Every World Cup qualifying match is important whether its UEFA or CONCACAF, whether you are in first, or last; which is why watching the United States last night was one of the most frustrating 94 minutes since World Cup 2006.
From the outset, from the 4-3-3 laid out by Bob Bradley to his player selection, nothing seemed to make sense. It was obvious even in the first two minutes of the game Costa Rica would concentrate its pressure and shape play towards the inexperience of Beasley and Torres. Beasley hasn’t played for Rangers almost at all this year, when he did, it certainly wasn’t at left back.
This made even less sense of the manager’s move to protect him with young Torres, a slight player known for his technical ability and not his tackling toughness, by gifting him his fourth cap. It was obvious Beasley was uncomfortable as he played 7 negative balls in the first 5 minutes on a surface that was suspect at best. Even when playing simple balls backward the passes were behind the intended target or skipping around randomly disrupting any flow or change in the point of attack.
While some US Soccer fans may have felt that Torres did well, many others, including myself, beg to differ. It was the split between Mastroeni and Torres which allowed the first goal after Beasley’s turnover with Torres diving in and then selecting not to use his body to disrupt the shot which couldn’t have been in a better position. On the second goal Torres was directly in behind the Costa Rican scorer which he elected to track much too late after realizing his mark had left him. For all intents and purposes let’s hope this experiment is over with. Why not give Spector, the former Man Utd and current West Ham man, a chance? He is the best on paper and can surely defend left, right, or centrally.
Before moving on to the rest of the selection we must first examine Bradley’s selection of a 4-3-3. Historically going into a hostile environment where you have had little or no success you will sit back a bit and counter against a quality opponent. Why then did Bradley decide to put three up top with Donovan as the target with the big man out on the left hand side? Common sense should tell one Jozy should be the player to hold the ball up top as a target with his massive frame and ability to lay off and spin. Donovan’s forte has never been playing with his back to goal, nor will it ever be.
This obviously led to three in midfield against a passing team who we know from the past loves to use the flank; and while Beasley and Torres were torched on multiple occasions, it must be said that trying to defend with three center mids on turf with a better technical team who likes to play on the flank is ludicrous, especially with the lack of pace possessed by both Michael Bradley and Pablo Mastroeni.
Bradley was a complete flop as to be expected on turf. He isn’t the most technical or quick player which is why it made no sense to leave him on for 90 or even to start him for that matter. It was obvious when Adu came on he was the most technical player on the pitch even though he rarely even sees the bench for Monaco. It would make much more sense to put a team of technical players on the field who can move the ball and possess than a couple of guys who have are too slow to even dictate the flow of play from a defensive perspective.
Finally we need to address the issue of turf. While I cannot comprehend why FIFA would even sanction a game on the surface, they did, so play on it. I do not feel Costa Rica had any specific advantage on the turf. 95% of the players on the US Roster have played in MLS which means they have experience on turf. At the national training center there is a hard turf field at Home Depot Center, I have trained on it. The one player on the roster who I can think of who didn’t play MLS is Torres but he grew up in rural East Texas where football is King and the high school fields are almost exclusively turf so he has experience as well.
All in all, let’s call it what it is. Poor personnel decisions, poor tactics, and blatantly poor preparation. Losing is one thing, losing momentum and pride is quite another.