May 30, 2010
For those of you not in the know, I'm a big international soccer fan, particularly of the United States. As you may have heard, there's kind of a big International tournament coming up. In preparation for the world cup, the United States is playing a fair number of friendly matches, which the United States soccer faithful has been monitoring closely.
First of all I love love love our choice of opponents for these friendlys. One of my main complaints last year is that we ended up playing a group of weakish national teams in the leadup to that years world cup. This year we're playing a bunch of teams with very good history/skillful players playing in top leagues. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if, in terms of pure talent, our leadup matches are tougher than our group matches on average.
The Turkey match itself, I thought, was a difficult one in terms of styles. Turkey plays a very skillful counter attack style, and the USA tries to do a bit of the same thing, using more athleticism than skill to set up countering opportunities. In the first half we saw some of the difficulties that Turkey can present and they broke through with a deserved counterattack goal midway through. Despite their frequent forays behind the United States backline, I felt as though we presented the Turk defense with a fair number of problems. Altidore, I think, distinguished himself, first holding the ball with very little support, then making the most of his chance to take on the Turkish defense, producing the United States' best chance of the match right before the final whistle.
The second half saw the United States emerge with a new tactical approach. Gone were the counterattacking opportunities that left Turkish attackers moving forward with numbers again and again. And while they still showed a ton of skill in the attack, the United States defense always had cover and numbers around the ball. Also improved was the United States attack and they struck twice, first with skill, a sublime move set up by Landon Donovan and finished by a deserving Jozy Altidore, then with power, again set up by Donovan, but this time finished by Dempsey, who, to be fair, could have made his imprint more firmly on the game. Of special note was Jose Torres, who really changed the attacking tenor of the game.
Here are my ratings of the US players (1-10 scale 5 is average):
Tim Howard 6.5: Didn't really have to make any spectacular saves, but organized the defense well, especially in the second half.
Jonathan Spector 3.5: made a few bad mistakes, one of which led to the Turkish goal. Didn't distribute effectively going forward.
Clarence GoodisonÂ 6: Didn't see him much, which is always a good thing for a central defender. Held up fairly wellÂ in the first half.
Jay Demerit: 4.5: Fairly solid in the tackle. Distribution was awful.
Carlos Bocanegra 6: Pushed into the midfield a fair amount. Best distribution in the backline, not that that means too much.
Landon Donovan 8: Involved intimately in both goals, but struggled to find himself in the first half. Still the most dangerous USA player.
Benny Feilhaber 5: Doesn't have the highest workrate, but showed off his skill on the ball a few times. Somewhat of a non factor.
Ricardo Clark 3: One of the main offenders imo for Turkey's effective counterattacks. Gave away the ball too much for my taste.
Michael Bradley 5.5: Typical Bradley game. Okay distribution. Okay defensive work. Super workrate, and very tactically aware.
Jozy Altidore 8: Held the ball effectively without much support in the first half. Worked hard all day long, looked dangerous when taking people on,Â and scored a goal.
Clint Dempsey 7.5: Just looks so much better in the midfield where he combines super effectively with Landon Donovan. It's a shame that we'll probably end up using him at forward.
Jose Torres 8.5: Just made all the difference when he came in. Gave us that creative edge in midfield that Benny Feilhaber could not. He and Bradley are a good combination.
Oguchi Onyewu 6.5: Settled down the backline when he came in. Showed why he's an unquestioned starter.
Stuart Holden 5: Didn't make a big impression, but had a nice quiet half.
Robbie Findley 7: Much more impressed with him today than I had been in the past. Saw a bit of Charlie Davis in him. A bit wild, but impactful.
Jonathan Bornstein 5: I've never been very impressed with Bornstein, but he didn't do anything to leave an impression on me today.
Overall, it was an awesome display against a strong team. If we play like this in South Africa, I think weâ€™ll at least advance out of the group stage. One final note: I thought the referee did a great job. He was generally constant and he let the flow of the game continue, letting some ticky tack stuff go. He was partially responsible for such an entertaining game.