and cut out bunches of others. That says to me that his reading of the game is improving. It had better, because...

(3) Heath Pearce can play. His cross to Ching for the equalizer was a beauty. But more than that, he looked confident and comfortable on the ball (something I've railed on about seemingly forever with regards to our fullbacks in the international game and how important they are in possession). Neither did El Salvador carry much threat down his wing. If he's playing regularly (something he's struggled to do throughout his professional career, but should be afforded the chance with Dallas) and with confidence, he might be coming good at precisely the right time for the national team. Now, whether Bob will recognize that and actually let him supplant Bornstein at left back...

(4) Findley can out and out fly. I mean, sure, that's a given, but he made the Salvadoran defenders look like they were stuck in a vastly lower gear on occasion, though we couldn't seem to exploit the advantage. It didn't amount to much, but you can see the difference speed can make. Too bad I don't think the rest of his game is quite there yet. Maybe for 2014.

(5) How the hell didn't we carry more danger on set pieces? We had chances, a couple of which were turned away by the Salvadoran keeper. But man for man we were bigger, stronger, and faster. Technique can largely negate those physical advantages pretty much anywhere. But on set plays? We should have been much more dangerous.

So where to from here? Next week the big boys get to roll out against the Dutch (a game I'm much more excited for given both the quality of the players on offer and my penchant for things Oranje). Did any of the MLS crew make a case for inclusion at that more trying dance? We're still carrying some significant injuries, but I think you can pencil in Altidore up top, Donovan on one wing, Junior in the middle, Timmy in net, and Boca, Spector, DeMerit as likely starters at the back. But who fills the gaps?

Given the injuries hitting the central midfield (Clark and Feilhaber out), I wonder if Kljestan gets another chance. Or does Mo Edu finally get back in the frame? Could EJ's Greek playing time see him get another call if Bob decides Findley is too injured or just not ready? With Rogers looking scared and Dempsey sidelined, might we see either Torres or Castillo get a chance on the left wing? Dare I mention Freddy? Bornstein and Pearce will scrap for left back minutes, and Spector goes on the right, but who's the depth in the middle behind Boca and DeMerit? Another look for Goodson to win that #4 spot?

It'll certainly be a much more interesting (and revealing) set of choices than the last two CONCACAF scrub-wars have provided.


  1. I like your assessment, Chest.

    "It's the transitions and the timing that never seem to quite be right. Too mechanical. Too studied. Not natural. Is it just me?"

    No, it's not just you. I think this reflects, partly, on the coach. The players are too focused on the status-quo of what they're "supposed" to do and their positioning. I noticed Beckerman trying to stir up the movement in the midfield but other players wouldn't compensate for him. Casey looked lost in his positioning at times, too. Very little harmony and fluidity in our play last night, which caused me to fall asleep before halftime. Not a good sign. Barcelona's style is so attractive and fluid because the players positions are interchangable.

    This is what I like about Peter Nowak. He advocates a quick and harmonious style of play. I really hope he gets a shot because he will bring something needed to this American team.

  2. Chest?

    I think you mistake me for another long-winded United/USA observer ;-).

    Obviously, there is going to be less "flow" in the international game by virtue of the fact that these guys aren't playing together day in and day out as they would be at their clubs. That said, my comment was less about fluidity than it was about having a feeling for the patterns and rhythm of the game and the ability to both adapt and make rapid changes to these patterns.

    Subjective? Probably overly so. And I'm likewise certain that my own bias as a fan of the team makes me more disposed to be critical of them.

    This is also a problem that I don't think you can lay completely at Bob's feet, as I think it's part of the growth of understanding the game here in the States. Still, his approach does lend itself less to subtle shifts and reacting in-game than it does to having a game plan and sticking to it at all costs.

  3. Excuse me, Fullback. I guess every time I read a well thought out post, Chest_Rockwell automatically comes to my mind. Apologies. ;)

    I think it comes down to a willingness to change. BB does have an unfortunate and sometimes destructive tendency to stick to his original game plan regardless of the match tempo and style. If the opposing team makes a shift in their formation, BB fails to make the necessary adjustments.

    And I think BB's conservative attitude is contagious to the players. If there happens to be a subtle change in the tempo or pattern in the attacking strategy or style by the opposing team, our player's might be more reluctant to adapt as necessary throughout the match. This can be a death toll in the World Cup when we play teams of a high caliber and some will undoubtedly have a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to formations and strategy. They'll change it up and burn us. I'm anxious to see how we come out against a formidable opponent of The Netherlands next week.

    In short, I think there is a correlation and relationship between fluidity and patterns or rhythm. If a team is not fluid, it is usually because the team fails to recognize the patterns and rhythm of the opposing team during the match.