Saturday, November 14, 2015

The U.S., St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and an Inevitable Win

I see the U.S. winning the World Cup.
Call it a good start, I guess. Or just call it the right one. With the U.S. Men's National Team tangling with a small island minnow like St. Vincent & the Grenadines, anything too far short of clear victory would have begged questions. One of those could have been, how the hell did St. Vincent score that first goal?

Within the U.S. context, this is the equivalent of those preseason spring warm-ups that Major League Soccer clubs play against the local college: victory is basically assured and the day will be a success so long as Hristo Stoichov or Dema Kovalenko doesn't break some poor kid's leg (hmm...thought Kovalenko broke a college kid, too; nope, just one of my all-time favorite MLS players, Ronnie O'Brien). In any event, St. Vincent (or do they prefer the Grenadines, when people aren't feeling up for spitting out the whole mouthful?) could barely get out of their half. The game only becomes interesting if you rewrite the rules to allow Grenadines (going with that one, this time) a goal every time they got the ball across the midfield stripe at the feet of one of their players. Even with that revision, I think they still would have lost last night...

So, I guess that leaves talking about the U.S. Men's collective and individual performances. On the collective side, see above, I suppose. At its simplest, the U.S. just had to figure out how to break down the St. Vincentians (also, probably not correct...know what, hold on: I'm going to figure out how to do this right, show a little respect. OK, have my resource...added "the" to the nation's formal title; and, hence forward, I will call the players and their country by their right name; OK, got it). And they did. To their credit, the Vincentians fought hard to keep the U.S. in front of them and to make their one goal stand up...and that lasted about 6 minutes or so. It did take a nice headed goal by Bobby Wood to equalize, at least, and a couple U.S. goals felt a little lucky, thanks to deflections (still, did not know Fabian Johnson could take a respectable free kick; see all the goals here). And so the U.S. walked out 6-1 winners.

I'll wrap up with thoughts on a couple players, even while acknowledging that a game like this provides a pretty distorted lens by which to judge anything. To put that more clearly: there are things U.S. attackers can do against the Vincentians that they can't do against even Trinidad & Tobago (who, for the record, won last night). Anyway, on with the Yanks, starting with a very special debut.

Darlington Nagbe
He did fine, he did his thing. And, for those who are not Portland Timbers fans, especially those who have heard the drooling over Nagbe among soccer pundits and U.S. fans and who had elevated expectations as a result: That's Darlington Nagbe. That's basically what he does; the passing map included in this article gives a nice visual of what Timbers fans see most weekends. I mean, the guy's first touch was a lateral pass, followed by dropping into a supporting position: pure Nagbe, in other words. Still, I was glad to see our Darling out there yesterday. And, yes, I do think he can do things for the U.S., good things too. He's just not going to break any U.S. Soccer records except maybe successful dribbles (not even sure how that's defined) and maybe highest pass percentage...which fortunately does include lateral and back passes. Again, reference that passing map.

Fabian Johnson
Yep, I liked the free kick, but I liked how capably and decisively he combines in the channels even more. I also like him at left midfield – as in further up the field. Put a good fullback behind him (not unlike Tim Ream) and let the Johnson run wild, I say.

Jozy Altidore
I think he's a good dude, even an unusually smart one (because of this), but he's not exactly elegant, even as he sometimes has the control to pull off that little dance he did on the way to scoring his late (deflected) goal (which, per what I see as his intelligence and class, he didn't celebrate too much). I'd say he’s about 50/50 on hold-up play, so he coughs up more than the optimal. I guess my point is, I want the man to succeed, and scoring a brace is nothing to sniff at. I'm just not sure that Eredivisie Jozy will ever return to a soccer field for either club or country.

Bobby Wood
I didn't gush sufficiently about the subtlety of Wood's headed equalizer, but a shot like that does speak to a certain promise in a forward. He's an active little fella, too, and one who has consistently made the most of his chances with the National Team.

Michael Bradley
Bore more than a passing resemblance to Michael Bradley.

Matt Besler
His aggressiveness stood out. Besler was a big part of keeping the Vincentians pinned in their own half...wait, did the American goalkeeper ever touch the ball? Jesus, I don't even think I know who played 'keeper for the U.S.

Gyasi Zardes
If there's one player currently lining up for the U.S. who I just do not get, it's Zardes. He had a couple nice moments – again, he scored (again, St. Vincent & the Grenadines), but he also did good smart things, like open up his hips as a first touch to turn his defender – but I see all the same things with Zardes on the national team that I see when he plays for LA: super heavy touches, general slowness of thought. Zardes shoots pretty reflexively, and that’s swell, but he’s hitting against a ceiling in terms of passing and vision.

And, yeah, that's it. The Trinidad & Tobago game should be far more informational. Not sure I'll be able to catch that one – because U.S. Soccer hates all employed people who live on the West Coast – but I'll put in the effort.

No comments:

Post a Comment