First off, congrats to the U.S. national team; they played their best game of the tournament against Egypt, and with a little help from Brazil, have put themselves into the next round.
No matter how stunning it is that the Americans have managed to make it through to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, it’s important to put this game into perspective.
The U.S. got a great result from a good team, which has been hard to come by in the past for the Americans. However, we must remember that the Egyptians were without their best player, Mohamed Zidan. This is the same as the U.S. team without Landon Donovan (say what you will about Donovan, but when he is not on the field, the U.S. team suffers, period).
Despite the 3-0 victory, I’d have to say the U.S. is probably on par with the Egyptian team, though I will give the edge to the U.S. Both teams have a similar set of players—some quality defenders, a good goalkeeper, better forwards for Egypt, but a stronger midfield for the U.S.
In this game, the U.S. was able to play their game against an equally skilled opponent, and that gave the edge to the Americans. Against Brazil and Italy, the U.S. wasn’t able to play their style, a hardworking, gritty, defense and midfield that frustrates opponents and helps put a mediocre offense into it’s rhythm. The individual skill and tactical superiority of the Brazilians and Italians turned the tables and destroyed any rhythm the U.S. offense tried to get.
Brad Guzan came in for Tim Howard in goal and did quite well for himself. If I were Howard, I might be thinking there finally could be some competition for the starting spot. Hopefully, this will make Howard an even better keeper.
The defensive line played well again. Jay DeMerit and Oguchi Onyewu were rock solid in the middle. Jonathan Spector again played very well and made some great runs forward. Jonathan Bornstein played well enough, but not enough to lock up the position with the U.S. team. It may be time to see how the defense plays with Carlos Bocanegra starting at left back, a position he plays with his club team Rennes in France.
The midfield for the U.S. fared pretty well. Michael Bradley was once again a leader in the middle, and took his goal very well. He played the way you want to see a starter play. Ricardo Clark was back in action after his red card against Italy. He was mostly non-existent, but in a good way. No reckless tackles, performed mop-up duty in the middle, and made no major mistakes.
That said, it’s not good enough for a central midfielder with the national team. He must get smarter, and not only when it comes to challenges. He must also become a more two-way player and make a bigger contribution to the offense.
Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were rotating left and right midfield, Dempsey was showing the same lazy attitude and arrogance that he has been showing lately, and for the first 60 minutes was quite disappointing. There were too many tricks, way too many touches on the ball when dribbling, and way too many giveaways.
However, when Bradley put him up top late in the second half, his game changed and he started making more of an impact, so much so that he buried the third goal off a header, which sent the Americans to the semifinals.
Donovan was the player of the match for the U.S. The guy was everywhere, both offensively and defensively. His work rate was top notch. His desire to run at players and beat them on the dribble was fantastic. His assist on Bradley’s goal was beautiful.
When Donovan plays at this level, the rest of the team elevates their game. Donovan has had a very good tournament, one of the only players for the U.S. team that can say that.
Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore were up top for the U.S. Altidore, again, was giving the Egyptian defense fits. His touch, movement, and hold up play were good. I’d like to see more of a killer instinct in front of goal from him, but being 19 years old and the go to guy for the Americans up front, I’d say he’s done well.
He’s got more developing to do, and a full season of playing with his club will help. I’m not expecting the world from the guy, but here’s hoping he continues to grow and eventually becomes a force for the U.S. team.
Davies brought a great work rate to the game. He’s not the best skilled player out there, but he works hard and brings speed up top. Davies is getting his chances and showing time and time again that he is deserving of the chances he gets. His goal opened the scoring, and while it was hardly pretty, a goal is a goal. His willingness to persevere is what led to the goal—a good quality for a striker to have.
This result should not give Bob Bradley a free pass. He still needs to address a lot of concerns with the team, as well as his own ability as a coach, where I feel there are some glaring weaknesses. I won’t be too hard on him here, because he did have the team up and ready to play, despite the almost impossible task of moving forward in the tournament.
The real test comes Wednesday against Spain. I certainly don’t see the U.S. winning against a team that is as talented and in as good of form as Spain is right now, but a loss isn’t the worst thing that can happen.
The U.S. embarrassed themselves in the second half against Italy, and for the full 90 minutes against Brazil. There’s no shame in losing to the best teams in the world, as long as you go down with a fight, with some dignity, and prove that maybe on another day, you’ll shock them all.