Archive for September, 2009
(AFP/Bertrand de Peaza)
With two matchdays remaining, the United States is back on top of the CONCACAF table after it posted a rare away victory against Trinidad and Tobago. In the 24 matches played in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, the away team has only won three times (the US and Costa Rica at T&T, and Mexico at Costa Rica). In the other two CONCACAF matches last night the home team won 1-0: Mexico over Honduras and El Salvador over the suddenly pedestrian Costa Rica. The US also won 1-0 on the strength of a wonderstrike by midfielder Ricardo Clark, who particularly relished scoring while his Trinidadian father was in attendance in the Port of Spain.
The performance of the US is not something to remember: looking tired and unmotivated, it was only the woodwork that kept Cornell Glen and T&T off the scoreboard in the first half. The US was unable to possess the ball or close down T&T quickly which can often lead to exciting open matches. On this night, however, it led to sloppy play that just left me scratching my head. Is this the team that beat Spain 2-0? Excuses abound: you play down to the level of your opponent; eight plus hours of travel from Salt Lake City to Port of Spain, just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela, took its toll; it was hot; the pitch was bumpy; T&T was playing without pressure; the stadium lacked atmosphere as the stands were only half-full. As a family friend used to say, “Excuses are like b-holes; everyone has one.” So it was good to see an improved performance in the second half and a grind-it-out victory that teams with greater histories are known for.
In a press conference leading up to last night’s World Cup Qualifying match against El Salvador in Utah a reporter asked manager Bob Bradley when it becomes about style rather than just points; Bradley said, “It’s always about points.” Though I agree it sure would have been nice to see a neater performance from a makeshift US side that needed the full three points to remain in one of the three top spots in the table that guarantee a spot in South Africa next year.
Similar to the Honduras match, the US went down 1-0 in the first half. El Salvador’s two best players on the night, Zelaya and Castillo, combined to beat five US players with a cutback, cross and an innocuous header that Tim Howard badly misplayed. Zelaya collected a “clearance” from Jonathan Bornstein that landed at the top of the 18. Ridiculous. Bornstein had the worst game of the US players, defending with panic and consistently turning the ball over when trying to possess. Too often with the ball and without an idea, Bornstein would simply lump it forward. His chance for continued playing time took a severe blow when it was announced that Mexican-American Edgar Castillo is now eligible to play for the US, after FIFA accepted his transfer request from Mexico. Last night I was hoping to see Jonathan Spector on the left side of defense with Steve Cherundolo on the right, something we’ll likely see Wednesday against Trinidad & Tobago. Spector was beat on the goal, but put enough pressure on Castillo to force a weak, savable header. The rest of the night he was solid defending and composed in possession. He delivered a wonderful cross to Clint Dempsey, but Dempsey bungled it. It is hard to imagine a fully healthy US side without Spector.