US Men v. Slovakia: The glass is half…

A Slovakian team that was (apparently) good in European qualifying, but not well ranked by FIFA,  played a defensive, counter-attacking game against the USA in a partially filled stadium, on a pretty ugly field and won 1-0 on a weak penalty call.

This was not what you call must-see-TV, so it is probably good that not many people saw it.

For us die-hards, let’s get right to it . . .

Glass Half Full View

  • USA maintained possession for large stretches of the game, something they had failed to do against most other opponents recently.   That said, Slovakia seemed content to let the US keep possession, especially since so much happened in the middle of the field and did little to threaten its goal.
  • With all the concern over Onyewu’s injury, the central defensive tandem of Bocanegra and Spector held firm and seemed composed.   Jonathan Spector is quickly turning into a key utility player for the US defense and (barring injury) seems like a lock for South Africa.
  • The USA still has depth at goalkeeper.  Brad Guzan did little worthy of complaint and made some great saves to keep the US in the game.   While I prefer giving time to those that are getting extensive playing time for their professional sides, Guzan may prove the exception to my rule if Mr. Howard needs a stand-in for some reason in South Africa.
  • Many seem to be praising the Bradley / Feilhaber midfield combination and I too thought they seemed more on the same page than we’ve seen in the past.   But while I think the tandem was solid, I would like to see Feilhaber closer to the forwards and Bradley playing more the stopper/destroyer role.   Bradley’s range and tackling are greater than his creativity and passing, with the opposite being true of Feilhaber.

Glass Half Empty View

  • Yawn.   Is this how Slovakia plays most of their games?  Maybe we know why the stadium had so many open seats.  The only time we normally see a stadium that empty is well… when the US plays at home against someone other than Mexico.   Ugh.
  • Conor Casey and Jozy Altidore didn’t shine and may simply be too similar to provide a dynamic one-two punch as our forwards.  Altidore has huge potential, but he lacks the edge that regular playing time would offer and was knocked off the ball too easily.
  • Eddie Johnson was our first sub, but falls into my “lack of playing time” concern as he’s mostly been riding the pine at Fulham.  A forward without confidence never does well – and the US National Team shouldn’t be where we play someone back to confidence.
  • Am I really suggesting the starting forwards could have, should have been Conor Casey and Jeff Cunningham?   Well, as hard as that is to imagine, I suppose so.  Conor didn’t show much, but perhaps with a speedy, confident Cunningham running around and pulling the defense out of position he might have showed more.

The players are suggesting they will just put this game behind them and “move on” to focus on the upcoming Denmark game.   Frankly, it is probably best for the rest of us to “just move on” from this game as well.   The Denmark game may give us a sense if this was just a frustrating one-off performance against a defensive minded team, or if we have bigger concerns.

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