Stars and Gripes

Occasionally interesting insight (and gripes) about the USMNT

USA-ENG Review, Pt. 1

with 2 comments

In our previews, we highlighted six keys for the United States in stopping the England offense.  So, how’d they do?

1. Shut Down the Right Flank – By and large, Carlos Bocanegra and a combination of Dempsey and Donovan did an admirable job of containing the Aaron Lennon/Glen Johnson duo.  Both at times were able to find some space, though their effectiveness in playing quality balls into the box was certainly hindered.  Bocanegra did a nice job of forcing Lennon down to the end line, where he becomes far less effective attempting to send low crosses in.  While the American captain certainly doesn’t have the quickness to completely shut down Lennon, the team defense was impressive, and England were granted precious few opportunities to attack from the right wing.

2. Protect the Middle – Just as they did against Spain a year ago, the United States at times completely shut off the middle of the field.  Bradley and Clark stayed compact throughout, taking away the passing lanes from the back, with Bradley particularly impressive in the early going.  While Dempsey and Donovan did well to protect their respective flanks, they also quickly moved inside when the ball was on the other wing, with the effect of adding one more body centrally.  With DeMerit doing well to track Rooney out, the middle was effectively locked down.

3. Press the Playmakers – For most of the first 70 minutes of the match, England’s playmakers—Gerrard, Lampard, and Rooney—were afforded very little space in which to be effective.  It was a team effort—Bradley and Clark protecting the middle, with Dempsey and Donovan occasionally moving in to provide help, but more often keeping deep pressure on Cole and Johnson.  As the game wore on, and the physical toll of pressing began to take effect, and England began to find more space.  Rooney and Lampard, in particular, looked far more dangerous late in the game—little surprise then, that Tim Howard’s goal was peppered throughout the final 20 minutes.

4. Let Heskey Roam – Heskey didn’t move out to the wings and corners as often as he did throughout qualifying.  Onyewu did well to follow him out of the box, taking away Heskey’s ability to seize long balls before finding Rooney.  Aside from the ball through to Gerrard—which, truth be told, as deftly done—Heskey was more than kept in check, as Rooney’s frustrations illustrated all too well.

5. Avoid Fouls – If the United States did well to avoid silly fouls, it was also extremely lucky.  Yes, England was given very few set pieces outside the box.  Yet, as we warned against, Jay DeMerit should consider himself fortunate that the Brazilian referee kept his whistle down.  On more than one occasion, he was draped all over Rooney or Heskey.  He needs to proceed with caution—the referees will take notice, and he won’t get away with that in future matches (and Slovenia’s forwards will be far less concerned with staying on their feet than were the powerful Rooney and Heskey).

6. Don’t worry about Crouch’s head – Crouch played only a bit role towards the end of the second frame, and he did little to dispel the notion that he simply isn’t very effective with his head—particularly for a man who stands at 6’7”.  Granted, this was less of a “key” than it was “something of note.”

PLAYER RATINGS (On a scale of 1-5 Special Ones)

Tim Howard – 4 Special Ones – Solid throughout, Howard further burnished his credentials as one of the finest keepers in the world.  Helpless on Gerrard’s early goal, he patrolled with the penalty box with typical aplomb on his way to making half a dozen quality saves.  It was no surprise that Howard would need a big game to keep the USA in it, and he delivered.

Gooch Onyewu – 3.5 Special Ones – Onyewu looked nothing like a man playing his first full match in nearly eight months.  Dominant in the air (what happened to his “reduced jumping ability”?), unafraid to draw outside of the box to challenge Heskey, and showing that his speed has returned in outracing Wayne Rooney, Onyewu was a rock in the back.  He and DeMerit still need to work on communicating and picking up runs into the box, but if Gooch plays like this, those questions about the American defense will quickly dissipate.

Jay DeMerit – 3.5 Special Ones – Handed the unenviable task of shadowing Wayne Rooney, DeMerit helped to frustrate the England talisman, causing him to push him further and further back towards midfield in search of the ball.  Still, DeMerit was extremely fortunate not to be booked on more than one occasion.  If he’s not a good deal more careful against Slovenia, he’ll have the indignity of costing his squad a penalty.

Landon Donovan – 3 Special Ones – Steady throughout, he tracked back admirably to help on defense, and provided quality service on dead balls.  Not the dominating performance he’s capable of, and you got the sense he began to drift out at times.  Still, he did the job that was asked of him.  Look for a big game against Slovenia.

Michael Bradley – 3.5 Special Ones – As impressive a first 30 minutes as he’s had for the national team, he seemed to fade towards the middle, before reasserting himself defensively—and offensively—in the late going.  Provided a wonderful touch on the ball, playing a number of early passes that helped put Dempsey, Donovan and Altidore in dangerous positions.  Defensively, he was all over the field, helping to break up plays on both sidelines, seemingly simultaneously.  Two repeat performances of Saturday’s ilk will see his stock will continue to rise.  If there’s one area of his game that needs improvement, it’s his close-down defense—he’s vulnerable one-on-one, as Gerrard and Lampard both exposed.

Ricardo Clark – 3 Special Ones – Rico played a decent game in the middle, helping to close down the pitch, and doing well to press Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney.  At the same time, his continued inability to complete passes, along with his tendency to lose his man—he was responsible for Gerrard on the opener, and lost track of Glen Johnson on a corner, which Johnson should have put away—continue to expose the defense.  With more touch and possession required against Slovenia and Algeria, expect to see Clark replaced.

Carlos Bocanegra – 3 Special Ones – Did all he could to contain Aaron Lennon on the left side, receiving significant help from Donovan and Dempsey.  Carlos has never been particularly quick, and deserves credit for taking away Lennon’s favored move, cutting to the corner of the 18-yard box.  No one expects Carlos to sparkle against speedy wingers—he simply needs to slow them down.  On Saturday, at least, he was successful.

Jozy Altidore – 3 Special Ones – For all the criticism he received for his goal drought at Hull City, he’s returned a different—and vastly improved—player.  His work ethic was admirable throughout, as he raced from sideline to sideline, switching at times with Dempsey, who moved centrally.  At 20, he has the physical tools to drive defenses crazy, and he’s finally beginning to utilize them, as epitomized by his torching of Jamie Carragher, out-muscling and out-running the Liverpool man before firing off of the woodwork.  If he keeps up this type of work rate, the American attack adds a new dimension.

Clint Dempsey – 3.5 Special Ones – Yes, Green should’ve done better, but it was still Dempsey who made the run and created space for himself.  Just as important, he hustled throughout, helping Bocanegra close down Lennon on a number of occasions, pressing Glen Johnson to take away his space, and even tracking and shadowing Rooney at times on runs into the box.  More than we’ve seen in previous matches, he had no hesitation of moving centrally without the ball, at times switching with Altidore.  His touch on the ball was impressive, and he was an integral part of keeping the United States properly paced after Gerrard’s goal.  He and Bradley seem to be forming a far better understanding of each other.

Robbie Findley – 2.5 Special Ones – I promise you, I am not a Robbie Findley “hater.”  I fully understand the effect his speed can have on creating space for others in the attack, and at 24, he’s still young for the international game.  Yet if he’s defended properly—i.e., keep a defender playing off of him, between he and the goal—he’s ineffective at this level.  His pace can be neutralized, which England clearly worked to do, helping to expose the lack of touch and vision.  Findley still makes for an excellent change-of-pace substitute off the bench, but with the Slovenia and Algeria games more focused on possession and offensive build-ups than on defending and counter-attacks, I’d expect to see him as a substitute.

Man of the Match

Steve Cherundolo – Cherundolo had perhaps his finest game in a United States kit, so thoroughly frustrating James Milner for the first 30 minutes of the game that Fabio Capello was forced to make an awkward early substitution.  He continued his solid play throughout, shuttering Shaun Wright-Phillips, while providing assistance on Rooney and Lampard as they came forward.  England shifted much of their attack to the left side in the second half, but Cherundolo stood strong.  As good as Timmy Howard was, Cherundolo, to this observer, stole the day.


Written by Pete Kavanaugh

June 15, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Love this site! Keep it up.
    I wonder what you think about Torres in the middle with Bradley?


    June 15, 2010 at 10:15 am

    • Thanks–against Slovenia, love it. Don’t think he would’ve been a good choice v. England, though.

      Pete Kavanaugh

      June 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

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