USA v. Colombia, a look back

An extra day gives you more perspective on a game. So what did we learn from U.S.-Colombia?

The US played to a 0-0 draw at PPL Park on Tuesday. Unlike the game against Poland, Bob Bradley chose to use a few more players, which was nice to see. Brek Shea and Eric Lichaj both got their first caps for the US.

The Colombians played very defensively, and it looked like anti-football. On the other hand, the Colombians were very quick on the counterattack and showed some flair in the attack. On many occasions during the match a few of the Colombians were moving faster than the ball, which is unusual. The Colombians were quick to close down the US players and used their speed and physicality to great effect. The only player on the US team who seemed to be able to overcome this combination of speed and physicality was Jermaine Jones.

The referee did not help the situation because he didn’t call some fouls and was very reluctant to show yellow cards. When the referee lets the physicality go, then teams playing anti-football get a distinct advantage.

The US did not fair well with this style of play and will have to work on being more physical and using South American style gamesmanship, if the US is going to improve its record against teams like Colombia.

The US started out the match with what appeared to be a 4-1-4-1, which had Maurice Edu as the holding midfielder with Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley playing more forward. This was an interesting style, but did not work well on the night. After about 20 minutes the US reverted to something closer to a 4-2-3-1 with Bradley taking the playmaking role and Jones and Edu playing the holding midfielder roles. The formation was quite fluid and could have been described as a 4-3-3 as well, with the 3 central midfielders in a triangle shape and the 3 playing more forward in a v-shape with Altidore at the tip of the attacking spear.

After halftime the US changed to the 4-4-2 formation with two holding midfielders, two wide midfielders, and two forwards. This formation included Eddie Johnson up top alongside Altidore with Clint Dempsey taking a wide midfielder role. The US caused more problems offensively, but also gave up a few more opportunities to the Colombians.

As for individual performances, there were no spectacular ones on the US side, but Brad Guzan did well in goal and showed that he is good now and may get even better with more games under his belt. He was calm and composed and showed good judgment. Eric Lichaj played quite well. He got forward and looked to beat his man. He got in a couple of crosses, and he didn’t get beaten. His positioning looked good, and he seemed to have good tactical awareness. He also made sure to back up the central defenders and play as the second defender when they were beaten.

Clarence Goodson had a solid performance in the back as did Michael Parkhurst. Parkhurst looked good distributing the ball from the back, which is something Onyewu has not always looked spectacular doing. The one poor performance came from Heath Pearce, who looked over matched in the speed category. He didn’t give up anything major because of good positioning, but he got beat a number of times. Clarence Goodson played well as the second defender and cleaned up these plays. On offense, Pearce could not get into a position to cross the ball.

The midfield played fairly well, but there was nothing spectacular. Jermaine Jones did not have a great night and showed that his passing game has the same flaws as Bradley and Edu. On the other hand he was quite physical and gave the Colombians a taste of their own medicine without earning a red card, which is something Ricardo Clark doesn’t seem to be able to do. His work rate was still quite good, and he did well to break up attacking play.

Maurice Edu and Michael Bradley didn’t do a whole lot different than versus Poland. They didn’t play poorly, but they didn’t play that well either. They didn’t really stick out. Brek Shea started the match but it looked like nerves got the better of him. He repeatedly made awful passes right to the opposition and just never got going. He needs another chance to impress perhaps against less able opposition.

On a more positive note, Stuart Holden looked really good again. He was quick, had a strong work rate, made some good passes, and took some great free kicks and corners. Stuart Holden looks like the real deal and should continue to improve while playing for Bolton in the Premier League. Clint Dempsey came in at the half and played pretty well. He showed a better ability than most of the other US players to deal with Colombia’s physicality.

In the attack, Altidore did not have a great game, but he did show effort and strength. He made some runs, but also didn’t seem to be in sync with anyone else on the team. With some better passes and better understanding Altidore could be a lot more dangerous. He looked to get frustrated by poor passes and lack of understanding. This in turn seemed to affect his game. Altidore will need to get over this problem to succeed at the international level because the players don’t get to play together that often, so these types of problems are common. He has to learn to keep fighting and busting his butt no matter what the problem is.

Eddie Johnson came in and played better than he has in the recent past. He held up the ball better, was more physical, and made some good runs. He looked hesitant to take players on and did not do a good job in one-on-one situations. He passed the ball better and was more conscious of keeping possession than he has been in the past. He didn’t do anything spectacular and shouldn’t move ahead of Altidore, but he might be a good super sub against teams using a high defensive line because of his speed. If he continues to improve in England, then maybe he will get to the point where he should start for the US.

In the final analysis neither the US nor the Colombians had a great game. The US experimented quite a bit as did the Colombians. The Colombians showed great work rate, speed, physicality, and some flair. They have some good young players and with some work could do well in South American qualifying. The US tried to speed up their tempo of play and gave away possession too often. They weren’t able to switch the field without giving away the ball. Those are issues Bob Bradley will have to work on if the US is going to beat better teams.

What did you think of the match?

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