Grading the US Squad at the Gold Cup and Copa America
The inexperienced side Coach Bob Bradley took to Copa America contrasted directly with the experienced “A” side that Bradley took to the Gold Cup. Despite lifting the Champions Trophy at the Gold Cup, the campaign was far from flawless, and in spite of an embarrassing last place finish at the Copa, the event did shed some positive light on certain us players. My player by player review follows.
Tim Howard (Everton, ENG)
Howard was solid between the posts and made some key saves in the final versus Mexico. He is clearly the new US #1
Grade: B +
Kasey Keller (No current club)
Keller is a legend of American football, but his instincts and skills have clearly diminished. In the Gold Cup semifinal he had trouble organizing the back four and was clearly on a different page than Oguchi Onyewu. During the Copa America, Keller made repeated mistakes either coming off his line too quickly, or misreading the flow of play. Thank you for a job well done, including four world cups and it’s now time to retire from international football.
Brad Guzan (Chivas USA )
Guzan is a very average keeper by any standard and it is a bit perplexing that for all these years US Soccer has been so high on him. Beaten out by thirty something journeyman Preston Burpo with Chivas USA last season, he regained his first team spot this year with some solid early season play. In his one Copa appearance he made some nice saves but also committed a shocking foul in the box conceding a penalty when he came storming off his line. Of course he saved the PK. Guzan is an average keeper who turned an average performance versus Columbia .
Oguchi Onyewu (Standard Liege , Belgium )
Onyewu’s poor positioning and propensity to commit silly fouls was shocking in the Gold Cup. However, as usual he turned in a good performance marking Jared Borgetti and the rest of Mexico ’s physical attacking players in the final.
Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham, ENG)
Simply because Bocanegra scores goals for both Fulham and US off set pieces does not mean he is an adequate center back. The new US captain seemed to be chronically mis-positioned and still has not learned not to play back passes into the area when under pressure. Bocanegra’s shocking pass to Onyewu cost the US’ the match against Ghana last summer in Germany and despite a solid year at Fulham, Bocanegra still seems a bit slow reading the game at this level. Nonetheless, he is a fiery player and if he is on the pitch he is a decent choice as captain.
Jay Demerit ( Watford , ENG)
Demerit has proven himself through this summer, in spite of a few errors to be the best US center back. During an otherwise forgettable Copa campaign he was probably the most consistent American defender despite a bad stomach virus. He also gave a much needed lift in the first group match of Gold Cup when he shut down Carlos Ruiz when the rest of the US defense had lost its composure. DeMerit also seemed to be the only sure tackler in the entire US squad during Copa.
Jimmy Conrad ( Kansas City Wizards, USA )
A very indifferent Copa for Conrad. He made some nice reads of the game but also mis-communicated with Kasey Keller a few times and failed to react to Jonathan Bornstein’s now infamous back pass versus Paraguay . Conrad is a sold squad rotation player for national team but cannot be counted on as a regular player.
Danny Califf (AoB, DEN)
It was nice to see Califf return to the international scene after he had been forgotten by former Coach Bruce Arena because he had the audacity to try and improve himself by moving to Europe to play football . Califf played well and should remain in the national team picture.
Frankie Hejduk ( Columbus Crew, USA )
It’s hard to believe in 2007 that Frankie Hejduk is quite possibly still the best US defender. I believed by this time Hejduk famous pace would no longer be as much of a factor nor would his physical play. Sure his skills have diminished since his excellent run at Bayer Leverkusen in the late 1990s, but he’s still a keeper. Can he make the 2010 World Cup squad at 36? Well, at this rate we may have no choice but to find a role for him because he seems to be a valuable ingredient to every success the US has achieved over the past ten years.
Frank Simek ( Sheffield Wednesday, ENG)
Simek is developing nicely for the US National team and he showed some great flashes in the Gold Cup. He must work on his ball skills down the right side however if he is to be a viable long term option at right back
Michael Parkhurst (New England Revolution, USA )
I was under the impression Parkhurst was called up just to avoid Ireland from capping him in the near future. However Parkhurst played twice in the Gold Cup and positioned himself well and also picked the proper times to push forward.
Jonathan Specter (West Ham United, ENG)
Specter has loads of talent but Bradley is still trying to figure out where to play him. Nonetheless, he seems to be an important factor going forward towards WC 2010 qualifying.
Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA, USA)
Bornstein is really a mixed bag. First off I do not believe he posses the man marking skills to be a defender at this level. Sure he did a nice job on Lionel Messi, but he all too often pushes forward and gets caught napping when in the attack. Nonetheless, his ball skills and well timed runs compliment the US attack. If not for the glut of talent at the left wide midfield position, Bornstein could play there.
Heath Pearce (FC Nordsjælland, DEN)
The self proclaimed best American left back showed zilch in the match versus Columbia at Copa America and got caught too far up the pitch in several situations.
Bobby Boswell (DC United, USA)
Did well in his one match of the summer, the meaningless final game of Copa America against Columbia.
Drew Moor (FC Dallas, USA)
Moor will be forever remembered for his missed header that could have leveled the match versus Paraguay late in the 2nd half. However, that is hardly fair considering Moor looked more seasoned than defenders with far more international experience for the US. He picked the right spots to push up and generally was solid as a man marker.
Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC, CAN)
Did alright versus Argentina until the entire squad collapsed late in the match. Should get another call up soon.
Michael Bradley (Heerenveen, HOL)
Calm composure beyond his years, Bradley was one of the standout players of the Gold Cup. He doesn’t get an A grade however due to his clumsy challenge late in the semifinal versus Canada and his subsequent sending off.
Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo, USA)
Clark was the ironman of the summer for the US, playing in eight matches, and providing both an offensive spark and regular ball winning at the back. He looked spent against Argentina after being a difference maker in the Gold Cup Final victory, but bounced back for a Man of the Match caliber performance versus Paraguay. Was quite possibly the only US player who appeared to care for the first 45 minutes versus Columbia.
Benny Feilhaber (HSV, GER)
Feilhaber provided the winning strike versus Mexico and some class versus Argentina. He’s the logical replacement for John O’Brien with the national team, but my bone to pick with Feilhaber is that he often times gave the possession away far too cheaply.
Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy, USA)
Looked more comfortable than would be expected out wide on the right flank. As usual he drifted in and out of games, but was tremendous as always against Mexico. Donovan inspite of constant criticism is perhaps the best footballer this nation has ever produced so I am guilty of holding him to a higher standard than everyone else in the current player pool.
DeMarcus Beasley (Rangers, SCO)
Beasley’s shocking miss against Mexico could have cost the US the Gold Cup title. Otherwise Beasley seemed to regain his mojo so to speak on the left side of midfield and he once again showed a great understanding of the system Bob Bradley is playing and of his role in the system.
Clint Dempsey (Fulham, ENG)
Dempsey’s work rate is always high and he was played for much of the Gold Cup out of position. However, his finishing touch is as poor as the strikers he played behind in the formation and that didn’t help matters/
Lee Nguyen (PSV Eindhoven, HOL)
Nguyen played in two Copa America matches and made an impression in both. He played two excellent balls forward to create opportunities late in the Paraguay match, and he also made a great save off the goal line in the Columbia match. However, much of the time his positioning was poor.
Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire, USA)
Mapp is a livewire with a certain flair, but lacks the polish or maturity to be an effective player on this level. Nonetheless, he provides necessary depth in the midfield.
Ben Olsen (DC United, USA)
Olsen’s chronic injuries have led many of us to forget how classy a player he is when healthy. For my money the best US player all summer. Olsen is such a top flight player that as a rookie in 1998 he scored the winning goal for DC United to win the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the first major international trophy for an MLS club. A year later he scored the winning goal for the US versus Germany at the FIFA Confederations Cup, to the national team in the semifinals, to date the furthest the senior national team has gotten in a FIFA event since 1930.
Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew, USA)
It was a sick joke when Gaven, considered a failure in MLS entered the Argentina game replacing the classy Olsen. Gaven did play decently against Columbia, but his play against Argentina was so disturbing it’s difficult to give him a passing grade.
Kyle Beckerman (Colorado Rapids, USA)
Made some decent runs and moves on the ball in both of his matches, but showed a lack of imagination or creativity.
Herculez Gomez (Colorado Rapids, USA)
Gomez is a solid MLS player, and no doubt exists that the LA Galaxy sorely miss him. However, he has no future as a national team player since he lacks the energy or understanding to keep up at this level.
Steve Ralston (New England Revolution, USA )
Ralston continues to be a committed and solid player when called up to the national team. He’s nothing more but nothing less either.
Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution, USA )
It is shocking how ineffective such a dominant player at the club is for his nation. Should not be considered for future national team duty, unless he moves to a major European league and finds success there. I’m not sure why Bradley keeps picking him, but it has me concerned about Bradley’s coaching ability at this level, even though just about everything else he has done as the coach has been successful. Has no business wearing the US shirt ever again.
Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo, USA)
Ching may be better suited as a hold up player although pace is clearly a problem. Does enough good work off the ball to compensate for his shocking finishing. Nonetheless, he cannot be the first choice striker for the national team ever again.
Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards, USA)
Johnson is running out of chances with the national team. For his blistering pace, a forward so tentative is absolutely mind boggling. Johnson adds almost nothing to the matches he plays in, and right now the US would be better served trying to work Charlie Davies, Kamani Hill, Kenny Cooper and Jozy Altidore into the rotation for 2010 then to waste more time on Johnson and Twellman.
Charlie Davies Hammarby IF (SWE)
Should really get an incomplete. Despite a nice effort against Colombia he lacked any kind of service from a totally outclassed midfield.
A few days ago I titled a post “Not All is Lost,” about the US Copa America campaign. However, tonight the inexperienced squad Coach Bob Bradley sent out looked like they were in a hurry to get on the next plane out of the country in the first half. The performance in the opening 45 was to say the least a disgrace and not worthy of international football at any level. Brad Guzan’s dramatic penalty save was the only highlight for the US, and quite frankly Colombia was almost equally lifeless, besides on the goal they scored. I was completely unimpressed by the US midfield today and Heath Pearce also has to be counted as substantial disappointment. Eddie Johnson played perhaps his best game of the summer, but sadly he lacked any sort of service from the midfield and with tired legs from both the Gold Cup and Copa, he was forced to track back into the midfield and even the defense far too often. Bobby Boswell and Drew Moor looked totally outclassed by the otherwise average Colombian attackers, while Herculez Gomez looked decent up front but tired and ran out of gas in about the 35th minute which is a bad sign for someone looking for another national team call up.
While the effort improved in the 2nd half, particularly from Sacha Klejstan and substitute Charlie Davies, the overall effort was still by far the worst of the summer for the tired, weary and humbled US National Team. This match showed none of the imagination and fight that the over matched USA “B” side had shown in its first two matches against superior opposition. Instead the Americans matched up against an inferior side made Colombia’s otherwise disinterested squad look like world beaters and that is simply not acceptable.
Chile’s draw tonight with Mexico eliminated the US from the Copa. Nonetheless the US “B” side has given a good effort and we should expect to see them play loose and without pressure tomorrow in the group finale against Columbia.
Obviously the performance of Team USA thus far at Copa America has been disheartening in many ways. Taking a virtual “B” side into the competition (By any definition this squad could be classified as a “B” side despite having eight holdovers from the Gold Cup. The next time England plays a designated “B” match look at the squad. At least 10 of the players are typically regulars from England’s “A” side.) not much was expected of Team USA. But the play of the inexperienced yanks has been far better than expected which makes the lopsided results that have unrepresentative of the level or flow of play in either match thus far so difficult to accept.
The finishing by the US has been downright comical thus far in the competition. I do not know how many more cracks at the wheel Taylor Twellman and Eddie Johnson need before it becomes proven beyond a reasonable doubt that neither can hack it at this level, especially when they are forced to play together. Both players have strong points and could be a supporting attacker, but neither represents the threat as a target player or striker that former US forwards such as Brian McBride, Eric Wynalda or Joe Max-Moore presented.
The youngish midfielders on this squad including Sacha Klejstan and Justin Mapp are just not seasoned enough to provide adequete and timely service to the attackers and additionally showed some horrific finishing themselves. Klejstan was served up a sitter by Benny Olsen early in the match and he made a mess of it. Justin Mapp brought energy to the match late but showed an immaturity in understanding the situation in front of him and made several mistakes on and off the ball.
A bright spot tonight was the instant impact much touted midfielder Lee Nguyen had upon entering the match. Nguyen who is going to be competing for playing time at PSV Eindhoven this upcoming season played three very good balls forward to create scoring opportunities that were squandered by the attackers. Nguyen is someone who is going to be counted on by the national team in 2010 and beyond. It was very important to see him excel in a game of this magnitude. In addition, despite his mishit header late in the match, Drew Moor who recieved his first cap tonight seemed to be well positioned playing right back. Considering Frankie Hedjuk turns 33 next month, and Frankie Simek is still developing the play of Moor and Marvell Wynne ion this tournament has added much needed depth on the backline going forward. Jay DeMerit has shown his grit once again, but he seems a step slow for the international game. Jimmy Conrad also has made many mistakes, most notably the inexplicable back pass today that probably cost the US a chance to advance out of the group stage at this competition.
Benny Olsen is still a titan of American Soccer. Whether it was the instant impact he made as a rookie helping to lead DC United to the InterAmerican Cup title, or the versatility he has shown throughout his national team career, Olsen despite a career full of injuries is still a must have player for any serious competition the US plays in. Olsen has been hands down the best US player in Copa America, and his early exit from both matches has signaled the end of the strong possession style game the US was playing and the beginning of a more uneven and undisciplined style attack.
Finally a word on Kasey Keller. I’ve been watching Keller since the early 1990s, and I have to say his instincts have rapidly deteriorated in the past year. Beginning with two major errors in the opening round loss to the Czech Republic at Germany 2006, Keller seems to be less and less decisive with every passing match. I believe US Soccer should honor Keller by arranging a friendly early next year as a send off match and drop him from further national team consideration at that point. By then, a healthy Marcus Hannehman at 35 will finally getv his chance to compete for the starting goalkeeper spot on the national team. Matt Reis and Joe Cannon also need to get another look to provide depth in the player pool. At this point I believe all of the aforementioned keepers would do a better job than Keller.
Football can be a cruel game. For over sixty minutes our US National Team boys looked lively and more energetic than the favored Argentines. In fact I would venture to say we looked like the better team. However, tired legs and inexperience caught up with the USA and we succumbed to a 4-1 defeat. Watching the game at my newly adopted futbol home in Cozumel, the patrons and owners were pulling for the US largely because of me. It’s too bad we were so outclassed late in the match. I found it interesting that the waiter simply assumed that without Landon Donovan, a single player the US would get smoked out of the Copa, whereas if he were playing the US would be a threat to win the event. Such is the high respect Mexican fans have for the #10 they call the “Mexicutioner.”
I would say the most disappointing aspect of the match for me was how out of position our central defenders, Jimmy Conrad and Jay DeMerit seemed to be on multiple occasions. DeMerit looked completely outclassed which is especially unfortunate considering he seems to be everybody’s favorite player these days, the guy we want to see do well. Secondly, I’m still curious about why Coach Bradley decided to pull Benny Olsen who seemed to be outworking Cambiasso and Riquelme in the midfield for Eddie Gaven, whose career has been a complete washout to this point. Bob Bradley has pushed all the right buttons this year with the national team, but this particular substitution was probably his worst moment. Even if Olsen was tiring which didn’t seem to be the case, you are subbing a World Cup veteran whose versatility is among the best in the US player pool for a low energy player who doesn’t position himself properly. Now if Olsen really was spent, I think Kyle Beckerman could have come in to the match and done a much better job than Gaven. Come to think of it, I have no clue whatsoever why Coach Bradley selected Gavin for the squad to begin with.
Our attack was very limited. Justin Mapp and Ben Olsen provided some good energy and runs, but the forwards were once again absent. Eddie Johnson did well to draw a penalty and coolly finished the goal, but otherwise his reluctance to take guys on is mind boggling. Going into last year’s World Cup, Bruce Arena made the same observation publicly about EJ, yet Johnson still hasn’t changed his mentality out there. Taylor Twellman once again provided little if anything, but the more I think about it we are for the foreseeable future stuck with there guys in the attack. I was pleased with the sense of positioning and quality runs Marvell Wynne provided. Like Gaven, I thought the selection of Wynne for Copa was questionable, but his effort last night provided otherwise.
I’ll be back stateside for the Paraguay match and hope we can learn from what went wrong late in the match last night.
Following Mexico’s 2-0 victory over Brazil last night (a match I had to endure with Mexican fans at a local watering hole) it is obvious that teams like the USA and Brazil who are sending essentially U-23 teams (or in the USA’s case a U-25 team with just a few exceptions) aren’t serious contenders to win Copa America. So what do we need the US National Team to accomplish at the event if they are not going to be serious title chasers?
1- The central midfield combination of Benny Feilhaber and Ricardo Clark had as much to do with the USA’s Gold Cup title as anything. They are both on the Copa roster and can continue to hone their partnership in the middle.
2- Herculez Gomez and Kyle Beckerman were rewarded for excellent MLS form with long overdue national team call ups. Given the poor finishing of the US forwards, both have a chance to cement a spot in the player pool.
3- Can Taylor Twellman and Eddie Johnson snap out of their national team funk?
4- Should Heath Pearce start over Jonathan Bornstein at left back?
5- Will Jay DeMerit and Jimmy Conrad form an effective central defensive partnership?
6- It’ll be interesting to see if Eddie Gaven has any sort of national team future. Much like Freddy Adu he has grown much slower than expected, and I would personally like to see him play in all three group games just so we know if he can hack it.
7- Does Ben Olsen still have a national team future? I believe he does, because a utility player like Olsen who can play anywhere in midfield is always useful in WC qualifying.
8- I’m hoping Danny Califf proves his excellent form since moving abroad isn’t a fluke. Califf never seemed to really develop in MLS with the Galaxy but has played superbly since moving to Denmark. Unfortunately moving abroad meant he fell off of Bruce Arena’s radar.
9- Most importantly I hope following the Gold Cup Championship we don’t embarrass ourselves in the Copa America under the strain
Bob Bradley names the 22 man US roster for Copa America today. As expected Landon Donovan has not been named to the squad and will return to the LA Galaxy. Herculez Gomez who has had an excellent season thus far for Colorado is one of three players who have never been capped before to be named to the US Squad. the others are Marvell Wynne and Drew Moor.
Ben Olsen recieved his first call up to the National Team since last year’s World Cup and Heath Pearce returns to the National Team despite rumors of a rift with Coach Bradley. Danny Califf returns to the National Team as well which proves that Bradley unlike his predecssor Bruce Arena will not stop calling up players to the national team simply because they leave MLS to play in a second tier European league. Arena allowed too much talent to be dropped from the player pool simply because they had fallen off his radar. Also Lee Nguyen a promising young central midfielder gets a call up as does Charlie Davies another young attacking player.
Goalkeepers (2) – Brad Guzan (Chivas USA), Kasey Keller (Borussia Moenchengladbach) Defenders (8) – Jonathan Bornstein (Chivas USA), Bobby Boswell (D.C. United), Dan Califf (Aalborg BK), Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards), Jay DeMerit (Watford FC), Drew Moor (FC Dallas), Heath Pearce (FC Nordsjælland), Marvell Wynne (Toronto FC) Midfielders (8) – Kyle Beckerman (Colorado Rapids), Ricardo Clark (Houston Dynamo), Benny Feilhaber (Hamburger SV), Eddie Gaven (Columbus Crew), Sacha Kljestan (Chivas USA), Justin Mapp (Chicago Fire), Lee Nguyen (PSV Eindhoven), Ben Olsen (D.C.United) Forwards (4) – Charlie Davies (Hammarby IF), Herculez Gomez (Colorado Rapids), Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards), Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution)
Coach Bob Bradley will name the USA squad for Copa America following tonight’s Gold Cup semifinal matchup versus Canada. Check back here for squad details.
The draws for both Copa America and the CONCACAF Gold Cup have both been made and neither is particularly favorable to the United States. The same can be said for US U-20 team in the U-20 World Cup, where the American kids have been grouped with Brazil and South Korea.
While The US should advance at the Gold Cup simply because the event is being held in the United States, I am not sure that the US will win the event and qualify for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, a stated goal of US Soccer. Guatemala, El Salvador and Trinidad & Tobago are in the US’ group and chances are very good that full points will not be achieved from those three group matches.
Obviously the US is the favorite to win the Gold Cup especially considering the poor run Mexico has had on American soil of late. However with US Soccer officials from President Sunil Gulati to Coach Bob Bradley making it clear that the Gold Cup is the biggest event the National Team plays in outside of the World Cup, anything short of a title will be a devastating blow to the psyche of a national program still smarting from the first round exit at Germany 2006.
Four days after the Gold Cup final in Chicago, the US opens Copa America in Maraciabo against mighty Argentina. Based on Coach Bob Bradley’s statement of March 5th that it will be easier to get releases for European based players from their clubs for Gold Cup and that winning our confederation is the top priority of US Soccer, expect to see a “B” team made up mostly of MLS players taking on the likes of Saviola, Riquelme and Tevez. Following what is sure to be a debacle against Argentina the US will face Paraguay and Columbia. Chances of advancement especially with an MLS based “B” team are highly unlikely. Copa America participation is a huge opportunity for the US team, an opportunity many supporters of the program have been clamoring for since 1995, the last time the US participated in the Copa. Sunil Gulati unlike his predecessors smartly accepted the invite to Copa, but unfortunately the event seems to have been de-emphasized.
While sending an MLS based team to Copa America does have its benefits in that it will help to harden some of the young up and coming talents currently playing in MLS. Nonetheless, it is obvious that the scheduling conflict of the two events has forced US Soccer to emphasize the Gold Cup over Copa America, something I find very difficult to understand.
In reality, the US player pool is now deep enough to field a capable team in both events. In the upcoming days I’ll be posting what I feel should be the selected squad for the US in both events, squads that will maximize the potential for player development and attempting to have a successful run at both events.