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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. Soldier Field is well-known to be one of the worst surfaces in the NFL. It’s a lot better when they play Gold Cup or qualifiers there because it’s out of football season and the turf is fairly pristine, but it does not grow good roots there and gets torn up easily by football, making it a pretty crappy surface for futbol too.

  2. Talent level aside, one thing to bear in mind about the back four is they rarely play the same 4 guys for a run of games in a row. There have been a lot of people going in and out.

    Ideally you keep at least 3 of the 4 in the same position for as long as possible or at least at the CB pairing and that has been all over the place. It’s very critical in defense that everyone knows where everyone else is and what they will be doing.

    That is probably one big reason why you see so many long clearances; no one is comfortable. If they are serious about Edu playing CB then he should be in there for the next two games and not be subbed out, regardless.

  3. Heading the ball is about vision, good form, timing,and good positional sense. Size and strength is the least of it.

    Kenny Cooper Jr., Peter Crouch, Giorgio Chinaglia, all big,tall strikers were not as good in the air as Michael Owen or Wayne Rooney, who are quite a bit smaller than those guys.

  4. “Can’t see giving Jozy a 6 with all of the chances he flubbed.”

    Have you ever played striker? If not, then maybe you don’t understand that chances are very often missed. Why do you think goalcorers make so much money? I’ll tell you why; because scoring goals is extremely difficult to do.

    Jozy scored a goal. He did his job. Yes he missed some chances but the important point is he made one of them. There are many games where strikers better than Jozy fail to score goals with more chances.

    Besides striker is the least of the USMNT’s worries; they have to stop leaking cheap goals.

  5. “If we want someone good at possession in that position, then Ream is clearly the player to try to make stick there”

    Based on what exactly? His vast experience at the international level as a centerback?

    His World Cup experience? His experience at playing in many hostile venues all over the world?

    The man has played 19 games in the USL Premier Development League and 28 games for the Red Bull. You act as if he is a proven international. Ream looks good but, as is typical with USMNT fans, you are counting your chickens long before they are hatched.

  6. I like this!

    I would probably suggest Gooch, Gonzalez and Spector as the back three.

    I would not mind seeing Torres tried as a LWB.

  7. This was yet another game where the US midfield was overpowered and outpossessed for long stretches of the game, and in this case by a team that is pretty young and not all that heralded. I’m starting to wonder if we will ever have a midfield capable of dominating large stretches of the game against mid level competition with Bradley in there (the only constant over the last 4 years without Reyna). At the very least, it is time to try some new combinations – why not try Holden and Edu together in the middle? They both start arguably for better clubs than Bradley at those positions. Some competition could do Mikey well, Bob …

  8. So you want to make 3 center full-backs the spine of your defense? Those 3 couldn’t close down on a a one-legged striker if their life depended on it…. My point being is they are all too slow and you want to expose them in a more attack-minded formation? Thats bananas…

    You want to make the USA’s most technically gifted player on the ball a full back? He has trouble playing defensive midfielder for Pachuca because speed and ball winning arent even his 3rd and 2nd best attribute respectively, yet you want to set him up to fail miserably in the back. Trying those MF’s out in the back is what leads people to believe that Bradley has no F’ing clue about what he is doing.

  9. MB is a true hustler no question about it, players like that will always get a chance to score. Edu is a smoother of a player that has a better rate of passing. they are different type of player playing the same position. JJ is a combination of them two. I also would like to see JJ with Edu, just to see how better (or worst) the midfield operates.

  10. Right putting Bradley in Holden’s slot in lineup is a glaring mistake.

    If Edu takes Bradley’s starting cm role in a fair fight, I think we have the answer at center back: MB.

    Or as Boca’s understudy at left back, MB is fast enough to keep up with wingers and tough enough to stop players from getting shots off in the box….he just wouldn’t be free to wander the field.

    If/when Jones retires then MB can reassume a cm slot…’s dreaming.

  11. Sideways and back passes are Mike’s thing, big difference in the game was Jones, who by contrast made Mike’s limitations…more obvious.

    Again he’s young and may improve but he’s not close to Jones now. And and Edu/Jones central pairing may be better chemistry – hope we find out tomorrow.

  12. You were watching a different game, in which Benny and Mike looked good.

    In the game most of us and SBI watched, Jones, , Holden, Dempsey – and Dolo and Edu – at times connected nicely and moved the ball around the field like a soccer team.

    or you maybe just paid attention during the bad moments where Stu shanked a kick, or Jones gave ball to other team in goial-scoring position…but even so Stu was miles ahead of…all middies not named Jones or Dempsey.

  13. I’ll give you a moment…

    …wait for it…

    Ok, I think you see the error.

    You’re right Portugal is not average, and no one in this thread says so.

  14. This is one of the best threads I’ve read in a LONG time here on SBI.

    My only argument is with Paco. He’s not ready. Each time he’s been put into a situation where the pressure was on, he’s pulled a Bambi and folded. I’m not saying he’s a waste, just that he’s too young yet. Give him a couple of rings in his trunk, and then give him a run out. He might become the Herculez of 2014.

  15. Amen.
    Dolo, Edu, Onyewu, Boca
    Bradley, Jones
    Donovan, Holden, Dempsey

    Wow, THAT sure would have sent Ghana home.

  16. I will never understand the hate on Bocanegra. How many left backs do we have starting for clubs competing for a Champions League spot? Just the one, last I checked. No, he isn’t speedy, but he is smart, experienced, and reliable. Simply put, he’s the best left back in the pool – stop calling for his head.

  17. 99.9% chance Michael Bradley starts every single game for the next 4 years. To the point where Jermaine Jones and the rest of Michael bradley’s competition is playing Goalkeeper,Left-on-bench, LB,RB, and even water-boy just so its Michael Bradley going all 90’s for the next 4 years.

  18. +1

    When Jones, Holden and Dempsey strung a few passes together we looked like a decent team, the rest of the squad doesn’t play at that level.

    But I see Jones as a great influence on the defenders who know they can trust him to (almost always) make a good pass and maintain possession near goal if they get him the ball rather than just booting it…to the other team.

    And likewise the other middies will be more relaxed when the ball goes into middle and Jones is there.

    But Jones is definitely not in top shape yet, he was bent over looking winded in the 60th minute like I do playing with other old…I mean veteran players : )

  19. Jones was in the middle trying to stop the poor center pass Edu headed out to him. It was Boca fault and the other wingers fault on the left Bedoya who should have shut the left side down not Jones fault. It was Edu fault too. I am not a pro player and I know when you are heading a ball for a clearance to not head it in the middle of the pitch.

    (SBI-Micah, exactly what was “poor” about Edu’s pass to Jones? He headed it right to Jones’ feet with nobody around Jones. That’s the definition of a good header pass. As for Bocanegra, he got sucked in trying to help clean up the mess after Jones pass. He followed the winger in and the central midfielder floated into space and the ball fell to him. Not sure why you feel the need to spread blame, but Jones is squarely to blame on that goal, not only with the bad pass but then the failure to get the ball back. It was the one bad moment in an otherwise great performance for him.)

  20. Yeah, I agree with Josh D: there aren’t many long term benefits to trying to convert Edu into a center back and there might be some drawbacks. If we want someone good at possession in that position, then Ream is clearly the player to try to make stick there.

    I also agree with Josh and others that I’d at least like to see an Edu/Jones DM pairing tried out. Bradley’s a good player, but I’ve noticed that his positional/tactical sense is often a little off, as he likes to roam a lot all over the pitch. His energy is one of his strengths, but I think he might be better suited as a box-to-box type player in a 442 than a DM in a 4231. Basically, while I’m never unhappy to see Jr. in the lineup, I do think that if BB feels that Jr. *has* to be in the line-up (which I think the Edu at CB experiment indicates), that’s a mistake that limits our tactical flexibility.

  21. Jozy had a bunch of goals for the Red Bulls at a MUCH younger age. Scoring in the MLS doesn’t make you a world class striker. It’s proven time and time again and yet people still think the answer is an aging journeyman with no real international experience. If he hasn’t contributed yet, chances are there’s a reason: he’s not international quality.

  22. Not meaning to make a direct comparison between these two players – but all this hubbub about 20-year-old Altidore reminds me of the days when everyone said that Thierry Henry was “very skillful but a terrible finisher.”

  23. I was disappointed to not see Lichaj playing at home – but sometimes experimentation is best served by NOT making 6 changes and letting a few players integrate themselves into the core of the team.

  24. Watching from behind the touch line the CDMs looked exactly the opposite to me. I saw MB covering defensively and allowing JJ to roam all over. That said – I thought JJ was great, but not beyond a 7 or 7.5.

  25. As much as it will soon be en vogue to call for Jones to replace Bradley – we should also remember that Bradley is four years younger. I suspect a 28 year old MB will be a far superior player to JJ right now (let alone in 4 years in Brazil).

  26. I agree – I thought Holden was a 4. I stopped counting all his give-aways after a while, but I thought he had a really poor game.

  27. Bradley scored 2 vs. Mexico in quilys. And scored in confed cup. And world cup. With out edu goal e would have even tied. Or made it 2 nxt round. I’ve heard lots of non american fans says bradley going to be a star and lots of righters too. 2018 bradley will be captin of our team.

  28. +1 Sean; he was everywhere… involved in every attack in the second half. I don’t understand why he is not getting more praise…

  29. It’s absolutely true he received that criticism. I never felt it was that valid. I saw McBride has a hard working, great defending, superb aerial, ball-winning, unselfish, target man. Not a great finisher. Not superb with his feet (for a striker).

    I remember lots of Columbus Crew threads on BS talking about how McBride (after his first couple of years) was disappointing, always getting injured, would be better as a D-mid. Now, I don’t think that reflects the majority sentiments of Crew fans at the time. But clearly there was a significant contingent that felt that.

    Altidore won’t be McBride but he doesn’t have to be. They’re radically different players. McBride was the consument “target man/plays well with his back to goal/fight for 50-50 balls/defend superbly” guy on the frontline. Altidore is far better facing the goal, isn’t as good at distribution, is faster and quicker. I’d love it if Altidore acquired a reputation for McBride’s conditioning and work habits. But basically, asking Altidore to be like McBride is like asking Freddy Adu to be like Brian Ching–they’re different players, different physiques, different skill sets.

  30. I’m not really sure why, but I kinda liked Edu at CB. If BB realizes the potential in this, and practices this, a triangle between MB, JJones, and Edu could be a great combo, which then allows Holden, Dempsey, and Benny/Bedoya/Donovan to attack, and help out Jozy/Johnson/anyone…they will just need to develop cohesion and Edu will need to learn to recognize when he is needed in the midfield and when he needs to drop back. Imagine the possibilities here people! haha


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