Suspicious Minds | a USA Match Reaction

A win, 1-0 over a second-tier CONCACAF side, and probably just about a deserved one, though by no means hugely impressive. The US showed well in patches against Honduras, and a couple of individuals can be proud of their performances, but collectively, the one word that consistently appears in my notes, often double- or triple-underlined, is sloppy.

Too loose in possession, lots of dangerous challenges in flat-out stupid areas, and generally about a half-step slower than their opposition for large periods of play. Maybe some of that is down to a lack of confidence after the slow start to the Klinsmann era, maybe some can be laid at the feet of integrating new faces1, maybe you can even blame the weather. But at some point, you’ve got to start questioning the man in charge.

Let’s go line by line for a change, shall we?

  • Defense: Howard was immense as usual, keeping the US from going down early, then preserving the slender lead. The fullbacks had reasonable outings going forward, but were a bit suspect defensively and in the air, particularly on crosses to the back post. Little surprise that things looked a lot more solid with Onyewu replacing Orozco, who again wasn’t impressive. Can we declare that little experiment failed please?

  • Midfield: Edu looked well off the pace to start2, not reacting well with or without the ball, but grew into the game until yet another stupid, lunging challenge saddled him with yellow. Beckerman has his uses, and I can see an argument for his being included in the 23, maybe even in the 18, but I just don’t see him as starter quality at this level. Williams looks an interesting player3, good on the ball, reasonably composed. Shea continues to impress (despite some poor choices on the ball and a botched finish).

  • Forwards: Dempsey is the indespensible man now; the only one who you can rely upon to reliably find the back of the neck. His moment of quality was the difference and the one called back was typical CONCACAF whistleman bufoonery. Altidore and Agudelo are both handfuls for defenders in their own particular ways, but both are still works in progress and really need to be testing keepers with more regularity.

The big takeway? The result was important. There were some sequences that were promising. But the sloppiness on the ball and in commiting fouls in bad spots are both worrying. Honduras was wasteful4 and could so easily have made things more difficult. I’m going to chalk this tentatively in the positive column, bank those missed chances as ones that go in for a more confident crew, and see what Tuesday brings while maintaining my suspicions about Klinsmann.

  1. Though I think you’d find many wondering at the lack of breadth in the “new faces” audition line. ↩

  2. Blame the SPL?  ↩

  3. Particularly playing out of position on the right. Given how tidy he was, I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the middle, even as packed as it now seems. ↩

  4. Yes, yes, better finishing from the US and better whistlemen negate this, but still… ↩


  1. 1. On footnote 2, I was sure you were blaming the SPL for Edu's tendency to make rash tackles.

    2. I find this analysis of Orozco pretty convincing:

    "Orozco’s downfall is that he struggles to win the individual battles. He struggles against bigger, physical forwards...

    To sum up Onyewu’s shortcomings, Onyewu locks in on a player and tends to lose the crowd.

    So Onyewu can often dominate a single player but the US defense is more porous overall. He wins the battle while the war is lost...

    Orozco is actually better than Onyewu at seeing the war past the individual battle. He has a better feel for the game and puts himself in position to kill off a good number of opportunities before they become problem.

    The problem is, you want a defender who can do both. See the war, win the battles. Between Onyewu and Orozco, you are forced to choose."

  2. @Rob
    1. That too. Bigger worry was how absolutely molasses he looked in making decisions on the ball. Maybe the same mental slowdown leads him to making more rash tackles than he would need to if he were reading/playing the game at the same speed as the rest?

    2. Not convinced. I thought the defense looked more porous (at least through the middle) in the first half against a more static attack than Honduras mounted in the second stanza. Gaps in the second stanza were more due to Honduras getting more numbers forward and exploiting width more.

    Orozco may have a better read on the game, but I don't see any other tools for him to be a successful center back at international level. Now, trying him on the left when we expect to not control possession? That might be an experiment worth trying.

  3. I will reserve judgement on Klinsman until he gets through his first full January camp where he can call in more players and spend more time in training. The games following that camp will be more telling.

    I also think we have yet to see anywhere near the 18 or 23 we plan on taking to Brazil.

    While everyone is focused on the possession oriented attacking style Klinsman will supposedly bring to the US game, I think the bigger task he is facing right now is re-building the defense. Maybe Onyewu makes it back and is better than ever - that would be great - but right now we are relying on Bocanegra to hold that line together and his time is limited. He'll get us through the qualifiers but will he still be around in Brazil? Who will be our center duo in four years - I don't think anyone knows at this point. Same on the right. Cherundolo is solid but will he last four years? And then we have the continuing mystery on the left. Rebuilding this back line is job one in my book.

    I'm less worried about the midfield. There are enough emerging and established talents to make seeing the field a much more competitive process than it has been in the past. They are more creative, more adept at possession oriented tactics and fairly young as a group. If they buy-in to what Klinsman wants to do (assuming he has something they can buy into and learn), they could give us some entertaining soccer.

    At forward,we have some good prospects. Altidore is beginning to grow into the number 9 role and maybe Dempsey should be the main guy next to him but if we want to keep him in midfield, then are other guys we can try (Gomez, Findlay, Agudelo, etc...). Still, more question marks here than in midfield.

  4. Fair enough. I didn't watch the first half, so I don't know how Orozco looked here; generally, I've been neither particularly impressed by him, nor convinced that he's any worse than Bocanegra's primary recent partners (Goodson/limping Gooch/Ream).

    The reason I found Susaeta's analysis of overall porosity convincing was his previous post, here, which looks at each of the goal-scoring opportunities in the match in greater depth.

  5. @Anonymous
    Agreed that sorting the defense is the biggest problem, but that's not really Klinsmann's wheelhouse. He's a motivator, not a tactician. Sure hope he's got somebody on the bench with him that can get things organized.

    Also...weren't these friendlies the ideal time to get a look at fresh blood? Sure, keep the core guys, but blood a new group of "bubble" players with each set of friendlies so that you go into the spring friendlies with a broader picture of your player pool and use them to gear up for the qualifying run. (I'll take it as understood that the 18/23 I'm talking about are for qualies/Gold Cup, not 2014.) Klinsmann, confident as always, seems already to have his depth chart sorted, and that brings up worrying spectres of Bob and "his guys" who always seemed to get a game despite consistent failure.

    (Shrug). Just an opinion though. I'm starting from a negative perspective because I've been skeptical of Klinsmann since his name first started getting bandied about pre-Bob. We shall see.

  6. rob
    Thanks for the link, though some of the analysis doesn't jibe with what I saw, particularly the "quarters" of the game breakdown. Part of the beauty of sport, I suppose, all of us having our subjective take.