I won't say that our offense was fantastic (it was much the opposite, in fact) but our defense was solid when it needed to be and our midfield got the job done. We played our brand of football throughout, which is to say that we played some good ol' soccer: bruising d-mids destroying attacks before they happen, (over)utilization of the wings, and capitalization of dead-ball opportunities. A very dull match with sparse opportunities rarely produced by the run of play. Typical stuff, yeah?
Not quite. We managed to dominate the run of play against a Euro 2008 competitor at their home stadium, in front of their home fans. Today's performance was very much rebuttal for the performance vs. Sweden in Sweden and possibly Ghana in Germany. This is a very positive result for the progressive Bradley campaign.
So how did everyone do?
Michael Bradley did fine. We saw very little of his attacking prowess this match as he was utilized alongside Clark as the d-mid tandem, but we did get a good look at why nepotism has nothing to do with his frequent MNT call-ups. He consistently performs his midfield duties well: stemming the opposition and diffusing pressure to the wings. He completed nearly all of his passes and hardly put a foot out of line. I think the next step will be to integrate him into the offense. I'd like to see Coach Bob experiment with an offensive trio of Bradley (CAM) - Donovan (FW) - Johnson (FW), at least until Adu gets another call-up.
Ricardo Clark was also fine. After Mexico there were doubts about how well he and Bradley could perform together, but tonight these doubts were dispelled.
Howard was also at the top of his game.
Carlos Bocanegra was the consummate center half, as was Oguchi Onyewu. Ives has been touting the pair as the best in the MNT pool and after tonight I can hardly disagree. Each tallying a goal on the day from set pieces, the twain also proved that they still bring a lot to the dead-ball table.
Lewis still has a motor and a wicked lefty. He is an attractive overage option for the U-23's this summer, in my opinion.
Steve Cherundolo's crosses provided our most dangerous opportunities off the run of play, though I did think he tended to get over-committed with his offensive forays.
Donovan did admirably, for playing on the left wing. He created Gooch and Bocanegra's goals with lethal dead-ball service and should have added a goal of his own. Thing is, while Donovan is the most versatile attacking option in the MNT pool, he's also the most potent, and I don't think he will produce his best out left. In the hole or up top would be ideal, but even a move to the right wing would be an improvement.
Other than that, Dempsey was off-form, Pearce was hot and cold (though Ives thought he was great), and the forwards were non-existent. But how is this unusual?
Next stop: London. The Fulham boys will be back in full effect for that one, I think.