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Balboa wary of Game 2 against Jamaica
by Ridge Mahoney, September 11th, 2012 12:14AM

TAGS:  men's national team, world cup 2014


Though he watched the Jamaica-USA game from the BeIN Sport studios in Miami, former international defender Marcelo Balboa saw perhaps more than he wanted to.

Balboa, who played 128 times for the U.S., including a few games against Jamaica, agreed with most postgame assessments about the lackluster midfield play. He doesn't feel, however, that the second leg Tuesday in Columbus (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Galavision) is going to be any less difficult.

"To me, it just wasn't good, and it scares me that [Darren] Mattocks didn't [start] and Dane Richards didn't play," said Balboa, thus implying Jamaica could be more dangerous in the attacking third then they had been in Kingston. "They'll be fresh for this game and they're riding a high right now.

"I'm not a big fan of the way Altidore's playing and the midfield was terrible. They couldn't string passes together, they didn't defend well as a group, I thought [Kyle] Beckerman showed his lack of pace. For me the midfield completely lost it.

"On TV, I said, 'When is Jozy going to turn and run at somebody? He played everything back, one touch, and he'd spin away. He looked like Roy Lassiter in MLS. Not one time did he turn and run at people. I was surprised."

The lineup changes for the return match that will welcome back Steve Cherundolo and captain Carlos Bocanegra to the back line are positives, yet Balboa emphasizes the back line did its job in game one. Seldom did a Jamaican get free to shoot from a good position and keeper Tim Howard wasn't tested by a few shots from distance. The team did miss, however, Cherundolo's prowess at pushing up from the right flank, which would have brought some badly needed width and composure under pressure.

The fouls that created the free kicks from which Jamaica scored both of its goals were committed by midfielders, Maurice Edu and Beckerman. Behind them, centerbacks Geoff Cameron and Clarence Goodson got the job done. (Goodson is suspended for the return game with Bocanegra his likely replacement.)

"I thought Cameron did OK and Clarence Goodson did OK," said Balboa. "There was no real damage there, it was all on the two set pieces.

"You can tell that this team with Landon [Donovan] and without [Michael] Bradley, they struggle. Clint Dempsey wasn't fit, that didn't help. He scored the goal but didn't do much after that.

"Landon's still not back. You'll get Cherundolo back, you'll get Bocanegra back, maybe you get Dempsey back, we'll see how his fitness is. I'm not sure that's enough."

Balboa says the current Jamaica team is much different from the squad that qualified for the 1998 World Cup. Current coach Theodore Whitmore was the midfield general of that team that also included Robbie Earle, who worked with Balboa on the BeIN Sport telecast and is the Portland Timbers color commentator.

"That '98 team that qualified, that was a good team," says Balboa. "This team is different. This team has a lot more pace. Mattocks, Richards, Omar Cummings, those guys are lightning fast.

"This team was disciplined, they didn't break down in the last 10 minutes like we're used to seeing. This team kept it together. Most of time, you're used to seeming them go for the third goal. This team in the last five minutes they were slowing the game down. Tactically they played well. You didn't see any of those wild, crazy tackles and guys getting thrown out of the game."

In the second game, Balboa would like to see -- along with better midfield play -- a more energized Altidore. After scoring in the first minute the U.S. seldom tested the Jamaican back line, and Altidore used his few touches to lay balls off rather than launch runs at goal.

"It's a confidence thing for a forward," says Balboa, "and I've never played as a forward, but I'll tell you what. Playing against a guy like Jozy, who turns me and runs at me, scares the crap out of me. Jozy who plays a one-two with his back to goal, lays the ball into midfield and then turns, I'm OK with.

"This week, you're going to see that and it's vital for this team. It draws people and opens up somebody else. He needs to run at that back line.

"Tuesday will be a different game. A beautiful field, a fantastic atmosphere, and I think you'll see Jamaica try to open up the U.S. a little bit. The U.S. can't allow that. The key this week, is can they control the midfield?"

  1. Bob Escobar
    commented on: September 11, 2012 at 8:49 a.m.
    The years of good national team soccer are gone...the Reynas, Balboas, Ramos, Harkes, Clavijos, Wynalda, etc are gone, gone forever!!!!! now what we have is a very "confused" squad, the players are playing "without" any heart whatsoever, the foreign players are well, foreign players, they don't really play with any "patriotism", the Americans abroad, worry more about "not getting hurt" and making money, the American MLS players are absolutely "terrible", they lack "pace", soccer smarts, soccer sense, defensively and offensively, there is not one single "leader" on the field, Tim Howard "try" to be one, but he is a "goalkeeper", and in the history of soccer, a "goalkeeper" can only help the defense...hopefully things will change, but I doubt it!!!
  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: September 11, 2012 at 9:46 a.m.
    Bilboa is clueless..."scary...that Dane Richards e al didn't start" in the first game. That's what made Jamaica tick, Richards on the bench; it is obvious that Richards has speed, and nothing else to complement it; IQ2 soccer mentality. As for Bilboa, fresh legs,speed, and good ideas don't win games, simplicity of play and efficacy does.
  1. John DiFiore
    commented on: September 11, 2012 at 12:18 p.m.
    I agree with Balboa about Jozy, except the Lassiter analagy. Lassiter had more heart and is still a legend (ok, MLS legend).
  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: September 11, 2012 at 1:48 p.m.
    Balboa is spot on on his analysis, however I would like to hear his views on our midfield, fielhaber or Torres? Shea on the wings, dunivant, cherundolo is in and bocanegra in is good news, curious to see what klinsmann is going to do in the midfield.

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