Wednesday, October 12, 2011

US v Honduras / Ecuador Thoughts

Random Observations:

VS Honduras
- There was extremely sloppy short passing in what seemed like a monsoon.
- Dempsey is far and away our best technical player.  His goal was class, something we don't see from Americans often.
- Brek Shea continues to prove that he's a deserving starter.
- Danny Williams - Klinsmann finally capped his first player.  Fittingly, it was a German-born player who seems to love America, (in the mold of Klinsmann himself).  Apparently Danny visited the US for the first time in June and ended up with an American girlfriend, who immediately moved back to Germany with him.  He loves America!  On the field, he says he plays central midfield in Germany, but has been deployed on the right wing for us.  He's physical, tough and decently skilled.  A good find.
- Orozco Fiscal was terrible.  Klinsmann had said that the reason he hadn't called Omar Gonzalez and George John was that our "best players are here (in camp)" - a shocking statement considering how bad Fiscal had performed to date.
- Gooch is back.
- Shea and Gooch missed sitters.  Had we won 3-0, pundits could stop saying that we've only scored 2 goals in 4 games.
- Tim Howard was outstanding, having to make save after save in the slick rain.

VS Ecuador
- Gooch is probably the standout story from this 2 game series.  This is as good as I've ever seen him play.  He was strong, solid but not overly physical defensively while confident and dependable on the ball.
- Possession vs Ecuador was noticeably impressive since we were playing a South American team.  Essentially, I thought we were the much better team at holding the ball.
- Creating opportunities to score is still an issue.  We mostly managed long distance shots.  Shea and Dempsey seemed to be the only ones who had the skill set to generate opportunities.  Jozy has not been able to even get shots off, much less replicate his impressive club scoring form.
- The left-sided Chandler and Shea combination continues to be a good partnership.  Chandler constantly put the ball in dangerous spaces for Shea to run onto.  In comparison, Williams and Cherundolo on the right need to work on their understanding.  Very rarely was either in threatening crossing position.
- Edu had an awful game.  He seemed unaware of where opponents were positioned and his touch was off.
- Cherundolo may have got beaten around the edge a few times, but Spector is completely unusable at RB.  Seriously, can he play CB?
- Ream is in horrible form.  Lalas was as upset as I've ever seen describing his poor fundamentals.
- I'm still not sure what Beckerman offers that Bradley doesn't, but Klinsmann obviously prefers him as his CDM right now.

It has been 5 games since Klinsmann has taken over and our record is 1 win, 3 losses, 1 draw.  I thought we really deserved to win vs Mexico, Costa Rica and arguably Ecuador but we were plagued by the inability to repeatedly create good goal scoring opportunities in the box.  This may not be something that can be fixed immediately since goal-scoring is not necessarily something that can be gained from a change of tactics, but is rather found innately in a player.  However, Klinsmann's greatest achievement and contribution to US Soccer is the confidence to, and the mindset of, keeping and building our attack through possession.  When all else fails, we no longer just rely on booting the ball upfield and hope one of our speedy forwards or wings catches up to it.

Also, under Klinsmann, it seems that our attacking players have a more defined role in creating offense.  Many times with Bob Bradley, it almost felt like we relied solely on Dempsey and Donovan to make their runs by tucking inside and perhaps draw fouls.  The only width on the outside was provided by the fullbacks, who may or may not have been that adventurous depending on the danger posed by opposing wings.  Now with the addition of Shea, a true winger, and another player on the right wing (a spot that has been a revolving door thus far between Donovan, Rogers and Danny Williams) alongside 2 central attacking midfielders (who are protected by a CDM - Beckerman), Klinsmann has committed 5 players to the attack, instead of Bradley's customary 4 (2 forwards plus Dempsey, Donovan).

Brek Shea has been Klinsmann's biggest find, although Bradley did give him his first few caps to underwhelming results.  There is no question that Shea is the starter at left wing for the foreseeable future.  However, at the beginning of Klinsmann's tenure, it was clear that we needed help at striker and most importantly, in defense.  The only position where we've been well stocked is the midfield.  (You could argue that Shea is a forward if we play 4-3-3).  Then again, it must be said that Shea provides a bonafide wing option, one that Dempsey and probably even Donovan are not best suited for.

5 games ago, defense was the major area of concern for me.  I thought that besides Timothy Chandler, Klinsmann would have to spend the next few years finding or developing the 3 other starters.  So Onyewu's sudden return to great form as proven vs Honduras and especially Ecuador, is major news.  At 29 years old, he will be 32 by Brazil 2014 and can be slotted in as our defensive veteran starter, if all goes well.  As for Chandler, he has been as good as advertised, showing the speed, strength and skill to check opposing wings as well as be a legitimate threat going forward.  That's two spots that we hope are set in stone.

Klinsmann has been continually relying upon Bocanegra and Cherundolo for the other two spots, since they constitute our best options right now.  However by WC 2014, they will both be 35, hardly the preferred age for a defense that was already considered a step slow in 2010.  So, thus far Klinsmann's selections for younger defenders besides Chandler have been Michael Orozco Fiscal, Edgar Castillo, Tim Ream and Jonathan Spector.  Orozco and Castillo received generous playing time while Ream and Spector saw but a few precious minutes just this last week.  However, it is inarguable that all 4 have been disappointments.

Ream may have had a great rookie MLS season last year and a ton of potential, but if he doesn't recover from this disaster of a year with a strong domestic start in 2012, we cannot consider him for WC qualifying in June.  Klinsmann's continual choice of Orozco is an enigma to me.  He's been called into camp 3 times but has failed to prove that he is worth his place each time.  Castillo and Spector are unusable at fullback - the former a poor defender, the latter with poor foot speed.  If Klinsmann's belief is truly that he has been using the best players in the last 5 games, then we truly in trouble.

At striker, Altidore continues to be our best option while Agudelo is his main backup.  Klinsmann has opted for a single striker in all 5 games but it must be stated that no striker has scored a goal under his watch.

After our two European November friendlies (perhaps France and another team that is done with Euro 2012 qualifying), I'll post my predictions for Brazil 2014 roster - the 1st Klinsmann edition.  Suffice to say, much has changed.

No comments:

Post a Comment