Relief and Disappointment For US After Draw With El Salvador

Jim NguyenCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - FEBRUARY 11:  U.S. Men's National Team poses for a photo before the game against Mexico  during a FIFA 2010 World Cup qualifying match in the CONCACAF region on February 11, 2009 at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Top Row L-R: Clint Dempsey #8, Oguchi Onyewu #5, Tim Howard #1, Sacha Kljestan #16, Michael Bradley #4, Carlos Bocanegra #3; Bottom Row L-R: Frankie Hejduk #2, DaMarcus Beasley #7, Brian Ching #11, Landon Donovan #10, Heath Pearce #15. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Phew, What a relief!

Down 2-0 in the hostile away environment of San Salvador, the USA gritted out a much-needed draw on the road. With that, we salvaged a point on the road which is important in qualifying for the World Cup.

I thank Bob Bradley for his second half substitutions and tactical adjustments that saw us find the spark we needed to rally back and tie.

But the problem is, we should not have gone down 2-0 in the first place to El Salvador. Sure, to the Salvadoreans, give them credit, they played with heart, passion, hustle, and they executed their game plan to perfection for 70 plus minutes.

Clog the middle, and either wait for the US to give away possession or take it away and start the counterattack. The strategy worked well and El Salvador almost beat us using it.

Credit El Salvador, but the USA is to blame for not playing with enough urgency and we lacked the tactics and personnel to win this game.

First off, the veterans did not step up before the game and get the guys fired up for this game. We simply overlooked this team and underestimated them. We should have come out firing on all cylinders.

I blame the leaders of the team like Carlos Bocanegra for not organizing the defense and getting the guys to attack after we got down a goal. It looked as if we were scared of losing at that point but unwilling to take it to the Salvadoreans. 

Second, our tactics and personnel were off. I don’t why we weren’t trying to work the ball up the wings but rather would resort to long “Hail Mary” balls and trying to work the ball through the middle which was playing into Salvardorean hands and strategy. 

Finally, we learned a lot about who deserves to start or get more minutes and who deserves to ride the pine for now. Here they are:

Heath Pearce- He looked absolutely lost on defense, and he was to blame for not following the opposing player in allowing the first score. He looked listless on defense, and was unwilling to bring the ball up the field to attack at all. It’s clear we need to make a change at the position, and I suggest either moving DaMarcus Beasley (more on him later) to left back or preferably putting Jonathan Spector in there for Trinidad on Wednesday. Going forward, Bradley should consider bringing Michael Orozco in to try him out at the position.

Sacha Kljestan- I thought we found our answer at central midfield to pair with Michael Bradley with Sacha but Kljestan has played like garbage the last two games. He’s disappeared for stretches, and loses the ball to easily. He’s supposed to help link up with our forwards and get forward himself and he has not done that at all of late. Time to replace him with Jose Torres, who was a revelation after he came on late in the game on Saturday.

DaMarcus Beasley - I hate to say it, but he look out of sorts and lacked heart and any attacking verve in this game. He looked out of shape and unwilling to attack. Until he finds his mojo, he should be moved to left back or on the bench.

Danny Califf - Punting balls up the field in hopes of hitting a home run was a bad strategy for the US, and Califf was the main culprit. Let’s try Jay DeMerit as the third center back on the depth chart and move Califf down.

Landon Donovan - Yes, even Landon Donovan was bad on the night. He was too deferential and was trying to get his teammates involved, but you know what, he is the offensive leader on this team and had to demand the ball more and attack defenders more when he had the ball. He disappeared for long stretches of the game and the US cannot afford our best offensive player to go MIA for long stretches like that.

So what would I like to see happen going forward?  I’d like to see Spector, Orozco or Beasley play at left back. I would like to see Clint Dempsey move to left wing, replacing Beasley. Torres should replace Kljestan at center mid, that’s a no-brainer. Then, I’d like to see one of two variations:

1)  Donovan play right mid, then Jozy Altidore pair with Brian Ching up top, giving us a 4-4-2.

Donovan and Freddy Adu – one of them plays right mid, the other central attacking mid (I cant decide which way to go) with Brian Ching up top alone. Jozy Altidore can replace either Ching or Adu and Jozy is the first sub off the bench.  This would essentially give us our currently used  formation, a 4-5-1.

Now that the excitement and this near-miss is over, we need to make changes, starting with the match against T&T on Wednesday.