So what abiding memory does the wrong side of a 2-1 in Amsterdam leave you with? Do you find solace in the stodgy inevitability of loosing the possession battle but not surrendering too many quality chances over the course of 75 minutes? Or do you choose to instead to focus on how rattled and uncertain the Dutch began to look when the US decided to damn the torpedos in the last 15?
Talking points? Sure, I have a few...
* Heeeeere's Jonny! Let's get this out of the way first. Jonathan Bornstein is a capable player against CONCACAF opposition. That's fine. And he did show flashes of confident play in possession at times in this match. But he had the mental lapse that let the Oranje open the scoring. How do you think that's not going to get spotted? Particularly with a referee who seemed so squeamish about the idea of physical contact that he went to his whistle at the slightest threat of bodies brushing against each other. Again--all pretty predictable. I can even forgive Bob for leaving him on at halftime; it's not like Spector wasn't made to look foolish a few times on the right. What I simply don't get is why (1) Pearce didn't get more minutes after showing so well in the last outing and (2) the Bornstein trial in the middle (does anybody think that'll work against quality opposition when it counts?) trumped Goodson getting more of a look. But I suppose thats what being "Bob's guy" gets you.
* Where's Mandon? Tired, perhaps? Wondering where his club future lies, maybe? Whatever the case, the supposed "star" of our American soccer firmament was pretty damn dim, don't you think? Now I know that the late flurry was largely a result of going for broke when there's not much difference between 2-0 and 3-0 in a friendly, but does it concern anybody else that Beasley seemed more integrated with our attack than Donovan? Was it entirely coincidence that we became so much more dangerous when he left the field? I wonder if not having Donovan out there meant that everybody else stopped waiting for him to produce the magic and got busy with the more mundane business of trying to get the ball into dangerous positions.
* Mix and match in the middle. The two halves were a demonstration of why Junior needs to be paired with someone more capable defensively and with a greater range. He's a dynamic player himself, who lets our attack get wider and creates all sorts of interesting situations when he charges forward into the space behind the attackers. Paired with Feilhaber, Kljestan, or Torres, he needs to be a more conservative, defensive presence. While he's decent on defense, he still needs help, dragging the more creative partner deeper with him, where neither are particularly involved in the attack. While I like Feilhaber and Torres, I think Junior still trumps them, making Edu, Clark, and maybe even Jones (if he can get healthy) more appropriate partners in the middle.
* Sure hope Holden is okay. He looked pretty distraught when he limped off.
* Torres didn't really help his case, did he? On the other hand, that Bedoya kid looked pretty interesting. Maybe not for this cycle, but if the injuries continue to mount...
* Once again, we came out of the half and were immediately under pressure. Quality opposition makes adjustments we struggle with. And Bob? Not so much.
* Altidore seems to have upped (no pun intended) his aerial game. So can we please do without both Casey and Ching in the 23? Also, his confidence seemed to grow with the game. He needs more minutes on the field (says Captain Obvious).
* Findley = not ready. EJ = too tentative. Bob = praying for Charlie to miracle-heal. Personally, I'm not optimistic about the latter, Wolverine-seeming genes to the contrary. If Beasley's back or Holden healthy, I put Dempsey up top with Jozy.
* DeMerit looked lost early, getting caught wrong-side of Kuyt in what should have been a foul and a yellow, but recovered to make a really strong case for himself in the second half.
* It's always set pieces, isn't it?
* We didn't give up too many solid chances, but a more patient side may have found us out a bit more. Good thing we've drawn England ;-).
Going into this match, 2-1 would have been a respectable result. After witnessing their wings shredding us in the opening stages (something the likes of Lennon, Young, and Walcott will likely be bringing to the table this summer), it seemed even more unlikely. So the fact that we had a few quality chances to walk out of this one square borders on truly impressive. The defensive performance was generally good; giving up goals on a penalty and a deflected shot while Timmy only had to make one tough save and bust up one breakaway on the road against a major world power isn't what I would consider a failure.
That said, I didn't think the Dutch were in full attacking flower either. Still, the roller-coaster that went from "oh crap" to "hey, we're in this thing" to "AAARRRGGHHH, Jonny Bornstein!" to "oh dear, break out the iron undies" to "hey, we're causing them some trouble" to "get in there, Boca!" to "holy crap, we almost tied this thing...and then we did it again!"? That roller-coaster left me with more positives than negatives despite playing down half a man (toodles, Robbie Findley).
It's three months until things get started in earnest in South Africa. The core of this team is pretty solid and, while the choice to plaster the gaps isn't overwhelming in its depth or quality, we should have enough decent pieces to put together a side capable of giving a game to anybody in the field. I'm going to go out a positive note for once (shocking for me, I know). And what note would that be? The fact that we were so dangerous and driven without Donovan.
Now let's try to consistently replicate that same attitude with him on the field.