Last night was our first chance to see the US Men’s National Team play under new coach Jurgen Klinsmann (some of you may remember him as one of Germany’s all-time best strikers, and the coach of the German National Team in the 2006 World Cup).
The game ended in a 1-1 draw, and for the most part, I felt good about what I saw. I liked the formation Klinsmann deployed (a dynamic 4-2-3-1), and even though I disagreed with some of the players he called up for the game, I realize that he did not want to use any Europe-based players currently finishing their preseason training. I did dislike how defensive his midfielder was (Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman and Michael Bradley are all better as holding midfielders – and playing Bradley in the Attacking Midfielder position didn’t make a lot of sense), but again, I have to attribute that to the players he had available to him – Freddy Adu was on the squad, but due to not being on a club was not fit to play. I think this is a result that US can build on. It will be very interesting to see what the team does next month in their friendlies against Costa Rica and Belgium.
Tim Howard: 6 – Mexico had just one shot on goal, and it found the back of the net, though I’m not sure there was anything Howard could have done about it. His distribution wasn’t always great – Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa did better in this regard, but his command of the area was great.
Steve Cherundolo: 6 – Solid defensively as always, and even managed to make a few overlapping runs in support of the offense.
Carlos Bocanegra: 7 – Defended well, with a number of good tackles to shut down the Mexican attack. His header on the corner should have found the net, but for the point blank save by Ochoa
Michael Fiscal: 6 – Did well in defense, playing more as a cover who intercepted and chased loose balls, but it was Bocanegra who did all the heavy lifting
Edgar Castillo: 3 – Is “Edgar Castillo” Spanish for “Jonathan Bornstein”? The offensive minded fullback did little to help on offense, and was terrible defensively. Played his man poorly on the cross that was lead to Mexico’s goal, was beaten on a number of occasions by his man, didn’t have the technique to keep the ball on offense. Looked completely out of sorts.
Jermaine Jones: 5 – Looked energetic but didn’t do much
Kyle Beckerman: 6 – Did not look overmatched at this level at all. Defended and won the ball well, showed good awareness, but didn’t contribute much on offense.
Michael Bradley: 6 – Tracked back well to defend, but didn’t show the kind of creative touch that someone playing at the top of the central midfield in a 4-2-3-1 should have. Should be used as a holding mid only.
Jose Torres: 6 – Started the game on the left wing, a position he showed he doesn’t belong in. Was the outlet for many passes in the buildup in the first half and couldn’t do much with them. Did much better after being switched to central midfield
Landon Donovan: 6.5 – Played as right wing, and was his usual reliable self. Had several good runs and passes into dangerous positions.
Edson Buddle: 5 – Knocked down a few aerial balls to his teammates, but showed total lack of touch on the ground. Doesn’t belong on this level
Brek Shea: 8 – Came in at the 60th minute to play left wing and made all the difference. Played with energy and had a fantastic run in the box to break through two defenders and lay a perfect cross across the ball for Robbie Rogers to tap in for the goal. The 21 year old is the future.
Juan Agudelo: 6.5 – Showed flashes of why he’s considered so promising. Great touch on the quick pass that started the move that lead to Shea crossing to Rogers for the goal, and another one where he controlled the ball with his head/shoulder to loft a ball forward for a Rogers breakaway. But also showed why he needs more experience, playing too selfish at times. Had a perfect pass from Donovan in the box with clear path to the goal, and instead of burying it, tried an extra move that lead to losing the ball (though in his defense, he was clearly tackled and penalty should have been awarded.
Robbie Rogers: 6.5 – Was there to tap in the great feed from Shea, and outplayed the defense on a breakaway (he was brought down from behind, and a red card should have been awarded).
Ricardo Clark – came in late and didn’t have time to do much
Player of the Match: Brek Shea. Made all the difference with his speed and energy and his great assist tied the game
Flop of the Match: Edgar Castillo. By being out there, answered the question “What would it be like if I tried to play left back for USMNT?”
Boo of the Match: Twofold. First, to the referee, who blew two huge calls in favor of US – first when he didn’t award a penalty to a clear take down of Juan Agudelo in the box, and secondly when Gerardo Torrado was given a yellow card, rather than a straight red for pulling down Robbie Rogers who had a clear path to the goal.
Second, to ESPN, for preempting this game on ESPN2 in favor of a Little League regional qualifying match that ran long. Way to send the message that you’re serious about soccer, ESPN.