USMNT / World

A look back at US-South Africa

Bob Bradley trotted out a number of new young players and a few older fringe players for the national team this past Wednesday. Bradley took the Nelson Mandela Challenge Cup as a chance to test out all of the players he called except for the Celtic reserve goalie, Dominic Cervi. Without recapping the game, the 1-0 win was fairly significant.

Importantly, Bob Bradley showed that he can win games against superior opposition on their turf. The South Africans used most of their World Cup squad and were not able to score against a well-organized US squad. Bradley took a diverse group of players that has never played together and had them adeptly playing his typical 4-4-2 formation (or 4-5-1 formation), which uses 4 across the back, 2 holding mids, 2 wide midfielders, a Striker, and a withdrawn forward/playmaking midfielder. The team played very compact and pressed well as a team. Everyone looked in sync with the system, and the full backs made sure to get forward in the attack. Beyond that, the 6 midfielders and attackers switched positions well showing an important element of “total football.”

The South Africans in contrast did not play as well tactically, and their fullbacks did not press forward intelligently to press the US. The South Africans rarely broke down the US defense, but they did get in at least two dangerous through passes that tested Brad Guzan, who had a very strong night as the team captain. The South Africans showed their superiority in the first half and managed to get more shots on goal and a number of corner kicks by the end of the match.

However, the US won the game by some young US players showing wonderful creativity. Mikkel Diskerud and Juan Agudelo combined brilliantly to put away the only goal in the match. Diskerud showed great confidence and skill playing with the ball in the box and making an excellent pass to Agudelo, who in turn showed great skill and poise by controlling the ball with his thigh and hitting a shot off the top crossbar and into the net. Teal Bunbury also made a good impression by playing physically, holding up the ball, making good runs, and putting a decent shot on frame.

In defense, Tim Ream showed good positioning and skill during the match and made a number of good passes.  Clarence Goodson was a rock, while Eric Lichaj played well both in defense and in attack. Gale Agbossoumonde only played a short time, but weathered a strong South African attack at the end of the game without panicking.

Bob Bradley will now have more options at forward, considering the performances of Bunbury and Agudelo. At 17 years old, Agudelo will have a chance to star in the upcoming U-20 World Cup and possibly the Gold Cup. Ream certainly looks like a strong option for the Gold Cup as well. A number of the older players, including Goodson, Eddie Gaven, and Logan Pause, all had strong performances that might put them in contention for World Cup qualifying and the Gold Cup in the future.

One Comment

  1. Ed Farnsworth says:

    For the first time since the US beat Algeria in the World Cup, I felt good after a national team match. Granted, it was just one game, but the new faces really have me feeling hopeful for the future.

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