U.S. 2-0 Sweden: Our Depth Beat Their Depth

There was a lot to like about this game. Seriously. Fox Soccer Channel commentator Christopher Sullivan griped at the end about a certain lack of artistry, but anyone who tuned in saw a good, fairly even, pretty up-tempo game. And, better still, the U.S. Men’s National Team (Yanquis) flat won; they gave away fewer chances and played the better game. This is Sweden, mind, not elite, but definitely “real Europe,” even if it wasn’t their first team. That doesn’t matter because that wasn’t our first team either. Sweden’s first team might beat our first team 6 or 7 times out of 10, but the gap is closing – at least that’s what I pick up from watching our B-Team out-play, even out-think, the Swedes B-Team.

The Yanquis did well enough that it’s hard to find sincere fault with anyone’s game – though it’s not like I’m not going to try below. As for the Swedes, well, they settled for average; at times, I thought the game looked like a circa-1996 Sweden v. USA, but with the roles reversed. I can recall one tactically inspired move from Sweden, an overlapping cross-field run that totally isolated Ramiro Corrales on the U.S. left. But one move by the U.S. best illustrates the differences in inventiveness: Pat Noonan broke in on the left, dished to Landon Donovan and continued his run; Donovan holds for a bit, then pokes the ball into Noonan, who taps a lay-off that nearly resulted in a shot; it was all fast, short passes, the Americans trying to pick their way through Sweden rather than hoofing toward space and crossing. No, neither move ended with a goal – in fact, both U.S. goals came off something perilously close to slop – but the Swedes never matched the savvy and understanding on display in the U.S. move. Hell, we almost played “street-ball” right there.

In any case, I’ve got the notes to blab, blab, blab. But I’ll spare all y’all from that and bang out some player ratings – e.g. the refuge of a blogger who can’t figure out a structure for his talking points. Enjoy. Continue reading

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First Talk of the Sweden Friendly + Who I’d Play (Ready the Wild Hair!)

While we’re all obsessing over players we barely know (OK, maybe only I am), the little matter of this Saturday’s international friendly between the U.S. Men’s team (viva los Yanquis!) has slipped under the radar.

Fortunately, a couple outlets are pulling it back on-screen today. Sure, there was always USSoccer.com, but that’s a given. An offering from January 14 nailed down a 26-man pool of eligible/present players. And, yeah, there’s the Yanquis’ team blog, but that’s, oh, 80% bum-fluff.

Given that, I was pleased to see the talking-point-friendly article by Nick Green in The Daily Breeze. I’m mainly referring there to mention of players I’d like to see – guys like Dasan Robinson, Marvell Wynne, and Ramiro Corrales – that gets me thinking. Add in the fact that Sweden will likely bring, um, something other than their best team – as revealed in USSoccerplayers.com’s Sweden primer – and this is what I’d trot out by way of a (highly experimental) roster – and let’s do a 4-4-2:

GK: Steve Cronin (what the hell? I’ve never seen him play…and they did invite him)

D (right-to-left): Wynne, Jimmy Conrad, Michael Parkhurst, Ramiro Corrales (is he even left-footed?)

M (right-to-left): Justin Mapp (yeah, I know, I know), Maurice Edu, Kyle Beckerman, Brad Davis (one of my bigger man-crushes, by the way)

F: Taylor Twellman, Josmer Altidore (give it a whirl).

And substitutions would be used liberally – e.g. Drew Moor in for Wynne (I like the idea of a defender with a good cross working the right with Mapp cutting inside); Chris Rolfe in as a scheming mid behind the forwards (kick back Beckerman, pull Edu); or see how Pat Noonan does wide right, etc.

Anyway, you get the idea: when playing Scandinavian B-teams, have fun with the roster and hope for a repeat of 2007’s opener against a similarly consituted Danish side. Surprise me, Bob.

Sweden 1-0 U.S. – Grudgingly Acknowledged

For the record, the U.S. Men’s team (Yanquis) lost to Sweden today…and….well, so what?

On one level, the general silence on this seems refreshing; that goes double with regard to “what-it-all-means” freak-outs.  What does this mean?  Not a lot.  We lost to a decent European team in Europe; that’s not new.  And had we won, even in a blowout, that wouldn’t have meant a lot either.  Put it this way: if the people that tuned into this game witnessed some kind of turning point in U.S. soccer history, would they know it?  England coming out of its shell to play the Magic Magyars this ain’t.

By posting previews this morning, I incurred the obligation of recording the results for posterity – at least that’s what my stupid brain is telling me.  So, here’s the best item I saw today: USSoccerplayers.com’s running commentary.  Even there, the problems they’re describing – problems with scoring, possession, building the attack, etc. – shouldn’t be news to the kind of person who found this site.  Something else they (whoops…Ian Plenderleith and J Hutcherson) touch on – finding the next generation of reliable defenders – strikes me as the biggest dilemma for the National Team program.  Or, put another way, that strikes me as not just the most immediate dilemma, but the one Bob Bradley or anyone else has a chance in hell of solving in the near-term; the stuff with scoring, tactics, etc. – that’s just part of the learning curve.

We’ll get there.  At least I think we will.  But I also doubt a friendly will serve as the occasion for telling us we made it.

Get yer U.S. v. Sweden Previews, he-ah!*

(*That’s supposed to be a phonetic representation of the peanut-guy at a baseball game shouting “here.” Yeah, I know, great choice of images.)

While I’m a little perversely proud of my decision to pass on the United States’ Men’s (Yanquis) game against Sweden, thereby missing my first U.S. friendly since God-knows-when, I’ll post as many previews for the game as I can find up to the 11:30 a.m. (PST) kick-off.

Luis Bueno – A heavy Bob Bradley/Yanquis struggles playing in Europe angle

Ives Galarcep – Another edition of Ives’ roster game

Jeff Carlisle – Does his own roster prediction schtick

Goal.com – Tactics, line-ups, players to watch, etc.

I’ll post more if I find ’em.