USMNT: Czech-USA Good, Bad, Ugly
I'm not too exercised about the ugly loss last night because the US was fiddling around with players and resting sevenish starters. The main takeaway is that the US has no choice put to put Spector or Bocanegra at left back, likely Bocanegra because Cherundolo was pretty awful, still rusty after an injury-laden season.
Stuart Holden. Excellent performance until he got tired late and started lofting moonballs on his set piece services. The De Jong tackle appears to have robbed him of the ability to go 90 right now. Will it be better after a couple weeks of intense training? Hard to say.
That's the only thing preventing me from advocating that Holden should start and the US should push Dempsey up top. Holden has pace, poise on the ball, and a beautiful stroke on free kicks and crosses. He seems much more involved in the game than the occasionally indifferent Dempsey—yes I know he had more yardage covered than almost anyone in the Confed Cup—and starting him removes the difficult choice of what mildly frightening striker to put on the field. On the other hand…
Brian Ching. Ching specializes in the pass before the really interesting pass. It was not a coincidence that the US got zero shots, on net or not, in the first half other than the Edu cleanup of Cech's biffed clearance attempt. As soon as Ching came in he started winning balls, making clever, ball-keeping backpasses, and using his vision to set up attacking plays. He successful set teammates up with a couple of back-heels. He won the corner that Gomez eventually put in the net. He set up Gomez with another golden opportunity, and sprung a half-dozen other attacking moves. There was no contest on the night: Ching was by far the USA's top forward. With Donovan and Dempsey on the wings his lack of scoring is all right: if he sets up Dempsey for an 18-yard bomb that's fine by me.
Right now I might even take him over Altidore. I know this makes me insane, but Ching produces when he's not scoring in a way that no other USA forward does and Altidore is not scoring.
UPDATE: Ching not in 23? WTF?
Jose Torres. Torres has nowhere near the talent of anyone on Spain, but he's our most Spanish player, if you get what I'm after. He's quiet on the ball, maintains possession, sets other people up in good positions, and never hoofs it aimlessly upfield. Useless defensively and not enough of an impact player to get over that when he's going to be playing on a team that struggles to maintain possession like the US does. I don't see how he has a starting role but he could be a valuable sub… if it weren't for Feilhaber.
DaMarcus Beasley. Healthy, looking like the DMB of old. Defensive ability should make him a useful late-game sub, and a proven USMNT performer who was possibly the team's best player in the last WC.
Herculez Gomez. Gomez managed to score a goal a lot like most of his Puebla tallies: a completely easy chance set up by someone else. So that was good, I guess. He didn't do much of anything else; when he and Ching were sent off on a partial break late he kind of lamely dribbled at a defender and got off a shot that was nowhere near the cage. He also rocketed a chance Ching set up beautifully right at Cech. I think Buddle did more, but it was hard to tell because he was saddled with Eddie Johnson.
Edson Buddle. Wahl's got Buddle on his cuts list but I'd take him over Torres (who, frankly, will not play since Benny Feilhaber duplicates his skillset and is favored by Bradley) or Bedoya. Wahl points out that Gomez scored a ton as a sub, which is nice, but I kind of look at that as a condemnation of his ability to play. I bet this run he's on is mostly fluky. Buddle seemed to do more in the limited opportunities he had and has that chemistry with Donovan. An unmarked header from four feet isn't that impressive, is it?
Maurice Edu. For a ball-winner, didn't seem to win any balls. Points for putting in a goal, but… again, it was from two feet away and largely due to a Cech error. Holden did more to score that goal by putting it in at the back post dangerously than Edu did. Then gave up the Czechs fourth goal on a horrendous misplay while moonlighting at central D.
Brad Guzan. Not like it matters.
Eddie Johnson. Multiple times an unchallenged Johnson jumped for a long ball lofted ahead… and totally missed. No thanks.
Left back Chernobyl. How can their be 14 left backs in MLS worse than Bornstein and Pearce? How is this possible? God. I spent most of the first half groaning at yet another Czech guy burning Bornstein, and then Pearce comes in and is directly beaten on the second and third Czech goals. If Bradley puts either of these guys on the field in the WC I will have a conniption fit. It's not just me: Alexi Lalas gingerly suggested maybe Bornstein was not impressing, which is the ESPN equivalent of advocating he never play for the US again.
Steve Cherundolo. Terrible performance from a guy who has been a mainstay. Gave the ball away time and again. Was badly out of position on the second Czech goal and gave the player who would launch the cross a ton of time and space to make a precise pass.
Sacha Kljestan. Not only did nothing with the ball but lazily expected a clearance on the third Czech goal instead of attempting to mark the guy streaking in front of him. Total waste of a roster spot given the depth in central midfield. Will not be going to SA.
Oguchi Onyewu. I noticed Onyewu being pretty lumbery out there so let's turn to the USA soccer rainman Wahl:
14' 0-0. I remember how players run. Onyewu does not run the same way that he did before the knee injury. Will it matter?
about 2 hours ago via web
Depressingly prescient, that, as the Czechs would equalize shortly before halftime on a cross on which Onyewu was beaten badly on. When he came off the field, his injured leg was immediately wrapped in enough ice to bury Jonathan Bornstein alive, not that I'm advocating anything in particular.
Injury concerns were not assuaged, to say the least. Gooch did have a good recovery when Goodson was beaten in a half-break situation early, at least.