Here’s the funny thing about last night: we won the game. By that I mean, we have won games in the past – e.g. by the means of scoring at least one more goal than the other team – but the remarkable thing about last night was that we won. And this was in Europe and against a decent team and we looked better, collectively, certainly, but also, in some places, on an individual level. Well, all right.
As you’ll gather below, I’m just in love with the U.S. Men’s National Team right now – or the Yanquis, as I like to call them. Rather than bore you with a blow-by-blow run-down, I’ll bore you with several quick, hopefully interesting observations:
– Was Landon Donovan man of the match? Tempting thought. If nothing else, the man actually delivered solid set-pieces, several of them – a “holy shit” kind of thing all by itself. And I don’t care what anyone says or thinks, he did damn well on that breakaway in spite of missing the goal.
– Speaking of set-pieces, I would be freakin’ the frank out if I was Polish, or just supported their national team; they were all over the place on set-pieces. And against the U.S.
– If you’re wondering about the odd use of the word “frank” above, that was inspired by the show about the ghost hunters from Rhode Island that broadcasts on the Sci Fi Channel. Freaked out and unable to say “fuck,” one of the guys said something like “that is so frankin’ weird.” I just liked the sound of it. Back to the game…
– My man of the match? Michael Bradley. It didn’t hear his name until about 60 minutes in and that’s when it occurred to me I hadn’t noticed him out there. But here’s the funny thing: all through the first half, the Yanquis kept transitioning to the attack in a flash, the ball passing through the middle of the field on its way either forward or across. This seemed to just happen, as if the ball was hitting some kind of pivot-point on the field and, from there, was automatically routed to its destination. It was only after I started following Bradley around the field that I realized he was the pivot-point and was very much involved. Good stuff.
– It was him or Steve Cherundolo. I noticed Cherundolo throughout and, at times, thought he looked like the best player on the field. Crazy.
– We did break down at the back a couple times, but we defended very well in general. I haven’t felt that comfortable watching the Carlos Bocanegra/Oguchi Onyewu pairing since before the 2006 World Cup. Better yet, the replacements – Jay DeMerit and Jonathan Spector – did pretty well too.
– That said, you can see the Poles edge our players technically. The speed and power of their shooting, that little bit of crispness in their passing: didn’t help them much last night, though…tee hee hee.
– Eddie Lewis. Suddenly I like him again. Either he had a glorious night, or he’s aging wonderfully in Europe. While watching him, one word kept coming to me: “comfortable.” He looked incredibly at home on the field last night.
– Benny Feilhaber. It took one pass to make me want to see more: when Benny slipped the ball through a flat, firm Polish defensive line on to a belated run by Clint Dempsey. It didn’t come off, but Yanqui midfielders make that kind of pass too rarely. Good for Benny.
– If I have a gripe, it’s at forward – and it’s a small one. Our forwards still aren’t bringing much to the attack. In some ways, Brian Ching being out there amounts to a sad statement on the state of the player pool at forward. And it’s not that Ching is a bad player. But he’d also never be confused for a world-class forward. He is, simply, the least-bad option. And that’s pretty grim. It didn’t help he didn’t have much of a game last night.
– Curiously (and finally; I’ll leave this alone after this point), I felt Eddie Johnson had a good game – but as just another field player, as opposed to as a forward. He helped with possession with simple drop passes, passes from which other players created openings one or two passes later. Using simple hustle and movement, he maintained a kind of rugby-esque territorial advantage by running onto long passes and forcing the Poles to boot the ball out of touch. This was significant based on how well we did on corners alone, but it also served the purpose of keeping the ball out of our half.
Filed under: International Friendly, Landon Donovan, U.S. Men's National Team | Tagged: Benny Feilhaber, Carlos Bocanegra, Eddie Johnson, Eddie Lewis, Michael Bradley, Oguchi Onyewu, Poland, Steve Cherundolo |