USA Wins; CONCACAF Gets Tighter but US Path to SA Clear

The United States beat El Salvador 2-1 yesterday, doing what we had to do to hold serve at home and ensure that we move to the last three games of World Cup qualifying firmly in control of our own desitny. Its a good thing too, because Mexico upended the form book by decisively beating Costa Rica 3-o in Saprissa, which coupled with Honduras’ demolition of Trinidad and Tobego dramatically tightens the CONCACAF World Cup race.

What did we learn about the US?

First off, the insertion of Benny Feilhaber into the starting lineup did wonders for the US midfield. For the first time in a long time, the US moved the ball with precision and pace throughout the midfield, creating space for the wingers and chances for the attacking players. Yes, we were at home and should dictate the play, but the difference between this performance and the last several qualifying games was stark.

If I have one consistent complaint about Bob Bradley is that his substituions are uniformly poor. Its not just because of a lack of depth, its that he 1) waits too long – evidenced by a clearly tiring US team that failed to cope with Salvadoran pressure in the 55-70th minutes; 2) takes out the wrong player – subbing Beckerman for Feilhaber was a mistake, if he wanted to add midfield steel, he should have taken off either Dempsey or Altiodore, who were clearly gassed and not giving much to the team. Feilhaber was consistently solid in the middle of the park and the US were clearly weaker after Beckerman’s arrival.

We need more out of Dempsey on the right flank. I know its hard to criticize his performance after he scored a huge goal, but he simply doesn’t do enough to warrant a full time slot on the right. He needs to be in the lineup, but he should be a striker from the start – that’s where he makes most of his contributions – and he simply is not a factor on the right flank and gives the ball away too much for our team as a whole to keep him out there as an automatic starter.

We need to do something about the referees

This was by far the worst officiated game that I have seen in years – at any level. It wasn’t just anti-American, there were plenty of times when El Salvador had legit complaints. But the decision on the second Altidore goal was just awful. No way that call gets made if the ref is minimally competent.

Mexico moving out of fourth makes US path to South Africa easier

Mexico’s win on the surface complicates the whole CONCACAF group, with just one point separating the top four teams. But Mexico moving out of the fourth qualifying spot is a much better development for the US because they have a far easier run in and were unlikely to finish fourth. Costa Rica looks like they are slipping and could lose touch with the leaders unless the beat a tough El Salvador team on the road on Wednesday. With Costa Rica drifting back, and Honduras likely losing to a surging Mexico, a win by the US against T&T would put us just a point or two away from South Africa. It looks close, but we now just need to do what a team of our caliber shoud – beat T&T on the road and Costa Rica at home, it doesn’t matter what else happens, we would be through to South Africa.

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