Good game. Very good game. But great game? Not so fast. Italy did not have a first choice line up on the field. Neither did the US, but the former was by choice, the latter was not. And of course it was a friendly. It’s hard for me to get amped up about a game without first choice lineups that don’t matter. They played well on the road against a better team that could have played better. It was a good performance, a confidence boosting one, but let’s not act like this was a monumental win. Historic in that they had never beat Italy and that Italy has never lost in Genoa, but historic and monumental aren’t the same thing.
The first 5 minutes were a total mess, obviously. This wasn’t unexpected, as Clarence Goodson isn’t good enough to be a starter and Carlos Bocanegra, for all his positives, isn’t dominate enough to carry the load. The lofted through balls from Andrea Pirlo gave them fits, which is worrisome because they knew they were coming. On the other hand, Pirlo’s been giving everyone fits with those passes throughout his career, so I’ll cut them some slack. Sebastian Giovinco also gave the CB duo a hard time, the talent they face is only going to get harder when the games get real. Fabian Johnson and Steve Cherundolo pushing up a lot early didn’t help, but it didn’t kill them either. Danny Williams was completely invisible. He brought nothing to the table offensively, and in a 4-4-1-1 you’ve got to bring some game. Defensively it’s tough to say how he faired. He didn’t have any WTF passes, didn’t have anyone blow by him and didn’t leave Cherundolo hanging out to dry. That qualifies as “good enough” in my book. I disagree with Alexi Lalas that the first half was disappointing. Considering that half the team is backups I thought they did well. Could they have played better? Absolutely, especially defensively. But they weren’t as bad as Lalas made it sound.
There were plenty of positives. The passing was good: quick and on the money. Outstanding vision and passing by Michael Bradley in a breakout in the 7th minute, outstanding game by him all around really. He did everything you want a holding midfielder to do. A+ performance in my book. Then Cherundolo goes for a soft pass rather than a hard shot. Shoot it Steve! A wasted chance. Johnson looked really good on both ends of the field, Maurice Edu had a nice game and Goodson and Bocanegra settled down after a bumpy start. Jonathan Spector surprised me off the bench, he played well in limited time. Late defending left something to be desired, but the effort was excellent. And effort matters greatly in defending. Jozy Altidore was his usual self: great for brief moments and nowhere to be seen in others. He once again showed that he has the capability to be a target man on Dempsey’s goal. And one who can turn and shoot well enough as he’s not a bad shooter, which will give the opposition something else to think about, but he just isn’t consistent enough. A good Jozy game these days is one where we ask our selves what could he be if he just put it all together. I’m getting tired of waiting for that day to come.
Clint Dempsey continued to show that he is the best American player right now with a very good goal and a solid showing as the #10, a role he doesn’t play. Early on he drifted to the left as predicted, but then he settled into the traditional role. Once they had the lead, it seemed to me that the US was content to just pass the ball around and waste time for half an hour.
While I disagreed with Lalas at halftime, I agree with him fully in his post game comments. The team didn’t play demonstrably different than under Bob Bradley. Their formation was different, and they were more of a passing team and got forward more because of it, but I didn’t see the major shift in, for lack of a better word, attitude that Klinsmann is promising to deliver. Granted not having Landon Donovan for the game left them shorthanded on attack, but one player doesn’t make a team or a mentality. Wednesday’s win will be for naught if they don’t have a good showing against Scotland and Brazil.
It was a good game against a quality opponent. I don’t think we should be getting excited about good results against quality opponents. I think we should be expecting that to be the norm.