There Can Be Only Juan? | a USA Match Reaction

Considering my first half thoughts would have boiled down to "physical, got bodies around Messi, kept shape," the stirring second half that saw the US really make a credible match of it leaves me with a few more talking points to get through. Let's do so, shall we?

* There can be only Juan? Fantastic to see an 18 year old playing with that kind of confidence — a confidence that inspired the rest of the team. He deserved to be the man with the goal and combined well with Altidore to boot. Tough to bank on a teenager, but he looks like the best option we've got to pair with Jozy. All of that said...let's take a moment to remember that a quick, multi-goal-scoring start to a national team career doesn't always end well. Not to be a downer, buuuuut. EJ? Sorry.

* No one to Holden? Does anybody else here doubt that a healthy Stuart Holden plays atop that central midfield triangle if he's healthy? Yeah. Me neither. The Jones-Edu-Junior triumvirate was too many wrecking balls, not enough architects. However, I'm going to chose another point where we may end up missing Holden just as much. Set pieces. Yes, yes. I know that the US goal came courtesy of a Landon Donovan free kick, but there is no way in hell that Donovan serves balls as consistently dangerous from corners and free kicks as Holden does. Considering the percentage of our goals that come from set plays, it says here we're really going to miss him in the Gold Cup.

* Jesus Jones? Jermaine Jones. Bench. Please. Sure, we've waited a long while to see him get a solid run in the side, but I just don't like him. Yes, he's played at a high club level for a long time, but I'm beginning to see why he has trouble with coaches. There's this sense of constant petulance about him that rankles. He only seems to do hard work and get stuck into tackles when it suits him, puts on an attitude of constant suffering, doesn't value possession as much as the situation seems to merit, and seems to feel he's entitled to his spot. Maybe I'm reading this all wrong, but I'm just not feeling the love.

* Born to lump? Easily the worst aspect of a good US performance was the distribution from the back. Long ball has its place. No muss, no fuss is generally a good idea against the likes of Argentina. We saw quite a few occasions where putzing about on the ball led to trouble when the confidence started to flow in the second half. Then again, players at this level should have a little more accuracy on the hoof clear. It wasn't just the centerbacks either. Howard didn't distribute well, and only one fullback really contributed to the attack [1]. However, that one was pretty promising. Chandler bustled down the right flank both with and without the ball and (oh my freakin' god, I can't believe I'm going to say this) hit some nice crosses. With he and Lichaj pushing through, maybe those hard-to-fill fullback spots might be getting a little competition.

So, some notes of caution, and a little bit of worry about the utter domination suffered in the first half, but Bob, despite once again maybe picking the wrong side to start, made good changes at the half and produced a second half display that saw the US go toe-to-toe with a true world power and not look half bad. There are a handful of rusty guys trotting around out there, but some promising signs from the combinations of Junior and Edu in central midfield and Agudelo and Altidore up top. A little more width from the fullbacks (which, to be fair, we did see from Chandler in the second half) and this is a pretty well rounded team. 


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[1] From the run of play. Bocanegra's header on the free kick caused the rebound that Agudelo pounced on.

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Programming note: For those interested, there will be a DC United match reaction, but it might take a couple of days. See you on the other side.


  1. Primary difference between Agudelo and EJ: Agudelo is a provider. He came up big in the scrum to equalize, but I saw his primary role as providing outlets and linkups for holding or breaking players, always keeping his head up, never making it easy for Argentina to earn a turnover. I see him as much more support- and possession-minded than toss-me-a-ball-and-I'm-going-for-goal Johnson. I have confidence that he won't flame out in the same way.

    Too many wrecking balls, not enough architects, indeed. No offense to him, but I was always skeptical about slotting in Edu as the playmaker. It's not that he can't contribute to the offense, but I just don't think he's sly enough to work the pocket. If we need to try a five-man midfield versus Paraguay--and, given the budding chemistry between Altidore and Agudelo, I'd say we have more than enough reason to stick with the 442--then I'm shouting for Mixx to get a look. He's shown glimpses of the one-touch creativity we always want Donovan to have, and I think we need to encourage that with some playing time.

    I had a lot of love for Chandler too. I was worried that for all his fire getting into the final third, he'd be caught way out of position on the turnovers, but he seemed to have some good understanding with DeMerit and Onyewu so he was always covered. His touch and dribbling weren't a liability, either, not like Loyd's or even Bocanegra's, who got stripped by Lavezzi that one time which caught Onyewu and DeMerit completely off guard, almost gifted Argentina a square look at goal. Anyways, welcome aboard, Timmy!

    Also, what's with Onyewu's indecisiveness in passing back to Howard? There were a few times where Onyewu was being pressured by Lavezzi or DiMaria and he flip-flopped about whether to get it wide or pass it to Howard, and it almost cost him each time. Make the choice and make the play, big guy.

    Solid recap as always, FB. Big thanks!

  2. The worst thing for me was how static our lines were in the first half. I know the idea is not to be drawn out of position when Messi drops back towards midfield and whatnot, but there was this huge gap between Onyewu/Demerit and Bradley/Jones that Messi was just sitting in, and other Argentinians were making runs into/receiving the ball and turning easily in. Seemed like this was closed down much better by Edu/Bradley in the second half? Though I paid closer attention to the first half than the second.

    This was a big problem at the World Cup, too, so it's odd to me that Bob seems able to diagnosis (and fix) this at half time in games, but not before they start. (He has to know its a problem, right?)

  3. @DM:
    I wouldn't go so far as to say Agudelo is a provider, but I take your point on his value as a link-man. My concerns still stand. Confidence is everything, particularly for strikers. EJ had it. EJ lost it. Agudelo has it. Does his style of play mean he doesn't need goals to keep that confidence going? Perhaps. He's still awfully young, and nobody is consistent forever.

    As I said in the post, I doubt Edu would have been in that "top of the triangle" role if Holden were healthy. And as promising as Diskerud is, I'm not sure he's Argentina-ready. That said, I stand by my comments from the Chile friendly that I think he'll shine more when surrounded by better players. Feilhaber or Kljestan would have been the more natural, veteran replacements. It either speaks to a fear-based selection on Bob's part or current form (Kljestan) or level of competition (Feilhaber) making those guys unpalatable choices.

    One last thing. I thought Loyd's play on the ball against Chile (once he got over the early game jitters) was a highlight of that match and, for me, immediately made him a more interesting choice than Bornstein. We shall see.

    I'm mystified by Bob as well. I'll be really interested to see what he does tonight.

  4. Update on the programming note...

    My initial viewing of the United-Revs match was an oft-interrupted, distracted one. I had intended on going back to watch the match again and post some detailed reactions, but that's not going to happen (for various reasons). How about I just sum it up as "Poor start and Toledo finished the job" and prep for a reaction to tonight's USA friendly?