Hey there, it’s been a while – at least since I wrote about anything other than UEFA Champions League Prediction threads. Hey, time flies when you’re trying to find quick ways to get rich.
Anyway, just finished watching the US men’s match at the Netherlands. I plan on discussing the result here, so you’ve been warned if you haven’t seen it yet.
The Netherlands earned a 2-1 victory – probably an odd scoreline on a couple of levels. First, I thought there were stretches where the hosts really could have put the game out of reach. Second, Carlos Bocanegra scored late on to pull the United States to within one, and there were attacks that threatened a second deep in second-half stoppage time. A tie would have been a great result, though it would not have necessarily reflected how the match went.
Here’s a few quick thoughts:
1) Not to pile on to that expressed on the match commentary and those on Twitter, but this wasn’t Jonathan Bornstein’s finest day. His tug in the penalty area in the first half led to a penalty that Dirk Kuyt converted into a 1-0 lead for the Netherlands. Did the attacking player hit the ground easy? Sure. But Bornstein tugging at the jersey there either means he’s completely beat positionally, or he’s lazy and not going to work hard enough to close the space. And had he not committed the foul, there still would have been work to do for a goal to be scored. It was a disappointing decision in a key spot.
2) Bornstein was also involved in the second goal for the hosts, although I don’t know if you can blame him. Klaas Jan Huntelaar’s shot deflected off Bornstein and past Tim Howard to double the margin and all but secure victory for the Netherlands. That particular moment might well have been unlucky, but together, it was not a good performance from the player who has seemed to earn a great deal of trust (and chances) from manager Bob Bradley. It’s fair to wonder if it isn’t time for that to stop after today. But even if it is based on a fair observation, my bet would be that we’ll see him back in the lineup.
3) The United States played this match very much like a friendly at times. And while that’s what it was, it’s also not a good way to defend vs. one of the best teams in the world. When the Netherlands were in the USA half, there wasn’t nearly enough pressure from the American defenders. They gave their opponents space to dribble, pass, whatever they wanted, and the Netherlands smartly tried to take advantage of this with by sending runners through the heart of the American defense. They also wisely deployed long balls to vary the attack, as well. Great reactions and anticipation from Howard on multiple plays kept the lead at 1-0 for a while.
Conversely, until the final minutes at least, the US was not allowed such time in their attack. They missed having individual playmakers to create a number of quality chances, and we didn’t see much of Landon Donovan today. Even when called upon for a restart, he had a rather poor free-kick effort in the second half. Donovan left in the 76th minute in favor of Eddie Johnson.
4) I’ve been harsh on DaMarcus Beasley in the past but he deserves high marks for his excellent free kick which Bocanegra headed home to make it 2-1. From a good distance, Beasley drove the ball well, dropping it far enough in front of Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg that it was dangerous, and Bocanegra challenged for it bravely – earning his just reward with the goal. It’s good to see there’s another weapon available if Donovan is off on his free kicks during a key match, or if the restart is in a spot on the field where it would be more beneficial for Beasley to take it. If Beasley makes the World Cup roster, of course.
5) I’m glad to see coach Bradley use several substitutions since they were available today, though one was unfortunately forced with the injured Stuart Holden leaving in the first half after a rough challenge (Beasley entered). Alejandro Bedoya was decent in his 30 or so minutes in place of Robbie Findley – who appeared overmatched at this level. I was also glad to see Maurice Edu get a spot on the field for the second half (in place of Jose Francisco Torres).
6) Hard to judge Jozy Altidore today. He had some nice individual moments and I’d say he was a factor in the match, but the US had trouble getting him the ball in dangerous spots mostly, and that hindered the attack.
In the big picture, a 2-1 loss at the Netherlands in a friendly is no shame. There’s definitely things to work on, and there’s definitely lineup questions for coach Bradley to consider (*cough* Bornstein *cough*). But, as usual, I don’t think there’s anything here worth freaking out about overall.
Simply put, I don’t think the perspective of how the US is going to do in the upcoming World Cup should be diminished at all based on today. There are things that need improvement … but I think we knew that already.