USA 23: lots still up in the air

[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.

Dr awing 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 Cherundolo played 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).
Referee: Mauricio Morales.
Att.: 36,218.

USA-Czech Republic Highlights:


8 comments about "USA 23: lots still up in the air".
  1. Ian Plenderleith, May 26, 2010 at 8:02 a.m.

    You're right that we shouldn't draw too many conclusions from watching a second string line-up in a warm-up game, but the fixture showed up a serious lack of depth in the US roster across the field. The midfield and forwards enjoyed one very creative 10-15 minute spell leading up to the US second goal, but that was the only time the US looked like scoring from open play (the Gomez/Ching combo looked much more cohesive than Buddle/Johnson). At the World Cup, you won't be able to rely on goalkeepers missing crosses on set pieces for your goals.

  2. Walt Pericciuoli, May 26, 2010 at 8:06 a.m.

    I think even a lame Bocanegro or Spector is a better choice at LB than Bornstein or Pearce. Goodson looks like our best central defender at the moment. Kljestan never influnced. Torres looked the most settled of all the Midfielders. Johnson failed again at his level. Gomez and Rogers made a good case for themselves. Other than that, I saw nothing else that could have changed or made up Bradley's mind.

  3. Paul Lorinczi, May 26, 2010 at 8:20 a.m.

    Guzan as #2 does not make sense. The first goal, he was out of position. Hahnemann won a starting position at Wolves. According to Forbes, he is the top rated American Footballer in Europe. Defense is the biggest concern. Tactically, the US does not appear organized in defense. (Bob Bradley is supposedly a student of the game. Did he not learn anything from Jose Morinho on organizing his defense?)

  4. Gregory Weiss, May 26, 2010 at 9:29 a.m.

    I agree that the defense was most concerned. Bornstein is chronically out of position and out of control. Pearce had some big mistakes and left back as a whole was a sore for the US. Edu looked good in midfield in the first half but dreadful in the second half in defense. Guzan had a very poor game and didn't come close to saving any of those 4 balls. Goodson was adequate. Gooch looked good until you saw that people were flying around him and he seemed to be moving in slow motion

    Now, on to the good part of the game. I thought the forwards and midfielders had some pace and nice moves. They couldn't sustain it for the whole game, but I was pleasantly surprised with a number of them. Buddle is fast and frantic and really created trouble right out of the gate. Same goes for Beasley who still looks young out there. Gomez and Ching were noticably slower but still very effective. Bedoya looked solid and dangerous in midfield as well. Stuart Holden was off the pace and seemed rusty, but he's been good in the past so I expect him to be better than he displayed.

    The only offensive player that really looked out of place was Eddie Johnson which, combined with a solid performace from others, should keep him off the team.

    Here's to hoping that DeMerit, Onyewu, and Bocanegra are healthy...

  5. Rick Taylor, May 26, 2010 at 9:42 a.m.

    The first six I would cut: Bornstein, Bedoya (see you in 2014) Kljestan, Findley, Johnson, Clark and Feilhaber. I don't know that Gooch is going to be ready, but he is one of only six players with WC experience, and if he can get back to form, he is an asset, especially when tall English forwards like Lampart are crashing your goalie box. While I'm still on the Buddle bandwagon, I think Ching looked a lot better than he has lately on the international scene. Do we really have to take three keepers?

  6. beautiful game, May 26, 2010 at 10:23 a.m.

    There was not one player that rose to the occasion...Buddle and Gomez showed more with the poor distribution to them from the back than did Johnson...Bornstein, Sacha and Rogers went through the motions and focused on not making mistakes; that tells me a lot about the players mentality and desire...the TV camera work did a great job with overstating Bradley's blank stares and Boca eating, of all nutritious things, a BURGER...

  7. Mark Huber, May 26, 2010 at 11:08 a.m.

    Bornstein shouldn't have been invited to camp. Quick? Yes. Skilled? Not quite. Torres looked sharp and efficient in the midfield. I'd much rather have him/bradley in the midfield then feilhaber. Feilhaber is too inconsistent. I really think torres could turn into our Xavi (in no way am I saying torres will ever be Xavi, but that type of string puller that we need).

    I think the big question is how many forwards/mids will we take. Dempsey count as mid or forward? That will decide if Rogers makes it or gets cut.

    Borstein, pearce, marshall, johnson,gomez, bedoya, clark are gone. Don't know about last out.

  8. Gregory Weiss, May 26, 2010 at 12:08 p.m.

    I'd be shocked if Bornstein got cut. He's been capped so many times that I think he makes it out of inertia and the lack of healthy people to bump him. Woe is the U.S. if he sees time, but with Bocanegra, Demerit and Gooch all questions, I think Bradley will stand by his man however poorly he plays. I hope I'm wrong, but Bradley hasn't done much thinking outside the box.

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