Pentagram: US @ Azteca

Well, you win some, you lose some.  At Azteca, you mostly lose.  But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.  Sure there are a few positives: the continued ascent of Charlie Davies, who scored the first goal at the Azteca by Team America in many moons, the fact that we’ve been able to take the early lead on Italy, Brazil, Spain, and Mexico in Mexico.  But…  We’ve only managed to hold that lead in one of those games, and let’s face it – luck was with us that day.  A troubling trend.

It’s not the fact that Mexico beat us on their home soil. Again. No, it’s the way the USA played after conceding that first goal, attempting (ineffectively) to bunker 70 minutes on the road, unable to string together passes, and conceding possession at all turns.  You could claim that both of Mexico’s goals were fortunate (and they were) but that’s the beside the point.  El Tri carried the play, dominated possession, and deserved their day.  Now with Honduras’ victory over Costa Rica, we have a logjam at the top the standings for the region.  Costa Rica with 12 points, Hoduras and the USA with 10 points, and Mexico with 9.  Five points in the Pentagram…

  • Wrong squad selection, Bob.  Again. Jonathan Spector proved it at the Confederations Cup agains superior opposition, yet Coach Stonefacw went with Cherundolo at right back.  Steve C. looked okay for about a half…  Brian Ching brought nothing up top.  Maybe this was lack of service, but more likely, as has been proven over the years, Ching is limited against top teams.  If Altidore isn’t fit enough to start, why not use Dempsey and/or Donovan at forward at the beginning; after all, we supposedly have so many midfielders who could fill in for them.  Bob is a loyal man but he definitely has the blinders on now when it comes to squad selection.  Which leads me to…
  • The Bocanegra question. Carlos Bocanegra has the captain’s armband, which means Bob figures to start him every game he can.  Yet over the past year, Carlos has proven to be the weakest link on the defensive line.  He doesn’t have the wheels to play wide, he has mental lapses, and his ball skills aren’t good enough.  Jay DeMerit (and probably Chad Marshall too) are better options to pair with Gooch in the middle, so Carlos needs to be relegated to backup status.  But since he’s Bob’s guy and the captain, this won’t happen barring injury.
  • Why the longball, boys? After the USA goal, the team reverted to the old strategy of boot and pray.  Partially because the defenders seemed to lack the poise to link with the midfielders, partially because Rico Clark and Michael Bradley were either more concerned with following their defensive assignments than showing for the pass.  At any rate, aren’t we past this kind of tactic?  Shouldn’t we be?  Continuously conceding possession against a good team only works once in awhile (see the Spain game).  Was this the decision of the Coach, or did the guys just collectively crap their pants and forget how to pass?
  • Midfield woes. Maybe we started playing longball because the midfield looked so inept once they did receive the ball.  Landon Donovan has revealed he has the swine flu so we’ll give him a pass, but Dempsey, Clark, and particularly Bradley were just awful.  Coach Stoneface needs to use his other options in that case, particularly in the case of his son, who is often our best midfielder but today was the worst.  Yet Bradley the younger was not the guy who subbed out.  Can Coach not see when his boy is struggling?  When Holden and Feilhaber came in we saw some improvement, but Jermaine Jones and Mo Edu need to get healthy in a hurry.
  • Now what? All Team America has to do now is win at home and we’re in.  Get a win in Trinidad and we might still win the group.  Qualification is within sight but by no means assured.  It’s a little disappointing that we conceded the psychological high ground (and the points) to Mexico.  They were really reeling, in desperate need of points, and if we had managed a tie or win it would have gut punched them down and put them in a real fight to even qualify.  Now any claims that the USA are the dominant team in the region are spurious at best.  Onyewu is out for the next game due to yellow cards, which opens a spot in the defense.  I say cap Edgar Castillo at left back now and get Jones into camp as soon as he can run again.
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