Of all the soccer matches I watched this weekend including, Galaxy vs. Dynamo, Fire vs. Real, Brazil vs. England, and Switzerland vs. Nigeria, the match that left me the feeling the most uninspired was the US vs. Slovakia match. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge US soccer fan, probably one of the biggest you’ll find, but this game left little to write home about.
Was it the fact that the match was a less than meaningful international friendly? Was it the fact that the US’ most exciting, explosive player was in Los Angeles helping his team qualify for the MLS final? Was it the fact that the Kansas City Wizards could draw a bigger crowd during a midweek match than the 7,200 fans in attendance in Bratislava? Was it the fact that the game had a 7 A.M. start time the morning after a two blackout, two extra time marathon of a match at the Home Depot Center, followed by a night celebration? Or was it a little bit of all of the above? Whatever the reason, most fans of the game considered the game to be lackluster at best.
While the game lacked the sense of urgency or panache that is usually displayed in international matchups, the US played quality football on European soil against a side that will also make the trip to South Africa, which is a good sign for US diehards. Minus a questionable foul by a questionable left back, the US dominated the majority of the possession, but lacked the offensive fire power to make much of an impact in the attacking third of the pitch. Bob Bradley said of the performance, “Slovakia is very well organized and has a lot of people behind the ball. We were not sharp enough with our ability in the attacking third to make a play and get through the defense.”
While Saturday’s match up in Slovakia wasn’t the most exciting game is US soccer history, I believe the US team leaves Bratislava a better team for it. Why is that you ask?
1) As most US fans knew, replacing Charlie Davies is going to a very difficult if not impossible task. The good news, the once potent and very dangerous Eddie Johnson played an effective forty five minutes for the Red, White, and Blue. If Johnson can continue to log minutes for both Fulham and Bob Bradley’s squad, I believe he will be headed to South Africa.
2) After cult like heroic performances by Conor Casey and Jonathan Bornstein in the final two games of CONCACAF qualifying it is still obvious to see that both of these players lack the world class quality that will be needed to help the US in South Africa.
3) Clint Dempsey has the ability to step up when called upon. If he can bring this attitude to every match, the way he did in Bratislava, he will make some waves in South Africa.
4) Jonathan Spector is a suitable replacement if not better center back option than the injured Oguchi Onyewu. No offense to Gooch, but his giant size and lack of foot speed, coordination, and the ability to work the ball out of the back have always bothered me. While he may not have the physical stature of Gooch, Spector brings a much more settled calming effect to the US backline.
5) If for some reason, Landon Donovan is not available for World Cup 2010, the US is in BIG, BIG trouble!
The US will wrap up its European tour tomorrow when it takes on Denmark in Aarhus. For those of you expecting a free flowing, high flying, action packed game that Saturday’s match was missing, don’t bet on it. For the US side, Jose Francisco Torres, one of the States’ most promising young players, has opted out of the game for personal reasons, while Clint Dempsey has returned to his club team, leaving the US with a shortage of attacking options On the other hand, this could be a great opportunity for young Edgar Castillo to make his mark on the left side of the defense for the US, while Houston Dynamo’s Stuart Holden will have a chance to further solidify his claim on a plane ticket to South Africa. For Denmark, key players such as Dennis Rommedahl, Jon Dahl Tomasson, Thomas Kahlenberg, Soren Larsen, Nicklas Bendtner, and Daniel Agger will all be missing in action, leaving the Danish side seriously depleted for the clash, but if you are anything like me, regardless of who’s lining up and who were lining up against, you’ll be planted in front of the TV clad in your red, white, and blue.
Spector Boca Goodson Castillo
Rogers Clark Bradley Holden