Jozy is drifting, the Deuce is peaking

[USA-CANADA] Here's what we learned from the USA’s 2-0 win over Canada Tuesday night in Detroit in their Group C opener ...

There’s a reason the forwards drift wide. Fans and journalists sometimes question why Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo occupy the flank, but by working smartly on the wing they can open up space for teammates, especially Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. Agudelo’s quickness and Altidore’s strength tested the Canadians numerous times.

The U.S. attacked Canada’s weak spot, its outside backs, but didn’t rely solely on Dempsey and Donovan knifing inside from the wide positions. Both Agudelo and Altidore got outside to stretch the back four, and find gaps that opened up after Altidore had run onto a through ball from Donovan in the 15th minute and drilled a low shot under keeper Lars Hirschfeld.

In the second half, Donovan and Dempsey veered inside to play combinations that confused the Canadians, and helped regain the momentum that led up to the second goal. Altidore looped to the right wing to collect the ball and smack a low centering pass that Dempsey tucked away with a superb sliding finish.

Dempsey is at the peak of his game. A few minutes before he scored, Dempsey nearly knocked in a deflected cross that came over a few feet behind his run at the back post. With his right foot cocked behind his back, he got enough of the ball to direct it on frame and a deflection yielded the U.S. a corner kick.

By scoring 12 Premier League goals for Fulham this past season, Dempsey not only set a high-water mark for Americans in a foreign league, he broadened his game to work all areas of the attacking third in a role as creator as much as finisher. And there was nothing easy about his goal; Agudelo nicked Altidore’s cross as it came across the goalmouth, and Dempsey had to fend off a challenge from Kevin McKenna to hit the ball solidly as he slid well beyond the far post, and still slotted it home.

By gliding into space carved out by a pair of effective forwards – the key word here is “effective” – Dempsey can be just as, if not more, dangerous than he would be as a second forward, which some view as his best position. He and Donovan flipped sides and also moved into the middle, with central mids Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones pivoting off the shifts to keep a defensive shape.

Howard saves it late. With its two-goal lead, the U.S. relaxed defensively, and substitutes Rob Friend and Ali Gerba sparked a Canadian revival as Dwayne De Rosario, Josh Simpson and Simeon Jackson finally got into gear. Gerba broke down the right wing to test Howard with a rising shot that he pushed over the crossbar, and in the final minutes, after a scramble, Gerba labeled a fierce volley that Howard repelled with another incredible reflex save.

Along with Donovan, Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo and Michael Bradley, Howard displayed again why he’s absolutely essential to the U.S cause. He responded after seeing little action for most of the match, and by snuffing out any faint Canadian hopes restored some U.S. confidence after being smoked four times by Spain.

Group C
June 7 in Detroit
Panama 3 Guadeloupe 2.
Panama --  Penedo. L. Henriquez, Baloy, Dasent, Machado (Cummings 82), Barahona (Quintero 77), Gomez, A.Henriquez, Cooper, Perez, Tejada (Renteria 66).
Guadeloupe -- Grandel, Comminges, Lambourde, Viator, Tacalfred, Collet (Gamiette 60), Fleurival, Auvray (Racon 74), Loval, Gendrey (Jovial 48), Socrier.
Referee: Trevor Taylor (Barbados).
June 7 in Detroit
USA 2 Canada 0. Goals: Altidore 15, Dempsey 62.
USA -- Howard, Cherundolo, Goodson, Ream, Bocanegra, Dempsey, Bradley, Jones (Edu, 79), Donovan, Altidore (Kljestan, 74), Agudelo (Wondolowski, 65).
Canada -- Hirschfeld, Ledgerwood, McKenna, Hainault, de Jong, Dunfield (Beaulieu-Borgault, 81), Hutchinson, Johnson (Gerba, 65), De Rosario (Friend, 81), Simpson, Jackson.
Referee: Walter Lopez (Guatemala).
Att.: 28,209.

5 comments about "Jozy is drifting, the Deuce is peaking".
  1. Kent James, June 8, 2011 at 10:52 a.m.

    Good assessment. Another player who was worthy of mention was Cherundolo; he was able to keep up with Canada's best players defensively, and continuously caused problems for them down the right flank (though his crosses need to be a touch more accurate). Still not sure what Bradley sees in Kljestan though; he doesn't seem that creative, he loses the ball too frequently, and he seems like a defensive liability. Jones is another one who gives up the ball more than he should, though he hit a number of accurate long passes to people on the flanks that were effective. All in all, the US was not great but did what we needed to do.

  2. Joe Grady, June 8, 2011 at 12:12 p.m.

    Uh, kent? did you see Dolo getting smoked on numerous occasions down the right side? not sure you and I watched the same game. dolo played pretty badly.

  3. David Mont, June 8, 2011 at 4:53 p.m.

    The only thing we really learned was that Spain is much better than Canada. But, then, of course we always knew that.

  4. beautiful game, June 8, 2011 at 4:59 p.m.

    Good result, but Canada is a mediocre opponent which could not sustain much of its so-so MF & offense. Anyone notice how similar both teams looked as far as the game plan was concerned. Deuce was the best player on the pitch and as usual BBs tactics are again questionable.

  5. Rene Guerra, June 8, 2011 at 8:10 p.m.

    Altidore is lazy; he always fakes to defend and doesn't go looking for the ball, all the time waiting for the ball to come to him by virtue of an opponent missing trapping it.

    In general, as eloquently demonstrated in the 4-0 loss to Spain, our player don't know the sport at a world-class level.

    They don't circulate continually, they don't de-mark themselves continually, they do not position themselves continually to invite being sent safe passes, and their dribbling is lousy.

    Coaches have a lot of work to do. Maybe the MLS and the soccer division of the NCAA can put together a good program of soccer coaching clinics for college coaches, so that the new generations of footballers arrive in the MLS properly prepared. The MLS could do something similar with AYSO for younger footballers.

    Spain had a lousy soccer, until they started importing heavily great Argentine footballers, and learned from them, and some of them became coaches, such as Guardiola. Now Spain plays the embroidery kind of soccer that empowers them to play at ease in close spaces, and drive the rivals crazy, as Barcelona did to Manchester Unites, and as Spain's national team did to our team.

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