Wednesday’s highly anticipated friendly in Amsterdam was Bob Bradley’s last opportunity to answer some lingering personnel questions before he names his final roster for South Africa. With injuries leading to several position battles and potentially open roster spots, there was plenty at stake and on display against the third ranked team in the world Wednesday night.
And while there was plenty to talk about following the American’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Netherlands, such as Donovan’s disappearing act, Stuart Holden’s now fractured fibula and Maurice Edu’s pseudo afro, it is much more important to focus on what exactly we learned from this game and what it means for this summer’s World Cup.
Bradley and the US scheduled this match in order to find and connect the final pieces of his 23-man puzzle while challenging the team on the road against top-notch competition. The game was far from a classic, but what exactly did American fans and (hopefully) Bob Bradley take away from this result?
Bornstein is not the answer at left back.
Who fills in at left back is a World Cup roster question that predates this year’s rampant wave of injuries. Rather than step up and stake his claim on the job as many hoped he would (mainly Bob Bradley), Bornstein has showed on several occasions that he just is not up to the task of covering the US flank against the Brits come June 12.
While he has indeed showed occasional flashes of the player we all want him to be, in the long run he has proven to be little more than a nice fill-in guy against CONCACAF opponents; he simply cannot hang with the big boys.
Despite the questionable nature of the call against him leading to Dirk Kuyt’s penalty-kick opener, Bornstein had been exposed and badly beaten on the play. Add to that his blatant hand ball in the box only a few minutes later and you are looking at a guy that is going to give American fans a panic attack anytime the an opponent is in the box this summer.
If the refs in South Africa are going to be anything like they were in Germany, Bornstein is our worst nightmare. Cards and ticky-tacky fouls plagued the tournament four years ago and given Bornstein’s propensity for clumsy challenges and lackluster marking against quality competition, he shouldn’t be anywhere near the starting XI.
South Africa should be a turning point in Michael Bradley’s career.
For the full 90 minutes, he was the best player on the field for the US and in the first half you could argue he was the best player on the field, period. He was confident on the ball and displayed a clean touch with precision, intelligent passing. He was also a terror in the middle of the field; breaking up plays and orchestrating counter attacks into the Dutch zone.
This is exactly the kind of play he has been showing for his club, Monchengladbach, in Germany’s top flight of late and there is no reason to believe that his steady development will stop anytime soon. Wednesday’s match against the Dutch was a big reminder to American fans, and I’d assume his critics, that we were watching perhaps our future captain and a future star.
He is exactly the kind of player we want and need in the middle of the pitch. An aggressive, physical and relentless defender, Bradley consistently shows why he had no trouble finding playing time in Europe since crossing over from the MLS. He has a great motor and always seems to get himself involved in the action from box to box.
He is also a guy that is capable of coming forward and occasionally reminding us that he scored 15 goals for SC Heerenveen two seasons ago when occupying a much more attacking role for the Dutch side. Bradley has never been a flashy player, nor will he ever be.
However, he clearly relishes his current role for club and country of handling the dirty work and making his teammates better...Oh yeah, and he’s still only 22. If the US makes any kind of noise in South Africa, you can bet that his options will extend far beyond perpetual Bundesliga bottom feeders Monchengladbach.
DeMarcus Beasley has earned his ticket to South Africa.
Brazil, Brazil, Brazil. Beasley’s infamous pass that led to a lighting quick counter attack goal from the “Samba Kings” looked to be the last, pitiful gasp of an otherwise solid international career. After that game and until his recent tear in Scotland, it appeared to be good-bye and good riddance to “Beaz.”
His days with both the national team and Glasgow Rangers seemed all but over, until he held a meeting with Ranger’s boss Walter Smith late last year. It turns out all he needed was to get, and stay, healthy in order to return to form. While it would have been nice to see him move to a less physical league more fitting to his style (it’s hard to stay healthy when you’re built like Amy Winehouse), staying at Rangers leading up to the Cup will mostly likely prove to be the best decision.
Now, I was leading the charge of angry fans who had seen enough from Beasley after the Confederations Cup; however, he has admirably fought his way back to remind all of us that while it feels like he has been around forever, he is still young (somehow still only 27) and an important member of this team.
His pace, skill, versatility and experience make him a very valuable player for Bob Bradley to have at his disposal, especially given the amount of injury questions that we face now and may face in the future.
We Need Charlie Davies back
More specifically, Jozy Altidore needs Charlie Davies back. Now, this may seem like an obvious conclusion to draw from any game the US has played since October, however, if the last few games have showed us anything it is that the options to replace him just aren’t there.
Couple that with the fact that Altidore’s hold up play and passing is getting better and better and suddenly the thought of Jozy coupled with a healthy Davies again have American fans feeling excitement in their strike force for the first time since...I’m drawing a blank.
Jozy was strong against a formidable Dutch backline and showed that he his coming along in his development. While he did not score, he was strong with his back to the goal throughout the game, showed some nice moves and sharp passes and came close to tying the game in stoppage time with a blistering shot from outside the box. What he also showed, however, is that he needs that dynamic second player up top with him.
Jozy’s particular skill set calls for a partner with a high work rate that also has the ability to get behind the defense at a moment’s notice. Although Robbie Findley shows the occasional flash of potential and could very well turn into a viable attack option for the national team in the future, he does not appear ready to help the US in South Africa.
Despite Davies’ remarkable recovery, we still have no idea when he will be able to start playing and more importantly, if he will ever be the same player that showed so much promise this summer and in his brief time with Sochaux FC in France before his horrific car wreck.
If he can work his way back and find his form leading up to the two send off friendlies the US has scheduled in May, the Americans could very well make a run in June, if not, this could be another long summer for US fans.