As pointed out quite well by the good folks over at That’s On Point, yesterday was the first anniversary of the United States drubbing at the hands of the Czechs at 2006 World Cup. I can say that I am still shocked by what transpired in that game, even though that Czech team – with names like Petr Cech, Tomas Rosicky, and Pavel Nedved – was incredibly talented and also disappointed by not getting out of the group stage. However, with performances like we had yesterday, the MNT might be preparing to get back on that same fast track that they were derailed from so violently last year.
I suppose that the US also had a feeling that they would gain a boost from a rise in their international ranking. In their last eight internationals, the US is 7-0-1; as a result, newly minted manager Bob Bradley has led his squad back into the top 20 of the World FIFA Rankings. The US moved up a whopping thirteen spots from last month to 16th. If they hold on to win the Gold Cup (a fairly safe bet, since Mexico has decided to pretty much quit on Hugo Sanchez – already), and don’t completely blow it in the Copa America next month (I’ll take a win, a draw, and a loss just fine), the Americans should remain in the 14-18 range to stay, right where they belong.
As for the match last night, well, it was pretty meaningless – at least for the United States. They played decently, although beating El Salvador isn’t anything to call home about. After all, El Salvador (at least according to FIFA) is no better than St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam, and Antigua and Barbuda, all of whom are ranked higher than them. In essence, the 16th best team in the world should probably beat the 18th best team in CONCACAF by at least four goals every time. And they did.
For their part, ES controlled the possession for moderate stretches of the game, and it was their inability to stretch the field that cost them numerous counter attacks. Everytime the Salvadorans attempted to string passes together, they were met by three or even four Americans agressively tackling to strip the ball. Also, they might want to work on not giving the ball a high-five whilst standing in the box.
More thoughts on the game, Landon Donovan’s set piece stupidity, Lucky Bar’s burrito, and Salvadoran fans after the jump.
As I said before, this game meant nothing for the Americans, again leaving them open to a disappointment – but Bradley played a full A squad and it showed. There was little that the Americans could do wrong, and as a result, they easily won their group. In fact, there is a high probability that we will get to see a US-Mexico quarterfinal on Saturday, as Mexico needs a lot of help to finish top of their own group. A breakdown of the scenarios can be found here, and trust me, is probably not worth reading. Unless you’re crazy, like me.
El Salvador’s back line was pathetic in this match, especially their goaltender Miguel Montes. Montes struggled on three of the four American goals. On Beasley’s first tally, he was way too far right on the line but was beaten by a well-placed shot; on Donovan’s first PK attempt, he didn’t even have to move as the ball hit him square in the chest, but moved too quickly – and even though Donovan hit the same pathetic PK he always does (more on this in a second), he moved incorrectly; and Twellman’s goal should have been stuck dead, but he flubbed it and it rolled into the goal. That’s not to say that Montes had much help up front, as the best defensive work that the Salvadoran front line did all match was pulling off a nice offside trap on a free kick in the first half.
And while we’re on the subject of Donovan: I’m not sure what it takes, but there has got to be somebody else on this team that can take corners and PKs. I’m tired of watching the same set piece performance from Landon Donovan on every one of these set plays. On corners, he buries the ball into the backs of his near side players, and on most PKs it’s boom it down the middle and hope the goalie moves. He won’t get bashed for it in this game, because the bad corner fortuitously landed on Beasley’s strong foot and the PK worked the second time, but they were still bad set plays. They resulted in goals against El Salvador, but I doubt European teams would be so kind as to not make a clearance or come off the goal line early.
Also, all this business about the handball penalty being controversial is lunacy. It’s just a story to make out of an unsexy news piece. Defender Alfredo Pacheco could have taken the ball and tucked it away rugby style, that’s how obvious the infraction was – and the fact that Salvadoran manager Carlos De Los Cobos was ejected at half for arguing it tells me that he didn’t have much faith that his team was coming back.
As far as ratings – the whole team gets a 6 for doing what they should, while making it more entertaining than the Trinidad and Tobago match, but mostly because I’m at work and have to keep it moderately brief.
I’ll be at Lucky Bar for the next match, hopefully against Mexico. There was a Salvadoran-American fan there last night who really knew his stuff. It’s always a treat to meet such intelligent football fans. Hopefully I’ll see him again on Satuday. I’ll be the one with the burrito. Mmm, delicious burrito.