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USA 2, Poland 2: A Look Back

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It wasn't the prettiest game, but there was an equal amount of positive and negative to be drawn from the U.S. men's national team's 2-2 tie vs. Poland on Saturday.

The positives? Among them, the play of the attack. The passing and movement by the 4-2-3-1 formation was encouraging, though Jozy Altidore's finishing kept it from being a more effective performance. You also had Stuart Holden and Jermaine Jones playing very well on the night.

The negatives? Altidore's finishing and the defense, which struggled at times to cope with Poland's speed. Oguchi Onyewu looked rusty at times, while Maurice Edu didn't look completely comfortable playing centerback, but did enough to merit more looks in the back-line.

Here are SBI's Player Grades for USA-Poland:

USA vs. POLAND Player Grades

Tim Howard (7). Made a clutch save on a breakaway and stopped the shots he had any chance on.

Steve Cherundolo (6). Steady once again on the right, providing some service getting forward and strong defending.

Carlos Bocanegra (4.5). Bocanegra struggles against speedy wingers and this was the case yet again. He's still a better left back option than anybody else in the pool, but Bob Bradley knows he needs to start developing new left backs ASAP.

Oguchi Onyewu (5.5). Rusty, but willing to get stuck into challenges and was more dominant in the air than the last time we saw him (his flubbed clearance on Poland's first goal notwithstanding).

Maurice Edu (5). Edu started out slowly, and had his moments of discomfort you expect from someone playing out of position. He's got the skill set to become a long-term option in the back, though you wonder if he'll get a look at his natural position of defensive midfielder.

Jermaine Jones (7). A stellar debut for the German-born midfielder, who's passing and athleticism bring new elements to the U.S. midfield. He did have a bad pass turn into Poland's equalizer, but he still gave U.S. fans plenty to be excited about.

Stuart Holden (7). Dynamic, creative and tenacious, Holden played with the confidence of a Premier League regular. His poor clearance attempt on Poland's first goal was the sole flub, but he made an emphatic case to remain a starter for the long haul.

Michael Bradley (5). Put in plenty of supporting work deep in midfield, but he also had several passes miss the mark. Seemed willing to defer to Jones in a pairing that should do well once they've had a few games together.

Benny Feilhaber (4). No player had less of an impact on the match than Feilhaber, who simply couldn't get involved in the match.

Clint Dempsey (6). One player who seemed to enjoy the new U.S. system, Dempsey worked well with his midfielders to move the ball around and made use of the freedom that came with playing behind Altidore.

Jozy Altidore (6). The misses will stand out, but it can't be ignored that he put himself in position for so many chances. He's improving as a player, but needs to start putting away chances at a greater rate if the U.S. attack is going to be truly dangerous.


Alejandro Bedoya (4). Didn't get too involved as the U.S. team's lone sub. He wasn't as bad as he was in the Brazil friendly, but didn't make a real impact either.


What did you think of the U.S. team's performance? Impressed with Jones and Holden? Worried about the future of the defense?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Jose, so youre saying even though we’ve never even SEEN an Edu-Jones pairing, you already know Bradley-Jones will be be better because he plays in a better league and has scored goals?….Would you even be able to say that Bradley scores more crucial goals if that volley vs. Slovenia counted for Edu? Bradley and Jones need time together if they indeed are the best option, yes. But we do have 4 YEARS….I think we can afford to try some new things out and still have time to develop the final pairing in time for WC 2014…

  2. You spelled “negative” incorrectly, Ives. It is spelled “realistic”.

    Seriously, though, I don’t see how you give above average grades to 7 of 11 players when the team tied a bad Poland team (ranked in the 60s), at home, using almost all of our “A” players.

  3. Why not give our u20 forwards a look Bradley?

    They the same age as Jozy minus 2-3 years and could potentially just be what we need to push Jozy to work harder.

    Ochoa at estudiantes?

    And let’s call up ponce from chivas for January , how can u not call up a lb who plays every week with one of the elite teams in Mexico, that just might be our answer!

  4. BTW, has Bedoya ever shown anything in any National Team game? As far as I’m concerned, he’s been a non-entity every single time I’ve ever seen him.

  5. Yeah, I was at the game and noticed the 442 tendency. Even when the strikers were offset, it still played like a 4411 because the CAM was stuck behind the polish midfield, not contributing much to pressuring polish possession (not intentionally alliterated) in the midfield. Not that this is necessarily bad, but when your opponents are parking a 3-man wall in the center of the park and one of your CDMs is constantly getting dragged outside to help in the wings, it sets up a situation where you are going to conceded too much possession.

    The defense also looked over-organized and too narrow at the back; some flexibility would have helped cope with 3 attackers.

    Honestly, the system isn’t set up for Benny to work in. Those outside positions require you to play tight up against the wings to stretch the field and create room for the central 4 to work in. In that sense, it was only a partial success, but is a position that a true wide player or winger will enjoy better success in. Benny is more of a 4222 style player that lets the two forwards move the CBs goalwards, then drifts into that space. Same notes for Bedoya. Dempsey, however, is a perfect fit for that system, and he enjoyed one of his better and consistent performances.

  6. I like Edu at centerback.The problem as someone noted is that he doesn’t play there for the rangers. Donovan for Benny, someone hopefully for Gooch and Boca and the starting lineup for Saturday’s game is our best lineup now. Gooch looks hesitant, slow as if he running on one leg and awkward. Boca either plays in the center or doesn’t play.

  7. excellent post, but before we hypothetically throw the baby out with the bathwater, we need to consider a few facts.

    1. Our back 4 hasn’t been a locked down part of our lineup since forever. Injuries and a lack of depth and form have been a constant issue for the USMNT for the past 4 years. You can howl at mistakes and lack of communication, but when was the last time you can remember having 4 first pick buys starting who were also all on their game at the same time? Your goalie could be a concrete jesus and still only be able to do so much under those conditions–so I don’t think the problem is Howard, or Guzan. I think we’ve simply lacked the stability of depth and health in our defense pool.

    Hopefully Spector can turn things around, and with the maturation and development of folks like Goodson, Marshall, Aboussemade, Gonzalez, Lichaj and maybe even Castillo we’ll see brighter days ahead, maybe even by 2012.

    All that said, I do wonder if it’s time for us to try a back 3 in a
    3-5-2, maybe like this:

    Gonzales Onyewu Aboussemade
    Edu Jones
    Donovan Bradley Holden
    Dempsey Alltidore

    Having three big and mobile guys who play more compact will further establish aerial and physical dominance, Once Gooch is totally healthy and non rusty he’ll have many years of leadership and dominance ahead of him, but with Gabe and Omar you have players who are also very comfortable with playing the ball out of trouble. While is would expose the flanks, Holden and LD have an established track record of owning the touchline end to end. and with Edu MB and Jones all on the field in a CM role, you get a lot of rotation and have a permanent presence shutting down that middle third where most counters, gifted goals and defensive disasters have tended to start. Plus you can still sub in some of your great off the bench players where they are at their best (Feilhaber for MB), Torres for Edu or Jones), Beasely or Bedoya for LD, Dempsey for Holden).

    Another idea to throw out there, what with the glut of CMs we currently have, why not try Paco Torres out as a fullback. He’s fast and smart, comfortable with the ball at his feet and could add a lot to the attack. I know it’s not his natural position, but if we’re willing to try Damarcus Beasely and Maurice Edu on Defense, why not him?

  8. ‘Zero experimentation”? What do you call starting Edu at CB? Playing Gooch? if not experimentation? Seems Bradley experimented to see if he can get his best 11 on the field at the same time, I applaud him for it.

    I havent’ seen it mentioned but Edu played a couple of great, great balls out of the back. One to Jozy that he laid on a silver platter and that should have been a goal. Another where Edu dribbled out of the back joining the attack…when was the last time we saw that from a CB? Eddie Pope?

    Credit to the Poles who played a very good game, taking it to our backline down our weak left side. Kudos to them.

  9. good ratings, ives.

    best thing i noticed about the game: dempsey and holden knocking it around through the midfield. they both looked very confident on the ball. the new system wasn’t perfect, but it was exciting to see some attacking build-up from some of our more talented players. i can’t wait to see this midfield play together when donovan is back.

    also, jones was awesome. his class was evident on both sides of the ball- he was probably the best passer on the field, which is very impressive given the fact that he’s referred to as a defensive midfielder.

  10. The central midfield role will be interesting to watch in the coming years. I think the pool that has a strong chance to start RIGHT NOW is Bradley, Edu, Torres, Jones, Holden. IMO Bradley is easily the worst passer of the bunch. Yes everyone has a bad game now and then, but lets face it, his passing has never been very good. I think Edu and Jones deserve at least a couple starts together in a 4-2-3-1…but is Bradley willing to not start Junior?

  11. That was like reading Ives again. Basically the same ratings, just divergent on the score, the standard deviation from the mean seems to be flatter in Fred’s world than Ives-ville.

    Two big disappointments for me, well maybe 3. Felihaber,nowhere to be found. why? Bedoya looked aggresive if not skilled and I thought an improvement over Benny, but not by much. Finally, how could Bradley only use 1 sub, with the family Lichaj and the polish community in representatation? Give the guy 10 minutes Bob!

  12. No way edu benches badley number bradley starting for a tean in a better league have we forgotten what bradley did w.c?? Are u serious? Bradley and jones need time together they are the best pairin we have in the mid. Bradley scores lots of goals in important matches for us. He’s alwas trackin back to help the defense and is calm with the ball and good at getting out of tight space. Bradley is our best mid!!! And only 22.

  13. He led the reserve league in scoring 3 years straight so he did make noise before this, but he was blocked by Ching and DeRosario for a long time in Houston.

    Who cares if he is still around for WC2014. Right now the focus is on the Gold Cup so we can get another trip to the Confed Cup in 2013. I don’t want to see prospects who might be good in 4 years. I want guys who can contribute immediately.

    You can’t call it a hot streak if it’s been going on the whole season.

  14. we should just play a 4-2-4-0

    play Jones and Edu in central

    and then Donovan and Holden on wings with Dempsey and Bradley at center.

    no striker needed. dempsey can score from 40 yards out and Bradley is bound to score a lucky goal

  15. I’m curious as well. I actually spent the whole day awake and napped right before the match and woke up hours later. i wanna watch it all though.

  16. No way Bradley should play in such an offensive position. Holden needs to start, if that game was any indication. Edu will be on the bench. Also, I’m not sold on Gooch. Can Bradley really preach playing time and then continue to select someone who hasn’t played in nearly a year? Gooch looked good in the air, but struggled, I thought, otherwise.

  17. I doubt Feilhaber will be at the next WC. He’ll be 29 and i’d imagine his quality will definitely decimate with age. but i could be wrong.

    Feilhaber is best off the bench kinda like Edu

  18. Do any of you know where I can stream a replay of the match? I forgot to DVR it and I’m kicking myself for it! Galavision was my only channel option and they aren’t replaying it….

  19. hey guys i was reading a Bigsoccer thread about McBride claiming that in the 90’s he was criticized for not scoring enough for his club team and the National team. I didn’t start following the NT til 07 so i’m unaware of criticism of him. Is it warranted?

    He’s the best striker we ever had. Any chance Altidore can grow to match him in that way?

  20. I think something that people are discounting about Bocanegra’s play, is if that’s Donovan in front of him, Poland doesn’t have the luxury of putting all of their attacking focus on that side of the field. LD would have been breaking repeatedly into that open space.

    Benny was invisible offensively and defensively for most of the match.

    The team that played last night, with Donovan in place of Benny, and DeMerit or Bocanegra at CB should be able to win the Gold Cup.

    Glass half full and whatnot.

  21. It seems unfair to criticize a U.S. striker that actually scored a goal in an international match for his poor finishing. Unless we’re playing against Guatemala or Jamaica, let’s face it, you simply assume that any goal scored will be by a midfielder named Dempsey, Donovan, or Bradley.

  22. who is this Brek Shea kid? He seems to barely score for Dallas. wikipedia lists him as defender/midfielder/striker. what’s with that?

    do you guys see him as a future member of the NT? is he that good or his potential is? and if so, should he try for a club in europe or build himself up by another year or 2 in MLS?

  23. I feel like the only way you could get Edu, Jones, and Bradley all on the field at the same time is to pair Jones and Edu in defensive mid then push Bradley up to where Dempsey was playing.

    Line up for Columbia: Guzan

    Cherundolo Parkhurst Onyewu Lichaj
    Edu Jones
    Holden Bradley Dempsey

  24. Edu is definitely more comfortable dribbling the ball than Bradley, but Bradley offers a wider range of passing. It was an off day for Bradley, but he’s usually pretty consistent. I’d like to see Edu in midfield too, but you could argue having a good ball-playing CB is the hallmark of most top international teams; he just needs to learn the intricacies of the position, something I’m not sure he can do if he’s not playing CB at the club level.

  25. I agree with your ratings completely, Ives. For me, Boca should be moved back to the central position he excelled at, since he really does not have the speed to play outside back. When available, I would rather have Bornstein (le gasp!), or even Spector at LB (although he isn’t exactly a speedster either). I’d like to see what Lichaj has to offer too.

    Other than that, I agree that Feilhaber was nonexistent in that match. But, when we have a full squad, Donovan will thrive in that position.

    In addition, I am very excited about Jones’s performance. With another solid defensive central midfielder, I think we succeed with a 4-2-3-1 formation…it will allow players like Holden, Donovan, and Dempsey to have more freedom and support Altidore up top. I think this will be the best formation for our current squad.

    Lastly, I am excited to see Shea get some minutes in this coming match! He is a fantastic forward/wing prospect…I can see him developing into a future USMNT star.

  26. Ok I have to admit I was half joking. I just wanted to use the term Bunny Ranch in one of Ives’ post and figured this was the best way to do it…and yes I’m a Quakes fan. However having said that I don’t think right now Jozy is the answer

  27. I’ll I have to ask is, wasn’t that the most exciting friendly we’ve seen in some time from the US? It felt like a must win for some reason? we moved the ball around and even though the defense looked shaky it was nice to see how well we did without Landon. Also no clark, klejstian, or findley. This is exactly what I wanted to see Saturday night except for that last corner to go in.

    By the way I didn’t realize how big Jones was until I saw him next to Bradley and Onyewu is a fierce dude

  28. O/T but new episodes of The Big Bang Theory air on thursday nights. also new eps of Law and Order SVU, Criminal Minds, South Park, The Simpsons, Family Guy

  29. 4-2-3-1 at the Gold Cup?

    who will it be you guys?

    Cherundolo Gooch Goodson Bocanegra
    Jones Edu
    Dempsey Bradley Donovan

    subs: Holden, Feilhaber, Torres, Shea, Guzan, Lichaj, Gonzalez

  30. I think that you are right. Donovan would move to the left and just replace Benny. I can’t see Landon as the CAM/CF in the 4-2-3-1. I think CLint needs to be the guy closer to the center and towards the goal. Landon brings more to the team out wide. On Saturday, the US team had no width. Benny and Stu’s natural tendencies were to go towards the middle. The only width we got was along the right when Cherundolo pushed up. We are going to have to find another winger if we want to make the 4-2-3-1 work – because the width is not going to come consistently from the back (or it shouldn’t). If it does, I suspect Timmy will have his hands full back there. Holden is probably the best winger (sans Donovan), but he is far better in the middle. While it would be interesting the see Holden team up with Jones, I suspect that we will see a Bradley and Jones/Edu midfield from here on out. Overall, I am not crazy about this 4-2-3-1. Not sure that the players are either. I noticed they actually played 4-4-2 for long stretches. For some reason, they are just more comfortable in the formation.

  31. Didn’t Ives give him a 6? That seems reasonable to me, considering he finished one chance well, but failed on at least two other great chances (the open header and shot off the crossbar come to mind). It was certainly an encouraging performance, and I agree that people way too critical of him.

  32. For comparison, Chicharito was playing 11 games and scoring 0 goals for Guadalajara at the age of 20. All of a sudden he comes alive, starts finishing his chances, and ends up at Man U.

    Will Jozy “get it” in a year or two? Maybe so, maybe not. But he is playing in Europe and scoring goals with the nat’l team. Take a look at what Drogba was doing at the age of 20.

    But the raw skills are there. Calm down before declaring his career over.

  33. But that’s what I mean. Haven’t we realized by now that the way a kid plays at 20 years old when he’s going through a rough patch (and still scored a goal against Poland) isn’t indicative of the kind of player he’ll be in 1-4 years? It’s surprisingly short-sighted and sensationalized, even for USMNT fans.

    And I don’t agree that he’s been bad since before the WC. He led the qualifying squad in scoring. He scored against Spain, the WC winners. He’s played in the EPL and now La Liga. Is he playing poorly now? Eh — I guess. Finishing is really the only complaint I had with his Poland performance. Outside of that I thought he was one of the better performers for the US. But with Jozy, damn near everyone on these boards focus only on the negative for a guy who’s actually been a godsend for a terribly weak striking corps. Anywhere else in the world and he wouldn’t be asked to really be the guy for another two or three years. It’s just silly…

  34. WE finally have mid-field depth.

    And for goalkeeping. Howard, Guzan

    plus we have 2 very good GK’s who play in the 2nd Bundesliga, Robles and the other guy whose name i forgot.

    Plus we have several quality young GK’s in MLS like Sean Johnson and Hamid. we safe for now

    just no strikers worth mentioning

  35. I’m sure he’ll probably get called up into January camp, but there’s a long line of prolific MLS forwards who have never cut it at the national team level (Jeff Cunningham, Jason Kreis, and Taylor Twellman come immediately to mind to mind). I wouldn’t get too excited about it.


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