Tactically, this one was pretty straight forward. Jurgen Klinsmann was so confident – and rightly so – that the US would see the majority of possession that he brought on possession-minded midfielder José Torres to replace the injured left backs Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo. That personnel choice predicted the nature of the game. The US would attack, attack, attack and Antigua and Barbuda would counter.
The 3-1 scoreline somewhat underwhelmed given the US possessed the ball for 75% of the game, but a phenomenal performance from goalkeeper Molvin James (9 saves) was all that kept the night from being a runaway US party.
Klinsmann elected for a base 4-3-3 that often looked anything but. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan roamed all over, making it hard to pin an exact shape on the US attack, though perhaps it was most like 4-3-2-1 for much of the evening. Like Bob Bradley’s 4-4-2, Dempsey and Donovan’s positioning drove the attack. They covered an astounding amount of ground and Antigua and Barbuda struggled to account for their constant movement.
The two attackers combined to earn the penalty converted by Dempsey, though over the course of the evening Donovan presented the more consistent threat. Not only did he provide the service that led to the first and third goals, Donovan also created 11 of the USA’s 19 key passes (services that led to a goalscoring opportunity).
While none of the Americans had a bad night offensively, Herculez Gomez was the other standout. He scored the clincher in the 72nd and headed in Donovan’s corner to set up Bocanegra’s opening goal. Perhaps more impressively, he only misfired on one pass the entire evening.
Unfortunately, the American defense wasn’t as impressive. The backline didn’t have a lot to do against Antigua and Barbuda’s countering 4-4-1-1, but when it mattered, they failed to come through. Most of the blame for the lone goal falls on Oguchi Onyewu, who took an odd angle to challenge striker Peter Beyers. Clarence Goodson and Steven Cherundolo are also not above reproach. The pair didn’t close down Mikele Leigertwood, which allowed him to pick out Beyers.
A similar mistake against Guatemala on Tuesday could be deadly. And given the injury sustained by Torres, the Americans might need to rely on that backline a little bit more in Guatemala.
Gringos, obviously the injury to Torres will be the key outcome of the match, but what did you think of the attack? Were you as impressed as we were by James’ performance?