Soccer

Home MLS U.S. Teams World Cup International NCAA Youth Links Whos Who Talk Back Archives Op/Ed Almanac U.S. Pro Leagues Site Map

feedback

ESPN

SoccerTimes
front page

List of Americans Abroad

Strong effort sends U.S. past Egypt 3-0 and to improbable Confederations Cup semifinal berth.

American shortcomings are again obvious and Brazil wins easily in Confederations Cup.

Shorthanded Americans cannot hold off skillful Italy in Confederations Cup.

U.S. survives early lapse, to rally past Honduras in important qualifier.

Costa Rica humiliates Americans 3-1 in World Cup qualifier.

Hejduk, others unavailable as Americans visit Costa Rica for qualifier.

Altidore's three goals lead strong U.S. effort in win over T&T.

U.S. responds to poor effort with late rally to draw El Salvador 2-2.

U.S. continues home domination of Mexico by starting final qualifying with 2-0 victory.

Final round of World Cup qualifying opens with weakened Mexico.

Kljestan shines in dull U.S. victory over Sweden.

CONCACAF draw has Americans facing Mexico to open final round of qualifying.

Cooper, Adu lead U.S. to dominant, if meaningless, decision over Guatemala.

Qualifying loss to ascendant T&T means little to U.S. men.

Cooper says no to invitation to join U.S. team in qualifying.

U.S. bursts into final round of qualifying by demolishing Cuba 6-1.

Improved U.S. attack sinks T&T, nears advancement to final qualifying round.

Americans score first victory in Guatemala in ugly qualifier.

High security follows Americans around Guatemala City.

Qualifying semifinals begin with trip to unfriendly Guatemala.

U.S. methodically closes out Barbados to advance in qualifying.

Against weak foe, U.S. attack finally finds itself in 8-0 qualifying rout of Barbados.

Howard saves U.S. men in 0-0 draw with Argentina in match of tired teams.

Section sponsored by American Airlines! Please support our site by visiting our sponsors!
Please visit our sponsors!

Analysis

U.S. shocks Spain, advances to Confederations Cup final, with tenacious effort.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, June 24, 2009) -- The United States men played their strongest match since the 2002 World Cup in South Korea to advance to the FIFA Confederations Cup final. In defeating Spain 2-0 in near freezing temperatures before a less than capacity 35,396 in the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa, the U.S. handed Spain, the top-ranked team in the world, its first defeat in 35 matches, snapping its record 15-game winning streak.

The U.S. will face Brazil, a 1-0 semifinal winner over host South Africa, in 2 p.m. (ET) Sunday's title game, broadcast on ESPN. Brazil defeated the Americans 3-0 in the opening round.

The Americans won almost through sheer force of will. After falling behind when striker Jozy Altidore scored in the 27th minute, Spain attacked relentlessly into the second half, holding the ball deep in the U.S. end for long periods. Tim Howard was magnificent in the American goal, making eight saves while turning in perhaps the best U.S. goalkeeping performance since Kasey Keller's 1-0 shutout of Brazil in the 1998 Gold Cup, the only time the U.S. defeated a world No. 1 opponent.

The U.S. defense was nothing short of heroic against Spain, clearing the ball out of danger time after time, especially in the second half when Spain threw everything forward and hammered away at the American goal. Carlos Bocanegra, previously held out of this tournament with a hamstring strain, was inserted at left back, the position he plays with Rennes in France, because of Jay DeMerit's strong play in the center of defense, where Bocanegra normally plays for his nation.

The Americans presented a team effort on defense. Whenever Spain broke through or was able to get a cross in from the outside, someone was there to clear. On several occasions, when it looked like a Spanish player had launched a shot that was going to find net, someone got a foot or a leg in to deflect the ball. When they didn't, Howard was up to the task.

To show how one-sided the match was for much of the time, the U.S. scored on its only two shots on frame. Spain held a 29-8 shots advantage, 8-2 on goal.

It was a continuous scramble for the U.S. in midfield. At time, the central midfielders dropped back too deeply and left open space. Other times, they didn't get back fast enough and the Americans were vulnerable to swift counter-attacks. Somehow, the U.S. managed to keep the ball out of its net for 90 minutes and come away with not only a shocking victory, but with the clean sheet.

Midfielder Landon Donovan was everywhere for the U.S., attacking the Spanish defense and. at times, dropping all the way back into his own penalty area to make defensive stops. During the first half, the U.S. was able to apply pressure on the Spanish midfield and defense, and to hold the ball and not allow Spain to attack with numbers.

The U.S. caught a break in the 27th minute when Altidore, won a shoving match with his teammate from Villarreal of Spain, defender Joan Capdevila. Altidore spun to his left, gained control of the ball and took a hard shot that deflected in off the right hand of keeper Iker Casillas and inside the left post.

In the second half and down by a goal, the world-best Spanish attack came forward continuously and the U.S. was forced to hang-on by barely clearing the ball out of danger time after time.

U.S. coach Bob Bradley again made a substitution and a formation change that resulted in the second U.S. goal. As he did in the 3-0 win over Eqypt, the Group B decision that advanced the U.S. into the semifinals, Bradley inserted midfielder Benny Feilhaber in the 69th minute but, instead of taking out a midfielder, he replaced forward Charlie Davies and pushed Clint Dempsey forward into more of an attacking position. Dempsey scored the third and decisive goal against Egypt and he did it again this afternoon in the 74th minute. He was in the box to pick up a loose ball and push it past Casillas for a 2-0 lead that deflated Spain's comeback chances.

The U.S. made things even harder for itself in the final minutes when Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda sent Michael Bradley off with a red card for a studs-up tackle. The foul was clear, but the red card seemed a harsh judgment and Bradley will now miss the final on Sunday. The U.S. has now received six yellow cards and three reds in the tournament, far and away the most of any team.


U.S. Player Ratings

Starters

Goalkeeper Tim Howard - 8: Certainly kept the U.S. in the match with terrific saves, but also organized his defense and controlled his area in the face of fierce pressure.

Defender Carlos Bocanegra - 7: Despite being less than fully fit, he was able to face one of the most feared right-side attacks in the world and lose very few of the battles. He even managed to push forward on the attack and to send in some quality crosses.

Defender Jonathan Spector - 7: In match after match in this tournament, he has turned in solid performances. Today was no exception. He worked tirelessly and now Bob Bradley has the problem of how to use him once Steve Cherundolo returns from injury.

Defender Oguchi Onyewu - 8: Yet again, he was not only the winner of every aerial ball in the middle but was able to roam from side to side as the U.S. scrambled to turned back the relentless Spanish attack.

Defender Jay DeMerit - 8: His reputation in England is as a solid defender and a team leader and now he is showing this on the international level. This well might have been a career best match for him in a showing that makes a big statement that he should start in the center of defense, freeing up Bocanegra for duty on the left side.

Midfielder Ricardo Clark - 6: His best match of the tournament. On a number of occasions, he reacted well to make key defensive stops. At times, however, he did not pressure the ball when he should have.

Midfielder Michael Bradley - 6: At times, he continues to be out of position, not get back quickly enough on defense or is not fast enough to get forward. But his work rate and effort is first class if he can eliminate the rash challenges that too often lead to penalties or, as today, with a harsh reaction from a referee and ejection.

Midfielder Clint Dempsey - 7: Had his best match of the tournament. Was key in the defensive midfield, but then was still able to make plays offensively. Once the alignment shifted with the insertion of Feilhaber, he was able to get himself in position to score a huge goal. Finally, he just ran out of gas.

Midfielder Landon Donovan - 8: He has been terrific in every match for the U.S. in this tournament and today was his best effort. Once again, he continually created chances for himself and for others and once again he aggressively ran at defenders. He continues to show he is the best American.

Forward Charlie Davies - 5.5: His work rate was first class as he put pressure on the Spain's defense, especially in the first half hour. He needs to hold the ball better and his decision-making, at times, is lacking.

Forward Jozy Altidore - 6: A wonderful physical goal scored against a world-class defender and keeper. From his mistakes, he shows he is still very much a work in progress, but today he scored the most important goal of his career and made a significant stride forward.

Reserves

Midfielder Benny Feilhaber (69th minute for Altidore) - 6.5: Once again a short, but high quality appearance. His ability to hold the ball led to the second goal. With Bradley out, he should be a starter on Sunday.

Forward Conor Casey (84th minute for Altidore) - 4: Coming on late, he should have been at a dead sprint every moment. But, he sometimes walked and trotted and put no pressure on the ball. This is almost mystifying.

Defender Jonathan Bornstein (88th minute for Dempsey) - no rating: A couple of quality minutes the U.S. needed against the frantic Spaniards.

SoccerTimes Player of the Match: Landon Donovan.


Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.

Do you have a comment on this story or something to say about soccer in general? Send us a letter.

©Copyright 2009 SoccerTimes.com. All Rights Reserved
Save the Internet: Click here
Home MLS U.S. Teams World Cup International NCAA Youth Links Whos Who Talk Back Archives Op/Ed Almanac U.S. Pro Leagues Site Map