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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Outclassed

A flat uninspiring effort left the US supporters here in London frustrated and in some ways shocked not only at the lack of quality the US demonstrated but also at the indifference many on the team seemed to play with. I have previously made the case strongly that I believe without Landon Donovan the top of the US player pool is at a pre 1994 state and that no replacement players have yet been developed for Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride and John O’Brien two years into the World Cup cycle.

Tonight’s match which I was fortunate or unfortunate to attend depending on your perspective clearly demonstrated how much trouble a team with a decent skill level will create for the United States in their home stadium. In addition, Bob Bradley’s continued calling into the national team of some players whose lack of first team action with their club sides is really showing itself these days. Eddie Johnson, Carlos Bocanegra and Josh Wolff all looked shaky at best in the first half and downright awful in the second half. In fact the US was completely embarrassed regardless of the artificially low score line until 34 year old Eddie Lewis entered the match and brought an intensity and skill level seemingly absent in the other US attacking players. So if Eddie Lewis, of dubious record shattering Derby County is your best player at Wembley, you have a problem.

Thoughts:

  • Josh Wolff’s time as a National Team member should be over. Thank you for the spectacular goal against Mexico in 2001 and the setup for Brian McBride in the World Cup 2002 match against Mexico but his play in recent matches culminating last night has been well below par.
  • Michael Bradley has a great deal to learn about international football still. He doesn’t seem able to anticipate his team mates as well as he should and he commits silly fouls. In addition much like the Mexico match in Houston, Bradley has shown a lack of understand with Rico Clark which will limit the US midfield going forward
  • Heath Pearce despite being on a relegated side in the Bundelsiga has gained the confidence to become a reliable left back for the U.S.
  • Carlos Bocanegra’s history of bad giveaways and poor clearances reared its ugly head again last night.
  • I’m not sure what Freddy Adu has to do to prove he should start and that he is much better than the other, unskilled and inconsistent attacking players we have.
  • Eddie Lewis is still at 34, one of the better players in our player pool. Can you imagine that?
  • The US attack is terrible without Landon Donovan’s pace and skill on the ball. Both Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley are limited in their ability and when playing against skilled defenders like Ashley Cole and John Terry, they look pedestrian at best. Some of our readers and listeners wanted to see how the US would do without Donovan. I cautioned that it wouldn’t be pretty. Sadly, I wasn’t pretty.
  • Spain will be an even tougher test than England, and Argentina even tougher than Spain. The US squad better get their head around what is going on football wise or risk being completely humiliated in the next two matches. Against Argentina this sort of performance instead of being a 2-0 loss will be a 6-0 loss because Argentina’s skill and finishing is far superior to England.

Some Thoughts on the Wembley Experience:

· Wembley is massive but the concessions are too pricey and the sightlines are somewhat poor.

· Public transit to/from Wembley is poorer than I had thought and gets confused on game days with bus routes being withdrawn and underground/over ground trains skipping Wembley Central and Wembley Stadium stations. The reason is logical: the traffic going through the game will congest rush hour London traffic, but it doesn’t help football fans at all and put my plans to arrive at Wembley two hours early into total chaos.

· England’s fans seemed to want to avoid talking about Premier League with me. Those who I spoke to seemed to mostly support lower league teams and wanted to discuss those sides rather than the PL. To me that is a concern for the Premier League going forward, because these fans represent the heart of English Football.

· Jermain DeFoe is so bad he could play forward for the U.S. The gentleman that won the halftime PK contest could probably win the starting striker spot for the U.S.

· England has a lot of issues and Fabio Capello can be pleased with the result but not with some of the execution.