Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
In the midst of eighteen hours of classes, a Kentucky run to the final four, and starting a new job, I somehow managed to find time to finally rewatch and break down the USA-Argentina battle from last night.
First off, let me just say the fighting spirit and the resilience shown by the United States is a thing of legends. Never before have I see a side so capable of shouldered such tremendous pressure over the course of 90 minutes. There is a heart about this side which makes me proud to call myself an American. There is a fight worthy of recognition from anyone who calls himself a patriot.
Off my soapbox and on to the action.
From the first minute, Argentina made it known they had come to play, and to play with no mercy. Argentina's maestro Lionel Messi was a constant nuisance to Tim Howard, as the South American giants pressed the US back-four for basically the entire match. The US managed 42 minutes of bending until Esteban Cambiasso cleaned up from a brilliant piece of play from Messi, who nutmegged a hapless Carlos Bocanegra and found Angel Di Maria in the box who shot low, Tim Howard saved initially but the ball fell straight to Cambiasso who blasted over a grounded Howard.
Second half adjustments were needed. Badly. The three man midfield employed by Bob Bradley to start the match simply wasn't working. Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, and Maurice Edu, in initial design, was supposed to help containing the exploits of the attacking Argentine diamond of Messi, Di Maria, Ever Banega, and Ezequiel Lavezzi. It didn't. And perhaps this was the plan of Senor Bob the whole time. Trusting the first 45 to tested, experienced veterans, and then flipping his ace in hole to start the second half. Bradley's ace in the hole was youthful exuberance and pace.
The introduction of Juan Agudelo and Timothy Chandler changed the game for the United States. The addition of pace into the backline helped shield an under siege Tim Howard in the second half, and Chandler's marauding runs forward created a few good chances for the US. An instant improvement against an overmatched Jonathan Spector.
Jermaine Jones was sacrificed following a disappointing first 45 in favor of 18 year old Juan Agudelo, who's pace opened up the pitch for guys like Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Landon Donovan to exploit. Though it was an Altidore drawn foul which allowed the United States the opportunity to draw level. Donovan picked out Carlos Bocanegra at the far post, who sent a stinging header towards goal. Argentine keeper Mariano Andujar did well to stop the shot, but could not control it. An on rushing Agudelo tapped home from a foot away for his second international goal in three matches.
The Yank's goal shellshocked Argentina for all of a minute, when Howard was forced into a quick save following the restart. The rest of the half was filled up with US stonewalling, Javier Mascherano flailing, and finally after 92 minutes, the referee blew for full time and the US had earned a hard fought draw with one of the worlds best.
Tim Howard (8): Absolutely mythical performance from Howard. Making save, after save, after save. Could do nothing on the goal allowed.
Jonathan Spector (4.5)- Was easy to see who Argentina were planning on attacking on the night. Yep, the West Ham hero this season was thrown into the oven by Bob Bradley. Played good enough on the night to keep earning call ups, but his strength is against slower wide midfielders, not speedy wingers.
Jay DeMerit (6)- Well, he certainly showed a bit of rust considering this was his second full match since the Ghana match. Also nipped in with his usual hard tackles and timely marking of the weaving Argentine runs.
Oguchi Onyewu (5.5)- Probably also not best served playing against slithering snakes like Messi and Lavezzi, but made no glaring errors, save in the early first half when he lost his footing, on what was honestly a crappy surface. Really needs to work on his distribution out of the back.
Carlos Bocanegra (5.5)- Yep, he turns 32 in a couple months, and he showed it. Again, not exactly the best player to go up against Argentina, but right now he is simply all we have.
Jermaine Jones (5)- Poor night from the Blackburn man, always seemed a few seconds behind. Which happens to a lot of players against Argentina. Nothing to worry about I'm sure and he'll be able to bounce back against Paraguay in a couple days.
Michael Bradley (6)- Well, it was a mehh performance from Junior on the day. Showed the rust from not getting much time at Aston Villa, but also showed some glimpses of World Cup's past with his distribution and keen tackling.
Maurice Edu (5.5)- Forced to play out of position in the first half as the advanced central midfielder, Edu quietly enjoyed a good performance in the second half, and was a foot from equalizing early in the period.
Clint Dempsey (6.5)- Dempsey was a workhorse on the night. Managed a couple shots on goal, and led a couple breaks for the US in the second half.
Landon Donovan (6)- Landon had one of those nights where he fades in and out of the match but usually ends up with an assist or a goal. His brilliant service led to Agudelo's equalizer.
Jozy Altidore (5.5)- Tough night for Jozy. Playing on an island up top is a job for Brian Ching, not Jozy, who plays best with someone to play off of. The second half was much more productive.
Timothy Chandler (6.5)- How's about a two point upgrade over the man you replaced? Chandler showed a good deal of pace and a natural crossing ability. He's a Steve Cherundolo in his hayday. Well played by the youngster. Hopefully Bob rewards him with a start on his birthday.
Juan Agudelo (7.5)- Let me just say this. It's fantastic that Agudelo is a young, energetic, and highly talented kid. The goal was mehhhhh. Right place, right time? Yes. But it took little soccer skill to do what he did. All the credit in the world goes to him for being able to absorb a bit of pressure and to pass out of it. I'm excited for the kid, don't get me wrong, but I will check that with cautious optimism moving forward. I've seen too many young forwards like Agudelo start their careers on fire, only to burn out in European proving grounds.
Last but not least I'll post the highlights from US Soccer: