Explosive US Men Rampage Scots
Well that was gratifying! A 5-1 pasting and it easily could have been more. Watch the highlights, watch the touch-by-touch video of Bradley’s game. This was the best the US have looked since I started watching. And in those rad striped uniforms, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were watching a different country’s national team out there.
Donovan capped a week in which he’d questioned his own desire to continue playing with a perfect performance. A hat trick, an assist on Jones’ goal, and the key cross on the Bradley’s stunner – he had a hand in all 5 goals.
It is tempting to just gush on and on about the performance – but let’s get a little more analytical.
I watched this game in a non-soccer-ish sports bar in Vegas and was a little distracted – but in my second viewing when I got home, here’s what stood out.
Transition game – Whether pressing deep in Scotland’s end, or swarming the ball in their own half, the US side was able to get numbers up on the Scots quickly after turnovers and push that advantage quickly. Scotland helped by being sloppy and sluggish, but this is the new American style that Klinsmann has promised. It’s enabled by…
Defensive work rate – When the Scots had the ball, it looked like a lonely blue jersey in a sea of red stripes. They were forced to go square and backwards to teammates in minimal space, and usually turned the ball over a pass or two later. Some of this is down to the Scottish players not working hard enough off the ball, but most of it is due to extremely well-organized team defense that gets numbers around the ball more quickly than the opposition can react. That takes commitment and fitness to do for 90 minutes, and that’s what we saw. Fantastic, but pointless unless…
Precision passing leads to scoring chances – All of this work to win the ball, to push forward into attack – it all means nothing if you can’t put the passes together to create chances. This US team is the most precise we’ve seen. Donovan, Bradley, Jones, and Torres didn’t just find their teammates in good spots. They found their teammates with accurate balls that improved their recipient’s options. Playing balls to the proper foot of the recipient, playing them to spots where the recipient can speed up their next play rather than having to slow it down – that’s what the best teams do. You can find multiple examples of this throughout the game and that’s my favorite part about this. The sharpness on display was not only for a play or two, but until the 5th goal when the team shut it down for the night.
Outside back play – Fabian Johnson is a very, very good left back – such an upgrade from our prior options (Bornstein, Pearce) as to be game changing for the US. Cherundolo is his steady, underappreciated self.
Leadership – this team is mature, focused, and has leaders all over the field. Bocanegra is the captain, but you saw captain-ish displays of leadership from many players during the game. After the game, the team was on message as well – they know this is just a start and we’re far from accomplishing anything meaningful yet.
Defensive midfield play – Edu did a fine job in a critical role. His positioning discipline and precise, aggressive tackling allowed Bradley and Jones to rampage wherever they wanted. Scotland was unable to build anything up the middle. At all.
The Just OK
Cameron – The Houston Centerback has a ton of promise, but was caught ball-watching on the header that he then bungled into the net. Pretty solid other than that – and I’m glad Klinsmann is making a concerted effort to build depth here.
Boyd – The internet seems to like the Center Forward a bunch after this game. Surely youth plays into some of that. I see the potential, but no polish yet. His workrate is excellent, but he lost some balls he should have kept and generally failed to make an impact. Altidore and Gomez give us more today.
Vulnerability to Width – Scotland didn’t have the speed or skill to punish us, but it looks like we’re vulnerable to speedy and precise wing play. With our outside backs and two CM’s pushing up with the three forwards, Edu can’t cover that much ground when the ball turns over and is played into the vacated wide space. This appears to be the tradeoff Klinsmann made in this game and it paid off, as the Scots lacked the wherewithal to exploit us. But Brazil won’t – and I anticipate adjustments.
Klinsmann’s stamp on this team seems clear at this point and I’m on the bandwagon. If this is the level of play we’re going to call our standard from now on, we’re in for a fun few years.
The level of competition raises just a tad – Brazil in DC tonight on ESPN2. I’m optimistic about our ability to get a result, but won’t be too disappointed without one. Last time we played them, a bunch of their kids ran our first team off the park – this will be an interesting measuring stick.