Slovakia, a middling European team, is just the kind of team the USA must beat if it wants to be taken seriously next summer in South Africa, so
the Americans' performance in Bratislava was a reminder of how far it has to go if it is to be considered a World Cup contender.
Saturday's 1-0 loss to Slovakia is a wakeup call that
the USA isn't good enough that it can easily win without Landon Donovan
or Charlie Davies
Americans had a big edge in possession, but they never looked like they would score on Slovakia goalie John Mucha
despite the opportunities the Slovakians gave
them to attack.
On defense, a breakdown on the left side of the penalty area, where Vladimir Weiss
combined to elude Benny Feilhaber
and Jonathan Bornstein
, led to Bornstein's foul on Weiss and the penalty
converted by Marek Hamsik
for the game's only goal, but the final score would have been worse if goalie Brad Guzan
not made two brilliant stops.
If Coach Bob Bradley
's goal is to find something new or better than what he already has, the Slovakia game was
certainly a disappointment.
Most of what we learned we already knew. To wit: You have to feel for Brad Guzan.
Stuck behind Brad Friedel
at Aston Villa and Tim Howard
on the national team, Guzan has a big-time future. His saves on Erik Jendrisek
and Stanislav Sestak
one-on-one attempts were as good we've seen by a U.S. goalie all year. Jonathan Spector is the most versatile U.S. defender.
Spector played on the right side for the USA for the second half of the year. He regularly plays in the left side
for West Ham. And he showed against Slovakia he's comfortable in the middle. With Jay Demerit
and Oguchi Onyewu
sidelined and Steve Cherundolo
in form on the right side, Spector immediately jumped the line at center back and should contend for a starting job. Eddie Johnson is no Charlie Davies.
Four years ago, Johnson was considered the next great U.S. star, blessed with blazing speed and a scoring record that
earned him a shot on the international stage. Four years later, his career has stalled in England, but Davies' injury warranted a second look. Johnson wasn't terrible against Slovakia, but he still
lacks Davies' ability to link up with teammates at speed and break down defenses. Slovakia-USA Highlights: Nov. 14 in Bratislava
Slovakia 1 USA 0.
Goal: Hamsik (pen.) 26. USA --
Spector, Bocanegra (Goodson, 72), Bornstein, Rogers (Kljestan, 82), Feilhaber, Bradley, Dempsey (McCarty, 72), Altidore (Cunningham, 82), Casey (Johnson, 46) Slovakia --
Mucha, Zabavnik, Skrtel, Durica, Cech (Pekarik, 90+2), Weiss (Kucka, 82), Karhan (Kozak, 90+1) Hamsik (Strba, 90+1), Stoch (Sestak, 61), Vittek (Svento, 68), Jendrisek. Referee:
Stefan Messner (Austria). Att.:
Shots on Goal: 4/4
Corner Kicks: 5/1