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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

May 25, 2010

As yesterday’s U.S/Czech friendly was clearly a chance for Bob Bradley to assess individual players, we here at Fluffing the Lines thought we should do the same. As such, we decided to break them down in to three groups: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Ugly

Jonathan Bornstein – Not only was Bornstein unconvincing defensively in the left back position during the first half, but he gave the ball away far too often when the US was in possession. His crosses lacked quality, his passes didn’t hit the mark, and his defending was at best mediocre. But, to be fair, he wasn’t directly responsible for any goals.

Heath Pearce – Speaking of being directly responsible for goals, we come to Heath Pearce. I wanted to like Pearce, I really did. I have disliked Bornstein for a long time, and thought Pearce might be the answer to left back. Alas, I was sorely mistaken. He was directly responsible for the second and third goals, allowing Polak to cut across him to meet the ball , and also diving in to stop Pudil, leaving the central defense exposed.

Brad Guzan – This may be a little harsh, but it is hard to put a goalie who gave up four goals any where else. While his defense left him out to dry on the first three goals (although you can’t help but think that Tim Howard would probably have saved at least one of them), he could have saved the fourth. More than that, he didn’t make any terribly convincing saves. He came out and collected a few crosses, but by and large he seemed to be hoping that the Czech’s would simply miss (and they fed his delusions… I’m looking at you Fenin). In summary, thank God we have Tim Howard. And Marcus Hahnemann isn’t all that bad either.

The Bad

Sacha Kljestan – While Klejstan didn’t do anything terrible, he didn’t do anything to improve his case. When he came into the midfield, we began losing possession more often and pressing less. Things improved when he moved out wide to accommodate Holden in a central role, but we don’t need any more wide players on the plane to South Africa.

Alejandro Bedoya– Once again, largely anonymous. He scuffed his chance at a beautiful goal, and after that had very little to add to the game. He came off looking slightly better than Kljestan, however, because of his time with Holden.

Eddie Johnson– He looked alright, but never seemed like scoring. Every time he dropped deep to hold up the ball he was fouled, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but disrupted any counter attacks. In a night where all the forwards performed well, Johnson was the least impressive.

DeMarcus Beasley – As with Johnson, Beasley simply wasn’t impressive enough. He was lively and looked more like the old DeMarcus Beasley, but he didn’t produce enough in the final third of the pitch to really convince. He did, however, do a good job of tracking back.

Oguchi Onyewu – I know he is coming back from a long term injury, and I know he played fine on the ground, but conceding that header was unacceptable. One of the reasons Oguchi Onyewu looked so good at the Confederations Cup was the way he commanded the box in the air. He was a rock at the back. Tonight he barely seemed to be able to get of the ground. That being said, on the ground he did fine, but he needs to improve quickly to help out the US in the World Cup.

The Good

Stuart Holden – Perhaps the most impressive performance tonight came from Holden. He linked incredibly well with Steve Cherundolo down the right flank, and was full of inventive passing. In the second half, when the central midfield lost a hold of the game, it was Holden orchestrating our most dangerous movements. More than that, his delivery on set pieces was excellent, leading to both goals of the game. He started to lag a little as the game wore on, and there were some moments after he had moved in to the center of the pitch that he looked like he just didn’t have it in him, but all in all it was a sparkling outing for Holden.

Clarence Goodson – On a night with Jay DeMerit and Carlos Bocanegra in street clothes, Oguchi Onyewu not 100%, and shaky outside back play, Goodson shined and either earned or solidified his position in the 23-man roster. He came forward and assisted on each of the two set pieces that netted American goals. He was active in the air, unlike Onyewu, and was consistently in position tonight, unlike the rest of the backline. Altogether it was a reassuring performance from one of our few, completely healthy central defenders.

Jose Francisco Torres – I have seen Torres play a few times, and he simply hasn’t impressed me. Until tonight. He was composed on the ball and showed a great range when passing. More than that, he worked hard pressing and winning the ball back, and the midfield looked flat when he was subbed in the second half. Judging by tonight’s performance I would like to see him play with Michael Bradley. Both have good vision and a lot of spark, while Torres seems like a slightly more offensive player than Bradley.

Herculez Gomez – The leading goal scorer from the Mexican First Division proved his worth when given the opportunity tonight. He finished a Clarence Goodson header on a corner kick and nearly doubled his scoring tally minutes later on a strike just inside the 22′. He played behind Ching, winning balls and creating opportunities and space for midfielders to push forward and also creating his own shot, which based on tonight’s performance, is quality. He’s a lot like Clint Dempsey and could also pair with Jozy Altidore in a similar capacity.

Maurice Edu – Despite being at fault for the final goal, Maurice Edu had an excellent outing. He and Torres meshed well in midfield, and he scrapped throughout the game. He has a knack of being in the right place at the right time that is invaluable (just ask the Rangers, or Celtic for that matter), and he did it again tonight by barely nicking Buddle’s goal bound effort. He did fine when he was moved into the back four, although I would prefer we only use him in emergencies.

Brian Ching – He’s not Mr. Exciting or Mr. Goal Scorer and probably won’t be, but what he does, he is very skilled at. He will never outpace you and he may not have the firepower of a Jozy Altidore, but his work rate is the best of any American striker and he also has a knack for winning balls and controlling possession, something the other strikers can struggle with. Ching finally appeared healthy and formed a healthy strike combination with the more explosive Gomez. This role translates nicely to being paired with Altidore.

Edson Buddle – I was very pleased with the way which Buddle played tonight. He has size, pace, and an excellent touch. More than that, he continually dropped back to help defend and to pick up possession for the counter attack. I would love to see Buddle paired up front with Altidore. Both have size and pace, and are excellent turning and making plays (remember that goal Altidore scored against Capdevila?). They could be great together in South Africa.

Steve Cherundolo – I hate to admit this, but Cherundolo looked good tonight. There were occasions where his defending was lax (he gave Lafata too much space to whip in his cross for the second goal), and he dribbled too much for my comfort in the first half, but going forward he was brilliant. His passing was excellent, and his decision making and chemistry with Stuart Holden were even better. I’ve never been a fan of Steve Cherundolo, but if he keeps playing like this then we can just play Jonathan Spector on the left.

Robbie Rogers – He started out very strong, but faded a little as the game seemed more and more out of reach of the US. His runs were pacy and great, his passing was good, and he showed tenacity in the final third where DeMarcus Beasley had shown complacency. I don’t know if it was enough to get him on the team, without a goal or an assist, but it was a good performance to build on in the future.

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