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USA not up to the task [VIDEO]
by Ridge Mahoney, March 3rd, 2010 2:57PM

TAGS:  men's national team, netherlands, world cup


[NETHERLANDS-USA] No excuses or apologies necessary for this defeat: a shorthanded USA squad wasn’t quite up to the task of subduing the Netherlands on its home field, even if the Dutch played most of the match at le ss than full throttle.

Dirk Kuyt tucked home a penalty kick in the 40th minute and a deflected shot by Klaas Jan Huntelaar got past U.S. keeper Tim Howard in the 73rd to provide a 2-0 Dutch lead the Americans could only cut in half when Carlos Bocanegra got his head to a DaMarcus Beasley free kick for a very late goal.

More important than the result is which Americans played themselves higher on the depth chart or slipped further down the ladder. Those issues are addressed here.

The difference in class between the teams personified itself many times, even during substitutions, such as one in the second half when Kuyt, a nettlesome pest throughout the match, went off in favor of Ryan Babel. Both play for Liverpool, a trophy-laden club not graced by an American since goalie Brad Friedel left for Blackburn in 2000.

The two Americans who play for the other team on Merseyside, Everton, must be on their game in South Africa. Only one answered the bell in Amsterdam.

Keeper Tim Howard responded with a sharp performance overall and one breathtaking save, a full-length flight to parry a rocket off the foot of Rafael van der Vaart. Landon Donovan, rather than being the catalyst his team so desperately needed, struggled through a languid match marked by poor decisions on the ball – he didn’t get many touches it must be said -- and not much industry away from it.

Unfortunately for the Americans, while most of the Dutch players were rarely stretched until the final minutes, Wesley Sneijder worked it unmercifully. Whenever and wherever there was space, he found it to take possession and spray an amazing array of chips, lobs, dinks, through balls and pingers to feet, and occasionally take a crack at goal.

Ostensibly, the Dutch showed a 4-5-1 formation, but as Sneijder roamed behind Kuyt and between wide mids Arjen Robben and Eljero Elia to form a line of three attackers, center mids Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel pressed up the field to win back balls turned over in the middle third. Michael Bradley broke up numerous plays and hit decent passes, but too many Americans were too tightly marked too often.

To escape the starting U.S. central midfield pair of Bradley and Jose Francisco Torres, Sneijder often floated into a netherworld midway between the midfield line and edge of the penalty area while also drifting to either side.

One credo of head coach Bob Bradley is that forwards must also contribute defensively, and neither Robbie Findley nor Jozy Altidore were active enough and alert enough to apply pressure when Sneijder was in their area. While the Dutch rarely took shots, they rarely lost the ball, and usually got it back when they did.

Altidore did a heroic job getting to the high balls launched in his direction, nicking a few headers to Findley that the RSL forward usually squandered. Torres got off the only real U.S. shot of the half, a long-range effort from 30-plus yards that flew high.

The U.S. attack had to re-adjust in the 34th minute when right mid Stuart Holden hobbled off with a shin contusion courtesy of a ruthless de Jong tackle, yet still the Americans could have reached halftime at 0-0 if not for a horrible error by left back Jonathan Bornstein.

Sneijder glided into the penalty area to receive a pass from right back Gregory van der Wiel and Bornstein, caught on Sneijder’s outside shoulder, tugged him down by the jersey. Howard went to his left and Kuyt’s penalty kick hit the opposite side netting for a 1-0 lead.

Both coaches substituted liberally in the second half and the Americans gradually gained some traction in midfield, though Sneijder burned them again to set up the second goal. He ducked a challenge by substitute Alejandro Bedoya, and played a ball over the top that Rafael van der Vaart relayed to Klaas Jan-Huntelaar. Closer to goal, Bornstein was grappling with Kuyt, and Huntelaar’s shot caromed off the American and veered past an utterly stranded Howard.

Bedoya and fellow subs Maurice Edu and DaMarcus Beasley, who had replaced Holden, pressed the Dutch in the final minutes. Beasley drew a foul on the right flank and swung a left-footed set piece that Bocanegra headed home.

Another free resulted a minute later when a hard foul felled Bedoya as he chased a clever return ball from Bradley, but Beasley hit his shot right to Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who later repelled a powerful blast from Altidore deep into stoppage time.

March 3 in Amsterdam
Netherlands 2 USA 1. Goals: Kuyt pen. 40, Huntelaar 73; Bocanegra 88.
USA -- Howard, Spector, DeMerit (Pearce, 70), Bocanegra, Bornstein (Goodson, 86), Holden (Beasley, 34), Torres (Edu, 46), Bradley, Donovan (Johnson, 76), Altidore, Findley (Bedoya, 63).
Netherlands -- Stekelenburg, van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen (Vlaar, 46), van Bronckhorst (Graafheid, 67), Robben (Huntelaar, 46), de Jong (van der Vaart, 60), Sneijder, van Bommel (Afellay, 74), Elia, Kuyt (Babel, 81).
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (TUR).
Att.: 46,630.

Stats Summary:
Shots: 8 / 10
Shots on Goal: 3 / 6
Saves: 4 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 3
Fouls: 17 / 17
Offside: 1 / 4


  1. Kent James
    commented on: March 4, 2010 at 8:32 a.m.
    Although the Dutch were the better team, I thought our side did quite well. Donovan didn't see enough of the ball, but Altidore, who I've never been particularly impressed by, had a very good game, holding the ball well under strong pressure. In games past Altidore's seemed lazy, but last night he put in some very good work. I don't know why Torres didn't get to play the entire game, since he seemed to be able to provide some offensive spark in midfield. Although Bornstein made that incredibly stupid foul, he's still a quality player and we need his quickness and skill on the ball. My guess is he won't make such a mistake again. It was also nice to see Beasley have a good game, given how he's had so much difficulty lately. But the player who impressed me most on the field was Elia; he's scary.

  1. Nathan Geason
    commented on: March 4, 2010 at 9:11 a.m.
    The US was outclassed in every facet of the game. The only suprise was that Hollands goals came off a bad play by Bornsties(bad call by the ref as well) and a deflection. I am actullay glad the US did not tie the game at the end. This way Bradley has to do some serious thinking about his player selection and placement.

  1. Brian Herbert
    commented on: March 4, 2010 at 9:55 a.m.
    The foul by de Jong that put Holden out of the game for the U.S. was strikingly similar, in my opinion, to the Shawcross foul on Ramsey. Holden's injury may be less severe, but that hard, leg sweep type of tackle needs to be punished severely - that is the move that breaks legs, tears ACL's, and causes a host of other leg injuries. Need to get players to see that type of tackle is not an option to win posession. An automatic tarjeta roja, as was done with Shawcross, would start to get the message across.

  1. Merrill Ring
    commented on: March 4, 2010 at 10:14 a.m.
    Don't place the blame for Donovan's play on Donovan. As was evident both he and Holden were tightly held deep and were not given freedom. And so they rarely saw the ball. But when Donovan was shifted to forward and Bradley opened the play up, that was the US began to play some interesting soccer. Beasley too excelled when he came to play more centrally. And I echo an earlier comment: why was it Torres who was removed at half-time and not Michael Bradley whose passing was atrocious for the day.

  1. jake brown
    commented on: March 4, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.
    I disagree that the Dutch marked us tightly...what really happened was that passes were directed into cluttered areas or to the wrong side...critical moments were not executed and impatience led to turnovers. Altidore was the only player who showed an ability to pressure the Dutch. As for Beasley excelling, that's an overweighted statement based on a couple of good flank runs. Average is more appropriate. As for Holden's injury, the Ref did not apply the laws of the game and he was derelict in some other cases.

  1. Ric Fonseca
    commented on: March 4, 2010 at 12:43 p.m.
    Hello! The US played dismally, in fact when I saw the Mex/NZ game, for a fleeting moment I thought I was seeing the US play again... But, really now, Kent James, what game were you watching? With the exception of Howard, Bocanegra, Beasley, Bedoya and Torres, the rest of the US squad performed way below our expectations. Bradley MUST try and get another game before the next one, when is it, May??? to further evaluate the players and call up some others who can sure as heck play. After more than three decades watch the US MNT struggle with some successes in between, I see the team begin a precipitous slide into mediocrity. Altidore, Johnson and Findley played a very mediocre game, while Donovan didn't seem to want to be on the field, and Junior Bradley, showed - for the first time - some discipline, yet couldn't do jack. So come on Coach Bradley, roll up your sleeves and get these guys to work and work their collective soccer rear ends off. South Africa will be here sooner than you think! In closing, the Mexico-New Zeland game was nice to watch, and no it wasn't the US team in disguise playing it's second game of the day (though Andres Cantor's longwinded gooooooool! is getting a bit dreary!)

  1. Arnulfo Avila
    commented on: March 4, 2010 at 10:26 p.m.
    Is this all we got? Help!Help!Help!

  1. Juan R
    commented on: March 4, 2010 at 11:10 p.m.
    That was an awful showing by the US until the last 10 minutes of the game. I've supported Bob Bradley, but after seeing the US strategy in the first 20 minutes I will not be upset when his time is done with the US. That first play???? What in the world? This isn't the NFL where you draw up plays from kickoff. Landon Donovan goes deep and wastes a bunch of energy instead of the US getting touches to get any rhythm. On throw ins it really peeved me when they only looked forward instead of backward. Torres has a nice shot, but him and Bradley just don't provide enough defensive cover. At least not as much as Edu and Bradley do. Holden played ok, but the whole tactics seemed to be: lose the ball and watch the Dutch. Bornstein had an awful game as he was exposed. If it wasn't for Howard, it would have been 4-0. That was not a fun game to watch. Get rid of Robbie Findley, and I it will be great to see Dempsey back out there. With Bob Bradley's system, Charlie Davies is the only hope, unless the ghost of the W-M formation visits Bradey along with the spirit of Johann Cryuff and Alex Ferguson, because I've finally understood what everyone else said that Bradley doesn't know tactics. I like his camaraderie building, but I read somewhere where Bradley was mentioned as Bruce Arena Jr, and well, I am starting to agree. I hope the best American players are not put in a position to fail, I think we can get back to the quarters at the world cup and who knows at that point. However we must give our men a chance to win, with sound tactics and strategy or else we'll be played off the park and one stupid mistake will set us up for failure like Bornstein did. Oh well, lots of things learned and I hope Bob Bradley has his boys actually try to get a passing rhythm instead of just kicking the ball down field.

  1. Frank Cebul
    commented on: March 5, 2010 at 6:29 p.m.
    1)This game left me with the impression that there is little quality difference between the "first" team and this team, except that Robert Findlay is no Charlie Davies. Jay Demerit seemed to do well. The US continued to show itself as a B- team: no midfield general, unable to find the forwards, dismal in the final third. 2) Torres seems promising--I hope he gets a lot of playing time and a strong look in the next mos. 3)I am very disappointed in Bornstein--he really let down his team. If I were the coach I would take him off of the starting line up.

  1. Ted Westervelt
    commented on: March 11, 2010 at 12:45 p.m.
    In the runup to the '94 Cup, Bora played his first team in more than thirty friendlies. Granted, our program has matured, and we have talent on the international stage that wasn't there twenty years ago. Still, maybe Bradley should have been been scheduling more friendlies in which our first team could gel, instead of caving to pressure to host a series or MLS tryouts, exemplified by a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the Mexicans in last summers Gold Cup Final?

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