Quick thoughts on U.S. and Argentina friendly

Messi working his magic in and around the box. The little man seems to glide across the field when watching him in person. (Courtesy Alison Ciarleglio of APC Studios)

By Kevin Koczwara

1.) Jozy Altidore needs a partner in crime — He’s not a hold-up striker. Altidore is a ball at his feet type of player who likes to pass and move  and take on defenders. His body looks like it should be a that of a bruising center forward, but he’s not, no matter how much people want him to be.

Altidore works best when he has someone playing directly alongside him, and last night was proof, again. When Juan Agudelo came on at halftime, Altidore transformed, starting to hold up play a bit, open up space for other players, and connect passes. The 4-5-1 may put the best players on the field for the U.S., but it doesn’t work for the type of forward Altidore is. He can’t hold up play or swing the ball wide and get in behind defenses with break-neck speed on the counter. He is a solid, ball at his feet type of player who knows how to open space for his partner.

2.) U.S. still a grind it out kind of team — The USMNT has long been known for its heart and grinding out  a resultin it favor. American soccer players haven’t been noted for their flair or their creativity, for the most part, over the years. And that hasn’t changed much. Yes, players like Dempsey and Donovan have improved the skill level of the team, but still, the team grinds out results, plays solid, heartfelt defense, and out works opponents. Argentina passed all over the U.S., and the Yanks were lucky to get the ball at times, never mind the draw. For the USMNT to really start making strides in the international soccer world and jump to that elite category, the next generation needs to produce some more skill and creativity.

3.) Lionel Messi more impressive in person — I watch Barcelona and Argentina whenever I can. I try not to miss any of their games because little Messi makes every second a spectacle. He is that good.In person he is even better.

His off the ball movement is impeccable and his skill with the ball is unmatched. Players will make a solid, clean tackle on him and think they won the ball, only to see that it is still attached to his foot, bouncing forward. Elite players get those bounces because they are so good the ball never wants to leave their feet. Numerous times Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Maurice Edu made good solid challenges and knocked the ball free from Messi’s feet, but he got possession back in flash and continued breaking down the defense.

Kevin Koczwara can be reached at Kevin.Koczwara@thesoccerguysonline.com.

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