USMNT / World Cup

US vs Holland — a blow by blow breakdown of a tough US loss

The opening, much like the entirety of the first half, was marked by the usual stuttering of two teams feeling each other out that’s seen in many a friendly. For the US, there was the danger of risking a perceived “major setback” to their World Cup hopes should a world power- Holland, who went 8-0-0 in European qualifying with 17 goals for and a mere two against, was the first team to stamp its ticket for South Africa- hand them an embarrassing result, while the Dutch couldn’t stomach any shortcomings before a raucous orange clad crowd in Amsterdam against a team still considered to be an afterthought on football’s grand stage.

The first intimation of danger came from a brilliant Wesley Sneijder chip to Eljero Elia who was shielded off effectively, leaving Tim Howard to scoop up the ball. A minute later, Elia dogged Jonathan Spector to send a through ball that was thankfully sent well over the cross bar. It wasn’t until past the ten minute mark that the US came somewhat close, with a dangerous cross from Stuart Holden from the right side- indeed his crossing abilities has proven to be one of his greatest assets when he has come on for the national team- being picked out of the air by the keeper amidst two US attackers. In the 12th minute, a quick restart for a free kick from a questionable foul call on an aggressive header by Jay Demerit- his aerial game was inspirational for the US throughout the entire 90 minutes- saw the ball nearly chipped in after deflecting off JoséTorres- Howard had to back pedal and leap to push it up and over the crossbar.

The teams then traded ineffectual attacks; Sneijder, Holland’s midfield general, who would orchestrate nearly every attack throughout the match, sent a harmless shot into Howard; Robbie Findley, showing his inexperience after deftly corralling a long ball in the box with two defenders in tow, inexplicably passed it to the keeper. In the 18th minute, Elia once again dogged Spector, this time befuddling the West Ham man with an inside outside move before being stopped by a defender rushing to his aid. Though the quality of chances didn’t improve by much, the Dutch followed with some sustained pressure; the US defense luckily fished out a through pass following a turnover scooped up by the usually deadly Brave Sir Robben; Dirk Kuyt, well contained by Carlos Barconegra on the same right side, dished to Sneijder, who again shot innocuously into Howard.

The US, continuously thwarted at midfield, looked as if it had its best chance at attack when Altidore sent through for Findley up the left side, but the novice had jumped offside. Then, in the 31st minute, Stuart Holden, on for a still recovering Clint Dempsey, was brought down by a dangerous tackle from Nigel De Jong, with the ref appearing indifferent long after the blatant foul; it’s no wonder then that Torres received a card for dissent to match De Jong’s late yellow, with cries of “that was studs up ref” surrounding me at the bar. Luckily for Holden, and the US bench, Holden shunned the stretcher and walked off of his own accord. Torres, in defiance of the ref and in a show of aggression against an opposing side that is regretfully all too often lacking in the US attack, charged ahead to receive the ball and kill a shot that just nearly missed the upper left hand side, while Demarcus Beasley waited from the sidelines to replace the injured Holden.

In the 36th, a convincing rush up the left by Bornstein to Altidore rushing through center ended when Findley- still finding his way- passed back into mid. Two minutes later Altidore posted up on a defender in the box, only to slot wide with his shot while facing away from goal. The Oranje went ahead after a dubious pk call; Sneijder, with minimal contact from Bornstein- the Dutch midfielder seemed to exaggerate the effect of Bornstein’s contact with his right arm as he proceeded forward- set the stage for Dirk Kuyt, who once again proved as lethal for his country as he is with his Merseyside outfit- Kuyt slotted with ease to the left, while an eager Howard, at first seeming ready to go left, guessed right. Then in the 45th, Bornstein was lucky not to produce a 2nd pk after accidentally handling a through ball by Elia. With the ball most likely playing out of harms way either way, however, the ref judiciously looked on. Donovan finished the half for the US by wasting a cross from the right after a rushing attack up the left side.

Prospects didn’t seem to improve for the US with the introduction of AC Milan dangerman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, on for Arjen Robben. A nice piece of skill by Altidore nearly countered any such fears, but his rush, after a deft heel pass through the legs of Ron Vlaar, resulted in nothing more than a picked off through ball into the area. Sneijder was quick to reestablish himself, with his through ball in the 49th coming dangerously close; it looked set to meet the head of a leaping attacker for a sure redirection on goal but the US managed to contain. Sneijder then sent Elia-thankfully impeded by Bornstein- who waited too long to shoot into Howard.

A stalemate seemed about to set in, until pressure picked up, and ten minutes later the two teams exchanged ineffectual free kicks. The US had perhaps its best chance of the game close to the 65th minute: Michael Bradley, rushing through center, passed forward to Beasley speeding up the right side of the box, but his ensuing pass was- once again, as with many through balls for both sides- picked off, with Vlaar being the denier this time. Sneijder’s harrying activity continued with Van Der Vaart nearly redirecting his service in past Howard. In the 74th, Hunterlaar received a short centering pass from Van der Vaart- fed upfield from Sneijder- to slam the ball forward from near the top of the box, the resulting deflection- off a hapless Jonathan Bornstein- going to the left of Howard and just inside the post.

With the US in need of an answer, Eddie Johnson came on as a late sub in the 76th for Landon Donovan, who had momentarily pushed upfield into more of a central attacking role. A nice attack up the left side resulted in a dangerous cross. Johnson followed by sending an equally troubling cross from the right flank. A questionable/laughable foul on Altidore at the top of the box resulted in a Bradley free kick that deflected out of harms way after initially appearing to be on target. In the 83rd, Van der Vaart tested Howard, forcing a stellar upper land hand corner diving save, before sending a brilliant back heel into the area a minute later that was quickly negated. The Dutch threatened again a minute later with a free kick that went nowhere.

The US finally bore fruit with the second of two subsequent free kicks. After the first one went harmlessly wide, Beasley met an unmarked Bocanegra who headed home with ease. The US finally managed a flurry as they harassed the Dutch throughout the remainder, nearly equalizing on numerous occasions; a free kick from a foul at the top of the box heaped the pressure on- it looked at first as though 63rd minute sub Alejandro Bedoya, who acquitted himself well, drew a PK, but the replays showed the foul was indeed just outside the area- and at 90+ 3 Johnson returned the ball to Altidore who rifled a shot that forced diving save.

Holland won 2-1.

2 Comments

  1. Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

    Can we say goodnight to Robbie Findley?

    While I take no issue with his inclusion in the past two matches, it has become abundantly clear that Charlie Davies, he ain’t. In fact, if we were to consider the last two run-outs as his body of work, it seems clear that he is nowhere near the level of anyone else on the pitch. Granted it takes time to find your feet amidst the quicker flowing play of a full international, but for a player who relies so thoroughly on speed and confidence to look so utterly bereft of ideas was hard to watch. Killing attacks time and again with terrible (or non-existent) runs and 40 meter back passes is not what this team needs right now.

    I laughed at my television when Harkes suggested that although he’s not the finished product, he’s a great player to bring on to inject some energy. Really? Are we watching the same game?

    It doesn’t matter how fast you are if you cannot do anything with the ball once you get it.

  2. Wow. phillysoccerpage.com is amazing.

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