Quick Thoughts on USA-Mexico

I know not all my readers come here for soccer news. But, as a lot of you know, I love the beautiful game and will talk about it from time to time. So, um, deal, I guess, is what I’m trying to say here.

Here are some extremely brief thoughts on last night’s game:

1. Tim Howard is world class

Not only for the two huge saves he had, which, good lord, they were huge. He was also world class in that he recognized he had an inexperienced four defenders in front of him, so he basically stood on a pulpit and screamed directions at his defenders for 90+ minutes. Forget just staying focused for the entirety of the game as Mexico controlled nearly all possession, ready for any number of shots coming at him. Howard did all that while directing, gesticulating, organizing…he was not only the last line of defense, he was the general, keeping his back line compact and protecting the center of the field. Brilliant work, and a no doubt selection for Man of the Match.

2. Klinsmann was brilliant

Our coach recognized he didn’t have the personnel to fight Mexico straight up, so what did he do? Little rope a dope. By sticking Beckerman and Jones in the center of the park, he basically handed the Mexicans the wings. Here, Mexico, Klinsmann said, in his adorable accent: take the wide ground. We’re going to pack the middle of the park and bet on our two center backs going up against Chicharito on balls flighted in. Mexico’s service was poor, Chicharito couldn’t finish, and the batten-down-the-hatches performance worked. Mexico, for their mark, should have forced the issue more in the center of the field, and seemed too eager to take what the USA gave them. That’s how you lose a game when you have 75% of the possession.

3. Torres can’t hang with the big boys

Jose Torres looks about as good as any player in the world…when he’s going up against Canada or Scotland. Against a team that can physically handle him, that doesn’t give him space, he simply can’t do it. He’s a little boy out there, and last night he was useless. I know Bradley was with Roma and unavailable…but this game reinforced just how many light years Bradley is ahead of Torres in the center of the park. (I might say the same about Donovan, but he claimed an injury. I hope he was injured, because he was terrible last night.)

4. Geoff Cameron is the real deal

The makeshift center back was dominant in the air, tidy with his feet, and handled (for the most part) the quickness of Chicharito up top. Absolutely brilliant signing for Stoke City, who plan on using him in the central midfield. Really excited to track his progress as he moves forward.

5. Free Brek Shea

Brek Shea has had a pretty gnarly 2012. Ostracized from his MLS team, goal and assist productivity down, his haircut’s perception going from “hip rebellion” to “desperate plea for attention”…this year hasn’t been kind. So it was such a delight to see him get out there and show us why we all got so excited about him in the first place.

Why? Brek Shea Is Not Afraid To Take Guys On. This is a rare commodity in the United States side, and frankly, after watching Danny Williams timidly pass the ball backwards for 70 minutes, I was desperate for someone, ANYONE, to go at someone.

Brek Shea went at someone. In one of his first touches of the game, he megged the Mexican right back, awkwardly cut to the end line (it’s always a little awkward with Brek), then forced a left foot cross. Boyd clumsily heel flicked on, and Orozco Fiscal (or, as I called him last night when he subbed in: “Who?”), sweet Orozco Fiscal, finished at the back post. 

What did we learn? We learned that we can stay compact and defend when we need to. We learned that Brek Shea still can make things happen. And we learned that though it was just a friendly, Klinsmann can get his boys up for big games, and we can pull one out. A great night for the Americans, and I hope we build something off of it. 

A Tactical Explanation of Why the USWNT Lost the World Cup Final

I know that this blog isn’t usually a forum for my thoughts on soccer. I thought long and hard about creating another blog for that purpose, but my soccer posts are infrequent enough that it seemed silly to do so. Maybe once this year’s Fulham season (my club team) really picks up I’ll have the inclination, but for now it’ll live here.

Also, for those who don’t know me well, I’m not a total amateur asshole speaking on the subject. Just partially an amateur asshole. I was a decent player growing up (at a young age, very good) but never a great player. I was/am, on the other hand, a very good to great coach. This is something I’m ok bragging about, mostly because it’s Monday morning and I don’t feel like going through the motions of humbly trying to convey the point that I, for the most part, know what I’m talking about. Ok, enough. Thoughts on Women’s World Cup.

There are many reasons the US women’s national team lost the final yesterday to Japan. If you want to be simplistic, the Japanese made more penalties than we did. If you want to be a little less simplistic (but not much), you could say we wilted under the pressure or “choked.”

You could also say that we were painfully slow in the center of the midfield (Shannon Boxx, while a great passer, looked like she was calf-deep in quicksand all tournament), that our passing was sloppy, that we missed chances. It’s easy to criticize attackers—that part of the game is easier to understand. You can see a shot that doesn’t go in. You can see a pass that gets intercepted. But I think it’s pretty clear to most knowledgeable people watching that US’s failure had nothing to do with our ability to attack.

Our main problem, sadly, was in the central defense.