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US 2-0 Canada: fool’s gold?

All press is good press, right?

Not in the case of the drubbing the USMNT received from Spain on Saturday night. After the US B-squad was run off the field by Spain in a contest that was about as one-sided as possible, Tuesday’s Gold Cup match versus Canada was the convenient excuse for the team’s performance. But if the Gold Cup is so important, why schedule a friendly against the best team in the world three days before the opening game? If the goal is to expand the fan base by drawing in the casual viewer, why field a team that stands no chance against the reigning world champions on national television? Either field a team with a realistic chance of competing or don’t schedule the match in the first place.

Importance of the Gold Cup

Aside from Mexico, CONCACAF competition provides little opportunity for the Americans to gauge their progress on the international level.  However, the Gold Cup serves two crucial roles. First, it offers a rough look at the players who currently figure to play prominent roles in the upcoming World Cup cycle. Several Americans struggle to see regular minutes with their club team and a month-long training camp certainly can’t hurt their development. Camp also allows young and inexperienced newcomers to become familiar with the national team setup and build chemistry with the veterans.

More importantly, the winner receives an invitation to the 2013 Confederations Cup. An early chance to get acclimated with the World Cup host country’s culture, temperature and venues cannot be understated. Additionally, the Confederations Cup allows the USMNT to see where it stands against top-level competition a year before the World Cup. In the 2009 Confederations Cup the US defeated Spain and nearly Brazil, and left with the confidence necessary to compete at the highest level.

2-0 victory over Canada

Before getting into the individual performances it’s necessary to state the obvious: the US is a superior team to Canada.

The Canadian’s possess individual attacking talents and a suspect backline that together do not offer enough quality to challenge the US. The Americans dominated possession and moved the ball pretty well, which is something that should be expected against group play competition in CONCACAF. The US had numerous opportunities to score more than two goals and Tim Howard came up with some impressive plays late in the game to keep the clean sheet.

Defense

The pairing of Clarence Goodson and Tim Ream in central defense is currently the USMNT’s best option. Goodson gets the edge in overall defending but struggles with distribution, whereas Ream’s passing provides a starting point for the attack but is susceptible in one-on-one situations. Onyewu’s minutes should be limited to providing cover, as the strong parts of his game (aerial prowess and athleticism) seem to have departed faster than a Chelsea manager. Unless Bocanegra, who did a serviceable job at left back last night, slides back into the middle I don’t so many other options.

Steve Cherundolo showed why he is the first-choice right back for the 2014 World Cup regardless of his age. The Hannover captain pushed forward and showed the pace necessary to be effective on both sides of the ball, but his crossing needs to be more effective. Defensive man of the match goes to Tim Howard, who produced several world-class saves. In the waning minutes of the match Howard denied three Canadian shots within seconds of each other to keep the clean sheet on the night, further showcasing his extraordinary quality.

Midfield

The US opted for Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones as the center pairing with Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan occupying their normal spots out wide. Without Stuart Holden, Bradley and Jones are the best option to patrol the center of the pitch. Jones displayed his passing ability and willingness to track back while Bradley looked to get forward and showcased his engine. For some reason Canada gave both midfielders acres of space and way too much time on the ball, allowing them to pretty much do as they pleased. Conversely, Bradley and Jones created all sorts of problems for the Canadians with their unrelenting pressure.

Dempsey once again showed he is the best American with the ball at his feet and the most dangerous offensive weapon on the team. His goal off  of Jozy Altidore’s cross was well-finished given the angle, and his trickery and attacking mentality were on full display in Detroit.  Donovan occupied the right side of midfield and was threatening as a creator. He could not have played a better ball to set up Jozy Altidore’s first goal and continued to deliver precise passes for much of the match. Almost all of the US’s chances come from either player and it’s clear they are crucial to the future success of the team.

Maurice Edu came on for Altidore late in the game and put in a typical shift. Sacha Kljestan also came on as a wide midfielder pushing Dempsey up top. He performed better against Canada than Spain, but is more effective when used centrally.

Forwards

Bob Bradley opted to start both Altidore and Juan Agudelo up top. Altidore is often criticized for his ineffectiveness, but to be fair is often the lone forward receiving little to no service. Against Canada he finally ended the Great American forward drought, contributing the first goal and assisting on the second. However, I still believe he has a long way to go before becoming a reliable forward. The US tries to use him as a “target” forward, though I have yet to see him accept this role let alone win a header on either a long-ball or cross. Instead of holding the ball, Jozy still tries to beat one or several defenders off the dribble, usually to no avail. I’m not saying his goal and assist weren’t a step in the right direction, just don’t let either mask his deficiencies and mediocre work rate.

Agudelo put another good performance in, holding the ball well and looking to score when given the opportunity. My favorite thing about Agudelo is his confidence, as he constantly looks to take players on off the dribble (whether they are from Argentina or Canada).

Wondolowski entered the game for Agudelo and created space with some good movement but offered little else.

5 Comments

  1. Can’t believe none of the games take place in Philly. Also, the poor attendance and the pitch last night were a debacle.

    • Andrew Desiderio says:

      Due to Detriot’s relative proximity to Canada I guess it makes sense the game was at Detriot field. They certainly didn’t convince me that Detriot has the adequate fanbase necessary to support an MLS franchise. 28,000 for a U.S. Gold Cup match isn’t terrible, but it certainly doesn’t bode well for the the group looking to bring MLS there.

      The pitch looked awful, but what can you expect when you need to put grass on top of artificial turf.

  2. Andrew Desiderio says:

    MLS Allstar fan ballot is pretty bad when it comes to the Union. Media seems to use name recognition over performance.
    Mapp- has come on as of late but really has only played 2-3 good games. Not consistent enough.
    Califf- No problem with his inclusion as he is having a good year but Sheanon and Valdes are clearly more deserving.
    Mondragon – defense is good due to the back 4 more than Mondragon at this point I would argue. I don’t discount his leadership abilities though.
    Le Toux- I think all Union fans would agree that alot of running and hardwork don’t warrant on Allstar selection
    Mwanga- easily included. Best attacker on the Union who better start playing regularly or he’ll pack his bags and leave. If Novak would play him more he would have a good chance of making the final cut.
    Ruiz- has scored some crucial goals but I would be hard pressed to argue he is a top forward in the league.

    Mwanga, Valdes, and Williams should have been shoe-ins and the other three spots are up for debate.

  3. Andrew Desiderio…great to see you doing your thing!
    Keep up the great work! Hey…drop me a note some time or give me a call. I’d love to chat with you about something.

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