[USA-CZECH REPUBLIC] The key issue arising from a 4-2 U.S. loss to the Czech Republic Tuesday night is: which questions have been answered, and which are still unresolved?
Some players rose to the occasion, and some didn’t. Some will still be on the plane Sunday when the USA heads to South Africa, others won't.
Drawing too many conclusions from a single game that featured several players shaking off rust and the maximum of six substitutions doesn’t make much sense.
Bob Bradley will announce the 23 players he's taking on Wednesday (TV: ESPN, SportsCenter, 1:20 p.m. ET).
In no particular order, here are those issues ...
LEFT BACK. Both Jonathan Bornstein and Heath Pearce struggled in their 45-minute stints, which complicates further Bradley’s back-line puzzle. Bornstein lost his bearings on several occasions and while his left-sidedness and pace are nice assets, he just didn’t fully understand the angles and spaces of playing the corner. Pearce got skinned on the third Czech Republic goal and was either misplaying the offside trap or just badly positioned when Jan Polak tapped in the second goal.
A recent hernia surgery for Carlos Bocanegra and some poor displays down the stretch by Jonathan Spector with West Ham render the left-back position still muddier. Right now, none of Bradley’s choices seem to be good ones, as DaMarcus Beasley did the most defensive work among the Americans who played on the left side.
GOOCH. Oguchi Onyewu looked rusty after seven months on the shelf, yet somehow the perception has been he’ll be close to full fitness come June 12. That didn’t seem feasible off this performance; before being outmuscled by Tomas Sivok as Sivok headed in the goal that tied that match, 1-1, just before halftime, he’d been adequate but obviously off the pace.
Getting 65 minutes will move Onyewu along in his recovery but time is working against him.
THE ‘D’.Until they botched up plays that led to the third and fourth goals, Clarence Goodson and Maurice Edu (in the second half) played tough defensively and put their names in the scoring summary.
Goodson banged into a crowd on a free kick and Edu poked home the loose ball to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead, and Goodson won a head ball off a corner kick to set up Herculez Gomez to score the second. At right back, Steve Cherundoloplayed the full 90 minutes; his flank was exposed a couple of times, yet he passed well. He overlapped on several occasions and in the second half delivered a few testing crosses.
Unless Onyewu can regain most of his sharpness and Jay DeMerit’s eye troubles subside, three of four spots on the back line are up in the air.
MIDDIES. Edu and Jose Francisco Torres looked cohesive and efficient while playing as a central tandem in the first half. Stuart Holden worked tirelessly on the right side, and hit most of his set plays with the right blend of power and bend; keeper Peter Cech couldn’t handle his swerving ball that Edu turned into the first goal.
Beasley had limited opportunities to attack but connected with passes to the forwards and darted back when needed to bail out Bornstein.
Torres had a better night than his halftime replacement, Sacha Kljestan. Both had several clean, clever touches, but Torres also got busier defensively than in past games and felled an opponent near the sideline in a strong challenge for the ball.
When Kljestan coughed up the ball in a bad spot, the Czech Republic turned the turnover into its fourth goal with a quick attack down the left side. The absence of Edu in the middle during the second half gave Czech Republic more time on the ball and more space to attack.
Alejandro Bedoya came on in the 66th minute for his third cap and got on the end of passes and crosses without getting too many chances to show off his dribbling skills. He dropped back into his own box to block a shot by Tomas Necid but Martin Fenin blasted in the rebound.
If this one game could determine a World Cup place, halftime sub Robbie Rogers could claim it. He jetted forward into the channel, swung over a couple of good crosses, and knifed into tackles. Cech scrambled to fist out two of his crosses, and flew full-length to snag a searing Rogers shot from well outside the box.
FRONT LINE. Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan sat out, so Bradley gave starts to Edson Buddle and Eddie Johnson.
Buddle worked hard and did adequately well, Johnson did nothing to brighten his national team prospects. Halftime subs Brian Ching and Herculez Gomez looked the part, especially Ching, who with rugged resilience controlled numerous balls that his clean feet delivered to the right places.
Ching nutmegged defender Jan Rajnoch with a back-heel that set up a chance that Gomez drove low into Cech. Gomez also headed a nice goal on a ball Goodson had knocked in his direction, and his infectious energy stretched the opponents a few times.
IN GOAL. Brad Guzan faced four shots on goal and stopped none of them. He didn’t lose the No. 2 spot to Marcus Hahnemann, but he hasn’t secured it either.
May 25 in East Hartford, Conn.
USA 2 Czech Republic 4. Goals: Edu 17, Gomez 66; Sivok 44, Polak 58, Fenin 78, Necid 90.
USA --Guzan, Cherundolo, Onyewu, Goodson (Bedoya, 67), Bornstein (Pearce, 46), Edu, Torres (Kljestan, 46), Holden, Beasley (Rogers, 46), Buddle (Gomez, 46), Johnson (Ching, 46).
Czech Republic --Cech, Hubschman, Sivok, Kusnir, Sionko (Moravek, 82), Plasil (Limbersky, 90), Rajnoch, Polak (Holek, 90), Pudil, Lafata (Necid, 67), Fenin (Cerny, 79).
USA-Czech Republic Highlights: