Saturday, September 05, 2009

USA USA USA vs. El Salvador -- Analysis

First of all, don't believe the headlines--the US beat El Salvador 3-1, not 2-1. Jozy Altidore had a goal taken away for no reason that could be justified in real time, much less in the replays. Whether they called Altidore offsides, or whether they ruled Dempsey's sliding pass to be a foul, they were very very wrong. The Americans scored three goals, whether the news shows that or not.

First, the bad, and really there isn't that much to complain about. El Salvador's only goal came from a complete brain fart from the usually reliable Jonathon Bornstein, who decided the best way to clear a ball with a defender on his back was to kick an arcing ball that landed inside his own 18-yard box. Next time Bornstein--kick that ball out of bounds, and let your defense set up shop. I'm tired of the US having to come back from behind against teams that are clearly not at their level.

The only other real complaint I have is that this team still doesn't really seem to know how to close out games--the last 10 minutes were a haphazard, chaotic affair, and while El Salvador didn't generate any real chances from it (aside from one shot that Timmy! Howard successfully smothered) it was more anxious than it needed to be. Again, some of the blame on that should go on the Honduran officiating crew who mysteriously stole a completely legitimate goal from the US. This team still needs to learn how to ice a game, and make a losing opponent a demoralized opponent, and it doesn't have to be with goals--it can be with ball control.

Positives, of which they are a few.

Jozy Altidore is proving himself to be the striker the US needs. His two finishes were beautiful, and varied. His header off a perfect ball from Landon Donovan was a thing of beauty--of course, he was relatively unmarked, but he still reached for a ball, and put it away convincingly. And how many defenders in the world are going to stop Jozy from getting to a ball in the air he wants? His second, disallowed, but totally legit goal was a nice finish from a fast man getting behind the defense, and slotting a ball calming one-on-one with the keeper. Charlie Davies had a nice game up top as well. I worry a little bit about the US defenders trying to hard to hit him over the top, but that isn't Davies' fault.

I like the Feilhaber/Bradley midfield about 50 times more than the Rico Clark/Bradley midfield--by throwing two guys in there who can make some plays from the center of the field. Having Donovan on the left side takes him away from his best position, but also cleans up what has been the worst position on the field since DeMarcus Beasley decided to no longer be good.

Jonathon Spector played well; the midfield was strong until the last 10 minutes of the game, when they got all fixated on being behind the ball. Clint Dempsey missed a couple of easy shots, but did put away the first goal.

In general, a solid game from the US against a team they needed to beat.

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