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Pearce shines in first start since 2009 Gold Cup

Heath Pearce 1 (ISIphotos)

photo by ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

Heath Pearce looked to be the solution to the U.S. national team's problematic left back situation in 2008, but that was before a drop in form saw him fall out of favor with head coach Bob Bradley last year. That demotion looks to have lit a spark under Pearce, who enjoyed one of his finer performances in recent memory in the U.S.'s 2-1 victory over El Salvador.

Pearce had not started (nor played in a match) at the international level since the 2009 Gold Cup final, but that did not stop him from being one of the top U.S. players at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Wednesday night. Throughout the game, the FC Dallas defender, who earned a surprise start with usual left back Jonathan Bornstein playing centrally, showed glimpses of why he was once considered an automatic starter.

Defensively, Pearce was solid and his positioning was good, although, to be fair, El Salvador's right side looked to be one of the team's many weaknesses on the night. 

On the offensive side, Pearce connected with most of his passes, got forward well and even showed off some moves when he juked defender Alexander Escobar in the first half. Pearce also provided a few dangerous crosses, including one which Brian Ching thundered home with a diving header in the 75th minute to pull the score level at 1-1.

"Heath played a couple good balls [tonight]," said Ching. "I knew he was going to get the ball across so I just tried to put myself in a good position"

Pearce wasn't as convinced by the cross when it left his foot.

"When I crossed it to him, when I looked up I thought it that it had hit the outside of the side netting, so I didn't know it went in until he started celebrating," said Pearce. "It was a relief."

A bigger relief for the United States was Sacha Kljestan's 92nd minute goal, which gave the hosts a 2-1 victory in front of the 21,737 fans in attendance, and ended a four game winless streak.

"We have had a rough stretch as a group here in terms of our recent results with the national team," said Pearce. "So it is nice to get a win."

The win will surely be even nicer for Pearce if it ends up being the game which put him back in contention for a World Cup spot.

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What did you think of Pearce's performance? What are the odds he makes the World Cup team? Hoping to see him called up against the Netherlands?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. I thought what Pearce did very well, better than what we have had out of the defense was attack…he was aggressive and showed some very nice foot skill on a dangerous cross in the first half.

    Yes this was against El Salvador, but he didn’t just sit back. To me he offered a much more dangerous option than either Bocanegra or Bornstein provide.

    That being said Bocanegra is the captain and Bob Bradley drafted Bornstein into MLS. It’s going to take something extraordinary from Pearce to make Bradley swallow his pride and replace his choices on the field.
    Bocanegra has looked poor, really lacking any quickness, in the last couple of games I saw him play for Rennes. Spector is definitely quicker than Bocanegra and is positionally a smarter player than Bornstein.

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  2. Uhm, all you Haters of Pearce, go back and look at the tape of USA-Mexico in Columbus last year.

    The lad can play in big games against big opponents.

    As for the Gold Cup final, who DIDN’T have a bad game that day?

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  3. I think this is right on…surprised about Goodson. Maybe leave out Goodson and only take 7, with the versatility of this team that is 3 left backs, 4 center backs, and 2 right backs. Maybe because Spector and Dolo have had some injury problems in the past, bring a 3rd right back like Hejduk just in case…

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  4. Ummmm….when Robben is healthy he destroys defenders ….period. If not for being injury prone, he would be considered one of the best players in the world…even with the injuries he is. We can only hope to slow him a little and hopefully force him to give up the ball.

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  5. I am an enthusiastic supporter if you can’t tell. Glad to hear you believe in the U.S.A. to win!

    I do think you are underestimating the U.S. and overestimating England. England has won 1 World Cup, and doesn’t have a stellar history in their appearances.

    I believe we have a fairly strong defense starting with our keeper. Tim Howard is a world class keeper. I believe Spector, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Demeritt, Bocanegra, and Bornstein to all be solid big game defenders, which is plenty to pick from and have subs.

    Our attacking players are not bad also, as I have noted above. Donovan is on a tear in the EPL. Altidore has shown amazing skill, power, and guile whenever he is able to get on the end of a pass, Dempsey was Fulham’s top provider of goals as a midfielder before his injury, and we all know what Davies and Beasley are capable of if they are able to get back onto the team. Then young standouts like Torres and Adu may be able to rise to the occasion.

    I truly do believe this might be the best team we have ever taken to a World Cup, though the world doesn’t know it yet (surprise)! Our starters are just kind of seeping into the foreign leagues and are quietly doing their thang, being successful.

    Now England is having all sorts of problems. Terry is sleeping with a teamates wife. Lost the captaincy 4 months before July. Ferdinand is out hurt. Ashley Cole is out hurt. Bridge won’t show up. And not even Ashley Cole had an answer for Donovan. This should make the English a bit nervous. They usually go in with high expectations, and they have much more pressure than the Americans. The entire weight of the country is on their backs, and they won’t to prove they belong in the top teams of the world like they act…

    The U.S. doesn’t have that kind of pressure…just the pressure they put on themselves and their American pride.

    Also England have been awfully slow starters in the past few world cups, which can bode well for us in that first game.

    I am overly zealous in declaring that we are going to whip them, but realistically we have a very good chance of taking a win from this game (an even better chance because England doesn’t know it).

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  6. Great questions….I choose to answer the most import one…El Salvador’s goal keeper was well prepared for a cold winter in Central America.

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  7. “He does not offer any other dimension to the attack, like overlapping with his winger and providing service from the end line, or a long range shot.”

    Lulz. Really? Like LAST NIGHT, where he overlapped the winger, and served a cross into Brian Ching for a goal?

    And I seem to recall him letting loose more than one powerful shot from distance in prior US games. Didn’t he crack the post against Argentina?

    Which Heath Pearce are YOU talking about? Is there another?

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  8. Actually, Pearce HAS played well against a strong side. Back in 2008, Pearce was one of the better players against Spain and Argentina, especially against Argentina, where he put forth a world class effort with Sergio Aguero and Burdisso on his side of the field. No small task by any means. Meanwhile, Carlos Bocanegra and Jonathan Bornstein had a tough time handling Maicon and Ramires on their flank, although to be fair, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey were both a tad guilty of not helping nuetralize that flank, while Pearce had Beasley for help. At the same time, Pearce looked good offensively. I think that Pearce is someone who has great vision, footwork, crossing and pace. I think if he were to get playing time overseas, he could be a LOT better.

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  9. Rory, I’m guessing from previous posts that you’re a teacher. Aren’t teachers supposed to lean toward optimism? Never is a long time. I don’t know if that’s grammatically correct, but you get the idea. 🙂

    Maybe these guys won’t win it, but I enjoy trying to figure out who makes the team, and why, and then getting psyched for the Finals.

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  10. Late in the game with the U.S. being dismantled. He really didn’t get a chance to touch the ball either. Bradley probably hasn’t called him back into camp because he is currently playing for his club. I would like to see more, but I just don’t think he is going to get the call for Netherlands.

    Bradley drafted Bornstein …he is going to S.A.

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  11. oh and i actually thought Evans did well at right back put aside the header back to Rimando, BUT remember it was very wet and that sort of stuff happens…..he should have just cleared it knowing that

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  12. I went to game last night and we had close to 22 thousand on a wednesday night when it was raining with OUR C TEAM, before when US played Ecuador we had close to 32 thousand……somebody tell me why my hometown Tampa Bay isnt a candidate for an MLS team(and i know we get the Rowdies in USL, but i live on the other coast now and will only be willing to travel for atleast decent big name players)???

    btw, thought Ching was superb when he came on and might have just hopped above every other forward besides altidore for a WC spot…..also thought Pearce, Bornstein was a strong LCB/LB pairing in defense….while i thought Davis and Gaven both showed better than Rogers

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  13. Robben will destroy Bornstein. He has speed and trickery – two qualities Bornstein has not learned how to handle because MLS can’t offer it like Europe.

    I would rather see Castillo out there because he can match him for speed thus he can recover if Robben gets behind him. With Bornstein or Boca they isn’t a chance in hell they can make it back. As Holland likes to play with a 4-3-3, you can’t afford to always have a CB commit to cover your butt.

    It has to be Castillo or Spector.

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  14. They were bad and it’s easy to dismiss a player for playing well against a bad team but no one stood out like Pearce did. Evans on the right looked terrible, the wingers weren’t producing, strikers looked shot (save Ching) and nothing was coming out of the middle but deflections – Pearce stood out against a bad team but he was the only one and that says something. He gets to “move up a level.”

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  15. Castillo has only been to one camp. And has only seen the pitch for a few minutes with the team. I’m not sure he has a spot on the roster. If he doesn’t get a call up for the game against the Dutch…I’m pretty much ruling him out. My defensive pics for SA:

    Cherundolo, Spector, Onyewu, Demerit, Bacanegra, Bornstein, Pearce, Goodson

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  16. Hey Wrong….How well did the rest of the players play in those Gold Cup Matches??? Why pick on Pearce…Thats all I am saying!

    I still think it has a lot to do with saving a spot for Bornstein….

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  17. Strider, read Ives account (Fox Soccer web site) of the ES goal last night…Even though Evans made the initial screw-up and Goodson was trying to cover for him…it was Bornstein that ran under Goodson and made it difficult to clear the ball. And, look at the goal from Hondurus match and see that the goal scored by Hondurus went right by Bornstein at the top of 6 yd box…And, how can we forget the inability of Bornstein to keep up with the wing strikers in almost all of the earlier games….. Go back and replay all those goals…you will start to see the same pattern I have seen….

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  18. I would not read too much into the game last night, since it was a half inspired EL Salvador team, but at least it was a positive step for Pearce. Lets see how he does against Holland. The options at left back have been weak, but we need to have two players for that position.

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  19. Or lack of…

    Good for Pierce though, in far contrast to Rogers, who saw his name in lights, and ended up breaking them with his selfish shot…

    I’d take Pierce who’s been there at the top level over Bornstein who is inconsistent outside of this region. I’d rather see spector shift left before borstein gets a shot.

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  20. Well, whoever “the answer” is, I think in SA our LB options are going to be Bocanegra, Bornstein, and Pearce. Spector plays out of position at West Ham, and will get burned by fast forwards at the WC if we put him on the left. Spector will start at RB, maybe Cherundolo.

    I’m more concerned about the forward position, where we are alarmingly thin. After Altidore, there’s nobody that jumps out as a no-brainer to go. I also feel it’s wishful thinking that Davies will be back in form by June, despite the fact that his rehab is going well. So…who ya’ gonna take to SA as a forward option??? Ching? Casey? Cooper? Findley? EJ? Cunningham? Adu? Get my point? None of them really are great, though Adu has had a run of good form at Aris. I’d like to see Adu get a look against the Netherlands.

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  21. With Gooch hurt, perhaps we’ll get a shot at seeing 45 minutes of both Bornstein and Pearce at left back against the Neatherlands. Isn’t their right wing Robben? That would bring out their quality.

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  22. beckerman looked better becuase it was el salvador…..he is not fast enough or skilled enough to hang with a stronger opponent..his play should have been on par with ching and pearce to be considered raising his stock

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  23. jozy’s lack of scoring has more to do with the hull midfield than jozy’s lack of ability…with a better midfield, he would have 5-7 goals……

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  24. I support the US too buddy, so calm down, but I also follow england pretty closly too. So maybe I over rate them. I can’t fault your support, only that you seem

    to be ignoring signs of concern. Our defense is ok at best and we give away the ball far to often to get any consistent sort of service. So in June I will cheering for the US but I can’t blindly expect things. I can hope and believe in a win, I just can’t expect a win.

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  25. Panizo, is this article based on wishful thinking? Im sorry if it might sound like im trying to disrespect you and your article but it is not what most of us saw. This January and February camps have been a big failure, the only thing that has come out of this whole journey its the fact that our country pool depth is non-existant. Everyone game was horrendous the only reason why some players looked ok was because El Salvador har a horrendous game and it made us look better than what we were. The only person who will be taken to SA will be Ching only because we need that target striker figure. Sasha is not an option, one goal means nothing everyone seems to say that he is locked on the roster but if it is based on goals and not in consitancy than bring EJ and Freddy Adu. Bring on Bedoya, give Torres a chance those kids are skilled but bradley has given Sasha a priority over those two players before and it did not pay off.

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  26. I’d like to see:

    ————-Howard————–
    Spector–DeMerit-Boca—Castillo
    ————–Edu—————
    Holden–Bradley-Torres—-Donovan
    ————–Jozy————–

    We just don’t have the talent to go 4-4-2 at the moment. With three middle midfielders we hopefully bring composure to a section of the field we generally get dominated in. Edu brings a combative nature, Torres controls tempo, and Bradley makes things happen.

    Holden and Donovan are capable of attacking from the wings and hopefully Jozy gets support from them and Bradley.

    Spector can hold his own, Boca and DeMerit are the best fit centerbacks. Howard picks himself.

    Leaves us Castillo. Last big opportunity to see what he can do. We know Bornstein would get smashed by Robben, we don’t know how Castillo would do. If we’re going to trek him around Europe, let’s give him a chance. He has the speed to keep up and we’re testing him to see if he has the intelligence.

    My other wild card is if we go 4-4-2, we see Johnson starting alongside Jozy and Torres dropped (Bob for some reason doesn’t like him).

    My subs (that I want to see): Goodson, Johnson, Adu, Pearce, Simek, and Beasley.

    Will probably see: Ching, Clark, and Bornstein.

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  27. As a fan of the USMNT I can never be “too optimistic.” I can understand how it is not likely for the U.S.A. to win. I can understand that our players are not paid as much as theres. I can understand how They have proven themselves more than ours (Wayne Rooneys EPL goal count vs Altidores). I can understand that pundits and fans of England will say we will lose.

    However, I believe we will win. A fan can never be “too optimistic.” I understand you are English fans, and that is okay, SBI does not discriminate, but my USMNT will smoke them. Altidore hasn’t had the time in the EPL to score many goals yet. Also the service at Hull is not the same as Man United’s. Statistically, he does not rate with Rooney, however I think that England fans will underestimate Altidore at their own peril. Donovan, Torres, Spector, Dempsey, Ching, Bradley Cherundolo all provide spectacular service.

    Peter, why should I be a little more “level headed?” Are you saying I should not cheer for my team? Or are you saying I should “admit” we are going to lose? Or are you saying I should cheer against my team?

    Football is a game played on one day and the better team on that day can win. We can be that team. I believe we are going to be that team, but again, not everyone can be a fan of the USMNT on this blog.

    Were “so called fans like you” passionately cheering on the U.S.A. when we defeated Spain in the Confederations Cup last year? Wow, you guys are true fans…You didn’t even have to watch the game, because to think we could win was “too optimistic.” So you could just be sure we would lose and move on right?

    Underdogs win games all the time, and it is always due to more passion in the game. U.S. v Canada the other night. The giants v the pats a few super bowls ago. It happens. I cheer for my team. I am a fan.

    I’ll be watching and enjoying the U.S.A. play England in the first round of the World Cup…I guess you will be mowing your lawn since you already know the outcome.

    GO U.S.A!

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  28. Agreed. But we have to be ready for injuries . . . there’s a good chance that either Bornstein or Pearce will see the field at some point in SA. And one of them will definitely see the field in March, since Dolo is still out.

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  29. But compare Castillo’s form for club and Bornstein’s, Castillo runs all over Bornstein. Bornstein was a stopgap option when we needed it (injuries to Boca and Spector, Castillo not an option, Pearce not getting playing time). Now that the “big” four options for leftback are back, Bornstein needs to step aside.

    Let’s break it down:
    Bornstein: Left back, hasn’t done well against major opponents as a CB. Weaknesses include poor positioning, poor dribbling, and poor crossing. Pros is that he has played for the US in that position for last year and is eager.

    Castillo: Left back and winged back by trade, can play as a winger. Cons – can’t play in the center, hasn’t played consecutively for the US, suspect at positioning. Pros – great at the attack, very fast, good dribbling and very good at connecting play with other players.

    Boca: Left back and centerback. Cons – too slow now, doesn’t offer much in attack, suspect season. Pros – captain of the team, versatile, although positioning has been off he is an intelligent player.

    Spector: Rightback, Centerback, and Leftback. Cons – Doesn’t have a proper left foot but manages well enough with left, limits his attack on the left, gets caught out by fast wingers. Pros – playing in the best league in the world which has seen his play rise considerably, super versatile, great crossing ability, confident, smart defender.

    Pearce: Leftback. Cons – Has had a really offish few years, hasn’t impressed in most games for national team. Pros – Back to playing with confidence, good dribbling, great crossing, fast enough, should get as much playing time for Dallas as need be to take off rust, doesn’t get caught out.

    Bornstein is just too average whereas the others offer something different: Boca=experience, Castillo=skill, Spector=versatile/very good sideback, Pearce=all-around very solid.

    In a WC you need versatility so Spector is in. Boca is our captain so he’s in. Castillo offers far more in attack so I would put him above Bornstein for those games where we need an attack minded, defensive player. The wild card is Pearce and the question is: Can he play at the top level. Time may be out for him and Bob won’t want to waste his time hoping for the best so he’ll bring Bornstein along because he knows what he gets.

    Knowing Bradley he takes: Castillo, Boca, Spector, and Bornstein. No room for 5 of them and although Pearce played exceptional, Bob isn’t a daring coach – he’s a predictable, play it safe coach so he takes what he knows (Castillo being the exception because we’ve seen what he offers in the Mexican league).

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  30. All the Haters of Pearces preformance last night against, and I will admit it, a poor El Salvador team is the confidence that he had. Passing it to himself around defenders, taking on defenders, putting in quality crosses. The fact is that he did these things and we have to recognize that he did. We cannot take a hat trick or a clean sheet off a player just because they played a shotty team now can we. He showed quality and confidence last night. Enough to get him a second look v the Netherland IMO. That being said at this point I think our best back four if all are healthy is Spector Demerit Gooch Dolo.

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  31. Alitore has one goal in the epl, apparently some people can contain him. Rooney has 23 goals in the epl. We should at least be a bit more level-headed about this don’t you think?

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  32. Remember this is the same defense that broke under Brazil’s pressure. The big difference is that Spain tried to attach through the middle and that played into Bob’s plan.

    Brazil on the other hand brought in Alves to play left wing in front of Maicon, and the constant attack from those two had that side of the defense backpedaling.

    Cheers

    Reply

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