US Beats Slovenia 3-2 (again?): Reflections

Good example of how France stopped Jozy on Friday. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Certainly, the upside of this is we won a game on European soil or at least in the clouds against Slovenia, and played solid defense against a top-15 squad in France despite the loss. On the downside, when we defended our attack was non-existent, and when we attacked our defense looked porous.

Some analysts have gotten fired up about the idea of the United States not playing to win. I think this is a non-issue; there hasn't been any sign of the United States slacking off in effort, and certainly no sign of us playing completely negative soccer. The general idea that these games don't matter in the win-loss column is just a way of talking fans down, so we don't expect Jurgen Klinsmann to turn us into Germany or Spain overnight. This is still a process of both analyzing our formations and individual performances, so I'll stick to that rather than lamenting our losses to what I would deem teams superior in talent. Now, that I'm done with my short rant; let's talk about the individual performances.

Win:

Jozy Altidore

How does a man miss a sitter in the second game and still come out a winner? By playing the best I've ever seen from him in the first game. Without proper support up front, Jozy has to both relieve the defense and create offense. In the Dutch Eredivisie, Jozy has begun to improve his touch and creativity. He has finally taken another step forward, and as he did on the no-call in the French game, he has the moves to fool defenders, and create chances on his own. He's going to need that if the US continues to play him alone.

I've heard some chatter complaining about him not being involved in too many set pieces. I would imagine this is two-pronged, one he is the obvious target and two his position is rarely in the middle. On Dempsey's goal today, he did something subtle that many probably missed. He was making a far post run, but then pulled back and took his defender away from the far post. While I doubt the defender makes the clearance anyways, it's small things like that that Jozy seemed to miss in the past.

Clint Dempsey

To form, he still is the best man on the pitch. Against France he was getting fouled in dangerous spots, and challenging the team 1v1 with the team keeping defensive shape. Against Slovenia, he forced the turnover for the first goal, and once again simply wanted the corner kick more for the second goal. I wish he wasn't asked to drop so far and be the creator, but as it is he is the most seasoned of the players who can be the play-maker for the United States. That doesn't mean it will be like that forever, if yesterday wasn't a fluke.

Fabian Johnson

From an afterthought in the French game, to the superlative and overreactions of the Slovenia game, Fabian Johnson's debut will be forgotten or always remembered. Who knows? Screams for him to replace Brek Shea can still be heard, and if he plays like that every game, I can't blame Klinsmann for doing so. He was amazing on the ball in the Slovenia game, beating defenders and drawing fouls, including the penalty that Jozy converted. For the entire game, I would lament when an American and Slovene came together for a 50-50 ball and the Slovenians came away. In contrast, Johnson seemed to win those balls and come out of tight marking with deft touches. We've been fooled before but his play made me giddier than I've been in a while.

Michael Bradley

Nepotism. That is all that he has ever had in his favor. When Dad* played him at Heerenveen, he just scored twenty goals in the 2007-08 season, the most by an American in a First Division ever. However, he is a midfielder, and according to his US Coaches a defensive one. Who would have thought that he could provide amazing services off spot kicks or control the flow of the offense in open play? At Chievo, he was taking corners in his second game for the club. Now, I would never play him in Beckerman's stopper role(as we have in the past), but can we admit that if we want to play two central defensive midfielders and one is given freedom to run forward, he is the first choice?

*He did not play for his Dad.

Edson Buddle

As much as I hate to say it, that was a good performance by Buddle. Not only on the goal, but the activity in general against Slovenia was superb. I still wish he wasn't our second choice, and I prefer him as a like-for-like switch with Altidore, but give the man his due for a great outing. He didn't have much time against France, but did nothing to hurt the impressions he gave in the second match.

Draw:

Kyle Beckerman

He is what he thought he was, so let him off the hook. He is steady at stopping play in front of him, he isn't fast enough to chase. He plays some wonderful one touch passes, and then turns the ball over twenty-five yards out. He is mind-numbingly irritating to watch at times, and other times is a savior. I neither love him or hate him, and that perhaps says it all. I might prefer  Ricardo Clark.*

*Poor Ricardo Clark. Some people forget that goal he hit against Trinidad and Tobago, which helped us qualify first for the World Cup. Just a reminder to save your best work for when everyone is watching. #poorlifeadvice

Carlos Bocanegra

100 caps is a fantastic achievement. I would also say that it is a sign of both his staying power and the inability of the United States to find a replacement both on the left and in the center. He was poor in the Slovenia match, but the steady of the two center backs. Until someone comes forward, specifically the men fighting for the MLS Cup this weekend, he is our second best center back. That neither comforts me nor terrifies me.

Steve Cherundolo

I love that before the last World Cup I almost forgot about Steve Cherundolo. I just expected Jonathan Spector to be our right back in South Africa. That is how I always see him; he's so steady I forget he's out there sometimes. Then he makes a run on the flank or into the box, and I remember how good he still is. With Bradley in front of him instead of the out-of-place Danny Williams, he looked more comfortable, and I imagine no one more than Cherundolo is looking forward to Landon Donovan coming back. When LD goes inside it opens up space for Cherundolo's runs, and was one of the most useful attacks the United States put forth in the last World Cup. That's why the inclusion of Bradley on the right worked so well, as he also is a central player as opposed to a true winger.

Tim Howard

Just like Cherundolo, this is not a downgrade. He played like Tim Howard does with no gaffes, and many countries would kill for that alone. Just one time though I would love for him to stop one of those breakaways either by attacking the player or just simply guessing one way. Can't blame him for any of the goals, but I just wish he'd get on one of them and then yell at the defenders for saving them.

Jermaine Jones

I think Klinsmann just doesn't start him for fear of yellow cards, which Jones loves to accumulate. The athleticism, just looks above and beyond Beckerman, and while he may be rash at times. I would prefer he gets chances better than the minutes he got this week. Let's hope he stays on the field for Schalke.

Loss:

Maurice Edu

This is going to be a broken record for all of these entries, but he isn't being played in the right position. Noting that Edu can score from long range (and short) for Rangers, does not make him an attacking midfielder. Expecting him to play alongside Beckerman and be the creative one is not a wise decision. If you want two stoppers, then that works fine, but split them up and you'll just get alleys for passes to go through and shaky marking from the central midfield. I would prefer he would play Beckerman's role, noting how well he attacked the ball and cleared danger against Slovenia. Just don't expect him to be Sergio Busquets, no one is Sergio Busquets.

Brek Shea(DaMarcus Beasley)

He still looks worn down by all the matches he has played. He isn't nearly what he was in the friendlies back in America, but he hasn't been in that form for a while now. While he may be off to train in London, I am glad he won't be playing for a while. Beasley doesn't get his own description because he didn't change the game when replacing the worn down Shea. When you make like-for-like substitutions, it is almost always about fresh legs, but Beasley didn't add much to the game.

Clarence Goodson

We get it; you're tall and lanky. So from time to time, you are going to be muscled off of the ball. Please refrain from doing this in the box against top players. Also, would you please use said height to win more headers, and then not fall down and let your man run past Beckerman for the goal. Two shaky plays does not make a goat, but two shaky plays that result in goals do not make a solid center back either.

Tim Chandler

On these two matches, I would say he looked poor. Does that mean much? Not really. He's learning a new position and given his propensity to attack, one could imagine he'd have a few problems with defense given his youth and presented with a quality opponent. This seems to be the consensus, but the truth is that he was too deep on both Slovenia's chances that he played onside. With a high line, the whole back four should be disciplined with their line or breaks easily occur. More worrisome was that he played on the wrong side of the French players, leading to easy direct play over the top that either Bocanegra had to sprint to stop or Goodson had to fall down trying to stop.

Danny Williams

Like Chandler, he played out of position and it shows. I would love to see him playing a central role, but Klinsmann loves him some Beckerman. I think by 2014, we might be looking at him and Johnson in the midfield for the United States, but he's just too far down the depth chart to get placed in his natural spot at the moment. Good to see Klinsmann trusts him to cover in the back in a pinch, but let's hope he spends his entire career in the midfield and doesn't get Beasley'd.

Robbie Rogers

He made a cameo appearance as a 94 minute sub or as we call it in the States, an "Agudelo." He looked fast running onto the field and did not allow his man to score on the corner. I only said he lost because he didn't play enough to win or draw.

Tomorrow, I'll go in depth about the positioning of the United States and what I think their ideal formation would be, but spending more time on the formations Klinsmann has used.

Editor's Note: Sorry about not being around for reactions on the France game, but I had to spend a few days in lovely Kansas City and the computer I expected to be there was absent, so I had to group both together and make observations on both which unfortunately made this quite long. If you made it this far, good show.

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