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TGIF: A final look at USA-Mexico


                                                                                         Photo by ISI Photos

Good morning everybody. If you are still talking about or thinking about the USA-Mexico game, don’t fret. You are not alone.

There is so much to talk about from that game but one thing I wanted to say is that while there are some issues raised from that game I really don’t think there is reason to be in panic mode about any particular aspect of the U.S. team because of that match.

Here are some issues I would like to touch on from the match after having watched it again:

Yes, the fullbacks were horrid but there are at least two better options at each position so there shouldn’t be a need for Ramiro Corrales or Drew Moor to see time in any World Cup qualifier this year.

Yes, the central midfield struggled but to say either Michael Bradley or Ricardo Clark was really bad is a stretch. Bradley was one of the U.S. team’s better players in the first half, but his second half wasn’t nearly as bad as some on this board suggested. He did have a couple of unforced turnovers but he also won tackles, made crucial challenges and covered well for the inept left flank tandem of Bobby Convey and Corrales. I wasn’t overly impressed with Clark but it is easy to forget that it was just his second competitive match in three months.

Bradley, Clark, Benny Feilhaber and Maurice Edu will all have chances to play in tough matches these coming months and concerns about whether this group will produce an effective central midfield tandem are a bit premature. They are certainly good enough to get the Americans through the next two rounds of qualifying and Bob Bradley is piling up the tough friendlies to get these players the experience they need.

What is the biggest cause for concern in my book? I would say the left wing position. DaMarcus Beasley isn’t likely to be around this summer as he continues recovering from major knee surgery so the onus was supposed to fall on Bobby Convey to pick up the slack. He was largely invisible on Wednesday night against Mexico, which was a bit disappointing considering he’s had some good efforts for Reading this season. Is he ready to be the guy come World Cup qualifying or will Bob Bradley have to call on veteran Eddie Lewis or an untested youngster like Brad Davis, Justin Mapp or Arturo Alvarez? Either way, this certainly makes you appreciate Beasley a LOT more.

Ultimately, we must always put things on context. If the ultimate goal is success in the World Cup then this period of time needs to be seen as a point during which quality prospects are developed. If there are growing pains then this is the time to have them. This year the U.S. team has World Cup qualifying against opponents that shouldn’t be a problem. Bob Bradley and US Soccer is balancing that out with a series of very tough friendlies this summer. The process should go a long way in helping the U.S. team identify which players will be major factors in 2009 and 2010.

As much as results are important, development is even more important, which is why I think some people lost the point of Wednesday night’s match. Yes, the rivalry means plenty to both teams, but the match meant just as much to Bradley’s evaluation of his roster. From that stand point, it was mission accomplished. Anyone complaining too loudly about the result is missing the ultimate point, which is to test his players and prepare them for when there is plenty more on the line.

Here is a question for you. What one development from Wednesday night’s match, either good or bad, stood out for you? Share your thoughts below.


  1. Altidore had a nice goal and clearly provides the arial presence we’ve missed since the retirement of McBride. Donovan and Adu running at players with Altidore playing as a traditional center forward is a tantalizing possibility. But I thought in the first half particularly, his work rate was not great (Dempsey was pressuring their backs much more, and since Altidore is young and presumably fit, one expects more in this area). Altidore certainly has the potential, but it is way to early to tell.
    Bradley has a high work rate, but still commits some stupid fouls. I think his passing has generally gotten much better and he deals very well with the ball under pressure.
    Moor was beaten on two plays for goals, but those were tough plays that credit Mexico’s finishing more than Moor’s lack of defending. As someone else pointed out, Moor was covering for Corrales on one of the goals and had the difficult task of trying to clear a ball curving in low to the back post, which is exceedingly difficult to defend. Likewise, the second goal was off of a deflection; I think Moor had slowed his covering run to deal with the possibility of the ball straight through, but the deflection put the Mexican player closer to goal than he was. Not to say that at this level, a defender should not be able to deal with those cases, nor do I think he’s going to be the starting back, but he was not a disaster, and shouldn’t be blamed our failure to win. Mexico possessed the ball much better than we did, and deserved a tie.
    The refereeing, on the other hand, I thought was not particularly good. I though Gooch in particular was penalized unfairly for being big and strong; players seemed to run into him and go down, and pick up fouls. Likewise, Altidore also called for fouls that I thought were more due to his size and the Mexican proclivity to go down easily. An example of a player gaming the referee was when Altidore turned on Marquez and was moving past him; on the turn, Altidor accidently knicked the back of Marquez’ leg, but not enough to trip him. Marquez realized he was beaten (and Altidor was going in on goal, though from distance), so Marquez went down and got the foul (in the ref’s defense on that one, that’s tough not to call because there was some contact, but that was an example of Marquez’ experience bailing him out).
    In terms of left sided midfielders, in Beasley’s absence, and Bornstein ever played midfield? I was very impressed with his speed and offensive capabilities at left back; if he moved up to midfield, he’d clearly have the ability to defend and maybe could develop those offensive capabilities even more.

  2. Enrique: We’ll see what’s what next time we play El Tri. Gio and Vela, as well as Guardado and Nery are very talented footballers, but we ain’t any pushovers, no matter how “boring” the USMNT may seem to you. The more our young players get over to Europe and get 1st team football, the better the rivalry. Even with our weaknesses, they only came away with a tie.

    So no, I ain’t worried, Enrique.

  3. A few things really stuck out:

    Central defense was pretty good and Gooch inparticular played really well. It’s been awhile.

    Our depth at fullback does not include Corrales or Moor.

    A CAM is really needed and if Feilhaber doesn’t start playing at his club this will be a problem. When he came on the whole tone was better.

    It’s too early to crucify Convey.

  4. ——-Altidore——-



    This is what I would like to see in the not to distant future.
    Donovan would play a more traditional CAM role, Adu roams as he pleases. I’d also like to see Dempsey and Donovan switching positions at times.

    The biggest disappointment about the game and our play in general of late: lack of possession and a fluid passing game.

    I would like us to win AND look good doing it.

  5. Donovan looked very dangerous when he was running at the defense from the right flank. He is slighty more dangerous looking than Dempsey when he does this. Those two need to switch off throughout the game.

    Donovan should not take any dead balls. Adu, Eddie Lewis or just about anyone else is preferable.

    Convey was anonymous but how much of that was due to his lack of confidence in Corrales who did not play well behind him.

    Altidore scored a McBride type goal which is only fitting

    Mexico’s European contingent is making El Tri dramatically better.

    I’ve never seen Howard so wound up.

    Who knew that we would be screaming for Frankie Hejduk’s return?

  6. mctavish:

    You said: “Shalrie Joseph would settle down and straighten out the midfield.”

    I am sure he has done this many times for Grenada.

  7. Softly spoken, Ives!

    Coach Bradley needs to step up or step down.

    Player choices. Shalrie Joseph would settle down and straighten out the midfield. Landon on top.

    Consistently, consistently, three US defenders closing down an attacker with no one marking the outside green wing. Easy to read. Think it through!

    Dempsey shut down after the offside call. Tough players need a tough coach to call them on their stuff. He should have come back from that.

  8. I have always thought right from the beginning that Landon Donovan would be a great creative midfielder. I remember watching him in his early days with the Quakes and thinking “Wow! This guy will be the best creative midfielder we have ever had by far.”.

    Fast forward to today, and it’s really disappointing. Notice all of the passionate posts about how Landon is great or Landon is way overrated? “He had a great game.” “No, he sucked.” I think nearly all of us agree that he is great by American standards, but I think the hostility or harsh comments come from being disappointed about how good he could have been, and at the hype that is sometimes not deserved. It’s Landon’s life and nobody can tell him how to live it, but I think the vast majority of soccer fans wish he hadn’t copped out as far as being the best he could be. It should have been a no brainer to go to Europe (and stay there) to achieve his highest level, but he didn’t. I would also have thought that he would know better than anyone what his best position should be. He clearly doesn’t. I think it was only out of desperation that Landon was ever used as a forward. I know people are going to come back at me and say that he is our all time leading scorer, and will be by far, but just take a look at all of the chances he’s had and missed. He may be our best option for a forward, but I think his greatest potential would have been as a creative midfielder, where he could still score some goals, but add much more value to the team overall. I heard somewhere that Landon now wants to be used as a forward only. If this is true, I think that his ego is getting the better of him, and it is yet another poor decision dictated by him having to be the glory guy. It now looks like he will just be shuffled around and never be settled in one position for the rest of his career. What good is he as a wide midfielder if he’s not even a good crosser of the ball? His place kicks suck most of the time. It seems like everybody listens to what Landon wants too much. “I want to be a forward.” You got it. “I want to take all of the place kicks.” You got it. Remember how he grudgingly let Beckham take corner kicks? Like there was some doubt as to who was better at it. This is not a Landon bashing post. I like Landon Donovan. I just wish he had made some better decisions and that his coaches would use him to the best of his talents. Maybe he would stop disappearing in games if he settled at one position. He can hold the ball, he’s a great passer with vision, he’ll score on you if you give him too much of a chance. Am I the only one who thinks Landon Donovan should have been the creative midfielder?

  9. Maybe I’m being a complainer but I expected a lot better from the U.S. Michael “goal machine” Bradley picked up a yellow. Aside from that I thought he was pretty anonymous. I expected him to dictate our play. The defense was at times comically unorganized. Is that Timmy’s fault? Is it because the fullbacks are inexperienced? Am I the only guy who thinks Landon Donovan is a bit overrated on a stage higher than MLS? Despite Benny not playing often for Derby I thought he provided just what we needed (albeit briefly). We are supposed to be the kings of CONCACAF right now. We didn’t look it. We should be able to string some passes together to calm Mexico’s attack. I think we should expect more. It’s only a friendly, I know . I just thought we progressed past the point of holding on for draws against Mexico on our home soil.

  10. I have a question and comment for the U.S fans.

    honestly, i was not impressed by the U.S team. They played a borring brand of soccer. They stayed back and only attacked when errors were commited. Granted it was effective, as they scored on 2/3 opportunities. They have some young talent but how do they compare to Mexico’s young talent.

    Read this article and let me know what you think.,1,6625234.story

  11. Plus: Altidore’s calm.
    Negative: Convey looking ineffective. Also Clark’s poor distribution and lack of holding ability. (That is my biggest concern.)
    Surprise: Just how much the midfeild settled after Benny came on.

    (Not going to bother addressing guys who have no chance of playing in 2010.)

    My current favorite (all healthy) line up is 4-3-3:

    Adu — Altidore — Dempsy
    Beasley- Bradley — Donovan
    Spector-Boca-Gooch — Dolo

    I think this gets our best talent ont he field. I think that Beasley and Donovan have proven their ability to get back and defend. I also think this will allow for a lot of creative switch with Adu, Beasley, Dempsey, Donovan that will be able to take advantage of defensive weaknesses.

  12. We need Wynne to hurry up and devlop to deal w Guardado. Plus one of our young burners like Jeremiah white or Davies to develop. If EJ matures and develops partnering him with Altidore will give any country fits.

  13. the goals were great, but everything in between did not go well. the first half was good, but our central midfield didn’t play well and we couldn’t connect to the forwards. Some of that blame belongs to the forwards. Rico was all over the place, in a bad way. he needs to sit and cover. Michael needs to be roaming and getting in the attack, the problem was rico kept playing out of position. then bradley started doing too much and also bauptista played really well and played bettern than our center mids. One thing I do see improvement in is our sick quick passing. we really know how to play on the ground when we want to. Good things continue to emerge for us. I’m so excited.

  14. I have to say, I was very disappointed with several US players against Mexico. Why, Corrales was even in the game, let alone for 90 minutes, is disturbing to me. If we don’t have at least 2-3 additional players that are closer to getting minutes than Corrales, we are in trouble. Basically, we wasted valuable minutes of experience that someone who has a real shot of being on the 2010 team should have had. And the same is true for Moor and Convey. As far as Dempsey goes, we are not a team that can survive with 90% uninspired play followed by a few flashes of brilliance. We need someone up front with Jozy that has a workrate similiar to McBride’s or for that matter the mexican attackers. I thought Landon played ok and the defense, with the exception of defending set plays, played well.

  15. mexicanbluefish,

    Who were the commentators & on which network.

    Bradley jr is an energetic midfielder – just not much of a playmaker (not yet anyway).

  16. You mention the problem at left midfield. I have been watching Convey since his u17 days. I have very rarely seen anything to get excited about (let’s face it, he was a very average MLS player at best). Justin Mapp on the other hand has shown the ability to take games over at the MLS level. I feel tht Mapp is a young man who should be in some of these big games so he can get the experience needed to be a mainstay for the US Team. Beasley has a tremendous work rate and can do some great things in attack (although his attacking prowess were lacking in Germany); however, Mapp is the kind of player US Soccer needs…the player who can beat the first defender at will. If you have Mapp on the left side, Dempsey on the right side and Donovan as the attacking CM to complement Bradley as a holding player, I think this is a midfield that can cause problems for the opponent.

  17. I’m still not sold on bocagooch yet. I’m not sure why so many people are singing their praises. I thought they both played well, for them. But for a standard CB tandem at the international level, they are below par. I know it was Moor’s mark, but check the replay on that first goal, there are 3 open men inside the six.

    I’ve never liked gooch but always been a Boca fan. Now I’m beginning to see them as level. Not sure whether gooch has risen or boca’s declined though, prolly a bit of both. I’ll be the first to admit I’m wrong if these guys step it up and get it done, but we will do nothing in South Africa if that’s who we’re relying on.

  18. Ives is a lot more sanguine about the central midfield than I am. Bradley and Clark played well defensively, but we really lack a central midfielder who can control the ball. The attack just isn’t fluid enough without a good attacking midfielder, and despite that the central midfielders all seem to be good defenders, I think the lack of ability to hold on to the ball will come back to haunt us against teams that can do it well, like Mexico.

  19. Amen Bluefish!

    Also, I loved the concentration of Howard, keeping his eye on the ball after dropping it while rolling over Bocanegra. Slow mo replay showed it perfectly.

  20. A little off the general train…but what stood out for me what the relative “friendliness” of the match. Yes there were some nasty fouls- to be exoected- but (having watched the Univision feed) I saw a LOT more handshaking and fellowship- as well as jersey swapping. That’s what a friendly should be: hard fighting on the pitch, but respect after the match.

  21. HERE IN MÉXICO while I was watching the game, the commentators were actually quite impressed with young Bradley…the comment they repeatedly made was “he’s everywhere!”

  22. Unfortunately, the fact is that Landon is still our most skilled/dangerous player (understanding that some might think that Clint is just as skilled) – now if we could just inject Landon with a little more ‘heart’.

    I am hoping that in a year or so, I will be able to say the Jozy is our most skilled/dangerous player.

  23. Pat and I see it like this — rough depth chart following 2/6 performances:

    gk: Howard (Guzan. Keller. Hahnemann.)

    lb: Spector (Pearce. Bornstein. Randolph.)
    cb: Bocanegra (Parkhurst. Robinson. Califf.)
    cb: Onyewu (DeMerit. Conrad. Goodson.)
    rb: Cherundolo (Simek. Hejduk. Moor. Wynne.)

    lm: Beasley (Convey. Holden. Alvarez. Davis. Lewis. Mapp.)
    cm: Bradley (Edu. Clark. Mastroeni.)
    cm: Feilhaber (Klejstan. Szetela. Beckerman.)
    rm: Donovan (Rogers. White. Olsen. Zizzo. Nguyen.)

    f: Dempsey (Adu. Johnson. Findley.)
    f: Altidore (Ching. Twellman. Davies.)

    Personally, Pat and I are both fans of Mr. Edu. We think he is a well-rounded versatile player who is just outside the current top 11 (if everyone were healthy). So, if it is an important game (WCQ), why not plug him in wherever we have an injury? I.e., until DMB returns, we suggest Mo for the left side of midfield (or the right with Natalie Portman switching over to the left). Nowak has been looking at Mo as a CB, too (which attests to his versatility). So, if we had a WCQ tomorrow:


  24. let me reiterate, landon donovan cannot play on the wing. he’s been ineffective in that position every time he’s played it, and hes just too important for the US to not have a good game each time.

  25. Good summary Ives to put things into perspective. While Mexico players are Europe or domestic leagues are mainly in mid season mode, four or five of the US players on the field were in pre-season mode and with the exception of Altidore it showed.

    We do need to temper our expectations in these early games. The good news is that we continue to give valuable big game exposure to our young team and this will help as we get into the qualifying process. Remember as well as striving to qualify for the WC in 2008 / 2009, Bradley is trying to build a squad that peaks in 2010.

    At this time, I feel we are making acceptable progress.

  26. Revelations you say? Tim Howard is really good. I really wanted to see some more Guzan because I think he’s definitely the real deal, but Howard definitely impressed. Nobody likes to talk about what Landon did (or didn’t do . . .) and that really bugs me. We can talk about the quietness of Bobby Convey, but no one is willing to talk about the silence on the right side. I wonder when Freddy will get to play more than 20 minutes in any match of any type for any team . . . I really was hoping for more time with him. I think he’s just as ready as Jozy. He certainly has the confidence and the mids could definitely use some flair.

  27. I am not yet willing to call Bradley jr a capable, international mid fielder. Even more worisome, looking at our current pool of players, I don’t see anyone that can maintain position and make useful passes forward.
    But I am delighted with our keeper!

  28. Like Deuce up front – great individual effort on the “non-goal”

    Like LD at right wing, it plays to his strengths – speed and work rate

    Officiating? Is it just me or Jozy never gets the benefit of the doubt for club or country? Curse of being the big man

  29. I want to toss in my vote for a look at Stuart Holden as a back-up winger. I would have been VERY interested if he could have been inserted for Convey instead of Lewis. Holden seems to have better discipline and a more complete game than exciting guys like Mapp and Alverez, who also create excitement with bad turnovers. Bummer he was a late injury scratch.

    I’m also with whoever brought up Kenny Cooper. It seems like BB has thrown out a lot of newbies at positions where we have a lot of cover, but at forward he keeps going to the same old (except of course, for integrating Jozy).

  30. I agree with Frank from a few comments above: the real eye-opener for me is how bright the future looks for our neighbors to the south. Vela and Dos Santos are so crazy skilled. We don’t have any comparable prospects, really. Although I’d disagree with the idea that their best player could ever be anyone other than Marquez. He looked to be going half speed for most of the game, but was clearly all class. The way he played the ball out of the back was just beautiful. This rivalry is only going to get tougher for us going forward.

    As for the U.S., I’m with everyone else that’s man-crushing on Jozy. Screw perspective. We’ve been waiting for a true goal-scoring threat for so long, how can we not get carried away a bit?

  31. Now wait a minute — Drew Moor is taking flack unfairly for Ramiro Corrales’ mistakes. On BOTH goals, Corrales’ man scored, and Moor looked to have been in the wrong position because he was scrambling to cover for his teammate. Watch a replay of the last goal — Corrales starts the play marking the man, side by side, then STANDS STILL as he makes the run to goal. Moor was actually pretty good (and I can confirm after watching US-Sweden from the first row, quite athletic), though he needs work on his one-on-one defending.

  32. I’ve never been a big LD fan, but I have to agree with smokarz, this match showed – again – that the Landon on the right wing is the surest USMNT position. So I think the 4-2-3-1 that people are touting makes sense with Donovan wide right.

    Building for the long term, say Mexico cup qualifiers, in that formation I’d like to see Adu starting either on the left wing or in the center behind Jozy. That should be Coach Bob’s next experiment. Also, given the speed of Castillo and Dos Santos could be reaking havoc on us down the right for years to come. What about this lineup when the DMB returns:


  33. The game was a lot of fun to watch and satisfied all of my pre game anticipation, but there was probably not too much to get too high or low about. You cannot read too much into one game, a few games, or a small timeframe. This is definitely a marathon for the USMNT. That said, after watching this game I still believe the following to be true…

    The USMNT has depth at every position, but at many of these positions (other than keeper, right back, and center back) the depth is really a bunch of interchangeable parts without a clear standout. I think Landon, when on his game, is clearly the midfield standout, but is being played out of position. I also believe that Jozy has a chance to become a standout at striker, but that will come over time.

    The USMNT continues to lack a strong attacking midfielder who can control the attack and settle the game. The USMNT has few wing players (Eddie Lewis, sometimes Bobby Convey) who can serve a good cross into the forwards (The best cross came from Drew Moor. Did anybody think this was very similar to his cross last summer in the Copa America?) At the same time the USMNT still has trouble moving the ball on the ground in offensive, attacking combinations for more than a pass or two. The USMNT is missing reliable, consistent forwards who can finish the chances given them and who can periodically create their own chances. Jozy may develop into this type of player.

    The combination of interchangeable parts and developing, unfinished talent leads to players being asked to play out of position in an attempt to get the best available on the field based on injury, fitness, form, opponent, and experiment. (As an aside, I wish that the USMNT tried to get more complete skillsets on the field or a better mixture of skillsets on the field rather than trying to get certain players on the field. I realize that development of these skills takes time.) This can lead to games full of midfield pinball that lack flow in one off games (games without an extended camp) like the Mexico game and the qualifiers. This is a recipe that makes a cohesive attack difficult due to unfamiliarity with your position, players around you, roles, resposibilities, etc. This can lead to the sum value being less than the value of the individual parts. And finally, all of this put together is what makes one off qualifier games against highly motivated CONCACAF minnows real battles even though the talent pool available to the USMNT continues to improve rapidly.

  34. Fullback’s weren’t great – but they don’t deserve all the blame. The defensive midfield was nonexistent. Mexico seemed to have little trouble transitioning from their half to the attack. But this will come in time as we form a more cohesive midfield.

    Very fun game, and yes, this will be one of our best teams ever come 2010.

  35. I was fairly disappointed with Adu. He had looked better since leaving RSL (most likely due to the fact that he is now trying), but in this game he looked just like he did here in Salt Lake. Getting pushed off the ball, trying too many tricks and turning it over, blah blah blah. However, the worst thing was him taking that corner. If I never see Freddy Adu take another corner kick it’ll be too soon. He never once found a teammate while taking all the corners in Salt Lake and his corner in this game was directly into a crowd with 3 Mexican players and 0 US players. Bradley needs to tell Adu he is not allowed to take them anymore.
    On the plus side, Altidore looked very good and if Dempsey can hit shots like the disallowed goal on a regular basis, our attack will be very strong.

  36. If Alvarez deserves a look at left wing, Holden surely does also. I’d prefer to see him cap tied before he goes off to Europe in when his contract expires with the Dynamo.

  37. One thing that stood out for me was what a disappointment Convey was. He’s had good efforts with Reading, and was one of our more heralded players in the last few years. What happened??

    Back line communication was bad. It didn’t seem as though Howard was able to get his walls positioned properly, nor communicate well when he had to come off his line. That must improve.

    Lastly, I think Adu needs to see more time, not necessarily start, but just get some more minutes. Some complained that he was not effective. Well, it’s hard to be when you come in during the last 15-20 minutes of a game. I think he’s the kind of player that needs 30+ minutes to really get in the flow of the game and be a threat.

  38. One thing no one has mentioned yet that was of note on Wednesday night (and in prior matches as well) is Donovan’s ineffectiveness on set plays. His services were abysmal. I was surprised/disappointed that LD took the kick over Adu after Adu was fouled late in the match near the corner of the box. These are crucial scoring opportunities that are for the most part thrown away with worthless services from LD.

  39. I don’t think this team is anywhere near what the 2010 roster will be, so I really have no need to worry about the long term effects of this friendly aside from a good experience for some of the younger guys.

    I think there will be others to emerge for spots the US were poor at. It is a shame Bradley wasn’t able to bring in DeMerit, Simek, Spektor, Szetela, and even Eddie Johnson for it, but I don’t really think it is time to pretty the panic button on things.

  40. The referees were frustrating, he seemed to call way too many fouls, and beside my bias it was definitely too many on the U.S. Did anyone else see that?
    Yes, we will find central midfielders before the big games….no worries…
    Personally, I enjoy watching a team come together, I think the finished product in 2010 will be one of the best the U.S.A. has ever presented at a cup. They will be brilliant.


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