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USA 1, Chile 1: A Look Back

Juan Agudelo 1(

Photo by John Todd/

The U.S. men's national team began its new year on Saturday with a 1-1 draw against Chile, and while the first match of 2011 had some of the sloppiness often associated with January friendlies, there were also the bright spots that come with seeing new faces perform.

No, there weren't any hat-tricks or jaw-dropping revelations, but there were players who stepped up and impressed. Unfortunately there were also those who fell flat in their U.S. national team auditions.

Here is my Fox Soccer column on Sunday's match, a piece that lists the players I thought impressed, and those who I felt hurt their standing in the national team pecking order.

Here are some more thoughts on Saturday's match:

The 4-2-3-1 lost out to the 4-4-2 on Saturday, but that had as much to do with Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury shining as it had to do with the overall teams not being suited to play the 4-2-3-1. Chris Wondolowski was mis-cast as a target striker, but with 4-2-3-1 likely being the formation of choice in 2011, it's tough to argue that he's any more suited to be a speedy flank option. He's a good one-touch player, makes very smart runs, and can finish, but pace isn't one of his strengths. 

It would have been nice to see Wondolowski in a 4-4-2, but it's clear that seeing Bunbury and Agudelo together was more of a priority for Bob Bradley and it's tough to argue with that. Personally, I would like to see Wondolowski again, and if he tears up MLS again this season, it would be tough not to give him a look for the Gold Cup team.


So why didn't Agudelo and Bunbury start? Bob Bradley has used games like these in the past to give longer looks to those he's less certain about. He wasn't as concerned about the result as he was about seeing some who perhaps hadn't done enough in camp, or those he wasn't sold on. If the match was a qualifier or actual tournament, it's a safe bet Agudelo and Bunbury would have been in the starting lineup.


Dax McCarty stood out and only served to make it even more perplexing that FC Dallas gave him away for nothing. Dallas just might see Eric Alexander as his natural replacement, but based on what we saw against Chile, McCarty is a quality talent who just might help D.C. United pull off a dramatic turnaround.


Sean Johnson didn't have a ton to do in his 45 minutes of action, but the fact that he did play bodes well for his standing as the future of the goalkeeping position. Bill Hamid should be a worthy challenger in the coming years, but Johnson clearly showed enough in camp to earn himself some minutes. Not bad at all for a young goalkeeper.


Omar Gonzalez is dominant in the air, and a threat on set pieces, but he really needs to work on his passing out of the back to be a truly effective centerback. Being paired with Tim Ream helps take some of the distribution pressure off Gonzalez, but he'll be second choice to Ream on the national team until his passing and footwork improve.


Any criticism of Tim Ream's performance is laughable and mis-guided. Some observers choose to get hung up on one or two passes that don't connect without realizing or acknowledging the sheer number of passes, and smart, effective passes he makes. His ability to find teammates up the field is a valuable tool that gives him an advantage over the other young centerbacks in the national team pool.


Brek Shea looked good early on Saturday, but he'll be remembered more for being largely ineffective the rest of the match. He's got the physical tools, but you just have to wonder about his soccer IQ sometimes. Perhaps he can improve on some of his decision-making as he gets older, but I can't help but wonder if he simply doesn't have the soccer brain to be effective on the international level. At least as an attacking player (perhaps a change to centerback could play to his strengths more and hide his deficiencies).



Which players surprised you the most on Saturday? Who impressed you? What are you hoping to see in the Egypt friendly?

Share your thoughts below.




  1. I think Bedoya did well considering the service he got. after the early foul/near penalty, Sean Franklin didn’t help much in the attack, and Bedoya was either stranded on the wing, tracking back to help Franklin, or trying to come inside to find the ball, and was picked up by a defender a lot as our narrowness played into their strange formation. he did well to get around a few defenders on a nice passing sequence(i can’t remember who he combined with) and almost poked it past the keeper, and his 1-2 with Agudelo to spring him into the box was classy. he feinted his body one way to throw off the defender behind him and flicked it with his outside foot into Agudelo’s path. to me, that showed quality as he came through when needed, even in a game where he didn’t have a chance to make much of an impact. i’ve been reading a lot of articles around the net saying he wasted his chance and shouldn’t be called into full team camps for a while (i believe Grant Wahl was the most prominent of journalists to say it, who i don’t always agree with) until he progresses his game some more. Bedoya has only had a few games with the full team and all were against top opposition (Brazil and the Netherlands), and all his other caps have been with B teams. this last game was probably our D team if you ask me, probably even lower, like a U 20.

    Basically, I think Bedoya is much better than he gets credit for and i hope he gets more runs with the full team

  2. i agree i was very impressed with Bunbury. his size and pace combined with good touch make him a dangerous presence and i hope he can perfect his game and get some minutes with the full team soon to see how he plays with quality service from our stars like LD and Dempsey and the like.

    but it’s tough for me to choose who impressed me more between him and Agudelo. it was so refreshing and promising to see a young player with such confidence on the ball and desire to go at players and create for his teammates. i know he’s young and i don’t want to be the guy to say we start him now or anything like that, but with some more professional experience under his belt, this kid is going to be a real star one day

  3. I agree with you completely, KMac. When I was Gonzalez, I see a younger Onyewu in the making.

    And if you all look back four years ago or so, many US supporters were calling for Onyewu’s head, accusing him of being too clumsy and making stupid little mistakes.

  4. DeLarge,

    I watched on TV and largely agree with your perspective. Solid performanaces by those you mentioned vs. the web comments. I think the quality of the comment varies with the quality of the football/soccer savy of the commenters. The beauty of the sport growing is that not everyone commenting is above the 80th percentile of the football/soccer bell curve of knowledge.

  5. As a DC United fan I am thrilled with Dax’s play, how in the world Dallas gave him up for nothing is puzzling, I think DC got the best from Portland too. I would love to see Ben Olsen have success, I could see him having a great career as a coach.

  6. I agree. I’ve stopped reading the match commentaries as much as I used to because the hyperbole and overreaction has gotten ridiculous. I thought Loyd was great for a 1st cap. Probably most impressive player of the night for me. Ream and Gonzo looked good. Shea was not as terrible as his haters have been shrieking. Dax was very good. Same with Mix.

    Really, the only horrible performance of the night was Wynne at CB. Everyone else I think deserves more looks. Its still a long ways til ’14 yet people freak out and anoint 20 year old kids who’ve never played a meaningful nats game saviors and condemn kids with 2 caps as lost causes. I guess people see what they want to see.

  7. Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know YOU were IN the world of international football. Thanks for the warm welcome. Man, I feel dumb questioning the likes of BK, the man Jose Mourinho called “the REALLY special one.”

  8. Just got off the phone with Ivan Drago, Tim.

    He wanted me to tell you, “I must BREAK Shea”, upon your request. Additionally, he told me, “If he dies, he dies…” but I thought that was going a bit too far.

    He promptly hung-up on me after delivering that message.


  9. I don’t think they were arguing, I think Agudelo probably wanted it and Bunbury told him that he wanted his first USMNT goal so Agudelo let him have it. That’s my theory about the conversation at least.

  10. I would disagree with the statement that “Any criticism of Tim Ream’s performance is laughable and mis-guided.”

    I thought that Tim Ream played well for the most part, but I’m also very mindful that he was playing against a very young Chilean team with very little international experience. Ream is a young player who obviously has tons of potential, but he did have several glaring mistakes during the game on Saturday. If he makes those same mistakes against first team talent, then the U.S. is in real trouble.

    Hopefully he was given a bit of constructive criticism by the coaching staff. But to say that ANY criticism of him is “mis-guided” isn’t quite accurate.

  11. Did anybody else think it was odd how Teal called Juan off of the PK? Felt like an awkward moment.

    I think Both CBs will need more time, and neither will displace Goodson soon. Omar is still raw, but seems to have the bigger upside. Ream will never develop into an international quality back. Hes the new Chad Marshal….or Demerit at best.

    My boy Jeff L didnt look good, but no sweat there, as we need another CM like we need a 3rd nipple. I knew Wynn would fail, as he is a lifer in the MLS, and gets away as a CB b/c of his speed and nobody punishes his mistakes due to poor strikers. Wish we could have seen more time for Wallace as he looks to be a LB option, but health is always a concern there.

    Juan is as raw as I feared, but has great potential. Teal looks closer to making an impact, but looks more like a poor mans Altidore.

    Mix is an interesting player, and makes me think of Benny a little. I wonder if Shea could cut it at LB? He has the size and speed.

    One of the things that i found comforting, b/c I didnt like drawing w/ that weak of a chilean side, is that this is only part of the youth we have coming up, and I bet if we could have brought in our best youth, we we have had a better showing.

  12. Their chemistry on the pitch and their celebration after the goal remind me a lot of Davies/Altidore a few years ago.

    The more practice, live matches & general social time they get together can only bode well in the future for their development on the NT side.

  13. Right now I agree, but I believe that if more colleges go the route of Akron and play in a more professional atmosphere then we could see more ready players coming out of college.

  14. +1

    Also see Toni, Luca.

    At Age 22 he is playing third division football.

    Buddle, Edson.

    Didn’t see the national team for 7 years after his first cap in 2003 and then makes the WC2010 squad.

  15. I disagree with you on Dax. I thought he was composed and was making smart passes all night. Hoping he can keep his form up for United in the upcoming season.

  16. She didn’t have a good match last night or any night in the Nats uniform, that much is certain.

    She shouldn’t be capped again until she switches positions.

    Oh, yea I meant “Shea”, too.


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