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Now, back to work

June 26, 2010 | 2:49 pm 3
By Shaun Schafer

No, they didn’t have anything left.

The US staged another second half comeback to tie Ghana 1-1, and then simply ran out of gas. The US followed the script by falling behind early, rallying in the second half, and then not having anything left at the end. Ghana got one good counterattack early in the first extra time period when the US was snoozing. After that, there was nothing left.

So, what lessons can we learn from the US’s departure in the second round?

Capable: For once, the Yanks took care of business in a weak group. Alexi Lalas was right when the draw was announced. This was a group that the US should be able to get out of. The US did get it done. Past US teams would have botched this opportunity.

The 2006 and 1998 squads would have killed to have been in any of the positions that this squad found.

Comeback Kings: The US could come back. England, Slovenia and Ghana all lead early. The US managed to tie up each of those games. The second half was the US friend, and the comeback against Slovenia and the finale against Algeria were fantastic.

Looking Back: The US never quite figured out the center of defense. Carlos Bocanegra does a passable job there, but he was beat on the final Ghana goal, and he’s better on the outside. Jay DeMerit was stellar. He seemed to get better as the tournament went on. The man from Green Bay, Wisc., gave everything.

The injury to Oguchi Onyewu last fall was probably more devastating to central defense than I thought. I have never been a huge Onyewu fan. He always seems too likely to run over an opponent and draw a silly foul. This wasn’t a problem in South Africa, but Onyewu was not 100 percent. He gave all he had, but it wasn’t enough.

Stuck in the Middle: Michael Bradley did fantastic work in the center of the field. His best companion was Maurice Edu, as Ricardo Clark and my personal fave, Jose Torres, came up short.

Looking back, I wonder what Edu-Bradley could have done with a full 90 minutes together every game.

This leads us to the other issue for the US, why isn’t Benny Feilhaber a starter? All he does is hold the ball, light up the field and make the right pass time and again. I’m sorry he didn’t get more opportunity.

Going Forward: There’s a forward problem. None of the strikers scored in the tournament. All the US goals came from the midfield, (Clint Dempsey, Bradley, Landon Donovan) plus Edu’s disallowed finish.

Coach Bob Bradley is probably going to face his most questions here. Jozy Altidore played a great second half against Algeria. That’s not much of a return for starting four games in the World Cup.

Herculez Gomez made a difference, but he didn’t spend much time on the field. Edson Buddle got one chance, which probably wasn’t enough.

What did Robbie Findley do? I was grateful he wasn’t available against Algeria. He may be fast, but he couldn’t finish. You have to finish chances at this level. Findley got his chances, but he didn’t do the job. I still don’t see the Findley allure.

Four More Years: Now the long wait to the next World Cup begins. This time, it’s in Brazil, and I can’t wait to go.

In CONCACAF, the US is a likely representative. Who will be on the field?  

At keeper, Marcus Hahnemann was in South Africa for veteran stability and Brad Guzan was there to learn. Tim Howard was the man from start to finish. He did nothing to dislodge his place. I expect to see him in the goal in 2014. I suspect the two sitting on the bench will two names I haven’t mentioned.

Defense is in for an overhaul. Steve Cherundolo is 31. This was his final World Cup. Bocanegra and DeMerit are unlikely to be back in four years. Jonathan Spector is a serviceable sub, but he’s unlikely to get another sniff. Onyewu might be back, but he’s a borderline case. He’s going to have to stay healthy and play some outstanding club football.

Jonathan Bornstein needs to take his play in the final game and keep building. He’s shown promise and stagnation in equal measures. Clarence Goodson rode the pine. I suspect Bornstein and Goodson will get a chance for 2014. Both are likely to make it after the taste they got this month.

Dempsey and Donovan will play in the midfield until they can’t. Expect both of them to make heroic last stands for one more cup in 2014. Each will be nearing the end, but I don’t see either one of them missing out.

Bradley is a pup. He could lead the midfield for the next decade. Edu, Clark, Feilhaber and Torres will all be in the mix. Despite an atrocious half, I still believe in Torres. Stuart Holden shows some exciting possibilities. Midfield is the one area where the US has to feel good.

Forwards are a problem. Buddle and Gomez were in-form strikers who got their shots. Neither will be in the mix in four years.

Findley was useless. I never got his charm, and I still don’t. However, he gets four years to prove me wrong. If he can figure out how to finish, he will have a case to go to Brazil. Altidore also needs to step up his finishing and learn how to play 90 minutes as a top flight professional.

Of the four on the roster, only Altidore is likely to be back.

Next Up: I’m going to try and forget about today’s fadeout and enjoy the rest of the tournament. Plus, the Colorado Rapids and  the rest of the MLS come back online today. After a two-week break, I wonder what we will see.

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  • george tanner said:

    four years from now, here’s who’s back: bradley, landycakes, jozy, howard, el guzano, feilhaber.

    new blood on defense: the galaxy’s omar gonzalez. he’s 6-5, 210 pounds. he’ll be 25 years old. should be one of our mainstays by then. rapids fans have seen him at his best.

    no shame in the americans’ performance, outside of the lack of concentration in the opening 15 minutes. it was a good run. and they simply lost their finale. no whining about the officials in that one.

    i think when we look back on this tournament in a couple of weeks, the thing to remember will be that we reached the round of 16 legitimately, and we made a case that we’re one of the top 15 or so teams in the world. it would be difficult to argue that we’re not.

  • Shaun Schafer said:

    Do I have to have Guzan back? And do you think Clint will be done by then? Couldn’t I please swap those two?

    I agree, no shame in being in the second round, but I am left with the inescapable feeling that we lost to a team we should have beat. It stings.

  • BOB AGYEMANG said:

    Poor Alexi LaLas or what ever his name is, with his little knowledge about world soccer, thinks that South America and Europe are the only continent that play football.He talked trash about Ghana.
    “We had a chance to do smothing great,we were playing Ghana [who beat us and eliminated us in 2006 world cup. omitted.];with all due respect this is not,Germany or Mexico this is Ghana.To him Ghana is poor and it is in Africa so they have no right to beat rich America, ha ha ha .Let me tell you with all your peolpe ,money and power,Ghana will push you into the river anytime we meet you on the football bridge.You rave and rant about the poor Africa country but when it comes to the proper football Ghana is a giant over USA the dwarf.The reply from klinsmann is enough so you should take a cue from him. A real world class footballer. Not you a mediocere player.

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