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Confident Lichaj makes strong USMNT debut

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Photo by ISIPhotos.com

BY ADAM SERRANO

Butterflies, nerves, tension. 

These are usual emotions for a player representing his country for the first time. For Eric Lichaj's first cap with the United States in the U.S. team's 0-0 draw with Colombia on Tuesday night at PPL Park, these were just words. The Aston Villa defender felt right at home with the situation and his role with the team. 

“No butterflies, I’m used to it, its my job to go out there and play so I’m used to all that pressure,” said Lichaj. ”Most of them go inside because we don’t have a natural winger so it gave me a chance to go inside more, we've been training together for a week so I’m fairly comfortable and know everyone’s tendencies."

Lichaj went 45 minutes appearing exclusively in the second half for the USMNT against Colombia. Entering for Jonathan Spector, the Aston Villa full back immediately added an attacking prowess to the right back spot. His forays forward got him into trouble, but the offensive pressure that he added was helpful to a U.S. attack that was stagnant all night.

The 21-year-old contributed to one of the best attacking chances of the night delivering a cross into the center for Jozy Altidore that put the attacker in a very good attacking position. Following the match, Bradley admitted that although it was Lichaj's first cap with the team, he liked what he saw from his young full back. 

“Eric came on in the second half and we’ve seen throughout this camp that physically he’s got a great burst of speed and he’s strong," said Bradley. "He came in and acquitted himself very well in the second half."

The training experience with the national team was made a tad easier due to the prevalence of a number of players that he has experience playing with.  In his debut, he was able to play in front of goalkeeper Brad Guzan, a back-up goalkeeper for Aston Villa.

Although there were a number of players to help his transition to the national side, the ever-confident Lichaj did not worry about his experience with the national team because of his time with Aston Villa. 

“Spector and Guzan have helped my transition because I know them from England, but no one in particular tells you because we’re pros and we know what we’re doing," said Lichaj. "We’re professionals so we all know what we’re doing. Just little tweaks people will tell us but nothing major."

Lichaj will now turn his focus to Villa. He has been used exclusively in Cup matches for Aston Villa and is still searching for his first league appearance for the Birmingham-based club. He will have an opportunity to build upon his experience with the national team shortly as he returns to Villa. 

“They’ll have seen my 45 minute half that I played, but we have a Carling Cup game against Burnley coming up," said Lichaj. "hopefully Brad and I will be able to get some time in that match.”

Comments

  1. Jones did show well, but he did also seem overly-physical/thuggish sometimes in his defensive methods over skill.

    I don’t think Jones will be head above rest if he is sitting in a team with Bradley, Donovan, Dempsey, Cherundelo, perhaps Feilhaber if we go with 1 forward.

    Who knows though, come November we’ll probably be missing Donovan to the MLS Cup and won’t know crap until Febuary.

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  2. I thought so too. From the first time he got a touch on the ball I thought, Dang! That guy’s different than everyone else out there. He did turn out to be mortal through the game but still…wow.

    It’ll be really interesting to see whether and how the team evolves around his presence. Pre-World Cup a lot of people were calling for Bradley to change the US style by building around guys like Torres. Clearly Torres wasn’t good enough to demand that. Maybe Jones isn’t either, but it’s easy to imagine that he could really transform the way this team plays.

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  3. Based on what everyone has said about Altidore, there is no chance of a player improving after the age of 20, so we probably shouldnt get too excited about Lichaj’s play. He’s already as good as he’s ever going to be, and he isnt even a starter, so he’s probably garbage…

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  4. I also thought Pearce acquitted himself well. Deserves some more looks (IIRC I thought he looked decent going into the WC too but its been a while since I saw those games).

    Lichaj’s performance was decent, but the raving about him is maybe more hunger from fans than actual substance. Spector is clearly out of form, but it’d be interesting to compare Spector at 21 to Lichaj now. I’m not saying Spector was better, but its just interesting to note people’s hyping of Lichaj compared to the hype Spector was getting just a few years ago. Either way Lichaj definitely deserves some more looks.

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  5. Alston is a great prospect but is a year or two away from national team quality. Definatly not ready for that level of play. as far as right backs go Dolo has that position covered for the next few years and then we will see who is best prepared out of the prospect options (Alston, Spector, Lichaj, Franklin, etc).

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  6. I just want to point out that the pronunciation of Lichaj’s name sounds exactly the same a “lihai” (厉害) which is a common slang word in Chinese that means “awesome.”

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  7. I thought I was alone in thinking Pearce looked good. Too many people got locked into first impressions or their expectations. He looked comfortable and athletic. Doesn’t mean he’s going into the FIFA Hall of Fame – just means he right now looks to me to be our best options

    Other thoughts:

    Spector has become a disaster. He has no confidence at all. I think he’s better at center back, by the way, and would rather try him there then move Edu out of the midfield. Otherwise he has to be working his way out of the picture.

    Dolo has been the most underrated Nat for a long time, but can he do the job in 2014 at 36? I think Lichjai showed a lot of promise.

    Jones looks very good, but his turn over Saturday and some unnecessary fouls were Ricaro-esque. The biggest issue last night was the entire midfield was very tentative and unclear of their roles. If Bradley sticks with this formation, that will work itself out.

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  8. Yeah most of the talk has been that ‘Dolo is still firmly the first choice, but Lichaj is rising while Spector continues his rapid descent.

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  9. I agree totally! Did you see where he was yelling at Feilhaber; telling him where to move and pass? He’s a man amongst boys in that lineup and I just hope he doesn’t quit our team, haha.

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  10. I thought he looked good and we still hav’nt seen Fraklin or possibly Williams at RB. It a position like DM and Goalie where we are building depth.

    Now if we can start intergrating our young CB: Ream, Opara and co.

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  11. to be honest, i had the same feeling about jones. what was hard to see was that it eventually led him into some clumsy tackles and forced passes that were cut off. but yeah, i thought he looked very confident on the ball compared to others. Holden i would add to that as well.

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  12. That’s how chelsea operate their 433. Cole and ivanovic bomb up the sidelines while mikel/ramires rotates into the back line with the centerbacks.

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  13. I agree. I think the lack of movement and creativeness definitely limited his potential in the game, but also playing with Edu and Bradley provided no one who could really play those attacking balls, especially with Holden out on the wing.

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  14. “Everyone is already acting as if he owns the right back spot.”

    could you provide a link where anyone has stated that he’s beating out Dolo at RB?? IMO, he’s definitely beaten out Spector.

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  15. In the 2nd half, both fullbacks were very high (probably per BB due to Columbian tactics) and I did think Lichaj was quite confident going forward. Did not look like a first cap. He was a great deal quicker than Spector and probably even Cherundolo too (young legs…). Solid debut.

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  16. I liked this kid but i must say this. Is it me or does Jermaine Jones seem substantially more skilled, confident on the ball, competent in tight spaces and downright better then every other player on the USMNT minus CD and LD. Watching the game almost made me feel bad for him. You could tell he wanted the ball at many times and simply wasn’t given any service. So many players on the USMT are so predictable going forward all they can muster is a turn to the side line and pass back to a deep defender. You could see Jones was simply surprised at some of the god awful passing in mid field b/t bradley and edu and some of the service back to midfield from the forward positions. I like our team and our pool, but I could just see Jones showing all the time and not getting the ball. He clearly has a superior soccer iq compared to the other players. Im really excited he is on our team, i just hope others can match his play.

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  17. I’ve only seen Alston play in the MLS All- Star game. He looked awful and completely out of his depth. It seemed like he was over awed by his first exposure to the “big time”.

    In contrast, Lichaj wasn’t nervous and played well in this big occasion for him.

    Yes, there is a long way to go for both guys but at this point Lichaj looks more promising than Alston.

    Too bad no one seems to want to play left back.

    The main good things in this game were Lichaj looks promising, Goodson looked good, Parkhurst was a pleasant surprise compared to his 09 Gold Cup performances and Guzan looked very organized composed and above all else seemed like he was into the game.

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  18. I like the look of both him and Pearce. They both have the speed to get forward and recover quickly. I know Pearce has been in and out of the team with good reason but both I think stylisticially would help the US because of the lack of true wing players. They give the team a much needed width. Especially with Dempsey on the wing because he loves to play give and goes with the left back and cut inside to meet the expected cross.

    If one of the many holding midfield players would tuck back in the middle creating a 3 man back line when these two move forward to attack I think the US could be very effective.

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  19. I thought Lichaj had a good 1/2. Realistically, what can you expect from only being with the team for less than a week. He certainly provided more spark and better defense than Spector did on the night. Too bad he probably won’t be able to participate in the January camp as it is during the season for Villa.

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  20. I thought he had a pretty good debut. I’m not ready to anoint him as the new starter just yet, and after some time I’d like to see how he acquits himself as a left back. But you could see from his limited time on the pitch that he displayed a pretty good soccer brain (even though he got caught pushing forward on a couple of occasions) and definitely has a strong upside.

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  21. I’d like to see him go on loan to another team. He has great potential, but he needs to be getting regular 1st team minutes. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen with Villa. But it was a solid debut for him. He looked good wearing the stars and stripes

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  22. I thought he did well. Obviously it would be ridiculous to say he should start at Rb at this point. But assuming this performance wasn’t some mirage, I think by next WC he will take over the Rb spot, and Spector will move to Cb, if for no other reason than he seems MUCH faster than Spector, who is very slow.

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  23. We will never have a Maicon, 99% of the countries wont ever have someone like that. He looked great, we are starting to get some depth behind Cherundolo.

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  24. I agree; he did ok but not great but I wasn’t expecting him to have an impact. Everyone is already acting as if he owns the right back spot. I think Alston is as good as this kid if not better. ie., Lichaj didn’t show he was any better than what Alston has done this season.

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  25. I liked what lichaj brought. Solid debut. Seemed like he really wanted to try to push the pace toward the end. Tried to inject a little life into the match, which was a dour, dour battle…

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  26. i was impressed. Unlike Shea, Lichaj was aggressive and comfortable on the pitch. Shea seemed unwilling to take chances and played too safe for a debut.

    The only thing i would have liked to seen from Lichaj is his hyped Long Throw. His team mates, whether they are from A.Villa, League 1 or League 2 have all said he’s a good defender, but his long throw is impressive and dangerous

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  27. an honest debut. He’s not Maicon, but at least we saw some positives out of him. Good playing into feet, that’s what I liked best.

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