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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


USA Move Into the Last Four With Relative Ease

Written by on June 19, 2011 | 4 Comments »
Posted in CONCACAF Gold Cup, General

Much of the pre-game chatter revolved around Landon Donovan not making the starting line up. Perhaps the more critical decision was the change in formation – at least initially.

Rather than the more normal 4-2-2-2, US coach Bob Bradley started with a 4-2-3-1 set up with Bradley and Jones sitting deep in midfield with Kljestan wide on the left; Dempsey in the centre and Bedoya withdrawn on the right. Altidore started as a lone striker.

There was a lot of confusion surrounding Jamaica’s starting formation. Was it three at the back or was it four in defence? The answer perhaps was that it was both and neither.

Although the team was announced as playing in three banks they more often than not tried to play with four banks when in possession – two up front with three midfield players in support, then Austin playing as a defensive shield and the two full backs pushing forward which left the two centre backs.

When defending it was more often a back four than a back three. However, as the game progressed the level of sophistication required to successfully move from one formation to another began to breakdown in the face of the superior US technique.

And that was really the story of this game. It wasn’t about Landon Donovan not starting, or formations or Jamaica’s pace, it was just about the USA having better players who passed the ball better and moved off the ball better.

We can only guess what a difference it might have made to the final outcome if Ryan Johnson or Shelton had scored in the first few minutes when both were left one on one with Tim Howard. Howard saved the first and the second attempt has yet to land. Perhaps the USA might have panicked, Jamaica might have defended doggedly.

But it would turn out to be Jamaica’s best chance of the match as the USA dominated proceedings for the rest of the game. Only Donovan Ricketts stood between his side and a pummeling.

Player Ratings (1 – low 10 – high)

Tim Howard – 7, earned his coin today with the opening save while everything else was routine.

Steve Cherundolo – 6, had acres of space to operate in – especially in the first half – but too often he hesitated to put in an early ball or his final pass fell short.

Clarence Goodson – 5, still not totally convincing at the centre back position. There were moments that would have cost the US dear against better opposition.

Carlos Bocanegra – 7, any doubt that the pace of the Jamaica attack might prove to be too much was quickly put to bed with his reading of the game and overall anticipation. Solid in the air and on the deck.

Eric Lichaj – 5, I am afraid that I  do not see what others appear to see in Lichaj at left back. He does have some pace and gets forward nicely against lesser opposition. However, having a left back who can barely kick with their left foot hardly makes him the ideal candidate for the left back position.And what about the two throw-ins he took that he threw across the front of his own penalty area? For goodness sake has someone never told him that this is a cardinal sin?

Michael Bradley – 6, another less than sterling performance at this edition of the Gold Cup. Effort is not lacking but lack of game time while at Aston Villa might be the cause. Caught in possession a couple of times too often and his passing was ultra-conservative. However, his positional play and general awareness pulled him through.

Jermaine Jones (out 75th) – 8, without a shadow of a doubt his best performance for the US to date. Even without the shot that led to the opening goal and the breakaway that resulted in Jermaine Taylor being sent off he was still the afternoon’s outstanding performer.

Alejandro Bedoya (out 65th) – 6, made some good runs from his starting position wide on the right. Plays with great intelligence and his adaptability should make him a regular member of the international squad.

Clint Dempsey – 7, presented a real and present danger throughout the match to Jamaica. Finally got the goal his efforts deserved.

Sacha Kljestan -7, had one of his better matches for the USA and as the match wore on he grew stronger and more confident. A switch from a wide position on the left to a central position during much of the second half seemed to suit him.

Jozy Altidore (out 11th) – NR after going down with what looked like a hamstring problem

Subs Used;

Juan Agudelo (in 11th) – 7, played very well after replacing Altidore early in the game. Led the US line, worked hard to retain possession and had enough strength and pace to constantly bother the Jamaica defence.

Landon Donovan – (on 65th) – 6, contributed to the second goal and proved to be an ideal player as the USA set about managing the game to a successful conclusion.

Maurice Edu (in 75th) – 6, linked well when he came into the game and got forward for a crack at goal.

The Red Card

I don’t believe the replay of the incident when Jermaine Taylor was adjudged to have taken down Jermaine Jones as he broke clear was conclusive one way or another. Certainly it could not be used to prove that no contact was made.

The secondary point is that no contact is required in order for the referee to blow for an infringement – something that many seem to be missing from many comments.

A tertiary point is that Taylor failed to question the referee’s decision (as far as I could see anyway) – surely something to be considered before questioning the official’s decision?

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4 responses to “USA Move Into the Last Four With Relative Ease”

  1. Derek Taylor says:

    I think I’m going to start cheering for great dives. No one of importance seems to want them out of the game, so I figure we might as well learn to appreciate them.

    Jones’s dive was a solid effort. The question I had to post to Eoin was: Have you even been tripped in a way that flung your head, shoulders and arms straight backwards? I’ve gone face-first into things many times. Never with the spasmodic contraction of the lower-back muscles that is so common among soccer dives.

  2. Soccerlogical says:

    Bobby – I like your rating on Kid Bradley as it shows you appreciate the kid’s ability and know what he is capable of. Let’s keep in mind he created several through ball opportunities for a few chances this game and already has 2 assists in the tournie.

    Additionally, are you familiar enough with both Jermaine Jones’ and Maurice Edu’s overall ability to make a comparison? It seems Jones is a better destroyer but Edu has better passing range and better shot on goal. Of the two, who would you prefer alongside Kid Bradley in the current formation deployed by the coach?

  3. alex in houston says:

    Next up rematch against Panama. The U.S. will certainly try & keep possesion with the numbers that they have in midfield and would look to play this formation again. Playing to their strenghts while covering their weakness at the back & in the striker position, it makes me wonder why he has not considered this formation before. My guess is that the pieces to make this system work are just falling into place. I forget that a natural progression is just that “natural”. And that Bradley is not one to force the issue. If he decides to tinker with this new fangled version of the way the USMNT plays, it would be to further tighten up the defensive play at the back. With Jozy possibly not seeing the field anymore this Gold Cup, I think it might further clarify the need to play five in midfield. How should Bradley go about beating the Panamanians Bobby?

  4. Dave in Philly says:

    Bobby thanks for making that point about no contact required for the call to be made when you were talking about the red card. This is something most fans don’t understand or choose to leave out of an argument when talking about a foul.

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