By Kevin Koczwara
The United States Men’s National team had a much needed trial game against El Salvador. It was a game for players on the bubble to make a case for their spot on the 23-man roster for the World Cup in June. The players who make the cut after the El Salvador game will surely be invited to the friendly next week against the Netherlands.
First Half Analysis
The United States has shown good poise in the midfield and good work to release their strikers. But they haven’t made the best of what they have created, for the most part. The U.S. still struggles in the final third to control play, be patient, and break down opposing defenses. If the squad is going to keep relying on the counter for all their goals then the World Cup will be another disappointment.
A major issue has come from wide players not being able to get in strong crosses with pace, power and accuracy. Their crosses from the sidelines have been flat and aren’t getting into the danger area in the box.
But some good performances in the first half were:
Clarence Goodson: The center-back plays in Norway and is the only player on the starting 11 tonight to play overseas. He looked strong, made smart decisions with the ball, getting it up in the attack, but on the ground and to a U.S. player. He clears with a purpose. He made a few big step ups and stymied some great chances for El Salvador.
Sacha Kljestan: The center midfielder was once a shoe-in to South Africa, but then he got lazy. He lacked the killer instinct a center midfielder needed on and off the ball. He wasn’t creating for his teammates or himself. But tonight he looked positive. He had a few golden chances on net that he should have finished. He looked dangerous in the attacking third and on the break. He still isn’t the best tackling midfielder I ever did see, but he is tracking back and getting into good space in the defensive end, so that was encouraging.
Heath Pearce: He was flying up the left flank and crossing the ball with a purpose. He was a breath of fresh air.Pearce was playing the wide midfielder position the right way–playing from touchline to touchline– and it showed because when he was on the ball the U.S. was creating scoring chances. I was impressed by him, and that is surprising because he has not been my favorite player on the pitch, to say the least. If he can keep playing like this then he is a viable option to come off the bench in South Africa and make and impact. At the very least he will be invited to play next week against the Dutch.
Kyle Beckerman: He brings intensity all over the field. He is a great tackler and he can make a killer pass that opens the field up in the attack, something the U.S. needs. I like him so much right now I may be starting him of Ricardo Clark in South Africa. I see him improving each game and his performance int he MLS Cup Final was remarkable. His confidence is through the roof and it is showing in the way he is playing. He will surely be asked to be back for next week’s friendly. He has made smart tackles in the defensive third, come out of nowhere on the attack and he is confident on the ball and willing to pass the ball around a bit and not rush the attack–something I love in a midfielder.
Overall the U.S. needs more finishing power on the field right now. Connor Casey is playing great and distributing, but he can’t beat anyone 1-on-1 and make a great goal-scoring chance for himself. And Finley has used his pace to get into space but hasn’t done too much with the ball. Wide play has been great, but they need someone who has pure finishing skill on the field for the second half. Look for some changes in the attack for the second half.
Second Half Analysis
The U.S. struggled to find a ball hungry striker who can finish when the ball is in the dangerous area.Ching scored on a great run, but the cross is what made it. Heath Pearce struck in another amazing cross with power, pace and accuracy. Pearce hit Ching in the head in the six yard box and all the Hawaiian had to do was direct it in the net. But the U.S. had so many chances, they needed the one pass and the killer finishing instinct.
With the all the chances the U.S. had they should have won this game easily. It should have been no question come thr final whistle.
The U.S. still needs to work on their final third attacking. They still rush it, don’t control possession int he final third, and make the other team work to get the ball back. Chances will come if they work hard, look for openings, take them when they come instead of rushing to the touchline and crossing the ball to no one. But this was better than I expected.
So let’s look at some players who had a good second half and saw their stock rise in the market to go to Holland next week.
Sacha Kljestan: He finished on his only chance on goal, giving the U.S. the lead in stoppage time. He was great all game in the attack. His goal was pure work-rate, taking the ball from the El Salvador defender just outside the box.He may have worked his way on the team. He looked positive, now can he stay on top of his game.
Heath Pearce: He was great out wide, crossing the ball, and pushing up and down the field as a left back. His assist was great on the Ching goal. He worked hard and made his presence be known all game.
Eddie Gaven: He won numerous free kicks on the right flank. He came on at half time and got right in the action. He had his chance on goal, and created for other players. He was solid and a great addition. I didn’t expect him to play this way. He made his name be known and that he can compete and deserves at least another look.
Brian Ching: Ching scored the first goal for the U.S. on a great cross from Pearce. He finished clinically, putting the ball out of reach of Montes (who had an amazing game for El Salvador in net). The U.S. had chances int he first half and couldn’t finish them, but Ching came on and proved that he can win balls in the air in the box and put them in the net. I am not the biggest fan of him, but in the box he can score. Bradley has always liked him, and now he can point to this performance to back his decision to keep the Hawaiian on the squad.
Robbie Rodgers: Rodgers had his impressive moments, but at other times he struggled. He took almost all the free kicks, but his crosses were to high, and lacked pace. He worked hard and earned a few free kicks and corners. He hit the woodwork once and showed that he has the desire needed on the field to make positive plays on the field
Bob Bradley has some decisions to make after this game. Some players stocks have risen, but he will have the final say. If I were him, Beckerman, Pearce and Kljestan would be on my roster for the Netherlands game next week. They deserve another chance, and look to be useful players in the midfield.
As for strikers, Bradley still has some tough decisions to make. He has on striker for sure in Altidore, but he may have to surround him with wing players in the attack for now until he can find a partner for the youngster–a partner must be able to play off of and alongside Altidore, not just a space filler.
All in all, it was a good performance from the young U.S. squad. The result shows that the MLS is a good starting point for U.S. players and that it is developing good American talent.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at email@example.com