U.S. 2 Czech Republic 4
Former Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan and some of his U.S. teammates were scrapping for World Cup spots against the Czech Republic tonight (AP Photos).
A rather plodding first half U.S. performance against a mediocre opponent and but for a bad miss by a wide open Fenin who managed to curl his shot around the post in the 26th minute the Americans would be down by a goal at the half.
A much more lively second half with a clearly motivated Herculez Gomez perhaps playing himself onto the World Cup squad when he made it 2-2 from another quality Stuart Holden corner kick delivery.
Here are a few random observations broken down by half.
*Gooch’s timing is clearly off, as one might expect after such a long layoff; nevertheless he remained rooted to the turf and allowed the Czech’s a free header that led to the stoppage time equalizer.
*Clarence Goodson gave away the free kick that led to the Czech goal and for my money remains unconvincing with Gooch having to cover for him on one occasion in the U.S. penalty box.
*Jonathan Bornstein looked shaky at left back and was beaten on a couple of occasions.
*In general the U.S. midfield lacks a player capable of changing the tempo of the game, although Jose Torres played a generally mistake-free half.
*Edson Buddle’s first touch let him down on a couple of occasions and he was brought down on the one breakaway the U.S. had; still it can’t be easy playing with the distraction of a split lip suffered when Petr Cech completely missed the ball on the teasing Stuart Holden cross that Fontana’s Maurice Edu converted for his first-ever national team goal. Still, Buddle probably didn’t do enough to play himself onto the World Cup squad.
*Neither did a largely anonymous Eddie Johnson.
*Bradley made five changes at the half.
*Brian Ching showed what a difference a striker who works hard can make, while Robbie Rogers illustrated why his pacy attacking instincts could be valuable in South Africa coming off the bench as he caused problems for the Czechs down the right wing on several occasions, while proving he isn’t afraid to have a stab at goal.
*Heath Pearce, oh dear. Immobile on the Czech’s go ahead goal and flailing ineffectively on their third, this guy illustrated once again why he is just not an international quality full back.
*Goodson played a role on both set pieces that led to both U.S. goals, but I have reservations about any defender who looks better going forward than protecting his goal. His ungainly lack of awareness on the post means he was in part responsible for the third goal, too.
*Ching and Gomez were a much better partnership than Buddle and Johnson in the first half. Target man Ching set up the lively Gomez with an inventive touch around the 65th minute mark that foreshadowed the former Galaxy striker’s goal a minute later. Herc can make a difference for the U.S. coming off the bench at the World Cup; he looks hungry, focused and determined.
*Holden’s crosses were consistently a problem for the Czechs and he got better as the game wore on and as the rust from his club layoff in England due to injury wore off.
*Chivas USA’s Sacha Kljestan didn’t do enough; he won’t be going to South Africa.
Game basics here
Disagree/Agree? Let it rip in the comments section.
Updated 11:40 p.m. Monday
Back from a Torrance City Council budget meeting (I kid you not).
Wanted to observe briefly:
Buddle tussles with Tomas Sivok in the first half.
“Herculez played his way into the camp with his performances at Puebla,” Bradley said. “It was based upon goals and in some cases coming on as a sub and scoring. You assess a lot of things and tonight I saw plays that for me need to be better, but obviously he scored a goal, which is very important in this whole thing. I started by talking about how players have a lot to be proud of and here’s a guy who was totally out of the picture and played his way back in. He certainly will be discussed during our meetings tonight.”
Bradley on the roster selection process from here:
“We’ll go back and have a team meeting. We have a lot of things we’ve laid out already, so we’ll see how far along we are. We’ll talk to players either late tonight or early in the morning and that will of course depend on where we are with some things.”
Here’s Holden on his adroitly-taken set pieces:
“Set pieces are something I pride myself on when I’m in dangerous areas. I was a little disappointed with myself tonight at the end of the second half when my legs were a little tired and I was a little lackadaisical. We have good guys attacking the ball and if you put the ball in the right position they get on the end of it.”
And here’s Herc on his goal:
“It was a special moment, but that goal was 10 percent me and 90 percent Clarence [Goodson]. I’m definitely thankful I was in the right place at the right time.”