Friday, September 12, 2008

USA vs. T&T: Sanford's Match Report

It was a breath of fresh air (literally) to be back in Chicago on Wednesday. After months of humidity in the Southeast, the cool and dry air of the Windy City offered a welcome respite. Since there is no viable public transport from downtown to Bridgeview, we were forced to battle the rush-hour traffic out to the stadium. Upon arrival, my mates and I quickly set up camp outside Toyota Park. It’s fantastic that there is a soccer-specific stadium in town, and that the Fire have their own home to generate some income, but tailgating in the lot outside The Yoda is a far cry from lakeside at Soldier Field. Nonetheless, as the Old Style flowed and the sausage grilled, those concerns were forgotten and I began to focus on the match.

Thanks to Bobbie’s ticket allocation scheme, we had some fine seats. For some reason, they switched the team benches and they were on the far side of the pitch, but otherwise all was well with our position slightly north of midfield.

It was a joy to see Bocanegra lead the side out, and to have Beasley, Bob Bradley and Peter Nowak all in the mix. Ten years on from the Fire’s inaugural season, the MLS side’s impact on the national team is obvious.

Bob started with Ching up front, Lando supporting, and Deuce and The Kid on the wings. Kljestan and miniBradley were in the middle, and the backline consisted of Boca, Gooch, Cherundolo and Pearce.

The U.S. quickly established control of the match and had the opener within 10 minutes. Landycakes took a free-kick and miniBradley finished with a deft flick off the outside of his boot to get the Yanks off the mark. The goal did little to change T&T’s play, however, and they sat way back in their half and allowed miniBradley and Beasley to have loads of time on the ball. miniBradley set the tempo, pulling the strings from up top and making crucial interceptions on the rare occasions the U.S. lost possession. Some nice interplay between Deuce and Beasley led to another goal, and even Brian Ching couldn’t miss when presented with his chance around the 60 minute mark to kill the game off. The Soca Warriors enjoyed a decent spell at the beginning of the second half but the result of the match was never in doubt.

Overall, it was the performance the team needed and the fans expected. Speaking of fans, allow me to digress and voice my utter disappointment at the turnout. The announced attendance for the match was under 12,000. That’s just sad. I understand it was a 7pm kick-off on a Wednesday but 12,000 fans for a national team world cup qualifying game? It's not like it was a friendly or anything. And the opposition shouldn't matter -- the guys should have more support. It’s really poor and to make matters worse Bobbie pointed out that the Fire usually draw more. I for one found my trip to see the lads in the flesh for the first time since their loss to Ghana in Nürnburg more than worthwhile, and I had to take a flight! I know there are plenty of fans in the Chicagoland area. So where were they?

Back to the team. Brian Ching is a poor-man’s Brian McBride but his presence can be useful. He is big and physical and opens things up for his teammates. I just can’t see him making the squad for 2010, not with guys like Altidore and Cooper waiting in the wings. Eddie Johnson came off the bench was a pathetic. I have no idea why Bob keeps picking this guy. Let him prove he can do the business in Cardiff and then invite him back. In the meantime, his international career needs to be put on hold.

Our defense looked pretty damn solid. The Onyewu/Bocanegra pairing is good and Cherundolo’s massive experience is a boon on the wing. I’m still not convinced by Heath Pearce, but he didn’t make too many glaring errors in this contest. And I know Landon is less effective on the wing, but he is one of the best crossers on the team, and fed some lovely balls into the area from the wide position. Until we find a true wide man for the right side, he and Deuce should continue to share that role. Finally, it was a real pleasure to see Beasley in action. He seemed to have a bit of that spark back, and I’m hopeful he can keep his injury problems in the closet for the coming campaign with Rangers. When he’s in the mood he can be a game changer, and we need more players to take the pressure off Donovan in terms of on-field playmaking.

It was a fantastic 24 hours in the Windy City. I’m not sure when I’ll see the Nats again, but when I do, I hope I’ll see Altidore and Adu.


Bobbie BS said...

Comprehensive report and nice photos, especially the sausage. Eddie Johnson- what the fuck happened to that guy? No, I don't mean lately, I mean 4 years ago when he couldn't stop scoring goals? He had a couple of amazing games for the US in the midst of another lackluster season in MLS (where he never really stood out) and hasn't done crap since. What scouts and coaches see in him I don't know. Sure he's big and he's fast but he doesn't work hard, doesn't fight for the ball in the air, doesn't use the ball well on the ground and just doesn't seem to score much. I hope he can get it together in the championship but I'd wager we'll see nothing more than a bunch of disinterested displays from the bench.

The Editor said...

I think his head got big and he's never really recovered. He never hustles -- so aggravating.