USMNT: Four Thoughts from U.S.-Costa Rica

September 3, 2011

Timothy Chandler was the worst player on the field for the United States.

Having shown well in last year’s March friendlies and convincing many Americans he would be the eventual replacement for grizzled veteran Steve Cherundolo, Chandler was a combination of disasters last night. He repeatedly showed slow decision making, had poor service from the right flank, gave away possession on numerous occasions in dangerous areas and lazily recovered on both of Costa Rica’s best chances, including their goal. He also committed a bad foul in the box in the 89th minute that should have been a penalty. Everyone has bad games and it must have been difficult for the European based players to adjust to L.A. time in such a short span of time, but the fact that he didn’t recover hard when our defense was exposed makes one wonder whether or not his heart is truly in it. Yes, he has an American passport, but having lived in Germany his entire life, does he really want to play for the United States? Does he really consider himself an American? His absence from the Gold Cup and the Mexico friendly had many asking the same question, and Friday’s performance did nothing to put those fears to rest. Playing for your national team is a matter of heart and right now it does not appear that he cares.

Steve Cherundolo and Eric Lichaj are still our best options at outside back.

Edgar Castillo, given another chance by Jurgen Klinsmann after a poor game against Mexico, looked better, but was still shaky. He looks good going forward, but was caught in possession multiple times, beat too easily down the line and gets pushed off the ball way too easily. He is also soft in the air, creating a chance to let Costa Rica get in behind in the second minute of the game. He works hard, but so does Jonathan Bornstein, and we all know how well that works out for the U.S.

Jose Torres can be the midfield maestro the U.S. has been missing.

Jose Torres, given a 2nd life with the national team under Klinsmann, looked as good as he ever has. He had solid distribution, including a beautiful ball early in the game to set-up the U.S.’s best chance, was active, worked hard defensively to get the ball back and drew foul after foul. Klinsmann also seems to have found a way to get a creative player of his type on the field, changing to a 4-3-3 (which became a 4-1-4-1 defensively) with only 1 holding midfielder. Against most teams the U.S. plays, especially in CONCACAF, only 1 holding midfielder is needed. While Torres repaid Klinsmann faith with a great performance, it was disappointing it didn’t result in win.

We still have some gaps to fill.

Robbie Rogers, while he worked hard, is still a step away from being a productive national team player. He was uninvolved for much of the game and when he did the get the ball, he didn’t create much. Dempsey, Adu, Bedoya and even possibly Josh Gatt and Mix Diskerud would be better choices.

Michael Orozco has looked average in both of his starts. While he hasn’t been completely off the pace, he gave Costa Rica two unearned chances, one on a missed header and another on a poor pass out of the back. Oguchi Onyewu, Zak Whitbread, Clarence Goodson, Michael Parkhurst and Omar Gonzalez all deserve another look by default. Goodson is the only one on the roster for the Belgium game, so he should get the nod. While Goodson isn’t fleet of foot, he is solid in the air, a good leader and an offensive threat on all set pieces.

Maurice Edu should be our 2nd choice at holding mid. While he did the dirty work that allowed Torres to go forward, he wasn’t involved in the play very often. Michael Bradley, on the other hand, is constantly working back to get the ball and kickstart American possession out of the back. Edu is still our 2nd best holding mid (above Jermaine Jones, Ricardo Clark and Kyle Beckermann) for games that require it, but if Klinsmann sticks with 1holding mid, it should be Bradley.

Klinsmann needs to integrate our newcomers slowly, 1 or 2 at a time, not 5 at a time. If we are going to expect the American team to begin to gel before next summer’s World Cup qualification starts, we need to do it now. While Klinsmann should be looking at new players, a loss to Costa Rica on home soil should make it apparent that qualification for the 2014 World Cup is not automatic for the U.S. There were positive changes, such as the more offensive approach he took, and the fact that we put pressure on Costa Rica from the first whistle instead of falling behind early as we usually did under Bob Bradley, but losing pretty is still losing. It was obvious about 5 minutes before halftime that we were going to need some subs and yet Klinsmann waited until the 60th minute before freshening up the lineup.

John D. Halloran

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One Response to USMNT: Four Thoughts from U.S.-Costa Rica

  1. DE Dupuis on September 5, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    I disagree. JC didn’t seem the worst US player at all; Donovan, Castillo, Rogers, and Orozco (in no particular order) all looked worse to me. Shea looked dangerous for our team with some clever runs and passes; and dangerous to our team by losing the ball A LOT. Rogers’ and Shea’s 1st touches are shocking – very far from world class. Torres looked pretty good, unfortunately he was the only guy who got the memo about playing possession football. I also prefer Edu to Bradley, I think Bradley is a bit tougher on defense (ala de Jong), but Edu distributes an order of magnitude better and seems much faster. Offensively I thought both JA and Agudelo were OK but always looked isolated. Overall, in the 1st half the midfield play was pretty good (thanks mostly to Torres) while the offensive and defensive were OK at best; in the second half it didn’t look as good anywhere.

    I still think we have a much, much better team to field. Howard, EL, CB, ZW, SC (with Spector (and maybe Chandler) and take your pick for center back as the main sub(s)) at the back); Edu as holding midfielder, Torres & Bedoya (Holden when fit, MB as Edu sub, either CD or LD can move back into midfield as well if LD can be persuaded to play any defense) as playmakers, CD as the false 9, Gatt as one of the wings and as choices for the other striker Adu (my 1st choice in a 4-3-3 possession and quick movement oriented philosophy), Donovan, Salgado, Agudelo, and JA. Until Holden joins the team the weakness of this proposed team is in the inexperience of the playmakers, but I like the idea of a Dempsey, Holden, Torres/Bedoya, Edu triangle in the center of the park – all of these guys are comfortable on the ball, don’t lose it often, and have ideas about where the ball should go. It is not at all clear to me what we are doing without Gatt and Whitbread on the team. Whitbread is a sure enough EPL centerback and Gatt makes anyone else we have going forward look like a clod. So far JK seems to fancy the players with German connections – I hope he widens his gaze.

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