Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kallstrom's Rocket Sinks Bradley's Euro Coaching Debut: US 0-1 Sweden

I have a good many things to discuss about this game, more than I expected considering how unenthused I am about the result and how tired I am today.

First, Gooch had one of his best MNT performances in a long time. Gooch really contained Zlatan to the best of his ability. This means Zlatan still had two or three quality chances early on which could have resulted in just as many goals, but considering that Gooch is still plying his trade in Belgium with Standard Liege, I'll give him an A for effort/C+ for achievement. A good result for him, considering the opponent.

Second, Kamani Hill didn't turn the game, but he added more spice than I would have expected. He has more scrap than his slight build would indicate, something I'm sure he's learned from trying to crack a Bundesliga squad week in, week out with Vfl Wolfsburg. Furthermore, he found quite a creative rapport with Charlie Davies late in the game when Davies came on and switched to the left flank. Good for them.

And finally, Zizzo got his first cap making him an official member of the U.S. men's national program. Not that anyone was worried he would jump ship, but he was also eligible to play for the Italian MNT because he parents were born there. Welcome to the fold, Zizzo.

Bruce McGuire over at duNord is concerned that this is the first time the US has lost four straight in ten years. I mean, I'm sorry we lost, too, but considering Bradley's primary concern is breeding and blooding a competitive squad for the 2010 World Cup, let alone the Confederations Cup, dropping a one-nil decision to a side filled with tried-and-true players and veritable international stars is not something to fret about. Howard was outstanding as usual, Gooch played well, Feilhaber played well, Beasley played well, Bradley, Hill, and Davies got their minutes-- we're doing alright. Here's my issue: if we can't score at home, regardless of who we're playing, we've got a scoring drought on our hands and it deserves serious attention. Until then, however, I'm at ease.

Other notes:

- Michael Bradley was particularly ineffective on offense. This is largely due to the fact that it only took four or five Swedes to penetrate our defense, leaving the rest of the squad to defend their half. The consequences were twofold: (a) we needed constantly needed Bradley on defense and (b) no less than two and usually three Swedish defenders were on hand every time Dempsey, Donovan, Bradley, Feilhaber, or Beasley was ready to penetrate their defensive third. Our offense started out as a dynamic, ground-based thing but quickly resolved into useless motions in the midfield and impotent crosses. The only reason I'm singling out Bradley is that he was a revelation during the same strength-in-numbers strategy at home versus both Mexico and Ecuador. Now that Bradley is a legitimate member of the Heerenveen gameday roster, I expect him to learn quickly how to deal with these stifling situations.

- Thinking back on it, though the Swedes do possess more attacking prowess, they didn't capitalize on our poor defending like they should have. On top of that, we got our jabs in, too. The match was largely a back-and-forth affair. It took a piece of individual skill from young Kallstrom to decide the match.

- Gooch is often criticised for his lumbering tackles and excessive body contact ("... he forgets he's not playing American football..."), but I'm of the opposite opinion. I wish he would knock more. There are reasons why he cannot and should not be more aggressive, but these reasons usually amount to card accumulations and juvenile referees blowing on him whenever he touches someone from the other team. If I had my druthers, Gooch wouldn't hold back at all and would be allowed to really step up and seize the role of international bruiser. I want him at the core of our defense, destroying anyone who thinks they're brave enough to come through the middle. I want the Gattuso's and Koller's of the world to realize that while the US' defense might lack anticipation, they'll never beat us for physicality. I really want this. I don't think Gooch will ever really fulfill expectations until he's allowed to perform to the best of his ability, and whenever that should happen, the US' international presence will win at least a hundred times more respect than it has now. Or so I guesstimate.

- Bocanegra is a good defender but he needs to learn to coordinate the entire defense and keep them coordinated throughout the match. Step up and be a leader. Howard, you too. Communication is key.

- Bornstein looked better than Cherundolo for the most part. That's alarming.

- If I haven't made myself clear about this already, let me make this perfectly understandable: JOSMER ALTIDORE SHOULD BE CALLED UP IMMEDIATELY. After watching the US offense scrap with the Swedish defense, I watched D.C. United's defense scrap with Jozy Altidore. He already has more physical presence than many an international and his technical ability is good and becoming great. This makes the formula very simple: the more A-level experience Altidore has, the better 2010 will be.

- Adu also deserves a call-up. He's already been capped (and set the record for youngest A-level call up in US history) but he, like Jozy, needs MNT experience now. His absence from the squad vs. Sweden is obviously excused as not only is he new to Benfica and Portugal, but he's new to Coach Camacho after Santos was fired. After his awesome display against their U-20's, I think there's a strong chance he'll be called up vs. Brazil's senior squad.


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