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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Gold Cup: USA 1 x Guatemala 0

Watching this game reminded me of how we used to play many years ago. Hack away and clear the ball down field as the Guatemalans did tonight. The USA should easily defeat a Guatelmala team that is significantly outclassed. But in the first half, with the exception of Clint Dempsey's lone goal, the USA was firing blanks. The score should have been at least 3 to 0, and reflects a perpetual problem with US soccer at the international level: a lack of consistent quality finishing. Taylor Twellman and DaMarcus Beasley had excellent chances that should have been converted.

In most other aspects, we have caught up to the rest of the world in a technical sense. Our guys can play at a physical level with anyone. But the difference between the US and the elite can be seen in two areas: lack of finishing, along with game tactics. The team does not know how to dictate the pace of the game. Namely, how to regulate the pace like a thermostat. We don't have a player in the mold of Andrea Pirlo of Italy or Juan Roman Riquelme of Argentina who instinctively know how to orchestrate a game. Regardless of the opponent.

Too many US players with English league exposure have made our style one of extreme pace for 90 minutes. It is a double-edged sword. They have gained immense experience playing in England; however, the style they have learned is one of breakneck speed. There are times, such as tonight at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, when one needs to slow things down. Use your head rather than your legs to defeat a well-coached but technically inferior side such as Guatemala. Their only tactic was to foul, and hope that one counterattack or free kick would be converted by Carlos Ruiz. Yet who was red carded? Defender Gooch Onyewu for the USA in the 74th minute. The USA collected five yellow cards versus two for Guatemala. The US module for this game, a 4-3-3, did not produce scintillating results. Landon Donovan for some inexplicable reason was playing on the right wing. He is much better in the middle where he can distribute, attract more attention from the opposition, and create goal scoring opportunities for himself and others.

In two home games against Guatemala this year, the USA could only score one goal. After the game, the players were congratulating each other. Perhaps in relief, but realistically, they must recognize that there were not many reasons to celebrate after this victory. Games such as this must be killed off very quickly. The USA failed to do this, and could not adjust their tactics. Perhaps a lesson learned as the competition becomes stronger. Especially next month at the Copa America in Venezuela.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Excellent comments particularly about how too many US players, developed in the English legaue want to play at breakneck speed. That has always been one of my greatest criticisms of English league football, the teams play too quickly and never show any pause to their game. It is this reason why I always cringe when i see a US player signing for an English club. I look forward when we'll see more Americans in the French, Portuguese, Dutch and hopefully even Spanish and Italian leagues and less in the English one. That is when US soccer will make a drastic improvement.

I was in the stadium for the Guatemala-US game and it was an ugly match. The US' joy at the end was from relief because they knew an inferior opponent had given them all they wanted. Last night the US defeated an even more outclassed El Salvador 4-0 and this time finally converted more of their scoring opportunities but that was aganst a team who were clearly outclassed physically by the US. Guatemala weren't outclassed physically but tactically they out did the US in that match.

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