Thursday, June 13, 2013

Well, That Was Better: USMNT 2 - Panama 0

photo by meddygarnetvia PhotoRee
It's all Ed all the time around corporate HQ these days: 
My US national team assignment continues, this time from Seattle, Washington, where our heroes put in a dramatically better performance to defeat Panama 2 to 0 and move to first place in their World Cup qualifying group.  (By the way, thanks for putting me up in that slick Residence Inn, boss, really loved the gratuitous continental breakfast buffet.)  Of course, this was a home game against weak opposition, but even so the USA moved and handled the ball with much more confidence and tactical awareness.  In particular....

Michael Bradley.  Bradley played one of his better games, controlling the middle, handling the ball well, and working forward into space on breaks expertly.  He was the man of the match for the US, and was only stopped from scoring by an unfortunately positioned Clint Dempsey.  I recall much criticism of Bradley as only starting because he's the coach's son.  Well, that's not true.  Bradley is the best midfielder we have right now.  He lacks speed and isn't dazzling, but he's one of the few American's whose capable on the ball and has the vision of a coach's son.  He's also clearly a leader of that team.  At 26, he's coming into the prime of his career and in the next World Cup the USA will need him.

Jozy Altidore.  Altidore had a terrific game, but remains to me simply an old style number 9.   He uses his strength well, can finish, and is a threat in the air, but don't look for him to scare anyone when he has the ball at his feet in the way top strikers like Aguero or Van Persie do.  That said, he is also older now and is gaining confidence.

Geoff Cameron.  The press had the loss of Jermaine Jones due to a concussion as being a huge problem for the USA.  I see the value of Jones and think he's a solid player, but I've also felt that his touch is suspect in addition to his all to frequent lapses of judgment with hard fouls.  Geoff Cameron, it turns out, filled in admirably and seemed to be little different than Jones in this one, perhaps even better.

Damarcus Beasley.  Well, I've been harsh on Damarcus for some time, but he had one of his best games against Panama.  He was solid and defense and handled himself well on offense.  I'm sorry to say, though, that the lack of competition on that side seemed a huge part of his success, and I still can't believe we don't have someone better. 

Brad Evans.  Egads, Evans really can't defend, and gets beat by even modest speed.  I hear this guy is a big player in the MLS; this makes me think the MLS is really bad.  Don't get it.

Besler and Gonzalez.  Besler is kind of a like a Michael Dawson light; he likes to try the long pass when he's in possession, and defends with reasonable intelligence to make up for what seems mediocre defending ability.  Gonzalez is athletic and good at defending, but clearly plays defense because of his lack of ball skills and vision.  That said, it's nice to have to competent defenders in the middle who are getting used to playing with each other rather than the patchwork we've had in years past. 

With Mexico's tie against Costa Rica, the US has moved into top position in its group.  Anyone who watched Mexico has to be surprised at just how mediocre they are right now.  Dos Santos is showing people just why he couldn't get any time at Spurs.  Chicharito is showing that he's great at finishing but not good at dribbling or passing or really any other part of the game.  All of this is good for the USA; if Mexico falls it dramatically increases the USA's chance of making the World Cup, something that looks very likely these days after back to back wins.

This is farlieonfootie for June 13.

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