Let me begin by stating that there is absolutely no shame in losing to Italy and Brazil. They are two of the premier soccer powers in the world. The US played valiantly against Italy despite Ricardo Clark needless ejection, forcing them to play down a man for 60 minutes. But today’s performance against Brazil confirms what is a troubling trend for the US National team. In 4 of the past 5 matches they have conceded at least 1 goal in the first 20 minutes. This is a trend that has to stop. The US team doesn’t not possess the kind of offensive firepower to consistently bounce back from being down a goal early.

But the other troubling trend is Coach Bob Bradley’s insistence upon putting certain players on the pitch over and over, especially when they are not fit, in form, or producing. I’m convinced that Damarcus Beasley must be blackmailing Bradley with something incriminating. There is absolutely no reason that he should be playing. His performance over the past 6 games has been marginal (at best). And today he has been the US’s Brazil’s best player. His lack of touch, which has been shown to be consistently awful since he only played about 10 games for his club this season while recovering from injury, led to the second goal off of a US corner kick! Inexcusable.

I also do not understand Bradley’s personnel decisions. It made complete sense to substitute Beasley in the second half, but replace him with Connor Casey? The move back to a traditional 4-4-2 is sensible, but Casey brought almost nothing to this game. His main contribution was a good opportunity off a set piece in the 87th minutes. Why not substitute in Jose Francisco Torres, Freddy Adu or Charlie Davies. Torres could have played midfield and move Donovan or Dempsey up top. But Adu and Davies could have complimented Altodore. Then Bradley substitutes Benny Feilhaber for Jose Altidore. Again, Feilhaber hasn’t been playing much for his club either. He had a good performance in the second half versus Honduras, providing a spark that the US needed, but his performance against Italty was sub-par.

Player Ratings (1-10):

Tim Howard: 5 Overall a good performance but Howard should have done better defending the first goal. The ball was inside the six yard box and that is a keeper’s domain. Howard should have challenged for that ball (as good as it was)

Jonathan Spector: 5 Not Spector’s best game since his man scored the first goal, but overall a solid effort. He is consistent and I like the runs that he makes out of the back. And he always hustles to get back into position.

Jay DeMeritt: 6 Another solid game for DeMeritt. He is as good as Bocanegra (if not better), but won’t secure a starting spot simply because the coaching staff loves Bocanegra. But it is nice to know that we have a solid sub for a CB.

Oguchi Onyewu: 8 Onyewu has had a very good tournament. He has been composed, organized and strong in the air.

Jonathan Bornstein: 5 Bornstein works hard and played much better today than he did against Italy. He seems kind of small and that hurts him at times, but he is a gutsy player.

Damarcus Beasley: 1 I think I’ve made my feelings about Beasley clear. Beasley shouldn’t play again for the US until he starts playing more for his club and actually contributes something other than mistakes. You want to be loyal to players like Beasley who have given so much to the national team, but he isn’t in any condition to play right now.

Michael Bradley: 6 Solid effort from Bradley. He was active defensively and offensively. Unfortunately for Bradley he is more of an attacking midfielder than defensive midfielder (though he can be a good defensive midfielder) and he has recently been paired with attacking midfielders. It will be interesting to see how Jermaine Jones, former German national player, might compliment Bradley if he gets cleared for the US national player pool.

Sascha Kleijstan: 3 There was a time that it looked like Kleijstan was about to nail down a consistent starting spot beside Bradley but his play has digressed recently. Against Brazil he contributed nothing except for another bone-headed ejection. I guess he thought his buddy Ricardo Clark was lonely on the bench. Apart from his foul he didn’t maintain possession or make sound decisions. You have to like his defensive aggressiveness, which is something that more talented players like Torres and Adu lack, but you can’t make the kind of mistakes that Kleijstan made. He lost the ball, which led to a counter, and in an effort to recover he commits a senseless foul. Could have been a caution, but the referee thought otherwise. On top of that, it was Kleijstan’s man who made the run through midfield on Beasley’s mistake leading to the second goal.

Landon Donovan: 6 Another solid effort by Donovan. He didn’t go at the Brazilians the way he did the Italians, but he really didn’t have the opportunities either. Good hustle defensively. He certainly needs to attempt to be more creative on the ball though.

Clint Dempsey: 4 Dempsey continues to look like a player with dead legs. He had a nice opportunity off a header in the 2nd half, but overall Dempsey isn’t bringing much to the table, which is a shame given his talent. I would expect to see Bradley rest him against Egypt, and honestly, he needs it.

Jose Altidore: 4 I didn’t like the substitution that brought Altidore off the pitch, but at the same time, he wasn’t working very hard defensively (at least not like he did against Italy). It’s hard to evaluate him because he really didn’t get much help. Going down 1-0 so early in the game really changed the game plan for the US and they began to press. They weren’t trying to hold the ball and were primarily sending the ball long.

Substitutes:

Connor Casey: 3 This substitution reveals how glaringly obvious it is that our player pool of fowards is pretty shallow.

Benny Feilhaber: 7 His play was solid and he was quite unluckly on his strike in the 83rd minute. Unfortunate that he didn’t get a goal there. He has good vision and touch, but can be a liability defensively.

Coaching: Bob Bradley is a good coach and he has done more to give different players opportunities than any US coach in recent memory. His record is solid but ultimately all that matters is how this team performs at the World Cup (assuming they qualify, and they should). There are some serious question marks with this roster.

I think that we are now set at every defensive position except LB. Bornstein is serviceable, but it will be interesting to see if Cherundolo can work out there once he returns from injury. Hejduk brings pride and guts, but his touch is about as bad as Beasley’s. Also, what should Bradley do with Clint Dempsey? Dempsey has not played well recently, and almost every time he is challenged he goes down. This has to stop. Play with some toughness. But perhaps Bradley should consider Dempsey a better option off the bench, because honestly, he isn’t complimenting the other attacking players right now (and he isn’t the solution at striker). Tim Howard also needs someone to push him. There were several goals against Italy and Brazil that I think Howard should have done better with. The goal by de Rossi (Italy) and the opening goal conceded against Brazil come to mind. I’m not suggesting Howard should be replaced, but it would be nice to see someone pushing him.

Where should Bradley go from here? There are several players that I’d like to see disappear for a little while. Connor Casey, Demarcus Beasley, Ricardo Clark, Sascha Kleijstan and Pablo Maestroeni being among them. I think Jermaine Jones is going to be bring something to the US side they are severly lacking: an intelligent aggressiveness. I’m not suggesting that Freddy Adu is ready since he isn’t playing much with his club, but I do think that Bradley has to find a way to utilize Jose Torres more. He brings an ability to possess the ball that the US is severely lacking and he plays all the time with his club. I don’t know what Bradley’s hesitancy is because he performed well against Costa Rica (game he started) aside from a shaky start. But why keep giving Beasley opportunities performance after poor performance but bench Torres after 2-3 shaky minutes of an otherwise solid match against Costa Rica.

My 20 Man Roster Heading into Mexico:

GK: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Brad Friedel

DEFENDERS: Carlos Bocanegra, Jay DeMeritt, Jonathan Spector, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Bornstein, Steve Cherundalo, Frankie Heijdek

MIDFIELD: Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres, Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Landon Donovan

FOWARDS: Brian Ching, Jose Altidore, Freddy Adu, Charlie Davis

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