ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Team of the Week – Week 8

Leave a comment

Forwards

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls – Our Player of the Week, the 29-year-old registered his first MLS hat trick last Wednesday, part of a four-goal week. When New York’s clicking, he’ll be able to go on these types of runs, something that could allow Tim Cahill to resume his role partnering Dax McCarty in central midfield.

Clint Dempsey, Seattle Sounders – Had two goals within seven minutes of halftime against Colorado and also played the key part in Lamar Neagle’s first half opener. This is becoming an obligatory spot for Dempsey, but given the damage he and partner Obafemi Martins inflicted on a usually strong Colorado defense, the place was well-earned.

Obafemi Martins, Seattle Sounders – Martins didn’t put up Fabian Espindola’s numbers (two goals, one assist), but he also wasn’t playing against 10-men, as D.C.’s attackers did for most of Dallas’s visit to RFK. Against Drew Moor and Shane O’Neill – a very good central defense – Martins’ movement was key to opening tearing apart the  Rapids line. One goal understates his impact. Six shots on target do not.

We could be wrong about: Fabian Espindola, D.C. United; Thierry Henry, New York Red Bulls; Álvaro Saborío, Real Salt Lake

Midfielders

Patrice Bernier, Montréal Impact – His contribution to the game’s only goal was part of Saturday’s shot highlight real, but Bernier’s presence against a strong Philadelphia midfield proved just as important. It was the closest Bernier has come to matching his early 2013 self, part of the season Montréal finally broke through.

Dax McCarty, New York Red Bulls – McCarty’s slow return to form is a big reason why New York look like their former selves. Against the talented, deep midfields of Houston and Columbus, the Red Bulls’ holder played two of his best games of the year. Part of that is due to McCarty’s up-and-down season, but part of that is due to a strong, two-match week. We’re giving him some degree of difficulty points because of the strength of his opposition, but against the likes of Federico Higuaín and Boniek Garcia, McCarty acquitted himself quite well.

Gonzalo Pineda, Seattle Sounders – Pineda has formed such a good partnership with Osvaldo Alonso, it will be interesting to see how Sigi Schmid uses Brad Evans when the U.S. international returns to full health. Strong play winning the ball (five tackles) proved a vital part of Seattle maintaining the pressure that resulted in 13 shots on target. On a weekend that lacked stand-out central midfield performances, another predictably above-average day from the former Mexican international gets rewarded. Also, had a Beckham assist on Dempsey’s second goal.

We could be wrong about: Matías Laba, Vancouver Whitecaps; Leandro Barrera, Chivas USA; Lee Nguyen, New England Revolution

Defenders

Roy Miller, New York Red Bulls – Second week in a row for the Red Bulls’ captain, who terrorized Warren Creavalle last Wednesday. A solid performance in Columbus didn’t help or hurt his cause, but on the back of his contributions to New York’s rout of Houston, the Costa Rican international retains this spot.

Clarence Goodson, San Jose Earthquakes – Goodson’s consistently strong performances since returning from injury have put him in consideration for this team almost every week. After helping his team to a shutout of Chivas USA (and San Jose’s first win of the season), he claims a spot for the second time this season.

Chris Schuler, Real Salt Lake – Like San Jose, Real Salt Lake has a pair of center backs that compete for this team week in, week out. On Saturday, we thought Schuler was the slightly better of Jeff Cassar’s duo. RSL may have given up two goals late, but their central defenders weren’t to blame, with Schuler leading the way with nine clearances.

Hassoun Camara, Montréal Impact – If this wasn’t the best defensive performance by a right back this year, it was at least the most prolific, with Camara recording 13 interceptions, five tackles, and seven clearances. He was my first choice right back in last year’s best XI, and although the move outside unseats rookie Eric Miller, Camara is back where he can had the greatest influence for Montréal.

We could be wrong about: Steven Beitashour, Vancouver Whitecaps; Jámison Olave, New York Red Bulls; Víctor Bernárdez, San Jose Earthquakes; Chris Wingert, Real Salt Lake

Goalkeepers

Steve Clark, Columbus Crew – In what turned into a bit of a goalkeepers’ duel, another strong performance from Clark allowed Columbus to take a point from visiting New York. Overlooked for most of the season, Clark’s performance against the surging Red Bulls was the latest in what’s been an all-star caliber season. Perhaps he hasn’t been Nick Rimando, but on a weekend where the RSL No. 1 struggled, Clark may have cast some well-deserved light on himself.

We could be wrong about: Luis Robles, New York Red Bulls.

 

Arena reacts to USMNT draw, expects CONCACAF fight to end

2 Comments

Bruce Arena didn’t enjoy watching Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between the United States and Panama, but he’s not upset with the result.

“The referee didn’t blow his whistle too much, and that’s the way the game looked for 90 minutes,” Arena said.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Arena’s Yanks struggled to find their flow in the draw, ravaged by injuries to their back line. Arena praised his back four for their performance in difficult circumstances on the road with new teammates.

And he’s feeling a lot better than a week ago, when the U.S. had zero points and sat last in the table.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

“We’re obviously in better shape with four points in two games. We’ve made progress. Every game in qualifying is going to be critical for every team. Everyone’s in it. It’s going to be a battle for the second, third, and fourth spots.”

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

Panama 1-1 USMNT: Ugly, scrappy point for both sides

Leave a comment

The United States will finish the international break in the Hex’s fourth place after a 1-1 draw at Panama in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Clint Dempsey scored off a feed from Christian Pulisic to give the U.S. a brief 1-0 lead, and Gabriel Gomez leveled the score before halftime.

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Here’s the Hex table as it stands, with the U.S. on pace for a playoff spot against Asia’s playoff winner:

Mexico — 10 points
Costa Rica — 7 points
Panama — 5 points
———————
USMNT — 4 points
———————-
Honduras — 4 points
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening quarter-hour (and never pulled a single card).

Felipe Baloy flashed a header over the cross bar off a 16th minute corner kick as he lost Jozy Altidore and nodded back across goal. It was a bit of set piece foreshadowing, as Arena has yet to fix a long-held USMNT problem.

Christian Pulisic was fired up when Luis Tejada shoved him to the turf in the 20th minute.

Tim Ream bailed out Jorge Villafana, who wasn’t as composed and smart as his Friday versus Panama, sliding to divert Armando Cooper’s cross for a corner kick.

Jermaine Jones cued up Pulisic moments later, but the youngster had to wait for a bounding ball to settle before Panama conceded a corner. That opportunity was wasted by an overly aggressive Gonzalez, who was called for a foul before the ball arrived in the 18.

Howard saw his first danger and averted it when Alberto Quintero shook Zusi to rip a shot on frame. It was 0-0 after 32 minutes.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

The second half began with more chunky play until Villafana blazed down the left wing on an overlapping run to cross for Pulisic, whose shot was forced out for a corner which led to nothing.

Dempsey then turned a Michael Bradley free kick to a waiting Jaime Penedo as the Yanks started to refind their flow.

Panama found a doorstep chance when Torres nodded down for Tejada, but Howard made an exceptional nether regions “leg” save to keep it 1-1.

Arena introduced Alejandro Bedoya for Darlington Nagbe with 20 minutes to play, a move that was a testament to the physical nature of the game.

Fittingly, it was creative work from Pulisic that helped the U.S. win a corner kick soon after, though Penedo claimed the offering.

More chances came Panama’s way, as the U.S. spent much of the late stages desperately clearing loose balls. On another night, with better finishing from Tejada, the Yanks would’ve been sunk.

Three takeaways from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Panama

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
Leave a comment

What did we learn from the United States’ 1-1 draw in Panama City on Wednesday?

For one thing, that the coach isn’t going to matter without a number of your very best players.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

The USMNT saw precious few moments of brilliance from its injury-ravaged side, saved by its soon-to-be all-time leading scorer, its 18-year-old star attacker, and its legendary goalkeeper.

But mainly, we saw that you can change the boss, but you need better performances to make a difference.

Limits of depth tested in ugly affair

Bruce Arena was without his best center back pairing thanks to injury, and you could argue he was without his best back four if you see Fabian Johnson as a left back (John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, and Johnson).

The U.S. also couldn’t pair Bobby Wood with Jozy Altidore or Clint Dempsey, and lost Sebastian Lletget to injury on Friday. Timmy Chandler has rarely thrived with the USMNT, but it certainly would’ve been nice if Arena had called him up for the second match alone (He was suspended Friday for yellow card accumulation).

Given the above, this was not a pretty match. You just have to hope this isn’t the result that keeps them from Russia.

Mexico, revisited (What game plan?)

This might be an unpopular take, but Tuesday’s loss was nothing more than the performance put forth against Mexico in Columbus.

The main differences? Tim Howard was there to make a tremendous save, and Panama is nowhere near to the level of El Tri.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The Yanks didn’t have a great plan other than to outwork Panama. This isn’t a big knock on the coach’s tactics given the lack of starting caliber players noted above, but once Panama flooded the middle of the pitch with fouls and tight tackles, an answer wasn’t provided by the players or the coach.

Plan B hasn’t been a U.S. strong suit for a long time, perhaps back to the finer moments of the Bob Bradley era. Arena got away with one on Tuesday.

Rough road ahead

This is something we know, but my was it reinforced: Winning CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers at home is a necessity, because there’s carnage and bad pitches on the road.

Perhaps that could’ve changed if referee Cesar Ramos brought a yellow card out for either team at any point in the proceedings. Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe were fouled as part of Panama’s game plan, and the Yanks’ beleaguered defense went with a similar plan as the sloppy match wore into the waning moments.

The U.S. is still in control of its own World Cup destiny, of course, but simply must handle its business in remaining home matches against Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Costa Rica. T&T is next, and anything other than three points sends them into Azteca in a bad, bad way.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw in Panama

Leave a comment

Player ratings reverted to old form after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw in Panama City, though fortunately one of the other U.S. tropes is dead.

That’s because “Christian Pulisic is the future” can officially be moved into “Christian Pulisic is the present”.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

The Borussia Dortmund teenager again manufactured the United States’ best moment, feeding Clint Dempsey for the Yanks’ lone goal.

Starting XI

Tim Howard  — 7 — Don’t know what he’s supposed to do on the goal, but his jewels save to deny Luis Tejada could be a World Cup saver.

Jorge Villafana  — 4 — One of the many star men from the win over Honduras was too adventurous and less composed. Bad combo.

Omar Gonzalez  — 4 — I say this in a way that ignores Timmy Chandler’s fine work in the Bundesliga: Is Gonzalez going to be Bruce Arena’s Chandler? Hopefully this is the last time he has to start.

Tim Ream — 5 — Had a bad time on the goal, and made several bad plays. But it’s hard to get a read on the Fulham’s man night because he bailed out Gonzalez and Villafana on a number of occasions.

Graham Zusi  — 5 — Gets bumped up a point for handling a very difficult situation, still adapting to right back in a match where Panama’s tactics were to attack his side. A better second half than the first.

Michael Bradley  — 6 — Nothing exceptional from the captain, but still an upgrade from his form under Jurgen Klinsmann. A little too deep in the formation on the evening, but that could’ve been the plan?

Jermaine Jones  (Off 75′) — 5 — Ornery as usual, his only successes came in standing up for his oft-fouled midfield mates.

Darlington Nagbe  (Off 68′) — 6  — This game looked set up for him to pick the ball up from Michael Bradley and dance into the midfield, but he only got a few chances as Panama’s tactics were aimed at fouling the Yanks’ two best dribblers in him and Pulisic.

Christian Pulisic  — 9 — A simply incredible bit of work to work two veteran defenders and assist Dempsey’s goal. Failing an unforeseen dip in company, Pulisic is going to be one of the most important players in American men’s history.

Clint Dempsey  — 6 — Scored the goal that earned the point, but otherwise fought to be a part of the match. That’s the sign of a legend, though, still finding a way to make himself matter on a poor evening.

Jozy Altidore  — 5 — Might’ve had a dozen touches in the game. Part of this was down to the U.S. aiming balls at his head and not his feet, but not his day.

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 68′)  — 6 — Dogged work rate from the Union man.

Kellyn Acosta (On 75′) — 6 — Some creativity on display in limited time

Paul Arriola (On 83′) — N/A —