Thursday, June 23, 2011

Back to the blogging world as USA goes back to the Gold Cup final

Ok so I have been very bad at keeping up with my blog for the past few months. The biggest reason was because of school, but since May I have been on my summer vacation (aka work) so that is a bad excuse.  I am going to try and do better from now on.  

Back to my one of my passions: Soccer

So the USA gold cup semi-final was on tonight.  It was a good game.  The United States Men's National Team (USMNT) struggled throughout the tournament so far. They played well against Canada (I attended), lost to Panama, and un-enthusiastically beat Guadeloupe in their last group stage game.  I must admit, I was skeptical of their finals run after watching their group stages.  After their impressive and dominant win against Jamaica where they unleashed a slightly different formation (4-2-3-1 with no Donovan in the starting 11) I was happy about their "if it’s not broken don’t fix it" mentality for their re-match against panama.  

Tonight game showed me three major points that the USMNT struggled with over the past year since their world cup exit (and some might argue even longer since the Confederations Cup second place finish).  First who are the main starters in the midfield and Defense?  Is Coach Bradley still on the hot seat, or is he a better coach then everyone gives him credit for? And finally, who is the future of the USMTN after players like Donovan and Dempsey become too old after 2014? 

First, it is obvious Lichaj and Goodson embrace their starting roles.  I would like to see Ream play more but I think their backline tonight is the best backline they have.  Goodson was not afraid to make goal saving tackles and always plays well in the air.  He also has decent distribution attributes in the back which allow him to move closer to the sideline as Cherundolo flies up the flank and Jones (or whoever is the CDM) hovers in the back to help out.  Lichaj also does well flying up his left flank.  He is obviously not perfect, and I believe the left is his weak side, so he has more work to do.  But overall he seems hungry and when given the opportunity can help stretch opponent’s Defenses and put pressure on during a counter attack.  Boca and Cherundolo are obviously done deals. 

As for the midfield, I think Jones is having a good tournament.  Tonight was not his best game, but he allows Bradley to play a little more offensive and I think that helps the US with Jones as a solid CDM with a great shot and good distribution powers and Bradley can be more of a quarterback and allow Jones to connect to Bradley who can then distribute to Dempsey, or the wings depending on formation. Similarly, Bedoya I believe has been the best player for the USMNT that was not a) initially on the team and b) usually is found on the bench.  I think he is always working hard, has great pace, good vision, and allows the US to stretch opponents on almost any offensive drive on his side.  Especially if Cherundolo is overlapping and then they can really stretch the D.  Also Bedoya gets back which helps Cherundolo.  

Kljestan did not have a good game and I think Donovan was the perfect sub but Kljestan played well against Jamaica and I think can be a great player in the future.  He is getting good experience now, which is helpful.  

Coach Bradley's move at half time and then in the 65 min (or whenever Adu came in) were the two best moves by him this tournament.  I know Donovan came in off the bench in the Jamaica game but Donovan had a larger impact this game (assisting the winning goal by Donovan).  Also Adu had a major impact setting up the first goal, and working the right wing with some accurate passing and good creativity.  Bradley proved he is a solid coach when he did well in the Confederations Cup and made it to the knock out stages in the World Cup.  Some of Bradley’s criticisms are he is too complacent when it comes to formations and starters.  He also tends to be more defensive than aggressive.  But tonight showed he is willing to take risks, first by not starting Donovan (who by all accounts had lack-luster performance in the group stages) and then substituting in Adu when the US needed an offensive boost instead of subbing in Edu to strengthen the defensive midfield.  I think Bradley is a great coach and I believe his philosophy with capping so many American players into the USMNT system will pay off in the long run. 

Finally, this game proved to me that there are a few notable players that seem to be ready to be consistent starters or can be future starters and will be (or hopefully) great bench players.  Lichaj, Goodson are two of them. As I mentioned above, I think they fit well in the system and are certainly playing better than Oneywu and Bornstein.  I think Ream will also be the future in the back and although he has played below his club level, I think he will break out eventually.  Bedoya is my biggest pick and I believe he should be a starter from now on.  If the midfield consists of Bedoya on the right, Dempsey in the middle and Donovan on the right (in a 4-2-3-1) I think that could be a dominant midfield.  Kljestan, although had a poor game, will be a good future player.  I am still unsure of Edu only because Jones and Bradley are both young and good.  Edu can be a great back-up but not a starter for right now.  I loved seeing Adu play well, but I need to see it more before I jump on his band wagon.  He can be great, we all know that, but can he be consistent? I would also like to see Wondolowski play, but I think Agudelo was a good sub for Altidore.  I do think Agudelo is a little weak as a single striker, I just don’t think he can hold up the ball as well as he tries.  He does better when he uses his speed and beats defenders to the corners. This does cause congestion problems for any of the wingers or LB/RB who are using the wings to stretch the Defense.  Otherwise I think Agudelo certainly has tons of promise and is only 18!!! Just hope we don’t “Adu” him. 

Overall, good win, but the US needs to be a little crisper if they hope to beat Mexico/Honduras.  

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