Team America took one last chance to sharpen up for next Saturday’s World Cup opener with a 3-1 victory over Australia in South Africa. Goals by last-minute team additions, Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez made Coach Bob Bradley look quite the canny strategist.
Good: Edson Buddle’s finishing and positional sense, Steve Cherundolo locking down the right back position, effective midfield play and counterattacking combos (at times), Michael Bradley bossing the middle for long periods. Also good, Gomez scores again in a cameo, Findley buzzing around and disrupting, and Donovan and Dempsey getting a rhythm with their teammates. A 3-1 victory against a decent fellow World Cup Team is nothing to dismiss.
Bad: Lack of pressure of defensive pressure on the wings allowed waaaaay too many good crosses into the box; you have to think England will do better with those kinds of chances Inability to hold possession when the Aussies were pressing in the second half (ahem, Torres). The central defense partnership of Goodson and DeMerit looked unsure and Gooch only played 30 minutes. Ricardo Clark looked better in defensive midfield but still had a difficult time linking with his teammates. And on that note, we returned to a trend of previous years in which Coach routinely held onto his subs too long, seeming reluctant to try new tactics. Why no Edu or Torres or Holden in the second half? Why did Gomez only get 10 minutes? Why leave Landon out there for 90 on that crappy field?
Ugly: That pitch just looked bad and obviously detracted from the game. It probably kept Gooch on the bench longer, and may have contributed to a late hamstring injury for Clark (veiled blessing?). A couple of those tackles on Dempsey were plain ugly and left me clenching my teeth; Clint obviously only knows how to play one way and the Aussies took umbrage (again, why leave him out there that long?). Robbie Findley rounding the keeper with style then totally missing an open net; that’s the Robbie we don’t want to see. Marcus Hahnemann flapping at some of those crosses in front of him; is it the altitude and the ball as many have suggested or the lack of pressure on crossers by U.S. defenders?
We have to ask, is Bob Bradley pulling some last minute trickery by leaving three of his (by all appearances) better midfielders in Edu, Torres, and Holden on the bench? Is he ready to start Buddle up top? Will Gooch be ready to play? Of course virtually every team has questions at this point, and in six days (ready or not) we will start getting the answers.