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If it's not one thing, it's another.
The United States headed into their friendly against Turkey on Saturday with plenty of questions; between Oguchi Onyewu's knee and Bob Bradley's unclear thinking on who might pair with Jozy Altidore in the forward line, we hoped for clarity by the end of the day.
Instead, the match presented more questions, both of the oh-my-god-we're-done-for variety and the more pleasant good-problem-to-have type.
First, the bad. West Ham's Jonathan Spector, the presumed starter at right back, played a terrible first half and was directly responsible for Turkey getting out to a 0-1 lead. Ricardo Clark (Eintract Frankfurt), one of the leading candidates to start in central midfield alongside Michael Bradley, was either poor or simply invisible depending on the report. Clint Dempsey, starting in a forward position rather than his usual right midfield spot, did little to solve the striker issues Bob Bradley must work out. Generally assessed, the U.S. looked slow, reactionary, and just not good enough in the first half. It was forty-five minutes of experimentation gone wrong, made doubly worse by Spector's abject performance.
The cliche "night and day" is overly used, not always correctly or accurately applied; still, for the Americans on Saturday, there's no better way to say it. The second half held most of the "good" for Bob Bradley's team, and not just in the total team play. Jose Francisco Torres, a Mexican-American who plays his club football with Pachuca in the Mexican PrImera, replaced Ricardo Clark at half and make an immediate difference.
The diminutive midfielder, known for his quality on the ball, gave Bradley every reason to consider him for a starting role on June 12th. Torres' simple ability to maintain possession, something the U.S. lacks all too often, makes him an intriguing option.
Robbie Findley, a striker with Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake, was the shock inclusion in Bradley's final squad; taken over the experienced target man Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo). Findley had his chance to prove the doubters wrong when he entered at half time on Saturday. The speedy forward made an immediate impact, found Landon Donovan with a quality chip for the first U.S. goal, and gave the fans a glimpse of what Bob Bradley had obviously seen when he decided to name Findley to the World Cup roster.
Another new problem; if Dempsey is more effective from the midfield (from where he scored the winner on Saturday), and all that are available are internationally-inexperienced players, where does Bradley turn? Was Findley's strong half enough to get him a start on the biggest stage in the world?
Add an improved Oguchi Oneywu (he was stiff, slow, and hesitant on Tuesday against the Czechs), the capable play of Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson and Jozy Altidore, and there was much to be positive about. But it's the clear deficiencies, and the gasp-inducing problems at right back that will rightly get most of the attention.
Luckily, Bradley at least has a reasonable second option in that spot, as longtime Hannover man Steve Cherundolo calmed things measurably in the second half. Depth, particularly in the back, is not a luxury the U.S. typically possess; if the understudy at left back, Jonathan Bornstein, sees the field for example, count on a disaster.
Bradley appeared to use the match against Turkey to experiment a bit, learn something more about certain players as the World Cup countdown approaches the end. Whether it was his intention or no, he left Philadelphia with even more questions than he arrived with. How he answers those questions will ultimately determine how the Americans fare in this World Cup.
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Spending more time thinking about football (and not the American kind) than most believe healthy, he unfortunately has yet to found a way to support himself doing it.
Nevertheless, he soldiers on, waving an over-sized version of Old Glory wherever he goes, hoping for an American World Cup victory before he's too old to realize it happened, and dreaming of the day a washed-up Yank heads to England to finish out his career rather than the other way around.
If Bornstein plays, I will cry. Quite possibly one of the worst defenders I have ever seen for the USMNT and that's saying something.
I still favor this team to get out of the group stage but the fact of the matter is if they play the way they did against Turkey in the first half, there's a good chance they could lose each game. Handily. Hopefully we'll see a first-choice lineup on Saturday against the Aussies and a more consistent (ie better) performance.
I'm not sure if I agree that Spector was directly responsible for conceding the first goal. Yes, he ventured forward leaving behind his responsibilities at RB, but the defensive line should have shifted to cover the gap. IMO, it was a lack of defensive cohesiveness that was directly responsible, not one man.
That being said, Spector gave up the ball too cheaply in that circumstance, and for this he can be held responsible. However, even in the case of a break-away for the Turks, the remaining defenders should have been able to hold up the attack until Spector could regain his position behind the ball.
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