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March 28, 2011

USA vs. Argentina: Recap and Highlights

USA vs. Argentina Recap

Old Meadowlands, achieve results. New Meadowlands, achieve results. That's been the trend in recent history when the U.S. has met Argentina in the New York City area.

The yanks likely had some bitter memories from their christening of the New Meadowlands Stadium in August (a 3-0 loss to Brazil), but have washed down those memories with admirable play in a 1-1 draw against the South Americans on Saturday.

The U.S. can take some level of pride in effectively neutralizing one of the sharpest attacks in the soccer world on two occurrences in the past three years (The US tied Argentina 0-0 at the Old Meadowlands Stadium in 2008). As a result, there should be some well-earned confidence in the camp as they prepare for Paraguay tomorrow night in Nashville.

One of the biggest talking points in the aftermath of this game is Bradley's recent experimentation with the 4-5-1 formation. It would be difficult to argue that the switch to the 4-4-2 at halftime was one of the catalysts to the U.S. resurgence in the 2nd half, but hopefully we haven't seen the end of the 4-5-1. 

To be fair, a crisp Argentine team can make any formation of any group of footballers appear ineffective. However, I don't think we'll see it again Tuesday night--and we shouldn't. The U.S. won't be as preoccupied with containing Paraguay as they were Saturday night, and should see more of the ball going forward, as well. 

Beyond that, a lack of depth at central attacking midfielder should make Bradley's mind up for him. Edu didn't play the role well on Saturday, and I can't see Bradley putting Kljestan or Feilhaber there either. This does add another kink, however: of Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones, and Maurice Edu, who sits?

This also gives Bradley the chance to insert Agudelo into the equation in a starting role. I can see the staff wanting to give the young striker minutes to see how well he and Altidore complement each other from the beginning.

Bradley should be relishing a chance to refine his system through another tough test against an experienced Paraguay side. This should also be a good opportunity to give some of our young guys a chance to see how they mix with the old guard.

Player Ratings:
USA starting 11: (Key: 5 being average, 10 being perfect)

Tim Howard (8.5): Continued his tradition of big play in huge games. There was little he could have done about the goal, and made several big-time saves throughout the match. His distribution was effective, save a couple of errant kicks.

Carlos Bocanegra (5.5): Solid performance. Got forward more than Spector and defended the wing better, too. An additional burst of speed would help on the left side, though, for sure.

Oguchi Onyewu (5): Like Demerit, he had a efficient showing defensively. He looked good in the air and handled a couple of tight situations with skill. His distribution was less than lackluster, and really struggled with his composure on the ball.

Jay Demerit (6): Demerit seemed poised under pressure, and efficiently marshaled the defense as they kept their shape stubbornly under Argentina's suffocating style of play. His distribution from the back was also better than Onyewu's.

Jonathan Spector (4.5): Nonexistent offensively, and got burned more than a couple times defensively. He can shoulder part of the blame for Argentina's goal, as well.

Jermaine Jones (5): He was seemingly irrelevant. Though to be fair, he did effectively neutralize Cambiasso and the rest of Argentina's attacking midfield ... except the one time the ball was in the back of the net.

Michael Bradley (6): Simply decent defensively and decent going forward. He's always buzzing around the ball and always tracking back well, however he was responsible for a few crucial losses of possession as the US was pushing for a winner late in the game.

Maurice Edu (6): Embodied the result of this game (a tale of 2 halves). Not effective at all in an advanced role in the 1st half, and didn't combine well with Altidore. After the switch to the 4-4-2, Edu improved significantly. He helped stamp out attacks from the Argentine central midfield, and threatened going forward.

Clint Dempsey (5.5): He created a couple of half-chances, if you could call them that. Saturday wasn't a very productive day for him offensively, and he had a few bad give-aways. Normally his productivity makes up for his hapless passing, but not last night.

Landon Donavon (6): His night was characterized by hard work defensively, which he has developed a reputation for. As his touches in the final third increased, and so did the level of threat that the U.S. posed. His set pieces were good & helped set up the goal.

Jozy Altidore (5): Why can't you hold the ball up and involve your teammates? He was harmless in the 1st half and ultimately benefited greatly from the change of formation and addition of Juan Agudelo.


Timothy Chandler (7): The USA debutant was effective getting forward (several dangerous crosses and runs). He was exposed on occasion, but speedy getting back. Chandler was more effective both defensively AND offensively than Spector.

Juan Agudelo (7): Goalscorer, active, held up play well at time, but occasionally struggled with his decision making. Likely earned a start if Bradley switches to a 4-4-2 vs. Paraguay.


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