Jay Bell: US vs. Paraguay Examination

Jay Bell checks in from Nashville

Bob changes it up....

Bob Bradley’s men had every intention of coming out and dictating the match against a team that was willing to invite pressure.  Paraguay was even more willing once they scored the game’s lone goal.  The US squeezed the match to their right side of the field to enable Timothy Chandler as much influence as possible and to push Clint Dempsey high enough and tight enough to essentially be a third striker. This was the US’s formation until Eric Lichaj entered into the match in the second half for Jozy Altidore, pushing Dempsey up top.

In this type of game, which the US will experience at the Gold Cup, the US needs more creativity. The US has shown an over-reliance on Landon Donovan, especially, but also Clint Dempsey when it comes to creating goals from the run of play. Very rarely is Michael Bradley trailing the play as he used to, Jermaine Jones is not making those runs either and Jozy Altidore has not been very effective lately unless he is receiving long balls and fighting defenders for possession.

Stuart Holden may have been able to create from the center, but without him, who will create chances if Donovan and Dempsey are not? The US could have benefited from the presence of Jose Torres (not called up) or Benny Feilhaber (injury) for this match.  Torres’ ability to switch the point of attack and Feilhaber’s aggressiveness as a super-sub could have changed the game in favor of the red stars with blue stripes, er, sashes.

Get out of his way...

Agudelo and Dempsey were the hardest working attackers on the pitch, but the final ball and the final shot were not there. In one particular instance, Clint Dempsey took a pass from Chandler at the top of the box and attempted to curl it in with his left foot. Agudelo just threw his hands up, but somehow without making too much of a show of it in a “hey, I was open over here, but you’re the boss” kind of a way. The cohesion and the chemistry was not there.

The crowd of almost 29,000+ was trying to will the team to a win. Rarely does a US team play in front of pro-US crowd of that size. They were dying to throw their hands up in celebration, but they were unable to receive that opportunity.

And what was up with the ineffectiveness on set-pieces?  Paraguay is one of the bigger teams the US will face, but set-pieces are normally a strong suit for the Americans. For one, Landon Donovan’s delivery was off. Too often his free kicks did not make it past the first line of defenders or sailed long. When the ball did reach a dangerous spot, no one took advantage of it. With Dempsey, Bradley, Altidore, Demerit/Boca, Edu/Jones, etc. on the field, more was expected of the US.

The Americans were certainly pushing for a result as they lined up in several formations that will likely not be used again.  The US played with three in the back after Sacha Kljestan entered for Jonathan Bornstein and Jonathan Spector entered as a right mid.  The lineup morphed into a 3-4-1-2 with Spector and Kljestan as wide midfielders, Dempsey and Agudelo up top and Donovan in between the mids and forwards.

The US needed a moment of brilliance with only Donovan and Dempsey ever looking capable of providing it, while Bradley and Jones’ late stings giving hope to the crowd. For being the “better” team throughout the match, the US still did not earn a result against an organized and resilient Paraguay squad.


Same team, same problem: finishing.

Challenged in his role...

The team created chances and were much more efficient at it than Saturday. Despite bad performances from Maurice Edu and Jozy Altidore, there were still chances.  Clint Dempsey had several attempts in and around the box, Landon Donovan missed from a tight angle on the left and there were missed opportunities on free kicks.

Its no fluke that the US has gone two World Cups without a goal being scored by a striker. Agudelo was active, but he found it difficult to find space to shoot against a compact and organized Paraguayan defense. His more experienced partner, Jozy Altidore, had one of his worst national team performances in the same stadium as arguably his best.

The US had 13 shots, but only three on goal. Those three included Michael Bradley’s blast in the upper 90 and Clint Dempsey “he tries shit” attempt from 35+ yards out.

Final ball was off more than usual.

Forget finishing, the US should have had even more opportunities if the passes were more effective in the final third. Bornstein became an attacking option on the left. For all the criticism he receives, there has not been another left back since Heath Pearce that has been anything more than an outlet. Bornstein repeatedly popped up in dangerous positions. He was able to serve in some teasing crosses, but others were sliced into the stands or cut in too close to the keeper.

Set-pieces were the area that best exhibited the lack of a killer ball.  Landon Donovan’s service was lacking throughout the night.

This team is missing a third attacker

For a time, there was rejoice that Charlie Davies had finally completed an attacking quartet that made the US dangerous. He joined playmakers Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey as well as striker Jozy Altidore as a group of attackers who could earn the US victories against top quality opponents. Charlie Davies was removed from the national team picture and Jozy Altidore has regressed to a low point Tuesday night at LP Field.

Now the US lacks any player that can or will take some of the attacking impetus off of the shoulders of Donovan and Dempsey.  Stuart Holden was supposed to become that player, but for the second year in a row, he has been stripped of an opportunity to make a major impact for the US in a major tournament.

Agudelo may be ready to step up in the near future, but he cannot be considered the #3 option quite yet.  Well, actually he can, but only because no one else deserves it.

The players may have felt more pressure than usual.

Tim Howard, for one, has spoken about feeling more pressure to perform in front of a large pro-US crowd as opposed to a hostile environment. The record (for a soccer game in Tennessee) crowd at LP Field was certainly Pro-US.  The lower bowl was filled and the fans were active throughout the match despite some lulls in the on-field action.

This may have been one reason why Edu and Altidore were so ineffective, and why Dempsey and Donovan were not up to their usual level. Many of the players, especially those four, looked like they were “forcing it” at times. Hopefully over time with more pro-US matches, this will not be an issue.


Best play of the game: Good US possession towards the right corner of the penalty box ended with Donovan setting up Chandler for a cross from the right flank.  Dempsey gets on the end of the cross, but was unable to put it on target.  It was the most well executed play of the US’s attacking plan and yet still did not result in a goal.

Most unheralded play(s) of the game (by someone other than me): Bornstein’s runs along the left flank. Bornstein was off target on several crosses, but the simple fact of the matter is that no other US left back would have even been in the dangerous positions he ran into, except possibly Bobby Convey. Bornstein helped stretch the Paraguay defense and helped develop goal scoring opportunities.  If Agudelo’s hold up play was not so noticeable, then that could have won this award.

The Golden Shinguard: Timothy Chandler. He was everywhere. He covered in defense, he got forward and he was solid for the US on both sides. He was able to beat his player on the dribble and then provide good crosses that tested the Paraguayan defenders.  Clint Dempsey won the “Budweiser Man of the Match” at the stadium, but for me his finishing stood out for how poor it was for his standards.

A rare time that Chandler was behind the play on the day...


C: Bob Bradley: 7

Bradley went back to old reliable with the 4-4-2 circa 2009: flat line across the back, 2 deep lying CMs, 2 wide attacking midfielders and 2 dynamic forwards.  He played everyone that fans wanted to see, except Diskerud: Chandler, Lichaj, Ream, Yelldell and Agudelo.  In the second half he threw more attackers on the ball and even left three in the back to try to obtain the result.

G: Marcus Hahnemann: 5

He did not have much to do.  One shot ricocheted off of him which resulted in another opportunity for Paraguay, but then he caught the resulting shot from outside of the box.

RB: Timothy Chandler: 7

He was solid in the attack and on defense.  He is crossing the ball better than anyone since Spector’s best days in the Confederations Cup.

CB: Jay Demerit: 5.5

He was not able to stay on the field as long as everyone liked, but he was a good leader in the back in between two youngsters. Had to count off a little bit for not clearing the corner kick that led to Paraguay’s goal.

CB: Tim Ream: 6

I think that rating him any higher would mean that someone is seeing what they wanted to see.  He had some really egregious giveaways for being THE guy that everyone is looking to for fixing distribution issues with the US back line. His defensive positioning was iffy a few times and he would have been punished by a team that was more attacking-minded. Ream ended up on the ground from a push from a Paraguayan player on the goal. Still, the potential is obviously there and he had a good game overall.

LB: Jonathan Bornstein: 6

Solid game from Bornstein and it would have been even better if some of his attacking forays had gone better, but worse had his mark finished off a header in the early going.  He was solid in defense and made runs that US fans rarely see from the left side of the field.  I’m really baffled as to where much of the criticism of him is coming from since he made himself available on the left flank for most of the time he was on the field.

RM: Landon Donovan: 5

By normal player standards, this is maybe a 6, but more is expected of Landon Donovan.  He sent his one chance into the side netting and his set-piece delivery was off for much of the night.  In a match where the US had numerous free kicks, he should have done better.  With Paraguay sitting as deep as they were, Donovan should have taken control of the match and been the creative influence the US was so deeply lacking.

CM: Maurice Edu: 4

He had a stinker.  He was pretty ineffective and that is why the switch was made at halftime. His passing and positioning was about as bad as it had been since his worst US performance against Trinidad & Tobago in 2008.

CM: Michael Bradley: 5.5

He stood out for being better than Edu in the first half, but he still had a rather pedestrian match. He unleashed a shot late in the match that could have brought the match level, but Villar made the save of the match to keep it out of the net.

LM: Dempsey: 6

Deuce was playing as tight and as high to be considered a third forward before eventually moving up top with Agudelo.  Dempsey was the US’s best player in tight spaces and creatively, but his finishing was so very lacking by his own standards.  He shanked one into the stands in the first half, mishit a high bouncer from about 10 yards out, took a quick left-footed curler from outside of the box that missed very wide and was unable to put a header on target from what ended up being Chandler’s best cross of the match.

F: Jozy Altidore: 4

This may be a low point for the former national team starlet. He looked less composed, less mature, less talented and generally less effective than his teenaged strike partner.  His tweet after the match says a lot about where the guy’s head is at right now. He seems confused on the field and off of it.

F: Juan Agudelo: 6

In his first start, Agudelo found it harder to find open spaces to get shots on goal.  He was one of the most effective US attackers, but he was still unable to make the final pass or finish off a chance.  Agudelo found out for the first time what it feels like to be pummeled by an opponent who is looking to slow the match down; valuable experience for the CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer.


D: Carlos Bocanegra: 6

Slid in nicely after Demerit left the match. He had one horrible giveaway in the US’s side of the field that could have been taken advantage of by Paraguay.

G: David Yelldell: 5

Not much to talk about from him on the night with the US attacking virtually the entire second half. He did start his international career off better than Luis Robles did last summer.  He did so by simply catching a cross.

CM: Jermaine Jones: 5.5

None of the CMs were really effective on the night and Jones was no different, though his night was much better than Edu’s.  His shot at the very end almost earned the US draw, but Villar kept it out.

D: Eric Lichaj: 6

He showed again why he is such a good prospect at RB.  He was composed, had good positioning and makes dangerous runs down the right flank, just not quite as fast as Chandler.  He could have had an assist if Dempsey had finished off a chance in the box.

M: Sacha Kljestan: 6

Kljestan brought a calming influence to the midfield that the US was lacking all night.  He made simple passes and did not give the ball away when the US needed possession the most.

M: Jonathan Spector: 5

Specs was deployed as a wide midfielder with the US pushing for an equalizer late in the match, but was unable to be involved much with the match.

158 responses to this post.

  1. I’m surprised by the hype for Stuart Holden and Jose Torres as a remedy for the creativity issues. If you (meant generally) didn’t like Michael Bradley’s passing today….well, Torres and Holden offer little that’s different, variety-wise. They might be better as a percentage,* but they’re not going to unlock a defense.

    * Though I’m not sure about Torres, actually. Have we all just agreed to forget that he has issues against a team with a fast speed of play?

    Put it this way: I’ve seen double-digit Bolton games with Holden, and I’ve yet to see him provide a creative through ball or set up an opportunity.


    • Posted by crow on 2011/03/30 at 1:39 PM

      I am a BIG fan of Stuart Holden, but I kind of agree with this. I think he was dearly missed this weekend, as he will in the Gold Cup this summer, but I’ve mainly seemed him make the calm and simple pass for Bolton. I have to say I haven’t seen him be “the creative link”.

      Why wasn’t Mixx a 2nd half substitute? This was a perfect game for his skillset.


      • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/31 at 10:08 AM

        I think Mix would have gone in if not for the injury to Demerit which robbed BB of one substitution, though I would have preferred to see Mix instead of Spector at midfield.

        I wonder if Mix won’t be the new JFTorres, the gifted guy who maybe can’t handle the heightened speed of international play.

        As for Holden “the creator”, I’m still wondering where that came from.

        One reason he’s has been so succesful at Bolton is because of his “American” characteristics, which is to say, he is a team guy, he understands the manager’s plans and follows them, he is brave,he defends well, he can run all day long, he will fight to the end and he is very professional. That describes most of the US players.

        The only offensively “creative” midfielder in the US pool is Mix and maybe Benny, not Holden, and not JFT who is a defensive link up player.


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/30 at 2:02 PM

      I’m a little confused by the Stu Holden as “the midfield magician” noise as well. An excellent on ball defender (destroyer?)who very rarely makes a poor pass or decision from the central midfield. But has not demonstrated the ability or willingness to unlock the box. Still seems rather inept around the box. But a force in the midfield should he come back healthy. Godspeed Stuie.


      • Posted by Cameron on 2011/03/30 at 3:26 PM

        Agree. Holden might just be my favorite player in the current NT pool, but his reputation was earned by his work as a great linker and tackler. I don’t think that he is the keystone in unlocking a defense, though–he might play a very significant role in that unlocking, but the idea of how to go about doing it won’t originate from him.

        I don’t think that he is uncreative, it’s just that if we’re talking about his strengths, he isn’t necessarily a playmaker. However, that isn’t to say that I don’t think that he would have made a positive contribution to both matches (his passing skills certainly would have been a nice asset to have against Argentina).


        • You don’t have to be a #10 to “create” something in the attack. Bradley, Jones and Edu weren’t doing much linking, let alone “creating” offense.

          Holden may not have been able to “unlock” the defense, but he, Torres and Feilhaber most likely would have been more effective at making more dangerous passes in the attack.


          • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/31 at 10:19 AM

            No one is disputing that the US probably would have looked a lot better if Holden was on the field Tuesday night but your analyis very much underplays the fact that Donovan and Dempsey were not sharp.

            Donovan was putrid; slow, tentative, almost disintersted and most of his dead balls, well Jay Bell would have done better. If he was even half of what he is when he’s on, the US wins that game , easy.

            Clint was not sharp. He wasn’t terrible but he just seemed a day late and a dollar short for most of the evening. If he is anyhwere near his best, we win .

            And if both of them had shown up we win, easily.

            Most US fans like you Mr. Bell, seem really bent on worshiping the new fair haired golden buff boys like Stuie and Ream and that’s fine. This team is in transition and needs to find out about all the new blood.

            But right now this team still goes just as far as Donovan and Dempsey take it.


            • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/31 at 10:26 AM

              Martin, please quiet the personal attacks on this site. They are not welcome.

              That said, I disagree with both your points. Donovan really never plays above himself in games with a lot of traffic. He really needs space. He certainly wasn’t putrid and I say that because anytime the flankers got the ball there was already 43 behind the ball.

              How did Donovan do against Ghana? Similar back it in physical defense. Donovan has limitations with game styles. I’d like to see a game over the past two years where Donovan has solved a bang-em-up defense game plan on the inside.

              If I was BB like I mentioned above I would have but Donovan further out on the flank or up top where he could get the ball in a more dangerous spot. But the gameplan didn’t call for that.

              Clint had trouble with his final ball.

              Clint did an absolutely terrific job of in-cutting and finding the call and trying to get things going in the center of field with a lot of traffic. He was the only player up the field making himself available in a crowded defensive area. And those that have read TSG for years no I don’t grant Clint a lot of slack.

              What I think is lost a lot of time is that these are friendlies where 11 people on the field do not have multiple game repititions to build chemistry…and this is the back-end of the Friendly series. You can be sure that Bradley didn’t start implementing his Paraguay game plan until Sunday, maybe Monday?

              That said, if you can’t be objective without being personal this is not the site for you.


          • Posted by Cameron on 2011/03/31 at 4:50 PM

            Oh, I agree with you, Jay–I think that Holden would have done a much better job, and I stated that outright in my first comment. I said that I think that his passing, among his many other abilities, would have been very, very useful. I know soccer, I know that you don’t have to be wearing the #10 to be creative. I wasn’t saying that he is uncreative–not by a long shot. I meant that I don’t think that playmaker is necessarily at the top of the list of Holden’s strengths, nothing else.


  2. Posted by slowday on 2011/03/30 at 12:30 PM

    Making yourself available rates a 6, even if all but one or two touches on the night were abysmal? I felt Bornstein was an absolute joke last night. And he simply capitulated on that early header and should have been fully punished.

    Your opening sentence regarding Tim Ream is applicable to your rating of Bornstein. I think you saw what you wanted to see and overlooked some truly awful play.


    • Woody Allen’s quote–90% of life is showing up–is applicable to soccer too. Bornstein provided width and gave the defense something to think about.


      • Posted by slowday on 2011/03/30 at 12:52 PM

        After awhile all the defense was thinking was “we don’t have to worry about that guy”.

        Providing width is not a goal or achievement unto itself. If there is no threat or if possession isn’t maintained then the width alone did nothing. There are other ways to get width then having an inside-out left midfielder going infield being overlapped by a guy that looks terrible at the moment.


        • Posted by crow on 2011/03/30 at 1:37 PM

          EXACTLY!!!! The defense wanted him to get the ball! His touches were embarrassing for a high school level player. Who cares if he gets forward if he just kicks the ball out of bounds and blows scoring opportunities. I was yelling at the TV begging for his teammates not to pass the ball to him. And I don’t know how he had a decent game defensively. He caused the corner that led to the goal, was completely clueless on a cross that should have been a goal (just like the Brazil game), and lost his mark on other occasions. I do not understand how Bornstein apologists work.


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/30 at 1:43 PM

        when they weren’t giggling at him heading the ball straight up in the air and making an adventure of any possession in his third.


  3. Posted by euroman on 2011/03/30 at 12:45 PM

    This is the fairest and best analysis that I have seen regarding this match….well done.


    • Posted by sfshwebb on 2011/03/30 at 1:00 PM

      I agree wholeheartedly, and it certainly makes me feel better about my match commentary!


  4. Posted by John on 2011/03/30 at 12:49 PM

    I’m starting to not want Bornstein on the National Team just so I don’t have to hear the strident people who hate him complain about every single bad touch the kid has. You would think he had killed puppies in his sleep and that somehow he is keeping that ultra awesome (and yet unknown) first class Premier League American left back out of the team.


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/30 at 1:48 PM

      No personal grudge against Bornstein. Just watch the games and see a guy who does not bring the skills or game sense to play LB at the intl level. 1 bad touch is not the issue. Or 1 bad game. It’s a body of work that screams MLS but not MNT. Most of the vitriol is aimed at Bob who continually trots him out there to be embarrassed. Try out other options continually until you find someone who doesn’t look like they don’t belong on the field.


      • Posted by Freegle on 2011/03/30 at 2:03 PM

        Completely agree on this. I can’t fault Bornstein. If Bob Bradley told me to go into a game, I wouldnt turn him down either. But that doesnt mean I belong there.

        At this point, Bornstein gets the call because he’s experienced but no one else can get expereience because Bornstein keeps getting the call. It’s a terrible catch-22 cycle that needs to be broken. We don’t know if any new blood will perform at the necessary level, but we do know that JB does not. It’s an issue of player selection by BB as much, if not more, than an issue of incompetence by Bornstein.


        • Posted by Tabare on 2011/03/30 at 6:42 PM

          Quite. We can hardly blame Jonathan Bornstein for suiting up or for falling short of what is required at the international level.

          But Bob Bradley…it just boggles the mind that he selects Bornstein. Get over it and bring Convey into the camp already.

          And Sasha Kljestan over Jose Francisco Torres? The only way to deal is to laugh.

          No way Coach Sweats deserves a 7. He’s got no incisive tactical ideas.


          • Posted by Mud on 2011/03/31 at 10:23 AM

            Sasha earned some respect with me prior to this match as the only American to give us (AO section) a wave and clap when they were coming onto the pitch. Not bad not bad! (yes only respect… doesn’t mean I say he earns the spot)


        • Posted by BrosefTito on 2011/03/31 at 8:23 AM

          Disagree re: “no one else can get expereience because Bornstein keeps getting the call.”

          Convey has 10x the experience that Bornstein has. He was a key player in 2006 WC qualifying and the 2006 WC, and he’s played at the EPL level. And he’s only 27.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/31 at 9:22 AM

            BrosefTito….answer this question…because it is not about Convey’s ability. Has he become a team player yet?


  5. Posted by Soccernst on 2011/03/30 at 1:03 PM

    Bornstein: In a situation where the US has control and is probing for a goal and the other team looking to counter, he is adequate (not great). In a game where we are the ones sitting deep and looking to counter he is far more likely to be cooked on defense before he can add anything going forward.

    The search continues!


    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/30 at 1:14 PM

      Yeah, sure. Bocanegra can play against the attacking teams and Bornstein against the defending teams. Not perfect. Not even good. But not terrible either.


      • Posted by Paul on 2011/03/30 at 2:03 PM

        This is probably the best option we have now for left back. A position of weakness, admitted by even the strident Bornstein cheer leader.

        It would be nice if someone could analyze recent matches and quantify the particular weaknesses of each player–the number of crosses and chances Boca creates, and the number of defensive errors and chances Bornstein allows.

        Ink may be spilled on Bornstein’s errors, but a number of the biggest goals we have given up in Confed Cup play, World Cup, Qualifying, ect. have come from the central part of midfield. Plus, our passing accuracy is in the pits, especially when a team bunkers and keeps us from playing quick one touches. I’d trade significantly improved passing accuracy, ball control, and a solution to the best pairing in midfield for Bornstein starting. In short, Bornstein’s only a small(er) part of the problems with this team.


  6. Posted by John on 2011/03/30 at 1:05 PM

    ^^^I give up.

    Anyone want to talk about Donovan’s game last night, and the fact that the US needs to have another free kick taker?


    • Posted by EFG on 2011/03/30 at 1:12 PM

      I don’t know if Donovan needs to have his free kicks taken away from him, but I did become more and more frustrated with each of his balls not making it past the first man in the past two matches. I’m going to, optimistically, chalk it up to not being a bit rusty.


      • Posted by John on 2011/03/30 at 1:15 PM

        Well not taken away entirely, but surely if he is misfiring (as he was last night) there needs to be another option. Interesting to see Ream come up as a dummy during two of the last options.


        • Posted by Freegle on 2011/03/30 at 1:35 PM

          John, we talk about John Bornstein and the LB issue because it is both a glaring and recurring issue for this team. Donovan’s free kicks are not an issue. He had a bad couple of games (and STILL created our only goal off of one of his free kicks). Also, his season began two weeks ago so he may be (understandably) a little rusty. Regardless, he is nowhere close to midseason form as he will be in the summer. He will be fine.


          • Yet, as someone mentioned previously, the US has not suffered goals from their left side of the field. The US defense has been unlocked time and time again through the center of the field.


            • Posted by dth on 2011/03/30 at 7:37 PM

              One thing to consider, though, is that Donovan/Dempsey are really incredible players: not only are they great offensive players, but they put in an almighty work rate on the wings covering for our oft-suspect fullbacks.

              I see the U.S.’s defensive problems as comprehensive.

            • @dth – Very true. Not many wide players log the same distance that Donovan and Dempsey cover in one match.

              That said, if the fullbacks play as well as Bornstein and especially Chandler and Lichaj performed the other night, then that is a double positive situation because it should free up Donovan and Dempsey to attack more.

              Unfortunately, in Nashville, they were not dragged back by having to cover in defense and were still unable to unlock the Paraguay defense.

      • Posted by Matt C in Tampa on 2011/03/30 at 1:30 PM

        I’ve seen various kind descriptions of LD’s free kicks. “his service was off”. “his service was lacking”. “free kicks were not up to par”.

        Have some guts: His free kicks SUCKED. On the last two or three Ream has stationed himself next to LD..thinking “maybe LD knows his sucks tonight..and he’ll let me take an inswinger”.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/30 at 1:15 PM

      Overreact much? Donovan’s free kicks are usually fine. Donovan’s free kicks just generated a goal a game ago.


      • Posted by John on 2011/03/30 at 1:17 PM

        Not talking about taking it away, but would like to see someone other than Donovan, every once in awhile. I know that Holden did this during a few of the games in which he and Donovan were on the field together…


      • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/30 at 1:29 PM

        I think some of it could be chalked up to the surface. The ball sat much differently up on the pitch than it did at New Meadowlands. That said, Donovan and Jozy (but mainly Jozy) were the two that disappointed me most last night.


        • Posted by dth on 2011/03/30 at 1:39 PM

          I wouldn’t say Donovan disappointed me. The man is entitled to a poor game, and it wasn’t through a lack of effort. It did, however, worry me: the post-Donovan/Dempsey world is a scary one until definitively proven otherwise.


          • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/30 at 3:55 PM

            That’s fair. We def need more options in their roles.


            • Posted by Mud on 2011/03/31 at 10:32 AM

              I seem to be by myself in my stance but i think Mixx will be a great LD style player going forward.

            • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/31 at 10:33 AM

              He may well be, I just haven’t seen him play enough. Really wish he would have gotten some minutes these past two games.

            • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/31 at 10:37 AM

              Actually I don’t see Mixx as a call carrier nearly in the same manner. He’s not nearly as quick–note, a lot of his game are available on streams when there aren’t match on.

              If you need a comp for Mixx, I think your best bet is combination of Feilhaber and Bedoya.

              Diskerud has a little more swashbuckling in possession than Benny, but not as much “run-at” as Bedoya, but he’s got that bigger frame.

              Diskerud on his club team plays centrally but wanders wide quite a bit and seems to put himself in position for good scoring opps.

            • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/31 at 10:51 AM

              Interesting. Again, wish that he (or Kjlestan) would have come into the middle on Tuesday. We needed some of that incisive moving/passing in the center of the park.

      • Posted by Matt C in Tampa on 2011/03/30 at 1:38 PM

        No, not overreact much. That’s why i wrote “tonight”. And when he plays poorly, as he did last night, the press is soft on him.


        • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/30 at 2:35 PM

          Leading scorer in USMNT history will get you some slack with fans and the press. Agreed his service was subpar last night but you would have to say that over the long haul it been pretty damn good. And it was his perfect ball in that generated the goal in the last game.


          • Posted by Matt C in Tampa on 2011/03/30 at 5:12 PM

            Agree mostly, but there’s that “subpar” word again. Why is it so hard to say his free kicks, except one, sucked. I’ll bet LD got back to the locker room and said as much to himself. “Geez Landy, friggen nightmare on the free kicks tonight”.


            • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/31 at 11:01 AM

              Par=standard/Subpar=below standard.
              His standard has been much higher throughout his career. Last night and some on Sat were below standard (ie subpar). A little slack for the best offensive player (or just player) in USMNT history?

      • Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/03/30 at 8:42 PM

        Agree that this is over-reacting. It was one game, and Donovan hasn’t had a lot of games recently. I think he’s just a little rusty. He definitely should get a pass and then some, but lets be honest: some of his free kicks and corners were rather lacking.


  7. So who is the #2 keeper for the Gold Cup?

    Seems that even with experience in the system Hahnemann hasn’t shown he has earned it. What about Yelldell and Johnson? I think besides that strike that hit the post Yelldell looked the better of the 2 keepers (on this one observation).


    • Posted by EFG on 2011/03/30 at 1:23 PM

      Can I say neither? Certainly can’t put too much stock in one half played by Yelldell where he didn’t have a whole lot to do.


      • True. Obviously they need so more time, but Guzan will not be there, and against Spain Howard will play the whole match, so this starts to become a question now. Personally I don’t know any of these keepers’ strengths that much but on a few observations I liked Johnson.


  8. Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/30 at 1:32 PM

    Jay, thanks for giving voice to those of us in the stands! It was a great atmosphere, the crowd was the most impressive part of the experience to me last night–and that’s taking nothing away from the game. A US goal would have made it sublime.


    • I felt like a genius saying a week ago that 25,000 should be the goal . . . and Tennessee still came out in full force for the match. I think that was one of the best pro-US crowds that the team has ever played in front of.

      I think it pretty much guarantees that the US team will return to Nashville again and again, and they definitely should.


  9. Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/30 at 1:33 PM

    Also, I haven’t seen this brought up yet–that hold on Jozy at the beginning of the match was a clear-cut penalty am I right? I thought it was a travesty it wasn’t given.


  10. Posted by Matt C in Tampa on 2011/03/30 at 1:35 PM

    Michael Bradley. Hmm. I’m really not sure what people want out of this guy. Holden would be great competetion/complement..but he’s out for now. Torres experiment has been tried (some might say not for long enough). Benny? I love Benny’s play, but anytime anyone of our “creative midfielders” tries anything in midfield and loses the ball, there’s an entire segment of fans who bitch about being safe with the ball in midfield. Get over it. That centermidfielder is going to see a ton of the ball and yes, on occasion, he’s going to screw up.


  11. Posted by crow on 2011/03/30 at 1:46 PM

    Someone ripped me for a comment I made calling out the US fans at the Meadowlands. Granted, I’m a member of AO, and I don’t expect everyone to be as loud as the supporter section, but in general the American fans were lame at the Meadowlands. A certain poster justified the crowd at the Meadowlands by saying that Argentina was dominating the game and it was cold. Typical lame American sports fans! They only cheer when their team scores and they are comfortable/feel like it. Your team needs more support when things aren’t going well!

    Kudos to the crowd in Nashville. I was very impressed. The majority of sections (not just AO) were standing throughout the game (before the rain), and there was a good noise level. A good turnout overall and I hope southern soccer fans get some more National Team games. They deserve it.


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/30 at 1:56 PM

      Okay AO guy. So someone ripped you for ripping them.

      With all due respect to the “supporter sections” I’ve been going to USMNT games since 1993 without having to sit with everyone wearing the same shirt and crazy face paint and congratulating one another on how the game wouldn’t be the same without you. I’m sure you drank alot of brewskis with your buddies at the tailgate and chanted some really witty tunes.

      But some of us just go to watch the game and cheer for our squad. Relax and enjoy it.


      • Posted by crow on 2011/03/30 at 2:15 PM

        I didn’t drink any beer at the tailgates. I drove 6 hours to the game by myself and attended the fan forum with Sunil before attending the game in the Supporters Section. Do the songs/chants need to improve? Yes, I’ve worked tirelessly trying to help that along by posting in forums.

        I think the players would probably appreciate some noise or at least looking up into the crowd and seeing some American fans in attendance- just read Landon’s quote from Paul Pabst article in Sports Illustrated. It looked like there was maybe 1,000 American fans (in non-supporters sections) in the entire Meadowlands. The only time it was evident that any American fans were making any noise were on one or two occasions when the US was on a dangerous attack. Most countries don’t need a supporters section because ALL of their fans cheer and sing. Just look at Argentina fans.

        My comment was how I was impressed at the contributions of the ENTIRE crowd at Nashville. It seemed like everyone (including those not in the supporters sections) was excited and into the game. That was definitely not the case in New York. I think the passion displayed was a case of the folks at Nashville being excited at getting a game, while all the northeast fans are spoiled (from getting so many close games), lazy, and entitled.


        • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/30 at 2:27 PM

          maybe you should have had a couple, it may have calmed you down a bit)))
          Does it ever occur to you that making sweeping generalizations might not be the best way to make your argument (“all the NE fans are spoiled…”only time it was evident”)?
          I’m guessing there is a larger Argentinian fan base in/near NYC then there are Paraguayans near Nashville, yes? I saw a lot of RWB all around us along with the blue and white strips. And everyone in our section stood and cheered the entire game.


          • Posted by crow on 2011/03/30 at 2:37 PM

            I’m from the Northeast. I’ve lived here my whole life. I would love to know where you were sitting because it seemed like there weren’t any other American fans at the game. I attended several MNT games before starting to attend with he supporters sections because I was sick of no one standing/cheering. I wouldn’t even make any noise because I was afraid it would upset someone. I enjoy the games so much more now.


            • Posted by Freegle on 2011/03/30 at 7:55 PM

              Crow, like you, I have been to dozens of USA matches (one of the spoiled North Easterners I guess). I sat in the supporters section for the first time in NJ on Saturday and had a good time with some great people. But, it will be my last time sitting there to watch a match. Sadly, I spent most of the match trying to see around people who were standing on their seats facing the crowd trying to be cheerleaders and prove that they are good fans instead of actually watching the match and supporting the team.

              This is not an endictment of AO. I love AO and I think it has a vital role in growing the game. But, my biggest problem with sitting in Sec 101 on Sat is being played out here again with your comments. That is, I don’t need someone else to tell me when/where/how to support my team. You wanting to chant the whole game doesn’t make you more of a fan and me wanting to watch the game instead of playing cheerleader doesn’t make me any less of one.

              The type of elitest attitude portrayed in your comments above does nothing but alienate fans. That, by definition, undermines the true purpose of AO which is to broaden the fan base and create an atmosphere where our supporters are the majority in noise AND numbers.

              As a fellow member of AO and a fellow US Soccer supporter, I applaud and thank you for your efforts. But please, understand that your way is not the only way to be a supportive fan; and do not dare belittle my efforts as a fan just because I prefer to watch the match and not join in (often) R-Rated chants. I promise you, I am just as ardent a supporter as you.

              Thanks for reading I know that was long winded. I’ll see you in Foxboro for more spoiling!

            • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/31 at 6:29 AM

              You two are the ones displaying the elitist attitudes- I’m sorry- but if you would read your own posts it would be clearly evident. Read my first post again. My first comment was saying how much I enjoyed the Nashville crowd because EVERYONE (all sections) was having THEIR PART supporting the team. Most of the crowd was standing up throughout the game, and the entire crowd seemed louder than the crowd in NYC.

              As for your snide and condescending remark about me not watching the game- it is obvious that I watched the entire match while I was cheering based off several posts I have left over the last few days on this site and others.

              I will agree the chants/songs desperately need to improve and I’ve spent hours posting in forums, etc. Many of the chants/songs are stale and/or immature/unimaginative. It is very hard getting new songs/chants to catch on when different people are at every game at different venues across the country. I hope that this improves because I think this is the biggest target AO has on it, and I know we can do better.

              I wish there did not have to be a supporters section, or that the crowd complimented the supporters section, that is all. Watch a game at Goodison Park, or watch Santos play in Brazil, or heck even a Seattle Sounders game. EVERYONE in the crowd is participating in some way. That is what I would like to see.

              Goodness it is frustrating being an American soccer fan sometimes. Most people around the world look down on the team, most people in the country don’t care/ridicule the team, and even your own fellow fans discourage you from being passionate.

            • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/31 at 7:48 AM

              Take offline…

        • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/30 at 2:32 PM

          Crow, something that I considered when I was at the game (I wasn’t in the AO section) was how difficult it would be to initiate such a chant. The crowd was certainly pro-America, but it’s such a family event in those situations that I envision any form of singing or chanting would be difficult given the age range of the crowd. Not to say it can’t be done, but something to consider, perhaps. You’ve probably thought of this, but figured I’d bring it up.


          • Posted by crow on 2011/03/30 at 2:43 PM

            I just like how passionate most soccer fans are from other countries- South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, you name it. And it doesn’t matter the age/gender/race of the fans. Sadly, it is just a different culture from America I guess. The funny thing is was Sunil even acknowledged the differences/challenges between the typical American soccer fan and fans in supporters sections at the fan forum. It shouldn’t be that way.


            • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/30 at 2:58 PM

              I see where you’re coming from for sure. It was really encouraging for me in the stands last night; they weren’t all screaming last night, but they were definitely into the game (and they laughed when I was screaming!).

        • Posted by Cameron on 2011/03/30 at 3:11 PM

          I don’t know–the people I was around for the game at the Meadowlands, from the train there, to the stands, to the trainride back into NYC, were pretty darn enthusiastic. I wouldn’t generalize–the section I was in, and the sections that were around me, were going crazy.

          Also, Giants Stadium is massive and I noticed that the fan seating wasn’t as differentiated as it usually is–there were quite a few Argentinians around me. That would theoretically make it harder to get a stadium-wide chant going.

          Nashville did look like an awesome place to be last night, though.


          • Posted by Cameron on 2011/03/30 at 3:22 PM

            Also, just to add one more thing. It was (insert appropriate expletive here)-cold in NJ on Saturday. If people weren’t cheering, it’s quite possibly because they were frozen in place.


    • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/30 at 1:56 PM



      • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/30 at 1:58 PM

        The “Ditto” was in response to you, Crow, not to the apparently pedestrian Kickin’ Names (Oxymoronic!) above.


        • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/30 at 2:05 PM

          Well at least we know where you stand now.


          • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/30 at 2:06 PM

            Ha just clarifying! Figured I’d get some wordplay in there where I could 🙂


            • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/30 at 2:14 PM

              It’s just getting a little tiresome hearing from supporters section members who act like the only way to enjoy the games is their way.
              I was at CONCACAF qualifiers all over the East Coast in the 90’s where you seriously feared for your safety your were so outnumbered. I appreciate the organization and energy in support of the squad but there are plenty of folks out there cheering them on who just haven’t joined the club.
              And it was in bone chilling cold and I heard tons of noise from both sides.

    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/03/31 at 9:04 AM

      I was on the coach back to midtown with a lot of AO members. When we were talking about the game, they said that they didn’t really watch the game that much because they were singing and chanting and will catch the DVR later. I did think what a flipping muppet – you travelled from Atlanta and Detroit not to watch the game live? There is so much more you can see…

      Definitely respect AO for trying to grow the game and create an atmosphere, but to force it like they do makes me laugh.


      • Posted by Nelsonatl on 2011/04/02 at 4:13 AM

        George. I joined AO that day and only had two energy drinks no beer. Things do need to be addressed. I’ve always considered soccer a gentlemen’s sport. Chants def should be creative and not cocky. These things are meant to inspire not make our team feel like they have to win.

        A few points about the game that have been floating around the forums here I think are crucial to the game and ratings. A Paraguayan pushed ream down. Foul. Another guy scores a trash goal. Goal should be null and void for the foul.

        I would hope USSF tell AO which song the team favors for getting pumped and other situations. I was a loan man yelling come on USA to the tune of come on you [insert your epl team]. mine is spurs. Cheers need to be slower at times. I really like the way that one goes. AO bros, what do y’all think?

        Oh and George England would have a hard time vs Paraguay IMO. What do you think?


  12. Posted by Durant Durant on 2011/03/30 at 2:20 PM

    Lichaj at RB and Chandler at RW might be a viable option in the future. Some very pretty and quick football was played on the right side of the field when those two were in the game together.


    • Posted by crow on 2011/03/30 at 2:28 PM

      agree 100%


    • Posted by Cameron on 2011/03/30 at 3:16 PM

      Took the words right out of my mouth (fingers?). They linked up well, and I like that that could free up Dempsey to be a forward. Lichaj isn’t as fast as Chandler (I honestly don’t think that anyone on that field was), but he still has very good pace. They’re both very strong on the attack, which the US seems to be in dire need of at the moment. I would love to see more of this combination in the future (I also think that these past two games have basically done in Spector at RB–Chandler and Lichaj have got to be above him in the pecking order now.)

      Also, having Lichaj to do throw-ins could make the US very dangerous when they earn attacking throws down by the other team’s box.


    • Posted by Seybold on 2011/03/30 at 6:41 PM

      Agree–Chandler bombed up the wing with the brio of DaMarcus Beasley in 2002. He and Lichaj had one excellent interchange with Agudelo, might be the first of many.


      • I suggested to someone before the game that Bradley might want to take a look at Chandler at RM with Lichaj at RB, not only to give both of them experience in those positions but also to see how they work together. Chandler has played a couple of matches at right mid with Nurnberg. He probably will not settle down into one position until this fall.

        Chandler is definitely an option at RM if Bradley wants to move Dempsey up top late in matches, whether Dolo is the RB or not. Chandler shows the potential to provide game-changing service like Spector was able to do in the Confederations Cup.


  13. Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/30 at 4:18 PM

    Something to consider about Donovan is that the same things that make him so successful make him always subject to being taken out of game.

    Donovan is at his best in an open game where we can run with the ball in transition.

    Where Donovan has a lot of difficulty is receiving and moving in traffic, especially inside where check and tackles come fast and furious.

    You thought the US barricaded the middle against Argentina. I caught one moment last night where all three Paraguayan midfielders in the centers were standing right next to one another.

    Over the past year Donovan has been most successful in more open games. He wilted a bit against Ghana’s harsh defense while he exposed Slovenia defense for being organized but not necessarily tough defenders.

    On Everton Donovan plays in more open field up top and the threat of Saha cutting to a flag made Donovan all the more valuable.

    Really Donovan’s best role is in the 4-3-3 or in the “2” of the 4-3-2-1 where he’s got a little room to rumble.

    I don’t think Donovan would have been immensely better last evening, but what I would have done is run Donovan off an Agudelo post-up. Agudelo could make the forward run that makes a Donovan pass all the more dangerous and Donovan could have got out in front of the pressure.

    However, all this meant the US had to deliver the ball to Donovan in the right places.

    Last night’s “Paraguayan Pack-It-In” is a difficult defense for Landon to exploit on a consistent basis.


    • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/31 at 10:30 AM

      Add to that Donovan’s poor free kicks, which I think were the most glaring problem for him, particularly in light of how effective they were against Argentina (see the goal). Again, I think the surface has more than a little effect in that regard.

      I think you’re right about the problem with Paraguay’s compact defense though. Not his cup of tea. What was phenomenal to me was how Agudelo and Dempsey were EVERYWHERE on the field showing for the ball. I think a pairing of those two up top (other than the last minutes of the game) would be something to watch. Might give Donovan the space he needs, too.


  14. Posted by dikranovich on 2011/03/30 at 5:36 PM

    did bocanegra take the captains armband when he came into the game?


  15. Posted by dikranovich on 2011/03/30 at 6:37 PM

    donovan makes a poor captain. bocanegra should have gone right over and taken the armband. we would have won if he did.


    • Posted by Matt C in Tampa on 2011/03/31 at 5:42 AM

      That would have been pure classlessness to take the arm band from a player who is still on the field and give it to another. It’s one thing if the LD would have been subbed out….to have passed the band to Boca… but i have never seen it passed amongst players still on the field.


  16. Posted by Steve Trittschuh on 2011/03/30 at 8:37 PM

    Agree about creativity. Would have liked to see Kljestan more, and also would have liked to have seen Diskerud make an appearance. It was the creativity and the finishing that was lacking against Paraguay. I thought everything else was pretty good.

    We were unlucky on the goal. Not sure why Demerit and Ream fell down, but I hope they don’t do that again.


    • Demerit lunged for the ball and did not connect cleanly. Ream was pushed by a Paraguayan player, but the push did not look any worse than everything else that happens on free kicks. To be fair though, the amount of force in a shove is hard to evaluate in video.


      • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/30 at 9:04 PM

        There were multiple slips on the turf as well that night. It could well have been a combination of both.


  17. […] Here are two more US-Paraguay post-game thoughts that I missed last night coming from Neil W. Blackmon and Jay Bell. […]


  18. Posted by timmer on 2011/03/31 at 6:54 AM

    Thank you for the write up and analysis. I agree with just about everything.


  19. […] so successful was because of Chandler – who played out of his mind.  Bornstein too, played well (and we certainly join TSG correspondent Jay Bell in wondering what all the Bornstein hate was about…).  True, his service was inconsistent and he was slow getting back on numerous occasions, but when […]


  20. Posted by babbalicious on 2011/03/31 at 7:46 AM

    Who’s stock rose the most after tuesday night: Zach Loyd. The guy didnt get called into camp and may be the 2nd choice left behind Boca now. I understand JB is very limited in his abilities so lets move on. Boca is obviously going to play LB during the gold cup. So hopefully BB brings in Loyd and he can take another look at him in training/games.


    • Posted by BrosefTito on 2011/03/31 at 8:25 AM

      LOL what a joke no way. Convey > Loyd at LB.


      • Posted by babbalicious on 2011/03/31 at 11:49 AM

        Sorry, I should have stated “since BB will never call in B.Convey, will z. loyd be next in the pecking order” I completely agree that convey should be given an opportunity, but it probably aint gonna happen.


  21. Posted by Soccernst on 2011/03/31 at 9:22 AM

    I went looking for the next big thing on the left in the US system. How come they are all shackled by Traffic? So who can help me with a list of candidates on the left not incarcerated in Florida? I need material for my prayer list.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/03/31 at 9:48 AM

      Anthony Wallace, Moises Hernandez, Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Sean Cunnigham, Tyler Polak…and if you’re feeling especially prayerful, spare a novena for Miguel Angel Ponce.


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/31 at 9:58 AM

        Somebody help me on Anthony Wallace. I don’t see it. I see a typical Bradley fringe player (Brandon McDonald, Robbie Findley) someone with physical attribute (strength/speed) who has an awful feel for the game.

        What am I missing?

        BTW, clipboard piece will be out early next week…so we get to check out all these things.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/31 at 10:02 AM

          BTW, Loyd reminds me of a poor man’s Bocanegra.

          The younger Boca would always put his body on the line, stand his guy up, get in the box, occasionally have a dazzling offensive play or series that you were like “where did that come from”

          I’m not making the comparison here–so no one jump on that notion. Not in the same realm. I’m just saying the style are similar.


        • You’re not missing much. He’s just a youngish American left back who’s gotten consistent PT professionally. Not too many of those out there. I think Wallace is a pretty decent defender, but his game going forward is, ah, lacking. Fortunately for Wallace the conservative Rapids system doesn’t require much of the fullbacks offensively.

          I’d like to see more from Loyd at LB, but there’s such congestion in Dallas for defensive spots that Loyd = Texan Spector.


          • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/31 at 10:34 AM

            I can see that in Loyd. Although I absolutely loved–yes it was the Chile game–that he stood up his offender. That’s old school. No one really does that on the outside anymore.

            Wallace has a tendency as well to let his mark wander around the penalty box and find opportunities–at least that’s what I’ve seen in the few observations.

            He almost in that way reminds me of Pearce who seems to have some serious ADHD (I have that so I can let that one fly) where he is an excellent defender at one moment and the next moment he’s like, “I have to go do that again. ”

            But on Wallace, it’s that typical Bradley player. And there’s some merit.

            What Bradley does a good job of doing (and he’s tried out so many players) is test out a ton of players with the physical attributes who he feels just may not be playing in the right system or can play in his. I’ll give that to BB.


            • Posted by dth on 2011/03/31 at 1:34 PM

              The weird thing about Loyd and Dallas is that I’m quite certain Loyd would start for many other teams in the league. Dallas has a ton of depth, so much so that they can trade away a decent left back (to the Cup champions) for basically nothing, use another as a utility guy, mentor another as a USA u-20 player, and still have a really talented guy holding it down. And Dallas has this kind of depth all over the roster. I know we’re prone to marveling over how far the league has come, but the depth of three teams–Dallas, Salt Lake, and New York–is something I don’t think you see in earlier eras.

    • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/31 at 10:32 AM

      Doesn’t Stuart Holden’s brother play LB in some low league in England? Maybe its in the genes!


  22. Posted by Martin on 2011/03/31 at 10:42 AM

    “Clint had trouble with his final ball.

    Clint did an absolutely terrific job of in-cutting and finding the call and trying to get things going in the center of field with a lot of traffic. He was the only player up the field making himself available in a crowded defensive area.”

    My point exactly. If Clint is just a bit sharper odds are very good the US scores.

    As for Landon’s performance, weaker teams on the Gold Cup will do exactly what Paraguay did. In that case the set piece becomes one very effective way to counter that.

    The Donovan to Bocanegra connection has saved the US’ bacon on more than one occasion. So LD’s dead ball service is absolutely critical. If he and Boca do not connect in the Argentina game, maybe the US loses and things are quite so pleasant. LD has proven capable of the task in the past, which is why his terrible performance at it in the Paraguay game is so glaring.

    The point is this Paraguay game highlighted just how dependent the USMNT still is on the dynamic duo.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/31 at 10:52 AM

      Agreed and fair points–the team is built for them. But I still think it’s little difficult to say a player like Donovan was “putrid.” And we can agree to disagree, but it’s like Landon was given chance after chance or had the ball in space.

      That said, whether it’s the coach or players, you need to adjust on the field as well and find space to open up those players. That was actually my point in the previous column about a creator in midfield.

      A better creator in midfield probably gives both of those players a few more chances or opens up the game more. GeorgeCross earlier was right on. There was just nothing up the field (Jozy) no means of keeping the defense honest.

      On the service:

      You can’t discount the rain though either. Sure Deuce for one always plays in the rain, but you never know with those things. Different turf, didn’t ball. Hard to completely adjust in one game, especially after one on a completely different surface just a few days earlier.

      Thanks for heeding…appreciate it too.


      • Posted by Martin on 2011/03/31 at 5:51 PM

        If you follow football elsewhere I think you’ll see over the last 10-15 years that many teams have moved away from the “creator”,” Trequarista”, “#10” role for pretty much the same reason.

        hey are very hard to find and when you do find them, it’s a bit much to have your team so dependent on just one guy.

        Look at Barca,they have two guys Xavi and Iniesta and maybe a few others who could do it. But who else can say that.

        My point is it would be pretty fool hardy for the US to build a team based on the nation of a Xavi coming along. I don’t know about our Under 20’s but so far the only guy in the US pool who might fit that role is Mix and he will need to move to a lot tougher league before I am convinced that he can replicate his club form internationally.

        Until then Ream, Chandler and Lichaj offer the US something they haven’t had since 2002 and Tony Sanneh, a threat out of the back and down the wings. Even if CD9 never comes back, these guys can spread the defense better than he did and that will open things up for Batman and Robin.


        • Posted by dth on 2011/03/31 at 6:22 PM

          Bad teams can’t afford–points-wise, or financially–to use playmakers because you have to construct an entire team around them. Good teams, however, do avail themselves of a playmaker frequently:

          EPL: Arsenal (Fabregas), Tottenham (van der Vaart)
          La Liga: Barcelona (covered), Real Madrid (Ozil, Kaka), Valencia (Sometimes Banega, sometimes Joaquin).
          Serie A: Inter (Sneijder), AC Milan (varies), Udinese (Sanchez), Lazio (Hernanes), Palermo (Pastore)
          Bundesliga: Dortmund (Goetze, Sahin, Kagawa), Leverkusen (Augusto), Bayern Munich (Muller), Mainz (Holtby, often).

          In fact, by this evidence, there aren’t too many good club teams that don’t use a playmaker. Manchester United? Chelsea? Villarreal?

          I think the no-more-playmakers thing is a bit of a myth, internationally.

          And I think it’s a myth the U.S. doesn’t have any. Dempsey and Diskerud are pros who can play the position. I think it might actually be Dempsey’s best position, actually–his lack of breakaway speed is less important there. There’s little reason we couldn’t use a #10 were we so inclined.


          • Posted by mbw on 2011/03/31 at 9:31 PM

            Of the current US players, Dempsey is the best #10, but I’m not sure I agree that it’s his best position. In my view Deuce is at his most creative without the ball. Exhibit A being the 2010 Ghana game. If it were up to me, I’d play him the way Bradley did that day — as a second striker making good runs and getting service from Donovan, Feilhaber, and now Jones in the midfield as well as the target striker.


          • Posted by Martin on 2011/04/01 at 10:06 AM

            I don’t disagree with you but think we have a bit of a semantics issue here.

            When I refer to the classic #10, I am talking about a very specific kind of player, someone like Juan Roman Riquelme,someone who takes over the midfield sits right in the center of it and sends killer passes all over the field. Guys like him are what I was talking about.

            All the players you listed are playmakers in that they they make things happen offensively for their teams but they don’t all play like Riquelme.

            Donovan and Dempsey are the only two US players who currently fit your definition of playmaker in that they are the only two players that opposing teams see as dangerous. As I have said may times, right now the US goes only as far as these two take it. The Paraguay game was lost in great part because neither one of them was sharp.

            If you follow BB’s tenure it is all about building a platform so these two can win the game for the US.

            Why have Agudelo,Chandler, Lichaj and Ream been fast tracked? Because, with the good pass out of defense and the speed,the attacking savvy down the wing and a good forward to distribute the ball they give D & D more freedom and more chances.

            In the past those two would have had to burn energy creating the chances and then finishing them as well.
            Now they will have less work and hopefully, more productivity. We may not need to see Davies back if the new kids do as well as I suspect they will.

            The Confederations Cup 09 team had a very solid defense and Davies to stretch the field. The result was the dynamic duo had a little more freedom to do their stuff. The World Cup team was shakier on defense and did not have a field stretcher like Davies around so it was harder to spring our playmakers. You might have noticed that Clint and Jozy, the only other offensive threats, both took tremendous beatings every game. Donovan is more elusive than those two and I saw that tournament as a credit mostly to him.

            So of course he is our playmaker,just not a traditional one.

            As for Clint being a traditional #10, I don’t know that he really wants to do that. As mbw pointed out, probably his best trait is his ability to get into really good positions, without the ball, coupled with the skill to take advatange of his positioning once he gets the ball.

            Besides, if he focused on making goals for others, who would score for the US? He remains the US player most likely to score a clutch goal.


            • Posted by dth on 2011/04/01 at 10:44 AM

              I don’t think it’s semantics at all. Most of these guys can sit right in the hole and do damage like a classic #10. Some of them can shift to the wing (e.g. Sanchez, Goetze, Kagawa, Holtby), but their teams often deploy them in that classic #10 role, sitting right behind the forward(s) and dictating play.

              There’s nothing dead about the #10 at all internationally.

              Re: Dempsey. I don’t see a conflict between scoring goals yourself and creating for others. Example: Zidane scored a goal every five games. Dempsey scores…a goal every five games. Dempsey was probably a bit too selfish against Paraguay, but that’s partially attributable to his teammates being stifled by Paraguay’s defense.

              Now, is Dempsey in the #10 role the absolute best deployment for the U.S. offense? I’m not sure. I think it should be experimented with more than it has. But I think the 4-2-2-2 might be a good option too. I want more evidence.

  23. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/31 at 10:48 AM

    I’m worried about what kind of reaction this comment will get, but oh well.

    In just about 6 months of following/reading/commenting on TSG, I have probably been involved in 3 or 4 “arguments” on the comment forum, and I find that unfortunate. Part of the blame certainly belongs to me, due to the fact that I have the tendency to be strongly opinionated, but I think that even though I don’t provoke arguments (I think), I will not let them go when they start. After this last occurance today I thougt maybe the problem was entirely my fault, but now I don’t think so. I’ve been posting on US Soccer forums for a couple of years, among other websites, and I don’t believe once that I have had a confrontation like I have had in the comment sections on TSG. Granted the quality of comments/discussion here is MUCH higher than your typical ignorant comments/vulgarity on Yahoo! or even ESPN, but I am very dissapointed in the way people have acted on the forums- ESPECIALLY because TSG is supposed to be open to fair debates.

    I have made strong opinionated statements on players/situations but I don’t believe I’ve ever attacked anyone personally, although some of my comments may have been interpreted that way. I have had some unfair comments directed at me, though, in response. I understand that this blog is sort of “The Cornell of soccer blogs”, and being of higher quality it is going to attract more intelligent people that have strong opinions/beliefs/insight; but sometimes I just can’t believe how nasty/crass/elitist some people are who comment. I think there is a difference between a strong opinion and acting in a nasty/crass/snide way. It’s almost like we are all “soccer hipsters” trying to prove our cred to each other.

    Frankly, it has been very depressing. Many times I won’t even comment if I have a strong opinion about a player or a subject because I’m afraid of the reacation. I’ve gotten to a point where I’m either going to stop commenting or just stop reading the blog. And I find it very disconcerting to suddenly see all the cliques/general divisions apparently growing between American soccer fans.

    And I feel bad because I agree that “personal arguments” in the comments mar the quality of the blog, which is not fair to TSG.

    I wish I could hire Aaron Sorkin to write my comments, I can’t afford it. I’m passionate and opinionated, but try to keep it in line, but I don’t always do I guess.


    • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/31 at 10:57 AM


      Two things, one TSG is growing like crazy…hard to keep that intimate living room atmosphere that it once was. (and we need it to grow so we can make better and better content).

      That said, the only rule I have is…don’t make it personal unless it’s in a humorous way.

      Also, keep the TSG motto, “You can’t look at one observation in isolation…it’s the whole body of work.”

      If anyone has an issue with something they can always email shinguardian@gmail.com.

      Note: I don’t see any of the following happening:

      “Frankly, it has been very depressing. Many times I won’t even comment if I have a strong opinion about a player or a subject because I’m afraid of the reacation. I’ve gotten to a point where I’m either going to stop commenting or just stop reading the blog. And I find it very disconcerting to suddenly see all the cliques/general divisions apparently growing between American soccer fans.”

      But maybe I’m not looking hard enough.


      • Posted by Mud on 2011/03/31 at 11:06 AM


        Don’t sweat it buddy! Remember it’s the internet and everyone has a Harvard degree on their walls!


      • Posted by Crow on 2011/03/31 at 11:09 AM

        It just seems like there is alot of disdain towards supporter groups from general fans, especially those who have been supporting the team from the ’80’s and ’90’s. I guess you could compare it to an alumni/student section relationship at a college game. It just surprises me sometimes the way fans camp behind certain players as well- although that just comes down to opinions. Simply, it is sort of strange to have supporters of the same team “fighting” with each other instead of supporting each other.


      • Posted by dikranovich on 2011/03/31 at 5:42 PM

        its hard to have cliques when you got like seven pros on your national team. of course the usa could find a way to do it with wynalda and harkes. but mostly matthew, you maybe need to take a harder look in the mirror.


    • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/31 at 11:16 AM

      Crow, your sentiments are understandable. A few things:

      1) Strong opinions yield strong reactions. As a theology student, I would say I’m particularly experienced on this point. Strong language usually doesn’t show up until there’s something the party/ies feel strongly about.

      2) Empathy is often the best antidote to a thorny situation; address conflicting opinions with an open mind.

      3) Responding to a hateful comment with another one only exacerbates the problem. Using phrases like the oh-so-typically-American “you don’t know what you’re talking about” are often unnecessary and can be deleted without the comment losing its rhetorical force.

      4)If all else fails, let it go. Forums are dangerous precisely because there is no limit to how much people can comment (unless they’re banned of course :)), but often the best thing to do is agree to disagree and move on. Most issues take time to resolve, anyway.

      At any rate, those are just some thoughts I had. Also, I’m not singling you or anyone else out here, Crow–these issues get raised more within the realm of theology that I’m inundated with. Hope they help. Maybe I’ll write a handbook on blogosphere style one of these days…


      • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/31 at 11:20 AM

        Really I guess Matt’s guidelines are simpler/better…


      • Posted by John on 2011/03/31 at 11:25 AM

        “Maybe I’ll write a handbook on blogosphere style one of these days…”

        Step 1: Post photoshopped pictures of cats on forum.
        Step 2: Create forum/blog for photoshopped pictures of cats
        Step 3: Invite friends on facebook
        Step 4: Site popularity explodes
        Step 5: More Friends come
        Step 6: People you don’t know start posting
        Step 7: Crazy guy photoshops picture of kitten dressed as dictator
        Step 8: Friends Leave
        Step 9: People wistfully talk about the good ole days of the forum.
        Step 10: You moderate forum
        Step 11: More friends leave as you get 10 thousand new sign ups in one day (most of these are google bots)
        Step 12: You post profanity laden rant on page 36 of a “kittens round the world” thread indicating that people who use personal information to attack others will be banned.
        Step 13: Anonymous volunteer admins have no choice but to ban you.
        Step 14: You have nowhere to post pictures of photoshopped kittens.
        Step 15: Create anonymous account to post wordy diatribes on sight you used to run.
        Step 16: Graduate to posting wordy diatribes on CNN in 4000 post comment threads.
        Step 17: Realize that 99.9% of the internet is dominated by people with stupid opinions
        Step 18: Step back from Computer
        Step 19: Turn off Internet
        Step 20: Walk outside and realize it is spring.


        • Posted by Jake C on 2011/03/31 at 11:27 AM

          Wait is that a thing, or did you just make it up? Cause it’s BRILLIANT.


          • Posted by John on 2011/03/31 at 11:30 AM

            Not a thing.

            Side note: I do NOT spend my days dressing up cats in old NASL kits and re-enacting games from the 1970’s.


    • Posted by sfshwebb on 2011/03/31 at 11:34 AM

      Crow – I understand what you are saying and I agree. As the monkey to Matt’s organ grinder, I often have to hold back on comments as i’m worried they might be taken personally.

      This goes to everyone, but it’s very possible to have good debating conversations as long as you are not personal and don’t take things personally. I think what happens is if i might say Bradley sucks and Holden is a demi-god, people who like Bradley seem to take that to mean that i think they suck and i’m a demi-god. So it goes both ways.

      Matt and I are just trying to keep this site about real content versus spiteful back and forth (not accusing anyone). The main reason is that our readers are really knowledgeable and it helps us learn and gives us ideas as to what to write about. If we can keep it about the discussion, then everyone is better for it.

      So keep on posting, we’ll keep monitoring, and please note that we are not attacking anyone, when we ask to not make it personal.

      Also, we like to think we’re more the Harvard of soccer publications – Cornell is our younger brother 😉


      • Posted by Andy_4Lakes on 2011/03/31 at 12:49 PM

        Um, not all your readers are “really knowledgeable” but with your help, I’m working on it… And I think I’m one of your longer-term readers, so it’s a slow process…


        • Posted by sfshwebb on 2011/03/31 at 1:10 PM

          Andy – Actually, I think it’s posters like yourself that really add to the site. In your questions or observations, the fact that you “may not be really knowledgeable”, might bring up some points, that we who think we know what we are taking about, actually miss. If anything we want to encourage people to state their observations, as there is never really a wrong perception or observation, unless it’s a fact etc… People just need to recognize (and i think for the most part they do), that this is a forum and open table, to talk about what we love.


          • Posted by Andy_4Lakes on 2011/03/31 at 2:09 PM

            It’s tough, in a good way, for me to read this blog! I never played at a high level and only in the last few years have I become more than a passive fan. I love reading the comment section as much as the original articles as the comments generate excellent discussion with different viewpoints. I read one argument (good sense of the word here) and think “yeah, I get that” and then shortly thereafter read an opposing argument and see that too. But most importantly, I recognize the quality of the commentary. The only reason I ever click on the comments of other sites like ESPN or SBI is when I’ve already read every last comment in detail yet crave more. Of course I quickly realize on those other sites that they have nothing constructive to add to the expansion of my soccer brain, quickly return here and hit “refresh” on the comments of the most recent posts.


        • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/03/31 at 4:31 PM

          Thanks for the compliments.

          Andy, your daugher is a better crosser of the ball than anyone here though. :>

          Daughter, right?


          • Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/04/01 at 7:03 PM

            Crow and Matt
            I found this website shortly after the Ghana defeat. Since then I have been reading it religiously and am a much more knowledgeable soccer fan for it. I have learned a lot from the posts and the comments.

            I took a while to post for various reasons. My advice to Crow is that in general think of the comments section as an opportunity to make a point and read other points not as a place for debate.

            You make your point about the fans (I was in NY for my first National Team game, and I was shocked at how pro-Argentina it was. This has nothing to do with AO versus others, as I was in the suites and I don’t consider that makes me any less of a fan). Let others add their thoughts and then let it go.

            This is an amazing site. Great content. Very thoughtful comments. I learned a lot. Don’t debate here. Provide your insight. Don’t make personal attacks. Don’t try to convert people (it will just frustrate you).


          • Posted by Andy_4Lakes on 2011/04/02 at 6:54 AM

            No problem Matt, this website is great, though I must admit I like it better now when there are 100+ comments on a post than just a dozen when I first started visiting! More to read!

            Oh, and it’s my son, who I might add just got a call up to the U12 team. Spring Break can really dessimate a roster when it falls during a FIFA International Date!


  24. Posted by Crow on 2011/03/31 at 11:13 AM

    Klejstan actually impressed me as well. I thought he was very composed and smart on the ball and in positioning, albeit a small sample size. It did seem, though, that he was not as attack-oriented or creative as usual.


  25. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/03/31 at 11:33 AM

    Rewatched the first half last night without the emotion of the outcome in the balance. A few things:

    MB actually did a really nice job of possession managment and did make a number of incisive through balls. Second half he seemed to flag which isn’t surprising given his lack of PT. This again points out that I’m not so sure the problem lies with him but with the coaching strategy and his lack of clarity in his role.
    You’ll also notice that his CMF partners tend to struggle with role positioning etc. This may explain Edu being kind of lost the last two games. MB should be playing the forward CDM and Edu the back side role that Holden should fill once he’s healthy again. Once given the freedom to bomb forward MB became much more involved and influenced the offensive side of the game.


    • Posted by Jake on 2011/03/31 at 5:38 PM

      That is the pairing I would really like to see too. Holden and Bradley. Holden’s role being more defensive, stay at home, not so much adventuring – make sure tackles in front of the CBs and help initiate (read: swing the attack from side to side or get the ball from the back to the mids). MB could then use his engine to get up and back and offer support to the forwards and wings and shoot from distance in trailing situations, and in defensive transition be able to track down a run much like he did at the tail end of the Argentina game.


      • It is strange that as the quality of defensive midfielders paired with Bradley has improved (Edu is not THAT defensive minded, but Edu & Jones >>>>> 2007 Mastroeni & Clark), Bradley has attacked less.

        I know he has improved his passing and has played a different role with Gladbach in the first half of the season, but Bradley’s forays into the box had become known worldwide after his stab to earn the draw against Slovenia.

        Why is a guy with that kind of history and that kind of ability tethered to the center of the field now?


      • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/04/01 at 10:09 AM

        Anybody have Bob’s cell phone #? He and Jake need to talk;<)


  26. Posted by dth on 2011/03/31 at 1:48 PM

    Najar close to making decision: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/soccer-insider/post/dc-uniteds-andy-najar-weighs-international-soccer-options-advantage-honduras/2011/03/31/AFtT8YBC_blog.html

    Honduras, undoubtedly. I’d be thrilled if he chose U.S. though–he’d make my Gold Cup roster for sure.


  27. Posted by Kevin on 2011/03/31 at 2:41 PM

    In response to the Holden conversation at the top, I think he can be very attacking (not necessarily creative, but definitely attacking) as he did for Houston in 2009. He has a great first touch and final ball, but his quality that has made him a linking midfielder is that he can receive a ball and quickly makes a good decision as to where to play a pass. He has a feel for the game as far as small close passes that can help penetrate a defense. As the attacking midfielder for Houston he really just followed the play quite a bit and provided an outlet, switched fields. He is not the driving force of an offense as much as he is the glue that keeps an offense running efficiently. This quality has made him appealing for Owen Coyle to play him closer to the back line so that the ball goes to him to relieve pressure. He will hold it, then promptly distribute it and initiate some sort of attack. Until Bolton Holden has never shown his skills defending either.


    • Posted by Cameron on 2011/03/31 at 4:56 PM

      I agree (and I feel like my comment up there was misinterpreted a bit. I wasn’t saying that Holden is uncreative). He’s a good attacker and is exactly, I think, what you said he is–the glue.

      Which makes me more than a little bit nervous for the rest of Bolton’s season.


  28. Posted by BernieBernier on 2011/04/01 at 7:26 PM

    I know I am very late and people have moved on but life was getting the best of my time and efforts. That said, I watched Argentina in person, again on DVR, watched Paraguay a have some thoughts…

    As a preface all of these comments are focused on the Gold Cup and take into account that we have one game left to prepare and only have a couple days turn around from that game to the start of the Gold Cup.

    1) Ream needs to be a CB.
    2) I like Boca as our left back, I know he isn’t ideal but he is the best choice in my mind. That said if the Bornstein starts against a team where we will attack rather than defend most of the game I am fine with it.
    3) I think we need to scrap the 4-2-3-1 until after the Gold Cup (that said at some point I would like to see Chandler, Dempsey, and Donovan in the 3, in that order, with either Dolo or Lichaj behind Chandler).
    4) Agudelo needs to be in the starting line-up
    5) If Altidore is not in the starting line-up (Boon-bur-ee or CD9 with Agudelo) against Spain I can live with that
    6) I really wanted Edu to be a starter but now think it needs to be Jones and MB90 as CMs
    7) Holden is falling into, the guy that becomes better in the eyes of the fan since he is injured, mental trap
    8) Chandler has a bright future at RB and I am no longer praying that Dolo is around for 2014.

    My starting line-up for the Gold Cup:

    Dolo — Demerit—Ream—Boca–
    Donovan — Jones — MB90 — Dempsey
    ——–Altidore — Agudelo—–

    I could live with Boon-bur-ee for Altidore (I am all out on Altidore in the US Kit) and would like Jones as the “distributor”. I swapped Donovan and Dempsey since Dempsey cuts in and we basically leave the left side empty.


  29. Posted by Martin on 2011/04/02 at 8:05 AM


    “I don’t think it’s semantics at all. Most of these guys can sit right in the hole and do damage like a classic #10. Some of them can shift to the wing (e.g. Sanchez, Goetze, Kagawa, Holtby), but their teams often deploy them in that classic #10 role, sitting right behind the forward(s) and dictating play.”

    There’s nothing dead about the #10 at all internationally. ”

    Again, I have to say I think we are talking about a semantic difference. I should have been clearer in my earlier post. A #10 in my mind sits deeper than most of the guys you are talking about. Most of the guys on your list are what could be called Trequartistas, the best example being of course, Maradona. In 1986 Argentina played 4-4-2 (1-2-1-4-2) with Maradona as one of the strikers pulled back to the trequartista role at the inner left side.

    Burruchaga was the inside forward on the right side, possibly Wide midfielder on support duty. The striker was Valdano. The left midfielder stayed wide and the central midfielder was a ballwinner. However, they did not employ fullbacks, but rather a diamond at the back with a sweeper, two centre backs and a defensive midfield anchor (Batista). Typically if you have a Tre you don’t use the #10. I think you see more of the Tre’s around now rather than the deeper lying #10’s because those guys are more versatile. In any event the US doesn’t really have a guy for either spot.

    Donovan is great but he is limited. He does not play as well in traffic and does his best work out wide and on the counter.

    As for Dempsey in either role, others may have watched him more than I have but I don’t see him as doing his best work in the middle of the the field. It seems to me his best work is being done in his current loosely defined role, a “floater” if you will. And I remain unconvinced that his passing and first touch is consistently at the level required for the job.

    And I think Bradley would have used him in that role if it was a good idea. The fact that he hasn’t tells me he thinks it won’t work out that well or that he needs Clint elsewhere more.


    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/02 at 11:41 AM

      I guess we are having a semantic difference. I would suggest that the vast majority of users do not distinguish much if at all between an enganche, trequartista, #10 or whatever it is.


      • Posted by Martin on 2011/04/02 at 5:14 PM

        You’re absolutely correct! Teams play so many different variations on their basic formations now, the versatility of a Tre type is much more prized. I think fans get so caught up in categorizing players by position that they forget how dynamic the game really is.

        After a while they all start to look alike.


  30. Posted by Dan on 2011/04/03 at 4:03 PM

    I respectfully don’t understand how you can rate Tim Ream and Bornstein the same…..I don’t care how much you present yourself if everything you do is sloppy. I didn’t see him complete half of his passes and none in the attacking third. Ream is exactly what all of the central midfielders need to jump start an attack. I would rather try Chandler on the left and keep Lichaj or dolo on the right…also Bornstein is an awful technical defender hence the reason he doesn’t play defense for his club team.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: