The US looked pretty good against the Czech Republic last night and if one were to ignore the scoreboard you would have thought the US to be on the whole the better side.
Awhh, but you can't forget the scoreboard and a 4-2 defeat is not what one wants to see in a warm up World Cup friendly. The US had a number of catastrophic defensive lapses throughout the game - a failure to close down a cross, poor positioning on free kicks, and poor marking that all resulted in goals.
However, this game should be put in some context. Almost none of the main players for the US were out there last night and many of the players that received significant minutes won't make the squad. Bradley was also experimenting throughout the game - especially at the end when some players were playing out of position. Overall, the scoreline is less important than some of the individual performances.
So what did we learn?
Playing players out of position is a bad idea. Maurice Edu has a lot of versatility and for my money was the man of the match for the US - until that is he made a poor midfielders challenge on a header in stoppage time that allowed the Czech striker to get behind him. Bradley clearly sees Edu as a possible emergency 8th defender. He is clearly only an emergency option. In 2006 we experimented with Eddie Lewis at LB, that experiment lasted just the one game against the Czech Republic. The basic fact is that playing players in defensive positions they are not comfortable in is a recipe for disaster.
We have a huge LB problem. I have said it before and I will say it again - Jonathan Bornstein is not good enough. He is too often caught out of position, he is too easily burnt, his touch and passing is even worse, and he is prone to commit fouls that give away dangerous free kicks. Heath Pearce who came on in the second half is better than Bornstein going forward but also showed defensive frailties, as he didn't get goal side on the second Czech goal. There is a reason why when these two are in the game the left side is often where the opposition spends most of their attacking time.
Oguchi Onyewu needs more games. Gooch played fairly well, but the fact is that his inability to elevate on the corner is worrying. Is that a lingering effect of his knee? Maybe it was a foul on the Czech player for climbing on his back, but one thing is clear you don't want to see your huge towering center back - who successfully cleared everything the Spanish and the Brazilians threw at him - look feeble on a routine set piece.
Striker clarified? I thought both Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomes did a lot to show that they belonged. Brian Ching played pretty well - and I will admit he did hold the ball up well and linked well with some teammates. To me that is just not enough, as his lack of pace and quickness becomes brutally evident whenever the ball is put into the box. Eddie Johnson showed the least of the four. I think it will be between Buddle, Gomes, and Ching for two spots.
Maurice Edu - He showed poise on the ball and frequently won back the ball.
Edson Buddle - He was more lively than Eddie Johnson, frequently tracking back, showed to the ball well and made some good runs.
Herculez Gomez - The dude looks to score goals. While he got a goal, he also looked dangerous whenever he got the ball around the area. He definitely can shoot from distance.
Damarcus Beasley - Beasley was one of the most active players for the US in the first half. Defensively he was excellent and he won a number of free kicks, also almost set EJ free with a perfect pass. He made the case for his inclusion.
Robbie Rogers - He looked good going forward, but his defensive frailties were revealed at times. I don't think he should make the team but is one to watch going forward.
Clarence Goodson - He was at fault for one of the goals when he failed to adequately clear the ball. But he did create two goals as well. He got on the end of both balls that resulted in goals. In fact, he has shown himself to be a decent offensive weapon on free kicks. I think overall he is a pretty solid fourth centerback.
Who looked poor?
Jonathan Bornstein and Heath Pearce - see above. I know Bob Bradley loves Bornstein, but I just don't get it. We have spent an entire four year cycle investing in him and I don't think he has gotten any better.
Steve Cherundolo - He was active but also looked a bit scattered both going forward and defensively.
Stuart Holden - He was generally very quiet and was simply not much of a factor on the right. You would expect more from a starter. I think his rust showed. After all he has just recovered from injury and has played very few games the last few months.
Eddie Johnson - He just didn't do anything to show that he belonged. When he holds the ball up his first touch often lets him down and he often makes the wrong run or the wrong pass.
Brad Guzan - On the first goal, Guzan was positioned a bit too shallow and while not at fault on the others, he didn't come up with any big saves. He looked a bit rusty. May have dropped to #3 on the depth chart.
Sacha Kljestan - He added little, in fact was fairly invisible. We just have better options and he did little to show that he should be included.