The USA played the first of its pre-World Cup friendlies against Slovakia on Saturday. With nothing to play for, Bob Bradley utilized the opportunity to test his team’s depth. The results? Despite the 0-1 defeat, there were more positives than negatives.
Most promising of the group were the performances of our center backs and central midfield. Although I would have liked to see Spector at left back, I was glad to see Bradley test his versatility by pairing him with Bocanegra in the middle. He showed very well–well enough that I’d be comfortable putting him anywhere on the back line. Michael Bradley and Benny Feilhaber also worked well together, showing some promise as a midfield tandem. Although I do like Ricardo Clark, his skill set seems slightly redundant with Bradley on the field. Benny can hold the ball and is more precise and creative in his passing. While the US’ 2-to-1 advantage in ball possession should mostly be attributed to Slovakia’s insistence on keeping 10 men behind the ball at all times, our central midfielders should be given some credit for the success.
On the other side of the coin, our attack seemed pretty toothless. Our midfield created chances, but our forwards simply couldn’t find the finish. I am now willing to say that Casey has ridden his performance against Honduras as far as he should–he should no longer be in our starting eleven. I hate to say it, but I’d rather see Ching in there (yes, I realize in this case that was not possible). Bornstein was most disappointing of all. I think he’s better at crossing than I initially gave him credit for, but there’s no way I’d be comfortable with him starting in the World Cup–he’s too suspect defensively.
Here are the match awards:
Man of the Match: Jonathan Spector – He has proven that he can play well at any position on the back line. I already regard him as a lock for the 2010 roster. I am now willing to take it one step further–if healthy and in form, he should be a lock as a starter.
Goat of the Game: Jonathan Bornstein – Although the penalty call was pretty soft, he still put himself in an unnecessary position that allowed the call to be made. His crossing was pretty good, but his defense was weak. To make matters worse, I realized for the first time on Saturday that Bornstein is completely one-footed–he is incapable of doing anything with his right foot. Please, Bob–let’s start exploring other options.
One side note: I think this game goes a long way to disprove the theory that we would never (or rarely) qualify out of Europe. We played on the road without several key players, and still managed to completely run the game. Mind you, we were playing a team that DID qualify out of Europe. Obviously we would not be a lock, as we are in CONCACAF, but we have more quality than most give us credit for–even more than most US fans believe.