Commentary: Breaking Down the United States Victory over the Reggae Boys

Suddenly the group stages feel a distant memory.  After a 2-0 defeat of an overwhelmed and oddly-managed Jamaica side, the USMNT find themselves in a rematch with Panama for the right to play in the Gold Cup final.  Suddenly the team drawing jeers for its star players attending sibling weddings and the manager who was scanning job listings on craigslist are a single victory away from being exactly where they were expected to be: staring down 11 Mexicans at the Rose Bowl.

Analysis

Up Front: I was fascinated to see the US play once Jozy Altidore went down, as the approach in the group stages had been to sail long ball up front to #17 while he boxes out defenders at the edge of the 18.  Juan Agudelo is not ready to be a 90-minute-a-match producer and Altidore’s injury paired with Wondo’s ineffectiveness will rear its ugly head if we find ourselves i a must-score situation (read: Mexico).  Clint Dempsey is still the team’s most viable scoring option but Bradley might not be able to situate him purely up front until the WC qualifying campaign returns Holden and Feilhaber to the roster.

In the Middle: Bradley was sloppy in possession and almost cost the US a goal by loafing around and keeping Jamaica onside for an early opportunity.  Other than the coach’s kid, this was a banner after for the trio of Kljestan, Bedoya and especially the maligned Jermaine Jones.  Don’t take my word for it.  Read the analysis of midfield from domination from the terrific Zonal Marking by clicking here.

At the Back: The positive is the US has finally stabilized the left back spot with Aston Villa’s Eric Lichaj.  Lichaj has the speed to contend with attacking flank runs and the vision/presence to take on a more attacking role himself.  Steve Cherundolo also has continued his strong play on the right.  The center of the defense is still a bit shaky, with Goodson and Bocanegra lacking speed and allowing far too many un-marked strikes from the top of the box.  (This has been a continual problem for the US for years.  They settle into positions inside the box and allow the ball to be played into scoring positions.  Jamaica did not score them.  Mexico will.)

Keeper: Timmy’s fine. 

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BRYAN’S TAKE:  In what I expected to be the toughest draw of the quarters, Jamaica looked to pounce on a history of the US starting slow, and caught Michael Bradley onside with two misses that Jeff and I would STILL be texting each other about if it was Jozy or Dempsey.  After offering zero help to his team for most of the tournament, Jermaine Jones lets go a rocket that takes the perfect deflection into the net.  It’s yet another opening goal that the US needed some fortune to get, but the pressure they put on defenses, when it’s on full blast, make any goal deserved.  The second half goal was after a questionable sending off, again with some theatrics by the Blackburn/Schalke midfielder Jones.  Dempsey’s goal late in the game was the clincher, and was more important for him than anything else.  Clint’s been biting for the last two games, and needed to find the net.  That will pay dividends in the next round.  Jozy went off with a hamstring injury early, but despite his two goals, I don’t see that affecting much.  In all, the US had some trouble controlling the ball in the midfield, but strong play by the full backs, and Dempsey is meant to play the top of the “W” in midfield and support whoever plays the lone (but not really lone) striker role.

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