So we saw the US Men’s National Team go out tonight and fall, 4-2, to the Czech Republic in a friendly in Connecticut.
We were reminded throughout the game by John Harkes that the result wasn’t important. To some extent, I guess that’s true. If the US gets out of its group and moves on to the knockout rounds of the upcoming World Cup, I’m not sure anyone is going to remember when they were doubled up by that pesky Czech Republic on a Tuesday night in May.
And by no means do I suggest that tonight’s result foretells a wicked wind headed this way during the group stage. The US still has every and reason and chance to get out of its group, even with a loss to England in the first match. While I don’t expect walkovers against Algeria and Slovenia, I also do expect victories. I think it’s fair and right for any other US fan to feel the same without being accused of overzealous optimism.
But that’s not to say that some of what I saw tonight didn’t bother me. While there were key players not in the lineup at all positions on the park, those on the field were still (allegedly) among the 30 best our country has to offer. The defense didn’t look it. Speed seemed to me to be a big concern for those that were out there, and I think the score could have even been worse, but some of the recovery plays to clear the ball in key spots were handled effectively. Now, what #1 goalkeeper Tim Howard could have done to make up for the defense’s errors is up for conjecture.
Offensively, the first half wasn’t impressive. They took advantage of a restart for the opening goal, and they did a good job setting up those opportunities, be they free kicks or corner kicks. But in terms of creating chances on the run, the first half lacked.
With DaMarcus Beasley (replaced by Robbie Rogers), Eddie Johnson (Brian Ching), and Edson Buddle (Herculez Gomez) out for the second half, the speed and threat of the attack picked up. Gomez got the goal that brought the US back to 2-2, before it went a bit haywire late.
That isn’t to say that Rogers-Ching-Gomez should be ahead of Beasley-EJ-Buddle on the depth chart heading into tomorrow’s final roster announcement. Scarily, I would tend to agree with Alexi Lalas’ pregame assessment that most or all of the 23-man group was already decided in Bob Bradley’s head prior to kickoff. If, however, he was deciding between Buddle and Gomez for the last forward spot, and this match was playing a large role in his decision, then he has to go with Gomez. I’d be shocked to somehow see both on the roster. I think it’s fair to say EJ is a goner. It will be interesting to see what happens to Robbie Findley, as well, who did dress for the match but wasn’t used.
Defensively, having the frontline personnel will certainly help. But it was discouraging to see Oguchi Onyewu not be able to move as hoped and not be able to stop Tomas Sivok on the first Czech Republic goal. I just don’t get a good feeling about what he can contribute. And if he has to go a hard 90 vs. England, you’d have to wonder a bit about his availability and fitness for the remaining group matches.
Thankfully, we’ll know soon, as the USMNT descends on Bristol and the ESPN family of networks for the official traveling roster announcement early Wednesday afternoon.
Who do you think makes the 23? The player pool is below. Let’s hear your predictions.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton)
DEFENDERS (9): Carlos Bocanegra (Rennes), Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Jay DeMerit (Watford), Clarence Goodson (IK Start), Chad Marshall (Columbus Crew), Oguchi Onyewu (AC Milan), Heath Pearce (FC Dallas), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)
MIDFIELDERS (12): DaMarcus Beasley (Rangers), Alejandro Bedoya (Örebro), Michael Bradley (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Ricardo Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (Aarhus), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew), José Torres (Pachuca)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Villarreal), Edson Buddle (Los Angeles Galaxy), Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo), Robbie Findley (Real Salt Lake), Herculez Gomez (Puebla), Eddie Johnson (Aris Thessaloniki)