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Netherlands 2, USA 1: A Look Back

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There was plenty of ugliness, but some promising moments for the U.S. national team in its 2-1 loss to the Netherlands.

The Dutch midfield dominated, its wingers showed up great speed and moves and the Americans struggled to find many of their own chances in the first half.

Why was any of this a surprise?

Did people forget who the United States was playing? Did people think it would be a team of imposters posing as the same Dutch team that finished unbeaten in World Cup qualifying and is currently No. 3 in the world?

There was nothing surprising about the Netherlands' control of most of the match. What was surprising was how certainly American players responded, both positively and negatively. You may have already seen my rundown of the winners and losers from Wednesday's night match. Here are some more observations from Wednesday night.


Maurice Edu looked very steady in the second half playing as a deep-lying midfielder. He played with confidence on the ball and is going to make Bob Bradley's decision a tough one when Bradley picks his central midfielders for South Africa. You basically have four players vying for three spots, with Edu, Ricardo Clark, Jose Torres and Benny Feilhaber all battling.


I noticed some comments critical of Jozy Altidore. I realize he didn't score on Wednesday but if people can't see the improvements he has made I'm not sure what else to say. He went up against a strong pair of centerbacks and won some dangerous free kicks, made some nice moves, dished off some quality passes and hit one nice shot late in the match that forced a top save. Is he Wayne Rooney? No, but Altidore is maturing as a player and the goals will come if the midfield gets sorted out by the summer.

Altidore's had some good battles with Dutch centerback Johnny Heitinga in what was Part One of a two-part battle this week between the two. Altidore's Hull travels to Heitinga's Everton on Sunday so they should clash again (assuming Phil Brown doesn't have another brain cramp and chooses to bench Altidore).


Call it one game but I can definitely see DaMarcus Beasley regaining his starting left wing role and being in the lineup when the USA faces England. He's got his confidence back and just needs to stay healthy and find some consistent minutes against Rangers (yes, I know, easier said than done for Beasley).


Best longshot pick to make the World Cup team has to be Alejandro Bedoya after his impressive performance in just his second national team appearance. Bedoya can play on either flank and provides quickness and good movement away from the ball. He's still young, but given the underwhelming wing options after Donovan, Dempsey and Stuart Holden (when he returns, Bedoya could very well be Bob Bradley's surprise pick, especially if Donovan or Dempsey has to be used at forward.


I know I listed Jose Torres among the losers in my Winners & Losers, but it should be noted that he did manage to settle down a bit after a rough first 20-25 minutes. He spent a bit too much time chasing the ball rather than reading the flow of the game, which is why he had so few interceptions while Michael Bradley thwarted several Dutch attacks with interventions. I still like Torres as a prospect but he's gotten off to shaky starts in his two big opportunities to start, at Costa Rica in June and Wednesday vs. the Netherlands.


Heath Pearce didn't look bad as a late sub at left back, but it should also be noted that he didn't have to deal with the scary wing tandem of Arjen Roben and Eljero Elia.

If you didn't know about Elia before Wednesday, you had better learn. He's one of the best young wingers in Europe and could be a breakout star at the World Cup.


As bad a night as Jonathan Bornstein had, his performance probably doesn't mean Pearce is a front-runner to start now. If anything, it makes it even more likely that we'll see Carlos Bocanegra moved to left back once Oguchi Onyewu returns to give the Americans the same back four they used to reach the Confederations Cup final (and beat Spain in the semifinal).


From the "Shooting aside, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?" department, here's a question. Take away the penalty tug on Wesley Sneijder, and his unlucky deflection on Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (okay, and his ball-plays-the-hand handball no call), and tell me how you think Bornstein did against the Dutch team's wingers? He didn't instill confidence but we also didn't see much in the way of dangerous service coming from his side, though Elia did sneak in behind the defense a few times. I don't think Bornstein will be off the World Cup squad, but I think the chances are more remote that he'll be starting come June.


Jonathan Spector's service wasn't as sharp as usual, but he held his own against some difficult assignments at right back. He's still ahead of Steve Cherundolo as far as I'm concerned and I don't see him moving to left back come June.


Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk was asked who he thought the best American player was, and he responded by saying he doesn't focus on such things. After thinking for a moment, he promptly pointed out U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard as being very good.


Van Marwijk may have done Bob Bradley a bit of a favor by taking out both Nigel DeJong and Mark Van Bommel and failing to replace their defensive bite in the Dutch lineup. The move had probably more to do with the fact that Marwijk wanted to give a run-out to his midfielders, which happened to include attacking stars Rafael Van Der Vaart and Ibrahim Afellay.

Could it have been a sort of birthday present for Bradley (yes, lost in the wake of the match was the fact that Wednesday was Bradley's birthday. Van Marwijk didn't forget, wishing him a happy birthday in the post-match press conference).


I know plenty can happen in the next three months, but I can't see Eddie Johnson or Robbie Findley making the World Cup squad. As it stands, I think Jozy Altidore and Brian Ching could wind up being the only pure forwards taken if Charlie Davies can't recover. If that happens, you can expect Landon Donovan or Clint Dempsey to inherit a striker's role. The resurgence of DaMarcus Beasley and promising play from Alejandro Bedoya makes that even more likely.


That's all for now. What do you think of the above observations? Agree? Disagree?

Share your thoughts below (PLEASE DON'T INCLUDE WORLD CUP ROSTERS! Save that for Friday. I'll have a post addressing that).


  1. If your guys can’t make the plays work in practice, why should they work when the bullets are real?

    COACHING 101

    You are really reaching there, G24

  2. I have seen media critical of MB in the middle. But not often; that’s because heter isn’t much to criticise with him and a lot to criticise elsewhere.

    The fact is he is the least of the US’ problems. Besides, sooner or later Jones will show up and if MB is such a dammed problem to you, Jones will fix that.

    The US is a counteratacking team so any passes out of the midfield will frequently not connect. If you think M Bradley can’t pass then watch him play in Germany. He can pass.

    Bob never subs out his son? M Bradley played in 15 out of the 24 USMNT games in 2009 all of which were WC Qualifiers or Confederations Cup Games.

    In those games you play your best players and Bradley is one player who is big and strong and never gets hurt (unlike, it seems, about half the rest of the roster) plus the US is not as good when he is not in. So, you keep him in. And if you think we can afford to use B teamplayers in those WC Qualifiers you haven’t seen our B team play recently.

  3. “If he comes, Bradley must give him a start in a friendly so we can see how he is throughout a game.”

    Why? Bedoya will be a sub not a starter.

    “Ives – Under the logic of, “it’s not what you’ve done, he has talent,” shouldn’t that include Castillo? A player who has more skill as a LB then Boca, Pearce, and Bornstein (probably up with Beasley). Most are writing him off because he hasn’t played with the national team, but Bedoya has only a couple caps himself. Surely a double standard there?”

    Sports are all about double standards. The USMNT is not a democracy; no team is.

    Donovan and Conrad come in drunk the night before a big game who do you think gets sat down the next day? Cooper puts in a tap in from 2 feet away and you say “its just a tap in any fool could do that” but if Torres misses the El Salvador goal by inches with a beautiful header you praise him to high heaven for his beautiful MISS. After all it’s JFT who can do no wrong.

    What Bedoya has to offer the USMNT is harder to find than what Castilo has to offer the USMNT. Very simple.

  4. You basic point “Why does Bob Bradley still insist on playing a style that does not suit the talent on hand?” makes sense if you are correct in your assessment of the talent on hand.

    I think you are wrong.

    Unless you have a personal or professional connection, you don’t know these players the way he does. You don’t coach them, or see them at practice. You basically know what you have seen from the stands or on TV or what you have gotten from the Internet.

    What is clear to me from the games I’ve seen and the facts of the situation (no US players on top flight teams) is that the US player pool is not that good and your assessments of them are myopic and very optimistic.

    “Why, when we have players with pace and the ability to take defenders on one-on-one,”

    Please name the players. I know of two, Davies and Donovan and one is not available. The rest might even be able to do what you say but, once they have gotten past their man, don’t know what to do.

    Bradley’s tactics are suited to the level of talent he has available, which is decidedly average to mediocre to poor. Leave out the goalies, only Donovan and Dempsey are above average. The rest, well it doesn’t make any difference really who you put out there, though M. Bradley is good.

    The man’s job is to win games. Why would he not try his best to put them in the best place to succeed? His job depends on it.

  5. There is a reason.

    This is the third last tuneup game before the World Cup and they are trying to find a partner for Bradley, hard to do if Bradley isn’t playing.

    It’s late in the day hudson, no more time for screwing around.

  6. When you have the kind of record and status that SAF and Wenger do, you can do that and get away with it.

    Bradley,and most managers,do not. The US is not some 800 pound gorilla, like Man U.

    Bradley has to tread carefully because if he started to get anything like Coach Knight, well, the Europeans don’t need any more incentive to screw us, in any way they can. And they will do it behind your back while smiling in your face. We have a lot of players trying to make their way in Europe; they deal with enough discrimination. They don’t need the burden of an upstart jerk manager who doesn’t know his place. Bradley has certain responsibilities that way.

    SAF doesn’t have to give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks. He’s invulnerable. The USMNT is not. Travel a little in Europe and you’ll see what I mean.

  7. Spector played left fullback for the US in a 0-0 draw with Guatemala. The back 4 was:

    25-Frank Simek, 23-Jay DeMerit, 12-Jimmy Conrad, 4-Jonathan Spector (13-Wade Barrett, 74)

    Dolo has always played on the right so I can’t address what I assume is an error on your part.

  8. How do you know that? Are you privy to the inner sanctum because, as best as I can tell Bradley has never said anything about that decision. But I do know that Conor Casey, the alter Ching, was on the roster yet Bradley did not start him in the first 2 losses to Itay and Brazil. He started Altidore alone. Davis started the Egypt game and the rest is history. So this notion that Bradley was forced to start Davies because Ching (or the alter Ching) was not available is, I think pure methane gas. Bradely chose to start Davies because the one forward deal wasn’t working and, it seems, he felt Davies was a better alternative than Casey. So please give this horse manure a rest.

  9. 24,

    Torres first US game was as a 68th minute sub in a 6-1 drubbing of the mighty Cuba in a WC qualifier in Oct. 2008.

    His next game and first start came 4 days later in a 2-1 loss to TNT. The US had already qualified for the next round so it was essentially an exhibition game and most of the players were new and young like Torres, Guzan, Adu, Jozy, etc.

    His next game was the Feb 2009 opening of the final round of qualifying 2-0 defeat of Mexico, where he did not get off the bench.

    In the March 2009 qualifying tie with El Salvador he came in the 72nd minute.

    In April, he comes in at the 81-minute mark during a 3-0 defeat of TNT in qualifying.

    Then he starts in the June 2009 3-1 qualifier loss to Costa Rica. Interestingly, Torres played in a 3-man midfield with Pablo and Bradley with the US going to a 4-3-3. It did not work out and he was subbed at half time (Pablo was also subbed out on 63 minutes, as the US went with a 4-4-2. He next goes to SA on the Confederations Cup roster and you know the rest of the story.

    With all due respect this hardly sounds like a man being thrown to the wolves. By the way, in case you didn’t know Torres has recently been playing very well with Pachuca so he should have been in great shape to face Holland. If he didn’t do so well it’s on him.

  10. Also, amen on the coaching point whoever quoted Cohen. But before jumping on Bradley, lets blame the clownish youth coaches in this country. You should see the local high school coaches around here, or even the quality of the games. Long and longer balls is all they know.

  11. I didn’t get to see the game, and I realize it was only a friendly, but did anyone go after De Jong? The Dutch are a bunch of basketcases and I would have wanted someone to step up and defend Holden. I’m not one to harp on the refs-for instance, I agreed with the sending off of Conrad-but this is ridiculous. A studs up tackle needs to be a red, even if you get the ball; its a dirty play and has no place in the game.

  12. Borstein’s handball cannot be intentional. If you watch the replay, he is facing AWAY from the ball. How do you intentionally handle the ball while not looking at it???

    (SBI- If you have to ask that you probably haven’t been on many dates. OHHHH. Sorry man, that was too easy.

    I agree by the way, that was a fluke play, ref called it properly.)

  13. JLo, it’s possible Bob has tried that in practice, but sometimes things need to be tried out in a real game anyways. Even certain players need to be tried, because the practice field does not always show everything. What is a scary thought is that did Bob actually try Bornstein as centerback in practice, and from that he determined it was a good idea? Yikes!

  14. The frustration Joe Fan has with Bob Bradley stems from his player selection. Fans of Bradley will point out to the fact that he’s brought in 80-some players to camp, but critics of him will point out his continued reliance on the same old standbys. He has shown little willingness to adapt his preferred style of play to the personnel he has on hand.

    A good coach will conform to the talent he has on the roster. If we’re as deep in the central midfield as everyone claims we are, why does he insist on playing with two holding midfielders? Why, when we have players with pace and the ability to take defenders on one-on-one, do we still stick to this out-of-date notion of having a ‘target’ forward, something we haven’t had since Brian McBride retired and doesn’t fit the style of the other 10 men on the field?

    In baseball, you won’t see a team without power hitters constantly wait for the long ball. In basketball, you won’t see a team without height play a half-court game. Why does Bob Bradley still insist on playing a style that does not suit the talent on hand?

  15. I’m actually quite pleased with the result. I though Landon looked exhausted, but Timmy, Edu, Jay, Jr, Jozy, Bedoya, Beas, all looked good. So did Stu, but he didn’t have much time to work.

    At the same time I though Torres was horrible.

  16. Ching and Casey were not on the roster vs the Netherlands and I’m quite sure one of them will be on the World Cup team.

    Bob really likes Sacha, the same Bob who really likes Bornstein. So I would not be surprised at all to see Sacha go to South Africa instead of Torres.

  17. Bob would not try it unless Michael was unavailable due to injury or some other reason. Davies got a chance at the Confederations Cup because of an injury to Ching. If Ching was healthy for the Confederations Cup, I’m not so sure we would have seen what Davies could do.

  18. Completely gutted after seeing Holden go down. The potential XI that we have to field vs. the XI that we may end up fielding in June are quite a distance apart, IMO. I think the US team may be one of the biggest question marks going into the tournament. If we have a healthy Davies, Gooch, Dempsey, Holden, Clark, Feilhaber (doubtful), we could really make a decent run. I understand you go to battle with the army ya got, not the one you want, but still hopeful. Atta boy Jozy, keep it up.

  19. Thanks for your comments. Clearly you have more to base your opinion of Bedoya than just his nats time on field. I just don’t see room for him in the roster. We are looking at 3 keeps, 8 defs, 9 mids and 3 forwards. I don’t see Bedoya breaking into the mids group (Donovan, Holden, Dempsey, Beasley, Clark, Edu, Fielhaber, Bradley, Torres) a winger or two (D,H,D,B,F) are hurt. At this point I would take Casey as the third forward behind Jozy and Ching on the off chance that we need to send in a box-banger in late against say Algeria to “force” a goal. I’d also check in with McBride, who’d be a better option in that role than Casey IMHO. I also think that we still may see Hejduk sneak into the defensive eight, since I see no point in carrying two purely backup left backs (Bornstein, Pearce).

  20. It would have been tough for Donovan to be more involved when US could hardly string two passes together. Unless he was the recipient of the first or second pass, he wasn’t going to get the ball since the next pass was inevitably to the Dutch. With our poor passing, possession was going to be difficult. Typical US sequence: Pass, turnover OR Pass, Pour touch, Negative Pass to defender, 50/50 pass/rushed clearance.

    Also, I was disappointd that our team defense gave the Dutch so much time and space on the ball. If fitness is a strength of the US as I always read about, why can’t we press teams like they press us? When the US received the ball, the Dutch clamped down everywhere at once. The US never does that and there is always an easy pass of an attacking nature available to the opposing offense.

    We allow the opponent’s defenders and midfielders time and space to make the best possible passes. When they do it puts much more pressure on our defense.

  21. What are you talking about? Who cares what the score was? The USA was dominated for 70 minutes. Thoroughly. That’s the score. Sure, we showed good defense, because Demerit and Bocanegra fought their butts off. But our defense still cannot initiate plays on the Dutch level. Nowhere near. With Onyewu, our kickball approach will be even worse. The score would never have been 1-0 USA. Do you think the game would have progressed the same if their goals hadn’t happened? Whew. Read some physics!

  22. Donovan needs someone behind him feeding him the ball. We don’t have a Phil Neville, we have a . . . Boornstein. He needs a skilled player behind him to play and work with, we need to try alternatives.

  23. Carlos, I agree with you the common mode with coach Bradleys team has been, the other team scores first, and then the US team wakes up and starts to play. But often it is too late.

  24. Kung Fu Kangross, I was thinking a similar thought, that Torres has gone from little or no playing time to suddenly starting in high pressured games, such as against the Ticos, and Holland. Certainly not how Klejstan and Bradleys favored boys have been primped along.

  25. Thanks JeffM, this was my sentiment as well.

    Beasley is like that ex-girlfriend you kept getting back together with. Sure, the first six months were a lot of fun, and everything was great. Then, you got to see who she really was. Your friends didn’t like her, your parents didn’t like her, and if you were honest with yourself, you didn’t like her either. But for some reason, you got back together with her.

    And then what happened? Exactly what you thought would happen. She was awful and made your life miserable, and you broke up again a few months later.

    This is DMB in my eyes. He’s not a solid player. He shows a lack of awareness, which leads to poor first touches. In this game, he got helped by a lot of soft foul calls. He isn’t tough. He can’t dribble past anybody anymore. But everybody remembers the 2002 WC, when he played so well. And then they remember the cross in 2006 that Dempsey finished. And they remember a handful of goals he scored in WC qualifying. And they forget that he’s generally a waste of space on the field.

    Beasley will always do just enough to stay in the discussion. Just when you think he’s done with the Nat’s somebody will get hurt, and he’ll have a supposedly break out performance in their place. But mark my words. If he plays in SA2010, we will all be on here going irate about his worthless contributions. And we’ll all remember that ex-girlfriend that we got back together with, when everybody was telling us it was a bad idea.

  26. It’s called sarcasm. Tongue in cheek, if you will.

    Bob prefers soccer and Torres plays futbol.

    Since when is FMF not high caliber, they are the best league in the CONCACAF? LOL.

    I think he didn’t have a better option than to start Torres. He’s obviously throwing him into the fire rather than groomnig him like he does everyone else.

    Bob don’t know Torres. I don’t think he understands what kind of player he has and thus, does know how to incorporate him.

    Relax, homie. WE ain’t gettin out the group anyways.


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