Tag Archives: Eric Lichaj

USMNT head to Gold Cup Quarterfinals

By Ryan Fleming

Sure, there is something that can be said that the United States Men’s National Team did indeed defeat Guadeloupe, 1-0; a team that isn’t even a member of FIFA (this competition is essentially their World Cup). You could also point to what it really means, not too much.

With the win the Yanks advance to the elimination round of the Gold Cup, taking on a Jamaica team that could very well provide an upset and the way Bob Bradley’s team is playing, I wouldn’t look past that possibility.

Tuesday night’s game started rather ominously, with Guadeloupe pressing early, providing for a rather heart-stopping moment when a ball from a corner kick found its way through the seemingly-sleeping defense all the way to Tim Howard. The ball was eventually cleared, but what could have been absolutely devastating for Bradley, who seems to be on the hot seat after every game, served, at least immediately, as a wake-up call.

US forward, Jozy Altidore, who surely didn’t spend a dime at the bar (indeed if he did go to one afterwards), put the Yanks up 1-0 with a rocket from outside the box — an area where the USMNT doesn’t strike from usually. As one of the most under-performing players in the last couple years, Altidore’s goal awoke deep, long forgotten memories of the promise he once had. What Bradley could use most is Altidore playing at his full potential — something that really, still even today, isn’t fully known.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

USMNT v Spain thoughts

By Kevin Koczwara

First Half Thoughts

Spain won the World Cup in 2010 and Euros in 2008 because it’s one of those rare national teams that works as a unit and is loaded with über-skilled players. The side has a style of play, and all of the players understand how it works. It’s remarkable to see them work as a unit and build the attack from the back while never losing a defensive shape.

The attacking shape Spain has isn’t anything any other team outside of Brazil and the Netherlands — when its best player stop fighting with one another — can play. There is not form or answer. Players keep switching, moving into space, moving out and filling. It’s like a beautiful blob that keeps creating and always looks to go to goal.

For the U.S. Men’s National Team, it needs to tighten up at the back and get the midfield some help. Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones are out numbered and out-classed trying to mark and play against Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets — who’s barely had to do anything — and David Silva in the middle of the field. Santi Cazorla is swapping flanks and opening up space for either Sergio Ramos on the left side or Alvaro Arbeloa on the right to overlap and get in behind the defense.

Spain has also taken advantage of the funny bounce on the grass laid over the turf at Gillette. The ball sits up nicely for an attacker when the ball lands and dies on the sod. Because of this, Spain has sent over a few balls into space and to an attacker making a run because the ball won’t continue to roll or bounce all the way to Tim Howard in goal, instead the ball settles nicely on the foot of an attacker. The U.S.’s high line in the defense isn’t helping either. The high line is allowing space in behind and Tim Ream and Oguchi Onyewu don’t have the pace or the communication, or so it seems, to keep up with the through ball.

Second Half Thoughts

The United States just couldn’t cope in the midfield all game, but it did improve in the second half. Spain’s possession game wears a team out, and it just killed the U.S. Michael Bradley — who came on at half-time — Sacha Kljestan and Jonathan Spector — moving into the midfield after starting at right back — couldn’t swarm the ball or force mistakes with pressure because they were worn out from chasing the game.

Bob Bradley finally felt the need to bring on Clint Dempsey and move Jonathan Spector out of defense and into the midfield in the second half. Things clicked a bit better for the USMNT at that point, but it all didn’t work.

Dempsey playing high in the center of the midfield with Michael Bradley, who also came on at half-time, and Spector behind him gave Dempsey the freedom to open things up and hold the ball for the U.S., something the team lacked in the first half with Agudelo and Altidore up top as neither is particularly adept at brining other players into the game or holding the ball.

Kljestan was also impacted by Dempsey’s arrival and the Fulham player’s ability to get on the ball. Kljestan was almost invisible in the first half (I had to check with reporters around me to make sure he was a second half substitute). Kljestan had some positive moments on the ball when he came back and found some space because Dempsey was able to grab hold of the ball and allow Kljestan time to move into space to receive a pass, which is encouraging for Bob Bradley going into Gold Cup games because Kljestan will give him a positive player who can pass the ball and move in the midfield coming off the bench when something new is needed.

Spector looked more comfortable in the midfield than he did on the right side of the defense. At West Ham, he showed more potential and ability in the midfield as a ball winner who found himself ghosting into the box at the right time. Too bad for him that the depth in the midfield is the one area  the U.S. actually has some. He needs to improve his game at right back, still, or get it back to the level of the Confederations Cup in 2009 — where he was a notable addition and stand-out — to find playing time during the Gold Cup.

Steve Cherundolo seems to be aging backwards and doesn’t look like he’s giving the spot up on the right side of the defense anytime soon, which is good for Bradley because he is short of options there. But the U.S. needs cover for the 32 year old, and if Spector doesn’t pick up his game he might see Eric Lichaj jumping ahead of him, as well as Timmy Chandler — who isn’t on the roster because of fatigue from his club season in Germany.

As for Lichaj, he looked uncomfortable on the left, but he hasn’t been playing there for long and he’s right footed, not an easy transition, especially against the best team in the world. There is still promise for him, though. As a right back, we might be able to see more of his ability to get forward and cross the ball.

The key for the game against Canada will be the U.S. ability to create, and its obvious that Clint Dempsey gives them the best chance at creating through the middle and holding play up. Bradley may look for him to be the catalyst in Detroit, Mich. against Canada in the opener if Landon Donovan has to miss the game because of the illness that kept him out of today’s match with Spain. When Dempsey was on the field, the parts all seemed to move and his skill on the ball allowed other players to find space and get into better spots to receive the ball. Which is something this team sorely needs right now.

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Eric Lichaj needs to succeed at Leeds

Elland Road (picured) is one of England's most storied stadiums, and Lichaj will be able to get more first team playing time at Leeds United in the second half of the season rather than sitting out at Aston Villa. Leeds United is one of England's most stories clubs. (Courtesy Auz Flickr)

By Kevin Koczwara

Eric Lichaj found himself in a tough situation at Aston Villa this year. The 22-year-old American defender began making his way into the first team and establishing himself as a young defender to watch in the English Premier League early in the season.

Lichaj started fighting for a spot on the first team because of inconsistent play from Luke Young, Ciaran Clark, and Stephen Warnock. Then Gerard Houllier took the vacant position as the club’s long-term manager and replacement for Martin O’Neil. Houllier brought in Kyle Walker from Tottenham on loan to play right back for Villa, making Lichaj a surplus to requirements. The American has been given a way to get back on track, a chance to catapult his carrier back on the fast track, with a loan move to Leeds United for the second half of this season.

The move to Leeds for Lichaj could be a real boost for his young career, even if he isn’t getting playing time in the Premier League. The American is getting a chance to play for a club fighting back from some hard times in the Championship.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,