Cue the refrain: I wasn’t impressed with the strike force. Yes, Altidore got a (soft) goal and looked generally more effective and Agudelo had a couple of spurts of quality, but in the main, the men up top were poor. Wondo looked lost. That said, they weren’t exactly spoiled for service, which is where we cue the second refrain about Dempsey and Donovan cutting back or into traffic, killing breaks and allowing the defense to regroup too easily.
Continuing on that theme. The 4-2-2-2 with two deep-lying holders and Dempsey/Donovan pinching in could work, but only in an ideal world where we’re fully stocked with overlapping fullbacks to bomb forward on the flanks. Dolo does his level best, but I would really love to see what Chandler (if he were here) could do in those situations. The left, as always, is a steaming morass of suck. Bocanegra is fine in the defend and counter scenario, but in the possess and dominate scenario, he’s a passenger until the set pieces arrive.
Jermaine Jones. I’ve been hard on him since he pulled on the shirt, and I make no apologies for that, but the first half was the best I’ve seen him play for the US. Faded in the second, but he was really solid in the first. Enough so that I wouldn’t have minded seeing Bradley get forward a little more. I’m still not fully converted, but that was a good start.
In the first half, the center backs were good. Goodson had a couple of brain-fart turnovers, but in general he and Ream kept things pretty locked down3, Ream demonstrating his usual technical quality if not a fearsome physical dominance. The second could have been a nightmare. Ream was exposed badly twice by Canadians dancing on the ball. But…
Timmy to the rescue. Telefutura (great feed on univision.com by the way) gave MOTM honors to Altidore, but Howard was easily the biggest difference maker, stoning three great Canadian chances, two of them in the same sequence. But for Howard, this one may have been a lot closer, maybe not even a win.
So roll on to Panama on Saturday, where I’ll have to make the tough club vs. country decision with United taking the field at roughly the same time (sigh). In a results business, the US got the job done in the opener, but the manner of the victory was well short of impressive. There are still big tactical and personnel concerns, and I think I saw more passing fluidity in stretches during the humiliation against Spain. Slow burn to success? Let’s hope.