Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Costa Rica 3 - USA 1

Never you mind the goal in the 90th minute off a foul in the box off a fucking throw-in that gave the US its first goal in Costa Rica since 2000. Never you mind how tough it is to play in Costa Rica's stadium, with the artifical turf from the 70's, hostile crowd, and brutal heat. This was an ugly game from the United States. Alexi Lalas just called the game "Garbage--total garbage. From top to bottom." More disturbingly, Rob Stone just said,"The United States really missed Frankie Hejduk." Hey, Rob Stone--Frankie Hejduk's dog doesn't miss Frankie Hejduk. It was an awful outing from the US, and if someone can say that Hejduk was missed, and not get laughed out of town--well, it is cause for concern. It is worrying, I am saying.

Where this game went wrong is from minute Zero, which explains why Costa Rica was up 1-0 after 2 minutes of play. It starts with some coaching decisions that seemed from the start to be questionable, and by the end, very wrong-headed.

Let's start from the back and move up the pitch. I don't understand the decision to put DeMarcus Beasley at left back. The guy is (and has been his entire career) a left midfielder. If the US played a 4-3-3, he'd probably be a left winger. He attacks with speed and a bit of panache, and he tracks back beautifully. He tracks better at left midfielder than right back Marvell Wynne did tonight from his right back position. But Beasley isn't a defender by nature, he's an attacker. It is one thing to play a unspectacular player at left back, like say Eddie Lewis, who can take advantage of defenses ignoring him to serve balls into the box. No one is going to lose track of DeMarcus Beasley at the leftback position, except maybe the US attack. And the other team is going to go at him, and prove he can play stand up defense. Which is what The Ticos did, and guess what? Beasley got himself skinned a bit in the first 2 minutes of the game, and it led to a goal. That's not Beasley's fault. That's on Coach Bob Bradley, for playing him way out of position, and taking him out of a position where he could have been regularly dangerous on offense, instead of occasionally. and meanwhile, who played Left Midfielder for the US? Can't remember? Neither can I.

The line-up was also stung from the beginning by the choices at center midfield. In an ideal starting eleven 4-4-2 (or 4-4-1-1, as the US seemed to be playing), you've got two center midfielders who are equally adept at offense and defense. In reality, this is a shockingly rare feat to accomplish, so you've got one center midfielder who has defensive tendencies, and one who likes to push up into the offense a bit. They will switch around a bit to keep offenses guessing--but in no way in hell is it a good idea to start two center midfielders who are a little spazzy on defense, and not very skilled on offense. Bob Bradley did his team no favors by throwing in Pablo Mastroeni and Michael Bradley into the middle together. There's no offensive skill to be generated there. Both Bradley and Mastroeni are crunchers--they hit, they take balls away, and they create some fouls (hopefully far away from the US' goal mouth). In what universe is Mastroeni a viable starter for this team? If the purpose was to jam up the middle of the field, it failed spectacularly. It led to turnover after turnover from the US midfield, and didn't seem to slow the Ticos down in the least. There should have been an offensive minded midfielder in the game from the get go: Adu, or Klejstan, or Landon Donovan, who always seems to do better running at a defense than being butted up against it.

There were some bad coaching decisions here that handicapped the US from the kick-off, but there was some bad play, too, from players who were, at least in theory, playing their favored positions.

Let's call some of those fuckers out, too.

Marvell Wynne was playing right back the entire 90 minutes. (the fact he played that long could be considered another fuck up by Coach Bradley, but I digress). Marvell, along with Oguchi Onyewu, got skinned on a give and go that was embarrassing. Both Wynne and Onyewu were worked by simple quick passes, because they followed the ball, instead of following the men they were supposed to be marking. It is the number one rule, drilled into every player from at least college on--don't get turned around by a ball that is passed by you--keep your mind on the player you are supposed to stop. Both of those defenders forgot that rule, and that play, combined with Carlos Bocanegra biting on a fake shot so hard that he looked like he was trying to take a charge in the NBA, left 3 Costa Rican attackers on the right side of the 18 being defended by poor, out of position DeMarcus Beasley.

That was Wynne's one mistake that cost a goal, but he had plenty more. Getting caught with his man behind him and the ball over him (two cardinal sins in one) he was lucky to not be responsible for at least one more goal. His overlapping runs were a nice component to his game, but when neither he nor his right midfielder, Clint Dempsey (who was invisible most of this match) tracked back, they left the back right empty, with big, slow, foul-prone Onyewu attempting to guard wingers.

As was just mentioned, Clint Dempsey was completely invisible. Remember when he was going to be Nike's big urban marketing move? I fucking do. I'm going to include his Don't Tread video at the end of this post, just to remind ya'll. He was nowhere in this game. I barely recall his presence. Landon Donovan was somewhat more present, but not much more--he will be remembered for shots fired wide of the goal, or above the goal, or that 90th minute PK. Nothing that actually changed the game in any fundamental way. Again in part because he was playing out of position. And in part because he simply seemed off.

Michael Bradley had no business playing 90 minutes, and between the 60 and 75th minutes, he really drove the point home--he picked up a Yellow Card, which will keep him out against Honduras on Saturday, which might be a good thing, as Head Coach (and Lizard in Human Form) Bob Bradley was punished mightily for his faith in his son this game. Troubling idea: Bob Bradley will replace his son Michael Bradley with the equally spazzy Rico Clark. Promising Idea: He'll start Sasha Kljestan and/or Freddy Adu, and see then we will question what they can or canna do. (interior couplet for you poetical guys there)

Ah, Michael Bradley is also on the hook for the third goal, as he fell victim to fatigue, spazziness and one of the slowest turns I've ever seen in a soccer match. Bocanegra was also, in theory, there, though he was so slow to react to the play that I question whether his mind wasn't already in Chicago for Saturday's game with Honduras.

final take, the next starting 11, against Honduras
GK: Tim Howard, of course
CB's: Bocanegra and the Gooch will be fine, as long as they aren't constantly covering for wing backs adventuring up the sidelines.
LB: Jonathan Bornstein
RB: Jonathan Spector
Midfielders, L to R: DeMarcus Beasley, Freddy Adu, Rico Clark, Landon Donovan
Strikers: Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies (who went unmentioned in this post, because he played sparingly, but well)

Oh yeah, Don't TREAD!:


Barnyard said...

I love that tune.

Andrew Wice said...

I love it when the little countries beat the big country. Viva la Ticos!