Topic: US National Team
Friendly number 2 of 3 against quality opponents is today. The first one, against England, went badly. My post last week covered seven things I'd like to see against England, so I'd like to revisit those seven things:
1. Eddie Johnson on the bench. Nope - he played 90 minutes, and, to be fair, I thought he played better than normal. Which is to say: he still did not play very well.
2. A decent scoreline. This was probably the big victory, if there was one. 3-0 or maybe even 4-0 would have also been fair scorelines.
3. A good game for Bocanegra. Actually, I thought that he - and the entire back line, actually, played pretty well; they were just under pressure the entire game. The one criticism I have is that they didn't play the ball forward extremely well, which contributed to them being under pressure the entire game. Bocanegra probably didn't help himself much in the eyes of most Premiership managers, but he probably didn't hurt himself much, either.
4. A good game for Freddy Adu. I thought he was fine, but it's not like he made an irrefutable case for more playing time to Benfica's new manager. I think he'll get a shot today against Spain; with Donovan out, a creative option is sorely needed, and he's the only other name on the roster who fits that description.
5. A good game for Beckham. Yep, pretty good. Better than Gareth Barry, in my opinion. Now that I'm seeing Beckham play on a regular basis, my opinion of Beckham is this: without his right foot, Beckham is a good player. Not a great player by any stretch, but a solid, quality player with good technique and a decent work rate. But his right foot is absolutely atomic. It bumps him up from good to world class. I can't think of any player who can strike the ball as accurately and with as much pace as consistently as Beckham. Roberto Carlos has a laser beam free kick, but he can't play the bending ball that Beckham plays all the time. Juninho and Nakamura are probably Beckham's equivalent as far as scoring from free kicks is concerned, but Beckham is probably the better crosser both from dead balls and the run of play. If Beckham got hurt and could only take free kicks, it would probably make sense for the Galaxy to just play with 10 and then trot him out there for each dead ball. He's that good.
6. A good game from Michael Bradley. Nope - I thought he was pretty poor. He tackled well and didn't draw a red card, but that's about all. He really didn't play the ball forward well. He did poorly in tight spots. He didn't link up with the forwards, and didn't get forward much himself. Not an impressive showing. I think he'll be paired with Mastreoni today; maybe that will allow him to focus on offense a little bit more.
7. Minutes for Kenny Cooper. Okay, I really blew it on this one: Cooper wasn't on the roster. But I'm a comedian writing about soccer; I don't think it's reasonable to expect me to have even the vaguest idea what I'm talking about.
Other thoughts from the England match, Larry King News & Notes style:
- I've felt this way for a long time: the national team really needs Landon Donovan. That doesn't bode well for today's match versus Spain, which Donovan will also sit out.
- Dempsey had a howler.
- I've never liked Josh Wolff much as a striker (he can't finish), and was not surprised when 1860 Munich started playing him on the right wing. I though that's where Bradley was going to put him against England, with Dempsey up top.
- The US striker pool is pathetic. When you can make a convincing argument why Nate Jaqua should be starting - and I think that you can - you've officially fallen on hard times.
- It's only a friendly, where you want to test out promising young players, and we still put Frankie Hejduk, Eddie Lewis, and Josh Wolff on the field. Nothing against those guys, but the fact that we can't replace them at the moment is a very bad sign.
Now on to today's game against Spain. I think we'll get a better performance based on the fact that our guys want to atone for the England match, but I really worry about the team that we'll be putting on the fied. For starters, we still have no strikers. Eddie Johnson is like a koala bear: the koala survived because it had no predators, and Eddie Johnson keeps getting minutes because there's no-one there to displace him. That being the case, here's the line that I think we'll see versus Spain, which also happens to be the lineup that I hope we'll see:
Yes, that's right: I am advocating a starting lineup that contains Eddie Johnson. Ugh. It's come to that. As I mentioned, a good argument can be made for Jaqua instead of Johnson, but I think that we'll have to defend and counter against Spain, and Jaqua isn't built for the counter attack.
Of course, the real solution to the striker problem should be obvious by now: Jozy Altidore must be sent into deep space, where he will age at a faster rate, a-la Planet of the Apes. He needs to be 22 now. World Cup qualifying starts in a few weeks; if we can't get Altidore on the field somehow, then somebody better get Brian McBride on the phone.