US-Australia Breakdown

We won. 3-1 is a good scoreline on any day, just ask England, who beat Mexico by that very score despite being dominated throughout the match. But this game was more about performance than about the scoreline. And in that there were positives and negatives.

Overall, the US created a lot of very good scoring chances, controlled the majority of play, and when being pressured by Australia the US looked dangerous on the counterattack. But – and this is a big but – the US central defense looked like they had never seen a ball in the air before. While the US looked dangerous going forward, they also gave away numerous easy chances to the Socceroos who were wasteful. Based on form right now, it looks like the US could quite easily find themselves outplaying England, only to find themselves down due to a leaky defense. The central defense, which was the least of Bob Bradley’s concern throughout this World Cup cycle is now a real concern.

Some other thoughts:

That looked pretty close to Bradley’s starting lineup and Gooch’s exclusion is troubling. Judging by the inclusion of Donovan, Dempsey, Bradley, Bocanegra, and Demerit and lack of substitutions, this looked pretty close to the starting eleven will see against England. Bradley was trying to make sure his starters were 90 minutes match fit. While Altidore looks to be included and was left out for precautionary reasons due to an ankle knock, the fact that Onyewu did not start is surprising and troubling.

Commentator John Harkes noted that he was told Gooch didn’t start because he was working to hard in training. Huh? Something is a little off here – either Gooch is not quite as 100 percent as himself claims or Bradley has mismanaged this a bit. If Gooch is expected to play 90 minutes against England – he should play 90 minutes at least once in the last 8 months. While you don’t want to risk injury, in this case a coach has to err on the side of form and on pushing a player whose biggest weakness looks to be his rust. One thing for sure, judging by yesterday, the US needs Gooch.

The central defense is a concern. Cross after cross came in to the box from Aussies whose main route to goal was through pinging balls in the air. Countless clearances were flubbed or missed completely by Jay Demerit and surprise starter Clarence Goodson. Jay Demerit did not look like a player in form and Goodson looked a little out of his depth. Set pieces proved particularly dangerous as the US marking overall was dreadful. This is very worrying since the foundation of the the US run in the Confederations Cup last year was the solidity of the central defense, particularly in the air. Against Spain, the US clogged the middle, forced Spain wide, and cleared the countless crosses that came in. Based off this game, that looks like a dangerous strategy.

Ricardo Clark getting 90 minutes is a bit head scratching. In my view, Maurice Edu is just as good defensively and is much calmer on the ball. Furthermore, there were times against Australia where the US clearly needed a quarterback or a more calmer presence in the midfield and it was surprising that Jose Torres or Benny Feilhaber saw no minutes. Nevertheless, I thought Clarke played reasonably well and I expect Bradley to start him (assuming that late hamstring injury is not a concern).

Robbie Findley is not yet ready for prime time. Findley has what none of the other strikers have – speed. But his overall game awareness and technique are just not quite up to snuff. Findley put himself in dangerous positions, had some great counterattacking runs, but demonstrated horrible finishing and too often looked a little lost when he didn’t have the ball. For instance, in the first half Clint Dempsey made a great run putting himself free on goal, off the ball Findley made a confused run that actually got in the way of Donovan’s run. This does not mean Findley shouldn’t be an option off the bench – he should be – but he is not a 90 minute player and shouldn’t start against England.

Edson Buddle is ready for prime time. He scored two well taken goals, held up the ball well, and actually set up what should have been another goal. Buddle and Altidore are similar players and usually you would want some contrast in your strikers. But Buddle looks like a good shot to start with Jozy against England.

Herculez super sub.
Any quality team needs weapons off the bench. Herculez Gomez is that weapon. He scored again and simply has a great knack for goal.

All things run through Donovan. He is our creative spark and it is imperative that he gets on the ball as much as possible. I am not sure that means playing him on the right.

Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra were solid. Surprisingly I have more confidence in the fullback positions than in the central defenders right now. Both had good games and Cherundolo is a real two-way threat.


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