Get Your Motor Running | a USA Match Reaction

Your classic tale of two halves? Perhaps. The US certainly seemed a different side going forward after the break. But the worry, for Bob Bradley and US fans alike, will have been the wide open spaces left available for the counter. And those were present in both halves.

Talking points?

* While the second half saw the US start to think and act quicker both on the ball and off, the transition between attack and defense (and vice versa) continued to be too slow. Not to say that it wasn't better in attack—it certainly was. Donovan, completely M.I.A. in the first half, started to become more of a factor as the improved pace of transition got him the ball in space and moving towards goal. But the real worries were happening all game long on the defensive end. Despite playing with two deeper central mids, Turkey consistently had time and space on the break, most worryingly Tuncay in the gap between the central midfield and defense. Likewise, a relatively static and indecisive US back line was exposed on a number of occasions by quick movement off the ball and Turkish attackers running at them.

* There was little to no width in the US attack in the first half. In the second, Cherundolo's overlapping runs on the right, Findley's improved mobility vis-a-vis Dempsey, and Torres's ability to spray Xabi Alonso-like balls meant the US was more consistent in generating wide threats. Also, as noted in the previous point, the US played a quicker game, getting the ball to players while they still had space they could exploit, rather than holding...holding...dithering until runs petered out, gaps were filled, men in space closed down, and the man on the ball came under pressure.

* The Turks had more than enough chances to bury this game early. Slovenia and Algeria might be as forgiving, but England almost certainly will not. And if Rooney is afforded the same sort of space that Tuncay was operating in during the first half, we'll be in a world of trouble on June 12th.

* It's interesting to note that the fullbacks we fielded in the first half were probably the most defensive pairing we could put out there. Despite that, the Turks had little trouble finding gaps, and, predictably, we weren't generating much going forward either. That said, unless Bradley is blind, I think Bocanegra needs to be playing at left back. Why? Most obviously, you could point to the number of times Bornstein was burned, allowing counter chances, wide penetration into the box, and darting runs behind, despite only being on the field in relief of Boca for 20 minutes. Secondly, Spector didn't exactly cover himself in glory in the first half. Slow to make decisions on the ball and woefully unable to anticipate balls going wide, he made little argument that he's bringing more to the party than Bornstein.

* Did Findley's performance justify his controversial inclusion in the 23? He did set up the opener by chipping Donovan into space and dutifully hustled about. He certainly looked confident enough and up for the occasion, but between chipping Donovan in and his late hold-up play, I don't remember seeing too much that impressed me. At times he got wide, and I appreciated that he was willing to run at defenders. Sadly, he rarely got past them, and, when he did, he either dribbled one touch too many or couldn't find the cross. Still, he's not completely out of his depth. Credit to Bradley? Not yet.

* The kid who really impressed me (and believe me, I've been waiting for a long time) was Torres. A terrier on defense, he allowed Bradley to get forward more effectively than he did in the first half. Somewhat surprising that, considering that Clark, Bradley's partner in the first half, is a more natural destroyer. But the biggest impact was Torres's ability to spread the ball about quickly and effectively. He didn't get forward into the attack, but rather sat deep, much like a Pirlo or Alonso, and pulled the strings from there. Of course, that's only going to be effective in games where we control possession, so it might be a stretch to try that against England. But against Algeria, Slovenia, and CONCACAF in the next cycle? Much more likely.

* And finally, we'll close with the curious case of Clint Dempsey. A goal? Yes. A bit of hustle? Yes, there was even some of that on occasion. But there was also that worrying Clint that frustrated so much during qualifying and at the Confed Cup. The one content to try tricks and fall down, to scowl at refs and teammates alike, to lose possession in promising positions. The one who seems to have a bit of swollen-noggin syndrome. And, most frustrating of all, a touch that kept seeming to get away from him in the first half. It was much better in the second, so we'll have to pray that it was just a matter of getting back into the swing of playing again.

Looking back on the performance as a whole, there's one key factor that I don't want to overlook in closing. While Bradley has generally been effective at establishing a tactical game plan prior to the match, he sometimes struggles to make changes during the game. Whether we can attribute the better second half to his changes or to the players just getting more in tune with one another during the run of play I leave to the reader. What can't be denied is that his team was creating consistent chances (and managed to finish a couple) against a pretty decent Turkish outfit. If they can replicate that kind of play against Algeria and Slovenia, advancement to the knock-out stages awaits, regardless of what happens against England.


  1. Good article and agree with what was said. Think the better second half was due to the changes and not the players getting more in tune

  2. I agree mostly, but one point rubs me wrong. You say that Torres shouldn't play in games against England, because there's no chance of controlling possession? Well, how are we supposed to win when the service from the midfield is non existent (see Clark and Bradley together).

    Against Spain, Clardley worked because everything went through Xavi. No other team in the world cup is like that. If we want to beat teams, we need to at least compete for possession, meaning Torres or Edu with Bradley.

  3. When did I say that Torres shouldn't play against England? I only said that he wouldn't be able to play the deep-lying playmaker role as effectively in games where the opposition doesn't cede possession to us.