The victory was as thorough as it was encouraging.
The U.S. men’s national team went in at halftime against Cuba leading 2-1 on Saturday night and probably should have been leading by much more. The Americans took full advantage of their dominance in the second half, picking apart the short-handed Cubans with sharp passing and quality finishing.
The veterans stepped up and the youngsters showed great promise, and most importantly, the U.S. team moved to 4-0 in this round of World Cup qualifying to secure its place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal with two games to spare.
There were plenty of positives from the match, and few negatives. Those of you who didn’t see it yet can check out my review of the match for ESPN.com.
Here are some observations from the match:
The 4-5-1 formation worked very well and created numerous chances in the first half and early second half. Having Landon Donovan playing behind Brian Ching and next to DaMarcus Beasley maximizes his ability to break down a defense.
Beasley looked very dangerous for the first time in a while and when he plays like that it opens things up for everybody. His speed, willingness to get in on goal and take shots gives the U.S. attack a valuable dynamic.
Brian Ching had a good game and while I know the clamoring for Jozy Altidore continues to grow, Ching showed why he gets the starts. He works well in the attack with Beasley, Donovan and company and the lone forward position is as much about working with your teammates as it is about being able to go at defenders. Altidore’s time is coming, nobody can dispute that, but Ching has brought value to the position.
Jozy Altidore did what he does, go right at defenders with his power-speed combination. It wouldn’t shock me if he led the U.S. team in scoring in the Hexagonal, but we do need to see him work within the framework of the attack, tracking back to receive balls and making good passes to teammates making runs. Once he develops these aspects of hs game to go along with his own dangerous runs at goal, Altidore will permantly takes control of the starting forward position.
Jose Francisco Torres sure looked like the real deal. Yes, it was mop-up duty against a Cuba team applying no pressure, but you can seen the skill and vision he possesses, as well as the confidence. Along with being an instant fan favorite for choosing the USA over Mexico, Torres should also put some pressure on Freddy Adu to step up his game because the two could be battling for minutes down the road.
The 4-3-2-1 formation the U.S. team used late in the Cuba game was effective but probably isn’t a practical formation to use against quality competition. It certainly has some attacking qualities, but a good team like Mexico would tear it apart. That said, it was still fun to watch.
DaMarcus Beasley’s move to left back late in the game was an interesting development. Heath Pearce has had his ups and downs in the past year but remains the top left back candidate. That said, Beasley is a viable option there if the team really needed him to play there. The 4-4-2 formation the U.S. team used briefly, with Beasley at left back, no real left winger, and three midfielders playing centrally, is an interesting variation.
Michael Bradley didn’t have his best game, particularly in the first half, but one thing we did see from him this game was more runs forward. He ran in on goal on two occasions where Donovan found him with perfect passes. Bradley missed both chances, but seeing him show the attacking quality that helped him flourish in the Dutch league last year is promising.
That’s all for now. I will discuss the match, and Wednesday’s match vs. Trinidad & Tobago on Monday. For now, give me your take on the following questions:
Feel free to share your thoughts on Saturday’s USA win vs. Cuba in the comments section below.