17 November, 2010

USA v South Africa Analysis

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, please join me in applauding our new national heroes, Eric Lichaj and Juan Agudelo.

(wait for applause)

The Professor awarded Eric Lichaj the Man of the Match award in his first start and second appearance for the USMNT as Juan Agudelo scored in his first appearance for the United States senior national team, becoming the youngest player in history to score for the USMNT, leading the United States Junior Varsity to a shocking 1-0 win over South Africa's nearly full World Cup squad at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town.

The Professor was able to compulsively take notes for The Professor's nationally famous over-analysis, which I will summarize here in condensed form. The US played a 4-5-1 the entire game. Guzan was captain; Bornstein, Ream, Goodson, and Lichaj started on defense (left to right), Carroll and Pause joined up in a barely adequate defensive midfield, Rogers started on the left wing, Bedoya on the right, Gaven at attacking center mid, and Findley was the lone forward.

The US took the first 20 minutes of the game to settle in. Each of the following things happened TWICE within the first 20 minutes: Findley had an atrocious first touch, Goodson calmly hustled back to break up a South Africa attack and then gave instructions to the defensive midfielders, Pause got beaten by a South African player and promptly committed a hard foul, looking every bit like an MLS player, and Bornstein was beaten, forcing a cool save from the impeccable Guzan. At this point I realized Guzan is officially a better goalkeeper than Marcus Hahnemann, and it is ironic that Guzan is stuck behind Brad Friedel at Aston Villa while Hahnemann starts for Wolves.

Things changed for the better (if you are from the USA) in the 21st minute, and it all started with Eric Lichaj. Lichaj took the ball down the right sideline, cut back near the end line and passed to Gaven, who then passed to Rogers near the penalty spot. Rogers shot on goal was saved by Khune, and suddenly everyone took notice of Eric Lichaj. From this moment on, he was the best player on the field.

Around this time, Findley decided to show up again, as did Bedoya, who got a nice steal but took a terrible shot that bounced to Goodson, who had come all the way up to the 18 yard box. Goodson got hacked down for a free kick, but I started to see why Bedoya keeps getting looks from Bob Bradley. Maybe this guy actually does have some ability.

Next, Lichaj made his only mistake of the match, but recovered nicely, showing fortitude. Masilela nutmegged Lichaj, who then followed the First Rule of Defense: if the ball gets past you, do NOT let the man get past you. He mercilessly hacked down Masilela as if to make a statement, and earned a well deserved yellow card. Sometimes, when an opponent tries to make you look bad, it is not a bad thing to get a yellow card for beating the crap out of them.

Immediately after the yellow card, Lichaj got REALLY fired up. He put a fancy move on Tshabalala and again dribbled all the way down the sideline, this time finding Bedoya with a nice pass, but Bedoya gave the ball away to ruin a sweet play.

Next it was Robbie Rogers turn to make something happen. He played a nice give and go with Findley on the left sideline, and then got past the defender with some impressive dribbling moves and crossed the ball for Bedoya, who again failed to do anything with the ball. Bedoya's match rating dropped another point.

Halftime. Subs on: Spector for Bornstein, Bunbury for Findley (thank you Bob!)

At the start of the second half, Bedoya went down holding his face, although there did not appear to be any contact with anything. The Professor's theory is that his face hurt from sucking so much. The star of the early second half was definitely Teal Bunbury, making his first appearance for the United States after representing Canada less than a half-dozen times at the U-17 and U-20 level. Bunbury found Gaven with a through ball, but Gaven failed to control the ball. Then Lichaj returned the favor to Bunbury, and Bunbury did not blow it, firing a shot on goal that Khune saved.

Lichaj was again the story, this time on defense, as South Africa's cocky forward Somma (who allegedly was pissed off that he was not considered for the US team even though he was eligible for South Africa, England, or Italy but not eligible for the US, despite appearing in three games for the San Jose Earthquakes in 2008-09) tried to split Lichaj and Goodson. Lichaj was persistent and stepped right in front of Somma, who took a pathetic dive for the second time in the game and prompted South Africa's coach Mosimane to remove him in the 61st minute for Ngcobo (who turned out to be a better attacker). Also at this time, Agudelo made his highly anticipated debut at the age of 17, replacing Rogers at left wing.

Ngcobo immediately had an impact for the Bafana Bafana, stealing the ball from Spector and shooting the ball into the side netting, just wide of the stick. Coach Bradley made his fourth substitution, Borchers at center back for Ream, who did a fine job shutting down the attack in his first game. Spector gave the ball away again and South Africa earned a corner, saved beautifully by Guzan in the 71st minute. Not one of Spector's better games.

Gaven started to attack in the final 20 minutes and was brutally fouled twice when he beat his defender, the second time was after he stole a bad clearance from Khune and nearly had a shot on goal. But there was still no score until the fifth substitute: Diskerud replaced Bedoya, and you knew this was going to be an improvement. In the 85th minute, Agudelo sent a nice through ball to Diskerud, who used a pull-back move to draw the defenders and then returned the ball to a wide open Agudelo, who had made a very smart run after giving the give-and-go. Agudelo controlled the ball in the air and then roofed it into the inside of the goal for a 1-0 lead and became a part of USMNT history.

Lastly, Agbossoumonde made his debut in the 87th minute at center back for Goodson, but by then the story had been written. Man of the Match: Eric Lichaj.

The Professor's match ratings:
GK - Guzan - 8 - perfect in every way
DL - Bornstein - 4 - beaten too many times
DC - Ream - 7 - excellent marking
DC - Goodson - 7 - heroic defending
DR - Lichaj - 8 - meet your new master
DMC - Carroll - 4 - gave the ball away
DMC - Pause - 3 - total hack
ML - Rogers - 6 - always a bright spot
MR - Bedoya - 4 - not that bad today
OMC - Gaven - 5 - good effort
FC - Findley - 4 - has no touch

DL - Spector - 3 - horrid game
FC - Bunbury - 5 - quick impact
ML - Agudelo - 7 - I love this guy
DC - Borchers - 6 - quite good
MR - Diskerud - 7 - also defended well
DC - Agbossoumonde - NR - no rating

And just because you asked for it, here's the goal:

Lichaj: Sports Illustrated
Agudelo: Big Apple Soccer


  1. And the Born"stain" rating surprises no one. At least we already know we have a lot of young depth at DMC so we never have to rely on Carroll or Pause. As for Bedoya, sad to hear he had a bad game because in previous run outs from the bench he actually improved the field play of everyone around him. Perhaps the next Supersub ala Dempsey was for a better part of 2 years?

  2. Old Coach says:
    Great analysis. I probably would give Bedoya a 5 or even 6--his play was so much better than the previous times I saw him. Bornstein deserves better than 4--when he was beaten, it often was a result of a teammate's give away. Yes, by Rogers; even though I have always pushed for Rogers to be our left mid and he did do some good things, he was not consistent and had lapses; maybe BB noticed that a long time ago. Don't crown Agudelo just yet; remember how great Eddie Johnson was his first few games. With Carroll and Pause as our center mids I expected total midfield control by SA; did not happen, so our JV center mids must have stepped up and concentrated to do their job; by concentrating on being dual midfield stoppers (not creators or distributers) they let the wings and Gavin create 4 attacker situations; score them higher. Lichaj (pronounced Lehigh by the anouncers) is our right defender; Spector played himself out of that spot. You did not rate BB--he deserves at least an 8; not because we won as a 0-0 final would still justify an 8; I have to give him total credit for getting all these young inexperienced players to play together so well at such a high level. It usually takes a lot longer to get a coach's new system and style accross and even longer to get the players to execute it.
    Last thought: We were playing a Canadian-American, a Colombian-American, a Togo-American, and I don't know about Lichaj, Guzan, Bedoya, or Diskerud. Throw in Jermaine Jones and our national team seems more International.

  3. I certainly agree, even about Bedoya - I had him rated more highly until he kept ending all of our possessions with a bad touch. Carroll did the same thing, hence his equally low rating.

    Mikkel Diskerud was born in Norway with one Norwegian and one American parent. Eric Lichaj is from Chicago but his parents are from Poland. Alejandro Bedoya is also of Colombian heritage.

    Brad Guzan? I think he's just white, far as I know.

  4. Guzan is another Chicago product. Southside, near Homer Glen (halfway between Joliet and downtown Chicago) if I remember correctly. All-American so who knows his heritage.

  5. Hey guys, so I looked up Brad Guzan on Wikipedia, it says he is of Polish-American ancestry. But then I saw this (from Wikipedia):

    Guzan played in every game that Villa won during their success in the 2009 Peace Cup, against Atlante, Porto and Juventus. He helped Villa overcome the Italians in the final, notably in the penalty shootout where he saved the attempts of Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alessandro Del Piero. The only game that Villa did not win (in the group stages against M√°laga) was the one in which Guzan did not feature.

    I think we might have a penalty stopper specialist!


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