Analysis: USA 1 – South Africa 0

Brad Guzan. U.S. MenÕs National Team training at RFK Stadium Monday October 12, 2009 in Washington, D.C. Photo via Newscom

The point of today’s friendly may have been to garner support for USA’s World Cup bid, but the match presented an opportunity for USA fans, and manager Bob Bradley, to observe some lesser-known gringos.

The Rundown

While tactics take a backseat to player evaluation in friendlies, it’s still instructive to mention a squad’s overall strategy in order to determine whether or not a player was effective within his team’s system. USA used a traditional 4-2-3-1 (two holders, one attacking midfielder, and two natural wingers). South Africa lined up in a 4-4-2.

Pienaar and Parker were trouble for the United States.

Bafana Bafana controlled much of the early going due to the movement of Steven Pienaar and Bernard Parker. Their positioning gave the South Africans four players in the middle of the pitch. Sometimes, Pienaar even received passes behind his own central midfielders.

Deterring their efforts were Logan Pause and Brian Carroll, who were rarely out of position, but Eddie Gaven’s pressing was key. Gaven dropped back as South Africa moved forward in order to prevent the US midfield from being overrun. Still, the US was on its back foot for much of the half.

Brad Guzan was up for the challenge. He didn’t have to make many saves, but that’s because he did what all great keepers do – he cut off service before it became a problem.

When the United States gained possession, they swung the ball wide. Gaven then joined Rogers and Bedoya going forward. As a whole, the US was rarely a threat in the first forty-five. A timid, twenty-second minute Robbie Rogers shot was the best effort the US could muster.

To start the second half, Bradley brought on Teal Bunbury (Findley) and Jonathan Spector (Bornstein). Once Juan Agudelo entered (for Rogers in the 60th) the US moved to and remained in a 4-4-2.

The lone goal, courtesy of Agudelo, occurred after Mikkel Diskerud (on for Bedoya in the 78th) forced South Africa to concede a throw-in deep in their final third. Seconds later, Augdelo and Diskerud combined to net the winner (85).

Player Performance

Brain Carroll/Logan Pause – A functional tandem that was rarely in the wrong place. However, their distribution was terrible. They rushed passes and gave away possession too easily.

Tim Ream – Alexi Lalas provided the best analysis of Ream’s night. He was perfectly fine when involved in a challenge, but he was slow to pick up attackers as they moved into his zone. Once, he hesitated, ended up in no man’s land, and allowed a shot on goal.

Clarence Goodson – The best US defender didn’t give up a free kick or a corner until the 82nd.

Jonathan Bornstein – His name was rarely called when defending (a good thing), but his name was rarely mentioned when the US was attacking (a neutral thing).

Eric Lichaj – The best US fullback going forward was the worst fullback defensively, at least until Spector came on. Lichaj had trouble dealing with Tshabalala/Masilela.

Robbie Rogers/Alejandro Bedoya – The two wingers were USA’s most consistent offensive threat. Both faded before they were subbed off.

Robbie Findley – The Salt Lake striker demonstrated his speed but little else. He did play a nice pass to free Rogers in the 44th.

Mikkel Diskerud – Excellent work on the goal, both in pressing to earn the US a throw-in and displaying outstanding touch on his flick to Agudelo.

Juan Agudelo – He’s a teenager. He scored on his debut. You can’t ask for more.

Nat Borchers – The center back looked composed in limited playing time.

Eddie Gaven – Like Carroll and Pause, his distribution wasn’t great (it was better as a winger late in the match). He did provide good defensive pressure in the first half.

Teal Bunbury – While he was better at hold-up play than Findley, Bunbury kept waiting too long to make a pass. As a result, he turned the ball over way too often.

Gale Agbossoumonde – He had little to do after coming on in the 87th. He did clear a cross in the 94th.

Jonathan Spector – He showed good instincts going forward. If only the same could be said about his defending. And tackling. And passing (No, I don’t think Spector had a good day).

Guzan – Aston Villa’s second-string keeper was the best player on USA’s experimental squad. When the US was shaky in the first half, Guzan redeemed the back line. He didn’t even bobble a single cross.

Bob Bradley – Impressively, despite only a few days practice, the squad was well-organized, an even more impressive feat since five players (Agudelo, Diskerud, Agbossoumonde, Bunbury, and Ream) picked up their first cap. Oh, and they won away from home. It was a good day for Bob.

Gringos, anything to add?

5 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Bradley's Receding Hairline says:

    Fun match.

    Lichaj kept getting praise from the announcers even though he got burned in the first half. It would have been nice to see more of Diskerud. My only complaint

  2. robinoz0 says:

    this was an experimental 4-2-3-1, right? from what you wrote, it seemed that once US got back into the 4-4-2 they lined up with a lot during the world cup they played better. was that a change in the efforts of the individuals (subs), or just a good tactical change overall?

    i know this is a different team entirely, but maybe Bradley feels more comfortable working with a 4-4-2

    • Blake Owen says:

      I’m sure he feels more comfortable with the 4-4-2, which is why it was so impressive that the team held its shape well while in the 4-2-3-1. They were much better at it than the full side was against Poland.

      The US had started to control the match before they switched formations. I think a big part of that was getting used to playing together. As far as the goals go, it was a triumph of individual effort.

      If anything, the formation should have messed up the goal-scoring sequence. Bunbury and Agudelo made the same near post run, which should have made defending the sequence easy. For some reason, only one defender followed the two forwards.

      • robinoz0 says:

        just one defender? really? that’s too bad. when the offense screws up that’s ok, but defense requires near perfection. i’m biased, though, being a defensive player and all

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