The Gold Cup Cometh: Will 2014 Squad Men Follow?

Off-year Gold Cups make players, not teams.

There will be misspellings, but I’m confident you will deal with them. :>

The off-year Gold Cups are always, well, entertaining. Last cycle’s off-year–2009–gave us the further emergence of Charlie Davies, the rightful gushing over the fair-haired guy from Houston (Stu Holden) and the folly of a flailing Luis Robles against Haiti. Thanks Stuey for smacking your 3-wood on a rope into the top right corner up New England way.

Whereas senior team observations are plentiful and more precise, perhaps, by comparison, the off-year Gold Cup represents the Christmas morning sensation that an unexpected present–perhaps a speedy flanker–may be unwrapped… or the inverse, the confirmation that the USMNT player pool is just too deep and two or three–novice or experienced–can’t swim with conviction or even tread water.

The Gold Cup is less about the system–a mere handful of capable players will emerge and they’ll most likely play their next game as complementary pawns to an A side rounding into form–and more about individual observation. It’s one of the few times with somewhat meaningful stakes (see CONCACAF Confed Cup changes) that it’s a player-specific, rather than team-specific set of observations.

It a late moment replacement for Jimmy Conrad in D.C. during the 2009 Gold Cup that  pulled the engine cord on Goodon's USMNT career. He's been hanging around ever since.

It a late moment replacement for Jimmy Conrad in D.C. during the 2009 Gold Cup that pulled the engine cord on Goodon’s USMNT career. He’s been hanging around ever since.

That 2009 Gold Cup final showed that. Mexico brought in ringers Carlos Vela and Gio Dos Santos after the group stage who ripped open a US central defense pairing of Chad Marshall (remember when?) and Clarence Goodson (wait a second, it was apparent then?) to the tune of 5-zilch at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. While some pundits incorrectly choose to excoriate the moment–calling it a travesty that swung the door wide open for Mexico–it gave then-manager Bob Bradley at least three critical player observations: (1) Chad Marshall and Clarence Goodson were clearly not ready to challenge for starting slots on the “A” team (correct), (2) Stu Holden and Charlie Davies could be counted on now to provide valuable “A” team minutes (correct) and (3) that Kyle Beckerman–for all his wondrous skill and talent–would be not be a cog in Bradley’s double-pivot system despite his talents as a single CDM (inconclusive).

On to the 2013 Gold Cup, let the player gushing and crushing flow like beer at TSG headquarters today. Ten questions–mostly player centric–to ponder:

(1) Lan-done?


Cut the guy some slack. He’s only the leading goal scorer in USMNT history.

He needed a break. So did Michael Jordan; no one batted an eye when he came back.

And Donovan–until recently–has largely been the MJ of the USMNT. Hard to deny that.

Donovan’s credentials are known; his shortcomings–making plays in traffic, reluctance to take over the game are still there.

It’s the former that he’ll need to improve on, not the latter. Dempsey is the US ace in the hole now and a role that better suits both of them.

However, for this Gold Cup team, he’ll need to show that he’s still got the attacking mustard as he should dominate the play. If he doesn’t, it will bring questions, not expulsion. Expulsion only comes with poor defense (don’t shake your head because Shea Salinas dusted Donovan a few times last Saturday night in Palo Alto) and commitment to the team ethos. Donovan, however, should be expected to come through with flying colors in both regards.

(2) Can Jose Torres pull himself up to an acceptable defensive and intensity level to contribute on the “A” team?

Jury still deliberating. If the position doesn’t fit, to each position you must remit.

There’s no denying that Jose Torres has a unique skillset for the US player pool.

At Barcelona, they call it “La Pausa,” the ability to receive the ball, hold possession, take one or two touches to create new angles and then to distribute a pass–perhaps a pass that wasn’t there without a little hitch or turn of the hips–that may be all the difference in igniting the attack.

At TSG, we call Torres a “3-touch” player. Players like Michael Bradley and Danny Williams move the ball in as few–usually “2-touches”–as possible. They receive; they redistribute–the quicker they do this, the more effective the pass and its outcome usually is… for them.

Torres is that 3-touch player. The player who has the ability to hold on the ball and think, “where or who can I get this call to break down the defense.” It’s unique to the US. Clint Dempsey is an attacker. Michael Bradley is a visionary passer, but reluctant usually in possession. Jermaine Jones is Jermaine Jones. Landon Donovan is a vertical player, good at the pass when the defense is in motion.

Torres again is the opposite, he looks to go horizontal or at least diagonal. His card dealing works against more deep lying defenses. He takes a moment on the ball, perhaps drawing the defense to him or waiting for something to materialize.

However the moments of genius by Torres (USA-Scotland in 2012, USA-Turkey’s second half in 2010, USA-Costa Rica’s second half in 2009) are far too infrequent.  Torres’s game is typically characterized by a breakdown on defense–his notoriously poor angle in a Costa Rica friendly in 2011 that led to a goal for the visitors at Carson–signaled to Klinsmann that Torres wasn’t going to just walk into the US central midfield–or what is perceived as apathetic play when the pressure is intense–witness his first half “work” against El Tri in the August 2011 friendly and you’ll come away wincing.

This may or may not be it for Torres. But if the scruff of the neck of his USMNT career was ever boarding on an Adam Moffatt-thick beard status that moment is now and Torres needs to be the barber, clipping chances left and right for the US while not suffering in the tackle–or it may be too late.

(3) How’s Stu Holden in the tackle?

Speaking of suffering in the tackle…. Stu Holden certainly deserves more rope than Torres. The Bolton Wanderer midfield is just returning to full fitness that has left him without a truly valuable minute in a US kit since Honduras 2009. Unbelievable, huh?

Holden of course is bordering on John O’Bren-legend-in-the-mind status with USMNT faithful and has shown even less. The consumate team player and excellent read-reactor of the game is attempting to get his chops up make a serious run at the Brazil 23 for Klinsmann.

In short observations of Holden–both at Bolton and in a USMNT kit–it’s clear that the once indefatiguable Holden is still not 90-minutes fit; that’s not the issue though as that will come through reps. With Holden, it’s a slight reluctance to get stuck-in; the quality that won the hearts of the EPL in 2010 and won Holden the league tackle title.

That Holden has yet to emerge. If it does–as Klinsmann needs it to given his predisposition to defensive integrity first–then Holden will be getting congratulatory USSF emails and flight plans for World Cup qualifiers come the Fall.

(4) Is Onyewu just out of practice or should he be out to lunch with Bocanegra?

Needs to light a Borgetti under his bum….

The US has a problem–and don’t tell us you don’t see it. Omar Gonzalez is clearly not Brazil-ready. Will he kept there? It’s a highly important, but currently answerable riddle for the USMNT coaching staff.

For club and country, Gonzalez has suffered serious bouts of late-game lost focus syndrome that when paired with his skittishness in possession and challenges against speedy strikers, make his slot on the “A” team a major question mark.

Will Matt Besler seemingly locked down on the left side–at least for now–through his ability to read the game, make line calls and distribute quite effectively from the defensive recesses of the pitch, the US needs a force pushed slightly higher up the field on the right to win clearances and man-up target strikers.

It’s been sad here for months that this role can handled effectively by Stoke City man Geoff Cameron, however Klinsman appears to see Cameron as too similar to Besler–presumably (and unbelievably) in questioning the aerial prowess of both. Clarence Goodson respects the offsides trap as much as LMFAO respects song-writing.

So is the answer Oguchi Onyewu? You know what you get distribution-wise and aerial-wise with Gooch, but can he limit his costly moments of defensive folly (Brazil friendly 2012, Honduras 2009), because if not, he’s battling more with Goodson for the right to see as few minutes come next summer in South America.

(5) Is Jack McInerny a creation of Conor Casey or is he his own man?

Don’t look now, but Conor Casey is tearing it up without his battery mate Jack MacInerny in Philadelphia. TSG even suggested–we feel appropriately–that Casey should’ve at least made the 35-man for this year’s Gold Cup side.

An observation, of course, of Jack Mac shows a player that is growing in spades over the past year. Always a good route runner and poacher, McInerney is starting develop the part of his game that recognizes the threat he can become on the pass or as a decoy. It’s a maturation act in MLS this year only trumped by the otherworldly work that Chris Klute is putting in in Colorado.

McInerney is certainly not starter potential at this time–more because any system that Klinsmanm has used has favored target men to occupy defenders as a first selection in the game plan. He can’t really play on the flank because his 1-v-1 ability is not his strong suit, but–like Joe Gyau during the U-23 run–McInerny can and should be a very effective late game backline tiptoer to challenge a team that is pressing the US or in an up-down affair. It’s a skillset that no one has had on the US since Charlie Davies challenged curfew on a sad and rainy Washington D.C. night four years ago.

(6) What with ‘The Fiscal?

Welcome back Fiscal. See section on “Oneywu, Oguchi” and your passing needs to pass muster. His doesn’t.

High time...

High time…

(7) Does Joe Corona own this “B” team attack

Will the cycles that Joe Corona put in on the pine and in practice for the US A team over the past year finally bear fruit with his “B” team inclusion. To TSG, Corona was a force to be reckoned with the for the US U-23 team last year. He played a little Deuce-like, popping up in places to unleash a shot or finding himself on the end of a ball because he read it like Tim Duncan does a rebound. It’s probable that Klinsmann sees the same thing–not that Corona would remotely step into A team play if Deuce went down but mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery in sport.

Corona should be a starter on this team. He should dominate the ball and this should be his coming out party. Bet on it.

(8) Can Mix Master The D…and more?

What not to bet on? A three goal Jack Mac game, the US not struggling for at least a half in a cream puff group game, Will Bruin not scoring and….Mix Diskerud going bonkers in the middle.

It’s been a meandering national team trail for Diskerud whose flirtations with Norwegian team play will end once he steps on the field. Diskerud has excited in spot duty for the US (South Africa 2010, Russia 2012), but the most part the buzz on lanky playmaker has been his inability to master the tackle.

His game and plight almost reminds one of Sacha Kljestan circa 2009 around summer time. Kljestan has adept at playmaking vertically and showed flashes of stardom, only his consistency and two-way game was absent. Was Diskerud needs–as Kljestan’s game has shown–is quality play in a more difficult league. Diskerud may make some noise this summer, but reps at a higher club level should put him in the discussion more for 2018.

(9) Will the real Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson please stand-up, please stand-up?

You already know what Nick Rimando can do. Somewhat odd that few even considered the RSL stalwart for a potential captainy role. Sound crazy? Rimando calms defenses from the back with his organization and ability to maintain possession himself and distribute effectively. He’s taken wins in the CONCACAF Champion’s League down in Central America. And he’s seen it all.

Now though, the US’s two would-be goalkeepers of the future: Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid battle for second fiddle–a fiddle that in fact might be third with the sterling job that Cody Cropper did manning the pipes for the US U-20’s in Turkey. Of the two, Johnson is calmer under pressure and arguably a slightly better shot stopper. Hamid certainly challenges for that shot-stopping label and has no problem being physical. Both keepers need a lot of University of Phoenix time for managing their box though.

Keepers develop and are player later usually than outfield players, but both players need to show–at minimum–improvement in national team game situations.

(And let’s stop it with the Sean Johnson-Guatemala concession. Five outfield players had a chance to hack down, defend the Guatemalan counter that day and the ball took a ricochet. It’s an error and just that. All keepers have them and all good keepers keep moving forward.)

(10) Kyle “Armas” Beckerman

Kyle Beckerman is a winner and a leader. More so than any player than Michael Bradley, Beckerman can distribute forward under pressure from the midfield. With Klinsmann’s movement to the double pivot though, Beckerman has a chance to be the new Chris Armas for the US.–a player critical to the player pool with all the qualities you want who may not make a World Cup.

Let’s keep Beckerman just a wee bit advanced, hopefully, this Gold Cup and showing Klinsmann that if forced to go forward on occassion that he shows the chops that he often has at the MLS level.


» Last chance saloon Chris Wondolowski. See ball, receive ball, strike ball, see ball hit back of net.

» Does Michael Parkhurst get the start next to Clarence Goodson here at the outset? Or does Klinsmann pair two tall trees in Goodson and Gooch. Does Klinsmann still favor Parkhurst as a rightback at all?

77 responses to this post.

  1. Let’s be real here – we all know the reason MJ took a break was because Stern suspended him for his gambling issues.


    • I have said this for years!!


    • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/07/06 at 12:36 PM


      MJ does not have a gambling problem.

      He does have a competition problem i.e he needs an outlet for his competitive nature.


      • Issues =/= problem. I meant more along the fact that he’s reportedly lost millions gambling and it was starting to move into the public light around that time.

        Also, I was being a little tongue-in-cheek when I said that.


        • If MJ can afford to lose whatever he has lost and is doesn’t get him into any compromising situations then it is not a problem.

          There is nothing tongue in cheek about gambling addictions. If he had a real problem he wouldn’t have had any money left to do the things he has subsequently done.


  2. This is absolutely super work, Matt.


  3. Posted by Dirk on 2013/07/05 at 4:59 PM

    “Clarence Goodson respects the offsides trap as much as LMFAO respects song-writing.”

    Not knowing much about LMFAO, I’ll just assume they are musical hacks.

    The thing I like about this being a “B” squad is the opportunity it affords players that I keep wondering about but never get to see in USMNT action. What I like least about this group of players are the defenders. We all know Goodson is at best cover for better options. I don’t think Gooch can be the player he was. Parkhurst is versatile but that is the same as saying he is good at being mediocre at several positions. O-Fiscal is someone we don’t need to see in light of Eric Lichaj not being called in. It seems defensively, there is nothing new to learn. Perhaps JK knows this and just wants an experienced backline for a tourney that he wants to win. Fine I guess.

    I hope Mixx and Bedoya get some quality time, perhaps Corona too, have to see what these guys are made of. I actually believe Donovan doesn’t need to be here, he has nothing to prove at this level of play, and quite frankly the Galaxy need him more, and he will just take playing time away from guys that need this tourney to stake their claim for the Final 23 for Brazil. But I think bringing LD here is as much about JK’s ego, making Landon earn his way back for having the temerity to take a mental/physical break from the game.


  4. Posted by dth on 2013/07/05 at 6:57 PM

    Got to disagree with TSG’s take on Torres. Defense, for me, is the second concern with JFT. The number one concern with Torres is that the pros of his skillset don’t travel outside of Mexico. Because of the heat and altitude, and stylistic/cultural reasons, a lot of Mexican teams play quite slowly, with a lot of time and space on the ball. The problem here is that when you introduce those type of players into an environment when the opponent can play high tempo and can pressure in an organized fashion, they often break down — their speed of thought/skill is not high enough. (Even teams with the highest speed of thought/skill can be broken down with sufficiently ferocious pressing — see Spain vs. Brazil or Barca vs. Bayern Munich).

    That’s why USMNT owned Mexico for the aughts — El Tri would keep on throwing out skilled guys without much sense of tempo, US would overrun Mexico with tempo, and Mexico would complain about how they deserved to win because they had all the skilled players.

    By the time Gold Cup 2011 rolled around, Mexico had put enough players into Europe where they had players used to a high-tempo, high-pressure environment, and more importantly had the coach willing to incorporate tactics to accomodate that. They still didn’t quite have the central midfield yet, but close enough (one of the big mysteries of Mexican football from this outsider’s perspective is the lack of classy registas. If Mexico ever found such a regista — even the 75% Andrea Pirlo — they would dominate everything. If Michael Bradley were named Miguel Bradlez Mexico would be a World Cup threat.)

    Anyway, Mexico regressed because they went back into their interminable slow-playing ways and they will either get overrun every game or bunkered to death because they don’t have that quickness and incisiveness from central midfield. (If Ander Herrera ever develops or Chepo gets a clue…)

    To drive back to original point here: JFT has no sense of time, like a lot of Liga MX players. He’ll either get pressed to hell (and fold), or bunkered (and just passively pass backward and sideways.) Best case scenario in international play is he looks pretty while being ineffective. Worst case scenario is that he’s utterly useless. He’s not incisive. His speed of thought is so/so, and will continue to stagnate as long as he’s Mexico-based. We’ve really seen enough of him. Would’ve strongly preferred Conor O’Brien.


    • Posted by Ufficio on 2013/07/05 at 7:21 PM

      If Michael Bradley were named Miguel Bradlez Mexico would be a World Cup threat.

      This is funny; I was watching one of the recent USMNT games (against Panama, I think) on Univision. One of the announcers was Mexican and he jestingly inquired about the possibility of naturalizing Bradley. He also speculated about the possibility of buying another national team should Mexico fail to qualify. Good times.

      Oh, look, JFT’s in the starting line-up.


    • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/05 at 7:22 PM

      Amen. Torres will hopefully prove me wrong but he can unlock a d when there is no pressure but melts and is below average when there is pressure. Best when teams park the bus do to say.


    • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/07/06 at 3:07 PM

      Mexico + Michael Bradley = World Cup threat.

      He is good, but nowhere as good as you seem to think. Plus, he still has plenty in the tank, so no need to attempt to retire him to a DLP in the Pirlo or Scholes mold just yet. Regardless, that has got to be one of the most outrageous claims I have ever read. But, thanks for the laugh!


      • Posted by dth on 2013/07/06 at 3:53 PM

        I don’t think it’s absurd at all. It’s Mexico’s biggest weakness by far. Sure, a Daniele de Rossi or some such would be much better, but that’s not my point.

        By threat, I’m not saying I’d put them up there with Brazil, Spain and Germany as World Cup favorites, but they’d be in my top 10.


  5. Posted by dth on 2013/07/05 at 8:09 PM

    Goodson/Onyewu as CBs but a possession-based midfield? We’re going to be streetttcchhed.


    • Posted by dth on 2013/07/05 at 8:10 PM

      Also, not sure Onyewu and Goodson really have the passing chops to support such a midfield.


    • Posted by dth on 2013/07/05 at 8:12 PM

      Also, according to The Hitman, average age of the lineup is 29.27. A wonderful way, apparently, of testing out new and unproven faces.


      • Posted by Ufficio on 2013/07/05 at 8:19 PM

        Yeah, well, that was never really where Klinsmann was going with this.


        • Posted by dth on 2013/07/05 at 8:21 PM

          I just think it’s goofy. Cheats himself out of 2014 for at best slightly better chances at winning this tournament. I think Okugo’s better than Goodson right now, ferinstance.


          • Posted by Crow on 2013/07/05 at 9:13 PM

            I think anything is better than a Goodson/Onyewu pairing. They bring out the worst in each other. Looked awful early.

            Torres with a nice ball and a few nice moments but overall very poor in my opinion. I would like to see Holden for Torres and Bedoya for Castillo. Man I wish Gatt was here. I was not impressed with Corona at all either but I liked him getting back to help on D at the end of the half.


            • Posted by Ufficio on 2013/07/05 at 9:20 PM

              Yeah, hoping Torres played himself out a starting spot in the GC here. But really, most of the players have looked pretty awful, so his awfulness hasn’t stood out.

            • Posted by dth on 2013/07/05 at 9:45 PM

              I really don’t want to get monocausal here (and I’m aware this plays into my biases), but man, the team looks a lot better with Diskerud and Holden out there in the center of the field. Faster thinking, more incisive passing.

            • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/05 at 11:17 PM

              And it was the 2nd half…

            • I loved watching that. My only concern is that we went from being massively outnumbered in midfield to owning it outright in about fifteen minutes, and I’m still not exactly sure how that happened. My guess is that we started getting more width, but in the first 30 minutes we could not push the ball forward and everything just looked sloppy.

              In the second half, we got lots of looks off of deflected passes but we also basically set up camp in their third…and whenever we got booted out, Stu just played a ball over the top to the corner and we dumped another cross in. May not have been the prettiest attack but when you keep putting the ball in the other team’s box, something is going to fall to your guys sooner or later.

            • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/06 at 9:23 AM

              Thought Holden and Mix moved the ball much faster than Torres and Beckerman which is a plus.

              There was definitely a tactical shift that happened around the 35 minute mark that allowed for a much better flow. Seemed to be moving Donovan up higher creating more space for passing.

              Not sure how much of that tactical shift contributed to how much better Holden and Mix looked than Beckerman and Torress.

      • Posted by Paul on 2013/07/05 at 9:50 PM

        DTH, I think the selection of the players, rather than their ages, is more troublesome. “Fresh, new faces” could be the older player–say, Beasley–who hasn’t seen action in a while. With roughly under a year out from the World Cup, this isn’t the best time to try and bleed in younger players (although I would prefer a younger player getting a shot than giving Wondoloski and Beckerman more chances to prove what we already know about their skills).


  6. Posted by Crow on 2013/07/05 at 9:18 PM

    Who is on the bench? US Soccer has Orozco Fiscal, Diskerud, S. Johnson, Holden, Wondolowski, Shea (completely forgot he was there), and a mysterious #20- is that Bedoya or Bruin? So I guess Jack Mac isn’t even active?


  7. Posted by Paul on 2013/07/05 at 9:44 PM

    Great work, per usual. Disagree with this: “More so than any player (other) than Michael Bradley, Beckerman can distribute forward under pressure from the midfield.” If that was true, Guatemala’s pressure and extra men in midfield would have been neutralized by Beckerman’s supposed ability to push the ball forward. Beckerman only had a limited number of touches actually go forward. Holden has shown more ability to distribute forwards under pressure in his fifteen minutes than Beckerman did in a half.


    • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/07/06 at 12:29 PM


      Guatemala’s midfield was finally neutralized by Donovan’ moving into his “Galaxy position”. With Herc and LD running around doing their beep-beep road runner act, Guatemala had no answer and started to crumble.

      JFT’s pass to Herc for the first goal effectively finished them off.

      Guatemala quit by the time Holden and Mix showed up. The new Guatemalan players were not very together and gave our two subs no reason to play anything resembling defense. By the time Holden and Mix showed up it was more like shooting and passing drills. Don’t get me wrong they did great but give credit where credit is due.

      The game was in it’s death phase for Guatemala before the US subs showed up.

      The US would have done well without him but LD’s fingerprints were all over this game.

      The best thing about Holden was he proved his fitness (assuming there are no repercussions the next day) and the best thing about MIxx was he showed a toughness and aggressiveness he has not displayed before.

      It should be a fascinating Gold Cup though the US will now probably have two more blowouts in a row , Belize and Cuba.


      • Posted by Paul on 2013/07/06 at 3:40 PM

        Agree that LD made the difference here. Your point is valid: if there is no one to pass the ball to, if no one up the field is making runs, then passing forward from a midfield position is not feasible. Because there were no runs being made, hence, Beckerman cannot be faulted.

        This is a sensible position. I would need to watch the first half again to see if Beckerman should have played more balls earlier, roughly before the 35th minute when LD and others finally start moving off the ball. Still, one would expect Matt’s view of Beckerman to entail Beckerman looking for more forward runs and attempting more forward balls–something that did not happen often enough during the first half. Perhaps not enough evidence here to justify anything beyond the evidence we already have of Beckerman’s ability, which I believe is significantly less than what Matt believes.


        • Paul,.

          It takes time to break down a bunkered team. People on these sites tend to forget it’s a 90 minute game and that things can be very different in the second half.

          Once the US unlocked the Guatemalan defense in that 42nd minute, and this is a very young, inexperienced, rebuilding team, they had no answer and the game was over.

          I’m not sure what Matt believes but Beckerman is a solid workmanlike defensively oriented midfielder. He gives you everything he has and apparently follows orders to a tee.

          It’s very fashionable for people here and elsewhere to dismiss him outright but you don’t get where he is and do what he has done without being a very, very good soccer player.

          US fans seem to think it is always a matter of assembling an ALL STAR 11, but it’s not . It’s about the 11 guys that work the together the best.

          If Beckerman is playing for him I have enough faith in JK to believe there is a good reason for that.


  8. Posted by dth on 2013/07/05 at 10:05 PM

    Brek Shea can play some nice combinations in the right situation. Shame his career has stunk from a developmental perspective (i.e. Schellas Hyndman + Stoke City. It’s a wonder he knows how to kick a ball at this point.)


  9. Posted by Ufficio on 2013/07/05 at 10:13 PM

    Hopefully this makes Klinsmann come to the realization that he vastly overrates Liga MX.


    • I had a weak quality stream and couldn’t really distinguish players in the first half in our midfield (other than Beckerman, because it looks like his head is gigantic with his dreads). But I saw one of our guys gather the ball on a pass and just hold it for a solid three seconds. Didn’t move, didn’t take another touch, just stood there as he was closed down on from behind. My immediate reaction? “Ah, crap, Paco. Get rid of the damn ball.” I have no idea if it was Torres but I would bet my yearly salary that it was. If you stand still with the ball, you’re not helping your team break down the defense.

      Take a touch, dribble at a defender, slide step to get a different angle, lay it off, put it over the top, I don’t care – just don’t stand still with the ball. Especially not in front of the firm Gooch & Goodson, Attorneys at Law. Because if that ball gets turned over, they’re gonna have to hoof it out of there and frankly, I trust a draft horse’s touch on the ball more than I trust Gooch’s at this point, and I’m not sure Goodson can hold a backline flat if you gave him a surveyor’s level and 300 yards of construction tape.


      • Posted by Crow on 2013/07/05 at 11:04 PM

        I don’t know if anyone will ever be better in the air than Gooch but man his Phil Jones impression going forward and the way he even can’t pass laterally to the defender beside him is just atrocious.


  10. Posted by Crow on 2013/07/05 at 10:18 PM

    Stu Holden!!! Feel so good for him. He looked great and he better be starting the rest of the tournament. Diskerud made a strong case as well.

    I had completely forgot about Shea. When he is on he is a difference maker in every sense of the term. I’m glad he is heading to Stoke to hopefully break through the starting lineup but man would it be nice for him to be here for the whole Gold Cup. I hope Mark Hughes realizes what he has- I’m not a big Mark Hughes fan. Who is Shea’s biggest competition? Etherington?


    • Shea has loads of physical gifts (big, fast, left footed, creative, has some good vision and can dribble at people), but it seems that he has the touch of a heffalump on every fourth or fifth pass. Just wish the guy had more finesse with his crosses. And a better haircut.


      • Posted by Crow on 2013/07/05 at 10:37 PM

        Shea reminds me more of a Woozle 🙂


      • Posted by dth on 2013/07/06 at 9:21 AM

        Shea’s biggest problem is that he wasted the first few years of his career playing for Dallas with Hyndman.


        • Posted by scweeb on 2013/07/06 at 10:15 AM

          Keep in mind Shea has not played an actual game in i think 6-7 months. So if he is looking as good as he is now i think we will be really pleased at what he can become if he gets games this season.


      • Shea is rusty.

        He is also big, fast, strong and very aggressive and direct. He is probably the only US “winger” you can count on to reliably attack the defense constantly.

        On a team full of “tentative” players, there is no one else like him. They haven’t had this kind of aggressive attitude in a player since Davies.

        If he can do well for Stoke, I’m sure JK takes him to Brazil.


  11. Posted by Crow on 2013/07/05 at 10:40 PM

    I loved when NBC Sports Network displayed Holden was 25. Stu is 10 days older than me and we’re both just about to turn 28 LOL.

    BTW where is Arlo White going? Is he going to NBC Sports Network/NBC for the Premier League or just to an English channel? I only caught half of it. That will be a shame because I think he is fantastic.

    Also, what is this with NBC showing “all” EPL games? How is that going to work? I have no idea how I missed that.


    • Posted by dth on 2013/07/07 at 2:26 PM

      With the number of networks NBC has — main NBC, CNBC, NBCSN, MSNBC — they’ll just flood the zone. From EPL-watching perspective, we’ll have it better than the Brits. Fancy that.


      • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/07/07 at 8:36 PM

        US / overseas viewers have it better now than UK viewers. They have a paranoia about eating into their attendance. Plus they get handsome rewards from overseas glory fans, especially after their live face-time / pre-season tours.


  12. Posted by Dirk on 2013/07/05 at 11:05 PM

    Rimando – 6 – Did he even have to make a save?

    Parkhurst – 6 – Like much of the backline, got the job done. Not as active getting forward as Beasley. Perfunctory.

    Onyewu – 6.0 – Not challenged too much. Looked okay, did what he had to do.

    Goodson – 7 – Had a nice header on goal in the first half, followed up one of his own attempts with a goal in the second. Was lucky not to give up a penalty in 2nd half.

    Beasley – 7.5 – Doesn’t connect too well with Castillo, much better chemistry with Shea. Got forward frequently, would have liked to see a cross from him instead of a poor shot. All in all the defenders did there job but Guatemala wasn’t interested in attack.

    Castillo – 3 – Just plain awful. Poor first touch just about every time. Plays like he’s nervous. Easily dispossessed. Please please please no more Castillo.

    Corona – 5 – Supposedly in the Dempsey role. Not sure how much was his fault, seeing how lame the U.S. was in the first half. Made a nice run on the Gomez goal. Didn’t impress overall. Maybe would have shown more in the wide open 2nd.

    Donovan – 7.5 – A lackluster 1st half, thought his penalty call was a bit weak, but took Holden’s cross beautifully and made a great run on Wondo’s goal. Really showed a lot of chemistry with Holden and Mixx.

    Beckerman – 5.5 – Was waiting for him or Torres to “unlock” the Guatemala D but wasn’t up to the task. Almost got to a rebound for a goal in the 1st, but too damn slow. Him and Torres both Guilty off too many backward passes.

    Torres – 6. – Gets a passing grade for that one beautiful chip to Gomez for the goal. This is what everyone always says he is capable of doing, but just wasn’t positive enuff for me, and i don’t find him strong on the ball at all.

    Herc Gomez – 6.5 – Scored a goal, worked hard as always. Didn’t enjoy his free kick. Still not involved in the action as much as he should be, but he did lack service most of the 1st half. But he scored a good goal before half so there was that.

    Holden – 8.5 – MOTM – Was great from the get go, made one beautiful pass after another, read the game quickly and just looked like a player.

    Mixx – 8.0 – Love this performance. Bradley-like. Yes Bradley-like. Cool on the ball and in control. Love the way he threads a pass. He’s taller than I remember. Cool hair. Mixx had the Trixx tonight. Want to see him and Holden in the middle of the pitch.

    Bedoya – 6.5 – Wasn’t as active as Shea on the left (mainly because they played so many balls to Shea) but that finish for the goal was CLASS.

    Shea – 7. – Would have been higher if there was an end result to his crosses or shots. But he made run after run and was looking to get the ball in the box. Still looks a little rusty but the effort was there for sure, and his linking up with Beasley was great.

    Wondo – 6 – Got a lucky bounce and finished well. Glad he finally got his goal. He’s a class guy. Prefer to see Jack Mac tho.

    Bruin – 5 – Not a big impact on game, course it was done by the time he got in. Had an opportunity or two, but didn’t look sharp on his chances. Rather see Jack Mac.


    • Posted by CJ on 2013/07/06 at 2:07 PM

      Somebody’s got a crush on Shea… lol. His performance was a 7/10? I saw a guy given perfect passes whose natural abilities required no skill to get open and every single time he was in a strong position to make something happen, made a debacle of it. That cross that went into the 10th row behind the far corner of the net? The blocked crosses. No goals. Idk, he his pure raw talent. Shouldn’t be on anyones national team in current form. He needs club time to polish all of his finesse skills. Heavy touch. Maybe by WC a sub. FJ is steps ahead.


  13. Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/06 at 9:33 AM

    Anyone else concerned that Klinsman has Donovan playing the Dempsey role in this offense? Both can’t play AM in a (4-2-3-1) withdrawn forward at the same time. If we put Dempsey as a LW then we lose the width that has finally gotten Jozy involved.

    Plus I really don’t want to see a Donovan for Dempsey switch if we are down a goal. I would much rather try to find a way to get both on the field together.


    • Posted by scweeb on 2013/07/06 at 10:19 AM

      Completly agree with that. Me and one of my friends were talking for about an hour on that subject alone. There really isn’t a good solution that i can come up with to get jozy, demp, and LD on the field. The best we could come up with was a 4-3-3 with jones in the middle bradley mid right, play a true left mid, and then demps and ld with Jozy up top.


      • Posted by scweeb on 2013/07/06 at 10:25 AM



        • Posted by scweeb on 2013/07/06 at 10:26 AM

          Or you us LD as a super sub and this would be what you switch into from are 4-4-2 that we have been using.


          • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/06 at 5:58 PM

            4-1-3-2 with Jones (potentially Holden in the future) for Donovan). MB can bomb forward since we need the goal.


    • Posted by jb on 2013/07/06 at 7:36 PM

      Seemed like the problem last night was that Corona was very ineffective in the “Dempsey role.” So when LD switched him, it turned the game b/c Donovan made the right runs/plays, got more involved, and also Corona seemed more comfortable out wide.

      With Dempsey playing, LD stays at wide midfield. LD and Dempsey have been coexisting and playing off each other for a long time now. I’m not concerned about those two. I’m saving my concern for the centerbacks…


      • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/07 at 8:15 AM

        I would rather see Donovan working on playing wide left and doing well there in prep for September. If Donovan starts it has to be in FJ place with FJ sliding back and Beasley going to the bench.

        Donovan might be better in the middle but I look at the Gold Cup not as results betas an opportunity for individual performances.

        My concern is that integrating him loses our width which this team desparately needs at least in Concacaf where the plan to beat us has been sit deep and pack the middle


        • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/07/07 at 9:11 PM

          JK is making LD earn his spot back after his little walk-about, which is fair enough IMO. Nobody gets to decide when they play, even LD. I think JK has handled this as well as to be expected. The person who should worry is Zusi. I feel that when, not if, LD hits form, GZ’s spot is under immense scrutiny, and LD will start in the WC, no question. Absolutely none.


          • Posted by dth on 2013/07/07 at 9:15 PM

            My hope is that they consider moving Zusi in that scenario — perhaps centrally. Could see a #6/Bradley/Zusi trio being quite interesting in the center of the park.


          • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/07/16 at 7:06 PM

            I will say it again. LD will start in the WC, no quedtion. Absolutely none.

            Great first time, weighted pass for the goal.


        • ” My concern is that integrating him loses our width”

          So integrating Donovan takes width away from the US?

          What makes you say that?


          • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/08 at 8:00 AM

            IMO Donovan plays best when he is in lets say the middle half of the field (for this exercise I am thinking of the field divided into quarters). While he played well for Everton out wide, of all the Donovan plays that stick in my mind none are him beating a guy for the corner and whipping in a cross. Even when he played right wing with Bradly it was a narrow (4-2-2-2) formation.

            As GeorgeCross said, we are looking at Donovan as replacing Zusi (or Fabian) not replacing Dempsey, so we should be evaluating Donovan on his wide play. First 30 minutes Donovan played wide and created nothing, he moved in and was a beast. In the current US set up he can’t move in without moving Demspey out and that loses all our width.

            A more appropriate comment would have been, I wish we saw Donovan trying to play what his eventual role will be with the senior A team so we could fairly evaluate him.


            • “I wish we saw Donovan trying to play what his eventual role will be with the senior A team so we could fairly evaluate him.”

              I think that is what you saw at the start , Donovan out wide with Corona inside as Clint Dempsey.

              What happened was Corona did not do well in his role. He held on to the ball too long and was not good at bringing Herc and Landon in.
              Once he switched with Donovan, LD was back where he plays with LA and Herc now became Robbie Keane. And Corona looked more comfortable out wide.

              And everything began to click resulting in JFT’s pass to Herc for that 43rd minute goal.

              If Dempsey had been there instead of Joe Benny I’m sure the US would have gotten off to a fine start. Corona does not have the understanding with LD and Herc that Deuce does. That was the problem, not LD being out wide.

              I believe someone else pointed out that Donovan and Dempsey have been doing thi switching inside and outside business a very long time and I have zero concern about LD and Deuc not knowing how to play together regardless of who is on the wing or who is inside.

              Those two know how to play and where to go.

            • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/08 at 10:21 AM

              My point was Donovan did great in a role we won’t likely see him play with the senior team. I would like to see how he performs in a similar role. Let me see him do what Zusi has done with Altidore (early crosses, end line crosses) before I say Donovan is ahead of Zusi. Its not a question of who is the better player, its a question of who fits the system and with the team better.

              IMO the team looked much better when they added Fabian because the combination of Fabian and Zusi gave them width which opens space up for Altidore. Prior to that I felt like we tried to jam it down the middle (the Jones/Williams/MB as RM ended up with another person in the middle and looked horrible). I don’t want to go back to jamming it down the middle just because Donovan is back.

              If he is switching with Dempsey I don’t see how that doesn’t make us more narrow. I have probably watched Dempsey 50+ times for club and country and he has never been a “boots on the chalk” or a beat the LB and whip in a cross guy. Never. He operates between the boundaries of the 18 yard box. At any point where Dempsey is your wide guy your formation is narrow. Narrow can be good but I think it hurts the quick passing system Klinsman is trying to implement.

            • Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/08 at 10:46 AM

              This whole commentary back-and-forth was great. Why I love coming back to TSG. :>

              I think you’re seeing Landon in the role he’s going to be used in. That is “something on the left and drifting in // whether it be high or behind a striker.”

              I think there is legitimate concerns about Dempsey-Donovan *if Donovan is taked with being the left midfielder.

              Klinsmann has basically revamped his front six and his width on the left is really coming from the left fullback (be it Beasley or FJ) more so than the left midfielder in front of him.

              I’m not sure I see it being Zusi (although it’s certainly the most plausible) spot that Donovan is working on. Donovan hasn’t been a wide crosser of the ball in sometime and with Jozy drifting to the right, the space that Donovan would look to gain/challenge for is basically more of Jozy’s now. Zusi (as oppose to the left flank argument just made) really looks to gain the wide endline more as the US is not playing with a Dolo or Chandler right now at RB — i.e. there RB is getting up the pitch *and wide* less frequently then ever before.

              So for now, I think it’s going to be Zusi 1st in the pecking order with (if Donovan is recalled to the A team) Donovan competing for FJ’s spot on the left with FJ in turn competing with DMB for the leftback spot.

              I do worry that Deuce likes to drop back *however* one of the big points that hasn’t really been talked about as much coming out of the last series if Dempsey *not* dropping deep to pick up the ball in the middle and using his movement either wide OR off Altidore to create space.

              That–as much the movement to two CMs rather than three–is just as responsible for the US attacking flair. (Also–as I’ve noted before–to me it was Dempsey’s movement after Adebayor went down last year that ignited Bale for Spurs. Dempsey knew when to get the F out of the way. He’s so good at moving off the ball.)

            • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/07/08 at 10:56 AM


              At any point in a game Donovan is perfectly capable of going out wide and putting in a good cross.

              Regardless of where they start on a piece of paper both Donovan and Dempsey will go where they need to be.

              What you are really talking about is the absence Dolo.

              Get him back and put Donovan, Shea or Zusi in front of him and you have width.

              Dolo has been the main source of width for the US for years now and he has been as absent as Donovan. When those two were around you had that side of the field taken care of.

              The biggest difference betwen Dolo and everyone else ( I think Fabian may be as good but they haven’t used him there yet, and Chandler may be as good but at this point who knows?) is his ability to control his side of the field and put in a great cross. Cameron, Evans, Parkhurst, etc. do not cross as well and do not command the area and work with the right winger like Dolo does.

            • I would worry a lot less about Dempsey coming back to get the ball if Donovan is crashing in from the left and FJ or DMB coming up the left flank. Donovan is just as good of a back post target for the Zusi cross as Dempsey, and then Dempsey can trail Jozy at the top of the box. The emergence of a viable FJ/DMB combo on the left has made the step up to Donovan more marginal, which is good news for the USMNT in general, but Donovan is still an improvement over either of those two at the forward position.

            • Posted by Freegle on 2013/07/10 at 9:00 AM

              I think that Donovan’s inclusion limiting our width has less to do with Donovan and more to do with who is overlapping him. That’s where your width comes from. Last night you saw Parkhurst with a lot of chances to cross the ball even when Corona moved out wide. I remember thinking during the match that crossing the ball to a front tandem of Donovan and Wondo was a little silly because they lack size (a point made irrelevant by the incompetence of the back line of Belize). However if we can get Donovan creeping inside with a competent overlapping fullback to whip in crossed to Dempsey and Jozy I think that would be ideal. Especially because it also allows Donovan to trail into the box and latch on to knockdown/second balls from those two or make some of those darting runs that he excels at. So it’s not a matter of whether or not Donovan can create widht/get to the end line and whip in crosses like Zusi does because in theory our fullback will be doing that.

              And for what its worth I think we are more dynamic with Donovan who can do what Zusi does AND create by running at people into the box. Zusi is great at what he does but his contribution is still a little more one dimensional and therefore makes us easier to defend. Regardless, these are good problems to have one year before a world cup!

          • The “Clint and Landon get in each other’s way” talking point has been out of sight for some time now with Landon barely being involved with the team since JK took over…but I remember stuff about this from years past. Since neither player has ever been a true winger, it seems that we don’t have enough space for them on the field unless one of them plays out of position on the flank. In years past, the lack of depth at the wing midfield spots in BB’s system put Landon out wide and let him cut in if he so desired.

            I agree that the best spot for Landon as the team is currently structured is in Fabian’s wing spot (especially since we see significantly less touchline play from him than we do from Zusi), but what happens if Fabian is slotted behind Landon? Both players have a tendency to cut inside when deployed out left and I’m not wild about losing a naturally left footed player who looks to overlap outside. By no means am I a huge fan relying so heavily on DMB but I think his skill set is better for that position in JK’s system than FJ’s is (though I much prefer Johnson to Castillo even with the wrong-footedness issue).

            But all this is small-minded in the bigger picture since we’re talking about an attacker who is already 31 and does his best work when running at defenders. Call me pessimistic but I don’t think Landon sees as much time as everyone seems to assume he will in the WC *if we qualify*. Aging legs die quickly and Landon has lots of miles on his.


            • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/08 at 5:23 PM

              I have a feeling this will be a talking point for a while. Probably to the point that I will roll my eyes when it comes up. That said, Donovan will have a stellar Gold Cup if for no other reason than the competition is horrible. This will create a buzz going into two big games in September.

            • Posted by GeorgeCross on 2013/07/08 at 6:04 PM

              What do people think of Klinsmann playing more of a 4-3-3, with the offensive 3 being Altidore, Dempsey and Donovan, with Bradley being deployed as the more offensive of the midfield three – basically creating an offensive diamond (in possession)?

            • Posted by schmutzdeck on 2013/07/08 at 7:22 PM

              Sean and Bernie,

              Aging legs do die quickly.

              I think Bob Bradley thought about that .The World Cup will be at most seven games.
              In the 2011 Gold Cup Bradley started Bedoya for Donovan in the quarters and semis and brought on LD later. That seemed to work well, even if it orginally happened because LD was late getting back from a wedding. I got the impression LD was not happy about playing less but he did respond well, as he generally always seems to.

              I see Landon , one of the few USMNT players who is truly comfortable with either foot in this discussion, as the class of this group. The emergence of Zusi and Fabian is a good thing relative to LD since it allows JK to use Landon more judiciously over the course of a seven game tournament.

              And all things being equal, Zuis and Fabian will be mainstays in the USMNT midfield for a long time.

            • Posted by Berniebernier on 2013/07/09 at 5:39 PM

              As for Cross’ 4-3-3 idea, I do think thats what Klinsman had in mind when he took over. To me the keys are 1) getting Holden back to close to his pre-injury form, 2) convincing Jones to play as a 6 and not wander, and 3) getting Chandler (or some other RB that can width) in the fold.

              Dempsey – Atlidore – Donovan
              FJ — Besler – Omar — Chandler

  14. Posted by scweeb on 2013/07/06 at 10:22 AM



    Shea (LM) Bradley

    cb cb RD


  15. TSG makes good sense on the type of player Torres is. Others are making judgments on Torres in his FIRST time playing CM under JK. That is right… JK’s first friendly game vs. Mexico… Torres was deployed at LM (I believe he may have played a small time in that same game at CM before he was taken out) and has only played there and once at CAM with Gomez (had played 5 games in 2 weeks so legs were tired) and a gimpy Donovan vs. Mexico at Estadioteca Stadium. So he’s not played CM under JK for major time since being on the team. Some can be due to injuries to Shea, Donovan, etc… that Torres was played out wide at LM.

    I’ll be the first to point out that Torres has major competition now with Holden and Diskerud but this game doesn’t end Torres time by a long shot. The more I see the competition, I see Holden vs. Beckerman and Diskerud vs. Torres for minutes this Gold Cup. Personally, I have penciled in about 20-21 players for the USMNT for WC2014 barring injuries but as we know ever since JK took over… injuries has been a theme for this USMNT cycle.

    In the end, I’ll let things play out and let Coach Klinsmann make those decisions.


  16. Posted by Crow on 2013/07/06 at 6:19 PM

    Nice! Shea called in for whole Gold Cup. Disappointed Gatt isn’t there but this is a very pleasant surprise.


  17. Posted by 4now on 2013/07/07 at 12:33 AM

    Another fine review, particularly with regard to 3-touch Torres, Donovan & Onyewu. I don’t see the Mix/Sacha comparison. I see Mix as having much more up and downside, with Sacha being a predictable and competitive player at a certain level.

    Question: Is Parkhurst underrated?


  18. Posted by dth on 2013/07/07 at 9:16 PM

    FC Dallas is a pretty annoying team, but few things gladden me more than the inevitable decline-and-fall in 2014, a la San Jose.


  19. Posted by krazymunky on 2013/07/09 at 9:34 AM

    “Clarence Goodson respects the offsides trap as much as LMFAO respects song-writing.”

    simply brilliant


  20. […] evaluate the defense and consider options, and distribute. There is a lengthier explanation of that here and here at The Shin Guardian. Bottom line? He needs to remain central, but he isn’t a […]


  21. Posted by matthewsf on 2013/07/09 at 10:17 AM

    Most surprising thing from me from last Friday?

    I thought Joe Corona was faster. A few times he was tracking back and just did not have the speed to catch up with the ball carrier. Might not matter for his role, just surprised me.


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