It’s Friday night and I’m working late (isn’t that a song?). Well, “working” is perhaps too strong of a word… I’m sitting here waiting for work that “may” come in. Not sure when I’ll get to leave. This is part of the same project I’ve been working on since last week. The same project that makes me want to hit people over the head with a keyboard. Collectively, this is probably the dumbest set of people I have ever worked with. And *that*, my friends, is saying a whole lot.
Anyway, as I sit here, I finally am catching up on some soccer. I finished watching the USA vs England match from last week and am now watching USA vs Spain. The English match looked like Boys vs Men. The English team was just all-around cleaner, efficienter (I just invented that one), stronger and faster. England isn’t a superb passing team like a Brasil or Argentina (heck even a Portugal or Spain), but their off the ball movement is amazing and they very easily found ways to break the USA’s pressure. Two great finishes later, the US lost 2-0. No biggie though, great experience for the youngsters. The US should really play games like this more often.
A few things I noticed during this game…
1. USA is set on goalies. Brad Guzan came in for Tim Howard, who also did a good job, in the second half and there was no loss of quality. I’d feel completely comfortable with either of these two starting in World Cup Qualifiers. Obviously I’d prefer Howard from an experience standpoint, but Guzan would do well also. Interestingly enough, Guzan was trying to get into the EPL during the winter transfer window, and I’d suspect based on this performance that there will be a few suitors during the summer transfer window.
2. I’d like to see center-back combos other than Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra. Don’t get me wrong, I thought they played well (and continue as I watch the USA vs Spain), but they’ve started together the last several games, and frankly I want to see what some of the other centerbacks can do. The other thing that the USA has an abundance of besides goalies is good centerbacks. Gooch needs to play with an organizer type, which Bocanegra is, but he could also work with a guy like Jimmy Conrad. What do the other centers like Jay Demerit bring? who can they be paired up with?
3. Michael Bradley didn’t have a good game against England, and so far (halftime) against Spain not much better. He’s looking for a new team and didn’t do himself any favors out there. Ricardo Clark didn’t do too well either, and I think Michael Edu got the start against Spain just in case it was Clark’s fault against England. Well, Bradley still didn’t play well. Edu on the other hand has looked pretty good. After fighting with the ball (poor first touch) against England and the beginning of the Spain game, he’s settled in and looks pretty good. He’s physically very gifted, and he’s got a real nice touch and sense of where to play to relieve pressure. The thing I do like is that all of the guys playing there right now are good two-way midfielders.
4. Eddie Johnson sucks. A guy with all the tools that he has, I can’t figure out why he can’t put it together. I’m pretty sure its a head issue, like confidence, or some other esoteric hard to diagnose problem. A few years ago, he was the poster child for USA, scoring like 6 goals in 7 games and playing just out of his mind. He was scoring goals in bunches in MLS too. Then he breaks his foot and it all goes to heck in a handbasket as he hasn’t been the same since. His touch is at times really good, and at times like a stone foot. He seems to check to the ball when he should go away, he zigs when he should zag, he passes the ball to the wrong team, he flicks on when there’s no one there. Seemingly every decision is the exact opposite of what he should do.
Two really good examples, for me, of his form. Freddy Adu puts a fantastic ball out there for him, and its a foot race between him and Spain’s Puyol (no slow poke). He flies past him (great), first touch is good and in stride (great). Now he’s going to be in on the goalie with the defender behind him. If he takes the “right” touch, he’ll bring himself to the center of the goal, giving himself the best angle for shooting and force the defender to either slow down or risk tripping him for potentially a penalty kick and a straight red card. Instead he takes the “wrong” touch which carries him away from goal giving him a bad shooting angle, and allowing the defender to stay close enough to bother him when he does shoot an incredibly weak shot that just rolls to the goalie.
The second one was early in the second half Eddie Lewis (who I’d like to see at DC United, btw) puts an absolutely *beautiful* cross right onto Johnson’s path. And this cross was absolutely perfect, perfect, perfect. You couldn’t ask for a better cross. If you gave him 10 chances, he isn’t going to get another cross any better than that. So this cross comes in and what you would like to see is Johnson jump up with authority, meet the ball, and head it powerfully downward or into a corner. Instead he just kinda lets the ball hit him in the face and it dribbles wide. Awful.
I can’t quite say that he hides from the ball, but he doesn’t do a whole lot to put himself in good positions to receive the ball. As a result when he does get the ball he’s got someone right on top of him. Several breakaways were ruined because he neither tried to run behind the defense (which as fast as he is, he can do *at will*), nor did he check to the ball for a give and go. He just kinda floats in no mans land until the play goes by him.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to turn this into an Eddie Johnson rant… but it is the single most noticeable thing I saw in these two games.
5. Coach Bob Bradley waited WAAAAAYYY too long to make some subs against Spain. His guys were clearly gassed, and Spain was throwing in fresh legs left and right. His son Michael Bradley was clearly the most tired, showing the two clearest signs of fatigue in soccer… poor first touch, and lots of fouls. He was lucky not to get red carded with a few of the late challenges he had. A kinda tired Edu and a really tired Bradley meant Spain had an expressway right up the middle (see the goal).
Thats all I got for today, as if that wasn’t enough. One of these days I’m going to write down some of my thoughts about DC United… and there are many…