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June 5, 2012

USA vs Canada: Recap and Player Ratings

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I've read a superior review of the Canada-USA that I could ever write and it is here. However I'll hit on a few things before I end this modest review just so I don't mail it in.

Canada came out with a very athletic team. They wisely packed the box (sending all 11 players back on a corner kick) and countered fast. While technically they weren't the best they were well coached and saw the game with decent vision.

America controlled possession and looked to string passes through the thick Canadian defense with mild success. Most of the top six players held no strict boundaries as to where you could expect them on the field. For a weak defense this would tear them apart but Canada's organization overcame a jumbled midfield attack, which ultimately turned into just a crowded section of the field instead of expanding it not only width-wise but also vertically. (MLS did an interesting comparison here on the Brazil game and the Canada game. My counter argument would be that the chart doesn't take into account off the ball movement and that multiple players can't possess the ball at one time. Gomez, specifically, makes several off the ball runs to the corners that the MLS does not track on its heat maps. Along this note, if overall passing percentages are down it may be because of the clouded midfield, which would be because players are "out of position" or intentionally not in their position. Just a theory.)

America offered no variety to Canada's strong defense, which is very interesting because historically (although it's been at least a year since) we've hit too many balls over the top instead of being patient. Sunday saw a polar opposite performance with a CM-led offense that was more than content to pass back. If you're having trouble solving a defense, which America was, you have to feed them variety to start getting results. Yes, maybe an over the top ball that one time would be a waste, but the next possession the defense will be expecting something over the top and they will start inching back, giving you space in the middle. It's a give and take and America did neither this game.

Wynalda had a really interesting quote in this fantastic review of his surging Cal FC, "We find talent and we start coaching them, and that’s when we start ruining them." I can see where he's coming from and, while I won't name any names, it's hard to disagree when your home team is full of athletes that can do nothing with the ball except kick it forward. There is a middle ground to reach of not complete chaos but also not over-coaching the players. I think Wynalda would be proud of the team Klinsmann is trying to run. I remember Klinsmann saying something along the lines of how he's not really trying to motivate the players because if they're not motivated by now then he can't help them. (I think this sounds a little extreme and it's not like Klinsmann doesn't offer praise.) He went on to add how he lets the play through most things in practice, not stopping every second to correct something. Sunday looked like a product of several things. Klinsmann letting the players play, Canada performing very well, and some slight tiredness from the players. Most of the game Klinsmann sat on the bench, which is very unlike him from what I have seen in the past. Most of the time he is standing, yelling/encouraging his players.

Here are my tweets from @soccer_subj. Not a ton as the game was very repetitive:
  • I think I'm sitting behind Canada's warm up goal. Don't recognize the coaches.
  • USA fan has "BACK TO BACK WORLD WAR CHAMPS". I wonder if he knows no one has ever defeated Canada in Canada.
  • Or about wars we fought after WWII...
  • Man with "MICHIGAN 26" USA jersey... 26th state? I don't think that's right. Maybe favorite number. [[Turns out 26th state was correct. Odd thing to put on a jersey.]]
  • We love Timmy Howard chant even though he's across the field.
  • In AO section so I don't know about tweeting... We'll see.
  • Teams on the field.
  • Canada does not know how to handle American Outlaws.
  • Canada looks really lame and it's just warm ups. I'll be disappointed if we score less than 4.
  • Blanking on name but Boston College standout Kyle Becker (?) should start every game for Canada. He's amazing. [[Kyle Bekker* - vids for you]]
  • Very modest Canada fan section #CANvUSA
  • Rimando back up in this and Brazil game. I prefer Guzan but maybe Klins is trying to get him PT.
  • Now a "Back to back World War champs" chant breaks out. Ugh.
  • Lay off drill atop the 18 and either it's a placed shot on target or wide. Pretty miserable.
  • Pretty amazing how the top Canadian goalkeepers have such bad form.
  • Should have stuck with hockey and "safety country" chants.
  • Canada walks out some old guys and the women's team? If they wanted to really stick it to us they'd bring out the U23s

  • Pretty loud USA chant. National Anthem to follow. Should be good.
  • Canada has some really sweet kits. Probably the best thing about them.
  • Personally I would be completely okay with a USA chant during Canada's national anthem but I was in the minority.
  • Scrappy 20 year old brunette kid is doing a great job of leading everything. Very impressed.
  • Wow Canada's blue kits are awesome. So fresh.
  • You could be state 51 chant. Awesome.
  • Dempsey and others not excited about how physical Canada's top forward is playing. [[He grabbed some player's leg after a tackle. No call either way.]]
  • Torres and Castillo are going to tear Canada's right side all day. [[Castillo somewhat did. Torres not so much.]]
  • Canada's CB's main defense against a counter is fouling. Unbelievable.
  • Torres runs to Donovan on the corner. Two defenders follow, one from the post. Take the corner! Two defender down?? Yes please!
  • Guys behind me really upset that you can't buy beer on their gas stations. [[Literally mentioned this close to six times throughout the game.]]
  • An occasional over the top ball wouldn't hurt. Gotta push the defense back.
  • Bradley is not a true CDM and Castillo if not a true LB.
  • Your bacon's just ham "Suburb of Buffalo" and "America's hat" chants. Ha.
  • Canada playing super lame soccer but USA playing annoyingly conservative.
  • Ref really "letting them play" (aka not calling any shoving fouls).
  • US not looking any nastier.
  • Canada putting all 11 in the box on defending a corner.
  • It should not take us 30 minutes to figure out this team. Good attacks but too much time wasted.
  • Pretty weak half. Just yawned to prove it.
  • Boca and Goodson with excellent tracking back.
  • Goodson having a really good game. Although this is his environment to excel in.
  • Probably one of the few not excited about Onyewu coming in...
  • Could really go for a Graham Zusi right now.
  • I think this play-whatever-position-you-like offense isn't in our best interest. I see some pros but largely unproductive for us. [[My first ever RT?]]
  • Defense always looking for lateral pass. Nothing forward.
  • Wondo! This will be exciting!
  • Oh wait Wondo is gonna get destroyed by those massive CBs... Maybe. TBD. [[Not a factor]]
  • Why did we have more scoring chances against Brazil than Canada? Well clearly Canada is more focused on their D than Brazil
  • Canada should have best us. [[beat*]]

  • Booking it to Chipotle for comfort food. [[Was delicious]]
Alexi Lalas had an interesting tweet that if this were group play, America would have 4 points with a +1 goal differential. Not too shabby but I think we were all looking for 6 if not 7 points.

The time for figuring out things is coming to and end for America and the first games that the results matter more than player performances is near.

Player Ratings

+7.6 - Goodson - 88% (10…8.8/1.2…90') - Really excels in a physical game. Not so much in a technical game. But nevertheless he dominated Canada's forwards and almost got a goal. Great game.

+4.6 - Gomez - 79% (8…6.3/1.7…80') - I love his runs to the corner flag to drag the central defenders. A more aggressive offense would have exploited the space that Gomez created.

+3.9 - Howard - 80% (6.5…4.6/1.9…90') - Handled everything and might have pulled off the save that Canada missed from just yards away with his positioning and shape. Who knows.

+3.5 - Bocanegra - 79% (6…4.7/1.3…62') - Same as Goodson, honestly. Minus the almost-goal-part.

+2.5 - Castillo - 63% (9.5…6/3.5…90') - Most player reviews from other people will say something like, "Was great in the attack but was exposed on the defense." I can't deal with that. If one of our weaker players is nearest our goal… No sir. I think he teamed well with Torres alright but I don't really see him as a big step above Bornstein, to be blunt. I would rather Castillo play LW than Torres though. He has a killer touch with good speed. And our wing depth pool is pretty low.

+1.9 - Onyewu - 82% (3…2.5/0.5…28') - The fans celebrated their typical "Goooooch!" cry but I was thrilled with his appearance. Against Canada, similar to Goodson and Bocanegra, he will be fine. Against a quick, smart team, he will not.

+1.7 - Bradley - 59% (9.5…5.6/3.9…90') - Hardly advanced the offense and practically played a fifth defender. Really boring to watch.

+1.4 - Dempsey - 58% (9…5.2/3.8…90') - Clearly exhausted and walked even more than usual. Never took anyone on and saw him fight for space/the ball only a few times.

+1.2 - Cherundolo - 58% (7.5…4.4/3.2…80') - Also hardly pushed forward. Was content on defending a sparse attack.

+1.1 - Donovan - 57% (8…4.6/3.4…73') - I don't think Marcello was the main reason for Donovan's not awful/not great game against Brazil. It didn't help that Cherundolo sat back but he never really challenged the defense and way too many of his crosses/set pieces hit a defender before reaching its desired target. He has to gauge the height of his balls better, to put it bluntly. (This is such an odd thing for me to say because we know he can do it so well.)

+1 - Altidore - 66% (3…2/1…28') - I was excited to see him take on the big Canadian CBs but he played toward the wing or as a reserved striker. Played a couple of nice balls, which was interesting to see from Altidore.

+1 - Jones - 55% (10…5.5/4.5…90') - Touch was off all night and turned the ball over a ton. Out of fairness he had little options to play to and he did create some chances on goal.

+0.2 - Wondolowski - 61% (1…0.6/0.4…10') - Didn't really get to do anything. = { /

+0.2 - Edu - 58% (1.5…0.9/0.6…17') - Ran around.

-0.1 - Parkhurst - 45% (1…0.5/0.6…10') - Got beat on the right side a couple of times in only ten minutes. Not good. A Goodson/Parkhurst pairing would be interesting in the middle.

-0.9 - Torres - 43% (6.5…2.8/3.7…62') - I'm having trouble understanding why Torres isn't translating to the wing better. He has the speed, the ability to play a crossing ball, the vision to make an off the ball run… I don't know, something isn't clicking. It's like he's thinking too much on the ball and his hesitation results in a turnover or a conservative pass. I like him a lot (one of my favorite players to watch) but the CM is a crowded field and we could really use a strong winger.

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