Monday, June 14, 2010

Post Squinting at my iPhone USA-England Thoughts

I was on a ferry coming back from a wedding between 3 and 4:30 on Saturday. Thanks to the wonder of modern technology, I was able to watch the game on my phone. Thus, I have thoughts, but I have to start with the caveat that I might have missed a thing or two . . . like which players were which.

1. Overall, I'd say that the U.S. had a pretty good performance and generated a very good result. Any of us would have taken a draw before the game started, so 1-1 puts the Nats' chances of qualifying well over 50%, especially in light of the fact that neither Algeria, nor Slovenia looked especially good yesterday morning. The Nats were under the cosh for a fairly good portion of the second half, but they didn't give up too many clear chances and their defensive attention ensured that England's best chances in the second half fell to two players who cannot finish: Emile Heskey and Shaun Wright-Phillips. (Or maybe we were just lucky?)

2. Before the game, I talked to a friend and predicted a 2-0 loss. I wasn't concerned about England creating offense through the midfield because I've seen way too many matches in which Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard get in one another's way. My concern was Ashley Cole and Glen Johnson having their way with our left and right backs and then getting crosses in for Wayne Rooney to finish. So, you might imagine my surprise that England struck early with a move that came right through the midfield. Gooch was drawn out of position to deal with Rooney and Gerrard exploited the massive space behind him. Gooch might have been instructed to step out on Rooney (I can't give credit for the Nats ensuring that England's weakest finishers got chances without acknowledging that this strategy can cause the defense to be pulled out of shape), so it's possible that Ricardo Clark deserves more of the blame for not tracking Gerrard's run. Bob Bradley had a good game, but I was not thrilled with his selection of Clark. Ricardo isn't as good a defensive option as Maurice Edu or as good a passer as Jose Francisco Torres. Landon Donovan was a little quiet in the match, in part because he was up against an outstanding left back, but also in part because his supply wasn't great. Torres would correct that problem. I really hope we see Jose against Slovenia.

3. But if we're talking about managerial goofs, the majority go to Don Fabio. He doesn't have a great option between the sticks, but managed to take one that led to an enormous gaffe for the Nats' goal. He had to pull off a midfielder in the first 30 minutes and then a central defender at halftime. He deployed the midfield combination that has never worked for England. That said, Capello's mistakes illustrate the weaknesses of England's talent base. The country hasn't produced a top keeper since Gordon Banks and all of EPL's top clubs have foreign goalies. England have not have a proper left-sided midfielder for ages, with the possible exception of Joe Cole, so Capello had to choose between James Milner - a jack of all trades and master of none - and Shaun Wright-Phillips - a natural right-sided midfielder who brings little other than speed - for his left wing. He has to play Lampard and Garrard together because England have only one proper holding midfield as a result of Michael Carrick's poor season. In sum, you wouldn't know it from listening to the English media, but the England team is not especially talented.

4. Can we all agree that the one instance of bad luck for the U.S. is that Jamie Carragher didn't get sent off? He was on a yellow when he bundled into Robbie Findley as Findley bore down on goal. Carragher is too slow to function at this level and the Nats exposed his lack of pace on more than one occasion.

5. The weekend's results create a new goal for the Nats. Coming into the tournament, we all wanted them to make it out of the group my any means necessary. Now, with a draw against England and Germany looking like the best team in the tournament, there should be motivation for the Nats to do their best to win the group to avoid the Germans in the round of sixteen. Am I getting carried away? Probably.


TJ Eckleburg12 said...

Ricardo Clark went to my Atlanta high school, St. Pius X, where he led us to several state championships in soccer.

My only memory of him was when he climbed a 20 ft edifice in front of the cafeteria at lunch and mooned the whole school

Jesse said...

How is it that Portugal is ranked 3rd in the world by FIFA? I watched that entire match in hopes of seeing a ton of shots by Ronaldo, etc. and that's all I got?! Portugal spent most of their possessions on their side of the pitch. Like the commentators said, they passed the ball five to six times and went backwards 5 yards. WTF mate, wtf indeed. The ref didn't help matters much in this match either, at least in the first half. After that it seems to all even out. But dear god what a bore of a match.

Also, what does it mean that I found myself rooting for N. Korea against Brazil? They should be extremely happy to have held Brazil nil-all through the first half, and considering the extreme luck bestowed upon Maicon in the second, that game could have easily been a 1-1 draw. Maybe that's just a little under-estimation on Brazils part (or Kim Jon Il threatening the family members of the NK team), but either way, I enjoyed rooting for them and watching that match.

I understand that a lot of teams want to get that first game out of the way without losing, but why does it seem like there are very few team that are excited to be in the World Cup and are actually trying to win? Is it my naive American mind or are teams really that afraid to attack? Oh well, at least I still have Spain to look forward to.