Well, to say the least, the US Men’s National Team won today. But there is a big difference between winning, and winning against a team that isn’t decimated by an odd union dispute that holds out its best players and injuries. Yes, Trinidad and Tobago was a World Cup team in 2006 (and even managed to not look awful, which can’t be said for every CONCACAF team…), but they were not only missing their players from that Cup squad, but they also lost defender Anthony Noriega (and had keeper Jan Micheal Williams shaken up) from a wicked collision with American striker Brian Ching in the 12th minute of the match.
But just as it has been for the last two years, the Americans biggest struggle in this match was the inability of forwards to finish. More thoughts and ratings after the jump…
The US lineup was full of fresh faces and the future of American soccer. Oguchi Onyewu and Pablo Mastroeni were both serving suspensions for red cards against Guatemala on Thursday, and Italy in the World Cup, respectfully. Yet, it was incredibly refreshing to not see the usual Donovan-Dempsey-Beasley lineup falling into place – and the style of play showed it. There was more flair, more energy, and more desire in this match than in any match so far this year. Young, yet internationally experienced players like Benny Feilhaber (Hamburg), Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire), Jay Demerit (Watford), and Frankie Simek (Everton) made positive contributions to the game – pushing the play and making chances.
Obviously, the biggest issue that the Americans have at the moment is the lack of capable finishing from their strikers. In this match, there was some sparkling midfield play from those new faces, especially Mapp and Feilhaber. However, up front, the combination of Brian Ching and Eddie Johnson were unable to convert on many, many chances during the first half. Even Ching’s goal in the 29th minute was somewhat of a fluke, as a beautiful cross from Mapp was almost wasted by a flat-footed Ching. Luckily for the US, the only way that Ching could have missed was if he fell over and tried to miss the ball.
Eddie Johnson added a tally in the 54th minute, but at that point, T&T had given up completely. After the wicked collision in the early going, T&T had a slight flurry at the end of the first half; but by the time that the second half started, they seemed to be completely bored. We were too, at Lucky Bar. Thankfully, the burrito was of Chipotle-quality. With a salad to boot!
Note: Let me just say that I don’t know what was the problem, but the feed from Fox Sports Channel was horrendous. At the half, we successfully lobbied the bartender to switch over to the Telefutura feed, which was flawless. Unfortunately, by that time, the game became quite tedious. Even the Spanish broadcasters, who are usually the most lively thing about a broadcast, got bored.
Then again, I can only imagine how tiring the second half would be with whichever schlubs Fox had broadcasting the match. They probably started talking about the NFL or something.
A win’s a win, I suppose, regardless of how uninteresting it is.
- GK: Kasey Keller – 6.5 – Only really had a couple of tough spots, but mostly untested.
- RB: Jay DeMerit – 6.0 – Mostly untested, but decent enough.
- LCB: Michael Parkhurst – 5.0 – Didn’t hear his name called once, good or bad.
- RCB: Frankie Simek – 7.0 – Played up high, fast, and rough.
LB: Jonathan Spector – 5.5 – Blew a spot kick for a goal by adding flair, but no mistakes on D.
- MF: Ricardo Clark – 5.0 – Nothing spectacular, nothing bad. Only his 5th appearance.
- MF: Benny Feilhaber – 7.5 – A fine match – good setups. It’s too bad he had no finishers in front of him, or he would have had a couple of assists.
- CAM: Justin Mapp – 7.5. – Mapp’s exquisite cross led to Ching’s opening goal.
- CAM: Steve Ralston – 6.0 – Looked average, but passed well to the best available teammate most times.
- ST: Brian Ching – 5.0 – Scored the goal, but was often unable to finish, and was often caught out of position. He must improve if the US is ever going to get to the next level. Unlike Donovan, he is a real striker, but he must use his accuracy as effective as he does his size.
- ST: Eddie Johnson – 6.0 – Coming off of a two three goal games, suffered a knee injury in the 71st minute. But is a goal scoring threat, which the US badly needs now.
- CAM: Landon Donovan (for Feilhaber 46) – 6.5 – Fine pass to Johnson for the second tally, but he won’t get free like that against Mexico, let alone European teams. Also blew a goal in the late stages.
- ST: Michael Bradley (for Ching 65) – 5.5 – Again, solid, if unspectacular form.
- ST: Taylor Twellman (for Johnson 72) – 6.0 – Got some time due to Johnson’s knee, but as the game was over, only was able to show so much. Had a beautiful pass to Donovan for a sure third goal, but keeper Williams made a nice save.